Italy and Greece!

It’s almost Halloween, which means that predictably Portland is rainy and grey and cold, and we’re right back in the fall/winter weather (it all looks the same, 50 degrees and WET).  SOOO, I’m going to post some sunnier photos of some fun stuff we did earlier this year!  Also, because I haven’t posted about it yet, even though it happened in May and that makes it a full 5 months ago.  And even though you haven’t seen any summer photos at all.  Perhaps this would make you think that summer doesn’t happen in Portland?  Well… it does, but barely.  It’s just so damn fast and furious that it’s practically impossible to capture as it’s happening.  🙂

So earlier this year we decided it would be just the thing to take an international family trip.  I think we’re really vagabonds at heart, Jason and I.  It’s hard to stay in one place for so long.  I start getting antsy for adventures, and after my trip to Kenya, I think Jason was too.  We have a very good friend named Michelle who lives in southern Italy, and we knew that at some point this year it was likely she would change locations, so we decided to just go for it.

And did I mention we brought Evelyn along?

How could we leave her behind?  And of course, since we were going to be on the southeastern coast of Italy, we had to throw in some Greece time in there.  We hadn’t been back for a visit since we lived there in 2006 (nothing like naming a year to make you feel OLD).  And of course, both of us miss it desperately and dream about the future day when we can move back.  And Evelyn’s middle name is Greek as a testament.  So yeah.

As an aside, every time I mention this all my Portland friends are like – you want to MOVE one day?  And all my family is like, outside of the COUNTRY?  And all my east coast friends are like – and not back HERE?  Guys, guys.  Let me spell out the future for you.  Dream of dreams – live part of the year in Portland, part in Knoxville (or just climbing in the SE/Rifle/wherever we want/ROAD TRIP!!!), and part of the year in Greece/Spain (I find it impossible to choose just one).  Just so you know.  That’s the vision that fuels me every time I’m like, “Work is STUUUUUPIIIIDDD…”.   And as for what I’ll do with children and school – no idea.  But I’m sure we’ll figure something out.  And how we’ll pay for it?  Totally going to find a job that pays me exorbitant amounts of money to do work that doesn’t depend on any particular location.  Within the next 10 years.  Doesn’t all of this seem totally feasible?  Anyway.  If you’re going to dream, I think you should dream BIG.

We talked about it basically every day leading up to the trip, until every time we left the house she was convinced we were going to ItalyandGreece (because to her, it was one place, obviously).

It was a phenomenal trip.  Challenging, of course, to travel with a 2 year old, but totally awesome and worth it.

Get ready for a boat load of photos.

First, the plane ride there:

TV is fine when it’s on an airplane, right?

Evelyn TOTALLY rocked the ride there.  She slept 8 out of 10 hours on the long flight (on the floor between the two of us in a little nest we built for her).  It was awesome.  Foreshadowing: the flight home was not so easy.

Tip #1 for international travel with a toddler: Bring lots of STUFF.  We had books to read, coloring books, snacks, blankets, pajamas, stuffed animals – you name it, we brought it.  I had no idea what to expect.  And of course, the individual TV screens helped slightly.  🙂

The view from Michelle’s balcony in Trani.
Michelle’s son Leonardo waiting for us to arrive.

Michelle lives in a little town called Trani just outside Bari, Italy.  Her apartment is immediately off the ocean, about 3 times the size of ours, and super close to amazing food (of course).  Why do we live in the states again?

Here are two pictures of it from the internet, probably done by people who actually get paid to take photos and therefore know what they are doing:

Mmmhmm.  Rough.  So, first on the agenda?  Balcony time.

Next immediate thing upon arriving?  Gelato.  Duh.

Evelyn’s like, vacation RULES.

 We sometimes ate gelato twice a day.  I expect you not to judge me for this.  🙂

Hanging on the waterfront in Trani.
So much delicious seafood.  And Evelyn’s silly face.

We hung out in Trani with Michelle for about 5 days to begin, just visiting and taking in the town and hanging out/recovering from the flight.  It was ridiculously awesome.  The food was amazing, the weather was perfect (not too hot or too cold) and it was so fantastic to be able to spend time with someone we love so much and hadn’t seen in such a long time!

Evelyn adjusted really well – she was obviously sleep deprived and all of our schedules were off, but she slept and ate and was mostly super happy and excited.

International travel with a toddler tip #2: the room Michelle had for us was REALLY freaking DARK, and it was AMAZING.  One time Evelyn slept until 10am local time (and so of course so did I) – I’d thought it would never happen.

