We left our hotel in Santorini at 5:30 am, flew to Athens where we had a 5-hour layover, then took a 2-1/2 hour flight to Naples. We arrived in Naples around 2:30 and found our driver holding a sign with our name on it. He was very pleasant and spoke English so we had a nice conversation on the 1-1/2 hour drive down the Amalfi coast. I had a little trouble understanding his accent and ended up hurting his feelings. He mentioned a 1-year-old so I started asking questions about his baby, only to have him tell me he meant a 1-year-old car. He got quiet for a while and then said "Does my face look so old that you think I would already have a child?"
After we got out of Naples, the drive along the coast was beautiful. The roads are very twisty and the driver didn't slow down at all on the curves, so we arrived in Praiano feeling a bit nauseous.
I had been exchanging emails for months with the owners of Onda Verde, so it was nice to finally meet them. They explained the dinner schedule and showed us to our room.
We were exhausted from all the traveling, so we decided to take a short nap before going out. We both fell asleep immediately and woke up after the kitchen was closed. The hotel was on the side of a cliff in an isolated place, so there we were on our first night in Italy - hungry and disoriented with no place to go. We shared some crackers that I had in my purse and eventually fell back asleep.
We took our time getting ready the next morning and it ended up being almost lunchtime when we approached the front desk to ask directions. The owner said "we missed you at dinner last night." We explained that we slept right through it so he told us to have a seat in the restaurant and he would have the chef make something for us for lunch. The kitchen is only open for breakfast and dinner, but they felt sorry for us, I guess. The chef himself came out to our table and showed us some pasta and asked if that was okay with us. After 24 hours with nothing but a few saltines, he could have shown us pickled pigs feet and we would have been happy!
A few minutes later, he brought out large plates of pasta, chicken, vegetables and two types of dessert.
Yummmmm. Welcome to Italy.
Getting around from point to point on the Amalfi Coast was not as easy as we had hoped. The bus system was not good, so it required taking private cars and boats most of the time. $$$$
After our delicious lunch at the hotel, Francesco arranged a water taxi for us. The pickup point was beneath the hotel in a little swimming cove. We paid 35 Euros (about $50) and were driven by boat to the town of Amalfi.
The driver, Alfredo, was so friendly. He took us out of the way to show us a few things and he also let Kenzie drive the boat.
We looked around the town of Amalfi
and then decided to take a bus up the mountain to Ravello. We had visited these places six years ago on a daytrip from Rome and had remembered Ravello being breathtakingly beautiful, so we wanted to take another look.
We stopped at an outdoor cafe to have a drink and the waiter became smitten with Kenzie. He was falling all over himself flirting with her. He asked where we were headed after that and we told him we didn't have plans, so he told us we HAD to go see Villa Cimbrone. He said he would make a quick call to his friend there, then he scribbled a note for us to take to someone there. He had arranged free entry tickets for us. How nice. It had started to rain a little, so we waited for it to stop and then headed up the hill to check out this place.
It was absolutely gorgeous there. These photos do not do justice to the place. It was amazing.
Marco was waiting for us when we got back into the square. He ran at Kenzie with open arms and told her he wanted her as his wife and there were a couple of conditions for the marriage: (1) the wedding would be at Villa Cimbrone; and (2) she would have to produce three kids. LOL! He was a hoot. He invited us back for a nighttime festival a couple of days later.
We caught the bus back to Amalfi and had to find another way back to our hotel in Praiano. There were no more buses that night, so we asked a taxi driver how much it would be to take us back to the hotel (about 8 or 9 miles). He said he couldn't say - that it would be whatever the meter said. How much could 9 miles be? We got in and when we arrived, it was FIFTY EUROS ($75)!! Wow. That was not fun to fork over.
The next day we had a cooking class scheduled for late afternoon, so we took a water taxi to the town of Positano and looked around for a few hours.
Kenzie fell in love with a pair of shoes in the window of a shop.
