20 August 2012

afternoon at the park

You get some interesting photos when you let the three year old take hold of the camera. But you get some nice ones too.
We went to Kensington Gardens for the afternoon. He with his new wings that I made him and his duck quacker ('whistle' that makes a duck noise when you blow it) so he could be a duck visiting his duck friends. Well, his wings came off before we got to the pond and despite some protest because they were his (though he didn't want to wear them) I wore the wings. Only completely carefree because I had this three year old in tow. We fed the ducks...ducks? Couldn't see any ducks this day. We fed the swans, pigeons, geese and other little birds who would swoop and snatch their opportunity for a snack before the bread hit the ground. Unfortunately the greedy swan was faster than the three year old throwing and a finger got chomped in the process. The whiteys are as bad as the blacks back home. Impatient birds. This was a bit of trauma. Mr Happy helped with the pain and bit of blood but there was lots of talk about 'I didn't want the swan to bite me'. Poor little finger and shocked boy. Some other park users gave me some grains and the pigeons were landing on my hand to peck it all up. Another good shot from the three year old.

We went over to the lawn chairs and sat down briefly. They appear in the public parks in the summer which I thought was a neat idea from the city council. But you see that fluro vest in the back ground wandering over? Apparently you hire their use. Wasn't gonna do that, not that it cost much.
We simply wandered around the park more. I let him take some more photos and then we eventually made our way home. A simple afternoon but pleasantly spent in the sunshine. That's work for me.

the perfect country week

One of the weeks of the summer holidays we'd planned to spend at the country house. The mum I work for could not have picked a better week to go. It was brilliant weather all week. Real summer heat. And the country house is always a lovely place to be.

I arrived by train and taxi on the Sunday afternoon. That way I had some time to relax and just enjoy it all before I had to start 'work'. I spent the afternoon outside. I sat on the bridge by the pond for the majority--drawing and writing. I also went for a bit of a walk around the property.

The week was filled with all sorts of outdoor time. The mum and the gardener had set up our "beach" with a shade area with outdoor table and chairs and recliner lounges, two boats filled with balls and water and a stash of water shotguns. This area was well used. For the first three days of the week the boy had his best friend stay. (The bf's mum and dad were moving house.) They had so much fun together and they did a bit of squirting each other with the waterguns but mostly played firefighters or watered the trees. We also played in the maze and the playground both there and in the nearby village. They did super well together and only really got in one minor tiff. The baby was there too with a maternity nurse so it was all a pretty happy, cruisy week.

There was a bit of drama when I walked the dog one day though. I took her round the property and into the horse paddock. I decided to give the horses a wide berth but the damn animals were too curious. The pack of them started circling us curious to see this other creature up close and the dog was freaking out. I was worried they'd tread on her and in the end I just let go of her lead figuring she could get away faster without me. My concern however was that she sometimes runs off if she gets the chance. Thankfully I think she was more concerned about getting to safety than exploring. I ran down to the fence and hoped she'd come back so I could let her through the gate and though she tried, the horses cornered her and she fled to the next paddock. I went through the gate and hurried up the other end of the garden and she was eagerly waiting at the next gate. Phew! I would hate to have had to admit the dog ran off because of me. Apparently I did the right thing though in regards to dogs and horses.

It always gets a bit full on and a tad awkward when family friends come to visit who have kids that are ratbags in comparison. That was a tiring day. But as for the rest, they were pretty cruisy. Kids always provide challenges like pracitising tolerance, stretching energy levels and your ability to answer 'why?'. But I also got lots of lovely time with the boy. Lots of cuddles, kisses and 'I love you, Kelly'. I think he knew something was going on though he's only recently been told that I'm leaving soon to help another family look after their baby. It's bitter sweet.

I also stayed the Friday night to watch the opening ceremony of the olympic games with them which were quite spectacular. It was useful watching it with British company because they kept making comments of things that were or related to british things that I wouldn't have got otherwise.

It was a great week of 'work'. Definitely all more relaxing and it was great to be out of the city and into nature.

14 August 2012

landlocked holiday--liechtenstein and austria

After having enough of walking around Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday, 11th July, I boarded the train for my next destination. And in honour of my Switzerland adventure, I ate delicious Lindor chocolate. Mmmm. I alighted in Buch near the border and was met by the couchsurfer host I was staying with. And then....another first. After a short bus ride we set out on foot; leaving Switzerland behind me I stepped over the border and into Liechtenstein!

Liechtenstein was an interesting part of my journey. I only stayed just over a day but that was enough. Though there was lots of 'firsts'--beginning with walking to another country--but there's not a lot to see and do in this little place. It's fun to be able to say that I've been to one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world. Meaning from Liectenstein you have to cross at least two borders to reach a coastline. A country surrounded by landlocked countries. My CS host took me to a place to try a bubble tea. I'd never had one nor even heard of it. Apparently it's some japanese thing? You choose a flavour for the tea and one for the bubbles. Interesting but I think the flavour was a bit too intense for my liking. It's super sweet. Back at my CS host's house we ended up watching some Harry Potter films and she made me a traditional Liechtenstein meal. Can't remember what it was called but it was a soup with chunks of bacon and dumplings. Tasty. The night there was not the most pleasant. I felt a little grossed out and the sleeping arrangement wasn't ideal. Things all felt a bit dirty too. But surviving all that, she was a thoughtful host.

