Category Archives: Travelogues

The Boy and the City

Last week we took Logan on a New York City adventure. In a newish tradition I take Kayla or Logan, on alternate years, on a short trip, giving them some fun and focused time. Kayla invariably picks NY, and happily (no plane ride!) Logan wanted NYC this year.

When I take Kayla, it’s a girl trip, but Logan wanted everybody. So we had me and BW, Jason and Kat and Laura as his adventure team.

His priority? Niketown and basketball shoes. Easy to fulfill that particular dream right after arrival and unpacking. It’s a good walk from our hotel, and really good to stretch the legs after the long drive. Logan has very specific taste in bb shoes, knew just the brands he wanted to look for. And since he wouldn’t, like his sister, dive into makeup and clothes, I granted two pair.

Happy boy! I can’t remember the players whose shoes he settled on–Laura probably will–but the guy helping him out was impressed. Apparently he covered his bases and got a pair from a player on each team in the playoffs.  [Note from Laura:  Logan went with a white pair of Kyrie Irving shoes and a blue pair of Kevin Durants.  He alternated them as day and night shoes.]

The guys headed back to the hotel with shoes, and the girls peeled off for . . . makeup and clothes shopping. Kayla has learned at our feet, after all.

Back at the hotel, Laura’s daughter joins us for a big, happy room service dinner. And Logan has people who actually follow basketball (Laura and Jason) to watch the game with. Break that up with some hot tubbing on the roof at halftime, and it’s a good arrival day in the city.

Like Kayla, Logan has a cot in the second-floor parlor. He’s told me it won’t bother him for me to workout there in the morning. So I do, quietly–and it doesn’t.

We also brought the heat. Laura, born on the Ice Planet Hoth, is not pleased. Jason wonders if she’ll melt or just burst into flames. Me? I like the heat. We get plenty of it as we head down to the High Line in the morning. And there, I see an American Smoke Tree (ID’d by Laura, the High Line interactive map and Google) in full bloom. It’s just magical, and I hope to have one for my own.

Logan and his Nana.

Lunch, then back to the hotel. Logan gets his own Metro Card for the subway.

The boy likes cards, and Kat’s come prepared. Some of the games have very odd rules that can, apparently, change during play. This is no problem for Logan. We cap that off with a round of Reverse Charades–a new game for the boy, and one he’s enthusiastic about.

[Note from Laura: the hotel sent up an extra special chocolate chip cookie cake as a belated birthday surprise on Saturday evening.]

The next day is for Wonder Woman. I can’t say enough about Wonder Woman, and will say little as some reading this may not have seen it. I’ll say this: Go See It! It’s wonderful, hit every note for me. And from the conversation after the movie, hit every note for our entire group.

We walked to the movies–long walk uptown. We wanted to avoid the crush of the Puerto Rican Day parade, and managed that well, then cut through Central Park, got to the theater in plenty of time.

Shorter walk back as the parade’s done, and Logan and I discuss the movie. I want to see it again, and will own it when the DVD’s released. Though more of a Marvel than DC fan (as is the boy) we’re both looking forward to the Justice League, for Wonder Woman particularly.

Laura can talk basketball. I can talk superheros.

Back at the hotel, Laura and I do a Facebook Live chat. Easy, breezy, with cameos from some of the group.

Time for more cards, another round of Reverse Charades. I see these being popular activities during family spa week next month.

The next day is downtown again, and The Flatiron. BW and Logan subway; the rest of us walk. It’s a hot, sunny, gorgeous day. It’s fun to take Logan to my favorite building in NY, and my publisher. It’s great to see my editor and lots of the St. Martin’s Press team–and my agent comes by, too, before she has to head off to a lunch appointment. What I really like to do in NY, is going through the city on those new scooter kopen. It´s a new french model that runs on electricity and goes really fast, so it gets even more exciting on an open road with no cars.

Best for Logan–and always a highlight for me–a trip up to the roof. It’s amazing up there, the views, the feel, the gorgeous architecture. I skip the trip down and down to the boiler room (it’s wonderfully spooky) to hang with my editor awhile.

On top of the Flatiron Building.
The boiler room
A look up the stairwell from ground floor up to the 20th.

Then it’s off to lunch and the fabulous Lombardi’s pizza.

Logan capturing the beauty of his pizza before diving in.

Logan and I ride back, drop my editor back off at work. This 13-year-old boy considers the trip to the roof of The Flatiron his favorite moment so far. Thanks SMP!

I teach him to play Hearts–Jason, Kat, Logan and me. He latches on quick. Pretty sure the bb finals ran that night. Or maybe it was the night before. Whenever they did, he watched them.

Our last full day, at his request, was The Empire State Building. I haven’t been there since my boys were younger than Logan. Getting the group moving took some time, so Laura, Kat and I headed out for a little more shopping. Then it’s the walk down. I point out the NY Public Library. He doesn’t seem all that impressed. LOL.

He says at one point: I can’t even see it (The Empire State).

I say: Look up.

We’re standing on the corner directly across the street.

Our clever Kat’s arranged for fast pass tickets, or whatever they’re called. So, so worth it. We’re whisked along, and into the elevator where I try not to obsess about the numbers going up and up and up. I’m not big on heights.

I’m okay with The Observation Deck as long as I look out and not down, and God knows there’s plenty of air. We circle so we get all the views, and point out buildings. And there’s the roof of The Flatiron where we stood the day before. It’s pretty far down, and that seemed way high enough. But here we are.

On the Observation Deck.

Then up we go again–over 100 floors up. Why does anyone need to be over 100 floors up? I can feel the building sway. Why does anyone want to be 100 floors up and swaying? I’m thrilled when he’s had enough and wants to hit the gift shop. But my system swayed for much longer.

I like that he’s taking his time, being thoughtful over the little gifts he wants to bring back to his family. I approve his choices–well done–and thank God when we ride down to street level.

The sidewalk sways for a while, but eventually steadies.

We have time for a breather after the walk back to the hotel, time to cool off then head out again for the long subway ride to Queen’s and the Mets vs Cubs at Citifield.

I’ve ridden subways countless times, and have never been so packed in. Logan’s nearly as tall as I am now, but I’m pretty much literally around him, with him in front of me, and me holding onto the pole.

If I had to commute this way to work, I’d be unemployed.

It’s a beautiful ball field. There’s nothing quite like a baseball field–that green and brown and white. We’re right behind the first base dugout.

For me, it’s a beautiful, balmy night for baseball, but I wasn’t born on the Ice Planet Hoth. It isn’t such a good night for the Mets. The pitcher gets dinged with a home run in the first inning. He loads the bases (at least one with a base on balls) then walks a run in. Still, I want to see the game, and there’s this guy in the row in front of us who keeps standing up, obviously looking for someone.

It’s a lot worse when his friends arrive. One, a woman, never, never, never stopped talking. Not in a muted conversational voice, but in a loud, thick Queen’s accent. I know all about her recent vacation–ALL about it, including meals. Every day. I know her name’s Pam because the guy who kept standing up keeps talking to her, asking questions. I think one of the guys she came with is her husband, but this other guy has stars in his eyes.

