Italy, France, Mallorca, Spain 2015

Last Day

Today, we slept in, had breakfast on the terrace, and then walked back through the Borghese Gardens to the Roma Zoo.  We saw a bunch of animals…

It was great to have a relaxing day.  We walked back to our apartment for lunch and hung out for a while, then drove to Tivoli.

We went to Tivoli to try a restaurant our neighbor, Antonia, recommended.  We are so glad we went! It is called Ristorante Sibilla Di La Mura Luigia.  We sat outside under the wisteria-covered pergola.

The restaurant has been open since 1730 and is right next to the ruins of the Roman Temple of Vesta and the Sanctuary of the Sybil.  The patio is next to a deep canyon and you can hear waterfalls rushing from your table.  There are plaques all along the building, engraved with the names of all of the royal figures that have dined here over the years.  It really is indescribable - you all just have to go and check it out yourselves!

We had an amazing meal and talked about all of the places we have been and all of the things we have seen over the last two weeks.  We are all so sad that it is ending, but so grateful we had this incredible time together.  Now, we are packing up and getting ready to head to the airport tomorrow.  We are looking forward to getting home, but all four of us realize how truly special this trip was, and we know we will never forget it.

Thank you Antonia for telling us about Sibilla!  It was the absolute perfect way to close out our trip!

Weekend in Rome

This morning, we packed up and left our house in Tuscany and started driving towards Rome.  We stopped in Orvieto, a medieval town built on top of a big hill with huge walls all around.  We rode the funicular up into the town.

We checked out the incredible duomo…

We looked over the edge of the wall at the beautiful view.

We found a great cafe off the main streets and had a nice lunch.

And then got back into Rome.  Driving in Rome is no joke.  I’m so glad Neil does all the driving because I would have a nervous breakdown.  We checked into our apartment in the Borghese Gardens section of Rome.  We have stayed in a lot of apartments and houses in Europe, but this is the most beautiful.  It’s a huge penthouse in a 1930s building with a fantastic terrace.  It’s the perfect blend of classic character and modern luxury.  I’ll take pictures of this place and post them tomorrow.

From the apartment, we walked through Borghese Gardens and ended up at the Spanish Steps.  

This is our fourth time in Rome and we have never seen it so crowded!  Saturday night is not the night for sightseeing. We felt so bad for the people we saw last night trying to visit all of the main sights - defintely not ideal conditions.

From the steps, we headed to Trevi Fountain, but it was empty and covered with scaffolding.  So, we headed to the Pantheon.  It was super crowded there too, and they closed the doors just as we walked up.

So, we decided to just call it a day, and not fight the crowds.  We took a taxi back toward our neighborhood to a restaurant our host recommended.  It was a very good decision - this place was amazing.  Almost all locals, and wonderful food and atmosphere.


We had another great meal and walked back to our apartment where we relaxed on the terrace and then got some sleep.  Tomorrow is our last day here before heading home.  It’s hard to believe it’s almost over!


Hayden and Violet already wrote their posts for the day, and since they did such great jobs, I have nothing to really add!  So, for today, we will just defer to their posts…

Hayden’s post

Violet’s post


We had such a great time in Florence today! We drove from our house in Greve in Chianti towards the city center and found parking about a mile and a half outside the city.  We had timed tickets to the Accademia Museum, so we had to hustle into the city to make it.  We had heard that without reserved tickets, the wait to get into the museum could be hours long, so we assumed that even with tickets pre-ordered that the museum would be super crowded.  But, we went in, and headed right to Michelangelo’s David. 

It was so incredible to see him in person. The detail is really something you can’t believe.

We checked out more scultpures and paintings

and then the wing of musical instruments.  This is a Strativarius from 1609.

and the first upright piano ever made.

After the Accademia, we had lunch at a trattoria right next to the amazing Duomo.

Then, we walked around one of the main Piazzas, taking in all the sculptures.

Then, we crossed the road to check out the River Arno,

and had some gelato in the square whie checking out even more sculptures outside the Uffizi Museum.

At 4:00, we could go in to the Uffizi Museum.

We saw tons of 12th-14th century religious art.

and then the Botticellis! First, the Birth of Venus

..and then Primavera…

Both are amazing in person.  The entire Uffizi building is impressive, especially this domed roof.

The museum is huge and we did our best to see it all.  When we finally wore out, we started the long walk back to our car.  We made ithome by about 8:00 pm, but it stays light so late there was plenty of time for the kids to play outside.

This is Iboo, the estate owners’ dog.  

We have one more day here in Tuscany, and then we head back to Rome for two more days.  It has been great every single day!

To Tuscany

This morning, we got off the ship in Civitavecchia, rode the local bus to the car rental, and then drove north towards Tuscany.  We passed through tiny town after tiny town as we got further and further out.  We stopped along the way to check out some Etruscan tombs from 700 BC.

The scenery around was just amazing!

We kept on driving until we got into the Chianti region, and then into the little town of Greve.  We found a market, got stocked up and headed up into the hills to our villa in Greve. It’s a beautiful old stone house with its own vineyard and olive grove.  The views from every room are unbelievable.  This is the backyard.

From the entry…

We had a nice relaxed dinner and are just having a mellow night.  We head to Florence tomorrow for the Accademia and Uffizi museums.  We are all so excited to go to Florence for the first time!

Pompeii, Sorrento and Positano

We went to Pompeii and Erculano the last time we were in Italy two years ago, but we went without a guide and without a map.  Big mistake.  It was amazing, but we didn’t really understand what we were walking through.  So, having learned from that experience, and with Violet’s incredible interest in the Mount Vesuvius eruption, we decided we had to go back, but this time with a guide.  So, we met up with Charlotte (an archaelogist) right as the site opened at 8:30 am.  We walked through the original gate and up the main Roman road - the chips of white marble in the road were placed along the main entry road to act as reflectors for visitors carrying torches.

