And here we go:
- We started the morning waking up the kids at 3am, then picking up Pop. He was going to drop us off at the airport (with the car seats) in my truck, which was incredibly nice for him to do. We were all a little nervous not knowing how Lyla would travel. But it was time to go.
- Our first part of the journey got us all the way to Dallas for a three-hour trip and the kiddos were great. Then we headed for the long end which was roughly 10 hours. Hour-by-hour, we found new ways of entertainment. Nixon was happy watching different shows and didn’t sleep much… but a few minutes since he loved the endless shows. Lyla wasn’t as entertained, so she slept and played with toys.
- We finally arrived in Rome at 8am – ready to start the day with only a few hours of sleep. We arrived at our hotel after a 60 minute bus ride. Then we got to our room, and within five minutes, I hear Bridget screaming for help. I walked in to find that Nixon pooped in the bidet (very common in Europe). Bridget begrudgingly grabbed the warm hanky and threw it in the toilet.
- Our first adventure took us over to the Colosseum. Of course the lines were ridiculous so we ended up doing a guided tour to get in quickly.
- The Colosseum was amazing. I’ve always wanted to see it, so taking it all in at once was not an easy task. The 2000-year-old monument was incredible to know that it had survived earthquakes and war over that many years. Our tour guide had many references to The Gladiator movie which was historically not 100 percent. The bottom area as where the gladiators and animals prepped before they were thrown into the main area above. The gladiators looks more like Danny Devito, not Russel Crow. Also, a full day in these Roman time at the Coliseum had quite the itinerary with man versus beast, zoo time to see the exotics, man vs man, chariots, etc. it was a full day event and keep in mind that exotic animals were the only place you could see them.
- There was a lot to see there, and around Rome. Each corner we turned seemed to uncover another historic landmark. And the kids are doing great. Nixon was fighting off being tired as usual and Lyla was comfortable in the pack. We then headed back to the hotel via the subway.
- That night we ended up going to dinner at a nearby restaurant. Outdoor seating is common here so it’s nice to enjoy my first taste of pasta – penne Arrabiata. (I did have my first pizza earlier in the central station which was not bad either). Beautiful night enjoying our company (Oma, Opa, Carianne and Cindi) and a great way to end the first day.
- The next morning started early for me with Nixon waking up around 4 AM looking for something to do. How does this kid function without any sleep? Today though was going to be focused towards the Vatican. Cindy and Carrianne we’re going with us while Oma and Opa stayed back.
- Opa also tripped late night as he try to go the bathroom and hit his head and elbow pretty hard. Nixon and I heard it and I thought it was a car crash from outside. Nope – just Opa’s head against the wall.
- We got to a breakfast spot right outside the Vatican where we went with another tour guide to help move fast and get past the lines. Nixon started to have a little bit of a breakdown since he didn’t want to have another long day with some boring tour. But a chocolate croissant got him past this and he started to get some energy and excitement.
- The crowd here were crazy. There were so many people. We even had headphones for our tour so we could listen with the different crowds.
Side note – The Vatican is the smallest country in the world so this trip we officially are going to three different countries. The views here though were absolutely stunning. We saw the area where the Pope gives his speeches to the world. We also grabbed water from some of the fountains to insure that we had good luck from the holy land.
- The grounds covered some amazing artwork from sculptures of Perseus to incredible marble-cut scenes. I lost Bridget for a while and then found her. I then lost our tour group and then found it again. We kept getting lost trying to fine each other. We luckily caught up before the Sistine Chapel. It was worth the travel to see this. It was just beautiful and I was able to sneak a picture. I can’t believe Michelangelo had created such a large, spectacular scene. It’s incredible that just one man this. I do need to understand a bit more of the backstory because the door was hard to hear from the guide. I’m still impressed at the artwork was just that amazing.
- We left the Vatican and headed to Trevi Fountain was really cool. A giant large fountain that Nixon threw coins in. He’ll have good luck for years.
- We then headed to meet Oma and Opa. They were drinking wine at a nearby bar and forgot to look for a lunch spot for our hangry and tired kids. A bit confused on why they would not do this, we then looked for a lunch place. This led us to one of the best experiences in Italy yet.
- We settled on a little location that had cute outdoor seating that was right next to the street. We then made our order which was this amazing “spicy” salami pizza. The Italians don’t necessarily do pepperoni here is what I found out. Then cars would slowly drive by our table missing Carrianne by roughly an inch.
