“Vagabond” in the wonderland

And the day before yesterday we saw a volcuno eruption! We were anchored in the marina and waited for Cris, who went to the shore to met Leo and David before their departure to Barcelona. Me and Isabel were enjoying warm and calm evening on the deck, when she noticed a fire stream on a mountain slope. I suggested these are “human made” lights. But further spectations showed that was definitely a volcuno. Probably, even Etna. The light grew bigger and brighter, then broke into pieces and started to fade.

That is not a huge even for Sicilia, where vulcanos are a harmonic part of environment. But for us – it was!

Trying to imagine how was the life in the old castello on the entrance to Trapani port many centuries ago...

And yesterday we saw … dolphins!!! Not in a dolphinarium but in the wild! We sailed from Palermo to Trapani, and they appeared from nowhere and joined “Vagabond” for a while. They were rushing from board to board, jumping from water and showing their grey backs. Incredible creatures! So pleasant to be their guests.

About food

10 hours crossing from Palermo to Trapani, another sicilian on the north-west of the island. From sailor’s site we learnt that the city is famous for its seafood. But we, probably, are fed up with sea food for this moment. Our experience in Palermo with this type of cuisine was quite horrible.

Close to the marina, where we anchored, there was a restaurant called “Il Nautico”. There we headed with Cris, Luis, Isabel, Leo and David. The restaurant attracted us with fresh sea food, displayed near the entrance. We could see how a chef cooked it.

I’m not really a fan of fresh sea food, because of cruel methods that are used to cook still alive animals. But I love some fish and some of Japanese dishes.

First impression: the restaurant is overcrowded, waiters are in a hurry. Menu is in Italian (and that’s ok, we’re in Italy), waiters do not speak English (and that’s also ok, we’re in Italy). There was no opportunity to have a half of dishes mentioned in “fish” menu. Finally, we ordered an assorti and fish. Guys had some huge shrimps.

Result of the visit: food was bad and sometimes even disgusting. Waiters confused the orders, and the whole impression sucks.

Don’t think,  we will go to a seafood restaurant in Trapani.

Marina of Palermo

But I need to admit that, probably, I wasn’t fair to Palermo as a city. Some parts of it are not so bad. Like via Vittorio Emanuele, where you can find old buildings and fountains and cathedrals – some of them are rather impressive. Like Old port – marina close to city centre, full of yachts and boats. Like the resort suburb Mandello with cosy houses and clean beaches. And the countryside around Palermo is very beautiful: I admired the views on way to the airport to pick up our guests.

Paradise dwellers

This is a story about the paradise…

The lighthouse of Ustica

In Palermo our crew grew bigger: Cristiano’s friends and his brother from Brazil has arrived, Isabel from Poland joined the crew. All worries that we had, searching for Internet and car rent, were forgotten.

The next destination of “Vagabond” – the island Ustica in Tyrrhenian sea.

Map of Ustica on the main square

This day was a significant day for me. Precious feeling has returned to me – feeling of harmony with the world, being one piece with it, long time ago forgotten, always missed. Not a moment, not a mood but constant and strong feeling.

The beautiful sensitive yacht responsed for movements of steering wheel in my hands. Healing salty sea touched the hull and tried to get us from time to time. Sicily was disappearing slowly, turning into colourful and sunny mirage behind.

I feel calm and confident now. What’s that – forgotten or never known? I have no reason to run. And no wish. I’m here already, in the best place in the world.

Port of Ustica

In several hours we were on place. The island was completely different from touristic Vulcano that we visited before. We anchored not far from a beautiful lighthouse that is on photo at the beginning of the post.

The small idilic island is just 9 km across. Taxi driver Pippo took us to the town. I haven’t been to many places like this one. Clean streets, white houses, terassas with awesome view on the marina. And flowers, flowers, flowers…

By scooters we explored the island. Beautiful, beautiful!  Despite complains of Leo and David, we all climbed the hill and were regarded with another incredible view.

