Hello from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


Lost, but found: passport – thank you, Matthew, for running back with it.

Long,  but worth it: the Dubai – Chennai leg of today’s trip,  which included being bumped to Business class: Veuve Cliquot for breakfast and a massage chair that stretched out into a bed.

I’m  in Mamallapuram, a sort of Indian Capitola-Tahoe City-Grand Marais (when it’s hot). Or, “…like the coast of Florida, only with more elephants.”

It’s on the Bay of Bengal, and  best-known for the stone statues,  still done (with electric “knives & chisels,” I noticed), and for its 5th-7thc. temples on the beach.  I walked out to visit the Shore Temples, which Elizabeth and I had seen a few years ago, but not entered.

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I was there with hordes of schoolgirls – those matching uniforms – and families in electric orange.

My driver, who decided to walk there with me,  said all  the orange was for the lotus. Somebody else said it was to show they were a family; still another person said… you get my drift: I’m back in India!


Consequently, the assault to the senses has begun: this hotel is on the main street, and horns replace turn signals outside the window of my 2nd floor room. The hotel seems full of agents and porters tripping wonderfully over themselves to help people like  Maggie Smith and Judy Dench.  DO TAKE 3 MINUTES to watch that clip, because it is iconic of  the colors, the dust, the energy of India: it [all] teaches me something.

So, a few photos in this  note from my hotel room,  where the a.c. is   going [more or less] strong, and where the Internet is doing similarly valiant, if spotty service.

As I was finishing this post, I looked up to see a 3-inch flying…?bee?beetle?…landing on a light fixture.  Those of you who know me, know I do not do flying or scurrying critters. One of the men from downstairs helped me. Full disclosure: I stood 10 feet away, calling out, “What are you going to do?  Where will it go? Shall I open the door?” The man wisely ignored me, swatted the thing onto the floor and out the door (bare-handed), and now I’m going in search of some re-vivifying seafood.

It’s good to be back.


I expect to be somewhere else in a few weeks,but for now it’s great to be in the Twin Cities, which even HuffPost recognizes as amazing.

And look how these Cronin boys love the leaves —

Ceci’s Day

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Most elegant sun in months, and it appeared for Cecilia’s First Communion

Processional (that’s Kieran cheering as he recognizes his sister)

My bags are packed…

I loved calling Cianciana My Home for awhile:

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Certo, la vita è bella a Cianciana

Odysseus, The Cyclops, Aeneas (& Anchises): All Present & Accounted for, and…What’s THAT???

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We turned right along  the Straits of Messina and kept driving until we saw it, the volcano which,  even in the past week,  has been playfully erupting.

From Taormina -- Mt Etna

From Taormina — Mt Etna

We’ve now been two days in Catania, with better sightings of Mt. Etna, better photo ops than ever, yet I haven’t bothered. I should begin with full disclosure: I am a sucker for mountains. Anyhow, a couple days ago,  as we started the short walk up to chic, bustling Taormina,  I saw  the great, to me mystical, mountain for the first time (outside of the car ride, when Etna was something of a moving target).It  was  like seeing the Taj Mahal – those first views erase the cliché and etch the thing itself in the cerebrum, forever. No longer any need for pictures.

And Catania? It seems to be a grimier version of Palermo, and I mean that in the nicest way.

First, there were the Breakfast surprises:

Then, ah! a market to rival any I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something

LOST in Sicily

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Today was to have been  a 3-hr, 300 km drive.  About 80 km into the missed the A19 exit, I mentioned that I thought we were off course.


A few hours, several mountains, many  tunnels, and a long series  of adventures later, I tossed aside Lonely Planet  and Rough  Guide. 

Our Fiat is small, but the streets of Western Sicily are narrow. Result: large scratch. Today, we waited the 30 minutes requ

Our Fiat is narrow, but the streets of Western Sicily are narrower.  Result: large scratch. Today,  Guido reduced the scratch to niente.

View from the hotel in Brolo

View from “Sea Palace Gattopardo,” Brolo

We asked a delightful  Brolo native   if he could help us  find a hotel, and now  here we are, about 150km away from our day’s intended destination, but in  A Room with a View – and WHAT A VIEW

PILGRIMAGE to an Ancient Windy City

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“OH, NO, Signora, we never run the gondola if it is too windy. Today is wind [sic], but we will run it for you.”

