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Venice

No one told me the first week of kindergarten would be so tiring! And I’m not even the one going!
Anyway, let’s not talk about that now. Let’s talk about Venice.

The Engineer has wanted to go to Venice for ages, but I’ve been several times (most recently when I was 18 though) and was rather underwhelmed, so we’ve never got round to it. However, as our big family holiday to Greece fell immediately after his birthday, and as flights from Switzerland are unsurprisingly expensive, we looked into alternative means of transportation and found… car ferries. Ah, how exotic, I hear you say. Well, no, obviously not. But The Engineer does love the sea, and since working in the aviation industry he has developed an interesting dislike of planes. And the car ferry leaves from Venice, a mere five-hour drive not including stops.

So we booked a Novotel on mainland Venice where things are cheaper and have parking spaces, and that was that.
As everyone knows, the ancient part of Venice – the part you actually want to see – has no room for cars, but you can still get to it by car via a huge bridge, which gives you an excellent view of the ferry terminal and multi-storey car park where you will be leaving your vehicle (the car park isn’t related to the terminal, anyone can park there). After that, you hop on a vaporetto, or boat-bus, which takes you round the outside of the city to drop you off at one of various bus-stops. We would have loved to stop at several places just to have a look round, but we had to be back at the terminal to board at noon, so we settled for the traditional Piazza San Marco. Thankfully it wasn’t flooded – it’s the lowest point of the city – but the queues for the Basilica were so long, even early in the morning, that we decided it wasn’t worth it with two children in tow. A shame because I wanted to see if the floor inside was as undulating as on my previous visit – something I assume wasn’t part of the original design. However, the children thought that chasing pigeons was vastly entertaining, and there was a live band playing outside one of the restaurants, so everyone was happy.

The tower was boarded up for repairs of some sort, and the bridge of Sighs had some bizarre sky-blue boards with adverts for some watch company or other on either side of it so you couldn’t get a good photo (see picture above, on right!) But no matter. We bought ice-cream and wandered through the back streets, vaguely in the direction of the Rialto bridge. Froglet and I spent most of our time admiring the glasswork in the shop windows, to try and keep his mind off the fact that he “really wanted to go to the ferry right now”, but The Engineer managed to get some nice shots of things we didn’t even realise were there. So when you go to Venice make sure you look up as well as into shops. (This is even better advice when in Prague, where some of the loveliest paintings and embellishments are right under the eaves).

Venice must have a wheelchair-friendly route around it, as some little staircases had locked stairlifts on them. I imagine one has to go to the Tourist Office to get a key. However we managed without – this sort of thing being what we bought the lightweight pushchair for in the first place – and eventually made it to the Bridge. It was quite crowded so we admired it from a distance and then got in the queue for a Vaporetto back to the car park. This one took us through the centre of town, along the Grand Canal. I don’t remember doing that last time, but it’s definitely a lovely route.

I want to write about boarding the car ferry – I realise that sounds utterly boring, but if you have never boarded a Greek ferry at an Italian port, you are missing out! Anyway I’m out of time, so that will be for my next post.

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A Grecian holiday, part one

Have you ever heard of Gerald Durrell? If you have, chances are you’re either a naturalist, or you’ve read one of his books (or, in the UK, seen the TV series). Or possibly you’re thinking of his older brother Lawrence, the famous author. Gerald Durrell was an ardent lover of nature and animals in particular, who became a great conservationist, founded one of the first zoos dedicated to conservation, on the island of Jersey, and incidentally wrote a great many very entertaining books about animals and his life with or near them.

As you may be able to tell, I’m something of a fan. But what does all that have to do with Greece? Well, everything. It’s the reason we chose our holiday destination. (Well the reason I chose it anyway. Everyone else just thought my suggestion was a good second-best to theirs, so democracy ensured I won.) But back to my point: Gerald Durrell spent 5 years of his early life living on the Greek island of Corfu, and at least three of his books deal with memories from that time. And if you’ve read them, you can’t help but want to go there and see what it’s like now, nearly 80 years later.

So we did.

It’s quite different. There are more cars, fewer donkeys, and considerably less in the way of wildlife – in our time there we found one shell on the beach. One.
Things are more organised. There are more fences – his books give the feeling that in the early 1930s you could walk from one end of the island to the other without “trespassing”, although I imagine that wasn’t really the case.

