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Going south

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We arrived in Rome around 8:30 am on Saturday, September 1st. An airport shuttle bus took us to Rome Termini Station where we wandered around adjusting to all the Italian signage. Finally finding the baggage storage in the basement titled Deposito Bagagli we checked the biggest part of our luggage (i.e. heaviest) for a reasonable fee. This enabled us to travel easily on a train south to Naples or Napoli as the locals say. Since we were hungry we grabbed the easiest snack we could find which was a hotdog “Italian style.” I forgot to take a picture but you can visualize a beautiful crusty bun with the biggest hotdog ever. I hate to admit it but it was better than Hebrew National. Then we walked around some more and bought tickets to the other train station- Rome Tiburtina Station- which took us on a scenic ride down to Naples. The surrounding countryside reminded me of the Hill country in Texas until the mountains appeared. We arrived in Naples after about 2 hours.

Various warnings about pickpockets from Rick Steve’s travel books and well-meaning friends kept us on our toes but it wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Being aware of your surroundings usually keeps you safe from the horror stories people like to warn you about. It is true that the more south you go in Italy you notice more people out of work and less than ideal living conditions (in the city anyway) but the people and their city are alive with an energy that surprises you. They make the best out of a bad economy and enjoy life. The traffic is what you really need to worry about.  I am glad we walked everywhere because there is no rhyme or reason to the way they drive on the streets in Naples. Kris describes it as one big chaotic ant hill with cars zipping every which way. It is amazing to watch. Slightly scary and wild to say the least. One car and I had a slight run in which knocked my water bottle out of my hand leaving a small bruise. After that incident, I was very careful…

Our hotel- the Grand Hotel Europa- is right across the street from the train station. It is nothing fancy but perfect for your needs. It also has a fantastic little restaurant in the basement where breakfast is included with your room rate and on the last night we were there we had a 4 course Neapolitan Cuisine dinner. That was the only time we ordered the full course menu. Too much food but for only 18 euros each we decided to try it as we knew the same meal would be quadruple the cost in Rome. I do have to tell you though that the best pizza I have ever had was at Da Michelle (here is website link-  http://damichele.net/?lang=en). We decided to go there early the day we arrived in Naples and got a table immediately. It is a no-frills type of place serving two kinds of pizza with Peroni beer and various other beverages to choose from.  We ordered the simple  Marinara style pizza and was quite pleased with it. The other pizza on the menu is the Margherita which is quite popular too.

On Sunday morning we packed a lightweight backpack with a few essentials, wore bathing suits under our travel skirts, and took a taxi to the port so we could buy our tickets to the Isle of Capri. We boarded the hydrofoil/ ferry with a huge group of Korean visitors and found seats on the top deck. Spectacular views leaving Naples and then it got even better when the island appeared after an hour. Wow. The port on the island was bustling with lots of activity when we got there about 9 am. Our first stop was a little cafe for some much needed caffeine (cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso) and since we hadn’t had a chance to try the Italian specialty of gelatto yet- well you can guess what we had for brunch. A picture below will show how pretty the presentation can be.

After finishing up at the cafe we walked around trying to figure which boat to get on to take a tour of the island. The wind made the waves too choppy to take a tiny boat into the Blue Grotto that day so we rented a small boat for just the two of us with a guide. The guide, Christian, took us on a private tour around to the port on the other side of the island. Kris took a dive off the boat into the Tyrrhenian which is actually part of the Mediterranean. Some of the prettiest water I’ve ever seen. I chose not to dive in from the boat but took a swim at the local beach where I felt more secure in my swimming skills.

We knew that time was of the essence and took advantage of the local mini bus’s on the island and rode up to the small town of Anacapri which is less populated and famous for its Church of San Michele. The church is built in the Italian baroque style sometime in the 18th century. It is a very pretty little church but what we came to see was the floor. The majolica floor tiles depict the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and is exquisite. We took a ton of pictures but none of them can hold a candle to seeing it with your own eyes. I’ll show as many pictures as I dare without being too redundant.

