Sunday, October 2, 2011


Johanna and Brittany Spears :)  at Madame Tussard's
Our first apartment on Henrietta Street in Covent Garden

First American food in a loooonnnnngggg time

Pan pizza yummy
French bakery across the street

Having fun on a cute London street

Yes, the phone booth does work.

Joshua's 24th birthday and where did he want to go, Chipotle, the only one is Europe was in London :)
Joshua pointing to the wallpaper in Chipotle to the sentence that says "I am not addicted"

UUUmmm some fountain in London haha

Big Ben from a very far distance.

Where to go next????

Big Ben very close up.
The London Eye, the WORLD'S highest observational wheel, each pod holds around 30 people.

Sarah in front of the House of Parliament

Joshua,me and Johanna

On our way to Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace. We couldn't get in because they were sold out a month ahead :(

Sarah and Johanna

Joshua and JT
The Imperian War Museum, the best historical museum I've ever been to. It covers the wars of the last century.  The kids loved it and said it was one of their favorite places in London.

Us with a man who had lived some of his childhood years in England during the war.  Of course I had to ask a million questions, which he was more than happy to answer. Great first hand account of information.

Changing of the Guard

At Madame Tussard's Wax Museum. 

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Samuel with Pele

Johanna was so proud she took a picture of this bird mid-song :)

St. Paul's Cathedral where Prince Charles and Princess Dianna got married
In picking England, we were looking for a place that would get us out of the Italian heat. Well we went from the heat to rain! We had a temperature drop of about 25 degrees also. It was great to be in a country that was so green. England was also a chance for the kids to be able to communicate in English with people other than their family. They were getting homesick for American food so this trip was timed perfectly. I reserved two apartments through a company called Vacation Rentals by Owners, basically people renting out their vacation homes to tourists. I was a little leary because you really wouldn't know what you were getting until you got there in person. You could see pictures and read other peoples comments but not much other than that. The first apartment was in the upscale trendy neighborhood of Covent Gardens. I knew it was going to be okay when the kids said "Dang mom you did good on this one" :) It was literally a stones throw from eating,shopping and people watching. It was like living on Rodeo Drive. Since we were so close to everything, it was also noisy at night. The setup was shops,restaurants,and bars on the ground level and the apartments on the 2nd,3rd,and 4th floor. Well the bars pretty much stay open till 3 in the morning and then bottle pickup comes everyday at 6 in the morning. The location was worth the noise though. The second apartment was in SoHo, very artsy, lots of theatres large and small and lots of night clubs. Let me describe it and see if you can figure out our new location :) There was a shop across the street from us that would be about 10 steps racier than Fredericks of Hollywood, with mannequins,male and female, showcasing the products. One nightclub called GAY and another called The Rainbow Room. I'm sure you can use the context clues to determine the flavor of our new neighborhood. We had all said we wanted to experience different parts of London and we did. We did alot of walking and saw alot of sights. We had a great time being tourist in a country we could speak the language :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Country music and soccer :)

