In 2015 my husband became unwell, prompting him to retire early for a period of time in order to make memories as a family. We took our children out of school for 7 weeks and travelled through Europe exploring the world and making priceless memories with our two youngest daughters. My husband is doing okay now and we don’t regret for a moment the financial sacrifice we made to do this – money can be replaced but memories and time together cannot. This post is one written in 2015 capturing that adventure and has been posted unchanged and unamended.
When in Rome…one does not leave ones purse complete with credit cards, passports and other valuables like 400 Euro on the seat next to one, for one may lose ones valuables to a broad daylight thief. Phew! Thanks heavens that wasn’t us! Unfortunately, like many of the major cities and tourist spots throughout Europe, Rome too has very brazen pickpockets that are extremely skilled at taking what is not theirs. Its also comes with many many MANY people selling bits and bobs illegally on the streets, shoving them in your face whether you politely say no thank you or ignore them…that is until the Police come near at which time they scatter and run, taking off their over shirts to appear a different person. The people I speak of were an older American couple and as they sat eating their lunch a man sat near them and began watching very intently before taking the womans purse almost undetected, although they did not get it back or catch the man when we saw them. There is definitely a dark and sad side to Rome that is very out there and in your face.
What I’m talking about is the significant homelessness and poverty in Rome but unlike the homelessness we have back in Australia, it is on every street and alleyway we went down, it is in your face, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t see and feel something. No matter how many people tried to tell us that we should ignore these people begging day after day after day, it has had a profound impact on me and our entire family really and I know we will be having more conversations on being a blessing to others. After all if I am true to my faith there is a scripture that tells me how to deal with this “…whatsoever you do to the least of my brother; that you do unto me” – Matthew 25:40. So despite people telling us not to, we still gave some money to some of the people we came across and made eye contact so they knew we saw them as a real person, and I feel that it showed my children that we can help someone else even in such a small way. There is still a question however, as to how to live it in a world that is so defined by stuff and with many that are so consumed by building up their fortunes and adorning their homes with the newest and biggest television that they really only watch and hour a day because they have to work to pay off their debt. Which brings us to look at ourselves in this moment. How do you talk to your children about this stuff and have them take you seriously when you have spent thousands of dollars to travel overseas. I honestly don’t have any answer for that, I really don’t. The only thing I do is continue to behave in a charitable manner, continue to live more simply so we put more value and time into experiencing the life we have, and to be truly grateful for what we have…every meal, every good nights sleep, the roof over our head, the ability to get an education, every thing really.
We did manage to see quite a few things in Rome whilst we were there, it is a city that is full of history so it was great that my girls (and us of course) could see in real life the places they had only read about. I guess all this history throughout Europe is quite fascinating for us because we come from such a newly developed country, and personally I feel that my children have really not been exposed to nearly enough of our own richly indigenous culture back home as I would like them to. Yet another thing that will change at home – there is a list of things we will be embracing in a new way.
The food in this part of Italy is much nicer than what we experienced in Northern Italy…even when we visited the non-touristy places in the outer alleyways – at least that is how we feel. We had our very first great coffee since we had left Australia which was so good we had two and the girls both had one too. The waiter was jovial, fun, waltzed with Mackenzie in the street – it was alot of fun at the end of a really long day. Our BIG beef for this stop however was our choice in Big Bus Tour. All I can say is that if your choose the “I Love Rome” hop on hop off bus, you will want to leave Rome by the end of it. We waited for forever through the mass amounts of the other buses only to get a bus that had no seats left, was dirty, and the operators lighting up cigarettes and blowing the smoke right near the children. Seriously if you are going to Rome and want a tour bus go with City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus – they are more professional, clean, and come regular with adequate seating…we just looked longingly as Mackenzie pronounced “THIS ISNT OUR BUS YET??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!” – clearly she was well and truly over it.