Another favorite you will see below is a staircase leading up to someones house. We were walking back to the main part of town to find the chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro and we stumbled upon these gorgeous stairs.

Nice, huh?

After finding a place to buy tickets for the chairlift and making our way over to it, I realized that I would have to ride all by myself since the chairs are all single seaters. When we had ridden the chairlift in Luxembourg it wasn’t so bad, I was able to ride with Kris. For some reason I have become a wee bit scared of heights and have to talk myself through them. A new problem that I am dealing with. I sure hope it doesn’t extend to one of my favorite pastimes of riding roller-coasters in the near future. That would sure tick me off…

We had a leisurely ride up the mountain and walked around taking in the spectacular view. I asked a silly British woman if she’d take our picture teasing her to not do a zoom in because we looked better in pictures at a distance. She was so silly she even climbed up to higher ground to make sure the pictures were taken far enough away. It was a good laugh. On our way down to Anacapri we started passing a lot of the Korean group we had ridden over with on the hydrofoil from Naples. The Korean ladies were so cute with parasols, hats, and the biggest smiles you ever did see. As I started passing them in midair we would wave and they would announce their name and their country. About 20 ladies later and a lot of fun we came to the landing stop for the chair lift giggling like school kids.

Alas, the sun told us that it was time to start heading back down the mountain to the port so we could get our return tickets for the ride back to Naples. I think when we make it back to Italy someday we will plan on staying on the island for a day or two to explore it more thoroughly. We also want to explore more of the Amalfi coast and visit Sorrento- land of the giant lemons. Oh, and one more thing, the limoncello is divine. Makes your mouth pucker like when you suck on a fresh lemon but with a small kick of fuel if you know what I mean. Sugar, water, lemon peels, and alcohol- who would’ve known?

We were pretty exhausted when we finally made our way to the hotel in Naples that evening. Once again the rain had followed us and started up slightly making us reconsider our plan to visit Pompeii the next day. Waking up Monday morning we almost decided to cancel the days plan but decided against doing so. We checked out and took our luggage over to the train station where we paid another Deposito Bagagli to keep what we had carried with us down to Naples. Then we hopped another train over to Pompeii and explored it for awhile. With Mount Vesuvius always in sight from the ruins, the sky rumbled and turned darker as the morning went by. We joked that she, Mt. Vesuvius, was letting us know she was still there just waiting to  erupt. Eventually we decided we were tired of climbing and headed back to the train station where we met two Americans from North Carolina with huge suitcases and helped them to get their baggage up the steps. I guess they weren’t aware of the Deposito Bagagli places and had lugged their huge bags with them all over Pompeii. Made me really appreciate Kris’ planning skills more so.

Since our train tickets were for early evening we just hung around the train station once back in Naples. We haunted the different levels in the station, sat on various benches until one of the local bums terrorized us one too many times, and window shopped. It was fun. We even found me a pasta maker for a little under 20 euros. Back here in the states it would cost $50 to $150- I had already priced them awhile back. Soon the time came when it was our turn to hop the train back to Rome and begin the last leg of our adventure. That will be another post though so check out these pics from the Amalfi Coast. Ciao!

Think I can get Kris to help me build a wood burning stove to cook pizza in?

Funny little man on the boat with us that seemed to know everyone on the island.

Official first gelato in Italy.

View from the boat into one of many grottoes our guide took us into.

Kris swimming in the sea.

Another pretty picture from the boat.

Little red sea tomatoes growing on the coral inside a cove. Non-edible in case you are wondering.

The beach where we both swam before heading up to Anacapri.

One of the hotel resorts on the island.

View from the top.

The church in Anacapri.

Different angle of the church.

Partial section of the floor tiles.

Picture the silly British lady took of us.

Boats way down below us.

Me overcoming new fear of heights.

