We spent a little over four weeks at home. The kids loved being home. The only downside for them was that their friends were busy with school and sports, but they were still able to have a little social life and they had each other and the comfort and freedom of home and high speed internet and Netflix to keep them happy and busy. They also had their own school to catch up and keep up with since we returned from our last adventure about two weeks behind.
Ashley created a slide show presentation for her World History and Cultures class the day before we left for Italy.
So, they buckled down, especially Grant (we didn’t have his Biology kit with us so he was far behind), and worked hard in order to leave for this next trip ahead in their lessons. Scott and I had plenty to do too. We had to winterize and organize our house and find a house sitter to keep the cat company (do you know how many people are allergic to cats?) and fix our pond that had sprung a significant leak and re-dig the drainage ditch around the house in case it rains (cross your fingers and the “we” isn’t truthful for the pond or ditch) and on and on.
We had so much to accomplish on our little “break” at home. The tradeoff to sleeping in my own bed was overwhelming and I remembered something that I had realized our first idyllic week in Oberammergau, Germany; there is never enough time to do the things that you want to do and usually barely enough time to squeeze in the things that need attention, but those are the things that rise to the top of the list.
In our little apartment in Germany I started my blog and I had so much fun with it and I had fun playing cards with the kids and hiking and helping them with school and that was about it. I had a lot of fun, which is something that I struggle with at home because I am too busy checking things off of my eternal list. I don’t want to be that way. I want a better balance of “have to’s” and “want to’s” because I am convinced that the things one is inspired to do or wants to do or enjoys doing can be more important than the “have to’s” most of the time (and I am talking about after your real life, take care of your kids kind of stuff). That is one of the best things about traveling for me, freedom from the stuff that is on my list that doesn’t really matter. For example, the kids are loved, fed and schooled on our adventures. Our bills are paid at home and the cat is being fed by the very responsible house sitter. If I was at home right now, I would have a list a mile long of stuff that doesn’t really matter (unless I am at home)
Oh yes, and did I mention, we needed to plan our next trip? We are not great planners and so we came home with the general idea that Spain would be a good idea. The kids are both learning Spanish and Scott speaks it a little better than I speak German. We met an amazing couple in Tanzania on their honeymoon; she was from Spain and he was from South Africa. She gave us a list of Spanish towns and we thought our trip was as good as planned, but then I started researching.
I’m going to stop right there and talk about how the internet is a big pain in the ass. It’s super helpful too, but there is so much information and in my father-in-law’s words, I often get a bad case of “analysis paralysis.” I also need to let go of everything being perfect and just let it be; there is no perfect place or itinerary, Daisy (except for maybe Oberammergau)! The more I read about Spain the better… and worse it got. It would be chilly in November and we really like hiking. The towns that Paloma (our adorable Spanish newlywed) suggested were all a bit big. Maybe a warmer, Spanish speaking country would work. So then I researched all of Central and South America. Those areas sounded good, but I felt I needed more time to research before we lived there for months, so back to Spain because it sounded easy…but cold. Did we want to spend all seven weeks there? Maybe we should stop by Italy since all we saw was two nights in Venice the last go around. The decision making process went on and on until I finally purchased plane tickets; to Rome and home from Madrid. Now we would have to make some plans.
I thought that the plane tickets would be motivating and they were but now there was the added stress of, “we are leaving in 23 days…” “we are leaving in 14 days…” and still no real plans and the pond wasn’t getting fixed or the ditch dug. I think about ten days before we left we spent a whole day reserving apartments and making an itinerary and then the last four days at home we worked nonstop to get ready and so here we are in Rome recovering from being home (Scott and I have vowed to get better at planning and being at home) and it is pretty neat to say the least.
The kids are both studying World History this year and thus, so am I. I don’t think I learned much history in school, I remember US History as a junior in high school because we had to explain everything Billy Joel croons about in his song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” but that was about it for me. This Roman stuff though is very interesting. It’s one thing to read about it, and believe me there is a lot to read. It is entirely another headache inducing feat to remember how it all fits in a time line, but being in Rome and actually seeing the overwhelming evidence of these very industrious Romans, who had such vision really inspires me to learn and understand more about world history.
Roman Aqueducts on Palatine Hill
Rome is overwhelming with its depth (literally the catacombs and a whole other city) and breadth of history and beauty and things to do and see. There are Roman ruins, churches or basilicas, and museums and monuments everywhere you look, not to mention all of the other stuff that might be interesting depending on who you are. Seriously, the hallways of the Vatican Museums alone total nine miles! This is a place that you could just hang out and absorb for weeks without purchasing one ticket; walking, people watching, enjoying coffee shops and eating pasta and gelato all before you head down the rabbit hole of the travel web sites’ and travel guides’ lists to check off in Rome.
