Monday, March 31, 2014

I will never take Autozone for granted ever again!!

Driving home from work (and the NEX and the commissary) last week the clutch went out on my faithful old Jeep. So I hobbled back down the hill and left him at the Autoport and there he has sat since. Something you barely think about when moving overseas are all the support functions that will be unavailable. I haven't gotten a pedicure since January, I can't find my shade of CC cream, they don't sell yoga mats at the NEX, and now my car is considered "foreign" and if something breaks I have to order it from the states. 

Thankfully my XO was back in the states and was able to expedite the process of receiving parts, they arrived today, but it was still a pain in the butt. Partly because I couldn't use my credit card to order the parts online and have him pick them up in the store. Why you ask? Because my billing address is an FPO and Pep Boys doesn't support that because they "don't ship overseas." I about lost my bananas on the lady who told me that on the phone. APO/FPO addresses are American addresses, but not even writing a strongly worded email to their customer support seems to have made a difference. Did you know that Pep Boys was founded by three Navy buddies? They should definitely support troops overseas… but they don't and from the polite-ish email I got back, they don't intend to. 

Regardless, the car should be fixed tomorrow and I'm so grateful. Being sans transportation has really clipped my wings. I've been lucky enough to have friends drive me to and from work, but I'm completely dependent on their schedules and am pretty much stuck at home once I'm there. Not that I go out every night or anything, but it would be nice to have the option of going out. 

If all things go as planned I will be back on my own wheels tomorrow. 

**UPDATE** Yeah that didn't happen. My parts were delayed 4 more days because of weather. I finally caved and rented this little number. 

It worked well enough and now my car is fixed and shifting better than ever!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


 This weekend one of my new Italy friends talked me into doing an ITT trip to Naro, out near Agrigento (which will probably be a trip in the very near future). The four hour long round trip with tons of screaming kids aside, it was such a fun day. I am constantly amazed at the sheer beauty of the landscape and architecture here. And also at the history. I kept observing how much farther back history goes here. I've seen damn near every Civil War battlefield and where the Declaration of Independence was signed, but that's child's play compared to the battles waged and ages past here. 

The city of Naro started in the Middle Ages and has a long history of changing hands and the castle that sits at it's highest point is a pretty good indication of that. Naro apparently means "flame" in Arabic, named for the flame that burned atop the fortress/castle long ago. The Arabs ruled here for a time, then the pope wanted the area so he sent the Chiaramonte family from France to take over and they ruled for a while. After that the castle became a prison, up until the 1960's in fact. Despite that the structure is amazingly well preserved and now houses a small museum. 

Inside the castle walls I was enchanted by this tree.

A fresco remaining from when the price used this area for prayer and meditation. And this personal chapel was right next to the tiny cubby hole he used to torture people into confessing. Makes sense. 

The names inscribed in the stone by prisoners still remains. 

Some even carved out handholds. 

The city's first duomo (Catholic church) which has sadly fallen into disrepair, but they are slowly refurbishing it. 

Madonna watching over the city, and making sure they get NFL Sunday Ticket apparently. 

After touring the castle and hearing about it's storied past we went through the town and toured two churches. 

These gargoyle-ish heads are said to represent the sculptor's four ugly daughters. 

I could barely walk through this city without wanting to stop and take pictures of the ancient buildings and their wonderful displays of stonework and master craftsmanship. 

The outside of the first church, Chiesa Santa Caterina D'Alessandria. The inside was simple, all the walls were once covered in frescoes, but some depicted naked women so one of the priests had them mostly taken down. 

I never caught the name of the second church, but it was impressive, and purposely built in the Baroque style to evoke awe and reverence. 

An beautifully carved marble basin for the priest to wash his hands before services. 

After the city tour we drove about 15 minutes outside the city for lunch at an "agriturismo." It's basically a restaurant on a farm. They cook the food (plants and animals) they grow and serve a fixed menu. Everything was fantastic!

A view of Naro from afar. 

The agriturismo was so adorable. I really loved this decorative wall. I've been impressed so far with Italy having the key to my heart. 

Monday, March 24, 2014


Last weekend one of my new friends hit me up and asked if I wanted to drive up to Taormina. My answer… "OF COURSE! ADVENTURE!!" It took us a little over an hour to drive up there and pretty much the whole drive was beautiful vistas and adorable seaside towns. Then we started doing switchbacks up the mountain to get to the parking structure that would take us to the elevator that deposited us just outside the town. 

Take a tour with me by photo of this majestic ancient city.

I took this from the first town square we came across. 

Apparently it is 600 steps up to the next town, we did not venture up that far this time. 

Because of it's amazing positioning this town changed hands many times and you can see Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Norman influence in the architecture. 

This place has steps everywhere and the streets are tiny, I think we only saw two cars driving the whole time we were there. 

Got in this picture twice. Fun with iPhones!

The Greek Amphitheater. Just amazing. 

So the Greeks, known for building structures for perfect acoustics actually built this one imperfectly so it could have a view of the volcano. 

How crazy cool is this place?!?!

Amazing Sicilian meal, just had to take a picture. 

This was a great little trip and I really look forward to going back sometime and wearing my climbing shoes to conquer the steps.