Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A 12 year old in the house

It hardly seems 12 years since I was in Southland Hospital with this little (well not so little) bundle of joy. One of Josh's great delights of the past year is that he is no longer the shortest in the family - yes, I hold that honour and will for the rest of my life! So much has happened for Josh in the time since he took Adam & Isaac to the Aquadrome in Basingstoke for his 11th birthday and it feels like last week...

This year Josh took a school friend, Taylor, to QE 2 pool and they had heaps of fun on the water slides, in the rapids and in the wave pool. Of course they were hungry after all that water and so it was off to McDonalds to re-energise.

Josh is still into his lego and Star Wars and so he was delighted to receive a new lego kit which we had bought in England and shipped back. He also loves his cricket and so a new cricket hat from Rebecca was gratefully received.

Only 3 weeks left of school before we head into the Summer holidays and so we are looking forward to that and a trip south for Christmas.

On the job front...Lionel is still applying for jobs and has been encouraged this week by some positive responses, now they just need to turn into a job!

I have had some relieving and have applied for some part-time teaching for next year so we will see what happens with that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Life goes on...

Some people have asked if I am going to continue with my blog...I will everyone now and again but I don't know that you will find everyday life very exciting to read about! I doubt you want to read about the fact that Rebecca & Josh went to school (and of course did 'nothing') or that Lionel went to work (that is spoken in faith as he doesn't have a job yet) and the fact that I did 2 loads of washing, luxed the floor and cleaned the toilet isn't that exciting!

Of course we are loving being in a house where we can spread out - the kids have their own bedrooms and they are enjoying having some of their own stuff around. Josh has lego all over his floor and Rebecca... (well it is hard to see her floor).
Josh is playing cricket for the local Springston team and is loving that - he won 'Fielder of the Day' last week and he & Lionel often go down to the domain for some practice at the cricket nets in the evenings. Josh is off to the Zone Sports today - he got through for shot put, 100metres and is in the relay team.
Rebecca has decided not to swim this term but is keen to play water polo next year. She is staying at a friend's place on Saturday night and going to the local fire works display. There are always girls on the phone, on the computer or at the door wanting to talk to her so my very social daughter is settling in well!

The washing machine has just beeped at me so I must go and hang out my first load of the day in the glorious Canterbury sunshine!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A house and a school!

We finally found a house we really liked and our application to rent it was we move in at Labour weekend (25 October). We will be out in Springston which is a rural community about 10 minutes south of Christchurch so we are really looking forward to moving in there. It has 3 large bedrooms, so there are definately options for visitors, and a lovely living area with a multi-fuel burner which will be great in the winter. The living area opens out onto the deck and back yard - just right for the BBQ season!

Rebecca & Josh have their first day at Springston School today - a bit of a shock after nearly 3 months on holiday! Rebecca will finish the year there before going to Lincoln High School next year and Josh is in Year 7 so he will also be at Springston next year. There are about 180 students in the Year 0-8 school, 7 classrooms, large grounds and swimming pool. We got a very warm welcome and so I think the kids will do well there. Rebecca isn't looking forward to the fact that they have athletics next week (but at least it will be over with and then they start swimming).

Lionel is still job hunting but plenty of jobs advertised and he is starting to get some response so life is good! Lionel & I are just going out for coffee so catch you later!
Email me for address and phone numbers!

A week at the farm

It was still school holidays here and Lionel didn't have any interviews lined up so last week we headed down to the farm for a few days.
It was great to dig some of our old clothes out of the container and get into the gumboots (for those of you in the UK that is wellies!) Mum had lots of food for us and we really enjoyed a roast meal on our first night home - meat straight from the farm! Rebecca & Josh also spent lots of time in the kitchen with mum baking chocolate chip biscuits, ANZAC biscuits and lots of other goodies.
We caught up with some of our Dipton friends, but the time was short and so we will see everyone else when we are down at Christmas time. It was great to see my brother and his family - they moved into our house when we left and it was interesting to see all the changes they have made to the house. The kids think the addition of a spa pool was the best thing they have done!
The first morning Lionel & Rebecca went out with Dad and had a drive around the farm checking the sheep and looking at all the changes involved in the dairy conversion - Lionel was sorry to see many of the fences that he had spent hours putting up have now gone...but he has moved on! Rebecca really enjoyed seeing all the lambs out in the paddocks. Josh & I also went out with Dad and Josh had some special time with Granddad learning how to use the rifle. That night we went out rabbit shooting and Josh shot his first rabbit (life on the farm with an 11 year old boy).
It was a great few days in the country air!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It is two weeks since we left the UK and it has been flat out.
We spent a week in a self contained unit out at Lincoln (Lincoln Views) and that was fantastic. It was great to have a bit more space to ourselves and we were able to unpack some of our suitcases! We really enjoyed the wide open spaces and if we looked out one window we could see the Southern Alps, out the other side was the Port Hills! We had a huge lawn which Josh loved running around and we were surrounded by paddocks (we really are country kids at heart).
While at Lincoln Views we had hoped to organise rental accommodation to move into but it hasn't been quite that easy....we have looked at 3 or 4 houses and the two that were suitable (and the right price) we missed out on! We are still waiting to hear back about one more - so keep praying!
We had a rental car for a week (I can't remember if I have mentioned it) and we enjoyed the luxury and power of the Ford Falcon XR6, however we are now back to reality. We bought a little Toyota Corolla which will be our town run around and it is doing the job well.
Lionel's job hunting is going well, but slowly! He has applied for a few jobs and now it is just the waiting game.
We are currently house sitting for friends who are down south for the school holidays and it is great to be in a real house! Thanks James & Jo it is a real blessing to be here!
We are all well and settling back into life in NZ - enjoying the food (but not the prices) and good coffee where ever we go! I can't wait to take you out for coffee Monica!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Long Flight Home

Thanks Monica for taking us to the made life much easier and it was good to spend those last few hours together!
We were at the airport early and so check-in was really easy because there were very few other passengers around, although the ones in front of us were re-packing their bags so that they weren't overweight. That was a bit nerve-wracking as we hadn't weighed our bags and so weren't sure how close to the limit we were....our limit was 120kg - we weighed in at 121kg!!!How is that for good packing?

Our Emirates flight left Heathrow at 8.40pm and for the next 30 hours all we did was eat, watch movies, get on and off planes and sleep (actually not too much sleep!) From Heathrow we flew 6 1/2 hours to Dubai where we had 2 hours in the airport, then we flew 5 1/2 hours to Bangkok where we had an hour in the airport before flying 11 hours (I think) to Sydney, where we had another hour in the airport before flying to Christchurch where we landed half an hour ahead of schedule at 1.45pm.

