Exploring the City with Littles

1495044412744Because of where we live, most of our out-of-town visitors want to see the cities near us while they’re here. Daytrips to Boston and NYC used to require no more planning than how to get around on the train and where to eat. But adding a child to that equation changed things quite a bit and we’ve learned a few lessons along the way about tackling cities with a little one in tow.

IMG_20170507_104639_988So far, we’ve walked Kansas City, Boston, Quebec, and NYC with our little guy along for the ride (literally, he has no idea how lucky he is to be carried everywhere lol).

Because we love traveling and also think kids are all right (I’m 7 months into making another one so they must not be too bad) I’m always on the lookout for ways to make trips with children easier and more enjoyable.

img_20170207_091752236.jpgOur little guy has traveled with us by car, plane, train, boat, and in all kinds of carriers as we’ve explored on foot. Here’s what I’ve learned about city adventures with little ones so far; I hope this helps if/when you take on a family adventure of your own :]

Keep in mind that I’m speaking only from my own experience with one child who we’ve traveled with from 1 month up to 3 years. Every child is different so what works for us at a certain stage may just make your kid cranky or angry—hopefully not, but you know, every kid is different ;]

Newborn to One Year: {Baby sling/Carrier}

When our guy was a baby up to about a year old, the easiest, most comfortable way to go anywhere with him was holding him close in a baby sling (I prefer the Moby wrap) or a baby carrier (I prefer the Ergo, Darren the Baby Bjorn). He would snuggle in close and either watch the world contentedly or sleep. Carrying him also saved us the hassle of a bulky stroller in congested spaces like the subway or busy sidewalks.

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Toddlers Stage 1 to 4 Years: {Backpack Carrier}

Once Roman outgrew the baby carriers (sad day) we started looking for another way to carry him with us minus a stroller and without actually having to hold him in our arms all day (that ain’t going to work, trust me). We ended up trying a backpack carrier and fortunately both Darren and Roman love it most of the time (it’s too heavy for me to wear except for short periods). We use a Chicco carrier and it has worked great for us so far.

IMG_20170507_105900_904One lesson learned about this kind of carrier though—after a whole day on your feet in the city, these do still get heavy and uncomfortable. We spent the day in NYC this past weekend and were both regretting not bringing a small umbrella type stroller as a backup plan.

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While carrying Roman on our backs was perfect for navigating the train, busy streets, and ferry, it was totally exhausting. And Roman got tired of being in there after a while and ended up in our arms anyway. So if you’re planning a full day on your feet, I definitely recommend bringing a small stroller as well—something that folds up flat for trains and easily opens with one hand if possible. We use an Urbini and it’s fine (though I wouldn’t say great).

Diaper Bag and Supplies:

Figuring out how to carry your kid is one thing; figuring out how to carry all their stuff is another thing all together :]

I’ve tried all kinds of bags while out walking (sling, shoulder, backpack) and found the most comfortable is definitely a backpack because this distributes the weight across both shoulders instead of just one.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Carry as little with you as possible. While it’s nice to be prepared, it’s not so nice carrying an overly heavy load or jostling through an overstuffed bag when you need something. Bring what you think you’ll use as far as diapers, wipes, change of clothes, drinks, snacks, etc. but try to use travel size when possible and keep in mind that if you run out of something, you can almost certainly buy more where you are.
  • Only bring one bag: Along the same line of not carrying too much, don’t try bringing a separate purse for yourself. Grab your wallet and whatever bare necessities you need with you for the day and combine them into the bag you carry for baby.
  • Bring your own drinks and snacks: You and your littles are going to get thirsty and hungry and buying drinks and snacks in the city adds up fast. Save your money for activities or an actual meal and avoid the $5 bottles of water and bags of chips.
  • Wear comfortable shoes! City walking, especially when you’re carrying a child or backpack all day, is hard work. Your feet are going to hurt. So while it’s nice to be cute, try to be cute and as comfortable as possible. I’ve started throwing an extra pair of shoes/socks in the bag so I have the option to change if my feet really start to hurt.
  • Dress your child comfortably: Again, I know its fun to put your kids in cute outfits, especially when you’re out and about. But keep in mind that your child is going to be bundled into some kind of carrier all day and exposed to whatever weather you’re out in. The softer and more comfortable their clothes, the happier they’ll be. I put Roman in a button under onesie so his shirt doesn’t ride up and a soft pair of pants/shorts. If it’s cold, I put a pair of footie pajamas under his outfit so no skin is exposed where his pants ride up at the ankle. Keep in mind too that you’ll be changing diapers in all kinds of weird places if changing tables aren’t available so the easier the outfit is to get them in and out of, the better.

