Monday, October 26, 2009

Life in Naples

I’ve been doing a lot of writing about how great life is in Europe and all of our wonderful travels. Well, life always has a sour side that goes along with the sweet, and I have been remiss for not mentioning it in previous blogs. Now, I don’t want to sound like I am bitching about living in Italy, I actually really like living in Italy. Naples provides Melissa and I with amazing travel and cultural opportunities. But to live and work here day in and day out you have to live in this Neapolitan society and it is really a…. special place. Special because of all of the culture and history associated with Italy, but also Special in that riding the short bus, wearing a helmet kind of way. Here we go.

Last Thursday afternoon, I’m driving my car up to the Support Site to play some Ultimate Frisbee. As previously mentioned the driving in Italy is really special, but I have already talked about that. The Support Site is another special place, it is the Navy-housing complex, built on Cammora land (the Italian Mafia) and signed to a 99-year lease by the USA. Now, I’m not saying that the US Navy is doing business with the mob, I’m just saying that we rented some land for them for 99 years, I’m sure that it is all perfectly legal, in a special kind of way. So, I’m driving up the Domitz, and I exit onto SP 162, “hooker highway” heading toward the support site. It’s called “hooker highway” because of the numerous hookers standing along the side of the highway for a 3-kilometer stretch.

As I get past the hooker section of “hooker highway” I notice smoke rising in the distance. Again, this is not an uncommon thing, like may other third world countries Naples burns their trash out in the open. It is a fairly tall plume of black smoke rising off to my left and I don’t think much of it. The road bends left and the smoke plume drifts across my field of vision to my right side. At this point I start to think that a car might be on fire on the road up ahead, but traffic is still moving and highway speed. (Highway speed in Naples = 50kph if you are driving a three wheeled vegetable cart, or 210kph if you are driving a BMW). I probably was doing 110kph, or about 70mph.

By this time it is clear that the plume of smoke is covering the highway, so I pop on my hazard lights and start to slow down. Smoke is billowing across the highway from something but I can’t see what it is. There are no flashing lights, no emergency responders, and there doesn’t appear to be anything on the road. (Which also isn’t uncommon in Italy). I am going about 30kph as I head into the cloud of smoke and I immediately realize that I am on an overpass, and there is a large billowing fire under the bridge that I am driving over. Smoke is billowing up on both sides of the 4-lane highway and also in the gap between the two lanes of traffic. And then I came out the other side of the cloud and continued on my way.
So this is just one example of the interesting things that you encounter when you are living in Naples. I’ll keep you posted. Ciao, Joe

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vacation in France - August 2009

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Melissa and I were in France on vacation. It was one of the best trips of our lives. The overview of the trip went like this. We departed Naples by car and started our drive to the Bay of Biscay on the west coast of France on July 31st. Day one we drove all the way to “X” or the actual French name is Aix-en-Province. Where we found a nice hotel in the heart of the town, and the guide book claimed that Aix had one of the nicest boulevard’s in all of Europe…. A bold statement, so we thought we should check it out.

Aix was a nice little French town, and to our surprise, it did have one of the nicest, “rues” that we have seen so far in Europe. Imagine a little town with a cute pedestrian center on a tree-lined street. As you walked down the boulevard it is lined with shops and restaurants. We found a place to eat, and I ordered (for the first, but not the last time in France) the “Moules and Frites” or Mussels and French Fries. The bucket of mussels held approximately 50 mussels… quite a meal. So, Aix was great, and it is someplace that we need to head back to soon.

The next morning we slept until 8AM and got up for a breakfast in the hotel, and then left around 9 for what we thought would be an easy 5 hour drive across France to the Bay of Biscay. Were we ever wrong. Aug 1st is the day that everyone goes on vacation in Europe, and we were stuck in traffic for the entire day. It took us 10 hours to reach Capbreton. And right before we got there we hit a ridiculous storm with 70 mph winds, driving rain, and lighting. It was crazy. The temperature dropped from 85 to 65 in about 20 minutes. But once we got there… just before dark, I was excited to see that the storm brought up the surf. And the next day we would be in for some head high waves.

