A Travellerspoint blog

The Final Blog

We're Home, Scotland was Great!

semi-overcast 20 °C

Steve- First, a quick London Recap

Well, I certainly got delinquent on this blog recently (have not posted in a week) and much of it has to do with the incredible amount of things we have seen and done since arriving in England… Some particular London highlights (in no particular order)

The London Eye with Family!;
Taking advantage of a very great apartment setup to walk Hyde Park and take the Underground everywhere;
Fish and Chips, Bangers and Chips, very good food! (Including Bill Wyman’s restaurant);
The antiquated, but almost-a-museum-inside-a-museum (because of its age!) Natural History museum;

We left London on a Sunday morning and were promptly dropped off at the wrong station…not that lugging three kids and 8 full bags of junk about ¼ mile is that big of a deal! We ended up taking the wrong train to Edinburgh, Scotland, but in retrospect it really worked out: We followed the eastern coast of the United Kingdom up to Scotland and got 4 hours of incredible seacoast scenery. Finally, we arrived at the Gleneagles resort, our final place to stay and right off the bat we knew we were in for a great time!

Lisa- Driving….OH BOY- on the left, not right-C R A Z Y- I was shifting gears as Steve drove, and I prompted him to stay left through these circles they have everywhere, and jug handles to make turns. Then I drove for a while and I kept running into the grass (it was like I was 16 again getting used to the on-coming traffic!) But we made it, and finally got used to the driving- and the sights were phenomenal!

We stayed at the GlenEagles Resort, which has anything and everything on-site- it was just gorgeous- Scottish heaven! We played pitch (or chip) and putt with the kids, croquet, ran the topiary maze (It was just like the shining!!! The Overlook hotel- seriously- down to the vintage pictures in black and white all along the Loooooooooong hallways of people past that enjoyed their stay in this very old castle-like, swank Hotel . There were many restaurants to use while you were there, a massive indoor pool, outdoor hotub/spa, a gym about ½ the size of the Arena Club, a spa, salon, barber, shopping, I could go on and on----- The kids did day camps, took tennis lessons, played rugby, soccer, did ceramics, made cupcakes, it was great for Steve and I to go off exploring while they got to have some serious kids fun- we just couldn’t drag them through one more town admiring buildings and local landscape.

Gleneagles is a luxury resort that really caters to golfers AND their families…and so, despite the fact that I don’t golf there was a ton of stuff to do and we really took advantage of both the location (in between Edinburgh and Glascow) to do day drives through Perth, Stirling and Killin and the activities on site (we mountain biked, played chip and putt golf (small course, very cool), croquet and even did a family lesson in Falconry (check out the pictures, the video is even cooler). In Killin, Lisa and I were able to see the Highland Games, which is a festival that moves around Scotland throughout the summer. We tried new foods “stovies” (which has to be named after a bunch of leftovers thrown into a pot on the stove!), haggis, steak and ale pie, smoked haddock and all of it was interesting and good.
We had a wonderful three days to wrap up our vacation- thanks if you were able to bear reading through this whole blog!

We were so blessed and fortunate to have seen all of the amazing things we saw- but most important, we had fantastic family time- getting to be with the kids and getting to know their silly sense of humor, and seeing them interact with each other was the best of all.
Now, this 8 hr flight home….. uh…

Posted by sandlb107 05:17 Archived in Scotland Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Wrapping London

Lisa comments on three days in London!

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London....what a GREAT city!! This was my most worrisome town with the kids, thinking there wouldn;t be enough to do with them....boy was I wrong!!

We arrived late because we missed our flight out of Milan...put the kids right to bed, ORDERED FISH AND CHIPS AND DRANK SOME BEERS!

Woke up and walked up to Hydes Park- how great that was- folks sat in lawn chairs by the ponds, fed the geese, swans, ducks, and other numerous feathered creatures- rollerblading is huge there- you could rent them, rent bikes, run, whatever- we found the Princess Diana memorial playground- it wasn’t anything like our playgrounds in the States(or at least none I’ve seen)- it was a giant sand pit, water streams throughout and a giant pirate ship and numerous other wooden boats to climb on, jump off, rock, etc... then of course there were swings and regular climbing equipment in another side- the kids had a ball- poor Steve woke up with some sort of severe allergic reaction (my guess to the dust in our apartment or to the fish we ate the night before) and was a trooper throughout the day, although miserably suffering. We then hopped on a double decker bus, toured around and checked out the city from the top, and got off in front of the biggest, coolest toy store HAMLEY'S- 6 floors of toys, demonstrations going on, balloons, bongo drum payers, soooooooooooo much to look at and Hamley's own patented toys and crafts (we bought 4 packs of the markers for the kids-and me...heehee) we then popped back on the double decker went back to the apt. and called it a day- cooked in from the grocery store.

