On the way to the airport I was convinced that my sparkly “Just Married” tank top combined with my overly giddy “Oh my God, we just got married!” attitude would get us moved up to first class on the airplane. Just to be on the safe side, I attached some homemade “Just Married” computer labels to all of our luggage, and when they just wouldn’t stick, Paul secured them on with massive amounts of scotch tape. Brilliant! Yes, we were absolutely sure this would get someone’s attention and we would be flying to Italy in comfort and style courtesy of Iberian airlines. Wrong. I’m pretty sure the guy at check-in glanced at me for about a half a second before politely granting us the exit row. Was it the tank top or the Scotch tape fiasco on our bags that got us that extra leg room? We’ll never know.
I don’t fly well. In fact, my nephew Logan says it best-“I cry like a big baby”. Only a three-year old can put fear in that kind of perspective. Not only do I cry like a big baby, but I have this annoying shaking leg episode that goes into full effect upon taking off and landing. I don’t know what it is that cripples me when I fly. I’m not sure if its the actual sensation of flying that makes me uneasy or the fact that the Wright brothers didn’t really start experimenting with this whole flying machine thing until the year 1899. That really wasn’t that long ago you know.
While my up-in-the-air anxiety seems to get worse with each flight, my desire to travel continues to grow at a wildly rapid rate. Therefore, I will never let fear get in the way of me holding a panda in China, sipping wine on a vineyard in Napa, and eating my way through Italy (just some of the plans I have made for myself). As for Paul, he doesn’t seem to mind my sweaty palms and constant questioning of “Baby, what was that noise?!” He’s also become pretty well-trained in holding down my crazy leg when it gets itself a shaking. All admirable qualities of a good husband, I must say.
Our flight plan to Sorrento consisted of two fun-filled rides: one from JFK to Madrid and another from Madrid to Naples. While most would consider a layover at an airport an inconvenience, we saw it as an opportunity to dine on a tasty jamon sandwich and reminisce about our first trip to Spain. So at 7am, after being corralled through the Madrid airport maze and being spit out on the other side of security, we rushed to the first jamon sandwich joint we could find and picked up two sandwiches for breakfast. We wolfed them down and rushed to our gate only to find that the flight from Madrid to Napoli was delayed-two hours. Italy seemed so close, yet still so far away.
I find this would be an appropriate time to talk about my husband and his inability to sit still in an airport. Airports set off a switch in Paul that puts him in exploration mode. So while I always find a place to park it and read a book or a magazine, he takes off to roam. I’m not sure where he goes or what he does, but its his belief that he shouldn’t sit down before he’s going to have to sit down (on an airplane). This has never been a problem until now.
Let’s back up a bit to JFK airport, just before boarding. We’re excited, its our honeymoon, we want to get to Italy ASAP. We’ve got about an eight-hour flight ahead of us and that’s a whole lot of sitting for my Pauly boy. He mathematically analyzes the situation and decides that we will not board the plane until we absolutely have to. After all, there are hundreds of people waiting to board so we’ll let them go first. No need to sit on the plane longer than we have to. Boarding begins and Paul takes off on another exploration. This time to the bathroom. I sit by the gate and wait. And wait. Five minutes go by, then ten, and the crowd around me starts to get smaller and smaller. Fifteen minutes now and the crowd has disappeared. They’ve all boarded the airplane. I start to get nervous and I walk quickly to the bathroom area with awful visions of what possibly could have happened to my new husband. Just before I’m about to run into the men’s bathroom , I hear my name, then “please report to your gate immediately” across the airport intercom system. Now I’m running back from where I came only to find Paul waiting impatiently at the gate and questioning my whereabouts. “Where were you?” he asks as if he’s been waiting at the gate the whole time. “Where was I? Where were you?”. Turns out, Paul thought it would be a convenient time, after visiting the bathroom and before boarding the plane, to purchase some more Euros. He just didn’t think the transaction would take as long as it did. Luckily, despite the airline’s staffers looks of disapproval, we were able to board the plane just before they closed the aircraft door. Now, I’m certain that we’d be great candidates for the show “The Amazing Race”.
Now, back to Madrid. With a two-hour delay, Paul had a lot of time to go on an airport adventure and off he went while I tried to figure out the most comfortable way to sleep in a most uncomfortable airport chair. When it was finally time to board our plane, we had the pleasure of walking out onto the heated runway to a small jet that we were then slowly and methodically shoehorned into. This time, my sparkly shirt got us seats right behind first class. I wasn’t too disappointed this time. After all there were only two first class seats on this miniature airplane with a dish towel- like curtain to separate “us” from “them”.
After two hours aboard the Iberian mini-me, I could finally see Mt. Vesuvius out my window!
I couldn’t believe we had finally arrived in Italy! We wedged ourselves out of the plane, packed ourselves like sardines onto a bus, and rode to the terminal to pick up our bags. Once we obtained our luggage, still donned with our now very dirty “Just Married” stickers (but still sticking!), we walked straight to our Italian chauffeur from BenVenito Limousine.
We did not explore Napoli (Naples), although someday we’d like to. On our way to Sorrento, while careening down the highway at full speed, our driver pointed out Mt. Vesuvius and told us about the history of Pompei. While I tried to listen intently to his history lesson, I could not peel my eyes away from the highway. The driving in Italy is somewhat similar to Nascar, only European style with lots of scooters.
After about forty minutes we finally reached Sorrento and I could not believe the beauty before me! The mountains rising in the distance, the jagged cliffs, the winding roads, the aqua colored water, the brightly colored flowers-it was amazing. When I exclaimed how beautiful it was, our driver replied, “Its nice, but not as pretty as the Amalfi Coast where I live”. Since he didn’t invite us to have dinner at his house or to pick lemons off of his lemon trees, we decided to keep our reservations in Sorrento as we planned and catch the Amalfi Coast another time. Sorrento was gorgeous enough for me.
Our hotel-the Grand Hotel Aminta-was ideally located high above the town of Sorrento giving us exceptional views from our sea view balcony. When we arrived, we were beyond exhausted and hungry and found it difficult to hear anything the hotel staff had to say in their welcoming messages. We immediately found our third floor room, went straight to the balcony to gawk at our view, and then found our way to dinner.
Dinner. Be advised that this post will be very different from the posts that follow. We only ate dinner at our hotel this first evening because, after what felt like almost two days of traveling, we were too tired to venture into town. While I’d like to say my first meal in Italy was the best I ever had, it wasn’t. In the posts that follow, you will hear about every meal and every restaurant that succeeded this one, but I can’t say I loved my dinner at the hotel. Maybe I was too tired, too jet lagged, or maybe I set my expectations a little too high because, after all, I was in Italy. However, Paul was disappointed too and we began to realize that our hotel, although modern and beautiful, was more American and less Italian than we had hoped for. In the end, we would love to stay at this hotel again. Their service and their accommodations were outstanding and we’d recommend it as a great place to stay when visiting Sorrento. It’s just important to remember one little thing. Italy is right outside your door. So don’t get yourself all wrapped up in the hotel. Go out and taste what you can’t taste at home.
After dinner, we retired to our room and, with the intentions of just lying down for a minute or two, we fell asleep for the night. Buonanotte, Italia! See you in the morning!