OUR TUSCAN TIME OUT

We were so excited to head to Florence – the place Florence Nightingale was born and named after, close to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and in the region of Tuscany (aka wine region). Being the Aussies that we were we decided to just walk the short 900 metre distance to the hotel, after all…’she’ll be right!’ Of course this is Italy and the streets are not a simple pathway like in Australia. I dug my heels in (literally), and we bobbed over the cobbled streets and tiny footpaths all the way to the hotel, in fact I think there is a definite gap in the market for 4WD suitcases for European vacationers, and I will be the first in line to buy them – just take my money lol.

We arrived at our hotel and were warmly greeted once we lugged our suitcases up the stairs to reception. I was already concerned by the clearly dodgy area the hotel appeared to be in and already felt unsafe, when another alarm bell rang for us in that we were required to leave our room key in the pigeon hole when we are out despite the fact that there was no available safe and the pigeon holes were open and within reach of anyone walking through there. The deal breaker for us though was getting into the room – which was quite nice and modern – and greeting the overwhelming smell of bleach. It was so strong and although we tried airing the room out with the one available window and the door to the hallway, nothing was making the smell go away and mummy ended up having an asthma attack and feeling like vomiting. We had to leave immediately, although we were still stuck with the three days of city tax and our already paid for bed and breakfast for three days – they were quite annoyed but meh…our well being comes first.

…and so our Tuscan Timeout Began…..
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Lucky we managed to track down a lovely resort in the hills of Tuscany that could take us for the three days, and we jumped in a taxi to get there. Cost was really not a factor by this stage, after all mummy was at the end of her tether with an attitude filled teen and an overwhelmed sensory kid in tow. Hubby and I agreed that a time out away from the hustle and bustle of any city centre was just what we needed to recharge for the rest of our trip.

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We arrived at The Florence Hills Luxury Resort amongst grapevines and olive trees, in a very small town called Pelago. The hotel was modern, tastefully decorated, and spacious, which added to us feeling pampered with a breakfast of eggs, (meats…which we don’t eat being vego), fruits, pastrys, and fresh breads….oh and of course nutella! We had our dinner customised to our needs each night and it was mostly quite delicious, with Mackenzie even trying some new things. Our only gripe really was not enough seats and no table on our balcony, very firm mattresses and pillows, not enough bin space for rubbish, and lack of communication about no dinner service for our last night when we had already discussed this on our arrival. To their defence however, they did order in pizza for us and they covered the cost of this to make up for the miscommunication.

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The hotel staff organised for us a tour of a local winery and castle which was over 1000 years old. We had a guided tour followed by a wine and cheese tasting accompanied by another couple from Denver USA that were just delightful to spend time with.

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The vineyards were beautiful and were also surrounded by olive trees ready for harvest, and the grapes were actually in the middle of being harvested when we arrived, so it was cool for both us and the girls to see this process.

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I do believe the Europeans have got something right in how they introduce alcohol to their children, alcohol is not taboo in Italy and children can legally drink at 16 with their parents but are often allowed a taste younger when not out in public. I felt this was the perfect situation to allow my children a controlled taste of alcohol in an appropriate setting with food and family, so Lauren was allowed a proper tasting and Mackenzie was allowed a sip of mine.

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Let me say straight up that my kids so far HATE alcohol. They both think wine is the most disgusting thing in the world, so although they appreciated the opportunity to participate with the adults, I don’t think they will be guzzling down the booze anytime soon. Hubby and I both enjoyed it though and although we were not drunk at the end, we were certainly happy so to speak and grateful we had a driver (phew…thought we wouldn’t since there was a taxi strike that afternoon.

