Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

We were off to North Carolina in May for the long awaited wedding of Shawn’s niece, Sarah. We rolled into Emerald Isle Thursday evening after a fourteen hour drive and the fun began!

The groom and buds had been fishing that day and brought home a load of keepers. With four houses full of family and guests, there were plenty of mouths to feed! Friday was a beach day complete with volleyball tournament. As evening approached, we held the formal wedding rehearsal, outlining in the sand how we thought things would be set up.

Saturday morning dawned with showers but they soon stopped and the day only improved from there on. The crew set up on the beach while the wedding party primped and prepped.

The ceremony was awesome. Sarah wrote most of it (with a little editing help from John) and it was really quite nice. Traditional in format, it included a “Sand Ceremony” that was a real center point. Sarah and Jordan had carefully prepared with an engraved glass bottle and customized cork – they’ll cherish these items forever.

Of course, there were many pictures to be taken after the ceremony. The weather cooperated with striking clouds and an incoming tide that was just the topping on the beautiful venue.

Of course, a reception to be remembered followed. There was a smoked pig, toasts, keg stands, hula dancers, cornhole, and everything you could ever want in a wedding celebration. It was epic.

As the reception wound down, we all moved back to the beach for a late night firework display under the full moon. Though that would have been a perfect finale, there were those among us who chose to party into the wee hours and make the most of the glorious event!  “Rise up and see the moon!”

Sunday was pretty much a total waste as we recovered from the excesses and reveled in the beauty of what was. We saw videos, cleaned up, enjoyed the beach once more, and prepared for the return home. Up early on Monday, we were home late with tired muscles, full hearts, and awesome memories of Sarah and Jordan’s magnificent union ceremony and a family celebration we’ll never forget.

Shunned by the Queen

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Family, School, Travel

With Josh studying in London for a semester, we thought how nice it would be to spend Easter with Her Majesty. Yet, when we arrived at Heathrow on Good Friday morning, there was no car from the palace waiting and we were forced to resort to the Underground for transport to our hotel. We were sure she’d call later.

After being thrilled that The Zetter had a room waiting for us, we showered and were off to meet Josh at his flat. We then enjoyed what had to be one of the most fabulous weather days ever experienced in London! In warm sun, we saw Syracuse’s Faraday House, toured the British Museum, and then headed for Trafalgar Square for a spot of lunch, The Passion of Jesus, and a tour of the National Gallery. It was then on to a walk down Downing street to the Palace of Westminster before moving on to see St. Paul’s from the inside and, spectacularly from the roof of the One New Change shopping center, and finishing up our day on the Millennium Bridge. By the end of what seemed like a very long day, we were ready for early bed.

Saturday morning began with us starting to wonder why the Queen had yet to contact us. Undaunted, we trudged on. After a good breakfast, we headed out to tour the London City Hall and it’s surrounding plaza and buildings, followed by watching the Tower Bridge open for a passing ship! Next was a trip to the eclectic neighborhood of Shoreditch to visit the site of Josh’s major design project for the semester. We were then back across town to King’s Crossing for a walk along the Grand Union Canal to the Camden Markets. A traditional pub lunch at the Hawley Arms refreshed us for a walk up Primrose Hill for the beautiful panoramic view of London. It was back to Farringdon for pub and grub before a well-deserved rest.

Easter Sunday dawned with spotty showers and our confidence that the Queen would meet us at the services. We donned our finery and headed for Westminster Abbey arriving an hour before the service to stand in line and were then seated in the North Transept. Although the Queen never showed her face, we enjoyed a beautiful Sung Eucharist with boys’ choir and a wonderful brass section. Back to our hotel for a change and then a walk-around of Buckingham Palace before a quick run to Putney Bridge to see the men’s start of the one hundred and sixty-second edition of The Boat Race. We thawed in a cafe prior to touring the grounds of Kensington Palace and finally returning to Farringdon for dinner, a bit of pub time, and bed.

We awoke Monday morning still not having heard from the Queen and resolved to return to the States. After breakfast with Josh, we headed to the airport where we were granted a complimentary upgrade to Premium Economy – no doubt an apologetic parting gesture from Her Highness.

We had a whirlwind of a visit and a great time seeing Josh and hearing his take on the city. We were amazed at his ability to point out so many of the city’s landmark buildings and describe their design and designers. We’re so proud of him!

Beached in Barbados

Posted: February 16, 2016 in Travel, Vacation

With the nest now (at least intermittently) empty, Shawn and John took the opportunity for some adult vacationing at Sandals Barbados in early February. Traveling with pals Terry and Brian was awesome. We had plenty of fun both together and apart!

