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Category Archives: Diary

Warnie, Kardashians, MP5s & Cosmopolitans

We hit Vegas on a record breaking, hot day. The temperature nudged 47 degrees and the contrast from the frigid, air conditioned hotel, to the footpaths of the strip was overwhelming. The volume of people utilising the outdoor thoroughfares, meant that it took three times longer to get to a desired destination. My eyeballs burned and watered simultaneously and my hair hung in straggly damp clumps. It was too hot to sit by the pool and so we holed up in the hotel and ironically found ourselves putting on long sleeved tops, as the air conditioning overcompensated for the outside weather extremes.
Thankfully, the temperatures dropped to around 40 degrees and it became relatively bearable. We are staying at the Venetian, which is an enormous warren of shops, restaurants, pools, clubs and casinos. We had some friends that were also staying here and so on the first night, we went into an over excited, Cosmopolitan fuelled over drive. We hit the roulette table and with a well thought out mathematical equation, attempted to win ourselves millions. We placed all bets on our birth dates and kept our fingers crossed. Being an extravagant gambler, I started my night with $20 worth of chips and surprisingly, was able to rake in a modest $100 dollar profit. The waitresses brought an endless supply of gratuitous drinks and the thick smoke combined with electronic sounds and bright lights made the evening seem somewhat surreal.. Shane Warne was playing poker, the Kardashians were hosting a pool party and I had piles of pink chips that varied in height, depending on the spin of the wheel. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, we called it a night.
Too counteract the effects of the previous night, we decided to feast at the Wynne’s world renowned buffet. (Or stuffet, as it should be more aptly called) After a small wait, we were shown to a table and let loose on a dozen food stations. Meats, sushimi, crab legs, dim sum, salads,noodles and countless desserts were amongst hundreds of fares on offer. The boys didn’t know which area to hit first and alternated between beautifully coupled delights, such as chocolate gateau and roast beef. There was no course order for them and they did their dad proud.
Robb decided to take the boys to a firing range to put some of their Call of Duty, simulated experience into a realistic context. This was not something that I was particularly enthused about and reluctantly agreed to their participation. Just prior to their departure, I found Tom in the bathroom practising his new birth date, that his loving daddy had asked him to memorise. (You needed to be 10 to participate) So, I did what many good mothers have done, and popped my head into the proverbial sand. I spent the afternoon losing my concerns in plastic shopping bags and gaining some much needed retail revenge.
They arrived back with tales of recoil, grouping and efficient marksmanship. Tom saved the best memento until last and lovingly unrolled his giant poster. He had chosen a picture of Osama Bin Laden as his target. (It was titled Osombie, and was a cross between Osama and a zombie.) I was appalled at this. The propaganda and racist connotations were alarming. The picture had Osama wearing a blood soaked turban and to me, it symbolised a collective ‘enemy’ rather than a picture of a singular terrorist. “Mum, I really want to get this framed,” he said as he proudly showcased the bullet holes that had ripped through Osama’s turban.
Moving away from MP 5s, we decided to take a helicopter trip to get an arial view of the Grand Canyon. This was an absolute highlight and in my opinion, the best way to absorb its vast area and sheer, layered depths. The sky was clear and the helicopter dipped and skimmed the canyon, affording us views and perspectives impossible from the ground. I was enthralled and then instantly distracted by the stench that filled our glass bubble. One of the beloved off spring had let out a van Toledo special, that crept into the nostrils of all on board. Boys are soooooo humiliating.
Robb decided to take us all out for an authentic American dining experience and so we found ourselves at Gillies Ranch, located at the base of the Treasure Island casino. We had to wait half an hour for a table and to kill time, the scantily dressed hostess directed us to a bar at the back of the restaurant. We pushed open the ornate saloon doors, and found ourselves in a a bizarre barn. There was a huge dance floor in its middle and old aged cowgirls and cowboys, with grey pigtails/ ponytails, wearing boots and Stetson hats were boot scooting and clapping to country tunes. To the side was a giant mechanical bull, that required signing your life away to ride. The boys begged us for a turn but thankfully, you needed to be over 18 to ride. I bought a beer from a lady dressed in black, leather bikinis, adorned with a holster, that held bottle openers and other drinking accessories. Thankfully, before I was dragged to the dance floor by a 70 year old cowboy, a table became available. The dishes were enormous and one plate (platter) could easily have fed three hungry boys. I watched Henry eat a full rack of pork ribs, tater tots (don’t ask) coleslaw and grits. This was all washed down by a mega cup of bottomless coke. I am not sure where my skinny, little 11 year old stored this mixture of fat, salt, protein and sugar but he declared it.. ‘the best dinner ever’.
Today is our last day on the strip, before we head back to LA. Oliver and Robb have headed off to visit the Pawn Stars pawn shop (from a reality tv show) and to check out old Vegas. I feel as though i have been aboard the spinning wheel of the roulette table and am well and truly ready to get off. It is a place of mixed fortunes and excesses. People will do anything to make a buck in this city. I saw one homeless man with a sign that read.. KICK ME IN THE BALLS FOR $20. Only in Vegas baby…..

