Category Archives: Travel

Lincoln

I visited the nearby city of Lincoln twice while I was living in Nottingham. The first was on a bright clear summer day – a lucky break in a summer full of rainy days. I left relatively early in the morning and since Lincoln is only an hour or so away by train I spent eight or so hours wandering around. Lincoln isn’t a very big city but its full of history and was quite an important city during the Medieval period. It was one of the wealthiest cities in England – once the third largest city in the country due to the the weavers guild which gained a great deal of prominence and brought wealth to the city.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

The cathedral in Lincoln is magnificent. When the cathedral towers were completed it was considered to be the tallest man-made structure in the world – surpassing the pyramids at Giza – and its builder was canonized as St Hugh of Lincoln.  Lincoln also held the seat of the local diocese including the ruins of a once lavish bishop’s palace (also built by St Hugh) that was an incredibly important building, both for its architecture and its guests. Lincolnshire had one of the highest concentrations of monasteries in the country and the diocese was very wealthy. Several of the Bishops of Lincoln have places in popular history, one being Hugh of Wells who, as the bishop, witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta. Lincoln Castle preserves one of the four remaining original copies of the document – its quite the sight and an incredibly important document.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

Cathedral Interior

Cathedral Interior

Cloisters

Cloisters

Lincoln’s decline began with a series of plagues in the 14th century and continued in the 16th century with the dissolution of the monasteries which greatly affected the wealth of the diocese as well as the city’s political power. Then the Civil War came and Lincoln was unfortunately situated on the border between Royalist and Parliamentary forces and thus the city was sacked during the fighting. The damage was incredible and included the ruin of the bishop’s palace and the destruction of its industry.  The city didn’t fully recover until the Industrial Revolution and has since become a tourist city – especially during the Christmas market – the longest running in the UK.

Ruins of the Bishop's Palace

Ruins of the Bishop’s Palace

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

Folklore from the medieval period also tells of one very interesting (and tragic) tale from Lincoln. The story of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln was very popular during this period (and continued to be so for several centuries). The story itself stems from an incident in 1255 in which a young Christian boy disappeared and was later discovered murdered at the bottom of a well. The Jewish community in Lincoln was well-established and one of the most important in Europe, but antisemitism had resulted in the destruction of a great deal of property. After the murder a local Jewish man admitted to the murder under torture and was executed but due to political circumstances almost one hundred other members of the community were arrested and taken to London to stand trial for the ‘ritual murder’ of the boy. This was a common charge during the Medieval period in Europe and led to the arrest, torture and execution of many innocent members of the Jewish communities. In the case of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln almost twenty of those arrested were immediately executed for refusing to participate in the politically based sham of a trial. The remainder were freed after the intervention of the King’s brother but the Jewish community in Lincoln never recovered and the Jewish population was expelled en masse in the late 13th century.

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle

Inside the Jail

Inside the Jail

During my first visit I explored the castle (including the very creepy Victorian jail and Magna Carta exhibit), the Cathedral with the cloister and beautiful library and the ruins of the Bishop’s palace thoroughly. I also did a bit of shopping on Steep Hill – the most famous shopping district in the city – and had afternoon tea at a lovely traditional teashop.

Steep Hill

Steep Hill

Lincoln

Lincoln

My second visit was to visit my Great-aunt Micky, the wife of my late great-uncle, who I hadn’t even realized lived in the city during my first trip! I visited close to Christmas and was pleased to be able to go over some old family photos and relics as well as to hear some of the family stories and anecdotes from Mick! I was so pleased to spend time with family I’ve never met before and I found some lovely photos of my grandmother as a young girl during her Cambridge days!

