Day 12 Monte Carlo - Monaco

Not quite an early start as we all slept in after a big day yesterday. We awoke to this amazing view of Monte Carlo and the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Docking virtually in the heart of Monaco which is not very big anyway (the whole country of Monte Carlo is only three quarters of a square mile in area) meant exploring on foot was a good option.

We all set off together and started with a 30 minute mini train ride around the new & old Monaco to get our bearings. We then headed up the hill to the Palace of the reigning Prince Rainier of Monaco.

We were just in time to see the changing of the guard at the Palace front with all the fan fair of marching and instruments.
We even managed to find some reminders of Australia with a section of the Princes garden planted with Bottle trees, Casurinas and even a Wollemi Pine.

After more walking & souveniring Elisabeth & Simone took the children back for an ice cream and a swim while Luke & Louise set off for the ritzy end of town. All the clothes & jewelry to be seen in is there as well as the local car yard selling everything from Honda to Ferrari.

The heat and humidity was starting to take its toll so Louise & Luke headed down to the bay for a welcome swim in the very salty, warm, blue Mediterranean Sea.

Day 11 Spain Barcelona

With the children feeling tired from all the walking yesterday we decided to give them a break and Louise & Luke headed off to explore Barcelona.

Although the official language is Castilian Spanish and all the signs are in Spanish we managed to work out the main bus route which allows hop on & off throughout the city. Our first destination was The Expiatory Church of La Sagrada Familia an unfinished church by one of Barcelona’s most well known Architects Antonio Gaudi. Designed in 1883 it became Gaudi’s passion. He actually lived in the cript of the church as it was being built. Unfortunately he died during the construction and attempts have been made to complete it throughout the last century. Construction has begun again and the Spanish hope to have it completed by 2030.

We also visited the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games – amongst many side trips to some of the older parts of Barcelona. Louise also managed to fit in a quick visit to a traditional Spanish women’s clothing store called Esprit.

After a pretty exhausting day we headed back and met up with the children to see a performance by some local traditional Spanish singers and dancers. Danielle & David enjoyed it so much they fell asleep.

With all the kids fed and in bed Luke, Louise, Simone & Chris headed to the top deck where they show movies under the stars to see the film “Vicky Christina Barcelona”, filmed in and around where we had spent the day. Luke enjoyed it so much he fell asleep

Day 10 Gibraltar

After another half a day at sea we arrive at the small country of Gibraltar. Although it is small in size it is large in stature ansd significance. It's position gives any country that controls Gibraltar a good base to control the passage of vessels between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean waters. Gibraltar is under British control but during history it has been sought after by Spain, Italy and the French.

After getting everyone sorted we headed off to explore the town and walk to the foot of the rock where we could catch the cable car to the top.
At the base station there were warnings everwhere about the monkeys and of course Luke had all the kids petrified at the thought of the monkeys attacking us at the top. Despite all the warnings not to feed them some people couldnt resist and fed them nutritional snacks like Mars bars and chips. We soon worked out why some of the monkeys just lay around in the sun all day.
We left the monkeys for a while and trecked across the top of the rock to find St Michael's Cave which has a natural dramatic amphitheater at its center where concerts are sometimes held. The children were fascinated by the huge stalegtites and stalegmites inside the cave and the huge array of colours. After a long day and heaps of walking everyone was happy to head back to the ship for a swim and a good sleep.
  Luke was tempted to stop at this bar on the way back.

Day 8 & 9 South Hampton - The Ship

Our last day in Holland and we have to make an early start to get to the airport in Schipol. The peak hour traffic around the cities is horrific (10 times worse than Sydney) so we are out the door at 7am to drive what should take 30 minutes to the Airport to make a 10.30 flight.
It was the start of a very hectic day on which we used almost every form of transport available - Hire car to plane to train to bus to taxi to ship. By the time we got to the ship we were exhausted. The kids hadn't eaten or drank a thing since breakfast as we didn't even have enough time to stop for a toilet brake.
After many hours we finally arrived at the port. About 2 minutes after the taxi drove off Alison informed us she had left her back pack in the back. We were so past it we didnt even care but fortunately Luke did some fast talking to another cab driver and we managed to track it down. Lucky as it had her Bobby (teady bear with a chewd nose and head that is hanging on by two strands of thread) inside.
The first night on the ship "Dawn Princess" was full of excitement with all the children running madly around exploring. We watched a sthe pilot, used to navigate us out of the English Channel, was transfered from our huge, moving ship in very rough seas to a small boat to take him home. The next day has been spent with more exploring as well as signing all the chidren into kids club. We are tavelling through the North Atlantic Ocean to Gibraltar and the sea is quite rough. Of course Luke's old friend, sea sickness, has showed it's ugly head very quickly. He is not too bad considering the conditions and apart from a couple of hours of feeling nautious the kids have been fine.
We will hopefully arrive at The Rock at about 1pm and get a chance to explore. There is not much to see out here than water and heaps of container ships hauling freight around the world. Most of them are along way from us but with the strong zoom on the camera we could see this one carrying huge windmill parts for a wind farm somewhere.

