Agrigento, Sicily and The Valley of the Temples

As I’m sitting by the window watching the snow fall outside during this endless winter, my mind starts wandering to warmer places. Homesick for the warmth of Sicily I pull out my pictures of Agrigento and our tour of the Valley of the Temples deciding I have to render my video and do a post as I finish up the last of my Sicilian blog pieces.

Temple of Concordia
Temple of Concordia

If you have an interest in Greek or Roman ruins, then you have to make your way to Sicily where you will find the most intact sites in the world. One of the largest and most impressive examples of the Magna Graecia era is the UNESCO World Heritage Site near Agrigento, Sicily.  It’s an archaeological park called the Valley of the Temples which is home to the remains of an ancient Hellenic city showcasing many impressive Doric temples that left more of an impression on me than those in the ancient center of Athens, Greece.

Agrigento looming above
Agrigento looming above

High up on a terraced plateau overlooking the Mediterranean on one side and the modern city of Agrigento looming above on the other, the park is beautifully situated on a natural landscape that was the city of Akragas in ancient times.  It was one of the largest Greek cities of 6th century BC at its height of prosperity but eventually fell into disrepair until it was conquered by the Romans who renamed it Agrigentum.

Temple of Concordia
Temple of Concordia

Numerous doric temples, intact mosaics, remnants of aqueducts, statues and cobblestone streets draw you into its history where you can touch and feel the structures that draw you back to an ancient time.  You can almost here the sounds, see the people, smell the air and imagine the daily life of this ancient city as you walk its streets and pathways.  Who has touched the same column I just did over a thousand years of history, it gives you goosebumps!

Temple of Heracles
Temple of Heracles

It was a hot day so we made a point of going late in the afternoon/early evening and glad we did.  We cooled off over a granita at one of the cafes found inside the park, you can get a full meal here if you wanted but at the very least try a gelato for your walk-through time.

Remains of an atlas in the Olympeion field.
Remains of an atlas in the Olympeion field.
Looking out from our Villa in Castrofillippo
Looking out from our Villa in Castrofillippo

 

 

 

Marlin Steaks
Marlin Steaks

We worked up an appetite and it was time to head back to our wonderful Airbnb, a Sicilian villa atop a hill that overlooked an orchard and beautiful arid valley. Earlier in the day we hit a seafood market and bought some shrimps, scampi and Marlin steaks.  The shrimp were so fresh I ate them raw as we sampled them in the store with the owner proudly showing us the days catch. Al-bight a bit expensive our meal was amazing, cooked over a hot grill outdoors and washed down with a Sicilian white wine…. I can taste it now.

Scampi and Prawns
Scampi and Prawns

 

Our Villa in Castrofilippo
Our Villa in Castrofilippo

 

If you get a chance to visit yourself the park is open daily from 8:30am until 7pm with extended hours from mid July to mid September closing at 10pm. The address to set your GPS is:

Piazza Archeologica 1, Via Panoramica Dei Templi, 92100

Temple of Juno
Temple of Juno
Remains in the Valley of Temples
Remains in the Valley of Temples

Allow at least 3 hours with extensive walking to visit the whole park over its 2.5 KM route. Tickets are 10 Euros for adults which includes an audioguide and children under 18 are free (they will be asked for ID for proof of age). You can only buy tickets at the main entrances at Porta Quinta Sant’Anna and near the Temple of Juno. Tip: We parked at the lower parking lot near the Temple of Juno and took a taxi for $3 euros each to the top of the hill entrance at Porta Quinta and started our tour here.  This way we were walking downhill and ended our day back at the parking lot where we started, otherwise you will have an exhausting walk back to your starting point. Worth the extra few euros.

The re-assembled remains of the Temples of "Castor and Pollux".
The re-assembled remains of the Temples of “Castor and Pollux”.

Make sure to wear good walking shoes and bring your camera. In the summer its very hot so wear a hat, bring sunscreen, water and sunglasses. Have an amazing day!   Here is a link to the photo Gallery

Pretty Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

On the Boardwalk at Puerto Vallarta
On the Boardwalk at Puerto Vallarta

Well, my recent job as a Personal Custom Tailor didn’t work out and I decided to quit and focus on finding a proper job. Instead last-minute plans found me on a plane to Puerto Vallarta and as they say; ‘when life deals you limes, make margaritas’ or that’s what I told myself!  

