Amsterdam, a Lycra Free Zone.

The land of the tulip, dyke and bike!   This is a stand out city, in my opinion.  It has a lot to teach us about making a city eco-friendly and lycra free.   Apparently, there are 4 bikes for every person in this canal decorated city.  Yet…….take note……………..I have not seen one rider clad in form-fitting, (budgie smuggling) wanna be tour de France,  over priced, cycling attire.   YAY!!!!!!!!  There are cycling lanes on all streets and although I am still having difficulty sharing the footpath and looking for cyclers from the wrong direction, I applaud the normality of the riding attire. When I am travelling around |Melbourne, particularly on Sunday mornings, weaving around the Ivanhoe boulevard, I often have an urge to open my car door as I overtake eight or so, lycra sprayed, cyclers, (clearly out of the bike lane) and to take them all down.   I feel a little sheepish about this admission, as I realise some cycling friends, (that 99% of the time wear normal clothes and walk single file) will be reading this. 


Ok, off topic now…………………We also spent two days in Doesburg, a medieval town in the Netherlands, with Robb’s aunt, uncle, cousins and Diva, the Saint Bernard dog. Oliver turned 12 and was presented with a giant cake, banners and a local town festival to assist with the celebrations.  The real gift was  to spend time with such warm, interesting people.  It was difficult to leave and in this instance we curse the tyranny of distance.


Tom Tom is still recovering from the Disney experience. He rates such things, as out trip to that Catacombes in Paris and  Anne Franks house as ‘great rides.” Oliver and Henry were very moved by their trip to Anne Frank’s house.  The idea of living with blacked out windows, in silence and fear for a few years, coupled with Anne’s death just one month prior to liberation, left much for them to ponder.


The boys have also loved the croquette vending machines.   For 1 euro, they open a little compartment and remove a piping hot crumbed roll, filled with a variety of gooey, savoury fillings.  Frittes and mayonnaise have also been another favourite, along with chocolate sprinkles on bread each morning.  I’m not sure if this fare fits with the recommended healthy eating plan!!!!


It is off to Italy tomorrow and I can hardly wait.   I’ll keep this brief as I have a fair bit of packing and organising to do.  How to reduce the size and weight of the suitcases, to fit the allowance I have on the budget airline that we are flying with.



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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Diary


French Chic (chicks)

From one extreme to another. In Florida I felt as though I could resurrect the bikini ( not seen in my wardrobe since 1997) and in France, I wanted to lobby the government to reintroduce the burqa. French chicks are impossibly chic, slim and sexy. They eat all things creamy, washed down with red wine and mopped up with several slices of baguette. Then they bounce down the street teetering on gorgeous high heels, complimented by a pair of size 8 jeans. Of course I returned to my room and madly googled this phenomenon. Apparently it is about quantity and no snacking…..blah blah. At least they have bad breath from all of those garlic snails and cigarettes. Hang on, they also have a low incidence of lung cancer.
Anyway, Paris was wonderful. Very smelly but absolutely stunning. Kind of like blue cheese. The buildings, monuments and eateries are certainly one of a kind. I loved perusing the patisseries, charcuteries and fromageries. I also snuck in a little Agnes B purchase…..
We left Paris this morning and drove to Brugge. Now this is a seriously gorgeous place. Picture postcard perfect but bloody expensive. We foolishly picked a cafe in the town square ( the heartland of the tourist) to have a little snack and a coffee. Robb ordered tap water for the kids and was told by Ernst the slightly aggressive waiter, that it was not possible. They only provided bottled water. The bill came and we were charged 18 euro for two 475 ml bottles of water. Out-bloody-rageous!
We strode out of tourist Mecca and took to the charming back streets. It was here that we were rewarded with our first smile. Henry bought some hand picked chocolates and we took them back to our room and sat and savoured every bite. Yes, I know, French chicks wouldn’t have snacked and gorged between meals.

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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Diary


