Our last night in Verona-there we were in the Quinzanno Fiesta, tasting the local cuisine, drinking vino rossi and watching the elegant dancers, just like being in the Noosa RSL really.
Kerry was avoiding getting amongst such accomplished dancers but after another vino rossi he relented and we danced into the night. He left me alone to learn the finer details of the local line dances but then he was back up.
We made a dashing couple, treading all over each others toes and knocking into all the other dancers, fighting about who should be leading....The singer introduced the next song and it was as if I spoke fluent Italian, I knew it was my moment "IMAGINE". I looked over Kerrys shoulder and saw the yellow moon rising...A perfect ending to our nights in Verona. Tomorrow the cleaning and an overnight sleeper train to Paris.
What a spectacularly beautiful place Venice is. Obviously a lot of people feel the same way because it is the peak of the high season and it was very crowded. You can get away from the crowds if you think about it. San Marco Square at 3pm was madness but at 7:30am it was so quiet and so beautiful in the early morning light. I managed to get some lovely photos on my humble phone (well I think so anyway!).
Merryn got 11 out of 10 for her selection of hotel. We stayed at the very charming and quaintly named "Tribute to Music Residenza", a few hundred metres from San Marco Square and directly overlooking San Marco Bay. We could sit in the window seats leaning over the balcony and watch the people in the sidewalk ristorantes below, and the boats, gondolas, cruise ships in a constant passing parade.
Some of the many highlights were:
- a private water taxi to and then personal guided tour of Murano Glass Factory. Unfortunately all the items we liked were in excess of 500 Euros, some mindblowingly so. Our guide was charming and philosophical when we apologised and said Ciao without having bought a thing: "It was worth it for me just to see the looks in your eyes". Not worth it for him in sales commission though ...
- a gondola ride down the canals and under the bridges. Merryn told me that it was going to be under the canals, but I think she was just excited. In a dream I wandered happily off and left my backpack (with my computer) on the gondola and had to rush back for it. No problemo!!
- the Vaporetta rides, lots of photo opportunities.
- a late night dinner where the waiter plied us with his home made limoncello. The recipe seems simple enough. We'll have to try and make some when we return home. After all we've got a lemon tree that bears lots of fruit so that's a start.
- of course the many churches. Merryn fell in love with Salute (lots of photos).
- and just wandering aimlessly through the many narrow lanes. We were never exactly lost in the labyrinth but there were many times when we had no idea where we were!! There has been a blog brewing for some time now on the theme of Merryn and I lost in the Labyrinth. I'll write it soon.
I think that three days was pefect for us. We had just the right amount of sensory overload and happy weariness when we boarded the train for the two hour trip back to Verona.
And now it is almost two weeks gone, halfway through our holiday, and I have been way too busy eating, drinking, sleeping, biking, gawking, loving to write another blog. We are having a delightful time.
I've just put up another couple of photo galleries, "Out and about" and "Day trip to Vicenza". Vicenza is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, with a rich history and culture, and many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi. With the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, and his renowned Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre), the "city of Palladio" has been enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
Vicenza's population is about 120,000. It is the third-largest Italian industrial centre and is one of the country's wealthiest cities, and it is a really beautiful city. Like Verona, there has been a continuous city there since Roman times, and just like Verona I am overawed by the almost casual reminders of Roman civilization that keep appearing in seemingly innocuous settings, like a broken section of a Roman column placed at the entrance to a narrow laneway (corso) to prevent cars from entering although I don't see how even the skinniest Smart Car could make it up some of them!
The weather here has been warm to hot (Merryn says "hot to bloody hot" as she lies on the bed KIndle in hand) with very little rain, the notable exception being the downpour on Romeo and Juliet's opera appearance!
Today we are going on the bikes to explore parts of Verona that we have not yet ventured to. There will probably be a lunch involved, who knows perhaps a pizza and a red wine?? We have found eating out to be so cheap, particularly with the Aussie dollar currently being so strong. It is certainly not the "little Aussie battler" at the moment. A pizza to share (there is only one size) and a half litre of house red is 12 to 15 euros depending on how exotic the pizza is.
In a few days time we are taking the train to Venezia (Venice) and we will spend a couple of nights at the very romanticly named "A Tribute to Music Residenza" hotel. Should be fun. Blog coming ....
