We're an adventurous family, taking all opportunities to travel and get out and about as much as possible. From our quick day trippin' to weekenders to week and even month long trips I hope to capture as much as I can in this Blog.

Please enjoy our photos and my words and feel free to leave a comment at the end of the post; I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Let's go for pizza in Tuscany"

Years ago while backpacking through Europe with a good friend we were passing through the Italian border on train; and I swear to it still to this day, that the air smelled different as soon as we crossed into Italy. Sweeter air. A hint of Marlboro, a dab of jasmine, a smidgen of exhaust.

I was never more certain about this fact than when I stepped off the airplane with Little B in tow onto the hot tarmac of the Parma Airport in Northern Italy.

It had been my goal to set foot on Italian soil while I still had the chance. My father's childhood home, now our family getaway awaits him every summer as he travels to Italy for 3 months. I myself haven't been there since 1994. A second crazed backpacking journey landed me closer to the south in Palermo, Sicily for 6 months in 1998. I was too mesmerized by disco's and the nightlife to travel North to visit family.

(just click on the photos to enlarge them)

Little B being the fantastic traveler that he is.

So the opportunity seemed too good to be true. Me; at home on maternity leave, Little B just shy of 4 years old would make the perfect travel companion. Little C and Daddy could guard the homefront. It would have been a hundred times the experience if we could have traveled together as a family, but work obligations, young baby, and the cold hard fact...$$$$$, kept us from creating that memory. Instead I decided that Little B and I would take to the skies. We flew out of our small airport headed for Vancouver International Airport to catch our connecting flight. Our goodbyes behind us, we were both brimming with excitement. Catching our flight to London Gatwick went by without a hitch, and we arrived on the other side of the pond at 7:00am their time. Little B having had a nap on the floor of the plane was rested. I on the other hand had been stuck in a non-reclining seat and had slept maybe 1/2 an hour. I arrived in London with a crooked sore neck, red puffy eyes, and a desperate need for sleep.

My cousin J opened her home to us for the next few days. Her patient son M gave up his bedroom for us and I am eternally grateful to him. Especially after he endured WWIII when he was forced to camp out on his little sisters floor. Sorry M:)
After some much needed rest we were taken c
are of wonderfully. Cousin J had boxes of her boys old toys brought down from the attic so Little B was in heaven. Loads of dinosaurs, oodles of train tracks, and boys toys galore kept him busy for the time we spent indoors. A good part of Little B's time was spent trying to coax his 3rd cousin out of his lair to play.
There's not to many 18 year olds who want to spend time playing with 3 year olds, so a huge thanks goes out to him for putting on a brave face and giving Little B some playtime. I'm sure it didn't make the hangovers any better!

Little B getting along famously with cousin A.

Cousin J being sneeky.
She knew my camera addiction was going to catch her sooner or later.

Me and my second cousin A.

There wasn't much time wasted. We were off to Lego Land our second day there. Unfortunately I forgot my camera...eegads!!! So you must close your eyes and imagine rip roaring rides, boats careening down waterfalls into splashing water, foot long hot dogs, space ships and so much more. Sunday we ventured into London by train to visit my next cousin and his family. Cousin B and his beautiful wife have 2 angelic little girls. They put on a lavish spread for us and we dined and caught up on the past decade. After a long day sight-seeing in London and visiting we footed it to the subway. I was reprimanded over the loudspeaker for using my flash on my camera, and cousin J nearly got cut in half when she decided to stop the subway doors from closing in order to get Little B and me on safely. We guiltily stood there and gawked at her defiant struggle until her knight in shining armor, pulled her and her daughter to safety! He also piggy backed Little B around London when his little 3 year old feet got tired. Thanks B!

London sight-seeing. Visiting Cousin B's home.

Monday was a real treat. Urged by none other than me, my dear second cousin A decided to skip school and visit the English Seaside with us. On the look out for truancy officers the whole time, I don't really know if she ever relaxed. I suppose when she stripped down to her knickers and jumped into the ocean she was cutting loose a bit!! (No A, I won't post the photos of you in your undies, don't worry!) The absolute best fish and chips by the seaside was the crowing glory on an already perfect day.

Our day enjoying the English seaside. Fish n' chips and hovercrafts!

More visits from family as my cousin J and his wife and 3 children came over for a dinner out with everyone. My Little B met his match with his 3rd cousin little L. His growls and ferocious faces were met with her own wrath. I was indebted yet again when cousin J offered to drive me 3 hours north to visit my Aunt and Uncle. Off we roared in his miniature mini-van and arrived safely at our destination. Little B was in heaven as my Uncle C and Auntie N introduced him to their 2 tortoises, 2 newts, Rottie Inka, and Pointer Gabby. Another 2 Rotties were safely tucked away at the kennels to give us some more room!

