Sean\’s Sicily

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Posts Tagged ‘Palermo

What a crazy few weeks!

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Been a while since I wrote anything in here as it’s been a mad few
weeks. I’ve been in Dublin every week for a few days, working with a
client to deliver a new system for managing the back-office procedures.
Every Sunday, Sonia dropped me off at the airport in Palermo to catch
the 9pm flight to Stanstead, where I would find a quiet niche to get
some sleep in my bag, before waking up at 4am to get through security
while it was still quiet, and then catch some more sleep on a bench
airside, before finding the gate and waiting for the flight.
Once I
got to Dublin, I’d get the bus into town, head into work, get a shower,
shave, and change into the obligatory suit, and head off the the
client’s offices for a full days’ work. At least the client gave me a
voucher to eat in their canteen – man I haven’t had that many roast
dinners in 1 week since leaving EuroConex, where trips to the Silver
Tassie were an almost daily occurrance at times.

Then on
Thursday it was the 9pm flight back to Stanstead, another overnighter,
another early-morning flight, this time back to Palermo, then straight
into work with the inevitable hung-over post-Ryanair feeling.

Fortunately,
as soon at 18:30 rolled around, it was into the car and off to
Marzamemi to relax and recharge!

Anyway, back in Sicily now so here’s hoping everything returns to normal.

Written by seancasaidhe

July 5, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Work

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Jam Biscuits

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Usually when I go into a cafe or bar to get something to eat, I can’t recall the names of the various items on offer. It’s a common problem, I expect. I get by, but a usual conversation might be;

Me: “Two of these please…”
Shop person “What, these sfincione? Anything else?”
Me: “Yes, three of those things..”
Shop person “Cornetti with lemon cream? Ok, anything else?”
Me: “Two of these…”
Shop Person “Grafa with nutella? Is that all?”

so on and so forth. It seems every time I ask for something in any of the myriad sweet things that Sicilians indulge in every day, in any of Palermo’s gazillion bread or sweet shops, it’s got some historically important name and I’m just a stupid foreigner because I don’t know what that name is.

So today I decided to learn something new, and whilst ordering some biscuits with jam on, I asked “Excuse me, but what do you call these?”

And I was met with a blank look; “What, these? You call ’em biscuits with jam!”

I give up.

Written by seancasaidhe

June 5, 2008 at 10:45 am

Images of Thoughts

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For once I’ve something good to write about (a lot of Sicilians complain that I write too negatively abouut Sicily, which isn’t true at all, it’s just the negative things get me worked up more than the positive things!)Images of Thoughts

So here’s to Luigi – one of those genuinely good guys that everyone likes, and a regular at Flickr Palermo meets. Obviously he’s a keen photographer and I can’t count the number of times I’ve bumped into him at various concerts and events, always with his Canon, always with a smile and a keen eye for a good photo.

So when I heard that Luigi is launching a photographic exhibition at the MiKalsa bar, I was keen to get along.

Fortunately Sonia was able to swap shifts at work so at 21:30 we found a decent parking spot nearby and arrived to find Pepe and Rojo digging into some dinner, with the rest inside. Sonia certainly considers it an unmissable event, and I’d have to agree.

He’s titled it “Le Immagine del Pensiero”, which translates sortof to “Thoughtful Images”, which sounds a lot better in Italian than it does in English. Maybe I’m just a bad translator. Luigi has based the exibition on his more recent work, reflecting his recent focus on portraits and character studies of his friends.

All the dozen or images are extremely good – some I’ve previously seen on Flickr but many are premiered at the exhibition. Each photo has a small quote from literature attached, a little “pensiero”. My personal favourite; this.

So get along if you can, and if you can’t, get onto Flickr and leave some comments!

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Written by seancasaidhe

May 21, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Dog Days in Sicily

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The heat arrived with a vengeance today (Friday), with a hot wind blowing in from the south, and the sun burning off any morning clouds long before I woke up. The short walk to work had me sweating, and in the evening Palermitans were walking around groaning “Oh I can’t take this anymore!”

Go goodbye spring, hello summer, let’s all go to the beach and get burnt! At least, that’s what everyone seems to do when it gets hot, and skin cancer rates are shooting up – but jeez, don’t mention that to a Sicilian, they’ll block their ears and run away – not talking about something means it won’t happen, or didn’t happen! They’re good at that here, not talking.

