London

WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG POST. GOOD LUCK!

What do think of when someone says ” London “?

Do you think of….

a) High street shopping

b) London Tower

c) The Queen and Buckingham Palace

Or…

d) The Tube system

If you chose any of the above, you would be correct!

DAY 1

After finally arriving in London, unpacking, dropping off the car, and eating, it was already dark. But, you are forgetting that in Europe, it gets dark at 3:00 in the afternoon. So we had plenty of time to wander around the streets of this thriving city.

The 4wheatleys paraded through Piccadilly, wandered down Whitehall and finally raced to Regent. Now, in the middle of Regent Street, there is a toy shop. This toy shop is no ordinary toy shop. This toy shop is called Hamleys. It is a 5 storey, jam packed, heaving place with every type of monopoly you could ever play, concealed within it’s walls. It has over 35 staff members demonstrating all the toys, games and gadgets you could purchase (best job ever!!!) and a whole floor devoted to soft toys. ( not including the beanie boos!) After spending 1 hour at Hamleys (and only buying 4 things in the rush and push of Christmas shopping) we decided it was all we could handle and rushed onto the tube and raced home.

DAY 2

Deciding that our apartment was not equipped with a very Christmassy feel, we really branched out and purchased a full on 1 metre high real fir Christmas tree. And, after an hour of full on decorating and sorting out lights, it was time to go.

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Just doing a bit of a workout. Nothing to look at!

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Deeecoration time, COME ON!

We arrived at 2:00 at London Bridge station. As soon as we turned the corner, we knew we were in the right place – we could see some clear HP fans huddling together and a very enthusiastic woman who had a red and yellow striped scarf hanging from her handbag and circular black rimmed glasses. As you might of guessed by now, we were about to commence a Harry Potter Muggle walking tour. Not being the biggest HP fan myself, I had no expectations whatsoever. I was proved wrong. Sophie McGonagall ( our tour guide ) guided us through the centre of London and pointed out various spots and told us about their relationship with the movies and J.K Rowling  ( if they had any ). She also told us some fun facts about the auditions and making of the films.

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Knockturn Alley.

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Diagon Alley.

 

  • In the first movie, Emma Watson was very good with her lines. But if you look closely, you can actually see her mouthing along to Harry and Ron’s lines. She had learnt 3 scripts off by heart!!!
  • When looking at the set, Alan Rickman thought the stone wall looked very realistic. So he lent against it and the whole fake wall came crashing down which set them back a few days.
  • The director of the films, asked Daniel, Emma and Rupert to study their character and hand in an essay on their character. Daniel/ Harry handed in 1 page. Emma / Hermione handed in 16 pages, a very Hermione thing to do. And Rupert/ Ron handed in none at all. When the director asked him why he didn’t, Rupert said, “Well, my character wouldn’t have done anything so I didn’t either.”
  • Tom Felton hadn’t read any of the HP books, so when he went to audition he listened at the door to see if he could pick up any details about the book. When the casters asked him a few questions about the books he said the exact same thing as the person before him which was a very Draco Malfoyish thing to do so they cast him as that character.

At night we felt very tired after a long afternoon of walking. We just so happened to have finished right near a church which was holding a carol service. Now this was no ordinary carol service. This was St Martins-in-the-Fields annual Christmas carol service. And what a carol service it was. It was like the angels had come down from heaven just for that service and Mum said that the organ at the end of Oh Come All Ye Faithful was the best organ she’s ever  heard. That is high praise coming from someone who has heard a LOT of organ. At the end of the carol service we headed home and crashed into bed.

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Do you love it or do you love it?

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WOAH!

DAY 3

WOOHOO! Will yelled as the cart twisted around suddenly and swooped down the big dip. I screamed as loud as I could to Mum, who was standing on the ground looking up at us, taking photos of the ICE MOUNTAIN Rollercoaster. Then, we were submerged in pitch black, as the wooden cart raced around all the twists and curves of this dark and spooky ride. Finally, after one more sudden turn, we were spat back out into the daylight, still spinning around. This is Winter Wonderland. London’s version of Luna Park, except it’s fully winter themed and only happens every Winter. It was REALLY COOL!!!!

King and Queen of Icelmania.

King and Queen of Icelmania.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall...

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

AAARGHH!

AAARGHH!

Mixed emotions pre-ride.

Mixed emotions pre-ride.

Yes. Very mixed.

Yes. Very mixed.

Well, how was it?

Well, how was it?

Roll up, Roll up, for the circus!!!

Roll up, roll up, for the circus!!!

Bird or Man???

Bird or Man???

Winter Wonderlands version of Cony Island.

Winter Wonderlands version of Coney Island.

