Krakow & Wielicka

Our last two days in Poland (and together. . .Trey was going back to Italy for 2 more months and we were heading to the U.S.) were spent in Krakow.  On the first day, we had fun visiting Wawel Castle. . .

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle

Wawel's courtyard

Wawel’s courtyard

Eating in the busy square. . .

Lunch on the street

Lunch on the street

Watching some street entertainment (we still don’t have a clue how he did that). . .

Mysterious street entertainer

Mysterious street entertainer

And Shopping in the medieval marketplace. . .

The Rynek (marketplace)

The Rynek (marketplace)

My souvenir. . .amber ring

My souvenir. . .amber ring

The next day, we drove to Wieliczka, home to one of the world’s largest salt mines.  The unique thing about this mine, which was placed on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, is that the miners carved beautiful statues, murals, and cathedrals into and out of the salt in the walls of the mine.

Inside the mine

Inside the mine

Mural

Mural Inside the Mine

The Last Supper Mural

The Last Supper. . .and our last hurrah.

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At last, Prague

Ever since we lived in Poland, Trey and I have wanted to see Prague.  We had always heard what a beautiful city it is and so we made sure that we squeezed it in during our last days in Europe.  We flew to Prague on Wednesday and arrived in the rain.  It rained pretty much the whole time we were there, but even the rain couldn’t keep us from exploring.  We had a delicious Czech dinner in a little pub/restaurant just around the corner from our beautiful hotel.

Breakfast was served in the hotel, and then it was off early to try to beat the crowds.

First stop. . .Charles Bridge

First stop. . .Charles Bridge

In the rain

In the rain

Just off the Charles Bridge

Just off the Charles Bridge

We headed to the city center.  It was cold and wet, but oh so impressive.  We made it to the astrological clock just before the hour so we didn’t have to wait long for the show.

Clock tower

Clock tower

astrological clock

astrological clock

splendid doorway

splendid doorway

We’ve never met a tower that we didn’t want to climb. So up we went.

View from the tower stairs

View from the tower stairs

At the top

At the top

At the top

At the top

Prague from above

Prague from above

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

From the castle

From the castle

Rustic Czech dinner

Rustic Czech dinner

Bed, at last!

Bed, at last!

It was a quick stay in Prague, but enough to whet our appetite for this amazing city. Now I am determined to go back and spend more time.

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Bytom

Trey and I had dreamed of revisiting our home in Poland, where we had taught English for 16 months.  We have so many fond memories of those days of being newly married, living abroad, and having some of our first experiences in other European countries.  We decided that before we left Europe this time, we would include a trip to Poland.  So we flew into Prague.  We stayed there for a couple of days.  We rented a car and I drove (I was the only one with an International Driver’s License) from Prague to Poland.  It was about an 8 hour drive to Krakow, where we had rented an apartment for a couple of nights.  Our first full day in Poland, we had made plans to visit Bytom and check out some of our favorite spots.

Our favorite bar mleczna for lunch.

Our favorite bar mleczna for lunch.

Next, we strolled through the park that Trey and I had walked through each and every day that we went to work at the American Academy of English.  We always loved this park.  It was a lovely green oasis in a region of sooty buildings and post-communist construction.

Trey and the kids

Trey and the kids

My turn

My turn

Then we headed to town to visit the places we worked, shopped, had coffee, ate lunch, and spent time with friends.  We knew that our old school that had moved from ulica Jozefczaka to ulica Sadowa had closed down, but we could not believe our eyes when we saw the old sign still in place.  We had to take a photo (or two).

American Academy of English

American Academy of English, 2/1997 to 6/1998

Finally, we had the chance to meet with some friends that had been so helpful and so kind while we were there.   We spent a couple of hours at a sidewalk cafe catching up with our office manager, Andrej, and his family and administrator, Danka, and her family.

Andrej and his boys

Andrej and his boys

Danka, her family, and Andrej's wife

Danka, her family, and Andrej’s wife

Then they lead us on a walk around Bytom meet with some friends that had been so helpful and so kind while we were there.

Watching the children play at the park

Watching the children play at the park

What a wonderful time to reminisce on our old life in Poland!

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Farewell to our home in Italy

Although we are excited about getting back to a normal life at our home in Maine, there are so many things that we are going to miss about our home here in Italy: the views of and the short walk to the mediterranean, the flowers, the olive oil, the pasta, our neighbors, the history, our little Alfa Romeo, the produce, the short drive to Tuscany, and so much more.  I hope that we can visit Monte di Procida again someday.

