Tag Archives: adventure

Menorca, Spain

I had to turn the heat on in my house today because it was so cold I couldn’t feel the tip of my nose.  While I waited for the radiators to heat up so I could lean against them and get warm, I flipped through the photo album from our summer trip to Menorca. 

Beaches and sunshine — even just in photos  — made me warmer.

Menorca is an island off the coast of Spain, the less-well-known sister to Ibiza and Mallorca. 

Quaint and relaxed and pristine, this was one of the most ruggedly beautiful places we’ve been. 

With a pool in the back yard of our fantastic Airbnb and two beaches within a five-minute walk from our house, this quick 4-day trip was all about relaxation. 

But because we can’t sit still for four straight days, it was also about kayaking and snorkeling and catamaran trips.

We sailed around the island on a big catamaran, jumped off the boat and explored hidden coves, fed the seagulls and the fish. 

My children took turns steering the boat.

The kids had never been snorkeling before, but we bought everyone fins and masks before the trip and they took to it, well, like fish to water. 

Fearless and curious, they swam around the coves and beaches in shallow pools and in water 20+ feet deep, searching out cool fish and crazy rock formations. 

A little octopus, maybe a foot across stretched out tentacle-to-tentacle made an appearance at the beach one day, wrapping himself around Matt’s shin to announce his presence, and for twenty minutes we all followed him and his swirling progress across the ocean floor, just amazed and mesmerized.

White sandy beaches surrounded by rocky cliffs.  Crystal clear water and nothing but sunshine for days on end. 

All the seafood we could eat. 

We baked in the sunshine, read books on the beach, climbed the rocks, and swam in the sea.  

We threw ourselves into the Spanish lifestyle, eating dinner at 9PM. 

Not all of us made it to dessert every night.

Whenever it’s cold this winter, when it’s rainy and windy and raw and damp and the chill gets in my bones and I just can’t get warm, I’ll look back on this trip and remember the perfect sun and it will get me through.

Menorca was amazing.  You should go.

The Last of Everything

We’re back to school here and settling in to the lovely routine of fall and sports and activities.  The lazy days of summer stretched out for what seemed like ages, and we soaked up the slow mornings and relaxed schedules and late bedtimes and weekend trips.  But by the end of August we were all ready for the hustle and bustle to return; even relaxation gets old if you do too much of it. 

But even in it’s welcome familiarity, this school year is different.  It’s our last here in England.  I feel it more deeply than the kids, I think, for whom the last two years seem to have been a lifetime.  I know how quickly the next months will go by.

I’ve already started my morbid tendency to memorialize the “last time” we’re about to do anything.  And this year makes it so easy.  This is my last September in England.  I’m strolling around my garden, saying goodbye to September roses and apples on trees and conkers – those most British of garden friends, little spiky balls that kids pelt one another with and which supposedly keep the spiders out of your house.  Every school event is our last: the last autumn cross-country season, the last back to school night with a wine and cheese bar, the last hurrah for all of it.  Events and traditions that were so foreign to us just two short years ago have so quickly become near and dear; my heart is already sad to let it all go.

We don’t have to leave, really.  Matt’s job will still be here, we could keep on with the grand adventure.  But all good things must come to an end, and we’re choosing a new adventure, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

There are things we miss about home that will make returning worth it.  But we’re new people now, we’ve changed in ways I never anticipated, and our lives are better for having lived somewhere new and different and foreign.  We won’t be satisfied going back to the same old thing we left behind.  And so the challenge will be to create a whole new life, with equal parts America and England, to find the balance between what we missed while we lived away and what we learned to love even more than anything we’d known before coming.

But first, this last year.  I’ll fight my natural inclination to live in the future and do my best to be present.  I don’t want to take away the joys of actually being here, not from me or Matt or the kids. 

And we’ve got big plans to finish — the ever-growing and changing list of places to see remains a work in progress, but with a much more limited time frame in which to accomplish it all.  Plans are constantly in the works, reservations being made, suggestions added and reality ignored for the most part.  There’s no way to do everything we want, to be honest.  And so, we say, we’ll have good reasons to come back and visit.

With the autumn well upon us here, and football for the boys and hockey for Bridget and turning leaves and holidays and half-term trips, this beginning of the end is upon us, and it’s just up to us to make the most of it.

Family Trip to Ireland, Part One: Dublin

Our trip to Ireland last week was one for the ages — we traveled with my parents, drove the entire breadth of the country in a 9-passenger van, and visited the farm where my grandfather grew up and where my mom’s cousins still live.  It was a multi-generational experience that we’ll never forget.

We started out in Dublin, which is where my Dad’s Dad was born.  Rather than go our normal Airbnb route, we found that hotel rooms were actually a better fit for this part of the trip.  Since we had four adults traveling, we could get two rooms and split the kids up.  We knew we’d be spending very little time in our rooms because the two days in Dublin were PACKED with activity, so having a kitchen wasn’t a necessity.  We stayed at the Jurys Inn Christchurch and the location was super convenient to everything.  And it included breakfast, which is always a bonus with my children who wake up starving every day.