I know about her work week. I know where she parked the car and why.

I wonder why this group didn’t go to a bar to catch up instead of talking through a ball game they obviously have no interest in.

By the fourth inning it’s clear the Mets aren’t likely to come back from this. It’s a rout. By the sixth, Pam has given me a headache. Doesn’t it start to hurt the throat to talk nonstop for a freaking hour? I see Logan’s not so happy–we’ve exchanged glances and rolled eyes over Pam. He tells me he has a headache. I get it.

I give him a Motrin, take a couple myself, and we decide we’ve had enough. I think the score was 11-1 Cubs at that point anyway. We head out, sit in the relative quiet, wait for Laura. It’s tough for her–a Mets fan–to sit through the sad, sad game. The others are going to tough it out, but at Logan’s request, the three of us Uber back to the hotel.

Before the first pitch, when Laura’s hopes were still high.

Logan settles down with the season final of The Flash on his phone. I have a very large drink.

When the others get back, they report a final of 14-3.


Say goodbye to Laura in the morning, who’s heading off to visit a pal on the way home. Pack up, organize. Check the space a half a dozen times. And we’re on our way home.

I asked Logan for his favorite thing on the trip. The roof of The Flatiron remains his number one, closely followed by Wonder Woman.

When we get home, Kayla comes up, and before I’m unpacked, he’s got her playing one of Kat’s card games. I’d say cards ranked high as well.

My best? Experiencing the city through a 13-year-old boy’s point of view. We had some serious fun–despite the chatty Pam–from start to finish.

The Logan Adventure Squad.


Fun and Freezing in Kentucky

Our three days of Derby are always a whirlwind of fun. Sometimes the weather cooperates, sometimes there’s some rain, or chill. This time around May decided to revisit March.

This demanded a change of wardrobe here and there. The easy-breezy summer dress and sandals for our traditional girl day while the boys are at the Oaks? Nope. Rethink that with a warmer dress, jacket, hose (I hate cold legs!) and booties. The hose and booties to be put on an hour or so post-pedicure in the ladies room of the restaurant where we have lunch.

Anyway, it’s all too much fun to whine (much).

This year we took our pals Bill and Nicole for their first Derby experience. It’s just more fun to see the whole amazing and marathon party through new eyes.

Flight’s pretty quick and easy, and we’re met by the fabulous Kathy and the fantastic Brian, whisked off to lunch and libation–in the rain. Then it’s off to the hotel to hang out, unpack, have another libation because, hey, it’s Derby. And Kathy brought bourbon–hey, it’s Kentucky–for the gentlemen.

Time to change it up for Club Night. My party shoes stayed home in lieu of booties. This year’s venue is a museum, just blocks from the hotel and it’s awesome. Before we head up to the party, our group tours the Hunger Games exhibit. The costumes! Holy Mockingjay! Just amazing and spectacular. BW has a crush on Jennifer Lawrence. Since I do, too, I can’t blame him.

Ready for Club Night!

The exhibit is really excellent, so those of you in and around Louisville shouldn’t miss it.

Then it’s party time. It’s always great to see our Derby family, those people we share this experience with year after year. We can nibble and drink and chat and catch up. Then we can dance!

We do it all, head back to the hotel–in the rain.

BW and Bill, Oaks bound

On the chilly, rain-soaked Friday morning our men dude it up for Oaks, and look hot and handsome. While they bet, bet, bet, Kathy, Nicole and I head off to City Nails for mani/pedis. I’m still hoping to wear my cute Derby shoes so get my toes painted to match my Derby dress. My nail tech performed a miracle on my fingers and toes–both in sad shape from bare feet and gardening.

Off to lunch–shivering–change from flip-flops to booties. Let’s have some champagne!

Lunch is lovely. The weather is windy and rainy. More shivering in the dash to the car, then it’s off to Rodes for some shopping.

Kathy happened to drop by Rodes a few days before, and consulted with my usual sales person, Beth. They put aside a suede-y, trench-coat-y topper they both thought I’d like.

I loved. And more than that it’s just the right warmth and weight for March in May. Thanks, Beth!

More shopping, and as is tradition my rep in the men’s department has shoes in for BW’s Father’s Day gift. (His size 14 feet are a challenge.) She shows me her favorite, and she’s nailed it. My fave, too. Father’s Day is in the bag.

More shopping for me, and for Nicole, and I find a hat I like so much better than the one I brought with me. New hat for Derby!

Back to the hotel through the wind and rain.

Time for hair, courtesy of Sarah. Makeup, glam outfits. More girl time on a fine girl day.

Men come back. I should add it poured–seriously poured rain all day. Bill apparently had little luck. BW had some. And then as we’re all doing the glam it up, the Oaks race comes on TV. BW hit the winner. So he’ll start his Derby Day ahead of the game.

Finish getting fancy. Aren’t we pretty!

BW, Nora, Bill, Nicole, Kathy glammed up and ready for the Gala

Brian escorts us down to the gala, and I’m grateful we don’t have to go outside.

I’m not so much a gala person in my actual life, but I love this event. It has that energy and excitement that’s Derby, it’s for a wonderful cause in Blessings In A Backpack. And everyone looks so pretty and happy. BW and I do the Red Carpet, then I head straight for one of my favorite parts of the night. The Silent Auction display. Oh yeah, I see some stuff to bid on–don’t forget that most excellent cause. I have the app on my phone, and I know how to use it.

On the Red Carpet

As always the York Sisters who handle the myriad of details involved in these handful of days have done a fabulous job. The ballroom is gorgeous. We have a fun table with our pals–from home and Kentucky. We have the stupendous John Elefante (Kansas) performing (and he and his lovely wife will be at our table for Derby). We have the also stupendous Wally Palmar (Romantics) performing (and also at our Derby table with his lovely wife!)

I’m busy pushing up the bidding on my chosen items (good cause).

There’s the photo booth–pick your props and mug. Which reminds me I have to go on line and order a few of my favorites.


Fun and more fun–and I make a nice haul (for a good cause) from the auction.

Time for bed.

I get up early on Derby Day, and learn–according to the news–it’s the coldest Derby morning since 1984. So much for the cute Derby shoes. It’s back to booties–and thank God for that new topper.

Cold or no cold, rain or no rain, we all look Derby polished.

We go early–BW and I like to BE there. Brian drives us through the rain, the traffic, and drops us off at the Red Carpet entrance. It’s not ready for celebs yet, but we can use that route–cut off some of the rain walk.

Then we’re up to Millionaire’s Row, and I do what I always do. Head straight out on the terrace. Even on a rain-spattered day, the Downs is glorious. But we’re in time to bet the next race!

Nicole and Nora
BW, Nicole, Bill, Nora
The lovely couple

Bet, lose a little. Hey the sun’s sort of out, so that’s a win. Outside to absorb, to look at hats and horses. Take advantage of the beautiful buffet, and the champagne our pals and Derby waitresses deliver to the table.