After spending about 2 hours getting through customs and MAF (yes, we did have to unpack the tents) it was good to see Annie waiting for us. It then took ages to get the rental car sorted out, but they upgraded us to a Ford Falcon XR6 - a big car, but not enough boot space! Thanks for taking our extra bags Annie! Lionel & the kids were a bit worried about me driving the XR6 - when I took off from the lights and round-abouts my foot was a bit heavy on the gas and we were thrown back in our seats and it felt like an aeroplane taking off!!! Just as well the car goes back before I get out onto the open road.

We spent the weekend with our friends Dean, Tania & Amelia Comerford (Sam stayed in Cromwell) and it was really good to have our first weekend back in NZ with them. We did lots of talking and lots of eating and they helped to keep us up until a respectable hour in the evening. Lionel also enjoyed watching the All Blacks beat Australia (on TV) on Saturday night - a good welcome home for him.

We have been tired, but not completely out of sync with the New Zealand time zone so that has been good. Daylight saving starts this weekend so we will have to put our clocks forward an hour and adjust again!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Final Days in the UK

It was great to get back to the UK and see some of our friends again. On Monday night (14th) Rebecca even went to swimming club - we only got back into the country on Monday afternoon. She really enjoyed seeing some of her swimming friends and even managed to swim a few lengths - actually considering she hasn't done any training for 7 weeks she swam really well.
Josh had a good catch-up with Tom on Tuesday afternoon and they spent their time discussing and playing with Tom's birthday lego!
It has been great staying with the Evans family - we have had some good coffees, too much great food and lots of talking and laughing.

Some final thoughts on our holiday....
Some of our favourites were the bread in France, and croissants for breakfast.
Pizza and gelato in Italy, as well as the tomatoes and fresh basil.
Dutch pancakes were a favourite!
I soon got used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, especially when the kids helped by saying 'tight right or loose left' as I was turning a corner.
I loved the motorway driving - 130km in France.
I don't know most of the road rules in Italy - it seemed that you went as fast as you liked and slowed down for a speed camera sign. I also just had to be brave - indicate and go for it!
Some of the autobahns in Germany have no speed limit and so I had Josh in the back seat saying 'Go faster Mum' and Lionel in the passenger seat saying 'I don't want the car engine to die'.
France was great for camping - really good campsites, most had swimming pools and bread deliveries in the morning.
We discovered that some of us don't cope very well when the temperature gets over 40degrees! At the other end of the scale, some of us just want to curl up in our sleeping bags and do nothing when the temperature drops below about 15 degrees...we didn't have cold weather clothes with us!

Wednesday 16 September saw us heading to Heathrow and beginning our journey home...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Amsterdam - the final stop

Another big day driving from Freiburg, through Germany, into the Netherlands and up to Amsterdam. The kids are getting sick of the driving but thank goodness for I-pods and PSPs, we have also managed to play lots of word, number and memory games.
The budget is down to the final few euros and so we are back in the tent for three nights and then a cabin for the final night as we leave Amsterdam early to drive to Calais and catch the ferry.
Meals are starting to get down to the basics - pasta cooked on my campstove...unfortunately I have run out of fuel and this new fuel doesn't cook at a very high temperature (yes, Josh, I agree...that was the worst pasta I have ever cooked!)
On Friday we went into Amsterdam and visited Anne Frank's house. Rebecca & I have just read 'Anne Frank's Diary' and so it was really interesting to go and see the actual place where they hid for over 2 years. It makes you appreciate the space and freedom that we have - even if it is only a tent, at least we can get out and about.
It was interesting wandering around Amsterdam looking at the canals and seeing all the different bikes - they really are everywhere, and there are even traffic lights and special lanes for the bikes. We had a yummy lunch - Dutch pancakes! Lionel & I shared a savoury (bacon & pineapple) and a banana & blueberry pancake - the savoury ones aren't as good as the sweet ones. Rebecca had apple & banana & cinnamon and Josh had banana & strawberry with whipped cream...I think this is one food we may have to continue eating in New Zealand!!!

On Saturday we went for a drive north of Amsterdam and saw a village set up like a living museum where there are lots of working windmills. Lionel & Josh went into one and were amazed at the power of the wind that the sails made when they were out on top, they also saw the working mechanism of the windmill. We then drove up to Volendaam which is a fishing village - more of a tourist place now with a huge marina. We had one of the best meals here since we left New Zealand and we were sitting right on the water edge looking out over the marina.

The weather has turned very autumny since we have been in Amsterdam and the jeans and sweatshirts are out of the suitcases for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately we have had rain today - it would happen the day we have to pack up the tents! They aren't too wet but we will have to get them out again when we get back to the UK and have a dry out before the final pack up!

Freiburg, Germany

Hey Becca again :) Today we travelled from Venice up to Frieburg which is in the Black Forest of Germany. It was quite a long journey - we left Venice after breakfast at about 10 to 9, then drove up through Switzerland stopping there for lunch and then on to Germay arriving in time for dinner - so we ate in 3 different countries today!!
We went exploring after arriving in our campsite, walking through part of the Black Forest over to Freiburg where we went to a delicious restaurant for dinner. Mum and Dad both had yummy German sausage with panfried potatoes and mustard while Josh and I had grilled pork steaks and pan-fried potatoes...the potatoes and meat were both very nice!
As we were only staying in Freiburg for one night we stayed in a caravan it was really cool, and more spacious then you would think...we enjoyed it while we could as we knew that next stop was Amsterdam where we would be sleeping in tents once again.


Rebecca overlooking the Grand Canal

We sadly left Jane & Hannah in Rome and we drove north to Venice. We stayed at the Fusina campsite in a cabin and it was very comfortable. It was awesome going out for a walk at night and looking across the bay to the lights of Venice.
On Tuesday we took a ferry across the bay to Venice - it was very cool to arrive in Venice by boat! We wondered around some streets and over some canals to Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square). Thre were heaps of people here and very crowded, but we went into the basilica for a look - very ornately decorated. We walked along side the Grand Canal and the kids bought their souvenirs - Josh a gondola keyring and Rebecca a set of 3 Venetian masks to hang in her bedroom.
Last time I was in Venice it was wet & cold and I didn't remember it being a very pleasant place, but this was completely different. The temperature was in the mid-20's, no mosquitoes and a very enjoyable visit.
We enjoyed watching the gondolas and various canal boats travelling up and down the canals and also saw a man working at glass-blowing making some very intricate figures.
A short but enjoyable visit to Venice.
A gondolier at work

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tour of Roma by Bus :)

