Now that I’ve finished the Croatia travel book (Visions of Vodice), solved my Internet problem (with an expensive fix) and revamped my Web site, I can attend to more important matters – like working on my next book and doing some more exploring of my new home. I’m sitting in my bedroom/office, sipping on some Sicilian red wine (less than 3 euro for 1.5-liter bottle), a slice of Parmasan (it’s delicious here, but expensive, about $14/lb.), black marinated olives that I bought fresh from the deli, and dried sausage, having just returned from a long walk into mostly new neighborhoods.
It’s interesting what you will find if you walk down the side streets. Of course, there are bars/cafes on almost every block, often more than one. Each block also seems to have its own panaficio (bakery); fresh fish shops dot the landscape; small stores appear without notice, maybe selling children’s or women’s clothing, or groceries, or alcohol (just bought a liter of Jim Beam for less than $15, cheaper than in the U.S.). You also come across restaurants and trattorias regularly. For the unitiated, the latter generally are family-owned restaurants that feature smaller menus and often specialize in seafood.
Most everything was shuttered today, as it was Saturday afternoon when I decided to walk. However, my rambling somehow ended up at the centro mercato, which apparently stays open later on Saturdays. I fought the crowds there a little while, defeating the temptation to buy anything. Jaco Jack would appreciate the eye candy in the mercato and on the streets today, but the crowd at the mercato is just too much to deal with.
Last night, I went to Metropolis again to practice my pool; my game really deteriorated during my stay in Croatia. Ended up playing doubles with two young couples. My partner was very pretty, too young, and knew no English. But we had a good time losing.
Sunday, Dec. 18
Only a week until Christmas. Bah, humbug! Hope to do a little more exploring today and
started out by doing something I’ve been avoiding – ordering pastry in a cafe. Thera re at least a half dozen cafes within a block of my apartment, but I walk by one across the street every day – Cafe Europa – that I’m told is upscale and where the better-off Catanians go for their cafe, pastries, sweets and drinks.
I must admit, I’ve been reluctant to go into one of these places because I didn’t want to embarrass myself not knowing the language, but today I bit the bullet when I finished my morning walk. The crowd had thinned out, so I was able to get to the pastry
counter easily enough. Some pointing and saying “uno” did the trick in ordering a vanilla custard-filled pastry and a cinnamon Danish. Total came to 2.3 euro; I won’t know if that is expensive until I do this again at a less-prominent cafe. As you can see by the above photo, they class it up “to go.”
This cafe has a large counter, with half devoted to pastries of all sorts and the other half filled with more fresh-made Italian sweets than you can imagine. To the right of the pastry counter is the cafe bar and to the left of the sweets is a liquor bar. Against one wall are glass cases containing a variety of cakes and cheesecakes.
A word about yesterday’s sights: I took a picture of a gelateria I passed with a
sign out front listing some prices. I had no idea what was being advertised, but Norma in Sarasota did. She said these were great prices. For what, I thought. So to the trusty dictionary. A tavola calda is a local cafe/bar offering low-cost, quick meals. This one is advertising breakfast for .60 or .90 euro, or 80 cents to $1.20; and lunch, hot or cold, for .6o or 1.2 euro. I will have to venture inside one of these places soon to find out just what kind of food is included with these meals.
(Later Sunday) Did go exploring this afternoon to check out the train/bus station, and to see if I could find schedules and rates for future trips around the island. There was a small drum and bugle band performing outside my apartment. Don’t know why.
The train station is a little less than a mile away on the main coastal road. Your views of
the sea, however, are interrupted by about 100 yards of train tracks and dilapidated buildings. The station itself is fairly modern. I did find a schedule, but no rates. There are regular trains to Taomina, Messina, Syracusa and Palermo. Shouldn’t be too
hard for me to figure out even with the language challenge.