Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Mediterranean Adventure: Day Twelve Cruising & Returning Home

Dear Em,
* This is one of ten posts recapping our California adventure. See also Day One Boston to BarcelonaDay Two Antibes & NiceDay Three Pisa & FlorenceDay Four RomeDay Five & Six CruisingDay Seven AthensDays Eight, Nine, & Ten Turkey & Lots of CruisingDay Eleven Capri, Italy, & Your Own Adventures with Grandma & Papa. *
We woke up on our last cruising day with mixed emotions. Part of me wanted to stay in bed & catch up on sleep. We had had mostly early mornings & late evenings with jam packed activities in between. The other part of me wanted to make the most of our last day, not leaving any moment wasted. We finally settled on a compromise. We read in bed & watched one TV show before heading to the dining hall for breakfast. 

Afterwards, we found our favorite spot on the ship, on lounge chairs far enough from the pool that the music wasn't blasting. It was kind of our little cubbie. We called it our spot, & it gave us warm sunshine & perfect views of the sea & passing land. We spent most of the day there, enjoying the constant views of the coast for one last day.

We went back to our room in the late afternoon to pack & get ready for dinner. We headed to dinner in the formal dining room, & I was struck by how much I was going to miss our kind servers. After dinner, we finished packing up our things (we had packed so much for two weeks!), & put our luggage out in the hallway. I couldn't help feeling giddy that we would be going back home to you soon. 

We went to our last shows on the ship, & although part of me wanted to do everything on our last night, it ended up being mostly a low key night. We headed back to our rooms fairly early, & I fell asleep quickly with the amazing thought that I would be seeing you the next day.

Unfortunately, we had a large journey ahead of us before we were reunited. We woke up at 5am as we docked in Barcelona, Spain. We ate one last breakfast on ship, before saying goodbye to the room & the ship, the Vision of the Seas, that had been our home for the past twelve days. Considering how many people were on board the ship, departing was actually a pretty painless process. There was a little hiccup where we waited for what seemed like forever on the bus that would take us to the airport (35 minutes or so), but we made it to the airport on time.

The Barcelona Airport is a quirky little place. As much as lines exist there, there didn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to them. Daddy stood at the front of one line for about a half hour, just to watch the airport staff pick & choose other people from within various spots in the line before us. After being surrounded by the extreme friendliness & courteousness of the cruise staff (really, it was the best customer service I've ever experienced), the Barcelona Airport was a bit of a rude awakening.

Still, we miraculously made it through the lines & security with time to spare. The airport has a little bit of a shopping mall in it. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we did some last minute souvenir shopping. We purchased some really great finds in the Duty Free shop, including what would be your favorite of all the souvenirs we brought home to you. Then we met up with Glen & Liz for a couple more European beers.

There was just one problem. The whole morning I was off the ship, I still felt like I was on the ship. I think people call it sea legs. Although I was on land, I still felt like everything was swaying. I felt off balance as I walked around. It's an incredibly annoying thing to still feel like you're on a boat when you know for sure you're not on a boat.

We flew to Amsterdam before getting on a long flight back to Boston. They serve complimentary wine on international flights now, & I took advantage of that. I couldn't fall asleep. I felt like we had just woke up, & I took advantage of the almost unlimited movies available. There was a man flying with his infant son, & I couldn't help but look at him with absolute empathy as he tried to keep his baby relatively quiet & still in his lap during our nine hour flight.

The flight went fairly smoothly, but in the last hour I began to get incredibly airsick. By the time we were getting off our flight, I was taking Dramamine & doing everything I could not to vomit everywhere. It felt so good to be done with the flying & so great to be on American soil again. We were so close to being home with you...& yet still so far away.

First, we took a bus from the Boston airport to the train station. Then we took a train from Boston to Providence. Then Papa picked us up & drove us home from Providence. When he first saw me, I must have looked how I felt. We had been awake & traveling since 11pm East Coast time, & it was almost 8pm when he picked us up from the train station (21 hours).

