Friday, November 21, 2008

Singapore stopover

Jetlag is something I didn't know about until we went on this trip. Mama explained that you get it from changing time zones when your body fails to realise that you have changed time zones. I get it and I got it.

We took a plane from London to Singapore and even though when we left it was cold and damp and when we arrived it was hot and humid, my body didn't realise we weren't in the same place. I slept late in Singapore to the point where Daddy was up before Mama and I! I thought that was impossible but he says he took out his video camera so he would have the evidence.

When we were ready we decided to go to Sentosa, an island connected to Singapore by a bridge. It is full of tourist things to do with a monorail, chairlift, beaches and golf courses.

We went on a really cool luge run. We took a chairlift to the top and had a very good view of the island before jumping on these little scooter-like things to go down the luge track. It was great fun and Daddy and I went down twice.

Afterwards we went for a swim; actually only I went in the water. It was nice and warm but I didn't think much of the taste. Daddy pointed to the big cargo ships across the bay and suggested they might be the reason the water wasn't all that good. Anyway, it wasn't but it was wet.

We caught a bus back from Sentosa and then looked at a few shops - Mama's idea of passing the time - before we hopped on a plane for Adelaide.

Home now and back to school. It's been great to see my friends again.



In Singapore I got the feeling it was hard to keep things cool. The milkshake I had near the hotel was nice but it could've been a little colder and perhaps even a little more chocolate. Anyway, it was a four and half.


For six weeks we've been in search of the greatest milkshake in the world but it's been disappointing to learn nobody quite does it like Australia. Sure, the ones in the United States were pretty good and I guess I marked them down early thinking there would be better ones in other places, but nevertheless sitting back now I think the best milkshakes I have had are right here at home. The milkshakes in Europe were relatively hard to find but on the other hand, I can say I did discover hot chocolate in Italy. I think Starbucks make a very good hot chocolate too.


It is always hard to believe when a journey like this comes to an end. The trip was about 15 months in the planning and when we actually stepped on the first plane we thought it would never end. Of course it did and it was a wonderful experience to share everything with the little man. To see his reaction to Mt Rushmore, snow, Lake Muskoka, going on a speedboat for the first time, seeing NY, surprising our friend Karen, seeing Lake Como, seeing Venice, the Collesium, the Eiffel Tower, even EuroDisney, Big Ben ... Sorry, a little indulgent there but you get the idea. 

We did discover really good milkshakes were hard to find and that surprised us both. In the end though I guess it's not really a surprise to find that there is nothing like home. Still, we are planning to test that theory in the future.

Thanks for your company on our journey.

Mac's Daddy. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Ben strikes 10

The super fast Eurostar train took us from Paris to London where we took several of the Underground trains to get us to our Earl's Court hotel.

The first thing I noticed about London was that the cars were being driven on the left side of the road which was the first time we had seen that since leaving Adelaide. It felt strange.

The second thing I noticed was that Earl's Court was an area where there were plenty of Australians since several windows had Australian flags hanging in the breeze.

Our first target in London was the London Eye (also called the Millennium Wheel). It is like a gigantic ferris wheel except that when you are at the top it's higher - about 130m from the ground. We did it at night and saw Big Ben lit up nearby as well as the rest of the city as we went to the top. (I didn't really see Big Ben strike 10 but I thought it made a good headline.) Then we walked across the bridge and saw a man playing the bagpipes in the cold wearing a kilt. I gave him some money for his busking and then Daddy took a photo of me beside him.

On our second day, we visited the Tower of London which doesn't really look like a tower because it's not that tall. It is one of the Queen's palaces and we went on a tour with one of the yeoman warders - the guards. We heard all about the really gory deaths of nobles and royal family members, even queens. Henry VIII had his wife Anne Boleyn beheaded there. We were told a man from France did the job and was so good that her lips were still moving when he held up her head - gross.

Another good story was about the ravens that live in the tower grounds. There is a legend that the kingdom will fall if the six ravens ever leave the tower. They all have been given names and there are actually nine ravens at the tower - so the six plus three extra. I guess the queen is taking no chances. In fact, I counted 11 so I reckon she has the situation under control.

