Homeschooling

This post is in case any of the kid’s teachers are reading the blog, here is proof that we at least tried to keep the kids educated while travelling!  Today is the first day of school, and although I’m sure there are some things the kids missed last year in class, hopefully everything they learned seeing the world makes up for it.

Our hope is that by experiencing different cultures, witnessing extreme poverty, observing gorgeous wildlife and scenery, trying new and different foods, and seeing historical sites, they have a better understanding of our world.  We hope they will always be tolerant of others who are different, sympathetic to those less fortunate, curious about the unknown, and never stop wanting to learn about and explore our world.

Second, Fifth, and Eighth grade, here they come!!!

Trying to get some schoolwork done after breakfast in Michigan. Not too much got done for these 2 weeks on Island #8, but it is summer vacation, right?
Doing a world map quiz after studying maps that Rita printed out for us in Switzerland.
After the schoolwork is done, this is what they look like for the rest of the flight when there are screens on the airplane!
Catamaran math.
Finding fun playgrounds was homeschooling for Alexandra and Savannah.
Rome
One of the few flights with some schoolwork going on, from London to Rome.
Homework and mate on a cold day in Patagonia.
School work at Las Cateratas, Iguazu, Brazil. If you zoom in you can see the falls in the back right corner. And who just crossed the street?
Llao Llao hotel, Bariloche, Argentina
Doesn’t the window look like a fake backdrop? The view from every window here is amazing.
Buenos Aires school work in our apartment. This is where we started the excel spreadsheet for the kid’s kumon. They realized they have a set amount so if they do multiple pages a day, they can have some free time at the end of our trip in Michigan.
Feeling very formal at the Aubrey Hotel in Santiago, Chile.
Afternoon tea made the math a little easier.
Working on flashcards, trying to stay out of the other kid’s way while they work. The little ones love afternoon tea also!
Tahiti

Watching the turtles and fish, and supposedly doing schoolwork in Bora Bora.

A rainy day in Cairns, Australia

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Catalina Island is 26 miles out to sea from Southern California.  Tyler’s family has been coming here since he was a kid and we have come almost every summer with our kids.  Last year, we finished building a house over here in the little town of Avalon and this is our last stop of the trip.  School starts in a few days and we have enjoyed every day over here in paradise.  Although we are ready to get back home and into a routine again (and get the kids back to school after being together for 24/7 for 8 months!) we are sad that our big adventure has come to an end.  It was fun to end it in a place we love with family and friends with us to share and enjoy it.

The week started out with just me, Kira, Alexandra and Savannah over here.  We dropped Kylie and James off at sleep away camp, and Tyler off at the airport for a business trip, and boarded the ferry with our scoot bikes, double stroller, and suitcases.  We had a relaxing 4 days here, visiting the library, playing at the playground just up the road, cooking dinners, and just hanging out.

We bought Kira a Ukulele and the two of us tried to figure out how to play it, not too successfully!
Instead of sleeping in the bunk room, Kira got to bunk in with me!
Early morning breakfast.
We put the twins in the stroller and went for runs in the morning.

This is the view from the run that Tyler and I do in the mornings from the top of Mt. Ada.

Tyler and his parents, Ron and Colleen, came over and on Monday, we took Ron’s boat to go pick up Kylie and James at camp.  Kylie loved it and wants to go back next year for 2 weeks, James had a harder time and was homesick but in the end, I think he is glad he went.  It was great to see his smiling face when we picked him up after getting some sad letters and emails from him.

Catalina Island Camps
James’s cabin, Tugboat.

Walking down to Ron’s boat to make the hour trip back to Avalon from camp.

It is always fun to be in Catalina with the Ramesons.  Tyler’s sisters Devon and Courtney and their kids were over and the cousins have a great time together.  They love walking into town by themselves and going to the arcade, drug store (that has a toy aisle), getting donuts in the morning, and just feeling the independence of being on their own.

Merritt, Kira, Kylie and James heading into town.
They are quite a gang when all together!
Alexandra helping pull the wagon of groceries back home. She didn’t go by herself this year!

Tyler’s sister Courtney and our niece Harper share a birthday so on August 13th we had a joint birthday party for the two girls.  Nonni made two of her famous Angel Food cakes and we all had fun celebrating.

What a cute 2 year old!
Happy Birthday Harper and Courtney!
Outdoor dinners are the best on Eucalyptus street.
One night, we got to have cousin Merritt spend the night.
Nothing cuter than a boy and his Grandpa!
So fun to have Courtney and her girls and Nonni and Poppi there.

