Salzburg Austria

Salzburg takes forever to get to from Venice by train. Not really, it was only 9 hours but it seemed like forever because I was stuck in a train car with my family.

9 hours in a little glass box...
9 hours in a little glass box…

Now I know what you’re thinking; Jack you dumb bum you haven’t even written about Rome, let alone Italy. Well Italy is going to be long and I’m feeling really uninventive on the sarcastic line area today. So for now you’re going to have to deal with me talking about Austria, not Italy. Austria is one of the most historical places in Europe. From the Sound of Music to the Turks almost taking Vienna time and time again saying “this is for the crusades you jerks!” it is a lovely place to stay if you like churches, castles and classic musical movies.

The first day we went to this massive castle that was built in 1496 and had many improvements since then. It was never captured by force but was high up on a hill not really able to defend the town. That’s because it’s just supposed to intimidate the enemy. The only reason it was taken was when Napoleon showed up they just gave it to him.

How useless would this be for defense?
How useless would this be for defense?
View of Salzburg from the castle
View of Salzburg from the castle

The next day we went to the convent that Maria the main character in the Sound of Music stayed. That same day we went to the cemetery that they based the end scene set off. I know what you’re thinking: wow Crim/Cotte family so inventive. We also took a walk along the river and saw where Mozart grew up.

Mozart's 'hood
Mozart’s ‘hood

That same day we went to the Schloss Mirabell Palace. That has the fountain that they filmed the Sound of Music Do-Ray-Me song. Are you starting to see a pattern yet?

Do: a deer, a female deer...
Do: a deer, a female deer…

Then it was off to Fussen, Germany where we are currently.

Corniglia, Italy

This week we had far too short a stay in the Cinque Terre area of Italy. We spent a couple of nights in Corniglia, on the western coast of Italy. We absolutely loved it, and would have loved to stay longer, but that is what happens when you are trying to stay spontaneous in the summer…

The area is full of beautiful hiking trails, and we had a gorgeous apartment, with a beautiful view you can see here.

The view looking left.
The view looking left.
The view looking right.
The view looking right.

There are gorgeous hikes throughout, and although it was cool, it made me happy to get out a do a nice strenuous hike.

Me happy, hiking!
Me happy, hiking!

And although our time in Corniglia was too short, we still had time to smell the cacti!

Ouch!
Ouch!

Athens

The family is now in Siena, Italy. So of course I’m going to talk to you about Athens the capital of Greece. The last day in London we went back to Heathrow to fly to Athens. We took a taxi to our hotel in Athens. The hotel was great depending on whose point of view it is. I’ll tell you it was great. Joe, on the other hand, will tell you it’s crap. His bed was right beside the door and on the way to the bathroom for the oldies.

The first day there we went to the Parthenon (the Acropolis for all the haters looking to correct me). Then we went to a nice dinner with lots of cats! Joe was in heaven he just stared at them imagining cuddling with them.

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The Parthenon, at the Acropolis
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Hadrian’s Gate, built by the Roman Hadrian (of course).

The second day we just walked around the city looking at Parliament, Hadrian’s Gate and all the many ruins in the city of Athens. The same day we went to the Acropolis Museum. Fun fact: Athens supported Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in the Roman civil war.

The third day we went to the hill across from the Acropolis. Are you starting to see a pattern yet? We went to the place where they think the Greece politicians kept Socrates. They also built a statue to the Roman emperor Augustus (they guy that won the Roman civil war, you see why they built it now).

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The path to Socrates’ cave.

There are a lot of cats I mean a lot you can’t go a day in Athens with out seeing at least five cats. We saw lots more than five a day but for the sake of the doubters I’ll scale it back to a believe able scale. Then we went to the port, got our ferry tickets and took a trip to Naxos.

Our ferry to the island of Naxos.
Our ferry to the island of Naxos.

Joe on Rome

We were in Rome. We got into Rome by airplane. This was a good flight because a dog sat in front of us at the airport. We were picked up by Vlad. When we were in the car with him (try saying that 10 times fast) I thought a lot of big history making people have the name Vlad, like Vladimir Putin or Vlad the impaler (very similar). So on the way to the hotel I saw the coliseum. Now this is not just any coliseum it is THE COLISEUM. And a very funny note: my bed in the hotel could be moved with me on it.

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Living history in Rome!

