Just wanted to give a big shout out to these two boys of mine…. We are almost 5 months into travelling, and I honestly can’t believe how fast the time has gone. That being said, I am still daily surprised at how they are managing to deal with being on the move more often than not, missing things from home (like their own bed/room/toys/yard/routine), not having the sports outlets (hockey, lacrosse, swimming, etc), and also not having a regular influx of friends around that is the norm when we are at home. These two have been on more trains, buses, boats and cars than most people will be on in a lifetime. And although they are not perfect (not by far), they have done most of the travelling without too much questioning or complaints (well some days anyways 😉 ). The most common question is how long we are staying at the next place, what we are doing there, and if there is a park around. There have been no big arguments about where we are going, and they have been pretty easy going with the places we have stayed in. It is now routine, and I am very proud of how they have handled the temporary lifestyle of living out of a backpack, making new friends who may not speak the same language, and adapting to new food options when there may not be a choice of anything familiar. They still argue and kick and fight with each other, but I think overall they are growing closer together and have already made some great and funny memories. This trip would have been completely different without these two along….the world is so cool to see through the eyes of a 9 and 12 year old. They love exploring and are not afraid to try a door that may be locked, ask a stranger if they speak English, and walk into a store that has nothing familiar in it at all. I have reached for their hands more than they have reached for mine on this trip 😉 Thanks for coming along on this adventure boys, for leading us into places we might not have gone on our own, and doing it without blinking an eye. Can’t wait for the next adventure!!!
Good morning, afternoon, evening….middle of the night 😉 I’ve been putting this post off for awhile, simply because we saw so much, that I really don’t know how to get it all into one post, but here we go….
To be honest, Greece was one of the places that I was a little worried about going to. Now don’t get me wrong, I have always wanted to go to Greece, and pictures that I have seen from Greece always look amazing; the worry was simply about how we were going to communicate once we got there, or even understand prices/grocery labels, etc. It’s one thing to be able to read a different language that uses the same alphabet and numbers we do (i.e.: even if you don’t speak French, German or Italian, you can kind of sound out the words or type them into Google to see what they mean, and the numbers are the same as ours, so you can figure out prices no problem), but the thought of having to figure out those Greek symbols, had me a little worried about how we were going to get along in Greece. Well, I am here to tell you that there was absolutely no reason to worry about communicating…..almost everywhere we went had an English menu, most people spoke English, and most signs had Greek as well as English on them. The traveller in me cringes that we went without knowing how to say anything in Greek; I really wanted to at least be able to say hi and thank you in each country we went to, but I think at this point, we were just tired from “translating” Italian words and items, and I don’t think my brain was ready to absorb any new languages or words. So I am sorry Greece, that we did not learn any of your words, but I am also thankful that most of your countrypeople were gracious and more than willing to converse in English. It’s so very humbling when you are in another country, and the person native to that country apologizes that their English isn’t that great. Seriously, we have heard that from quite a few people throughout our travels, and every time I immediately tell them that we are the ones who should be apologizing for not speaking THEIR language while in their country 😉 Anyways, all that to say that Greece is an amazing country, and if you ever have the opportunity, do not even hesitate to go!!!!
We took an overnight ferry from Italy to Greece, then bus and train from Patras to Athens (stayed in Piraeus), where we met up with Josh and Kash who had flown over. Again, this sounds weird, but Greece just felt “comfortable,” to be in. It had a great vibe, and we just enjoyed walking around and exploring the area. We ate gyros, souvlaki, pitas, and tzatziki every chance we got. We took the metro up to Athens for the day, where we ended up on Mars Hill without even knowing it, toured the Acropolis, and walked around looking at all the ruins throughout the city. Amazing! Then we took a ferry down to Santorini, and stayed on Kamari Beach for four days. This was a fantastic way to end our month with Josh and Kash. We went swimming in the sea (while the locals walked by in their jackets and sweatshirts), rented quads for a day, and just enjoyed the sun, water and hospitality of the island. After saying “see ya in a few months” to Josh and Kash, we headed back up to Athens for a night, then got on a train to Thessaloniki. We spent two nights there, and I can’t even tell you how far we walked, but the boys were real troopers as we walked up to a spring where Paul (from the Bible) stopped to rest and drink from when he was in Thessaloniki, and also up to a monastery built on the site where Paul would have preached from back in the day. Very cool to see these historical/biblical places in real life 🙂 And the train ride from Athens to Thessaloniki had the most amazing scenery along the way. Anyways, that’s a super quick overview of our time in Greece. The history, culture, and hospitality of these people is amazing! If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend just going….don’t even hesitate or worry about it 😉