Kira and James were the big winners at this year’s fishing competition.  Every Wednesday the city of Avalon puts on a fishing contest from 7-9 am.  Our kids love going down with Tyler and trying to win for the most or biggest fish.  They have learned how to bait the hooks, reel up the fish, take the hooks out and release the fish back into the water.  This year even the 3 year olds got to try fishing! It is a fun morning, as the rest of the family gets their coffee and wanders down to watch.  By then end, everyone is on the pier cheering on the kids.  And Tyler is running around helping all our kids and the cousins with hooks that won’t come out, broken lines, and everything else that happens when kids under 10 go fishing.  Here is James with his second place ribbons for most fish and biggest fish and Kira with her first place ribbon for most fish and trophy for overall winner of the contest!!!

Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and Cousins all come down. This year we got to see a real fishing boat bring in a swordfish.

After most of the Ramesons left, we had our family friends the Theurers come visit.  After being gone for so long, it was fun to reconnect with them before school starts, Hannah and Kylie will be in 8th grade together this year.  We had a fun dinner outside, went to see Mission Impossible at the casino, had all the kids stay home for pizza and got a grown-up night out to dinner, and did a great swim on their last day.  It is always fun to get to share this special place with friends.

Theurer Family ready for snorkeling.
They all swam down to a great spot and saw lots of fish and lobsters.
The girls and I watched the snorkelers and the submarine.

After the Theurers left, we had Peter, our friend from Michigan come over for the day.  He came with his friend John and neither one had been here before, so it was fun to show them around.  We packed a lot into a day, snorkeling, swimming out to the swim platform, walking down to Descanso beach, going to the arcade, and finally out to dinner before his 9pm ferry home.

Wow, the twins even wanted him to hold them!

We love this special place. After being all over the world, we can say that Catalina is a unique spot with water that is pretty spectacular.  This year it was a warm 75-78 degrees, which made it even better to swim in.  It was an amazing trip, and it has made us realize we are so lucky to live in California and get to be in a place like this without even taking an airplane ride!

James after his swim.

One last scoot bike out to the ferry home.

 

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Zoom in on this one, the trophies say Fastest Male and Fastest Female!

There was a 5 mile race in Cedarville that we saw a flier for in the library so Tyler and I decided to do it, hoping that they really meant a 5k which would be 3 miles, instead of 5.  But sure enough, they knew what they were talking about and it was in fact a 5 mile race that the high school cross country team put on.  The above picture shows how we did and is probably my one and only actual win in a running race.  But here is the rest of the story, you need to see the following picture to see what the starting line looked like and how big a race it was!

So maybe I was the fastest female out of a total of 6 or 7, but I’ll take it!

It was great to end the trip with this race because we started out the trip with a race in Singapore and the comparison between the two was night and day.  From a high tech race run in Asia with thousands of people, to a “tape a sticker with your name on it to your shirt,” small town, high school fundraiser run in the Midwest, you can see how different our world is.  And both races in both places were great in their own way!

Our first month’s race in Singapore.

We also had the kids do a few runs in Michigan and even talked our cousins into going with us.  We started out with stretches and exercises down the dirt road and out to the main island road, then everyone ran their own pace for 7 minutes before turning around and running back.  Then some of us jumped in the lake to cool off!

Good warming up everyone!
This was an after dinner walk but shows the road all the kids ran on.
I guess its a good thing there aren’t many cars on this road!
There are many deer on the island who barely look up as you run past.

And our run finale of the trip was a race between our kids and the Pike brothers.  This is something the Dad’s started 3 or 4 years ago and each kid takes a turn running down the path from the cookhouse to the main house and back again.  Times are recorded and compared to last years times.  The sad thing for us  is that now the parents times are getting slower and the kids times are getting better and better!

The start and finish line.
Even Savannah and Alexandra took part this year.
The official race participants photo for 2018.
Everyone tries to get attention from the twins and the only person they were interested in hugging was Noah. Thanks Noah for hugging back even though you didn’t want to!