Last Saturday night we went to the Arena, the Roman amphitheatre to see the opera Romeo and Juliet. We rode in to Piazza Bra on our bikes and had dinner, pizza for me of course! Let's see was it a day ending in "y"? Yes, then OK I'd better have pizza. After all when in Verona ...
Anyway I digress, but it was the best pizza I've had so far ....
Those Romans must have been tough or had big padded bums because those stone seats are hard. There are vendors hiring out cushions. We had been warned by our friendly internet advice so we took our own.
We only saw Acts 1 and 2 because it began to rain, a spectacular thunderstorm actually, at the Intermission after Act 2. We, and the rest of the crowd, sheltered in the tunnels, marvelling at a structure that has survived 2000 years in very good condition, and hoping that the weather report would allow the performance to continue.But alas it wasn't to be. So we got back on our bikes and rode home.
Now it is Monday morning, exactly one week since we arrived at the front gates at Strada Monte di Villa. It is a small family vineyard and olive grove 6kms from the centre of Verona. I'm guessing that it is about 4 acres. There are three separate homes on the property. Our exchangers' parents and brother live in the other two. Our home is a very old (hundreds of years?) three storey stone house that has had a major (very tasteful) renovation some time in the last few years. I'll email our exchangers for more details.
The house is lovely. You can see that from Merryn's video tour. We are settled in now and thoroughly enjoying our time here. We have only ventured out in the car a few times, to the supermarket, to Lake Garda, and to the railway station a couple of times to pick up and drop off Merryn's niece, Rachel (brother Ross' daughter). Rachel visited for a night and a day. The three of us rode the pushbikes to the old city centre and spent the day seeing the sights and of course lunch of pizza and red wine at a restaurant on Piazza Orbe.
Merryn and Rachel were very busy with their cameras. I'd like to know how many photos Rachel took in the few hours that she was with us. Merryn's camera is new for this trip so she is still getting used to it as you can see here.
Time for breakfast now. I'll add some more blogs for our trip to Lake Garda, our visit to the Roman Theatre, and our night at the Opera, what else but Romeo and Juliet in Verona at The Arena !!
It's 7.30 on Sunday morning and a week ago we had just arrived in Paris after an 8 hour flight from Coolangatta to Kuala Lumpur, an 8 hour wait at KL, and then a 13 hour flight to Paris. We took the train form Charles De Gaulle airport to Gare de Lyon, put our luggage in Left Luggage and headed off on foot. We were booked on the Thello, the night sleeper train from Paris to Venice with stops at Milan and Verona. So we had 13 hours to see Paris again and to deal with tiredness and jet lag.
We didn't do a bad job of it but around 2pm as we sat on a damp park bench in a lovely park adjacent to the back end of Notre Dame Cathedral, the urge to lay down became too great for Merryn and she put her feet up and head in my lap. I may have closed my eyes for a few moments!! Earlier, around midday, we had started to drag our feet so we found a lovely little sidewalk restaurant and had French onion soup, bread and red wine. We wanted to stay out in the sunshine (there were intermittent showers) and just stroll around, so we ambled along the river bank over Pont Neuf, and around the Louvre and Notre Dame, just enjoying the beauty of Paris.
By 5pm we were so tired that we had returned to Gare de Lyon, retrieved our luggage, and we were sitting in the very crowded main concourse, watching the people, and watching the giant departures screen as 221 Paris - Venice slowly progressed up the board. We were waiting for the moment when the platform number would be revealed because this would be the time when we could board the train and look lovingly at our bunks. After an eternity that lasted one and a half hours, there it was, Platform M Terminal 1. I was never so pleased!
Once on board the train we ate our dinner of baguettes and cheese and wine and attempetd conversation with an old lady and her granddaughter. At around 9pm I climbed up into the top bunk, took my Melatonin, and fell into a deep sleep, waking at about 5am as the train rolled into Milan station. When we arrived at Verona we decided that our instructions for taking the bus were too challenging for our travel weary brains so we opted for a taxi. Merryn asked me if I had enough money so I looked in my wallet and assured her that I had 30 Euros so no problem. You know where this is going don't you? We both slightly anxiously watched the meter ticking over and were relieved to reach our destination with a 15 Euro fare. I handed the driver two tens but he looked worried and shook his head. I looked down at the notes and Merryn pointed out that they were Malaysian Ringits. Luckily Merryn had the Euros so she paid the driver and we had arrived !!!
it has been a long, long time since I wrote a blog on this site. We have been travelling in Vietnam and Laos for three weeks and I am demonstrating Joomla to my friend Lan who is a Buddhist monk. Luang Prabang is such a beautiful place.