Hey it's Becca again - I said I'd be writing more often didn't I? We got the shuttle to the Vatican, and Jane showed us where to stand in St Peters square so that it looked like there was only one row of columns (the Elliptical Eye).
Then we got on our Hop on Hop off bus and decided to do the whole tour through first, so we got an overview and could decide what we wanted to get off at. By the time we had done this it was lunch time so we decided to get off at Piazza Navona to look for lunch. The Piazza Navona has a fountain that has a statue on each corner, each of these statues represents one of the four continents that was known at the time that the fountain was built; America, Africa, Asia and Europe...poor old NZ and Aussi hadn't been discovered yet! It was too expensive to have lunch in the Piazza Navona so on our way to the Pantheon we went up a side street and stopped at a little family restaurant, the meals were very yummy - I had a salami pizza...mmm! It was very funny as when Hannah went to the toilet she thought the wash basin tap was broken because, well there was no tap! However when Josh went he discovered that there was a foot pedal, this is very common in Italy. Hmm reading back it doesn't sound that funny but trust me it was at the time...guess you had to be there!
The Pantheon was Dad's favourite site in Roma because of the fact that it has survived from Roman times intact, and the amazing architectural design...for those of you who don't know the Pantheon is a round building with a hole in the dome for light, when it rains that comes in too - they compensated for this by putting 22 small drainage holes in the floor. Hannah and I tryed to find all 22 but gave up after only 15 - we got bored!
After the Pantheon we walked up to Trevi Fountain. At the Trevi Fountain there is a tradition of throwing coins in - if you throw 1 coin in you'll come back to Rome, if you throw 2 coins in you'll come back married and if you throw 3 you'll come back divorced...we all threw 1! Mum and Jane then made us walk up to the Piazza di Spagna with the promise of a gelato sitting on the Spanish steps... while there we also saw the Broken Boat Fountain where we filled up our drink bottles. Mum and Jane did not live up to their promise but we did get a gelato and it was from McDonalds...I bet you're thinking why go to McD's when you're in Italy?? I will answer that with because it was the best McD's ever... it had REAL gelato...even better than some I've had from proper Gelaterias!! Jane took us past some dead monks...I am NOT going to explain - it was too gross...however if you want to find out about this part of our stop please Google 'Cripta Dei Cappuccini'. After we did that we got back on the Hop on Hop off bus to get to the Colosseum.
Some facts about the Colosseum: Built in A.D. 72 - 80, Romes greatest amphitheatre has 80 arched entrances, access for 55,000 spectators, gladiator fights (not anymore OBVIOUSLY - back in actual Roman times for that one), christians were executed here by various means including slaughter by African animals (lions etc.). This was Josh's favourite place. I just asked Mum what her favourite place was and her reply was "Ohh I can't decide!!" a couple of minutes later she decided to add this : "I enjoyed walking around the streets seeing the thousands of years of history and I loved the fountains." Man that took her a while to get out!! Back on the bus again we went past the Palatine hill, with the ruins of the Forum, the Forum was the political centre of the Roman Empire. We also went past Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) which was ancient Roma's largest stadium, venue for horse and chariot races, athletic contests and wild animal fights. Then it was back to the Vatican to catch our shuttle back to Camping Roma.
Agian thats all for today but expect to hear more from me soon! Byyee Becca!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Leaving the Villa... Onwards to Rome!

Hey guys, Becca here! Well, today we left our villa..and with it all the AWFUL flies :) YAY! We moved onward to the city of Roma, where we are staying in Camping Roma in a permanent tent. Jane, Hannah and Malcolm are here aswell, we're staying until Monday and they'll be here two nights longer.
As we're only here for a short amount of time, we decided that in order to see everything we could we had to start sight-seeing as soon as we got off to the Vatican we went!
As it was Saturday afternoon it wasn't too busy and although we only went to St Peters Cathedral and got a gelato it was still very cool. We saw the Swiss guards as well :) INTERESTING FACT: Swiss Guards are used in the Vatican to maintain neutrality in all aspects of Vatican life...I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Switzerland is a neutral country.
After leaving the Vatican we took a shuttle bus back to our campsite. There are three restaurants on site and you get a 10% discount on your first meal here so we headed off to the nearest restaurant to see what Italian delicacies we could find for dinner... Mum and Dad found a delicious lasagne and Josh and I both had a Hawaiin pizza...YUM! There is a pool here and Josh has already made use of it while Hannah and I were finding their 'bungalow' (mobile home) this afternoon and the verdict is that it's shallow and there is no shade. Plus we're so busy that we won't have much time to use it anyway.
Hmm well I think thats about all for today...tomorrow we're off on a Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour (twelve stops your ticket is valid for 24hrs and you can get on and off the bus as much as you like) with Jane, Hannah and Malcolm ( at the moment they're off on a night bus tour of Rome, pretty cool huh?). That'll take us all day we think. Tomorrow night will be our last with Hannah and then we're off to Venice for a couple of nights.
Thanks for reading hope you enjoyed it and as I have only one book for the rest of the holiday you might be hearing from me instead of Mum a little more often then usual!
Byyee Becca :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Italy so far...

Relaxing by the pool - Jane pouring another glass of Chianti (you just have to do it when you are in the Chianti region) and Rebecca & Hannah poolside.

We are at the end of our last full day at Sommavilla and we have enjoyed a very relaxing day (but are sick of doing the 'Aussie wave' to get rid of the flies). It has been quite a bit cooler today - mid 20's and so there has been lots of reading done and the internet has been off all day so we are only just able to get onto the computer now.

It is 2 weeks today until we land in New Zealand and so we are looking forward to that, but I am waiting patiently (OK not so patiently) to hear back from a lady about a house to rent. We will also be on the hunt for jobs and cars once we get back - at least we have somewhere to stay for the first 9 nights! We were also delighted to hear the news that James & Jo Finlayson (friends in Christchurch) have just had a little boy, Nico, and so we are looking forward to meeting him!

The temperatures in Italy have been hotter than we expected and being Southlanders who have lived in England for the past 17 months, we didn't always cope well when the temperature rose over 40 degrees and up over 44 degrees! Gelato and lemon flavoured shaved ice helped, as did the many drinking fountains in Italian towns but the men in the family did not enjoy the heat.

It has been great having villas to base ourselves in over the last 3 weeks and really good to be with Jane & Hannah and Malcolm, but the next 9 days until we cross back over into England are going to be at a faster pace. We decided that we couldn't be this close to Rome and not visit... I know that 'Rome wasn't built in a day' but we are going to try and see some of it in a day and a half! We leave Sommavilla tomorrow (Saturday) morning and drive down to Rome visiting Vatican City in the afternoon. On Sunday we will spend the day checking out some of the sights of Rome and then on Monday morning leave Rome to drive up to Venice where we will have two nights. After that it is a bit vague but we will have a couple of nights in Amsterdam and a night in Brugge before crossing over from Calais on Monday 14th...


Josh looking out over Assisi
Yesterday we headed out for the day (well actually half a day, as we didn't leave the villa until 11am). Our destination was Assisi - the birth place and home of St Francis of Assisi. I was expecting another small mountain village with a cathedral commemorating St Francis and lots of tourists. The first view we got of Assisi was a rather imposing town perched on the hillside with a large basilica at one end and a fort at the top. We wound our way up the hillside to a parking building and then walked through the narrow steep streets to the central piazza where we had a lunch break.