Anyway, I hope these ideas help and I hope you take lots of adventures with your families. While kids do complicate things, they also add a lot of joy and laughter and it’s so fun watching the world through their eyes. I’ll never forget Roman’s face when we stepped out of the subway and he saw all the lights in Time’s Square for the first time—totally made the craziness of bringing him with us worth it ❤

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Wild Flowers

 

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Perspective is a powerful thing.

I remember riding the train through southern Italy, snaking along the glittering Mediterranean and gliding past yellow and wheat colored stucco houses. I was lost in thought, captivated by how beautiful it all was. I had expected to be disappointed by Italy, as people and places don’t often meet up to our expectations after years of building them up in our minds. But Italy was perfect…perfectly modern mixed with all the old charm and personality the pictures had me imagine.

So I was surprised, offended even, when I heard a fellow American on the train proclaim loudly, “look at all these crappy houses…how do people live this way?”

I’m sorry? I’d sell all my American everything to live in one of those “crappy” houses—just ask Darren, I’ve tried ;] It’s true, the paint was peeling, the stucco was chipped and cracked, and the whole place looked a bit wild with clothes lines strewn between houses. But I felt magic there and I’ve never been able to shake Italy off; the clothes lines and sunshine and window boxes crept right down into my soul and I’ve tried ever since to sprinkle some of that Italian magic into the way I live here at home.

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One traveler saw only brokenness and decay; I saw charm and beauty—that day at least. Our perspectives were different and so our whole experience of that place turned out differently.

I thought about all this the other day when I was looking at our rather ragged yard. With building our house, we’ve had to level and landscape our lawn. All our grass was scrapped off and all winter our house sat in a sea of brown and mud. I bought what New Englanders call “mud boots” to walk from our house to the car because it was so messy and mucky and our feet were always sinking in the dirty sludge. Last winter was the first time I’ve hoped for cold temperatures to freeze the ground and snow to cover all that brown.

So imagine my delight at all the green in our yard this summer—yes, most of that green is weeds, some of it weeds nearly as tall as me—but it’s green. I’m sure our wild, unruly lawn looks like nothing but a disaster to the neighbors around us with nicely manicured lawns, and you know, grass. But to me, our yard is lovely and I’m so happy to look out our windows at green…green weeds, green grass, I care not.

I tend to like the wild flowers best, far more than store-bought roses or houseplants. I like the way wild flowers poke up with the weeds—sometimes they are the weeds. There’s something a little bit daring and rebellious about Queen Ann’s Lace, don’t you think? The way she stands alone in a field or along the road outshining every well-tended garden flower she meets.

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My mom told me once in a card, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” And ever since reading that, I’ve tried to remember how much my own perspective colors the world around me. Will I be the traveler who sees brokenness or beauty in a place different from my own? Will I be the mom who can see the joy in a sticky toddler or the one who resents the frustration and restraints of parenting? Will I appreciate all the magic fluttering past me each day in the sunshine and wild flowers growing free among the weeds?

It’s up to me, the way I see my life and the world around me. Sometimes I let darkness settle over me and it’s no surprise in those moments that the whole world looks dark and bleak. But when I focus on the light, I see the light.

Perspective is a powerful thing, after all.

Québec City: A Photo Journal

We slipped away to Quebec City to celebrate our anniversary. I think of Canada and Canadians as cousins and neighbors, so I was surprised with how completely French Quebec is. Everything felt very foreign and we, very lost. But what’s the fun of travel and adventures if you don’t feel a little lost and foreign every now and then?

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We’re learning that however long a road trip should take, it will most certainly take longer with a toddler. Sometimes you have to pull the car over and let wild things be wild. After a good long run through the grass and a proper sward fight with sticks, our wild one was ready to complete his first trip in another country.

