Scorpio and Summer!

I love it when my birthday comes around. November is the star sign for Scorpio
and Scorpio means summer and sun to me.
And sun means beach and could this beach get any better??

 

Just me and my footprints

My special beach is Bunker Bay.  A long curving beach of pearly white sand in
Geographe Bay south of Dunsborough, West Australia.
What an incredible experience to look along the beach and say I am the only
person here!

And irresistible not to take a swim.

first swim of summer

My day starts with thinking time as I stroll along the beach.
Actually one could say “no thinking time”. The sound of the waves are mesmerizing.
It is all about being at peace with the world. Just my footprints to show I was here.
As I turn around to return, paralelling me is a dolphin cruising the shoreline.

The buzz word around my friends is decluttering their lives with possessions.
Well I call this decluttering my mind.

 

 

 

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Sharks sighted! Damm annoying shark alarm!

Summer holidays have arrived and that means BEACH.  I arrived at Trigg Beach, a most glorious spot off West Australia’s endless coastline of turquoise water. Just as I kicked off the sandals, the shark alarm blares its warning.  The beach is closed as several white pointers are touring up the coast.  Damm those pesky sharks. They are ruining my morning.

The water beckons!

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I belong to the camp which expressed serious concerns regarding the culling off
sharks off the coast.

West Australian Government faced a barrage of protests to the controversial bated drumlines which we were utilised in 2013 and finally abandoned when some common sense prevailed last year.   There was no regard to the fact that the Great White is
listed as vulnerable and migratory under federal threatened species legislation or the drum lines are not discriminating in what it kills.  The West Australian Government
in the good old cowboy attitude forged ahead with shark hunters.

We need to value their place in our already fragile marine environment. Many other alternatives are being explored. Our Surf Life Savers are active with monitoring our popular beaches and when these big boys  were cruising past, the alert was put out
and the beach closed for safety. 2016-12-23 09.35.20.jpg

Has to be the most beautiful War memorial in Australia

Not Canberra but bloomin’ Araluen just outside Perth. Bursting with colour and over 125,000  tulips planted, it is quite a spectacular floral show.

tulip-panoramaWhat  is so special is this is not just a “once a year”  floral display but a permanent War memorial tribute to 87 soldiers.  The Grove of the Unforgotten which  hails back to 1931 when a meticulous ambitious plan of 88 Cyprus trees in the shape of a lyre was created, a series of terraces descending a steep slope- 87 to remember the young soldiers of the Australian leaguers and one for respect to the Unknown Soldier.

And  88 steps to the top from the tranquil pond….. It deserves a moment of reflection.

memorial-pond

Framed by spectacular backdrop of Eucalyptus trees, it  attracts  visitors aplenty and is a delight to the senses. Massed plantings of Camellias and Magnolia trees  provide a perfect backdrop to family picnics.

ford-truckup-close-to-tulips

An exceptional legacy of 14 hectares of botanic gardens for all to enjoy.

Get me out of here!

On the way down to Margaret River one comes across a series of roundabouts and if one is not quick enough it is easy to take the wrong direction into the town of Bunbury. There has been a few occasions when I have cursed and said help get me out of here!

To me Bunbury, 175 kilometres drive south of Perth, as a provincial town had
no redeeming features.  It is marked by an outer harbour and massive silos
which dominate the landscape. That ugly industrial shabbiness which doesn’t
inspire anyone to linger but escape back on the highway to the picturesque towns
of Busselton,  Dunsborough and onto the wine region of the Margaret River.

So when I had an invitation to come down to Bunbury with a friend who had a few
meetings scheduled and he would like to show me around, it was the allure of the country drive and a delightful lunch that was the attraction.

What I found was this quaint old worldly country main street framed by heritage buildings like the grand old majestic Rose Hotel, a nod to a bygone era of architecture,
the traditional Barber shop “Sweeney Todd”  obviously very popular with the locals
to vintage shop fronts offering designer fashions.
Bunbury facades You could visibly feel the change of pace, country time.
The shop assistant has all the time in the world for friendly chatter and inquires where you are from and what your plans are for the day. One even proffered dating advice and a cup of tea once I said I was down here with a gentleman who had meetings in the town. I experienced friendly old fashioned service, no rush or pressure to purchase.

After the enjoyable shopping experience and the leisurely coffee seated on the side walk alfresco area absorbing the slower pace of time I retired to the 150 year old landmark hotel the “Rose” with its commanding presence on the main street.dav

Seated by the fire with the bygone ambience complete with mounted stag head on the wall there is something to be said about
old fashioned country charm and yes  the old cash register is still in use.