I don’t remember names of a lighthouse or a town. But the usland is so small that you can walk around it. The amazing place is a square – close to the marina, with restaurant on a terasse. All houses on this square are ornated with pictures.

Beautiful portrait on the wall of the restaurant
For whom does he waiting for? Probably, you : )

We met the sunset in a warm and fun circle. Cristiano’s friends from the boat “La Palapa” joined us for a party with beers and brq. We danced, swam naked and played music (the drum was a 5 liters beer can – and yes, I loved it! Miss my djembe)). And the night was beautiful.

That day was a perfect day. The island is a real paradase. I couldn’t expect in overcrowded Europe. So, please, my friends, don’t tell too many people about it – let it stay a paradise : )

Vagabond - my small world

Chapter 3: on board of “Vagabond”

After sleepless night in a bus (8-hours drive) we arrived to Reggio Calaria, a town on a continental side of Messina channel.

The bus ride was tiring but not useless. The road goes along the coast, and the coast of Southern Italy is incredible. Rocky cliffs, hills, covered with olive trees and vines, blue Mediterranean sea and plenty of multilevel coastal towns, settled in bays and harbours.

Ferry to Messina – and I’m on Sicily! So close to the aim of my bus journey, the town Taormina, where the boat “Vagabond” was waiting for me. And here’s a point, where my plan starts to be useless.

First I missed the stop in Messina. The next one was in more than an hour drive, in Catania. The point, where I realised the fact of a missed stop,  was a turn to Taormina that we passed. HERE I remembered that I needed to hop off in Messina. “Well, lets look around. Not every day on Sicilia”, – I finally decided. And have a relaxing ride to Catania, admiring landscapes of the island.

Taormina - view from a high point

In Catania we stopped on a bus station, so there was no problem in finding the bus to Taormina. If the previous bus was typically touristic (very good bus, by the way – clean, with smily drivers and even snacks and drinks served. The company is called “Interbus – Ibus”, here’s the link. The ticket from Roma to Messina costs 32 euros, ferry is included), the bus Catania-Taormina was typically public. People attacted it, seiged and took with a battle. Happily, poor driver was able to hide in his seat in proper time.

The public was diverse: Africans, Arabs and a few Italians. There were many sellers with their goods, so I worried a bit for  my bag, which was in a lugguage section. On every stop people opened it to take their numerous things.

The ride was fun: I talked to my neighbour from Bangladesh and watched the scenery through the window.  The result of my unattentiveness:  I was late to Taormina for four hours.

Taormina is a resort town, not far from Etna volcano. I could see it from a distance, with an smoke above its head. The town has three bays with beaches and anchorage for yachts. I ended up on the top of the hill, on a bus station. While going through a winding road up, I saw several yachts, anchored near the rock.

Funny thing was that about the boat I didn’t know anything, except the name of the yacht and the first name of the captain. With this poor information I ended up on a beach.

I asked Rescue service, and they told me that haven’t seen the boat with the name “Vagabond” in the nearest bay. They I rushed to the diving school – but they didn’t know anything useful for me. Finally, I decided to find a restaurant with the internet, write an email to the captain Cristiano and wait.

The waiter, whom I asked about WiFi, spoke English very slightly. But he spoke French! Not perfect but better than me – italian. I explained a situation to him. Probably, because of my desperate face or just his kind nature , but he gave me his notebook with mobile connection to the net.  At the same time, another guy from a restaurant tried to help me, calling to stations all over Taormina and asking about “Vagabond”. Finally, he found some guys, who saw a boat with this name.

Meanwhile, I wrote an e-mail to Cris  and – oh miracle! – he called me in a minute! We were lucky to get the connection, and soon a white dinghy brought me on board the yacht. Chapter 3 of my journey has started…

Vulcano, one of Ionian islands

I’m in Palermo now, the capital of Sicily. The city that I would never want to leave. Yesterday we spent several hours trying to find internet. Today we can’t hire a car.

