Sunday, July 1, 2012

I’m glad it wasn’t Vesuvius that erupted!

Those are lemons hanging!
Our evening tradition has become having cocktails with several friends in the Rendezvous Bar. The night before arriving in Naples we were imbibing as usual and noticed that there was a large island just off our starboard side. The Costa Concordia disaster was still fresh in our memories so of course we all went outside to see what we could see (wasn’t that a smart thing to do?). The captain had elected to sail around the west side of Stromboli (not nearly as close as Concordia sailed to its island, thank goodness), a definitely not extinct volcanic island. It emits some white smoke pretty continuously and we were all wondering why people would live on such an island (there is a fairly large group of houses at the base of the volcano). This from the two of us who lived for 27 years a half kilometer from the San Andreas fault. As we watched, it belched a large black cloud and ejected a lot of large boulders that cascaded down the denuded side of the island. Pretty exciting for a moment but that was all that happened. Whew!

We arrived in Naples on another beautiful day! I feel like we are living The Portrait of Dorian Grey; the weather has been so good on this trip so far I think that there must be an evil weather demon hiding in an attic somewhere and it’s going to pounce on us any moment now. Probably in Dover; we have heard the weather there is abysmal. Randy, ever the optimist, thinks the weather will clear out in the next 10 days and Dover, too, will be beautiful. We’ll see. Sooner or later this string of gorgeous weather has to break.

Today was technically Naples but all we have seen is the port (not very pretty, but few ports are). Our—OK, OK, my priority (Randy is just along for the ride)—was Pompei and it was beautiful and amazing. We had a very small private tour organized by Narelle. I knew it included Pompei but didn’t really know what else; whatever else was a bonus. And what a bonus we were to have!

Pompei is much larger than I expected, about 45 acres have been excavated—from under 10, yes TEN! meters of ash and lava—but another 30 acres remain to be excavated. It is stunning! There is no other word for it. To stand on the cobblestone streets and look into the shops and homes as they were (well, almost) in 79AD is just so extraordinary! Randy and I saw the devastation from Mt. St. Helens fairly soon after its eruption in the early 80s, only days after in fact, so we have some minor (very minor) appreciation of the devastation that occurred in Pompei. Walking the streets of Pompei one gets an appreciation of how large the town was and our guide was very good about describing what the archeologists have determined about the town and its inhabitants. It is the size of the city that makes the excavation and renovation just so remarkable.

They were a small people (we saw some casts of bodies that were discovered although most are in museums) and the town was quite wealthy judging by the (re)constructions of the huge central plaza that was roofed and two storeys high, the number of shops, the size of some of the homes, and the number of brothels. Yes, there were brothels and the signs that showed where they were still exist. The signs denoting the brothels are stone reproductions of penises embeded in the wall over the door of a brothel. Unfortunately I did not get any photos. Sorry I didn’t because those guys were…well, use your imagination.

After Pompei the ten of us got back in our mini-vans (ours driven by Umberto, the other by Gianni) and off we went for a drive down the Amalfi Coast and stunning views of Sorrento and several other towns that look like the buildings perched on the sheer hillsides and right down to the sea might tumble into the Mediterranean at any moment. Lunch was up at 1500 feet in a restaurant with panoramic views of the Med and the towns below.

It was a typical Italian menu—which we learned AFTER we loaded up on the first course—of about eight antipasto dishes followed by six pasta dishes followed by eight different desserts plus bottled water with and without “gas” (still and fizzy) and as much wine as we wanted. Whew! Good thing we weren’t driving ourselves. How do those Italian women stay so slender if they eat meals like that!?

In an hour or so in Sorrento after lunch we had a beer, Randy had a haircut, and we met Marie and Mal and their tour and changed our return to their hydrofoil back to Naples, much more interesting than a minivan twisting and turning for an hour back into the city! But our original tour members did beat us back.

Our favorite waiter in the Rendezvous Bar is going home in Rome so we’ll have to break in a new one to make our martinis. Patricia has promised to put our gin in the freezer. Other than that, life is not only good, but great! Tomorrow, Rome on a Princess tour.

12:00 July 1: we're anchored in Cannes harbor and we're off to take the tender into port and have lunch. Maybe after that I'll add captions to this Naples blog.
The Amalfi Coast

Beautiful bougainvillas grow everywhere.
Fresh fruit and vegetable stand.

Sorrento (I think)

Monia ("Like Monica without the 'c'"), our beautiful guide.

Flat Stanley enjoying the view from the restaurant.
Restaurant dish

Some of our group

Niches where the poor of Pompei were buried

Street scene in Sorrento

The walk down from the street in Sorrento to the boat dock

Sorrento from the boat dock

Amalfi Coast

A restored interior in Pompei

Just think, all of this was under ten meters of ash and lava!

Street scene, Pompei

More columns in Pompei

In the large amphitheater in Pompei

Monia, our Pompei guide; see why the guys paid such close attention?

Pompei ruins

Another street in Pompei
The drilled holes in the curbstones to tie the horses to.

Street in Pompei with stepping stones for when it rained a huge amount. They were spaced as far apart as Roman chariot wheels, but not anybody else's.

If you look very carefully above the closer door, you'll see the symbol for a brothel.

A bakery

A better view of the stepping stones in the streets. I think if you judged your path wrong, you'd get a heck of a jolt!

Inside the baths

The niches were for the bathers to put their clothes and other belongings.

Somehow, this was the heating system for the hot water for the baths.

One of the bodies that was excavated. The bodies actually created an empty space that the archeologists came to recognize as a place where a body had been and they would fill the space with plaster to get a mold of the body.
A small, about 10inches, very skittish lizard in the Pompei ruins.
An original fresco

More frescoes, this over a room in a brothel.

The brothel bedroom, complete with its own stone pillow.

Flat Stanley admiring one of Pompei's streets.

Randy in front of some of the ruins.

This mosaic is blocked off from public access because it is original.
The main square in Pompei; it was two storeys high and roofed over (somehow; without pillars I don't understand how it could have a roof, but that's what our guide said)

Flat Stanley admiring the ruins of the main square of Pompei.

More pillars

Flat Stanley just wanted to prove he really was at Pompei.

These are remnants of some of the amphorae that were unearthed as well as the body of a pregnant young girl.

Another body, of a young man.

In the marketplace, this was how they judged how much grain to charge for.

I told you this was a big place!
Flat Stanley at Pompei
The Amalfi Coast


  1. I have some wonderful memories of the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and Pompeii. Thanks for the tour and the great photos!

  2. Just be happy you didn't decide to drive the Amalfi coast yourselves. Quite an adventure!!!