Things have been pretty quiet since we’ve been back – we’ve slotted back into everyday life almost like we never left. Now, that’s not necessarily a good thing and we still have the travel urge so we’ve been planning for the future.
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One thing that enabled our long trip as a family was work exchange programs where in exchange for a certain amount of work per day your host provides food and accommodation. Unfortunately most work exchange programs aren’t set up for families. It took hours and hours and hours of work to find hosts willing to take a family.
There had to be an easier way – so we decided to create “Show Your Kids the World“. To show families that you don’t need a lot of money to travel. In fact money can get in the way of you having the wonderful experiences you have when you stay with locals. No 5* hotel can offer you that.
The Ivory Curl trees were in full bloom the day we drove to the mountains. Other than Milano’s on the Mall after work on a Friday, the loose scattering of odd-shaped volcanic plugs called the Glasshouse Mountains are one of my favourite places in Queensland. Driving up to the Sunshine Coast these past few weekends, Mt. Tibrogargan always catches me out. Its shape-shifting profile means that as you drive around it it’s apt to take on different appearances.
Mt. Tibrogargan, Glass House Mountains
The Mooloolah river flows into the Coral Sea just south of the seaside town of Mooloolaba. In its final half kilometre it wraps around a spit, enveloping the boats anchored in Mooloolaba Marina that stick out into it on hundred-metre-long arms. On arm C of the Marina is a thirty-five-or-so foot yacht called the Gráinne Mhaol (pronounced Grawnya Wail) owned by our Irish friends Karl and Kara. Knowing they were heading off on an Antarctic cruise in the new year, we asked them around Christmastime if they needed someone – knowing full well they didn’t – to housesit the Gráinne while they were away. Magnanimously, they played along and said that’d be great, actually. We could keep an eye out in case anything happened while they were away, like a plague of bluebottles or a shower of cane toads.
Pandanus, Alexandra Headland Continue reading
Our couchsurf near Salon-de-Provence was perfectly situated for day tours into the hill towns of Provence. Our first tour was to be of the Alpilles, a long limestone range full of olive trees, vineyards and medieval towns.
We got off to a bit of a bumpy start, circumnavigating Salon a couple of times before finding the correct road. We’d planned a little route round the Alpilles, starting at Eyguières, transiting Mouriès, then hitting Les Baux-de-Provence, where we had our first stop.
Les Baux – one of the most beautiful villages in France
We picked up a car near the Nîmes train station and headed for our next destination – a Couchsurf near Salon-de-Provence. But as we had a bit of time to kill we decided to do a little side trip along the way. Referring to our guidebook we found a detour to the town of Miramas-le-Vieux. They really seem to like these hyphenated town names here, sometimes stretching to four or five words strung together in a memory-testing place name. We duly took turned off from the highway and headed south.
After about 20 minutes we approached the outskirts of a large town which turned out to be Miramas (note the lack of ‘-le-Vieux’). This ugly modern town seemed to bear no resemblance to the guidebook’s description so we decided to drive on and look for an alternative. Just after exiting the town we spotted a discrete sign up a narrow local road for ‘Miramas-le-Vieux’. We’d just discovered one of the little touring pitfalls – if there is a town called ‘le-Vieux’, which of course means ‘the-old’, then that most likely indicates that there is also a newer, and usually much less picturesque, town with the same name waiting to confuse visitors.
School’s out for summer! At least it is in Greece, where the kids get a cool 12 weeks off for their summer holidays.
On Friday evening we attended Lithakia Primary School’s end of year concert, which was held in the school yard as the sun set behind Megalo Vouni (the “big mountain” behind Lithakia). Our kids gamely sang songs and recited poems, in Greek, and as the evening ended, ran amok with their fellow classmates. Ralph and I sat in the audience with my parents and enjoyed the evening, mild and with barely a breeze. Continue reading
Approaching Zakynthos harbour
So we’ve finally arrived in Koukla after our one month detour to Central and Eastern Europe. We came the old fashioned way, by bus from Athens, and then by ferry from the port of Kyllini to Zakynthos town. We were lucky enough to travel on the brand new, deluxe ferry “Fior di Levante” which made for an even more than usually enjoyable trip. Sure, catching the plane from Athens takes about four hours less traveling time, but there is nothing like the feeling of seeing Zakynthos slowly grow larger and take form from the deck of your ship, before you sail into the harbour; you really feel like you’ve arrived on a Greek island in a way that catching a flight could never replicate. Continue reading
I took this picture one afternoon recently in a café in Krems an der Donau (Krems on the Danube), which is an hour west of Vienna in the scenic Wachau area. It was a chilly day. We’d done all our sightseeing. All we wanted was to sit down somewhere in the Altstadt (old town), and have a coffee. Continue reading
Before landing in Koukla House, Greece, to start writing our book (that’s ‘The Zakynthos Project’) we’re spending a chilly month in Austria as Help Exchange guests with a family from Donaustadt, just outside Wien (Vienna). Continue reading
If it wasn’t for the birdsong, it’d be perfectly quiet here in Donaustadt. Preparing my cup of English Breakfast tea, I look out the kitchen window at the neighbours in their kitchen doing pretty much the same thing, probably thinking the same thing too: please let there be some milk in the fridge. Continue reading