I can forgive everything – car, internet – but not lack of air. Despite it’s on an island, stetched far along the coast, it’s so dusty here…

Tomorrow we’re leaving to an island Ustica in Tyrrhenian sea. Just 9 km across. Can’t wait to leave Palermo.

A song for the genuis

Of course, I visited Vatican.

St.Paul's cathedral in Vatican

That was successful only after the second attempt. The first try failed: it had appeared that, to enter the main cathedral of all Catholics, I need to have my shoulders necesarrily covered. As a fully unreligious person, I forgot about it. But – thanks to hellish hitch-hiking from the border to Rome that saved me some time – I had three days in Rome, so I decided to return tomorrow and prepared. By the way, if you’re restricted in time, you can buy a kerchief right near the guarded entrance to the Saint-Paul cathedral. They are ordered by local illegal sellers. The price of the question is 5 euros.

St.Paul's cathedral

St.Paul’s is huuuuuge! The biggest cathedra I’ve ever been. Very-very rich – tons of gold, sculptury, paintings, various attributes for religious stuff. Made of gold, as you understand. Unintentionally start to remember all “filthy” stories about Pope’s circle and Catholic church itself and scandalous “Decameron” by Bocacco. With such a power and wealth it couldn’t be different way: human nature. I just don’t like double-facing.

I don't know what was necessary to think about, while touching this man's foot. I made a wish : )

Huge line was to the colonnade of cathedral. I don’t know what special of it – you can have a view on a city from Piazza di Spagnia, another touristic place. It’s a church on a hill, to which a beautiful staircase leads.

Piazza di Spagna

If to walk a little bit further and the the left, you’ll find yourself in a huge park Villa Borgese, with museums, art galleries in it. That was the place, where me and Lusiano spent the last night in Rome, when we decided to leave the apartment of his friends. We left our backpacks on a bus station of Tiburtine (from there was a departure of my bus to Sicilia)– 5 euros per 24 hours. In the park we camped in the middle of the lawn, just in sleeping bags. Night was warm, sleep was deep, and even park cleaners, runners and dog owners with their pets didn’t bother us in the morning.

Pieta - Michelangelo's masterpiece in St.Paul's cathedral

But I’m back to Vatican. The line to the “border” of Vatican took about 20 minutes. Could be less if to come later, at 16-17  o’clock. Like we did on the first day – and didn’t wait at all. There’s no need to cover shoulders , if you are not going to visit the cathedral.

The third wonder of Rome for me is the museum of Vatican. The most expensive museum I’ve ever visited – 15 euros. But ib this price the visit to Sistina capella is included – and that makes it worth it.

Laokoon - remember the myths of Troyan war

Vatican museum’s collection is much smaller than collections of Hermitage and Louvre. It will take you a couple of hours to see all. If you do not spend 30 minutes in Capella Sistina, as I did. Michelangelo’s creation turns upside down. This statement is very subjective, because not all people are so sensitive to art of Renuissance and interested in it. So I speak only for myself.

Michelangelo’s human being are so different from classical canons of the church. His man is strong, physically and mentally. It’s a manifestation of human nature.

It’s prohibited to male photos in Capella. Plenty of guards with frequent “Tssss!” make useless attempts to establish silence.

Another wonder of the museum is Loges di Rafaello. Actually, they were just started by genius artists and finished by his pupils after his death.

Paintings cover several rooms that were used by Pope’s court.

Being rich, be rich in everything : ) dream instruments complect of any worker.

Wonders of the Ancient city

In each city I visit I search for something that I call – “hummer hit”. These’re architectural masterpieces that are stunning, beautiful and unique. In Rome I found a couple. They are touristic but worth visitng Rome from any point of the world.