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We arrived in the evening and spent an hour getting the room set up for Roman to sleep in a new place without burning anything down ;] I sat in the living room watching Darren on the baby monitor lying on the floor on a mattress with Roman tucked into him falling asleep. It had been a long day driving 10 hours from home. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having spent our anniversary with a rowdy toddler in the backseat screaming off and on the entire trip.

And then I watched my husband being the amazing father that he is; watched him snuggle our son close in his arms until he felt safe enough to fall asleep in a new place. And I realized that this is what marriage and parenting are all about—about road trips made longer and louder by little ones but more magical and memorable because of them too. About learning to love each other and find ways to celebrate and seek adventure even when it might be easier to just stay home. I lucked out on the boys in my life, no doubt about it.

I’m usually well prepared for our trips but Quebec surprised me at every turn.  It was cold, much colder than I ever imagined a place could be in July. I wore my one long-sleeved shirt every day and drank hot coffee as much for the comfort of drinking it as having the hot cup to warm my hands.

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Our first day in the city, we pushed Roman in his stroller, not realizing that Quebec is basically all uphill and every shop entrance has steps up into it…we got a good workout and Roman got a sweet ride :] The next day we smartened up and hauled Roman around in a backpack carrier instead—still a workout but a little more manageable on hilly cobblestone streets :]

The giant toy moose, or “foof”, travels with us everywhere :]

I love walking cities and feeling the culture of the people living and playing out before me in the sound of foreign language and the smell of food and coffee and cigarette smoke a little different from our own. Quebec was full of inspiration in the architecture and the way small, simple spaces were made even more beautiful by plants, flower boxes, and bright pops of color.

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We walked around eating crepes and getting lost on streets that seemed to wind endlessly one into the other.

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donutAnd of course no trip to Canada is complete without about 37 trips to Tim Hortons :] We ended each day back at the apartment with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee—which is quite hard to order when you don’t speak French; we were surprised every day with what kind of coffee we ended up with but it was always good :] It was a fun trip and a sweet little getaway with my two favorite boys ❤

NYC in the Fall

DSC_0918When I was growing up in Missouri I always insisted I would move New York City when I left home. Then I married Darren and moved to Massachusetts instead. We had been married for about six months when I finally saw NY for the first time by convincing Darren that we absolutely must go stand in Time Square on New Year’s to watch the ball drop at midnight.

We cooked up a plan to get out of work and took off to see this place I’d been dreaming of. I remember walking around with my head tilted back the whole time trying to take in all the buildings towering over me. It was snowing and we walked all over the place that cold December day trying to see as much of the city as we could.

DSC_0809{The New York skyline, September 2013}

We saw the place where the Twin Towers had been; at that time it was still just a big hole in the ground and the worst feeling washed over me when I saw it. I have been to NYC several times since then and now a memorial fountain sits where the hole once was. A new tower is being built and I have pictures of it at several different stages of construction throughout the years. The fountain and building are beautiful but I still get the same awful feeling every time I walk by.

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DSC_0826{The new Tower today, still under construction, September 2013}

We spent a good part of that first day going through a Jewish Holocaust museum; I don’t know why but we were drawn to it and we stayed there until the building closed and we had to leave. When we walked outside the sun was setting over the Hudson and my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty was lit by a backdrop of pink and orange. It was a strange contradiction, walking out of a museum that reminded us of how wretched humans can be to each other and immediately seeing the Statue of Liberty standing there reminding us of the freedom and hope we have in this country. And then the hole where the Towers stood reminding us that even though we are free, we are not invincible.

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After all that, we made our way to Time’s Square to bring in the New Year. It was bitterly cold that night…the coldest I’ve ever been actually. And truth be told, we gave up and went back to our hotel room before midnight and watched the ball drop on TV just like any other year. Still though, I will never forget that first trip to NYC.

305715_10150322514561517_265150384_n{Time’s Square September 2011}

My brother and his family were here for the last two weeks visiting. We took them all over New England and of course to NYC. My 5 year old nephew talked endlessly about riding the boat {the ferry to the Statue of Liberty} and the underground train {the subway}. Every day he wanted to know if today was the day when we were going to NYC and after everything we did over those two weeks, he still says NY was his favorite.

