Fall colors all around

Olivia and John left for the east coast October 14 to visit Isabella and to hear and see firsthand how Kent School was becoming a part of her life. It was the weekend of parent+teacher conferences and all the students were excited to see their parents even if it meant cleaning their dorm rooms.

As expected Isabella was doing great. She had changed her roommate and had gotten a good group of friends – many of who she’s in classes with during the day. She received many good comments from her teachers and her counselor and so far boarding school seems to be the right choice for her even though she is of course missed at home.

The weekend turned out to be at the very peak of the fall colors making their entrance around New England and coincidently Kent was named one of the best places in 2015 to see the changing scenery. One would think it gets a little old and boring after a while but the car was pulled over many times to photograph the trees, hills and valleys in their yellow, orange, green and everything in between.

After spending Friday afternoon at the school the three went to dinner at Oliva on Main in Bethlehem. The restaurant was recommended by Regine, the owner of the lovely Bed & Breakfast where Olivia and John stayed. Isabella was very happy with the hummus and later spaghetti and slept well until she was picked up the following day.

Saturday was spent touring Yale University and shopping for a winter jacket. The campus at Yale was very beautiful and it was amazing to walk there and think about all the graduates that went on from there to put their mark on World history. The three finished the day off at Community Table which serves a Nordic menu including Swedish meatballs. A very cozy place built like a Swedish cabin.

Sunday started with breakfast at JP Gifford in Kent – recently named on the the 15 best small bakeries in the US. Afterwards they toured New Preston and finished with a quick trip to a “nearby” Starbucks 30 miles away. Olivia and John had to drive to New York to fly back to the west cost and left Isabella with some time to relax and treat a spiring cold. The weather was rapidly turning colder and there was frost on the windows Sunday morning as well as both snow and hail in the afternoon.

Good timing on that winter jacket!

20151015 Isabella visit Kent 0234

Africa 2015

22 family members arrived in Johannesburg on June 26 early morning – some straight from San Francisco while most had enjoyed some days in Amsterdam. Olivia, John and the girls flew in from Athens, Greece – more on that in a different post.

From Johannesburg the family flew to Maun in Botswana where they connected to smaller planes able to land on the airstrip near the first of two camps – Xigera. The property, located in the Okavango Delta, is owned by Wilderness Safari and overall this was the first Africa trip in a while where the family didn’t stay at AndBeyond properties.

The transfer process and security procedures in Maun were rather chaotic but all made it out of there in time in three separate planes and arrived at Xigera Camp mid-afternoon just in time for a quick game drive which at the end brought a head-to-head with a (luckily) friendly elephant bull – close enough that the trunk came inches away from a couple of faces. Nature at its best.

The following four days were spent around the delta and in it. Part of the time were in traditional open safari vehicles but the water was the main attraction and the family came to spend a fair amount of time in makoros and in the fast boats through what seemed like an endless maze of little water ways that somehow all found their way back to the main waterway that will let you reach Maun in approximately eight hours.

The camp itself it built on stilts above the wetlands below. The animals are free to roam throughout the camp and sand traps revealed the presence of nightly visitors every morning at sunrise. Some were spotted “in person” – elephant and hippo. Hard to hide. Even at night… The camp was beautiful and built in a nice tent style. The staff was wonderful and took very good care of all.

John’s birthday was celebrated on the last evening at Xigera and the staff not only celebrated him with song and dance but had also left him a couple of presents in the room; which was a very nice touch.

It was time to pack up and continue the journey June 30 and three planes picked the family up mid-morning before making the two-stop journey back to South Africa. The first stop to go through customs and immigration while the second stop was for refueling. After almost five hours the planes arrived at Londolozi airstrip where the last two family members – Andrew and Lucy – joined for the remainder of the trip.

Londolozi – a Zulu word that roughly translates into “protector of all things” is an icon amongst all the African safari camps. It has been around for years and has been instrumental when it comes to wildlife preservation and rehabilitation. Their leopards are known world-wide although they did prove quite hard to find. The resort as stunning and and the whole camp is very professionally run.

