Paris – Part Two

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By Sam

Here’s the promised part two of my Paris blog. Even though it’s ages ago, I thought you readers out there might like to have a read anyway!

So our third full day in Paris was spent in the Palace and grounds of Versailles. This was built in the 1600s by King Louis XIV. Originally a royal hunting lodge, he decided to move his entire court to a new majestic and comfortable palace out of reach of the problems of Paris.

Louis XIV Statue

King Louis XIV

Today it sits in an outlying suburb of Paris. We caught the train there, and as we walked through the town we were amazed at the imposing and grandiose  building that loomed up ahead of us. You could kind of tell why the majority of people disliked the monarchy for living in such comfort while they suffered in poverty.

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The Palace of Versailles

Once we had lined up for quite a while, we got through and into the the palace itself. Downstairs was more of a museum, which while packed with people, I found very interesting, and felt I learnt quite a bit about French history.

Louis XVI, Marie Antionette and family

Portrait of King Louie XVI, Marie Antoinette and Family

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Upstairs was the official reception rooms, including the ballroom and an extremely elaborate chapel. Dazzling indeed!

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Versailles Chapel upstairs

 

We then proceeded to the Royal Family’s private chambers which were of course, very over the top! Interestingly, they had a room where people would come and watch them take dinner- crazy!

Queen's bedchamber (3)The King's bedchamber (3) King's council study (1)

Perhaps the most iconic of Versailles’s many palace rooms is the Hall of Mirrors. As well as being used by the royal family prior to the abolishment of the monarchy, it was were the Treaty of Versailles (one of the peace treaties at the end of World War One) was signed in June 1919.

It’s quite an impressive room!

Windows in the hall of mirrors Hall of mirros

 

Then we went into the palace’s “backyard”. The grounds were enormous – gardens, monuments, fountains, canals & palaces all laid out in strict mathematical symmetry across the grounds. It was a good thing we had a map!

Dad, Mum and Lucy with the palace (2)

By the grand canalWoods (2)Fountain garden

After bit of a walk through the grounds (though it would have taken days to explore everything), we visited the Grand Trianon – the king’s “more informal” retreat.

Grand Trianon Hall The Grand Trianon The Grand Trianon and the flowers (1)

Another grandiose chateau on the grounds is the Petit Trianon. This was built by Louis XV for his mistress Madame de Pompadou, but unfortunately she died before it was completed. On the ascension of Louis XVI to the throne, Marie-Antionette was presented with the chateau, which she furnished and spent time in.

Music room at the Petit Trianon

 

Many other features made up the grounds – the playthings of the rich – including a pseudo-ancient-Greek temple and a full sized replica of an English village – built purely as an aesthetic addition to the landscape! Inside the temple of Love The 'English Village'

English FarmhouseRustic Stairs (3)

So I very much enjoyed our day out at Versailles. I loved being in a place that I’d heard and read so much about, that has been such a significant place in history and trying to imagine the various members of the royal family having it all to themselves (unlike us who had to share it with many other tourists…oh well!). It was also a place which was rather beautiful.

Les Invalides dome (2)

The next day – our final day in Paris – we spent at the complex known as Les Invalides. This place is dedicated to France’s Military history and includes the tombs of many war heroes, including Napoleon and Field Marshal Foch, commander-in-chief of the Allied Armies during the later stage of the First World War.

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Napoleon’s Tomb

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Field Marshal Foch’s Tomb

The complex also includes the Military Museum, which we spent hours in, looking at everything from early French History to The French Revolution to the Second World War. I learnt a lot!

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And then it was back to our hotel for an early night and an early wake-up before we would head off to Ireland!

 

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Old London Town

By Lucy

One of the first things which was pretty exciting during our time in London, happened just after we arrived. We arrived at Dad’s relative (Jane, who very kindly had our family to stay) house in Hammersmith, and then Dad and Sam took our hire car to the airport while Aunty Liz, Mum, Laura and I went exploring. Firstly we went to the train station and there, as we were waiting for our Oyster cards (which let you go on a train), Laura and I saw Sally Phillips, who is an actress in a tv show we like! Unfortunately we didn’t get to talk to her, but we were very excited about this brush with fame. Next we caught the train to the Victoria and Albert museum, where we saw a display of fashions in England throughout the years which I found very interesting. We met up with Sam and we went to the Raphael section in the museum, and we saw huge patterns for tapestries made by Raphael. After meeting up with Dad, we all took a walk around Kensington Gardens, where we saw squirrels, swans, the Albert memorial, the Princess Di memorial and the Peter Pan statue.

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The next day, after a sleep in, we caught the Underground to Westminster, where we saw Big Ben, and then went on a ferry ride. This was annoying as there was no commentary and it did not quite land at the places we were told it would. But anyway, we got to the Tower of London and saw quite a bit of it, although we didn’t go inside, as it was very busy and the weather was cold and wet. Next we caught the ferry all the way back to Westminster. We looked around here, at Big Ben and the London Eye and also Westminster Abbey. We walked through the rain and caught a train until we got to St Paul’s Cathedral and there we went to the end of the service and had a look around the Cathedral. After we had a quick bite to eat, we went to the Globe Theatre, also with a student who happened to be staying at Jane’s house as well. There we saw a production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. I found this really very well done and interesting, as I had just read the play and we will be studying it at school soon. For those of you who know the play, will be interested to know that the workmen in it did tap dancing!

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The following day we went to the Royal Mews, which is the stables right next to Buckingham Palace, where the Royal horses and carriages are kept. There were crowds all around this area as the changing of the guards was just about to begin. From experience of the changing of the guards last time we were here, we decided not to fight the crazy crowds to just catch a glimpse of the guards. So we went straight to the Royal Mews which was quiet as everyone was out the front of Buckingham Palace. We got to see two of the Queen’s horses and many carriages (including the Australian one!) which the Queen and other royalty have ridden in. We also saw her Coronation carriage which was very gold!