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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Diary

 

Natural Beauty and the Beasts

Firstly, I do not think I can ever eat Mexican food again. In fact I can barely write the word, without my stomach flipping and a wave of psychosomatic nausea engulfing me. I posted photos on Facebook that of showcased M*x*c*an food and I think I am going to have to delete them. For me it is now the Voldemort of cuisines. (Thou, that should never be spoken) I am sure it was responsible for my serious case of stomach flu. The last few days of San Diego (for me) were spent holed up in my room, groaning, with chameleon capabilities, that saw me change from green to white and back to green again.
Thankfully, by the time we hit the tiny town of Merced, I was on the improve and the world became a brighter and fascinating place again. We flew into this tiny town, in a small, 20 seater plane. There were only three other passengers and ourselves aboard and as a result we were the first to load. Tom, who is obsessed with rating everything, couldn’t contain his glee. “Mum”, he whispered in my ear “I think we are first class, because we are the first ones on.” His little, jubilant face, quickly lost its elated expression, as we were herded out of the door, onto the tarmac, towards our rickety plane. The pilot also moon lighted as the safety officer, steward and commentator.
The flight was rather scenic as we soared over a multitude of agricultural land, dry and arid hills and small towns that lay baking in sweltering conditions.
As soon as the doors were opened on landing, the California heat wave greeted us. The cabin filled with dense, hot air and the temperature within, rose abruptly. We picked up our shiny, hire car, cranked up the air conditioning and left Merced, with dust in our wake. Our first stop was a food barn, to buy some supplies to sustain the ever hungry troops. As we trundled down isle after isle, we found it annoyingly impossible to buy anything without added sugar. All cereals were frosted, the bloody ham was marinated in brown sugar, the bread was sweetened and the kids kept trying to load the trolley with all sorts of processed wonders. I found Robb at the checkout with a box of beer, delighted at its $12.95 price tag and even more thrilled at being asked for ID. He stood there, with his silvery mop of hair, grinning like the kids, swinging mega packs of Oreos from their hands. As we drove away, he reminisced about the last time he was asked for ID. “Don’t flatter yourself too much,” I snorted “I saw an 86-year-old asked as well. I think it is based on the law, rather than your imagined ideas of youthfulness.”
We drove straight to Sequoia National Park. After a massive delay, caused by a pile up on the tiny, narrow entrance road, we drove into tree utopia. “Do they have rides here?” asked our 8 year old expectantly.
The General Sherman, is the world’s second tallest tree and has the world’s largest trunk. (Don’t put it into the world’s biggest pineapple category) It has a ground circumference of 31.1 meters. He really is a majestic, ancient marvel and is estimated at being between 2,300–2,700 years old. You are humbled in his presence. Most of his contemporaries were cut down for timber. Thankfully, because of accessibility difficulties, a couple of areas were preserved and now are actively protected. Initially, these trees were protected too much. They actually need fires to flourish. Their bark is thick enough to survive the intense heat, that decimates other flora and fauna and it relies on this to naturally cull its undergrowth.
We then hopped back into the car and spent 3 hours driving along windy, hilly roads, weaving through small farming communities, to reach Yosemite National Park.
We had booked to stay at Curry Village, which was a 45 minute drive, from inside the park’s entrance. Yosemite is a place that can not be missed. Its sheer, light grey rock walls, changed hue at sunset and I saw Half Moon, capped in amber and gold as the sun gently nestled for the night. The meadows were lush and thick with grass, and the trees provided us with soothing shade. We experienced temperatures that nudged 40 degrees and decided to rent a raft, to laze our way down the clear, cool Merced river. It was a 3 mile trip, that took us past waterfalls in their last stage of seasonal life. We floated beside deer, woodpeckers and dragonflies. There were small rapids that the boys elected to float down, buoyed by their life jackets, flat on their backs, with their toes and faces exposed to the sun. We beached ourselves on pebbly shores, to sit and gaze at our majestic surroundings. It was the highlight of our stay. In a raft that tailed ours, was a family from Alphington. The vast, atmospheric backdrop of the park, suddenly became neighbourly and as we enjoyed their company.
We sat out on the wooden terrace that evening, dressed in singlets, thongs and shorts, eating pizza, drinking a cold beer or two and playing some Tom inspired memory games. “This is great and it’s not even 5 star” said my little boy with shinning eyes.
Next stop was San Francisco, a place I have wanted to visit since I was 8 years old. My dad had been there and brought me back a t-shirt, with my name stencilled in silver and arched over a picture of the Golden Gate bridge. I had never found my name on a mug, plaque or pencil in my life and had always yearned for a name that could be found on a souvenir, in a tourist shop. So, when dad presented me with this, I knew in an instant, that someday I must visit this exotic city.
Our trip coincided with the Gay Pride parade. The streets were alive with rainbows and whistles. We headed to Market St, to eyeball this historic occasion. It was a colourful and emotional celebration of legal rights, acceptance and love. There were newly engaged and wedded couples, cheeky silver shorts and motorbikes galore.
Tonight, was put aside for a trip to the infamous Alcatraz. After a shower, I emerged in an orange polka-dotted shirt and my 8 year old fashion critic, looked at me and said, “You should have worn that today, mum. It is a really good lesbian top.”
I can’t say that I saw too many lesbians in orange polka dots, so I am not quite sure where he conjured this from.
We all took the ferry to this rather austere and foreboding island. We walked up a steep road to the prison, where we were given audio headsets, that commentated and guided us through its physical layout and we heard the voices of inmates and their first hand accounts, of life on the rock. It was utterly compelling and we all walked along in a spellbound trance. Alcatraz was cold and an icy wind-swept through it. To think that we were in the middle of a heat wave and in mid-summer. A winter in this place must have been brutal. Our ferry trip home provided us with views of the city’s dancing lights and thoughts of those incarcerated men and their ghostly presence, that we had left behind.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Diary

