Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Europe 2014 - London

  21 - 24th October
We flew into London's famous Heathrow Airport...met our transfer and zoomed off to our home away from home for the next 4 days...'The Shaftesbury Hyde Park International Hotel'. 
It was a lovely Motel..very cosy.. clean and close to the park... shops...restaurants and a tube station.
It also conveniently had a red post box out the front ..perfect for postcard posting.

We found ourselves a British pub and shared a traditional fish and chips for lunch.
Took a walk through Hyde Park for a bit of squirrel spotting.

Our first night was a HUGE highlight... one of those truly unforgettable nights. 

Ron and Donna had some friends in London who we met at 'Jamie Olivers Italian' restaurant in Threadneedle street. 
We knew we were in for a great night from the minute we arrived. 
Tony and Dennis were so welcoming and entertaining and it was only minutes before we were seated and deep in the most interesting conversation. 
The french wine that Tony so generously selected was divine...
I regret now not taking more notice of the label.
 Our meal was ahhhhmazing.... we began with a share plank which was placed on the table balanced on soup tins... and then making a choice from the menu was almost painful...my mouth was watering... totally loved it. (I finally settled on the pork belly)
The atmosphere... the building..the menu...and most of all the company of Tony and Dennis made it the most memorable night.

The next morning we were up early and set for exploring...we bought a two day pass for the Big Bus...this gave us a hop on and off tour with commentary and we were happy to just take in the sights. 

The London Eye - I always looked at photos of London and thought..."oh yeah...the Ferris wheel looking thing" ...little did I realise it was ENORMOUS! 
Each capsule can hold up to 25 people!...bit bigger than a show ride Ferris wheel.

Lets just say the view was spectacular... we could see London in every direction.

Buckingham Palace - This was a 'must see' ... the one thing that Bella and Brooke were most excited about was Nan and Pops visit to 'the queens house' . 

We watched the guards march....took lots of photos...and bought a few souvenirs to take home for the girls and buddy Bray.

Tower of London -  We had no idea when we arrived at the "Tower of London" that we were lucky enough to be seeing the 'London Poppies' display.  it's impossible to describe the impact of seeing 888,246 ceramic poppies filling the Tower's famous moat with each poppy representing a British military fatality during the war.

Harrods - Of course we had to pop into Harrods.. just for the sheer fun of being able to say "we shopped at Harrods of London" ..and we did shop...we bought ourselves baguettes for lunch from the food court. Donna picked up a handbag and promptly put it down when she noticed its £2000 price tag...and Ian gulped when he noticed the Wagyu steak for £33 per 100g - approx $660 a kg.

Madame Tussauds - This was pretty darn cool...even better than I expected. The wax figures were very lifelike and its was quite OK to get up close and personal with them for photos. Just to be able to see the size of them was interesting...some were so much taller than I expected and others were petite. Loved every minute of the 'Spirit of London ride'.

Pinched ourselves as we drove over the famous 'Tower Bridge'  

passed 'Big Ben' (Big Ben is the name of the giant bell inside the clock tower which weights 13760kgs. The clock face on the bell tower is 7 metres wide.

stood out the front and admired 'Westminster Abbey

Walked through Kensington gardens past Kensington Palace in the evening...
Ian even saw the royal helicopter land.

 There were reminders that we were actually in London everywhere...

 to be continued.......

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I wrote a guest post for Mel at "One Crafty Mumma"

So it was a little while back that I had an email from Mel...
the super duper blogging queen...
and author of the hugely popular  "One Crafty Mumma" blog.

Mel asked if I would like to share my "Top 5 Spots to visit in Europe"

I was a tad chuffed to be asked...
and of course with our recent trip still fresh in my mind...
travel....and Europe are pretty high on my current list of favourite things.

Writing a blog post about my favourite things was a breeze.
the hard part was choosing my 5 faves.

I would love you to pop by Mels blog "One Crafty Mumma" to read my top 5 ..
I warn you though...make yourself a cuppa...once you start reading Mels posts you can easily lose an hour or so hopping from post to post.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

January 2015 - and how I plan to record this year...

I made a conscious decision this year to minimise commitments...
My usual pattern is to say I will... but then don't.

Most years Id be lucky to last a week before I start jumping on-board with challenges...  prompts  or find myself  bogged down yet again by the need to photograph each day.... scrap a layout each week...blog a regular catch-up.. or meet a swap deadline.

Of course I've loved all of these past challenges.. swaps and commitments...
and I will continue with some but I am saying  NO to anything that needs an ongoing largish commitment. In the ideal world Id have a personality that could take these things in my stride...
but I don't.
I stress....feel pressure.. and cant sleep if I get behind with things...
its not worth the angst for me this year.

So... without my photo-a -day.... project 365....project life album...or even regular Instagramming....how will I make sure these memories are still recorded.
I mean....what if I all of a sudden decide I regret my decision...eeek..

SO my easy...stress free solution is to just pop a monthly collage here on my blog..
just some photos... and dot points...
no lengthy wording required...no embellishing needed...
surely at some stage every 30 days I can whip a collage together without any stress.

