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Holidays are for world-schooling

Well, we’re back from our adventure to Italy. Wow.

The film director and family were staying at our place between the London film premiere and a London award ceremonies (yeay!). Our kids were on holiday, and we had been too tapped out to plan a getaway. So, we played hard on the farm for a few days. They had discovered our tree house and zipline, painted and played Legos and wrestled. Together, we had explored Annecy playgrounds and massive bubble making. It was time to escape the rain on the forecast and for the Californians to see something different. Okaaaay…More honestly, after wading in moving boxes, building IKEA shelving units, transitioning to school-life, and adjusting to so many new rhythms, we were eager to switch gears and see something different as well.

We’d tried in vain to escape and relax all summer. Here was our chance: finally a fellow family up for traveling with younger kids. Why are such families so hard to find? It was over breakfast one day that we decided to book a few nights in Italy. Starting that night! The guys clicked to reserve three hotel nights and we all sang: we’re going to Italyyyyyyy today!

After plenty of obstacles including a dead rental van, sickness and packing for ten people to leave – nothing was going to stop us – we ventured to the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel. My glorious childhood memories were shattered at the sight of the Italian border town Courmayeur resembling a ghost town this time of the year. Onward to the sea with our multilingual crowd it was! We were that unlikely group mixing Mandarin-English-French, muddling about in Italy with some rusty high-school Italian. A brief moment in time where I got to live the Third Culture DREAM.

We lingered for a good part of one whole day in the Genoa aquarium and took in the fantastic old town built on a hill. What a beautiful experience to travel with a relaxed, more contemplative group. There wasn’t that rush to “do all the sights”, we were just content noticing the little pregnant sea horse or the tomato shaped frog, the street performer and the ancient alleys. Making up for sub-par Italian carbs that day, we stuffed faces with the most exquisite gelato I have ever had at Romeo Viganotti Gelateria. It was just incredible. Dark beer or Gorgonzola and walnut flavored gelato, anyone? Coffees were also pretty delish for the most part.

One of the days, Tall Mountain and I used the old napping hack to get kids to sleep in the car and we decided to explore Camogli, a small fishing town further along the coast. The kids didn’t sleep en route of course, but sometimes it’s much more magical not to have the journey all mapped out, isn’t it. We poked necks around the corner of a narrow alley to discover a peaceful beach surrounded by bright yellow and orange buildings and church bells ringing. Giddy like kids in a candy shop, we ran down to the black stones and sand and stripped kids of their clothes. I couldn’t for the life of me peel the smile off my face seeing our children spontaneously splashing about the ocean, at this point, so late in October. I chose a beach stone of remembrance to mark that special time of unexpected grace and rest. It’s this gorgeous brown rock, lying there amidst all the black stones. We finished our wonderful visit strolling with sleeping kids, sunsets and fresh fish at a nice restaurant (please, please don’t wake up now, kids!) and phenomenal sunsets. Ironically, that was the only decent meal we had in Italy. The only thing missing was our friends, feeling poorly back at the hotel. So sad.

Stomach bugs, a lost voice, conjunctivitis, poor restaurant choices.. There were plenty of unwelcome surprises to our trip. THIS, my friends, is when it matters that you went with a family committed to touring around with younger travelers. There are so many unexpected breaks with kids: potty, pukes, nursing. We went with the flow, choosing when to take it easy, when to split up, when to bring sick kids along and when to cancel a trip to touristy perched cities, the famous Cinque Terre. Yesterday, our whole group splashed about one last time in Santa Margherita Ligure, another fishing town further down the coast before road-tripping home to France.

Despite the unexpected, I return rested and rejuvenated and ready to tackle life here. We’re not drained by our guests, rather we’re sad to see such gracious friends leave. That’s the best. Ayo is pretty bummed to come back to “boring old France” saying “but…Italy was so much more fun with so many things to do!”

Our friends left to the airport this morning with heaps of memories of an adventurous time. And with a bag of pastries. Because French croissants are still the best.

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PS: The oldest boys puzzled the morning away today, asking the best questions and noticing all the little things about about where we had just been: Italy is like a boot. We played in the Mediterranean sea yesterday. California is on the coast too. It’s on the Pacific ocean!

Perhaps my world-schooling fantasy isn’t just a pipe dream. Maybe it’s just that holidays are for world-schooling!

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This post was part of the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below!

1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.

 

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