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well, imagine that!

semi-overcast 53 °F

Rome

Rome


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...).

Pope

Pope


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. 

Ostia Antica, Italy

Ostia Antica, Italy


Mediterranean sea, Ostia, Italy

Mediterranean sea, Ostia, Italy

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! 

thanksgiving dinner 2012, Rome

thanksgiving dinner 2012, Rome


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.

Rome

Rome

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....

Posted by Lindacdc 11/26/12 12:39 Archived in France Comments (4)

all together now, in Rome

sunny 67 °F

victory!, Colosseum

victory!, Colosseum


We are drinking a bottle of Italian red, a day of two walks separated by a cozy nap, minestrone soup and strong coffee. We are proud of the wine - a grocery store purchase for just more than $2, it's actually quite good. 

Don, manna from heaven arriving just in the nick of time as my parenting skills were collapsing, got here on Tuesday. I'd emailed instructions to take a train from the airport, then catch a bus and we'd meet him at the bus stop. Not to say that I was surprised to see him actually get off the bus, but I almost fell over in astonishment when he did. He made it! A big, bus-stop homecoming. 

Don's response to anyone who speaks to him is "la dolce vita!" Then he asks me what that means again (the sweet life). 

For two days this week we explored the Colosseum and two nearby ancient sites, Palatino hill and the Roman Forum. The Forum is where the happening marketplace was at the time of the Colosseum's height, almost 2000 years ago. Palatino is a huge site of an emperor's palace, stadium, and other crazily opulent buildings. I must say, the Colosseum was amazing.

We did a tour that included the underground level and the uppermost level. The place could hold 50,000 Romans in the stadium and several hundred more working the production of the shows below the stage, including of course the gladiators. The shows would last for days, sometimes up to 100 days. The shows were free, a gift of the emperor. I was initially nervous about our tour guide. She walked us onto the area where the stage would have been and said, "well, here we are!" Turned out she's an archaeologist, Italian at that. It was a great tour and we all hung in there for it. 

There has been extensive flooding in Italy this last week. It rained part of one day here in Rome but further north got slammed, causing massive flooding in Venice and mudslides in Tuscany where at least four people were killed. The Tiber River, which runs through Rome, got VERY high. We went and checked on it a few days in a row. One night, there was an incredible amount of debris coming down the high, fast river. We saw several boats, a small fridge, a large bureau, and lots of big limbs and trees. It was astonishing. The river today is way down.

We have continued our gelato enjoyment and have had lots of excellent pizza, soup, pasta, veggies either drenched in oil and baked to deliciousness or shaped into balls with rice and deep fried. Oh my. 

Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome

Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome

Churches have also continued to keep our attention. They are everywhere, they are free, they are full of beautiful art, they are insanely beautiful architecturally, and each is unique. Today we went to a cathedral dedicated to Saint Cecelia, the saint of music. She was martyred on the site of the church. While we were in there, several nuns made there way in, one taking a seat at the organ. On queue, the music began and the rest of the nuns started singing. It was very soft and sweet. Lucky us!

Rome

Rome

We took Don to our local market this morning, where we've frequented two particular vendors. One, a man who calls Henry his clementine boy. And another, an elderly woman who pinches the kids' cheeks and seems, at least, happy to see us. 

Barbie at the Pantheon, Rome

Barbie at the Pantheon, Rome

After a night time stroll around the Pantheon tonight, Henry's tooth fell out. Another visit from the tooth ferry! That'll be the third visit this trip. Coco got two visits, for the same tooth, poor thing. Her new tooth came in, split her baby tooth in two, and the two halves came out a day apart. The whole process took about 10 days of discomfort for her. Henry, on the other hand, mentioned yesterday that his tooth was loose. 

Don has brought more stuff than Coco, Henry and I have for our entire stay! I begged him to bring as little as possible because I'm certain we'll be pushing luggage weight limits on the way home to DC. So he brings three hard cover books! Indeed, I think these are the same three hard covers he's brought on our last five vacations! He has more pants than any of us! Ah, Don, we love you so! He also brought Coco oatmeal and brown sugar, her favorite breakfast. Happy Coco.

We are in Rome for one more week, then a few days in Paris and back to Mount Rainier. La dolce vita indeed.

Posted by Lindacdc 11/17/12 12:28 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

. . . a thousand words

sunny

A few of the things we've seen and done these last couple of days in Rome, in pictures!

knife-sharpener-on/using bike pedals, our street, Rome

knife-sharpener-on/using bike pedals, our street, Rome

Obama wins!

Obama wins!

picnic, Villa Borghese park

picnic, Villa Borghese park

Giolitti's gelato - cheery ice with whipped cream on the left for Elizabeth!

Giolitti's gelato - cheery ice with whipped cream on the left for Elizabeth!

Villa Borghese park

Villa Borghese park

sunset from above Piazza del Popolo, in Villa Borghese park

sunset from above Piazza del Popolo, in Villa Borghese park

Pantheon at night

Pantheon at night

police are front line of student protest near Il Vittoriano

police are front line of student protest near Il Vittoriano

Pie di Marmo, Rome

Pie di Marmo, Rome

sun dial - accurate, of course, Rome

sun dial - accurate, of course, Rome

Posted by Lindacdc 11/10/12 11:22 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

la dolce vita / la vida loca

sunny 66 °F

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We have stabilized operations in Rome. The bird poop is flying, almost as fast as the traffic. The kids and I have rested up from our whirlwind month since Paris. We are jazzed about the elections and about exploring another new city, especially this one.