Mackinac Island and Harbor Springs

We took two day trips from our place in Michigan and both were to scenic towns nearby.  Mackinac Island is between the Upper and Lower Peninsula in Lake Huron and accessible by 15 minute ferry from a nearby town.  This Island has about 500 year round residents but for two months in the summer, becomes a tourist destination with 15,000 tourists a day.  The best thing about this island, besides the beautiful flowers everywhere, is that there are no cars, only horses and bikes.  The buildings and houses are all picturesque Victorian style, with beautiful gardens.  And then there is the Grand Hotel, which boasts the largest front porch in the world!  The hotel is always on my list of things to see when I am here and we have figured out a way to avoid the $10 entry fee for non guests, (if you are going, let me know and I’ll fill you in on the secret!)  There are many things to do on the island and we never have time for them all, even when we come multiple times.  You can bike the 8 miles around the island on a bike path, sample fudge while watching it being made, visit the old military fort, take a carriage tour, drive your own horse drawn buggy, ride horses, or just walk around and enjoy the beauty.

The main street in town, filled with restaurants, gift shops and fudge shops.
One of my favorite houses and gardens.
My Mom and Aunt Ada with more pretty flowers.
The Mackinac crew, our family plus Aunt Ada, Mom and Dad, and Angela and David.
We just don’t grow flowers like this in California.
The Grand Hotel, where you still need a coat and tie after 6pm!

Looking back at the hotel from our ferry ride home.

We have family friends who live in Shanghai but go to a summer cottage in Harbor Springs every year.  Their daughter, Breck was in Kira’s 2nd grade class back home so it is fun to go visit them and let the girls see each other.  We had a great time walking around Harbor Springs, having lunch and ice cream, and then going back to their place for a boat ride and tubing.  Thanks so much for having us down again this year!

It was so fun to see Heather, Chip and Breck again.

We found our store!
A horsedrawn carriage takes you to the cottage.
More tubing fun!
The girls love Breck!  Can’t wait to see you next time.

 

Michigan: My (2nd) Happy Place!

My family has been coming to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan since the turn of the last century.  The Upper Peninsula is connected to the rest of Michigan (the mitten shape) by the Mighty Mac, or the 5 mile long suspension Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) bridge.  When we cross that bridge, I know I am almost to the magical Island #8, one of the Les Cheneaux Islands on Lake Huron.

Things are different in the UP, as it is known, and I love it.  Life is simple but hard up here, with long, cold winters, and miles and miles of untouched forest.  I have been coming here my whole life, usually every other summer for a month or so.  As a kid, it was heaven.  So different from my Southern California suburban beach lifestyle.  We could run around on the forest paths, swim in the lake, have bonfires, never see another person besides a family member or nearby neighbor, see deer, ducks and fish, and just be a kid on the loose.

As a grown up, I love it for different reasons, although those things are still fun and I still try to run down the forest paths when I don’t have a kid in my arms.  Now, it is a break from the busy routine of our lives.  There are no phone calls, no texts about carpools or playdates, no sports practices, or school assemblies, or events to attend.  In fact, the only concern we seem to have is who is in charge of dinner that night (we usually have 2 person cooking teams), and that we need a lot of grocery shopping done on Saturday because the store is closed on Sundays.  It truly is a simple lifestyle.

One thing I always loved was the greenery back here, and the weather that makes it so green.  We don’t have green in California like they do back here.  And we don’t have summer thunderstorms either.  I loved listening to the thunder crack and watching the rain come down on the lake harder than I had ever seen it back home.  The next day, there was a special feeling of walking on the soggy forest path that was as bouncy as a trampoline and looking at the wet moss and pine needles.  Even in the summers, it could be cold sometimes and some summers were spent cozied up by the fireplace reading books, writing letters to friends back home, and playing tile rummy.  Other summers were warm and perfect for swimming and boating.  Back home it was mostly sunny and 75 degrees, but here the weather could change daily.  If it was a warm, sunny day, it was a swimming day because you never knew what tomorrow’s temperatures would be.

Tyler joined me back here for the first time in 1995, so it is as much his as it is mine now and we have shared memories of over 20 years.  And now, the best thing is getting to share this place with our kids and live it through their experiences and see it through their eyes.  They have cousins to play with and now the kids are equal in number to the grown ups, 9 and 9.  Now they are the ones running down the paths, building fairy houses, playing in the treehouse, and jumping off the dock (well, I did that too!).

The property is the tip of an island, although it is connected to another island by a small bridge and that island has a small bridge to the mainland.  When my Mom came back here as a kid, they had to take a car ferry across the straits of Mackinac and then wait for a boat to pick them up and bring them to our place.  It is much easier being able to drive!  The main house was a Sears Roebuck catalog house which means you pick it out of a catalog and all the lumber and parts get delivered and built onsite.  It is amazing to me that this house with single board walls, and no insulation or finishing at all, has survived over 100 years of Michigan winters.

