Sunday, May 26, 2013

SMALLER and Smaller and smaller

Small; that is the size of our living quarters.  Over the past few years the size of our domain has gotten a bit smaller with each move.  We have learned that bigger is not necessarily's more about location, location, location! ;)  We are loving our location on The Shore in Leith.
Our apartment is right beyond the last boat in-between the two buildings that come to a point that are white and off-white.  
This is the view from our bedroom window.   We love our 4th floor perch.
Through this move (as in any move), you have to establish new norms.  So far (in our week here that is) this is what I have come up with that has been new for us:

  • Amelie pushing the elevator buttons.  She loves being in charge of opening all of the doors for us as well as opening the elevator and picking the correct floor.  She is a wonderful bellwoman. 
  • Bobby is enjoying watching sports again.  His sport of choice as of late has been cricket.  He spent some time researching the rules and now enjoys trying to explain them to me as we watch matches. 
  • Since we do not have a bathtub at the apartment, Amelie and Liam are showering.  Amelie has done an amazing job of bathing herself (mostly).  We have two shower heads: a rain shower head as well as a hand held head.  Amelie has graduated to using the rain shower head whereas Liam will hold the hand held head while I bath him.  We have a great system down and do not get any water on the floor, in case you were wondering.  Although this has been "fun" I will be happy for a bathtub again. 
  • Amelie and Liam share a bedroom.  I am so glad that even though one might wake up, we have not had any issues with the other waking up too.  It is usually Liam that will cry out in the middle of the night because he can't find his pacifier, but Amelie has been a trouper and has not complained. 
    Amelie is brushing her hair after her shower.  Liam hasn't gotten his PJs on yet.
    You can also see our drying rack in the corner of the bedroom.
  • Bobby and I like to eat popcorn again!  We have a microwave!!!  
  • The window seat in the living room always seems to have someone occupying it.  The best seat in the house by far! 
  • We bought Liam a high chair the second day in Edinburgh at a Jack & Jill's consignment event.  We only have 3 high bar chairs and I couldn't really eat while holding Liam on the chair.  He ate in a big person chair in Paris and we were constantly having to ask him to sit down.  It has been SO nice to have a high chair again! 
    The counter that turns into our table; very convenient!
    New contained highchair.
    Paris eating chair complete with towels to protect it.
Norms that have carried over from our time in Paris:
  • Bobby cooks dinner every night and I clean up.
  • No dryer available.  The apartment in Paris had a convenient drying rack on a pulley system that hung above the bathtub.  We do not have any such luxury at this apartment.  We have set up the large drying rack available in the corner of Amelie and Liam's bedroom.  I do laundry almost everyday so taking it down just to set it up again seems silly.  It is out of the way and it works.
  • Bobby and I sleep on a double bed.  Who would have thought we could go from a king size down to a double bed and actually get some sleep.  Neither one of us has fallen out yet. Haha! 
  • Our mornings are usually leisurely getting breakfast and drinking coffee before heading out for the day.
  • Buying groceries for a day or two.  However, today we walked about half a mile away to a bigger grocery store than the one closest to our house.  We loaded up on diapers, cereal, and fruit among other things since it is more expensive at our nearby store.  We used Amelie's scooter on the back of the stroller to help us carry everything back should have seen the looks.  Hilarious! I wish I had a picture.  The only other time we didn't fare too well bringing groceries home was the first or second day here.  Bobby had to walk about a mile in the rain without a stroller to help with 8-10 full bags of groceries and a jumbo box of diapers.  We try to plan ahead and spread out the bigger items like laundry detergent and diapers so that we do not have a big pile to carry home.  We usually do really well.
Amelie playing with blocks that we purchased at the consignment sale.
They have been hours of fun for the kids so far.
I hope this gives you a little picture of how we are living while we are in Edinburgh. Is it weird that we make ourselves at home so quickly and easily?  Adapt or die, right?  We have loved each apartment that we have found so far.  I hope the rest of our travels prove the same.  

1st Week in Edinburgh

We are slowly getting ourselves acclimated to our new location, Leith which is right outside of Edinburgh.  We are taking it all in as we discover nearby playgrounds, figure out which is the best/cheapest/closest grocer, and get ourselves used to walking around in the area.  Transitioning is fun and exciting while also a little difficult.  It takes a lot of energy to learn a new area and it can sometimes be uncomfortable when you don't have all of your normal conveniences mapped out.  It is also fun and invigorating as you marvel at new surroundings, and discover new loves.
Family picture taken right outside of our apartment on our first day in Edinburgh.  We love our view!
I love Edinburgh so far for a couple of different reasons.  First, I love being able to communicate with people again!  You don't realize how even small conversations on the playground or in the grocery store can be so nice.  Second, most of the buildings are constructed out of stone.  I have loved walking through the city gazing at all of the fine stone carvings and "closes" that are between buildings and cobble streets.  Third, even though Edinburgh is a big city it is surrounded by beautiful mountains and ocean.  Since we are right on the water, we hear seagulls making all sorts of noises all day and night. The ability to be able to get out and enjoy nature is very exciting for me.  I am looking forward to discovering more about what I love about Edinburgh over the next couple of months.

