St Anton

We couldn’t possibly come to Europe in the winter and not get some time up in the mountains and luckily we sent all of our winter gear from Breckenridge to England so we managed a sneaky two weeks in St Anton in Austria spending some quality time in the snow! The first week was just the two of us with sublime sunshine and cold temperatures which held the snow from the dump which fell about two weeks before we got there. We honestly just loved having our own space and cooking our own meals and enjoying a sofa and tv. Plus we were pretty exhausted and sore after snowboarding every day. St Anton links to several resorts or towns making the skiing area massive. In one day we attempted the Run of Fame which is a route which takes you to all the major peaks on the map, takes all day and we managed to do 68km of skiing!

Another great St Anton experience that we had to par take in is the Apre ski. Places like Krazy Kangaroo, Taps and Mooserwitz are all bars up the mountain where you sit out and enjoy a beer or two on the mountain with bad 80’s music and then when it gets dark attempt to ski or board home! As you can imagine it creates some hilarious scenes on the way home. Of course we always behaved ourselves…….. Though on one occasion we decided to walk home instead of board in the dark!

Unfortunately the snow was getting a little bare and the ice was showing its ugly head towards the end of the first week, but within a few days the weather changed and we soon had fresh snow! We managed a few fresh tracks even though we didn’t know the resort. 

We had our friends from Wartberg Silvia and Werner visit on the last weekend. It was great seeing them again and even better skiing with them. Of course being Austrians and skiing being in their blood they patiently waited for the slow snowboarders to catch up! 

We had a another stop off to make before we headed back to London which luckily for us just so happened to be in another ski resort and this time in Flims, Switzerland. My sister Fiona and her two children Fionn and Zara were there for the school holidays. We had an absolute blast playing in the snow with the kids and even managed my very first snowman. I tried my hand at sledding which I must confess I wasn’t the greatest at. I blame the faulty sled which must have started to work correctly again once I swapped with Tim. 

On the second day we went skiing with Fiona and the kids. Fiona like me grew up with no snow so is a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to skiing but Fionn and Zara on the other hand have now been skiing solidly for three years and are super stars. I had to take the blow of my eight and ten year old niece and nephew being faster than me! 

The trip really cemented our thoughts that we would like to spend a longer amount of time in the mountains where we get the benefit of skiing as well as seasonal changes. What this space! S

Just fantastic to be back on the snow again!

The alps are often just picture perfect.

Stunning scenery everywhere we looked.

We found a great spot to have our sandwiches for lunch.

The views at Flims weren’t too bad either!

What a snowman!

Beautiful views at Flims.

Sarah cruising down the slopes!

Two North Queenslanders in the snow!

Tim and I with Fionn and Zara…though you couldn’t tell.

Catching Up in the UK!

We arrived in England by train and as we came out of the Channel Tunnel the sun was out, the sky was blue and the green fields near the south coast looked fantastically beautiful. A sight easily stacking up with plenty of others we have been lucky enough to see in our travels.
It was brilliant to see Mum and Dad waiting for us at the station when we got in and was lovely to spend some time with them in London. It was also nice to unpack the bags and settle down a bit. Well I say settle down but we seemed to carry on at 100 miles an hour enjoying the sights of London!!
The other thing we enjoyed was taking a little bit of time off from writing the blog, not because we had grown tired but more to refresh ourselves for the next phase of the trip. Having said that I wish I had kept up writing as we have done so much during our 6 weeks in England there is no way I am going to fit it all in.
We started by catching up with my extended family both in London and on the south coast in Dorset. I am lucky to have not one but two Grandmas over the age of 90 and it was great to catch up with them. It was brilliant to see everyone again.
We also got to spend some time with some old friends and we had many a great night telling and listening to all the stories of everything we had all been up to over the years as well as a fair amount of reminiscing!! I am not going to say too much just that everyone looked after us so nicely and it was amazing to be able to catch up with so many great friends and we didn’t even manage to see everyone! (If we didn’t see you and you are reading this let’s organise a meet up in the summer).
We hired a car and took a quick road trip around England, Wales and Scotland and almost the whole way around we were spoilt with brilliant blue skies and lovely weather…is it always like this?! Well to be fair it was as we passed from Dorset through Wales to Cheshire and we spent the whole time passing some truly beautiful scenery. We caught up with my oldest friends in Cheshire which was superb (and resulted in a couple of late sessions) and from there we headed north.
I had promised Sarah a beautiful drive through the Lake District and the Borders but instead the fog set in and we were lucky if we could see 50m in front of us!! Never mind it turned back to sunshine while we were in Edinburgh so I was able to show Sarah where I went to University which was great to be able to do!
Passing back through Newcastle, Harrogate and Ipswich we were able to continue catching up with old friends and drinking and eating plenty and by the time we got to Kelly and Ben’s in Ipswich we found ourselves driving about in the snow!! Incredible weather!!!
On the whole I wouldn’t describe our time in England as totally relaxing but it was just fantastic to see everyone and catch up and also superb to be able to stay in London and experience what that’s like!! There is so much to do and see and you only get to experience a snippet here and there but we definitely enjoyed what we saw.
Many many thanks to everyone we saw in the trip!! T

