2016 – The Wrap Up

Wow… so that was 2016… probably one of the craziest years of my life.  I don’t think any other years of my life have had quite as many extreme highs and lows, and the list has once again been there through it all.  I am really glad that this year I chose to include some of my more deliberate holiday adventures.  I like that it has given me a reason to document them properly and that now I have them sitting right here to look back on whenever I want as many of them have a blog post just for them.

What about the rest… well that’s here too.  Some have links, and some I will tell you about right here, including the ones that didn’t… but they are all there ready and waiting for you to read all about…

  1. Start 2016 somewhere outside of Australia – completed: 01/01/2016
  2. Make a summer fruit platter in a watermelon – completed: 19/02/2016
  3. Send 12 hand written cards/letters – completed: 23/04/2016
  4. Make a lolly cake – completed: 31/11/2016
  5. Rearrange a space – completed: 17/02/2016
  6. Play my flute – completed: 29/12/2016
    This year was the first year in a long time that I have missed Christmas caroling, I didn’t miss it enough to get my flute out during caroling season, but I did get it out this week and play some carols.  It was really nice to play again and to know that I haven’t lost it.
  7. Go to Disneyland – completed: 24/01/2016
  8. Find out is our house has a legit hidden fireplace
    I am pretty sure that we do… but I have no proof and while my intention was to just kick a hole in the wall and find out what was there, some other things came up and I will have to wait a little longer to find out for sure. 
  9. Visit something older than colonised Australia – completed: 14/01/2016
  10. Have tea in London… Queen optional – completed: 19/01/2016
  11. Do a ridiculously cheesy tourist photo with a famous tourist attraction – completed: 22/01/2016
  12. Go to a country I have never been to before – completed: 02/01/2016
  13. Find a geocache – completed: 06/04/2016
  14. Hide a geocache – completed: 06/04/2016
  15. Watch the Prince of Egypt – completed: 18/03/2016
  16. Go in the 2016 Melbourne Marathon festival somehow… 5, 10, half or full
    When the 2016 Melbourne Marathon was on I was 23 weeks pregnant and running was even less of a strong suit than it was earlier in the year.  Maybe next year.
  17. Be a Victorian tourist and go somewhere all the tourists go – completed: 09/07/2016  
  18. See my bestie face to face – completed: 18/01/2016
  19. Get back in the pool and swim at least 5 times
    I am not really sure why I didn’t swim this year… I really enjoy it, I think that maybe it’s the thought of the effort of bathers, towels, public showers and goggles… sometimes it all just seems too hard.
  20. Go to the Zoo – completed: 03/02/2016
  21. Make some kind of festive seasonal dish – completed: 02/12/2016
  22. Use the fire pit – completed: 19/02/2016
    Not only did we use it, but there a perfect circle of dead grass where it was.
  23. Go skiing or snowboarding or tobogganing – completed: 03/01/2016
  24. Do you want to build a snowman? I do – completed: 04/01/2016
  25. Go Camping – completed: 04/04/2016
  26. See some Northern Hemisphere stars – completed: 06/01/2016
  27. Run with at least 3 different people – completed: 27/02/2016 
  28. Make a photo book or our Europe Adventures – completed: 29/12/2016
    Just sitting there waiting for the Christmas budget to cool it’s jets before we print it.
  29. Save money each pocket money
    It was not a good year for our fiances… well Dave’s pocket money card might be ok… but mine not so much.
  30. Go on a bush walk – completed: 05/04/2016
  31. Go to a farmers market – completed: 27/03/2016  
  32. Make some meringues – completed: 03/10/2016
  33. Learn how to spell meringues without having to check it every time – completed: 03/10/2016
  34. Keep my emails under control – no extreme amounts of notifications on my phone – completed: 31/12/2016
    Not at all times, but for most of the year I made a special effort to keep the notifications under control.
  35. Get and keep my photo storage under control – completed: 29/12/2016
    This is one I am really proud of, I love our photos and I am a little paranoid about losing them, but now I have them all backed up and safely stored, I just have to keep these backups up to date. 
  36. Sew something – completed: 30/12/2016
    Let’s not get too excited I repaired a jumper of Dave’s and pair of my pants, but I had to get the sewing machine out and use it to do so… that counts as sewing.
  37. Do some trivia – completed: 05/06/2016
  38. Bake some snacks – completed: 02/10/2016
  39. See a musical – completed: 13/05/2016   
  40. Read 16 books – completed: 20/11/2016
  41. Do a water aerobics class
    I am putting this in the same category as swimming, the whole idea was just too much for me this year.
  42. Do a spin class
    So I don’t really have an excuse, I left it too late and then when I could do a class again, I just didn’t want to.  Bikes and me… maybe we will never be.
  43. Have a BBQ Wednesday
    I wish we had, I really do, but we didn’t.  BBQ Wednesday’s seem a lot harder to organise and make happen than they ever did before.
  44. Go to a state of Australia that I haven’t been to before – completed: 03/04/2016
  45. Touch my feet to some red dirt – completed: 06/04/2016
  46. Clean up my iTunes playlists – completed: 29/12/2016
    Yep all clean, lots deleted and hopefully just the good ones left… I’ll just have to work my way through them again and check.
  47. Visit another international thermal pool – completed: 07/01/2016
  48. Clean my car more regularly
    Nup… it is really dirty and will be until next year… I really need to clean it more often. 
  49. Sort out my 2014 and 2015 scrap books – completed: 12/12/2016
    Turns out there were a few more years that I hadn’t done, but they are done now too… Now I just have to do 2016.
  50. Try at least 2 new park runs – completed: 12/03/2016
  51. Keep my apple things updated properly – completed: 31/12/2016
    This actually took a lot more work than this little list item implies, but it is done.  Laptop, iPad and iPhone.
  52. Go to Inverloch at least 5 times – completed: 15/12/2016
    I am not really sure what to say about this, I went down there 5 times… and really I should do it a lot more often.
  53. Swim in the Ocean
    I really wish I had done this too… but it just didn’t happen, when we were at the beach it was too cold, but when it was hot, we were no where near the beach. 
  54. Have high tea – completed: 09/07/2016 
  55. Walk to the end of a pier – completed: 30/10/2016