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After this, we walked over to Buckingham Palace, and then went over to Clarence House (where Prince Charles lives) and there were two guards out the front, but soon two other guards came out to replace them. So we did see a sort of ‘changing of the guards’! Next, we went to Trafalgar Square and saw Nelson’s column before going to a Cafe in the crypt of St Martin Field’s Church. We then walked towards White Hall and we saw Palace Guards on their horses.

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Our next stop, after going past Downing Street, was the Churchill War rooms  which was the underground headquarters of Winston Churchill and many others who secretly worked for the war effort, in World War II. This had been done very well and we found it very interesting. That night, our family went over to another of Dad’s relative’s Helen’s house for dinner. As we hadn’t seen her for many years it was very nice to catch up. The day after this was Sunday and we all went to All Soul’s Langham Place for church. This is a multi-cultural church which John Stott was at, and we found the service very good. Our next stop was Hamley’s, the huge and amazing, but expensive, toy store. Something that surprised us was the huge Lego made members of the Royal family!  We enjoyed looking in this crazy store and also seeing many Paddington Bear toys. After this, we went to Handel House which is where the composer Handel lived for some of his life.

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Then, we went to Speaker’s corner, which is where anybody just shouts out what they think of anything, and people listen to them! Sam tried this, including putting on a funny voice and saying nonsense, and some French teenagers watched in amusement and applauded, as Laura filmed. We saw the Marble Arch before we went back to Hammersmith. We took Jane out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, and then walked down to Hammersmith Bridge. The next day, after saying goodbyes, Laura and Aunty Liz went on their long journey back to Queensland, while we went on to America. We all enjoyed our times in England, and it was kind of sad to say goodbye to London, but hopefully we’ll come back again!

The un-idyllic parts

One comment we have had about our blog is that much of our time sounds idyllic, but we haven’t written about the difficult and messy parts…well, we have had our share of those. Even on a long holiday with amazing experiences, we still live in a fallen world and people are still sinful, including us! So there have been problems with hire cars, traffic, things getting lost, lots of waiting in queues and in airports, bumps and bruises, a tour not happening that we had booked, accommodation that was far less than perfect at times etc etc. it’s always tricky shopping in supermarkets in a language not your own, or understanding road rules, especially when you are driving on the “wrong” side of the road, coping with varying currencies, and customs, understanding rapid fire instructions in different dialects, let alone languages! American falls into one of these last groups! Arriving at Seattle after all day travel, and picking up a hire car with no instructions of how to drive it, on the right side, and getting to your hotel, booked six months previously, only to find they have no record of the pre paid booking, was one of those times. But by the grace of God, we have survived. We have been very aware of his protection and care wherever we have been. Thank you for all who have prayed for us in the messy and stressful times, as well as all the fun times!

England, our England…..

