29 October 2009

Our European Adventures.....

Ok, so we have been threatening now for over 12 months to set up a blog. Here goes....but be warned, still getting the hang of this and all the gadgets and thingies and what nots! Where and how do I add photos...hmmm....do I do it as a daily blog with just one photo for the day attached? Or just random weekly entries? Do I use it like one of those letters that you post to family and friends once a year, usually at Christmas, to let them know what you have been up to?  Well, no, then it would only be a once a year blog.  Or maybe something similar but on a monthly or bi-monthly basis....Hmmmm, will ponder that one, but anyway in the mean time here is a ‘brief’ overview of the past year or so......

It is the end of October and Emma and Sean now have a week off school for ''Fall'' Break. I am planning a day trip to Salzburg to do some Christmas shopping at one of the gorgeous (all year round) Christmas decoration shops.....expect Christmas tree decorations for your Christmas gifts this year ; )    And we also have a much dreaded, but much needed trip to the dentist scheduled for the end of next week. This, I am embarrassed to say, will be our first trip to the dentist since we have been here. Ugh, I hate the dentist!  Other than that, I think the kids just want to have chill out time, maybe a few play dates, maybe I will drag them to a museum ....oh good idea, there is a photographic exhibition I want to see ....Pictures of Palestine, at the Jewish museum, which I haven't been to yet, so that will get them kicking and screaming with delight I am sure! Well, it should be interesting anyway. I am sure they will get something out of it.
Once Fall Break is done, we are well and truly on the count down to our trip home for Christmas, not long now! Can't wait to see some sun, sea and sand.....oh, and of-course family and friends! Two weeks is just not long enough! Bahhhhhh, humbug!
So that is what we are up to at the moment, but what have we been doing up ‘til now, I hear you ask?!  Well, if you are a fan of facebook, you will be up to date with life for us over the past 18 months....in full pictorial glory, but if not then I will give you a run down on life in Bavaria for the Clayton family.  We arrived at the end of May last year (2008) and hit the ground running with Matthew starting work virtually straight away. So lots of stress, lots of excitement, lots of tears, lots of homesickness, lots of adventures (and that was just Matthew's first day at work! Hehehe, only joking).
Emma, Sean and I spent the summer break getting to know our new home....Munich.  It was a great adventure in a city steeped in history, with things to explore around every corner. In the middle of the city and stretching to the far north-east of the city limits is an amazing green space called the English Garden. This is an oasis in summer and we spent a bit of time over the break wandering (and getting quite lost) in this beautiful green garden that has the river Isar running the length of it.

Finally school started at the end of August ’08 and it was a very nerve wracking day for everyone. We had met a few families who were also new to Munich over the summer break, so it was good to know that the kids could seek out a few friendly faces if need be.  So the kids started school and as time passed they relaxed into their new routine, which includes an hour-long bus trip to school in the morning, and home again in the late afternoon. School starts at 9am and finishes at around 4pm. Such a long day for the poor little blighters! It's one thing that we haven't gotten use to and probably never will.  They get home tired and hungry and then the evening routine is snack, home-work, bath, dinner, reading and bed! What a day! Luckily they have 3 breaks at school, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea, with a good chance to run around in beautiful surroundings, as part of the school an old ''Schloss'' or palace with a great playground and surrounded by fields and forests.  Shame it is so far out in the country or we would have lived closer to school. But we decided it was better to be in the city and close to work for Matthew. It means we get to enjoy the grand old city on weekends and explore old historic sites and of course enjoy the English Garden. And I get to enjoy wandering the city through the week and tracking down the best coffee and pastries in the city. Although, I am sad to say I do not enjoy German coffee. In Munich they consider themselves to be the northern most city in Italy.....pity they didn't get the hang of Italian coffee!  So I am now a fan of Starbucks coffee....a taste of home, so to speak, well...you know there is a Starbucks around every corner at home and all they all use the same coffee, so I know that at least the coffee will taste good!

