Arrivederci!

Bye Italy!

We’re back in London now. The flowers bloomed in Mecklenburgh Square while we were away. Boys have just finished their dinner and are now being nagged to finish the remaining worksheets of their spring break homework. Someone left a bunch of flowers on our door, which I’ll try to grow over the next week(s).

Boys will be heading back to school tomorrow while I’ll be heading back to the library. KL will also be hitting the books because he has one major exam coming up (two major medical exams in London) at the end of this month.

Vatican City

We were at Vatican City today. We spent more than six hours exploring the museums because there was so much to see (which got overwhelming after a while). Jostling with the crowds to get into the Sistine Chapel was no joke. T doesn’t really like crowds and was quite miserable when we were being squeezed and squashed. As usual, we counted on the audio guides to keep the boys occupied. The audio guide came with a treasure hunt sort of map and K was very serious in finding every piece of art of the map. While finding the art, the children left the adults with a lot of time looking through the collections ourselves.

However, after the museums, we had very little time left to walk around the rest of Vatican City. Only half an hour to see the crazy crowd at St Peter’s Square and then we had to leave to get our dinner.

Exploring Rome

We’re back in Rome! Bus and subway drivers are on strike today. We walked more than two hours to get to the attractions we wanted to see (and to get back). Boys were of course complaing about being tired and hungry, especially at the end of the day, but we kept them walking with ice cream treats and occasionally carrying T!

The sights we covered today were the Roman National Museum, Fountain Trevi, Trajan’s Column and Pantheon. We spent quite some time at the Pantheon because K wanted to sit down and draw the interior. He’s really into drawing these days.

Oplontis

Third day in a row that we’re visiting yet another archaeological site that was buried in the 79AD eruption. This time round, it’s a villa that is believed to belong to the second wife of Emperor Nero. The villa rooms were huge and impressive! There was also a huge pool found in this particular villa. There are many surrounding areas that remain unexcavated. It won’t be surprisingly if one day, archaeologists discover yet more sites. Maybe then, I’ll be back again for another visit many many years later.

Glad there are no complaints from the boys as they followed me about for days to do what I liked =)

In other news, T didn’t puke today because he ate very safe gelato flavours. But he fell and cut his fingers at Oplotis. Other than puking almost every other day on this trip, he also had a nosebleed a few days ago. Grrrrrrrr, this little boy had so many problems in this trip!

Herculaneum

Today was another awesome day. We spent four hours walking around the ruins of Herculaneum, another ancient city that was buried like Pompeii on 24 August 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Herculaneum was buried under hotter and faster flowing gas/rock, so even organic material like wood and skeletons were found at this excavation site.

We managed to cover the entire site because it’s very small, whereas we only covered 50 – 60% of the Pompeii site yesterday. Herculaneum used to be wealthier than Pompeii so the houses had more lavish colouring. Other than pretending to sell food, the boys were kept very occupied by their audio guides which came in both adult and children versions.

T puked again today. Sighzzzz….so much puking in this trip. He puked from vanilla ice cream that he ate in the morning. We’ve tried more than twenty flavours of gelato ice cream on this trip already. Vanilla is something he usually doesn’t have trouble with, but this shop’s vanilla has egg ingredients, and somehow he couldn’t tolerate it well and puked everything out. Anyway, the vanilla ice cream tasted very very good, one of the best vanilla ice creams I’ve ever eaten. We went back to the same shop in the afternoon to try their other gelato flavours and their desserts. They’re all so good that we are most likely going to back tomorrow again to try even more flavours! Of course, no more vanilla for T!

Pompeii

Today was the most awesome day ever. We spent five hours waking around the ruins of Pompeii. The entire city was, like the history textbooks say, amazingly well preserved by the volcanic ash.

I have read to the boys a few books about Pompeii (when we were back in Singapore) and T is always terrified whenever I suggest visiting Pompeii because he thinks the volcano will suddenly erupt when we are here. Anyway the volcano didn’t erupt today, and he said he enjoyed the visit. He said he thought it was going to be “spooky and scary” with everything buried underground, but it wasn’t like that at all. At bedtime tonight, we read another book about Pompeii that we bought at the tourist bookshop and T used his map to plan a route that he would take to escape out of the town. But before he slept, he told me adamantly that he would NOT ever visit Pompeii in his life again. He thinks the volcano may erupt again when he’s an adult.

It’s a surreal feeling to be visiting Pompeii after having read about the city for so many years. We visited the Colosseum last week and K said some buildings reminded him of the Colosseum. But to me, Pompeii was a hundred or even a thousand times more awesome than the Colosseum. There’s so much to see in Pompeii and endless things to imagine when you’re walking along the street and weaving though the buildings. K pretended he was a cook, a baker, a shopkeeper, and even a gladiator. T pretended he was a student and a customer at all the shops that his brother was in (although he kept requesting for food that won’t be available in the first century AD)!

