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The hills are alive

12 Oct

So this week’s Gallery theme is ‘favourite photo’.  Every week someone moans about how hard the theme is.  Every week, I find it really easy to choose something.  But favourite photo, that’s properly hard.  How on earth am I supposed to pick just one photo?  I have thousands of them.  Literally.  I have bulging cupboards full of slides, prints and negatives.  I have have so many digital pictures my laptop threatened to explode, and they are now busy filling up a portable hard drive.  How on earth do I narrow it down?  It’s too hard.

So I’ve cheated.  I’ve chosen our favourite holiday, last summer in Switzerland.  Switzerland was like every cliche I’ve ever known.  In a good way.  It was perfect.  We climbed mountains, ate chocolate and swam in lakes.  We looked at the horizon.  And I took photos.

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Splish splash splosh

8 Feb

I’m hot, sticky and tired.  We’ve been walking through the jungle in Northern Queensland for about an hour, stumbling over knotted roots on the surface of the forest floor, brushing past trailing vines and avoiding green biting ants as they munch on foliage overhead.

We hear the rushing of water as we emerge out of the dappled sunlight into a clearing and see a rocky pool at the base of a long, narrow waterfall.  “We’ll stop for a few minutes if you want to swim, but I warn you, it’s cold” says our Crocodile-Dundee-a-like guide.  I considered myself part fish as a child, so it’s an invitation I can’t refuse.

The rocky edge of the pool goes straight down some way, making the water too deep to see to the bottom.  I jump straight in, like an arrow and surface, gasping for breath.  The water is gaspingly, skin numbingly, can’t stay in too long or you’ll drown cold.  I can feel my body seizing up as I try to gulp air into my freezing lungs, but I am hooked.  I’ll never forget my first swim in a natural pool.

Since that day, almost 20 years ago, swimming in an indoor pool has lost its allure and I swim outdoors whenever I can.  We don’t get many opportunities in Britain, although the Serpentine Lido is pretty memorable.  But on a snowy February London day, swimming in Hyde Park or Lake Walensee in Switzerland seems like a distant dream.

This time next year, we will be back in Australia and I can’t wait to plunge into the many beautiful, sandy, clear, sparkling pools that are found across the continent.  Being Australia, humans are not the only creatures which enjoy these natural wonders.  I’ll try to avoid feeding the children to crocodiles.

This post was written for Mara at Mother of All Trips and her ‘Monday’s are for Dreaming’ slot.


29 Jan

I’ve been feeling rather January-blueish this week. I’m hoping that it won’t translate into February blues, but given the current relentlessly cold, wet weather and the fact that it will be February in Britain, things aren’t looking good. It feels like a very long time until 1st November, a very long time filled with lots of boring adminy type of things to do. It also feels a very long time since August and our fabulous trip to Switzerland. In an effort to snap myself out of it, I had a look through my Swiss photos and came across the above.

I only wish we’d bought some of those cards. I could have used them to paper the downstairs loo.

This post is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. For lovely travel pictures, click here

5 highlights of 2009

8 Jan

The lovely Kelly at A Place of My Own has tagged me, asking me to write about my 5 highlights of last year.

2009 was a good year in our family.  No huge revelations or major excitements, but it felt like we finally made it out of the long dark baby tunnel into a new and exciting world of pre-schoolers and school age children.  We got out and about, we ventured abroad, and we washed a lot of pants.  So, without further ado, my first hightlight is…

Getting enough sleep

Many years ago I was a nanny for a brief period, including caring for a newborn baby boy.  He was a ‘good’ baby, who drank his bottles when he was supposed to, slept well and rarely cried.  It was a piece of cake.  So I thought I knew what I was doing when Eve came along.  After about 10 minutes, it became abundantly clear that I was as clueless as every other new mother.  Add in a few sleepless nights and I realised that I had been deeply deluded about caring for newborns.  Nothing, but nothing, is a piece of cake when you don’t get your full eight hours.  I kept thinking, ‘if I could just get four hours, five hours, six hours without being woken, I’ll feel better’.  It took me many months to accept that I would never sleep in the same way again and for the six years that I had newborns, teethers, growth spurters and early wakers I stumbled through the days in a fog of scratchy eyes and memory loss.  2009 was different.  Gradually, without my noticing, all my children started to regularly sleep through the night and regularly wake at about 7am.  I feel different, in a good way.

Starting  a blog

After two years of reading other people’s travel blogs, I finally took the plunge in February last year.  I have enjoyed it more than I could have ever predicted.  It has become an almost daily pleasure, writing, tinkering, thinking about my blog.  It’s re-ignited an old love of words and I hope that one day I can do something more with it.

