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Early morning of Friday 6 April, and we were en route to Naples, Italy. During the night we passed through the Straits of Messina, between Sicily and Italy. We entered the strait about 03.00, and this gave an indication that we would be passing the volcano of Stromboli at about 04.45. We could just see the flashing light on the starboard side, but no volcanic glow.
We passed Capri just before lunch, then turned towards Naples, passing Ischia and Procida. It was quite difficult to get into our mooring at the Stazione Marittima because we had to approach it backwards. In addition, the space was exactly our size, including an overlap between our stern and the bow of a ferry already moored behind. We had lunch while the tugs gently maneuvered us into position.
Our organised afternoon tour to Pompeii began with a short tour of the area around the port, before the short journey along the motorway. Pompeii is famous, having been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius is still active, and last erupted in 1944. In 79 AD, at the time of the famous eruption, it was a prosperous commercial centre - a city of shops, markets and comfortable townhouses, with paved streets, wide pavements, a stadium, two theatres, temples, baths and brothels. It was rediscovered in the 16th century, and has been gradually excavated since then.
The coach parked outside the Hotel Vittoria and our exploration began at the entry at the Porta Marina. It quickly became apparent that most of the others were going to be slow walking, so we stayed with the group as far as the Basilica and the Temple of Apollo before setting off on our own.
We first visited the public buildings on the south side of the Forum, the Temple of Eumachia, the Temple of Vespasian, the Sanctuary of the Lares Publici and the Macellum (Food Market). We then walked through the Forum Baths, exiting on the far side, opposite the House of the Tragic Poet. We passed the Arch of Caligula before entering the House of the Faun. Again we walked through and out the far side, turning right to the House of the Vettii. We paused at a bakery. Then we tried to visit the House of the Golden Cupids, but it was locked. Turning right along the Via Stabiana, we admired the House of Vesonio Primo, the Terme Centrali public baths, and the House of M Lucreti.
The typical house is a structure built around a central courtyard, around which were the various family quarters including the bedrooms, the dining rooms and the living room. As the house grew, a second courtyard was added, often containing a fountain. Another storey might be added on top, typified by the House of the Vettii and the House of the Faun. A striking feature was the colourful and often highly refined artwork on the walls. Walls and monuments throughout the city are covered with inscriptions of every kind, even including election notices.
We turned left along the Via dell'Abbondanza, aiming to reach the Amphitheatre in the far corner of Pompeii. We walked quickly, knowing that we had to come back along the same road and could browse more carefully when we knew how much time was left.
Next to the Amphitheatre was the Large Paleastra, a green open space, used for sports.
For future trips, there is a good cheap train service from Naples to Pompeii and that would allow more time to spend visiting the site.
Tonight we were staying in Naples and there was the Tarantella Folk Dance Show, featuring "I Sorrentini". This was mainly local song and dance, but with audience participation with tambourines and a novel local 3-piece wooden percussion instrument to beat time. There was also an excellent male singer, who was applauded for his performance of the classic "O Sole Mio".'
On Saturday 7 April we had decided to wander around the town of Naples. Naples is the capital of the Italian south. The name derives from Neapolis, the New City, founded in the 6th century BC. Having seen so much of the town of Pompeii, we wanted to see the preserved objects which had been taken from the site to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.
En route we passed the Castel Nuovo, built by Charles I of Anjou in 1282. The entrance is a fine white marble Renaissance Triumphal Arch, built between 1454 and 1467. We continued up the Via San Carlo, passing the Teatro San Carlo, the largest opera house in Italy. Originally built in 1737, forty years earlier than the Scala in Milan, by Charles of Bourbon, it was destroyed by fire in 1816 and then rebuilt.
Across the street is the Gallerio Umberto I, erected in 1887 on a neo-classical design, similar to that of its older brother in Milan., Its glass ceiling is 56 metres high, and has a colourful mosaic floor. We had now reached the Piazza Plebscito. Here we heard a band playing, and hundreds of people sitting on a tiered platform applauding. It seemed to be some celebration, with a local police band. It was very busy, the square was closed and we retraced our steps.