So as I stated in my last blog post, we staying in a hotel right on the beach called the Cap Club. Capbreton is in a cluster of beach towns and just to the south of Hossegor, a famous surf spot and one of the stops on the world surfing tour. In fact several American pro surfers have retired to the area. The area is made up of little towns in a vibrant little beach community right on the ocean with lots of great restaurants and café’s. There are fantastic bike paths all along the beach, and through the ocean-side forests that connect the little towns. A stone “boardwalk” allows pedestrian traffic to get all around the area.

So, since I already talked about the surfing, let me describe everything else we did in the towns. French food and wine are fantastic. Every meal was a little bit on an adventure since Melissa speaks zero French and I was only able to use what came back to me from high school, which was actually not too bad. Crepes are fantastic for both dinner and dessert. If you get a crepe made with salt then you can stuff it with cheese, meat, and mushrooms and make a delicious French style calzone. If you make your crepes with sugar then you have the standard crepe that you can fill with chocolate, ice cream, or whatever delicious goodness you long for. In some meals I ate both a dinner and dessert crepe. It was fantastic.

To work off all that food we rented bikes and rode them all over the place. With bike paths connecting everything, and the French actually having respect for traffic laws it was easy and safe to get around town. We also spent lots of time lounging on the beach, I surfed, or we were able to just sit out on the fantastic deck in front of our hotel. The weather was good, not too hot, but nice. In the low 80's during the day, and then cooler at night. We actually were a little underprepared for the weather to be that cool. Overall it was a fantastic and relaxing first week of vacation.

For week two we were heading to the south of France. This time, we left our hotel on Friday Aug 7th, and we did not want to get caught in ridiculous traffic again. So, we woke up early and got on the road at 6AM… ugh. This time we made the drive all the way to Cannes, France without hitting any traffic at all.

The difference between the west coast of France and the south coast of France is significant. The south coast of France is like Vegas with beautiful beaches. The weather was warmer in the south of France in the 90's during the day and comfortable in the mid 70's at night. Cannes is unbelievable! It makes sense why the rich and famous go there to vacation and party. I think that one of my new life goals is to go on vacation to all of the places that George Clooney goes on vacation ie. Cabo (love it), and Cannes, also love it. That moves Lake Como in northern Italy higher up on my list. But how is the south of France when you aren’t George Clooney… It is still fantastic. The food in Cannes was probably better than it was anywhere else during the trip. And the variety was amazing. We had unbeleviable meals at “Chink’s” (Chinease and Japanese fare) and at Le Mesclun (French food). The bars were also very good. We were out one night after dinner and rolled into a bar called Au Bureau. Live band, big English style beers, and sand on the floor of the bar. The staff was as drunk as the customers, and they would pour you a beer, and then forgets to charge you for it. The bartender was more interested in jumping on stage and trying to sing with the band than collecting money for drinks, and she had a terrible voice. My god was she bad, but everyone in the place was having a good time.

When we were recovering from our nights out, we would go to the beach and rent some chairs and an umbrella and lay out. Cannes had beautiful sandy beaches. Oh, and did I mention yet that on all of the beaches tops are optional for women? Did I also mention yet that French women are beautiful? Of course, none as beautiful as my wife, but you can imagine the scenery. And it’s not just on the beaches. Normal going out attire for French ladies is a transparent shirt with no bra. It’s a little bit different than what you find in America, where you would be arrested for wearing what the French wear. Oh, and for the men, well unfortunately the speedo is in fashion, but the good news for me is that it is completely optional, so I was able to just wear the board shorts…. Who wants to see my creamy white thighs anyway. You can also see Facebook for those.

