Saturday, 24 January 2009

Europe Xmas 2007

Yes this is out of sync with the Canada holiday (this was the christmas before). I just wasn't organised enough to post anything back then. This is the article I wrote for the ANZA magazine in Jakarta. It was heavily edited after I sent it in - don't worry - they have standards.

We were the lucky people who won 2 return flights from Singapore to Frankfurt at the ANZA ball. But we had a few challenges to contend with in winning this price. We have 3 kids aged 4,6 and 8 who did not want to be left at home with the Nanny and we knew we would miss them too much to have a good time without them. We had annual leave already booked for Christmas time but with no where to go, so the logical thing to do would be to take the kids and have a fantastic time together for our very first “white Christmas”.

Qantas at first were not happy with our timeframe - but when we said we would take the tickets in Feb or we would take them at christmas and purchase another 3 tickets - they got happy quickly.

So it was agreed - All five of us would go on holiday from 16th Dec – 7th Jan and tour selected cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France together for 3 weeks (sound relaxing anyone?).

There were many things we wanted to achieve on this holiday:

Eat local food (in Indo, the kids and adults eat separate food, each to our liking);
Stay in the one hotel room/apartment (together time, not waste money);
No taxis (in Indo, door to door service, no responsibility for getting to destination – this meant we were totally self reliant (in German and French);
Buy a souvenir from every city (we have a habit of forgetting this);
Use trains to travel between major cities (our son LOVES trains);
Go to Disneyland (the oldest child went in July, was dying to go with other two asap);
Take the kids skiing (they had never seen snow);
Visit Dachau concentration camp (lifelong obsession with II world war).

The Itinerary:

17th – 19th Frankfurt
Arrived at 6am, shattered, hotel let us check in straight away (forever grateful) – kids asleep within the hour.. - Hotel room was really 2 bedroom apartment – double bonus. - Visited the Christmas markets from 2pm each day to early evening, finally it felt like Christmas time, with traditions we had no idea existed (but loved) – like hot wine, roasted nuts, turkey pieces as well as german traditions – pretzel bread, frankfurts….. - Christmas was everywhere – music, trees, decorations. - It was freezing – another pleasant change. - We spent the following days sleeping, exploring, eating and generally trying to shake the feeling that we had made a huge mistake (kids with jet lag are not very reasonable).

19th – 21st Munich

Arrived by ICE train –Efficient and clean train (up to 300km/hour), with magnificent scenery. We stayed at the Marriot, which was a bit of a hike out of town and they tried to stop us having 5 in the room (they should read fine print – I did before I booked it); Got to have a Jacuzzi and treadmill every morning (kids got to go swimming) Did a tour of Dachau, which was sobering and amazing, kids were excellent (5km walking x 5 hours); Dinner at THE beer hall in Munich, yes someone had sausages, great atmosphere (including the oompah band); Visited the Christmas markets, which meant lots of Gluhwein and chocolate crepes; watched the glockenspiel and local choir. The stalls for the markets and the local shops were beautifully decorated. Magic atmosphere for Christmas. Beautiful buildings, streets and shops – Christmas alive and well. Didn’t get to spend enough time here.

21st – 23rd Salzburg (Austria)

Arrived by train (but delayed on track for 2 hours) – late into town, But saw proper snow for the first time on our trip. found the hotel easily, great room (still a Marriott); Went to Christmas markets – too late for ice skating, again beautiful and lots of gluhwein; Went on tour of underground salt mine (2 giant slides, 2 train rides and an underground boat ride) – kids were very impressed to be 650m into a mountain. Went by bus to and from the mine – beautiful mountains, history of Nazi’s and Sound of Music. Amazing history surrounding the area. Didn’t get to spend enough time here either.

23rd – 29th Adelboden (Switzerland)

Would you believe our alarm didn’t work (it was set but it was set for work time, so it didn't work on a saturday) – missed the train by merely 3 minutes (didn’t we kick ourselves continually that day). This cost us 40 minutes delay in leaving, 2 extra train changes and an extra 2 ½ hours to journey – train missed at 6:22am, arrived in Adelboden at 5:30pm.

