As with many things on the trip, taking pictures with James in tow was different. That said, I still took a bunch of pictures. Check out all the pictures at the following link or the selection below:
This post is a little different than our typical post. The title says it all:
Life is fragile.
That is something I’ve always believed. We are on this planet for an unbelievably short time. Even if you live to be 100, it is just a fraction of a blink in the grand scheme of things. You must make the most of the time you have. This belief has led me to making several work/life decisions that others considered odd or out of the ordinary.
On our big trip, we stayed with our friends Tommy and Mallory on our final stop of the trip in Abu Dhabi, where Tommy was stationed for his job with Exxon. I went to high school with Tommy, and Alyce went to high school with Mallory. They got a bit of a head start on family life on us and had two beautiful daughters when we visited. Mallory was also newly pregnant with a son when we stayed with them in Abu Dhabi.
Fast forward a couple years…We have our own son and are wrapping up our trip to Italy. Alyce tells me that something sounds bad on facebook our last night in Venice. Mallory is asking for prayers for their son (something we knew was serious based on the people/circumstances involved). Two days later, we are back in New Orleans. Alyce filled me in on the news – Tommy and Mallory’s son, Austin, had passed.
We were both devastated. We know that accidents happen and are a part of life, but that fact doesn’t make it any more palatable when it happens to someone you know. Plus, it hit really close to home considering we have a son just a little bit younger than Austin.
Today we went to Austin’s service, and it was every bit as sad as you would expect. There is really not much you can say in such a circumstance, but I think just being there and giving a hug helps.
So hug your loved ones tight. Don’t put off things for the future that are important to you. You never know what will happen. And keep Austin, Tommy, Mallory, and their girls in your thoughts/prayers.
For our last day in Italy, we got up and moving pretty early. We grabbed a couple of cappuccinos to go and walked around the big square. It was pretty quiet, and we let James run around and chase the pigeons. He really loved it! Our plan was to wear him out early so that he could take an early nap and we could actually make our 1:00 lunch reservations.
And that’s just what happened. James took a 2 hour nap and we were able to have a pretty enjoyable last meal in Italy. The restaurant, Osteria Alle Testiere, was wonderful. Venice is know for their seafood, and we had lots of it: spaghetti with clams, octopus with gazpacho, mussels, and mixed grilled fish. James enjoyed the gazpacho and spaghetti. He had a few periods where he was very quiet, and I got to have a brief minute of peace.
For the rest of the afternoon, we are just hung out and started packing up.
As a “last night of vacation treat” we had cookies and gelato for dinner! Back to reality tomorrow, but we are savoring every minute that we have left.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day. We fly from Venice to Philidelphia to Charlotte to New Orleans. I’m hoping that everything goes smoothly, unlike the flight over here!
I think we are all ready to get home, but we really enjoyed our time over here and especially our time together as a family. Life gets pretty crazy at home between, work, daycare, etc. It was nice to slow down and just chill out.
Of course we had our highs and lows, but we are happy with the way things went.
See you back home
Today, we are leaving Barolo and heading for Venice. The drive is about 3 hrs and 45 minutes. Not as bad as the drive from Montalcino to Barolo, but it’s anyones guess how James is going to handle it.
He woke up in a great mood around 8:00, but it seems like he is just having an “off” day. He’s pretty congested and his teeth may be bothering him. We gave him some Tylenol and hit the road around 11:00. He was asleep almost immediately. To our surprise, he took a good nap then woke up in a good mood about an hour and a half before we got to Venice.
We turned in the rental car then caught a water taxi to our apartment. We were quite a sight hauling all of our luggage across the busy street and onto a boat! There are water buses in Venice that are much much cheaper than the private taxis but we thought that it would just be easier with James and all of our stuff.
James loved the boat ride! Venice is much different from the other places that we have been. There’s a lot of action on the water and lots to look at for James.
Our apartment in Venice is nice. It is very close to the main square, so it will be really easy to get around.
There are so many narrow walkways, bridges, and steps that we decided that we weren’t even going to attempt the stroller. The Ergo baby carrier has worked out great for these types of situations.
That evening we just walked around and took some pictures. I’m surprised that I like Venice as much as I do. It is so unique! I think that I also like that there are no cars, scooters, bikes etc. There are still a good bit of people, but it seems a little more relaxed than Rome and Florence.
We grabbed some bites to eat at a little bar and ate outside by the water. It was all very good, but a seagull swooped in and snatched some crostini off of the plate while we were eating!
For dinner, we just stopped in a little pizza place to get something quick. The pizza really wasn’t anything special, but James likes pizza. He was good sitting on my lap quietly eating his cheese pizza and waving to the people at the next table.
One more full day before we head home! I hope that this hurricane doesn’t give us any issues traveling!
See you soon
For our last day in the wine region, we started out with a tasting at Elio Grasso. It is a very nice winery, and we had a wonderful tour and tasting with another couple from the US. They actually live in San Francisco and own some property in Napa, so it was fun talking with them about their favorite wineries and swapping notes about good restaurants in New Orleans.
