At 6 AM, sure enough, the announcements begin, waking everyone up to prepare for arrival. I do my usual morning rituals, and start trying to waken Brigid. No effect. I go out to see what's happening in the world. Most of the group is already gathered with their luggage, ready to go. Back to the room. No movement. Eventually, we clear out of the room to find everyone on the bus, waiting for us.
Off to the Jolly Hotel in Palermo, for breakfast. Our repast consists of italian bread (self-sliced), hard rolls, soft rolls, croissants filled with pastry cream or pain au chocolat. There is some nondescript cheese, slices of head cheese, and some slices of ham. There are also marmalade and jam, plain and sweetened yogurt, scrambled eggs (Brigid is really pleased to see some eggs), and several cereals, including a kind of granola. Oh yes, juice and there's coffee on the table.
We board the bus into the rural countryside. The landscape is jam-packed with farms, growing grapes, olives, almonds, and various vegetable crops (it's hard to tell what, from a distance).
We both snooze a little, during the trip. We're going to Segesta, where we climb up the hill to see a spectacular view of the ocean and hills from a 2,400 year-old Greek theater. Along the way, we find some interesting flora and fauna. The plants are throughly encrusted with snails.
Back down the hill, we walk around the associated Greek temple.
Next up, we take the bus to lunch in Erice (eh reech' ay). But first, we stop for a sample of the local Marsala wines. They give us samples of three kinds. The first is a dry Marsala -- it's really very nice, not too sweet at all. Next, a more typical Marsala, along with a biscotti to dip. This does make a nice dessert, and Brigid really enjoys it. Finally, a Marsala in which almonds have soaked for a couple of months. My nose isn't working too well right now, so I can't taste any almond flavor. The store does reasonably well, as several tour members pick up wines, biscuits, and olives to bring home, or to share.
Lunch is at Da Jojo's (dah yoyo). It's the perfect lunch for me: An antipasto buffet, which includes:
After gorging myself on these goodies, we go wading in the Mediterranean. (Yes, I set aside my bathing suit and sandals in the knapsack, but forgot to bring it to lunch!)
The beach sand is a little lighter than the color of terra cotta. There are a very few rocks, no shells at all, and a few bits of sponge and seaweed. It's a beautiful beach on a beautiful, balmy day.
After drying off, we get back in the bus for a 90 minute trip to Agrigento's valley of temples. Here, we learn that the temple is actually secondary in importance to the altar, an outdoor platform on which animals are sacrificed to the gods. The temple is just an accoutrement, in which a statue of the god being honored is stored. The temple is always to the west of the altar, with its entrance facing east, to catch the morning sun, and so the god can observe the sacrifice.
Agrigento has some of the oldest Greek temples still standing -- from 500 BC. According to our local guide to Agrigento's Valley of the Temples, Michele, the largest temple, that of Jove (also known as Jupiter or Zeus), is one of the oldest in existence, and the largest in the world (something like 180 by 360 feet), and 108 feet high. Very little of that temple still remains, as it was used as a convenient, pre-cut stone quarry for centuries. There are just enough remnants to figure out the layout. And there is one of the statues of the titans that were to decorate the outside of the roof section. Just to get some idea of the proportions, the titans were 25 feet tall, almost as tall as the columns on most other temples. The original of this titan statue is in a museum. The one that's still here is a reproduction.
Agrigento was apparently a serious power at the time, which is why it has so many (at least 11) temples. Unfortunately, the material of which these temples were constructed is very soft -- mere sandstone. So, the temples have suffered over the years, wearing away and toppling. In many cases, columns were re-erected in the 18th and 20th centuries.
After the tour, while awaiting the return of the bus, we check out the main snack bar. Brigid really wants a Coke. They want €3.10 for a small can of coke! A couple of fellow tour members decide to pay the toll. Brigid says "no way!" We look around, and there's a small van selling gelato and drinks. They want just €1.50 for the same can of Coke. We buy one. (It's too late to tell the others, so we keep quiet about this.)
At the Hotel Colaverde, we shower and refresh ourselves, and then join the group for a brief "happy hour", to sample the wines and snacks others have brought to share. I'd love to feast on some of the sweeter snacks, but dinner is coming right up. The hotel's restaurant is very sharply appointed, and the staff is efficient and attentive.
We start with a mostachioli in meat and tomato sauce, and liberally sprinkled with cheese. Nice, but nothing special.
The second dish is a meat loaf with hard-boiled egg in it, covered in a little tomato sauce, and with a side of thoroughly cooked carrots. Also mediocre, I'm afraid. As is the bread!
Dessert is ice cream (not gelato). There are two flavors, chocolate and ??? Okay, I'll be honest: My nose isn't working too well today, so perhaps my review is too tough. But I don't think so.
Well, that's it for tonight. We need to pack up again, in the morning.