Baby on Board in Bruges


The last time I was in Bruges I was supporting a 7-month-preggers friend as she huffed and puffed her way up the bellfry. I remember thinking that if pregnancy was such an inconvenience, a child would be the ultimate in derailing your travel experience…

Oh my, the times have changed!

This is me now. Pretending to share my coffee with our newborn son. I don’t even drink coffee…it belongs to Joel of course. If he was a single father I’d put my odds on him feeding River coffee rather than milk. Thankfully I am around to supervise!


But somehow, believe it or not, I’m having an equally good time. If you add in those moments where you catch your baby boy staring at things in wonder for the very first time…maybe Bruges round #two even trumps it. Continue reading “Baby on Board in Bruges”

Bucharest

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Arrival in Bucharest was a bit bedraggled with Joel smack bang in the middle of a vomiting virus and me on the tail end of it. To be fair it felt no worse than the last four months of morning sickness, but poor Joel was suffering (oh he has no idea!). So it was with much relief that we were welcomed by our gracious hosts Stefan and Raluca in their historic house in the old Jewish quarter of Bucharest. As we were to find the remainder of the trip, the Romanian locals go out of their way to give you a good experience, and are truly proud of their country and it’s hidden subtle appeal. Continue reading “Bucharest”

Rome – The Eternal City pt 1

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I have dreamt of visiting the Eternal City since we were forced to take Italian in primary school. Monuments like the Colosseum, Sistine chapel and the Trevi Fountain sort of hold your fascination for so long that you half fear the moment you finally lock eyes on them being a letdown. Well I’ll let you in on a secret… absolutely nothing in Rome is a let down.

Upon learning we would be expecting a little bundle in 9 months, my first rational thought once the excitement had subsided was – “babe we need to get to Rome first”. Travel obsessed much? Guilty as charged. So regardless of the outrageous October half-term prices, we booked 4 days of ‘when in Rome’.

We chose a little apartment on the top floor of a residential area close by Campo di Fiore, a bustling market square which holds a fresh food market every morning. Despite being in my 15th week of pregnancy the morning sickness aka all day sickness was not relenting, and as it so happens Campo di Fiore was the perfect spot smack bang in the middle of everything. This made it easy for mid-day breaks which of course never materialised as there is far too much to see and do in Rome to afford breaks! Upon arrival in the evening we promptly navigated our way to our first Gelateria!

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The first day we were up early to knock one of the big boys off the list – the mighty Colosseum. There it was, rising from the ground in all it’s splendour, an ancient monument come to life. I always need to touch the walls of these ancient Roman Ruins to immerse myself in the wonder of standing in a place where so many thousands milled around in times past. We had booked a tour weeks ahead to allow us to access the ground floor of the Colosseum and it was well worth being organised to book this as we were regaled with tales of Gladiators and Emperors, Lions and Shields. Our imaginations went wild and Joel may or may not have let a few quotes from Gladiator slip, or even have claimed to be Maximus Decimus Meridius (I love you babe). Staring upon where the floor would have been, we marvelled once again at the ingenuity of the Romans and the way they went about ordering their society.

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The afternoon was spent as close as possible to how the locals go about their business. Joel and I love observing….and copying. We have learnt whilst travelling that a line should always be joined. So we picked a number in a packed little deli in the Jewish Quarter and hustled along with the Romans to acquire some Pizza Bianca. It doesn’t look like much as it is essentially pizza type focaccia with oil and salt. But omg wait until you put that baby in your mouth. Drool. My carb-hungry plain-food-searching baby seemed to leap in the womb. Joel was very pleased with himself for his performance in the deli even though he copped out at using the Italian numerals we had drummed in our brain at school.

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We were on a roll and next visit was to a nondescript unlabelled Pasticceria which sold 5 items (obviously successfully) and I acquired a ricotta cheesecake with cherry base. Even Joel who doesn’t jump at such things admitted genius. Then we were on to our staple – gelato. Ever tried rice flavoured gelato? You should.

Off we went on a merry stroll through the side alleys of Rome, soaking it all in, marvelling at the Europe we so love, and how tantalisingly different it is to the UK, and wondering how they live and adapt in the apparent chaos. It makes you realise how uptight we are in our day to day lives in England and Australia. Europeans seem to go with the flow, they seem to enjoy the every day, they are not in a rush, they do not look haggard and stressed (well, except for in Paris) and the folks in the cities seem be folded up in the culture of the place itself, like part of the furniture.

