Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Unexpected delights on the road

Sometimes life throws you little gems just when you need them most.
We set off from Zagreb before the crack of dawn to beat the holiday traffic, 
without a hit of caffeine as the apartment we stayed at had run out.
I hate to think what the traffic was like later as it was pretty heavy at 5am, 
all the rest stops were packed with holiday makers, their cars stuffed to the brim.
A few hours into our drive, we stopped for a break, the queues to the bathrooms huge,
the queue to the cafe shambolic so we had to forgo our much needed coffee.

As we meandered along the A1 freeway toward Split, we saw a sign 'Gospa od Puta'
we had no idea what it meant, but as we drove over a bridge and saw this....

We had to pull into the rest area. What a stunning place, lots of people around but nowhere near as busy as
the other rest stops on the way and one thousand times more beautiful.

Gospa od Puta, Krka, Croatia

Gospa od Puta, our Lady of Travel with baby Jesus, was placed at the Krka rest stop
on August 14, 2011.

Gospa od Puta, Krka, Croatia

Standing at 3.5 meters high, she watches over travelers on land and on the water,
and some pretty spectacular scenery.  

After a relaxing break wandering around the statue and the walkways, gazing at the
sensational views we happened upon a tunnel under the bridge. We discovered a restaurant and 
shopping area. We finally had our much needed coffee and to top it off it was one of the 
best coffees I have ever had! So if you find yourself driving the A1 from Zagreb to Split in Croatia,
forget about the other service stops and head to the Krka rest area, visit the 
Gospa od Puta, enjoy the views...and the coffee!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Hitting the road... Frankfurt to Dubrovnik, Croatia

I was born in  Cottesloe, only a kilometer or so from the beautiful,
iconic Cottesloe beach and grew up close to the Indian Ocean. The beach has always been a big
part of my life. Now living in Frankfurt we are a far from the smell of the sea.
So what does an Aussie/Kiwi family do to rectify this...well, we jump in the car and 
drive for twenty or so hours over two days to spend a few weeks 
by the Adriatic Sea in Croatia of course.

We drove through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Bosnia to get to Croatia in the time it takes to 
drive from Perth, Western Australia to the South Australian border.

It still amazes me to see road signs with directions to three different countries on them
and games of 'Spotto' involve not makes of cars with the odd 
'Eastern States' number plate thrown in but number plates showing people travelling
from Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Russia, Poland and more.

The motorways/freeways were great, despite lots of traffic. 
You have to pay road tolls to pass through Austria and Slovenia and place a vignette
on your windscreen. We also paid tolls to pass through some of the longer tunnels on the way.

Traffic slowed at border crossings, giving us a chance to look at the local landscapes.
Farms in Slovenia overlooked by gorgeous old buildings.

Slovenian countryside

We were all happy to arrive in Zagreb for an overnight break in our journey and enjoyed a fabulous
Croatian BBQ dinner at a very friendly local restaurant. The waiter was horrified when we told him we were driving to Dubrovnik in the morning. He told us half of Europe heads that way on Saturday mornings and
advised us to get a really early start to avoid long delays. Best advice ever as the roads were already busy
 by 6am and service stops packed with holiday makers.

I was spellbound by the spectacular landscape and mountains as we drove through Croatia.
The mountains that were revealed as the early morning mist lifted.

Mountains of Croatia

The beautiful azure blue lakes we drove by.
Time flies when you are driving past scenery like this,
made me add even more places to my list of destinations to visit.

 Lake in Croatia

We were all pretty happy when there was finally a road sign with our final destination on it!

Dubrovnik here we come!

The motorway came to an end and we drove the last few hours on roads that wound their way by 
the most beautiful bays, villages perched on hilltops and boats tied to shore, waiting for their next trip out.

Bay in Croatia

Traffic crawled near the Croatian/Bosnian border, but with views like this out of the car window,
we didn't really notice the delay. 

Bay in Croatia, near Bosnian border

What a road trip! What a destination!
Time for adventures of the sun, sand, sea kind...with a bit of history thrown in!

Breaking our trip into two days made it much more bearable if longer. 
Was nice to have a wander around Zagreb and have a great local meal.
We took healthy snacks and some treats for the trip, so much nicer than the food available
at the service stops on the way. We also took lots of water and stopped for breaks along the way,
essential for the driver/navigator to refresh even if it added a few hours to the drive.