There were lots of tourists about but not overwhelming masses and, although it was still hot, it was much cooler than other days that we have been out and about - only in the low 30's. It was great walking around the town looking at the old buildings and narrow streets, but these hill towns are starting to look a bit the same!

We went into Basilica St Francesco (well Lionel & I did - Rebecca had her singlet top on and so couldn't go in, and Josh didn't want to) for a look around and went down St Francis' tomb. Lionel also discovered the relic room which housed all sorts of bits including a tunic, an ivory horn and some of his writings.

Assisi also looked remarkably fresh and well looked after, much cleaner than any other town we have visited in Italy. There is a lot of restoration work going on in the town and they obviously take a lot of pride in their town.

On our way home from Assisi we stopped at Perugia - a lovely place which we may have appreciated more if we had been there earlier in the day, or earlier in the holiday. We did visit the Etruscan (pre-Roman) Arch which was the main entrance to the town, and looked down on the Roman aqueduct which supplied the town with water. The view of the aqueduct was a little underwhelming but it did serve to remind us of the great engineers that the Romans were - amazing that they could build aqueducts that carried so much water great distances, over 2000 years ago.

One of the reasons for stoping in Perugia was to visit the supermarket - we are now well used to the workings of Italian supermarkets and quickly purchased our fruit (remembering to weigh it), got a number to purchase our meat (and with lots of pointing and limited Italian got what we needed), bought some cheese and another bottle of red wine. We also remembered to take our own bags (you pay for plastic bags here) and had the chilly bin in the car to pack our fridge items.

We were home about 7.30 and so Jane & I got onto tea preparation - we made some salads and cooked kebabs and sausages on the charcoal bar-b-cue. We finally ate at 'Italian time' of about 9pm...but it was worth waiting for!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lake Trasimeno

On Tuesday we headed out for a day at the lake, and hopefully some windsurfing. The lake looked lovely as we drove around it to get to our villa and from the top of the hill looking down it looked very inviting. However, looks can be deceiving....
As we walked down to the waterfront we noticed that the lake was very low - we found out later that Lake Trasimeno has no inlet or outlet and is only filled with rainfall, we are at the end of a long hot summer and so the lake level was extremely low. The water was green and there was lots of algae and lake weed in the lake - we now know that the deepest the lake gets is 6m and so with the shallow depth and the high temperatures it is no wonder there is so much weed.
There was no wind and therefore no windsurfing or kite surfing....not that we were keen to get in the water anyway - we didn't even swim.
After a very disappointing trip to the lake we drove back up to the villa where we spent an hour in the pool before getting ready to go out wine tasting at a local restaurant/winery.
It was so disappointing I didn't even take any photos...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Siena and our new villa

Saturday was moving day for us and so we packed up at Villa Rosa in San Cassiano and headed south. On the drive down we stopped for lunch in Siena, it was really hot and we didn't stay for long but what we saw of Siena was great. We had lunch in Il Campo (the central square) where they hold a horse race every year - for those of you who have seen James Bond's 'Quantum of Solace' will remember the opening scenes where Bond is running through the square as a horse race is taking place, well that's Il Campo! We sat in an outdoor restaurant overlooking the square trying to imagine the chaos, excitement and noise of the Palio, when the 10 horses race three laps of Il Campo in a race which lasts just 90 seconds.
Rebecca's yummy lunch
We had a yummy lunch - Rebecca enjoyed bruschetta with tomato and mozzarella, Josh had an omelette and cheese in a foccaccia bread sandwich, Lionel had a salami sandwich and I had a ham sandwich. We had the nicest bread today that we have had since we got to Italy - on the whole it has been very dry bread and certainly not the tasty bread we had been used to in France.
Our new villa 'Sommavilla' is on the Tuscan/Umbria border not far from Lake Trasimeno. It is lovely and the seven of us (we are still with Jane & Hannah and Malcolm) are enjoying the space, the only downside of this villa is the flies...they are everywhere and are very annoying! The day we arrived we weren't too sure where we were going as we wound 2km up on steep, narrow gravel road, but once we got here we love it. We are on a working organic farm of 70hectares where the farmer runs 90 sheep. The sheep are kept inside over night and are let out in the morning to various areas of the farm - some of the sheep have bells around their necks so that the farmer knows where they are! It is covered with a lot of trees and out the front of our villa there are lots of olive and fig trees. One of the important aspects of the villa for the kids is the pool - it is 14m x 7m and has glorious views over the surrounding countryside.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A night at the opera

My birthday treat was a night in Verona with Malcolm, Jane & Hannah to go to the opera "Carmen". I hear some of you thinking "A night at the opera doesn't sound like much of a treat..." and to be honest it more the experience than the opera that I was going for. It was part of the Verona Summer Festival and the opera is held in the open air, Roman amphitheatre and it was amazing sitting in the theatre which was built in 49BC and had been the scene of many a nights entertainment.
We were sitting in the 'cheap seats' which consisted of stone steps which were un-numbered and so we had to get there early to get a good spot. We took along cushions to seat on which was very neccessary as sitting on stone steps for over 4 hours would not have been comfortable! Yes, 4 hours - the performance started at 9pm and finished at 1am.
I have to say I really enjoyed the performance which was the story of love, jealousy and death...It was performed without the use of microphones and speakers and considering we were seated about 150m away from the stage we could still hear reasonably well - those Romans sure knew how to build amphitheatres. The stage area was huge and at times there were horses, mules and about 250 people all on stage together.
During the breaks between acts there was also plenty of entertainment in the crowd with the vendors selling drinks (calling out 'Coca, Fanta, Biera, Vino'), programmes, CDs and cushions to rent. We also had our own food and drink supplies which we nibbled on as the evening passed by.
Our night at the opera was very enjoyable and if you are in Verona during August it is something not to be missed!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Saturday 22 August

45 years old....Wow!
What a great place to be celebrating my birthday...Tuscany, Italy.

We headed into Pistoia to visit the local markets this morning - the whole piazza was filled with stalls and the stalls also spread out into the side streets. Josh was delighted to find camo cargo shorts and a belt which he has been wanting (now he can put his Swiss army knife onto his belt). Rebecca was gutted because all her money disappeared in Florence when she bought her Converse high-tops, however she ended up with new underware and pyjamas.

For dinner tonight we went up to the local bar/restaurant in San Cassiano where we tortelli and pizza. The kids surprised me with birthday cake and gelato when we got back to the villa.

A great day with family and friends!

