But as I've settled back into life, decompressed, finished my photo book, looked at it 100 times, watched my kids look through it and talk about it, watched my family, friends and travel buddies look through it and talk......I realized I have one post left.
Just a "wrap it all up and make sure I've hit it all" sort of thing. Because I'm so truly grateful for this trip, this experience with my kids at this very age, traveling with my family and Todd's family. I mean, HELLO, how cool is that and what a great memory for all of us!
I want my kids to come find this blog someday and find these posts and know how loved they are and how much we wanted for their growing up years.
I'll keep it simple.
**Things I learned while traveling Europe with
Audrey, Nathan, Todd, Jan, Leroy, Mandy, David, Ken.**
1. Tricking peeps to sleep with Benadryl is essential. Don't waver for a second or think you are a bad parent for giving your kids an over the counter med to sleep. And in fact, please take a couple yourself - you'll be so glad you did.
2. It's one thing to travel to Europe as adults....it's another to travel to Europe with kids....and it's a whole other ball game to travel to Europe with Nathan.
3. We rented apartments and houses online for our trip. BEST THING WE EVER DID! Cheaper, nice to have a home base, we could cook meals in, people are awesome. I will always travel that way when possible. Have faith that the reviews and photos online are as they are in real life.
4. Live like a local. I'm serious!!! Go to the grocery store....find the local markets....go find where the locals hang out....talk to them....listen....observe....if they eat dinner at 10pm - join in!
5. Unplug. I highly recommend it. There is something to be said for no Wi-Fi. And when you find it - hop on then hop off. And when you get back home - do the same....hop on - then hop off and go play.
6. My kids are rock stars when traveling. Yes they are brother and sister and they fought.....but mostly they played, people watched, walked and walked and walked, tried new food, absorbed the culture, ate tons of gelato, drank excessive Sprite, found new friends from all over to talk with and play with, they hugged strangers who thought they were irresistible in their attempts to speak the language of wherever we were, and they just had major fun with our family!
7. Mandy and I could travel anywhere together. I love her!
8. Jan and Lee (my in-laws) are AMAZING and each packed up a small backpack for 31 days and took off in their retirement years to a new continent and a new type of travel. I could go anywhere with them. And I love drinking wine with Jan. And we both became slightly obsessed with olive oil on this trip...I mean the good stuff...the real stuff.
9. And while we are on the topic....note to self....do not ever give Todd the coveted Olive Oil to transport. He will lose it and 4 months later you are still not ready to laugh about it!
10. David can draw like nobody's business.
11. The Amalfi coast on scooter is nutso and TOTALLY the coolest thing you may ever do in your life. And that landscape - be still my heart!
12. Rome is somewhere you must go at least once in your life. And meeting Uncle Ken there was perfect.
13. If you go to the Vatican (which you should) - sign up for a tour. It's totally worth it. If you don't, you will be lost and overwhelmed and may never make it to the Sistine Chapel which you MUST reach. And even though you will be hot and dead tired after the tour - take a break then go into St. Peter's Basilica - because it's out of control. Every piece of art you studied in high school - I swear its in there.
14. I will forever have PTSD because of the "Nathan - street vendors - souvenir shops" combination.
15. If you go to Spain - see a Flamenco show. It will be 100% worth it. Then go to dinner after at 10:30 pm. I type that and still hear my daughter's voice squealing with excitement that our meal was delivered to the table at 11pm (THE LATEST SHE'S EVER EATEN DINNER IN HER LIFE)!
16. Be a smart traveler - not a fearful one.
17. Check out loads of books from the library before you go and talk often with your kids about what to expect, answer their questions, and talk about what it means to be a smart traveler. Prepare ahead of time - it will pay off, I promise.
18. Take less. You won't need it and other countries do have washing machines :)
19. Ship stuff home. The experience in the post office as you try to communicate and get the box sent will become a hilarious story all on its own. We sent two boxes and I am SO glad we did!
20. And last - but not least! Remember that people are people.....no matter where you go, what religion they practice, where they live or what language they speak. Kindness, play and the power of a smile is universal. Well, and when you are a kid - sharing candy, chips and soda is also excellent for friendship building.
So that's it. The end of my blogging about Europe.
I look forward to future Gendreau Family Adventures! And in case you missed the previous blog posts....here you go.
***Europe Blog Post #1 - The Back Story
***Europe Blog Post #2 - Traveling to Europe as a 6.5 year old and 9 year old
***Europe Blog Post #3 - My Fav B&W's
***Europe Blog Post #4 - Amalfi Coast Awesomeness
And to the 8 other amazing people in our Europe crew - I will travel anywhere with you. And I look forward to it! I feel super grateful to have shared this experience with you!