Welcome Back

As I sit here trying to put this post together after the 2+ month hiatus Gina and I took from Living Here and There (well, not from living here and there, but recording our experiences of it), I’ve found that my wheels are requiring gallons of grease and I’m needing to bribe myself with more than a few Netflix breaks in order to get rolling again.

I’m disoriented here at the keyboard and navigating around WordPress seems like wandering through a familiar but patently foreign land. It turns out that not all learned skills are as easy to return to as that bicycle and this particular practice, for me anyway, requires recalibrating and re-tinkering and time. As for sharing my thoughts (and my writing) with an audience of greater than one again…well, let’s just say I’m going to be here editing for awhile tonight.

That said, I’ve missed the company of my friend and the peek into her world over There, that this blog provides. That I got to enjoy a birthday lunch in SoHo with the actual, not virtual, Gina–as well as share a few meals and chats with her and the kids around my kitchen table–was a certain gift. Now, however, so many weeks later, our time together seems like a dream and I’m ready for some tangible, printable contact again.

Before we get started on what’s going on now though, here’s a little recap of what’s been going on Here, on this side of the ocean, for the past many weeks.

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August is my favorite month. Mostly because it was my favorite time of year growing up (my birthday falls during its first week) and while I don’t celebrate my birthday as whole-heartedly as I did when I was younger, Ray and Noah and I managed to do it up small this year and go on a birthday hike and out to dinner and eat cake. We also were able to see friends and family for various meals and cocktails during the beginning part of the month and soak up the still-strong sun and warm nights.

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Noah gussied up for my birthday dinner at Riverview.

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A late lunch that morphed into an early dinner at Michele and Dan’s.

The Hudson Valley is bursting with green in August and though sometimes the nights get chilly, the bounty of the harvest and the still-later-than-wintertime sunsets create an internal heat that keeps me from lamenting the coming fall (too much). In August even the river is balmy–the water temperature can reach upwards of 70 degrees–so Luca spends lots of time swimming and Noah and I spend lots of time chasing him around trying to dry him off.

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August sunset over Storm King Mountain.

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Swimming and stick-throwing.

Of course the cherry on top of my birthday week was Gina and the kids visiting us for a few days. To have them in our house again was so much fun and made me so very grateful for things like airplanes and trains and fossil fuel. The boys took up again like not a minute had passed since they were cavorting around Bologna last fall and, though Gina, Michele and I had to work hard to keep the yarns of our many conversations from becoming one giant, verbal knot of crazy, we managed to swim and hike and lunch and shop and drink a few gallons of wine. It was, to be trite, a divine time.

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Swimming at Michele’s.

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Gina & Leeloo considering the ducks on our hike around Little Stony Point.

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There’s always time for Minecraft (after lunch at Homespun).

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Snuggle pile in front of the TV. (Sometimes the moms get talking in the kitchen and forget that the kids get tired from all of the swimming and the hiking and the Minecraft.)

Even though leave-taking is becoming one of the brightest, no-longer-worrisome stitches in our relationship, saying goodbye to our friends is never easy and this time it especially sucked because our time together was so short-lived. (Here’s counting the days to Christmas in Philly!) Lucky for us, however, we saved our vacation until the end of the summer so we had something to look forward to once the Bouvarez clan had taken flight.

Cape Cod, Massachusettes here we come!

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Driving due east over the Bourne Bridge onto Cape Cod.

Cape Cod is a tiny spit of land that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean just south of Boston. My parents spend a good part of the year there and I’ve been visiting the place for most of my life, so in many ways driving over that bridge feels like coming home.

Our time at the Cape is slow and easy. What with the long days at the beach, long bike rides along the rail trail, trips to Provincetown (one of my favorite places on earth), yummy seafood dinners and plenty of sand and salty air, the Unwinding and Relaxing are sure things. This year, in addition to my parents being with us, all three of my brothers and my sister-in law were there. Noah had a blast swimming and playing with his cousins, and I had the chance to catch up with my beloved family members–all of whom I don’t get to see often enough because they live all over the world–which made this year’s trip extra special. The lot of us crammed into the tiny kitchen of our Cape Cod cottage and talked and laughed and ate and were very, very loud. Just like when we were kids.