Kris with Mt. Vesuvius in background

Same as above but with me

The threatening sky in the background

once a great city…

now just beautiful old ruins…

Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland

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Picking up where I left off in the previous post is our last day in Germany. We drove to a little town named Sohren which is about 10 minutes away from the Frankfurt Hahn Airport. We had decided to stay at a little place called Hotel Schinderhannes that was adorable instead of booking a room at the airport hotel due to possible noise issues. It didn’t really matter since we only got about 4 hours sleep preparing our bags for luggage requirements on Ryan Air. Cheap tickets but you had better make sure your luggage doesn’t weigh more than 10 kilograms for carry on baggage. Checked baggage can only be 30 kilograms. We stashed anything too heavy in our Scottie Vests which have a million pockets that are large enough to carry a laptop computer. We needn’t have worried though because we didn’t even meet the maximum when we weighed the baggage on the pay scale when we arrived at the airport.

After we checked in at Hotel Schinderhannes it was beginning to mist rain but we decided to go ahead and drive to Cochem since the town had been on our agenda at the beginning of our trip but we had knocked it off the itinerary due to time constraints. I am glad we went ahead and drove over to Cochem that day even though it was raining off and on. The mountain roads are full of switchbacks but I had already learned to drive carefully on them during our first week while in Baden Baden.  It is amazing to see the vineyards perfectly planted on the tiniest steep patches of land along with the wow factor of picturesque little hamlets everywhere you look.  We kept passing small bands of motorcycles (lots of Harleys) on the country roads and actually recognized some of them pulling into Cochem right after we arrived. By then the rain was fairly steady but we didn’t let it rain on our parade.

I have to tell you a few years ago we went to New Orleans for a special weekend. It rained like crazy the whole time we were there but we had the best time ever running from place to place under our umbrellas. So we enjoyed  Cochem albeit slightly wet but no big deal. We ducked into an Irish pub for a warm Irish coffee and WC (water closet/ ladies room) to get our bearings. When we finished up there, we looked around for the perfect little restaurant to grab a late lunch since we realized we were hungry. We chose one that had a covered patio,  ordered a couple beers, and the best Schweineschnitzel I’ve ever eaten. When in Rome- oops I mean Germany- do as the Germans do. Eat, drink, and be merry. We walked around for awhile, marveled at the quaintness of the town, and wished we had the time and energy to climb to the local castle.

Just a note, exploring castles can be a lot of work. Physically, I mean. Hundreds of steps and steep paths that seem to go straight up at crazy angles. You are going to get some exercise even if you had no intention of doing so. With the soggy weather we decided the castle would have to wait for another day. We did duck into a lovely bakery and a couple shops that are full of typical wine country items. Next time we visit this area we will make sure to book reservations for a wine tasting event.

Since the day was beginning to disappear on us and the drive back to Sohren would take about 45 minutes, we decided to head back to our hotel about 5 pm. We stopped at the airport to drop off the rental car and take a look-see to find out where everything was situated for our early morning flight. We have learned that it is much easier to survey the train stations and airports ahead of time so no unpleasant surprises greet you when you are traveling on a tight schedule. Everything runs a bit smoother when you know where the terminal for your flight is and how to find the customs or the passport counter quickly. Fortunately, Frankfurt Hahn is a small airport similar to how Hobby Airport in Houston was in olden days and presented no issues. We did have to grab a taxi back to the hotel and have the inn keeper make a call for one to pick us up the next morning at 4:30 am but it all went smoothly. We both agreed that we’d like to come back and visit more of Germany. Below are a few pictures of some of the lovely spots we came across while in the Deutschland. Enjoy!

Back of Hotel Schinderhannes

Church around the corner from cafe

View from the cafe where we had late lunch in Cochem

Castle in Cochem

Local German beer (house brand). Yum!

Steep street leading up into the town

Church tower in Cochem

Leaving Cochem

The Mosel river running by Cochem between the Eifel and Hunsruck mountains

One of the churches in Sohren

Slowly but surely the next post will be the last leg of our European journey through Italy. Have a great day!

K & K