We then took the Tube to Covent Garden and spent the next 45 min shopping for presents.

DAY 4

Nearly all of the things on our to-do list were ticked off. But one VERY important icon remained. Who could forget the Tower of London? So of we went, rattling through the underground and hurtling through the streets of central London in order to arrive in time for a tour. These tours are very special. They are not run by your average tour guide, who spends the whole time talking in a quiet, drab voice so that nobody can hear them because they don’t have anything interesting to say. The tours here at the Tower of London, are run by Yeoman Warders, who are Sergeant Majors in the British army that have had more than 22 years of service. Our tour guide was a pilot in the British air force and was super enthusiastic. After the tour we all had a look at the Crown Jewels. In one of the sceptres or crowns there was the largest uncut diamond in the world, but we couldn’t tell because all of the diamonds looked very cut and extremely large!

EVERYONE gets a personal guard, don't they?

EVERYONE gets a personal guard, don’t they?

Great Views.

Great Views.

The Legendary Ravens.

The Legendary Ravens.

Crown Jewels, here we come!

Crown Jewels, here we come!

Me and Sergeant Major.... Steve?

Me and Sergeant Major…. Steve?

Yet another thing that wasn’t ticked off on our to-do list was Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. But this one wasn’t the original of course. That one was burned down by a cannon that was fired in one of the plays they put on. But they managed to build an almost exact replica just 3 min walk away from the original site.

The tour person taught us all about the Globe Theatre at the start and how the replica was built, but then in the second half of the tour, she just went on a bit too much about all the plays that are being put on right now in the Sam Wanamaker (or what ever his name was) playhouse. And did you know that after the great fire of Britain, you were  not allowed to have a thatched roof on your house/building? The people who were building the replica Globe Theatre got special permission from the Government to have a thatched roof, so now the Globe Theatre is the only building in London to have a thatched roof.

To be or Not to be?

To be or Not to be?

Wow. Great Thatched Roof!

Wow. Great Thatched Roof!

The stage.

The stage.

DAY 5

While Mum finished off some last minute Christmas shopping, Dad, Will and I, took the opportunity to walk through Green park and to Buckingham Palace. The park was absolutely beautiful and we really got to get up close to the wildlife. ( Squirrels and swans.)

At Buckingham Palace, Dad and I waited to see the Changing of the Guard while Will took some photos. We never got to see the changing of the guard, but we did wait enough to see the guards marching in. We didn’t really stick around for all that time that they were fluffing around inside where only 3 people who had got there 4 hours before could actually see them. Dad, Will and I then dawdled up to see Piccadilly ( beautiful!) and Kings Cross Station. We didn’t line up to have a our photo taken with the trolley from HP, but we did just sneakily take it from the side. You’ll just have to imagine us with a Hogwarts scarf standing there holding it.

When us three tired travellers finally crashed through the door, Mum and I went straight into making some delicious Christmas gingerbread that we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Squirrel!

Squirrel!

Buckingham palace.

Buckingham Palace.

The statue that seems to be everywhere.

The statue that seems to be everywhere.

Hello!

Hello!

Lots of marching you're doing there!

Lots of marching you’re doing there!

I think I ate more batter than actual biscuits.

I think I ate more batter than actual biscuits.

Imagine...

Imagine…

DAY 6

Christmas Day!  Please wait for the next picture post.

DAY 7

We woke up late on Boxing Day and surfed the tube to Westminster Abbey. Grabbing our audio guides, we walked through the church. Westminster Abbey is not your average church. It has the graves of many famous writers, poets, scientists, actors, royals and every other famous person you could guess is buried in that church, except Taylor Swift (who is not dead yet of course…)

As we wandered through this church, we really began to notice how much the kings and queens of olden day times really loved themselves. They had built extravagant tombs and memorials for their wives and sons and even themselves. There was a room dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I and there was one for Mary Queen of Scots.

The only area where there is not a NO PHOTOS sign.

The only area where there is not a NO PHOTOS sign.

At night we enjoyed the full West End experience by going to see a musical called Matilda (Thank you Marnie!). All of us loved it and left the theatre wishing we could see it all over again, but some of us did get a bit scared when Miss Trunchbull got angry and the lasers shot out of the roof!

Day 8

Last day – hope you’re still reading!

After the boys went to Lord’s, we met them outside the entrance to the Cabinet War Rooms. The war rooms were fantastic. Churchill’s War Rooms is an underground series of Rooms where Winston Churchill and his helpers made all the decisions about World War II. There were meeting rooms, bedrooms, telephone rooms and map rooms (Dad’s favourite!). At the end of the war, they turned out the lights and went home. Now 60 years later, we still get to experience what it was like in the war.

Will at Lord's.

