The heat and humidity slapped me in the face as soon as I walked outside the airport. Gravid clouds massed on the horizon.
The afternoon had begun and tomorrow morning I had to leave. Any trip begins and ends at the airport, and were I completely lazy I could spend the entire time here. Singapore Airport boasts endless shops, restaurants, a movie cinema, beauty salons, spas, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, orchid and butterfly gardens – even a dedicated area for sleeping (the airport was recently voted Best in the World for sleeping. Strange, but true).
Bravely, I left these wonders behind and ventured out to find a few highlights of the city.
Ah, Naples. Something to see at every corner. Reluctantly leaving the Spanish Quarter, we returned to the Via Toledo. Another time, I promised myself. I will return to Naples and spend days exploring here.
I fell in love in the side streets of Naples. In love with Naples.
I’d been told that if I love the north of Italy, the south would prove be a revelation. Some people love it, some hate it, but no one is indifferent. First the Greeks then the Romans found a home here, followed by a plethora of kings and duke and princelings, each leaving in their wake a city awash with a vibrant cultural and artistic legacy.
Our boat sailed in at dawn, past the backdrop of Vesuvius. Arriving by boat is a great way to see the Mediterranean. These places have been ports since the dawn of time, and old cities and towns cluster along the shoreline. You see the city through the eyes of the sailors and fishermen who have plied these waters for centuries, hear it through the voice of Homer who wrote of this coastline and islands.
Naples Bay is reputedly the birthplace of the Sirens. Although the age of the city remains unclear, mythology has it the city was built on the site where the body of the siren Parthenope washed ashore. (She drowned herself when her songs failed to entice Odysseus, a man so readily enticed.) A town was probably founded by Greek colonists, perhaps as early as the 10th C BCE, which became a thriving city before the rise of the Rome.
What To Do In Rome When You Feel You’ve Done Everything
A Place to Sleep – Staying in A Convent
Once the heavy wooden door closed, I stood surrounded by silence. Flying anywhere from Australia takes a long time, and after a night and a day and a night I was exhausted. Eventually I emerged from that metal cocoon into the chaos of Rome. Tired and befuddled, I was soon in a taxi, with the driver careening down tiny streets where footpaths were more a suggestion than reality.
Double-parking on the wrong side of the road, the taxi dropped me on the Via Sistine. The convent was just a short walk from the top of the Spanish Steps. Once inside, the world became peaceful. Large wooden doors shut out the chaos of the street, and I stood in the quiet of a marble foyer.
Without warning, the train pulled to a stop and refused to move. I had no idea where I was. I hoped I was still en route to Koya-san, Japan’s holy mountain. Here sleeps the Kobo Dashi, revered for bringing Shingon Buddhism to Japan, and who has spent the last one thousand years waiting for the Buddha of the Future. Monks still bring food twice a day to his mausoleum, the Oko-In.
Catching a train in Japan boarders on a leap of faith. At every station the signs are a complex system of interlocking lines in a rainbow colours, and what little I could read proved no help. I was never entirely convinced that either the train or myself knew where we were headed.