Rain

The girls all left for the airport early this morning. As I came out of my cabin Lara had cleared her bedding and was stuffing the sheets in a pillowcase in the Sunsail tradition. I could have turned round and wept. Melodrama resisted we helped ferry their bags to the taxi and waved them off. It had been due to rain, but stayed fine for about an hour, giving them time to reach the airport. Once the rain started it carried on relentlessly all day and the temperatures plummeted. We felt very glum, but I cheered myself up by writing about the holiday and reliving the happy time we have just enjoyed.

 

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Goodbye to the Mustard Bus

The girls have one more day with us, but Johnsey and Scamp had to set off on the homeward journey this morning. Emma cooked him a good breakfast and packed him up with gluten free pasta for lunch. We all piled into the bus, John in the front, the girls and I in a row on the sofa, Scamp in and out his mouse hole between us. Johnsey drove us along the marina to the bar and reversed the huge bus into a parking space, gaining admiring looks from the Italian van drivers. It was very comfortable ride. We ordered coffee and breakfast croissants, while Emma and Johnsey put the sofa down to make a bed ready for evening. Scamp likes to jump over onto it en route as a change from using the mouse hole. It was time for Johnsey and Scamp to go. Lara suggested he give us a lift back, so this time the girls and I had to lie on the bed for the trip. The panoramic views of yachts and water through the windows gave the marina an unexpected glamour.

We all waved man and dog off and then felt a bit miserable.

IMG_2686John, Katie and Emma went off to the shop for supplies and made a Sunsail lunch. After lunch we took a taxi to the Villa Marco, a nearby, partly restored ruin from the Roman era, had a peaceful wander round and were adopted by a large ginger cat. We came across the cat sunbathing amongst the avenue of trees planted to recreate the garden around a large baths. It showed no interest in us at all. Katie, John and Lara sat on a bench in the sun, whilst Emma and I wandered over to read the notice board. By the time we came back the cat was standing on John, kneading his paws into John’s legs. Emma sat down so she could have a turn as the cat moved across, and Lara stood up to avoid him. He was not keen to move from Emma, but Lara ‘ticed him away and we made our way back to the entrance for our taxi.

That evening the girls made an Italian fajita feast.

 

 

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Back to Stabia

Next morning Emma and Johnsey were up early to catch the train to Pompeii. Originally the rest of us planned to have a morning in Sorrento, before sailing back to Stabia at around twelve, but the weather forecast for high winds in the afternoon put paid to that idea. We set out after breakfast instead, with a very quiet little dog, which slumped on the lap of each of us in turn. The four of us had visited Pompeii two years ago in September and had been awed by the scale of it all, but sapped by the heat. This must be the best time of year to go, much cooler and Emma reported that the ruins were riven with poppies.

We had planned to go into Castellemare and eat in the sushi restaurant, but could not raise them on the phone to ask about the dog. When Emma and Johnsey had passed it on the way back from the station the shutters had been down and we began to wonder if it opened on Sunday night. It was rather a long walk to find out. As I was rather sullen at the prospect of having our last night together on board eating out of tins we resolved to try a nearby restaurant on the other side of the railway. We had not tried this one before having been put off by the mixed online reviews. There were only two, one saying it was marvellously authentic, the other that entering it was akin to a scene from Deliverance. Our first impressions erred on the Deliverance side. There appeared to be a shanty arrangement of low buildings at around a small car park, illuminated by Christmassy fairy lights in the shape of stars. A large man stood at the door looking us up and down and calling over his shoulder in Italian, not moving to let us in. We asked if there was a problem with the dog. This made him laugh and suddenly the atmosphere lifted. He announced the dog was fine and indicated the problem was with the waiter. The large man’s job was to mind the car park and the young smiling man who arrived behind him should have been manning the door. I think the delay had been them arguing about who spoke English with most confidence. The waiter led us through into the building, past what looked like a butcher’s counter down a corridor of large refrigerators, with the kitchen on the right and an empty dining room on the left. We then turned left and threaded through a narrow passage behind the dining room and came out into a covered outdoor seating area, where locals sat eating and children ran about playing. He showed us to a table for six and furnished us with menus in English.