They were outrageously expensive, but she became emotionally attached to them. This is how she looked when I told her we shouldn't pay that much for the shoes:
I would hear about those shoes at least 25 times a day for the rest of the trip.
We had lunch by the water and then did some more shopping.
We had gelato while waiting on our water taxi to pick us up. Yummm.
Chef Nik was waiting for us when we arrived and we spent 3 hours with him as he patiently taught us how to make pasta dishes from scratch. He gave us the instructions in grams and other useless metric measurements, so we will have to sort that all out before trying for ourselves.
We tasted the dishes along the way, so at dinner an hour or so later, we were already stuffed. We had the same waiter, Rafaello, each night we ate at the hotel, and he always commented if things weren't eaten..... "did you not like it", etc. We knew Chef Nik saw the dishes being brought back into the kitchen each time too, so we were nervous about hurting feelings that night. We asked Rafaello to only bring us very small portions. Well, he didn't listen. He brought huge servings of pasta that we felt obligated to eat. We thought we were done when the second plates came out -- filet mignon AND stuffed chicken breast. We just started laughing after he walked away. The food was so beautiful and delicious, but we just could not eat any more!
The Lucy & Ethel personalities in us kicked in and we started to think of ways to hide the food. We considered pitching it over the side of the railing, but then after looking over, saw that there were people down there who may not have liked being on the receiving end of a meat torpedo. There was a path leading down to the water nearby that had lots of flowering plants so Kenzie directed me to go over and see if we could ditch a piece or two there. Feeling like a 5-year-old, I sheepishly walked over to check out the area, and turned to see Chef Nik waving to me from the kitchen window. We realized that the only thing worse than childishly hiding the food would be getting caught in the act, so we gave up and just moved the food around the plate and gave our apologies to Rafaello.
The next day we visited the island of Capri. A van picked us up from the hotel and dropped us off in Amalfi where we met up with others on the tour. We then took a ferry to Capri with our guide, Giuseppe.
We were loaded into a van and taken to the top of the island - Anacapri. After walking in a group listening to history lessons, we were given free time to roam about. We had a nice lunch and did some window shopping. The prices on that island were outrageous. We were thinking that once we got down to the main part of Capri, prices would be better.
The view from the top was amazing and the hotel gardens were beautifully groomed.
This is lava cake that originated on the island:
After a couple of hours, we were again herded back into vans and driven down to Capri. Giuseppe spoke to the group but Kenzie and I were too hot to stand and listen and found ourselves walking away to escape the heat. We stayed with the group long enough to photograph the 3-rock symbol of the island, then we left to go shopping. We looked in shop after shop - hoping to find something to remember the island by, but everything was extremely expensive. I was in search of a long brown necklace to go with a new blouse. We looked in every shop for brown beads and everything was $600 and up. We were walking back to catch the van and spotted what looked to be a long wooden necklace on display. I rushed in and picked it up. It was made in the shape of chain links. It was a bit large for my taste, but I thought I would "settle" for it. How much could plain wooden beads be? $50?? It was 400 Euros ($575) because it was actually carved animal bones. Gross. I gave up.
We were dropped off at our hotel just in time for dinner, then went into town (Praiano) to see what it was like. It was a very long walk on scary streets with no shoulder, so we basically ran the whole way -- 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. It wasn't worth the trip, actually, but at least we burned off our dinner. We stayed in the rest of the night since we had a very early pickup time in the morning for the Pompeii tour.
This was our last full day in Italy and we were exhausted. We really weren't in the mood for another tour, but the hotel owner had booked it for us, and made a last-minute change the night before at our request (shortening the tour to 1/2 day instead of full day by removing the Mt. Vesuvius part of the tour), so we felt obligated to go. Plus, we would have never lived down the fact that we passed up an opportunity to see Pompeii for the second time (first time in 2005).
