Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sicily 2 – Monreale


For our second day we traveled to a little town nearby called Monreale.  (Again journal entry below).  Monreale is a beautiful hilltop town with a non-descript exterior.  But once inside, Wow!, a lot of gold flake and mosaic floors.

The pics of Monreale and its cathedral.

Another late start.  Either due to age or jet lag, I haven’t figured it put yet, but I’ll just blame it on the kids since they are also slow to rise.  After our egg breakfast, our first real breakfast in a while, we were off to Monreale to see the duomo there, 1183.

After 45 minutes in traffic just to get out of Palermo, it is only 6km away, we arrived in Monreale just as they closed the Duomo for lunch.  So, I set off back down the steps and retrieved our lunches and water bottles.  I met back up with the family in the piazza in front of the duomo.  Lunch being some wonderful salami and just ok cheese I bought at the tiny store the previous day.  After lunching under the orange trees we took a stroll and snapped some pics of Palermo bay and the exterior of the duomo.  Back to the duomo at two, since that’s when the ticket lady said they reopened, only to find out it was 2:30.  Ok, now we have to find a bathroom.  We walk into the nearest cafe and wait and wait in line, no problem, finally.  After the potty break we wander down another street and stop at a produce stand and buy some fruit.  Of course this sets off the never ending pleas to actually eat the fruit.  Back to the duomo, and the third time is the charm.  Upon entering, and once your eyes adjust, you have never seen so much gold flake on the walls.  They literally used it as wall paper.  The duomo carries a long and changing architectural style using gothic, baroque, Arab, Norman and Renaissance period design.  Quite amazing how it all works.

After the duomo tour we head back to palermo since we’ve used up a couple extra hours with traffic and lunch closings not anticipated.  I knew about the closing, but the traffic threw me.  On the way to Monreale we passed a Harley dealership and I wished I had stopped.  Especially after finding out we missed getting into the duomo by a few minutes.  On the way back we stopped.  I walked up to the door, but it was locked.  A lady came to the door, unlocked it and looked at me.  Knowing this was my one and only chance to get in, I gave her my frustrated traveler look and “aperto?”.  She took pity and said yes and let me in.  I asked about t-shirts, but she said she didn’t have any with Palermo on them, just womens.  I took a look at the womens and bought Mel a shirt.  Partial success.

Once we returned to palermo, Mel wanted to visit a gluten free bakery I found online.  To facilitate the driving she asked about using my phone.  I was hesitant using the limited data I had, and initially thought the thing was wrong.  But after a few more turns I relied not, it and guided us directly there.  With all the narrow one way streets, it would have been very difficult without it.  Once inside we asked if everything was gluten free, and it was!  Zayne was so excited and it easily flowed over into Capriana.  I was excited too, and proceeded to order some bread, then we got some cake with chocolate Grenache (right, Honey?) and chocolate sprinkles, a strawberry pastry and some biscotti cookies with icing in the middle.  After chomping down the cookies, Mel went back in to buy some chocolate balls. Upon further review, should have bought everything in the store.  I’m not sure what they do to make their gluten free stuff so good, but we need to learn.  Sounds like another trip to me.

After arriving back at the apt we realized we didn’t have anything for lunch.  So I walked down to the local market and used by best broken Italian to get some more salami and cheese.  I used this alone time to decide what our plan of action was for the evening. We had quite a time getting back to the apt due Holy Wednesday and the parking for the church two blocks away.  I decided we should go based on Mel telling me Last Supper Thursday would be worse.  So off we went to a gluten free pizza place I found online.  Not only was the pizza gluten free, but all the pasta and the entire menu.  It was a wonderful meal and very friendly staff, I would have gone their every night if given the chance.  The place is called naïf, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the neighborhood.

Once we returned to the apt, I realized our new adventures wouldn’t be normal, they would involve hunting down gluten free places to eat.  Climbing a volcano, or checking out Greek ruins or visiting a hilltop medieval tone were things we still do, but they just seemed easier to do….

Sicily Part 1


As most of you know by now, we took a little trip to the Italian island of Sicily.  Why Sicily?  Why not?  It’s a funny story I’ll tell you if you ask me.  But nevertheless, we picked Sicily, bit down on our upper lip and took a 2 year old and a 4 year old across the big pond, and then across the Mediterranean, and then to an island, all in “one” day.  The kids did great, zero meltdowns on the plane.  A couple of tantrums in the airports, but they did really well.  Our first day arriving in Sicily involved renting the car at the airport, driving to Palermo, finding our apt. (quite the task given the streets), meeting our landlord and getting a bite to eat and getting to bed.  About a 36 hour day when we finally got to sleep.  Here are the pics from our first day walking around.

A little history on Sicily, Sicily has been ruled by 6 different factions or countries (Greece, Spain, the Moores, the Normans, Byzantine and Italy) and a heavy hand from the mafia dating back to WWII.  The differing rulers along with it’s location near Africa is why there is such different architecture in the same building.  The mafia is now much less revered and welcome due to its laundering money from mainland Italy given to rebuild the cities in an attempt to increase tourism (1990’s).  The general population found out about the money withheld and in conjunction with the mafia killing a couple of high profile anti-mafia and their families, the people turned against the mafia.  It’s very safe there for tourists, and the people were so friendly.  Here are some pics from the first day in Palermo with more pics to follow.  (I have posted the journal entry below if you’re interested in reading more.)


