European Vacation...Crawford Style
Groeten from The Netherlands!
We are fast approaching our ninth month on the road and are all starting to feel a bit anxious for home. We have 5 weeks left to go (fly home August 5) and are excited about the final adventures awaiting us, determined to enjoy every one.
We also wanted to share with you all some of "realities" of travel that don't make their way into the bright and wonderful world of our blog. To be honest, travelling constantly with 2 young kids for a long period of time has its challenges. We've had our share of long bus rides, questionable accomodations and unrecognizable food. Just recently we got on the wrong train, had to hop off at the next stop and spend a fortune on a taxi to race to the airport to catch a flight. We have had more than a few meals where Emmett would order only bread for lack of a better choice. Not to mention the frequent trips to bathrooms that nearly defy description. Top that off with 24/7 family togetherness for 270 days (we love each other dearly but that is a LOT of togetherness) and you've got an idea of some of our challenges. These, however, are the challenges that have made us all appreciate the good old USA (despite the current administration), our city, our friends, our family and mostly each other.
Now, back to the fun... After our last entry we spent a few relaxed days on the island of Syros, Greece. We explored the beaches, rented scooters and enjoyed the great food (yogurt with honey, fresh seafood and gyros).
We then spent 2 great weeks in Italy arriving first in Milan from Greece. Our highlights there were a local pizza place near our hotel (best pizza we've had yet, claims Emmett) and seeing Da Vinci's "Last Supper". We had made reservations weeks before - a must in tourist choked Italy. The painting covers a wall in a small, unassuming church (in what used to be the dining hall of the monks) and is just spectacular.
From Milan we travelled by train to Venice. We stayed in a great old hotel there and enjoyed roaming the narrow pathways, watching how life works in a city with water streets and finding the best gelato shop. We finally decided to splurge and took a gondola ride (80€ or about $110 for 35 minutes!) but it was fun and a great way to learn about the city.
We then travelled to Florence, an amazing city full of history and incredible art. Deb found an apartment for us to rent about 3 blocks from the Duomo. We ate most of our meals in (a treat for us at this point) and the boys enjoyed having a place to call home for a few days. We climbed the Duomo tower (465 steps!), visited the Uffizi gallery (Michaelangelo and Botticelli) and took long walks after dinner.
Our final destination in Italy was Rome. We had booked 2 cabins in a campground in a suburb of Rome as a break from the crowds and city. It had a good pool (which was necessary as it was hot!) and the boys enjoyed having some room to run around. We travelled into Rome (shuttle bus to train, train to subway, subway into city) and joined the masses in visiting the Colesseum and Vatican City. We were all amazed to hear about the crazy events that used to take place in the Colesseum (not the least of which was a fight between a man and a hippo!) The Sistine Chapel is truly incredible and we were glad we braved the crowd and heat to see it.
We then flew from Rome to Barcelona, Spain and a different sort of week. I was fortunate enough to have some good buddies from home fly over to join me for our first ever "International Boys Trip". We had fun taking in the sights, trying the local sangria and even managed a round of pitch-and-putt golf. Travis Dietz joined Deb and the boys (2nd time so far this trip!) at an apartment and they had fun navigating the subway and exploring the architect Gaudi's works like The Sagrada Familia Cathedral, just blocks from their place.
Last night we flew to Amsterdam and are now visiting Deb's friend Mirjam and her family (with whom we also met up in Portugal earlier) in Rotterdam. We are again enjoying unbelievable kindness of our friends as Mirjam has provided us with a place to stay, use of a car and is a great host teaching about all things Dutch.
We look forward to seeing a lot of our friends and family in August when we return and hope you all are having a fabulous summer.