Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sorrento! March 26-28th

We left early afternoon (friday)…with most of group along as well as Dr. Szabo and Kristen. It wasn’t a Geneva event/academic trip (though the us..paid 10 euros of the overpriced hotel). Watching the change of the land from the windows was tantalizing! The appearance of lemon trees, and glimpses of the ocean through the stacked houses (with balconies airing the laundry).

The first afternoon and evening we unloaded our stuff in the spacious, clean, sheets and towels included, hotel/hostel (depending on how much you paid). Then found a free beach (pretty pebbly on the toes) but stand in the (very very cold) water long enough..and it wasn’t a bother at all! The rest of thegroup went shopping or whatever, Jill read on the beach, and I tossed on my shoes and went for a run!

Headed out of town, following a sidewalk as it snaked it’s way up the Amalfi coast. The sidewalk disappeared, leaving a shoulder of what seemed like hardly a foot of space between a white line on the road and a wall that lined the hill/cliff drop offs. The road didn’t seem busy, but after a few turns (that’s all the road was…twists and turns!) and cars puttering/speeding past inches from my left ELBOW..i began to wonder. Spotted an Italian guy running and asked him if it was safe to run on the road…he assured me he’d been on these roads for 30 years, and it is fine..I was told though to always stay on the right side, by the ocean.

God and I got closer as I rounded each bend, that I would crane my neck to try and see/hear if a car was coming, then sprint around the blind spot as quickly as possible while hugging the wall and thinking narrow thoughts. (sweating from the run, or from the nearness of traffic?)

Split off and took a road that wound down the hill to the right. A lemon grove was to my left..and a few homes nestled among the trees to the right. Each tree (with nets bound up amongst them, for catching the fruit?) was weighed down with lemons that fit from the base of my palm to the tip of my fingers. The smell of the lemons lingered through the damp evening air. (and not the fake, sugary kind that we smell with lemonade or fake flavoring. But like someone had painted the wind with fresh squeezed lemon juice).

Down the side of the hill the road turned. It ended at a parking lot, where a narrow, single paved road continued to bend and twist towards the ocean. I followed it (passing a Villa Hotel Anna…it’s a sign!!! I AM supposed to be here J and a place to stay next time too). I honestly wouldn’t have believed that cars used the lane if I hadn’t seen it for myself. The road ended at a point that met with the road that separated the town from the beach. It was a little fishing town, in a valley that was nestled in an islet between two rocky outreaches that extended farther into the ocean. I walked for a few minutes the whole width of the houses and restaurants there. The little boats were drawn up onto the sand for the night, and other ones were bobbing, anchored in the water. A dog with matted hair wandered up to me. A group of gentlemen were standing around and talking, nodding to me and returning a Bouna sera (good evening) An older man was sitting on a chair, mending his fishing nets that were in a pile next to where he sat.

I ran through it the next two days…not even doing anything besides saying “Buongiorno!” to a few people I passed. It was yet another layer of Italy I was so excited to discover.

Dinner with the group…a cute little place, crowded with locals (good sign!) and we all got to sit at one table. And I splurged (with some help of encouragement from Willie) on getting a dish of fresh fish in a red marinara sauce with fresh mozerella. The flakey, delicious fish was in a bowl of the sauce.and the cheese melted inside. I can’t say how good it was, because it simply and irrevocably was.

Dessert was at an outside patio, under some lights that were stretched overhead among the trees. I just had a Limoncello …makes face…twas good. Strong. Sour. Tangy. Burned a little going down on the first sip (because there would be no gulping) just straight up lemon-liscious-ness.

