Monday, December 24, 2007


Well, we made it back from Sicily this afternoon. Matt and I have a few less hairs on our heads and the girls have colds. However, we're all in one piece.

Have I mentioned that traffic is bad in Portugal? It took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to drive here. Narrow streets, round abouts, crazy drivers, etc. Scary. I thought I'd seen it all and adapted to it...until we arrived in Sicily. I have never seen worse driving in my life (Matt tells me it is worse in Naples). We had a motorcyclist hit our car at full speed and drive away (no damage - just a loud thud), we had a driver make us back up 100 yards or more in a dark alley because Matt wasn't quick enough to pass him in the two second chance he had, and we had people cut us off at every single chance they had. Words cannot even explain how bad it was. No wonder there were signs all over the Navy Base stating, "Slow Down Sigonella!" With over 265 military personal car accidents this year, the signs are there for good reason. I was relieved Matt didn't ask me to drive the whole trip and, literally, held on tight and closed my eyes many many times.

We decided, early on during our vacation, to skip the girls naps. We toured around in the mornings, had lunch, and moved on to our next destination while they napped in the car. It worked out okay. We did find two or three restaurants near the base that cater to American families and open early for dinner. Still, the girls got much less sleep daily than they normally do and, therefore, came down with colds. Olivia became more and more grumpy as the trip progressed. When she's grumpy, she's unreasonable. Therefore, it came as no surprise when, on 23DEC, she ruined our anniversary dinner. It's always lovely to have to leave a restaurant early while trying to smile and be polite as your two-year-old is having a complete and utter breakdown/tantrum. The trip, overall, was good. Not wonderful and not bad. Just good. I've always been very honest when writing my posts and I'll continue to be honest here by saying this: For me, traveling with small children sucks about 50% of the enjoyment out of the trip. Itineraries changed at the last minute, scrapped or shortened at a moments notice. You cannot eat a meal in peace! Dirty fingers enter my food, touch my clothes and enter my drink. Just when I start to enjoy my warm meal, someone needs a diaper change or has to pee or poop. Meal is cold upon return. And the crying. Oh my goodness, the crying, whining, and general disagreements to anything and everything. Often, we leave a restaurant frazzled and worn out. Maybe we should consider take-out during travel. I can't skip out on the local food of a new country I'm visiting because that's just stupid. So, I'm not going to eat PB&J if I can avoid it. But, take-out should be an option for us next time.

I had wanted to shop for Italian pottery. I ended up buying barely anything. For one, I just couldn't find a good deal. The American dollar has hit the pooper and I just can't bring myself to pay the equivalent of $20 American for a plate the size of a saucer. Just one plate. The Nex had a decent selection of local pottery. However, by the time I decided what I wanted, it was too late to mail it and it wasn't going to fit in our luggage. The second reason I didn't buy much was because I couldn't find a good deal if it was staring me in the face. I just didn't have the time. The kids were like time bombs and I had to think quick before a bomb went off. I mean, I couldn't dump the kids on my husband more than I already had. I ended up with two roosters to join my Italian rooster collection (three total). I'll just collect Portuguese pottery for the time being unless I strike a deal in another country at some point.

I did, however, "score" at the NEX (that's when I left the girls with Matt for several hours). The Nex here in Portugal (otherwise known as a PX) is about 45-minutes away from our house and mostly carries junk food. It's really a shame. Matt and I frequently talk about how much better it could be if it were under different management and in a better location.

