Visiting Paradise...

Our time in Santorini was wonderful and I hadn't anticipated all of the things there were to do.

Even after four days on the island there is so much more we wish we could have done.  We rented a car - which was the best idea ever.  Things on the island are really spread out and this made moving around more practical than waiting for a bus with two kids.

Of course first on our list was the beach!  We decided to venture out to the red beach since it is supposed to be extraordinary.  I didn't anticipate the hike down the beach, but once we saw the water - it was all so worth it.

The day was warm and the water was cool - perfect for a day at the beach.  My boys wasted no time in getting and wading around the cool water. I could have easily spent the rest of our vacation here.

Once it started getting warmer we decided to escape the heat and went to go visit the archeological site just up from the beach - Akrotiri.  It is truly amazing the ruins that they have discovered and even crazy to see how well preserved they really are.

One day we also decided to venture out on the caldera.  We took a 'pirate' boat out to the volcano - did some hiking and enjoyed a day on the water. 

I was a bit nervous since our first boat ride was a little iffy - but we sailed off without incident.  They boys decided that it was surely because the first boat was not a pirate boat.  Mystery solved.

We took long walks enjoying the Caldera views on the city of Oia at the tip of Santorini.  Walking up and down these streets and visiting the tiny shops while you watch the crystal clear waters below is such an amazing experience. 

They boys loved exploring the tiny secluded side streets while I absorbed the beauty of the whitewashed buildings with their striking blue domes.  Everything I imagined and more.

We even stumbled upon a small playground and they boys took full advantage.

The island had many vineyards scattered around.  The grapes and wine used to be a significant source of income for the island.  Being a wine lover {at least according to French television} I couldn't miss an opportunity to taste some Greek island wines.

On our last day the boys asked {pleaded} to go back and visit the donkeys.  We had a late afternoon flight and I had so many things I wanted to see - but how could I deny my boys the small pleasure of riding a donkey one last time.  We hurried off to Fira and rode the donkeys back up the mountain taking in the beautiful sights one last time.

Before heading to the airport we stopped at a small cafe where I enjoyed my last Greek frappe with the Caldera view.

And while the trip went by much to fast, I'm already dreaming about the one day I'll get to go back.
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Preparing for Greece....

I'm a planner by nature -especially right before we leave on a trip.

I like to scour the guidebooks, trip reviews - anything I can get my hands on.

When we decided that we would go to Greece - I read everything I could about our destination.

I knew everything we "needed" to do, things we "should" do and the things that would be "nice" to do.

While I did do a lot of planning I let my romanticized feelings about Greece cast a small shadow over some practical things - like deciding what to wear.

It's not like I didn't know there would be a lot of hiking  - but I figured it was going to be hot and well a tourist spot so I kind of downplayed the amount of hiking that would take place.

We tried to pack lightly - so the boys were set with shorts and t-shirts but I packed a dresses - too many dresses, and two pairs of pants.  This was my first mistake.

Dresses are my go-to when I travel somewhere warm but when you are hiking up the top of a mountain with those breezes coming up behind you - not a good idea.  Let's not even mention the amount of people who were climbing up below me and could see, well everything.  What was I thinking??

I also didn't anticipate that we would be hiking over cliffs and mountainous terrain to get to the beach.  Secluded - yes.  Beautiful - absolutely - practical with flip-flops - not at all.

I had packed cute sandals to go with my dresses - except with all of the hiking I ended up wearing my flats the entire time.  Luckily they are a little sporty so it made hiking those slippery rocks a little easier.

Lucky for me, my poor wardrobe choices didn't prevent me from having the best vacation ever.  This will also give me more things to plan the next time we decide to venture out on a family vacation.

Linking up with WIWW
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Mother's Day a la francais....

This past Sunday, while everyone was in the midst of celebrating Memorial Day weekend - we were doing something a little more low key - celebrating Mother's Day!

Truth-be-told I started celebrating on Thursday when I received Noah's "present" from daycare.

And while it was for me, I couldn't get him to put it down.  He loved playing with the little baby chicks that he so lovingly colored and pasted on the canvas.

The gifts continued when Nathan brought home his 'special' bag for Mother's Day.  And in his four year-old innocence he told me that while it looked like the bag on the boat - that he didn't puke in this one.  That my friends is love.

I wasn't "allowed" to open the bag until this past Sunday - but he did recite the most precious poem - en francais!

Listening to this kid speak in an another language with a flawless accent always gets to me.  It's incredible the things these kids can pick up at this age.

Sunday morning we spent outdoors with the boys riding their bikes while I got in a good run.  There is something so refreshing about being out in the sunshine that is just good for the soul, you know?

I was then treated to a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant - where a fellow restaurant patron complimented the behavior of my boys.  They are rarely both behaving at the same time, so it was so amazing to receive such a compliment!

Later in the evening I was able to enjoy my wonderful "gifts".  Nathan made me a beautiful bag at school, my "sac a tresor" - treasure bag.  It is such an amazing little detail with his name and signature.  Something to treasure for so many years to come. 

He quickly ran to retrieve his lego Pirates and filled my bag with the tiny plastic coins that came along with them.  No treasure bag should be without treasure.  In this tiny moment my heart was full.  It was such an amazing Mother's Day!
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Exploring Santorini....

We had planned to spend four days in Santorini.  We were afraid that we wouldn't have anything to do for such a long period of time on a small island - but in the end we realized that we actually needed more time.  Go figure.

Our first half day in Santorini was spent exploring it's capital city of Fira - probably one of the most touristic areas of Santorini with great views of the Caldera.