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The hotel also organised a masseuse to attend for Lauren and I to have a massage on our second day there which was total bliss, and the last day we were there we did absolutely nothing and just watched movies on the laptops all day…again – bliss. We did have a bit of a wander around the town of Pelago on our first day though and found it to be very small, quaint, and the fold certain did not speak english…so we had to wing it to get lunch and buy anything there. It was an old town complete with washing on retractable lines out the windows, a tiny little church, and a very old bell that rang each day. Honestly I’m not a bit disappointed at not getting to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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Now that we are rested up, its time for us to head off to Rome. Being that it is only a hour and a half train trip I am feeling the sheer speed it is travelling at as we speak – so fast our ears pop the whole way. I must say this whole homeschooling gig with Mackenzie is doing my head in and she only has to do a diary each day and some reading and maths. It is painful and I really do think her teachers deserve a medal for doing so well with her. I do wonder whether it is just worse because of all the sensory input she is having, so I am trying to choose my battles, but I do think the girls are going to be grateful for the everyday routines, mummys vegetable filled food, and early nights again when we get home.

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NB…we are told that 2015 is going to be a great year for wine too so keep your taste buds at the ready. (Please note we are always an advocate for the responsible use of alcohol – although it is a legal substance, it can also be a source for addiction, alcoholism, and may impact wellbeing both physically and emotionally – seek help if this impacts you)

Stay tuned – Rome is up next….

VENICE – THE S(T)INKING ISLAND & PAINTERS PARADISE

LEAVING SWITZERLAND
(Thanks MAB Adventure Wear for the comfy outfit…best pre holiday buy yet).

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Venice…the city of love. Venice…the city of art. Venice…the city of glass. Venice…the city of water. Venice…the city of – – – – – – smells. After a lovely train ride (yes first class again thank you very much – worth it for the comfort and drinks/snack service along the way…especially with kids), we finally arrived in Venezia Island aka Venice. We knew from lots of friends who had visited before, that the city could be a little smelly from time to time depending on the weather, so we were prepared for this to a point. The point we had failed to factor in was how close were were to St Marks Basilica and the square, and what happened when the sewerage backed up and started bubbling up the drainage holes, coupled with some rain. For interests sake, what happened was the square and some of the cobbled walk ways/alleys became somewhat lapping with liquid causing a stench that was spew-worthy. We had originally wondered about the trestle tables stacked up throughout the outer area of the square and had imagined they were for some market they had, however the morning that everything bubbled to the surface we found they were actually walking platforms so people could get across the square and into the church without stepping into the *ahem* water and smelling for the rest of the day. The kids found this kind of cool to see the city *s(t)inking* but Mackenzie was notably overwhelmed by the smells as any sensory kiddo would be.

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When initially arrived we took up the offer of a porter to take our bags over all the stairs – it was lovely but we soon realised that he took us the long way around with his special cart and that we could have gotten there with less crowds and little stairs at all…at 35 Euros it was a costly lesson. Our hotel was an old refurbished one right off the Basilica so it was perfectly close, and the decorations were older and quaint making us feel like we were a little more old world. The only down side I guess in being so close to a major tourist site, was the scores of peddlers selling their wares illegally throughout the area…until the Polizia were in sight at which time they scattered. We knew that there may be a bit of rain throughout our three days in the city so the first day we decided to do all the big stuff we wanted to do like Murano and Burano Islands, the Gondolas, and a general wander around.

OUR HOTEL

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PORTERS ON HAND TO GET LUGGAGE OVER STAIRS

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So we headed off to Murano Island on the boat, excited to see glass making and explore this exciting little island. We stepped off the boat only to be ushered toward a glass making factory by a salesman, but we wised up quickly and broke away to experience our own adventure. We quickly realised which were authentic and which were mass produced items, and stumbled across a cool little shop with onsite produced glass products that we could actually see being made by father and by son. We bought a few lovely little items (Lauren wanted to buy the entire store) and Mackenzie was in awe of the process and outcome. We did find the island a little smell though and couldn’t bear to eat there.

MURANO ISLAND

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After much walking and searching and different bridges, we finally found the boat to Burano and jumped on board. I’m glad we took the advice of a friend and went to this island to because it was far better than Murano with a definite charm, (less smell), and the most exquisitely coloured buildings you’ve ever seen. All the buildings were painted different vibrant colours that made the entire island come alive. We had a delicious lunch and began to explore the surrounds.

