September 2nd 2017
We both agreed a little too quickly to stop in Licata at the beginning of September 2017. I think we were both surprised with each other’s replies.
We both felt tired, like we had done enough cruising and we both wanted to just sit still for a bit. It is most unlike me to want to stop sailing, to stop seeing new sights, meeting new people but I was really looking forward to doing a whole lot of nothing for a while.
I don’t suppose many people reading this would sympathise with us, after all our lives aren’t exactly stressful but we’ve had enough for one year.
There is a solid nucleus of live aboard sailors in Licata already and we had the chance to meet them all the next day at the brilliant Sunday BBQ.
About 50 people attended with everyone enjoying the friendly atmosphere. We expect the numbers of cruisers living aboard to decrease as most leave their boats here to travel home for the whole of the winter but we think about 12 or more couples will still be here for Christmas day.
We would normally remove the sails and winterise the engine soon after arriving at our winter marina but we are expecting our friends Dion and Anna to visit us from England and we want to take them out for a sail if the weather’s ok so we are going to leave doing that for a while.
Claire’s Birthday on the 7th came along quickly. We had a very nice day going for a swim in the sea and lazing on the beach before meeting up with a few friends in the early evening for drinks and nibbles before walking around the marina to have dinner with George and Barbara on board their boat ‘Pipe Dream’ as it was George’s birthday too. Ross and Lisa also joined us and a good night was had by all.
We have quickly settled into the life here. The town looks a bit run down and our first impressions of it were not too favourable, but we have grown to like it. The people we have met have been extremely friendly and helpful.
We have quite a busy schedule in the marina what with the Sunday BBQ, happy hours in the marina bar on Tuesdays and Fridays where virtually everyone here attends. Added to this is regular exercise sessions which include yoga, pilates, circuit training, HIIT, running and speed walking!!We also have a bridge club and have just started Mexican train domino’s!!
A very nice Italian couple, Ruggiero and Stefania have also taken it upon themselves to teach us Italian with us trying to help them with their English. Some of these sessions have been hilarious!!
The atmosphere in the marina is good with no pressure whatsoever to join in if you don’t want too. It's entirely your choice.
Friday 6th October
Our friends Dion and Anna turned up around 16.30 in their hire car after landing at Catania. We had a drink and nibbles in the cockpit watching the sun go down before we went to the marina bar for a drink with everyone at happy hour before wandering into town for Pizza. We had a night cap back onboard before retiring for the night.
After a slow start the following morning we walked up the hill to the cemetery and the castle following the road around until it bought us back to the beach. The water felt too cold for a swim so we went for a beer instead.
We also enjoyed an ice cream before heading back to the boat for lunch.
We are lucky that Agrigento is only a short drive away so we decided to visit the valley of the temples in the hire car after we had eaten.
The Valley of the temples is a wonderful UNESCO world heritage site that is the largest archaeological site in the world. UNESCO used the outline of the best-preserved temple here as an icon for the organisation.
The remains of 7 Greek temples and many ruins can be seen dating back to 6th century BC.
I admit to not realising the scale of the place and by the time we got there we had less than an hour before the site closed.
After a bit of indecision we decided not to go in as we would have very little time and it was quite expensive at 10 Euro’s each so we decided to drive to find a good vantage point where we could see the best of the temples.
When we got back we had a shower before walking into town for a drink. We were all a bit hungry so we found a nice Sicilian restaurant, sitting outside but inside a large tent if you know what I mean.
The meal was delicious and the time flew by. It was really nice for us to spend time with Dion and Anna.
Sadly their time with us was short. We were up at 05.30 on Sunday morning to see them off as their flight from Catania left at 10.30.
The rest of October flew past.
I swapped over the alternator on the engine using the new 70A unit that I had purchased back in Ostia when I thought this was causing the rev counter \ oil pressure problems.
The very strange looking super yacht ‘A’ anchored for a couple of days outside of the marina.
We had a great Halloween where some of the children from Licata came to the marina ‘Trick or treating’ around the yachts. We have three or four families living on board here and it was nice to see them all dressed up for the fun.
