family travel


It’s been more of a Road Hiatus, and I apologize.  In late October, we went to Germany to visit friends and see the countryside.  I don’t like to advertise my absence when I’m away from home, and, quite frankly, I was having a great time and didn’t want to miss one great conversation or good meal…we don’t see our friends very often.  After that, it was time to head out to Indiana for Thanksgiving.  Repeat above disclaimer about friends, food and conversation.

Since that time, I’ve been working toward one of my personal professional goals, namely, landing a writing job with About.com.  It’s taken a couple of attempts, but I’m finishing my second week as About.com’s Guide to Senior / Baby Boomer Travel, and so far I am loving every minute.  I love travel planning almost as much as I love travel itself, and this is an ideal writing opportunity for me.  Please stop by my About.com site if you have time!

I’ll try to catch up on some of our road trip news.  Meanwhile, if you like wine travel, you can read about my trip along the German Wine Road here.

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So, how often do you wake up and tell yourself, “I just have to be in (insert location)!”?  After I returned home from my exchange semester in Ireland, back in high school, I just ached to be back in the green hills outside of Dublin.  That longing doesn’t  go away.  You shove it down, stuff a bunch of daily responsibilities on top of it, and get on with things.

Our next outing will probably be to the Maryland Renaissance Festival…an outing we’ve loved for nearly 15 years.  (Time to dust off the garb…)  After that, we’ll see.

Last year at this time, we were planning a trip to Germany.  Although things were kind of tentative (we flew space-available with Air Mobility Command), we had a plan and we were, in fact, able to fulfill nearly all of it.  I love visiting Europe because I can literally feel the stress fall off my shoulders and slide to…wherever.  I can stand tall, take my best shot at the local language and poke around museums, castles and cathedrals to my heart’s content.

We’ve had record-breaking heat here Between the Beltways lately.  October and “92 degrees” just don’t belong in the same sentence.  I really feel for our local farmers, who are suffering through this drought and wondering how long it will last.  Please spare a prayer or positive thought for our drought-stricken farmers across the continent…it’s going to be a hard year for many people.

I’m staying home this weekend (unusual for me) to work on writing projects.  I’m hoping things will calm down a bit in a few days.  Meanwhile, here’s a travel Hub on West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad, another on the Chesapeake Children’s Museum in Annapolis, and a third about my favorite Indianapolis restaurant, The Rathskeller, for your reading pleasure.

We just returned from a trip to the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Delaware.  While the drive was fairly long (almost two hours), the museum was interesting.  They have several airplanes inside a 1944 hangar, and they have static display aircraft outside.  I counted at least five volunteers inside the museum.  They were very helpful and friendly.  The kids tried out the museum’s flight simulator and did pretty well – no one crashed and burned, whew!

After my son took several dozen photos, we did some shopping on base and tried to figure out where things were in relation to the front gate and flight line.  I worried a bit about traffic on our homeward journey, but things went well.  It’s nice to see that fall’s finally arriving; leaves are beginning to turn and farmers on the Eastern Shore have set up pumpkin stands.  Bread-baking season isn’t too far away.

It’s almost time for fall foliage in Monterey, Va.

Not long ago, I was part of a TV focus group.  A team of interviewers came to my home and reviewed my television-viewing spreadsheet, then asked me all kinds of questions about my feelings as I watched TV. 

I bring this up because I cooked “homesick food” this evening; I love Italian food under any circumstances, but I had peppers to pick and to use up, so I made peperonata, which is assorted peppers and onions, sauteed and then simmered with tomatoes.  I make mine agrodolce, which translates to “sweet and sour,” by adding some red wine vinegar during the last 15 minutes of cooking.  I found artichokes at a reasonable price, so we ate those as appetizers.  A bit of bread and pasta, and dinner was complete.  I feel completely satisfied.

As I told the focus group people, for me, cooking is vicarious travel.  When I cook German food, we celebrate our many trips to visit our dear friends who live near Heidelberg and we talk about the fun times we’ve shared with them.  (Last Halloween, we carved pumpkins and took our children trick-or-treating…what a crazy experience!)

After spending nearly five years in southern Italy, slow-cooked Italian food brings back so many wonderful images…sitting by the water in Gaeta, enjoying pizza and sharing experiences with new friends…celebrating a one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Day with my family in a Sicilian restaurant stuffed with families feasting on seafood mousse, pizzas, and happiness…watching my husband and his good buddy Gene grilling 40 Euros’ worth of lamb spiedini on the now-infamous charcoal-fired spiedini grill…

This is why parenting experts tell us to share meals with our family, both immediate and extended.  The memories last forever, and one whiff of a favorite dish brings them rushing back.  As my son puts it, “Travel’s all about the view and the food.  There isn’t anything else.”

With family in view and delicious food to enjoy, we can’t possibly go wrong.

Yesterday we traveled to St. Mary’s City, Maryland.  The journey took us down Routes, 3, 4 and 5 (I am not making this up), through some lovely countryside.  I love crossing the bridge at Solomons Island and looking down at the sparkling Patuxent River.  For once I wasn’t driving, so I had plenty of time to look around at county fair signs, little shops and front yards.

St. Mary’s City boasts a college and a historic area.  I’ll write about the historic area later, for a travel Hub.  I really liked the college; we ate lunch at the student center and walked around the campus a bit.  It’s lovely; we saw attractive brick buildings, colorful flowers and, best of all, students who really looked happy to be there.  My daughter declared it to be her “backup college” – she hasn’t picked a first-choice school, but we have a few years.  She’s 9.

We all enjoyed our day at Historic St. Mary’s City.  My son’s favorite part was (surprise!) the “gun show”; my daughter really liked the tobacco plantation, probably because farm animals live there.  I tried hard to take pictures of the pipefish and sea nettles (jellies) in the river, but I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with pictures of sparkly water instead.  The river water is so brackish that they usually have tons of sea nettles around the replica ship, Dove, I was told.

On the way home we traveled on Routes 5, 4 and 2, through gorgeously green horse country.  Sigh.

Read about our visit at my latest travel Hub.

This was an unusual summer for me.  For the first time in four years, I put my son on an airplane and let him take his own trip, without benefit of parent.  He went west to visit his grandparents and learn some cool woodworking skills from Grandpa.  His room was dark and empty; even the cats looked sad as they slunk past the doorway.  After that trip, we had a couple of weeks of family time.  I then left both of my kids with friends and came home with my husband; my daughter had never spent more than one night away from home before.  About a week after the kids came home, my son headed off to Scout camp.

They come by wanderlust honestly.  My exchange experiences in high school changed me forever, and I certainly want my children to have travel adventures and to create memories they can reflect on forever.  Of course, not everything goes according to plan (we have lost sweatshirts and library books to deal with, not to mention the general post-travel disorder), but that’s part of the learning process, part of why travel matters.

As I type, cat on lap, I’m  glad my children have loving family on both coasts, thankful for all the opportunities they have to learn about the world at its best and worst.  No portable DVD player can give them the gifts of open-mindedness and flexibility.  That’s what travel is for.

My new travel Hub can be found at: Indianapolis’ Top 4 Kid-Friendly Attractions.

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