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Old 02-08-2009, 06:51 PM   #106
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Old 02-08-2009, 10:21 PM   #107
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Cry Ciao Toscana

Well Tuscany came and went, and will stay as one of the most memorable part of the trip. We left Lucca the walled city to head for Pisa, and its leaning tower. Allowed ourselves to be mesmerized by Firenze, and had the nice surprise of discovering Siena. What an amazing part of the trip it has been.



Leaving Lucca we took the road of oilio e vino (oil and wine), and for a few hours wondered if there was really anything else you needed in life but those two precious liquids, that mother earth has been yielding for the adroit manipulation of men for centuries.



Our first agriturismo of the trip was just 3 km from the tiny village of Vinci. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Seeing the birthplace of master Leonardo was quite a humbling experience.



A replica of Leonardo's famous unfinished bronze horse.



Our villa, located among a cluster of properties amidst of a few hundred acres a vines and olive threes, was perfect.



The Heart of Tuscany, reserved online with hostelbookers.com for € 60.00 a night was splendid. The view of the rolling hills of Tuscany from the private terrace was perfect, the Proseco was cold, crisp, and dry, and we toasted to the joy of being so lucky to be here together, savouring every moment.

Bonus, the neighbors were really nice.



So, Jackie made an offer to buy the place, but the owner respectfully declined.


And I didn’t even mentioned the pool yet, to die for! Ok I would not die for a pool, it’s just a silly English expression, to put it in perspective it was at least as nice as the pool we had when we were in a resort in Lautoka Fiji (ok! ok! you had to be there), have a look, never truer was the euphemism a picture is worth a thousand words.

This way to the piscina.



Despite the coolish 21 C, I went for a swim and thoroughly enjoyed it.



Not just the pool, but the whole set up was just amazing.



Our third and final Tuscan stop would be about 20 km north of Siena.





To get there we followed for the next 70 or so km, the road of Chianti, through countless little villages each more picturesque than the next.







The tarmac was smooth as silk.



Of course there were a few old buildings.



As previously, the weather had not been to much on our side, and although it was sunny with cloud cover most of the time, we had some rain everyday, except today on the road to Roma.



While on the topic of tarmac, we had our first scare of the trip, at least Jackie did, as expected the Valentino dood was cool as ice. After a blind curve, similar to the one below, a Tuscan driver decided that his lane included 2/3 of ours, I had good speed, but was tight on the inside, needless to say, avoid as much as possible.



On the second day we visited Siena. I had read little about the walled city before our trip, and it was another great renaissance city to discover. Siena claims it has one of the nicest Piazza in the world.





If you thought the Spanish were a bit insane with the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Siena holds its own with the running of the horses. Twice a year on July 2 and August 16 is held in Piazza del Campo the Palio, a race of around the Piazza, where 17 contrade compete for the first spot. If you’ve seen the last James Bond Quantum Solace, it is the city scene at the beginning of the movie.



We bought some artisan wild boar sausages, as well as some torta rustica.


Ok ok... we also stopped at the gelateria.....



And visited the local house of worship.



Nice floors if you can get them.



Jackie never stopped complaining, she was having a real lousy time.



Molto gracie Sienna.



We got back home just during a break in the cloud.





There is something to be said about a rainy day in Tuscany, when you are staying in a villa on the grounds of a Chianty winery. Especially if the villa has a fireplace, and you have an ample supply of said beverage, and nothing to do but...

That night, to the soothing lounge beat of Buddha Bar, accompanied by the steady beat of rain drops bouncing hard on our tilled roof, we had a delicious home cooked meal, accompanied by several glasses Chianti.



Hence, we were not suffering. We spent our last three days in Castello de Selvole. We met three friendly Italian cats, which for the duration of our stay went to bed with their belly full.

As our trio of newfound feline friends did, we retired with nothing went to complain about. Closing my eyes and falling into a deep sleep, I knew that tomorrow would bring us another fun filled day.

We awoke early this morning under a bright sunshine, packed and headed for Roma.

ST was ready to go.



Hum! If all roads lead to Rome, they are all not that easy to find when you’re trying to leave Siena. And avoid the super-slabe. Despite careful planning, we twice took a wrong turn, and had to double-back as many times until we found the SR 2 (strata regionale) for the 250 km that would lazily take us out of Tuscany and into Lazio.

So first ST decided to play GS.



A bit longer.



Until we found some pavement again.



The scenery changed quickly after a few dozen km south-west of Sienna from olive grooves and vineyards, to rolling hills of yellow and gold wheat fields.





