Europe 2015

17 Jun

Mike, Michaela and I got back about 10 days ago from just under three weeks in Europe. We flew to Rome and spent a few days there before heading to Civitavecchia to catch a 12-night Mediterranean cruise. The cruise took us to Salerno (Naples), Italy; Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; and Barcelona, Spain, where we spent another few days before coming home.

It. Was. Awesome.

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Before we left, I happened to read “How Doing Nothing Became the Ultimate Family Vacation,” an essay in the New York Times that, in part, contrasts European and American attitudes towards children. So I was especially attuned to how children were treated while we were there. Like the author, I found Europe to be very child-friendly in the sense that children weren’t looked upon as a bother, but rather small people who are welcome in public spaces. Kids ride free on public transport, get into even pay toilets for free, and aren’t sneered at by strangers. (In fact,  Michaela made an entire Barcelona metro car full of people go “awwwww” when she gave a hug to a man who gave up his seat so we could sit.)

Between that and the fact that we were in a fabulous cruise with a fabulous kids’ club — which Michaela never wanted to leave because of the great staff, fun offerings, and friendships with other kids — I managed to get in quite a bit of “myself” time on this trip. Likewise, Mike and I got to spend grown up time together (the kids club was free except for certain hours of the day, when it was only $6/hr. It was open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., so rather than putting Michaela to bed and sitting in our room, we could take her to the kids’ club and go out for a drink at night or to play backgammon in one of the lounges or wander the decks of the ship).

A couple of days, we left Michaela on the ship and explored the ports alone. She liked that because she got to have fun with her friends; we liked it because we could, for example, hike the Acropolis, or explore the Spice Market in Istanbul without having to worry about where we walking too much or too fast.

Michaela did great in port. Even on our first day in Istanbul, when my Fitbit said I walked nearly 28,000 steps, Michaela was a champ. She must have walked twice that much, since her legs are shorter than mine. She was a trooper! She seemed to enjoy the Vatican Museum and Pompeii and the Colosseum and all the other places we went, even if she didn’t 100% understand every bit of their history.

My favorite city was Barcelona, which has gorgeous architecture, friendly people, ridiculously cheap juice (Michaela’s self-declared favorite thing besides the kids’ club), and a great vibe. I could totally live there. I’d have to learn Catalan, but in the meantime, my Spanish would get me by. Speaking of which, it was super cool to hear Michaela’s Spanish vocabulary grow during the four days we were there. It has me even more inspired than before to help her acquire a second language.

I know some people might not be sold on taking their five-year-old on this type of trip, but I can’t say enough how lovely it was for all of us!

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