italy / day four / siracusa

Our time in Taormina came to a close, as our tummies attempted to settle in the bus ride back down the mountain to the train station. A semi early breakfast and quick getaway allowed us to be in Siracusa by lunchtime, after a two hour odd trip.  The trip into the city was very different to that of Taormina. A lot more industrial, fuel refineries, junk graveyards, abandoned trains, boats and shipwrecks. It was a light walk with our gear to the hotel, Caportigia. The boutique hotel that was once an old warehouse, was now fully refurbished with beautifully restored high ceilings and gorgeous decor. Once checked in – and changed into something a little cooler, we ventured into the new city. The short train trip changed the entire landscape and scenery. The area was a lot more open and flat with lots of sandstone coloured buildings and large paved walkways. We walked down to Ortigia, an island namely the historical centre of Syracuse. The scene was definitely european beachy, with only shorts and singlets in sight. There was also no shortage of cocktails/wine/juice bars.

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_MG_4930After a nice walk, we had a light lunch at the Sunset Bar, consisting of fresh sandwiches. My crusty bread roll was filled with buffalo cheese, speck, tomato and rocket. I finished my lunch off with some fresh strawberries and cream.

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Ortigia was filled with plenty of historical buildings with no sparsity of churches. After choosing a church to enter, I was told to put on a poncho otherwise I was not to enter (hahaha have you seen anything more ridiculous)

 

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I think the water was a little nippy

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After the church fiasco we dove down into some old war caves that ran underneath Ortigia. We wandered through the extensive tunnel system, very easily loosing ourselves in the mysterious place. It was unusually quiet with very little tourists. A relaxing and very interesting way to spend our afternoon.

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underground in the old war tunnels

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After a great day full of sunshine and exploring the beautiful Ortigia, we steered away from the touristy restaurants along the coast of the island, and headed inland to a little seafood restaurant recommended by one of the staff at the hotel, La Lisca. The staff there were friendly and more than happy to help with translating their daily changing menu, dependent upon the product available at the markets nearby. We requested that the kitchen simply send out a couple of favourite starters and staple mains for us to share. It was quite different to what we were expecting and it was exciting trying the unusual foods. At the end of the meal, one of the owners, that had been serving us all night, plonked a bottle of house made limoncello on our table and a couple of glasses for us to enjoy – best limoncello I’ve ever tasted!

italy / day three / taormina

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Ate a balanced breakfast of goji berries and orange jam crostata, then jumped on a bus to Casteloma, a smaller village, higher up the mountain. The bus took about twenty minutes, skilfully manoeuvring the bendy roads. The road came to a dead end in a square, where the bus dropped us off and turned around to make his next leg. It was much quieter once we reached the top. There weren’t as many tourists, and besides a couple motor cycles, there weren’t many vehicles either. The pathways between the old buildings were narrow and the majority of Casteloma seemed to be inside, asleep. This was perfect because we were able to pleasantly explore at our own pace.

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After following some signs to the outskirts of the town, we decided to walk down to Madonna De Rocca, instead of catching the bus. We started on an overgrown path that soon dissolved into suburbia. At first it didn’t seem very far, but we were soon mistaken, and ultimately, very confused about how on earth we were to get there. The homes were scattered all over the hillside and there was no clear path.

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view of Madonna de Rocca (on lower hill to the left)

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crazy trail down the mountain from Casteloma into Taormina
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Casteloma, high up in the mountains

Sweaty and exhausted from climbing stairs and walking on deserted trails, we stopped for a breather and an aperol spritz at a cafe nearby. Once rehydrated we continued a little further on from Madonna de Rocca to a castle that we had seen when we were back in Casteloma. Once at the top, we came to a locked gate (my favourite!), which was soon conquered by the great Pop, Jordan and Lily.

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Once sneaking inside the gates to some of the most spectacular views you have ever seen, we were getting a little peckish for something a little more hardy.  We walked down another ten thousand flight of stairs to the main street of Taormina. We ended up getting a couple pizzas to share at ‘Porta Messina’, after being rudely turned away from ‘Bellini’, for sitting down at a table and asking to share (this was for lunch at a simple cafe, completely empty). We filled our bellies and took a trip to the botanical gardens.

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After all the days we spent admiring the blue waters from above, we took a cable car down to beaches below. The sand was made up of shells and rocks, where Jordan and Pop skipped a couple stones. The place was crazy deserted, but I could see just how busy it would be in summer. After a little scouting and climbing, the sun started to disappear and we headed back up for a nice, last dinner in Taormina.