There were lots of cool buildings to look at on our tour of the tower and most of the buildings contained weapons, armour and lots of good stories. It was a fun morning.

In the afternoon we went into Oxford St to look at shops. That wasn't as much fun as the tower but I at least made sure I went to all the toy sections in the department stores. 

The next day we went to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. There were lots of people there and it was a bit of a crush outside the gates so I got on Daddy's shoulders and had the best view. We walked across to see Queen Victoria's memorial but we didn't stay for the whole changing of the guard because it started to rain and so we walked back to the tube stop.

On our final day, Mama decided she wanted to see Notting Hill - for those of you who don't know there was a movie called Notting Hill and Mama loves it and so did I when I was little. Anyway, we looked through the markets and then went for a walk to find a tube stop but instead we decided to catch a double decker red London bus. Daddy and I sat upstairs right at the front. We went to the Camden Markets and had a quick walk around before deciding to go back to our hotel and get ready for the journey home.

Not long to go.



When we went to the Camden Markets we dropped into a little cafe and had the best milkshake. It was rich and creamy and cold and I rated it a six out of seven. The only bad thing about it was that it was just a little too thick.

On our last afternoon we went to a little cafe in Earl's Court that produced a creamy milkshake that was a little slack on the chocolate flavouring but otherwise was very good. I thought it worthy of five and a half.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paris tres chic!

The train to Paris from Lausanne was fast, very fast.

We arrived around lunchtime and took an underground ride to the hotel, well not actually to the hotel but nearby and then after a bit of confusion we found the place to stay. That sort of confusion would continue throughout our stay in Paris. It might be pretty and with plenty to see but they could organise their streets better so that Daddy and Mama don't argue about directions all the time!

On our first night we walked - yep here we go again - to the Louvre just to see it from the outside and then wandered to the Eiffel Tower. It was lit up like a Christmas tree - I guess because it's near Christmas - and every 10 minutes or so the blue light on the tower would be supplemented (ok ok Daddy's word) by sparkling white lights. The only thing was, it was cold and we went to the second lookout level because we decided standing in the line for half an hour was enough without trying to go all the way to the top which would involve another half an hour of standing in the cold. It was a great view and we were able to see the Louvre pyramid as well as all up and down the Seine. Getting home wasn't as easy, and we discovered a metro station that was closed and replaced by a bus service which took forvever.

We went to the Louvre the next day and we were lucky that there wasn't that many people there and so we didn't have to queue to see the famous Mona Lisa. She was clearly looking at me - Mama says she was looking at her! I took a picture on Daddy's phone and set it as his wallpaper. There were lots of other works there and some really good statues but I thought the Mona Lisa was pretty cool.

After a good night's sleep we set out the next day early to catch a bus to Euro Disney. We went on lots of rides, mostly rollercoasters, and they were all fantastic. The Space Mountain one was the best one in the entire park. It shot us inside a huge dome and we travelled around at lightspeed getting thrown about in the capsule both in the dark and sometimes in the light. There was also an Indiana Jones ride that was all outdoors and Daddy and I did a 360deg loop in that one! On the bus to the park and on the way back I was talking to a couple of kids from Perth who had done much of the same touring that we have. They were looking forward to going home but they'd only been on the road for a couple of weeks.

While Disney was a great day out - Mama was very tired after more than 11 hours of it - the next day she still forced us out of bed and on the road to see some shops and a church that overlooks Paris. It wasn't a bad day but it did feature two things I won't miss about the trip - walking and it was pretty cold.

We found a great place for dinner every night which Mama told me was not a big surprise because the French are famous for their food and - this is all Mama - their wine. Even so, she drank Italian wine in Paris.


I was nearly down to desperation stage in the search for a milkshake but on the other hand I tasted some exceptional hot chocolate. After discussing things with Daddy, I think we'll have to binge on milkshakes in London and hope that we can also get some in Singapore.

Counting down now, but very much looking forward to London ... Westminister Abbey, the tower of Big Ben, the rosy ....


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rome was not seen in one day

Rome is kind of big and there are lots of ancient ruins so it took a few days to see just a bit of the city.

