Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chuck's New Year's Resolution - No Eating of Raw Antiguan Salamanders

A view of the lovely beach at Blue Waters, Antigua

It’s a tradition in our family that we make New Year’s Resolutions, and we take that tradition very seriously.  Life will be better, we believe, if we strive to be better ourselves.

Chuck, our rascal cat, is not excluded from this tradition.

Usually we begin this thought-provoking endeavor well in advance of New Year’s Day.  We know we need time to think about how we want our life to change.

What we didn’t anticipate was how our visit to Antigua, a small island in the Caribbean, would influence us, but it did.

The magnificent flight of the pelican of the waters

Our patio, infinity pool, and view of the ocean in Antigua

Imagine a beautiful tropical island where pelicans fly overhead and  form large circles, then swoop over blue blue water in search of their prey, and dive head first, straight and true.  Refreshing Caribbean breezes blow in from the sea to offset the warm temperatures.  The sun shines brightly.  Blooming red roses surround you.  You lay on your chaise lounge and gaze out over your infinity pool to the ocean.  And do nothing.  At home you would never do nothing.  But here, enjoying the beauty of nature is a worthwhile endeavor.

The lovely all inclusive resort we stayed at while in Antigua

The main dining area is outside, overlooking the ocean

We stayed at an all inclusive resort called Blue Waters.

As we rode in from the airport, we noticed that the houses were smaller than most houses in the states.  Many of the people collect their own drinking water on their roofs because the environment is cleaner. Most have gardens where they grow their own fruits and vegetables.  They raise chickens.  We were told life is simpler here, and that the people were more self-sufficient.

Typical colorful, quaint Antiguan house on the island

We passed a lot of churches.  The people of Antigua have a strong faith.

We passed a lot of fruit and vegetable stands.  Many of the people are enterprising and open up small stands to sell the excess from their gardens to their neighbors.  On the weekends, many people will also do barbecue.  The meat is put on the barbecue early Friday morning, cooked all day so that it is ready to be sold and/or eaten Friday night and into the weekend.

Chuck loved Antigua.  From the  moment we arrived, he loved the sun, the chaise lounges, and the “do nothing,” enjoy nature aspect of the place.

Two days into our visit, when Sally the Salamander appeared, you could say Chuck was in his glory.  He spotted her immediately, and in a flash leaped off the chaise.

“Chuck.  Stop.  Now.”

But my words made no difference.  Chuck saw her and he wanted her.

Chuck's first sight of Sally the Salamander

Now let me make all the positions of all the parties perfectly clear.

Sally the Salamander didn’t trust Chuck.  When Chuck jumped down from the chaise, Sally sincerely believed Chuck was coming after her for dinner.

Chuck’s position was he only jumped down to investigate.  After all, he doesn’t see a lot of salamanders in New Jersey.  He saw Sally and wanted to sniff around and find out everything he could about her.

I believed Sally more than I believed Chuck.

Especially when Chuck extended his paw and tried to snatch Sally by the tail.

I reached down to grab Chuck just as Sally slithered off.

Chuck's last sight of Sally, as she slithered away--up a wall--to freedom

Sally was safe.  Chuck was exasperated.

I plopped him down on the chaise.  “New Year’s Resolution time.  What will it be, Chuck?  What will your New Year’s Resolution be?”

Chuck, of course, said nothing.

I offered him a model.  “I’ve been really impressed by Antigua.  I’m going to change my eating habits.  More fresh fruits and veggies from now on.  I’m going to eat like the Antiguans.  That’s my number one New Year’s Resolution.  What about you?”

Chuck said nothing.

“Here’s my suggestion,” I said, my mouth close to his ear, “No eating of raw Antiguan salamander.”

Chuck shrugged.

He’s a rascal cat and will always be a rascal cat.


       My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available in ebook and mass market paperback
from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home for the Holidays - A Brief Respite from Sadness

My house, all decorated and lit up--home for the holidays
        My heart is broken.

