First trip in downtown Naples

It’s been a week and a half since we’ve been in Naples and we finally got around to taking our first trip downtown.

This trip was completely spontaneous and we winged every site we saw and alleyway we walked through. We took the bus that takes us to and from the Navy bases, then hopped on the Knight Bus Alibus that stops at 3 different places downtown. I’ve mentioned this before, but I will say it again, the people drive crazy. I felt like we were on the Knight Bus (Harry Potter reference) because the driver was weaving in and out of lanes and even managed to speed through a toll booth! I couldn’t believe the odds of him not scraping the sides of the bus or crashing my precious cargo! It boggles my mind how there were no accidents from the reckless driving we witnessed. Motor scooters were practically touching the side of the bus, pedestrians were walking IN traffic and bustling streets, and cars like this –

The view of a car outside of my bus window.

The view of a car outside of my bus window.

used every inch of space to get by.

We got off on the third stop at Porto di Napoli – the port of Naples, because we figured the deeper we went into town, the more we would see. And that we did! We landed directly in front of  Castel Nuovo.

Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino (Angevin Stronghold) by Neapolitans, was originally built in 1279-1282 by Charles of Anjou (king of Naples and Sicily). The “new castle” served as a royal residence and fortress for Angevin monarchs. By the 15th century, the Angevins were carried out by the Aragonese and Alfonso of Aragon renovated and reconstructed the castle to be massive and provided everything needed in times of war. During this period, the Arch of Triumph (pictured above left) was erected to celebrate Alfonso I arrival in the city of Naples; a beautiful example of early Renaissance architecture and one of the best elements of the castle. The castle now houses the Museo Civico (Civic Museum of artwork from the 15th-18th centuries) cultural events, and businesses.

We toured the courtyard, the Barons Hall, the Armoury Hall, the Civic Museum, and viewed the Palatine Chapel through [closed] glass doors.

Leilani stood awestruck in the center of the courtyard because we were inside of an actual castle. It looked like a scene out of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, or to Leilani, Disney’s Brave. After we took in the 360 degree view of this enchanting fort, we climbed up a 15th century staircase that was once walked on by monarchs, sovereigns, and nobilities. The staircase led us to the Barons’ Hall (the main hall)- named after the barons who were arrested here for conspiring against King Ferrante in the late 15th century. The dome vault (pictured top right) is a masterpiece of french architecture made of keystone and 16 vaulting-ribs that took on the form of a star. The hall is now used for meetings of the city council.

Below the Barons’ Hall was the Armoury Hall. What we thought would be a display of weapon artifacts, turned out to be archeological finds of the Roman era that can be seen through glass floors! We were standing above the remains of the settlements that existed long before the Angevin castle. It was a necropolis of adult and children skeletons, buried with personal objects. There was also a large bath and ceramic materials scattered around the site. It was probably the most unexpected thing we saw on our personal tour of the castle. I’m sure we will be running into a lot of these moments during our time in Italy – no complaints here!

Across the Armoury Hall, opposite the courtyard, was the Civic Museum. In the room before the museum, displayed against a wall, was The Bronze Door (pictured above, second to last).  This was the original door at the entrance of the castle in the mid 15th century. It was made to commemorate the Aragonese of their victory over the Angevins. The six projections on the door depict significant events of the war. The third and fourth bas-reliefs are of Troy being taken and the battle of Troy. In the bottom left panel there is an iron cannon-ball embedded in the door due to a sea battle in Genoa, Italy when the door was being shipped to France; the Genoese sent the door back to Naples.

In the Civic Museum were several works of art that were centuries years old. Most of the paintings were of oil based, religious works dating from the 15th to the 18th century. The details of these paintings are so intricate, it makes me appreciate such perfect works of craftsmanship that have been preserved for me to see all these years later.

Castle Nuovo was something out of a movie. I became eager to see what else we’d discover on our free spirited trip…

Like, GALLERIA UMBERTO I, perhaps!?

Ok, maybe I was a little bit too excited about a shopping center. But, when CJ had told me we were moving to Italy several months ago, the first thing Leilani and I did was scour the web to learn about Naples and it’s historic sites. Galleria Umberto I was one of the first photos that came up in our search. When we turn the corner off of a side street and up a few steps, passing several pillars, Leilani becomes curious and runs ahead. I am a few feet behind her when she jumped, looked at me and squealed, “[pointing vigorously] Look, mommy! It’s that place we saw online!” Once she said that, I knew it had to be something great. I froze and soaked it all in. The Galleria had confirmed that we were here. We are really in Naples.

