Monday, October 26, 2009

Cruising Catania

Ever since we noticed our first 'dancing bus' this summer driving past our house one day, my son has been in love with this particular vehicle. I am referring to the roofless tourist buses that I have seen in other Italian cities as well, that drive around the city for quick and easy access to the main sites. The term dancing bus is not exactly accurate, for on the tour bus itself you will find no music or dancing. But the one that cruised by our house this summer, presumably rented out for an event, was filled with dancing people and blasting music that left an impression on my son and lead to a world filled with 'dancing buses'.

Usually this 'Katane Live' bus line can be seen parked in front of the Porta Uzeda in Piazza Duomo, and if you are walking by, chances are you will be solicited for a ride. For 5 Euros (kids are free) you can take the 50 minute tour and get on and off the bus at 12 different stops along the route. The ticket is valid for the whole day, so for tourists visiting the city it is not a bad way to get to different points of Catania throughout a day of seeing the main places of interest in the city center. 

Despite my son's attraction for the bus, I had never seriously considered taking him for a ride just for the fun of it. That is until a close friend of mine did just that with her 2 year old and reported back the success of the outing. So a few Saturdays ago, with nothing special planned for the morning, I jumped on the opportunity to treat the little guy to a ride on the dancing bus. The day was sunny and beautiful with just a slight breeze, so I wasn't too worried about being cold driving around in a convertible bus. Once in the piazza, we were also tempted by the little tourist train that is another option for getting a tour of the city center. But once my son caught a glimpse of the bus, it was all about the 'dancing bus' and we climbed on just in time for departure.

And off we went. From the start I could tell this was going to be fun and relatively relaxing for mama too. The little guy was content on sitting and kneeling on his seat, looking at all the interesting things contained in a city from up high for a change. We got a new perspective on buildings, fountains, a stretch of the lungomare, piazzas, churches, construction sites and other vehicles (garbage trucks were a fav). And although no music played, we both enjoyed listening to the recorded commentary that piped in whenever we passed an important area or building and I did learn some new tidbits of information. And for non-Italian speakers, with a pair of headphones you can plug in and listen to the information in your language of choice. I particularly enjoyed the views of the long avenues, the chance to soak in all the architectural details (plant-filled balconies, hidden terraces, glimpses of decorated facades) and getting a peek into the city's Botanical Gardens, which apparently you need to make an appointment to visit. 

And exactly 50 minutes later--when we were both feeling ready to get out and stretch our legs--we pulled up, back at our starting point in the Piazza Duomo. This had been a perfect 2 year old adventure, and I couldn't have asked for better company. But as we made our way through the piazza towards our car, the little guy changed direction on me, and was heading straight towards the train ride we had passed up earlier. Thank goodness I was able to convince him to save that one for another day! But no doubt, we will be back again soon to continue our city adventures. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

happy, happy

1 year of blogging!

I entered into the blogosphere timidly. It took me time to figure out what and why. Now, a year later, the what and why matter much less. I like the people I have 'met'. I like feeling that there is a community out there in different corners of Italy and the world, also sharing their experiences being moms, being expats, being travelers, being creative individuals. It is truly inspiring to be part of that community. Feedback from others is like unwrapping a gift each and every time. Who knew it was possible to feel connected with bloggers without ever having met in person? 

The process of writing down experiences has been a creative exercise time and again that has reminded me how much I do enjoy writing. At times this feeling has been addictive. At other times, I can't manage to focus my thoughts for a new post. But when I do, I feel I am exercising my brain and I get a sense of accomplishment when I hit the publish post button. Important outlets for a stay at home mom who still struggles with not working regularly. 

It is fun to write with purpose. To have experiences I want to describe and share. It is creative documentation. I use the information on posts as references for return trips or for planning activities with visitors. Although there is so much I do not manage to write about, I hope to keep finding the time and inspiration to share at least some of what I discover and learn and enjoy (or not) about living in Sicily in the year to come.

So, for all these reasons, happy blogging birthday to me! And thanks to all you fellow bloggers who take the time to read what I have to say and who inspired me in the first place to start a blog of my own.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cat nap

I don't know how this little cat managed to fit in this pot filled with dirt and sleep that way all afternoon (it really isn't that big)....

....and even after I woke her up with my picture taking, she just curled right back up and continued her luxurious cat nap.

Maybe I won't be planting the jade plant I had in mind for this pot after all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October kayaking

After a period of stormy weather, the sun is shining strong, the sky is cloudless, and the water has returned to its clear blue and calm self once again. With this surely short lived return to summer, we jumped on the opportunity for a morning paddle. Since May, my husband and I have become sea kayakers. All summer we diligently headed out to the water, lugging the kayak down the stairs, once or maybe twice a week if we were lucky. Since we have decided we are not hardcore enough to invest in wetsuits and weather colder temperatures in a kayak, this paddle may have been one of our last of the season.

I have been meaning to write about the joys of sea kayaking all summer, but it took me awhile to figure out how to take pictures without risk of damaging a camera. These photos were taken in mid September.

When the time does come to call it quits for the season, I will be sad to store the boat away. This new hobby has really grown on me and I will miss the serenity of our paddles. As we have gotten better at paddling and navigating the water, our journeys have become more pleasant and focused. We usually head towards Acitrezza and the Cilope islands. In the other direction is Catania, more boat traffic but with some dramatic rocky cliffs and caves to admire. No matter which way you go, being on the kayak gives you a whole new appreciation of the coast. I love when we pass the fisherman in their colorful row boats. The ever changing formations of the lava rock. By the islands the water becomes emerald green and in the summer it was crowded with small boats full of people enjoying the lovely spot. Now that summer is over, it feels like we have the sea all to ourselves.

A kayaking outing would not be complete without the reward of a final swim in the sea. The sea is much cooler now, but oh so refreshing.