Leaving by Jet Plane from Naples Airport

 

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Books

While we have been in Italy, we had the luxury of the library on base – numerous free books at our disposal.   We do not have a television in Italy.  We only watched shows occasionally on my computer.  That means plenty of time for reading.   Plus, with homeschooling, the children have a mandatory 1-hour reading time everyday.  Up until recently, Claire was listening to books during reading time so that the room was quiet for the others to read and so that I could work.  Then usually in the evening, we settle on the couches or chairs and I read aloud. While we were in England, we were either reading books that we were able to bring along with us or that we bought. I thought it would be fun to put down a list of the books that we’ve all been reading or listening to since we came abroad.

Girls Reading

Girls Reading

Campbell
Fablehaven, 1 through 5
Knee Knock Rise
His Dark Materials (The Gold Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
Artemis Fowl, 1 to 3
The Hobbit
The Familiars
Warriors (various)
Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Dorothy of Oz
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

Clark
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, 1 through 8
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, 1 and 2
39 Clues, Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
Uncle Pirate
Chocolate Fever
Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke
The Hobbit
The Familiars
Artemis Fowl (1, 2)

Claire
The Witches by Roald Dahl (listened to)
The Secret Garden (listened to)
The Wind in the Willows (listened to)
Rainbow Fairy Series, 1 through 7
Smudge, the Stolen Kitten by Holly Webb (she is almost done with this one)
Jake, the Good Bad Dog
Tum Tum and Nutmeg
Magic Tree House, Book 1
Boo’s Dinosaur
Chocolate Fever
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Familiars
Little House in the Big Woods

Here she is reading a bit. . .

I Read Aloud
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Swiss Family Robinson by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
Watership Down by Richard Adams (we LOVE this book)
The Higher Power of Lucky
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Jennifer
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (listened to)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (listened to)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (listened to)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Here if you Need Me by Kate Braestrup
Suite Francaisse by Irene Nemirovsky
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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A Day of Boating in the Med

Our wonderful neighbors and friends, the Martinos, own a boat.  We finally got a chance to go out with them and enjoy the Mediterranean.  We left at about noon and Sal flew us across to the island of Procida.

He put down anchor in a little cove with quite a few other boats.  The water was nice and the cove was pretty shallow.

the cove

 

the busy cove

The kids could touch just a little way from the boat.  The bottom was covered in moss and algae, so I wore my flip flops into the water.

sea bottom

As it turned out, I was glad I did.  Trey, Clark, and Claire all stepped on sea urchins while walking around in the water.  More on that later.  Antonella brought us a delicious salad for lunch.  We took a nice break on the boat to eat and have some homemade sangria with peaches – yum!  We sat on the front of the boat in the sun and talked while the children played in the water.  Once we were hot, we had a swim.  It was lovely.

basking in the sun

basking in the Mediterannean sun

We pulled up anchor and headed back to Monte di Procida at about 7 pm.  It was only when we got home that I realized the extent of the sea urchins.  It seems they leave a little poison where their spines break off and each little spot is really painful. Trey, Clark, and Claire had a time of it in the night, and the next day found them all limping.  It was a stain on an otherwise glorious day at sea.

Trey’s feet after stepping on a Sea Urchin

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Siena, then back to MontePulciano

For our last day of our holiday vacation, we decided to visit Siena. It was about a 45-minute drive. We’d already seen some pretty spectacularly medieval cities. The kind of Tuscan towns that we’d come in search of: ancient, rustic, charming. When we got to Siena, we parked the car within the old town’s city walls and took the long route into the centro. We discovered the Snail district first. Campbell began to spy symbols of the snail everywhere she looked. Then we began to notice the Turtle. Apparently, Siena is organized into 12 districts, all with an animal as its mascot. During the Palio, or “Big Race” (that happened to have occurred just 2 days before we arrived), each district is represented in a horse race around the city. It’s huge, and very dangerous. Trey said that the districts are so loyal that they rarely marry outside of the district they are born in. As it turned out, we were not in the mood to enjoy Siena. It was larger and crowded and hot.

Campbell's shot

Campbell’s shot

In front of Siena's duomo

In front of Siena’s duomo

Siena

Too Cool in the Snail District

We yearned to go back to Montepulciano and explore more there. So after about 1 hour in Siena, we left it.

We drove back to our Agriturismo and rested and swam. Then we cleaned up and drove to Montepulciano. We were hungry, but there were plenty of olive oils available to taste. We stopped in each store and tried out their version of oil on bread. Delicious! We walked up the hill all the way through the winding road that lead through town. Italians do not eat dinner until at least 7 pm, usually 8. So we had plenty of time to explore before we could stop for dinner. Unfortunately, we somehow missed the big piazza where the scene from New Dawn was filmed. We had a most delicious dinner of lasagna, ravioli, and pizza. Aahh, with Italian food. . .you cannot go wrong.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano

The Streets of Montepulciano

The Streets of Montepulciano

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