We did a day trip to St. Tropez from Cannes. We took a beautiful boat ride down to St. Tropez and spent the day walking around the town. St. Tropez is on my list of places that I need to go back to. We did not get to go to the beaches outside of the town, (which are rumored to be even more risque than the Cannes beaches) but we did walk around the town, go to the market, had a café by the water, and generally watched the people walk around. The boats, cars, and rich and famous were something to see. It is a total show with everyone dressed up to be looked at. And we did some shopping; I bought my first ever pair of white “man-pris” and several white shirts. We also met a nice couple from Washington DC that were on their honeymoon in France. It was good to meet some other Americans and enjoy the town with them. We ended up meeting them for dinner that night as well, and hopefully they will come back to Europe and visit us again in Italy.

From Cannes our adventures took us to Nice, but not without driving about and hour inland and going to the “Grande Canyon du Verdon.” I forgot to mention this up until now, but the landscape of the south coast of France reminded me of Sedona, Arizona or maybe Utah. Lots of red rock formations all over the area. The “Grande Canyon” is smaller than our Grand Canyon, but still an impressive sight. The south of France is amazing.

From there we headed back to Nice on the coast. Nice, while not quite as nice as Cannes was still very cool. Again the food was very good, and can really only be describe with this photo of Melissa as a huge plate of raw seafood came out one evening. The beaches had the same atmosphere as Cannes but were made up of pebbles and stones vice sand. That in and of itself made them not quite as nice as they were in Cannes. The interesting thing about Nice was just walking through the city. Really a much larger city than anywhere else we had stayed to that point. There were tons of fountains, sculptures, and art in the city and an amazing variety of shopping and food. The photo to the left is the main boulevard and is line with seated men on pedastals that glowed at night. Even being there for 3 days we didn’t see it all, and Nice would be a good city to visit any time of year.

We did a day trip to Monaco from Nice by train, and talk about an amazing train ride down the coast with beautiful views. Monaco is the description of what a city can be when the government basically has unlimited funds and cares about their city. The city was clean, actually polished is a better word, with only the nicest amenities. For those of you living in Italy, I would say that Monaco is the exact opposite of Naples, clean, well organized, and well policed. Just to give you an example the public tunnel from the train station to the place is lined in decorative marble. You would think that you are in the Bellagio Hotel/Casino in Vegas as opposed to a public walk way. The harbor was filled with huge, multi-million dollar yachts, and the streets were lined with expensive cars. It is the only place that I have ever been where you would see a Rolls Royce drive by, and the next car behind it was… another Rolls Royce. It was pretty amazing. For you high rollers out there, if you want you can take a helicopter ride from your hotel to the airport when you are coming or going… just FYI. Check out my Face Book photos for pictures of the cars and yachts in Monaco.

The day we left Nice, I got some sort of stomach flu, so from that morning on, I didn’t eat anything again until we got back to Naples… 2 days later. I’m not sure if it was a bad meal (probably not because Melissa didn’t get sick, and we shared everything), some kind of bug, or just the fact that I had been eating and drinking heavily for 14 straight days. We left the south of France (or French Riviera) to head to the Italian Riviera. We found a nice beach club near the town of Portofino. It was still a rocky beach set up Lido style with the chair, umbrellas, and of course, the Italian style coffee bar. After a day at the beach we decided to swing by Pisa since we were pretty close. Pisa is a dump. The only nice part of the city is within the walls of the duomo complex that has the church and tower. Note my Face Book picture of me holding up the tower… it was pretty funny. We spent that night at Camp Darby, a cute little Army outpost in the northern part of Italy, and then headed back to Naples the next day.