Mmmmmmm MORE FOOD.
Turtle sanctuary in the park!
Cheesy couple selfie.
Hey good lookin’.
Beach time!

One of the days we were hanging with Michelle, she took us to see the trulli in Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site not far from Trani.  It was AWESOME!

A delicious picnic before exploring the town.
A sea of trulli…

We shopped, explored, played, it was pretty great.  And of course, ate a bunch of delicious food.  Like olives and cheese and focaccia and salami and cheese and more cheese.  Vacations aren’t really vacation unless you eat yourself into oblivion. 

Kids never cooperate.

Everything was going great until the sleep deprivation reared it’s ugly head… toddler meltdowns began, so we started to book it towards the car.  Unfortunately, halfway there, zombie Evelyn was walking and before we could catch her, walked directly up to a tree without paying attention, tripped over the bricks surrounding the tree, and face planted right into the trunk.

Serious tree rash.

Poor child.  Hence, for the rest of these photos, she’s smiling past her scab.  She lost her mind when she got injured of course, but dealt with it admirably the rest of the trip.

Looking like such a big kid on the waterfront in Trani.

Michelle also conveniently lives not far from downtown, and on the way into downtown from her house, there is a semi-permanent set of kids rides.  Oh man.  The joy of the toddler on a carousel.  The joy of a sleep deprived toddler on a carousel, to be exact. She had the time of her life.


She basically laughed the way she is laughing in the above video for the entire time she was on the carousel.  And she rode it three times. 

Dinner on the balcony.

We eventually left Michelle’s house for the next section of the vacation – GREECE.  Jason had booked us tickets on an overnight ferry from Bari to Corfu (Kerkyra), the northernmost and westernmost island in Greece.  We’d never been and were excited to check out a new island and to eat some amazing Greek food and hang out on some awesome Greek beaches (there might be a theme to our vacations).

That’s our boat!
Evelyn was thrilled that not only did the boat have BEDS, they were also BUNK BEDS.
Boat picnic!

The overnight boat actually went from Bari to Igoumenitsa, and then on to Corfu from there (we were too early in the season for all the direct stuff, though if you go later in May travel gets more convenient). So we caught a quick boat to Corfu town from Igoumenitsa in the early morning, and it was a beautiful ride!

Leaving Igoumenitsa.
We arrived!
Taxi rides in Greece = no car seat!
First taxi ride!

We stayed on the western side of the island just outside of a small town called Pelekas, and it was magical.  I’m not sure if my brain was primed to love it just because I love Greece in general, or if Jason just happened to pick a fantastic location (or maybe ALL locations in Greece are phenomenal?  I’m inclined to think this is true), but damn.  This place was rad.

The view from our hotel balcony.

The hotel was called The Hotel Bella Vista, run by a lady from Sweden (I think) who moved to Greece and married a Greek guy.  Totally family run, down to the 12 year old serving breakfast.  They were FANTASTIC and so great and accommodating with Evelyn… I would highly recommend this place if you are ever looking for a vacation spot.

Heading to the beach.

One evening we caught a ride up to Pelekas town for dinner, and after dinner (which I could go on and on about because it was delicious but I’ll spare you) we took a walk around town.  The island of Corfu is one of the most mountainous islands, and Pelekas is built just below the top of a small peak on the island.  So you can walk up to what they call the ‘Kaiser’s Throne’ to get an amazing view of the island.

Kaisers Throne is named after the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II who
purchased Achilleion palace on Corfu in 1907 and spent his summers there.  He liked to
drive to Pelekas to watch the sunset, so the spot has kept his name.

We spent two days on the island, hanging out and enjoying the beach and the sites.  Evelyn is scared of the waves, but had an awesome time playing in the sand and rocks on the beach.

Beach playing wore her out, and one day she passed out at the restaurant while we were chilling.  Rough life.

International travel with toddlers tip #3: Totally just let them sleep whenever they want.  Worked for us.

After that, we were off to Athens.  We couldn’t skip Athens – despite what many other people say about the city, Athens is one of my favorite places on earth.  I love that town – and we wanted to stop in to visit Jason’s cousin’s grandparents as well, since we hadn’t seen them for a decade!

Exploring Athens.
Delicious lunch in a taverna.

Parental confession here.  You are totally going to want to judge me for what I’m about to say, unless you’re a parent, in which case, you’re probably going to want to give me a high five. 