This “arena” on Palatine Hill had pools and a riding ring; basically your really nice, outdoor entertainment area if you were an emperor.
First we visited Palatine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome and also one of the most ancient parts of the city. According to Roman Mythology, the founders of Rome were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers that were sons of the god Mars and the priestess Rhea Silvia. The boys were unwanted and were placed in a trough and thrown into the Tiber River to die. They were later rescued and nursed either by a wolf or by a woman, Loba, whose name meant wolf in Latin. Regardless, the boys grew up and killed their uncle (the one that had thrown them into the the river so they wouldn’t become kings) and reinstated their grandfather who was king before their uncle. They decided to build a town on the site that the wolf or woman named Loba had nursed them, which was Palatine Hill. Romulus began to build a wall on the hill and Remus teased him because it was so low. Consequently, Romulus killed Remus and went on to build Rome.
A view of the Colosseum from Palatine Hill
Palatine Hill was like a park and not very crowded (thank you Rick Steve’s Pocket Rome and your advice to purchase a combo ticket at the Palatine Hill entrance, much shorter line!) and therefore very peaceful to wander through, although it was very difficult to figure out what we were looking at exactly. Scott complained that he was having a hard time imagining what he was supposed to be envisioning. Grant and I had to laugh at that, but sadly, I have read so many comments and websites complaining about the same thing and how it would be so much more interesting if you knew what you were beholding.
Scott trying to figure out what he is supposed to be imagining.
I think that this is where my not being that interested in directions really helps me out. I was just happy to see old rock and brick walls and pillars and crumbling buildings and stuff that the Romans had created. It all reminded me of building rock outline forts on dusty hills when I was a kid. I wanted to go play in the outlines of history that the Romans had left from 2,000 years before.
There is a museum on Palatine Hill with many impressive sculptures inside. Scott especially loved this one with so much detail carved into marble.
We wandered down the hill into the Roman Forum which was the heart of Rome at one time; imagine those really cute downtown areas in some cities and towns and that was the Roman Forum. There are many crumbling ruins to wander through and learn about in the Forum.
We visited the Colosseum.
It was really amazing and there were a lot of people there, but all of the tourists actually added to the experience, you felt that you might be there for “game day” milling about with royalty and peasants and even women! You could almost hear the roaring of the crowd as animals and people fought for their lives for the entertainment of about 50,000 spectators.
The cross marks the emperor’s seat.
In its heyday much of the Colosseum was covered in marble but after Rome fell and the Colosseum became a symbol of Christian martyrdom, much of its marble was repurposed for cathedrals and other more virtuous uses. I love this view because it shows the different layers of building materials.
Imagine that the tourists standing on the platform are the gladiators or animals that would often fight to their deaths. Underneath this platform, you can see the areas that housed them before their performance.
Romans built a lot of arches and here Scott is telling the kids about the keystone of the arch, the piece in the middle that makes it all work.
I always enjoy checking out the tourist fashion and it never disappoints. I was thrilled to discover that this is a passion that Ashley and I share so about half way through our Colosseum meander, Ashley and I started discussing the different outfits that walked by. Truly impressive; kitten heels on cobblestones and gold lame outfits.
We really liked the Pantheon. Scott said it looked like a water tank on the outside and Grant said, ” you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Yes, this is all true about the Pantheon but there were a few things about it that I really loved. First of all, it was built by the Emperor Hadrian around 120 A.D. and dedicated to the worship of every god, every god in Ancient Roman times true, but to me that sentiment translates to a modern, all encompassing house of worship because the word “Pantheon” is a Greek adjective meaning “honor all gods,” even though it was dedicated in the 7th century to “St. Mary and the Martyrs”.
It is 2,000 years old, the best preserved Roman ruin, and has been in constant use since being built. It is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome at 142 feet in diameter.
In the 16th century Michelangelo studied the dome of the Pantheon before he designed the dome on the St. Peter’s Basilica, two feet smaller, possibly in deference to the Pantheon.
The floors were beautiful and original.
The columns outside of the Pantheon weigh 60 tons each, were built in Egypt and floated down the Nile during the spring floods to the Mediterranean.
So that’s what we’ve been up to for the last few days; school and sightseeing.
Our classroom…I have never before appreciated nice big tables.
We lucked out on a great apartment in Rome. After our experience in Wiesbaden (Wiesbaden Fail), my expectations are fairly low, but we need the space of an apartment and as we all know, Scott likes to cook. This apartment is great and it comes with things that I never expected, things that weren’t advertised like a fully stocked refrigerator and a daily cleaning service; maybe that’s Karma making up for the place in Wiesbaden and the review that I did not write because I just wanted to let it go.
Anyway, Scott has even made Egg Noodles here in Rome and we have only been here for two days (or three, the jet lag is bad this time).