new years day race

new years day race

Monday, July 11, 2016

June 14 - July 6, 2016 Canada

We flew from Amsterdam to Toronto where we had a nice dinner out with my parents, Aunt Judy and cousin Kevin and Vicky. The following day Gary headed back to San Diego to work on the house, and the kids and I stayed in Canada to visit my family for the next 3 weeks, we definitely got the better end of the deal.

We mainly stayed at the cottage near Gananoque, but we also checked out my parent's new house in Kingston. The cottage is stacked with fun toys like 4 optimists (small 1-man sailboats), a 29er (skiff type sailboat), a 20' power boat, a 9' inflatable that only sometimes stayed inflated,… Plus being in the middle of the Thousand Islands, we took the boats out and explored many of them. After all the cruising we have done, I can still honestly say the Thousand Islands offers some of the best cruising in the world. There are about 20 islands that are parks, and they are only accessible by boat, where you can camp, have bonfires,… Recently tent-cabins have been added to a few and we spent 1 night at Gordon with the cousins and Kathy. The kids had a blast making the fire, roasting marshmallows and chasing the raccoons that came out after dark.

Anneka, Ciara, Axel, Dad, Gigi, and Thomas. His grandkids surprised him by washing his car for father's day.

Thomas' birthday, celebrated with lots of fireworks

We did a short road trip to Ottawa to see parliament, as the kids have never been there and we thought we should add an educational aspect to this visit. We had lunch along the Rideau River with my godparents, then headed to Larry's airfield as Axel really wanted to check out his airplanes. Larry convinced some guys from the glider club to take Axel up in a glider. He was so thrilled!  Later we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at my cousin Sandra's house, and the kids really bonded. Axel and Ethan really did not want to leave each other the next day.
Parliament buildings in Ottawa

Parliament library


One day we went to Sandbanks Provincial Park near Picton at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, with its beautiful sand beaches that stretch for miles and a massive campground nestled in the forest. Axel and Thomas liked skim-boarding and everyone loved the warm water. Axel and Gigi were blown away that there could be such a huge beach, with crashing waves, on a fresh water lake. They also had a hard time grasping that the tide would not come in and wash their sand sculptures away.

Unfortunately not everything was idyllic in Kingston, while I was home, my brother and dad had to make a difficult decision about the Truant, a 1932 wooden powerboat my brother owns, and father has been slowly working on restoring. It has been in a state of disrepair for 15 years and the restoration progress has been slow to nonexistent. So the decision was made to scrap the boat. I know they came to right decision, but this is not the way you want to see any boat end up. The good thing is now my brother can buy a functioning boat that his family can enjoy this summer.  Here is a small photo homage to the good and the bad of the Truant.

After a fantastic visit with my family, we are now sitting on a plane headed towards San Diego, completing our final leg in our around the world journey. It is hard to believe that it was only 2 years ago that we left San Diego, and hard to sometimes absorb all that we have seen and experienced. I think that these memories we have made will continue to enlighten our lives for years to come. It will be interesting to see how these experiences ultimately shape the children. I know in the short-term they have become more tolerant to the hiccups life throws at you. They also easily interact with new people and make the best of whatever situation arises. Both Gigi and Axel have blossomed into interesting, unique people. I really hope that I will be able to continue to spend quality time with them and not get too bogged down in work. It has been so rewarding really getting to know my children.

Each of us has brought away many different memories and perspectives from this journey, all of us are richer, and as a family we are definitely closer.

As a year-end school project Gigi and Axel made a video outlining the highlights of the trip for them. It is fantastic! When you have a little time you should watch it (run time 16 minutes).

Cheers and may our travels inspire you to follow your dreams,

Monday, June 13, 2016

June 9-13, 2016 Netherlands

We went to Utrecht, Netherlands to visit Gary's brother Andy. Utrecht is a very quaint canal, city with lots of restaurants, nightlife, and lots and lots of bikes. Andy and Roos live in the center of town, so we can hear the partiers and church bells. Roos threw a great party so we could meet her family. We have enjoyed slowing down. We spent a lot of time just visiting at their home and the kids finished their year-end school project, a video of the highlights of the past 2 years of travel.