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We previously heard from Lucy about our Lake District and Yorkshire experience, but those are not the only places we went to in England! After we left our lovely haven at Grasmere, on our journey back to Kirkburton and our good friends, we travelled via Fountains Abbey, Hall and Mill. This was a stunning site with substantial buildings and ruins scattered over the green hillsides. They certainly built to last in the 12th and 13th centuries. At its height, this abbey catered for more than 60 monks and and over 200 lay brothers, so they had to grow their own food, grind their own corn, maintain their own buildings, copy manuscripts, making their own vellum first, and care for the sick and poor in the wider community, as well as preach and teach in the massive abbey church. It was very exciting to explore the whole set up, although it was surprising to see a modern day bride in shoulder less dress being photographed in the freezing weather, after she had been married in the fountains hall we had already visited.image We then went on to York, and rambled through the Shambles(!) and medieval and Tudor areas of town before entering the Minster with many other visitors. Repairs are being carried out on the huge windows behind the sanctuary, which meant we could only see pictures of them, while listening to the very loud organ and choir rehearsing modern settings for evensong. The Chapter House was much more peaceful to sit in, as crowds were everywhere as it was a Saturday.image We moved outside and saw the city wall and the gardens behind the minster, and then had a generous fish and chip supper at an 800 year old restaurant, before driving back still in daylight to our friends’place (the Woods).image The next day we enjoyed church with our friends the Jacksons and their friendly congregation at Kendray in Barnesly. Pete preached really well from a passage in Isaiah, and we felt very at home in the service. After a few pleasant days, it was time to move on,so Liz, Laura and us four Mills packed up and farwelled our friends, and headed south west. We were headed towards Devon, where we had booked an apartment for a week, but before that there were some special places members of the family had chosen to visit. My long term desire was to see Cadfael’s Shrewsbury. For those who haven’t experienced the medieval monk/detective books by Ellis Peters or the tv adaptation of it, this is the real life city, castle and monastery where it was all set. Before we got there to satisfy my aims, we stopped off in Chester, a still nearly completely walled city. Everything old is of reddish stone, including parts of a roman amphitheatre. There are also very well preserved, and still used Tudor shopping streets, with top levels jutting out over the roads. It would be worth exploring further I think!image image On to Shrewsbury and a walking tour, unfortunately through constant rain, locating places mentioned in the Cadfael books. The abbey church has been continuously used as a parish church and was brilliant for living history, and there was even a friendly local! Other old buildings abounded and I, at least, loved the visit.image image That night we stayed at the old priory, youth hostel at Leominster, right next to a huge priory church which also still operates as a centre of worship. The longevity and constancy of the Christian church in these parts amazes and encourages me. Whatever the world has thrown against believers, over a thousand years or more, the faith still stands and lives! image image We explored the grounds of the priory and Richard joined a few people in early morning service one day. Another old church we saw was Tintern Abbey (of Wordsworth fame) but that is now in ruins. Gloucester cathedral and the cloister of the old abbey there was also on our itinerary, but mainly as an adjunct to seeing the shop of the Tailor of Gloucester, from the book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. We saw it ten years ago, and in that time it was almost closed down, but a group including Patricia Routledge the actress, saved it and developed it into a good little exhibition of scenes from the book, and memorabilia of BP merchandise.image Following this , we drove through the beautiful little villages of the Cotswolds, and into Oxford where we encountered another shop of children’s literature fame. This was my third visit to the Alice shop (from Wonderland and the Looking Glass) and was expanded and very busy. We crossed over to Christ Church meadows where some of the books are set, and then through colleges and chapels, towers and students and tourists to many of the beautiful and momentous Oxford sites: the Bodleian, the Radcliffe Camera, up st Mary the Virgin tower, the Sheldonian, Blackwells, Martyrs Memorial, the Eagle and Child, and into Magdalen College, C.S.Lewis’s old college. We made the most of the free entry we were given there and also saw their deer. Dinner at the Crown, a 1200s pub was an appropriate end to a classic English day. The following day we were back at Balliol College and the museum of Oxford, also locating st Ebbe’s, the evangelical C of E where Vaughn Roberts ministers. image image image Our next exploration was to attempt to find the house and church of C.S.Lewis at nearby Headington. We had no success with his house but found the church (which he attended for decades) down a leafy walking track. There was no publicity and it took detective work to find information in the church, but eventually we discovered the place where he habitually sat, a Narnia window, and his grave, next to his brother Warnie’s. I was moved by the fact that such a great, intelligent, creative and famous Christian man belonged to an ordinary village church fellowship, and that there was no fanfare about his living or dying, just the facts, and the faith, all that really matters. image image We enjoyed a lunch catch up with our friend Lynda in Warwick, amid the Tudor houses and near the solid castle walls, then drove on, across county after county to reach Newquay on the west coast of Devon late that night. Our view out the window the next morning was beautiful coastline beyond the city below us. During our few days here we walked along the cliffs, ate Cornish icecream, and explored the local shops. Also this was our base for a foray into Cornwall, in particular where some of my ancestors came from in Mylor and Trelissick. As it was a Sunday, we planned to go to church at Mylor where many of my forebears are buried, but unfortunately just for Pentecost Sunday, they had moved church to another village and earlier time,as we discovered from a small handwritten note on the door. However we did more detective work and found several Olivey graves and memorialsimage. image Trelissick is now a beautiful national trust garden, and many people werE ouT enjoying the sunny afternoon. On to the Lizard, which last time we had seen in fog and rain, but now was gloriously clear and stunning. Another project we had planned was to visit Port Isaac, the fishing village in Devon where the TV series Doc Martin is filmed. So on a cold, windy day we made our way along the Narrow streets beside the harbour, and spotted locations of various scenes including the doc’s house, the school, the chemist shop, the fresh fish sales, a hotel etc, and then, to our delight, we were able to watch filming! With other excited but obediently quiet fans, we gathered in a small cobbled street and saw take after take of a couple of scenes between Al (Joe Absolom) Aunt Ruth (Dame Elaine Atkins) and a neighbour, played by Ronald Pickup. Seagulls swooped and interfered, but the show went on. And we got to meet two of our favourite actors, Al the plumber/handyman and Joe the policeman, both friendly guys. Actually it was a very friendly community over all and we enjoyed our time there.image On to Tintagel briefly, and across Bodmin Moor and then Dartmoor, where we stopped to interact with ponies against the background of rocky outcrops against wide clear skies. Widdicombe-in-the-moor is a pretty little village with an ancient church and clergy house, and we wandered through it in the late afternoon. Another historic village we enjoyed was Corfe in Dorset. As well as the ruins of a castle on the hilltop, which inspired Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Castle, there is a quaint village with a national trust shop, and an Enid Blyton’s shop with 1940s memorabilia. From the castle and it’s excellent displays, we had great views of the Isle of Purbeck. The next two nights we stayed in a youth hostel on a farm in Ifield, which worked as a base to see the south and south east coast of England. Here we saw the Long Man of Wilmington, a white horse carved into a hillside, and Beachy Head with magnificent views and memorials including one to Bomber Command in WW2(which my uncle served in). Hastings was our next port of call, particularly to detect places used in the BBC TV series Foyle’s War. Croft street is part of the old town, which is still in pre-war style, and the church, the bomb site of a hotel, Foyle’s house and a few other places there were familiar to us. Down near the beachfront were the fishermen sheds, tall black tarred weatherboard huts for drying nets, and also the fishing boats. Fish and chips were an obvious choice for lunch! We managed to squeeze in two national trust sites after that:Bodmin castle and Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country home. The castle was a classic moated castle with four turrets and walkways, a lot of it still intact. It was built post 1066 by a Norman knight as defence against possible invasion by the French. Also on the site were bunkers manned by Home Guard during World War Two! Which links to Chartwell, which not only had Churchill’s lovingly tended gardens, and originally furnished house, but also his art studio, complete with many of his hundreds of paintings. He painted and gardened to relax from his frenetic pace of work.

I’m sorry for the lack of photos at the end of this blog. I have many more great photos of these places, but it is painfully difficult for me to put them up via iPad, so if you want to see anymore, please ask me when I’m back in Australia.