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The pilot & co-pilot hunkered down for the five hour drive.

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(Sometimes the co-pilot needs a nap.)

The minute we get to the Cape house we drag everything out of the car, put on our bathing suits and head TO THE BEACH!

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Cousins setting up the court for some kind of sand game involving paddles & balls.

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Noah and cousin Daniel braving the Atlantic with Uncle Dan.

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All set up for a day beneath the dunes.

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Obligatory sand pit photo.

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Clams the boys dug with help from Uncle Dan & Uncle Tom.

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Lobster Roll.

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My brothers and me. Rarely is it that we are all on the same sofa. Most of the time we aren’t all on the same continent.

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Grandma & Papa & the grandkids.

Each year Ray and Noah and I take a day to ourselves and head to Provincetown–a village on the very tip of Cape Cod–and each year, after we’ve had some lunch and a beer or two at Governor Bradford’s and walked the length of Commercial Street, stopping into our favorite shops and bakery, we seek out the real estate listings and try to formulate a plan to move there someday. It truly is one of the most magical places I know–artists and writers roam the beaches for inspiration, tiny piping plovers–an endangered bird that conservation groups rope off miles of shoreline for–roam the dunes for food and mates, and human beings of every color and stripe dress in sequins and glitter and bows and dance in the streets, whooping and hollering and being wholly and fully themselves. There’s a nude beach, a festival week that rivals Mardi Gras and more natural beauty than seems fair for one tiny town.

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View from the end of Provincetown Wharf.

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Noah on the boardwalk.

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Rules of the beach.

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Race Point.

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One last look back before getting in the car.

 

And then September arrived with all of its natter and noise. It’s a month laced with beginnings and endings–as I suppose any month is–but September’s changes seem stern and definitive and cruel. School started for Noah. I got a job. Ray is interviewing again.

The gazebo is empty now. This past Sunday we wiped down the patio furniture and took away the candles and hauled everything into the shed where it sits, packed away for the long, cold season to come.

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First Day of 7th Grade.

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Last gazebo dinner of 2014…unless Stef lets us ring in the new year out here. We could do it with a couple of heat lamps and a case of frizzante, no?

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Empty gazebo.

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Morning full moon over half-bald mountain.

 

I’m trying to stay positive despite this morning that came upon us with no warning about a week ago…

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As I was hiking with the dog the other day, , however, I (sternly) reminded myself to honor all of the beauty that autumn brings. The hills are on fire right now, bursting into a hundred shades of orange and red and gold. The sunsets are still stupefying. October will bring Halloween and Noah’s birthday and longer, darker, more restful nights.

And besides, homework isn’t so bad…

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and neither is reading your favorite book about your favorite holiday to your friend…

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nor September sunsets that look like this…

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The other day there were four bald eagles circling over the river behind of our house. Google will tell you that the meaning in this sighting is that illumination awaits.

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Two of the four eagles I saw circling overhead last week.

I’m looking forward to it.

Family Weekend in New England

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 5.42.45 AMWe’re sticking pretty close to home this summer but this past weekend we ventured out into the world for a few days–driving all the way to New London, New Hampshire–a little town in the central part of the state where my brother and his family live. It was one of those impromptu trips that you decide to take on a Tuesday night at 10pm after a phone conversation with a family member or a friend reminds you how much you miss spending time with someone. Despite Skype calls and text messages and Facebook posts, which allow me to see the faces of my family members who are scattered all over the globe, nothing can compare with the sweet nectar of face-to-face time, the sharing of a meal and just quietly sitting next to a loved one over morning coffee.

All sentiment aside, this particular brother (I have two others) also happens to be husband to my fantastically fun sister-in-law and father to my niece and three nephews (one of whom is Noah’s exact age and close ally) who provide tons of energy and an instant party, just by gathering in one room. All that camaraderie, our shared history and our eagerness to be together–combined with with the picturesque lake that they live on (and the plethora of kayaks, Sunfish boats, water skis and hiking trails that abound) added a perfect variation to our hitherto, extremely quiet summer.

New England (a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) has a unique cultural and aesthetic flavor, distinct within in its borders and markedly different from the border state of New York, where we live. New England’s heritage and culture was shaped by waves of immigration and its earliest Puritan settlers came from eastern England, contributing to the distinctive accents, foods, customs, and social structures found there. It’s also ridiculously pretty and clean.