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Here he is on the train…he kept his face pressed to the glass throughout the entire ride even though we were going through dark tunnels and couldn’t see a thing :]

DSC_0752I think my very southern brother was the only one on the train wearing cowboy boots ;]

DSC_0805Here’s Gabe holding onto uncle Darren on the ferry ride to the statue.

DSC_0766And here I am…getting blinded by the sun :]

DSC_0655I love seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Kids are so excited about everything and they notice and delight in things grownups push past and overlook.

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DSC_0838We watched street entertainers and got lunch from an outdoor vendor…which by the way, served the best lamb gyro ever.

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We rested our feet in Central Park before taking off to see Time’s Square all lit up in the dark.

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NYC is its own wild place. It’s nothing like the rest of America and feels like a strange little cultural bubble that represents so many different aspects of American culture as a whole. I love it and I hate it and there’s no other way around it.

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” You’ve Got Mail

Memories of Mexico

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I spent a couple different weeks in Mexico when I was a teenager. I was going through a box of photos the other day and came across some of the pictures taken while I was there. Back then I took all my pictures with one of those disposable cameras with film. I was crazy about cameras and pictures and I remember driving my mom crazy when I had film to develop. I would ask her every day if I could take it to the store to develop and then I would ask her every.single.day. if the pictures were ready to pick up. She’s a profoundly patient woman :]

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These first two pictures were taken when I was 16. Though the quality is not very good, these photos bring back a world of memories. Everything from how sweet these kids were—always on our heels wanting to play and have their picture taken, to the way the air smelled up in the humid mountains of Mexico. I remember the meal a group of women made over an open fire in a kitchen with a dirt floor…I was afraid to eat it at first but it tasted so fresh and good. I remember sleeping on a cot on the ground and being woken up by a very loud rooster every morning.

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The rest of these pictures were taken in a different part of Mexico when I was 18. Again, the kids were the best part of the trip. Darren pointed out to me that all these kids would be in their late teens or early twenties by now, older than I was when I took these…amazing.

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Exploring the streets with my best friend :]

I’m so glad we have photos to capture the present and take us back to the past. I had all but forgotten about these trips and now they are alive in my heart again.

London, England

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Our very last stop in Europe was London. We were excited. Darren had been to London before and wanted to show me around. They speak English {obviously} so we figured it would be easier to know what was going on. We had navigated our way all over Italy by train so we figured England would be easy.

And yet…the minute we walked through customs and stepped into England, we were lost and confused. Let me just say that England English is not always very much like American English and the difference in our accents made understanding each other downright comical sometimes. We still had lots of fun though.

We had to blitz London because we were only there with a few hours between flights so we decided to see all the big sites in central London and took off on the train for Big Ben.

The train ended up being my favorite part because of the people watching. London was so dramatically different from Italy, especially on the trains. Italy was loud and hot and busting at the seams. London was cool and rainy and so, so quiet. Everyone was dressed for work and man did they look sharp. They all wore black like they knew something I didn’t and every one of them looked like James Bond with an umbrella. No kidding. Like James Bond with ear buds and a book. It was impressive.

I felt so underdressed and I’m pretty sure I was the only person in all of England wearing flip-flops that day in the cold rain. People even had coats on. Coats! In June! But I didn’t mind the cold or the rain because it gave me an excuse to get a proper hot English tea and I just don’t think I could have come home satisfied otherwise.

The people at the tea place laughed at me because {a} I probably sounded like a hick {b} I was wearing flip-flops {c} I didn’t know the answer to any of their many questions about what kind of tea I wanted. What do you mean what kind of tea do I want? I want the kind you put in hot water. So they pointed to an elaborate collection of tea varieties and I’m like, errr, Earl Grey, yep that sounds familiar. {d} There was a lot of confusion about how to put milk in my tea…I know that doesn’t sound complicated, but seriously {e} The tea bag went on the fritz and all the loose leaf stuff started getting in the water and I was panicking and Darren was laughing.

It was exhausting.

But yummy :]

Anywayyyyyyy….here’s what we saw.

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London bridges falling down…nah, just kidding, they didn’t fall down.

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Parliament

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Westminster Abbey…which I keep wanting to call Downton Abbey…but it’s not.