Travel Day –

We arrived in Palermo at 6:10pm on Monday April 14th after one very long day of travel.  We left DFW at 5:50pm on Sunday, flew into Madrid, then on to Rome, and finally on to Sicily.  The kids did pretty well on the flights, at least as far as temperament goes.  Zayne got sick 3 times on the flight to Madrid, but held on for the other two.  Capriana was great on the flight to Madrid, had some minor behavior issues to Rome and was good to Sicily.  Her meltdowns came in the Rome airport.  But she regrouped and after a 2-1/2 hour layover she was ready to go.

We finally got my phone connected at the Palermo airport after failing to use a pay phone, or pay text or whatever it was I was trying to use.  We then picked up the rental car, managed to stuff the stroller, our 2 large bags, the kids bags, 2 backpacks, 2 rolling kids suitcases of toys, the camera sling, the car seat and still fit the four of us in it.  Off we went, but it took me a minute to realize I was driving in Italy again, if you’ve ever driven in Italy, you understand.  We arrived in Palermo quicker than I thought and soon realized the city was much larger and trickier than anticipated.  After pulling over to consult a map, and getting nowhere, we consulted the phone, data rates be d____ed.  With Mel navigating and me driving we realized that “alleyways” were really streets and the thickness of the line on the map did not correlate to the actual width of the street.  We arrived at the apt. after reducing our circle around it each time. We finally turned down what seemed like a forbidden alley with scaffolding on both sides and just wide enough for our little car.  We would come to realize this was a Main Street for the area, and dubbed it the tunnel.

The apartment was on the 4th floor of the building, 63 steps to be exact.  Cute little place with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and a kitchen, dining and living area combined.  Mel settled the kids down and I made 4 trips up the stairs with our stuff.  Since we really hadn’t eaten substantial meals, I set out to find something.  A couple doors down I found a bar and bought some ham and some cheese, and of course a bottle of wine.  This hit the spot, unfortunately there was no bottle opener in the apt.  A nut cracker, yes, because the Italians are renown for their nuts.  So no vino that night.  All for the best we were exhausted enough.

Day One:

I finally awoke to the light and noise outside to find it was noon.  So much for getting going in the morning. Zayne had been up for about 15 minutes, setting a record for the longest he’s ever slept in.  Capriana and mommy followed an hour later.  After everyone was up and had eaten a Lara bar and some nuts, we got showered up to go out.  First stop, food.  We walked to a market (outdoor market, not a store) that was still open and bought a stroller full of produce.  Then on the way back we stopped at a tiny store and bought eggs, some wonderful salami and some cheese (we should have cut the cheese up and let it set out, because it was pretty tasteless fresh).  While I was in the small store some very nice locals gave each if the kids an orange. A sign of things to come.  We returned back to the apt. and dropped off the food and back out we went.  Time to site see!

First we headed north to the Teatro Massimo and looked for gluten free gelato.  Now I thought most gelato was gluten free, but apparently it’s all cross contaminated.  We tried a couple of places but no luck, but the second place we tried directed us to a gluten free gelato place a few blocks away.  We found the place and also noticed they had about half the normal flavors, but all were gluten free.  We all picked our flavors based mostly on color, or texture for me, and went outside and indulged, and shared.

Done with gelato we headed off to the Palermo Cathedral.  On our way we stopped at another outdoor market to pick up some thing we didn’t know we needed. Olive oil!  Who would have thought an apt. in Italy wouldn’t have olive oil?  Soybean oil, yes, olive oil, no.  So to recap, no wine opener and no olive oil.  So we stopped at a place and bought olive oil, balsamic vinegar, butter, another bottle of wine and a “big brown” (big brown being the name my father in law gavethe liter bottles of beer on our first trip to Italy.  Ever since we’ve celebrated the name).  A few more vendors and we found some meat. I bought what looked to be a great cut of beef.

We found the Palermo Cathedral (1185 a.d.). and more importantly to Capriana, a place where she could get out of the stroller and run around.  We went inside the church, took pictures, walked around, read about the priest who was murdered by the mafia.  This apparently was a big turning point in the public turning against the mafia.  That and all the money they kept instead of renovating the city centre as they promised the Italian government. Done with the church, back outside so capriana can play, and Zayne jumps in the stroller.

Now we head off to see the Palazzo dei Normani (9th century), which is now the Sicilian parliament building.  We strolled through a park to get there, took a couple of pics, but nothing really major to tell.  In part of the palazzo is the Cappella Palatina, 1130-1140, which we didn’t see due to time issues.

On the way back to the apt. I found a bottle opener.  Home to make dinner.  Another thing we never noticed was the apt. only had 1 knife and 1 tiny cutting board, and NO SALT!  So off to the store I went again. Found a market just over 2 blocks away, but they acted like they never heard of salt.  I tried their language, my language, Spanish and hand gestures.  Finally they showed me a pepper shaker and I then saw the salt shaker.  I had to describe to them the color of the shaker for her yo find it.  Mission accomplished, back to the apt.  With a 2 lb piece of meat, onion garlic, pepper and zucchini to cut…..we’ll this took a while.  And when I say knife, I don’t mean a chefs knife or something substantial, I mean a table steak knife.  And not too sharp at that.  So after cutting steak for close to an hour, I got it into the skillet and handed the knife and cutting board over to Mel.  After an 1-1/2 dinner prep and cook, if not 2 hours, we finally ate.  It was good, but the meat was a little tough, great flavor just needed a low slow cooking approach.  Dinner done, wine opened, everyone happy.  Off to bed.

Phone Pics


Mommy sometimes takes pics with her phone.  And since Daddy does the pictures, Mommy’s pics get neglected for our blog.  So Mommy asked Daddy to post these before getting into the Sicily pics.  (Daddy promises those are coming soon).