11/18/12 - 11/26/12 53 °F
Understatements. That's all I have. The trip has been amazing. Spending 24/7 with my kids for so many days on end has been wonderful.
We have been to seven countries (France, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy), plus one quick hop-off-the-train in Belgium just to say the kids were there. Otherwise, we gave ourselves time. Time to explore, get lost, and make our way home. Time to figure out the market systems, the basics of the transportation systems, and learn how to say thank you and please. Time to go to a museum or just walk, searching for a playground.
Rome was so much fun to explore. Honestly, i wasn't sure I would really be interested in seeing three weeks of ancient ruins. The city is so much more than that, a city embracing (and sometimes struggling to embrace) it's Empire history, while also being a living, modern city. Nor am i a religious person. But i appreciate church structures and what religion means to people and to Roman society and history. Thus, I feel lucky to have visited so many beautiful churches. We even saw the Pope give his Sunday message last weekend in St. Peter's square (which is round, not square...).
One day, we planned a day out of town to visit what appeared to be a picturesque white-washed, hanging-on-a-cliff seaside town on the Mediterranean. Crystal clear water. White sand beaches. One quick train and one quick bus ride from Rome. But, Don started chatting up a guy in the ticket line who convinced him we should forego my carefully researched adventure and instead to to a closer beach. After much back and forth, between the three of us, off we went to the closer beach. Thus began a long, adventurous day of figuring out where we were going!
First, we got off the wrong stop for the beach but landed right next to the guidebooks' top pick for a day out of Rome. We took advantage of our mistake and toured Ostia Antica, a sprawling ancient city that acted as Rome's port. The city is remarkably intact and well preserved and you can walked miles through its streets, buildings, theaters, restaurants, baths, schools, churches, etc. We were there for 4 hours or so and made our way back to the train to find the beach the guy recommended.
After different advice from a few people as to which stop to get off, we left the train and entered winter's beach wasteland. Wide boulevards ready for summer's traffic but almost desolate in November. We could tell that the sun would set within 20 minutes and we were eager to get on the beach. But, we couldn't! The beach was lined with beach clubs that were all connected by locked gates. Locked! We walked for a while with no luck of entry. We finally found a gate that was open and in we went. But then there was a fence! Don found a place where we could step over a crushed part of the wire fence. We were on the beach! There was nothing picturesque about the town (nothing!). But we were so excited to put our feet in the Mediterranean we didn't care a bit. The sunset was gorgeous. Thousands of seashells. Except for two silhouettes fishing down the beach, we had the beach to ourselves. Dark grey, almost black sand. Doubt the water was crystal clear but the sun setting made it hard to criticize. After a while, we went up and dried our feet near some cabanas and went back to the main drag in search of dinner.
To women pointed us up the street. We walked. And waled. Another couple told us to keep walking or take a bus to a busier part of the strip. We waited for a bus for may 20 minutes and then continued walking. The next day, I figured out we walked more than three miles up that strip of closed beach clubs. We walked by two ladies of the night (!) and eventually found a hotel that was open, got a map and were in a restaurant within another 20 minutes. Afterwards, we made our way home. What a day!
We spent our last days in Rome walking, going back to a few places and exploring some new neighborhoods. Henry fell into a fountain. Coco went in search of boots. We had to get strangers to convince the kids a trompe l'oeil "domed" and frescoed ceiling was indeed a trick!
On thanksgiving we went back to a favorite restaurant for an amazing meal and a beautiful walk. We gave our thanks and enjoyed being together, even so far away from home.
We are in Paris now. We have spent the last couple of days showing Don our favorite sites and enjoy staying in a new neighborhood, the Latin quarter. Our apartment is huge, a switch by the owner because our original apartment mysteriously became water damaged last week. I don't believe the water damage story, and 80% of me didn't think this apartment really existed either. Miraculously, the guy showed up to let us in and the apartment really is here.
One more for the trip's miracle log.
We head home on November 27....