First things first we went and picked up the Christmas tree with Mum & Dad!

Cheesy London photos!

Best seats in the house watching West Ham at London Stadium with Chris Lockwood!

The local pub

The architecture all around London is just fantastic and so interesting the way the streets are all different as you walk around.

Camden Market.

A view down the Thames during one of our many walks around the city.

Christmas lunch! Thanks again to Kelly and Ben for hosting!

Huts on the seaside on Christmas Day in Suffolk! Yes that’s blue sky!

The crew out for my Birthday!

Everywhere you look in London there’s something to see.

Lunch with Granny!

NYE in London, looking out over the city from Primrose Hill.  We might book tickets and get a little closer next time!

Idillic country villages in Dorset, perfect spot for a catch up with family in Sydling St. Nicholas…the beer was pretty good too!

Father son walks!

With Grandma after Fish and chips on the Dorset coast!

The beach on the south coast of England…still can’t believe how lucky we were with the weather!

The drive up through the Brecon Beacons in Wales was beautiful.

The seafront in Aberystwyth.

The obligatory sheep shot in Wales.

Caernarfon Castle on the West coast, quite a magnificent sight.

The Town centre of Chester.

Going on a hunt after a great few days with Penny, Nina, Pam, Ben and Edward! 

Marchmont Crescent in Edinburgh where I lived through University.

I am biased but Edinburgh is really such a beautiful city and it was great to be able to show Sarah around.

Not only a beautiful city, but look at the weather!  I would say it’s always like this in Scotland but…

Bamburgh Castle just north of Newcastle and well worth stopping in at on a fantastic drive down the coast.

The Picture & Piano in Newcastle, where we first met!  Aaaah.

Second visit to the coast in Suffolk was not as sunny as the first!  Still it was a first for Sarah, going to the beach in the snow!

Hyde Park in London where we were able to enjoy some wonderful walks.

The boys back together after far too many years!  Great to see Ben and Gavin again!

Leige with Thibaut and Lucie

Our time in Amsterdam had come to an end but we still had a few hours before our train departure. So we decided to try and see the Van Gough Museum. This plan didn’t come to fruition as the line was soooo long! Although disappointed we didn’t really mind a last wander around the beautiful city of Amsterdam.
Our next destination was Liege where our friends Lucie and Thibout who we met in Bolivia live. We spent a few weeks with these guys and it was crazy to see them where they live!  Leige was quite beautiful but we really only there to see Thibaut and Lucie. So our limited time was spent catching up and eating traditional Belgium food, along  with drinking some awesome Belgium beers. We are so fortunate to have met some really great people on our travels and be able to continue the friendship even though we all live in different parts of the world. It is amazing how small the world really is. S


It was quite special returning to Brussels after I had spent two years at school here when I was 15 and 16. It was quite a strange place to come at the time and probably wouldn’t necessarily make many people’s top choices as a destination but for me I had always had very fond memories of the place. Mostly I think because of the people I met here and who are still to this day very good friends.
Most of Belgium’s major sights tend to lie elsewhere but we were staying right next to the Grand Place and so wasted no time in heading straight there to have a look. We have been fortunate enough to see some beautiful squares but the main square in the centre of Brussels is maybe the most beautiful we have seen. Every building is exquisitely decorated and the massive Hotel de Ville dominating one side with its Gothic spires.
Sarah was suitably impressed so I told her that the excitement was only beginning as we were very close to Brussels’ other main attraction the mighty Manneken Pis!! While amusing it didn’t quite impress as much so we continued on with our wandering through the alleyways surrounding the Grand Place.
The thing we were looking to forward most in Brussels was a meal of “Moules et frites” and in the alleyways surrounding the Grand Place there are plenty of restaurants all pretty much offering the same meal. We found Chez Leon, a place we used to frequent as a family and boy we weren’t disappointed. Perfect Mussels and chips washed down with Belgian beer. 
The evening was topped off perfectly with a light display in the Grand Place all accompanied by music. It certainly made for a great atmosphere!!
It was really special to return to Brussels and really nice to be able to show Sarah the city and a lovely way to bring an end to our trip from Beijing! However we were very conscious of the presence of armed security in the wake of the danger and the bombings in Europe. This was a little disconcerting and certainly brought home everything we had been seeing in the news. The other harsh reality was seeing what seemed to be families of refugees sleeping rough in the streets.  T

The Mannikin Pis! 

