March 14, 2012 (Day 8)
As I’m typing the date, I’m realized it’s already the middle of March! Today was another great vacation day. We nixed my original plan to drive around the 3rd and final Sicily national park because we can see from here that those mountains are all covered in snow. So instead, we spent the day exploring Cefalu. Actually, first we spent the day catching up on the internet.
Breakfast in the Astro Suite hotel was decent. They had a typical breakfast continental buffet that included fruits as well as carbs. The chocolate-filled croissants were very tasty. Afterwards, we came back to the room just to play on the internet. We haven’t had a decent connection in a few days and we were feeling a bit lost. It’s always good to catch back up. I also am getting the blog caught up.
Finally, we left the comfort of our suite to explore the city in time for lunch. We pretty much spent the time walking around the historic center of the town which is also surrounded by fishing piers. We had a lovely panini lunch in the sun overlooking the town and the ocean. With the sun shining down on us, it was warm enough to take off the layers down to short sleeves. The sun really is wonderful.
After a relaxing lunch where we almost stayed just to bask in the sun, we explored the Molo area or the fishing pier. The town of Cefalu is almost crescent-shaped around the shore, and from the pier we could see the whole town looking back at us. We wandered the city streets looking for open souvenir shops and eventually made it to the main center of town where the church and duomo piazza stood.
We found a little dessert shop selling mini-cannolis and had to try them. Sicilian canolis are specialty. The desserts were very good and we walked some more towards La Rocca. La Rocca reminded me of the Acropolis or the Rock of Cashel in that it was a huge monolith of stone rising far up above the town for all to see. Surrounding the top is a built castle wall made of stones. There was a steep climb of steps up to the top, but unfortunately the gates were closed and we were unable to enter and see the ancient sites. But, we got a great view down into the city. The sun was our all afternoon for us, as well.
Mostly, we just wandered up and down the streets to see what we could see. It is really interesting that the shops seem to have no hours and just open whenever they feel like it. Sometimes we’ll walk down a street and see shops A, D, and E open, and other times, shops A, B, and C will be open, but D and E closed. There were more people out walking around at 3pm, but I think there must have been a tour bus drop off at some point and after 4, those people had already left. Visiting here so early before tourist season, most of the people we are seeing are the locals which gives us a more authentic experience.
We stopped by the local grocery store looking for some ziploc bags, but joked that that technology has not made it down here yet as we had no luck finding what we needed. It is always fun to wander around the grocery store in different parts of the world to see what similarities and differences there are. We really didn’t see too many main brands that we are used to. We couldn’t even find the tex mex Doritos we’ve been able to find in almost all the other European countries.
Tonight, we decided to delay our dinner hour until 8pm and sure enough, the restaurant we chose had 2 other tables full when we entered. We felt a little sorry for the poor guy running around serving everyone. It turns out this restaurant has had quite a busy past couple of days. La Brace was just visited by the famous Dutch cef Herman den Blijker with a Dutch TV program. The chef is on a tour through Europe to help Dutch restaurant owners of restaurants abroad improve their business. The owner and chef of La Brace moved to Sicily 30 years ago and this visit from the famous Dutch chef was a complete surprise. In just a few days, the menu was trimmed down to include only the best dishes, and the establishment was redecorated to give it a new boost. The restaurant had just re-opened on March 12th and they hadn’t even had a chance to print the new menus yet! There were only 2 people working in the restaurant, the chef and the server who did everything else including explain the whole menu to each table!
The food was excellent. The mushroom and cheese appetizer along had us sold on the deliciousness of the food and then the main plates came out to wow us again. We pretty much had almost a 2-hour dinner here. The service was understandably a bit slow, even for European standards, but we had a great dinner conversation and with no place to be at any certain time, had a great time with the slow food.
Now we are just spending the evening back on the internet again. Tomorrow we will drop off our rental car in Palermo and meet up with our cycling tour representative who will give us all the information we need to know. Friday we start biking western Sicily! The weather forecast is looking sunny and warmer, so I think we will have an excellent time.