Our first camping trip

I am a fair weather camper.  I really, really don’t like being cold or wet and I’m not too good at sleeping on the ground.  As we have not been anywhere warm, like Australia, in the last 8 years, the children have never been camping.  Until this summer, when we spent a gorgeous, but perishingly cold night in a field in North Yorkshire.  We splashed in the stream, built a huge, smoky, eye-stinging campfire, toasted marshmallows and told ghost stories.  I hope we can recreate the experience on our trip, but with warmer weather and hammocks.


Last summer we had the most yodellingly fantastic holiday in Switzerland, a country I have always suspected might be right up my street.  Every cliched view I had previously held was blissfully right and we spent two weeks enjoying a soundtrack of clanking cow bells whilst hiking through flower-filled meadows, marvelling at the efficiency of their trains, swimming in lakes with picture postcard backdrops and eating a Matterhorn of cheese and chocolate.  For a rash of posts and some gorgeous photos (if I do say so myself) click on Switzerland in the category cloud on the right.

Catching crabs

2009 was the year I learnt how to catch a crab.  Goodness knows how I’ve survived so long without this knowledge, but I now feel confident in any crab catching situation.  It was a lot of fun.

The Heidi Haus

27 Sep

running in the meadow near Heidi house 2 by you.

It was Heidi who decided our Swiss itinerary.  French speaking Switzerland was never on our wish list, it sounds just too French.  As far as we were concerned, the REAL Switzerland was the home of taciturn goat herds, German speakers eating large sausages and little girls who live with their grumpy grandfathers.  When we discovered that you can visit ‘Heidi’s house’ and the village of Dorfli, we knew that we had a plan.

Of course Heidi is a fictional character and Dorfli is kitchen Heidi house 1a fictional village, so the Lonely Planet is very scathing about the whole operation, claiming it’s a shameless marketing exercise.  But having grown up watching the dubbed TV series and loving the books about the happy little girl who adores the mountains and her hermit grandfather, and having read Heidi to Eve, we had to go.  It’s obvious that the Lonely Planet writer doesn’t know any small children, as it turned out to be one of the highlights of our holiday.

Joanna Spyri, the author, often visited the small town of Maienfeld at the base of the Falkniss mountain and created Dorfli in this real setting.  The inhabitants of a small hamlet up the mountain from Maienfeld have turned some old farm buildings into ‘Heidi’s house’ and a shop, with a small children’s farm and a fountain completing the little village square.  

children and goat 5 by you.

After feeding the friendly (ok, greedy) goats, we entered the house on the ground floor, going straight into the cool, dark, food store with shelves of cheese presses and sacks of potatoes.  Local villagers have donated artifacts which furnish the house, and give you an insight into 19th Century Alpine life.  The very best thing about Heidi’s house, is that you are allowed to touch EVERYTHING, infact it is positively kitchen Heidi house 4encouraged.  So we dressed up, chopped wood, tried out the beds, stoked the range, churned butter, dried apples, washed clothes and generally had a fabulous time.   After thoroughly testing the contents of the house and discovering that the axe was actually a real axe and look, it’s not glued down, we headed outside before we lost any fingers (I could digress here about how Switzerland is incredibly safe, yet strangely unconcerned with health and safety, but I won’t). 

After the Heidi house, you can do the Heidi hike up to the Alm Uncle’s hut and Heidi’s pasture.  We started walking up the incredibly steep mountain path which is cut through the towering pines and switches back every hundred metres or so.  At each switchback there is a water fountain where we filled our bottles with freezing cold, sweet mountain spring water and a board featuring a different aspect of the Heidi story.  These were helpful in encouraging the children upwards, but after stopping for a picnic lunch and Heidi's bedroomcajoling the children for the best part of 45 minutes, we realised that we had rather depressingly only covered about 200m.  The path was so steep and our walk from the railway station to the house so long, that we realised the boys would never make it in one piece and decided to split up.  Steve and the boys played in the beautiful meadow pictured at the top of the post while Eve and I climbed ever higher in search of  Peter’s hut and a glimpse of the Alm Uncle, a real bearded goatherd recruited by the tourist office to look picturesque outside a suitable hut with his goats.  An hour later we made it to Peter’s hut, which according to the map was only half way to the meadow, so we celebrated with an ice cream and headed back down.  That’s the disadvantage of climbing mountains with small children, mountains are really steep and children’s legs are really short.

 The area around Maienfeld has been dubbed ‘Heidiland’ by the local Heidi and Petertourist board, and at times the Heidi branding can get a little cloying.  There’s a stupendously ugly Heidi hotel and conference centre (why?), the only truly ugly buildings we saw in two weeks, Heidi mineral water, Heidi wine,  Heidi dried meat (quite nice actually!) and more.  But all the tackiness that the Lonely Planet is so rude about doesn’t detract from the Heidi house, which was charming, informative and one of the most child-friendly museums I’ve ever been to.  Apart from the axe.

kitchen Heidi house 3 by you.