Sunday, July 21, 2013

Palermo, Day 2 (07-10-13)

Europe Journal, 2013
Day 7, Palermo Wednesday, 07-10-13

7:51 a.m. One of the difficulties of writing a journal on a cruise such as this is finding the time to actually write it. Up around 6:30, to the shower, to breakfast at a little after 7, back to the cabin at 7:45, and I have less than 20 minutes before leaving on the first of two tours. The second is a repeat of yesterday's aborted visit to the interior of the island.

On the way yesterday, one of the ship's staff (one accompanies every bus for every tour) was an attractive young man of some unaccented-English speaking country, though I'm sure not American, who sat just in front of and across the aisle from me. The poor kid was apparently tired—all the staff serve in several different roles, started dozing off and he absolutely could not keep awake. His head would lean forward and he'd suddenly jerk and sit up straight. Five seconds later it would lower again. He began to tilt toward the aisle, catching himself before toppling over, sit up straight for five seconds and repeat the process.

Ok, 8:00 and I'd best go “muster” for the bus...remembering to take the radio with which we can hear the tour guide at our destination. I'll be back.

12:47 Returned from first tour (more on it later) shortly after 12:00. Rushed to cabin to start recharging one of my camera batteries—thank God I brought a spare—for the time we have until the next tour (less than 1 hour). Hurried to lunch and, for the first time since arriving in Rome, did not take a photo of a meal. Next tour probably over around 4:30 or 5. Ship sails for Athens at 6. Time I'll have to try to get on line and send this....0. We'll be at sea—and out of internet range—all day tomorrow. I'll pretend I'm online and probably send a lot of stuff which will suddenly gush into your FB mailbox in one fell swoop (or, as I like to call it, one swell foop).

And now it is time to head for the assembly point. Anyone who takes a vacation to rest and relax should stay away from ocean cruises.

The first tour was to Monreale, not far from Palermo. Highlight was...surprise...a church reflecting the various cultures which held sway for varying periods in the island's history. This one is noted for its use of gold mosaics, and we were treated—as is often the case—to an information overload. I've can't help but feel that to visit so many churches and cathedrals, each with their own stories of various saints and religious history, that I'm listening to a long commercial for Catholicism

(Later) The second tour was quite a way inland to Segesta, of which only an amphitheater and temple remain. But what a magnificent sight! The city around it is long gone, but the temple sits on one hill and the amphitheater atop another nearby, much higher and with incredible views. I don't think the photos can do them justice. The amphitheater could seat 5,000.

The temple is one of the best preserved in the Italy. Behind it is the quarry from which were taken most of the stones to build it.

It amazes me how so many ancient towns were built on high hills. I wonder how the people managed to get up and down them in the days before the automobile. I suppose they were put there partly to deter invading armies, since the climb would exhaust them before they got close, and give people in the town time to escape in the other direction if they wished.

Back to the ship with about forty-five minutes (certainly not enough time to try to do much on the internet) before dinner.

A word about shipboard dining. There are two full restaurants aboard. One formal and one casual. I've never set foot in the formal and have no intention of doing so. I eat (if what I do can be considered eating) in the buffet-style restaurant at the stern, where you can eat either inside or outside. When you have gone through the line, a waiter carries your food to the table you wish (I always join Tom and Mike on the open deck, where each table seats from two-to-four people.

At the aft end of the interior seating area is a desert table, loaded with goodies to make the arteries harden just looking at them (though they do also serve a variety of cheeses to go with them). Outside, there is another bar, and in the center of the area is a large table which serves tapas (on which I subsist on) and an assortment of other choices. If you wish, you can, once seated, order food from a menu of the buffet and it will be brought to you. Wine and beer are free, though specialty beers (like Guiness, which I like) are 3.50 euros (about $5).

So, enough for the moment.

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