Will at Lord’s.

MAPS!!!!

MAPS!!!!

You were saying...?

You were saying…?

After that, Mum and I made a desperate dash in a London taxi to St Paul’s cathedral half an hour before closing time. We visited the Whispering Gallery, an amazing round dome on top of the cathedral. If you whisper into the wall on one side, the person on the other side can hear you. Mum and I tested this out and found it to be correct!

We then walked up several hundred steps to nearly reach Dumbledore’s astronomy tower. Instead it was a small balcony with a view across the whole of London – just as good!

Look at that Dome!

Look at that Dome!

Night time!

Night time!

Tower Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down...

Tower Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down…

Thank you and Goooood Night!

Thank you and Goooood Night!

Thank you so much for persevering with your reading – if you did. London was fabulous, probably one of my favourite spots on the trip.

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Posted in Ele | 7 Comments

Wotton-Under-Edge

Not usually featured in a top ten of Europe, we have decided here to give Wotton-Under-Edge a red-hot-go on the blog!

….but not before I digress and take you to Warwick Castle, at which we stopped on the way down from Liverpool.

This Norman Medieval icon originally built by William the Conqueror, is celebrating it’s 1100 anniversary – yes that’s right – it was in full operation for 856 years before anyone even thought of sending a scout to have a Captain Cook at Australia! It is beautifully preserved and so interactive.

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We played with huge heavy weapons in the Great Hall.

Warwick Castle01 Warwick Castle02

We explored the wax work imaginary life in the historic house. Ele loved the stories told of the Greville family  and their servants in the 17th Century and she and Will joined in several of the waxworks tableau just for a laugh. We explored the basement where the exhibition was of the blacksmiths, farriers, and those who prepared the royals for battle in medieval times. We were terrified by the newish dungeon interactive, where they told spooky tales of witches and the plague.

Warwick Castle03 Warwick Castle04We walked the ramparts, saw a birds of prey show… and finally stopped in Warwick town to have an English afternoon tea and reflect on the day.

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photo

Afternoon tea and cake.

 

Then it was time to make our way to Wotton-Under-Edge. Renowned for quaint pubs, walking tracks with stiles and a sleepy feel, we spent the next few days recharging and exploring this little village.

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The view from our place

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Wotton-Under-Edge – on the high street on a grey day…

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We detected quality immediately when the Royal Oak was booked out on a Wednesday evening and we had to relocate to The Falcon for our first English pub meal. The next morning, we jogged straight up the hill (that Wotton is under) and enjoyed gorgeous views of sheep, rolling paddocks and thatched roofs in the surrounding area.

Wotton Walk05

On Wotton Hill

The English countryside made us so relaxed that we had a long lunch at the local cafe “The Edge” which included a “fish finger sandwich” for Eleanor…

The Edge Cafe

The Edge Cafe

An evening of unfamiliar board games put us even more in the picture – we played “Up a Bit” a kind of “pictionary without looking game”, which frustrated the heck out of the perfectionists in this family… and then to cap off the evening, “Best of the British” trivia. Spike and Kate were soundly trounced due to their lack of knowledge about horse breeds and Wellington boots.

And what make of Wellington boots.....???

And your topic is….Wellington boots…..???

The first clear, sunny day of our trip saw us pulling on the walking shoes again and hiking back up the hill. This time, we walked for several hours around the Hamlet of Combe and round about the Cotwolds Way, enjoying bridle trails, babbling brooks, wicket gates and plenty of mud and cows.

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Locals

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A hilly section

Wotton Walk09

Along the leafy track…

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Shaun the Sheep

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And down the hill…

An afternoon sojourn to the much larger city of Cheltenham to catch up on the almost non existent Christmas shopping, shocked us into the reality of the season. After 3 restful days and thankful for lovely hospitality and a quiet time in the country it was time to drive down to the big smoke.

Posted in Kate | 3 Comments

Liverpool

Walking cautiously up the steps onto the plane, I was slightly discouraged by the fact that you had to pay extra for the privilege of seats. What had me more concerned though, was the fee charged for the luxury of wings. Well, EasyJet sure lives up to its name. It was time to say Auf Wiedersehen to the land of long words, Christkindlmarkts and Bratwurst.

On the flight, Dad, El and I sat next to each other whilst Mum had a window seat of her own next to a pair of Bulgarians. The one in front of me could only be described as the largest man in Europe. As Bulgarian Hagrid sat down, it was clear that he needed a bigger seat but on EasyJet he would have to be content with his mate’s chest as an arm rest.

In Liverpool we stayed with Mum’s friend Lucy and her family. Their house was massive. With 4 stories, 4 bathrooms and 44 bedrooms, we were all 4 it!

