We’ll Always Have Paris – by Kelly


Bon jour from Paris!!!  Our time here has been amazing.  We love the city and the people. And who doesn’t love fresh baguettes, croissants, pan au chocolat and crepes.  The girls are in heaven!  We have definitely dragged the kids all over the city thanks to our friend Jennie who came to stay with us for almost 3 weeks.  We were counting down the days until she came, and now we’re counting down the days until she leaves so that we can rest 🙂  I don’t think I have been this tired the entire trip!!!  That being said, she has been the best tour guide!  She lived here many years ago, as well as in Dijon, and speaks fluent French, so that has been an added bonus.  We will be sad to see her leave.  Unfortunately the hours that Dave spends learning Japanese will not help us here.


Our Airbnb in the Bastille neighborhood couldn’t have been better – top floor with huge windows and sky lights and the big hit with the girls, the swing in the living room!  Serge, the owner, greeted us and made us feel right at home.  His music collection is quite extensive – from classical, to Elton John, to The Pet Shop Boys, French rap, to the pièce de résistance – AC DC, which our girls have now grown to love. Gotta love eating breakfast and watching them bob the heads to the beat of the drums.

It is on a fairly quiet street in the Bastille neighborhood, but around the corner from restaurants, grocery stores and the metro – which we mastered quite well.  Plus, if you’ve been reading our blogs, you know that a close outdoor market is a huge bonus and the one here is amazing.  It puts any San Francisco farmer’s market to shame I hate to say.  We have been sure to make it each Thursday and Sunday for fresh olives and tapenade, roasted chicken, fruits, vegetables and of course a crepe for lunch.  We have a great boulangerie on the corner where many baguettes and pan au chocolates have been purchased.  The neighborhood is not without quirks.  We have still not been able to bring ourselves to go into the Cafe de Chats.  Chat, for those who don’t know French, means cat.  And cats are in abundance in this cafe.  They sit on the tables, on the chairs, the counters, they are everywhere.  As I write this I am still disgusted at the thought of eating there, especially after seeing countless cat food bowls on the floor.

I can’t even begin to list all that we have done here.  The weather hasn’t been a hindrance – we’ve had cold, light rain, warm, muggy and even hot.  We have hit the museums, the parks, the palaces, the ferris wheel, numerous carousels, and even found trampolines in Tuileries Gardens.

We really love staying in one place for an extended period of time.  You don’t feel rushed to get it all done in a short time, you get to know the neighborhood and you get to relax.  People couldn’t believe that Jennie was coming all the way over here to stay in Paris for 3 weeks, but we haven’t even done all that we wanted to do.  When planning a future trip, pick one place and do it well.  Don’t feel like you have to check the boxes.  And pack light!

As far as highlights, here they are:

Art History – I feel like my girls have gotten an art history degree on this trip.  They don’t always love museums, but we try to pick the ones we think they will enjoy.  Here in Paris we visited L’Orangerie and Musee Marmottan for Monet.  The girls loved his paintings and in both museums they sat and did their own art work.  They loved the ipad audio guide L’Orangerie has for kids.  It’s great to see them sit down in front of a painting while listening to the guide.

We of course had to hit The Louvre because the girls wanted to see the Mona Lisa, but they also loved the Egyptian wing and Greek statues – we could have stayed there a lot longer, but we were exhausted.  See the Mona Lisa and move on to something else – it’s a great museum that I’m sure many people miss once they see what it’s most famous for.

We also loved the Musee D’Orsay for Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Serat.  The girls are getting pretty good at picking artists out; I’m quite impressed.  We also headed to the Montmarte area which in the past was home to many artists – Pissarro, Degas, Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, and Dali to name a few.  The artist vibe still exists and we thought the girls would like to walk around the Place du Tertre and see artists at work.  Yes, it’s touristy, but if you can get past the people asking you to have your self portrait done, you can find some beautiful art.

One artist, Dec, took a liking to the girls and took the time to explain how he used the oil paints on canvas.  Such a treat to have a mini lesson from a real artist.

Each girl found a painting that they liked and added it the collection they have amassed from this trip.  It will be fun to open boxes we have shipped home and see what treasures we have.

