a Day to Explore

Since we got to bed so late last night (or so early this morning – which ever way you want to look at it) we got a bit of a late start to the day. But, we are on vacation and have no timetable or schedule and are just free to be!

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We leave our condo and prepare for adventure. Walking from the residence and through some beautifully landscaped areas, it seems as though everything parts and makes way for the Johnson Street Bridge; where we can gaze at part of the harbor. Amazing to see the tiny boats as well as the tallest of the sailboats.

It is a wondrous site and bittersweet memories flood my mind and heart as I remember my first visit here with my hubs thirteen years ago. Bob and I were in the midst of a terrible family crisis. This was one we could not face at the time. Our strength had been tested in ways we would have never thought possible. We “ran away” to Victoria to be by ourselves. It was a great comfort being in a place where we would never come face to face with anyone that we knew. Walking the Inner Harbor every morning to the downtown area or just to watch the street entertainers helped us to forget what we had to face when we returned. We were in a magical land and for just a couple of weeks, we had no fear or worries. It was just us. And we clung to each other certain in the fact that whatever happened, we always had each other. That is the way our marriage began and that is the way our marriage ended with Bob’s death.

I have to blink away the tears several times until I hear Maxwell tell Abby that I am remembering being here with Poppa. Then I have to laugh at the innocence of a 6 year old little girl … “oh yeah. You came here with dead Poppa, right, Nana?” Pulls me right back into the current and makes me laugh – knowing Bob would think that the funniest thing ever. I can hear his laugh now.

We venture over the new replacement Johnson Street bridge and ooh and aah at the mechanisms that will lift this bridge, effortlessly allowing tall ships to sail through. It certainly is an engineering marvel. At night, it is lit in a beautiful blue as a reminder of the powder blue bridge it replaced.

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Our first stop was to get some food in the kids’ tummies. We found a cute little place called Picnic- a coffee house with locally sourced cafe items. The kids liked it and I especially liked the Portuguese style bun!

And now, we were off. We needed to get a few groceries for the Airbnb, but before that, we explored the Inner Harbor. Now, you cannot explore the Inner Harbor without going to Wharf Street and you certainly cannot visit Wharf Street without having your photo taken at the CANADA sign!

Now that we have that out of the way, we see a small closed trailer in bright red. A young lady is standing near the steps and asks us if we would like to see a free 3 minute play. She explains that she and her entertainment partner, students at the University, travel around doing these little 3 minute plays, but also teaches school children the art of acting. We enter the small trailer and to my surprise, there are a few theater style seats from times gone by and a little stage with the requisite heavy drapery. Max and Abby think this is quite a treat, so we all take our seats. A cute mini-play begins and near the end, one of the young ladies says she needs a volunteer to help rescue the other lady. Up shoots Maxwell’s hand and before you know it, he is standing on the stairs outside of the trailer and within a minute is hailed as the hero. Quite an entertaining few moments! And such a novel idea.

These are the little things that Bob and I found so endearing about Victoria. A bit quirky. A Little relaxing. And a whole lot of fun. I think that if Portland and Austin had a baby, she would be Victoria BC.

We take our remaining time to walk around and watch the boats and observe the life here. Then, we board the water taxi to get back to our side of the harbor and are on our way to the Country Grocer and home for dinner and relaxing time. Well, as relaxing as you can get with Teen Titans!

On our way …

to beautiful Victoria BC. Jeffry and Kerri are driving Max and Abby and I to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. This evening, the grand kids and I will board Alaska Airlines (upgraded seats) to make our way to Seattle and eventually to Victoria – the cutest gem of a city that I have ever laid eyes on. After kisses and hugs and “see you in 5 days”, we checked our luggage and ventured into the general boarding screening area. The kids do not have known traveler numbers, so in the general line we went. Everything was smooth until the man said “all food items must be out of the bags and into one of the bins”. I thought, ‘no problem’ since I packed the snacks in a little lunch box and just placed it in the bin. All of the sudden, Maxwell was in a panic – going through his backpack pulling out 3 Starburst and a couple other small items. Crisis averted!

The kids were treated to a kid’s snack box with a turkey sausage stick, applesauce, cheese crackers, popcorn and a mini chocolate bar and of course apple juice and sprite. Happy Campers!! Thanks, Alaska Airlines! On the descent into Seattle, we watched fireworks shows all over the city from above. Believe it or not, the displays are not nearly as amazing from above as they are looking up at them. A new experience.

The transfer in Seattle was rushed, to say the least. After getting off the first plane, we had 20 minutes before we boarded the second one. Normally, not so much to worry about. However, we landed at one terminal and our next gate was C10D. Excuse me? Okay then – we find the train to take passengers to GATES B C D. That is what it said right there on the little red letters above the train. So there we await the little train to take us to our gate. We board the train. The doors close. And then a voice comes over the loudspeaker … “this train will not stop at gate C. To get to gate C, disembark at gate D and walk to gate C”. Well, now that was fun with all 3 of us – me with back issues and two children sleepy at 11 pm – scurrying in and out of crowds of people to get to our gate just as they called our group. We made it. Got settled in our upgraded-but-you-couldn’t-tell-it-was-an-upgrade seats and settled in for a quick flight to land in Victoria. Had no time to pick up a cute night shirt in the Seattle Airport that said “Sleepless in Seattle” and that is one of my favorite movies of all time!! (“hello, Howard!”)

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Got to the Airbnb around 1:45 am.. The kids were both now alert and ready to explore the little condo…”look how these light switches work… the toilet lid closes by itself like ours … hey, I have dibs on the pull out sofa …”

By the time we got settled in and faces washed and teeth brushed, it was close to 2:30 a.m. and all three of us were exhausted and sleep came ever so easy. (shhhhh. more tomorrow)

Camp Nana

Ginny is making her way to Portland to visit her childhood friends and family, so Camp Nana was down one person. And her smiling face was missed.