The proprietor came out with glasses of complimentary Prossecco and bid us welcome. The menu was varied and full of interesting dishes we have not seen elsewhere. The food was obviously fresh home cooked produce; the chef came out with the waiter and they worked out what we were ordering by counting down the dishes as we pointed. The chef shook his head if we had asked for anything out of season or out of stock. There were still choices for everyone. The food was very reasonably priced, so much so we ordered a starter each, but the portions were so generous it was immediately clear they were for sharing. Next time we will order less and maybe have room for desert. The whole evening was a joy, a fitting end to the holiday.

Lara thought the proprietor had been impressed by John’s selection of local wine and indeed, after the meal, he asked if John wished to see his wine store. What I had taken to be a shed in the car park turned out to be a purpose built wine cave, still smelling of new wood. Inside methodically ordered bottles ranged all around sporting luggage tags and a large ham on the table spoke of wine tastings. John is keen to visit again.

 

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Ferry Cross to Capri

Everyone was up early to join the milling hoards catching the ferry to Capri. The windows on a return ticket are much too short, so we bought singles and went boldly. Scamp also needed a ticket for the princely sum of €2. It was a large ferry and a noisy crossing. We sat in the middle to the rear, as the windows were opaque with salt. On arrival we came off at the main taxi rank amid the pandemonium of milling tourists and threaded our way along the waterfront to the quieter side by the marina. The marina was extraordinarily quiet. There were hardly any boats in there and the only sign of the Rolex Cup was a plaque in the posh restaurants. We settled in the shade outside the less posh snack bar and had breakfast and coffee without the elevated waterfront price tag.

Mindful of the time it would take up, we decided to miss the Blue Grotto, so after breakfast we picked up a taxi for the thrill ride up to Anna Capri. All seven of us fitted in one car, two in the back, three on the flip up seats in the middle and Johnsey and Scamp in the front next to the driver. The drive is an event in itself, especially as traffic lights interrupt the natural call and response rhythm of the cars and busses negotiating the narrow road. It seems as though you have climbed forever, but the square in Anna Capri is by no means close to the summit. John and Lara elected to stay with Scamp, having already experienced the chair lift to the top of Mount Solar. “Once was quite enough, we’ll take him a walk and then find a bar.” Once was not enough for me, I loved the chairlift. It was exactly as I remembered. Sitting onto a moving chair was unsettling, but then it soared beyond the noise and I gently floated up the hill, watching the family strung out in front of me and the gardens passing below. Beyond the villas the hillside was a tapestry of wildflowers, busy with insects. Another discomforting moment stepping off at the engine house and then up the steps to the terrace with views of both sides of the island and the iconic Figliano rocks. After indulging in a burst of photography we sat in the bar area and had a drink, during which cloud moved to obscure the south side of the island, bringing with it a noticeable cooling.

Fortunately this was short-lived and we had spectacular views of the Bay on our journey back down. There was an interesting moment when all the chairs came to a halt and we dangled silently for a while before the machinery trundled back to life. After a while I noticed a chair laden with a large plastic crate rather than a person on the upward track and surmise this was being loaded during our unscheduled halt.

Lara and John were waiting in the open area at the foot of the chairlift. Scamp was only moderately interested in greeting us, as he was busy retrieving a pebble from anyone willing to throw it to him. Next on our agenda was Axel Munche’s house> I was ready to take a turn with Scamp, but the man on the door asked if he was a normal dog or a lion dog and then let him through. I think he was referring to the sphinx on the parapets. So we all wandered through the interesting rooms out to the breathtaking pergola and enchanting gardens. We have been able to do far more things all together with a dog here in Italy than we could have in the UK.

After lunch in a very dog friendly garden café in Anna Capri we caught another taxi to the upper town of Capri and looked in at the posh shops. By the time we found the monastery the main gates were closed, so after an expensive drink at a café in the square we set off down the funicular and bought our tickets back to Sorrento. It was four Euros for Scamp to go back.

After leaving Capri as late as possible there was a rush to get ready and hike across to Marina Grande for dinner on the restaurant that goes out above the bay on stilts. We were greeted by complimentary glasses of prosecco and had another lovely meal.

