Day Two is done.
Our experience seems to be ever a mix of lovely and total pain in the butt. It’s a real exercise in keeping one’s sense of travel humor…you know, remembering that you either get a great experience OR a great story…but usually not both. I’m happy to report we’re both doing a great job of rolling with the punches.
This morning we woke up bright and squirrely and reported to breakfast by 7:00 am. Fresh pineapple and apricots…cereal of several varieties…pastry-type things…rolls…a cappuccino machine…it was already a good spread before we found out they did omelets! And might I add they were VERY good…I was outsmarted by the cap machine…MAN I miss my Starbucks!
After breakfast we walked to the main square in town to catch our bus to Pompeii. Our guide was nice, and certainly knowledgeable, though her English was a bit tough to decipher at some points. The bus ride to Pompeii took about an hour, but she narrated the whole way through and the views on the way were breathtaking, so we hardly noticed the time. The whole ride, we seemed to be pointed straight at Mt. Vesuvius…kind of ominous, if you ask me.
Pompeii was pretty cool. Amazing to think that we were touching structures that had been standing for over 2000 years…and had even survived earthquakes and a volcano eruption. Everyone knows Pompeii was destroyed by an eruption in 79 A.D., but I didn’t realize that the blast had flashed the entire surrounding area with a temperature that the guide said was 400 degrees Celsius!! (That’s 752 F.) Or that most of the people who died were killed by the poisonous gases and the temperature, not from being buried alive under volcanic ash. I don’t know how I pictured that whole event before, but it never made much sense to me, I’ll admit.
It really was amazing to see. They had a few plaster casts of people in their last moment of life…grimacing, writhing, covering their faces…even one of a dog contorted on his back…the guide said he died because he was chained up…other animals were able to flee.
They also took us through a few big fancy houses, with mosaics still intact on the walls…fountains…skylights…bathhouses. We even toured through the red-light district…including Pompeii’s main brothel with its little alcoves with stone beds and frescoes lining the ceiling that showed pictures of what a customer might want and to aid in cases where the foreign madams didn’t speak the customers’ language. Yes, first-century porn on the walls. Farther down the road was the apartment of another “lady of the evening” whose residence was marked for all to see by a stone relief sculpture on the wall…that of, shall we say, an organ I don’t have. Yes, we took a picture.
ANYway. Yeah, Pompeii was pretty cool, but it was hotter than all get-out there. By the end of the tour, we were all more than ready to get out of the blazing sun (beautiful day, but murderous sun)…and the guide was talking about how there used to be a full-day Pompeii tour but they found it was just too much. She was right. The two hours or so we were touring were more than enough. Of course, we finished with gelato…because it was there…and really, why not??
On the bus ride back I totally sacked out…and when we got back to Sorrento, we didn’t know quite what to do with ourselves. So we wandered through the streets in the direction of the port, and eventually found it…booked tickets on a hydrofoil to the Isle of Capri, and off we went!
Capri was beautiful…but we didn’t learn much about it while we were there. After tracking down a hat for me and pizza for lunch (good, but not eyes-rolling-back or anything), we were accosted by a guy named Alfonso who wanted to take us out for a 1-hour private boat tour. He talked us into it. As we waited at the pick-up spot for him to maneuver his boat over, another boatman overheard me remind my mother what his name was. He smirked. We should’ve known right then.
Alfonso was kind of a tool. He remembered my name and forgot my mother’s, and every time he said something, he called my name to make me look at him (NOT what I wanted to be looking at), as if he were speaking only to me, not my mom too (which ticked me off) and as though there were lots of people around and I might not listen if he didn’t address me. However, most of the time, he was only after my attention to give me a questioning thumbs-up and to tell me where to sit (five different times; I eventually ignored him). He didn’t tell us much at all…told us more about our stops on the street when he stopped us than he did on the boat when we were looking at them. The thing he pointed out most of all was the color of the water, which was indeed beautiful, but which we were also marveling at constantly, and therefore didn’t need him calling our attention to it every two and a half minutes. When we finally stopped, he started talking about the “service” he provided to us, presumably pointing out to us what a great boat guide he was and how we should tip him generously…and when it came time to pay him, and we handed over the 60E he’d requested, he said, “No tip for me?” What a tool. I hate to admit I allowed myself to be bullied into tipping him, and wish I’d said to him, “You own the boat, and you named your price.” Ugh.