As we take pictures, we feel that they do not do justice for what we are actually seeing; kind of like trying to capture the Grand Canyon.  We need to do a better job of having our camera out.  It is easy to just experience and not take the time/effort to take pictures, but I know we will want to remember as much as we can in the future.  We need an extra set of hands though!! ;)

So far, we have discovered the following places that I am sure we will frequent often:

  • Leith Links - Fabulous park near our house with great open fields to kick around the ball and a large playground with a zipline, swings, slides, and more.  Amelie likes to ride her bike from our house to the playground. 
  • Water of Leith Walkway (Wiki Page) - Walking/biking path that runs along the river to many major sites in Edinburgh.  This allows for you to get to the places without being in traffic.  We have used the path a couple of times already as we ventured into the center of Edinburgh.  On one occasion, Amelie rode her bicycle.  She rode for about 6 miles her first day having her bike! The video below is of her on the path.  Since this is such a bike friendly city, Bobby and I are contemplating purchasing bikes for our time here and then of course selling them when we leave. 
  • Public Library - There are many public libraries around the city that we have access to be able to check out books.  These also provide a story hour for children once a week.  We have checked out a large stack of books and will be back for new ones frequently.  The one library we have visited so far had a really large play area for children with kitchens and play food, tables & chairs, trains, beanbags, and more.  
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh - 70 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens that is free to the public.  We spent on afternoon strolling through the gardens in amazement of the many varieties of plants and flowers.  There were also stunning views of the city. 
    Quick pear snack in the Rock Gardens in the Botanical Garden.

    Liam is an explorer that is not afraid of any feat.
    "Look at me and hold up your arms!"
    I could not get them both to look at the same time.
    Amelie climbing trees with dads help.  Liam had to have a go at it too.
    There was a thin sheet of metal on a couple of stumps which made for the perfect drum set.

    A 6 meter tall hedge...crazy tall!

    View of the National Monument on the hill in the distance.
  • National Museum of Scotland - A free museum with a couple of great interactive children's area as well as an expansive collection for adults to view.  On the museum's website is the following description:  "Explore the diversity of the natural world, world cultures, art and design, science and technology and Scottish history, all under one roof at the National Museum of Scotland. National Museums Scotland has one of the few remaining museum taxidermy departments in the UK, with true craftsmen presenting hundreds of stunning new specimens from all over the world, complimented by astonishing life-sized casts and models of species."  The Wildlife Panorama was our favorite area with lots of interactive games/activities throughout.  Since it is so expansive, we will be headed back multiple times for sure! 
    There are a lot of dress up opportunities throughout the museum...exploring different cultures as well as different adventurers.
    You can go on the roof of the museum for more great views of the city.  The castle is seen in the background.
    Reading about the Tortoise and the Hare and then playing a game related to the book.
    A large area is set up with lots of different musical instruments to try out.
    The Wildlife Panorama main gallery.
    Digging for dinosaur bones.
  • Royal Mile - A major tourist activity is walking down a series of streets that connects historic Edinburgh (castle area) to the area closer to our house.  We hiked to the National Monument and then to the castle and then down the Royal Mile on May 25th.  We are sore today from all of the walking up crazy big hills!  The views were worth it though!!

    View of Arthur's Seat.  We are going to hike this while we are here. ;)

    Liam napping while Amelie plays on a playground.
    As in any city, there is a lot to explore and learn.  Many times, your first impression is totally different from the impression that you leave with.  It will be cool to see what we take away from this experience.

Lower Largo Fife Coastal Walk

Going more than a week without blogging, makes it difficult to catch up!  While the kids are napping this afternoon, I am going to attempt to bring the blog up-to-speed with what we have been doing for the past week.  It seems like ages ago already that we were in Lower Largo, but after I uploaded pictures I just couldn't resist sharing some of my favorites.  

Our last day in Lower Largo we decided to trek out on the Fife Coastal Path, just to see how far we could get.  The scenery was absolutely stunning with the Sea & beaches on one side and pastures on the other side.  We were able to see some old cottage ruins, WW II bunkers, and more.  It was a beautiful sunny day for a nice stroll.  We were able to get about 2 miles out before we decided to turn around and head back...pretty good for 2 little ones! ;)
Amelie found value in having a good walking stick for the hike.
Liam embraced having a good snack for rejuvenation while walking.
Quick family picture without our "puffy" jackets on.
After the self-timed picture (this was our only take), we ran to bundle back up!

Amelie and Bobby sitting on the cottage ruins.
Can you find the stroller Liam is napping in?
He has become an expert in taking an hour+ nap while in his stroller.
I should do a blog post of all of the places he has napped in! ;)
When we first saw the bunker, we thought it was an old foundation for a house.
Upon closer inspection, we realized there were tunnels under ground.
We finally happened on a sign explaining they were WW II bunkers.
Love finding things unexpectedly on our adventures.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Travel Plans

Since we did not have our plans mapped out before we left, I thought I should do an update on what we have planned.  We have loved our journey so far, and value what we have learned as individuals as well as what we are learning together as a family.  I know Amelie and Liam are very young and will not probably remember very much, but this experience has to be shaping them.  They both speak a little French, and Amelie has started play talking with an accent.  They are both very flexible in adjusting to new home environments.  They are appreciative of the small amount of toys that we carry around with us, and discover new "toys" at each house.  When searching for different cities to live in, they are our number one priority to please.