The sea legs & the airsickness & the exhaustion all melted away when we pulled into our driveway. I ran out of the car, almost before it came to a complete stop & without grabbing any bags or luggage. I ran into the house, & scooped you up. I was pretty sure you had grown four or five inches while we were away, & I was never going to let you go. Daddy had agreed that you could sleep in our bed that night, & I couldn't wait to snuggle you until we both fell asleep.

Grandma & Papa left soon after, knowing that we were exhausted, & we headed up to bed. Daddy was bringing our luggage into the house, when you told me that your belly hurt. You started gagging, & we ran into the bathroom. I held your hair back as you threw up into the toilet. My body was screaming with exhaustion, & I silently prayed that I would have the strength stay up with you that night as you struggled through whatever was going on with your tummy.

Luckily, that was the only time you had to throw up. We laid down in bed together & told each other how much we loved & missed each other. You whimpered a few times throughout the night, but I just reached out & held your hand. Your body immediately calmed down as soon as our hands were touching.

At last, we were home. Your daddy & I had had an absolutely incredible & amazing adventure- I loved all of it- but we were both so very thankful to be back were we truly belong.

I love you so,

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Our Mediterranean Adventure: Day Eleven Capri, Italy

Dear Em,
* This is one of ten posts recapping our California adventure. See also Day One Boston to BarcelonaDay Two Antibes & NiceDay Three Pisa & FlorenceDay Four RomeDay Five & Six CruisingDay Seven AthensDays Eight, Nine, & Ten Turkey & Lots of CruisingDay Twelve Cruising & Returning Home, & Your Own Adventures with Grandma & Papa. *
Because we had missed out on our Santorini experience, we decided to forgo Pompeii (our trip had already been so full of ancient ruins) & a hike up Mt. Vesuvius in favor of an Italian island excursion. We decided to go to Capri for the quaint Italian sights, the food, the shopping, & the chance to swim in the Mediterranean.

Salerno, Italy is not a tender port, but we did get on a ferry right after leaving our cruise ship. The hour ferry ride included beautiful views of the Amalfi coast. It's incredible how all of the structures are built right into the side of a mountain.

We arrived at Capri, which was basically an island of rock & were immediately amazed by the view the island gave us of Naples & Mt Vesuvius. Our guide told us we would hitch a ride on a minibus to AnaCapri (which basically means on the top of Capri), because the roads are too narrow for regular sized buses...& he was right. The roads were so narrow I was sure they were one way roads, & yet traffic on each side buzzed by. I had a window seat on our minibus, with the view of the ocean. I was absolutely dazzled by the beautiful mountaintop ocean view while at the same time praying our minibus did not go flying off the cliff we drove right on the edge of.

Miraculously, we made it to AnaCapri in one piece. Daddy & I headed straight to the chairlift that takes you to the top of the mountain. Smaller than a lift at a sky resort, this one was just a one-seater. In quiet solitude I was able to look at the most amazing aerial views while also looking at the homes & gardens below my feet. I could smell basil over top of the many gardens. I was so glad we decided to visit Capri, because that little chairlift ride immediately became my favorite adventure of the whole trip. Once we got to the top, we looked over the edge at Naples & Mt Vesuvius for a while (clouds & fog covered the other side of the mountain) before heading back down on the lift.

We grabbed a quick cappuccino with a view before heading down to the main center of Capri. There, we tried Italian limoncello for the first time. Did you know Capri was the first place to produce limoncello? Next, we grabbed some Italian pasta & pizza at a pizzeria with a stone oven & view of the harbor (we were told to only go to the pizza places that were called pizzerias, because they had the stone ovens). It was the best meal I had the whole trip.

We did a little bit of shopping (the center of Capri mostly had expensive shops like Dolche & Gabana...not really my style) before taking a cable car (like a subway but hanging in the air) back down to the port. 

We took a Ferry back to our cruise ship. This time we sat up top. I loved every second of the ocean breeze on my face & Amalfi coast views along the way. 

