The Honeymoon is Over

It had to end at some point didn’t it?  Our enchantment with being home, our love affair with the Pacific Northwest.

Well, wait.  We still love the Pacific Northwest.  I still gaze at the Olympic Mountains as I drive downtown and think,”How blessed am I to live in this place?”  I still love Edmonds.  I still feel like we belong here more than any other place that we have lived.

But…

But, I miss it.  I miss our vagabond life.  I miss the adventure.  I miss being different.

We have settled into our everyday life.  5 days a week, the children and I load up our SUV and drive to work and school (and I am so thankful that those are the exact same place).  There we work and play.  School, homework, piano, band, sports, Brownies, clubs. And we are all very happy.

But there are moments…as I lace up my “fancy” sneakers and realize that they used to be my “walking around foreign cities” shoes and now they are my “standing up and teaching kids” everyday shoes…..As I wake up early once again to plan my teaching day and realize I used to wake up early to plan trips….

The grass is always greener isn’t it?  I suppose it doesn’t help that our year in London was essentially one big holiday.  But I miss it.  I miss the flexibility.  I miss the family time.  I miss the adventure.

But on the other hand, I love my job.  I love the people I work with, who are more friends than colleagues.  We all have a wonderful group of friends and we are back in our house that we love in the woods.  The kids are extremely happy.  They both love school.  We’ve watched them both really bloom in the past few months.  We are in a really good place.

I suppose that we just need to find more of a balance.  Travel as much as we can in our down time.  Take the weekend to explore our own area.  Remember that roaming is as much of a mindset as it is a lifestyle.

Magic, everyday

As I sit here in my kitchen, I’m listening to the owls hoot at each other.  The children are asleep. Will is at a favorite brewery with a friend.  And I am sitting here, in my kitchen, in my house in the trees, waiting for the kettle to boil.

I had a goal to write in London.  A goal to document our amazing adventures as we explored our new city and the country and even the continent.  A goal to share our homeschool experience.  But unfortunately, a goal to write quickly turned into a task or a duty that frankly I felt like I could never quite accommoplish.  We were experiencing so much, everyday having something new, even if it was as simple as learning to navigate our section of Greater London, with its maze of narrow streets and surprises around every corner.  (I mean, when on earth am I ever again going to accidently happen upon a 400 year old pub?) But especially toward the end, when we knew we reallly only had a few months left before we moved back to the States, we worked hard to see as much as we could.  Museums and old houses, cities and country walks.  We really spread our wings and found so many magical places.  But it was overwhelming keeping that up as well as fitting in the teaching of those all important three R’s.  (Reading, relaxing, and recouperating, right?….Oh, and math…there was math…..)

IMG_8365

You know….just climbing around some castle ruins in Derbyshire. No big deal….

Don’t get me wrong, I will never regret a minute of it.  This adventure has been both exhilerating and exhausting, and I wouldn’t change it.  We all view the world and our lives differently and, if anything, our traveling whims have gotten stronger rather than faded away.

But here, in our beloved hometown on the Puget Sound, we don’t have to find the magic.  It finds us every single day.  It’s in lilacs left on our front porch by old friends, the broad maple leaves that act as thousands of small green umbrellas during our walks in the woods, the excitement of finally finding the bird attached to those haunting hoots, the cups of tea shared while children run rampant, the sight of the Sound sparking in the sun with the Olympic Mountains in the distance.  We’re not searching for them.  They are here waiting for us to notice.  (I mean, for goodness sake, Marshall found an owl pellet in the garden today.  It doesn’t get much more magical.)

And here?  All I want to do is write.  Because sometimes being away for a long time makes you realize how amazing the normal everyday really is.

Our Roman Holiday, Day Two

Ah, Rome.  We woke up on day two exhausted but ready to see the sights. (and eat our weight in pasta again.)

This day was all about THE sights.  You know the ones you are SUPPOSED to see in Rome.  Spanish steps, Trevi Fountain, Old stuff.  But first, upon recommendation from numerous traveling with kids websites like My Little Nomads and our favorite television show Travel with Kids, we decided to go explore the Villa Borghese.  They weren’t wrong.  It was great fun.  It’s a large park in the city complete with theatres and an art museum, and of course the prerequisite “Children’s Fun Fair” with rides.  (Needless to say, we avoided that.  There is a time and a place.  This wasn’t one of them.) We rented a family bike and attempted to navigate the walkways through the ponds, old Roman race track, and hills.  Hilarity ensued.

Bike ride

You see, they don’t leave you hanging.  These bikes were pedal powered, but the pedals were supplemented by a little electric motor that I assume was recharged during the pedalling process.  (And my parents wanted me to be an engineer……) Which was fabulous and lulled you into complacency.  Down the hill? No problem! We have this little motor to assist us on the way back up.  Except that the motor only has so much juice and apparently that’s only enough for HALFWAY up the hill.  Then you get to become the family of child laborers.  “PEDAL, CHILDREN, PEDAL! Are you pedalling?!? We aren’t getting up this hill unless you PEDAL!”

