Sunday, January 23, 2011

The end of the trip

We are sitting waiting for our flight home. It is hard to believe that this amazing trip is over. Today we packed everything up and then went back to Disney and Adventure lands. It was a nice day, the weather was amazing again and although there were more people around, there were also more rides operating so we didn't have to wait long for anything. We went back and did all the things we liked from Wednesday but we also went to see a musical show based on Aladdin and we went to a drawing class and all learnt to draw Minnie mouse. It was lots of fun. We did have to queue for the last ride we went on, for longer than anything else on our whole trip except for saint chapelle.
We enjoyed the day and then returned to the hotel, checked out and then faced the right side of the road and LA spaghetti exits and peak hour traffic to return the rental car and say goodbye to luc for a couple of weeks, who flew out to San Francisco, and find our gate. We are all sitting together and are hoping to sleep much of the night.

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Friday, January 21, 2011


Last night we went back to Disney to see a light and animation show called World of Colour. It was very Impressive although crowded.
Today we went to legoland. We had a really lovely day. There were far fewer people than disney seeing as it is 90mins south of Anaheim. But once again the weather was perfect, the Lego amazing and the rides varying levels of thrill and fun. The boys did a 45 min robotics class and the mini America especially las Vegas is amazing.
We drove home through an amazing sunset, got stopped with the rest of the freeway by border police for a car by car check and went out to a nice restaurant for our last dinner of the holidays.
It was a really nice day.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DisneyLand Day 1

Today we went to Disney Land which is a whole 3 mins walk from our motel. We were planning to go to Legoland first, but fortunately found out last night that it is closed on Wednesdays, so we changed the order of what we are doing. We will go to Legoland tomorrow instead.
Disney is what it is renowned to be, but it was lots of fun. The queues were not very long, 20mins was the longest wait we had for anything. Marc and I went on everything, Ryan on almost everything and Luc on a few less rides. My stomach was queasy early on in the day, but I think I toughened up by the 3rd or 4th roller coaster type ride. In all we managed 16 big rides in the day. We have tickets to go back on Friday (or any day really) and have ideas about what we want to do again. Both the big water rides were closed. We are hoping they are only closed for the day, not for the winter. It is so warm here. It was a beautiful 24 degrees and sunny all day, not too hot, but warm enough for t-shirts all day. It was a really fun family day. We are heading back tonight for a show called world of colour.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shopping in LA

Today we started very early catching a 7:20 flight to LA via St Louis. The flight was uneventful after we all got seats (for some reason all the guys got allocated seats but I didn't and would have to wait to see if one became available.) not only did I end up getting a seat but she also managed to move us all together and on the row with mega leg room.
In LA we picked up our car and drove to our motel which is at Disneyland basically. We then went mall shopping. I bought lots of clothes as did Ryan. Marc and Luc got some too. Quite a family experience. We even had to go back to collect some free pokemon available through a store wireless point. Very happy boys.
We had dinner at a pancake place. Marc noted we were on a downward spiral on the food sophistication front. We are all pretty tired since it feels like 11pm now. Heading across the road to Disney land tomorrow.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Last day in DC

Today we rented a car and drove to the other smithsonian air and space museum in Virginia. This is basically a huge hanger with lots of planes hanging in it including a concord, a blackbird and a space shuttle (actually the Enterprise that only flew in the atmosphere) as well as the plane that dropped the a-bomb and many many more. It was kind of cool but we needed Brad to embellish the tour.
Then we went to Georgetown tomhave lunch and have a look around. Most of the embassies are there as well as the oldest house in DC. We also drove past the Australian embassy. We went home to do washing and pack for tomorrows very early plane to LA. We went back to a restaurant from Friday night to try their food again, i have packed all the bags and we will be up tomorrow at 5am to catch our last holiday plane before we head home.
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Another Day in Washington