The girls are great travelers and happy to listen to their music, watch a movie on their tablets
or sleep as we drove. The dog was just happy to sleep!

We are now enjoying a few car free days and relaxing before we spend the next few weeks exploring this
most beautiful part of the world.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Forty Winks Friday. Table for two.

Sometimes after a big just want to have a nap!

Robyn's Shanghai Nappers

Quality Father and Son time, a meal out and a nap!

Robyn's Shanghai Nappers

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

Two years ago today, my little family boarded our Malaysian Airlines flight in Perth WA,
ready to begin our new lives in England. Tucked into our hand luggage was a list written
by a Welsh family friend of 'must do's' while we lived in the UK. 
We ticked a few things off the list, but found ourselves living in Germany before we
managed to get to Cheddar Gorge.

On our recent trip back to England, we finally managed to give Cheddar Gorge a big tick!

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

Cheddar is a village in Somerset, and was famous for 'Cheddar' cheese as far back as 1170AD! 

Cheddar, Somerset UK

Of course we had to stop for a 'cheesy' lunch in a local cafe, most dishes featured cheddar.
I also had a very delicious local cider to wash it down.

Cheddar Cider, Somerset UK

It is a lovely village to walk around and well set up for tourists.

Cheddar, Somerset UK

We walked the 274 steps to the lookout tower to work off our cheddar filled lunch.
There are signs at landings on the climb up with information on how the 
landscape was formed millions of years ago.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

To imagine how it was, in this same spot, so many millions of years ago is staggering.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

As well as being educational, they also gave you a chance to catch your breath.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

I was happy to see people far younger and fitter then me stopping to 'read the signs'

The Lookout Tower, Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

Another 48 steps and you are at the top of The Lookout Tower,
with sweeping views over the countryside.

View from the Lookout Tower, Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

The village of Cheddar.

Cheddar, Somerset UK

The spectacular Cheddar Gorge.
Carved out of the limestone by water from melting glaciers during the last Ice Age
creating the 400 feet deep and three mile long gorge we see today.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

From the Lookout Tower, we headed through the gate and did the Gorge Walk, 
a three mile meander through the stunning countryside.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

There is much to do, nature to soak up, majestic cliffs to walk or climb around.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

We had a lovely few hours at Cheddar Gorge, family time spent in the largest
gorge in England. We only had time for the walk...and lunch, so haven't been to the caves yet.
Some fantastic spots to stop for a picnic on the walks it is well worth a visit.

Glad to have finally made it and ticked Cheddar Gorge off our list!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Abingdon and the Kingfisher Barn

When we found that my husband's two week work trip back to the UK coincided
with the start of the girls' Summer holiday, it didn't take much to convince us to tag along.
We could catch up with friend's, our older daughter could attend her old school Prom night
and we could visit places we hadn't ticked off our 'To Do while living in England' list.

We stayed in the lovely market town of Abingdon-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.
Rich in history and very picturesque, is was a pleasure to walk the tow paths
on sunny days, explore the shops and we had some lovely meals in the local pubs.
Was so nice to be back in the English countryside and yet still close to our old stomping grounds
on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border.

Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

Abingdon is an excellent place to stay for a holiday, with lovely walks by the Thames,
boat rides, history to explore and lots of good food to be found.

Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

Plenty of parks and open spaces by the Thames to relax, unwind and enjoy the scenery.

The Lock and Weir falls, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

The weir and lock in Abingdon.

Canal boats, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

Watching all the canal boats head toward the lock made me add
'Holiday on a canal boat in UK' to my ever increasing travel list!

Thistle, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

English Knapweed add so much colour to the countryside.

Field, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

As did the colourful fields along the way.

The Nag's Head, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

The Nags Head, a great spot to sip a real ale or two while watching the world go by
and it is only a few minute walk from where we stayed at the Kingfisher Barn.

The Kingfisher Barn, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

A lovely ten minute stroll from the heart of Abingdon, set in beautiful countryside,
with easy access to Oxford and the M40 it was a great place to stay. 

The stroll from the Kingfisher Barn into Abingdon takes you by glorious farmland.

A walk fringed with flowers.

