Santa Maria '94
First Reflections
I'm writing this very nearly 20 years after the fact and although some of the tour has inevitably slipped from memory, including most of our daily destinations and routes but much has cascaded back.

All in all it's been quite a journey, I have been led through a different time and place and a different me, almost as if I am watching a documentary or reading a biography of someone else's past and not my own.

The softness of the diposable pocket camera photos add to this sentiment and reflect or perhaps engender that otherness.

Nevermind. One way or the other, it is with enormous fondness that I have recalled everything about the trip; much love to those that I rode with, they shall not grow old.

... just as I remember.

Paestum Group
Day -150 : The Plan
Odd to think that until the recent (2018) rediscovery of the attached, I had forgotten that PrH has always been a compulsive organiser of cycle tours amongst other events.

This document takes us back to a very different time - hands up, those who used the internet in 1994? - it arrived via the Royal Mail.

Days -1 & 0 : Naples

After that where can I go?

Down a road since well travelled but still anticipated keenly - I departed from Chester in my Astra, heading down the M6 to Bedford.

Loaded in the back, my panniers and recently rescued from my brother's bin, the Raleigh (Aerospace Contour, Cadet?), thoroughly renovated; new wheels, tubes, tyres, saddle, brake blocks, toe-clips, lights, handle-bar tape, back-rack and panniers.

From the era of the "racer" and now retro, like me but also fashionable

Raleigh Cadet

Not a picture of mine, but the web has yielded this shot of the same frame - it would make a lovely single-speed.

A minibus arrived to pick up the majority of the crew in the pitch dark at stupid o'clock and following the juggling of people and bicycles, all were finally (and only just - never trust a cab firm to understand how big a bicycle is) accommodated and off we trundled for the derelict bus-stop then named Luton Airport.

A bucket-shop flight and rousing cheer from the Italian passengers later and we had landed at Napoli which was enjoying an Italian, Indian summer, 30C, clear skies, ideal.

All that was required now was a short free wheel from the airport to our overnight stay next to the railway station, through the faded, decayed and congested glory of the capital of the Kingdom of Naples.

This shot, from our hotel window, gives you an idea of how Naples had succumbed to the dream of transportation independence.

At first glance, a hazardous environment for any cyclist, but balancing the risk equation, the chronic congestion ensured that nothing moved at more than 10 m.p.h.

Corso Novara

... but 20+ years later here is the same scene liberated from Street View; the dream evaporated.

Corso Novara

All I can remember of the rest of the day was enjoying a few beers and pizza Margherita, when in Naples, whilst watching kids play football in a street off the main station piazza and the market** in the piazza itself.

**market, n. An impessive array of trestle tables covered in the brightly coloured boxes of hard-core pornographic videos and skip loads of other tat, being given the indifferent sell by hefty africans.

Day 1 : Santa Maria di Castellabate

Another day of transit followed, this time by train along the coast via the untouched backwaters of Sorrento and Pompei until reaching Agropoli, "the playground of the impecunious and unknown", for lunch.

Under our own steam at last, we completed the final leg of our journey to Santa Maria di Castellabate.

Our exact destination was the Parco San Marco (now the Parco Sant'Angelo), a holiday village of about 20 villas, with us as the only patrons.

Later we sat down for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbour and without forewarning a spectacular fireworks display kicked off, spent bits of firework raining onto the awning above.

I can't remember now if the display marked the completion of the church's renovation, or was a precursor to what occurred the following day, but at the time it felt like something out of a 1960s film, beautiful.

Days 2 - 6 : In no Particular Order

First Day - Blessing of the Bay and in town a crowd gathered around the church.

Santa Maria and child were carried out of the church on a pallet by the lads in blue tee-shirts and deposited on the back of a pickup truck, no donkey, prior to a short drive to the harbour-side for transfer onto a launch.

Setting Sail

The boat, Virgin, Child, priest et. al. then set off for a tour of the bay, blessing it for the coming season's fishing.

Our first 24 hours in town, fantastic.

Cycle to Castellabate(x2?) - Certainly on the first trip PrH and I matched hill-top heart-rates @ 184 having raced up, then PrH's rear wheel slips out negotiating a switch-back on the way down, the only way he knows how, without brakes, without fear.

View from Castellabate

Aqua-Keepy-Uppy-Volleyball - Many carefree hours were (innocently) frolicked away in this pursuit, these days I wouldn't allow myself the time, older and sadder for sure.

Our holiday village pool and the warm sea provided the playgrounds where I smuggled budgies and MrL was savaged by an unspecified shell-fish.

Spaghettaria (sp?) - A few evenings were spent at this bar/eatery which, like the holiday park we kept open single-handedly, more than few Leffes were enjoyed.

Bar Sports 2000 - This venue hosted a couple of later evenings; a southern European concrete box, telly in corner, formica-topped tables, guaranteed atmosphere-free, although the boxes of cheese biscuits displayed in glass cabinets on the wall were a nice touch.

Still, therein lie a few memories, the flavoured vodka freezer (then a novelty) on the bar was emptied, I discovered grappa and a couple of days later the local 5ft tall, gobshite, fighting drunk decided to take on the barman, 7ft.

Paestum - As featured in the 1963 cinematographic epic Jason and the Argonauts as well as our own.

A remarkably interesting place, to which I'm sure I'd pay more attention if I were to visit again; the first of many.

Corso Novara

Bruschetti - garlic and tomatoes (the best ever) and DrH repeating "Santa Maria di Castellabate" until his eyes ran with tears of laughter.

Local Grocer - and a large bottle of olive oil on the house. Not entirely clear if this was a present for our generous trade or a kind request not to return and frighten off even more of his local trade.

Down the Coast to (?) - Sea food, down by the coast, another first for the ill-travelled Bob.

Cycle into the (knee wrenching) hills - for a hilltop village bar-stop, featuring Highlander crisps all the way from Bathgate and a delightfully Italian 8-bit arcade game, the object of which was to reveal pictures of topless women - played by a five year old.

Mr & Mrs, Leffe glass - etc. etc. My list is... thankfully... finite.

Day 7 : Home

We retraced our steps home in a day, tour over.

Well, no, it still isn't, which is the beautiful part!

And finally - don't ask who the grinning Mexican is on the ex-MOD bus, but little did he suspect that in his absence the Astra had been knicked, abused and dumped on Barker's Lane.

Corso Novara