The 31st happened to fall on a Tuesday which is a Happy Hour night so we all attended in fancy dress. A very good night was had by all.
November went as quick as October albeit with a few notable highlights.
On the 11th 10 of us travelled by mini bus to Catania to watch international rugby. Italy were playing Fiji. The 2 hr journey went by quickly, the match was enjoyable not so much for the quality of the play but for the atmosphere.
We were surrounded by Italian fans. We didn’t understand a word of what was being said or sung but we had a great time. We even participated in a few Mexican waves which was very good to do.
After the match our mini bus took us to an Indian restaurant where we had a very nice meal before heading back.
I have started playing guitar and singing with a couple of the other cruisers. Claire has also started to play the small, ukulele we bought back from my parent’s house.
But the highlight of November for me was the visit of my daughter Joy and her boyfriend Ed arriving on the 24th.
Claire and I caught the bus to Palermo to meet them at the airport. Their flight landed at 20.30.
They had arranged to hire a car from the airport but Joy was very nervous about driving abroad as she had never done it before. I think it's safe to say that she was pleased to see us as it meant that I would be driving the 3 hours back to Licata.
By the time we got back to the boat all we could do was have a quick drink before going to bed.
The following morning after a bit of breakfast we all walked up to the castle stopping for a beer on the way back. We spent a nice afternoon chatting on the boat before going to a very nice restaurant called Gulliver’s for Pizza.
After eating we walked into town stopping for drinks at a couple of bars before going back to the boat. I think both Joy and Ed were really tired after a hectic summer and they just wanted to relax.
Sunday was BBQ day. Ed got up to go for a run with Claire opting for a speed walk. Joy stayed in bed while I went to help prepare the BBQ area.
As usual we had a very nice afternoon and I was happy to introduce Joy and Ed to all of our new friends.
After the BBQ we sat on the boat talking and relaxing. As the sun went down we moved inside deciding to watch a film on the laptop.
Surprisingly Joy was hungry!!! I hadn’t realised that she hadn’t really eaten that much at the BBQ. Being a vegetarian, the food was kind of limited so she and Ed walked into town to get a take away pizza.
They bought back two huge margarita pizzas’ as well as a smaller spicy sausage one. They said that they didn’t think they would be so big because they were so cheap!!
Oh well, being responsible adults Claire and I helped them out. Claire was more ‘helpful’ than I was.
Monday came around far too quickly; Joy and Ed were leaving from Palermo that evening so we decided to visit a few places on the way to the airport to break the journey up.
We went to Agrigento and enjoyed walking around the old town before stopping for a coffee. We were hoping to find somewhere to eat but we were a little too late and all the restaurants were closing so we bought some very nice baked Sicilian food to eat in the car.
We eventually stopped for a very nice meal in Cinici. Joy still had room for more Pizza and opted for an unusual raw pizza!! The pizza base was cooked but the toppings were raw. It looked like a large open sandwich but Joy said it was delicious.
It was only a short drive to the airport and all too soon we were kissing them goodbye.
We kept the car as my parents were due to arrive in a few weeks’ time so we started the long drive back to Licata. I was feeling sad. I miss my kids.
We were trying to take advantage of having a car. We were using it to get the heavier shopping. Driving to the Thursday market and to Lidl’s which was a bit further away.
We enjoyed a very nice night on board ‘All together now’ as guests of Toby, Karen and their three boys, Liam, Fergus and Luka. David from ‘Wandering star’ also attended.
We had a really good night with this lovely Australian family.
We also drove to Syracuse to see our friends Beth, Kieran and baby Remy. We first met them last year in Olbia, Sardinia. George and Barbara came with us for the trip.
It was great to catch up and it was nice to see baby Remy who was only a few weeks old having been born in Sicily. We didn’t go to their boat as it would have been a bit cramped, so we enjoyed a walk around a damp Syracuse old town which was surprisingly beautiful.
Claire attended a Sicilian cooking class where her and another cruiser Jill (Pronounced yill) were invited into the home of a Sicilian family to cook a batch of traditional almond biscuits. Claire had a really enjoyable evening paying for the ingredients and leaving with a huge bag of biscuits. They were rock hard, as they should be but delicious.
