Category Archives: Transportation

Around the World 2016: Day 2

Standard

The family woke quite early considering our bodies are two hours ahead on Sydney time. For some reason it took us hours to get out of the house. All four of us showered which took some time. Everything takes twice as long for me with a newborn, even with family help with her. We had no breakfast so after packing up the car we stopped off for Egg McMuffins at Maccas. Today we drive from the outskirts of Perth down to Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. 

We got a long stretch of driving done first thing after eating. The kids begged to watch shows on the iPads so after their loud talking and asking a million question drove us to insanity we caved. They ended up doing who knows what on them. Games most likely. Sofia has a propensity to have motion sickness so she had a motion sickness pill. Out of the blue Alex mentioned that he didn’t feel great. He often says this when he wants to stay home from school. We didn’t know if he really meant it (The boy who cried wolf) or not. He did. He vomited all over the floor mat, his booster seat, the seat in front of him and his jeans and jacket. This happened not long after I changed Serafina’s nappy and managed to mess that up s badly that he clothes were covered in wee. Back to the car. It smelled BAD. Tom did the best he could to clean up in the middle of nowhere while I got Alex into some clean clothes. Back on the road with no iPads.

It was 1pm when we got to Katanning to find some lunch. After doing a quick scan of the town we settled on a corner cafe. As we all piled out of the car I watched the last two staff members walk out and lock the door. On to something else. Luckily in the distance I could see another cafe sign so we walked down to see what we could find. We ended up at The Daily Grind for lunch. Tom and I shared a Caesar salad with chicken and beef rashers (it was Halal) and the kids had fish fingers (fish don’t have fingers) and chips. We passed through Katanning a few years back and had a destination in mind. There is a place called the All Ages Playground with oversized structures for playing. The kids had a blast last time so we were off to revisit. Last time Alex was scaring me to death with his climbing. He was so little and had no qualms about climbing the highest structures so I had to follow him to help. Luckily the highest one was partially disassembled this time, but the kids went crazy for the rest of it. It looks like it belongs in a deserted Soviet town.

After burning some energy we hit the road again as we still had a while to go to get to Albany. It was an uneventful drive into the town. We did stop for groceries on the way to our Airbnb apartment. Tom and Alex dragged all of our bags into the house and I unpacked us so we could settle in for three nights. Tom cooked some dinner while I dealt with little miss fussy Serafina. The kids worked on their journals and watched the iPad before bed. Tom did a load of very smelly laundry (from Alex’s mishap earlier in the day). The weather outlook for the next few days looks grim!

Advertisements

Around the World 2016: Day 1

Standard

17 June 2016

The family was up early with the nervous anticipation of starting this long holiday. The kids will be out of school for two weeks before school holidays and two weeks after school holidays so they are thrilled with our decision to pull them out of school. We spent a few hours finalising packing, refereeing the big kids, keeping baby Serafina happy, fed, and feeling loved as well as attempting to get everyone ready for the day. 

We attempted to pack light. With five of us travelling it isn’t easy, especially since we have a week in Australian winter. Our winters are mild in comparison to some, but we still needed warmish clothes as wind and rain was forecast. We also had to worry about Scotland; who ever knows what sort of weather you are going to get up in the Highlands, even in summer. Most of the other places we will visit need warm weather clothing. Our main luggage consisted of two medium-sized roll-aboards. Along with our luggage we have Serafina’s car seat with base and pram as well as a booster for Alex. Three backpacks and a carry on for spare clothes, nappies, etc rounds out our haul. 

Our taxi van arrived to pick us up around 11. After the standard drive to the airport with two very talkative and loud children and very quiet baby we unloaded at Qantas domestic and checked in for our Business Class flight to Perth. Once the rest of our luggage was offloaded in oversized luggage we were off to the Business lounge for some lunch and drinks before taking off.