Fortunately, I was mentally prepared for this, and thus not disappointed. After all, who expects a member state of the European Union to be exactly how it was before the war that gave birth to what would eventually become the EU? So, disregarding the changes, I focused on the things that had remained the same. Of course I made sure we had the books with us too!

So that was one exciting thing, for me. (No one else shared this, despite all my family having read the books too. Ah well.) The other exciting thing was being with my whole family – parents and three sisters, some with husbands and kids in tow. Froglet loved having someone almost his own age to play with. Actually his little cousin is almost exactly halfway between him and Nutmeg, but she mostly played with him. Nutmeg mostly clung to me, at least the first few days. I can’t blame her though, as it was surprisingly cold and windy. We had thunderstorms and rain for a whole two days, and then for part of several more. (Great for me – I’m not a hot-weather person).

We stayed at a lovely all-inclusive hotel in the north of the island, with several saltwater pools and its own beach. Most of the tourist attractions are elsewhere to be honest, but as we drove down and got the car ferry across we were able to drive into Corfu town for a day, and visit a couple of other little places nearer at hand too. I definitely recommend hiring/bringing a car if you’re not staying in the capital of the island, as Greek public transport can be quite infrequent (not to mention slow). That’s Froglet on the car ferry on the left, with the island behind him. The photo above is the view of the Old Citadel in Corfu Town, as seen from the ferry while we were docking.

And that is all I’m going to say for now, but at some point soon I’ll write more about Corfu itself. And Venice. Have I mentioned Venice yet?

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Spring and summer non-posting

My friend MaryLeigh at Blue Cotton Memory was asking where I’ve been. Well several factors have combined to make posting more difficult.

First we got a new computer – an Apple. It took us quite a while to work out how to sync our camera with it (apparently it doesn’t like Canon G10s), and even longer to work out how to put the photos somewhere where I can get at them from my blog to post. For a while I posted sans photos but it’s not as nice, is it? But hopefully that is now solved.

Secondly, Froglet starts official kindergarten this August, so we took him out of nursery at the end of May to give him a summer holiday (and save some money!) Not entirely a brilliant idea, as I now have no free time at lunchtimes when Nutmeg sleeps. But then again, children in Switzerland come home for lunch every day anyway once they start kindy, so I had to get used to it sometime. Now I have to learn to make 20-minute posts, like this one!

And thirdly we have had both visits from and visits to family, including a holiday in Greece, so that has kept us busy and offline. The photo is one I took outside our hotel room there, and I will be posting about the trip soon. With pictures. 🙂

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We’re back!

We just got back from the UK where we visited the grandparents who live there and attended Zia’s wedding. Ewythr is the name for my new brother-in-law, on here at least. Of course you all immediately recognised this as the Welsh word for uncle. 😉
Zia looked beautiful, the wedding went smoothly, and I did not fall off my ridiculously high heels when going up to pray for the happy couple. Oh and the speeches were very funny. Froglet got to see his little cousin S and run wild with her. Ewythr didn’t want children at the wedding for this very reason, but Zia said her nieces and nephew would have to come and in fact S was a bridesmaid. She did very well for a two-year old! And Froglet ran wild in a quiet sort of way – lots of running but no screaming – so we thought that was pretty good too.

Once the wedding was over and we’d seen all the various bits of my family, we headed back north to The Engineers hometown and had a proper holiday with his. (Weddings do not count as holidays. In fact anything that involves me wearing high heels does not count as a holiday). We went to the beach twice, even though it’s a rather long drive by UK standards. Froglet loved that. He paddled in the freezing water, hunted for shells with me, looked for crabs with Granddad, built sandcastles and flew a kite. The Engineer is hoping that we may be able to rent a cottage near the sea next year so we don’t have to drive for two hours every time we want to get there.

On another occasion the boys flew some rockets and aeroplanes. Most importantly, we went to Leeds and visited Borders while the grandparents took care of Froglet and Nutmeg, so we had a whole hour to ourselves to just look at books. Ahhhh… wonderful. Of course we came away with loads.

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your holidays. We’ll be back to our usual posting sort-of-schedule soon!

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Update

Of sorts.
It’s been so long since I wrote properly, I hardly know where to start.

New Zealand

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Off on my holidays

So I’m off first thing tomorrow… 8 days in changeable England. Really hoping this time will be more restful than Cornwall earlier this year!

It seems like lots of you are having a rough time right now and I can’t send everyone real flowers so…
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