Exploring the New World

USA and Canada by Richard
The final part of our five and a half months around the world trip, was a visit to the USA and Canada for twelve days. We arrived in New York on the 27th of May and departed for Australia on the 8th of June. We spent three days in New York and were a bit overwhelmed by the sheer size of of the place, and the crowds. We enjoyed going to a Broadway show called “Nice work if you can get it” Matthew Broderick was the male lead and we all enjoyed it.
We also enjoyed a tour of New York and a boat cruise where we saw some of the sights. There are certainly some very tall buildings in the city and we appreciated walking through the beautiful Central Park. Here are some photos.
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We had one day by ourselves in New York and then joined a tour which first involved another couple of days in New York. This tour went for eight days in total and after New York we travelled to Niagara Falls, crossing over the border into Canada and we stayed there for two nights. It was good to see some of the US countryside as we travelled along in our bus. There were a number of Australians on the tour, and it seemed a bit strange to hear so many Aussie accents after being away for so long.

Niagara Falls were indeed spectacular. We saw them by daylight and also being lit up at night. We were reminded of the amazing spectacular beauty of God’s wonderful creation. We found it exciting to board the “Maid in the Mist” boat and get up close to the bottom of the Falls. Here are some photos of the Falls.

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During our stay at Niagara Falls we also visited the delightful town of “Niagara by the Lake”. Our tour guide Michael said this town looks like how he imagined Niagara Falls looked like, as it does not have all the tourist trappings of Niagara Falls. Here are some photos including one of a plaque we came across about Hudson Taylor and meetings about the China Inland Mission. This mission later was renamed Overseas Missionary Fellowship, (OMF). We went on our short term mission to the Philippines with OMF in January as the first part of our trip so it was exciting to come across this link in our travels.
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While we staying at Niagara Falls we also spent some time with Jen Chrystman. She is a Canadian who is back in Canada on furlough, as she is a missionary in the Philippines. Marge and Sam and the other members of our church’s first short term mission stayed with her in 2011. While we have been travelling this year, Jen has also been travelling and has been to England, South Africa, the Netherlands and Germany like us, but we have just missed each other in these countries. She even went to the same church as us in South Africa, Rosebank Union church in Johannesburg, shortly after we were in South Africa. Here is a photo of Jen with Marge, Lucy and Sam.
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The next part of our tour involved visiting Philadelphia. We were staying near the historic buildings and houses section of the city. These go back to the colonial days of America. We walked round them and also had a ride in a horse and carriage, with a driver who informed us about the significance of many of the historic buildings. Philadelphia was the birthplace of American Independence and the US capital before Washington DC. Here are some photos.
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We then travelled to Washington DC. I think one of the best TV shows ever made is “The West Wing”. However the others in my family do not share my enthusiasm for the show. But it was a real highlight for me to see the locations where some of this show was filmed and set. We stayed two nights there and enjoyed seeing around sections of this attractive city. It reminded us a little bit of Canberra as it is a planned city with wide streets and many lovely parks. We saw various war memorials, Arlington cemetery with JFK’s grave, Kennedy centre, Lincoln memorial. We also spent an afternoon at the Smithsonian American History museum.
Here are some photos from our time in Washington DC. The first photo is of the Watergate building.
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After our tour finished we travelled back to New York by train, and then caught a flight to Seattle where we spent three days.
We had purchased a Seattle city pass and enjoyed going to a number of attractions including the Space Needle, the Air and Space museum, EWP museum, the Science museum and a harbour cruise. We also drove into the country and saw a spectacular waterfall. Here are some photos.
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We enjoyed our time in the “New World” and it was a good way to finish our trip.
We have been greatly blessed and privileged to see a fair bit of the world in our five and a half months. We were able to finance our trip from part of an inheritance I received from my Aunt. She really loved to travel and some of the relatives I met on our travels commented on how appropriate it was to use it in this way.
I was able to take 15 weeks long service leave and 8 weeks accumulated annual leave. The parish council also gave me an extra week’s leave as a contribution to the three week mission trip we did at the first part of trip.
This is the longest time I have ever been away from a ministry position and by far the longest (24 weeks) I have gone without preaching. I am hoping to return to ministry reinvigorated and refreshed from all our fantastic experiences. I have now taken over 6,500 photos and may indeed use a few of them, especially those from Our Biblical land study tours, in sermons as visual aids in the years ahead.
Thanks to Sam for setting up the blog and also for teaching me how to use it.
Thanks also to Marge for prooof redden my contributions. (I think I might have added this bit after she had edited this blog).
Thanks to people who have prayed for us.
Thanks also to those who have shown interest in following our trip. I guess if you are reading this, then it includes you.
Richard

Short visits to Five Countries

Richard reflecting on quick visits to five countries on our trip.

We have just spent a couple of days in Canada and this was the last of the nineteen countries we are visiting on our five and a half month trip around the world. We are very fortunate and blessed to be able to do such a trip and it has been a fantastic. However we are getting a bit weary of travelling. We are back in Sydney soon on the 10th of June. To make the blog a more complete record of our trip I thought I would in one blog entry, write about the five countries that we visited, without actually staying a night in any of them. (By the way we will have stayed at more than 50 different places by the time we get back and I am looking forward to not living out of a suitcase).
The nineteen countries we have visited are listed below in the order we first visited the countries. Some of them, England, Germany and the USA, we visited more than once.
1. Hong Kong – China. Dec 28 and 17 Jan
2. The Philippines. Dec 28
3. South Africa. 17 Jan
4. England. 12 Feb
5. Greece. 14 Feb
6. Turkey. 21 Feb
7. Israel. 27 Feb
8. Jordan. 15 Mar,
9. Austria. 15 Mar
10.Germany. 21 Mar
11.Switzweland. 25 Mar (then Germany from 2nd Apr)
12.The Netherlands. 9 Apr
13.Belgium. 14 Apr
14.France. 14 Apr
15.Ireland. 20 Apr (then England from 1st May)
16.Scotland. 9 May (then England from 9th May)
17.Wales. 15 May (then England from 15 May).
18.USA. 27 May
19.Canada. 30 May (then USA from 1 June)

HONG KONG. – CHINA
We passed through Hong Kong airport twice. The first time was on the 28th December, and the second time was on the 17th of January. Both times we spent a few hours there, and it is a huge modern and very spacious airport. We were struck by the small smoking rooms, where we could look through the windows and see people were puffing away. Here are a couple of photos from our two times in the airport at Hong Kong.
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JORDAN
We had to travel from Isreal to Austria via a stopover at Jordan Airport, for some reason according the rules of our round the world flight ticket. We were not greatly impressed by the facilities at this airport. We travelled on the 15th March. I do no have a photo of our time in Jordan.
Now OK, I imagine you might be saying just getting out at an airport is not really visiting a country and you may be right, but the other three countries mentioned below were not visits just confined to airports.