She had some things planned that we could do. The next day she walked me around Vaduz, the capital that doesn't seem very big. But then the whole country isn't very big. She explained lots of things on the way which was interesting and she took me on the Vaduz city train which wound it's way up through the hills and down and round back to where we started. We saw Vaduz castle from a distance but I didn't really get a good shot as I thought we would get closer. We didn't. The Prince of Liechtenstein and his family still live there. We had some yummy pizza for a late lunch and then went and picked up my bag.

I caught the bus to Feldkirch, Austria and then boarded the train for Innsbruck. Walking from the train station in Innsbruck to my hotel was a little bit of a challenge thanks to half-map googlemaps gives. Made some wrong turns but got there. On the way I was stupidly excited to walk into a real supermarket. Ha ha. I was trying to keep my delighted squeaks muted as I walked down aisle after aisle of cooking ingredients (the kind where you make a meal from scratch), loads of food choices, a whole lolly and chip aisle, homewares and even a small assortment of clothing and toys and such. Local London city mini-markets have a limited choice. Anyhoo, there was more to enjoy about Austria. It was nice to have a decent room and all to myself. I found this relaxing.

Friday, 13th July I set off on foot to try to find some bike rental place the hotel staff had told me about. I walked about an hour to wear the web address said it was located but found nothing that even resembled a store. I had really hoped to view the hills of Austria by bicycle but decided not to dwell on it and head into town. I'm sure you've worked out I found somewhere to do just that. At the tourist information centre I found a leaflet and followed its directions and soon set off for the river on two wheels. It was a little drizzly but I rode on anyway and within about 15mins the sun came out and I cycled along the Inn River. It was glorious! The scenery was beautifully green and I could see the hills and riding along the bike path that followed the river meant it was really peaceful too. This adventure was all a little "Sound of Music" inspired though the only link that I made to it that day was that I had my jazz selection playing on my ipod as I rode and it eventually played the fun jazzy version of "My Favourite Things". It was such a pleasurable ride that I just kept peddling, crossing a neat wooden bridge and on and on until eventually I thought I should pause. I veered off into Volders where I found a patch of green where I could see the mountains about me and ate a late lunch of crackers and Liechtenstein cheese. Then I rode all the way back again. The round trip was about 30kms I've since worked out. Not a bad effort at all though my butt was quite sore for a while. If only bike seats were more comfortable. Still, I think that bike ride was the highlight of my Austria stint.

I wandered around Innsbruck a little before making my way back to the hotel. Now that the skies had cleared it was a lovely scene and great for shooting memories of the place. A decision well made as the next day was properly wet. It's a good thing that my CS host had given me an old umbrella to keep. I lugged my luggage around for the moring in the rain and did my tourist shopping before hanging out at the train station till my train arrived. Late again as the theme of this holiday goes.

I was on my way to Vienna now. My luxury leg. Oh the seating was deluxe. I had bought a first class seat and they had spacious recliner chairs, powerpoints, free glass of wine with a kitkat. Mmmm...oh, this is BUISNESS first class. Ooops. Oh well, ha ha. So I paid a little extra to stay there. After all, I'd planned to end my adventure with luxury. And it was a four hour train journey.

In Vienna I discovered my hotel was a longer walk than it appeared to be on the map but I found it and walked in instantly smiling. I felt glamorous. Well, appart from the fact I felt underdressed to be there. I checked in and found my room and it exceeded my expectations. It was super nice with a nice big bed, huge fun bathroom, change room/walk in robe, a sitting area and a balcony. I was here for just one night so I did as I intended and stayed in. I made use of the lovely bath relaxing and reading amongst a mountain of bubbles. I then robed myself in the typical hotel white and ordered room service. Fun. I eventually went to bed thinking it would have been great to have more than one night here.

In the morning I checked out, got a map and worked out the train system. I made the meeting point for my walking tour of Vienna in good time. Not the most pleasant weather but it barely rained. Our guide was wonderfully interested in history and Vienna and she made it rather interesting. We walked around seeing the sights and hearing bits and pieces of history like seeing the place where Adolf Hitler had stood and addressed the people of Vienna and heard how he'd come here to try and get into art school numerous times and was never accepted. Since I'm finishing this post a few weeks after returning from my holiday (priorities took over) I don't remember a lot of the details and the maps and such I kept I haven't got with me but I'm still going to get this done and posted. The Dom fascinated me. So specifically designed with numbers corresponding to religioius things and all that. It was also being worked on and was surrounded with scaffolding. Cleaning more precisely. You can see how dark the outside is. The pale yellowy colour is the cleaned part. It being so detailed as gothic architecture is it's taking a long time to clean but it's coming up nicely. Once the tour was over I had a few more hours so headed to the summer palace which was near my hotel anyway where I'd left my bag for the day. I just wandered the gardens for a while until I realised I'd got to that damn spot on my camera's sd card where it stops recording my shots. Realising the last few hours of photos hadn't worked I switched to the spare I'd included for this situation and quickly hurried back around the gardens at the palace to get the shots I wanted, collected my bag from the hotel and managed to stop by the Dom again. Lucky I hadn't lost any I particularly wanted to keep and couldn't get back to.

Then I caught the trains I needed to get myself to the airport on time and began to wind down for the journey home. Which, by the way, I think was undramatic. The only smooth journey of my holiday. Oh, I did realise though when I landed in London that I'd booked the EasyBus home for an hour after my flight took off rather than an hour after I landed. Ha ha. My fault though for that drama. I just bought a fast train ticket and got myself home. It was busy holiday but happy to say I've been to Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria and to have some fun memories of those places.