Frankfurt & Salzburg

Guten Tag, and welcome to Germany/Austria, where the weather is hot and the pretzels are plentiful.

Coffee and cake with Mike's family in Germany

Coffee and cake with Mike’s family in Germany

We left England on Sunday after a lovely (albeit quick) visit with the Cole family while we waited at Bristol airport, and then we arrived in Frankfurt to spend a few days with my (Mike’s) extended family.

It’s been unexpectedly hot here on the continent, with temperatures in the low to mid 30s. Still, that’s better than rain, and I expect that things will cool down a bit when we head to the Alps of Switzerland.

On our way from Frankfurt

On our way from Frankfurt

In Frankfurt we visited with my Oma, who is 101 and still doing well. We went to some swimming pools and stocked up on Haribo gummies — nothing too strenuous. Then on Wednesday we were on our way from Frankfurt to Salzburg via Munich.

Salzburg is really nice. A manageable city with lots of open squares and a focus on music. On the mountain that overlooks the city is a fortress that has famously never been breached, unless you count the numerous tourists that attack it daily. We also enjoyed our first #RickSteves guided audio tour, which was fine although I felt a bit self-conscious with my headphones on while we walked through a couple of churches.

Our first Rick Steves audio tour in Salzburg

Our first Rick Steves audio tour in Salzburg

The gazebo used in the filming of the Sound of Music

The gazebo used in the filming of the Sound of Music

Mirabel Gardens in Salzburg with the fortress in the distance

Mirabel Gardens in Salzburg with the fortress in the distance

Today (Aug 14) is Heidi’s birthday, and we celebrated with a gummy cake from the nearby gummy bear store. In the evening we watched a marionette performance of the Sound of Music — what an amazing show and a wonderful way to end our three days here.

Tomorrow we take the train to Vienna for a quick one-day visit before catching the overnight train to Venice. Word has it that our accommodations in Venice has air conditioning… hooray!

Want to see more pictures? You can go to our flickr page!

Heidi's gummy birthday cake

Heidi’s gummy birthday cake

Here we are after watching the wonderful performance of the Sound of Music by the marionette puppeteers

Here we are after watching the wonderful performance of the Sound of Music by the marionette puppeteers

Posted from Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria.

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Hello World!

zzzzz…*snort*… ?

Hello? Wow looks like I slept for just about four years! We’re in England at the moment and we’re about to head out on a family trip to Europe for a few weeks, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to revive the blog. I will save the post that summarizes the last four years for another day.

Tidal pool beach at Ilfracombe

Tidal pool beach at Ilfracombe

So yes, we’re in Devon at the moment visiting family here. It’s surprisingly sunny today, although we’ve had a bit of everything during the past week. Nothing like the 30+ temperatures in Vancouver that we left at the end of July though, thankfully. When we depart on Sunday we will be going to Germany to see my Gran, who is 101 now. After a couple of days in Frankfurt we then head off to Austria, a little stop in Venice, and then over to Switzerland for a couple of weeks. We finish our trip in Prague before heading back home again.

We’ve had a shorter stay in England this year than we normally do, but we’ve still been able to see the family and enjoy some important activities like watching the cricket at Somerset and eating a carvery lunch (or, in my case, a mixed grill with generous portions of meat).

I’ve set up a page where you can hopefully track our posts, if you’re interested. I’m also uploading pictures to a flickr album. Feel free to drop us a line in the comments or on Facebook.

Posted from Newton Tracey, England, United Kingdom.

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Stuff

Our kitchen stuff before being packed

After 10 1/2 weeks our shipment containing most of our worldly goods finally arrived yesterday. One wonders how we managed all this time with just the stuff we could more or less carry ourselves…

It’s a useful exercise, going without most of your possessions for a while. And here’s a secret that flies in the face of that pervasive modern religion of capitalism: you don’t need most of what you own.

There’s a show on TV here at the moment that we’ve been watching called Consumed. It’s an expert-help reality type show, where each week features a different family who is clearly swimming in way too much stuff. They usually have more laundry than they can physically fit in their storage spaces, an extra room filled with junk, and things piled all over the floors. We’re not quite talking Hoarders, but certainly these folks are drowning in their own possessions.

