Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Baba no, It's Babá- Part 3

The birds chirped and my tummy growled. We had all slept like logs. We needed the rest because a day of exploration and sightseeing awaited. The three of us woke up and took turns using the casket shower. I stood gazing at that shower door and just tried to devise a plan. I needed to drape a towel overhead in case I got stuck and hotel staff needed to break down the door to come to my rescue. How embarrassing. So with a oneeee- twoooo- threeeee- momentum going, I shimmied into the shower. To my surprise, I fit! Barely, but I fit. What a relief. I was seriously envisioning myself being carried out on a stretcher in nothing but a towel. I finished quickly and got dressed. We all went to the dining area for our breakfast. Surprisingly, it was not bad. It wasn’t the smörgåsbord that we experienced in Rome, but hey this was not bad at all. They had cereals, eggs, pastries, bread, butter, juices and yogurts. What else could we ask for? I suppose a mimosa would have been nice, but considering our alcohol intake from the night before, it was best that we stay away from it. The last thing I needed was to return to Miami a lush. After breakfast we went to the hotel’s front desk and asked how to catch a bus to the nearest bus station. We were told that around the corner, not quite as far as restaurant we had visited the evening before, there was a small convenience store, which sold bus tokens. The bus stop was only a few feet away from the store. So off we went to buy the bus tokens. The Marina in the daytime was beautiful. There were fishing boats, and restaurants lining the small port. In the distance Mt. Vesuvius appeared to be sinking into the sea. There was a small patch of sand in between two plots of businesses that led to the ocean.

The townspeople used this as their private beach. There was the cutest chubby little girl wearing only panties and a bandanna playing in the sand and water. I stopped and took a picture of her because she was so cute. We were distracted by this and almost didn’t realize that the bus arrived. The only problem was that my grandmother had stayed behind because her knee was aching from our pilgrimage the day before. She told us to come and get her in the front terrace of the hotel once we bought the tokens. My mother and I mustered up enough Italian to tell the bus driver that my grandmother was waiting by the hotel. Luckily, he agreed to make a stop just for her. Phew! That was close. The morning had been filled with excitement so far- first the shower, now the bus- what next? We picked up my grandmother and proceeded to downtown Sorrento where the bus stopped. We got off and walked to the center of town. Downtown Sorrento was so quaint. There were specialty boutiques and clothing stores. There was a pharmacy and a grocery store and a lovely bakery. We decided to stop at the grocery store to buy some bottled water. The grocery store was small, but had such fresh produce. The boxed pasta also looked different than it’s American counterpart. It didn’t appear as dried out as the versions back home. We paid for our water and continued walking towards the next bus station. It was a bit of a hike, but we finally found it. We bought our ticket to the Amalfi Coast and waited for the next bus to arrive. It was a gorgeous day. There was a slight breeze and it was very sunny. There were potted flowers and lemon trees all around town. Sorrento and the Amalfi coast were famous for their lemons. They were enormous. I was so tempted to pick one off the tree, but as eventful as the morning had been, I decided a trip to the Sorrento jailhouse would not be fun. The bus arrived and we were so excited.

We had all heard that Amalfi was beautiful. I remembered seeing it in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun and was thrilled to actually be on my way there. We were told at the bus station that the trip to Amalfi would take about an hour. So we sat in the nice air-conditioned bus and looked at the beautiful landscapes around us. There was a house that had been built directly into a mountain. It had a swimming pool that overlooked the turquoise sea below. As we started going up the mountain the ride became very tumultuous. As if in a fun house, that bus began twisting and turning on a street that kept get narrower and narrower. What began as a picturesque and relaxing ride became what felt like a scene from the movie Speed. My heart felt like it was sitting in my throat. The strangest part was that all of the locals acted like everything was normal… no one looked worried or perturbed- no one except the three of us, that is. After a few minutes, we decided that if everyone else was calm, we shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Finally, after this journey we arrived to Amalfi. We were stunned. What a gorgeous place. There were houses built on layer upon layer the mountainside. There were gorgeous views of the ocean. At first when we were researching the possibility of traveling here, we read about the cities that were in the Amalfi coast. There was Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, Vietri, and several other cities that we wanted to see. What was funny was that the cities were separated not so much by miles in latitude, but by miles in altitude. The higher or lower you went up the mountain the different cities you could see. Positano was below Amalfi, but because my grandmother’s knee had been acting up, we decided not to go. The walk would be way too steep for her. Another place we wanted to see was the Isle of Capri. From Positano you would take a ferry to there. They say Capri is gorgeous too. We decided to explore Amalfi and see how much time we had before the last bus arrived. Amalfi was filled with little shops. Some shops sold souvenirs, other shops sold ceramic house wares, and other sold produce there was such an eclectic variety of things to look at.

By this time, it was early afternoon and we were ready for a snack. We stopped at a small café that served Paninis and Gelato. Of course, we walked right in. A gelato was the perfect snack for a day like that one. My mom, grandmother, and I looked at the flavors. Our eyes danced over the Gelato case. My grandmother selected the coconut flavor. My mom chose the mascarpone, and I chose the Panna flavor. We sat outside the café and ate our gelato with such delight. We were having such a great time. The weather was beautiful, and the scenery was amazing. That Gelato was a piece of heaven. It was so creamy and delicious. Italians really have it right. We finished our snack and headed towards the shops. At the time, Brandon and I were living in a town house in Miami, which did not have any house numbers on it.

