I turned 40 the other day (I know! I don’t look a day older than 20, right?!) and if that’s not reason enough to celebrate by traveling halfway/ish around the world (let’s be honest, pretty much anywhere away from Mongolia is about halfway around the world), then I don’t know what is.
Perhaps coincidentally, we asked for the kids’ inputs on where they’d like to spend their spring break and Luca, the history lover, said he just had to see the Colosseum and oh, can we also stop in Athens please since we were making plans to meet up with my parents and dear friends (aka, our awesome party traveling team) in Cyprus.
So, yes, this trip was not only to celebrate a new decade but for us to explore ancient civilisations…..coincidence perhaps to highlight the onset of my middle years? I’ll leave that up to you to decide…
First stop – Rome, Italy! Ah, the city of emperors, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Vatican (skipped that; oops, this was my second trip to Rome and the Vatican remains on my “to see” list), and so much more. With only 2 full days to explore, we opted for a guided walking tour of the Colosseum and the Forum so that we could skip the long lines (Palm Sunday in Rome is no joke) and to also have someone else to answer the gazillion of questions from two younger travellers.
On Day 2 we took the train to Naples and headed to Pompeii since you know, history and ancient civilisations and all. And wow – what an amazing experience Pompeii was (Naples on the other hand…. let’s just say the city has seen better days). I was honestly impressed with how big the city had once been – we easily spent a few hours walking around the ruins and learning about life before the volcanic eruption. I mean, the pictures can show you the whole thing, right?
Oh, the pictures….. It remains a dark year in my camera year…. if you recall, my beloved SLR camera unexpectedly died back in New Zealand when Kiwi rain (for hours upon hours) soaked my backpack that so lovingly carried my camera. It appears that the small point and shoot camera we also used on that trip also had some minor water damage; of course, it didn’t become a problem until we took a gazillion pictures in Rome and then the memory card slot stopped working (I am still trying to resuscitate the pictures; so far, no luck). But, good news, fortunately there are many pictures online of Roman sites that all I need to do is photoshop us onto a background – right?
After fun in Rome, it was time to head south to beautiful Cyprus! I attended a conference way back when in the capital city, Nicosia, and we had talked about returning many times since then. It turned out to be an ideal island to explore with party travellers who came from near and (very) far to spend a week with us and to remind me, every day, just how much
older wiser I had become.
Who came? Let me introduce our awesome traveling party – first off, Oma & Opa who left their sunny and warm home to battle the “cold temperatures” of Cyprus and hang out with the grand-kids.
Next up, our travel companion extraordinaire – Anne – who didn’t miss an opportunity to spend another spring break with us (little does she know that it’s a requirement from now on!) and spoil the kids with Easter candy. A super huge shout-out to her for, once again, schlepping a new camera in her carry-on for me.
And last but certainly not least, the Smith family! If you recall, the kids are the best of friends and there are (still) wedding rumours for the younger ones (I would recommend Strangers in the Night for their first dance; we had dinner overlooking the sunset one night, Zaki and Juliana shared a table for two along with a kid cocktail while the song came on the radio, reminding us all that they are just like a little old married couple …. and have been for years).
We rented a villa in Paphos on the west coast of the island with a game room, hot tub, and cold showers on demand (we may have had a tad bit of a hot water problem) which essentially translated into a week-long kids’ slumber and bonding party, evening performances and dance-off’s (with a pretty harsh judge if you ask me….although it was her birthday so technically one should forgive her candor, no?) countless rounds of ping pong and foosball, endless battles of “spoons” and “exploding kittens” matches, as well as grill nights and hot tub outings galore. Oh, and morning yoga by the pool. Yeah, it was really, really rough….
When we left the villa, it was all for good birthday party fun – because there would be multiple birthday cakes and celebrations (note to my fellow travellers: from now on, I expect multiple cakes and days of birthday celebrations).
There was an amazing surprise birthday dinner (seafood mezze!), a party boat (literally a whole yacht just for us – this is why you bring Anne on your vacation so she can make these things happen), and a few party buses that let us explore monasteries in the mountains and wander around Nicosia (fun fact, Nicosia is the last divided city – you can walk across the border to explore both the Greek and Turkish sides – quite memorable).
And of course, there was plenty of time for the beach and exploring of ancient tombs and ruins (spoiler alert: to prepare us for our next spring break – let’s see if Anne can get us another yacht!).
After the shortest and funnest week on record and just after buying fantastic souvenirs (thanks for the shirt, Opa), it was way too soon for a teary farewell.
Before heading back to Mongolia, our family stopped in Athens for 2 days of exploring (and shopping, more on that later) since we needed to bring the trip back to more ancient civilisations.
We spent a day in Delphi, the ancient center of the universe (so amazing!) and had a fantastic time despite the youngest traveller’s consistent reminder that looking at old rocks is just plain “boring” (she better shape up for next year!).
We saved our last day in Athens to explore the Acropolis and wouldn’t you know it, it was the day we beat all the lines and the crowds. Yeah, it turns out that the Acropolis is closed on the Good Friday before Orthodox Easter – whoops! Oh well, we got some pictures and then had a day to introduce the kids to the fun of H&M shopping (when you do pretty much no clothes shopping at post, walking along a pedestrian zone and stopping to buy clothes in a store and not on the internet can be the best day ever for kids who don’t know any different). If you ask Juliana about the highlight of her visit to Athens – no doubt, it’s shopping for new pants and shirts. Remind me again why we drag kids around the world to show them old rocks when we can just set them loose in a chainstore?
And that’s it – that’s a wrap to the trip of ancient civilisations. You know it’s a good trip when you part ways with your friends with new joint travel plans in the works. Stay tuned.