More people coming in, more hugs and Happy Derbys. More betting, more hats and horses. I pick a horse–I go by a name that strikes me, or a gray, or some other unscientific method. I do an across the board bet, and he comes in for me. Fairly long odds, so it’s a very fine return. Flap that cash!

Our table mates are here, and it’s so much fun to see them, to meet Wally and his wife.

The day goes by so fast–but the sun did indeed come out. It’s wonderful to stand outside (still cool!) in sunshine. And before you know it, it’s time to place those Derby bets.

I have a list that includes kids and grandkids and my own picks. I didn’t know at that time one of our Derby pals had asked BW if he wanted to kick a hundred dollars into their superfecta pool. 12 years running without a win, but you gotta bet.

Excitement’s building. So much noise, color, movement. I feel so lucky to be here, to be part of it.

A tradition, even in the rain

People crowd out on the terrace, and it’s that My Old Kentucky Home moment. It just grabs my heart every single time.

Those beautiful horses on the track, the colorful silks, the red of the roses, an infield full of people. Nothing like it.

Into the gate, excitement building. And they’re off.

I see quickly my big (relatively) bet isn’t going to pay off as my horse pulls up. Turns out it was a saddle or girth issue. But really, who cares. It’s stunning. That wall of sound, the incredible athleticism of horse and rider. For two minutes that’s the whole world. Coming down the back stretch, number five (Always Dreaming) has the lead. I don’t have a penny on him, but I’m cheering him home anyway.

And for our thirteenth time, we see the winner cross the finish line below. None of my list showed, but that’s Derby.

The Winner!

Moments later, there’s an absolute explosion of cheers and shouts from behind me. I see people I know jumping up and down, swinging each other around, high-fiving. Basically going nuts.

The pool hit the superfecta.

It’s a whole big pile of money to be split, but honestly, it’s the win. It’s that moment of holy shit, we did it. And I find out BW’s in on it.

Right then and there, one of our happy group goes down on one knee and proposes to his lady. Wow!

Good thing she said yes!

It’s so adorable, so sweet, and since he doesn’t have a ring, the clever Nicole takes little bits from her fascinator and makes one for the bride-to-be.

Foil from champagne bottle, bling from hat.

That’s our Derby family.

Tickets cashed in, taxes sliced off, and the net divided up into individual envelopes. We have a little ceremony as they’re handed out. It’s a most excellent return on $100, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But it really is the camaraderie, that moment of whee!!

We all say our goodbyes flushed with that moment. We give the newly engaged couple a ride back to the hotel, and that extends the fun just a little longer.

Back to the four of us, we get some room service, and since even party-animal BW is too tired for the after events, fall into bed.

Sunday’s sunny, of course, and a little warmer. Brian and Kathy haul us–and the considerable we picked up along the way–back to the airport. We’ll just finish this spectacular weekend with some mimosas on the short flight home.

Weather be damned. There’s nothing like Derby.


A True and Accurate Report

Throughout the magnificence of girl spa week, I read Laura’s diary with amusement, and not a little pity. Our resident Cranky Publicist and game-hater tolerates much enforced fun. I found myself pleased (as her ‘friend’) she embraced the release and comfort of a diary to express her emotional distress.

Without that release and comfort I fear I may have found her one quiet morning clutching the Wii remote, gibbering at the scoreboard while she chewed on the remains of scattered Scrabble tiles.

There’s always next year.

Meanwhile, our beleaguered Laura had a couple close calls on yet more enforced fun by barely missing qualifying for second rounds in Scrabble and Bowling. Still, a miss is as good as a mile, isn’t it?

I must add something here. I also played Scrabble–though I don’t qualify for prizes as the host. My bed of pain must also be documented. I played the ENTIRE game with two–count them–two vowels. Both Es. One in the first draw, and just one more somewhere in the middle of the game. Two. Vowels. Unless the rules open up to the official language of Pluto, a player with two vowels is screwed.

(Still I didn’t place last altogether. I will refrain from naming those who played their rounds with a reasonable number of vowels whose scores ranked below mine.)

Nicole, with her ear infection and URI and antibiotics nipped Laura by two tiny points in the first Scrabble round. And Pat skimmed by her in Bowling.

Let me take this time to add our Pat is no fan of Scrabble. It was with great compassion I approached Pat one morning, slipped my arm around her tender shoulders. I have some terrible news, I said. I’m so sorry to have to tell you. You’re in the second round of Scrabble.

She wept a little, but I was there for her.

Pat is even less of a fan of Just Dance. Once again, I had to deliver hard, distressing news. Yes, she qualified for Round Two. As the news sank in, she attacked a butler. 

However, I find it odd that someone who expresses such distaste for certain games plays well enough to move to the next round. I suspect a hustle.

We must all bow to Mary Kay Of The Golden Ball for her consistent bowling skills. We must because she reminds us regularly, and likes to point out the shine of that Golden Ball.

It is pretty.

Jeannette’s turn.
JoAnne’s turn
Mary’s turn
Laura counting all the pins, in vain
The Woman with the Golden Ball. All Hail Mary Kay!

Kat dominated Scrabble. Others may strive, may sweat and may struggle, but it’s a rare game when our Kat doesn’t lay down a full seven letter word sometime during the game, usually involving a Q on a double letter box and on a triple word score. She destroys all comers, and smiles her Kat smile.

Not Scrabble but that Kat smile.

It’s also Kat and Sarah who dominate trivia as much due to their snake-like reflexes as their knowledge of useless facts. And math. (Why are there any questions involving math?) At the end of that particular game Sarah crushed the competition with more than 17,000 points. But then Elaine comes out of nowhere in her round and nips by Kat’s impressive score.

The perfect shot by Patricia Gaffney

Going into the final rounds, we had Elaine (yes, Fearsome but also a sneakily quiet competitor) and Sarah neck-in-neck with the surprise of Nicole as a dark horse. Who would be crowned Queen?

Sarah destroys Elaine in Trivia! Will Nicole triumph in Scrabble??? Please, she had to play Kat. But perhaps she’ll reach Golden Ball status in Bowling against Elaine. Nope. The dark horse falls.

Down to the dance, Sarah and Elaine, all for the crown. Their focus is intense, their moves poetry. As the music ends, Elaine has eked out the narrowest win in Spa Girl history!

All hail The Queen!

Still, we must finish with Reverse Charades. Mostly because it’s the funniest game ever. Even there, perhaps flush from her previous victories and already insured crown, Elaine dominates. But then, I ask you, how does one (or a group as it’s Reverse Charades) act out the word Cactus?

There is truth that as Elaine (not-so-humbly) accepts the coveted plastic tiara and Bedazzled scepter, Laura must clip on (after a quick repair) the pitiful pink earrings of the Loser. In an attempt to be Solomon, I suggested she and Mary each wear one, as their sad, sad scores all but matched. But the crowd called for Laura.

Popular demand counts.

It’s not, however, all games during spa week. Jo and I–and most days Kat–started our day with workouts, and as the mornings warmed after the middle of the week, followed those with long walks with flowers blooming and the sun shining.

