Travelling the world – 4 weeks to go

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Wow, time is really flying by. It doesn’t seem long ago that I was writing the 4 months to go update and here we are with just under 4 weeks to go. Its all getting rather real now. Are we ready? Not really – I’m not sure you can ever be fully ready for such a massive undertaking. What we are is a mixture of excited, apprehensive and stupidly busy!

Our thoughts turned a few weeks ago to all the jobs that we have to get done here and packing, yes, finally packing, hoorah! Anyone that knows me well will know that I don’t tend to think about packing for a holiday until the day before, as long as all the clothes are washed and clean we can just choose and go. Well, packing for a year is somewhat different and has been on my mind for several weeks now!

So, our plan is to follow the sun for a year, which makes things a little easier – no heavy jackets or multiple layers, hats, scarves or gloves to think about. The idea is to pack light with only the essentials, but I will be working and we will be teaching our boys as we go, so computers and chargers are a must. There will be cameras, phones, tablets, books, pens, pencils, water bottles (and those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head) to add to the minimal clothes, flip flops, trainers and walking boots!

I have been scouring RTW trip packing lists. You wouldn’t believe how many there are on the internet – for men, for women, for specific locations, for families with young kids, for families with older kids – so there is no shortage of information out there and this one from Travel Fashion Girl is one of my favourites. I think I’ve finally identified the essentials.

The boys have had their vaccines (Dougie and I have ours on Monday), passports are all ready, medical insurance is booked, we have flights booked all the way to Costa Rica, the first 11 days accommodation is booked, as is an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Shampoo bars arrived in a very special delivery (thank you Donna, it was so good to see you!).

Another important delivery for us is arriving in just a couple of weeks when my brother comes to visit – 2 water filtering bottles that remove 99.999% of bacteria and viruses. They didn’t come cheap (although we did manage to get them in the sale) but given we are travelling in South East Asia for 5 months where tap water isn’t always safe to drink, added to the fact that I don’t want to add to the worlds ever growing plastic pollution problem by being reliant on bottled water, I think it’s an investment worth making. A lot of research and we finally opted for this one LifeStraw® Go 2-Stage.

Next steps are to organise digital school books and now actually buy/not buy all the items I have been jotting down over the last few months that ‘might be useful’. As with everything, getting the right things for our family’s needs without blowing the budget or going over the top is taking some time to research and I can hear the clock slowly ticking away.

We have started boxing up the clothes and personal items we won’t be taking with us, ready to put in storage – our house sitters arrive on 1st September. We’ve fitted a new roof on the wood shed, finished tiling the utility area, but still have a hundred and one little…or not so little…jobs to do – painting, plastering, staining wooden furniture. All whilst still spending time growing, jarring, drying and freezing our this years abundant crop of fruit and veg, looking after the garden, running the apartment rental and slowly saying goodbye to friends and family that we won’t be seeing for a while!

One thing is for certain though, on the 7th September we will be taking one of the most exciting flights of our lives, ready to live an amazing adventure for a year no matter how prepared or unprepared we might be…I can’t wait!

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Travelling the World – 4 months to go

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Today is a really important day. We now have less than four months until we head off on our ‘Once in a Lifetime Trip’ and we have been quietly busy planning and organising on and off for the last few months. “Why is today so important?” you might be wondering. Because today people, our request for HomeSchooling for a year has officially been accepted – Eeek! I’m not sure why, but this one thing makes the whole trip seem more real to me.

So, as a result, I thought it was about time for an update. We officially leave Italy at 1.55 p.m. on Friday 7th September and we fly directly to Bangkok where we will have just under 4 months in South-East Asia. The plan is to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia in those four months and from there we fly from Kuala Lumpur to Denpasar Bali to visit Indonesia (Bali and East Java) for a month.

The next leg takes us to Cairns in North East Australia, where our we intend to make our way down the East Coast to Melbourne (possibly with an internal flight between Cairns and Brisbane – that bit isn’t quite decided) whilst swimming, surfing, snorkelling and visiting some old friends along the way. Then we fly from Melbourne to Christchurch. The plan is we have four weeks to discover the South and North Islands of New Zealand…and yes, again catch up with some old friends along the way!

So, you may have noticed that I have said ‘the plan is to have four weeks…’ this is because up until our flight into Christchurch all flights are booked and confirmed. We should be leaving Auckland and flying to Hawaii four weeks after we land in Christchurch, but we are waiting for the flight to confirm…it should be any day now!

