Guest Bloggers Adam McCulloch and Emma Sloley are married travel writers based in New York. Originally from Australia, they moved to the U.S. in 2004. They have traveled to over 60 countries and written for a wide range of publications, including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, New York magazine, Gotham, Gourmet Traveller, Coastal Living, Reader’s Digest and Outside. Adam and Emma are sending us stories and pictures daily from their 14-day voyage aboard Seabourn Odyssey between Rome and Venice. Come by and read their blogs often.
Day 6 – May 3, Syracuse, Italy: Right Place, Wrong Weather
Some destinations suit a certain kind of weather. The Greek Isles are idyllic under a dazzling cerulean blue sky, England needs a jolly good atmospheric spritz of mist and drizzle to really come into its own, while Costa Rican rainforests are at their flamboyant best during tropical downpours. Catania, one of the destinations on today’s tour of Sicily, feels like it should be experienced beneath thunderous clouds pelting black volcanic rain or shrouded beneath the jaundiced desert grit that periodically blows in from the Sahara. Somehow it just doesn’t look right under a cheery blue sky.
From the moment we disembarked it was clear this town had a forceful personality. Blood oranges oozed murderously on a fruit seller’s cart. In a small square all the statues had been decapitated in a revolutionary rage and, further on in the shadows under the bridge, old men loitered around card games, arguing in scratchy mafioso voices.
On entering the main square we discovered a classic baroque streetscape, but the style’s usual whimsy was rendered a funereal shade of black. The volcanic stone from which the whole town appears to have been hewn comes from the flanks of Mount Etna, which looms over the city like an angry stepfather, perpetually poised to blow his top.
As if we needed a reminder that this was Sicily, the soundtrack to the Godfather seemed to follow us wherever we went — from the main square with its sooty black elephant fountain where a melancholy bearded man played a haunting tune on his accordion, to the fish market, which appeared to have been hacked out of a coal pit and was filled with the raucous yelling you might expect at a cockfight.
All this drama under the influence of today’s glorious weather was far too incongruous for moody Catania, which felt like a set piece for some wonderfully grim saga. We can’t wait to return in bad weather.
Souvenir: Mount Etna certainly photographs well but our guide assured us that the very best memento was a piece of volcanic rock. “We make more souvenirs every time Etna erupts,” she quipped. So we did just that, pocketing a tiny chunk of black lava stone from one of the calderas. It’s a gift for a dear friend of ours who collects stones from around the world. We just hope she doesn’t think it’s a lump of coal…
Day 7 – May 4: Ionian Sea: Let the Games Begin
We thought the ship only had 10 decks so imagine our excitement — Spinal Tap style — when we discovered that this ship goes to 11. On the very top deck we found the driving range and, joy of joys, it was free. Not being golfers, it took us a while to be able to clear the railing. But soon we were watching the little white balls soar far into the Ionian Sea. What fun! We do wonder how they fetch them though — maybe one of the tender boats follows behind scooping them up?
Is it just us or have tennis courts grown smaller since we last played? Even the net seems to have shrunk — although that did make it easier to jump at the end of the game. What a lark it was belting the little balls back and forth! We realized in the end, though, that the flimsy-floaty white balls were actually for kids, so we changed over to the hard and fast golf balls, which was a lot more satisfying (even if they did hurt a bit more).
Finally a game that looked so simple even we should be able to master it: shuffleboard. After some debate, we decided that it must be a cross between hopscotch and jousting. A contestant, holding a long pole, stands at each end. The first round involves hopping on one leg while shoving the dinner plates down the green in an attempt to stub the competitor’s toes. When all the dinner plates have been thrown (don’t worry, they’re made from plastic so they don’t break), you run at each other like jousting knights, trying to wrap the fork of the pole around your competitor’s neck. (Again, don’t worry, there are rubber safety-stoppers on the prongs). It’s a real hoot when you do it right.
The Observation Bar:
Exhausted after our day of athletics we repaired to our favorite bar with our favorite bartender and our favorite piano-man serenading us with our favorite songs. There’s a lot of favorite in that one sentence but our enthusiasm goes to 11, too. The Observation Bar is located at the pointy end of the ship on deck 10.
*Disclaimer: Of course, we didn’t really play any of these games in the fashion described above. Although we’re still a bit confused about how to play shuffleboard.