Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"I'm On a Boat, Everybody Look at Me...

Cause I'm sailing on a boat."
This past weekend, we ventured out on a day trip senza car. My grandmother is here for a month helping us with Nora. Since Ma and I spend of our days at home, we wanted to do something that got her out of the house...and me out of the house as well. Since Ma saw much of the area's attractions last year when she visited, we decided to head for my second favorite place in Italy, which would also be a new place for her to see...the isle of Capri. We've developed a system with some friends in which we tell them we're going somewhere fun, then we don't actually make any plans. Next time we see them, they tell us how they've "stolen" our vacation and have planned a weekend trip to said destination. We then decide that since they're going, we really do want to go, too...so then we horn in on their trip. We thought we might go to Capri, but really, napping at home on the weekends still just seems so appealing. But our friends ran with the Capri idea, so we decided to join them. And thankfully so, because I had one of my favorite days in Italy of our entire two years.
This is NOT the ferry boat to Capri - keep reading.
Normally, going to Capri has a rough start of taking our local Metro (called the Cumana), which may or may not be running on time, and is almost always jam packed with people, then we have a 20 minute walk through downtown Naples to the port, then getting our ferry ticket, waiting for the boat departure, and an hour ferry ride - in all, a nearly three hour hour endeavor. The port does have parking, but I'm always scared to drive down there. This time around, Nathan was going and it was a weekend (meaning less traffic), so we drove an easy 25 minute drive to the port, secured guarded parking right next to the ticket office for only 10euro, then found ourselves in line with about 200-plus hundred cruise ship passengers, all fighting for tickets on the same 9:30am ferry. We managed to get tickets on a lesser known line, and found ourselves in Capri only about an hour and a half after leaving our driveway. The day only got better.
Capri Coastline
Our friends had one goal for their Capri weekend - the Blue Grotto. Nathan did not want to see the Blue Grotto, and I saw it years ago, but I wanted our group of three to join our friends just for the boat ride. To see the grotto, one buys tickets at the Capri harbor on a boat packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists (shoulder to shoulder on days that cruise ships are in) and boats off to the grotto where small, three person rowboats pick up visitors, rows them to the floating ticket office to pay an extra, grotto entrance fee, then rows into the Blue Grotto, zips out and returns to the larger boat. Nathan took one look at the boats in the marina carrying about 50 people each and said he wasn't about to navigate that with our baby and stroller. Since one of the main reasons we'd gone to Capri was to spend time with our friends, I was irritated. One of our group members suggested that perhaps we all needed to take a little coffee and cornetto break to regroup and plan the morning, and this suggestion turned the tide of the day.

We enjoyed a little harbor front break, complete with delicious, homemade donuts, and at the end, asked our server if she knew of a left luggage locker at the port area so we could leave our stroller while visiting the Blue Grotto. She promptly offered to keep the stroller for us, and followed up that generosity with suggesting we hire a private boat to take us on a two hour tour around the island, especially since we could split it between five people and pay only a little more than joining the hordes on the regular, tourist boats. And our tour would also include swimming. She even called one of the local companies for us that she thought we'd like and had the manager come to the cafe to meet us. When our boat arrived, we were happy to see that the entire front half of it was converted into a sun lounger with cushions and pillows. With Nora sleeping away in her Boba carrier on my chest, I spent two of the best hours I've had in a long time. I forgot just how much I love being on a boat. Just being on Capri is so relaxing for me, so add in some boat time on Capri and that's about as near to perfection as I can imagine.
Well she didn't sleep all the time - Nora visits the Blue Grotto...or at least the outside of it!
We hugged the dramatic coastline with towering, limestone cliffs, pulled into little coves, and even rode the boat thru a natural, stone arch. For swim time, the boat captain pulled us into a cove with some of the most beautiful, clear, green water and pointed out an arch in the stone coastline which the swimmers in our group could go through to the next cove, where our captain would drive the boat to pick them up. The ride was capped off with a stop at the Blue Grotto, and our friends got their rowboat ride into the magical cave.
Swimming Time
The madness of entering the Blue Grotto
The rest of our afternoon passed with a slow meander through Capri's pretty, pedestrian streets, and yes, we were enjoying gelato during our stroll. After awhile, we stopped off at a hotel bar with a view over the island and sea for some wine and snacks and more relaxing. Sadly for Nathan, Ma, Nora, and me, we then headed back to the port for our ferry home while our friends headed off to their hotel to soak up more of the Capri magic.