Activities included the gym, aqua-size, scuba diving, swimming, and, of course, eating and drinking. Sandals had some of the best resort food we’d ever had and we made sure to sample it all! Even the sushi!

We enjoyed the warm air, friendly people and pleasant company!  Can we go back now?

Cruising Baltic Style

Posted: July 29, 2015 in Family, Travel, Vacation

We gave Jake several options for a trip to celebrate his graduation. When he chose a Baltic adventure, we were all thrilled!

After our good friend Bob drove us to the airport on Friday afternoon, we were off to Stockholm via Iceland. Our evening flight over Greenland was beautiful and we were hypnotized watching the ice flows. Landing on Iceland’s volcanic tundra, in daylight, just before midnight was surreal. Taking off, still with natural light, was just as impressive.

We rolled into our hotel in Stockholm Saturday morning to find our rooms available and showers very enjoyable. From there we explored the old city, took the ferry to Djurgården to see the amazing Vasa Museum, and enjoyed a historical canal tour by boat before finding a traditional Swedish restaurant near our hotel and sampling herring, reindeer, elderflower schnaps, and more.

On Sunday, we enjoyed the Hotel Reisen‘s vast buffet before a final stroll and a taxi to the cruise port where we’d meet the Serenade of the Seas. We’d actually sailed on the same ship back in 2006 so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar. We found our upgraded balcony cabins and settled into life at sea!

Monday was our first stop – in Helsinki, Finland. We rode a shuttle bus into the city and enjoyed our explorations. We strolled the Esplanadi and enjoyed its open air performers, crossed the Senate Square and climbed the stairs at the Helsinki Cathedral, strolled the waterfront and viewed the magnificent Uspenski Cathedral, and shopped the open air market before lunching at the Kappeli Cafe back on the Esplanadi, shopping a bit more, and returning to the ship.

Tuesday and Wednesday were devoted to the centerpiece of the cruise, St. Petersburg, Russia. We met up with our local guide, Kseniya, and our driver, Anatoly, who would spend the next two days showing us their home city. Anatoly’s English vocabulary consisted of “Vodka” and a few choice phrases, but Kseniya spoke fluent English and taught us all about the Russian Czars, the history of the city, and even told stories of her parents and grandparents. They were a great team.

We toured the city including the Rostral Columns, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Saviour of the Spilled Blood Cathedral, before driving to Peterhof, snacking on Russian calzones, and returning by hydrofoil to tour The Hermitage. Though we had plans for dinner in the city, the day was too much and we returned to our ship for a little rest.

Rested and ready, we started the next mornign at St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral and then took a tour of the incredible Metro System. We emerged to tour a farmer’s market before snacking on meat and fish pies and driving to the amazing Catherine Palace. We finished up at The Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral before, exhausted, returning to our ship.  Just wow.

Our next stop was the medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia. After a brief walk from the pier, we were immersed into the high walls and cobblestone streets of the old city. We strolled the market squares, St. Nicholas’ Church, and the 12th century St. Olaf’s before stopping at an outdoor cafe for local treats including wild boar stew. Though crowded with the cruise boat passengers, we loved the charm of this small ancient town.

Our final port was Riga, Latvia. Docked at the cargo port, we took a shuttle through stacks of wood and coal to reach the city where we rented some bicycles to tour the local monuments. We rode around the city and then found a midtown cafe for lunch (including Sea Red Mullet and Mussels in green curry for John!) and people watching. We finished with a stroll around the old city and a visit to the local churches including the Riga Cathderal, the magnificent St. Peter’s, and the awesome ceilings of St. John’s.

Want to see more?  Here’s a ten minute video that gives a taste of what we saw!

If you still haven’t had enough, even more photos can be seen here.

The Spanish Exchange

Posted: July 26, 2014 in Travel

Last year’s Month of Miguel led to a lasting friendship between Jake and his Spanish friend. Some of the other “host siblings” had similar experiences – in particular Jake’s friend Valerie and her Spanish guest, Blanca. So this summer, the Spanish Exchange was arranged!

It began with three of last year’s visitors, Miguel, Blanca, and Macarena, returning to North Reading for another two week stay. Because their visit overlapped with the visit of this year’s formal exchange students, they got to serve as ambassadors for them as well!

There were pool parties, graduation parties, people from Spain parties, and parties with no viable excuse that kept the guests busy from dawn to dusk and beyond. A trip to Six Flags, some beach time, another Red Sox game, World Cup soccer games from the pool, and a lot of fun made the fortnight fly by.