BELGIUM
We travelled through Belgium on our way from The Netherlands to France on the 14th April. The driving only took about an hour so we decided to stop and have lunch in Belgium. Here are a couple of photos from the roadside facility where we stopped.

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At lunch at the serving area I ordered a lamb shank and when they asked if I wanted vegetables or chips I said vegetables and the vegetables consisted of a bit of potato and about a dozen Brussels sprouts which are not my favourite vegetable! However I did eat them all as I was hungry, but the family later suffered in the car!

SCOTLAND
We stayed in the Lake District in England for a week and Lucy has written about this time in another blog entry. During this week we decided to go for a quick visit just over the border to Scotland on the 9th of May. Marge’s sister Liz and her daughter Laura were travelling with us for the England section of the trip and this was their first trip to the UK, so they had not been to Scotland.
We went to Gretna Green which was a place where people used to come from England to get married if they were in a hurry, as the marriage laws were different in Scotland from England. We spent just a couple of hours there but we did go to Scotland. There is new maze that had closed for the day, but they very kindly opened it for us. Below are some pictures of our time in Scotland.
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WALES
We went briefly into Wales on the 15th May. Our one track mission was not to see any of the natural beauty or sights of Wales, but to go to go to the Doctor Who experience in Cardiff. Doctor Who is made at the BBC studios in Wales. We all enjoyed our time there and below are just some of the many photos I took.

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Paris – Part One

By Sam

You may be beginning to notice a recurring theme in my posts here on our blog – they tend to written a fair while after we’ve visited the country in question. Some may call this negligence, but I prefer to think about it as allowing my thoughts on the country to mellow with age – sometimes it’s easier to see things from a distance. (Well that’s my excuse, anyway!)

So, we arrived in France after our few days in the Netherlands. Our first stop was in Amiens, to see the Australian War Memorial outside the village of Villers-Brettenoux. This was a major battlefield for the ANZACs in the first world war when they managed to capture the town from the Nazis. However, this came at a great cost. The memorial is made up of hundreds of graves to the fallen soldiers. I found it both sad and inspiring the walk the rows of headstones and climb up the tower at the far end of the site. Such sacrifice. And so much futility.

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The next morning we drove into Paris. Easier said than done. Although all we had to do was to drop off our baggage at the hotel and return the hired car, Dad said it was the hardest of all the driving he’s done in the holiday. Crazy drivers with crazy streets are not a great combination…

Anyway, once that was over we spent a great four days seeing the sights! Paris was one of the destinations on the trip that I’d personally looked forward to the most. I was interested in the landmarks, the history (especially in the French Revolution), and just to see for myself this city that I’d heard so much about.
Our first stop our first site-seeing day was of course the Eiffel Tower. Although I’d seen hundreds of photos of it over the years, I was still very surprised by its sheer size. It’s by no means one of the largest buildings in the world, but its striking steel structure stretching out on the Parisian landscape was incredible to see.

The Eiffel Tower and Bridge Lucy and the eiffel tower

We (minus Dad, he wasn’t too keen on the heights) joined the long line and finally were on our way up the elevators. At the second floor we seemed high up, but that was nothing compared to looking out the elevator as we ascended up to the top of the iconic steel tower. 324 metres seemed like awfully high up!

Looking down on the city (2)The arc de triomphe and surrounds

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Not only was the view spectacular, and we could see sights like the Champs Elysee, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral from up there, there was also the added bonus of being at the top of one of the world’s most famous landmarks!

Eiffel Tower

From there, we got on a hop-on-hop-off bus and took a tour round Paris. Our second landmark was the Arc De Triomphe. Like the Eiffel Tower, I found it hard to comprehend I was actually there! We walked around under the arch, as well as ascending to the top and looking out from the centre of one of the world’s busiest roundabouts. It was built as a war memorial during the time of Napoleon, and so is elaborately decorated with scenes from the various battles he fought.

The Arc De TriompheUnder the Arc de Triomphe

We then walked down the Champs Elysee, and in order to escape the exuberant prices, went to the cheapest restaurant on the street – McDonalds.

The Eiffel Tower from the Arc De Triomphe Champs Elysee

We then spent the rest of the day continuing looking around Paris, seeing things like the National Assembly, the Opera House, The Grand Palais, and the Place de la Concorde, which was formally the site of the executions during the Reign of Terror (1793-4).

place de la concorde (1) Pont Alexandre III Bridge

The following day began with a walk through the Tuileries Gardens. These were originally the gardens of the Tuileries Palace, which played a major part in the country’s history, especially during the French Revolution. Today, the gardens are a lush, well kept oasis away from the hussle and bussle of central Paris.

The Tuileries Gardens

We then went and visited a couple of art galleries, one of them being the most famous in the world….but more on that later. The first one we visited, the Musee de l’Orangerie houses Monet’s Water Lillies series, which I think is impressive and calming even if, like me, your art knowledge is rather limited! The museum also included other impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, including some by Renoir and even early Picassos.