  56. Get some Fro-yo – completed: 11/02/2016
  57. Go roller skating
    Also a no for 2016… even though we live right near a skating rink… turns out I am just not that passionate about skating.
  58. Ride a bike – completed: 17/01/2016
  59. Have some pasta/ pizza/gelato in Italy – completed: 01/01/2016
  60. Have some processed meat in Germany – completed: 05/01/2016
  61. See the Myer windows – completed: 21/12/2016
    Dave and I spent a night strolling around the city checking out all the Melbourne Christmas fun… and that includes the Myer windows… but because it was a beautiful night and we went at peak time… I just looked through the very long line and Dave read the book to me.
  62. Go to a place I can’t pronounce – completed: 06/01/2016
  63. Do some more work as a teacher – completed: 29/02/2016
  64. Take a photo with an English Guard – completed: 20/01/2016
  65. Take the Eurostar – completed: 22/01/2016
  66. See an Emu – completed: 05/04/2016
  67. Experience the outback – completed: 04/04/2016
  68. Follow through on the date box again – completed: 27/12/2016
    Each year these seem to get harder to fit in, but always more important than they were the year before.
  69. Go to Sherbrook forest – completed: 09/04/2016
  70. Be on time… it’s time
    I don’t think I could honestly cross this off, but I am getting better and I am definitely making more of an effort to be on time.
  71. Have another Star Trek Movie Marathon – completed: 29/12/2016
    We had planned on doing this a little earlier in the year, but it didn’t quite happen, so this week I sat down and watched the two first movies back to back… which counts as a marathon.
  72. Make my own dumplings – completed: 28/11/2016
    With a trusty Donna Hay recipe which is always delicious.
  73. Be confronted by WWII – completed: 11/01/2016
  74. Go on a Gondola ride – completed: 01/01/2016
  75. Visit a real life old time castle…. like one that would inspire Disney – completed: 08/01/2016
  76. Visit at least 4 museums –  completed: 12/01/2016
  77. See the Berlin Wall – completed: 14/01/2016
  78. Taste some dutch cheese – completed: 16/01/2016
  79. Have a Shakespeare moment – completed: 02/01/2016
  80. Do a 3D jigsaw – completed: 21/09/2016
  81. Ride a Camel… or at least see one in Uluru – completed: 05/04/2016
  82. Have one of those epic milkshakes – completed: 09/04/2016
  83. Have a Random Acts of Kindness week
    This should have happened, and I even started a couple of times, but either forgot about it or started missing days.  Either way it didn’t happen.
  84. Go on  a Road Trip – completed: 06/05/2016
  85. Have a wardrobe purge – completed: 29/01/2016
  86. Do another Pinterest project – completed: 19/12/2016
    This year I made some DIY Pinterest Christmas gifts, including some sprinkle candles and something special for my friend Pheebs.  I like Pinterest!
  87. Help change something at home – completed: 20/11/2016
  88. See some carols by candle light – completed: 11/12/2016
    Thanks city of Monash, they were fun and I learnt that ‘Boomeranging’ fireworks is the best.
  89. Get a massage – completed: 23/11/2016
  90. Keep getting closer again
    I did for most of the year, but the back half of the year has not been great for my weight goals… but I have had some other things on my mind and I can try again next year.
  91. Make the most of my gym membership
    I don’t think I could honestly cross this off either… I have used the gym, but not as much as I could have or should have… I am going to put this with no. 90 and say I will try again next year.
  92. Get my menu planning and home cooking game on – completed: 31/12/2016
    I may have taken me all year… and I may not have written anything down, but at least I now think about what we could cook and plan ahead if I need to go to the shops… which is such an improvement from where I was that this is getting crossed off.
  93. Spend some time in the Old testament (Study at least 2 OT books) – completed: 29/12/2016
    This has been really good for me to do, I think I often forget about how much God has packed into the old testament because I spend so long focusing on the new one… but this year I have studied the book of Daniel and Judges and it has been really interesting.  I have learnt a lot more than I thought I would and I am hoping this is just the beginning.
  94. Eat something from out veggie garden – completed: 22/02/2016
  95. Play some badminton – completed: 28/12/2016
    So despite the very hot weather this week Dave and I went to the oval across the road and played some badminton, just for a few minutes because as well as the heat the wind had a mind of it’s own which doesn’t work well with a shuttlecock.
  96. Make sure I remember my secret list – completed: 29/12/2016
    I don’t think I could honestly say I have achieved my secret list, but I definitely thought about it, especially as the year has been coming to an end which is all this list asked me to do.  The secret list was just one to remind of the perhaps more important things that don’t often make it on to the regular list as they are hard to quantify, but that doesn’t make them less significant.  It included a reminder to slow down, work on my communication and to make time for God, Dave and myself in my sometimes way to busy life.  I have really liked having these little side goals to help me focus on the bigger picture.  We only get a short time on earth and I want to make sure I am making the time I have better and not worse for myself and those around me.
  97. Run 5km without walking
    Another thing I wish I could have crossed of the list but just like number 16 my motivations changed and it just didn’t happen.  It is still something that I want to do, but I think it is going to take a little longer than I had hoped.
  98. Have the parentals over for dinner… all of them… separately
    Well we did have them all over at different times but not for meals.  Well, sometimes we had a mid-meal…. like afternoon tea or morning tea and sometimes even lunch, but not a deliberate dinner.  I have certainly seen them all more this year than last year, and after this year will continue to see them more.  Their strength and support has been invaluable and I am truly blessed to have all 7 of them in my life. 
  99. Be more domestic – completed: 29/12/2016
    So given that Dave is the more domestic one in our household, he was the judge of this one and he says, and I quote “this was your best year so far”… a pretty overwhelming ‘more’
  100. Take Dex on a Doggy Adventure – completed: 07/10/16
    So the photo isn’t great but we took Dex to visit his friend Abe when we went to visit our friends Dust and Jess… he had a great time.  

