Port of Call–Palermo, Sicily May 20th, 2011

Our Plan

We are just going to go ashore and walk around and see what happens.

Welcome to Palermo

Quoted from the Noordam’s daily “Explorer” Program:
This capital city of Sicily is fast, brash, loud and exciting.  The distinct and unique style of the city can’t be experienced anywhere else! Nearly 3000 years old, Palermo holds a  mix of architectural styles pointing to the wave upon wave of invaders who have claimed the city as their own.  The locals bear the same  varied resemblance.  Simply put, there’s no one  style or people in this urban melting pot with it’s colorful history. Here, the  Sicilian fusion of all things foreign – art, architecture, culture and lifestyle – exists at its most extreme: elegant Baroque check by jowl with Arabic cupolas, high fashion shops competing with Byzantine street markets and Vespas parked around Spanish Palazzi.”

The Photograph Memories


The Reality

DSC06763As I have written here before – I love early morning arrivals in port; The first views of the city from afar, the racing of the pilot boat as it comes along side and roar of its powerful engine as it speed back to port, the inner harbor with all its industry and then shouts of the dock workers as they retrieve the first and sequent lines that will hold us fast to our berth during our visit.


As the captain, eased the Noordam along side our berth, my mind returned to that incident at sea several days ago when we lost all power to the Azipods. The closer we came to the front doorstep of the city, the more I wondered “When will our forward progress cease?”  “What evasive action does the captain have at his command if we lose power now?”I will never tire of this arrival evolution, it is so exciting

As soon as we were cleared by the port authorities, Barbara and I headed to one of the two gangways that had been deployed by our competent deck crew – one for departing tours and one for “the rest of us”.  Once we had breached the “main gate” so to speak, we made our way through a gauntlet of friendly taxi, and private tour drivers offering their services for the day.  Not for us we mimed, as this was purely a walking day.

I find such joy in exploring new port cities on foot, as around every corner there is always something going on that is exciting and amazing.  A case in point: suicide crosswalks!  These are marked crosswalks in the middle of the block  on a busy street with absolutely no traffic control! Pedestrians risking life and limb here seem to be doing so without concern, just a part of the traffic ballet going on around life in a vibrant city such as Palermo.  We opted to cross the streets at controlled intersections, and even then  one had to have their head on a swivel, as it seemed that the traffic lights were merely a “suggestion” to drivers in a hurry, and everyone was in a “break-neck” hurry.

Just about everything mentioned above in the “Welcome” we experienced.  What an amazing city.

We finally found the “market street” and were fascinated by the juxtaposition of religious building “cheek by jowl” in the narrow pedestrian market streets. The two pictured in the referenced photographs were almost directly across from each other, magnificently presenting their interiors to the masses, while in the street outside, a fishmonger and  green grocers hawk the days fresh offerings.

We wandered these streets feeling almost invisible to the locals, though we played our “tourist” part in this human drama.  After about an hour of this, my tummy started to let me  know that I needed to eat soon, so we settled into a small sidewalk café/restaurant and tried to order something to eat, not realizing again that “the no food until noon rule applied here as well”!  So we settled on a couple cups of cappuccino, while holding our ground (table) at this prime people watching spot.

Finally, our table was “made up” which meant covering the metal table with a fancy table cloth and adding a flatware setup. (for this extravagance we were charged two extra euros) Menus were provided and thankfully the items were in three languages, one of which was English.  I was hungry for pizza, but I could not find one that included pepperoni, so I settled on one that included sliced salami with cheese and sauce, while Barbara ordered a plate listed as “Norma”.  Since I was very thirsty I ordered a “Large” beer and a glass of white wine for Barbara.   (See photos)

As we returned to the ship, hot tired and dusty, we passed by two members of our intrepid deck department, touching up the paint on the starboard side, pointing out the unavoidable fact that these beautiful vessels are like living with a high maintenance woman – they require touchups 24/7.


Next: My visit to the port of Rome, while Barbara fiddled at the Vatican.

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