I tell people this is one step up from camping, you can see through cracks in the walls to the outside, there are spiders everywhere, one bathroom with a clawfoot bathtub and an outdoor shower downstairs, bats that sometimes fly in for a visit, and creaky doors that do not shut all the way.  But that is what makes it so great, and unlike anywhere else in the world.  The main house has a living room with big fireplace and off this room are 5 rooms and 2 sleeping porches.  Then, you walk down a path to a guest house with two rooms and a bathroom, and still further on is the cookhouse with a kitchen and dinning area.

This summer we flew in from Rome on July 1st and for the first time in 6 months, were back in the United States.  This was the perfect spot to celebrate the 4th of July because we truly felt so lucky to get to live in America.  We went to the small town local parade, had a lunch barbeque with friends, did tubing on the lake, and ended with fireworks off the dock and sparklers on the beach.

Boarding our last international flight, flight #34.
Then a 7 hour drive from Chicago with a stop off at Walmart for carseats and water guns.
Mackinac Bridge, it takes 7 years to paint it and when they finish, they start the job all over again.
The main house.  These stairs seemed to go up to the sky when I was a kid and each year I came, they got smaller and smaller.
The cook house front porch, a common gathering area.
Happy 4th of July!
Waiting for the next car to come by in the parade and throw them candy.
Watching the parade go by.
Thanks to the Walmart stop, we could dress patriotically.

After the parade, Tyler’s friend Andy Pike and his family came by.  This is another small world story.  Tyler and Andy are high school friends from Lompoc, CA and a few years back Andy told Tyler his Mom was moving from California to a tiny town in Michigan.  Tyler of course asked where it was and was it in Northern Michigan and Andy replied, yes, but it is a tiny one blinker town you have never heard of called Cedarville.  You can imagine their surprise when they realized it was the same town Tyler had been visiting all these years with my family.  Now, whenever we are here, Andy tries to come visit his mom so we can all hang out.  Andy is also an amazing chef and caterer and we were lucky enough to have him feed us for the 4th of July.  We had chicken, sausage, tri tip (cooked on a real Santa Maria style BBQ), beans, 3 different salads, and bread.  And on top of this, they brought over a boat to go tubing on.  Kylie and James had a blast with smiles glued to their faces the whole time.

Andy brought an amazing lunch over for all of us, we talked about it for the rest of the trip!  Thank you, Thank you!!!

The Ramesons and Pikes

We have a great set of neighbors on the dirt road leading to our place and we all call ourselves the dirt road gang.  Over the years we have grown like family, even though we only see each other in the summers.  Each year we have a “dirt road gang party” where everyone brings something down to our point for a big pot luck.  The Scotts are part of the dirt road gang and Sara was the one we randomly ran into in Venice.  It was so fun to see her and Jordan again here and to see the rest of her family.  Her brother, Peter is a favorite of everyone and one night, he offered to take all the kids camping on Government Island, the one across from ours.  Angela volunteered to go too and the kids had a blast camping.  We also got to spend time with the Scotts watching the World Cup finals.  Since their house is an actual house with a TV and cable, we all piled into their living room and cheered for our teams to win.  We were cheering for Croatia and even had some left over microwave popcorn and drink mix from our time there that we brought down to share.  It was a fun game to watch even though Croatia ended up getting beat by France.

Neighbors enjoying dinner at the “dirt road gang” party.
Pre camping smores.
Peter, Angela and the kids loaded up and ready for a night of camping.
You would think from this send off they were leaving for a month, and going someplace farther than the island in the background!

Watching the world cup at the Scotts.

Cousin David had just returned from a sleep away camp where they would wake up with a 7 am polar bear plunge.  He kept up the tradition here and every morning at 7am would go down to the dock, raise the flag, and jump in the freezing cold water.  Most days Kylie would accompany him and one morning even I did it.  He gets a lot of credit because the mornings back here are cold, and the water even colder!

The crazy cousins!
On our last morning here, Kira braved the cold water and took the plunge!
I preferred to go after a run and cool down in the water.
A rare fog is in the background of this picture.
This jump was Tyler and David. They swam across the lake with Aunt Ada in the row boat to alert other boaters.  This summer Kylie and David swam across for the first time.