The first game drive brought a pack of nine sleeping lions just about a mile from camp. The looked undisturbed but the crocodiles that they shared the water hole with. Three unrelated young lion brothers had killed a water buffalo kill – something that was revisited on several occasions reminding all the the smell doesn’t improve as the days go by.

There were many other sightings over the five days. Lots of giraffe, wildebeests, birds incl. fish eagles and Penny’s beloved lilac-breasted roller, elephants and water buffalo. There’s supposedly a lone ostrich that no one spotted, and rumor has it there’s a petition to get her a male ostrich to keep her company.

The leopards were hard to find but patience and some luck brought the good first sighting just as the light was disappearing on the third day. Good excuse to stop for a sundowner once the leopard had had enough of our company. The second good sighting actually happened on the way back from a morning drive with a leopard chomping on a fresh kill. Wonderful to see these precious cats in their natural environment.

After a great 4th of July celebration on the riverbed, it was time to start packing. The following morning it was off to Johannesburg with evening flight waiting to take most back to the US. Olivia left her wedding ring in the room but luckily she was staying behind in Johannesburg for a few days to see old friends so the ring and its rightful owner got reunited after a couple of days of separation.

As written before there is no place like Africa and it’s safe to say that all are looking forward to go back sometime in the near future.

For a more visual story there are some select photos from the trip here.

US Open ’15

Olivia flew to New York on Friday to meet John for a weekend getaway. They were lucky to have tickets to the women’s final at US Open and while it was a bit of a bummer that Serene Williams didn’t qualify, it was very exciting to be at the event and venue.

The weekend started with an exclusive evening reception together with Stan Smith – him himself a former US Open champion. After the reception Olivia and John walked around the 9/11 memorial – close the Battery Park hotel. Friday marked the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other landmarks and the memorial was packed with people. Most were somber while other visitors took smiling selfies. The iconic blue lights were on all weekend as a great reminder of where the twin towers stood and what once was.

Saturday Olivia and John were transported to the Arthur Ashe stadium early morning. Reports of upcoming rain had everybody looking towards the sky, but as it turned out the rain would only being after the final ceremonies of the day.

An early arrival brought an almost empty stadium which was quite a unique experience. The men’s double soon was underway and over, so there was time to have Stan Smith show them around the facilities. They bumped into Rodger Federer on the practice courts but overall most of the celebrities were in the stands. The women’s final was exciting and well-played and it was special to be there with Flavia Pennetta announcing her retirement.

The evening brought Olivia and John to Gotham Bar & Grill. Lovely atmosphere and food followed by drinks with one of John’s colleagues and his girlfriend at the Flatiron Lounge. Good times!

Sunday morning the weekend was finished off with a (re)visit to the 9/11 Museum. It is very well done and one could spend hours upon hours there. Some of the exhibits are quite emotional but it’s a good reminder of just how significant an event it was for all and how it could happen in the first place.

Isabella – contact information

Isabella can be reached at Kent School using one of the two following addresses:

FedEx/UPS:
Isabella Agger-Pilon
Kent School
One Macedonia Road
Kent CT 06757
USA

Regular postal mail:
Isabella Agger-Pilon
Kent School
PO Box 2006
Kent CT 06757
USA

New beginnings for Isabella

Isabella and John arrived at Kent School no Friday and spent the first couple of hours getting Isabella settled in her new room. Her Korean roommate – Sarah – had moved in the day before when international students arrived. Isabella is based in the North Dorm and seem to be on a rather noisy floor although that might change once homework is assigned. The temperature quickly reached 90 degrees mid-morning so they quickly ordered a fan to help them keep their heads cool.

They went to meet Isabella’s advisor who they had already heard of via a friend. Isabella and her advisor will meet once or twice every week to monitor progress at school and in classes. Isabella also got signed up for laundry service and after a quick lunch and welcome gathering with the head master it was time for John to take off.

