Sunday, June 30, 2013

Date Night

Thanks to Emma being on this trip with us Ian and I got a date night! We actually got to go out together, just the two of us. That doesn't happen very often, even when we're at home. After getting Aven and Etta to bed we rode bikes, available to us at the apartment we're renting, into the city center. It was so nice to ride a bike after walking almost everywhere for the last week.

It was still light when we got into town, so we walked around the Duomo again because we are both so completely in awe of it. We got a nice surprise- the gilded baptistry doors by Ghiberti were not mobbed by tourists, so we actually got to get to see them up close:

SO incredible!

Looking up at the Florence Cathedral.

After walking around a bit we went to a place called Gilli's for dessert. Gilli's has been open in Florence since 1773- wow! It was the most expensive dessert we have ever eaten. I keep having to tell myself that it wasn't about the money, it was about quality time with Ian.

The view from our table at Gilli's

We couldn't resist another walk around the Duomo and another look at the gilded doors. They were open just a crack- it was so beautiful inside the baptistry!


So, after another walk around the Duomo we stopped back at Gilli's for the most expensive jelly candies EVER. 16 Euros for what Ian is holding in this picture:

They were worth every bit we paid for them.

We stopped and watched a street performer do a Charlie Chaplin routine. It was really funny:

Florence was AMAZING at night. The tour groups were gone and the streets were beautiful.

Ahhhhh . . . 

It was so nice to go on a date with this guy!

Out for a little late-night bike riding.

Today is our last full day in Florence. Tomorrow we drive to Nice for a week at the beach.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pisa (You know, the place with the leaning tower.)

We decided to take a day trip to Pisa, which is only about an hour away from Florence. I have to admit that Pisa was a pretty sad little town. It was an awful tourist trap, which we totally expected, but the town was just really dirty and was crawling with people selling fake Rolex watches and fake designer purses. It was very cool to see the famous tower and it was very entertaining to watch people taking the "holding up the tower" photos. We had lunch at a really nice restaurant and got some gelato (of course!). When we were done with the tower we decided to drive to Viareggio, a beautiful little beach town. By the time we got there Aven, Etta, and Emma were all asleep in the back seat, so we glanced at the Mediterranean and drove back to Florence for the night. It was a fun little day trip and now we can say we've seen it.

Family photo in front of the tower.

Aven and Emma.

Look at that beautiful baby!
So, because I love cheesy stuff, I made everyone take a "holding up the tower" photo. Emma's turned out the best. 

Aven didn't really get the concept, so this is how hers turned out. It looks like she might be  getting ready to karate-chop the tower. She might also be a zombie. I'm really not sure.

 Pisa had just as much graffiti as every other Italian town we've been through, but it did have more written in English than anywhere we've been so far:

And I couldn't leave out one of the funniest things I saw while walking through Pisa . . .
. . . a display of Duff Beer.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Academia, Boboli Gardens, and More!

We started out the day with the Academia. We had a much better experience there than at the Uffizi. We went early in the morning, so it wasn't as crowded with tour groups. We actually got to get up close to the main attraction: David. We were all in awe. It was truly incredible to see this famous sculpture in person. When I asked Aven what she liked most about David her answer was "I can see his pee-pee". We are in so much trouble. We also got to see lots more Renaissance paintings, sculptures, and a musical instrument museum.

The main attraction.

After the Academia we went in search of lunch and ended up at a nice little restaurant. For some reason Aven has been into dancing to the music she hears in store and restaurants on this trip and she really got into the music in the restaurant. She has the BEST white girl dance moves I've ever seen- she is truly comparable to Elaine on Seinfeld.

Aven busts a move.
 After lunch we found an awesome carousel and the girls rode two times.

Etta loves carousels just as much as Aven does.

After the carousel we went in search of dessert and found a bakery that had lots of delicious treats.

Aven was pretty glued to the bakery display window.
 I love small details. Here are some favorites from today:

I don't think this sign is working.

This sign seems to depict terrified Italian children fleeing from the constant onslaught of bikes, scooters, motorcycles, cars, and buses.

A lion for the WJMS fans out there in the audience.
 Boboli Gardens. There was no make-it-yourself pizza, much to my dismay. There was a beautiful garden, however. It felt like being in a huge hedge maze. Aven had clearly been missing nature after a couple long days in the city because as soon as we reached a gravel walking path she stooped down and picked up to large handfuls of rocks and sighed as if she had just taken a life-saving breath. Aven had a great time playing in nature- I'm SO glad we did this for her.
Aven and her awesome Auntie Em

Family photo in a "tunnel".

Etta took at nap at Boboli Gardens

This is a picture of Ian trying to give me a heart attack.

Etta playing at the playground down the street from our apartment. 

Ian showing off his souvenir apron and the gigantic ladle from the kitchen in our apartment. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Florence- Old Town & Uffizi

Today we went to the Uffizi gallery, which is in Old Town Florence. It was about a 40 minute walk from our apartment, which was hard on Aven, but we made it on time for our entrance time. I was really looking forward to the gallery since it's filled with Medieval and Renaissance art that I know and love. It wasn't exactly the magical art experience I was hoping for. We stood in three different lines to get into the gallery and then spent the entire time we were in the gallery dodging huge tour groups that were so focused on listening to the tour guide through ear pieces that they were completely oblivious to the fact that other people were trying to exist in the same room. I did get to see some very famous paintings by Giotto, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Durer, and Boticelli (just to name a few) which was pretty awesome, but the amount of money we spent didn't really stack up against the amount of headache we endured. The best part of the Uffizi was when we first walked into the main corridor of the gallery, which is full of large statues of nude men. Aven very loudly said "Hey! I can see his . . ." and right as she was about to say "pee-pee" Emma clapped her hand over Aven's mouth just in time to muffle those last two words. It was pretty awesome.

