Wednesday, December 13

We have arrived!

We have arrived safely in Adelaide. It was wonderful to have the family there waiting for us at the airport! We spent a lovely afternoon in Judy's backyard, catching up on things.

We first landed in Melbourne on Sunday evening, after delays in Zurich. It was great to see Kieren and Nikki, and spend the evening with them in their lovely place in Hawthorn. After the best breakfast we have had in ages (cooked by Kieren), we took a plane from Melbourne to Adelaide.

Australia is hot and dry - it's so nice to be home! We are having a great time and looking forward to catching up with more family and friends over the next four weeks.

Friday, December 8

Stuck in Zurich

Our flight to Singapore has been cancelled due to a "faulty body gear strut". They have put us up in a hotel near the Zurich airport, and we'll be flying out at 10am tomorrow, nearly 24 hours later than originally planned. Unfortunately this will affect our stay with Kieren and Nikki in Melbourne. We will probably arrive there on Sunday night, or may even arrange to go direct to Adelaide. We will find out all when we get into Singapore Sunday morning at 5am local time!

Off to the land of Oz

Here we are, sitting in Zurich airport, waiting for our flight back home to Australia. We were up v. early this morning to catch the train from Geneva, in fact, I've been wide awake with excitement since 2am. Now it's early afternoon and I'm feeling jet lagged before we've left.

Got to the airport without any hassle, but upon arrival, we found out that our Singapore Airlines flight is delayed. Due to leave at 12:15, we are told there will be "more news" at 4pm, hopefully it's all good. Can't complain though. They gave us 2 x 50 franc vouchers to spend on food and drink. After a nice lunch, we are waiting in the airport bar, admiring the view. Waiting....and....waiting.... Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 10

Postcards from Berlin

Judy and Jess enjoying a beerDuring the last phase of Judy's stay with us we went to Berlin for an extended weekend. I liked her description of it as a 'City of Contrasts'. It had a vibrant feel, lots of interesting things to do, cheap, good food, and the best beer I've ever tasted. In contrast, we spent many hours contemplating the dark side of Germany's history with visits to the Jewish History Museum, Berlin Wall monument, and Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

We stayed in a suburb called Pankow, just north of the city centre, and in the former East Berlin. The apartment was perfect for the three of us - spacious, comfy, and close to the excellent public transport system.

1936 Olympic StadiumThere is heaps to see in Berlin, and even though we had almost five days there, we could easily have stayed longer. The Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium), built for the 1936 Summer Olympics and recently renovated for this year's FIFA World Cup, was high on Peter's list of sites to see. Unfortunately we picked the wrong day, arriving there on a match day meant we couldn't get inside to do the tour, but we got some nice pics from out the front.

Our other adventures included wandering through the beautiful Tiergarten park and getting caught up in a massive, but peaceful protest by union groups; enjoying a bratwurst sausage on Unter den Linden (and listening to Peter complain of indigestion for the rest of the afternoon); visiting Checkpoint Charlie with hundreds of other tourists; and Judy and I getting haircuts at groovy Berlin salons.

Berlin Wall MonumentThe Jewish History Museum was an interesting account of the Jewish people, their customs, lives, and their persecution over past centuries. Without realising it, we easily spent five hours wandering through the exhibits and were completely exhausted by the end of it.

It was fascinating to learn more about the Berlin Wall (1961-1989), which used to completely surround West Berlin, separating it from East Germany. There is a small portion of the Wall that remains as a monument. Kept completely free of graffiti, it doesn't resemble the typical images. The excellent museum nearby succinctly tells the story of the Wall's construction, impact, and fall.

Station ZIn Oranienburg, about 60km north of Berlin, is the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Built in 1936, it was the first Nazi concentration camp. After the end of WWII it became a Soviet special camp until 1950. Although a small camp in comparison with others, 200,000 people passed through here between 1936 and 1945, only half of which survived. Sachsenhausen was also the administrative centre for all Nazi concentration camps, and a training centre for SS officers.

It was the first time that any of us had been to such a place. It was an extremely difficult experience, but I think it was important to see. I found it incredible to contemplate the order with which these camps were established and run, and how people could treat others so disgustingly. Several buildings of the original camp remain today, and the public memorial and museum ensures the history is well preserved.