I have to say that our first winter here was a huge shock to the system and renewed my homesickness to no end! It was said to be one of the coldest winters in about 100 years! With temps dipping down to minus 21, I was not a happy camper! I remember my first outing on a freezing morning trying to negotiate the black ice on the frozen footpaths in cheap snow boots - in my mind I wasn't going to fork out good money for snow boots when I wouldn't need them later on in life....now wishing I had bought a better quality boot!! More wiser this winter that is for sure! But we all survived the winter, the kids had a great time at school playing in knee deep snow and building their first ever snow man in the back garden.  Matthew discovered that bike riding in snow is a little tricky and more than a little invigorating!

The best part about last winter was our road trip to Rome for Christmas. We hired a car and took off a few days before Christmas Day. Travelling through Austria in winter was just beautiful...what a sight it was in all its wintery white glory. You literally drive through the Alps and go through many, many tunnels dug into the mountain side. Then all of a sudden you break through and right before your eyes are the Dolomites and the bright blue Italian sky. Wow! What a sight. Going from snowstorm one side of the Alps to vineyards on the foothills of the mighty Dolomites backlit by the beautiful blue sky. Wunderbah and Belisimmo rolled into one! 

We stopped overnight in Pisa on our way to Rome. Saw the leaning tower and maaaaannnn, what a lean that tower does have! Bad engineering back in those days! On to Rome for a week of exploring one of the most beautiful and amazing cities in the world. The Colosseum would have to have been our favourite....but then again The Sistine Chapel is up there at the top of the list as well ....oh and the most amazing Christmas Day EVER....receiving the Christmas blessing from the Pope in the Holy City would have to be up there as one of our favourite Roman experiences as well. Oh, and then there was the food....real pasta, real lasagne....wow I had no idea it was suppose to taste like that!  Roma, fantastico!

Oh, hang on a minute. Did I mention our trip to Paris last summer? No, I seemed to have skipped right over it! Oops!  I think that first summer here in Munich was such a shock to the system, what with the culture shock, the homesickness and a few other little issues to deal with along the way, I seem to have blocked out that period of time! Luckily I have photos on facebook (our hard drive died last year taking our photos of Paris with it, but I had luckily already downloaded some to facebook) to remind me of what a wonderful trip to Paris it was.  About half way through the summer break we did our first road trip. Matthew got his German driving licence and was desperate to hit the autobahn .....could not wait to get that BMW up to 200k's!  
Unfortunately (or fortunately, from my point of view) he didn't have much of a chance to do this as the weather was not on our side with rain, rain and more rain and also road works all the way to the French boarder.   We left Munich early and drove all day, arriving in Paris late at night. Even though it was late, we were hungry and decided to set out from our hotel which was about a 20 minute train trip from the city and see the night lights of Paris and find something for dinner. With no clue which direction to go in once we stepped off the train in the city, we decided to head in the general direction of the Eiffel tower and stopped off for pizza on the way. That first night we wandered around in Paris we were in awe....here we were in Paris...wow, I had always wanted to travel here one day and having missed out on being bitten by the travel bug earlier on in life as many of our friends were, I never thought I would actually ever get here, but....here we were in Paris, in all it's late summer evening glory. We felt pretty lucky, that's for sure! And with a week of adventures in front of us we set off.....
So, I guess I don't have to tell you all the wonderful sights we saw there...our first glimpse of the sparkling Eiffel tower that first evening in the city….so wonderful, something we will never forget (for me it might momentarily slip my mind, but then it all comes flooding back!).  And then there was standing for 3 hours in a Parisian summer heat-wave waiting in line to go to the top of the Eiffel tower, not so much fun....but well worth the wait...I even managed to have a glass or 2 of champers on the Eiffel tower....how special did I feel! The museums, the galleries...the Louvre...Mona Lisa, Aphrodite. The famous sights...The Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, one of my all time fav moments was when it got so hot the kids stripped off and went swimming in the Trocadero fountain (well, it looked more like a shallow pool to them), Notre Dame, Euro Disney ....the list goes on....what a summer that one was!  Matthew and I wrote our Paris Holiday story on facebook if you want more info and pics.  So, after that small slip up, my gosh, how could I forget Paris?  Let me tell you about this summer just gone….

