Friday, May 06, 2011

The Trip to Sorrento

Having realized that I somehow did not post two journal entries from my Europe vacation, and in the interest of keeping my promise to share as much of my travels as possible, I'm posting the following entry written on April 5, detailing the trip between Florence and Sorrento. I hope you won't mind this belated segment.

04-05-11, Sorrento, Day One

It has started to rain lightly and the power has gone out. No matter, since my hotel doesn't have internet service anyway. And the beat goes on.

While it has been a wonderful trip and I'd not have missed it for (power back on) world, I think this will be my last hurrah as far as international travel is concerned. Hassles and problems and frustrations and glitches are all part of the fun, but cumulatively they reach the point where I think "okay. Been there. Done that."

Here are my notes made on the train:

9:10 a.m. Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Train to Naples left on the minute. Sunny day, going to be warm. One problem with traveling in early spring is that you're never sure how to pack for the weather. I've been wearing just hoodies most of the time, with no shirt underneath, and usually carry my heavy coat's liner, which serves as a light jacket. Getting on the train (I walked the mile or so from my hotel in Florence) I shed both my hoodie and the liner. Still warm. I do hope I won't get off the train in Naples without them, but I certainly wouldn't put it past me.

No breakfast, though I did grab a cup of "cafe Americano" at a marvelous little cafe inside the terminal, called "McDonald's". As always, scalding hot and I had four sips before pitching it.

Sitting across from an Italian gay couple. We've not spoken.

Last night when getting ready for bed, I took off my neck pouch, which I would recommend for anyone traveling anywhere, to find the cord had broken. Had I not been wearing, uncustomarily, a tuck-in shirt, it may well have fallen out without my noticing, and I'd be without my train tickets and passport. So be advised...nothing is perfect; a "stop the presses!" bit of news to you, I'm sure.

Praying for no repeat of the hassles I underwent from the conductor on the train from Venice to Florence. We shall see.

9:41 a.m. I'm seated facing backward, which brings my "life-as-a-train-ride" analogy back in focus. Beautiful countryside...lots and lots of tunnels, of course. Riding backward, something I'd like to photograph comes into view and by the time I get my camera out, it's gone. On reflection, this entire trip has been an example of the theory. Riding forward through time, I saw the trip coming long before it arrived and had lots of time for anticipation. Once the trip started, I changed seats, as it were, and now everything is going by so fast I barely have time to reflect on it. Thus, I suppose, why I've been taking so many photos.

Seem to have either left the mountainous region or are in a very big valley. Rich green grass, fields being either planted or prepared for planting. Trees beginning to bud. Long, low grey-bottomed cumulus clouds slowly trying to cover the entire sky.

10:41 Rome. Train pulled in five or six minutes ago. 3/4 of the passengers got off, including the gay couple, and while I'd assumed more would be getting on, none have, so far. Rome is a big city and coming into it is like coming into any big city anywhere...except for a section of an ancient aqueduct and the ruins of what appeared to have been a temple, surrounded now by the clutter of a major rail yard, haunted not so much by the ghosts of ancient Romans but the battered hulks of old trains.

10:50 Spoke too soon about no one getting on at Rome. New seatmates...a nice couple from Bermuda, traveling to Naples to catch the boat for Capri. She's a writer of bi-lingual (Italian and English) children's books and are meeting people in Capri to discuss distribution in Italy. We exchanged email addresses. Our fourth seatmate was an Italian young man who had planned to bring his girlfriend to see Naples and Capri, but she became ill so he left her in Rome. (And they say chivalry is dead!)

For some reason, the stretch between Naples and Sorrento is not covered by my EurailPass, so as soon as I got off the train in Naples, I had to buy a separate ticket to Sorrento.

One of the reasons I loathe Naples (which is, at least physically, unrecognizable from when I was first here) is that the minute I got off the train I was harassed by taxi drivers and "guides" and people wanting to do things for me. One latched on as I made my way into the terminal from the train and wouldn't let go. I told him I didn't need any services and that I was catching the train to Sorrento. He assured me he was a station employee and ushered me to a ticket/lottery booth where I paid a mere 5 euros for a ticket to Sorrento. He then led me to the downstairs platform from which local trains depart, despite my telling him every step of the way that thanks but no thanks I could do everything myself. Deaf ears. He insisted on carrying my suitcase down the stairs, then carefully explained which track and what to look for, then demanded 10 euros for his services. Damn, I hate that! I hate being taken advantage of. When I balked, he demanded 20 euros!

So he left with 10 euros and I smoldered and watched the trains come in. Apparently the upstairs tracks are for the pretty trains; the lower level trains are battered, dirty, little more than glorified el or subway cars. All jam-packed. So I got off the Florence train at 12:15 and boarded the "train" for Sorrento, where I stood for the entire trip. There are 36...yes, that's right, thirty-six stops between Naples and Sorrento. Thirty six. It took forever, and I know right now there is no way I will be able to leave here on the day I'm to get the 9:40 a.m. train from Naples to Rome. I don't know what time they start running, but I'd have to be on a train at 6 a.m. in order to make it. I'll just make it to Naples when I can, forget my Eurail ticket and buy a separate ticket for Rome. Not like I haven't been double charged for a train ticket before.

So, arrived in Sorrento, the last stop on the train's route, finally. Got a cab to the hotel, way off in God's little green acre (at least a 30 minute walk to the sea, with the nearest restaurant a 15 minute walk). Friendly. I asked about internet. "Of course." I asked how to connect to it. Got no answer. It turns out, as I discovered after my walk to the sea, that they don't have internet. Apparently there's a shop somewhere nearby that has it. I'm writing this in advance, and will try to find it maybe later if it stops raining or maybe not until tomorrow.

The room, btw, is comfortable enough but reminds me very much of a monk's room in a monastery...though it does have its own bathroom, about half the size of the bedroom.

So there you have it. And there, I hope you see, are the makings of the final straw in any future plans for foreign travel.

I don't really know how this internet thing is going to work out. It's really kind of sad how totally I have become dependent on it. Keep an eye out, but if you don't hear from me before Saturday, the 9th, in Rome, don't be surprised. Positive thoughts.

But, hey, the adventure continues!

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

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