The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

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Clermont-Ferrand

We needed to make our way from Provence up to Paris for our next house-swap and Erika suggested stopping for a few days in a town I hadn’t heard of before. There apparently is a neat volcanic park area complete with a train to take you up to one. So we did and the city was really neat. The cathedral was black as made from the volcanic rocks and so quite imposing but really lovely inside.

We all enjoyed the trip up the mountain and lunches outside in the square. I think that is one of my favorite things to do is sit and enjoy a meal with family while looking around a new place like this.

Near the square there was also a lovely bookstore with both English and French books. We are always drawn into bookstores!

In the evening we had plans to go to the symphony but sadly when we got there they had a mix up and there weren’t enough tickets. Still we enjoyed an evening in the main square.

Provence House-Swap

We were lucky to have a month-long house swap in Provence, just outside of Aix. The picture above is sunrise from our patio!

The house was gorgeous and in the pine forests there. Too far to walk into the small town but we had our little blue car lease and so just enjoyed the peace and quiet of being in the country.

Over the time there we found our favorite markets and produce stores and of course boulangeries for the “best” bread.

Tomatoes!

We did quite a lot of day trips with the favorites being Cassis, Sannary-Sur-Mer, Cannes, and Aix. A lot of our time though we just simply enjoyed the house and lovely gardens. For most of the time, Christian was with us, and then the last week, Erika and grandson Mark arrived. So we were happy with family time.

I celebrated my 60th birthday there and we went to a lovely Michelin starred restaurant where some of us ate too much and indulged in very expensive champagne.

We even visited the village that one of my favorite authors wrote about: Peter Mayle. All in all a lovely month.

Switzerland Day Trip: Yvoire, France

Another day trip we took was by boat across the lake to Yvoire. We really just wanted to experience a boat ride and there were some dinner cruises or ones that went down the coast but we had already driven and visited the towns there so we thought a short trip across to the medieval, 14th Century town of Yvoire would be just about right.

And a day was just right with time to wander the small streets and view the “ye’olde” shops plus have a lovely lunch. I’m not sure there was much else to do beyond a day there but it was just right for a day trip.

And again Darwin was accepted on the boat and so enjoyed his outing.

Switzerland Day Trip to Chamonix, France

One day while in Switzerland, we took a day trip to Chamonix.

It was an easy and beautiful drive around the lake and up into the mountains. We were basically directly across from our house in Perroy and we were excited to take one of the multiple cable cars up the mountain facing Mont Blanc.

The cable cars in this area are not cheap but gosh the views are incredible. Even Darwin enjoyed his trip up and it’s so nice to be able to take dogs with us. We saw lots of people going up with their backpack/hang gliders and then leaping off the side of the mountain and floating around. It was quite full of them in places.

The flowers in Chamonix were just lovely and it is very fairy-tale castle-like again. A lovely spot to be in.

Switzerland House-Swap

We were thrilled to have a two-week house swap in a lovely home in Perroy which is on the banks of the lake between Geneve and Lausanne. The area is filled with vineyards and little villages overlooking this glorious lake with the far side France and the alps. We could see Mont Blanc from the house!

Driving was easy and we made lots of day trips around the area but also enjoyed picnics at the Perroy beach and park area. Charlotte also went riding a few times at a nearby stable. It is quite expensive in Switzerland so we loaded up at Aldi/Lidl and made good use of the lovely kitchen and house we were in and packed picnics when we could.

Of course we did have to sample fondue in Gruyere after taking a cable car up the mountain and having coffee on the summit.

Montevideo

The main city square

After reading in some international-focused move abroad magazines, we decided to spend a few days in Uruguay. We only had time for the capital city of Montevideo so our view is perhaps limited.

It’s about a 40 minute drive from the airport to city center and we booked a private car as recommended. This was nice as we had been on overnight flights from Mexico City to Bogota (the airport there is lovely) and then on to Montevideo. The price was about $75 pre-booking privately. When we left we simply took an Uber and that was only $22. Lesson learned.

The city is hard to be enamored with honestly although the people are friendly and we had some good food.

There were some nice bookstores

One of the kids asked if this was a communist country as they were reminded of Eastern Europe. It was very drab and lacked color. There were some lovely old buildings tucked in between large concrete blocks of apartments (but the old ones were rarely renovated). The thing that jumped out to us was that no one had any plants or flowers on their balconies. There was no color or desire to make spaces look inviting.

Some of the best spots we found

We were also a bit shocked at the amount of trash strewn all over the place. This plus loads of dog poop were unpleasant to walk around in the city.

Walking along the rambla ( the sea front) was no different either.

The Rambla
We did find a good market

Day Trips from Melbourne

The surrounding countryside around Melbourne is stunning. From incredible beach views along the Great Ocean Road to the mountains and rain forest areas. I was on a quest to see kangaroos (check that off) and koalas (sadly no so I shall just have to go back).

The driving is easy (on the left side) with open roads and no one really aggressive. Although we did see some sadly squashed kangaroos at the side of the road so dusk and night may be difficult similar to deer.

Sydney Sites

Pretty Impressive

Our big jaunt around the world started when we flew from Mexico to Los Angeles and spent 24 hours there due to flights not lining up well. It was fun to go over to The Grove and Farmer’s Market as it we’d been there before just prior to Christmas so somewhere I have pictures of the kids about 10 years apart.