All in all our flight was uneventful. We were downgraded to an older plane instead of the nice business class seats we had expected. It was all good, though. There was a bassinet for Serafina (she spent very little time in there). Alex and Tom sat together by the window and Sofia and I sat together in the middle section. All three kids were very good on the flight. The big kids glued themselves to iPads and Serafina did her part to catnap and be cute. Several flight attendants had a cuddle with her so I could have a break. She only made a little bit of noise when she was hungry. She had a very successful first ever flight.

Out flight was slightly delayed on departure but that time was made up in the air. We landed in Perth, collected our luggage and then picked up our Nissan Pathfinder. Arguments happened because both kids wanted the third row of seats. Ultimately Sofia won out because there were no Isofix points for his booster seat. Poor Alex was not happy. It took ages to get everything arranged in the car, car seats installed, etc. Our accommodation for the night was a 3-bedroom Big4 cabin in the Swan Valley. It worked out to be a decent place to stay. We were all pretty exhausted and soon got off to sleep trying to adjust ourselves to the two hour time change from Sydney. 

This Expat’s Life

Standard

It’s been quite some time since I have written anything here. Time for a quick catch up. 

It was 14 years ago, the weekend of 1 June 2002, I boarded a flight to London to start, unbeknownst to us, our expat adventures. Tom was already in England covering a maternity leave for 4-6 months. After 3.5 years there, we went on to Hamburg, Germany for a short stint and then back to the north of England from 2005-2010. It was late in 2009 we got the call that landed us in Sydney, Australia. It was a quick, but rough transition with me being pregnant, Sofia being 2, and Tom whisked away to work in December/January. Tom has been with his company since 1999. We were lucky to travel and move around as we did with the company as they also went through several transitions.
In December 2015 we found ourselves in an interesting position. Tom was told his job in Sydney would be done at the end of March (which eventually got pushed to end of June). Sydney had been our home for six years and we needed to decide if we wanted to make it our home for a while longer. In the end we decided going back to the US to live in Chicago wasn’t what we wanted to do and the job Tom was offered there wasn’t exactly what he wanted to be doing. Tom resigned from his company and finished up 31 May. We are staying in Sydney as locals. No more expat benefits (sniff, sniff). We’ve had a good run of being expats with his company but now we are planning to become Permanent Residents and eventually get our citizenship. Our children will be able to decide where they want to live and go to school with two passports–American and Australian.

So, what to do with some time off? Travel, of course. Tom busied himself with booking us around the world tickets. We will be spending the next six weeks travelling. I will attempt to update every day with our adventures. We are travelling with our daughter who is 8, our son who turns 6 a week into our holiday, and the newest addition to our family who is coming up on 2 months old. 

Itinerary: Sydney-Western Australia (Perth, Albany/Denmark, Margaret River)-Singapore-England (East Yorkshire, Northumberland), Scotland-Denmark (Copenhagen, Island of Fyn), Germany (Munich), USA (Charlotte NC, Wake Forest, Hampton VA, Minneapolis MN, Grand Forks ND, Minneapolis)-Sydney.

Day 11: Longyearbyen

Standard

We were in bed far too late last night. It was after ten that the kids finally got to sleep and closer to 11:30 for me. It made getting up in time for breakfast and our tour a bit of a challenge. I had a more difficult time sleeping for some reason. There were no blackout curtains and it was brighter than it had been thus far. There didn’t seem to be much differentiation between day and night. At least further south the sun dipped behind the mountains so the light wasn’t as direct.

We had breakfast and then waited for our Maxi Taxi to pick us up at 10am. It was a 2 hour tour around the city pointing out all of the buildings, mines, some facts and some humour.

There was so much to learn about Svalbard and so much to see in 2 hours.

Here are a few interesting facts:
* The town was founded by an American, John Longyear.

* The buildings are built on stilts. Due to the permafrost everything has to be built up on stilts. If you were to build on the permafrost the heat from the building would melt the ground and cause it to move.

* Snowmobiles (snow scooters) are widely used here when there is snow. There are more snowmobiles than people, something like 4000 of them for a population of around 2300. There is no road network between settlements and it is by far the easiest way to get around.

