Capri Sun :: Boating and the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy

Capri and Naples are as different as, say, a basic girl's October and a single girl's... February. A single girl's February 15, that is, because although everything else in the world is working against her, at least all the chocolate's on sale. Am I losing you here?

Naples is February 15. Not everyone's cup of tea, a little depressing, but the discounted chocolate is honestly a pretty fulfilling aspect of life, y'know? ("Chocolate" = "pizza" ... work with me, guys. Work with me.) Oh, but Capri. Capri is a blogger's October 1. Or December 1. Capri is pristine. Picture perfect. One of the prettiest places I have ever seen. The first thing I said upon catching sight of the aquamarine waters and the pastel buildings along the cliffs was, "well I can see why all of our friends flock here." Friends being like, you know. Beyonce. Leonardo diCAPRIo. The Clooneys. Regular old pals.

Thinking we needed to escape Naples, and stat, Cassandra and I had a quick discussion of history lessons in Pompeii vs. adventuring in Positano or Sorrento vs. sunning on a boat in Capri. Sunning on a boat sounded like the least ambitious choice, soooooo with a few quick clicks and a lot of guesstimation on the Italian ferry-booking website and a few hours' sleep, we were off!
Arrived at the port bright and early, with just enough time for a Coke (because, always) and a sfogliatella, a pastry special to Naples. Beautifully cut into thin slivers, its crispy leaves give way to a sweet ricotta cloud. 
Ciao, Naples!

*fifty minutes of hair whipping back and forth in the wind*


Ciao, Capri!
Isn't she lovely?

Right after disembarking the ferry, we took a sharp left at the Capri port and purchased tickets to the standard boat tour around the island + a quick jaunt into the famous Blue Grotto. Neither of us had been chipper enough the night before to do any hardcore itinerary planning (but what else is new), so this seemed like the simplest option.

And, well. No regrets. Because:
The famous Dolce & Gabbana rocks came into sight, and everyone on the boat whipped out DSLRs and iPhones and selfie sticks to capture this marvel. 

Cruising the perimeter of Capri was wonderful, because there was always something new to gaze at in wonder. From local boys diving off of cliffs, to secret inlets in which to swim, to old churches and lighthouses keeping watch over the island... and all against the constant of the bluest, clearest water I had ever seen. Paradise, it was. 

I had another moment. I had one eating crepes along the Seine and speeding through the Tuscan countryside, and I had another one here. The sun was beating down my arm, the distinct scent of sunscreen floating amidst the salty sea air, the boat gently rocking, with a sharp jerk here and there. There was a thick layer of salt on my arm, the leather seat was sticking against my legs, and I closed my eyes and thought, I can't believe I'm here. 
Comically backdropped next to our itty bitty dinghy type deal were massive yachts, complete with flags and sunbeds and pools and ballrooms. I picked out the largest of the batch, turned to Cassandra, and pondered casually,

"You think Beyonce's in that one?"
Towards the end of the two hours, we arrived at the Blue Grotto. A congregation of boats, big and small, crowd around the entrance and you wait in a haphazard line as shouting, singing men paddling wooden canoes come to fetch you. They sidle up right next to your boat, give you hand, and direct you efficiently to the least comfortable sitting position. Once all four people are in, they row towards the little cave entrance, warn everyone to duck their heads as low as possible, and then with one swift tug of a rope pulley, swing the canoe into the grotto.

Pitch black.

It's very disorienting, being immersed in complete stillness for a split second. Everything is dark, but you can hear the waves and the chatter and you feel there are quite the number of people close to you, but you can't see anything. Until slowly, your eyes adjust and all you see is shimmering, stunning turquoise. Aqua. You're directed to turn around and from there, you see the black silhouettes of emerging canoes and the intense blue.

Then, before you know it, you're back out in the too bright world and shipped back to your boat. The Blue Grotto isn't cheap and is annoyingly busy, but for that brief minute of feeling completely unsettled before seeing nothing but black and blue... it's worth it.
After the tour boat dropped us off at the port again, we perused the little stores selling leather shoes and perfume, sampled some limoncello slushes, and then took turns taking refreshing dips in the ombre sea. 
And then, it was back to pizza in Naples (#addicts) before CROATIA.

Where is the prettiest place you've ever been to?