BURANO ISLAND

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I’m glad I researched the island and found that Burano is known for its lace if you go to the right stores. We went into two stores (one was Emilia and very famous), and we saw the Nannas making the lace right in the store by hand. The laces were exquisite and if only we had more disposable income we could have bought up more. We left Burano and headed back to Venice just in time to do the Gondola experience.

LACE CREATING NANNAS

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We jumped on a Gondola with all four of us in the one and even though I am still terrified of deep water and the gondolas were rocking violently in the water, I still plucked up the courage to get in with the family. I held my breath right up until e got out of the main waterway and into the little canals. It was simply magical and worthwhile doing, with us being able to see some famous bridges, and the previous homes of Cassanova, Vivaldi, and a famous painter. We went under so many bridges, it is an experience you just have to see to get a feel for.

GONDOLA RIDE

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We didn’t forget to experience art whilst we were there, with Lauren buying a piece of original art and Mackenzie buying a handcrafted mask. We did also manage to see the Rialto Bridge but being that it is currently under renovations, there was not much to see.

LOCAL ART PIECES

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Our last day was super wet so we chilled out inside, and the girls chilled and watched a movie so hubby and I could go in search of a laundromat and give the girls and us some much desired clean clothes. This did give us the time to sneak a little lunch and gelato on our own as a couple – laundry and lunch…so romantic lol. We were ready to leave by the time our stay was up, and caught a speedy taxi to the train station to head to Firenze aka Florence – and once we arrived all our plans changed….

…..tune in again for that one!

THE SWISS SECRET TO GOOD CHOCOLATE

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The town of zermatt

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Have you ever wondered why Swiss chocolate taste so darn good? Well after three countries…England, France, and Spain (four if you include our blip two hour stopover in Abu Dhabi on the way), we have arrived in Switzerland and I finally think I have found the answer. My theory as to how the Swiss get their chocolate to taste so good is that oxidisation occurs when oxygen gets to stuff, and Switzerland (at least the parts we went) have much lower oxygen therefore lower oxidisation of their chocolate, right??? Okay so my theory isn’t exactly scientifically proven but I can tell you that the chocolate is amazing – if you come to visit bring lots of money for chocolate.

THE TRAIN TRIP THERE

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You should probably bring lots of money for everything really, not just chocolate, if you go to one of the small towns like Zermatt. You wont be able to just wing it in regards to cost here if you want to eat well – there is a McDonalds much to my disgust, but that wasn’t even an option so one of the evenings we bought some stuff and cooked it in our apartment. We were lucky to be upgraded to a larger apartment due to overbooking and the fact we were a family, and all at no extra cost. It was lovely because from our bed we had views of the mountains and from the wrap around balcony we had views of the Matterhorn.

OUR HOTEL

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Everything is super expensive here in Zermatt and rightly so since it isn’t exactly the easiest place to transport goods to, particularly with the fact that there are absolutely no cars in Zermatt. The only form of transport in Zermatt is via electric bus or electric taxi, and let me tell you the electric taxi will cost you your pension plan. It does make it quite quaint and quiet (hello…that’s alot of Q’s ha!), with no noisy traffic and everyone walking everywhere….really really slowly. If you live at zero altitude by the ocean you soon realise how thing the air is (lower oxygen concentration) when you begin to exert yourself up hills dragging your luggage, hence why everyone walks slowly. I managed to wrap a scarf around my face though so that the air I breathed in was warmer and thus reduces the effects of the low oxygen. I feel grateful that we only really had to buy one pair of gloves in Zermatt though, because most gloves began at the tidy price of 99 Swiss Francs which is quite expensive in Aussie dollars! It felt quite cold there and we were told by locals that it is worse when it is high humidity because of the moisture in the air, and that during winter when temperatures reach a scary -14 degrees Celsius it is nicer and you don’t have to rug up quite so much.

