At the end of November, Christopher competed in the Sailor of the Year competition for his command and he won! With his win came another competition; the Sailor of the Year competition for all the European & African commands; which was being held in Naples, Italy.
My grandparents, or Crinkles as the British people call them, were set to arrive on Saturday, December 4th and we all decided to fly to Naples with Christopher. So, we set out for Italy on Monday, the 6th.
We didn't arrive at our hotel until late, so we walked a little ways down the street and stopped in to a restaurant called Gusto! Gusto! We started the meal with a glass of prosecco (and ended with a shot of lemoncello), we had pizza and a caprese salad... let me tell you right now, that crap in the states is not pizza...just stop eating it now...lol. And the buffalo mozzarella cheese was absolutely the best I've ever eaten!
On Tuesday, Christopher went on a tour of a monastery (Monte Cassino) and a wine tasting with the other Sailors of the Year and their sponsors. Mymom, Grampy, and I bummed around Naples. We ended up with beautiful weather all week. It was sunny and warm and pretty much the opposite of England weather right now. We ended up getting a taxi and paid 50 euro to keep him for 3 hours for a personal tour of the city. We went all over the place. We ended up at 2 churches, all through the city, up to the top of the mountain so we could see the most beautiful panoramic view of the city, a cameo factory where we met the proprietor and bought some cameos, and then we finished our tour at a pizzeria.
One of the streets of Naples.
On Wednesday Christopher had his board for the competition. We had breakfast together at the hotel and then he got ready and competed. He came back absolutely thrilled with his performance. He knew that winning was probably a long shot for him, since he's only been in for 6 years, but he said he KNEW that he was good enough that they HAD to at least consider him, so he counted that as a win! After he got out of his uniform, we went out and walked around the older part of the city. We ended up in a Christmas market that was bustling, to say the least; it was PACKED. People were literally shoulder to shoulder trying to make their way through the narrow alleys. There were nativities all over the place and I wanted one so bad, but couldn't find the perfect one. Plus, it was absolute insanity in there, so we left.
One of the tiny streets the market was held in
We had a dinner with everyone scheduled for that night, so we hopped on the bus and headed to somewhere in the heart of the city and stopped at a place called Pepe Russo. We didn't see a menu, they just started bringing food... whatever they felt like cooking that day. We had:
House Wine with no label (amazing!)
Our Anti-pasta course was:
Italian bread, roasted eggplant, potatoes, dough balls, pickled and sauteed anchovies, proscutto and buffalo mozzarella.
Then we had our pasta course with 2 different pasta's, a penne with eggplant and tomatoes and the most amazing spaghetti I've ever eaten. The sauce was like nothing I'd ever eaten before and I still cant figure out what it was and I have a pretty awesome palate. It was a sauce so thick it stuck to the noodles... it was red, but not super red, more pink and very cheesy... smooth, so tomato chunks. It was divine. I ate every bit of it.
For our meat course, we had Italian sausage and a giant pork chop.
We had a course of just fresh tangerines as a palate cleanser and then came dessert: Zeppoli (Italian donuts) in Nutella... absolutely incredible!
Everyone at dinner
It was pretty much one of the most amazing meals ever! The food just kept on coming and it was all amazing. We tried everything and enjoyed it immensely.
The next day, we had breakfast and then headed to the base for the awards ceremony. There were two ceremonies that day; one for Sailor of the year for the region at 9:00 in the morning (I still dont really get the difference between that competition and the one Christopher competed in) and then the ceremony for Christopher's competition at 1:00 in the afternoon. We had a little time in between, so we went shopping at the NEX, which was nice since all our base has is a crappy BX.
Sunrise Thursday Morning... this was our view at breakfast!
We got into the awards ceremony and I was a bundle of nerves. I wanted nothing more than the Master Chief who was over the whole thing to call out Christopher's name. He got to the part where he announced the winner and he said the Rate and rank first and my heart skipped a beat-- it was Christopher's Rate! And then, after a pause, he said the name and it wasn't Christopher's. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty disappointed. But, Christopher was still awarded a COM (A Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal), which is a really big deal.
Christopher accepting his medal from the Admiral (and his Master Chief, his sponsor, behind him).
After the ceremony, we headed back to the hotel, grabbed a nap, then headed down to dinner where we had even more pizza.
Friday we had all day to ourselves. We walked ALL over Naples. We managed to find the oldest Cafe in Naples and have some breakfast. Cappuccino's, cannoli's, and elephant ears! It was incredible! I am not really a coffee drinker, much more a tea person, but the cappuccino was amazing... the coffee wasn't bitter at all and the foam was so creamy. The cannoli was one of the best I've ever had, as was the elephant ear.
We wandered around some more and managed to find some Christmas ornaments that said "Buon Natale" which means Merry Christmas in Italian!
Mymom, Grampy, and I
We stopped at a restaurant and had some lunch; Mymom and Grampy had Lasagne, I had spaghetti noodles with garlic and chili, and Christopher had Gnocci.
We went back to the hotel and Christopher went out to grab some cash for a taxi and came back with Gelato for me! It was one of the things I wanted, but didn't manage to get it while we were out. He got me pistachio and chocolate and just like everything else in Naples, it was amazing!
Sunset our last day in Naples.
So yeah, basically we ate our way through Naples and it was fantastic! We had a great time. The language was beautiful and we're going to work on learning a bit more before heading back down there sometime next year. My dream is to spend at least 2 weeks in Italy seeing as much as we can. I want to go to Rome and Vatican city, Bologna, Venice, Tuscany and Sicily if we can manage it. For now, I'm just happy we at least got to step foot in the country I've dreamed about seeing my entire life. I'm excited to explore the country more; Naples was a lot of fun and it was great, but it was so dirty. There was trash everywhere; apparently the trash guys were on strike and had been for a while, so garbage was piled up EVERYWHERE. I'm hoping the rest of Italy isn't like that.