Cinque Terre Trail Photos- by Anne Lois

story and photos by Anne Lois

One of my favorite things that we have done on this trip is definitely hiking in Vernazza, Italy. When I get back home, it will be one of my favorite memories looking back on this amazing trip.  I absolutely loved seeing the green, blue, and orange colors as we ventured down the first part of the memorable hike.  Every once in awhile, we would pop around a corner hidden by trees and be shown an amazing view.  Cacti lined the edge of the steep rocky cliffs that led down to the blue water. As far as we could see there were endless grape vineyards and clumps of multi-color houses lining the ridges.  It was truly amazing to have the opportunity to see the clear blue waters and feel the cool crisp air.  From the first hike from village to village we stopped on the trail for ice cold granitas, lemonades, and fresh squeezed blood oranges. I really think that there was no better way to spend a day.

Monte Carlo, Monaco day trip {short film}

A 20 minute train ride to the second smallest country in the world, we visited Monaco on Friday. You may know it for it's famed casinos and car races (yep, we walked on the motorway). Ruled by a prince, the country is tax free and a sovereign nation (that explains the wealth oozing everywhere). We toured the cathedral where Grace Kelly wed the Prince ('56) and where they're both buried, visited the Musee Oceanographique where Jacques Cousteau served as director and walked to the outside of the casinos to drool over the many fancy sports cars within our reach. We also grinned big knowing we were where Uncle Andrew proposed to Aunt Debbie. It was a great day that we share in a short film. 

sunset and promenade run

Only a short walk from the apartments in Old Town, is the sea front Promenade des Anglais. It's a famed landmark of Nice dating back to the early 19th century. Built by the English aristocracy, this wide and long pedestrian walkway still attracts locals and visitors alike. It's easy to see why. There's even a clearly marked bike lane. Walkers, bikers, scooters and rollerblades abound. Because I know your asking yourself, "Did Anne Lois get rollerblades?". She sure did. And her mom made her buy the wrist, elbow and knee pads. Say a little prayer.

A few days ago, I walked with Abigail to the water's edge taking sunset photos while Camille, Pete and Wilson went on a run. It's was stunning.  You can also see bleachers in some of the photos. Every year for 2 weeks, Carnival is celebrated. They have lots of bleachers set up on the Promenade as well as the big square in town. You have to buy special tickets for those prime seats. Just when we left Mardi Gras at home we stepped right into the famed rivera Carnival. It has been a special treat to take in while on our Travel School Project. 

first days

The first few days are always an adjustment. Not only do you have the expected jet lag, it's magnified by the exhaustion from packing and getting things in order to leave them and the "pinch me" this is really happening. Also, we are so giddy to have a companion family with us. Once we got past settling into our apartment and finding the closest grocery for some basics- all of us have sighed a big breath and savored slowing down the pace.

On Thursday night, our big group of nine, walked out late to find a restaurant. It was a wonderful toast to being brave and taking this on. We had a delicious French meal- late into the night with happy kids and happy parents. 

Alas, school work must continue. So yesterday, Friday, with a day of rain forcasted, we settled into the apartment for productive study time.  Before it got too wet and cold, our family walked to the Cours Saleya (Nice's main market square) for fresh flowers and some loose ideas for our first cooked dinner at home. We filled our bags with fresh mixed lettuces (mesclum), french radishes, petite potatoes and dried herbs (herbs de provence).  Next, we walked to a nearby butcher shop that always has a crowd when we have walked by (seemed like a good sign) to bravely order chicken (poulet) for roasting. It was wrapped and bagged in a red plastic bag for us to tote home. The rest of the day was about studying, enjoying a rainy day inside and our first home cooked dinner of roasted chicken and potatoes with a side salad. After dinner, all 7 kids watched a movie in our apartment while the adults hung out in the other apartment. Fantastic, except for the acknowledgement that we are all still keeping our US body clock hours. We'll have to keep working on that! 

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the "why" story | Travel School Project

This first blog entry to the Travel School Project could be written a dozen different ways and authored by 9 different writers. There are 2 families invested in our adventure. We have cultivated and planned for an idea that started as a joke at the beginning of this school year. As much as all of our kids like school, we've always been asked by them to do something different when we travel.  We've never stopped to consider alternatives to the brick and mortar.  But, we do know first hand that they gain so much when they cross cultural borders. It grabs their attention in ways a text book never could.  They lose inhibitions to other ways of living. They gain a strong sense of navigating uncharted waters, and they get to experience a day(s) in someone else's world.    

So, the joking idea took root.  We each began to toss around so many strong reasons in favor and just as many hesitations.   The "what ifs" set in and then the "why nots" took over. Each individual slowly digested the idea and we began to dig a little. As we dug and dug a little deeper- the doors kept opening. We never hit a stop sign. The school administrators and teachers were supportive and helped us solidify our goal for traveling overseas for the spring  semester 2016. Each day, there were so many steps to accomplish in order for the trip to happen. We had to agree on location, housing, length of trip, school options, activity options, spouses schedules and life at home. All of this  kept us working quietly amongst each other. There were many pieces of the puzzle to put together for us to be where we are today- ready to leave. 

Many people get it. Many others don't. The "why are you doing this" list is long? Simply put- both of our 2 families, in their own ways, have engrained in them a love for long distance travel and exploration. Travel has been a priority and focus in our children's lives. We are making it happen and letting go of any small doubts. We will be "living" in (not moving to) Nice, France (not Paris). We have two separate, but close apartments in the Old Town (no elevators- the buildings are too old). The Bullingtons are on the 5th floor of their building. We have WI-FI (so they say) so the kids can get their school work done. They are enrolled in Virtual School (not homeschool). They have teachers for each subject. We are all impressed so far and really liking the concept. They work hard (it's not a cake walk). The husbands will be traveling back and forth at different times to enjoy family time (we are grateful they are supporting our adventure). We are hoping to explore other areas by train and maybe even plane.  We now have French visas (a long and arduous process). We are hoping to come back knowing more French than when we started. On top of flights of stairs to keep us in shape, we hope to find our favorite cafe, wine shop (moms) and boulangerie. We are laughing at ourselves as we pack saying,  "We don't need much," but finding that our creature comforts keep finding their way into our bags. We are only going in suitcases and carry-ons (no boxes are being shipped). Yes, we are on the Mediterranean Sea, but the weather should be similar to home. 

We look forward to documenting our travels and sharing our story- the Travel School Project! Bon Voyage!