I’d see Laura briefly–coffee for Laura, then a round at the gym, usually with Nicole. Maybe a little breakfast in the Lounge, maybe some of us poking through the shops. Lots of: What treatment are you having today? And some contented meeting up in the Relaxation Room prior, or the locker room after where we’d compare our bliss.

Quiet reading corners, or drinks on the sunny patio, room service, naps. Ice cream night!! (Thanks, Mary Kay.) Lots of laughs, lots of hugs, lots of adult beverages.

Girl vibes–and they’re as rejuvenating as a hot stone massage. My parents didn’t give me any sisters, so I found them. Fate didn’t give me daughters, so I found them, too.

Best week ever with all my girls.


A final note on Italy

I’m happy to report the travel arrived home safely over the weekend.  We’ll head back into regular programming now — with Nora giving weekend updates while I’ll fill the space with other things — like the Apprentice In Death teasers I have planned for next week.

The way the travelogues work is Nora sends me her updates first thing in the morning while everyone loads up photos in a shared album.  I pick and choose what — I think —  best illustrates Nora’s words.  That can give me a surplus of great photos that don’t quite work in my vision of the layout.  Today I’ll share a few of those photos as a final look at Italy.

The first stop was the Capri Palace & Spa.  Here are some photos that I didn’t use first go round.

View from hotel suite. Photo by BW.
View from hotel suite. Photo by BW.
Family pano at hotel. Photo by j a-b.
Family pano at hotel. Photo by j a-b.
Kat's eye view from Anacapri. Photo by Kat.
Kat’s eye view from Anacapri. Photo by Kat.
Leftovers. Photo taken with j a-b's camera. Photographer needed to focus up a little bit more.
Leftovers. Photo taken with j a-b’s camera. Photographer needed to focus up a little bit more.
Suite art, Capri. Photo by Kat.
Suite art, Capri. Photo by Kat.
Capri view. Photo by j a-b.
Capri view. Photo by j a-b.
Way down from Anacapri. Photo by j a-b.
Way down from Anacapri. Photo by j a-b.
The suite from a distance, Capri. Photo by j a-b.
The suite from a distance, Capri. Photo by j a-b.

BW found the suite in Sorrento on a most excellent travel website: Luxury Rentals.  The specific suite is here:  Amalfi Horizon.  The company has locations around the world — the photos alone are worth the armchair trip.

Some photos from Sorrento:

Most sins are committed by the throat. Photo by Kat.
Most sins are committed by the throat. Photo by Kat.
Gelato. Photo by Kat.
Gelato. Photo by Kat.
Pickup and a pet. Photo by Kat.
Pickup and a pet. Photo by Kat.
The fam. Photo by Nora.
The fam. Photo by Nora.
Nora, communing with nature in Sorrento. Photo by j a-b.
Nora, communing with nature in Sorrento. Photo by j a-b.
Peppers. Photo by Nora.
Peppers. Photo by Nora.
Caffe of choice. Photo by Kat.
Caffe of choice. Photo by Kat.
Numbers. Photo by j a-b.
Numbers. Photo by j a-b.
Peaceful moon. Photo by Kat.
Peaceful moon. Photo by Kat.

And one last time, here’s the link to the list of workouts our intrepid adventurers did over the course of the vacation.


The final day: Sorrento

We have a fine day for our last, and natch, we start it off with a workout. BW surprises me by wanting to repeat his Cize experience, so we are three. But only two–down to me and Kat for the 8 Minute abs. Ugh! We top that off with a long, challenging yoga session with Jennifer Kries.

Feels good!

A little lunch, going through our leftovers, adding some cheese and bread and salami. And hey, last day of vacation, so let’s have a drink with that. And oh yeah, we still have gelato!

We have silly family fun setting up panoramas. Our first is in the villa’s bathrobes which Kat dubbed Obi-Wan-Bathrobie due the hood. So we pose here, change there, ham it up as Jedis in our OWBs. Then do another set as just us.

Obi-Wan Bathrobis. Photo by j a-b.
This family has too much time on their hands. Photo by j a-b.
Their civilian personas. Photo by j a-b.

This family tradition takes some staging, some plotting out, and is always fun with results that make us happy.

A little lounging time, a little Olympics, a little more walk-arounds and basks. Then I have to face it. I should start packing.

We’re all actually pretty organized by the time we head down to dinner. Not many in the restaurant tonight–the one we’ve used for take-out up until now. Wine and pasta, as it should be for our last meal in Italy.

Pizza. It's what's for dinner. Photo by Kat.
Pizza. It’s what’s for dinner. Photo by Kat.


It’s busier down on the street with people in reflective pants directing actual traffic. Lots of cars, scooters, pedestrians. There’s a festival just on the other side of the village. We can see the lights–big, glittery flowers– hear announcements over a loud speaker.

Men in reflective wear. And flowers. Photo by Kat.
Men in reflective wear. And flowers. Photo by Kat.

I wander down to the street for a few minutes. I see one of our waiters, still in his work apron, cross the street. (Side note: It’s clear all local pedestrians simply assume cars will stop for them.) He goes to a scooter, opens the back and takes out a helmet–he’s already carrying one. He puts this helmet into the scooter, dons the other, and zips out and away. I wonder where he’s going in his work apron with two helmets.

Across the street two couples are playing cards at the dining room table. Lots of open windows and lights. A restaurant delivery guy comes out with a couple pizzas, gets into his car–(Second side note: Locals also assume cars and scooters will evade the car door casually opened onto the street side.)

Lots of people walking, and we join them. It’s a pretty night, and those big flowers are festive. But boy, this annual town festival was more than I imagined.

The walk to the park. Photo by Kat.
The walk to the park. Photo by Kat.

Music’s pumping as we walk up a hill flanked with decorations. Flowers, plants, lemon trees, displays of vegetables, all colorful and artistic. And this large park–how did we miss this–is full of people, stalls with colorful candies, jars of honey, crafts and food, food, food. The music’s coming from a stage where girls dance. Ballet, modern dance, duets, groups, a lot of operatic music–much of it dark and dramatic as, hey, Italian. And really well-done. Some sit in chairs to watch, some stand, all applaud. I see a couple of little girls in white tutus who must have been part of an earlier, lighter performance.

There are fluffy little chicks in a cage, and bunnies. Stalls with clever displays of really impressive vegetables and fruit. Things that smell glorious are smoking in stalls. No wonder the restaurant wasn’t crowded. If we hadn’t already eaten (and very well) we would have done just fine with festival food. I buy some candy, because.

Rabbits and chicks. Photo by Kat.
Rabbits and chicks. Photo by Kat.
Vegetables as art. Photo by Kat.
Vegetables as art. Photo by Kat.
Festival cheese. Photo by BW.
Festival cheese. Photo by BW.

We walk back, more mindful I think of the traffic than the locals. The moon’s just started to wane, but remains gorgeous for our last walk home from the village.

La Luna. Photo by j a-b.
La Luna. Photo by j a-b.

A little more packing, organizing, then bed.

One last view. Photo by Kat.
One last view. Photo by Kat.
As requested, a look down from the pool. Photo by the accommodating Kat.
As requested, a look down from the pool. Photo by the accommodating Kat.