We were treated like royalty yet again. A delicious Pub dinner, a visit to the ever so exciting Monkey World, a boat ride, shopping....we were asleep every night before 10pm as fast as our heads hit the pillows. Canal Boats

My Aunt and Uncle drove us to the airport 2.5 hours away so we could catch
our flight to Italy. Thank goodness for superb relatives! Bryce and I left rainy england with pants and sweaters, and when we walked off the plane and onto the sweltering tarmac at Parma Airport, I knew our vacation was headed in the right direction. Grandpa L was there in his lovely Panda 4x4 to drive us 'home'. 2 white knuckled hours later we arrived in Rovignalia.

Looking back towards our home from the church. Ours is the small bit of white you can see behind the trees in the top/middle of the photo.

Rovignalia consists of 4 or 5 cluster of detached and semi-detached villas scattered along a small windy road on the side of a mountain. The 'bones' of our house dates back to 600A.D. My fathers mother lived there up until her death in 1995. My Nona willed it to her children. 2 of which, my fathers sisters, live or have homes in Italy already. He bought them out about 10 years ago and has since then traveled to Italy nearly every summer. My mother was the catalyst for their travels, and she held Italy near and dear to her heart. Even after she was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo vigorous treatments, they traveled to Italy with medicine in hand visiting the Hospital in Parma weekly to have the treatments administered. Even cancer wasn't going to keep them away from their land; their love. My mother has since passed away and in part I think it was her love of the country and it's people, coupled with my own that drove me to visit this year. Seeing everything I hold near and dear about the country mixed together with all that I know my mother adored, made me cherish it all that much more.

Rovignalia's Church. A short stroll down the road from our home.

Borgo Val di Taro. The main town of about 6000 people. Our home in Rovignalia is 7 KM's away, up a small windy road.

A small cluster of homes just beside ours.

Different views of our home, both inside and from the outside

A Pizzeria on the way to Maranello to the Ferrari Factory and museum.

The Ferrari Museum...of course!

Rooftops of Bardi as seen from the castle.

Little B collecting sour cherries.

It's fair to say a few things about Italy. The people drive too fast. The pizza is the best you will ever taste in your life. The women are gorgeous. You take your own life in your hands when using a marked crosswalk. The coffee is out of this world. There seems to be no safety standard. People drive too fast! (did I already mention that?) Children are spoiled rotten.

About the driving. If you aren't going around every corner on 2 wheels you will most likely get honked off the road. My father seemed to adopt this ridiculous way of driving as soon as he landed in Italy. My nerves were slashes, fried, and burned every time I regretfully buckled myself into his little car. I offered to and did end up driving a fair bit here and there in order to save me from having a heart attack at the hands of a crazy Italian. I also informed my father on many occasions that he was driving too fast, was going to kill us all, and to pull the damn car over so I could get behind the wheel. Most of my comments where met with indifference.

The phone booth that I called home from every couple days.
My father and Little B and the Panda calling home to Canada.

A typical Italian specialty store. This one selling cheese and fresh pastas.

Little B in a field of daisies just minutes from our house.

Little B entertaining his friends. He wasn't going to let age and language affect his natural ability to socialize and make friends.

Little B had the time of his life. The homes around ours are filled with elderly Italians who have since moved to England and visit Italy in the summer. Only my fathers sister, her husband, and 1 other neighbor live there year round. Everyone is 70+ years old and Little B couldn't have cared less. He rushed out of the house every morning informing me he was going to visit his friends. Having only a walking path run in between the houses, it was safe for him to venture from house to house collecting mints, candies, lemon aid, biscuits and whatever other treats his 'friends' would supply. He had everyone dialed the moment he arrived. Who knew?! Little B did get a couple chances to meet and play with kids his own age, but the language barrier was usually to big a hurdle for any of them to really have a good time. It wasn't until our last night there we went out for pizza and met the proprietors daughter. A lively little girl of 4 who immediately pulled up a chair and joined us for dinner. After 'ordering' her mother and father to make her a pizza and trying to bat her eyelashes and steal my Coke, her and Little B played and got on like best friends. Too bad it was our last night there

A super adorable new Italian Car that I would love to bring home to Canada.

Little B and his friend at her Pizzeria.

Lunch in Pontremoli, Tuscany. About an hours drive from our home.

The narrow streets of Pontremoli, Tuscany.

Various photos of Pontremoli.