We had a lovely vegetarian burger for dinner at one of the pubs there on the first night and shared our table with an South African couple that needed somewhere to sit…love hearing other peoples travel stories, and the next morning we planned to go up Klein Matterhorn (which is some ridiculously high altitude compared to the 1600+ metres of Zermatt). When we woke the next morning we were tired, a couple of us had headaches, and I was struggling to breathe, which were sure indicators of altitude sickness. This made our mind up that we should only go to one of the lower mountains and we decided on Gornergrat which is over 3000m high. The trip up was spectacular and we coped with the ascent quite well. It amazed me how many hikers we saw on the way up although they all were walking very slowly and with hiking poles and way more appropriate clothing than us.

TOP OF GORNERGRAT MOUNTAIN

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At the top both hubby and I were brought to tears in our eyes with gratitude that we were fortunate to experience this amazing thing, and more than that – we were able to bring our girls to experience it too. There was snow everywhere and the Matterhorn stood boldly in front of us as our eyes tried to take in all the breathtaking scenery before us. We did brave a walk down the track a reasonable way and headstrong me thought that would be a great idea. Poor Mackenzie burst into tears and eventually told us it was because there was no snow within reach (much was a walk away to get to), but luckily after a little further we got to some little patches of snow – enough to throw some snow balls at each other! The joy on my kids faces was priceless, and the joy on my husbands face to be able to experience the Swiss Alps warmed my heart. Neither my husband or I have ever travelled overseas before so this trip has been amazing with the things we have seen and done.

We started our walk back up (toilet breaks were in need), and it was then that we realised how hard it was to breathe in this altitude with less that 12 hours conditioning. I in particular really struggled with it, and hubby said he really felt it every time he tried to exert energy (not surprising since he has a low Hb anyway and gets dizzy just standing up sometimes). So it was a very very slow walk back up to the top, enough that I had to stop for a moment and chill out on a rock (which by the way all kind of sparkle in the sunlight like glittering silver, gold, blue and bronze). We eventually got back up and decided we needed to replenish….

OUR VIEW FROM THE RESTAURANT

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Lunch was at Vis a Vis – the restaurant at the top of Gornergrat and we had a delish lunch and dessert with exceptional views of the mountains and snow. We climbed the last little bit to the lookout at the top and spent some time up there just taking in the scenery. Whilst up there Mackenzie turned and said to me “mum, when I grow up I want to be a Rock Artist” – although I thought she was talking about a Rock Music Artist I soon realised that she was in fact talking about art made with rocks when I saw the hand full of little rocks she was carrying. So adorable she created her very own little cave that she was so proud of, and the girls both added to the rock piles that were created by other people, with their own. Laurens was quite impressive until she made one last addition that toppled the whole thing.

“ROCK STARS”

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We really enjoyed our time in Switzerland and will definitely make a point of spending Christmas there in what will be like a winter wonderland worthy of a Frozen movie set. Although we loved it, Venice was waiting for us and we had to board the train for our five hour trip to get there (thank heavens for first class).

Snow or sand? What do you prefer?

THE SPANISH IMPOSITION

The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly On The – hearts of all the long distance bus drivers!

Okay so this really wasn’t the highlight of our trip that we thought it would be – in fact it was kind of horrific really. In my head I had envisaged this whole awakened feeling of joy seeing the places that people visit on the Camino de Santiago…really got to stop building expectations before the actual event I think. We caught a high speed train from Montparnasse to Irun on the border of France and Spain, and from there we caught a taxi (after much difficulty trying to find one) to the hotel in San Sebastian. Now if we had just stayed in the hotel we would have been absolutely fine because it was super comfortable, beautiful breakfasts, wonderful attentive service…but we decided to explore San Sebastian instead.

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San Sebastian is a beautiful backdrop of old buildings and cobble-type streets, mixed with churches, hillsides, beaches and old boating docks. Its very picturesque and worthy of the postcards you by at the touristy stops along the way.

