Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Crash Goes on a Cruise--Part II

Tap, tap.

Is this thing still on?


Crash attempts to awaken the two people sitting in the audience. She is only halfway through with her travelogue.

She clears her throat:


Saturday. Once again the family hires a private tour guide. Tonio is excellent at letting them know what time they will reach each destination and teaching them important Italian catch phrases such as Babaloo, which he uses to refer to idiot drivers and Germans, and Bunga Bunga, which he uses to . . .  make McKenzie and Brody plug their ears and cry, “children on board!” 

The tour bus crawls along the steep shoreline of the Amalfi coast. Think narrow, winding roads with stunning views. (Windows seats cost extra.) 

At the end of the coast is a classy cool town called Positano. Under the Tuscan Sun filmed in this town. John Steinbeck wrote a short story about this town. It’s that kind of classy cool. 

The family receives threatening instructions from their bus driver to be back in one hour. They must obey. Lingering along the lovely narrow streets is not an option. But the view of the sophisticated sea resort from the beach is worth the rush. It's postcard pretty. Orange trees. Lemons trees. Palm trees. Rows of beach chairs and umbrellas in delicate pastel colors.  Alan and Paul are captivated and begin ripping off their shirts. They dive recklessly into the ocean while the rest of the group runs along to buy pretty gifts in pretty shops before the clock strikes twelve.

Next the family makes their way to Sorrento, where locals eat nothing but charm for breakfast. They sign their names in blood and promise to be back on board within the hour. They manage a buy some lemon drops and peak over the edge of town at the sweeping vista ocean resort view below.

Now they are at Frantoio Gargiulo--a family operated shop on the outskirts of town, where a variety of sweet and savory olive oils are laid out on a table for the tasting. The family easily succumbs. They dip and buy and dip and buy. 

Now they are watching a shy Italian woman make mozzarella cheese at La Sorgente in the hills above the city. The process takes five hours daily if you include milking the cow, but the family gets a made-for-TV demonstration. They are on a farm where fresh olive oil and limoncello (lemon wine) are produced. 

A lovely table of cheese, wine, antipasto, and bread is set before them. Yum, but we don’t drink wine, says the family. What? Impossible! Then we will squeeze fresh lemons into water and call it lemonade. See how they like it. This is said behind closed doors in Italian accents. The Americans don’t hear the chortling from the kitchen as they drink what life has handed them. 

There is a price to pay for snubbing limoncello in Italy.

The last stop of the day is the ruins of Pompeii, a city frozen in time for 2,000 years by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius. 

The clock is ticking so the tour guide needs to narrow. He chooses the red light district. This hole is where the red light was located, says the tour guide. The family is scratching their heads. This stone is not Mickey Mouse. He is pointing to the road at a rock shaped like male parts. A recurring theme in Italy. Men would bring women to this rock to communicate what they had in mind for the evening. That makes sense. 

More than one family member is wishing they had tried the limoncello. 

On their way back to the bus the tour guide hands out booklets so the family can look at pictures of the important things they missed. The rock is not among them. 


Venice requires a story. Once upon a time the East met the West on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. They fell in love and made a baby. Venice, they named her, after her Roman baby daddy. But she was more Byzantine Empire than Roman Empire. More Istanbul when it was Constantinople than Rome when it was Rome. She was unique. She was beautiful. She was . . . centrally located. In an extremely powerful way. She became the Queen of the Adriatic. The most elegant, luxurious city in the world. Rumor had it music could be heard from every open window in Venice. Her navy dominated during the middle ages. The crusades were planned in her parlor. The trade route to silk and spice led to her front door. She was the original “spice” girl. 

And then Columbus discovered America. The End.

Monday. This is Venice. This floating city. This jilted city, of masks and bridges and canals. The city that gave the world Casanova and Marco Polo and the “it” bag. Leather and lace. Glass with class. 

The family has been travelling for a week, yet no one is tired because even in a state of slow decay Venice fascinates. The ship slows way down for the grand entrance. A canoe could glide faster between the rows of muted creamy buildings. Cathedrals and palaces. Domes and spires. Lancet arches set in gothic designs 

So much geometric complexity!