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The London Eye

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The Tower of London and some fancy pants building in the background

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Look at the set up for tea in our hotel room! I pocketed all the tea bags as a souvenir and Darren was like, did you steal all of that from the hotel room? And I was like, yes…no…yes…leave me alone, it’s mine.

And that kids, was London and the completion of our little European adventure. Now I want to go back…forever…and live under a lemon tree in Italy…but Darren says I can’t…men, marriage…sigh.

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe, you can still read them here:

Barcelona, Spain

Marseilles, France

Florence & Pisa

Rome, Italy

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

Taormina, Sicily

Dubrovnik, Croatia {Former Yugoslavia}

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Venice is magic.

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We spent our last two days in Italy winding through these enchanting streets and then we were on our way home with one last stop in London along the way.

Thanks for reading along :]

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe, you can still read them here:

Barcelona, Spain

Marseilles, France

Florence & Pisa

Rome, Italy

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

Taormina, Sicily

Dubrovnik, Croatia {Former Yugoslavia}

Dubrovnik, Croatia {Former Yugoslavia}

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Croatia was the only place we visited outside of the European Union so it was kind of exciting and fun to go somewhere off the beaten track. We started the day early exploring the old part of Dubrovnik. The old city is made of slick, glossy stone…almost marble like. I almost died 10,000 times because walking is hard for me in general but walking on slick, glossy stone is just a death trap for someone with my lack of coordination.

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The old city feels very medieval and I heard some parts of the “Game of Thrones” were even filmed right in Dubrovnik. The old city is small and compact so we walked around the whole thing very quickly.

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We met lots of friendly little streets cats who stopped and said hello

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And then we settled in for a taste of Croatian coffee

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And it tasted quite nice mingled with the smell of cigarette smoke swirling all around.

After that we walked through a little outdoor market where people were buying and selling food and flowers.

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And then we walked along the alleyways up out of the main section and into the little streets where people live. It was very quiet and peaceful and achingly beautiful too. Clothes hung on lines drying in the warm sunlight and flowering trees added bursts of color to the otherwise white stone city.

We decided to walk outside of the old part into the busy modern streets full of people and businesses. The old city is just as pretty from the outside as it is from the inside.

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Croatia fought a bloody battle not long ago to gain independence from Yugoslavia. Many of the houses and building were badly damaged during the war and we heard that all the buildings that needed a new roof after the war got an orange tile roof to remind them of what they have been through. So just look at all the buildings with orange tile roofs and think about how much damage there must have been before the roofs were replaced.

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We noticed a beautiful little beach within walking distance so we decided to run back to our room and change into our swimsuits so we could jump in.

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The water was crystal clear and *freezing* cold—I shrieked when I got in and decided to spend the rest of the day on the warm sand instead of in the water. There was tons and tons of sea glass on the beach and I spent the whole afternoon running my hands through the sand collecting the smooth, colorful pieces.

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Adriatic sea glass

After we were good and toasty from the beach we decided to go back to the old city and cool off with some gelato. I know the Italians are supposed to be famous for gelato and we did try it several times in different parts of Italy but the gelato in Croatia was my favorite. We got some that was the flavor of green tea with big slices of fresh lemon all over it….it was so, so yummy and refreshing.

After that we were on our way to our final destination in Italy—Venice.

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe, you can still read them here:

Barcelona, Spain

Marseilles, France

Florence & Pisa

Rome, Italy

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

Taormina, Sicily

Taormina, Sicily

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Once in Sicily, we rode the train from Messina to Taormina. The ride in was absolutely beautiful as the train snaked along right beside the Mediterranean. Just so you know, I didn’t do any editing to these photos—the colors you’re seeing are the colors I saw as the brilliant cobalt sky seemed to melt right into the sapphire waves.

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Once off the train, we waited for a bus to take us from the station into town. It was standing room only on the bus again but we didn’t care; we were too busy having our minds blown by all the colors and textures of this extraordinary place.

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That’s Mount Etna smoking in the far background—an active volcano!

