European vacation!

While Central Europe has been flooding, we packed up the kids and took to the road (very much traveled). For two weeks, our European road-trip extravaganza brought us to countless cities in two beautiful countries: Slovenia and Italy.

Before we dive into recap mode, here’s a few quotes that more or less described our adventures:

  • “Fish are friends, not food” – a recurring we were told by the kids as they watched Nemo over and over again.
  • Me: “Just how many pizzas did the kids eat this week?”
  • Waitress: “And now I give your children lollipops, yes?”
  • John (serious): “We should stop for gelato, the kids haven’t had any chocolate ice cream today.”
  • John/me on more than a few occasions: “Juliana, you know there are other words besides NO.”
  • All of us (every day…yes, every day): “oh look, it’s raining AGAIN.”

But enough with all that, here’s the real recap of where we went!

First on the list was Slovenia’s small-town feel-ish capital city, Ljubljana, about a 3.5 hr drive from Vienna.

And speaking of driving to Slovenia, here’s a fun fact: when using google maps to navigate, don’t be surprised when you cross over into Slovenia and your handy dandy little phone tells you that google maps has no information on the country you are in. That’s right. Apparently Slovenia does not exist according to google maps on Android but all the surrounding countries do. Hm…Good thing I am overly organized and had printed directions “just in case” as a back-up. Even John admits that from now on, he won’t complain when I ask him to print every conceivable driving direction.

We really enjoyed the small-town feel of Ljubljana and spent the weekend exploring the beautiful plazas, bridges, Tivoli park (that has a super fun playground!), and toured the castle up above the city. Oh, and another fun Slovenia fact – eating breakfast out is almost unheard of….hotels provide breakfast but cafes typically only provide some (delicious) toast with a cup of coffee – and actually not all cafes do, so be forewarned!

Ljubljana castle
Ljubljana castle
Triple Bridge
Triple Bridge
Fun with fountains (in the rain)
Fun with fountains (in the rain)

Our next stop was beautiful Pienza, Italy – right in the heart of Tuscany. We opted to stay a an “agriturismo” i.e. a farm stay which was well worth it! The kids loved visiting the animals every day and we loved our farm with its kind host family who fed us home-made food (pasta, ricotta) and made some of the best wine, olive oil, salami, and pecorino cheese we could find (needless to say, we left with a trunk-full of goodies!). We did not like the weather though – did I mention that it rained every single day?

Our home in Tuscany....not quite under the Tuscan sun...
Our home in Tuscany….not quite under the Tuscan sun…but close…
Val d'Orcia - who could ever tire of this view?
Val d’Orcia – who could ever tire of this view?
The kitten we ALMOST adopted until John decided to be super allergic to cats (we named him Fridolino)
The kitten we ALMOST adopted until John decided to be super allergic to cats (we named him Fridolino – the kitten, not John)
IMG_1306
Bonding with the kittens
Visiting the chickens, turkeys, and pigs
Visiting the chickens, turkeys, and pigs
Fresh and local food every day...
Fresh and local food every day…
You have to love a host family that knocks on your door and brings you goodies, just because...
You have to love a host family that knocks on your door and brings you goodies, just because…

During our stay in Tuscany, we put on a happy face despite the cold and rain and set out to explore the small towns of Tuscany, every day.

In Pienza - yes, we now own a big Italian flag too!
In Pienza – yes, we now own a big Italian flag too!
Ah, Tuscan villages...
Ah, Tuscan villages…
Orvieto
Orvieto
Montelcino
Montalcino
Beautiful streets in Cortona
Beautiful streets in Cortona
We spent much time chasing after these two ...
We spent much time chasing after these two …
Montepulciano
Montepulciano
John in his true vacation spirit - at one of the countless Enotecas we stopped to sample wine and grappa
John in his true vacation spirit – at one of the countless Enotecas we stopped to sample wine and grappa
It's still pretty even if it rains...
It’s still pretty even if it rains…

And….since we were in Italy, the girls accessorized! First up, my new green purse!

IMG_1384

Which then meant that Juliana needed to have a green purse as well – and so the search began. We luckily found one that was majorly discounted because of a small stain but yes, our 2-year old little girl now has a real Italian leather purse…that she has been wearing every single day since we bought it. 10 Euros well spent!

IMG_1420 IMG_1471

More fun in the rain (with a green purse)
More fun in the rain (with a green purse)

We then drove to Florence in the hope of escaping the rain (which we did not…). Florence was a bit of a “big city” shock after spending an entire week exploring the smaller Tuscan towns. Since we had been to Florence before, we opted to stick to strolling and eating out and took a train ride to Lucca.

Loving the carousel
Loving the carousel at the Piazza della Repubblica
Luca in Lucca (he was not so impressed by that)
Luca in Lucca (he was not so impressed by that)
The kids with their purchases of kitten money purses from the markets - they named them Fridolino...
The kids with their purchases of kitten money purses from the markets – they named them Fridolino…
Awww, they can be that cute every once in a while!
Awww, they can be that cute every once in a while!

After a few days in Florence, we headed back to Slovenia to Lake Bled. But first, we stopped at the Postojna Cave to ride a train into the cave and look for little cave creatures.

Excited about being on a train!
Excited about being on a train!
Got the torch; let's find some critters!
Got the torch; let’s find some critters!

When we arrived in Lake Bled, we were not alone – nope, the rain followed us all the way…

Still pretty - even when it's raining all day long...
Still pretty – even when it’s raining all day long…
Yup, still raining
Yup, still raining
Ah, a moment of rain respite so we jumped on the next gondola to explore the church on the islet of the lake
Ah, a moment of rain respite so we jumped on the next gondola to explore the church on the islet of the lake
And just when thought the rain was done, it started again - good thing our carriage to the castle had a cover!
And just when thought the rain was done, it started again – good thing our carriage to the castle had a cover!

And then we returned home to Vienna where it (can you guess?) was raining and cold….oh well – maybe we just need to return to Tuscany next year to search for that Tuscan sun?

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