 

White Lycra, Ticks and Home Runs.

I was a little worried that I had booked too many days in San Diego. This was an unnecessary concern, as our days have been filled with adventure, sunshine and a cross cultural Mexican/ Northern American experience.
A trip to the border to visit a retail outlet emporium, combined with an opportunity to view the austere, heavily patrolled, walled border to Mexico. Behind this people barrier, a huge Mexican flag was pegged into the steep, rocky hills. It stood proudly, yet also symbolised a difference in fortune and opportunity for those born on its side. San Diego successfully blends cultures, however, the wall reminds us that the USA does not welcome their southern cousins freely.
We hit a giant Nike mega store first and I was overwhelmed by my offspring’s enthusiasm for shopping. Normal trips to any retail venue, usually require significant bribery and a detailed itinerary, outlining where I will and will not go. Master 9 does not willingly accompany me and wails and bleats about the prospect of entering clothes shops, hair product venues, home ware stores, supermarkets or shoe shops. (The curse of 3 boys) Of course this is ridiculous, and with some serious haggling, we can generally strike a deal. A quick trip to a few of ‘my’ shops, need to be balanced with visits to EB Games, the Candy Shack or Rebel Sports. So, you can imagine my surprise and amusement, when I observed Master 8, wildly running around the Nike store from rack to rack, lovingly fingering ‘ticked’ clothing and shoes, exclaiming “I love this shop!” “Does this come in my size?” and “Now this is fashion, mum.” Master 14, came running to me in Le Bron James’ signature basketball boots, grinning from ear to ear. He didn’t care that they were 2 sizes too big and that he looked like he was wearing Ronald McDonald’s shoes. Master 11 was found in a change room, in tight white lycra. “Cheap skins mum” he triumphantly shouted. I felt like I had stepped into a sitcom. Malcolm in the Middle, meets Hollywood Housewives’ Offspring. Several giant plastic bags later, we caught a cab back into town.

Today we bought some tickets to watch the San Diego Padres take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. We sat in the bleachers and spent an afternoon soaking up the patriotic, excited crowd. I didn’t realise how difficult it was to actually score a home run. Over the course 9 innings, only 5 batters touched the home base. We stood with our caps by our side for the national anthem, God Bless America and tributes to the military. The focus on servicemen/ women is very serious. A military man with hundreds of coloured badges representing his elevated rank and years of service, stood within our view. He commanded celebrity status. People were lining up to shake his hand,praise him and show him adoration. It would be very difficult to openly protest military involvement in Iraq here.
The boys embraced baseball and the show that accompanies the match. Big screens told us to ‘MAKE NOISE’ and cameras roved, spotlighting the stand outs in the crowd. Tom was desperate to get on TV. He stood waving his arms, wearing his Collingwood cap and new Nike t-shirt, convinced that the cameras would find him. Oliver discovered that for $9.95 you could enjoy a refillable mega cup of soda. Several hundred teaspoons of sugar later, he declared it a fine day. Tom and I spooned clam chowder, from a crusty cob and Henry enjoyed deep fried tubes of sugary, cinnamon churros.
Robb, Oliver, Henry and I decided to support the Padres, as they were the local team and Master T-Tucker adopted the Dodgers. After 7 innings the scores were 1 all and it looked like their would be no winner. In the 8th, the Dodgers came out firing and hit 2 consecutive home runs and the crowd (and Tom) went wild. End of game but what an experience. Henry spent some of his money on a Padres hat and and an authentic baseball and wondered if high school would present baseball opportunities.
We strolled home, via our favourite Mexican eatery, and enjoyed their happy hour. A couple of margaritas and some more lusciously green guacamole, accompanied our discussion and recap of our active day and the upcoming adventures planned for the rest of the week. Tomorrow its off to the zoo and on Tuesday, we have booked a kayak tour, to explore the sea caves of La Jolla.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Diary