We have to wait a little while longer now to confirm our next few flights but the intended itinerary goes a little like this:

Hawaii – Costa Rica

Costa Rica – Mexico

Mexico – California

California – New Orleans

Toronto – Lisbon

Lisbon – Rome (September 6th 2019!)

Thanks to the good people at Travel Nation, who specialise in Round The World Travel,  and who have been looking after us in this adventure, the stress of booking flights has been taken away from us and they have been on hand with loads of advice whenever we ask…thank you!

So, moving on to where we will be staying. The questions that have kind of surprised me most and that I’ve been asked by lots of people are “Have you booked all your accommodation? Where are you staying?” and the short answers to these are “No!” and “We don’t entirely know yet”. To be honest, booking a years worth of accommodation for a family of four is somewhat daunting. We have looked at and are still looking at all kinds of options – couch surfing, house sitting, work away, hotels, hostels, airbnbs, camping and it will effectively come down how we can make our budget go further for us.

We have confirmed some bits though – we’ve booked our first few nights in Bangkok so that we know where we are going when we take our first intrepid steps off the plane. We’ve booked a few nights in one of the National Parks that we want to visit, a few hours outside of Bangkok, where accommodation is limited. Then, to be sure that we have somewhere reasonably nice to stay, we have booked an apartment for Christmas and a lovely little Balinese villa for New Year – they will be our two accommodation splashouts of the year at the hefty price of between £30 and £50 per night for four! It doesn’t sound much, I know, but given that we have a daily budget of £100 a day for four, which has to include flights, insurance, accommodation, food and drink, travel, excursions, activities and any other costs you can think of during a year of travelling, £50 a night for four beds is verging on the over extravagant!

So, what else have we done? We’ve found house sitters to look after our house, apartment rental, dog and chickens, we’ve dowloaded maps of each country and identified some of the things that we don’t want to miss on our way, we’ve researched all the visa requirements, we’ve asked the doctor about any necessary vaccines, we’re in the process of getting one of our passports renewed as it wouldn’t have seen us quite through the whole year (and it didn’t seem fair to send Josh back to Italy on his own 2 months before us – lol!) and we’ve applied and been granted homeschooling permission.

And the rest, my friends, is still to be seen, but keep reading and we’ll keep you posted – and all of my friends dotted around the globe, if we’re in your area we’ll come knocking on your door…

Gorgeous Garden Goodies!

I can’t quite believe May is looming…I don’t know where time is going to, we never seem to stop and there always seems so much to do. The garden has continued producing throughout the winter and we are still enjoying last seasons garlic and onions with our homemade passata, which oozes summer freshness when you open it. With our pasta machine, we can have tagliatelle made from scratch with our sauce from our own organic ingredients.

We are slowly using up our stock of beans in the freezer and we still have some frozen cherries and blackberries and jars of peaches to be used before this year’s crop sprouts, not to mention the pots of fig, pear and cherry jam that we made last summer (mainly thanks to our friend Claire’s glut as a late frost took a lot of our fruit buds) that have seen us through the winter months.

The salad garden is looking a little less healthy – note to self: find time to plant seeds –  but fresh herbs in abundance and rocket, lettuce, spinach are starting to sprout. This years onions plants are looking strong and healthy. The cane sticks are in and seedlings of tomatoes ready to be planted out. The fruit trees have all blossomed and are bearing the beginnings of their fruit. May for cherries, June for strawberries & raspberries, July & August for plums & peaches, September & October for Apples & Pears ( not that we will see the apples and pears this year!).

Next stop: planting the corn, green beans, borlotti beans, potatoes and anything else that comes to mind. Looking forward to a delicious summer full of fruit and veg goodness ahead!

What are you planting in your garden for eating fresh this summer?

12 things to do in Abruzzo with kids for the 12 days of Christmas – Day 3

Take to Two Wheels…

Abruzzo is the land of dramatic mountain landscapes and nature. What better way to explore it more thoroughly than to take to the bikes. The Peligna Valley is a regular stage stopping / starting point for the Giro d’Italia, but you don’t have to be a professional hill cyclist to enjoy the amazing scenery. The valley, surrounded by mountains,  has an abundance of easy, quiet roads and tracks that are perfect for kids to tackle. They take you alongside rivers, through vineyards and olive groves, past small traditional villages. In addition, the local Sulmona branch of the Italian cycling federation (FIAB) Bicincontriamoci have mapped out more than 100km of cycle paths around the Peligna Valley that through a nifty app can be downloaded directly to your phone. Enjoy your ‘pedalata’ in nature’s playground!

