Oct 062015
the view from our balcony in larnaca

the view from our balcony in larnaca

so we have reached our final destination for the year, cyprus. we tossed up whether to break the trip up on the way home with a cople of weeks in bali or to finish up this side of the world in cyprus.

the intent was similar – somewhere how to start adjusting for the buildup at home, somewhere we could lay round and do nothing for the last couple of weeks and somewhere with good food!

in the end we settled on cyprus, we are much more likely to pop over to bali from home than we are to find ourselves back this side of the planet anytime soon!

we flew into larnaca from athens and had one night in a lovely little boutique hotel overlooking the church in the old city. the next day we picked up a hire car and drove 200kms to a remote village on the NW coast of cyrpus called pomos where we are going to spend the rest of our time.

Oct 052015
in the pool!

in the pool!

this is the final instalment in the ios series of posts – even though its a week since we left greece for cyprus – its taken me that long to catch up!

jade is 11, the same age as kai, and she was also staying with her family at the island house. brett, or ‘nashy’ as he is known on the island is her cousin (i think!), and he owns one of the night clubs on ios. quite a large group of his family had flown to ios to visit and they were all staying with us at the island house.

jade and kai hit it off like life long friends, they could both talk for australia in the olympics – i am not sure who won but it was a good contest! they both share very confident and outgoing personalities so they fell into a happy friendship very easily.

most of their time was spent together in the pool, although we took jade for a morning of water sports with joe, and they had great fun being towed behind the ski boat on various inflatable rides.

i think it was a relief for both families that they became such good friends – it made it easier for all of us as they entertained themselves most of the time!


Oct 012015

the infinity pool at sunset, pathos

“ˈpāˌTHäs – a quality that evokes pity or sadness.” – nup, not happening for me!

after our epic boat trip, chelsea & joe took us to the incredible pathos beach bar, but pity or sadness was definitely not on the menu.

even with the images its hard to impress upon you the scale of this enterprise, its immense, its expensive of a whole diferent scale, its imposing, its beautiful, its sypathetic to the landscape while creating a envoronment all of its own.

the club is owned by a multi-billionaire greek-american who fell in love with ios and bought up much of the waterfront on the island and then simultaneously started developing ridiculously expensive clubs, bars, restaurants and accomodation – most of it looks to be running at a massive loss but i doubt he gives a damn.

pathos is certainly the crowning jewel, its on a scale bigger than anything else and overlooks his mansion built on the island in front.

there is a story in that mansion alone, he tried to build a causeway across the small channel between the island and the mainland but the locals stopped him – so he bought every single thing in by barge! that alone would have added millions to the cost ot the construction.

all his ventures share names of emotions, the restaurant/bar at mylopotas beach is called free, but pathos is, despite its name, a place of joy and pleasure. its the place to view the sunset on ios, the infinity pool is sublime, the endless sculptures entertain and the funky music soothes your soul as you sip on your cocktail of choice.

after enjoying our cocktails we headed down on to the beach to koumpara seafood restaurant for a very traditional greek taverna style dinner. the perfect way to finish a massive day!

Oct 012015
zah zah the cutest gurl in Ios!

zah zah the cutest gurl in Ios!

obviously with joe & chelsea running a water sports business on ios, a boat trip was simply a given. it took a bit of juggling to organise, there were the days after big nights which seemed a bit silly. there was also the odd windy or cloudy day, and other days where we had other activities arranged.

as it turned out i settled on last friday and it was the best day of our stay, so we loaded up the boat and headed off for a day of exploring, snorkelling and bumming around on the beach.

without waffling on too much it was just one of those days, so much what we love doing at home, a day out on the water, great friends, good food, a few beers and plenty of sun & salt!

it was a pleasant change not to be the skipper for a change, so i could really relax into the day. there is not much point in me banging on about what a magic day out it was, so i will just let the photos speak for themselves.

thanks chelsea & joe for a fabulous day!

(the last 3 pics are not actually from the boat trip, just random shots of zara being cute!)

Sep 302015
looking back down into the port.

looking back down into the port.

damn, now we are in cyprus and i have posted no updates on our visit to chelsea, joe & zara on Ios! now i will have to bang out a couple of posts over the next few days to catch up.

too much lying in the sun and flopping about in the pool has a price to pay it seems!

so we arrived from the port of piraeus near athens into the port of Ios and were promptly picked up by frangoulis from our hotel, the island house. he gave us a quick rundown on the lay of the land as we wound our way up the hill out of the port, across the top of the island thru the old village of choras, and down into mylopotas beach where chels & joe live.

we had the first 4 or 5 days at the main part of the hotel where the pool is, in a very beautiful and well appointed apartment, it’s balcony was just beside the pool and it was gorgeous and comfortable. due to prior bookings dimitria had to move us down nearer the beach, to their other building for the rest of our stay.

