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, February 17, 2013

Chuck Meows to Erupting Volcano

You can see Mt. Etna in the distance, before she blows, giving off smoke.

The “rascal cat” had plenty of reasons to want to visit Taormina, so when we flew from Rome to the tiny airport in Catania and began to make our way across the Sicilian countryside, Chuck sat in rapt attention, his nose pressed against the window of our car.

Taormina is one of the most popular European tourist destinations in the summer if you’re looking for good food, a beautiful landscape, and a busy nightlife.  The dramatic seascapes mingle with the shore, the antique stone buildings and cobblestone streets lend sheer elegance to the passeggiata--the Italian word for the nightly walk that Italians take. In Taormina, everyone gathers at dusk before the evening meal to parade down the center of town, past the upscale stores and restaurants, the gelaterias and the pizzerias. They talk and laugh, window shop and check out the competition.

The typical quaint streets of Taormina

Even when we arrived--at the start of November--there were still plenty of tourists crowding the streets. Luckily, in Sicily the days are still in the low seventies and although the nights chill down, you only need a sweater or jacket.

Quickly we developed a nightly routine.

We would leave our hotel and begin to descend the steps down to the center of town.  Nothing is flat in Taormina.  You either walk up or down.  We passed our favorite restaurant on the right and waved hello to Enzo who was the owner, chief cook, waiter, and with his Japanese wife, ran the entire operation.  His sign promised that they spoke almost every language under the sun--Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, and, of course, Japanese.  His food was "squisito."  On certain days, he’d heat the ovens and make pizza.

Enzo, in his kitchen busily preparing his dough

Most nights we stopped in to say hello.  Most days we’d eaten lunch there and sampled his salads and sandwiches, his pastas and soups.  His sausage rendered my husband speechless. He pretended not to notice Chuck and even brought a special little plate over.

The wall of Enzo's restaurant are filled with letters from his customers who rave about his food

After our visit with Enzo, we reached Corso Umberto, the main street of Taormina and had to decide to walk either right or left.  Both choices were good ones.  There were excellent gelaterias in either direction and eating gelato before dinner had become an obsession of mine.  Limone is my favorite flavor, but I’d begun to sample other flavors, especially since the custom here in Italy is to order more than one flavor--preferably two or three for a cone.

When we stopped, I ordered pistacchio, stracchiatella, and “crema” for me and a separate smaller gelato for Chuck. His favorite flavor? No, not chocolate, even though that is the number one flavor in Italy.  Chuck loved “crema,” which tastes a lot like heavy cream. No surprise because the kid loved snacks and was a gelato addict, too.  We found a quiet place to sit so he could inhale his gelato.

We continued up the main drag until we reached St. Catherine’s Church.

Outside St. Catherine's Church in Taormina

Earlier that day the church was all abuzz with a celebration which would be the equivalent to our Veteran’s Day.  There was a band and a procession down Corse Umberto ending with Mass at the church. But now all was quiet.

The procession and band marching toward the church

We reversed direction and walked up the street, admiring the beautiful coral pearls that were displayed in several high-end jewelry stores.  Finally, we make our way back to the hotel for dinner.
The night had been rather uneventful until someone made the suggestion that we ascend to the hotel roof for the view.  We’ve heard about this, but we’d never done it.

The center square in Taormina where musicians played

The roof extended the entire length of the hotel.  It was a beautiful night.  Very clear.  We spotted some stars . . . and . . . the full moon.  And because we were so high up and seemingly away from everything, it almost felt as if we could touch that moon.

Suddenly we heard an explosion.  Someone was setting off firecrackers in celebration of this memorial day?  We couldn’t be sure but they looked beautiful exploding in the dark sky.
And if that weren’t enough, my husband grabbed my arm and pointed in the direction of Mt. Etna.  We watched in awe as lava poured out of the top of Etna and cascaded down the mountain, which even though we learned later was a regular thing, it sure seemed special now.

“The night sky is putting on a show for us tonight,” I said to Chuck.

“We are so lucky to be in Sicily.  In Taormina,” Bob said.

            “Meow,” Chuck said finally.

The three of us continued to stare at the erupting volcano, the fireworks, and the full moon.


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