My grandmother Patricia Philp

My grandmother Patricia Philp

Uncle Tony in uniform before his death in WWII

Uncle Tony in uniform before his death in WWII

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Bakewell and Chatsworth

One day this summer, Janice and I decided to take a daytrip to Bakewell. We hopped on the bus (at a very early hour) and drove three hours to the little picturesque town of Bakewell. I had downloaded a map of a hiking route we were going to take that day. It took us through beautiful countryside, views of historic estates and very little climbing or mud. And then the first thing Janice and I did was to get lost. Its impressive really. We went in completely the opposite direction. Not even close. So instead of our pleasant walk we walked through a field of alpacas (not very friendly), were almost hit by flying golf balls, climbed a very large hill and managed to get entirely muddy. It was excellent!

The Peak District

Somewhere on the mountain/ hill?

Views of Bakewell

The hike did provide us with beautiful views and after a couple hours we made it around the hill (or very small mountain) and saw the town of Bakewell in the distance so we knew where we were again! We headed back to town and wandered through the town (stopping some of the well-known shops and bakeries!) We had afternoon tea at a very popular teahouse and tried the traditional Bakewell pudding and tarts. Bakewell is a lovely place and there is a lot to do in the area (Peak District, Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall)

Re-entering Bakewell

Bakewell

Bakewell Tart

Bakewell Pudding

About a month later Janice and I were back in the area visiting Chatsworth House, a stately manor just a few miles away from Bakewell.  The house looks familiar because its been in several movies – such as the most recent adaption of Pride and Prejudice. The house is home to the Duke of Devonshire and it was home to Bess of Hardwick after her marriage. Janice and I wandered through the house for several hours (I was very impressed by the collection of Orientalist artifacts). I also thought the collection of baby carriages and children’s toys were very sweet. After the house I wandered through the beautiful and extensive gardens for several hours before heading home.

Chatsworth

Orientalism was a fun trend!

The family’s library

View down the river Wye

Stairway to the Sky

The fountains

View out onto the Peak District

See you later!

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Newstead Abbey

I’ve been very neglectful of this blog – I could say I’ve been too busy to update it, and that is partially true… but we all know that a big part of it is laziness and distraction!

Newstead Abbey

Back in August I took a day and went to Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Lord Byron. It’s a historic house that was originally built as an Augustinian monastery in the 12th century. Most of the monastery was destroyed after it was disbanded by Henry VIII. Along with a medieval cloisters, the most recognizable part of the abbey is the beautiful West Front of the church. I wandered around the gardens and lake for awhile and had a picnic lunch. I wandered through the Japanese and Rose gardens and visited The Byron Oak – an ivy-covered tree stump which is the only remainder of an oak tree planted by the Lord Byron (the poet) when he was ten years old. He had just inherited the estate at the time and when, a decade later, Byron discovered the tree was dying, he wrote the poem To an Oak. I also visited Botswain’s monument – the tomb Byron erected for his faithful dog. Botswain was an apparently enormous Newfoundland dog and Byron dedicated the tomb (also intended for Byron himself) with these words: ‘possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices’.

The Western Facade of the Church

Interior of Newstead Abbey

 

The Byrons were certainly characters though – during the tour through the house I learned all about the famous family and the eccentry lords. Byron the poet certainly had a reputation as the Casanova of his day and I stood in his bedroom of debachery. (It really looked quite normal) Byron was famous for having kept a bear as a pet which he let roam the house at night (to protect him from the angry husbands who’s wives Byron was bedding!) He got the bear during his years at Cambridge when he wanted a pet but found that dogs were banned. Apparently the university hadn’t thought of bears as a ‘pet’ animal…

Botswain’s Tomb

It was the poet’s father, however, who was the really nutty one! He had a naval career in his youth and upon his inheritance he built a lake and staged full scale naval battles with ships manned by his servants while he shot cannons at them. Apparently it wasn’t a popular job, go figure! He also threw his wife in the lake at one point after a quarrel, knowing full well that she couldn’t swim. Luckily she was rescued before she drowned, or her husband’s murder count would have been three! (He murdered the other two with impunity knowing his weath and title would get him off)  Needless to say he died alone and miserable, talking to the crickets.

The Lake built for naval battles… boom?