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Along the beaches is like a concrete walkway that was under the higher walkway kind of like a tunnel, that had archways along the front – bit hard to explain really. Although the day started out as rainy and miserable, it became quite sunny and warm and it wouldn’t be strange to think it was a bit like Melbourne weather. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and thought it might be nice to go for a swim seeing all the English folk enjoying the water so we went to the waters edge and enjoyed the moment of frostbite as our toes felt the icy waves coming in. No I don’t think we will swim thankyou…

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We did love the idea of tapas they have there and after seeing the beautiful church there, we went off in search of a lovely tapas bar to eat at – the spreads put on were beautiful and the social vibes were funky. Sadly though we did not get to enjoy this with most of it being all local seafood and cured meats, so we opted for a lovely little restaurant or two for our meals in San Sebastian. Did I mention that breakfast often was sweets here? The girls thought this was completely awesome! I was craving my raw spinach and vegetables.

After two nights we boarded the bus for Santiago de Compostela. That is when our real nightmare began. The trip we had thought was going to be a nine hour bus trip and we were well planned for that with snacks, water, and activities. It wasn’t til about four hours in that we realised that there may be no stops for meals, and we also found out that it was going to be a twelve hour trip. We tried to ask if we could duck out to a vending machine at one of the stops whilst they loaded up the suitcases but the bus driver stood in the walkway with hands in our face saying no very loudly and rudely. Despite us trying to explain (in Spanish we had translated by a friend) that we had no food for our children because the ticket did not state there would be no stops, the bus drivers still refused to let us off to get food for our kids. It was at this stage that I lost the plot and began crying…the feeling as a mother of not being able to provide food for your child when they are already distressed is a terribly helpless feeling and although it is definitely not the same, I now have a renewed empathy for mothers struggling to feed their children in refugee camps and third world countries. Finally an Aussie (at one of the stops and not even on our bus), saw our distressed and told us to get off now and the bus will come back for us. I cried with sheer relief, and let me tell you I could have kissed the ground when we finally arrived in Santiago.

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The accommodation in Santiago was basic, but modern, comfortable, and the service was exceptional. We visited the church and enjoyed the energy of all the pilgrims that had arrived to end their long journey. We met lots of Aussies that had just finished it and they gave tips for our teenager who now wants to do the Camino – that would be the only reason for returning to Spain at this point. The church was beautiful and I wondered for just a moment how a simple building could bring up so many emotions for me when I realised it wasn’t the grandeur of the building, but the grandeur of the millions of tears and prayers that had taken place over many years in this place.

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We left Spain much to our excitement and flew to Switzerland – by far my favourite place so far for its beauty….but as always thats for another time…

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Have you got a horror story from one of your holidays? Share with me your story.

CHOCOLATE, CHEESE & CHUFFERS

We all held our breath the way we’ve always done, and as we entered the long tunnel and darkness overcame us like night….we realised that the English Channel was probably a bit long to play that game! I’m not sure what I was expecting going on the Eurostar under the water to Paris, maybe that it would seem like a long time going all that way. In reality though, it was only about half an hour and you barely noticed apart from a few pops of the ears. What a surreal thought to go so far so quickly under a major body water, and it must have been an odd thought because it certainly confused the hell out of Little Miss Macca – who at 8 years old thought it was going to be kind of like an aquarium where you could see through a plexiglass kind of roof to the under water magic kingdom. How sad that I had to dash those dreams when we quickly surfaced from the murky depths with no hello to anyone least a mermaid.

Leaving Australia everyone told me “oh the French are horrible people, they just HATE foreigners!” and “if you don’t speak the language they won’t serve you” and “Paris is a disgusting dirty place with rubbish everywhere”. Clearly many of these people have either never been to Paris or haven’t been there recently, or were so rude themselves that the French just served it back at them, because Paris was lovely. Sure every country has its thing and Paris was no different to the rest of the world, we even came across a few arrogant people particularly in Versailles, but for the most part the French were lovely to us. If I could change one thing it would be the copious amounts of cigarettes people are smoking – seriously it would be interesting to see what there rates of emphysema and lung cancer is – I’m going to need to be hooked up with a long supply of nicotine patches when I get home…as are my husband and tobacco chewing kids lol.

