Europe · 33 Days · 43 Moments · July 2016

Cathryn's adventure in Europe!

5 August 2016

Sunday- today we started quietly and allowed the kids to play. We then went for a walk in the rain to explore Glattfeldon. In the afternoon we drive to Martin's uncle, Bob and Simon compared family history and photos. We then tried to drive to a local William Tell Monument (in Lucerne) and then into the city of Lucerne but it started raining heavily and the traffic was so bad that we needed to turn back. That night we had a local pasta dish made by Bea for dinner. It was very yummy!

31 July 2016

Saturday- today we drove 2 1/2 hours to see the Eiger (a glacier up in the mountains from Grindelwald). It was magical. We caught a cable car up to a restaurant with the best view. We had a great lunch- schnitzel and sausages. It also has a cliff walk which unfortunately I couldn't complete as my fear of heights did me in! You could see through the floor!! Sophie loved the wondering cows with their Swiss cowbells (I don't think we will forget the sound). We then went halfway back down to a play ground before stopping for coffee, hot chocolate and ice cream. By the time we got home the kids were happy to be out of the car and we were still full from lunch!!
Friday- today we left Strasbourg headed towards Glattfeldon, Zurich. We had to catch 3 trains and caught up with Martin and Bea and Zoe. These are family members of Simon's and we are staying with them for the next 4 days. After lunch we drove to Martin's parents before exploring a local ancient castle and then a stunning waterfall. That night we went back to Martin's parents for a bbq- Swiss sausages! Yum!!
Thursday- we had decided we needed another suitcase as our 2 were over flowing so caught a tram to a small shop that we had discovered sold suitcases online. After that we had lunch at home before walking to Petite France one more time to explore and have dinner. We had a lovely dinner outside under a big tree but the weather started to turn and we all got a bit cold! We even had a Nutella crepe on the way home!!
Wednesday- today we intended to catch a tram to L'Orangie which are gardens but got distracted by getting the kids portraits done first-hand they are good but don't really look like the children! We caught the tram after working out we needed to catch a bus as the tram lines were being fixed. It was another stunning day. The gardens have a small zoo which would not pass humanitarian conditions- the animals are in small cages! We did have fun having a quick look though. The gardens also have 2 restaurants as well as some small kiosks. We had lunch at the less formal restaurant, but after we sat down we realized we couldn't read the menu and so guessed at what we would eat! We didn't do so badly- Jack and I had Cesar salad, which was more like a cold chicken salad, Simon had vol au vants, and Sophie had turkey and noodles. The gardens also have a lake with boats for hire and play grounds. It was a good day.

26 July 2016

Tuesday- after a rocky night with Sophie (who woke with the sniffles) we decided to do a river cruise. We really enjoyed it. We all had ear phones for commentary and Sophie had a kids version. The boat went through 2 different locks, so we were able to see how they worked as well as listening to a description of the history of Strasbourg. The town has had a mixed history moving from French to German occupation over its history. Each country has left its mark. We again headed to a supermarket for supplies before spending the rest of the day chilling. At night we headed out thinking we were going to eat in Petite France, but when we got outside it was raining. We all got a bit wet as we looked for a local restaurant and somewhere to stay dry as we waited for it to pass. We ended up having pizza/pasta and while we enjoyed the food, we did not enjoy the hospitality as much as we had the night before. Lastly, we ended the meal with a Nutella crepe- yum!!
Monday- today I decided that I wanted to go shopping but when we went out, most of the shops were shut :( Instead, we went for another walk with the intention of going to the Botanic Gardens. We passed some lovely old buildings as well as walking over the river towards the gardens, however after we walked a rather long way, we discovered the gardens were closed as well. It wasn't our day. By that time we decided to walk back and find a supermarket to buy supplies for lunch and having a restful afternoon. In the afternoon, we went back out and managed to buy both Sophie and I some new shoes and me a new top. That night we decided to try a Winstub- a restaurant serving local Alsace food. It was interesting- Simon and I had different chicken dishes (mine with local noodles), Jack had potato cakes (grated fried potato with bacon as a topping) and Sophie had a sausage and fried potatoes. I think Sophie had the best meal, ice cream included!
Sunday (cont)- After that we caught the train to Strasbourg- with the train reaching around 300km per hour. We then negotiated the tram system and found our apartment. It is big and very secure but kind of basic! We then went for a walk and found the Notre Dame Cathedral, tourist bureau and went for a walk. That night, we had pizza for dinner and felt very relaxed without all the crowds!
Sunday- today we travel to Strasbourg. The kids and I went downstairs to exp!ore the local markets and to grab some breakfast. The produce in the markets were very fresh but unfortunately we were a bit early for most of the other stalls. It was interesting to see the fish, milk and cheese in the stalls along with the fresh flowers and herbs. We grabbed some fresh croissants and bread for Sophie as well as some local fresh milk to replace the one in the fridge. We then packed up and tidied the apartment before saying goodbye and heading to Gard de Est. As we were early, we put the bags into lockers and headed outside to a small cafe for a drink before finding a play ground for the kids to stretch their legs. From my rough translation, the play ground had been created in memory of the children who had been taken away to a concentration camp. It was a lovely play ground, and the children could have been back home in Adelaide.

