Posts Tagged With: travel+photography

This is Segesta (And Erice)

img_0435The picture of my daughters and I laboring up an Erice alley is exactly what it looks like.  We are not checking for dog poop.  This was the tail end of a brutally hot day that involved hiking to the majestic Segesta temple.  I thought I could handle the Sicilian July heat everybody warned me about, but this was hot.  To give you an indication, when it was time to take a food break in Erice, we had no other choice but go to a tourist trap.  We were seated on a touristy terrace with other tourists, given overpriced tourist menus (Caprese salad!), and then gave them our money and soul.

But this was still a good day.  Segesta blew us away with its beauty and setting.  Once a Greek powerhouse, one of many in Sicily, whose pride and overconfidence left it badly defeated.  Now whats left is a roofless temple, and a Greek theater with that classic Greek theater style setting.  The best I’ve seen.

Meanwhile Erice, perched on a mountain, not a hill, was surprisingly quiet for such a major tourist attraction.  Its home to the famous Pasticceria Maria Grammatico, Sicily’s sweets jewel founded by a nun who grew up in an orphanage in Erice.  Nuns are responsible for much of the desserts found all over Sicily.   img_0411 img_0416 img_0440 img_0442 img_0444 img_0446 img_0450 img_0456 img_0460 img_0495 img_0506 img_0508 img_0511 img_0521 img_0526 img_0545 img_0552 img_0553 img_0559 img_0461

Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Modica

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Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Montreal Random

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Categories: Montreal | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

This is Palermo

IMG_1007Even my Google Maps app was in a confused state as my taxi raced through traffic, seemingly going the wrong way.  Our female driver just smiled and said “Welcome to Palermo”.  The only time she slowed down was when we passed Giovanni Falcone’s monument for me to take a quick picture.  The site of perhaps the most famous mafia assassination in history, which changed Palermo forever.  Falcone’s friend and fellow judge Paolo Borsellino who spoke at the funeral, was killed in similar fashion 57 days after his friend’s death.  The airport is named after both heroes.

Palermo is misunderstood.  Just like most of Sicily pretty much.  Its old, its gritty, its congested, and its old!  The same can be said to much of metropolitan Europa, but it feels different here.  Emphasis on different, which is essentially why we travel.  This blogger compares it to India, and I can understand why.  Strangely, some of my favorite moments in Palermo came from the times when my daughters were slightly terrified.  Like when we witnessed the scene at Mercato Vucciria at night – an intestine, seafood, clubby, smoky BBQ orgy extravaganza.  A scene we only see in movies, never in Italy.  Different!  Like our neighbor restaurant Il Pipino Rosso (the red penis) and its slightly disturbing logo.  This heat made me only imagine that when the Pipino committee met to discuss the name, someone showed up with a horrific heat rash.IMG_1063

On this post, I will touch on some of the obvious (markets, churches), and some of the not so (fountain, dog droppings, red penises, etc).  You probably already heard about Palermo’s legendary street food and market scene.  Panelle, the Sicilian falafel, alone with a drizzle of lemon, or as a sandwich (Pane E Panelle), or with fried potato croquettes (Pane E Panelle Con Croquette Di Patate) quickly became our snack of choice.  It sounds and looks bland, but yet another example of “Dont judge a food by its cover”.  It also holds true for peaches.  The uglier the better, while the most beautiful often come without substance (AKA The Paris Hilton syndrome).

The Sicilian peaches in July are outrageously aromatic and sweet.  At the bustling Capo market while I was busy admiring the fishy creatures from Mazara for too long, my family would simply hold a peach 5 meters out to the direction of where I’m supposed to go.  But just like with the Oritgia Market, one needs to spend some quality time (alone preferred) with the Rialto-like seafood displays.  Make sure to come to Capo early, Ballaro before 13:00, and Vucciria at night for the party.  If you’ve seen markets and “shuks” like in Israel and Barcelona, these markets may not exactly shock, but interesting nonetheless.IMG_0820

The usual suspects in Palermo… the magnificent, jaw dropping, slap your sister Cathedral.  The awe inspiring, splendid, slap your other sister Cappella Palatina.  And the only in Palermo, elegant Oratorios, are reasons enough to spend a few days.  The recently Unescoed Cefalu and Monreale nearby means make it 4 days.  You will pass by the cathedral a few times, and get mesmerized by its majestic magnificence as if you are seeing it for the very first time each and every time.. staring, admiring, selfying… until you step on dog poop.

