Actually, it's been almost a week since we left Paris. We had a whirlwind five days and by the end of our London/Paris side trip Leo sighed that he was tired of seeing famous places. In Paris we were the typical tourists and saw all of the celebrated sites- the main museums like Louvre, d'Orsay, l'-Orangerie and Rodin. It was a kid requirement to see the Eiffel Tower and Rodney was enchanted by the Palace of Versailles. Simply strolling around while sampling the pastries, baguettes and nutella crepes was a favorite pastime. Maybe too much! We had an apartment which makes it great for simple meals at home, but we try to get out and have at least one tasty dinner w/out children - which happily we did. RJ's favorite museum was de L-Orangerie where the humongous Water Lilies by Monet were painted specifically for the spectacular building. I love the Rodin museum which is all sculpture and located in the quaint mansion and gardens where the artist lived. Leo's is uncertain of his preferred site, but he still thinks Michelangelo is the best sculptor as evidenced at the Louvre. We know we were just one of millions of tourists to have visited Paris. In fact, over 245 million have visited the Eiffel Tower, but we wondered, how many like us, were lucky enough to utilize the toilets at the top. Perhaps we don't deserve Paris! Au revoir!
The cold weather in southern Italy during March just isn't ideal for boat living. We figure after this two year adventure is over, we'll be stateside for a while, so this is our chance to see Europe. Visiting London, Paris and our friend Anke in Germany bubbled up as our top places to go w/out the boat.
We arrived in London after flying through Frankfurt and Rome (obviously frequent flyer mile travel.) Hopping on the the metro after being so tired was a challenge, but somehow we made it to our little rental apartment in West Kensington. Here's a quick summary of the week in London:
Day 1 - Rode the double decker bus tour so we would have a clue about the basics of London. Growling stomaches gave us the excuse to stop near the London Eye for our first taste of pub fish and chips. We took a ride on the London Eye and relaxed on the slow moving, space age ferris wheel while scanning the fabulous views of London.
Day 2 - Succumbed to Madame Tasauds Wax museum (touristy and schmultzy, but entertaining). We then strolled Oxford/Regent Street - good news - the economy must be booming - we could barely make our way through the throngs of people shopping.
Day 3- Missed our Beatles tour after challenges navigating the tube. Decided to go the movies - saw Rango - in assigned theatre seats. Wandered through Hyde Park - RJ and I rented bikes while Leo and Rodney playeda at the Princess Diana memorial playground. Discovering the Peter Pan statue at twilight was magical. Hyde park is huge and would be a great place to run everyday.
Day 4- Tower of London tour - torture chambers, crown jewels, cafe and a gift shop. Lots of ghosts around there - Henry the VIII wives and poor Queen Jane. During the evening we saw Wicked - fabulous. We stood in line in the morning to get the "front row stalls" at half price and it was worth it!
Day 5- British Museum highlights - Rosetta Stone, Egypt mummies and Greek sculptures (we're all excited to go Greece - but looks like the Brits have all the "stuff" from the Parthenon.) That evening - Rodney and I had a date - dinner in Chelsea.
Day 6 - Beatles Walking Tour - very entertaining - saw Paul McCartney's office (he was there, we saw his light - ooh) the rooftop concert site, Abbey Road, etc. "London Walks" is a great outfit and they have a variety of walking tours.
We absolutely loved hanging out in London. Everyone is friendly and some speak English!