It was still very nice and comfortable, just missed the pool outside the door! but then again the beach was 80m closer!

most days we would catch the bus up to chora or down to the port for lunch and or dinner, there were also some nice tavernas on the foreshore in mylopotas beach, including the beautiful drakos where we dined our first night there with chelsea, joe and zah zah.

Sep 182015
flower stall, utrecht

flower stall, utrecht

i have been very slack since we left the netherlands – probably due to the move to a greek island and my propensity for lying in the sun doing nothing! – so this is a catch up post on our second week in apledoorn.

the highlight to the week was porbably a visit to the aboriginal art museum in utrecht (AAMU), to see the exhibition, de kracht van hout – the power of wood. the museum has a very impressive collection of bark paintings and carvings from north east arnhem land. various smaller galleries and museums had collections of aboriginal art but with budget cutbacks a decision was made to consolidate the collections in utrecht.

the collection was very strong in works from our area and also around mangingrida and outside of the really large and important collections like the british museum, would be one of the best in europe. they also have a collection of yidaki that formed part of this exhibition and michiel had leant them quite a number of very significant pieces from his personal collection for the exhibition.

so we had a couple of hours with the guide, who was certainly passionate and knowledgable about the art and I was able to make a few contributions to the presentation with some specific knowledge about certain pieces. this was followed by michiel presenting a talk about the yidaki and give some great information about the instruments to the interested group. (mainly students of his.)

after this blast of culture we then retired to the comfort of a nearby belgian beer house for lunch before wandering around the very beautiful city of utrecht.

the week finished off with a couple of great meals, a traditional saturday night at michiel and boke’s which is savoury and sweet pancakes and on our last night, coq au vin – which michiel cooked up as consolation for our failure to make it to france this trip!

sad goodbyes were said before we headed off to the airport to fly to athens – somewhat tempered by the knowledge that we will all catch up in january when they come to stay with us again!

Sep 122015

michiel at salon 1813, apledooorn

we have been in apledoorn in the netherlands for nearly 2 weeks now. we are staying with michiel, boke and their son, dali. michiel is another yidaki friend, he has stayed a few times with us over the years and you may have seen him pop up in blogs in the past. we hadn’t met boke and dali before so that was always going to be a highlight of our visit.

we flew up from zürich to amsterdam and then caught the train out to apledoorn, michiel lives about 10 minutes from the center of town in a lovely little village with a good shopping center and lots of pretty parks around.

we have had a very relaxed stay, not really doing anything too adventurous! a highlight for me was a visit to a massive food and chef’s supply warehouse nearby called hanos, it supplies a lot of the restaurant trade in this part of the netherlands and michiel has an account there. it had every type of food you can imagine there, from all over europe. i was like a kid in a candy store!! we bought some fantastic fresh mussels – €1.50 for 2kg, as well as salamis, cheeses and other bits and pieces. the size of the warehouse was incredible.

we also did a visit to the zoo, it is renowned for its primate collection and we saw bonono’s, orang utans and the gorilla feeding, it was fascinating and very well organised with most of the monkeys able to mix with the visitors to the zoo and all the fencing hidden from sight so it felt like a real wildlife experience.

one of the things michiel had promised us was some herring, netherlands style, which is basically a whole, raw herring eaten with a bit of raw onion – deliscious if a little challenging to eat with any semblence of style!

we also were lucky enough to be in town for the 10th annual apledoorn beer festival so we got to taste a great range of local and belgium beers during the afternoon!

as always we have enjoyed lots of yummy meals together, and with the weather less than ideal for much outdoor activity its been nice to cook up some good food to have with the large range of beer we have been working through! plenty of tasty belgium beers available in the supermarket as well as the local ones. today michiel had a gig on the other side of the netherlands so boke took sal and i to an area covered with a carpet of beautiful purple heather where we walked thru the heather over the hills, it was a little late in the season so the bloom had nearly finished but it was still impressive.

we then had lunch in zutphen, a very pretty and old town that dates back to early middle ages and has some magnificent buildings and a really nice feel to it. we have just a couple more days before we fly down to athens and catch the ferry out to ios to stay with chelsea and joe and meet their beautiful baby daughter zara.


