To be continued…
To be continued…
In truth it was a 1/2 day in Rome (because we woke up at 1pm)! And that was only because Amir woke us all up. This jet lag is no joke. Especially with kids. Fortunately there’s great coffee. And wine.
We reserved a 3 hour walking food tour from 5-8pm but had a few hours to kill beforehand. Fortunately with three kids under 6, getting out the door clean, dressed and fed is guaranteed to eat up at least an hour on the best day when everyone cooperates. At least they weren’t ready for breakfast yet – likely because they ate every strawberry and drank a liter of milk somewhere around 3am this morning.
First stop: Piazza Navona which is built on top of the Stadio di Domiziano, the only known brick Roman sporting venue (circa 80 AD). In its prime, it seated 30,000 spectators. It’s been described as a scaled down version of Circus Maximus. Today there are three fountains sitting in the “field” while the footprint of the stands is now occupied by apartments and shops.
We walked to a small restaurant guaranteed to have pizza and a decent house red… to our delight they had high chairs and a closet to store our stroller. I’ve been amazed lately back home at all the facilities advertising to families then not having high chairs or changing tables. While we haven’t seen many families with multiple kids, Rome does a good job welcoming our circus.
After breakfast/lunch, we completed our traditional stop at a local toy store. We’ve had luck in the past with buying a few toys while on vacation rather than trying to bring them. European toys are higher quality, made of wood not plastic, and built to last for generations. Across Italy there’s a culture of reuse and minimization of waste. I’ll have to save my explanation of the trash collection system for another post… perhaps if I can snag a photo of the tiny trash trucks.
We booked the food tour through AirBnB. As I’ve mentioned before, we typically book our lodging there and have come to love the “Excursions” offered through the site as well. You have to sort through them to avoid the super tourist-trap type stuff, but that’s not hard to do when your husband is essentially a travel agent.
Alessandro (Alex) was our esteemed guide for the day. Single and living alone in Rome, he made a point to tell me most Italians don’t think he’s Italian thanks to his bright blue eyes gifted to him by his grandmother. He’s a charmer – a good fit for the role.
Taste 1: Porchetta & Wine We entered a small shop with a roast pig in the window and 1000 red wine bottles lining the walls. Alex knew the guys working there, and with the wave of a hand, 10 half sandwiches appeared. The pork is stuffed with rosemary, cooked all night then gently shaved and sandwiched between the fresh bread. A solid first stop.
Taste 2: Suppli Typical of Roman cuisine, they are balls of rice with tomato sauce, stuffed with a chunk of mozzarella in the middle, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. Everyone loved these. We wanted seconds.
Taste 3: Potato Pizza He ordered margarita pizza for us as well, but the potato pizza was the real winner. Consisting of crust, thinly sliced potatos, olive oil and just enough cheese, this hit a perfect savory balance.
Taste 4: Friend Artichokes (Carciofi Alla Giudia) Unique to the old Jewish Quarter, you’ll find them on the menu of every restaurant in this little area. Crispy on the outside – there’s a taste reminiscent of potato chips. Bite deeper in, and everything is soft and juicy. It’s a tactile experience as much as a taste adventure.
Taste 5: Gunther Gelato I was delighted to reach this last stop, not just for the amazing flavor selection, but to finally stop hearing, “When are we getting ice cream?” Pro tip: Don’t tell the kids there’s gelato on the tour, especially if it’s not happening for three hours. I picked coconut in a cone but ended up eating #1BigBrother’s chocolate after he experienced a meltdown due to his melting gelato.
Rome is almost better by night than by day thanks to the smart lighting that brings these ancient ruins to life. To close out the day, we headed to the Pantheon which closed hours earlier, but had a full piazza of on-lookers, hawkers peddling glowing toys and teenagers singing. It was a great way to close the tour. We said goodbye to the other family in our group (Americans stationed in Roda, Spain), and thanked Alex for his hospitality and expertise.
I have to admit that wearing #1LittleSister most of the day did a number on my back (getting old sucks), so tomorrow we’re considering a golf cart tour of some outer areas of the city. If you remember from Jamaica, #1BigBrother just loves a good golf cart. I can’t wait to see his excitement tomorrow.
#1BabySister slept through the night again for the third night in a row. They say that once they start solids they start to sleep better, and we’d introduced them about three weeks ago when the formula shortage was really ramping into emergency status. Well, I think it’s paying off now. I’ll accept any and all happy accidents.
I love that the hardest decisions I have to make here involves pancakes & waffles vs eggs any style I can dream up.
Every morning our chef makes breakfast of our individual choice, and each morning seems to feature a new set of china, placemats and fresh flowers from around the grounds of the Villa.
After breakfast we returned to the beach, this time better prepared with all the swimmies, pool toys and snorkel gear. We also scoped out the cocktail situation early and ordered up a few piña coladas and some pineapple juice for the kids.
