July 23 2007
To all the staff at Villa Angela,
We stayed at Villa Angela from 24th to 27th June and would like to thank all of you for making our visit such as great one. Villa Angela is a beautiful hotel but what really added to that was the attentiveness and friendliness of all the staff which we very much appreciated. Special thanks to Grace who we saw the most.
We would be delighted if you would pass on the following to Jim. It's a summary of our tour of Sicily.
Now I understand why you fell in love with Sicily. The more I saw of the island the more I loved it and the more I realised we were just scratching the surface. 10 days wasn't nearly enough - I'll just have to come back!
We spoke about letting you know where we visited and places worth going to. At the risk of boring you about places you already know, I thought I'd give a summary of our trip. (Thought I could also use this as a reminder to ourselves of where we went).
Before we arrived at Taormina we stayed in Cefalu - described in the lonely planet book as Taormina's eager younger sibling. If you've not been, it has a lovely old centre with medieval streets and you get a great view from the rock that sits above the town. Worth the 30 minute hike!
We used Cefalu as a base to do some walking in the Madonie mountains. The walking book we used was the Sunflower series which gives car tours and walks. I think the routes,(both car tours and walks) are intended to get you off the beaten track. Don't know if you have it but thought I'd send it on to you . I've used the books in this series for walking in other parts of Europe and overall found them good. That's providing you can find the starting point and it does help if you read the directions as you're walking thus ensuring you don't miss the mule track turn off! I will find it next time??!!
We did one walk from a rifugio on the outskirts of Castelbuono, a town in the Madonie mountains and on our way back we drove to and walked through 2 hill top towns - Petralia Soprana and Petralia Sottana. Both these towns were lovely small sleepy medieval towns. Near to these towns is an area called Piano Battaglia which is a small ski area. We did a lovely walk here and didn't meet a soul. Maybe because it was around mid day and 40 degrees!! Best part was the bar in the Rifugio at the bottom of the hill. Yes I did have tea!
Our next stop was Syracuse. As we said when we were chatting to you we loved Ortygia and would liked to have spent longer there. My best memory from here was my run around the island as the sun was rising and the locals were setting up a market. Heaven!! This was a stark contrast to to the run I did the day we got back home. My normal route takes me up Great Western Rd and for the entire 45 minutes it poured. Just a tad different and back to earth with a big bump!!
After Taormina we went on to Marsala (via the North side of Mount Etna where we walked a bit just outside of Bronte). With the help of the Carabinieri and a lot of hand motioning we eventually found where we were staying - outside of Marsala in the middle of nowhere! We didn't actually spend much time in Marsala - we only went there for dinner on our last night but from what we saw it seemed like a smaller and much sleepier version of Ortygia.
From Marsala we went up to the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro. You can enter the park from the north and the south and there's a lovely walk along the coastline between the 2 entrances. This is my favourite kind of summer walking as you get to cut off and go down to wee coves and beaches! I guess this area gets busy during summer and maybe also at weekends as it's close to Palermo. Like lots of places it's probably at it's most idyllic out of season.
When we were there, we parked at the south entrance. (This entrance is a couple of kilometres from Scopello - a very quaint 2 street village and worth stopping at. There is also a small hotel here which looked nice but can't remember the name). We were planning to walk from the South to the North but fallen rocks meant that most of the walk was accessed from the North end. So, after doing the bit we could from the south, we drove up to San Vito lo Capo and entered the park from the North. At the time I thought going all this way was a bit daft but actually it was good as we got to drive up to San Vito lo Capo. Low and behold we had arrived in Mexico!! Honestly, virtually as you turned a corner, the terrain became desert, the streets became wide and were lined with palm trees and the buildings were Mexican looking! Sicily - an island full of surprises!
On our last day we went to visit Segesta and did another walk in that area. I still have the scars and scratches from this one. Another wrong turn! Do you think it's the sun that frazzles your brain? We then did the American thing and jumped on a hydrofoil from Trapani to the island of Favignana. Although the island looked nothing like it, it reminded me of Millport but that's probably cause you can cycle round it.
The bit I've not talked about was Taormina. Well what can I say -I 'm still on a high! I 've been sharing my excitement with everyone so you may get a few more visitors to Villa Angela. In fact one of the girls in my team came running up to me on Monday 9th to tell me you were 48 - she'd heard it on the radio. So you and Simple Minds are still very much in Glaswegians thoughts! Happy belated birthday - I hope you had a great one.
It was absolutely fabulous to get to meet you after all these years and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I could have chatted for days and still not got through the 500 or so questions I have. In fact, knowing what I'm like Andy can't believe I asked so few! It was probably good for you that we were moving on after 3 days!
Since we got back from Sicily life has been busy but good fun. Several of our friends who live abroad all decided to return to the homeland in the same 2 weeks so we've been doing a lot of running around the UK! In between I've been trying to settle myself back into work but have itchy feet. Have a dream of running some kind of business in Chamonix or thereabouts and doing some more travelling. Need to stop thinking about it and just do it!!
I'm writing this as I'm watching the Simple Minds DVD - the concerts filmed in Verona in 1989. I've just noticed the credits at the end - your late friend Dougie's name appears. I read your thoughtful tribute to him the other day on the SM website. My guess is he would have known and felt your appreciation of his efforts during his life. I hope you all got the time you needed to remember him at his farewell.
Will keep reading the SM website for news and details of the 30th anniversary tour. Thank you so much for the offer of tickets. Am delighted to buy them but if I have trouble getting tickets I may take you up on your offer.
In the mean time I'll keep you posted about Celtic Connections 2008 and if you happen to be in Glasgow at that lovely time of the year (not) may be you'd like to go hear something?
Well I better stop rambling - I'm turning into my mum (aagh!!) and I need to tidy some space for my wee brother who's moving in for 2 weeks (he says) before he moves into his new house. He's getting married (again) at the beginning of September. I really like his new partner - hope he continues to like her!!?? Am holding off buying the rest of my outfit just in case!!
By the way - is Ruth Ann still with you - as manager?
Hope the sun is still shining in Taormina. We might see some of it in Glasgow eventually!
I'll keep in touch,