June 27, 2013

Road Trip, Part 5

Day 10:
I wish we had been able to plan ahead to really celebrate Ted on this day, but I confess my trip plans did not take into consideration the fact we would be away for Father's Day. :-/  But we did enjoy a wonderful day with the L family, attending Sunday school and church with them and then going out to eat for a long, leisurely dinner in the beautiful sunny weather that finally appeared! We gave Brian and Joy an Italian remembrance in appreciation for their gracious hospitality during our week in Germany.  We so enjoyed being able to fellowship with them and see how Ian and Ellie have grown in the several years it has been since our families were together.

Since we were hitting the road the next day, we didn't plan anything beyond enjoying schnitzel at a restaurant!  I finished up some laundry (so thankful Joy shared her little washer and dryer with us--we kind of took it over, LOL!) and we did our best to get as much packed as possible before bed.  We enjoyed one last evening of visiting together and probably got to bed much later than we should have.  Our kids are certainly going to miss each other, especially Ellie and Kenna, who were inseparable!

Day 11:
Road trip!  It was an estimated 9-hour drive from the L's house to Pisa, where we had booked a hotel for the next 3 nights.  It was a beautiful day for driving, which helped alleviate the stress of the loooong, two-lane roads between Germany and finally reaching the autostrade in France.  (How many hay trucks can there be, anyway?!)  We made a desperate stop for gas and potty runs, at which the only available toilet was in the back of a greasy mechanic shop--oh, joy!  Adventures in Europe!

Crossing into Switzerland was pretty exciting, even if we did have to pay 40 Swiss francs for the sticker (which is good for a year--guess we need to make a point of going back in the next 364 days or so!).  I've always wanted to drive through the Swiss Alps, and I was not disappointed.  Even though we didn't have time to stop in country, we all enjoyed the drive, and the infamous tunnels didn't slow us down at all--we had been warned that sometimes you have to wait for a green light to get through the tunnels, but we were able to keep trucking along.

By the time we reached Pisa, though, we were more than ready to stop traveling!  We were a bit alarmed at the time the GPS was telling us it was going to take to arrive at our hotel; however, we figured out that the GPS thought we had to walk a considerable distance, as the road leading back to the hotel building wasn't on the map!  It's in a nature preserve area, with horse stables (complete with loudly braying donkeys who sing not-so-sweetly even before the break of dawn) and was a beautiful, peaceful place for our family to "land" for a few days.  We unloaded the Suburban as quickly as possible into our two rooms (separated by a couple of other rooms and a stairwell; unfortunately, they were unable to get us adjoining rooms) and then headed back into town in search of food.  As we drove to the city center, it was easy to spot the famous leaning tower--so exciting!

We found a parking spot on the street right beside a diner that served cheeseburgers, to the boys' everlasting delight.  Ted and I enjoyed kebab panini while the girls chose pizza and the little boys ate remnants of everything.  We went back to the hotel and worked on settling everyone down...the rooms had no A/C, and with daylight hours stretching far past bedtime, it took awhile before Zaden at least was sound asleep enough for me to crawl into bed.  It was a fairly short night...between the stifling heat and humidity and sleeping in an unfamiliar place...and then the lovely "ass-inine" wake-up call from the donkeys, LOL!

Day 12:
Today we got to be tourists!  It was so fun...but oh, it was HOT!  The sun was merciless, but we decided the chances of us coming back to Pisa are fairly slim...the town is small (though we really did enjoy it), and when we come back to Tuscany, it will be to explore Florence more.  So, by golly, we were going to get all of the Pisa sight-seeing done in one day!  We found a nearby parking center and walked into the cathedral and tower area.

Ted got tickets for us and the older 3 kids to climb up the tower--children under 8 are not allowed, much to Kenna's chagrin.  But she was pacified when I told her she could get TWO treats!  Ted and the boys went up first; the wait really wasn't too bad, about a half-hour from the time he purchased tickets.  The girls, Lucan, and Zaden and I got ice cream and slushies and went back to the tower to wait for the hand-off.  Then Ted, Tobin, Arden, and the littles did the same thing while Charis and I went up.

The whole tower tour was only about 30 minutes long, but it seemed just the right amount of time.  I forget how many stairs there were--Ted and the kids counted, but everyone came up with different numbers!  I seem to remember 252 being one of the numbers, so I'll go with that!  It was so interesting to actually FEEL the lean as you wind your way up the the staircase.  There were two areas where you can walk around at the top, with the top being right up with the bells.

We joined the rest of the family on the ground and grabbed a simple lunch from a street vendor, then toured inside the cathedral, which was gorgeous.  From there we went to the baptistery--I've been in my share of cathedrals in Europe over the years, but I haven't ever seen a separate building for a baptistery before.  Unique!  Ted and the kids all went upstairs so they could look down...I decided I had had enough stairs for one day and stayed on the main level with the stroller and backpacks.

Ted and the kids with the baptistery in the background

See the itty bitty person in the bright blue shirt by the third column?!  That's me with the stroller!
(For more Pisa pictures, see our album here.)
By the time we had our fill of religious buildings, we were more than ready to get out of the heat.  We plodded back to the Suburban (completely omitting the standard forced perspective shots of people holding up the tower) and went back to the hotel for naps/rest time.  Zaden and I napped...Lucan may have napped, too.  Tobin and Ted relaxed in the boys' room, and the others played outside in the woods building forts.  The original plan was to rest and then head to the private beach owned by the hotel, but we learned--the the kids' dismay--that for whatever reason the clerk was unable to communicate to us in English, the beach was not accessible at that time, even though the web site had said it was open June through August.  Sigh.

So we simply...relaxed.  It was a beautiful thing to have time on our hands!  Unfortunately, the wireless access we were supposed to have worked in Ted's room but not mine, so I was unable to keep up with our blogging when I had the time and inclination to journal about our trip, ha!  But a forced internet break wasn't really a bad thing!  We ended up having dinner at the same place we had eaten the night before, but the boys were sad that they were out of cheeseburgers.  (Yeah, that never happens at fast food places in the States!  "Fast food" is VERY different over here!)

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