In the Eternal City of Rome

After an amazing time in Madrid we had even higher expectations for Rome, the next and final stop in our cities trip.  I’d visited Rome in 2007 and it had been one of my favourite cities during a six month backpacking trip around Europe.  I was excited to finally show Richard around it.  Unfortunately from the get-go we had a rather South America-esque experience in Rome.  Arriving in Rome’s Ciampino airport after a rather horrible flight with cattle-herders Ryan Air we quickly found out that Italian driving is just as bad as the driving we witnessed in South America.  Barely 5 minutes into the 20 minute bus ride to the city we witnessed our first car accident.  A scooter came sliding across the intersection at high speed. We didn’t see the why or how but there was a car parked by the side-rail and the scooter driver was trapped underneath the car.  The bus driver pulled over and he and Richard ran out.  With the help of a couple of other bystanders they lifted up the car and pulled the man under the car out.  Blood was everywhere.  The ambulance and police were on the scene in a matter of minutes and the scooter driver was well looked after, but we did wonder for days and weeks afterwards if he came out of it all okay. Continue reading

Posted from Martinborough, Wellington, New Zealand.

Food, Culture and Sports in Madrid

Monday the 14th of October my father drove us to Rotterdam airport for our Madrid/Rome trip, which was quite the different trip for me as there was not going to be a car involved, just planes and public transport and carrying our stuff on our backs. After an uneventful but pleasant flight with Transavia we landed in Madrid and took the metro to the city centre. It must have been the nicest entry to a city that I have ever had, instead of seeing the ugly outer industrial areas and suburbs first and then gradually driving towards the centre, this time the metro dropped us off under an old plaza, bang smack city centre. So when we took the stairs up and came above ground we were right in the middle of a very scenic square with lots of activity around, people eating outside, street performers and beautiful buildings nicely lighted. I instantly liked Madrid!

Continue reading

Posted from Rotorua, Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand.

Cool Times in Denmark

After a busy three weeks filled with social activities and visits in The Netherlands it was time for another road trip in Ada’s little red Corsa. Our first stop was Dusseldorf in Germany to visit friends Christoph and Brigette.  Christoph is German and Brigette is a New Zealander. They got married at the start of the year, and travelled around Asia for a few months before coming to Europe with the news that a baby would also be joining them later this year.  We arrived at their place early afternoon and hellos, hugs and gifts were given. They showed us our room for the night which turned out to be in a bed and breakfast which Christoph’s parents own.  They host people who come to Dusseldorf for one of its many trade fairs. Spotless, comfortable and quiet, what a treat!  Continue reading

Posted from Almkerk, North Brabant, The Netherlands.

Three Social Weeks in The Netherlands

We had timed our return from France in such a way that we would be in Almkerk for the ‘Regional Days’ or in Dutch ‘De Streekdagen’. This is a yearly two day event in which my family always has been very involved. My father was the director for a long time and the rest of us have always volunteered. Julia had heard a lot about it from me and was keen to visit and so was I as it had been six years since last time I went. It starts on the Friday night with Truck Pulling and in the tent there is a party with a DJ and live music. Truck Pulling means that both modified and non modified (road) trucks pull a trailer over a 100 meter track. On the back of the trailer is a weight that moves forward and increases the pressure on the sled on the front of the trailer which pushes in the dirt. Longest distance or fastest full pull wins. It’s quite the spectacle with lots of smoke, flames out of exhausts and trucks going airborne. Have a look at the videos to get an idea.

Continue reading

Posted from Rome, Lazio, Italy.

Holidays in France – Sunny Days in the Vineyards

Coming from Switzerland we decided to break up the drive and spend a night just over the border outside a small town called Ducier in the hilly Jura region. It is a nice area but we had one of those days that you sometimes have when you travel where things don’t go smoothly.  For example, it took us a long time to find our campsite even with the help (lack of) from the GPS.  Or, we thought we’d go for a swim as we were in an area with a lot of lakes and it was another piping hot day.  Only the lake closest to our campsite had no beach and we weren’t allowed to swim in it because it’s a fishing-lake only.  Then the lake that we were allowed to swim in was part of a massive campsite complex and we bypassed paying for parking by hiking a 20 minute trail to the swimming area, only to find that the wind had changed direction during our 20 minute walk and the day was no longer hot but freezing cold.  In the end reading our kindles in the fast declining sun and going for a walk to see the waterfalls next to the campsite were the highlights of the day. The pretty walk showed off several waterfalls pooling into each other and was the highlight of our first day in France.  We camped in the campground next to the walk, and had one of our quietest nights sleeps. Continue reading

Posted from Almkerk, North Brabant, The Netherlands.

Switzerland in Three Stops: City – Mountains – Food/History

The planning was to visit Switzerland for about a week so quite a bit of time was spent (mostly by Julia to be fair) on figuring out what to do and where to go. We were helped by a long email from Julian, a Swiss guy who lives in Colombia and who we met on the Carretera Austral in Chile with his wife. He is from the Gruyeres region, so we decided to at least go there and follow up on his tips. We also wanted to go to the Alps of course and Grindelwald seemed to be a scenic place. However we started off with a city; Lucerne.  Continue reading

Posted from Almkerk, North Brabant, The Netherlands.

The Beautiful Alps of (Mostly) Sunny Austria

On Monday Sabrina went back to work so it was time for us to move on to a new country; Austria. Unfortunately it was pouring down so we decided to take it slowly, as not to arrive on a damp campsite too early. It was definitely a day for inside activities and the best we could come up with was to pay tribute to Ahnold Schwarzenegger and visit the gym in Bregenz to pump some ihon.

Continue reading

Posted from Odense, Syddanmark, Denmark.

Living Life Wildy on the German Autobahn

After a month at Richard’s parents house in The Netherlands, we found ourselves ready to visit some other parts of Europe. And so commenced a little tour of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France! First stop was Cologne in Germany to visit Katharina and Rainer, my friends from university in Canada.  Since last seeing them in Trier in 2007 a lot had happened:  they’d gotten engaged and then married, moved from Trier to Berlin and eventually Cologne.  And then at the start of this year they had their first baby, a girl named Sofia. Continue reading

Posted from Almkerk, North Brabant, The Netherlands.

Welcome to The Netherlands!

After the go-go-go of our final month in South America and then our whirlwind surprise visit to New Zealand we were ready for something new.  It was time for a visit to The Netherlands!

With it being three years since we last visited Richard’s family a visit here felt well over due.  Richard’s family live in Almkerk, a small village situated in the province of Noord-Brabant.  Noord-Brabant is in the south of The Netherlands and is just over an hour’s drive from Schipol airport outside of Amsterdam.  The people of Brabant are known for being a bit more gentle than the famously direct Dutch of other provinces. They are also known for their cosy way of life, and the pretty countryside that surrounds them.  It’s a very pretty area to visit. Continue reading

Posted from Almkerk, North Brabant, The Netherlands.

Surprise Visit to New Zealand!

After landing in Auckland, we were both surprised by the friendliness of both Immigration and Customs staff, very stark contrast with most border crossings in South America. It definitely gave us a good feeling to being back in New Zealand. We had declared some of our stuff (camping gear, hiking boots) as being a ‘bio security treat’ so they got temporarily taken from us for cleaning. When the official came back he asked where we had been as there was quite a lot of manure under Julia’s hiking boots, that he had needed to clean up. We of course thanked him very much for the sparkling boots!

Continue reading

Posted from Almkerk, North Brabant, The Netherlands.