Perfect for pasta. Of the more than 9000 km we have done so far, the few days in Tuscany have been the most relaxing, and I am tempted to say that the inland scenery has been the prettiest so far. I say tempted, and used the word quite deliberately because, although you cannot compare the rolling hills, and shallow valleys of Tuscany with the majestic peaks of the Italian Alps, or the French Vercors, there is indeed something quite special about the country side of Tuscany.





Tomorrow we head for the Coliseum, and I will tell you more about our first night at Camping Fabulous, in the suburb of Rome (Ostia) hints: no fire place, but includes: sheets and a private shower for 19€ per night...

Italy, Jackie and Valentino have now fell under your charms.

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Old 02-15-2009, 07:51 PM   #108
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A year in Roma

June 11


It was hardly more than half a day trip to get from Sienna to Roma. The sun was shining and with the coordinated help of GP, we easily found the exit to Ostia and went looking for Camp fabulous, about 3 km from the Italian Mediterranean.

Valentino insisted on riding to the sea so he could wave at Barcelona, almost strait across the Med to the west.





From my humble perspective, I honestly think that you need at least a full year to even scratch the surface, and begin to grasp the wonders of this amazing city.

Beautiful avenues.


Something new.



Something old.



Lots of old things actually.



Ruins they call them.



ST got cozy with an Italian scooter.



And we saw this cute Roman gladiator chick.



And equally cute sandal-wearing Franciscan Monk.



For centuries Rome was the center of the universe, and for many Italians, many Catholics, and many others, it still is. Hence, it would be very presumptuous, even more preposterous for me to attempt to give anything but an inaccurate, and superficial description, or overview of the city in a few pages of text. So instead I will do it in just three words.

1 Chiesa. (BTW this is ST with St Peter's in the background)



2 Piazza. (This one is Piazza del Popolo)



3 Fontana. (Jackie with the fountain of Trevi in the background)



Ok a couple more of the fountain of Trevi, just pure beauty.





Those of you who have been to Roma you know exactly what I mean, those of you who have not, well your life really sucks, and you should remediate without waiting any longer.

The Pantheon.


The Pantheon has at the top of the arches, an open hole to let the spirit of God peer through, the effect is extraordinary and a local guide explained that on the rare occasion when it snows it becomes simply marvelous... pretty cool those Romans.



Just another obelisk.



And an Arch.



Roma has more then nine hundred churches, two hundred and eighty fountains, and several dozen piazzas. After visiting the city it is not hard to imagine why the Romans wonder what is the big fuss with London and Paris? As I walked the city, I wondered if really, all the great cities are not somehow trying to imitate the grandiloquent beauty of Rome, only to succeed in various degrees of failure.



Palm threes too.



We have seen some incredible things on this trip so far, and we still have to make it to Athens, who also claims to be the cradle of humanity. Yes, yes, yes, and they also have a few old crumpling buildings, that have been around for the last few thousand years, but so far in terms of grandiose man made spectacle, Rome easily takes the palm, or the laurels if you want to be technical. I will do a honest comparison when we are in Athens, but I don’t know, Roma will be tough to beat. Hasn’t it always being the case?

Under the arena at the Coliseum.




A quick note on traffic in the monumental capital of Italia, I had previously heard some horror stories about the sheer madness that inhabited the Roman drivers. Sorry to disappoint you, traffic is dense, fast, but people know how to drive, except for a few rogue scooters, traffic light are much more respected then in Toronto, Vancouver or Winnipeg.



Scratch that... people in Winnipeg can’t drive period. Pedestrian are safe as long as they cross on a green, and when using lightless crosswalk, I found traffic will stop to allow them to pass more often then none. Montreal drivers have a lot to learn about yielding to pedestrians. I have failed to notice a yellow light, either you go or you stop. I also remain amaze at how evenly fluid all traffic flows with minimum lights, and practically no stop signs.

Everywhere you look, your jaw drops.



The key is not to hesitate, if you signal, turn. If you decide to cross the street, go and cross. If you wait after someone to let you go in, merge, or let you through, you will grow roots. A thing of beauty! Even at night, ST had no problem making its way around the city.



Jackie behind another beautiful fountain.



We took a nice ride along the river Tiber to make our way to Vatican city.



In the best church\cathedral\basilica contest, I can definitely announce St Peter’s as the winner, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Even if the outside of the basilica is somewhat dwarfed by the esplanade, inside it was just so huge, spacious, and high. I am sure there were several thousand people around us and it did not even feel crowded.

We had to wait less then an hour to get in.



The pope was scheduled to speak the following day, timing was great, it would have been to crowded to do anything.



And a few inside of the Basilica.