We’ve visited New London on many other occasions, but almost all of the trips have been during the winter months–the region is known for its skiing and snowsports much more so than its boating and sunbathing–and we thought it might be nice to see the mountains swathed in green instead of buried under ribbons of white snow. We also decided to avoid highways on the drive north and, instead, took old, winding roadways that meandered through small villages and towns and along miles of land that remains untouched by urban sprawl. It was so different than the undeveloped land where we live–which either needs to be incorporated and protected as part of a land preserve or is for sale to the highest bidder.

Along the way we enjoyed a delicious lunch at an organic deli in Vermont, we stopped for gas and snacks at a quirky little station in the middle of a field in rural upstate New York and when we arrived in New Hampshire, wine and pizza waiting for us–along with a weekend filled with swimming, s’mores and succulent fun.

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Unexpected Charm on the Atlantic Coast of France

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Marrying a French guy has turned out to be a pretty good deal over these last 17 years. One of the perks has been getting to know the bits of France where Stefan’s family has roots like Paris, Marseilles, Cannes and Provence, but nothing had ever lured us toward the Southwest until this month, when a family reunion of sorts, for a special birthday, led us to the Bordeaux region. When Stefan mentioned where we were going, we had a laugh over vacationing in a wine region, because that’s exactly what we need… more wine. We didn’t think much more about it, knowing that we’d be flying into three days of scheduled festivities, and so wouldn’t have much say over where we visited or what we did.

We had no idea that Bordeaux also includes an area of small ocean towns surrounding the Bay of Arcachon, and Europe’s highest dune located in Pyla-sur-Mer, our final destination. We were surprised on the way from the airport to our hotel as the roadways became smaller and smaller, soil transitioned to sand alongside them, the smell of salty air swirled in through the windows and finally the sight of the dark blue water of the Atlantic Ocean started streaming past us. Where were the vineyards and the French country villages? We were staying at the beach?! Yippee! I was reminded of past arrivals in beach towns from  Wildwood, New Jersey, that I mentioned last week, to the North Fork in New York, from South Beach in Miami to Cannes in the South of France, all very different, and yet, at some level, absolutely the same. It must be the rhythmic movement of the waves and salty breeze that immediately calms everyone down and slows life’s relentless (and maybe unnatural) pace for all who enter these coastal territories.

The car pulled up on a roundabout of La Co(o)rniche, a Philippe Starck designed hotel, beautifully ironic given the sentiments expressed on Stefan’s recently released I Used to Love YouDespite the song lyrics, even Stefan had to agree that Starck had created a comfortable yet modern, peaceful yet entertaining space that fit well within the rugged nature surrounding it. Over a 4-day weekend in this lovely part of the world, we climbed the dune to discover a giant forest that spanned out as far as the ocean on the other side of it, we road the waves on motor boats to visit pretty nearby villages like Cap Ferret, where we were treated to some of the freshest seafood we’ve ever had (the area is known for its oysters, which unfortunately none of us eat!), and got to spend time with a wonderfully eclectic group of family and friends. Sometimes traveling with no expectations is truly the best way to go! IMG_1082 IMG_1175

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Summer Nostalgia

When I was a kid, our family summer vacation always included going to the beach, and then doing next to nothing for a solid week. During the rest of the year, my dad’s schedule involved working 10-hour long days, usually six days a week, and my mom’s consisted of holding together everything else during those long days (and nights.) Given this, it’s not at all surprising that vacation meant parking ourselves under an umbrella on a hot, sandy beach with a cooler filled with sandwiches, soda and beer, and absolutely nada on the agenda. That kind of full stop is what I’m craving right now as we race past the middle of summer, with 2 trips out of the country, a few road trips, 3 sets of guests, and more than a few local events under our belt, and with much more to come before the end of August rolls around.

All of this movement has me thinking about one of my parents’ preferred locations for their restful summer pause from the stress of everyday life, Wildwood, New Jersey. If you’ve never been, Wildwood is a one-of-a-kind East Coast beach town populated by 1960s art deco motels, many of them conceived with a design theme like the Casa Bahama or Lollipop Motels. 