Sep 042015
last supper

last supper

so our week in piemonte has come to an end, we had a last supper with thomas and his family, it was a tribute to the italian cuisine and started with zuccini flowers deepfried in a light batter and topped with an anchovie. we followed this with the classic pasta con vongale and then a risotto con tre formaggi. ida and thomas made classic lemon tart with a soft meringue topping.

now its back to zürich in the car and then an overnight with christian and claudia before flying to amsterdam and catching the train to apeldoorn to spend some time with michiel, boki and dali.

finally some random leftover images!



Sep 022015


as i sat on the warm stone wall at our villa having my breakfast of freshly picked tomatoes and figs with rocket, salami, prosciutto and a couple of different cheeses, bathed in the warm mediterranean sun, a wave of intense happiness washed over me. in that moment i never wanted to have breakfast anywhere else, nor for that matter have anything else for breakfast.

but as i reflected further on the feeling the situation and food evoked in me i realised that happiness is experiential and momentary. expecting that we will feel the same intensity and height of emotion if we just keep doing whatever it is that brought the feeling on is futile.

it also made me think about the inverse – if i were to try to ‘trap’ that momentary and experiential feeling of intense happiness by moving to italy and living in a village in piemonte while eating my breakfast in the warm sun each morning – i would not have all the experiences in my current life at home that are can create equally intense responses – fresh mudcrab with hot bread and lime mayonaisse, or catching a tuna in the bay at dawn, or swimming at a beach on an arnhem land island…..

so there are two simple conclusions from this, remembering that happiness is not a linear and permanent emotion, its dynamic and its momentary. secondly, when not travelling, when at home, in the routine of life in work and familiarity, try to concentrate on and acknowledge the moments of intense happiness within that familiarity and routine – eating a barra i have caught that morning with friends and a nice bottle of white is a really special and wonderful moment – just like my italian breakfast.

Aug 302015
 il giardinetto

il giardinetto

of course food and italia are synonymous, you cant travel far here without passing another bar, cafe, pizzeria or restaurant and while we have had the luxury of our own michelin starred chef, thomas cooking at the villa, (with the odd contribution from me and his sister in law, celene.) we have made the effort to try a couple of the piemontese restaurants.

sal and i popped over to il giardinetto in the neighbouring village of sessame a few nights ago, it was a degustion menu so we had no idea what was coming out, francesco, one of the sisters who owns the restaurant was an accomplished maitre de and assisted us competently with matching wines from piemonte and particularly barolo, to the dishes.

first we had a loazzolo sparkling white as an aperitif and then the antipasti of simple local proschiutto and salamis followed by anchovies cooked in olive oil with garlic poached in milk on char grilled red capsicum. next up was tiny meatballs on olive oil and vinegar cooked with sage and garlic.

then aubergine dusted in egg and breadcrumbs and fried, topped with ham, passata & mozzarella and baked in the oven.

final starter was an onion flan, onion cooked in milk with a pasta base, baked and drizzled with olive oil.

then we moved to the pasta, i had a black truffle tagliatelle and sal had a meat ravioli with a sage butter sauce.

our mains were a traditional piemonte roast beef cooked in barbaresco with seasonal vegetables while sal had oven baked rabbit with fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables.

at this point we had to be rolled out of the restaurant and craned onto a small truck to take us back to our villa! much as we wanted we could not possibly fit dessert in.

on friday night sal and I headed off to a restaurant I had discovered by serendipity, i was researching soething else entirely on the web and came across a comment about this restaurant suggesting it was a hidden gem, situated in the small village on top of the hill at cartosio about 20km from bistagno. it is simply called restorante cacchiatori.

ristorante cacchiatori

ristorante cacchiatori

it is a hair raising drive to get there – along a single lane goat track that winds its way along the spine of the ridge that essentially joins the two villages, the views are breathtaking, the driving exhilarating and luckily most of the time there are no other cars on the road.

the restaurant itself is situated in a lovely old home in the village and run by a husband and wife team, it didnt quite have the ambiance of  il giardinetto but the quality of the food was a step up.

also the servings were much smaller which meant we got through all the courses and even partook of a little dessert!

from my notes,

firt up was beef cappacchio with fresh wild pocini mushrooms,

then roasted capsicum with anchovie fillet drizzled with olive oil

followed by fried zucchini flower dipped in egg & breadcrumbs stuffed with minced meat seasonal vegetables & herbs
pie of seasonal vegetables no pastry or pasta, parmigiana and breadcrumbs on top baked in oven
fresh herb omelette, that completed the ‘firsts’
handmade pasta with rabbit – mine with fresh tomato, garlic & herb
chicken cacciatore
beef fillet with porccini
peach &  raspberry gelati, i had mint panacotta


so that concludes my commentary on our two meals out while in piemonte, both very enjoyable, but ristorante cacchiatori takes the prize overall!