We are having a great time, the old town of La Rochelle and Ile de Re are wonderful. We spend a lot of time out and about on the bikes. We really enjoyed Lu and Rory's visit and then Jake and Tim's visit, and our visit to the chateaux in the Loire Valley with Jake.
My notebook computer has died so we have stopped updating the blog site. I'll upload plenty of photos and vids after we get back.
It's been a week since we added a blog entry. We have just been so busy as you can probably tell from the photo galleries. We are really enjoying La Rochelle. The bikes have made the town very accessible to us. There are bike lanes almost everywhere and the traffic seems to be respectful of bikes. It is about a fifteen minute ride to the Old Port and the old town which is steeped in history. We have been there several times. There is so much to discover. And we love the Central Markets where we can buy every French food item imaginable, including gourmet meals.
We have been out in the car exploring nearby towns a few times. Marais Poitevin is an area nearby with lots of canals. It is also known as the Green Venice. Very pretty. Luckily we can get two bikes in the back of the little car. A couple of days ago we drove the short trip to Ile de Re and rode the bikes over the 3km bridge and onto the island. It is very charming especially the towns which are a mecca for summer holiday makers from all over France. We rode about 30km that day and still only say a little of the island. We'll definitely be back.
Jake and his mate Tim are arriving at the train station in half an hour so I'll finish now and get ready to go and pick them up in the car.
We are settling into our new lifestyle, meaning eating way too much pate, cheese, croissants and baguettes and having afternoon siestas. I could get used to holidays. La Rochelle is a very beautiful old port and we had a lovely time wandering around enjoying the quaintness of it all yesterday. Today we ventured out in the car for the first time and enjoyed exploring a nearby beach resort, Chateillon Plage. Our days have yet to find a rhythm as they adapt to the new time zone and the extended daylight hours. It's not quite dark at 10.30pm so hard to go to bed for me although Kerry has managed to go to sleep in the daylight. Our home here in La Rochelle is typically french I think with a slightly unkempt cottage garden featuring, with the french windows thrown open to the garden and the cat on the sill it really is very homely. I think I should make myself a cuppa now and have another nibble on the baguette!
Arrived KL safe and sound yesterday evening. It's early morning in KL. We're in our hotel and starving, so we're out into the day for breakfast. More later. My stomach rules.
We really enjoyed the stay in KL. We explored the markets and plotted our shopping spree when we come back on the homeward journey. We will each have 5kg more luggage allowance for the return leg to Coolangatta. I was trying on a pair of trousers in a tiny change area at the covered market and I stood on my phone and smashed the screen, a disaster because my phone is not a phone when we are travelling. It is a clock, a GPS, a still camera and a video camera! Almost unbelievably, after some haggling, a guy at a kerbside stall installed a new screen on the spot, and for only A$50 and less than an hour after breaking the phone, it was like new again.
It's now Wednesday and we've been back since Friday, but it has taken me this long to get over the business and the jetlag to find the time to write a blog. Merryn and I are up at Noosa at Leanne and John's place to pick up the first of our three dogs. Chloe has had a lovely time up here and has been well cared for by the family.
Back to Mullum today and then down to Ballina to pick up the other two dogs. Mitzie and Maxie have been staying with Chris and Miles and Oscar.
Had my first 9 holes of golf on Sunday. The golf was pretty rusty but my knee was quite good.
Time for breakfast. I'll write some more blogs soon about our time in North Wales and London and the trip home, and I'll put up some more photos and vids.
Just had a beautiful Easter weekend exploring castles & coastline, styles & tors with Elise as a welcome third. The skies have been so blue & the scenery so beautiful. I'm trying hard not to take anymore photos of daffodils!
Not that much of our holiday left now & thought start to turn to home but I'm determined to enjoy every last moment & it's easy to do because we're still having such a nice time.
We went for a ramble today, Kerry's first serious walk in 2 weeks. Blue skies, stunning scenery, daffodils still in full force, a few styles to clamber over, terrorised by wild marauding rams (sort of), following the public footpaths & permissive walkways & Roger & Shirley's subjective directions all made for a most delightful few hours.