Ziggy’s Palermo Dog Poop Survival Guide:

Do not despair.  The Palermian dog poop, perhaps due to the seafood and Panelle diet doesn’t smell too harsh.  Think 3 week old asparagus meets Bengay.  Pick a nice looking square with pretty cobble stones and a place to rest.  Chance are there’s some water on the ground there.  Have someone in your family pick up little spoons off the ground, the spoons used for granitas and ice crea, they are everywhere.  Gently remove the poop with the spoons.  Use that bottle of water you are carrying if you have to.  The square may have a different meaning to you when you next pass by as it loses its charm a bit, but thats the small price you payIMG_0840

The summer heat also means discovering things you may otherwise overlook.  Like the Orto Botanico di Palermo with its ancient trees (including oldest in Europe), and Zucchini shape trees (Maybe I was just hungry).  Its location near the train station also means discovering the Palermo Chinese wholesale district, just in case you need to buy handheld fans for 100 of your closest friends.  You can also cool off at the Fontana Pretoria, where up close it transforms into one of the most photogenic fountains in Italy.  There’s even a “Costanza Pose”.  When I posed in similar fashion on one of the fountain steps, Mrs Z said a policeman watching from the corner whistled to get off.  Or was he just admiring?  We’ll never know.

Our entire Sicilian schedule centered around one particular event, the Santa Rosalia Festino.  This is arguably Sicily’s biggest festival, with concerts, fireworks, races, and various parades throughout the week.  And the grand finale, July 14, where the entire town, and 1000’s of tourists come out to see Rosalia slowly parade down Vittorio Emanuele.  The energy, the anticipation, the emotion was heart felt.  I hope my rabbi will understand

When you take a close look at the history of Palermo, it may seem like everyone and their mother invaded Palermo at some point.  Arab influence is more evident here than anywhere else especially when it comes to the wonderful cuisine.  They brought in the citrus fruits, raisins, fennel, sugar, and introduced the Arab “Shuks” (markets).  You may see some sort of an Arab influence in almost every dish in Palermo and elsewhere.IMG_1111

At Ferro Di Cavallo we started our Panelle relationship, and enjoyed Spaghetti with seafood and a fine spaghetti with squid ink, among other less memorable dishes.

The father and son team of A’Cuncuma dazzled us with colorful flavors, while mom was home with fever.  This is Haute Palermo, a playful homage to Palermo classics.  We enjoyed more raw Gamberoni, and fresh fish which we couldnt get enough of in Sicily.  A duller, lighter version of Pasta Con la Sarde was missing its oomph, but everything else worked ].  In particular, the perfectly cooked Fassone beef from Piedmont.  You can’t get this stuff in NYC.   The closest is Fassone-like cattle from MontanaIMG_1071IMG_1079

Turns out there’s also good pizza in Palermo, like at Ciccio Passami l’Olio.  Unlike the rest of Sicily’s notables, here its a lighter, airier fare with cleverly assembled ingredients.  Out of the three we tasted, the mortadella with pistachio, tomato and various cheeses stood out.  Our favorite Pizza in sicily

But our favorite meal in Palermo came courtesy of La Cambusa. Originally recommended by a trusted waitress from Mercato (NYC) who grew up in Palermo.  Being in the center, it does attracts a fair number of tourists, and evidently… clowns.  A misunderstanding led to double the house white we wanted (bigger than a bottle) which turned out to be a fun challenge.  The previous day in Trapani I ordered a fish sandwich instead of peach juice in a cafe, but my Menu Italian is getting better.  As a result of all the drinking, I was desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the clown.  Pasta con le Sarde here was outstanding.  Same dish featured in the last Travel and Leisure issue (as of this writing).  The raisins, fennel, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sardines resulted in this sweet richness we’ve never tasted in pasta before.  Vongole was one of the better Vongoles of a Vongole filled trip.  Rabbit loin was tender and juicy, but the branzino baked with potato stole the show among the secondisIMG_1345 IMG_0808IMG_0678 IMG_0796 IMG_0692 IMG_0694 IMG_0697 IMG_0743 IMG_0784 IMG_0789 IMG_1217 IMG_1167 IMG_1160 IMG_1128 IMG_1109 IMG_1085 IMG_1016 IMG_0992 IMG_0976 IMG_0823 IMG_0831 IMG_0846 IMG_0817 IMG_1064


Categories: Italy, Sicily | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Visiting the Egadi Islands

IMG_0345This was confusing to research, but turned into one of our favorite days.  Allow me to help the confused in the future.