Naples, Italy :: It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times (+The Best Pizza In The World)

Naples in a nutshell: we thought we were going to get shot, but we also thought we would die happy because Neapolitan pizza is heaven. Cassandra and I had ZERO idea what we were getting ourselves into. We needed a city in which we could wile away three days before leaving for Croatia. From Rome, the cheapest train tickets were to Naples. Pennies, they were. We Google Image'd Naples, saw postcard pics of the seaside, and pressed 'book' simply to cross something off of our to do list.

As pizza lovers – never before in my life have I seen anyone love pizza as much as Cassandra does, and I'm an equal opportunist when it comes to all carbs – we were pretty pleased with ourselves. The birthplace of pizza. It'll be a pilgrimage! Oh, to be so dumb.

Our first clue that something was a little off came when we were in Florence. A family we met wine-tasting expressed a concerned "ohhhhh" with eyebrow raises when they heard that the two of us would be going to Naples. Alone. "Keep an eye on your luggage at ALL times," the young daughter warned knowingly. "And make sure you eat pizza any chance you get," the mom added.

Not long after, a friend's mom posted on Cassandra's Facebook, "the two of you are so brave for going to Naples by yourselves. Stay safe!!"

Uh oh.
If you're ever going to Naples, never Google "how safe is Naples" hours before leaving. You will read horror stories of Canadian tourists caught in a storm of gunfire, of the strong mafia presence, of the sketchy train station. Not quite reassuring.

To be honest, Cassandra and I felt so nervous after reading about Naples that we discussed canceling that leg of the trip altogether. But knowing it'd be tricky arranging last minute accommodation in Rome during peak tourist season, we tucked the money belt holding passports, cash, and cards into some big girl pants, and went to Naples.

It didn't start off on a good note. In a flurry of confusion over whether or not we had to validate our tickets, a man came up to us in semi-official clothing, hurried us to the very last train car, tossed our luggage on the overhead rack, and demanded a tip. Flustered by the outright gip, we handed him one Euro coin after another until we finally showed him our wallet: no Euros left.

This was also the only time we had second-class train tickets. Y'all, the prices for second-class and first-class are comparable, but there is a huge difference in quality. There were so many sketchy characters in our car, it was dirty and uncomfortable, and the bathroom... was the pits. Literally. 
We took the metro from the station to a museum near the apartment, and then sort of just stood there, lost and disoriented. Thankfully, an American exchange student saw us from afar and came over to point us in the right way. So as you can see, the road to Naples was definitely not without bumps. And frankly, Naples itself... well, it's gritty and dirty and rough around the edges, that's for sure. It was suffocatingly hot, and in an apartment with no A/C... I mean. We survived.
I sound like quite the drama queen here, and I'll tell you now that Naples really wasn't that bad. In fact, I love how authentic and unvarnished it was. It was like seeing what Italy might've been like before all the tourism. We did feel uneasy the entire time, likely because we had this preconceived notion that anyone could mug us, so we were extra alert. When we were walking in an empty alleyway (TO GET TO THE PIZZA), a man came out of nowhere and said hello, but was walking too close to us for comfort. I swore he was hiding a knife, that's how paranoid I was. This other time, we were hangin' out in the living room, trying to get some air from the open floor-to-ceiling windows. All of a sudden, we heard a long string of loud explosions and dove to the floor, crawling into the safety of our bathroom. Then, right as we peeked our heads out, it happened again. To this day, we don't know if we heard gunshots or firecrackers, but it is a memory that makes us laugh until our bellies ache. All's well that ends well, right? 

Also, we did absolutely nothing in Naples except eat pizza, walk along the coast one day to try and see Vesuvius, and escape to Capri. One day we wanted to go see this famous theater, but were so exhausted and sweaty by the time we got close to it, that we ended up enjoying a Coke at a cafe, and then turning around and going back home.
 ^Clearly I hated everything.

No words. (OK, maybe a few.)

So the really famous joint is L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. It's the one that Julia Roberts's character visits in Eat, Pray, Love. There's a long queue, so get there early. It's no-frills. You go in, order your pizza (only two kinds), a drink, down it all, and get out. The pizza's good. Very good. Thin, crispy at the bottom, artfully burnt just so, smothered in an almost soupy sauce. Terrific pizza, without a doubt.

