Wednesday, 03 May 2006

Archaeology and Wine go together like Peas and Carrots

Santorini isn't just stunning views and beautiful vistas.  It's also an island of import to archaeologists and the site of an eons-old wine tradition.

It was time for us to take a day to learn all we could about these two pursuits.

So that's not a very long time to become an expert on ancient history, or wine - that didn't stop us from getting back on our little leggies and setting off to perhaps one of the most important archaeological sites anywhere, ancient Akrotiri.

Akrotiri is known as the "Minoan Pompeii," because it was buried by a volcano (same as Pompeii) - the same one that blew out the center of the island circa 1650 BCE.

We were really excited to see the buildings, which from all accounts are remarkably preserved.  When we showed up, though, we were told admission would be free because of the construction going on on the giant UV-protecting roof/cover.

So, this is what the ancient site of Akrotiri looked like to us:

Akrotiri under construction

We couldn't see anything.  I tried matching up the little bits of what we could see with the descriptions in my book, but nothing doing.

Akrotiri

(sadly, in September of 2005, the roof - which had been under construction since 1999 - collapsed, killing a British tourist and injuring several tourists and workers.)

So, unfortunately, we weren't able to get too much out of our visit to Akrotiri.  But - it was free!

Leaving the site, we hailed a cab.  "Take us to Boutari!" we cried.  (follow that link, click on wineries, then click on santorini.  Stupid inability to permalink.)

And he did.

And we ordered two tasting flights of Boutari's wine.

Boutari Wine Tasting - the good stuff

Which came with olives and cheese and tomatoes and dry crackery bread for palate-cleansing.

It was a little surprising, how much wine they put in front of us.  Some we liked more than others, and we hadn't heard of the grapes most of them were made of.  I enjoyed them all.

After Boutari set the bar, we thought we'd walk back into town to try Santo Wines.  Of course, this ended up being a longer walk than we were expecting, but we were used to that by now...

Donkey living by Boutari

Hi, donkey!

We passed a vineyard, which was very different from those we saw in Italy.

Grape vines protected from the Santorini elements

On Santorini, they twist all the vines around each other and grow the grapes in the basket created by the leaves and vines.  This protects the grapes from the relentless sun and winds.

Though tour buses passed us every, oh, thirty seconds or so, the area where we were actually walking seemed to be inhabited by the people who honest-and-for-real live on the island.

Greek sign we saw along the walk to Santo Wines

(Note that, by this time, I had wisened up and bought a hat.)

This is apparently a car repair shop.  (Thanks, Leda, for the translation!)

We did finally make it to Santo Wines, our buzz from Boutari having quite worn off.

The tasting building and shop run by Santo Wines is set in a building with a beautiful view north towards Fira.  I really wanted to like these guys - it's apparently a collective run by some of the grape-growers on the island.  I always do like supporting the little guy!

Again, we ordered too much wine.  We were definitely not expecting each glass to be so full!

Santo Wines Wine tasting - the not-so-good stuff

We struck up a conversation with the guy at the table next to us, who happened to be from Fort Lauderdale Florida - the same town my grandparents live in.

He offered to take our picture as we sat with our wine.

Some Floridian tries to be artsy

As he took our picture, he said "You have plenty of shots of the two of you - you need one of the view!"

Well - O.K... this pic does show you the lovely view from Santo Wines, though.

Our reaction to Santo Wines was a little different than our reaction to Boutari.  While a couple of the wines were nice, for the most part they were really unbalanced - sweet yet sharp, not a good combination.

Disappointed, we left to catch a cab to Art Space, in the small town of Exo Gonia.  We heard that this place was a gallery which had a nice selection of wines you could try while looking at perhaps a few pieces of art.

Well - it was emphatically NOT that, in that it was much, much more interesting.

Adonis, the owner, welcomed us enthusiastically to the cave-like gallery.  We were only able to take one picture before he asked us to stop, and we respected his wishes.  (there are a bunch of pictures if you follow the art space link above, though.)

Our one picture of the inside of artspace

As it turned out, Adonis ran a gallery in an extremely old building that used to be a winery.  He had some old wine-making equipment, along with what he called the oldest remaining traditional tomato paste maker in all of Greece.  The gallery was full of the art of up-and-coming Greek artists, and Adonis was very knowledgeable about these artists, along with the history of Santorini and Greece in general.

He was a very interesting guy, who we were lucky to meet.

Then - he offered us some of his homemade vin santo to taste (the Santorini kind, not the Tuscan kind), just bottled and without a label yet.  It was wonderful!  So... we bought a bottle.  We are waiting for a special occasion to open it up- perhaps a second anniversary?  Hmmmm....

Next time - the archaeological museum of Santorini, and perhaps the worst meal we had in Greece.

girlie

Sunday, 09 April 2006

Our Accidental Walking Tour of Santorini

First of all, before I start the story of the leisurely two-hour stroll that turned into the walk from, if not hell, than at least the entrance of hell - be sure to stop a moment and admire my awesome new haircut!

Girlie's haircut

The woman who cuts my hair, Joey, is a magicworker and I love her.

Anyway.

After our awesome donkeywalk the morning of June 14, 2004 (yes - almost 2 years ago! :-( ) we thought we would take a walk from Fira to Ia, a town on the nothwest end of the island of Santorini known for its beauty, especially the beauty of the sunset as viewed from their lovely pathways.

Frommer's told us to allow at least 2 hours for the walk; we started out about 5 hours before sunset, thinking we would take it easy and stop in some of the little towns we were sure would be along the way.  We even brought a bottle of wine and some olives to share when we felt like taking a break, sometime a little further down the road towards Ia.

For your reference during this post, here's a map.

Map of Santorini

Ia/Oia is on the north end of the island, where the island curls around and ends - it's on the side towards the center of the island.  Fira (or Thira) is on the inside of the island as well - if you follow the line along the inside south from Ia, it's a little past that boat icon just south of Skaros.  (If you click on the map, it will take you to the Flickr page where I have the two towns marked with little boxes.)

About 6 miles, according to Frommer's - that is, if you don't get lost...

The walk started out really promisingly.  We left Fira and headed towards the towns just to the north - there's barely any room between them, it's really just a stretch of houses and shops and hotels and guesthouses.  All lovely.

We met a cat, who was avoiding the heat of the sun.

A kitty on our way out of town

Who's a pretty guy?  Awww.

Firostephani and Imerovigli, the next two towns, were somehow much quieter than Fira.  I think it would be a good idea to stay there if you're wanting to be a little further away from the bustling hordes of Fira - somehow, less than a half-mile made a really big difference.

Plus, they were just stunning towns.

Beautiful Santorini scene

I feel like this picture looks like we stole it from some tourist brochure - but I swear we didn't.  Just another shockingly stunningly beautiful home.

It didn't take long for us to gather a posse for our trip.

Our doggie friend

This dog kept us company for a little while.  He'd bound around us, then take off for a few mintues, then show back up again.  Tragically (in his mind, I'm sure), we didn't have any food suitable for doggies on us - so he finally gave up and trotted back towards town just as the buildings started to get fewer and farther between.

Husbear insisted on photographing this stairway to nowhere - I think it turned out pretty cool.

Stairway to nowhere (through picasa)

I've heard that the blue and white of the Greek flag were chosen at least to partly symbolize the colors of the sky and sea of Greece. 

The path was pretty well marked, at least at the outset.  It was paved with flagstones, and had a low wall along the side with the steep drop.  Very nice.

We took a picture of the path we were following.

A view of the clifftop path

You can see the path snaking along the clifftop - but you can't see Ia yet.  It's still off to the left.

Somehow, even seeing this view, we didn't realize that we still must have been hours away.

Actually, really stupidly, we decided that there's no time like the present to find a shady spot, sit, and have our wine and olives!

We found a lovely little church, and nearby there was a hill with a view of the road and the other side of the island.  We had a lovely break; sitting, having a little wine, watching the occasional car go by, chatting about how crazy it was that we were sitting on an actual real Greek island, seeing the changing light as the sun started to set...

Oh crap!  The sun!

We started off again - and this is where I started to realize that we might have a small problem.

Finally, a view of Ia

Yes, that's the sun starting to go out of view behind the cliffs.  But you can see Ia - that kind of white blotch near the end of the island.