We’re set to leave soon for the drive into the airport, then the long flight home. It’s been a picture perfect interlude for us, full of fun and beauty and flavors and adventures. Lots of memories in the book.

Packed up and ready to head home. Photo by Kat.
Packed up and ready to head home. Photo by Kat.
The family and Bruno. Photo by Kat.
The family and Bruno. Photo by Kat.

Ciao, Italia.


Day Seventeen: Sorrento

A misty morning over the sea with skies that range from broody to blue. The blue wins as the morning spreads.

Kat and I decide on another Shaun T, one we haven’t tried yet as it’s on the last disk in the set. Whoa!

40 minutes of fast, fancy footwork. I would love to conquer this one–and that’ll take some time. Still, it keeps us moving, moving, sweating, sweating and laughing. I’ve decided laughing burns more fat and calories. I’m sure of it.

BW joins us–and was warned!–for the 8 Minute Abs. Now we are three groaning our way through it.

From there Kat and I want some upper body. Rather than bands, Kat’s idea is to use our jumbo water bottles. They may only be a little more than three pounds, but it adds a challenge. 30 minutes of this! I can’t remember the DVD. It’s part of Kat’s Beach Body collection, but when it shifts to the push-ups section, Kat drops down on the mat, and I stay up, with bottles doing tri and shoulder work. My weak right wrist won’t handle the push ups. This turns out to my advantage as Kat gasps and moans through them.

A biting fly is hounding Kat, just won’t stop nipping at her. Our Kat is one who’ll capture a bug in the house, gently, gently release it outside. So when she finally smacks, smacks, smacks, the fly into the patio with her water bottle, snarling: Die! Die! Die! It’s a moment.

We emerge, once more, sweaty, righteous girls. The fly was toast.

By the time I’m out of the shower, dressed and set up for the day, my gang’s left to find the post office in a town between here and Sorrento. Just me and the cat for awhile, and my holiday workstation with the view of the sea.

Wall o'pasta in Sant' Agnello. Photo by BW.
Wall o’pasta in Sant’ Agnello. Photo by BW.

Shortly after the gang returns I surprise myself by finishing the book. I’d hoped to make some good progress, but hadn’t counted on finishing. Go, me! But in not counting on finishing, I hadn’t done the usual spell check document by document as I went, thinking it would be simpler to do all that at home on my desktop rather than the Surface I only use a few times a year.

No problem, I think, and start.

Let me explain I use an ancient DOS WP program–I will never give it up! And my favorite geek–Jason–has found a way to install this on all my comps. I write in three chapter documents, so run spell check on the first three chapters. However the internet won’t reach my pretty station, so when I hit a word the program doesn’t recognize, and I don’t know how the hell to spell, I need to come into the kitchen, do a search for the word on my iPad. Not much of a deal, and this routine continues up to doc 6 out of 8 while the rest are watching–and commenting–on a triathlon on TV inside.

Moving along here, very happily. And suddenly, on my misspelling of barracuda, it all freezes. Can’t correct (I KNOW how the spell the damn word!), can’t escape, can’t nothing.

Call my beloved geek. Even he is puzzled by this, fiddles and fools, finally finds a way for me to escape and start the doc over. I do so with him hanging out in case. The in case happens, again on barracuda. Well, jeez, what’s with this? He thinks perhaps the program’s caught a bug, but he runs it on his device, no problem. I’m able to zip through spell check on the remaining docs, no problem.

So baffled, all around, we’ll deal with it all later. And I manually spell check the wacky doc. Apologies in advance to my editor. 

But finally, involving a lot more time and frustration than it should have, it’s done. I find the quotes I want, move into the kitchen, and through the magic of the interwebs, send the book from our holiday villa in Italy to my editor and agent in New York.   [Note from Laura:  I forget the title, but it’s an In Death. Since it won’t be out for a year, we’ll wait on that a bit.] 

Satisfying, and let’s have a bellini!

Hell, let’s have two!

I’m in time to watch the final leg of the tri–two Brit brothers well into the lead on the last grueling section. It makes it sweet to think about these brothers training together, making the Olympic team together, running now almost side-by-side on that last leg. In the last couple miles (MILES!) one bro pulls away into a clear lead, but second bro is holding firm onto second. In the last, nearly to the finish line, first bro takes a Brit flag from one of the cheering onlookers, and carries it with him across. It’s pretty great. He slows down, actually looks behind him–I like to think he’s looking for his brother–before he crosses that finish.

Then he just lies down on the track. His brother crosses about 12 seconds after, I think it was, drops down with him. They clasp hands, pat shoulders. Yeah, it’s sweet.

It’s time to change for dinner and the short drive back to the first panorama restaurant we enjoyed. Even that short drive involves hairpins and on-coming scooters. The view, the food, the happy service make it all worthwhile. Some local red, pasta and pizza, salads so fresh they deserve to be slapped. And the moon peeks round and red over the horizon. That red wash adds the exotic even as it fades on the climb. La Luna is just as striking tonight as it was last.

La luna sul mare. Photo by Kat.
La luna sul mare. Photo by Kat.

A short ride home–we have gelato at home. Mmmm. A fat white moon sailing starry skies, a bowl of gelato. A perfect way to cap the day.

Night sky full of moon. Photo by Kat.
Night sky full of moon. Photo by Kat.

Today’s our last day in Italy. I’m going to appreciate every moment–even if we do 8 Minute Abs!

We have plans for some fun family pictures around our holiday home. But for now my gang’s still sleeping. I think I’ll take a little walk around, rub some rosemary on my hands and enjoy the view. 

BW on the edge. Photo by BW.
BW on the edge. Photo by BW.
Because it's there. Photo by BW.
Because it’s there. Photo by BW.


Day Sixteen: Sorrento

Shaun T’s our man today as clouds roll and the sun goes in and out. We decide to try his bonus section. It’s not easy to sweat and laugh–because you just can’t make your feet, your hands, your body remember the moves–but we manage. In fact, we manage the two bonus routines for better than 60 minutes. And smooth and soothe and stretch it out with Rodney for 20 minutes of yoga. [Workout list is here.]

I’m done–but Kat’s still revved. I clean up, and when I come back to set up at the kitchen table to work, she’s still rocking it on the patio.

You go, baby!

By the time she’s finished, and she must’ve done around another HOUR out there, the sky’s gone moody and broody. Smoky clouds over the near hills, trailing and swirling. We’ve having a much cooler day, with rain patterning, and the view from our perch forms a huge curtain of soft, spooky white. No land visible past our little islands–as if we might be the ones floating now through the mists and smoke.

Stormy morning. Photo by Nora.
Stormy morning. Photo by Nora.

A good day to be tucked in. The calico comes to curl up for a nap on the kitchen door mat.

The calico cat -- posing for Kat.
The calico cat — posing for Kat.