Interior rose hotel.jpg

 

 

BRUSH WITH FAME

Just by chance,  a friend suggested we attend the opening viewing of the movie L’Attesa (The Wait), starring Oscar winner Juliette Binoche. The film is set in Sicily and we were keen to drink in the fabulous scenery we experienced last March with our travels through Sicily.

The film director, Piero Messina   is touted as one of the finest young talents in European cinema. Sicilian born  from a town of Castilgirone.
The
famous landmark of the city is the 142-step  monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, built from 1608 in the old part of the town .
142 steps which I laboriously climbed.

Back up rome 325 Ooh a long way to the top and down! 

Each step is a work of art with gaily coloured ceramics and of course features in one of the scenes to the film.

 

 

 

 

The fame to the night was that the director himself.  Piero Messina was  here in Perth as a guest for the Lottery West Film Festival and would be speaking after the film.

THAT’S HIM  with his arms wrapped around his two leading ladies. Juliette Binoche  and  Lou de Laage   Now that is an Italian heart throb!

Altogether: The French actresses pose with director Piero Messina during the red carpet event for the movie L'Attesa, or in English 'The Wait'  

The film was smouldering emotional drama with Juliet sensational.  The highlight for me was the scene where Juliet views the famous mosaic of bikini girls at Villa Romana del Casale.
I stood on the same spot as Juliet totally  amazed by these ancient women in
daring bikinis.   The Bikini Girls (Mosaic of Ten Athletic Women), early 4th century A.D., mosaic. Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily

After the interview and all were leaving,  I spotted Piero with a group near the stage  and true to my sassy self  I couldn’t resist the opportunity  to meet him.  So I brazenly went up shook hands and engaged him with  my experiences in Sicily and the visit to his home town.  In Italian of course!   Probably  the worst Italian he has heard  but he was positively oozing charm.
Such a shame I didn’t think to don my sequined dress with plunging neckline to the event.

Not half star struck!

BARBIE EVER THE FLIRT!

Summer weather has well and truly arrived in Perth and every time I pass Barbie residing in the garage I am sure she winks at me and shouts Beach! Beach! Barbie being the wave board I acquired last summer and opened up interesting encounters on the beach.

Today Perth turned on one those spectacular blue skies, no wind and the promise of crystal clear water at the beach.

And it was magic just the right amount of waves for a wave board.

Not too rough for Barbie.

It was hot and the thought of clambering up the beach in the sand had a girl thinking.

Barbie go flirt with the Lifesaver and see if you can hitch a ride. A modern day version of Ken jumped to attention. Barbie is propped up in the back seat of the beach buggy, I donning the open face black helmet and would be Ken turns to me and says shall we go the short way or the long way.

IMAG3035

Long way of course!  I rumble in my beach bag to find my dark sunglasses in order to look cool and we zip down to Scarborough along the beach with Bob Marley  “Sun is Shining”  belting out on the radio. Cool man!

Hey Barbie could you work on the Zodiac toy, the lifesavers like showing off with donuts out in the surf. Now that could be a bit of fun.

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!

My holiday in Sicily draws to a close and I reflect on what was the outstanding feature to Sicily.
I would have to say it was the food.
This is a country that experiences harsh weather conditions and yet it produces
an amazing array of produce.
Why is it is that the tomato that grows here is so full of flavour and the strawberries remind you of your childhood.  Around the coastal cities, the restaurants live up to their reputation for the very best seafood dishes.

Market fruit
Travelling through Sicily, I see at times such marginal land  and question how could they possibly grow anything here.
Take in any local farmers market and you are overwhelmed by an amazing range of local produce.

CHEESE PLEASE
One of the marvellous food sensations  is definitely sampling the traditional Sicilian cheeses.
We are so exposed to rampant consumerism and sophisticated French cheese,
it is refreshing to see how Sicily has kept its own food traditions alive.Cheese
I have come across small-scale family run farms with sheep and cows and
regularly had to stop the car for the shepherds and accompanying dogs and their
protégée to swagger past.

sheep
                                                            Not a care in the world!

The cheese making tradition has deep ancient roots.
The local shop owner in the small town near where I was staying told me his family
makes ricotta every morning for sale and it is highly sought after by the residents.
It is prepared using artisanal techniques and traditional equipment.

Antipasto features the Sicilian Pecorino (Sheep Cheese) where pepper or pistachio nuts
are added to the raw milk giving it quite a special piquante flavour.