Overall, that two week vacation was fantastic, and we would do it again… perhaps next year. Until, next time. Ciao, Joe

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Surfing in France

Melissa and I are in France on vacation. We drove from Naples, Italy all the way to Capbreton, France which is just to the south of famous surfing town Hossegor on the Bay of Biscay. (What was a 16 hour drive took us 21 because of holiday traffic, but I digress.) We found a very nice hotel right on the south end of the beach in Capbreton called the Cap Club. The hotel was clearly built in the 70’s but is in a great location. From the front deck of the hotel we can look out at the surf breaks of Capbreton. The town itself is probably the size of South Seaside Park, and is about as busy. There aren’t any wild bars or nightclubs but the town is a vibrant little beach town right on the ocean with lots of great restaurants and café’s. There are fantastic bike paths all along the beach, and stone “boardwalk” that allows pedestrian traffic to get all around the town. It is a great little beach town.

Capbreton is separated from Hossegor by a small channel “think smaller than Point Pleasant” that allows fishing boats and private boats access to the sea. That islet is at the north end of Capbreton. As you work your way south, there are a series of jetties that break up the beaches. From north to south, you have the beach that is up against the channel, which from what I have seen has no waves, is just crashing shore break. Then there is a small beach just in front of the hotel that has a pretty good beach break. South of the hotel is the final jetty, and that opens up into wide beaches and huge sand dunes as far south as the eye can see. This area seems to have the best surf. I have surfed from that south jetty all the way down to what appear to be huge rock formations, but are actually giant concrete costal defenses from the Second World War.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot when we set out for a surf trip to France. My thought was, how good could it possibly be. I mean, it’s the Atlantic, early Aug is the very beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. I could get completely skunked. As we drove across central France, probably only 100km from the beach we saw a huge gray storm clout on the horizon. Our 8-hour drive in the sun turned into 70mph winds, and driving rain. The temperature dropped from 85 and sunny just north of the Pyrenees to 65, windy and rainy. We got to the beach in light rain and clouds, and the surf was up. It was totally victory at sea. It was also about 8PM and no one was out (the sun sets here around 9:30); so paddling out didn’t seem like a good idea. So we went out to dinner in Hossegor and went to bed. The next morning I was up at 7AM to check the waves and it was still stormy with no one out… experience tells me, when surfing a new spot, if there is no one out, it’s for a good reason. So I went back to bed until about 8:30 and checked again. This time there were probably 10 guys out in front of the hotel and at the jetty. So I grabbed my board and paddled out.

The tide was low, so I followed a French surfer down the rocks on the south side of the jetty and paddled out behind him (keeping the jetty on my right sheltered me from the surf and that paddle was fairly easy.) Once I was out there, the sets were excellent, peeling rights along the jetty that were easily head high plus. Since I hadn’t been in the water in 7 months (since we were in Cabo in December), I was a little rusty, and my first two waves were… not so good. But my third, a beauty on the outside was mine alone, and peeled all the way to the beach. I was able to get two good turns off the top as well as speed through a center section. I ended up with 10 waves total and had a great time. Things have continued to be good here in France. I was out for another great session in the evening. The surf was still holding it’s size and the wind had died. There were fun clean conditions. There were a lot more Frenchmen out in the afternoon, but they were very polite, didn’t drop in, and if you paddled strongly for a wave they pretty much backed off. Based on those two surf sessions on our first day in France (Sunday the 2nd) the French surf already exceeded my expectations.

Monday showed a drop in surf but cleaner conditions. I paddled out at around Noon (after the extreme low tide in the morning) and surfed for two hours. The surf was in the Chest to Head High range and very clean with light off shore wind. I surfed further south, and at one point paddled over and took a look at the gigantic coastal defenses that the Germans built on the beach 65 years ago. It was a fun and very interesting surf session. I got out pretty far south from the hotel, and walked back up the beach to the boardwalk. That section of the beach had a much younger crowd and lots of young surfer girlfriends all laying out topless… you got to love France. So, thus far, my French surfing experience has exceeded my expectations. The forecast calls for 6-8ft surf on Thursday (ground swell), this could end up being an epic surf trip.

I’ll keep you posted and put up some pics when we get them downloaded to the computer.

