Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lucky Lucky Bike

So after much deliberation and weeks of looking I finally found my bike. What did it come down to in the end? ......... the color...... I choose this bike solely based on it's looks (It is now officially the largest piece in my jadite collection). I am sure that method is frowned upon by bike enthusiast everywhere but I don't care!! because it is awesome and I love it. I ordered it online and thankfully it came almost fully assembled. Next up is accessories I think I need a vintagey front basket and a colorful saddle bag....

It is a Diamant Topaz city bike, Diamant had been making bikes in Germany since 1895

My favorite jadite fireking cup ... from Vanissa

Burg Eltz

Today we took a trip to "the best castle in Europe" or so says Rick Steves. Burg Eltz is a beautifully  medieval castle that is still owned by the heirs of the Eltz family. What makes the castle special is the completeness of it. It still has a large treasury filled with items from the home and original furniture in many of  the rooms you tour.  The best part to us was the surroundings we took the long hike down to the castle and saw two deer running through the river that surrounded it. Even though it was a rainy day it was very nice to take a walk in the woods where the air smelled of moss and dirt. The kids played in the water after the tour and caught some tad poles and giant slugs .. none of which were allowed to return home with us!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Vatican vs. Lord of the Flies

Oliver looking at Raphael's Transfiguration of Christ
Getting back to Rome.... I don't know if you can tell by now but the Rome trip was a real learning experience for our family. When it comes down too it there is only so much art and architecture a 6,8, and 10 year old can enjoy and even though me and Michael have a great desire to see these things in our lifetime our kids need a slower more relaxed pace so that they can enjoy them as well. Example B.) would be our trip to the Vatican. They did find the art to be beautiful but after awhile it got a little boring. I would be lying if I said part of me did not feel the same way! There is so much to see, so many statues and paintings that after awhile it's just well......another piece of carved rock. In fact if I had not taken art history in college I do not think I would be able to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. So after the Sistine chapel which thankfully we did  get to see ( it had been closed right up to then for the election of the new pope) and St. Peters Basilica we made the day all better with more gelato  and then headed back.
View of Rome from the Vatican
St. Peters Square

The next day we took a break from Rome and drove about 20 miles to the Mediterranean Sea expecting to see beautiful pristine beaches with sparkling blue water but guess what...... It looked just like crystal beach (which I love) but it was full! of trash and the water was only slightly bluer than our murky gulf coast. But there on the dirty beach the kids were in heaven. Eli was catching Lizards his favorite past time Stella and Oli were building sand castles with all the trash that had been so unthoughtfully dumped on the shore (they loved it.) By the end of the day it looked like a scene from Lord of the Flies they were all mostly naked running around the beach screaming while carrying large sticks. Maybe all those years we have let them grow up wild and free in the country bare foot just can never be taking out of them no matter how many cultured cites we tour.

Lord of the Flies ....
What goes together better than a swim suit, gym shorts, and sparkly boots?...... nothing !


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring has Sprung

Finally after a very long (cold to us) winter it appears nature has decided that spring is here. Today it was warmer here than in Texas and we celebrated by eating outside, planting flowers, and with a few scoops of ice cream. Today it felt like a great day to live in Germany.... people on bikes and birds singing. We wondered for a moment why we don't live like this in Texas with casual strolls and out door dining .....and then we remembered that 90% of the time it is blazing hot with ridiculous humidity. A casual bike ride just does not seem as inviting in that kind of weather. I  even bought some flowers that I could never otherwise have been able to grow in the southern sun some of my favorites to fill our planter boxes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All trains lead to Rome

     We headed out Monday morning to explore Rome but first we had to get there. Michael guided the car down the narrow Sermoneta Mountain to the nearest train stop in LaTina.  It was a large unruly parking lot with cars parked in the most precarious places. Little Italian cars parked in spots we could barely all stand in let alone get our mini van into,  but after some finagaling we headed to the main office. What fun it is to buy tickets  to a place via train when your not tatally sure what ticket your buying or how, or when the train blah blah blah (I say with thick sarcasm.) We bought our tickets for 12 euros each... adults only thankfully! After boarding the train we would come to dread over the week we all got seats for the first and only time during the duration of our trip and rode to Rome in relative comfort to the central station.  The rest of the trip we were not so lucky  and this picture pretty much sums up riding the train...

Then we pushed onto train number 2 in town which were always crowded not just crowded....crowded like Paul Mcartney just fishned a concert in Wrigley field and everyone at the show is trying to get on the L crowded (I happen to know that's pretty crowded!)
     Our first stop was the coliseum. The line for tickets wrapped around the building, and we needed entry tickets so we did what a blog had suggested and walked to palatine hill to buy them for both sites. There was no line at palatine so we went in and decided just to start there for the day. Although what you see is truly amazing Stella and Oliver lost intrest in the acienent ruble after about 10 minutes......maybe less.
  I think it is truly better to see things your whole life, read about them, watch them in moves etc. and then go.......... then to see them for the first time at 6! Sadly Oliver was not even impressed with the Colessuim it was just an old building and nothing more to him, even the talk of people fighting to their deaths and lions eating them did not impress. At least me and Michael enjoyed it.

What Oliver and Stella did in the Ancient Roman Cities.... played in the dirt!

This picture was taken right before a major child break down

We left the coliseum with plans to return to the Forum but it was Closed so we took the train to the Spanish steps and got the first of one of many scoops of gelato.... which I think is the only thing the kids will ever really remember about Rome ... they ate lots of Gelato! 

can you tell which kid just got in trouble ?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sermoneta... part 2

Window to no where

Shape Shifter

Street... cars drive on this?

