Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Heading to San Fran

Yesterday morning we went in a limo to the airport.  We went in a plane owned by American Airlines which you have to pay extra for if you want to have anything apart from a drink.  We could’ve gone on an Air NZ flight straight to San Fran but we had on two American Airlines flights, one went to Dallas in Texas and then we went to San Francisco and Maria and Josie were waiting for us at the airport.

Then we went to Maria’s apartment which we are staying in and I had a really nice nectarine and the best chocolate mousse I’d ever had that Maria had bought for us.  Normally in Maria’s fridge you’ll find only wine because Maria only eats out!

Next we went to Josie’s house and met Michael and Clare.  We had pizza and Leah really wanted to pay for it but she didn’t get to.

Today we went to an American football match and it was so boring waiting for two hours before the game started.  We lasted about one quarter into the game and then we found every big hill in town and went down it unfortunately with the brakes on!


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We went to Roald Dahl’s house I really liked that it had a section on all the children’s books and it had a craft area.  There was a sweet-making class but we weren’t there for the next available slot so we couldn’t do it.  There were televised with other great authors including JK Rowling.

After that we went to Jo’s house, they arrived just after we did!  We had a kingdom game where Jacob was the king, I was the captain of the royal army, Emmett and Toby were guarding the king and me and Jo were also assassins.  We slept overnight at their house, Emmett slept in Jacob and Toby’s room and I slept in Jo’s room.  Me and Jo woke up at 6 o’clock and went for a bike ride round the block, then came back and played on the computers and club penguin together.  After that we went for a long bike ride along the common.  When we got back from that Maggie and Leah cooked pancakes for everyone.

Jo and I played with the lego and we all went and picked heaps of blueberries.  According to mum they were really cheap, they were 5.95 a kilo and in Sainsburys they’re 19.95 a kilo.  We’re going to miss Jo and his family, they better come on a trip to NZ!

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Our Rome camping ground takes the illustrious award for the most mosquitoes of anywhere we’ve stayed so far!  Great big ones with black and whites striped legs.  Emmett had 22 bites before we realised they existed, poor kid. There were more memorable things about Rome than mosquitoes however!  We were able to make an experienced assessment of the subway system, having now used public transport in many countries (we don’t generally need it to navigate round our small city in NZ and in Ceduna in Australia, where we lived last year it took 30 mins to walk from one end of town to the other).  Anyway, Italian subways are the most graffiti-ed and least maintained we’ve met so far, with extremely confusing maps that didn’t correspond to our route at all!  Luckily the locals were happy to tell us where we were and set us straight on how to get to our destination!  After only a minor detour of 90 mins to return to the camping ground to retrieve the camera we’d left behind we eventually made it to the Colosseum.  Unlike taking the subway to the Eiffel tower where we couldn’t find the monument on exiting the subway, here there was no mistaking where we were!  (Would insert a photo here but the wifi sucks – costs 6 euros a day on top of the exorbitant camp fees too, but keeps me sane!)

We gave audioguides a trial run at the Colosseum with great success, the boys somehow found it much easier listening to someone other than me describing the history of the place.  One funny moment, after standing staring at a very boring archway that was supposed to be very special and listening to all this stuff about it, we turned around and found the substantially more interesting archway we’d been supposed to be examining!  We were too exhausted to find the house purported to have been Romulus’ after our tour, but really enjoyed ourselves.

Our second day in Rome we headed for the Vatican, only to find the Sistine Chapel was closed till 7pm after once again navigating the tricky subway.  We settled for lunch in St Peter’s square, returning in the evening after Bede had had the best Margherita pizza ever to see the Vatican museum.  It would be easy to spend a month there, although I suspect that if we did that with our kids we’d be arrested.  The boys again used audioguides and were fascinated by the animal statues.  They also spent a great deal of time in the Egyptian room, comparing mummies with those seen in Egypt.  The Sistine Chapel was amazing, although I was resoundingly told off by a guard for sitting on a step to look up at the ceiling “Madam, this is a church”  Luckily a slightly kinder guard then led us into the roped off area of the altar to sit on a bench there – Possibly I looked somewhat exhausted at the end of a long, hot day with 12 kilos of Florence in the sling on my front.  Decided after being told off for sitting down that public breastfeeding was probably pushing it.  We all did find the artwork inspiring though and Emmett was also very interested in the story of the crucifixion.  Luckily they haven’t tried reenacting that one yet, sticking with the wooden swords that led to Emmett having a gash below the eye…

Bede was most unimpressed by the hawkers and sidewalk stalls in Rome, finding it very much like Egypt.  Emmett is happily collecting small models of all the inspirational buildings we’ve seen from said hawkers and has finally learned not to act too interested, which was making haggling a bit difficult.  You can’t feign walking away with a 6 year old hanging off your leg saying “But I will pay 5 euros mum”

Aside from the mosquitoes Camping Tiber in Rome was great with big grassy shady sites and a lovely pool, we just love the way Italian camping round shops sell food you’d be hard pressed to find in a deli in NZ, yummy cheeses, produce, freshly baked bread…  We are living well!

