It’s tempting the travel fates to hope for, or even secretly yearn for, a perfect travel day. But even knowing what I do about the capricious nature of said travel fates I couldn’t help but wish for perfection for our ten year anniversary day.
I know better.
The night before our stop in Capri we had room service for dinner and went to bed early (by 10:30). Six days in a row of intensive sightseeing in the broiling sun of Greece and Turkey had taken their toll and I recognized that I was getting sick. I consumed an entire plate of vegetables and hoped for the best. That wasn’t to be. I awoke with an aching head, a nose requiring constant blowing, and tired limbs.
We were assailed by taxi touts on the walk to the ferry ticket sales then encountered (surprise!) mass chaos at the ticket windows and missed taking the early ferry to Capri.
My whining will get boring fast here so I’ll just mention the smokers on the ferry sending their vile puffs towards my poor swollen sinuses; the fact that the boat company owner hadn’t procured our return ferry tickets as planned (leading to Holly taking on this difficult and unpleasant task but in a mix-up over the 24 hour clock used, buying tickets that would have likely gotten us back too late and certainly would have cast a pall of concern over the afternoon — props to her for going back to the decidedly unfriendly ticket agent and managing to exchange the tickets for the right time); the confusion over the line for the funicular (the long line we first got in was to *take* the funicular — one must first wait in a separate line down the street to buy tickets); my petty disappointment that Brian would not in fact be buying me an anniversary present here as planned once he saw his shopping options included only the likes of Prada; the lovely arancini di riso I bit into only to find chunks of pork; and the throngs and throngs of tourists stampeding the delicate beauty of this island village. Knowing I was, myself, one of these tourists did nothing to improve my mood.
Things didn’t look good for the afternoon.
We had booked a three hour tour through CapriTime on a traditional wooden “gozzo” boat. I thought it would be a nice way to spend the afternoon but didn’t have expectations that it would be spectacular. I grew up going out on a boat on Lake Cumberland after all, and while it was a very pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoons, it was familiar, and therefore not remarkable.
Wow, was I wrong. From the instant our captain Luigi navigated the charming wooden boat with its yellow and white striped canopy out of the harbor, my spirits soared. The combination of the astonishing blue of the water, the sea breeze, the now-soothing golden baking of the sun, and the ever-changing panorama of Capri’s shores provided a balm for my travel-weary soul.
I sighed with bliss and sank into the yellow cushions and just soaked it all in. The afternoon was magic. Luigi took such pride in sharing the intriguing grottoes and their lore with us and was so gregarious we couldn’t help but grin every time we looked at him. I thought it couldn’t get better and then he stopped the boat, pointed at the water and said, “Swim?”
“Do you have life jackets?” practical and safety-conscious Dana had to ask. I think he snorted. I took that as a no and plunged my hot, sticky tired body into the blessedly cool liquid rapture of the Mediterranean and came up whooping with delight. I wish I could conjure the words that would share the pure joy of that moment.
Then setting the pace for the afternoon it got better again when we clambered back in the boat and Luigi dished out torta Caprese — a flourless almond and chocolate cake — and served up ice cold Coke. The Coke alone would have revived me from the dead, and the cake quieted my ravenous tummy.
And the day just kept improving. We nosed into the Green Grotto and while we were all busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing, incredulous at the shimmering emerald water, Luigi shouted “Get out! Swim! I meet you on the other side. Hurry!” I didn’t hesitate a second (if you knew that swimming 10 feet saps me and that I never swim in Lake Cumberland without a lifejacket you would know how surprising this is). I took off without a backward glance and made it halfway through the grotto before looking back to see Brian and Holly and Chas were just leaving the boat. Out of breath, I searched for a place to hold on, and got a grip on some mossy rocks while I waited for them to catch up.
Then, in the most perfect way I can imagine to spend our ten year wedding anniversary, Brian and I swam together out of the mysterious green cave. I hauled my trembling self into the boat amazed and enormously pleased with myself for making the swim. I couldn’t stop pronouncing to all who cared to listen (who had also just swam the same waters) that “We just swam the Green Grotto!”
We continued our sail around the island, past the unfolding beauty of the edges of Capri, and pulled into the most breathtaking spot yet. It looked like a fairytale. We swam again, luxuriating in the jeweled clearness of the water, then stretched out to dry in the sun and attack our lunch. I can say without hesitation it was the best food I’d had yet on the trip. Our enormous Caprese panini contained nothing but fresh mozzarella, basil and perfect tomatoes. They were beautiful.
Luigi served a bold young white wine from a plastic bottle (homemade I believe) and we soaked up the sun and beauty like a boat full of Roman emperors.
Eventually it was time to return to the harbor. We cruised past the Blue Grotto and patted each other on the back for not joining the hordes of people crammed onto tourist boats waiting for their couple minute turn in the grottos. We tried to thank Luigi profusely enough to let him know what a perfect afternoon he had given us — to him it was just another day on the job, but for us it was the mythical, nearly impossible, perfect travel day. (Half day, anyway ; )