A few weeks ago I shared how I spent my first few days in Italy visiting Verona and Venice. We did so much on that trip that including it all in one blog post would be a bit overwhelming. I decided to divide our trip up into smaller parts. Part 2 covers our time in Florence, Pisa, and Assisi. Missed Verona and Venice in Part One? You can find it here!
After spending a few days visiting Verona and Venice we headed for Florence. I have to say that I really thought Rome would be the biggest highlight of the trip for me but I totally fell in love with Venice and Florence.
If you are an art lover, Florence is a city that you will definitely appreciate. It is full of gorgeous sculptures and tons of museums. The architecture is also pretty incredible. That is one of the things I appreciated most about Florence. Of course, it is also the home of Michelangelo’s David.
Another thing I loved about Florence was the atmosphere. While Florence is a large city and a popular tourist destination, it felt so much more laid back to me compared to the bustle of Venice and Rome. Our time in Florence was much slower paced.
We were able to do a lot of shopping and wandering around…and eating gelato. One of our favorite things we discovered in Florence was a gelato shop by the name of Festival del Gelato. Gelato shops are on every corner in Italy but most of them have a very limited menu but this particular shop had probably close to thirty flavors of gelato! We loved it so much that we visited several times while we were in Florence.
We also did some shopping in Florence. We visited a leather shop where we were able to see a short demonstration about the process used to produce leather and how to spot real Italian leather. When it was over I bought a wallet for my husband and gorgeous leather passport cover for myself.
I also did a little bit of shopping at Bartolucci for my kids. A bit of trivia for you…the classic Italian story of Pinocchio (not the Disney version) was written by Carlo Lorenzini who used the pen name Collodi. Lorenzini was a Florentine by birth and his famous story is set in his mother’s home village of Collodi (where he got his pen name) which isn’t too far from Florence. You can find all kinds of Pinocchio souvenirs all around Italy but they are particularly prevalent in Florence in traditional woodworking stores such as Bartolucci.
Florence was such a beautiful city and it is one I can’t wait to return to. The art and architecture makes it a must visit when you are in Italy!
After a few days in the beautiful Florence, we headed towards Rome but we made a few stops along the way. Our first stop was in Pisa. A stop in Pisa is not complete without visiting the Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Square of Miracles, to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The Piazze dei Miracoli is made up of four major religious edifices: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile (the Leaning Tower), and the Camposanto Monumentale or Monumental Cemetery. There is also a hospital located on the square. Our tour guide explained to us that the square is often considered to represent the stages of life. The baptistery is there for birth, the cathedral for life, the hospital for dying, and the cemetery for death. The Leaning Tower of Pisa actually has no significance. It is simply the bell tower of the church.
All of the buildings were beautiful but I was really moved by the baptistery. It was a beautiful building and the history behind it was very neat. The baptistery was built in 1152. It is the largest baptistery in Italy and Galileo was baptized there.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was really neat to see. I’ve always seen pictures of it but I had no idea just how massive it was in real life. I felt so small standing beneath the tower and looking up. It was very impressive to see.
I really enjoyed seeing the entire Piazza dei Miracoli. I highly suggest checking it out if you are in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Our next stop on our way to Rome was in Assisi. Assisi is most famous for being the home of St. Francis of Assisi. When St. Francis died, his followers built a tomb for him at the top of a hill in Assisi.
Assisi is such a quaint little town. It sets on a hill and the streets seem to just wind endlessly up to the top. The views are absolutely incredible and there are plenty of places to stop and take in the views of the Italian countryside.
At the top of the hill that Assisi sits on is the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The church is absolutely stunning! Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take pictures inside but trust me, the inside is very moving to see. The bottom of the church holds the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. The room had several people visiting it to pray to the patron saint. It was so moving to know that I was standing next to the burial place of such a revered man. Definitely breathtaking and humbling.
We only had a few hours to spend in Assisi which was a bit disappointing. I would have loved more time to explore the town and the quaint little shops that lined the streets. It’s definitely on my list of places I plan to return to.
After we left Assisi, we headed to Rome. Stayed tuned for a future post to learn about all the things we did in Rome! Missed part one? You can find it here!
If you have been following The French Lemon for any amount of time, you probably already know that I spent some time in Italy this past March. Things have been so busy around here the past few months that I have failed to blog about it so I think it is time to change that.