Then the street entertainment performed which included a wonderful accordion as well as a person with an amazing voice. This went on for 15+ minutes. The music, sounds, food & drink, environment, and people made this such a wonderful experience.
- Carrianne, Cindi, and our family and then began to walk back to our place. We walked along the streets and found some beautiful buildings including what looks like to be the capital building.
- We finally got back to the hotel and then hustled to our next place to sleep that night.
The hotel was near the airport and had this amazing, king-esque table. The hotel also looked close to the museum with two bulb race cars as well as a plan. It was an interesting place but we needed to wake up by 1 AM to get to the airport for flight to Santorini.
- And that’s exactly what happened. We got the kids in the bed and then had three hours of sleep to wait for a late taxi cab to get to the airport by 2am.
- Nixon was wired of course through the airplane ride and didn’t really sleep. I mean… he always wanted to stay up the entire night, so here was his chance.
- We got to our hotel which was the San Giorgio; The place is pretty cute and has amazing service. We then headed to breakfast where Nixon fell asleep on the chair before his breakfast arrived. We went back and all took a long nap together as a family. Once everyone was up and running again, we explored the town a bit which definitely brought feelings of nostalgia to when Bridget and I traveled here on our honeymoon. I love Santorini! It’s so awesome.
- Then Nixon decided he wanted to get his feet kissed by the fishies. They had a shop where Bridget, Nixon, and myself got our fish pedicure. It was really funny and felt like Jacuzzi bubbles. Nixon then had a huge smile and told everyone, “you got to try this! “This was a great way to kick off our Santorini adventure, with us giggling in the Fish Pedicure place.
- Santorini celebrated the Saturday night with a long fireworks show. Perhaps in celebration of some holiday. We went to the Caldera and saw this, which happens once a year as the fireworks come out of the volcano island. This was neat since we watched the fireworks outside of a memorable bar that I remembered from our initial visit in 2009. I ordered a drink there and complained about the $16 drink. I then grumpily sat down and noticed the view outside– the moon light danced across the quite sea a few hundred feet below. I then smiled and mentioned… “Okay, it’s worth it.” The memories you remember when you travel.
- After the show, we then headed to Allie’s dads bar to check that out. We walked by there earlier and randomly met Allie’s sister who has a resemblance to her. Her name is Zoey.
Now that the bar was open, we then met Dimitri who is Allie’s dad and the DJ at his own bar. He’s a bit of a free spirit and probably has the temperament of my dad. But he did buy us drinks there which was really nice. It’s a fun jazz bar, which claims to be one of the oldest on the island (1979?). We had a few drinks and then of course stopped by for gelato on the way back home to call it a night.
Day 2 –
- We started the morning headed over the Mama’s. This was a great place. We sat down, and then hear an older lady walk in and say, “How is everyone doing today? I said how are my kids! I can’t hear you!” She was loud and greek. She was perfect. Everyone in the restaurant responded. What a character! She later came by and we chatted with her. She said she got married in Reno to a soldier. She then ended up moving back to Santorini and opening her restaurant. Ahh funny small world.
- This day was pretty much exploring the caldera and shopping. We were lucky because both the kids had a full night’s sleep for the first time this trip. Nixon and Lyla spent the day at Oma and Opa’s swimming while we looked for some items for Bridget in the caldera.
- However, we noticed Lyla Bear was a bit lethargic. We then confirmed our suspicions that Lyla had a fever and possible ear infection.
- It was a bit nerve-racking trying to find one pediatricians were open on a Sunday. We went to the main hospital which only served adults and then ended up back at the hotel to look at options. There weren’t many. The main hospital did call the pediatrician. It was going to meet us at 7 PM. But after assessing Lyla who looked to be feeling better as well as not having an available taxi for the next few hours, we decided to wait until the next morning. We were a bit stressed obviously about this.
- We gave Lyla a bit of Tylenol which soothed the pain. And that night we enjoyed a hosted dinner at the top of the Caldera. We met more of Allie’s family there as well. It was a beautiful scene to see the Greek isle at night while I played with Lyla around in the front area.
Side note – we randomly found a funny chalkboard that promoted Lila’s Restaurant. I took a picture, but Lila began erasing the board. The shop owner was not amused and moved Lila and said, ‘No, No, No.” We laughed since she barely touched the board, but the shop owner must have been proud of her chalkboard handwriting to not mess it up. Ahh the people.
