Flying through the Clouds on the Anacapri Chair Lift

Anacapri chair lift

The Anacapri chair lift up Monte Solaro for the great island views

As a child, I would stay on the swings as long as I could.  While my sister and friends had moved onto the monkey bars and other playground equipment, I stayed on the swings enjoying each attempt to go higher and fly. As a teen, my swings were upgraded at the carnival, when I found the wicker basket chair and clipped in (not the height of safety).  Couples held hands until they had to let go once the ride started to spin round and then lifted up and rotated quickly with the chairs swinging in different directions. You hoped you tied your shoes tight enough so they didn’t fly off (someone always lost a shoe on that ride).  I loved the feeling of flying and the views it afforded me of the carnival action below. Years, later, I would get that high looking out the airplane window high above the clouds jetting off to a new adventure….always an adventure.

So when I visited the island of Capri and heard that the Anacapri chair lift afforded great island views, I was pretty excited to try it.  A few folks dismissed the ride to the top which I understand if you are tight for time on a day tour as I’d go to the Blue Grotto first too.

Anacapri chair lift station

The Anacapri chair lift station at the top

At a cost of €10 return (or €7.50 one way, there is a walking path up/down if you have time) and with no line, I was quickly off my feet and in a wicker chair on my way up the mountain.  Immediately, I smiled and then I laughed at all the dour faces coming down.  Looking down I could see houses, gardens and residents (I waved at a woman outside of her house and she waved back) and looking up I flew through trees and then watched the clouds make their way toward me from the sea.  The chair lift was built in 1952 and I wondered how much the view had changed since then (I’m guessing not too much).  It is a bit odd though if you are a homeowner and see people flying by your window all day long.

Anacapri chair lift tourists

The ride up the Solaro mountain of Anacapri

Town of Anacapri aerial view

Anacapri view from the chair lift

The terraced garden in Anacapri

The terraced garden in Anacapri

It is a leisurely thirteen minutes as you ascend Monte Solaro giving you time to relax as you look around at the trees, gardens and out to the sea.  I had my camera around my neck taking photos and also was using my IPhone (hoping not to drop it).  At 589m or 1932’, this ride isn’t for everyone.  So if you are the odd (wo)man out, I suggest walking in town to find a gelato to kill the time waiting on your friends.

Riding through the trees in Anacapri

Riding through the trees on the Anacapri chair lift

The view ahead looked a bit misty and I realized that when it quickly turned cold that I was passing through the clouds (so cool!) as they moved quicker than I anticipated. After so many years admiring clouds from the plane or from Table Mountain, I was transported back to that silly kid from the carnival literally flying through clouds now – I never imagined that.

Capri Anacapri clouds

The clouds as I approached were so cold as I passed through

Monte Solar viewpoint

Monte Solaro viewpoint after the Anacapri chair lift ride

At the top of Monte Solaro, the highest point of the island of Capri, I quickly navigated the various viewing terraces to get my photos but the clouds had beat me on one side, so I ran to the other for a quick photo. There are steps and a rocky path at the rails so be careful when walking. I could see the Faraglioni rocks and realized that I was pretty much above Marina Grande and my hotel.

Faraglioni Rocks Capri view from Monte Solaro

Faraglioni Rocks and Marina Grande view from atop Monte Soloaro on Capri

Capri view in clouds

Cloud cover from one viewing point while watching tourists on the pathway

While work was being done to a fountain and pathways to prepare for high season, the snack bar/café was open with a good selection of patio seating with views of the island.  I found a comfy lounge chair to enjoy my snack and people watch – had I known about this area before, I would have brought a book to stay a while.

Anacapri Cafe Monte Solaro

Patio views atop Monte Solaro – sit and relax while taking in the views of Capri below

With a final view, I said “ciao” to Augustus, who first landed on Capri, and was back in my chair with my goofy smile on the ride down, again watching the bored faces of those riding up and feeling sad for them (ok, there were a few happy people -one said “hi” so not all was lost). There are 156 chairs and it was May so not quite the peak of the tourist season yet.

