Virginia in July

Just a few days after our return from Europe, we were on the road again, this time headed to Virginia to pick up Pepper and spend some long over-due time with the Waldvogel clan! It was a relaxing long weekend of swimming in NayNay and Grandaddy’s pool, picnicking and paddle boating at Carvan’s Cove, dinners outdoors, and lots of crazy cousin time. We even managed to squeeze in a father/daughter(s) outing to a concert in Rocky Mount.

Zaanse Schans

One of these days, I am just going to have to admit that I am really not a city girl. On our second day in the Netherlands we escaped Amsterdam for a few hours to visit the quaint windmill village of Zaanse Schans.

Raymond and I visited Zaanse Schans once before, on our honeymoon in December with record low temperatures. It was so cold that the canals froze and people were ice skating. The walk from the train station into the village was brutal, with wind whipping relentlessly over the water. But on this visit, that wind was a cool and refreshing breeze, the sun was shining brightly, and the air was sweet with the smell of fresh grass.

We spent much of our time in the pigment grinding windmill of De Kaat, but also visited the cheese shop, the bakery (where we ate warm stroopwaffles despite the heat of the day), and the wooden shoe factory. It was a slow and relaxed day, and maybe a bit on the touristy side, but it was lovely – and exactly what we needed.

 

 

3 Days in Amsterdam

After our 30 days in Rome, the four of us hopped a plane and headed north for a few days of family time in the Netherlands! (Ok, it wasn’t really that easy, and involved a super early morning, lots of lugging of bags, more waiting in airports, more navigating of public transit systems, and even more lugging of bags – but we made it!)

The main reason for our trip to Amsterdam was for Raymond to investigate starting at study abroad program there in the near future, so while we only had a few days we packed in as much as we could. On our first day we spent an incredible 6 hours in the Rijksmuseum, during which our incredible children lead the charge, armed with an iPhone scavenger hunt game and an insistence that we see everything in the museum. I’m glad they did, because Raymond and I would never have gone downstairs on our own to see the model ships, the weapons, the collection of intricate locks and all the other treasures housed in the museum, which would have been a shame. And at the end of all that art viewing, they wanted more! Who are these children? Not to argue, we headed over to the Van Gogh Museum and spent the last few hours before closing. Then drinks and snacks in an actual windmill (and one of Raymond’s favorite breweries) before heading home to dinner on the deck of our houseboat. In the summer, the sun doesn’t set in the Netherlands until well past 10pm (a far cry from the 3pm sunsets Raymond and I experienced on our honeymoon there years ago!) and the canals were full of locals and tourists alike, cruising on boats of all shapes and sizes. It was like a parade right past our door! Nope. Not a bad day at all.

With our remaining days in Amsterdam, we waited in an insanely long line for the Anne Frank House (which was totally worth the wait, and which I cried all the way through again, just like I did when I visited years ago), and visited the Rembrandt House where we not only learned about how Rembrandt lived but also saw a printmaking demonstration and spent time drawing in Rembrandt’s apprentice workspace. We also ate at our favorite restaurant, The Pancake Bakery, not once but twice, tried quite a few stroopwaffles, wandered through the Vondlepark, visited the floating flower market and spent a lovely evening drinking beer outside the Rijksmuseum while the kids played in the fountains and Lola made a new friend. We visited the Amsterdam Cheese Museum (which was really more of a shop than a museum.) We laughed a lot at how everyone assumed Raymond was Dutch. And then there was out visit to Zaanse Schans, but that deserves it’s own post.

Not everything went exactly according to plan though. We had hoped Amsterdam would be a nice respite from the heat of Rome, but of course we were there during a heat wave. We could have handled the daytime temperatures, but our lovely little houseboat had no air conditioning and tiny little portal windows that didn’t really help much. So we didn’t sleep much. That was unfortunate. And then there was the fact that on our last day Fletcher came down with a high fever. Things could have gone more smoothly . . . but all in all it was a lovely visit to the Netherlands and we all hope to be back there again (for longer!) very soon.

 

 

30 Days in Rome: Arrivederci Roma!

It’s hard to believe our month in Rome has come to an end, but believe it or not here we are! We spent Sunday afternoon and evening in the beautiful gardens of Tivoli, followed by a wonderful group farewell dinner on top of a hill. You haven’t seen a sun set until you have seen the sun setting over Rome, the lights of the city twinkling and the dome of St. Peter’s a tiny silhouette on the horizon. It is truly magical, and photos can’t come close to doing it justice – I won’t even try.

Monday was a day of packing and wrapping up loose ends. We slipped in a quick visit to the church of St. Peter in Chains to view Michelangelo’s Moses, then the Basilica of San Clemente before a lovely lunch across the street from Sant’Ignazio (which of course we had to visit one last time!)

We are tired, and dirty, and ready to move on – but not really ready to leave. This has been such an amazing adventure! At the farewell dinner, each of the students stood and told the group their favorite experience of the trip. It really made me think about what was the most special to me on this journey – no small feat given this has been nothing short of a series of amazing experiences. I loved going to Capri, I loved our time in Venice, but I think my favorite memories of the month are these two: watching Lola’s excitement as she soaked in the frescoes at Oplontis, happily snapping photos of each detail that caught her eye, and listening to Fletcher playing tour guide at St. Peter’s for Aunt Boo, relaying art historical information just like his daddy. They were really paying attention. They weren’t bored by the endless churches and museums and archeological sites. What amazing kids. It really hit me this afternoon as we were walking through Sant’Ignazio again and the kids were marveling again at the amazing ceiling, and I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all – the church, my family, this experience. I burst into tears right there in the church. What a gift this month has been!

But now it’s time to say Arrivederci, Roma. In the morning we leave for a few days in Amsterdam and then back home to Savannah!!

30 Days in Rome: days 26 and 27 with Aunt Boo!

Aunt Boo flew down from London to join us for our last weekend in Rome! Honestly, it is one of the best things about these trips, getting to see my sister. We had no agenda while she was here, but managed to do quite a lot. She was a good sport while we dragged her around town, with Fletcher and Raymond alternating as tour guide. We climbed the cupola at St. Peter’s again, spent an afternoon at the Borghese Gardens complete with the most rollercoaster-like 5 person bike/cart ride imaginable (Lola Gray’s screams are still echoing through the gardens!) and ate the fanciest gelato I’ve ever seen at Giolitti. It was a super fast two days and then she was back on a plane to London, but fortunately we will see her again soon!


30 Days in Rome: day 25

Thursday morning, the kids and I ventured out on our own to search for a sketchbook Raymond left behind at the Capitoline Museum. We failed in our task (though he later found the book!) but had fun navigating the city on our own. At lunch time we rode the Metro out to meet the group at Museo Centrale Montemartini, an old power plant which now houses Roman sculpture in a really unique setting. It was also a great place for silly selfies (and cappuccino from the endlessly entertaining vending machine) while we waited for the students to draw. Then we headed with Raymond to Eataly for beer, boardgames, and window shopping!

 

30 Days in Rome: day 24 Musei Capitolini

After a lovely Wednesday morning relaxing in the Borghese Gardens with a picnic, a rowboat and Harry Potter, we walked across town to join the students for a long awaited visit to the Musei Caitolini. The Capitoline Museums are definitely among my favorites in Rome. The kids were thrilled to see the statue of Romulus and Remus, the bronze of Marcus Aurelius, the remnants of the giant Constantine, and the magnificent view over the Forum. And, of course, cappuccinos on the roof of the beautiful museum cafe!