A walk to the Reserve

WWF Reserve, Saline di Trapani

To reach the Salina reserve from where my mother lives, taking the most direct route, took me about an hour, including a few stops to capture images, to cover the nearly 5 km journey on foot. I left early so as to cover as much distance as I could before the temperature rose, which it did well into the 30s celcius by the time I got there. I must have been out to punish myself for some reason.

Salt pans or, more accurately, evaporation ponds and irrigation channel

The purpose of my outing was to capture some images of the now disused evaporation ponds that form the reserve, to visit the WWF centre and, hopefully, to see some bird life including Greater Flamingos. I was out of luck with the flamingos that will arrive later in the summer but also with the WWF centre which was closed. On reflection I have never seen the place open but I have seen reports from those who have visited.

WWF information board

  1. The roadside edge of the salt ponds have tall reeds that obscure the view. There are a couple of breaks in the reeds, including a simple wooden “hide” at one corner of a pond, so I was able to get good views of a few birds.

WWF sitting area and “hide”

I am not usually lucky enough to get close to birds in the wild but they were kind to me and allowed me to get some reasonable shots of Little Terns, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and egrets. In addition to the bird pics I bagged a few of the salt pans and the old windmills that were used in the past to pump water from the pans. I could hear reed warblers of some kind but didn’t see these elusive birds.

Avocet (image to be replaced from camera later this month)

On the way back I saw a kestrel, a few moorhens and a family of mallard. A couple of years ago I saw Spoonbills, Shelduck, Greater Flamingos and some shorebirds.

Overall it was a productive outing, though really hot on the way back. I was disappointed that the WWF centre was closed but perhaps on a future visit I will have a chance to talk to the staff about the habitat.

Salt production is still a significant industry in Trapani using modern methods of production. In addition to the ponds near the reserve there is large production areas at between Trapani and Marsala.

How to get there

I do not recommend walking unless you are very keen to get exercise.

By car, take the SP21 road from Trapani to Marsala. It passes the WWF centre where there is on-road parking on the side road outside the centre (not on the main highway).

Google Map view

There are no buses on this route.

A Taste of Trapanese History

Entrance to the Pepoli Museum (facing out towards the gardens of the Santuary of the Madonna of Trapani)

In my teens, while visiting relatives in Rome, I was given a choice of spending a day visiting the Vatican etc or going to the beach. I chose beach! I guess, as a younger man, I always preferred sun and sand to old relics though I now like art galleries and museums more than beaches. Or as my daughters might say “You like old relics because you are one!”

In spite of having spent many weeks or months in Sicily over the past 10 years I had never visited a museum on the island. Last week, while returning from a photo project, I passed through the gardens adjacent to the Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum, took a few pictures and decided that I should return.

Considering the history of the region I am surprised that there aren’t more museums in Trapani. I suppose it’s because the majority of tourists come here for the sun, sea and sand as I would have done years ago.

The Pepoli museum covers a wide range of aspects of Trapani’s history and I was happy to see a group of young school children with their teachers apparently conducting a history lesson there.

View from the gate of the museum, separating from the Sanctuary gardens, towards the entrance to the museum.

The entrance to the Museum is behind the Santuary of the Madonna of Trapani, one of the principal churches in the town, and is reached by passing through the gardens that seem to attract a daily quota of both pensioners that enjoy the coolness and tranquility of the setting and young children, whose laughter as they play under the watchful eye of their mothers in the shade of the trees, echos off the front of the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary viewed from within the gardens

A gate separates the museum from the gardens, with a pair of white stone column heads positioned as if to welcome visitors. A wide path leads between an area littered with ancient masonry and a large anchor on one side, and a bust of Sr Agostino Pepoli on the other.

One of a pair of white stone column heads outside the museum gate

Once inside the shaded entrance of the Museum one can see the cloisters that borders the museum garden.

Cloisters with garden

I paid €6.00 to enter the museum and was given a brochure in English. I believe they offer French and German versions too (in addition to Italian, of course).

Brochure and entrance ticket

Museum staff are on hand as one enters the building and throughout the museum in various rooms to ensure you follow the appropriate flow of the exhibition areas. Anyone with questions or seeking clarification on any aspect can of course approach the staff who are happy to provide the benefit of their knowledge.

One of the first exhibition areas in the museum is that of religious artefacts

Ceramic tiles depicting the town of Trapani

Garden with the bell tower of the Sanctuary above and behind the museum walls

A number of stone decorations on loose display under the cloisters

View of the cloisters and shaded part of the garden

What to see

Paintings of historical figures linked to Trapani

Paintings and sculptures of religious subjects

Example of clothes and jewellery of the Baroque era

Painted wall and floor tiles

Roman and Greek pottery, metal and glassware dating back over 2,500 years

Fascinating finely detailed carvings and dioramas of historic scenes eg views of life, of nativity, and horrific images of the Massacre of the Innocents.

How to get there

via Conte Agostino Pepoli, 180

By bus, taxi or car, but there is only street parking

Open:

weekdays 9 am – 1 pm and 3 pm – 7.30 pm Sundays and holidays from 9 am to 12.30 pm

SUMMER TIME (JULY AND AUGUST):

weekdays: Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5.30pm

Sunday and public holidays: from 9.00 to 12.30

This is a great place to see so much history in one place. A visit to this museum is highly recommended.

