Monday, 9 September 2013

Travelling close to home

Most people aren't free to travel the world all the time.  Most people have to work for the majority of their time to, amongst other things, afford to go on holiday.  That is quite a depressing thought.

Sometimes though - especially when you have visitors, or even better, foreign visitors - you can do your travelling close to home.  When you have to entertain someone by showing them your town you realise that there are interesting things to see on your doorstep.

For example, this weekend, we took a visitor to a proper English tea room in the middle of the Ashdown Forest that makes its own blend of leaves, and serves tea with a strainer (no tea bags).

It also serves home made cakes, muffins and scones.  To drive there we went on a road that went through common land open to graze livestock, where we had to slow down to avoid sheep and cows on the road.  We also visited a llama farm where we could feed the llamas and alpacas.

With a bit of thought you can find things to see nearby.  If you haven't got a visitor to entertain, pretend you did.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Travelling with "annoying people"

Travelling on the roads in Italy is a nerve-jangling business.  For this reason I tend to use public transport whenever possible. Illogically, maybe, I trust professional drivers.  This, however, has the downside of increasing the risk of coming into contact with "other people" who are, on the whole, "quite annoying".

During my recent trip to Sicily my family and I visited the volcano Mount Etna by coach.  Several of our fellow travellers came within the definition of "quite annoying".

Like the middle aged woman who shut the curtain across her window denying others the stunning views of the foothills of Etna and the small towns huddled there.  As other passengers took this opportunity of a lifetime and craned their necks left and right for better views, she sat there looking ahead, motionless.

And the woman who, forced to trot from the coach to the restaurant near the top of Etna because of a downpour, huffed "This is ridiculous"....Mountains have weather lady!!  Maybe she was afraid her fake tan would smear?

And the young guy sitting there with his headphones in listening to music as the fantastic Sicilian-American tour guide explained the history and customs of the island.

Too many "travellers" are nothing but shallow minded morons who take delight at moaning about any inconvenience and go out of their way to block out the sights and sounds around them.

I just want to shake these people to wake them up...

A minor crater on Mount Etna (Photo J Game)


Cash Only

Sitting at the table of a restaurant in the Sicilian town of Taormina, I started to sweat.  I had the bill in front of me for 103 Euros and I couldn't pay it.  Ten minutes earlier I heard the dreaded words "Cash only" from the waiter.  Five minutes later, after multiple recounts of available cash, my wife and eldest son had headed off through the crowded streets to get cash from the ATM that we had noticed earlier at the end of the alley.  

The ATM was close by, just up the hill, on the main street, but I was left sweating.  How long can this take?  Another 5 minutes passed and I smiled apologetically at the waitress and explained our predicament.  She bought some shots of local almond liqueur to the table to calm my nerves. Another five minutes passed and I craned my neck to try to catch a glimpse of a cash-laden wife returning triumphantly.  Nothing. 

It was Saturday night, and the small piazza, more a widening of an alley, was getting crowded with would-be diners waiting for a prized table to be made available.  I waited, looking at my phone to avoid making eye contact with the hungry crowd.

Eventually my wife returned with the cash.  Apparently Sicilian banks favour additional security around their ATMs that resemble an air-lock...double electronic doors that let customers in one at a time.  This security was only crackable by Italian-speaking cat burglars, explained my wife apologetically.  She had to walk further across town to find another ATM usable by tourists and other simple-minded people.  She said that she was surprised that I was still sitting at the table and not washing up in the kitchen.

The little restaurant, by the way, was called Osteria da Rita and it was brilliant.  It was the only place we ate at twice during our week in Sicily. 

Streets of Taormina
The popular streets of Taormina (Photo J Game)