Monthly Archives: June 2010

Aunt Boo in Rome

It has been over a week now since Boo left Rome, and I just haven’t managed to find the time to post. That should it no way, however, reflect poorly on her visit. It was fantastic to have her here! Honestly, I’ve never had all that much time to spend with my baby sister – when she visits the US obviously everyone wants to visit with her, so it was really nice not to have to share! Well, other than with Fletcher and Lola Gray of course. They think Aunt Boo is the coolest thing on earth.

When we put Boo on the bus to the airport, both kids started to cry. Lola was full on bawling. Sobbing. Even though we have plans to see Boo again in London before returning home, she was inconsolable.

This trip has afforded us so many incredible opportunities, and the opportunity for these visits with my sister is without question one of the most valuable. I can’t wait to see her again in less than a week!!!

Naples, Pompeii & Herculaneum

Can I just say, my children are world class, primo travelers. I mean, it’s like they’ve been doing it all their lives! We hopped a train for Naples bright and early Friday morning, dropped our bags at the hotel, then hopped another train to Pompeii.

I can’t find the words to describe Pompeii. It was . . . . awesome. In the truest sense of that word. Standing there in the ancient streets, with Mt. Vesuvius towering over us, put a totally different face on the story of Pompeii. It all became very human, very real.

If you connect the 2 peaks of the mountain in the photo above, you can start to get a sense of how enormous Vesuvius must have been before it erupted.

The thing Fletcher is standing on in this photo (below) was used to grind grain. It was inside of the bakery, where the ovens look amazingly like the ones used today.

The plaster cast in this photo is of a dog, found chained in place . . .

It was a loooooooong day, and while we were very lucky to have overcast skies and relatively cool temperatures, it was still exhausting and overwhelming.

Bright and early the next morning we headed out for a walking tour of Naples. If I thought the kids were champs in Pompeii, it was nothing compared to Naples!

Naples is a tough town. Gritty. A little seedy. Rough around the edges. More than a little intimidating. But there is something very real about Naples. There is laundry hanging from every window, criss-crossing above your head as you navigate the narrow streets. Dirty children play soccer in the street and in every piazza, yelling at each other and anyone passing by. The contrast to the wealth of Rome is startling – everyone seems poor, everything seems run down.

And yet there are these moments of incredible beauty hidden throughout the city.

The kids followed along with the group for a stunning 9 hours. Seriously, 9 hours. Every time we stopped they pulled out their sketchbooks – a pretty good example for the college kids to follow!

On Sunday we visited Herculaneum, smaller than Pompeii but better preserved.

There was a bit of drama in there, involving a student accidentally separated from the group in Herculaneum. Raymond ran back to find her while the rest of the group returned to Naples, gathered our bags, and headed to the train station. The students were incredible – they jumped in to help me with the bags and the kids – and we met up with Raymond at the station for the return to Rome.

The Roman Forum & the Colesseum

Our first big outing in Rome was to visit the Forum and the Colosseum! Fletcher has been itching for this one, and was beyond excited. It was a long and dusty day but there were no complaints, which frankly amazes me. Whenever we stopped in an area to lecture, Lola Gray amused herself by collecting rocks (one of her favorite activities – and there were lots of rocks in the Forum!) and Fletcher took photos or whispered running commentary into the voice recorder on the camera. I wish I could figure out how to embed those recordings on the blog – I can’t even tell you how precious they are!

When we got to the Colosseum, Fletcher just kept saying “Wow! I can’t believe I’m here!” and I thought, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” It was crazy crowded – the first time I visited Rome a million and one years ago (ok, not quite 20 years, but it might as well have been a million and one) there were almost no tourists in Italy at all. The Uffizi in Florence had been bombed a few months earlier, and perhaps that kept people away? I don’t really know the reason, but I know that I walked straight into the Colosseum without any wait – and I was practically the only person there! There were, however, dozens and dozens of cats in the Colosseum at that time. The cats have been rounded up and neutered, many have been adopted, and I’m really not sure I have seen a single cat on this visit. That’s a bit of a shame, actually, since I know the kids would enjoy seeing them . . .

Regardless of the crowds and the lack of cats, the day was a huge success.

Fletcher, the videographer

morning in Rome

Roma

Ahhhhh . . . . Roma. We are here. And all the bumps and bruises of travel (because, let’s face it, travel is never smooth) are forgotten when greeted with a meal like the one we had our first night here. Picture the Piazza Navona, with it’s 3 glorious fountains and strolling buskers, surrounded by pricey cafes. Normally, we might not have stopped to eat there, especially with the children in tow, but this was a welcome meal for the students. And what a welcome it was!

We started with an incredible salad – big enough to be an entire meal! Arugula, parmigiana, fresh mozzarella, and beef (Carpaccio?  Breseola? I’m not really sure, but I know it was delish!) all drizzled with thick, amazing balsamic vinegar.

Next up, pasta. Again, I’m not entirely sure what I was eating . . . only that it was beyond amazing. It was something like carbonara, with fresh spinach, mushrooms and a crispy sprinkling of panchetta (or speck?) Words can not describe.

And then, just when we thought we could not possibly eat another bite . . . dessert! When it arrived, Fletcher (who was sitting across from me, thus all the photos of him here) exclaimed “Could this meal possibly get any better? I don’t think so!”

I tend to agree with him. A lovely start to our month in Rome!

London!

The past few days have been a whirlwind. I’m sorry I’ve been so bad about posting, but I have been so exhausted by the end of each day .  . . The flight to London went as smoothly as possible and the kids were really wonderful. It isn’t easy to deal with all the hurry-up and wait that goes along with travel, but they took to it flawlessly. “Roll with the punches” we have started saying every time something doesn’t go as planned – like Fletcher’s camera breaking before we left the Jacksonville airport.

We only have a day and a half in London for this first leg of our trip – we will spend more time there visiting Aunt Boo on the return. However, despite our jet lag we managed to see quite a lot of London! We visited Harods and Selfridges, Tower Bridge, the Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, rode on the top of a double decker bus, and probably quite a bit more that I can’t remember right now . . . can’t wait to go back again in a few weeks!

And then . . . .  on to Rome!