Our seven weeks in the snow was a wonderful diversion. When we first embarked on our trip in 2009, we didn't anticipate that our boating adventure would include time in the snow. However, wanting to spend time off the boat in CA and needing to rent a place somewhere, it worked out perfectly. We sort of got to live out a ski bum fantasy (just a few decades later, with kids and a bit paunchier.) The daily ritual for Rodney and I included skating - fast cross country skiing. It was a zen experience to concentrate and skate on the tranquil trails day after day. It eventually got us in shape after the boat blob and holiday indulgences. Our routine also included homeschooling (not so zen) and taking the boys downhill skiing in the afternoons. RJ and Leo loved zooming down the mountain and after a few scares, we thought it best to put Leo in a ski jump lesson - certainly lest costly than other scenarios. We relished a few blizzardy days and the many gorgeous sunny days. The frosting on the festivities were all the folks who visited us on the weekends.
btw: During our time in the mountains, RJ turned 13, grew out of his clothes and Leo lost four more teeth. We stayed in the Truckee/Tahoe Donner area which is a low key, affordable family ski area. We rented our house via vrbo.com, which we have used to book our accommodations all over the world with great luck.
02/16/2011, Tahoe Donner aka Truckee
We've been in the Sierra mountains over 5 weeks and this is our first blizzard. It's lovely. Being in our cozy cabin is almost like staying in a calm anchorage when there is nasty weather all around. Although we were so comfortable indoors, we had to venture out into this fabulous powdery snow. Rodney and I rode our striding skis to the nordic center and did a little spin and got to spoil the untouched trails. Later, we took the boys to the small downhill ski area at Tahoe Donner. We could barely walk in the huge winds and the chairs on the lift were whipping around. I was a bit nervous, but the float down the hill was worth the trouble. It was almost white out conditions and I lost sight of Leo even in his bright yellow jacket. Fortunately it's a short run so we all met up at the bottom. We managed to do three runs before the wind convinced us to go back to the toasty cabin. We have less than two weeks left to enjoy the beautiful snowy mountains before returning to das boot.
Brrr- no jumping off the boat today instead we're enjoying our land travels in the USA. After an active stay in Alameda we've been able to spend time with our nearest and dearest in Three Rivers, Angeles Oaks, La Quinta, Phoenix and now we're on our own in the Grand Canyon. Blanketing the ground is a dusting of snow - quite beautiful. In the spirit of doing school, the boys became jr. rangers at the Grand Canyon. Here are their homework poems:
Grand Canyon rocks are
colorful and amazing
transforming, moving, expanding
making me step back
We're off to Tahoe tomorrow!
Over a year has zoomed by since we began the adventure that took us a decade to plan - you know, sailing the Caribbean and the Mediterranean on our 47 ft catamaran, Azure II. It may not be everyone's dream and in fact when you encounter nasty weather, broken boat parts and sick kids all on the same day, it's more like a crazy challenge. But it's all about the journey. Swimming with turtles, kayaking with dolphins and gazing at skies full of stars have been awe- inspiring. We're grateful to have the opportunity to travel and experience these memorable moments as a family. People have asked:
What we do all day: Snorkel, hike, homeschool and fix stuff. See the sites. Trek to grocery stores. Figure out where we are and where we are going. Host friends & family and socialize with other sailors. Most of the time we are anchored, not sailing.
Surprises: The boys aren't homesick and don't miss TV (their caveat is that they miss it when they see it again...hmm.)
Scariest part: Dragging anchor in 30 knots at 3:00 am in St. Martin.
Stats: Sailed 6000 miles, explored 17 territories/countries,
visited 70 anchorages.
Favorite Places: Columbier, St. Barts - a turtle haven
BVIs- so many islands, rocks & wonders
Horta, Azores - European old world charm
Italy - what's not to like?
Best Part: Spontaneity, nature, sharing our journey w/ others.
Current Boat Location: Vibo Valentia, Italy - it's cold there now.
Family Location: We're warm & cozy at Uncle Jimmy's in Three Rivers!
What's Next? Visiting family and playing in Tahoe. March 2nd, it's back to the boat to travel Greece & Turkey (with a side trip to Germany to visit our friend Anke.) We'll return home in August 2011 in time for Leo to start 6th grade and RJ 8th grade.
We're so lucky to have had phenomenal support along the way and we greatly appreciate the hand delivery of boat parts, volunteer labor, crew help as well as the encouraging notes throughout our voyage! We wish you a happy, healthy and adventurous 2011!