Rodin Statues Renior - Two young girls at the piano

The second art gallery you may just have heard of…the Louvre. Because of its extreme busy-ness, we really just went in to see the famous works of art that everyone goes to see… and although people had told me they weren’t as high as the expectations, I still wanted to see them for myself. Kind of a “been there, done that” sort of thing, if nothing else!The Louvre

Inside the LouvreThe sculpture of Venus

So we were herded in with the thousands of other tourists to see the two ladies – the statue of Venus and the Mona Lisa.

And, perhaps because people had warned me not to have too high expectations, I was pleasantly surprised!

The People and The Painting

Our next destination on the rather action-packed day was the the Conciergerie, the prison used during the French Revolution. As someone who’d studied the time period a bit at school, and had a real interest in it, it was incredible to actually be in the building where the likes of Louis XVI, Marie-Antionette and Robespierre were kept shortly before their executions. Also rather sad I guess.

The Conciergerie in the sunset (1) Conciergerie - The Hall of the Guards(2) Prison rooms (1)

The final two stops of our day were two cathedrals – St Chapelle’s….

Sainte Chapelle

…and Notre Dame.

Looking up at Notre Dame Cathedral

Oh, and I climbed to the top of Notre Dame too, just in case I hadn’t had enough of ascending Parisian landmarks.’

Notre Dame from above (1)The Chimera and the City

And then we had two more days, but I think I’ll write another post for them!

Yorkshire and the Lakes!!!

By Lucy

I remembered enjoying England when we were here 10 years ago, even though I was only three, so I had been looking forward to this part of the trip very much.

Our plane flight from Ireland was a bit bumpy but otherwise okay and we got to Manchester to pick up our hire car. We knew that Mum’s sister Liz and her daughter Laura were going to be joining us the next day and travelling with us through England, so we were hoping the car would be big enough for us all.  When we got to the hire car village, we saw our huge eight-seat black van, and so drove that into Huddersfield, where our friends the Woods live. I was quite excited as we drove past lovely old houses, small villages, green fields, cows and sheep and were greeted by the Woods (Simeon, Sarah and their children Ella and Harry). Their house is more than 200 years old and very lovely, they are too (not 200 years old but they are lovely), we enjoyed staying here a lot. The next day, Mum and Dad went back to Manchester airport to pick up Aunty Liz and Laura. While this was going on, Sam, Simeon , their dog and I went for a walk in the woods. The scenery was beautiful! That evening, Sarah  took her son Harry and Sam to their friend’s place to play his drum kit as Sam hasn’t played the drums since we left Mittagong. Ella, Laura and I took some photos of the beautiful sunset.

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The following day, we went and visited some other friends, the Jacksons. Pete Jackson was the assistant minister of the church Dad did the exchange with 10 years ago and it was great to see him and his wife Sharon and their two children. The day after this was very exciting as we were going to the Lake District with the Wood family! I was really looking forward to seeing this beautiful place and I think everybody else was too. We had our lunch with the sheep, before finding the various places we were staying at. They were all lovely in their own way, and our apartment overlooked the lake. Our time in the Lake District was truly amazing! We went for walks through the rain in Grasmere…

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And caught a ferry to Bowness and then to Brokhole, and had ice-creams even though it was freezing!

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We also went to the museum of Lakeland life, which was very interesting. The museum showed us many intriguing bits and pieces from the past including old toys, medicine bottles, an ancient dollshouse, old shoes and brushes, and a whole display of Arthur Ransome’s works like Swallows and Amazons.

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Next, we went to Sizergh castle which is a medieval castle still lived in today. The National Trust open it up each day and we saw the extensive gardens and the grand furniture inside.

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After this we said goodbye to the Woods, who had to go back to school and work, and we continued our time in the Lake District. The next day, we went for a long walk up a mountain to Alcock Tarn and saw some beautiful sights. In the afternoon, we went to Dove Cottage which is one of the houses which William Wordsworth lived in. It was rather small but still quite interesting and we got to see a museum which had various clothes, pens, letters and accessories related to William Wordsworth.

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The following day was Beatrix Potter day for us! It started off, with a visit to the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, which we found even better than last time! It has big models of various Beatrix Potter characters and a garden where we saw Peter Rabbit’s jacket hanging up.

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We also went to the Beatrix Potter Gallery which is the old offices of William Heelis who married Beatrix. This was actually very interesting and told us a lot about their marriage. Our next stop was Hill Top farm. In the afternoon, we spent more time at the Dove Cottage museum before watching the DVD of Swallows and Amazons which is set in the Lake District. We took the opportunity to drive north to Scotland for a couple of hours, as it was relatively close by. Before this, we visited Hadrian’s wall, ruins of the Birdoswald fortress, and the Castlerigg (which is a circle of big stones).

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On our last day in the Lakes, we went to the famous Grasmere gingerbread shop and also saw William Wordsworth’s grave and the church nearby. We also went into some village shops and three of us all fitted into a red telephone box…

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Next, Sam, Mum and I went to Wray Castle, which is not furnished but we went on a tour and found out about the history of this nineteenth-century manor house, where Beatrix Potter stayed once.

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After a great morning at Fountains Abbey the next day, we spent some time in York which is a very pretty place. Yesterday, we went to the Jackson’s church in Kendray with the Woods, and afterwards, we saw Simeon playing his flutes at a concert. We are currently enjoying our last couple of days in Yorkshire and especially the Wood family’s kind hospitality.

Ireland

imageBy Richard
We stayed in Ireland for 11 nights from 20th April until 1st of May.
We have loved the beautiful countryside and enjoyed meeting some great people. We have also had some interesting experiences which have made us appreciate the wonderful nature of the people of Ireland.