Augustus statute Anacapri Monte Solaro

Augustus view of Capri atop Monte Solaro in Anacapri

View of Anacapri from chair lift

View of Anacapri where most residents live – its a quieter part of the island if you choose to stay here

Sadly, the ride came to an end as I was back in the center of Anacapri at Piazza Vittoria.  I was tempted to go back and buy another ticket but instead went in search of lunch.  Sometimes, the best experiences only need one spin to make good memories.

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Venice: Watching the World Float By Outside My Window

I’ve escaped my life at home and here I sit watching the world float by – literally watching people from around the world on what is presumably their first gondola ride in Venice. Watching their faces as they point at the buildings, others taking photos and some playing with their phones bored by it all. I remember being them twenty three years ago on my first gondola ride with the senior citizens I was traveling with. They had waited all of their lives to visit Italy and I was just so young they said and how lucky I was. We all sat there (before cell phones) marveling at this city of water. I had a film camera with me back then and took photos which can’t hardly compare with the technology of today.

Venice gondola assembly line in canals

The assembly line of tourists in gondolas in Venice

I wonder if the tourists today gliding by my window feel the same way I did back then? I remember the musicians on our boat filling the air with song to serenade us. It really was a bit of magic in the canals.

 

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Categories: Activities/Experiences, Italy, My Thoughts and Musings, The Good Stuff, Travel, Venice | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Florence: How Instagram Got Me a Table at Osteria dei Pazzi

Every day I get to travel the world through Instagram.  For sport, I try to guess the destination before reading the hashtags and comments.  The quality of photos is just stunning and if you didn’t have wanderlust before opening Instagram you are sure to catch it quickly. On my travel sabbatical, Instagram would prove beneficial during my trip – I would meet Shannon in Paris and Elena would get me a table in Florence.

Fountain of Neptune Florence

Fountain of Neptune in Florence, one of many Instagram photos I posted during my visit

With one food tour in Florence and a Fiat 500 tour, I had time to wander the city center and see that there were so many restaurant options it was confusing as to which one was best.  It was on my Florence photos that Elena “Chaser of Dreams at Live Do Grow”, commented that I had to visit Osteria dei Pazzi (they don’t have a website). It was on the corner of Via dei Lavatoi 1/3 r near Santa Croce.

Basilica Santa Croce Florence

Basilica Santa Croce Florence at night after the crowds have done is lovely

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It’s So Blue at the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) in Capri

Blue is a popular color.  With so many shades of blue, it might be maddening to decipher the many hues when trying to put an outfit together but on a tour of the Blue Grotto (aka Grotta Azzurra) in Capri, Italy, there is no confusion, it’s just a magic blue. A blue you’ve never seen before, a blue that you definitely remember and a blue that is fleeting as your boat has only the one go around inside.  You will be torn whether to take video, photos or put the camera down and just absorb it all.

Blue Grotto Traffic Boats

Chaotic but organized traffic at the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy

I decided to take the road less traveled on my Blue Grotto visit.  Most visitors arrive by tour boat originating at the harbor in Marina Grande which combines an island tour with a stop at the Blue Grotto. However, I would take the bus, actually two busses.  Traveling first to Anacapri (€1.80) from the Capri center bus terminal (you can also get the Anacapri bus from Marina Grande), I would walk the two blocks to the Anacapri bus terminal and board the Grotto Azzurra bus (€1.80).

Capri Bus to Anacapri

Anacapri bus – seats 8, standing up to 20+, a tight fit either way

Anacapri bus station

Anacapri bus station signage to Grotta Azzurra

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Budget Venice: An Affordable B&B in Dorsoduro

My first Airbnb stay would be a single room in the Dorsoduro section of Venice. I needed to find two nights in Venice to complete my lodging puzzle and the Santa Margherita Guesthouse, a private B&B, seemed a perfect base to explore the city.

Dorsoduro Canal Santa Margherita Guesthouse Venice

The quiet canal that I walked from the vaporetto to the guesthouse

 

Dorsoduro

Dorsoduro is one of the five sections of Venice and more residential.  Here you will see people walking their dogs and only a few copies of Rick Steves Italy books (tourist alert) at restaurants.  Streets are filled with art galleries, restaurants with outdoor gardens, students hanging out in the large square across the bridge in Santa Margherita. With the Accademia (as well as the bridge) and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection only a 10-15 minute walk away, this was a new side of Venice for me to explore.  I really liked the area as there was a daily produce boat to buy fruit, quiet canals to discover and it lacked the hoards of tourists (at least in May when I visited).

