Australia: Road Trip – Fitzroy Crossing to the completion of Australia

Australia: Road Trip – Fitzroy Crossing to the completion of Australia

June 4-June 28, 2019

I have lost all desire to write the ending of this trip. I know that if I don’t, I’ll regret it because this blog is meant to be a journal and memory for this amazing life adventure. I think I’ve lost my spark because my heart is back in Canada now. I’m really pressing myself to stay present to all that is around me and continue to enjoy this incredible journey we are on. So here we go. I’m already in Fiji at the time I’m writing this so I’m going to compress the last three weeks into one blog post so this could be a bit longer.

After leaving Broome we really wished we could have rented a 4×4 and driven the Gibb River Road. There is a lot of amazing gorges and scenery on that road but it wasn’t meant to be.

After Fitzroy Crossing, we drove through Halls Creek (another little town with not a lot) and ended up at another free campsite with cows! That was kind of a highlight. There was also a cat that was there. We had hoped that she hadn’t gotten lost from her family. She seemed quite tame.

Then we drove onwards to Kununnara. This town is pretty sweet. It was really clean and had a lot of amenities. We decided to spend a bit more and get a site at a caravan park. This was a great choice. We had a really amazing spot by the lagoon where there were so many different kinds of birds to watch. The camp kitchen was close by and Vivi made friends with a dutch girl. Then we made friends with the parents and we decided to stay a day longer as they were going to be there one more day too. It’s not often that Vivi gets to play with kids her own age so we really wanted to honor her and give her an opportunity to play like an 8 year old should.

Luc and I even got a chance to watch the sunset just the two of us. We also took in some live Australian entertainment at the caravan park.

The next day was a bit of a cleaning up and chilling out day. Vivi played lego for hours and I started to sort through things we didn’t want anymore. We gave away our tarp and beach shade to the Dutch. Then I read and read and read. What a day I remember, just sitting and reading by the lagoon. I felt like I really needed to sell to Luc the fact that stopping moving was a good thing. And man oh man was it ever. That night we went to a drive in movie, “Dumbo”. Vivi sat on the top deck of the Dutch’s truck and we watched from inside the van. I think that will be a memorable experience. As Anna from Holland says “you can see a ton of gorges and after a while they will all blend into each other. Do things that are different so you can remember them.” I really liked this idea.

We said goodbye to them the next day and pressed on to Katherine. First stopping at Ivanhoe Crossing which was kinda neat. Luc wanted to cross it but it’s only for 4 wheel drive so I refused. We also passed the Northern Territory border which was pretty cool and got our photo taken.

The Northern Territory roads are a bit different. They appear to be worse in wear but the speed limit is 130km on the highways! This shocked me. There’s no way we could have done that.

Not much to see this day so we rolled into a free campground and were delighted to watch a boy about the age of 12 playing with a whip. It was fascinating to watch him. There was an old guy who was a bit plastered giving him pointers. Before you knew it a ton of people were in our campsite watching the boy as he practiced. It was really cool!

Of course Vivi made friends with his sister and later they were seen playing uno on a rock with a flash light. She’s so good at making friends on the fly now.

We pushed on to Katherine where I REALLY wanted to do the same kayak/canoe tour down the Katherine Gorge that Mike and I had done but we just didn’t have time so I had to accept that this wasn’t going to happen. We did visit a “hot springs” that was not really hot but super beautiful. We stayed that night in a caravan park where we plugged in for free.

The next day we were up early as we had a lot of things to see and places to swim! First stop was Edith Falls. We did a little hike to the second pool which was breath taking! We saw a massive lizard and enjoyed to cool water. We saw signs that there weren’t crocs in the water so we felt safe(ish) to swim. It was a beautiful spot to cool off and because we started early we beat the hordes of people en route. Then we continued back to pool 1 and took off for Litchfield National Park.

We visited the magnetic termite mounds. Termites make their mounds facing North to South to help cut down on the heat. Facinating. And it was hot! We then found a National Park Campground that had flushing toilets and showers for $6 per person. BC, we really need to get our act together and provide more in our camping areas. Australia has got it figured out!

Then we drove on to Wangi Falls where I really remember well when I was here. It was packed but so so beautiful. Waterfalls into clear water. Just spectacular! Then onto Tolmer Falls and finally Buley Rockholes which was fun! A bunch of pools you can swim in with crystal clear water.

The next morning we started at Florence Falls as that’s where we camped (recommended from the whip cracking boy’s dad). A little walk down some stairs and we again were the first few people to swim. Just luscious and so so beautiful. We almost went the night before but I’m glad we didn’t. We ran into a woman who had been there the previous night and it was PACKED!

These last few days have been filled with so much swimming in such incredibly beautiful places in the Northern Territory.

We pushed on to Darwin that morning. Stopping at a free water park that of course is only closed on a Tuesday and it was Tuesday. Oh well. So we went to clean the van a bit and check into our hostel. This is a hostel that is FULL of backpackers. Brought me back to when I was backpacking here years ago. They had a deal that if you bought a drink, you’d get dinner for free. And after we went to bed I could hear them playing drinking backpacking games until the wee hours. We spent that afternoon getting all our bags ready for the flight the next day. We managed to pack two of our camping chairs in an Ikea bag we had bought for protection against bed bugs. We also fit in a bunch fo stuff we had bought along the way: a blow up chair, water shower, spices, odds and sods. So we’re officially travelling now with an extra bag until the end. Australia is cheaper than Canada and you can claim the GST on a bunch of stuff so we went a bit crazy on technology stuff before leaving Oz.