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Josh pushes the tower over

Thursday 20 August

Today we joined the crowds in Pisa to see, climb, and of course take our photo holding up the leaning tower. It was really hot - 42degrees at 11am and so when we could we found little bits of shade to hide in, and at the end of the day when the sprinklers came on, the kids didn't mind getting just a little bit wet!
Building work for the tower stated in 1173AD but it stopped at the third stage as the building was already starting to collapse! A century later three more stages were added deliberately constructed to tilt in the opposite direction - and so the tower has not only a lean, but a kink! In 1989 the tower was closed as it was dangerously close to collapsing, and for the next 12 years engineers worked to stabilise it. In 2001 the tower reopened to the public but reconstruction work still continues.
It was amazing walking up the spiral stairs to the top of the tower because you really did feel the lean - going one way you definately leaned in towards the wall and the other side away from it. It was incredible looking at the stone steps as we walked up because they were so worn away by the many people who had climbed up and down the tower over the centuries.
Rebecca holds the tower up

Villa Rosa, San Cassiano

Dinner on the balcony
'Villa Rosa'
We are halfway through our 2 week stay in the wonderful little mountain village of San Cassiano in Tuscany - about an hour from Lucca.
We wondered where we were going to the first day that we came here as it seemed such a long drive up the narrow, winding mountain road but we are now enjoying this lovely little village. We are getting used to the road now as we go out on our various excursions, but I have to say that I didn't enjoy coming home in the dark the other night - the corners just kept coming and it was hard to know which way they were going to turn and how sharply - but we got home safely!
We are enjoying being out of the tents and into a house and beds again and the villa is very comfortable - we have a balcony which we sit out on and gaze out over the mountains and along the valley. I love seeing the little villages clinging to the sides of the mountains and they all have their local churches so we hear the church bells ringing all around the valley. Our local 12th century church has a bell which chimes hourly and then one ring on the half hour, so it is quite nice when you don't have a clock handy you can just wait for the church bells to ring to know the time! We have been wandering up to the local shop for bread in the mornings and to the local bar/restaurant for pizza some nights. Our local shop (as with most shops in Italy) is closed from 1-4pm and all day Sunday. It took a while for us to get used to this, but when we are home on 'rest' days it is quite nice to know that everyone else is indoors having a siesta. On the days when we are out and about we notice that it is generally only the crazy tourists who are walking around in the midday sun!
We are also enjoying the pool which we have at the villa and it is great to be able to have a cool down in the late afternoon.
It is great to be here with our Invercargill swimming friends - Jane & Hannah and Malcolm - Rebecca is really enjoying this time with Hannah and she is not looking forward to the time when we will go our separate ways, but what great holiday memories they will have!
We move from here on Saturday 29th and go to another villa down near Cortona (the southern part of Tuscany).

Friday, August 21, 2009


Looking out over Florence at the end of the day
21 August

We spent a long day in Florence today and it is now ending with me sitting out on the balcony of the villa catching up on some writing. It is a very pleasant 28 degrees at the moment (10.30pm) and I am enjoying the peacefulness of the village and the clear, starry night sky.

It was great wandering around Florence today and we found the weather to be not as hot as our day in Pisa (I will catch you up with that sometime soon) - it was only about 38 degrees! We split up and did several different things today - Jane & Malcolm took Hannah and Rebecca to the Academia to see the original marble statue of the 4m tall 'David'. Josh didn't think he needed to go and see a naked man and so Lionel & I took him to the Science Museum to see some of the ancient science instruments, including some of Galileo's instruments.

We all met up at lunch time for pizza (and of course gelato...)

Lionel & Josh then headed off to some gardens to find some shade and a cool place to wait out the afternoon, while Jane & I took the girls shopping! We visited the Armani shop and walked past Louis Voitton, Prada, Guchi, and many other fashion stores - fortunately many of them were closed for the siesta period and so it was only window shopping. We found ourselves in a shoe shop where Rebecca & Hannah both purchased a pair of Converse shoes - Rebecca's are black & white high-tops.

We wandered through the market, I bought a scarf but we weren't tempted by too much and then we walked through Ponte Vecchio which is the area of the gold and silver sellers (no, Lionel didn't buy me anything for my birthday!)

As the afternoon got hotter and the bodies got more tired we stopped for another gelato before the next lot of walking.

The streets of Florence are full of history with the narrow alleyways, old stone buildings and cobble stone streets. There are a multitude of piazzas, churches, museums and statues. There are gold shops, silver shops, leather shops and of course a variety of tourist stalls.

We were amazed to see how quickly the people illegally selling on the side of the street could gather up their wares when there was any sign of the police, and we even saw some police on motorbikes run over one man's pictures when he was too slow moving on.

Our day ended with dinner in a local restaurant and then driving up to Palazzo Micelangelo to take lots of photos overlooking the city - yes, I will get some photos uploaded soon and I will update the days I have missed out.

We are loving Italy (except for the heat) and have definately decided that none of us will starve while in, gelato, pasta, gelato, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and of the gelato!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

We have internet access!

We have an internet stick thingy and so have our own internet connection while in Italy for the next 3 weeks so I will get onto updating the blog and adding some photos....that is when I am not in the pool, drinking the local vino, or eating the local pizza, pasta, tomatoes etc!!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The family, with the Eiger in the background
Thursday 13 August –Friday 14 August
It was just amazing to see Jane & Hannah and unbelievable that we are here in Switzerland together! Rebecca & Hannah have hardly stopped talking since we arrived two days ago.
On Thursday we caught the cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to Grutschalp and then walked to Murren. The views were just staggering and we stopped and looked across the valley to the Eiger and the Jungfrau mountains. It was spectacular walking along the mountain paths, through the forests, beside the fields, past streams, with mountains towering over us and cable cars going across above us.
We stopped at a small stream at one stage and refilled our water bottles with ice cold water straight off the mountains.
After a picnic lunch we walked along to Blumental where we got the cable car down to Gimmelwald. The cable car trips have been very spectacular and they climb and descend very steep mountains – makes the gondola at Queenstown feel like a very small hill!
We walked back to Lauterbrunnen on a track which followed alongside a glacial river. At one stage we crossed over a stream which we had a paddle in – very refreshing on hot, tired feet!
We are staying in a cabin here and so it was very nice to roll into bed tonight and rest our weary bodies.
Rebecca & Hannah up the Jungfrau Josh 'bum boarding'
On Friday we went up the Jungfrau. This is a trip which I regret missing 24 years ago when I was a young thing touring Europe and it was great to be able to do it this time around. The Jungfraujoch is 11,333ft (3454m) and so when we were up there we were nearly at the height of Mt Cook!
It took nearly 2 hours in two different trains to get up to the top and the views were spectacular down the glacier and across the other mountains, including the Eiger. Queenstown has spectacular scenery but this makes Queenstown look small.
Hey it's Becca here now, I'm to tell you about when Josh, Hannah and I went 'bum-boarding'! It was one of the free activities up the mountain, where you slide down a track on the top of the glacier whilst sitting on small plastic disks. After a few people wiped out on the track it got a bit bumpy, so when Hannah and I went down after this man we went over a large lump of snow, the landing was EXTREMELY painful - we honestly thouight we'd broken our tailbones!! So yeh anyway we had a great time, even if it did result in a few days of discomfort!

