Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Napoli by the Sea

Piazza dei Martiri near the hotel

We are no longer gainfully employed, but  the equivalent of business trips remain in our lives. For example, our passports were about to expire, so we went to Napoli to renew them at the American consulate there in person as we do not trust Italian postal service for sending such important documents (to tell the truth, we weren't all that confident when we applied by mail in the USA). Our distrust was a good excuse to check out Naples, so off we went by train to mix business and pleasure.

Napoli, on the Intercity train, is a 2 hour 10 minute journey normally, but for the second time this year, our train was stalled for 30 minutes in the area just south of Battipaglia. At least on the way in, we were lucky to sit out the extra time in good seats. On the way back the train was on time but we got the seats where you face each other (or strangers). Very uncomfortable.

We found a 4 star hotel within walking distance (1 mile/1.6 km) of the consulate which is located on the shoreline about 2km north of where the large ferries and cruise ships dock. The hotel Palazzo Alabardiera is a 10 minute taxi ride from Stazione Napoli Centrale. At €150 a night, it was typical for a large city quality hotel. We have since learned of a hotel very close to the consulate, but further from shopping. One must have priorities! Taxi stands are all about in case you don't feel like walking.

Castel dell'Ovo

There is a nice park area on the lungomare. Our one bad experience in Napoli was being gouged as foreign tourists at a bar there. We bought our normal double caffe’ macchiato and a gin tonica and they charged us €10,60 compared with €4,60 around home. They also used cheap Italian gin for the drink. Italians are good at some things, but making gin is not one of them. The drink was left behind.

Consulato degli Stati Uniti d'America

The American consulate sits near the sea. It has Italian military guards outside with a belt-fed machine gun, and private Italian security. After 5 years of dealing with Italian bureaucracy, this place was soooo nice and efficient. We were in and out in 20 minutes and served by a humorous American man who joked about a man from Cleveland and a woman from Chicago living in Calabria. We’ll return in about 2 weeks to pick-up the passports that are sent from the USA.

We didn't know there were hills on the northern part of Napoli

A Greenpeace boat anchored offshore

The return walk to the hotel through the shopping area showed us many stores to look into in the future. We both were exhausted and figured it was because of all the dodging of motorini on the streets and walking on the rough stone pavements. On yet another visit, we might try the historic district with its underground tunnels, etc.

The hotel is situated off main streets, so is pretty quiet. Although there is a restaurant/pizzeria within 50 meters (where we had a pizza--because we were in Napoli!), we only spotted one other restaurant in the time we were there. That is surprising as most Italian cities seem to have restaurants every 2 blocks or so. Anyway, the hotel is in the middle of the famous CHIAIA shopping district for those into shopping for upscale clothing and shoes. We might take more time to shop when we return to get the new passports.

FYI, the historic district of Napoli is between this neighborhood and the stazione. There are cheaper hotels nearer the stazione including (God forbid) a high rise Holiday Inn!

Oh, contrary to all you hear about Napoli being filled with bandits ready to pick your pockets or steal a purse, at no time did we see or sense anyone paying us the slightest attention on the streets. Another urban myth--or do we finally not look like tourists? However, the traffic was as bad as people have said.

Ciao a presto, Guido


A church almost every 3 blocks

Residences in the Chiaia District

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beauty and the Vendemmia

I was looking forward to starting the Stagione di Vino (wine season) with a report on a typical local vendemmia d’uva (grape harvest) and then the pressing and making of wine. I was a little late asking around, but I found that no one had a good grape crop this year and some had no oil olives at all.  I read in a paper recently that all of Europe is expecting a poor wine year. Too much rain.

Table olives and table grapes are still available in the markets, but they come from Puglia, Sicilia, ecc. We also had great plums (prugne) this year from Puglia, so who knows what affected the other fruits. 

One of the final evening events of August in our village piazza was a fashion show (sfilata) starring local teenage ragazze. Many folks gathered to watch-- close to the judges and a local bar had seating for people eating gelato or drinking cool things. I was squeezed-out of my spot behind the chairs, so made my way to a roof terrace over the bar.

Rita was the hostess and one of the key organizers. There was also a panel of judges with experience in the industry. Each girl had to choose the dress of a certain country/culture and create the outfit (probably with a lot of help from mamma or nonna and the local clothes shops!)

I didn’t have a way to record the country each young woman was representing, so am missing some info here. The Japanese outfit is obvious. Some of these ragazze went all out in their outfits and also the presentations -- some had obviously been practicing the moves of models on the red carpet! The crowd loved them all. They were bellissime.

Good memories of the recent summer as we slip into a very nice autumn. Enjoy:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Time Flies, Change Happens

Trumpet Glory 2014
Dreams and Reality
My neighbor and I came home from our morning walk and she said I should take a picture of this trumpet plant. That's how this post started. I was going to tell you about my dream to own a trumpet plant ever since I saw one in a Park's Seed catalogue. I knew better than to order one for Oregon. Park's is located in South Carolina--but I saw them growing all over the place here. So I bought one and took a cutting to grow another and now I have two!

How they looked when I set them out to grow

Being me, I couldn't leave it there. I also wanted to write about how dreams change when they become reality and how time changes everything. Yes, these things grew--they look glorious for about a week at a time (fortunately they do bloom more than once a year) but they also do nothing but cry for water, water all summer long. I'm learning how to manage them and my expectations. Just a few weeks later my neighbor suffered a stroke (she is fine now--thank goodness) and I don't know when we may walk together again but for now we talk and drink coffee. 

We need to appreciate beauty when it's there, not to expect perfection, and to accommodate change for good or ill, don't we?

Tastes Change, New Priorities

Guido learned to take a better picture and to warn me before snapping, I learned to love Italian black and white

Me dressed in remnants of Oregon not-so-chic 
Let's face it, working for the Forest Service does nothing for a woman's sense of style, even if, like me, you're a graduate of the design arts. Long story short, tastes change, hopefully for the better and life takes on new priorities. I'm taking more time with dressing these days and even now have more than one pair of everyday shoes. 

It's a surprise that it didn't go the other way with me saying "who cares how I dress?", but life is always surprising. We are still learning to get the best out of each day. This is hard when illness strikes or when the water heater keeps giving us trouble but it is now a priority to at least try.

Some changes actually went against my nature. Practicality over beauty? Or can one really have both? I'm still willing to do more work than most to have my plants on the terrace, BUT I'm thinning out the ones who really don't like being there (don't want to cooperate with gale force winter winds and summer sun).

I still love this table, just didn't work on the terrace, Umbrellas are History

We also dispensed with the beach umbrellas on the terrace and found a giant rectangular one that is actually meant for the job. The wood table went inside downstairs after we valiantly tried to protect it from the weather on the terrace and failed miserably. 

So, Father Time, march on, we are not ready for you but things will work out!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...