Saturday morning:

I went the same route as before for the morning run, only going a few turns farther in the road before turning left, up a hill. I didn’t plan on going the entire way, but as the road worked its way up, doubling back and forth…I figured why not keep going? As the road went up, the ocean began filling more and more of the horizon, the trees opened up a little for a vineyard to cover the steep hillside. (that I had was half crawling and panting up) A big old house was sitting there, with animals all around the yard and in pens. A few people were working but seem unbothered by my intrusion. I followed the (comparatively wide) road a bit farther, On each side the Lemon trees extended in neat rows. The road abruptly ended at an empty military building. (complete with barbwire fence) It was just a big white empty building with barbwire and signs. But if one peered around it… the land gave way abruptly before the ocean, leaving only the tree tops to obstruct the view of the ocean and sky that kissed in the horizon.

Wandered back down the hill and walked/jogged to visit the same little fishing village as before then headed back to the hotel/hostel!

Chowed down with breakfast , changed, and the group followed Rick Steve’s suggestion of a beach! Stopped at a grocery store (picked up one of the..cheese..sack things, yogurt, an orange from breakfast, and water!) found a place to buy bus tickets and we were on our way!!!

A short 40 minute bus ride away (at the end of the route) we reached the beach… a major improvement from yesterday evenings pebbly sand, this was dark, black sand that glittered in the early afternoon’s sunlight! Lots of Italians were gathered there. (not in a crowded way. But in a chill, hangout way). The girls spread out the blankets we had snagged from our rooms at the convent/palazzo (palace J hahaha).

Changing rooms were rows of wooden boxes/huts. With doors and locks as well! If we didn’t stick out at first, once the girls had changed into our bikinis and laid out on the blankets for sun, there was no doubt. (perhaps due to my pale, luminescent skin. Which is valuable for camaflouge on most white sandy beaches.) We set up near the water, while farther down the beach the Italian guys in speedos were out sunning as well..a charming and exciting thing to see..if you have an appreciation for the style (which I do not,partially due to the lack of quality in their physique..which I feel should be required for such apparel.)

A couple volleyball nets were out, with different teams, and onlookers lounging about in clusters. Later in the day, a couple of our guys teamed up with another group of American students to play US vs. Italia. Guess who got creamed? Oh well, it was fun to watch anyways! (especially with no comic relief in the form of yours truly on the court).

Played Frisbee until I was warm enough to shimmy out of the jeans for the purple bikini ;) let me say…”those Italian boys” ( not the hot ones…just the stereotyped “ciao bella” *wink wink* ones) yeah..found them. So I didn’t worry or feel self conscious about my new, Italian based, curvalscious-ness because within several yards, there were several comments..and I didn’t need to know Italian to translate those!

More Frisbee in the soft black sand, under the cheerful sun. The cliffs partially curved to make a shallow dish for the beach, some boats, and a concrete wall that branched into the water to fish from. The water was absolutely divinely blue, sparkling in the sunshine, and reflecting slivers of the light off the tips of the waves

I jumped in (encouraged by the already submerged Phil) It wasn’t a giggling, eased in jump. But more like me hurtling into the water yelping and screaming at the cold water.

Struggled out of the embank, soaked, shivering, and totally jazzed at having just swum in the Mediterranean .

Sipping from a cold drink (the best had thus far mostly due to location) we walked to a little cluster of restaurants/hotel a little further along the cliff lining the ocean. Frisbee games and stretching out on the blankets and reading or writing in the sunshine took up most of the afternoon. Though I did drag Jill into the water twice. The first time, holding hands as I pulled her along; until we tripped over the pebbly drop off and pitched into the water..shrieking at the cold and shouting words of encouragement for bravery ! wasn’t THAT cold. The second time, later in the afternoon, we held hands in order to build up the strength to face the chilly water. And when we jumped in that last time… we managed to say submerged until our teeth stopped chattering and the limbs and extremities had a pleasantly fuzzy, numbed feel. Then it was rather pleasant in the water, with the still empty vast sky above our heads, the sea stretching limitlessly in front of our eyes, and the cliffs that towered resolutly over our heads with their streaks of color, caped by only a few trees and a church.

For a lunch, food that I’d picked up (the cheese rocked) and then a later lunch/early dinner was the BEST Panini I’d had the whole entire trip. Fresh bed that was still a little warm, thick, freshly sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese J It was soft and each bite was delicious. (and not expensive either) why did I not have like 10???

