Wednesday, May 27, 2009

5.27.09 Palermo

I’m currently sitting in the Sports bar on the ship frustrated because we can’t get ESPN – that is where the Champions League Final match is being broadcast. We can get ESPN2 – but that’s just showing the French Open. I’m so frustrated right now. In fact there are seven other people in the bar just as upset as I am. I may run back to the room just to see if we can get ESPN there – I don’t think we do, though. The bartender just called the Casino Manager who called the Broadcast Tech who is trying to get ESPN. I’m crossing my fingers that they can pull this one off. At the start of the trip Melba wondered why I wasn’t going to catch a train to Rome from Palermo and go watch the game live. Well, the answer is that I have no idea how to find the stadium and I doubt I could get tickets – even if I could, I’m sure they would be EXTREMELY expensive. Rome is probably filled with people right now just partying outside of the stadium – even there were any tickets available, they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Today we decided to be lazy. We’re both pretty worn out and we looked at the Lonely Planet guide last night and there wasn’t anything that really appealed to us. It did say that the premier tourist attraction in Palermo was the Cappella Palatina which is in the center of the city. There were also some museums so we decided to head there.

The port is about a mile from the city center so we were able to head out on foot. Right from the get-go we were approached by people wanting to sell us cab rides. Once we got past them we were approached by people wanting to give us horse and carriage rides. It turned out that the horse and carriage drivers were all over town and they approached us every time we passed one. The city was really dirty and run down – I was actually surprised a bit by this because I thought it would have been better kept.

The main square in town is really amazing – the corner of each building is decorated with lots of statues of religious figures – what you expect in Italy. I commented that we don’t have anything like that in the States and Melba commented that even if we did the ACLU would demand it be removed immediately.

One corner of Quattro Canti – the city center of Palermo

We continued on a bit further and visited the main cathedral in Palermo. Nothing too special – but it was big and nice. It was also cool inside. The humidity is awful here and it was really hot.

Well, it’s official – I won’t be watching the Champions League Final because this stinking ship with all of its technology can’t get a live broadcast of ESPN. I am so upset/mad right now. We saw apartment buildings in Tunisia that were falling apart and our tour guide pointed out that they still have satellite dishes just to watch soccer – people would rather watch soccer than have four walls underneath their roof. These people are watching the game and I am not. This is so frustrating… Barcelona is up 1-0 in the 20th minute. I wish I could be watching. Oh, well.

OK, I’m done venting. Back to what we did today. We chilled in the cathedral (literally) for a while in the cathedral and then headed for the Cappella Palatina. We stopped to look at the Lonely Planet guide map and I noticed that the Cappella closes for lunch from 12-2. We had a late lunch and we weren’t ready to eat yet so we looked at few other places nearby that were open – just to kill time. We headed back to the Cathedral to look at their treasury and crypt. The treasury had some really beautiful pieces that dated back to the 16th and 17th century. Lots of jewels in the shape of crosses, gold and silver goblets, and clothing worn by the diocese from that time. It was weird to look at these things and think that they were made before the Declaration of Independence was written.

The crypt was kinda cool, but kinda weird. There were about a dozen or so stone caskets down there that mostly dated back to the 15th and 16th centuries. One of them was for a priest named Giovanni Paterno. Giovanni is technically ‘John’, not ‘Joe’ – but it is still close enough to be cool. (Joe is Giuseppe in Italian, btw).

Giovanni Paterno -- Died in 1511

We headed out of the cathedral and looked for lunch. I had asked the woman at the ticket counter where a good place would be – we looked but couldn’t find it. So we went into a bread shop and had some pizza-sandwiches. (Update: Barcelona 1-0 at halftime) They were pretty good, but not great. The woman who worked there was Southern Italian to the bone – she spoke really loudly and really fast everything with her was subito, subito, SUBITO! (Subito means ‘quickly’.) At 2pm we started walking towards the Cappella.

The Cappella was much harder to find than we thought it would be and when we got there the line was long. The problem was that it seemed each person was taking 2-3 minutes to buy tickets. After about 10 minutes of waiting Melba asked if we really wanted to see this. Well, we got in and were blown away. Gold mosaics throughout the entire ceiling – most of them went chronologically through the Old Testament. We were in the room – and it wasn’t very big – for 45 minutes or more. It was just simply amazing.

