Trapani to Mazara Del Vallo

Trapani 26 – 27/01/2016

After a while of driving around Europe you get a smell for a place, what is going to be a rip-roaring stay and what is going to end up like a night in Dodge City. Whenever people talk about Trapani in a positive light be aware they might be telling porkies. Apart from a little historic area and one half-decent Baroque Avenue the place is best described as bleak. Built on a promontory, one side has been given over to port activities as this is a main ferry terminal with connects to Tunisia, the north of Italy and the local Egadi Islands. Consequently the place is a tad shabby, I could use another term but after Tracy’s little games the phrase is a too close for comfort.

The other side of the peninsula has great views towards San Vito Lo Capo as well to the towering Mt Eyrx. But even with all this natural beauty it has the aroma of being a bit down-trodden.

We were here for two reasons; to get our laundry done and to catch a ferry for a day trip to the island of Favignana. After a trip to a supermarket which conveniently had an outside tap allowing us to top up the tanks we made our way to the Lavanderia. The owner was a fellow Homie and we grunted and nodded our way through the next hour or two finding out the best places to go in Sicily. Some we knew, some we didn’t and the newly acquired knowledge was taken on-board.

Next stop was to whizz by the ferry companies and enquire about tickets and parking. This was a bit of a failure as my Italian is poor to non-existent and even grunting, nodding and the odd pointing failed this time. We did find out we could buy a ticket in the morning and we could not park near to the terminal

So, we first went to check-out our parking spot we had in the Sat Nav. It is at the very end of the Port and while it looked OK to stay in overnight it didn’t look the sort of place we felt comfortable about leaving the van un-attended during the day. Next stop was the bus station where a shuttle takes you back to the ferry port. This was a bit remote and the tarmac was full of broken glass. Thirdly, we tried the ‘secure’ parking over the road. There was not a single vehicle in the place, the idea of security was a camera pointing at the entrance to make sure you paid and a barrier. There was nothing to stop anyone walking in and ‘doing your van’. Our final try was at another secure spot a bit further out of town. This did have a proper gate but alas nobody bothered to come to us after ringing the bell for a good 10 minutes.

We checked the weather and saw it was not the best for our planned trip and so decided to spend the money on a meal out.

Suitably stuffed we headed back to our original parking spot at the end of the Port. We saw a fellow homie parked up and decided to park up close. Mistake. At about 10 o’clock our neighbourly ‘man in a van’ turned his van around and put out his awning. The next thing was he reversed in a little three-wheeled lorry and dropped down the sides to reveal two display cabinets. The final element to this Heath-Robinson department store was to power-up the generator and light the place up like Blackpool Illuminations. We had manged to park next to the most popular sea-food kiosk in town.

The next phase involved a portion of his clients having a game of football while the others took part in impromptu road races round the parking-lot. It was time to move and we spied another space on the other side of car-park where another Motorhome had turned up. As we pulled up the two cars either side of the gap we squeezed into jumped into life and drove off. Sicily is undoubtedly the home of the back-seat fumble, couples are everywhere. It is how Britain used to be back in the sixties and seventies and us kids around Bonfire night used to open the lover’s doors and throw fireworks in. Dangerous and stupid I know but hilarious to see a ‘grown-up’ with his trousers around his ankles threatening you. Surprisingly we didn’t get a bad sleep after all that and woke up to this:

Fisherman’s Friend

Villino Nasi

Wanting some bread we headed a bit further into town and stopped. I nipped out while Tracy got the Boiled-Berts on the go. My trip to the bakers coincided with the daily fish and veg market. A steady stream of punters came by to barter and buy the fish straight from the boats.

The Fishing Fleet

How Much?

You wanna swim with the fishes?

Flying the flag

Unfortunately for the Sicilians but fortunate for the tourists Sicily has been invaded and colonised by anyone who was anyone in History; Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, etc and they all left their mark whether it be in architecture or food and just way of life. Trapani more than anywhere has been influenced by North African cuisine and as well as couscous and not pasta being the staple here they knock out the most gorgeous Pannbelle. These tiny chick-pea wonders are melt-in-the-mouth-tasty hot with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and cumin with a fried egg on top. I would say they are as good if not better than their parents; the msemen.

