We decided, at last minute, to go to Pisa, Italy while the girls were still with us. We reserved a 9 passenger van on Monday for the next day in Nîmes. We then found the last 2 hotel rooms in Pisa that would each sleep 4 at the Hotel Astor. Tuesday morning we got up and were 30 minutes away from leaving for Nîmes and Aaron received an email informing him that our van reservation could not be completed. Aaron quickly found a Hertz car rental and hooked us up with a smaller car so we would have enough seats, but 2 cars to drive. It was pricey too, but we really wanted to get to Italy. We were on our way!
We arrived in Pisa after about 7-8 hours. Our van that we own here in France is an old Chrysler which does not have working AC. So, the girls and I had a loud 7-8 hour ride with the windows rolled down. It was a hot day so we had to have the windows down. We all felt like we were hard of hearing that night because we had to yell at one another to communicate.
Usually when we travel I always review a map of the area so I know where we are going and how to get to places, i.e.. HOTEL. This time I forgot! I had glanced quickly at a map when Aaron and I were looking for hotels on line but did not go back to check out where the hotel was located. So, when we finally got to Pisa we only had an address. If you have ever traveled to Europe an address isn’t always helpful. Some people know the names of roads and others only know areas or landmarks. On the outskirts of Pisa we stopped to ask someone for directions and they did not know. Also, we did not have a GPS and our phone GPS was not registering Pisa because I didn’t program the address beforehand. I felt we were entering Pisa blind with 7 hungry and tired children.
We drove into Pisa and started looking around aimlessly. We decided to stop and get dinner at a restaurant with Wifi. We happened upon 2 parking spaces (that had to be paid for, of course) close to one another and a restaurant right across the street with Wifi. We lucked out! Plus, the food was so good! Pasta, pasta and more pasta!! Julia’s phone was the only one that worked so we tried to get a map pulled up and were only a few blocks from our hotel. We ate all the food and proceeded to find the hotel. After driving in a circle 4 times we finally found it. It was on a one way street that we could not get to because our map was not registering the direction of traffic of each of the smaller roads. It was so frustrating. I felt like we were in the Chevy Chase movie, “European Vacation”, when Clark gets stuck in the round-a-bout and says, “I can’t get left” and they keep driving around and around! We kept driving by the hotel on the map but we couldn’t get to it or see it because of the direction of traffic on the road.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, they did not have the right rooms. They had one of the rooms that could sleep 4 and only one other room for 2. They knew we were a large family and apologized. The larger room had a queen bed and a bunk bed and the other room only had a queen! Plus, the AC was not working very well so both rooms were HOT! We all wanted to cry because someone was going to have to sleep on the tiled floor. The owners of the hotel felt bad but didn’t know what to do for our family. They didn’t even provide extra pillows! So, after everyone decided where to sleep we turned off the lights and prayed the next day would be a little better. Austin, Tristan, Julia and Alexis were in the larger room. Aaron and AJ slept on the tiled floor, while Jack, Sophie and I slept in the bed. Aaron didn’t have a pillow so he used his backpack and AJ had a pillow but could not fall asleep. Him and I stayed up late talking because he couldn’t sleep. I felt so bad for him. Just as AJ was falling asleep, Sophie woke up crying and the next thing I know she is throwing up all over me!
After showering and trying to make up the bed with the only other sheet in the room (room service did not exist at this hotel) we were all settled and ready to sleep. Meanwhile Aaron and Jack had slept through Sophie’s ordeal, so they must have been exhausted! Sophie went right back to sleep and I prayed that it was just a one time thing because I did not know what we would do if she threw up all over again. AJ and I finally fell asleep and then I was awoken to Jack falling off his side of the bed, onto Aaron and banging his head on the little night stand! The course of events that had transpired caused me to cry and laugh at the same time. I chuckled to myself after everyone was settle and prayed again that everyone was in a good mood in the morning, especially me! The next night the owners hooked us up with a room for 4. We found out there had been a big concert the night our reservations got messed up!
The next morning we all needed a nice reminder of how lucky we all were to be in Italy, especially Aaron and I. Our parental responsibilities for patience was on overload after our long day and night!
We started making our way across the river over to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When we came upon it we were all amazed! It was incredible! I couldn’t believe we were actually standing in front of the Tower. I remember as a little girl thinking how cool it would be to see it and eat pizza because in my mind it was the Leaning Tower of Pizza! Haha! It was so cool! We spent the day at the Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Tower. We had to purchase tickets for everything. It cost us around $161 just to visit the 3 main sites! We are finding there are no family discounts in Europe. The 5 older children climbed to the top of the tower because children 8 and younger were not allowed so Aaron and I hung back with Jack and Sophie.
Everyone that was visiting the sites were trying to get a picture of someone “leaning” against the tower. It was so comical to watch as my own children and half the people there were trying to line up just right. It was great entertainment!
This was a remarkable time to share as a family! I am so glad we made the trip together! I am attaching the rest of our pictures below!