Vesuvius finally made an appearance for a photo call with Emma and Johnsey.

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Sailing to Sorrento

And so on to Sorrento, sailing as on a single breath of wind across the bay, its towering volcanic landmark still masked in cloud. The ships dog was very calm under sail, a fast learner.

There was a new marinera at Sorrento, but the same process of taking the lazy line from a dinghy. Docking was easy with so many crew. The marina was quieter than we expected, given Capri was out of the picture, just us, a Sunsail yacht on our inside and the couple of motor boats that stay here. Scamp had a run on the little beach and then we had lunch in the café overlooking the boats.

After lunch we headed up to the cliff top in the lifts and explored the old town. Johnsey and I took Scamp along to our favourite restaurant to see if we could book a table that evening and take him along. The garden space was empty and vast but just as magical in daylight, a grove of lemon trees and bright flowers. Inside the conservatory a woman sat at a laptop chatting to a moustached gentleman with a genial smile. We asked about the dog and the woman spoke English with a refined accent. Yes the dog was welcome, so long as he didn’t bark, as this would upset other diners. At this point Scamp gave a loud yap, which reverberated in the empty space. “Like that” said Johnsey, smiling. “Yes”, not smiling. “He won’t do that tonight.” We made a reservation for six people and beat a hasty retreat lest Scamp give vent to any further opinions. We rejoined the others and told them the good news and the immaculate timing of our usually quiet hound. We wandered along to the art shop, stopping to by gelato ices en route. Lara had pistachio, which she said was the best she had tasted and I tried the liquorice, which was amazing. We then doubled back to the nice biscuit shop, where the girl insisted we bring the dog in and all sample the various wares.

When we returned from the shopping Johnsey took Scamp for a prolonged play on the beach, throwing his new snubber toy for him to fetch. Unfortunately it does not float and in retrieving it Scamp swallowed rather a lot of seawater. Back on Lyra he was sick down Johnsey’s leg, thoughtfully avoiding the nice clean deck. Johnsey took him below for a joint shower, in which Scamp took all the hot water. It worked though, Scamp’s behaviour in the restaurant that evening was exemplary. They had arranged a table for us away from the main bustle and our waiter was very gentle and clearly good with dogs, using Scamp’s name a lot and bringing him a bowl of water along with our drinks. After a grateful lapping Scamp curled up under Johnsey’s chair and went to sleep, not even disturbed by the outbursts of shouting and whistles from a wedding party on the far side of the conservatory. A splendid time was had by one and all in the fairyland of string lights and candles amongst the lemon trees.

The following day Johnsey and Emma took Scamp a walk and the rest of us went to the lido. It was quite breezy on the loungers, but pleasant. Each bed had a piece that tilted overhead to provide shade, great for reading, but a bit of a head banger till you were used to it. The sea was rather cool to climb into from the steps, but once in a bit of brisk swimming brought relief. John and I swam over to the free beach, where Emma was swimming and the water was warmer there in the shallows. We took turns throwing Scamp’s toy, so Johnsey could swim, being careful not to let it go underwater. They came and joined us for lunch on the loungers, where Scamp allowed himself to be petted by the couple sat in front of us.

Later Emma and Johnsey set off to walk into the pretty harbour of Marina Grande, confusingly a much smaller harbour than Marina Piccola, where we are tied. They planned to book a restaurant and meet us over there. John went back for a shower and Katie and I braved another swim. In the event the restaurant recommended to Emma and Johns could only fit us in the following evening, so they booked a shore side restaurant and found a very dog friendly bar behind it. By the time the rest of us arrived Scamp was off the lead and clearly at home. The lady running the bar delightedly was making much of him.

