Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Wouldn't it be ridiculous to watch a performance here? You can see Mt Etna with its tumultous clouds in the background.
Etna looks prettier in the distance. But wow! We climbed close to the top yesterday!
Gorgeous coast lines... We also wandered into some beautiful gardens. There are bright pink flowers and well manicured topiaries all over Taormina, clearly a tourist town. But it left such an impression on our minds that Xiao and I were scoping out expensive hotels as we walked, for when we start making money and could perhaps visit again... in style!Marzipan is BIG in sicily. I wonder why, but you find a lot of these displays everywhere. Marzipan is a confection made of sugar and almond meal, I enjoyed the bite of Xiao's marzipan fig that I had. Its very very sweet, and very similar to my favorite Indian sweet, barfi (trust me, it tastes better than it sounds).
Saturday, June 27, 2009
We took a cheap bus to the base town of Etna, then a crazy expensive funicular, Funivia dell' Etna (27 euros for both ways, eek!), but worth the oppurtunity we got to climb up to the highest point tourists were allowed. Mount Etna is a bit of a tourist trap, they were advertising a 51 euro package to take the funicular, get bused up to the highest point, and have guides, but we were determined to hike up ourselves! It was a pretty short hike (90 minutes going up), but really steep, and lots of cardio got me a bit grumpy hehe. The landscape was completely barren, covered with volcanic ash and rock. Thankfully it was a cloudy day, and we made our way slowly as busloads of tourists passed us on the dusty road.
Lots of vapor, no magmaaa, but interesting nonetheless.
The earth and stones were warm! Neato! Xiao and Dan warm their hands, did I mention it was freezing up at the top? brrrr.
Finally, some color on the crater's edge.
Go team! We descended very quickly back down and wasted a few hours in the cafe and tourist village. We were lucky because right after we descended the weather got horrible and no one else was allowed up.
Tired, but ash-free after showering, we hit up Catania nightlife and absolutely loved this local, packed restaurant near the Piazza Diumo. We ate a ton and then Dan convinced us to try grappa for the first time. Strong stuff, eckk! But fun ensued.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
We got all this for 20 Euros! We totally could have loaded up more. We made eggplant parm that night (work of master chef Dan) and enjoyed a bottle of white wine. Along those lines, we've begun rating all the bottles of wine we've had so far and placing them next to each other-the collection is rapidly growing and I will take a picture of the finished line up at the end of the summer.
We took a walk to a park we've heard about near the ocean in palermo. You can see the port/cruise ships in the distance. It was a nice green grassy area, kind of rare in Sicily, surprisingly. There were also quite a few joggers, also a rare breed in Sicily.One night, Dan's friend, a young gastroenterolist fellow Gabe, took us out with his visiting physician friends from Florence. They were a really fun bunch and we went to a trattoria where Xiao tried the local Palermo special- Pasta with Anchovies! We had strawberry and white wines as a group and enjoyed the cultural exchange :).
We rented bikes for about 5 euros for the day. It was a good workout to go all around the island, which is not entirely flat, and basically coast right next to the ocean.
Some pics of Xiao and Dan with their bikes. Behind Dan is the castle on the island.
After about 2 hours or so of biking (unfortunately, Dan got a flat and had to exchange his bike) we decided to cool off in the sea! It was so refreshing just to jump in and the waters are surprisingly shallow. We got some gelato, jumped on the ferry back, then headed back to Palermo via train. It was a great first weekend exploring Sicily!
Next, we made our way to the funicular (gondola), which was to take us all the way up the nearby mountain to the medieval town of Erice. Here we all are before our funicular ride- about 5 euros, pretty steep... in ascent and in price.
Beautiful view from Erice of the Sicilian countryside.
We got a pass to see all the churches and towers in Erice. Here is their most famous church. We walked in, the church was majestic with white carved ceilings, and monks were singing, a very spiritual experience.
More views of Erice.
We opted to have a nice dinner up in Erice rather than returning down to Trapani. We decided to try some Trapenese specialities. I got Pesto Alla Trapanese, a wonderful dish with an almond sweetness I didnt expect and Xiao got the famous cous cous dish, below. All in all a wonderful Saturday!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Nightlife in Italy happens mainly around the weekend, but we've found that Wednesday (hump day) is quite the happening time as well. We basically take a walk into the city every night- the weather's perfect, and we don't have to walk too far from our apartment to hit some excitement.
Teatro Massimo: A pretty opulent theater that hosts operas, ballets, and symphonies. Prices are steep- maybe we'll try getting a student discount here... currently playing is an opera by mozart.
Here we are on one of our nightly walks. We decided to try Spinnato's, a famous patisserie and bakery of Palermo, the Finale's of Boston if you will. We heard their tiramisu and cannolis were not to be missed so we split them between all of us. Cannoli = A (sickenly sweet ricotta filling, mmm), Tiramisu = C (too bitter, too sour (is this what the real thing is like?) didn't enjoy it at all)
Our first Italian cappucino! Every morning.. on our 1 hour walk to work (we like trekking it, since we're such an ambitiously fit bunch) we pass by this "sweet old man" according to Dan who first discovered his pastry shop. He made friends with the owner and we stop by almost everyday on our walk to work. Today we tried cappucinos for the first time! I really enjoyed it and had a ricotta conetta (croissant) as well. Sugaroverloaddddd...
We attempted gnocchi one day, with no previous experience, and after an exhausting walk from IsMett <-- BAD IDEA
How did this monstrosity come about? We began with 2 lbs of patatas (potatoes, but too much we think), mixed in 2 egg yolks and 2 cups flour. We followed a recipe, mind you!
By popular demand. Christmas elf gear. What I wear to work everyday, here I am in the room right next to the Cardiology office! We get to see procedures going on here everyday- cool!