Romasco-Kelly Family

May 2003

Lisa here...

As I write this, on Wednesday April 30, we're on the A12 autoroute, heading north along the Italian coast from Santa Marguerita Ligure and Portofino, through Genoa, then home to Grenoble.  We've been on the road for 12 days taking advantage of the kid's two week Easter break.  All in all, it's been a pretty good trip. The thing I learned the most is that we are still faced with many challenges in perfecting the art of traveling as a family. Twelve days is a lot of togetherness!

We snuck the kids out of school early on Friday afternoon, April 18, and headed south on a beautiful sunny day to the Cรดte d'Azur -- the French Rivieria.  Mike's friends, Jonathan Day and Melissa Taylor, own a beautiful villa above Cannes, La Calamuse, and invited us to spend the weekend with them. They were even more generous when they let us stay on for a few days after they left to return to their home in London. The kids swam in the heated pool, had squirt gun fights, and explored the property with flashlights after dark. The adults shopped in the local market, ate fabulous food, drank good wines, and explored the nearby towns. We were there about three weeks before the film festival but Cannes was hopping. One day Mike and I decided to take a leisurely drive along the coast from Cannes to Antibes with the boys. We only realized what a mistake we had made when we found ourselves in a quagmire of traffic that inched along at a snail's pace. After ingesting car fumes and avoiding zooming motos (scooters), we gave up and opted for the inland road back to the quiet of the villa. Neither of us could imagine what the coast must be like in the summer when half of France migrates south for the month of August. Crowds, hot weather, and traffic jams are three of the things that I hate most in life - it was clear that we weren't heading back here for a while.

We left the next day and headed to an adventure park in the area where the boys spent 3 hours up in the trees doing a challenging ropes course complete with a big zip wire at the end. They were tired, sweaty, and full of stories of their adventures as we drove across the border into Italy. We made an overnight stop in San Remo to soak up some sun, stroll along the boardwalk, and eat the first of many plates of fresh, hot, calamari fritti. We were in heaven! We moved onto Savona where my Aunt Mariuccia lives. We spent 4 days - she having convinced us to extend our stay by one day because there simply was not enough time for us to eat all the meals she had planned for us! We capitulated (tough as it was) and ate everything from the infamous "cima" (full details), la farinata, more fresh seafood, almond paste pignoli cookies, and daily doses of gelato.

I should say that the adults loved the food-centered nature of the visit, but the kids were less enthused - one in particular.  Evan, who hates eating in restaurants, finally lost it on the second day when I told him that we were going out to eat again for lunch. You know that feeling you get when you have to tell your child something that you know he'll absolutely hate...and then you brace yourself for the reaction?  Well, this was one of those times. After gingerly telling him that we were going out to eat again for lunch, Evan looked at me with a "you wouldn't really do this to me" expression, then, seeing that I was serious, let out a long moan/scream and shouted, "I hate this whole stupid country and all their stupid food and restaurants! You can't make me go - I'M NOT GOOOOOING!" Poor bubby. We got him into the car and listened to the injustice of his having to go to yet another (fabulous) Italian restaurant all the way - by the time we got there, he had pulled himself together and survived the meal by working on his Jump Start reading  workbook between courses. Good food...homework... go figure.

We said our goodbyes to Mariuccia and stuffed our well-fed bodies into the car and headed down the coast to the Portofino peninsula. We had sunshine, great ocean views, and non-restaurant meals. Mike got a few opportunities to sip cappuccino and contemplate his one year anniversary of retirement from Microsoft. Everyone was much happier here. A big part of the peninsula is a national park with lots of gorgeous hiking trails. We all did a bit of hiking, and Kyle and I did a few long, hilly hikes to test out our interest and preparedness for the Tour of Mount Blanc that we are hoping to do this summer. Kyle was a trooper and hiked his little legs off with no complaining - Mt. Blanc, here we come!

We started a new tradition of doing crossword puzzles from the International Herald Tribune together as a family. One day, we actually completed the entire puzzle! When we tried the next day's puzzle and failed miserably, Mike was convinced that they had some lackey prepare the crossword puzzle that we were able to do and that the real puzzle guy must have been on vacation that day!