Aug 292015
all the cheeses, smelly, old & mouldy!

all the cheeses, smelly, old & mouldy!

acqui terme was another town we discovered driving around the piemonte country side, known for its hot springs – including a very hot fountain in the central piazza – we were lucky enough to arrive by chance on market day. we spent a couple of hours wandering around, stocked up on some yummy goodies from an amazing cheese store and had a pleasant lunch in the piazza at a pizzaria.

the architecture was quite impressive and the town had a very laid back yet cosmopolitan feel to it. i am sure we will be back for another visit before we depart!

Aug 282015

villa la ginestra

so here we are in piemonte, the days have slipped by rather quickly and i still havent caught up with the blog posts- too many days exploring the amazing countryside, helping cook up amazing meals with thomas and just lying by the pool doing nothing!

anyway here is the villa we are staying in, its about 5kms out of a town called bistagno which is north of genoa and south of milan.

basically it doesnt matter which direction you head out in, there are narrow, winding roads through the steep, vine covered, hill sides and every few km’s another church announces a new village to explore. a little further afield are larger towns, all beautiful in their own way, asti, alba, acqui terme, etc.

the first town sal and i explored was alba, which is basically in the centre of one of the most import wine regions of the world, home of the famous barolo wines, we found our way into the center of town and parked near the large piazza so we could go for a wander and grab some lunch.

we found a nice little cafe with lots of locals eating there and ordered a couple of bowls of the local pasta, tajarin with a ragu sauce and a couple of glasses of local red. the pasta is made with extra egg yolks so it is very yellow.

we had only just sat down at the table when we heard a voice calling our names, to our absolute amazement it was 2 friends from home, debbie webb and anne byrne!! we had no idea they were in italy nor did they know we were there – they spotted us as we walked into the cafe as they were coming in to order coffees. shortly after their husbands trevor & chris joined the table and we spent a wonderful hour or so catching up on each others journeys.

it truly is a small world and the most unbelievable coincidences do happen!

the day was rounded off with a wonderful veal neck, red wine ragu with cannelleni beans that was constructed during the afternoon!


Aug 272015

the start of the susten pass

whilst we were in denmark staying with thomas and mie, they mentioned they were coming down to piemonte in italy for a week at the end of august and asked if would like to join them and stay in the villa for the week.

they were going down for a 40th birthday party for one of thomas’ colleagues and bringing thomas’ parents, 2 brothers and sister in law. so it was going to be 13 of us including kids.

we jumped at the chance to head back to italy, which remains our favourite country in europe, it also meant we had the chance to drive from zürich up and across the swiss alps and down to italy. i knew that some of the world’s best roads are in this part of europe so i did my research to find the best of the best and create a route that would be a little longer but take us on an amazing route through the alps and along the passes with the reputations for amazing roads, scenery and steepness!

we were lucky enough to get a VW golf which was a perfect car for the roads, beautiful neutral handling, enough power for the conditions and small enough to throw round the hairpins!

the views were breathtaking and I can safely say the roads were definitely the best I have ever driven in the world, nothing compares to this.

first we drove the susten pass from wassen to innertkirchen, this was the most impressive road and had the least traffic as its not as well known as some of the other passes, then we drove the grimsel pass along side the aletsch glacier and down to brig glis before crossing over into italy.

for me it was the realisation of a life long dream to drive these roads, reinforced by watching clarkson and the top gear mob throw ferraris and aston martins around these moutain passes! it was just as much fun as i imagined, tempered only by the frustration when i caught up with slow traffic with no safe place to pass – the serial offenders were the sad sacks on their hardly davison motor bikes – forced to travel at painfully slow speeds due to the woeful handling and low ground clearance of their iron strides, they hold up just about all traffic as they splutter like a massey ferguson tractor around the corners.

it was also a great sensation to cross the border into italy, the buildings were all a bit dilapidated, the road magically deteriorated and suddenly no one was taking any notice of the road laws – very refreshing after the perfection of switzerland for a month!

of course what improved was the amazing food and coffee! we pulled into a service station to get some fuel and went into the ‘chef grill’ and got yummy panini with mozarella and prosciutto and a €1 euro espresso that was the best coffee i have had since leaving home!

it felt like coming home to be back in italy, and we realised just how much we love this country, its amazing produce, food, coffee and its wonderful people!