Max and Abby began the day by making their own wind chimes. We used mini pie tins (thanks, Pat) from a family dinner dessert, as the top piece. Holes were poked in the tin and in the center… a cute old bell. Hollow little tubes were added and various accouterments such as old keys and some moon charms until the chimes were just right in sound and sight.

Unfortunately, I did not think to snap a photo while we were working on them, Kerri did get a couple photo of the chimes which found a new home from the eave of their patio cover.

We barely had time to run a couple of rehearsals for our end of summer program (cloaked in secrecy as always) until the kids had to leave for karate. But, before our time was up, we managed to conjure up a very tasty lemon supreme cake topped with the family favorite French white icing for Max and Abby to contribute to their dinner time.

Camp Nana

Since Camp Nana always runs in June – we began this camp day making Father’s Day Cards. They had different color cards to choose from. Changing their painted hands into little monsters – came out so good! When Nolan arrived with mommy to pick up Ginny for gymnastics, we used his little foot to make the monster. All 4 little monsters were just as cute as their contributors. They added some of their own artistic touches with drawings and words, as well as make good use of googly eyeballs and stickers. Very cute.

I made the mistake of asking Max to take a few photos during the day. When I downloaded them, this is what I got.

The kids then enjoyed a game of Scrabble Junior, and had lots of fun learning the new rules. Every family should play board games again!

Swim Meets

I really do enjoy the swim meets  There’s something about the smell of sunscreen and pizza and hot dogs.  Brightly colored canopies and sun shelters dot the area, housing swimmers playing card games and snacking on strawberries and cucumber slices.  Giggles are abundant and amidst all of the chaos, relays and medleys kick off the evening activities.  Jeffry and Kerri always put in more than their required volunteer time – Jeffry manning the concession stand at home meets as a fundraiser for the Indian Ridge Swim Team.  Kerri is on her feet for three and four hours at a time, donning an old favorite hat of her late father in law, and rounding up six to ten year old kids of every size and shape and color, all in navy blue swim attire,  and lining them up for their events.

The afternoons are hot.  The atmosphere is hectic.  The announcements and the kids are loud.  And it is 100% fulfilling.  It lifts my soul, no matter how tired and sweaty I feel.

Camp Nana 2019 Ready, Set, GO!

The three campers (known as Nana’s Camp Squad) all have many summer activities this year.  We are squeezing in mini-camp sessions as we navigate through swimming, gymnastics, dance, karate and summer travel.  And today was our kick-off with a morning movie of HOP at our new favorite Galaxy Luxury Theater on the far east side of town.

EB’s destiny was to take over the role of the Easter Bunny, as had been his father’s and his father’s before him.  But his heart was set on becoming a drummer instead. And I have to admit, he was darned good at it!  In fact, the most enjoyable parts of this movie for me, were the drumming scenes.  Image result for hop the movie EB drumming with the blind singers

The campers were invited to bring their own bunnies along to enjoy the movie with us.  Ginny and Abby stuck their bunny’s butts in the cup holders and would every once in a while “feed” the bunnies a kernel of popcorn or a skittles candy.

(Max had his bunny, Chocolate,  in a “sleeping bag” while Abby’s bunny, Strawberry, and Ginny’s namesake bunny, Ginny, were more of the come as you are dress code.)  Once in a while, Ginny would lean over and give me a short explanation of why the mouse did this or the chick did that.  It made for a very sweet and enjoyable morning.

Ginny was off to gymnastics with mommy and baby brother, so Max and Abby and I headed over to McDonalds to get some energy expended and a few calories under our belts. 

The Pima County Public Libraries are all giving away one free book to any teen or child stopping by this week, to encourage summer reading.  Max and Abby need no encouragement as they have their noses in a book often; but hey, who doesn’t love a free book?  They perused the books and made their choices and began reading their new material while walking out of the library door.  I had to remind them that reading while walking could be dangerous!  They took a minute to strike a library pose before departing the area.

Home for some quiet time and a game of Uno Attack while I gear up for a fun project on another Camp Nana day!

 

Day 15: Vacation – Last day in Firenze

A bit of a leisurely morning before we hopped back on the tour bus to finish the tour that we got sidetracked on the day prior.  I mean, we saw stores and boutiques and gelato and stuff … lots and lots of glorious stuff.  Hmmm … anyway, we got back on the bus.

It was a cooler day with drizzle, so we had every intention of just staying aboard for the entire tour.   However, we came to a sweet little stop on the tour – Piazza Mino da Fiesole, in the beautiful village of Fiesole.  Fiesole  is a metropolitan city in the Tuscany region, Italy. A favorite destination of many writers who have been attracted to Fiesole including Giovanni Boccaccio, John Milton, Percy Shelley, Alexandre Dumas, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein. Fiesole was also a favorite place of Leonardo da Vinci who, reportedly, experimented with attempts at flight off its hills.  (the Los Angeles Times)

Fiesole has become the go-to area to live of the very affluent of Italy.  It is known for grand gardens and exquisite residences.   This little gem is on the market for 20 million Euros.  Today that is only $22,334,880. USD.  A Bargain!

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We took a few moments to enjoy a traditional Toscana lunch of burger and homemade chips.  We were ready for that after 14 days – trust me!

Afterwards, we wanted to see more of the beautiful countryside, but the rain was drizzling and the wind was blowing really cold,   We got a couple of shots of the clock tower of the Cathedral of Fiesole (Il Duomo),  and the town.  There are very few shops – maybe a couple cafes – not much more, other than the stunning gardens and homes.

Took a catnap on the bus ride “home” and spent time packing and doing laundry and getting ready to take the train to Rome in the morning.