There is something rather empowering about traveling on your own. I’ve often received strange looks when I’ve told others that I’m going on some grand trip by myself. “Don’t you get lonely?” some ask. “That’s really weird. Who travels by themselves?” others might say. There have been times when I’ve wanted company, but I’ve always said that if I held off my trips until others were available, I’d never travel anywhere! People have their own schedules to work around. I haven’t minded; I figured if I get lonely, I can just go on a tour or head out to a bar and find some others to hang out with.
This trip has done wonders in helping me regain some confidence that I’d thought I’d lost during the last couple years, in between my demoralizing job in Hawaii to juggling those (often unwanted) opinions regarding the wedding. I won’t lie, I’ve been a bit of a wreck, but in a strange way Paris is helping me get back on track.
Walking around the city is therapeutic, of course. Plus it’s nice to be in a place where everyone seems happy (plenty of other tourists are here on vacation) as the feeling is contagious. Okay, so the numerous couples making out are kind of obnoxious, but mostly because they pick the most inconvenient places to display their affection. (At the bottom of the stairs at the train station? Really?)
Anyway, I flew to Naples for the weekend to visit some friends. One more thing I love about Europe (and really, the rest of the world that isn’t the United States) is that it’s really easy to get a cheap flight elsewhere. I love that for next to nothing I can get on a plane and be in another country in an hour or two! Before I knew it I was in Italy, eager to see my friends and get a change of scenery.
Naples is definitely a different scene from Paris. Where Paris is all refined culture, Naples is a bit run down and reminds me of the port call we did at Manila in the Philippines. (Keep a close eye on your handbags! Pickpocketers are everywhere.) I had been told that Naples is the “armpit of Italy” so I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, my friend Crystal had told me that she’d just had to move to a different apartment because the wiring was from the 1940s and it had caught on fire! (She’s fine, thank goodness.) And don’t get me started on driving. I thought Hawaii was bad, but here the road signs are just decoration and getting across town is basically a go-kart free-for-all! I told her that she’s my hero for being able to drive in that madness, because I would go crazy. I mean, look at the parking situation.
Still, for all the grime, Naples does have a lot of character and charm. The people here are so friendly and talkative, which is such a nice change from the stoicism of Paris. Crystal and I had a good laugh when a local approached me for the third time and asked if I had a cigarette lighter. “It’s because they think you’re Italian!” she exclaimed. Thank you, mom’s side of the family, for having such prominent Sicilian genes even though our ancestors moved to America a century ago. It must be the hair – I highlighted it while living in Hawaii, but had switched back to my natural black before the wedding and then decided to leave it that way. Makes for a good conversation starter, apparently!
When one gets tired of the city, the Amalfi coast is just an hour drive away. We went to Ravello on Sunday and had brunch on a cliff overlooking the sea, then spent the afternoon walking around the villas and browsing the local pottery shops.
I think Naples is like Hawaii in that it’s the kind of place you either love or hate living in. Crystal really enjoys it, but the other friend I’d hung out with wasn’t too impressed. “The nightlife is disappointing, and there’s no class or culture here. It’s the same crap every weekend,” he told me. “I spend all my money on getting out of Naples as often as I can.” He seemed to be doing all right for himself; the bartenders shouted his name in greeting at every place we went to. And in fairness, from what I could see the nightlife didn’t seem all that bad. Sure, it was no Tokyo or Hong Kong (places where we had all partied together back in the day) but it was definitely a more subdued scene than you would expect in a larger, more diverse city. I’m sure it gets old after a while. His complaints actually sounded like the ones I had living in Hawaii. I had spent all my money on trips off the island too, and for all of Waikiki’s entertainment, eventually I’d had enough of beachside bars and had gotten quite bored. So I can definitely see where he’s coming from.
But the food! Food in Italy really is all that it’s hyped up to be. One thing that surprised me is that buffalo mozzarella (for which this region is famous) is really, really delicious. I had always thought of mozzarella as that cheese that you put on pizza – just kind of there, nothing special. But what you get in Naples isn’t your Kraft pre-shredded mozzarella in a bag.
Sadly, my weekend there came to an end all too quickly. I had to jet off to the UK on Monday and for once it was something I needed to do – the school I’ll be attending in the fall was having a meetup in London for incoming students, including a few alums from the business school. It’s never too early to start networking!