So there you go… another year of listing done… and I think I have done pretty good… well actually I think this is my best attempt yet with 84 things crossed off.

Here’s to 2017… may it’s list offerings bring even more joy than 2016’s.

Using My Good Days For Good… Finishing The List

Ok so 2016 is quickly disappearing and I figured that seeing as I am currently on leave from work… and I have good days and bad days at home…. but thankfully more good days than bad ones… I am going to use the rest of my good days this year doing 3 things…

1. Working out how to remember Joshua when things are good and joyful
2. Getting my Christmas shopping and planning sorted and…
3.  Finishing this year’s list.

This year’s list got a little ignored when I found out I was pregnant, because I was tired, some of the things were no longer possible and lets face it… my priorities had shifted… but now I am no longer pregnant and unfortunately don’t have little Josh to distract me… so the list has been bumped back up the priority list.  And lets face it… it’s supposed to be filled with things I want to achieve/do/try… so crossing things off it should bring me some joy… and I could do with some bonus joy.

So here is a recap of what I have done… and probably more importantly… what I haven’t…

  1. Start 2016 somewhere outside of Australia – completed: 01/01/2016
  2. Make a summer fruit platter in a watermelon – completed: 19/02/2016
    This one was actually crossed off way back in Feb… and it should have had its own blog because it is glorious… This delicious watermelon bowl of goodness… yep that’s it just on the right hand side there… was made for a girl’s night which I was privileged to lead for youth group… and both the evening and the watermelon bowl were spectacular. 
  3. Send 12 hand written cards/letters – completed: 23/04/16
    This one has also been done for a while thanks to my new subscription to ‘Happy mail‘ which I love… It has given me a reason to write more as well as pretty much the perfect card for every occasion.  
  4. Make a lolly cake – completed: 31/11/16
    Thanks to my Father-in-law and his trips to NZ this one is done… Turns out Eskimo lollies are harder to get in Australia than I had imagined… but once I got my hands on some of those the lolly cake happened… and I have it on the authority of a NZ local… (my father-in-law)… it was pretty good. 
  5. Rearrange a space – completed: 17/02/2016
  6. Play my flute
  7. Go to Disneyland – completed: 24/01/2016
  8. Find out is our house has a legit hidden fireplace
  9. Visit something older than colonised Australia – completed: 14/01/2016
  10. Have tea in London… Queen optional – completed: 19/01/2016
  11. Do a ridiculously cheesy tourist photo with a famous tourist attraction – completed: 22/01/2016
  12. Go to a country I have never been to before – completed: 02/01/2016
  13. Find a geocache – completed: 06/04/16
  14. Hide a geocache – completed: 06/04/16
  15. Watch the Prince of Egypt – completed: 18/03/2016
    This probably doesn’t need a lot of explaining… it happened and I enjoyed it… I had probably talked it up too much in my mind, but it was still good… I really love the music from The Prince of Egypt… just in case you were wondering.
  16. Go in the 2016 Melbourne Marathon festival somehow… 5, 10, half or full
  17. Be a Victorian tourist and go somewhere all the tourists go – completed: 09/07/16
    Dave and I were incredibly blessed by some parents from Dave’s work who spoiled us with a weekend away in the city and it was perfect and wonderful and just so overwhelmingly generous that I haven’t been able to put it down in words and do it justice.  But as part of this weekend we got to hang out in the city and go where all of the tourists go… we visited the National Gallery, hung out at crown, had scones with jam and cream at the Langham and window shopped in Bourke St and the Emporium… just like the tourists.  
  18. See my bestie face to face – completed: 18/01/2016
  19. Get back in the pool and swim at least 5 times
  20. Go to the Zoo – completed: 03/02/2016
  21. Make some kind of festive seasonal dish
  22. Use the fire pit
  23. Go skiing or snowboarding or tobogganing – completed: 03/01/2016
  24. Do you want to build a snowman? I do – completed: 04/01/2016
  25. Go Camping – completed: 04/04/16
  26. See some Northern Hemisphere stars – completed: 06/01/2016