Le Nit

Ahhhh, no holiday could be complete without a mad dash to le pharmacie to buy a nit treatment for les enfants.( and potentially moi). Yesterday, sitting in the gentle sunshine, sipping a wonderful coffee, I noticed one of the off spring scratching. Not for a second imagining that it could possibly be nits, I had a casual examination of the child’s head. Happily nestled in between the strands were some beret clad hitchhikers! Now that is exactly what I felt like doing in Paris! Anyway, a treatment and a carafe of wine later, hopefully the situation of le nit is resolved.
Yesterday involved kms of trekking,in order to get around the major sites. We exited the metro at The Champs Élysées and remained on foot until our last port of call at Notre Dame Cathedral(c’est magnifique) Perhaps the highlight was the Eiffel Tower. It was a sight that the kids were familiar with and they loved viewing it from various angles and vantage points. They were particularly amazed that for many years it had been the worlds tallest structure, built specifically for the Paris world fair.
We also had the pleasure of falling victim to a scam. Whilst ambling down a rue, a gentlemen in front of us gleefully found a gold ring. He turned to us and tried it unsuccessfully on all fingers before shaking his head and saying “it does not fit me!” he then turned and gave it to me. Wow, what a nice man I thought, as he turned to walk off. Ha ha, next thing he was back asking for euros. This sequence was repeated in other places but by then we were on to it.
The boys decided that they should sample snails whilst in Paris. I was impressed by their desire to consume this Parisian delicacy. They came out on a little silver tray, oozing butter, garlic and parsley and Tom and Henry instantly decided that they looked a little to like the backyard cousins and declined. Ols, on the other hand licked his lips and sent the first one down the hatch. He loved them and his response was so infectious that it prompted Tom and Hens to taste them. Although not as enthused as the first born, they agreed that they were worth sampling.
Today, we plan to go explore the Catacombes. I’ll update on this soon.
Au revoir,

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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Diary


A little bite of a big apple and a weeny exploration of the family tree.

What a weekend we have just had!    Before I elaborate, perhaps i should back track a little, to keep some chronological order happening. 

I love NYC, in fact, I nearly bought one of those t-shirts just to emphasise the point.  What a city…  We arrived and left during a heat wave, walked miles, ate well and shopped just a little bit. ( Just writing that in case Robb reads this)  we also met up with two Fairfield families and ate out with them on balmy evenings, drinking lovely, thirst quenching Coronas. (Saving the red wine for Italy) 

The boys were very stoic, they battled blisters and perspired continuously, yet kept in good humour and open-mouthed awe of the giant city.   We walked around a quarter of Central Park, (i think it is about a 20km circuit)  Mummy dearest had the idea of heading to Strawberry Fields.  Boys could not understand the logic behind this and were slightly disheartened on arrival, to discover that it was a quiet area, with a small mural.  ¨We walked a million km´s for this!¨    OOps.   However, my whingeing troops still posed with cajoled smiles, under the sign for me.

Tom Tom, is a ferocious diary writer.  He pops out the diary like a Japanese tourist whips out a camera.    He has a section in the diary, reserved for new foods tasted.   To date this includes matzoh soup ( Jewish speciality) club sandwiches, cheese from a bottle and Paella.   Have I got the next Jamie Oliver on my hands?  (I see you roll your eyes….. I agree the bright yellow cheese in the bottle is hardly a gourmet fare, however it is new and it is not Coon.)    Bless his little cotton sport socks, I love reading about his travels from a six-year-old perspective.   Entries include….. I met  Luis, he orders food for us in Spanish and has a weird laugh!       and…… My brothers suck.    Go Tom Tom.

So, after a break down of the car we hired to take us to the airport, we were duly transported by stretch limo to Newark.   We boarded a Lufthansa plane, that resembled one in the Lego collection at home and headed to Madrid.  From here we took a train to where it all started for the van Toledo family, Toledo, Spain.   We were also meeting a very dear friend that we had not seen for 16 years.    So with stomachs sucked in and some poly filler applied we staged our grand reunion.   It was so fabulous to see Luis after such a long time.   We ate, drank, walked and talked our way through the ancient, fortified city.  The boys loved Luis as much as we did and we all feel a little sad this evening to have waved good-bye to him and the town that housed the great, great, great, great, great rellies.  

Toledo is built on a hill that makes your calf muscles sing.   There are elaborate wooden doors, shutters, engraved buildings and other amazingly preserved constructions from the 15th century.   We were hooked on tapas and sampled so many of the offerings.   We were lucky enough to be there at the  time of its local festival.   The town was alive with colour, fireworks and dancing women in traditional costumes.   It really does not get any better.

So now I sit, in a hotel in Madrid, accessing a bit of free wi-fi.   Tomorrow it is an early flight to Paris.