To finish off the art history, we took an awesome walking tour about graffiti in Paris. Why not show them something completely different in the world of art?  It was super interesting and informative.  I wish we would have done it towards the beginning of our time here because we could have kept are eyes out for all of the artists we learned about. They are all over the city.

A tip – before going into the museum, head to the book store and have kids pick out a few post cards of paintings they like and want to look for.  A scavenger hunt always holds their attention.  Also, buy the Museum Pass if you are here even for 2 days.  It makes it easy to skip the long lines.

Tip about Musee Marmottan –  A bonus after we left Marmottan was that there was a park across the street with an old carousel just getting set up.  The men were actually pulling the old horses out of a storage area and hanging them on the hooks.  The girls were each given a stick that they used to try to catch a ring each time they went around.  So it was like a mini jousting carousel. They of course thought this was the greatest carousel they had ever been on and proceeded to go about 4 times!  Claire immediately started devising a way she could build one in San Francisco.

Versailles – Versailles was one of the day trips we wanted to do with the girls.  Dave and I had been there over 20 years ago and although Jennie had been a number of times, she never quite experienced like we did.  We opted to rent bikes in the garden and it was the best outing!  We got to ride around most of the massive garden, which most people never get to see because it’s just too big.  Even in the cold weather, everyone had fun biking the trails along the Grand Canal and over to the Grand Trianon where we locked the bikes and walked into Marie Anointette’s hamlet.  This was something that looked like it belonged in Disneyland, like any minute Snow White’s dwarves were going to come along singing, “Hi ho, hi, ho it’s off to work we go.”

Tennis – Of course  Paris was planned around the French Open.  Dave had to make it to Roland Garros.  We bought tickets for two days and have now added a third.  We weren’t sure what to expect sine our only experience at a Grand Slam was in Melbourne.  Well, Roland Garros is much different – smaller, a little fancier, not as much hoopla, but it made it seem much more family friendly.  There are no tickets sold at the gate and you can’t even get close to the entrance unless you have a ticket, so it seemed peaceful and easy, crowded, but not overcrowded.  The girls were able to get autographs of numerous players with almost no effort.  And we saw some good tennis too – The Bryan Brothers playing doubles, Americans Bethany Maddox-Sands and Madison Keys,  the crazy Ferrer/Monaco match, Coric/Tomic, and the first night we were also able to get up in the stands for a bit of the Andy Murray match that got called due to darkness and went into a 5th set the next day. The girl also sat down with American Shelby Rodgers at a meet and greet – she has since gone on to win two more matches and is in the 4th round!  All in all, tennis was great.  We even turned Jennie into a tennis fan 🙂  And now that we’ve made two Grand Slams, I’m still trying to figure out how we can make it to Wimbledon next month 🙂

Eiffel Tower tour – As far as tours go, we were told to do the Fat Tire Tours Skip the line tour of the Eiffel Tower.  Any time you can skip a line, it’s worth it.  Juan Carlos made it fun and informative.  I don’t need to say  much here, but it was the Eiffel Tower and it’s pretty amazing.

Of course we did a boat cruise on the Seine, saw Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and Saint Chapelle.  We walked the Marias and along the banks of the Seine.  We walked a lot. We happened upon the festival of bread, which was a big hit – a tip given to us by a waitress – where huge mixers and ovens and bakers were at work baking baguettes, croissants, pretzels, brioche – all to win a prize we think.  We were just fascinated watching it all happen and eating the fruits of their labor.

Jennie and I rallied one night and went to Centre Pomidou on Nuit des Musees – Museum Night.  One night a year museums stay open until midnight and allow people in for free. We figured we should experience it since it happened while we were here.  And people were out and about.  We actually had to stand in line, but we didn’t mind.

We also ventured out in the rain for one last ice cream at Berthillon before Jennie left and also ran in the rain to the Eiffel Tower to see its lights flicker at 10pm. (This happens at the top of each hour for 5 minutes – quite a treat to see).