While the Abbey and Gardens were beautiful and the tour was informative, what I really learned was that the rich and eccentric get to have all the fun! Not fair…

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When in Rome

The three of us arrived in Rome on Friday morning after an early bus and train journey. We all celebrated our last ride on the coastal Amalfi road and we tried to appreciated our last glimpses of the beautiful views while we held down our nausea. Once in Rome we headed straight to our hostel, which happened to be in the middle of Chinatown – a phenomenon I didn’t expect to see in Rome!

Vatican Museum

After settling in a bit we headed straight to Vatican City. Mom and I decided to head into the Vatican Museum to explore (and especially to see the incredible Sistine Chapel) while Nick explored St Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding area. The museum was incredible with its collection of art – I especially enjoyed the Raphael rooms and the map room (full of maps of Italy throughout the ages). After escaping the crowds of the Sistine Chapel (how anyone expects a room packed with hundreds of people to remain quiet is a mystery, but the guards sure do try), mom and I headed for St Peter’s the explore the square and Basilica. We examined statues of the founder saints, the Pieta statue, and the many altars. Then we gawked at the Swiss Guard like awkward tourists while we waited to meet up with Nick.

After Vatican City we accidentally headed to the Spanish Steps, after we had discussed skipping them due to limited time and poor reviews from our friends! I got a bit of teasing from mom and Nick for that one! The steps turned out to be an interesting place – the use of public space in Europe is very different from in Canada. Groups of young people hang out and socialize for free on the steps – no need to buy coffee to sit in the shop or go to the movies or a restaurant. These spaces give people, young and old, a free space to socialize and meet and more than that, a public space people want to spend time in – unlike many city-based public spaces I’ve seen in Canada.

From the Spanish Steps we walked to Trevi Fountain, along the way visiting the Temple of Hadrian and the Column of Marcus Aurelius. At Trevi Fountain we tossed coins amidst the throngs of tourists and then found a nearby restaurant to have dinner. After a bottle of wine and some delicious food we wandered past the Piazza Venezia and the Victor Emmanuel Monument before meandering past the Forum on the way to see the Colosseum at night – its beautiful with the lighting and much calmer than during the day. It actually seemed much more majestic at night than when we visited the next day. After a long day we all turned in to prepare for our very busy next day!

Column of Marcus Aurelius

Trevi Fountain


The next morning, after breakfast at the hostel, we all headed out to see the Colosseum during the day. Despite the relatively early start, the crowds were huge and the line took a little while. Eventually we got in and spent some time following the crowds wandering through the levels. The Colosseum was impressively large, but like I mentioned it was much more majestic the previous night without the crowds. It was hard to get a grasp of the place with all the other tourists there – so far in most of my travels I’ve been very fortunate to avoid the tourist throngs and being a person who doesn’t particularly enjoy crowds, they throw me off-balance a bit! After leaving the Colosseum we headed into another crowd at Palatine Hill and walked through to the Forum. It was hot and sticky and also full of people, but very beautiful and the breeze at the top of the hill was cooling.

After a few hours of sticking out the crowds we headed towards the Pantheon, stopping for gelato beforehand. The Pantheon was an incredibly impressive building. Its one of the best preserved Roman buildings left and has been in use continually since its construction. Standing inside I can see why Michelangelo thought that it was the work of angels and why it inspired most modern places of worship. After stopping at a bakery for some sweets and coffee – a welcome break from the busy day – we headed to Piazza Navona where the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers designed by Bernini lives, situated beside Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Borromini. Longtime rivals, Bernini designed the statues on the fountain to look like they were holding up the Church – a testament to his lack of faith in Borromini’s designs.