My parents landed at 17.30 on the 5th December. We drove to Palermo to meet them at the airport. It was nice to see them looking so well.
We drove a short way before stopping for something to eat. It was nice to sit and talk before starting the long drive back to Licata.
They were staying in an apartment within the marina complex as getting on and off the boat could be awkward if the weather turned bad.
My parents are fans of a Sicilian TV detective series called ‘Montalbano’ and a lot of the filming locations are a short drive from Licata.
The first place we visited was Punta Secca a beautiful coastal town where we saw ‘Montalbano’s’ house. It was great to be there with my mum and dad as they recognised the place they had only see on the telly.
We had a beautiful sunny day with very little wind and we sat on the bench in the sun by the side of the property.
We got back into the car driving next to the old town of Ragusa Ibla where the restaurant ‘Montalbano’ often eats in can be found. It's called ‘Trattoria La Rusticana’ and we were able to have lunch there.
In between the sightseeing we found time to dress the Christmas tree in the Phillips room and make some Christmas decorations with our very good friends Stefania, Ruggiero, Juliet and David.
We also drove to a nice beach that we had been to before. The weather was lovely and we enjoyed a pleasant hour or two strolling along the water’s edge.
We all went along to the Friday Happy hour. I was proud to introduce my parents to everyone and I think mum and dad had a nice evening.
On Saturday we drove to Caltagirone a village high up in the hills that is famous for its ceramics and pottery.
The weather wasn’t that good with very strong cold winds and fine rain at times. We looked in a few studios before stopping for a coffee and a sandwich in a village hall kind of place with very high ceilings, tiled floors and no heating.
It was a welcome stop though. There were a few stalls selling Christmas gifts and it was nice to be out of the wind for a while.
Later that afternoon Claire and Mum went off to a cooking event in a Sicilian family’s home. This time they made marmalade using oranges picked from trees in their garden. They both enjoyed themselves and they came back with three huge jars full.
Sunday is BBQ day. Mum and dad enjoyed themselves. The weather was good and the company excellent.
On Monday we went to the valley of the temples. We drove to a car park then hired a cab to take us to the top of the site. This allowed us to walk slowly back down through the archaeological site to the car.
These temples never cease to amaze me. They are similar to those we saw with Grace in Paestum. Huge structures that have stood for thousands of years.
As I have said previously UNESCO have used one of these temples as their logo.
It's a beautiful place with fantastic views across to the sea and up to Agrigento that’s perched on the hill overlooking the site.
The walk through the temples was good as the paths were wide and relatively flat. My dad suffers a bit from dizzy spells and Claire had to lend him an arm every now and then.
When we got back we had a bit of a sit down before going out for a meal in town. It is great to be only a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Licata.
Tuesday 12th saw us taking my mum and dad back to Palermo airport. The week flew past and I think we all had a nice time.
To break the journey up we stopped for lunch in Porto Empedocle which is another location for Montalbano. Apparently there is a statue of him in the town but we couldn’t find it. We looked on the internet for help \ directions but found a review instead that stopped us from looking any further. Basically it said that the statue in Porto Empedocle bore no resemblance to any of the characters in the program or even the writer. It's as if they had a spare statue of someone and put it up saying that it was Montalbano!!
Oh well, we found a nice little restaurant for lunch then carried on towards the airport.
The rest of the journey was uneventful apart from us seeing huge flocks of starlings that were twisting and turning making all kinds of weird fluid shapes in the sky. I believe they are called murmuration’s. It's almost impossible to photograph them from a moving car but they looked absolutely fantastic.
We walked into the airport with them and found the right queue. My parents receive assisted flight status and it was a bit confusing as to where this actually started. We stood in line for a while, but they insisted that Claire and I got going as we had a long drive back.
We hugged and said our goodbyes with the drive back to Licata feeling more like a commute now.
We learned from them later that soon after we left an attendant whisked them to the front of the queue, sorted their baggage and boarding cards before showing them through a special door that led straight into the departure lounge.