  27. Run with at least 3 different people – completed: 27/02/2016
    My running game was strong for the first half of the year… it’s pretty average at the moment which certainly puts some doubt over some of the other list items, but not this one… I have run with more than 3 different friends, but the first three were Parkruns with Amy-Ruth and Annie and a fun run around the zoo with Kev and Suz. 
  28. Make a photo book or our Europe Adventures
  29. Save money each pocket money
  30. Go on a bush walk – completed: 05/04/16
  31. Go to a farmers market – completed: 27/03/2016
    Do you know what’s even better than a regular farmers market?  A twilight farmers market ’cause you don’t have to get up super early to be there and get things… you can sleep in and still enjoy all the spoils… it’s almost like you can have your cake and eat it too.    
  32. Make some meringues – completed: 03/10/16
    I don’t know why I don’t do this more often… I love meringues! 
  33. Learn how to spell meringues without having to check it every time – completed: 03/10/16
    While making my meringues I also learned how to spell the word… M E R I N G U E S… ta da! 
  34. Keep my emails under control – no extreme amounts of notifications on my phone
  35. Get and keep my photo storage under control
  36. Sew something
  37. Do some trivia – completed: 05/06/16
    There is not enough trivia in the world… I love it… although I am always disappointed if my team doesn’t win… especially if we don’t win a Disney themed trivia night… but despite my disappointment… the trivia was participated in which means it is off the list.
  38. Bake some snacks – completed: 02/10/16
    Being a little food safety paranoid while I was pregnant meant that I made some of my own snacks instead of purchasing them… which is probably just better to do anyway and they are even more delicious that store brought snacks. 
  39. See a musical – completed: 13/05/16
    When you work with a dancer extraordinaire who tells you that she is performing in Australia’s first Amateur theater production of Wicked… you get there as quick as you can, you fall in love with Wicked all over again and you celebrate this friend like never before… that’s what happened in May for me at least anyway.   
  40. Read 16 books – completed: 20/11/16
    Like I said at the top… I have had a little bit of extra down time… and reading is a good way to get out of your own head and into another land… so my book quota is now achieved, here are this years books:
    – The Revenant, Michael Punke
    – The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins,
    – Cinder, Marissa Meyer
    – The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
    – Scarlet, Marissa Meyer
    –  The Happiness Project, Gretchen Ruben
    – The BFG, Roald Dahl
    – Cress, Marissa Meyer 
    – Simplicite, Dominique Loreau
    – Winter, Marissa Meyer
    – Jesus Is, Judah Smith
    – The Concrete Blonde, Michael Connelly
    – The Black Echo, Michael Connelly
    – Inferno, Dan Brown
    – The Black Ice, Michael Connelly
    – The Last Coyote, Michael Connelly
  41. Do a water aerobics class
  42. Do a spin class
  43. Have a BBQ Wednesday
  44. Go to a state of Australia that I haven’t been to before – completed: 03/04/16
  45. Touch my feet to some red dirt – completed: 06/04/16
  46. Clean up my iTunes playlists
  47. Visit another international thermal pool – completed: 07/01/2016
  48. Clean my car more regularly
  49. Sort out my 2014 and 2015 scrap books
  50. Try at least 2 new park runs – completed: 12/03/2016
    I mentioned before that my running game had been strong in the first half of the year, which made crossing this off easier.  We ran my home away from home Inverloch Parkrun and headed to Westerfolds parkun to celebrate our friend Bram’s 100th parkrun with him.
  51. Keep my apple things updated properly
  52. Go to Inverloch at least 5 times
  53. Swim in the Ocean
  54. Have high tea – completed: 09/07/16
    Technically I crossed this one off when I had tea in London – way back with no. 10, but while we were in the city on our little get away we also had a pregnancy friendly high tea at the Langham… well scones with jam and cream and of course tea… that’s pretty much all you need. 
  55. Walk to the end of a pier – completed: 30/10/16
    Well it’s not much more exciting than what it says… we walked to the end of the pier in Inverloch… and now it is off the list. 
