Sailing Interruptus

It’s hard to believe we finally made it back! The trip back to the US was as painful as we expected, but luckily we gave ourselves plenty of days to get home. To briefly recap, we made the journey home back in mid July for my son’s wedding and to finally close on our new home. The wedding was held about 2 hours north of where we live (Phoenix) in a mountain town called Flagstaff. This is a great place for a July wedding in Arizona since it is about 20 degrees cooler (-11.1 degrees Celsius cooler) than where we live. The ceremony took place in the forest among the pine trees and was absolutely beautiful. It was a spectacular weekend of fun with family and friends. About 10 days later, we took possession of our new home. We ended up staying in Arizona a few weeks longer than we initially had planned in order to try and get somewhat moved into our home. In the end, we managed to get most of the way moved in, but there is still a lot more to do when we finally return for the winter (ugh).

Proud mom presenting her son for marriage
Beautiful ceremony in the pine forest of Northern Arizona
Now presenting the McCulloughs!
Move day at the new house we built. Had our grandson along!
A local kayak trip with some friends before heading back to Europe

August 27th arrived, and it was time to make our way back to Zoe.  The chaos of summer travel in a post pandemic era had not let up, and I was dreading making this trip yet again.  We ended up flying from Phoenix to Chicago (arriving at midnight) and spending the night before catching an early morning flight to London Heathrow.  We arrived in London around 11:00 pm and then had to take an hour long Uber ride to Gatwick Airport, where we spent another night.  Bright and early the next morning, we caught our flight to Catania, Sicily.  We made it out of the airport only to discover that we had missed the bus to Licata by 5 minutes.  To make matters worse, they had cancelled the next bus which meant we had to sit at the airport (on a concrete bench) for 2 hours before the next bus.  Since this now put us in rush hour, our 2 hour bus ride took closer to 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We left the US Saturday afternoon and did not arrive to Zoe until Monday evening.  Needless to say, I was not a very happy person when we finally made it back to Zoe.  Hopefully, the journey home at the end of October will be far less painful  🤞.

Well, now that you are all caught up, let’s resume our journey in Sicily.  Since we arrived in Licata with little time before our departure, we decided to spend some extra time here and do a little exploring (plus we had our spot in the marina paid until September 6th…..why let that go to waste?).  The marina here is quite nice.  There are a couple of restaurants onsite, a supermarket within walking distance, and the breakwater is constructed in a way that provides an excellent (and very popular) exercise route.  About halfway down the breakwater, you will encounter about 20 cats and a cat condominium (I kid you not!).  Okay, so I don’t really think the little trailer is strictly for the cats, but we aren’t entirely sure who the little trailer belongs to.  The cats are definitely inhabitants, but I’m pretty sure they are not the ones responsible for the empty beer bottles.  Since it sits perched over a fish farm below, we theorize that it’s more of a watch station for someone (I can only imagine the way it looks inside with all those cats running around 🤢).  If you walk in the opposite direction, you will find one of the tallest lighthouses in Europe and a beautiful monument to the fallen and missing Italian sailors at the port entrance.  Just beyond the port, there is a huge expanse of beautiful, sand beach and a large swimming area nestled inside a reef.  Unlike cat alley, this area was home to lots and lots of stray dogs.  One in particular decided to befriend us for our entire beach walk.  Ironically, when a couple of barking dogs charged towards us, our little buddy barked back, and they turned around a left us alone.  I guess he advised them that we were okay people…..haha.

One of the tallest lighthouses in Europe.
Cat sanctuary…there were so many!
Breakwater cats of Licata
A statue to safeguard the local fisherman

A few fun facts about Sicily in general…..it is the biggest and most highly populated island in the Mediterranean.  It is also one of the hilliest and most mountainous parts of Italy.  Interestingly, you will find a tremendous amount of Greek influence here in Sicily as they founded many of the coastal cities which still exist today.  As a result, there are some incredible, well preserved ruins of temples, theaters and monuments left behind from ancient times.  Okay, enough of the history lesson.  There is a method to my madness.  I tell you all of this as a precursor to our latest excursion off the boat.

A 45 minute drive outside of Licata brought us to the hilltop city of Agrigento, home to the Valley of the Temples.  We spent several hours wandering the vast archaeological site which is home to many well preserved Greek temples.  In an effort to not bore you with too much of a history lesson, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Valley of the Temples
The sights from antiquity were amazing
Exploring the ruins
Last remnants of an ancient Toga party

After thoroughly exploring the grounds in the blazing, hot sun, we headed off to our next excursion.  We drove through the town of Naro where a castle sits upon the highest point.  Here, we found breathtaking views of the valley below and the sea just beyond.  We did not spend a lot of time here since we had an appointment at a local winery for a tasting and lunch.  We arrived at Bonsignore Vineyard where we were greeted by the owner.  He and his wife had basically sold up everything to buy the vineyard and accompanying villa.  They had renovated the villa as their home and over time, have plans to create rooms for guests to spend time in the vineyards.  We began our adventure in their courtyard where we were treated to a tasting of 3 of their wines.  Each one was quite delicious (and award winning).  We were then able to choose a bottle to accompany our luncheon.  The lunch was also spectacular.  We experienced 4 or 5 different courses made of local, organic ingredients specific to the region.  After our extremely filling lunch, we wandered out to the vines where we learned a little about the grapes, their progression from vine to wine, and had a little taste straight off the vine.  Since we were the only 2 at the vineyard, it was really a unique and special experience.  In case you were wondering…..yes, of course we bought some bottles of wine to bring back to the boat (and they gave us a couple of bottles of their house made olive oil)! YUM!

The mountain town of Naro
Castle at the top of the hill
Luigi explaining the organic wines made at the vineyard
A wonderful picnic lunch on the winery grounds
Exploring the vineyard- it’s close to harvest time
Luigi and his wife (the winemaker) made for a great day!

It was an amazing day.  We love our time on the sea, but the best part of being in this part of the world is exploring the past and immersing ourselves in the culture, people and places.  We plan to spend a few more weeks in Sicily before making our way back to Greece.  While we won’t have time to see all the places we had hoped to, we do plan on returning soon.  This year our focus will be exploring the southern and eastern portions of Sicily itself.  When we return, we will focus on the remaining coastline and the surrounding islands.  Before I leave you here in Licata, one more fun fact about this area….Licata was one of the first cities liberated during WWII by American and British forces in 1943…..how cool is that?  Anyway, we are thrilled to be back on Zoe and will be getting underway soon.  Our plan is to get set sail tomorrow morning and make our way 6 hours east to the town of Ragusa.  Standby for more adventures from the beautiful island of Sicily!

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Tom Strebel
Tom Strebel
20 days ago

Glad to see you didn’t burn up in the AZ sun, but Sicily in August can be just as brutal! Not to nitpick, but 20 degrees Fahrenheit is 11.1 degrees Celsius. I am constantly doing the conversion living in Brazil (20/1.8). Enjoy Sicily and Greece. One of these years we will make it out to visit you on the Mediterranean.

Mark Garcia
Mark Garcia
19 days ago

Thanks Robyn for another detailed and photo filled trip share! Hope to see you and Dan in a few weeks! Be safe!!

Nora Espenshade
Nora Espenshade
17 days ago

I’m so happy you’re back on Zoe and am looking forward to living your adventures along with you.

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