2016 Caravan Trip - Europe travel blog

Waiting for the Express train to Naples.

Only small cars need apply to drive in Naples.

Our Underground tour - very interesting!

At Caffe Gambrinus our excellent "aperitivo" - free snacks with drinks.

Naples may look quiet - but it was buzzing.

In the town of Pompeii itself - and attractive bell tower.

Our transport to go up Mount Vesuvius.

The view down on Pompeii.

Vesuvius's crater - all quiet!

Our trip down the amalfi Coast by boat.

Amalfi beach - really shingle!

Narrow streets in amalfi town.

She looks at home here!

Our boat - shared with 10 others.

The smaller Amphitheatre at Pompeii.

The streets of old Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background

Art exhibition in the ruins.

Walking on the coast of Capri.

A long abondoned fort on the coast of Capri.

The lighthouse at Punta Carena.

Tuesday 28th June 2016

Our Express train to Naples does not leave until 10.41am and so we have ample time for shower, breakfast, coffee and other stuff before we head to the train station just up the hill – 3 mins walk.

But as we are early, we go and watch the tours arriving at Pompeii – and there are lots again – and the touts are out in force – tours here and tours there!

Our train is late – but we are pleased to find that the train is quiet and air conditioned and speeds along – but at certain stations only a couple of the doors open and the guards only allow these folk with express tickets to board!

At the terminus we walk through Piazza Grimaldi and eventually find the right street for the walking tour of the underground Naples.

The Tour underground is pretty interesting but a bit slow – and in many places the passage ways are so narrow that you have to go along sideways! Some of the larger spaces are being used as experimental “gardens” with artificial light to grow things – like Basil.

For Lunch we choose a wee Piazza restaurant that uses fresh Basil (grown in the underground) and boy is the service quick – but not that friendly!

Combined Bus and Metro tickets are available as a “Unico Napoli” ticket and we walk to the Metro and head for the Castel Sant’ Elmo that dominates the town – but it takes forever and we walk in the wrong direction for a while and take the wrong Funicular (same ticket). But eventually get there – nice view but not worth the effort.

However, we get the Funicular Centrale and then head for Cocktails at Caffe Gambrinus. Really good as if it’s after 4pm, when you order drinks you get nibbles in the form of bit size pieces of piazza and nice savoury bits – not quiet “afternoon tea” but it is “free”.

We decide to walk back to the train station – but it’s much further than we thought and we get there after our express train has left and this means that out ticket will not let us through the barrier. So, after much discussion we are let through by a grumpy woman and told which platform to go to. But our train is delayed and then takes the long way round to get to Pompeii – not a great day out really!

Back home a t 7.25pm – long day drinks and wine.

Wednesday 29th June 2016

Yet another blue sky day – WHY do we live in the UK, well it’s a bit nicer place to live and there’s not so much rubbish on the streets!

But today we have decided to do the mountain – by bus – yep, there’s a trip from the train station, just close by, that takes you up by “normal” bus to meet a 4 x 4 bus that takes you up and then a walk to the rim of the Volcano that is/was Mt Vesuvius – only three hours round trip – a bargain at 22 Euros!!

We also pre-book for a boat trip to the Amalfi coast for tomorrow and hope the weather will be good.

So, come 2pm, we are aboard a normal bus which zooms up the mountain roads past what look like pretty swish restaurants offering “events” and “conferences” but not many looking busy – maybe this is where rich Napolitans come to get married!

Then we transfer to the 4 x4 vehicle – a Merc – and then we had a rough ride up the track – it’s not really a road – but sometimes it has paving stones and often not - but we travel like the devil is chasing us – the cost is worth it for this ride alone!!

Then we stop at a parking lot and are shown the path up – what happened to the “Alpine Guide”? but it is straight forward – up hill for 15 mins on a volcanic ash path and we are at the top – some of our fellow travellers are wearing flip-flops – yep, damn STUPID.

The view down across the bay and on to Naples is pretty good – but it is a little hazy – however the rim of the volcano is impressive – and could it still turn nasty and erupt again – scary thoughts.

On the rim there are three “cafes” – shacks really selling tat and drinks and after we get to the third and discover a path going down we return to shack number one and have a local white wine – 1.5 Euro for a wee plastic tumbler of pretty dodgy stuff.

The trip down is uneventful as we bag good backward facing seats and so do not need to brace for the downward roller coaster ride – really good but a bit hot.

Back home we are back to the supermarket for more provisions – yep booze and plan to have an early night for tomorrow’s full day trip.

But as usual the internet is patchy but at least the power has stayed on – oh – Italy – a third world country- time to leave the EU – Lira, Lira I hear the Mafia say!

Thursday 30th June 2016

Amalfi Coast Trip

We are up early up at 7am for a train at 8.17am to Sorrento, where we meet the tour party at the train station. However we wait for ages at Sorrento Station for transport to the harbour at Massa Lubrense.

The drive to the harbour is fast and furious but then we sit and wait again – eventually get going on a super new boat at 10.15am. There are 12 of us – all Brits – and we bag a seat under the sun canopy out of the glare of the sun – even though we are the most tanned of our group.