We were high bove the road, but even if we had been close to it, we didn't know where the buses stopped to take us along to Ia - so we just started walking faster.

I'm sure there's a good reason I brought a purse.

Trust me, had I known the walk would be this rugged, I wouldn't have worn a skirt and brought my tiny purse.  This picture, though, cracks me up now - I look like I'm thinking "My lawd, what-EVah shall I do?  I sure could use a mo-jito!"

As we climbed further up into the hills, I started to wonder if we were going the right direction.  We hadn't seen any signs pointing to Ia recently...

Husbear found these little rock piles, and pointed to them as evidence that others had been here before us.  I felt it was much more likely that they were rescue beacons placed by stranded hikers, or perhaps markers to remember unfortunate souls who hadn't made it to Ia for the sunset..

An attempt to prove others had been here before

I think Husbear might have been getting... let's say tired of my negativity at this point.  Heh.  There may or may not have been words exchanged.

We kept pushing on, though.  At one point, it became clear that we were walking right up the path leading up to some guy's house; we had to climb a fence to get off his property and back onto the trail.

It might be time for new signs on this portion of the path, yes?

Finally, we reached the last hill between us and Ia.  We crested the top of the hill, and I can't tell you just how relieved I was to see the lights of the town before us.

Pretty dark, still not in Ia

The only problem remaining was how we were supposed to clamber down the hill with limited light on an unpaved rocky path.

Somehow, we managed not to break/twist/sprain anything, which was exciting.

We had made it to Ia!  Hours too late to see the sunset, and also too late to actually enjoy the picturesque charms of the town... but we made it, and that's the important thing.

Wow, was I happy to be in Ia.

Posing with a fish (and filthy feet)

That grin on my face is less jesting at the expense of that wonderful fish, and more just being thrilled to be back in a town.  That fish is pretty neat, isn't it?

I feel like I look fairly well put together, considering the hike we had just taken... until you check out my feet, which were so filthy and dusty I kept trying to hide them under my skirt.  This doesn't work when your skirt ends at mid-calf.

We stopped at a restaurant which was supposed to have a good view of the caldera, but it was too dark to really be able to enjoy it.  We ordered a bunch of food and fell to.  Cats twined around our table, hoping for scraps. 

Our dinner, flavored with hunger

I felt such a sense of accomplishment after that walk, though.  Everyone we mentioned the trek to later on said "Wow - that's a really long way to go on foot!"  and I just nodded, like it had been a breeze, and said "I know - and it was wonderful."

The thing is - it really was.  Husbear and I had a wonderful time, for the most part, and he still makes me laugh when he reminds me of that time on Santorini where I told him off on the side of a mountain.

girlie

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Our new juicer (no, not really)


we want this juicer, originally uploaded by bootsintheoven.

I don't know why we never blogged this picture!  This is the juicer I want. 

Check it out.  Bask in its loveliness.

Oranges take that wire track into the top of the machine, where they drop into the top of the arm on the left.  The arms then swing down to meet, slicing the orange in twain on a blade.

Each orange half is than juiced simultaneously, and the juice drops into a cup below.

The orange halves, now spent, are then dumped into the buckets on either side.

Ingenious!  I see them all over Europe, but have never seen one in the States.  Ahhhh.  This one was spotted in a little bar in Positano.

If anyone wants to buy me one, please write girlie at bootsintheoven@gmail.com.

girlie

Monday, 20 March 2006

Of Donkstachios and NRG

My breakfast at NRG

Yes please, I'll take a bowl of Greek yogurt with peaches, kiwi, walnuts, raisins and Greek honey - and could I get a cuppa Greek coffee on the side, there, but just a little sweet, not extra sweet?

Thanks.

On the morning of our second day in Santorini, we decided to hit a small creperie called "Cafe NRG."  It was not the last time we'd end up there - their prices were reasonable, their food tasty, and their concept eminently translateable.  The owners told us that they had been asked by many an American tourist whether they were going to franchise their idea, but they just didn't feel like doing the extra work.

(People after my own heart.)

Just outside the door of NRG, we ran into a donkey.

Husbear with purveyor of donkstachios

(Check out that street!  Why am I not there right now?)

This donkey was not just any donkey - this donkey was selling terrific roasted pistachios.  (OK - actually, you can see the foot of the guy selling the pistachios over on the left - he didn't want to be in the picture.)  We bought a small bag, which you can see in the Husbear's hand - but the next day, we had to come back and buy two of the large size.  One to eat, one to smuggle (achem) back into the country to give GQ, a noted fan of pistachios.

Naptime!

Resting kitty on marble stoop

Not for us - we were on vacation!  Though that cool marble does look rather inviting.

Santorini afforded us an opportunity we could not pass up.

For three euros, you can ride a donkey up the side of the caldera, from the port (Skala Fira) to Fira town.

We had to go.

First, we took a cable car down (same price as the donkey - 3 euros).

View of Fira from cable car

Isn't that volcanic rock neat?

We shared our cable car down with a group of 'mercans from one of the three or four cruise ships currently in the harbor.  That is the thing about Santorini, at least during the day - it is jammed with daytrippers, especially in the area right around the cable car terminus.

These particular folks were talking about how their two hours on the island were really plenty - they had seen enough, and were ready to get back to the formal dinner taking place on board that evening.

It's not that I have any problems with cruises!  I love them (I've been on two wonderful Carribean cruises, courtesy of my wonderful papa), and would really like to go on an Alaska cruise, or a leaf-peeping (almost typed peeing) cruise, one of these days - you get to see things you can't from the land.  But I'm not really about the giant ships that throw like 4,000 people out into these culturally rich areas for like three hours and tell them they've distilled the essence of the country.

Skala Fira didn't have much by way of diversions - a few little souvenir shops, selling the usual - hats and postcards and batteries and books about Santorini in fifteen different languages - so we went to look for the donkeys to ride back up.

'Twerent hard to find.

Donkeys are ready to go

Basically, you walk over to the beginning of the path back up to town - and you're suddenly surrounded by donkeys and Greek men in little hats saying "You ride donkey now!  Ride Donkey!"

Pay the man, dear

It was actually hilarious - people would be walking down the path from Fira, they'd reach the donkeys, and these guys would immediately try to get them right back on a donkey to turn right back around and head up to town.

The donkeys were adorable, if a little donkeysmelling.  (what were you expecting, girlie?  Shaddup.)

This one was ready to call it a day.  (Look familiar?  Check out our banner.)

Donkey ready for a nap

The donkeys actually seemed to be in good shape, from what we could see, and well cared for.  We hopped on our donkeys (I'm grinning like an idjit just thinking about it - this was the most fun ever).

Me on donkey

I know I look like I'm thinking this might not be a great idea... but that's just me squinting, I swear.

Somehow, I got to be the one that held the camera on the way up the path, which is why these pictures... they're not very good.

Time to head up!

Husbear on donkey

Actually?  Looking at this picture, I'm fairly certain Husbear's donkey was... well... having a bit of a tinkle.  But I got to take the lead!  You snooze, you lose!  Woo!

The race up the side of the caldera was slow, completely out of our control, and so hysterical it made me cry.  Donkeys stopped when they felt like it, nibbling on tasty little sprouts growing out from between the stones.  Donkey shoulders were thrown - and my donkey was evil, nipping at several others as they tried to pass.

View back down to skala fira

Things with our little group were going so slow, in fact, that one of the guys from the base had to ride a teeny donkey (maybe a mule?  Or we were riding mules and he was on an actual donkey?) up behind us really fast, shaking bells and yelling.  This seemed to put a fire under our noble steeds, and the pace picked up substantially.

The plan for the afternoon was to lay low for a while, until the heat of the day started to subside, and then go for what our wicked, wicked frommer's called a "leisurely two-hour stroll" from Fira to Ia.  We planned to take it slow, stop in a couple of the towns along the way.  Yeah.

First, though, it was time to have a little snack.  Back to NRG!  (Please forgive us - but their food was really good, and cheap, and good, and did I mention cheap?)

We really did think about jacking their concept - it's pretty cool!

For pics, here's a couple of links: 

1) on the left side of the door, facing into the street

2) view into the store - pretty much shows the entire interior

3) the toppings bar - like a Subway, but good!  And actually fresh!

