Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Sitting at a desk overlooking our balcony, which in turn overlooks the beautiful Bay of Naples. From our balcony we have about a 120° view, and everywhere the view is stunning. On the far western horizon twinkle the lights of Capo Miseno, ancient Misenum, the port from which Pliny the Younger observed the fearsome eruption of Vesuvius, some twenty miles away, in 79 CE. Stretched out along the northern peninsula of the bay opposite us are other glittering jewels: Cuma, site of the famous Sybil at the entrance to the underworld, Posilippo, Erculano, and the queen of the Bay herself, Napoli, with her glittering lights cascading down the lower reaches of the sleeping giant. And there on the northeastern horizon, silhouetted against the sky, is the towering bulk of Vesuvio himself. Closer at hand: Pompeii, Torre Annunziato, Castellamare, and then along the Sorrentine peninsula, seemingly pasted up against the precipitous cliffs of the Monti Lattari, “Milky Mountains”, the lights of Seiano,Vico Equense, Valle della Luna, “Valley of the Moon”, Meta, and the lower suburbs of Sorrento herself. Pure magic.

If I seem to be waxing poetic here, I’ll have to ask forgiveness; I’m under the influence of the Siren Parthenope, the beautiful seductress who governs these cliffs in myth, lures sailors to destruction (and writers to purple prose) by her seductive song, and ultimately gave her name to the seductive little town. I can catch a glimpse of her statue sitting on the terrazza diagonally from the balcony.

Our hotel, the Hotel Europa Palace, is quite simply one of the nicest we’ve ever been lucky enough to stay in. It’s perched on an absolutely sheer cliff, 250’ above the sea, with a spectacular view of the Bay. Below us a small harbor shelters fishing boats, yachts, and the small hydroplanes which ferry tourists and locals to many of the islands which define the western rim of the gulf. Hey, it’s one of those places which practically compels a hick like me to sit out on the huge terazza with the love of my life and a glass of wine, prop my feet up, stare out at all that spectacular scenery, scratch my chin and say,”Weeeeeeell, wonder what the po’ folk are doin’ today?” It’s as close as Dave and Sandy will ever come to living like plutocrats. But, trust me, it’s close enough. And more.

It’s been a wonderful trip so far. First of all we had a trip over that was probably the most trouble-free we’ve ever had. I’m almost scared to brag about it for fear of jinxing the return flights: planes departed on time, connections were made with a little time to spare to grab a bite and shake the dew from our lily pad, luggage showed up in Rome in a reasonably timely fashion and without damage!

The one small problem we encountered was transferring in Munich. This was our first trip through this airport, and I’ll bet my friend Ed will attest that it has a pretty weird configuration. It’s basically a high-rise terminal, built on three levels in a long, straight series of gates, with boarding ramps that sometimes descend as much as two stories. But even at that there’s really not enough boarding space for all the flights in and out, so many departing travelers have to be bused from the terminal to planes on the tarmac, and gate numbers change with alarming speed. Our boarding passes directed us to gate 16 where an agent of Lufthansa spun us around and sent us off to find gate 65. You can do the math there, that’s quite a haul. And you can probably predict what happened when we arrived: back to gate 8, only four gates down from where we’d been at the far other end of a very long terminal. No extra charge for the impromptu tour of the lovely Munich terminal. But that’s a quibble in the scheme of things; the rest of the trip was as pleasant as 12 hours of air travel can be.

And then there are our traveling companions, a pure delight. First, we have one of the nicest, most congenial groups of students and adults we’ve ever had. These folks are so punctual, alert and organized I almost feel like we should ask them to shepherd us along. Plus they’re just darned nice, a delight to be around, to talk to. And, God love ‘em, they’re hearty eaters, something that warms ole Dave’s heart. And makes weary travelers a lot less cranky.

Then there are our local guides. Our head honcho, by earnest request, is a wonderful young man named Oshri who’s simply the most knowledgeable, charming and engaging tour director we’ve had in our many trips with students. We’ve made enough tours with this company that I suppose our request carries some weight. And he’s so good looking that Sandy is shamelessly atwitter around him. And, truth to tell, I have such a man-crush on him that I don’t much mind. Our local guide in Rome was a displaced Austrian named Heidi whom we also love for her combination of intelligence and spunk. And our guide tomorrow in Pompeii will be Massimo, again, our preference by far.

Most important from a purely personal perspective is the fact that we are traveling with a dear friend of over forty years named Carol. Carol is a master gardener, of both the kitchen and horticultural variety, as well as a talented artist and decorator. It’s such a pleasure to experience again through her keen eye all these incredible sights. And though I won’t intrude on Carol’s privacy by yabbering on here, I’ll let it suffice to say that I’m also honoring a promise I made two years ago which I consider nothing less than a sacred trust.

I’m nodding here, and we have a busy day tomorrow what with Pompeii, Capri and Sorrento all three, so I’ll catch you up on some of our fun in ‘Bella Roma’ a bit later. I have an appointment with a cozy bed and some delightfully cool Sorrentine night air, filled with the scents of jasmine, oleander and the salty waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No comments:

Post a Comment