Monday, August 25, 2014

Caio Rome

Our last stop of the trip, beautiful Roma!

Our apartment is so awesome.  We are in the Trastevere area of Rome, which is walking distance to the Coliseum and to the heart of the city.  This area has narrow cobblestone streets with grafiti'd metal garage doors locking up the shops and restaurants at night (or during siesta).

The front doors to the apartment building are typical giant heavy doors that lead to a vaulted ceiling courtyard with a lift.  This lift is special, you have to manually open 2 doors and close them behind you.  On our first ride together, Christian opened the inner doors early and the elevator stopped between floors.  We had to close them up and press the button again.  Our apartment is really beautiful.  The very tall ceilings are a beautiful tile, the doorway is rounded, there are 2 little lofts and the bathrooms are so colourful.

We spent our first day at the Coliseum.  We were approached and talked into joining a tour which they said would be 1.5 hours for the Coliseum, the Foro Romano and Palatino.  We didn't even have a chance to check out the prices and line up before someone suggested we join so we went along with it.  Unfortunately, we stood outside listening to an archaeologist tell us all about the history of the monuments for an hour before we even got to step inside.  The kids were being patient but we felt really bad, it was boring for them.  We finally got inside the coliseum and ditched the group and did our own thing.  That was an expensive mistake.

In the evening we walked down to the shops that run along the tiber river.  We had so much fun here shopping and eating and looking around.  There is so much foosball around, it is great!

Today we went to look at the Trevi Fountain to throw a coin in because I'd like to come back to Rome again sometime but the entire fountain was under construction.

The kids had their last Fanta today - I think they mostly enjoyed Italy because of the gelato and Fanta!

I am feeling sad that the holiday is over but I am very happy to get to go home to North Van, I can't wait to get on my bike and burn off some of this pasta and wine.

our front doors
our kitchen - notice the rounded door and super high ceilings?

Coliseum - notice the 6 m deep hallways under the arena used for animal cages

the fountains don't look clean but the water is very good for drinking

and we figured out the trick for drinking, plug the bottom and use the secret fountain spout
going down to the riverside markets

so much foosball in Rome
more foosball

beautiful Trevi fountain???

this guy was floating - the kids were shocked

more old stuff (the building in the back - not Christian)

pantheon (notice the new suitcase?)

oh, mini foosball too!
our last dinner beside the Tiber

caio Rome!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nonna's town - Roccacasale

Today I had the privilege to visit the little town on the side of a mountain where my Nonna was born and lived until her teens.  It is about an hour and a half east of Rome, right in the middle of Italy.  It was super hot when we arrived and the the kids were not even wanting to get out of the car let alone walk up the hilly road to find a house that I didn't even have an address for.  All I knew is that the house number is 2 and I had a picture.

We started walking up the hill and I was getting some groaning from the kids because they were hot and tired and didn't know why we were there.  So I decided I better ask someone for help.  We found an older woman named Clarice, washing out a bowl.  She reminded me of Nonna, she had a wonderful smile and she seemed as tough as nails (plus I was about a foot taller than her).  Her English was not great but she was determined to help us.  When she seemed frustrated, I said "don't worry, it's ok", but she responded with a smile and "no no, follow me", then I heard her muttering some swear words I had forgotten about - Clarice IS feisty like Nonna!  She walked us up the hill yelling through the streets to find some man that might speak better English.  He appeared from a window about 3 stories up, but he didn't really speak English either.  Then 2 other women stuck their heads out the window asking what was going on, but they didn't speak English either.  As we were standing there trying to communicate, Christian realized we were standing right in front of my Nonna's old home.  I had to be sure, so I ran back down to the car and grabbed the laptop to look at the picture again.  I brought it back up to show Clarice - we all were so proud of ourselves for finding it.

We asked her if she would be in a picture with us and she did not want to be, she pointed at her outfit and decided it was not fit for a picture.  But Chrisitan was sneaky and got her in the corner of a picture anyways - I thought she looked perfect.

Then she wanted to introduce us to a man in the town that lives in Toronto for part of the year.  So we followed her through the windy hilly narrow roads and met this man.  He showed us the way to walk to the castle and we did the short steep hike to the top of the village to see the old castle.  Blake needed to be carried because he was melting but I was so happy to be there I didn't mind at all.

starting the walk up the street of Nonna's village Roccacasale

the front door of Nonna's house

Clarice on the side

walking up to the castle that you can see at the top of the hill

picking a fresh fig to eat - it was very good

so hot and tired

the view from the top of the hill, Nonna's village just below

Yeh!  we made it!

the entrance to the castle

walking back down

amazing trailing succulents

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Glamping in Tuscany

It was a long drive to Tuscany - between Blake's car sickness and the construction zones, it took us an extra 3 hours to arrive at our Glamping destination.