Walking through the small streets was amazing.  Small shops and restaurants wind through the narrow passage ways. Steps everywhere you go to help navigate you further down the rocky cliffs and amazing views at every turn

.  We made it to the Old Town Cable Car which descends down the mountain to the Port of Fira to avoid the 1hr plus hike down.  Since we were with the boys we definitely thought this was the best option - plus who doesn't want to ride a "flying train".  They boys were ecstatic.

Once we got to the port and walked around we saw them.  The boys were immediately smitten and we couldn't go anywhere else - you guessed it - the famous Santorini donkeys.

We were allowed to pet them and they were so gentle with the boys.  We tried to lure them away to go back to the Cable Car but they weren't budging (neither my boys nor the donkeys) and so the only way to make our way up the hill with our sanity {somewhat} in tact was ride them up (the donkeys not my boys).

It is a 20 minute ride up the hill and I was terrified the entire time.  The donkeys go up the stairs, dodging tourists and other obstacles.  While the views of the sea are amazing - you begin to realize how far up you truly are and how little control of the animal you truly have.  My boys - loved it.  They named their donkeys, petted them, sang them songs - love.  I think they would have brought them home given the chance.  A once in a lifetime experience for sure.

The next morning the owners of the hotel brought us breakfast and served it on our balcony.  This view - my heart was full.  My small piece of paradise.

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The boat to paradise...

While I was enamored with the city of Athens we knew that a vacation across Europe couldn't end with just a visit to one city.

Traveling with the boys we knew that we would need to see a beach and avoid many of the other ruins that involved more strenuous hiking and of course a Greek island was our only choice.

While there are so many different islands to chose from - all with their own unique charm - I have always wanted to see Santorini.  In my head I had always imagined the small white houses with the blue roofs off the cliffs of the island.

We decided to take a boat out to Santorini because we thought it would be an adventure - little did we know what we had in store.

By speed boat it's roughly about 5 hours from Athens to Santorini and we booked the first one out in the morning.  They boys settled in and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world and for the first 4 hours it was.

The speed boat made many stops at various islands along the way and some people got off while others got on but the boat remained rather empty and the sea was relatively calm - until we hit the island of Naxos (about an hour away from Santorini).

A massive group of people entered the boat and we were suddenly crammed like sardines.  Imagine the middle seat of an airplane except with 5 people on either side.  It was not pleasant at all.  It was also at this point in our journey that the seas became extremely rough.  With only about 20 minutes left in our voyage our boys made use of the seasickness bags provided - as did the other 75% of the passengers on board.  Fun times I tell you!  Since we were so crammed we decided to take the boys to the back in the bathroom to get them washed up and maybe get them some fresh air.  While standing in the back holding Nathan the boat began to rock and a woman who was not holding on to anything flew across the boat and broke her leg.  It was all rather surreal and we began second guessing our choice of destination.

But we finally arrived in Santorini and all of our second guessing was quickly put to rest.

We got settled into our apartment and walked out on our balcony and saw this:

This amazing view seemed almost unreal. 

I was so thankful for what was about to be a small trip to paradise.

Has there ever been a place that has taken your breath away?
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A dream came true...

Growing up I was always fascinated by Greece.  Maybe it was learning their mythology, learning about their history and their countless contributions to life as we know it.

I have always wanted to visit but for some reason a trip there always seemed so out of reach.

When deciding where we would go for Spring Break this year I finally got to realize my life long dream of visiting Greece.

I was so nervous doing this kind of trip with the boys.  Sure they've visited countless other European countries and cities - Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels - but for some reason I thought this was different.

It wasn't too long ago that our local news was filled with the civil and political unrest in Greece.  I kept wondering if this was truly the place I wanted to vacation with my boys.

From the moment we stepped off the plane and arrived in Athens my mind was put to rest. 

The people in Athens are amazing.  Everyone was so incredibly friendly and welcoming.  From our taxi driver, to the staff at our hotel, to the amazing waiter at a restaurant who spent the time playing and talking to my boys.  It is a feeling that I haven't felt very often in our travels.

On our first day we hiked up to the Acropolis.  It was a gorgeous day - and even in spite of the numerous stairs and the hike up to the top - everyone was happy.  There was a lot of dirt and rocks and the ruins of course - my boys were in heaven.  The views of Athens from the top were incredible.  I can only imagine what it was like centuries ago.

We also saw the changing of the guards and my boys were in complete awe of the soldiers.

There was more hiking to the top of Mont Lycabettus.

Of course there was a lot of eating and window shopping.

Seeing all of the temples I had learned about growing up and getting to experience this with my family was a dream come true.  I'm so glad that we took the time to disconnect and take this trip.  It was a dream come true.

Our time in Athens went by too quickly and soon we were scheduled to take a boat to Santorini. 

Do you have a place that you've always wanted to visit, but haven't?
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Six Years....

Six years...really isn't all that long, is it?

It's only 72 months.

And yet, for me, 6 years seems like a lifetime - a lifetime that happened in the blink of an eye.

Six years ago my life changed forever.  In April 2008, I left everything and everyone I knew and began this crazy adventure in France.

Six years, I started this little blog to update my friends and family about life abroad.

Never could I have imagined that I would still be here six years later - still in France; still writing.

It's amazing the adventures you can live in just six years.

I got married.

I've had two amazing children.

I learned a new language.

We have visited over 17 countries.

I have made some amazing friends.

Life has been full.  Sometimes it's been hard and other times it's been wonderful.

And while I don't know where the next five or six years will take us but I can only hope they will be half as wonderful as the first six have been.

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