A van picked us up and took us to Amalfi where we met another group and boarded a large tour bus bound for Pompeii. Very common knowledge and I've already mentioned it enough here, but the roads are VERY twisty and it's very easy to get nauseous because the professional drivers do not slow down for the curves. I was feeling a little green but trying to look out the window and focus on a still object to keep myself from an embarrassing moment. I heard a loud cough just across the aisle from where Kenzie and I were sitting and then the familiar, disgusting sounds of someone getting sick. Blech. It was a young girl sitting with her mom.
The tour guide, Lucia, must have been very accustomed to this happening because she jumped up from her seat and ran back to where we were asking if a sack was needed. She handed the mom a clear plastic bag which was put to use for the next few minutes. Gross!!!! The mom tied the top of the sack and held it - you know, the way you hold a sack containing a goldfish you buy from the pet store? Ugh. For some reason, I kept catching sight of that damn pink bag and almost needing a bag myself.
A few minutes later, another mom ran to the front and asked the bus driver to stop immediately. Her teenage son exited the bus and heaved for 5 minutes as we blocked traffic on the mountainous road. Kenzie's face said it all ..... WHY did we have to come on this bleeping tour?!?!?
We arrived at Pompeii and were given earphones and battery packs to carry around so we could hear our guide. There were a kajillion people visiting Pompeii that day. It was hot and crowded and miserable. If the guide got too far in front of us, the voice in our ear was replaced with static, so we really had to watch out and keep up so as not to get separated from our group. The roads were all cobblestone and keeping our balance was a challenge. Did I mention it was hot? Like Iraq hot.
Here is our guide, Lucia, carrying an umbrella so the group can easily spot her. Notice the lines on the road in front of her -- made by chariots.
Kenzie offered to hold the travel bag during the tour so I could take pictures. This is how she looked most of the day:
She perked up a little when she learned there were brothels and dead bodies yet to be seen.
So here's the story we were told about the brothels.... Apparently to make it easier on everyone who spoke different languages, they used drawings on the wall so that instead of verbally requesting a service, the customer could just point to the photo depicting their desired activity.
Hide the children..............
Then came the gruesome part. These are castings of two of the bodies found at Pompeii. Their positions and facial expressions were haunting. What an awful way to die.
After we finished the tour, we had a nice lunch at a restaurant in Naples and then boarded the bus for the trip back to Amalfi. Although we felt extremely nauseous, we were happy that we made it back with no incidents.
We decided to hang out in Amalfi for the rest of the evening to do some shopping, and then took another $75 taxi drive back to the hotel.
Back to Greece
The next morning, we left early for Naples and then returned to Greece for one last night. The taxi drivers were on strike, but it didn't matter because our hotel was at the airport. Very convenient! We checked in and then went back across to collect the luggage we had left behind, and then Kostas met us at the hotel and took us shopping.
We had a great time and then sadly said goodbye to him for what we hope is just one year. He is such a good friend. Love him!!
The beds at the Sofitel were the most comfortable on the whole trip, but we would only get to sleep for 45 minutes. We were thinking the airport would be dead for our 5:55 am flight, so we arrived around 4:00 and ended up almost missing our flight. It was very chaotic and congested. We understood that we would be able to check 2 bags each on the way home so we didn't worry about the weight limits. Wrong. We had to pay 120 Euros ($165) for the extra bags. Ouch.
The flight to Frankfurt, Germany was easy and when we arrived for our long layover, the temperature was in the 50s. We had arranged a walking tour, and found Jo holding a sign with our name on it. We took a train into the city center and walked around for a few hours. It was a nice way to get through a long layover.
Scenes around Frankfurt:
We found a pharmacy and bought some medicine to help us sleep on the eleven hour flight back. We would be in coach this time and definitely needed the help from the drugs.
What a fun trip. I hated to see it all end. Being with my daughter for three whole weeks, seeing old friends and experiencing new places, was truly a blessing.