We arrived in Dublin mid-afternoon and got lunch at a cool restaurant called Bull and Castle near our hotel.  We walked around a bit, strolled along the Liffey River that runs through the city, walked across the famous Ha’Penny Bridge, and did a bit of shopping on Grafton Street (which Bridget was super excited about because it’s mentioned in her new favorite song, Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran).  Then we headed to Croke Park, a huge 80,000-seat stadium in Dublin, to watch a Gaelic football match!  This was the first time in all our travels that we’ve gone to a sporting event, but I don’t think it will be the last.  It was so much fun!  My Mom’s Dad played Gaelic football in the 1940s for a team in Galway called the Tuam Stars and he used to play in Croke Park — it was absolutely amazing to see the stadium and know my grandfather played there when he was young.  Gaelic football is also really exciting to watch; it’s fast and requires a level of athleticism and agility that is incredible to watch.  Everyone was totally into it — we had a great time.

The next day, which was actually my Dad’s birthday, we did a Hop-on/Hop-off Bus Tour.  We’ve done these in a few places, and although it’s definitely tourist-y and a bit cliched, I think it’s one of the best ways to get an overview of a city, learn some history, and be able to choose which sites you want to see in more depth.  Dublin is not a huge place, so we were able to see the entire city and get off at a bunch of cool stops to explore. 

The first place we went was to Phoenix Park, which is 7x the size of Central Park in Manhattan, and home to the Dublin Zoo and the Irish White House.  In the park is a herd of “wild” Fallow Deer that was originally established in 1660.  They roam the park at will, but because they are so used to people, they’re not skittish and we were able to walk right up to the herd.  Another family there had a bag of carrots with them which they shared with us and we were able to hand-feed the deer — it was like being in a Disney movie! 

We got lunch at a tea room in the park, then hopped back on the bus and headed to Trinity College, where we walked through the gorgeous library and saw the Book of Kells.  Somehow the boys had all learned about the process by which scribes created books like the Book of Kells and they were all excited to see it and were telling me how it was created and decorated before we even got inside.  Any time my kids get excited by history and start teaching me what they’ve learned, I consider it a win.  The library itself is just breath-taking.  I totally had ceiling envy the whole time.

Then we hopped back on the bus and took it to the Guinness Storehouse where we had a tour of the brewery and a pint in the Gravity Bar, a 360-degree glass room at the top of the factory tower overlooking the whole city.  The tour was really cool and even the kids loved it — it was really visually interesting, full of cool facts and information, and the perfect birthday outing for my Dad.

Dublin was a really cool city — it felt very international and we heard tons of different accents and languages being spoken as we walked around.  Because it’s fairly small, I think you could get to know it really well pretty quickly. And there were so many fantastic shops and restaurants that we saw and wanted to explore but just couldn’t fit them in just two days.  I would love to go back again.  I think we all would!

For the next part of our Ireland adventure, we picked up a 9-passenger van and headed west to Killarney, Galway, and Connemara!  Coming soon!

The Halfway Point

Tomorrow marks 18 months since we moved to England.  We’re here for another 18 months before we head back to America.  This is the halfway point. And still I sometimes can’t believe we’re even here and we made this happen.  I love living in England,I truly do.  I love that we did this big thing and we’ll always remember it and it changed us in so many good ways.

I even don’t mind the weather; I can deal with grey chilly winters with a great deal more tolerance and grace than I can handle humid, sticky summers with 95+ degree temps. 

We’ve already done so much in our first 18 months here, but we really do have even more left that we want to do.  I’m glad we’ve got another 18 months, but even with that time I doubt we’ll ever do everything on “the list”.  Mostly because the list grows faster than we can check items off of it.

It’s astounding to me to look back at the first few weeks and months we were here and realize how insanely overwhelmed I was.  I didn’t really comprehend it at the time, because when you’re really inundated, you just do what you have to do without processing it too much.  But then I read my journal or this blog and I can hear the notes of panic behind my voice back then.

Not anymore, though.  Now it’s just normal here. 

I’m used to the insanely narrow roads and the slightly different version of English.  I love the longer school days and the longer school year and the much longer school breaks.  I know that we must take advantage of sunny weather anytime we have it because it doesn’t happen all that often.

I know now that every pub in the country serves a Sunday roast ONLY on Sundays, really there are no other restaurant options that day.  That there’s always fish on Fridays.  That tea isn’t just the drink, but also a term for an early dinner.  That pudding means dessert of any type.

I know that sweaters are jumpers and sneakers are trainers and pants are trousers and underwear are pants.

I know that we’re all expected to just get on with things, regardless of the weather or the complications or the extenuating circumstances.  Stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, and all that.

I also know that my kids are amazingly adaptable and will rise to any challenge.  That they embrace whatever they’re doing and wherever they are with open arms and their whole hearts.  I know they can and will be fine anywhere they go, because I’ve seen them adapt and overcome and assimilate.

I know, too,  that Matt and I can get through difficult things with a reasonable amount of humor and cooperation.  We can navigate through really, really confusing times and we can fake it till we make it, and we always do it together.  I love that.

More than anything else, more than the amazing travel and the incredible schools, what I know and love is that we’re doing something that has forever changed us and will forever stay with us.  We are different today than we were when we got on that plane in August of 2015, and the things we’ve done and learned and experienced have shaped us into more well-rounded, adventurous, adaptable, happier, more open-minded people.  No matter where we go or what we do for the rest of our lives, these years in England will stay with us.

Here’s to another 18 months, and to all the adventures behind and ahead.

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