For the first time in six weeks I am sitting down with an empty day spreading itself in front of me. Time to think, time to write, time to reflect. The Aventura children are still sleeping, and here is the view to my left:
So that is a lucky thing.
Our little Aventura family of five is here together and at time of writing we are all healthy and reasonably contented. That is a blessing too!
Sure, we have our moments. Like the moment on Thursday when Soccer Dude projectile vomited from car sickness just 25 minutes into our six hour road trip to France. (Poor little man!) Or the moment when I was cooking salmon for dinner last night and the pan slipped off the tiny, precarious stovetop in our AirBNB and dumped a full pound of juicy, sizzling, oily fish all over my feet and the ancient tile floor. Ha!
Real life doesn't stop happening when you travel. People get sick, children bicker, tires go flat, the car bumper may or may not have gotten stolen in southern Italy. We still do infinite loads of laundry and make sandwiches to eat while driving instead of going to a restaurant, so we can hold to our budget. There are still an inordinate number of poop jokes told by the same 'angelic' children, including and sometimes especially in front of nice-looking strangers and little old ladies.
We're so blessed though, and we know it. We're grateful.
June and early July didn't just fly by. Like a rollercoaster that tumbles low, stretches to the sky, loops and lurches forward, our days hurtled by at a breathtaking pace this year. I recall several nights arriving home with our family and guests after midnight and realizing that we needed to be awake again in six hours; then falling into my bed and sleeping fully dressed after hitting an exhausted, contented metaphorical wall.
Rushing... rushing... always rushing.
Over the past six weeks we've traveled by car from Catalunya to the south of Italy (I still have AT LEAST nine blog posts to make about our visits to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano and all of the special beaches on the Amalfi coast... along with three nights in Tuscany outside of San Gimignano, two evenings in Cannes and more. I'll be rolling those out over the coming weeks and months.)
Then like a flash, we were back to Barcelona where The Scientist's closest friend came to visit with his fantastic family and we bonded with all of them instantly. The reunion of these two special guys deserves a poignant (future) retelling of its very own.
Over the course of six days we showed them the highlights of Catalunya, including Montserrat and the Costa Brava. Their visit flew by too quickly!
During those eight days back in Barcelona we also hosted several playdates with local buddies and flung ourselves headfirst into the visa renewal process. Visa renewal itself demands a blog... if nothing else, to help other people in our situation!
We went into the process with many misconceptions about how to renew our Spanish non-lucrative residence permit and unearthed a lot of valuable information on our way to finally submitting our own paperwork to the Spanish government... which we did at 7am this Thursday right before setting out by car for Milan via Cannes.
On Friday we woke early, hopped back in the car and made it to the outskirts of Milan at 2pm. Within an hour we'd parked the car, checked into the AirBNB, caught the metro downtown and were enjoying frozen yogurt with other friends visiting from San Diego. We shared a long walk and dinner together before they flew out to other countries in the morning. Always great to see kind faces from home!
Saturday was hot. HOT! The children and I took a full day self-guided tour of air conditioned buildings around Milan while Señor Aventura fixed the router for the hosts at our AirBNB and then accomplished a handful of crucial things.
Milan registered at 94F and very muggy... so air conditioning swiftly became our new best friend. After lunching at an air conditioned sandwich shop we visited an incredible air-conditioned science museum that taught them a lot about chemical compounds, recycling, food and more... stumbled upon an impressive artisanal gelateria (with AC!), enjoyed some fancy risotto and talked and joked all day long.
We also unwittingly hung out with our new 'closest' companions - aggressive Milanese mosquitoes - and The Scientist only complained about his 30 mosquito bites about one million times.
Now we are back by the lake, our favorite lake in the world... for a relaxing and inexpensive stay. Today we have no plans.
We have no plans! WE HAVE NO PLANS! What an amazing thing to say and mean.
For the next few days we will revel in the emptiness, the blank space in the family calendar. We can do anything or nothing. We can take a boat, swim or sleep. We bought about twelve books while in Milan and if we feel like it, we can spend all day on the shore reading. (I picked up "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert, while The Scientist snagged "Freakonomics".) What bliss! We can eat when we are hungry and play games when we are bored. We.Can.Do.Anything!!!
Tomorrow our eldest son The Scientist will celebrate his twelfth birthday! He had an early celebration with his best friend back in Barcelona and now he plans to inaugurate the new year by making us fancy pancakes and pasta carbonara. Our chef! His brother and sister are full of sneaky plans to make this the best birthday he has ever had; his father and I are committed to letting him design the day. Hiking? Sure! Swimming? Sure! Kayaking? Why not? You only turn 12 once.
We are now one year away from having a teenager. I can only imagine what we may be doing or how we may be feeling one year from now... as our son becomes an 8th grader AND we wrap up our two years living in Europe to return to California. Both concepts are honestly hard for me to wrap my head around right now!
Back though, to Lago Maggiore. Señor Aventura will leave the children and I by this amazing lake and go cycle his heart out in the Haute Route Alpe d'Huez bike race for four days. He is almost giddy with joy about this special ride which he will tackle with a dear friend as a team. "It's the cycling adventure of a lifetime!" the website boasts, and my rugged husband has certainly embraced that spirit!
The rest of us will hike and swim, play frisbee and smashball and eat homemade Italian food. Have I mentioned I've gained at least five pounds since we started our travels in Italy a month ago? I've definitely been enjoying time with three of my 'closest' friends (heehee!) - Pasta, Gelato and Vino.
In about ten days the whirlwind will begin again... more travels, more beloved friends from home visiting Spain, a quick trans-Atlantic flight to NYC, and more non-stop excitement. (We may or may not be allowed to leave Spain in August for our upcoming trip to Athens... you need special permission to travel during a visa renewal process.)
What a blessed life we are living, especially during the summer when we can hop into the car and drive to France, Italy, and really anywhere we'd like. I look into the mirror each day and see ever-more white hair and deeper lines in my forehead; but also a big broad smile and eyes that are fully alive.
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