Taormina, Sicily, May 3, 2006

We had an earlier wake up call this morning; & cabin breakfast. The bridge cam showed another beautiful morning out there; just slightly cooler than yesterday. Our tour today was to take us out into the countryside from Taormina.

We lucked out & got the front seats on the bus (thanks to Katie's quick dash down the gangway). Unfortunately, the droning sound of our guide's (Johanna) voice drove us crazy. She was hard to understand at times; & she tended to babble a little too long on ancient history (at least for our tastes). The driver, Enzo, took us first through an uninspiring small town called Acireale (ahh-chee-ree-AHLI).

One thing we noticed over & over all day was the filth. There is trash all over the sidewalks & roadways; graffiti everywhere. Quite a shock after seeing immaculate Greece & Turkey. The island is predominantly lava rock from the numerous eruptions of Mt. Etna over the centuries. We made our first brief photo stop in the town of Acicastello (ahh-chee-cas-TELLO).

There is an old castle at water's edge & a few small islets offshore that were deposited there by the spewing volcano (each w/ their own mythological story). We both agreed it did not warrant a stop in this "nothing" town.

The highlight of the tour was Catania. And again you had to look past the trash & graffiti to appreciate what was there. Our tour started in the Piazza Duomo in front of St. Agnes Church. A few of us broke away from the group; & we took a few photos around the square. We were going to miss the lunch buffet; so we chose to spend our free hour having an early lunch.

We found a lovely little sidewalk cafe right on the square (Caffe del Duomo) & ordered spaghetti w/ red sauce, mushrooms, grilled eggplant & a rather strong cheese (probably pecorino). We also had a small pizza which turned out to have sliced boiled egg, prosciutto, mushrooms & cheese. (We had no idea what the menu said in Italian; & 2 of the waiters were unable to communicate that info to us.) Service was sooo slow; we were afraid the order wasn't going to come before we had to meet back at the bus. Both of our entrees were delicious; & the atmosphere (right next to a big fountain) couldn't be beat. We ordered cappucinos; but they took so long to arrive we had to take them in to go cups.

During the ride back to Naxos/Taorima the sky darkened; & you could see rain all around us. Back in our cabin, we had a little time to look at yesterday's photos on the TV before Katie had to run off to another exercise class at 3. I had a chill (for the past 3-4 days it seems to be getting colder on this ship); & got under the duvet trying to warm up. I watched the bridge cam for a while (watching the rain squalls pass by the bow of the ship) until I fell asleep. I didn't wake up until Katie came back at 5:15. I decided to go up to the library to the computer for a while, thinking that we were going to eat casual at the dinner buffet late. But Katie comes up around 7 (all dressed up) saying that Jackie & Phil wanted us to dine w/ them in the D.R. at 8. Didn't have time to get showered; just applied a little more makeup on top of what I had put on this morning.

Their friends, Elaine & Nate joined us. Dinner was a good one again. For appetizers, I had pan seared terriyaki marinated ahi tuna served over wilted spinach w/ wasabi mustard. Also had a small tartlet made from grilled Mediterranean vegetables (awesome). Katie had a very good cream of artichoke soup w/ sour cream & chopped parsley. We both had the mixed green salad w/ cucumber, grated daikon radishes & julienned peppers. My entree was the most fabulous roasted pork loin w/ sun dried tomato stuffing w/ black olives, tomatoes & roasted potatoes. Katie's was grilled Norwegian salmon tournadoes on a bed of braised beluga lentils w/ Louis Valley Beurre Blanc sauce (whatever that is). She had papaya sorbet for dessert; & I had a poached pear over vanilla ice cream on a toasted biscuit w/ hibiscus flower infusion (reduction). The conversation, (mostly about Las Vegas) & lots of jokes. For some reason I was not in the mood for this; found it rather tedious; & was glad when the evening was finally over. Katie had a lovely time however. After taking some photos in the D.R. (of Jose' & Mihaela), I wanted to take some interior shots of the ship. I passed the pool deck where the weather seemed strangely warm. Quite a few people were outside playing board games at the tables or just talking (& this was at 11:30). Katie was asleep when I came in about midnight. She has an early morning.

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