  56. Get some Fro-yo – completed: 11/02/2016
  57. Go roller skating
  58. Ride a bike – completed: 17/01/2016
  59. Have some pasta/ pizza/gelato in Italy – completed: 01/01/2016
  60. Have some processed meat in Germany – completed: 05/01/2016
  61. See the Myer windows
  62. Go to a place I can’t pronounce – completed: 06/01/2016
  63. Do some more work as a teacher – completed: 29/02/2016
    This year has also seen the return of Mrs G.  Still just filling in every now and again, but still teaching. 
  64. Take a photo with an English Guard – completed: 20/01/2016
  65. Take the Eurostar – completed: 22/01/2016
  66. See an Emu – completed: 05/04/16
  67. Experience the outback – completed: 04/04/16
  68. Follow through on the date box again
  69. Go to Sherbrook forest – completed: 09/04/16
    Birthdays are a good reason to cross things off the list… and lets face it, you never really need a reason to visit Sherbrook forest because it is beautiful.  We went, we tried out our new little festival chairs and had a birthday picnic… it was perfect. 
  70. Be on time… it’s time
  71. Have another Star Trek Movie Marathon
  72. Make my own dumplings
  73. Be confronted by WWII – completed: 11/01/16
  74. Go on a Gondola ride – completed: 01/01/2016
  75. Visit a real life old time castle…. like one that would inspire Disney – completed: 08/01/16
  76. Visit at least 4 museums –  completed: 12/01/16
  77. See the Berlin Wall – completed: 14/01/16
  78. Taste some dutch cheese – completed: 16/01/16
  79. Have a Shakespeare moment – completed: 02/01/2016
  80. Do a 3D jigsaw – completed: 21/09/16
    While we were away on our little babymoon in Lakes Entrance I found a little 3D duck puzzle, which if I am honest looked very very lame… which made me think it would be easy… turns out I was wrong, the puzzle was not easy… and it turned out to be pretty cute… but in interest in decluttering our house to make space for baby George we left the little duck for the next guests lucky enough to have our room in Lakes Entrance.
  81. Ride a Camel… or at least see one in Uluru – completed: 05/04/16
  82. Have one of those epic milkshakes – completed: 09/04/16
    So birthday list days are also a great reason to have an epic milkshake… and I am talking mammoth honeycomb overflowing milkshake that hits that the lactose limit harder than you will ever know
  83. Have a Random Acts of Kindness week
  84. Go on  a Road Trip – completed: 06/05
    A road trip to Mount Gambier in SA, with 20ish of our closest student friends from the Jazz Band and Jazz Choir.  Sometimes it’s fun to be a music teachers wife and to go on band trips, especially when the kids are so much fun, incredibly talented and you get to stay at the most amazing homestead in which homemade treats appearing every time you look around.   
  85. Have a wardrobe purge – completed: 29/01/2016
    I started the year with a massive wardrobe purge and then since then I have had another couple, each time clearing out more bags of stuff than I care to admit I had… At first it was just for me to make space to appreciate what I had and to stop feeling guilty about the things I had that I didn’t want or use.  Then the task expanded from my wardrobe to every cupboard and every other room as we tried to clear out space to make way for Baby George… 
  86. Do another Pinterest project
  87. Help change something at home – completed: 20/11/16
    So this was going to be the almost finished nursery… but it didn’t really happen, the nursery is still a junk room and currently not required… so instead, we just built the new bed we brought at the same time as some of the nursery furniture and ‘changed’ the bedroom
  88. See some carols by candle light
  89. Get a massage – completed: 23/11/16
  90. Keep getting closer again
  91. Make the most of my gym membership
  92. Get my menu planning and home cooking game on
  93. Spend some time in the Old testament (Study at least 2 OT books)
  94. Eat something from out veggie garden – completed: 22/02/2016
  95. Play some badminton
  96. Make sure I remember my secret list
  97. Run 5km without walking
  98. Have the parentals over for dinner… all of them… separately
  99. Be more domestic
  100. Take Dex on a Doggy Adventure – completed: 07/10/16
    So the photo isn’t great but we took Dex to visit his friend Abe when we went to visit our friends Dust and Jess… he had a great time.  