This is Mackenzie dealing with the overwhelm of Paris with too many noises, smells and sensory input…SPD and APD at its finest…

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Side note: I’m also going to need to hit the veges hard when I get home – seems the diet here is bread, cheese, bread, chocolate, pastry, bread, cheese, bread, oh and did I mention chocolate? Lets just say that our insides were not very happy with us when we ate out. That’s not to say the food wasn’t amazing because by goodness the baguettes with beautiful fresh French cheeses in it were really worth it.

The day we arrived we did get very, very lost trying to find our AirBNB apartment in Montparnasse but eventually we figured out the metro system and felt quite safe at any time of the day all over Paris. I must say that our first ever AirBNB experience was amazing with a cute 4th floor 2 bedroom apartment with wrap around terrace that opened up over some of the area (as opposed to another building), was amazing and our host made sure our stay was great and kept in contact with us whenever we needed it. We arrived to find yummy little local foods, a bottle of wine, cheese, and cool local details. We would do Air BNB again for sure and we will certainly be staying at this one again, and again, and again!

Side note: We visited a place called Flams just near the bottom of our apartment and had a Flam…. They were delicious and had vegetarian options, which was welcomed after a long day out exploring. They are a little like pizza but made on a type of flat bread kind of thing.

The metro system was sensational at getting us to all the sights we wanted to see and there were lots of them. The only downside was the immense noise and speed at which these old trains (although some have tyres!!!) run at, only because of the distress it causes my little sensory kiddo. We saw so many touristy sights but also just wandered around the little alley way streets too…which is the best way to find the more authentic restaurants.

NOTRE DAME – Oh my goodness this place is amazing, with its stained glass windows, gigantic splendour, and indescribable beauty, I was brought to tears when I walked inside. We arrived at just the right time to sit and take in an afternoon service with angelic singing and the opportunities along the outer area for the children to light a candle and say a prayer. Although we had arrived too late in the day to climb the towers we were not disappointed with our experience. We had also gone under into the crypt to see the understones, and dug up remains of another time…simply amazing.

THE LOUVRE – Another tear jerker for me since I have been dreaming about visiting the Louvre for quite some time. It was late in the day also for this place but we do have two children that have forgotten how amazing it is to get up in the morning and utilise the whole day (that and they have been so tired with the sun going down so late in the evening – around 830 or later). As we enter we realise how huge this place is (and yes it does remind you of the Da Vinci Code with the glass pyramid), and its exciting to be able to experience this. Lucky for us that we did come late because it was significantly easy to see all the greats we wanted to see without having to have a smack down with the crowds to get through. We saw the Mona Lisa and Mackenzie was shocked at the whole moving eyes thing, along with Aphrodite, and the Kiss of Love. We did have a few giggles whilst we were there, with Macca grossly disgusted at all the “boys bits” on show on the statues, Lauren and Hubby posing like some of the statues, and us losing Kevin somewhere leading up to the Egyptian section right on closing time. This left Mackenzie, Lauren and I running through the Louvre like a pack of frantic tourists screaming out “Kevin” and me madly snapping pictures as I’m running, of cool things along the way. Seriously – Griswalds eat your heart out!

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MONTPARNASSE TOWER – What is called the Tour Montparnasse, this massive building is spectacular at night time from the top. With glass surrounds, you can have a 360 degree view of all of Paris. Although it gets a little windy at times you can warm up with a nice glass of red and take in the twinkling lights of all the major places in Paris and everything in between.

ARC DE TRIOMPHE – This was a lovely place to visit and impressed even the kids, despite the six million stairs to get to the top! We could see most of Paris from up here and to see the traffic around this centre was hilarious…like watching ants scattered by water – they all have somewhere to go but its every one for themselves. Hence there is ALOT of beeping horns and yelling.

The stairs inside the Arc deTriomphe…by this stage stairs were met with a groan!

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PALACE VERSAILLES – To be honest, someone needs to sprinkle some joy glitter all over some of the people in Versailles. Although the palace has some exquisite pieces of art, exquisite beauty in the palace, and extensive manicured gardens, nothing can gloss over the sheer rudeness and unwillingness to help. Mackenzie by this stage was an emotional mess and being such a warm day we needed to catch a taxi back to the train station and despite her being in tears and us begging the taxi driver, they refused in the most rude way saying they will only take people back to central Paris. I did get quite shirty however and the driver at the very back of the line agreed at double the regular fare for that distance much to the disgruntled reaction from the other drivers. Honestly I have no kind words to say about those people (there were more), so I will leave it at that.

