Travels with Jessica: Last Stop Before Home

We go to Naples on a bus, not the most charming city ever. It’s crowded with tall residential buildings with all the wash hanging on the balconies. Every apartment has a balcony. The traffic is a mess; Neapolitans seem to regard lanes as nothing more than a suggestion.

We arrive in Pompeii, which is our goal, and the tour guide says Vesuvius is still active, “but don’t worry, it probably won’t erupt today.”

After the long bus ride from room, I need to walk around, so I make Jessica skip out on the arranged lunch and hit a cafe with me, feeling a little like a kid playing hooky. It the cafe the waiters speak Italian with an Indian accent. We have a quick bite to eat and then go exploring.

Jessica sees a cat in a doorway, and realizes there are cats everywhere and this becomes the symbol of Pompeii to her, roughly translated as “place of the cats.” She buys a tiny furry figure of a cat to help her remember.

Later, we poke about the ruins with the tour guide who regales us with stories about how these ancient people lived, and how the ruins were discovered, and I help Jessica over the rough stone paths, through narrow, twisting streets. There are stray dogs everywhere, which she finds more entertaining than the ruins. There’s a restaurant-slash-convenience-store-slash-souvenir shop stuck smack in the middle of everything, right there around the corner, which should be a jarring intrusion, and is, but somehow it makes the fact that this was once a city more real.

The next day, we go home. “Best vacation ever,” I say, cramped in my coach seat with a jackass in front of me who insists on reclining his seat.

“I liked the cats,” says Jessica.

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