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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Italy Day 5: Blue Grotto ~ Return to Rome

Once the large tour group exited our boat we headed back to the blue grotto. It was about a 15 min ride so we spent the time visiting with our new Atlanta friends. When we got to the spot they told us we'd be getting on the smaller boats in groups of four so we stuck with the Atlanta couple. They were TINY rowboats and it was a little nerve wracking. I'm glad I read up about the whole process prior to traveling, I'm kinda a wuss and it helped to know what to expect!

Ready for our adventure!
This was my view the whole way ;)
Our boat and the other couples boarding their rowboat
The whole thing is totally a tourist trap. It's mega expensive! 12 Euros each for the 5 min experience! Worth it, but overpriced all the same. The first stop we made was to this boat to pay our fee (cash only if you're planning to visit).
What the rowboats looked like
The boats didn't have seats, we had to sit all the way down in the bottom of the boat in order to make it through the tiny opening of the grotto...
Once we got close to the opening we had to lay COMPLETELY down to fit through and our "captain" had to pull us through the opening using a chain. It's no joke. The hole is only open wide enough to pass through when the waters are calm. The opening is a tiny sea-level arch in the rock wall and it's literally only large enough for the rowboat to barely pass through.
It was a few dark, bumpy and scary seconds to get in but once we were in it was SO worth it. The eerily bright coloring of the Gotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto) is created by sunlight that enters via an underwater arch in the rock wall. The light is filtered by the water, which absorbs the red tones only leaving the blue ones to pass into the cave. It's STUNNING.

Tiny archway we came through
Glowing water

As our boatman rowed us around the cave, he sang Neapolitan sea chants that echoed off the walls. It was awesome!



Someone else snapped a picture the same time I did but the flash really helped show the brightness of the water!
Boat passing through the tunnel

Hands down one of the best experiences of our entire trip :)

I turned on my flash to get some pics of what the cave actually looked like since it was too dark to see. This area was once a Roman tunnel and a secret place they would come until rocks fell in closing it off.

I took a video (you can see it here) to capture the singing of our boatman but you can also see the chain used to take us in and out, a boat coming in and how everyone had to lay down to get through, and us going through! It turns out the water was too high for us to exit so we had to wait awhile for the water to go lower. Um. Thankful I did NOT know that at the time haha! I would have freaked :)

We made it out! Another boat waiting to enter!
The experience was AMAZING. Our boat guy was great...he offered to take a picture for us, he got us in and out safely, and he sang! I figured even though the ride was overpriced that we'd give him a little tip. I gave him some change (under 2 euros) and he was SO RUDE. He started getting onto us about it and telling us we needed to pay him more. The other couple in our boat talked to us about it and said they gave him over 3 Euros! Um 5 or so Euros is plenty of a tip for a 5 min boat ride. Ridiculous!!! He seriously tainted the experience by how rude and nasty he was. We ended up not giving our main tour guide a tip because I was nervous he'd expect more than we had too!!! When we got off the tour boat a guy who was with the company asked us how we liked it and we told him how the grotto guy hustled us. He said it happens ALL THE TIME and that they should get in trouble with the law about it because it hurts everyone else who works in the tourism industry. I'm glad that we weren't the only ones he was rude to. If (WHEN, hopefully it's a WHEN and not an IF!!!) we go back we will be better prepared and probably not tip our guy anything at all.

We were SO nervous about time to get back to our hotel in order to get back to Naples to catch our train on time to get back to Rome. We ended up having PLENTY of time though so we asked one of the guys with the tour company where to eat for a quick lunch. A common thing in Italy is that people stand in the streets and lure you into their restaurants. We didn't like that. If the food is so great you shouldn't have to beg for customers right?!?! We found an outdoor pizza place and it was the perfect setting for our lunch. It was also my FAVORITE meal of the trip!!!
Great food, perfect company and a view! Nothing could be better!
The larger boat behind me is the boat we'd be taking back to Sorrento. We kept an eye on it the whole time just to make sure it didn't leave on us ;)
I ran to the bathroom and Zach kept the camera...

