Happy Birthday Mama--From Malta to Venice with the Family Day 6--Pompeii and Naples


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Europe » Italy » Campania » Naples
June 15th 2016
Published: June 16th 2016
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While Mark and I were at the pool yesterday, the captain had come on the loud speaker and said that due to high winds and rough seas, it was decided to change our port for tomorrow to Naples instead of Sorrento. All of the tours would be the same but Naples would be a better starting point. John the cruise director came on a few minutes later and said, “All excursions will be the same, no worries on that, just check the Passages (the daily flyer of what is happening on the ship) to see what your revised departure time will be. Our original departure time was 8 a.m. and the revised one was 8:15 so not much difference.

We got up, had breakfast (no sunshine for Mark today, thanks very much!) and got to the theater on time. All of the Hammonds and most of the Watkins were there (Liz and Katie were missing but that’s about normal) and Matt told us we had to all turn our tickets in at the same time if we wanted to travel together. Katie came in and finally Liz came in and we all got our small tickets for group 10. Since Naples is a docked port, we didn’t have to worry about the tender which was nice. Our group was called and we made our way out of the Port of Naples and outside where a woman carrying a 10 was waiting for us. After we got on the bus, she started speaking Italian in the most lilting, musical fashion and then she said, “No, no, no, I speak English but you are in Italy so I wanted to welcome you in Italian!” She introduced herself as Ada and said today she was going to take us back in time to the wonderful city of Pompeii which was destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.

She told us that when Vesuvius erupted, people gathered in the streets and in the courtyards of their homes to watch this amazing spectacle of fire and ash coming out of the mountain. At first it was okay because the wind was blowing away but then the wind shifted and Pompeii was covered in 30 feet of hot lava, ash and rock. The people literally suffocated in place.

It took about 40 minutes to get to Pompeii and we had about 10 minutes of free time while she went to buy the tickets. We then walked as a group up to the entrance. We stopped for a few minutes while Ada told us about the steep road we were looking at, that this was the road for the people coming to visit or trade in Pompeii. She said many of the merchants used different gates because this road was so steep but if a merchant chose to use this gate, there were porters standing around ready to help tote their wares up the steep hill. She also said that the Bay of Naples was only about 600 meters from the end of the walkway so sea merchants could come straight from the ship, a half kilometer in from the sea and be at this major trading post.

We walked through the entrance gate and up the steep stoned path, through the gateway arch and into Pompeii. There is no way to give words to really describe this but I will try a few.

BIG—Pompeii is huge. The number of houses and businesses and streets plus the forum and the theater and the basilica and the markets, it is mind blowing. And to have all of this so well preserved is equally awe inspiring.

SOPHISTICATED—The inventions they had for making their lives better were phenomenal. Like in the Roman bath, they had these small raised areas traveling up and down the ceiling like long, skinny snakes. They were to catch the condensation and guide it down to a trough placed around the area where the walls met the ceiling. That way, drops of condensation did not fall on and bother the bathers. The sidewalks were raised (about 18 to 24 “) and in the middle of the street every now and again, there would be large stones with spaces between them going across the street. Ada told us that the streets could get really nasty during rainy periods with animal feces and garbage flowing down. They put these stones in the street so people could cross the street without stepping into the muck. They put spaces between them, though, so that chariots and carts could still travel down the street. The roads also had white stones periodically which, at night, would reflect in the torch light so people arriving late could still find their way on the road. We saw a bakery with a mill stone shaped like a cone with the top cut off. The wheat would go in at the top and, with handles inserted, the millstone would turn and as the kernels went down, the space between the outer and inner stones got tighter and tighter until what came out at the bottom was finely milled flour. At this bakery, there was an oven that, Ada said, when they discovered Pompeii, this oven had 80 loaves of bread still inside.

She spent a lot of time showing us the red light district and some brothels, one of which had a menu in mosaic of what you could ask for. There were signs everywhere of what business could be found inside the house, most of which looked like penises. We also saw homes and the basilica and the forum which included the wool market and the temple to Apollo. There were columns and marble and intricate brick-work everywhere. It was truly amazing. I said to Sara Katherine, “I don’t think I can say amazing anymore because I have used up my allotment today.” We only saw a very small portion of Pompeii and we all agreed that we could go back and spend 3 days easily. Mark and I really missed Andrew today as he studied Latin all through high school and would have eaten this up.

