Biking Bliss in Lucca


After settling into our new rental for the next two months, we’ve been asked several times, “Why Lucca?” Aside from its surprising concentration of playgrounds (a rarity in Italy), its Renaissance walls (2.6 miles around) have been converted into a paved pedestrian-only biking and walking path. We had a wonderful two months biking in Prince Edward Island last year, so the thought of having access to a place on par with the Confederation Trail was too good to pass up.


Not surprisingly, there are a lot of bike rental shops in town to choose from (open even in the off-season). After looking through others’ experiences on TripAdvisor, we decided on Tourist Center Lucca. Their glowing reviews are definitely well-earned. They were super friendly in setting up a two month rental for us, and as they are a pretty large operation they have quite a lot of bikes to choose from. When we arrived on our first day in Lucca, they had the perfect bikes waiting for us (including a pink bike for Five of Hearts), and the staff really took the time to ensure everything was tightened on the bike and that the seats were adjusted to the proper height.




Biking on the wall each day has been purely magical. Lucca is beautiful on its own, but gliding underneath the elm trees, the autumn sun illuminating their golden leaves, is a truly unforgettable experience. The big biking news for us, though, is that Five Ball is now officially riding without training wheels! He tried it out a little last year in PEI, and it must be true that you never forget how to ride a bike. After a day of practice in Lucca, he was cruising the walls like a pro.

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We couldn’t be happier that our typical morning walk routine has now been replaced with a morning bike ride while here in Lucca. The circular route is the perfect length for little legs (even High Five can manage on his own with training wheels), and we’re just about ready to try out two times around instead of one. We know our time in Lucca can’t last forever, but we’re grateful to be Fives on the Pedal once again, if only for a little while.



Finals: Leaving PEI

It is hard to believe that we are on the road again. This morning we drove over the Confederation Bridge and made our way to the Saint Lawrence River, about an hour outside of Quebec City. The last few days have been a hectic blur as we packed, cleaned, and crammed in as many final activities as we could before leaving the island. As we built sandcastles, visited favorite playgrounds and explored the National Park for the last time Five String remarked that it reminded him of “college finals weeks”. The busyness of the week was tiring, but there was always an air of excitement about what was to come next. The long drive today was a nice transition between remembering our wonderful time on Prince Edward Island and looking ahead to many more great adventures.

Final Sandcastles

Final Sandcastles

A last day at the beach.

A last day at the beach.

Watching the ducks and geese as they prepared for a journey as well.

Watching the ducks and geese as they prepared for a journey as well.

One last trail to explore.

One last trail to explore.

A last trip to the playground.

A last trip to the playground.

Swinging off energy before the start of a long car ride.

Swinging off energy before the start of a long car ride.

Apple Trees Don’t Grow from Seeds (and Other Lessons Learned in the Orchard)


When the days start to get cooler and the leaves start to change color, as it has here on PEI, we can think of no better place to be than an apple orchard. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to spend a beautiful crisp morning at Beamish Orchard, an organic, family-run apple orchard located just outside of Charlottetown.


In addition to visiting the farm for some delicious apples, we also scheduled an educational tour with the owner, Mike Beamish. He started our tour in the orchard’s newly finished Apple Barn and gave us an overview of the strategies and challenges facing organic apple growers. We learned about fertilizing the trees with compost tea and a few tricks for disrupting the reproduction of pests that like to lay their eggs in the apples. From dusting the apples with a clay that the female insects dislike, to spreading female pheromones among the trees so that the male can’t find a mate, Mike uses some creative tactics to keep his apples looking and tastings great.


