See Y’All Later

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It has been one year and five days since we arrived back to Australia from our trip to Europe which was 5 weeks after we returned from a year living in the north west of Tasmania (see our Tassie blog oneyearintassie.wordpress.com ).

And now we are heading off again. This time we are moving to Atlanta Georgia in the U.S.A. (see our USA blog ourusaadventures.wordpress.com)

So see y’all later.

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It’s a Small Small World

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In my last post I introduced the Australian family who had bought our old motorhome (Max) from the company we had sold him back to in The Netherlands.

We had been writing to this family about our trip and had been giving them some info relating to motorhoming in Europe and also about the things we found useful in a motorhome, and they purchased Max.

Since we have been back in Australia we have been writing to a number of different people, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, who are interested to know how we went about our trip, and who are after info relating to motorhomes and life on the road in Europe.

A second Aussie family went to the company we had used in The Netherlands and they also purchased a motorhome, almost exactly the same as Max; the motorhome part is the same with a different model Fiat truck as the host vehicle.

This is where things get a little strange and surreal. Hopefully I have the details of this story correct.

Family number two pulled into a campground in Bulgaria and noticed a motorhome that was almost exactly the same as theirs. I think they had read about the family who purchased Max from our blog and they wondered (I don’t think they expected it) if the motorhome belonged to that Aussie family.

Well as it turns out the motorhome they were now parked near was Max. So two Australian families that we had written to numerous times through our blog bumped into each other in Bulgaria.

It is amazing to comprehend the probability of that happening – It is a small, small world.

These two families have kids who are similar ages so they have now spent some time travelling together and plan to meet up again later in the year.

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Max’s New Family

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As I have mentioned previously we have been contacted by a number of families since we have returned to Australia. These families are all in the process of planning to do a trip similar to “Our Year in Europe”. Most have been Australian; there has however been one from Brazil.

It has been enjoyable to respond to these families and endeavour to pass along any information we can give them to help them with their planning.

We purchased Max through a buyback scheme which meant that when we left Europe we sold him back to the company we had purchased him from – less a small fee of course for the privilege.

One of the families we had been corresponding with ended up buying Max, so now Max has a new Australian family.

We really hope that they have as much fun and adventure as we did.

4 Weeks Down Under

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It has now been about four weeks since we returned to Australia.

It is a very strange feeling being surrounded by everything familiar, but feeling disconnected at the same time.

We have been hugely impacted as a family by our time away, but at the same time it can often feel like we have not been away.

It is nice to go to the grocery shops and understand what you are buying, but I am often surprised when I hear people speaking English.

The return to driving on the left has gone without hiccup although I did decline the offer to drive home from the airport after our 27 hours in planes and airports – I think I may have been a little rusty. Surprisingly SWTTM seems to be having more problems from the passenger seat, sometimes going to tell me I am going on the wrong side of the road when in fact I am on the correct side – it is strange how our brains work.

We have enjoyed catching up with family and friends and have been slowly getting around to everyone, made more difficult by the fact that as we had cancelled our phone accounts before we left the only common theme is our email address.

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We have enjoyed going to church again.

It has been great to be able to stay at my parents’ place while we got our house back in order, with lots of unpacking and sorting as well as trips to the dump in an effort to get the yard back in order. But after a couple of weeks we are in our house and starting to get sorted, although the house still looks a little like a bomb zone.

It has been rather confronting to deal with the massive amount of stuff we have. We have essentially been living with what would fit in our car, or what would fit in a motorhome for the last two years, so getting all of the stuff that was crammed into our shed out really brings to light the volume of stuff we own, but obviously don’t really need (after all we have not had it for two years). So we will be having a few garage sales this year.

When we left the Netherlands the daily high temperature was about 10 degrees, since we have returned we have sweated through a couple of mid to high 30 degree days which is not much fun.

We have yet to go to the beach for one of our family breakfasts that we all love so much, but hopefully we will tick that off soon.