24 July 2016

Saturday- today we attempted to get going early to see the Louvre but got delayed because we were trying to make contact with our host in Strasbourg as we hadn't heard from her. After trying to find a phone, contemplating booking a hotel and feeling somewhat stressed, we finally heard from her. We joined more lines at the Louvre and then joined the general throng of people to see the Mona Lisa. After that, there were so many people, I was happy to leave. We then head towards Sacré Cœur and Montmartre. We decided to do down and have a decent meal- so the boys decided to try their escargot while Sophie and I watched! We all enjoyed our meal and then went to explore the church. Luckily our metro pass covered the little train up, but we then decided to climb the 300 steps up to the tower to see the view of Paris. Needless to say, we are a bit over stairs! After that, we went home, rather tired!
Friday- today we got up to get our Paris Pass. Unfortunately, the office was down a side street somewhere and we needed to catch 2 trains to get there. After getting a bit lost, we lucked on it. After that we decided to catch the hop-on, hop-off bus and managed to get seats upstairs at the front. This meant we got fantastic views but had shade. On the bus we saw the Arc de Triomph, Louvre, Eiffel Tour, Champs Elysée as well as many other historic buildings and French streets. We were able to listen to commentary and we all enjoyed that. We got off at the Eiffel Tower and waited in many lines to go to the "tippy, tippy top" as Sophie labelled it. The only bad thing was the amount of people and the waiting- that and by 3.00 we still hadn't eaten lunch!! By the time we had gotten down and eaten a hot-dog, Jack decided he wanted to do his dance and we discovered we were not far from home, and so went back to rest.

22 July 2016

Thursday- today we surprised the kids by taking them to Disneyland Paris. We had a great day, starting with buying Mickey Ears, going on rides, having lunch and watching the Jedi training academy, more rides, Frozen Singalong, and lots of walking. It was great- we took lots of photos!
Wednesday- we got up today to do our bike ride. It was with a group called fat tire tours. I was nervous initially seeing the last time I rode a bike I fell off! Anyway, it was a bit nerve racking initially as we were riding on both bike paths and roads, between traffic! We got to see all the main sites like the Military Training Academy, Napoleon's Tomb, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We got to hear about history. For example, Dan the tour guide explained that the city was flattened and new apartments were built, with shops down the bottom, shop keepers apartments next level, rich people level 2, and poorer people going up! It explains why we are on the 5 floor!! In the afternoon, we had some quiet time before going out to buy a picnic dinner.

19 July 2016

Tuesday- we got up early and fought our way on the underground with our luggage to get to St. Pancras International Train station. We have discovered we need to purchase a new suitcase as both cases are heavy and full now that they hold our souvenirs and warmer clothes. Once on the train, we passed under he channel and through the other side without hassle. It is a much easier journey than the one I made when I was 15- bus, boat, bus. I think it took the whole day then. Now it is about 4 hours! We got to our apartment early, left our bags and had Macdonald's lunch before walking a bit towards the Eiffel Tower, and deciding it was too far and turning back. We had a dinner at a cafe across the road.
Monday- we had another slow start, which was much needed before going downstairs for a cooked breakfast and then heading in to see London Bridge and the Tower of London. It was a beautiful 30 degree day and there were people everywhere! We didn't really enjoy the Tower Bridge and found the Tower of London too busy to enjoy. We found the Crown Jewels, but suspected they were fake. Once we saw them we left and decided to sit on a river boat and we traveled up and back to Westminster. From there we caught a very hot double decker bus 15 to St. Paul's Cathedral. We had intended to climb the steps but when we arrived a church service was about to start, so instead sat and listened to the service. After that we headed home for dinner before getting ready for tomorrow- on to Paris!!!
Sunday- as we were all rather tired, we took our time getting up and moving today, then we caught the tube to Harrods. We were slightly early but filled the time watching a busker out the front. By the time he had finished, Harrods had opened and the crowds all rushed in! My goodness, people everywhere. We started by checking out the kids clothes, most of which we would have to take out a mortgage on to be able to buy! But we did manage to get Sophie some clothes- she still doesn't have any new shoes though. We then found the souvenir section and purchased some things to take home. We also stopped and had an English morning tea, which was nice but rather expensive! Next we left and headed towards the theatre to see Matilda - we all loved it! Sophie got a hoodie and Jack got a tea towel for his Mum. It is a great show and we were all glad we saw it!