A day trip to Dundee (part 2)

As mentioned in my last post, I went to Dundee for a day trip at the end of last month which took about 90 minutes by train from Edinburgh. It was a cold grey day with a light rainfall starting as we crossed the road from the station. We first visited the newly built V&A Museum on the Riverside Esplanade, where we had lunch, before moving on to visit to the SS Discovery, now known as (Royal Research Ship) RRS Discovery, an exploration ship built about 115 years ago to undertake research in Antarctica.

Discovery Point, in which the history of the Discovery is exhibited, is located in an octagonal building on the Riverside Esplanade, across the road from Dundee railway station, with the ship itself moored between the museum entrance and the V&A Dundee.

After paying the entrance fee, which entitles visitors to unlimited return visits for a year, one follows the history of the Discovery via a series of multi-media exhibits that include films, pictures, models and relics that illustrate aspects of the construction of the boat, its crew and the research voyage.

The exhibition is well organised and informative.

Life-size diorama of the ship’s construction

Once through the final display area, one exits the building to board the Discovery, crossing via a gangplank.

Helm of the Discovery

Full-size diorama of the biologist, Thomas Vere Hodgson, “fishing” for marine specimens through the Antarctic ice

Tour guide providing information about living conditions in the dining area if the Discovery

The route takes one around the main deck of the ship, onto the upper deck, and through various sections below deck, including the coal store, food store, galley and sleeping quarters. In the dining space, bounded by senior staff quarters, was a long table surrounded by comfortable wood and leather chairs. The guide, who was in this area, explained that many of these furnishings were upgraded after the first World War since the vessel was partially stripped for action during the war.

On returning to the building we entered the souvenir area. Plenty on offer in respect of mementoes relating to the ship, the town, and Scotland. Across the lobby is a cafe (Cafe at the Point) that serves refreshments.

The visit was educational and informative – well worth visiting.

How to get there

Train from Edinburgh to Dundee. Exit the station and cross the road. The Discovery and the V&A are immediately visible from the station.

A day trip to Dundee (part 1)

Literally the only thing I knew about Dundee, till now, was that the city had given its name to a marmalade and a cake. In fact someone mentioned that the city was founded on jute, jam and journalism (the latter referring, I believe, to the Beano and Dandy comics!).

It took about 90 minutes to reach Dundee by train from Edinburgh. It was a cold grey day with a mist hiding the horizon. Exiting the station we crossed the road and entered the newly built V&A Museum on the Riverside Esplanade, next to SS Discovery, an exploration ship built about 115 years ago. The museum opened just less than six months ago (SEP18).

 

Water feature near the entrance to the V&A

The receptionist indicated that there were just two exhibitions on, both free admission: the Scottish Design Galleries covering elements and examples of Scottish design through the ages, and Rules of Play which featured work and interactive displays by a local artist.

Spacious cafe area on the ground floor

Downstairs, ahead of the reception area, was a cafe that seemed to provide self-service snacks, drinks and light lunches. We decided that it woukd be better to see the exhibitions first and then have lunch.

Across from the cafe was an area selling books, writing and drawing materials and souvenirs of the V&A visit.

We took a lift up to the second level where we found a restaurant – Tatha Bar and Kitchen – where we booked a table for 12:45 before heading off to see the exhibits, starting at the Design Exhibition.

Inside the Design exhibition

The Design exhibition was interesting as it provided examples of everything from traditional tartan designs to modern dresses, architecture and electronics. Some designs were modern but some dated back hundreds of years, thus highlighting the important contribution of Scottish designers in the world.

The Rules of Play featured the artist Gabriella Marcela creating her own unique wooden structures using KAPLA planks. Visitors were encouraged to construct towers or bridges or whatever they wanted, with one man building a tall tower than ither visitors secretly hoped would collapse!

Colourful structures produced by Gabriella Marcela

At 12:40 we arrived at the entrance to the restaurant where a menu stand provided us with an idea of what food choices were available. Our table was ready so we were soon seated and able to order. It proved to be a good idea to make reservations as the restaurant was full.

I ordered an americano coffee while, to eat, I decided on the Arbroath Smokie Royale featuring a small smoked smoked fillet of haddocka speciality of the town of Arbroath (though actually in the fishing village of Auchmithie, a few miles outside Arbroath) served on a tatti (potato) scone topped by a couple of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce and spinach.

I then had a traditional fruit scone with strawberry jam to fininsh.

Arbroath Smokie Royale

Nicely cooked poached eggs sitting on the Arbroath Smokie

Traditional fruit scone with strawberry jam

After lunch, before leaving the V&A, we had a look at the open plan shop area in which one can buy souvenirs, books, art materials etc. One of the featured momentos was a print of the original design sketch of the V&A building, designed by Japanese architects Kengo Kuma & Associates.

View of the shop space on the ground floor 

 

The V&A Dundee is a new, airy and interesting building. It has almost 8,500 m2 of space with a mixed yet simple decoration comprising black floors, plain white wall and oak panels. There are stairs and glass lifts that provide nice views all round.

Worth visiting

Part 2 to follow – visit to the SS Discovery museum.