Today we started by going to the spy museum. It was really interesting. The boys did an extra hour doing a spy challenge, but you will have to see their blogs to find out what it was like. They seemed to like it. The rest of the museum was full of artefacts that had been used during the ages for espionage as well as information on how they work, what they changed and how spying has changed. Very interesting.
After that we found lunch. There was a local ice-hockey game about to start so the area was flooded with Capitols fans. We then went and walked to the Capitol. It is an impressive building. We walked all the way around. One of the police officers told us that the figure at the top is a fictional character called Lady Freedom who is looking East where the pioneers came from. The visitors centre was closed on Sundays.
After this we walked to the Sky and Space museum and we split up there. Ryan wanted to go back to one of the interactive rooms about the physics of flight, where he didn't feel like he got enough time yesterday. Marc and Luc went to see a movie cause they wanted to. Ryan and I enjoyed an hour or so at the museum and then walked to the Freer museum where I wanted to see the Peacock Room which was created from a feud between the artist and owner. It was golden and dramatic. The history was probably more interesting than the actual art.
Then we walked home, crisp, but not cold enough to put our warm jackets on, and we relaxed waiting for the others to come home. We had had a really big lunch and a milkshake, so we didn't feel like dinner. We went downstairs and shared a soup and a kids meal fish and chips and that was too much!
Tomorrow we are renting a car to go to Georgetown and to the other Sky and Space museum. Should be fun.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 2 in Washington

Today we started by walking past The white house and all the way to the Lincoln memorial. It was a lovely day for walking, clear and crisp and it was quite a long walk. We passed the wall of Vietnam casualties and the korean memorial as well as a lovely frozen lake and the reflection pool. The ground was covered in snow enough for the boys to really enjoy themselves. We walked all the way back to the air and space museum.
This was interesting. I found the space side a lot more interesting than the air Side but they certainly have lots of Aircraft. Most of what they have are actual aircraft, not models. We spent the whole afternoon there, coming home at dusk on very weary feet. According to marc's pedometer we walked over 16000 steps, but we also stood around looking at things so it was a full day. We are heading out to dinner now, about a 10 min walk away. I think we can all make it.

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Washington day 1

We spent 21 hours from when we woke up in Barcelona until the boys got to put their heads on pillows so it was a long travel day but today was a lovely clear winters morning. New York was covered in snow and quite pretty. The plane approaches over Canada and northern USA were stunning. DC has obviously had snow recently and there is plenty around for the boys to have fun throwing it at each other but not enough for a proper snow man. They have really enjoyed just finding large patches of snow just wherever, although Ryan learnt about icy ground the hard fast way. It was ryan so he slid back up as fast as he slid down.
Luc worked in Reston this morning so the kids and I went for an explore after breakfast. We walked to the mall where all e smithonians are. We went to the castle which opened at 8:30. We spoke to a lovely lady who gave us a quick overview of all the museums and we bought a guide with floor plans of all of them. We also found out that they didn't open until 10 so we had some time to kill. She suggested we go to the printing and engraving building. We did that. It was very interesting. We saw $20 notes being begun and $1 notes being finished. It was a free tour and very well run. Then because we were there we decided to go up the Washington monument which was very easy and it was lovely. Didn't have Guy's camera with me unfortunately but we enjoyed it.
Then we went to the museum of natural history and spent the rest of the day there. It was fascinating. Luc met us there. The boys were engaged the whole day. We didn't leave until 5pm. We came home exhausted and put our feet up (while doing the washing) and then went to a very nice something like hogs breath cafe restaurant. We all went to bed quite early and are now ready to face another day, this time of sky and space and looking at some more monuments. Another lovely day with a Warm 7 degrees forecast.