We walked into the ceramic shop looking for ceramic numbers. I saw one that I really liked made from terra cotta with the numbers outlined in black and red. Unfortunately, they had the 3’s but not the 1. My house number at the time was 133. We kept on looking and found one that was made of white ceramic with the lining in Blue. It also had yellow lemons as an adornment. This was it… every time I got home, I would instantly be reminded of my wonderful time in Amalfi.

We kept on seeing signs that said Baba sold here. I asked my mom and grandmother what that was and they didn’t know. We kept on meandering. The next thing that caught our eye was a fresh produce stand. This wasn’t just any plain old produce stand. This stand had the largest lemons I had ever seen. They were beautiful. There were strawberries, apricots, peaches, grapes- all sorts of delectable fruits. There was also a large sign above some dried peppers that read “Viagra Naturale”. Boy, we got a kick out of that. We had spent a few hours in Amalfi and realized we had drank the bottled water we purchased in Sorrento, and had not used the bathroom since then… suddenly the priority was to find a restroom. We looked and looked no bathrooms in sight. We asked a woman at one of the stores where the bathroom was and she pointed to another store. So off we went to that store. When we got there, this store did not have a bathroom either. By this time, we HAD to go. We kept walking ahead for about 5 minutes. Along the way, we passed a few more Baba signs. Finally, we had found the bathroom. They only odd thing was that they charged money to use it. We dug into our pockets and purses and found sufficient change to use the loo. It was the first time in my whole life I had paid to use a public bathroom. It wasn’t even a nice bathroom at that. It was grimy and dingy. But, like the ol’ saying goes- when you have to go, you have to go.

We made our last stop at the Limoncello store. The Amalfi Coast and Sorrento are famous for it’s’ Limoncello. The shop owner, which reminded me of Gepetto, was giving samples of the Limoncello. He had strawberry flavored Limoncello, and orange flavored Limoncello. There was a kaleidoscope of flavors; the hardest part was picking which one to take back. My grandmother bought a bottle of strawberry flavored Limoncello and a regular lemon one. And with that, we were headed back to the bus stop going back to Sorrento.

The trip back was not as scary, maybe because we knew what to expect this time around. We arrived to the town square and walked past this beautiful Italian handbag and shoe store called Nannini. You could tell that this was not going to be cheap. But we were on vacation, and no men were there to deter us from our womanly urges to shop. I could have taken one of everything. I was scared to pick up the price tag to the purse I liked. It was about 350 Euros-, which at the time the dollar had already declined quite a bit. I looked at it and quietly put it down. My mom and grandma were both looking around too. My aunt Cristy would have really enjoyed this trip, but because her Daughter, Carolina was still very young, she did not come along on the trip. My grandmother felt compelled to buy her a purse there. So she did, and along with that, she bought herself a black bag, and my mom the orange bag she so loved. That’s when my mom decided that she would buy me my pale yellow leather bag. I was thrilled. It was a beauty. We left the store and continued to walk around Sorrento.

After more shopping, and details I won’t bore you with, we decided it was time to have dinner. We were in Europe during the World Cup series. Those Europeans don’t mess around when it comes to the world cup. There were cafés packed with people sitting round’ a TV watching the game and cheering. We came to find this trattoria type restaurant and decided, after seeing some of the meals that the guests had ordered that this was it. The food looked amazing. After reviewing the menu, we decided to start the meal off with a nice glass of wine. We each ordered our meals. The food was delicious. We were stuffed. As the waiter approached my grandmother noticed that there was a sign on the wall advertising Baba. She said to the waiter "what is Baba?" he looked at her with a raised eyebrow and replied "Baba no, it's Babá". He explained that Baba was a dessert. He described it as round pieces of caked soaked in Rum. After seeing all those signs my grandmother wanted to know what all the rage was so she ordered one. My mom and I were stuffed so we only ate one bite to taste. This stuff was strong! It burned the back of my throat as it went down. It was like eating little balls of fire! My grandmother ate the rest.

We finished our meal with a nice coffee and headed back to the hotel. Half and hour hadn't passed after being in the hotel when my grandmother urgently ran to the bathroom. The next thing we heard was her
throwing up. It was awful and terribly funny to my mom and I at the time. She kept on for quite sometime, and the louder she got, the more my mom and I could not stop laughing. She finally finished, and after asking her if she felt ok, I said "Aby, I think the Babá went Ba- bye" The three of us were cracking up. We each got ready to go to bed, as we were headed back to Rome the following day. I pulled out the Murphy bed and laid down. The sheets were damp. Yuck. I guess we were all so tired and tipsy from the huge beer the night before that we hadn't noticed the nuances of our hotel. All of a sudden we heard this noise that sounded like trickling water. We looked around but nothing was leaking so we just let it go. Then about half an hour later we heard it again. It sounded like it was coming from the wall. But again we couldn't find where it was coming from. After talking with my mom and grandmother we realized that it was the water flushing from the toilets of other people's rooms. Apparently every time someone flushed , the water passed through a pipe that was inside one of the walls in our room. That made for a few laughs and with that, we went to bed and ended our stay in Sorrento.

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