My trip to Italy started with a 6:00 am flight to Atlanta. We had a short layover in Atlanta and then flew to New York where we had another short layover. We then flew from New York City to Milan, Italy. It was an overnight flight which means that we landed around 8:00 am Italy time in Milan. I love overnight flights to Europe! If your flight is scheduled to land early in the morning then that means the last bit of your flight is spent chasing the sunrise. I love watching the sun slowly rise as the plane races towards it. We were so fortunate with this flight. As the sun began to rise, we were flying over the Swiss Alps! I had a window seat and was so thankful for that view! It was absolutely glorious!
We unfortunately did not spend any time in Milan. As soon as we landed and made it through customs we boarded our bus that was waiting for us and headed for Verona. We arrived in Verona in time for lunch. Verona is probably most well-known for being the setting of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While the tale is not historically accurate, the city of Verona has capitalized on it and you can visit Juliet’s balcony.
It is free to view the balcony from the outside of the house but you can also pay a small fee to enter the house and stand on the famed balcony. A statue of Juliet graces the courtyard below the balcony. It’s tradition to touch the statue for luck in love. It’s a pretty neat place to visit but it was incredibly crowded so be prepared for that.
Verona is also home to the world’s third largest amphitheater that has survived from Roman antiquity. The Verona Arena is stunningly well preserved and intact. The arena is actually still in use today and is famous for the opera performances that are frequently held there. It is a quite a sight to see and I recommend checking it out if you have some free time in Verona.
After we left Verona we went to our hotel which was located just outside of Venice on the Adriatic Sea. Our hotel was right on the beach and we had a bit of time before dinner to stick our toes in the sea. So cold!
Our second day in Italy we spent in Venice. We started the day by visiting the island of Murano which is famous for its glass artisans. We watched an incredible glass blowing demonstration and then shopped some of the hand blown glass products in the shop. I bought some beautiful glass earrings. After seeing the incredible work these artists do, I decided that it’s my life mission to someday build my dream house, travel back to Murano, and pick out an incredible glass chandelier to go in that dream house!
We then headed a bit further into Venice. We toured the Doge’s Palace which had exquisite architectural details and beautiful works of art. It was really a sight to see and the history of the palace is also very interesting. If you have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the palace, I highly recommend it.
We spent some time in Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and had the opportunity to explore Venice a bit. I really loved this city but it is a bit difficult to get around. The streets often felt like a maze to me but I had a lot of fun exploring. I wish we would have had more time in Venice because I would have liked to make my way a bit further into the city. I plan to go back someday and just spend several days exploring all of Venice.
Of course, you can’t visit Venice without taking a gondola ride. Gondola rides are a bit expensive but it is such a traditional experience in Venice that I think everyone who visits Venice should try it at least once. That being said, I’m not sure that I will spend the money to ride a gondola again when I return to Venice. The experience was valuable and a neat one to have but not necessary to fully appreciate the beauty of Venice.
Venice was definitely one of my favorite places that I visited while in Italy. Stayed tuned for a future blog post to see where else we went!
I turned thirty in April. Since my birthday, I have been reflecting on this whole aging thing quite a bit. I don’t really have a problem with getting older and I certainly do not feel different than I did at 29. However, as I reflect on the first 30 years of my life, particularly my twenties, I do wish I had done some things differently. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of things about my twenties that I wouldn’t change. That decade gave me ten beautiful years of marriage to my best friend, five amazing children, two college degrees, and a lifetime of memories. However, if I could change anything in my twenties, I would have traveled more. I would have spent more quality time with my husband pouring into our relationship. I would have held my children a bit closer and a bit longer. I would have saved more money and spent less.
Turning thirty makes me feel as if I have a brand new start ahead of me. I have a new clean and fresh decade to devote more time to the things that I neglected during my twenties. That feels both exhilarating and daunting to me.
During this fourth decade of my life I want to travel more alone, with my kids, and with my husband. Fun fact, Daniel and I have never stayed more than three hours away from our home together without kids and that has only happened once in the almost fifteen years we have been together. We spent a weekend away at a spa in 2014 after Daniel graduated with his master’s degree. We didn’t even go on a honeymoon when we were married. I hope to change that soon. I want to see the world with Daniel and I also want to show the world to my children so I hope to spend more time traveling with them. So far, we haven’t taken them very far from home but now that most of them are getting older, Daniel and I have been talking a lot about the places where we would like to take them.