The city of London definitely is the most international, global metropolitan city I've ever been to- we saw people of every race/culture walk of life - there is restaurant for every possible ethnic stripe of the world, banks, travel stores, it’s just unbelievable- I really want to return without the kids- there is so many adult things to see and do that would bore the kids to tears...

Woke up early (and David Frost- which now you have been mentioned 2x in my blog, Thank You for the helpful tip to arrive early to the London Eye!) we hopped on the underground and went to Waterloo- on the Thames River where the London EYE was- a huge Ferris wheel with 350dgr viewing of the entire city of London....VERY COOL! we then ventured over to the world famous Museum of Natural History. I felt almost like we went back in time looking at all of the preserved animal species like they did in the era of the British "arm-chair" anthropologists/psychologists
there were actually signs of apologies and explanations of how in today’s society they observe modern laws of conservation and they no longer collect animal species like that- it was like a 'dead zoo' (the locals name for the museum)- the kids loved it though- they could look right up close and face to face with all sorts of animals- my favorite case was of every species of hummingbirds(which reminded me of my Mom) we could of stayed there for hours more, except we wanted to get back and change to go to Bill Wyman's Rolling Stone's Restaurant called "STICKY FINGERS"

Posted by sandlb107 00:25 Archived in England Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

England Here We Come!

A Day at the Milan Airport

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Steve- We are now hunkered down at the Milan Airport for another 3 hours… (apparently we missed our original flight- I say this because we had conflicting times in our itinerary and went with the more heavily documented, and convenient, flight, which turned out to be wrong. So we ended up with a 4 hour delay at the airport- not so bad… Honestly, I am really glad to be leaving Italy at this point namely because of the language barrier- very tiring! It really manifested itself in our final 2 ½ hour drive from Viareggio to Milan and trying to figure out how to return the rental car- it will be nice to get some English signage everywhere in London…

Viareggio was very nice but not as nice as the countryside in Tuscany….there was a ton of stuff for kids to do but without very much help from our hotel staff we feel as though we only figured out a fraction of the town. We did have a very nice dinner in a non-consecrated church on Tuesday night and spent two full days playing at the beach on the Mediterrean sea. It is very interesting and different how they handle their beaches here- each 200 yard (long) x 50 yard (wide)stretch of beach is owned by a different family who grooms the beach, operates a snack bar and provides chairs and umbrellas for a $20 fee all day. At first, it was very strange and hard to get used to it but by our third beach day we felt pretty connected to our beach hosts! There are numerous other differences between Viareggio and Ocean City (although they are quite comparable) including the swimming (lots of broken up kelp in the water) and the sand (nice, but not as nice as OC). One thing that is really cool about the Med-beaches is that you can play ball in the ocean. Sara, Max, Sam and I had a blast throwing around a soccer ball in the waves and on the beach.

So overall we spent five days in Viareggio and took two side trips (to Pisa and Cinque Terre). The Cinque Terre is a National Park consisting of a ton of hiking trails (costal hiking, incredible views) that connects 5 coastal cities that evolved independently over thousands of years…It was amazing to see, even from the car. We ended up taking a bus to the first town, walking along a sea path to the second, and then using trains to see a third. Unfortunately, it was amazingly hot and way too much walking for our kids. So we negotiated (“let’s get an ice cream at the top of that hill”) pushed (“c’mon, if we don’t move faster we will miss that bus!”) and prodded (“anyone who stays up with me walking gets a ride on my head”) our way through the day. By the end of the day, we were all cooked! (I highly recommend the Cinque Terre for anyone, just don’t take kids) We ate what we thought would be our final Italian meal, pasta, I then put the kids down early to begin the arduous task of packing. Lisa went out shopping but was stymied by the strange store hours (she’ll explain more) and then we got up early and drove through a rainstorm to Milan. I am very excited to be headed to London!

