Another Day in Pompeii…

The next morning (April 24th, 2014), I again walk over to the ancient city of Pompeii. The weather is even nicer today, mostly sunny instead of mostly cloudy, so that’s good. My hotel is around a mile from the ruins and the 15 minute walk is invigorating plus it gives me the opportunity to scope out where other business are nearby. Turns out that this particular area is a little subdued. I’m not certain if it’s a typical Italian neighborhood or not. The street the hotel is on is kind of a main drag, at least during rush hours. Most of the business are closed up, or gated, or periodical. Up around the corner there’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall store that I got all my groceries at, then there’s a small coffee shop…oh, wait, two of them, very close together. Both of them serve food in the form of sandwiches and one of them is a full blown (though small) broasted chicken place. But they both do a brisk business with those tiny cups of Espresso. At outrageous prices (well, they do have to ship it all the way from Brazil…or rather they did in the 1800’s). Up and down that street, the same thing, very few open businesses. During my week here at the hotel, the neighborhood didn’t really seem all that lively. I’m not complaining, but it would have been nice to go out at least once. There wasn’t a club anywhere nearby so, didn’t get to do that.

This picture is looking up the street towards Pompeii, taken just across the street from the hotel. When I visit the ruins, I start by walking up this street until I reach the off-ramp from the freeway (where this street ends going in this direction) and then take a right. Onto another street heading east towards the ruins. I’d have to walk east on that street under a large overpass with the freeway above, past a couple fields of multiple kinds of vegis and some grapes for wine. Also by a casino of all things. Then I’d end up at a multi-mall area with numerous businesses on the ground floors of numerous hotels. Turned out that this was all right downhill from the Pompeii ruins.

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Visit to Pompeii, cont.

Lucky for me that the weather held…and though it remained overcast most of this entire first trip to the ancient city, (see the last posting for the beginning of the day here in Pompeii) my light clothing had turned out to be the best choice for comfort while wandering the ancient streets, alleys, and byways. It was nice and cool, but not cold; no wind but with an occasional puff of cooling breeze; light but not bright; moist but not wet. Perfect hiking weather. Notice in this picture some are in coats, there’s even an umbrella, but mostly it’s casual attire like mine.

This arch over a causeway was built in 2 BCE. It’s at the intersection of two main streets through town. This is located near the main square. In fact, if you turned around right here, you’d be looking at the main square. Framed by the arch, and dating from 200 BCE, that large structure in the background is part of the Temple of Jupiter, mostly ruined during the earthquake, the head of a large statue of Jupiter remains. It was repurposed to the worship of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva before the eruption. If I didn’t mention it before, there was a huge earthquake 16 years before Vesuvius erupted and practically destroyed Pompeii. Much was in the process of a slow rebuild from the earthquake when Vesuvius kind of ruined that idea.

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I followed a small family group that had their own tour guide who spoke English, into this building and got the story (which I can’t recall now) of these pillars supporting the ceiling. It’s hard to see in these pictures how artistic they really are. They would be great in a home bathroom though. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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Visit to a really old town…

Next morning, I get up early, and head into the hotel kitchen. They’ve already told me that I can use the main kitchen to cook, and they show me around and give some quick instructions on how the appliances work. The rental room is called a B&B, where I’m also allowed to use the kitchen. This is not typical in the USA in my experience with B&Bs. I knew from most of the ads on the Roomorama web site that often I could use the kitchens so I had always looked for that when I was making reservations before and during my trip. The proprietor also prepares a little morning repast for me and the other quests as they arrive. Bagels, rolls, jams, coffee, toast, cereal or oatmeal, the regular crappy b’fast. During the week I stayed here, I always had the cereal, toast, and coffee. Saving money, lots of money. Imagine the cost of eating breakfast out every morning for the 2 months I’d planned on staying in Europe. In fact, cooking my own meals, and staying at B&Bs saved me enough that I could afford to stay in Europe the entire 2 months. Right at this point in my trip though, I didn’t know that so I was being conservative with my money.