So there you go… still a lot to go… at the moment we are sitting on 61% complete… which is pretty good… but it’s going to be a big run home… some may say impossible… but not me… bring it on… hopefully with lots of ‘good’ days… oh and if you want to help with the things that are left… I would really appreciate it…

From Paris, With Love

65 JPEG image-C60BC55FD250-1wmOne thing I was really grateful for when saying goodbye to London was that I didn’t have to say goodbye to Kirsten just yet… although we almost didn’t make it to Paris with a fairly annoying Eurostar experience (don’t let the smiles in the list photo fool you… they didn’t last much longer) and a last minute accommodation change, like all things when you travel, it all worked out in the end, with only a little bit of hassle… But now that we are at the end of our Paris adventure, our goodbyes have already been done… and then compounded by the discovery of house keys in my backpack for a house in London, somewhere now a little too far away… but instead of dwelling on goodbye, and stressing about whether or not those keys will make it back safely… let me tell you 5 reasons why we loved Paris…

1. Mona and her friends…
Dave and I aren’t big gallery people, we probably could be if we wanted to, we have really enjoyed exploring all kinds of galleries and museums all over Europe. It’s just something that we have never done at home… maybe we will when we get back? Anyway, you can’t really go to Paris for the first time and not go to the Louvre… that would just be silly.  And we would have missed the opportunity to get this cracker with Mona alone… an unexpected bonus of an early winter morning visit. But if I am honest even more impressive than Mona, is all the other pieces that call the Louvre home.  The size of the painting directly opposite The Mona Lisa was particularly impressive. Painting is something I have never been good at and imagining and creating a masterpiece of this size and scale is almost beyond comprehension.

Paris1wm

2. Seeing it all… in one day…
Ok so maybe we didn’t see it all, but we did manage to see a lot and tick off most of the big tourist items off the list. Today’s efforts covered 37 866steps… from the hotel to the Louvre, through the Tuileries Garden, down the Champs-Élysées, up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe then across to the Effiel Tower, before heading over to the catacombs via the most incredible supermarket of all time. So much seen, in such a short time and all of it beautiful in it’s own way. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go in Paris, you bump into something incredible.  Oh and a special mention also needs to be made of K and R matching Dave and I’s tourist step fitness and pace… which probably came as a bit of a surprise to them, as I am not usually known for either speed or fitness, but we were well and truly in tourist mode, something we had been practicing and working up to for the last month and they just went with us like they had also been walking like this for weeks.

Paris2wm

3. Disneyland…
Not just no. 7 on the list but also Kirsten’s first Disney experience. There are a lot of ‘Best Friend’ moments I have read about, seen in movies, dreamed of and many that I have already experienced, but this was another favourite, in fact a pretty close second, only weddings beating it to number one… I mean, how often do you get to share the your best friends first visit to the happiest place on earth, your favourite place?  Well just once… and even then you have to time it pretty well when you live in Australia. But yesterday that’s what happened… and it was magical.  As far as Disneyland’s go… I have to admit that “Have a magical day” doesn’t seem to come easily to the French, and going in winter was a new experience for me, but the castle, the music, the characters and the rides were all there and it was still a wonderful day.  I also got to flex my Disney expertise muscles with a solid ride plan to make sure that we got to go on all the fastest and scariest rides and none of the soft stuff, even if they are iconic. I have now topped up my need for the tower of terror for at least another year or so… hopefully it won’t be another 4 and a bit years before traveling in that ill-fated lift again.

