The Beach between Centro Storico and the newer residential area
One of Many Piazzas in Cefalu
We got our signals crossed the next morning. We thought Laura would be by at noon, she dropped by at 11 while we were packing. Graciously, she said she’d come back at noon. She also offered to have her husband take me to our car on his scooter and have me follow him back to the apartment going around “The Rock”. Memories of XO tours Vietnam collided in my head, good memories.
Centro Storico: Typical Cefalu
Old Town looking toward New Town
True to her word, Laura and her husband arrived at noon and I had a fun motor bike ride through old town to my car. Negotiating Cefalu for a novice could be just as challenging as Vietnam. Laura’;s family has lived in Cefalu for generations. I assume her husband has as well. He was excellent at negotiating the cars and pedestrians, stopping a number of times, here and there to greet friends . Cefalu is full of one way streets and a ZTL zone. GPS is useless in the town. It is confusing at best without a “guide”. We drove back around the rock with me following closely behind, driving into the narrow pedestrian filled streets of old town. It was fun and challenging. We parted with Laura and her husband with the typical Italian parting: two kisses on either cheek and “ciaos” all around. We really enjoyed Larua, it would have been fun for us to get to know them better. Then again, we were in Cefalu for a few days then gone. I wish we could have stayed longer.
We Counted 64 Tunnels between Cefalu and Piraino!
Familiar with the Italian Nav System, I punched in Piraino and off we went. The GPS guided us out of town and onto the autostrada with ease. Italian roads are typically in very good condition, though there is constant road work. Italian drivers take the speed limit as a suggestion. As I drove the 100 km from Cefalu to Piraino, my speed slowly inched up as I was constantly being passed, sometimes by traffic going 40 kph faster. Often at 120kph or 140kph Ellen would suggest I slow down. Most times I did. The Italians have no trouble closing one direction of a highway for 10 or 20 kilometers. The funnel traffic into one lane, then guide traffic across the median and into one of on-coming lanes, which had been cleared of traffic. This leads to situations where the speed limit can go from 110kph to 40kph in a reasonable amount of time, but only if you’re aware of what is going on. Over a 100km stretch there might be five of these.
A Panoramic View from a Ridge Crest in Northern Sicily
Tunnels, Sicily has a vast number of tunnels. I counted 64 of them between Cefalu and Piraino alone. Some were short, many were very long, and some had oncoming traffic in the left lane due to highway repair. Northern Sicily is very mountainous; the drive is beautiful.
As we approached Piraino, we used the instructions Chantal had given us to locate Just Be & b. Google maps cannot locate the property. Just Be & b is located over a ridge close to the top of the rise overlooking the sea. As we climbed up toward the small town of Piraino, Ellen grew more and more suspicious. “Is this really where we’re going?” “Where are we staying”. When the old town of Piraino came into view around a turn, Ellen was half surprised and half worried that we were staying somewhere in town. “Are there restaurants?” or “Where are we going to eat?” Piraino is small. There are good restaurants in the surrounding hills, but they are isolated and hard to find.
We topped the rise and descended on a very narrow road. I had scouted this location with Google maps and drove right by the location Google had set for “Just Be & b”. Clearly GPS was again outright wrong. The road widened out and turned just ahead of a very well maintained house. A husband and wife sat on a patio watching come down the road with disinterest. “This cannot be the place”, I thought. We turned the corner and both saw the white gate and pink house that mark the B&B. We’re here. Ellen was still not sure this is where she wanted to just Be & b. I rang the bell and waited for some time trying not to be rude and ring the bell a second time. A woman approached welcoming and asked if I was Ron. “Yes”, the gate opened and as I dutifully carried our bags to our room, Ellen had a tour of the property and got to know the owner’s mom. The owner is a Swiss German whom we met sometime later.
Relaxing at Just Be & b, Piraino, Sicily
We sat admiring the view as a beer, prosecco, and fruit arrived on a cart. The room was large, clean, and fully functional. The view from Just Be & b is spectacular. What I felt most was a sense of peacefulness and calm. The grounds below the main house are terraced with various edible plants and fruit trees planted here and there. It has the feel of a work in progress being carefully maintained with a plan for sustainable growth.
Limpari, a large comfortable room
A very comfortable bed. We slept very well here.