In addition to traveling, there are so many other things I hope to accomplish over the next ten years. I have goals concerning everything thing from paying off debt to participating in a triathlon. I’ve always been a goal-setter and a fan of lists so I have created a list of things I plan to accomplish before I turn forty. I had a lot of fun creating this list and I am seriously considering creating a lifetime bucket list. I hope to document it here on the blog every time I cross one item off my lists! So, without further ado, here are the forty things I want to do before I turn forty!
40 Before 40
Pay off our debt. I’m looking at you student loans!
Become my own boss.
Buy myself a “fun” car that all my kids won’t fit in. (Camaro, please!)
Start swimming again. Maybe competitively.
Participate in a triathlon at least once.
Visit all 50 states. I’ve been to 25. 25 more to go!
Save a substantial amount of money.
Visit London and Paris with Daniel.
Go to Disney World.
Take my kids to the beach for the first time.
Visit Las Vegas with Daniel.
Go on an African safari.
See the pyramids in Egypt.
Visit forty countries.
See an active volcano.
Spend New Years in Times Square at least once.
Read 750 books.
Write a book.
Host an exchange student.
Go on a cruise.
Ride in a hot air balloon.
Go hiking in a rain forest.
Indoor sky dive.
Face my fear of open water and learn to scuba dive.
Eat at a Michelin 3-star restaurant.
Visit Moulin Rouge.
See the northern lights.
Go zip lining.
Diversify my income.
Get my nose pierced again.
Get a tattoo for each of my children.
Hike the Grand Canyon.
See a musical on Broadway and in West End.
Hold a sloth.
Bathe an elephant.
Learn to meditate and practice yoga effectively.
Learn a second language.
Say only yes to my kids for a whole day. Keep ‘no’ out of my vocabulary.
What else should I aim to accomplish over the next decade? I’m open to suggestions! Shoot me a comment below!
The topic of caring for disabled people is often one that is difficult to approach. It is often not easy on the caretaker or the patient but Jojo Moyes does an amazing job at exploring the many facets of the life of a disabled person and a caretaker in Me Before You. She easily pulls the reader in emotionally and makes you wonder what life would be like if you were facing the same circumstances. I found myself in love with both of the main characters. When they were sad, my heart was absolutely broken for them. When they were happy, I found myself rooting for them.
This book does often involve some pretty hard topics that most people have strong opinions about but I still found it to be a beautiful book. It is one that will probably affect you on an emotional level but I definitely think it is worth a read. Moyes writes well and her work is easy to read. I found myself not wanting to put this book down. Overall, I rated Me Before You four out of five stars. It’s a great book but be prepared to feel all the feels!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).
Wow! It has been almost a month since I have posted a blog entry. This past month has just been crazy and busy, but good!
My last blog post was on March 15 and I boarded a plane early the next morning to head to Italy! I had so much fun in Italy!
I visited Verona, Venice, Florence, Assissi, Pisa, and Rome. When life slows down a bit, I plan to share a couple of posts about what I did in Italy, what I ate, and my tips for traveling in Italy. For now, I’ll just leave with you some pictures!
When I returned from Italy, I jumped head first into finishing up grad school which is why I neglected the The French Lemon bit. I turned my last paper in this past Wednesday! One final and a seven-hour comprehensive exam at the end of April that stand between me and graduation! I’m so close but yet it still feels like so much work. I recently ordered my cap and gown so things are starting to feel real!
Spring sports are heating up! Jackson and Emily have both started soccer and Jackson is also playing baseball. Lauren and Emily are both still dancing three nights a week! There is a little over a month until the dance recital and I am so ready for it. It will be nice to have a break from dance classes in the evenings.
With all the activities, we are constantly on the go right now. Jackson and Emily both had their first soccer games this past Saturday…at the same time. I was trying to watch both fields and catch both of them playing! They both played well and were happy to be back on the field.
Harrison and Katherine are growing so fast! I can’t believe that they are going to be eight months old in just a couple of weeks. Both babies have two bottom teeth. Harrison is currently working on cutting his first top tooth. He also started crawling last week! Katherine doesn’t seem to have much interest in crawling just yet. Time slow down!
Guess what? Grad school has gotten close enough to wrapping up that I was able to take some time and read a book for pleasure! I had almost forgotten what that felt like! After I take my comprehensive exam on April 26, I plan to do quite a bit of reading and I can’t wait to share what I am reading with you!
Drop me a comment and tell me what you have been reading lately!