You are faced with several options.  Which of the three islands?  how long in each?  By a boat excursion or on my own?  Should I pre-purchase boat tickets?  Of course we are all different, and we all travel differently, but this plan worked wonders for us.

The boat excursions sounded like a fun, stress free way of visiting the islands.  But the more I looked into this, exploring the islands on our own sounded superior in many levels.  The islands are just too beautiful for a quick timed stop.  We opted to visit Favignana and Levanzo.

First order of business, purchase the tickets at Liberty Lines in advance.  Recently two companies merged to make this purchase a lot more convenient, and tickets do sell out sometimes.  Arrive at the port, present your vouchers, and you get your tickets.  They ask you to pick up your tickets 30 minutes prior, but I dont think its a hard rule.  We opted for the 8:30 boat from Trapani to Favignana (30 mins), 14:00 From Favignana to Levanzo (10 mins), and 17:00 from Levanzo to Trapani (45 mins through Favignana).  The one caution:  When taking the ferry from Favignana to Levanzo, once  you arrive, you may naturally feel like waiting for some green light, or someone to tell you you may leave.  That will not come.  You need to get up and leave, otherwise, you leave with the rest of the passengers to Trapani.  You may be the only one getting off.  Get off!


Five hours in Favignana, and three hours in Levanzo seemed about right.  In Favignana, the closest and most visited island, biking is king.  Rent bikes and explore.  And by explore I mean make sure to make it to the stunning Cala Rossa.  Or you can try to hire a taxi as we did, and for about 60 euros, give you a tour of the island, drop you off at Cala Rossa, and pick you up at a designated time.  We spent 90 minutes which felt about right, maybe another 30 would have been perfect.  He took us to see other beaches, coves and a very curious Cave Bianche Hotel, essentially a resort inside a giant hole.  Other than that you can visit the beach near the port (walk right), The Tonnara (tuna factory), and the charming little town where you can grab a bite.

On Levanzo, you have Egadi’s biggest, and most important attraction, the cave paintings of Grotta del Genovese.  You can try to schedule it in advance or just ask for some info at the bar, or the popup info desk (just a girl greets and helps new arrivals) when you arrive.  We opted against doing it, and instead take the 20 or so minute trek to the Cala Minnula.  This is another rocky cove with crystal clear water and the added bonus of a forest and picnic tables right there.  Just walk right (there’s only one way), until you see the sign at about the half way point.  The other big attraction in Levanzo is the picturesque little village you’ll see as soon as you get off the boat.  In a way, with only 400 inhabitants, and no hotels, this is the more memorable island.

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Categories: Sicily | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Provo Random

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Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

This is Anguilla

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Categories: Anguilla | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

Lazy Post – California’s Route 1

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Categories: California | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Village Halloween Parade Confirms it

IMG_7510We are doomed.  Doomed I tell ya.  A disturbing trend I noticed as of late is the amount of women walking around looking at their cell phones.  Its not so much a male thing, and not so new, but its getting worse and worse.  They cross the street while texting, use it in restaurants, friends, family included.  But this was the most bizarre.  Perhaps the most fun parade in NY, saw so many parade participants staring at the phones instead of the crowd.  There were plenty of fun ones that acted their costume, don’t get me wrong, but those fixed to their phones were as noticeable.  Its only the most unboring thing one can do anywhere.

Anyway, it was still a blast.  Here are some pictures from the parade.  Oh, note to future self. Don’t have a full meal before the parade.  Reserve a spot along the route at around 6 instead.  And hope you have more hair and better looking, tho I cant see how both can be possible…

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Categories: New York City | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Lazy Post – Random San Francisco

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