Iggy the Hymer’s Christmas Break in Sicily

After a long, lazy Christmas break at Eden Parking, Iggy the Hymer is back on the road again.  Today he has his nose in a parking lot in the ancient city of Syracuse ( N37.0918  E15.2759 ).  It’s a bit of a walk into town, but we like to walk.  It’s free to stay and feels safe with lots of other motorhomes here as well.

Typical backstreet in Old Syracuse. Lovely!

But wait!  Syracuse is for another day.  Namely tomorrow when we’ve walked around a bit more.  For today’s story we need to catch up with our lazy Christmas week at Giardini Naxos.  And we most definitely have been lazy.  So lazy in fact that my last post saw us just arrived in Sicily and falling asleep to the sound of the waves at Nizza di Sicilia.  Gosh that seems like a lifetime ago!

I liked Nizza di Sicilia.  It’s a pretty little town that seemed purely Sicilian, with an enormous length of black, lava beach.  As we’d arrived in the dark, frazzled from the drive,  we decided to stay 2 nights.  It was nice to relax and Nizza was a nice, sleepy place to do it.  We wandered the town and beach to our content.  My greatest delight there was getting my first sight of Mount Etna.  Not that you can miss it, standing tall and snow-capped, off in the distance behind the town.  My second greatest delight was seeing my first ever avocado tree.  With avocados on it and everything.  The things you see in people’s gardens in Sicily!

Etna photobombing at Nizza’s long, long beach.

Back at Iggy we got out the instruments and spent the afternoon playing tunes on the promenade in the sun.  The clouds of the previous day were all gone and the island was warming up nicely.  We had a break and sipped cappuccino from the beach cafe, then played some more.  The waves shush-shushed over the shingle.  The sun warmed our faces.  Life was good.

The boys take a break on Nizza beach between songs.

The following day we were up early at 08:00 planning to have Iggy on the road just after nine when the traffic would be quiet.  I opened the blinds and…Uh Oh!  Joy of joys and fun of funs, a market had set up around us while we slept.  So much for calling ourselves “early risers”. The road we needed to drive out was completely covered in about a kilometre of market stalls.  Iggy was going nowhere!

It may have messed up our plans for the day, but what a lovely disruption!  Stall holders vans were all around us and nobody blinked an eye at Iggy sitting in the middle of their parking zone.  Gotta love Sicilia!  With nothing to be done but chill out and wait we set out to explore the market.  I do love a good market and this one most definitely was a good market.  All the usual market tat, fresh fruit and veg, salted fish, cheeses, cured meats. African ornaments and Sicilian earrings. Oceans of clothes of every kind and two little coffee stalls on wheels that moved up and down the aisle.

That’ll be a market then!

My joy was complete when I found a great new hat for the measly price of 3 Euro.  Just in case I wasn’t happy enough Jay then topped it off by buying me the most gorgeous faux Afghan coat for the unbelievable cost of 6 Euro.  For Christmas he said.  We weren’t supposed to be doing presents this year but I grabbed it like a drowning man grabbing a lifeline!

We added in a little gift for one of the folks back home and retreated back to Iggy before we got carried away by the prices.  As I put some lunch together the first of the stalls began to pack up.  It was fun to watch the market come down as we munched, and by the time coffee was over the road was clear enough to drive on.  Wagons Ho Iggy!

Fabulous sculpture we passed on the way to Giardini Naxos

The drive to Eden Parking was an absolutely stunning one.  That happens a lot here we’ve noticed.  The traffic wasn’t too bad, and there were no disastrously narrow places.  It still set a tension in our shoulders though.  For all we love the island I think we’ll be very relieved when we don’t have to drive here anymore.

There’s a fabulous run of steep switchbacks on this route along the coast.  Jay managed incredibly well while I have somehow managed to lose the video of the experience.  I’m sure I was shrieking like a baby in between gasps of “Wow!  Just wow!  Don’t you look!  You look at the road!”  Poor Jay!  We twisted on round the cliff under Taormina to some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen in my life.  The moment when you round a bend to see Etna sparkling in all her glory before you is just…just…  How can I spoil it with words?  I can’t describe the intensity of that moment with any kind of real justice.  I’ll never forget it though.

Tiny island paradise at the foot of Taormina.