Now my over lords, or parents for short, want me to type on some more things on this mac so I will talk about THE MEAN DAY OF WALKING BOM BOOM BOOOM…   So on that day we went to the coliseum but then we saw the line so we went to a ticket booth of another place but then we found out that the tickets covered the coliseum so we went in and found out it is a museum. But I did see things from Pompeii and other things from 5th century BC.

Rome in Two Days

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Jack is loving it!

If someone should ask me, “Can you see Rome in two days?” I will answer most emphatically, “No, no you cannot.” But we tried…

The Coliseum
The Coliseum

We thought we weren’t being too aggressive with our plans: the Coliseum/Forum/Palantine Hill (which we could walk to easily from our hotel) on Day 1, and walking to Vatican City, sightseeing along the about 4.5 km walk along the way, on Day 2. What we didn’t count on: temperatures of about 33 C, and two boys who suffered horribly from seasonal allergies in Rome. (Well, in Greece too, the truth be told, but Rome was the zenith we think). Jack and Joe really enjoyed the Coliseum, which, while far more crowded than we expected, still seems alive with history once you get inside. (I’ve included a picture of Jack here. While taken in Siena, it demonstrates how excited he was in Rome).

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Looking into the animal and gladiator pits.

Day 1, which included far more walking than we anticipated, ended for the boys partway through the Forum, with so many sneezes the crowds were giving us a wide berth as a potential contagion group. We took them back to chill at the hotel while Dan and I did a dinner out and an evening walk up to the Trevi Fountain. After a lovely meal, we spent about 30 minutes dodging hawkers aggressively selling selfie sticks, then finally found some peaceful streets and enjoyed most of our walk. But it was longer than we anticipated (sensing a theme?) and we arrived to find 1) more hawkers, and 2) the fountain dry and under scaffolding. On the way home, we did pass by one of the city’s beautiful churches though, and it was lit gorgeously at night.

The light streaming into the ceiling in St. Peter's.
The light streaming into the ceiling in St. Peter’s.

Day 2 began well, with allergies somewhat under control, and a gorgeous walk to Vatican City, through simply beautiful small streets near the river. Disappointingly, the crowds were simply too big heading into the Vatican museum, so no Sistine Chapel on this visit. But St. Peter’s was simply incredible, as you can see from some of these pictures. We walked a different route back, right along the river, which was gorgeous, and empty of crowds. It was about a 10 mile day, in the end, in very hot weather, but still, gorgeous. Moral of the story: Rome is crazy, beautiful, crowded, anxiety-provoking, crowded, and worth the frustration. I think…

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Walking home along the Tiber.
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St. Peter’s – check the tiny heads for a sense of scale.

Now we are in Siena, in a beautiful hotel that is a (short) walking distance to everything. Temperatures have dropped to the mid-twenties, perfect for strolling. Time for some wine and pasta…

Jack’s England

We are now in Greece. So Joe and I are seriously behind in blogs. But for now I’m going to tell you about England. The first day we got there we got off the ship and said goodbye to the ship kids and every one else. Then we took a bus to the airport to take the subway to our hotel. I know; confusing.

After the subway ride we checked in to our B&B. We had seen signs for Wicked everywhere and that’s a play I’ve wanted to see for a long time. I was very happy when mom and dad said we could go. It was such a good performance.

The next day we went to The Tower of London. They did some pretty wacked up stuff in there; like murdering two little princes! The little brats probably deserved it though. I’m pretty sure they cried over spilled milk and the guards couldn’t stand the whining. Then we went to lunch and walked back to our hotel. (On a side note Big Ben is much smaller then it looks on the post cards.)

Part of the Tower of London complex. Did you know there are more than one
Part of the Tower of London complex. Did you know there are more than one “tower” at the Tower?

After that day we went to the British Museum. It is the largest museum in the world. It has a massive collection of mummies. Then, what I thought was one of the coolest things, was a leather man! He had died in a swamp that worked as a tannery to turn him in to a leather man! The coolest part was he died right before the Romans invaded. Think about how long ago that was.

The grand entrance to the British Museum.
The grand entrance to the British Museum.

They also had a whole collection of Napolean Bonaparte news and propaganda cartoons depicting how much of a short snob he was.

Napolean portait
Napolean portait

Then the next day we went back to the airport to fly to even older places than that leather guy. Athens Greece!!!!!!