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 My travel buddy

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We found a pizza place for lunch and I just think you need to know that Sicilians put potato on their pizza…which is just about the best thing that’s ever happened to me. My two favorite things—potato and pizza transformed into one thing—potato pizza…oh my gosh it made me ridiculously happy. I would show you a picture but I ate too fast for such things.

We were sort of lost by the time we made it to the pizza place but the man working there was very friendly and helpful and got us heading back in the right direction…which just so happened to be the opposite direction…and then we were on our way to the Greek amphitheater.

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View from the ruins of the Greek amphitheater.

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Those waves, those gorgeous blue waves. They kept speaking to us and since it was our last day on the Mediterranean side of Italy, we finally decided we absolutely had to get in the water.

We found a store and bought some swimwear and then asked around until we found a bus to take us back down to the train station. From there we took off on foot until we found a way down to the water. The beach was rocky and painful to walk on so we hurried into the waves and found out they were even more painful—so, so cold….like ice water. We stayed in long enough to get some pictures and say we had been in the Mediterranean and then we limped cold and wet back across the rocks…but we had a really good time and I collected lots of pretty rocks from the beach to take back home with me. After that, we had to hurry back to the station so we wouldn’t miss the train.

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Once we got back to Messina, we found a shop and tried some scrumptious cannoli. We both already love cannoli and always get some at our favorite Italian pastry shop when we’re in Boston. But Sicily is the birthplace of cannoli so it didn’t seem right to leave without trying some…good choice, Kari Ann, good choice…it was so yummy, and flaky, and creamy, and yummy…and now I want to go back and get some more.

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After Sicily we took one day off from Italy and went to Dubrovnik, Croatia {Former Yugoslavia}…I’ll tell you all about it in a day or two.

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe, you can still read them here:

Barcelona, Spain

Marseilles, France

Florence & Pisa

Rome, Italy

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

After just one perfectly beautiful day in Rome we were on our way to Naples. When our Rome tour guide found out Naples was our next stop, he told us even Italians are scared to visit there and tourists will be pickpocketed to the bone…so that was super encouraging. Admittedly, Naples was the sketchiest place we went but from everything we had been told we were half expecting to be mobbed by savages—and it wasn’t quite that bad :]

People kept warning us about pick pockets everywhere we went and I’m sure it can be a problem but we found the people in each and every city to be kind and helpful. Being in a foreign place where you don’t know the language or where anything is or how things are done can make you feel very vulnerable and finding that people are willing to stop and help you find what you’re looking for was one of the best parts of the trip.

There is a lot of immigration here on the east coast where I live and the cities around us (like Boston and New York) are major cultural melting pots. I never thought too much about what it’s like for people moving here and trying to find their way around but I hope I will be more sensitive and helpful now that I know what it’s like to be in a foreign place myself.

The first thing we wanted to see in Naples was the Amalfi Coast so we took off on foot to find the train. We walked what felt like a really long way trying to find the station and were starting to think we were lost right before we found it. The attendant at the station was actually really friendly and helpful (unlike the other train stations) and we were quickly on our way to Sorrento where we could get a bus up the coast.

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I loved riding the trains around Italy because it allowed us to see all the little places in between the big cities and we got to immerse ourselves in the culture for a few minutes. There were lots of kids and teenagers on the trains dressed in beach clothes. They were so different from American young people. Here on the trains young (and old) people put in ear buds and stare at the book in our lap so we don’t have to talk to people.  Most Americans also have a pretty large “my space” zone meaning we don’t like people standing too close or touching us. People in Italy seemed to touch each other a lot. If anyone touches me they can just stand back and wait for the popo because I’ll be screaming for my life :] Ok, it’s not quite that bad.

In Italy though, the young people came on and the train was booming with noise. They talked (loudly). They sang (louder). They sat on each other’s laps and clapped to the songs they were shouting. I stared at them in amazement :] I loved them though—they were so full of life and wildly connected to everything going on around them. They didn’t close out the world with ear buds and “personal space”—they just let the world come gushing in and it was really beautiful to watch them having such a good time.

The transformation in the landscape from Naples to Sorrento was incredible. We went from a big black and gray city to a the lush and colorful countryside that felt almost tropical. We rode by all sorts of little towns built right into the sides of the mountain and zipped by pretty little stucco houses and bright lemon groves.