The expert of the show engages in an experiment where the family is only allowed to keep the bare essentials, and everything else is removed from the house for 30 days — furniture, clothes, kitchen stuff, everthing. They just get one pot, a table setting each, a suitcase each to keep clothes for the month, and a few “luxury items” to ease the shock factor.

After a month they go to the storage facility where their stuff has been kept, and they try to purge at least half of their belongings (toss, donate, or keep). They often come to realize that they don’t need so many things and that their lives are better when they have fewer possessions.

Imagine that – a Canadian/American Television show that actually espouses the value of having fewer things! It creates a strange dichotomy when the advertisements during the show are trying to convince you to buy things.

Consumerism is pervasive in North American culture; far more than English culture I think. While we were living in Bristol it occurred to me why Costco has failed to make major inroads over there: people just don’t have the space to keep large bulk items. My English friends may wish they had a larger house or more room, but beware: larger houses and more space creates the implied need to fill the space.

But I’ve found it freeing to start to get rid of things. We purged before we left for England, and over the last three weeks we’ve been purging again before our stuff arrived. I hope we continue to reassess and purge some more; I think there’s great value in learning to be content with less. Not to say that I have this completely figured out yet, but I think I’m starting to get it. 10+ weeks without things will have that affect on you.

Posted in England vs Canada | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The New Chapter

We’ve been back here in Canada for just over three weeks now; wow it all seems to be going by so quickly. Especially since I’ve stopped blogging or journaling about our holiday…

I’ve re-branded the blog because, well, we’re not going to be travelling on trains anymore. I figure I’ll keep this blog running and post occasionally about things. I know it’s not as exciting as a travel blog, and it’s not as exotic as a “living in another country” blog, but as a means of communicating with people, I really like it — a blog allows you to write to a wide audience where you know that only people who are interested will read it. And, of course, it reveals who your real friends are — let it be known that I will insert key facts in these here posts that I may quiz you on if I happen upon you in person. No, not really.

Our transition back to BC has been interesting. My intention is to write a bit about what that transition has been like and how we’re doing, without getting too personal about things (this is the Internet, after all). Today is not about substantial details though; let’s ease back into things first.

Our shipment with all of our stuff we had in England has not yet arrived here, making life a little awkward at the moment. We have only those things that we took on our trip (where we were packing for the sunny climates of Florida and California), and things we left here at the house that we haven’t used in over a year (my selection of 1990’s technology books are handy bedtime reading). Our stuff should be arriving within the next two weeks; that will certainly help in terms of settling back in.

Our stuff in the storage room

The things we left behind

In the meatime, we are sorting through this room –>

Ok I’ll keep it to that for now; hopefully more to come over the next weeks and months.

Posted from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.

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Final Stop

Here we are, the final stop on our trek across the United States. We arrived back in Vancouver yesterday, amidst a small bit of fanfare (balloons were involved) as we disembarked from our last train journey – the 25 minute ride from Vancouver to Coquitlam.

It’s difficult to describe the emotions in just a few sentences; I think I’ll write more about that another time. Suffice it to say that we’re all happy and sad at the same time. Happy that we can finally unpack and not move on again after a few days; happy to see family and friends again; sad that our epic journey is over; sad that we won’t be going back to Bristol again.

Pacific northwest coastline

Pacific northwest coastline

The last leg of our trip started in Portland on Thursday morning. We left early and took the train to Seattle; a very pleasant three hour trip. Seattle is a very cosmopolitan city with a lot going for it, but I found a very noticeable distinction between it and Portland. Where Portland feels clean, friendly, and new, Seattle feels much more edgy and older. It’s probably an unfair comparison, as it’s based on my own limited observations of the areas we were staying in, but nevertheless that’s what it felt like.

Lunch at the Crab Pot

Lunch at the Crab Pot

We stayed in Seattle just for one night, as the Vancouver train leaves early the next morning. We had time to eat at our favourite Seattle restaurant, the Crab Pot, where they provide you with a bucket of seafood, bibs, and mallets. Messy eating is strongly encouraged. In the evening I met up with my friend Brian from Vancouver, who was coming down anyway to see a gig at the fantastically-named Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Lee Ritenour and Dave Grushin were featured, along with Dave Weckl and Melvin Davis. If you’re at all into jazz (and who isn’t?), it was excellent entertainment.