It was a relief to arrive at Eden and find it was even lovelier than I’d expected from the comments I’ve seen about it.  And even more importantly Rosario still had a couple of pitches left!  The highpoints of the Sosta are:

  • Only 7 Euro a night in low season – 5 kw of electricity included
  • Easy access from the main road; but far enough away to be really quiet
  • Pretty
  • Couple of minutes walk from a stunning beach
  • Few minutes walk from the town promenade and all the shops and bars and restaurants
  • Mount Etna as your stunning backdrop all day, every day.

The Sosta was nearly full with a few spaces reserved for Christmas and we booked ourselves in for a week.  Iggy could have a holiday until the 27th while I caught up with my writing.  Good plan eh?  So what became of that then?

Early morning in Giardini Naxos looking towards Taormina.

Well there was a little bit of a slow internet problem for the first couple of days.  That was seriously frustrating and the computer came close to meeting the window a few times on the one blog post I did write.  As for all the other blog posts I should have written…  I could come up with a few excuses.  The weather was so lovely I just had to go for walks first thing instead of writing.  I had to sit outside so not to miss the beautiful weather so I couldn’t use the laptop because it was too sunny.  I couldn’t use the laptop at night because Jay was watching DVDs.

And all of that is true of course, but mainly I just didn’t get my finger out and do it.  I didn’t prioritise it so it didn’t get done.  Maybe I needed to not write the blog for a few days?  I kind of think so.  There seemed to be a bit of a reset going on in my head.  I was seeing the blog as a chore I didn’t want to do.  My love of writing was forgotten.  The fact that this is my project.  Something that I wanted to do had temporarily escaped me.  For now all I wanted to do was climb the lava rocks at the beach.  Let my heart surge in my chest with the incredible size and power of the surf.  Watch the pure white smoke streaming out of Etna turn red as the sun set behind it.  Wait for my first Christmas ever away from home.

Why have I been so lazy? Hmmmmm….

There were lots of lovely people staying at the Sosta and one of them, Rolf from Bavaria, told us on Christmas Eve that there was to be a bonfire at the church that night.  I’d read about this Italian tradition of lighting bonfires to warm the Christ child when he is born.  I thought it was a lovely and charming thing and had been hoping we might get to see it.  Result!  Thank you Rolf!

We let a few other people know too and set off from Eden about 22:30 in the company of David and Fran.  ( You can check out Fran’s fabulous artwork here ) A fulltiming couple from Wales and New Zealand who’ve just notched up 18 months in their Frankia motorhome around Europe and North Africa and don’t seem to be in any hurry to stop anytime soon.  And who can blame them?  If I can figure a way to not have to go back to make money I’ll be doing the same thing like a shot!

We really enjoyed the bonfire and kept poor Fran and David up with our chat long into the wee, small hours when we got back to the Sosta.  David introduced us to Italian Amaro, which was well and truly drunk!  It was great to spend a few hours with English speakers and get a proper long natter for the first time since leaving home.  They’re both superb examples of human beings and it really made our Christmas Eve to get to know them a little.

Warming the Christ Child. Can we start having Christmas bonfires in Scotland please?

The biggest highlight of Christmas came on the day itself though.  The biggest drawback to this travelling malarky has to be leaving people you love behind.  We had a really lazy morning and a long sleep – thanks to all the Amaro the night before!  Once we were up and alive we took the phone down to the beach where the view of the smoking volcacno was clearest.  Time for the video call home!  That was the best bit and no mistake.

ET phone home. We’re having a really awesome dream right? Nobody wake me!

My daughter and her partner had got engaged on Christmas Eve, but the ring was too big.  My mum remembered seeing Etna from the old Queen Mary on her way home from living in Aden the year I was born.  She thinks it was smoking then too.  Our granddaughter wanted to know where Jay’s bowler hat was.  She’s not yet two and likes to wear it.  Nephews shouted hello.  People laughed.  Every face was full of smiles and happiness.  Mum’s house is just the best place to be at Christmas.  Sicily is lovely.  But Mum’s is definitely the best.

We have no oven so we made a big steak dinner – which was yummy – and then splurged on data to watch Bright on Netflix.  Also yummy!  As Christmas goes it was a pretty good one.  Pretty good indeed.  Merry Christmas one and all. We hope you all had a good one too.

Fi. x

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