Aug 262015
looking down from the castle

looking down from the castle

as mentioned, while we have been staying in hombrechtikon we have spent a bit of time down at rapperswil, which is a very pretty town on the bottom end of lake zürich. it has a lovely old castle atop the hill overlooking the lake and the bridge, and a very quaint town center around the castle and down to the foreshore.

it is filled with little walking lanes between the buildings and lots of funky little shops, cafes and restaurants.

here is a slideshow of images I took during our visits there, hopefully it conveys a sense of the beauty of the town!

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Aug 262015
the view across the diary to the lake and on to the alps.

the view across the diary to the lake and on to the alps.

so after the som family returned from their seattle soujourn we had the rest of the week with them before hiring another car and heading out to hombrechtikon on the north side of lake zürich to house sit christian’s borther’s house for a week.

it was a lovely property with views across the fields to the lake and mountains in the background, the constant clanging of the cowbells reminded us of their presence and the wafting smell of fresh cow poo was ever present in varying degrees! there was a big dairy directley beneath the house and the actual village was just a km or so away.

there were lovely walking and bike tracks all around the area and I got a little bit of desparatley needed exercise!

the house itself was extremely comfortable and we didnt venture too far, very often.

one thing that fascinated me was the bomb shelter in the cellar, although the house was built in the 70’s it was still mandatory to include a bomb shelter when building then – in fact its only recently that it was no longer required – so the most neutral country in europe, that had not been involved in any of the wars in the last 100 years plus, was so paranoid that they prepared for a nuclear holocaust up until recently!

anyway, we had a very peaceful and relaxing time in hombrechtikon, the only times we left really was to go to a town called rapperswil at the end of the lake – but it deserves a blog post of its own!


Aug 122015
aircraft jet streams, dusk svendborg

aircraft jet streams, dusk svendborg

our 2 weeks in denmark has come to an end and we are back in zürich for a while, our time in svendborg with the brieghel family was just awesome. its a special thing when you can just reconnect with friends after a long time and seemingly just pick up where you left off.

its seven years since we last spent time with them, jonas was just a bump in mie’s tummy! despite the long time apart we just fell into such a comfortable and happy space with mie, thomas, ida, benji & jonas. 8 people is a lot to share a house for 2 weeks and feed at every meal, yet it never seemed to be a chore or an issue, (you would have to check with the brieghels to see if that was mutual!).

it was a joy to watch kai spend time having fun and playing with other kids again, something I am acutely aware has been largely missing on this gap year. ida took him under her wing and they went swimming at the pool with other girl friends of ida’s and went to the theatre together and then caught a bus home, she also got him cooking cinnamon snails and translating the recipe into english!

mie’s parents took us to egeskov, an amazing castle with car, motorbike and plane museums, mazes, treetop walks, playgrounds, gardens etc, where the kids had an absolute ball for the day. sal, thomas & i snuck off early to go and visit a few microbreweries on the island and ended up with a couple of cases of delicious beers to take with us back to switzerland.

benji was also wonderful, playing endlessly with kai, and it was great seeing how much his english improved over the two weeks. (not that the same could be said for kai’s danish!)

once again the highlights of this part of our journey was the people and the food – we had some wonderful times with mie’s parents at their summer house, caught up with cindy whom we spent some time with in italy and met friends and neighbors from the local area.

i had another moment of what i describe as confirmation bliss – the welling up of a feeling of intense satisfaction in the moment cominciding with a reflection on the decision to take off for a gap year. i had gone to one of the neighbors to look for the kids, and when i got there i found thomas with them in their backyard – all sitting round a fire pit, chatting and drinking local boutique beers, so i ended up just sitting with them in the twilight, tasting beers, talking about travel, places, people and so on.

other than thomas, people i had never met, but instantly welcomed like an old friend, special.

it was another of those moments where i thought it alone made the whole trip worth it in one instant.

anyway, enough of the purple moments, like all great things, our visit had to come to an end and it was time to head back to zürich so we said our sad goodbyes, tempered by the knowledge we were all going to catch up in piedmont in italy for a week at a villa in the last week of august!