For those of you that don't know, glamping is a short form for glamour camping (although glamour is not the first word I would use to describe it).  We have a big tent with it's own kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom with a shower.  This site is a full resort with huge pools and water slides and kids activities and restaurants and excursions and night life.

Our first night was not pleasant.  We went to bed at about 9 but couldn't sleep because of whatever event was going on at the ampitheatre (of which there is an event every night).  The music and MC finally finished at 11:15.  Then the people in the campsite behind us were very loud until 12:30.  We are packed in like sardines, we can hear everything.  We are 1 row away from a road and there are extremely loud motorcycles at all hours.  At about 6:30 in the morning the roosters and doves start making noise too.

The beauty of the campsite makes up for the lack of sleep.  There are blooming hibiscus, geraniums and other flowers everywhere.  The bay leaf bushes and rosemary are huge. And of course there are olive trees - I picked an olive off a tree and tried eating it - it was disgusting - I guess it wasn't ripe yet.  The resort is on a hill with views of distant olive groves and rolling hills.

We are fitting right in with the Europeans, the kids are drinking Fanta, Christian and I have had our fill of wine, we are enjoying our afternoon naps and 2 hour siesta and we aren't stressed about anything. We even eat dinner after 7 and stay out late at night (since there is no point in going to bed because it is too loud).  I can't believe how many kids are still playing outside at 11pm.  We just have to get Christian and Blake a speedo and nobody can tell us apart!

Today we attempted to go to Florence to get a taste of Italian culture.  We didn't plan it very well, we thought we were going to drive into the city but after talking to the lady at the information office she said under NO circumstances should anyone ever drive to Florence.  There is absolutely no parking even for the residents.  So we drove to the train station in Figline Valdarno but missed the train by minutes after running down a long graffiti filled pedestrian pathway to the station.  The next train was a 2 hour wait so we just came back to the good old resort where life is easy!  We tried to learn about Italian culture in Florence but instead we learned about European vacation culture.  Most people at this resort seem to be from the Netherlands, England and Italy.  It is excellent people watching here.

Last night we watched the resort play of Grease.  It was pretty funny to see these Italians lip syncing to an edited version of the movie sound track (talking and songs).  They cut out most of the story line but they left in the swear words including of course "look at me I'm Sandra Dee's" Italian F-bomb.  It was perfect, our kids didn't even know that was a swear word while there were many knowing smiles on other kids around.

Tomorrow we are off to Nonna's village and Rome.  I will try to do one last post from Rome.

Jaida finally got sick of pasta.

our first night in Jaida and Blake's bedroom

Jaida putting on her own sunscreen

watching the sound check for the symphony

shuttling over to the other pool

just before Blake slid on top of Jaida

just before I caught Jaida on the not so lazy river

watching the Italian version of grease

disappointed we missed the train to Florence

Monday, August 18, 2014

Val di Fassa - A Wonderful Area To Play

Christian, Terry and Blake had an opportunity to go for a bike ride along the valley trail.  There is a trail that goes from the top of the valley, through each little village down to the bottom.  Then there is an optional bus that can drive you and your bike back up to your starting point.  But the boys felt like going against the grain and decided to go up the hill first and then ride back down at the end of the day.
The path was cold and the slight uphill was no problem for them.  They ended up at the Col Rodella gondola just as we were finishing our via ferrata so they locked up the bikes and decided to come up to meet us.   It was so awesome to see them up there so we could show them what we had just climbed.  We ate lunch and decided to get back home but once again forgot about the gondola closures for lunch!  

There were so many paragliders and a few hang gliders up at the top so we had a chance to chat with them.  We were told this was the only sunny day all summer - it had been such a bad summer they weren't able to fly.  My guide Tony says he prefers cross country over acrobatic flying and he would paraglide for 100km over 6 hours.  He will just land anywhere and then figure out how to get home on a bus or train.  He said he once ended up in Austria!

Later that evening, we decided to check out one of the 3 children's adventure parks.  Blake and Jaida put on the harness for the large playground that had ladders, bridges, tight ropes and zip lines.  It didn't take Blake very long to figure out that he did not like this type of adventure.  Jaida loved it.  It was like the via ferrata all over again (but less scary this time).  She went on a giant zip line and is still dreaming about it.

Blake and Jaida have had pasta for lunch and dinner everyday since we arrived in Italy.  So far they are not sick of it because there is always a different type of noodle.  I must admit, it is pretty good pasta here, it is hard to resist.

our hotel room had a loft for the kids

Brigitte taking a picture

we hiked this ridge that led to a high view point (Christian and Terry had bad vertigo on this trail)

many houses have very decorative wood piles

foosball (jitoni) at our hotel