Fontana du Trevi

Fontana du Trevi

Statues of the Fontana du Trevi step right out of an old mansion. Rocks look like a countinuation of a house itself.  I knew that we were close to this wonder, not seeing the square yet: the noise of the stream is heard from a big distance.

No matter, is it a daytime or the middle of the night, you’ll always find people around. Dozen of guards look after excited tourists, who try from time to time to dive into turquos water, or at least leave some dirt from their feet. The pool is full of coins “to be back”.

Fontana du Trevi at night

Ponte di Sant’Angelo

Ponte di Sant'Angelo

Another wonder of Roma that made my heart tremble is a bridge. Several angels statues ornate it. Ponte di Sant Angelo is a real piece of art.

Sculptures are amazing, showing gentle beauty of angels’ appearance. Each of them carry his own message to people: it’s written in Latin below each of figures. Those, who do not read in Latin, can try to guess from attributes that angels carry.

The bridge leads to the entrance of Fort Sant Angelo.

Fort St.Angelo

 Sistine Chapel – to be continued…

Another wonder – the prefect creation of a genius. I’ll write more about it in a post about Vatican.


City of thousand streams

Il Colosseo, or Coliseum

Rome counts not centuries but thousands of years. I guess, in theory – sums that are necessary to restore all the historic buildings of the Ancient city, it’s possible to built a new city.

Roma has only two metro lines. More romans just can’t afford not damaging an enomous historic layer. Archeological excavations  all over the cityis a feature of modern Rome.

Rome is extremely hot in summer. Small compensation for hot weather is public water. You can find it in Rome almost everywhere, at least if to speak about touristic centre. Small fountains and pots of various shapes, forms and architecture. Mostly preserved from previous centuries, they still frankly do their job. Near the Colosseo (or simply Coliseum, as it is known all over the world) we even stood in a line for a while to make a shot. Actually, being in Italy I wanted to drink all the time.  Not really pleasant feeling but finally I got used to it.

Lusiano near the historic public water spot not far from Vatican

Cats is another famous feature of Rome. But we haven’t seen many of these fluffy creatures: just several on streets. One was also noticed on a place of archeological excavation. Moreover, they established a charity project for cats and put a stand with their photos near the historic spot.

This is a parking in the centre of Rome. Wish I would have such a house : )

Anyway, all cats are scary of people in Rome. For me, who miss her cats dearly, that was a great dissapointment. Dream about hugging something fluffy and murmuring : )

Skipper and Lusien - my dear cats

All roads lead to Rome?!

From Nice we took another bus for 1 euro: number 100 that goes from station J.C.Bermond in Nice to Menton, a small town on the border with Italy.

Again we had two variants:

  1. To go through Florence and take the route E35 to Rome;
  2. To take the road E80 along the coast.
Menton - French side

In Menton I said “A bientot” to France. But for several hours after that I was so happy to meet French drivers. At least, I can say something to them. In Italy I feel myself dump…

Lusiano taught me several words:

Bongiorno – Good afternoon

Buonasera – Good evening

Grazie – Thank you

and “the perl” of my Italian vocabulary:  vai a Roma? – are you going to Rome?

We just said “goodbye” to a man who picked us up in Ventimiglia (the first town in Italy after the border). He told us that 30 years ago, while hitch-hiking in Italy, he was stuck in Ventimiglia for 24 hours. Finally, he took a train. He confessed: that was the worst autostop in his life. Well, nothing has changed in Italy for the last 30 years!

A bientot, dear France!

In Menton we were waiting for a lift for more than an hour. Two women, driving out of a parking, stopped on a turn and our glances crossed. They said to me something – and finally we got a ride. The first question the driver asked was a joking about killers-autostoppers… hmmm…Bad reputation of hitch-hiking in Italy in action.

In Italy people have a point that taking a hitch-hiker “on board” is a doubtful and probably dangerous adventure. As my friends told me, the situation is not better in other coutries of Southern Europe, like Spain and Greece.