then it was back in the citroen and down the autobahn to germany for a quick night with carl & dorathea in schöneck before heading back to zürich. due to a mis-communication between carl and myself our arrival at their house came as a total surprise – as they thought we were turning up the following week! luckily they took it in their stride and gave us their usual warm welcome.

we ended up doing about 2800km in the citroen, driving from zürich to svendborg and back along with the side trips. my impression of the autobahns is mixed, its wonderful that they have open speed limits and I was constantly reminded of the stupidity of australian speed limits on divided highways, its an amazing experience to blast along at 180+kmh in a modern car – the trouble is that in germany its an experience that is frequently interrupted by being stopped, or crawling along at 15kmh.

the net result is that its really hard to average even 100kmh, thats with quick pee and fuel stops and a very quick picnic lunch on the side of the road in a forest somewhere. there are just too many times when roadworks, heavy traffic or a broken down vehicle brings the autobahn to a grinding halt.

anyway, we are back in zürich, christian and his family get home tomorrow, we will have a few more days with them, then head up to his brothers house which is about 30km away on the north side of the zürich lake, we are looking after it for a week.

then we will drive across the swiss alps and down to piedmont in italy where we are staying for a week with the brieghel family.

Aug 032015

benji, mie and jonas at legoland

as denmark is the home of lego and we were only a couple of hours from the first legoland in billund, jutland, we decided a visit with the kids was imperative. mie managed to get hold of free ticket coupons for all the kids which was a big help because its certainly not a cheap day out!

we packed a picnic lunch and headed across to legoland on saturday, kai has now visited 2 of the legolands in the world as we also did the one in malaysia in early 2014 when we were there. the danish one is also very impressive, if much busier that the one in malaysia. the kids all seemed to have a ball, lots of stomach churning and exciting rides as well as loads of amazing lego models.

the highlight is the biggest lego model in the world, an x-wing fighter from star wars that is 13m long, 13m wide, 3.35m high, weighs nearly 21 tonnes, used 5,335,200 lego blocks to build and took a team of 32 builders, 17,366 hours or 4 months to build!

the other highlight this week was ida and kai making cinnamon snails, it is quite a process and they found a recipe online and then transcribed it from danish into english so kai could have a copy, before starting their baking. it looks like both have inherited a passion for the kitchen from their fathers!

Jul 312015


after looking into flights from zürich to copenhagen we worked out it would be cheaper – and more fun – to hire a car and drive up to visit our friends thomas, mie, ida, benji and jonas. they live in a town called svendborg on the island of fyn between copenhagen and jutland.

zürich’s amazing public transport meant that we could walk 100m up the hill and catch the number 10 tram to the door of the airport and pick our hire car up from there. even better the trams have a fold down step that means you can just wheel your bags straight on to the tram from the platform!

i had booked a ford fiesta but we ended up getting a brand new citroen C4 with only 10kms on the clock! its a typical french car – very cool, lots of quirky things and one or two downright weird things! the weirdest being the auto gear selector which is a little lever on the steering column behind the steering wheel – a bit like the old column shift on a 1960’s holden!

regardless it is a very comfortable car and depite being an auto diesel seems to fly along pretty well – i had no trouble cruising at 160-170 kmh on the autobahn.

the drive from south to north across the whole of germany reaffirmed just how much farmland and forest germany has, other than driving around hamburg we really saw no sign of suburban or city life. it continues to be a surprise to me to see just how much green there is. the autobahns are great, a reminder of the stupidity of 100kmh speed limits on australia’s freeways. the only drawback is the constant roadworks, we were lucky to do 50km without hitting a stretch of up to 10kms of roadworks where a couple of lanes are being resurfaced and the traffic is rerouted sharing the other side of the freeway. the limit drops back to at least 80kmh and sometimes even 60kmh.

so we would roar along at 160-170 for a while then back to 80, then back up to 160-170 and so on. i found we averaged a bit better than 100kmh over the whole trip so it made a significant impact.

we decided to stop a bit over halfway for an overnight break – the total distance is about 1250km – so when we got to a town called hildesheim, which looked big enough to have a hotel and shops, we pulled off the autobahn and drove around until we came across a hotel!

it was actually quite a pretty town with some lovely old buildings in its center square, i found out later that it had all been flattened by biggles in the war so all the buildings were faithful recreations rather than restored originals!

sal and i went out for dinner at a typical german pub and enjoyed a meal of würst and sauerkraut – it was the first real german food we had in germany.

the next day we arrived at the brieghel home in svendborg, we hadnt seen them since we spent so much time together in italy where they were living in the same village we stayed in, monticiano in tuscany – 7 years ago.