Car Trouble...

Monday 9 August – Wednesday 11 August

We have learnt some French words which we did not wish to know...’depannage’ means ‘towing’ and ‘le garage’ is ‘the garage’.
Yes, we have had car trouble...
We had a beautiful drive out of the Languedoc region through some mountainous country, wooded areas and beautiful little villages. It was quite steep in places and we got some amazing views.
On Monday we drove up through Millau, where we had lunch. Lionel & Josh had seen the Millau Viaduct on a ‘Top Gear’ programme and we thought that since we were in the area we would pay a visit. It is an amazing feat of engineering with the viaduct spanning a huge gorge.
Our trials started about 4pm when the car lost power on a hill. We called in at the next garage and the mechanic said to head to the big Peugeot garage in Le Puy (about an hour & a half away). We didn’t make it that far and at about 4.40 I had to call the emergency number to get a tow truck out. My French really is not that good – especially over the telephone and about an hour and a half later the gendarmerie arrived saying that my directions were not good and the tow truck could not find us...he called the tow truck and it soon arrived!
It was about 7pm by the time we got to the garage and so they arranged a hotel room for us, which was very kind of them and we enjoyed a night in a real bed with sheets!
The next morning we thought the car was fixed and ready to go...but NO. So we spent Tuesday night camping on the Central Massif at a lovely little family campsite. Lunch time Wednesday we finally got away from Landos! By this time we had made contact with Jane & Hannah (friends from Invercargill) and they were going to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. So we decided to meet up with them there. We were very excited at the thought of seeing them and planned on being there at about 6pm.
OH NO....About 40 minutes after leaving the garage the same thing happened – the car just lost all power! I phoned the garage we had been at (unfortunately the owner spoke no English) and I thought he said he would come and get us....after an hour or so he still hadn’t arrived a lovely French road worker stopped to help us and called a tow truck. The garage man had said for us to come back to him... We ended up at a different garage where the problem got fixed. A part which filters the air through the turbo (I think) had worn out with the heat and all the hills and so wasn’t letting air through causing the engine to cut out. Not a problem we would have had in England as it doesn’t get hot enough and there isn’t enough hills!
We were finally on our way at 4.30pm and arrived in Lauterbrunnen at 10pm.
It is so good to see Jane & Hannah and we have 3 nights in Switzerland before heading down into Italy.

Albine, Languedoc Region

Wednesday 5 August – Monday 9 August
We arrived at a lovely country side campsite in the mountains of the Languedoc at around lunch time.
It was really hot so we got the tents out to dry off and then it was straight into the pool to cool down. We spent a lot of time in the pool over the five days at this site – especially the first two days when the temperature got up to 38 degrees.
This was a very relaxing time and we spent lots of time reading, swimming, playing table tennis and playing badminton.
On Saturday we went into Mazamet for the local marche (farmers market) and we bought some lovely fresh fruit, jambon (ham) and fromage (cheese).
We are still loving the bread deliveries at the camp site in the mornings and baguettes, boules and pain au choclat are still the favourites. [Bread...favorite?? not so much! Over that like a week ago! Added by Rebecca] The kids would also say that they are over pasta...but I have enjoyed our pasta meals – especially when I add mushrooms, tomato, courgette and ham! We did enjoy going out to a local restaurant though where we had a steak and chips!
The last couple of days at Albine were quite drizzly and so not so pleasant, especially since we only have the small tents, and it did make packing up a bit of a trial...however we had greater trials to come!
We left Albine on Monday with the plan of heading to St Etienne and having a night in a hotel before heading through the Mt Blanc tunnel...that was not to be!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Carcasonne, South of France

Tuesday 4 August –
We left our campsite at La Chalard by 10.30am and decided we would take the toll road down to Carcasonne to make it an easier drive and only about 4 hours which would give us plenty of time to find a campsite and get set up.
Oh the best laid plans...we got stuck in traffic on the A61 because of an accident and for 2 hours we hardly moved, then for the next hour traffic was on a detour and so was much slower than the 130 km/h that we were expecting. We eventually made it to Carcasonne after 6pm and pulled up to a campsite – it was full. They were directing people to another site not far away so we went there and they were full too, but were putting people in a field for the night (to be vacated by 8.30am) – at least it is somewhere to sleep. By now it was after 7pm, still over 30 degrees and everyone was tired...we got the tents set up then headed up to the camp bar/restaurant for a cold drink and a banana split which helped revive everyone a bit!
We didn’t have our best night’s sleep – the traffic seemed to race up and down the road outside and there was a regular train that went past, it had been so hot when we went to bed that I just used sheets and left my sleeping bag in the car so I woke at 4am cold...we were out of that campsite by 8am to find the village boulangerie for our baguette and pain au choclat
Before leaving Carcasonne we went up to explore the old walled town and had fun walking around the ramparts and pretending to survey our kingdom. We were there before all the touristy shops were open (which we didn’t mind) and before the chateau was open (which we didn’t mind) and before the crowds of people arrived (which we really didn’t mind). Carcasonne may be a lovely place but for us it was too hot and too busy so we moved on.
We drove north for about an hour and a half and found a campsite at the village of Albine, not too far from the large town of Mazamet...more about that next.

Limousin Region

31 July – 3 August
Internet access is not always available when I want it and so I will write up blog posts in Word and then add them as I am able to.
We have had a wonderful 4 nights in the Limousin region – after the flat, brown landscape of Northern France it was great to get into the hilly green country of this region. There are still many maize fields but also lots of trees and the gorgeous red Limousin cattle.
We have been staying at a great campsite near the small village of La Chalard. It is run by an English couple who have been here for 20 years and so it is nice to be able to converse in English and know that our communication is being understood correctly! There is also a pool which we have been enjoying as two of the days were around 33 degrees. One thing which we love about camping in France is the fresh bread which is delivered in the morning for breakfast, we also usually have a treat of pain au choclat! The baguettes are lovely and crusty on the outside but soft on the inside and we have just discovered a cereal loaf which is quite grainy.
Lionel & I went to the nearby village of Jumillihac for the Sunday morning marche (farmers market). It was held in a spectacular spot – the town square in front of a huge chateau. There were a variety of stalls and we bought some of the lovely fresh vegetable – tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and mushrooms. We looked at the chutney and jam but on our limited budget we decided it was a luxury we could pass by (we went to Intermarche and bought cheap supermarket jam). Lionel did some wine tasting and we bought a bottle of red which we shared with some campsite friends, with some crackers and cheese, later in the evening.
We have enjoyed the friendliness of this campsite and have spent some time with an English couple whose two young girls followed Rebecca around. Rebecca & Josh also played in the pool with a French family – they had very limited English and we had very limited French but swimming races and diving for the ring are universal games!
We packed up from here on Tuesday for a 4 hour drive south to Carcasonne....but that’s a story for next time!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


