Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rome, Part 2

After dragging the kids to all the ancient sites of Rome, we decided to take a day to play and relax in the Villa Borghese gardens, an enormous park within walking distance of our hotel.  It was on this day, our third day in Rome, that we discovered Kate had thought she was in Africa the whole time.  These "Lion King" trees gave her the idea:

They do look African, don't they?  Suddenly all Kate's comments about giraffes (which she was convinced would be lurking around every corner) made sense.  Poor Kate.  We straightened her out and she seemed perfectly content to discover she was actually in Italy, not Africa.

Really, how could she be unhappy when there was a beautiful carousel like this for her to ride?

The highlight of the day had to be the family pedal car we rented.

We even let Will drive a little bit.  He's got a long way to go before he's ready for a learner's permit, let me tell you.  But doesn't he look proud?

Kate thoroughly enjoyed herself:

But then, Kate always does.   The pedal car was a fantastic way to explore the park.  We discovered some incredible views along the way:

After returning the pedal car, we wandered down to the Spanish Steps,

which were beautiful but overrun with tourists.

Will decided to cool off in this fountain at the bottom of the steps.
That was a common theme for Will during our stay in Rome.  He couldn't resist soaking his head, splashing around or getting a drink from every fountain we passed.

Here he is blocking the spout so the water shoots out of the hole midway down the pipe, effectively turning it into a drinking fountain.  Just like a native!

Near the foot of the steps we found another wonderful piazza (Piazza del Popolo) with more fountains to entertain Will.

The streets surrounding the Spanish Steps are filled with chic boutiques.  I particularly loved the shoe display at this one:

The next day we headed over to Vatican City to tour the museums there and see St. Peter's Basilica.  For once, we actually got a decent family picture.  No one's making a face, crying or trying to escape!

Since the museum is so vast -- over 7 miles of corridors! -- we had to be pretty selective about what we saw.  Naturally, the Egyptian museum was at the top of the list.

It had the best mummy I've seen to date.  You could get right up close and look at its withered face.  Gross.  Will, of course, loved it.

The map room was gorgeous -- Kate's favorite!

On our way back to our hotel, we wandered over to the Piazza Navona where we stumbled upon a show:  A young man, dressed, somewhat inexplicably, in a loincloth and gobs of black eyeliner, performed all kinds of terrifying deeds:  walking on broken glass, inhaling fire, blowing huge flames out of his mouth and, as shown here, laying on a bed of nails while a participant from the audience stood on his stomach.

Will was absolutely captivated.  He thought it was worth a few Euros.

Kate's response?  "I wonder if that man's parents know what he does all day?" :)  Me too, Kate...

We spent about three hours in the Vatican Museums and another hour or so in St. Peter's, and the kids were beat by the end.  Frequent gelato stops helped a lot (gelato for the kids, cappuccino -- and gelato-- for the adults.  I love Italy!)

Obviously, no complaints here either!

Rome, Part 1

Just before school started up again, we managed to squeeze in one last trip, this time to Italy.  We spent four days in Rome and three days in Sorrento, right on the cusp of Italy's Amalfi Coast.  It was wonderful.  And warm!  I think I may actually have gotten my fill of sunshine, letting it soak into my bones in an attempt to store it up for the cold, gray winter ahead.  I'm missing it now as I sit here shivering under a down blanket, looking out at the drizzly, gloomy sky.  It was so nice to be warm!

Weather aside, we had a great time in Rome.

There were lots of statues of famous ancient Romans:

... which delighted Will to no end.  He's a huge fan of the series, Horrible Histories, and apparently Rotten Romans is especially gory.  Which, I guess, is to be expected.

So, he was very excited to see the Coliseum...

...which is just as ancient as impressive as you'd expect, both inside and out.  

Surrounding the Coliseum (and any big tourist destination) were groups of Gladiators (or are they Roman soldiers?  Apparently, as Will informed me, there is a difference but I don't remember it now).  Anyway, these guys...

... who for the bargain price of 10 Euros, allowed Will to pose for a picture with them.  For that price, I figured I'd get in on the action too.

Kate wouldn't stand within 20 feet of these guys.  Too scary!

After that, we headed over to the Bocca della VeritĂ .  Supposedly, it will bite off the hands of liars, so we -- along with everyone else in Rome -- waited in line for the chance to have our hands amputated by this ancient carving.  Will was a little nervous...

...but he did it and came out unscathed.  Kate thought the whole thing was hilarious...

...until it came up to actually sticking in her own little hand.  She got uncharacteristically quiet but eventually put her hand in.

I'm so relieved to find out my children are honest.  Incidentally, speaking of honesty, if you visit the Bocca del Verita, don't fall for the same rip-off we did.  After you leave the mouth, you have to exit through the church to which it's attached.  As we did, we were beckoned over by a priest who told us there was something interesting to see in the church's crypt.  So we headed down the stairs only to discover absolutely nothing of interest.  NOTHING!  Maybe there was a statue of the Virgin Mary, which, believe me, are a dime a dozen in Rome.  As we ascended the staircase, the priest once again approached us, asking if we cared to make a donation for our most fascinating visit.  Not wanting to be rude, we gave him a couple of Euros.  For the five seconds we were there!  Unbelievable.

Anyway, Rome is famous for its beautiful fountains and justly so.  Here are the kids in front of the Trevi Fountain.

