British Summer

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School doesn’t get out until July 6th.  The temperature here hovers in the high 60s, maybe low 70s.  The sun makes rare appearances, but we’ve had at least a little bit of rain most days.  And I have yet to don a pair of shorts, not even once.  Beach weather, this is not.

The term “British Summer” seems to be an oxymoron.  It doesn’t feel like summer here.

Living in D.C., you get hot and humid summers, the kind that make me retreat into the air conditioned house and peruse real estate listings in cooler climates.  I don’t miss the 90+ degree temps or the 80% humidity that made the air feel thick and heavy.

But it doesn’t feel like summer here, no matter what the calendar says.

I’ll take 68 degrees over 98 degrees every day of the week, every month of the year.  But I’d love just one 80-degree day with the sun shining, if only to finally break out a pair of shorts and get some color on my pasty white legs.

I’m holding out hope that when July arrives, some warm and sunny days arrive with it.  But I’m definitely not complaining — British summer is vastly better than D.C. summer, and God knows I’ve spent the last decade loudly announcing my hatred for the heat of July and August in D.C.

I just want a tan on my legs. 


Also, we did find a beach in England last summer, and the biggest thing we’re missing about summer at home.


 

Inspirational Words

It is not the mountain we conquer

When we hiked the Path of the Gods in Italy, I worried for probably the first forty-five minutes of the hike that we couldn’t do it.  That it would be too hard, that the kids would get worn out or, worse, hurt.  That Matt and I had made a terrible mistake.

And then, suddenly, we got to the top, and I realized that we already HAD done it.  Walking up, while all that worrying was going on, we were doing exactly what I was worried we couldn’t do.

When we reached the ridgeline and I looked back and then I looked ahead, I saw that, even though we still had a few miles to walk, we’d done it.  The hard part was behind us and the rest was just cake.  I felt strong, I felt proud — so incredibly proud of my brave children and my husband who doesn’t question that we CAN — and I felt so grateful for every step of the adventure. 

Italy, Part Four: The Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast with kids

Of all the traveling decisions we made on this vacation, hiring a car service to get us to the Amalfi Coast was the best one; the ride is gorgeous, but harrowing.  Extremely narrow roads skirt cliff edges all along the coast and the guard rails leave a bit to be desired.  Local drivers speed along these tiny roads and pass anyone going too slow — we saw cars overtaking slower drivers even while going through the narrow tunnels cut into the cliffside. 

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Giant tour buses have to make three-point turns at certain switchbacks where the buses can’t make the 180-degree turn in one go.  It was terrifying.  I white-knuckled it through the entire trip and had to close my eyes a few times as we wound around the hairpin turns.  Our driver though, thought nothing of it — he lived there his whole life and this was simply second nature for him. 

The scenery was AMAZING and the destination was well-worth the drive.  My absolute recommendation though is to leave that trip to the experts and hire a car!

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We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb apartment in the lovely village of Praiano, which is situated on the coast right between Positano and Amalfi.  We were there just before the real tourist season began, so Praiano, much smaller and more residential than it’s two more well-known neighbors, was very, very quiet.  In fact, it was almost too quiet — during the high season I would DEFINITELY stay there rather than in Positano or Amalfi, which are packed to the gills with tourists, but in the off-season, very little in Praiano was open.  Live and learn.

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Praiano is an absolutely gorgeous village though, and we loved our apartment — the view from the porch was pretty hard to beat.

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While on the Amalfi coast, we wanted to relax a bit, do less touring of important sights, and just take in some of the natural beauty of the area.  We spent a day on the beach in Positano, which was gorgeous, and although the water was way too cold for me, the kids got in and loved it.  Positano was such a lovely town — there were great shops and cool restaurants and all the pretty pastel-hued houses are built into the side of the mountain, some practically hanging out over the water.

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On our second day there, which happened to be Quinn’s 6th birthday, we hiked the Path of the Gods, an amazing and famous walking trail that winds along the top of the ridge from Amalfi to Positano and offers breath-taking views of the Mediterranean and the rocky coast. 

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There is a path the intersects the long hiking trail in Praiano, so rather than go to Amalfi to start, we simply walked up the mountainside from our little house and joined the trail about 2/3 of the way through.  In order to get to the trail, though, we had to climb 1,000 steps from the road in Praiano up to the hilltop where we joined the official “Path of the Gods”.  The steps were steep, unevenly spaced and of irregular height, and some were crumbling away a bit.  And, as with everything in Europe, there were no guardrails or handrails. 