Sorrento

We’re in Sorrento now! It’s a very popular tourist destination that overlooks the Bay of Naples. We took a 130 minute scenic ferry ride to get here. T puked out his entire breakfast on the ferry ride. So did I. K felt queasy and almost wanted to puke a couple of times, but didn’t because he managed to nap instead. I totally didn’t pay attention to the scenery because it was so uncomfortable …

The alternative to the ferry is to take a local bus or shuttle service that’s also about 2 hours along narrow roads that thread along the cliffs. A few days later, we will have to make a journey back to Salerno again. Just thinking about it is vomit inducing!

Lots of orange and lemon trees spotted along the street here. We bought one to try, the flash was orangey red and sweet! Only K eats oranges with us. T doesn’t particularly like them except to suck the juice off (which is very messy).

We had dinner along the touristy belt just now. The cafe we ate in was so pretty, service was so exemplary (apparently service is good all around in Sorrento) but food was so bleah. I am very sure that it was the worst linguine I ate in Italy so far. KL is surfing tripadvisor now to make sure we pick better eating places tomorrow!

Salerno

We took two trains from Orvieto to get to Salnero, a city by the Almafi Coast. We’re stopping over here for a night. After leaving our bags at our B&B, we walked around the old town, walked along the coast, stopped by a small beach and visited a local fun fair. The city is gritty, and it’s very interesting to see another slice of Italy. It’s so different from the idyllic countryside we’ve experienced over the past few days!

K was very impressed with the breakfast that our host served. He said that it’s better than a hotel breakfast because you can watch TV and eat breakfast at the same time. Unfortunately when we travel, there is usually a TV in the room/apartment and because it’s a holiday, we do allow them to watch TV. As a result, the boys have been watching a trashy Italian children’s cartoon channel for more than a week already.

Underground city in Orvieto

FotorCreatedItaly15On our final day in Orvieto, we checked out the underground city that actually mirrors the above ground city. We visited two public caves and were told on our tour that there are over a thousand caves in the city that are private and sitting underneath people’s homes. These caves were used in the past as olive oil workshops, pigeon rearing places, and even bomb shelters (WWII).

FotorCreatedItaly16One last memorable thing about Orvieto, people here take their midday siesta really seriously. All shops close, even tourist information office, banks, tour sites etc. The streets are empty between 1 plus to 3 plus, where everyone is presumably home to get their lunch and catch a nap …

Arezzo

FotorCreatedItaly13We took a day trip by train to Arezzo, a city in Tuscany. We walked around the historic old town and visited a lot of churches. We had ice cream in the city square, and for the first time in our trip, K had an allergic reaction from the sorbet. Maybe there was some milk accidentally added to his cup. He was so uncomfortable for an hour after he ate it, and finally after puking everything out in a park, he started to get better. T is seen here devouring a slice of margherita pizza. He loves margherita pizza to bits and eats a slice for lunch almost every day in Italy.

FotorCreatedItaly14Arezzo is a very pretty city, and totally off the beaten track because we only saw a handful of Italian tourists beside ourselves. I think we haven’t seen a lot of Asians for many days in a row already….except the people in our family of course! We visited the local park for the boys to play and the view from the park was quite awesome. The sky in this part of Italy is soooooo pretty and blue!

Disastrous journey to Bagnoregio

FotorCreatedItaly11 We rented a car this morning. It was a disastrous journey. We received a huge car and because KL is not very used to the left hand drive system, he hit the right hand mirror within half an hour of the journey! We took a scenic route to Bagnoregio (our destination) … meaning we have to drive through meandering roads on the countryside. But T couldn’t tolerate all the twists and turns and puked TWICE. It was horrible. Even K complained that his tummy ached. I decided we shouldn’t drive anymore because T might continue to puke and with the country roads being so tiny, I didn’t want KL to scratch the car again. We were supposed to rent it for three days to drive around central Italy. But I made him return the car and just pay for the side mirror damage. He’s going to have to plan other things to do for the next two days we’re here =(

FotorCreatedItaly12 Oh, and we didn’t reach our final destination. After returning the car, we took the funicular, ate pizza, went to a local park, ate ice cream and went home to cook dinner. We tried nine flavours of gelato ice cream on our trip so far!

Orvieto

FotorCreatedItaly8 We’ve just arrived in Orvieto for the second leg of our holiday! Orvieto is a tiny city that sits on top of a large volcanic rock. We are living in a holiday home that oversees the surrounding lowlands and the view is quite awesome. This entire city is quite ulu, and it feels more like a town than a city actually. Internet connection is slow, there is no money changing services at the city centre, and the local museum has no English explanations to the exhibits.

