Friday, September 18, 2009

The Opening Trip - Palermo

The ferry ride/cruise from Napoli to Palermo was a disappointment to say the least. If you look up the cruise line they show many beautiful boats that have many amenities, the one I was most looking forward to was the disco bar. Our boat may have once looked like the boats pictured on their web site but it has gotten a little older since its last photo, and although there was a disco bar on board, it never opened. It was a place to sleep and for that I am grateful.

We arrived in Palermo at 7 AM after sailing all night, I forgot to set my alarm, relying on the ship's wake up call service (mistake), and almost slept through disembarcment. I made it off the boat at with the end of our group. Once arriving in Palermo we went straight to the hotel to check in and have breakfast. Although it came from a self serve coffee machine, this hotel was the site of my first Italian capichino, it was delicious. After breakfast we went on a walking tour of Palermo and the many churches that they are famous for. Their churches are unique because of the many influences that shaped both the inside and outside of the churches. The churches were influenced by the Normans and the Arabs. We went to way to many churches on this tour but it was a lot of fun. We walked by the third largest theater in Europe. We saw the Cathedral of Palermo and the Palentine Chapel and the market.

Third largest theater in Europe

Town Square

Cathedral of Palermo

Inside of the Palantine Chapel

The first night in Palermo we had pick our roommates, it was easy for me because we had the roommate situation planned out since we all signed up to go. We didn't eat dinner at the hotel, our original plan was to eat at six at a restaurant and at nine at the hotel, but nothing was open 'til seven or later. We ate at a pizzeria that served some of the best pizza I've thus far, their house wine was not half bad so we sat, ate slowly and enjoyed our wine, we didn't leave until at least nine.

The next day we went to the Capuchin Catacombs, they didn't allow photos, which is to everyone's benefit. It was interesting to learn about but disgusting to see. The catacombs is not true catacombs, it is simply an underground cemetery that was used by the wealthy of Palermo. There were many monks and bishops that are kept there, the is a special guest of the catacombs, the daughter of a wealthy business man who died long after it was allowed to be used but the business man got special permission to entomb his daughter in the catacombs, to this day she is almost perfectly preserved. In the afternoon, we went to a nature reserve that is known for its plants, but more for the many kinds of birds that call it home. It was an interesting hike, but the only bird we saw was a seagull. We hiked down to a beach that everyone enjoyed... until it started to rain. It poured for at least twenty minutes and there wasn't any shelter nearby. I got soaked.

We went walking to find someplace to eat dinner, apparently we hadn't missed much the night before at dinner, we ended up at the same pizzeria, it was too good to pass up even for a second night in a row. A group of us went out for drinks after dinner and we ended up sitting at a table with a group of Italians until midnight, the language barrier was not a problem, it was a fun night.

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