Neither of the kids has learned to walk in a straight line. Neither have totally memorized their math facts. Neither can go "straight to bed." Neither can read a map with success! But, both are quick to want to go inside this or that for just a peak, to go down a street we didn't intend to, to eat a zucchini flower when told it's a delicacy, and to offer a quick hand when I can't conquer tall stairs that have no railing.  

We are so glad to be in an apartment again, and even so much happier that Don returns in less than a week. 

The city is beautiful and begs for meandering. And eating gelato. Yesterday, I let the kids have two. Just seemed like the right thing to do. 

We have visited dozens of churches since Saturday, the Pantheon, a view-topped hill and neighborhoods thick with alleys, little-to-no sidewalks, pizzerias, and gelato shops. La dolce vita indeed.

I have sucked it up and entered bakeries with old men, oler women behind the counters. No English. Have no idea what anything is called. I can say (I think!), I would like that one or this one. I can count to five, say eight and ten. Why not six, seven or nine? These are my shortcomings, some of my smallest ones.

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Henry's collision with the moped in Florence has us all on hyper alert. We dash, we leap, we hold hands so tightly. Henry did get a healthy bruise but, as many have told him, he has a great story to tell. Today we had to cross a busy street to get to a staircase and there was a crosswalk. But, it was right on a hairpin curve! Give me a break, and a sedative! We obviously made it, and hoorayed when we did. Each step a part of this magical adventure.

Lots of schoolwork in Rome so far, leaving the apartment mid day for our adventuring. We are saving the Colosseum and a few other highlights for Don's arrival. Gives me some time to plan ahead and for us to explore the hood, find the grocery stores and markets, and get to know our way around.

We are in a neighborhood called the Jewish Ghetto, within a larger neighborhood called Centro Storico. We can walk everywhere. There seems to be a large tram/bus hub two blocks from us but we have only walked this far. Magically, we have a terrace overlooking a tiny pedestrian-only street lined with cafes, restaurants, butchers, bakeries, a cheese shop, a gelato shop, and more. I can't wait for Don to share it with us. 

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Rome, you are a beauty. And, I'm glad you were 66 degrees and perfectly sunny today!

Posted by Lindacdc 11/7/12 10:44 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Moped Mayhem

sunny 67 °F

Last night started out horribly. Henry was clipped by a moped. The moped didn't run over him, at all, but henry's right shin/foot kicked it as Henry was crossing the street and the moped was zooming up aside cars toward the intersection. We had all been holding hands across the street (the street crossing is crazy here). Once we were in front of the line of stopped cars, Henry ran ahead and i to the moped that was coming up between the cars and the sidewalk we were headed toward. I screamed because I saw it all happen. The guy looked back and stopped. 

It was quickly clear that no real damage had been done to Henry but Coco and I walked him 10 paces to a bench and took off his shoe and sock and hiked up his pants. He was very shaken up. We all were. I talked to the motor bike guy and told Him i thought Henry was ok and he asked for my permission to leave. Thee kids and i sat on the bench for a while and collected ourselves. Henry will have a bruise near his shin but is otherwise fine. Coco was a model of composure and helpfulness throughout the whole thing.  

We were on our way to dinner at my friend Curt's friend's family's restaurant. We made it eventually. Dinner was great, complete with friendly hosts who were just a few steps away from family. Henry even tried some funky cheeses. The pasta I ordered them was super spicy. They soldiered through!

After dinner, we walked to the bus stop to come home and we forgot we needed to be on the opposite side of a pretty short bridge. So, we had to go over the bridge. Then Coco had to pee and I had to convince a grumpy restaurant guy to let her in. Then we finally got to the bus stop and after waiting for 5 minutes or so realized we'd missed the last bus by more than an hour since yesterday was a national holiday. So, we walked to a busier area and tried with no luck to get a cab. We then went into a hotel and the man at the front desk called us a cab, let us sit in the lobby and was very nice. The taxi was quick to come and to get us to our hotel.

By the end of our long evening, I was as tired as these kiddies. I feel horrible about Henry's moped collision. We had a plan to hold hands all the way across and he broke free when he thought he was really in the clear, I'm sure. It all happened so quickly. Lesson learned, hopefully.

In the day yesterday, we went through the Uffizzi, supposedly one of Italy's finest museums. It was really quite something. I had a plan mapped out with room numbers and particular works I thought we' enjoy seeing. The building itself was beautiful. The artwork gorgeous. Thanks to a tip from my friend Toby, we had one family membership card to lots of key places in Florence. This, we were able to skip the very long lines and go back to see Michelangelo's David in the afternoon. We also went into a Medici museum. All those people were loaded! We headed home to the hotel for a rest before heading out for dinner.

Today, Friday, was a first for us, a full day bus tour, the best of Tuscany and all that. The highlight was visiting a vineyard, touring it's winery operations as well as its cow barn, olive groves, etc. we had lunch of homemade pasta and three kinds of wine super rounded by quintessential Tuscan scenery. We also visited Siena, San Gimignano (a UNESCO world heritage site) and Pisa (the lowlight of the day). Logged another long day but glad we went. Thousands of pictures will be posted from this single day, that's just the kind of day it was. 

Posted by Lindacdc 11/2/12 13:41 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

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