Today we are off to see Castle Drogo built by the tea baron, Julius Drewe as his eccentric home at the turn of the 20th Century. Today is Wednesday and we've been here in Devon since Saturday afternoon. We've been too busy touring around to write a blog! We've explored Dunsford and nearby Mortonhamstead, walked on the moors, had a couple of warm flat beers (I like English beer) in a couple of pubs, visited quaint, charming Dartmouth and it's castle, and generally toured around the narrow, hedge lined country roads. Merryn is doing a marvellous job of driving, only exceeded by my superb navigation. My knee is improving a little each day.
Well, how do we pass the time when we are not skiing in Austria? No videos, virtually no English TV, keeping Kerry's knee elevated, cards of course! Luckily the cards are unfolding fairly equally over all but it's not been my day today. We reacquainted ourselves with Chinese Checkers & Ludo ( thank heavens for English rules on the internet) I've never played such a lively game of ludo. As we all know Kerry brings a new degree of competitiveness to his game playing & Ludo has never been so passionate. Evening is falling outside my window, snow is gently falling & we haven't even been outside today. It's a rest day before hopefully an outing or 2 tomorrow.
I'm sitting here in our apartment with my left knee heavily strapped and my leg in an anti-dvt stocking, and my skiing is over for this holiday. Last Friday was not just another day's skiing. Just before lunch I was coming down a steep ungroomed section in poor visibility and had a fall but couldn't see enough to know where to swing my skis, and then I felt my left knee go.
So I got down to the bottom (another 4km), got the bus and hobbled home in pain with Merryn's help. Next day and a trip to the hospital. The doctor who happens to be the orthopaedic surgeon gave a preliminary diagnosis of a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (not good!). He wanted to do a diagnostic arthroscopy and immediate repair to which our travel insurance case manager said no. The insurance company started talking about a return to Oz in 48 hours time.
Luckily for me, the next day I returned to the hospital and the doctor drained some blood and fluid from around the knee, tested my knee further, and decided that the knee was stable, so no serious ligament injury, and had me up and walking (gingerly) without the crutches. He now suspects that I may have a rupture or tear of the meniscus. The knee has slowly been progressing since then. We are still in discussion with the insurance company about a possible MRI scan in a neighboring town, and intending to continue on to Devon as planned on Saturday.
We have just spent a lovely day with our host family the Krings. We went & visited them at Obertauern in their lovely hotel & restaurant. I skied with Doris their daughter who is a European snowboarding champion & of course she had trouble keeping up with me. I had a little ride on a skidoo because I had a tumble & gave my sore knee a tug which with Kerry hobbling around & about to be deported back to Australia by our insurance company didn't feel too exciting. However my knee is fine - someone has to carry the luggage. You might be wondering why this blog is called a day with George Harrison & it's because Gerhardt, our host played George on skis in 'Help' in 1965. Now how is that for a brush with fame & he has a bar in the hotel called the Beatles Bar filled with Beatles memorabilia.
Just back from a magical day on the slopes. When the world becomes white & we can't tell which way is up or down & other skiers disappear into the mist & we spend a little too long in the restaurants & the snow keeps falling, falling, creating a silken cover to the piste the world becomes surreal.Then I notice that my skis operate all by themselves (or not) & in this instance we lived to tell the tale & had a lot of fun as well. Home for a quick cuppa before our night's adventures which include dinner out & a toboggan ride.
It's 7 in the morning and I'm looking out the window at a beautiful mountain peak covered in snow and bathed in sunshine. The forecast is good for today and then tomorrow snow and poor visibility up on the mountain. So today we will ski a lot and enjoy the great conditions.
If you are wondering where we have been, we've been skiing lots. I bought a prepaid Vodaphone USB 1 GBit mobile internet modem, but the speed is abysmal and it keeps locking up, so it has been frustrating trying to write blogs and add photos and vids. Lost a skiing photo gallery altogether. Typing this at the Information Centre. Hope to have a better solution soon.
Weve had soooo much snow & it keeps on falling. Just back from the mountain & the conditions were pretty tough today. Visibility was pretty poor all day but I managed to ski my first bit of a black run. Im a lot more relaxed now & enjoying the challenges of the varied conditions. Have played with a little bit of powder as well but dont really know what Im doing in it. Typing this at the tourist bureau but really feel like its time for a cuppa & lie down.
Will just mention that I went for awalk in a forest yesterday & it was so magical. Trees laden with snow, bridges covered in white, icicles everywhere a real winter world that we dont get to see in Mullum.
