Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sicily 2010 - Day 1

After a long, long journey broken up with a couple of - sporadic at best - hours of sleep, mine and Lucy's plane finally touched down at Trapani airport. In our tired haze we went and sat at the baggage claim and started chatting. A couple of minutes passed until it suddenly hit us that we hadn't in fact checked in any baggage and the only luggage we had taken was already in our hands, rendering our being at the baggage claim absolutely pointless.
So first thing was first, we needed to cure our tiredness; with the time being 10.30 AM, the day had barely begun and we had a lot ahead of us. So what better way than a good Italian caffè to wake us up? The second I had swallowed the espresso my tiredness began to subside.

From the airport we got on our pre-booked coach to Palermo. We were due to meet Alessio that night in Catania which is about 2 hours 40 minutes by coach from Palermo. However we weren't meeting him until around 9.40 PM so by the time we reached Palermo at around mid-day we had a good few hours to kill.
The night before while tossing and turning on the floor of Stansted airport with nothing more than a lumpy suitcase for a pillow, I had gone and bought a Sicily travel guide to give me something to do. This proved useful for our time in Palermo, with the map allowing us to find our way back to the Central Station (above) when we needed to get our coach that night in Catania.

The first real thing we saw was this giant tree at Villa Garibaldi. There were a few giant trees like this; this one being far from the largest although the biggest one was cordoned off. We had an amazing sandwich for lunch at a little Panino bar called The Navy, which I would love to return to next time I'm in Palermo.

Next we found our way to a beautiful view of the Mediterranean sea.

Later, we captured this photo of a Vespa, an Italian icon.

We strolled through the beautiful Villa Giulia, where we saw this statue of Poseidon.
This is a stall at a street market we visited. It was a long street that snaked along among the buildings, lined with stalls. I got a real sense of Italian-ness from the market, with people all around me yelling about how their fruit was the best in Sicily or how their fish was caught today. Another scene that greeted me here was a group of vendors taking a break and playing some cards. It was a very cultural experience.

Then it was off to the Palermo Cathedral which we went inside and saw the beautiful art it had to offer.

This picture was taken at Quattro Canti, a piazza at the intersection of Via Maqueda and Corso Vittorio Emmanuele; essentially a giant beautiful crossroads smack-bang in the middle of the city. We passed through Quattro Canti on the way back to the station where we then set off to Catania.

Two hours and forty minutes later we had arrived. Alessio greeted us with open arms and took us home on the bus where we then got off at the stop nearest to his house and walked the rest of the way, catching a glimpse of the Cathedral at night.

Once back in his flat we could relax. Our travels were complete. We had reached our destination. We had gorgeous home-cooked Italian food in our stomachs and I was finally able to change my clothes after the 24 hours since I had last been able to before leaving my house.

Some of Alessio's friends came over and we sat eating pasta and watching Italian TV. After the large amount of travelling, walking and heat we had endured, we were pretty exhausted and no matter how hard I tried to listen to the Italian conversation between Alessio's friends to get involved, the words were just blending into incomprehensible sounds as my tired mind failed to process them quickly enough.

It was time for sleep.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sicily, here I come

Well, despite the fact that only me and Lucy are going to Sicily, we have sorted out what we are going to do.

This is my last blog before I jet off to sunny Sicily.

I fly tomorrow but get a train to Stansted tonight, where I have to kill 7 hours at the airport.

The plan is that we will head to Palermo from Trapani airport via bus, see Palermo for a few hours then get another bus to Catania where we will meet Alessio and stay at his place. I'm really looking forward to it.

Hopefully everything goes to plan.

In other news, I got a call from the university the other day informing me that, contrasting to what I previously believed, in fact I can go to Italy to stay with an Italian family! I'm going for the whole of July and the flights are already booked! I'm very nervous.

However I have a busy day of packing and Euro-getting ahead of me so more on that and my Sicily trip when I return!


Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Crisis in the slow lane

A bit of an unpleasant surprise has surfaced regarding my trip to Sicily.