Ciao and au revoir, Joe

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Injury and Recovery

This blog update isn’t about Europe and all of our wonderful travels, or the crazy drivers in Naples. This update is about recovering from injury… actually the interesting thing that I learned is that recovery starts before you are injured.

It has been six months since I slammed into a tree snowboarding. I suffered a partially torn ACL, MCL, and Meniscus. Before I crashed into the tree I was doing a workout called Cross Fit pretty religiously. It is a workout regime that combines Olympic weight lifting, running, gymnastics, and calisthenics. The program is designed for people that are fire fighters, cops, and military, and gives anyone an overall good level of fitness. The workouts are killer, but only take 20 minutes in some cases. I had been doing Cross Fit for almost two years when I hit the tree, and I was probably in as good a shape as I had been in since the end of Navy Dive School.

Suddenly, with one bad turn on a snowboard, my leg was busted and ligaments in my knee were torn. A severe injury that might require months of rehab and surgery. Because the wonderful Navy docs kept my leg immobilized for 11 days the recovery process got off to a slow start. 12 days after the surgery I was on a bike trying to turn the pedals on level one and I wasn’t even able to get the machine to register that I was riding it. But I kept pressing the rehab, and working out as hard as I could pushing the injury as far, and slightly further than the docs wanted to let me go.

It is almost 6 months to the day since the injury and without surgery I am back to 95% of where I was when I was injured. The last 5% seems to be the biggest challenge, but I am back to my Cross Fit ways just like before I was injured. For me, the moral of the story was to stay in shape so that recovery would be easier later once you do get injured. And also, that no matter how bad you are injured, you need to keep training to get back into shape for both your body and your soul.
Ciao, for now. More fun Europe stories to follow.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Travels in Europe

Sorry it’s been so long since I updated the blog, I’ve been traveling and moving jobs, so this is really my first free time to write anything. I’ve been having trouble finding time to post photos on Facebook. Enough excuses… you know what they say about excuses.

May and June have been great. The weather started to get warm, and for the most part it stopped raining. Naples is so close to so many wonderful places that you can really explore the area when the weather gets nice, and you have daylight until 9PM. Next year I strongly recommend May for visitors. From what we have been told it starts to get hot in July and August, but we will keep you posted.

Toward the end of May, Melissa and I were getting very excited to have “the girls” some and visit us in Naples. For clarification, “the girls” include Nicole, Andrea, Liz, and Lexi (whom I hadn’t even met). I was all ready for the visit, one week of work left before the holiday weekend, and ready to have some fun… when my boss walks over and says, “What are you plans for the weekend?” That is a loaded question when you are in the Navy. Well, to make a long story short, I ended up in Lisbon, Portugal… the next day. It wasn’t then end of the world; I only missed “the girls” visit to Rome. I was back in Naples in time for the rest of the trip, good times. BTW – Portugal was great except I was working 12 hour days. But I would definitely go back to Portugal, and stay right on the beach, a great surf destination.

We had a lot of fun in Naples with “the girls.” We hit the beach bars for the first time this year. Basically Naples is like New Jersey in so many ways. Picture Joey Harrison’s surf club on the beach in Italy, and that is exactly what you have at several beach clubs in Italy. In so many ways Naples reminds me of New Jersey, you pay for the beach, the Neapolitans build beach clubs right up to the water, cutting off access and charging you to get in. We hit the Briganti football team’s playoff game, watched them win, and then attended the post game Toga party… oh yes everyone had a blast.

And then we were off to Dubrovnik, Croatia. We drove across Italy, and caught an overnight ferry from Bari, Italy to Dubrovnik. I slept like a baby on the boat, but I don’t think that the girls fared quite as well as I did, it was a little bit rough that night. So we arrived in Croatia in the morning rested (sort of) and ready to rock. We rented a great apartment right in the heart of the old city. Dubrovnik is a walled city that has stood for the last 11 centuries. The ramparts surrounding the city are still completely intact, and the wall around the city has protected Dubrovnik as recently as the 1990’s, when the Bosnians laid siege to Dubrovnik and shelled the city with artillery. It was really pretty amazing to walk around the city. The first thing that we did was walk the wall around the city looking at the amazing views and vistas. The food was fantastic, and we spent some time in a bar that was through a hole in the wall overlooking the rocky coast.