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Our humble accommodation. FANTASTIC!!!

On the first day Dad, Michael ( Lucy’s husband ) and I went for a run down at the docks. The docks were these old ship building yards on the Mersey river and they had also built a bunch of canals that are used for heaps of things from ship storage to RedBull Wake-boarding Competitions.

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The Docks

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The Mersey River

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Stained glass windows of the Cathedral

We also went through the cathedral, which is the largest Anglican Cathedral in the world. The stained glass windows were so tall and the pink neon sign was something you wouldn’t see in a Catholic Church. Meanwhile the girls went shopping. That afternoon El, Dad, Michael and I went to see the last installment of The Hobbit.

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Welcome to Hogwarts….aka the Cathedral

The next day we woke up at the crack of dawn. Which (thankfully), in England, is eight o’clock. Today was Beatles day. We had a coffee in the ‘Fab4’ Café underneath the ‘Fab4’ museum. In the afternoon we jumped aboard the Magical Mystery Tour bus.

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It was a tour all about the Beatles ( The ‘Fab4’) and where they grew up, lived and wrote songs. We discovered many interesting things about the ‘somepeoplethinkthey’reprettygood4’. We drove down Penny Lane which was a bit too in my ears and eyes for me. The funny thing about our tour guide/bus driver/’IpersonnallypreferU2orabitofColdplay4′ Fan was that he always said “To be honest with yeh”. We’d be driving along and we’d come to an historic place and  he would say, “Now to be to be honest with yeh, this was the place where John Lennon got most of his inspiration from to be honest with yeh“. We had a few laughs but to be honest with you the tour was great and I learned a lot of things about the Beatles and that’s the main thing.

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One for you Grandad

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The underground venue of the Beatles in Liverpool

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That night we visited some other friends from Sydney who had moved back to England. We had dinner and a very good dessert at their place. We were also delighted when they told us they were coming back to Australia next year! After dinner we drove out and had a walk in the village ( their house was about 45 minutes away ). It was quite lovely and pretty cold.

The vibe of Liverpool was something entirely different to Sydney. The Place had an historic feeling and the wonderful old buildings each had its’ own interesting story, unlike Botany Bay which can be summed up in a sentence; Captain Cook arrived, frowned and left. As a family we re-visited the Cathedral which we got to look at in more detail.

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Merseyside buildings (shot by me)

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Quarry garden (Hey Zac, like my jacket?)

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Another shot by me 🙂

When walking through the streets you could see friendly people sitting in pubs laughing and eating, and anybody was happy to help. “Unlike Manchester” we were told.

We were sad to leave Liverpool and the generous hospitality of Lucy and Michael, with their beautiful new baby girl Annabel, who we loved meeting for the first time.

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El & Annabel

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Liverpool FC – B Squad

Posted in Will | 3 Comments

Berlin

Arriving in Berlin,  we journeyed to our apartment passing monument after monument. The city showed a glimpse of its place in the history of the German nation. We had certainly moved from “ye olde worlde” Bavarian provincial feel to a city that is making its way back as a global capital.

Our apartment had a slightly East German, but homely, feel to it. After checking in, we visited the local supermarket and spent a fun filled hour playing “guess the ingredients” and trying our luck buying groceries in an unknown language.  Cereal with Knuspers ? Why not!

As night fell, we still had a few hours before dinner so we headed out to the Brandenburg Gate. Situated at the junction of two grand boulevards, the Gate projects an imposing presence as an entry into the city. Thinking it must have been some grand monument by a previous ruler to himself, we discovered it was the only remaining gate of 14 built as toll booths to collect taxes for people coming into the city! No half measures here.

Brandenburg Gate, with a bit of Christmas.

Brandenburg Gate, with a bit of Christmas.

We walked through the Gate daily on our way to other parts of Berlin, enjoying the monument at many different times and in many different lights. Fortunately without the need to pay any tax!

Glowing in the afternoon light

Glowing in the afternoon light

As we explored Berlin, we found ourselves wondering which side of the Wall we would have been on. Interestingly, the Brandenburg gate was in the exclusion zone of the Wall and neither East nor West. Our apartment would have been in the East and the Reichstag in the West.  Its seems, though, that the East had the vast bulk of the civic and landmark buildings, the majority of the historical areas, the museums, cathedrals landing on that side. In the 25 years since the wall came down, the centre of the city and most civic buildings have been wonderfully integrated and regenerated.

Along the River Spree there remains a long section of the Wall which has been turned into an art gallery, resplendent with graffiti, much in the style of old West Berlin. We wandered along this section of the Wall checking out the art.

Berlin Wall Art Gallery

Original West side wall graffiti

The Wall vibe

The Wall vibe

Wall Art with community contributions!