Center Square in Puerto Vallarta
Center Square in Puerto Vallarta

Just so happened I had a few friends leaving for Puerto Vallarta a couple of days after I quit, we were all on a couples weekend in Banff and plans were quickly made over a few rum and cokes.They didn’t have to twist my arm very hard, they had a large house booked with a blender, so I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  Yes, a bit overindulgent as I’ve had my cake and plenty of travel lately but when the universe provides you must listen and take advantage.

At our village in Buenos Airies, Jalisco
At our village in Buenos Airies, Jalisco

The accommodations are great, we are staying in the residential community of Buenos Aires only a 15-minute ride by Uber into the center of PVR for a few dollars or by bus for a few cents. A typical community with everything we need in walking distance; a market, shops, restaurants, watering holes…. everybody sells something and you can get it all out your front door.  Water trucks go buy, a vendor selling home made tortillas, ice-cream, baked goods…. Whatever you need put it out to the universe and it’ll come by your doorstep within the hour.

Walking long the boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta
Walking long the boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta

The town is an interesting blend of people, lots of retirees on extended sojourns and a large gay community out to party hard for a weekend.  Just so happens to be ‘Bear Week’ in PVR and the town is overrun by big burly guys that look like they want to kill and eat you but more likely to give Care Bear hugs! The prices are reasonable, even in the busy tourist center you can have a great meal with a few drinks for under $40 cdn a person.  A bargain compared to home and off the beaten track by our casita it gets even cheaper. 

Boca de Tomatlan, Mexico
Boca de Tomatlan, Mexico

Yesterday I went out with one of the ladies who’s been staying at the house since December renting one of the rooms (the house used to be a B&B but is now an infrequently used private residence, my friend knows the owners and has been staying here for years). She wanted to go on this well known hike from Boca di Tomatan to Los Animas and didn’t want to go alone.  I love to hike so I said I’d be happy to join her.

Views hiking from Boca to Los Animas
Views hiking from Boca to Los Animas

We departed from PVR center on the orange and white buses that leave every 15 minutes or so from the Oxxo on the corner of Constitucion and Basilio Baillo for 8 pesos (less than a $1 cdn).  About 20 minutes later we arrived in Boca and headed down the hill to the waterfront where we crossed the river by bridge and then headed right through the village that leads to the pathway mostly following the waterfront.  It’s a beautiful one-hour hike or so to Los Animas with some great pit stops for a swim and rest but make sure you wear good shoes. Runners or hikers are necessary as it has some steep up and downs with slippery rocks, rough trail spots and loose gravel.  If you insist on wearing your flip flops don’t say I didn’t warn you.  I wouldn’t do this hike if it was wet or rainy as the path could be treacherous.

COLOMITOS COVE
COLOMITOS COVE

Just as we started to heat up in the morning sun we found ourselves at the half way point of Colomitos Cove, a little piece of paradise in a small sandy cove with calm waters that begged for a quick swim.  A quick superman into my Speedo and I was splashing in the water like a giggly kid at the play pool, so refreshing and Zen until the party boats and more hikers arrived signaling the time to move on.

Secluded beach just before Los Animas
Secluded beach just before Los Animas

Another half hour later; following the signs we walked through the jungle and along some pristine beaches until we arrived in Los Animas. It’s a resort type town only accessible by foot or by boat with some small boutique hotels, seaside restaurants and watering holes.  When we arrived, it was overrun with ‘Bears’, not the dangerous kind but the burly man kind in teeny tiny bathing suits having arrived on three large party boats that were moored off the docks.  They came to frolic and forage (kind of like the dangerous ones at a riverside salmon spawn) along the seaside cabanas on one side of the beach.  We headed to the opposite, quieter end where we lounged over a beer and some lunch.  I had a generous plate of succulent shrimp that was delicious, and Lolli had the ceviche which looked equally fresh and tasty. 

An Iquana sunning on the rocks
An Iguana sunning on the rocks

A few hours later we decided to head back on the return hike although we did have the option of taking a boat ride back to Boca for about 50 peso I believe (last boat departs for Boca at 6pm). If you didn’t want to exhort the energy or want a different view and experience this would be a great option.  It’s a good trek both ways and we arrived home with our energy spent.  We strayed a few times and ended up on an alternative path to Boca through the jungle but arrived safely non-the less.

