Diving into London

When Friday came, we were ready for a crazy day. Jeremy put on his crocs; Mom put on her skort. We were ready. First, we walked to the Churchill war rooms and met up with Uncle Jeff and Auntie Shana. The line to buy tickets stretched down the block, but we were prepared. Mom whipped out the tickets we bought online and we strolled on in. Through an audio tour, we learned about how William Churchill led Britain during World War II from an underground bunker. The tour was great, but the tight underground labyrinth soon got a bit crowded.4567485e-53b0-41e9-87fb-69c8b5d14537

Next we went to Westminster Abbey. Let’s just say, the crowds were as thick as congealed pudding. We couldn’t get close to the historic building. Next, we trudged towards Big Ben. The famous tower was completely covered in scaffolding. We crossed the river where we eyed The London Eye. Suddenly, rain started pouring down our backs! We rushed into a random restaurant, just to escape getting pummeled by the downpour.. There, we had delicious pizza and salad. It was one of the best restaurants we went to in London.

After a nap at our apartment, we went to a truly disappointing Italian restaurant. The pasta was raw, and we waited over an hour for our main courses. All this delay resulted in a hectic sprint towards our next destination. We had tickets for the musical Come From Away. The musical flowed seamlessly and the dialogue was hilarious. Also, although  each member of the cast played countless characters, the acting was impeccable and we could follow the story. The musical details how the residents of a small town in Newfoundland react when 38 planes land after 9/11.

Finally, we ate amazing peanut butter chocolate caramel gelato and then collapsed into bed. It was by far the busiest day of London, but it was a day to remember.

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Why is it raining in June!?!

Day 1

family in front of buckingham palaceAfter a relatively easy flight, we were all excited to arrive in London. Unfortunately, it was raining…in June! Coming from California this came as rather a surprise for Ethan and me. Although we had brought pants, I was decked out in shorts and shirtsleeves. I got soaked! The wind was not friendly either. We were greeted by Uncle Jeff and Aunt Shana, just arrived from their residence in Spain. After hugs and kisses, we headed to Nandos, a prominent chain selling South African Peri-Peri chicken. We tried the range of sauces, ranging from Mild to Extra, Extra Hot. The flavor was great, but I was disappointed in the spice. Next, we had to get to our hotel. What followed was an hour stuck in traffic with a cranky Uber diver. Fortunately, the amazing historical architecture of the city helped distract from the uncomfortable situation. After a quick siesta (we were VERY jet-lagged) our family met up once again with Jeff and Shana for dinner at an Italian restaurant. With very good pasta we were quite satisfied. The entire family returned to the hotel, exhausted. Overall, a great first day.

Jeremy

 

 

 

On the Run Again

Our next adventure begins today. As usual we are getting the blog post up an hour before we head to the airport.

We will post here as we travel to the UK, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia this month. I’m off to finish packing, clean out the fridge and call Uber.

Let’s go!
Karyn

Awards night 2019

London Will Not Let Us Go

After a final stop at our gelato place for the epic 8 euro cone we got ready to head home.

The train ride was easy and we (finally) found the exit from the train station by way of Terminal 3 in the Rome airport. And really that is when the travel troubles began. Apparently, taxi drivers at the Rome airport only want to drive you one place. Rome. They will not drive you 15 minutes to the hotel where you will be staying one night before catching your plane home.

So we walked from taxi stand to taxi stand trying to find the local taxis. Eventually, we stopped in the shade and Jim went to ask some questions. When he came out, he said, “According to the directions I just got, the local taxi stand should be right here. Are you at a taxi stand?”

Jim walked the other way to look further. Then I realized we were standing behind a sign. And upon circling to the front discovered that, yes, we actually were standing at the local taxi stand. We didn’t know because there were no taxis. Finally, a local taxi pulled up. Problem 1 solved.

Our hotel was on the banks of the Tiber river in an area that is both a working fishing port and a place where other tourists like us stay before heading to the airport. It was a cool hotel, except the sofa bed for the kids was a single bed. There was no way they were going to get any sleep in that bed. After a walk along the river, including a couple of cool bridges and the Italian version of the dollar store, we decided to let Ethan sleep in the seemingly giant other bed. Problem number 2 sort of solved except somehow only Jeremy really got a good night of sleep that time.

