Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pisa and Lucca

We spent our last day in Florence doing a quick day trip to Pisa and Lucca.  We spent just half the day admiring the famous leaning bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral. The entire cathedral square, the Piazza del Duomo, is quite beautiful and impressive and swarming with tourists as you can imagine. The famous tower leans because of its inadequate foundation on too soft of ground… it used to lean at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but corrective measures taken during the 1990s and early 2000s made it so now it leans at an angle of 3.99 degrees.  

They had an age restriction on climbing it so none of the kids could go :(  Ben was a good sport and hung out with them while Mom and I made the unique climb up the slightly tilted spiral staircase. 

The view from up top

The girls having fun in the gift shop while waiting for Mom and me to make our descent
The baptistry… again, we loved having the scooters there

The inside of the cathedral was breathtaking… as are most European cathedrals:

We spent the second half of the day in Lucca… a medieval city famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls that you can bike around!  And we did just that.  The girls stuck to their scooters and the adults rented bikes. I believe James was in the Ergo on Ben's back.  All I really remember is Caroline getting in a nasty collision with a bicyclist and the ice cream man getting really upset with the speeding cyclist and attending to Caroline while waiting for us to arrive at the scene. 
About half way around the city Caroline gave up and I remember sitting her on the back of my bike while holding her scooter and pedaling the rest of the loop.  It must have been quite the site! There was quite a bit of bicycle traffic up on the walls, so after one go around Nana stayed with the kids while Ben and I rode the loop a couple more times.  It was loads of fun and offered some beautiful skyline views of the city.  I wished we had more time here… a half day was not long enough!

And these are the only two pictures we took… gelato makes everything better!

Emily's Ballet

A shot Grandpa snuck as he went to pick her up from ballet practice.  

While we were in Germany, Emily and Caroline had the opportunity to participate in various after school activities.  Emily did a year of ballet, then a year of Irish step, and then a year again of ballet.  She loved both.  The 2015-2016 ballet courses culminated in an "Alice in Wonderland" production.  The various dance classes all participated… Em's class had just a small part but it was fun to see her in action.

Of course, the production was on June 1, the eve of our departure when I was in a frantic mess to get us all packed and ready to leave from Germany forever.  And of course it was on Patch, a 30 minute drive from RB, and of course it lasted over two hours. 

I remember that day was nuts.  For one last minute reason or another, I was on all four bases that day; that was unprecedented in my 3.5 years of living there. Ben had taken the kids to the auditorium on Patch while I did a last minute errand on Kelley, and traffic was horrendous getting back.  So, thankfully, another ballet mom took care of Em's hair for me. 
 I admit I skipped out after Em's part… I was a big ball of stress.  It was fun to attend though and as you'll see, Ben played his usual role as fanatic paparazzi father.  

He got some adorable shots.

She has the long lean physique that makes her the ideal ballerina… hopefully she can continue with it when we head to our next assignment. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Cinque Terre

Don't mind some random catching up:
16 months ago… yeah, 16 months ago.

One of my favorite days on our Italy trip in April 2015 was when we went to Cinque Terre.   This is a popular tourist destination area that comprises of five charming yet rugged seaside villages along the Italian Riveria.  

We only had a day to this… I was hoping to do some of the hiking trails that connect the various towns, but most of them were closed because of erosion… the only one open would have been too difficult for our little ones.  So, instead we trained it…. we started from our hotel in Levanto, and stopped at each town beginning with Monterosso, which had great shopping and a playground for the kiddos.  We spent most of the day in Vernazza, which was quite charming and where most of these photos were taken.  Our last stop was in Manarola and I was so disappointed we hadn't given this place more time because we found the perfect isolated playground with sweeping views of the coast … I could have stayed there all day long while the kids played.  

We took a boat back to Monterosso… which was a lovely ride and a great way to see the towns, and then trained it back to our hotel.  A fantastic day!


Scooters… the best idea ever.

Manarola, with the fantastic playground.  If you have young kids, spend some time here!

The boat ride back:

And train ride back to the hotel… what a day!