Monday, July 29, 2019


Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro, California, Historic Site and Museum
Like a well-dressed Victorian lady, the Point Fermin Lighthouse stands proudly on a bluff above San Pedro Bay in Southern California. Built in 1874, its light guided ships on their way into the busy harbor of Los Angeles for the next sixty-seven years. Then, on December 6, 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the light went dark, never to be lit again.
Guided  tours of the lighthouse are available in the afternoon, Tuesday through Sunday
Today, now restored and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is open to visitors who come to learn what it was like when lighthouse families lived in the house and operated the light at the top of the narrow stairs that lead to the lantern room in the lighthouse tower.
A fourth order Fresnel lens like this one shone from the lighthouse tower (photo from postcard)
On a recent Saturday afternoon I visited the Point Fermin Lighthouse and took the guided tour. Tours are free, but limited to nine people–due to the steep narrow stairs and the limited space at the top.
Narrow stairway to the top of the lighthouse
We met the docent who was our tour leader in the office/gift shop (the former barn and carriage house) where I bought post cards and a book about the lighthouse’s history. (No photos are allowed inside the house.) We then proceeded through the beautiful flower garden to the house entrance.
View of the lighthouse kitchen with period furnishings (from postcard)
Rooms are furnished with items typical of the late nineteenth century–a coal burning stove, ice chest for refrigeration, beds covered with patchwork quilts and with frames strung with ropes to support the mattress. Keepers of the lighthouse included several families, the last being that of William Austin, who came to the lighthouse in 1917 with his wife and eight children.
View toward Palos Verdes and the Point Vicente Lighthouse from the Point Fermin lighthouse tower
In the early days of the lighthouse, there was no greenery–just a bleak expanse of dry land. Rainwater was collected during the winter and stored in cisterns. The first keepers of the lighthouse, sisters Mary and Ella Smith, had to go to San Pedro, the nearest town five miles away,  by horse and buggy to get supplies, Today, the lighthouse sits in Point Fermin Park, a popular picnic area filled with trees and grassy lawns and the city of San Pedro has expanded to the neighboring streets. A visit to the the Point Fermin lighthouse is a fascinating glimpse of California history and the unique life of the families that lived there.
Point Fermin Lighthouse Historic Site and Museum
807 W. Paseo Del Mar
San Pedro, CA 90731

For information about visiting the Point Fermin Lighthouse, click HERE.
Book by Henrietta Mosley about the keepers of the Point Fermin lighthouse and their families.

Monday, July 22, 2019

From PIZZA to PASTA and APPETIZERS to PASTRIES: Eating in Sicily

All the basic ingredients of a Sicilian meal can be found at the open-air market--tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, and more--all fresh from the grower
One of the joys of traveling in Italy is the seemingly endless choice of delicious foods, and our recent trip to Sicily was no exception. From breakfasts of fresh bread and coffee and more, to lunches at street cafes or buying sandwich ingredients at a local shop, to dinners at trattorias and fancier restaurants, the hardest decision was limiting ourselves to just a few items on the menu. (Servings tend to be very generous and I often had trouble finishing my meal.)
Olives, artichokes and other appetizers at a market in Catania
We enjoyed browsing at the open-air markets in Palermo and Catania, where one could buy everything from olives and octopus to cherries (which were in season) and three-foot long zucchini squashes.
At this stand in the Ballaro market in Palermo one could buy whole cooked octopus (polpo) or plates of marinated chunks of octopus ready-to-eat.
Cookies and sweets made with almonds and almond paste are a typical dessert.
Here are just a few samples of typical Sicilian foods and a list of the restaurants where we ate. 
In both Palermo and Catania, we relied on our BandB hosts to recommend restaurants, and were not disappointed. Note: While many Italians do not eat dinner until 8 or 9 o’clock, we were often hungry earlier and tended to be the first customers when restaurants opened for dinner at 7:30. Our trip in late May was before the busiest tourist season so we almost never had trouble getting a table, even without a reservation. Here's a list of where we ate:
 Ferro di Cavallo restaurant in Palermo. (Ferro di Cavallo means "horseshoe".)
Palermo restaurants:
Quattro Mani: Quiet and upscale. A good choice to celebrate our first night in Palermo.
Ciccio Passami l'Olio: Pizza restaurant. Extremely popular on weekend nights and impossible to get a reservation for a table at the last minute. We ordered takeout and ate it as a picnic in a local park.
La Cambusa: A popular tourist restaurant with typical Sicilian food and an English menu.
Ferro di Cavallo: Classic Sicilian food. We had soup for lunch there, sitting on the patio.