Sanssouci PalaceDuring our last day in the city we took a train down to Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, and the location of the 1945 Potsdam Conference, where the allies met to decide the future of Germany and post-war Europe. It is also the site of the beautiful Sanssouci park and palaces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our long weekend in Berlin was the last little holiday we did during Judy's stay with us. I think we all enjoyed it immensely and it was a real highlight (among many!). Jude is now on her way back to Oz, and is in Hong Kong as I type this. It was wonderful for us to spend nine weeks with her. Thankfully it wasn't too hard to say goodbye, because we will be seeing her back in Adelaide in about four weeks time!

See all of our Berlin photos on Flickr.

Thursday, October 19

France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland

As part of Judy's nine week visit, Peter organised a wonderful holiday for us all. Using as many methods of transport as possible, we have travelled through France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Switzerland.

Hotel in Avila, SpainIt's a complicated trip, but to cut a long story short, I had to go to Spain for a week to attend a meeting in a town called Avila (100km west of Madrid).

While I was working, Peter and Judy spent four days driving our car across France, and met me in Spain. After the conference finished, we drove to Barcelona (600km), stopping along the way at a town called Lleida. A whirlwind tour of Barcelona followed (lots of Gaudi buildings), then we hopped on a ferry with our car, and travelled to Genoa, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy (Cinque Terre)
From Genoa, which we won't talk about (horrible hotel), we had a quick visit of the lovely Cinque Terre National Park, then headed up to Milan, and flew to Athens.

Judy and Peter on Hydra, GreeceNow we are in Greece, where it was straight down to the port and off to the beautiful island of Hydra (ee-dra). This was the main phase of our holiday, and we stopped there for seven nights.

Our traditional Greek summer house (Spiti Costandi) was absolutely gorgeous, with a fantastic view of the harbour (we have hundreds of photos to prove it). View from our place to Hydra HarbourFood was great, weather lovely, and swimming in the Agean was wonderful.

After Hydra, we went back and spent 24 hours in Athens, where we checked out the Acropolis and the old town area.

Peter and Judy at the Parthenon
Had a bit of trouble getting out of Athens due to a metro strike, protests, and a severe lack of taxis, but we eventually made it on to our EasyJet flight.

Then back to Milan, where our car was waiting for us at the airport.

With five days of holidays left, we drove up to Lugano in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. We spent our time there walking and checking out the lovely lakeside town.
Judy climbs mountains in Switzerland (Lugano)

After Lugano, it was off to Zermatt. We had the crispest, clearest day for our drive through the mountains, and once in Zermatt, the best view of the Matterhorn we've ever seen.
At the top of the Nufenen Pass (2478m), Ticino/Valais, Switzerland

On the drive back to Geneva on Sunday, we visited the Leukerbad thermal baths, where we could refresh after our busy travels. Being a tourist is hard work!

The Matterhorn
There are many more nice photos of this trip available on Flickr (also as slideshow).

This week I'm back in the office, but not for long as we're going to Berlin for the weekend. Berlin is a city none of us have visited before, and we are once again taking advantage of cheap EasyJet flights. Having visitors is the perfect excuse to travel.

Sunday, September 24

A week in Washington

North Carolina StreetWell, for me it was a week in Washington, for Peter and Judy, it was five days, plus a visit to New York. The three of us met at Dulles airport, having all taken different planes from Geneva and Adelaide. It is great to see Judy again after 18 months! She will be with us for nine weeks.

Washington is a beautiful city - leafy and green, nice buildings, and not too big. I was there for work - a meeting on statistical dissemination and communication. Having spent several months helping to organize this meeting, I was looking forward to finally meeting everyone, and also to delivering a paper on the business applications of blogs.

Jess & Judy at Capitol HillWe stayed in a residential area in the south east, about 15 minutes walk from 'the Hill'. It was close to the Eastern Market, and we enjoyed browsing around the stalls and shops. The weather was nice - mid twenties and fairly humid.

The meeting went very well, and my presentation was well received. It was a busy week and I was exhausted by Friday.

While I was working, Peter and Judy were off in New York, enjoying the sights and going to see 'The Color Purple' on Broadway. They had a great time.

