Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Feast of the 3 Kings.. yet another Christmas?!?!?

January 5-6 marked the feast of the 3 Kings (Los Reyes), recognizing the arrival of the magis bearing gifts for baby Jesus. This is a special time for Spanish children as it is traditionally when gifts are exchanged. While the Spaniards also celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, it is more a time for big meals with family and friends and very few if any gifts are exchanged. This year, our kids got to experience both Santa and Los Reyes. Yesterday in the marina there was a big town celebration marking the arrival of the 3 Kings on a fishing boat (apparently to tie to spirit of a coastal fishing village?). Each king was accompanied by an entourage of brightly decorated soldiers and revelers, loaded up with baskets of candy (caramelos) to toss out to the children who lined up along the streets. The kings got off their boats and mounted big white horses and the procession began its march into town, followed by the omnipresent town band and fireworks. After the parade, we headed home, where the kids laid out their shoes on the patio and placed a carrot in each one to feed the Kings' camels (or in this case- horses). In exchange, the Kings left gifts for the kids which turned out to more than fill their shoes! Our kids were delighted to wake up to yet another pile of wrapped gifts on the floor, which included gifts from their uncles, grandparents and cousins (things that we had no room for in Italy). It is safe to say that after 4 1/2 months, we have now accumulated a veritable cornucopia of toys for the kids for which we have no idea how will all get back to the states. And we still have several birthday parties coming this month! AAArrrggghhh! Thanks to the generosity of relatives and parental enthusiasm to honor both traditions of Christmas, we find our kids muttering; "crisis... what crisis???"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Conquering Montgo - My Turn!

Hi I'm Kellen and this is how I conquered Montgo, I woke up in the morning and went to my dad's room and woke him up and he said 'Get back to bed!' But I really wanted to go, because Christian conquered Montgo. It made me sad that I didn't go - he got binoculars and a big celebration and it was like a birthday party. Mommy wanted to go too, but she was too tired. So daddy and I went. We walked down a road that we called "Medusa" because from up high the road looked like a witch with hairs coming out of her head. The road had dog poo on it and a lot of puddles on it too. I asked daddy if I could take a picture of it but in the end I decided I wouldn't. I felt scared to climb Montgo because it was going to be the first mountain I ever climbed and I didn't have any practice. We started climbing and found a map that was pretty big. As we got closer to the top, it was very rocky and they called this part the "backbone of the beast". I told daddy that it wasn't a beast - it was an elephant. When we were lower on the mountain it wasn't as rocky. I was getting tired and took ten breaks. My dad said that we were going to beat Christian by one minute and I started to race to the top. Turned out he was just tricking me to make me go faster. At the top it felt like I climbed Mt. Everest. It was a miracle! The views were excellent and we celebrated by having a big feast of snacks. There were two men at the top - we said hello and I took more pictures than daddy did. By the way, I had to go poo on the way up and my dad found some wet leaves to wipe my butt. On the way down, I didn't feel like racing. I took a wrong path with an X on it and slipped. I got a big red mark and my dad said that that was proof that I climbed Montgo. I was getting tired and was slipping on the rocks. It was a little scary and my feet hurt a lot. Next time I am going to wear my hiking boots. At the bottom, my dad gave me a piggy-back ride and he ran so fast it was like riding a horse. I promised my dad that I would kiss the floor when I got home. Mommy and Grandma Lou were very proud and I felt very happy and proud - like Christian when he came back. I didn't get binoculars though. Me and my daddy couldn't believe I could do it without training. He kept asking me if I wanted to turn back but I didn't! That is my story. The end.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Conquering Montgo

"I climbed Montgo and that is the 2nd highest mountain in Alicante" - Christian Roy, January 2, 2009, Javea. After months of hard work, hours of preparation, broken promises, infighting at base camp, and a seemingly endless wait for the weather (and for daddy's New Year's hangover) to clear, we finally got a rare window of opportunity to make our ascent on the morning of January 2nd. Just one day after Christian made it his New Year's resolution to bag this formidable and elusive beast - and just two days shy of his 7th birthday - we found ourselves ready to seize the day. Every morning this past week, Christian has been waking up and looking pensively across the valley to the Montgo, wondering if today would be his day. One by one, the other promising climbers backed away from the challenge, until only Christian and his dutiful sherpa remained. As the summitting season was nearing its close, pressure was mounting on the climbers and the tension weighed on the camp like a wet wool blanket in the cold, damp Javea air. A sliver of dawn peaked out across the horizon as we packed our bags, kissed our loved ones goodbye, and headed for the trailhead. The fog hung thick across the valley as we drove through the orange groves in silence, wondering if we had what it would take to summit and return... Today, fate was on our side and the mountain gods smiled upon us as we began our ascent. Christian was more than prepared and he bolted up towards the summit with hardly any need for rest along the way. I had planned for 2 1/2 hours, but we made it in less than 1:45 - plenty of time to relax and enjoy the views from the top, savoring our accomplishment. I must admit his agility surprised me, particularly on the rocky scramble at the base of the summit. Sure, he started to poop out towards the end, but by then we were only a couple hundred yards from the car and adrenaline more than compensated for his tired little legs. It was great to watch him parade into base camp a hero - he was so proud and couldn't wait to share his accomplishment with everyone. I too, was a very proud sherpa, and it looks like I might have at least one budding backpack partner in the mix - perhaps sooner than anyone might have anticipated!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Florence Wrap-up

During the last few days of our trip we let the kids play with their new toys in the plazas, held dance parties in the apartment and did some last minute shopping/exploring. We also made a trip to the Pitti Palace, but I think everyone was pretty much burnt out on the museum thing. On our last day, we ended up doing some interesting side trips. I woke up early and caught a bus to a small town called Fiesole, about 8 Km outside of town. Fiesole is set high in the hills above Florence, with fantastic views below and is studded with beautiful Italian villas throughout the countryside. It feels very different from the hustle and bustle of Florence, but is amazingly close. The town is built on a site of both Roman and Etruscan ruins which are quite fascinating. The town was extremely quiet when I arrived and I was the first person to enter the historical sites. It was a cold, blustery day, and it felt kind of eerie to walk through the ruins without anyone around. It was also strange to have 2 museum curators follow me through the museum the whole time I was there (seems my profile or perhaps my goatee made them nervous). Basically, I blasted through the the town, harkening my post-college days of whirlwind "Let's Go" backpacking trips through Europe, where visits to towns would often be measured in hours. Not exactly a way to soak up the culture, but Fiesole was well worthwhile. I hustled back to the apartment, and we made our way to the train station to catch our flight from Pisa. In a similar manner, Suzanne and her mom decided to take the kids to the Leaning Tower (hey, you can't stop in Pisa without a trip to the Leaning Tower), while I babysat our 10 bags at the airport and made sure we cleared the weight limits for our @#$%^ luggage, which was loaded up with Christmas presents, purses, scarves and museum books. The kids came back from the Leaning Tower a bit disappointed, as I think we may have led them to believe that it was really about to fall down - they told me it wasn't really leaning all that much. Kids can be hard to please! Finally, after a day of buses, cabs, trains, planes and automobiles (in that order), we finally made it back to Javea - tired, but satisfied from a very good trip. Viva la adventura!!!