He must like random boat pictures too ;)


When I went in to use the bathroom I saw the awesome stove they used to cook the pizzas. I grabbed the camera and went back into get a picture of it. The guys inside were ALL excited thinking I was there to take a picture of the guy making our pizzas. I played along and took several pics to make them all feel special :)


This is SUCH a legit Italy pic isn't it?!?!
When our waiter brought out the food he was so proud. He told us that it's a special pizza because "Mozzarella cheese originated right here! In Naples." Haha. Not exactly right here then if it was actually in Naples huh dude? It was still cute though. Pizza did originate in Naples and I think that's why it was SO GOOD. We originally planned to eat pizza in Naples before catching our train but this was soooo good we knew some cheap junk by the train station wouldn't compare. This was my favorite meal from the entire trip. Best Calzone of my LIFE.
It was HUGE...
...and I cleaned my plate
I know someone (probably Rachael haha) will point out the little clock in the picture above so I'll go ahead and mention it. I am SO THANKFUL I bought this thing before coming on the trip. I don't wear watches all the time and neither does Zach (I love the Toy Watch Zach bought me but I'd be worried that something would happen to it) so I bought a small travel alarm clock to use to keep track of when I needed to pump. Little did I know how much we'd rely on that thing! Our cellphones couldn't even turn on over there so we had no other way to know the time and our wonderful hotel room in Rome didn't even have a clock or an alarm so we used this little clock constantly. I loved that it folded up and I could toss it in my purse and fish it out whenever we needed it. Since we were nervous about making the boat bake to Sorrento we kept it out during our meal :) And yes, it's on Georgia time so actual Italy time was 2:33 pm :)

We ate our food so quickly that we had a little time to souvenir shop. I was hoping to find a Christmas ornament at every place we visited while on the trip. Guess how many I ended up finding? ONE. And it was in Pisa. We LOVED Sorrento/Capri and wanted something to bring home from there so we bought a bottle to hold olive oil in. I know, random. But I don't like nicknack junk. We also bought our thank you gifts for our parents there. We've been on a roll buying them trivets every place we go. It really is the perfect gift. Something useful, easy to find at any place we visit, and something they can put away easily so it's not tacky. We grabbed some gelato and ate it as we walked over to the boat. It was a melted mess but yummy as always!
You know this pic of me is totally frame worthy...
We rushed over to where our boat was waiting only to wait in line forever to board. We got back to Sorrento and rushed some more in order to get back to our hotel to pump. We had to check out that morning but the front desk said they would keep our luggage secured for us while we were gone. When we got there is was still sitting out in the lobby. Like just sitting there. As in anyone could have grabbed it. The girl behind the desk said she was watching it the entire time. Yeah right. You mean to tell me she never went to the bathroom? Never took a break? Never grabbed some lunch? Never had anyone come in distracting her? Thankfully everything was still there (most of our valuable stuff was with us anyway...but if my $350 breast pump had going missing I would have gone insane on that girl!).
Zach went and sat in the lobby while I used the hotel bathroom to pump. I took a picture of this bathroom as this was what I had the opportunity to frequently use! In Paris, the restrooms were all so disgusting but in Italy my experience, overall, was a positive one. The toilets typically had lids (occasionally I had to just sit on a seat) and many even had legit sinks in the stall with me to use!!! I know this is lame that I focus on pumping...but when you're doing it 4 times a day, for 20 min or so a time, every day...it IS a big part of your travel experience!!!