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In Sorrento we bought our bus tickets then ran in a little café for another sweet and tangy cappuccino. We asked for a to-go coffee so the barista put it in a plastic cup with tinfoil on top—I guess Italians don’t really get coffee to go like Americans do ;]

There was a very long line for the bus so we tucked ourselves under an umbrella to get out of the sun and waited our turn. The bus was supposed to come every 15 minutes but it took at least 30. By the time we got to the front of the line, the bus was packed full with standing room only so we had to decide if we wanted to wait another 30 minutes or however long it took for the next bus or just get on and stand in the aisle. We didn’t want to waste time so we decided to stand.

We figured people would get off at some of the stops along the way and we would eventually get a seat but instead more and more people kept getting on at each stop. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any more room, people were going to get on no matter what.

We wound up, up, up the mountain around sharp bends that I never imagined a bus could make. We kept stopping and adding more people and working our way higher and higher up the mountain. And then we popped up around a bend and I found out exactly why everyone says you must see the Amalfi coast.

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It is so, so beautiful. None of the pictures I took do it justice because they were taken out of the window of a moving bus. That line running along the side of the mountain is part of the road we had just driven. Our path snaked right along the side of the mountain and sometimes cut right through the mountain by way of tunnel. When I looked out the bus window all I could see below us was water…I felt like I was on a roller coaster hanging off the edge of a cliff. Sometimes I was pretty sure the bus was going to roll off the mountain but it didn’t matter because I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

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That zig zaggy thing is part of the road we were on.

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I couldn’t believe all the color—from the crisp, clear blue sky to the turquoise and sapphire water. The pink, orange, and purple flowers hanging off of everything and the bright yellow lemon groves dotted between the cypress trees. It was stunning. The Amalfi Coast is one of those places that’s hard to share because you really just have to see it with your own eyes to understand what it looks like.

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Because we were standing in the aisle holding on for dear life, I didn’t really take many pictures on the way up…I just stood there and ate up all the color and beauty accosting my senses. Sometimes, to really appreciate something, you just have to put the camera down and see the world with your eyes instead of your lens. On this trip, I didn’t want to spend so much time getting the perfect shot that I looked back and realized I didn’t actually see anything.

That wild two-hour ride up the coast is one of my favorite memories from our trip. I loved everything about it—standing in the aisle holding on for dear life while our bus seemed to hang over cliffs, listening to Italian swirl all around us, and laughing with and at the other tourists on the bus who were as startled and enamored as we were by this wild, free place built between the rocks and the ocean. Did I mention I loved it? Love, love, loved it.

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 I wish we could have spent the whole day exploring the coast but we only had one day in the area and wanted to see Pompeii too. So we hopped on a different bus and took the two-hour ride right back down the coast. This time we got seats and sometimes, I admit, I closed my eyes around the bends because I thought I was going to die by plunging into the Mediterranean and I had already seen everything on the way up anyway :]

We accidentally got off the bus at the wrong train station but it didn’t matter because we were still able to get to Pompeii from there. While waiting for the train we met a college kid from Colorado who was backpacking through Europe for the summer—backpacking through Europe is the stuff dreams are made of. He was sort of lost and confused like we were and was also trying to get to Pompeii. He seemed very happy to have met someone else who spoke English. It seems like when you are in a foreign place, you become instant friends with anyone who speaks your language. When normally you would push pass strangers without taking notice, you suddenly are very happy to talk and tell them all about yourself—just because they can understand what you’re saying. So we talked to the backpacking college kid from Colorado and we all knew each other’s life stories by the time we made it to Pompeii :]

Pompeii is huge…and we only had an hour or two before we had to leave. If we ever make it back I’m going to leave a whole day just for Pompeii and do an audio tour so I know what I’m looking at. Here are some pictures:

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{Cart tracks worn into the streets from the days when Pompeii was populated}

I used to want to be an archeologist thanks to Indiana Jones so Pompeii was like eye candy for me. So sad and yet so fascinating.

So that was our day in the Naples area. Next we were off to the beautiful island of Sicily…and I will tell you all about it on Monday.

Thanks for reading along. Ciao! ;]

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe you can still read them here: Barcelona, Spain; Marseilles, France; Florence & Pisa; Rome, Italy.