Just a few more pics to keep the memories fresh. No need for major sight seeing on our quick trip, instead simple outings to the beach and nearby villages for food, of course!
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Italy! Oh my goodness, Italy!!! I have had a small taste, and now just want more. The food, the wine, the people, the scenery, – the FOOD!!! The sense of taste to someone having spent the last 12 months in the BVI, is like that of a person who recently quite smoking and their tongue has awoken again! And eat we did, my first saccotino (pain au chocolate, but even better!), my first zucchini fritter (lightly battered zucchini blossoms), prosciutto, caprice salad, parmesan, anchovies, veal, wild boar salami, and liters of olive oil consumed, harvested and produced from the surrounding trees. I know, I know, I sound as cheesy as a chapter from ‘Eat Pray Love’, but I just can’t help myself. It had been a pretty hectic last few weeks, finishing up school, two weeks of camp, birthday party planning, Italy was like a dream! Relaxing into the rejuvenating rhythm of our hosts daily routine was blissful.
Alida has been spending summers in Castagneto Carducci, Livorno her whole life, and now shares this magical place with her remarkable three children (the youngest hopefully a son in law some day). The schedule was simple – café and beach time in the morning, then market, lunch, and relaxing around the idyllic property in the afternoon. Some days we were ambitious, and headed out for gelato or sightseeing. But I was just as happy puttering around – reading, going for relaxing walks, maybe a game or two of Bird Bingo, eventually putting the children to bed (only, of course after they had gone to collect the daily allotment of chicken eggs) and enjoying our own lovely meal. Clearly, it was a tough life.
The incredible friendships that Tortola has brought me, is by far the most appreciated aspect of our expat lifestyle. And of course when those friends move on, the negative consequences of residing on a transient island is heartbreaking. However, we now have beautiful mates peppered throughout the globe. I can vividly recall planning this trip with Alida at the Moorings café in the spring of 2013, being told the exact route to their tiny little village near the Tuscan coast, just putting it out into the universe. It was such a loss when she and her beautiful three children moved on from the island. But that day does eventually come for most of us. Although Yann and I frequently joke about Coralie and the grandkids visiting us old and grey, still residing on Tortola, god help me!
Although Coralie’s birthday was well over a month away, a small group of us got off the rock for a lovely day sail to Copper Island Beach Club, celebrating her upcoming 4th. She has been lucky enough to spend all her birthdays with extended family in France, but as her Mama, I wanted her to have a chance for a more child orienated celebration with her BVI friends. The theme was a mix of homage to the ‘Olivia the Pig’ books, along with a nautical twist.
For the invite, I sent out a copy of this page from the French version of ‘Olivia Saves the Circus’, which shows Olivia sailing with her Papa.
Some pig ears to go along with a second hand tutu, and new bathing suit.
I had these boat shaped woodshop scraps forever, finally finished for parting gifts.
Copies of our favorite pages, hanging above the table in the galley
Along the with boats, the guests also got a copy of ‘Coralie’s Bath Time Favorites’, which she can sing in it’s entirety!
Pics of Coralie from birth to present, hung up along the window frame
The Nutella Layered cake just barely managed to uphold the tropical summer heat.
But the cake topper itself was burned when the chef enthusiastically lighted the candles with a creme brulee touch, resulting in a great suvenir of the day.
When I was a little girl, my mother always made it a point to do something special on the last day of school. This was well before ‘graduation’ from each grade level became the norm. She just wanted to do something small to mark the end of the school year. A new coloring book, along with a box of crayons, and a lunch date is what I remember. Being a teacher herself, she also wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the end of term, and a year of hard work. So to celebrate Coralie’s first year in Casa, I invited a classmate to join us for tea at the local English style bakery. Rather than the sweet scenario that I envisioned of them acting out the childhood girls fantasy of a tea party, we instead had two overly tired three year olds on the brink of utter breakdown mode. It quickly became apparent, that maybe in fact this was not such a good idea. Four pots of various steaming teas had to be under complete surveillance on the wonky tables, as the girls ran wild in wait for the food. When the platters did arrive, looks of disappointment arose when open-faced sandwiches of baba ganoush and humus were on offer. Of course, the sweets were received with plenty more appreciation, but it became difficult dividing up the treats in an equal manner, to keep the meltdowns at bay. I think Coralie may have won that challenge, as she quickly stuffed down the cakes, scones, and brownies like a competitive eater. Regardless, we certainly got a few smiles in here and there, which I hope what gets sent to the memory bank for future reference.
Yann, the boat trip hero, organised an amazing long weekend away for us and a few friends to the North Sound. The break was just what was needed, as I had all of three days between the last day of school and the first day of summer camp. We sailed over, technically as part of the Yacht club’s regatta, but really didn’t take the racing part too seriously. Regardless, as part of the fleet, we earned dockage space at the Bitter End Yacht Club, which perfectly suited the needs of everyone on board. The girls got a hike in (quite a long one, as we got lost!), the children had beach and pool time, and the men were in close proximity to the pub for football. The perfect end to the year, and the beginning of summer.
Woke up today, July 1st, hazy after a long night with a sick, sweet little girl, a bit baffled as to where all the time went! Since Spring break, life has been on overdrive, between the last bit of school term for the year as well as starting my own Montessori Elementary training, and some how managing to try to keep up with the normal chores. Fortunately, Yann is determined to earn pink points for a surf trip getaway to Costa Rica, and therefore has been really helpful around the house. I’m keeping him on his toes, determined to milk the most out of the trip!