Although we where in Roma for just two full days, we visited the Coloseum, at least 12 or 14 churches, walked the city to see all the monuments, saw the Vatican, and its museum, which now includes the Sistine chapel, the map room was slenpdide.

The stairs of the museum.



And the sculpture room.



It did not take long for the city to grow on us; we loved its organized Chaos. Roma till next time, soon enough I hope.

Tomorrow we take the road to Sicile.



Just a peek.


Grazie mille Roma... arrivederci.

BTW, just a quick word about camp fabulous... huh... imagine a shed with electrical power. Very clean... but not so fabulous.

Nuff said bout that,

Ciao
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The motorcycle chronicles of Jackie & Valentino
The Southern Episode

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Old 02-18-2009, 01:22 AM   #109
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More!
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:02 AM   #110
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Reminds me of my years in Europe! Fantastic RR. Really enjoying it...

Great to see you are still posting it up.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
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Old 02-19-2009, 09:26 PM   #111
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Reminds me of my years in Europe! Fantastic RR. Really enjoying it...

Great to see you are still posting it up.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
The RR is allowing us to relive every moment, it's actually quite therapeutic, thanks for sticking around.
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Old 02-19-2009, 10:55 PM   #112
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Cool2 Now that's Amore

June 14



Today marks the two months anniversary date since we shipped ST from Winnipeg, we left on the 16 of April, and we are now in full symbiosis with the trip. This adventure has become our reality and despite at times feeling like it’s just zooming before our eyes, we are making a conscious effort to enjoy every precious moment. Nothing else seems to matter, just living here now and enjoying this amazing adventure.



So just when you think it doesn’t get any better than that, it just starts to get great.



We left Roma 3 days ago and planned for a 2 day ride to Sicily, 2 days to make it to Palermo. Leaving from our campground was great because we were already about 15 km south of Rome, and just a few km from the coast in Ostia.



I think it was one of our quickest exit out of a major center yet. GP did not feel a need to recalculate. Despite having seen and read really bad news coverage on Napoli because of the waste management problem, we plotted a north to south route that would take us through the city, the gulf of Napoli, and the famous Amalfi coast, once again away as much as possible from the autostrada. The way I see it, is that if you are going to experience anything remotely real, you should at least get a vague idea of the problems that surround the places you visit.





So we left Lazio and entered Campania, we immediately saw the garbage problem, and I am sad to report that for once the media had not exaggerated the situation.



Despite having some relief as of late, the whole district of Napoli has been faced for years with a problematic waste management crisis with no immediate solution in sight.



Despite Berlusconi’s promise to fix the problem, about 100,000 tons of refuse lies in roads all over the region. And now a concerned European Union is threatening sanctions. In June, Brussels opened an infringement procedure against Italy for failing to comply with waste disposal guidelines. Soon, Italy could be facing a fine or the loss of some funding.

Even in the heart of Napoli.



Twelve years ago, Campania approved a plan that would have been ambitious even in Switzerland. No landfills, no recycling: all waste would go to produce refuse-derived fuel. Sadly, the waste-to-energy plants were never built because people took fright and protested. And now no one knows what to do with the “ecoballs”, the treated waste that is ready to be burned, partly because the quality turned out to be extremely poor and nobody wants them, in Italy or abroad. The upshot is that the refuse is not collected and the air in the streets is unbreathable.

It was not even that hot but the stench was really bad.



The story has been dragging on for a decade. In the rest of the province, there are 40,000 tons of rubbish lying in the open air, as much again in the province of Caserta and a further 20,000 tons in the provinces of Salerno, Avellino and Benevento. So sad, really, really sad...Munnezza e Bellezza, (Garbage and Beauty), for more then a million Neapolitans this means living in stench and filth.

And beauty there was.



Around el gulfo de Napoli.


As we raced to through the city streets, we could not help but notice the sad faces, the look of despair in the peoples’ faces. It was however not the only expressions we read, it felt as if the ones that were not sad, had a mean edge to their demeanor, Napoli and periphery were not fun places to be, thanks to the ST nimble disposition and Valentino’s improving city piloting skills, we got out of there as quick as we possibly could. This said I do not regret one second having taken that way south.



But in fact is this not above all, a true testimony of our senseless, continuous consumerism. It’s just that some of us hide it better then others. Take a look at some of the poorest places on earth, and than maybe, just maybe you’ll think about taking your canvas bag to the market instead of contributing more garbage to the world in the insidious form of throwaway non degradable plastic bags.