16 July 2016

Saturday- today we got up early for Harry Potter World! We had prepurchased our tickets and knew we had to travel for about an hour to get there. This involved 3 trains (2 overland) and then catching the Harry Potter bus to the studio. It was all very exciting!! In the afternoon we came home but then had to drag ourselves back into the city to collect our London Pass tickets and we then walked a long way to see Hamley's toy shop. It was packed, and after that we had to go home as we were all stuffed. It didn't help that it is about 22 degrees and that people were everywhere!!!
On Friday, we went by train into London (about 30 minutes) to collect our London Pass and investigate theatre tickets. We got all the way to Leicester Square to discover we had forgotten our London Pass voucher😞 We went on to the theatre and bought very expensive tickets to see Matilda on Sunday. After that, we decided to keep going and do the things I had planned the night before- the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the government buildings, St. James Gardens plus walking around! By the time I got into bed, I had walked 14 kms!!! My feet were sore!! I cooked dinner and we got to bed in preparation for a big day on Saturday!
Running behind again, and if I'm not careful the days will blur together! On Thursday, we got up early to return the car and then got a lift to Gloucester train station. We were a bit early and so waited in the station cafe for our train. We had reserved seats, so easily got aboard and traveled 2 or so hours to London Paddington station. I had decided that we would get a cab to our accommodation and this took about 20 minutes, meaning we arrived to our new accommodation about 30 minutes early. Luckily next to our apartment is a cafe, so we ordered lunch before I went upstairs to meet the daughter of the owner to get the keys. What struck us in the café was that everyone was smoking. We were sitting outside, but still!! Our accommodation is large, but not as homely as the previous 2 places. We were all tired, so spent the afternoon at home, except for a trip to Sainsbury's for supplies!

14 July 2016

Wednesday- Yesterday we drove for nearly 2 hours to visit Simon's extended family in Penarth. The buildings in Penarth are very different to Edinburgh, Bath or even the Cotswolds. In Penarth, we spent the day with Dan and Nicola and visited old family houses and then drove to a museum called St. Fagan's. This museum is a collection of old buildings that have been transported and reconstructed on site. This means there was a collection of buildings from the 1500s and beyond. We found it interesting but not what we were really expecting for a museum! After that we drove back to Dan's house and then went to a pub for dinner. We had to change pubs due to a misunderstanding and eventually settled in a pub with a kids playground. Dan's family joined us and Simon got to catch up with family history. Unfortunately, the food was horrible!! After dinner, we had to drive back (2 hours) and got home about 10.15pm- all good except we had to be up early today to travel to London!!
Tuesday- A bit behind with my posts! 2 days ago we spent the day in Bath as Simon's uncle, Robin was sick and we weren't able to go see him. We decided to drive to Bath instead. The architecture in Bath was amazing, and we spent a couple of hours in the Roman Baths. Sophie really enjoyed it as we all got our own audio guides and hers could be programmed to the kids version. There were times we couldn't move on as she hadn't finished listening yet!!! We finished the visit with some mineral spa water, which was quite yucky as the water is about 35 degrees and true mineral water... After the baths, we had a quick lunch and walked around the town. We saw some beautiful houses. We finished the day with afternoon tea- we had chocolate shortbread and Simon had Rocky Road. Yum!