Written by seancasaidhe

May 17, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Sicily

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Congestion Charge – Sicily Style Chapter Two

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This congestion charge really is a comedy of errors; and I’m not alone in thinking so! Most Palermitanis belong to one of two camps, caught between doubt and resignation, those that haven’t paid yet in the hope that it’ll all go away, and those that have paid and forelonely hope that the money makes a bit of difference to the state of Palermo.
To start with, La Repubblica reports that the pass is the most expensive in Italy – exceeding all the ‘expensive’ northern towns where the wages & standard of living are considerably higher than here. The same article also points out that Palermo is seriously lacking in the infrastructure required to successfully implement a congestion charge; Milan has a system of 43 cameras, Rome has 41, whilst Palermo has… um, no-one’s quite sure, actually, but what is certain is that any cretin can find a way to avoid the charge – so it’s only the honest who get screwed.

My complaints the other day about the haphazard implementation are also justified – here in Palermo, the company contracted to sell the passes, TD Group, authorised 34 business to print them (including a Vodafone shop as I’ve previously mentioned, a car-hire place, etc. etc.) and even that was too much, as the site crashed on the first day. In Milan, there’s over 800 places to pay, and online too. Throughout Lombardy it’s possible to pay by calling a hotline. In Rome, one can pay at a bank, print off a form, and get the pass delivered to one’s door! And in Florence, one can even pay at service stations. A real comedy of errors here in Palermo!

The mayor, Cammerata, is backpeddaling furiously, belatedly aware of how unpopular the measure is. Of course, most people will have paid by now, so it’s cold comfort for him to say “Oh it was never meant to be an annual thing, you only have to pay once”.

That’s news to TD Group, who have a 5 year contact with Palermo to sell and administer the passes! They are taking the line “No-one from the mayor’s office has called us yet, so we can’t comment…”

Written by seancasaidhe

May 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

A new purchase – purchased!

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Allora, Sonia and I took a trip down to the Randazzo in Palermo city centre to have a look at cameras. Due to the usual terrible service (the display camera didn’t have a battery and the sales girl didn’t feel like getting one) we took ourselves to another Randazzo where a very helpful guy let me play with the D80. Unfortunately it was another Eur100 more expensive there than in the city centre, so to the city centre we returned and made our purchase.

The new sales girl tried to fob off an 18-70mm lens for a Eur70 discount, but thanks to Ken Rockwell’s excellent site I had already compared that lens with the 18-135mm and firmly turned her down. If she’d been offering a deal with an 18-55mm lens, then I’d be happy to save a few hundred euros, or if they offered the 18-200m VR lens, I would snapped it up for a few hundred more.

And so Sonia and I have spent a few pleasant days snapping shots of Palermo and each other. I think that having a dSLR will make me a lot sloppier and trigger happy. I’ll probably start taking less and less care about light, composition, etc. and just let the camera worry about exposure and f-stop – that’s the diff between paying Eur14 to have 24 shots developed, and being able to knock off 250 shots in an afternoon and pick the ones you like the best!

That said I’ve quickly figured out how to work the Manual, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Program Auto modes. It’s been fun (sometimes) showing Sonia how to judge f-stops and shutter speeds, and being able to immediately contrast shot-A with shot-B on the LCD. Let’s hope we get a lot more fun out of it before the joy pales.

Written by seancasaidhe

August 9, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Sicily

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A new purchase

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Since meeting the a Flickr Palermo group at the Punta di Vista exhibition, it’s come to my mind that my ancient Cosina CT1, fantastic camera and all, is just not up to the standards of todays’ amateur photographer.

So the next step is to find out which dSLR I want to get. Easily solved, in my price range, the Nikon D80. Easy peasy.

Next, the lens. Ah, now there’s the rub!

I have 3 lenses for my Cosina, two 50mm fixed lenses (one of considerably better quality than the other) and a Toshina 80-200mm telephoto lens. The better 50mm lens goes out to f1.4 – this is obviously quite big and takes great landscape and portrait shots. It’s also pretty fantastic indoors, that huge aperture lets in a lot of light.

When I want a better framed shot I’ll turn to the Toshina, which supports f2.8. Not so good for indoors, and the times I’ve forgotten to lug the 50mm to cathedrals or shows, I’ve really regretted it, ‘cos the Toshina takes crap pictures indoors. I have to fiddle a lot with the exposure and speed, and use a tripod, to get usable images.

So here’s the dilemna, the Nikon comes with a Nikkor DX 18-135mm, which is a good camera and all, but at max it’s only f3.5. It’ll still take good pictures, but camera-shake is gonnna be a problem. Is it worth the money to upgrade to, say, the Nikkor DX 18-200mm with Vibration Reduction – by all accounts this is some pretty neat technical trickery to steady the sensor. At almost Eur700 (as opposed to under Eur300 for the 18-135mm) it’s a lot of money to pay for being able to take better low-light shots. 😦

Written by seancasaidhe

August 8, 2007 at 1:12 pm