 

Troy, Roy & Joy

I’m not sure I am cut out for the rigours of theme parks. For a start, I missed the Trip Advisor notes on dressing appropriately. It would seem that I should have selected a family theme and dressed my family accordingly. Many families, paraded around in colourfully matched t-shirts and mouse ears. The craftier ‘moms’ demonstrated their calligraphy skills, by writing on each t-shirt, so that we knew the names of all their children and their cause for celebration. For example, we saw that it was Troy, Roy and Joy’s first time to this magical land, as their mom had popped their names on their shirts and written ‘first timers’ underneath.
Our family theme of taking gastro bugs abroad, was a little inconvenient. Poor Tom also fell victim to these bowel hitchhikers and spent most of his Disney days feeling washed out. We bound him up with Imodium and hired a wheelchair, to try and keep him as rested as possible. I felt fraudulent, with an able bodied child in a wheel chair. People would look at him and offer kind, reassuring smiles and nods of encouragement, only to see him jump out of the chair, to ride the roller coaster. Those sympathetic smiles changed in an instant and we were scorned and silently accused of an unspeakable crime. Disabled people in wheel chairs are able to skip the queues on some rides but we did not take advantage of this.(I promise) I spent the whole time telling people that he had gastro and was weak, trying to justify his ability to leap from chair to ride. People in our queues just looked at me, like I was a freak and promptly reached into their ‘fanny’ packs for hand sanitisers and held their emblemed, clan close,to shield them from us. I don’t think we made particularly good Australian ambassadors.
Our evenings were spent dining in themed restaurants. One such place that the boys were drawn to, was Bubba Gump’s. Tom loved the giant TV screens, that showed Forrest Gump, baseball, basketball and anything else that could detract from family conversation. ‘Mum, is this 5 star?’ he asked.
Well, he has grown up on Station st……
Today we caught a train to San Diego. The double decker, Sun Pacific, afforded amazing views of the coastline. The brilliant blue of the ocean sparkled against the arid, gritty terrain. I loved looking at the Spanish architectural influence. Houses with ornate shutters, sat up high, in rocky clusters, with 180 degree views of the ocean.
The sun welcomed us to San Diego and we were within walking distance to the hotel. So with our suitcases rolling behind us, we took the 15 minute walk through a small portion of this city. The gentle wind kept us cool and we were able to absorb a little of the San Diego ambience.
The flip side to the bright lights of LA and San Diego, is the conspicuous homeless population. In Anaheim, we started our days early, to try to minimise the crowds. On the way to Disneyland, we saw several people, awkwardly angled, asleep on rigid bus stop benches. Their pitiful belongings, served as pillows and the months of living without amenities, showed. Stringy hair, street grime and an emptiness that is difficult to articulate. In San Diego, the beautiful parks are home to many and it is confronting.
Tonight we ventured out to the Gas Lamp Quarter. It sprung up in the 1860’s and was developed with the idea of shifting the CBD closer to the water. After many years of neglect and decay, it had a renaissance during the 1980’s and 90’s. It is now a very cool, 16 block area, that nods to its past with cobblestoned streets and historic buildings. It is alive and vibrant and celebrates music and diversity. We chose a Mexican restaurant, that spilled out on to the street. Robb and I tried an array of margaritas and the kids ate fresh, lime drizzled guacamole and some other dishes that were the enemy of all nutritionists. One dish consisted of crunchy chips, melted cheese, steak and sour cream. Not my specific cup of tea.
Buenas noches….