What will be further…

In Ventimiglia we tried to catch a car on the entrance to the route E80 – unsucessfully. Then Lusiano found a huge truck parking nearby. We spent about 40 mintutes to ask drivers who were awaken. Everyone’s departure was appointed for the next morning. But we got used to stay in shitty places in wait for a ride, so it’s fine : ) And view is awesome here, just have a look))

Picturesque truck parking in Ventimiglia, Italy

Following drivers’ advice, we camped just in the middle of parking, near administration building. Not to loose our “bon chance” we posted a paper on wall with just two words: “Genova. Roma”. And in 20 minuted a Bulgarian driver Christoff ordered us a lift and invited us to spend night in his car.

The next morning it’s appeared that his plans had changed… Then we were picked up by ex-hitchhiker, I already wrote about that above.

… Way to Rome was long and tiring. It was the longest time I’ve ever waited for lifts. We reached Genova by E80, then another small town – Messa. There we were stuck again: in the middle of the day, when the sun heats the most. A couple of hours waiting… We were already going to have a nap under the bush, but I decided to make the last attempt. And found the man who was going to Rome through Florence!!! That was our “lucky ticket”. Several hours of driving – and we are in Eternal city!!!

Eternal city

Output: autostop in Italy doesn’t really work! In France we got 5-6 lifts a day and still had much time to relax on a beach. In Italy we spent all these hours on a gas station.

And noone speaks English, of course : )

Live in Nice

No explanation is needed : )

Well, it’s not an introduction to my story about Nice (am I hearing a sign of regret?? : ) Just a funny picture on a T-short in a shop in the city. But there’s something in that, francophons, don’t you think? : )

Now seriously. How we got to Nice. There’s a public bus number 200 (Lignes d’Azur) from Cannes to Nice. Goes from the center (Hotel de Ville, Cannes) to the center (Bermond, Espase Massena, Nice) and costs 1 euro. Better to hop on the first stop, because it’s a little bit overloaded.

Nice is an amazing combination that I was searching for: of beauty of nature – kind and warm Mediterranean sea, the spirit of artistic and free city and history and architecture that reminded me Paris and Saint-Petersburg. That’s undoubtfully a huge sympathy!

View on Nice from La tour Bellanda - Cote d'Azur

I have a slight idea that this connection with Paris is a reason I love Nice so much. Leave the coast and deep to the city – and you’ll feel the same artistic and lively atmosphere. Parks and fountains of Boulevard Jean Jaures reminded me Boulevard Richard Lenoir…

In the evening on Castel plage – music, dances and drinking. So many young people come here to spend time and sing and play, chilled by fresh breath of Mediterranean. Atmosphere is amazing, but after hitch-hiking on route A8 and bus ride we were too tired to enjoy it. That’s why we went to search for a place to stay: on a beach at night from Saturday to Sunday it’s impossible.

Around La tour Bellanda (an ancient tower on a coast) we’d found a memorial, cut in a rock. There’s a Parc la Colline du Chateau on its top, but we were attracted by trees around the memorial that were easier to reach.

Monument aux Morts, where we spent night.

In the bush we found out that we’re are not the only people who loved the place. Someone was already sleeping there. As I know, homeless people in France are quite harmless, so we decided that having a neighbour is not that bad. And felt asleep…

In less than an hour we heard load voices just in few steps. The first thought was that that homeless guy lives here not in a solitude. The second – they will try to kick us out of their place.

…but soon I realised that people talk in Russian!

I got out of tent to say “Hi” to new neignbours. They appeared to be Latvian guys who have been wandering through Europe, lived in different cities and do mostly nothing. The main point of their story was that they walk – between places, cities, countries. They spent a week to cross France from the north to the south by foot.

The next day we left bags in lockers on the railway station. It’s 4 euros per locker for 72 hours – but actually there’s no need to pay. I usually just put a bag in a locker, close the door and leave it – and it’s always safe : )

The most amazing place in Nice (along with the beach on weekend evening) is The Old town.