I'm sitting at the table in our apartment in Altenmarkt. Outside the world is white, the church steeple only just in view through the heavy swirling snowflakes.We've been here over a week now. We're all finding our ski legs, only the other 3 are much more accomplished than me. Each day on the ski slopes seems to be a new experience, yesterday a glorious blue sky after a night of snow, today too much snow for me to ski although the other 3 spent the morning on the slopes. The light as it changes from sunlight to cloud, the texture of the snow on the slopes, the skiers all add to the uniqueness of each run, not to mention the fact that I never know where I am anyway! Some runs are just so picture perfect, others I'm so focussed on getting down safely that I only notice the next safe spot to turn. Days on the slopes are punctuated by breaks in the restaurants, warm cosy havens in the white world where we all meet up again for a drink.
Yesterday was a hard day for me to be away from home with Jake being inducted into the navy. Absolutely perfect skiing conditions didn't distract me from what was happening at home & now he's incommunicado. My boy probably asleep in navy PJs.
I can't believe that a week has already gone of our 4 weeks skiing. How did that happen? We had a magic day today. We went to dinner at Gast Hof Shartner with Kit and Carol last night. It was snowing when we walked there. Merryn had on a lovely skirt, boots and THE Waalwijk cardigan/jacket. A liitle girl grin on her face and with the umbrella I thought I was out with Mary Poppins. Dinner was beautiful and the company splendid.. It was snowing a bit heavier when we walked home after dinner. The snowflakes danced in the street lamp lights (I imagined to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik).
And it snowed throughout the night which is where the magic day comes in. We woke to a freshly white world, snow still floating gently down.
After a leisurely start we turned on the TV to the Zauchensee Ski cam and weather report channel. Good news! 150mm of new snow, -4 degrees and negligible wind. So a lazy breakfast and on the slopes by 10am. The new snow was fantastic.. So we diid quite a few runs by our standards and finished at 3:30pm, both happily tired.
So a week has gone by and this is day 8. I've missed one day skiing (day 6) due to a face plant on day 5 resulting in a slight stomach muscle tear (self diagnosis). I started gingerly again on day 7 (yesterday) but finished the day skiing well and confident that as long as I don't have a big fall everything will be fine. So keep the weight way over the front of the skiis and go for it. That's my theory anyway.
Here I sit in our little apartment looking out the window at a picturesque alpine view. It's foggy the roofs are covered in snow & I tell the time from the church steeple. Yesterday was surreal. We arrived here about 10pm on Sat night, knocked on the door, no answer, all around is glorious mountains of snow but we do need to get in. Kerry goes off on a few exploratory missions whilst I keep ringing the bell & knocking on the door.Finally I go off and try all the doors around the apartments desparately hoping we're at the right place & I'm not going to get arrested & I find an open door. So there I am inside wandering around inside, looking for the front door so I can let Kerry in. Finally we're both in & we knock on some apartment doors & find someone who seems to be expecting us & has a key to our apartment.
We get up early & explore the town, thick snow on the ground & blue sky coming out above us. By 10am we're the proud owners of second hand skis, new boots for me & of course poles & connected with our friends Kit & Carol. By 12md we're out there on the slopes. The ski legs are a bit rusty & we only manage one long run before lunch. A long leisurely lunch in the sun amidst the crowds of skiers& Kit our friend leads the way to a different 4.5 km run. I look down the first slope, moguls, small but consistent-not an ideal slope for me yet . Kit reassures me it's only this first bit so off we go. Conditions aren't as Kit expected & the moguls continue. Kerry has a few falls & has to battle his nerves. I'm of course the slowest & in a real struggle to stay calm & keep going but I find courage & actually do a reasonable job of them.
Finally we're down the main slope & heading towards the exits & I feel so relieved that I've done it, resolved that tomorrow I will choose my runs more carefully & I'm looking for my little group when it happens. In slow motion too. My skis are headed off in different directions & I'm falling awkwardly face down, I feel the pull on my knee, I'm holding my breath waiting for the binders to release the skis & finally they do. Carol is there in an instant & we get me up & I ski the last 300 meters to the station but it's done. As much as I tried to pretend to myself I'd just given myself a fright I've hurt my knee. I'm sure it's not too serious but here I sit alone in our apartment with a packet of anti-inflammatories & ice packs & the others , Kerry only under extreme pressure from me, are off headed to the slopes. It's a matter of time, just a matter of how much. I'm sure it's only a minor injury but how long til it's healed for me to ski on again? These things happen, just ask Nic Margan! Hopefully I'll be back on those slopes within the week & maybe even days.