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Location:Washington DC

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our day in Barcelona

Today we woke up later than usual thinking that Spain doesn't wake up until about 10. Then we caught the tram from outside our hotel past an interesting building that looked like Barcelona's gherkin and then walked from there to Sagrada Familia. I have never seen even a picture of this cathedral, so I didn't know what to expect. It is an incredible building. Luc was here 20 years ago and he said that a lot of progress has been made in that time. We went in and got audio guides which makes the experience very interesting.
That took the whole morning. After we found some lunch, we walked past a few Gaudi houses and buildings and then wandered around the gothic quarter for a couple of hours. The boys had had enough by then so we came back to the hotel and had a rest and the boys had a swim - really using the facilities of the nice hotel. Luc went back out to do some shopping.
Later on we went out to the Catalan quarter and tried some Tapas varieties for dinner. It was cheap and pretty good but not fantastic.
Now we are packed up ready to drive to the airport tomorrow for a long trip to DC via New York. Probably won't post tomorrow. Talk to you again the next day.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Off to Spain

This morning we woke to a wet miserable day in Carcassonne but we were in Carcassonne so can't really complain! We went walking anyway and it was fantastic. We explored ramparts and walked around walls and through the castle and the cathedral with amazing stain glass windows. It is a very touristy town fully restored and set up for tourists, but it is still lovely. We watched an interesting documentary about the different stages of the town and how it changed over time from a roman fortification to a border fort to a tourist attraction. Very interesting. We had a lovely lunch there and when we finished the sun came out so we went for more of an explore in the nice weather.
After we had enjoyed the castle (legolas and aragorn were running around looking a lot like Marc and Ryan!) we got in the car and headed for Spain. It was not raining anymore, the roads are fantastic and the views of the Pyrenees were excellent. We arrived in Barcelona between 5 and 6 pm and are staying in a lovely hotel overlooking water. Very swish. Tonight we went out for a walk to find dinner and a general wander. I even bought a purse! I don't do that sort of thing!
Looking forward to a day of sight seeing tomorrow then off to the US the next morning.
I am getting the hang of this driving on the wrong side thing. Shopping carparks aren't much fun though.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Nice to Carcasonne

Well today I learnt to drive on the other side of the road in crazy Nice where people seem to think they can park anywhere they like and who knows what is coming at you, but to get to the end first, we made it to Carcassone, driving at 130km/hr on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car!
It was a horrible day in Nice, raining and thunderstormy, but it was the only one we had, so we went for a walk anyway all around the water front and round to the port, up the hill near the castle and then onto a very welcome Pizza place recommended to us by Marie-France (followed up by the Gelateria she also told us about!)
Nice is a lovely town (we ran into 2 teachers from Sydney at dinner last night by the way). Walking along the seaside, even in the rain, is beautiful. The boys ran along the beach and skipped stones into the Mediterranean which they really enjoyed.
At about 2 we picked up our car, went back to the Hotel to pick up our bags and the adventure started. We first went to find Luc's old home in Nice. It is a secure set of units, so we couldn't go inside, but it was nice to see where he had lived. Then we set off for Carcassone.
The roads are very well labelled and it was 462km but much of it was at 130km/h so it only took 4hrs 15mins. We had already bought bread, cheese, salami etc so we stopped at a rest point (inside at a table) to have our dinner and then continued on our way. We were there by 9pm checked in. It is a lovely room. As I type this I am looking out the window at the walls of Carcassone old town only 5 mins walk away. We will explore tomorrow and then drive 300km to Barcelona.
I love French roads, and French traffic, everyone stayed right and it just flowed. The slow parts were at 110km/h!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rome to Nice

Yesterday we were too tired to blog so it is morning on nice now. We packed up from the very nice convent who let us check out at 1:00 as it was Sunday, so who would come in anyway! Then we walked to the big victory monument that everyone in Rome calls the wedding cake which unfortunately was crawling with sword bearing security and we weren't allowed to climb. So we kept walking to ponte Fabricio which was first built in 62BC to cross the Tiber to the little island in the middle.
Then we continued walking into central Rome just to explore. When it was time for lunch we went back to our neighborhood to eat at a really lovely cafe where Luc and I had gone for pre- dinners the night before. The idea last night was pay 10 euros for a drink and a refillable plate of anti- pasta which were varied and scrumptious. We thought we would like them for lunch too.
After that we went to the airport where we spent 3 times as long pm the ground in queues but anyway we arrived on a beautiful warm night in Nice and went for a long walk stopping for a lovely seafood dinner. This morning it is really raining so we might drive rather than explore on foot too much.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Vatican