Wall Art with community contributions!

Wall art

East Side Wall art Gallery

The original Checkpoint Charlie booth has gone, and a replica has been put in place. manned by men looking like soldiers, collecting fees for photos. The original signs are still there. However… strategically placed symbols of the West loom large over Checkpoint Charlie as a reminder of the evils of capitalism.

The evils of the West loom over Checkpoint Charlie

Signs of Capitalism at Checkpoint Charlie

We visited a great museum at Checkpoint Charlie that told much of the story from WWII right through to the fall of the Wall. Fascinating articles, memorabilia, videos and actual escape vehicles could be found, providing depth to our understanding of Berlin during the East/West cold war.

Next door to our apartment was the Holocaust memorial. It was a sombre place under grey clouds early in the morning. As you are drawn into the memorial, down rows of concrete blocks, you become swallowed in the depths of grey. On the surface it does not seem much. Deep within it, you become lost.

Holocaust Memorial, on the surface.

Holocaust Memorial, on the surface.

Holocaust Memorial, cold, bleak and grey.

Holocaust Memorial, cold, bleak and grey.

The Reichstag, rebuilt for the German Bundestag (parliament) by Lord Norman Foster, features a fantastic dome at its centre. Visitors can wind their way up to the top and look out over Berlin. It’s design also enables the people to look directly down into the heart of the Bundestag chamber and a cone of mirrors reflects these views of the chamber out the dome over Berlin. It was cold and dark but it was a great walk up to the top of the Reichstag.

The Reichstag

The Reichstag

Inside the Reichstag dome

Inside the Reichstag dome

Its a bit star wars like

Its a bit like Star Wars

The cultural highlight of Berlin was our trip out to Zoo Station on the U2 line. Cool.

U2 to Zoo station

U2 to Zoo station

Crazy antics in the markets around Zoo station

Crazy antics in the markets around Zoo station

Frederick the Something's  bombed chapel

Frederick the Something’s bombed chapel at Zoo station

 

Posted in Spike | 5 Comments

Munich

'Tis the season to be in Munich - Marienplatz at Christmas

‘Tis the season to be in Munich – Marienplatz at Christmas

Dark at 4.30pm, freezing and full of sausages – every time we wake up and head out for breakfast in the dark, I confess that I wonder what we are doing in Europe in Winter! Munich however is working its magic – and maybe the real problem is that we have been so jet-lagged that we have actually been in bed at 4.30 on one (or maybe even more) days so far….

Singapore Airlines is our kids’ new favourite airline – terrific noodles and unlimited screens – and together with a kip at Changi, the flight exceeded expectations.

Banking a little sleep...

Banking a little sleep at Changi…

I watched a terrific French film (De Toutes Nos Forces – “The Finishers”) and you may be able to match the film with the viewer if I told you that the others enjoyed: Maleficent, Magic in the Moonlight and a 20 hour Monty Python Marathon!!

26 Years since I first saw it, the Glockenspiel is still charming tourists in the Marienplatz and we enjoyed watching it go around, although I doubt that the creators had anticipated the video game generation’s attention span when it was designed. The gorgeous neo-gothic Rathaus, however, had not lost it’s impact and we enjoyed its architecture. Each evening on the balcony, choirs and orchestras played for the entertainment of the tourists and locals below.

The Glockenspiel, 11am at the Marienplatz

The Glockenspiel, 11am at the Marienplatz

Amazing, can you spot the band?

Amazing, can you spot the band?

At Christmas time, the Christkindlmarkts were in full swing and we enjoyed looking at the huge variety of German decorations. Barrandgirl would approve heartily of their “Thrash the Theme” approach, with entire stalls of gingerbread, feather decorations or wooden trinkets.

Just browsing...

Just browsing…

Feathers

Feathers

Santas

Santas

We set ourselves a challenge in teams to find particular things and rewarded ourselves at the end with dinner of a bratwurst (officially my last sausage ever) and a hot Christmas drink.

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Though almost forgotten already, we managed a visit to the Deutsches Museum. Not that it wasn’t amazing – just that we were almost asleep on our feet.

Deutsches Museum Aviation Exhibition

Deutsches Museum Aviation Exhibition

Ship building, planes and musical instruments were high on the list because the bridge building exhibition was (devastatingly) closed for improvements.

