I flew into London yesterday morning, and my arms aren’t tired. And surprisingly the rest of me isn’t either. I got almost ten hours of sleep last night, and while I did wake bolt upright at 4:30 this morning I’m still feeling pretty good and not particularly jet lagged. It’s been gorgeous here, much nicer than it was when I last visited twelve years ago (granted, that was in February).
Things I’ve done so far:
- Walked around the south side of Kensington Park, taking in the sights.
- Gotten lost in Harrods.
- Watched people queue around a city block for hours to go to the French Embassy to vote in yesterday’s election.
- Learned how much you can pay for unreliable hotel wifi.
- Evaluated several pubs in the vicinity of my hotel and found a keeper.
- Figured out how to navigate the Underground (or reminded myself) and to get my tickets for the National Rail Service.
And that was the first day. Should be a fun trip.
I had a nice walk tonight from the docks at the end of King Street in Alexandria, Virginia to my hotel. Or, it was nice for the first three blocks until the heavens opened up. Man, I forgot what thunderstorms in June are like here. I made it to the hotel, drenched, and rested a bit before heading back to Old Town and Bilbo Baggins. Where the food has been adequate and the beer, divine.
All the reviews are spot on regarding the décor here, btw. I’ve been in Michigan State college bars that had more elaborate ambience. But they didn’t have Dominion on tap, or Duchesse de Bourgogne in the bottle. Mmm, Flemish red ales.
From Rome, we drove the Autostrade to the Amalfi Coast. Our first stop was originally to be Naples, but we decided that the hazards of taking a car into Naples outweighted our desire to see the city. We accordingly gave Naples a miss and (after some maneuvers because we missed the exit) got to Pompeii.
After Rome, which was clean and had its antiquities tucked away into well-defined corners, usually in pretty bad shape (the Forum is nothing but broken blocks and chunks of marble), our first view of Pompeii was a surprise. The city is both more and less well preserved than one might imagine. After reading National Geographic articles about the discoveries from this excavation, the initial reality of the site is a let-down. It’s extremely dusty and has been utterly stripped of ornament—all the good pieces went to museums, mostly in Naples.
However, as we started looking closer and entering some of the dwellings (some of which have intact ceilings, most of which had intact walls), we started to be blown away. Many of the dwellings had gorgeous frescoes on the walls; some had incredible mosaics.
After London, we embarked on a ten-day trip to Italy to celebrate Lisa’s graduation last summer from Maryland with her MBA and MS, and my admission to Sloan at MIT for the fall. The focus of the trip would be the Amalfi Coast, but we had spent some time in Rome on our honeymoon and wanted to revisit our old friend.
Although the city was mostly familiar, it seemed to sparkle as a result of the preparations for the Millennial visitors. One especially noteworthy thing was the colors of the walls, which had been painted throughout most of the city with an ancient technique that used natural pigments in solution with milk to achieve a lovely wash.
We stayed near the Piazza Navona, and spent a lot of time just walking around the place, built over Diocletian’s hippodrome and said to offer the best people-watching in the city. It certainly had one of the best enotecas (wine bars) around…
One of the small joys about our days in Rome was that much of the restoration work that had been ongoing on our previous visit was complete now. I finally got a chance to see the facade of St Peter’s, which had been under scaffolding when we visited in 1998.
One of our favorite churches in Rome is Santa Maria de Trastevere, named for the funky district across the Tiber in which it is located. We took this shortly before going for a repeat dinner at Romolo, one of our favorite Roman osterias. It’s housed in the former villa of Raphael’s mistress, and the seating in the stone courtyard is to die for. We did not die this time, as we knew we were on our way to Paradise on the Mediterranean, Positano. Of course, we’d have to drive the Autostrade del Sol and go through Pompeii first…
We’ve been promising to publish photos from our trips for so long, I can’t blame anyone for not believing that we’d do it…but I’ll try to post more photos every few days for the next few weeks to catch up.
Our travels this year started in London with one of those British Airways saver fares. It ended with meeting one of the Cheeselords and his friends at the Savoy for various beverages, some made with absinthe (which, amazingly, is still legal in London).
Two photos of St Paul here in honor of one of the weirder coincidences of the trip: as I was coming down the steps of the dome tour, having gone to the top to get the first of the photos below, I ran into Dan’s friends starting their ascent. We had been trying to get in touch with each other for three days…