12 things to do in Abruzzo with kids for 12 days of Christmas – Day 2

Snuggle Up by the Fire…

Today is a bit of a miserable day. We can’t complain, our valley has probably had about 5 days of rain in over 6 months. The snow is falling higher up on the mountains, so all our snowy activities will be beckoning in a day or so, once the clouds clear away. But today is the perfect day to snuggle up with my boys by the log burner, open those Christmas chocolates and watch an epic Christmas film. As we are all a bit Harry Potter mad in this house today’s choice was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. A perfect afternoon!

12 Things to do in Abruzzo with kids for 12 days of Christmas – Day 1

Go Walking…

With so many small tracks and paths to explore around the Peligna Valley get yourselves wrapped up, enjoy the fresh air, the snowy mountain scenery and put your best foot forward. There are so many trails you can walk for as many or as few kilometres as you want and you might even be able to take a picture on the (nearly) disused railway.

 

Then back home for a classic Italian Ciobar hot chocolate and some of those Christmas goodies we all love!

Hiking (some of) the Gran Sasso Massif with kids

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Having two active boys means our outdoorsy family are always looking for adventures and, in our book, you can’t get much more adventurous than climbing really high mountains. Early in August, as the intense Lucifero heatwave swept through central Italy, we headed high up into the Appenines to try and find some cool air and have an adventure along the way.

Corno Grande – the Appenines highest mountain stands at 2912m a.s.l. One big piece of rock with a west, east and central peak she dominates the Abruzzo skyline and can be seen for miles around.  She’s just as impressive close up. This time we weren’t going to the summit though, we were keeping Corno Grande in our sights as we took in another peak in the Gran Sasso range Monte Portella at 2385m.

 

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The trail we chose starts on Campo Imperatore, the largest Alpine meadow plateau of the Apennine ridge, known locally as little Tibet. It’s a great starting point for kids because it’s already at approx 2000m which means your walk doesn’t have to be too arduous but you get to take in some significant peaks. You can drive up to Campo Imperatore and there is plenty of parking space, alternatively if you want to add to the adventure there is a cable car from Assergi to Campo Imperatore (which we have also taken before).

An easy single track, the path skirts the mountainside and offers up incredible views over the mountains and valleys below that even impressed the 8 and 10 year old (that’s saying something!). You then reach a natural saddle and turn up to the right before hitting the steeper part of the climb. The beauty of this path is that although it is steep in parts, the steep parts are fairly short and easy enough for the kids to handle.

After the short, sharp climb you meander onwards and upwards until you reach Monte Portella – stopping at the cairn for a photo opportunity.

Then it’s an easy down, up, down on to the traditional mountain hut Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi at 2388m for a welcome pit stop and refreshments.

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Once you’re fully revived you continue past the rifugio and head directly for Corno Grande, again the path is not too steep or difficult, but is narrow in places. You come to a junction at the saddle of Monte l’Aquila where the path is then sign posted back to the Hotel at Campo Imperatore, about another 30 minute walk down to the plateau.20621014_10156424176858709_3164057443823252708_n

A little bit of History

Before heading off take a look at the hotel on the Campo Imperatore plateau, it has witnessed a significant moment in Italy’s history. After the deposition and ensuing arrest of Benito Mussolini in July 1943, Mussolini was moved around Italy by his captors and by September 1943 he was being held prisoner in the hotel on Campo Imperatore. A bold rescue, ordered personally by Adolf Hitler, was made by German commandos and paratroopers in a daring glider mission on September 12th 1943. Italian troops were taken by surprise and overwhelmed by the German forces, Mussolini was rescued and flown out of Campo Imperatore into Rome, and then on to Vienna.

Our hints and tips

As with any hike in the mountains, take plenty of water and don’t be shy with the suncream, it may feel cooler up high but the sun is just as strong, if not stronger (those of you that ski will know what I mean!)

Check the weather forecast before you go, take layers and raincoats. Mountain weather has a tendency to change at the drop of a hat and there is nothing worse than cold, wet kids – it tends to take the fun out of things.

After an afternoon walk in the Gran Sasso we like to stop at Cherry Pizzeria in Paganica. It’s rustic and not much to look at from the outside, but it serves great pizza at incredibly good prices. It doesn’t matter if you head in still in your walking gear – it’s not the kind of place that you need to dress up for. It’s nice to be able to sit back and relax knowing that you’ve worked hard for that pizza you are about to consume!

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