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Diary

 

Gastro, Ear Infections and the Happiest Place on Earth

I have decided to reignite my blog and try to record some of our travel experiences.
With a flight leaving Melbourne on Tuesday morning at 11am, a call from Fairfield Primary at 11am, Monday, to pick up an unwell Tom Tom, was not what I would call a mother’s delight.
My list of ‘to dos’ was already the size of a whole role of toilet paper and a trip to the GP, with Tom Tom clutching his left ear was not in the plan. I called the doctor, legally on hands free, en route to school(I already have a police warning, that occurred while I was stationary, Facebooking on my iphone, at a railway boom gate, while waiting for the slowest train in australia to pass) and booked an appointment for him.
Seconds later, there was a call from Oliver, detailing some restless bowel movements and a plea to pick up some Imodium, prior to departure. OMG, what did I do in my former holidaying life?????
Anyway, after numerous nasal sprays, decongestants, smelling sticks & antibiotics, we were given the green light to fly.
Tuesday morning, was a calmer affair, although Tom Tom kept asking what would happen if his ear drum burst on the plane. Master 11 had filled his good ear with torrid tails of volcanic, high pressured, ear eruptions, that would flow like gooey, pussy, crusty lava, mid air. (Got to love big brothers)
The cab arrived and I delayed him for 15 minutes while i searched frantically for my wallet. I was sure I had packed it but it was not in any of the 350 pockets of our overflowing day bag. Stress and mayhem ensued. Piles of clothes and bedding were flung around and every furrow created by a sheet or blanket was patted flat, but no wallet emerged. No alternative but to leave without it and surrender my self to the prospect of asking Robb for holiday handouts. I hated the thought of him as the Grand Cash Master.
The ever thrifty husband of mine asked me if I had suspended my gym membership as we cruised down Bell st. Of course I hadn’t and I think my glare of disbelief and implied threat of a karate chop to the neck, deterred him form requesting a stop at Genesis, bell St to fill out the forms.
The airport traffic, reminded me of the retro arcade game Frogger. Cars, busses, logs and frogs, needed to be avoided to finally make it to the sliding doors of the terminal. Several snaking lines of thousands, multiple copies of endless forms and a few grim stares from airport officials and we finally found ourselves in the International Departure Lounge.
“COFFEE, I need coffee” I whispered and was guided into the airport VUE. After some nice gulps, I began to feel human again.
“Oh and by the way, happy birthday Oliver” I don’t think he had dared bring attention to himself.
The flight was fairly uneventful. No volcanic ear eruptions, although Tom was white with terrified anticipation, as we took off. We all managed around an hour of kip and arrived in Los Angeles,feeling hazy. Oliver asked for some money to buy a snack. I looked at him incredulously. I think he must have devoured several dozen packets of chips, a beef curry, a plastic looking and tasting omelette, a pork sausage and more cokes than was humanly possible to drink on our 14 hour flight. I was trying to get a sim card for my phone and gave him $20 with a warning about the similarity of notes in the US and to check his change carefully. I also asked him to buy something light and relatively healthy. Needless to say, he game back with $3 dollars change and the greasiest, slimiest looking, processed cheese and egg croissant that I had ever seen. The joys…
Anyway, after a 45 minute bus trip to our hotel, Oliver had started to look a little green and as soon as I opened the door to our room, he ran in and was violently ill. So here I sit, just across the road from the oft touted ‘Happiest Place in the World’ with half a chemist’s stock and a sick little birthday boy.
Fingers crossed for Tomorrow Land.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Diary

 

The last Stand

That’s it folks, the last post has been visited and we have started packing our bags. I can’t believe that it is over.
Singapore has been the perfect end to such an adventure.
We are staying with our very dear friends that we met in London so many years ago. Tom thinks that they are so lucky to live their lives in a hotel! It’s actually a condo with a pool. Oliver and Henry spend every moment possible swimming in the expansive pool and I think they would adore being expat children.
Louise has generously taken us on lots of trips to get a feel for this unique Asian city. It’s cleanliness and order is in vast contrast to it’s hectic, polluted cousins Thailand and Vietnam. Having said that, if you scratch the surface a little and head to such gems as little India, you suddenly get a whiff of pungent spices, mingled with the sweaty hustle of people going about their business. The stacked vegetables were works of art, waiting to be sold. Vibrant green snake beans,flaky skinned garlic and huge purple onions sit side by side. Plump, sugar bananas were hung in yellow clumps,providing frames for each vendors stall.
Chinatown was not as rustic. It seemed more orientated towards the tourist market. I had a chuckle as I chanced upon items that I had seen in Crazy Prices, Fairfield, with more expensive price tags.
The food, once again, did not disappoint. Joey and Lou took us to a local Chinese restaurant, where we got stuck into giant, mouth watering chilli crabs. We slurped and sucked on huge pinchers and removed chunks of prized, white flesh. My finger bowl was the size of a thimble and entirely inadequate, as were the toilet paper, square sized serviettes. It was a hugely delicious feast rather than a dainty one.
We also caught up with Master Sherby. Never a dull, sober moment to be had, when he is around. Of course we would not have him any other way! He entertained us with his strange accent (It’s a blend of Aussie, American and Chinese) and made all sorts of promises about hosting us to lavish dinners and wine in the future, as he drank from Joey’s wine cabinet.
So my blog readers, that’s it! It’s over! I’m actually a bit freaked out by the reality check that is in store. Back to work on Monday, basketball, footy, readers, dinners, trips to Coles, dying my hair, losing 25 kilos, gaining back control of my Lord of the Flies children and being back in the cold. It’s all a bit much to absorb.
It really has been an extraordinary adventure. To have had 7 weeks with my family exploring some pretty amazing places is a gift. I hope when I’m home and I start dwelling on some inconsequential problem, I remember how lucky I have been.
And, last but not least, thanks to you, the readers for the likes and encouragement whilst writing this record of our time away.
S x

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Diary

 

Turkish Delight.