Bernini’s Fountain

We headed back to the hostel for a rest and Nick started his long process of trying to figure out his flights. Mom and I went for a walk and stumbled into the San Giovanni in Laterano Cathedral – an incredibly beautiful building and we were lucky enough to witness Mass. After our walk we headed to a recommended local restaurant (the staff were very surprised to see non-Italians, but the food was delicious!) On the way back we stumbled onto a local festival celebrating South American immigrants and their culture (as well as its integration with Italian culture) that was sponsored by the local Church. The performances were lovely – lots of music and dancing and Mom and I were treated to a Sicilian immigrant’s cannoli which he was selling from a booth at the festival. It was the best cannoli I’ve ever had – amazing! Mom and I headed back to the hostel to turn in for our flight early the next morning – back home we go!

San Giovanni in Laterano

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The Amalfi Coast

After another lovely breakfast at the B&B with homemade cake we headed back to the train station to meet up with my friend Nick who was the original reason for our visit to Italy (his friend was getting married in Atrani on the Amalfi coast and Nick was the best man). He’s been a friend of mine for about five years (and he can’t seem to get rid of me!) We bought bus tickets and took our first trip on the very winding coastal road from Salerno to Amalfi. We were supposed to have our host stop the bus outside the apartment we were renting but the bus refused to stop for him, so he called and told us to look for an old man with white hair in Amalfi town to give us further directions. We were a little worried about such vague instructions, but as we got off the bus, an old gentleman with unruly white hair approached us and told us that his son, the apartment owner, was coming to pick us up. He drove us back to the apartment, which was lovely with an absolutely beautiful view of the ocean and coast line.

Nick and the view out of our apartment

View on the walk into town

Mom and I in Atrani

After unpacking a bit, we headed into Maiori (our nearest town) and had gelato (as well as a nice conversation with a local business owner). We wandered around the town for a bit, checked out the ruins of an old Roman villa (with completely intact staircases) and went to a bakery for some treats (yum macaroons!) Next we decided to walk into Amalfi town which took about forty minutes, but was worth it for the gorgeous views of the coast. The only concerning bit was avoiding traffic on the very tight roads. When the road was built, it was for much smaller vehicles and now the road can’t be expanded without cutting into properties and making the coastline unsafe. So now huge coaches and tour buses get to try to pass each other at strategic points while motorcycles weave in and out and it’s all a bit nerve-wracking!

At the Roman Villa

Cathedral in Amalfi

On the way past Atrani we decided to stop in and see the church where the wedding was due to take place. While there, we ran into the bride and groom and Nick decided to head off with them for bit while mom and I headed into Amalfi and wandered for bit. We saw the Cathedral and stumbled upon some locals playing water polo in kayaks before heading to a lovely seafood restaurant owned by the father of our host. I had homemade pasta with swordfish sauce which was incredible. I noticed a market across the street and wanted to grab some stuff for breakfast before it closed, so I left my meal and went over, only to be followed by one of the waiters who announced that the market’s owner was his cousin! The cousin was lovely and told me all the fresh produce he had available before I headed back to the restaurant with my shopping to have dessert! We met up with Nick on the bus home and had an early night so we could get a good start for our trip to Pompeii the next day!

Above the cathedral steps

Water polo in kayaks

Our day to Pompeii started early with another windy bus ride out of the Amalfi coast area. We caught a train from Salerno and walked through Pompei town to get to the ruins. We went in what amounts to the ‘back’ entrance because it was recommended as less busy, and that certainly panned out for us. We barely saw people for the first hour of our wandering. The site itself is huge, covering 67 hectares, four-fifths of which have been excavated. It’s laid out like a typical Roman city and like Paestum; the ruins were much more complex and impressive in person. The frescos in some of the houses and shop were incredibly impressive and well-preserved. It has certainly given me my best feel for what life would have been life for the people who occupied such a time and such a city. A particular highlight was the well-preserved brothel complete with illustrative frescos! The only downside of the site was the difficulty in navigation – the map wasn’t very accurate and we had no idea which sites would be open or closed, which meant we spent time wandering to the far reaches of the site only to discover the site we wanted to see was closed. It was also incredibly hot and sunny – good for a beach day but less good for wandering around ruins and I was left with an impressive sunburn!