After b’fast, I walk over to the Pompeii site. It was a little confusing finding the site but I’d gotten some directions at the hotel, and after some stumbling around and gazing curiously at a sign or two, which are in Italian but you can kinda figure out, I quickly found a road that headed up a hill and into the site. Just across the street from the entrance are these many kiosks selling trinkets and foods. Even a small cafe’ or two. Interesting. One advertised WiFi.

At the Pompeii site entrance.

At the Pompeii site entrance.

The ticket line was longer than I like, but it moved fast and soon, I was on the walkway heading into the fabled, and quite real city of Pompeii!

First view from the pathway.

First view from the pathway.

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On to Pompeii…

After a nice relaxing night at the hostel in downtown Naples, I got up fairly early, around 9AM, had my shower, got my stuff all packed but since the light rail ride was only an hour to Pompeii, and since I had all day to get there, I left my luggage in the room and wandered over to the main drag that courses through downtown Naples. Again, there were the many street vendors all setup with  their full tables of wares available, watches, leather goods, one was just toys for dogs and cats. Had an amusing time looking at the stuff. Found something for breakfast, enjoyed that. Than I was standing at the corner, this was on a Tuesday morning around 10AM, and noticed a taxi driver just sitting there sort of in the center of the causeway. Not impeding traffic mind you but in a place where I noticed that he seemed kind of resigned that he’d not found a big fair from amongst the train travelers that had arrived early in the morning. He was reading a newspaper not really looking like he’s trying to scare up any business. I passed by him 3-4 times while wandering up and down the street.

Finally, it occurred to me that I could see a lot more of Naples in the few hours I had left if I had the taxi driver take me around. So I walked over to him and offered him €20 to drive me around HIS Naples. It could be touristy or not, his choice. He gave me a scowl to begin with but using my charm and all, he warmed up to the idea and soon we were off on a taximan’s adventure. Zooming in and out of some tight streets as he mentioned short stories of things that had happened at certain places. We even went slowly by an ancient castle right on the waterfront that’s a tourist attraction. I had forgotten my camera so I didn’t get any pictures but I did think it would be pretty cool to come back here and maybe spend a 3-4 days to look around and catch up on the history of the city.

After the tour, which probably took 15-20 minutes, he got me back to my corner. I was so pleased with the trip that I gave him a €50 note instead of the €20 he was expecting. Wasn’t until 4-5 days later I thought better of giving that much. Ah, well. After another hour of wandering downtown, it was getting close to check out time at the hostel so I retrieved my bags and headed for the train station to catch the afternoon shuttle to Pompeii. No pictures because the windows were all steamed up on the train. Couldn’t make out much of anything. It was crowded too so I was doing my best to keep a watchful eye on my bags and stay off of locals toes.

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When I arrived, I didn’t have much of an idea of where I wanted to go. I’d need to check my map on my tablet to get oriented. But I did notice this ticket office and went over to talk to them and they were selling tickets for a shuttle ride up to Vesuvius. Then a hike to the top of that famous volcano. Cool. Yeah, I want to do that. It was only around 1pm and the next tour left at 2pm so I had myself a nice cappuccino while waiting. There was a large restaurant right next to the ticket office that did have WiFi. I wanted to tour Pompeii of course, one of the things on my bucket list actually, so I grabbed a few brochures about the area and tours.

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On to Naples…

You might remember, that my original plan was to take the high-speed rail from Rome to Naples, then without pausing, take the local train to Pompeii where I’d reserved a room. But I’d screwed up and reserved my Pompeii room one day after I was suppose to arrive. Now, I’m sure they would have been able to accommodate me a day early, but I took it as an opportunity for adventure. As soon as I had some extra time in Rome, I spent some hours trying to find both the best things to do and places to stay. My original research had been done over a month before and I didn’t see much in my notes…which lined up well with what I was finding now online. Not much I’d want to do there. Well, spending one day there wasn’t all that bad then. At least I’d be able to say I’ve stayed in Naples. Impress the gurls.

