In Sicily I saw people walking along the rooftop of La Capella Palatina Arabo-Normann, so of course we had to go.
Intricate detailed facade.
But first we walked around Palermo, went to the open market, ate wild strawberries and sfincione, which is a like a pizza (from Palermo) its name comes from the Latin word spongia or the Arabic sfang which means sweet fritter (yesterday's post has a photo of us eating some...) The food is Sicily was everything I could imagine my Uncle Phil making... his olives, his caponata, cannoli... I thought of my Uncle Phil plenty while in Sicily.
The young lady in the church told us that to go to the roof top, "... you have to climb 204 steep step in a spiral stairwell," then without hesitation she added, "I do not think your mother should do it."
Well ha, that was like saying, "You gotta do it!"
So my Belle Mere did.
We all did.
204 steps plus twenty more on the outside.
Alice and me.
Proud-- the two of them.
And we walked around the dome too.
The view from the top was worth it.
In the holy water font, I put both my hands in and let every prayer I was meant to say, and every person I promised to pray for, and everything single thing I am thankful for pour out.
On our journey we went to Greece and Italy, my Belle Mere, Alice, French Husband and I travelled together for two weeks. We had a wonderful time, the weather was oddly flawless. My Belle Mere, her name is Monique, but I have always called her Bonne Maman, like the French confiture; Well actually her grandchildren called her Bonne Maman, so I did too, and so do our children. Anyway Bonne Maman rarely sat, and when she did I took this photo. She never said no to anything, was gamed for everything, no matter how many stairs or how far away. When we returned to the ship, she would go to the jacuzzi, the sauna and then dance until midnight. Some would say they hope to be like that at her age 86, but I say I hope to be like that now.
Alice was twenty thousand steps ahead of us, of course she is young, so it stands to reason. But considering she was hanging out with us three older folk I was impressed she didn't ditch us.
Alice leaves for her homeland in Australia in February we are going to feel the empty nest feeling again.
When we got off the ship in Volos (Greece) we took a taxi to Meteora. Talk about stunning landscape. Photo-opt central! This is the sort of place you want to drive around, pray for fog or clouds to give depth to your photos, and have the different play of light throughout the day.
If only I had my camera... but I gotta say the cell phone did a good job considering.
"The Meteora, literally "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above" is one of the largest and most important complexes of Greek Orthodox monasteries, second only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, in central Greece.
Caves in the vicinity of Meteora were inhabited continuously between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago. The oldest known example of a man-made structure, a stone wall that blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the Theopetra Cave, was constructed 23,000 years ago, probably as a barrier against cold winds.
In the 9th century AD, ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles; they were the first people to inhabit Meteora since the Neolithic Era. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 1800 feet above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. The hermits led a life of solitude..." Via Wiki
Nowadays there are stairs going to the monasteries, so you do not need to be roped up as before.
Up we went. Bonne Maman in heels with her clutch, "Are you okay?" I asked knowing the answer, but asked anyway, "Oui, oui, oui, just an everyday promenade." She likes to say things in three: "No no no", "Oui oui oui" and her favorite is a tsk sound, "tsk tsk tsk." I wonder if she wrote a blog what she would say about me. THANK GOD she doesn't.
We visited three of the monasteries.
We were told that in the summer the lines are miles long.
Though in January we walked right in. I do not think I would do it in the summer. Crowds are not my thing, nor the heat.
A few stairs here and there and everywhere.
Rather stairs then being roped up.
"I am the official photographer," I teased, "Strike a poise."
Since French Husband's mom lives on the other side of France we only see here a few times a year. This trip was special for Yann as he was able to be with her, for two weeks without work or daily life activities. I figured the least I can do was let them have their moment, and take photos to show you what a tough little cookie she is.
One of my favorite things to do is tell people my Belle Mere's age... Their expression goes into shock, and then they look her up and down, those perfect legs, her wrinkle free face (not fair!) and then they say, "Incredible." I do not say my age, but I have thought to say I am 95 just to have an incredible reaction too.
This is the loading dock where the monks use to haul up and down monks and supplies.
Stairs have my vote, and your vote too if you saw the drop.
On the left side of the photo you can see the rope bag that the monks still use to bring up supplies.
Monastery on a sandstone pillar.
We walked up there!
She stands tall
Most her age cannot.
Some younger than her cannot either.
And since she stopped dying her hair, nobody thinks we are sisters anymore.
You might have thought I was talking about the stone pillar in Greece...
No, I am talking about my Belle Mere.
When we arrived in Greece we knew we would visit ruins, my Belle Mere had heels. I kid you not. Plus a dress and a dress coat. She looked like she was going to church. Don't get me wrong, my Belle Mere is sportive, she has been her entire life. As she said to me when I asked if she wanted to change shoes, "Why, we are not hiking, just a small visit." You see up to about two years ago she hiked 15 miles a week, went to the gym everyday and swam.
Call her the road runner, I am the slug.
So in Greece we walked around the Messini ruins, I would venture ahead, then would wave to French Husband and Belle Mere, as if to say, "Yes come this way." When I saw the temple in the distance I worried if it might be too far, too many steps...
Nevertheless, I waved to come over, and thought they will decide if it is a go or not.
As they walked towards me I stood in utter awe of my Belle Mere, the temple stood, and my Belle Mere was its match.
Up and down these large steps in the arena she went.
The trooper, and French Husband with my purse that had everything we might need, but didn't.
I do not like carrying a purse.
Walking the long way around, or the sensible way around, slippery slope guided by a strong arm.
Note those tiny strong YOUNG looking legs!
So there I was exploring on my own, when all of a sudden French Husband is alongside of me by himself, I looked at him like I was a school kid on a day trip, "Where's your mom? Why are you not with her?" He grabbed me, saying, "Cannot I come and give you a squeeze?" I giggled, as he was giving me a squeeze I saw my Belle Mere in what I can only describe as, the photo of the trip!
I pushed that loving man away, grabbed my cell phone, wishing I had brought my camera on the trip, and prayed that it would at least capture what my eyes were seeing.
I wanted to yell to my Belle Mere, "Stop!" But I knew that would not help, so in the rain I held my cell phone as steady as I could.
My Belle Mere would later ask if she really is hunched over like that photo shows. I told her she looked lovely.
The seasons unfold each beautiful, each with its own rewards...
I have been surrounded by strong women. Seasoned with grace, courage and such admirable beauty.
My Grandmothers, my Aunts, my cousins, my mother, my Godmother, my Mother's friends, Annie and my Belle Mere.
I should be able to take on the world.
Up, up and up and up she went.
If we asked if she wanted to sit or rest, she would say,
"No no no."
and keep on going.
Sometimes I wanted to sit but heck if I was going to look like the wimp.
Whenever I saw a church I went inside and lite candles for Annie.
This particular church had plenty of beautiful icons.
Annie's light shines.
I wanted to dance in that beam.
We walked up and up and up... certainly to the moon and back.
The journey continues tomorrow.