Overlooking Pompeii

Mom in one of the villas

Courtyard

At one of the bath house complexes

In front of Venus Rising from the Sea

Art from the brothel

The Villa of Mysteries

We took the train to Sorrento after leaving Pompeii and then took the coastal bus around the other direction on the Amalfi coast – through Positano and the beautiful coastline back to Amalfi town. There we ran around town madly gathering ingredients from small groceries for dinner (clams, vegetables, bread, pasta and wine) before catching the bus back to our apartment and cooking dinner.

The Amalfi coast

The next morning we were all up early – Mom went down to the market and picked up some pastries for breakfast and we all set about getting ready for the wedding. We left with Nick (who as the best man had to be there quite early) but Mom and I headed into to down and picked up some souvenirs (including some at a paper shop we’d been peering into for quite a while!) Amalfi paper is world-renowned for its quality; it’s made from just water and cotton in a tradition that dates back eight hundred years. As a lover of traditional crafts I had to have some! We also picked up some limoncello for my brother and candied citrus peel dipped in chocolate – the very best of sweets in my opinion! We headed back to the church for the wedding (an afternoon service at a beautiful Catholic church overlooking the sea) and then continued on to a local café for drinks with the small number of guests (just over twenty in total) before heading to a local restaurant for dinner. The bride decided she wanted to toss her bouquet after dinner from the steps of the main cathedral in town and, of course, with my luck, it managed to find its way to me…

The best man

Outside the church

Nick and Mom

Church frescos

Groom and best man

Nick and the groom’s nephew

Catch the garter!

Bouquet toss

Whoops?

After a bit too much wine we wandered back to the apartment and packed up in preparation for another early start the next morning – this time to Rome!

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Salerno and Pastum

We arrived in Salerno midday and took a taxi from the train station to our B&B. We had a slight problem contacting the owner, who wasn’t there when we arrived, but once we got in touch he had another guest come down and let us in. The room we had was large and airy and had a balcony facing the ocean. It was a beautiful view and Mom spent much time out there doing her readings while I messed about or played with my camera. The sunsets were beautiful there.

Our View

Mom on the balcony

Into town

That afternoon we headed to the beach (avoiding the nearest beach on the recommendation of our wayward host) and found a beach full of locals (large woman sunbathing, old men smoking, young girls giggling with their friends and young men showing off their prowess at sports). They seemed quite surprised to see tourists there (and I, with my blindingly white skin was obviously not a local) so we got gawked at a bit, but everyone was friendly. Because it was Sunday we were worried a lot of the shops and restaurants would be closed and at six, after we’d gone back to the B&B to get changed and find dinner, seemed to be the case. But we wandered through the little side streets to the main thoroughfare of our neighbourhood and found a few bars and restaurants that were open. We ate at a pizzeria which was pretty average, but everything tastes better when you’re hungry! When we left we hit a local gelateria which seemed to have a very loyal customer base, all around the shop were little kids playing and people chatting with their friends and neighbours. As we walked back to the B&B around eight we saw more and more shops opening and realized that in the very non-touristy parts of Italy, shops have very specific opening hours and restaurants do open (even on Sundays!)

Beach day

The next day our host’s wife showed up to make us breakfast which consisted of pastries, strong Italian coffee, tea and orange juice. She was an artist and her art was displayed all around the B&B (mostly ceramics) and she was just a lovely woman. She and Mom really seemed to hit it off, although we had to use the translator on her phone to communicate sometimes! Mom bought a couple of pieces from her that were reminiscent of the bright local style and she showed us pictures of her kids and family. That day we were heading out-of-town to Paestum, the ruins of an old Greek settlement. On the way we ran into our hostess again and she helped us buy umbrellas because of the pouring rain. Of course, once we bought the umbrellas it promptly cleared up and we didn’t need them again. She put us on the right bus to get to the train station and even set a gentleman getting on the same bus to make sure we got off at the right stop.
The train didn’t leave for a few hours so we wandered around central Salerno for that time. We spent a bunch of time in a bookstore where I searched the shelves for an Italian cookbook I could both carry and understand (my search was in vain unfortunately) but we found a fruit market and bought some cherries to eat on the boulevard after finding a little art gallery and wandering through the main religious complex of Salerno. Despite not being a touristy city, Salerno is very pretty with very friendly residents! We had some more pastries and coffee in a very glitzy café before grabbing the train out the Paestum.