Au revoir,

Moi xx


Moi.  xxx


Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Diary


DC and NYC

We absolutely loved Washington DC. In fact we compared parts of it to Melbourne. Food was great, people friendly and the museums were mind blowing. We parted ways on our first day, dividing the troops is quite a nice recipe for a little peace. The third parent ( Oliver, who loves to instruct and reprimand his siblings) and I went to the Holocaust museum. That was incredibly moving. I was a little concerned that it may be too much for the third parent, however, he was fine and walked away with some powerful images and thoughts to dwell upon.
We followed that up with a visit to the American History museum. Absolutely fantastic. I loved the first ladies section. All of the gowns worn to the inaugural balls were on display. Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama’s etc.
Speaking of Obama, we were strolling down the street, a block from our hotel and found the streets roped off and at least 50 secret service cars, motorbikes and a small army of secret service police officers roaming the area. Puzzled, we joined the people watching and were rewarded with a shout and cheer from the crowd and a quick glimpse of Mr President himself. I must confess to a great deal of excitement to see him in the presidential vehicle.
That night the littlies and I went for a balmy stroll, while Robb took Oliver to the entirely inappropriate Hangover 2. They harassed me to enter every cheap, tacky souvenir shop and proceeded to lecture me about “their” money and that they had the right to buy what ever they pleased. Hmmmm, Tom wanted a DC cap that had a beer can attachment and straws to enable him to drink and walk simultaneously and Hens was interested in a fragile glass bottle (imagine gass through the luggage)that had a model of the white house inside. Anyway, the fifteen flavors, self service ice cream shop next door did the trick in diverting attention and leaving said souvenirs for the next quality shoppers.
We caught the train to the big apple yesterday. Arrived in the crowded Amtrak station and stood bewildered as we tried to work out how to get to Grand Central Staion. I asked at an information booth, expecting a lovely and helpful explanation. Instead I was treated with contempt and told to board some random line. I processed the information and set about trying to use the automated ticketing machine. Not having much luck, I headed back to the information booth. Here , I was jeered by the waiting crowd, “Get the laddee a ticket already”. The booth women started ranting at me “I’m not a mind reader ladee, how should I guess that you needed directions and tickets”.
The queue then turned on the booth lady and started yelling at her to “quit tawking and help the ladee”
Welcome to NYC!
After the booth debacle, we encountered the google maps error ( I don’t think it works particularly well in amongst skyscrapers.) anyway 10 blocks passed our hotel, on foot with luggage, we realized our mistake, rectified it and found the hotel. It was a little gem. An obscured view of the Empire State, AC and a block from Grand Central. It is also roomy and spotlessly clean. Yay! We dropped off our stuff, hit the streets and ate incredible pizza on the sidewalk. We also did the touristy thing and jumped aboard a double decker bus and had a guided tour of the city. Ground zero was especially interesting, however, the bustling groovy streets of Greenwich village did it for me.
Oliver has already asked 20 times about some basketball shop, so to keep the troops happy( and of course mumma is a leeetle partial to some old fashion retail therapy) we intend to hit the shops this morning, take in Centeal Park this arvo and meet up with julie, carl and co for dinner tonight.

Love Moi

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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Diary


Disney and Dc

The life and times of a family abroad.

It is 11.01 pm in Washington and we have just spent a gloriously balmy evening strolling around this majestic city. The White House is quite spectacular and we loved watching the unusually coloured, black squirrels, defy the police and highly skilled snipers (perched on the roof) by frolicking freely on the rolling green lawns.

Our 4 days at Disneyworld was fabulously exhausting. We “did” four parks in four days and covered kilometers of expansive roads and paths. Tom was very taken with the idea and often repeated slogan that “wishes can come true!”. He wished for many riches, more coke and lots more lollies.
Oliver kept discussing in a loud voice, his concern about the obesity of children and adults at the park. Kids walked around all day with giant, refillable soda cups and ate deserts that came with small shovels, due to their size.. It is quite an epidemic, I’m not sure if it is indicative of the country at large( pardon the pun) or just the Disney demographic. Massive families hired motorized buggies to get around. They got priority entry to most rides! I understand that eating disorders are a terrible affliction, but I must say that I think that those born with disabilities should receive priority treatment. Nuff said.
I had downloaded a touring plan, which helped enormously with queue management. We had to arrive early and visit the attractions according to a prescribed sequence. It really did work. We had visited and ridden on most major attractions by lunchtime. We rode the iconic Space Mountain twice. On the second time, we were brought to a sudden halt mid ride and for a few minutes, sat terrified as other carriages remained in working order. We thought we were about to be shunted with tremendous force from behind. Then, they switched the lights on and we saw that there were actually 2 tracks and we were not in peril. It was quite a sight to see, metal tracks that twisted and filled a giant dome. The ride is usually operated in darkness, with flashes of light and the twinkle of stars. Anyway, we were rescued and offered fast passes on rides in compensation.
The food was pretty bad. Fries were served with every meal and soda was on tap. Our kids almost felt embarrassed to drink water. You are pretty much trapped in the resort, unless you get a taxi out of the massive compound. It was about 15 km to get out. So we braved the burgers, fries, waffles, pancakes and deep fried fare. So nice to eat some veggies tonight.
Tomorrow Robb is taking the boys to the Smithsonian and I am going to see the rather harrowing holocaust museum.
S xx

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Posted by on June 5, 2011 in Diary