Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What I Did on My Holidays - Part the Second - Sunshine and Water

Sorrento itself is perched on top of a cliff - it's only when you get down to the bottom, to sea-level, and look back up that you realise quite how much work must have gone in to to building those cliff-top hotels and homes so they won't tumble down..
In order to get from the main part of the town, you can either walk down a steep staircase, and then a short, hair-pinned cobbled road, or down a longer, smoother path which zig-zags its way down (and at one point through) the cliff, or if you feeling lazy, you can pay your E1 and take the lift! I don't think I've ever come upon a beach serviced by a lift, before..

Most of the beaches are private - you pay your 8-12 Euros, depending on whether you want a sun-lounger and/or a parasol, but I decided to stick to the little public beach (on the right of the photo) when I ventured down for a swim. The beach is black, presumably the sand started life as volcanic ash and stone - and the water is disconcertingly clear, blue and warm.

As I was growing up, most of my seaside visits, and therefore most of the swimming in the sea I did, were in England, so I expect the sea to be grey, and cold, and full of sand and therefore stirred up by the waves. Additionally, swimming in the sea normally involves being regularly slapped in the face by icy waves, so the concept of being able to paddle around in clear, placid water is unnerving. And I am used to having to get out of the sea after a relatively short swim, as all my extremities turn blue and I start to lose feeling in them, so the concept that it is possible to stay in the water long enough to start worrying about sun-burn and prune-y skin instead is very strange (I mean, I could get used to it, if forced, but it does feel a little unnatural!)

I also took the opportunity to make a day-trip to Capri, which is of course only a little way off the coast, from Sorrento. Capri seems to be entirely made up of precipitous cliffs and you get around in little tiny buses, which have to go onto the wrong side of the road in order get around the hairpin bends, which makes bus travel exciting.
I went up to Anacapri, from where you can ride a chair-lift up to Monte Solaro. I love chair-lifts - they're a bit like hot air balloons, in that you get to float, almost silently, above the world.

In this instance, the views from the lift, and from the top of the mountain were not as good as they could have been , as the air quality wasn't the best - lots of dust and haze in the air, but even so, the views were pretty darn good!

When I went down again, I visited S. Michele's church, which has a majolica tiled floor with a picture of the garden of Eden, which includes a charming elephant with paws, as well as lions and bears and horses and a slightly random unicorn.

I  also got a bus round to the Grotta Azzurra, which is one of the most famous attractions on the island. The water is, indeed, very blue, and very beautiful. Getting in, however, is . .. interesting.

After rather a lot of queueing, you have to scramble into a small rowing boat, and then, as the entrance to the cave is very low, it's necessary to lie flat on your back in the bottom of the boat while the boatman performs a kind of limbo while pulling the boat into the cave using a chain!

 If you are not acquainted with your travelling companions before you get into the boat you certainly will be after lying next to (or on top of ) them to get in and out of the cave!

After that, I took my slightly soggy and dishevelled self back to Capri town, where I founbd that a 50/50 mixture of lemon granita and freshly squeezed orange juice is even better than either one alone..  An important discovery, I'm sure you'll agree.

And a little later, my evening included spaghetti con vongole, and wine made by the restaurant itself, and an odd but tasty fennel liqueur.

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