I was talking to Giovanna, asking if she had sorted out where we are going to stay. She was sorting it out with Alessio, due to them both being Sicilian. I stressed that it was only a week until we are due to come over to Sicily. She then said it was more like a month. This provoked a confused reaction in me due to my flight being on the 22nd June. She then went on to inform me that all our other friends have booked flights for the 22nd JULY and that she won't even be in Sicily on the dates I'll be there.

I don't recall ever facepalming harder than in this moment.

Due to the fact that we booked the flights together, thankfully Lucy is on the same flight as me on the 22nd June. When we booked the flights we checked and double checked that the 22nd June was the right date. I really don't know how this misunderstanding came about.

By the grace of the gods, Alessio will be in Sicily when me and Lucy are there. So, although we won't get to see all of our other friends for the last time in quite some time, at least he may be able to find us somewhere to stay. If there's no room at his inn then we will probably have to seek out a hostel.. or something.

Had I foreseen this mistake, I would have said my goodbyes to them all properly the last time I saw them in Cardiff. I merely said goodbye to them all like it was just another day, thinking I would see them all in Sicily.

Oh well. I'm sure I'll see them again.

I hope.

And at least I still get to go.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Open all the boxes

The boxes are at it like rabbits. Floor space is getting smaller than smaller. And it's only going to get worse until I move on Thursday.

The World Cup is well and truly underway and I'm enjoying it accordingly, trying to catch as many matches as possible in all its HD glory. I'm involved in so many sweepstakes and fantasy football things I've lost count, the most recent of which is a sweepstake between my friends where the prize is around £50. To win that, I need Italy to win. I don't particularly like my odds however I might feel better after I've better assessed them in tonight's match against Paraguay.

An Englishman cannot mention the World Cup without mention of the quite frankly disappointing result against the USA from Saturday night. Seeing Rob Green clumsily fumble that ball across the line from Dempsey's average long-shot was painful to say the least. I felt the hearts of the patrons of The George unanimously sink, which contrasted against the elation following Gerrard's goal earlier on in the match. It still fills me with disappointment and embarrassment to think of it now. Beckham's reaction says it all.

Following the match we hit town hard for a night of fun-filled frolicking; my first night out in Plymouth since my glorious return from Cardiff. There was a lot of dancing, England flags out of the window of Liam's Fiat Uno, singing Nathan's x-rated re-working of the alphabet at the top of our voices and acts of piracy in the form of boarding docked vessels.

I'm really in the mood for going to play football at Jennycliff. Chris Allin, if you're reading this, do you fancy rounding up the boys some time soon for a kick around?

I've made my decision as to what to do about the whole broken laptop thing. I'm going to get a new laptop for an early birthday present and go to Spain for a week with the money I have saved. The electric drum kit was too expensive anyway. It's no big deal though because I can just play my real drums whenever I'm home, due to the fact that there will actually be room for them in the new house. I will probably spend a week in a hostel but am a bit worried about going alone because I would rather have some company to make the week pass better and so that I don't have to take photos of myself. If anyone's interested in a week in Barcelona (or maybe another city if you present a valid argument) give me a shout. The ability to speak Spanish is preferred but not essential.

Oh and Sicily is now ridiculously soon. 8 days. The sun is shining and life is good.

Friday, 11 June 2010

What would you do?

I am struggling to make a decision.

Basically my laptop had been overheating and turning itself off a lot lately. So, having worked in a computer shop, I thought I'd open her up and have a look at the fan. BIG MISTAKE. I took it apart, cleaned the fan, rebuilt it and now it is 100% dead. Windows doesn't load. Nothing.

So it has now become apparent to me that, one way or another, I am going to need a new laptop some time soon; at the latest by late September when I return to uni. 