At around eight we moved on to the restaurant, which had a much more varied choice for veggies. We have found another enchanting place to eat in Sorrento; all in all it was an spellbound evening, sitting in the gloaming hearing the gentle rush of sea on shore. For sweet they had zabaglione. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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Hassle

As the island of Procida is very close and not much wind was forecast today we opted to have a leisurely start before heading round by way of the channel to take in the views of Cala di Corricella from the sea. This allowed for brunch at Hotel Calise. The waiter kindly put two tables together for us in the conservatory and then had a bit of a nightmare as he delivered Emma’s food to the table next to us. It was a family of four, who had only ordered three meals, as they wanted to share a pasta dish between the two small children. After a bit of confusion the parents divvied up Emma’s bruschetta, probably thinking they had ordered it by mistake. We watched them do it, but didn’t realise until our food arrived some time later minus Emma’s order. He was most apologetic and probably had to stand to the cost. I then had time to look in a newly discovered fabric and wools shop, which turned out to be glorious. The staff left us to browse at will whilst they got on with their own sewing. There were American prints for patchwork, knitting wools in sumptuous colours, arrays of notions and gadgets as well as some lovely pieces of work for sale. Encouraged by the girls I bought some fabrics and headed happily back to the boat, where John was ready for the off with all the lines set to slip.

The engine would not start. John tested the starter battery and it was quite flat, despite our having fully charged it as part of our preparations and then had used the engine for nearly four hours coming here. He and I headed off to the marina office with our trolley. They were very helpful. Once the marinera was sure we knew what we were talking about, when we claimed our battery was beyond hope, he made a couple of phone calls and found a shop in Casamicciola that could sell us a new one. He drew us a simple map and wrote the name Amak and a telephone number on it. He called them to let them know we were on our way and told us they closed in an hour at one thirty. We should have plenty of time to get there, it was not too far to walk if we had a trolley, or we could take a taxi. We phoned the kids and asked them to measure the battery we had as John could remember the spec but not the dimensions. John explained what we were doing and said they were welcome to lock up and go ashore for a while if they wanted to. We set off up the hill. Typically it was beginning to become quite warm. Fifteen minutes later the road was wiggling about in ways not shown on our map and there was still no sign of Amak. While John tried to connect to Google Maps I carried on to look round the next bend. There were only houses on the right where the shop should have been. To my left through a large iron gateway was a very stylish dress shop, so I went in and threw myself and my scrappy map on the mercy of the lean, elegant woman behind the counter. She was wonderful. She had never heard of Amak, but called the number and spoke at length on the phone. On ringing off she told me we were on the right road and took me outside to point the way, meeting up with John dragging the trolley and still fighting with his phone. She then took me back inside and wrote down the directions in Italian, for if we needed to ask someone else. I could follow the place names, a Piazza, a bar and Hotel Elizabet, then Amak. We thanked her profusely and carried on with a bit more confidence, ticking the places off as we passed them. It was quite a way and when we arrived the shop did not appear to be called Amak, but did have a pile of car batteries stacked on the floor in front of the counter. John recognised one of them as being like ours. In we went and I presented the men behind the counter with my piece of paper. They were Amak. One man came round and hauled the longest battery from the base of the pile, set it on the counter and started to dust it, while the other picked up the phone and ordered a replacement, checking the price so they could charge us the going rate. They helped us jemmy the battery into the trolley, John paid and we were off back down the hill. The dress shop was closed on the way down and by the time we reached the marina most places had lowered their shutters for midday and our boat was the sole visitor on the pontoon.

It did not seem to take long to change the batteries over, though the new one had to be lifted up on four coasters as the terminals were not as proud as the old ones. We started up the engine and set off into a fine afternoon with scudding fluffy clouds.

By the time we cleared harbour it was blowing force three and we could have sailed, but I felt a bit ragged after the setback we’d already had and was nervous of a wind that had not been forecast. So we motored as planned, the pastel houses of Corricella looked very pretty in the sunshine.