We flew out the next day to Sydney and while it was 15.5 hours, it went surprisingly fast and we did manage to sleep (a miracle). It was strange leaving on Nov 29 and arriving Dec. 1. I kept pondering how we had completely lost the 30th! Our first day was purposefully relaxing with just restaurant nearby. Thankfully we were in a great area (Central Park) and had tons of amazing places to choose from. We ate Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, and more for our time there – all delish.

The first day we took an Uber to the Opera House and went on a tour. I hadn’t realized there were so many different theaters within this iconic building. Multiple shows running at the same time but we just couldn’t swing seeing anything there. It’s OK as we are going to Phantom (seen multiple times before but it’s a fave) and Hamilton in Melbourne so are pretty excited about that. The building is impressive and a tour was very good as we saw inside plus learned the history behind the building. Well worth the money.

From there we wandered around the dock area and The Rocks which is a cute area with narrow lanes and outdoor cafes etc. It’s all pretty with a great mix of old and new buildings plus nice green spaces and parks. We really did like Sydney a lot.

During our visit we hit up some museums and walked quite a bit to explore. Darling Harbor was nice and reminded us of the UAE a bit.

Our flight to Melbourne left at 6am so it was an early shift but very easy and everything went smoothly. Sadly Melbourne airport when I was leaving for Thailand a few days later was anything but. We all stood in line to try and check in with 3 employees helping. It took 3.5 hours to get thru the line and of course the flight was delayed. Coming back, they were announcing that due to chronic staff shortages, bags were very delayed and it could be at least an hour wait! Hope they can hire more people soon.

Anyway, Sydney was lovely. Perfect weather, friendly people, pretty architecture, and good food.

Waterfront views

Great area with Asian restaurants. Well everywhere has great spots!

Melbourne City Sites

Max, Charlotte, and I were hugely excited to get to Melbourne because this is where Jake is living. They got to stay with him while I went to Thailand to co-lead a 10-day study abroad.

Melbourne is lovely although the weather was hard to predict. It was summer one day (and actually the season we were there) but some days it felt cool and rainy.

We did so many things it’s hard to get it all in here for one post. We hit up quite a few markets (happens with a chef son) and they were impressive. Fresh oysters and all kinds of nibbles.

Jake’s restaurants are in the brown, historic building.

Melbourne view from Jake’s apartment

Some of the highlights were all our shows we were able to see. Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, and Joseph were so much fun. COVID limited our show viewing so we tried to make up for it.

We also had a great evening at the botanical gardens watching movies on a giant screen (complete with huge fruit bats flying overhead). We saw the Whitney Houston movie, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and it was almost like being at a concert. Amazing night.

We ate some amazing food around the city but the best was my son’s restaurant — Mesa Verde. Wow is it ever good.

We had two house swaps over the holiday season so spent Christmas in a suburban beach town. We took lots of day trips from there into the countryside and cooked some good food at home in the really nice kitchen. We even had chickens in the garden that we cared for and were able to get eggs.

And then for New Year we moved to a city house that was a beautifully renovated warehouse in Fitzroy area. NYE was spent wandering down the road to an Afghani restaurant (complete with belly dancer) and then watching the city fireworks from our roof top patio.

Studying Abroad in Thailand

Bangkok scenes always impress

I had the pleasure of co-leading a study abroad group to Thailand. We have to plan these about 18 months before going and so I happily suggested my favorite places which meant we spent a few days in Bangkok, a couple in Hua Hin (south) and then up north to Chiang Mai. Not going to lie, it was a tough 10 days of travel with nonstop exploring and socializing. Packing and unpacking with a night her and night there is not my favorite way to travel. We much prefer slow travel but it was a great way to have student experience different places.

We did the Palace and reclining Buddhas etc. but also were able to attend a class in meditation (walking and sitting), visit a big STEM high school, and take a wonderful cooking class. We made the best food and the chef was delightful. It was extremely well organized with plates of ingredients for each person appearing at one station where we learned about them before going to another station to cook them. We made four dishes and could barely move as so full. If you are there check out:

https://www.tinglythaicookingschool.com/

Tingly

In Hua Hin we hit the night markets and beach but then drove to a huge national park with a lovely lake. We took a boat ride around it and visited islands with monkeys on them. You could also rent bikes and ride around although I chose to sit in the shade as afternoon sun in Thailand is a tad intense.

In Chiang Mai we again shopped (always popular) and spent a day at an elephant sanctuary. We fed them, ground up herbs to make healthy snacks for them, and then it was bath time. Quite a muddy process!

Another muddy process was visiting a seed saving NGO called Echo. It was really interesting to hear about their work around the world aimed at helping collect seeds to share with small holding farmers and also to work on promotion of better farming practices as well as sustainable (and cheap) tools. It was cool to see them collecting natural methane gas from pig poop and then fire up a stove with it. We were able to sit and clean seeds and do some weeding in the gardens.

One of the best events was visiting Chiang Mai University and interacting with the students and faculty. Their students put on quite an event at the American Center on campus as they love to practice English and make connections. They had us playing some drawing games and fact finding warm ups that had everyone holding their sides from laughing so hard. Everyone was so welcoming and gracious that it was a really lovely day.

All in all, a wonderful “work” trip (struggle to call it that as it was so much fun with incredible students). It did remind me of how much I’ve missed S.E Asia.

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