This August, we got a couple of weeks of leave time for family vacation. Knowing it would be hard to make a trip to the US work in that window, we decided to “meet Jeff’s parents halfway” and have an amazing adventure touring Italy. Unlike the first leg of our trip, the rest of our family vacation was to quite a tourist hotspot, but one that each of us felt drawn to for different reasons: (we’ll try to avoid pics you can see on Google).
For Jeff, the chance to see 2000 year old concrete and brickwork (e.g. walking the streets of Pompeii) put joy in his engineer heart. And to see the massive spanning cathedrals kept Jeff looking skyward. Indeed, Jen has always known she married a nerd, but said that she hasn’t seen this kind of structural excitement on display in many years.
For Jen, her “era of history” has always been the early church and so to walk around Ancient Rome, where so many early Christ followers died was a special time. And after spending so much time teaching the children about so many Renaissance artists, she was thrilled to see Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Rafael’s work in person.
For Mercy, the Duomo of Florence was a special place that she was eager to see. As beautiful as it is on the outside, it was on the inside that Mercy kept insisting how “lit-er-a-lly cool” it was inside. She kept staring upwards and was struck by how “small” she felt. The architecture made an important theological point loud and clear. She was also really excited for all the artwork that she had studied in school.
For Haven, Michelangelo’s Pieta (located in St. Peters basilica) was a special treasure. Not only did she get to see this beautiful sculpture, but after climbing the dome of St. Peter’s for an amazing view of Rome (the girls trained in Ug. for dome climbing), Haven picked out a model of the sculpture that she carries around the house with sweet care and delicacy.
Isaac could care less about 90% of the things we saw. His draw to Italy – grapes. We have grapes in Uganda but they are small, bad quality, and expensive (because they are imported from Kenya). Our neighbors buy them and feed him 2-3 grapes several days a week. When we told him we were going to eat “grapes in Italy”, that was his big draw and he repeated it to everyone. I think we purchased at least 5 kilos of grapes during our trip…yum!
For all of the Ugandan Austins, getting to spend time with “Nana and Pop” was wonderful. While Jeff’s parents were excited to see the sights, in all honesty – they were there for the kids. We all had some great family time all around from swimming in the pool and eating Lots of gelato. Jeff and his Dad also had a special father-son trip to Pisa together.
After Jeff’s parents left, Jeff and Jen had 2 big surprises for the kiddos. One was a trip to an Italian theme park that Jen found online – Zoomarine. Picture Sea World meets Six Flags meets a water park. While there are opportunities for roller coasters all over the place in the US, this was a HUGE treat for everyone, was some great family time together. For Mercy, who is 100% dolphin obsessed (see her book), this was a dream come true.
Our second surprise was a trip to a small island called Capri. Jen and the kids fell in love with this place before they even knew it was real because of a (Strongly recommended) kids book called Red Sails to Capri. We were able to visit and even swim inside its famous Blue Grotto which can only be described as magical.