Our Skipper – Enrico – is not that talkative but we all introduce ourselves then settle down to admire the swiftly passing scenery.

Our first swimming stop is at 11am just by a group of Islands – Li Galli. Neil was first in and Carolyn second and most others did dive in. The water was “refreshing” but not that clear.

Then we travelled along the coast all the way to near Amalfi for “lunch” which was a hard roll sandwich and some soft drinks.

We were put ashore at Amalfi and given 2 hours to be back at the pier. We walked round the beach and up to a restaurant overlooking the bay – but it did not open for 30 mins and might not have given us enough time to get back to the boat. So we walked round the town and had a nice drink people watching.

Then back to boat for a leisurely motor back towards Positano and there we had 90 mins ashore - a walk and then drinks at La Brazza.

Heading home we visited a little grotto that we could swim into and we had to take turns with other boats and RIBs and later still on the way back another swimming stop which we did not take.

Back at harbour at 6.15pm – straight to minibus and to station for the 6.55 train to Pompeii.

Great day out - shame about the noisy girls on the train back though.

e Italian Interlude July 2016 Part 3

Friday 1st July 2016

A quiet day – washing in the morning- lunch – then supermarket and for a change not all drink!

Later at 4.50pm we depart for the Pompeii Scavi (Excavations)– why such a time – in between train times to avoid as many tourists as possible!

And so it passes – we get in quickly and whilst there are tour groups most are leaving.

The ruins are not great for pics as there are too many metal hoardings blocking off the ruins the authorities do not want you entering - and the main Amphitheatre is closed because of upcoming rock concerts – ba humbug!

Though the smaller Teatro Grande is pretty special.

So, it’s certainly worth a look but a bit disappointing in many ways.

Saturday 2nd July 2016

So, today we are off on public transport to Sorrento (by train) and then on to Amalfi (or somewhere sooner) by bus. This is much more of an adventure that taking an organised trip and also we are not bound by strict timetables.

However, things start to go wrong at the off – The normal train we planned to take is at 9.47am to Sorrento. But as we get to the station and wait, the express train pulls in, now we took this to Naples and it was great – but we forgot about it for going the other way today – DAMN.

Then we hear that the 9.47 train is delayed and so we WAIT – it eventually arrives at 10.14am - just before the normal scheduled train at 10.17am – so the platform is packed and so is the arriving train!

Still we jostle on and find a standing space - not great for a 40 min journey – but at the next few stations – EVEN MORE folk pile on – it’s hot, not air conditioned and it’s PACKED – and it’s NOISY – those damn Italians talk louder because they all talk at ONCE!

Eventually we arrive at Sorrento at 10.50am – if we had caught the express we would have been here at 9.55am. An hour of our lives spent WAITING.

Still the one consolation is that we get straight onto the SITA Sud bus for Amalfi and it’s only 8 Euros return – now that’s a bargain it’s about 100 mins each way – along a VERY TWISTY WINDY road – that caravans and motor homes are banned from.

The best seats for the views are on the front or the right of the bus – but because we are not on first we have to make to with the left – then after about 15 mins an alarm on the dashboard goes off and the driver phones someone and we take a detour to a garage – there a short conversation takes place – and it seems to us as if the guy there says “ just live with the alarm – no problem” and so off we go again – and BOY is this road something else –twisty, hairpin bends, too narrow for two cars never mind a bus and something else. And at one point we have the police setting up a one-way system because there is soo much traffic!! WHAT A HOOT – not having to drive!!

And when we arrive at Positano, the front seats are vacated and so we bag them – Result.

The rest of the drive to Amalfi is good – and we arrive late – the trip should take 100 mins and it took 110mins.

In the town we walked up to a restaurant that was closed (too early) for lunch when we were here two days ago, but now it’s open.

And we get a great table in some shade with a fantastic view of the picturesque town tumbling down the hillside, the sea and the mountains – all at once! I have fish ravioli with a mixed salad and Carolyn has Turban Prawn with Breaded Sea Bass – called Turban because the fish is wrapped around the giant prawn (langoustine) to look like a turban – looks great but is a bit difficult to eat, with no finger bowl or wet wipe offered – and of course wine and 2 bottles of water – total cost including tip 99 Euros – most expensive meal of the trip so far.

Then it’s back to the bus and with some luck we again get the front seat – and this drive is even better – the bus has to reverse several times and that’s not usual! The bus driver was not happy – he was not nearly as relaxed as our first driver!

But we get back to Sorrento in one piece and as we drive down the main street the driver “crosses” himself – as if to say - Thank God that’s over!

Sunday 3rd July 2016

As it’s a free entry day at the Pompeii ruins (Scavi – Excavations) – first Sunday of the month – we go along – with hordes of other tourists – but we have only one place in mind – The Villa dei Misteri – which is far away from the main site but still classed as Pompeii Scavi – and therefore it’s not as busy as the rest – It has some of the best preserved frescos of the whole site – and as a bonus there is an exit there which leads back to the campsite without pushing through lots of tour groups.