Inside the Cappella Palatina -- everything here is a mosaic

Funny story – we left the Cappella and sat on a bench to rest our feet. Two teenagers sat next to us and started taking pictures of each other making goofy faces. Their Dad came out and grabbed a video camera from one of them – it was obvious that the Dad was mad at his kids. A few minutes later we saw a tour guide come out of the cathedral and explain some things to a woman – I wondered why one person would hire a tour guide. Melba figured out that this woman was the mom. As best we could tell, it looked like this family decided to do a trip to Italy and the two teenage sons were bored out of their minds and goofing off, the Dad was doing his best to keep his sons in line and the Mom was enjoying the tour guide. Funny.

The Cappella made the day worthwhile – we left there and began the walk back to the ship. It was hot, so we were compelled to buy some more gelato. I will definitely miss the many gelaterias we see all over Italy. As we crossed a busy street and almost got hit by a car that was running a red light – I reminded Melba of something our Tunisian tour guide said yesterday, “In America the stop lights are compulsory, in Greece and Italy they are suggestions and in Tunisia they are decoration.”

It took a bit longer to get back to the ship than we thought it would, but it was still a nice walk. Palermo is really dirty and we could tell that people seem to go to the bathroom wherever they please – and the odor really comes out in the heat. The day turned out to be just what we wanted, though – nice and relaxing.

We went to a disembarkation meeting today. Kinda weird to think that our cruise will be over on Friday. Nothing that I didn’t expect at the meeting – getting back to Rome on Friday should be a cinch. Tonight was a formal night so we headed back to our room and got ready for dinner. Last night, Melba ran into Winnie and Gaston (the couple we met at the airport from Arizona) and agreed to meet up with them tonight for dinner. We had a wonderful time talking to them – they are fun people.

Melba decided to leave a tip this morning for the room stewards who have taken really good care of us since the start of the cruise. We knew that they wouldn’t take cash, so we left them a pack of gum, some candy, and a note to say thanks for all of the hard work and towel animals. We got back to the room and there was a towel orangutan on the bed. How fitting.

The Towel Orangutan

Melba has been sick since yesterday. She woke up yesterday with a sore throat and had a hard time talking. She got some medicine that seemed to help – tonight, though, she couldn’t find it. Possible that she ran out – but she got a 4-day supply of the other types they gave her. Anyways, she bought some Dristan from the store on the ship, but it didn’t help her stuffed up nose. We went back to the room after dinner and Melba tried to feel better while I went down to the Sports Bar to try to watch soccer (don’t worry, I won’t go off on another rant about how extremely upset I am that a state-of-the-art cruise ship with all of its super-duper advanced equipment can get a broadcast of ESPN2, but not ESPN).

I have since come back up into the room to write this blog/journal. Melba is really stuffed up and can’t talk well. I’m making fun of her by talking like I’m clogged up – I’m sure that if she wasn’t so sick right now she’d be really mad at me. I left to go down to the store and buy her some Benadryl – maybe its allergies. Walking down the hall I saw a couple heading back to their room. We said the typical “Hi, how ya’ doing” and for no real reason (other than it doesn’t hurt to ask) I told them that my wife was all stuffed up and wondered if that had some Sudafed. Well, they both lit up and asked if I wanted Sudafed, Claritin or something else. I have no idea if the store is even open right now so I’m glad I ran into them. They gave her some Sudafed and a Sudafed PE – so she ought to make it through the night.

Time to get some pictures ready to upload to the blog. Napoli tomorrow and then Friday comes and we’re off the ship. We’ll spend the weekend in Rome and fly back to Dulles on Monday.

Oh, and Barcelona won 2-0. I'm happy they won (because I don't like Man U) but I'm still upset that I missed the final.


Carrie said...

Hi, guys! I'd love to see more pictures of the Cappella--wow! I'm loving reading about your adventures. Enjoy the last couple of days there! We'll keep you in our prayers during this tumultuous time of so many major life changes.

Julie said...

I'm loving the orangutan towel.

S said...


Found your blog while looking for comments about the football match. You missed a good one. Next time you have a similar problem go to your nearest computer and if you have a decent internet connection there are many places that offer streams of the game for free. Search and you will find.

Are these people authorized to do such a thing? Well, let's just say they are as authorized as those satellite receivers you saw in Tunisia. You can't be legit all the time. You tried and it didn't work, did it? Better luck next time and also with your more cultural endeavors.

Miami, USA