(As always, you know, you can visit our photostream directly - or view our growing honeymoon album!  You can even see the honeymoon photos as a slideshow by clicking on the "view as slideshow" link on the set page, too.)

Leaving you with a pic of happy me, chillaxin' with my crepe.  This was before I came to know the hell that is the walk from Fira to Ia.  HA!  You're just going to have to wait.

Happy Girlie with a crepe

girlie

Thursday, 02 March 2006

Checking out our "new" surroundings, June 13, 2004

Catholic Church, Fira

As Mama Beth would say, 'tis beautimous.  (OK, to be fair, she probably would not say "'tis".)  This is the Catholic Church (St. John's) in Fira - probably one of the most photographed buildings in the town.

We were still heading up to the Petros Nomikos Conference Center to see the apparently extra-cool reproductions of the wall paintings of Akrotiri.  But first, we had to take a gazillion pictures.  The sunlight was amazing - softly illuminating everything in a completely indescribable way.  Plus, the arches and lines and jagged delineations between colors made for pictures that just begged to be taken.

Fira Scene, Santorini

And doors, too.  We began to see why every little souvenir store we saw in Greece (though admittedly, our geographical experience of Hellas was sadly limited) sold calendars of "The Doors of Greece".

Door in Fira

The exhibit at the conference center turned out to be interesting and informative, as billed.  There were the famous boxing boys of Akrotiri - it seems that my art education was lacking, since I was unaware of their existence before seeing them.  (Yes, I'm blushing at my own ignorance.)

I did feel pretty brilliant and knowledgeable two months later, when a live version of the boxing boys did a lap of the Olympic opening ceremony in Athens!  "Ooh, ooh, it's the boxing boys!"

Fresco of the Boxing Boys, Santorini

The murals were amazingly reproduced - as you can see, they were done in three dimensions.  A lot had to be filled in by restorers, though.

(If you're interested in the subject of the Akrotiri wall paintings, here's a lesson on them that goes into waaaaaay too much depth for a casual observer, along with a fairly detailed discussion of the timeline and impact of the earthquake and subsequent volcanic eruption that buried these paintings and the buildings they were in.)

There were renderings of animals, like these beautifully graceful gazelles:

Gazelle Mural

Perhaps most interestingly, there was a giant mural of these adorably engrossing blue monkeys!

girlie want!  (Seriously - someone wanna paint this for us?  Hmmm?)

Monkeys!  Blue Monkeys!

This is most interesting because (if I remember correctly) modern understanding of the Minoan civilization posits that there's pretty much no way the painter of these murals could have seen an actual live monkey.  Also, (again, if memory serves me correctly - notes, girlie, notes!) that monkey on the middle right who's staring directly at us was a very, very early example of direct face-on art, if that makes any sense.  Normally, all figures were shown in profile at that time.

The more abstract compositions were really attractive as well, also in a way that made them seem way more modern than I would have guessed prior to seeing them.

Abstract Fleurs

No way this looks like it's almost 3700 years old!  To me, this has a timeless quality - it could have been wallpapered onto a wall at almost any time in the last 200 years.

This exhibit was more than worth the few euros we spent.  Unfortunately, we didn't get much time to stare at the murals, since the conference center was closing.  We were just in time to take some pictures of the shifting light as it hit the town of Fira, though!

Fira Nearing Sunset

The town turned golden as the sun began to set.  Here's a picture which should give you more of a sense of just how high Fira sits over the port of Skala Fira, at seaside.

Fira Top to Bottom

That port at the bottom is where cruise ships used to dock - now the bigger ships dock at a larger port a little further from town.  There is a cable car you can take down the side of the mountain... but, for the exact same price as the cable car, you can hop on a donkey to make the journey that much more enjoyable (and hysterical).  Later in the week, we did just that - cable car down, donkey up.  I've even got pictures - but those are for later.  Tease.

Long day - time for dinner!  Yes, definitely time for dinner.  We headed to a taverna recommended highly by all of our guidebooks - the Taverna Nikolas (aww, no good, informative links -  but some very good reviews!)

What an awesome restaurant.  The menu is only in Greek, written on a chalkboard at the head of the restaurant; the owner, or one of the mostly dour men hanging out back by the kitchen, will come and recite an edited version of said menu to you in English, whether you want it or not, and then stand there while you quickly try to figure out what to order.  It's a wonderful time!

Luckily, I looked at our Greek phrasebook before we headed out to the restaurant; between that, and my year of Russian (the Cyrillic alphabet being somewhat similar to Greek, with at least a few of the letters making the same sound) I was able to puzzle out a few tasty-looking items which we would have otherwise not heard of.

Dinner at Taverna Nikolas

The greens are "horta" - whatever's local and in season, basically.  The yellow puree is fava, a specialty of Santorini - very similar (if not identical to) yellow lentils, here served with onion, olive oil, and lemon.  The white is melitzenosalata, smoked eggplant salad which I can still taste (with longing) if I concentrate hard enough.  Everything was amazing.

Also, note that the food was served with a thick bread - not pita, which is what most people think of when they think Greek food.

We heard that it is rude in Greece to finish a jug of wine - it implies both that you haven't been served enough and that you're a big ol' lush.  Husbear and I had a bit of a debate on whether we were going to follow this tradition closely or not...

So, when am I going back?  Not sure.  I think I'll go look for prices now...

girlie

Saturday, 11 February 2006

In which our intrepid honeymooners reach Santorini

After that lovely meal -achem- at Arancia Blu (ref. last honeymoon post) we had to get up REALLY early in the morning to take the train out to the airport to catch our plane to Athens and then on to Santorini.  The shuttle train from Roma Termini out to the airport is fast and inexpensive - about half the price of a taxi, even with having to buy tickets for two people!

Our flight from Rome to Athens was lovely and without incident.  During a pit stop at the Athens airport, I saw something referenced in all of our guidebooks:

Our first angry toilet, Greece

You're not supposed to flush anything, including toilet paper, in the vast majority of the toilets of Greece.  There's a little trash can positioned by every toilet that is there for that purpose.  This takes a little getting used to, but if I had the choice I'd take the little trash cans over the hole-in-the-floor toilets any day.

Our layover was pretty short, so it was soon time to go out to the tarmac and board our puddle-jumper to Santorini.

Plane from Athens to Santorini

On that flight, we struck up a conversation with an American girl across the aisle.  She didn't have a place to stay that night, and was getting concerned - so we lent her our travel books to give her a few more leads on possible sleeping places.

The flight was beautiful, over the Mediterranean.  Small islands dotted the sea and looked extra inviting.  I would love to spend years hopping from island to island...

We landed at the teeny airport and retrieved our bags, then hooked back up with the hotel-less American and headed for the shuttle-bus stop, but of course we just missed the hourly service.

Doing some pretty simple math, we realized that with three people it would actually be cheaper to take a taxi (8 euros) than wait an hour for the bus (3 euros each) - so we walked back to the terminal, hailed a taxi, and got in for the short ride to the main town of Fira.

This was when we struck up a conversation about where she was from and where we were from.  As it turned out, we were both from Chicago - she from the near North side and me from the South Side.  She then dropped a bomb that she went to the U of C Lab schools during middle and high school - the same school I attended for three rather unhappy years of my life in middle school!  We didn't know each other, since she was a year ahead of me, but still... a really odd moment.

The taxi dropped us off near the center of town (well, side of town, since Fira snakes along the top of a fairly narrow cliff) and we said our goodbyes.  Husbear and I headed down to Hotel Loucas, our home for the next several days.  We walked down narrow streets with white, white curbs (we later saw the proprietors out painting their stoops in the early mornings) and eventually popped out on top of a beautiful view.  Actually, I'm not sure if calling it "beautiful" does this island justice...

View of Fira on the way to the hotel

I mean, COME ON.  this was just ridiculous.

Our hotel, the Hotel Loucas, is one of the oldest in Fira.  (It really only dates to 1968, though - apparently, Fira hasn't been a crazy popular tourist destination for all that long.)

The entrance to the Hotel Loucas

That's me on the walkway, in case you were doubting that we took these pictures.

