Thursday, 3 March 2016

Full circle

On November 22nd we were here  in Taormina, parked at Camping Lagani, and now we are back! In the meantime we returned to the UK in December and January, then completed a clockwise circumnavigation of the island. The last section was spectacular. The autostrada from Finale traverses the empty north coast through a series of long tunnels and vertiginous viaducts. Seawards, the Aeolian Islands grow closer, at first grey smudges on the horizon, then dark green mountainous lumps. Onwards, past Messina's hilly sprawl with Reggio di Calabria in the distance across the straits, then southwards towards the massive bulk of Etna, its snowy flanks half hidden in glowering cumulus.

Rais Gerbi - picturesque spot to dump the grey water.

And we think the M62 is a bit of an engineering feat!

The area to the east of Cefalu was unexpectedly empty and beautiful

Catching the bus up to Taormina today, we had a distinct sense of deja-vu and found ourselves taking the same photos from the same viewpoints and staring at the same tourist tat in the same gift shop windows. It was a bit odd.

Back to Taormina (did we take the same shot in November?).

Overcast, but mild - I can cope with winters like this

Taormina has some seriously swanky looking hotels.
We definitely did take the same shot in November.....

Taormina is a serious tourist trap - a slightly downmarket Capri - but with the same designer shop disease.

It still has some charm however - particularly out of season..

Heading for lunch
Who actually buys this stuff?

We even ended up at the same cafe as last time.

Brioche and Gelati - ice-cream sandwiches - a Sicilian speciality.

Giardini della Villa Comunale

We have slowed down somewhat. We spent a week in Finale, and plan to stay here for at least four days. I sometimes wonder where our urge to keep moving comes from. Partly I suppose it is a result of an underlying need we both have to see new places, an inate curiosity. It is also fuelled by more practical, everyday concerns, not least of which is the weather and the seasons. We moved from Capo lo S. Vito because the sunny forecast promised a pleasant day to visit Palermo. Similarly, we moved on from there because we wanted good weather to visit Cefalu. We made the 125 mile trip here because the day was showery, and we might as well travel on inclement days. We did the same thing in Spain last year, with the same result - we reached the end point of our trip southwards somewhat sooner than anticipated.

Typical early Spring - sun and cloud, warm enough to sit outdoors in the afternoon - but brisk walk weather by the evening.

On the mainland, Calabria is having similar spring-like weather to Sicily. Further north - how good is that - to consider Naples and Rome as 'north'! - Campagna and Lazio are looking distinctly wintry. The temptation is to stay this far south for as long as we can, then  make a dash for Pisa to catch the flight home on the 16th. Perhaps 'dash' is the wrong term, a quick look at Google maps reveals that Pisa is 750 miles away - at least 5 days at Maisy trundle rate.

In an attempt to cheer myself up after the news from the Met office that the weather in Pisa was 8 degrees with thundery showers, I decided to check the weather at home. I was heartened by the news that we were missing heavy snow showers and temperatures barely above freezing. BBC weather had pulled out all the stops to explain to meteorological simpletons like ourselves why this might be the case. A helpful little video featuring a swirling mug of coffee introduced us all the concept of arctic sudden stratospheric warming, which somewhat counter-intuitively makes the weather in Europe colder. A neat money-saving ploy if you think about it. No need to invest in expensive climate-modelling super computers when you can nick the data from Wunderground and explain it to a gormless public using nothing more than a tepid cup of Mellow Birds and a cheap knock-off camcorder from Ebay. 

This was followed by weather presenter, Louise Lear becoming very excited about extreme undulations in the jet stream.

Back in the day the BBC employed meteorologists who looked appropriately weird and geeky, like Michael Fish. I have no doubt that the present crew are equally qualified, but in a quest to make them personable as well as informative, we have ended up with weather presenters who resemble 1960s Blue Peter presenters. They exude the same enthusiasm for mono-syllabic explication dumbed- down for the ill-informed. The hapless viewer is left with an abiding sense of having mysteriously fallen backwards through time, deposited once again in the front row of Miss Higginbottom's upper junior's remedial class. "Pens down, arms folded, listen to teacher, now everyone - lips zipped shut! That means you as well Peter...." 

Now I am wondering, how did I ever get through the day without knowing the importance of an undulating jet-stream or an appreciation of the significance of sudden stratospheric warming. Actually, right now in the shadow of Etna, maybe it's seismology not meteorology that ought to be our most pressing concern.

The ideal spot to sit down - for an aficionado of vulcanism.


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