Friday, July 6, 2012

Med Cruise Day 5: Capri

Angie's Journal

A guided boat tour around Capri was on the itinerary for the day. I spent a lot of time researching this before we left. Ray had thought it would be a better idea to save the money and just hire a boat for the day, but I thought it would be more relaxing to have a captain take us around the island. I am so glad I did because the company we ended up with was WONDERFUL!! They took such good care of us (which Ray describes in great detail later on). 

The tour started off by touring the rocky edges of the island. There was a few caves (or grottos as they call them) that we went into, and a few we got to swim in. The kids were loving the ability to swim with their snorkels and see straight down to the bottom because the water was so clear. Neil even found some sea glass he dived down to get. 

After a few swim calls we go to the most wonderful restaurant. The food and wine were delicious, but after drinking a glass of wine we realized that it was a much high alcohol by volume than we expected. There is nothing like a good lunch in an outdoor cafe overlooking the sea. Neil enjoyed watching the people on the beach climb up on rocks that they jumped off.

After lunch and another swim call, Misty had called it a day and took a nap. She loves boating just like the rest of us :) We made another swim called, and Misty woke up right before going into the Blue Grotto. That place was amazing and magical all at once. I could not believe we were lucky enough to get to swim in the grotto, thanks to our smooth talking captain.

At the end of the day we make one last swim call and turn the corner to see this lighthouse. Our captain explained that this was a popular place for lovers to come and watch the sun set. He showed us some pictures on his phone of how beautiful the sunset is from that location. Sadly we had to meet the cruise ship back in Naples, so we could not enjoy the sunset by the lighthouse.

Ray's Journal

OMG! Where to start?! This day rocked! Okay, so we started off poorly, with Kathy and Angie both waking up before 4AM. They suck! But that gave Angie and me time to relax and pack and be casual and in a good mood. It gave Kathy just enough time to get ready and pack before she had to wake up the kids. At 10 minutes before we were due to leave, I walked next door to give the girls medicine (lexi’s sinuses and Misty her Z-pack daily). I was greeted by the sight of Lexi still in bed and Misty still asleep! I thought for sure we would miss the only ferry to Capri. Then as we were all walking off the cruise ship, Kathy realized that she had forgotten her room key (how we get back onboard without customs/security searches).

Getting from the cruise ship to the ferry was incredibly easy. It was a very simple 5 minute walk. Fighting the crowds of 3 cruise ships and the slow people behind the counter who do not speak English was a bit of a nightmare, though! The ferry we wanted was not the only ferry, just the only one before noon. We made it with almost 5 minutes to spare before they cast off.

We got to the absolutely beautiful island of Capri and were able to walk straight to the cafe where we would meet our guide. Very little work involved! It wasn’t our guide we met, but the boss lady who owns the business and the only one who speaks English. She wanted to ensure that our tour of her island was wonderful. I’ve gotta tell you, the customer service we have received so far this trip is exceptional! The owner turned us over to her secretary who very speedily walked us over to the boat and introduced us me and Neil to our guide. I thought that Kathy must have stopped to window shop and Angie was going to make sure she made it to the boat, so I had no problem just standing there with Neil and Misty. Little did I know, that Kathy had stopped to exchange business cards and agendas with the owner, then in a fit to try and catch up had taken a misstep and fallen hard on the cobblestone. Oddly enough, at the end of the day I stumbled in the same spot - so I can easily se how she fell.
When I got tired of waiting for them, I sent Neil back to make sure they could find the boat. Just after Neil disappeared from my sight Alexis came running to me yelling that Grandma had fallen and was hurt. So I bade the tour guide wait a minute, and took off to see how badly she was hurt.

What I saw was a testament to the island of Capri - 3 cops, 2 store owners, and 2 boat drivers hovering over her with first aid supplies and helping to lift her into a chair at a nearby restaurant. None of them left her side until they were sure she was okay and didn’t need an ambulance.
When she was healed enough to hobble over to the boat, we all went to get onboard. The tour guide was compassionate and questioned several times if she needed anything to help her bleeding (little bitty cut on her knee) or pain.