Our room was many steps down the side of the cliff - and it was a great, great room.  Interestingly, it's featured on the hotel's website - that never happens to me!

Our room hotel Loucas

Though it was quite hot during our visit (which was only June, so I imagine it must be boiling here during the late summer) our room stayed nice and cool.  And we had a great view.

Nea Kameni, Fira

There are several small islands in the middle of Santorini's bay - they are what's left of the giant volcano that erupted in 1650 BCE, destroying the center of the island.  They're called Palea Kameni (old burnt - appeared in AD 157, according to Frommer's), Nea Kameni, (appeared beginning sometime in the early 18th century) and Thirassia, the only one of the three that's inhabited.  We didn't unfortunately have time to go out to the three islands, but I imagine the Kamenis would be fascinating to a geologist.

We decided to go for a walk up to the Petros Nomikos Conference Center.  I know this sounds strange, but we heard they had a great exhibit on the ancient wall paintings of Akrotiri, a site called the Minoan Pompeii that was buried in the ancient volcanic eruption.

First, though, we figured we'd go get some cash out.  We got a little concerned when we reached the bank.

So much for banking

Luckily, though, the ATM was still stocked.  I'm glad we weren't relying on traveler's checks, since we would have been SOL.

The walk up to the conference center was stunning.

Street in Fira, Santorini

The sunlight on the island just illuminates everything in a way I've never seen before.  Most of the streets were paved with small pebbles, a detail which must have taken some care, and quite a bit of maintenance.

Detail of Fira Street, Santorini

This particular mosaic was in the courtyard of a Catholic Church in Fira.

I think I'll have to pause now for a breather - we did take some pictures of the wall paintings, which were not at all what we expected, and of course a lot more pictures of the island.

But right now, I have to watch Canada play Italy in women's hockey.  I find that during the Olympics, I tend to watch sports I would NEVER seek out normally.  However, if someone wants to form a national curling association, I would be all about watching that.

-girlie

Wednesday, 08 February 2006

Gather 'round quietly...

So, I hope our four readers can keep a secret, 'cause I'm pretty excited about this and have to put it on the internet....

We bought our tickets for Italy yesterday!  

Phew, glad I got that out.

Of course, now it's time to commence the freakout about just how much has to happen between now and when our flight takes off on the 16th of August...

We have our flight and a place to live so far, and that's it.  Now we need to figure out student loans and applications and visas and banking/credit cards and insurance and cell-phones (should we or shouldn't we?) and internet access and jobs? and how I'm going to break the news to my boss.

Yeah, there's a little bit to do.

And this much time to do it in!

hoo boy.  We've got some work to do...

-girlie

Monday, 23 January 2006

I give up on numbering honeymoon posts. So, here's the one about leaving Positano.

While I think we would have been happy staying at the Villino delle Orchidee (good pictures of the little villa at that site, by the way) for years, we stupidly only rented it for a week.  On June 12th, it was finally time to leave Positano.

That morning, we packed up.

Girlie's modular packing

I am so proud of my modular packing!  Don't even get me started.  I can seriously wax rhapsodic for way longer than you'd care to listen about the merits of different packing systems.   Of course, now that I've discovered solid shampoos and conditioners from Lush, my packing is going to be even better!  Because I can escape the tyranny of the bottle! 

Flush with pride after a successful packing, it was time to clear out the kitchen.  For the most part, this meant finishing off the last little dregs of various liqueurs.

Finishing off our liqueurs

It's a tough job, but we couldn't have left that behind, you know?  Plus, it did make the trip from peaceful little Positano to crazy-ass Naples and then to slightly less crazy Rome less stressful than it otherwise could have been.

We strapped on our backpacks, took a couple farewell pictures of the apartment, grabbed the trash, and headed out the door.

Taking out the garbage

I was almost, but not quite, sorry to see the last of the crazy stairs.  Of course, at the time I was unaware of Santorini's fairly stair-centric nature... but let me remain blissfully unaware for another day, 'kay?

We had our best view of Mt. Vesuvius yet, on our way to Naples to catch our train to Rome.

Mt. Vesuvius

Though our first couple of days in Rome had been fairly cool, it seemed like summer had finally arrived - with a vengeance.  The train from Naples to Rome was ridiculously hawt.

on the very HOT train

Shiny girlie!

On the Rome end, our hotel was just a couple of blocks from the train station.  This was good, because we were catching a train pretty early in the morning to get to the airport - but also not so good, in that the area is apparently the toilet of greater Rome.  Oh, did it smell like pee... wheuuuu! 

We passed this sign on the way to our hotel.

Fermi's Birthplace

I just took a picture of it because I grew up near the University of Chicago, so his was a name I actually heard a lot when I was a kidlet.  After I got back home, I found out that my grandparents were actually good friends with his widow!  (it's a small, small, world...)  For my feeble attempt at a translation, click on the picture.

Thankfully, the pee smell stopped at the gate of our hotel.  Praise Somebody!  (probably the hotel's proprietors?)

Hotel in Rome

The hotel (hotel pavia) was nice, with a great location for our needs.  I'd stay there again.

Plus, it had a sweet view out the back, of what we're pretty sure are the baths of Diocletian.

baths of diocletian

We settled in, then debated over where to go eat dinner.  With only one night left in Italy before leaving for Greece, we really wanted to have a great meal.

parts of our dinner at arancia blu

Alas, we were to be disappointed.  The place we went, Arancia Blu, made us very, very sad.  The service came with an extra side of snoot, which we didn't order - I think it may have had something to do with the fact that we tried to order house wine, in a place that had a very extensive wine list on which they really prided themselves.  Or perhaps it was because everyone in there seemed to know all of the waiters and the sommelier, and we didn't.  Or maybe it was that the food tasted like hardboiled ass.  ('scuse my language.)

Whatever the reason, the meal was really disappointing.  Arancia Blu is supposed to be some of Rome's most innovative, and tastiest vegetarian cuisine, and it nowhere near lived up to that billing.

Of course, that was not the last time on our honeymoon that we were to be really disheartened by a meal.

We left Italy for Greece the next morning, and we were definitely sad to be leaving Italy behind.  Leaving just made us more determined to make it back, sooner rather than later - and we're working on it.

girlie

Italian Election Posters

While we were in Italy on our honeymoon, it happened to be election time for the EU.  This led to some interesting conversations with cabbies about the merits of Berlusconi.  It also meant that we got to see some terrific posters with giant pictures of, for the most part, hopeful-looking middle aged men. 

I couldn't help but be struck by how different most of the Italian politicians (at least in the area where we were staying) looked from our run-of-the-mill 'Merkan guyz.  We really saw some killer unibrows!  (Here is where I admit that I know pretty much nothing about Italian politics.  I better get to remedying that!)

Italian election poster

I think the backdrop on this poster is pretty kewl.

election poster in positano

girlie

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Luna de Miel 7 - Capri

Normally, I hate the idea of a tour group.  We saw them everywhere in Europe, groups of people clumped together (yet somehow taking up whole streets), all wearing the same color shirt, following a chirpy person holding a giant umbrella, or large walking stick, or klieg light.

But, we really wanted to go to Capri!  We were running out of time in Positano, and Capri was RIGHT THERE, and we couldn't just leave the Amalfi Coast without heading over that way. 

There are several little stands down by the water in Positano, staffed by people wanting to jam you into a boat with 50 of your closest friends and then throw you off onto a crowded dock.

We talked with all of the tour operators going from Positano to Capri, and eventually settled on a small boat, with tours kept under 15 people.  (I think the tour was operated by Gennaro e Salvatore - there's actually a picture of a very similar boat to the one we were on if you follow that link.)  We made reservations for later in the week.

And it was GREAT.  Seriously one of the best days we had on our honeymoon.  We relaxed on the deck of a smallish boat, or possibly ship (yeah, not really nautical over here) and headed out to Capri with 6 other people - two British couples and a mother/daughter duo from Queensland.

Our tour guide was named Frank.  He told us that part of the secret of Italian cooking is to put a laurel leaf in everything, and it wasn't until we got to Santorini that we found out that laurel = bay leaf.  Dur.

Frank, our awesome tour guide

He was a wonderful tour guide.  First we went through Capri town, tromping through gardens and oohing and aahing at beautiful buildings.