Aquaduct

Salerno town

Salerno Cathedral

Mom with the lion

The boulevard

The train to Paestum wasn’t long but the journey was very pretty, taking us through poppy fields and farmland with the mountains in the background. Once we got off the train (with about half a dozen other tourists) there was a distinct lack of signs or directions so our plan was to follow the other tourists who we hoped would know where they were going. Our plan backfired, however, when we accidentally ended up leading the little pack of tourists down this unmarked road away from the train station. Luckily it was the right direction and we happily stumbled upon the large and very impressive ruined city.


Paestum is exactly what you imagine when you think of Greek ruins (which wasn’t what I expected to find in Italy!) The city was founded in 600BC by Greek settlers from Sybaris. It’s funny to think of Italy as a place to be colonized like the Americas… but that’s exactly what we found! The city was named in honour of Poseidon but the name was converted to a more Latin form after the area was conquered by Rome. The Romans made some major changes to the city and its political structure, but the major religious temples were preserved. The three major temples at Paestum in the Doric style are supposed to be among the best remaining examples of Greek temples in the world. I’m very glad we had a chance to see temples that were still so intact. It’s hard to imagine how large the temples are without seeing them in person. I’m always surprised by how much larger things appear to me in person than they look in photos!

And I found the stray!

That evening we headed back to Salerno and had dinner at a seaside restaurant (spaghetti vongole for me) and a bottle of homemade wine before heading back to the B&B to prepare for an early morning meeting Nick and heading to the Amalfi coast.

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Naples and Caserta

Mom and I arrived in Italy on Thursday after leaving very early from Nottingham for our flight and found our hotel without too much difficulty. After getting food recommendations from our lovely host we headed out and stumbled across one of the few sites I knew I wanted to see before we had arrived – the religious complex of Santa Chiara, particularly the incredible cloisters decorated with majolica tile work and with gardens full of lemon trees. We happened upon a wedding in the church and then stopped for pizza and had our first gelato before crashing early!

Santa Chiara

At the cloisters

Majolica tile work

Pizza time!

Friday was our first full day in Naples and the temperatures were supposed to hit thirty degrees Celsius. We bravely donned our lightest clothes plus plenty of sunscreen and headed down the via Toledo to explore. The via Toledo is one of the busiest streets in Naples and one of the oldest – in existed since in the ancient city as well. It’s a main shopping thoroughfare with the higher-end shops concentrating towards the bay. The street ends at the Piazza del Plebiscito – the main square of the city. Its bounded by the Galleria Umberto (a huge beautiful shopping centre), the Opera-teatro di San Carlo (the oldest continually running opera house in Europe), the Palazzo Reale (one of four seats of the Bourbon kings in the area) and the San Francesco di Paola Church. They’re all incredibly beautiful buildings, but the gallery has one of the most beautiful interiors I’ve ever seen.

Galleria

San Francesco di Paola Church

By the harbour front

We arranged a tour of the opera house for later that afternoon and then we continued down to the harbour front and walked the promenade until we came to the Castel dell’Ovo. The castle was once on an island, but time and building projects have turned it into a peninsula. The name translates to Castle of the Egg because of a local legend about Virgil. During the Medieval Ages Virgil was thought to have been a great magician and it was thought that he placed a magical egg in a cage in the castle to keep it safe and stabilize the foundations. The legend was so persistent that during a storm when a rival prince escaped from the castle a rumour spread that the egg had been broken and panic spread throughout the city. This continued until the rulers issued a statement saying they had undertaken repairs to the egg and all was well!

Castel dell’Ovo

The harbour

Sunny day!