I was looking for a hostel and it was kind of handy that there were two within walking distance of the main rail station, Napoli Centrale, where my train would arrive. Cool. Chose the one that seemed the most comfortable and made my reservation on hostelz.com. Only 200 meters from the train station.

The morning arrived, I gathered all my stuff, and made my way to the termini in an unhurried fashion as there are several trains to Napoli leaving every 25 minutes, all day. So relaxing not having to worry about getting to the airport for the one or two flights they have. I didn’t bother with an early train because, hell, I’m on vacation. This was my first ever high-speed railroad trip though so I was kind of excited to get aboard. The route the train takes isn’t all that mysterious or exciting, interesting still. And the trip is only 1:10-2:32 hours depending on type of ticket you buy…I went with the 1 hour ticket.

At the Temini, waiting for my train...

At the Temini, waiting for my train…

Time for an espresso.

Time for an espresso.

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Wrap up to Rome…

Bright and early the next morning, the alarm goes off,  I hit the snooze once, twice, three times until I’m a little late getting up. The bed was comfy, so that’s my story.

My room.

My room.

Finally get up and get ready, then head for the light rail. I’d planned on getting my ticket at the kiosk along the way, but they’re not open this early. Hmm. OK, I’ll get it at the rail station. When I get there, I find that the only place to buy tickets is on the wrong side of the tracks. So I miss the first train. Have to wait 15 minutes for the next one. And I’m already a little late. All these little things accumulate and conspire to make me a lot late and soon I’m in danger of missing the Vatican tour all together.

So while I’m on the light rail, heading for the termini, I try to come up with a plan that’ll get me to right across from the Vatican to meet my tour group on time. Can’t seem to figure anyway to do that, especially after the light rail stops on the track, nowhere near a train station, and just sits there for 5-10 minutes. I have no idea why. This track is a dedicated track with only a train crossing in one place but that’s where we stopped. We do stop every once in a while at a typical stop light while cars cross in front of us. Eventually, the other train came along and crossed our tracks, the street light eventually turned in our favor, and after that, off we went. Alright, I’ll have to get a taxi at the termini, can’t take a bus or walk. Train arrives at the termini, I hurry through the labyrinth until I see daylight upstairs and I head up to the taxi station. Long line of taxis but of course you have to take the first one. Lucky for me it was a guy who spoke English, who looks like a race car driver, and whose eyes light up when I tell him the problem. Sure, he says, I can get you there on time.

You know those movies where the hero is racing through Rome like a boss? WE DID THAT!! No shit! Boy, was it fun. Even while hanging onto the grips, and with my seatbelt on, I was sloshed back and forth in the front passenger seat like a bag of rice. We zipped through parts of town without many stop lights and I could tell he was taking a route that wasn’t exactly straight…which was OK with me if it kept our speed up and the number of stops down. Tires squealing, taxi skittering a ways across morning dew dampened cobblestones, people jumping out of the way when they saw us approaching, and one ‘slam on the brakes’ to stop for a light turned red. Downshifting and upshifting as we careened up and down hills, engine roaring. Great fun. Just like the movies.

We get there, literally, with one minute to spare. I am sooooo happy about arriving on time, and the great ride, that I not only pay the guy but also give him a very generous tip, along with a hearty handshake. Pretty obvious that he enjoyed the hell out of it too. Whew. Made it. It was thrilling.

So I walk down the ancient stairs to meet my group and the tour operators sign me in. Then we wait 10 minutes or so for some stragglers. Really.

When everyone has arrived, up the stairs we go, cross the street, and into the side door of the Vatican. I didn’t get a picture but the door is rather non-descript, the wall surrounding the Vatican going either direction is very high and long so you really can’t see much, and there’s quite a crowd queued up outside. We walk right past the que and up the stairs into the doors.

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Rome…continued.

