Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Naples to Maiori via Vietri Sul Mare and Cetara

September 19: Naples to Maiori via Vietri and Cetara

This is officially our first day of the trip. We arrived in Naples from CDG, Paris in a small plane. The Security check at CDG was slow and tortuous. The flight from Seattle to CDG was of course not so comfortable.

Naples is a small airport, appears more like a bus terminal than an airport. The toilets are on level 0 at one end of the airport while you disembark at the other.

Our tour director, Katia was waiting at the airport. We waited for about an hour or more after disembarking to wait for the group members who were arriving later than ourselves. Finally, Katia collected the whole group minus few others who were arriving much later to the waiting bus. As the bus cannot pick up the passengers right at the airport we dragged our suitcases to the bus couple of minutes away at the location reserved for tourist buses.

We started on our day 1 of the trip moving from Naples to a town called Maiori some 65 KMs away on the Amalfi coast. We mostly travelled on the highway to Maiori via the towns, Vietri Sul Mare and Cetara (review the map). After ramping out of the highway you will be basically travelling on a road that hugs the mountains and you get your first glimpse of the Mediterranean. Our hotel was located at Maiori on the Amalfi coast (Costiera Amalfiana) on a road that runs along the coastline. Most of the towns on this coast are World Heritage Sites.

The hotel, Hotel SanFrancesco where we would be staying in Maiori was not quite what I expected. It did not quite match with the website picture taken in the night. When we arrived in the middle of the day, it was quite different. This is not to say, it was not good. The room was quite spacious with clean linen and windows that open to the sea; hot water really hot; and a working Wi-Fi reasonably fast. The hotel staff spoke fair amount of English and were friendly. The breakfast, although not quite what you would expect in an American hotel, was adequate. Coffee was not to my taste. I always asked for 'Cafe Americano' as I like a lot of coffee. Cafe Cappuccino was very popular with our group.

Actually, the hotel had a charming previous century d├ęcor.  The whole suit was tiled, floor and all. It had ornate, gilt light fittings together with a non-working jacuzzi(?) sans curtains. Taking a shower turned out to be quite a challenge.

The view looking out of the room was glorious. You could touch the blue sea if only you can forget the road in between. The weather was perfect.

There is a small restaurant/bar across the street in thee beach jointly operated by the Hotel and run by a man and his wife (I heard). Food was quite good, and he even gave us our first taste of Limoncello. Looks like it is offered after the meal as a digestivo, a tradition along the Amalfi Coast. It had a lemony taste, sweet with some strong liquor, perhaps Grappa. It was on the house and I enjoyed every sip of it, but my wife who does not drink thought that it was lemon juice but later commented that it was too strong and highly intoxicating.

In the evening we had an orientation/introduction meeting in the veranda of the hotel outside. The day was waning, and the air was colder. After all the introductions over a glass of bubbling wine, Katia gave us the highlights of our schedule in the coming days and things that we should remember. She mentioned that the best way to convert money was at a post office where you get the best exchange rate, or withdraw from an ATM. We later found that most establishments accepted credit cards including American Express, if the value was over 10 or 15 Euros.

Following this meeting we had our first group dinner and Smithsonian Journeys had arranged for us to get vegetarian dishes sometimes including fish. There was plenty of wine as we were in a region famously known for its wine.  This day happened to be the birthday of one of our group members and this was first of the many more birthdays to come. Of course, there was the birthday cake, candles and ‘Happy Birthday to you’.

The pictures in the slides taken from inside the bus shows the cities and scenery from Naples to Maiori; the hotel we stayed and some happy moments celebrating the birthday.

Look forward to my account of Day 2…

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