After arriving late into Dublin, we stayed at a motel near the airport on the first night. The next morning we picked up a hire car from the airport. It was very nice and had only done 700km. But after 4km we realised one of the tyres was going down. We had to stop. We could not find the tools to change the wheel. I saw a man going into a house on the opposite side of the street. I asked him if I could use his phone to ring the hire car company. (We had not yet got Sim cards for our phones) He let me come in and ring and the company said they would send someone to help. Then the man in the house, whose name was Terry, invited Marge and me in for a cup of tea with his wife Ursula. It turned out she had spent a year in Australia nursing. They were very friendly and we were most grateful. They did not know us and yet extended some wonderful Irish hospitality to us in our time of need.

The man from the hire company turned up and fixed the tyre, but as it was a Sunday we could not get a new tyre easily so we went back to get another car. This car, although nice, was not as jazzy and new as the other car but we took it. When we had travelled for about 40 minutes to reach where we were staying with my father’s cousin Gertie we noticed that the passenger side rearview mirror had lost its outer casing and apparently just fallen off. But after covering it up with a plastic bag, In the morning we rang the hire car company and they said this would be OK till we return he car in ten days time. We were very glad that we did not have to get a third car in 24 hours.image
Here is a photo of the car, which had no more issues for the rest of our trip.
We were very fortunate to be able to stay with my father’s cousin Gertie at Stepaside on the outskirts of Dublin. My grandmother on my father’s side came grew up in Ireland and came to Australia after she married my grandfather. He was an Australian who had gone to the UK to study for a doctorate. He served in the British forces in WWI and then they moved to Australia. My father and his sister have travelled to the UK a number of times and they established good relationships with their first cousins who lived in Ireland and England. We have greatly benefitted from the connections they made with the extended family.
Gertie was very generous to us and we stayed with her, both before, between and after our two trips into the countryside. Gertie has a sister called Jane who we had stayed with in London and we arranged to stay with her again towards the end of our time in England. It was fantastic to have a base from which to explore Ireland.
Gertie gave us wonderful home cooked meals and here is a photo of our family with Gertie and another cousin Sally who came to dinner one night.
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Gertie’s son Robbie and his wife Sadhbh have built a wonderful new house at the back of the property and we enjoyed spending time with them. Lucy had some wonderful times playing with their four year old daughter. They also have a brand new two month baby daughter.
We did a day trip into the Wicklow mountains around Dublin and explored Glendalough.
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We saw the ruins of a monastery called St Kevin’s and it was established in the fifth century. It was inspiring to see the ruins of this monastery and to be reminded that Christianity came to Ireland so early. There are many ruins of monasteries, castles, abbeys and ordinary houses around Ireland and it was a privilege and delight to explore some of them in our travels around this amazing country.
Here are some photos of us exploring the ruins at St Kevins.
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We then went on a trip down to the South West of Ireland. People in Ireland have remarked how we have done a lot of travelling in our 11 days but the distances are not great compared to Australia. There are some very good motorways, but we also enjoyed going off them and driving along narrow picturesque country lanes. On our way travelling South West from Dublin we stopped off to see St Patrick’s rock at Cashel. Here are Marge, Sam and Lucy outside the entrence to the Cathedral
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We also explored the ruins of the Horne Abbey near St Patricks rock. You can see Lucy and the Abbey in the photo above.
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We stayed at Baltimore and enjoyed a great view from the B and B where we were staying. We appreciated the fact that the tourist season had not begun and it was fairly quiet.
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We went walking to the headland and marvelled at the spectacular views as seen in the photo of Marge above.

We also travelled by Ferry to Sherkin Island and explored part of it. Like many places it has ruins and newish buildings. Here are a couple of photos.

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We then travelled to Killarny to stay for a couple of nights. We travelled around the Ring of Kerry which is a popular tourist route because it has spectacular scenery. Here are some photos from our driving tour.
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We also visited two castles. The first was Ross Castle at Killarney.
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The second was Kanturk castle
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On the way back we visited one of Gertie’s daughters and her family. Katy and her husband David are both artists. Katy is gifted sculptor and we admired some of her work. David is a real character, as is his father Jim who we also met. Both David and Jim have the gift of the gab and will talk and talk in a delightful Irish accent. Both of them are animators (Jim is now retired) and David even won an Academy Award for a short animated film a number of years ago. He showed us his studio and some of the figures he uses in his animations.image
Some of his films are on the internet at wwww.youtube.com/cutbacks2010

We returned to Dublin for a couple of days. On the Sunday we attended church at Crinken Church. This is a Church of Ireland (Anglican) church. The minister there from 2006 to 2011 was the Rev. Ed Vaughan who is a Sydney Anglican minister. Ed was in 4th year at Moore College when Marge and I were in 1st year and I have seen a little bit of him over the years since College. He is now the minster at Darlinghurst in Sydney.
We recieved a very warm welcome at the church and we really enjoyed the warm fellowship we experienced with the people there. The service reminded us of what we do at our our 9.30 and 10.30am services at St Stephen’s Mittagong. It was great to see and hear how this church is seeking to reach out to the local people with the great news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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Our second trip was to the Galway and Mayo regions on the West Coast. We stayed at Westport. As we have travelled through Europe and Ireland by car we have been using a GPS which has been of great help in helping us not to get lost.
It is just as well we did not have to rely on instructions given by locals as sometimes they can become a bit complicated. Here are the intructions sent to me by email about how to get to where we were staying at Westport.

