Today I got to meet my newest nephew...
Awww, you are BEAUTIFUL little man. You and your darling big brother make my heart sing!
We are home.
Well, not exactly "home" just yet :) but we are back in Australia and staying with family for the next few weeks. The boys are so excited to see everyone. We are ALL so excited to see everyone but I know how much they have been looking forward to this moment.
I didn't foresee how strongly they would feel the call of home. That's been one of the key differences of travelling with them at 8 and 10 compared to when they were babies. Their connections here. The things they have missed.
And coming home... I start to see the growth. The changes that have happened over the past few months. Not just the height and the different pattern of teeth. But them. They are changed. They've been around the world; they've seen Shakespeare performed at the Globe, slept at Oxford University, been to book festivals and theme parks and countless science museums. They've climbed the Eiffel Tower and seen the sun set over Prague. They have conquered the Tube, the Metro and the high-speed ICE trains. They have swum in the Persian Gulf, eaten Yum Cha with throngs of Chinese New Year shoppers and ordered their own macarons at Paul in Paris. In French. They've experienced so many new things. And their ever-forming minds will continue to expand as they reflect on these memories.
It's a beautiful thing. This combination of appreciation for the familiar and also for the adventure. I look forward to watching them unfold and grow even more over the next few weeks as we settle and slow. Like the masses of juicy mangoes and this beautiful pineapple growing in Nanni and Poppa's garden. Ripening :)
One of the boy's favourite things at Green Camp was learning some of the fun (nature-based) games that our Indonesian leaders played as children. Like playing Papaya leaf trumpets, popping leaves, weaving coconut palms and making these Alang Alang grass 'flyers'.
Green Camp at The Green School, Bali.
The boys and I went for a walk with Toko - our wonderful host here in Ubud - this morning.
It was quite the adventure; along muddy tracks, gapeing-holed footpaths and winding ridges, past picturesque rice paddies, handmade farm machinery and scores of ducks. Finally ending up on the other side of town where we were kindly collected by car for our return (our 8 year old made it clear he wasn't going any further!).
While we waited we were entertained by the passing traffic; particularly the motorbikes - piled with people and much more. This one was my favourite.
Dubai skyline by taxi.
We loved Dubai! What had started as a quick 2-night stopover in Abu Dhabi shifted to Dubai when we learnt about the complimentary Etihad shuttle that would take us directly from our flight. And it didn't take long to discover that we could have happily stayed a full week or more.
Even the trauma of losing my camera's memory card on our second night didn't sway the appeal, as devastating as that was and still is. Dubai was exactly what we were all needing. Shiny, modern, exciting and fun. We had been so immersed in ancient ruins and the street-worn reality that is Rome and it had somehow only amplified our own tiredness. This was like a shot of pure energy.
We "hung out at the mall" (that would be Dubai Mall aka. The World's Largest Mall) and cricked our necks admiring the Burj Khalifa (yes, that would be the World's Tallest Building. I instagrammed it here - well, the top of it at least) and frolicked in the Persian Gulf at Jumeirah Beach Park.
T went to a film (he had been waiting to see August: Osage County ever since missing the play in Sydney last year) and I took the boys to Sega Republic (indoor theme park) and Goal (indoor soccer). The soccer was super-cool; a new game starts every 15 minutes, they have an on-field referee and an electronic score board and anyone can play (for a fee) so you just turn up and you're on!
We definitely plan to go back. Hug wants to go out into the desert next time. And me....? I might just need to bring along a little shopping money ;)
p.s. We stayed at the Premier Inn Silicon Oasis (the boys had really enjoyed the Premier Inn at Gatwick). It's not close to the centre but the price was certainly right and they have their own city shuttle service.
During our stay in Dubai I lost the memory card that contains all of our photos from Italy, the end of our time in Switzerland and most of Dubai. More than 2000 photos... It was the only SD-card that hadn't been backed up :( This photo of the fountains at Dubai Mall was one the first images taken on the new card I was replacing the old one with when it was lost.
The photos are gone. And I am feeling the loss so deeply right now :
I am acutely aware that it is an insignificant loss in the grand picture of things; in comparison to all of the true loss in the world. But I was numb with grief for the first day. T held strong in his belief that we would get it back and I am greatful for his efforts.
I couldn't write this post earlier; 3 days have passed and I'm sitting on a plane flying from Singapore to Bali in Indonesia. And there are still tears. Just now the realisation that most of the photos from our visit to the Casa dei Bambini in Rome are on that card brought a new round of hot tears that fell silently but probably not invisibly to the poor Japanese woman sitting next to L and I. Sigh.