Today we had booked a tour of the Vatican and Sistene Chapel. The boys were excited about being able to stand in two countries at the same time. We got to skip the very long queues and walk right in. It is definitely worth booking an official guide. However, you still don't get to pick the actual guide and ours was very melodramatic and overly interested in the minute detail of her favorite pieces. As a result we nearly missed the Sistene chapel which was closing at 12:30 for some reason which was very well sign posted around the museum but she seemed to miss. At 12:20 we decided to make a point of asking her why we weren't running like everyone else to make the closing time and she rang a friend to find out we were right and we had better run. However we did make it and it is spectacular. It was very crowded but the paintings are amazing. It was slightly weird having loud speakers every couple of minutes reminding you tombe silent as this was a church!
After the chapel we went to the crypt of the popes and then to the basilica. It was a huge morning of walking, and we needed lunch - it was about 1:30 when we came out.
We also went to the castle of saint Angelo which is connected to the Vatican apparently by a secret tunnel but alas for Ryan, we were not allowed to use this. It is quite an impressive little castle with a spectacular view.
Now we are home, with our washing being done at a laundromat sort of, he is putting it in the dryer for us and tomorrow we head for Nice.
If anyone has suggestions of major things we have missed that we could see tomorrow morning, feel free to comment.
We sent a couple of postcards from the Vatican. It seemed like a good idea to,get postmarks from there. The lady that we bought the cards from gave us our change in special Vatican 50 cent pieces.
The weather has been beautiful. We have not had to wear our big coats in Rome. Very warm. Also wanted to write about parking. Every space seems to be a parking space and smart cars are kept in business in Rome. Did you know that you can park a smart car perpendicular to the kerb and it doesn't stick out past the other cars. In fact you can park one anywhere you want, it seems!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Roaming round Rome

Today we started out close to our convent by walking to the colosseum and buying an audio guide each which was really worth it otherwise as luc puts it it is just a pile of crumbling rocks. I find this sort of walking history really interesting and I loved the colosseum and then the forum and paletine hill which we also got audio guides for, fascinating. In Latin these places were thriving centers of activity. This ramble through the ruins took the whole morning so we decided to catch a taxi to the pantheon and find some lunch. Taxis are not expensive here and our cab driver was very informative as we drove past interesting places.
We found some sandwiches and ate them in front of the pantheon. Inside was not extremely exciting but the dome is incredible. Then we walked to the Trevi fountain and then to the Spanish steps which Ryan and I climbed up and down. There are still lots of people drawing portraits here.
After this we wandered down the river enjoying the bridges and looking across at interesting sites such as st Angelo's castle which we will climb tomorrow after the Vatican. Then we went to the circo massimus and the wandered up the hill past the forum, colosseum and back to the convent which we discovered has a lovely garden inside the walls. Nice break from the streets of Rome.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The academy, Pisa and off to Rome

This morning we packed our bags and left them at the hotel and went off to the Academia. Here we saw Michael Angelo's sculptures including the David as well as a lot of other people's work. There was also a very interesting musical instruments section. A lady was playing one of the Old pianos and there was a fantastic big copper bowl filled with water. You had to wet your hands and slowly rub the large handles. This caused a vibration which made a very loud noise indeed! Ryan and Marc liked that! We were then a little stuck with what to do. We had reached the boys' museum saturation point but it was only 9:30 in the morning so we made a snap decision to walk to the station and go to Pisa. We were catching a 5:10 train to Rome so we had plenty of time.
Pisa was a great idea. It was fun climbing the tower again after so many years. It was smaller than I remember but then I was only 8 then, so not surprising. The view is great and the boys enjoyed it. We noticed how worn the steps were and Ryan had fun as only Ryan can making sure he was carving his own path up and down, not steeping on the worn bits!
After Pisa we came back, bought some gelato (I think it is Marc's goal to try every flavor Italy has to offer) got our bags and walked to the station arriving just as it started to rain. Good timing. Now I am on the train to Rome. Internet was not good in Florence so there might be a bunch of blogs posted together when we get a good connection.