The hotel called a taxi for us and the sweet driver from our ride into Sorrento was also the one to take us back to the train station. He got the extra tip that we didn't give the grotto guy...it's ALL about attitude to me!!! :) When we first walked up the train was sitting there!!! It only runs every 30 min so we raced to catch it and it couldn't have worked out more perfectly. Since a lot less people travel from Sorrento (which is where the train ends) to Naples it was WAY less crowded and we were able to find seats for the whole ride :) I felt a little sick and it took me awhile to adjust. I'm thankful we bought the MASSIVE bottle of water for only 1.50 Euros! Water is SO CHEAP over there! I loved it :) We spent a good chunk of the ride catching up on the money we had spent. I wrote it all down in the same journal that I wrote out descriptions of each picture. It worked out GREAT and I HIGHLY recommend anyone who travels to bring a journal along with them :)
This is one LAST picture of Mt Vesuvius. Funny story...when we planned the trip we read that this little train provided great opportunities for pictures of Vesuvius so the day we arrived and were riding the train to Sorrento I had my camera out, ready to snap some pics. I asked a local who spoke English where the best spot for a Mt Vesuvius picture was. Guess what he replied? "Google" Hahahaha I about died! I was too embarrassed to take pictures then so I waited for the ride home. It kinda became an inside joke between Zach and I on the rest of the trip. I mean you want a good pic of the Tower of Pisa? Google! The Colosseum? Google! You don't even NEED to travel. I mean what's the point?!?! You can just GOOGLE everywhere you want to go ;)
EVERYWHERE we went there was a lot of graffiti. I asked our tour guide about it on the first day (to Florence...remember? Goodness that post was AGES ago haha). He said the reason people do it isn't like here where it's usually gang related. He said people see American movies and want to copy us. RANDOM. Who knows if he was even right. I mean he was a rocket scientist and everything. Zach and I found it interesting how it didn't seem like anyone ever tried to clean it up. Even the metro trains were COVERED in it. It was ugly but, at the same time, I see why they wouldn't bother with painting over it. If someone is just going to come along and do it again, why bother?
This country, as a whole, was just SO much more laid back than we are. We have to be at the airport 2-3 hours before our scheduled flight right? Well we rolled up to the train station about 90 min early and they didn't have our location for where to board our train even up yet. We asked someone and they said it wouldn't be up until like 20 min before the scheduled departure time. We weren't super hungry but saw a McDonald's across the street and thought it'd be fun. We ate at one twice in Paris and it could be a new over-seas tradition ;) It was very clean and HUGE. And not as good...but I don't even like McDonald's in the US so I'm not a great judge. They also had a code printed on the receipt to type into a padlock that let you in the bathroom. Strange, but also made sense as it made you buy something to use the bathroom! There was SUPER loud music playing...it was so random to hear new top 40 songs we have here mixed in with like classic rock songs mixed in with songs all in Italian. It gave me a quick headache so once we finished we moved downstairs (yes, it was THAT big that there were two stories!) to look through our pictures while we waited for it to be closer to our departure time.

I can read one sentence on the cup ;)
We still were back at the train station too early so we just browsed through the waaaay overpriced stores (that's one thing just like America!). Our trip back was much shorter than our trip there so we were interested to see if we would be on a fast train. Meaning it would go straight to Rome with no stops. We were! One thing to mention about the trains is that their bathroom toilets just flush right onto the tracks. Isn't that super gross??? I've never ridden a legit train in the US so I don't know if our passenger trains are like that as well?
On our train ride there we didn't speak to anyone else who shared our little room. Like I said then, there are six seats in a room and they are facing each other. On our first trip I slept the whole time anyway so I didn't really stay awake enough to socialize but the people sharing our train then were also from other countries where I doubted that they spoke English. I'm not really sure exactly how it started on this train ride but we ended up becoming bffs with (most of) the people in our little cabin thing. 

When we first stepped in our area we had to ask a lady to move seats as she was sitting in ours. That was a rough start and she never really talked to us again. I think our crew annoyed her to death ;) There were three teenagers also sharing our cabin and it turns out they were siblings (well two were siblings and the other was their step brother but to them they said they were siblings, which was sweet) traveling together. The oldest one was like 19 I think? Then the second oldest was 16 and the youngest was only 13. I couldn't believe they were traveling like that on their own! They were all from Germany but the oldest one now works for the train company in Austria. So he got a discounted rate on train fares and they traveled by night so they could sleep on trains and not spend money on hotel rooms. Kinda a smart idea...but I'm WAY too old to be doing something like that. I doubt I'd get ANY sleep. 

