Stumbled into the fabulous restaurant Osteria RossoDiVino – best thing I did all trip. Run by two very competent young sisters, and with two excellent cooks in the kitchen. The freshest fish and other sea food I have ever seen, delivered from the market late morning. I signed up for my first ever cooking class. As it turns out, I was their first ever cooking student! Fabulous chef Fabio pulled it off with good margins. I baked, I kneaded bread, I rolled out pasta, I made tortellini, macaroncini, and farfalle. I cleaned sardines, I cut vegetables, and I stirred in a lot of pots and pans. Mmmmmmm, sooooo good!
No sleeping in as I had hoped. Even had to leave before breakfast, but the nice fellow at Hotel Victoria gave me a breakfast bag to go. All-day bus trip to Etna, passing through beautiful lemon and orange plantations and the interesting gorge of Alcantara. Glad I brought jacket, it was cold up there at 2800 meters. The last 1000 meters of altitude we traveled by jeep. Couple of other people from the conference, Norwegians and Belgians. Nice group. Lots of black lava. Interesting walk around some of the craters – looked like bomb craters. The summit is 3300 meters but we stopped at 2800 meters. This was the North Mouth – the currently active crater is the SouthEast Mouth. So no real danger to go further – but we were inside a cloud/fog so all was completely white – no views whatsoever :(. Fun and long day, anyway.
that it’s over. Great conference, intense days, lots of interesting talks, good workshops, some new acquaintances, some old. I survived my 12 minutes of fame, although I had some hickups with the computer and my powerpoint. But I got both applauds and laughs (good laughs) so I hope I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. I missed not going to the gala dinner, maybe that was the wrong decision, I’ll go next time. But heck – 100 E? Had a nice quite evening on town instead, with german researcher B. Finished off the conference part of my trip with… a swim in the ocean! With staff permission (of course…), I snuck in to the spa and grabbed a towel, and dashed for the beach. Waaaarm water! Clear. Blue.
Began the non-conference part of my trip with a visit to Castelmola, quaint little village on a rock high above Taormina. And the never-to-be forgotten Caffe Bar Turriso…!
Thank god my conference didn’t start until 2 o’clock, giving me time to sleep in, have a slooow breakfast, check out town, and walk to the conference hotel! A very pleasant walk – out of town center, down a million steps, along the stony beach and along a narrow road made even narrower by construction work. Made it with half-an-hour to spare. Intense conference start with my favorite EBM:er, Dr. G, who managed to confuse me pretty quickly. Confidence intervals=confusion intervals. I should know this by now, after lots of courses and even the same workshop last year in India. But some things just seem to go in one ear and out the other. This time I got it though. Too bad the two workshops collided – maybe I would have learned more at Amanda’s stats for dummies?
After all that hard work (on my birthday!), I think I deserved that fine glass of bubbly that Nino offered on the terrass before dinner. What a fabulous conference site, right on the beach, with only the sea and the stars around us. And lots of nice people, of course. Happy birthday it was.
After that first wonderful espresso (1 Euro) as soon as I landed, an hour’s wait for the bus (in nice company of a German-Sicilian couple going to Lehtojanni), and a 1+ hour’s bus ride with gorgeous views of mountain and sea – I arrived in Taormina. My neighbor on the bus, a friendly Taorminan college girl going home from her school day in Catania, wanted to practice her English on me. I wanted to practice my Italian on her. She became my guide and walked me to my hotel, quaint little Victoria, on chic Corso Umberto. Pleasantly surprised by the hotel – small but nicely furnished and immaculate room, super friendly staff, and right smack on the Corso, between Gelato and Gelato. And wow was that gelato gooooood!
On October 26, Etna erupted. Catania airport shut down. On October 28, northern Europe was hit by storm. Copenhagen, Malmö and Gothenburg airports shut down. Was I not supposed to go to Sicily?
In spite of this – on October 29, I left a rainy Gothenburg and arrived safe, sound, sane, and even on time (thanks, Air Berlin), among sun, blue skyes, clear blue water, olive plantations, vineyards, orange and lemon farms, and a big, beautiful, threatening volcano (a bit calmer but still active) overlooking it all. Ciao, Sicilia!