Meanwhile I'm going to enjoy a good book & a day on the couch.
Looking out the upstairs window as the evening falls, knowing that this view will be just a memory tomorrow. I love this little town & this beautiful home but if we don't leave we won't be skiing on Saturday so I'm partly packed & the house is partly cleaned. Reminiscing about some of my favourite memories of our time here-the Van Gogh museum was definitely a highlight, as was Paris but also coming in from the cold and doing yoga on the white rug facing the beautiful courtyard, meditating in the late afternoon, lazy , long sleep-ins & cups of tea in bed in the mornings, cards with Kerry, uploading photos & seeing what we did that day, snow flakes falling, beautiful old towns with cobbled streets, cathedrals that move me so deeply, stained-glass windows that take my breath away, little chapels with candles lit & a feeling of reverence on the street corners, the locals so friendly & helpful, no one too busy to explain something to us, grey skies & stark trees that have their own beauty. One thing I won't miss is being on the wrong side of the car in the navigator's seat anxiously peering at the signs in bumper to bumper 6 lane highways wondering if we might have missed our exit or need to be in the lane over there as a wall comes up between lanes! Tomorrow Austria & white slopes mmmmmm........................
It's hard to believe that it's four weeks since we left home. We've had a fantastic time here in Netherlands. We've loved staying in Jos and Esther's home. Esther's family have been lovely to us. In fact the people of Waalwijk and Netherlands have all been so friendly, patient, polite and kind to us. They all go out of their way to be helpful.
Two recent examples: today in the supermarket at the checkout we had failed to weigh the broccoli and stick the bar-coded price tag on. The checkout lady and all the people in the line waited patiently and with good humour while I went off and struggled with the machine because the code for broccoli had become hidden. No problem! A few days ago we caught the bus to Carnivale in Tilburg. As we entered the bus and offered our prepurchased tickets the bus driver explained to us that it was cheaper to buy return tickets from him on the bus.This was quite a complicated and lengthy explanation. He didn't seem to be in any hurry to get us onto the bus and head to the next stop, nor did any of the passengers show the slightest sign of impatience. No problem! And we took the prepurchased tickets back for a refund. No problem! This has been our experience throughout our stay.
We are a little sad to be leaving ..... However.... we're off tomorrow to Alternmarkt and four weeks skiing .. Yay!! Kit and Carol are winging their way from Oz as I write this. We'll meet them on Saturday morning at InterSports, get our skiis and head up the mountain. You beauty !!
This is carnivale season in Holland & South America.The Dutch know how to celebrate. Yesterday we ventured to nearby Tilburg to join in the festivities.Everyone except us was dressed in fancy dress (& as everyone knows I love fancy dress occasions but couldn't quite manage yesterday)
Little babies dressed as lady bugs & little old ladies with fancy hats & scarves. Everyone in between as 17th century royalty to Uncle Sam to everything colourful & imaginitive.
The parade went for about 2.5 hours & mostly wasn't as entertaining as the crowd. There were brass bands competing everywhere- the noise & hype phenomenal. Quite a lively affair! The parade had strong political statements & lots of humour but not necessarily easily grasped by the stray Aussies in the crowd. Another little glimpse at Dutch culture.
Just relaxing back at our home in Holland after a few days in Paris & a night in Brugge. Paris is an absolutely beautiful city! Kerry & I were just blown out by the beauty of the architecture not to mention the chaos of the traffic! We had a lovely few days walking, walking, walking.... the Notre Dame , the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre all so fantasic & even better 2nd time around. We went a bit beserk on photos but a picture tells a thousand words. Brugge is so picture perfect as well, my heart just aches with the beauty of these places & my good fortune to be here & share it all with Kerry.
We have come to Paris for two days (Merryn's 60th birthday present to me!). At first we considered taking the Thallys fast train. We had seen cheap (Euro 28 one way) tickets when we did our internet research back in Oz. However they were no where to be found. In the end we decided to drive.
We are getting better at team navigation. We've now got a map magnifying glass with a light. That said however, no amount of magnification is going to show the level of detail necessary to negotiate the right turn most of the time, and particularly in Paris traffic. We do more route preparation now. We use Google maps to plot a route and print out the turn by turn instructions. We keep the GPS going and if we get lost we plot a new route with the GPS.
