09 June 2008

Final Days in Naples

Here's a selection of my travel problems so far this year:
• Chicago-Paris: bag got lost; I didn't get it back for three weeks.
• First trip out of Angers: apparently we had the wrong ticket and were traveling illegally, but we talked ourselves out of a few hundred euros worth of fines.
• Lyon and Avignon: I got lost EVERYWHERE.
• Milan: flight back got cancelled, replacement flight was delayed, there weren't any more trains, and I had to stay in a hotel in Nantes for the night. Also missed two classes because of Air France.
• Metz: train was late, missed the next one, got soaked wandering around in the rain in between.
• Hungary: both my flight and Kristen's flight were late.
• Ireland: we missed our stop getting off the bus and had quite a walk to the hostel.
• Portugal: the taxi cost twice as much as it was supposed to.
• Geneva: Switzerland costs five times as much as it should :) I also got lost and had tram mishaps several times.
• Disneyland: our train back was delayed an hour.
• Chiavari: Nothing much went wrong, but the elevator did break (with me and a nun in it) when I was checking into the hotel. They got it fixed within a few minutes.
• Coming back from Naples: Well, something disastrous has to happen almost every time I travel, or this blog would be boring! I found the bus to the airport without mishap, arrived at the airport with a bit more than two hours to spare... and that's where things started to go bad. The flight was supposed to leave at 11:35... and it left at 1:00. It was supposed to get in just before two, but arrived at 3:09. My heart sank very fast when I saw us taxing past Terminal 2, because it takes ten minutes to get from Terminals 1 and 3. We got into the baggage claim at 3:30, my bag came out at 3:40. Trains are often late at the airport, so I decided to hurry anyway and hope for the best... which made me look really suspicious to the customs officer. He stopped me to ask where I was coming from and such, and I said, "Naples, but I live in France, and my train is in two minutes in Terminal 2. I'm hoping it's late!" He seemed reassured that I wasn't creepy, and wished me luck. However, it took five minutes to walk to the train station to take the little train to T2, then I had to wait four minutes, and my train had been on time. Grrrr. For once, I'd been praying that it would be late!
So I went to the ticket office to change my ticket, and only had to pay 15€ for the exchange and the more expensive ticket. Brilliant. I will, of course, arrive in Angers an hour before the next bus, so I'll have to take a taxi. I don't think the 25€ worth of damages is enough for me to write a really angry letter to Eurofly: even if they were willing to reimburse me, I wouldn't have an opportunity to use the inevitable coupon, since they wouldn't send me cash.
Anyway, from my experience it appears that flying from Italy to France is frustrating.

Before the travel misadventures, however, I had a wonderful few days in Naples. There isn't a huge amount to see: once you've gone to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, you've got one day of tourism in the city and at most one more day trip. I didn't really want to go to Capri, since it's another set of touristy villages along the beach and cliffs like Amalfi and Cinque Terre, so I just spread out the Naples sights over a fews days, and did a lot of sleeping in and relaxing. [Note: sleeping in, since I had morning sun through the windows and was going to sleep around midnight, meant getting up around 8:30.]
• I went to the Contemporary Art museum, which was hilarious... I love this kind of ridiculousness. They don't allow photography, so I don't have pictures of the four things I would have liked to photograph:
1) Upside-down art: the guy featured in their temporary exhibition (who has a name) liked to paint things upside down. He actually painted them upside down, he didn't just paint them normally and then flip them. I can sort of understand why this would open the mind, since it forces you to think in an unnatural way. There was one of a bird in a tree that was particularly good.
2) A tube of air... hard to describe. There was a square tube made of very reflective glass. Most of it was suspended from the ceiling, but one end went out of the building through a hole in the window. Therefore, there was fresh air coming in through the hole. When you looked at it from the side, you saw the tube, but if you looked into the tube, you suddenly saw nine squares because of how reflective the glass was. It was pretty neat.
3) Another piece was made of fluorescent lights, and spelled out "Five words in five colors." Each word was a different color. That made me chuckle.
4) I actually looked in the gift shop for a picture of my favorite, but couldn't find it. It was along one long wall, and had panes of glass set vertically into a long pile of what looked like dirt. The panes of glass were closely spaced at one end, and got further and further apart as they went. Each had a white fluorescent lightbulb number in the corner representing the distance to the next pane of glass: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34... [The Fibonacci sequence] That made me laugh out loud. I like mathy art.
Naturally, I wouldn't allow any of the "art" in this museum into my house, but I love going to see it.

I took the funicular up to the top of Naples' favorite hill, where St. Elmo's castle offers a great view of the city. You can see very far, and it's colorful and beautiful. The gelateria didn't have any of my favorite flavors though, so I didn't stay on the top of the world for long. I took the funicular down on the other side of the hill, and successfully navigated the way back to my hostel, via gelato.
Here are some pictures from the top:

Here's another of Naples' castles: it has about four. This is the "New Castle," a.k.a. the French Castle, which was built when the French borrowed (my favorite way to say "briefly conquered") Naples. But see, the empire that borrowed Naples was Anjou, which has its heart in Angers. This castle looks quite a bit like my local château.

Sunday, I went to Mass at the cathedral. In Italian, the word duomo, which literally means "dome," has been adopted to mean "cathedral." Naples' cathedral doesn't have a dome, but it's called the Duomo nonetheless. No pictures on the inside, but it was BEAUTIFUL. So beautiful that it deserves all-caps. I walked around for half an hour before Mass, and there's so much to see. There's a chapel on one side, and a little basilica on the other. There are tiny chapels all around the whole cathedral, and the ceiling has some of the most beautiful frescoes I've seen. There are mosaics on the floors, various colors of marble covering the walls, lots of gold... it's lovely. A lot of cathedrals display their treasury as a sort of museum, but this cathedral just has all the fancy stuff packed into the chapel on the side, and most of the relics in a chapel to the side. [Relics are pieces of saints' bodies... in the early Church, people hoped to feel closer to God by keeping relics, since they knew that the souls of these über-holy people were in Heaven. Christians face the challenge of believing in someone without a whole lot of physical evidence, and having something tangible helped them to feel close to God, who can feel so far away.]
The Mass wasn't as impressive as the building it was in... I seem to have chosen the old people's Mass, with a small congregation and no music. I should have gone to the noon one... oh well.
No pictures of the inside of the Duomo, but here are two of the outside. The second is a good representation of Italy: kids playing football (soccer) in front of an impressive landmark.

Now, I'm back in France for a mere ten days, and then I head back home. There are certainly things that I will miss, but I'm looking forward to a return to the fast-paced, busy life I lead in America. It'll be interesting to see how things have changed... and how I've changed. And this last flight will be one last chance for everything to go perfectly!

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