We didn’t see too much of Darwin TBH. But you can’t see it all.

The next day we took a taxi to the airport and boarded a plane for Cairns. See you later Western Australia and Northern Territory!

East Coast

We arrived in Cairns around 3:30pm and took a cab to the Apollo Dealership. We picked up Marvelle (said with a French accent) and headed north to our caravan park by the ocean.

It hit us with such force, it was lush and green and raining! It was like an over load on our senses! We picked up some groceries and then finally found the campground. It was dark and rainy and so we cooked and settled into the exact same camper van that we had on the west coast so everything was really common to us which was nice. Hardly even seemed like we moved from Darwin to Cairns!

Although this van had mold on the roof so we went back to Apollo again the next day and traded it in for one with less mold. And if you can believe it, the night before our van must have been keyed in the grocery parking lot because there were new marks on it that weren’t there the day before. Thank goodness we got the insurance.

In the morning I went for a wonderful walk on the beach by myself and took in the gorgeous sea and lush forest. We weren’t going to go to the Daintree but this really reminded me of it years ago. So different from the west coast and so beautiful. Humid, warm, wet, green, blue, palms, jungle. Just wow.

Before exchanging our van we visited Hartley’s Croc Park and it didn’t disappoint. The price was right and we got to see so much wildlife and crocs! The salties were the best and most impressive. We watched a feeding and took a river boat ride. We also visited the ethical croc farm part of it. Essentially what they say is if they breed the crocs for the leather purses, hats, etc… it’s better for the croc natural population as then hunters won’t hunt them. It’s all done with the animals welfare in mind so they are bred and killed ethically. Something just doesn’t sit well with me on this but anyway…

We picked up our new van called Mabel and headed into Cairns. Something else that is absolutely everywhere is sugar cane. I had forgotten that this was EVERYWHERE. It’s really beautiful against the backdrop of the jungle.

We camped in a person’s yard that had toilets and showers and an area for making food. We had thought that we might just sleep in a parking lot but we got a little skittish because there’s big fines if you do this and get caught. Our van isn’t exactly low pro either. That night we were awoken by fruit bats screaming. Crazy.

The next morning we were up bright and early to head to the great barrier reef! We boarded the boat with a bunch of other people and drove for over an hour to the reef. I’m realizing how much of this trip we’re spending on an boat and under the water. A lot!

They stopped at two places and Luc dove at one and Vivi and I snorkeled at both. The water was pretty cold so Vivi didn’t last long. I have to say that from what I remember of the GBR, it’s in a sadder state now. Less colour on the corals. Less fish. Sadly, it seemed comparable to other places that we’ve snorkeled in this trip. I had great expectations that it would surpass anything we’ve seen up to the point. We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the boat and then wine and cheese before heading back. It was a wonderful day and so grateful we got to see the GBR before climate change potentially destroys a lot of it.

We left Cairns and headed down to Babinda Boulders to sleep in a free campsite with showers! Oh wait, they were cold showers. So Vivi and I had a cold shower together (memorable!) and it was also raining so a little challenging to get warm but not impossible.

The next morning we visited the boulders and saw some incredible waterfalls  (Josephine Falls) and gorgeous walks through the jungle. Then drove south. After driving north for so long it was a little foreign to have the sun behind us now.

We stopped just outside of Townsville at Crystal Creek Caravan Park where we did laundry and just relaxed for the afternoon.

The next day  was father’s day and we decided not to stop at Townsville but just on the other side and do some shopping for various must needed items. We treated ourselves to sushi. I feel like we just drove a bunch that day and then stopped at a free caravan spot just off the side of the road. This was a bit of a shocker to us as it was basically a parking lot with bathrooms. We parked, threw out our chairs, and had a beer. A little while later some people showed up in a caravan and they asked us if we could pull forward. I said sure but that I didn’t want to go too far forward as we wanted to be close to the washrooms for my daughter. They said they had another caravan for her sister that needed to pull in too. And maybe I should have parked more closer to the bathrooms. I guess the sister heard that I didn’t want to pull forward so she made a comment so I could hear “well Australians are very accommodating but foreigners aren’t.” THAT made me react. I said “what did you say?” and the first woman said “oh she heard you say you didn’t want to pull forward” I said “I’m willing to pull forward but maybe not now after that insult”. I was feeling hot and fiery. It took a bit to settle down. In the end we didn’t have to move and they got to be beside each other. Later on that night, the woman’s husband walked over and apologized. He said that his wife is bi-polar and has mental illness and that him and the other husband were very embarrassed by what happened. No worries mate. J

After a sleep, we drove on to Airlie Beach for the day to explore. Man oh man things have changed. I remember the main drag but it’s like a tourist haven and jump off point for so many things. We headed to the lagoon which is basically an amazing outdoor pool beside the ocean where we cooked up chicken wings on the bbq. We relaxed there for a couple of hours and then explored the town and played at the massive playground. This thing must have cost a fortune to build.

We considered the Whitsunday trip but we’ve spent so much time in and on the water we felt it would be just more of the same(ish). So we headed back to the caravan park for the night.

