Joined June 2017 Message
  • Day16

    Our drive across Switzerland

    July 11, 2017 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Goodbye to Geneva and time to hit the road with gusto. We head pretty well north east across Switzerland, going through Lausanne, Bern and Zurich for what is a pleasant drive across the very green hills and valleys that are Switzerland. We stop somewhere about half way, in between Bern and Zurich for a break. A picturesque little place that eludes to the scenes that await us at our destination, St. Galen.Read more

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  • Day16

    St. Gallen

    July 11, 2017 in Switzerland ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We arrive at St. Gallen after driving across the Alps to check in at our first Air BnB. Toni chose well here with a comfortable apartment close to the centre of town and Toni's cousin Raphaella. We had dinner with Raphaella and her family with lots of conversation and planning a activities for the next couple of days. It was quite late by the time we got to bed after what had been a long day.

    The next day, Martina, Raphaella's daughter had the day planned out for us. Together with her family we had brunch in the town centre and then a tour the town. St. Gallen is very picturesque place. The town while modern is at the same time very traditional architecturally and has one of the nicest cathedrals I have seen. From the town centre we visited the very taditional Swiss town of Appenzell. This is a quaint village with its own brewery and cheese factory. All set amongst rolling green hills, cows with tall grey mountains as a backdrop.

    Later in the day we visited Lake Bodence to the north of St. Gallen, which forms the border between Switzerland and Germany. It has a very nicely developed forshore with parks and avenues of trees. The lake supports all kinds of water activities but was quite choppy when we were there.

    The next place we visited was a parkland in the hills behind the city, providing a complete view of St. Gallen below it. The park is a forest setting with a series of 3 cascading lakes that have been set up for swimming, water polo and diving. This a a really good setup for all the locals to use.

    Lastly we noticed what appeared to be many little huts amongst what looked like flower and vegetable gardens. This was correct. Most people live in apartments without land, so the council rents out tracts of land for any residents prepared to pay a small yearly fee to have access to grow their own fruit, vegetables. One of Carmelo's friends showed us around and allowed us to try some of his fresh veggies. It was amazing to see some of these little gardens.

    Everywhere you looked there was a photo to be taken with every scene that could be a post card. A genuinely pretty place with a good balance between a modern town a traditional town and a country ambience.
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  • Day15

    CERN the LHC and the UN

    July 10, 2017 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Geneva is only a quick stop for us on our way to Italy. We have today to see as much as we can. First stop CERN. It is very difficult to get on a guided tour at CERN. They only have groups up to 24 people with 12 pre-booked 15 days before the tour and the remaining 12 just 3 days before. The booking site opens at 8.30am Geneva time and books very fast. One of the times I tried, it was booked in less than a minute. It would almost be easier to develop the Grand Unified Theory of Partical Physics, seriously. So just the static tours for us, which as it turned out were more than enough for our non physicist minds to deal with. Once you ramp up the grey matter a notch or two, you start to appreciate this place and all that you are looking at. In a sentence, this place is cool to visit. The engineering let alone the science is amazing. Completely the opposite approach to understanding, well everything compared to religion. Also provides perspective on why most adopt religion over science because the science is oh so complicated. Anyway a couple of hours flew here and I could have stayed a couple more.

    Another tram ride to the opposite end of the city but still only about a 30 min. ride to visit the UN. This wasn't part of our original plans but worth the visit just the same. We got a brief history of how the UN was created after the failure of the League of Nations with the start of WW2. a tour of the building and various UN conference halls and the process of how they work. I did learn some things and got a more appreciable view of just what the UN does and achieves. Most have a perspective that it is a toothless tiger but its charter is not about a strong arm but a diplomatic one. Lots of good and goodwill from all over the world happens here.

    We also visited Lake Geneva and got caught in the rain. Ate at a couple of traditional Swiss restaurants and realised I have been trying different beers as we have been traveling. I am taking pics of the ones I like. Thought about buying a watch here. Watches everywhere in Geneva, even a watch museum. Too many options though and a little research informs you, probably about the worst and most expensive place to buy a watch. Time to move on.
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  • Day14


    July 9, 2017 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Off to Geneva this morning. We farewell our little apartment in Paris early and head to the airport. As a footnote, I don't recommend Air France. Firstly they don't include your baggage in your ticket and secondly are quite pedantic about individual bag weights even if as a group you are much lighter than required. Geneva airport is a bit weird in that it has a Swiss side and a French side. Therefore two sets of customs etc. Now to pick up the car from French side. Yes well um! Not an easy task as Toni discovered and staff at airport not that helpful. We eventually got there though and picked up a nice little Peugeot 308 wagon. Just got all the luggage in the back. By the way 6 speed manual and you change gear with your right hand not left. Driving on the right and changing with the right at the same time. I didn't know my left from right for a bit. Just about mastered it now though. Our hotel was in a great location right near the transport hub, restaurants and other facilities. The drive down to Geneva from airport is easy and provides you the first glimpses of the Swiss country side and lifestyle.Tomorrow we're in for a science lesson, off to CERN.Read more