So after doing the European thing- I’ve figured it out….it is a very contrasting lifestyle to ours. Huge breakfasts, then shopping, etc….’til 1- then the stores all close down for the heat of the day. Nap and beach all day- you can’t beat the heat any other way- and on the days when we did traipse through hot cities and cool towns, the kids were miserable- so we bribed them with ice cream and chocolate, prizes to but to keep them motivated, and while we did see some very exciting things (to us grown ups) the kids were kinda bored… unless they were swimming on the beach or in the pool. Then you have light snacks until you eat a big sit down eat diner and not until at least 7:15 at night. The stores open back up around 5 until 8pm, then close for the dinner hours, then re-open at 10 pm til midnight or 1am- then you go to the bars!! Now of course, we continued to go to restaurants at 5:30/6 and then ended up walking around with starving kids until 7:15….then finally ate- went to bed and the one night I actually went out to shop, the stores were all closed unitl 10 pm (typical!!)

So today we are flying out of Italy… and I’ve got this place figured out! I need to stay another week or 2 now!!
Cinque Terre (CHINK-wa- TER-ay) was an amazing place- 5 lands and you traveled to them by either hiking or train or boat- we hiked from town 1 to town 2 along the cliffsides on the amore trail- years ago when the 2 towns finally made a pathway through connecting the towns, the people started to marry outside of their towns- it is like lovers lane- and the couples place a padlock somewhere along the path to “lock” their love… It has been going on for years and now it has become a very popular thing for the couples all over Italy to go on a date and put a padlock on the trail…. It is very cool- there is love graffiti spray painted all along, inside the tunnels through the mountains, etc- one of my favorite walks through Italy this trip.

Posted by sandlb107 14:03 Archived in Italy Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Day in Pisa

The Butz's Walk the Entire City

sunny 32 °C

Off to PISA today…
Quite a trip- we went on the train and arrived in Pisa Central to find the post office near by. We had a heavy bag of souvenirs to mail back- and after waiting in a line for an hour with a man who helped us in English with very stinky breath, we were able to ship the box back for the small price of 70Euros! Ugh! Hit to the wallet- but continued on for the 20 minute walk thru the tourist district of Pisa…open air markets, great shops, streets with the laundry hanging to dry from the second and floors, flowers in window sill, very nice! And made it to the famous leaning tower- and despite the kids getting yelled at 2 times for touching books at various stores and us persuading them to stop whining for the endurance of the walk, we got there- and it was pretty cool… it is wild how the tower is really sinking into the ground on the one side! The kids thought it was pretty cool too- we walked back through the non-tourist walking areas in hopes of finding a taxi only to find what every other city has….junkies, a homeless population and trash… and a McDonalds!! Lunch for the train ride- the French fries were exactly the same (but not as salty) yum! A little taste of good ol’ America! LOL! So train it back, to the taxi to the hotel, and then to the public park- which is very family friendly- little street vendors, amusement rides, arcade games, moon bounces, and bike rentals… very fun! And then guess what we had for dinner-PIZZA and pasta!

Posted by sandlb107 14:01 Archived in Italy Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

First Blog from Viareggio

An Italian Beach Town

sunny 32 °C

July 26 Viareggio

So instead of being out running off the dinner and wine I ate and drank last night, I sit here over looking the beach and the ocean from my hotel room. This town is quite different than the countryside of Tuscany. First, the language barrier is very difficult. I’d say 1 out of every 10 can speak a little English. This town caters to the very, very, rich Italians and French. The store fronts which line the privately owned beaches (which cost 15-25 Euros to go on each day and that gets you either 2 chairs and an umbrella or 2 sun beds) carry brand name everything- from Dolce and Gabana, LV, Gucci, $300 varieties of shoes and handbags, sunglasses, etc…. I’m half expecting Paris Hilton to ride by in giant high heels and a short Versace dress on a bike with a fu-fu dog wearing pearls around it’s neck in the front basket of the bike- which seems to be the norm around here!! Secondly- the men and their skimpy bikini bottoms (uh…NOT sexy) but has been good eye candy, all the people watching- the women don’t walk around topless, but about 30 % do while sunbathing. But after the first day of that, it’s not quite as noticeable the second. Everyone has on either Carrerra or Ray-ban sunglasses. There is a definitely style here in pants- skinny jeans, and pantalones. I’m obsessed with finding a pair to bring back. They are very unbecoming though on anyone who has even an extra 5 lbs on them (and everyone here is soooooooo skinny- worse than LA!) so needless to say, it’s been a challenge!

Steve- other quick highlights of our stay in this New York City meets Ocean City meets Miami beach town: renting a family bike for a ride through the park…playing chess and soccer on the beach with kids…watching the sunset ON the ocean (see pictures) instead of vice versa…

Posted by sandlb107 21:50 Archived in Italy Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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