Up, Up, and Up Again: Exploring Split’s Marjan

Lucca, Italy has two large playgrounds just beneath the wall, as well as two smaller ones on top of the wall.

Lucca, Italy has two large playgrounds just beneath the wall, as well as two smaller ones on top of the wall.

When we left Lucca, Italy for Split, Croatia the Younger Fives were pretty bummed to leave behind Lucca’s wall and the four nearby playgrounds. We actually chose to live in Lucca out of every other city in Italy because it had such a great play-space for children. Not many cities can compete with a pedestrian friendly wall encircling the entire city, peppered with well maintained playgrounds? However, now that we have visited Split’s Marjan we can safely say that it gives Lucca a run for its money.

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The Marjan is a massive, forested hill that takes up the entire peninsula to the west of Split’s Old Town. To access the Marjan you start climbing sets of stairs that begin just off of the waterfront promenade. The kids had a blast racing each other up the stairs and looking back on Diocletian’s Palace from the scenic view points. However, they were completely amazed when we emerged into a Pine forest about half-way up the hill. The trees are huge, and we haven’t actually been in a forest since last march when we visited Sequoia National Park, so we were all giddy with excitement. As soon as the kids noticed the playground and three amazing climbing structures they were off like shots to spend the next hours playing under the trees.

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We couldn’t have imagined how good it would feel to be back in a forest breathing clean air with no cars buzzing by, or noise from nearby roads. Lately we have been hard hit by how much we miss being out in nature. Even on Lucca’s wall we were always within eye sight of cars and trucks zooming past. However, on the Marjan it was so quiet, and the air was so clean that you wouldn’t believe that the city of Split was just a short distance away. It was hard for us to pull ourselves away, but finally we rallied the troops and finished climbing the last set of stairs to the top of the hill.

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At the very top of the hill is a large observation area with amazing views of Split and the Mosor mountains to the North, and the Adriatic and nearby islands to the South. The top of the hill is know as the Telegrin (telegraph). It gets its name from the optical station of telegraph that Napoleon’s troops installed at the start of the 19th century. While the rest of our day included scrambling along the rocks and enjoying a picnic lunch we can’t wait to go back to discover the many other exciting treasures that this gem of a public park offers, including hermitage caves dating back to the 15th century. A visit to the Marjan will definitely become part of our weekly routine while we are here in Split.

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Rome’s Biggest Playground: Park of the Aqueducts

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After a few days exploring the dizzying array of sites in Rome, the Younger Fives were ready to run free without having to worry about traffic or throngs of people passing them on both sides. Il Parco degli Acquedotti (The Park of the Aqueducts) is an ideal place for families to enjoy a natural refuge while still soaking up the marvels of ancient Rome.

Fives’ Facts About The Park of the Aqueducts
* Aqueducts in the Park: The park contains the remnants of two impressive aqueducts. One, Aqua Claudia, was finished in 52 AD and spanned 69 kilometers. It could provide all of Rome’s 14 districts with water, and the volcanic ash used in the concrete made it very durable. Acqua Felice, on the other hand, was built in 1586 by Pope Sextus V. It is 24 kilometers long and was the first new aqueduct of early modern Rome.
* Getting There:
The park is easily reached from the Guilo Agricola stop on the Metro’s A line. From there it is a 4 block walk SW out of the subway station to Via Lemonia. From there, turn left and walk along for a few blocks; you can enter the park anywhere on your right. For pictures of the route and a map, we used the information from Ron in Rome.
Playgrounds: We found a large, impressive playground (the biggest and best we’d seen in Rome) just outside of the park on Via Lemonia, a few blocks from the intersection with Via Guilo Agricola. It also has carnival type attractions for kids, a restaurant, and several food vendors there.
* Nature:
The park’s fields, meadows, and open spaces give a welcomed break from the stone and pavement of Rome. The kids enjoyed playing at the edge of a stream going through the park, and they were mesmerized by the park’s small waterfall (between the Acqua Felice and the farm fields, in the span between the playground and large church that provides a handy reference point while in the park).
* Rome’s Aqueduct System:
At its peak Rome’s aqueduct system spanned about 800 kilometers in total length. It supplied Rome with over 300 million gallons of water every day, which is 25% more than the current daily water supply of Bangalore, India.

ABC’s of Rome’s Borgo District: Angels, Bonci, and Cioccolato

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Beyond the Coliseum and the Forum, on the west side of the Tiber River, we were recently schooled on some of the finer and lesser known family attractions in Rome. From exploring dark tunnels, to sampling the most creative and delicious pizza we’ve ever tasted, to enjoying an amazing vegan chocolate gelato, the Borgo district is definitely not to be missed.