I should have mentioned the last post that my colosseum tour also included the forum, so I’ll do a little backtracking here. The Forum is right across from the colosseum and over the tarmac and footpaths tourists are using these days. It was originally built as an open air work space where Senators would sit on tiered benches that faced an open tiled area. This area was used for speeches, and famously, some vicious beatings and even a couple murders. Senators, lawyers, businessmen, and Emperors all gave speeches here. No ‘common’ people though. Unfortunately, after the fall and sack of Rome in 410 CE by the Visigoths, this building, like many others nearby was pillaged and vandalized. Since it was basically just an open courtyard with walls, it wasn’t long before it was in ruin as citizens began using portions of the building for building material elsewhere. I couldn’t find a picture of my own that shows the Forum so I found one online. Don’t know who owns it but pretty sure it’s just a tourist and not a pro photog. If any reader can claim it, email me and I’ll give you credit.

The Roman Forum in all its ancient glory...sort of.

The Roman Forum in all its ancient glory…sort of.

Then one tiny section of it. Where the Roman’s have stored pieces of the columns they’ll try to reconstruct some day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s not much left of such a historical place, but we were told that there is some support by Rome and Italy to rebuild the forum. Since much of the modern world is turning into a giant, peaceful tourist attraction, it’s possible that could happen. There is restoration going on now all around Rome (for instance, pictures of the colosseum last post show some scaffolding and some nearby restoration work). First thing I noticed after I got to Rome was how clean the air is now. Years ago, it was so bad it might have stopped me from going to Rome. Something like Chinese cities are these days. They really worked hard at getting the pollution under control. Clean air vehicles really helped because the fumes spewing out of cars, trucks, trains, & buses for centuries put so much acid into the air around Rome that it was eating away the marble and cement facades. Now you can see miles in any direction. Good for them.

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Still more from Rome…

The next day, I headed back down to the colosseum, using the light rail and then subway. I’m liking Rome’s subway system. You can go practically anywhere. What I planned for today was a open topped, double decker bus ride around town. Sort of a way to get acquainted with Rome. The buses are hop on, hop off type that pass by all the famous sites in Rome. You can jump off anywhere along the route to explore, then hop back on another of the buses to continue the circuit. Pretty cool. Back in the ol’ USA, I’ve never taken a tour bus. They must be here somewhere, but I don’t recall seeing them.

So I just did a Google search of bus tours in New York and yes, they are there. And Viator is there too. It’s $48 for a open bus tour of NY. I’m a big fan of Viator over in Europe because their online system is so well designed and easy to use. You can buy your ticket online and print your ticket or, with your Android tablet or phone, just show them your ticket on your device to board the bus. Also, you can have them call you and remind you of the tour departure times and locations. And…they have tour guides with clip boards when you arrive at the bus and your name will be there so you get to board. And yes, I did see web sites for tours, trains, airlines, and buses in Europe where they weren’t anywhere near that helpful or organized.

Since my itinerary called for a week in Rome, I wasn’t in any hurry to run around Rome like an idiot, but I did have a list of things I’d looked up online back at home and wanted to vist. It didn’t help that I caught a cold and cough on the freakin’ train ride to the LA airport. Curse my luck. So, OK, I lost a couple days in Rome due to illness, I wasn’t going to let that wreck my entire trip…besides, it was already slacking off and I was feeling pretty well.

I’ll start this post with a few pictures of my colosseum and beyond visit I didn’t post last time.

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More from Rome…

Rome is enchanting and exciting…all that history, right in one city!

After doing a little reconnaissance around Rome, learning the ropes so to speak, the 3rd day after my arrival, I took the rapid transit to the termini, then the Metro subway over to the colosseum.  My tour was to take off early, and naturally, I was just on time. Not early, just on time.

I was attempting to keep a travel diary and here’s what I’d done so far:

Apr 13th, sneezed a couple times on the way LAX, did not know it at the time, but caught a cold somewhere.

Apr 14th, bought cold meds in Copenhagen. Little help. But I did notice that they seem to work better than the OTC products in the USA. Arrived in Rome at 9:30pm, long walk to local trains…no customs at all! Train had no map, low volume announcements, and an electronic reader that sucked, usually showed station we just left not upcoming. No signs along the tracks at the stations…and two guys (suits) told me, incorrectly, that there were two more stations to go so I missed the stop. Host wouldn’t come where I was so I took a taxi back to his place.

