"Are you ready to go yet, Mom? Are you ready? Are you ready?"
No. No, I am not ready.
And at the same time I am so very, very ready.
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Remember how a few years ago we went abroad for a month, took all the kids to the French Alps and then down to Rome?
(If not, the first post is here, and you can page through subsequent posts at your leisure).
So here is a piece of news I have been sitting on: We are about to take another Big Trip With The Whole Family.
It's likely to be the last chance for such things, as our oldest is now writing college applications, and that's why it is now and not later.
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The first part of the trip is a return to the Alps, back to Chamonix. It's my husband's favorite place. Early in the late-summer morning the only sound that can be heard, besides little street-sweeping trucks, is the clinking and clanking of carabiners and ice tools hanging about the persons of people shuffling to gather coffee and wrapped sandwiches before heading up the mountain.
Last time our big boys went with Mark and a guide for an adventure day of crampon practice and glacier climbing, and later for a long multipitch climb on rock. Last time I rock-climbed for the first time ever on a well-known crag outside of town, and had a great time. Last time we attempted several "family hikes" that completely wiped us out but that took us through some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen. Last time we met a family of expats who welcomed us into their home and became long-distance friends.
I am not sure what awaits us this time. Mark has been living with chronic back pain for years, which some months ago erupted to a new level -- possibly because of a herniated disc which an MRI earlier this month has revealed, but you cannot really be sure--and left him unable to do any climbing or to hike while carrying weight. So the trip will look different for him, and consequently for the whole family, than it did when we originally planned it more than a year ago.
Change of plans. We shall see.
Even if it proves difficult for us to do the mountaineering-type activities that we originally planned, there are other things to do in the Chamonix Valley and on the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel. We enjoyed a day trip to Aosta last time, and didn't get to see everything there; there are many castles dotted throughout the Aosta Valley, some open for tours. Lyon is a long but do-able 2-hour drive. Simpler hiking that doesn't require us all to carry full packs is probably within our reach. And some of our kids are determined to try parasailing, which is a thing you can pay people to take your kids to do, so there's that.
Also there is wine in Chamonix, and a great deal of melting cheese.
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After a while in Cham we have a still-unplanned week which is tentatively devoted to driving somewhere in Italy and taking our chances. Genoa? Piedmont? Not sure. Probably no farther south than Genoa. In any case we will return the car (van really -- there are seven of us, after all) to the Geneva airport and fly...
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Having taken the kids to Rome, and wanting to do another Big Historical City With Plenty To Fill Multiple Days, we settled on London almost immediately.
London didn't settle on us, though. We made a tentative trip budget last summer based on a survey of asking prices for AirBnB properties. This budget was suddenly impacted by AirBnB's decision to force its hosts to abide by zoning regulations by limiting them to 90 days rental per year, which immediately decreased the supply and raised all the prices. Besides the price increase, it took a long time even for us to find a property listing that wasn't a fake (we'd find identical photos used to illustrate multiple listings, or we'd contact an owner through AirBnB and then the alleged owner would email back with "ah, sorry, we've had a technical error, that property isn't really available on those dates after all, but if you send me an email at my other [i.e., non-AirBnB] email address I'll be able to show you a bunch of similar properties...").
In the end it all cost a lot more than we expected. But at just about the same time that we were having to accept that there was no way around the price increase, I received a couple of checks in the mail, part of the inheritance left me by my globe-trotting grandmother who had passed away in April. I couldn't think of a better thing to put the money toward than traveling with our children, and I'm sure Grandma would agree.
So --- that worked out.
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London, then, for more than a week. I have plans for myself. The British Museum, of course -- and Parliament -- and the London Science Museum -- and the Victoria and Albert. The martyrs' shrine at a distance from the site it honors, Tyburn. The Churchill War Rooms. Taking the children to Kensington Gardens, and my lion-loving seven-year-old to see the statuary beasts keeping watch in Trafalgar Square. A day in Greenwich, straddling the meridian. Bletchley Park is supposedly an easy trip by train. There's too much to have the lists all worked out in advance. (I'm aware that I've left off a number of the Things You Must See in this paragraph -- it doesn't mean we aren't going to go see them -- I just have to stop somewhere...)
I don't know what we'll do. We'll just trust that it will work out.
Now if we could only get everything into these suitcases.