Its our last week in Florence. I cannot believe we are at this threshold, the tail end of our year-long adventure abroad. In case you hadn't heard: last spring we sold our home, cars and put our belongings in storage; we climbed a plane, landed in Amsterdam and assembled 4 bikes. Two panniers apiece, we cycled from Amsterdam to Paris, took the chunnel to London and finished the 2009 summer with a week-long soccer camp (for the boys) in Manchester City, England.
Then, we flew to Florence. Mid-August, we rented a temporary apartment, inserted the boys in an Italian school (aka full immersion) and they tried out/played soccer for a premier club. Over the first few months, James and I dealt with paperwork (many lines, many offices, many hours) for permission to stay. We toured every corner of Florence and much of Tuscany. Throughout the year, we had 3 week visits from both sets of grandparents (Dec, Jan) and my brothers' family (cousins!).
Our year was full of highlights and discovery, challenges from popped tires to circus dogs, logistics to art and wine and festivals, learning a new language (boys did, Janelle didn't, James already knew Italian) and so much more. I don't know where to begin, none of us can fathom how this year has changed and molded us; we will be digesting and re-integrating and reflecting for months---and years---to come.
James is working on canonizing our adventure in book-form; during our year, he did a fantastic job writing a post called 'top 5' for each month. Janelle 'canonized' much of the adventure here at familyfrolics, and also on her food blog, talkoftomatoes. The boys both kept journals, with lots of sketches and postcards, and observations along the way.
May: packed up lives state-side, boarded plan and landed in Amsterdam for a week.
June: cycling across Holland (windmill counting begins, baa-ing like sheep not uncommon)
July: cycling across Holland, Belgium, France.
Aug: London 10 days, Manchester United Soccer Camp, fly to Florence, swimming, soccer tryouts.
Sept: choose apartment, boys' school in Florence; tourist activities.
Oct: 3 week return state-side (unplanned---required for paperwork); visit Montana cabin, family.
Nov: daily life in Florence
Dec: 3 week visit from James' folks (Lucca, Orvieto, Civita, San Gimignano, Florence); Christmas festival
Jan: 3 week visit from Janelle's folks (Rome, Florence)
Feb: James returns to states; road trip: southern Tuscany/Elba Island (hot springs!)
Mar: daily life in Florence
Apr: 3 week visit from Janelle's brother/sister/nephews (road trips: Chianti, Cinque Terre, Venice)
May: daily life in Florence
I could put 50 links to the above months, but if you are curious and want to read more: in the left hand column there are archives by dates, click on any month to see posts for that month.
Our final month abroad [in Italy], June 2010 includes: finishing up the soccer season, saying goodbye at school, closing our accounts at the apartment, shipping home belongings, gearing up for the World Cup (what color will you wear?) and a final road trip (more about that soon).
By the way... just because we are returning state-side by NO MEANS means our frolicking is over. On the contrary we already have plans to visit a cabin in Montana, tour around our home city of Seattle, join up with soccer teams and pop up to Vancouver BC, Canada... all before the end of July.
Re-entry will no doubt be a whirlwind, and certainly we will appreciate the nuances of 'reality bites.' But even if we are sad that this chapter---this year long adventure abroad---is coming to a close, by no means will we stop embracing life to the fullest, at every possible frolicking moment.