Sunday, January 16, 2011

Honeymoon in Europe - Part 1

At the end of September, Mike and I went on our "real" honeymoon (as distinguished from our "mini moon").  This was our dream honeymoon, the one we'd been looking forward to since we first got engaged.  We got to spend two amazing weeks traveling through Italy and France.  It was incredible!!!  And now, 3.5 months later, I'm finally getting around to blogging about it. :)  Well, I promise it was worth the wait!  In fact, I have so much to write about the trip, I decided to break it up into multiple posts (otherwise it would have gone on forever).  So here is the first leg of our trip - Naples, and the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Future posts will cover the Amalfi Coast, the island of Capri, Venice and Paris.

Day 1: Naples
Our trip began on Saturday, September 18, 2010.  With the long flight and crossing many time zones, we didn't arrive in Europe until Sunday, September 19.  We landed in Naples, Italy.  At the airport, we caught a bus to Garabaldi central station, then took the metro to our hotel, the Pinto Storey.  The hotel was in a great location - literally right across the street from the metro.  Overall, the hotel was really nice!  Mike found the breakfast a little lacking, but the room was clean and comfortable, and the staff was friendly.  Although Naples isn't known for being a great city, as western European cities go, we found that the region we were staying in - which is called Chiaia - was very pleasant, clean, and safe.

View from our hotel window
After we got checked into the hotel, we took a little nap (at this point we'd been up well over 24 hours!) then headed out to see the National Archeological Museum.  Our plan was to get some pizza on the way at this place that is supposed to serve the world's best pizza (la Antiqua Pizzaria de Michel).  But when we got there, they were closed! :(  I was so bummed, you have no idea.  So instead we just kept walking to the museum.  This took us right through the worst part of Naples - and arguably one of the worst parts in all of Italy - the area surrounding Garabaldi central station.  Lets just say, its reputation is well deserved.  It's not pretty.  Lots of homeless people, graffiti and GARBAGE!  I'm not talking about the kind of garbage you typically find on the streets of a big city - cigarette buts, cans, bottles, newspapers, etc.  I'm talking it was like walking through a landfill.  Paper and plastic bags blowing by your head, large items like discarded furniture, shoes, clothing, all kinds of junk, just randomly scattered about.  It was insane.  And disgusting.

But, we really wanted to see the museum, since that's where all the best finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum were taken, so we forged on.  The Museum itself was much nicer than the surrounding area, but still just so-so.  It's full of really unique and important artifacts, so that was interesting.  It just could have been presented better.  But we still enjoyed it.
Scale model of Pompeii ruins
Our favorite was the exhibits of the frescoes that were taken off the walls of the Pompeii houses.  I had no idea that the people in this middle-class ancient Roman city would have decorated their houses in such elaborate fashion.  Can you imagine having beautiful artwork painted on all your walls?  

After the museum, we went back to the hotel and got some much-needed sleep.  I honestly don't even remember what we did for dinner that night.  We were so exhausted, we just passed out.

Day 2: Pompeii and Herculaneum
We got up early on Monday, September 20th and once again rode the metro to Garabaldi station.  From there, we caught the Circumvesuviana train to the ruins of Herculaneum.  If you're not familiar with the history of these ruins, you can read about it here.  The short story is that Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town that was completely buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79.  Herculaneum, along with the more famous Pompeii, were both completed buried under volcanic material that sadly killed most of the population, but preserved the city structures in remarkable condition.  Now that it's been excavated, you can walk around these towns and imagine what life in Ancient Rome was like.  Unlike the ruins of grand Roman architecture found in other parts of Italy, the ruins in Pompeii and Herculaneum give a unique glimpse into life as an average, middle-class Roman citizen.

While Pompeii is the larger, more famous ruins site, Mike and I really preferred Herculaneum for a number of reasons.  First, it's smaller, so you can easily tour the entire site in one morning without feeling burnt out.  Second, it's better preserved than Pompeii (this has something to do with the type of volcanic material it was buried under), so there's more interesting things to see here (even part of a wooden staircase!).  And best of all, it wasn't overrun with gigantic tour groups!
View over Herculaneum
Inside the bath house
This was some sort of a public meeting house.  Huge, incredible frescoes!
This was like a restaurant, and those pots held fires for cooking and keeping food warm
Beautiful mosaic floor
The wooden staircase!  Charred, but still intact.
Once we had had our fill of Herculaneum, we stopped for a brief lunch then journeyed on by train to Pompeii.  At this point, it was mid- to late-afternoon (I want to say it was about 3 or 4, but I don't remember) and most of the tour groups were done, so I'm sure it was less crowded than it would have been in the morning or mid-day.  It was still crowded in places, but not too bad.  Basically, it's very similar to Herculaneum, but much bigger.  So much bigger, that it actually feels kind of overwhelming, and a touch redundant (the houses all start to look the same after awhile).  I would definitely recommend seeing Pompeii, if only to appreciate the sheer size of the city, but I am really glad we saw Herculaneum first.
The Forum
More of the Forum
Fateful Mt. Vesuvius, looming in the distance
These large stones in the streets denote which are for one-way vs. two-way traffic, and three stones means pedestrian traffic only.  
This was kind of creepy actually.  Apparently when they were excavating, they would periodically come across empty spaces left by the bodies that were buried but have since decayed.  They would fill the spaces with plaster to make casts of body.  The one on the far right is a dog!

Amphitheater and gladiator practice field
This is quite possibly the coolest thing ever.  It's a large mosaic, covering the entire floor of this room, that says "cavi canem" - or "beware of dog" in Latin!
And I can't leave out the Lupanar - one of an estimated 30 brothels found in Pompeii.  It had some highly amusing frescoes on the walls of the various "services" one could purchase here.  Not surprisingly, this building was the most crowded with tourists. ;)
I just thought this was a really pretty picture. :)  I have no idea what it is.
When we got back to our hotel, we did finally get to try some world-famous Naples pizza.  Naples is where pizza was invented after all, so you must try it out. :)  It truly was delicious!

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog! Thanks for sending the link. And I'm so glad you had a good trip. It's nice to see the pictures... I lost all mine the day after I came home when my computer crashed. Total bummer!

    So anyway, hope you're doing great! And thanks again. :)