What an amazing destination! A land draped in ancient tradition, breath-taking monuments and giant meat rotisseries.
We are staying in a little hotel fairly near the center of the old city. Each night we go to bed listening to the chants that fill the night sky. It is so atmospheric.
The boys have embraced this wonderful culture and can be found at the breakfast buffet, filling their mouths with olives, goats cheese, meats and cucumber. I’m not so enamoured by such fare first thing. I can be found sitting at my table for one (the tables only fit 4) drinking black tea and trying not to watch Tom eat his cold boiled egg with cucumber.
We visited the Blue Mosque, which has a gigantically proportioned outside and an interior that is intricately decorated in blue mosaic tiles. The boys loved watching me don a headscarf for the entry and I think Robb secretly fantasised about the idea of a dutiful, subservient wife. (Joke)
I had heard about the Hamams (Turkish baths) and was keen to try one out. So after a bit of googling I settled on the oldest one in Istanbul. On arrival, I was asked to change into a bikini and shorts. Ok, except that the bikini top was not exactly made to measure. It would have been ok for a 12 year old on the verge of puberty, perhaps! Anyway, I awkwardly made my way to the communal, marble room. There was a heated, giant, marble slab in the center and around the perimeter were taps and basins that could be filled with cold water. The room was heated to between 40 and 60 degrees. The idea was to lie on top of the slab amongst the heat and humidity. I was at the taps within about 10 seconds. After an excruciating half hour, I was called by a young Turkish lad for my bath. He took me to a little room just off to the side and had me lie on a slab. It was here that he loofered me to the bone. After that shock, he threw cold water over me (i was boiling) and the extreme temperature change lifted me into the air. Before I had time to recover, I was being slid up and down tha marble slab and savagely manipulated. I think that was the massage. Then I was covered in a mountain of foam, scrubbed again and doused in the freezing water. Finally my hair was washed and pulled from my scalp simultaneously. Then it was over. I shuffled across the marble floors in little wooden shoes that had been provided and deliriously burst through the exit doors and into a sitting room. I was both shocked and invigorated. If skin could sparkle, mine would have been gleaming.
We also meandered our way through the halls of the Grand Bazaar. Shop after shop pedaling an assortment of ware. I was surprised to see many ‘Fake’ collections of designer handbags, jeans etc were also on display. For respite, we sat at beautifully decorated cafes. Chairs with padded seats and rich colored cushions added an exotic element to these eateries. Robb savoured the Turkish coffee, whilst I became a fan of apple tea. The boys were in awe of the water pipes. Having been brought up in an anti smoking era, they had no qualms in expressing their distaste by coughing and spluttering every time a waft of smoke blew their way. The Turks were oblivious, however, the odd Aussie tourist glanced at them sheepishly.
The sunsets in this land are magnificent. One balmy evening, we decided to eat dinner in a terrace, to capitalise on the view. We arrived in the full light of the day and sat and watched as sky performed it’s magic. The grey smog of the city slowly changed to amber and orange as the sun began to fade. Then an unexpected finale! The amber hues dissolved and in their place, layers of fairy floss pink and vibrant shades of violet hugged the silhouettes of ancient mosques and the expansive land wall, that for centuries has separated Asia and Europe.
This is our last night in Turkey. Henry and I went strolling after dinner to buy some fresh and chewy Turkish delight to take with us. Walking back to the hotel, we soaked up it’s sounds and smells as we walked hand in hand. His little nine year old face looked up at mine, brimming with happiness and life.

Xx

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Diary

 

London, How I Love ya!