Late addition. We are now in our convent which is spacious and lovely. We went for a walk around the colosseum when we arrived. Pretty amazing day really. Marc had his obligatory gelato and the we came back to the room for some bread and salami and tomato.

Hope you are all well. Epiphany was quite important here. There was a big parade in Florence and in Rome it is the start of the post Christmas sales!

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Today we started early as the Uffizzi opened at 8:15 and we didn't have tickets. Breakfast is part of our hotel package but it started at 7:30 so we were there with the rest of the hotel as early as possible. When we got to the Uffizzi there was a small queue but not too bad some didn't have tom wait too long. It is full of masterpieces collected by the Medici family and was quite impressive. The boys have a new favorite saint - Sebastian Who miraculously survived execution by arrows and so is always depicted with lots of arrows sticking through him.
After the Uffizzi we went to the Duomo. Outside is magnificent, inside is huge but not as amazing as some other churches we have been to, but the view from the top of the dome is incredible. It was well worth the 460 odd stairs we had to climb to get there. The trip down was dangerous. For quite a bit of the dome you have to share the narrow staircase with those climbing and they are not in the mood to let you past!
We then meandered through the streets and picked up some lunch and the obligatory gelato. Then Marc opted to stay at the hotel while the three of us went and explored the other side of the anno looking for very old walls and forts and some beautiful gardens that probably would look better in another season. It was a lovely walk. Now we have found a laundromat and are having a quiet early evening before we go out for dinner. Tomorrow we will go and see Michael Angelo's David along with some other art before heading to Rome.
Florence is a lovely little town full of open squares and interesting statues, including a large replica of David, just there in the open for all to see. The buses are tiny ?electric buses that can navigate the narrow streets which belong to pedestrians first, then bikes and then cars and buses.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

From Venice to Florence

Today we packed up and went to get breakfast locally. On the way back we walked through the original Ghetto. It was a very defined area. It was obviously the jewish quarter and there is a long history of this being a jewish refuge. The walls were high and there were only a few ways in and out. It felt like it was full of history.

Then we went back to the monastery to see if we could check out. We hadn't paid and we hadn't seen anyone the whole time we stayed there so we were not sure what we were going to do. However a lady doing the washing yelled out and a man appeared to take our money. He had a handwritten receipt ready for our deposit and slowly worked through writing us another one for the rest of the Payment when another lady arrived and pointed out that he had written 2010 by mistake. Apparently this was not correctable so she wrote out a whole new receipt! No computers here!

Anyway after that we hopped on a ferry and went to the academia to see some Tintoretto and titian art. There were other venetian artists there, too. Luc went into another church to see more then we all went into a temporary exhibition that was people's models of da vinci's inventions. It was a hands on exhibition and all the explanations were available in english so the boys really enjoyed it.
After this we wandered around, letting the boys take turns to take us somewhere, stopping for a slice of pizza here and a meringue there. It was a lovely way to spend our last couple of hours in Venice. Hope you are ready to see lots of photos.
Our last stop was the church attached to the monastery we stayed at which had more Tintoretto and even his tomb. He worked there for about 30 years.
We then caught the ferry to the train station and I am blogging from the train to Florence. We don't arrive until 6:30 so we will start exploring tomorrow.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Venice and Murano