On Monday we had a very calm 90 minute Dover to Calais crossing – we left a wet, cold England and arrived in a damp, cool France. Lionel did a great job navigating us to our camp site about an hour south of Calais without using toll roads. I managed to drive us there safely while staying on the RIGHT side of the road. We got the tents set up in the dry and the sun came out...Yay, summer holidays!
Tuesday we were greeted by the bread lady as she drove her van around the camp site – what better breakfast could you ask for than fresh bread and croissants delivered to your tent....
We decided to drive to Ypres today and have a look at some of the World War 1 sites and memorials – it was supposed to be an hours drive but with road works and detours it took us a lot longer. Josh kept reminding me which way to turn around corners by saying ‘tight right and loose left’ he was also intrigued by all the fields of wheat and maize, and no fences along the road side.
Our first stop was in Messines (sp?) where we saw a memorial to New Zealand soldiers who advanced 2000 yards to take the ridge. Quite amazing to be standing in the spot where this battle took place.
Just outside Ypres we stopped again at a large memorial and cemetery for Commonwealth soldiers who fought and died here.Many of the head stones here didn’t have names on them just ‘The Unknown Soldier – Known Only to God’. There are about 1000 different cemeteries for soldiers who are buried in places they died during the battles and it was amazing driving along the road to see signposts all over the place for different cemeteries. It was very sobering walking along the rows of head stones and imagining the battles taking place here during World War 1 and 2.

We left our camp site in the North of France on Wednesday and headed off on a route planned by Lionel & Josh which took us around to the north of Paris and then south heading towards Orleans. It was a long day driving but we are now in the Loire region at a municipal camp site. Municipal camp sites are set up by the local towns and have basic facilities, however we are close to the town and Lionel & I walked into the town this morning to get some supplies and have a cup of coffee (however my ordering wasn’t very good and we ended up with tea instead of a latte – Lionel tells me we need to order caffe crè time!)
We are having a lazy day today and will head away from here Thursday or Friday. (just realised today is Friday or Saturday)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In France

We have made it to France, weather is good. Getting free wi-fi while stopped for diesel. Will write a full blog ready for our next free wi-fi.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Last weekend in England

On Friday we managed to get ourselves packed up and out of our temporary accommodation. The rest of the family decided they didn't want to go to London for the weekend and so are staying with our friends at Pamber Heath - The Evans Family.
It has been a very relaxing time and we feel like we are starting to unwind and get into holiday mode already. Today (Sunday) we went into London for the day to go to 'The Lion King' at the theatre. The show was brilliant - the way the animals moved was very impressive and the stage movement great.

At Trafalgar Square

Monday, July 20, 2009

Becca's Busy Social Life

Saturday 11 July

A girly afternoon/evening with some swimming friends at Bekah's.
* lots of food
* lots of sweets
* swimming at Tadley pool
* Mamma Mia dvd
* good friends....good fun

Sunday 12 July

Rachael's birthday party at Thorpe Park
*Saw roller coaster, based on the Saw movies
*Nemesis which we went on 5 times
*Colossus is a 10 loop roller coaster
*Tidal Wave which soaked us

Saturday 18 July

* 40 friends
* DJ
* disco lights
* bubbles
* balls
* pile ups on the couch
* dancing
* food
* yummy cake
Sunday 19 July
Last day at church and Pathfinders

Waterpolo game playing for the ladies against the under 19 men

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Boy's weekend

Josh and I went to London on Saturday (11 July) to go to HMS Belfast the last big gun ship still floating. The Belfast was launched in 1938 and helped sink the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst in 1943 and then continue to serve in the Royal Navy with occasional breaks right up to 1971.
Josh liked the guns, the Belfast has four Turrets with three 6inch guns in each and they look quite spacious on the inside until we read the caption that said 27 men worked in the turret when the ship was at action stations. They had static displays throughout the ship showing what life would have been like for different parts of the 800 crew as they went about their tasks. It was great to get on a warship and to see the size of cabins and other things and compare them to the visualisation I have had from books I have read.
Josh and I then walked along the Thames path along with hundreds of other people. Stopping for a bite to eat suddenly realising we were sitting on a concrete wall outside the Globe theatre our cultural moment for the day. We continued on past the National Theatre to go to BFI IMAX the biggest movie screen in Britain. This movie theatre whose screen is 6 times a normal screen being the largest piece of fabric in Britain as well and with a speaker the size of a car behind the screen. Both Josh and I loved it, watching Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen. This was the second time for Josh and he summed it up by saying when we got home Bigger is better.
Sunday it was early birthday come farewell party for Josh. So with 4 of his friends we went Paintballing near Reading travelling in style by Executive transport. It was a great day or as Josh says extremely fun. We played four different games of paintball starting with protect the President, storm the castle, capture the flag and finally eliminate the opposition. It was very different to what we expected. We were split 3 & 3 between the green and brown teams, this made the teams about 20 a side. More people meant more action and we used about 2600 paintballs between the 6 of us.

Friday, July 10, 2009

2 weeks to go...

Wow...only 2 weeks until we leave Basingstoke! The reality is starting to hit and, although we are looking forward to our holiday on the continent and really looking forward to NZ, we realise what we are leaving behind.
Josh is really going to miss his best friend, Tom, and they both realised the other night how far away they are going to be...and will they ever see each other again. They will certainly keep in touch and I am friends with Tom's mum so that makes it easier to keep in contact (but harder to leave).
Rebecca has a multitude of friends she will miss, especially from swimming but also from church and school. It is going to be really hard for her to leave her best mate, Rachael, behind and I think that Rachael would happily hop into Rebecca's suitcase! Rebecca will continue to make good use of the computer with facebook and msn to keep in touch with everyone.
Lionel & I will miss the friendship of Trevor, Monica and the whole Evans family and we look forward to seeing them in NZ sometime soon!
Anyway, I might cry if I keep thinking about the good-byes so I will let you know what we are up to in the next 2 weeks...
Saturday 11/7 Lionel & Josh are going into London to go on the HMS Belfast and go to 'Transformers 2' at the IMAX theatre
Rebecca is going to Bekah's with some swimming friends for a girly night as a bit of a good-bye to Rebecca, and they are going to watch 'Mamma Mia' on DVD
Sunday 12/7 Lionel is taking Josh & 4 friends paintballing
Rebecca is going to Rachael's birthday party at Thorpe Park (theme park)
Saturday 18/7 Rebecca's farewell/birthday party - disco with 30 or so teenagers :)
Josh is staying the night at Tom's
Friday 24/7 Leave Basingstoke and stay in London for the weekend
Sunday 26/7 Go to 'Lion King' at the theatre
Monday 27/7 Get the ferry from Dover to Calais for our holiday before coming home

Of course there is also swimming, school etc to continue with during the week!
Josh had his school production (Robin Hood) this week - 2 matinees and 3 evening performances so it was full on!
Rebecca has her performance from 'Acting Academy' next week and she has a stressed teacher but I'm sure "it'll be right on the night".