The Kingfisher Barn, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

We stayed in the self catering Studio flat directly above the office. Part of the seventeenth century 
barn conversion, it was quaint and quirky with good facilities.
Perfect for our family of four, we had a full kitchen complete with oven
and plenty of cookware in the cupboards. We also had a washing machine.
After a week with no internet at home in Germany, we used our fair share of the complimentary wifi.
A welcome pack of juice, milk and a lovely lemon drizzle cake awaited our arrival,
which after a nine hour drive from Germany was very much appreciated.

The Kingfisher Barn, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

We had lovely views across the garden and to the fields beyond.

The Kingfisher Barn, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK

The gardens are lovely, staff are nice and helpful and the location is great.
After ten days the girls and I moved on, back to our old village to stay with friends,
while my husband moved to into a B&B room for the remainder of his work trip.
He had breakfast included and a nice room with good facilities.

We paid for our own accommodation and all thoughts are my own.
We just all thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Abingdon and the Kingfisher Barn,
found it great value, with good facilities in a fabulous location.

Contact the Kingfisher Barn

Monday, 14 July 2014

Expat Connectivity

When I lived in Shanghai I was happy to keep in touch with family and friends via
emails and my Facebook page, adding photos and anecdotes of our daily life. 
It was often suggested that I start a blog but I didn't, due to slow internet and the
blocking of many sites, it was hard enough keeping my Facebook page up and running.

We moved to England and finally enjoyed a fast, reliable internet connection.  Oolong to Earl Grey was created and I started journalling the adventures my little family enjoyed. Who would have thought that a our new home in Germany would have us longing for internet access as 'fast' as we had in China.

Seems our nice house by the forest is in the "Internet Death Valley" of Germany,
despite being only thirty minutes from down town Frankfurt.
Lesson learned, before you buy or rent a house anywhere in the world, a little research 
on connectivity in the area is something to add to the list of 'things to do' before you move list!

As we deal with the on again, off again, off still, nature of our internet access,
here are some of the things we have been up to over the last few weeks.
Connecting with friends from over the globe, all organised with the help of the
World Wide Web...when available!

Eiffel Tower at night.

My youngest daughter and I spent a marvellous weekend in Paris catching up with 
wonderful Australian friends we first met in Shanghai.
After a delicious French dinner we relaxed on the grass of the 
Champ de Mars park and gazed up at the magical Eiffel Tower.

Sacre Coeur, Paris

We wandered the streets of Paris on a glorious, bright day. 
Visited the Sacre Coeur. Stopped for delicious crepes and
a glass of wine or two. Spending a few days with
wonderful friends in the city of Paris 
was medicine for the soul.

Abingdon, Oxfordshire

We all tagged along on a two week work trip back to the UK with my husband.
We walked the tow paths, ate at old English Pubs, had an English ale or two. 
Caught up with friends and neighbours from our lives in England. 

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

Cheddar Gorge in Somerset had been on our never ending list of places to go 
when we lived in England, we finally made it there and crossed it off.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset UK

We had a lovely long walk and finished off with lunch in Cheddar,
of course we had Cheddar Cheese with our lunch!

Biomes, The Eden Project, Cornwall, UK

My little family spent a few days with our fabulous friends from New Zealand and Ireland,
we all explored The Eden Project in Cornwall together.

Mediterranian Biome, The Eden Project, Cornwall, UK

The Biomes were incredible, a great day was had by all.

Mediterranian Biome, The Eden Project, Cornwall, UK

Educational and fun!

The Physic Garden, Chelsea, London

I spent a day in London with my lovely Irish friend. I last saw her when we were living in Shanghai. 
We joined my old English badminton ladies group for a tour of the Chelsea Physic Garden.

The Physic Garden, Chelsea, London

Was nice to connect friends from my life in China to friends from my life in England.

Carnaby Street, London

I love walking the streets of London, or any city for that matter.
My Irish friend and I met up with my cousin and walked,
soaking up the atmosphere and working up an appetite
for an amazing dinner at a marvellous French restaurant!

Adventures and face to face connections all organised on line.
An email here, Google map there, Facebook messages and Skype calls.
Love it or hate it, as expats, we need the internet to stay connected
with friends and family spread from Australia to China,
Canada to Ireland and beyond. Different time zones and schedules.
To meet up in person or to communicate and share ones lives from afar.

Lets hope we can sort out our internet woes and you will see more of
Oolong to Earl Riesling!