We share our cookies with the housekeeper, have a fun, interesting conversation in bits of language, with some hand language and props. She approves the cookies, and the ‘moat’ Kat (I mentioned KatGyer) created to protect them from ants. One large-ish shallow bowl stacked with a smaller one inside, topped by the cookie plate. Add some soapy water to bottom bowl. If ants come calling, they hit the moat, not the cookies.

With afternoon the blue breaks through, in little pieces at first, then spreading. The haze lifts, sweeps away as it swept in. Jason heats up what he calls his pizzagana–his leftover pizza from the night before. BW surfaces from downstairs, and Kat makes a lovely platter of cheese and bread and salami while I finish up at the keyboard for the day.

The view from indoors, Photo by j a-b.
The view from indoors, Photo by j a-b.

I believe it’s glass of wine time–probably long past! And with wine and the revived sunshine, a nice walk about. I could have picked another two pounds of figs easily. I really hope someone does.

We mostly laze through the late afternoon. It’s good to vacate on a vacation, so we decide to eat at home. Time to make another pot of red sauce, more tomatoes and mozzerella. We have big tubes of pasta to boil, and with Kat and Jason willing to walk to the market, more supplies. (And more wine!)

Red sauce. It's what's good for you. Photo by Nora.
Red sauce. It’s what’s good for you. Photo by Nora.

A pretty little cucumber, a lovely red pepper, some fresh bread to go with the garlic-butter-herb mix Kat’s made. She makes more fresh lemonade–mmm–Jason chops, I stir. We create ourselves a very fine meal for dining on the patio.

Dinner's on. Photo by Kat.
Dinner’s on. Photo by Kat.

The moon rises as we eat. It becomes a full, perfect, fat white ball in a sky of deep, twilight blue. Stunning. Stunning enough it draws us away from the food and toward the cameras. I’m not sure any photo can replicate the sheer beauty, the way the moon sails up from the horizon, first just the rounded top of the sphere, then more and more until it hangs full over sea and land. Or the way it glides in and out of clouds, shoots a silver, shining streak over the water. How it seems to glow whiter and whiter as the sky deepens to night-black.

La bella luna.

La luna -- as seen by Nora.
La luna — as seen by Nora.
La luna -- as seen by Kat.
La luna — as seen by Kat.
La luna -- as seen by BW.
La luna — as seen by BW.
La Luna -- as seen by j a-b.
La Luna — as seen by j a-b.

After the meal, after group KP, I wander out to admire it several times. How often will I have the chance to enjoy a full white moon sailing over the Med?

It’s been a lovely, quiet day of mists and rain, sun and blue, and a breathless moon over dark seas.

La luna through a fish eye lens. Photo by j a-b.
La luna through a fish eye lens. Photo by j a-b.

Soft breezes this morning. Kat and BW have an outing planned. I don’t know if Jason’s going with them, but I’m happy right here, away from those snaking roads.


Day Fifteen: Sorrento on land and by sea

When BW says he’s up for a workout, we go for a 30-odd minute Shaun T. BW Cizes it up with me and Kat. I think we rocked it. Our guy cools it off with a swim while Kat and I face the rigors of 8 Minutes Abs, then do some resistance training, another round of cardio before we call that part of our day a wrap.  [Note from Laura: see workout list here.]

BW and Jason are heading off to Sorrento to meet Bruno and his boat for the day. Kat and I remain landlubbers. While my girls walks to the market, I clean myself up, set up for writing on the patio.

A lovely breeze, a lovely view.

When I slip into the kitchen for a moment, Kat’s dicing up figs. So pretty! She has her recipe, her ingredients. She has a plan. I work, wander in off and on to record her progress.

Chopped figs.  Photo by Nora.
Chopped figs. Photo by Nora.

A small issue. We have no measuring cups. The Ukranian housekeeper tries to help, finding a small plastic cup and marking it metrically. But Kat’s got her own way.

I watch her take a Coke bottle, cut off the base and make her own cup. She uses the ounce measurements on the blender pitcher, figures and calculates. And has herself a measuring cup for the dough.

This is the girl you want with you when you find yourself shipwrecked on a deserted island.

Measuring cup by Katgyver.  Photo by Nora.
Measuring cup by Katgyver. Photo by Nora.

Fresh figs simmering, pretty (and tasty) dough mixed up.

Cooked figs.  Photo by Nora.
Cooked figs. Photo by Nora.
Fig Newton dough.  Photo by Nora.
Fig Newton dough. Photo by Nora.

While it chills, I go back to work. I hear Kat singing along with Adele while she sits at the kitchen table with her tablet. I must have gone deep into the work as suddenly I smell something fabulous.

In I go to see Kat’s already rolled out the dough–making a rolling pin out of aluminum foil and cling wrap–don’t ask! I have no idea how she manages to come up with things like this, but it’s why we call her KatGyver.

The long logs of fig-filled cookies are baking, already sending out a siren’s scent.

Baked Fig Newtons.  Photo by Nora.
Baked Fig Newtons. Photo by Nora.

A little more work for me–it’s such a nice day and obviously Kat’s got this.

When I knock off for the day, the cookies are cooling. We watch a little Olympics–and a reply of the endearing, amazing, one-in-a-million Bolt’s sprint.

Time to cut those cookie logs into servings. I don’t like figs, have never liked the Fig Newtons my pop was so fond of–and BW continues fond of. But I take a small one. Okay, I like Kat’s Fig Newtons. The cookie part is perfectly delicious, and I’m sure partially because of fresh figs and partially because of Kat magic, the filling is fabulous.

Finished Fig Newtons a la Kat.  (BW critique: Yum!) Photo by Nora.
Finished Fig Newtons a la Kat. (BW critique: Yum!) Photo by Nora.

I’m a fan.

The guys text–they’re off the boat, going into town to complete a task, and want to go out to dinner. Okay then. We change, doll up a little. The breeze has come on strong with evening so I pull out the white linen jacket I found–I think in Sorrento.

The calico comes to visit, and oops, a few bites of ham fall out of Kat’s fingers. This draws the gray tabby with the fierce face. This one has a cold, unwavering eye–a warrior’s eye. Not the type to preen under a human hand, this one. In fact, Kat wonders if she meets those eyes directly, he’d turn her into a frog.

He looks capable.

Here come our sailors. A great day for them. Beautiful seas and skies, a wonderful trip along the coast–with photos that show just how high up our villa sits on the cliff. I knew we were up there, but the tiny white building perched up there from the water’s perspective? Wow, we’re UP there.

Bruno -- villa owner and boat captain.  Photo by BW.
Bruno — villa owner and boat captain. Photo by BW.
The view of the villa from the sea. (Note very small arrow.) Photo by BW.
The view of the villa from the sea. (Note very small arrow.) Photo by BW.

They got into their best snorkeling gear and went snorkeling–and avoided jelly fish. Jason claims the water was cold enough it took his breath away when he first jumped in. They cruised around our little islands. One is privately owned, with a big villa, other homes, a church. Jason says we wouldn’t have enjoyed ourselves, as the ride back was wild and bumpy. But then, he and BW always loved boats. We four all had a fine day doing what we enjoy.

Lively water.  Photo by j a-b.
Lively water. Photo by j a-b.

