Monday, April 20, 2015

A Night in Pozzallo




"...I've always depended upon the kindness of strangers."

Blanche's last line from "A Streetcar Named Desire" is one I've mocked ever since I first read it. To me, it just screams tragic heroine, which is a role I've always done my utmost to avoid. Yet I have to admit, there have been many times on this trip when Martha and I would have been severely inconvenienced - if not completely shit out of luck, had it not been for the help people have offered even when unsolicited. 

Case in point, getting from here to there.

The train agent in Palermo looked at us like we were escapees from a mental asylum when we tried to buy tickets for a journey from Palermo to Pozzallo, where we were going to be catching a ferry to Malta. It was an 8 hour journey that included three changes of trains along the way. But instead of simply doing his job and selling us the tickets we asked for, even after we explained that we knew about the three changes, he told us about the bus.

"Four hours, nonstop." Half the cost.

Oh.

He did send us to the wrong place to buy the tickets, but since he saved us so much time and money, we won't hold that against him. I'm pretty sure he went home that night and told his wife about the two crazy Americano women, too. But we've been traveling a month now, there are people all over Europe saying the same thing about us, I'm sure. 

We don't care. ;)

Anyway, the bus ride revealed some less than stellar architecture on the outskirts of Palermo, but most cities have the same ugly boxy apartment buildings from the same modern era. And there was still a lot of very nice landscape and ocean to look at.

I did get slightly motion sick, though, for the first time. Pretty sure it was a combination of patched roads, imperfect shock absorption and Italian driving. Could've been worse.

We got dropped off in a parking lot, where we waited ten minutes for another bus to take us the last twenty minutes of the trip, which seemed a little bizarre. But it was a nice day, and we still found it interesting to study our surroundings. These are the weird things that keep travel from being boring. 
Pozzallo is a small harbor town with nice old neighborhoods, but I have a soft spot for the decrepit. 
Our hostess recommended a waterfront dining place, and we walked the half mile or so to get there. Only one street showed real signs of life.

The restaurant wasn't super fancy, but the decor was nice enough and there were white tablecloths. Not to mention an insanely fabulous view. 

So it was an extremely pleasant surprise to find that we could get two pasta entrees just overflowing with mussels, a small carafe of wine and one dessert for 26 Euros. We've seen just one seafood pasta dish cost that much, or more, in the States. We are enjoying, and appreciating, the benefits of a strong dollar every single day.

The apartment we stayed in was cute and spacious, and our hostess was a treasure. In addition to telling us about the restaurant, she picked us up at the bus stop AND brought us to the ferry port the next morning. At 7:30 am.

So I felt really bad about mentioning in my review that the apartment was unheated. 

But it was 48F the night we stayed there, and Martha and I were freezing. Fortunately, there were more than enough blankets on the bed to allow us a decent night's sleep, but neither of us was willing to strip down for a shower the next morning. It never even occurred to us to add Heating to our AirBnB filters, and I'm sure it would be the same for most Americans, so I felt obligated to mention it.

In any case, we were super excited to be at the ferry port, enjoying our early morning breakfast coffee and pastries on the deck outside the cafe. We were practically beside ourselves by the time we could actually board the huge catamaran, although the number of trailer trucks disembarking gave us a slight pause.
Once inside, though, it turned out to be a large comfortable space. We enjoyed smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, and the trip was only negligibly marred by the cashier trying to rip me off. I couldn't understand what the woman next to me said in Italian, when I pointed out that I had given him a twenty  and he'd given me change for a ten, but I got the impression it was something like "You have to watch out for those sharks."

Or worse.
Most passengers rose to get a good look at Malta as we arrived, and we joined them at the huge windows to take photos. We'd never been there before, and it was all very exciting. The island country does have quite the dramatic shoreline. 

We were to find later that the people waiting on us in shops and restaurants were uniformly lovely. However, government workers at the dock, post office and driving buses were brusque almost to the point of rudeness. 

It didn't help that our arrival at Malta turned out to be a trying experience in some of its most unlovely neighborhoods. But since my viewpoint changed as soon as we got off the bus in our own neighborhood, that soon became completely unimportant. Details on Malta in the next post.

(Apologies for the radio silence, I've been having minor tech issues, travel issues and health issues. While dealing with them all combined, I just could not manage to get a post up. But they will hopefully follow quickly from this one. Still just highlights, no time for more than that yet.)

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