And no city would be complete without mentioning friends.  My parents and I met Jill in Italy while wine tasting at the abby where we stayed at in Tuscany.  We had been in touch and she happened to be in Paris while we were.  Pretty crazy and cool. We had a great time getting to know her over wine and tequila and at the house. She has really done some extensive travel in her life, which was interesting to hear about. Dave and her instantly got along since she was also learning Japanese. Also a tennis fan, she got tickets to the French Open once we told her we were going and she met Jennie and Dave at Court 1.  Check out her cookbook, Better on Toast.

Dave’s high school friend, John and his wife and kids, live outside Paris in the cute area of St. Germain.  The last time Dave saw John was when they were both studying aboard in Vienna in 1992 during college and John happened to live on the same street where Dave was going to school!  We took the train out one afternoon to have dinner with them.  It was great to meet his family, have a home cooked meal, and listen to Dave and John relive their glory days.

And as I write this I am making plans with the friends we met in London, The Sweitzer Family, who is the cousin of our friend from college.  They are the other family traveling the world and they just arrived in Paris today and happen to be in our same neighborhood. Such a small world!!  We’re all excited to see them this week!

And of course, Jennie.  She made the trip what it was.  We loved having her here and it wouldn’t have been the same without her.  Her love and excitement for Paris helped get the girls going many days as she rallied them out the door.  Her need for pictures and a daily selfie made us all laugh.  Her love of wine made for great evenings.  We are all so lucky that she took the time to be with us.

Another great stop on our journey, which sadly will be coming to an end sooner than we would like. So now, we are planning the last few stops of this amazing adventure.

Next stop: Vienna.


London Calling By Dave

London was like a warm blanket for us. It feels very much like home, except with less tan people and everyone sounding much smarter than me. We forgot how nice it is to be back in an English speaking country. I remember having the same feeling when we landed in Sydney in December after spending 4 months in Asia. You relax a little bit more. You don’t have to think as much. We didn’t even have to wait until we landed, we felt it as soon as we boarded the British Airways flight from Rome to Gatwick when the flight attendant, who sounded like Ms. Moneypenny, greeted us.

Ever since we landed, I have been trying my best to do my fatherly duty to utterly embarrass and annoy my kids by saying Londontown! in my best (still bloody awful) English accent every chance I get. Also brilliant, wicked, and bloody hell. Kelly used the word gobsmacked the other day. Parents have to get their kicks somehow.

Surprisingly London wasn’t really on the radar for me, which in hindsight was a big mistake. We had some time between Rome and Paris. We were thinking Copenhagen and Amsterdam, but  we found a free flight to London and the girls love Harry Potter so it was a done deal. As a final sign, we came across this listing on Airbnb:

“Get a slice of music history at this historic home one of the oldest recorded streets of London! Originally built as a part of building housing a dairy (yes with cows and all that), this house was converted in the 1960s into a recording studio. From 1964, this house was the premises of Sound Techniques, one of the best-known independent recording studios in the country.

For the next 10 years, some of the greatest rock bands such as The Who, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Elton John recorded here. Apparently, Eric Clapton still lives on this street!”

I was a little worried about the girls getting a contact high from the walls.

So here are some highlights from our stay here:

-The food! I know it’s weird to say it, but there is too much Italian food in Italy and Spanish food in Spain. I mean, I loved it all, but after 5 weeks in each country I wanted sushi or Mexican food. So London has been great for that. We have had Indian food, BBQ ribs, and Ramen.  And yes, these are very first world problems.

-Is London expensive? Hell, yes it is. Our BBQ ribs and crab dinner cost us $200 USD and two drinks cost us almost $30 USD. So we offset that with cooking at home and taking advantage of the all the free museums. We really don’t like eating out all the time anyway, so having a kitchen is key. The one thing I do miss is BBQing on a grill, which we haven’t done since Australia.

-Surprisingly, the weather!  We have had the most insanely great weather for London, it’s been summer-like, in the low to mid 70’s.  And London, like San Francisco, is a much more cheery place when the weather is great. We did get a little rain towards the end of our stay, but it was still pretty warm and no big deal.

-London has some of the best museums and parks we have seen and they are all free. We spent hours in the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The girls learned a ton – minerals, earthquakes, volcanoes, how flamingoes get their pink feathers, evolution and more.  Hyde Park on a warm sunny day was just a fun place to be, we checked out Kensington Palace which had an exhibit of Royal fashion that the girls loved. Then we went back another day because Kelly wanted to have high tea.