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After enjoying the 1000 year old market square in Basel and stuffing ourselves with fresh berries and cheese, we moved on through the Swiss Alps.  We came to the conclusion on this leg of the journey that NZ has considered tunnels nearly frequently enough in their roading plan.  Here in Italy and also in Switzerland one goes literally THROUGH the mountains, rather than over, eliminating winding roads and steep gradients almost completely.  As Bede said, one tunnel was 17km long!  When we weren’t in tunnels we were able to enjoy gorgeous views of steep, steep mountains with houses literally perched on the edge.

We pulled up in a campsite in Tabiano, near Parma, for our first night in Italy, the kids were thrilled to find it had a huge playground and waterslides.  Other campers in Europe are always amazed by our two year old being as keen on leaping into the deep water as her brothers, she is a wee fish and a daredevil too ” I brave mum, I jump in the deep water…”

After filling up on ciabatta straight from the oven for breakfast – which Florence announced she prefers to baguettes, which require soaking in milk or water to be chewed by toddler teeth we headed on to Pisa.  We had a huge lunch of antipasto, margherita pizza, pesto gnocchi and bolognaise for the meat eaters in a local cafe.  This set us back our usual daily budget – we are quite happy cooking the local produce ourselves and it works out much more manageable for feeding 5 of us.  But it was very nice to have the “real” thing in a real Italian town.  Bede has decided he must have been meant to be Italian because all his favourite foods are!

Gelato in Pisa!

The leaning tower was appreciated by the kids, who had a lovely time taking photos that made them look like they were holding it up.  Leah and I loved the ancient town wall at least as much and Florence loved the gelato more than anything else!

Emmett Pisa July 2010

Rome tomorrow – will keep you posted!

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We visited one of the places on my pre-trip ambitions list today – the Eden project in Cornwall.  http://www.edenproject.com/index.php I wish this connection was good enough to upload photos of the absolutely stunning vegetable gardens.  I want to go home and resurrect mine now.  Norah and I had a lovely day wandering through the gardens.  Bede was impressed by the cashew tree, requiring restraining from picking the fruit – he missed the sign underneath saying that the fruit juice causes severe skin blistering on contact.  There was the most beautiful willow tunnel play area that I would love to have in my back yard, if it didn’t also come with willow roots everywhere!

It was interesting to hear both Bede and Florence (Emmett was not well so stayed home with Leah today) comparing the displays that represented places we’d been in Asia and Africa with the realities they saw there.  The water pump on display to give visitors a chance to try pumping their own water was harder to pump than the ones in Cambodia and Kenya.  The sugar cane truck was a small brightly decorated one, unlike the extremely frightening huge monstrosities that roared past toddlers on the roads in Kenya.  Bede was able to answer lots of the “kids’ trail” questions about staple foods from his experiences in Asia and Africa.

The purpose of the Eden project is to remind us of our dependence on and connection to the natural world.  I can see that our travels have given our children the opportunity to experience this connection very strongly.  It was a good reminder to me, because I often feel that they are missing out on watching the seasons change in our garden and eating food they’ve grown and seeing one community environment throughout the year.  While they are not having this experience for a couple of years they are having other, equally valuable ones that can help them gain similar and also vastly different knowledge about their world.

We have our camper now and will be heading away from our lovely cottage in Devon on Saturday, to explore Cornwall and Wales and then travel to Ireland to meet my extended family with Norah and Papa.  Tomorrow is the day of re-organising our (somewhat expanded by opp shops and car boot sales) gear to fit comfortably into a van for the next ten weeks…

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Today we’re in Devon, in a wee place called Berrynarbor.  Norah and Papa hired a lovely cottage here which is the biggest place we’ve stayed in in the last three months and the space is lovely!  It is also so nice to be in the company of devoted grandparents, Papa took the kids for an early walk this morning and I curled up on the couch with toast, tea and a book – wonderful!