Here are some other pictures showing our fun at the Lake:

It is always fun having Grandpa around!
And Grammy too! Thanks, Mom and Dad for all of your help with the kids, we loved being back here with you!
Cousin Picture 2018
Kira, Lauren, Kyile, David, Hannah, Katelyn, Alexandra, Savannah and James.
Aunt Ada going over kid’s chores for the week in the cook house.
And Katelyn and Lauren dutifully doing the chores!
Tyler getting help one morning making cinnamon rolls.
The sun is out so it’s a beach day.

The girls finally got brave enough to walk into the meadow by themselves.
And brave enough to pet Aunt Liz’s dog.
I think it is also James’ happy place here, this was a typical scene, James with a hammer building something.
We had collected special little presents from our trip for each person in our family so this night we had an international party and gave everyone their gifts.
My sister Katie loved frogs and would always catch them back here. This year I hadn’t seen any frogs until I was digging up some reeds on the beach and this guy was sitting right there in front of my shovel staring up at me.
All the kids had fun holding him and watching him jump and swim.
James learned how to kayak.
The kids all built amazing fairy houses, complete with zip lines, fences, stairs and shelters, here is Kylie’s.
All the kids got to practice driving the boat.

Kylie and Katelyn practiced their boat driving skills and did great taking us into town for ice cream and library visits and back home.  We pretended they were by themselves and made them do it all alone which they did, even docking with wind.

There are always things that need fixing around here and this year the light house was one of them. Here is Tyler climbing up with a little helper waiting down below. Aunt Ada and Sara Scott also climbed up to help.
I love this picture. It shows my Mom’s two sisters, Aunt Ada and Aunt Liz with our neighbor Tom Flood having a cold drink after working on a project. Tom is our go-to fix it guy for everything and always walks down with a smile on his face.  These three hard workers are responsible for so much getting done around the island.  This picture is in honor of Tom, who lost his lovely wife, Mary very suddenly just after we left.  We are still shocked and so saddened by the thought of Mary not being here and our heartfelt condolences go out to Tom.  We will all miss Mary so much and Island #8 will never be the same without her.
Aunt Ada, Tom, Mom, Dad, Mary, and Aunt Liz
One last bonfire and beautiful, peaceful, 10pm sunset to finish off our summer back here.  It is a very special place here, Up North in the UP.

 

 

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As you would expect, the running in Bad Ragaz was great.  There is a river with a footpath directly in front of Rita’s house so Tyler and I ran along the river and through the town a few times.  Then we each did a run up towards the gorge and up a huge mountainside to a little village, then back down again along another mountain path.  It was fun to get to run on trails again, especially ones with amazing views.

Such a beautiful pathway, Rita’s house is on the right.
Kylie joined me on a run one morning.
Forest running!
This huge bridge connects the two mountain towns and spans over the gorge.
Pretty view from the top.

 

 

From Sailing to Switzerland

We were scheduled leave Croatia and end the international part of our trip with a week in Egypt visiting the pyramids. But after a day out in Dubrovnik with a temperature of 85 degrees, and looking at the forecast for Cairo where the low was 85 and the high was 108, we decided we needed a new plan.

Rita (Tylerś au pair from 34 years ago!) had suggested we come visit her in Switzerland, so after switching around some airline tickets, we were on our way to Bad Ragaz, via Rome. This is a special town to our family already, and this destination was a perfect way to end our European travels.  I had visited here in 1999 and hiked, white water rafted, and explored the beautiful country with my sister, Katie and her friend Theresa.  Even though I wasn’t even a part of the Rameson family at the time, Rita had been the best hostess and showed us such a good time.  Then, 4 years ago, my whole family traveled to Switzerland for Christmas to visit my cousin Angela who was living in Basel at the time.  After our Christmas, we all traveled to Bad Ragaz for skiing and a New Years celebration sleeping at the top of the local ski mountain, the Pizol.

Bad Ragaz is a small town an hour south of Zurich and it was just as beautiful in the summer as I had remembered it from 19 years ago.  The town has thermal hot springs and a beautiful resort, the Bad Ragaz Grand Resort.  There is also an art show that occurs every 3 years that was happening while we were there.  The other great thing about visiting this part of Switzerland is that our old au pair, Fabienne lives in the next village over so we got to visit her too.

Our arrival night, we had a welcome dinner with Rita’s sister Astrid and her niece Saskia.

We hadn´t told Fabienne we were coming so we could surprise her.  We had her boyfriend tell her to go to the local grocery store at 10 am and in we all walked.  It was great to see her again, especially since we had just seen her a few weeks before in Amsterdam.