Thursday morning I made the clearly grave error of telling the kids that in 24 hours we would be home. We headed back to the airport, got to our gate and settled in to wait for our 11:45 flight to London. And then Ethan (who is our permanent sign watcher) ran over to tell us that the flight was delayed until 2:00. That would put us at Heathrow as our San Francisco flight was taking off. Damn.

Jim and I spent the next couple of hours calling Expedia, who booked our tickets; British Air, who was making us late; and Virgin Atlantic, who operated the flight we were about to miss. There was not a British Air employee to be found in the Rome airport. We made no progress. A good lesson that sometimes you really do not have any control over your own situation. I am not a fan of that.

We had a good flight and as we taxied to the terminal in Heathrow are pretty sure we saw our SFO flight take off. Really.

I spent some time talking with the experts, the British Air flight attendants, who told us to go to the Connections desk. Those were the people who would fix the problem. We waited in that line for an hour along with everyone else from our flight who had missed connections. There was some yelling. Not by us.

The British Air customer services is really good. In a few minutes we were booked on a United flight out at 10:25 am. We spent the night at the airport Holiday Inn with the new friends we had just met in line. After a British buffet dinner, worse than it sounds, and a good night sleep we woke to find that our new flight was already delayed until 6:00 pm. It was looking bad for us to get home once again.

We headed downstairs and as Jim got off the elevator the doors closed on the rest of us. When we hit the door open button they opened an inch and closed again. And again. So I did the “lift the car off your child adrenal fueled mom thing” and pried the doors open, got the kids out and headed to the airport again.

We waited in line, again. And British Air customer service was fantastic again. They got us on a British Air flight leaving at 2:00 that day. They threw us some pounds for lunch, which we thoroughly enjoyed at Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food, the best airport restaurant we have ever experienced. Even the British Olympic team was eating there.

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Then we had a very easy flight home and finally arrived SFO Friday night around 5:30 — an extra 24 hours from when we started.

The adjustment back is challenging and at the same time we appreciate home. We are ready to get back to work, camp, school and life. Thanks for following our adventures!

Ciao,

Karyn

 

 

Firenze Nightlife

Restaurants opening at 20:00 (8 pm), cafes open until 3 in the morning, outdoor plays lit by moonlight and gelato lines out the door after midnight – Firenze is a night city.

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Twilight on the Arno River

There’s a play performed in boats on the river, with the audience seated in larger boats, all of which move around each other as characters enter and exit the stage.

The city’s vast array of statues are far more striking when lit by streetlights and many of the bars and clubs emerge from unremarkable garage doors.

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Cafe patrons (left) and the Gelato Line (right) after Midnight

The cafe below our apartment window offers a glass of good house wine (red or white) for 2.50 Euro. The glassware is first class and you can wander around the square with your drink before coming back to pay and return the glass. For a bit more, the gin bar around the corner provides a cocktail with complementary peanuts and potato chips.

 

The crowd is dominated by Italians late at night and it doesn’t break up until 2 in the morning, even on weeknights. Every few days, a group of students showed up in the ally between the cafe and our apartment to play Risk. Couples necked in the square. One night, a big crowd showed up at the cafe and sang drinking songs and chanted incoherently for several hours.

It was great visiting a city in my timezone,

-Jim

Pisa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today Dad, Ethan, and I went to Pisa! The first glimpses of the tower were deceiving because it looked like it wasn’t leaning.

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Then we realized it was leaning toward us! We ate at a nice restaurant with homemade pasta then continued on to the tower. I took a walk around the tower and then posed for many pictures including some of me holding up the tower. 🙂

We then walked around the neighboring Cathedral and got tickets to go inside. The tickets were for a time slot that was a little later so we got some gelato and walked around the area. Once we returned to the tower we took a look inside the cathedral and looked at various items in the cathedral including a sarcophagus. Last, we caught a train back to Florence. We all enjoyed the visit.

– Jeremy Holl

Mine! All Mine!!

Today I got to choose what we did. We woke up this morning, walked for a couple minutes, and hopped on a bus to a small town in the Tuscan countryside. We soon arrived at a small villa after getting picked up at the bus station. We met up with our instructor and before we knew it, our private cooking class had begun! We made pasta with puttanesca sauce, (a red sauce filled with olives and capers) zucchini Parmesan, and an herbal cream with grilled peaches and caramel sauce. The rest of the day, we read, played video games, and ate a delicious dinner at a great restaurant called Tamero.

(Jim and I apologize for the complete lack of pictures this day. It was too much fun and such good food we forgot to pull out our phones. Ethan is right, it was a fantastic day!)