Yawn

Yawn

It was all we could do to stay on our feet and we trust our kids will head back here sometime in their future if they ever choose to return to Munich…

A trip to Bavaria included a trip to the BMW plant, where Spike had booked us in for a tour. After taking some time to work out what an M4 was, or a side frame, or “on the line”, I got into the swing of things. I was most interested to discover that the 800 or so robots they use, are all choreographed (probably programmed…) to do things in perfect sync. Sometimes, when they are about to place and weld a side frame onto a car, they have to show the piece to another robot, wait for the go ahead – ie: right piece of the right dimensions etc… before they pop it in. You even forget that it’s 2 robots interacting! There were humans involved, known as “co-workers”, which sounded a little bit Animal Farm to me… but they also had robots with cameras and weight matching, checking their work. Fascinating.

BMW Welt

BMW Welt

Afterwards, in the show room, we checked out minis, sat inside a new one and decided that we would buy one, if spare money ever turned up. We also saw Motorbike Man who performed a short but interesting set of stunts by riding his bike up and down the stairs inappropriately on one wheel in front of a bunch of kids. Actually the bike he used was the same as the ones they used in Ewan McGregor’s doco Long Way Round – quite powerful I think.

After 3 days of acclimatising and wandering the old cobbled streets with painted facades, the first blue sky was spotted after breakfast on our final day. Naturally it was time to head for the U-Bahn and airport for our next destination – where the forecast was for grey skies, sleet and rain. Aaah… Europe in Winter.

Cobblestones

Cobblestones

 

Christmas cheer

Christmas cheer

Painted facades and iron lamps.

Painted facades and iron lamps.

 

Posted in Kate, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Jake and the Giant Camp Sign-Off

It is with mixed emotions we have arrived home. A feeling of achievement, excitement to be here, sadness at the thought of something special finished, relief that we are safe and thankfulness for an experience such as this. As we pull things out of boxes in the loft, signs of our old life are flooding back. Our house is in marvellous order thanks to our caretaker tenants Andrew & Jaime (& their kids) and our parents & neighbours who have lent a hand at the end.

We have so many friends and family we would love to see, new resolutions to pursue and things to plan and organise for the year ahead….and yet this afternoon as we unpacked things, it was time to stop, watch a little cricket, read a book, take a walk to a friends place and just reflect a little. So much of the enjoyment of a journey is in the anticipation, plenty in the doing and finally in the reflecting. We hope you will forgive us one last blog, of reflections, (Spike is intent on stats) things we want to record about our year and adventures together.

Cape Range WA

Barkly Tableland NT

Karlu Karlu (Devil's Marbles) NT

In six and a half short months, our idea of Australia is changed forever. We think of cities, beaches, deserts as we used to, but now we think of wide skies, blue of every colour imaginable, gorges, waterholes, dust, rocks of red, orange, green, granite grey, mining, whaling, fishing, coral, birds, sheds, roadkill, ghost gums, river gums, towering forests, windy coasts, mountains, wheat, beaches of white sand, windmills, and so we could go on… Axo1000 was heard to say in the last days. “Australia has so many amazing and different parts, and we just come from the part with traffic!” Images of our land are so much richer and the complexity of this country will stay with us all our lives we hope. We knew that we would see iconic and amazing things but we were, in reality, unprepared for the splendour and vast beauty of our country.

Around the last campfire, we came up with some of our favourite places and the reasons why they were so special to us.

Our All-Time-FavouriteCape Leveque WA (Unanimous)

This was unparalleled – a remote paradise with amazing colours – red rocky outcrops, white beaches and warm beautiful blue water. There were coral reefs, beach caves, swimming, fishing, campfires, huts on the beach, siderailing, and friends – it had everything!

Other Top Spots

Cape Range (WA) – Marine life – incredible, colourful coral reef on your doorstep. Wide skies and picturesque beaches. A unique beachside NP camping experience.

Cape Le Grand (WA) – Walking the coast along stunning beaches, white sand, turquoise water and granite headlands, in company of travelling friends. (Plus prize for best camp kitchen and bathroom in a National Park!)

Cradle Mountain (Tas) – Alpine beauty. Crisp weather, sparkling lakes, rugged mountain peaks and button grass. Good friends and some of the best walking in Australia.

Whole of the Top End – the rest of this NT experience where life revolves around beautiful falls, abundant wildlife in their natural setting and a swim.

Streaky Bay (SA) – It all came together for us here, weather, gorgeous camping in a standard campground, friends met, incredible tour with Sea Lions & Dolphins.

We could go on here…

Favourite States:

Spike & Kate – WA – Kimberley, Pilbara, Coral Coast, Perth, Esperance and Le Grand – It’s got the lot.

axo1000 & BloggiE – NT – Wildlife, scenery, wetlands, springs, rock formations, gorges, top end, swimming in the rockholes.