They have photos, lots of them. Some of skinny, crowded beaches where there are more rocks (or concrete) than sand. And still the umbrellas and sun-lovers gather. Back in Sorrento they rode the beach elevator (!) from the beach up to town.

From BW: Motor bike parking in Sorrento marina.  Photo by j a-b.
From BW: Motor bike parking in Sorrento marina. Photo by j a-b.
Heading out.   Photo by j a-b.
Heading out. Photo by j a-b.
Secluded beach from the boat.  Photo by j a-b.
Secluded beach from the boat. Photo by j a-b.
Marina del Cantone.  Photo by BW.
Marina del Cantone. Photo by BW.
Il Galla Lungo Island.  Photo by BW.
Il Galla Lungo Island. Photo by BW.

Now, full of sea stories, we walk down to our little village for dinner.

Such a pretty night, the clouds forming swirls and sweeps over the hills. We’re a happy, hungry group and choose the revisit the charming restaurant where we had our first meal here.

A table beside ours is full of people–and a little dog. He looks like a small labradoodle, all curly gold. He’s Chester, and wags over to me for a pet. And more pets. Chester and I bond. The group, from the voices and accents, seems to be a mix of Americans and Italians–and they look as if, like our guys, they’ve been out on a boat, or maybe they’ve come in from the beach or a pool.

Happy group, happy dog.

We’re happy, too, as the food’s just as good as it was the first time, and the service charming.

Dinner.  Photo by Kat.
Dinner. Photo by Kat.

A walk back under a fat white moon. A visit on the way from a couple of the local dogs. There’s some traffic on our little road tonight–maybe it’s that moon. Where are they going? Scooters, little cars. Then again, it’s such a gorgeous night, why not go for a drive?

Nearly full.  Photo by Kat.
Nearly full. Photo by Kat.

I manage to read for about ten minutes, then just drop away.

This morning, the clouds across the sea formed a magic cityscape on the horizon, as if mystical buildings had grown up overnight. There’s just a blush of pink behind them, and the pale, still water along their foundations.

The cloud city holds for awhile, a quiet shimmer, than disappears into the mist.

A charming start to another day.  


Italy workouts: The list

Kat put together a list of the workouts she and Nora have done in the mornings this vacation.

I’ve added hyperlinks so you can explore if you want — some are to retail sites, some are to the instructor’s sites.  All of them are meant to be starting points — it’s up to you to do the research. It even includes a Lumitea Bloating relief method for the big meals you will probably have in Italy.  Always look at reviews of the workouts, click on the video samples.

Kat said in her email to me:  Everything  is either low impact or can be pretty easily adjusted to be low impact.  I was very excited to see people getting inspired to workout from hearing about us working out!

Cize: The End of Exercise with Shaun T by Beachbody

Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Your Week by Gaiam

Scott Cole presents Tai Chi Training by Mill Creek Entertainment

10 Minute Solution: Dance It Off & Tone It Up! by Anchor Bay Entertainment

10 Minute Solution: Tone Trouble Zones (resistance band workout) by Anchor Bay Entertainment

10 Minute Solution: Slim & Sculpt Pilates (resistance band workout) by Starz Home Entertainment

Prevention Fitness Systems Express Workout with Jennifer Galardi Dance It Off!

Bootcamp Boogie, Petra Kolber Fit Life Wellness Series

Liquid Grooves Petra Kolber Fit Life Wellness Series

Crunch Cardio Salsa (with Giselle) by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Dance Off the Inches Cardio Hip Hop by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Yoga: Flow Saraswati River Tradition with Zyrka Landwijt by Real Bodywork  (Note from Laura — I own this one and it’s really excellent.)

Kat hasn’t done the ones below yet with Nora, but they’re also in her folder, including some weight bench only workout.

Jennifer Kries New Body! Pilates III by Razor Digital Entertainment

Jennifer Kries Power Flow Vinyasa Yoga by Razor Digital Entertainment


Day Fourteen: The trip to Pompeii

The usual gorgeous day dawns, all rosy gold blurring to blue. Kat and I decide to hit a short workout early, as we’re driving to Pompeii for the day. She picks a 20-minute Pyro routine. It’s called Fire for a reason. Holy crap! This may be low impact, but it ain’t low energy. 

