Saturday, 15 July 2006

Holiday Plans: Summer 06

Unfortunately our time away this year will be a little less than we would like, due mostly to being book-ended between my experimental preparations at work and the children returning to school. Joshua also has a week-long excursion with the youth at church (see our online calendar for more 'when' details on these things). So not to make Donovan jealous but we are heading to Croatia -- specifically Rovinj -- to camp for a week or so.

We strongly considered Britain as an option but, in the end, decided we couldn't risk 'wasting' a summer there, given the definite possibility of rain (and we'd be camping). So we opted instead for a virtual guarantee of sunshine and warmth with a toss-up between the south of France and Croatia. Ah to have such options! In the end Croatia got the nod since the children wanted another country in their passports -- they also get Slovenia -- and it's supposedly cheaper.

Logistically it's about 1100-1200km away and while most of that is on the German autobahns our van typically sits only at about 120-125km/h. So we'll probably break the trip up with a stay overnight somewhere. While the weather here has been beautifully warm the last two or three weeks, we are definitely looking forward to extending that streak and complementing it with some fairly decent Do Nothing(TM).

Thursday, 6 July 2006


We have previously posted a few reports about trips we have made as a family. Many of these give a glowing report and generally depict a happy time with enthralled visitors. So that our readers don't receive an unbalanced view of our travels we feel compelled to include our recent trip to Amsterdam.

The official reason for the trip was work related. My (Fenton's) Dutch residency paperwork was finally completed a couple of months ago and the next step to finally move (officially) to Germany was to get permission (a visa, stamp in passport) from the German embassy in the Netherlands. I called the embassy and arranged an appointment, 11am the next day. Gaynor had wanted another family trip and so it was decided to combine the two. Amsterdam is about 2.5 hours away and, after battling a little bit of traffic, we arrived just little late. (I mean, you really should not too surprised hmm?) A security screening and a short waiting room stint later, I was told by a quite apologetic embassy worker that, being Australian with promised employment, I did not need a visa to go to Germany. She apologised for not asking my nationality when I had called the day before. I wasn't too upset as it meant I didn't need to provide any money or copies of official documents -- including passport photos with biometric data, whatever that means exactly. So anyway, what it really meant was that the rest of the day was ours.
At The Dam in front of the old Royal Palace
Gaynor promptly returned with the children in the car. They'd been circling since there wasn't really anywhere to park. We set off to find somewhere to park the car with the idea to catch a train or tram right into the city centre. Unfortunately, at this point the car's exhaust system had the idea that it was tired of holding together in the middle and promptly stopped doing that. I'd known for a number of weeks that there was a hole in system, still its departure was sudden. The dramatic increase in both exhaust sound and metal-dragging-on-the-ground sound was enough to convince us to quickly find a parking place. Assessing the damage led to confirming our initial fears. We firstly called the ADAC (the German equivalent of the NRMA, RACQ or AAA) to find out we didn't have on 'international' policy. They agreed to upgrade us for next time. They said they would notify the corresponding Dutch organisation, who would call shortly, however after a half hour wait of nothing I decided we weren't going to hear. Our pre-paid mobile phone had run out of credit (pay for incoming international calls I expect) and with no way to replace credit we were on our own. We are, meanwhile, feeding a nearby parking ticket machine (and they are very hungry in Amsterdam!) with the belief we may be leaving soon. After it becomes clear we are not, I take a walk to a hardware store and purchace some strong wire and cutters. A short while and a wiring up of the errant exhaust pipe later we decide to take lunch at a nearby pizzeria, determined to make the most of the time we have and press ahead with most of our plans anyway.

Though the weather up to this point hadn't been brilliant it had been holding out. Now, however, a light drizzle had started to set in. By the time our tram had made it into Central Station it was getting heavier. Nevertheless we pressed on, walking to the main city square, known as The Dam. The photo -- at the Dam in front of the old Royal Palace -- shows a wet, cold sorry lot barely holding position. Don't let the few faux smiles mustered for the photo fool you. Joshua couldn't even bring himself to be seen :) (Note Elijah's extra hat).
Mara and the South Church Tower
From there we headed to the Historic Museum, which had been a highlight of my trip here in 1999. Now our fortunes were about to improve. Not only would we be out of the rain but we wouldn't be charged the full admission price for the final hour they would be open. They had a fascinating and extensive exhibition concerning Anne Frank, including one of her diaries and a letter written to her father towards the end.

After they kicked us out we wandered to a few places of interest, including the South Church, and taking in the atmosphere of the place -- which given the chill and drizzle didn't come across with the greatest of impressions. Hey, it happens.

Eventually we decided we'd had enough 'atmosphere' and decided to call it a day. Tramming back to the wounded van, we loaded up and *cough* enjoyed a rather loud trip all the way home. We've thought about a return trip -- one with a non-self-dismantling car and in nicer weather -- but chances are Amsterdam has blown hers. Still we chalk it up to experience/character building/needing my residency sorted anyway and it was still nice to spend time together as a family. :D