So, I was really exited to be able to visit an "American" store. I was dazed upon entering and didn't know where to begin. I've been looking for new jeans for weeks. I was down to my last pair. I could not find a decent pair of jeans on the local economy. For one, the local look (and, I noticed in Italy too) is tapered jeans with leather boots over them. And, if they don't fit in the butt properly, they just don't care. They'll just let it all hang out or wear long sweaters or shirts with belts around the waste. It's a good look for those who can pull it off. I'm still trying to get over my "Alaska Casual" style and have a lot of work to do in updating my wardrobe. Finally, at the Nex, I found some Levis. A pair of "mommy" jeans and a pair of modern, low-cut jeans. Every mom needs some mommy jeans. The kind that hit your belly button. Throw on a longer sweater or top and no one will know. That way, when you're bending down to pick up a child, you're not baring your stretch-marked arse to everyone. And, if you don't have stretchmarks and/or a "mommy pouch," you suck (I had only one or two very small stretch marks until the last week or two of my pregnancy with Lila - while they aren't too bad, I really don't think my stomach will ever again be truly low-cut jean worthy unless I wear proper length tops).

I also purchased a Bialetti Mukka Express L'Arte del Cappuccino maker. I am so excited about this purchase and have reviewed it on my sister site.

We sampled and bought a dozen or so bottles of Italian wine at the Nex. I like Portuguese wine and try to make that our staple wine while living here. However, I love Italian wine. The wine we were served (house wine) and the fairly inexpensive (by American standards) wine we taste tested was amazing. I've recently read that great tasting wine doesn't have to cost a fortune and I learned how true that can sometimes be in Italy.

I found the food in Sicily to be good. Simple dishes, fresh ingredients, home style flavor. Portuguese food has more depth of flavor. I can't really say which type of food I like more. I'm leaning towards Portuguese food for meals and Italian food for desserts. Though, I think the Gelato tastes the same here in Portugal as it did in Italy.

Sicily is dirty. Dirty in comparison to out part of Portugal. Trash litters roadsides everywhere. One or two towns were clean. Other than that, I was unimpressed. Coastal Lisbon has more beauty than the parts of Sicily we visited.

I always have to point out baby-wearing observations. I saw a few Baby Bjorn-type carriers. Still, no parents wearing their children on their backs. What Matt and I didn't see a lot of, however, were strollers. Yippee! Finally. As I've mentioned before, the Portuguese are stroller-obsessed. They bring them and try to use them in the most inaccessible places. Matt and I've gotten a good many laughs. Most tourist places in Portugal are not stroller accessible. The same is true in Sicily. Of course we brought a stroller and used it a couple of times. But, wearing our kids works out so much better when exploring ancient ruins and narrow streets!
Overall, we're glad we went on the trip. We'll try to "tweak" things for future trips and just keep on bringing our girls with us!

Pictures from top to bottom: Greek Theatre, Orecchio di Dioniso (Ear of Dionysius), Car Ride Nap, Hiker-in-Training, Baby-Wearing in Sicily.


Amie said...

Looks like a great trip - just think of how "boring" it would be without the adventures the girls bring :) Looking forward to seeing more pictures from the trip!

Angie said...

We found most of Italy to be pretty dirty, actually. While we still enjoyed it, it was quite a shock coming from Germany, where it is quite pristine. However, both places seem to just leave dog poop on the streets, which I can hardly believe here. I was saying something about the GIANT pile of poop on a street in Florence, and an Italian man told me "Welcome to Italy!"

Allen kept telling Ashlyn on our Italy trip how much more we would have enjoyed it without her. I'm glad that she couldn't understand what he meant.

We really had to search for Italian pottery that was reasonable. I'm told there is a factory where it is cheap near Vicenza.

And, while we haven't been to Sicily, I would go back to Florence just for the gelato. Actually, our best meals overall were there, though pretty good over in the Cinque Terre, too. Yum, my mouth is watering just thinking about the food in Florence. While I enjoy German food, so much is sausage or some other kind of pork. I love pasta!

The Dunns said...

What an amazing opportunity (despite the kids). I'll be lucky if we get to check out the truckstop diner in Fox on our leave! :) I can't wait till the kids are older and we get to do fun travel adventures with them!!

Brenda said...

I am looking forward to Europe, but not travel with THREE kiddos. Let me know what "tweaking" you plan on doing so that I can have a sane travel time! HA!