Thank you for reading my series! Even though I missed a couple of days, I have had so much fun recounting our family vacations as I’ve written this series. Since October is over, though, I’ll close with a few thoughts about doing the unexpected.

Some of our favorite vacation memories come from doing the thing that “other people” do, not us. The thing that seemed too fancy, or indulgent. It turns out they weren’t. They were, well, just awesome things to do.

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Matthew taking the Silverlining out for a spin.

We hired a private sailboat in Maine. The wonderful captain and his mate took us out for a two-hour cruise up and down the coast near Ogunquit. We got to pass under the (drawn) drawbridge, we saw whales, and all the kids got a turn at the wheel.  Bill had taken the kids out on a larger boat, with a larger group, to go deep-sea fishing. The opportunity to have the sailboat all to ourselves, though, was a real treat. (It’s the Silverlining, if you are ever near Ogunquit. We love them!)

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Chef Matisse coaches the boys on the finer points of spinach gnocchi.

We hired a chef to come give us a cooking class in Italy. If you rent a Tuscan villa, a pretty typical thing to do is have someone come in and cook for you a couple of days. (I guess it is typical–it sounded crazy-indulgent to me!) We decided to have Chef Matisse give us a class instead. He explained the ins and outs of Italian food as he showed us how to prepare a four-course meal. This was quite a feat, considering that he was wrangling eight of us in the kitchen! He even brought wine from his own vineyard. We now salt our food differently based on what he taught us, and we just had a wonderful evening.

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Ilaria (in the far front) leading us on a tour of the winery gardens and on to the vineyard.

We took the kids with us on a winery tour. Yes, this doesn’t sound kid friendly–I was afraid, too! The winery (Montemaggio Vineyards) was small and gave individualized tours. The winemaker, Ilaria Anichini, took all of us around the farm, showing the kids how the grapes are pruned, and why they grow olives in some places and grapes in others. She talked about the legal restrictions on growing grapes in Chianti (there are a lot!). We saw the casks and vats where the wine ages, and then we saw where the bottling and labeling happens. It’s such a small place that everyone pitches in with every step. Even the labels are applied by hand. Ilaria was wonderful in explaining some of the chemistry to the kids, and how the growing conditions change in various parts of the vineyard. Finally, we had a lunch of traditional Tuscan foods paired with the winery’s various wines. The kids smelled and took sips, so they could understand what she had been talking about the whole morning. The Tuscan lunch alone was great fun. They didn’t exactly love the wine, but they enjoyed the experience, and I would definitely take them again.

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Paris. Yes.

We hired a photographer in Paris. Hands down, my favorite thing we have ever done. I keep meaning to hire someone again, but part of me is fearful that no one will ever be as wonderful as Ian Holmes. He met us on a cold, damp November day and followed us around the City of Lights, making us feel like rock stars. The pictures are treasures. Do this one time when you are on vacation, just because. (I blogged about Ian on my old blog here.)

I know that all of these things sound kind of weird, or unusual, or just too over-the-top. My point is that some of our favorite memories happened when we thought a little bigger or outside our regular museum-restaurant-group activities box. Try something new!

No matter what, go and see. Do. Eat. Rest. Enjoy. Make memories.

I have had so much fun thinking about some of our very best times together as a family as I’ve written this series. Thank you for coming along with me. If any of the ideas here strike a chord, would you let me know? Have a great trip!