11 July 2016

Monday- This morning we drove for an hour and twenty minutes to Hereford to see Simon's relatives, Caroline and Eric Spiller and their families- Rufus and Luiza, and Nancy, Simon and Luke. Caroline made us a lovely lunch incorporating lots of raw veggies for Sophie! We spent time chatting about family and travel, and Sophie had fun drawing 😃 It was also Nancy's birthday and Luiza had made her a cake.

10 July 2016

Sunday (cont)- The Roman Villa was not at all what I expected. It is a National Heritage site, and so we had to pay to get in. The site has the remains of a rather large Villa and they are still unearthing mosaic floors. There were lots of open rooms but you really had to look at the model to comprehend what it once was. I look forward to seeing the ruins in Rome...
Sunday- Today we had a lovely slow start before heading back to the camp sight to meet up with Mark and family. We had planned to go to Cirencester later today to do some food shopping but Mark suggest we drive slightly further to Buford as we would avoid the traffic at the air show. He also suggested we leave early rather than later as shops are allowed to open for 6 hours on a Sunday and may not be opened later. We left the kids and drove to Buford, which turned out to be a quant old market town, with a feel like Hahndorf in as much that it had little shops in old buildings and lots of tourists!! We felt we could have spent a long time there checking it out, instead we did some grocery shopping and went back to get the kids and go with Mark to a local Roman Villa.
Saturday- Yesterday we spent the day with Simon's extended family- Mark, Jemma and their children Solomon and Mary. They are staying at the camp site next to the Farm Shop. For lunch we walked across country to what I thought was a country pub, but it turned out to be a rather fancy pub- we still haven't had that country pub experience yet, but perhaps that doesn't exist anymore!!

8 July 2016

Friday- We have made it to the Cotswolds! We had to change trains, then catch a cab to the car rental place, and then drive for 40 minutes, but we made it. Our accommodation is a quant little cottage and this afternoon we walked to the nearby farm shop and picked up supplies. We've had a lovely dinner and should hopefully sleep well (Sophie willing)!
Thursday- Today we had another early start to walk over to the train station. It had been raining when we woke up but by the time we had to leave blue sky was poking through. The walk from our accommodation to the train station was less than 10 minutes and as we only have 2 suitcases between all of us, it is quite easy. We got to the station super early planning to look in the tourist shop and get breakfast but quickly discovered our train had been cancelled due to lines being down somewhere. However, after a quick chat to a train man, we found we could dash and get on another train to get us there. Not quite sure why one train runs when another 20 minutes later doesn't! Anyway, we almost ran and made it on the train!

7 July 2016

Wednesday- We had another big day today, starting with an early start to retrieve the car and a drive to Stirling Castle (yes castle number 3!). On the way we had to try and find a coffee for the coffee lover but didn't have much luck, and so Simon had to wait until the castle opened at 9.30.😨 Stirling Castle was fantastic and probably my favourite amongst the ones we have seen. We were glad that we were there when it opened as it wasn't long before the bus loads of other tourists arrived. The castle contains a replication of the time of King James V and many of the rooms were set up as it once was along with staff dressed in period costumes telling us about life in the castle. Sophie was our princess of the day as she was wearing a royal purple jacket (and is rather cute) and got to dress up in period dress and become the Queen's chambermaid! Just as this was happening those tourists entered, and the bus load of Spanish tourists will now go home with photos of our smiling girl!
After the Wallace Monument, we drove to the Falkirk Wheel but unfortunately weren't in time to go through the lock itself. The wheel is a gigantic mechanism to lift canal boats from a lower canal to a much higher one. Surrounding the wheel there were lots of families enjoying a day out especially as the sun was shining. Yes it was 20 degrees! The last few photos are of our car...
After Stirling Castle we drove over to the Wallace Monument and climbed both up to the tower and up the 246 steps to the top. It's no wonder my feet are sore!! The view was fantastic and the kids coped well with the climb!
More photos from Stirling...
Still more photos!