Castel Sant’Angelo

Originally built as the mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 139 AD, the Castel Sant’Angelo is a wonderful destination for kids. From the playground at the base of the fortress to the maze of dark tunnels to explore, it gives visitors of all ages the chance to soak up art, history, and some commanding views from the top. In the 14th century the Vatican converted the structure to a castle (the Pope even has a covered fortified corridor that leads from Vatican City to the castle), and the military fortifications only add to the list of things to explore during a visit.

Pizzarium by Gabriele Bonci
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If you are looking a pizza that is creative, delicious,and reasonably priced, then Pizzarium is the place for you. Chef Gabriele Bonci uses a dizzying array of vegetable (and also meat and cheese) combinations to make the mouths of vegans and non-vegans alike water. The pizzas coming out of the oven are constantly changing and always a surprise; we had the pleasure to sample a pumpkin cabbage pizza as well as a roasted eggplant and basil pizza. While there is no fixed seating, there are plenty of stools available for an impromptu pizza picnic on the sidewalk.

Chocolate Fondant Gelato at Lemongrass
DSC05670-picsayWe’ve had some good vegan gelato while in Rome, but the chocolate fondant flavor at Lemongrass rises above the rest. There were lots of flavors of dairy and vegan gelato to choose from, and combining the fruit flavors (banana, strawberry, etc.) with the chocolate fondant can’t be beat. And given its strategic location between the Pizzarium and Castel Sant’Angelo, there are many opportunities to sample different flavor combinations while in transit between these other sites and/or en route to the Cipro or Lepanto Metro stops. 

 

Slip Slidin’ Away at the Parque Infantil

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The rains here in San Cristóbal de las Casas have been off and on, but we have made the most of the dry spells to get outside and explore the city. We had heard about a large playground at the western edge of the city and decided to walk across town to check it out. The Parque de Convivencia Infantil (located on the Pereferico Norte Poniente, 1 block south of the Pemex Station) did not disappoint; while the puddles were plentiful, the great collection of slides and climbing structures made us at least feel all warm and sunny.

Tips for Your Visit:
* The Park is closed on Mondays, and opens at 10:00 all other days. The opening time is definitely not set in stone (it didn’t open until 11:15 the day we visited), so you may have to wait a little for the gate to open.
* While we did walk to the playground from our apartment, it was a long and exhaust-filled walk. We gladly shelled out the 30 pesos for the cab home and would use the cab both ways the next time we visit.
* The entrance cost, for both adults and children, is 2 pesos per person.

Coco Loco

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As a family we are pretty passionate about playgrounds. We have romped on some wonderful playgrounds from Doylestown, Pennsylvania to Goose Cove, Newfoundland, but none are quite like the playground we found along the Malecón here in La Paz. To get there, drive along the Malecón east through town until you reach the Araiza Palmira Hotel on the right. The playground is just across the street.

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A playground with a view of the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez is hard to beat. The Younger Fives loved the two huge, colorful structures with slides, climbing walls, and plenty of other elements. For the Older Fives, watching the waves break on the beach and boats sailing by were a welcomed addition to watching the kids zoom around from slide to slide.

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The most unexpected and enjoyable surprise came at a shaded table at the restaurant just next to the playground. Five of Hearts has had her heart set on ordering fresh coconut water, and we saw the restaurant offered just that. Although we all enjoyed the adventure of sipping right out of a coconut, only Five String took a liking to it and consequently had the “opportunity” to finish the coconut water that no one else wanted. At least his potassium levels were all the better for it.

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Peering around at some of the other tables, we noticed many were enjoying a scrumptious-looking plate of coconut covered in a red sauce. We soon gathered from our waiter that Coco Loco was the name of this popular dish, so we decided to give it a try. The waiter took away our now-empty coconut, and in a few minutes returned with the coconut flesh served back to us on a plate, accompanied by spicy date paste and Japanese peanuts, all covered in a spicy red fruit sauce (made out of passion fruit we think, but we’d love to hear if anyone knows what exactly what the sauce is or is called). The Younger Fives each took some good bites, but were mainly interested in squeezing lime juice onto the plate with the provided bowl of limes and juice squeezer. Five Spice and Five String were more than glad to pick up the slack, savoring every bite, a little sad though to finish off our new-found acquaintance, the crazy coconut.

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