We then headed out to the orchard to see some of Mike’s varieties first-hand. We were joined by Stepanie Compton from the Atlantic Canada Organic Research Network, who also shared her extensive knowledge about apples and organics on PEI. As we sampled some delicious Redfree and Novamac apples, we were all interested and a little shocked to learn that Mike doesn’t plant apple “seedlings” but instead adds new trees to his orchard in the form of a “whip”. A whip is a piece of a desirable apple tree that has been grafted onto a specially selected root stock. Since apple seeds don’t grow into trees that match its parent in the taste and character of the fruit, grafting is a much more reliable way to produce the kind of apple a farmer is looking for. We left the orchard with a lot more knowledge as well as plenty of apples and cider to make an apple feast.


The next day, we followed up our visit with a homeschool lesson devoted to everything apples. We used some of the resources below to watch a video about pollination, use an interactive map to trace the apple’s journey from its origins in Central Asia, and play a game to match plants with their pollinators. A quick outdoor apple hunt later and we were ready to prepare and enjoy our apple feast with the apples from Beamish Orchard.

We ended our apple extravaganza with a walk along a dirt road in the Prince Edward Island National Park. Earlier this summer we had come across several wild apple trees growing along the road. During our tour at Beamish Orchard we learned that you never know just what kind of apple a tree grown from seeds (rather than grafting) will produce. So, we decided to go and sample some of the “wild apples” and see what we would find. Some were pretty tasty, and others, well, not so much. While we didn’t find the next big variety this time around, we will keep on munching wild apples in the knowledge that the “Fives Fancy” apple is out there somewhere on some abandoned road or old orchard, just waiting for us to find it.

Homeschool Resources:

Crash Course Biology Video: Plant Reproduction
Disney Johnny Appleseed Video
Curious George Apple Picking Game
Apple Tree Reproduction
Apple Blossom Anatomy
Fruit Tree Pests and Diseases
Michael Pollan’s Interactive Apple Map
Nova Pick the Pollinator Game

The Fives’ Favorites: PEI Edition

With our two months on Prince Edward Island coming to a close this week, we’ve been thinking back to our favorite experiences on the island. Here are a few of the things we will miss as we start heading west toward Glacier National Park in the coming weeks.

Five Ball: I liked Highland Storm, the show with the bagpipes. It was pretty cool. There were dancers and drummers, and it was a lot of fun watching it. All the dancers were my favorite part.

High Five: Biking. I liked blackberries, cows and the geese [off the Confederation Trail]. I want to go biking again!

Five of Hearts: My favorite thing was the Pirate Camp I went to. I liked all the activities like swinging on the rope and making treasure chests.

Five String: Exploring Robinsons Island was the highlight of my time on PEI. The day really had a castaway feel. There was nothing like the excitement walking through a winding path in the woods and suddenly emerging on a beautiful empty beach.

Five Spice: My favorite experience on PEI was exploring the sand dunes at Greenwich. I loved seeing the excitement in the Younger Fives’ faces when they reached the top of the final sand dune and rushed down to the ocean. It was certainly a swim we hadn’t planned for, but one we will never forget.

Honorable Mention: We all agreed that Orwell Corner Historic Village was a delightful day. From carriage rides to candle making, we all learned so much about life on the island a hundred years ago while having a lot of fun!

Biking by the Bay

So far all of our bike trips along the Confederation Trail have been wonderful. However, our absolute favorite so far was an excursion along St. Peter’s bay on the eastern section of Prince Edward Island.


The Confederation Trail from St. Peter’s to Morell runs directly along the bay and features three bridges that cross over rivers entering into the bay. The scenery along this stretch is truly fantastic with great views of the mussel production/aquaculture industry that takes place in the bay.


Apple trees and raspberry bushes along the trail provide a heavenly scent and a yummy snack this time of year. We were also fortunate to see some fabulous wildlife along the way. The highlight being an osprey with a fish in its clutches being chased by a bald eagle. The osprey got away with its lunch and as the bald eagle doubled back towards the water it flew directly over our heads.


The Younger Fives particularly enjoyed exploring the bridges along the trail. For a family with young kids they provide a great rest stop and an interesting diversion from pedaling.



We highly recommend a ride between St. Peter’s and Morell to anyone looking for a nice outing along the Confederation Trail.