For an entire month my family and I lived, traveled and ate our way through Italy. We picked herbs from our garden, painted watercolors during the hot afternoons, swam in the pristine lake, ate endless amounts of fresh pasta and gelato, and drove all over the country in a quest to open up our daughters’ eyes and minds as well as their taste buds. You’d think after an entire month away we would be ready to come home, but you’d be wrong.
However, they call it vacation for a reason right? It’s a break, a time away, and in the end real life beckons – and there is no more real life than life in New York City. With barely enough time to recover from jetlag both my daughters went off to day camp, worried about which swim group they’d be in and anxious about coming to camp mid-session. My husband went off to a new job, literally went off on the train to Washington DC to have his own orientation and new “real life.” And me? Well, after writing everyday for a month straight I took a week’s hiatus to get my home back in order. Plus, after writing in hotel rooms, basil scented gardens and in the sunroom of an Italian villa, I was not ready to go back to windowless back room at Cosi.
At first the alone time was actually nice. After being together as a family for 33 straight days and nights we all needed a break. But then the other stuff seeped in. We had sublet our apartment while we were gone and now I had to put everything back together again, and find all of the things we swore we’d stowed away in places where we’d never forget. Where were the checkbooks? The metrocards? The girls’ diaries? All of those camp clothes I’d put away so they’d be easy to get to upon our return? We put Old Mother Hubbard to shame with our bare cupboards and still, after going to the grocery store 3 times in one week I will reach for something – ketchup maybe? – and discover it’s not there because I forgot to put that on the list. Then came the emails about the new school year, the pending political decisions being made, gossip and a months worth of catalogs and snail mail piled up on the table too! (What I need on the shopping list is some wine!)
In the end of course it’s worth it. Nothing can compare to going away – far away – for a length of time. We were beyond lucky to have had the opportunity and I don’t know when we’ll have it again. But for once it would be nice if the vacation could spill over into our life at home. Maybe I’ll buy a pot of basil for our windowsill so at least I can close my eyes and inhale and pretend that outside my window is a field of sunflowers, instead of a pigeon family and the glow of my neighbor’s big screen TV.
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Our last day in Paris was just as chock full as the first three. We had to check out our apartment early because the next family was arriving by 10. Actually, they arrived while we were still there, and poor them we made them wait outside until we were ready and the owner had arrived. We decided to check our two small suitcases at Gare Montparnasse the main train station nearby and the site of the Air France airport bus that seemed like the best solution for us to get back to the airport.
We took a different street than usual and found the block we had been searching for all along – there was the small artisinal cheese shop, the fruit stand, the wine store that seemed to be desperately lacking on our walks. We bought four different kinds of cheese for later on. Finally the cool weather was beneficial! We also discovered an eyeglass store and since the girls’ are in need of a new pair of glasses since they don’t have spare pairs this seemed like the perfect chance to get both a souvenir and something practical. They picked out adorable frames and with the VAT refund we managed to come out ahead of buying them at home. Though the dollar is so bad this is barely the case. Continue reading
Thanks to a couple of great ipod applications we were able to add the public bus to our modes of transportation. The bus is my preferred mode of transport at home since I love being above ground and feeling like it’s a safe cheap way to get anywhere in the city at any time. Of course it’s not great if you are in a time crunch, or if you’re dealing with midtown traffic during the holiday season, but for the most part I never tire of watching the city go by while I’m on my way. The ipod app showed us the best route to get from our apartment to Trocadero via one bus line.
We found the right station with the help of a nice elderly Frenchman. The buses and the Metro in Paris do things much more efficiently and just plain better than we do in NYC. First of all at both the Metro and bus stations the arrival time is given for the next train or bus. This alleviates all stress, people hanging over the edge of the platform in anticipation, and makes you able to make a different choice if there is a delay. Secondly, they have designated bus lanes separated by a median so that the buses never get stuck in traffic and cruise along with total punctuality. It’s such a pleasure.
Our ride to Trocadero was a total tourist treat. (For anyone visiting New York City I would recommend the M5 bus for a similarly great ride) We went through the 7th Arrondissement, past the Eiffel Tower, over the Seine to Trocadero. Continue reading
Our first full day in Paris was an experiment in family travel – specifically how to squeeze in what the adults want to do yet placate the kids. We hit a pretty good balance. We started out on the Metro with our 3-day passes and headed for the Louvre. Unfortunately the weather was unseasonably cool and threatening rain but better too cool than too hot I think. Besides, a legitimate reason to shop in Paris is always a good thing.
We walked down the Rue de Rivoli and entered the Louvre through the courtyard towards the pyramid. The girls immediately spotted the Ferris wheel in the Tuileries and that became the perfect bribe to get them to stay in the Louvre long enough to feel like we’d taken in some substantial art viewing. We descended through the pyramid into the Louvre with barely any line and got our serious cool multimedia audio/video tours. Continue reading
When we initially started planning our trip we thought we would go to London, Paris and then Italy for a week. As things shaped up and we were offered the villa in Tuscania we reworked our plan to just fly in and out of Rome and do driving trips around Italy. But, we couldn’t shake the feeling that we really, really wanted to take the girls to Paris for a few days. My husband lived in Paris for six months in college; we’ve been to Paris at least 5 times together and more separately. It doesn’t matter, the appeal of Paris is boundless and to be so close and not make the trip seemed insane.
So, once we arrived in Italy we began to plan for a few days in Paris and lucked out with a great fare on Air France and a cute apartment via vrbo.com in the 6th arrondissment. On the 22nd we drove my mom to the Rome airport to go back to New York, and headed to our Terminal for our flight to Paris. The girls were nervous on top of being sad to see my mom go. But, being the seasoned travelers they have become they settled into their seats with Leapsters ready, ipods charged, and headphones on. Immediately they got a kick out of the little drink holders that fold down in front of the food trays. They also loved that the announcements were made in Italian, English and French. And the meal had an apricot tart and baguette. (And this was the airplane food!) Continue reading