Scenes from Sicily, Tredici – Erice Behind Us

This is a photo of me and Kath with the mountaintop fortress/town of Erice behind us. It was taken by Iolanda, proprietress of Al Frantoio (“The Crusher,” in English), the B&B we stayed in in Valderice, a larger town just down the hill from Erice. For some reason, this one of the only pictures we have of Erice high up on the hill, though we have quite a few looking down on surrounding towns.

We really enjoyed our stay at Al Frantoio. If you find yourself in northwest Sicily and would like to stay somewhere that is very comfortable and convenient to many sights, all combined with gracious hospitality and sea views, consider booking some nights at Al Frantoio. Their website is http://www.alfrantoiovalderice.it

Scenes from Sicily, Sei – Sunset in Salina

The end of our Sicily trip was spent on the island of Salina, as guests of our friend Laura and her family. Salina is located in the Aeolian Islands, which is about 25 miles north of the island of Sicily.

Salina is an extremely relaxing and beautiful place. We enjoyed perfect weather, tranquil, blue seas, and pleasant companionship, getting to meet Laura’s family and friends.

Many evenings were spent simply staring out to sea, watching the fading light reflect off the neighboring island of Lipari, and sipping a local wine. To me, this photo looks like Kath can’t believe her good fortune.

More photos from Salina and the trip are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Cinque – Kath in Selinunte

Some of the best Greek archaeological sites in the world are not in Greece. By the mid-6th century BC, the Greeks had built towns and exerted influence throughout much of the Mediterranean and all of the Black Sea. Modern southern France, Corsica, Libya, Italy, Turkey, and Egypt had Greek towns, and the more successful and permanent the town, the more likely that a temple complex would be built in the area.

Sicily has been conquered by many civilizations through the millennia, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, and on and on, but no civilization left as many impressive ruins as the Greeks, and Selinunte is one of the best places in Sicily to get a real sense of the scale of these structures.

In this photo, Kath is located in front of Temple E (the Temple of Hera), a structure that was largely reconstructed decades ago. Other ruins litter the site, the product of ancient earthquakes. These temples are a hill next to the original town of Selinus, which was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 250 BC.

More photos from the trip are available here.

Scenes from Sicily, Tre – Kath in Central Sicily

Soon after leaving Catania on a 9-day trip around Sicily, we were lost. Hopelessly and desperately lost. This is despite having a detailed road atlas and 2 GPS devices.

In all fairness, it wasn’t entirely our fault. We had a route planned from Enna to our destination near Cefalu, one which took us through the historic town of Castelbuono, all while traveling on charming backroads, taking in some rural scenery after days spent in the city. Unfortunately, soon after leaving Enna, our route was blocked by a rockslide, and we were forced to find another way over the rolling, dry hills and into the Madonie Mountains.

At first, the thin ribbon of road we followed north looked decent, if a little underused. A half-hour later, however, after passing several spots where the entire road had washed out and no longer being able to leave first gear, we knew we should have pulled over and gotten our Italian dictionary out for the road signs we passed with the giant exclamation point on them.

The maddening thing was that we could see small villages in the distance, but what was left of the road never seemed to go close to them. Occasionally, we would pass a farmer on a tractor, and the astonished look on his face while we passed told us all we needed to know. Each washout we somehow survived made it more and more difficult to justify turning around, until, eventually, we both knew that our only way out was to push ahead. At one point, Kath started to take stock of our water and food, in case we had to spend the night among the dusty wheat fields, and I questioned how long it would take to trek to one of the distant villages to get help.

Then, as quickly as we got into the mess, we were out of it. The backs of the exclamation point signs started appearing on the left side of the road, and within minutes, we were at an unmarked intersection. By taking the better road at each intersection, we eventually found a regular highway and continued on to Castelbuono.

This picture shows Kath after harrowing road experience, in front of some random castle. I can’t really find the relief in her face with this photo, but I know it was there.

You can see the full album of images from our trip here.

Blast from the Path – kath in Soweto

Kath and I took a “tour” of Soweto, in an effort to learn more about this famous slum in Johannesburg. The place was a complete maze of ramshackle tin structures. If not for the cell tower in the middle of it all, I would have been completely lost.

This look means, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

Blast from the Past – South African Sundowner

Along the southern coast of South Africa, many of the hostels have this great tradition, called a sundowner. Basically, it involves buying a few boxes of wine, taking out the bags from the boxes, tying a rope to two corners of the wine bag (making it easier to sling over your shoulder), grabbing some cups and a dozen or so of the total strangers hanging around the hostel, marching up the highest sand dune you can find, and downing a few cups of wine while watching the sunset.

The only person from this photo that I remember is the guy with the stormtrooper shirt behind us.

Blast from the Past – truk and kath in Istanbul, 1997

I’m wrapping up a personal project of digitizing all of my photos, mostly going back to scanning the negatives, and in these dark days of winter, I thought I would share a few of the better ones that I’ve come across.

The photo above was taken on our honeymoon in August 1997, while we were in Istanbul. I think it is the Ayasofya Mosque behind us, and beyond that, the Bosphorus Strait. (Click on the photo for a higher resolution version.)

The Benziger Family Winery

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Kath and I are waiting for our tractor tour to start at the beautiful Benziger Family Winery, located just outside Glen Ellen, California.

The winery focuses on growing grapes and fermenting them in a biodiverse way, and the entire farm is constructed so that the sum of the flora and fauna is greater than its parts.

I’d bet the wine is pretty tasty, too. We will get to sample some after the tour.