The next day we did a side trip to the top of a mountain to visit a national park and see platypuses! It was a gorgeous winding, steep drive. We found them and many many turtles. It was really cool. We also came across a bush turkey. We were happy to get off the mail highway and do this little tour through the back lands of Queensland seeing the farms and taking lots of little side roads. We stopped at a caravan park that was basically a lot with pads (no trees) and showers and toilets. We walked over to the local pub for dinner. It was starting to get COLD again! Dinner was pretty just ok. It was definitely a little tiny town in the middle of Queensland.

Next up we stopped in Rockhampton and visited a FREE zoo. We got to see chimps, a koala, dingos, a cassowary, lots of birds, kangaroos and a snake. This zoo was more like a place for animals that are hurt and injured to come and recuperate. That night we stopped at a free camping spot at a tavern on the side of the road in Raglan. Buy a couple of drinks and you get your showers and toilets for free. Yes Please!

Luc and I evaluated what was happening… we had been driving driving driving and it felt like our needs weren’t getting met. We decided that we would slow down the last few days and not move as much. Essentially see less. So we made it to Bundaberg and just kinda walked around town. First we visited an art gallery that had a kids home schooling group there that Vivi tagged along with. Then Luc and Vivi got haircuts. And then we headed to beach to the caravan park. It was raining and cold so we plugged in and hunkered down watching downloaded videos from Netflix in the van.

The next morning Luc went for a run and then we had a slow start with pancakes! Then we headed to the beach and flew up the drone. We slowed down and enjoyed the beach and did some meditation. It was beautiful there. We left around noon and headed to Hervey Bay. First though, some work friends called me from the annual golf tournament that I was missing which was so AMAZING! It was great to see all their faces again. I’m super missing everyone back home and I enjoy the golf tourney so I was sad to miss it – this was the next best thing.

We were famished so we splurged and got fish and chips beside the bay. Man on man was it good and cheap! Then off to the Tourist Info Centre. We made the hard decision not to go to Fraser Island. It was going to cost $500 for all of us for a day trip. The weather was cold and windy so we wouldn’t be swimming in any of the water holes. Sticking with what we had just discussed about taking things a bit slower, Fraser Island was going to be a full day (leaving at 7am, back at 6pm) so we chose to not do it. I don’t regret that choice. I’ve been there and I have those memories. Luc was fine with not seeing it. And Vivi still has a lot more time in her life to go there again if she wants. We decided to stay 2 days at Hervey Bay. Again, nothing looks the same. I looked for the tattoo place and piercing place that I got a tattoo and piercing but nothing looked the same. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach at the caravan park while sipping a delicious beer.

The next day we walked to the Sunday market, had lunch, cruised the jetty, and walked back. Then a stop at the ice cream store (YUM!) and groceries.

The next day we started our visiting in Maryborough which is Mary Poppinsland. Where the author who wrote Mary Poppins was born. That was a really cute town and neat to see all the Mary Poppins artefacts around town. Then we drove the long way to Noosa through farmland and jungle (so strange) keeping our eyes peeled for Koalas as it was Koala area.

Then we hit Noosa and headed straight to the Sea Scouts Campground. A cheap campground that only operates on the weekend (it was Sunday!) that is usually set up for scouts but let’s caravans park in their yard. It was really cool! We were pretty much all alone beside one other car. We then left and got some groceries and drove around Noosa and the area. Wow, this place is like Whistler. Expensive! We drove to the national park and took in the views. Stunning. Then back to the scout camp and tucked in for the night.

We packed up and drove to the river’s edge the next morning where we walked along the river which was so well equipped for enjoying the river. There was work out areas, bike lanes, boats to rent to explore the river… We headed to the caravan park and got some laundry going. Our spot was right beside the river on the beach! Ideal!! Again, taking it slow, we decided to rent a boat and explore the river and go fishing! That was a bit something different. Fishing was kinda cool! We didn’t catch anything but Vivi loved it. Luc thought he would demonstrate how shallow the water was and jumped overboard while moving, and it was deeper than he thought and got his phone and wallet wet. The phone is ok after it dried out a bit. But man, that was funny.

We loved Noosa but it was expensive. The river really makes it so welcoming. I’d love to go back there one day and actually stay and explore a bit longer. We enjoyed the sunset at our campsite drinking wine and watching the pelicans. It was gorgeous and so memorable.

The next morning we headed to the National Park to walk around the beaches in Noosa. This was incredible. The forest was green and lush, the beach was white sand and blue seas. There were surfers everywhere and we saw a koala in the tree! This was a highlight for us. What was epic was that it dumped rain and we waited in the van until it eased… we headed out after the rain stopped, did our hike, got back in the van, and it began dumping again. So lucky!!

We headed back along the Sunshine Coast and stopped in at a mall to visit JBI HIFI and buy some electronics so we can get back the GST before leaving Australia. We also wanted to hit a movie but at $25/adult and $20/kid we decided that wasn’t going to happen.

Then we took off for our last night in the caravan just outside of Brisbane. It was raining like crazy and we ended up sleeping at an old showgrounds with a bunch of other campers. There’s some interesting places out there to be sure!

I had a moment driving that day where a song came on the van… I just had this realization that this trip is almost over. It was a surreal moment and I started to cry. I really wanted to feel all those emotions as we’ve come so far and seen so much but I was driving on the freeway so pushed them down. I got tingles and it’s like a moment I haven’t felt in a while. It was also accompanied by a Fiat that drove by (I was reminded of the mini cooper we rented which seemed like ages ago).

