Club Admiralty

v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Club Admiralty Blog

A blog about life in general, in as many languages as I can manage. Ενα ιστολόγιο περι ζωής, πολυγλωσσο - σε όσες γλωσσες εχω μεράκι να γράψω.

Vacation lookback: Italy (Part II)

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Pompeii No Entry
In Italy we stayed a few days in Naples, so that we could explore the region and go visit the ancient sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Villa Poppaea in Oplontis. I have to admit that I was really excited about going to Naples and visiting all the ancient sites! I guess when you're excited about something it can only let you down LOL :-)  So, where to begin?  How about good ol' Neapoli.

The word that I would use to describe Naples is: Cesspool. I don't say this to be demeaning to the residents of Naples, nor to sound snooty, but Naples really has some things that they need to fix before the status of the city gets upgraded, at least in my view.  The two major issues were that traffic was bad (really bad!) and there was trash almost everywhere!  To get to some places that we wanted to see (like the Catacombs) we went through streets that barely had any sidewalks. These were one lane streets that were two-way.  Furthermore,  there were many streets that were one-way, but somehow this rule didn't apply to motocyclists, so you needed to be on the lookout so no crazy person ran into you.  The trash situation was quite bad.  Initially I thought there was a strike (things like this happen in mediterranean countries), but no; no strike - that was just the norm.  And, as it turns out Italy was fined because they failed to do something about the situation when the EU initially identified it as a problem.

There were some redeeming things about Naples, and the region, such as the food: The food was good! The pizzas that we had in Campania were the best pizzas I've ever had.  One of the places that we went to was Antica Pizzeria di Decumani? I would highly recommend it.
The Museo di Capodimonte was also pretty great, and from what I understand they have quite a few well known pieces.  Only one problem here: wings closed with no explanation!  We just happened to be quite lucky to be asked by a couple of museum docents if we wanted to be part of a small group (2 people, maybe their friends) who were going through the closed wings to see the art.  Had we not been at the right place at the right time, and had they not asked us if we wanted to join in, we would have missed out! The tour through the closed wings was too quick for my taste, but at least I got to see some things.

Naples Garbage (everywhere it seems)
Next up, Pompeii:
I have to say that this was a mild disappointment for me. I was in awe of the size of the city which was pretty freaking huge for it an ancient city, but the novelty of walking down ancient streets really wears off after an hours or so when you feel like a modern creep looking into ancient people's houses from their windows.  Why?  Because not everything was open!  There were 10 houses that were supposed to be open, but only 3 were actually open to be able to walk in and view. This was a disappointment. The villa of the mysteries was also mostly closed.  There was a lot of restoration happening; maybe because those sites are in danger of losing their World Heritage status due to the fact that they weren't taking care of them. Finally, no free maps. When you got your tickets for the site, they had a big sign saying "no maps," they supposedly ran out.  That said, there was a €2 map at the museum bookstore, that was really not that accurate.

Herculaneum, on the other hand was AWESOME! The city, even though smaller, was actually much more interesting to walk through, and there were more open buildings to go explore. If you combine Herculaneum with the Villa at Oplontis (Villa Poppaea), these two, even though smaller than Pompeii, they were much more impressive.  I hope that Pompeii gets its act together soon, because I'd like to go back and be impressed :)  The little that we saw of Modern Herculaneum we liked.  Next time, if we go to the Campania Region, we are staying in Herculaneum!

While we stayed in the region we got an ArteCard (sort of similar to the Amsterdam Card) which gave us free access to all of the Archeological sites in the region. This was a good investment. There are a few types of ArteCards, so if you are interested in the archeology, get the Archeologia ArteCard.

As far as the Language went, I honestly had no idea what the hell people were saying. Granted, I haven't studied Italian in over ten years, but I didn't think that my Italian was that bad.  It was later on in Rome when some Romans told us that they, too, have no idea what people from Naples are saying. That made me feel better ;-)

The hotel we stayed at was OK.  No air-conditioning, but the included breakfast was decent.  The biggest issue was no internet. You had to buy a pre-paid internet card (€1/hour), which wasn't a bad price, but considering that every other hotel we stayed in, both in Italy, and in Greece, and the Netherlands had included internet, this rubbed me the wrong way.