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MOULIN ROUGE – Oh wow! This is certainly worth the cost of going and it is worth having the meal and show, although I do recommend that you do the first show of the night as there will be less waiting. They do pack you in like sardines but it is worth going. I’m fairly sure that Mackenzie was the only young child there and they do allow children over 7 years old to go. Mackenzie is a bit prudish and gets very embarrassed at bums and boobs, so I was shocked that she coped so well and only had one significant reaction covering her eyes at the start of the show…after that the glam, the bling, and the artistic talent distracted you from the boobs and butts when they were showing. The dancers are so athletic and skilled, with a definite grace…I was in awe! I was disappointed at their parading of little miniature ponies across the stage though as were my girls – they are talented enough without the need for animals, and its an issue that the girls and I will address in positive way. All in all though – spectacular!

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THE EIFFEL TOWER – This made all of us have a tear form in our eyes (or in the case of Lauren and I – rivers of sobbing) at the sheer beauty of this place, despite the fact it is a tower of metal. Every hour at night time it is covered with a display of sparkling lights that impress even in the presence of people selling stuff (that is until the police come and they scatter). I was blessed to have my sister in law and her children come to visit us for the weekend in Paris and we all went up…even brought nerves to me and Macca. Some went to the second level, and some of us went to the very top. It was spectacular seeing Paris from the top of this massive structure, but even though I am getting pretty good with heights even I had a few butterflies heading up not to mention my poor sister in law Emma who hates heights (she got all the way to the second level). It is definitely a sight to see.

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DISNEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is quite a magical place, particularly for kids. For me, I wasn’t that excited when I walked through the gate, but the reaction of my kids were worth it and certainly made my day. Lots of different lands to explore, okay so the massive adult sized Robinson Crusoes Treehouse was kind of cool, along with the Mad Hatters Tea Cup ride – that thing was awesome. The kids really enjoyed it and you definitely need more than one day for it too. My big suggestion is that you should arrive significantly early to get a spot for the parade and for the light show in order to see it – when you spend thousands of dollars to go to see it and end up seeing only a slither of either you can feel a little disappointed. The girls really missed out on the parade because we underestimated how busy the roadside would be (way worse than Movieworld), and I had to put my “don’t mess with this mamma because my kids aren’t going to miss out because you want to push in front” face on and even had to give another parent a serve for trying at the Dreams Show at the end of the night (be warned there are ALOT of horrible adults that will physically shove your kid out of the way and not give a second thought to any injuries they may cause to yours or anyone elses child – sad but true). It was worth staking our claim early and digging in til the show. I had tears as I watched the Disney Castle come to life and the reaction of the girls was equally amazing. If you do want some quiet crowd free time though ensure you stay at one of the Disney hotels as this gets you early entry into both the park and lots of areas, before the general public and you wont have to worry about getting transport back to Paris late at night.

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One of the saddest things I had to do in Paris was say goodbye to my family…my beautiful sister in law had brought the children over for the weekend to see us and I have to say I’m not entirely sure how I will go another long span without seeing them. We love them so dearly and I should say we are now planning to move to England to work for a year…as a nurse this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.

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So after a long day at Disney we woke early the next day to set off for our next adventure in Spain…and thats a tale in itself so I will leave it for another post.

Have you been to Paris? What about Disney Paris? Favourite ride?

THE PLUCKY JET-SETTERS

Sooo…I guess you think my trip must have been cancelled since I haven’t done a post since I had spoken about our overseas adventure. I promised that I would write and share all my family’s adventures throughout England, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece. I promised I would share photos, and stories, and anecdotes about this entire journey. Yet here I am already two weeks into our trip and almost in our third country – Spain – with not one hint of sharing this amazing journey. That is until now.