The final day we drove into Brisbane and Luc dropped us off at the Westin. Our next fancy hotel we will stay at for free. I was overjoyed to be able to backup my computer, send my 800 photos to the cloud, update my phone, check out the bill situation, fill in the online GST application for the airport basically do all the electronic stuff I’ve been trying to do for weeks. When all your photos are on your phone and your phone won’t upload to the cloud, you get a bit nervous about the possibility of losing your phone. I also pulled a tooth out of Vivi’s mouth which was quite exciting!

I finished that, Luc came back after dropping off the van and we met at Queens Street to exchange our Ozzie $$ for Fiji $$’s. Ate some delicious Mexican food. Then Vivi and I went swimming, we came back, watched some TV and headed to dinner at the hotel restaurant. After that, Vivi returned to the room and Luc and I ventured down the street to the Irish pub for a Guinness. We reflected on where we’ve come from. It was a nice quick date night.

The next morning Vivi and I went for a workout at the hotel gym and then another swim at the pool. We then packed up again getting ready for the flight the next day and headed out to enjoy brunch in Brisbane’s harbor. We had a scrumptious brunch and then took the free harbor ferry along the river. We got out and walked over the pedestrian bridge taking in the sights. Brisbane is our favourite big city and we could see ourselves living here. We walked through the Botanical Gardens and commented on how this city is really set up for people to enjoy it. Places to sit, lots of walking paths, it’s gorgeous! For winter time, it seemed like our spring.

We did our final pack, Luc went for a massage (his neck and hip are bugging him) and we took a taxi to our last Airbnb in Australia. We arrived and we’d booked a room in a house. It was really a great place. They gave us a ride to the airport in the morning. And when Vivi forgot her purse in the car, they even brought it back!

Australia has been a dream come true. I’m so grateful that we were able to explore and experience so much of this country. Vivi and I say that we think Australia is the best country we’ve visited since travelling. We love it’s beauty, ease and diversity. We’ve met some incredible people along the way and I’d love to come back one day and visit Sydney one more time. Thank you Australia for making our journey and experience to remember.

Next stop, Fiji!  

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Australia: Road Trip – Karijini National Park to Fitzroy Crossing

Australia: Road Trip – Karijini National Park to Fitzroy Crossing

May 29-June 4, 2019

We drove drove and drove. That was a long day of not much to see and we just needed to get there.

I think back to 20 years ago and maybe this was the drive that Mike and I did on the red earth roads before they paved it. I’m not sure if we did the Gibb river road or not but I remember spending a few days on a red dirt road in the middle of no where. I must get home to look at the photos I took to remind me of what we did and where we went.

When we got to the visitor’s centre we got some info and we were all a little spent from the day. We’d missed a turn that meant we’d have to come back 70kms the next day to see a gorge we missed.

We headed to the campground that was the cheapest campground we’ve camped at (besides free). No bells and whistles here….basically toilets and a dirt spot. They don’t really have tables here for people to eat at at the campgrounds (this is a total shocker).

We headed down to the falls and Luc went for a swim. It was beautiful. Then back to the campground to listen to music and eat dinner.

The next day we decided to do a walk along the top of Dale’s gorge. And then down into the bottom where the circular pool is. I had to have a swim in the beautiful water. There’s something about water that awakens my senses. I only wish I could have done it naked.

Then we walked from one end of the gorge to the other back to the first pool where Luc swam the day before. This, I remember walking when I was with Mike. It was really pretty and not too hot. We got to one perfect place to swim but pressed onto the falls and took a dip there. Then we went up a bit further and saw a baby snake that I swear tried to take a swipe at Vivi’s ankle that was covered by a sock and shoe. Where there are babies, there are mamas and papas.

Then we ate some sandwiches in the parking and drove back the 70 kms to the other gorge. It was beautiful and Luc was able to fly the drone up a couple of times. I hope I can post the drone video when I post this blog.

We then headed back the 70kms and then some to a free campsite where we were the only ones! That was a bit unnerving but also really tranquil. In the morning we let out a bunch of carnal roars and screams because we could and I got naked in the parking lot because I could. I’m working on a different relationship with my body and being naked occasionally is so liberating.

We drove to Eighty Mile beach where we did laundry and spent some time down at the ocean. It was a beautiful sunset on the beach where Luc and Vivi did some shell collecting and I did some meditation and “just being present”.

The next morning we took it easy and we were going to drive to a free spot outside of Broome but decided to go all the way into town. We had enough time.

We stopped at the Broome caravan park that Mike and I lived at for a few weeks. The place was similar but changed. So many memories there. A specific moment when I made a phone call that I remember… the phone booth isn’t there anymore.

We headed into town to the mother of all caravan parks. There was only wifi at the café so you know where I was in the morning. It was perfect timing as well as there was a party for the passing of Carolyn Wadel that people went live on FB so I was able to partake in that a little bit that I really appreciated.

That night we went down to the beach to watch yet another incredible sunset on Cable Beach. We might have stolen power in our non-powered site…

Boab trees are abundant here and they are so beautiful and unique. Each one different, they are so stunning and carry so much character. I feel like their energy must be 1000s of years old. They can hold oodles of litres of water inside them and won’t burn in a fire.

The next day we explored around Broome. Nothing was the same everything was new – I didn’t remember a single thing. We didn’t visit the oldest movie theatre in the world as it didn’t work out for us and with what we wanted to see. I don’t think I visited this either when I was here 20 years ago. We visited a Sunday Market where we bought some Emu Cream and necklaces. We visited some pearling shops and had lunch at a brewery that was delicious. We drove over to where the red earth meets the blue ocean. It wasn’t as stunning as you see in drone shots on Instagram. We couldn’t fly the drone up because it was close to an airport.