Busiati pasta, a curlicue pasta made from hard durum wheat, is the typical pasta in Erice and Trapani.
Erice restaurants:
Monte San Giuliano: Typical Sicilian food, including interesting appetizers (a favorite of mine was the octopus). We ate there twice.
Venus: This restaurant is advertised all over town and was the site of the conference dinner at which we were served the typical courses of an Italian dinner: appetizers, Primi Piatti (pasta), Secundi Piatti (fish or meat), and dessert. All were excellent.
Pear and prosciutto salad and caponata appetizer at La Deliciosa in Catania
Catania restaurants:
La Deliciosa: a small trattoria that was conveniently close to our BandB on Via Crociferi. The food was delicious–just like the name–and we ate there three of our five nights in Catania.
Trattoria Casalinga: this small restaurant, about a five minute walk from our BandB, featured an appetizer bar with more than a dozen items, which could easily become a whole meal. We ate there twice–once ordering from the menu and one doing just appetizers.

Monday, July 15, 2019

FIVE DAYS IN ROME, Part 2: Guest Post by Paige Arnold

Bike riding on the Appian Way, Rome, Italy
My granddaughter Paige (age 13) and her parents recently went on a trip to Rome, and while she was there Paige kept a diary of their activities. Paige is a competitive swimmer, so although she was on vacation, she tried to fit in practice when she could. I thank her for sharing her thoughts and photos of the trip with The Intrepid Tourist. 

On our third day in Rome we went to the Borghese Gallery, but since we had tickets to go at 3:00, we decided to go to another museum first. It was a museum of musical instruments, which had many pianos and harps and such from a long, long time ago.
Harpsichord at the National Museum of Musical Instruments, Rome.
I really liked how the pianos and organs had paintings and art on the covers--it just made them that much prettier.  After that we went home for about ten minutes and then walked to the Borghese museum.  
Ceiling paintings in one of the twenty rooms of the Borghese Gallery.
At the Borghese Gallery, there were many beautiful statues and paintings and lots of rooms to wander through and look at things.   

Stone sculpture of person carrying a lion pelt (Borghese Gallery)
There was an app you could download to experience an audio tour that guided you through the rooms, which gave you a detailed explanation of the important pieces.  Since lots of people were using the audio tour, it was very quiet for those who didn’t, which was nice. 
Villa Borghese Park
There was also a park behind the museum with statues and trees, and we found that walking through it was very enjoyable.  For lunch, we had gotten sandwiches before, so when we got home we just ate those.  The sandwich place we went to was a “make your own” place, but it was a bit difficult since we didn’t know Italian.  They cut the meat right in front of us with one of those sharp spinning metal wheels, which was fascinating to watch.  After eating lunch, we relaxed for a while then went out to dinner at the same place that we had gone to the first day.  

