Traveler’s Log

Heading westward in southern France towards the end of our incredible European adventure has me thinking upon a few things.  Our travels have taken us 13,000 kilometers and we have stayed in 17 different places, including, apartments, villas, homes and hotel rooms. By the time our trip ends, in Lisbon, Portugal, we will have stayed in 24 places and have traveled close to 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles).   My kind husband is becoming quite tired of loading and unloading the car (34 times so far and this does not count our trip in California before we left for Europe along with packing up our whole house into storage).  Sometimes we are parked close to where we are staying and it is easy, but other times we have hauled our bags down the side of a mountain, through busy city streets, and up several long flights of stairs.  I have to say that this packing and unpacking is the worst part, even though, at times, we are ready to try our next location, it can get pretty tiresome.  We have all become professional packers though, and I really am proud of how little the girls complain as they resign themselves to the task at hand.

trip so far

With staying in so many different places we have had to get use to lots of different kitchens and lots of different beds.  I do appreciate nice cooking utensils and appliances, it really makes a difference.  We have learned a lot of what works and what doesn’t for vacation rentals…

We will have gone to the supermarket in 10 different countries.  The most unusual market so far has to be in Prague.  We have had to really rely at times on the pretty pictures on the packaging in order to have the slightest idea of what might be inside.

One of the most useful tools we have used is the translation app on my iPad  this has come in handy when having to read cooking instructions in Czech…  Also, a very handy app, has been the conversion app on our iPhone.   Whether being used for temperature (cooking or weather) distances, weights or currency, it has been very helpful. We have used the Euro, the British Pound (GBP), the Czech Koruna (CZK), and the Swiss Franc (CHF).  Hopefully helping our girls to build good math skills in the meantime.

The most memorable gift from our travels, along with all the incredible places we have seen, the time we have spent together as a family, and the food, has to be the wonderful people we have met.  We have met lovely people all over Europe.  It really has helped to make our experience so special.  With the language barrier being very tough as times, these connections with people have helped us so much to enjoy and understand the places that we have been.  It gives me such faith in humanity…there are good people everywhere!

Well, I must sign off as we have to go and pack…

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Roma Roma Roma

It had been a very very long time since I had been to Rome.  I was excited to explore this ancient city and experience the warmth of the friendly Italians.  So much of our human culture began in Rome and it is impossible not be moved by the connection to this history.  There is a lot that was brought from the sophisticated Greek Empire that came 500 years before, which is just mind boggling really!  But the Romans, in true fashion created a vast empire which survived for 1,000 years.  We have seen reminders of this vast empire throughout Europe.  The first half of the empire began with a republic government ruled by elected officials and then in the middle period of the empire, the Caesars took over as dictators, which eventually brought the end of the Roman Empire, something to examine for sure.  It is always better to have a democracy!

To first see the Coliseum from afar and slowly walk up to it is a dramatic experience, for sure.  The Coliseum has such emotion to it.  When it opened in 80 A.D., it had a total of 4 stories, which is only partially seen today.  It is said that the Romans invented concrete and bricks.  There is extensive use of brick which is clearly visible throughout the Coliseum.  At the time the Coliseum was used, it was covered in marble.  For our children, learning about the gladiators really brought that history to life.  Imagine yourself as a gladiator walking into the Coliseum with 50,000 spectators excitedly waiting for your gruesome death, what fun they all had, quite the show!  I guess it was important to make clear the power that Roman Empire had over just about anything, man and beast.  Barbaric, yes, but they had something to prove.

We spent several days in Rome strolling among the ruins.  We were excitedly joined by my husband’s mother who added so much to our experience!  In addition to exploring the Coliseum, we visited the Forum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the incredible Galleria Borghese.  Rome is such a vibrant city but it still is a city and we ended up having one of our tires slashed in a not so safe parking area.  We luckily found a nice man to help us, but we heard it could have been a lot worse.  Anyway, as much as we loved Rome, when it was time to leave, we happily headed off into the sunset, towards Lucca.DSC_0016DSC_0179

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Magical Italy

In early December we stayed just outside of Vicenza, Italy.  Here we enjoyed a week in a beautiful villa that had a wonderful outdoor area, which the owners referred to as a park, and it really was. The garden traversed up the side of the hill and incorporated almost 2 acres.  There was an olive grove, koi pond, tree house, pergola created from grape vines, decorative sitting areas, lush trails, statues and beautiful views. Truly incredible in any season, punctuated with the sounds of church bells ringing in the distance.  We all love being outdoors (as do the Italians) and the garden gave the girls a chance to really spend some nice time exploring.  It was really cold and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground.  The koi pond had almost completely frozen over.  The garden was so serene and beautiful.

Ever since my daughters were little, they have built fairy houses.  They have made them at the beach, in forests, and at the different homes we have lived in, which have been many lately…  On this day though, in December, they decided to build one in Italy.  First they found a location in a beautiful old olive tree and began searching for things to decorate it with.  They found berries, acorns, pinecones, rose petals, bark, olives, and leaves, all fun things to add to any respectable fairy house. They then thought about using the ice from the koi pond to make the floors for their fairy house and they built different levels out of ice in the branches of the tree.  It turned out to be magical! I have never seen a more beautiful fairy house in all my days.  I do hope that the fairies were happy and enjoyed their new house! It was made with love, creativity and sweet innocence.

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Quick Update

We have been in Italy now for just over one month and have had approximately 30 pizzas…we are close to averaging a pizza a day! Food here is definitely the “dolce vita” with the fresh pasta, wine, bread, prosciutto and cheeses, can I just say I am in heaven! Here is a quick update to our whereabouts in the last month.

We first went here:

Amazing Venice!

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Next we went here:

The Italian Alps and Lake Como.  We did a little skiing, skating and hiking.

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We picked up my mother-in-law here:

We were so very excited to see her!

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We all loved it here:

The incredible ancient city of Rome!

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And now we are here:

In the breathtaking Tuscan countryside close to Lucca.

Hope this finds you all happy and healthy and ready for the best year of your life! Cheers to all!

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