6 July 2016

St. Andrews Cathedral...
Part 2... after Crail, we headed towards St Andrews to look at the St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral. The ruins were magnificent although it was slightly cold and wet! The castle is an open shell but you can imagine what it once was before warfare, time and the elements reduced it to what it is now. The cathedral is similar in its demise and we weren't quite sure how a cathedral of such obvious size and grandeur could become a memory. Something to research later! We then had a quick look around St. Andrews before getting Sophie her long promised ice cream (why don't kids feel the cold?) before driving back to Edinburgh. We are all feeling rather tired and are having a night in before our next adventures tomorrow!! Photos attached are the castle...
Simon discovered some buildings of ancestors gone by in St. Andrews...
Tuesday- Today we picked up a hire car and made our way out of Edinburgh and towards Saint Andrews. Thank goodness for GPS!! We decided to take the Fife scenic route and drove through many little towns heading towards Crail. Simon has worked out many family connections in the towns surrounding Crail and he particularly wanted to sample the lobster freshly caught on the Crail harbour. Both he and Jack enjoyed a lobster roll for £4. Sophie however, continues her journey towards vegetarianism and wouldn't look at it! Luckily there was a lovely little cafe in the basement of a 300 year old building just around the corner which had a courtyard looking over the sea and we could all enjoy lunch. Later, we explored the Crail museum and the Crail Parish church looking for Grubb history. We found lots of old gravestones but none for the family!

5 July 2016

Out and about in Edinburgh.The Queen was in residence at Holyrood Palace so there were police everywhere. There was also some sort of function there as we had never seen quite so many fascinators roaming the streets!
Royal Mile.
Monday- Today was our first full day in Edinburgh. We started by walking up to Edinburgh Castle first thing in the morning. We were lucky because we beat the main crowd. The kids were amazed with what they saw although Sophie found some of it a bit scary. As the main crowds were arriving, we left to wander down the Royal Mile Some fabulous shops and Cat loved the cashmere scarves. The architecture is absolutely beautiful. We stopped for a lunch and then continued on to a kilt shop where we bought Sophie a mini kilt.
Take 3! We arrived to find our accommodation. It is a basement flat and it's perfect! Just like the the photos on airbnb. We have 2 bedrooms, full kitchen, laundry in kitchen, living room with dining table, bathroom with shower and bath and lovely central heating!! We are very central as far as we can tell- we tried to walk around feeling jet lagged but it was raining, so we did a bit of shopping at Tesco's around the corner and then came back home. We were eating some snacks hoping to go out to dinner but Sophie fell asleep around 5.45, so we just had toast for dinner and fell asleep around 6.00pm. We all slept really well but are still going feeling tired- or maybe that's just me! Today we explore Edinburgh. More to come!
Yesterday, we had a very long day as we caught our flight from Singapore to Heathrow London and then from Heathrow to Edinburgh. While the flights were relatively easy, the jet lag and the waiting made us terribly exhausted. The hardest part was boarding in Singapore for a flight leaving 12.35, which was really 2.00am Adelaide time. Poor Sophie feel asleep in the airport and slept for around an hour and a half before waking up on the plane and hearing that food was being served and deciding she wanted dinner! Simon and Jack had fallen asleep and I was trying to stay awake to help Sophie so she didn't drop anything!!!

4 July 2016

Still learning to use this app! Where was I?..... Once on the flight we all eventually fell asleep but Simon and I kept waking up because Sophie kept crying in her sleep and poor Simon had Jack leaning on him on the other side. I awoke and the flight screen told me it was midnight UK time. I couldn't sleep at that point and ended watching The Black Swan! After that I fell asleep for another hour and woke up to breakfast being served on the plane. We then landed and waited in Heathrow airport for around 3 hours. Everyone was really good. We got through customs without a hitch and found where we needed to be. We stopped and had breakfast at a place called Giraffes- pancakes and a hamburger! It filled a hole! Our flight to Edinburgh was good and about an hour. Sophie was happy as she got a drink and crisps! We landed and got through the airport easily and got on the tram outside the airport to our accommodation. It was all very easy!
Sunday- Well, we are on the plane and have a fairly easy journey so far. The check-in process at Adelaide airport was seamless and the staff were lovely, especially to Sophie and Jack. The boys have had one minor incidence on the plane, managing to spill both tomato juice and diet coke not long after taking off. Poor Jack coped the most of it. Sophie has just received her raw vegan meal- and it is perfect for her. Raw salad, vegetables, fruit, sultanas , crossings, a bread roll and water. It fits her perfectly. Actually, she's been colouring in and is now watching Frozen, so she's in her element! Last night we all went out to dinner at Good life Pizza at Glenelg- Dad, Mum, Aunty Carmen, Charlie, Troy, Jody, Jayden and Zac joined us. It was a pleasant night. Mum got up super early to take us to the airport today. I can't say I got much sleep last night. Hopefully I can cat nap later, maybe after lunch!