Chelsea’s birthday was on the 24th, declared the worst birthday of her entire life after we forced her on the bus to ski school. After ski school, that was recanted and it ended up being a pretty great birthday after all. Breakfast and 5 course dinner were included at hotel – also kids play area for meals…got to love that. Kids were the loudest children there, but they encouraged all the other kids to be loud to, so by the end you couldn’t pick out just our kids screams of delight. The skiing was breathtaking and unbelievable. We are going again (as often as we can). The kids picked up skiing fantastically….and loved it by the end of the week.

Modern day edit - please note the purple ski jackets. We bought them in 1994. It took us three days to notice that the Europeans were avoiding us because we looked so daggy - we have since replaced the jackets (and Jason's pants) - mine are navy - I will buy some more when I see a pair that jumps out at me (whilst avoiding shopping).

This portion of our trip was just the right amount of time. By the end it hadn’t snowed for 3 weeks and was starting to heat up. The ice on the footpaths melted on the day we left (and we had been pulling the kids on their skis on the ice each afternoon to get home – so we were very lucky).

29th – 5th Paris

Huge issues with trains to get there (all trains booked with Eurail passes for new years eve) Arrived at 11:30pm, tried to get a taxi – but failed (line was 200m long), 2 trains and a 1km walk got us to our hotel at 1am (no one complained – too happy to be in the “city of Disneyland”). Moved into 2 bedroom apartment on the Sunday morning – seriously close to Eiffel tower (200m from the Eiffel tower park). Tried to climb the Eiffel tower that day – but the lines were too massive. Went for a boat cruise instead - magnificent. Went to Disneyland on the Monday for part 1 (3 parts) – kids emerged into fairytale land….fabulous to be part of.

When in Paris C girl turned to me and said - Mum, if you were born here - you wouldn't wear such daggy clothes. She doesn't understand my gift - I could buy clothes that were up to the minute modern - when I put them on I would look like it was 5 years out of date - it's a gift - live with it (and hope you don't inherit it).

New Years Eve consisted of waking kids at 11:30pm and walking 200m to the Eiffel tower park, where we waited for 10 minutes, watched the flashing lights on Eiffel tower and saw the fireworks, then went home 10 minutes later and put them back in bed. Not sure that is everyones idea of a great new years eve….but we didn’t have tired children the next day and that was our aim.

We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary on the 1st with a day climbing the Eiffel tower, visiting Montre Marte, Arch of Victory and finishing with a romantic dinner for 5 in a local café. Definitely the most unique anniversary so far.
We ended up going to Disneyland on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Kids absolutely loved everything about it, the parents nicknamed it….how to pay a lot of money – and wait in a queue. BUT, it was Disneyland, it’s a place of magic and very well organized, so you just deal with it.

On the Saturday the 5th we went from Paris to Frankfurt via ICE train, had a relaxing dinner in Frankfurt before heading off for a 11:30pm.

On Sunday the 6th we landed at 6pm in Singapore, then spent the night in two separate hotel rooms (transit hotel in airport) – everyone was awake at 2am (which was 7pm Germany time) – no one went back to sleep again after that – crazy. Think we might have been excited about returning home (WHY?).

Best Place: Disneyland (voted by the kids)
Skiing in Switzerland (voted by parents)

Rudest Place: Salzburg – were told to leave the bus because the driver didn’t have time to talk to stupid people who didn’t know German (we asked him if the bus was going to the old city centre).

Biggest Challenge:
5 suitcases, 5 backpacks, 1 travel case and 2 useless (for luggage carrying) children. 22 trains/buses were caught with full luggage during the 3 weeks away…our worst connection – 7 minutes….but we made it.

We had a brilliant time, would love to work out how to permanently be on holidays with the whole family.
I would sincerely like to thank Qantas for donating the tickets. A fantastic surprise and I am glad we got to utilize them in such a positive way.

Unfortunately - these are the only proper photos we have of this holiday. All (and I'm talking over 1000) photos vanished when our computer had a meltdown. We have learnt the importance of backing up (in the saddest possible way). But bonus - Bear had been given a camera for xmas and he took some great shots - completely random (the usual 6 year old shots), but some really nice ones as well.

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