Slightly blurred Pannbelle

South of Trapani is the
Riserva Naturale Orientata Saline di Trapani e Paceco, in English the salt lake reserves. This is one of the largest collection of working windmills left in Europe as the mills are used to pump the water around the numerous salt ponds. With the accompanying mist and total lack of people it gave off a very eerie presence resembling a scene from Wallender or some other dark Scandinavian piece of broadcasting. And in all this mist were a number of young male Flamingos biding their time until they turn pink and start a family.

The aptly named Museum of Salt

Mills and Salt

Anti-War protest

Flamingos do fly

But mostly they stand around

Leaving the salt-ponds and heading for Masala brings you into a rather drab part of Sicily with nothing going for it. It is just an endless ribbon of magnolia coloured square boxes that double-up as houses. It is as if somebody once visited a Barrett’s home in the UK and decided beige was the way forward and somehow, a bit like Donkey Kong, something got lost in translation and they have painted the outside and not the inside of their houses in this neutral-hued shit.

Masala as everybody knows is a by-word for Dessert Wines. The wine maybe sweet but the town certainly is not. A bit like Trapani it has some elegant Baroque buildings in the centre but there is not enough to hold your attention and make you want to stay. The car-park for Motorhomes is really depressing with Migrants surrounding your vehicle as soon as you slow down. So while you are sipping your fine wine in some posh restaurant think of the poor abused immigrant workforce that makes it possible.

Mazaro dell Vallo 27-28/01/2016

Recommended to us by the waitress in Palermo we decided to make this our stop for the night. We pulled up on the prom just across from the Old Town and as it was late afternoon we opted to go for a walk around. This is a rather wonderful place with streets paved in marble, elegant piazzas, pedestrianised shopping streets and the finest Baroque Cathedral you will see anywhere. Currently I walk around in a pair of North Face cargo pants which are dreadful, they are shapeless and are completely lacking in style, comfortable yes. Now imagine I pleased I am to be in Italy and acquire a pair of stylish ‘skinny’ cargo pants, comfortable no. After that we sat and watched the
Passeggiata.

La Passeggiata – an evening stroll in Italy

In Italian culture, there’s so much wonderful family tradition and time reserved for certain times of the day that are custom if not a typical part of Italian lifestyle and daily ritual. La Passeggiata is one of those daily rituals that Italians and everyone visiting Italy should really enjoy – just taking time late in the day to relax and walk through the pedestrian streets, greeting old friends, window shopping or just wander aimlessly connecting with people and celebrating the end of a wonderful day in Italy. It’s a way for Italians to connect back to their roots and to feel a sense of community and belonging. And that’s exactly what you see all over Italy –  friends and family greeting each other on the streets, talking to favourite shop keepers and doing their afternoon shopping for the evening meal.

Where ships come to die

The View from our van window

Cathedral Roof

A quick rush back to the van to change and we went and had our first meal in a restaurant in Sicily. We have done many a pizzeria and café but this was our initial visit to enjoy some quality Sicilian food. We were not disappointed, Tracy had some swordfish number while I munched my way through some traditional game rolls, not the bread type but something that is rolled. After our meal we went to a cocktail bar where Tracy had and took an instant liking to a Spritz.

The Spritz (German: “splash” / “sparkling”, also called Spritz Veneziano or just Veneziano) is a wine-based cocktail commonly served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy. The drink is prepared with prosecco
wine, a dash of some bitter liqueur such as AperolCampariCynar, or, especially in Venice, with Select. The glass is then topped off with sparkling mineral water. It is usually served over ice in a low-ball glass (or sometimes a martini glass or wine glass) and garnished a slice of orange, or sometimes an olive, depending on the liqueur. Another variation of the drink uses champagne with the liqueur rather than prosecco. The drink originated in Venice while it was part of the Austrian Empire, and is based on the Austrian Spritzer, a combination of equal parts white wine and soda water; another idea is that the name of the drink would be linked to that of a typical Austrian wine in the region of the Wachau.

With our tummies fed and our whistles wet we headed home to bed. All was going well until about 3 in the morning when a huge dustcart parked right next to us and all the little dustcart people got out and started chatting and smoking. But what we didn’t know but were about to find out was we had parked in the Clapham Junction of dustcart activity. As the streets in this fair town are narrow they use teeny dustcarts to retrieve the rubbish and then transport their cargo to the mothership. This had decided that in an empty car-park the size of Manhattan the prime spot to work was three feet from our bumper. For the second night running I moved the van.

Love to All

Take Care

E & T

xxx

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