Naturally, the kids had to throw coins in the fountain to ensure their return to Rome.  Will was more interested in plotting how he'd spend the fortune contained in the fountain, if only he could manage to sneak it out.  No chance of that, as there were hordes of policemen around blowing whistles at anyone attempting to steal the coins or to splash in the fountain.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A few random photos

Here are a few pictures taken in the last week or two.  This'll have to do until I get around to posting our pictures from Rome!

Last gasp of summer....

....and first taste of fall:
Pumpking picking, Sprinkange

Incredible rainbow spotted on my evening walk:

Wine festival in Grevenmacher:

Even the fence was grape-themed!

And they had marching bands, lots of marching bands:

Kate gathering the strange, little poky balls that are falling from the tree in our favorite park:

And Will in the ruins in the Roman Villa at Echternach:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My big boy

He may be six years old now...
He may be in real, full-day school...
He may be reading Harry Potter to himself rather than listening to Good Night Moon at bedtime...
He may roll his eyes and mutter, "Oh, Mom, please!" when I try to hug him in public.

But he still sleeps with the precious little kitty* he's had since he was nine months old.

...which means he is not THAT big of a big boy, right?

*This is THE "Kitty," the one for whom he begged me to knit a pouch so she could accompany him to preschool, tied to his belt loop, the one who sparked countless frantic searches around the house, the park, half the city of San Francisco, when she inevitably went missing again. (Note:  Don't let your child become attached to a friend who is only three inches long.).  On one of her more memorable escapades, Kitty accidentally accompanied Daddy to Amsterdam--and, of course, sent regular photo updates to Will sharing her adventures.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gigi's Visit -- Part 2

In the second half of Gigi's visit, we spent some time in Luxembourg, visiting the annual Schueberfouer festival which runs for 20 days at the end of each summer.  If you can believe it, this year was its 670th celebration.  Really!  670 years!!!  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one...

It's basically a huge carnival with rides, games and fantastic food.  They started setting it up weeks before it opened, bringing in dozens of entire restaurants.  Not just fast-food carts at this fair!

The massive ferris wheel was visible from all over the city:

And from the top, the view was incredible:

The kids had to test out the other rides, of course.  The bumper cars were a big hit.  No pun intended.

Kate managed to hold onto her sunglasses despite getting bumped all over the ring.

Gigi gave both kids some money to spend on rides.  Kate used hers wisely but poor Will--despite plenty of parental warnings--was suckered into one of those claw games (where you attempt to grab some prize with a claw and never do) and of course lost every cent.  So no more rides for him.  A tough but important lesson.  He consoled himself with an enormous waffle...

...while Kate tried out this Native American canoe ride.

To complete Gigi's four-country tour, we headed over to Manderen, France, to visit Malbrouck Castle.

In and of itself, the castle is worth a visit but there was also an exhibition by a popular sculptor, Niki de Saint Phalle, the artist responsible for Luxembourg's famous "Blue Lady," official name "La TempĂ©rance."  The bright, colorful sculptures were gorgeous in the castle gardens but, unfortunately, no photography was allowed.  They were adamant.  I didn't even dare sneak a photo.  But the view of the countryside from the top of the castle was pretty gorgeous too.

I think the kids liked these wavy mirrors outside the castle best anyway:

They could've spent hours in front of these things!

Back to School!

So today was the first day of school.  Though we were all dreading the early, hectic mornings, I think we were ready to go back.  And it went well.  I will say, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.  I was SO happy to see those kids when the school day was over!  Both of them had friends from last year in their classes, and both new teachers met with approval.  So, all in all, back to school is a good thing!

Here they are on the way out the door this morning:
First day of School 2010

I think Will was starting to have second thoughts at this point; thus the dismal expression.  Please ignore the breakfast smeared all over his face. I did wipe it off before he walked into the classroom.  Kate, whose sleeping body was literally dragged out of bed 15 minutes before this photo was taken, couldn't wait to go to school. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gigi's Visit -- Part 1

A few weeks ago, Roger's mom (also known as Gigi) came to visit.  It was her first trip to Luxembourg and we were all so excited!  Unfortunately, Roger spent a good part of her visit in the U.S. but we still had lots of fun.
Gig and the kids in the Grund

During her visit, we managed to take Gigi to four different countries.

To start off, we took a trip to (1) Trier, Germany.  We'd been there before but this time we did one of those Hop-On Hop-Off bus trips, and the kids loved it.  It took us by the ancient Roman ruins and then up to the top of the hill which provided a spectacular view (sorry, no pictures).

Then, we headed to (2)  Bruges, Belgium.  What a beautiful place!  Even Will, who's not easily impressed these days, loved it.  The whole town looked like a postcard:

  One of the highlights was a horse and carriage ride.  Yes, it's corny but the kids loved it.  I did too, actually.  Here's the horse.  He had a name but I forgot it:

The jostling of the carriage didn't do much for my pictures, since my camera battery died and I had to rely on my iPhone.  So most of my pictures look like this:

But you can see how much fun the kids are having:

We also took a boat ride on one of the many canals crisscrossing Bruges.  

It afforded beautiful views of the architecture:

And this cute dog the guide said was always perched on this windowsill:

The kids also loved our hotel:

Will was particularly fond of this little critter on the staircase:

We loved Bruges. 

We want to go back!!