Sunday, October 26, 2014

We Return from Sicily - Updated With More Photos

Palermo: View from hotel rooftop terrace at breakfast
We left on a 10-day Rick Steves tour of Sicily on Oct. 8 and returned last Sunday night. And what a time we had -- how great to be traveling in October while all of you are still working.

As I promised Bob Astrowsky, one of my favorite Unity people, I would say - thank you for my tier 1 retirement package - which unfortunately you decided to end in 1973 when you agreed to multi-tier pensions - like what are we up to now, Tier 12?

There were over 20 people on the tour, including a lawyer/Tea Party guy from Indianapolis, a big gas pro-fracking lawyer from Dallas, a big pharm guy from Florida and I was the designated
Big Pharm and Tea Party, now Marxists
leftist and oh what a time we had arguing, debating, learning from each other. There was also a retired airline pilot, a woman who does FIRST LEGO events in Ohio, a retired kindergarten teacher from the midwest, a businesswoman from Oklahoma who was, amazingly, liberal, an aide to a NY State Assemblywoman, a retired psychologist and speech pathologist, just to name a few. How great to get out of the narrow world of edtalk.

I learned so much from everyone. Some had an extensive knowledge of history and culture and it was like going to school. Note all that pasta accumulating in my belly.

Me and 2 lawyers - tea party and big oil/gas - I urged them to order bottles of fracked water
These guys knew so much about everything, proving that when leftarian meets right there doesn't have to be a food fight.

All the guys

And the ladies

And of course some things are the same all over -

The universal language

Here is my column in the October 24 edition of The Wave.
School Scope: Sicily

Excuse the bad writing. I’m still jet-lagged after returning from Sicily. (What’s my excuse the rest of the time?) Well, I’ve never seen a better 10-day period of great weather, though we could have used a bit less heat. Naturally we made some wrong decisions on clothing and found ourselves washing stuff throughout the trip but we were still down to the nitty gritty by the last day and when we opened our suitcases when we got home, the laundry walked out on its own and directly into the washing machine.

I could tell you all about the astounding food, the awesome views and the interesting people on our Rick Steves tour. But this is a School Scope column and education is our beat. As an undergrad history major with an almost Masters in the subject, I thought I knew the subject. But I knew little or nothing about Sicily, which if you are geographically challenged, is a triangular shaped island just off the southern tip of Italy on the western edge. Check out a map and see how close it is to Tunisia in Africa, with the island of Malta between them.

Sicily has one of the largest active volcanoes in Mount Etna, which we visited. And earthquakes. We also visited a winery nearby where we took home 2 bottles of high quality Etna wine. We visited mountain towns and coastal towns and spent some time in Palermo, the largest city. We also went to Syracuse, which at one time in the ancient world was the most populous city in the western world.

Here is the skinny on the pretty amazing long view of Sicilian history. Sicily has traces of civilization going back thousands of years. Look at a map and see how it is situated smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea between Southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East and you get an idea why Sicily was at various times under the control of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantium after the fall of Rome, then Arabs, then Normans (French/Viking people), assorted others, followed by Spain – those lovely people who brought us the Spanish inquisition which drove a flourishing Jewish population out of Sicily, then the Italian Bourbons and finally in the 1860s when Italy was unified and became a nation. Sicily still enjoys some autonomous status compared to the rest of Italy. And then of course there’s the Mafi… sorry, gotta run.

Norm continues to blog at ednotesonline despite taking a recent oath of Omerta. If you don’t see him around, well…..
Taorima - I think

for Brian


  1. So explain to me how you can be surrounded by "amore", and still find time to write your blog and defend MORE?? I think the whole idea behind retirement and travel is to leave this world behind even for 10 full days.

    Would you highly recommend Rick Steves Tours? How does it differ from Perillo?? Hope we can get together when you come to Florida. ;)

    1. Is this our friends from Singer Island? We are coming in February - staying 4 days at the Marriott on Singer Island and 4 days in Del Ray. We really liked the tour and would do another one. We never did Perillo. I didn't do much blog writing on the trip - I scheduled a few in advance.

    2. No, it's your friend from Waffa's restaurant!!!

  2. I salute you Norm for being a scholar and man of the world! Thanks for the shout out from the crossroads of early Mediterranean civilization.
    Many of the "Greek" scholars were actually born in, and studied / taught, in Sicily. The island was an amazing piece of history and multiculturalism long before the Americas became known to the folks from "The Old World". Thanks for your reporting and great sense of humor!



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