So here is my dilemma:

I have £500 put away which I intended on spending on a holiday in Spain this summer.  Also, my parents (in their undying generosity) have offered to get me a laptop as an early birthday present, three months early. Before this little mishap I was planning on getting an electric drum kit for my birthday to take up with me to Cardiff so that I can keep up my drumming. So here are the choices:

1) I get the laptop as an early birthday present and buy myself a trip to Spain, probably Barcelona, for a week or so.


2) I get the laptop with my own money and an electric drum kit for my birthday.
So I either miss out on a trip to Spain or an electric drum kit. Tough decision.

What would you do?

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Back to the gym

Due to the fact that I have 4 months of not having to do anything ahead of me, I thought I would re-join my old gym. It had been about 9 months since I had last been and my God was it a wake up call. I'm not aching as badly as I thought I would be which, touchwood, will carry through until tomorrow morning.

I didn't work myself too hard as I thought I'd ease myself in gently. So, metaphorically, today was the dipping of the toe into the proverbial exercise pool. The pool metaphor is doubly significant because the gym has a pool, as well as a jacuzzi and sauna; the latter two being excellent allies to soothe aching muscles after a long session. I'm thinking of making some more use of the pool than I did last time I was a member, to work on my cardio a little more.

The membership was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, due to the fact that I'm joining on a short term basis at £28.99 a month. I was expecting something more in the regions of £17 so when she gave me that figure my wallet groaned a little. Who'd've thought you'd have to pay so much to put yourself in such excrutiating pain?

Also today, me and Luke got hair cuts and I now feel like my ruffian exterior I have had as of late has been peeled away by the groomed and tidy young man within. Life back home is good. And I haven't even been for a beach BBQ with my friends yet, or had a night out.

My first night out is this Saturday. We're going to The George to watch England, then straight into town from the match. I hope they let me in clubs in my England shirt.

I've delved back into reading. The book I have on the go currently is Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol; sequel to The Da Vinci Code. I needed a break from Spanish/Italian literature, of which I have set myself a stack to read for the summer.

I can't wait to move house. I'm sick of living out of boxes. It's a peculiar feeling seeing your whole life up until now packed into a few cardboard boxes, unearthing memories as you dig into the darkest corners of the past; some of which were better left undiscovered.

Well, that's all for now.

Saturday, 5 June 2010


So the first year of university is well and truly over. It doesn't seem at all long ago that I started this year a month or so into my freshman year. Now it's gone already.
During the exams my mind had been hell-bent on getting the exams finished and getting home to Plymouth. But now that exams are done the parts of Cardiff I will miss are starting to come back to me after a month of being locked into a mundane revision routine. Mainly I will miss my friends and the city itself. But I can't wait to be reunited with Plymouth, its glorious coastline and countryside and my lovely friends.

The au-pair trip to Italy I mentioned a couple posts back? Well.. that's not happening any more. Che peccato! The only families left for the trip all wanted females students only. Sexism in force.
I am not a paedophile. I have had a CRB check for when I worked in a school as a cleaner. That is probably more than the girl who ends up replacing me will have, you sexist bastards.

Oh well. As is my style, there is an (albeit obscure) Plan B. Me and Lucy will probably go to Italy for a month staying with various friends of hers. She just happens to have friends dotted around Europe like that.

And I still want to get to Barcelona for a week. Afterall, seven years studying Spanish without having been to the country is rather ridiculous!

I had my last night out as a fresher in Cardiff tonight. Hit the pre-lash hard with Nick, Ben and Nick's lads. They are true lads. As I haven't drank at all over exam period, it was a rude awakening having them shouting 'See it off fresher!' at me. It probably contributed heavily to the drunk state I am in now. After the pre-drinks we headed to the Union for Boombox. It was a right laugh although I was pretty hammered. Then we head to town for a well earned Burger King. Nothing sobers you up like an XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

Then me, Nick and Ben headed back to the flat, played a bit of COD with the speakers up really loud as a bit of revenge for all the times pricks have kept us up. Then we played a bit of FIFA. I beat Ben 7-1 so he had to go around the building twice. A good ending to the year really.

