Sicily 2013

Summer 2013 marked the start of a period of transition for our family. A levels and GCSEs out of the way, UCAS application submitted and the unspoken cusp of possible empty nest syndrome looming ominously around the corner.

With a child who had started school in 1999, access to the cheaper, quieter low season breaks had been something we’d coveted since the dawn of the millennium itself. Suddenly finding ourselves able to benefit from an end of June break, we were hit with the uneasy realisation that our longed for family holidays would all too soon become a thing of the past, relegated to the odd album on an old facebook timeline. Now in their late teens, our offspring simply would not want to spend two weeks with the ‘olds’ for much longer. Already, we were ‘plus one’; the daughter was accompanying us only if her boyfriend came along too. Luckily, he’s a very likeable easy-going lad and I reasoned that the best teenage holiday romance is likely to be the one where there is no agonising separation at the end of a sunshine fortnight. Been there, worn that particular T shirt myself circa 1982.

Where to go? “Please, not France!” came the resounding chorus from the unusually united young ones. We’ve enjoyed countless breaks over the years on French campsites from Picardy down to Provence, and this is the holiday my husband and I like best. Great locations, space, freedom to explore the great outdoors and unconstrained by rigid hotel meal times. The kids reasoned that the world is a big place and kindly reminded us that we could always go to France when they’d left home.

We compromised on a Eurocamp break to El Bahira in Sicily, taking in a hotel stay in the capital, Palermo. Same concept, different place, guaranteed pizza.

Our holiday started badly with a nightmare drive in the dark from the airport to Palermo, during which the teenage boyfriend earned much kudos by proving he could sleep through absolutely anything. The laws on the roads in and around Sicily’s capital are understood only by the Palermians themselves. Tom’s shut-eye strategy might well have been the wisest option. Incidentally, on the return trip to the airport, we observed a couple of poor unfortunates being advised that the damage to their hire car was circa £800 and counted ourselves lucky!

Car safely ensconced in our hotel, we finally ventured out into Palermo at about 10pm. With street markets that stay open until 2am, and cars that toot their horns until gone 4am, this place reminded me of a mad topsy-turvey land. It’s famous for opera, and has a kind of Gothic charm but I wasn’t sorry to leave. On the positive side, it did offer us our first delectable taste of Italian ice cream, many more of which were to follow.

El Bahira the next day was an altogether different prospect. Set in the most unimaginably stunning location, the campsite hugs the unspoilt coastline whilst enjoying a majestic mountain backdrop. Perfect for the snorkelling fans and cyclists in our family! And leaving the remaining two members of the party to read their books in peace whilst reclining on the sun loungers- bliss!

Most of our twelve day stay at El Bahira was characterised by lazy days. Swim, snorkel, lunch and pool became a routine, interrupted only by the Murray inspired tennis bandwagon on the site’s two courts.

We did, however, take time to explore the local peninsula. The nearby town of San Vito lo Capo provided an alternative, much sandier, venue for ice creams, sea and sunshine.

We were only a few kilometres away from the spectacular Zingaro Nature Reserve, where we enjoyed a day’s hiking through green hills interspersed with pretty secluded beaches.

Our day out in the enchanting mountainous city of Erice proved a big hit with all. Narrow streets, an array of sixty church spires and two castles, this was authentic Italy as we’d imagined it. Steeped in medieval history, a visit here is a must for any visitor to Sicily.

Living with three teenagers in close confined quarters was a joy in the main and included the raucous evening card games that have characterised so many past Warnes family holidays. Nonetheless, the husband and I reasoned that we should give them, and us, some space so treated ourselves to a ‘date night’ in a comfortable hotel in nearby Scopello. Film buffs, or just George Clooney fans, will recognise the picturesque Tonnara and faraglioni (rock towers in the sea) from scenes in Ocean’s Twelve. We enjoyed a fantastic meal in a local restaurant overlooking these awesome sights. It’s hard to imagine a more romantic experience, even after close on twenty years of marriage.

Offering crystal clear swimming, spectacular scenery and much needed relaxation, Sicily proved to be a perfect location for us at a very economical price. We also noticed that in low season, the Eurocamp mobile homes near us were predominantly occupied by older couples, who you have to imagine have previously taken this kind of break with a growing family in tow. That’ll be us next year, then!























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