it was fantastic to catch up, it took all of 5 minutes for the kids to connect again and start playing together. kai is 2 days older than ida and benji is 9, they both have very good english and although jonas doesnt have much english it doesnt matter much with kids playing.

thomas is no longer working as a chef, he is an events manager at a castle that does mainly very high end and expensive weddings, hence he arrived home after work bearing an armful of leftover wines and a box of cuban cigars!

since arriving the weather has been crap, wet, cold and windy – after 9 months of summer around the world i guess we cant complain! I also couldnt imagine a better place or people to be holed up with inside hiding from the weather. we have cooked up a storm of yummy food every day and layed around a lot relaxing and catching up while the kids run riot!

its been great for kai to spend time with ida, she has really dragged him out an into the world of tweeners in a city, they went to the local swimming pool together and met up with 3 more of ida’s girlfriends – kai spent about 4 hours at the pool with 4 typically beautiful young danish girls, with not the slightest idea of how amazingly lucky he is! Ida also took him to the cinema and they caught the bus home, great for his independence and growth.

















Jul 242015

having a beer at cafe les halles, zürich

we have been nearly 2 weeks now in zürich – and i am not sure where the time has gone!

we have really enjoyed cycling around here, oh that australia had a cycling culture like this, no stupid helmet laws, bike paths everywhere, motorists that are considerate of cyclists and lots of facilities for them. its such a wonderful way to explore a city, so much faster than walking so you can cover much more ground, but still with the ability to stop to take a coffee, or a photos, or explore an interesting shop.

zürich is all the more pleasant for having very little traffic on most of its roads, probably a consequence of a first class public transport system as well as being bike friendly, also you are never far from the water with the lake and rivers running through the city.

the weather has been beautiful and perfect for swimming in the river, we enjoyed a day there earlier in the week, its a bit hairy in the water because its flowing quite fast, kai and I were jumping in upstream, floating down and swimming across the current to climb out some steps on the opposite side of the river a couple of hundred metres downstream then walking back across a foot bridge, along the side of the river back to the starting point and then jumping back in again!

we had to get it right because there were pretty serious rapids just downstream of the steps so if we missed the steps it would have been a bit hairy!

sal and i also scored an amazing little vintage wooden cart the other night, we were walking down to have a beer at a local bar when we passed an expensive vintage shop that we had seen previously – i had warned sal that we wouldnt be able to afford anything in such a flash looking shop – but this night they had a collection of stuff outside with a sign saying “gratis for taking”.

the cart was the highlight, although we also took a nice glass bottle as well, we decided we couldnt pass it up so we passed up on the beer instead and i walked the cart home!

as always our visit has been as much about the people as the place, sal and i met a couple of guys up in a park overlooking the city when we went for an evening walk one night. we quite often take a couple of beers and ride or walk to somewhere nice for an evening drink and this night we ended up chatting to aidrian and fabian while having our beers.

they were very interested in australia – if slightly overawed by the wildlife! as we were all out of beer we invited them back to have a couple more at home – where kai quickly roped them into playing uno. hopefully we will have a chance to catch up with them again before we leave switzerland.

i also made contact with joanes, who is a zürich coffee fanatic like myself. he also owns a lovely lever machine, the londinium 1, i contacted him online looking for tips for cafes and coffee roasters in zürich and he kindly asked me to come around to his place for a coffee session.

joanes has a fantastic setup with an unusual versalab grinder – a grinder i have read a lot about but never used, as well as his primary grinder, a compak K10 and of course the beautiful Londinium. we have different tastes in coffee, joanes preferring single origins, lightly roasted and updosed for a bright, fruity and slightly acidic espresso where as i prefer a darker traditional italian roast with the caramel, chocolate, slightly smokey flavour.

none the less i was very impressed with the extraction he got from the lightly roasted single origin coffee from tanzania that he was using, it was good enough to have me considering having a play with this style of coffee when i get home. he managed to avoid the sourness and over-acidity that i usually find with this style of espresso.

we also enjoyed listening to some vinyl on his beautiful hi-fi system, he has a very nice high end tube amplifier and some lovely hand built speakers. good music and good coffee is a fine combination indeed!

it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and a reminder of the way the internet enables the connections of people with shared interests all over the world.