I'm going to miss my friends and the new life I have founded for myself up here.

However, my parents are picking me up tomorrow so I simultaneously cannot wait to get home!

Bring on the summer.

Friday, 4 June 2010

The spoken word

I've just stumbled upon a wonderful little spoken word song by Sage Francis.
It gives the impression of a guy looking back on episodes of life, some of which melancholic.
These episodes are narrated with an air of wisdom our protagonist has acquired over time.
Got 5 minutes to kill? Give it a listen with your fullest attention to take in the words.

I particularly like the line: the television went from being a babysitter to a mistress.

Leave comments with what you think if you have a listen.

If you like it, it's available as a free download on his blog, along with another of his songs entitled 'Slow Man'.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


I am excited.

I could have yet another thing planned to ensure that this summer will not be a boring one.

Giuseppe (Italian lecturer) is offering places for an au-pairing trip to Italy. I have been put on the reserve list in case anybody drops out - because I was late in replying to the email- and when I saw him the other day he said I'll probably be able to go and that he'll email me soon.

The trip would entail going and staying in Italy with an Italian family for a month. He mentioned that it would be by the sea and that during the day I would be going to the beach with the kids and speaking English to help them. Then in the evenings and when I'm with the parents I would speak to them in Italian to help me improve. There would also be time to look around and stuff.

Just the prospect of more time on Italian soil is exciting enough, but getting to stay with an Italian family would be a wonderful experience. One whole month eating homemade food dalla Mamma italiana would be pretty sweet to be honest.

If this whole au-pairing thing doesn't go ahead, I'm sure I'll book something else. Lucy's already throwing the idea around of going around Italy and staying with her Italian friends, one of whom lives near the beautiful Florence which I would love to visit again.

I hope I do get a place on the au-pair trip though, but I won't get my hopes up just yet.

Either way this summer is going to be awesome.

I made it

Finally. My last exam finished.

I think it went OK and hopefully I've done enough to pass.

It took a while for the feeling of freedom to truly sink in yesterday. I think it well and truly sunk in once I got back to my flat, sat down and thought, 'For the next four months I literally have no commitments; nothing that needs to be done, no deadlines, nothing'. The feeling was good.

Before I got back to the flat where I was greeted with this wonderful epiphany, I had some errands to run; books to return to the library; that kind of thing. So on the way down to the library from the exam hall, me and Luce explored the area we'll be living in next year a little. We had a gorgeous lunch at this little Mediterranean place. Cathays is brilliants for little cultural places like that. It has so many non-chain restaurants with food from all over the world, all of which will be at my fingertips next year.

When we got back to the flat, after the epiphany, I beat Ben's ass 7-1 on Fifa, meaning he had to run around the building twice. It was brilliant. Everything that could have went right yesterday did. Me, Luce and Dan went to the Blackweir and I had a few cheeky pints of cider in the glorious sunshine. While we were sat there Luce's friend from school came and sat with us and I called Momin to come and join us. I ended up going to town with Momin and Luce where we met Darsh and Luce's flatmates for a meal at Las Iguanas, a gorgeous Latin American restaurant. For starter I had empanadas which are a gorgeous, I believe Argentinian, pastry and look exactly like the food of my homeland, the good old Cornish pasty.

Then me, Luce and Darsh went out to Oceana which was awesome. It was brilliant to be out and not have to worry about any work that's still to be done. We met some friends from our course, including my flatmate Hannah. We then hit Live Lounge after Oceana and partied on down; me, Luce, Luce's greek friend Alex, Giovanna and Momin. Needless to say, it was a late one. It always is when Live Lounge is involved. It's the club where people go when all the other clubs start closing, spitting their hammered patrons out on to the streets. Everyone there is wasted and the music, which includes songs such as Tenacious D's Tribute really provides one of the funniest and best ends to a night out that I've had in Cardiff.

So now there's one night out remaining on Friday and then on Saturday I'm off home to the hopefully sunny Plymouth.

It's so good to be free.