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About twenty minutes into our climb, I began to seriously doubt our decision-making; I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it all the way up with the four kids.  My legs were burning from all the stairs, some of which were tall for even me to step up to, so they were really tall for the children.  And I was nervous about the kids’ lack of fear — I didn’t want to scare them so they weren’t enjoying the hike, but I did want them to understand that caution was required.  Since we didn’t know how far we’d really gone and how far ahead the stairs joined the walking trail, I was hesitant to suggest turning back in case going on was a shorter, less precarious route.  Although neither Matt nor I actually mentioned turning back during our hike, we both admitted afterwards that we considered it.

I’m so glad we didn’t.

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We made it up the stairs and joined the Path of the Gods, and walked the next few miles along the ridge line overlooking the terraced farms of vineyards and lemon orchards and the impossibly blue Mediterranean. 

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The weather was perfect.  The views were amazing.  And not once did any of the children complain.  I have had quite a few proud moments as a mother, but this day, this hike, ranks high on the list.

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The following day we took a boat trip to Capri.  Boarding from the little beach in Praiano, we spent about 2.5 hours cruising across the Mediterranean on the way to, and then encircling, the island of Capri.  It. Was. AMAZING.  IMG_1379

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The water is ludicrously blue, the boat went straight into some of the caves and grottos around the island, and I could happily have spent the entire day on the boat just cruising around. 

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The island of Capri was beautiful, as well — and all the cabs had convertible tops! We didn’t do many of the recommended tourist attractions there, though.  All we did was take a stroll through the adorable and quaint main part of town, have some lunch and, of course, gelato.

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Then we walked down the hill to a lovely beach where Matt and I plunked down on the smooth rocks (no sand on this beach) and the kids joyfully plunged into the (freezing) sea. 

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The Amalfi Coast was by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and if we had planned correctly, we’d have flown straight home after our relaxing few days there. 

Instead, though, we headed back to Rome for one more night.  While it was lovely, we were all quite over the tourist-ing.  The kids didn’t want to see another single sight (although we did force march them to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, both of which were very cool but ridiculously crowded).  We were done with restaurants (although we did head back to Trastevere and have one more amazing meal).  We were tired.  We were ready to go home. 

Our trip to Italy was, in a single word, epic.  It has now moved into first place on my list of favorite countries, and I can’t wait to go back.


Also, read about our other Italian Adventures: Rome, Florence, and Naples!


 

Did You Miss Me?

climbing the eiffel tower

Climbing the Eiffel Tower!

I didn’t set out last month to take a blogging break, but that’s what happened.  Nothing major occurred, just a lot of everyday stuff that took precedence.  Life is busy this time of the year and something had to give.  Hopefully I’m back up and running now.

This has been a month of chilly, wet weather, cricket matches, a bit of travel, and lots of end-of-the-year school events.

We traveled to Paris for three days, which was…interesting.  I’ll go into more details later, but let’s just say that not every trip can go smoothly.

Bridget had her final exams in school — although she’s only in the equivalent of American 6th grade, they had the whole month of May homework-free in order to study.  Then she had an exam week right before Memorial Day and took a total of something like sixteen exams; it was remarkably similar to a finals week in American high school, except with MORE tests than I ever remember taking in one week.  It was intense.  Although she had a few freak-outs over the course of the month, overall she handled the added responsibility just as she has handled everything else throughout the rest of this school year: with remarkable maturity and impressive organization.  She ACED the exams, coming back with the 3rd highest overall exam average in her year.  To say I am proud of this child would be a laughable understatement.

The children had an awards day at each of their schools.  Bridget earned the Academic Achievement award for her class.  Gabriel was given the “Most Improved” award, and Quinn received the Effort award.  Matt and I were basically popping with pride.  I think Owen felt a bit badly that he didn’t get any awards, but we assured him that we were proud of him anyway (and possibly may have reminded him that he has to actually, consistently, put his best effort in if he wants to be rewarded in school).  The awards ceremonies were followed by champagne and canapes at the Castle (which, remember, is the central building of the school). ‘Cause that’s how we roll here.  American schools are going to feel so lame after this.

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The British spring has been grey and cold, but the sun is shining this week and it finally feels like the end of the school year is nigh and summer might be here.  Our last day is July 6th, obviously late by U.S. standards, but a full two weeks earlier than British state schools.  I am looking forward to summer vacation.  I’m looking forward to a more relaxed schedule, and I’m looking forward to getting back to writing.


Also, I may be busy, but at least I’m not 20+ hours-per-week-at-the-baseball-field-busy


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