The Galleria was built in the 19th century and is lined with upscale shopping, restaurants, cafe’s and apartments on the 3rd floor. The architecture was absolutely stunning. It was a cross between an old train station and a church. There is a (glass) dome that also had 16 ribs like the Barons’ Hall of Castel Nuovo, 4 glass-vaulted wings that resemble a cross, and inlaid marble flooring. At the center of the Galleria were polychrome tiled mosaics of the zodiac signs. Galleria Umberto I was massive and breathtaking – I look forward to our next visit by night.

We continued onto a street that eventually led us to Piazza del Plebiscito – a very large square that acted as a playground for children playing futbol and a pass-thru for pedestrians with the church of San Francesco di Paola and Naples Royal Palace as its backdrop. Ya know, maybe I should just start acting casual and expecting such majestic sites everywhere I turn; save myself the embarrassment of my jaw dropping facial expressions and gasps because this is becoming a regular occurrence! Unfortunately, we were there for all of 10 minutes because our thundering bellies interrupted our exploring. It’s not like we’ll never go back, haha. Next time I plan to take an audio guided tour of the Royal Palace and snap photos closer to the monuments.

Our final destination was at a restaurant chain called Rossopomodorro. Of course we had pizza, pasta, and a ton of bread. Oh God, the pizza. The pizza is a post in itself. This was the second time we had Neapolitan pizza and it didn’t fail to disappoint. Our first time we had pizza was with Matt’s family (we didn’t fall asleep this time). It was from a pizzeria down the street from base which completely set the bar! I can eat this pizza every day and never get tired of it. It is that good. We were too busy stuffing our faces to take pictures but I promise to do so next time (like tomorrow). This will be the sole reason you visit Naples!

After we finished up dinner, we were homeward bound. On the bus ride back, I reflected on what a wonderful day we had. We were successful at navigating through parts of downtown Naples without a map or recommendations. We went wherever the wind took us and landed in some of the most fascinating aspects of Naples. If we stumbled upon all of this in just a couple of hours, I am eager to see what else we’ll find in other parts of Italy. I am growing to love this little city and am so happy to call it my home.

This weekend we will be visiting my brother in law, David, in Gaeta (2 hours north of Naples). He is also in the Navy and stationed here for a couple of years. Leilani is excited to visit her Uncle David and will probably be glued at his hip this weekend – she just loves him. I look forward to visiting this hidden gem and will post photos in a couple of days.

Our peaceful weekend with family begins in 3…2…1…

The A’s are winners in my heart!

(sigh) Ahh, so cliche’ yet, so true. I just love my boys and am so proud of them for making it this far once again. Some of my greatest memories have been at or watching the game in the comfort of my own home while sipping on an ice cold brewski after work.

…but. Verlander has done it again. dsfgsksfdksfhsd.

I’d like to update my reaction, to this…

that led to this

I will be impatiently waiting these next 5 months for opening day and the chance to redeem ourselves against the Tiger’s in the ALDS again (because it’s a cycle and that’s my prediction). Until then, I’ll have to find a futbol team.


I rolled out of my slumber – in my A’s shirt – at 1 AM just to listen to the A’s vs. Tiger’s game on I want to watch the game online but all the sites I’m going to are saying it’s blacked out. Argh!

It’s top of the 1st and Sonny Gray struck out the first batter. Such a great way to begin the game everyone has been anticipating. I am hopeful.

The roar from the crowd is giving me chills. I recently read somewhere that the decibel meter reached 120 during game 1 – the same as a jet engine. I was born into a family full of A’s fans and have been one ever since. Listening to Ray Fosse and the cheers from the crowd make me feel right at home.

I’ll be the first to admit that if the A’s win this game, I will most likely be doing this…

followed by this

Hooray, hooray, it’s moving day!

Friday morning we woke from sunshine hitting our faces after a night of down pour; a perfect start to an afternoon of all day travel – wretched weather of the Pacific Northwest, you will not be missed. Once I had my good morning stretch, I sat for a moment in complete gratitude for what I knew was about to lie ahead. Months of preparing documents and getting signatures from CJ’s command, having to deal with unnecessary grouchy, old witches [who clearly hate their jobs] having to sign, stamp, and deliver our visa applications and all 23543 others; a long and tiresome process, and moving every belonging we had accumulated in our entire lives (including our car) has led to this point- moving day.