When President Obama uttered those words, I thought he could not have better described how I felt when I heard about the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut.  

I was stunned and horrified.  I cried and even now well up everytime I  hear someone from the town being interviewed or see an image of a funeral for one of the children or hear about the heroism of one of the staff who so selflessly gave their life to help stop what they clearly knew was about to occur. 

Our Christmas--our holiday season--is tainted this year by the act of one man, and I am struggling to return to some sense of calm, some sense of joy. 

Hot Blogging with Chuck is usually about Chuck and his antics.  

So I will briefly push aside my grief and my anger and tell a little story . . .

This year we are home for the holidays.  And even though Chuck is a cat, a rascal cat, he takes the time every year to draw up his list of what he wants from Santa Claus, hoping against hope that Santa will grant his wish.

Now, knowing Chuck the way you do--if you are a faithful reader of this blog--his wants usually include food -- SNACKS -- and last Christmas he was over the moon with happiness when Santa slid down the chimney and brought a box filled with bags of Temptations, which are Chuck’s favorite SNACK.

But since then, Chuck has put on the pounds, and Bob and I have tried (a bit in vain I have to admit) to put Chuck on a diet.  We’ve tried to limit the SNACKS on a daily basis.  Portion them out, so to speak.  

It’s not been easy for Chuckie has a bit of a homing device imbedded inside his system. He seems to be able to detect a SNACK anywhere in the house being given out to any cat.  
So, for example, if his sister Ella wants a SNACK or Jack or Molly or Stanley (his older cat brother) and Chuck is in another part of the house, somehow Chuck, with the help if his extra sensory sonar, is there across the house in a flash.  And how can I deny my rascal cat??

Anyway, this Christmas we told Chuck that SNACKS were off the list of possibilities from Santa.  He had to come up with another idea.  

Oh yeah, he pouted for a bit but then . . . his eyes kind of glowed . . . and he found a picture in a magazine of what he wanted.

Besides eating SNACKS and playing, Chuck loves to nap.  Usually he naps on the rug at the top of the stairs.  All sprawled out.  On his back, his paws positioned in a weird kind of yoga pose.  Actually he looks like he’s meditating. 

Chuck decided he wanted his own comfy bed.

When he's not on the rug, Chuck shares a chaise lounge with his older cat brother Stanley.
And not only did he pick out his bed, but he pointed where he wanted the bed placed . . . right near one of our heaters in the room where I do most of my writing.  

Chuck's Christmas present

This kid is so SPOILED.

Well, as you can see by the photo above, Chuck got his wish.  No, we didn’t wrap the bed in wrapping paper and put it under the tree.  Bob and I aren’t that crazy, but we did find a big basket and fill it with a comfy pillow-like substance that cats love and then--just as Chuck desired--we placed the basket underneath my Colonial desk, near a heater.  

Well, the kid jumped in and snuggled and purred because he got his heart’s desire.

This is Chuck's initial look of "What do we have here?"
But then he settled in and got nice and comfy.
Everything was fine until Chuck left his bed to get a snack.  Immediately, Ella popped over and began sniffing around.  

Home for the holidays and everything seemed okay again for the moment.

For the moment I forgot my sadness.

From our house to your house, I wish you small moments of joy such as these as you move through this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

        My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  It is part romance, part mystery, and part adventure.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown Massacre - As the Terror Unfolds

Flags are being flown at half mast to honor the victims of the Newtown Massacre

      I write an exotic travel blog and usually relate the somewhat humorous adventures of my rascal cat, Chuck.

But this week I feel compelled to break with tradition.

We are home for the holidays--safe and warm--snug--our entire family together--all the humans and all the kitties (Chuck and his siblings: Stanley, Jack, Molly and Ella).

And, today, more than ever I appreciate and cherish that fact.  