In the end my quick research on the subject has yielded three possibilities for this predicament: Maybe it’s the fault of the Camorra the Neapolitan version of the Cosa Nostra (Mafia), for the longest time they sold the space available in the dumps to the north, now they are full. Going from one neighborhood to the next, just 1 or 2 streets apart, where we had just witness heaping piles of foul smelling detritus of all kind, now we were seeing empty waste bins, and hardly more then a few cigarettes butches on the streets. To add insult to injury the bins would be left open to show how empty they were.



Who dares to protest what to who, I wonder? Or maybe it’s the fault of the central Italian government, The province of Naples, where the capital city of Naples lies has still not yet recovered from the unifying Italian wars of 1860-61 that granted the Italians with a central government. Nowhere in Italy is the contrast between opulence, and poverty more striking than in Napoli. Or maybe after all it’s the fault of the fatalism in Neapolitans that accepts corruption and anarchy. An old Chinese proverb says that whenever you are pointing a finger at someone you have three pointing at yourself.

And more beauty, just outside the city.



For us peering from the outside in, it was just another episode in our journey, a few hours past the Amalfi coast landed us in the small town of Capaccio, where we took long warm well deserved luxurious showers before a fine evening of pasta Marinara accompanied by a crisp Rosé, how’s that for washing away the filth's.

And watch a beautiful Italian Mediterranean sunset.





Pretty cynical, or maybe not, but tonight we were happy to be out of there and glad for a clean shower. At the end of the day, despite how much you care, there’s always someone suffering and someone who’s not. And more often then not we each prefer not to be the ones whodo. Not that we have the smallest clue what real suffering is... this was just a small climpse at mans folly. I believe I conduct my life with respect for my fellow man, and although I could always do more, and show more empathy, I know I do more than most (or at least I convince myself as such). And I’m sure that most of us enjoyed their last meal in oblivion of a lot of the suffering that goes on in the world. -Rant over-



We awoke bright and early, and I mean early, this is not some poorly chosen prose, we got awaken at 03:45 by a foul mood Italian rooster. Ok! Ok! So maybe it was not that bright, just early, and the rooster’s mood was not foul. But the day was already bright enough for the stupid bird.

View from the bed.



View from the bed.



Nothing that a stiff expresso and a sunny blue sky to head for the open road could not fix.





Less then 3 km from our departure point, it was magic once again and we were rewarded for our perseverance through Napoli by long dead Roman architects.

Athens has its work cut out for herself, these were magnificent.





And heading for the Amalfi coast.



The ride was incredible, with great twisties, sandwiched between the mountain and the sea.

Picturefest on the way.







We went through so many small villages with houses perched atop cliff themselves vertically plunging to the sea.



Wow



Narrow streets.





Crazy Tunnels.



And more and more gorgeous stretches of Tarmac.





Luxurious marinas





What a ride.



I am not a big fan of first person film shots, but this one turned out pretty well and it's less then 50 sec, it gives a really good idea of the ride we had for several hundred kilometers, felt like these types of roads were build with bikes and bikers in mind.


We would stop yet one more night on this nice stretch of beach and found a well priced B&B, just 6 km from Villa San Giovanni, in Calabria on the coast of the strait of Messina.



And Mother nature blessed us with her divine presence yet one more time.







The next morning, Jackie, Valentino and ST were ready for there first boat trip. Another sunny day in friendly Calabria and we headed for the 45 minutes ferry to Messina.

Cargo and tourists, that's us.



Valentino diligently made sure everything was secured.



And ST was a real social butterfly and as usual made lots of two wheeled friends.



And we set sail.





Just ahead the shores of Messina, soon we'll be in Sicile and heading for Palermo.....

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Old 02-20-2009, 01:58 AM   #113
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Gre8888th Pictures. Thanks so much for the time and work to share with us that will never see that part of the world except by reports such as yours.
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Old 02-20-2009, 03:29 AM   #114
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Old Achesly is trapped out on an oil rig in the Gulf and I'm trapped by the last of our winter weather, so this report has helped sustain us. Thanks again.
It is ironic that one of the cradles of civilization is having such problems coping with civilization. What a shame. They just need some Germans to go in for a few months and get things cleaned up!

My wife is planning a summer trip for India. I'm trying to convince her that we need to send the GSA to Italy for summercamp instead. Great pics.

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Old 03-01-2009, 06:31 AM   #115
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Wicked Palermo, this thing of ours

It's a bit before 0500, here in Victoria and I have been so busy with moving that I have been left with very little time to work on the ride report, but since I can't sleep might as well do something useful.

For this leg of the trip, We took the better part of the day to make our way from Messina to Palermo, 5 hours to cover the 260 km from the ferry terminal to the capital, faithful to our custom we stayed away from the highway and hugged the southern coast of the largest island of the Mediterranean sea, on the SS113.