Before long we were packing the Spaniards back onto a plane – but this time their host siblings would be boarding with them for a two week stay in Vigo!

They all had a great time visiting homes and sightseeing. Miguel’s parents, Carmen and Cesaro, were awesome hosts. They took Jake to visit Santiago de Compostela – the capital of Galicia. They saw The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, toured the city, and saw a performance of Dralion by Cirque du Soleil!

Jake was also treated to visit at Castro de Santa Trega an “oppidum” dating back to the Bronze Age.

They spent a night camping on the Cíes Islands, part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park.

Though their bags missed a close connection in Lisbon, They all arrived home safe, tired, and excited to tell of their trip! We’re so grateful to our Spanish friends for helping make this all happen!

On September 26, Shawn and John reached their twentieth wedding anniversary. To celebrate, they chose the following weekend for a trip to Kennebunkport, as they’ve done for several anniversaries before. They drove up Friday afternoon and arrived at the cozy Florida Room of the Captain Jefferds Inn. They were greeted by a chilled bottle of wine with a lovely plate of cheese and fruit snacks.

While enjoying their welcome snack, Shawn was presented with some anniversary bling to add a little sparkle to the weekend!

From there, it was a visit to their favorite bar in town, Federal Jack’s, which just happens to have been founded on the same day they got married!  That was followed by dinner in The Hurricane‘s lounge and a night cap at the Kennebunkport Inn‘s piano bar.

The weather was gloomy on Saturday, but they still enjoyed a leisurely drive along the coast culminating with lunch at perennial favorite Gritty McDuff’s in Portland’s Old Port.

They arrived back in Kennebunkport in time for some shopping – including, of course, the obligatory stop at Shawn’s favorite candle shop.

The focal point of the weekend (except maybe the bling) would be Saturday night dinner at the White Barn Inn. An expensive splurge, the White Barn makes it worth it with beautiful decor, friendly staff, stellar service, and awesome food. They had a great meal!

A few more brews at Federal Jack’s capped the evening before another nice stay at the Inn. Sunday morning was another spectacular breakfast before the drive home and back to reality.

A big thanks to Grams for staying with the boys and a hearty cheers to the next twenty years!

Alabama Homecoming

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Family, Travel, Vacation

John made a pilgrimage to Alabama in September. He flew to Mobile where he’d be greeted by his cousin Jim at the airport. They’d share a great lunch at The Hungry Owl before John drove north to meet up with more cousins in Laurel, MS. It took some of them a moment to figure out who was who again but it was quickly clear that they all shared the family bond!

Dinner out at The Loft gave them the chance to share some stories and catch up. It was awesome.

The next morning they drove to Isney, AL, a wide spot in the road just over the state border, where the McCoy sisters had grown up.

They were gathered for the interment of two of John’s Aunts, Ruth and Carrie. They met at the Isney Baptist Church and Cemetery for the “Homecoming” event.

The Isney Cemetery is dotted by names that occur frequently on the maternal side of John’s family tree: McCoy, Beard, Mason, Knight, McKelvaine…

Holes were dug, urns were presented, stones were placed, and many kind words were said. It was a bittersweet event filled with happy memories of departed relatives.

This much of their family being together doesn’t happen so often. They’re spread from Boston to California and from Pennsylvania to Alabama and it just all have busy lives. But when it does happen, it’s great.

The five McCoy sisters had a total of thirteen children. Eleven of them are pictured above. From left to right are Dale Jansen, Larry Jansen, Bob Sadler (Ruth’s widower), Eric Jansen, Kim Sadler, Tass Jansen, Mary Jo Giuli, Gary Jansen, Rob Sadler, John Intorcio, Johnny Giuli, and Jim Taylor. Missing are only Michael Giuli, deceased, and Coco Giuli, who couldn’t make the trip.

After some tearful goodbyes at the cemetery, a few of them drove just a bit further east to the former location of the McCoy farm at the corner of Choctaw County Rd. 45 and Toomey Lane.

The house is gone, the land overgrown, and the farm forgotten. But they were able to find the “cooler” by the stream and the remains of the fireplace – the remainder is long gone.

After a nice Barbeque dinner with the Sadlers, John left Saturday morning for a drive through Lucedale and back into Mobile where he played tourist and watched some football.

Sunday included a trip to Dauphin Island before John returned home.

Despite the sobering purpose of the trip, it was a great time seeing family and exploring Alabama. Many more photos are here. Rest well Ruth and Carrie!