Buildings in Capri

It seemed like there were actually more flowers (especially bougainvillea) in Capri than there were in Positano.

Bougainvillea in Capri

We didn't have too much time to spend in Capri town - but that was fine, as it was ridiculously crowded with giant tour groups.  I would definitely like to go back there and stay for a couple of nights, since it seemed like the island was sagging under the weight of all the day-trippers - it would be really nice to see the island at night.

We did go on a lovely hike, though.  Capri changes from town to rugged landscape with astonishing rapidity.

Fingers of Capri

These fingers are really interesting - on the furthest one out (far left in this photo) lives a species of lizard found nowhere else.  Plus, you can take a boat through them, which we got to do!

We had a little time on our own, which Husbear and I used to hunt down and purchase Capri's famed basil liqueur, in a shop that had signs in Italian, English, German, and Japanese.  Good liqueur, though.

Since the tour was to Capri, we had to go to the blue grotto, right?  And we did.

A stupid picture of the blue grotto

And we took a really crappy picture of it.  If you were looking at this picture and thinking, "Hey, now I don't need to go to Capri, because I've already seen the blue grotto in all its majesty," well, you're wrong, though thank you!  True, you do pay an extra ten bucks to get in a little rowboat, and you have to lay down in the boat to go through the small hole that serves as the entrance to the grotto, but oh my god, was it completely amazing.  I went into a cave in Israel that was similar, but they had a constructed walkway with a railing and everything.  Somehow, in this grotto, even though you were surrounded by other rowboats full of people, it felt completely peaceful, and like it had always been like this.  And one of the girls we were with got to jump in (!) where she turned ghostly blue.

It was great.

After the blue grotto, we climbed back in the boat and headed over to the less famous, less touristed green grotto.  (I don't think there's a red grotto, or chartreuse, but if there was I would totally go.)

Entrance to the jellyfish filled green grotto

There's a cave-beach in there that you can swim to.  We all stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped in the water.  I was probably thirty feet or so (?) from the boat, when I felt something brush against my hand - I looked down and saw a little floaty pillowy tentacly thing, and then my hand started burning.  Lots.

I looked over to where the other people were swimming while also simultaneously treading water and trying to grow eyes on every side of my head, and noticed they were all heading past me to the boat rather quickly, all of a sudden.  Cries of "jellyfish!  Oh crapcrap ouch whatthehell!" may have been heard, and there could have been some frantic splashing.

I don't think I've ever swum a creepier thirty feet, desperately not thinking about where the jellyfish were, if they were moving fast, how many of them there were, and whether they were between me and the boat.  Luckily, I didn't get stung again - but once on my hand was enough.  Husbear got a good sting all the way across both of his shins.

The boat was prepared for a problem like this, meaning that at least we didn't have to pee on ourselves to stop the stinging pain (though now I hear that may not even work!).  They had a bottle of ammonia - yay!  We sprayed ourselves liberally and settled in for the ride back to Positano, where I couldn't get my hand wet for a few days without that weird stinging sensation returning.  Husbear toughed through, that psycho.

Jellyfish notwithstanding, I totally want to go back to Capri.  I feel like I was only there barely long enough to get a little taste of why people flock to the beautiful island.

girlie

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Revolution (or honeymoon) #6: Ravello

We-eel, it's another Saturday afternoon and I'm hanging out at home...

I uploaded a bunch of honeymoon pictures to Flickr earlier this week, thinking that I might have some time to go ahead and put a post up, but I spaced a bit and never got around to it

After our relaxing beach day, we decided it was time for another day trip, this time to Ravello, a beautiful town set high up above Amalfi.  It's where Gore Vidal used to live.

Getting there meant a bus to Amalfi, then transferring to a bus to Ravello.  Getting on the Ravello-bound bus out of Amalfi was a little more difficult than we had anticipated; it seemed a lot of people wanted to accompany us up the mountain.  Interestingly, even though buses left Amalfi for Ravello pretty often, the line never seemed to get shorter.  Somehow, though, the actual town didn't seem that crowded, once we got there.

After giving our elbows a good workout, we were treated to a lovely view of the Amalfi Coast from a series of narrower and narrower mountain roads.  Husbear got a little carsick.

Our first stop after getting off the bus was Ravello's Duomo.  We read that it was restored in the 1980s to more closely match the pre-gothic historical appearance, though the church apparently dates originally to 1086.(!)

Outside of Ravello Duomo

The bare outside of the church really appealed to me, as did the lack of overbearing decoration on the inside.  So many of the churches we've been to are just dripping with ornamentation - this one wasn't.

There were a couple of old pulpits inside the church, one of which I really liked.

The pulpit in Ravello's duomo

This pulpit is from 1272, which makes the shape it's in completely shocking.  The lions were even anatomically correct (here's a link to our picture... not *too* offensive?), which I found odd.  It had a great mosaic of the story of Jonah and the whale on the side.  My apologies for the blurriness of the picture...

Blurry Jonah waves to his homies - ravello

Our guidebook described what he's doing as "waving to his homies", which we found pretty apt.  Also, note the whale-what-looks-like-a-dragon.  Somehow, I don't think this artisan had ever seen a whale...

After looking through the Duomo's museum, which had some really interesting statues and sarcophagi, we headed over to Villa Cimbrone (their website actually has an interactive tour that you can take of the grounds - very nice!).  There are a couple of old estates in Ravello, Cimbrone and Rufolo, that both have large public gardens and beautiful on-site hotels. 

The walk to the villa was short, but through some lovely parts of town.  We walked past a lot of vegetable gardens and small family vineyards.

View up the coast, ravello

Though we couldn't really do any exploring in the villa itself (closed to non-guests), we did spend several hours rambling around the gardens.  The building did have some nice nooks and crannies that we were allowed to poke around.

This is the cloister in the center of the villa.

Chiostro at villa cimbrone, ravello

We took off for a quick ramble around the gardens.  The most stunning area was right at the edge of the cliff, which was lined with busts.

view from villa cimbrone

We played around a little - for some reason, being at the Villa Cimbrone made us all giddy.  Maybe it has something to do with it being the secret hideaway for the "elopement of Greta Garbo and Leopold Stowkowsky"?  love is in the air... da da da da da da da....

me newbootgoofin' at villa cimbrone, ravello

Continuing through the gardens, we came across a temple to Bacchus.  (you have to appreciate a good temple to Bacchus!)  It looked like people had been rubbing a certain area of the statue, perhaps for good luck?  This pose is my fault.

Logan with bacchus, villa cimbrone

The gardens were just jam-packed with so many beautiful little gazebos and buildings!

villa cimbrone gazebothing

Unfortunately, it soon was time to begin heading back to Positano.  We reluctantly left the Villa and began the walk back into town.  There, I saw a terrific poster advertisement:

I love this ad - ravello

Esplosiva, ladies!  We all need one of these!

We sadly boarded the bus back down the cliff to Amalfi.  We traveled through several small towns on our way back down, and in one of the towns, we saw this in the square:

seen from the bus between ravello and amalfi

I'm not sure if there was something in particular that they were commemorating or celebrating, but I could never have the patience to spend a lot of time making something like that, that will blow away in a stiff breeze... so, I applaud them.

Ravello was absolutely amazingly awesomely divinely beautiful.  I would love to go back and spend some more time there.  It is, however, a very small town; I don't think it would have been a good home base for our honeymoon trip.  As far as we could tell, getting anywhere would first mean a longish bus ride down to Amalfi, unlike in Positano, where you could directly reach many places.  Ravello would be a great trip for people who want to go one place and then stay there, relaxing.

Plus, they have what seems to be a great orchestral music festival there every year - I can't think of a better place to hear classical music!

OK - time to go use up some Lush stuff, maybe put up a review or two...

-girlie

Monday, 05 December 2005

I'm a little be-hind, short and stout

Yes, I know I'm getting kinda far behind on travel-blogging; we have 1,100 pictures of Florence, between the Husbear and his mom, that we have to go through.  I have people breathing down my neck at work, asking when I'm going to be bringing in pictures of the trip; it's not like it used to be, where you had to get your pictures developed in order to see them.  Now, I have all of the pictures sitting on the computer, and it will be a giant pain to edit them down and print them out.  We haven't even done that with the wedding pictures yet!