The route went something like that.



In fact it looked a lot like this.



And that.



But also a lot like this.



Many times like this.



Looking ahead.



And looking back.



The highway to the left, Italians have really had to learned how to deal well with difficult terrain and build awsome highways.



And to the right.



Just a few more.



The mountains in the distance.



And up close.



We stopped for lunch in a macelleria (a butcher shop), this one we hadn’t planned, but we had ran out of water and were getting thirsty, we saw this friendly homy looking place, they had table in the front so we sat down, shared a extra cold Moretti, and had home made lasagna with locally made sausages, crusty bread and a stiff expresso to tie it all up.

-Benvenuto in Sicilia-.



The sky was an immaculately blue, the sea reflected a brilliant hue of turquoise, the temperature hovering around 30 C, the air laden by the smell of the island, we had just been here for a few hours and we were already under the spell of the southernmost region of Italy.



We made it to Palermo well before night fall and Jackie found the closest internet coffee while I went to shop for supplies. Thanks yet again to lastminute.com, we got a 4 stars hotel, with breakfast included for €48.00 per night. When I gave my credit card to the front desk, we again got that WTF-look: "how come you pay so cheeep for the room"?

And Valentino answered: "This lastminute.com, heez a friend of ours".



Palermo claims to be one of the most ancient city of Europe, Phoenicians dubbed it the perfect port a few hundred years even before the Romans came around. Since today is Dominica (Sunday), most of the people in the non-Muslim world are resting. It is in that spirit that we decided to split all the tasks that needed to be accomplished for the day, one of us would to stay at the hotel in Monreal, and make sure the pool was adequate for a dip, and the sun warm enough for a tan.



The other would go for a tour of Palermo, and a dip in the Mediterranean. Both tasks were appropriately dispatched, and it was commonly decided that Valentino and ST would go for a tour, and Jackie would conduct all research related to pool and sun.



Like most European city, Palermo has a claim to fame; The most spread out historical center of any city in Europe. This was indeed a perfect job for ST and Valentino.



Palermo, in Sicilian Palermu, in Greek Panormus (meaning all port) is more then 2780 years old. It is considered one of the most conquered city of Europe, thus its highly diversified cultural heritage. The urban center of this port city is populated by about 670000, it was founded by the Phoenician do to its strategic location, and status as a port. Although it never belonged to the Greeks, it would be part of the Greek speaking Roman Empire. Now Palermo is the capital city of the independent province of Sicily which is part of Italy since 1860.






Palermo turned out to be a great city to visit, with hardly any traffic, I enjoyed riding the bike Sicilian style (helmet in the side case).



And you might have guessed it, but ST insisted that I take her to see the Cathedral.





The grounds were beautiful, the color of the stone reflecting the sunlight, it reminded me little bit of Salamanca, "la ciudad de oro".





Incredible architecture everywhere you look.





One of the best part of the afternoon was to admire Teatro Massimo.



It's where in the final episode of the Godfather, Michael Corleone admonishes his enemies, by delivering a final blow to several of his biggest rival as a revenge for an earlier attempt on his life, only to loose his daughter to a stray bullet destined for him.



Looking at the steps of Teatro Massimo, I could see and hear his anguish, as his progeny Maria, played by Sofia Coppola, expired as she let out her final breath whispering “Dad...”



Oh so dramatic: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”. It was pretty cool to be right there and then.



I spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach in the very popular playa Mondello.



The in spot among city dwellers of all ages, there I quickly understood why Palermo was so deserted, everybody was at the beach.



A few notes on Italian beachwear, regardless of your shape, size, or age, if you are a women you must wear a two piece, if you are a man the style is brief.



Everybody is at the beach, the old guys sitting on beach chairs under large umbrella smoking cigars and playing scopa & scopone, the mamas are running after toddlers, teenager boys are cruising, while the girls are working on their tans, and the boys and man of all ages play either beach ball, or beach futbol.



What a scene, it was a pretty crowded place. I got to enjoy my first dip of the trip in the Mediterranean’s water. What a great way to spend a beautiful warm and sunny Sunday afternoon.







When I returned home, I compared notes with Jackie and we both accomplished what we had set out to do, the pool ended up being quite adequate, and the visit of Palermo, and the sun drench beach of Mondello, just what the doctor ordered...