Day 3 –
- We started the day by Opa renting a car to help us get out to the pediatrician. The plan was for our hotel, who has probably the best service I’ve ever had, take us out there and then Opa to pick us up. We got out to the pediatrician who worked a mile or two out of town. The doctor did not speak great English and she confirmed our suspicions. Lyla had an ear infection and we needed some medicine. The pediatrician did say in broken English that she wondered why we kept using the same approach/medicine if the infection kept returning. However, since we were traveling, she didn’t want to stray too far.
- We grabbed the medicine from the pharmacy and then headed out to a lighthouse and brewery. Imagine the eight of us in a four-door car driving through Santorini with a handful of seatbelts. The lighthouse left a bit to be desired. Bridget did not want to chance walking along the cliff with the kids to see the view from the front. So we took Oma’s word that it was neat.
We then went to the Donkey Ale Brewery which was really cool. It focused on hoppy beers, which you don’t see much in Europe. I’m used to the European/Asian lagers, so this was a nice break to have a good beer. I even got a shirt. The brewery was neat to be at as well, since we were able to see the bottling machine right behind us as well. Very cool and unique.
- Oma though was getting really nervous about the boat ride and ordered everyone back into the car. I quickly gulped my beer and we were on our way again.
- After getting showered and dressed, we took a cable car down to the boat dock and waited for Allie’s cousin, Illyana, to take us on her boat. (Illyana loved Nixon and also bought him a small boat before we left Santorini. She was wonderful.)
- The boat ride was absolutely amazing. With scenic sunset views as we sound across the caldera, I really couldn’t put into words on the how beautiful the things were that I saw. The sunset lighting bouncing off the sea rocks were really neat to see .
- This was also the time for wedding speeches. I was moved by both Opa’s and Joe’s speeches as they started to see Jason off into the land of marriage. They definitely took me up on my appreciation of family.
- Nixon also grabbed the mic for his speech. “Tomorrow I’m going to drop some flowers for my sister.” He loves being in front of the microphone. He then went back up for a second time.
- Then after a bit more time passed, people ate some food and jumped into the sea. There goes Jason. Here goes Oma; There goes Carianne, Cindi, and Ron.
- It was the perfect day before his wedding. We sailed back after dark and then went home get ready for Jason’s big day the next day.
Day 4 – The wedding
- Jason’s wedding day started off with a morning run at 8:30 AM. I found out about the run as I woke up 30 minutes earlier but Bridget gave me the green light to go.
I grabbed my running shoes and then headed off to meet Jason as well as some of the other guys at the church. We ran up the stairs and I tagged along with Joe. We kept on finding more and more steps that went up. It was endless. Finally, we looked across to find “Gods Nipple ” as Joe called it. This was going to be our final destination. We trekked across the area and finally got to the This part was a bit challenging, since we had to climb up a 8 to 10 foot wall to get to the very top.
The view at the top was amazing. We posed for a karate kick jump and then headed down. As I was scaling down, it was good to not think about the drop below, since it made my arms rubbery. I should probably do a bit more rock climbing to gain better comfort in times like this.
We then returned and then I got back to the hotel.
- We then grabbed a quick lunch and started to get ready for the wedding. We grabbed everyone and found our bus. This was a struggle since the bus was not marked, and it was full of Allie’s friends who did not know us. I have a feeling the bus may have delayed the wedding. Despite the confusion, we got there with two grump kids. They were both pissed because they both fell asleep on the bus, and we had to wake them up as we arrived at the winery.
They then got pushed quickly into being the flower kids – dropping all of leaves within five minutes of the arrival for Allie. It was a quickstart.
- Jason and Allie started off their wedding with princess bride which was quite amazing. ‘Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today.”
They quickly then became husband and wife at this beautiful winery that overlooked the Mediterranean Ocean. It was absolutely gorgeous and when the sunset came the sky lit up with wonderful colors that I had never seen in this part of the world before.
In the meantime, I was very cautious since the winery had quite a few drop-offs that were quite steep and Nixon could go over.
- But the overall wedding couldn’t have been more perfect for the lovely couple. Nixon danced quite a bit. Lyla was being swung around quite a bit as well in the family’s arms. They had a lot of fun.Day 5
- We woke up early in the morning to go see the donkeys for Nixon. We wandered through the caldera and finally found the bells jingling with multiple donkeys coming down. And suddenly I see Bridget and Nixon on a donkey headed down. After about 10 minutes, they walked back up. And both of them were very excited which looked to be an awesome experience. Lucky!
