Strolls in Giardini Naxos
The weather is even better than yesterday. When we close our front door, we meet the cleaning lady. "Gut' Morgen", she says with a smile. I answer: "Buon giorgno" - we are not Germans.
"Oh, parla italiano!" she exclaims with surprise, but before she gets in gear I quickly add that I just speak a bit, and then we exchange pleasantries like yes thanks we're fine and have a nice day and the same to you.
At half past nine we are at supermercato Sigma, which was closed yesterday. Here you do not pay for sea view, and prices are much more reasonable than by the sea front robber. This is where the locals shop.
From the beach promenade follow Via Dalmazia - it is right next to hotel La Sirenetta and just opposite the statue of the 'blue mermaid'. Then the supermarket is to the left in Via Cosarsa.
The selection of vegetables here and in other shops is impressive: 4-5 different kinds of tomatoes, zucchini with fresh flowers, artichokes, different sorts of oranges, giant lemons, strawberries, beans, salads, giant red peppers and much more. Everything is high quality.
(Sigma closed in May 2008. So if you want to shop in something bigger than a minimarket, you must go to the outskirts - e.g. in Via Porticato.)
We carry the loot back home and go for a walk along the sea front, way past the church with the pen tower. The weather is brilliant with a clear blue sky, and the men who are repairing houses sweat profusely. Many houses in Giardini do need a caring hand. Most of the locals live here, but I guess the houses facing the sea are restored for tourist purposes.
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Almost every house has a balcony with pots and flowers and many use it for drying laundry.
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There is a lot of traffic on the beach road and also on Corso Umberto I, the parallel street behind.
What do all these people do here on a Thursday morning? Where do they come from? Where are they going? Don't they have work to do? - Like the greengrocers driving in their shops.
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In Corso Umberto you find the small shops that cater for the locals' special needs, but there is hardly any wind here and the smog is dense.
We are hot after the stroll and drop into Café Chantal. It is good to relax in the shade. My cornetto is very hot and I almost burn my tongue when it reaches the apricot marmalade inside. Pappa with a greyish yellow moustache tends the cash register.
He wears a cardigan and obviously is not warm. Even when we think it is quite hot, many Sicilians (old people in particular) wear a sweater or a jacket. I pay and we exchange polite arrividercies, and then it is home for siesta. On a balcony nearby a rooster crows energetically and often, but back in the room the sound of the surf is louder.
After the siesta we visit an Internet café close to the hotel. It is 2.5 € for half an hour, but before we can access a PC I must prove my identity and get registered. I have a photocopy of my passport, which is copied once more, and the lady fills out a formula.
There is so much information that one should think I was trying to get political asylum. I have never experienced so much control before - neither in Florence nor Rome, but maybe it is a new law against mafiosi, terrorists, paedophiles and other rascals.
The old lady gives us a tip
On the promenade we meet our neighbour, the old lady who could not unlock her door yesterday. She and the stick are having a sunny rest on the low wall above the beach. We say hello, and she asks if we are Danish. Obviously she does not recognize us.
I sit down on the wall and we have a chat. She has come here for many years and loves the place. At first she went with her husband, who was always ill and in bed when on holiday, and after he died she travelled with a friend. "But now they are all dead. Everybody is dead", she says sadly and taps the stick against the pavement. She asks if we have found a nice place to eat and recommends a taverna nearby.
Taverna Naxos da Angelo
At eight Helle's tape-worm gets impatient, so we go to Taverna Naxos da Angelo, recommended by the old lady.
She is actually there with half a pizza as we enter. We get a table a few steps down close to the kitchen. The menu is in Italian only, which we find sympathetic. It takes us a while to realise that they do in fact have a menu in English.
Helle orders spaghetti con ragu and grilled tuna. I order minestrone and a grilled controfilletto, whatever that may be. As contorni we order mixed salad and French fries. Helle agrees with red wine for her tuna, and I order one of the more expensive (11 €) bottled wines; a Corvo D.O.C. Local wine in a carafe is significantly cheaper.
The waiter frowns deeply as if scribbling our order requires deep concentration. He does not waste any charm, but is very correct. I'll bet he is a son of the house, because there is a younger clone over by the pizza oven, and for no reason at all we name them Quasi and Modo. They must take after their mother, because Angelo seems to be a bright guy and does not look like them. Angelo is kind and all smiles. On the walls are professional and beautiful photos from the region, and you can hear noise and activity from the kitchen.
The minestrone is formidable with the smell and aroma of freshly made soup. It is the best I have ever had. Helle's spaghetti is perfectly cooked and the ragu is concentrated flavour. The guests are tourists and locals. A family has brought an accordion, which is played by a young man with a pointed beard and wild hair. An uncle (or whatever) plays a tambourine. They play well and there is no begging during the breaks.
I get my grilled filletto and Helle her tuna, tender and tasty. The young man is still playing, and our old neighbour gets a helping hand down the stairs to get closer to the music. She parks her stick and dances slowly with a girl, who must be the musician's sister or girlfriend.
Tamils sell long-stemmed roses in Giardini Naxos too, and the old lady buys one. She has got no less than 20 € and gets it on credit. After a while another flower-seller turns up. The old lady doubles her collection, and this time Angelo pays before the man gets unpleasant.
The old lady and I go out for a smoke. The waiter puts a chair on the pavement for Madame. After a while of silent smoking she says that the accordion player is a sympathetic young man. I reply that the girl with whom she danced seems quite sweet too. "Oh, was it the girl I danced with?", she asks and confirms my suspicion about her short-term memory. She carefully lets her cigarette burn down to the filter and then puts the butt into a small tin with a lid and explains that she likes clean pavements. The Tamil who gave her credit walks by and hopefully asks if she is my mother. Being an honest person I have to disappoint him.
We get ice cream for dessert. There is nothing like Italian ice! Helle gets tartufo (truffel) and I settle for strawberry because Macedonia is finito. By now we, the Italian family and a single man are the only guests left. We finish off with coffee, almond wine and grappa while the lone gentleman, who looks like Omar Sharif, sings sentimental Italian songs. As a goodbye drink Angelo offers a glass of some homemade wine; it is dark and sweet and smells of almonds and raisins.
We had better escort the old lady. I ask Angelo if her bill is settled. He confirms and tells me that she is a regular. Then he asks if we stay at Pamar too. If not he would probably have arranged an escort. On the way home the old lady clings to my arm and the stick to Helle's.
There is no wind now and wearing jackets we sit on the balcony for a while. The night is pitch black with stars. In the bay there is a dinghy with a powerful flashlight. They must be fishing.