-We met up with another family doing an around the world trip-The Sweitzers! Steve, Polly, and their daughter Sadie sold everything back home and are currently on an around the world 2.5 year (!!) trip-pretty amazing.  They are doing a ton more countries than we are seeing.  Polly is the cousin of our dear college friend, Julie. We originally were supposed to meet up in Granada, Spain, but it didn’t work out, and through the power of social media we found out that our families were both in London at the same time. I know the girls were excited to hang out with someone new; and it was fun talking about the ups and downs of doing such a trip. The girls had such a good time they had a sleepover over at their place!

-I have to say that the cabs in London beat out the Japanese cabs as our favorite on our trip. Not only do they have character and can fit 5 of us pretty comfortably (two facing three in the back seat), but the cab drivers here are so friendly and knowledgeable that they have pretty much been tour guides for us on every ride.  One cabby told us Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) once sat in the seat I was in on our way to our muggle tour (all Harry Potter speak for those of you who haven’t read the books) to another giving us the details of Bob Marley’s residence here. We have also loved using the Tube, ridiculously easy and you hardly ever have to wait for a train for more than a couple minutes.


-Can someone from London please explain to me why I kept seeing grown women riding razor scooters in Chelsea?  Is this where they all went after the dot com bust?

-The land of Harry Potter- We took the girls to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of Harry Potter just outside London.  This is where they filmed all the movies.  I will hopefully have the girls blog about this in more detail.  The twins just finished reading the series and are huge Harry Potter fans, just like Claire.  Claire actually said it was the best day of her life.  For me, it was just mind boggling how much work it took to make those movies.  Years of work for some people for 2 minutes on film.  We also did a pretty good muggle walking tour of London.  Muggles are non magical beings in the Harry Potter world.  Our guide Scott was pretty entertaining; and it was a good way to see a lot of the major landmarks while keeping the girls interested with all thing Harry Potter.

-We also took the kids to see the play Matilda, which was impressive because most of the cast were kids themselves.

So thanks London for giving us a much needed English speaking break as we push towards the tail end of our adventure. You were brilliant.


Next Stop: Paris






La Dolce Vita – by Kelly

Well, I left Rome today with a lighter backpack – unfortunately my camera was stolen. Bummer, but in 8 months of traveling, this is the only thing that has happened to us, so we have been pretty lucky.  The funny thing is that the last time I was in Rome, 22 years ago, my camera was stolen as well.  An omen?  Who knows.  I didn’t let it deter me – thank god for iphones that take pretty good pictures.

What can you say about Rome?  The whole city is a museum.  Everywhere you look there is something historical, amazing or beautiful to see.  It was the last stop on this journey for my parents, so we tried to make it a good one.  We had some major things to see while we were here, plus the twins were receiving their First Communion, so this was going to be a special time in our trip.

The Colosseum was walking distance from where we stayed, history right in our backyard. We made sure to walk down there the first evening just to see it.  I stood in awe.  It always amazes me to see the things you read about in History books up close and personal.  It makes it so much more real.  


The Vatican was our first big day of touring.  These days can be hard with kids, so we opted to get a guide.  Catia was great!!  She geared the tour towards the children, plus having a guide allows you to bypass the massive lines that were already there at 9am.  We were given the name of the tour company, Walks Inside Rome, by our friends in San Francisco and would highly recommend it to anyone traveling here. We were also using our Mission Rome book for the girls, the same one we had used in Barcelona.  This makes touring like a scavenger hunt throughout the city and Catia was happy to help us find the things we needed while we were on tour.


The Vatican is overwhelming to say the least.  But not only did we see typical things on the tour, but we went to the Egyptian Museum and saw a real mummy!!  The kids loved that, plus some amazing sarcophaguses and hieroglyphics that were over 2,000  years old!!!  The Sistine Chapel was beautiful of course, and we all learned a great deal with Catia.  She really took the time to teach the girls all that they would see before they went inside, which makes it more fun for them to hunt for things while they are looking up.