- We then jumped on our plane to Venice which we overspent for luggage by $140. They weren’t very straightforward on charging additional for baggage so we tried to do the cheaper route and pay ahead of time. This though wasn’t needed and we paid extra for no reason, which seems to be part of Voltera’s business model. Somewhat frustrating, but.. when in Rome… err Venice.
- We then arrived in Venice which was amazing to see. It felt like Disneyland with all the water in the old buildings that surrounded us. The crowds were quite heavy as we carried multiple bags of luggage up and down the canal steps, over the bridges, and through the alleys. It was tiring, but we finally got to our B and B… being a bit stronger.
We then went to St. Mark’s Square and explored a bit of a town which was really pretty.
We then had a nice meal which was complemented by dirty looks from a German couple. Lyla was being a bit loud but nothing out of the norm. However this German couple did not like any of this despite our antics to try to calm her. We left and we hear the words, “Finally” come out of their mouth. I looked over and then said, “Excuse me.” A look of surprise shuddered upon their face, as I was being pushed out the door by Bridget. I’m glad nothing else happened as I later found out in Germany this is pretty typical behavior for Germans to provide dirty looks to families of children.
- The next morning started early despite Nixon sleeping cross the way in Oma and Opa’s bed. We got up to explore before the shops and tourists came out.
- As soon as we got to Mark’s square, corn kernels were shoved in my hand and Nixon’s hand by a random guy. Then came the pigeons storming us. They landed on our heads, hands, and arms which turned out to be great shots.
We hadn’t asked for the corn kernels since this was illegal. We saw signs that warned that feeding birds could be a $50 Euro fee, so we were a bit hesitant, but it’s not like we could return the corn since the pigeons were already on us. The guy asked for money afterward.
- After this experience, we then got back to our place and had the most amazing croissants on the trip from the B&B. They were fresh out of the oven and perfect. But, no time to savor, we were now headed to the gondola!
- We quickly got to the gondola ride with time ticking. 80 euro for 30 min. We jumped on and started our ride. What should have been incredibly romantic and relaxing turned stressful quickly. Lyla was not having fun and she wanted to play with the both our phones. I was filled with anxiety, thinking she was about to throw the phones (and all of our pictures) into the canal at any minute. Bridget was trying to keep the peace with her. Oma was sad since her camera ran out of battery. And Nixon was having fun.
We did go by some historic buildings as we meandered through the canals. It was worth it but a bit of a s-show. Also our guide didn’t wear a fancy hat or striped shirt until the end since we were his first ride. Next time… sigh…
- We then met the rest of our party with the bags ready to go to the train station via water taxi. Side note – some one tried to help me with the bags as I lugged them up the canal stairs. I didn’t need it but I thanked him… and then he asks for money. Dick… no! It’s just a second of your time and I thought you were being friendly… Ughh.
- We then jumped on a train, excited that we made it and ready to arrive at 5pm later that day… except for one thing … 30 min later the conductor gently lets us know that we’re on the wrong train in the wrong direction.
So before I explain the two additional train stops, the additional $10 euro per ticket and the new arrival time… we made it. It was a long journey with the kids who did amazing and we arrived at 7pm. Tired and a bit angry, we arrived in Levantro. We found Susie from Germany, had beer and pizza, then called it a night. Ugh travel days can be the worst betting to point A to point B… or in our world Point A to Point B and C, to finally Point D.
Day 1 and 2
- Levanto is a cute town that still does not have many tourists. It’s the first city outside of the Cinque Terra, but has quick train access to those spots. A lot of people do not speak English here which is great. The Italian culture is still very heavy, which is the perfect place to stay. The first day we explored the town as well as went on for a little bit of a hike which was nice.
- We went down to the beach and enjoyed some of the time down there together with Susie. A lot of this day was spent on relaxing and recovering from the train rides. Cindi and Carrianne made an amazing dinner as well which is great to eat at the place.
- The next day we went and explored to Cinque Terra towns with everyone. This was also unfortunately had to see Susie leave. It was great to see her for the weekend; she’s such a sweet person.
The towns were very cute but crowded. Some of the buildings could also use a bit of a facelift. We also battled the rain quite a bit while we were there. The trails have been wiped out for quite some time, which has closed due to the storms. Some portions are open but as soon as it starts sprinkling someone goes and closes the trails.