To get to the Museum we walked along the Via Toledo, passing the entry to the Funicolare centrale. There are three funicolare in Naples, each going to the Vomero, the area on the hill. Good views can be had from the Castel Sant'Elmo, a 14th century fortress. Next door is the Museo Nazionale di S. Martino, located in the monastery of the same name. The gardens also give a good view of the Bay of Naples. We were short of time, but would certainly visit there on our next trip. So, we continued along the Via Toledo and its continuation, the Via E. Pessina. This is a straight pedestrian street bordered by a range of good quality shops, until we reached the Piazza Dante. Here there was building work for one of the new Metro stations, else the square itself looked quite pretty. Then it was just 5 more minutes to the museum.
The museum contains the collection which Charles of Bourbon inherited from the Farnese family that ruled the Duchy of Parma. A thorough exploration would take a whole day, but we planned to be back at the ship for lunch. The ground floor was devoted to classical sculpture and Egyptian Art. The Farnese Collection includes lots of impressive large sculptures, the most interesting being from Rome.
Having seen enough statues we headed upstairs in search of items from Pompeii. There were a number of silver household items, glass bottles and jugs of all sizes, jewelry and pottery, including a beautiful black and white cameo vase. Then we saw some of the wall paintings which had been brought back from Pompeii. As soon as rooms had been excavated, a sketch was made of exactly the view of the room. As well as the actual fragments from the walls, there are a number of engravings which have survived and have been used to print the original sketch. It is very useful to be able to see the pieces on display, and then use the sketch to understand where they had been found. We saw frescoes from the House of the Tragic Poet, the original bronze faun statue from the House of the Faun, and a number of other frescoes.
The mezzanine floor has a fine collection of the best mosaics from the floors, walls and courtyards of houses unearthed at Pompeii. The freshness and colour of these after centuries buried in ash are an amazing tribute to their makers. There are two famous mosaics : one is depicting three women, the other depicts a dwarf, two women and a man with musical instruments. The Nile scenes feature ducks, crocodiles, hippopotami and snakes. These mosaics originally framed the "Battle of Issus"- this huge scene shows Alexander the Great in his victorious battle against the Persian Emperor Darius in 333BC. The thicket of spears creates the illusion of an army much large than the one actually there. In one corner there was the "gabinetto segreto" which was said to contain restricted (vaguely pornographic) mosaics. Entry was free, but the next entry was in 55 minutes, so we didn't wait.
After lunch on QE2 we walked again past the Castel Nuovo, up the Via San Carlo, to the Piazza Plebscito. This time it was quiet and we could appreciate the twin arcades of the Chiesa di San Francesco di Paolo, built by Ferdinan d I of Bourbon in 1817 and a copy of the Pantheon in Rome. The light interior of the church gave a good place to sit and rest. The wings of the building are also reminiscent of the Vatican Square in Rome.
The sprawling red facade of the Palazzo Reale stood on the side of Piazza Plebscito with its eight statues illustrating the eight Neapolitan dynasties. At the foot of its monumental marble staircase stand the original bronze doors from the Castel Nuovo. Upstairs the first of the 30 richly furnished rooms is a small but lavish Court Theatre. The tour is self-guided with a description provided at the entrance of each room. Notable rooms are the Throne Room, and a fine Chapel which also houses the 7th century style Neapolitan crib. It is part of the collection of the Banco di Napoli, and is made up of 210 figurines, both people and animals, as well as 144 other items. The sculptures were made by several well known artists at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Many items have been identified with their creator. In the building itself there are many beautiful ceilings including a group of striking white and gold ceilings, much period furniture, and a lot of Sevres china.
During the evening the weather had become windy. The local ship Il Sorrentino came very close to hitting the ship behind us when attempting to leave the port during the early evening. Certainly there was a loud hailer complaining in Italian from behind us. Eventually two tugs came and pulled her out. We were relieved to see her go, and settled down in the Golden Lion Pub to listen to The Hot Rhythm Orchestra, a traditional British jazz group. We had enjoyed their music on our first two cruises with QE2, when they had been joined by the comedian and singer Jim Bowen.