Interestingly (well, to me), the next honeymoon day I was going to write about was one where we actually forgot (gasp) to bring the camera.  Actually, technically, we did bring the camera that day, but left the battery safely charging in the bathroom of the little house.  Ah, well... I guess I'll have to rely on memories.  What are those?

I don't know if I was still jet-lagged on the Wednesday after we arrived in Positano; I just know that, once again, I woke up totally exhausted.  I think all the stress of the wedding planning finally caught up with me after we actually got married, which I hear is rather common.  All I know is that Husbear had to pretty much drag me out of bed every day.  Don't feel any sympathy for me; I know it sounds really whiny and wasteful to bitch about how sleepy I was in Italy (WAAAH!).  In my (admittedly weak) defense, it's not like the trips to Amalfi and Herculaneum were completely restful, right?

We decided to take it a little easier that day.  I slept late, while Husbear read out on the porch, and when I got out of bed we sauntered down to the beach to find a little red boat that we heard would take us to an awesome restaurant/loungy beach called Da Adolfo.  (Here's where I insert sadness that we didn't have the camera, since this restaurant (along with the entire Amalfi coast, really) is actually mentioned in one of those self-affirmation books called "1,000 places to see before you die".)

We waited a little while on the jetty, and met another just-married couple honeymooning in Italy.  They had made the interesting (well, crazy, in my mind) decision to DRIVE down to Positano from Florence.  This means they drove through Rome and Naples, not to mention the drive from Naples to Positano along the Amalfi coast highway, which is one of the more insane roads I've ever seen.  The husband said his knuckles were still white, and that he'd never listen to his travel agent again.  I couldn't believe the agent told them the best way to get from Florence to Positano would be by driving, when the trains for the most part run so easily and conveniently. 

A small boat came and picked the four of us up, and we made our way slowly down the beach a half-mile or so.  This was when we realized that the camera battery was back at the house.

Da Adolfo, as I remember it, looked like a large ramshakle house nestled down on a tiny beach with large cliffs immediately behind.  There was a large freestanding covered porch, with tables, and then a bunch of lounge chairs, some with umbrellas, down by the water.  We grabbed a table and perused the menu, which was written on a chalkboard by the house.  Lots of seafood, as I recall.  (Who'da thunk?)

We ordered a liter of white house wine, yum, and water; Husbear got a long pasta (tagliatelle?  fettucine?) with pesto, and I ordered mussels.

I've had an on again, off again relationship with mussels; I'm always certain I love them, and I'm invariably disappointed when I order them in restaurants.  They're usually mushy, or chewy, or really, really fishy.   

Not this time.  These were literally the best mussels I've ever had!  They were in a tomato/onion broth, which was perfectly flavorful, and which I sopped up with bread.  I even learned how to eat them using the shells, which was a lot of fun.  I almost cried when I finished the bowl.

After this wonderfully satisfying lunch, we waddled down the few steps to the beach.  Since it was late in the day, the proprietors didn't charge us for the use of a beach chair and umbrella, which was nice.  We ordered some more wine to enjoy on the beach, and went back and forth into the water when we started to overheat.  They had a lovely tall rock that the Husbear climbed up and jumped off, oh, ten or fifteen times.  We stayed for a few hours, relaxing and swimming.  It was exactly what we needed.

I don't know if Da Adolfo becomes insufferable later in the year, when the heat and the tourists really pick up; but in early June, it was absolutely wonderful.  I highly recommend it.

This entry has gone on long enough.  I was going to put up pictures of our meal that night, but frankly, our food photography has come a long way since then, and the pictures don't really do justice to the awesome meal we had at Il Ritrovo.  So, here are links to the pictures (Antipasti platter, husbear's smoked tomato pasta, my grilled prawns, and a picture of their house wine).  There is one picture that I have to include here, however; this magazine cover made my head spin when I saw it, before I tried to puzzle out the article inside.

magazine in our apartment, positano

The article was about Sorrento's yearly traditional Easter parade.  My apologies for my giant goofy grin-face.

laters!  -girlie.

Monday, 28 November 2005

We're BAAACK!

So, we've finally made it back from our Thanksgiving Italy trip.  We had a wonderful time, and have like 1300 photos or something ridiculous to go through... so it may be a little while before I start gettting these up online. 

Getting home was a bit of an ordeal, though... we were supposed to be home on Saturday afternoon, but we ended up only making it as far as our connection in Paris before all incoming and outgoing flights were cancelled due to snow and bad weather.  Of course, Air France being what it is, we were on the plane sitting at the gate for four hours before they finally cancelled, then we stood in a line for three hours to get a hotel voucher, then we stood in line for a half hour to get a shuttle to the hotel, then we came back the next morning at 7:15 and stood in lines for three hours before getting on the plane, which didn't leave until about three hours after it was supposed to.

At least we got a hotel - the country inn and suites at the airport!  (and food - which we took pictures of.)

Anyway, we didn't end up actually getting back to Austin until almost 8 last night, by which point I was feeling well and truly wretched.  I apologize to anyone we spoke with on the phone last night, because both of us were so out of it and crazy that I'm sure we didn't make much sense.  (Thanks for taking care of the cats, proops - they look great and healthy!)

I'm staying home from work today - I definitely caught something awesome on the plane yesterday, so I thought it would be best to try to get some rest and maybe do a little laundry.  I don't appear to be running a fever, though, just achy and ouchie and throat pain, so maybe I'll be ok by tomorrow if I hydrate well.

OK, that was fascinating.  I'm going to lay back down now, since my head's started spinning again.  Whippee!

-girlie

Saturday, 12 November 2005

A great picture of me.

I've been trying to find a way to fit in this picture of me enjoying a lovely croissant the morning before we left Positano for Amalfi, but haven't been able to.  So, I think I'll just throw it in right here.

me with a ridiculous breakfast

Now you want a tasty breakfast pastry, right?

Honeymoon 5: Herculaneum and a review

Well, it looks like I am going to completely miss my stated goal of finishing blogging our honeymoon before we jet off to Florence.  It's a good thing I'm not getting graded on this, yes?

On an unrelated note, we went to Cool River Cafe last night because we got a random certificate in our mail for $25 off food.   (Huh!  I didn't know it was a chain!  Well, that certainly explains a lot.)  Our conclusion?  Eh.  They did have a really nice wine list; we got a reasonably priced viognier/chenin blanc from these guys, which went well with our giant deep dish spinach/artichoke dip, seared tuna (me) with wasabi/jicama slaw and mango sticky rice, and salad with pecans, blue cheese, and pears (husbear).  Maybe we didn't give them a fair chance, since we didn't get any steaks, but the food was just ok.  The place was huge, though!  We went over into the bar after we ate, thinking we might get an after-dinner drink, but the place had a coverband singing "brick house", "car wash" along with many other 70s specialties, booty-dancing 30somethings, and an oddly Disney vibe, so we left.

They did make the Husbear a great negroni, though.

Anyway, back to the honeymoon.

Tuesday, I woke up with my calves just aching - those stairs were really coming back to bite me.  I tried to hobble around for a little while, but it just wasn't working for me.  We decided to get a later start, hoping I would be able to walk.

We ended up leaving in the late morning for Herculaneum.  Husbear figured that this would mean less walking than Pompeii, since it's supposed to be a smaller site, plus we both agreed that just laying there probably wouldn't help my calves any.

Getting to Herculaneum entailed a bus to Sorrento, and then the circumvesuviana train to Ercolano Scavi.  Ercolano's the modern town, parts of which sit right on top of Herculaneum.  (Scavi = ruins.)

We walked to the top of the town and waited for the bus.

long-suffering logan

I took a few pictures of us to while away the time while we waited.

It didn't take too long to get there.  (maybe an hour?)  When we arrived, we found a little pizza place for a late lunch, and I got a pizza with marinara sauce and anchovies.  Stupidly, no pictures.  I still remember that smell, though.

Ercolano was pretty nondescript; not a lot of history evident in the walk from the station to the ruins.  Lots of graffiti, though.

Please forgive me for my nonexistent notes - I'm not sure which buildings we're standing in front of...

Anyway, here's the gate to get into the ruins.