In Amsterdam we toured the city on a canal boat, which really is a good way to take in the sights. Next to the train station there is a 3 story bike garage that is completely filled. We went to the Van Gogh museum, but Axel preferred the free ping pong in the park more than the museum.

Probably the most amazing thing about Holland is the number of bikes and how everyone is such a good rider. Now on to Canada to visit my family, then home to San Diego.



Andy and Roos


three story bike parking

Thursday, June 9, 2016

June 1-8, 2016 France

We spent a quick week in Paris. We were very lucky to arrive after the torrential rains, but we still got to experience the flooded Seine. Fortunately we visited the Louvre our first day, because it was closed after that as they had to move some of the art out of the basement for fear of flooding.

We also visited the Pompidou Center, the modern art museum, walked up the Eiffel tower, and walked all over the city.

On our first night in Paris, we shared many, many bottles of wine with Catherine and Manuel Renoir. On our last night in Paris we visited Katherine Swarney and her family. She has 3 kids around the ages of Gigi and Axel, and they were so happy to be with other kids. They have been troupers hanging out with us and adults, with no kid interaction since we left New Zealand.

After Paris we went to Champagne region and tasted some beautiful bubbly. Then on to Maastricht, Netherlands to visit Gary's old sailing buddy Rob Coherst. Now we are in Utrecht, Netherlands visiting Gary's brother Andy.



Nice, France on the Mediterranean 

Very cool fountain in Nice

Notre Dame Cathedral next to the flooded Seine

Louvre museum

Pompidou Modern Art Museum

Thursday, June 2, 2016

May 18-31, 2016 Italy

May 18-24, 2016  Rome

What an incredible city for all of its thousands of years of history that you can walk around, touch and live. We walked a lot, saw a lot, and ate a lot of pizza (especially Axel). We stayed in a quaint apartment in Trastevere, so we were able to make breakfast and many dinners in. We found after big days of walking that no one had the energy to sit in a restaurant for dinner. That said we still ate plenty of yummy Italian food.

All of the historic sites seem more impressive than the last. There is so much to see in each building or even on each wall. We visited most of the 'must see' sites, such as the Pantheon, Coliseum, Forum, Vatican and St Peter's, many fountains, many churches, … Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are many thousands of words showing some of the highlights of Rome.

We took a tour through the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. There is so much to see that realistically you should spend a few days there. We went to Sunday mass with Pope Francis. Even though it was in Latin and Italian, it was still quite moving. 

May 25  Pompeii

We spent a long day taking in the sites of Pompeii. It is mind blowing to think how wealthy and comfortable a life the people of Pompeii lived 2,000 years ago. It was sad to see the casts of the people buried and the anguished expressions on their faces.

May 26-31  Tuscany, Florence, Savona

After a long day of driving we stopped in Montepulciano to taste their fantastic wine and rented an apartment in a beautiful vineyard. The views across the countryside are as postcard like as the travel brochures.

In Florence we visited Il Duomo in the Cathedral Santa Maria. For a long time Gary has been very interested in the construction of the dome and how revolutionary it was when it was built. The exterior of the cathedral is made of stunningly beautiful multicolored marble. We had the fun of climbing up a very narrow staircase onto the roof of the dome and checking out the interesting painting on ceiling up close (lots of hell and damnation only a little heaven above). We also visited the Uffizi museum which houses a stunning collection of Roman through Renaissance art work from many famous artists.

Our last day in Italy was spent visiting an Aussie friend of ours that is currently living in Savona. Neil's apartment from the outside looks very average, but inside it had incredibly ornate plaster ceilings and intricate marble floors. On our way to France we stopped in Sanremo and had a picnic lunch at the beach. Gary and Gigi braved the cool waters of the Mediterranean.