Day 7 Water Windmill & Horse Dairy

We awoke to the sound of  rain running off our thatched roof this morning. A fitting start for our first port of call for the day - a water windmill. They are used for removing the vast amounts of water in Holland. Virtually all of Holland is well below sea level and to make matters worse they have dug down even deeper to use the "turf" for fuel. The turf is really just mud and vegetable matter that they dig up, pat down, dry out and then burn. This is one of the last working water mills in Holland and we were given a fantastic tour by the operator and resident - the "miller" himself.

The Miller lives in the windmill with his family and has to be ready 24 hours a day to set the windmill going when needed. When the wind is at full strength the giant blades rotate with the help of canvas sails about 5 times per minute. This drives the screw type pump in the canal below and can pump 35000 litres per minute.

Nearly all the moving parts are made from huge pieces of timber including all the gears and brake mechanism. The roof is traditional thatched type and in 1990 this windmill was struck by lightening and the very top section was completely destroyed.

After a great morning spent at the windmill we stopped off at a horse dairy where they milk the herd of horses twice a day. They also specialise in hand made chocolates made from the horses milk.
 With the rain starting to
get heavy we decide to
head back to the farm.
Its great weather for the
children to catch up on
some school work.
Simone & Marlojse get
the job of school teachers
for the afternoon.

Day 6 Muiderslot Castle & Amsterdam

Another beautiful summer day in Holland today with the sun shining and 27 degrees. Luke, Louise and the kids went their own way today and headed for the town of Muiden to visit Muiderslot Castle.
The castle was built in 1285 when Count Floris V took charge of the area around Muiden.
We started our visit with a guided tour of the special parts of the castle such as the dining room, The Prince Chamber and the kitchen. Although it was all in Dutch we got the gist with the help of  some English notes we could read. They would not allow any photos in the special rooms but as you can imagine they were exquisite. In the Prince Chamber they had the original babies cot and silver toys. The main bed was really small and not long enough to lay in. In the times when it was used people slept in an upright sitting position as they believed if they lay down the blood would rush to their brain and send them crazy.
In one of the rooms the children were allowed to dress in the traditional costumes worn in the castle. Johanna, Alison and Danielle were so excited to get dressed up but we had  no chance of getting David into a pair of tights. We did at least get him to act as the Jester.
David couldn't wait to get into the dungeon until Luke closed the door behind them all. He gave the girls a run for their money in the squealing department.
We got to meet the birds Count Floris would have kept including a huge Falcon. The Armoury had heaps for the kids as well with swords and cross bows.
After a nice home made lunch sitting beside the mote we headed off for down town Amsterdam.
What a contrast Amsterdam is to the sleepy village we have called home for the last week. The place is absolutely packed. We parked on the outskirts and caught the train to Amsterdam Central and followed the crowd outside to the even bigger crowd. We walked the streets taking in the sights for a while before the younger ones put up a final protest and we headed for home.

Day 5 Madurodam

After a late start today we decided to go in different directions today. Chris, Elisabeth & Marloejse went back to Utrrecht while Luke, Louise & the kids and Simone headed for the The Hague to visit the smallest town in Holland.  Everything is 25 times smaller than in reality but the detail is amazing.

The kids were running around from one thing to the next with excitement. Many parts of the small town have moving parts including a loch for changing river levels.

There were even parts of Amsterdam's red light district.

Day 4 Nieuwveen - Our Town

Today we were all happy to not travel far and explore our local village and the farm. First up we visited a display by some locals showing traditional crafts like roof thatching, wool spinning and "wooden duck carving". There were heaps of old woodworking tools including an old lathe.

It was great to see all the local produce for sale at the food market. We got some great local cheese and bread. All the kids stocked up on Stroopwafels made on the spot and then dipped in chocolate. David has made himself sick on them.
After a feast of local goods for lunch some decided to take a walk to explore some windmills. Unfortunately they looked closer than they really were and after one and a half hours of  walking we gave up. We are going to visit a working mill next week - by car!
There was still time to explore the town and the farm some more. Gerrard the farmer feeds & milks in the afternoon. The wild geese fly in formation to the paddock next to us as the sun goes down. With the children exhausted and in bed Luke & Louise head for the local watering hole where we are again mistaken for Englishmen, then Scotts then Irish. The old men all wanted to buy us beers and would have had us there until closing. It was good to be able to amble back to the farm and hit the sack.

Day 3 Miffy and Utrecht

Today we took the superfast train into one of the major cities in Holland called Utrecht. The most popular way to do this is ride your bike and leave it at the station - there are thousands of bikes. Uterich was the home of the famous children's book author Dick Bruna and there is now a Miffy museum here. Louise,Simone,Oma and the children spent some time looking through and seeing all their favourite Miffy characters. Luke, Chris & Marloesje headed for a quiet laneway for coffee.
Lunch was down by the side of one of the many canals running through the city. People can navigate huge cruisers down the narrow canals and stop for shopping in the middle of the city.
After another long day we went for a BBQ at Gerrit and Saskia's house.It was great to catch up with Gerrit Jnr and meet his family. The kids were exhausted and happy to be back at the farm.