* The sun sets on 25 October and rises again on 8 March for total darkness. On the flip side, there is midnight sun from late April to late August.

* You can’t have a cat as a pet due to the fragile birdlife in Svalbard. You also can’t keep your polar dogs at home, you have to keep them at the dog center on the edge of town.

* Polar bears. Svalbard and Franz Joseph Land share a Polar Bear population of 3000. If you leave the outskirts of town you must carry a rifle and know how to use it. But if you are in the town with your guns you must check them at the door of shops.

* Arctic Terns nest on the ground and will attack you. You must carry a long orange pole above your head if you are going past the breeding grounds and even then they will try to attack the sticks and your head and poo on you! We know this from experience.

* There is a hospital in Svalbard but they don’t have specialized services, those have to be done in Tromsø, a flight away from Svalbard. They do have fiber optic wire and specialists available in case of emergency. Also, pregnant women fly to Tromsø a few weeks before they are due, but can deliver in Longyearbyen in case of early birth.

We drove all around the town then up into the mountains near the operating mine. There were several times we got out to take in the views. We also stopped at the church but didn’t stay inside long because there was a Sunday service happening.

Once we were done with the tour we asked the driver to recommend a good place for lunch and then to drop us there rather than at the hotel. He recommended Kroa. We were the first people in for lunch. The kids shared a burger and fries, Tom had the same and I ordered a chicken sandwich. After lunch we had a wander through the town into some shops and around. The kids and Tom got new shirts. We also picked up a couple of little souvenirs.

We wandered our way back to the hotel discussing trying to join an afternoon activity. The kids just weren’t going to make it, especially Alex who seems very tired today. We went back to our room and rested for a while, organized bags and when the kids started fighting too much we decided to go back out. Our first stop was the Svalbard Museum just out the door from our hotel. This was an unexpected delight. It was very well done, so colorful and with displays the kids enjoyed. There were displays about animals, mining, weather, glaciers, Svalbard history, old artifacts, and so on. In the true Svalbard tradition we either had to remove our shoes or wear protectors over the top. No wonder the wood floors are still beautiful. This was a option in the hotel as well but it seemed that a majority of people ignored it.

Early the same morning Tom had gone for a walk on the outskirts of the city only to be attacked by some birds but didn’t really know why. The tour guide explained to us that Arctic Terns nested down there and that we needed to carry the poles above our heads and that the birds would only attack the sticks. We returned to that same area to have a walk and carried the poles but the birds persisted. Several of them were flying at us. One flew right into Tom’s head and pooed on him. Same thing happened to Sofia! At that point we aborted our walk and headed back up toward the hotel.

The kids had peanut butter sandwiches and carrots for dinner and then off to bed. Alex was so tired he fell asleep at 7:30, Sofia didn’t get to sleep until much later. She finally got settled into bed and then had a bloody nose which ate up more time. Our flight leaves at 4:40am. The airport shuttle bus comes to the hotel at 3:00am and breakfast is served at 2:30am. Tom and I plan to get up at 1:30 and then get the kids up at 2.

Let’s see how this goes. Two flights. Longyearbyen to Oslo then on to Hamburg, Germany.

20140703-181509-65709090.jpg

20140703-181508-65708110.jpg

20140703-181508-65708826.jpg

20140703-181508-65708548.jpg

20140703-181507-65707894.jpg

20140703-181511-65711781.jpg

20140703-181508-65708358.jpg

20140703-181509-65709365.jpg

20140703-181509-65709825.jpg

20140703-181510-65710083.jpg

20140703-181509-65709593.jpg

20140703-181511-65711112.jpg

20140703-181510-65710299.jpg

20140703-181510-65710680.jpg

20140703-181512-65712329.jpg

20140703-181511-65711392.jpg

20140703-181510-65710874.jpg

20140703-181510-65710491.jpg

20140703-181513-65713315.jpg

20140703-181512-65712797.jpg

20140703-181513-65713017.jpg

20140703-181511-65711608.jpg

20140703-181512-65712562.jpg

Day 6: Bodø to Moskenes on the ferry and on to Nyvågar

Standard

As suspected, we were up early. Tom and I were both up just before 5am and the kids not long after that. They are sleep-deprived and it shows. Foul behavior. We got ourselves dressed and had some breakfast. We packed up bags and headed out to see about an adapter. Nobody knew where to get one and we were out of time since we had to check in for the ferry 45 minutes before departure.

