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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…

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Let’s go back in time to August 30th

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When we left Terneuzen in the Netherlands and drove to Karlsruhe, Germany. One of Kris’s co-workers, Eric, drove us to Karlsruhe. There were four of us- Eric, Kris, Mi, and me. We terrorized Eric with all kinds of interesting topics such as pink cows, flowers, food, and politics. He later told me that he loved it as he didn’t have to talk shop with the boys if he’d been in the the car with them. Besides, Eric has a wife and daughters so he is used to our type of chatter. Mi, Kris’s other co-worker that rode with us is from Catalonia in the country of Spain. DOW has a plant there and we hope to one day visit there also.

We arrived in Karlsruhe late that afternoon and checked into the swanky Karlsruhe Marriot about 4 pm. Kris had to go meet the work crew for dinner leaving me alone to ponder dinner. I decided to order room service since I knew I would be exploring the city at great lengths the next day. I hadn’t had much to eat that day though we did stop at a typical German truck stop on the way there that was connected to a Burger King (had a Whopper Jr.) and really cool toilets (see picture below- they are self cleaning and rotate). I ordered too much food. My dinner consisted of a Flammkuchen (German pizza with onions, cheese, and delicious bits of Black Forest ham), one-half of a killer cheeseburger, and a few fries. Mostly I took pictures of the food because I could.

The next morning left alone to knock about on my own, I set off for the Schloss Karlsruhe (palace), Stadtgarden (botanical gardens), and just meandered around the city. I didn’t have any breakfast so I found a local brewery to have an early lunch and try their superb beer. This is the link for Der Vogelbrau- http://www.vogelbraeu.de/ if you are interested in this type of activity. See pics below of my lunch. I picked up a few souvenirs to have shipped back. I imagine they will show up in a week or two. The mail post is a bit of work when sending items from Europe due to US customs and rules. One package finally made it here on Saturday the day we came home. It took two weeks from the Netherlands.

I am going to load the pictures onto this post and hope you can see what a pretty city Karlsruhe is since it was one of my favorites. I probably don’t have to tell you that I walked everywhere that day totaling quite a bit of mileage since I didn’t have time to figure out the city metro system which is very efficient. And yes, my feet and legs got a heck of a workout. Europe is a great place to get in shape. Below is the palace called the castle by some of the locals,  fabulous botanical city gardens that I walked around for two hours, the biergarten, the pyramid holding the ashes of Margrave Karl Wilhelm, a store with my last name on it, and various pictures I took while wandering. I also included a picture of Kris and her co-workers that I took when we went out later that night.  Great city. Clean, beautiful, and nice friendly people. Except for the poor girl I must have scared to death when I tried to ask questions about finding the post office. I think she thought I was going to rob her or something even though I approached her carefully. Win some, lose some. The next post will be of our farewell to Germany and onward to Italy.

Till then,

Karen

Marketplatz

Ashes are inside the crypt of Margrave Karl Wilhelm

Schloss Karlsruhe

Stadtgarden

Loved this fountain

See Meyer name up there?

My lunch at Der Vogel

Biergarten in back of Der Vogel

Pretty trees in garden

One of dozens of streets I walked that day.

My fabulous flammkuchen!

DOW people- Not in order but here they are: Erin from Canada, Erik Jahn & Eric from the Netherlands, Paul and Kris from USA, and Mi from Catalonia.

View from our room. Meant to go climb the steps but ran out of time and energy.

And last but not least- the efficient toilets in Germany. See how the seats rotate?

“Taste this,” she said.

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I believe some of you are interested in the various food experiences we’ve had while here in Europe. First let me give you a little background info on Kris’s eating habits. She is from a family that raised beef in Pennsylvania and they are mostly of Irish heritage. So- meat and potato girl she is. Kris hardly eats anything that is green. Iceberg lettuce and skinny asparagus. She likes raw carrots, onions sauteed to a complete translucent state, and loves homemade tomato sauce where the sauce has been cooked down for so many hours it is smooth. I have introduced her to various fish dishes over the last few years and she actually likes fish now. Needless to say, I will try anything once as long as it is not still alive or smells disgusting. Unlike that guy on one of the food network shows that tries everything all over the world, I use discretion in what I will put into my mouth. Also, I know that there are proper terms for some of the different food items we have tasted over here but I am not Julia Child and do not have her vocabulary, just her taste buds.

Good bier!

Many of you know one of my favorite things to do is check out the local grocery stores to get an idea of what the locals buy and eat. Another reason is that you just get tired of eating out and if there is a refrigerator in your hotel room, you can buy wonderful deli meats and cheeses here in Europe that are usually a rare splurge at home. I noticed that the French soft cheeses  normally costing a small fortune can be had here for a couple of Euros’ and the breads are incredible. The best thing is you can buy just a half loaf so you don’t feel so wasteful when you are ready to try another variety. The produce we’ve bought at little markets we’ve ventured upon are locally grown and quite nice. Tomatoes taste like tomatoes. You know what I’m talking about. I grow my own every year so I can say it. I am a tomato snob. There- I’ve said it. So, on to the foodie stuff. Pictures, now that’s what I’m talking about!

Butcher shop in Vianden

Sadly there have been times when I just forgot to get my camera out and snap a shot before the dish had been dug into. It happens easily when you are off your regular meal times due to problems with local customary eating habits. So even though you’re not going to starve to death because you’ve missed a meal or two, when the meal shows up at your table you just dig in with gusto. But I did manage to get a few pics of some of the delightful items we have tried while we’ve been here in Europe…Enjoy and I’ll be back soon! Karen

Cherry tart in Belgium

Meat stall at the market in Brugge

Potatoes, hams, sausages, chickens. Meat lovers paradise.

Raspberries are as large as the cherries.

Now that’s a happy waffle smile!

Steamed mussels in wine