- We also randomly met Jordan and Andrea down here as well. It was random to see them come out of the same train. They’ve had quite the driving experience; they think they were charged 150 euro for driving down a private street. That blows.
- We explored the towns, went through the shops, ate some pizza, and even had time to let Lyla and Nixon play at a playground in Monterossa.
- We went back to Levanto where Jordan and Andrea joined us for home-made dinner. They ate a great dinner by Ron, as we drank wine and limoncello. We also ran out of Lyla’s ear medicine to finish up the infection.
Day 3 – Bonnasolo
- Today everyone seemed want to do their own thing. Chris and Ron wanted to go hiking; Carrianne and Cindi wanted to Portofino. And our family decided to take a local’s advice that I received from the surf shop. He mentioned to hike with the kids to the next town over. The route is flat, pretty, and the town does not have the tourists. So we went on our way to Bonassolo.
- The walk was really nice on a paved path that was near the ocean and went underneath a few tunnels. We initially were a bit scared since it was 6 km but luckily it was shorter than this. Nixon walked for the 2 miles and we arrived in the town and then found a restaurant on the beach for snacks, an umbrella, and drinks.
We relaxed for a bit which was nice to help remove a bit of the stress while the kids played in the sand. Then we found lunch in the square of this sleepy little town with no tourists. We came to a crêperie and had the best crepe of the trip. It was fresh and delicious.
- We then went back to Levanto and obviously had some elato and then went home. We then continued our “relax” theme. We watched the Cartoon Channel in Italian. And we ate leftovers for dinner. Oma and Opa went out on a date night. Carianne and Cindi celebrated Carianne’s 40th birthday, and Bridget and I joked about having our 9th anniversary over a wonderful Italian meal of leftovers with the kiddos. Celebration night! This was probably the most relaxing day of the trip.
- Funny note about Nixon on the train. As we headed back, Nixon saw this girl, roughly 23 years old, on the train. He then mentions to Bridget, “Mom, that girl has really pretty eyes. Can I tell her?” Uhh sure “Hey girl, you have really pretty eyes.” (Smiles) The girl has no idea what he said… or is too embarrassed. Oh Nixon. You’re going to be trouble when you get older.
Pisa | Traveling back Home
- We left Levanto early to get back on the train. I really did want to check out the leaning tower of Pisa. Mainly to say that I saw it. We luckily found a train ride that had one stop in Pisa with a two hour layover before getting to Rome. This was perfect.
- Well, the train was delayed but that was going to be the story on each of our ways back home. So, the travel home begins with the Tuesday ride on the train. It was going to be a long day. Roughly 5 hours on the train with a 2 hour stop in Pisa.
- Pisa – We finally arrived in Pisa. Oma and Opa watched everyone’s baggage as Cindi, Carianne, and our family headed to the tower. I was really impressed. It was so cool to see! It definitely met our expectations. Completely worth the stop to see this giant, beautiful building … leaning a bit right.
- We hopped on the train and Lyla fell asleep as I was able to soak in the Italian landscape outside as we passed by.
- We arrived in Rome and quickly got to our B&B. I carried the luggage up four flights of stairs. (Later I found out that I lost weight on the trip. Go figure. I do though wonder if it’s because of the constant walking with Lyla strapped on my shoulders. As well as, the Europeans use better food products (non-GMO since it’s illegal there.) Even Cindi mentioned that the pasta there does not affect her as bad as it does when she’s in the states. It’s probably because they use different materials than what we do.
- We had our last dinner, which I had an amazing lasagna. While we waited, Nixon and I danced at the other restaurant. He used his moves that he calls the stretch. It’s a dance move that looks like your stretching. Such a crack up.
We then missed having Gelato since we were in a pretty rough neighborhood, and got ready for the last haul.
- Flights Home – What a journey. We awoke at 6am.
- First Train – 30 min to Airport
- Wait time – 2+ hours
- First Flight – 13-14 hours
- Dallas Wait time – 2.5+ hours
- Stuck on Tarmac for 1 hours before we left
- Flight home – 2.5 hours
- Arrived almost an hour late
Total Travel Time – almost 24 hours with 2 kids
Survival – We made it. Pop picked us up in my truck and we got home. Last night’s sleep wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. Lyla and I played at 2am and 4am. Bridget and I took turns, but we’re here. Nixon slept pretty decently through the night, despite going to bed at 12:30pm. We made it. We have war stories and did this on a few hours of sleep. #winning.
What a great adventure though! I’d do it again.