We spent a wonderful two weeks in the UK over the summer break. This was one trip I have always wanted to do - forever, but like Paris & Rome never though I would actually get there.  The Old Blighty was an action packed 2 weeks, with one week spent in London doing ALL the touristy sights....London Bridge, Parliament and Westminster, St Pauls, Harrods (bit of a let down, sad to say), Kensington Gardens, and to top it all off a 'Royal Day Out' tour of Buckingham Palace which was just so much fun.  We loved every second of London and would go back again every weekend if we could afford it....ahhhh just to hear everyone speaking English was so good.  I miss it so much!

From London we drove down south to Brighton to take in the sea air.....and the pebbly beaches.....ouch, ouch, ouch....give me sand any day but oh so wonderful to see those pebble beaches!!  We loved the sights and sounds of that area...The Lanes in Brighton, Brighton Pier, The Pavillion. I think Brighton has a reputation of being a bit of a retirement village....not so! I thought it was a colourful and vibrant place, very arty and loads of uni students around. Even a Jamie Oliver restaurant!

From Brighton we did day trips to the surrounding areas of Bath, driving through the town where my paternal granny grew up - Wilton, the Downs and the gorgeous green rolling hills of that area, Beachy Head (I had to see the spot where they made the film clip for the Cure's 'Head on the Door' song), Stonehenge and the castles in that area ...so much history. It was a fantastic trip ...how lucky are we?  I feel very privileged and very grateful that we have been able to do all these trips, so lucky.  Thank you Matthew for taking this job here, it has been one heck of a ride! 

Not only have we seen Paris, Rome and London we have also done a few trips to Salzburg....only about 2 hours from Munich just across the Austrian border. We love Salzburg. Love it's history, its winding cobbled streets, its shops, its people...love it all. It is a beautiful city and the people are friendly. In the 18 months since we have been here, we have also seen some of Germany's historic sights and historic cities. I have to admit they have some spectacular old palaces here....goes with the territory when they had some of the most eccentric and some would even say 'mad' ruling families...but then again aren't all royal families a little bit mad?  Here in Bavaria they had 'Mad' King Ludwig in the early 19th century. He built quite a few extravagant castles dotted about the beautiful Bavarian countryside.  The most famous of which is Schloss Neuschwanstein in a village about 2 hours south of Munich. It is said that Walt Disney based his Disney castle theme on this particular castle ...although we couldn't see the similarities! We have travelled to a few historic cities around Munich like Dachau and Augsburg. Nuremburg is just up the road and I am planning a trip out there in November as they are said to have beautiful Christmas markets. I'm also planning on a trip to Regensburg which has the worlds oldest boy's choir in their beautiful historic cathedral (not that they are old-boys but this choir has been up and running for a very long time) and you can go and listen to them on a Sunday morning (if they are not in some far flung country on tour). We can't pass up that opportunity when we are so close, can we?

So, as you can see, travel wise, we have kept ourselves pretty busy....well for our little family I think we have done quite well. There are a couple of young Aussies that work with Matthew who have jet setted about the continent non stop since arriving. I have even heard of them doing a 'boys weekend' to New York...just for a change from Europe! Ahhh, to be young and carefree and living in Europe on an expat contract!!
There you go, a snap shot from the past 18 months. This is of-course the airbrushed version. There is so much more that I haven’t mentioned. Which I may do later blogs on...the culture shock, the elephant in the room (Hitler and the Nazi Party) and how to get a handle on that, as it was here that the Gestapo had their HQ (the Gestapo HQ office is now a German bank! Ha!), the culture shock....did I mention the culture shock? The culture shock, the homesickness, the family issues going on at home without us to help out, my mum having an accident not long after we left and spending 6 months in hospital, the culture shock, the kids not settling in at school, the loneliness, the language difficulties, the health issues......the list goes on!!  But as you can imagine this amazing adventure has been one of the most incredible periods of our life, I don't think we will be putting our Deutsch to much use when we get home, but still having the opportunity to learn another language and live in Europe has been wonderful, albeit not without its difficulties.  

Keep an eye out for our next blog, which we will update a with a little more regularity.

And I have set up a photo gallery on Flickr for those that are interested and don't have facebook...just follow this link: 

clayton family adventures on flickr

Cheers from me, Alison.....I will encourage Matthew to write the next blog (rest assured it will be short and sweet!). 

Ciao, Tschüß, Grüße, Auf Wiedersehen and Bye!  

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