We arrived just before three thirty, fenders and ropes at the ready. On the radio we could hear another yacht calling Procida Marina and getting no response, not a great sign. We puttered slowly into the harbour. Nobody was in. John called up on the radio to no avail. I tried the phone number with no answer. Another yacht followed us into the harbour, probably the one we had heard calling on channel 16. John began a slow turn on the spot in the confined space. We were now facing the other boat, which was beginning to falter. A man finally answered my third phone call and I gave our name and explained we had a reservation and were in the harbour waiting for assistance, as calmly as I could. He said he was sending a man in a boat to be with us shortly. Lara then spotted a golf cart thundering along the jetty with three large men inside, one of whom was ejected at the end of a pontoon and reappeared in an inflatable. He came out to us first, but the other yacht set out to follow him. A largely silent pantomime ensued. The marinera held up his palm to signal the other yacht should wait, came over to us and pointed to where he wanted us to go, before turning and heading there himself. The other yacht kept coming. The marinera stood in his dinghy and held up his hand to them again in the halt gesture. John also waved them away, as he began to reverse towards the pontoon. The other yacht started to cut in on our inside. Having had enough of steering with one hand and waving with the other John shouted “Go Away!” They backed off. The girls were horrified, but I thought it could have been worse. We came in to the pontoon and tied up. The marinera turned to the other boat and had them reverse in on the other side of the pontoon directly behind us stern to stern looking in on each other. The Fin couple on board glared venomously at us from their stern. We busied ourselves with our tasks. When the passerelle was down Scamp skipped ashore and the rest of us trouped after him with our eyes on the dog.

We wandered along the tall houses of the quay, Emma admiring the brightly coloured, peeling paintwork colours and strings of washing. Scamp was very well behaved ignoring the skinny feral cats that hang out on the harbour wall. Opposite the ferry terminal we stopped for a beer or two and then went back on board for a snack and a siesta.

When evening arrived John was still feeling wiped out by the day, but encouraged the rest of us to go over to explore Corricella. We climbed over the headland and then up towards the fort. At the viewpoint with the cannon Lara decided to stay and watch the sun setting behind the pretty harbour. The rest of us went on up to the fort.

We reached the patch of open ground behind the walls where the bus turns round, unable to go further up the narrow streets. Indeed it is a miracle it reaches this point. Johnsey decided Scamp could come off the lead for a run on the grass. Run he did at top speed after a cat the rest of us had failed to spot. Off flew the cat into a large bush, Scamp bounded in after him, ignoring Johnsey’s whistle. An explosion of cats erupted from the bush in all directions, closely followed by a bounding small white dog, tail up, looking very pleased with himself. All this happened in silence, but suddenly a cacophony of dogs were barking all around. Scamp innocently trotted back to Johnsey without so much as a murmur, mischief managed. We were all laughing too much to scold him. Back on the lead he went and we carried on through the archway into the hamlet above. The museum was closed for the evening, but from the church came the unaccompanied song of a soprano, Hallelujah in English and Italian, as a lorry full of white lilies was being unpacked. Preparations for an event the following day, the rehearsal haunted our steps as we explored the narrow streets. At the top were panoramic seascapes, back to Ischia in one direction and across to where the sunset was bathing the mainland pink in the other. Ahead, Vesuvius remained swathed in cloud. We headed back to Lara and arrived in time to see the sun slip through a gilded cloud down behind the headland.

Below us was the restaurant with the roof terrace overlooking the bay; we had failed to reach on our other two visits. Lara confidently navigated her way down the winding steps to it and we inquired about dogs and the prospects for vegetarians. Dogs were welcome, vegetarians less so, carnivores not at all. The menu was quite short, but interesting and there was a vegetarian main and a starter. The standard of cuisine was excellent, the wine good and reasonably priced; in fact it all was no more expensive than places of less obvious quality we have visited. We all decided I would have to come back with John, as he would relish Johnsey’s choice of pistachio crusted seared tuna.

The restaurant had a resident cat. It sat in the doorway surveying the scene with a proprietary air. Scamp lay beside Johnsey’s seat not taking his eyes off it, but being very quiet and well behaved, having done his share of cat worrying for the day. Probably a wise move as this cat looked a sit and swiper. Scamp flopped sideways and would have slept had the waiter not insisted of shuffling into him with a wine cooler stand, causing him to grumble quietly and move under the table. It was an idyllic end to the day. After coffees we made our way back through the darkened streets and found a short cut back, though whether I can find it again is another matter. As we passed the community hall there was a salsa dancing class underway and the music accompanied us back to the boat, where John was feeling much better for the rest.

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Time on Ischia

On Monday we split up, the boys to go walking up in the crater a nearby volcano and the girls to go to the spa.