Jul 162015

zürich skyline

we travelled by train down from frankfurt to zürich, the train was a ‘fast’ train – although not the sort of eyeball tearing fast that some european trains are, but in the finest german tradition it was very punctual! it was a 4 hour trip, and very pleasant really.

trains are so much more relaxing than planes. first of all you dont have to deal with the physics – large airplanes and bumble bees have a lot in common, theoretically neither shoud be able to fly – secondly you can get up and wander around whenever you feel like it, thirdly there are no sanctimonious stewards bossing you around, fourthly you can actually see stuff out the windows. fifthly, you can bring your bike or your dog with you in the carraige, other advantages surely exist, but i cant put my finger on them.

hold on, its coming back to me, you dont have to arrive at the train station 2 hours early, you dont get treated like a convicted terrorist, no one wants to do a cavity search and xray, and you arrive in the center of a city rather than 47.3km or an eleventy billion dollar taxi fare out of town.

two things made an impression on me since being back in europe, i had forgotten how much of it is farmland – most of it is either farms or forest, our misplaced view that australia is less urbanised than the rest of the world is quickly dispelled. secondly, every-bloody-one has a community garden plot, with a shed, where they grow amazing seasonal fruit and vege. otherwise its just lots of forest full of big trees and stuff like deer and ducks. every now and then there is a town, village or small city and then back to farms and forests.

this really blows my mind, how is it we are so backward in things that matter like growing our own food in communal plots? We imagine ourselves as outdoorsy types, stock of farmer peeps, self sufficient and enterprising – yet almost none of us have our own vege plot, WTF? the europeans have totally schooled us on this one.

there is another thing, melbourne and sydney are actually really big cities by world standards, sure we only have 2 cities in australia, and i am not too sure about melbourne actually, but in most of the rest of the world there are lots of smaller cities rather than 1 or 2 bigger ones. (sorry, but brisvegas and boralaide are not cities).

anyway, we arrived in zürich and christian was at the train station to meet us, we immediatley went shopping in the train station as the only shops open on a sunday in switzerland are in the train station and airport, (so working people can have a day off, what a novel idea!) having stocked up on something and beer, we caught the tram back to the som chateau.

the som family were heading off to seatlle a couple of days after we arrived so they were in that blind fugue of last minute packing for a long holiday, none the less they managed to impart all the essential info for a month living in zurich as well as treating us to a couple of lovely meals before buggering off to parts distant.

while they were still here, kai had a ball killing zombies with really big guns while playing xbox with andri and for the most part elena hid from the smelly boys in her room, although she was not averse to topping a few marchers from the apocolypse either! it was really cool seeing kai have someone older to hang out with and play totally inappropriate games with. all part of growing up and becoming a serial killer!

we have quickly discovered that to survive in zürich you need to either be earning a wage here, be a successful criminal, have inherited aunt betty’s diamonds or have recently won lotto. it has a reputation as the world’s 5 most expensive city – i think that is very wrong.

it must be in the top 3 at least, when you add the fact that the ozzie peso buys just 0.70CHF its plain scary. lunch cost us $70 the other day, 2 toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, a small salad to share and 2 beers. an espresso is $8, a day pass on the bus is $13, cherry tomatoes are $28 kilo, nothing is cheap, hell, i gave a zurich beggar some money yesterday and he tipped me, bought me a beer and shouted me lunch – then drove off in his bmw.

so zurich is expensive, but the standard of living is fantastic – for locals! the minimum wage in hospitality is about $50 hr.

what else can i tell you about zürich? its beautiful, being neutral in big wars means your really stunning and really old buildings dont get firebombed to dust by the brits, so they still survive today, many from the late middle ages. there is water everywhere, you are minutes from one of the rivers or the lake itself, it has a world class public transport system, it doesnt actually feel very touristy, no signs in english, no obvious hordes of fat, white skinned yobbos, its full of cafes and resturants, its totally bicycle friendy (yes, i am looking at you australia), so hordes of people actually use their bikes, everyone is better dressed than me, (ok, thats a given where ever we go!), it has lots of green space, parks and forests.

aside from the specifics of zürich, its an absolute joy staying in the som family’s apartment, its large and spacious, all the mod cons, (even a decent coffee machine!), 2 nice balconys and a large common area in the middle of the apartments where the families gather to socialise, play and cook their charcoal bbq’s – just my thing! the internet is super fast, (take note germany!), the tv has some english programs, and we have a forest of yidaki to remind us of home. we will just have to steal bread and milk from the neighbours once the money runs out!

breaking news, kai lost another baby tooth last night, in order to pay the tooth fairy i need to sell my slightly used and soiled soul, all offers in gold bullion please.