We stayed just a little bit too long; and a little bit too long is just the right amount of time.
We stayed long enough to enjoy ourselves, and long enough that we were ready to come back home.
A lot of southwestern Sicily looks like this in summertime:
Sometimes summer in Sicily is known as its winter due to the death of everything by heat; apparently spring and autumn are gorgeous. Also, since there is a lot of poverty there, many people emigrate, but can't bear to sell or maintain their properties, hoping that one day they'll be able to return for good. So the landscape is littered with ruins both ancient and modern.
In the year since I last went to Sicily, and with no intention at all to do so, my palette has mirrored its parched colours:
The amazing thing about Gabi's olive grove is how they have clawed this rich oasis out of a dessicated landscape.
We stayed again at the cottage.
Rog thinks that the fruit and veg they grow are so intense in flavour because of the lack of water. I was only sad that the plums hadn't ripened before we left. I ate one anyway, and it's true, the flavours were intense - sweet and sour and, well, plummy. Gabi's father was telling me that he eats two pink grapefruit a day from the orchard, which ripen from October to May. Both he and Gabi are excellent cooks. They have a somewhat new breed of pig living there, a result of allowing their wild boar to mate with their pigs. And her father makes delicious sausage from them: lean and clean, they are all flavour, undiluted by fat. The salad they grow, on the other hand, has an almost buttery texture, soft yet crisp.
These pigs are some of the new breed babies, and they're also the composting system - all the fruit, veg, bread, whatever that we couldn't eat, we fed them. On the one hand, it's sad to know that some of these cute babies will be one day turned into sausage; on the other, that was some delicious sausage, and everything on the estate is used for something. Gabi's father makes fantastic limoncello from the lemons that he plied us with on our last day, and also some lemon marmalade that I've brought home. I also brought home about three years' worth of salt. There are salt flats along the western coast from Marsala (derived from the arabic - you can see the remnants of the "Allah" that once formed the end of the town's name) to Trapanì. I love this salt, and only brought home one bag last year - I only just made it: I ran out at the end of June. Good to know - I live on one kilo of salt per year. So, yes, I brought home 3 kilos of salt in my bag. Heavy, but worth it. I won't lie, I also shipped myself a lot Olio Verde (Gabi's line of products) things. Two bottles of olive oil, one bottle of lemon olive oil, marmalades, olive pâté... It'll be like Christmas come early when it arrives next week! (I would put a linky, but I can't find one...)
Our daily life included going to Mokambo beach, where there is a cute, very basic cafe, that serves coffee, fruit juice, panini and salad. And beer for people who like beer (um, I know I live in Britain, but not me!).
Out of some sense of obligation to do more than swim, eat, socialise and generally relax, we visited Mazara del Vallo, which has some amazing relics of many bygone eras: a Norman church built by one of the two King Roger's, for instance.
We also drove through Sciacca one day, but it was too crowded and too touristy, so we drove right back out.
And, do you remember this from last year? It was exactly as I remembered it - time had neither improved nor chipped away at the memory.
It wasn't as wavy last year, but every bit as magical. The water gets deep almost immediately, but it is so clear that it takes barely any effort to spot the white-sand-coloured fish who swim near the bottom; they are only just barely camouflaged. Looking down as I swam I could see huge flat rocks below me, and worried about what might hide beneath them. Regardless, I swam out to a big rock (I think you can see it in the photo, above, all the way towards the right edge of the image), from which kids were diving. Just once, and then swam back as fast as I could. You never know!
Overall, I think we can agree that I was a very happy girl!
I know I've mentioned this before, but I'll just say it again: one of the things that I'm so pleased about, living here in the UK, is the chance I've had to stay connected with old friends, like Gabi. There's just something about spending time with someone where we really know each other, and each other's stories, that is so vital. Time passes by quickly and these solid friendships are one of the few things I know of that moor me in this life.
Now that I'm home, I've been doing some rather late spring cleaning, and I've got a pile of ripping out to do:
And I've got quite a bit of knitting to catch up on, and I have to get my kefir up and running again...