This was the first glimpse we had of the site, after paying at the gate.

the ruins at herculaneum

You can see modern Ercolano in the distance.  It's pretty amazing how well-preserved a lot of the site was, after almost 2000 years; even from this distance, you can see little bits of the frescoes and murals on the walls of the buildings.

We paid for the audio tour, which we figured would help us to know what we were looking at.  (shoulda written it down!)

me amongst the columns at herculaneum

(That's the audio tour around my neck, and I'm not sure what these columns are, dangit!)

Some areas of the site had been really nicely restored, like this building (follow the link.)

There were some funny off-color mosaics in the ladies' baths; many of the same kind of things we saw in the restricted room in the Archaeological Museum in Naples.

off color mosaic in the ladies' baths, herculaneum

Someone (or a group of someones) really spent a lot of time on that mosaic!  The pattern covered the floor of a very large room.

You could really easily see a lot about the day-to-day lives of the Romans on the streets of Herculaneum.  There were wagon ruts in the roads.  We saw the remains of several food stands, and I made Husbear pose at one of them.

logan at a roman snack bar, herculaneum

Apparently, the citizens of Herculaneum often ate lunch away from home, and would stop at these vendors.  Those are very large pots bricked into the counter, from which lunch would be dished up.  Interesting.

There were some really great statues around the grounds, especially in the ruins of the great houses.  We especially liked this one of Hercules, which doesn't really aggrandize him so much as make a lot of fun of him, unlike most of the statues you see.  (The original's in Naples.)

replica of drunk peeing hercules, herculaneum

All told, we were at the site for about 4 hours... If Herculaneum's really so much smaller than Pompeii, I can't imagine how long it would take to go through that town!  As it was, we didn't listen to good chunks of the audio tour.   Pompeii must be enormous.

We headed back to Positano via train/bus.  My calves were actually feeling a little better, which was a good thing, because after we got back and picked up some things for dinner, it was once again time to climb these.

we started getting used to the stairs

This was the last strech of stairs on the way back to our little house.  By Tuesday, we actually were starting to get a little more acclimated to them, in that we didn't have to collapse each time we walked into the house.

Husbear made a really great dinner, which we ate on our porch.

logan made dinner after herculaneum

Mozzarella wrapped in lemon leaves, olives, pasta with tomatoes and mushrooms, bread, and a bottle of local wine... and that view of the Mediterranean.  (Unfortunately, it's kind of hard to take pictures of the view when it's dark.  They should fix that.)

That's it for me, until next time...

girlie

Wednesday, 02 November 2005

Mambo #4 - Positano and Amalfi

OK, first off, congratulations to Megan on the occasion of her passing the bar!  WOOOOO!  Go get 'em, legally of course!

I've just realized that we're only a little over two weeks from our trip to Florence, so I better get all these honeymoon pictures uploaded before we've got more travel to blog.  I know, I know, the heart just bleeds for me. 

We were pretty tired after all the travel involved in getting to Positano (planes, trains, ferries, and our poor lil leggies), so we set aside our first day as a rest day.  It was definitely time to put our stuff down and figure out where the hell we were.

Positano is known for its fashion

We got our clothes-shopping out of the way early.  (No, not really... though apparently, at one time, Positano was really considered hot stuff in the world of fashion.  ?!)

After this exhausting shopping excursion, it was definitely time to grab some wine and go down to the beach...

view from the less populated beach

We considered renting a car during our stay, but decided against it.  Though this car actually might have been able to make it up the narrow stairs.

maybe we should have rented a car - positano

The next day, totally happy and rested, we headed off to Amalfi... (here's a picture of us on the boat).

I liked Amalfi a lot, actually.  It was a beautiful town, in a way that was actually different from Positano.  Much more gently sloping, for one thing!  We really couldn't see much of Amalfi's proud maritime history, though there were some lovely statues and buildings that showed there must have, at one time, been an awful lot of money 'round there.

The Duomo was stunning.  It was really easy to see the influence the Moors had on the area.

amalfi's duomo with moorish accents

And this interesting fountain out front was not to be missed.  (Our guidebook called this graceful lady the "squirty-titted nymph".  Not that I'd ever be rude enough to call her that.  Especially not on the internets.  Anyway, here's a closeup, for those of you who want one...)

fountain in main square, amalfi

The bottom part of the town, where the buses and boats discharged all of us day-trippers, was really crowded.  In fact, by the time we fought our way up to the Duomo, I was feeling kinda overwhelmed by the slow-moving crowds, thinking "Man, did every tourist on the Amalfi Coast HAVE to come here today?"

I shouldn't have been so worried.  We only had to get like a half-mile away from the beach, up the Via Genova, for everything to completely clear out.  I was stunned at the difference such a short distance made, and the sights we saw just a little ways off the main drag were really, really cool.

First, we dropped in on the paper museum, which offered tours of the old paper-making facilities.  Amalfi has been making paper for papal decrees for a really long time - 1500 years?

The tour was GREAT.

amalfi paper museum, oulde clouthes

There were only two other people on the tour with us.  We got to see papermaking equipment from the 1500s and an actual relic of the industrial revolution, which the terrifically animated guide was kind enough to turn on for us.  It had been working since the 1780s!  The machine he's standing on there was for pulping old white clothes with water.  Their paper is actually made from cloth, not wood pulp, so apparently it lasts a lot longer.  (Here's a picture of the guide making a new sheet of paper.)  He showed us one of the last production sheets made by the factory, which was about 30 years old, and it was in really good shape.  We bought some computer paper, which we've been meaning to use to print out wedding pics.  (What?  It was only like 18 months ago!)

We headed a little further up the main road, through the Valle dei Mulini (valley of the (paper) mills), until we began to run out of town.  Then, we bought a bottle of wine, sat in the woods, and waited for our next stop to open.  (This was the view we had.)

I like this picture of me... it's up in the forest, overlooking the valley.

me in the forest with wine, amalfi

Anyway, we headed back down the hill to our next destination... a limoncello factory!

in limoncello factory, amalfi

This place was so, so neat.  It didn't seem like they had had any out-of-twn visotors for quite a while.  I felt kind of bad interrupting, since everyone in there was bottling liqueurs for sale in the tourist shops down further in town, but this really nice gentleman took us under his wing.  He walked us around the shop, pulling down open bottles of liqueur and proudly showing them to us, and gave us little sippy cups of each one.  We played a game of charades to figure out what everything was, which was great.  For instance, for the laurel liqueur, he said "Romans" and mimed a hat, then pumped his fist into the air in a victorious gesture.  Ah, the universal language!  (I really should learn some Italian!)

I'm pretty sure these are (l to r) mandarin liqueur, crema de limone, laurel (bay leaf) liqueur, a local citron liqueur, and a mixed fruit liqueur.  (That word looks strange.  Did I spell it right?)  They were all so, so good.  We left with light heads and lighter pockets.  Totally wonderful.

We really liked Amalfi!  It was a different kind of town then Positano, which was neat to see.  There were still way too many photogenic scenes to put up here, though.

I don't know if I'd stay there, but it was certainly a nice place to go for a day.  Of course, I'm sure it's totally different at night, when everyone leaves...

awesome amalfi

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Honeymoon 3: Entering the Wilds of Positano

Well, it's been a while... but I finally got some Positano pictures uploaded!

My apologies to those of you with dialups - I've tried to "smallify" these pictures so they'll load quicker.

So, there we are on the ferry to Positano... and all of a sudden, the prettiest town I've ever seen slides in to view.

First View of Positano

The town just keeps going up and up and up....

We arrive on the rocky beach and take stock of our surroundings.

Building up the Cliff, Positano

It becomes clear that we're going to have to head right up the side of the cliff to get to where we'll be staying.  In order to show everyone just how hardcore we really are, we elect to WALK (?) up to the place carrying our backpacks.  Ahem.

A friendly Italian man tells us it's about 700 steps straight up, but do we let that deter us?  NO!  We're newlyweds!  We're young, spry, wiry, and we will show this little hill who it's boss really is!

Well, not so much...  we start our walk, go up one seemingly endless staircase, and count 92 steps.  This may take longer than we thought.  We turn the corner...

Up the Stairs

Yeah.  We're less than a seventh of the way there.  Well, it's really pretty, and it really can't be too much longer, can it?  (ah, to be so young and naive once more.)

