I am a poor traveler. It wasn’t always so. I journeyed a lot earlier in life and was seasoned back then: three weeks one time through the US, on 5 outfits in an overnight bag; collapsed with salmonella poisoning in a bus station in Istanbul, but found my way with the help of a nurse who had just finished working with Mother Teresa (Nurse Paula was fascinating.) I have a long list of stuff like that.
Maybe I’m reluctant to travel because I traveled so much before spawning. Or maybe I’m just old (tho’, hmm, I rarely think of myself like that.) The thing is, air travel so seriously sucks these days.
We are in Sicily, via 3 flights, 1st was late so after that getting the connections was as bad as it can be (except we made them.) When we arrived, there was wrangling the car hire. After that came the lousy directions finding our way to the villa. Which we didn’t. At this point I had been awake for 36 hours. We ended up in a hotel. Exhausted & in pain from the real-life version of a nightmare I often have – desperate to get to a place but never able to reach it – I cried.
Next day was so much better. We finally found the villa. All the Sicilians we met and interacted with were astonishingly nice to us. Mr. Caputo with the shock of white hair, now there’s a hero: after being unable to help us locate the place, he then encountered other members of our family in the same dilemma, and by god he did not let up till he had solved it for them.
The villa is a dream, a walled garden of much gorgeousness, several buildings plus main house, and the latter is something like a family museum, stuffed with the art, photos and kitsch of several generations. Our little house has a red tile floor, and a shaky metal staircase and rough stone walls. With the Sicilian heat & mugginess, which is a bit intense, the AC makes it perfect. There are low wooden support beams & I hit my head, GA-CLUNK, but being moderately tall, I guess I had to do that just once.
We got in, we unpacked, we jet-lag-slept a bit, then came the call of the pool (big) and the family up at the house (not to mention RED WINE). Already I had seen many lizards (very green), big triangular butterflies with tiger stripes & little tails trailing from the wings, and resident cats, the latter especially delighting Number One Daughter. But – a quick shower for me, before I set out. Grabbed my perfectly packed toiletries bag and a towel, and said, ‘I’ll be 5 minutes.’
Then my foot slid from under me and I fell down the stairs.
Up at the main villa are Tad’s parents, his 2 brothers, and our 2 sisters-in-law, all of whom I adore. Tad got me up there & one of my sisters tended to my arm & back, which the rough walls had scraped and skinned when I broke my fall by grabbing the steel staircase with my strong left arm and HOLDING THE FUCK ON till momentum was stopped. This torqued my ankle. Yes, things flashed before my eyes – a fast blast through 2 bad fall-accidents (hello, Mum!) in my family history, and was it my turn? O bless my strong left arm, no it was not, although my ankle twisted miserably. Tad massaged it by the side of the pool, working with my wrenched tendons, working with the bruising. My sister also found ice, and WINE. And then we sat there making merry. 2 of us 3 sisters (me and Jessica) are kind of, sort of, pretty certainly, going blind. We’re long past being miserable about it. Tad says in 10 years’ time we’ll be 3 weird sisters with one eyeball between us, and that cracked us all up mightily.
Family dinner happened, with me hop-limping around, ankle throbbing, head where I banged it throbbing, and poor Tad repeatedly accidentally grabbing my right arm in the place it was skinned. But what a lovely night. We planned the next day: a trip to the city of Syracuse to investigate the museums, the Archimedes history, the 6th-century BC Greek ruins there, the Greek amphitheatre where plays by Aeschylus & Sophocles were staged. Never mind the heat! – we were going to Do This!
Next day, all of us piled into the 2 big vans we’ve got because we number 14. The littlest one in the family suffered wretchedly with car sickness, but got us to stop at exactly The Moment, and barfed into the right place, i.e. the side of the road. We counted that – A Victory!
But, oh, the heat. And of course, we were doing That Thing: Mad-Yanks-&-English-gal out in the midday sun. We staggered through the gorgeous Baroque streets, because we’d done our homework re. the museums’ hours and knew that they were open. My bro Arthur said, Wouldn’t it be funny if… And Number One Daughter said, Don’t even go there.
We arrived. Museums all shut up. The locals told us the big one had shut its doors a few weeks back, but no one had any idea why. Tad made his Chinatown joke (see title.) It’s the peak of tourist season. One can only wonder.
But then came lunch! Salata! Gelati! Everything I have eaten here already is so good it stuns the senses. And after: onwards to the Greek Amphitheatre! Which was vast and beautiful (altho’ hottttttt). It’s mid-restoration, so we could only look at it, not walk it or test the acoustics like I wanted. Weirdly, I found the restoration disappointing: I preferred the crumbling bits to the newly perfect marble seats. I embraced some of the ancient stones. For one moment I pressed my chest & heart there. I could feel the past all around, alive alive-oh. I didn’t close my eyes in case of time-slip.
The true magic was the Ear of Dionysus, a few hundred metres away, which is where all the stone was quarried. I have never in my life been in a cave so vast. It was cool inside and bats twittered overhead. I touched chisel marks over and over, thinking of the slaves that made them. We went into the deepest darkest part (utter blackness) and mi famiglia musica started sounding out harmonies, bouncing notes off the walls. (Plse. forgive bastard Italian.) Aaaaaaaaah, so mojo.
Home, rest for my throbbing ankle, dinner & red wine. Number One Son and Number One Daughter both are missing their girlfriend & boyfriend. But – it’s our times today – across half the world they can talk to them.
And my love: I took him to bed.