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It’s just a 3-hour drive from Philadelphia, but we’d get up extra early to pile all of our things into the Buick, and make it to the shore before lunchtime. I remember the excitement in the car as we neared our destination, and started to smell the fishy air of the bay and feel the warm, salty breeze coming in through the rolled down windows. Vacation began at that very instant. We packed our sony walkmans, mad libs, tiger beat magazines and invisible ink fun pads back into our sacks, knowing that soon we’d be winding through Wildwood looking for our colorful ocean side motel.

There was yet more anticipation as my dad went into the motel office to get the keys to our room. Which floor would we be on? Would we be near our cousins? Would the strangely alluring ice machine be closeby? Would we face the pool? The beach? Would we have a balcony? Which bed would my sister and I get? Would the room have a kitchenette? It was enough to keep two little girls giggling and bouncing around the giant backseat of the car for hours. Luckily for my mother, it was over in minutes, as we raced after my father to uncover all the mysteries held by our motel room. By that time, the cousins had probably arrived and were doing the same. A lot of running back and forth between rooms usually then ensued as our parents lugged in our bags and beach gear.

Shortly after a quick lunch at the motel’s diner and a change of clothes, we would all climb the stairs down to the beach to set up our spot for the day. Beach towels were arranged side by side, two or three umbrellas were driven into the sand and opened, the cooler was strategically placed between my dad and uncle, and our bags of multi-colored buckets, shovels and sand sifters were dropped close, but not too close, to the adults. And that was it. There we would exist, between the motel and the beach, the beach and the motel, for five or six days. Well, that was almost it.

We’d be deliciously exhausted by the sun, sand and water every evening, but managed, at least 2 or 3 nights out of the week, to make it over to Wildwood’s Morey’s Piers, a seemingly never-ending wooden boardwalk, packed with rides, games, food and t-shirt stands. I only wish I had a picture of the totally rad air-brushed baseball shirt that I got on the boardwalk in 1980… light pink sleeves and a white torso, a black and white checked background on the chest, my name in graffiti emblazoned over the top, complete with sparkling stars. In addition to getting totally awesome shirts, we tried our luck at picking yellow plastic ducks out of a spinning pond for prizes, devoured delicious funnel cake and cotton candy, and then tried to keep them down while spinning on the super loud music express train.

But in the morning, we’d be back at the beach with nowhere to run to, nothing on the schedule at all, no monuments, no historic sites, no lunch reservations, no crazy dinners, no event start times, and no summer homework. It was great for us kids, but frankly, we probably would have been fine anywhere school was out. I realize now, that for our parents, it may have been an even more special place, and the perfect way to rest their bodies and minds. They were too far from home and work to be weighed down by their normal responsibilities, yet the surroundings and people were familiar and comfortable. They weren’t tethered to a smart phone beeping with messages or news from the world outside the beach. All they had to focus on was not losing their joy-filled kids and keeping the overflowing cooler in the shade. Magic.

I’m very grateful for all the things were able to do and see over the course of one summer, but next time around, I’m going to keep Wildwood in mind, and make sure there’s at least one week of the summer just like it. For now, we’ll have to steal some lazy moments when we can, like this rare occurrence from yesterday, all of us sitting at the same time, in the same place. Magic.

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Campo Estivo? Summer Camp?

IMG_8316For the first time in six years, I am not signing anyone up for summer camp! I haven’t spent a single minute on finding interesting ones, working out schedules, doing paperwork for sign up, or monitoring deadlines while coordinating with other parents to see who’s going where.  And it’s not that there aren’t any options here. On the contrary, it seems there are more and more families with working parents that rely on the “campi estivi” to get through the summer just as we do back in New York. Tennis, soccer, swim and other sports camps, as well as more artsy or outdoorsy ones and mixed camps are all options in the Bologna area. But in this country, there is also widespread use of the “nonni” camp, otherwise known as lots of quality time with the grandparents. For many kids in our region, Emilia Romagna, this means a quick departure to seaside towns like Rimini, Ravenna, Cervia, Cattolica, etc, etc, as soon as school lets out (for public school here that was June 6!) to visit with the nonni for the summer, and “take the air” (there’s a widespread belief that kids benefit greatly from the cooler sea air of early June). Parents usually make the one-hour drive on weekends to reunite with their children and the grandparents in June and July, and then take a family vacation together in August.

