St. Canice’s Cathedral – Kilkenny, Ireland

13th C. St. Canice’s Cathedral: My camera’s view from its leaning tower.

In July we visited Ireland, South and North, for a couple of weeks. I was determined to see this cathedral because of a line in an iconic song called Carrighfergus, performed here most beautifully by Cedric Smith and Loreena McKennitt. The line in context:

In Kilkenny it is reported:             they’ve marble stones there, as black as ink

With gold and silver I would transport her, but I’ll sing no more now… ’til I get a drink

Our tour director placed her trust in me, as I had to get to the place and back (a medieval mile distant) in 80 minutes so as not to delay the bus’s departure after our lunch in  Kilkenny. Erica wisely suggested that I take a taxi there to allow my camera and me time to climb the tower and photograph the interior. The walk down the town’s medieval mile got me back with 10 minutes to spare.

I’ve since learned that there are only three old towers like this in Ireland that can still be climbed. St. Candice’ tower really does lean,  according to a recorded spooky voice regularly reassuring me that it would probably hold climbers up for a good while yet…

 

 

 

 

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First Sightings For Us

 

 

Early April is the time when those birding juices start flowing in “Our Woods.” I started keeping records in April, 1994.

The earliest date for the migrating Kinglets: March 31, 1998. On this date we saw both Golden- and Ruby-Crowned Kinglets.

Here’s a list of what we’ve seen so far in 2019:

March 23: We saw our first-ever Northern goshawk at our feeder. It may have been after birds that were feeding there. A few days later there was a Great Blue Heron on the Parr Lakes.

Robins and red-winged blackbirds have been here since late March.

April 7: We first noticed  golden-crowned kinglets. As of April 13 we haven’t seen the ruby-crowned variety for certain.

A first-ever sighting of the canvasback duck. Four on the south end of Lower Parr Lake.

Several crows gathering noisily in Laurelcrest Park.

Bufflehead ducks on Lower and Upper Parr Lake in Laurelcrest Park. Only other time we have seen them was on April 14, 1995. They were diving for food, staying down for short (13 s to 45 s) times. As of April 13 the two are still here.

April 11: I spotted a brown creeper and cormorants and identified the call of a white-throated sparrow for the first time this year.

April 13: A first ever sighting of a Pied-billed Grebe diving for food on Upper Parr Lake. This bird stays under for well over a minute. This photo helped ID the bird from a distance. Taken with my Alpha A-6000 using a 200 mm zoom when 130 yards away.

 

 

 

Sicily and Malta.6 – Cefalu and Taormina

On Wednesday, October 17 our tour left Palermo and headed for Taormina via the really cool town of Cefalu. Cefalu was superb fun to walk in and very picturesque.

We would have our last two sleeps in Sicily in Naxos, on the coast facing the Italian mainland below another hill town, Taormina, famous for its sunrises.

If you’re desperate for one of those famous sunrises that helped so many, including D.H. Lawrence, fall in love with this town, stay not at sea level where Insight put us, but rather in a high place.  And do NOT be a slave to a timetable like we were.

We had one crack at a Taormina sunrise: Thursday morning. And it was overcast.

On Friday, way before the sun came up, seven of our tour group who had opted to add three nights in Malta to our holiday had left Naxos in a van headed for Catania airport to catch an early morning flight to Valletta, Malta’s lovely capital city.

Wednesday in Cefalu

 

Wednesday Afternoon in TAORMINA

It took longer than expected to get to Taormina and our visit was rushed. Pity, because Wednesday was our one chance to see it. Tomorrow, Thursday, would be a full day visiting Mount Etna – our last full day in Sicily. After visiting the Teatro Antico in Taormina and taking our group photo in front of the chiesa there was no time left to properly visit the town.

The group photo was amateurishly hurried, the photographer taking 3 quickies and didn’t see a pigeon that photobombed his “best” shot, which he printed for us. See if you can spot it… We stayed outside Taormina at sea level at the Hilton Giardini Naxos. Nice, but not up high.

 

 

Sicily And Malta.5 – Erice & Trapani

October 16 was our third and last night in Palermo. The tour schedule took us for a morning in Erice, a mountainside town East of Palermo, and we spent the afternoon poking around Trapani, visiting an area that produces sea salt before the a visit to a farm that produced olives and made wine.

I’d have preferred to spend an actual afternoon on my/our own in Palermo and had figured out how to get to its fine Marionette Museum and what our tour did in Trapani was disappointing, especially when I realized that we would not return to Palermo before the museum closed.

Erice & Trapani 2 copy

Tuesday October 16

Erice Morning:

We were warned that the walk up from the gate was steep and long, so I went on my own. Halfway up I realized that Anita could have done it. She spent her time near the gate but walked into Erice far enough to find a very nice Pinocchio marionette for our granddaughter. The long-nosed liar was a hit with her and the children of a friend of my daughter’s from her University of Toronto undergraduate days, who were at our place when Anita gave it to her. I had checked and adjusted the cords so that Pinocchio moved as he was supposed to.