The Sistine Chapel – By Grace – Michelangelo painted some of the Sistine Chapel.  He did the ceiling, which took him 4 years and the wall which took him 7.  One of the most famous paintings is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where Adam is reaching his finger to God.  The Basilica was fascinating.  There were lots of things to see.  We learned that when the Pope says mass, the altar is above St. Peter’s Grave, which I thought was interesting.  There is a tradition where some doors in the church are only opened every 25 years for The Jubilee.  This time they were open and we got to walk through the Jubilee Doors which was very exciting.  

 We were worn out when all was over, but we were able to con the girls into making it to lunch.  They actually might not have had much of a choice once in the cab.  We figured with a little lunch, they might have a little more energy to hit a few more sites.  We had a great cab driver that told us not to eat near the Trevi Fountain – our next destination – since everything around there was touristy.  He dropped us at Osteria de Fortunata, which put us within walking distance.  Gotta love that when we drove up there was an old lady literally making fresh pasta in the window and when we walked in, it was full of Italians.  Perfect place for us!  Gotta love a cab driver that will help out the tourist.  With full bellies and a little grumbling from the girls, we set out for the Trevi Fountain.  We happened upon the Pantheon along the way.  Grace was not to happy to stop, but how could one walk right by?  Claire absolutely loved this!!  With their coins thrown in the fountain and a little gelato, I would say we had a full day of touring.

Since the girls were missing their first communion at home, thanks to our friend, Father Mike Russo, we were able to celebrate it in Rome.  Pretty amazing – see the Vatican one day and have your first communion in the most Catholic city the next.  Lucky ladies!  Father Mike put us in touch with Father Kevin Kilgore who was perfect for our family.  From New Jersey originally, Father Kevin is just about done with his time in Rome and heading home in a couple of months.  We were lucky to have met him before he left.  We met him at Pontifical North American College on Gianicolo Hill where he led us to the North American Martyrs chapel, a small chapel that seated no more than 20 people.  It was such a personal ceremony and something I think the girls will remember forever.


 We were also lucky enough to go up to a newly built tower at the college that is supposedly the highest point in Rome.  From there the views of the city and St. Peter’s were amazing!!


Since mom and dad were leaving the next day, we went back to their favorite neighborhood joint, Naumachia, and had dinner.  We hated to say good bye to them.  How quickly a month went by.  I feel like we were just meeting them in Sicily.

We rounded out our time in Rome with a final day of site seeing – the quintessential Roman sites – the Colosseum and the Forum.  To walk in the Colosseum was surreal.  Almost 2,000 years old and to think gladiators walked the halls with animals that could take them to their death.  We decided to book Catia again and it was a great decision.  She was the teacher for the day and the kids had the most amazing classroom!  When things get tough, which they often do, I keep trying to remember that this is why we did this trip, to take the girls places they would have only read about in books – the world is actually their classroom, to meet different people, try new things, an amazing experience for sure, exhausting, but amazing.


Next stop – London

Staying on the 2nd Floor in Lucca by Dave

We left the countryside of Tuscany for the walled, Medieval town of Lucca. To be honest I had no idea what to expect. Kelly and her mom planned most of Italy, and after 8 months of planning logistics I was more than happy to just come along for the ride. I knew there really wasn’t a lot of touristy things to do in Lucca, which again was fine by me.

But before we got to Lucca we had to stop by Pisa for the kids. I had seen Pisa before during my college years for the obligatory 1 hour stop. I don’t really get the appeal but I understood why the kids wanted to see it. Also, thankfully my father in law Doug was at this point more than happy to drive (and park) our 9 person beast of a van in order not to deal with the periodic outbursts from my kids on car rides. Our trusty Garmin GPS speaking proper British English (nicknamed Sarah) got us close enough to the leaning tower.

We just followed the crowds, and boy it was crowded. The girls took the “look I’m holding up the learning tower” pics and they lined up to go up the tower until we found out it was 18 Euros each.  So we grabbed a quick lunch and drove another hour to Lucca. What I will say about the leaning tower is that is probably the nicest lawn I’ve seen in my life.




Once we drove into one of the few gates through the massive city walls of Lucca and down the primarily pedestrian streets, we got a pretty good vibe from this place. We stayed at Palazzo Busdraghi which had 15 or so rooms and was in Rick Steve’s guidebook. It was old school but pretty nice and right in the middle of town. During our first night there we were the only guests.