A grocery store surprise!

I always love seeing schools in different countries and Rita’s sister Astrid is a home economics teacher at the local school.  This is also the elementary school where Fabienne went so we all got to go visit the school.  The kids had all prepared a song for us and some questions for everyone in English.  Then they all presented us with homemade necklaces.  It was a real highlight for us to meet these 10 year olds and see their classroom.  Thanks, Astrid for welcoming us into your classroom!

Outside Fabienne’s old elementary school, where Astrid works.
Astrid’s classroom

Another highlight for us was going on a hike in the mountains above Bad Ragaz.  Rita drove us up to the mountain town of St. Margrethenberg and we had a stunningly beautiful hike to a special spot where we built a campfire and roasted Cervalat and Bratwurst for lunch.  When we first got out of the car, all we heard were cow bells.  The cows come up here for the summer months and each cow has an enormous bell around his or her neck.

Look at the view these cows get!
Isn’t this what you would imagine hiking through Switzerland would look like?
A perfect lunch spot.
Whittling their own sticks to roast the sausages.
The kids loved the brautwurst.

Alexandra
The view from the top.
Rita took the 3 big kids on a different path down the mountain and they had fun stopping and getting a Revela soda after the hike.
And they really loved riding in Ritaś convertible!
Tyler and I took the twins the same way we went up.

Another day, we did the Heidi hike which tells the famous childhood story of Heidi who went up into the mountains to live with her Grandfather.  This walk was great, we took a gondola up to the ski area on the mountain, got a wagon for the twins and walked along the beautifully kept up trail, stopping at different play areas along the way and ending up at a cute mountain hut that served barley soup, local cheese and bread.  The views were amazing and we couldn’t get enough of the cute cows with their bells on.  It was fun to see the mountain in the summertime with no snow and show the kids where they had learned how to ski 4 years ago.

The nice cow knew to look at the camera!

We had fun getting to see Fabienne’s house and new job at a bakery.  When you have an au pair, you never know what the relationship will be after the year she is with you.  We had a great example set by Rita who has kept up with the Rameson family for all of these years and we hope to be able to keep in touch with our three au pairs also.  We feel so lucky to have gotten to visit Svenja, Bianca and Fabienne on this trip.

Fabienne’s new apartment.
And her bakery in Zizers.
We got a VIP tour of the bakery, and then of course got to have some yummy treats.

One night we got to have Fabienne babysit and we went over to Rita’s friend’s house in Lichtenstein for dinner and a slide show.  The last time we had seen Hans and Ursula they were about to embark on a 3 year voyage around the world on a sailboat.  Well, they are home now and have put together a fascinating presentation about their trip.  They made us a delicious dinner and we got to sit and learn about sailing a boat with just 2 people around the world. It was so interesting and gave us an idea of another type of trip to take one day.  (Don’t worry mom, I won’t go sailing around the world, maybe just a month or two!)  This night also gave us our 15th and final country visited on our trip, and it was only a 15 minute drive away!

Visiting friends in Lichtenstein.
The gorgeous country of Lichtenstein

Rita and her boyfriend Reto put on a barbeque for us so we could visit with Mama Becker, Astrid, Reto, Felix and friends.  We again got to roast Cervalat and Brawtwurst and the kids had fun running around in Retoś pretty yard.

See the kids in the background? Thanks for a fun evening at your house, Reto!

Bad Ragaz is known as a resort town because of its thermal baths, and there is a fancy 5 star hotel there that has thermal spa water in baths, and pools just a 5 minute walk from Ritaś house.  So the plan was that one night Tyler, the twins and I would stay there so we could all go up and use the spa.

Well, we changed the plan because after 7 months of 24/7 togetherness, I had had about all I could take and really needed some time alone!  Tyler is the greatest husband and recognized this and suggested I walk up and check myself in to have a night away. We joke that he had to institutionalize me but really, it was the best treat to just be in a hotel room by myself for a night!  The next day, everyone met me and we had fun in the kids spa area and at the thermal baths.

The Grand Resort Thermal Spa, not a bad place to get to spend a night alone!
The kids in the Heidiland kids spa area.
The twins loved playing in this kids area. And all the water here is directly from the warm spring and is 36.5 degrees C which is body temperature.
We couldnt take any pictures inside the spa but here is the waiting area.

