Today, we enjoyed watching all the fun of Carnival in Spain. Carnival is celebrated all over Europe (and of course, Brazil) where each country puts their own twist to the celebration It is a wonderful celebration of family and community. We saw all ages dancing and singing through the streets, it was great! The different towns compete for the best costumes, dance choreography, and floats. Tough competition this year in Lloret de Mar. We felt very lucky to be part of this great tradition!
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.
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.
There is something for everyone at the Tower of London. History, drama, trickery, weapons, torture, death, royalty and lots and lots of diamonds. Since we did not arrive until the afternoon we ran out of time to see the “rack” which my husband was tortured by missing (pun intended, sorry…).
We took the walking tour with a Beefeater, who is also known as, the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary (what a name…I would go with Beefeater too!). He showed us around the incredible grounds of the Tower and then we headed inside to see the Crown Jewels. There are over 11 tons of gold and some of the largest diamonds in the world, absolutely stunning! We viewed Queen Elizabeth II’s crown, which she will wear for the State Opening of Parliament in early November.
On our way out, my husband and daughter met the first female Beefeater and then a gentleman who worked at the Tower and he gave my daughters a special pin from a recent opening of an exhibition at the Tower. The same pins had been given to some of the members of the Royal Family when they attended the opening. We felt very lucky! He then brought us up to a private area in the Middle Tower, which is where his office was located. We were able to climb to the top of the Tower and had an amazing view of Tower Bridge. He told us about meeting some of the Royal Family and his experience as an expert on Admiral Lord Nelson, the infamous royal naval hero. It was quite an exciting afternoon! One we will always remember!
Well we are done with Palm Springs, thankfully! As much as I love Palm Springs and its environs in the winter, summer is another story. There is much to appreciate in the Coachella Valley with its desert landscapes, mid-century architecture and wonderful resorts but as much as you try, the heat is just oppressive and there is only so much of being in the pool (which is the only place that makes being outside bearable). I have had a hard time not being outside, we are very spoiled here in Southern California!
We have had fun though and have tried to make the most of the heat. Palm Springs was the best place for us as we try to stay on budget. We do have a pretty big trip planned for the next 6 months so we needed a place where it was easy on the bank account.
While in Palm Springs we have been lucky to be able to see lots of friends and family, plan a few more stops for our European adventure, get the girls in some French classes and swim classes, watch lots of the Olympics (loved it!) visited the Palm Springs Art Museum and began our online homeschooling. This was especially good on the really hot days when there was not much else to do anyway…
Don’t tell anyone but both girls learned how to drive a golf cart and a golf ball (you can tell people that part) but not the driving the golf cart part, not sure exactly the “rules” for that one. They enjoyed driving the golf carts much more than the golf balls but still did amazingly well, they get it from their dad! Not an easy sport. Takes a lot to get that little ball all the way to that little hole!
Trying to come up with fun indoor activities, we headed to the bowling alley, they have got to do something about the slimy finger holes in the balls and the shoes! Just saying…yikes!
Now we are in Idyllwild, it is 20 degrees cooler and very nice to see some greenery. Idyllwild is a sweet little town in the mountains with lots of art galleries and great hiking trails. I am excited to be able to be outside without sweating. Next, we head to San Diego to spend our last weeks in the States before heading abroad. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!
Here is my very handsome husband in Idyllwild. It is so nice and beautiful, such a nice change from the desert!
The girls love it here and are out searching for forest faeries as we speak, so sweet! It is strange with everyone getting ready for back to school and we are well, not… So excited for our traveling adventures to begin!
Well, we are going for it! There is no better time for us to take an extended tour of Europe and we are jumping in. We are going to head out this fall and travel through the following spring. There is a ton of stuff to do to get ready so I plan to blog about the preparation, just in case, anyone else out there might be wanting to do the same thing. We will be homeschooling our two girls (they will be in 4th and 6th grade) moving and living in several different countries and having the time of our lives.
One of our biggest concerns (besides missing our family and friends) is our animals. We have two cats, two small dogs, two fish and two birds, sort of a Noah’s Arc around here… We love our pets and have struggled on what to do with them. We think we have some wonderful temporary homes for most of our animals and are contemplating taking our dogs with us. France, being such a dog loving country, could be fun. I have memories of being in French cafes with pooches sleeping under their owners table in fluffy dog beds. It would be thrilling to have them join us on our journey.
I have been researching about a European Dog Passport which is needed before you bring your dog into Europe. In order to get this passport your dog must have a microchip, be vaccinated for rabies and have a “vet check” to make sure they are healthy. Your vet will need to fill out the necessary paperwork to prove that your pet has a clean bill of health. Once you have your pet passport it allows you to travel between many different EU countries. It is important to make sure your dog can handle such a journey. My dogs are great travelers and would rather be with us. Saying this, I know it is a big deal to travel with them so far and I do not take this lightly. We have to stay in pet approved places and make special arrangements with the airlines. It is a lot but I cannot imagine saying goodbye to them for 7 plus months, it is hard enough leaving our other animals. We will definitely look forward to our whole family being together again upon our return.
So this is the beginning of what I imagine to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To travel with my family and teach my children the love of travel and the joy of exploring different cultures will change their lives forever. I cannot wait!
Want to have an amazing family getaway? Head to a dude ranch, yeehaw! This summer we were lucky enough to have had a long weekend spent with family at the Rankin Ranch located in the heart of the Tehachapi Mountains in central California. The 13,000 acre working cattle ranch has several rustic guest suites where you can relax when you are not riding the trails, fishing, swimming, playing games, learning to square dance, playing horseshoes or eating. I think you get the idea, there is a lot to do or nothing at all. It is old-time family fun and we loved every minute of it. The ranch sits in such a lovely setting it is easy to ponder about leaving the big city and permanently relocating.
There is nothing that I like more than connecting with my family especially with how busy our lives are, this is not always easy. That is why a trip out to a ranch with no phones, no tv, nothing but ourselves and the beautiful land is a perfect family getaway