On the day we arrived we immediately headed out on the Rome underground train system to the Coliseum where gladiators fought to the death in ancient times. The metro stop is right opposite the ruins and so we walked out of the station and saw just how big it is. We didn't get to see inside immediatteely because there was a huge thundestorm and we were soaked trying to get back to the metro. When we toured inside the next day though I was actually surprised how small it seemed. The stadium held about 45-thousand men and about five thousand women when it was full. The Romans didn't charge an entrance fee either.

Nearby the Coliseum there are ruins of a palace and also the remains of arches and a little bit of marble that wasn't ripped out and taken away by looters or the catholic church for the Sistine Chapel. A lot of the history of Rome is the fight between christianity and those who followed the gods of Rome.

Anyway, the second day we were in Rome we took the metro to St Peters Square in the Vatican. We were there really early, and stood at these barriers thinking the Pope would make his usual Wednesday appearance and we could at least get to see him but it was way better than that. The Pope went around in his litle golf buggy with bullet proof glass and went past within two metres of where we were standing - and Daddy has the photographic proof!

From there, we walked around to the Vatican museum and went through looking at the paintings and other works of art with one goal in mind - the Sistine Chapel. I thought Michelangelo's Last Judgment was very cool although my enjoyment was reduced by one of the guards who kept saying: 'Shhhhh" and "No photo".

That night we stumbled into the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon while following Mama on her shopping expedition. (Daddy's note; Who would have thought, shopping as an educational experience)

From Rome, we caught an overnight sleeper train to Lausanne in Switzerland. It was a very small compartment and when Mama spilt her beer all over the top bunk within the first hour the place was also very smelly.

The next morning we woke up in Lausanne and spent the day looking around another Swiss city beside a lake. I think all Swiss cities have a lake beside them. When we went down to the lakeside, there was a big chess set there and I challenged Daddy to a game. Of course, I beat him easily.

We then went onto the nearby Olympic museum. There was plenty of stuff there including Cody (?) who I remember from when Patrick Luke's mum came in for a chapel service to talk about her Olympic experience in hurdles. I discovered some of the information wasn't up to date. I couldn't get any information from the computers about Michael Phelps and not only about his eight gold medals in Beijing but his efforts in '04 as well.

After a glorious 24 hours in Lausanne we hopped on another train, this time the really fast TGV and it was on to Paris.


Okay, I have to admit I have been really slack in pursuing milkshakes but there are two really good reasons. One, they aren't easy to get in Europe and two, I have discovered the joy of a Starbuck's hot chocolate! And so a milkshake wasn't found on this leg of our trip but the hunt goes on.


Canalos inno Venice-o

Hi-o all-o

One of our new friends from Como (hi Cath) introduced us to her version of Italiano, which Mama and I picked upp much to the annoyance of my daddyo. We left Casa Pupa and Como, unfortunately, but it wasn't all sad an d bad because we were meeting up wiith Karen and Norm and Cath in Venezio - all of us had made sepparate arrangements but were going to the Canal City after Como.
The trainn took us to the main rail station, from which we caught a water taxi to our hotel. The water taxi was very expensive but as newcomers to Venice the best way to get to our hotel. It was a large motor boat and delivered us straight to our front door - after a bit of "canal rage" with a gondola or two! The gondolas and taxis and other boats (some are doing their deliveries of stuff like the post and water and food) all shaare the canals, and some are very narrow so there's not much space for passing!
After checking into our really cool hotel we wandered around and discovered lots of bridges and canals and short paved streets. We found the famous Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Square but it was gettinng darrk and hazy so we had dinner and went back to our hotel. More prosciutto pizza for me! I haven't found a lot of milkshakes but I'm becoming an expert in margherita and prosciutto pizzas!
Next day we had a long visit at the Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia. It has hundreds of very old paintinngs, most of them about Jesus, Mary, the saints and other things related to Christianity. Mama said she thought there couldn't be another Bellini anywhere, as there were so many. Also that Veronese had a strange idea of what colour skin and hair would have been right in that area of the world!
That night we met up with Karen, Norm and Cath, and after a reeally fun and cool ride around Venice on a gondola, K,C and Mama went off together and then we met up again and we all had dinner. Moree pizza - and the last time Norm could count on eating my leftovers. Very sad to leave them, but we'ree planning on meeting up at Christmas with Annie and Lee too.
Next morning we took a ferry back to the rail station, along with all the people who use the ferry as their way of getting to work every day.