But look closer. Something is off. Where is the light in her eyes? The walls can talk. I’m pooped, they say. The only thing alive here are the 50,000 tourists who walk all over me each day. Give us some romance, the tourists say. Not tonight, she replies. I have a headache.

But whatever. This is Venice. 

The family pays $50 each to catch a ferry from the ship to St. Mark’s Square. A prostitute would charge less. 

But whatever. This is Venice. 

Dixie is still keeping up. Even in the rain she makes her way through the city in her Audrey Hepburn hat with a certain je ne sais quoi. She sits with perfect posture on bridges while the family buys silk ties, leather bags and Murano glass bracelets. They drop 240 Euros for three gondolas and then glide along canals and under bridges cuddling and kissing for the camera. Paul and Jen’s gondolier serenades them with gusto. It rocks Paul’s world. 

The youngers in the family want some authentic Italian pizza. Plus, they have to go to the bathroom. They find a hip spot called Bar Nova. Bathrooms are free, but the waitress gets hostile when they order only two pizzas. What?? No wine?? No cookies?? She charges them $10 for sitting at the table. 

But whatever. This is Venice.

As the sun sinks into the sea, St. Mark’s square begins emptying its streets of tourists. Marianne, Brody and McKenzie grab a gelato and linger. Venice no longer has a headache. Strings of lights twinkle to life along the outdoor caf├ęs where musicians gather and fill the air with sounds. Brody’s thoughts turn to Courtney. McKenzie’s thoughts turn to Andrew. Marianne’s thoughts turn to . . . her favorite wedding planner.


Wednesday. The family takes it easy in this lovely, restful town where barred windows are more of a fashion statement than a safety precaution. Bikes are all the rage in Ravenna. Nuns carry Bibles on bikes. Old men carry flowers on bikes. Young boys wear Speedy Gonzalaz hats on bikes. 

In the morning the family dodges bikes and eats pastry. In the afternoon the family dodges bikes and eats gelato. 

They peek into churches and museums, searching for well-known mosaics.

Dante is buried in this town. Divine Comedy Dante! Dante’s Inferno Dante! Father of the Italian language and poet second only to Shakespeare Dante! Paul helps Debbie find his tomb so she has something to talk about at school. 

A few churches and a doll museum later, the family is gathered around tables eating gelato in front of Sorbetteria degli Esarchi. It might possibly be the best gelateria in the world. Or it might be the 7th in Ravenna. With flavors like frutte di bocca, tiramisu, and bocio what does it matter? Under Debbie’s powerful influence, Mark orders one after another.


Thursday. Paul negotiates a private boat tour on the spot and the family is sailing through the deep green bay of Kotor. They are in love with each other. They are in love with the world. They are in love with Montenegro. It is not the barren wasteland they imagined during the Cosovo war. It sparkles dramatically. Bright mission rooftops between the shoreline and the mountains. 

Now the family is doing a photo shoot at the church on The Lady of the Rocks, a man-made islet. Literally. For hundreds of years local residents threw rocks into the sea until it grew wide enough to hold a church. Stranger things have happened. 

Now it’s off to Perest for Gelato and a stretch. Alan, Susan, and Mckenzie buy local art for $25. 

Now they are sailing back to the picturesque landscape of Kotor. The family wanders captivated through the maze of medieval houses inside the old walled town. They totally get it now. Why this city is called the city of cats. 

Under Debbie’s powerful influence, Susan is seduced by owls on scarves, and Jen is seduced by pastries in the town square. 

With great power comes great responsibility. 

Now the the family is bidding farewell to this historic relic by the sea. And also to the sea itself. Within hours they will be rolling luggage down the gangplank and blowing kisses at each other into the wind. 

Cheers to getting a jump start on forever. 



Welcome to the Garden of Egan said...

Crash LIVES!!!!!

Glad you went on a cruise. Sounds delish!

How the heck are ya?

Unknown said...

Crash! Oh my gosh! It's been such a long time since I've been to your blog. I can't wait to go strolling through all your adventures of years past.

Andrea (The Blogging Mama of years past, formerly of Germany, Philadelphia, Kentucky, Seattle and currently, London)

Momza said...

I just spent time in Rome, Italy last month and all I can say is I have to go back for more! Everyone should go to Rome at least once in their lifetime. The people are beautiful, the food is divine and the sites are unforgettable!