Our last night in Bad Ragaz we went to a nice restaurant down by the local park, just a 5 minute walk from Ritaś house.  Fabienne and her boyfriend Savan met us there and the kids had the best time, playing until dark with them.

The nice picture…
And the crazy one!
One last yummy Swiss lunch made by Rita before we leave for our plane back to Rome.
Saying good-bye, the girls want Rita to come be their au pair in California!

Here are more pictures from lovely Switzerland:

The view from my hotel room at the Grand Resort.
One of my favorite sights of the whole trip, a fondue cheese vending machine. Because what if you NEED fondue and the market is closed?!
The kids loved having a backyard to play in again.
The gorge, an amazing canyon where the warm spring water comes from.

Thanks Rita. You are the best hostess ever and took such good care of us. Thank you for all the dinners, for giving up your bed (actually your whole house!), driving us around, taking us on hikes, and showing us the best time. We knew we loved Switzerland but now we love it even more!  Can’t wait for our next cappuccino together.

 

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I have been without WiFi for awhile now and got behind on the blog.  Since I last wrote, we have been to Switzerland, Michigan, and now back home for a few days before we leave again tomorrow to go to Northern California for Kylie’s water polo tournament, then Catalina, and then home for good.  A new post on Switzerland will be coming soon, stay tuned…

Cruising the Dalmatian Coast

Our boat is the 3rd from the right.

We were in Italy, planning the last leg of our journey and had one week in Dubrovnic set but couldn’t find a place to stay for the second week.  Then Tyler thought of sailing between the islands, that way we got to see a lot more of Croatia but didn’t have to worry about finding accommodations in each spot.  This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip.  We rented a 44 foot catamaran with a captain for 7 nights.  The first and last night are spent in the port just outside of Dubrovnic, so we had 5 nights in different areas, three of them in little fishing villages, one in a big town and one moored by ourselves in a calm bay.

Ready to take on 7 nights on a boat with 5 kids, 2 who don’t swim!

Our first day we sailed a couple of hours to a sandy beach for an afternoon swim.  We took the twins (with life jackets on) in an inflatable raft over to the beach and everyone had fun running up and down the beach and looking for shells.  Then it was back on the boat and over to the island of Mljet to a small town called Polace.  This was a perfect spot.  We backed into a small dock and, directly behind our boat, 10 feet away was a little playground.  There also was a small beach, some restaurants, old Roman ruins, and bike rentals.

Our first swim into a sandy beach.
Pulling into our spot for night #2
Not a bad spot for a playground!
And pretty cool to have a playground set among Roman ruins.

Day 2 we rented bikes and rode around the island of Mljet, most of which is a national park.  There are two saltwater lakes with bike paths around them and a little canal between the two.  When the tide changes, the water flows from one into the other which makes for fun swimming.

This part of the ride is nice and flat but the kids were real troopers for the rest of the ride which was up, up, up. I don’t think we would have attempted it if we had known how long and steep the ride was, but everyone made it. This is one of the good things about travelling, we push the kids more than we would at home, because we have no idea what we are doing!
The big lake
A relaxing float between the two lakes.

After our bike ride, we had lunch on board and put the sails up to go to the bay of Zaklopatica on the island of Lastovo.  We pulled up and backed into our spot for the night right in front of the restaurant Konoba Triton.  There was a fisherman cleaning fish right next to us with 4 cats and a lot of seagulls waiting for the scraps.  We walked up to the restaurant and picked out which fish (the actual fish) we wanted for dinner and placed the rest of our order for that night. Then we put floaties on Alexandra and Savannah and they swam with me while Tyler took the big kids out across the bay for a swim to the island.  There were nice, free showers right next to the restaurant so we all showered and got ready for a delicious dinner of fish, grilled vegetables, steak, salad and french fries.

Sails are up, thanks to our two capable captains.
Our night #3 spot
Right behind our boat, lots to watch.
We got some swimming in while the cook cleaned the fish for dinner.
Picking out dinner.

We had a real feast and even after stuffing ourselves, had lots of food left over.
After dinner the kids went back to play on the boat while we enjoyed the sunset view from the restaurant.