Then over to the visitors centre for some much needed info and then back to Cable Beach to see the sunset one last time and see dinosaur prints! This time we got to the place where the camels were walking to get some really cool sunset camel shots.

I said goodbye to Broome for a second time. There’s something about this place that I feel really close to and I’m so glad I got to go back here one more time. It’s fascinating the feelings you have when you remember something so well and other times when you don’t remember it at all. There’s warmth and nostalgia for the memories but then disdain and frustration for not remembering. As my good friend Sheila says “it’s not the specific things you remember, just the feelings.” So true. And this place holds a lot of wonderful feelings for me.

We drove off to a caravan park 30kms up the road in the dark. It wasn’t free but they had wifi so I parked myself again in the morning at the café before the others rose so I could connect with some friends and family.

Then we packed up and pushed on to Derby. First stopping at the Prison tree where the settlers used to hold aboriginals (not very nice grrrr….), the longest cattle trough in the world (I didn’t get a pic) and to an aboriginal art centre.

We drove through Derby to the jetty and made sandwiches. Then we drove to get gas and groceries. My sunglasses broke (I can’t believe I’ve had them since well before I left) so I’m on the hunt for new sunnies.

Then we drove onto the free rest area where we got there with lots of sun left and we drank wine and leisurely made quesadillas suggested by Vivi.

Today we packed up the van and headed to Geiki Gorge where I wish we had got there in time to take a boat tour down the river but instead walked beside the gorge which was a walk that I truly did not like. I was wearing the wrong shoes (keens) and it was straight sand. You couldn’t really see the water, the rock formations were kinda cool but the discomfort of having sand and dirt in your shoes was like a torture I didn’t want to know. Then we decided to walk across the sand flats to get closer to the water to maybe see some crocodiles but little did we know that there were the spikiest grass seeds that hurt so bad when they touched your skin. OMG get me out of there.

We drove back to Fitzroy Crossing and ate our back of the van sandwiches in the tourist info centre parking lot. Then to the IGA to pick up chocolate and we wanted to by wine but FC is a dry town. Then we went to the BP and had a shower each for $5 total. Then off to the second free camping spot in a row with a spectacular view where I’m writing this blog post from now.

We have 7 days until we leave Darwin for Cairns and 6 days until we’re in Darwin. We’re about 2 days away from the border of the Northern Territory. This part of the journey feels a bit boring and dry TBH. We’re heading away from the ocean right now with tiny little Australian towns along the way. Not much to see and no network either so I’m feeling a bit out of touch with Canada.

I had the most delicious dream last night where I went back to work and saw all my colleagues again. It was so much fun being reunited with them and I woke up with the biggest smile on my face. It’s 5 weeks and 2 days until we’re back in Canada. Vivi and I are so incredibly excited to be home and see all our family and friends.

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Interview with Vivi: Swiss School

Interview with Vivi: Swiss School

I interview Vivi about her after thoughts of going to school in Switzerland (Luc’s actual school!).