But it was child's play compared to our favorite. Starita a Materdei. Around the corner from our apartment, it's more of a sit-down place compared to da Michele. The menu's heftier. The wine flows like water. (It became a habit to share a liter of ice cold house wine between the two of us because it was only, like, SIX EUROS.) And the pizza? One of the best things I have ever eaten in my whole life. I won't even try to describe it. Just know that it's out of this world. Fast and cheap, too. I think it was three euros for a pizza three times the size of my face? Plus, they look at you funny if you want to "share" a pizza. No. Don't be a baby. Order your own pizza, and finish it like a proper Italian. Starita also has delicious appetizers (we had fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, and a 'salad' with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and fried pizza dough) and a ridiculous dessert that's fried pizza dough drenched in Nutella.

We loved it so much that we came back all three nights we were in town. And on the third night, one of the waiters mumbled a "see you tomorrow" as we left. Oh buddy, I wish.
One of Cassandra's and my favorite topics to discuss since coming back home is, would you go back to Naples? The answer is, "yes, but maybe as a pit stop on the way to Positano or the Amalfi Coast. We'll fly into Naples, eat some pizza at Starita, and then leave the same day." 

I love recounting our tales from Naples most of all. They make us laugh. Our sheer stupidity going to a city that we did absolutely no research on. The close calls. The fact that we did nothing – saw nary a landmark or museum. Our willingness to walk through a sketchy part of town just to try famous pizza. Eating Starita until we couldn't breathe, guzzling our wine, and then flopping in bed. I'll never forget our days in Naples. It was truly, truly the best of times and the worst of times.

Currently :: September

October, at last! I have a feeling this month is going to be a memorable one for many reasons, but MOST importantly because my big sister is tying the knot on Halloween! I could exclamation point about this all! month! long! Just you wait and see!

WATCHING // unlike in the summer when the only show I insisted on tuning into was Pretty Little Liars (thank you sketchy Canadian proxy), I am once again glued to Hulu Plus. Fallin' for fall TV and possibly fall football too. 

EATING // my culinary masterpieces. Scrambled eggs, tofu scrambles, chicken and corn and black bean quesadillas, and uhhhh... that's about it. Mac and cheese.

WANTING // for nothing, actually. Feeling rather content at the moment, and wanting only a month's worth of smooth sailing as we inch closer and closer to the big day.
PLANNING // a bridal shower! All month, I've been in a tizzy getting the shower prepped and ready. DIYs are no joke. I spent six episodes of Parenthood making a tassel garland and a whole football game perfecting a chalk sign. 

READING // library books. I have a good mix of girly beach reads because I didn't get the memo that summer's over, history books because doesn't that sound nice with a cup of tea, and... and blogs. Obviously.

MAKING // see: DIYs for bridal shower. My sister sent over a long list of DIYs for the wedding too, which is what I'll be busying myself with now. Let's see what we're gonna do about the line that says "tree" with no explanation. She's lucky she's just about my favorite person on this planet, or else I'd be askin' a lot more questions. 

NOTICING // how September was a month of contrasts. Scorching, then freezing, over the course of two days. A lowkey week, followed by three 5am wakeup alarms the next. You know the drill.
MISSING // constant travel. But I yap on enough about my adventures in my recaps as it is, so I'll go ahead and hush.

NEEDING // a few more home furnishings. A lamp, for one. Perhaps a bookshelf. Ooh, and an office chair of some sort because I'm a little sore from perching day in and day out on this flimsy little wooden stool I stole from the living room. 

LEARNING // the pains of adulthood. As in, at the beginning of each month, I shell out the moolah for rent. Then, just as my pounding heart calms itself, Discover e-mails me kindly with a 'hey, so your credit card payment is due in two days!' Oh cruel world.
TALKING // on the phone a lot. About work stuff, about blog stuff, about friend stuff. It's so stinkin' strange being more than a stone's toss away from my friends, but it's also been a comfort to know that FaceTime isn't half bad at its job.

SPENDING // let's not talk about this. I'm going with an avoidance policy here.

DRINKING // all the Nescafe! If you know what I'm talking about, don't judge me. If you don't know what I'm talking about... don't look into it. Nescafe is a habit I picked up from Croatia, and I just can't quit it.

FEELING // something on the horizon. And really, really, REALLY excited to get to celebrate my big sis and love and candy at the end of the month!

And you, my friend? How was your September? Did anyone wake Green Day, by the way?

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