So we zoomed along with the traffic at 140 kph on the A1 to Paris uneventfully. Amazingly we negotiated the chaotic Paris city traffic all the way to our parking station on Rue Chaulaincourt in Montmartre only to drive in the Sortie (Exit!!). Much arm waving and undecipherable gesticulation from the parking attendant. But we all got over it and we managed to get the car into the parking station ok. There it will stay until we start the next traffic adventure on our return trip to Waalwijk via an overnight stay and a day in Brugge.
The traffic is truly chaotic. Everybody has right of way! Every car that is. Pedestrians do not have right of way, not even when they have a green walk light. Cross streets at your peril. It's a different peril to our Amsterdam pedestrian peril. Our Dutch home exchangers are very afraid of that silent assassin .. the shark. In the Netherlands we are very afraid of the silent assassin .. the bicycle. They are everywhere. They come at us from all angles and ding the bell at the very last second. Result .. shattered nerves.
Anyway back to that other Paris traffic phenomemon .. Nudge Parking. There are some example photos in the galleries. I had fun doctoring this photo. Click on it to see an enlarged version. You can see the undoctored photo in the gallery. The idea is that a driver sees a spot that invariably is shorter than his vehicle and proceeds to nudge the other two cars with his car until his car is in the spot. The other two cars have now been pushed closer to their adjacent cars. This manoeuvring can consist of a dozen shoves before it is done. And they do it all again to get the car out.
We've only seen one remonstration about this and we think the guy was scamming. He was one of the Montmartre street portrait artists and he was accusing a well dressed woman whose long sleek Jaguar was parked up against (and I mean against) his car. I think the real offence here was that her car was ENGLISH, compounded by one of the Jag's design features, chrome battering ram bumper bars.
Having a lazy day around home today, just catching up on shopping, washing etc & getting organised for Paris on Monday. Yesterday however was a big day in Amsterdam. Viisited the Rijksmuseum & the Van Gogh Museum. Absolutely fell in love wiith Van Gogh's work-just so powerful. I found it hard to leave the museum without just one more look. There was an exhibition "Colours of the Night" featuring his night time paintings -so beautiful. I really was quite affected by his works. We came out of the museum into rain then 2 seconds later blazing sunshine which allowed us to walk the couple of kms back to the Central Station. Amsterdam is just so lively, there are people, music, canals, bikes everywhere. Walking the streets is so energising which is just as well as it was a long slow trip home through traffic.
We did have a plan for today which involved bikes & riding & being energetic however it rained so we went under umbrellas to the local shopping centre instead. Always a bit of an adventure to discover what's what. However we did have fun & Kerry convinced me that this gorgeous cardigan on sale that would look good on a Paris catwalk will be very useful in downtown Mullumbimby in the years to come (fur collar & all.) We struggled home through the blizzard & I mean blizzard (icy winds, snow) laden with cheeses, pate, bread & other miscellaneous items that caught our fancy (exotic cardigan included.) Lunch included most of the above & some leftover soup topped with a good french red (probably $6 per bottle) all taken with a touch of Mozart. Now here it is 3.30pm & we're about to embark on a game of cards. Yes, we're on holidays & we're having a good time.
Nothing is open on Monday morning. It's very, very quiet. We jumped in the car ... well actually, you can't really do it spontaneously like that, because there are a lot of layers of clothes to put on before going out into the world. Anyway, after putting on all those layers, we squeezed into the car like a pair of Michelin men, and headed off to Belgium. Why? because we can. It is half an hour to the Belgian border. Stuck to the back roads because they are more interesting. In the town of Relie, about 40 km East of Antwerp, we found an old walled Abbey with a moat. The monks now grow Ginseng!! Makes you wonder ... Anyway, in the church, I took some more stained glass window photos, will add them to my Stained glass photo gallery soon.
Kerry & I are having a lazy day, currently sitting on the couch together, each with a laptop on board. Out the courtyard window something really weird is unfolding, there is stuff falling out of the sky which is a cross between rain, snow & hail-I think I've just seen my first frozen rain. Maybe it'll turn into snow? Been having a lovely time here in Waalwijk. It's a lovely home to come home to after each adventure & a beautiful little town to make our base. Yesterday we went to Amsterdam-feels amazing to decide at 9am that it's probably too wet to go to Antwerp maybe we should go to Amsterdam & explore the museums instead. Actually the sun came out so we walked the packed streets of Amsterdam. The architecture in Amsterdam is so beautiful but the streets were absolutely overflowing with tourists. Keen to go back & start checking out the museums soon. Went for a bike ride the other day, just picked a tiny spot on the map & headed there. It turned out to be this absolutely beautiful little old fortressed town, Oud Heusden complete with a double moat & windmills. We climbed up on one of the old windmills to have out picnic lunch of what else... pate, cheese, bread & a bier. Back to today & there are patches of blue appearing in the sky again & the frozen rain has melted. No snow for the present. We're both a bit hungry because we haven't had lunch. Had a late cooked brekky then went for a walk with my shopping bag on my shoulder. I was almost the only person moving in town. Culture shock! No shops open on Sunday. Forget lunch & we'll scrape something together for dinner. I think I'll go & make a cup of tea & have a bikky.