  1. Before you started school in Switzerland, do you remember what you thought or felt about going to school there?
    That’s a hard question. I was scared to not make any new friends. Cuz they would all laugh about my accent.
    And how did it work out? It worked out fine actually, I made a lot of new friends.
  2. What was your first impressions of Swiss school?
    I don’t know. That’s a hard question again. This was a lot more different then I thought it was going to be. In what way? Some things that I didn’t know what they meant in French, I’m like, Ok I think that’s what she’s saying, but I don’t know… Is she saying that or is she saying that? Cuz I don’t know which one. I was a little bit confused. It was more at the beginning.
  3. How did you feel in the beginning?
    Scared. Was there anything that helped you not be scared?  Getting used to it, going every day. What helped you? Somebody explained to me everything. A friend. Avril. Merci Avril. Would you say you were outside your comfort zone?  Yes at the beginning. But then it became the new normal. It was kinda like school in Canada but in French and in a different country – when I was done. Did anybody laugh at your accent? I think a couple did but then they got used to it. I forget.
  4. What was the most fun thing?
    Going to the train to go to the pool, the gym, I love the train and that’s it.
  5. What was the thing you liked to do the most in school?
    Everything that I just said. Ummm… ACM -> where you do crafts, stuff for other people too, when it was Halloween, we made little baskets with skulls on them, I filled it up with candy and give it to someone. Did you like singing? When did I sing? Yeah, I like singing… but I didn’t need to do it in front of the whole class.
  6. What was the thing you liked to do the least?
    Math, and we all had different things to do everyday – so every week we had to change so once I was sweeping and once I was mopping and once I was cleaning tables and I don’t like doing that. Do you do that in Canada? No…. uh a little bit – I forget. What about dictee? No, cuz I only got for 5 months I only got 2 times right.
  7. What is something that is your favorite memory?
    My birthday cuz they all did a parade and said Canada! Canada! Canada! And some people’s birthday and also the train to go to the pool and the pool and the gym and yeah.
    What was it like staying for lunch some days at school?
    The first day was really scary because I didn’t get what was happening. My best friend explained what was happening, she went there last year and she helped me and so that helped a lot. What happens there? You get picked up when you get out of your class, then he collects all the people, and you go to a different room near the gym, you wash your hands, you go to a table that you want, he says “anybody that wants to serve your table?” and you have to put your hand up and you all have to agree. Your table all has to agree what person. And then all of the people who want to collect the  food, and then they go in line to collect the food, and the adults put the food on the plate and then you serve it to your table. What kinds of foods did you eat? Burgers. Once we ate taco, and we ate a whole bunch of other foods [like vegetables, and soup, and fruit] and we always have fruit for desert in Switzerland. When you’re done you brush your teeth and you have your name on a tooth brush and you have a special place to put your goblet and tooth brush on a shelf. They gave us the toothbrush but you have to get it.
  8. Did you learn new games you can teach your friends ?
    Yeah, I forget what they are called but I learned card games, outside games, inside games – there’s a lot of games.
  9. What was your teacher like? 
    Her name is Madame Amandine and she was really nice. She really, oh man I forget, [you told me that she was really nice to, and that she really helped you feel a part of the class and explained things to you as you were new to the class, and with cursive writing, everyone was a year ahead and she really helped you with that but you also told me she was strict and no nonsense.] Yes all of that but only a little bit strict.
  10. What are some of the differences between Swiss school and Canadian school?
    They don’t speak French that much in Canada. Usually the kids just talk in English at recess. But it was really different because sometimes I said words in English, and they copied it but really with a French accent.
  11. What difference would you bring back to Canada if you could?
    I don’t know. What was some of the things that you really liked in Switzerland and wish you had in Canada. Swimming and eating [the canteen, a hot lunch every day], ACM [crafts], sometimes you go in a bus and you go to a place, so I was group “boat”, let’s say, and sometimes I need to go over to another school. I made a pouch for pencil crayons and stuff like that and I made it all by hand and I choose my own colours and my own buttons for the eyes and different stuff like that. And also sometimes I go to a different school and sometimes the one go to a different school. We made a basket for Halloween. It was really cool ACM. So you didn’t do that in Canada? No. You have different tools? Yeah, a cursive pen – ink pen. When you do crafts in Canada, what’s the difference? I don’t know. I forget.
  12. Which school do you like better?
    I like both. 😀
  13. Are you better at speaking and reading in French now?
    Yeah! Yeah.
  14. Would you go back again?
    That’s a hard question because I miss Canada right now, but if I lived in Switzerland, yeah.
  15. If you had a friend that was in Canada and going to Swiss school and that was a bit worried what would you tell them?
    The first time I went there it was a little scary, but once I got used to it it was really fun!

Thanks so much Vivi! Super appreciate you answering all my questions. Your welcome!

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Jaedyn comes to visit!

Jaedyn comes to visit!

December 24, 2018 to January 8th, 2019

It was like Christmas when Jaedyn came to visit. It actually was Christmas eve when she arrived. Vivi and I were so looking forward to her coming. She has this joyous disposition to her and she’s my little girl and Vivi’s big sister.

We hadn’t seen her since we said good bye to her in New York about 5.5 months before. Of course she was tired from such a long flight(s) and it took a good couple of days for her to get over her jet lag.

Christmas is magical in Switzerland. We had a wonderful Christmas celebrating with her, Vivi, Luc, Guy, Camille, Elise, Moreno and his mother Gabriella. They lit up the Christmas tree with real candles and we played a lot of games and ate a lot of food. Gabriella and Moreno are Italian so we had some exquisite Lasagna and (desert???).

The next morning we loaded up and drove to Morzine, France to an Airbnb chalet that we had rented for 6 days all together. But before we got there, we stopped in Evian to visit quickly, buy some mussels???, and fill our water bottles up with free pure Evian water – the stuff you buy at the grocery store. It just easier comes out of the wall in Evian.

Sadly, there wasn’t any snow in the ski village of Morzine and the mountain snow was kinda shit (from what I understand). Some people went skiing and boarding while the rest of us explored the town. Vivi and Jaedyn also went skating at the outdoor skating rink, and we drank some more hot mulled wine.

Every night was a feast. We all took turns cooking and we didn’t scrimp at all on the meals.

One day some of us walked around the ski mountain on the trails and we all met up for lunch. Another day Gabriella, Luc, Vivi, Jaedyn and myself walked around a frozen lake that reminded me of Durrance Lake in the winter time.

On New Years Eve day, Jaedyn, myself and Vivi decided we wanted to stay home and it’s a good thing we did. Violette started puking at about 9am and didn’t stop until that evening. She spent New Years on the couch – poor thing. We rung in the New Year all together.

We left the next day and our family headed to Lauren and Francois’ house to spend some time just the 4 of us together before we separated again. It was wonderful. Lauren and family were up the mountain and said we could crash at their place to have some alone time.

While we were there, we went to Lausanne one more time. I also caught what Vivi had but was sick for much longer. And of course, Jaedyn wanted to go to Vevey and Pizza Taxi for a walk down memory lane (as I did) so the three girls did that while Luc went and played up the mountain with his friends. It was fun remembering what things were like 8 years before. Of course Vivi didn’t remember but Jaedyn remembered it fondly so it was nice to share these moments with her.

We also celebrated Vivi’s actual birthday with some family members over lunch. Again it was so awesome that Jaedyn could be there for that special day as she is used to spending her birthday with friends and family from Canada.

I loved that she came. It was the best gift I could have received. She provided so much emotional support for me and much needed empathy. For Vivi, she was so thrilled to get to spend time with Jaedyn and have fun with her. Vivi is happiest when all the family is together, so I think this really helped her to not miss Canada quite as much.