Italy, Italy, Italy. Wow, what a country!; and we didn’t even see half of it. We took an amazing bus ride from Munich to get down to Lake Como. We went through Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein, all through the mountains (6 hour trip). Nate, Kash and myself were still feeling sick, so it was nice to relax and enjoy the ride. We had two nights, and a full day (Canadian Thanksgiving) in Lake Como. We were wanting to do something fun for the boys for thanksgiving, but unfortunately, Nathan and I were still a little wiped out, and the thought of cooking and eating a lot of food just wasn’t something that sounded appealing….so the boys had free pasta, tortellini, meat, and dessert from a food fair that we just happened to walk into 🙂 Woohoo! We wandered and explored the lake, and of course, the boys had pizza for supper. Then we trained it down to Levanto, which is on the north side of a group of towns referred to as “Cinque Terre,” the five villages/towns. I would highly recommend staying in Levanto if you are exploring Cinque Terre. It was cheaper, had a beach, lots of shops and restaurants, and not as crowded as the “five towns.” We took two days to explore; day one we took the train to Riomaggiore and walked around. Then train back to Manarola, where we did a 3 hour hike across to Corniglia. We took the free hike at the top of the “mountain,” and walked across vineyards, olive trees, with the sea at our left, and the hills to our right. Definitely a very scenic hike, and we are very glad it was October, and not August….it was hot enough that I can’t imagine attempting it in the summer!! Day 2 we trained to Vernazza, and hiked down to Monterosso, another hike with lots of stairs, narrow paths, and amazing views. In Monterosso we spent a couple hours swimming at the beach, and then had some amazing gelato. We also took a day and rented bikes from Levanto, riding along the coast and stopping at some of the beaches along the way. Gorgeous part of the country, and we enjoyed having some down time as well as getting out in nature and seeing the natural beauty here. Anyways, after four nights, we packed it up and headed down to Florence, with a quick pit stop in Pisa to see the leaning tower. Florence was BUSY!!! So many people, so much art, so much history. We did a Rick Steve’s audio tour (free download on the phone), and learned about the Renaissance, and the artists that lived here (Michelangelo, Raphael…), and how cool to walk along the same streets that these artists did so many years ago. Lots of churches, religious icons, and sculptures, you really can’t take it all in… After Florence we headed to Rome for a couple nights. Walked around Vatican City, stopped at the Spanish steps and Trevi fountain, and then did a full day starting at the Colosseum, which was soooo amazing to see in person. That was cool. Walked through downtown and then over to Vatican City, where we walked through the museum and then ended in the Sistine Chapel. I think we reached our limit that day with the boys, walking, and sights….we were all exhausted by the end of it. Especially walking about 6 hours (not really) through the Vatican museum to get to the Sistine Chapel. I honestly wasn’t sure if we would make it back to the apartment…hahah. But it was fun to be in the Chapel and hear Jo take in a breath of excitement and say “there it is mom,” (the creation of Adam painting….God’s finger touching Adam’s). Oh yes, and the metro system is crazy there….metro lines under metro lines….I think we went underground about 4 stories to catch the one metro up to our apartment. Definitely felt like a sardine for a bit 😉 Anyways, from Rome we headed to a little town close to Amalfi called Vico Equense. Guys, I wish you could have all been there for our bus ride from the tram station to the apartment we rented. It was amazing. First of all, we took another crowded tram from Naples down to Vico. Our apartment was about 300 metres up the cliff of the town. So we waited for the local bus since we had all our gear. The bus driver confirmed it was the right bus, and then started driving. It was curve after curve with scooters passing us, cars coming directly at us, and lots of honking and braking. The best part though, was that there were a bunch of locals who obviously knew we were tourists…and they were laughing at the faces I was making at Nathan, and the looks we were giving each other when we passed a vehicle with an inch between us and them. So they asked where we were from, and where we going. And then they said they’d tell us when to get off. It was hilarious watching the old guy talking to Nathan tell everyone else on the bus where we were going, and them all nodding, and one of them saying they knew the owner. (They all could also clearly hear Nathan telling the guy because it was a mini bus, but they listened to the old guy anyway). As we got close to the stop, they all started talking, and it was like a game of telephone as one person said “I think the next one is theirs,” and they nodded, and then told us, but then the bus driver said he would drop us off closer, so then they relayed that back to us. When we got to our street, they all started yelling at us (excitedly), that this was our stop, but we couldn’t get off because everyone was just standing there looking at us. The bus driver finally yelled at them all to move, and we got off with lots of “thanks, enjoy your stay, etc.” Such a fun experience 🙂 Small towns are the best! We also found a pizza joint a five minute walk away that had the best pizza! So guess what we ate for most of the week? Haha. Spent a couple of days at the beach, and headed up to Pompeii for a day to explore. Totally amazing….this town was covered in ash and volcanic rock when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. It stayed undiscovered until about 300 years ago. The ash from the volcano acted as a natural protection, and it is one of the best preserved ancient ruins in the world. Jars, mosaics, bakeries, wall murals….all preserved in amazing detail. I feel like this post is already too long, so I won’t tell you all the details, but it really is a must see if you are in the area. They had hot water piped into their spas, water pipes throughout the city, fast food joints, gymnasiums, and more. Crazy! The boys learned a lot here as well.
Anyways, sorry for another long post….I should have split it into two posts, but that felt like too much work for today 😉 Thoughts on Italy: gorgeous, great food, amazing history everywhere. It was also loud, crowded, and busy. But there is a reason everyone that visits loves it. If you can, you should go. I don’t think you realize while you are there just how much you are actually seeing. It is amazing to see the mix of old and new, and how the past is integrated (while still being recognized as historically important) into modern aspects of life as well.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read the blog. We love you all, and miss you, and this helps us feel connected in a small way…knowing you all are back home (and around the world too), checking in 🙂 Have a great week, and happy November!!!