Had an enchanting day today. Slept in, looked out the window onto a white world which I find is just so magical.Had a bath, then a long chat to Nyss on the phone which felt great. Went for a walk down to the shops for some milk & whilst I was standing waiting to pay at the check out I looked out & there were big white flakes falling. Walked home with the snow falling & threw a snowball at the window to let Kerry know that I wanted to come in. This afternoon we went for a bike ride to a local national park where it had been snowing a bit heavier than in town & the trees were covered & we had a snow fight, I tried to build a snowman but there wasn't really enough snow for that. All very exciting as I've never ridden a bike in the snow before.
An interesting and enjoyable day out in Seoul. Navigating the train system was an adventure, very modern, efficient and clean. Getting to where we wanted to go turned out to be very easy. Lasting impressions of Seoul: affluent, lots of litter, polite. The people were all well dressed, almost elegant. It's a man's world. Saturday afternoon seemed to belong to the older men. Watched a group of men playing Padu (see photo gallery), a game similar to Sequence which is a board game we play at family get-togethers. One thing that astounded me was that we only saw about a dozen non-Koreans during our 36 hours in Korea (other than at the airport of course).
Arrived at the Air Park Hotel at Incheon on Friday evening, went out for a stroll and found a small restaurant and had Korean BBQ and a beer. We cooked our own bbq at the table. When the raw sliced beef with lots of fat arrived at the table, I was concerned that Merryn may baulk at the meat, but it was no problem.
On Saturday we adventured out on the trains. We were joined by a Russian couple (Leonid and Tamara) and together we found our way to Jongmyo Royal Ancient Shrine and Changyeonggung Palace (see photo gallery). Very beautiful and very peaceful.
Hunger drove us to the traditional street markets. Busy and fun. We had a hilarious lunch in a streetside cafe, a pork, tofu and kimshe broth cooked at the table, and a couple of beers. The locals were very interested and amused by us, kept on coming up and sitting at our table, chatting in Korean with the occasional English phrase, and plying us with a local liqour like schnapps. We left, rosy cheeked and merry, concerned about all the old mens spoons that had shared our food, and the hands that had passed us slices of fruit. We are at the Airport now, about to board our aircraft to Amsterdam, amazed that our stomachs and nether regions have survived!!
No need for the three alarms that are set for 4.30am. I'm awake & have been for a while.Today is the day. It's taken me 30 years to have a ticket to europe with my name on it & todays date but it's all come together & this is our day.
I bounce out of bed, ignore that part of my mind that would have me check that I have my passport & a superfluous ticket in todays world. The last few days have been full on, the rush yesterday to get the house clean & tidy excruciating, the rush to make it to the airport to pick up Jos & Esther not having heard from then in several weeks then suddenly I lock in to travel mode. We are not even in the airport when Kerry extends his hand hesitantly only to have it warmly taken by Jos. Life flows. All the plans of the last year start to come together & we're on our journey....
Now here I sit at brisbane airport in the sun, with still an hour before our flight & it feels blissful. I 've watched Kerry chatting as we check in, I'm conscious of the queue, he's telling the lady about our travel plans & she's interested & writes down the website address. Forget the queue Merryn, be present. The goal for today is to enjoy & hopefully be in Seoul tonight.
Well, today is Monday and we leave for Brisbane on Thursday afternoon. We\'ll be staying overnight with my brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Trish, and flying out of Brisbane early on Friday morning en route to Seoul, South Korea. We have two nights in Seoul, so a little sub-zero tourist activity, and then we fly to Amsterdam.
We\'ll take two cars as far as Coolangatta airport. There we meet and greet our first home exchangers, Esther and Jos, and hand over the house keys and the Vectra.
\r\nWe are busy with all those last minute things that need doing.