Our final morning

Our final morning

The next morning we left Seattle at 7:45 on the final leg of our Amtrak adventure. The train goes past some fantastic scenery along the pacific coast until we reached Vancouver (where it was delayed by a freight train for 50 minutes before finally pulling into the station). A quick check through customs and we were back in familiar territory.

We had a bit of time to kill so naturally we had sushi for lunch, and then we boarded the Westcoast Express commuter train to head to Coquitlam, where my parents live. Our house isn’t quite ready for us to move in yet, so we’re staying with my parents for a few days.

Final Stop: Coquitlam, BC

Last Stop: Coquitlam, BC

And that’s the end. I appreciate everyone who has taken time to read our blog entries, and thanks to all of you who added comments – it’s great to hear from people along the way. I’ll be continuing to post blog entries every so often as we settle back into life in Canada. In the meantime I can highly recommend the train for a travelling holiday – we had a great experience and would certainly do it again.

Thanks for reading!

— Mike

Posted from Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.

Posted in USA 2011 | Tagged | 3 Comments

Almost home!

Now that we are getting to the end of our trip, I want to tell you about one of my favorite days on our trip. I had a lot of favorite days but at the top was surprisingly, on my sister’s birthday. This is because we went to Sea World. I will tell you some of the things that I liked best on this day.

What I liked best were the sea lion shows. There was a guy dancing at the beginning of the show. Then there were 2 shows. My favorite one was when they mocked all the other shows in the evening. Heidi’s favorite thing was everything. Even the Sesame Street rides and show!

Heidi got a lot of presents. She got a card from our grandparents in England, 4 packs of candy from me, hair clips, a necklace and a bracelet from our aunt and uncle in England, a book and Sylvanian families from 2 of her friends in England, some baking things from our aunt and uncle in Canada, a box of cereal, cheese strings, a movie and a fur real friend. And it was a snuggimals bunny!

Well, I cannot wait to see all of my friends in September in Grade 6!

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Posted from Winlock, Washington, United States.

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Portland

Well, there appears to be a concerning wake of destruction that I can only deduce is a result of the earth mourning the Goetz Family’s departures. Riots in England, hurricane in Florida, earthquake in New York – watch out, ye who live in other places we have visited.

Portland from the Aerial tram

Portland from the Aerial tram

And next on this list of soon-to-be-doomed places is Portland, Oregon. Now, if you made a list of must-see cities in the United States, it would probably look something like this: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Portland. Well, ok, not everyone would include the Rose City in their to-do list, but I must say, Portland is lovely. And if you’re the kind of person who can’t get enough wheat grass, who recycles the bottle caps, who has the schedule of local farmers markets on your fridge – well you, my friend, would love Portland.

Virtual rafting, with Emma from Bristol

Virtual rafting, with Emma from Bristol

Our primary reason for stopping in Portland a few days was to visit our friends the Hebbrons, who have just moved here from Bristol. Their daughter Emma was in Connie’s class and she also did tap dancing with both Connie and Heidi. So it was very nice to be able to meet up with them here, both families strangers in this foreign place.

When you meet up with friends, you don’t tend to do as many of the touristy sightseeing-type things. And to be fair, Portland doesn’t have as many A-list things to see or do as San Francisco or New York. But we did visit the Forestry Center (featuring a few simulator rides and a chance to sit in some big logging machines), and the Skyline gondola, which takes you from near the river to … a hospital (are they anticipating a disaster?)

Discover Forestry Museum in Portland

Discover Forestry Museum in Portland

The weather in Portland has been great – very sunny and 30° temperatures again, but with a cool breeze. You can see Mount St. Helens (a semi-dormant volcano that blew its top in 1980), Mount Hood, and other more distant peaks from the Cascade Mountains. We were also very impressed with the city’s cleanliness and transportation system – a model for all modern cities we think (including free public transportation within the city centre).

And now on to the final leg of our journey. We’re heading to Seattle and staying just for one night, then catching the morning train to Vancouver.

Posted from Portland, Oregon, United States.

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San Francisco

I really like San Francisco. The locals will tell you that it’s the antithesis of Los Angeles: where LA is smoggy, sprawly, and unbearably hot, San Francisco feels cleaner, more compact, and temperate. That, and they have Rice-a-Roni. We also saw something in San Francisco that we haven’t seen on our entire holiday this far: a jacket. It has been substantially colder here than anywhere else we’ve stayed.