FotorCreatedItaly9 For all its ulu-ness, the city actually has a very rich papal history. The cathedral, built in the late Middle Ages, was quite an impressive building. I especially liked the zebra striped walls because I’ve never seen a cathedral like that before.

FotorCreatedItaly10 And K turns eight years old today! KL bought him a Roman soldier and a yoyo from the street. K also had a happy meal from Macs on the train ride to Orvieto. And we entertained him with random outbursts of the happy birthday song, which made him quite happy. Of course, T isn’t so glad it’s not his birthday so he would babble rubbish whenever we’re singing.

Colosseum

FotorCreatedItaly4 We visited the Colosseum today. It’s huge, I didn’t expect it to be so big but it could house 50,000 – 80,000 people in it’s heyday. We bought tickets in advance so only had to queue thirty minutes to get in. The queue would have been much longer if we had gone in the Easter weekend. T didn’t like us to remind him that it was Emperor Titus who finished building the Colosseum. He didn’t want to share the same name as any emperor or gladiator.

FotorCreatedItaly5 In other yucky news, T puked out his entire dinner and desert. He had bulgogi + rice for dinner and a strawberry ice cream dessert. He complained of a tummy ache about 30 – 45 minutes after the dessert, and picked out a lot of pink rice, yikes!!!! Luckily most landed inside the toilet bowl so there wasn’t too much to clean up. Don’t know if it was an allergic reaction (nuts?) to the dessert or he simply ate too much.

Explora Children’s Museum

FotorCreatedItaly6We had a fun day at Explora il Museo dei Bambini in Rome. Or rather, the boys had a fun day at this children’s museum and the adults just tagged along because it was raining the entire day and we couldn’t do anything outdoors. At this museum, children could pretend they are shopping in a supermarket, pretend to cook, pretend to drive a fire engine, etc. What K reeeeeally liked was pretending that he was earning money. It made him so happy to accumulate more than €300 by servicing cars, cycling to deliver parcels and matching dna pairings in a lab. He’s always thinking about earning money, but too bad he has to wait till he’s about fourteen before taking on part time jobs outside.

FotorCreatedItaly7T enjoyed servicing cars very much too, especially running around to pump air into the tyres and topping up the water in the engine. He spent a lot of his earned money on rowing lessons! At the end of two hours, he was sooooo physically exhausted that he couldn’t walk and had to be carried to the train station.

Ostia Antica

FotorCreatedItaly2 We visited the large archaeological site Ostia Antica today. This was the harbour city of ancient Rome around 7th Century BC, and the site is amazingly well preserved because the basic structure of many buildings are still left standing. We spotted many painted works on the walls, mosaic patterns on the floors and the odd sculpture here and there. FotorCreatedItaly3The entire site was like a huge maze and the boys had a whale of a time trying to hide from us in the ancient housing compounds.

Ciao!

FotorCreatedItaly1It’s spring break! School is out for two weeks and we’re in Italy now. Although it’s peak period for traveling (Easter break, school holiday, bank holiday), we didn’t have trouble with crowds at the airport, flight was smooth and T didn’t puke. Now that we’re arrived in Italy, I actually have NO idea what we’re going to be doing for the next two weeks because KL was the one who single handedly planned the holiday. I don’t even know which cities we will visit, lol! I just hope to eat a lot of pizza and try many flavours of gelato ice cream on this trip!

8th Birthday Celebration in School!

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K is turning 8 next week! He celebrated in school yesterday with his friends. It was a simple celebration where his classmates sang a birthday song for him and he handed out goodie bags. I gave him a £1 per head budget to use for the celebration. He decided to forgo the cake and food and use the £21 he has to get a nice goodie bag for everyone. He chose the items from Amazon himself, packed the bags, and labelled everything a few days ago. He was quite pleased that his classmates liked the bouncy balls, dinosaur gliders and Hotwheel cars. Girls who didn’t receive the cars in their bag simply went home with more of the other items.

Bits and pieces of March 2015

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With March being gone, I’ve completed 2/3 of my program. All the taught classes have ended and I’m looking forward to handing in my final essay this week before heading off for a holiday with the boys.

T has outgrown TWO pairs of school shoes while we’re in London. It’s compulsory for them to wear black leather shoes to school everyday, so I’ve had to fork out quite a bit of money to buy their shoes (£ 25 – 35 per pair). Oh well, at least these shoes are very comfortable so the boys are happy to wear them out on weekends and on holidays too.

