Friday, June 13, 2014

Traveling (Sorrento log 1)

Yesterday we started the annual ritual of going on holiday. This means getting up at 1:30am in order to leave for the airport at 2:30am in order to check in at 3am in order to get into the duty free area at 4:15am in order to buy a few items then have a small breakfast in the VIP lounge before boarding at 5:30 before taking off at 6am....

The only interesting thing that happened before taking off was that I suddenly noticed a large black man entering the duty free area just behind us; after taking a second glance, I realised that I was looking at Sophoklis Schorsanitis (aka Sofo), champion basketball player of Maccabi Tel Aviv. A few children went to have their picture taken with him and I encouraged my wife to do the same. Unfortunately, it seems that I can't download the picture from her phone at the moment.

Our plane took us to Rome, where we arrived at around 8:15 local time. After a bus took us to the terminal building, we walked and walked and walked until we arrived at the ticketing office for local flights. After a brief discourse with an attendant who resembled actress Katherine Heigl, we walked a bit more until we arrived at gate B19, where a plane was going to take us to Naples (or Napoli, as we tend to refer to it). Embarking took a bit longer than expected and we had to wait in the plane for some time as apparently one passenger had not turned up.

When we did eventually take off, we had a short 35 minute flight to Napoli; we were met at the airport by an agent who took us to a pre-booked taxi. Whilst in the airport, I had tried to get money out of an ATM without any luck (and I tried two separate cards) which caused me to suspect that either the machine was no good or else we were going to have cash problems. This was explained to the driver; we stopped somewhere along the way and fortunately this time I was able to extract cash from the wall.

After about an hour and a half of driving (most of the way was on a one lane per direction road and we were behind a lorry), we eventually arrived in the picturesque town of Sorrento, which is going to be our base for the next week.

We are staying in the Hotel del Mare, whose biggest advantage is that is one minute from the Marina Grande, a very pleasant harbour lined with the inevitable restaurants. After we arrived, we immediately went there to eat lunch (it was now 2pm local time).
We ate in a restaurant which I had read favourable reviews about but to be honest, I wasn't overwhelmed (I like my fish grilled, not deep fried). By the time we finished (the mixed cooked vegetables which I ordered arrived after I had finished my meal: very tasty but I would have preferred it with the fish), we went back to the hotel. 

The only important task which I had to do was buy mobile phones and I knew that there was a shop nearby. As it was very hot (and humid), we decided to rest for a while. After an hour, I got up and made my exploratory way to the main street of Sorrento. The location of the hotel is its great advantage and disadvantage: the harbour is a minute away, but getting to the town means walking up stair on the cliff, continuing on through narrow passageway and continually running the gauntlet of being run over by a motor scooter. In truth, it takes only 15 minutes and is mildly tiring.

Once I arrived on Corso Italia (the main drag) and found the shop, I was chagrined to discover that it was closed whereas every other shop was open and doing a roaring trade. I consoled myself with a cone of excellent mint ice-cream in a shop a few doors down, then returned to the hotel. I checked with the hotel clerk who clearly knew the shop and said that the proprietors close for siesta every day; it would reopen at 5pm. As it was now 4:40pm, I didn't fancy going straight back.

After recording some videos with my wife, I persuaded her to come with me and check out the town. She was very enthusiastic about the harbour, less so about the steps (she has problems walking) but restored her enthusiasm when she saw the various trees, shrubs and flowers along the way. She became extremely enthusiastic when she saw the goods on display in some of the wood crafting shops! Today we will be spending the day in town.

After I finished my business in the phone shop (which took quite a time), we walked across the road to the English Inn: I had read mixed reviews (mainly positive) of this place, but looking at the menu, we realised that it was exactly what we were looking for: poached egg on toast with tea! During our trip, we want to eat as little pasta/pizza as possible because of the calories. Fish and vegetables for lunch is fine, but we may have a problem with dinner. 

Then back to the marina, an ice cream on the water's edge (after we were persuaded by a very pushy waitress), back to the hotel, into bed and sleep ... until 1:30am, when the alarm on my wife's telephone went off (she forgot to cancel it). Oh well.

This is the entrance to the hotel. During the day, no one was outside, but when we came back, all the seats were taken. We can order sandwiches and tea from the bar. The rooftop of the hotel is also a bar, but we have yet to visit it.

I managed to back up the pictures from my wife's camera - here she is with Sofo.

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