"Mind the Gap", she politely stated in an upbeat tone.
I have always adored this quintessential English announcement on the London underground, advising awareness of the space between the train and the platform but this time my tired, jet-lagged brain deciphered a personal message. She secretly was pointing out for me to be conscious of the vast geographic, cultural, and social "gap" between Latin America, where we had just spent 3 months shaping our new nomadic family lifestyle, and the European continent on to which we had just landed. At least that was what I understood. My ability to receive this unique message may have been somewhat shaped by shock as only moments before an automatic door had separated my family, leaving Zuki and I standing on the platform mouths agape, as Kiko and Yoda were wicked off in a train down a dark tunnel.
Funny enough, in the pre-trip mania we had had multiple conversations at home as a family over dinner about the protocal for this type of scenario, where one member of our family is left alone either on the platform or in a train on the underground. This was prompted by another family's travel blog which described a similar fiasco and their prearranged plan of action. We had gone over our family plan multiple times, just in case, never really thinking we would be needing it.
But we did, the very first day we landed in Europe and the very first time we traveled together on the underground!
So as planned so many months ago, the two boys got off at the first station as Zuki and I boarded the next train. When our train entered the station the boys spotted us and re-boarded. I was so thankful that it had not been just one child left on that platform alone, which might have pushed us beyond our limits. It was at that moment, as I sat on the train, all of us together again, the little adrenaline rush slowly fading, that the cryptic message advising me to be aware of our new, markedly different surroundings was received.
They were bubbling over with excitement with the idea that they could converse easily in a country where English is the first language but it put smiles on our faces hearing Yoda or Zuki on occasion using Spanish out of habit. The kids proudly beamed as they shared the stories of their recent adventures in the Galapagos, the Amazon, or about our family in Venezuela, or Zuki's scary midnight fall from the bunk bed in Nicaragua.
Zuki captured her feelings about our short time in the USA perfectly upon departing, with tears in her eyes, stating, "I don't want to leave. I want to live here. They all love us so much." The love was truly felt and even though it was terribly short, I am so happy to have been able to include important family bonding in our Big Trip.
Luckily London, England, a highly awaited destination of the children, was our next stop or leaving actually might have been a bit more difficult.
London has so much to offer a traveling family. Most of the museums are free and the iconic sights are numerous. We embraced it all, finding joy in even the most touristy endeavors, eager to share this unique city with our kids.
The day we left London was really one for the record books. We woke up at 4:30 A.M. in order to get the 7:30 plane out of Stanstead Airport, which I had booked months before on the European budget airline Monach. We took a taxi to the train station, a train to the airport, flew to Venice, where we took a bus and then a boat before walking the 10 minute to our apartment in Venice. Now that is a lot of modes of transport for one day!
Venice was as spectacular as we all had hoped.
We lucked out finding a 2 bedroom apartment with a full kitchen in the residential community of Castello, which really set the tone for our visit. We got a glimpse of what it is like to live in Venice. Just a 3 minute walk from our apartment was a boat selling amazing fresh fruit and veggies, which we would stock up on everyday. We had a local butcher and fish monger, where the fisherman would arrive in their boats to drop off their morning catch. It was so interesting to see the wide variety of seafood caught 20 km off shore.
But we made it safely to our first destination 4 hours away, Ripatransone, a small hill town where my great grandfather was born.
We were given an entire 2 bedroom apartment to stay in, directly below the home of Giorgio and Emanuela's (pictured far left and right in the above photo).
Our days consisted of a little home schooling in the morning and then we were whisked off on a morning outing, returning to Ripa for a huge, delicious, homemade lunch by 1:30 which would linger on 'till about 4, at which time we would be off again touring. Before we knew it we had become adjusted to the European late dinners, customarily beginning at 9pm or later. A 6pm gelato helped. Bedtime wasn't until 11 or midnight.
We also spent some time simply enjoying the sights of the small hill-town itself which boasts the narrowest street in Italy. Of particular interest to us was the home of my great grandfather and the cemetery where many of our relatives are buried. Hearing the stories of our ancestors really made an impression on the kids. This is the way to truly learn about your roots.
And it turned out to be a gem.