Unfortunately, our nonni are across the ocean at the moment, but we’re skipping camp anyway! During the school year, we often run from place to place following the ever-packed schedule of activities, so these few months are the only time of year that the kids have to just BE. We’re looking forward to lazy days when nothing’s pre-planned and we can spend our time doing as much or as little as we want. The kids are finally both old enough to entertain themselves for hours, leaving Stefan and I part of the day for uninterrupted (or mostly uninterrupted!) work, but then we’ll also get to spend part of the day together. There’s plenty to do on this vineyard, plenty of places to explore outside, and no shortage of activities indoors. We also have a few trips lined up, including a few weeks in New York and Philly, and a steady stream of friends and family that are coming here and we can’t wait to see! The only downside to this plan is that it takes us a bit out of the Italian world we’ve gotten use to, and into our own little English-speaking cocoon. We’ll have to balance that out with playdates, dinners and Italian movies in the Piazza!

So although it was tempting to enroll them in camps that focus on things they didn’t get much time to do this year like music, science and theater, we’re opting out of organized activities for these next two months and hopefully resting and re-setting our bodies and minds with a whole bunch of unscheduled goodness.

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Summer Clubhouse Renovation

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The previous tenants of our countryside home included 3 young girls for whom we believe this lovely “bush house” was built about a decade ago. By the time we moved in last year, the girls had become teens, and it seemed the clubhouse had been abandoned quite a bit ago. During our first summer here, we had so much to do with fixing up the actual house that no one really got around to taking care of this little place. As you can see, it’s sitting on a lovely spot at the back of our yard right before the fields of chick peas begin. The Cathedral of San Luca and Bologna are in the distance and in a few weeks the pool will be open a few meters to the right of it. All our pool stuff got thrown in there last year when the air got colder, and all kinds of little critters proceeded to make their home inside over the winter. Cobwebs, bee hives, cocoons and their inhabitants greeted us when we opened the doors up last month to see what we might do with the place, along with some gooey substances that it’s probably better I couldn’t identify. Luckily, my unflinching nature guru and mother-in-law, Francoise, was here to help do the first spraying of several beehives hanging inside. In the meantime, the kids decided they wanted to paint the interior sky blue, and Leeloo and I cruised Ikea for a few things to put in it. She found a Harlequin-patterned pillowcase to make into a curtain, and chose matching rugs that she could arrange into a flower with a black center for her brother (his favorite color.) Zoel started the clean up by hosing down the house, floor to ceiling, and then we (by we, I really mean I) got down to scrubbing and clearing out any remaining critters. Stefan dealt with a second spraying of beehives when we found yet another right outside the front door. Then it was time to blast some Top 40 and have some fun!

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With their mini rollers and brushes, Zoel and Leeloo laid down two coats of sky blue over the weekend.

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Leeloo explained she wanted to a little Jesus thing before painting her last panel.

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One of the hives with bee larvae and honey. Yum?

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If you’re wondering where Stefan is… check the chick pea fields.

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And now, the new and improved “meeting house” as so named by Zoel.

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The view from inside the meeting house.

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Better get the pool open soon. These children are desperate.

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Lunch after a hard day’s work!

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The design of a secret insignia and club passwords are under way.

 

Hai Minecraft? Si!

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Italians, in general, seem to be very wary of and have little faith in authority, especially in the shape of government, but also in other forms. I’ve been here too little time and their history is too long for me to really understand where this comes from, but a few conversations about the subject with friends and my 60-something year old Italian teacher leads me to think that their modern political history might have something to do with it. The years of Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship and World War II were a time when many were monitored and controlled, threatened and manipulated. A by-product of that era may be this gut-level, defensive reaction to anyone telling you what you should do, or examining your  affairs too closely. As a result, the internet with its endless streams of information, social media with its prying eyes, and even e-mail,  are viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism, if not outright distrust. An Italian University of Bologna professor was telling me the other day, that she feels like technology, in general, is being used to watch us all the time. She pointed at the US/CIA monitoring of emails with exasperation, and talked about the cameras all over Bologna that read license plate numbers and distribute tickets automatically for the smallest infraction. Are we not allowed to make mistakes without a $100 ticket appearing at our homes? she exclaimed. It’s not human.