#1BigSister took her snorkel for a true test drive today in Sandy Bay. With her life jacket on, she floated on the surface and explored the sea grass, sand and shells below. She even found an occupied shell, home to a “queen conch” or Strombas gigas a threatened species in the Caribbean Sea.
We tossed our little friend back in before #1BigBrother got any ideas about smashing him or taking him home as a pet. We are suffering some extreme attachment issues these days.
For lunch we ordered food to the chairs on the beach. The menu includes the delicious pizza we had yesterday, plus an assortment of seafood baskets and jerk chicken wraps/paninis/wings. Did I mention the mango and pineapple daiquiris with a “floater” on top?
We spent the morning back and forth from the pool to the beach as attention spans wavered from one to the next. We even met some new friends, a little girl named Randy and her Nanny, both from Georgia.
The kids had toy envy though, so we ended up spending $14 on a dollar store plastic bucket and shovel. I justified the expenditure by convincing myself we could pay it forward for the next family with little ones – but it broke before we even got back to the house. Oh well.
As we finished lunch at the beach, the sky darkened, thunder rolled in and we scurried like sand crabs to collect our things and get back to Sea Glass Villa before the sky truly opened up.
Tomorrow we’ve booked a boating adventure where we can fish for the first hour and then snorkel for the second half. With this big of a crew, we need flexibility to accommodate everyone’s bucket list items. I’m wrapping todays post up early because I know I’ll either need a nap or early bedtime to have the stamina for tomorrow’s adventures.
So much for sleeping in – a 5:30 wakeup call from #1BabySister started my morning as per usual. Fortunately the house staff had already prepared the morning coffee.
For context I should explain that our Villa, Sea Glass, has its own staff of 4 – a chef, a gardener, a laundress and a housekeeper. I’m in heaven. I don’t have to cook, clean or wash anything.
Ahead of our arrival, we each selected our first morning breakfast. I opted for poached eggs on toast, while others enjoyed pancakes, omelettes and of course the freshest of fresh fruit.
A 5:30 wakeup allows for much productivity before breakfast. I logged 2 hours of swimming with #1BigSister, 2 delicious cups of coffee, 2 blueberry muffins and 2 gecko sightings. Nana and Grandma joined us around 8:00am, showered, dressed, makeup on and ready for a day of exploring.
After breakfast we grabbed a golf cart to take down the hillside to the beach to explore the shore. In retrospect, our Villa had 2 golf carts for our use, but we so wisely opted to stuff all eight of us into one.
While we didn’t have to “rent it” per se, I’m pretty sure this counts as the extreme vehicular rental for this trip (see prior travel posts for reference). Amir drove it like he stole it, much to the dismay of Nana and Grandma who were riding backwards in the back in the trip down. There were multiple comments from the wayyyy back about Amir’s driving, but I’ll just leave it at that.
The Tryall Club Villas each have a pool, but there’s also a large beachfront pool for access by all members of the resort. There’s a pretty delicious pizza shack on site, and you can have your pizza delivered poolside, take it to go, or have it delivered to your Villa if you are headed back. We opted to eat beachside.
We declared basecamp on the pool deck because it offered the most options for shade and kid-friendly swimming. A resort staffer supplied the towels and positioned giant pink and white umbrellas for us to optimize the shade.
Only Amir and Egem wore their swimsuits on this outing (we’d only planned to go exploring, not to do a whole swimming adventure), so they took the kids in the pool to practice their swimming technique. And by swimming technique, I mean anything to not drown. As an Emergency Physician with three kids who can’t swim, I have nightmares about this stuff. Big time.
While the others played in the pool, I walked down to the beach to check out the sand, seashells and wave situation. I met a little friend, a hermit crab, who I was sure #1BigBrother would love (or toss across the pool deck).
It didn’t take long for #1BigSister to want to join me on the beach. She’s always loved looking for seashells and throwing rocks into water… so this was her heaven.
Egem joined us at the beach and took the kiddos swimming while I looked for shells and small natural treasures along the shore.
Back poolside, the troops were dropping like flies. Exhaustion from traveling yesterday set in, and many comfortable naps were had by all.
Back at Sea Glass, #1BigSister was of course ready to go straight back into the pool. I was game since I hadn’t had a bathing suit on down at the beach and was a sweaty mess desperate for a dip. Unfortunately she demanded we swim in the “hot pool” (hot tub) which is a refreshing 95 degrees.
Hanging in the “hot pool”
Today is Sunday, so most tours and activities on the island are closed. Tomorrow is also a holiday in Jamaica, Labor Day, so tours won’t be running. That’s ok though – we’re finding plenty to keep us busy at Sea Glass.