Venice Fruit and Produce Boat

Feeling like a local buying my daily fruit from the produce boat

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10 Reasons Airbnb for Business Travel Isn’t Good

Here’s an email I never received at work “I want to use an Airbnb property instead of the luxury Ritz Carlton, Starwood or Marriott property for my business travel happily forgoing my loyalty status and points”.  In my former role as a Corporate Travel and Finance Manager, I managed business travel full cycle from writing T&E policy, managing third party vendors and ensuring compliance for reimbursement.  I loved to research hotel properties and do site visits (inspections) for our recommended lists, however, Airbnb was not an option. For a variety of reasons I wasn’t a fan of Airbnb for business travel, first and foremost was risk management, second they were high touch premium travelers and third, I wasn’t able to vet the properties.

Venice Canal Luxury Flat Fenice

A great find in Venice and managed professionally as a business

 

I was curious about the “sharing economy” (which I think actually enables more people to travel which is a good thing) and on my recent travel sabbatical, I had the opportunity to try six different Airbnb properties as a leisure traveler in Europe.  My inner hotel inspector is always on so here is why I don’t think Airbnb (similar to a dating service in my opinion) is a good option for the business traveler (some of these are cautionary for the leisure traveler) based on my European experiences.

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The Posh Basement Flat in London, an Airbnb Gem

London Airbnb flat south kensington

Cute basement flat in London

Airbnb definitely has some hidden gems and finding the posh basement flat in London was one of them.  My journey to the flat was one of the worst travel days of my life so when I finally arrived I can’t tell you how happy I was to find that the flat was just like the photos – modern, clean, comfortable, stylish chic, quiet and it smelled good.

 

 

The Area (South Kensington)

I wasn’t familiar with the Chelsea/South Kensington area of London but first impression on the street was money, lots and lots of money.  People were parking their Maserati’s, Aston Martins, Porsche and other fancy cars on the street (!!!!) as well as their private driveways. Yes, private driveways in London!  There is a Ferrari dealership nearby as well as a Shell gas station!  Who knew there was a gas station in London?  I’ve never seen one in my twenty plus years traveling to the city!  This was such a sight to see the expensive cars like a Ferrari in queue behind the black cab and the family Rover. I wasn’t in the normal tourist area, I was in a dream neighborhood that I could afford only if I hit the lottery.

Aston Martin London Street South Kensington

Parking the Aston Martin on the street and not worried about it?

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Capri: It’s All About the Views at Hotel Weber Ambassador

Faraglioni Rocks Hotel Weber Ambasador Capri

This is the money shot at the Hotel Weber Ambassador

The Hotel Weber Ambassador in Capri – it has a weird name, an amazing location, the décor is dated and the first impression not great but the views quickly put me in a trance and the service was good.

Location

The location is a quiet side of Capri, a few minutes from the town center, in Marina Piccola. The hotel runs a shuttle to and from the town center for guests. This was a plus to booking the hotel. In the area, as it was May, I knew that nothing would be open around the hotel so I would be dependent on the shuttle. The views are the main selling point for the hotel.

Booking/Arrival

I booked a Superior Double with Faraglioni Rocks view on the hotel’s website directly. I was surprised that I didn’t get a pre-arrival email explaining how to contact the hotel shuttle once I arrived by ferry from Naples.

I asked the front desk of the Excelsior hotel in Naples call for me to inquire the procedure as I said “I don’t speak Italian”. When the hotel answered in English, I was handed the phone to talk (with a bit of a “you could have done this yourself” glare). I was to call the hotel once the ferry arrived in Capri to meet the shuttle (note that if you don’t have international phone option you are going to need to sort this ahead of time or by email). When I arrived in Capri, I was told to go to the red building on the left of the port near the pharmacy to wait. Within minutes hotel staff arrived, in the form of a young guy in a suit with a Hotel Weber Ambassador nametag, greeted me and took my bags.

View of Capri from ferry harbor

First view of Capri arriving by ferry from Naples

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