Trapani Afternoon

 

Sicily and Malta.4 – Temples and Mosaics

Sunday October 14 – Valle Dei Templi

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Departing Ragusa on Sunday morning our first stop was at the Valle Dei Templi, site of seven temples on a huge 1300 hectare site on a ridge, not in a Valle, near the town of Agrigento.

After the seeing the Valle we bused to Palermo, where we dined with the whole group at our hotel.

Monday October 15 – Monreale Morning, Palermo Afternoon

Monreale and Palermo - Oct. 15 copy 3

After breakfast on Monday Roberto delivered us safely uphill to another cliffside place – Monreale. Its beautiful Duomo Di Monreale is world famous for its Norman architecture and the fact that is chock full of spectacular mosaics.

We climbed many stairs from the road to reach the square where the Duomo, dedicated in 1182 to the nativity of Mary.

Palermo Afternoon – The Cathedral and A Historic Palace

We visited Palermo Cathedral and killed time checking out graffiti until our 12:30 appointment at perhaps the #1 attraction in Palermo: Palazzo Conte Federico. The Count’s family can be traced back to Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, one of the truly great figures in history and King of Sicily at four years old in 1198. His descendant loves to race vintage sports cars and the Countess, who guided our group around, is an Austrian swimmer and musician.  She was a fascinating guide, explaining some Sicilian customs and superstitions such as the proper direction for a bed and warned us not to make the upward “corno” sign even by accident. This belief apparently predates Christianity.

Two more nights in Palermo left… Visiting Erice and Trapani on Tuesday and on Wednesday we will have a great visit of Cephalu and proceed to Taormina.

Sicily and Malta.3 – With The Tour Bus

October 13 – We Visit Siracusa with the Tour

The Greek theatre, Ear of Dionysius and the Apollo Temple area are shown here. The tour also explored the Piazza Duomo, with which we were very familiar. Our local expert was excellent in describing these sights.

 

 

 

Then we had a lunch break and left for Ragusa, about 2 hours away including a rest stop.

Siracusa to Ragusa Ibla
90.3 km on the Bus with Tour Director, Barbara, and our skillful, creative, safe driver, Roberto.

Ragusa-Ibla – The Old Town

Our local expert for Ragusa was again excellent in describing these sights. We visited the Old Town on Friday afternoon and slept in Ragusa.

Sicily and Malta.2 – Siracusa Wed. & Thu.

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Statue of Archimedes – Island of Ortigia, Siracusa

Why three nights in Siracusa? That island city’s key treasures and its historical importance in the ancient, storied, Greek world (larger than Athens and Corinth in its time).

We (well, mostly I…) like to arrive and have one or two days on our own before joining a guided tour. Siracusa was a perfect choice. We landed at Catania Airport on October 9 and needed to return there to begin the tour.  Siracusa was only a one hour bus ride direct from Catania Airport.

Maps

Wednesday, October 10

We walked a short distance to the Piazza Duomo, first visiting Santa Lucía alla Badia Church that has a huge painting of the Burial of Saint Lucy by Caravaggio, a painter whose wonderful chiaroscuro work I search for wherever I am.

After visiting St. Lucy’s Church we visited the Duomo itself, a cathedral built on the site of an ancient Greek temple, supported by the temples original columns and full of beautiful art .

We aborted our walk through the Ipogeo, an ancient tunnel that leads to the Fonte Aretusa, because of the smell of urine, we cleansed with gelati at Gelati Bianca in P. Duomo and finished leftover pizza from our late supper on Tuesday. Then we walked north along Via Roma and just off the island to see how we would get to the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum on Thursday. The two regular city bus lines weren’t working but we learned we could catch the Hop On Hop Off Bus at Hop 3 (Piazza Archimede), very near our BnB then get off at Hop 12 and the Museo tomorrow.

We ate at a very busy Osteria Mariano, where we enjoyed the atmosphere and the food was good. I enjoy cannelloni so I tucked into one for dessert.

Thursday, October 11

Friday, October 12

On Friday morning we explored Siracusa’s Forte Vigilena and the Papyrus Museum.

Then  we got on the Interbus, which goes to the airport, but getting off near the Catania train station, close to our hotel, instead. We were in good time to meet our tour director and a few of our fellow tourists before supper. I explored the centre of Catania very thoroughly – looking for a lens cover I’d lost. No decent photo shops to be found. Guess the Samsungs and iPhones have taken over…

We knew beforehand that Saturday we would return to Siracusa with our tour and this time visit its amazing Greek Theatre, the massive Ear of Dionsyius Cave and the bits left of the Temple of Apollo before continuing to the picturesque hilled town of Ragusa. All this the subjects of Sicily and Malta.3 – coming soon.