She hit upon another reason why Italian adults might not be as into their screens, gadgets and social media as much as their American counterparts, their cultural dependence on actual human interaction. I’ve pointed out on here previously that people actually speak to each other on the street and in cafes –  friends and strangers. Few walk down the street looking at their smart phone. The art of conversation along with all the other epicurean arts, are still a very important part of society. At least for now…

I see much more similarity between Italian and American (and French and English and…) children’s views on devices, apps, and the internet than among the older set. Minecraft dominates the ‘tween scene here just like it does in New York’s Hudson Valley. Si parla anche (They also speak)  Angry Birds, Clash of the Clans and any game set in the worlds of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Sound familiar? In addition, many of the tweens have Whatsapp or WeChat on their phones for messaging and posting pics and updates. In Zoel’s fifth grade class, everyone has either a phone or an iPad or sometimes both. Some are family iPads instead of the child’s and not everyone has an actual phone plan. Many, like Zoel, have a hand-me-down phone without a plan. They use free Wifi for the internet and messaging, but can only use their apps when no connection can be found. This is pretty close to what we experienced in New York and I’m thinking it’s likely what’s happening with Noah’s classmates too.

For us, that’s already enough. It means that at home Zoel can minecraft with friends (See how I made that a verb? I’m so hip.), use the internet (And wow, has he stumbled upon some doozys… over Christmas, he was into hypnotism, and it’s incredible what you can find when you Google search the subject!), message, use Instagram and FaceTime (which he does on the regular without thinking it’s cool like his parents. It just is.) Those last three have allowed him to keep connected to friends across the ocean on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, which I imagine gives him a measure of stability as he goes about a whole new life in another country. All this can amount to a significant amount of time, and as he gets older and uses these devices for so many different purposes, the old standards for how much “screen time” you get for the day are getting a little hazy and difficult to enforce. We still try to keep to one hour or less of pure game or youtube time (How many Minecraft videos can people make?!) per weekday, 2 hours per day on the weekend. But does Face Timing for 30 minutes really count? Catching up with Garrison kids on Instagram? Messaging Nana?! I’m not sure.

Like my blogmate, I can see how the cyberworld sucks me in sometimes, and how much I have to actively fight looking at my phone or computer to check email, facebook, messages, skype, whatsapp, instagram, twitter, or the weather! In the midst of this struggle, I’d like to help my kid learn to be mindful of the amount of time the internet or screens can steal from his life, and give him the tools needed to adjust accordingly. However, this might just be a case of having to put on the oxygen mask first, before assisting those traveling with you. And I’m working on it!

As for when he gets to move to the next step in this ever-expanding world of devices (things like a working phone, Facebook, unfiltered access to YouTube), the age 13 (end of 7th, beginning of 8th grade) keeps getting thrown out around here. According to Stefan, that’s also when Zoel can watch a whole bunch of movies that Stefan’s dying to share with him. It’s shaping up to be a very eventful year, but given the fact that by that time (two years, which I think is about 20 in electronic- device years), the gods of Silicon Valley will probably have introduced a whole new range of coveted items, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to spread out the new stuff into 9th grade. At least, that’s what I’m betting on!

 

 

 

Bike to Bologna

This past Sunday, I found myself alone with the kids on a beautiful Spring day, so under the warm morning sun, I motivated my lazy butt to finally find our bike rack in the storage room, figure out how to attach it to our bumper-less Fiat (with help from YouTube videos of course), pump up tires that had been neglected for a few months, and finally, mount the three bikes on the rack. Yes! That’s how excited I was to try out a bike trail that runs from the center of our town, Casalecchio di Reno to Bologna’s centro, about an 11 mile (18 km) trip, there and back.

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Ready, set, go!

Zoel and Leeloo, who love anything that smells of exploration, were uncharacteristically cooperative for a weekend morning, getting themselves ready quickly and agreeing to snacks on the road instead of a real lunch at home. Right after noon, we were making our way down our gravel/dirt road and incredibly, the bike rack was staying in place around sharp turns and over ditches, granted I was only going about 15 mph (20kmph), but clearly this trip was meant to be! Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind played on the radio, windows were down, wind in our hair, and bikes holding on.