The pitch next to ours is occupied by a single English girl (and her dog, an old labrador – too hot for it) in an old VW camper van - left hand drive, imported from California and now with a “K” registration 1972!

So, we invite her round for drinks at 5.30pm and we talk until 8.30pm – late supper!

She’s here to get her mum at Naples airport and then on to Ravello – where her friend was getting married – but called it off at the last moment – but as all the wedding plans were booked, thought that she might as well have a party!!

Monday 4th July 2016

The Beautiful Isle of Capri.

It is pretty but it’s a victim of it’s own success – there are more tourists here than Positano and Amalfi put together AND it takes ages to get around.

Top tips at the end of the days RANT!

We decide not to take an organised tour – as it would be another early rise – and we are on HOLIDAY. So, we plan to get the 9.36am express to Sorrento then the first ferry available out to the island to do a walk on the Western Coast recommended in the Lonely Planet book.

All goes well to start with – the train is on time – but we get held up and arrive late at Sorrento. No problem, we walk down – it’s a fair way – to the port and check the schedule – next boat 10.45. Tickets bought we stand in a queue. Boat arrives – standing room only on this supposedly 20 min crossing – actually takes 25mins. But we arrive in Capri – Now the map we have only shows a few bus stations and not one at the port – Strange – but there is a funicular – but a LONG queue – Carolyn stands in the queue whilst I go off to find a ticket booth – not next to the funicular but 50 metre away! - tickets bought we stand in the slow moving queue – each trip on the funicular holds 70 folk – and there is a countdown board – which you watch anxiously to see if you’ll get on.

So, now we are at Capri town but we need to get to Anacapri – no signs for busses so we go right – no joy and then left to find the bus terminus – more tickets required and we join another queue for the bus. So, it’s now after 12 noon and we still need to get another bus from Anacapri to the start of the walk. But in Anacapri most folk get off and so we think that’s it – but we soon discover that the next bus leaves from up the road – and so we should have stayed on that bus.

So, a walk more tickets bought and we wait for the bus to the Blue Grotto ((Grotta Azzura). No real queue but it’s 15 mins till the next scheduled bus. On it Carolyn asks the driver to let us off at the start of the walk – and he motions walking with his fingers and we say yep. So, on this little bus there’s only us and some locals – And after 15 mins we are told this is it – it’s now 12.55pm – Three and a half hours to get HERE!!

However, the walk starts well, a good path and every so often a ceramic plaque showing flora and fauna – in Italian and English, nice – we stop for lunch after about 15 mins and in the shade and then move on (the Lonely Planet book says 5km and it will take 3 and a half hours). Well, 5km normally takes us just about an hour – but with up and downs and round the coves it might take longer – and so it passes – we are up hill then down to near the water, then back up again - but it’s nice and we only meet one other couple going in the opposite direction.

However, we come in sight of the last headland with it’s lighthouse and then are faced with a STEEP uphill path/road with no shade – it’s BRUTAL. And a shame to end a walk that way. But at the top a stairway through a forest (in the shade) leads us to the end and a nice swimming cove for the young folk.

But we trek up to the bus stance and are soon on our way back to Anacapri. But the tale is not over yet. Back at the bus terminal – there is no sign for a bus back down to Marina Grande – but there was one back when we got off the bus earlier. So, off we trot back to the town square – where we do indeed find the bus stop and guess what ANOTHER queue – so we join it and watch umpteen busses go to Capri but the bus to Marina Grande is only every 20 mins and they are chock full!

We and several other folk in the queue are really pissed off about this – it almost as if they do not put on enough busses so you are driven to say – FUCK it let’s just get a taxi and 10 times the cost. But as some of the taxi’s take 6 it might be a good idea.

So, we eventually get back to the ferry port at 4.05pm, to discover that a boat’s just left and the next is at 4.20pm. Now we had hoped to have a leisurely beer and wine whilst sitting around – BUT – if we get the 4.20 boat and it’s 20 mins - we get in at 4.40pm and the express train is at 5.00pm – could we make that? Let’s try – so off we go – drink three beers on the boat – catch a bus to the station, arrive at 4.58pm – buy tickets and get on board – RESULT.

And so home, not by the 14 mins it’s supposed to take – but 30 mins – hey ho!

So, top tips for visiting Capri – (1) do you really want to go? (2) if you do, get an early ferry, (3) catch a taxi at the port – negotiate a good price or fill the car and split the cost (4) Decide where you really want to go, if it’s a boat trip choose one with some shade. (5) If you can, stay on the island overnight and enjoy the peace and quiet once the day trippers go home!

Tuesday 5th July 2016

Yesterday was tiring and so it’s a day at home. Domestic chores after Neil’s run to get extra supplies for Gazpacho and more is made. Delicious.

A wee walk into town in the afternoon for a drinkie and excellent nibbles then a stop at the Carrefour for more essential supplies!

More next time.

Copyright Neil Tough@2016

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