Ah, delightful childhood memories.  Still I would say that it was probably the kids favorite part of Rome.  Aside from the Gelato.

Portrait on a bike

Family portrait on a bike

From there we walked to the Spanish Steps, while gnawing on pepperoni sticks Will had purchased from his beloved butcher that morning. Because hungry children are not pleasant tourists.  So I get snacks that I don’t feel horrible about like meats and nuts and fruits and cookies (okay, I don’t feel great about that but we WERE on holiday), and dole them out throughout the day.  Preemptive eating is the way to go.

The Spanish Steps were…..steps?  In Rome?  With lots of people.  Sorry, I’m sure if I knew more about it they would be fascinating but really, we were just checking the box because Josie had read about them in Bella and Harry.

I suddenly feel as though I need to buy a pair of stylish, but inexpensive pair of pants.

I suddenly feel as though I need to buy a pair of stylish, but inexpensive pair of pants at H&M. Hmmm……

 

The best part of the Spanish Steps?  Will yelped us a FABULOUS pasta restaurant.  The kind that prepares only two pastas for the day and the line is out the door.  So we ate pasta in the square for lunch and it was DELICIOUS.

Pasta on the streetFrom there we wandered the shops to the Trevi Fountain, and tried to bribe the children into pleasant sight-seeing behavior with the promise of gelato.  And when we got to the Trevi Fountain?  It was under repair.  Which was interesting from a “Hmm, I wonder how that works” perspective.  But the fountain loses a little something when it is covered in scaffolding.  Still you can walk right on up to it on a walkway…as long as you KEEP MOVING.

Trevi Fountain

And now we were done.  The kids were tired and we returned to our apartment for our afternoon period of chilling (as Marshall likes to call it).  Personally, I liked to call it wine and cookie time.

wine and cookiesWe headed to the Jewish section of town for dinner.  (Before anyone else did and then stalked the restaurant for a while because it wasn’t even open yet.)  It was okay.  Which was disappointing because we had heard much aplomb from foodies.  But we got scarves from a street vendor who extolled not only the attractiveness of his wares, but also their health benefits. “Prevents sickness.  Keeps your throat warm.”  So you know, the night was saved.

Scarves

 

 

Our Roman Holiday: Itinerary, Day One

Ah, the details.  When I travel plan, I always search the travel blogs for ideas and tips.  Specifically, I want your itinerary.  What did you actually DO there?  What was your favourite part?  What would you avoid?  And can I just copy you and not have to put in quite so much work? (Well, they do say the imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…..for the lazy.)  So here are our details for our four day, five night Roman holiday.

Flights: Well, looky here.  Our old buddy Norwegian offers discount airfares from London all over Europe.  Fab. And because we are homeschoolers, we have some flexibility with dates so I can get the cheapest fares.  I think on the way home I paid £35 and even less for the kids.  Cha ching.  Plus then we get to be all uppity and say things like “This certainly isn’t like Norwegian Airlines IN Norway.” or “Tusen takk for din hjelp. Oh? You don’t actually speak Norwegian.” (Commence eye roll).

Lodging: We stayed at an apartment in near the Campo di Fiori, which I found on Bookings.com.  And it was AWESOME.  The apartment was large with a roof top terrace.  It wasn’t the fanciest, but it definitely was authentic. The location was amazing.  Campo di Fiori has a market where we got breakfast everyday.  Also, surrounding the square are bars and restaurants, and Will’s favourite, the butcher where he purchased smoked sausage for us to snack on each day as we wandered through the city.

Breakfast in Campo di Fiori

Breakfast in Campo di Fiori

It was also walkable to the Piazza Navonna and the Pantheon.  Other than those, we took cabs everywhere, which were readily available.  Not tiring out the children too quickly was worth the Euro in cab fare.

Day One: Colosseum and the Forum

colosseum

We arrived late the night before and we knew the weather was going to be good, so we decided to tackle the biggest destination first, the COLOSSEUM. (Did you hear the big announcer voice?)  Upon website recommendations, I bought tickets online before we went.  Which was a good idea as we did avoid some of the lines, but it was super confusing.  It wasn’t quite clear where we needed to go and the lines got all jumbled up.  Here is where the Romans could take some advice from the que-loving British.  In any case, when we finally got to the ticket window, we signed up for a tour provided by the Colosseum itself.

Now perhaps, its because we did not travel at a peak time, but our experiences in this area differ from almost every family travel website I found.  EVERYONE said, Rome is so big and confusing.  If you are going with kids, you NEED a guide. Hire a special company, blah blah blah.  Yeah, we never needed one.  This normal guide lady was interesting and the kids listened to her and then just zoned out when they were bored.  It’s not like there wasn’t plenty to look at when they didn’t want to listen anymore.  Perhaps it’s our laid back travel attitude?  Who knows?  In any case, we had a great time at the Colosseum.

colosseum wmjBy this point we were hungry and it was time to find a lunch spot.  Now, I frequently tease my husband about his love of Yelp.  We can never be that family that just gets hungry, sees a restaurant nearby, and sits down.  No no no.  We have to find the BEST restaurant in the vicinity.  However, I have to say, I am getting spoiled.  We eat really really well thanks to Yelp.  Will found us a fabulous pizza restaurant just a little walk away from the Colosseum and we were all quite happy.  (This also marks the first time it was just assumed that Will and I would share a pitcher of wine at a meal.  Hey, when in Rome, right?)