Jess, Peter and Judy at the gameOne of the highlights of our visit to the US was going to the baseball on the last night we were there. A lovely local, Laurie, took us to see her beloved Washington Nationals play the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals lost, but it was exciting to be there and soak in the atmosphere. On the last day we enjoyed a visit to the fairly new National Museum of the Native American.

Today I am off to Spain for another meeting, then two whole weeks of holidays (first long holiday in 18 months - I know we have plenty, but they are usually short). We are going to see a bit of Spain, Italy, spend a week in Greece, see more of Italy, then drive home through Switzerland.

See all the photos of Washington on Flickr (taken with our new beautiful Lumix TZ1 camera).

Monday, September 4

Cycling and spas in the Swiss mountains

Swiss National Route 1Leukerbad, in the Swiss canton of Valais, was our destination last weekend. Two hours drive from Geneva, and one hour from the section of Rhone River bike path we had yet to complete, it was an ideal spot to go camping. That is, except for the fact it was situated at 1,400 metres altitude and was a very chilly 10 degrees overnight. Leukerbad is a beautiful town, surrounded by an amphitheatre of rocky mountains, and famous for its thermal springs.

Arriving late on Friday night, we struggled to get our tent up before it got dark, and then Peter nearly burnt the whole thing down whilst lighting our camp stove (good one!!). Jess keeping warm on a chilly Leukerbad eveningAfter those tense moments, we settled in, cooked risotto, which we had with a nice bottle of red wine, then managed to get a few hours sleep in the cold mountain surroundings. Saturday morning, it was back down to the valley, destination Oberwald, the end of our "Rhone River: source to the sea project". This is a good spot to call the 'end', as beyond Oberwald it gets really, really hilly. You can take the train from there, under the Furka pass, and it will be this that we take next year, when we continue our ride, this time along the River Rhine.

Cycling along Route 1The countryside was magnificent as we rode the 45 km from Oberwald to Brig (where we'd got to last year). That part of the Valais is very different to the sections we had visited before. Being close to the Rhone glacier, the river is a creek compared to further along, and the valley is narrow and quiet. We had a few hills to climb (and descend), but the views and the quiet roads more than made up for the effort. We have now completed the 950km path along the Rhone, from the mountains in Switzerland, to the south coast of France.

The pièce de résistance of the weekend was the thermal baths we went to on Sunday morning. Burgerbad thermal baths, LeukerbadFiguring that 9am on Sunday is a good time to beat the crowds, we headed down to 'Burgerbad', the biggest and best spa centre in town. It was unbelievable. They have 10 different pools and spas, heated between 25 and 43 degrees (and a couple very cold ones for plunging into after the hot ones!). We spent three hours there, going from pool to pool, trying all the different treatments, massage jets, boiling sauna hut, etc. Imagine sitting in a pool of spring water, heated to 35 degrees, overlooking the rugged mountains. Magic!

See all the pictures on

Monday, August 21

A night in a French Chateau

Chateau de RignyLast Saturday saw me turn another year older. Peter spoiled me, and himself, with a weekend at a beautiful 17th century chateau in France. Chateau de Rigny is in a town called Gray, about two hours drive from Geneva. We took the slow roads there, and enjoyed the views.

The chateau was gorgeous and our room was fantastic. Downstairs there was a bar and restaurant, Bedroom in the chateauso once we got there, we stayed put. After four sets of table tennis (Peter won 4-0 - no concessions for the birthday girl!), and a stroll around the gardens, we got ready for dinner then headed to the bar for a drink. While enjoying a glass of bubbly on the terrace, the waiters brought out the menu and had us ordering dinner an hour before we'd booked in! By the time we got to the dining room, our bottle of wine and mineral water were already waiting at our table. Thankfully the food wasn't there yet! The meal was average, but the atmosphere, and company, were excellent.

View over Front Royal, Besancon CitadelleAfter a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we hit the road, heading for Besancon. This French city was a recommended to us by the Fishers when they were here last summer, and we'd been meaning to visit it for ages. It is an old fortified town, one of 15 designed by Vauban in the 17th century. The citadelle is in excellent condition and now houses several museums and bizarrely, zoos. We did the obligatory audio tour of the ramparts and courtyard, then spent a couple of hours in the Museum of Resistance and Deportation. It was the first time I've been to a WWII museum in an area that was occupied by the Nazis. View from Besancon CitadelleThere were many original objects on display and a comprehensive history of the events leading up to, during and immediately after the war. The pictures and stories of concentration camps were absolutely sickening.