Alfonso aside (don’t use him if you find yourself on Capri anytime soon), the boat ride was really nice. Capri has these amazing cliffs that rise straight up out of the water (though they’re worn away at the base by the lapping waves). They’re impossibly high and covered in vegetation and form all kinds of shapes and bridges and hollows and caves…and nestled in amongst them in sometimes very unlikely places are these incredible villas overlooking the sea. People were swimming, snorkeling, fishing…one kid was getting ready to cliff dive, but Alfonso said it was unsafe. And OH MY GOD they WEREN’T KIDDING about the SPEEDOS. I didn’t really believe normal guys would be in Speedos, and they were!! Smugglin’ budgies for all the world to see!!! Aaaugh!
We disembarked on the opposite end of the island and stopped to dip our feet into the Mediterranean…which required walking on pebble beaches that I don’t know HOW people walk on! They hurt! But the water was lovely and refreshing and we both wished we’d brought our swimsuits (we did see a girl sunning topless on a rock halfway through the boat ride, but didn’t decide to try it, ha ha). We then hopped a bus to the top of the mountain and rode a cable car back down the other side to the port where we’d started. The cable car was cool. We did learn, however, that Capri is a place best photographed in the morning…we had hazy sunlight the whole day on the main-port side, and it didn’t make for great pictures.
The ship back to Sorrento was much smaller than the ship we took to Capri…which meant we got to go up on the upper deck and stand with the wind in our faces as we cruised back to the mainland. That was great…mainly because it seems like every time we turn around, we’re breathing someone’s cigarette smoke…and the fresh air across the Bay of Napoli was wonderful.
By the time we got home, we were exhausted. We decided to do NOTHING tonight…just have some downtime and get rid of the rest of our jet lag. So we planned to blog and Kindle down by the pool all evening…but there’s some kind of bad Italian karaoke being BLASTED from the dining room, and the whole place smells like fish. I can’t really endorse this hotel too much…it’s just not that nice. I mean, the little things are starting to add up…view of a rock face, no balcony, tiny room with a sloped ceiling we keep banging our heads on, NO public place to go with a view (no roof, etc), and now, music being pumped through the otherwise nice poolside terrace that makes it too loud to even hear yourself think. Not the escape we wanted.
But, to reiterate what I said at the beginning, this has been balanced out by the nice bartender who welcomed us into the sitting room and offered us champagne cocktails at the (expired) happy hour price. And I strongly suspect that the night will not end before Mom and I slip back down the road to the nearest gelateria…. =) (Update: it didn’t…’cause we did…God, that stuff is awesome….)
All for now. Tomorrow – full-day tour of the Amalfi coast. Our plan is to be the first on the bus every time to get the front seat – that gets you the best view!!
PS – a few things I forgot yesterday –
I don’t remember who told me, but you were right, they DO try to slip fish into EVERYTHING. We had pizza in Rome yesterday outside the Termini station…pointed to what we wanted…he cut two big squares and folded them face-to-face and wrapped them in paper…that was one order!! I was pretty psyched till I took a bite…it totally had fish of some kind in it…and at the time, it was novel and I didn’t mind it, but thinking back, it was kinda gross.
The other thing – we saw a guy in Sorrento wearing a suit and a helmet, stopping his Vespa scooter by the side of the road to let off a lady who had been riding on the back. And this guy was the SPITTING IMAGE of pictures of my dad from 35 years ago. It was UNCANNY. Mom agreed. I wish I could’ve gotten a picture. He WAS my dad’s twin…when he was right around age 25 or so. Just bizarre.