We were offered a ride to a local restaurant around 7:15 pm if we liked. Yes, we would like that. I could relax with no concern for driving or parking for a day. The beer and prosecco hit the spot. We walked the grounds then collapsed into bed for a rest. We found a note on our door at 7:15 that stated our ride would be available at 7:30. An example of German Precision. At 7:30 Chantal arrived with her boy friend and family. They had returned from and outing of some sort, exited the vehicle (a large SUV) and Ellen and I jumped in. Chantal whisked us to a restaurant up and over a nearby ridge. She drove carefully, without hesitation, and reasonably fast, as a local would. We arrived to find another couple, also guests at the B&B being seated.
The Restaurant was cool and I bundled up.
The Food was a Continental Italian Fusion,
We kept to ourselves for mot of our meal. Enjoying the suggestions the owner/chef made. In fact he ordered for us,. We would have it no other way. Our dinner was Italian inspired with a Swiss-German twist. It was very good. Toward the end of the meal we struck up a conversation with the other couple. A German doctor and his wife, a striking Indian woman. We hit it off and had a wide ranging discussion that evening. We exchanged cards. They drove us back to the B&B.
Ellen and I have “retired traveler” “business” cards printed. This gets around writing extraneous information on napkins.
Exhausted, night faded into sunrise and breakfast time. Chantal has had a breakfast house built on a terrace just below the bungalows. It is glass enclosed to take advantage of the view, and modestly but comfortably appointed. I asked for a double macchiato and received something closer to a pint of foamed milk with two shots of espresso floating mid glass. It was a work of art. Not what I expected, but welcome nonetheless. That plus a croissant was enough for me.
Breakfast with a View of The World.
While Ellen busied herself with her breakfast choices, I said, “buongiorno”, renewing our acquaintance with the German couple who were seated outside. Conversation flows easily with like minded people. Easy if both speak a common language, English in this case. I’ve studied German, Russian, some French, and lately Italian. I envy Europeans who can speak two or often five other languages. The German fellow is an anesthesiologist and an expert in pain medication. We discussed the current opioid crisis, which is international in scope. He feels (and I agree) that some pain is a good thing and that masking pain can have ill effects. That pain the the body’s feedback loop for repair. Chronic pain is a different animal and must be treated differently, but in both cases prescribing highly addictive pain medication is absolutely the wrong long-term approach. We also talked politics, and the funny, unimaginable, and scary ascension of “the Donald” and Brexit on the world stage. While stating that “Angle Markel is not my party”, Mark also has high regard for her integrity. I cannot say the same for the U.S. current administration. We talked health care and ceilings on doctor’s earnings in Germany, something I did not know about. At some point I realized my breakfast was getting cold and begged off.
Buddha with our breakfast.
We resumed our conversation on the veranda after breakfast. They live in the historic section of Wiesbaden on the Rhine, in Germany’s wine region for Riesling wine. He exports wine to India. We exchanged offers to come stay at each other’s homes. Mark warned that they do travel and would likely take us up. “Fine, I said. That would be our pleasure!”. If we get bored with Florence this trip, we could always drop in on Mark and Dorothy.
It was later in the day than expected as we loaded the car and drove away. The amazing view from high atop the hillside, the care the owners show in the B&B, and Chantal’s concern for nature and the environment make our brief stay here memorable, perhaps unforgettable. When leaving Chantal mentioned that the drive down the hill is faster than going up and around. The road is very narrow and without barriers in whole sections. She prefers that road as it is scenic and fun to drive. We chose to take the downhill route and were not disappointed. It was steep in many secitons. Single lane practically the whole way with hairpin turns everywhere. It was a blast, though I took it slowly for any number of reasons.
One hairpin turn after another on a steep downgrade, fun.
Out of the mountain, stopped for the view
The Nav system guided us to the autostrade and we reached Messina in an hour thirty with our speed varying between 40 kph and 150kph. The Nav system could not identify the address of our next apartment! My very inexpensive Italian smart phone could and guided us right to the door. I parked in a blue parking zone, a pay zone, without paying and called in. The owner would meet us in five minutes. GREAT. They had been trying to reach me via email and on my California number. I keep my US phone turned off most times now to avoid ATT’s pricing. It all worked out in the end.
Off to Tindari on the way to Messina.