Ragazzi Italiani

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Italy, School, Travel

Much like the trip that Josh made to Spain a couple of years back, our high school this year organized a trip to to Italy! This time, both Joshua and Jacob joined the crowd!

After an early morning luggage inspection, they piled on a bus into the city. They flew out of Boston via New York arriving in Milan the next morning for a brief tour.

After a bit of a stroll in the city, they’d board a luxury coach (bus) for travel to Venice where they’d complete their long first day.

The next day in Venice, they’d take a guided tour of the city including the Dodge’s Palace and the famous canals. They’d see a demonstration of the making of Murano Glass and Jake would crush St Mark’s Campanile.

The following day they’d move on to Florence where they’d see the Chiesa di Santa Croce and Ponte Vechio.

On the next day, they’d visit the mountain village of San Gimignano in the hills outside Florence.

It also happened to be Josh’s birthday!! We were thrilled to see that it was suitably celebrated and documented in the picture below we found on the principle’s blog.

The next day was on to Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis under azure skies.

And then into Rome itself for The Vatican and St. Peter’s,  and then the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Here’s Josh and his pal Cristina at the top of the Spanish Steps.

The group would later enjoy a nighttime tour of Rome under the lights!

When they headed home at the end of their trip, they were tired but enriched by a great trip!

Spring Break Punta Cana

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Travel, Vacation

Once the boys were signed up to participate in their spring school trip to Italy, the next question became, what should Shawn and John do? Of course! Punta Cana!!!

So… Off they went for a week in the sun at the Riu Palace Bavaro. A new hotel just opened this past December, the place was much to their liking.

Their room had a view across the pool to the ocean – even from the shower!

Bavaro is on the Atlantic (north) side of Hispanola and, as such, is exposed to wind and sea. The first couple of days were a bit rough at the beach but all smooth at the pool. Particularly at the swim-up bar.

The pool was the center of focus most days. Lots of sipping and dipping, many books read and people watched!

John did some scuba diving – both in the Atlantic off the beach and then, on an “excursion” day while Shawn sipped champagne on the beach, on the Caribbean side of the island from the resorts at Bayahibe.

All in all, it was a decadent and relaxing week!  What fun!

Out of Florida

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Family, Grampa, Home, Travel

Though he’d relocated to Massachusetts, at least seasonally, last year, John’s dad this spring sold off his house in Sarasota and was ready to make things permanent. So, in mid-March, John flew down on a Friday night to help Ralph get things squared away.

Saturday was spent on visits to the bank, calls to the utilities, identifying some of the overstocked items, and even a little time at the pool.

Sunday was Ralph’s farewell visit to St. Boniface where many of his friends wished him luck in his travels. On Sunday evening, Ralph’s little red Hyundai was picked up by the car carrier for its trip north.

On Monday morning, packers from the local moving office arrived and the fun really began. John had three standard questions he asked repeatedly:

  1. When did you last use that?
  2. What are you going to use that for?
  3. Why do you need 6 or 8 or 12 of those?

John’s favorite exchange… “Pop, why do you need two kitchen timers?”  Ralph’s reply: “Well, one doesn’t work!” Many compromises were made and in the end, the (three) machetes were packed along with the busted antique tape dispenser, and the power saws were left behind for the safety of all. There was a bit of damage along the way – it was a tough day for the ceiling fan…

Ralph treated John to a nice dinner that night at the outdoor sidewalk tables of Sam Snead’s. They enjoyed the gorgeous Florida weather even though Ralph felt a few pangs for the city he’d soon leave behind.

Tuesday began with breakfast at the Hob Nob Drive In – a place John had been driving by since Ralph moved to Sarasota and always said he was going to go to!

A little after 9:00 AM, the big rig arrived and the loading began. The movers were good sports as we kept adding things to the load and, about three hours later, the truck was loaded and headed north.

As the furniture rolled away, Ralph and John did a little final clean-up, took naps, and then headed to see Ralph’s niece, Virginia, and her husband Jack, who live just south of the city. They were treated to first class accommodations and a lovely dinner at Ophelia’s where they sat by the side of the Intracoastal Waterway and again enjoyed the gorgeous weather – despite a few sprinkles.

We even had a little celebration of Ralph’s upcoming birthday as he blew out the candle on his birthday salad!

Bright and early Wednesday morning, they were off to Sarasota Airport for the flight home. By the time they arrived at the Parker House, Ralph’s car had already been delivered and he quickly began to settle in!

We’re so glad to have Grampa close to us so we can keep him out of trouble! Well, maybe.