March 17, 2012 (Day 11)
Bike odometer: 28 km ( 17.4 miles)
From Castellammare del Golfo to Zingaro natural park and back
Bike time: about 11am to about 5:30pm
Weather: around 70 degrees, Sunny, some afternoon wind
Today we are biking a little loop from our hotel out to a natural park and back. Zingaro park is on the coast and about 7km long. It was another beautiful day for cycling.
We started out with breakfast in the Hotel Cala Marina which was very decent. The hotel breakfasts are starting to look about the same. Then, because we didn’t want to start out too early, we had some time in the morning to get some things done. And for me, this meant it was laundry time! I did several loads of laundry this morning and by the time we left, we had clothes hanging all over waiting to dry. The window shutters opened up outside the window and provided me with a good spot to hang our clothes line outside the window. This certainly helped with the drying time.
Our bikes were parked down in a garage underneath the hotel down the steepest driveway you can imagine. I can’t even imagine trying to get a car down here!! The hotel reception was very nice and it was pretty obvious we were the cyclists staying at the hotel. They took good care of us and knew who were were as soon as we stepped foot inside the lobby.
Today’s ride is really fairly short, but we will spend some time hiking in the park as well. It’s a good short day after yesterday’s long day, though. Unfortunately, getting out of our coastal town and up the mountain was hard work. Right away we had to climb some steep hills including a packed oneway street that didn’t have enough room for a car to pass us on the way up. We had to keep pulling off to let the cars by. Thankfully no one seemed to be upset by us on the road. Once we climbed up, up and out of town, we had another little mountain to climb over that gave us amazing panoramic views over the bay where our marina and hotel were located.
But after our pano-view we had a great downhill ride, back down to the coast again. We stopped at the only “town” along the way to pick up some picnic items. The “town” consisted of about 5 closed buildings on the side of the road and one thankfully was an open market. We grabbed some bread and cheese, our picnic lunch of choice out here. We never can seem to find a restaurant open for lunch this early in the season in the tiny towns we pass through.
The other item we can’t find here is chocolate milk, my recovery drink of choice after biking. =( Luckily though we do find plenty of gelatarias. Anyway… after the market stop we made it to the park pretty easily. They even had a bike rack where we could store out bikes!! It was a couple Euros to enter the park, but we got a hiking map and everything. The park has a 7km route that goes straight along the cliff overlooking the coast to the other side of the park. From this main trail, you can take side trails up to the top of the mountains for a great view, or side trails down to the coast where a few little beaches sit hidden away in coves.
We found an area with covered picnic tables and ate happily with the sun on our backs and a perfect view of the ever-so-blue Mediterranean ocean water in front of us. It would have been easy to sit there and take a nap as well. We also hiked in to a little nature museum they had and then down to a cute little beach with the clearest water. It was all so beautiful. Oh, and the flowers!!
The spring flowers are blooming all over and they all seem to stand out like neon lights at night. They literally shine through the green grass in all types and colors. I do miss the bluebonnets blooming all over Texas right now, but the Sicilian flowers are a decent substitute. =)
The weather had been hovering around 70 all day and a little warmer in the sun, but when the sun started falling behind the mountain, it was time to head back to the hotel. We went back a slightly different way and rode through the hilltop town of Scopello, an old tuna-processing town. Here we stopped at the gelateria for some gelato and pastries before heading back down.
The ride back was actually fairly short and not as bad as I was imagining. I guess the climbs were steeper the other direction. We made it back to Castellammare del Golfo and stopped on the main street at their famous Tropical Bar full of tasty treats. This time Mark had the gelato and I had a profiteroles (sp?). Wow, that was soooooooo good!! Yummy. I think we can now make it to an 8pm dinner.
Finally back at the hotel again with our bikes underneath in the garage, we relaxed and waited until we could go out at 8pm. It turns out everyone thought this was a great place for a Saturday night dinner. After over a week of barely seeing anyone else out for dinner and eating alone often, we were surprised to see the whole place packed. And I mean packed! The street outside the restaurants were overflowing with cars and the restaurants almost didn’t have enough tables for everyone. 10pm seems to be a peak time for dinner, because when we were trying to get out of our restaurant after dining on freshly caught fish, we found the people literally pouring in to the place. It was amazing.
I can only guess that since we are so close to Palermo, all the residents picked the beautiful weekend to come out to the coastal town for a holiday.
Tomorrow we are taking off again on the bikes to a new hotel in Nubia, near Trapani. Until then….