On the way home from Besancon we drove through the Jura, past the fields where we went skiing and sledding in winter. Needless to say, it looked pretty different. Lots of green grass and grazing cows. The ski trails are still well used this time of year, with plenty of people out hiking.

Jess and Peter

See more photos on Flickr.

Sunday, August 6

Cycling along the Rhone II

10kms to go!Last week we took five days to cycle along the River Rhone, from Lyon to the sea. A total of 370km! This has almost completed our ride along the Rhone, from the source, near Andermatt in Switzerland, to the sea (we have 40km at the start still to do). We did most of the Swiss section last summer, and started heading down river from Geneva in May.

It was almost all flat, very hot, but there was a nice strong tailwind. We carried our gear on our bikes, using the train to get to Lyon, our starting point, then the bus and train to get home from Port-St-Louis-du-Rhone.

Barrage-de-Loriol near le PouzinThis map of the main roads is not the exact route we followed, but it gives an idea of the areas we went through. More details to be posted on our Cycling in Europe website, when I get the time.

Click here to see a slideshow of photos from our trip.

Thursday, July 20

Dancing in Tortosa

Views over Tortosa
Originally uploaded by Jess & Peter.
Fiona has been in Spain the last two weeks, at a modern dance workshop in Tortosa, 180 km south of Barcelona. Peter and I took the train there on Thursday night, and spent Friday watching the classes and evening performance. There are a few photos on Flickr.

It was an impressive workshop with 80 dancers from all over the world. Fiona had a great time and really benefited from the experience of working with professionals in difference aspects of dance, movement and creativity.

She was one tired girl when we headed back to Geneva on Saturday so she could catch her plane to Australia that night. It's great to have our loved ones come to spend time with us, but very hard to say goodbye.

Fiona on stage

Friday, June 30

At the beach

Peter and Fiona - La CiotatFiona is here for her second visit to Geneva. In a quest to see as much of the European dance scene as possible, Peter and she headed down to Marseille for their arts festival. Rather than stay in the big, horrible city that is Marseille, they spent their 5 days camping at La Ciotat, 30 minutes down the coast. Their days were spent in the sun and sea, and their evenings watching dance performances. Not a bad lifestyle!

Crowded beach at La CiotatIt was Fiona's birthday on Saturday, and I caught the train down to meet them. The TGV takes only 3.5 hrs to Marseille, whereas a car takes just over 5. We spent Saturday relaxing by the beach, swimming and wandering around the town. As you can see from the pic, French beaches are a bit different to Australian ones! Once we struggled to find a patch of sand to leave our things, we went into the water. It was lovely (cool, but not cold) and we enjoyed swimming in the sea for the first time since we left Oz.

Lounging around the campNext day I had to be dragged onto the train to go back to Geneva for work, whereas P & F were looking forward to 2 more days in the sun. Not fair!

Camping at La Ciotat was a great holiday for them. Fiona really enjoyed herself and is now completely in love with the European lifestyle.

Saturday, June 17

And then...the World Cup!

Socceroos after their winYes, we were there! In Kaiserslautern to see Australia's first ever World Cup goal and win when they beat Japan 3-1. What a great experience it was! The stadium was packed. We would guess 15 -20,000 Australian supporters; certainly the biggest Aussie crowd we'd been part of for a long time. The view was great and the atmosphere electric. It was quite “goose bumpy” to hear our national anthem sung so far from home and a struggle to hold back the tears.

Crowd at Kaiserslautern Stadium It was thanks to Peter's persistence in applying for the ticket draws that we managed to get seats (105 Euros each). We were closer to the Japanese fan's corner than the Australians, but there was a mix of supporters from both sides. The Japanese are formidible barrackers, all chanting the same song and clapping in time. The Aussies were different – we just yell, and some can’t help themselves, they have to abuse the ref!!!

Aussie SumoWatching the match against Croatia on TV last Thursday has us addicted. I used to be puzzled at how anyone can maintain interest in a game where there is often no score,
but now I completely understand the attraction. It is sooooo exciting! However, I can only imagine being enthusiastic watching Australia play, and maybe Switzerland.