This time last year I was getting ready to head to England and France for Spring Break. The trip had been planned and paid for long before I knew I was pregnant with Harrison and Katherine. When I saw that first positive pregnancy test at the end of December, I experienced a moment of panic. I reminded myself that people travel while pregnant all the time. In mid-January, we found out that we were expecting twins and I, once again, got a little bit nervous about traveling. Two separate doctors gave me the okay to travel while pregnant with twins. At a little over 16 weeks pregnant, I hopped on a plane and took off. It was an awesome experience but I did learn a few things about traveling while pregnant.
What I Learned About Traveling While Pregnant
Get the okay from your doctor.
As long as you are healthy, haven’t experienced any complications in your pregnancy, and aren’t too far along, your doctor probably won’t have any problem with you traveling. However, it is still best to have that discussion with your doctor. According to the two doctors that I talked with, it is perfectly fine to travel well into the third trimester. If you are pregnant with twins or have had complications in your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend no traveling after 26 to 28 weeks. Only you and your doctor can make that decision so it is important to have that conversation.
Have your doctor provide you with a letter giving you medical clearance to fly.
Most airlines do not put any restrictions on pregnant passengers that are less than 28 weeks pregnant. However, once you hit 28 weeks (or look like you are 28 weeks) you may start getting some questions from airline staff. When you discuss your travel plans for your doctor ask for a letter that states how far along you are in your pregnancy, when you exact due date is, and that you are medically sound to fly. I requested a letter just like this even though I was only 16 and 17 weeks during my trip last year. Since I was carrying twins, I obviously looked like I was much farther along than that so I wanted to be sure that I had proof with me if any airline staff questioned me.
Be familiar with your airline’s policy for pregnant passengers.
Here’s the deal. There is no consistency to the restrictions that airlines place on pregnant passengers. Most airlines will let you travel without any questions or restrictions until 28 weeks. However, after that point, every airline has a different policy. Some airlines won’t let you travel past 32 weeks while others require a letter of clearance from your doctor after 36 weeks. Make sure you check the website for the airline you will be using to see what their policy is before you go.
Take nausea medication with you…even if you think you don’t need it.
With my first set of twins, I threw up all day every day for the entire pregnancy. Our second set of twins proved to be much kinder to me. I had very little morning sickness with Harrison and Katherine. Because I hadn’t really been sick, I didn’t think I would need any medication for travel sickness. Boy, was I wrong! I ended up feeling very nauseated on several of my flights and finally got sick in Paris. I highly recommend taking something with you whether it is a prescription medication from your doctor or an over-the-counter medication. Even if you don’t need it, it is better to have it on you just in case.
Pregnancy puts you at a higher risk for developing blood clots when flying. One of the best ways to prevent this is to make sure that you move regularly. If you are on a long flight, make sure that you get up at least once an hour and walk the aisle. Take a trip to the bathroom (you’re probably going to need to go anyway). Flex your feet and ankles while you are sitting. Use your feet to write the alphabet while sitting in your seat. I also recommend buying compression socks. These also helping with preventing the development of clots while flying. I bought and used these compression socks and loved them. They worked really well for me.
Be prepared to swell.
I always swell a bit when I travel but I wasn’t prepared for how swollen my feet were by the end of my trip. The compression socks that I mentioned earlier will help with swelling too. I also recommend taking shoes that are a bit forgiving such as canvas shoes or flip flops, weather permitting. I lived in a pair of the classic canvas TOMS on my trip last year. The canvas was forgiving enough that when my feet would swell my shoes didn’t cut into my feet. Also, make sure you have some room in your itinerary where you can stop and rest if your legs are too swollen.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Any time you travel you need make sure that you stay hydrated but it is especially important when you are pregnant. Drinking an adequate amount of water will help with travel sickness and swelling. One of the best ways to ensure that you are staying hydrated is by keeping water with you. I recommend this Camelbak water bottle. I like these because they come with a straw which makes it easy to drink out of without tilting the bottle up and they are also spill proof. The way the lid is designed on the Camelbak also allows me to use a carabiner to attach it to my back pack which is really helpful while traveling.
Grab a snack to go.
I am not a breakfast eater. Never have been but I really can’t stomach eating in the mornings when I’m pregnant. While traveling last year, I tried to force myself to eat breakfast every morning because I knew it could be a while before I got a chance to eat again. Forcing myself to eat breakfast when it is not something I usually do probably contributed to the nausea that I experienced in Paris. After spending a day vomiting and feeling terrible, I vowed not to make myself eat breakfast if I didn’t feel like it for the rest of the trip. That ended up being a great idea. However, I often found myself hungry before it was time for the next meal so I learned to keep some food in my purse. Grab some granola bars or another portable snack to keep with you at all times. Crackers are good options and can help if you feel nauseated.