After the gallery we wondered around old town. It was incredibly beautiful in most places. The main piazza near the Duomo was incredibly crowded and crawling with gypsies (the panhandlers/ pick-pockets of Europe). The only two things I didn't like about old town were the cars and motorcycles speeding through the very narrow streets and, yet again, the tour groups. We got gelato (it had been two whole days, so we were going through withdrawals), and then we got some dessert at a cafe/ bar so that I could sit down in a chair and nurse Etta (I wasn't really enthused about sitting on the curb and nursing her as cars and scooters buzzed past).

After making the long walk back to our neighborhood Aven and Etta played at a really nice little park down the street from our apartment (they really needed it). We cooked dinner ourselves and put Etta to bed a little early (she was so exhausted that she fell asleep within a few minutes).

Overall it was a great day and Aven and Etta held up like champion travelers through 5 HOURS of walking around town.
Etta tries her first ice-cream (pistachio) she LOVED it.

One of the many tour groups we ran into today. 

The only thing more ridiculous that looking like a sheep in a huge tour group is going on a segway tour. Sorry, but people who do this just look silly.

Family photo time!

This is what this trip is all about! There's the Duomo in the back ground, by the way.


Monday, June 24, 2013


We left Innsbruck on Sunday to head to Venice. We were very sad to leave as our experience with the Ames family was so wonderful. If you've ever travelled abroad you know that it can be confusing and difficult on many different levels, so having a family that knows the culture, terrain, and enough of the local language to get around is incredibly valuable. We knew we were facing a whole new level of complication on this trip.

We had planned on stopping halfway between Innsbruck and Venice for lunch and we ended up in Trento, Italy. One thing we didn't really plan for is that on Sunday in Italy EVERYTHING is closed. There were a few random kebab shops open, but the people hanging around the outside of them looked like hardened Turkish gangsters, so we didn't dare go in. We finally found a little cafe run by a Chinese family.

We made it to Mira, a little town outside Venice where we stayed, just in time to check into our room. It was a lovely little Airbnb apartment. It was beautiful and comfortable. We could have been happy there much longer for one night with the exception that it was located in the boonies. After getting settled, we took a 40 minute bus ride to get to Venice. We quickly found a restaurant since we were all starving and after that we had a great time seeing Venice. I was amazed at how narrow the streets were and Aven was impressed that it had streets made of water. She wants our street at home to be made of water now.

We got some gelato (how could we not?), went to Piazza San Marco, and instead of taking a water taxi back to the bus stop we took the water bus. If you ever seen the Japanese train pushers then you'll have an idea of what riding a water bus in Venice is like- only on a rocking boat. We were mashed onto the water bus for about an hour before we got back to the bus stop. Then we had to take a 40 minute bus ride back to where we were staying. We didn't get back to our room until about 11:15 at night. My kids have NEVER been out that late. It was very stressful.

We had originally planned on going back into Venice the next day but Emma and I decided that we had seen enough and left the decision up to Ian since he wanted to go back. We drove all the way to the Venice parking garage where they charge you 26 Euros to park your car for a few hours. The whole parking garage system was so confusing that Ian decided that we should just move on to our next destination: Florence.

Everything in Florence was closed today due to a holiday, so Aven had a Nutella sandwich and a banana for dinner and Emma, Ian, and I had Chinese take-out. Tomorrow we will be relaxing and grocery shopping before going to the Uffizi Gallery on Wednesday. Our apartment is pretty nice, but we are still missing the magic of Innsbruck.

Etta was climbing up and down these steps near the restaurant we ate at in Venice like a pro. As soon as I got a little relaxed she tumbled down two steps and got a nice bruise on her cheek. Yet another mom-of-the-year moment for me.

Aven was amazed by the "water streets".

Ian gets creative with the camera.

It's as beautiful and amazing as the pictures make it look.

Aven and Dad.

Etta and Mom.

A great family shot (thanks Emma!).

Auntie Em and Etta.

The very lovely apartment we stayed in near Venice.

The loveliness of Florence. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Achensee Lake and Hall

Today was our last full day in Innsbruck. We are sad to leave our friends but excited to move on and see new things. Tomorrow we will drive to Venice, spend one night, and then go to Florence the next day. We'll spend a week in Florence.

Today we went to a lake named Achensee. It was an absolutely beautiful crystal-blue lake. Completely amazing. It was a little cold and windy. If you ask Emma it was "freezing"- not so. We had lunch at a lake-side cafe and then enjoyed watching kite surfers while the girls played at a playground.

Emma as 'The Unibomber".

Look at that lake! Seriously!

Aven really wanted to go swimming, but she quickly changed her mind after dipping her toes in. Ian proclaimed that water to be "not that bad" (it was a glacial lake, it was barely above freezing). Ian did not take me up on my challenge to go for a swim (baby).

It doesn't matter which continent we are on, Etta loves swinging!

After the lake we drove to a little village named Hall. The girls were sleeping, so I sat in the car with them while Ian and Emma went exploring. After a while Emma and I switched spots so that I could see the village. It was a charming little village right out of a movie (think 'Chocolat'). We went shopping at a little street festival and bought some beautiful gifts. We also had gelato (I am going to need to figure out how to make that stuff once we get home).

The village of Hall.

Street festival. Every stand had goods hand-made by locals ranging from schnapps to jewelry to clothing. Such a gem!

Wish us luck in our next leg of the journey! Thanks Ben, Missy, Addie, and Ruby for being the most amazing hosts of all time- we will NEVER forget the generosity, hospitality, great conversations, and fun.