Was at a supermarket in Chinatown the other day, and contemplated getting a dragonfruit because both K and myself eat it. But walked closer and saw the insane price … £8.39 per kg, lol! I am so not eating it till I get back to Singapore later this year.

Teaching the boys Chinese is the TOUGHEST thing that we’ve had to do here in London. There are no suitable enrichment classes for them to keep up with the language, so we’ve had to come in to fill up the gap. It’s tough for me because my Chinese is rather mediocre, K is finding it hard to remember what he’s learnt in Singapore, T is refusing to speak the language, and there are so many things to do with my time than to teach Chinese =(

Meals in March 2015

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Can’t believe it’s the end of March already. Time flies! Nothing really special in the boys’ meals this month. K is eating his veg but T is still refusing to eat greens. The only green thing he eats in his life now is avocado, so I make sure he eats a lot of them every week. I’ve submitted most of my assignments for this semester so I have more time on hand to cook meals. For breakfast/supper, I sometimes give them alphabet cereal with a funny message slipped in.

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For the adults, we’ve had prata for a few dinners because we found ready made pratas at our nearby supermarket. I also tried making my own seafood pie (from store made sauce and ready mash) and that turned out quite decent!

South Carriage Drive Playground

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T is still slightly clumsy and poor at climbing. It’s our second time at this particular playground and he still doesn’t dare to attempt this rope structure, which is actually not that high and not that difficult. At first he just sat there and sulked because he couldn’t get over to the other side. But after a lot of verbal encouragement, and some physical help from K, he decided to climb over very slowly …. he even needed instructions from us on how to turn. But it made him supremely happy when he was praised by everyone for getting across!

Birds at Hyde Park … again

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Another visit to Hyde Park over the weekend to feed the birds. This is turning out to be an activity the boys really enjoy. The birds here are very used to being around people and there was this duck who was literally following the boys around as they dropped food on the ground (can be seen twice in the collage above).

£0 haircuts

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I’ve been cutting the boys’ hair myself. K had a haircut last month and T had a haircut today. They get a very straight fringe because that’s the ONLY style I know how to cut!

I zoomed in on K in the last pic because he dropped a front tooth today. This is the fourth baby tooth that dropped. He’s a realist who doesn’t believe in santas and tooth fairies, but he’s pretending that he does anyway, because he wants KL to leave a coin under his pillow tonight.

Birds at Hyde Park

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When we visited Hyde Park yesterday, we brought along a few slices of bread to feed the birds. There are so many of them around the lake! Swans, geese, pigeons …. etc. It was quite a fun afternoon activity and the boys plan to visit again next week with more bread.

Yellow Daffodils!

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We were at Hyde Park today. Yellow daffodils are starting to bloom everywhere! T said they’re very beautiful. He said a highlight of his park visit was going through the flower maze (meaning to walk through the patch of flowers without stepping on a single one).

Solar eclipse

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There was a solar eclipse this morning, and the school gathered everyone (parents invited) to watch the eclipse on screen. T’s class sang a song before the screening, and there were some pupils who demonstrated how an eclipse happens. Alas, London wasn’t plunged into darkness at all. The cloud cover was so thick that it looked just like another ordinary wintery windy morning when the eclipse was at its height.

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Ironically, the clouds started clearing soon after the eclipse and throughout the day, it remained super sunny. I picked up two pairs of special glasses near a trash bin at Regent’s Park on my weekly jog, discarded probably by disappointed eclipse watchers. The boys were very pleased to be able to see the sun directly for the first time using their special glasses after school!

Eating and Playing with Papa

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Found a lot of pics on KL’s phone. The three of them sometimes eat without me on weekdays when I have evening classes or stay in the library late.

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The three of them also play quite a lot without me on some weekdays. In fact, some of these pics I am seeing for the first time myself. There are two playrooms and a children’s library in our college, and KL has been regularly bringing them there to play. KL’s also the one who’s responsible for taking care of the boys on Wednesday evenings when they have their piano lessons. He sits in with T sometimes … and T likes to bring his drum sticks to his piano lessons so that he can learn rhythm through the drums instead of the piano.

HMS Belfast

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We visited the HMS Belfast today, a battleship that has fought in both WWII and the Korean War. There were many decks and rooms to explore, and A LOT of ladders to climb. K complained about the smell on the lower decks, while T had trouble going up and down some of the ladders with his short legs. Otherwise, it was quite a nice weekend family activity.

It was rainy and windy on the upper decks, so I definitely had more fun on the lower decks. There were rooms like the sick bay, dentist’s office, bakery, punishment cell …. etc. Tons of realistic wax figures on board the ship as well, so much so that I sometimes had to think for a few seconds to decide if I’m seeing a real person real person or not.