We were soon back into the swing of normal life in Licata marina. Exercising with Sarah, David, Stefania, Ruggiero and Kalle. Mexican train on Wednesdays with Juliet, David, Chris, David, Sarah, David, Ruggiero and Stefania. There are a lot of David’s here!! Happy hours and not forgetting the BBQ’s.
Beth, Keiran and baby Remy paid us a flying visit one weekend. It was great to see them all again and it was nice to be able to sit in the sun for the BBQ and chat.
We drove to Catania airport on the 18th with Anna primarily to pick up Anna’s husband Morton who we have become very good friends with but enjoyed a longer than planned stop in Ikea!!
On the 19th we drove to Palermo again, this time to drop the hire car off. We had arranged with our good friends David and Sarah for them to pick us up in their hire car when we dropped ours off before spending a couple of nights with them in Palermo……got it??
We had rented a two-bedroom apartment in Palermo’s old town. David did a brilliant job of getting us close to the place but we couldn’t quite figure out how to get to the front door.
The streets were very narrow. Barely wide enough for a single car. We asked someone showing them the address on our phone. They in turn flagged down a cyclist who upon seeing the address indicated that we should follow him. He immediately turned down what we thought was a one-way street the wrong way. He stopped the traffic at the other end and waved frantically at us to follow him. This we did, we then twisted left and right before stopping outside a new looking apartment block.
The man on the push bike waved and cycled off. Phew we were here.
The place was very nice and after going through the relevant information with the owner we paid and shortly afterwards we were walking through the dark confusing streets of old town Palermo looking for somewhere to eat.
The following morning we went out to explore the old city. Palermo proved to be a very nice, interesting place. We never did find the street food it's famous for, but we did go to the Catacombs, the cathedral and wandered through the food markets. We did a lot of walking but there was always something interesting to see.
Many of the churches use mosaics for decoration to dramatic affect. Some of them were breath taking.
That evening we went out for a pizza to a highly recommended restaurant and I have to admit that I had the best pizza I have ever tasted. It was absolutely delicious.
We drove back to Licata via a small town called Monreale which was perched on a hill side overlooking Palermo.
We spent ages trying to find a parking place but eventually found one just outside of town. We walked back in making our way to the very large church which again was beautifully decorated with mosaics.
It was very cold and windy in town and we didn’t stay long.
The first part of the drive back to Licata from Monreale was glorious through the hills, some covered in snow.
It was a great few days and we were lucky that David and Sarah helped to make it memorable and work so well.
All the focus was now on Christmas.
On the 21st December the cruisers were invited to a fantastic evening in the Phillips room where 100 or so of the towns people brought traditional Sicilian foods for us to try and we in turn took along traditional Christmas foods from our country. Claire made mince pies.
It was a brilliant night with so much food. I tasted the best lasagna ever and I am still trying to track down the person who made it……
There was singing at the end and a good night was had by all.
On the 23rd December we went into Licata where we joined in with traditional street dancers. We had a brilliant evening.
We have many cruisers here who celebrate Christmas on the 24th so we spent the 24th decorating the Phillips room for the 25th Christmas dinner. We had a few drinks before going back to RR to watch ‘Love Actually’ Claire’s favourite Christmas film.
Christmas day was great. After opening presents we had a nice breakfast before Claire started cooking.
25 people came to the Phillips room for Christmas dinner which started at 2pm. It was fantastic. We had many different nationalities all sharing their food trying different dishes and drinks. Perfect.
We had secret Santa presents to finish off a wonderful day.
The following days before New year’s eve are a bit of a blur.
Ruggiero and Stefania had friends to stay with them for a few days. Marco and Olga. We invited them onto RR for a meal and discovered that their boat was kept in Monfalcone which is in between Venice and Trieste.
We intend to winter around there next year and they said that we could possibly stay in their marina.
New year’s eve turned out to be the best night we’ve had for ages thanks to the generosity and hospitality of George and Barbara on ’Pipe Dream’. They invited ALL the cruisers in the marina onto their boat to welcome in the new year!!!!
There were 25 – 30 of us. It was hard to count but the food and drink kept coming we had music in the cockpit tent, even dancing albeit one at a time!!
We left there at 04.30 in the morning. What a way to welcome in 2018.
Thank you, George and Barbara.