We girls had a lovely day. The gardens were beautiful and the pools relatively quiet. Much quieter than when we had been before and therefore even more pleasant. We started at the top and this time went under the dripping waterfall to the hidden cavern. The weather was not as warm as one our visit last year, so the trips between pools were a bit chillier and I wished I had remembered a robe. There was a particularly fetching orange Jedi at one pool. The lower external temperature made the colder pools easier to tackle, though I still chickened out when it came to the ice water one. I also decided I could manage without climbing up the chasm to smell the breath of god. Gradually we made our way down the hill to the Hammam. At one point a gentle rain fell, but we put our towels under the sun loungers and swam in the warm water pool. Rather than stop for lunch we had a snack of fresh juice and crisps camped on the sunloungers and then carried on until it became overcast and breezy, at which point we dressed and the girls treated me to a late lunch overlooking the sea. Our taxi driver out had been so good, as well as giving us a discount voucher for the , spa, that we called him to collect us for the return journey. He was on a fare, but sent his friend, another careful driver, to take us back at the same rate.

The boys had also enjoyed their day, though the woods had kept them from the sensation that they were walking in a crater. Nevertheless the climb back out had been made surreal by the sound of another walker somewhere in the trees playing music from Lord of the Rings on a flute.

Some bad news came back from the e-mail booking system on Capri. The whole marina is closed for Rolex Cup regatta. This put a hole in our plans for the week and meant we could not stop in Capri on our way to Amalfi. Friday has been forecast for wind, so we did not want to be travelling then and one night would not be enough to see much given the length of the journey there and back. Sadly we had to give up on Amalfi this time. We opted to go to Procida for one night instead, as that is closer and smaller, and to try to book Sorrento for the three nights and take the ferry to Capri from there. It all depended on getting into Sorrento and John was worried that it would be full as Capri was out of the picture. He asked me to phone them. Channelling my best Mrs. Durrells voice I spoke to the boss there and he said yes. John promptly mocked me for my posh accent and I was not amused and made him phone Procida. They booked us in straight away, though the price has doubled since last year. Nonetheless it was a huge relief to sort out the holiday.

Lara cooked us a very delicious vegetable stew, topped with sliced potatoes like grandma used to make.

Tuesday is a day the garden at La Mortella is open, but sadly they do not take dogs, so John and I took Scamp for a walk round town, while Lara took the others off on a guided tour. Scamp was a bit sloughed at first, so we sat under the umbrellas outside Hotel Calise and had a coffee and he sat under the table good as gold. There then came a barrage of fireworks echoing round the valley with reports like canon fire interspersed with firing squad rattles. Scamp was frightened looked up at me trembling, so I took him on my knee till it ended. It went on for so long that he stopped shaking before it was over. I think it helped that no-one took the slightest bit of notice of it, so quite what was happening we do not know. We then walked up to the red hotel and saw for ourselves the sad number of houses and businesses that are still derelict after the earthquake. Back on the beach we threw Scamp his stick to give him a run. He gamely raced along fetching it for a while before deciding to go and stand in the sea. He stood looking us in the eye, then lay flat down in the water and then stood again as if to say ‘I’m already wet now, throw it in here!’ John obliged him throwing the stick first one way then the other. John tired first, sending his aim off and Scamp had to swim for the stick, while we both held our breath wondering which of us would be first to get wet should he get into difficulty. He paddled back to shore and after a few more throws we put him on the lead and went to the little beach restaurant for lunch. We were just finishing when the kids arrived back, very impressed with the garden and joined us for a drink and some chips.

Inspired by the tea garden at La Mortella, Lara and Katie revived an old Sunsail tradition of tea and cakes at three, treating us to some delicious pastries and making a variety of different teas.

That evening we ate out at a pizza restaurant Johnsey and John had called at for lunch the day before. Johnsey had checked and they were happy for Scamp to come too. In fact they were generally very accommodating. In a private section a Russian flotilla were holding some sort of quiz night and on a large table behind us the shopkeepers of Casamicciola held an even livelier committee meeting. We stuck to Italian classics, but at some point must go back and try their burgers; they are named for characters from Lord of the Rings and look suitably epic.

 

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