And I've been thinking about the word 'composition' and how photography parallels the composition of a poem or a piece of music - not every photo of course; there will always be those beautiful serendipitous snapshots and flawed grabs - but in many ways I feel that I massaged and composed a great deal of those photos into existence. That it is like losing 2000 little poems. I think that is partly what I'm grieving - that I can't ever share them now. On travels that haven't always been easy (but also magestic and breathtaking in so many ways) documenting our days has been my personal-space, my escape and my creative outlet. What was captured and given physical form now exists only in my mind...
We left Rome this morning. A 7am bus. An 8am train.
By lunchtime we found ourselves in Malpensa, to the north of Milan. Ready to fly in the morning. Out of Milan. Out of Europe... Goodbye London, Oxford, Carbis Bay, Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, Paris, Bern, Lucca, Florence and Rome. Sob. You will all be missed!
As Australan citizens we have been constrained to a maximum of three months in the Schzengen / European Zone - the month we spent in the UK didn't count - and sadly tomorrow is D-day.
These next few weeks will however be full of amazing contrasts as we travel from Milan - Abu Dhabi - Dubai - Abu Dhabi - Bangkok - Singapore - Bali - Sydney - Gold Coast - and... home.
That list still seems completely surreal to me but, deep breath, we're ready. Bring it on. X
One of my personal dreams came true today...
I found myself standing in the very room where Maria Montessori started her first Casa dei Bambini, or Montessori Children's House, here in the ghetto of San Lorenzo, Rome, 107 years ago.
It was something I had daydreamed about, wished for, but something I felt rather certain wouldn't actually happen. But it did... it really DID!
Ha! So seriously cool :))
I was even able to take some photos - yes, more than just this buzzer ;) - but I was nervous and trying to be respectful as it is still a working Montessori classroom. We leave Rome in the morning and have a lot of travelling ahead of us so I will post them with more of an explanation when I have the time to gather my thoughts.
But I had to share now. Blessed!
You are a complex little man L.
But somehow you never cease to show me your beautiful soul, even in the midst of turmoil.
And I love you endlessly.
The Pantheon | Rome.
p.s. I've decided to commit to a photo-a-day for 2014. I'm starting here with number twelve but will add in the first eleven retrospectively. The tag for these photos will be photoaday2014 :) Please let me know what you think. x
I think it might just be possible that I had the best-hot-chocolate-in-Europe today.
Okay, it's a pretty grand claim, I know, so lets change that to MY personal best over the past 4 months ;) #itsahardlife but I'm not complaining!
Slightly irrelevant backstory:
T had to collect his MacBook from the Apple store (Boo dead laptops) this morning so the boys watched some TV (they've been obsessing over the Disney channel or "American shows" as they call them, since we arrived in Rome) while I finalized some flight bookings.
Flights booked, the boys and I stopped in the Campo (we've rented a holiday apartment right off Campo di Fiori here in Rome) for nuts to snack on from one of the multitude of market stalks before winding our way through the Roman streets to the Trevi Fountain. Which was heaving with people, and beautiful still, which is saying something. It was the boys first time and they were both struck by its grandeur.
But we didn't stop for long; we had set a time to meet T by the Zoo in the Villa Borghese, the wonderful heart-shaped lungs of Rome for some soccer and fresh air, and there was still a decent walk ahead off us. We ate a simple picnic together and as we gathered our things a fabulous thought sprang to mind - this is the time to go and have a cup of coffee by myself somewhere nice! The boys were happy to run off without me and have some dad-only time and minutes later there I was, spiraling down the path to the Piazza del Popolo - Alone. With a capital 'A'.
It only occurred to me later in the afternoon that I haven't actually gone out by myself for some quiet time in maybe 3+ weeks? The last time was probably in the week before we left Paris. This family-travelling business is truly an intense experience and some distance and perspective is good for everyone...
But back to the hot chocolate :)
Having done a little online-research I knew, roughly, where some of Rome's nicest hotels were. And one of them led just off from the Piazza. The Hotel de Russie. Perfect! I straightened my coat, ran a comb through my har (desperately in need of a trim - I haven't had one since we left Australia) and crossed my fingers I didn't look too scruffy for the doormen ;)
Once inside I stumbled across the lounge, drooled over the English-speaking newspapers selection (bliss!) and looked at the menu. Ahhhhhh, 7 euros for a cappuccino. That's at least $10 Australian and even though we've enjoyed some pretty fabulous extravagances on our trip we are really working on a tight budget at the moment... I hesitated, pondering the room, admiring its modern elegance and ummmm-ed. But I couldn't put down that newspaper. And decided it was worth it.
I did however feel that ordering a 10 dollar coffee was a bit of a gamble; I've had some nice coffee recently, but I've also been disappointed by a lot of luke-warm Joe! And I'm not a huge hot chocolate gal (which isn't to say that I don't like it, my kids both do too!) but I'll rarely order one for myself - except today - when I decided that something gluttonous was probably in order if it was going to be a bit of an expensive treat!