As we thought about our favourite experiences, it was not only the places that had found their ways into our hearts, but the people we met along the way. Memories of places were entwined with the people we shared them with. From the gorgeous hairdresser in Streaky Bay and the father and daughter who shared our dinner in Nerren Nerren rest stop one night, people came into our lives to make it richer. Being in unfamiliar circumstances everyday required us to be more flexible, to let down our guard sometimes and reach out to others. It is something we’d like to continue.

We are however, by far the most grateful for friends made, and old friends & family met. Our days spent exploring part of the country with new or old friends will be there for us to remember with them always. Sharing the road, stories, dinners and adventures with others was a really special part of our trip.

Siderailing at Cape Leveque

The nature of a road trip was such that we spent plenty of time on the road. If we go again, there is little we would change about the vehicles we took. Tug did us absolutely proud. Both Spike and Kate drove. We shared almost 50/50  until Tasmania, when Spike drove most first shifts & there often wasn’t a second.

Tug was serviced in Caloundra, Broome and Victor Harbour. He crossed rivers, climbed mountains, drove on beaches, rocky paths and sandy tracks. We had legroom, headspace, air conditioning in the back and our whole life squashed into nooks and crannies of the car. Now we hope that we’ll have time to take him on some other adventures rather than just driving into poles at North Shore shopping centres!

Jake  – our Eagle Outback – certainly became our little home on the road. We lived with less, all packed efficiently into the corners of the van. Spike & Kate slept on one pop out bed, and axo1000 & BloggiE took turns on the other, until BloggiE decided she was really at home on the fold down table every night.

Jake's .... repair on the way to Mornington Wilderness Park

Jake did need a repair. On the way to Mornington Wilderness Park a 90km side trail on the Gibb River Road, Spike had to take off the hub caps and reinstate the axle caps. We noticed this week that our rear bumper bracket that holds on the tyre was not looking good either- and so Jake will need one last repair at the end. He went everywhere we wanted – Bungles, Gibb, Cape Leveque & withstood all kinds of weather, even hail. We’ll be sad when we finally say goodbye in the next few months.

Spikes Travelling Stats

  • 194 days on the road
  • 28985 km travelled
  • 3975 litres of fuel consumed
  • 13.4Litres/100km fuel economy (Go Tug!)
  • $2.20 per litre was the most expensive fuel at Curtin Springs Roadhouse – tourist trap on way to Uluru
  • 73 setups of Jake …got down to a relaxed average of about 30min for a full setup with awning.
  • 7.41am earliest getaway (from a  rest area free camp. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough!)
  • 7450 Photos (that’s the culled version – estimate about 12,000 prior to culling)
  • Days in each state… 24 days in QLD (12%) , 35 days in NT (18%), 82 days in WA (43%), 16 days in SA (8%), 12 days in Vic (6%), 19 days in Tas (10%), 1 Day in ACT (0.5%), 5 Days in NSW (2.5%)

We also had some opinions on the roads and driving we saw around the country…

Best Drivers + Best Roads: Territorians

Let’s face it, there is only one road in the Northern Territory – it’s straight, well maintained, has a speed limit of 130 – and everyone waves to you!

Worst Roads – QLD – construction everywhere requiring 40km/h. High concentration of Nomads.

Worst Drivers – hard to tell – Victorians – pushy and erratic, QLD – struggling with their roads and WA – special mention here for Perth drivers and the anti-merge thing they’ve got going.

We have shared many of our highlights on this blog, but the best thing about this experience was that it was real life together. And in reality, there are always ups and downs. Here are a couple of our lows..

Trip Lowlights

1. One night in Darwin! (Too horrible to recall – but involved a domestic dispute in a nearby cabin)

2. Armidale – before we had our warm bed strategies sorted out.

3. Rain in Albany, and more rain, and more rain… and a little hail.

4. Spike throwing up in Jabiru.

And we also did a survey of things that we were glad we’d brought – and some we wished we’d left behind…

Best items packed:

1. Roman sleeping bags & insulation under the pull out beds (thanks Brad!!) Kept us warm and toasty every night.

2. Basins – can’t have too many! Used for washing up, sponge baths, carrying stuff etc… see Spike’s upcoming novel “1001 Uses for a Basin”.

3. Ugg Boots – everyone used them and everyone loved them.

4. ipad – used by everyone to email, skype, watch movies, navigate using google maps, caltex finda app. Also used by axo1000 mainly for reading books on kindle, but plenty of successful attempts were made to play games and surf the net.

5. spirit level – used by Spike every time we put up the camper to check the crossfall!!

6. gaffer tape – used by Spike on everything!

7. turbo chopper – at the risk of being an ad for Tupperware, this chopped / grated everything – (when it wasn’t lost for a month or so down the back of a cupboard!)

Excess Baggage

Awning walls for camper – Who needs walls when the sun is shining? When it’s windy they blow away… and raining?? well they funnel water into your campsite. Leave them AT HOME!