Isabella also had impact testing this weekend so that that school can monitor any changes should she participate in activities that leads to a concussion. The all-students school dance Saturday evening was not such an event.

August 2015

Isabella came back from summer camp on August 15 and very much enjoyed a couple of weeks in Portola, CA together with new friends as well as the ones she made last year. 2015 was the last year she could participate so small traces of sadness but some of them are also off to boarding school, so we’re sure they will stay in contact and compare notes.

Once back Libby had organized an little party for Isabella and quite a few of her Saint Catherine’s friends showed up for some pizza and to catch up with what had happened over summer. All but Isabella were back in school and the little group of 36 students that followed each other for years are now spread all over the peninsula including San Francisco.

Olivia and John took Adriana to Las Vegas early August for her to experience all the craziness. She (obviously) loved every minute of it. Olivia and Adriana went to see Le Rêve at Wynn and fully enjoyed the show while John was busy taking a light painting class in Nelson 40 miles outside Las Vegas. Of other highlights that week was the High Roller observation wheel. It stands 550 feet (168 meter) tall and it’s 30 later by the time you get back down to the platform.

Pia is having a good time at Burlingame High School and on the cheer team. They performed this past Friday during the football game – as did Bella’s team – and Pia is enjoying it. Bella is currently delivering the news broadcast at the school. We uploaded the inaugurate newscast to our Vimeo account.

John and Ella spent the past weekend in Hong Kong getting a little time together before school starts. It’s a such a great place and although compact it still offers lots of diversity. They spent a couple of days in and around the city and made it Lantau to see Big Buddha – one of the largest outdoor buddhas in the world as well of Temple of 10,000 buddhas. What was meant to be a hike turned into a bus ride when heavy rain got in the way. They purchased a couple of umbrellas and continued semi-dry while the monks making their way up to the buddha got absolutely soaked.

The weekend prior to Hong Kong Olivia, Adriana and John spent a couple of days in Carmel Valley. It remains one of their favorite places on the planet. A Sunday morning hike brought sightings of 20+ whales feeding very close to the shore and the short hike ended up taking almost three hours with all the stops.

20150822 Adriana Olivia John Carmel Valley

Summer camp ’15

John and Isabella drove to Lake Tahoe on July 1 to drop of Isabella at Walton’s Grizzly Camp in Portola, CA. They left early in the morning and stopped at Emerald Lake and hiked four hours before making it all the way to the hotel in Truckee.

They were lucky to have a Ferrari California to their disposal and the roof was down most of the way. As “luck” would have it, last year’s incident repeated itself: a fast-flying rock cracked the wind shield. No big deal – it was covered by insurance but the chances of that happening with exactly one year apart can’t be that high.

Lake Tahoe was blue and beautiful – it’s such a beautiful part of the world. It is very crowded though and John and Isabella stayed around the hotel the rest of the day. The people at the ski resort all spoke about the small amount of snow they have had the last two years, and they were worried about this coming seaon as well.

Camp was reached Sunday mid-morning and John turned the nose towards Burlingame. It took little more than five hours to make it back. Isabella is flying back via Reno airport.

Going to school 2,969 miles away

There are 23 school days left of elementary school for Pia and Isabella. Finals will soon be part of their days (Bella has already started her finals) and after that it’s mostly wrapping up eight years at Saint Catherine’s.

As mentioned in an earlier post Pia decided on Burlingame High School early on. Isabella applied to several (other) schools and on April 6 Olivia, John and Isabella visited the last school on her list: Kent School in Connecticut. It was in instant love affair although it was still cold and fairly gray. But the campus was beautiful and Isabella had a great day following students around the school while Olivia and John spoke to teachers and counselors.

It will be a big change for all but Isabella is excited and everyone around her is supportive. She’ll be back only three times during the school year, but we will obviously stay in touch and update the blog with news from her time on the East Coast.