Turns out the boat was a gorgeous old wooden center console inboard engine diesel jobber. Gorgeous! and very well maintained too. She purred when she idled and didn’t make much more noise under load. She had running benchwork down both sides and aft in front of the lounge deck, but she had an incredibly sized bow section with cushions and towels. All 6 of us were able to lay down in the bow with space to spare. And it was comfy even during some of the few bounces we had (such a calm ride).
Our tour guide was named “Nando” and was from Capri. He not only grew up there, but had little working knowledge of AnaCapri (the neighboring town on the other side of the mountain). He said AnaCapri was for the rich folks, not the type who would hire him or his company for an excursion. There three little beachside hotels around the AnaCapri side of the island which he showed us, and the mega-yachts anchored there gave credence to his story.

So we got to see a few grottos and swim in all of them (even the one whose website strictly forbids swimming in it!). Each of these had a completely different feel to it from the others. We stopped first at the Green Grotto. This was a cave which had opened up into a natural arch bridge of very small proportions. We swam through it and met the boat on the other side. Just around the bend from that we stopped and had a swim. Misty got in the water with me - boy is she hard to swim with in deep water! She is a large and fidgity rock! Some big wakes came up and made it unsafe to keep her in the water so we all got out and continued. The next grotto was called Sailor’s Grotto as it was a traditional place for fishermen to hove to or anchor in to escape a storm or take a break from fishing (hand fishing from a 10 foot dinghy is hard work). The kids loved it as it had a ceiling which looked like rocks fell down and created the cave (and could fall again at any minute) and there was a beach on the backside of it. It was a small, white pebble beach, but a beach which they could swim to. Neil spent almost 10 minutes following a school of small perch.

After Sailor’s Grotto, we came to Mary’s grotto. So named because it has a single stalagmite in it, but that stalagmite is shaped much like the typical Catholic representation of the Virgin Mary. In this grotto we learned from Nando that the island of Capri is one of the very few places in the world where orange coral grows at the tidal mark. He showed us this small but very brightly colored orange coral. It was interesting to see and know about.

Without swimming, we proceeded to Saints Grotto. This one was named because it has several stalactites which if you stretch your imagination can be perceived as a bunch of people in prayer. So that’s two rock formations which I was perfectly capable of seeing. I saw the described figures in both. Yet I still can’t see the woman praying in the rock wall at Yellowstone (see one of my original blogs - a YellowStone trip from our family move in 2005). Also, there was a large black scorch looking mark, which many of the local Catholics believed was put there by God as it resembles a cross. Again, we did not swim.

The next stop was not a grotto nor a swim call, but lunch. Lunch was at a large rock which grew out of the sea near a small town named Gioglio. This was a resort town only. On the rock, though, was a small bistro named La Sirene. They had some absolutely wonderful food! It was a bit pricey, though. The had an absolutely brilliant bottle of local white wine which we all just loved! It got the three of us just a little drunk!

We got back on the boat and went to the next stop, the world famous Blue Grotto. It’s website definitely stated that there was absolutely no swimming allowed in the grotto, but our guide asked the boatmen who took us and they said sure. So we were one of the last few people in the grotto today, and our boatmen allowed us to jump in and swim for just a few minutes. The water was a brilliant shade of blue with no bottom visible. It was cold and quiet except for us. All of us got into the water except Kathy [who took pictures]. On the way out, the boatmen started signing italian to us. It felt like we were being serenaded.

After the grotto we had nothing real left, but had some time to kill before we needed to meet the ferry. So our tour guide took us to an isolated stretch of shoreline (it had some kind of an avalanche or rock slide in the past few hundred years) and we swam around that for the remaining time.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, so with heavy hearts and a decent case of sunburn, we disembarked the wonderful boat and Nando’s guide for the ferry. We didn’t go straight to the ferry though... We got sidetracked at a Gelato bar. It was a wonderful way to end a fabulous day of boating and swimming!

We got back to cruise ship with no hassles and we each went our separate ways - Neil left us before we even got back to the room (he actually said goodbye as he ran away). The rest of us showered and Misty and I left to eat chicken nuggets. Angie went for her final acupuncture therapy. She came back to the room looking happy and refreshed. I’m glad that the treatment worked for her!

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