Because this week something terrible happened in this great country of ours.  A young man used force to enter Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and then used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot in cold blood the students--the children--in a kindergarten class. Two other students-children--in the school were also shot and later died at the local hospital.  His mother was also found shot in their home.  Six adults--the principal, teachers and a counselor were also murdered during what most are calling a massacre.  

Images of school

At this point in the investigation--no one knows why this young man, who has been identified as Adam Lanza, did it.  But the reality is that with less than two weeks before Christmas, parents sent their sons and daughters to school that morning, and these children will not be coming home.  

I’m a writer now, but I was an elementary school principal for eight years in New Jersey. What happened today would describe my worst fear when I was principal.  To lose even one child on your watch is inconceivable.  The parents of the children in your building send the people they love most in the world to you and expect that you will be able to protect them.  In the eyes of the law, the principal and teachers are “in locus parentis” or the “replacement parents”.  

But in the society that we now live, can we really protect them?
Most of the people reporting the news seemed surprised to learn that even in the elementary school, the students practice what is called “lock down drills” on a regular basis.  They practice how to react if an intruder with a weapon enters the school and threatens harm.  The teachers know to lock their classroom doors, shut out the lights, and do everything they can to keep the children quiet so that if someone is in the school, they will pass by the classroom.  

     This is the reality of the world we live in. 

When I was principal, I can clearly remember the day we instituted “lock down drills” in our school.  It required planning and training of the staff.  We needed to notify the parents and explain why we were taking such steps.  We worked in concert with the police. This action followed the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.   

Another harsh reality is that most elementary schools keep their doors locked.  A visitor must buzz the front door, announce themselves and then wait for the front door to be unlocked by the front office staff before they can enter.  Then the visitor is expected to report to the front office.  Of course, all of these attempts to control who enters the building are dependent on the visitor’s cooperation.  There is nothing to stop someone from running down the hallway at break neck speed once they are “buzzed in,” with a concealed weapon.

Or from, as in the case of Adam Lanza, using the weapon they bring with them to break through the glass in the front of the school and force their way into the building.

Assault style rifle -- plastic toy version , but it still looks menacing

A visitor can come to the front door of the school and say they are someone in the bulding’s cousin or neighbor--come to pick them up for an appointment.  Usually they are “buzzed into the building,” before their name is checked on the student’s card which lists the names of people who are approved to take the child home. 

In the winter time, it is all too easy to conceal a gun inside a coat.  Most elementary schools do not have metal detectors at the front doors.  

Children do not remain inside the building all day long.  They go outside for recess during lunch time and often go outside for gym.  School grounds are easily accessible, especially the schools that are located in suburban communities.  Few have walls or fences separating the grounds from the outside world.  Schools were not designed to be prisons.  

There is  another fact that was always glaringly apparent to me as a principal.  Weapons are not permitted on school grounds.  So as a principal or staff member you can not come into the building, even with your legally purchased gun.  So, literally, the school is a “weapon free zone” until a quote “bad person” breaks that code.  Now that bad person is the only one with the weapon.  The only recourse you have in the building once you realize that someone with a weapon has entered your building is to go into “lock down mode” and contact the police.  

That’s what happened in Connecticut.

Unfortunately, a lot of damage can be done with a semi-automatic rifle before the police arrive.  A lot of lives can be taken.  

A handgun - again a toy, but doesn't it look real?

I cried when I heard about the shootings in Newton, Connecticut.  I felt so sorry for the parents of the children whose lives were taken.  I felt so sorry for the children who were part of that horrible nightmare.  Their lives will never be the same.  I cried for the staff who lost their lives.  Dedicated people who, no doubt, felt so helpless in the most horrible of situations.  

I must admit that I faced the possibility that someone would try to enter my building and do that very same thing for eight years.   You try not to think about it, but the possibility is always there.  And what would I have done?  If I were in my office and suddenly an intruder came in with guns and assault like rifles, intent on shooting the children.  And you have no weapon at your disposal.  Nothing.  You are like a sitting duck.  You go into “lock down mode.”  You call the police.   Do you wait or do you try and stop the person?