Once we checked out of our hotel and moved all 11 of our bags (no, really)

2 months worth of clothes and other things to last us til our home goods arrive.

2 months worth of clothes and other things to last us ’til our home goods arrive.

into the shuttle, we were on our way to SeaTac Airport. Checking in and going through security turned out to be a smooth process – whew! We flew Lufthansa Airlines

which I couldn’t help myself but to repeat loof-thon-sah in low whispers because it was so fancy. Potential future pet name? I think YES.

Being conditioned travelers for the past 8 years now, we were prepared to endure a 10 hour flight to Germany and the hour and a half transfer flight to Naples. Leilani had a backpack full of activities to keep her entertained. Work books, huge sticker books (thank you, Siena!), her Kindle and DS, a blanket with 2 stuffed animals and a pillow pet were sure to keep her comfortable. I found a cubby full of magazines and pulled out the Oktober issue of Glamour – in German! (which gave me the idea of collecting European magazines while I’m here. OooOhh!) Of course, Lufthansa had TV’s with the best movies to make the time fly by… literally! We took our seats, got ourselves situated and about a half hour into the flight we turn our TV’s on.  As I’m about to watch Monster’s University (no shame!), Leilani pushes “play” on a BBC documentary called “Galapagos with David Attenborough” about an island and its volcanic landscape and species  that exist nowhere else in the world; completely intrigued by it. She ended up watching it twice. Really, Leilani?? Why that surprises me, I will never know. It is so like her to choose something educational. Needless to say, I was proud.

About 2 hours into the flight we are being fed dinner. I pass on “dinner” at that moment because I had just devoured a burger at noon, an hour before boarding our flight. You know, lunch time for American’s.  Later, they pass out small snacks and beverages. Then what only felt like a few hours later, they pass out breakfast. I felt like we kept being fed! There is no better way to acclimate to changing time zones than being fed more food!  It was all actually really good. Then again, what food isn’t delicious to me? Once Leilani had finished dinnersnackbreakfast, she changed into her Hello Kitty pajamas and sprawled out over me and fell asleep. Sure, Leilani. I’ll lose feeling in the lower half of my body as you drift off into pleasant dreams of unicorns and lollipops; because I’m not tired. Ah, the things we parents sacrifice for the content little hearts of our children.

10 hours and numb bottoms later, we make it to Frankfurt, Germany! We were there for all of 30 minutes until we boarded our next flight to Naples. Frankfurt Airport is one of the top 10 largest Airports in the world. It took 20 minutes after landing to drive to a terminal to unload. When we finally depart the plane, we head over to our gate for our final destination – Italy!

Before we knew it, a hop, skip, and a jump later, we had arrived! Leilani and I peer out the window and see such beauty beneath us (CJ was asleep, again. Go figure!). All the buildings were identical to each other; maybe 7 or 8 stories tall, and very, very crowded.  These buildings went on as far as the eye can see. My jaw dropping moment was when it looked like we were headed straight for Mt. Vesuvius – we were that close. Such a sight to see! However, what wasn’t so captivating was when we were descending through a thick layer of smog. I have never seen anything like this before; it was awful. I am convinced Naples is responsible for contributing to the majority of global warming and its imminent climate disaster. Are YOU thinking what I’M thinking? This place could use…CAPTAIN PLANET!

Let the 90’s cartoon theme song ensue!

“Looting and polluting is not the way!” Has Captain Planet and the Planeteers taught you nothing, Naples?

When we touch down, we are greeted by Matt, CJ’s LPO (Lead Petty Officer/middle management) of the pharmacy he will be working in and the position he will be taking over. He was a Godsend! He drove us around Capodichino Navy base and gave us a quick tour, which was walking distance from the Airport. When we drove off base, we got a feel for what it was like to drive around locals. We nearly got clipped by another car coming in the opposite direction. Rules here are… there are no rules. But to drive reckless! Stop lights and traffic signs are street art to these folks. My thoughts exactly. This could be fun! On our drive to the NSA base, we notice the highway is littered with trash. Everywhere you turn, there was garbage. We even drove past a small gypsy town of homes people used to build with left over scraps. Ew! A half hour later we get to the base we will temporarily be living on. Matt gives us another tour – which is quite large – then shows us to the lodge we stayed in for the night until our home was ready for move-in the following morning. He surprised us with a few groceries to get us started and had arranged plans for dinner at his house with his wife and 2 small children. As soon as we unloaded our bags in the front room, Matt took CJ to finish check in at the hospital while Leilani and I stayed behind. That’s when it hit. An overwhelming wave of exhaustion had completely taken over our bodies and we collapsed on the bed for the next 5 hours. Upon waking up, I felt guilty. Whoops! There goes dinner with Matt and family. But, there too was CJ, fast asleep next to us. It was now 10 PM and we were all refreshed. We were so thrown off by the time difference that we spent all of Saturday afternoon sleeping as well!