The fourth day, I was in charge.  Early in the morning (at least early for me), my dad and I went out to the park near our house for me to draw and for him to take pictures of the Colosseum.  We spent about thirty minutes there, and then headed back to get ready to go out for a swim.  This time, we knew exactly which place we were going to and exactly how to get there.  We arrived, I swam for a bit, and then we went home.  I wanted a bit of a relaxing day, so we spent the rest of our day in the apartment, and ate a measly dinner that we managed to put together from the ingredients already in the kitchen.   
Bike riding past ancient ruins on the Appian Way
The last day, we woke up late and went on a bike ride on the Appia Antica road, which is the ancient road that connected Rome to Brindisi (also known as the Appian Way.)  It was a very bumpy ride, since the road was paved with cobblestone. On the way back, we stopped at a little restaurant off the side of the road, where the waiter was very kind and talked to us in English about how he used to live in California around where we live. He showed us a book he was mentioned in, and told us lots of stories about the author. In all, the trip was very interesting and it taught me how different Rome is from the U.S.
(Additional photos by Matt Arnold.)
Paige at the Vatican

Monday, July 8, 2019

FIVE DAYS IN ROME, Part 1: Guest Post by Paige Arnold

Colosseum, Rome, Italy
My granddaughter Paige (age 13) and her parents recently went on a trip to Rome, and while she was there Paige kept a diary of their activities. Paige is a competitive swimmer, so although she was on vacation, she tried to fit in practice when she could. I thank her for sharing her thoughts and photos of the trip with The Intrepid Tourist.

During my spring break, my family decided that we would take a week-long vacation in Rome.  We stayed in an Airbnb right in the center of the old city, where tourists were abundant. 
Monument to Vittorio Emmanuel II, with statue of Goddess Victoria riding on a quadriga
On the first day, my dad and I wanted to find a place to swim.  I was going to be missing a full week of swim practice at home, so we had to find somewhere so that I could keep myself in shape.  We were originally going to swim at the Olympic pool, which was relatively far away, so we had to take the subway, then walk around 14 blocks from the station.  It ended up that the pool was only for people age18 and up, so we crossed the river in search of someplace else.  We tried another place, but it was for members only, so we retraced our steps in hope of finding yet another option.  We then happened across a little place with a pool under a big tent where we could pay to swim, and swam there for about an hour. 
The Colosseum was completed in 80 A.D. It is the largest amphitheater ever built.
After that we returned home and rested for a bit before going out to see the Colosseum from the outside.  
One of the many cats that live near the Colosseum.
Our Airbnb was about a two-minute walk from the Colosseum, so we walked through a nice little park and got there quickly.  We looked around a bit, then decided to go eat dinner at Ristorante Pizzeria da Michele, a place which was very nice and where the waiter was very patient and helpful. 
Entrance to the Vatican Museum.
The second day, we went to the Vatican.  We went on a 2 ½ hour walking tour which showed us the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.  The whole thing was very crowded, but it’s what you’d expect from one of the most visited attractions in Rome.
Statue of Boy and Duck with grapes inside Vatican Museum.
The paintings on the Sistine Ceiling and walls were beautiful, which is amazing since the artist who painted them, Michelangelo, wasn’t even a painter.  He was a sculptor. (No photography is allowed in the Sistine Chapel.) 
Statue of a face in the hallway leading to the Sistine Chapel
After gazing at the art in the Sistine Chapel for fifteen minutes, we walked right next door to St. Peter’s Basilica.  
There were many, many statues and the tour guide (who spoke fluent English as well as Italian) told us stories about some of the individual pieces, such as “La Pieta”.  Afterward, we went outside to the balcony and looked at the courtyard below. There were lots of nice decorations around, because Easter was coming up and the Pope was to come. 
In St. Peter's Basilica
Then we went to have lunch at a little pizzeria not too far away, which I thought was great.  Something that surprised me was how thin the crust was. It was like pizza toppings on top of a tortilla!  The thinness of the crust made the pizza even better, because since it was so thin you could eat the whole thing and not feel sick. After that, we walked for a while and took a bus back to the apartment. The buses in Rome, or at least some of them are very crowded. The upside of that is that when everyone is packed into the bus like sardines into a can, then you don’t have to hold on to anything, since there’s nowhere to fall. 
(The last two photos are by Matt Arnold. Part 2 will post next week.) 
Street scene near our apartment