Today we started off the day travelling to Murano. This is an island very close to the main Venice Island and only 3 stops from where we are staying on the "metro" of Venice. We were lucky to have a beautiful clear day. The sun was shining and we could see the Alps clearly off in the distance, snow glistening in the early morning light.
Murano was asleep when we arrived, but it was fun to watch it waking up. We went into the glass museum and looked at lots of shops, buying a few souvenirs, which we just don't do!! But the best time on the island was watching the glass-blowers. We found one furnace working and they were making light shades,  or beakers. There was no talk going on in English, so we weren't quite sure what the finished product was supposed to be, but the hot blob of glass was rolled in broken coloured glass and then re-heated and then blown into a tumbler shape. It was fun to watch and they just knocked up 6 or so in no time before they changed the colour of the broken glass.
We kept looking around and this time found a more touristy furnace. We had to pay and they had seats set up to watch and a commentary going on in about 4 or 5 languages. This guy blew a tall thin vase with twisted glass around the stem and then also made a glass horse in no time at all. He started with a small blob which he blew a little bit and coloured with some powdered mineral and then he added more molten glass around the coloured glass and worked it so fast. Legs and head, mane and tail just appeared while he was turning it constantly and readjusting the angles of things. It was really clever. We watched him do all that again. He handed around the horse on  a wooden long handled tray so we could feel the heat coming off the glass. Very interesting. We ate a nice lunch that we had bought earlier (salami, tomato and bread) on the steps of a bridge and then came home.
Ryan was then in charge of leading us to the Rialto bridge. It was a nice walk, down canals, over bridges and past lots of shops and alleys. The bridge was in full sun light. Very nice, but full of tourists.
We then caught a boat to see another big domed church Santa Maria della Salute. It was very nice inside. The dome is huge and the paintings on the walls from the late 1600s were lovely.
We then caught a ferry up the main canal and walked via a supermarket and dinner at a lovely restaurant + gelato for dessert, then we walked home. Out for a lovely 12 hours and now ready for bed. Off to Florence tomorrow afternoon. Bit more to see in Venice in the morning. Can really recommend the monastery stay. The room is great and it is very quiet!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


When I woke up this morning I found myself in Brescia having crossed Switzerland and into Italy overnight on the train. We had a cabin for our family. The boys slept up the top and we converted the seats onto a bed each down the bottom. Very nice. We arrived at the station in Venice and walked to our monastry room which is huge, clean and lovely. Then we dumped our bags and spent the day roaming Venice. We caught a Vapporetto to st marks square and went in the basilica and the Doge palace. The basilica was amazing. The mosaics everywhere are fantastic shining gold and covering everything. The floors were great too. The palace was also impressive with beautiful furniture, interesting columns, amazing ceilings and huge rooms. The boys liked the armory there.
After this we went for a walk following some directions to a gelato shop. Marc was in charge and the path took us along some beautiful streets past lots of squares and churches. We stopped along the way and went on a lovely gondolla ride for half an hour. It was special.
We kept looking for the gelato place but in the end to no avail. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was 3 degrees outside and getting dark. But the walk was great. We were on another Vapporetto and went under the Rialto bridge.
So now we are all blogging in our hotel room having eaten Pizza, but no gelato. Maybe we will have more gelato luck tomorrow. We are heading to the island where they do the special glass blowing.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leaving Paris

So our Paris leg has come to an end. This morning we got up later and packed bags and so on. Then we went to Sacre Coeur. This is a beautiful basilica on Mont
Matre overlooking Paris. There are a lot of stairs to climb even from the subway station and unfortunately it was very foggy so we didn't climb the dome as there was no view at all. I am sure we went here in 1978 and I am pretty sure I came again in 1989 but I don't remember the mosaics. They are amazing. I really enjoyed the inside of the church.
After this we had lunch then one last visit with Jean-Louis and Marie-France to say goodbye. Then we met Nicolas Betbeder and his sister Anne-flore and her husband Orleans for coffee. It was nice to catch up. We had met Nicolas in Sydney and he and Anne-Flore are the children of Jean-louis cousin Marc Betbeder. Guy, Sam and Pam attended Anne-Flore's wedding a couple of years ago.
Now we are at the train station waiting for our train to Venice. It will take about 12 or 13 hours and we will arrive around 9:15 tomorrow morning. It should be an experience.
Paris has been great. We have done a lot, but we have also had some down time with Family and we have stayed in the same hotel for 6 nights which has been nice.
I will write to you again from Italy!

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Location:A train station in Paris