Luckily, there were some beautiful views along the way, so we were able to stop and rest and take pictures and yell "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!"  (In all fairness, that last bit may have been exclusively me.  Newly-husbear was being very supportive, but dang, was that a lot of stairs!)

Everything was so photogenic.  (If our honeymoon had a theme, it would be "everything was so photogenic.")  It seemed we couldn't turn a corner without seeing the most picturesque thing ever.

Stairs and door positano

I mean, come on.  Who actually lives in a place like this?

We finally made it to the top (click on this link to see a picture of how high we were!)

I had a serious sense of accomplishment from making it up all those stairs, though.  We conquered those stairs many more times before leaving Positano, too... our calves grew three sizes that week.

After a little rest and bearing-catching and apologizing (again, mostly me...) we headed up just a little further to a small grocery to stock up on the essentials.  We got the components of a nice snack - lots of protein! - and went back down to our place to have a little bite to eat.

We had a snack outside

This is our porch, and that's Husbear with our wine, mozzarella, tomatoes, mortadella, and crazy good bread.

See?  The walk was totally worth it - our view was awesome!  The rocks over Husbear's shoulder are supposedly the home of the Sirens.  Homer was apparently familiar with this area, and we heard a lot of local stories about how landmarks match up with the story of Odysseus' travels.  Interesting.

It was a lucky thing that snack was so good, because dinner was decidedly odd.  Pretty good and everything, but definitely odd.

Pizza at 'O Guarracino

Before you ask, yes, those are beets on that pizza.  But that's also a jug of housemade wine, which came out of a big barrel in the depths of the restaurant, so we could forgive a little strangeness.  And, the crust was completely awesome - still a better pizza by far than any we could get around here.

Plus, the place had this for a view, so we could have forgiven it an awful lot.

Whew - I think I've foisted enough pictures on you for today, thanks!

-girlie

Saturday, 27 August 2005

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?! Or maybe just honeymoon pictures, 2nd installment?

So, it's about that time to be putting up some more honeymoon pictures, don't you think? I also spent some time today setting up a Flickr account and figuring out how to post multiple pictures from Flickr to a blog. How do you do this, you might ask? Answer - it's a huge pain in the butt, which may hopefully get easier after a few years or so.

So, when I last dropped this narrative, we were in Rome...

Well, we took a train to Naples, where we were only going to spend one night.

This is the view up the street from our hotel room.  (It didn't really rain the whole time we were in Italy.)

Since we were only going to be in Naples one night, we of course had to get ourselves some Neapolitan pizza! We had already been to Da Michele, when we were in Naples in 2001 (oh MAN.  We pretty much went to Naples that trip just to eat pizza.  While we were there, we met a couple of English guys who were staying in the same hotel as us and invited them out to dinner.  The lines at da Michele were so long that we had time to drink two bottles of wine between the six of us, and we didn't realize that the English guys weren't helping us finish the wine until after it was gone... though I do highly recommend da Michele's pizza when you've had a bit too much to drink).

Anyway, this is from Pizzeria Brandi, where the Pizza Margherita was invented in 1889.  The Neapolitans take their pizza extremely seriously -- check out this link.

We got two pizzas; Marinara (on the right - just marinara sauce, basil, and garlic) and margherita (left - marinara, basil, and mozarella).  Seriously, yum!  Here's a picture of our plates after we finished eating.    

This was their antipasti table... we had such great antipasti all over Italy.  I'll put up more antipasti pics later on.  Here I see eggplant, zucchini, peas, peperonata, and small fish, maybe anchovies?

I took this picture at the Museo Archeologico; it's a mosaic (!) from Pompeii.  First of all, can you believe how well it's preserved?  The patience it must have taken to put this together.... totally shocking.  I mean, look at how tiny those tiles are!  We also saw the famous mosaic of Alexander.

Look at this church!

It's really not very attractive from the outside, is it? I think it looks like a warehouse, or maybe a parking garage... it's the Gesu Nuovo, and it was built as a palazzo in 1470. It didn't become a church until the 16th century. There's something kind of endearing about the unattractiveness of the building, though.

We only got to stay in Naples for a day and a half before we headed for Positano. After having been there twice (admittedly for ony a day or so each time) I'm still not really sure if I enjoy visiting there or not. It's a crazy, crazy place... dirtier than anywhere else I've been in Italy and very crowded. This is far from being an original observation, but the driving in Naples is ballsier than anywhere else... if you wait politely on the sidewalk to cross the street, you'll wait until everyone's gone home to bed. People drive their scooters on the sidewalk, in between the vendors ripping tourists off with fake electronics. On the other hand, though, the city's beautiful in a frenetic way. Big Italian nonnas sell cigarettes directly from their balconies using a basket attached to a long rope. Laundry is strung all the way across the street. Whole families and their shopping hang off of Vespas, shooting in and out of traffic. And the whole time, Vesuvius looms menacingly in the background. One day, that volcano's gonna blow, and who knows what will happen then? Until then, I recommend visiting Naples for at least a little while. I'll leave you with this picture of us on the ferry for Positano.

Girlie

Thursday, 04 August 2005

Honeymoon Photos: #1 of Sideways 8

Yeah, I don’t know how to do an infinity symbol either.

Well, I’m home alone tonight. The cats are here, yes, but they’re only good company if your idea of a nice night in is pooping in the corner (fatty!) or eating so fast you yarf (stinky!).

I thought now might actually be a good time to settle in with a glass of wine and begin to make good on a promise I made to Auntie way back when the Mr. and I first started talking about launching a blog (the fruits of which you see on your screen now).

Girlie, she said, why don’t you use the blog to post honeymoon pictures? That way, you don’t need to send them to everyone individually, and nobody will have to sit through a presentation entitled “Shots of the Wing, vols. 1-14” when they come to visit you!

This has the added benefit of making Mikey happy; he who asked me last week to be sure to put up some pictures that weren’t of my food. So, here goes!

We were lucky enough last summer to go on a three-week honeymoon to Italy and Greece. We had a great time, but were of course bitten even harder by the “travel bug”… which would be fine except we’re still covered with the welts the “poverty bug” left on us.

We flew to Rome two days after we were married.

After_the_wedding_at_the_burnham

Aren't we adorable? 

We were still totally exhausted when we arrived Wednesday morning, June 2. Lucky me, though; the newly minted Mr. made us reservations at a nice, but cute, hotel just a block from the Pantheon.

The_outside_of_our_hotel_rome

This was a much nicer place than the place we stayed in on our last time through Rome, when we got yelled at for taking a fan that was sitting in the hallway into our room. (They weren’t mad that we had taken the fan; they were mad that we hadn’t paid them $10 to borrow it.)

The lobby was beautiful:

The_inside_of_the_minerva_june_2004

And the elevators were hysterically tiny.

The_tiniest_elevator_ever_hotel_minerva

When I say that we were close to the Pantheon, I’m not lying, I promise.

View_of_the_pantheon_from_our_hotel_room

Since we had already been to Rome on our backpacking trip in the summer of 2001, we felt a little more free to do some exploring, instead of having to rush from must-see ruin to must-see museum. We had already been to the Coliseum, which is amazing, so we didn’t go back; instead, we just spent the two days or so just traipsin' around town. We went back to the Forum the first night we were there, but it was closed. We asked a nice guy to take our picture anyway, and he obliged.

At_the_forum_rome

We went to the Spanish Steps, and wandered around the expensive design shops below, on the Via Veneto (I think). I think the salesfolks could tell that we weren’t about to buy anything, but they were really nice and up-pushy.

The next morning, we found an open – air market. Mr. Pants loves Italian markets – for good reason! We stopped at one stall where they were selling ostrich eggs (feeds 30). There were persimmons everywhere – later, we saw them all over the ground in Positano.

Open_air_food_market_rome_june_2004

We also did some more windowshopping, mostly for food.  Yum!

You_know_you_want_it_rome_june_2004

We left Rome by train on Friday; the plan was to overnight in Naples on Friday night and leave the next morning by ferry for Positano, where we had to pick up the keys to our house-for-a-week by 4 PM. Pics from that next time!

Woot! I did it!

Girlie