James held it together pretty well. He especially liked watching the machine that was cleaning the bottles and labeling them.
The winery and vineyard are on a gorgeous piece of property overlooking the hills. After the tour, James and I spent alot of time playing outside in the grassy area. He was in a good mood, and I was able to drink some really good wine in between chasing him.
One thing that we have noticed is that the prices of the wine and food are all extremely reasonable. I’m talking like 10$ for a bottle of wine in a restaurant. That has really been a pleasant surprise.
The prices of wine in Napa have gone up so much even since we starting going back in 2010. We have learned that one of the reasons is that many of these Italian wineries are 3rd and 4th generation families. They don’t want to change much from the way it has always been done, so they keep the prices about the same to maintain a loyal customer base.
James fell asleep in the car almost immediately after we left, consequently we cancelled our lunch reservations. Justin picked up an antipasti plate from a restaurant near by and we ate in the room.
In the afternoon, we had another tour/tasting at Cavollatto. This winery is close by the hotel so we were able to walk there. I could tell that James just wasn’t in the mood, so Justin took the tour while we played outside. I did get to try some of the wine, and it was very good. This was another family owed vineyard and one of the sons did the tour/tasting.
All the wineries have been very nice and patient with James! Even when he was trying to dip his breadstick in my glass of wine!
Dinner didn’t go too smoothly. We attempted to eat in the restaurant in the hotel. I could tell immediately that things were not going to go our way. We barely made it through appetizers when James and I had to head back up to the room for bed. Justin brought our entrees up to the room and we ate on the floor of the living room (for the 3rd time).
Tomorrow we leave for Venice. This is our last stop before we come home. I hope it’s a good one!
Today was our first day exploring the Barolo area. Barolo is considered (by many) one of the most prestigious wine-making regions in all of Italy. We have been to Napa multiple times and have also visited vineyards in New Zealand and Australia, so we were excited to do some tasting in Italy.
James decided to wake up early this morning, so we got a head start to the day (somewhat) and had an early breakfast. The place we are staying at, Le Torri, provides a breakfast. Like the last place, it is mainly fruit, yogurt, meats, breads, and cheese. When we got there, they had already set out a high chair for James with a baby plate and utensils. Everyone has been so nice and accommodating for James. We had a couple of cappuccinos and James ate most of a yogurt. The rest of the yogurt, he smeared all over his face, hands, etc.
We had a 10:00 tour and tasting at GD Vajra. Everything went pretty smoothly. We always hope that James will quietly stay in the Ergo baby while we do what we want. Well, we are 9 nights into this trip and that hasn’t happened yet. He immediately wants to get down and run around like a crazy person. Luckily, we were the only ones at that tasting so it wasn’t a big deal. While we were trying the wines, the sweet tour guide brought out some toys for James to play with. He was in good spirits, and it all went reasonably well.
We wanted to get some lunch at 12:00, but James fell asleep in the car and the plans changed. We went back to the hotel so that a James can take a nap. Flexibility has really been the name of the game on this trip.
After James woke up, we ate at Loconda Del Centro which is about a minute from the hotel. James gnawed on a bread stick while we ate. He did have 1 meltdown, but he recovered and the meal wasn’t a total fail. He also tried some veal tartare and seemed to like it!
After lunch, we walked around the small town where we are staying, Castiglione Falletto. We found an open area where James could run around and had a relaxing afternoon.
Next up on the agenda was a tasting at Bartolo Mascarello. We went into the town of Barolo and walked around before the tasting. We saw a school letting out for the day and all the kids coming off the bus to meet there parents. Justin wore James in the Ergo baby and he seemed very content. We had high hopes for a nice quiet tasting, but baby James had other plans.
Our tour guide was about 15 minutes late, but at first things were looking up. James was being sweet and flirting with the other people in our group. Awesome. However, once we started, things took at turn for the worst. We went into the wine cellar and James started fussing so I took him outside. A first, he wanted to play with a pitchfork. I decided that that was a bad idea. James acted like I just killed his best friend. Then, he wanted to sweep the floor with the brooms that they had outside. Ok, I can deal with that. He likes to sweep at home, so I though this would keep him entertained for a while. Unfortunately, he can’t maneuver the broom over concrete as well as he can on the hardwood floor at home. Well, that was just too much to handle for a 15 month old. He cried when he tried to sweep, then he cried when I took it away. Not just a gentle wimpering, but a full blown scream on the top of his lungs. Justin said that all he could hear was screaming outside the cellar, and it made him super stressed out. At least I wasn’t alone in my misery.
I spent the rest of the “tasting” outside with James watching “the wheels on the bus” on the iPad. The nice tour guide did bring me out a very appreciated glass of wine.
We had dinner at L’Argaj down the street from the hotel. It was very good and luckily we were one of only 2 tables. James was reasonably good. He ate some breadstick, grilled octopus and panna cotta.
The day had its highs and lows, but overall we are still very much enjoying being out in the countryside. I think we all just feel so much more relaxed here and making great memories as a family. One day we may look back at this experience and say “what were we thinking?” But I think we will also laugh a lot at some of the things that have happened!