Snapshots of Sicily
It was over a year ago that we visited our final port of call, the island of Sicily. Until this week, I never went through the photos we took in the enchanting town of Taormina.
I think there are a couple of reasons for this. One is that while I was writing about our cruise last year, we were making some life changing decisions that took over most of my brain, which kept me from getting through all of our vacation photos.
The other reason is that even though I followed all my own instructions about having a great port day which included getting off of the boat quickly and being on the first bus to leave the dock area, we had the unforeseeable misfortune of spending our one precious day in Sicily with a terrible guide.
I really am such a Pollyanna when I’m on vacation that it is difficult for me to talk about the things I encounter which aren’t perfect because I am so busy spinning them in a positive light to myself. I believe this attitude is a recipe for happy travel (and happy life!), so I am always looking for the parts of the day that are treasures. The moments for which I can be grateful.
On this day, our treasured moments were the ones where Mary Polly and I were able to escape from our guide, who was, in the immortal words of Buddy the Elf, a Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins.
He was an older, disgruntled British gentleman with a sort of slurred, affected way of talking that left me trying to puzzle out whether he was attempting to speak with an Italian accent or if he was just a bit hungover. Either way, it was painful to listen to.
At the start of the day, I felt sorry for him. Because he was so hard to listen to, no one was paying attention to him so I began by making an extra effort to hear the bits (that I think were) about Sicily, a place about which I was (and remain) completely ignorant.
By the time our bus reached the town of Taormina, I was rolling my eyes right along with my 13-year-old daughter.
I asked how much time we had before we left for Mt. Etna, and Mary Polly and I ditched the tour until then.
Unfortunately, we could not ditch it entirely because in the off season you need either a chartered bus or a taxi (expensive) to get back to the cruise port.
So we spent our allotted time touring the Greek Theater, marveling at the brightly colored town of Taormina and stuffing our faces with pastries.
Needless to say, we were perfectly happy with our personal version of the tour.
But alas, we had to get back on the bus and ride the long way to the volcano to the sound of Mr. Muggins’ voice. Also, to add insult to injury, the air con on our bus was broken and it was super hot. Again, those are details I would never have remembered had I not been already annoyed by the tour.
We stopped for lunch, which was lovely, and then made our way up to the Silvestri Craters, which Mary Polly had really wanted to see.
The ancient lava flows were very cool to see, but we still both would have traded the sight of them for more time in Taormina. In trying to see both the town and the volcano in one day, we did not realize that we were actually choosing to spend the bulk of our day driving.
Still, I wonder if I would have been bothered by this if the tour guide had been more interesting. Our drive to and from Rome was very long, but I was riveted and taking notes as we drove and the guide told stories. So, it is a bit of a crap shoot really. And you can’t win them all.
But now, over a year later, I find myself looking at these photos of our day in Sicily and most especially of our hours in Taormina and remembering how beautiful it was. I smile thinking about how Mary Polly and I laughed at our guide. How we stopped in more than one shop to buy pastries. We ate gelato in the hot autumn sun and imagined what kind of perfect summer holiday it would be to spend a month in this town.
Looking at the yellows and oranges of Taormina while I am currently in the dark gray winter of Scotland makes me want to pack my bags immediately. I think I might even be willing to catch a ride with our same, silly guide, as long as at the end of the drive, I could be let free to stay in Taormina for a month this time instead of just a few hours.
I’m curious. Have you ever had a bad guided tour experience? I know a lot of people don’t like them at all, but I find that when I’m traveling with Mary Polly, she often prefers the bus and guide to my marching her all over a city. It can reduce the conflict between us to have someone else giving the orders.
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