Steps from our apartment

Village from the road up

      We woke up Sunday morning to a much happier Oliver and a big continental breakfast buffet. Come to think of it that breakfast was the best of the trip as well so all in all Bologna ended up being a pretty good stopping point.
    But.... it was time for more car time fun! We loaded back up and headed to our home for the next week. We went around Rome and headed south about an hour to the hilltop town of Sermoneta. I don't know what I expected when I booked the place 2 weeks before. I had looked at sooooo many VRBO's and this one was one of the cheapest so I booked it. It felt like we had arrived in real Italy small back roads lead up to the mountain base and then there hanging off the mountains edge was our medieval village. We took a winding road with hairpin curves up the side to the towns edge. That unfortunately was all the information I had gotten from the owner about the location of our apartment .... it was in the town of Sermoneta. I know it's hard to believe that I with such intense dedication to detail (stop laughing) would have left out one glaring detail... The Address. 
    Michael may have been loosing his cool a little bit at this point, what with driving up a mountain in a foreign country, and of course my cell phone did not work so I generously offered to stop and ask for directions. At the base of the town on a one way street I hopped out and started up a steep street/sidewalk (that's how narrow the streets were) until I found a woman who .... spoke no English and then a man who.... spoke no English. About to panic a little myself at this point, a man came running up and said "I was sitting on my terrace and I saw you pull up with all the bambini, are you Ms. Hughes? I am Marco." WHAT miraculous do happen. Marco was the apartment owner. The apartment we had driven right by and was only a few yards away.
    He gave us the tour and we were starving so we asked for the best place to eat in town. He recommended his friends place The Ghost. Before we could put the bags away the kids were outside destroying 13th century castle walls. In order to preserve ancient history we took them exploring on a proper path. My pictures do not do the town justice it gets a 10 on the creepiness scale. It was so empty and quite you would think it was abandoned and that only vampires walked the streets at night ( that's what Michael told the kids anyway.) Mostly the only living beings we saw were an unusual amount of cats constantly crossing our path (shape shifters of course.)
    It was getting dark so we happened upon The Ghost (appropriate name) which came so highly recommended. We opened the door to find a white haired man that greatly resembled Albert Einstein standing in a tiny dinning room watching Italian Soaps on an old TV. I asked if they could take 5 and he walked 3 feet to the kitchen to ask his wife and she nodded so we were seated in what I am pretty sure was there house.  He only spoke to Michael and rattled off endless Italian NO English with such recognizable words as fettuccine, lasagna, and ravioli. Thank you! Thank you! that fettuccine is the same in every language!
      He served us out first course bread and fresh ricotta cheese with honey and nuts on top and from what I gathered traditional Sermoneta beans. Off to a good start both were delicious.... main course fettuccine for Oliver, ravioli for me, and lasagna for the rest.... it was not good none of it! I was at some ones house in a medieval village in Italy and wishing I was at Johnny Carinos so very sad. We forced the kids to eat as much as we could and then ended the meal with a plate of dry cookies that tasted like licorice yum yum.  The day ended with us walking home down the dark creepy cobblestone streets while the kids stayed unusual close, quite, and extremely watchful of passing "cats."

View from our house

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Roman Holiday... part 1

Swiss Border
The Alps

Gorgonzola Pasta

Oliver sick in the bed

     We took our first official vacation since the big move. The kids had two full weeks off of school for the Easter Holiday so where better to go than Rome. Rome was at the very top of Michael' "places to see list" so we thought why not start at the top.
     We both are a fan of a good road trip so instead of taking the ridiculously cheap airfares to Italy we decided to drive all 1,500 kilometers down. Mostly we wanted to take in the scenery on the way. So we headed down Germany and over the Swiss border. Someone had warned us ahead of time that you are required to purchase a toll sticker in order to drive in Switzerland which at first we thought was completely ridiculous until we had to stop get tickets and wait in line at  ever toll in Italy the 35 euro toll sticker did not seem so bad.
     Switzerland was beautiful the mountains and lakes were amazing. The best part, we did not have to drive over or around the Alps you just go straight through tunnel after tunnel. You start at one end and then pop out into the bright light and some beautiful new landscape complete with snow covered peaks and multiple waterfalls at the other. The only downside to Switzerland was I swear everywhere we got out of the car it smelled like cow manure we ate our sack lunches at a rest stop overlooking a glassy lake with the smell of manure in the air Lovely!
    As we came to the border of Italy I think Michael was ready to cancel Rome and settle into some wooden cabin in the Swiss Alps. But... we continued forward and found one the biggest negatives to driving in Italy (as mentioned previously) ENDLESS tolls, and don't make a wrong turn because it may just cost you 2 euros.
   We (or Michael) had driven 10 hours as we arrived in Bologna for the night. (also where we took our first wrong turn at a .50 loss.) We also discovered for the first time that Italy's traffic laws differ slightly from that of Germany In that they don't seem to obey them. Car lanes are of little importance as long as you can fit your car into a spot that's where it goes. Thankfully we did not have far to drive  to our hotel. At the Best Western of Bologna we had to get two separate rooms because no family in Europe is larger than 3. Even with two rooms they were very small and it was tight.    
      Everyone was starving so we walked down the streets in our new foreign land to find something to eat, this is where we made discovery number two, Italians only eat pizza and pasta. So we had pizza and pasta it was delicious the best we had the entire trip. The kids unfortunately were coming apart by then at around 9:00 and there was much groaning and gnashing of teeth. Oliver started to look a little flushed and sickly so we left as soon as we could. Michael carried him back to the hotel and set him down and he promptly throw up in the elevator and then all the way down the hall to the room.
ahh the joys of travel with kids!