Tuesday, February 5, 2013


December started out with another stay in Castelbuono. It was another lovely, chilled weekend, with lots of food, and trying to make friends through my very questionable Italian skills.

Unfortunately, this time there was no wine festival, so we had to make do with actually paying for wine, and had to take shelter in a bar because it was SO DAMN COLD. I honestly didn't realise Sicily could get so cold. There have been nights when the temperature has reached zero, and I was definitely not prepared for this. As soon as I got back to Cefalù I went and bought myself a little heater, which has made a world of difference. I also purchased an electric hot water bottle, which was easily the best 5 euro I have ever spent IN MY LIFE.

The next weekend was an ELA trip to Catania! It seems silly now, but at the time I was really nervous about going to a strange city, to spend a weekend with a group of people I'd never met before. I knew Catherine from Glasgow, so I figured I'd have at least one pal in the group, if they turned out to be a bunch of weirdos. As it goes however, it was a brilliant weekend, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been bundled together in Sicily with such lovely, funny people!

After school on the Friday I caught the train to Palermo, and then spent an hour wandering in circles, trying to avoid the junkies and waiting for my bus. Normally I HATE bus journeys with a burning passion, but somehow the beautiful scenery as we crossed Sicily took away all of my travel-rage. The three-hour journey passed even faster than I had hoped, and soon enough, I'd made it to Catania, found Catherine, (who was hiding in the train station because a man had been following her because he wanted to cut her hair. Uhhm...) and then Katy and Laura arrived to rescue us and lead us to the hostel.

After dumping our stuff in the C.C.L.Y hostel (which is possibly the loveliest hostel in all of Italy), we headed out to aperitive. We found a little place by the cathedral where we drank Nero D'Avola and ate lovely antipasti featuring olives, crisps, croquettes, aubergine, courgette, (and probably other things that I have forgotten about).

Next we decided to find some proper food, (I love that after this, every subsequent day I have spent with these girls has been mainly based around food), and wandered around for a bit, half-lost, until we found a place that looked quite promising. It may have taken a 10-minute battle with the front of the restaurant before we actually managed to locate the door and enter, but we were determined to get inside. 

Now, every time I have eaten out in Sicily, I have been overwhelmed by the noise, of clattering plates and cutlery, of music, of conversation so loud that it almost seems as though people are simply yelling at each other across the tables. But not here. We appeared to have found the quietest restaurant in Sicily. It was almost silent. Which made us feel as though we were being incredibly loud, and already being quite embarrassed after the front-door-fiasco made the four of us very, very giggly, to the point where almost everything in the menu was 'hilarious', from information about the breathalyser available to borrow from the bar, to the "pasta with a surprise filling", to "Rosanna's experience and inspiration conjure a delicious vegetable medley", and the fact that we knew that we really shouldn't be laughing just made it worse.

After dinner came Mojitos and Jaegerbombs, and we all woke up on Saturday feeling pretty delicate.

We spent Saturday alternating between hiding in our beds in the hostel, and venturing out for an hour or so at a time, to investigate the markets and shops in the city centre. Another girl, Fiona, joined us, but unfortunately the sixth member of the group missed his bus and didn't make it.

In the market we found a few international food shops, so between us we stocked up on Heinz Baked Beans, soya sauce, sweet and sour sauce and brown rice. I know that we are supposed to be embracing the culture, but after 3 months of nothing but Italian food, these little discoveries were a huge relief.

We had dinner in the pizzeria next to the hostel, because it meant not having to walk far in the cold, and we would apparently get a discount for being from the hostel (we forgot to ask for the discount when the bill came, but hey-ho). The pizza was good, but that's not surprising as I've yet to come across disappointing pizza here, but the entertainment was brilliant! A group of men entered the restaurant and then spent at least an hour playing and singing and dancing around the place. I know this sounds like it was super-touristy, but it really wasn't, it simply felt like we'd stumbled across this secret place that the locals love. 

On Sunday we all had to face our ridiculous journeys home, because on Sundays, Sicily simply doesn't work. Catherine had to leave the hostel at 10.30am, because, "If I miss the 11am bus, I can't get home until tomorrow." And Bronte's only about an hour away from Catania.

Despite a grim 2-hour junkie-dodging wait in Palermo Centrale, I thought my journey was going quite well until my train arrived in Cefalù and the doors wouldn't open. After I'd tried 3 sets of doors the train moved on, and I ended up stuck at the next stop, (fortunately I was not alone, and the four of us got a taxi back to Cefalù together.)

Less than two weeks after the weekend in Catania, I was travelling home for Christmas. I decided to set off really early, just in case there were any delays along the way, and ended up at the airport more than 2 hours before check-in opened. It was just as well though, because I weighed my suitcase and realised it was 7.5kg over my 15kg Ryanair luggage allowance. Oops. So then I spent about an hour and a half unpacking and re-packing and swapping things from my suitcase to my rucksack and putting on as many clothes as I thought I could get away with.

I gave up when I got to 15.8kg, figuring that I’d be okay for my flight to Barcelona, and if I had to have another shuffle about before I could get on the flight to Malaga, then so be it. As it went, the girl at the check-in desk in Barcelona was a bit of a cow, and tried to charge me 20 euro for being over. I insisted that I wasn’t going to pay, and that I would simply take something out of my case. Then five minutes later I re-appeared in front of her wearing jeans, 3 pairs of socks, a t-shirt, a cardigan, a jumper, a hoodie and a jacket, grimacing and telling her “Que calor!” She gave me a bit of a look, and clearly didn’t find me as funny as I found myself, but she let me through, which was a relief.

The Christmas holidays in Gibraltar were brilliant. I think it was the combination of having spent 3 months on my own in Sicily, along with having not had Christmas in Gib for 3 years, and having nearly 3 weeks at home that made it the best Christmas break ever.

It was so relaxing, and I was so glad to see Mum and Dad and Sarah and many friends who I will not name here, that it was really hard to come back to Sicily after New Year. I’d spent 17 days not really having to think, just wandering around as I pleased, catching up over lunches, coffees, drinks, so coming back to live on my own, in the cold (it was SO MUCH WARMER in Gib), felt really sad.

However, since Sarah gave me a weekend break in Milan for Christmas (RIDICULOUS and AMAZING), that was DEFINITELY something to look forward to when I came back!!

Oh, there were tears (of course there were tears!), but deep-down I'm glad to be back, and I know that I'm going to be just as upset when I get to the end of May and have to go home for good!!

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