pizzaAfter lunch we went back to the Forum and a lovely walk around.  The Forum is very hard to picture as most of the buildings are barely there anymore, but I bought a Rome Reconstructed book at one of the many tourist stalls around the Colosseum and it really helped.  It’s this great book that shows a picture of a site now and then has a plastic overlay that shows what it looked like in its heyday.  Josie loved this book.  She was all about using it to be our tour guide.  We used it all over Rome. (Although as a tip: I did find it cheaper in the tourist shops farther away from the Colosseum, but that’s not a big surprise is it?)

Forum

My favourite part of the Forum?  Just sitting around enjoying the sunshine. There were lovely gardens and at one point Josie and I just sat under an olive tree while Will and Marshall walked off to see another site.  You know, because how often does one get to sit under an olive tree in the sunshine?  And what does one do when you sit under an olive tree in the Forum? (Actually, it was technically, the Palatine Hill.)  Take funny face selfies, OF COURSE.

olive treeIncidentally, this is also where we discovered that Rome has lizards.  Cute little lizards.  And what did the children find most interesting when they were surrounded by thousands of years of history?  Clearly, the lizards.  The rest of the trip became a “Find a Lizard” expedition, interspersed with sight seeing.

Perhaps we didn’t get as much information crammed into our brains as those groups that were walking around with tour guides, but we really did enjoy ourselves.  (Which is not to say that occasionally we stopped slightly apart but yet in earshot of those tour guides).  We were tired and done at this point.  So we hopped a cab back to the apartment and relaxed for the afternoon.

We had dinner at a restaurant near our apartment on the Campo di Fiori. yelped of course.  Oh pasta.  I love you so.  Eating dinner before everyone else in Rome has its advantages.  We can talk to the waiters and they can be enchanted by our children.  Which results in Will ordering new things like oxtail with gnocchi.  And our lives will never be the same.

Onto Villa Borghese and the Spanish Steps tomorrow….but this post has been long enough.

Raised to ROME!

How long have I been thinking about that post title? Oh probably since I named the blog itself.

And this November, we finally did it. The Roamers took Rome by storm and loved every minute. Seriously. This was one of those magical trips where everything just worked out. Or when it didn’t we really were able to roll with the punches.

Our first observation : Rome in November is amazing. There are not as many people. The weather was beautiful! Not too cold, not too hot. We never even needed our rain jackets. If I had to recommend a time to go to Rome, this would be it.

Will sun

Kids sun

No coats. Shades necessary!

Second observation: Once again apartment living is the best. I researched a few “kids travel to Rome” websites before booking and almost all recommended staying in a hotel for a long weekend. I think the reasoning is that the food is so good that it’s not like you need a kitchen. But that’s not the only reason we get apartments. After a long day of sightseeing and crowds, this family needs some quiet time around 3. Who wants to go back to a hotel room and stare at each other for a few hours? Certainly not me.

At this point, I want to be ALONE, in my own space.

kids apartmentwine and cookiesKids want to watch a movie on the iPad? Sure I have no problem with that as long as we all leave Mommy alone to decompress. With a glass of red wine and cookies? Even better. The trip went so smoothly because this apartment has allowed us the space to actually relax on our mini-holiday. Imagine that!

Third Observation: Next time I’m bringing more stretch pants.  I’m serious.  Because at the end of only four days, I was having more than just a little trouble buttoning my jeans.  The food…..oh the food.  I could go on for days.  The pasta, the pastries, the gelato…..And would you like wine to go with that?  OF COURSE. Oh my.  It was a glutton fest.  (And a gluten fest…but we did try. We had gluten free pizza one day at the end when we were all feeling just a little bit bloated.)

We had pasta while sitting at restaurants. Pasta

We had pasta sitting on the street. Pasta on the street

 

 

Right around the corner from our apartment was a restaurant that made their own pasta right in the middle of the tables.  And we ate so much earlier than everyone else that our adorable children were lavished with attention, especially by our favorite waiter, Memo. (We went back twice. Hey, when you find a good thing, you go with it.)

Memo!Fourth Observation:  Rome is huge and there is a lot to do there.  And you can’t see it all in four days (and with two kids tagging along….er, I mean, as an integral part of the family traveling unit.)  It did help that the kids were super interested in Rome.  They had been reading books about it and knew a lot of the background.  We decided where to go based on their interests. But we really only did a few things each day and then came back to relax at the apartment. (I’ll give our itinerary in the next post.)  As with all family travel, it all about knowing when to hold ’em and knowing when to fold ’em.  (I like my life lessons delivered by Kenny Rogers.)

We had such a wonderful time in Rome but I think we all agreed that we’ve finished with the city. We are country folk.  Next time we visit Italy I think the country side will be our focus.  Oh, unless we go to Venice…..or Florence…..ah, the possibilities are endless.