5 wonderful, eclectic exhausting days were spent in the city that feels like home. Old friends from London and Melbourne, along with friends from Fairfield set us on a whirling course of late nights and conversation.
We arrived into the welcoming arms of the Moore family and were treated to a traditional roast pork, Yorkshire pudding and all of the other delicious trimmings that accompany this favourite fare. ( I hear you thinking that I have become slightly obsessed with food. You are quite right! In fact the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Robb and I are both slightly portly… Ooops.).
The nights were late and the mornings were early. Our fresh-faced tourist were not going to waste a minute of their potential sightseeing hours. With cameras swinging and oyster cards in hands, we braved the tube and the national rail to reach numerous destinations.
Of course no trip is complete without a ride up top on a double decker bus. We bought tickets for the tour bus and circumnavigated this surprisingly small city. The kids faces lit up when we passed such sights as the London Dungeon, the M and M mega store and Oxford st. Not the most cultured crew! I did manage to get them to alight at the Tate Modern. I thought having a first hand squiz at works by artists that they had examined at school may get them going a little. Not so! “This is sooooo booooooring” sighed Master 6!
“I’ve already seen it in a book ( in relation to a spectacular Jackson Pollock) exclaimed Master 9.
“What day are we going to the London Dungeon” drawled Master 12,standing slouched in front of a Picasso masterpiece.
Oh well!
The changing of the guard was a spectacular that they did enjoy. The marching, band playing, Beefeaters, walking with a huge and entirely regal, Irish wolfhound was a memory laden vision. Tom grinned and waved, aboard the best seat in the house. His 6 foot 4 daddy’s shoulders, were the envy of the rest of us, who stood on tippy toes, necks craned, trying to get a decent look.
I was so very grateful to the air force museum. It shone like a blazing torch on a dark night to my war craft obsessed, nerdy crew. A must on the itinerary for them and a leave pass for myself! I spent an afternoon in a heavenly retail stupor, shopping a little and finding places that I had haunted in my lost youth. I was saddened to see that the Covent Garden Brasserie, my place of summer employment, was no longer. The tables that had once faced the performers in the piazza,had been replaced by a giant Apple mega store.
I went straight from this afternoon delight, to meet an old friend from Melbourne, Andy Mulcahy, who has been living in London for the last 10 years. He took me to a very groovy Thai eatery in Soho and then to a bar for some wonderful drinks. I can’t remember their names but the port infused with creme de menthe was a stand out. I’m gonna be googling that recipe on my return. We talked and laughed until I remembered that I had to catch the tube home.
We finally caved to the cultured trio’s demand and queued for the London Dungeon. 90 minutes of non stop gore and terrible acting, ending with the climatic fake hanging. We were put in chairs,harnessed by a heavy duty, metal frame and in pitch black, elevated to a modestly scary height. A tremendous crack ensued and the chairs plummeted,leaving my innards suspended in mid air. After the hanging, we were shepherded out into the neon lights and large screens that depicted our hanging expressions. I very nearly paid the exorbitant photo price, due to henry’s priceless expression of sheer terror.
We also jumped on a train and headed to the ancient and fascinating town of York. Here, we went back in time to a Viking village. The poor sanitation and terrible quality of water meant that the Viking kids had to drink beer. Apparently, this is why people that trace their heritage to these not so gentle folk, have a better tolerance for alcohol, than those from other cultures.
We then went to the Castle Museum. This was a little gem. There were rooms that had been painstakingly recreated to reflect different eras in time within family homes. You could visit an 1850’s parlour, a 1970’s lounge and an 1900’s kitchen just to name a few. There was also an exhibit entirely devoted to the 60’s. The boys were memorized by the early Dr Who footage. There was a room that paid homage to war uniforms for men and women, along side an exhibit depicting swim wear from the centuries. I loved it particularly, as there were many artifacts from 70’s that I could relate to.
All good things do indeed come to an end. How we will miss Sime, Nicky, the gorgeous Ella and Merlot their silky eared dog. Thanks guys, for your generosity and great company. Until next time my dear friends London, M&S Food, Boots, the gap and sandwiches in the chemist.
It was luvly jubbly.
S
X

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Diary

 

Ciao Italy and Hiya London.

I mentioned in my previous blog that we were climbing the hills to eat in a little restaurant in the clouds. After winding and twisting around some hairpin turns and ascending 4 kms, we arrived at paradise. I gasped while alighting from the battered mini bus. The flowers were threaded amongst the trees, creating a canopy that framed an endless ocean vista. We entered the restaurant via stone stairs the weaved through enormous veggie patches( where our food was harvested)and sat at a trestle table, lit with candles. The kids spied the bread bowl and before I could shout “that is the first of 7 courses’ they had wolfed down several rolls. Veggies were first and we feasted on peas, eggplant, chickpeas and spinach. The boys did not leave a single pea on the plates. Pasta was presented on platters, laden with shining, fresh tomato sauce and generous spoonfuls of pesto. I knew I had to hold back in preparation for subsequent courses but it was virtually impossible. The meats arrived, sizzling and reminiscent of portions served in Bedrock. Huge, rare and perfectly seasoned. Our convex bellies won over in the end. The sweet cakes and tiramisu remained on the silver serving trays, barely touched.