The 2 weeks in Italy seemed to move by at the perfect speed. We visited castles, walked through ruins, cobble stone roads, daily markets, ate pizza, gelato, MORE pizza and gelato!! We suntanned, drove the countryside, visited with long lost relatives, played in rivers filled with tadpoles, visited private museums, peeked inside churches, chased lizards, read books, and even had time for some lazy afternoon naps. It wasn't until our last 2 days there that both Little B and I were terribly homesick.

More photos of our daily outings.

Our trip home was happily uneventful. We hopped a train downtown and 1 hour later arrived in Parma. The taxi driver thought I was insane as I fiddled with the carseat for Little B, making sure it was secure. Although I had seen many children unbuckled in cars, I had seen some carseats in vehicles so I figured I shouldn't be considered to paranoid. The wait at the airport proved to be a lesson in patience when after 5 hours, the plane was 1 hour late. we boarded and were held again for 1 hour on the tarmac. We finally lifted off and I bid a sad farewell to Italy, wishing desperately that I will visit again in 5 years with my whole family. The plane arrived at the airport in England and we boarded a bus for a very long 3 hour ride to London Gatwick where we stayed the night at the Holiday Inn. Bright and early the next morning we bussed it to the airport and after a 1.5 hour delay we boarded our flight home to Vancouver. Thankfully we made out connecting flight out of Vancouver by hauling some serious ass through the airport with the luggage dolly filled to the brim with Little B, a huge suitcase, 2 packsacs and the car seat teetering ontop! I have always wondered about those people you see frantically bolting through the airport...well, I was that person and I hope to never be again!!

Having none other than MacDonald's in London at the airport before our flight home.

Coming down through the turbulence into the Okanagan Valley was maybe the most beautiful thing I could have experienced. The anticipation of seeing my baby. Would she remember me after 3 weeks? Had she changed? Will she cry, laugh, smile?? I was nearly in tears thinking about seeing Big B and her and forewarned Little B that mummy may cry when we see daddy. He thought I was crazy and did not understand why someone would cry if they were happy. I guess thats something only adults do! I did end up holding the tears back, and was elated to see my husband had magically grown even more handsome. My darling baby morphed into a beauty queen and although she didn't give me the smile I had hoped for she didn't cry when I squeezed her tight. It took a couple days for her to settle into our 'new' routine and I seriously think she may have forgotten all about me had I not returned. I suppose babies and children are resilient that way. I joke about her thinking her daycare provider was her mummy after I left. She's all mine now though, and the recognition is back.

Now settled at home and reflecting back on my journey to a far off land I am reminded about what I love best about traveling. You can plan, anticipate, and absolutely love your vacation to death; wanting the time away, no obligation, stress free living, eating out, sight-seeing, lazy days, and no housework to go on forever...but the minute you step foot inside your home, or are held and hugged by those you had left while away, you positively feel that 'home is where the heart is'.


Karen Watts (Thiel) said...

Wow. I've just spent the past hour shooing the kids away so that I can go through your blog. Melody, you truly are a talented writer and I can only hope that one day you'll write professionally so that everyone can experience your thoughts. I'm not sure why, but I have tears in my eyes right now...maybe because I'm happy to see you so happy (adults DO cry when we're happy, you know) :o). You have a very hansome husband, beautiful kids and very cute "animal" family members! Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh, m, i have been choking back tears the whole time i was reading your blog, especially the end...i've always wanted to go to italy...i want to go even more now! that was such an amazing adventure and i'm so excited to catch up with you in person, my friend.
luv, shauna

Anonymous said...

momma, love you're blog. tim mcgraw says "i don't know why they say grown men don't cry"...and i don't know either.

but i do know that even though i missed the adventure, i'm glad that it happened the way it did...cuz i'm sure glad you two are home!! i love our charmed life and i wouldn't change a thing! Love daddyO

zoe said...

Tears in my eyes ? Choking back the tears ? WHATEVER !!! I have been blubbering away like someone's soon to be mother-in-law at an Italian Catholic Wedding!
Your writing is beautiful, and the photos are dreamy! I might not make it to New Zealand after seeing your blog. Hmmmmm I wonder if Danny can get A/C work in Tuscany ?
Seriously tho... after having some reservations about picking up with our two year old and jetting off to the other side of the world with nothing set up for us when we get there... Your words have inspired me not only to go and enjoy every minute of our adventure but also to remember how fortunate we are to be able to do it as a family. Your so right when you quote " home is where the heart is " and I quote " home is where you family is ".
Thanks so much for sharing... I'm sure I will read it again before to long when I start to get cold feet again ....

Big B,
Just when I thought I had my blubbering under control I went a read your comment ... thanks for that !