I had the experience of staying on an estate with extensive olive trees. The variety was Frantoio, one of the most noted olive oil variety in Italy and a delightfully fruity flavour.
Olive trees grown alongside acres of the Prickly Pear plant called “I fichi d’india”.

Fortunately walked off all those calories.

ACRES OF PRICKLY PEAR UNDER CULTIVATION
       Acres of Prickly Pear under cultivation

COULD THE MAFIA LIFT THEIR GAME!

Everyone knows that the Mafia control the road and civil works together with the rubbish management in Italy.

For a country in my opinion, where someone turned off the money tap 30 or so years ago and  is in dire straits without the income from tourists, the Mafia should lift their game.

This is a country in some respects trading very heavily on tourism and in my travels around Sicily I have seen some very down and out towns. Certainly they would welcome some tourist income.

Please tell me what is it about the culture that you just toss your rubbish alongside the roadside or over the hill in full sight of some magnificent scenery. Scenery that can take your breath away only if you move a bit to the side to miss the rubbish intruding into your photo.

Mt Etna is a symbol for Sicily. Check out my beaut photo! I don’t think so.

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It is understandingly a problem when the streets are narrow and the rubbish collection relies on manual handling. And the very quirky hanging your rubbish bags from the balcony or tied to the downpipe has one  surprised at first till you understand the logic.

rubbish collection

Rubbish aside, Sicily has some breathtaking views and definitely worth the visit.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!

One of the very special things about travelling in a strange country is the coming across something totally unexpected. This make for very memorable moments and in Sicily truly you are presented with some very magical moments to take back home.

EXPECT

Castelmola clinging to rock face  550 metres in altitude with a spectacular view  Taormina. Castelmola
Vertiginous roads that wind up to the piazza. A road not for those afraid of heights. This small village is all about steps, be prepared to wind down narrow alleys with shops with local produce like the liquor made with almonds and artesian products such as ceramics and delicate lacework. Castelmola Liquor

UNEXPECTED

Explosion of fireworks midday Sunday and the sound of a brass band starting up. Quickly dash down an alleyway to find the local brass band trailing behind a procession of strong Italian men traditionally carrying the local Saint, San Pio, from the Duomo around
the Piazza to a shrine caved into the mountainside.San Pio

EXPECT

Fabulous local cuisine at a restaurant with undoubtedly the most panoramic views you could find in Sicily. My dish of Macaroni with fresh anchovies and wild fennel
was absolutely sublime complemented by local vino.
I couldn’t resist complementing the chef.

Mt Etna ristorante

DELIGHTFULLY UNEXPECTED

Staying in a rural farmhouse in the centre of Italy enjoying all the peace and tranquility of a magic countryside when three dashing Italian men storm up the path on
their horses accompanied by a assortment of hounds.
Now that doesn’t happen too often to a lady!

Men on horses

ANGELS & A CONDOM

As I travel around Italy I am experiencing a variety of different accomodation
and hospitality.
Our apartment  in Roma conveniently located near the Termini Station, we were welcomed on our arrival with a bowl of fruit and very special drop of Italian vino.
10 out of 10, Josette!
Attention to detail with coffee, spices and EV olive oil & vinegar was appreciated and it was so comfortable and well decorated.

Our next hosts were so special and went the extra mile. Pasta sauce, homemade jam and local vegetables and the oil processed on their own property. Truly a  memorable stay at our house near Cassibili in Sicily.

Our hosts and the 4 ladies
Our hosts and the 4 ladies

Every now and again when you travel
you are presented with  truly special hospitality and an unforgettable experience.
The views from this location were stupendous.
The magnificent Mt Etna as a backdrop
and a window into a way of life so
ancient which doesn’t come out of
tourist magazines.

won't  find this in the tourist guide books!
Won’t find this in the tourist guide books!
How ancient is this olive tree?
How ancient is this olive tree?

Next apartment , we have travelled north to Fiumefreddo  near Taormina.

Settling in, you find the  usual spices, shampoos,  some lemons and in  the
bedside cupboard a condom.
I wonder why my host didn’t leave the packet?

But one cannot help but feel safe Sweet dreams

with the picture of  angels above the bed and the condom in the top drawer!

Sweet dreams!

Roma Apartment: Josette (Airbnb) [express@airbnb.com]

Cassible  Farm House:  Vincenzo Arcuri
Syrakus Immobiliare
arcuri@syrakus-immobiliare.com