There are a few reasons I have been slacking off sharing this with you all until now, and although one reason could very well be that there has been little time – at least in Paris – that there hasn’t been at least a pastry, a baguette, some chocolate, or some wine gracing one of the hands I use to type with, or I’ve been climbing up and down the five billion stairs both England and Paris seem to have to prevent their decadent, rich foods from making them all obese diabetics.

So I think I should catch you all up on the story so far. We flew out of the Sunshine Coast (Australia) on Monday September 1st to Melbourne, where we were meant to all fly to London via Abu Dhabi, notice the word ‘meant’ thrown in there. This was Little Miss 8 Mackenzie’s first ever flight anywhere and although we planned well with chewing gum, water, the usual mechanisms to help ears – we began descending whilst Macca began screaming and crying. Nobody could console my poor little munchkin – not even the experienced flight attendants could do anything for her – and although we thought it would pass, we were quickly told by the airport doctor that Mackenzie did not have clearance to fly and was being grounded for a minimum of three days. When we realised that Lauren and I would have to go ahead (because I was already a nervous wreck about getting in the plane – so building up again for three days would have been the end of me), my heart ended up in my throat and all I could do was cry at the terminal saying goodbye to my husband and my baby as Miss Teen Rebel Lauren and I boarded the plane.

I didn’t think my claustrophobia was quite that bad until we get seated for a long haul (14hr) flight and realise that our domestic seats where roomier. We flew Etihad and although I felt trapped with swollen legs the entire time having to excuse myself to walk the aisles and stretch when the feeling became unbearable, the service was impeccable and they kept us sedated with lovely meals and snacks frequently, with on demand television and movies, and a flight tracker (so you know your plane is going where its meant to I guess). Lauren and I changed planes at Abu Dhabi and boy was it a culture shock with so many different cultures in the one place and things being done so differently, it was a little daunting. The one thing we thought was awesome (being the clean freaks we are), was that the toilets were constantly staffed and being cleaned after every use! AFTER EVERY USE! The flight from Abu Dhabi however was just exceptional seeing us get seats that were near the exit and no one in front of us so leg room – hello! On top of that they buggered up my lunch order so I ended up with eggs and spinach made especially by the first class chef….mmmmmm.

LONDON

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My sister in law Emma (aka – my new best friend as dubbed by my tosser brother cranky we wouldn’t be coming to see his sorry butt – okay rant over), picked us up at Heathrow and even though we had only been skyping and messaging between us for the past 10+ years, it was like we had known each other forever. Although sad the rest of us were not there, we had a great time having dinner with friends out (oh my they don’t know what a lemon lime and bitters is!), and having a beautiful day in London. I did manage to drive in England and I now know how people drive in Europe – the idea is ‘pretend there is no one else on the roads, and drive where ever and however the hell you like’ – CONGRATULATIONS…YOU ARE NOW A EUROPEAN DRIVER!!! Yes, I too have learnt how to be a crazy European driver!

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It was great with hubby arriving with our baby girl, and we went straight to Harry Potter Studios. Oh wow that place is amazing with all the original stage sets and some of the actual set designers there when we went. The kids all had a go at wand lessons and we all went on the Hogwarts Train. Yes we all got our very own wand with the Aunties buying the nieces and nephew their own wand of choice. During our time in England we managed to see the beautiful Stonehenge, Dover Castle complete with the creepily cold underground tunnels and LOTS OF STAIRS in the castle, Changing of The Guards, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Florence Nightingale Museum, Westminster Abbey, and…..DISNEY SHOP ON OXFORD STREET – busy busy shopping district and definitely a place Lauren wanted to spend days at. We experienced the very noisy and fast paced underground, and got to travel in both a black London Cab and a red double decker bus. The most rewarding thing about England though was the time we got with my beautiful sister in law and my nieces and nephew (unfortunately I missed meeting my other sister in law and nephew but that will be for next time when we are there longer). I got to do the Aunty thing and spoil them, annoy them, read them a book, take them to school, take a million photos, and be super super distressed when we had to say goodbye last week when we boarded the Eurostar to head to Paris for a week. But that is for another post….

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What was your experience of England?