After 45 minutes of pleasant music we went down to the Grand Lounge for the Teatro Tasso, a local group from Sorrento. They featured old Neapolitan melodies and traditional folk ballads. We had a second rendering of "O Sole Mio", by the same singer as the previous evening, but otherwise the group was different. The four pairs of dancers were good, as were the two lady singers, and the male ringmaster character.
We spent Sunday 8 April at sea. Despite the late departure from Naples, we passed between Corsica and Sardinia on time, through the straits of Bonifacio. The route took us close by Corsica on the starboard side, where it was raining and the central mountains were covered in snow. Then we turned past Sardinia, but there was less of interest to see. The sea was getting quite rough through the straits, and it was windy, force 7. As the evening progressed the winds and swell increased, and some waves splashed our porthole. At 05.30 we awoke to a bang - the ships course had changed as she turned right towards Marseille, meaning that the port side had the wind, so the ship heeled slightly. Two apples had fallen off the chest of drawers, landing in the wastepaper bin.
We arrived in Marseille, France just after 07.00 on Monday 9 April. We were moored some distance from town, so caught the free Shuttle Bus Service. It was very cold and windy. Apparently the wind is due to the famous Mediterranean mistral. Marseille is the oldest city in France, founded in the 6th century BC by Greek sailors. It is the capital of soap-making and the home of the famous sentons :Christmas crib figures presenting well-known figures. ( Recall the crib in Naples.) Marseille is famous for Bouillabaise, and neighbouring Cassis reminded us to buy some more of the blackcurrant cordial which is used with Champagne to make Kir Royale.
There is a walking tour through the Old Marseille "Panier" quarter, which is marked with a red line on the pavement. The shuttle bus dropped us at the Jardin des Vestiges, which is on the walking route; we continued to the Palais de la Bourse (Stock Exchange), and then the Old Port. We strolled along the quay, admiring the boats, especially the old wooden restaurant boat Marseillois. Many of the buildings are of pinkish stone from the quarries at Couronne, including the Hotel de Ville which faces onto the Quai du Port. It is a beautiful baroque building, constructed in the 17th century. We followed the red route up to the Grand Rue, for a better view of the Hotel Dieu (hospital). Then we saw the Maison Diamante, the diamond studded house. Its facade is decorated with unusual raised diamond-shaped tips. Since 1967 it has housed the Musee de Vieux Marseille. This part of the city was undergoing considerable construction work, so we retraced our steps to the waterfront.
We were heading for the Church of St Laurent, the parish church of seafarers and fishermen, which is the only church from the Middle Ages still preserved in Marseille today. There were additions and restoration in 16th, 17th and 20th century. The chapel of Saint Catherine, built in the 17th century, adjoins the church. Unfortunately the verger was closing the church, and it would not re-open until 14.30, so we were not able to look inside.
From the main door we could just see the Cathedral, again surrounded by construction work. We decided to approach it by the Place de Lenche. This is the site of the ancient Greek market place, from which it is also possible to keep an eye on events in the port. The Nouvelle Major was built in Byzantine Romanesque style, started in 1852 over the site of an early Christian baptistery. It replaced the old cathedral nearby, la Vieille Major, which continued as a church until 1950. The Nouvelle Major was consecrated in 1896. Although it should be open on Monday, all the doors were closed and the area was full of workmen, fencing and construction machinery.
Disappointed we searched for the red route again to reach la Vieille Charite. This area was completed in 1749, to accommodate beggars and the poor. The building has four wings that are closed to the exterior but comprise a 3-floored gallery on the inside which overlooks an inner courtyard. The Italian baroque chapel in the centre of the courtyard was built between 1679 and 1707. The present facade is more recent, being built in 1863.
