Here we go

We’re daring to travel in the stage before any child can be considered easy. While I’d like to imagine that Shiloh could be easier if he’d had his own airplane seat, the truth is that both children ended up on our laps for the duration of the fight. The days of complaining about long flights without legroom while quietly watching movie after movie and snacking on Chex Mix and cranapple are long behind us. Now the flight is a marathon that leaves us thoroughly exhausted and in need of relaxation upon landing.

Joyfully, children are wonderfully predictable in their needs. The next many days were a dizzying array of activities interspersed with the predictable: cooking, cleaning, laundry, and naptime battles. Toys were constructed from Costco delivery boxes and the stairs were ever-guarded as our little crawler learns to move. We’re in the thick of it, and we’re embracing all the little moments, from the frustrating to the hilarious.

New Year’s Eve in Torino

We begin the evening that is to end the year with a dinner at our Airbnb complete with prosciutto, cheese, bread, and wine.  The perfect and simple Italian dinner.  But before it gets too late, we head out to the center of town to the Piazza San Carlo.

New Year's Eve in Torino

There is live music on a large stage at one end of the piazza.  There are people selling silly, light-up, new years themed hats.  A couple of the bars around the piazza are open, but much too crowded to consider entering.  Groups of people are sending up flying lanterns.  The music shifts from folk to pop to opera and back again.  The crowd continues to file into the piazza.  

New Years Eve in Torino from Andrew Stein on Vimeo.

As the midnight hour draws near, people start pulling out their plastic cups and bottles of champagne.  Others prepare their sparklers and fireworks.  And others just keep watch of the time as if the entire crowd isn’t about to countdown from 10.  

The part of this scene that we weren’t quite prepared for was the shock waves sent through the piazza from the fireworks.  It is almost as if bombs are going off all around us.  It might seem safer if the fireworks weren’t being thrown into the air haphazardly by crowd members, but as a result, there is almost a chaos that breaks out at midnight.  Fireworks, sparklers, and music all combine for a crazy finish to New Years.

Fire works in Piazza San Carlo

Paris and Constance, Part II

When determining the best way to get from the Saumur in the Loire Valley to Cecina, Italy, we figure out that training back to Paris, then flying to Pisa, and eventually training to Cecina is the best route. Once the path is settled, we start finding accommodations. We email back Constance, whom we had rented the art studio apartment from on our way out. She responds that her apartment is booked but that we can stay with her and her daughter in their own Paris flat. We arrive at the flat, settle in to her children’s rooms, and ask how much we can pay for the room. She explains to us that she cannot charge someone to stay in her flat and we are made speechless by her generosity. We had chatted with Constance over tea and snacks for about an hour when last in Paris, and all of us got along very well, but this act of kindness was so far and beyond anything that we expected.

Gabe and I stay in her son’s room, which was better decorated than I have or ever will get my room. He had historic coca cola bottles from all over the world to go along with his guitar collection, bike parts, music posters and great sports memorabilia. Gabe and I were impressed by the son’s room. In the evening, “we” cook dinner. The “we” deserves to be in quotes because there were a couple conflicting kitchen philosophies melding. I stick to opening up the wine and cutting up a couple vegetables and then I stay out of the way. That said, the vegetable medley we had hit the spot. We had eaten a lot of cheese and a lot of bread, but our diet had been missing those colorful vegetables. While we wait for the vegetable medley to bake, we play Crazy Eights using Katherine’s seemingly made-up rules. (We later confirmed that there are a lot of possible rules that can be used in this game, and Katherine happened to be using at least semi-true rules.)

In the evening, Constance is somehow able to convince Katherine that she should go out. Before Constance’s help, Gabe and my powers of persuasion were being tested. We have a fun time, return before its too late, and wake up to Bach playing and a table set with croissants, jams, juice, and tea. As a thank you gift, we give Constance some nice tea and several jams; however, there was no gift that could show how appreciative we are for Constance’s generous hospitality.

Despite loving Constance’s flat, the three of us did explore the city some.  We walked around, enjoyed the park outside the Louvre, swung by Notre Dame, and tasted fun snacks including crepes from a small street side window and macaroons from Laduree.

Flat in Paris

Constance’s Art Studio

Instead of finding a hostel or a nice bed and breakfast, Gabe and I use to find our one night’s worth of accommodation in Paris before heading to the Loire Valley. Gabe found us a small apartment located behind a small art studio. The pictures and reviews on airbnb looked promising, so we were prepared to take our chances.

The apartment is more than perfect. No one is there when we arrive, but we drop off our things, find some baguettes and cheese, and when we return, Constance is in the art studio waiting for us. Constance is gracious and welcoming, and over tea, the three of us end up talking for about a half an hour before her daughter also joins us. Both of them can speak perfect English as we discuss what the rest of the day holds for everyone.

The apartment is filled with knick knacks and the like. There are drawings on the chalkboard and the shelves are made from vintage wine boxes. Anything that can be is organized in old jam jars. Supplies such as egg cartons, wine corks, pastel colored yarn, and ink stamps of all sizes sit waiting for the next creative inspiration. There are matchbox wind chimes, drawings and paintings pinned on the walls, and photos secured on a line with clothes pins. The apartment has charm, character and a convenient laundry mat just next door.

Enjoying dinner in Paris art studio

Right around the corner from the apartment in almost any direction we can find fresh baguettes. And when we venture a little further, there is a delectable smelling cheese shop and other markets. To start our French experience off correctly, for lunch, dinner and then breakfast, Gabe and I enjoy bread, cheeses, foie gras, and fig jam. This reunion with cheese strongly confirmed how much it has been missed over the last couple months.

Cheers to good food, good accommodation, good company, and good fortune.

Cheese shop in Paris