(Oh and I am waiting on my beautiful Heidi Swapp planner to arrive....all these beautiful planners bombarding my IG feed are teasing me....arghhhhhhhh...
This will be more about keeping my lists...dates...and little snippets together...
Instead of my usual diary type planner...I'm having a beautiful fancy looking planner. )

So.... here we go...
January 2015 

  •  Camped at the lake with the Winen clan.. it was so lovely to catch up with everyone.
  • Jorja taught Brent and Mitch how to loom band.
  • Mitch and Meg had a rough month...Mitch was unwell again and finally had surgery at FMC
  • Briony and Jarrad all dressed up for Toni and Wades wedding.
  • Ian and I travelled to Nelson and camped with James and Kelly... had a wonderful relaxing weekend. Kel and I enjoyed a paddle boat with Evie.
  • Brookey had her ears pierced. She was so brave...and they look so pretty and sparkly.
  • Bella created more art... 
  • Mitch had a birthday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Europe 2014 - Munich - Germany

19th and 20th  October ..

So this morning we spent wandering the beautiful streets of Lucerne...
We had loved Switzerland.... but the next adventure was about to begin...and we were SO keen to see what Germany had in store for us.

So our first train was from Lucerne to Zurich.... and that was very uneventful...
it was on arrival in Zurich that we discovered our train to Germany was cancelled due to a German rail strike.
After a few frantic discussions ..all doing our best to decipher the language translation we followed the instruction of a local authority and boarded a train to Bregnov which was hopefully going to connect with another local train into Munich.

At some stage during the trip a conductor walked through the carriage advising all passengers wanting to get into Munich to disembark at the next station as they had a bus waiting...so we took a gamble...listened to his advice...and found our way to a waiting bus.

The bus trip was long...but scenic... and true to their word...we eventually arrived in Munich at around 6pm.

Our Motel (Kings Hotel) was crazy...a good crazy....

check out the ceiling above the bed...and the way the linen is on the bed.

Once we were settled in to our rooms we grabbed a map...
and started walking in search of the Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall... enjoying the sights of Munich by night along the way...

it took awhile..and a couple of stops for directions...but eventually we stumbled across it...and grabbed ourselves a table.

The menu is (here)

The beer Hall is so huge... apparently I read on a google search that it can seat 2700 ... not sure if that's accurate...but it was HUGE..
Its also very noisy... with that many people seated...talking...plates...beer steins...wooden tables...and an oompa bans playing its really difficult to talk at times.
We thoroughly enjoyed the experience though.

Out of interest....the Haufbrauhaus Beer Hall is one of Munichs oldest beer Halls...founded in 1589.
So with our bellies full...actually quite over full...we walked on home to our crazy little royal palace for the night.

I had the WORST night sleep of the entire trip.... the German wine...or food didn't agree with me at all...I itched like mad...and my stomach was bloated....my sensitive allergy body just didn't agree with something. I was dosed up on antihistamines for the day.

So this morning we headed out the Dachau Concentration camp.... 
I don't think an of us were prepared for just how sobering and sad this would be.
Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camp opened in Germany and it was intended to hold political prisoners and Jews but was eventually opened to all prisoner.
In the twelve years of its existence over 200,000 persons fro all over Europe were imprisoned here and in numerous subsidiary camps. More than 41,500 of them died, 
On April 29 1945 American troops liberated the survivors.
(taken from the Dachau guide)

"Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented."

These are the main gates - "Hard work will set you free"
(We were not long home from holidays and these gates were stolen!)
This was the first sight as we entered...

This barrack was reconstructed on the site... it shows how life in the camp was...
There were originally two rows of 17 barracks... (now other than this one barrack) only the foundations remain.

You can see the rows of foundations here...

...and this photo shows the actual layout of the barracks..

...and these were the bunks inside... each of the barracks was designed to hold 200 prisoners but by the end of the war each barrack was catastrophically overcrowed with up to 2000 prisoners.

This is the international memorial within the camp.

This "the bunker" (the camp prison) was a terrible place....eerie and cold...
The stories of the punishments handed out here were sickening.

At the rear ..and through the gates was the crematorium area...

"The crematorium was initially built because the number of deaths had risen. 
A second crematorium was also built with four furnaces and a gas chamber for mass extermination however this was never put into operation. Executions and murder operations were though carried out in the crematorium." (source - Dachau camp guide)

When the American soldiers arrived to liberate the camp this room was piled to the ceiling with corpses. 
By this stage of the visit we were all feeling so touched by the sights we had seen and the graphic depictions ...stories and photographs.... we were speechless.. Dachau had etched a little mark into our hearts and would never be forgotten.
Just some of the furnaces...
So that was our visit to Dachau
.... amazing .. memorable...but not in the same way of anywhere else we visited.

The afternoon was spent in the Munich centre..mainly around the Marienplatz - we wandered the shops eagerly waiting for 5pm to see the Glockenspiel.
 The Glockenspiel at the top of the New Town Hall in the Marienplatz dates to 1908.
Every day at 11, 12 and 5 pm is chimes and re-enacts two 16th century stories. It consists of 43 bells and 32 life sized figures. The show lasts 12 - 15 minutes.
Other sights during the day..
...the beautiful interior of this church..
Germany we loved you....
Early night tonight... we needed to re-pack our bags....and get ready for our early flight to London.