So our return has been one of happiness and sadness: one of enjoying family, friends and familiarity while missing the open road, the palpable reliance on God and the closeness from having only our family of 5. Our Year in Europe is an adventure we will not quickly forget and one that we are going to strive to retain the memory of as well as the benefits it brought our family.

We thank God so much for the opportunity.

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On a different note we have been amazed at the families that have contacted us, telling us that they are planning a similar adventure. We have had the privilege to write back and forth with some of these and hopefully pass on a few tips we learnt, in an effort to make their adventures go that little bit more smoothly. We really enjoy being able to help people in this way.

Final Stats

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Well today is our last day in Europe.

So to bore you one last time here are some statistics from our trip.

Days away – 347

Days remaining – 0 in Europe.

Kilometres travelled – 32,000

Days behind in blog writing – 0, finally up to date.

Blog Words – approx. 115,000

Blog Photos – 2466

Blog Posts Published – 310

Photos – 91,500

Countries – 24

Dubai – 1 night.

Netherlands – 27 nights.

Germany – 48 nights.

Switzerland – 7 nights.

Italy – 50 nights.

France – 36 nights.

Monaco – 1 day.

Spain – 20 nights.

Portugal – 6 nights.

England – 45 nights.

Scotland – 21 nights.

Northern Ireland – 10 nights.

Ireland – 17 nights.

Wales – 4 nights.

Belgium – 5 nights.

Luxembourg – 2 nights.

Denmark – 6 nights.

Poland – 10 nights.

Czech Republic – 5 nights.

Austria – 8 nights.

Slovenia – 3 nights.

Croatia – 14 nights.

San Marino – 2 nights.

Vatican City – 1 day.

We have stayed the same place for 2 nights on 30 occasions, 3 nights on 7 occasions, 4 nights on 6 occasions, 5 nights on 3 occasions, 6 nights once (Paris), 7 nights twice (London and Giethoorn).

Stayed for one night only – 207 nights.

Nights with a real roof over our heads since we left Australia – Adults: 11; Kids: 13.

Fuel Prices –       Cheapest Australian Dollar Equivalent $1.72 – France, near the Swiss border – Mid December

Dearest Australian Dollar Equivalent $2.83 – Central England – End April

Average litres per 100km – 13.37

Ferries caught – 5.

Tunnels – we lost count.

Driving offences – still zero as far as we know.

Drives in a Ferrari 458 – 1, oh yeah.

Accidents – 0

Over budget – about 22%

What a Year

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Well what a year; we always knew that 2014 was going to be a different year from any we had experienced before. We knew we would be travelling throughout Europe but other than the small amount of info we had garnered from travel magazines and from the internet we didn’t really know what was before us.

Our “About” page on this blog says that we want to achieve the following three things:

We hope to grow together as a family.

We hope to grow closer to God.

We want to see the big world that GOD has given us and expand our minds.

 

And we have definitely achieved these.

The five of us have been squeezed into a motorhome that has a living space, kitchen, bathroom, the girls’ bedroom and our car in an area that is smaller than most lounge rooms, so physically we have definitely been forced closer. We have spent just about every waking, as well as every sleeping moment, within 7 metres of each other so we have been close.

But the experiences and the challenges we have had have impacted us all and have forced us to not only work together but also has caused us to come closer. I hope and pray that this continues when we are in Australia.

Every day we have woken up not really knowing what the day would bring. There has been a huge potential for drama and this has forced us to rely on God more which I think is a good thing. God’s amazing creation has also drawn us to Him and caused us to praise Him on many occasions.

Many of our misconceptions have been challenged and we have seen many things that we did not expect. We have experienced many, many different things which have raised many emotions.

So to sum up our year we have had a fantastic year, we have seen many amazing sights. Of course the History of the buildings we have seen is nothing like what we have in Australia. We have also had a year that has had many challenges that we did not foresee – I was amazed at how hard it has sometimes been (I am sure everyone feels sorry for me). But I have also been amazed at some of the things we have done and seen.

