Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Zoel was messing with one of these guards and a very serious-looking Beefeater said to him, “If you don’t stop, I’ll cut your balls off.” That’s a pretty authentic experience.

When Stefan first came up with the cockamamie idea of moving to another country, he hit me with all his personal needs for exploration, waxed poetic about all the wondrous adventures we could have from a European base and went on about lives being short and the world being big. I nodded politely, employing all my self control not to shut down his ridiculous notion immediately with an eye roll and a dismissive wave of the hand, but then, probably sensing my disinterest, he smartly hit me with all the reasons this kind of thing would be awesome for our kids, specifically for their “education” he said. After 18 years, he’s figured out some of my weaknesses. That damn education comment stuck with me. I had already seen how vacations to other places had impacted these lucky little buggers who in a decade had been to more countries than I had visited in my first 20 years. I’d seen lightbulbs go off in an Italian museum, eyes glitter at the sight of the Eiffel Tower, and muscles stretch and flex in the desert sands of Tunisia. And I knew he was right.

As you know I finally said yes to life at a European base, and shortly after this, we set out to find the right city for our family. During that trip in 2012, the positive effect of experiencing other cultures and lands was in evidence yet again. Probably my favorite moment was when Zoel, after having spent some time in 4th grade reading about the Renaissance and Leonardo DaVinci, found out there was a DaVinci museum in Venice, housing life-size models of some of the machines he had envisioned 500 years ago. Unfortunately, he found out about it the last night we were there, but this little timing problem was not going to stop him, he talked and talked and made his case until somehow I had agreed to get up at 8am, dress and jog 30 minutes through alleyways  and over canals so that we could be there at opening time and sneak a peek at DaVinci’s ideas before leaving. As it turned out, Venice is incredibly beautiful early in the morning in sunny July.  It was delightful to wind our way through narrow cobblestone streets, up one metal bridge and down another wooden one, through one piazza, then another. Just me and my boy. We could have turned back at the entrance to the museum and it would have already been a glorious morning for me, but we went in. A deal had been made after all. Inside, as promised, there were human-sized models made to the letter of DaVinci’s drawings and specifications, which were displayed next to each piece. With the clock ticking, we made our way quickly through the exhibit as Zo excitedly recounted what he could remember of DaVinci’s mechanical objects. I could just about see the brainworks in his head as what he had read in books came to life, literally, right before him. His eyes glowed with glee. We were definitely moving.

Da Vinci’s Armored Car, Precursor to the Modern Tank.


One of Da Vinci’s Flying Machines

Because of all of this, one of the pacts we made once we rented our house, was that we would set aside part of our budget and time for exploration, voyaging to as many places in this neighborhood of the world as we would manage. Our first stop was England this Fall where I again got a chance to see history come alive for a little one, this time Leeloo. She had been working on a project about the United Kingdom for school, and had spent hours researching it, especially its capital, from the time it was Londinium, commercial center of the  Roman Empire to today. Not surprisingly, she was the most excited of the four of us, when the opening of a very good friend’s new (and totally fantastic!) cocktail bar, took us to London in late September. On our first morning there, we took the underground to the waterfront, and jumped on one of those tour boats that take you down the Thames in order to visit the Tower of London. I was planning on spending the morning at the 1000-year old royal palace with the kids while Stefan gave a lecture on Design and Life, and this was the fastest way to get there. But once on the boat, I realized that the trip back in history had already begun for Leeloo as she gazed at centuries passing by in the form of buildings and bridges. In the midst of this, she yelled, at playground-volume, “MOM!” I spun around expecting to find her perilously hanging off the side of the boat, but instead she was waving wildly, Look! LOOK! I followed her finger and just emerging from between two buildings, I saw it. Big Ben. I can’t say that I’ve ever found that corner of the Parliament building all that exciting, but for Leeloo, who knew its history and had seen it over and over again, in books and on the web, it was magnificent. It was as if the clouds had parted and a million rainbows had appeared. Her eyes glowed with glee. “Mom…Can you believe it?”

Oh yes, I can.

First sighting of Big Ben. Prepared with notebook.
The Lady, Her Trusty Hello Kitty Notebook, and Her Ben.

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