We also squeezed in a trip to Capri. We jumped on a ferry and motored on over to this island that must have been spectacular in its time. we queued for tickets( I am so over queues, the travelers curse) and boarded cable cars that travelled vertically to the town’s heart. Hundreds of tourists, exclusive shops and overpriced restaurants awaited. It was good to see, however, I think Positano is superior.

We travelled back to Rome via ferry and train. Then queued with returning Brits to catch a flight to the UK. The children were bemused after several passengers asked us if we were speedy boarders. If you pay an extra 10 squid, you are able to board the plane first. So the speedy boarders muscled their way to front of the large snaking line. Tom loved asking people in his best cockney accent, “Are you a speedy border?”

After delays, seats that didn’t recline and countless games of eye spy, we touched down in the city that introduced Robb and I to each other.

Boots, WH Smith, Marks and Sparks…….. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed them. I was so looking forward to buying my sandwiches from the chemist and introducing my kids to the delights of BO on the tube. We awoke to glorious sunshine, the Wimbledon final and a fry up. Then, after a $50 aud, 15 minute trip on BR ( now called something else)we were greeted by our lovely friends from a most fantastic era in our lives.

Xxx

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Diary

 

Emigrating to Positano.

Pardonk (written by one of the offspring in his journal) for my lapse in diary writing. I have been slumming it in Positano. As a consequence, my bum resembles a ball of mozzarella and although Robb thinks my face is flushed from the sun, it is actually the copious amounts of tomatoes I have consumed.
From the hectic adventure of Rome to the glorious steep cliffs, black pebbled beaches and the aqua blue,soothing waters of the Med in Positano. I think I am in heaven.
We really are the van Tornado family. Several countries in quick succession. One minute les enfants are giving me the shits, the next it’s the bambinos. Actually, considering that we have pretty much shared all elements of living for the last month, we are holding up well. Tom asks for euros in return for good behaviour and the other two are paid in gelato.
Rome was a sweaty, visual feast of all things ancient, shared with our most wonderful friends, Sue and Gary. No wifi on the hop, hence my quiet blog. The colosseum, Trevi Fountain (Tom donated about thirty euros to it’s wishing pond)piazzas and fireworks. We wandered the cobbled streets, dining on fresh pasta and slurping local reds. Kids took advantage of the very relaxed state of the parents and went crazy on several desert menus. Budget well and truly blown in those few days.
Our apartment in Rome did not resemble the photos that appeared to be straight out of Vogue Home Living. The terrace that had been the clincher was actually nestled in amongst 50 apartments. We could see some stars from the table along with 1000 peering eyes. />
The second night will forever stay etched in our minds. Now I ask you, is it the responsibility of the last one out to take the keys? Robb thinks not!! After a fresh zucchini pasta, lemon gelato and a touch of vino, we were all ready to go home. During the 15 minute walk back to our apartment, my eyelids were drooping and my bed beckoned. Alas, alas…we (Robb). Had accidentally left the keys inside. We tried to get in but it was not possible. We then walked to several hotels that were all full. Everyone gave up and settled down on the soft concrete for a bit of kip. There was no way I was giving up that easily. I got hold of robbs phone, switched on the data roaming( it costs a million dollars a minute) And watched lock picking YouTube videos. I then found some wire and a bottle top to engage the lock ( impressive, I know) and spent the next few hours trying to align the lock pins. I wish I could say that eventually I heard the click and release of the lock but sadly the tale did not end this way. Instead, we spent a miserable night huddling together, dreaming of doonas. The next morning we went to the Vatican, as we were next door and tried to slip in an early morning service. Unfortunately, I was refused entry due to my inappropriate attire. Too much shoulder….
Anyway, we were happy to leave our Rome chapter behind and to catch a high speed train down south. I’m now in Positano, home of the bikini, no matter what your age or body shape. Our kids are the beach oddity, dressed in their sun smart suits. Ols is desperate for a tan and Tom and Henry entertain the beach bar dwellers with lady gaga dance routines, whilst passing around the bread basket asking for euros..(don’t ask!).
My calf muscles are singing (again) as I have climbed more steps than those going to the pearly gates. Our gorgeous,straight from a postcard, villa is precariously nestled amongst rocks and Bougainvillia. We have seen luxurious hotels on top of volcanos, with private lifts tunneled through the rock. It is all quite breathtaking. Tomorrow we say goodbye to italy and our entirely special and funny Gaz and Sue. For our last night, we intend to go further up into the mountains and try to find a local eatery, run by an Italian family. 3 pastas laden with seasonal produce to choose from and a view to remember for a lifetime.
Ciao.
Ps: please forgive poor punctuation etc. Written from iPad and hard to edit.
Xx

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Diary