The red route then led to the Place des Moulins. This is the highest point in the area, and for many years was occupied by windmills. In 1596 there were reported to be 15 windmills, and some remains of the final three can be seen. We descended, along the Rue du Refuge and down the Montee des Accoules, past Notre Dame des Accoules to the Place Daviel. We continued along the Rue Mery, to the Place Sadi-Carnot, and turned down the Rue de la Republique, a long straight street built in Parisian Haussman style in 1862, with tall decorated buildings, with long windows, balconies and shutters.
After lunch we took the shuttle bus back into town. This time we wanted to see the other side of the Old Port. In 1666 the entrance to the port was protected by the forts of Saint-Nicholas in the east and Saint-Jean in the west. Saint-Nicholas is now divided into two pieces by the road. Both forts are closed to visitors, but it is possible to get a good view of Marseille from the outer wall of the Fort Saint-Nicholas. There is now a tunnel between the two sides of the Old Port, and also a pedestrian ferry boat across the harbour for just 3FF. Near to the fort is the bassin de Carrenage, full of small boats, and behind it the Abbey Church of St Victor, from where Christianity spread to the whole of Provence. It is thought to be built on the tombs of christian martyrs of the 3rd century, including St Victor who was martyred in 304 AD. Originally a fortified monastery, the original dortoir was destroyed leaving the three solid square towers. There are many relics from saints and martyrs displayed inside.
From there it seemed only a short walk uphill to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. There had been a chapel on the hill since 1214 but the present neo-Byzantine building dates only from 1853. The inside is very decorated - almost glitzy after the austere beauty of the Abbaye St Victor. There are framed pictures hanging all over the walls, many depicting ships, and there are models of ships and seaplanes hanging from the ceiling. There are hundreds of pictures of incidents (fires, car accidents for example) which include an image of the appearance of the Virgin. Outside there are hundreds of marble tiles giving thanks, mostly simply saying "Merci" and initials. Outside the basilica there was a US tank, commemorating those who died in the liberation in 1944, and the basilica wall still has the gunshot marks from the fighting.
Tonight was another local show in the Grand Lounge, local dance and music from the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhone. The music was two players of drums and pipes. The dancers appeared to be a family group, with three young boys, three good male dancers including one who was a Master of Provencal dancing, and a number of wives, sisters, aunts and grandmothers. We estimated that one lady was older than many passengers. But it was a mixture of lively technical dancing, and more gentle the traditional movements, so the mixture of people worked well. And they seemed to be enjoying their visit to us.
Having been moored overnight in Marseille we headed into town again by shuttle bus. Our original aim was to visit a few museums, and perhaps have a bouillabaise for lunch. We headed back to the church of St Laurent, but it was closed until 14.00. We walked around the bottom of the fort of Saint Jean, and noticed that, in the distance the Cathedral door seemed to be open. Indeed it was, and we entered.
Then we wanted to look at the Jardin des Vestiges, which is full of Greek and Roman remains, and the nearby Museum of the History of Marseille. The museum is only open from 12.00, and entry to the gardens is only possible from the museum. By now it was just approaching 12. The museum contains many interesting insights to the town. The town of Marseille was originally settled 2600 years ago, named Massaia, and there are models of the town in Greek times. There are many insights into ship design, from the 6th century BC, including the remains of trading boats and warships. The use of oars, and square sails, were common then. The main 2nd century BC remains had been found recently while excavating the area around the Palais du Bourse nearby. Certainly in roman times the Jardin des Vestiges had been the continuation of the docks and quays. The museum has on display the remains of a commercial boat, found submerged. There was also a reconstruction of a commercial vessel from roman times, with one side showing traditional boatbuilding of that time, and the other with modern techniques. Unfortunately the wood used was splitting, due to the dryness of the atmosphere in the museum.
Wednesday 11 April was a beautiful sunny day, at sea. It was a flat calm sea. After dinner we approached the Rock of Gibralter. The sun was just setting as we passed, then headed for the Atlantic Ocean. The sea continued calm.
We arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on Thursday 12 April . Lisbon is the largest city and chief port of Portugal. The city lies on the northern shore of the Tagus River, about 8 miles from the Atlantic. We awoke to find we had already turned into the river, and were slowly passing the western suberb of Belem. Belem is the shortened from of Bethlehem. The first landmark is the Tower of Belem, right on the waterfront. Conceived as a lighthouse and defensive fortress, it originally stood on an island. It was commissioned in 1515, partly destroyed in the early 1800s, and then restored in 1845. The tower is an unusual mixture of Manueline (after Manuel I) and Arab styles.
Also on the waterfront we passed the Discoveries Monument - constructed recently for the 1940 exhibition, it was erected on its present site only in 1960. It is built in the shape of the bow of a caravel. Led by Henry the Navigator, stylised over-sized figures look out. The impressive building behind is the Jeronimos Monastery, which dates from the 16th century. Originally it stood on the riverbank, but now stands further away. Henry the Navigator built a small chapel on the site at the time of the great voyages of discovery. It is thought that work on the monastery began on the initiative of Manuel I, in 1502, and was finally completed in 1572. We continued slowly under the Bridge of 25 April, where we berthed. The bridge is two-storied, with a railway bridge below, and a road bridge above. On the southern side is the huge Christo Rei statue.
We had a leisurely breakfast because the Shuttle Bus service into Lisbon didn't begin until 09.30. This time it went to the Praca do Comercio. There was still a lot of construction work in the area. We followed a walking route around the oldest quarters of the city, to the east. To begin, we visited the church of Santa Madalena, then went to the Cathedral. Unfortunately there was a TV broadcast and it was full, so we decided to visit on the way back. We had read about the Barbadinhos steam-operated pumping station, and knew roughly where it was - about 15 minutes walk further east. We started along R de San Juan da Praca heading towards the Museo Militar, which was half way to our destination.
The roads became small and narrow, and we passed through an area of fish-sellers. Here there were long fish with big eyes (espada, scabbard fish), as well as more normal fish for sale. Just when we were beginning to feel lost we came upon a large square with the pink building of the Fado museum. We had reached the road which runs along the coast.
We made a few more mistakes before coming upon a sign to the Museu da Agua of Epal, near to the Santa Apolonia Railway Station. EPAL is the portugese company responsible for collection, treatment, supply and distribution of water. The EPAL museum has been open since 1987, and has four distinct parts : although based at the Barbadinhos Pumping Station, there is also the Aguas Livres Aqueduct, the Mae d'Agua Reservoir, and the Patriarchal Reservoir. The first steam operated pumping station was installed in 1880. The machinery is from Windsor et co of Rouen, France, and there are four engines, still housed in the original building. They are no longer operated by steam, but at the turn of a switch one of them was operated for us.
We retraced our steps to the church of Santa Engracia, now the Panteao nacional. This beautiful white domed building was well worth a photograph, but we didn't have enough time to look at the exhibits inside. We continued to the church of Sao Vicente de Fora. It is next to the monastery of the same name, which is being renovated. The church itself was also being repaired, and the whole building was dark and dismal - the pictures and statues in the side chapels would certainly benefit from cleaning once the main work is finished.
We continued past the church of Menino de Deus, to Castelo de Sao Jorge. Here we had some difficulty finding the entrance because the construction work had closed the road to pedestrians. There is a fine view of the city and the river. Within the castle is a nice restaurant, part of the Pousada chain. Tiled azulejo pictures dating from 1963 point out the main landmarks. We continued downhill towards the church of Santa Luzia and the nearby Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which gives another fine panorama over Lisbon. Now it was just a short distance back to the cathedral, for a second attempt at a visit. This time it was much quieter, and we could stroll around, as well as visit the cloisters. On our last visit to Lisbon there had been a group of archaeologists digging in the middle of the cloister, and their work was still continuing.
All aboard was at 16.30, and at 17.00 we were pushed and pulled by three tugs in order to turn and head back up the river. This gave a chance to take some photos of the Bridge of 25 April, the Aguas Livres Aqueduct in the distance, and the area of Belem. It is a sign of summer that sunset was not until 20.15 tonight.
Peter and Pauline Curtis
Most recent significant revision: 12th July 2001