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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Continuing on, backwards in time. Amalfi, Pompeii, and more

Well, the year has ended, but my journey continues, as all of ours do. We are at the cusp of potential great change. I am as expectant and hopeful as anyone, and hope we will not be disappointed.

Although we have moved on from 2008, I will at least temporarily keep my blog named so. And now, let me continue back in time, to one of my previous volunteer experiences, to Paris. Odd place for a volunteer experience, you might think. And it was, but was also one of the most amazing times I have ever spent in Paris, giving me a far different perspective on the city and its culture than I had ever had. Paris, where I have probably spent more time than anyplace except New York, where I grew up, Albuquerque, and Somerville and Beverly Massachusetts, my home now for over 30 years. My first trip to Paris was the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, my second was for two years, in 1969 to 1971. I have been back various times for short visits. Is there anyone who doesn't like Paris? I suppose there must be.

My trip began as a family trip to Italy, where we stayed in a village called Atrani on the Amalfi coast, literally around the corner (or curve in the hairpin curve road) from the town Amalfi. We could and did walk to Amalfi (Loring actually swam, and I walked, carrying his glasses) most every day. Atrani is charming and much less touristed than Amalfi, and I highly recommend it. It had a bakery and a small food store, and even its own beach. No hotel. We stayed in a rented apt. called Casa Marco, which I would also recommend. It had stunning views over the village and the ocean. Marco, the owner, welcomed us with a freshly made Caprese salad.

Pompeii was a day trip. We had not rented a car, and were glad of it, given the narrowness and tortuous curves of the road. I had been to Pompeii in 1970, and had always wanted to go back. The kids, when we'd proposed the idea several years earlier, were worried that the volcano might explode. We reassured them, to no avail. So we went elsewhere that year. And, amazingly, Vesuvius did erupt that year.

But they were older now. I enticed them with the film of Pink Floyd playing live at Pompei. That seemed to do the trick. And they were, at least for the first hour, intrigued. The lava encased bodies stored casually in one of the first rooms were compelling. I was as amazed by the place as when I'd been there 30 years before. But the heat was brutal that day, and everyone else's attention span lasted last long than mine. I still was marvelling over ancient bath houses and mosaic walls when we left.

Capri (emphasis on the first syllable) was another day trip, by boat from Amalfi. I knew it would be overtouristed, and so was partly prepared, but not entirely. The island was crawling with tourists, many in large groups fronted by sign carrying guides. A babel of languages encased the place. Whatever charm had ever been there was drowned, at least from our perspective, by too many visitors. It isn't a place I'd choose to go back to. And yet, not so far away on the coast, was little Atrani, so close and yet so different from the overpopulated places nearby.

We went to Ravenna as well, up the hills from Atrani. One could climb the hills to the town. Loring and Max did, Carolina and I took the bus. Ravenna is beautiful, and famous for its opera performances, but also overtouristed. There were a few too many chic cafes for me, but also small lanes with vines wrapped around their gates, and absolutely stunning vistas. We all walked back down, not seeing many people at all along the way.

And now, onto gayParis!

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