Day 3 Tyler and I both went on a run up to the town of Lastovo.  It is a cute little hillside town that is about 1.5 miles away from the harbor.  On the way back from my run, I missed the turn and ran an extra 2 miles in the hot sun till I figured out I had gone too far.  I remembered a public works truck back a little bit so I ran back and explained where I wanted to be.  He was going to drive me back to the turnoff but then an old, beat up datsun drove up and he flagged down the car and asked the man to drive me back.  I got into the car with the smoking, older man who knew a little english and he drove me back to the the turnoff I had missed.  People here are so nice so I had no worries about trusting these two people, which is such a good feeling to have in a foreign country.  I ended up getting in a longer run than I planned and had a little adventure!

The view running out of the harbor, up to a road that runs along the ridge of the island and over to the town.
The town on Lastovo, it was fun running through the town, up and down all the winding streets.
Once I figured out I had gone too far, I turned around to start back and a few minutes later saw this. This is the harbor I was supposed to be in and in the heat and burning sun, this looked like a very long way to run back to!
Before my run I ordered a cappuccino from a guy walking around from the restaurant behind our boat. For 10 kuna (about $1.50) I got one of the best ones I’ve had on the trip delivered to the boat!  What service!
So happy to have found my way back to the boat and cooled off.
Leaving Lastovo

We all jumped in and swam around the boat again in the morning after our runs, then motored to our next spot, a sandy swimming beach about 3 hours away on the island of Korcula.  We anchored and took the dingy into the beach and played in the shallow, warm water.  It was perfect for the twins to splash around in and the big kids played with hermit crabs, had sand ball fights and swam.  Then we motored over to the harbor.  Korcula is the most inhabited island in Croatia with 15,000 people on it.

Korcula Town
On our way to our slip for the night we passed this salt water swimming pool.

We got nice showers again at the marina, then walked around the walled town. It is like a mini Dubrovnik with cute, cobblestone streets, shops and restaurants. Our captain made us reservations at a pizza place right on the water and we enjoyed a relaxing dinner with a nice breeze.

Our captain, Miho. It was great to have a captain not only because he drove the boat but also because he knew all the spots to go to and made reservations for moorings and dinners each night.

Cute old streets like in Dubrovnik.
Sunset in the Korcula marina.
And a little gelato for dessert.

Day 4 We motored just 30 minutes away from Korcula to a small island, Stupe, with a little beach spot.  The big kids snorkeled, and the twins and I found a cool water swing.  After some lunch back on the boat and a dingy ride, we were off to our next spot for the night. Zuljiana on the Peljesac peninsula, which is actually on the mainland of Croatia.

Kira, our dinghy captain!
Going to check out the “clothing optional” beach.
Our boat for the week.

In the bay of Zuljiana, which is actually on the mainland near Ston we moored by ourselves which was so fun.  We even got in a late night swim in the dark and got to see bioluminescence. That night, we took the dinghy over to the mainland and got in two cars to drive to a couple’s farmhouse to have dinner.  It was a very interesting evening.  It turns out our hosts had lived in Queens for 30 years but 15 years ago came back to his family home in Croatia.  We had a dinner of octopus “under the bell” which means it is in a domed shaped pot covered with coals and cooks for 2-3 hours.  This is a typical Dalmatian dinner and we saw this at all of the ports we went to.  Croatia happened to be playing in the world cup that night, (which is a really big deal) so we all got to sit around on the front patio and watch the game on a little TV that was brought out from the house.  Even though our family has never watched soccer before, there is nothing like watching a world cup game with die hard fans to get you into the game.  And the best part, Croatia won!

The farmhouse and kitchen.
Tyler and our host in front of the huge oven.

Watching the game

Day 5 we woke up and did some paddleboarding before heading to the island of Mljet again, this time to the bay of Okulje.  This was another beautiful spot in a very protected bay.  There was a storm forcast so we were happy to be in this bay.  We got some wind and dark clouds but not much of a storm.  The kids continued their abalone diving and we had a delicious meal on the other side of the bay at the restaurant Maestral.

I hiked up to a cute church up on the hill in town to get this picture looking back down at the bay.
We bought these little running belts in Buenos Aires and they came in handy here for collecting shells when diving.

The nice quiet bay of Okulje
Walking over to dinner, our boat is across the bay behind us.
The view from the restaurant Maestral, this restaurant made our top three list for the trip!

Day 6 was our last day and we made a quick stop at Sunj on the Island of Lopud, on our way back to Dubrovnik.

Our last swimming spot
Getting ready to head back.
Heading back under the bridge into the harbor.
One last meal on the boat.
Off the boat and on our way to the Alps for our last week in Switzerland.
Only in Croatia! This country loves water polo, here at the airport is a huge sculpture of water polo players made out of egg cartons.