We spent two more days in the capital city before we went looking for the Padrino and headed for Corleone...
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The motorcycle chronicles of Jackie & Valentino
The Southern Episode
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Old 03-01-2009, 01:01 PM   #116
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Great report. Just great. I thought that report from Spain is awesome. Italy is better...Thank you both. I am planing Sicily in May so this is great to read.
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Old 03-01-2009, 02:07 PM   #117
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The Pantheon.

The man in the foreground sure looks like John Petrucci! (Progressive Metal Guitar God of Dream Theater)
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Old 03-08-2009, 10:30 PM   #118
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Terra de fuoco

June 18

Having hugged the coast from of Sicily from Messina to Palermo, we opted to visit the hearltland, as we made our to Catania.




So we left Monreal on the periphery of Palermo, and headed for central Sicile to find Corleone, and maybe the Padrino himself.



Having had some rain since the beginning of the trip, and rather temperate if not cool weather, the heat of Sicile was just what we had in mind. As we slowly progress towards our first waypoint on the road to Catania, within just a few hours the mercury had risen from 25 to 39 C, and it started to get pretty hot.



Add the heat of ST (it is well documented that She can generate a lot of heat), the gear and helmet, “fouggit aboud it”.



I was singing the heat was hot, while Jackie hummed he heat is on. What was quite extraordinary about the heat, was the sun heated wind blowing into the rolling hills, and adjacent planes of dry, gold wheat.



As the wind changed direction, the fields would roll into a wave, some kind of organized natural ballet. Indeed, it was quite an extraordinary scene, but damn hot.


Lunar landscape.






After a quick tour of Corleone, BTW we never saw a Padrino, we headed further inland towards Caltanissetta.









Despite both the assistance of GP, and the only a map we consulted on the trip so far, navigation proved to be quite a challenge. Many roads crisscrossed each other, all pointing to the same direction, but through many different little villages. We were strangers in a strange land, and did countless stops just to figure out, where we were, and how to get to the next crossroad. This lasted about six hours, and Jackie was not to impressed by Valentino's navigation.

But lots of typical sites and critters made worthwhile.



To his credit, Valentino was able to hone in on this gelateria.



In the very small village of Villalba in the middle of nowhere, smack in the center of Sicile, no doubt we are in Europe. We discovered Gelato e brioce, home made ice cream served in a freshly bake brioce.

This one was vanilla wit whole nuts, and pistachios, chunks of chocolates and small coffee chips.




After this well deserve nosh, Jackie was all smiles again and ready to hit the road, from the time we left Monreal until we hooked back on the autostrada A19 in Enna, only to have hardly covered more then a 150 km, we had spent 5 hours crisscrossing the center of Sicily.



Back on the autostrada, it was nice to open the throttle again and cover some ground. ST promptly ate up the road that separated us from our future place of dwelling.

We caught our first glimpse of Etna.



We booked, this time using hostelbookers.com, at the Hostel Opera. The owner Lydia and Constantinou were very friendly, we even had a load of laundry done. No need for a dryer, by the time you finish hanging your clothes, the first ones hung are already dry. On Tuesday... uh I think it was Tuesday, somehow remembering what day of the week it is, is not very high on my list of priority, and I kind of like it that way. We headed for Etna.



(Muncibeddu in Sicilian and Mongibello in Italian). About 30 or so km from Catania, lies the largest volcano in Europe, with 1250 sq km of covered area, and an altitude of 3350 meters, just a few less than the snowy Stelvio pass.



For its repeated eruptions of the last few years, it is often considered to be the most active volcano in the world. Mongibello dominates the island, its three surrounding seas, and the tip of the region of Calabria.



During the ride up to the south side, we dropped 12 C going from 39 C to 27 C. Because the last irruption was so recent (2006), the changing landscape along the winding road was spectacular.



Over and above the dynamic landscape, one of the most noticeable aspect of the ride was the smells: four or five different types of flowers, including bay laurels, and some other white exotic blossom, mix up a dab of citrus, and olive vapors, and you have a natural living recipe for aromatherapy, all the while twisting and turning on nothing but freshly laid tarmac. This is the Zen place you can only get to when ridding a fine two wheeled machine.




The craters were magic.




And windy.




Harden lava.







A view from the top.




Even ST had a great time... what a poseur she is.



After our excursion to Etna, we came back to the room and had a couple of very cold ones to rest and unwind from the heat, and the excitement of the morning.

We left ST with her pals,



In the afternoon we walked around Catania, just enjoying the site of the ancient city.

And found a cathedral.




City hall




A nice fountain.



A few old buildings.






A sign of the cult of St James (Culto de Santiago).



And some flowers.