Over the last ten days we have had much difficulty with our campervan plans.  We had arranged to buy a VW camper converted with our very specific instructions regarding seatbelts for the children.  We were only happy to travel in a camper if we felt they were safe (my friends will know how pedantic I am about carseats and seatbelts).  The organising and deposit had been done 6 months ago and we had emailed and phoned two weeks before arriving to check all was going to plan.  We arrived to pick up our camper in Derby by train from London.  The camper guy picked us up and casually mentioned while driving along that our camper was not ready and he would put us up in a hotel overnight.  Next day after multiple delays we eventually got to the caryard.  “Here’s your camper” he said.  Not a VW, not with safe seats and belts, 8 years older than we’d bought…

We have yet to get a straight story form the guy.  We eventually came to an arrangement where he organised us a rental car and we went to meet Norah and Papa in Kent.  On Friday with many assurances that our originally ordered van was now ready we drove back to Derby, thankfully Norah and Papa took our boys on to Devon so it was just Florence and Leah and I.  Again the camper was not ready on Friday night, then was not ready at 9am on Saturday.  We were extremely excited at 1pm when the camper guy finally rolled up in a VW that fitted our order.  Shortlived excitement as the next story was about the engine warning light on the dash that had suddenly appeared as he was driving to us.  So what do you know, we’re now in Devon, still with no camper, debating whether to allow the guy to get the engine fault fixed and bring the camper down to us – no more going to Derby for us! 

We did get a weekend in the unsafe camper in Derbyshire last weekend that convinced the camper lifestyle will be perfect for the next 10 weeks of our adventure.  Pancakes in Sherwood Forest, Bede finally got to have his penne, spinach, cream and pinenuts, we can make a cup of tea anywhere we fancy!  We could buy another camper online but we’d be back at the unsafe seats and belts issue… so we’ll likely give the guy one more chance, in frustration and desperation.  Not to mention the trouble we had with insuring the camper due to his tardiness with engineers reports etc.

In the meantime we truly did have a lovely time in Sherwood Forest, now owning far more wooden bows and arrows and swords than any family needs (especially one with no vehicle to put them in), breakfasting in lovely parks all around Nottingham and Derby, pulling the dodgy camper up on the side of the road for the night as there were no camping grounds with space over the bank holday weekend – the kids absolutely loved it, making us hope very much we can actually get a safe camper for the next few weeks.

In Kent we had a day at Hever Castle, meeting up with my grandmother’s cousin Mary and other family second cousins.  We stayed in a beautiful B+B rather than camping at the rellies place due to the lack of a camper – first B+B experience with the kids and a little terrifying taking our rowdy lot into an immaculate British country house.  They discovered BBC television though – having watched no TV for months, which kept the furniture safe!  I was impressed by the programming too.  Bede shared all our adventures with our hosts and we enjoyed the break.

Most of all it is just lovely to have Norah and Papa with us, the adult : child ratio is so pleasant!  We have missed them so much, Florence is so happy to see they are still with us each time she wakes up! 

We have a week here in Devon, then who knows?  Depending on the camper situation, we intend to head to Ireland next…

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We have ended our Egypt trip two days early to avoid British Airways strike action. I am disappointed to miss out on seeing Alexandria but ready to leave Egypt. Our family really enjoyed seeing the famous Egyptian sites and holidaying by the Red Sea. We have been less impressed by the absence of women from public life here and also by the attitudes of the men working in the tourism industry and hotels.

As Bede said, people tease the children incessantly, men also offer to marry Florence multiple times a day and try to carry her off or bride her to cuddle them before they’ll hand out a beach towel etc. There is also this pervasive attitude that they know what we want better than we do, rather than the “customer is always right” attitude we are more familiar with. In all three 4 star establishments we stayed in in Egypt we ran out toilet paper regularly and had to ask for more and the public toilets would always be out too – I’ve never stayed in hotels of this calibre and had these problems before (or in fact in camping grounds with this problem – more our usual style…).

Our hotel in Hurghada had large signs up everywhere saying we could not bring in food from other establishments as their restaurant met all food needs. It plainly did not, serving only cheese on toast or pizza for vegetarians and stopping serving pizza at 5pm. We found all the food in Hurghada decidedly average until we found a Pita place on the last day (Pita and Sphinx) that served delicious felafel and also did not reek of rancid cooking fat.

Our week has been spent on the beach and Emmett especially looks rejuvenated and relaxed. He says he likes Mahunga (where his grandparents bach is in NZ) better though!

It was too windy to go out snorkelling on a boat trip all week except one day when we thought we’d wait for the next day as the whole hotel was getting on the boat – unfortunately the wind returned so we missed out, however there were plenty of fish to see in the little bay our beach was in and that was just fine for the children. Florence has nearly mastered her snorkel and mask – she might get a shock at English sea water temperatures though!

We have a big list of things to organise in London before picking up our camper on Thursday so are quite relieved to have a couple of extra days there. Got to get the GPS on the cellphone working before we get behind the wheel! Bede has also been out of reading material for several days and has had to resort to reading Leah’s Clive Cussler which is not really working for him, so a second hand book shop is on the list of things to do.

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