In Palermo - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

March 28, 2019

In Palermo

We enjoy a simple but satisfying breakfast (yoghurt, fruit, croissants, home made apple pear cake) and then embark on the main mission of the day - to find a cure for my ailing Bike Friday.  Luckily for us since my bike is totally unridable, we don’t have to go far on our quest.  Only about four blocks from home is the Bicycle Street, Via Divisi.  It’s the recognized local name for the street (there’s even a Bicycle Street B&B there) and aply named, as the narrow alley-width lane has at least five small bike shops in its short one block length.  

The shops all look similar - a garage-sized storefront full of used bikes of all kinds, bikes for sale protruding into the alley, a bike stand, a bench covered with tools, and bike paraphernalia draped from every vertical surface and hanging from the ceiling.  Everyone looks like they’ve been schooled by first hand experience and learning from their neighbor - no certified Shimano mechanics in this crowd, I’m sure.

With no better information to go on, we pick the obvious choice - the one with a cute cat tethered to the workbench, one that reminds us of a dear old friend of ours.   We make the right choice fortunately, and the proprietor is undaunted by the the looks of my derailleur.  We flip the bike up on his rack, and faster than I can see what he’s done he has it straightened and is at work readjusting the gears.  Five minutes later he drops it to the ground and pantomimes for me to take a test ride.  It works great!

Now it’s Rachael’s turn, because her gears need adjustment too.  But actually it’s not her turn, because while I’m out for a spin another biker wheels up and needs a pair of newer tires. There’s some discussion about what’s available, and the owner pulls down the one they agree on and installs it.  He’s just got one though, so he then walks down the street a ways to a neighboring bike shop and returns Soon after, tire in hand.

With that out of the way, he quickly does a job on Rachael’s bike, charges us 8 euros total (I give him 10, big tipper that I am), and we bike back home not quite believing our luck.

On Via Divisi, also known as the Bicycle Street. There are five little bike shops tucked into garages on this block. It’s a very narrow street, and the bikes on display make it even narrower - it leaves cars with just about a six inch clearance.
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We picked this shop because of the cat, and after pantomiming the problem the mechanic got right on it. A realignment and adjustment to my bent derailleur and an adjustment to Rachael’s gears set us back eight euros.
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Andrea BrownPinkie's doppelgänger!
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3 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanI, also, would have chosen this bike shop because of the cat.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownNot nearly as sweet though. Maybe life as a junkyard cat is a bit tougher.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThe obvious choice.
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3 weeks ago
The guard cat on duty is on a long chain, which is a good thing - otherwise he’d be off down the alley after the pigeons. Later he perched up on the workbench, keeping an eye out for the occasional wrench flung his way.
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Back at the inn, I start in on finalizing our bikes - I haven’t installed the accessories yet.  Rachael points out though that her front brake is maladjusted too, as she has been stating ever since we left the bike shop.  We have an interesting discussion about what needs to be done, why we didn’t have the brakes done while we were there, how my listening skills could be improved, and so on.  And, finally, a bit embarrassed, we bike back to the same garage, visit with the cat a bit more while we wait our turn, and then hand over her bike.

He inspires a bit less confidence on brakes than he did on gears, and it alarms us a bit when he reaches for a mallet and starts tentatively tapping on the brake mechanism.  I didn’t know that a mallet was par of the disc brake repair tool kit.  I’m beginning to suspect that his self-help class didn’t cover disc brakes, and we’re bringing him something new to experiment on.  He soon puts down the mallet though, pulls a wrench out of the tool heap, works on the brake with that a bit, then tosses it back on the bench barely missing the cat.  In the end though, it ends well.  The brakes work fine, and he sends us off again with no additional charge.

So, it looks like the trip is on - until I reaccessorize the bikes and find that now my rear brake freezes up.  Perplexing because it seemed fine a bit ago, and very worrying.  We’re not going back to the same guy a third time, so we watch a utube video on brake adjustment hoping for enlightenment.  When I try to make the same adjustment myself, I can’t - but it identifies the problem.  The strut from the rear rack is flush up against the brake adjustment wheel, so it won’t turn.  It apparently also is jamming the brake into the disc, freezing the brake.  

I adjust the rack instead, by throwing in a spacer.  That done, the brake’s jake (heh, heh).  Both bikes are good to go.  Game on!

My rear brake had a problem too, which perplexed me for awhile. It’s another training issue - the strut for the rear rack was up snug up against the brake and must have been pushing it into the rotor. I had to add a washer to give clearance, and then it was fine.
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All this has taken most of the morning, but we’d still like to get out for a bit of a test ride.  Rain is due in the next hour or so, so we won’t get much of a ride in.  We just follow the ‘bike lane’ to see where it takes us, and happily it takes us someplace worthwhile - to the Admiral’s Bridg, one of the structures covered under the UNESCO Arab-Norman designation.  Built in about 1130, it’s certainly an impressive structure if not in the most scenic location any more.  