Later that evening, a short distance from our hostel in Catania we had for dinner, a white pizze (no tomato sauce) of tuna, fresh campari tomatoes, rucola, and fresh shavings of Parmigiano Regiano, we also ate a salad made with rucola, radiccio, red onions, mozze de bufala, tomatoes, olives, anchovies, olive oil, and just a hint of Balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, and oregano. By some yet unknown twist of fate, this came accompanied by a large helping of Sicilian red.



To add insult to injury, we enjoyed on a giant screen, set up outside on the street, as were our tables, Italy beat the French in a rematch of the last Mundial’s final game (less Zizou). I hate to say it again but, it was indeed quite civilized, and despite been an hardcore fan of “Les Bleus”, this day was all about Italy. I could not help but smile and think, after all, it could be true, Italians really do it better...




Mille grazie Sicile.


Greece is beckoning our names...

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The motorcycle chronicles of Jackie & Valentino
The Southern Episode
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Old 03-16-2009, 09:03 PM   #119
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Pissed A sizzling leg

June 20th

We quickly covered the 90, or so km from Catania back to Messina to once again take the ferry to mainland Italy in Villa San Giovanni. Still under the spell of Etna.



And across the straight.



Sicily was a great part of the trip, and Italy has been wonderful, it is now time to head to Greece, we took the road from Villa San Giovanni to round of the tip of the boot of southern Italy.



The sights and smells of Calabria engulfed us at every turn.



And on every straight.



We stopped for lunch in Siderno, and since I was still looking for a motorcycle service shop, I asked our waiter if anybody in Siderno could do the oil change on the bike for me. He said no problem, if you wait until I finish work, I have room in my garage, I can help you and we do it together. The offer was more then we had asked for, but I wanted to make a few more km before we retired for the night, hence I respectfully declined.



At about 1700 we entered the capital of Calabria, Catanzano. As we drove through the coastal town, I noticed a small scooter maintenance shop, just across the street from an even smaller fruit market. I made my way to the service shop, and took an appointment with friendly Vincenzo the owner, for otto e domani (tomorrow at eight). Next step was to go hunting for a place to spend the night, and a well deserve dip in the Med in order to cleanse the dust and heat from the road.





By 0900 the next morning, ST had finally received her first oil change since Amsterdam. After more then 11500 km, it was long overdue. I now routinely change the oil and do basic maitenance, but what can I tell you, I like better ridding than wrenching.

A few more nice stretches of beaches.







And the last Italian winery for a while.



Next stop Brindisi to find a boat for Patras. Little did we know that the next few hours would unfold as the most critical of the trip.



As we came to a stop in front of one of the many travel agents shops that border the port of Brindisi, with the front wheel of ST still in a turn position, I must have applied a bit to much front brake pressure, and before I had time to react, she decided to lay on her right side for the third time of the trip. Not a big deal in itself, the wing tips are well position as to avoid any damage, it is something that has happened before (third time of the trip), and that we even practiced for before leaving.


But, on the way down, as we naturally tried to compensate for the unbalance, Jackie’s riding pants lifted up from her left leg just enough to receive a good lick from the left exhaust at the bottom of her calf. Actually, she got seared pretty well.

Valentino felt like a dork & Jackie .... well something like this .

After the initial shock, we put ST back up and surveyed the damage on the leg. I did not have anything in the first aid kit to cool down a large burn like this.

The helpful travel agent said: “dentifrigo... dentifrigo... put some dentifrigo, a doctor told me that once”.

So we got some ice from a bar next door, wrapped it in my handkerchief, and used some dentrifigo to applied it to her burned calf now starting to blister. Both Jackie and have been first aider for over 20 years and it’s the first time we ever heard about putting toothpaste on a burned. But it did help some.

Once the initial scare had passed we bought our tickets, set out to get some snacks for the boat ride, booked a hostel in Athens and headed to our departure gate. At least the 18hours boat ride will provide time to relax overnight.



Despite the pain Jackie was still in good spirit and took a few shots at the ferry terminal. We were yet to find out how bad this was.






“Fu*#ing agents”. Those were the exact words uttered by the Stewart that took us to our cabin, we both sighed at the thought of spending the night in the closet - read shoe box size space we had been given.

Albeit the ship been quite full, the agent had told us we were paying for a three person inside cabin with private shower and washroom (we paid an extra half not to share the cabin with anyone). What we got was a four person cabin, no washroom no shower, not even a washbasin, the thing was actually smaller then most people bedroom closet. Not such a big deal in itself, but it was not what we were told we were paying for.

I went to see the Purser to informed him of our predicament (leg and all), and enquired about the infirmary so Jackie could get properly treated.