After this truly stunning visit, we had 30 minutes back in the tourist area. We sampled some limoncello and limoncello cream and then sat down to have a refreshment. I ordered a diet Coke (€5—what?!?) and were ready to go when Ada came and fetched up. We asked her about the possibility of getting to Amalfi but because we had docked in Naples and not Sorrento, decided it was not possible. She suggested that we explore Naples a bit. When the tour ended back at the dock, Julie, Steve, Katie, Brian, Wil and I decided we wanted to go into Naples and find some Napoli Pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza and why not try it here? Ada gave us the name of the place she felt like had the best pizza and I put the address in my Google Maps and off we went. Unfortunately, Google Maps wanted us to travel places that were not really walkable. Ada had said hug the coast and that’s what we ended up doing. Around the third bend of the coast, we suddenly were in a row of restaurants with lots of people outside saying, “Come in! Pizza! Pizza!” Steve and I were walking together and, after saying, “No thank you” to the 15th barker, he said, “Don’t we look like people on a mission?” We did that. The Pizzaria Sorbillio was the very last pizza place on the block and, as opposed to the other places that had lots of room, this one we had to wait for 30 minutes. Steve and Brian went inside and ordered us a variety pack of beers and we all chose our poison. The wait turned out to be more like 15 minutes and we were seated at a lovely table outside under the umbrella. The waiter came and gave us a brief explanation of the menu in Level 3 English and we ordered. Julie and I split a Margharita pizza, Liz ordered one for herself, Steve ordered a spicy salami pizza, Katie ordered a pesto pizza and Wil got a Margharita pizza with fresh tomatoes. We sat and drank our beers and said we hoped those ship-bound people were having fun because we sure were. The pizzas came and Julie and I were so glad we had split one—they were huge! Probably 18 inches in diameter and gorgeous to look at. Katie took a picture of the table with her Cube. The tomato sauce on this pizza had never seen a can. It was as fresh as it could be, probably from tomatoes that had been picked the day before. The Buffalo mozzarella was thin and delicious and it was covered with a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese. The crust was thin and just charred enough. It was delicious. Wil said again and again, “This is the best pizza I’ve ever had.” It was such fun and we were all so glad we had done this.

Went back to the ship, found Mark napping. He woke up and said he was headed to the pool. I said I’d join him and then I thought maybe I’ll just lie here for a while. 1 ½ hours later, the phone rang. It was mom—the plan is to meet at Galileo’s on deck 11 at 6:00. I went and found Mark and told him to start getting ready. He came in, we showered and got ready to go. We got to Galileo’s at 6:10. No family. Went to the other 6 bars on the ship. No family. Went off the ship to look at a bag and then got back on the ship. Went back to Galileo’s and Katie was at the bar. She said, “They’re outside.” Ahhh—didn’t look there! We found the family, enjoyed a cocktail with them. While we were sipping, some members of the cast of the shows came by and we chatted with them for a while. Really delightful young people. Mom delighted in telling them she was here celebrating her 80th birthday and they were suitably impressed.

We went down to the Compass Rose for dinner. Seating tonight—Mark, Skate, Liz and Katie with Grammy, Jack and me at one table, all the grandsons and Michael, Julie and Steve at the other. We cannot all sit at one table so we have to strategically divide ourselves into two groups. That worked tonight. Dinner was a shrimp and asparagus risotto, beef consommé, green salad and New York Strip steak accompanied by a Viognier with the first courses and a San Genovese with the main course. Dessert was a chocolate soufflé.

After dinner we went to the Seven Seas Theater and watched a violinist strut and play beautiful music. Then we went back up to Galileo’s and Mom danced with all of her grandsons. It was a blast to watch her shine. She is really enjoying this! Mark and I danced a few, I danced with Wil and just enjoyed hanging out with my family. Janet Jones, the Smithsonian lecturer, came by and we chatted for a bit. She is very nice. I introduced my family and she, too, ooohed and aaahed at Mom’s impending 80th birthday. After she left, Mom said, “Leave it to you to become best friends with the cruise lecturer.” What can I say?

Got to bed at close to midnight but tomorrow is a sea day so NO ALARMS! Looking forward to a relaxed day with lots of pool time.

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