Which is worse?  To be shot or to survive and then face the parents and tell them that their children have been killed? 

So many innocent children.  And the adults who tried to protect them.  

I know there are no easy answers when we ask--how do we prevent these incidents from occurring in the future?

But I do hope, that we Americans will be willing do something so that all these lives that were taken were not taken in vain. 

Let’s start with a serious conversation about . . .

     Let’s do it for the children and the adults who were in the school that morning, doing what they were supposed to do.

No one had the right to come in and murder them.

We shouldn’t make it so easy for it to happen again, and we all know it will happen again.    

Kate Lutter's debut novel Wild Point Island was just published in June 2012 and is available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

Two young girls--aged 10--are banished from their hometown and their father is taken and imprisoned.  Now twenty years later, they return on a rescue mission.  Wild Point Island is a tale of romance, mystery, adventure and intrigue.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chuck Marches in "Italian-Syle" Parade

Sometimes, without even planning a thing, you can end up in the  middle of a unique cultural experience that you would never be able to arrange even if you wanted to:
Case in point.
Chuck and I arrived in Palermo and I mean . . . we literally arrived that day, checked into our hotel, unpacked our bags and decided to go for a walk to really see the city, so to speak.  We stepped out of our hotel in this wonderful city and decided to walk down to the water--a few short blocks away.
And then it happened.  
We were smack in the middle of a parade.  

A very colorful and glorious parade.  Loud and enthusiastic. 
It seemed that no matter where we walked, we intersected with this parade of people who seemed to be marching across the entire city.  At first, I was a bit concerned.  We didn’t want to get in the way.  But then I realized  it didn’t matter. Spectators were more than welcome to join the line and march in the street.  Soon it seemed that there were more people marching than there were people watching.  

Pretty cool.
And Chuck didn’t seem to mind either.  Even though he spotted a rather large dog, marching along.  Or maybe because he saw the dog, he figured he should represent the CAT population.  After all, cats have an open mind, just like DOGS.   

When you’re in a foreign country, you want to get a feel for the place--you want to participate in the day to day activities. Eat at the local restaurants.  Order the local cuisine.  Visit the local supermarket.  Stop in at the department stores.  See a show.  I love to settle into a place for as long as I can.  
Years ago I spent some weeks in Florence studying Italian at a school there with a good friend.  We rented an apartment in the historic district and really got to know the place--the local supermarket, the bus stops, the little trattorias, the department store across town.  We even frequented the dollar store.  And, yeah, we did the touristy things.  After all, we were in Florence and everytime I’m there, I have to go and see the David and visit the Santa Croce Church, but it’s those other things that I enjoy, too.  We got to know the shopkeepers and the deli owners.  
This time Chuck and I had returned to Italy.  To Sicily.  To Palermo.  On the very day when the citizens where marching for Gay Pride.  Chuck joined in.

        After we’d marched for awhile, I turned to Chuck and tried to convince him to leave the parade.  I was tired.  But the kid was enjoying himself.  
        Finally, I got a brainstorm.  "Chuck, what about a gelato?"
        The parade had made it's way down to the water, and along the water's edge were many small eateries and gelaterias.  

          No one can resist gelato, the Italian version of our icecream, but, oh, it's so much better!  Certainly not Chuck.  We left the parade.   No drama.  No running away.  This time.  Yeah.
           So off we went in search of the perfect gelato!
           Log onto www.katelutter.com for more Chuck adventures.
           Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available in ebook and mass market paperback at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chuck Has Almost Run-In With Castle Ghosts


            Chuck had had enough.
That is the only way to explain what happened next.
Here we were--in the oldest of places--our bellies filled with the most delicious pastries--and about to embark down a deliciously narrow stone street to see not one, but two ancient castles, when Chuck . . .
Well, let me start from the beginning.
Erice.  When you arrive and spend some time here, you feel like this place has been around forever.  Ancient city.  It looks old.  And you almost begin to believe that you really can walk down a narrow street, slip into a deserted alleyway, or slide under an archway and somehow you’ll be transported to another place and another time.  
If such a thing is possible, it will happen here in Erice.
We left Maria Grammatico’s excellent pasticceria and mosied on down to where the center of the city ends, to where you can gaze over the mountain to the magnificent vistas below--to where still sit--in all their splendor--two castles--two feudal style castles: Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle.  

