European Vacation 2005We left Fox Point, spent ninety minutes driving to O'Hare, parked our car 'way out in remote parking, waited around for a couple of hours and finally were ready to board our plane when they announced there was something wrong with it and they were going to look around to find a better plane. Just the way to begin a trans-Atlantic flight!! So we waited around for another hour or so and finally boarded our new plane, but we were delayed just enough to miss our connecting flight in Rome. When we landed we heard that they'd be nice enough to put us on stand-by for the next flight (which was completely booked) which might leave in a mere eight hours.... so in a jet-lagged haze we stumbled our way to the train station and got a train to Florence instead. Our pictures start here, with the kids looking amazingly chipper after all that, and with the adults very glassy-eyed and wondering how--if ever--we were going to reconnect with our luggage.
Anyway, here's Matthew on the train as we wait to pull out of Rome:
But we did finally make it to Florence
And we discovered Italian ice cream!!
We spent two nights in Florence, and saw a lot... here's me, feverishly jet-lagged, desperately trying to find us on the map while Sam looks on laughing and taking pictures
Here's me a little happier, now that I know where the heck we are!!
We went to the Duomo, which is one of the most amazing cathedral's I'd ever seen. The kids loved it too, mainly because it was an opportunity to climb!!
Here's looking down at the interier of the Duomo
And here's outside, at the top!
Next, we picked up our six-speed diesel rental car, and drove about ninety minutes north to just outside Lucca, where we had a villa rented for a week. It was an adventure finding it, but we did finally get there!
Here's me, through a cloud of smoke, grilling dinner!
And here's where we ate dinner
Here's the view from the villa
And in the other direction, looking down at the town of Lucca:
Here's the pool, surrounded by olive trees
And here's the view from the pool:
Here are the boys relaxing poolside
Robert's lizard hunting
And here's where we had lunch a few times at the villa
Sam made fondue one night!!
And one day the fog rolled in very dramatically
One day we drove up the hill past our villa all the way to where the road ends, and parked. From there we walked up a footpath to an old ruined church on the very top of the hill. It was a very quiet place, very scenic... we didn't see another person the entire time we were there. Exploring that old ruin with the boys was one of our most enduring memories of Italy.
You can barely make out the kid's faces at the bottom of this pic:
Another day we went into the town of Lucca, which is a medieval walled city. We walked all around, and found this very strange tower which has large trees growing on the top of it. Naturally, it was yet another opportunity to climb!! So we did... here are all the pictures from Lucca:
All that climbing made me thirsty!!
Here are a few street scenes from Lucca:
And another day we went to Pisa, which was about an hour's drive. The town is kind of dumpy but the historic area is pretty amazing. We saw the tower, and naturally had to climb it...
Yet another day we went to the Cinque Terra, which is a series of five small villages on the sea, the middle three are only accessible by train. So what you do to visit them is to drive to either end, and visit the interior three villages by taking the train. We spent most of the time on the beach, which was jam-packed.
You can see the boys in the lower right of the picture, making their way towards the water:
The boys loved swimming in the Med
We left the first little town and went to the next one, which was a lot more scenic. You can see it in this first photo, it's the little town against the edge of the cliff:
Here we are in the town itself
Wow, look at the chest on that guy!!!!!
Here are the boys on the train heading back... everyone is a little tired at this point :-)
Then we left our villa, drove down the crazy freeway to the Florence airport, turned in the rental car, and took a plane to Paris where we had a flat booked for a week. The flat turned out to be very disappointing but Paris is always lots of fun...
Naturally, we had to check out the Eiffle Tower, and since the lines were so long for the elevators, we took the stairs up to the second level, by which time we needed a beer!!
Two blocks from our flat was the Parc Monceau, and we went there a couple of times to let the kids run around
We took the Metro absolutely everywhere, and the boys just loved it. Every time we got off a train we had to stand and wait so Matthew could wave goodbye to the train and wave at the engineer
One night we went out to eat at le Train Bleu, which is a very guilded place inside the Gare de Lyon, built for the World's Fair in 1886 or whenever it was. It's an amazing place, and has windows overlooking all the trains!
Our flat had a great view of the Eiffle Tower from the roof-top patio, which sounds pretty exotic until you realize that any building with a roof in Paris has a great view of the Eiffle Tower.... anyway, we were there during Bastille Day, and they had an amazing fireworks show, mostly shot right off the Eiffle Tower, lasting nearly an hour.
We went back to Notre Dame again....
Seems like virtually every night we seemed to wind up in the Tuillaries, which during the summer has all these rides, including an enormous Ferris Wheel:
Here's a view of all the rides from the top of the Ferris Wheel:
Here's us in the crazy Fun House
Here's the entrance to the Haunted House!!! And if you don't think it was scary, check out Robert's face as he comes out of it!
Finally we left our flat and spent the last couple of days at the Ritz for a little luxury before heading back home.
And I'll end this humongous entry with a couple random shots of the boys chasing pigeons in some plaza somewhere in Italy....