We are not using an agency, but are planning all of our own travels and accommodations.  If you are looking to plan a trip (both in the US and Internationally), we would recommend, home, and  We have found some wonderful places to reside for the next couple of months on these websites.  We research the neighborhoods, and use Google Maps to look at street views to get a feel for the neighborhood.  Spending the time to research different attractions in the area, reliability of public transportation, and speed of the internet have been our focus too.  Although this takes time in planning, it has been well worth it in the end!

So, tomorrow we are riding on a train for a short amount of time to Edinburgh.  We will stay in Edinburgh until August 9th.  The third week of June we will be coming home to attend a conference with Georgia Virtual School.  We are excited about coming back for this week to not only learn more professionally, but also to see family and friends.  We will be meeting our niece, Alaina, for the first time as well as possibly getting to be in town for the birth of four of our close friend's children!!  It will be a fun week to be back in Hot-Lanta!! ;)

When we originally set out we did not know for how long we would be traveling around.  We have decided that after about a year of travels that we would like to come back to the States to set up a home-base, but continue to travel during the summers.  We loved the beach (especially Gulf Shores) so much that we will be returning to the same townhouse in January 2015.  Since we will be coming back to the States we decided that instead of spending 3 months in places, we would spend a month in order to experience more places.  After Edinburgh we will be going to Lisbon, Valencia, Barcelona, Venice (for just a couple of days), and ending in Split, Croatia.  Can you tell we love (and missed the beach) as all of these cities are on the coast?! ;)

More important than the cities we will be visiting, we are so thankful for this time that we have to learn and discover as a family.  I do not naturally jump out of my comfort zone; but I have no other choice in learning new cities, cultures, languages, and more.  I am thankful for all this is teaching me, and how by becoming a learner myself will encourage my children to always be learning and growing.  Also, I am incredibly thankful for the amount of quality time we are able to spend together.  We absolutely love our jobs, and we love the flexibility we have been provided to have this time together.

Lower Largo, Scotland

Lower Largo is a coastal village of Fife, Scotland.  "An ancient fishing village, Lower Largo has gained fame as the 1676 birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. The arrival of the railway in 1856 brought many tourists to Lower Largo's sandy beach. Lower Largo has retained many historic buildings, and in 1978 it was designated as a conservation area." (citation) The railway line through Lower Largo was closed in the 1960s, but the bridge can still be seen as you enter the town.

The weather has been in the 40's and 50's during our stay, but we have bundled up and enjoyed being outside anyways.  The beach is beautiful and has a very distinct high and low tide.  When it is high tide you cannot access the beach as the water comes all the way up to the rock wall.  To help us know if the beach is accessible, there is a tide clock in the living room.  The first day we did try to let the kids play in the sand with buckets and shovels, but it was just too cold.  After a couple of minutes Liam kept showing me his hands and wanting to go home.  We ran home and warmed up!  Since then we just take strolls on the beach.  Bobby has given Amelie a lesson on how to find smooth flat rocks and then how to skip the rocks.

There is a nearby playground that we have played at each day.  Most Paris parks do not have any swings so both Amelie and Liam have loved swinging.  We have brought a ball to run and play soccer too.  In our back yard area we have played tennis too.  That is Bobby and I have played with each other to see how many times we can keep it up.  The apartment we are staying at has balls, a children's tennis set, Pirates of the Caribbean Lego set, Hello Kitty bowls/plates, and most importantly Apple TV.  We have all been happily occupied! ;)

We take the Fife Coastal Path to the playground.
Liam picking "fowerfs." 
Gorgeous views along the walk.
The benefit of it raining on and off is there are beautiful rainbows!
On Wednesday, May 15th, we decided to hike the nearby mountain.  We had to walk to Upper Largo and then find the trail from there.  Since it was a couple miles away, we decided to use the stroller.  Once we arrived at the head of the trail, we realized we would not be able to use the stroller.  Since there was an elementary school at the trail's entrance, we walked around to see if there was a place we could leave it.  One of the teachers offered to allow us to store the stroller inside which was very gracious.  She also pointed out exactly where to go and tips of hiking with the wee ones.  It was a fun walk through pastures, next to barns with cows, and then up the mountain.  

The mountain became very steep followed by the weather turning from sunny to rainy.  

We decided to go ahead and turn back before making it to the top.  Amelie and I did more sliding down the mountain than walking down, but we made it down safely. We had to be careful of stinging nettles and other sticker bushes.  The view was beautiful so we were glad we made the ascent! 

Amelie patiently waiting for Liam to catch up.
We walked home on a different path to the coast.  The trees and greenery were gorgeous.  

On our way to eat at the Crusoe Hotel, we took a picture of the statue of Alexander Selkirk above his house.  

We are enjoying the peacefulness of this town.