The path turned out to be a little under-groomed and poorly marked on the Casalecchio side, but still well-paved and wide, so that the kids could pass each other without fights and bumping into each other. After a couple wrong turns and adventuring into industrial parts of town, we soon caught up with the Reno river that separates Casalecchio from Bologna, and rode beside it for quite awhile into this bigger city. The path went green as we crossed a park, filled with strolling nonni (grandparents), playing children and lots of other bikers. Plenty of obstacles for practicing polite passing, safe distances from wobbly old people, and taking turns leading the pack.

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A short rest at a park teeming with Spring-crazed children. Zoel retreated to the only spot where he could chill undisturbed.

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The monkey swung happily, while a park-mate counted very loudly as her friends scattered to hide.

Outside the park, the number of times I yelled “Leeloo, Stop at the street!” may have been a little excessive, but hey, it was the girl’s first long city bike ride as her own driver. In under an hour, we arrived at Porta Saragozza, which isn’t that far off from where the kids go to school in Bologna (Could we do this every morning?! they asked. “Hmmm…let me get back to you about that.”)

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We made it! Yes, He brought a sword. Who rides without one?

At the gelateria under the terracotta-colored sidewalk archways, Nutella and Fior di Latte ice cream cones we’re enjoyed by all before we headed back. Little did we know that the real excitement was yet to come….  see you tomorrow!

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Hiking in Bologna

The weather is back up in the 70s in Bologna and once again we can feel the warmth of the sun on our faces! Here on the farm, all kinds of trees and plants are starting bloom and fill the world with color. All of this has me itching to get outside and do some hiking through this beautiful nature. Our previous home base, Garrison NY, along with the town to the North of it, Cold Spring, where my blogmate lives, are very well-known for their exquisite hikes, which take you through low- and high-lands, by rivers and streams, up rock-faced hills and through dense forests. Over the four years we lived there, the whole family got to walk, stump, run and jump through these trails and at least 3 out of 4 of us miss them terribly. Zoel, who spent 4 semesters having fun and learning about the great outdoors with his school’s Explorers’ Club (Big shout out to Mr Pete!) has been asking me to find some local trails for weeks, and today, I finally got to do a little research. Unfortunately, they do not seem to 10 minutes away from our house as they used to be, but they’re not that much farther!

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Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell’Abbadessa

The trails at this park, which is about 30 minutes southeast of Casalecchio di Reno, appear to resemble most what we’re used to trekking in the Lower Hudson Valley. In particular, there are three hikes, each about two hours in length, that’ll provide a bit of a challenge for us without be overwhelming, while simultaneously, plunging us into a grand environment. Escursione speleologica nella Grotta della Spipola, La dolina della Spipola e l’altopiano di Miserazzano, and I gessi del Farneto. 

 

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Parco Storico di Monte Sole

This one is a little further South and features historical ruins dating back to the middle ages and even older, to the time of the Etruscans. It was also the site of a Nazi base camp established during the winter of 1944-45, and aside from the remaining walls of their quarters, there’s a system of trenches dug by the Germans that visitors can explore. (This has Zoel, who’s fascinated by World War II, written all over it.)

 

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Monte Pizzo Adventure Park

This is just one of eleven nature adventure parks in the Emilia Romagna region (of which Bologna is the capital)! I’ve never been to one, but the trails and activities available look amazing. Granted this is not traditional hiking, but you’re definitely surrounded by nature! Monte Pizzo, located in the Apennine mountains, appears to be just an hour or so to the southeast of Bologna. There are four treetop trails meandering by 34 platforms where aside from some ridiculous views, you can also find placards describing the fauna and wildlife in the surrounding beech woods. If heights and balancing on rope nets between trees is not your thing, there is also archery, mountain biking (with three routes that cross the area); paragliding (also in tandem, a flight school), soon the first paragliding experience in Italy for “differently-abled” persons and a picnic area. Lastly, they do have some regular old hiking trails for trekkers, from “simple ones for the whole family to more extreme ones lasting more than one day.”

On the link above, you can connect to more information about the other 10 adventure parks in the area, as well as more information about other incredible parklands in the Appenines and closer to Bologna.