I ate it just before leaving, the rest of the group had left so it was just Jill and I on the beach while I sat there with the cold drink in the sand, eating the tasty Panini with my toes buried in the sand watching the sun take on the golden, vibrant color that it adopts while setting.

Walking along the rough stone wall (mistakenly barefoot), after we clambered along some giant rocks propped against it. Also there was a father and his 9 year old daughter. I helped her up onto the higher wall and we stood there watching the quiet waves and breathing in the soft breeze. I was talking with her father, who knew a little English, and then she started to teach me Italian. Never a more demanding teacher!!!! J yet completely capable!! She would point to something than say the word, have me repeat it until I got the pronunciation correct (which took some time). Some of it I knew from what our Italian teacher (Lucy) had taught us. Some of it was new. She would get impatient if I didn’t get it right quick enough, but would carefully correct and without hesitation or annoyance, go over the words. It was only a few minutes, but it was an cheerful, happy encounter. She would ask her father “come sai dice….” “How do you say….” He informed me that she really likes me (which is the highest compliment I feel I could receive)

After that we took the bus back, showered..and jill and I looked cute in the singular articles of Italian clothing we bought. And Jason came along as we walked around looking for food. Ended up eating at a nearly empty place along the quiet waterfront. We ate on the cool patio, on the edge near where the water was lapping softly onto the sand, and rocking the boats anchored there. We were served by a cute Italian waiter who knew no English, or who didn’t bother talking to us.

I joked that he was secretly awed by my existence and felt in his heart that I was his soul mate. (more guy) It was destiny that we should meet, and he would sweep me into his arms and proclaim his undying love and adoration to my existence. Upon this realization, I would give up the silly wish for wealth and splendor and allowed myself to be carried to his small house where I could meet his mother and she would teach me how to cook divine meals the Italian way. Oh, and he would take me out on his boat and I could to sun myself and swim in the ocean while he fished. As we walked away, with my heart still beating tragically alone…I realized it couldn’t possibly be fate… since I get sea sick.

We paused for a moment on the road up the hill (everything is up and down here) and overlooked the little front of the beach, with the boats with the red, green and blue stripes on the wood that sat tilted to the side on the sand Overhead the full moon emerged from behind clouds and seemed to fill the sky, then it’s sister reflected in the water, the only light on the dark, quiet waves. The only sounds was the waves on the sand or against the cliffs. It was lovely J

Sunday Morning..March 28

Before catching the slightly later bus we walked around some. Wandered through a lemon grove, where the bright lemons seemed to have captured the light from the sun. Past one of the many outdoor fresca (fresh!) fruit and vegetable markets, I paused at one on the way to the station and bought 5 oranges (each the size of grapefruit!) and 5 lemons (each the size of my HAND). A lady was at the stand, and her son, (who spoke only a little English) helped me put the fruit in the brown bags first, then the plastic ones. He smiled a lot and was patient with my bumbling Italian and inexperience of the system for buying fruit, bagging, weighing, paying etc.

Jill and I also bought two little canoli from a bakery…the owner spoke some English and joked around about Jill owing me exactly a euro and twenty nine cents. And not to forget to make her pay me back! (which is hilarious because there are so many times that I don’t have any euros and only like 50 bills…which makes cashiers look a little panic stricken at having to make change…or sometimes angry )

We ate the delicious slightly melting canoli (with nutella filling inside the flakey crust that folds around it) while on the beach that at that time of day was washed with sunlight. Watching the ferry boats come onto the dock, the bigger boats “parking” at just the right angle, and the sail boats with their sails tightly bound to the mast and tied in the bay (ish..type) area.

Mildly depressed to leave on that bright sunny day. Slept and caught up on homework on the train ride home. We made the connection at Milan like pros.

Comforted myself in the return to the city by making lemonade ….with freshly squeezed lemons. J *sighs* life is forever altered! (the pitcher came back with me to my room after sharing some a few glasses)

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