God has been very good to us and we have stayed safe and have not had anywhere near the problems we could have had.

As we drive we usually listen to music so we have listened to lots of music. This has contributed to our life becoming a big cheesy musical with people breaking into song all over the place – I just wish everyone would, “Let it go. Let it go; get this song out of my head.”

So after a great year we are now close to heading back to Australia. This of course comes with mixed emotions. We are of course keen to get back to Australia but we have also had a great year and we will miss the time we have spent together and the amazing things we encountered each day.

We really thank God for this year and I am sure it will impact us for years to come and I thank my family for another incredible family adventure.

Lost in Translation

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In the interests of maturity I have refrained from posting about the subject of words and their sounds and how something in one language can mean or seem to mean something totally different in another.

Those who know me know that maturity is not one of my strongpoints so I have caved in and here is an example – some would probably argue that since this sign is pointing to me the word in question should probably be preceded by “Old”.

As I said this is just one example. The word actually means exit so we have seen it over and over again especially as we drive along the highway. Even after almost a year I can hardly refrain from making a joke about Aussies and bodily functions as we pass by these signs.

Our Last Week

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It has now been almost One Year since we arrived in Europe, so that means that it is almost time to leave.

As you can imagine even though we knew that we were only spending a year here and that we were limited in what we could return to Australia with we have still managed to accumulate some extra gear. So we have to work out what will be going back and what will not.

Max also has to be returned so we have to take some time to clean him up.

To get all of this done we decided to spend our last week in a house. The place we chose was a little thatched cottage on a canal in the historic village of Giethoorn in the Netherlands.

It is a quiet little place which has lots of character. There is a fireplace (as well as central heating) which of course is very nice and lighting up a fireplace is something we definitely will not be doing in a week’s time when we are back in Australia.

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The place was nice when we arrived but as we unloaded Max it became a bit of a bomb zone, but it was great to have the space to do it.

It is really nice to be stationary for a whole week without having anywhere to go and not too much to do. But it is also tinged with a hint of sadness as it drives home the fact that our time here is almost over.

There is a sauna here so that at least gives us the chance to spend some time in there and get ready for when we return to Australia.

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We even got to watch a bit of the Australian version of Master Chef on TV.

While we stayed here we needed to do a bit of shopping so I borrowed a bike from the place we were staying and rode to the shop. The Netherlands is known for a few things: water, windmills and pushbikes. The pushbike was not a style that I would go out and buy but it was very European, so I fitted in. The ride was a little further than I remembered (amazing how it seems so short when you are driving). Riding made it very clear why they have windmills in the Netherlands and I was riding into it, but that was good on the way home – at least it was flat, very flat.

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Happy New Years

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Our New Year’s Eve was going to be in Northern Germany. In the lead up to New Year we began to wonder what things were going to be like on the night. When we went to the supermarket there were sections of the store dedicated to fireworks, and people were walking out with a trolley full of them. In Queensland (Aust.) we cannot buy fireworks anywhere, let alone in the local supermarket.

I did notice that the store had a fire extinguisher located at each corner of the fireworks display, but I didn’t want to be there if they all went up, even if there were four fire extinguishers.

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We stopped for the night in a town called Minden (we wondered a little about this place – was it like Minden in Northern NSW) which has about 80,000 people.

Our family is not really a party in the New Year kind of family so the plan was to have a normal evening and head off to bed; this is one reason why we stayed the night away from a major town.

This of course was not to be. The fireworks started at about 8 pm, they were sporadic at first and then increased in regularity. Of course at midnight they were going off constantly. We had all gone to bed, the kids were asleep – until midnight that is.

The fireworks woke the kids up, so we had a look out the windows to check them out. Of course we couldn’t see them that well from inside so we headed out.

It was very cold and we were in our PJ’s but we were not worried. In every direction we looked there were fireworks going off. Keep in mind these are not fireworks from an organised show but are just individuals buying fireworks and then just letting loose.

