Saturday, May 16, 2009

Still here.....there.....and everywhere! least, it feels like it. Since leaving home on 27 April, I've been hoping to let photos tell the story of our travels but so far I haven't gotten around to posting photos from other people's computers, so this is just a brief 'travelogue' of our trip so far, and the photos .... we've taken one or tw0!!!!!.....will have to come later.

We took the bus from Canberra to Sydney followed by two of the best flights I've ever taken. QANTAS really did themselves proud - not least by giving us seats in the Emergency Exit (lots of legroom)....all the way to Frankfurt (brief stopover in Singapore). The flights were very smooth, meals good (for airline meals!), the staff very efficient and friendly. Russell was waiting for us at Frankfurt, having left home at 2.45am in order to meet our 6.30 arrival.

Every truck in Europe must have been on the motorway to Belgium that rainy morning, but despite this the traffic flowed smoothly, and quickly, all the way. A few surprises for me were that I expected Belgium to be flat, which it is, but I just hadn't envisaged the quantity of trees - everywhere! And everything is a colour that I vaguely remember from years ago - green; in fact, VERY green.

The next surprise was to see the delightful little village where Russell lives (photo desperately needed here!!!). This was a real surprise because we had been travelling through some ordinary towns and commercial areas, which could have been almost anywhere in the world, when suddenly, around a bend is a completely different 'world'. It's a very small village of old houses/apartments of every shape, size and colour, with rivers on either side and a canal through the middle. In fact, from the third floor (oh, those steps!) windows here, we can look straight down onto the canal and the lochs.

It was wonderful to see Shannon again, and to meet for the first time our newest granddaughter, Evelynne (now 5 months old). She is just like a live doll, but much more fun. (even more photos needed HERE!)

This post could become an epic of 'War and Peace' magnitude, so I'll briefly tell you where we've been since arriving. We've walked and walked, watched several hockey matches in various locations, had a picnic in and walked through the Botanic Gardens (but not the entire 92 hectares!), taken the river ferry over to the markets (twice), visited the Commonwealth War Cemetary at Tyne Cot, Ypres, and next day spent a few hours in that most fairytale-like city of Brugge.

This week has been a 'biggie'. On Monday we drove (actually Russell drove - we prefer to stick to 'our' side of the road) to Kuekenhof in the Netherlands to see the tulips (just choosing a FEW photos will be a problem here!). The family then returned home for a few days respite from 'parent-overload', while we spent two nights in Amsterdam (I'm sure the thousands of cyclists there are glad we've left - that's two more obstacles out of their Despite Amsterdam being full of museums, most of you won't be surprised to read that we took a four-hour tour out into the country where we saw farms, cows, canals, cheese, canals, clogs, canals, windmills, and more cows and canals, and even more water than I believed possible. In fact, I have ordered a canal to be located at the bottom of my garden - permanent water...what bliss!...ha,ha. A canal ride through Amsterdam gave us a glimpse of its amazingly varied architecture (and no bicycles to Sad as we were to leave Amsterdam, Switzerland beckoned and we had two nights with more family in Basel (Shelle and her family and her in-laws). Despite the language barrier with Kurt and Berta, it's amazing how much can be communicated and they took us to see a garden centre, with more plants, more colour, more ideas, and more visual overload than I've could ever have imagined. It was brilliant - and if it was back in Australia I wouldn't need a garden; I would simply go and live there! The grandchildren took us on a long walk to one of their favourite spots in Basel, along the river. It was wonderful to see them again after 6 weeks and to see that they are enjoying their time (and school) so much.

So yesterday we flew back from Basel to Amsterdam then caught the 'fast train' back to Antwerp, to be met by Shannon and the increasingly alert and knowing, Evelynne.

Still to come are a brief trip into France to locate the grave of Richard's cousin, killed in the war, followed by a few days in 'the middle of France' with a friend (as yet unmet, but "Hi, Frankie"), and then it's off to England for nearly two weeks to stay with cousins, during which we'll have week in northwest Wales (and meet another blog friend - "Hi, Marion"), before returning home on 12 June.

Have we enjoyed ourselves? How could we not? We've briefly experienced the history, the beauty and the friendliness and hospitality of Europe and its people, and been assisted and welcomed on every occasion. Certainly a trip to remember, especially when we look at our several thousand photos