Paris3wm

4. The Food…
Seriously… French food… amazing. Donut pretzels… or as they like to call them Bretzels, delicious deli meats and cheese, duck and so much delicious pastry. I feel like I didn’t tap into this anywhere near as much as I should have… Or take enough photos… There is so much I should have tried, and the food we did try never had a chance to be photographed, but I guess it just gives me a reason to return.  But we did give it one more crack last night after our Disneyland adventures, we ended our time together with a delicious dinner. A long evening of great food, wonderful company and delicious dessert and very French waiter.   It was a really nice way to say a long goodbye without it feeling like that. I have loved being able to hang out and explore Europe with Kirsten and Ryan, chat like they still live just around the corner and savour our time together before we parted. It was something I was already missing, but we just dinned the night away enjoying all that France and Paris had to offer.

Paris4wm

5. The Eiffel Tower…
I know this already got a mention before, but it deserves another one. I had completely underestimated how big the tower was… it is flipping huge… It was so surreal to stand underneath it and look up at the complex steel works that held it together. My fear of heights did not enjoy the funicular rides to the top, although I was thankful that I didn’t have to walk the stairs of see-through steel mesh… because I think I would have ended up stuck somewhere on the stairs in a shaking mess. But we also got see it in some fairly solid fog and in glorious sunshine… It also gave Dave and I the opportunity to take some of my favourite photos from the trip so far… it turns out my spatial awareness is even more terrible then I ever thought…

Paris5wm

Today was also a really nice way to end our Europe adventure. Even after the tears of goodbye the night before and then again this morning, we finished it the way we started, internetlessly navigating our way around a foreign city where we don’t speak the language and then lugging all our stuff onto a train and back to the airport. But as we wandered around the gardens near the Eiffel Tower, taking silly photos it was hard to believe that this was it. We had seen and done so much and now we were soaking up our last bits of European sun and fun. It has been an incredible journey… but now it is time to go home.

The Last Little bit of London

 Ok… it’s official I am made for London. This is our last day here… well it’s only really a half day as this afternoon we are jumping on the Eurostar and heading to Paris… but the last 3 days have just been a delight.

img_1546I have decided that I was made to be in London, and to a monarchist, as we waited for the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace I imagined that I could do this fairly regularly and because my head fits perfectly in the fence I am quite happy to hangout, just hoping to see something royal! I love being surrounded by royal things, castles, gardens, even just looking at things with royal decorations… I could use royal looking teacups and saucers for the rest of my life and love every minute of it. I don’t know why I love royal things so much, maybe it’s my Disney obsession, or my royal blood (thanks to Jesus), it doesn’t really matter, I just really love being here and being able to indulge the not so secret monarchist in me.  We have walked the Mall, checked out Westminster Abbey and Kensington Palace, visited and toured Royal Albert hall and finally checked out the Tower of London, complete with crown jewels and a photo with the junior royal guard (yep… you guessed it, that was no. 64 on this year’s list) and I have wished I could some how get all of the wonderful royal souvenirs I’ve seen home… but alas I have left them here… for now anyway.  Seriously if Australia ever leaves the Commonwealth… I might have to leave Australia.

img_1547London is also home to some other pretty neat things, we visited the Blind Beggar to tick the Salvo box in my heart and popped into the original London Langham Hotel, just to see how our dream home away home in Melbourne compares… which it does. Oh and we couldn’t have visited London without seeing at least one Harry Potter thing… even if I am still trying to work my way through the books… so we stopped at platform 9 and 3/4 which lent it’s self quite nicely to a super cheesy tourist photo for no. 11 on the list… thanks to the lady who stands there all day just to make my scarf fly… using magic, and not her hands, of course.

I think this has been the hardest place to say goodbye to, maybe it’s because of the length of time we have spent, or because of what else is here, but I am really sad to be leaving London… I really hope it isn’t too long until we return.

 img_1548

London Calling

London1wmAfter my journey to London yesterday I can’t tell you how glad I am to be here. Last night when we got off the tube and headed up to Notting Hill I was greeted with the best hug I have ever had. So much can be said in a hug like that, I’ve missed you, I’m glad to be here, It’s actually you… Nothings changed… all at once. And even though Dave and I have been back out exploring today while K and R have been at work it has been so nice to know that I when I get home they would still be there. They have almost completely filled the hole that has been unexpectantly left by our tour group and our ‘what’s on sheet.’