Listen to your body.Remember to take it easy as needed. Listen to your body and rest if you need to. If yout fret are swelling and you’re exhausted, make sure that you squeeze some time in to rest.
Relax.You’re on vacation! Remember to slow down and relax. Traveling while pregnant is safe the majority of the time so relax and have fun!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).
I had really high hopes that March would be a bit easier on us than January and February. However, that is not proving to be true so far. Just four days into March and we have sick kids…again. Poor Lauren has had a headache and congestion all week. I’m pretty sure that it is a pretty terrible sinus infection. Early Friday morning, Emily woke Daniel and I up to let us know that she had thrown up in her bed. Daniel got her cleaned up and her bedding changed while I nursed Katherine. About fifteen minutes after we all were back in bed, Jackson came to our room to let us know that he had thrown up in his bed also. Needless to say, all five kids got to stay home from school with Dad on Friday.
Grad School Blues
Graduate school is officially kicking my rear. I started this degree in June of 2015 and plowed through every semester without feeling too stressed about any of this. This semester, however, has been awful. I have absolutely no motivation and I’m finding it difficult to get anything done. I have never struggled this much with any classes and I am barely getting anything read or done. Forget doing the research I desperately need to do. I have already checked out when it comes to grad school.
This week I received the information for my comprehensive exams that I will have to take (and pass) in April in order to be eligible for graduation. It was some overwhelming information. The test will end up being a seven hour commitment and it is pass or fail. It can cover ANYTHING from my coursework…two years of work. I’m not even sure how to prepare for this. Just praying to survive the rest of this semester. 69 days until graduation!
The Silver Lining
There is a little silver lining for March and the rest of this school year. First, I leave for Italy in 12 days! What?!? I seriously can’t wait. I need some travel time. Sometimes I feel trapped at home and traveling is such a breath of fresh air for me. Seeing how big the world is always makes me realize how insignificant most of my problems are. With everything weighing me down right now, I really need that perspective. Plus, there is cheese, pasta, and gelato. I may never come home.
Second, we signed Emily and Jackson up for soccer last week. Baseball sign-ups started this past Thursday and we signed Jackson up to play that as well. With the exception of football in the fall, I really love spring and summer sports. I look forward to baseball and swim team as much as the kids do. Jackson’s a bit nervous about baseball this year. He is moving up from t-ball to coach-pitch and he is terrified that he is going to get hit with the ball. Daniel has promised to practice with him a ton. Hopefully, it will be a good season for him.
The girls are wrapping up dance classes. Their recital will be in May. I honestly can’t wait. I usually really enjoy dance but with grad school it has felt really overwhelming this year. Three nights a week the girls are at the dance studio. I am so ready for a break from dance. Once the recital is over, we won’t have any dance related activities until August! Praise the Lord!
How’s your March going so far? What are you looking forward to this spring?
Hi! I’m Chelsea! I’m a mother of five, including two sets of twins! My children range in age from nine years old to four months old. I work full time and I am currently pursuing a graduate degree as well. I love to read, write, bake, craft, and travel. Our kids participate in a plethora of sports, everything from swim team to ballet. Our family is always on the go. People constantly ask me how we do it so I created The French Lemon to share (or maybe overshare) our lives with you.
My Vision for The French Lemon
I have blogged in the past. Most recently, I ran a book review blog at The Wordy Nerd Books. I love reading books and I always seem to have someone asking for a book recommendation. I started The Wordy Nerd in order to keep up with the books I’ve read but also to provide a quick review for those interested. I’ve loved sharing what I’m reading for the past few years but when I started graduate school in 2015 I really began to slack on reading anything for pleasure or posting any reviews.
I’m just starting my last semester of my graduate studies and have really felt the pull to begin blogging again. While I love sharing my own personal opinions on the books I read, I also want to share so much more so I chose to start The French Lemon. I envision The French Lemon being a creative outlet where I can share my favorite things, parenting tips I’ve picked up along the way, projects I’m completing as well as the books that I’m reading.
Follow Along on Our Adventures!
I hope that you will follow along with me as I share what we’re doing, what we’re eating, what we’re reading, and how we are not only surviving but thriving as a family of seven! You can subscribe via Bloglovin’ by clicking that “Follow” button on the right!