John gives me his quizzical, sleepy, I-haven't-had-my-coffee-yet look and glances at the glowing time readout on the stereo.
It's just a few minutes past six in the morning and the jeep is humming us along the quiet streets of our tiny Italian suburb.
"I want to hit the autostrada first, make a little progress before we make our first stop." He explains, eyes concentrated on winding through a roundabout.
"Alright sounds good to me!" I pop the top off of my cranberry juice(I'm addicted) and take a gulp while reclining my seat. We get through the toll stop and pull our ticket for the journey ahead. John turns on NPR and settles the GPS, and I slip my shoes off without untying them and place my warm feet up on the dash board fixing my toes against the cool glass of the windshield. John looks over and laughs as I flip open my iPad and begin rotating through all of my candy-crush type games.
We catch up on some "Wait, wait, don't tell me.." podcasts, allowing the voice of Carl Kasell to be our soundtrack as we wind our way through stretches of road overlooking vineyards, and fields of corn, villas and castles, mountains with tunnels built into them and so on...
We finally pull off at one of the little service station restaurants and grab a quick bite to eat. John grabs a 'caprese' sandwich and I grab a 'veggie' both on focaccia bread. Lucky for us, Italian sandwiches and pizza flavors are pretty consistent no matter where you go, this has aided us quite a bit in ordering food when we're traveling or trying new places.
I pluck the tofu from my sandwich as John chuckles at me, and drop it in the garbage pale by our car. It sticks to the plastic bag liner with a 'squish' noise and slowly slides down the side leaving a trail of mysterious soy juices in its wake.
'Gross...' I mutter and grab a napkin to wipe my fingers. Putting my sandwich back together I munch on the sweet, vegetable-y goodness and we hit the road.
We continue listening to NPR, occasionally switching over to some eighties spotify, but mostly just keeping with our current-events radio game shows. We stop for lunch and continue driving until we get to our destination nine and a half hours after we left that morning.
Praia A Mare
(aka The Most Beautiful Place I've Ever Seen)
John slowly coaxes the jeep up steep hills and narrow roads to get us to our hotel while I stay mesmerized on the neon blue water that seems to stretch on forever. We are suddenly stopped as we reach a road with a tree in the center. Not decoratively, not sitting in a median, not even in a planter. This tree, was very obviously here before the road, and instead of cutting it down, the great town of praia chose instead to build around the tree.
This place was definitely unique.
We spent three days enjoying, sun, salt water and pebble beaches but the highlight would have to be the second day we were there, which was also our anniversary. We woke up late and rolled out of bed around lunch time...
"I want pizza!" I said.
John laughed and agreed we could go get pizza and pick up a few things before heading to the beach. We grab sunscreen and a few slices and gobble them down right by the beach, then head toward the lido to ask about renting kayaks.
"We do not have...for two.." The woman gestures towards the both of us.
"But do you have two boats for one?" John mimes the kayaking paddle motion for the fifth time in the conversation.
"Ahhh, yes, yes, my husband, he will get them for you!"
John looks at me with concern, but I just nod. I've never kayaked before, and I'm not the strongest of swimmers, so learning on the sea is quite the scary experience but I've decided this is something I must do.
We layer on the all natural water proof sunblock that cost us an arm and a leg and the lido woman's husband pushes me off with my paddle into the waves first. I feel a bit unsteady at first but quickly gain my balance and push myself out a bit farther so John can take off from the shore as well. Once John is safely afloat we head toward the island that is off the coast and are ready to do some exploring!
As we paddle around Dino Island(sorry, no actual dinosaurs) we explore it's caves and caverns filled with bats and birds and fish of different sizes and shapes. The animals are brave here, not skittering away like they would on the shore so John and I get as close as they'll let us. We round the back to where we can no longer see the shore and the waves are much stronger, thrusting and pounding into the jagged rocks that line it. So we give the edge a wider berth and paddle carefully to the other side. On the far side of the island we enter the 'blue grotto caves' which consist of caves that are uniquely shaped allowing sunlight to pass through the open bottom of it which illuminates the water and makes it literally glow blue. It's magical and amazing and John and I spend a good ten minutes inside taking pictures and just looking around.
We head closer to the coast and stop off at some cliffs. Docking our kayaks we explore a little, marveling at little shellfish scurrying across the warm rock and looking out over the water. After allowing ourselves to stretch our legs, we hop back in our kayaks. Not without difficulty, as I flip mine but manage to figure it out in the end.
We return back to shore, exhausted, and slightly dehydrated and after getting drinks at the lido return to our hotel to get ready for dinner.
Dinner was amazing. We sat outside overlooking the water as the sunset and had the freshest seafood either of us has ever tasted. It was dark by our second course, and just after it is served we are lucky enough to watch a fireworks show from our seats. Then, finally our very spunky Italian waiter teases us about wanting to get back to our hotel to sleep and we get talked into staying for the best strawberry ice cream either of us will ever have for the rest of our lives.
Our anniversary was perfect and the highlight of our trip, though I don't know how John plans to beat it next year...
Our stay in Praia ends after our third day and we have a relatively uneventful trip back to Torri, with a quick stop in Capua that only involved us running from the cops once. *(For the full story read the caption below the pictures from Capua)
*We initially were very excited to be walking around the ruins of the gladitorial colosseum
however, because they are in the process of archeologically preserving it,
alot was blocked and roped off.
After jumping the ropes to take a picture together in the center
of the colosseum, John decided to take it a step further
and sneak down a staircase..
Where he took multiple pictures...until he accidentally ran into
an archeologist working. Shortly after the cops showed up, though she did not
see John, she definitely heard him.
So, we decided to duck into the museum for a little while..
Pictures from inside the museum..
We came out and the cops were nowhere, so I snuck down a different blocked-off
staircase with John and we took more unforgettable, amazing, pictures..
We then came back up and noticed the cops, so we pretended
that we were walking around the premises for the first time..
Then we noticed were about to cross paths with the cops, I smiled at them
and was content to just walk on by, but not John.
No, he politely asked the cops to take our picture.
The cops, searching the historical ruins without a description happily obliged,
and took the picture of the people they were searching for.
Our smiles in this picture..are very genuine.
John and I have both agreed that the trip was filled with experiences that beat anything we've ever done in our lives. We kayaked in the ocean, explored an uninhabited island, I jumped off a diving board, and we illegally snuck around historical ruins. And for me in particular it was filled with facing fears or as we say here 'Vincere la Paura'.