Naples & Pompeii

Naples is a combination of gridlocked streets and dingy dark alleyways. Found my “boutique Hotel” in a courtyard in the historic part of town – very quaint and very pleased to see me as once again I seemed to be the only guest.

A day trip with guide and driver to Pompeii and Herculaneum – both virtually deserted so no queues and a great time to see both sites. Quite extraordinary but got totally drenched at Herculaneum as the heavens opened. Reading Robert Harris’s Pompeii puts the whole thing in perspective, especially the petrified remains of the fleeing/cowering inhabitants – an amazing “time capsule” from what was a very luxurious and decadent civilisation. The Archaeological Museum in Naples is crammed with amazing stuff that has been excavated.

Back to Naples and two days of Cathedrals, churches and museums until I couldn’t take any more and resorted to reading (Pompeii by Robert Harris) and trying to keep abreast of the Covid nightmare as strict curfews are enforced across Europe. Most especially Italy and Spain. It looks as though I will hopefully make it home by the skin of my teeth!!!!!

A trip underground to see the old aqueduct. Impressive and very narrow. Good job I’m a skinny bugger these days! Lots of steps though.. A lot of Roman & Greek stuff underneath the urbam mess that is Naples today. Not a city that I would rush back to. Good Pizza is one of its few good attributes! Otherwise a bit of a shithole…..

All bars and restaurants closed in Naples at 1800 from yesterday much to the annoyance of the Mafia and local tradesmen who took to the streets in protest. Nationwide curfew in Spain from 2300 to 0600 for the foreseeable future. Providing my flights home via Paris go ahead as scheduled I arrive in Malaga at 2330 so curfew breaking will be required for the drive home.

Trip home so far on schedule, so should be home around 0100 then off for canine reunion in the morning. A few medical issues to be investigated and resolved. 6 months of Covid restrictions ahead so what else am I going to do??? Next scheduled trip up the Danube in May. Surely they will have got a handle on this mess and a vaccine by then!!

This has been an extraordinary trip. Not easy but worth it to see the world – well Italy anyway – without tourists. IPad blogging seems to have worked. Next step is to master the new iPhone 12Pro camera and dump the clunky Canon around my neck. Looking forward to getting home and taking my f***ing mask off!! And hopefully seeing Trump get the arsekicking that he deserves!!!

Stay Safe!! Happy Xmas and let’s hope that next year is dramatically better than this one! Robbie xx

Venice Revisited

Got back to Venice. Warmer, dryer but very misty. Hotel very welcoming but only a handful of guests in evidence during my four day stay. Bought a four day Vaporetti pass and soon learned my way around the canals. Very easy to get hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine maze of passages and alleyways as I did a couple of times

First stop St Mark’s Square to collect my Museum pass. Experience proved that access to anywhere required booking an allocated time slot to avoid frustration and denied entry. Social distancing strictly enforced with compulsory masks and hand sanitizer everywhere. Took the elevator to the top of the Campanile and looked down on a virtually deserted St Mark’s Square. Had to feel sorry for all the cafes, restaurants and shops but a real treat to see it all without tourists and a forest of selfie sticks!!!

Cathedral basilica closed for restoration but Museum open with good views down into it from the gallery.

Quite a lot of the churches and museums are only partially accessible but still plenty to see before art and Catholicism overload kicked in.

Spent quite a lot of time remembering the extraordinary Pink Floyd experience of 1989. My guide book lists it as one of the Top 10 Historic Events in Piazza San Marco along with the founding of the Doges Palace, Napoleon remodelling and the Campanile collapsing!!! Spotted a few familiar buoys that we used as mooring our monster barge.

A misty trip out some of the Islands – Murano etc. Some impressive glass blowing and colourful houses.

Reading (for the second time) The Unfinished Palazzo which chronicles the lives of the three extraordinary woman who owned and operated out of what is now the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. It covers most of the 19th century and biz are goings on that linked the three heiresses. Well worth a read. Modern art has never really appealed to me and still doesn’t but set the scene for what was some extraordinary behaviour and decadence!! Also to see where the remains of P Guggenheim and her animals (Dogs) are interred.

Discovered some great little restaurants in the alleyways near the hotel.   Fantastic food and very attentive staff – just delighted to see someone, apart from a few locals.

Next up – train for 5 hr trip down to Naples. Trying to keep ahead of Covid and threatened lockdowns across Italy, France and Spain which will have to navigate as I head home on Tuesday. Meanwhile missing the Gang who seem to the very happy, settled and popular in their holiday camp.