California Coast

California Coast

The train trip from San Diego to San Francisco (via Los Angeles) was fantastic; one of the best legs of our trip. For the first half of the journey the train hugs the coastline, often with a completely unobstructed view of the ocean and miles of beach. Being a good German I quickly secured the best seats in the viewing car for this visual feast.

Riding on the cable car

Riding on the cable car

We made it into San Francisco at around midnight, about two hours late. After an overnight near the train station we moved to the HI hostel at Fisherman’s Wharf; less fancy than the Hyatt but well situated near all the sights. Our theme for San Francisco was transportation. We rode on no less than seven forms of transport: taxi, cable car, trolley, bus, subway, commuter train, and shuttle van. The cable car is naturally the most interesting and harrowing; Heidi was upset that we wouldn’t let her ride hanging on to the outside.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Sea Lions at Pier 39

We decided against scaring the children straight and avoided Alcatraz (the infamous prison island within view of the city), but we did enjoy other touristy attractions such as Pier 39, with the sea lions and double-decker carousel. We twice ate at In-N-Out Burger, a California phenomenon where you can order a 100-pattie burger should you wish (I didn’t wish). We also went to the Golden Gate Bridge, where Rachel and Heidi jogged across the span of the bridge while Connie and I casually strolled.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Jogging on the bridge

Jogging on the bridge

We’ve been to some nice cities and San Francisco is right up there. It is interesting and it has character. We would have stayed longer and explored more if we could have, but now we’re on our way again to Oregon and Portland. We’re on the home stretch and as I write this on the train we’re passing through pine forests; surely a sign that Canada is not far off now.

 

Posted from San Francisco, California, United States.

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San Diego

You know, of all the places we were planning to visit on our trip, San Diego was one we were particularly looking forward to. Everyone seems to rave about the place – a sort of clean and friendly cousin of Los Angeles.

And they’re all wrong – this place is a dump! No no, just kidding. San Diego is really nice.

After hardly having two nights in the same bed for almost a week, we were looking forward to just staying put for a few days as much as anything. Our hotel here was the Old Town Inn, perhaps our favourite so far on our journey – a nice room with a pool and free breakfast (with waffles!). The temperature here has been a very comfortable 25° or so.

Happy Birthday Heidi

Happy Birthday Heidi

On Sunday it was Heidi’s 9th birthday, and we celebrated by visiting Sea World. And when I say visiting, I mean completely taking in everything it has to offer: we were there from 9:30am until closing time at 11pm – 13 1/2 hours of theme park fun! There are a few rides at the park, but the majority of the attractions are shows.

Whale tricks

Whale tricks

I was expecting more of a cross between entertainment and education (edutainment?), but no – they were all 100% animal tricks. It’s great, although after the 15th time seeing the giant whale splash the unfortunate people in the first 10 rows, you kind of get the idea. Nevertheless we had a fantastic day and it was a suitable celebration of Heidi’s birthday.

Mission Beach

Mission Beach

On Monday we went to the beach, to complement our dip in the Atlantic ocean at Miami. I can tell you that the Atlantic is certainly warmer than the Pacific; not sure if that’s the case year-round or just at the moment. On Tuesday we went to the San Diego Zoo, which was also top notch: pandas, koalas, and elephants were the highlights.

Pandamonium

Pandamonium

Yesterday we went to see the San Diego Padres play the New York Mets, the Mets being the predator to the Padre’s prey, winning as they did 7-3. I was just pleased we were able to enjoy the game in bright sunshine after our rainout in Chicago.

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

So yes, I can thoroughly recommend San Diego. Nice atmosphere, they have lots of top quality things to do, and there’s also the ocean and beaches. For us, we’re now on the final leg of our trip – from this point on we head steadily north towards Canada. Goodbye pleasant warm weather, hello temperate rain forest.

Posted from San Diego, California, United States.

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Heidi Gotez… Ole!

In San Diego we’re stating at Old Town, a historic part of the city with a strong Mexican influence. We’re eating at the Old Town Mexican Cafe and Heidi found a fake mustache vending machine. 25 cents and you too can look like a local!

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