We booked a flight for Jaedyn to leave the day before we left so we could see her off to the airport. It was hard, as anticipated, to say goodbye again to Jaedyn knowing we wouldn’t see her for another 6 months. I miss her terribly (I’m writing this 3 months after we said goodbye to her).

The day before dropping her off, we spent hours and hours organizing what we were bringing travelling. We also left some stuff behind in Switzerland and we sent a piece of luggage with Jaedyn. We had too much stuff so we also have to ship a box back to Canada as well which we dropped off in France (because it’s cheaper) after dropping Jaedyn off at the airport. This was much more complicated than you would imagine. In the end we also had a donation bag as well. But we got it all organized and packed. I brought entirely too much stuff with me for the second half of the trip but figured it was mostly stuff I could leave behind and part with if need be. Turns out I actually sent a box home from Thailand and another box with some of our souvenirs from Vietnam.

We said goodbye to Luc’s parents and thank them so much for everything they have done for us these past 5 months. Thank you for letting us stay with you and in your studio. Thank you for the wonderful meals. Thank you for looking after Violette while Luc was on the Camino with me. Thank you for letting us use your car and driving us all over Switzerland. Thank you for your incredible hospitality and generosity. I’m so happy that Vivi could spend these months getting to know you both and that Luc had a chance to connect again with you both.

This concludes this portion of the European trip. We move to South East Asia in my next blog post. Check this map to see where we’ve been and where we’re going.

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Switzerland

Switzerland

October 6, 2018 to January 8, 2019

This post is going to be a bit longer than normal. I’m going to attempt to capture the highlights as well as what I was feeling on the inside. I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular blog post as I feel now, as I look back, that it was a really hard time for me emotionally, but now I see what I was doing and why and what I should have done and what I’ve learned about myself going forward.

Lausanne
I love Lausanne. The architecture, the feeling of the city, the cobblestone streets. I visited Lausanne several times. Once with Kim. Once with Vivi. Once for a date night. It’s only about 15 mins by train (the LEB) from Luc’s parents’ house in Jouxtens to Lausanne. Lausanne in Christmas time is just so picturesque. It’s hard to really put a finger on what it is but it’s like this fusion of old historical buildings with new funky vibe. When you go, visit the Cathedral for outstanding views of the city.

Vevey
This place has my heart. 8 years ago we lived here when I was on maternity leave. Jaedyn would go to school down in Vevey and me and Vivi (6 months old) hung out in a little apartment while Luc went to work during the day. Vevey is right beside the lake and has the most incredible vibe. The lakeside is the best part of it and we really loved Pizza Taxi both 8 years ago and even today. You might know this place by the giant fork or the Charlie Chaplin statue. This year they are having the Fete de Vingeron (only every 25 years or so) and Luc had hoped that he could go back there before heading home at the end of July. It’s not to be. We came to Vevey over and over again for a date day, for a date pizza and when Jaedyn came for Christmas we came here to reminisce and walk around and of course visit Pizza Taxi. I feel one day I will live here again beside the lake when I’m old and want to stare at the lake and mountains forever.

Montreux 
We walked from Vevey to Montreux one day and it wasn’t exactly as we had remembered. We thought there was a beautiful lakeside path that took you the whole way but in actuality there a lot of road walking. As you get closer to Montreux, the path comes back and it’s gorgeous. We had a DELICIOUS fondue at the Christmas Market (I didn’t really share because I think Luc made fun of me – you’d think he’d learn). The Christmas Market here is really outstanding. Lots of things to buy and mulled wine and so many things to taste. Montreux is where the rich and famous come so be sure to stop by here if in you’re in the area. It is beautiful and also lakeside.

Geneva
Vivi and I took a train one day to Geneva in December. Luc didn’t want to go but wanted to visit with some friends and play in the snow so her and I went. I really wanted her to see Geneva and I hadn’t been yet since coming back to Switzerland.

It was COLD! About -2 I think. We explored: visited the outside of the United Nations, walked along the lakeside, had a sandwich, hot chocolate, the Christmas Market and watch the Jet D’eau. We basically walked until we were too cold and then ducked inside to get warm and then outside again. Geneva is an old city. Almost hygienic in its cleanliness and lack of colour. I’m glad I went, I was equally glad we went home. On the way home, the train stopped for about a half an hour because it said that something was on the rail road tracks. I had heard earlier that this happens a lot because people jump in front of the train to commit suicide. No idea if that’s what this was, but we got out and walked home from that stop.

Opening of Dr. Gabs
Dr. Gabs…. Delicious dark (or light) micro-brew beer. I loved this beer. This company was created by 3 men who went to school together (one of them lived down the road from Luc and is friends with him) and started brewing beer from a birthday present that was given to one of them – a home brew kit. From there they have grown and grown and grown. Luc went to work very part time at the factory.

While we were there, they opened a store/small pub/the lab in the most famous and expensive street in Lausanne: Rue de Bourg. So we had to visit. It was the second week of December, and it was opening night. We had a blast checking out the new digs and the beer was exceptional. Another impromptu date night!

I only wish I could import their beer back to Canada. It’s that good.