Not big on milkshakes in Venice, but discovered really good hot chocolate that's more like melted pudding than a milk drink!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Comatose in Como

The trip to Lake Como was the whole reason Mama and Daddy planned our trip and spending a week there was really fun.

We took a train from Zurich across the Alps and into Milan before meeting up with our friends. The train was really smooth and, according to D+M the countryside was very pretty. I spent a lot of the time reading my book, playing on my DS and sleeping.

The plan was to surprise our friend Karen for her (Daddy's note: don't embarrass Karen across the internet by revealing her age) XXth birthday. She had already met various friends - their arrival arranged by her husband Norm secretly over more than 12 months - before we arrived but she was still really surprised to see us and I ran away when she wanted a big hug and a kiss - yuk!

We then jumped aboard Norm's party van and went in search of Varenna, a small town on Lake Como. Our house - called Casa Pupa - was straight up the hill from Varenna and was really good. There were about 15 of us staying there and I had a great time as mascot for the week. I stayed up until at least 10pm every night and the latest night was about midnight. It was great except most of the television was in Italian, German or French - anything but English. Except that is for CNN, BBC and Fox news. So I did keep up with Barack Obama's bid for the US presidency but that was about all I was really interested in.

We went to lots of the small towns around the lake and one of the best was Bellagio where I had gelato and, yes, a milkshake. (more on that later) We also travelled to Argegno where a friend of my mama's had his ashes spread. It was a long day and a long climb but worth it to visit his grave.

On the Wednesday we all went into Milan and that night Mama, Daddy and some of the others went to see AC Milan play in the serie A soccer against Siena but I took the night off and went with the other Karen (who thinks she is also my other mama) and the rest of the group back to Varenna. The soccer hooligans came home really late and talked about the stadium. It was soooo boring to hear Daddy go on and on about the size of the place and how little entertainment there was for the crowd at half-time.

Two days of rain and Thursday and Friday meant we didn't get out much but on Saturday it was nice and clear and we could see snow on the nearby mountains.

On the Sunday we said goodbye to most of the party people but promised to catch up at Christmas. We discovered though that Norm, Karen and Cath were also going to be in Venice at the same time as us and so we agreed to meet up in the city that is sinking. Mama and Daddy says that after all the planning, secretly keeping Karen in the dark and then finally getting there it was a big disappointment that it was all over.

The Bellagio shake was cold, creamy and possibly lacking a little flavour. But nevertheless it was still a four. I think London looks like the place to really test my tastebuds.

Til next time.


Zee very nice Zurich

Flying over Europe my first note on the continent was that there were lots and lots of lights. We passed over the bottom tip of England, then across France to the Swiss city of Zurich.

We booked into the hotel and then went - wait for it - walking into the city centre. When we were in North America there was always a problem finding the time (both Mama and Daddy didn't bring a watch) but in Zurich there were three churches all with bell towers and clocks on them. The train station had a clock, there was a digital clock with the temperature just outside our hotel, the trams all had clocks ... yep there were clocks everywhere.

We looked through the old part of the town for a couple of hours. All the streets were cobblestoned and it was tough on the feet!

The town is built around a lake and it was beautiful with plenty of swans and boats. The next day we took a tour boat around the lake and the seagulls seemed to be ready to attack us although Daddy assured me they were following us because of the chances of getting a feed. Still it was cool to have 50 or 60 seagulls trailing the boat. We also caught a train to a nearby mountain with the idea of looking out over Zurich. But that idea was ended by the fact of a huge cloud of fog that descended on the mountain (it seems fog follows us since we experienced it in San Francisco, Vancouver and Mt Rushmore).

I found a milkshake at the Spaghetti Factory restaurant. It was okay - I rated it 4.5 - but there have been so many things happen since then that it is hard to remember everything. I should start writing more down but it's too late now.

One more thing ... The internet is hard to get at a decent price (according to Daddy) and so that's why we have not done more blogging. I will try to catch up in the next few days but then again we are going to Paris.