Gondola, on the 750m trip up to Erice

Gondola, on the 750m trip up to Erice. Remember to double-click on this photo, so you can count all the other people who made the trip up and down the mountain with us today. Hint: it’s less than one.

As our gondola climbed the mountain, I pretended to agree with the chipper Peggy Schmidt, as she    peered around at all the other – EMPTY – gondolas and crowed,  “See? If it were a sunny day, you know we’d be fighting the crowds.”
The  city, even shrouded in mist today,  really is spectacular, and its denizens? Lovely.

Erice was founded by a people claiming descent from the Trojans. What remains today is mostly medieval – walled city, narrow streets.

The art of the cell phone

The art of the cell phone

At the end of our visit this afternoon, we visited Sicily’s finest pasticceria, “Maria Grammatico,” where I ran into Maria herself coming out of the kitchen. She was clearly flattered that I recognized her, b/c she smiled [long-sufferingly?] and took my hand.


Maria Grammatico’s

In case anybody  wondered, it's still within the Octave of Easter

In case anybody wondered, it’s still within the Octave of Easter


On the Road: Palermo ––>Trapani

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IMG_2844   trapani
Arriving here, we drove along the Tyrrhenian, and to get our bearings in the city, we walked along the Mediterranean. Trapani’s rich history (Virgil’s Anchises, father of Aeneas!) was the initial draw,  and the people and views are keeping us a couple more days.


I love that , since Easter,  crucifixes in/over the main altars have all been replaced by statues like this one in Trapani's S.Antonio de Paolo. BTW, I''m quite certain that's CRYSTAL behind San Salvatore!

I love that , since Easter, crucifixes in/over  so many main altars have  been replaced by statues like this one in Trapani’s S.Francesco di Paolo. BTW, I”m quite certain that’s CRYSTAL behind San Salvatore!


Good Friday

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I’d seen photos and a short video Elizabeth had taken of Good Friday in Cianciana: stark, passionate, foreign,  familiar — it encapsulated & encompassed all those contradictions. It still does.

At first, it was just great fun. Outside the town’s biggest market, I finally saw the drummer I’d been hearing for a couple weeks. A few locals started lining  up, and cars (and the recycling truck) rushed to get down Corso Vittorio Emanuale  before everything began in earnest.

I followed the soldiers down to the clocktower, but they disappeared, so I ran back to the piazza, arriving  just in time for the “Jesus or Barabbas” scene (below). The townspeople, some in costume, many not, began to get into it, and so did I,  as an Observer, although here is the truth: by the time Pilate got his answer  from the crowd that third time, I was starting to feel like a guilty bystander.

Later, from the 3rd-floor terrace of Daffodils (“Best seat in town!”),  I looked down on robed  townspeople  (singing a Lamentation), Roman soldiers, 2 thieves, and Jesus.

Gésu carrying his Cross up

Jesus carrying his Cross up the stairs, headed towards  Monte Calvario

The two prisoners, following Jesus up to Calvario.

The two other prisoners, following Jesus up to Monte Calvario.


Once up the stairs, it was just a matter of navigating the streets leading to up (way up) to Calvario.

There were moments of comic relief. In one, costumed kids who had been standing around for 30 minutes nearly missed their cue.

Kids, just in time.

Kids, just in time.

Safe, con il papa

Safe, con papa

At the top, we stood and watched, something I don’t have 1,000 words to describe, so will yield again to pictures (that’s Gaetano from Bar S. Antonio)

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Holy Thursday

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Holy Thursday morning,  I went to Savarino’s to recharge my  Internet chiavetta and found  Nino Savarino working on his choreography for the Solemn High Mass .

Studying choreography for Holy Thursday's Solemn HIgh Mass.

Studying choreography for Holy Thursday’s Solemn HIgh Mass.

 Later that day,  as I was sitting in the Chiesa Madre,  I counted  just 10 apostles, and then Father came up  to the woman next to me and whispered,   “We need two more boys…” She left, presumably drafting the two young men I saw 5 minutes later,  running toward  the altar carrying  apostle robes.

Processing up the aisle in this video: Nino holding the missal,   the priest wearing  his Thomas Merton wool cap .

Below the video: Leaving church last  night, I ran into the crew setting up a stage for “The Condemnation of Jesus ” station of the Good Friday experience here.  As I’m writing this, I’m just in from walking the 2.5-hr “Sacra Rappresentazione Vivente,”  and still trying to wrap my head around the experience, uncertain how one  writes  about such an amazing assault on the senses.



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