In total, Emily and I visited 11 countries and many more cities and towns. Cody's country count is a little different, and he has some interesting stories. I hope he writes them down soon.
Travelling with Emily has been a blast. I always imagined if I had a chance to live here, I would buy a rail pass and just go. I would read language books in between cities. I would stay in hostels, and drink good wine every night with people I met along the way.
What I actually experienced has been so much more rewarding. For all the things that are closed for me as a parent of a small child, I was not about to let travel be one of them. Why would I? Our European experience then was the family version, but it was no less adventurous. We were able to focus on the most important sights for mine and Cody's interests and Emily's cultural benefit. Through much trial and error, I learned a lot about what I can do with some planning, good hotel deals, and more than a little nerve. I hope I can pass that on to Emily, and that she isn't held back by anything. I hope she studies abroad, takes a backpacking trip, anything, anywhere, and that spirit carries on into her everyday life.
Emily has definitely picked up some European habits. She thinks nothing of using a bidet (the butt sink, as we call it), eating cold cuts and kaiser rolls for breakfast in Germany, and prefers to crowd in with the Italians and sit up at the bar when we stop off for a brioche (eating on the run is the surest way to spot an American).
Our Italian experience has been been a lot of things: beautiful, maddening, and educational among them. I learned more Italian than I ever thought I would. Where Germans speak not just English, but better English than native speakers, Italians are rarely fluent unless they deal with tourists constantly. Since we lived outside the city, learning key phrases was especially important. After almost two years and some previous experience with romantic languages, reading simple things and listening to basic conversations is easy enough. I picked up a ton of vocabulary words and can order food and ask for shoes in my size. A spontaneous conversation isn't going to happen, and I had to make several trips to the translator for tedious phone calls. But I have improved.
Of the other things I learned about Italy: I learned how to spot a Palladian villa a kilometer away. I learned through glares that putting on gloves to shop for produce is not, in fact, optional. I learned how to not freak out about other people's kids, and can see pretty clearly American busybody parenting is the real problem; children here rarely if ever wear bike helmets. Parents zooming through busy roundabouts with a bare-headed tyke in the bike seat now seems so commonplace it doesn't even register. I learned Italians are resourceful gardeners, a necessary skill in a country where food is tiny and expensive. I learned how to schedule my day around the riposo and memorized the seemingly random opening hours of various businesses.
This has been the experience of a lifetime, no doubt. We are already plotting our return. I was asked by a friend where I would live or visit again if given the opportunity. Dutchies are some of the nicest people I've encountered. Amsterdam is beautiful and I don't have it out of my system yet. I want to see much more of the Netherlands in the future. As far as where I would live, the obvious answer for a hopeless anglophile like me is England. I would move there tomorrow and never leave. Can I move there tomorrow?
Thank you so much to everyone who came out to see us, and for the friends here who made it so fun and memorable.
Here is an assortment of pictures from Italy that didn't make it into the blog. And so concludes our grand tour.
Villa Capra, Vicenza
Torri di Quartesolo
Our special day out in Verona