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Goodwood Festival of Speed

I am not really a petrol head but I must say there is something about the rumble of those motors and the roar of the engines as they race up the hill.....I also really enjoy the rallying stages! It was great seeing Sebastian Loeb throw his car around the forest rally stage.

Josh loved being up close to all the super cars he has seen on Top Gear - Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Scuderia, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini Murcielago, Lotus Evora, Maserati Granturismo, SLR Mclaren, Pagani Zonda just to name a few!

Rebecca even found something she liked - Ferrari California (she thought it would be a good present for her 17th birthday....dreams are free!)

Lionel enjoyed seeing some of the current Formula 1 cars including the McLaren-Mercedes which is driven by Lewis Hamilton and the Brawn-Mercedes driven by Jenson Button. Unfortunately we didn't get to see these two drive as they were only driving on the Sunday.

We had a great Saturday out at the Festival of Speed with our friends, Trevor & Monica, and two of their four children.
I am sure if you want more detail Lionel & Josh would be only too happy to send you an email :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rebecca's 13th Birthday

It's hard to believe that 13 years has gone by since I was in Southland Hospital with a tiny (actually not so tiny) baby in the midst of all that snow.
We celebrated Rebecca's birthday this year in England with the temperature up around 28 degrees Celsius!
Rebecca stayed the night with her friend Phoebe and we went around on Sunday for a big birthday dinner and an enjoyable afternoon. Rebecca has a big party planned on 18 July as a combined birthday/leaving party and so we have hired the church hall for a disco and supper with lots of her school/swimming/waterpolo and church friends.
It is exciting (and nerve-wracking) seeing Rebecca grow up and continue growing into an independant young woman. We certainly do have our 'moments' but fortunately there are lots of good ones between the tough ones! I have discovered that having teenagers is good for your prayer life!!!

Rebecca & Rachael
Rebecca & Bekah Swimming mates

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lionel & Amanda in Paris

Last weekend was a real treat for me & Lionel as we got to spend some time in Paris together. Our wonderful friends, Vanessa & Andrew, came out from London to look after Josh for the weekend and he had a great time. He was delighted that they wanted to go to the movies and so they headed down to Festival Place and went to the new 'Transformers' movie which Josh really enjoyed.
Rebecca spent the weekend with Bekah, a swimming and waterpolo friend. They had a very busy weekend with waterpolo training followed by a school fete on Friday night, waterpolo all day Saturday at the Hampshire Youth Games (they won!) and a family picnic in London on Sunday.
Lionel & I spent Friday night in London as we had to be at St Pancras station at 5.45am to catch the 6.15 train to Paris. It's a great trip to Paris on the Eurostar and even with the time difference we were on the metro by 9.45am and heading up to Montmartre. We spent an hour or so in a local bar/cafe watching the All Black v France and enjoyed some interaction with the French rugby fans there.
We wondered around the streets heading up to Sacre Coeur cathedral and enjoyed the views over the city. We took the metro back down to Notre Dame and spent some time inside here - didn't go up to the top though. When we came out it was starting to rain and so we sat under the verandah of a cafe and had some lunch - a very yummy quiche and fruit tart! There was a real downpour for about an hour but then it cleared up and was a fine afternoon.
We walked around the Latin Quarter - past the Sorbonne, Pantheon and into the Jardin du Luxembourg. These gardens were lovely with a large pond, lots of statues, very precise walkways, a boules area and great kids playground. We walked and walked and walked some more on our way to find our hotel which was down near the Eiffel Tower.
After resting up for an hour or so we headed out again and went down to the Eiffel Tower and through the park there, where we sat and had a baguette and drink before walking along the Seine and back to the hotel for the night.
Sunday morning was a big buffet breakfast at the hotel and then straight to Gare du Nord station to catch the 11.15am train home.
A great weekend!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Moving house...

We are now in our temporary accommodation for 6 weeks. It has been a busy week of packing, cleaning and shifting as well as keeping all the school and other activities happening!
We have sent 21 boxes of stuff back to New Zealand - it's not as bad as it sounds as that includes our bikes and a bed, however the kids definately have Lionel's book habit! The guy from Crown Relocations came on Wednesday to organise that and we will see that stuff in 3 months.
Our temp accommodation is rather small with only two bedrooms (Rebecca & Josh are taking some time adjusting to another person in the room at night!) but it is in a central location and is a comfortable place to be. The people who own it live next door and Josh is getting on really well with their boys (who are 10 & 8), the only time we saw Josh yesterday was when he came home to eat! They have a large section with trampoline, bouncy castle, tree hut, flying fox and lots of other 'boy stuff'. There is also a public field through their back gate so lots of space for the boys to play.
We are in a state of mixed emotions about leaving at the moment - looking forward to getting to NZ but also realising that we have good friends here that we will really miss.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Nerja, Andalucia, Spain

Rebecca, Josh & I have just spent 10 days in the south of Spain with Mum & Dad (unfortunately Lionel was back at work and had to stay in England). We rented an apartment with a communal pool which was only a 5 minute walk to the beach (10 minutes back up the hill...) We had a very relaxing time and most importantly it was hot and sunny!
View from our balcony to the pool
Most days we spent at the beach, by the pool, reading, playing cards and wandering down to the beach front bars and restaurants to eat - I know, it was really tough!
Paella cooking at one of the beach front restaurants
Nerja is about 50 kms to the east of Malaga and is on the Mediterranean Sea, we swam at Burriana Beach which most days was really clean and calm, but the wind did whip the waves up at times, especially on the last couple of days. It also dropped away really quickly so within a metre or two of the shore it was really deep and we saw big fishing boats right up to within about 50 metres of the shore.
Burriana Beach
One day we took the bus up to Frigiliana which is an old white village about 8 kms up in the mountains. It was a pretty village with lots of narrow, steep streets and alleyways. Frigiliana

The day Mum & Dad left the kids and I went to visit the Nerja caves - it didn't look too impressive to begin with but then opened out into various large caverns with heaps of stalactites and stalacmites. It really was worth the visit. It was a cooler day and so we walked the 3 km back to Nerja and on the way went past a huge 19th century aqueduct which had been built to carry water to the local sugar factory.
We had an awesome holiday and came back very relaxed (and without our English whiteness).