Andrew Nickson's Travelogue

I was recently in Venice...Thais playing at the new/temporary La Fenice. I stayed at the same hotel as last time. The old man has died, his children taken over, but still a great place. Our local restaurant has been turned into a boutique hotel, symbolic of what's happening to Venice, overtouristed and overpriced to buggery, traffic jams on the canals as the package tourists wait in line for their gondola rides, etc., etc.

St. Mark's Square is totally flooded at high tide, amazing...a big tourist rip-off, Venice, but still unique and, most important, traffic-free!

I am currently in Palermo, Sicily. The Scarlatti Festival is on; the faithful princess at the opera house. It's a superb production, best seats are only 15 bucks, huge 19th-Century house with a stage higher than it is wide, six (!) tiers PLUS a gallery on top of that.

Here we are in Palermo, conquered at various times by the Phoenecians, the Carthaginians, the Normans, the Moors, the Spanish and now the Mafia.

Hear the FREE 18th-Century music of world standard in 14th-Century churches, weep at those falling cadences at the end of exquisite recitatives, visit the opera house and see where Callas finally starred in her own opera, donning her best party frock and throwing herself off the balcony into the orchestra pit in protest of an unfeeling world's lack of appreciation of her genius.
Experience the bizarre autumn weather, where the sirocco, the terrific, hot wind from Africa, sweeps in at night, uprooting trees and toppling masonry.

Now in Morocco, Casablanca, once the white but now the grimy, still full of fabulous 1920s and '30s buildings, street system based on roundabouts and squares like Paris, first night of Ramadan.

This morning found a coffeeshop open, discreet venetian blinds screening the evil non-fasters (mostly old French Moroccans, probably Christians) from the street, continental breakfast, hooray! so could survive till meal at friend's place. He and I are flying to Rome this Friday for three or four weeks of wandering, me to hit a few operas, he to relax from the hot weather.

Casablanca, streets totally deserted at sundown as everyone heads home to break the fast together with traditional soup and dates.

I speak “fluent” French, so I handle the black market currency stuff for friend. Currency exchanges are run from deep within the carpeted recesses of an up-market tourist souvenir shop by a charming Muslim lady swathed in skirts and veils; it's like performing criminal transactions with a nun—illegal but squeaky clean at the same time...very strange.

Italy's opera season is not like Vienna's, with different operas every night of the week. From the November/December listings under, in Italy you can only see a lot of operas by moving from town to town, the faster you go, the more you see. I'm happy to travel like this, but the friend likes to hardly move at all. Our styles are very different; the result will be interesting. I want to see small old houses.....still think La Fenice the most beautiful house I've seen.


To be continued...


Doges Palace, Venice

Maria Callas

Street in Morocco. Photo by Jim Miller

Andrew Nickson was born in Melbourne, Australia and educated in England and France. He has temporarily made his home in India, China, the U.S. and France but has spent most of his fascinating life traveling and reading literary works from all over the world. He claims to have visited every nation on earth. We look forward to him sharing more of his tales with us. P.O. Box 580, New York, NY 10113 ©2002