The Belgians definitely know how to do food. Especially waffles and chocolate!

These were delicious. 

We simply had to eat here! Brings back many fond family memories.

Sarah loving the mussels.

The Grand Place at night with their Christmas light show.

More ambling around Amsterdam 

We were both very pleasantly surprised by Amsterdam yesterday, just walking around the streets was wonderful. The place is all so compact and full of things to do. I have to admit though we were still getting to grips with walking around especially with all the bike lanes and canals. Every square inch of space seemed to be utilised.

Our travel cards allowed us to take trains busses and trams and with the map we got as part of our travel card it was really so easy to get around town and after catching a tram in we started by wandering around the other half of town. Everywhere we went we were passing “Scenes” of Amsterdam. Canals lined with rails on which were chained a thousand bicycles and then their unique apartments behind. Often the apartments weren’t exactly straight in that they seemed to be sinking and slightly lopsided.

The Rijksmuseum was a must see and it’s a fairly impressive red bricked building and even though we were warned of massive queues we got straight in and were soon admiring Van Gogh’s, Rembrandt’s and many other quality pieces of artwork. The building itself created a great environment for looking at art, as the ceilings were so high and there seemed to be so much space. The other main thing we noticed was that you can tell why some artists are more famous as the artwork in this museum was certainly far better than some of the other museums we have been to.

For something a bit more modern we wandered straight from there over the park to a Banksy exhibition. It was nice to see some of the work he had done but really I think he is an artist where you have to see it in situ. They did have a van he had painted/graffitied (on) which was cool to see.

The sun had set by this point and we had seen that it was possible to take a riverboat cruise to see the town and a light show!! Well why not. We were pretty rugged up and sat out the back off the barge to be able to see everything. It was very cold but we were both easily distracted by the beauty of the canals we were cruising down and then every so often there would be a huge piece of artwork all lit up. It was brilliant anyway cruising around but the artwork really added to the experience.

Well after all of that we felt we had definitely earned our beers and this being Amsterdam there was no shortage of places. The best surprise was that the place we went to served Jupiler which was the beer I used to enjoy back in Belgium and even though it has to be one of the best beers it’s never really made the export market!

Our time in Amsterdam has been far too short. There is so much to do here and the attitude and way of life really is very pleasant. There are all sorts of modern ideas and everyone is very environmentally friendly. The number of bikes and electric cars is huge. I knew before we came that it was common for people to ride bikes here but the sheer volume of bicycles is immense.

Definitely feel we should have gone for a cruise around the bike lanes for a day but maybe that would be better done in the summer. Also we missed the tulips and windmills but that is for the summer so we will be back! Amsterdam has definitely been a surprise hit in amongst everywhere else we have been. T

The weather wasn’t quite as perfect today but we were thoroughly spoilt by the sights on offer.

Not sure whether all the buildings were quite straight!

Would love to come to this flower market in spring or summer!

Some of the artwork on show during our cruise.

Arrival in Amsterdam

We had an early train to catch to Amsterdam where we somehow managed to purchase first class tickets for second class prices which was a bonus! So we got our own little cabin until Hannover where Ronnie and Phil from New Mexico joined the party. They were a lovely couple who travelled a lot and had kids about our age and we had a really great train ride with them. It made the six hours fly by.

We had scored a great apartment one train stop from central Amsterdam in a commercial area. Not the most happening place but the location was great to get into central Amsterdam and the apartment was huge! 

It was late afternoon by the time we headed into town and right off the train it was a bombardment on the senses. For starters the bikes! Lines and lines of bikes all chained up out of the station and bike lanes every which way. I knew Amsterdam was a biking city but I suppose I never quite comprehended what a city with more bikes then cars would look like, but it blew my mind. Then there were the canals and bridges with the beautiful gingerbread houses all squished together lining the sides. So pretty! 

After a few arrival drinks we soon found ourselves wandering the alleyways of the red light district. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam so the girls hire these little booths with glass frontages where they sit so you can see what you are buying. It’s pretty fascinating to see and interestingly seems to take away the sleaziness of a typical red light district. But we were there at about 8pm with all the other tourists doing the walk through. I wander what it would be like later. 