Dubrovnik also had fantastic food and bars. The city is small and somewhat crowded, but the small restaurants and bars just overflow into the streets. One night we saw a live performance on the steps going up to the town square. I recommend a visit to anyone; make sure you go in the summer time.

From Dubrovnik we drove to Montenegro, a very nice costal country that has only existed as a country for the last 2 years. It’s amazing to realize that the area was torn by war just a decade ago. The area has recovered nicely. We drove down the coast from the rocky shores of Croatia to the rocky shores of Dubrovnik, but when we finally got out to the coast in the city of Budva, where there is a much smaller walled city on the coast, surrounded by beautiful beaches. It was a great trip and a very nice drive.

After the girls left town we did a long weekend in Prague with our Navy lawyer friends here in Naples. Prague could be my favorite city in Europe so far. But based on the legal council of the people I was traveling with, I can only tell you about certain parts of the trip. Let’s just say the Prague might be the Vegas of Europe.

So, we spent 3 days and 3 nights in Prague, and we still weren’t able to see all the sights that we wanted to see. We started with a walk through the Jewish Museum on our way to a bike tour of the city. The Nazi’s were such unbelievable scumbags that I cringe when I see some of these sights in Europe. Prague has an unbelievable preserved Jewish quarter, because Hitler hoped to us the Jewish area of Prague as a museum to the EXTINCT Jewish race. When I hear stuff like that it makes me so angry that humans allowed that type of thing to happen, and we just need to make sure that it never happens again.

So, Prague is pretty amazing, fantastic food, great bars, cheap beer, and a killer party scene… who wants to go back with me?

Ok, that is all for now. More stories to follow.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Paestum Photos (Melissa)

Paestum in about 90 minutes south of Naples on the coast. It is the site of the most well-preserved Greek ruins in all of Europe (that's what they told us anyway).

I did a great bus trip there with a couple of friends. Our half-day trip consisted of a tour of the ancient Greek town, the Roman town that was built on top of the Greek ruins, the museum of ancient artifacts, and a quick lunch at a cute cafe with bright yellow umbrellas (very Italian). While I was in Paestum, I took about 30 photos of amazing Greek temples and artifacts. After returning home, I show my husband my photos of these magnificent sights that I was humbled to stand before...yet there is only ONE photo that insights any remark of excitement from him. It's the one photo that I took of my lunch.

Of course I specifically took the photo of my lunch because I knew it would be the most interesting thing to him out of everything that I had seen all day. You can decide if you are the photos:

A few items from the Museum...

And finally, here is lunch :)

American Football by Italians? (Melissa)

Disclaimer: Joe should really be writing this since it is about football…but I’m going to start it and he can “revise” as necessary.

Photo: Joe with our friend Michela and her brother Alessandro who has played on the team for close to 20 years (if I understood Michela correctly).

Yes, the Italians have an American-style football league. Who knew? I thought nothing beats soccer over here. But we met a guy that used to play for the Jets (just had to be the Jets, right?) and then he played for some other team, and then he got now he's coaching the Naples football team.

We were told that we didn’t have to buy tickets and that parking was 2 Euro. Seemed odd. When we got to the stadium parking lot, it was packed! Little did we know it was because there was a kids dance performance going on in an adjacent building. There were actually only two other people in the stadium. So we did pay 2 Euro to park, and then walked into the high-school style stadium with no gates, no guards, and no ticket-takers. We even brought our cooler of snacks and beer without any problem. I think we could have rolled a BBQ in there and started grilling in the stadium without anyone saying ANYTHING to us.