And now, here it is, end of school, beginning of summer camp, and just under three weeks till I finally get off this island! My first trip to Italy, then on to France, it’s clearly been well worth staying close to the rock this year. I am determined to get back into the habit of keeping an online journal, to organise the mass of pictures I know I will be taking in the next couple of months of travelling. I give him quite a hard time, surf trip aside, but at the end of the day, I am so glad to have ended up with my man, who makes our gypsy dreams a reality.
The parents of this man of mine, finally made the long journey down to us from France. Coralie was over the moon to host her doting grandparents, Papoose and Yai Yai in our home for their visit. It makes me so happy that regardless of the distance, their connection is so strong.
The only downside to their trip was the long weekend Yann managed to carve out to get them out on the water, turned out to be the wettest weekend of the year. We had our sights set on Anegada, but just barely made it around the point to Marina Cay, through sheets of rain and head on winds. By far, my most adventurous trip at sea yet!
We just about kept sane indoors with board games and table forts. Coralie was actually quite a trooper, and enjoyed the change of sunny scenes. Must be her Portland roots! Although she told tonight, while rooting on USA football, that she was not in fact an America, she just happened to be born there.
Some how, some way, the clouds parted for a couple of hours on Mother’s Day Sunday. Coralie had been well-instructed to prepare my breakfast by her teacher at school. She carried out the directions marvelously. After enjoying my hot chocolate and toast, Martine and I escaped to the cafe at Cooper Island for an hour of bliss.
I have all of Dream Yacht Tortola to thank for my 20hour girls only trip away to Virgin Gorda for Swim the Sound. Yann organised the boat, with a drop off and pick up skipper, leaving just the three of us to fend for ourselves overnight. I must have called every hour on the hour, checking on various beeps and creaks of the boat. During this time, back at base, Coralie was taken care of by the women of his team during a busy charter weekend.
Finally, this July first makes for 10 birthdays of my father, since he died a decade ago. Almost always spent with his little girl, celebrated by a trip to the circus, which passed through Phoenix the same time every year. As much as I have moved on past the death of my parents, watching my little girl grow up, I am often in a nostalgic place of thought, remembering, comparing my own childhood to the one before me. Although the closure of my own relationship with my father may had seemed accomplished, I can’t help but acknowledge the void that he will never know the two people that now make up my world. I try to make due by filling in the blanks, certain in my heart of how much he would have accepted Yann into the family, while also keeping his spirit alive with stories of Grandpa Mike for Coralie. Sometimes this works, and other times, I let the sadness remind me that this is part of what makes me, me. Today, I smile, picturing him at home watching a sport he may never have thought he would follow, calling me to complain that we live to far away for him to take his granddaughter to the circus, but never very seriously, because my happiness was always more important than his own. Always in my mind, always in my heart, always his little girl.
Over the spring holiday, Coralie and I both enjoyed a lovely week off together from the rigours of student/teacher life. Another school break that was spent on island (although I did manage a personal blissful day away to St. John, ON MY OWN!), which will now make for the longest stretch of time that the two of us have stayed within the Virgin Islands consecutively, not having set foot on a plane since August. Although I sometimes feel the more vacations taken, the quicker island fever can arise, I now realize I personally need at least one small getaway beyond boat trips to make it from one summer holiday to the next. Still, I do rely on the breaks and half term (Century House Montessori goes by the UK system, with a two month summer break, and six plus weeks off during term time) to survive as a working mother. There always seems to be a week ahead on the schedule to get caught up with the house or work stuff, which helps when feeling a bit overwhelmed. Although after listening to a recent Terry Gross interview with Brigid Schulte on the subject of motherhood and life, I am starting to let it go, ‘to do’ list and all. And so that was pretty much how we spent out break, doing a whole lot of nothing, with a few swim trips, and number of egg hunts and Easter parties to break up the time. I also finally finished her new dress, made from this tutorial Jackie-O-Dress, and promptly forced her to wear it to every social outing over the week!
A few weeks back it was my turn to host the lovely members of the ‘Little BVI Craft Group’. It’s been well over four years now that the group was formed, gathering a small number of ‘crafty’ women from around the island together one Sunday afternoon a month for tea, treats (and sometimes wine), to share our latest handiwork. We spend a few quiet hours together working on various projects, chatting and supporting one another through the creative process. For me, it’s my one indulgence to book a sitter on a Sunday afternoon, as Yann is usual working, and enjoy some mature company at the end of the weekend. Sewing and crafting can often be a slightly isolating hobby, so I am quite thankful for this special group of women, making an effort to share their time with one another.
Okay, okay, I’ll eat my words about the BVI not offering up any culture to our island experience, although I know I am not the only expat down here that makes that complaint. After attending the Caribbean Art Festival in both Trellis with Coralie and in town as a mini field trip with three elementary children, I was blown away by all that was on display. Jewelery produced with seeds grown by the artists herself, amazing 12 feet long wood sculptures created by a 4-year-old boy and his father, and incredible marbalized textiles, that went well beyond the tie dye you often see, all so inspiring. And of course it’s quite awesome to expose your daughter to such original work, all while she runs around shoeless!
Last week we joined the Hunt family for on a three-day excursion to the US Virgin Islands last week, as the children we off school for half-term break. I’d had my heart set on camping at Cinnamon Bay Camp ground for some time now, and somehow managed to talk the three other adults into my dream. Although we found ourselves at times looking at the deluxe private villas available for hire on the hillside longingly, nothing could have the topped the campground environment for the children. Amazing kid-friendly white sand beach, check; pots, pans, plastic plates for kitchen-play, check; hermit crabs galore for collecting, check. Couldn’t get that over at Caneel Bay. Now that we know what to expect, the next time will be even better.