Saturday morning we moved into our house. The best way I can describe our home is psych ward chic. Here are some photos.

We plan on living here in under a year until the housing department allows us to live off base and we find the perfect home in downtown Naples. Housing gave us loaner furniture until our home goods arrive. It took me about 5 seconds to look for the flush on the toilet when I remembered it’s in the wall. A GENIUS idea. This would be perfect back home for all toddlers who try flushing jewelry and toys down the toilet. They can’t reach. Right next to the toilet was its brother, the bidet; because sometimes toilet paper just doesn’t do the trick. About an hour after we move in, it’s storming! The weather from the Pacific Northwest had followed us and came after us with a vengeance. Once the storm passed and after we had our late afternoon “nap”, we went for a walk around base. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to breathe here. Have you ever thrown out garbage in an overflowing dump, unwillingly taking in a good whiff of that awful stench that burns your nose hairs? That is exactly what it smells like everywhere. There is no escaping it. The freshest air I get is from sticking my head in the freezer. I might start a fashion statement with surgical masks around here. The people of Naples have got to get a handle on their garbage system. We have Italian contractors on base that pick up our garbage whenever they please. Our dumps are just as bad as they are out in town. If this were any other base in America, that would NOT fly in the slightest. We unfortunately don’t have control over it. The Italian Mafia does. Another thing we don’t have control over is feeding stray cats!! There is cat food and bowls of water around every corner of every building. The Italian’s that work on base feed the stray cats. So, if we accidentally step on a cat, it was on, uhh, accident. Yes, accident.

After our night time stroll, we come back home and watch Harry Potter on our laptop since we still had no cable, internet, or anything else to keep us entertained. Then we all drift off to sleep again, occasionally being woken by thunder and lightning, and later, a power outage until 7:45 on Sunday morning. Of course.

It is now Tuesday evening, we have internet up and running and I am finally publishing this post. As you can tell, I am adjusting to the culture shock here. If there is anything I have learned in the past 4 days, it is how fortunate we are in America to have all the finer things. So, the next time you inhale that crisp, fresh air, or watch Waste Management drive off with your garbage each week, think of us and the people of Naples who aren’t so fortunate to have something as simple as clean air.

These last 4 days have felt like they’ve come and gone; partly because we slept most of the time and also because we were trapped indoors from the terrible weather. Living in Naples hasn’t quite hit me yet. When it does, I’ll be sure to describe that moment I burst into tears of joy. Perhaps while I’m strolling in downtown Naples, nibbling on cannolis and observing locals using hand gestures while shouting in the streets. Haha! Imagine, a mouthful of cannolis and a few tears streaming down my face. This cannoli is just so goohood! – That’s when I’ll know we are finally awake from our sleeping spell and no longer in Kansas anymore.

In unrelated news, I’d like to leave you with a few wise words of my fellow natives…


Day zero.

‘Hello and welcome’ to our travel blog!

If you haven’t already, refer to The Hyland’s to get caught up on why I created this blog.

We are thrilled that YOU, our family and friends, and whomever stumbles across our blog, will get a glimpse into our lives as we document our adventures and feed our wanderlust through Europe. Being in Italy sort of demands several photo’s of Roman Architecture, heaping servings of spaghetti with meatballs, and “selfie’s” in a Gondola with a classic, black and white striped shirt wearing, gondolier in Venice. Our blog will reflect all of this, and more, accordingly.

My goal is to try to publish daily posts as often as I can. If I don’t, I am most likely being a Navy wife, romeing the town (corny pun intended) with my daughter, or being taught Italian by a tutor. Some posts will be amateur photography projects and others may have nothing but a sentence here and there. There might even be posts that don’t make sense to you, but are everything to our little family. Above all, this blog is ours and will serve as a pleasant place for us to reminisce.

So, this is it, guys. Day zero. Our last, full day in America. Rome and Milan, Spain and France, cheese and wine, & pizza and pasta are in our future. And, needless to say, a whole lota gelato!