Eventually about 10 other people showed up to watch the game with us. The game was great, Naples has been undefeated so far this year. I'm sure Joe would have lots of commentary about the plays they were running, but it all looks about the same to me. The funny thing was they didn’t have a good kicker (imagine that!) so they never kicked any field goals. Which may have been a good thing because they were actually playing on a soccer field – so they tapped big orange poles onto the top of the soccer net to make an upright on the top of the soccer net. Not sure that would have worked out so well. It was a lot of fun to be watching American football in Italy.

At the end of the game (Naples won!) the players lined up and did a dance for the stadium, which was hysterical. The teams were very respectful with a sincere “good-game” line-up of high 5’s. They also chanted and cheered for the opposing team the way I’ve seen girls softball teams do in the states. Of course after all this, a few of the Italians got into a fight on the field. Yeah, Italia!!

All in all, it was a great day and a lot of fun!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Namesake Restaurant (Melissa)

After Joe and I found our house in Italy, we realized there was a sign for “Il Casale Ristorante” pointing to our street. Obviously we found this amusing; to get to our house, just follow the “Il Casale” sign. Eventually our curiosity got the best of us and we decided to venture out and find this restaurant that was located on our street (sounds pretty simple to find a restaurant on the street you live on, but you don’t live here so you’ll just have to TRUST ME when I tell you that it was an adventure to locate this place). We find the restaurant tucked away a mile up the road, but we are not dressed for dinner and the place is busy so we don’t go in.

Soon enough we start hearing from other people that Il Casale is their favorite restaurant in Naples. People gush about how much they love it there. We decide we must go. The neighbors tell me that I have to make the reservation (duh). I find the number and call…I immediately ask if they speak English because I’ve never actually made reservations speaking Italian and I don’t know how well that will go. No luck, they say they don’t speak English.

So here’s how it all goes down (feel free to read with an Italian accent since the rest of this story actually occurred in Italian). I do my best to tell them I want to make a reservation. They must understand because they ask me something that sounds like a request for a date or time or something. Great! I tell them what day, and then what time. They were clearly asking for how many people because they then ask me WHEN I want to come in. Oops. Luckily the time and number of people are the same word, so it all works out. I now have a reservation for 8 people at 8:00 on next Tuesday. Whew!

Then they ask me for my name… I say “Casale, Melissa Casale”. There is a pause, and then they say a bunch of Italian words…I think informing me that they know that I want a reservation at Il Casale, I just called Il Casale, so what is the name for the reservation? Again, I say “Casale. (speaking slowly with emphasis) MY NAME IS Melissa Casale”.

Bingo! They get it. They immediately sound joyful and excited. I get a bunch of thank you’s and they confirm my complete reservation and then I hear “Grazie, ciao Signora Casale. -kissing noises- Ciao, ciao! -more kissing noises-“. Hmm. I’ve never had kissing noises before. I hope we get a good table.

So we’ll bring the camera (and maybe the family tree) and follow up after dinner next week. Ciao! –kiss-- --kiss—

The follow-up:

Allora, as you have already reviewed in Joe's comments the Casale name had no tie to the restaurant name...but we did still get a major discount off the bill and the food was great. Overall, I would say it was a success.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Amalfi Coast Photo Montage (Melissa)

Last weekend we drove from Naples down to Sorrento, and then along the Amalfi Coast. We stayed at a B&B in Ravello, which reminded me of the movie The Sound of Music for some reason, maybe because they have a huge music festival there in the summer. Overall, absolutely loved it, completely breathtaking, and these photos simply CANNOT do it justice!

Coffee on the patio of our B&B

The piazza in Ravello

Exploring Atrani

Villa Cimbrone with our neighbors and their kids

We only stayed Friday and Saturday night, leaving early on Sunday. Who knew such perfect paradise could be just a little over an hour from the house? Next time we'll hike The Path of The Gods. Based on what we've seen so far, I'm guessing there's a good reason for the name. Stay tuned!