The Beach at Los Animas
The Beach at Los Animas

I totally enjoyed the day and was thankful that Lolli invited me along.  I got some great pics and can’t wait to return, maybe next week!  Here us a link to my photos.

Below is a quick video if you’ like to see more of the hike.

'Just Breath' ......or drink!
‘Just Breath’ ……or drink! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scala dei Turchi, Sicily

Its been months since I’ve posted anything.  Work is so busy these days, I barely have time to look up as I’m focused on building clientèle for a new sales position.  But working so hard in the dead of winter and trying to stay warm in temperatures that had dropped below -30’C last week has me pining for the beaches of Sicily.

I still have some blogs and video to finish of our month in Sicily which was the crescendo to our return to reality.  As the temperatures rose dramatically and the sea warmed up like bath water it was the perfect finish to spend a month lounging seaside on some of the most spectacular beaches we have ever been too. Wish I was there now!

At Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
At Scala dei Turchi, Sicily

One such place along the coast of Realmonte was Scala Dei Turchi (Stairs of the Turks) in southern Sicily, Italy.  It’s a beautiful limestone formation of staircase shaped rocks that rise from the base of a lovely, albeit busy beach. The natural stairs loom over the crystal blue waters below making it the perfect place to sit and gaze outwards to the sea while contemplating life’s blessings. 

Parking can be an issue here in the height of summer as is the case with most of Sicily and Italy for that matter.  We found space at a large parking lot across the street from a view point and they provided a ride in a golf cart down to the entrance of the beach which was also the entrance to restaurant ‘Lido Scala dei Turchi’. It was hotter than Haiti’s as temperatures approached 40’C and the beach was crowded so we decided to take in the site first and then headed to the beach in Porto Empedocle where we spent the rest of the day lounging and swimming.

The Beach at Scala dei Turchi
The Beach at Scala dei Turchi

You can reach Scala dei Turchi by car from Agrigento heading towards Porto Empedocle.  There is a parking lot in front of the Lido Baia dei Turchi or continue up to the top of the hill where we found a lot.  If you are coming by public transport you can get here by train getting off at Agrigento Central Train Station, go to the bus station in Piazzale Rosselli and take the bus going to Realmonte.  Once in Realmonte there is a shuttle service to Scala dei Turchi.

Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
Scala dei Turchi, Sicily

We had a lovely day at Scala dei Turchi and the beach at Empedocle taking in the spectacular views and warm waters.  Watching our video (click on the photo/link at the top of the page) and the sounds of the beach takes me back, all I need to do is put on my Speedo, turn up the heat and close my eyes! Could someone get me a Peroni!

The beach at Porto Empedocles
The beach at Porto Empedocles

Hong Kong-shopping at Jardine’s Market and touring Victoria Bay on the famed Star Ferry

Victoria Bay Harbor
Victoria Bay Harbor

Yesterday I took myself out on a perfect date in Hong Kong. After a nice quiet breakfast at Starbucks, I got on the MTR and made my way to the Causeway Bay train station, arriving and exiting the station at Exit F. My plan was to wonder and do some souvenir shopping at the popular Jardine’s Market and  walk around in Hong Kong’s Times Square shopping mall. 

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Visiting Hong Kong, the gateway to Asia

View of Hong Kong from the Park
View of Hong Kong from the Park

It’s only been a few days but I think I’m starting to fall for Hong Kong! It’s a truly international city, a major port, global financial center and the gateway to Asia. It’s a bustling, affluent city that provides many opportunities for a well-heeled crowd of international business professionals and company owners. Its dense population lives among the skies in one of the many amazing scrapers that fill the city landscape.

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Kaleidoscopic Kamloops, BC

The Riverside Park, Kamloops, BC
The Riverside Park, Kamloops, BC

Last weekend we made a trip out to see my daughter and her boyfriend at their new home in Kamloops, British Columbia.  It’s a city where the north and south Thompson rivers meet, about an 8-hour drive from Calgary and perfectly situated in south central BC.  It’s about 3 hours from Vancouver, an hour from the Shuswap Lakes and an hour and a half from the Okanagan Valley.

