Mediterranean Enchantment – 2009

Palermo, Sicily & Mondello Beach Town

April 26 - May 10, 2009

 

IFlights from Memphis to Rome via Amsterdam

VISpain’s Island of Mallorca

IIRome with visits to Historic Ruins, Vatican

VIIPort of Tunis & Ancient Ruins of Carthage

IIIBoard Ship Noordam at Civitavecchia Port

VIIIPalermo, Sicily & Mondello Beach Town

IVPort of Livorno, long drive to Florence, Pisa

IXPort of Naples, Italy

VMonte Carlo & Spain’s Barcelona

XReturn to Rome, Visit to More Ruins  & Home

 

Updated July 4, 2009

By LEWIS NOLAN

 

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To view photo album of 128 pictures mainly taken by Betty Nolan, go to www.ritzpix.com and sign in under Lewis’ email name of lewis_nolan@yahoo.com (password ln9876 with lower case initials). Under “My Albums,” activate “Rome and Mediterranean Enchantment” album and play as a Slideshow with longest offered delay in seconds.

 

Thursday, May 7, 2009 – Thursday, In Palermo, Sicily

 

Our ship, Holland America’s Noordam, docked in the busy port of Palermo, Sicily at 8 a.m. I enjoyed a room service-delivered, cooked to order breakfast of bacon, toast, banana slices, small glass of tomato juice, a few hash brown potatoes and a glass of ice water. The excellent food was most welcome after a largely sleepless night of heavy coughing.

 

Betty read while I napped most of the morning. She also visited the ship’s retail store, where she bought a couple of paperback books to read on the long flights from Rome to Washington, DC and then to Memphis in a couple of days. She also purchased a half-dozen, colorful stone bracelets for herself and to give to friends.

 

Several other cruise ships are also docked in Palermo, one is called Greek Voyager. Palermo is in northern Sicily. With a population of 800,000, it is a historic area that dates to the Moslem Saracen expansion period by was taken over by the Norman kings of France, who built a magnificent cathedral in the 12th Century.

 

We had signed up for a 2 ½-hour motor coach tour of Palermo offered by Holland America. I was curious if we’d see anything relating to the battles fought by great American General George Patton in World War II. We did not. The tour inexplicably ignored the great American Movie “The Godfather,” of which much was shot in the small town of Corleone about 20 miles away. Odd how much more impact Hollywood movies can have on our collective memory than the history books and local guides.

 

Fortunately, today’s weather is most promising, with sunny skies and a predicted high temperature of 72 degrees. The harbor is ringed to landmark consisting of what appears to be a high, arid ridge of rugged mountains. By late morning, my cough had pretty much disappeared. But I nonetheless feel as though I have a hangover due to my lack of sleep and all the medication I had taken yesterday to quiet a heavy cough including a strong pain pill.

 

Day after day on this cruise, our respect and appreciation for the excellent service provided by the ship’s crew grows and grows. I regret that I didn’t write down her name, but we really came to like our charming and efficient beverage waitress in the dining room. Her English was excellent and she told us that she works on an 11-month contract to support with her modest income and tips her 8-year-old child and her aged and infirm parents back home in the Philippines, who take care of the child. Another dining room employee we got to know slightly was Waymon, who was table captain in our area and father of a 22-month old child in his home in Indonesia.

 

I think their stories are probably familiar on our ship and other cruise liners who hire malleable workers at below-U.S. standards. The ship’s contract employees are from Thailand, Indonesia and The Phillipines. They clean rooms, serve tables, mix drinks, paint and scrub the ship. They do the faceless – probably often out-of-sight and thankless work of making everything work so well on the Noordam and other ships.

 

In contrast, the highest ranking officers of the ship seem to be from Holland, where seafaring is a centuries-old tradition and boys grow up wanting to become commanders of large ships.

 

Betty and I had a quick lunch of sandwiches in the Lido restaurant, and then boarded the tour motor coach. I was surprised to see enormous amounts of paper litter in the streets and on the sidewalks. We also saw a great many Vespa motor scooters, which are manufactured here and I have an especial affinity for since one bought for me by my mother was my principal form of my transportation when I was a freshman-sophomore student at Sacramento (CA) State College. We also saw quite a few Fiat and Volvo micro cars we don’t normally see back in the states because they supposedly don’t have all the safety and other equipment required by U.S. import regulations.

 

From the windows of the motor coach, we could see that Palermo has several magnificent, good-sized city parks or a half-block or more. Streets are mostly lined with shade trees, but the fronts of the homes or apartment buildings crowd the narrow sidewalks with little or no front yards. An English-speaking tour guide pointed out many sights of Palermo, including the Massimo Theatre, the Felice Gate, Bishop’s Cathedral and the very busy thoroughfare of Corso Vittorio Emamuele. We even saw a small street named in honor of Anwar Sadat, Egypt’s Prime Minister and statesman in the 1970s, whose wife graced Memphis (named after the ancient Egyptian city) on several important occasions.

 

The best sights we encountered came during a short excursion by the tour bus to the nearly tourist and vacation town of Mondello. It hugs a very scenic coastline of Sicily with strip of yellow sand beach that draws a lot of traffic during the warm months of June and July. The water lapped with gentle waves was gin clear. Some muscular speedboats were anchored 100 or so yards off the beach.

 

A Renaissance-style building on pilings was just off the public beach and joined to the mainland by secure walkway. Dozens and dozens of change-rooms occupy the building along with a few places to buy food and drinks. The closet-sized rooms are rented to the public for $15 a month and are equipped with a bit of furniture, a restroom and shower facilities. Nearby perhaps 200 feet above the waterline are small but stylish vacation homes of the wealthy. They all appeared to be closed up this early in the season when the temperature only rose to the low 70s. It seemed to me that Mondello is a lightly populated but equally beautiful version of the French
Riviera town of Juan les Pines we visited several years ago.

 

Once back at the dock where the Noordam was stopped, Betty and I shopped at a couple of sidewalk vendors catering to visiting tourists. I bought a couple of black, golf caps adorned with the logo of one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Godfather.” Painted on the top of the cap is the movie logo of a man holding puppet-controlling strings. One is to wear at home when I rewatch the move on videotape. The other was for a gift to one of my all-time favorite bosses, Mike Pietrangelo of Memphis, proudly of Italian descent and a gifted executive in every respect.

 

Placed in our stateroom was a plate of fancy cookies with a note of apology from the crew about the heavy odor or garlic we had complained about. The cooking fumes must have somehow gotten from the kitchen into the ship’s ventilation system. It’s obvious that Holland America and this ship know how to keep their customers happy and returning.

 

That evening, Betty and I enjoyed yet another great meal in the ship’s main dining room. I had a shrimp cocktail and a large veal chop served with vegetables. She went for an appetizer of escargot (snails) served in a cute, five-snail server, following by a “surf and turf” plate of a large lobster tail and a small portion of beef steak. Afterward, we ate about half our too-rich desert of chocolate cake made without flour and enjoyed a glass of white wine.

 

We retired early and steamed overnight from Palermo to Naples in Southern Italy, where several other big cruise ships were docked. The harbor is close to downtown so we may be among passengers who debark to walk around Naples and dodge the blowing litter and garbage on unsightly streets.

 

Continue with Part IX of Travelogue  /  Return to Nolan Travels