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Ken Patterson’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Location: UK

MapFrom Sicily's sunshine to Geneva's grey day and grey Calvinist cathedral. Here's an original E. C. Bentley Clerihew about John Knox.

The sermons of John Knox

Teemed with disapproval of frocks

There was no acquiescence by him in

The monstrous Regiment of Women.


It's our last day in Italy and we intend to spend it in an gentle way. We're very aware that there's lots waiting to be seen just down the road, but our feet are tired and a nosegay of each place we've touched upon is all we can expect to cover with the itinerary we've adopted.

Villa Giulia is top of the list for a place to do nothing much in. Built in 1777 and extended a hundred or so years later it was the first public park are in Palermo. The original entrance overlooking the Foro Italico is of a monumental neoclassical design. The heart of the villa is the dodecahedron fountain, featuring a sculpture of a dodecahedral marble clock created by the mathematician Lorenzo Federici, each face of the dodecahedron featuring a sundial. This is supported by a statue of Atlas by Ignazio Marabitti, set in the centre of a circular fountain. And, today, a seagull sits on top of it all. Around this fountain are four exedra, designed by Giuseppe Damiani Almeyda and intended to be used for musical performances.

But today the park is not awash with musicians, rather with photographers. A succession of families and bridal parties are entering the villa garden dressed to the nines. It is a fabulously sunny day. And the setting with bougainvillea, red roses, white blossoms, Palm trees and Cypruses provides an ideal backdrop for the snap-fest. Young sons, and some dads, are kitted out in shiny satin suits with piping and overstated shiny contrasts. Preadolescent girls are dressed as brides (could this be a first communion thing going on?). Elder daughters are in high platform stilettos, self coloured floating dresses, some full length, many not. And mums wear fuller versions of the same sort, best jewellery on, false eyelashes and talons shining in the sunlight. The photographers are dressed down: polo shirts and jogging bottoms, but are very firmly in charge constructing poses in front of the buildings or by popping heads though arches of bougainvillea, or leaning back to back with heads facing front cheek to cheek.

We both paint and get broiled in the full sun..... glorious.

For lunch we went back to the cantina on our street and shared a lunch of vegetables in oil and I had a fabulous arancini-esque fried wonder. It was the size of a small brick. When you bit into it the discovery was that it was an outer bread layer containing a minced beef and peas centre. The whole thing was encrusted with breadcrumbs. I imagine that the bread was folded around the meaty centre as uncooked dough, then the brick chilled for a bit before egging and coating with breadcrumbs and deep frying. I can't find the name of this variety as yet.

In the afternoon I shuffled around the waterfront and Marion returned to the Ortico Botanico for gentle plant-spotting fun.

Our hopes for a Sunday concert in the Piaza Magione gave been dashed. There was a sound check for one band around 7.30pm then under the guard of four soldiers the soundstage was unplugged and the men in black tee shirts went home for the night.

We consoled ourselves with an aperitif and street food apero deal at a bar on Magione. Marion has the tried and tested G&T, I opt for a Mojito, despite the lack of further Earnest Hemmingway Iconography on our Italian trip. The food was like an Italian tapas, tasty and filling. I then asked for a spina beer, because I'd noticed 'spina' being used for 'pression' on Sicilian menus. The patron heard Piña beer, which turned out to be a weiss beer (and was very palatable).

I'm never much good at sleeping when I know there's an early alarm to be heard.... we put both tablets on for 6am call.... and I proceeded to toss and turn through the night. I'm sure you could persuade me that I must sleep better than I think I do, but all that I know is the impression that I'm day dreaming all night long, aware of the room and sounds around me, but following a dream story in my head.

Come 6am we sprang to life, showered, had a cup of coffee in reception and were at the central station coach stand for 6.35am. The coach was there and we sat aboard until the 7.00 leaving time, watching Palermo coming to life. To the airport, more breakfasting and then in the air for two hours. We were in Geneva by mid morning, but the weather was indifferent and we discovered that museums and galleries are shut on Mondays ..... Bugger.....

We saw the jet d'eau, We found the hotel that we started this holiday in, did a fair bit of walking around .......but mostly sought shops and cafes for warmth. Eventually, settling in a bar with entertaining bar staff, we ate sandwiches and had a drink.

The cathedral, a Calvinist institution, seemed a bit lack lustre after all the mosaics of Sicily. John Knox got a number of mentions in the cathedral and would have loved it's austerity. Gothic structures of plain stone internally and externally. The best bits were the choir stalls in the misericords: 16C hand carved wood, the underneath of each meagre monk's seat with a different image. We saw a crayfish, a dog, turtle, a man sleeping, and a small boy sliding down a pew.

With tongue in cheek, we chose for our final meal of the trip to be in a Swiss pizzeria!

The flight home from Geneva was half full, and on time.