After a well-deserved stop for gelato we headed to a second major castle in Naples – Castel Nuovo – the architectural symbol of the city. It was built during the 13th and 14th century by Charles I of Anjou and his successors and has always been an important part of the city’s political life. It served as the seat of the city council until 2006! Then we headed to a café to wait for the start of the Opera tour. The building is incredible and very opulent. We were also able to witness last minute presentations for La Boheme which was opening the following week.

Opera house

The Royal Box

Later the evening – to top off our busy day – we headed to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Secret Museum to see the impressive collection of marbles as well as many of the artifacts found during the excavation of Pompeii – the glassware was particularly incredible. Then, starved and tired we stumbled into a tiny restaurant and had one of the most memorable experiences of our trip!

The museum

We walked in and sat down. The owner came over and asked if we wanted appetisers and we said yes. First he brought us bread and a bottle of his homemade red wine. We chatted for a bit and watched as he fussed about in the kitchen and then suddenly brought us plates of food filled with different preparations of eggplant, salami and mozzarella, marinated peppers, bruschetta and two types of greens. It was incredible and then followed by pasta with eggplant, tomato and mozzarella. Finally be brought out a platter of seafood – fried squid and octopus, shrimps (heads and all) and deep-fried minnows , all served with green beans and potatoes. Despite being stuffed, our lovely host then brought out berries and melons marinated in sugar and basil. Once we finished our wine he poured us each a shot of limoncello – a lemon liqueur produced around the Gulf of Naples that’s bright yellow, tart and strong. One of the older men who worked there kept petting my hair as he went by and encouraging us to eat. We got hugs and kisses goodbye when we left and it very much made our day!


Saturday we slept in – not late really, but it wasn’t the early start to the day like we’d hoped and was partially due to the 32 Swiss youth staying down the hall from us who were particularly rowdy. I slept through it all as usual, but mom didn’t. After we got going we stopped for a croissant and headed for the train station in order to get to Caserta. It’s a lovely little town about thirty kilometres out of Naples and the home of the former Bourbon kings of Naples. In fact the palace that was constructed there was built to rival the grandeur of Versailles and although I’ve never been, Mom said it definitely kept up! The main complex is beautifully maintained and the royal apartments were spectacular – the king’s private chambers were renovated in the 19th century to include electricity! The entire palace is gilded to the hilt and they had maintained some very special artifacts from the monarch’s lives in the palace before the last king went into exile in 1861.

Entrance to the Royal Apartments

Curtseys!

In the apartments

In the throne room

The rear gardens had a very different feel to them from Versaille – much cleaner, simpler lines as we exited the palace. However, as we progressed through the gardens they became much more ornate. It was quite the walk in another day of extremely hot weather and we stuck to the shade as much as possible, only coming out to see the increasingly intricate fountains. The gardens ended in a waterfall cascading off a mountain; and just off to the right was a spectacular twenty-one acre park and English garden with plants and trees from all over the former British empire. Overall the site was absolutely beautiful but certain elements (like the front gardens and two flanking buildings had been left to decay and were in a sorry state. I always find old buildings nostalgic and wistful – I wish I could have seen them how they were. After six odd hours wandering around the palace complex we caught the train back to Naples and hunted for a place to eat.

Looking back towards the palace

Walking in the gardens

At the largest fountain!

Full stretch of gardens

The english gardens

Mom in the rose gardens


We were thrown off track by our first and only pickpocket who unsuccessfully grabbed at the necklace I was wearing and got an elbow for his trouble. I was slightly shaky after that but settled once we found a pizzeria and had enormous pizzas (breakfast the next day too!) which were delicious with fresh tomato sauce and thin crispy crusts. We spent most of our time there watching the organized team churn out pizzas every five minutes! After we’d boxed up our leftovers we wandered around the cute streets and shopping district and then made our way over to our hostel owner’s favourite gelateria where we had our last gelato in Naples. Next we’re off to Salerno!

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