We had a couple highlights during our stay in Lucca. The first one was being shown around town by our friend Dannys relatives, Domenico and his daughter Beatrice.  We couldn’t have asked for better guides of Lucca. Domenico was a career journalist ,native of Lucca, and general man about town. Both he and Beatrice were constantly being greeted by friends on the street as they took us around, pointing out interest shops, churches, and buildings. Domenico has also spent a good amount of time in the Bay Area and goes back on a regular basis. I never really realized this, but he said that most of the Italians in San Francisco are from Lucca, followed by Sicilians.

During our first tour with Domenico he took us to a high fashion Italian fashion house-Atelier Ricci. It was one of those let’s see if anyone is home moments. Fortunately, Patrizia, daughter/designer, was home and the girls got to see a little glimpse of this world – the fabric, the sketches, the luxurious rooms where people not only get fitted, but small fashion shows take place. There were beautiful gowns and clothes out for all to see.  We even got to go into the back sewing room where 5 seamstresses bring the fashion to life.  The house itself was amazing.  This might have been the highlight of the things we saw in Lucca.  This isn’t in any guidebooks or on any maps – we only go to go since Domenico knew the owner.  I wanted to play it cool and didn’t take too many pictures but you can google it.

On another day Domenico took Kelly and I out to the countryside to see all the villas surrounding Lucca.  This was pure European old money, with massive, gated, landed estates everywhere. I expected someone to pull up next to our car and say, “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon???” One recently went for $35 million, which some considered a deal from the original ask of $60 million.  Several of them had young (30-40s), single women living in them, not including servants of course.  I asked if they were the last living members of their family.  “No,” said Domenico, “The other members have their own villas.”  Oh to be born on home plate. So for all you single people our there maybe you should ditch tinder and hang out in Lucca.

Of course Dominico knew a good number of the owners socially and he called one of them who happened to be home so we can look around the beautiful gardens. There was actually a marathon the next day where you run through the gardens of several villas, including the one we just stopped at.

So as you can see we saw a side of Lucca that most tourists never see, and Domenico and Beatrice really made our time there very special.


Another highlight in Lucca was biking along the city walls. The girls haven’t biked in such a long time and we had a blast. When I am taking city walls, it’s as wide as two city streets with parklets and restaurants. Domenico said that up to about 10 years ago you could drive your car on the city walls. The girls loved it so much we did it two different days.

Lucca was a positive surprise for me, I really liked the relatively small size, the car free streets, and the biking culture. I find we are liking the smaller cities just as much or maybe more than the larger ones.


The gang in Lucca.

Next Stop: Roma





Rambling in Tuscany – By Kelly

We started our Italian adventure in the the olive orchards of Sicily, then hit the lemon groves of Sorrento and we are now in the middle of the incredible Tuscan countryside.  It is absolutely beautiful!  It is like a postcard.  Each time I look out at the vineyards that dot the countryside, I can’t believe it.  The drive in our big rig was not without problems, Dave lost a hub cab dodging scooters in Sorrento. He wasn’t worried though-he kept saying he was fully insured.  A little excitement and some laughs can make a long drive that much easier.


We are staying in the middle of nowhere, so it seems, at an abbey that is from the 10th century – Badio a Coltobuano.  Our family friend, Joe Mullen, stayed here a couple years ago.  We couldn’t believe how beautiful it was as we drove up the long drive. The abbey sits perched on a hill and overlooking the valley below.  It was a big facility, but at the same time quaint and charming.


Our 4 bedroom apartment was just what we needed with a huge fireplace we used almost every night.  The girls were in heaven with space to run around and explore – too bad it was too cold to use the pool.  But we spent out afternoons playing patanque with Papa and CC and lived like a local.

Our time here has been quiet, for the most part – we are traveling with 3 girls who might be at the end of their travel time.  Meltdowns are coming more frequently – Papa and CC are seeing them for who they truly are. Let’s hope we are still invited over for dinner once we get home.  Mom did want to start the Italian Sunday dinner idea, so I hope they don’t back out on the plan.  Once a week might be moved to once a month.

Badia has an amazing wine cellar, which we toured and did a tasting. The oldest bottles were from World War II!