The two hour train ride FLEW by as we spent the entire ride talking to them. Here's some interesting things we learned/discussed:
  • We asked them about their view of Americans and they said that all they hear about America is all the stupid stuff we do. Like how a man put his cat in the microwave then sued because the microwave did not have a label saying "do not microwave your cat." 
  • They also said that they always hear about us having a McDonald's on every corner (so great: we're all stupid and fat!)
  • Zach, of course, asked about their opinion on Obama and they told us some joke about him being in the White House...I can't remember it but it wasn't one where it sounded like their opinion of him was too good. 
  • They were also very affectionate and loving towards each other. They didn't pick on each other the way we do here. One of made a sarcastic remark about his siblings being smart and he (the oldest one) quickly said "all of my siblings are smart." It was sweet and genuine and I wish it was how things were in America! We SHOULD have each others backs :)
  • The older one did all of the talking, the younger two barely spoke to us. The girl spent most of the time giggling. Both of the younger kids were obviously shy and it was sweet. 
  • I told them that the only thing we really know about Germany is Hitler. I mean that's legit right? He got very uncomfortable and said that in Germany and Austria they are not even allowed to speak his name.
  • We listened to a good bit of music. They wanted to show us the American songs they liked. It was funny how their favorites were stuff that we consider outdated like Snoop Dogg and Metallica. I actually saw several Metallica t-shirts while we were over there. I can't even name one Metallica song! All I know about them is that they killed Napster haha
  • Zach put his ipad down on the seat next to the oldest boy and he pretended to take it and said "I'm from Poland!" and they all died in laughter. We talked about it and there is some big movie over there where it makes fun of Polish people and basically anytime someone steals something they will say that the person must be from Poland. 
  • They said their favorite American movie was Eurotrip and that they actually watched it in school and it's the best movie EVER. 
  • I asked if they wanted to visit America and the oldest one said not really but that if he did go he would want to go with a lot of people.
  • They were all super sweet but my heart just goes out to the oldest boy. He was SO obsessed with trains. His dad worked for the trains while he was growing up and now he works there too and he is SO PROUD of his job and what he does. It was easy to see that he doesn't get many ladies...he showed us his Facebook page (which I've tried to find him to friend him but his name is SUPER common over there I guess b/c there's a MILLION of him haha) and it's all pictures of him...with trains. Bless his heart!!! Zach tried to give him a pep talk about girls but I think we just need to hope he meets a nice girl who also works at the train station! 
They actually initiated the idea of taking pictures with us! Not me! Shocker!!!
The girl is the youngest and her name was Dominqua and the boy is the oldest and his name is Michael
 This is Ozca who is the second oldest. He was the one that was really into rap music
It was kinda sad to leave them when the train pulled into the station in Rome. We all shook hands and as we were leaving Michael chased us down to give us a pen from the train station where he works. So sweet :) Zach and I both enjoy getting to know people from other places and while we did have a decent language barrier in talking with them, we enjoyed getting to know them very much!

It was SO nice to be back so early. We had already eaten dinner and it was only 8:45 at night. Pretty good for us during that trip ;) We headed back to the room and I showered while Zach ran down to get more money from the ATM and bought us some milk and cookies (I LOVED the milk. OMG SOOO GOOD!!!). We finished up watching Angels and Demons and got some rest before another day of train riding the next day!

2 comments:

  1. I love how detailed your post are about your adventures. The blue grotto looks amazing!

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  2. The Blue Grotto looked very cool, but I honestly was about to have a panic attack looking at the pictures of how the boats had to enter. I never would have been able to do that! Glad y'all aren't wimps like me...looks like a great experience!

    ReplyDelete

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