Sunday, September 14

Paula: We took time today to make plans for the rest of our stay in Tuscany and revised some of our thoughts on the next stop, Southern France. It still amazes us how long it takes to figure out the logistics of our stays. I often feel I read the Lonely Planet books several times and still don't feel confident in how we should "tackle" a new place. Fortunately, Steve's intuition regarding travel logistics is much better than mine. I have found I'm better at helping everyone manage the challenges of the trip - sometimes insisting we slow down a bit so that we see less but experience more.




Sometimes the mental strain of the trip catches up with us. After a few days in Tuscany the kids commented, "Now this feels more like a vacation!" It made me realize that the trip has been more like a job or school than a vacation. We had told the kids before we left that they would not be on "vacation," but we are just now fully appreciating the amount of work involved in educational travel. That said, while our time in Tuscany has been relaxing, we have also started having the kids work on their math and Spanish skills with special computerized textbooks we brought along. Along with our daily routine of writing and reading, this still makes for full days. Despite this, we have managed some great down time-painting time for Katie, a chance to chase the lizards for David, quick dips in our small pool and even some ping-pong. In addition to our dinners, the best supplement to our routine here has been daily walks. While we have done lots of walking throughout the trip, the trekking in Tuscany has been different and more relaxing. Our walks or "wanders" often don't have a destination like our city walks. We don't have to worry about traffic or street signs. The tranquil Tuscan countryside allows us to talk and really listen-just enjoying each other's company.

In addition to working on our travel plans today, David and Katie had time to write, read and to study their Spanish. This afternoon, we took a walk and then went to dinner at a small pizzeria just outside of Siena.

This was our last day of relaxation for a bit - tomorrow we are heading to Florence for the day, and Tuesday we have hired a guide for a day-long hike through the countryside and into the town of San Gimignano.

Distance Walked: 4.39 miles



Katie's Komments - The topic for today is…The Landscape of Tuscany

Ever since the first minute we arrived here we have all been amazed by the beautiful landscape of Tuscany. I have had a great time painting the wonderful landscape around our apartment and while doing so have noticed some similarities between the scenes of my paintings and those of the Impressionists. The following paragraphs discuss my feelings about the breathtaking scenery and atmosphere of Tuscany.

After three hours of driving through the hills we finally stepped out of our car and into the Tuscan sunshine. After taking my first breath of Tuscany air I looked around the farmhouse. We were literally right next to a vineyard and surrounded by tons of lovely olive trees. I looked out into the countryside and absorbed the beauty of the various plant life and farmland. This patchwork of yellow land and green trees brought a magical feeling to the entire area and my wonders of this place. We were going to be surrounded by all of this for an entire three weeks… I couldn't wait! The composition of this patchwork of color and design seemed perfect. There were vineyards everywhere; while each field had evenly aligned rows the fields were arranged at different angles to create a sense of movement. There were only three major colors used in the patchwork, but all of the variations of these three colors created a colorful and flowing effect. I finally realized why the Impressionists liked to paint here. I was already inspired.

The more we looked around the area the more inspired I was about painting here and using the ingenious techniques of the impressionists. It was the place I had dreamed of painting at and the place many others never had the opportunity to see. The colors were strikingly familiar to the ones I used in my oil paintings all the time…burnt sienna, yellow ochre, raw sienna, Hooker's green and so on. The impressionists liked to paint Tuscany because of its colors. I knew the impressionists looked for challenges and this would definitely be one for them. I knew very well that all of these color variations would require a great understanding of color mixing. I even felt a little guilty for getting to come to this beautiful area when I had only about two years of painting experience with mixing colors. I knew of so many people who studied painting really hard hoping that someday they would be able to use their skills in Tuscany and are still dreaming of a chance to go. I picked out many things I had seen in impressionist collections of paintings such as the Cyprus tree, wine vineyards and farm houses. It was like Monet's garden in Givenry - I recognized all of these elements just like they were painted long ago.

This was indeed a breathtaking sight for me. There were millions of different kinds of plants and wild life as well as tons of different color shades and variations. The rows of grapes and tilled farmland moved in all different directions and seemed to be led by tall Cyprus trees. This created a complex and moving scene, but unlike the Sistine Chapel it was not overwhelming energy. It was more of a soothing and calming formation created by Mother Nature. It was a flow of beauty that will lasts within my heart and memory forever.
















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