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)