The nearest town to the abbey is Gaiole –  about 10 minutes away.  This is one of those Italian villages with one main street, a couple of shops, and a market – most close about 12:45 each day and don’t reopen until 4:30.  Dave is still unsure of what they do during that time. He keeps saying don’t they realize rent is a fixed cost?  Plus, they are closed on Sundays.  So, we are in the middle of nowhere 🙂  The locals seem to always have time to sit and chat with friends somewhere along the street – seems like a good life.  The area is on the L’ Eroica bike trail, so there were many bikers all along the winding streets of Chianti as well as visiting the towns.  The way to enjoy Chianti is driving from town to town.  This wasn’t always that exciting for the girls, so a couple of times Dave stayed behind with them and relaxed at Badia.  This is a win win for those of you who think Dave may be missing out – the girls get to relax and he gets to study Japanese.

One of the towns I was looking forward to seeing again was Siena.  Mom, Dad and Claire made the trek with me – with Dad at the wheel of our big rig winding through the beautiful countryside.  Parking was not so pretty, but we managed.  Once Claire had her gelato – a clearly messy one at that –  we wandered the streets.  


Siena was bigger than I remember, but what I really wanted to see again was the Duomo.  I so distinctly remember this from years ago and I was not disappointed.  The striped walls, which look black and white, but we learned from Claire are really green and white, make this unlike any other church I have seen.  The ceiling, the floor, everything was so beautiful.  Claire said it was her favorite church she had seen along with La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  We ate lunch at a restaurant on Piazza del Campo where everyone was lazing in the sunshine.


The other town we ventured to was San Gimigniano – a 13th century walled medieval town.  This time it was just mom, dad and me and none of us had ever visited this village before.  It sits up on a hill and you can see if from afar due to the towers that stick up into the sky.  There used to be 70 towers years ago, but now only 14 remain.  We really enjoyed this town and walked it all.  We went to the Duomo, much smaller than Siena with amazing frescoes. The town was quaint with different plazas where everyone sits to enjoy gelato or coffee, both locals and tourists alike.  The views from the wall were amazing – as is every view of this countryside.


To keep the girls interested, we toured a couple of different castles nearby – Castello di Brolio and Castello di Meleto.  Who wouldn’t love to see a real castle?  Broilo Castle dates back to the middle ages and has been in the Ricasoli family for 32 generations.  We got a great tour of the keep, which had the families old guns, helmets, crossbows and spears on display which we all found really interesting.  You could also see where the castle had survived some shots from Allied troops who were trying to get rid of occupying Nazis. Crazy.




Castello de Meleto was another castle in our area that we toured.  We were able see more of the actual castle than in Brolio.   This one had more frescoes on the walls, but the best part was the private theatre that is still in use today.  The backdrops were original and you could see the crawlspace the actors had to use in order to get on stage.  The family had their own small private box above their guests and would even enter at a separate entrance.  A really unique and surprising area to see in a castle.


We wine tasted at both castles, but I really enjoyed the wines at Castello di Meleto.  We actually went twice and ended up trying all the wines they offered.  They have a really nice tasting room and knowledgeable staff.  For someone who has never loved a chianti, I now have some great Italian wines that I do like.



We cooked at home some great pasta dishes and enjoyed the wine we purchased on our tours.  A good fire and some cards are a nice way to spend the evenings.

And we once again did a cooking class.  This one was held right where we were staying at Badia.  The kitchen was original – even the giant marble sink was the one used by the monks so long ago.  This was our fourth cooking class of the trip and I am expecting big things from these girls when we get home.   This class we learned how to make fresh pasta, raviolis and focaccia bread.  We are hoping to bring some of this to Sunday dinners if we can.  Not easy work – it might take all day to get dinner done, so not sure if it will happen.  Sunday is also golf day for mom and dad, not sure they’re ready to give it up 🙂  The girls got pretty good at the raviolis and even tried their hand at tortellinis.  The meal was amazing with the Badia wines to taste alongside.  A great day of cooking once again!

It was time to leave the peacefulness of Badia and the Tuscan Countryside.  We packed up the big rig for our last drive to Lucca.


 Next stop: Lucca