The Pepoli Castle, with its distinctive medieval characteristics, was built on a foundation dating back to Arab times.  It was a feudal stronghold in its day, and we hold onto that fact even though today it’s an hotel. 
The Venus Castle was built on the ruins of the ancient Temple of Venus and dates from the Norman period.  
Both castles are striking in appearance.  These are not Hollywood reproductions of what castles should look like--they are real castles and they have all the structural and decorative details that make a castle a castle:  You can immediately spot the inner and outer courtyards.  There is a knight’s house and the proverbial guard tower and keep.  There is, of course, the outer wall with the gatehouse that one must pass through to get inside.  The outerwall has a notched battlement.  There is a ramp wall that cuts across the length of the castle and was built to protect the inner courtyard if the gatehouse was ever breached.  

All castles, of course have their coat of arms in plain sight.  These two castles also sport gothic windows and a hoard for authenticity.  

Chuck took one glance at the castles and it was clear by the way he continued to stare, that he wanted to go into the castles.  And why not?  Cats love to sniff around, and as I mentioned before, their keen sense of smell is invaluable in a time like this.  Chuck would be able to sniff, sniff, sniff and learn the entire history of the castle.  
All the stories of all the people who lived in the castle would be his.  
It would be like reading a novel.  
So who could blame him?
That’s when it happened.
Without uttering a MEOW, Chuck took off . . . his oversized belly swaying under him . . . in the direction of Venus Castle, and I followed.
         He disappeared almost immediately into an elongated alley that seemed like a tunnel.

“Chuck,” I called out.
But when the kid sets his mind to something, nothing can dissuade him.
Within minutes I was out of breath, but I continued to run after him.  I could see him up ahead, making a beeline for the castle.  And then he stopped.  
He was just feet away from the gatehouse. There was nothing stopping him from strutting inside. But something had stopped him.
Finally I caught up to him.
“Chuck.”I whisked him into my arms and stared hard into his whiskered face.
His eyes said it all. He’d seen something.
“What? What was it?”
But just as impetuously as it began, his need to see the castle dissipated like so much smoke in the wind.  
A ghost?  Had the rascal cat actually seen a ghost lurking about?
What else could it have been that sent the fear of God in him?
I’d never know.  

         As we slowly made our way down the mountain from Erice, Chuck refused to talk about it, meow about it, give any hint that he’d seen anything out of the ordinary.  
“Why did you change your mind about going into that castle,” I asked him one more time.  
He shook his head.   
“Chuck, did you see something.  A ghost?”
He shook his head.
But I didn’t believe him.  Not for a minute.

        Log onto www.katelutter.com to read more adventures about Chuck.
        My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available in ebook and mass market paperback from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chuck Is Almost Caught by Ex-Nun in Pastry Shop

View of the land surrounding Erice

            I don’t pretend to be an expert in ancient history.  
But once you’ve spent a few hours in Erice, you can’t help but want to know more about how people used to live.  The place itself entices you to wander around and listen to the stories that beg to be told.  
So wander around, we did.
But first we did what every tourist does--we wandered down to the shops to see what we could buy and take back with us as a memento.  And there was one shop that caught our eye.  

