Sojourn in Sicily

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Imagine, if you will, a week-long dinner party in a magical villa in Sicily, surrounded by fabulous people. When our dear friends, Craig and Albert, asked us to join them on holiday, it took us about 0.025 seconds to say “Count us in!”  In all, there were 20 of us gathered there; we flew in from Washington DC, Houston, Boston, Vancouver, San Diego, London, Tunisia, Brasilia, and Hong Kong to spend a week relaxing, sight-seeing, and merry-making.  It was a blast!

I have far too many lovely photos from the trip to ever do them justice on this blog. So, I will be satisfied here with a few selected highlights of the sight-seeing, and some gorgeous shots of the villa.  Plus, since this is my knitting blog, a few gratuitous knitting shots.  The absolute highlight of the trip was spending time with dear friends, old and new.  We had some adventures, however, chief of which would be our hike to the top of Mt. Etna.

To get to the top, one first drives a long twisty road up the side of the volcano.  Then you park the car and take a very long cable car ride up into the clouds.  (I am afraid of heights so this is quite a big deal for me).  Then you get in a big all-terrain vehicle and they drive you up another long twisty trail through what looks like the barren landscape of an alien planet.  The theme song from James Bond may or may not be going through your head at this time.

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The vehicle lets you off into the freezing cold and wind, at a height of about 10,000 feet. The views of Sicily below, and the ocean, are breath-taking, but it is the eerie solitary landscape of the volcano, with its giant craters and wind-swept rims that powers the imagination.

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We walked around the entire rim of a crater.   It takes about an hour to walk around with the wind and cold buffeting you at every step.  The ground was covered with ash from a recent eruption.  If you dug a few centimeters below the ash, there was ice.  If you dug further, you could feel the heat from the magma beneath the surface.

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Here we are, near the top:

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The very next day, as we were driving up the coast, one of the craters erupted and we watched as smoke and ash spewed into the sky.   (I cannot emphasize how cool this experience was in every way.)

We also spent a marvelous day at Taormina, a beautiful town perched on top of a cliff above the sea.  Taormina is the home of an ancient Greco-Roman Theatre, which is still in use today.  (They were setting up for a Duran Duran concert while we were there!)

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These ruins are truly amazing.  It is impossible to stand in this spot and not imagine ancient productions.

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Not only is the Theatre itself breath-taking and beautifully preserved, but the views from this spot are majestic.

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One must stop and appreciate the view:

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As spectacular as the Ancient Theatre is, it had to compete with the marvellous lunch we had on the terrace of the Hotel Timeo.  I don’t eat cannoli (gluten allergy), but I am told these are the best Doug has ever eaten.

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The food and the wine were spectacular.  (If you are lucky enough to dine there, do not miss the lobster risotto!) And here is the view from our table:

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We also spent an afternoon at Noto during the Flower Festival.  To say the festival is popular is an understatement:

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We were lucky to find an oasis of peace amidst the crowds:

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Here is a favorite photo of Emma and Wally, a new and already dear friend:

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Here is a peaceful view across the building tops of Noto:

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This holiday was set against the gorgeous backdrops of the villa, the Commenda di San Calogero, which is truly a magical place.

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We gathered every evening for cocktails, followed by dinner around a huge table in the lovely dining area:

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Leah commented that it was like suddenly finding yourself in an Agatha Christie novel, except that we weren’t being killed off one by one.

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There was time to knit:

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And lovely local towns to explore (and eat in):

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There were even four-legged friends to accompany your walks:

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It is hard to believe that such magical places exist in the world.  Most of the magic, however, comes from beautiful friendships.

Tomorrow, the girls leave to fly back across the ocean, but this trip will stay with us forever.

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Gilded paradise

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I finished my gold shawl weeks ago, but waited until I was in Sicily to photograph it.  We were staying in an absolutely fantastic villa, called the Commenda di San Cologero, which is beyond gorgeous.  (It also has the nicest, most friendly staff you will ever meet.  I’ve stayed there twice now, and hope to return soon.)  It is on the eastern coast between Catania and Syracusa.  As you can see from these photos, it was a most beautiful backdrop for this lovely piece of knitting.

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The pattern is the #02 Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl, by Lily Chin and originally from Vogue Knitting, Winter 1999/2000.  It can now be found on-line as well; check the Ravelry pattern page here for details.

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The shawl is knitted in the now discontinued yarn, Kidsilk Haze Eclipse, by Rowan Yarns in the colour Virgo.  It is a very lovely shade of beige gold.  If you don’t have any Eclipse saved up, don’t fret – Kidsilk Haze is readily available and works perfectly for this pattern.  (I have previously knit this shawl in Kidsilk Haze in a vibrant green, which you can see in this post.)

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Many people have commented on the repetitive (and endless) nature of this pattern.  If you look over the projects on Ravelry you will see that I am not the only one who called it “boring”.  (Although there are those who find it “meditative”).  It is essentially a very big shawl knit in 2×2 ribbing in lace-weight yarn with cable crossings every 12 rows.

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The first time I knit this pattern it took me 20 months to finish – it was so boring, I kept putting it aside to knit other things!  I finished this one in just over 4 months.  Perhaps this relative speed is because, having worn the green one countless times over the years, I know that the benefits outweigh the effort.   Perhaps, I am simply in a more “product knitting” place right now.  Or, dare I say it, perhaps I have been too lazy to cast new things on and thus managed to power through.   Whatever the case, the end product is absolutely worth it.

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In the above photo, Emma is wearing another project of mine, the Viajante shawl, which I knit in 2013; this was another endless, repetitive knit in lace-weight that produced a magical garment.  (We photographed this piece in Sicily as well; it will feature in an upcoming Wearability Wednesday post, so keep your eye out for it.)  Today just happens to be Emma’s 23rd birthday – Happy Birthday, gorgeous!

I am still planning a long travel post for you with lovely photos of our adventures in Sicily. It will have to wait until I get home, however.  I am, rather ironically, writing this post in the middle of the night in my hotel room in Malaysia while suffering terrible jet lag.

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See that smile in the above photo?  Well, you would be smiling, too.  It was the best holiday ever!