View on Old town from La tour Bellanda

There we found artistic shops and cosy squares, restaurants of all types and street artists. And flee market of course! Like in Cannes, it occupies a huge territory in southern part of the city, right after the wall – Cours Saleya is a place, where it’s possible to spend hours just browsing goods or leave hell of money on things that are not really necessary but so wonderful to have.

On Marche aux fleurs there’s a product market: whatever your soul desires – from candies and honey to sea products and meat. Better not to visit it, when you’re hungry : )

Narrow streets of the Old city

Nice is not a typical resort, expensive and fake. It’s alive city with its character and mood. Artists perform on Place Massena, young people play music on a beach, jazz tunes fill the streets of the Old city. By the way, there’s a big jazz festival in Nice at the moment.

Nice is different – hardworking and entertaining, lazy and hectic. It has backyards and scenes. It’s touristic but has personality.

Nice is a place to live, not just spend a holiday.

The German windjammer "Sea cloud" in Nice

We had a look on collection of contemporary art in Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art contempiorain. I’ve never taken it as an art, but it’s always funny to see. For example, Venus de Milo by Niki de Saint Phalle. Isn’t she pretty, hey?

: )

Venus de Milo by Niki de Saint Phalle

The next night I met Algerian guys on a beach ( in a line to the toilet : ), and they invited us to spend night in their house. The world is full of hospitable and kind people!

See you soon, Nice!

T-short in a shop in The Old town of Nice


Parcour and antiques in Cannes

From Le Lavandou our way almost led us to Saint-Tropez. But the driver, who gave us a lift, told us that Saint-Tropez is a small, hellish expensive and fully private town. Beach is solitude and clean – because the coast belongs to hotels and closed to all non-guests.

And we decided to go to Saint-Maxime that is a bit closer to Cannes. Before we bought a 1.2 liter bottle of “Desperado” – beer + tequila. And dropped to the cover concert of Rolling Stones on the St.Maxime’s beach. A couple of kilometres from party  – and we found a cosy sandy beach, where stopped for the night, in a couple of meters from the sea.

The next day – in Cannes. This city doesn’t impress at all. And hell of Russian tourists everywhere.

Red carpet beyond the event – just a carpet on a staircase of Palais du festivals and et des congres. The palace is in two steps from a beach. Prints of hands of celebrities – funny idea : )

Me and Jean-Paul Belmondo : )

Boulevard de la Croisette – a nice place to have a walk, with expensive hotels on one side and the beach – on the other.

The most spectacular place for me – Allee de la Liberte. There’s a biiiiig flee and antique market here. Just have a look – I never was on a market, where were so many attractive and beautiful things! Not cheap tho.

We headed to the oldest part of the city – Vieux Port – a huge marina. This kind of place have all French coastal big cities.

View on Vieux port from La Suquet (La vicchia citta) - the Old town.

We do not search for easy ways and left touristic paths. The reason was a map, where a place called “Parcours plein air” was pointed. I was interested to see what’s that, remembering my parcour past. What I expected was a huge training park with obstacles of any kinds (remembering that French nation by David Belle started this performance).

So for the next 30 minutes we climbed the hill, where a huge Parc Naturel was situated. By the way, we still carried our bags, because there’s no place in Cannes where we could leave them. The only railway station was on reconstraction.

Tribute to cinema on the wall. How many movies do you recognise?)

So that day we got the taste of mountain trekking. Parcour plein air appeared to be just a path with some simple spots for general training – nothing spectacular at all. We tried to find some “awesome” views pointed on the map – and almost got lost. Anyway, in this place nothing reminds about touristic noisy city down the hill – and that was a pleasant relief.

What can I say… this southern city didn’t rise any feeling in me. At first glance everything is on place: beautiful, warm, cultural and rich. But… c’est la vie, I don’t think we’ll see each other again, Cannes!