Wow this place is HUGE!!! It was amazing to see a structure that is still so wonderfully preserved. I would love to have been a fly on the wall (instead of a poor slave turned gladiator that had to be in the arena), when this place was alive and bustling. We hired a couple of audio guides to share to help us around and I am really glad we did. Particularly when it was a great tool for getting Mackenzie involved and interested in her own experience of this place, and it served dual purposes to keep her from being impacted by the crowds and noises which really decreased the sensory impact on her. On the one part it was great wandering around the Colosseums inside learning about what all the different structures were and what the process was for what they did here. Many people think that the gladiators were a fight to the death thing, but actually the audience often gave them reprieve out of pity thus many less ended in death than is widely thought of.
Apart from the Colosseum, you can go to the ruins across the road on the same ticket and it is well worth starting your day early (advice I should have taken myself), so that you can do the Colosseum, have lunch, then explore the ruins afterwards. The ruins were so interesting and we far from got round it all, and by this time it was getting late and we really needed to get our tired little munchkins back to the hotel for some dinner and a rest.
Most of our days on this trip have been starting quite late due to the fact my children are both in a state of constant jet lag – aka laziness – and have been horrific to get up and moving in the morning. Miss Rebel Teen has become very disconnected from the early part of every day, and Miss Moo has struggled with the tiredness that over exposure to sensory input causes. That in mind we made it to the Vatican City (not inside because I’m not sure that is possible???), and visited St Peters Basilica, the museum, and the underground area where all the tombs of the popes are. What a sight the Basilica was!
So beautiful and although the pictures in the walls seem like paintings, they were actually intricate mosaics, and would have been quite the project to undertake back in the day and Michelangelo was quite the artist.
The tombs underneath the Basilica are really nothing special apart from the fact that you know there are dead popes down there somewhere and that it is so quite its a little eerie. The museum was quite interesting too with so many of these gold trophy looking things that housed a piece of bone or tooth of someone of stature in the Catholic world who died in it. Quite odd really. We did miss the Sistine Chapel and the Trevi Fountain unfortunately due to time constraints and late-waking children, but really I think the fact we got to go to the Disney Store for Mackenzie and H&M for Lauren more than makes up for it.
We did manage to go to the Spanish Steps whilst we were there, but to be blatantly honest, they were steps…with lots of people sitting on them. Pretty sure I might have missed the importance of these steps, however I did get some really kick-ass tea from the cute tea rooms next to the steps, and I did talk my husband out of buying a rather expensive bag from one of the stores nearby like Prada (only kidding…they were WAY WAY WAY more than either of us would be happy to pay for a handbag!
There is something I have failed to talk about in all my posts about Europe, and that is in regards to food. In all the European places we have been on this trip there really has been only one or two places where allergens are mentioned. We really noticed quite quickly that our vegetarian, wheat and dairy free, organic lifestyle to which we are accustomed to was in no way understood by any of these countries. The thought of us not having meat as part of our meal, and asking for just vegetables, or asking for things without cheese, were met with looks that immediately conveyed the thoughts “holy shit, these people are nuts!”. Seriously…there is not a whole lot of allergy stuff here either and when we were looking for phenergan tablets the pharmacist said to me that there really wasnt a whole lot of need for that in Italy. This makes me really wonder what we are doing wrong in Australia and some of the other highly westernised countries for us to have such a huge industry related to wheat allergies, nut allergies, dairy allergies and the like. Some of it I am sure is because they seem to eat very seasonally, and very local. There are not massive supermarkets here, and the old fashioned green grocer is still very much alive and well, however that didn’t stop us from enjoying the local fare in Europe…like Nutella the size of Mackenzies head, and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
Well I best be off and sort out my recap of my favourite place – Sorrento and the Isle of Capri. Although I might just veg out and get through this flight to Greece that has become significantly turbulent. Its likely that I am more miffed about the people who recline their seats back all the way on a cramped short flight, those behind me that may or may not have forgotten to brush their teeth sometime in the last century, and…okay I am not always the best flier but I think I am doing better that I have in previousl\ times. I know I have a big thank you to my hypnotherapist for helping with that…thanks a million Ange x
See you in our next installment…photos will be spectacular!!!