One night as we’re in Athens, Evelyn is wrecked.  We get her fed and get her to bed, but it’s early, and it’s totally lame to have to stay home to do nothing while your child sleeps and you want to hang out in your favorite foreign country.  We were staying in a hotel right in the Plaka, in the heart of the tourist district, so there was tons of stuff nearby.  During a google search (planned?  Perhaps…) I discovered that you can download an app called Dormi to your phone, and then if you leave one phone with the app on it in the child’s room, the other phone with the app on it acts like a baby monitor.  Only, it works long distances, as long as you are connected to the same wi-fi/signal on both phones.  And it lets you hear what’s happening, and gives you alerts if it gets loud in the room.

Soooooo…. we downloaded the apps, left one phone with Evelyn in our hotel room on the 3rd floor, and headed downstairs and across the street to have an amazing dinner.  It was potentially one of the best things we did in Athens!  Probably partly because it felt like I shouldn’t be doing it.  🙂  But it was rad!  I drank a little bit of wine (don’t worry, it was just a little bit, I was pregnant at the time after all), ate some amazing food, had some amazing conversation with my husband, got to enjoy Athens a bit… Yup.  True confessions of parenting.  And you know what?  If you ever find yourself in the same situation: DO IT.

So international travel with toddlers tip #4?  Download the Dormi app.  Stay in a hotel close to stuff.  You won’t regret it.

Exploring ruins!
Just Evelyn and the Temple of Zeus.  NBD.

We also got the chance to visit with Jason’s former Greek teacher Irini and her husband and two sons while we were there.  We had planned to come over for tea and stay an hour, and in true Greek fashion ended up staying more like 6.  Her family is wonderful and it was awesome to catch up!

Jason, Irini, and her husband.

Irini and her family speak English, but Jason also got to practice his Greek a little bit, especially when we took an afternoon to visit his cousin Tasso’s grandparents, who don’t speak any English at all except for a few phrases Takis has picked up from American westerns like:
“Mother, come here.”
“Sit down.”
“I love you.”
“John Wayne.”
“Burt Lancaster.”
“One, two, four, five!”

Fantastic.  They are the people who originally welcomed us to Greece back in ’06, when we spoke about the same number of words of Greek.  If you haven’t heard the story of our first days in Athens with them, I will definitely tell it to you because it’s hilarious.  But this blog is already long enough, so you can’t have that story right now.  Suffice to say, they are amazing and our first interaction was ridiculous, and in this trip they totally made fun of us for it.  I just love them.

Jason, Evelyn and Yia Yia
Jason, Evelyn, Takis and Yia Yia.

Clearly they loved Evelyn, and since her middle name is Greek (Athena) they loved that too, and started calling her ‘Athinoula’ as a nickname.  This visit went much better than our first – probably partly because over our year in Greece we got to know them much better, and also because Jason’s Greek was totally functional – I couldn’t contribute much, but we totally had actual conversations with them in Greek, despite it having been an entire decade.  Nice work to my husband on that front.

We didn’t go back to Santorini on this trip, though we did contemplate it.  Time was just too short.  Next time it’s definitely on the list.  We did try to recapture a few Santorini moments though, by doing things like eating octopus:


And perusing wine by the barrel:

And then, sadly, the Greece part was over.  We went back to Trani for another few days to hang with Michelle at the tail end of the trip, before heading back home.

Not tired at all.
It was a yawn, but it could totally be a roar.

At one point we caught some fireworks, which totally blew Evelyn’s mind.  Both the fact that they were loud and that they were colorful were amazing to her, and she talked about fireworks the entire trip.  She still references them today, only now she’s got enough words to say she doesn’t like them because of how loud they are.  🙂

Family!  Michelle, we miss you!!!
Evelyn LOVED Leo.
More carousel time.  Obviously.
Michelle and I went on a friend date and drank the best hot chocolate (really, it’s like pudding) and ate desserts.  Awesome.

On one of our last days we took a short day trip to visit the Castel Del Monte nearby (8 sided, strange construction, some kind of connection to the occult or something?  Pretty cool). 

And then we ate one last seafood dinner:

And had one last gelato:

And then we had to go home.  There are no photos from our plane ride home because it was WAY worse than our ride over.  Evelyn slept like a total of 5 hours out of 24.  It was pretty heinous.  But we lived!  And was it worth it?

Yes.  Every single tantrum was totally worth it.  It was so fantastic to spend time with Michelle (thank you so much for putting us up and showing us around and letting us take over your life for a few weeks Michelle!), and it really reinvigorated our future dreams/visions of where we want to be and what we want to do.

So now we are plotting and planning, just in case you were wondering.  Oh, and also working and raising one kid, and now I’m at week 31 of growing a second one!

Despite how many freaking pictures I put on this blog already, I have about a million more to share with you — I resolve to do at least ONE more blog post before this baby arrives.  See?  Deadlines.  🙂

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