Sitting in Air France lounge at Paris CDG on my way home. Will post this now and move onto Naples & Pompeii etc later.

Arrival and overnight in Venice then onto Florence

Malaga airport virtually deserted but a joy to navigate. Madrid somewhat busier but got to Venice without problems. Arrived with my expensive and negative Covid test but no one asked to see it or my other virus related documents. Better safe than sorry as they say. Italians offering Covid tests on arrival but avoided that detour as it seemed to involve brief quarantine waiting for the results.

Malaga Airport

Autumn came to Venice last week and brought with it lots of rain. The new flood barriers were deployed and worked !! So no wellies required to cross St Marks Square and Venetians relieved after decades of controversy, corruption and vast amounts of dosh !! Dark when I arrived so only a brief glimpse of Grand Canal. Very “Don’t Look Now” – kept expecting to see the flash of a red cloak!!

Arrival at hotel

Then departure next morning

Leaving Venice after brief overnight stay. A palazzo to myself and now on the train to Firenze – A carriage to myself as we cross the causeway with snow capped mountains to the right and nasty industrial shit to the left.

Very glad that I packed a coat as it’s 8 degrees and damp. What little I saw of Venice (back for 4 days next week) – not a tourist in site – just Venetians going about their business. Needless to say it is still outrageously expensive but then they have always been bunch of pirates and still are. All done with Italian charm!! Train very speedy and efficient though clean windows would be a major improvement!!

Florence has been amazing. Two long days pounding the cobbled streets visiting churches and museums until my legs and feet were about to drop off ! A long climb up 400+ stairs to the top of the Campanile (Bell Tower) – well almost to the top – had my muscles screaming at me ! I must remember that I’m nearly 70 !!

Streets quite crowded mainly with locals (well Italians anyway). It must be hell on earth when you add tourists to the mix. Many Hotels and Restaurants are closed but enough open to satisfy the current demand.

Most museums etc are open, but with limited access. Masks and hand sanitiser everywhere with social distancing strictly enforced. Booking time slots in advance on the internet is the way to go but can lead to a somewhat disjointed schedule!!

Food is wonderful and totally outshines Spanish fare !! Makes me wonder why I ended up in Spain. Could have something to do with the cost of stuff – cheap it isn’t !!!!!

This is what you would get if you crossed Hurley with a Dalmatian

Meanwhile an update from the kennels. No sign of Hurley but I am sure that he’s there somewhere. Up to no good no doubt

On the train back to Venice now for 4 days. At least the bell tower in St Mark’s Square has an elevator!!

Will post this now while the train WiFi holds. Between tunnels.

The Great Escape

After several very frustrating months “holed up” at home, my Italian Trip starts tomorrow. This latest adventure has expanded to 14 days including 4 days each in Venice, Florence and Naples.

Its been a constant battle to keep up with cancellations and re-bookings but hopefully I have got there in the end !! Just heard from the travel agent in charge of the Venice section that they have had a last minute cancellation and I am the only “Member” of the Group. Oh well so much for getting to know my fellow travellers !! It should be amazing so see places that are normally swarming with tourists and selfie sticks, virtually empty !!!

Talking about “battles”, and I know that the travel industry is going through hell at the moment as are most “industries”…. Turkish Airlines and Expedia (US version) are top of my shitlist at the moment as 8 months later they are still giving me the run around as far as my cancelled Turkish trip that was scheduled for last March. As far as buck passing is concerned they are unbelievable. The last time I saw such a display was at a Rugby match at Twickenham !! They are only too happy to accept your booking and take your money but try getting it back after they cancel ………….

Most of my other cancelled bookings – Pandaw, Air France etc have been rescheduled or refunded. As they should be !!

Anyway back to “the Now” so: Covid19 Test Certificate at the ready, its off to Malaga airport in the morning. The test cost as much as booking an entire family on EasyJet. That should keep the riff-raff at home and at bay !!!

The kids have gone off to their Holiday Camp. A first for Hurley but they seemed to settle in almost immediately.

I will be travelling light on this trip and relying on my new iPad skills to update my blog. So bear with me, as there is a bit of a learning curve underway here. A few decent train rides ahead so will hopefully catch up with Posting as the Italian countryside flashes past the window.

Stay Safe and I will endeavour to do likewise !!