Dating shiny brite toppers

I’m not sure what I was expecting—maybe something like a water park, with slides? The Spa San Giovanni looks like a real spa: quiet, peaceful, painted cool colors, spa music (you know what I mean) playing in the background. Final ratings: a 10 from both kids (mud pies, bear cave), a 7 from me (not sure it was worth 13 euros a piece) and a 6 from Melisa, who was expecting effervescent bubbles in clear pools, and not mud. When you are spending as much time in the sun as I have been, it’s hard not to think of the benefits of the bikini. Your tan lines that disappear a little easier under clothes. I haven’t considered really putting a bikini on since I was 26 or 27, but I’ve considered it on this trip. Tourists wander through consulting each other, a bit uncertain. European driving, never for the faint of heart (and I think anyone who has ever driven with me will say I am no shy flower behind the wheel), has become a bit more exciting. Now I do get to live out some of my Grace Kelly fantasy, driving up and down the steep inclines and hairpin turns. The sky is clear, bright blue, and white umbrellas flap in the breeze of the patio. We have booked our hotel with a demi-pensione, which means dinner and breakfast are included in the rate.Your mineral water experience, which apparently can heal all sorts of skin ailments, rheumatism, and respiratory issues, starts in a kind of domed sweat room, with one large circular pool surrounded by chairs, and mineral waters spouting out of the mouths of gods. A small water walkway and cave leads outside to the other pools, which get cooler as your graduate down the terraces. The bottom of the pool is covered in some sort of thick white mud that is naturally created by the springs. One of my favorite things about our vacation is swimming every day. Between here and France, Melisa and I have both noticed that every woman, REGARDLESS OF AGE/SIZE is wearing a bikini. The kids loved it, too: they ran through shell-shaped il Campo like the horses at Palio, begged to climb the Torre del Mangia (400 steps! Bikers are stopped by the side of the road, grabbing an espresso for fortification against the dizzying hills and heat. If all those motorcycles on my bumper are any indication, Italian is about speed, urgency, passion. Campari by the pool It’s late in the day, but the sun is hot. Our car is a called a “Mireva.” It has funky doors that open away from each other. It’s a compact 4-door and our suitcases (and us) just fit. We’ve made the drive from Montpellier to Nice before, but past that, it’s all new. Mostly coloring or watching a movie, occasionally looking up at something we point out. Cary Grant is not on my heels, but there are a number of Italian drivers looking interested (to pass me). (Dear food snobs: this is a tourist town and we have two kids in tow. We sit at a table marked with our room number and inevitably, there’s some confusion over what to do next (that lack of Italian again). Seeing him take on the buffet in Italy, with its beef carpaccio and marinated seafood dishes, is pretty entertaining. There is a little tension when we have to convince the kids that the homemade gelato in the dining room will be better than the Cars 2 and Barbie ice creams they were offering by the pool. We will have been gone two weeks tomorrow — I’m reluctant to type that, the time is flying by so quickly — and Chrissy and I have just started to hear a few fleeting mentions of missing home. A fountain, a large gnarled old tree and some benches mark the square, which is surrounded by a bustling locanda, a fancy hotel, and a bank. The Panzano market takes place in a small piazza beneath the old city.Getting the check here, as in France, is a challenge, but a happy one. Tuesday, we switch things up to match our preferred pattern in Martha’s Vineyard: swimming in the morning and driving in the afternoon. Gelato deserves a post all its own, but I’ll say this for now: deciding what flavor to try each day is a very enjoyable way to spend your time. They welcome us with great warmth, offer us Campari and soda and conversation, suggesting the market in Panzano for Sunday morning. The sound you hear is of bees buzzing and cicadas singing. The view is hilltop, of olive groves, forests, vineyards and the occasional stone house. And the colors are my favorites: deep greens and bright blues.

Last week, as one of our daily field trips, we drove an hour South to the town of Rapolano Terme, home to a mineral water spring of supposed healing properties. The requisite characters for the scene are all here: old men and women—the older the woman, the more shapeless her shift—sitting on the benches, talking. July 9 When you think about driving in Europe you usually imagine yourself in a convertible, with a gauzy scarf around your head, wearing dark sunglasses, one hand on the steering wheel, speeding through hairpin turns with the Mediterranean sparkling far, far below and Cary Grant behind you, wondering at your prowess behind the wheel. Despite my ample imagination, I have never once lived out that fantasy here in Europe. Given that the speed limit for European highways is 130 km (roughly 80 mph), it’s essential. Here’s who’s missing what (crucial stuff, people.) Jasper: What do you miss from home? I miss my three best toys the most — my Spiderman, and my Hero and Thomas trains. And our Scooby-Doo movie, “Abracadabra-Doo.” My oatmeal for breakfast! This is one of Melisa’s and my favorite out-of-town (or in-town, for that matter) pastimes: wandering a market, picking up local produce and prepared foods, dreaming up meals to cook back at home. Our first outing last Sunday took us to a market in Panzano, a gorgeous small town perched between two valleys and surrounded by spectacular views of the countryside.And so, after a morning at the pool and a lunch on the terrace, we set off for the “Manhattan of Tuscany”: San Gimignano. So far this is mostly true, the metro being a big exception. Yet another city perched on a hill, this one is notable for its medieval towers—14 still remain of the original 70—that rise up over the tiny streets. Sleep success with one child, but the other needed a longer drive. It’s universally accepted as a major tourist trap and a must-see in Tuscany.

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