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It was an amazing experience, especially for us who only usually see only organised fireworks shows. I just kept laughing at the spectacle that it was, and looking around in the freezing cold.

Even though we were in a camp spot across the river from the main town there were quite a few people around, setting off fireworks in the nearby field and on the footbridge across the river.

Legoboy didn’t wake up with the other kids, so we thought we should wake him up and let him see all of the fireworks. He woke up had a look out the window then promptly fell back to sleep and had no recollection of it the next day.

As we drove around the next few days both in Minden and in other towns there was fireworks rubbish all around the place, a bit of an unfortunate side effect of the crazy New Year’s celebration.

New Year’s Eve 2015 was definitely a unique experience for us.

VW Autostadt

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The VW Autostadt (Auto City) is a VW group attraction at the VW Wolfsburg factory. According to VW this is the biggest car plant in the world and produced 836,000 cars in 2014 – which is a lot considering there were about 1,000,000 cars sold in Australia in 2014. There are over 50,000 staff here. Unfortunately when we visited the plant was closed for the Christmas New Year’s break so we couldn’t visit the plant.

The Autostadt features an exhibition which shows the process for the design and building of cars in the VW group. In this exhibition a number of production cars have been cut through at various stages of the production process. I am pretty sure that if I had a Bentley (or a Lamborghini, Porsche Panamera or a VW Golf GTI for that matter) I would not be cutting a big chunk out of it – but each to their own.

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We even got to design our own cars.

Inside here where it was nice and warm was a big play area as well as kids’ driving simulators and a number of different vehicles that the kids enjoyed riding.

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There is also a very impressive car museum here that is filled with some really iconic cars.

Each of the manufacturers (excluding Bentley and Bugatti) in the group have a pavilion here showcasing their cars, some better than others.

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Lamborghini put on a presentation every 30 minutes in their pavilion. We had to run to get there on time but it turned out to be the most bizarre light and sound show which culminated in the Lamborghini that was mounted on a big turntable on the wall “disappear” through the wall. It was very strange and we all kind of looked at each other in disbelief at the end.

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Now you see it.

 

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Now you don’t

 

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Part of the philosophy of the Autostadt is to include art and architecture into the whole experience (we put the Lamborghini experience down to art) so there are some interesting buildings and some interesting art interpretations.

One of the over-the-top art installations was the Premium Club, which was a pavilion dedicated to a chrome Bugatti Veyron.

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If you buy a VW in Europe you can choose to visit the Autostadt and collect your car there. The cars that are to be delivered this way are stored in one of two glass car towers so you can watch your car be picked out of this tower by an automated lift and then delivered to the customer showroom. We didn’t buy a VW but we still had the opportunity to visit the towers.

During the visit you sit in a glass cube and are carried up to the top of the tower by the mechanism that moves the cars around. It was a great way to see how the process worked as we made our way up the 48 metres through the 400 car spaces in the tower.

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The view from the top allows you to look over the factory, which is unsurprisingly huge and includes 3 power stations, and the town of Wolfsburg which exists only because of the factory.

After our day at the Autostadt we headed back to Max (we were able to camp at a dedicated camp spot in the car park) and had some dinner.

But the day was not over yet. After collecting the kids’ Ice Skates (yes we bought ice skates – 10 Euros at Aldi) and some more warm clothes we headed back to the Autostadt and the Christmas Market and Ice rink. The rink was a huge outdoor one, set up on one of the lagoons. Us oldies hired some skates and we all had a great time finding our feet and getting better and better. The rink was very busy to begin with, but after 2 ½ hours when it was due to close at 10pm we had the place to ourselves which was nice. Only the boys had crashes, maybe we got a little too comfortable.

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The girls met and talked to a couple of local girls. It has been great for them to meet different teenagers around Europe and swap emails etc. and then keep in touch with each other.

The Autostadt proved to be an interesting and fun place to visit. We were all pretty tired after our day – the next morning Legoboy did not wake up until about 10:15.