On a Friday,cant remember the date, we went to a live Italian country western music concert. It was a band of 4 and they sang American songs. It was set out in the country on a beautiful piece of land. The grounds were landscaped and lush. Tables were set up on a big patio adjacent to the owners home. It looked like what I envisioned an Italian villa to be.Our cost included dinner, real bbq, the music and the wonderful atmosphere. The event was kept to around 40 people and no more. They easily could have set out more tables and made more money, but we watched as they turned people away. It was planned to be small/intimate and it stayed that way. It was a great time for all and one that we all agreed will be one of our highlights. And according to the girls it didn't hurt that the main singer/cowboy was good looking :) Nothing like hearing your favorite songs sung with an Italian accent. The next day,we were invited to Daniel's coworker Mike's house for swimming and BBQ. Keep in mind that bbq'ing is a treat, especially on a real propane bbq. This is the same Mike that lives out in the boonies that Daniel and the kids didn't find his house the first time and came home. But this time we were prepared, we had our GPS, put in longitude and latitude and off we went.We only got a little lost, but someone drove out and lead us to his house. We NEVER would have found it if they hadn't come and got us. We had a great time, the kids went swimming, very good food and great company. His house is in the Trulli style so it was really neat to climb up on the roof and take pictures. We also got to meet the Gionet family who actually have more kids than us, they have 5. With that many kids between us it was only natural that a soccer game would be scheduled for the next day :)  We met at their hotel  that had 2 large soccer fields. We showed up looking pretty good, all of us having authentic German jerseys. That's about all we had going for us lol. Joshua and Samuel were good, Johanna did more screaming and laughing than anything, and Sarah was our goalie without any defenders :( Daniel and I were pretty slow moving and tired easy. I do have to say that Daniel redeemed himself after I told him he was getting old, he made a goal. They did have two extra good players on their team, but the family themself was in good shape and very athletic. I think the final score was like 10 to 3, I stopped counting. After the kids and some of the adults took a dip in the hotel's pool, it was time to go out to eat in Messagne. It was a short trip to a great sidewalk restaurant . We were surprised at how easy it was to get great parking in the middle of the city. After dinner, we were walking back to our car and wondering why everyone was staring at us. Could it be our German soccer jerseys in Italy, our large families, all the children,us speaking English??? Or could it be they wanted to see our expression when we saw the parking ticket on our windshields hahaha lol :)  Lesson learned, look far up and down the street for parking signs especially when no one else is parked in the area.
Now just to answer some of you who wanted the good and bad so far;
What I like:
*Gelato, any time, any where, any flavor
*walking down a different road in town and finding a new store
*cheap,cheap,flavorful fruits and vegetables
*shopping at the mall during siesta time :) its deserted so we get great service and were less intimidated to speak
*Husbands and wives going shopping together. Rarely do you see a woman without her husband,especially grocery shopping!!!! Its a family affair
What I don't like:
*dog poop everywhere,no picking up after your dog here :(
*Never knowing if a shop in town is going to be open or not,no set schedule
*lack of friendliness, the men are friendlier than the women. At least in California you can squeeze a smile out of people,not so here.
*sidewalks built for one. You should see the Tulcan family walking single file, we form a pretty good line.
*trash day everyday!!! three separate trashes in the house, one for food scraps, one for paper wrapping of all sorts that came in contact with food, and finally one for "uncontaminated"paper and plastic. Each one is picked up separately on a different day.

Your #1 question "Beside all the fun, how are you really doing on a daily basis?" Answer " We are all adjusting. We are learning what it means to "live" in a foreign country where you don't speak the language as compared to being a tourist.  We have great days but every once in a while one of us will get homesick. Then we stop and realize again what an adventure we're on and all the great places were going to see. For some of the kids, they realize it is only a short period of time in their lives and things will go back to "normal" soon enough. So thanks for asking :)  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trulli's, rainbows and my birthday :)

Every Saturday we set out for a different town around an hour to an hour and a half away. We rely on Daniel's driving and his language skills to make it a more enjoyable trip. On Saturday the 23 of July we went to Alberobello to see the Trulli houses. In brief, they are made of flat stones layered on top of each other without the use of mortar or concrete. There are varying ideas as to their original intent. One idea is that at the time house taxes were so high that when they knew the tax collector was coming they could just take the house down/apart and not have to pay the house tax because there wasn't a house :) Eventually they were built as temporary shelters or storehouse for the crops that were grown in the country.The roofs are conical in shape and the house is cylindrical, and are not very big. They look like something out of Snow white and the seven dwarfs. We had a great time taking pictures, looking like giants in front of the trulli's. As is expected we had a good time shopping. Daniel didn't stand a chance with his wallet and 3 women :) Johanna and Sarah bought some bracelets from a leather smith shop. I bought a table runner(the only thing I could afford)from a craftsman who weaves his own linens. It is too good to be used on our regular table, so I will save it for when we get back home.Well the adventure ended up as most do, us getting lost on the way home lol. But in our wrong turns and back roads all in the rain, we witnessed for the second time in our lives, a double rainbow. We drove closer and closer and then finally close enough for me to get out in the rain and take some pictures. You would have thought that we found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow by how excited we were :) One of the pictures will be blown up and hung next to the other double rainbow shot that we took from our Turnbull Canyon home. The 26th was my birthday so time to celebrate!!!!! Started off with Jaime treating me to a cappuccino and pastry at the cafe. Then there were the usual stops: bakery,butcher,deli,and vegetable stand.Walked back home and pretty much relaxed till dinner time. From dinner we went to a local restaurant the Braseria Escosazio that was recommended in one of our guide books. You pick out your meat from the counter display and then they supposedly bbq it for you, but it was more like it was grilled for you. The meat was ok, but I longed for an Outback steakhouse experience. Oh well, the company was great and we ended the night with gelato. Sarah hand embroidered on a kitchen towel"home is wherever you are" and gave it as a gift to me :). Daniel,Joshua, and Samuel gave me a Swarovski necklace with a large butterfly charm. Johanna is waiting till we go shopping to have me pick out something that I want. I will never forget my first Italian birthday :)