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the honeymoon comes to an end

A celebratory mimosa, bacon pancakes and black coffee (apparently fried rice for Jordan) went down well as our last breakfast of the honeymoon. You couldn’t keep us out of the water that morning. We absorbed every last bit of Vanuatu, snorkelling, paddle boarding and appreciating this wondrous island.

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On our way out of the resort, we were escorted right to the shuttle bus and seen off by all the staff that were currently on. The bus ride to the airport was quiet. Neither of us wanted to go back home, knowing the biggest time of year awaited us at work and the aftermath of the wedding, and also the stresses of our new house We sat in silence, hand in hand, staring out the window, just wanting to catch a plane to another country, keep on travelling. Unfortunately, time, funds, commitments and responsibilities were slightly more important than wearing nothing but underwear inside a little hotel room as it rains, looking over the Seine river reading a book or snowboarding in Whistler, flask of fireball in hand. It was peaceful though. We watched everyone go about their day to day and got to see some of the towns that we quad biked through, again.

The airport was packed. There were three flights leaving all in the space of two hours. Once we past through security, everyone funnelled into this tiny little departure lounge with a 5mx5m duty free shop, two tacky gift shops and a counter that sold ice cream and alcohol. The rest of the room was filled up with people. Lots and lots of sweaty people frustrated and annoyed that the flights were delayed. We sat on the floor in the corner of the room, as all the seats were taken – the door to the VIP lounge would open every couple minutes, forging a gust of cool air our way, making it bearable. Once we finally boarded our 110 minute delayed flight to Brisbane, we checked our connecting flight to Adelaide. It didn’t look like we were going to make it. Up in the air, everyone had gotten so hungry, including us, that they sold out of basically all their food.

As we were landing, the hosts went through all the connecting flights and ones that were cancelled. We still didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane. Someone was holding a sign with our name on it. As we approached, she proceeded to hand us a bundle of papers including a cab fair card, times for bus shuttles, a $50 food voucher each and our booking sheet for our hotel room – SCORE! The airline had organised us a hotel room to stay in for the night, as we had already missed our flight. When we got to the hotel, we made sure to use the entire $100 on delish takeout from the joint restaurant downstairs and even watched a movie, savouring an extra night of the honeymoon. Pitifully, we had to get up really, really early the next morning as they had placed us on the earliest flight back to Adelaide.

honeymoon day six

Three breakfasts’ for Jordan and one for me, and we’re back on the quad bike. Via the quicker way back to Port Vila, we bypassed ‘Evergreen Cascades Waterfall’ that had been spoken about a lot by some of the locals and people in the Havannah resort.

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It wasn’t cheap to enter the cascades area, but once we got a wristband, it was approximately a twenty minute hike on a guided trail to the top. Luckily we took the reef shoes provided by the resort, as they came in handy when we started crossing the streams.

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The water was crystal clear blue. The sound of the water and immersing ourselves in the dense forest was so peaceful. There weren’t too many people either, which made the trip really relaxing. Jordan was hilarious! He was climbing the rocks up the waterfall and exploring the waters and rocks. It was a really worthwhile trip.

We even got to eat some local fruit – do not ask me what it was because I have no clue! The kid was all the way up in this tall tree. The only reason we saw him was because the other person he was with told him to come down. He climbed down the tree so skill fully with his teeth gritting the bottom of his shirt, which was full of fruit. We said “hi” and he offered us his only ripe fruit and then said goodbye. It was just pure kindness.

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We made one more stop at a coffee shop before returning the quad bike. I had been really enjoying the ‘Tanna Coffee’ back at the resort, so we stopped off at their factory on the way back to Port Vila. Their tables in the cafe were made out of pallets (brings back some memories from the wedding) and the place smelt of rich and bitter aromas. They were also selling art and homemade candles, soaps and moisturisers. One of the guys that worked there was really excited to show us the process and how they make the coffee that they sell, which was really cool. Of course we left with coffee, but nothing to actually prepare it in.

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_MG_3515Unfortunately it was nearing our 24 hour hire and we had to catch the free shuttle back to the resort. We filled up the quad bike – not that we used very much petrol at all, it just needed to be filled up when we returned it. And enjoyed the city driving. Somehow navigating back through Port Vila, we found the hire place and dropped off the quad bike.

Back at the resort, we had a sunset snorkel and then had dinner out on the jetty over the water. After some delicious coconut pumpkin soup and a drop of chardonnay, we came back to the villa to see flower petals scattered all over the room, a bottle of wine and fruit platter. We spent the rest of the night relaxing and talking about the wedding and our amazing honeymoon.

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