That’s enough though.  It really does look like it will rain soon now, and biking through central Palermo is a bit chancy yet anyway.  The old city is taking some steps toward building a bike infrastructure, but so far they’re really baby ones.

Back at the inn again, we walk across the street to a panini stand, order up a great pair of paninis, and then head back to the room to enjoy our lunch and hang out until 3:30 when the churches open up again.

Finally mobile, we took ourselves on a short ride to test our the bikes. We ended up at the Admiral’s Bridge, built in 1130, and another of the UNESCO protected Arab-Norman sights. It sits at the spot where the archangel Michael allegedly appeared to the Norman Count Roger I, to help him with his conquest of Palermo.
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On the Admiral Bridge
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Because Rachael said that if she has to take pictures of me, I have to include some of them in the journal. And no, I don’t know why one of my pant legs is so much shorter than the other.
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Lunch time! After our big four mile ride, we picked up a pair of chicken, eggplant and zucchini paninis and took them up to our room to warm up for a bit.
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We have a stowaway! I couldn’t believe it when that scamp the Gumby Bottle Opener showed up in my tool bag. As long as GBO has bummed his way onto another tour, we might as well put him to work and make him earn his keep.
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Ron GrumbyThe Grumby Bottle Opener is happy to perform services in exchange for exceptional travel experiences.
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19 hours ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron GrumbyHe’s been quite well behaved the last few weeks. It’s probably about time to reward him with another treat.
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19 hours ago

At 3:30 we leave the room and head back to Bellini Plaza to complete yesterday’s tourist business by visiting its two UNESCO designated churches.   I think I’ve said about enough for the day already, and you can read up as well as I can about San Cataldo, the Martorana, the Pretoria Fountain, and the other wonderful sights near here.  Just know that it’s an astonishing collection of riches and they, along with the other great sights in this fascinating city.  You could have a pretty wonderful short stay in Palermo without ever wandering more than a few hundred yards from our inn.

Our B&B is just around the corner. There’s a great close-up look at the bell tower from our breakfast room.
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Looking back into our neighborhood from Bellini Plaza. Our B&B is about a block in and a block to the left.
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Looking west along pedestrianized Via Victoio Emanuele toward the Palermo Cathedral
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Saint Catherine Church (which we saw the interior of yesterday) from across Bellini Plaza.
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The west face of Saint Catherine Church, and the flamboyant Pretoria Fountain
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Details of Saint Catherine Church. What do you call these? Some form of buttress?
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The Pretoria fountain, and the dome of Saint Giuseppe dei Teatini Church. This is supposed to be one of the most outstanding examples of baroque architecture in Palermo, so maybe we should stop in when we return in June.
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The bell tower, Saint Giuseppe dei Teatini Church.
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Another look at the Pretoria fountain.
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A hall of the convent, Saint Catherine Church
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The pastry shop in Saint Catherine church’s cloister features pastries made from recipes handed down from the nuns who lived here.
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Trionfo di Gola, one of the colorful specialties of the pastry shop
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The interior of the three domed San Cataldo Church
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The interior of San Cataldo Church
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Floor mosaics, San Cataldo Church
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Emerging flowers of a date palm, I think?
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Bill ShaneyfeltDate palm? Looks like I remember from 50 years ago in Arizona
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltFirst date?
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3 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Scott Anderson
Chuckle!
Not too far off... I was a month less than 21, a few weeks before I moved to AZ to become a student at ASU.
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2 weeks ago

The nave of the Martorana, a stunning Arab-Norman Church that reminded us of a small scale version of the Palatine Chapel.
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The church interior is completely covered by exceptional mosaics and frescos. We could have dedicated a whole post to it.
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In the Martorana
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In the Martorana
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In the Martorana
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In the Martorana
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Today's ride: 4 miles (6 km)
Total: 4 miles (6 km)

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Anne MathersGreat news you got your gears and brakes working again! Nothing like a little tap from a mallet to fine tune things. Have a wonderful time in Sicily...looking forward to following along.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Anne MathersThanks, Anne. Just a little challenge to give the trip some character. I hate it when nothing interesTing happens.
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3 weeks ago
Nancy GrahamScott, I received photos from a friend of painted stairs and there are two very interesting ones that are apparently in Sicily. I don’t know how to post a photo here for you — is there a way of getting them to you?
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Nancy GrahamHi, Nancy. I’d like to see them. I wonder if they’re from Caltagirone, which has a famous set of painted stairs. Could you email them to me, at cycle365@cycle365.life?
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2 weeks ago