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Tantalizing Taormina and our stay in Pozzillo

Chiesa di San Giuseppe, Taormina, Sicily
Chiesa di San Giuseppe, Taormina, Sicily

Our stay in Milazzo was awesome and we were sad to leave but excited to be heading to the famed tourist area of Taormina, Sicily. We decided to stay in the nearby town of Pozzillo, tucked away from the tourist zones it is a picturesque fishing village surrounding a small harbor with stunning views of the coastline from Taormina to Catania.

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Memorable Milazzo and the area of Messina, Sicily

Capo Milazzo, Sicily
Capo Milazzo, Sicily

After leaving Cefalu in the morning we drove along the coast to the northeast tip of Sicily for our stay in the city of Milazzo, Sicily.  At first, we were a bit underwhelmed with the industrial look of the city and its busy commercial port but once we dug a little deeper we fell in love with this less notable Sicilian town. It is however known as a great base to explore the Aeolian Islands with daily cruises leaving from its downtown port everyday but there is so much more to be had here.

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Charming Cefalu- it’s beaches and ancient city

The beach old town in Cefalu, Sicily
The beach and old town in Cefalu, Siciliy

Good Morning Sicily! We awoke from our first night in Campofelice di Rocella and it was already getting hot early in the morning, we were having a spell of high 30’s/low 40’s but luckily our bedroom had air-conditioning or we would have melted. We couldn’t even leave the windows open at night because we were surrounded by orchards and all kinds of creepy crawlies that would try to make their way in despite having screens on some of the windows.  Janet would spray the perimeters each night with insecticide and in the morning I’d have to sweep the carcasses away before she got up so she wouldn’t see what was trying to bunk down with us.  If she saw the bodies she’d be screaming all the way to the nearest Hilton and that wouldn’t be good for our budget.

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Spectacular Sicily- our month long tour circling the island.

The harbor in Milazzo, Sicily
The harbor in Milazzo, Sicily

We spent an incredible month, actually 5 weeks slow traveling around the entire island of Sicily.  We had a lot of time so it was a real luxury to be able to pace ourselves, to dig deep into the Sicilian culture, to see the whole island, to live like a local and truly experience a lot of what it had to offer.  

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Palermo-starting our Sicilian Adventure

Piazza Grande, Palmanova, Italy
Piazza Grande, Palmanova, Italy

Our Slovenian adventure had come to an end and now we were excited to start the last leg of our 10-month odyssey in the south of Italy on the island of Sicily. At the crack of dawn, we dropped dad off at the airport in Ljubljana for his journey home and continued towards Venice, Italy where we would return our rental car and board a 2 ½ Hr flight for Palermo, Sicily. 

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Slovenia Part 4- Celje, Logarska Dolina and Ljubljana

Logarska Dolina, Slovenia
Logarska Dolina, Slovenia

After returning from our adventure in Tolmin we took a day to relax and visit with family.  Our hosts where the most incredibly hospitable folks and took such good care of us, typical of the Slovenian people we met throughout.  Our last few days were spent visiting a few cities; Celje and Ljubljana between a day at the most beautiful national park, Logarska Dolina. (Don’t miss the video of our visit to Ljubljana’s Old Town at the bottom of this post)

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Slovenia Part 3-Visiting the Julien Alps-Tolmin,Slovenia to Tarviso Italy to Klagenfurt, Austria

Along the Soca River, Tolmin, Slovenia
Along the Soca River, Tolmin, Slovenia

We returned to Smeteoz after dropping the kids off at the airport in Venice, Italy and spent another 9 days with dad in Slovenia. Our next tour began with a journey to the beautiful town of Tolmin, Slovenia nestled in the Soca Valley at the confluence of the emerald blue waters from the Soca and Tolminka rivers. Tolmin is situated on the southern tip of the Julian Alps and very close to the Italian border, an idyllic Slovenian mountain town.

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Scenic Slovenia-Part 2

The famdam in Lake Bled
The famdam in Lake Bled

And so our Slovenian journey continued with the kids; After an amazing day visiting the Postojona Caves and Predjama Castle we returned to Ljubljana in the evening to pickup dad at the Airport.  He arrived on time and was excited to see us all, looking forward to showing us the country where he was born.  We returned to our apartment and made plans for the next week over a bottle or two of Slovenian wine and got caught up on what was happening back home.

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