The sunflower shop 
In Italy - you can not ride down a country road without passing a glorious field of sunflowers.  And by now everyone knows that sunflowers are so enchanting because they have this unique ability to open when the sun comes up and then twist their lovely faces around and follow the sun.  During the brightest part of the day, the sunflower looks magnificent in the field--especially when you are standing on the edge and gazing out over acres of them lined up--their faces, like human faces--tilted toward the sun.  As dusk descends, of course, their faces begin to droop and then close and that’s the saddest sight of all.  
But, here, in Erice, we spotted a shop devoted, it seemed, to sunflower plaques.  And that was a sight to behold!  

Sunflower plaques

Chuckie became immediately excited when he saw row after row of them outside the shop.  He admired them and sniffed them and put his paw down and demanded that we buy one as a memento to Erice.  Now that we needed to be persuaded!

More sunflower plaques
From the sunflower shop, we proceeded past one of the typical houses in Erice, where our guide pointed out how the townspeople used cow bones as a kind of gutter system to collect the fresh rain water.
Our guide pointing to the cow bones used to collect rain water

Then we visited the local church where we were hurled back in time.  As we stood and gazed around this ancient church, we learned that one of the customs in Erice was that a daughter from just about every family was “donated” to the church and became a nun.  Once they “joined” the convent, the only opportunity they had to see their family and the outside world again was from the balcony of the church.  They could look down from on high for their glimpse of the outside world.  But the exit door to return to the outside world was forever closed. 

Inside the church--notice the balconies--the only place where the cloistered nuns were allowed to see the real world

That story was the precursor for the next story we heard . . . rather a remarkable story really . . . about a young girl who was sent to the church when she was only 11 in the years following World War II because her parents were too poor to support her.  She was one of six children.  Fifteen years later she left the convent.  This is not a usual occurrence.  
This girl, Maria Grammatico, had learned to bake pastries while in the convent, and when she decided to leave, she opened up her own pastry shop in Erice.  She used the same traditional recipes she’d acquired from the convent.  Ancient recipes.  
Her pasticceria is now world famous.  

The famous pastry shop of Maria Grammatico
We, of course, were obsessed with visiting that pastry shop and sampling her pastries.  
After all, we were travelling with the “almost famous” belly boy himself--Chuck.  
The pastry shop was mobbed.  
My original intention was to let Chuck out of my smart bag, but because there were lines and lines of people waiting to order, we had to quickly revise the plan.  Instead, Chuck peeked his head out and saw the operation.  He glimpsed the famous Maria Grammatico, who still works behind the counter, greeting the customers and posing for photos. 
And that moment could have been disastrous BECAUSE I am absolutely sure that she glimpsed him too.
I saw her do a double-take.
She craned her neck forward and her eyes widened.
In her upscale pastry shop??
Fortunately for us, there were so many people, that a few very rude tourists pushed their way in front of us and blocked Maria’s line of sight.  So her momentary glimpse of Chuck became just that -- a momentary glimpse.
She probably thought she was hallucinating.
I pushed the kid back into the bag.
When the line of sight was clear again, Chuck was nowhere to be seen.
And she was looking!
We were able to snag a table outside the shop and enjoy our pastries.  
And as we snacked down, we were very conscious that we were eating the same food made the same way for hundreds of years.  
Very cool!
But before we left Erice, we had one more stop to make . . . we wanted to see the ancient castles that were still left standing . . .more next week!
        Log onto www.katelutter.com to read more about Chuck and his rascal adventures!
        My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, is now available in ebook and mass market paperback from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chuck Becomes Almost Mystical in Erice

Erice--spectacular views as we travel up the mountain

          Chuck, my rascal cat, and I have traveled the world together, but there have been few places as ancient and as mystical as Erice.  
Located in Sicily on top of a mountain, it has a Greek name.  And that is just one of the fascinating things about it!
Its ancient heritage includes Arab, Norman, Phoenician, and Saracen occupation.  And you can still see, after thousands of years, the city walls that were built to protect the city from invasion, and the two castles, which housed the noble families. 

Typical street view--the stones on the street, the narrow passageways
        Erice looks old, very old, as you wander through the cobblestone streets and pass under archways made of stone.

