A Northern Hemisphere Christmas

Christmas Eve…

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All is prepared…

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A movie – thank you technology elves.

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And Gingerbread, a very Northern Hemisphere treat for tomorrow…

Christmas Day

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Happy Christmas


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Skyping Australia

Sunshine out there to lift our spirits. Hooray

Sunshine out there to lift our spirits. Hooray

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Church at Courtfield Gardens – Holy Trinity Brompton

Roast lamb for lunch.

Roast lamb for lunch.

Afternoon ride and play in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

Afternoon ride and play in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park (3pm getting dark…)

Yes - Michael was there! Family shot.

Yes – Spike was there! Family shot.

And a hearty soup for dinner by candlelight.

And a hearty soup for dinner by candlelight.

Weren’t sure how we’d go – but we made the most of our Northern Hemisphere Christmas and we will remember it fondly. While we are mainly writing here to keep a record of this trip, we know that family and some friends are reading. We hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a very Happy New Year. May 2015 be healthy and full of love and new adventures.

Love from the 4wheatleys.

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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


d) The Tube system

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


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.


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.


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


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.


Knockturn Alley.


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.


Do you love it or do you love it?




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…



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.


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.


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.



Buckingham palace.

Buckingham Palace.

The statue that seems to be everywhere.

The statue that seems to be everywhere.



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.




Christmas Day!  Please wait for the next picture post.


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.



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.

Posted in Ele | 7 Comments


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.

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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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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…


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.

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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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Wotton Walk10

A hilly section

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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.

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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


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


'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…





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.


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.



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.




Christmas cheer

Christmas cheer

Painted facades and iron lamps.

Painted facades and iron lamps.


Posted in Kate, Uncategorized | 5 Comments