|(written by Lois)
We were all up at 3:15 to meet our driver 1/2 hour later, and then were dropped off at the Naples airport. Security was kind of slow, but at least we still had plenty of time to hang out by the gate area for our 6:40 plane. They even had couches in the waiting area, so we managed to nap a bit, since the plane was only about 1/3 full. The 30 minute flight took off just at dawn, and I managed to get in a small nap as we flew over the water of the Tyrrhenian Sea. All four of us were running a bit low on Euros, but the currency exchange was not yet open when we arrived. We didn't think it would be that much of a problem, but our cab driver insisted on cash for the 60 Euro ride from the airport. We have to pay the same amount tomorrow when we return to meet our hiking group there.
Our lodging here in Palermo, Sicily is at the Porta Felice Hotel, which is quite nice. Even though the normal check-in time is 2 PM, they gave us our rooms before 9 AM. That was MUCH appreciated, since we were all so tired. John & I were upgraded to a huge suite, so there is lots of room, but not much light. Our view is of an alley, but we were spoiled in Napoli. Everything works.
I was a bit wound up, so while the others napped, I went searching for a place to exchange money. The receptionist told me to go to the post office, which was only a few hundred yards away. Apparently, Italian post offices handle all sorts of official transactions, like paying bills, cashing paychecks, and, I imagine, actually mailing something off. None of the signs were in English, but I did figure out that I needed to take a number from an automatic kiosk, and wait my turn. I was #66,and they were serving #22. After 10 minutes, they were up to #25. So I went for a walk around the block, and found that only a couple more numbers were now being helped. I returned to the hotel, discovered that my room key card didn't work, and went back to the lobby to get a new one. John was fast asleep. I grabbed some reading material, and headed back to the P.O. At that point, they were already up to the 50s, so I waited my turn, and fortunately, got an employee who knew a tiny bit of English. He explained that he could not convert dollars to Euros, but told me that I would be able to do so at the main PO, about a 20 minute walk away. I had a map with me, so he circled the location on my map, and made sure I was pointed in the right direction.
By this time, it was almost 11 AM, so I went back to the hotel, and roused everyone up so we could all head out together. Palermo is easier to navigate than the other cities we have been in, so we found our way with no problem. We passed an ATM, which accepted Jocelyn's card, but our card and Milda's were rejected with a message that said "failure to link". Who knew that Cirrus wouldn't be accepted everywhere? On to the main PO, which is enormous. There were 3 different types of numbers that you could get from the kiosk there; we each took two of them. We got served after only ten minutes or so, but that type of number was apparently not the one we needed.
There were still about 80 numbers to go, so Jocelyn and I left to scout out a place for lunch. Meanwhile, Milda noticed an ATM in one corner of the PO, so she tried it out and it worked for her! Ours didn't. So she did a second transaction for John, and they met us with money in hand, bragging that they had figured out how to use the "Bank of Milda" to solve our problem. After all of this, I have a feeling that we won't need much more cash for the remainder of this trip. On previous Road Scholar tours, I never took out my wallet, since everything is included, and there is no tipping.
After lunch, we headed for the Opera House (there are several here), then wandered around the town, finally returning to the hotel, where I was able to catch up on my sleep. It's not as crowded here, which makes it more pleasant. Still lots of street performers, and my favorite sight was seeing a school field trip of 6 year olds having a sack race in a park just south of our hotel.