After a false start this morning… turns out today is the one day they are close the Tower of London for ‘training’,… we have walked all over London… in the sunshine for lots of it too… who would have thought. There was so much that I wanted to see while I was here in London, so many things I had been planning, it’s really the only country that I knew enough about to have actually have an opinion. I suppose that given this was our first unguided stop it was good for me to know what I wanted, but it also meant that I had pretty high expectations and limited time. But so far today we have already crossed off some pretty big ticks, we have strolled the London streets, caught multiple tubes, climbed to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral, stopped for a spot of tea and some scones in a beautiful and massive bookstore looking out over the city… seriously how much more British can you get? We’ve spotted some monopoly sites, posed in a telephone booth and then explored the Churchill War Rooms for some Allies perspective on WWII. All before sitting down to my second home cooked meal in a month and then heading out again to catch up with my Cousin Bec, who also lives in London, in a swanky little pub with the most gorgeous desserts.

It dawned on me today that this is the first country in a couple, and sometimes even compared to home, that I actually feel at home. In so many places I have felt horrible about being white and middle class, but here for the first time I feel like this is all I need to be. That I don’t need to apologise or feel ashamed, I can just actually be me. London also seems to be filled with all the things I love, the royal family, beautiful churches and houses, fancy and pokey little shops, and tea, oh and for the time being, my bestie.

If I had to be relocated anywhere in the world, this is where I would go. Of all the cities I have seen so far in my life this is the one where I feel I belong… it actually feels like home even though it is not. My identity has been something that I have been struggling with for a while. Not… who is Emma, but more… how can I be satisfied being a white, middle class person when the whole world seems to hate me. Apart from the fact that I am a female, I am in the privileged category for almost everything… which is a huge blessing, but I am constantly feeling guilty for being born into the family and lifestyle I was… and I kind of hate it. I hate that I can’t just be what I am without also being classed as oppressive, racist, ignorant and exclusive… I am not any of these things… in fact I am constantly trying to not be these things, but even at home this is how I am taught to feel… and then when I say it out loud like I am here, I am sure someone is rolling there eyes thinking I have no idea. It’s not fair. But here… even within the diversity I feel like I am ok, like its ok to be white… Like I am just one of the rest… it’s probably actually that no one even cares that I am there… but it’s such a strange feeling and I really could get used to it.

Getting Some Perspective on the Bus

Today has been a challenging day, before we started on our European adventure getting to London was my main goal. I was excited about seeing Europe and ticking off some lifelong bucket list items, but I was really excited about getting to London… why? Because in June last year my best friend moved there so it had been a long six months since I had seen her face to face. It was the reason we chose to go now, rather than waiting another 12 months and something that I had been counting down to since the moment she left. Yet the journey to get here has been an incredible to say the least we had a jammed pack end to 2015 and the last 3 weeks has completely over shadowed my initial excitement. But today is the day we have finally arrived in London, and even though I am super excited to tell you all about being here and being reunited, today’s travel’s have been quite overwhelming and emotional and I think I need to stop and let it out… Today has not just been our last bus day, but it has included so much more. One last day stop, some confronting scenery, a ferry across the channel and a long drive through peak hour traffic and saying goodbye to our remaining tour friends one last time before we part ways for the first time in just under a month and get on the tube to our home for a week in Notting Hill.

Bruge1

We stopped in Bruges, Belgium, the home of fries, chocolate and waffles and indulged, longed for more time once again to take it all in and then jumped back on the bus and headed across the country and down through France towards Calais where we would catch our ferry across the English Channel. On our drive to Calais we were confronted by just a glimpse of the thousands of refugees who are currently living in what can only be described as squalor, outside Calais port. Many hoping to make the same journey we did, across the English Channel into the UK. This moment of reality thrown into our dream trip was jarring. I had never seen anything like this before, I had completely underestimated what a refugee camp would look like and how I would be affected just by seeing it. I was also completely embarrassed by the constant political squabble of Australia and Australians in response to refugees. I had previously been disappointed in our response to people seeking asylum, but now I just feel angry, frustrated and completely powerless. I just don’t understand, why we, the lucky country, have so much difficulty processing peoples requests for refuge, why it takes so long and why the conditions for people who wait need to be so poor.

I know there are a number of issues that impact this, but I am convinced there has to be a better way. When I think about the relatively small number of people who seek asylum in Australia, and then see the camp that I saw today, we must be joking when we talk about a ‘refugee problem’. When I see how these people have ‘chosen’ to live rather than stay where they were, my heart breaks and wonders what more I can do… I don’t really know what the answer to that is yet, but it is something that I need to think more about. Something that I can not… and like so many of the other lessons I have learnt on this trip… I should not forget… Australia does not have a refugee problem… it just needs to re-read the question and try some different answers because we have to be able to do better than what we are doing right now.