When I asked the 5 year old if he wanted to have an adventure at a sandy beach this weekend I knew he'd say yes. Any chance to spot sea creatures is a temptation he just can't resist, not to mention running barefoot in the sand. In fact, that was the first question he asked after we'd gotten in the car, "can I take my shoes and socks off when we get there?"
His second question was about our exact destination and just how long the drive would be. You see, he's no lover of long drives. Never has been. I told him we'd been to this beach once before when he was really little, but I didn't mention we had gotten quite lost trying to find the place -- even with my never get lost hubby doing the navigating. Instead, I described a sandy beach with tons of shells, maybe some good bird watching, hardly any people, and a river that meets the sea. "It shouldn't take too long to get there, it's just over there". I was pointing in the direction of the strip of sand we could barely see in the distance on this very clear day. That would be the playa. The Oasi del Simeto, a natural reserve, is just beyond it. There are no direct roads that will take you to the point where the Simeto river meets the Ionian sea, you have to get as close as you can from either side and walk there. But I had a GPS and I was sure we'd be there in 30 minutes.
Exactly 20 minutes later, as we drove over the bridge that allows you to peer down over the pretty river Simeto, I announced we were almost there. At this point I made the grave mistake of ignoring the GPS due to the large yellow sign with Oasi del Simeto written on it pointing in the opposite direction. I really should have known better - one should NEVER, I repeat NEVER trust signage in Sicily.
Let's just say we had a little detour and on our wild ride through industrial Catania we remained patient and determined. The 5 year old sweetly took to singing the refrain from a popular song -- devi stare molto calmo (you have to stay very calm) - while I tried to get my bearings. During our meanderings he also spotted what appeared to be stork nests with storks in them on top of some electrical towers, a good sign we were in the vicinity of the oasi. When it finally dawned on me I should just go back to following the GPS rather than continue to drive around in circles, we ended up exactly where I wanted to be without the help of a single sign.
The unlikely access to the beach that we wound up at is from a small community of beach houses. It's quite a dramatic entrance. We could hear the crashing waves but we couldn't see them since there is a strip of dense woods full of pine and eucalyptus trees that you have to walk through before you get to the beach.
We emerged to Mimosa trees and blue waves.
Just a little bit of a sea breeze. We were lucky, it can get uncomfortably windy here.
Right away we noticed the shells, so many shells. The shells mingle with strange trash washed up from the sea. Both the shells and the trash seem like treasure out here, at least to the 5 year old.
A short walk down the beach and we found where the river meets the sea. The tide was low and there was a strip of sand separating the two. Mount Etna billowed in the distance. Schools of minnows lingered in the shallow water at the river's edge. Pants came off along with the shoes and socks as the 5 year old waded in for a fishing expedition.
Here, away from the waves, the air was still, the sun warm. The only people we saw were two fisherman who walked by without a sound.
A great place for some peaceful sandy fun. I promised we'd remember to bring the fishing net next time.