Now for some Greek ruins

After much indecisiveness and too-ing and fro-ing, we’ve come to a decision. Well, actually, we came to the decision about 12 hours ago but for some reason I have kept going back over it….total first world problems moment- do we visit an island with pretty coloured houses and smoking volcanic geyser like things, a lovely beach with an old town which is exactly halfway to our next destination or do we head south, the opposite direction, to see some Ancient Greek temples?

Having established they are amongst the top 5 Ancient Greek temples of the world and near a nice beach, we’ve decided to head south for a couple of days of rest and recuperation after the madness that was Naples. Marie has booked a seafront hotel which, to my surprise, has given us a room with a balcony facing the sea.

As we arrive, the lady at reception announces that it’s “210”, which prompts Marie to point out worriedly that the price we got onlike was much lower and it shouldn’t be 210 – “It’s a good room”, says the woman with a puzzled smile, to which Marie replied slightly arsily that that’s not the point, and proceeds to forage in the bag for proof of the online quote… until she realises that “210” is the number of the room and not its price, and is left to sheepishly apologize to the poor woman, who fortunately takes the situation with humour.

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It IS a nice room!

I’m made up; we arrive mid-afternoon, sit on a sunny balcony watching the waves gently lapping the sand and life is good. We have, once again, made our late lunch error (in a bid to get as far through the journey as possible while Eliza is sleeping) and end up with a drink and bag of crisps each in a beachfront café as nowhere is serving food in the afternoon, not even the hotel. We then have a nice stroll back, through some pine trees, during which I realise that I no longer have the car key in my pocket. That same day Marie has left our wallet on a table in the reception area of the hotel, thinking I had it, so we’re doing well on trying to lose all our important possessions. Fortunately both turn out to be exactly where we’d accidentally left them so all is well (and a sign perhaps that we need Zaza to bless us with a little more sleep each night).

Dinner works out much better than lunch, and we’ve quite the appetite for it as the gas in our apartment ran out in the morning, scuppering breakfast plans, then the crisp lunch, so we’ve barely eaten all day. We head the other direction along the seafront, me once again loving having my toes in the sand, to a nice little restaurant for langoustine spaghetti and calamari gratin. We watch the most beautiful sunset over the Amalfi Coast and Capri as we’re sipping our rose, waiting for our mains to arrive. Eliza has her, now usual, restaurant discontent and we remain grateful that it’s a quiet night for the restaurant with just a few other families dining, also with small children. This doesn’t stop me indulging in dessert however and it’s quite an amazing meringue, cream and possibly amaretto ensemble that completely makes my night.

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After a mediocre breakfast in the hotel the following morning, we head over to Paestum for the ruins. We thought we’d booked a hotel in walking distance, but despite this being theoretically true, we didn’t spot any pavements on the route on the way in so instead opt to take the car. This proves a little bit of an adventure, with me glancing at the route on my phone before leaving, leaving the phone in the room and then the sat nav not finding a signal until we’re pulling into the parking lot at the opposite end of the ruins to my café of choice for lunch, having first directed Marie into a pedestrianised road.

All is not lost though as this means we have a nice walk past the temples along a pretty, uncrowded but nicely lively, central street. We spot a wedding, so I head off to take a closer look, intrigued to see the style of people’s dresses (not particularly different to an English wedding, if you’re wondering). While having lunch, three more brides walk pass, so we establish we’ve found a favourite spot for Italian weddings. This is pretty understandable, given the beauty of the ancient temples.

Lunch is amazing (I know this post has been pretty food centric so far, I’ll move onto other topics soon I promise). I’ve chosen a place specialising in local meats and cheeses and we arrive to a view of tables laden with sharer-style charcuterie platters. The menu is a little hard to choose from, so we ask to have the same as the people on the table beside us and find ourselves with a complete feast. One sharer platter of hot vegetables from the garden, one of dried meats and local buffalo cheeses and another one covered in all sorts of cheese. It’s pretty amazing, with the backdrop of the temples and, with predominantly cold food, sharing eating and Eliza holding is nice and easy.

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After lunch we try to enter the temples and find ourselves redirected to the museum to buy tickets, which also include museum entry. The museum houses all the finer details from the ruins, such as the sculpted roof decorations, along with Greek tombs and pottery such as painted vases.

The tombs especially are pretty amazing to see; stone slabs for the sides and base, painted with various scenes- many of fighting, presumably for tombs of warriors and some of other daily events, like baking. The quality of the paintings, by our standards anyway, seems really variable, some seem sloppy and very wrong in terms of bodily proportions and so on, and others seem expertly created, perhaps indicating a difference of wealth. There is one tomb in particular that stands out and is quite something to behold, ‘the diver’. This has a beautiful painting of a man diving as the slab on the top of the tomb. Inside, the side slabs depict a typical Greek banquet, with men eating, playing instruments and caressing one another. The craftsmanship is impeccable, the effect is moving and we spend a while admiring it.

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We decide to head on over to the temples and have a wander around. It’s on a large site with ruins outlining the floor plan of the city- houses, rooms, a theatre and other bits of infrastructure are visible, but by far the main attraction is the three temples. I’ve not seen ruins like this before; they stand tall, almost at full size without the roofs so it’s easy to imagine the grandeur of them amongst the surrounding single storey simple dwellings of the Greek city. Each one is a temple for a particular Greek god and they seem to shine in the late afternoon light. It’s not busy, so at times it feels like we have them to ourselves and at several points in our visit we hear people performing nearby- one man having what looks like a drama lesson in the ruined theatre, complete with lengths of white cloth and a Shakespearean-like delivery of his monologue. Another group seem to be having a monologue ‘jam’ in front of the temples, with different people taking it in turns to jump to their feet and proclaim whatever it is in the script. It makes for an entertaining and atmospheric visit and alongside this we’re surrounded by the smells of oregano and mint growing all over the ruins. We add to Eliza’s ‘feeding with a view’ series, with a ‘changing with a view’ episode.

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Happily wandering in the afternoon sun, we decide to finish our trip with gelato and then head back to our hotel for some chill time before dinner. The internet is pretty ropey so our initial plan of relaxing in the hotel and catching up with the blog over a couple of days is somewhat scuppered, but we do have a bit of a relax and enjoy a drink outside to watch the sunset before heading out to dinner, completing our ‘holiday’ feel to this stay.

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It’s a day of feasting as, after our massive lunch, I decide I really want to try the local steak anyway as all the menus so far have dedicated pages to descriptions of the famous local cattle (not that I can read them, but the pictures were pretty convincing). It turns out to be a worthwhile exercise as it melts in the mouth. Marie’s breaded and fried ravioli doesn’t quite have the same appeal, but she eats it fairly happily and Eliza sleeps contentedly on a bed we’ve made out of chairs, coats and a blanket. We follow this with an amaretto and cream dessert and wander happily back to our room.

The next morning we check out after a late breakfast feeling the positive effects of our chilled out beach hotel break, our heads full of the prettiness of the ruins, and head North toward Rome.

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