We went back to our room for a little bit of rest before Daddy & I had dinner in the formal dining room, just the two of us. We talked about how much we missed you & all the things you do that make us laugh. We both felt ready to go home, but we talked about all the things we would miss about the cruise having someone clean up our room each day & having breakfast, lunch, & dinner prepared for us. We talked about our favorite adventures in France, Italy, Greece, & Turkey. 

We went out onto deck to view the most brilliant sunset. The sky was bright colors of cotton candy surrounding the island of Capri. We joined up with Glen & Liz & listed to karaoke for a little while but ultimately ending up in the quaint piano bar & a quiet card game of high, low, Jack. 

I can't believe we've already experienced our last Mediterranean excursion- our last cone of gelato, our last bite of pizza, our last glimpse of a ruin- but I'm so ready to return our home & return to you. 

I love you so,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Butterfly Birthday Party: The Theme

Dear Em,
Last weekend we hosted your 5.5 birthday party with your little friends & cousins. Over the next few weeks, I'll recap the fun (& craziness). First, we'll start with the theme. The theme really ties into the venue (which I'll be recapping later), but ultimately it we gave you the choice for themes this year. You chose...


When you & I exercise together, your very favorite part is when we do our butterfly stretches. You ask me what kind of butterfly I am & then tell me what kind you are. Then you pretend that a butterfly catcher is approaching & flap your little legs as fast as you can to fly into a tree. It's kind of adorable & makes my exercise routines so very precious.

For the purposes of your party, you wanted to be a sparkly, purple butterfly. It wasn't exactly the most gender neutral party theme, but it was totally you. I was determined to make it work for you & all of your little friends. Butterfly Birthday Party...or bust!

I love you so,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our Mediterranean Adventure: Days Eight, Nine, & Ten Turkey & Lots of Cruising

Dear Em,
* This is one of ten posts recapping our California adventure. See also Day One Boston to BarcelonaDay Two Antibes & NiceDay Three Pisa & FlorenceDay Four RomeDay Five & Six CruisingDay Seven AthensDay Eleven Capri, ItalyDay Twelve Cruising & Returning Home, & Your Own Adventures with Grandma & Papa. *
On Saturday we docked in Turkey. We had three different spots to explore, & I loved passing by rows & rows of olive trees as we traveled by bus.  We drove in & out of mountains while our tour guide told us all about Turkey. Like the USA, Turkey has many different people from different cultures. The guide called it a mosaic of cultures, & it seemed the perfect way to describe how beautiful it can be when a place includes diversity of people & cultures.

During the days of the Roman Empire, they established one of their largest cities in Turkey, the city of Ephesus. Unlike the ruins we visited in busy cities everywhere else on this trip, Ephesus was abandoned long ago. As a result, the ruins we saw in Turkey were the most complete  of the whole trip. 
In Miletus we saw, explored, & climbed a theater that had once held 15,000 people. Surrounding it was a bath house & other pieces of what was once a harbor city. When the water dried up, so did the city...leaving these incredible ruins standing quietly in the middle of nowhere. 

We stopped at a small nearby museum to see pieces of plates & artwork & even money that had been used back when Miletus had been full of life. 

Next we traveled to Didyma to see the ruins of the temple of Apollo. Had it been finished, it would have been the largest temple of its time & one of the wonders of the world. Unfortunately, it was never finished, but it was still impressive to see. The two pillars that remained intact were massive & towered high in the air. 

We had the chance to eat what they called an "authentic Turkish meal." In reality, it was a gigantic dining hall experience. Daddy said it would be like taking an international group to a Ponderosa & telling them it was an authentic American meal. Still, it was fun to try out a variety of different Turkish foods. I loved the dips & the breads most of all.

Ephesus was once one of the largest Roman cities. It was a city on the move as the silted harbor receded. The city actually moved to 4 different locations. The last location was buried after an earthquake, which is why so much of it remains. It was the largest & most extensive of all the ruins we saw on this trip. It was fascinating to see how the ancient city was situated & how the people lived. 

