Saturday, May 19, 2007

Friday, May 4th

Perk number 7,234 about our job with Norwegian - we can sign up to escort tours and shore excursions and therefore get to take the trip ourselves for free. Well, not totally free - we have to make sure no one gets left behind, answer some pretty inane questions, and write up a small report about the day. So, it's basically free.

For our 1st day in Naples, Steve and I decided to sign up for some of the tours. We can't be on the same tour, so Steve picked the excursion to Pompeii that included a very intense hike up the volcanic rocks.

I chose a bus tour for disabled people.

Walkers, wheelchairs, leg casts, you name it. After all we did in Rome the day before, it was just my speed. The tour consisted of an air-conditioned bus tour around Naples, with a stop at the top of the hill to take photos and another stop at a cafe to have an ice cream, which was included.

Our tour guide was Umberto, who had to be all of 22 and all of 5'4". He was fantastic. Tour guides provide for some wonderful psychoanalyzing. When a person is talking that consistently for that long, you learn a lot about their subject, but even more about them if you listen closely. I loved how Umberto would throw in little bits about soccer anytime he could and how he flipped out about how boring all the buildings built during the Fascist Regime were.

These lovely ladies were the biggest pains in the ass. They were sweet and eager but they were always about 75 feet behind the group and would buy ANYTHING from ANYONE. I mean it.
They bought absolute crap for ridiculous prices - like a postcard for 2 Euros or a ball that could stick to a wall for 5 Euro. Nothing says Naples like a cheap Koosh Ball that can stick to a surface for 30 seconds.

This bus tour was popular not only with people who weren't really into walking but also with people who were scared of big cities. Naples isn't the nicest city in Italy in the sense that it is unafraid to hide the fact that it is a big city, with crime and poverty and graffiti and loitering. You know, life. The way people acted when they saw a pack of kids outside a building with a shoddy facade and spray paint on it you would have thought they were looking at militants in Anwar Province.

We weren't let out of the bus until we got to an area where the buildings looked like this:
and none of the balconies had laundry hanging from them.

Openly drying laundry seems to be the international sign for "I'm going to get jacked in this part of town." Laundry hanging out to dry, however, is also a very popular photo subject, as people went nuts with their cameras every time they saw it.

We were also let out for ice cream at a cafe called Gambrinus. Sorry, Gelato.
Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of beer or beer brewing. Of course we weren't allowed to get a beer. Ice cream is safer.

It was definitely more of an anthropological study than a study of the city. But, I enjoyed my safe little tour. We're coming back to Naples very, very soon. I'm looking forward to exploring it on foot and taking pictures without a bus window in front of me, as taking pictures of something through the window of a bus is kind of like watching fireworks on TV.

I just know when I see clothes-pinned garments to grab my purse a little tighter.

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