One of the two castles still standing in Erice

So, while we are in Sicily, on the Palermo side of the country--we relish the idea of trekking up the mountain--yes, Erice is located on the tippy top of a mountain--Mount Erice, of course, to see this ancient city which was well known throughout the Mediterranean area during the ancient age.
In fact, an important cult was celebrated there.  It was said that the animals chosen for sacrifice would voluntarily walk up to the altar to be killed.  That may sound a bit implausible until you come to Erice and feel the place.  It’s mystical, and that feeling that anything can happen begins the moment you begin to ascend the mountain.
I think Chuck, my rascal cat, feels it too.
His whiskered nose is plastered to the side of the window, straining to see out, as we follow the road.  
And this is when it begins to happen--In the early morning, the fog and mist act like a shroud and completely cover the land so it makes you feel as if the mountain is floating in air.  It’s a bit eerie, but beautiful.  The higher you climb, the more spectacular the views.  The entire countryside is at your feet, but you see everything through this cloud of mist.  
Once you reach the top of the mountain and before you reach the town, you travel past a forest of trees.  

The medieval forest that skirts the town of Erice

        To me, the forest represents the typical magical forest of every fairytale and ancient tale of lore.  The trees are ramrod straight.  The leaves are the greenest green.  And admission to the city requires a passing through under an ancient stone archway--a city gate--that was built centuries ago to protect the townspeople from invaders.  

The city gate--the magnificent archway that one must walk under

        To me, it feels like some kind of portal that whisks you from the present day to a time long past.  
And on the other side is Erice.  Because this place is so different, so old, so authentic in its look, it attracts a great many tourists.  Even Chuck seems to be enthralled.  He aches to hop out of my smart bag and sniff around.  Centuries of adventures await him.  
We are on our way to Chiesa Matrice (Mother Church) the medieval Catholic Church--14th Century--which stands as a testament to how long stone can endure.  

Chiesa Matrice (Mother Church) - 14th Century

        The bell tower with the bell that stands adjacent to the church.  We stand off in the distance and stare at the church.  

The Bell Tower

Most of the tourists, I suspect, are in the  main part of town--shopping, so this section is almost deserted.  But I love old buildings.  

Close-up of the bell 

        I’ve let Chuck out and he is moving about--sniffing and exploring. 
And then he’s gone.
I’m not sure how it happens.
I’ve poised to take a photo of the church and I’ve taken my gaze off of him for half a second.  
Has he wandered up the broad steps into the church?  Into the bell tower? Is he interested in the view?
I run over to the church to see if it is open and if he’s inside.
The door is open, of course, which means it’s one more possibility--he could have walked inside or not.  I scan the area again, hoping for a glimpse of him.
He must have wandered into the Church.
I am determined not to freak out.  Cats have a great sense of smell.  They can find their way back when they become bored with their exploration.  There is time yet.  
I am this close to entering the Church, determined even to try and appreciate the inside of the Church and imagine what life must have been like for the people so many hundreds of years ago . . . when out the belly boy prances.  Totally unaware that he’s caused any problem.  
I narrow my gaze and tilt my head.   My lips are definitely pursed.
He glances up at us but misses all the signals of disapproval.  
“Chuck,” I whisper.  “Get over here.  Now.”
Slowly, he sniffs his way over.
For one moment I’m actually jealous of his superior sniffing ability. The stories he must be reading--the hundreds of years of trials and tribulations that have been played out on these steps.  Near this church.  In this town.  He can sniff every one of them.

The "scene of the crime" where Chuckie suddenly appeared--prancing down the steps

And we’re not leaving Erice yet.  There’s a pasticceria that’s world renowned that I want to visit.  Run by an ex-nun.  Chuck has heard all about it.  Which is probably why he’s being so cooperative now. 
I’ll tell you more about what happens there . . . next week.  
        To read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com
         Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available in mass market paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com