The other legal drug here is weed. There are coffee shops selling it everywhere in the central tourist area but what I found the best was that to cater for all the smokers who get hungry there are shops selling every kind of sweet treat or fast food imaginable. 

The next day we headed in after a delicious sleep in and went for another walk around the city. Out of the crazy centre the streets get a little more subdued but no less pretty. Another really cool thing about Amsterdam is that most of the time everyone’s blinds are open. So if you chose to you could look into people’s homes and lives. But because everyone does it you don’t really look. We walked passed heaps of kindergardens and preschools where you can see the kids just playing. Alternatively they can see what is going on outside in the world. 

We walked past Anne Frank’s house but didn’t go in. I think we have seen enough holocaust scenes to last a life time. I can remember reading her diary many many moons ago but didn’t remember it all happened in Germany occupied Amsterdam. 

We wandered into Vondelpark which was lovely with duck ponds everywhere which were just staring to freeze. Obviously there were bike paths dissecting the park so there were people everywhere. There seem to be some lovely big parks in the centre so if you were rising your bike you would get some lovely scenic rides to and from the city. It was also here where we got to try the famous smoked Herring. It didn’t look like much but was surprisingly delicious served with onions and pickles. 

I must admit that I am quite taken by Amsterdam. I can imagine it would be a very fun city to live in and it has a really alternate vibe/view. And I am not talking about a hippie lifestyle due to the legalization of marijuana. It’s the bikes and the view to a more sustainable lifestyle I think that drive the atmosphere. Petrol and Diesel cars are going to be completely banned by 2025 and cars are third priority after bikes and walkers in the council plans. 

It’s just great so great to experience a city that seems to be trying to sort out our world rather than make excuses. S  

Some typical shots of the streets and canals around Amsterdam.  What you see is what you get!

Lots of parks to walk around in the city, while we were walking there were plenty of people riding around.

Houseboats on the outskirts of the town centre.

We have nevertheless seen so many bicycles!

A bicycle (car) park.

Truly a fantastic city to walk around.

Typical lunch, herring, onions and pickles…delicious.

Certainly one of the most beautiful red light districts in the world.

Berlin Top Sights

With our pre booked tickets and passports ready we set off for the number 1 attraction in Berlin, the Reichstag. It is the home of the German Parliament and has been bombed and rebuilt a bit in it’s past but the building is pretty impressive!! There is a modern looking dome which has been built into the top of the building and this was where we were heading to get our great views of the city.

The modern attachment to the building is quite ingenious as it provides cooling and ventilation to the building and the whole thing looks very futuristic and impressive indeed. Just what you would expect from this nation! Just one small oversight though…there was no way of them getting the windows to de-fog! So in the end we got to see bugger all! But at least we had a flash audio guide to tell us what we would have seen!! 

So after passing the Brandenburg Gate for a view of it in the day time we walked off towards the third of Berlin’s top recommended sights which was Checkpoint Charlie. This was once one of the only points that people could pass from East to West or vice versa. Unfortunately the grab for the tourist dollar has descended upon the place and it’s just turned into a collection of souvenir stalls and two guys dressed up in army gear posing next to a fake checkpoint. A little disappointing so far today?!

Feeling a little underwhelmed we set off towards the Christmas markets. I don’t think any will be able to compete with the Vienna markets but the first one we visited in Berlin gave it a good go. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt is a famous market in the centre of town where more unique items are sold. It has to be said that a lot of markets we have seen are all selling similar if not the same stuff whereas here we got to see some new and different things which was exciting. The atmosphere again was great these markets really make you feel in the Christmas spirit.

We enjoyed the first market so much we stopped off in front of the Charlottensburg Palace to see another one, unfortunately the market wasn’t the best and the palace was under scaffolding so we didn’t see much there either.

Still you win some and you lose some and in Berlin I feel that’s a bit what we got. It was a really interesting place to go to after where we had been before but I am not sure the sights are quite what they are hyped up to be. Seeing the wall was the standout and the good museums were great. I don’t think I would put Berlin on one of my top ten places to go but I am sure that there is plenty here that we didn’t discover. T

The Reichstag and the dome just poking out.

The interior was fantastic!  It all looked so modern and sleek and perfect.

I don’t know what the German is for condensation but…

Some of the market food was great though.  I thought it was all going to be bratwurst and sauerkraut but we were pretty impressed.

These buildings are never as beautiful when clad in scaffolding!