Trumpet! – What were we thinking? – sent home from Perth (thanks Rach)

Blogging in Longreach

Often, in the evenings, we would upload our photographs from the day, cull a few! and record our adventures on this blog. We began it for a couple of reasons; to keep our own diary (and turn it into a book at the end) to allow the kids to keep in contact with classmates, and to share our adventures with family and friends who wanted to keep up with what we were doing.

It has been such a fantastic thing for us. We have recorded things that are already lost to memory without a prompt. It has forced us to keep up to date with photo organisation and best of all, it has kept us in contact with so many people and given us so much enjoyment in the sharing.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who read, commented, emailed, skyped and phoned. We have all been blessed with great support and love throughout our journey and I know that it is not only Spike & Kate who feel that, but the kids too.  6 months is a long time in the life of a child, but was made so much easier for them by their friends. Thank you to parents of our kids friends, who really made an effort to keep them in touch.

axo1000 was grateful for all technological assistance with his trip and has put together some awards…

axo1000’s Blog Awards

We’d like to thank you all for reading our blog. We loved it when you commented and I’m not one for making sappy speeches so I’m going to give some blog awards.

Most commented: Lozzy – by a country mile!

Most enthusiastic blog reader – Stellamarie

Most enthusiastic commenter in U18’s – Grace Ayling

Thanks to Russells (Sam & Lib) and Loofs for getting into it!

Funniest commenter – Stuart Rowe

Least commented – How would we know? You didn’t comment!

First subscriber – Marnie

Day with most views – July 19th – Hervey Bay

Page with most comments – axo1000’s say

And the mystery remains….who was Ghosty?!!

Karlu Karlu

Time together has been the most precious thing about the trip. All our routines were changed. The days were dotted with opportunities to discover Australia, but also to discover each other and to spend time sharing thoughts, ideas, joys, sorrows and differences of opinion. There was no personal space. We slept in a tiny space together, ate our tea under the stars around our little table, and sat within reach of each other in a car for hours some days. Paradoxically, we were free to roam far – on a long leash from our usual city lives. A long leash from parents down the beach at Cape Leveque exploring the caves each day, a bike ride away at the Ninja-forest-hideout in Cradle Mountain, snorkelling where the ocean took us at Oyster Stacks.

Our children have grown taller, grown up and grown in their understanding and curiosity of the world that surrounds them. Hopefully we have too.

….And after all is said and done, we have grown in our love for one another and thankfulness for a time given to us to relish God’s goodness, love and amazing creation.

Posted in axo1000, BloggiE, Kate, Spike | 5 Comments

Postcards from the Journey Home

We knew that once we left that ferry in Port Melbourne, we would want to head for home. With holiday time dwindling, we spent the past week ticking off a few things, but also savouring our last moments of riding, walking, camp-firing and being together. This blog is a record of things we want to remember from our last week on the road.

Puzzling it out on our last day in the Apple Isle at Tazmazia. BloggiE, Kate & Li reach the centre of the confusion maze..

Evening aboard the Spirit of Tasmania II.

Farewell Tasmania. Lights of Devonport in the background...

Farewell Bolgers - lovely friends and travelling companions - we are so glad to have shared our time here with you all! See you back at the ranch...

Beechworth - Victoria - a rail trail downhill not to be missed - uphill much more of a challenge!

What really happened to Ned? (Kelly that is!) Our walking tour guide brought it all to life.

Hay ride anyone? Another great campground activity for kids.

Yippee!!!

Along the road to Gundagai... what's a trip around Oz without the Dog on the Tuckerbox? axo1000 jazzed up the photo shoot with a trip into the pond that now surrounds the statue!

2 border crossings in one day!

Gotta be done! Year 5 excursion ticked off.

Good to visit the National Capital at the end of our time. We all feel very differently about Australia now.

aaah... Wairo Beach. Back to where the plan was first hatched.

Spike & BloggiE enjoy the surf.

axo1000 - post wave.

Our final set -up. Jake parked on the South Coast in our usual Christmas camping spot for 2 nights. Of course once we set up, we wanted to stay for the week. Everything was familiar and the weather was fine.

Last evening on the road.

Last minute reading, drawing and a little blogging before the final camp fire.

On the way to Sydney, we stopped in for one last visit with our old travelling buddies, The Bohemians. It was the perfect end to the trip because one of our greatest gains from our time away has been friendship, forged on the road, and we will take that with us into our next adventures and beyond. After a delicious lunch, a swim in the dam, and a ride on the quad bike, they sent us on our way…

And at last .... home!

Thank you friends for our special welcome home - we are glad to be back.

Posted in Kate | 4 Comments