Monday, May 01, 2006

Cliffhanger

Luckily for us, we set off early and managed to stay one step ahead of the holiday traffic all day long.

Our coach driver looked like a cross between Peter Falk and Jimmy Durante, and he was introduced to us as “the finest coach driver in all of Italy, from a long line of coach drivers”. This dubious accolade wasn’t particularly reassuring, seeing as there was a long crack spidering across the coach windshield.

The tight bends were still pretty scary, especially when little motorini kept trying to squeeze past us. The corners didn’t bother me that much to begin with, but fear can be infectious, and Mrs. AKA held her breath now and then, which didn’t help.

Our tour guide for the day was called Brigitte, who had been doing this day-trip twice a week for 32 years. Neither English nor Italian were her first languages, but she was knowledgeable and charming in a brittle, Scandinavian way, hurling out anecdotes and history lessons in her clipped English accent. Brigitte was wizened and weathered, her blonde, bouffant hair had come straight out of a bottle, and you could tell that she had probably been quite desirable in her youth, but those days were long past. She managed to evoke other times, pointing out the house that Rex Harrison used to own, where he used to sit on the sea front drinking champagne for breakfast with Laurence Olivier.

The coach first passed through Positano, the entire village consisting of houses clinging precariously to the mountainside, before we finally arrived in Amalfi. There, we jumped into a boat so that we could see the town from the water, particular attention being paid to the homes of Roger Moore and Gore Vidal. The weather was starting to change, so on disembarking from the boat, we rushed off to buy Buttercup a sweatshirt to stop her teeth from chattering.

The day ended with a stop in Ravello, by which time we were all tired, so we just sat in a café in the piazza, drinking coffee. I never did get the opportunity to drink as much Italian coffee as I would have liked, but I always enjoyed those moments when I could sit with my family, drinking coffee and watching the world go by.

It’s always interesting to see and meet new people in a new place. It throws a completely different perspective on everything. There was the builder from Bolton on holiday with his teenage daughter, enjoying his first holiday in 15 years. He was booked on excursions every day, and he was loving the endless diet of pizza and pasta. He worked mostly on houses in France, and he was focussed on the fact that “every nail I hammer is another Euro toward my holiday.” He was making the most of his week away.

Then there were the newlyweds from Yorkshire, who were always smiling, and the elderly couple from Cambridge in the room next to ours, who were utterly charmed by Buttercup.

Everyone was utterly charmed by Buttercup…

To be concluded…

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