  • Day13

    The louvre

    July 8, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    Why is it called the Louvre? Well in the days before a palace existed here, wolves inhabited the area, quite aggressively apparently. Wolf in French is loup, louvre roughly translates to place of the wolves. So the built a castle here where the remnants were discovered in the mid 1990's to protect themselves from the wolves. Have you ever noticed how many of the French kings had the name Louis? Very similar to Loup. I think they might have ended up housing the wolves inside the palace. They eventually worked things out, exterminated the wolves and became a republic. If you visit the Louvre, go on guided tour. Toni was lucky enough to book a tour a day before and it was well worth it. We avoided the queues but more importantly, got a history and art lesson as well. I can now tell the difference between Greek sculpture vs. Roman sculpture and pre renaissance art vs. renaissance art. Pity I don't have the money of the French monarchy to afford buying some. The Louvre while grand in my opinion is more subtle than Versailles, less ostentatious and therefore a better building overall. At any one time there is only about 8% of the collection on display and on a given day you can only effectively see about 3 of the 7-8 sections being displayed. About 1% of the entire collection. So the next time we visit there will be new things to see. We got right up to the Monash Lisa which is quite a feat as well as the Venus du Milo. Her real name is Aphrodite, she is actually a Greek sculpture not Roman. Previously in her place was a Roman sculpture, Venus du Milan. Napoleon who had very sticky fingers 'borrowed' it from Milan at one time. The French had to give it back to the Italians so when the found this one instead of Aphrodite do Milo, they used Venus du Milo because it was so similar to du Milan. All in all it is just about the best and most intestine art you will ever see and for us linked nicely with our trip to Jerusalem with all of the religious art on display.Read more

  • Day12

    Chateau de Versailles

    July 7, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Our second last day in France and we visited Versailles. Before you even get to the palace, you get a sense of the scale and grandure of the place with all of the buildings outlying the palace. They were clearly part of the complex when the Bourbon were in power. Then you notice the gold leaf on the roof of the palace as you approach. You realise this is something to be seen. Toni pre-booked a tour which is a definite must to avoid the queues but more importantly get the context and history of this place. It is immense and the decadence is offensive. No wonder the people in the end took comfort with the guillotine. Just building this place let alone it's upkeep would bankrupt a state and this was just their holiday house! The scale of the gardens was impressive but it wasn't as beautiful as I had been led to believe.Read more

  • Day11

    Disneyland Paris

    July 6, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    A surprise for the kids today. Off to Disneyland Paris. Alanah very excited again and Liam trying not to show how impressed he is that we have been able to keep this secret from him. What did I think of Disneyland? Well as far as theme/fun parks go, no body does it better than Disney. I'm not into big rides but have to say the rides here were pretty good. Star Wars space tour was really good and entertaining. The queue was done as a spaceport, keeping you engaged before the ride. Captain Nemo's submarine was fun and the Indiana Jones ride and wild west mine ride were a blast. Best ever haunted house I have been in. Done very well. Only annoying thing was the merchandising. Every shop in and outside the park you went into had pretty much the same products regardless of the theme of the shop. It became quite tiresome. We met Mike and he was very engaging and given it was the peak season, queues weren't that long. All in all a fun day.Read more

  • Day10

    Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe

    July 5, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Today is Alanah's day. Off to visit the Eiffel Tower. She is so excited and I think Liam is quietly hyped as well. Quite hot in Paris at the moment. Locals saying about 3-5 degrees hotter than usual. Normally about 26-28 degrees and hitting 30-33 degrees and it has been a long dry spell. Queues not too bad at the tower. Only took about 35 min. to get in and up we went. It was much nicer than last time I was here when it was cold and windy. Lots of photos taken and even lunch at the restaurant in the tower. From here we decided to walk despite the heat and headed off down the beautiful streets of Paris to the Arc de Triomphe. Again queues not too bad and we spent lots of time learning about it and lots more photos of the Parissian vista's. We used the Metro to get around, which is quite easy to use and did get home till late but the city was still bustling. Interestingly it doesn't get dark here in summer until about 10 pm.Read more

  • Day9

    Paris - Montparnasse

    July 4, 2017 in France ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    The next leg of our journey is onto Paris. Security out of Israel quite tight with about 5 checkpoints, luggage needing to be unlocked and a small inquisition to ensure you are who you say are. We farewell Israel after nearly a two hour delay and arrive in Paris in the dark. Paris is beautiful by day or night and Alanah is so excited to catch a glimpse of old Eiffel's tower lit up like a Christmas tree. Toni outdid herself with the apartment and location she chose to stay at in Paris. We are located in Montparnasse, an inner suburb of Paris about 3km from the centre of town. Typical french architecture, cafes and brasseries, a strip with a local street market and local supermarket right across the road. We're on the 2nd floor and our windows open onto the street, bringing in the those classic French scenery and sounds.Read more

  • Day8

    Kfarvradim Rosh HaNikra

    July 3, 2017 in Lebanon ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    The last half of our last day in Israel, visited the border between Israel and Lebanon. There is a DM zone of about 100m between the two states that is managed by a UN peace keeping force. Believe it or not there is also a tourist attraction here with cable car and old closed rail line built by the English with help of NZ, SA and Aust. In 1947 an Israeli terrorist group snuck in and blew it up to ensure no easy Lebanese access to Israel. Lots of soldiers here at their posts and naval ships monitoring the border. Also a very nice Mediterranean beach, where we went for a dip and watched the sun set.Read more

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