Once loaded on to the ferry we settled into some seats for the short journey. The weather is cold, cloudy, windy, and slight sprinkles of rain on departure. Further out the rain stopped and clouds seem to be clearing a bit. The wind and cold continue though. Worries of seasickness have subsided as it is a fairly smooth journey through the deep blue waters. The ferry isn’t overly crowded which gives us a chance to move around and see everything from different areas.

Once we got about 20 minutes from shore we had the blessing to see a small pod of Orcas/Killer Whales feeding right off the side of the ferry. How awesome!

We landed in Moskenes and had a short wait to drive the car off of the ferry. We headed east towards the village of Å to have a look around first. These islands are famous for their dried cod and we were lucky enough to see some racks of dried cod being cut down and stacked. These islands are spectacular with rocky islands, tall peaks, snow on some of the mountains, water everywhere. And cool/cold in the summer. I love it.

We spent quite a bit of time stopping for about an hour just to take in all of the magnificent views. Finally we were on our way to our Rorbuhotell at Nyvågar which is not far from Svolvær. We checked in to our room which is a two-bedroom cottage right on the water overlooking the mountains.

The kids played outside at the little playground and ran around. I did two loads of laundry which should get us to Tom’s Mom’s house in Charlotte with clean clothes. The midnight sun plays tricks on the brain. It is so high in the sky at 8pm that you would swear it was lunchtime. Suddenly at 8pm we realized we hadn’t eaten dinner. The kids were so hyped up that they were not going to sit in a restaurant. We drove to Svolvær and picked up sandwich fixings, cereal, milk and fruit.

I left laundry going when we went out. After having a bite to eat, getting the kids ready for bed and tucking them in I ran over to the laundry room to grab the last load. When I returned they were all sleeping, even Tom. It was 10pm, mind you. The kids need to go to bed earlier but the sun really plays tricks on the brain.

Views from our cottage:

20140625-150847-54527191.jpg

20140625-150847-54527024.jpg

20140625-150846-54526847.jpg

Day 1: Sydney to Singapore

Standard

We managed to finish packing our bags at a reasonable hour last night. Things almost went too smoothly. I slept terribly with my nose running and tickling all night. Both kids were up once and then I was up for the day at 6.

We managed to pack one large hard-sided Samsonite, one duffel bag with warm jackets and shoes, two cat seats, two backpacks and a smaller rolling suitcase for carry-on. Not bad for 4 people and several climates.

We are having a bite to eat in the Silver Kris Lounge while we wait to board our Singapore Airlines A380.

Day 10 Milford Sound

Standard

image

This morning we were up 6:30ish. Out the door at 7:30 for a day trip to Milford Sound. We left early to beat the traffic. It took 1.5 hours and there were very few cars on the road. The weather looked sketchy on the way out there but turned out to be beautiful, if a bit cloudy. We took a 2 hour cruise on the smallest boat available and it only had about 12 people on board. You really couldn’t ask for anything better. The skipper let each kid take a turn at the wheel and they loved it! He even announced it as each one had a turn. Along the way we saw fur seals on rocks, frolicking bottlenose dolphins, waterfalls, and stunning scenery in the fjord. Upon our return we had lunch at Milford Sound Cafe just up the road from the boats. We also stopped at The Chasm for a 20 minute stroll through the forest to see a waterfall and chasm. Now we are back at our house for our last night before we travel on to Dunedin. Laundry and organising in my future for the evening as well as UNO with the kids and maybe a walk by the lake.

Once we return home I will be able to share proper photos from the camera rather than only from my phone.

image

image

image