Looking forward to the match against Italy tomorrow! C'mon Aussies!!

Monday, June 5

At the French Open

Peter at the French Open
Originally uploaded by Jess & Peter.
We've just returned from a long weekend near Paris, where we spent Sunday at Roland Garros. Here's a picture of Peter, taken from our seats in the Suzanne Lenglen Stadium.

We stayed at the Marriott resort outside of Paris (near EuroDisney), which was very nice. Thanks to my colleague Gerald for the great deal! On Sunday, we drove the 40mins into the city to see the tennis. Having experienced the Australian Open twice, we were really looking forward to the French Open, and we weren't disappointed. The best match we saw was the first one, between Sharapova and Safina, the latter winning in a surprise upset.

Wednesday, May 31

Weekend in Amsterdam

Canal housesWe spent last weekend in Amsterdam. It's a great city and quite different to others we've visited. The canals, canal houses, houseboats, bicycles, coffeeshops and red light district, all make for a unique and interesting place!

The weather on Saturday was a bit cold and rainy, good for museum visiting. We saw paintings by the Dutch Masters at the beautiful Rijksmuseum and had an emotional visit to the Anne Frank house.

We also did a hour long cruise of the canals and visited the Houseboat museum. There are about 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam and they sell from about €200,000, witFlower Market, Amsterdamh annual mooring fees of €400+. Apart from the disadvantage of minimal privacy and limited space, you also have to send your houseboat to the shipping yard every 3 years for maintenance. I like that it's different.... but not the life for me.

After breakfast on Sunday, we walked around the flower market (past an Australian icecream shop?) and visited the Amsterdam Historic Museum. Here you get to learn all about how Amsterdam grew into a massive shipping port and a key player in world trade. The city is built on peat bog with wood /cement pillars driven about 40m into the ground to provide the foundation.Cycling down the canal It seems pretty stable to me, perhaps not if we'd been visiting any of the coffee shops.

The sky was almost clear, so it was time to get away from museums and do some outdoor activity. We hired a canal bike (pedal boat) and cruised around the canals for an hour. It was quite difficult to steer, so we had some challenging moments, especially when I took hold of the wheel ( looked easy!)!

Amsterdam Red Light DistrictI'd been told the Red Light District is something to be seen, but without a guidebook, I didn't think we'd ever find it (the tourist office doesn't exactly advertise it!). Leaving the city to go back to our hotel on Sunday night, we followed a group of tourists and stumbled upon the famous area. It certainly was a sight to see!

On Monday morning it was back to Geneva and back to work. We woke up at 6am in Amsterdam and thanks to EasyJet being on time, I was back at my desk in Geneva by 10.30am - amazing!

Click here for all the photos our our visit to Amsterdam.

Saturday, May 27

20km walk around Geneva

The mighty Rhone
Originally uploaded by Jess & Peter.

Thursday was a public holiday in Geneva and Peter and I went for a 5.5 hour hike around the countryside. We followed the river Allondon to where it joined the Rhone (see picture). It was a beautiful day and an exhausting walk! If you have 2 mins to look at the pictures we took of the beautiful surroundings, check out the slideshow on flickr.

It's now Saturday morning and we are about to head to the airport to go Amsterdam for the weekend!

Sunday, May 21

Cycling along the Rhone

Go to our Cycling Across Europe blog for detailed information about cycling along the River Rhone.

Cycling along Rhone near Swiss/French borderLast weekend we started our new cycling project: to follow the Rhone river from Geneva, through France to the Mediterranean sea. Tacked onto the trip we did along the Swiss part of the Rhone last summer, this is a total of 820 km.

On Saturday we battled hills, headwind and rain to get 79 km down river to a town in France called Culoz. We were hoping to stay there and continue the next day, but luck had it that there was no accommodation and we had to catch the train home.

We will tackle the next section of the ride in July/August. The next few weekends are booked up with a trip to Amsterdam (27 May), then Paris for the French Open (couldn't resist this year) followed by a drive to Germany for the World Cup (Australia vs Japan)! After a couple of months rest, we have the travel bug again. Posted by Picasa