He very politely said: “please take a seat, and once we have sailed if they are still some space available, I will see what I can do. As of now we are all full due to several charter buses full of Americans.

For the infirmary, I will inform the staff Captain, and he will come and see you but not until we’ve depart”.

Fair enough I thought, Jackie and I have given this line countless times in our years working onboard trains and airplanes.

The resilience of Jackie, "Flight Attendant troubadour" was really been put to the test.

Some 20 minutes after departure, the Purser came to get us, to inform us that he would upgrade us to a 4 person cabin with an outside window at no extra cost, and that the ship nurse would come and see Jackie.

Bye Bye Brindisi



The nurse showed up, but he did not look too good, the back of his shirt was bloody, his elbow and knuckles we badly scraped. He explained that he took a fall off his scooter on his way to work, and just wanted to retire to his quarters as soon as possible. He sprayed the burnt leg with a coolant powder, but by now about 3 hours later it was to late for initial treatment and, the adrenaline had faded and the pain and fatigue were settling in.

Much better looking then it actually was, this ended up been a second degree burnt, slight larger than a hand. More gruesome pics to come in the next installment.



It was at this point that everything started to drastically improve. You see, we met Dottore Giuseppe Genovese, vascular surgeon extraordinaire, from the university of Perugia. But much more then that, a well known doctor, traveling frequently on the ferry routes between Brindisi where he has a clinic, and Athens where he is an Emeritus Professor at the university of Athens, and where he was attending a medical congress, and performing a live cam operation over the weekend.

But much more then that yet... above the splendid well travel polyglot we had just encounter, we had just hooked up with a passionate biker. He eagerly explained to us that he now owns a BMW RT, but has had every other motorcycle under the sun in the last 30 years. His sons and daughter, surgeons and biologist are also avid bikers.

He was quite excited to hear all about our trip, and to have a chance to converse in French. He told us that just after diner, he would come to our cabin, and treat Liliane’s leg.

Dr Giuseppe, I will refer to him as Dr Feelgood from now on, was back less then 10 minutes later, and apologetically said: “my stomach can wait, but the leg of the signora should not”. He first doused the leg with a red liquid; it was Benadyne, all the while, explaining the treatment he was providing. He then proceeded to remove the dead skin and further applied an healthy amount of cortisone cream. He dressed the wound with thin gauze, and than wrapped her leg with a Zinc oxide bandage, to finally wrap everything with a tension net. As I perfunctorily squeezed Liliane toes to check her circulation, Dr Feelgood gave a me whimsical look, and said in his slightly Italian accented French “you know I only have been a surgeon for the last five minutes, before that I was a mason. When you are a biker you are crazy, but when you are a surgeon you are also a bit crazy, I guess that makes me crazy-crazy. My wife warns my friends that at any speed under 180 km per hr I fall asleep, crazy-crazy”.



All three of us had a good laugh, and headed to the bar for a well deserve cocktail. As long as Jackie was feeling better, this would hopefully just be something to talk about around the fire place, when we get back home .

We spent the rest of the evening sharing war stories with our newfound friend as he made us rethink our passage through the Balkans in order to more fully enjoy what Greece has to offer. It was indeed a turning point in the trip, we have less then a month to make it back to Amsterdam and get back on the North American continent, and after visiting Athens we had decided to go relax in Kriti to give a chance to the leg to start healing before doing a lot more ridding. So Dr Feelgood circled the map for places not to miss, and even where we might find paradise, and its capital. We talk about civilization, religion, man, and the environment. How refreshing it was to speak with someone so enthusiastic about life.



We parted in the morning after he checked on the well fare of his patient; we exchanged email and business cards. And, as he waved goodbye following a warm embrace, I could not help but think how much he reminded me of a modern day Indiana Jones, wearing a safari jacket, his eyes covered by aviator style glasses, his worn leather briefcase under one arm and, his doctor’s kit under the other, heading towards is brand new Audi A8, what a character, crazy-crazy.



Crossing the Adriatic.



Albeit some pain, Jackie was in good spririt and she told her war story as we got ST ready for its first run on Greek tarmac, we chatted with a couple of Italian bikers, plotted a course to Corynthe and Athens, and begun our quest for the perfect Souvlaki.



Thank you so much Dottore Giuseppe, we will not forget you.
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FEAR ===> False Expectation About Reality. GSA08
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The motorcycle chronicles of Jackie & Valentino
The Southern Episode

V@lentino screwed with this post 03-16-2009 at 09:25 PM
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Old 03-19-2009, 05:37 AM   #120
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this report is awsome!!!! great job guy's, and i hope your leg is doing better. keep up the good work and pics.
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