As we talk about summer travel plans, we're all a little daunted by the prospect of yet another period of intense "togetherness."  But deep down, I think, I hope, that we will find it to be another opportunity to learn more about each other, hone our compromise abilities, and continue to build a lifetime of shared experiences as a family.

Today, we're back to Grenoble for really just a few more weeks of school -- the kids finish on June 28,  and between now and then, they have no fewer than three holidays!  (see below)

March and April

Since our last update, we've had some visitors!

Our friends from Iceland, Siggi and Thora, and their kids, Sindri and Snorri, visited for a week in early March.  We did some skiing in spring conditions -- which means warm sunshine, but less than perfect snow -- and an excursion south to Provence and the Carmargue, a pretty unique region in France that includes a large migratory bird sanctuary and real French cowboys.

Mike's dad, Maurice (who is 84) and his brother, Bill, along with his daughter, Allison, visited for a week in early April.  They ended the trip in Paris -- Bill's first visit to the city!

Distribution of Lisa's jewelry is continuing to grow -- she's now in 13 stores in France!  She and our friend, Yvette, hosted a Princess Party for moms and daughters to make Princess-themed bead creations on April 12.

Mike is writing an article for MSDN Magazine on the new version of Office.  He's also will have an essay published in the Seattle Times this Sunday (May 4).

Our friends, Marc and Beth, welcomed a new daughter, Julia, on March 25, just two days after we had a really fun shower


Today, May 1, is Labor Day just about everywhere in the world except the United States.  The U.S. established a separate Labor Day in September because of the Communist overtones of May Day.  We were treated to loud demonstrations today outside our apartment by the French labor movement upset at the government plans to change retirement rules and benefits.  More on the history of Labor Day and May Day here.

Lisa's continuing to do weekly bead parties on Tuesdays and also has a special "Mother's Day Gift Making" party planned for May 17 (French Mother's Day is 2 weeks after the U.S. Mother's Day).

We're expecting two of Mike's friends in May: Maya Porter, will be here on May 9-12, and Gary Rivlin will be here May 16-26.  We're heading down to the Mediterranean coast again at the end of May with our friends, Marc and Beth, to visit Marc's parents in Carqueiranne.

Our trip to Carqueiranne will be during the kids' second holiday in May, commemorating l'Ascencion.  This is the Feast of the Ascension, the fortieth day after Easter, believed by Christians to be the day Christ ascended into heaven.  By the way, the fact that this is a national holiday says a lot about what a Catholic country France is -- in theory anyway.  The other two school holidays the kids have coming are May 8 (just three days after they return to school on May 5!) which is the day France was liberated in WWII and June 9 (Whit Monday).  Whit Monday comes after Whit Sunday, which is called Pentecost Sunday in English.  But because it's a Sunday and the French are already off work on Sunday, they need to celebrate the day after as well! This brings us to a great French term and tradition: faire le pont, which means "bridging the gap."  It's used when a holiday falls mid-week.  Many French decide to go ahead and extend it through the following weekend, creating a three- or four-day weekend.  This often results in a "Jour Rouge" (Red Day) for the French traffic forecasts.  Yes, we have Red Alerts in France, too, but they're for traffic, not for terrorism -- except that some would consider French drivers trying desperately to get out of Paris or Lyon for their holidays terrorists in their own right.


Looking ahead to next month, we're welcoming more visitors!  (Better sign up now!).

Our friends, Mike Loftin and Sue Matteucci, with their sons, Ben and George, will arrive around June 15.

We're hoping to be seeing Mike's cousins, Larry and Dan, although we haven't heard from them for a while (hint hint...)

June 10 will be Kyle's eleventh birthday!!

Kyle is going with his school class to La Grande Motte, a camp on the Mediterranean (we really like the Mediterranean...) for an eight-day classe de la mer (class on the sea) in mid-June.

Hope all's well with you!

Us at Les Baux de Provence