The Olympic Museum and Ouchy
Some stuff about the school system in Switzerland bugs the hell out of me. You can’t take your kid out of school for a day unless you have a doctor’s note. When we went to Ouchy (by the lake) we wanted to meet Vivi’s class at the train (as they were coming back from the pool) and then directly get on the train to go to Ouchy. Instead of Vivi walking back to the school and us walking up to the train again (she would have missed about 20mins of class time) but the teacher wouldn’t allow it unless she had a doctor’s appointment. Sigh…

Anyway, after doing it the “right” way we got on the train and headed to Ouchy. There’s something about this place – I think it’s the proximity to the lake. I’m beginning to realized I’m a water girl through and through (I am a Pisces after all) and all these places that I adore are close to massive bodies of water (no wonder I want to go home).

I also have an amazing memory of my stagette starting here 10 years ago during August. It must be the memories coupled with the water that gets me all nostalgic.

We walked over to the Olympic Museum and had lunch with Luc’s cousin, Chiara. It was a delicious lunch and so nice to catch up with her one last time before leaving.

Chateau de Chillon, Luc’s Birthday and Halloween
On Luc’s birthday we had a loooooong lunch and then to Chateau de Chillon beside the lake just past Montreux. I’ve been in this castle 3 times now I think… It’s really beautiful. I especially love the dungeon and the story of the guy who lived there for years and years. Not sure why I like it so much… maybe I’m a bit twisted?

Being that Luc was born on Halloween, every year he has to share it with the trick or treating. But this year we made it back too late to trick or treat so Vivi missed out (I think Luc was secretly happy). We ate cake for dinner. Vivi asked for a salad. I think it was really nice for Luc to be home for his birthday to spend it with his parents and friends.

Vivi’s Canadian Birthday Party
Speaking of birthday’s, Vivi celebrated her birthday at a patisserie with a few friends the last week of school before Christmas break. Since she was really missing home, we had a Canadian themed party! If you can believe it I managed to find some Canadian and BC flags, little Canada pins for the good bags, Luc had Canada flag stickers from his stag and we decorated in red and white.

I think it was a pretty big success. It was a wonderful way for her new friends to send her off and for her to feel like her birthday was a big deal. Which it was. She maybe missed Canada just a little bit less for a little bit.

Making friends
While I was there, I got to reconnect with Lauren and Francois and their two girls. The let us stay in their place for a few days between New Years and Vivi’s actual birthday.

We had dinner with Julian and Stephanie and Emily and Yann and their kids. That was really fun. We also partied for Julian’s birthday (I partied a bit too hard if you know what I mean).

We had a few meals with Maxim and Filis and their two kids. One extraordinary fondue in their little cabin behind their house. And another garden meal with Maxim’s parents that was also out of this world.

I was happy to spend a day with a friend back home, Kim who coincidentally was there visiting a friend just about 10mins drive away. That was really neat to see a familiar face so far from home and to be able to talk about life and such.

Walking to and from school 4 times a day
But most of my days after returning from the Camino was filled with walking 1km to and from school sometimes 8 times a day. Vivi went to Luc’s old school and she needed to be walked to school in the morning (the I walked back). Two days a week, she walked home for lunch (we would meet her to walk her home and then walk her back 1.5 hours later). And finally at the end of the school day.

Now, something that Luc and I didn’t agree upon was whether should could walk alone. I felt that 8 years old walking that distance, without a phone, was too far. Call me reserved, scared, fearful, whatever, this is just how I felt. Luc on the other hand was totally fine for her to walk there and back alone – so you can imagine the contention.

For the most part I liked walking her. It got me outside, away from the house, in the fresh air. It was time that we got to be together and the view was gorgeous. It didn’t rain much either and sometimes we drove if we were running late. Sometimes I would meditate on the walk home.

Running and walking
A lot of times I would walk Vivi to school and then I would set off on a run somewhere or a walk to Renens to take some time by myself. I would also walk to a bench and then meditate.

I loved running around Jouxtens and the area. It was fall and the leaves were changing and it was cool. My body temp tends to run a bit on the hotter side so running in the fall is perfection. The cool temps, gorgeous leaves, beautiful swiss architecture – it’s all just a little wonderful.

Creating my business and writing my book
At least 3 times a week I would walk to Renens to a coffee shop there and work on building my business and writing my book. Sometimes I would do research for our trip. I would spend a good 4 hours there before I needed to come back for lunch or something. I loved this time to myself and away from the house. It was always a peaceful time for me – getting to be me.

Our Airbnb rental
After a while of living with Luc’s parents in their house, I felt we really needed to connect as a family unit again. So I looked up a little Airbnb not too far away so that Vivi could still go to school on the Friday and the Monday.

Luc and I had a lot of conversations about this Airbnb rental. He felt that his parents would wonder why. He wanted to go further so we could explore somewhere else. He didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I held strong in that I wanted this place to be a place of down time. To play games, watch movies, connect. This wasn’t a time for sight-seeing. To be honest, Luc and my relationship was not doing well and Vivi was so homesick. I was close to depression and I needed to have some time together and away. Some autonomy.

We went to visit the Airbnb about 4 days before our check in. It was perfect. We each had our own rooms, our own kitchen, our own living room and dining room. Then the woman said that we could come early – 2 days early even for free! It was like the universe was giving me exactly what I needed and wanted.

We took advantage of our time there and entertained for 3 meals. It’s something that Luc and I really love to do, to have people over to our house, cook a nice meal and connect. It felt so right to do this in our own space.

All in all, the Airbnb was amazing. I’m so glad we went. It at one point was almost just me and Vivi as I took a strong stand for my well-being and told Luc that if he didn’t want to go, that was fine, Vivi and I would go alone. He made a great choice joining us. It was so important for our family to get back to being our family again.

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