Finally, most people seemed nice (with the exception of the Psycho we encountered on the regional train). As I said, the food was awesome. I just wish we could get the food without Naples ;-)


PANO_20130627_124308
Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii
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Vacation lookback: Italy (Part I)

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Part II of my little lookback on this year's vacation. I was wondering whether I should write about Greece first, or whether I should write about Italy. I thought that I should write about Italy first, since it was the somewhere in-between the Netherlands and Greece, rather than try to tackle Greece first (4 weeks), and then the shorter duration (13 days) in Italy.

We got to Italy by way of  ship. We left Patra with Grimaldi Lines, and headed for Brindisi. This was my first (long duration) boat ride since 1992 when I had gone to Amorgos with my father. The boat ride wasn't bad, it was a 16 hour voyage. We were hugging the Greek cost for most of the afternoon, and into the evening, so I had intermittent internet on my Nexus with my Greek SIM. We bough some Pullman style seats, opting to not get a room so we can save some money. For most of the trip (up to Igoumenitsa) we were the only ones in the Pullman seat section, which was pretty nice. In Igoumetsa more passengers came on-board and joined up. I doubt that they had purchased Pullman seats, but whatever. My only real big complaint about the boat ride was the upkeep of the bathrooms. They were good when we arrived, but by the end they were pretty disgusting.

When we arrived at Brindisi we were taken (by free shuttle) from the port to the center of town (or somewhere anyway where there was tourist information office. It would have been nice to have this office near the train-station (our destination) so that the free shuttle dropped us off there, but I guess that would make too much sense ;-)  We spent the first night in Casserta. This was a pretty interesting city, but we didn't really have a ton of time to explore it. One thing we did discover is, that unlike Greece and the Netherlands, there is a gap between the hours of operation of restaurants, and most stop serving at 15:00 and don't start again until 19:30.  For two people who were quite hungry, this was quite a bad surprise :)  The hotel we stayed in Casserta was pretty nice, and we definitely need to go back there again!

The next blog post will be about the Campania Region where we stayed for a few days...

Adieu, Patra

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Vacation look back: The Netherlands

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It's been a week or so since we came back from our vacation. Now that the jetlag has subsided and I am back to normal, I thought it would be good to have a concise overview of the highlights and lowlights of the trip.  I guess I will be starting with the Netherlands since it was both the beginning and the end of the trip.

I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into when I decided to stay in the Netherlands for a couples days at the beginning of our trip and at the end.  All I really knew was: Canals, Cheese and Windmills. What  sort of interesting stuff could a country have other than that?  Well, it turns out quite a lot!

As a country in whole, it seems like the Netherlands does have it together quite well.  The public transportation system seemed to run on time, efficiently and it was quite clean. Their OV-Chipcard (RDIF way to use the metro) seemed pretty nice and painless to use (similar to a charlie card in Boston - the one with the chip, not the silly one with the magnetic stripe) and there was a ton to see! We ended up getting the 48 hour I amsterdam card (€54) which included unlimited public transportation for 48 hours, as many museums as we wanted to get into (most museums seem to be partners, so that's quite a lot!) and this includes discounts to some selected restaurants and stores. As far as I am concerned, bet €54 I've spent ;-)

We did visit quite a few places, as one might imagine, but my top 2 were the ARTIS Royal Zoo  and the National Maritime Museum. The Rijksmuseum was pretty good too but by the end we were tired from our museum tour of duty so we didn't see all of it. The Royal Zoo closes at Dusk (10pm!) on Saturdays in the summer, so we ended up spending 6 hours at the zoo (pretty awesome!) Next time around I do want to visit the EYE Film museum and the Cobra Museum.

As far as food goes, we didn't eat out a lot in the Netherlands (or so it seems anyway), but there are two places that stood out to me: De Wasserette which had killer breakfast, and Cafe Bern which had great fondue and entrecôte.

We ended up staying in Amsterdam for most of the time in the Netherlands, but we also stayed a night in Gouda (which was a pretty nifty town!)   As far as amenities go, in the Netherlands, there seemed to be free wifi almost everywhere, which meant that I didn't need to buy a local SIM card.  Had we stayed more than 2 days I would have bought one, but for 48 hours you are mostly fine since hotels, museums and restaurants all provide wifi for free.

Can't wait for my next trip to the Netherlands.
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