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We soaked in the ambiance of Campo Di Fiore’s bustling market place whilst I grinned good naturedly at the Italian men who seemed to feel compelled to make a comment as I walked past. In due course we found ourselves sunning our weary bodies in a corner of Piazza Navona underneath the last of the dying sun – shoes off and content as cats lapping up the last of their milk. As the sun made its final descent we meandered down Via dei Coronari, a lovely and quaint shopping street featuring many antique stores. Despite being waylaid by more gelato, we emerged at the Tevere (Rome’s river) and beheld the mighty Saint Paul’s Cathedral being illuminated by the final rays of light the day had to offer. It truly took our breath away, and I will remember that moment protectively in my mind, as no camera could have captured the radiant glow in all it’s spectacular fullness. The place could have ascended to heaven itself it was that beautiful.

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Morning sickness tends to rear its head and laugh at me most viciously in the evenings which posed a challenge, particularly when in Rome and surrounded by the most spectacular food known to mankind. I could not carry myself far so we opted for fresh pasta at a little restaurant nearby which had a mama making fresh pasta at the window. For those of you who adore Al Dente pasta, you will adore Rome. They have so many traditional pasta dishes which I decided then and there I would track down, or to put it more aggressively, hunt down, over the next few days. Oh how could I forget, we washed it down with more gelato. This time at the oldest gelateria in Rome which we stumbled upon purely by accident by the name of Giolitti, a family run establishment with a line out the door. For a reason! We consumed gelato from no other place our entire stay. The seasonal pomegranate was a highlight.

I’ll leave this post on a high note (or dolce note)… Join us for the next instalment in part 2!

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Herculaneum

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If you are in the region of Naples, you must visit Mt Vesuvius and learn about the infamous volcanic eruption. I must say that the towering outline of this still-active volcano does not fail to impress! It is apparently the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted in the last century. Not only this, but if it erupts again there are now 3 million people living in its vicinity, and it is known for violent and explosive eruptions! I’d be having my eye on that volcano!

We chose to visit Herculaneum rather than Pompeii, as it is better preserved, more compact and conveys a better sense of how people lived in 79AD. The Pompeii site you need to devote a lot of time to cover, whereas you can visit Herculaneum in a few hours. The excavations were truly remarkable. I take my hat off to the Italians for an 11 euro well spent. Continue reading “Herculaneum”

Marrakech

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Our journey to Morocco is particularly special to us. Unlike other trips, were we tend to reflect after the event – this time we kept a daily journal and were able to reflect as events were unfolding. The reason for this was because my mum (Susan) was due to join us for the trip and at the last minute wasn’t able to travel due to dad’s declining health. It was our way of including her in our journey, with special focus on the moments she would have loved. Joel and I took in in turns writing at the end of each day on a scrappy old children’s workbook we found in one of the villages. Later on we added pictures and presented it to mum who laughed and cried her way through the pages.

(Writer: Joel) Dear Susan,

Here is the plight of our day in Marrakech. I will start the journey from arriving at our Riad. We were treated to a delectable breakfast, served on the roof terrace, which allowed for a 360 degree view of the stalks nesting upon neighbouring T.V antennas. The sun was waking up, and with it, came its heated venom. The sun also awoke the megaphone ‘yala’ singers and the first call to prayer blared out over the sleepy city. Our breakfast was fastidiously cleared using a 10point methodical plan by Julian and we set about tackling the minefield of Marrakech. Continue reading “Marrakech”

Lisbon

Portugal Lisbon

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone ever utter a negative word about the Portugese. Within one hour of being in Portugal I understood why.

The Portugese are the most effusive, warm-hearted, humble and generous people we have met thus far in our travels. We found ourselves spilling out of the bus into the main square with glee, watching the mummas congregating for a bit of local gossip with their bebês in tow. Immediately we felt like we were in a country who had their arms wide open. We were about to find this to quite literally be true as we were swept into an encompassing embrace by our lovely host Susana. Before we could steady ourselves we had a fresh portugese tart in hand, and we were ushered down the narrow cobblestoned lanes of Alfama to meet the neighbourhood locals. Susana enthusiastically introduced us to the baker, her best friend, the owner of the local cafeteria, and anyone else she met along the way! Suffice to say, we felt like we were part of the furniture in no time. I don’t think I have been on any trip since where I have found myself walking back to accommodation waving to all the locals like we have shared a long and deep history.