Apr 15th, stayed home in bed. Except for a sortie around the hood. I toured the area and found 3 ATMs nearby, found a coffee shop. Got some more Euros. Then, I noticed a neighborhood grocery store right next door to my apartment. Bought some food, so I could cook my own meals. Saved lots of money that way and intend to do that wherever possible on the trip.

Apr 16th, ventured out in the neighborhood, got a book of tickets for public transport. Found a trolley station just two blocks away from my flat. My host just pointed me to the buses and didn’t mention that a block further on was the trolley. I happened to notice it while I was wandering. Bought a train/trolley/subway system map…waste of $6E, too confusing for a newbie. In order to get familiar with the trolley instead, I just took it to the downtown central station, the termini. While there I bought my train ticket for Naples on the 21st from a ticket machine. It really helps to be able to do these things at your leisure instead of under the gun. Back home, and using Viator.com, bought a ticket for the guided Colosseum tour, then discovered that I’d booked one day early for my trip to Naples/Pompeii. Hah! Well, OK, I’d stay in Naples overnight. Why not? Found a hostile and booked one night. Naples is just a 1 hour local trolley ride from Pompeii, after you take a high speed train from Rome to Naples. I wanted to take the train and all…part of my trip plans were to ride the European rails at 200MPH.

Apr 17th, took trolley to downtown, then subway to colosseum (2 stops away, well marked), met the tour group & toured colosseum and forum, etc. When finished, took a tour bus around city. That night, I bought a ticket for Vatican and St. Peter’s online. Again, from Viator.com. Liked their website, prices, and tours. Really handy to be able to use my tablet to join the tour…didn’t have to try to get a ticket printed out. Phone displays of your ticket work for Viator too.

The colosseum tour started early, around 9AM in order to avoid the crowds. I could have chosen a different time of course. Our tour group gathered right across the street from the colosseum and was limited to 25 people (but there were several other tours gathering too). The guide was a local with very good English, and years of experience.

We enter to Colosseum...

We enter the Colosseum…

Notice that we walk right by all those tourists lined up in the non-tour que.

Our tour guide.

Our tour guide.

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A week in Rome…

Apr. 14th, 2014: Resting up…

After the little mix up the night I arrived in Rome, I was happy to get to bed and enjoy a night of dreamless sleep. Next morning, I just hung out at the apartment trying to organize my plans and make up an itinerary for the next two months. Traveled around the neighborhood and other than all of the signs being in Italian, it’s a nice typical neighborhood. More small shops then in the US but everything was recognizable. Seems as though English is made up of a bunch of Italian words. Or is it Latin?

I was staying at the Piazza San Felice de Cantalice. In a quiet private room in a private flat which I shared with the owner. My room was kind of small, but the bed was comfy, plenty of places to store my stuff and had a nice desk. The apartment is just six miles from the heart of Rome, near by both an electric train and bus station. The train only takes 30 minutes to get to the termini, and the termini is the train’s last stop, so I didn’t bother with buses. The room was small, the wifi worked best in the living room, but it was fine for a weeks stay. Kitchen was light filled but crowded by an overlarge table so I would have to move to my bedroom or the livingroom to use my computer when the owner was cooking for himself. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed with the room. Host was helpful and friendly, and very quiet. The shower was makeshift and not comfortable…it’s really more of a tub with a shower, though. The neighborhood has all the amenities…there is even a grocery store next door. ATM’s, cafes, bars, banks, and shopping. Restaurants too. Overall, very convenient. Found the room on Roomorama, and paid $32 per night. Pretty good price considering.

Light rail station near my apartment.

Light rail station near my apartment.

Arriving at the termini.

Arriving at the termini.

As you probably have figured out, the termini is the main rail station for Rome. I was on a local train and the station handles both those and the long distance trains. Then the Metro underground is another entire subway system. I found a map in the Metro area that showed me which train to take to get to the colosseum so off I went.

Here’s a map I used quite often to get oriented: Rome

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