Ice-Capades in the ATL

Unless you are completely unplugged, y’all may have heard that we have had a little winter weather down here in Georgia.  Twice.  In the span of two weeks.  These events resulted in six official days off from the public schools (an “early” dismissal, followed by three full days at home the first go-around and then three more days off this past week).  Today marks the end of the 4-day Presidents’ Day weekend, which punctuated our impromptu vacation with an exclamation point.

“No big deal,” says everybody I know in the Northeast.  “We have had so many snowstorms this winter that they are about to loop back to the letter “A” in naming them.  Our kids haven’t had a regular, 5-day school week since before winter break.”

True.  But that’s what you get when you live above the Mason-Dixon.  Eleven and a half years ago, Sheepdog and I made the conscious choice to pack up our U-Haul and leave that bittersweet nonsense up North.  Sure, we would miss the peaceful, thick flakes that fall so quietly and leave everything looking like a Thomas Kinkade painting.  Of course, we would lament our lack of white Christmases.  We would even long for the occasional snow day here and there.  But in the plus column…  no more grey slush.  No more filthy cars from November through March.  No more bruised tailbones from slipping on ice in the driveways and parking lots.  No more gravel and sand giving our vehicles microdermabrasion of the chassis all winter long.  Heck, I didn’t even buy winter coats for my kids in 2005 or 2008.  It rarely dropped below 40° F those winters and when it did, I just told them to wear two sweatshirts!

But ever since I sold my like-new ice scraper and snow shovel in a yard sale for 25 cents each (they sat in the garage, mocking my northern roots, for more than ten years), it seems like everybody from Mother Nature to Jon Stewart has been busy making fun of us down here in the bible belt.  One day we are pruning our crepe myrtles, the next day we are doing scratch spins in our electric cars on I-75/85.  And before we know, it will be 108° F in the shade again and we will long once more for the cool days of February.

In the meantime, we’re all just hanging here in the ATL with our excesses of bread and milk and alcohol, trying not to kill our children or spouses due to the incredible amounts of quality family time we have been given.  Nothing to do but sled in our laundry baskets, swim at the indoor pools at Lifetime Fitness, and play an 18-hour, six day game of Risk.

Good times.  Great memories.  Seriously.  When’s Spring?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Pompeii Day – The Turnaround (Day Five)

…and then there were four.

My dad barely limped across the finish line yesterday, and he subsequently self-medicated with a bottle of room service vodka.  Even if we decided to do a tour on Saturday that included being pushed around in chariots all day, it was clear that he would not be participating.  He and my mom stayed on board when the ship docked in Naples.  They really needed a day off.

Kid A, Sister B, Sister C and I were also exhausted, but none of us had been put on injured reserve, so we just reminded one another that this was likely a once in a lifetime situation.  Who knew if or when we would be back to any of these places again?  We set our alarms and dragged our tourist butts out of bed early yet again.

But we decided after having experienced the public transportation systems in Florence and Rome, and relatively little else in both cities, we would try an organized tour this time around.

P (one of our aunts on the trip) had gotten a brochure from a company called CBM (Can’t Be Missed) when we were leaving Rome.  Their tour was only 65 euros and included the spots we wished to see.  That was to be the tour for us!

We left the port proper and walked a short distance to a bus depot.  We walked in a queue and then climbed aboard like pod people. (There is a whole lot of queueing and pod-people behavior associated with cruises.  You just get used to it.)

Guido and The Tour of Happiness

Our tour guide introduced himself as Guido.  I knew immediately that this tour was exactly what we needed.  On the heels of two days of sweating, wandering aimlessly, and pushing our way through throngs of tourists and not even getting to lay eyes on the statue of David (although I had surely seen enough naked men carved in stone in Florence alone to last me a lifetime), I was truthfully a bit negative on all things Italy.  But Guido the Tour Guide turned all of that around with his opening line.

“The sun is shining.  You are smiling.  Your spirit is smiling and shining also,” he beamed as he spoke in his very broken and incredibly endearing Italian-English.

“The sun is whispering to you, ‘Life is wonderful!’” he continued.  Then he gave us some history of the area and a little back story on Naples.  Our plan for the day was to bypass all of the morning crowds at the ruins and to drive up the Amalfi Coast first. We would stop on the way back down for lunch and some free time in the village of Sorrento.  Our last stop of the day would be to observe the destruction wrought by Mt. Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago.

We drove over 1,200 switchbacks in less than 34 miles of coastline.  Guido serenaded us with the Beatles (“…the long and winding road…”) and Chubby Checker (“…let’s twist again…”) many times throughout.  He told stories of his mother getting up early each Sunday to cook the sauce (“blub, blub, blub… for seven hours”) which was the cornerstone of family dinners.  The views were spectacular.  His commentary was priceless.

“Look what life is presenting you today!”  We smiled proper, special smiles as we ate our lemon slushies that we purchased for two euros from a cliffside stand above a breathtaking harbor.  My dad would love this spot.  I took lots of pictures.

After a delicious lunch at an authentic Italian restaurant (“…bottle of red, mmmmmmmm, bottle of white…”) we walked around the local markets until it was time to get back on the bus.  The town of Sorrento was colorful and charming and one of my favorite stops on the trip so far.

“Bene, bene, bene, belissimo!” Guido greeted us.  I could not help but smile around this man!

We had time for some Italian music on the sound system and then a short nap before we started our walking tour of the ruins.  Guido did a fantastic job recounting the story of Pompeii and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  I could almost see the mud tsunami that suddenly and unexpectedly covered the city.  He painted us spectacular pictures with his words.

I think we spent over two hours walking through the ruins.  By the end, we were tired and covered from head to toe in Vesuvian dust and grime.  I could taste it in my mouth.

Guido reminded us that Mother Nature does not care if you are man nor woman, rich nor slave.  Then he asked the women who “liked to fall down” (including one of my aunts and Sister B, but in fairness, those streets were totally dangerous and uneven) to come walk by him because they “were not good; they were not ok.”  I think he was just looking for an American girlfriend who would cook him sauce on Sundays.

At the end of the tour we were reminded to always “…have the best of today to you.”

All I can say is that I thought that Italy was fantastico after such a proper, special tour.  But I really need a Silkwood shower to clean all of the Pompeii off of me.

Ciao for now, Italia!  Torneremo!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…