The waiter approached and I asked if the hot chocolate was a good choice. He assured me that it really was. Sold.
And he didn't let me down. Out came a silver jug full of thick, hot, creamy chocolate with a side of whipped cream as big as a breakfast bowl - the most remarkable thing ever - and a generous serve of biscuits. Enough hot chocolate to fill my cup 3 times over.
I was in heaven!!
Heaven in the form of chocolate-perfection, the International New York Times and some peace and quiet. Ahhhhhhh.
Please excuse the post-Villa Borghese grottiness, my Adidas need a clean I only notice now :) These, btw are fab travel shoes. Smart enough to wear into nice places but comfortable enough for all of the necessary cobblestone treks. And they look cool too.
So, that's the end of the story. I don't know if the waiter took pity on me and concocted a super-special hot chocolate or if that's the Stravinskij way. But I likey.
Bar Stravinskij. Hotel de Russie. Via del Babuino, 9. Rome.
Campo de Fiori, Roma.
You played for hours. Selling each other an assortment of books, pots, pans and the toys you've gathered along our travels. There is nothing else your daddy and I love more than hearing you happily immersed in imaginary play together.
I'm only vouching for the two in the middle ;)
Centurions. The Pantheon, Rome.
(Remember we visited the Patheon on our first day in Rome? Well, we did make it back to visit Raphael's tomb... and to get the much-anticipated Centurion photos. Look at those smiles).
Almost 1900 years after the Roman Emporer Hadrian - of Hadrian's Wall fame - visualized this grand Greek-inspired Temple of the Gods, the Roman Pantheon is still a truly imposing structure.
“My intentions had been that this sanctuary of All Gods should reproduce the likeness of the terrestrial globe and of the stellar sphere…The cupola…revealed the sky through a great hole at the center, showing alternately dark and blue. This temple, both open and mysteriously enclosed, was conceived as a solar quadrant. The hours would make their round on that caissoned ceiling so carefully polished by Greek artisans; the disk of daylight would rest suspended there like a shield of gold; rain would form its clear pool on the pavement below, prayers would rise like smoke toward that void where we place the gods."Hadrian. 76 - 138 CE.
Dominated from the exterior by the 16 columned portico, the internal dome is all soft womb-like contrast. A huge, ancient glass-topped, stone womb that is.
Lovely was so busy taking photos...
... that it was me who spotted a stray Minion balloon pressing against the heavens!
Back outside, the boys loved these standby-Gladiators and wanted to have their photos taken with them... we didn't do it at the time but might just have to wander back before we leave Rome :)
France and Switzerland were pretty good for the GF supermarket-shopper but not wonderful for restaurant meals. The UK, Denmark, Germany and Czech Republic? Pretty average.
Here, a good percentage of cafes and restaurants seem to at least have a box of rice pasta in the kitchen that they can offer Mr-8 but finding somewhere offering PIZZA senza glutine is his most-favourite!
Last night, our first in Rome, we found just that... a little pizza shop, conveniently only 100 metres from our apartment, that will never win any decor-awards but had created enough of a GF-buzz online for people to take notice.
I was still skeptical when we ordered, but the lack-of-pictures don't lie. The pizza was GREAT! So great that we ate it all without taking a single photo. Lol. We also had a really nice mozzerella and salami salad but declined the gluten-free beer for budgetary reasons (good to know it was an option though).
What we couldn't decline however was the promise of gluten-free desserts, namely cheesecake and Tiramisu.
Wow. I'm not sure that L has had either in years! Exciting.
This time I made sure I pulled out the camera before they disappeared ;)
Unfortunately for us this place is now closed until January 24 so we won't be able to repeat this fabulousness but if you're in Rome post-January I recommend you track it down. And enjoy that cheesecake for me!
Voglia di Pizza. Via Dei Giubbonari, 33. Rome, Italy. 06 6875293
Santucci's celestial sphere from the Medici collection at Museo Gallileo in Florence. 1593.
A multitude of golden layers representing the pathways of the stars and planets circling around an earth-centric Universe.
With half a day left in Florence we headed to the Basilica di Santa Croce to see the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo Galilei. Sadly it was closed for Befana which was disappointing but gave us a little extra time at the Museo Gallileo (and Institute of Science) which we choose over the Uffizi. We are all feeling a little galleried-out post-Paris!
Museo Gallileo. Istituto e Museo di Storia Della Scienza. Piazza dei Giudici 1. Florence. Italy.
p.s. The museum also has a comprehensive virtual museum and portal for all things Galileo, if you want to learn more without actually going to Florence. I've added the link. x