Jack and Joe, brothers and friends

We are currently in Santorini, Greece. How can it be colder and rainier here than in London, Ontario? Odd, but that’s the way it goes sometimes… we do hear it’s supposed to warm up, but the 5 days we spend here may be quite chilly. It’s a mountainous island, so cool weather is good for hiking, but it’s no longer beach weather. Add to that we all have either allergies or colds, and it may be a long stay here. Okay, enough whining…

Temple of Apollo, Naxos
Temple of Apollo, Naxos

However, last week we were in Naxos, another island. It was glorious. It’s just before the tourist season, so there aren’t many visitors. Not everything is open yet, but it was great to walk the streets with very few people. All the pictures today are from Naxos.

How cool is this beach?
How cool is this beach?

But I thought I’d write today about the boys, rather than the place. It’s been a couple of weeks now since we left the Semester at Sea program and began travelling “alone” as a family. The kids miss their friends from home, and their new friends from the ship. They have only themselves again, as in Sedona, except now they are stuck with Dan and I all in one hotel room. There is no escaping Mom and Dad; which really isn’t good for any of us! Okay, so it’s not that bad. But it is close quarters and we all have to get used to that. It’s going to be about 8 weeks on the road, so we better get used to it soon!

Laughing in the waves
Laughing in the waves
Deep thoughts on the city square
Deep thoughts on the city square

They enjoyed Naxos, as we all did. Glorious weather, beautiful beaches, and gorgeous small villages. Add in fantastic local wines, citron, all the lamb Joe can eat, and all the gyros Jack can eat, and it adds up to a fantastic experience.

Cold water? What cold water?
Cold water? What cold water?
Huggy
Huggy
Check me out!
Check me out!

Joe’s London

We were in London. Now before I get started this is not London, Ontario this is London, England. And we are no longer on the ship we are now going through Europe alone.

I own London!
I own London!

On the first day we went looking for our hotel and on the way we saw a poster for Wicked the musical so we went in to get tickets. We then went out trying to find a place to eat; we then found a place called “I do not remember.” But I do remember the steak burger it had a big piece of steak then put a bun on it. Then we went to see Wicked. I have a question: if you defy gravity will you be popular? (P.S. Defying Gravity and Popular are both songs in it).

The next day I will never forget ever so we were going to the Tower of London and I saw Big Ben.

Big Ben - can you see Mater?
Big Ben – can you see Mater?

When we got to the tower we had to wait because we wanted to go on a tour so we went to the book store and I looked at a book called underground London. It talked about how London had a lot of crime in the past. Did you know that Hitler’s secondhand man was a prisoner in there? And big thing I saw were the Crown Jewels and a Beefeater.

A beefeater guarding the Crown Jewels.
A beefeater guarding the Crown Jewels.

Athens

This week we spent four days exploring Athens. Glorious weather, and we did it right: explore in the morning, rest in the afternoon, back out for late dinners. We focused on the ruins, as we stayed in Plaka, at the foot of the Acropolis. This was my first visit back to Athens since 1988, when I travelled with Lisa Penner. The city has changed a lot, but mainly it was a much better trip when I had a little bit more money! The wild cats are the same (Jack says “still great”) but there does seem to be less of them. And visiting when it’s maybe 25 degrees is much nicer than visiting when it is about 42 degrees, as it was when I was here in the summer. Much more civilized. Spent the afternoons in Athens catching up on some writing projects, with the ever patient team of co-authors I am currently working with. Thanks again for understanding: Aimee Huff, Miranda Goode, Jodie Whelan, Matt Thomson, and Jeff Rotman. On to Naxos, then Santorini, then Rome!

London

We had a very brief (two night stay) in London. If we thought the ship was crowded quarters, the hotel room in London was even smaller! I think the room we all slept in was about 150 square feet. You know it’s small when it is smaller than the room in Japan…

The very first night we arrived we took in Wicked, which was a highlight of the visit for all of us.

We also had great weather. Although cool, it was nice and sunny. We packed a ton of walking into two days, visiting the Tower of London and the British Museum, along with sites along the way such as Buckingham Palace. The kids were exhausted, so maybe we pushed them a little hard. For those of you who know London, this means walking from the Tower of London all the way back to the Pimlico neighbourhood we stayed in. Are we too tough?

Here are some pictures from the two day visit. Lots of great history!

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