In Ephesus, even going to the bathroom was a social experience.

From there we took a bus back to the port & navigated through the many shops & merchants that lay ahead of the ship. They sold carpets, one of the main goods of Turkey & many, many "genuine fake" name-brand handbags, watches, etc. 

The day had been scorching hot, with temperatures in the upper 90s. We returned to the boat exhausted & grabbed a casual meal from the buffet. Then I happily put on a pair of sweatpants. We sat on pool lounge chairs, covered ourselves in pool towels, & watched a big screen movie on the pool deck. 

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow that night, excited for our next day's early excursion in Santorini, Greece. Unfortunately, we woke up early the next morning to some serious rocking of the ship. It was difficult to get dressed & get myself ready as the boat lurched from one side to another. I don't know if I was more excited about going to Santorini or just getting off the rocking ship. I started to feel sea sickness for the first time, & it was awful. As we gathered in the ballroom before the excursion, I turned to your Daddy & said, "I just need to get off this ship."

That was when they announced that the water was too rough, & it would be too dangerous for us to take our tenders to the island of Santorini. I don't know what was worse, knowing that we would not be able to go to one of the spots I had most looked forward to or knowing that I was stuck on the violently rocking ship.

We were looking forward to the blue-roofed buildings of Santorini. Sadly, this was the only blue-roofed building we saw on our trip.
Nevertheless, I was determined to make the most of the day. While Daddy, Glen, & Liz went back to bed, I went up to the track on the top deck to exercise. The wind was blowing so hard, I didn't make it very far. Looking for protection from the elements, I went to the gym inside (still with a nice view) & got onto a treadmill. Have you ever tried to run on a rocking treadmill? It's not easy! I relaxed in the sauna for a little bit before swimming laps in the empty pool (which had waves like an ocean). 

After I showered, Daddy & I looked for fun things to do on the ship. Every indoor area was crowded with people. After lunch, we found Liz & Glen. That was when I hit a wall. It was a miserable day to be at sea. It was cold & windy outside. Most of the outdoor activities were closed. I was starting to feel terribly seasick. While the others played cards, I put on my headphones & closed my eyes for a while.

Luckily, after taking a Dramamine, I felt a little better. We had dinner at the formal dining restaurant, where every night we have the same table & the same servers. They all know our names, which is a nice feeling when you're traveling so far from home. I was awestruck watching them all work amidst the rocking of the boat. I could barely walk. How were they serving food & drink? 

The wind had died down enough to go out on deck that night & watch another movie under the stars. We snuggled up under towels again to watch the outdoor movie, & then headed straight to bed afterwards. I was glad to put an end to what had been a disappointing & challenging day.

What a difference a day makes. I was so incredibly happy to wake up the next morning & see calm seas out our window. I woke up early & ran 3 miles on the top deck track. I'm going to miss ruining in the sunshine with the sea views & sea breeze all around me. I stretched & hit the sauna before eating breakfast quietly on a lounge chair with the beauty of the Mediterranean all around me.

We spent a good chunk of that day laying in lounge chairs, enjoying the sunshine, reading books, & catching occasional cat naps. I also snacked on soft serve vanilla ice cream whenever possible, & we played a few games of shuffle board. Unlike the previous day, it was the perfect day for cruising.

When we had our fill of sunshine, we went to a piano lounge & played cards. We returned to our stateroom to get ready for our last formal night on the ship. We were cruising through the Italian straight, making for the perfect backdrop to our formal photos. 

We went to a fun show after dinner & then headed to bed, excited that we would FINALLY be able to leave the ship for our last excursion the next day. 

As sad as it will be to see our last piece of Europe, we're so excited to be returning home in just a few days. I miss the little toilet seats...& most of all my little girl's snuggles. We love you so, so, so the moon & back. Can't wait to hear about all of your adventures while we've been away.

I love you so,
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