When you arrive in Westport (via Castlebar), drive straight through the town, you will cross over the bridge and drive up *Bridge Street*, the town clock is at top of this street. Turn right onto *Shop Street* and get into your left lane, Supervalu supermarket should be on your left. Take the left after Supervalu and follow the road to the right passing McCarthy’s bar. Continue on this road, passing Westport Woods Hotel on your right and Centra Supermarket on your left. Follow the road around to the left and The Harbour Mill is located just on your left. Reception is on the first floor.
**** Westport Town Centre is a one-way system.****

We did not try and follow these instructions, but just used our GPS and arrived easily at our destination.

We were blown away by the stunning rugged coastal views as we travelled around. Here are some photos.

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It was great to see some more of the country in this trip to Ireland. Ten years ago we came and spent time seeing Dublin and travelling up north to Ballymena where my grandmother grew up. When we came ten years ago Ireland was doing very well economically but this has all changed in the last few years and the country is really struggling due to the recession. But despite this the people we met were very warm, friendly and hospitable.
We are travelling on to England to stay until the 27th May and are looking forward to catching up with old friends.

Munich…a month ago.

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By Sam.

About a month ago, we went to Munich. I planned to write a blog about it just after it happened, but somewhere through the midst of travelling to other places, I haven’t got round to it. So here goes!

We arrived in the municipality of Munich by train from Salzburg. After having to go through airports and seemingly endless security checks in entering every country, we found crossing the border into Germany very easy.

But there was one thing about the city that wasn’t so easy – the cold! After being in the heat of Israel just a week before, and sunny South Africa not too long before that, we were freezing.

But despite this, we had an very enjoyable couple of days. Our first day began with a bus trip which had been organized by the ‘Vacations by rail’ company we were travelling with. Although it did give us a glimpse around the city, the tour guide’s mixture of French and English and some very noisy people meant that didn’t find it all that informative.

Travelling on our own by foot proved much better. We walked around, visiting a couple of cathedrals, the old town hall (rathaus in German, there’s a toy museum there now!), and the new town hall, with its famous Glockenspiel clock display.

We found out later that according to statistics, it’s one of the most disappointing tourist attractions in Europe. Whilst watching a few faded figures parade stiffly and slowly in a tower as multiple bells chimed rather out of tune wasn’t the most riveting part of our world travels so far, it’s an experience I guess!

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And then it started to snow. Having only had limited experience of snow myself, I found it quite exciting at first, but after a while just quite cold. So we caught the metro back to our hotel and prepared for dinner.

Interestingly, the ‘Vacations by Rail’ company we’d booked with included a meal at each of the three cities we visited (Vienna, Salzburg, Munich), in rather fancy restaurants. This was quite nice because it’s not something we usually do at all! So we had a rather delicious traditional German meal in a restaurant housed in the old town hall complex.

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The next day we decided to participate in a free walking tour we’d seen advertised in the hotel. This proved to be much, much better than the bus trip of the day before. Our tour guide told us and showed us several aspects of the city’s culture and history, everything from beer drinking to Nazism! Munich is not just the home of Oktoberfest, it’s also a city of great historical importance, especially with the events leading up to and during the Second World War. We walked down the street in which the Munich Beer Hall Putsch had taken place in 1923, which was Hitler’s first attempt to seize power, before ultimately running for election as chancellor instead of by force.

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The street in which Hitler and the Nazis marched in 1923, and a memorial commemorating German resistance to Nazism nearby.

We also saw the place where he later made speeches as Fuhrer to the city, and saw photos of all the propaganda banners and memorials he had put up there. Although a rather sad thing to see (especially after our visit to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem), it was really interesting to think that such significant world events that I’d read so much about happened right there.

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The archway from which Hitler made many political speeches.

After the tour was over, we explored the city a little more, and came across some very impressive buskers playing their grand piano, saxophone, vibraphone and Cajon in the snow. We listened to them for while before needing to thaw out and eat a traditional German lunch of schnitzel. (Not only delicious, but also a very easy dish to order when the staff don’t speak English – schnitzel is a word exactly the same in German and English!)

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On our final fool day in Munich, Dad and I decided to go on a ‘Third Reich Walking Tour’ which had been advertised on the tour the day before, while Mum and Lucy went to the art gallery. For me having studied both Germany in the period between the wars and the second world war itself at school meant I was rather fascinated about seeing the places in the city where so many big events had taken place, and Dad was really interested too.

Our tour guide was an ex-history lecturer, who really knew his stuff. This and the fact that there were only 7 of us on the tour meant that we had a very informative few hours ahead of us.

The tour began talking about the historical background of the city – about the monarchy which was done away with, and the various systems of government put into place during the Weimar period. (We saw some buildings of significance to this). Our guide then told us about the troubles facing the nation after the First World War, many implemented by the Treaty of Versailles, which resulted in economic depression, unemployment and hyperinflation. He even showed us one of the many billion mark note which had to be printed because of this.

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We also saw the beer hall, in which Hitler first announced the National Socialist Program in 1920, and then again the street which he had marched with Nazi supporters in an attempt to seize power. We also were told about the heavy bombings which the city received, (apart from the church and rathaus towers which were used as reference points by the pilots). Strange to think it was the allies who bombed it.

P1040259The Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall, where Nazis would meet and where Hitler presented his program in 1920.

Finally, we visited a memorial to German resistance to Nazism, including a group of university students who manage to spread awareness of the inhumane acts committed by the party, and who were all killed for it, and were told about the liberation of the city near the end of the war.

The tour, which was advertised as three hours in length ended up being nearer five (we definitely got our money’s worth!), and despite the utterly freezing conditions and the constant fall of snow, it was incredibly interesting and informative. I felt like I’d learnt a lot, and been reminded a lot that I’d previously studied. It also reminded me how much I’m fascinated about history; the way people have acted in the past and how it’s affected us today.

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So, that’s what we got up to in Munich! And then we went to Geneva, and then Germany again and then the Netherlands and France and now we’re in Ireland…