And done!
We gear up, sunscreen, water, hats, guides, program the GPS and we’re off.
Shortly BW is wary as our Brit GPS girl is taking us in a different direction than he believes she should. Stop, consult map. They are both correct, so we go with the Brit. This, we discover, may be a shorter route by a couple kilometers, but OMG. She takes us climbing on the skinniest roads yet, beside high unforgiving walls on one side, parked cars on the other–and it’s considered a two-lane road. Up and squeezing, up and snaking. We pass the red villa we can see–high up–from our own. I’ve wondered about this place, but now that we’re going by I just want to live through the drive.
We go through what appears to be a vertical village, the road all but straight up, the houses stacked on top of it and each other. I feel I could have snatched laundry hanging out on balconies. We decide, firmly, we won’t come back this route.
Out again on the marginally wider road. We’re heading more or less to Sorrento, and there’s considerable traffic jammed the other way. So scooters and motorbikes just swing out, come at us in our lane, zip back between cars. Again and again, shooting out, coming balls out toward us, until I just say: Stop that! Stop that right now!
It’s harrowing, but they don’t stop.
 Ultimately our navigation gives us the turns, we learn, when we’re AT the turns. Now we must begin to anticipate as her 50 meters is not reality. But we get to an actual highway, and into the longest tunnel I’ve ever been through, out, into another, then a third. Still, this is the straightest road we’ve come across.
We drive over and by the contemporary city of Pompeii, sprawling, urban, big.
And finally into the bustling, touristy area outside the historic site. Many options for parking–with people actively waving cars into lots. We’re a little confused as it’s very, very busy, very active. We make a turn, and a man perched on the corner tells us: Go down! Well, we gotta now.
It turns out it’s a small lot, mostly with caravans. And we park for the day.
I’m very grateful to get out of the car.
Up the road again, but not before a little girl encourages us to come see the ‘baby’, a pretty gray kitten.
A man comes up with us, guiding us across the busy road. A short stop in a shop with cameos and coral and so on at his insistence, then we make our way to the entrance. Jason’s bought tickets on-line, so after some confusion this saves us a line, and we walk down a wide promenade, tree-lined, sun and shade. A long walk which none of us recognize from our initial visit.
Entering Pompeii. Photo by BW.
Entering Pompeii. Photo by BW.
But eventually, with a turn here, there, we come to it. Kat has a map and a guide, not especially easy to follow, but helpful.
Many things strike about Pompeii. The size of it–this was a large, thriving city, a sprawling center with good stone roads, villas, houses, shops, gardens, orchards, an aqueduct–there are wells that still provide water. And art. The art lives on, and I find that achingly wonderful. The frescoes, some stunningly well preserved, are a testament, I think, to human imagination and creativity, to the love of beauty. The softly faded reds, somehow still vibrant blues, all those images someone saw in their own heads, created with their own hands are still there.
A small bird on the wing, a flowering tree, a goddess. All still there among the ruins.
Along with the wonder of that, the respect and appreciation of that, is the strong sense of sorrow. So many people, ordinary people going about their lives. Mothers tending babies, children sleeping, servants preparing food, every day things–all with their lives ended so suddenly, so abruptly by the eruption of the great mountain. Minutes, only minutes, for that intense heat then the smothering storm of ash to bury them where they stood or slept. A horror, a tragedy we’re now part of by walking those same streets, stepping inside those houses and shops.
It’s almost too much, it’s an actual weight despite the crowds of people in shorts, with cameras, with babies in strollers. Thousands of people gone in a matter of heartbeats lived and walked right here.
So I look instead of what they accomplished, what they left behind, how they lived, what they loved. There’s an expansive villa that catches me especially. A woman’s villa–Julia. It must have been stunning, as what remains still is. The frescoes and mosaics, the lovely, lovely central gardens with pools (that were heated). There’s a chamber done in white marble, the floor, two long sloping benches, wall niches, overlooking the gardens. To my delight, I read this was the dining room. Guests would lounge on the marble beds while water trickled down one of the niches, there to dine and enjoy the gardens.
Photo by BW.
Photo by BW.
It’s so wonderfully, outrageously decadant.
I wonder about Julia, how she accumulated her wealth and position, how she entertained, lived, loved.
We go into a villa dedicated to Venus where the large fresco of the goddess is almost perfectly preserved. The guide says it’s awkwardly painted, but I don’t find it so. I find it beautiful and hopeful. Art survives.
Pompeii art. Photo by Kat.
Pompeii art. Photo by Kat.
The larger view. Photo by j a-b.
We’ve seen theaters–they had two–the grand and the every day. What may have been a humble shop or home still shows bits and pieces of the frescos, the color and imagery that seems to have been a part of the fabric of life here.
Jason, Nora, Kat. Photo by BW.
Jason, Nora, Kat. Photo by BW.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Pompeii hillside. Photo by j a-b.
Pompeii hillside. Photo by j a-b.
In Pompeii. Photo by Kat.
In Pompeii. Photo by Kat.
We walk and look, stop and wonder for a couple of hours, and don’t see half the city.
We make it to the amphitheater, take the ramp down as this was dug out instead of built on. It’s massive–and according to the guide, the oldest known of its kind. So art, commerce, games and sports. And likely some brutal combat as there’s an iron hook fixed into the ground in the center. I can’t imagine those–human or animal–chained there had a good day.
Still, it’s truly amazing, the size and scope of it, fascinating to imagine those stone stands filled with people cheering.
We go into what I think was billed as the grand palace–it’s now used for exhibitions. Not only is the art inside a bit odd–very Egyptian–but the set up is strange and disorienting. Lots of twisting, weirdly lit corridors with dark walls (Kat bills it as the Fun House). I’m actually dizzy–and some relieved when Kat announces she’s dizzy. Our guys admit they’re off, too, and we find out way out into the air and light.
A nice open area–and there it is–the rise and loom of Vesuvius. It’s beautiful, no question, and supposedly still active. But he’s quiet today, and we can look out to him as I imagine the thousands who once lived there often did.
Walled vineyards in Pompeii. Photo by BW.
Photo by BW.
Pompeii structures. Photo by BW.
Pompeii structures. Photo by BW.
In Pompeii. Photo by Kat.
In Pompeii. Photo by Kat.
More walking, more streets, more turns and a short, vertical climb up some stairs. I nearly balk at the stairs as they feel slippery under my feet, but up we go with me pulling myself by the wood rail.
It’s worth it for the view. The city, the vineyards, the great mountain, the world spread out.
Down the path, around turns. The map causes some head-scratching. A sit on smooth-topped broken pillars in the shade for a minute. Jason goes off and finds displays of pots and utensils, that heart-breaking every-day again.
We find the big open area, the forum I think of as a big park. They’ve added some huge and interesting art–I’d have wished for art reflecting of the time, but it’s still fascinating. Icarus is very popular, so popular one of his statues, depicting him fallen after his brush with the sun, is well-weathered–but for his prominent phallis. That’s very shiny!
Modern art in Pompeii. Photo by j a-b.
Modern art in Pompeii. Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.

We’ve missed much, but you’d need days to truly cover the site. It’s marvelous and achingly sad, a mirror into the ordinary and the extraordinary of ancient culture and life. A reminder to live as fate can be quick and cruel. And certainly a testament to archeologists, anthropologists, preservationists, historians, all who dedicate their skills to uncover and study what was, and who was.

We find our way out, breeze through the souvenir stalls (many) but I want some tee-shirts for the kids from Pompeii. Jason and Kat grab cold drinks, and we head to the garden restaurant attached to our parking lot.
It’s mostly shaded and they have a fine mist that blows through cool at intervals.
And they have wine.
Four tired adventurers revive with lunch. Across from me, a woman at a table is eating pizza with a knife and fork. To me this is already just wrong, but I see she’s carefully cutting around the crust, eating only the inside and leaving an almost perfect ring of crust on her plate.
If lunch revives, surely gelato will polish it all off. It so happens our little lot also has a gelato stand. One-stop shopping!
Now, the long drive home.
Back through the tunnels, back onto the winding coast road. A stop for a vista–and as there’s a stand hugging the curve, a cold drink. I get a kind of lemon slushy–just a little cup of delish.


The view from above Naples. Photo by BW.
The view from above Naples. Photo by BW.
But the drive really takes a toll on my system, and poor Kat’s in the backseat. Kudos to BW for handling it all, but nothing looks sweeter than the gates opening on our villa. I take a walk around in the air, Kat takes a lie-down.
Some quiet time, some catch up time. Some wine for me as the rose comes back to haze the horizon.
Smoothed out again, it’s time to consider dinner. Nobody wants to go out–yay! We have some leftovers, and as Jason and Kat will walk down to the market, they can pick up a couple things to supplement what we have.
They come back with good news and bad news. Bad news? The market’s closed, but they got the additional pasta to mix in with leftovers, a big salad to add to our field greens, and were given a big half loaf of fresh bread.
We put all this together–with some tomatoes, mozzarella and basil prepared fresh in our kitchen–and have a fine meal in that kitchen. It’s gotten really breezy out, and the kitchen meal is nice and cozy. After a team clean up, the calico drops by. She and Jason have a nice visit.
I was sure I could polish off my lemon cake, but I can’t. Hey, it could be breakfast.
Today, BW and Jason head into Sorrento where the villa manager has a boat. They’ll have a day on the water. Kat and I aren’t much for boats. After our workout, likely after I write awhile, we’ll try our hand at baking fig newtons. I have to add that two pounds of figs are recommended. To determine if we had enough, too many, Kat–being Kat–devised a scale using a coat hanging and a bag of sugar.

Kat's inventive scale.  Photo by Nora.
Kat’s inventive scale. Photo by Nora. 
We’re good on figs!
Note from Laura:  I’m not sure if it was internet or a food coma, but I finally received photos from the meal with the chefs.  I’ve added them to Day Thirteen.