The ruins are amazing, and when you put everything in context, it’s even more incredible.

This is one of the beautiful baths.

When we left Pompeii two hours later, the line to get in was insane and the whole place was packed.  We were so glad to have gotten there early. Next, we headed to Sorrento, and on the way, we passed by the clearest water.

After Sorrento, we headed to the Amalfi Coast.

It’s so beautiful, I can’t even believe it’s real.

Our driver took us way up the mountain above Positano to La Tagliata, a restaurant right on the cliff with an incredible view.

We sat down and the waiter immediately brought us wine, olives, bruschetta, eggplant parmesan, zuchinni, broccolini, and bread.  As soon as we finished tasting everything, they brought us all of this pasta.

Every thing at the restaurant is made by “Mama"…the pasta, the cheese, the wine, everything.  There are gardens just below the dining rooms.

The food was the best we have every had, by far.  We ate as much as we could, and then came dessert.

We finished off the meal with a shot of Limencello, and headed down into Positano.

Today was a fantastic day in every way.  Tomorrow, we are back to Civitavecchia and then driving to Chianti in Tuscany for a few days.  On to the next part of the trip!

Barcelona Eight Years Later

Barcelona was the very first stop on our very first trip to Europe eight years ago.  We had never been abroad, Violet was a baby and Hayden was only 5.  It was incredible to come back with bigger kids and travel experience!  Our guide picked us up at the port and took us to the gothic district first.  We walked through the placas and cathedrals…

….and then had some Spanish hot chocolate - basically dark chocolate melted in a coffee cup….delicious.

After checking out the gothic quarter and the Ribald, we went to Barceloneta Beach to look for more cool rocks and sea glass.

From the beach, we headed up to check out the Olympic Stadium and torch.

We took in the view from Montuic Montana…

and then out to lunch.  We went to a very fancy seaside restaurant and had delicious vegetarian paella.

Then, we headed up to Park Guell, full of Gaudi’s art and architecture.

Then it was on to the amazing La Sagrada Familia.

and finaly, Casa Battlo, another of Gaudi’s buildings.

It was really cool to come back after so much time.  It was like the first time for Violet, and Hayden only remembered a few things from our last visit.  The kids both learned a lot today, and they really enjoyed the city. Tomorrow is a sea day, and Violet’s 9th birthday, so we are excited to celebrate with her in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea! 


Today, we arrived in Mallorca, a Spanish island not far from Barcelona.  We met our guide at the port in Palma.

We saw the old city and the cathedral behind the ancient walls.

Palma reminded us a lot of Barcelona with its wide pedestrian streets filled with flowers and lined with trees.  There are lots of squares with statues and monuments.

After walking around for a while, we boarded an antique train that took us from Palma up into the mountains.

We took the train to the town of Soller, famous for oranges.  We tried an orange sorbet, and then took the old trolley down to the beach.

Mallorca is such a pretty place. We had perfect weather today and enjoyed every second of our time here.  Tomorrow, we have a long day in Barcelona…so excited to be going back!

French Riviera!

Today was the best day so far!  We met our incredible driver/guide Cecilia at the port in Cannes. The film festival is going on right now, so the city is filled with actors, producers, media, yachts, and paparazzi.  It is quite a scene! After Cannes, we drove along the sea to the peninsula and Antibes.  Antibes is an old city that still has its original stone walls.  We walked through the ramparts and down to the beach.  

I think Antibes has the clearest, bluest water we have ever seen.  We headed back through the walls, into the city center, and the old open air market.  

The fruit!  And the vegetables!  And the spices! So amazing.  And you can try everything in the place.  It was spectacular.  Our driver charmed her way into Billionare’s Row and we got to see the biggest yachts in the world.  

This one cost $400,000,000! 

From Antibes, we drove up into the mountains to visit St.Paul de Vence, a medieval village that has become one of the art capitals of the world.

We checked out a bunch of art galleries, and walked all through the city.  It is such a beautiful place.

Our final stop of the day was a last minute decision.  There is a small village that has a yearly violet festival, and they have shops and bakeries that sell all violet items, so once our guide heard Violet’s name, she had to take us there.  The village of Tourrettes sur Loup is way off the beaten path, no tourists at all, and it was our favorite place of the day.

We all had to try Violet ice cream, which is amazing.  We were so lucky to have such perfect weather and such fantatsic destinations today.  It couldn’t have been any better.  

Cinque Terre and Pisa

This morning, we started early and headed north towards Cinque Terre with our driver.  The weather looked a little ominous, but it ended up being a beautiful day.  Cinque Terre is a region of five villages on the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea.  You can drive to the first village only, then it’s only boat or train to the others. We started in Riomaggiore and walked down to the marina.

We caught the train and went to Vezzano.

We had a great lunch of caprese and cheese pizza.

We walked around a little and just tried to take in the scenery.  It was hard to believe that it is a real place and not a movie set.

We walked through a secret passageway to the beach.

Our next stop was the village of Corniglia for some gelato.

 We walked to the end of town and the view from the overlook was incredible.

We decided to make a quick stop in Pisa on our way back to take the customary pictures….

It has been eight years since we last visited Pisa!

Today was an unforgettable day in one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.  Truly spectacular.  We are wiped out after such a long day, but excited for Cannes tomorrow.  Hayden and Violet can’t wait to practice speaking French.  And eating crepes!

© Knstrong 2013