Welcome to Portugal! Continue reading “Lisbon”

Stockholm

Stockholm Sweden

No matter where you are exploring in the world, it cannot be better tackled than with a local. This made Stockholm, land of the Ikea flatpack and Nudie jeans, an appealing destination for our long-weekend jaunt in May 2012. Bless the golden heart of Chris Neilson – who patiently met us in the frosty hours of a Spring evening and whisked us back to their uber trendy student pad. Exhausted though we were, it did not deter us from a lovely catchup with Chris and his gorgeous wife Eme (swedish goddess extrodinaire)! We laughed our way into the next day at Chris’s fabulous attempts at the Swedish language, and I probably fell asleep at the point where the boys embarked upon their favourite topic….coffee.

Those of you who know Chris will be well familiar with his expertise in all things bean-related. You can bet where we ended up first thing the next morning…. yup, the coffee shop where he was working. We were welcomed to Stockholm with some stunning latte art (see below) and tour guide Neilson gave us an introduction to the 5 islands that intersect – becoming the capital of Sweden. We gawked at the high scandanavian prices, but as cool as the fashion was, and as hip and trendy as the people were – we kept our wallets firmly reserved for all things Nudie (I shall return to this)! Continue reading “Stockholm”

Ljubljana II

Ljubljana view

As our train chugged into Ljubljana’s central station I was determined to show mum the best this fairytale city had to offer. Joel and I had spent a lovely two days last June lingering by the banks of the Ljubljanica, and it had well and truly cast its spell on us. We had but a day to soak in the lively cafe culture, jade-green river, imposing castle, vibrant townhouses, cobblestone streets and local markets.

Joel was due to join us that afternoon and we were both soaring high with anticipation. We checked in to our airbnb apartment and spent a fascinating hour speaking to the lovely owner – a young chap with a passion for his city. Mum duly interrogated him about the history of Slovenia and the socio-economic situation of the country as we sipped tea together. Of course in return we educated him about the little known island country of ‘Australia’. Continue reading “Ljubljana II”

Vienna

Side alley walking towards St Stephen's Cathedral and it's beautiful roof

We had one of those travel disasters trying to reach Vienna (well maybe not technically classified as a disaster, but I digress). Oh, by the way, this was April 2012, we are very behind on the blog!

Apparently the central station in Budapest hasn’t quite caught up with the times. There was one ticket office for the throngs of impatient crowds clamouring for their much needed train, and the most inefficient system to deal with the punters. Despite masterminding our car rental return outside the station with an hour and a half to spare, we were waiting with gritted teeth and white knuckles in the queue of all queues until there was just one person left in front of us. The problem was by then our train left in five ‘evil’ minutes. Of course the person in front of us seemed to occupy all the time between now and eternity, and we missed our train by a whisker.

I sulked in the corner and swore under my breath for a substantial amount of time before we lugged our suitcases on a two-hour grand tour back in to Budapest whilst we waited for the next train. In hindsight, perhaps that two-hour lugg-a-thon was not a complete waste of time, as during my pit of misery, my self esteem was low enough to make my first birkenstock purchase – a life-changing move. So maybe I should thank that dodgy ticket counter. Continue reading “Vienna”

Budapest

Chain Bridge

In April 2012 I was lucky enough to welcome mum to the freezing shores of our British Isle. We had a wonderful time showing mum how we have carved out a life here, visiting some much loved spots around London before we hit the road. It was a happy but sad occasion, as Dad and Joel should have been joining us. We had been anticipating it for such a long time but heartbreakingly Dad had an accident the week before Mum & Dad were due to leave, which revealed to us that his brain tumour was growing back. Therefore he could not make the trip for risk of further seizures. It was one of the most devastating moments of my life receiving that phone call – as it sank in that Dad would never be able to make the journey to our new found home. After emotions had calmed a little I was glad that mum decided to keep the travel plans, and we instead exchanged Dad’s ticket for a flight for me to visit Australia in May.

So…a girls trip it became, and I was grateful to spend some mother-daughter time together even though we both carried Dad with us in our hearts. He was close to us in all our adventures even though he was not there in person. My mum is an absolute riot when travelling… she has a child like wonder and appreciation for everything, and you are guaranteed to meet some interesting characters, as mum will literally talk to a.n.y.o.n.e!

Budapest was on the agenda as people tend to rave about how fabulous it is, and being fans of Eastern Europe we decided to give it a burl. It was 25 degrees the week before, but when we arrived it was hovering around zero. Welcome to Europe! Thankfully I was prepared with two coats which mum and I shared between us as we skilfully navigated the public bus and train to the city centre to find our gracious airbnb host – who profusely apologised for the fact that we had to travel without our men. We encountered this type of lovely hospitality our whole time in Hungary, particularly in the countryside, but that’s another story. Continue reading “Budapest”