Going abroad

October 8, 2019 by Fraser Beath McEwing
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J-Wire’s music reviewer Fraser Beath McEwing has added another string to his bow as he takes J-Wire readers on his travels…today on the road – Sicilian style.

Fraser writes:

We have been joined by two old friends from the US for a motor tour of Sicily with the added benefit that Steve is used to driving on the wrong side of the road. He and his wife Patrice travel the world, each with a backpack weighing eight kilos. Our shoes weigh more than that.

Our hired car was upgraded to a Jaguar SUV, ideal for the job but a tad wide, as you’ll see. Putting our trust in the satnav we set off along the coast to Castellammare del Golfo, but missed the beautiful marina and ended up on a windy beach with one shivering swimmer. 

We then entered the next address, in Erice, into the satnav and took a spectacular coast road up to a ruined castle in the ancient town. The road had the most severe switch-back turns I’ve ever seen. Steve often had to do a three-point turn to get around them. But once at the top it afforded the best view I can remember, with mountains, township and out to sea via saltpans where commercial salt mining is done. 

We then explored the ancient town – still fully occupied by people who probably haven’t changed their lifestyle in a century. There were the usual local handicrafts and restaurants, along with a world-famous bakery that sold confectionary straight from heaven to the teeming tourists.

We sauntered back to the car parked near the castle and put our next stop, Marsala, into the satnav. Because we were actually on a one-way road, the satnav told us to go ahead rather than make a U-turn. We did, only to find ourselves obliged to drive on the very same tiny streets we’d shared with walking tourists. Instructed by the satnav, which we now mistrusted and were starting to hate, we were swallowed by the cobbled labyrinth, with streets so narrow there were centimetres to spare as Steve crept past walls hell-bent on narrowing our car. The tourists now detested us as we nudged puffing old people and women wheeling prams out of the way.

Driving a bloody car through here, what can they be thinking? After a final squeeze through an ancient archway, we found a road and escaped the angry crowd. We were later told that driving where we had just driven was prohibited, punishable by heavy fines – or maybe hanging. Luckily, the copperoni were elsewhere.

You can’t drive along that street. But we did, thanks to the satnav.

But the satnav hadn’t finished with us. It didn’t’ want us to find our next destination: Baglio Oneto winery resort, and instead sent us along increasingly unmade roads through scrubland until we arrived at a paddock finishing in a nasty drop. We did what travellers did before satnav. We found somebody who spoke English and asked the way. It turned out we were about five kilometres off target. Clearly, the satnav wanted to murder us.

The Baglio resort takes itself very seriously, with acres of tiled spaces. Being in the middle of an ocean of grapevines, we forced to eat in the swept-up resort dining room where we unexpectedly had to take on a silver service dinner at an eyebrow-lifting, spine straightening price.

Breakfast the next morning was the most comprehensive so far. You could drink champagne, crack walnuts or eat rolls containing surprise foods inside. And, here as last, was an Italian hotel toaster!

Hotel toaster report

I was not initially impressed by this extended-leg, narrow gutted Marsala del Glowmou Mark II, but it turned out to be one of the most efficient toasters of my experience. It was quick, simple and turned out actual toast as opposed to warm bread.  I believe it was not all to do with the toaster, but the bread, which had been destination-toaster baked so that half the job was done before the slide-in.

Small, potent and very bread-worthy. A toaster of high merit.

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