Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Taormina! and the BamBar!

As we were waiting – and waiting – and waiting to actually take this tour, the three long years of COVID, we spent time doing research on various aspects of the itinerary. One of our very favorite resources was Gary Bembridge’s Tips for Travellers, and his amazing cruise ship videos.

Gary Bembridge and his partner really like Oceania for it’s passenger service and care, and for the dining options they offer, and he says that for people who are destination serious, the line that has the best tours and onboard lecturers for content and information is hands down, Viking.

My Mother had a great sense of humor; she once said “have you ever noticed that people with good taste seem to have tastes that agree with your own?” I’ve never forgotten that. As I recommend Gary Bembridge and his videos, it is my OPINION that his opinions are really great, but it is probably because I agree with most of what he says.

He says it is important (I am paraphrasing here) to know who you are and to know what you like and know what is important to you as you choose a cruise line. Do you want entertainment? Do you like casinos? Do you want to take your children?

He compares ship packages – tours, drinks, ship credits and helps you find what is right for you. He advises on choice of cabins, cabin locations, and cabins for people inclined to sea sickness. If you have never cruised, or if you have had a disappointing cruise but are willing to try again, Gary Bembridge and his videos can help you make choices that will be a great choice for YOU.

We also watched a lot of YouTube videos about Taormina (and Barcelona, that’s how we narrowed down our choices for our short time there.)

We are the bane of a tour director’s life, AdventureMan and I. We prefer to wander off on our own. I like to take photos not crowded with people. I have some attention deficits; I can only listen for so long, and I can only absorb so much.

So we signed up for a tour called Taormina on your Own, and it turned out to be very right for us.

It was getting close to 1:55 and we headed for our bus. Our friends Alan and Ed came on board, too; we had met them in Barcelona and they sat behind us and we got to know each other a little better. They said mostly they had been eating and catching up on sleep. 

Before we got out of Messina, we got stuck in the middle of a very cultural moment; school got out and parents, drivers, and taxis were all very aggressively picking up students from their schools. There was no regard for lanes, and there were cars coming straight at us in our lane! There were students stepping in front of the bus, knowing we would stop! It was chaos, and it happened every single day in Messina.

Here is a policeman, doing nothing.

Our guide, Julia, gave us all sorts of great information on Messina and Toaramina as we drove the twisty roads en route to Taormina.

The day was already fading as we arrived at a giant parking lot and Julia explained how to get into town and where we would meet to return to the ship. She said we would meet at 5:30, but we were supposed to be back on board at 5:30. She said, oh no, that the ship wasn’t leaving until seven, so we had plenty of time. OK.

AdventureMan and I headed out, and it was familiar territory from all the YouTube videos we had watched. We found there were not too many tourists, and the light was beautiful.

We had learned, from YouTube, of a Taormina legend dating back to early times where a princess had a lover who was unfaithful. She cut off his head and used it as a planter for her basil, which thrived. If you know the legend, you see the planters commemorating this legend everywhere,

Pomegranates! And a pomegranate juice maker! I wish I could stop, but we are headed for the BamBar, and their famous Granitas.

We quickly found the Twin Set where we headed right and strolled down to the Bam Bar. There was one empty table waiting for us.

We ordered granita; chocolate for me, pistachio and brioche for AdventureMan, and hot tea for me. The chocolate was divine, thick and intense, probably full of calories, but how often are we in Taormina?

We continued down the main road and went outside to look at the old Roman Ruins.

On the way back, we headed to see the Greek Theatre, but the gates closed just as we arrived.

It wasn’t a great loss to us; we’d seen it so often on YouTube we felt like we’d been there, and we had other panoramic opportunities to view Toaramina.

These musicians were very good. I can imagine they made good money from tips from appreciative tourists.

Back in Pensacola, pre-trip, a not un-typical conversation:

AdventureMan, hollaring from his office “Hey, there’s an airport up on the hill. We could hike up!”

Me: (thinking why would I want to hike up a hill to the airport? Looking at the map – I can see that it is not an airport. It is an old fort.) “It’s NOT an airport!” I holler back.

AdventureMan, coming into my office with a very confused look on his face: “What do you think I just said?”

Me: “That we could hike up to the airport on the top of the hill.”

AdventureMan, laughing so hard he can barely stand up: “Arab Fort! Arab Fort! Not Airport, Arab Fort!”

We still laugh about that one. We had a great view of the Arab Fort from the BamBar.

We also got to see Mount Etna spewing lava in the distance.

It was another gorgeous day on our trip. We met up with our group, getting to know some of our fellow passengers a little better, then headed to the bus.

As we departed, the moon came up, giant and blood-red in the distance, truly glorious. Arriving back in Messina, at almost 6:40, there was a long line to get back onto the ship, but they had facial recognition programs that identified us and allowed us to process quickly. 

We got to our room, changed our clothes, and took our dinner and a bottle of wine out to our balcony.

We were eating and chatting and watching the passengers straggle back, and at some point, the ship silently pulled away from the dock and it was so gently done we didn’t even notice until we were about ten meters away. We still have a full moon!

What a lovely way to make a departure. The temperature was so warm that we were perfectly comfortable out on the balcony watching as we departed Sicily, faced toward Italy until we lost the view and we retreated back into our cabin.

January 20, 2023 - Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Chocolate, Cultural, Food, Italy, Travel | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Thanks so much for the kind words and recommendation about my channel! Delighted to hear you’re having a great time. Phew! It’s a great place and loved hearing your day’s adventure!

    Comment by Gary Bembridge | January 22, 2023 | Reply

    • I immediately ran to my husband’s office and read him your reply. “Tell him we are SO honored!” he said! “That’s what I was going to say!” I replied. We are so honored, and so grateful for all the good information you have shared with us, and with so many others seeking the optimal cruise experience.

      Comment by intlxpatr | January 22, 2023 | Reply


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