It’s been 1 year, 6 months and 21 days since my last travel post. When traveling back from Argentina back in February 2020, we knew Covid-19 was coming since as doctors we were following everything in China early on… but even on that last pass through customs, we were asked ONLY if we’d been to China at all during our vacation – there weren’t any masks yet – just an occasional bottle of hand sanitizer and oblivious travelers, us included.
The pandemic has been hard for us in some ways, but also easy in some unexpected aspects. As Emergency Physicians in the thick of treating Covid patients every day, we expected a degree of risk and danger, but I know that worry of us getting sick never settled (and still runs strong) amongst our friends and family.
We never took anything lightly. From the get go, we wrote our will, identified someone to care for our kids should the worst case happen… all the things, that for us almost felt normal – as all of our friends at work were doing the same. Things normalized to a new existence, and unlike most of our friends and family who experienced huge changes in their daily routines (working from home, virtual school), we still woke up every day and put on the same gray scrubs (plus a new scrub cap), drove the same 10 minute commute, dropped our kids off at the same daycare, and went to work with the same awesome and snarky people, just with a lot more PPE. In some ways nothing changed, relatively speaking, but of course everything changed and is still changing.
We’ve had a few weekends away during the pandemic, some camping, time back in Norfolk with our families, but nothing I would call a vacation. Covid isn’t entirely to blame for that – we also added one more to our family in June 2020 – so #1Toddler has been promoted to #1BigSis to make room for #1LilBrother. Probably also relevant to note is that I’m 24 weeks pregnant with our third and last addition to TeamLouka, a little girl we expect to join us in December.
We’d originally considered a trip to Hawaii, but with the Delta variant surging, passport renewals delayed 5+ months, and #1BigSis occasionally rejecting mask-wearing, we felt like flying was a recipe for vacation heartbreak. As an alternative, we settled on a tried and true staple destination for us, a (drivable) getaway to a home owned by family in Clinton Corners, New York. Stay tuned for an entire post (or two) about this incredible 1914 Craftsman home set on 12.9 acres of rolling green hills.
We arrived just before 3am this morning. When Amir initially suggested driving through the night, the exhaustion of just having prepared and sold our current home followed by an unexpected week of me taking care of the kids at home (thanks to a Covid exposure at daycare)… it seemed ridiculous at first pass. But then he pointed out that they would sleep… SLEEP in the car for the majority of the 6 hour drive… SOLD.
The drive really wasn’t that bad (says the person who didn’t actually have to drive). We were originally going to take Amir’s car, but just before getting on I95, his check engine light came on, then the whole car started to shudder, and the check engine light began to flash. Back home we went to switch over to my car, just happy we didn’t end up stranded in DC or elsewhere far from home. AAA would have been no match for this car full of three tired grumps and a pregnant lady.
Whenever we first arrive somewhere, we always like to walk and explore – to get a feel for the nooks and crannies. Whether an AirBnB or a campsite, it helps us plan our stay.
Amir and #1BigSis headed down to checkout the pond and fishing prospects, while #1LilBrother and I trapsed the perimeter of the house. Covered in moss, and with all the bump outs of a true craftsman, we found much to explore.
Team Pond Explorers caught a fish but threw it back. Hearing the jubilant cheers of victory, #1LilBrother and I went to check it out. Unfortunately I stepped on an underground hornet nest and was stung on my ankle. I looked down expecting a snake since we were at the waters edge and was slightly relived to just see flying critters. Man oh man did that burn. It’s easily been 30 years since I’ve been stung. I’ll happily go another 30.
After some lunch and some ice for my ankle, we set out for some swimming pool time. We still have two non-swimmers on our team, so pool time comes with a level of stress and anxiety only a parent of fast walking toddlers can appreciate. Few things in parenting legitimately give me nightmares – car accidents, choking, unsafe sleep… and DROWNING. I guess in our line of work you see the things that truly hurt kids. It’s not GMO food.
After the pool, we stopped back by the garden. We’d paid it a quick visit first thing this morning, but had mistakenly arrived without a basket to carry things. Perhaps we made an assumption based on the low output of our city garden… but this time we returned with a proper vesicle.
Pools are refreshing and priceless on a hot summer day, but the BEST things about a pool these days is it’s a sure-fire way to guarantee a solid nap by both kids. Back at the house, they were both down for the count in less that 10 minutes.
As I mentioned, we had a big week ahead of this trip. We sold out beloved 102 year old house in Richmond, affectionately known as “Pink Floyd,” for its bright pink front door and address on Floyd Avenue. We’re moving to “the burbs,” something we said we’d never do, to a 4 year old home in a large neighborhood with great schools and built-in activities. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as we return here to The Willows for what might be our fifth visit over the years, I’m appreciating this 107 year old masterpiece more than ever. Old houses are alive with history.
I want more than anything to sit down tonight and flip back through the large coffee table book that recounts the history of this epic home. With two under 4 though, quiet moments alone are rare, so I’ll just see how the night carries on.