Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Yep, this 'break' from blogging has been the longest I've taken in seven years and 945 posts.

It was due to a combination of house guests, international travel without crossing any oceans, hostessing, tour guiding, thirteen year old-wrangling, achilles heel hurting, paid writing, travel planning, crap food eating, dishwasher unpacking and a hell of a lot of time waiting on train station platforms.

And what have I learnt during this time away from the blogosphere?

1) Owning a dog gives me instant knowledge of all geographical locations within a 20km radius and earns me new friends and impromptu conversation wherever we go.

To prove this finding, I'll give you just one example. As I walked with Sapphire and my parents to the UN - and discovered that it was on the day where not a single flag was up (annual washing day perhaps?) - I'd no sooner given a stricken intern some directions to the Number 15 tram stop than it was time for the obligatory pose. Everyone who stays at Chateau Lockett must stand in front of the UN flags. Or bare poles, in my parents' case.

"Is she friendly," they asked.

"Of course Sapphire is," I responded, slightly offended. "We've had our moments of course, but she's a good old stick mostly."

"No the DOG. Can we pat her?"


2) The only people you'll see in Europe wearing broad-brimmed hats and sunscreen are Aussies.

'Stretched Leather side saddle' seems to be the look that most Europeans prefer, whether it be sprayed on and pongy or grilled in over hours, days and years of rotisserating on a beach towel.  I'd be interested in finding out their skin cancer statistics when there's a spare moment.

3) Fondue is a legitimate meal.

Each and every visitor and house guest has been treated to fondue ala Lockett. Scorchingly hot bubbly cheese and stale bread is speared on long prongs and is best eaten outside on the balcony for Milly to hoover up the debris. Simple, perfect and delicious. Sort of like Love Chunks. Even in this beanie, worn on the day his beloved Crows narrowly lost to Hawthorn in the preliminary final. Results were texted to him on top of the Matterhorn, with Kate writing, 'Get to a TV now!'

4) Restricting your daily fluid intake inversely increases the need to locate and use a public toilet.

The state of such necessary facilities have left a lot to be desired during our recent travels. Despite now perfecting my squatting and impromptu cleaning skills with a stolen breakfast serviette, if a loo block is spotted, I invariably end up saying, "Don't look a gift toilet in the mouth," and use it immediately, even if my bladder is not yet calling for it. 

Alas, I've also discovered the hard way that the 'anticipatory whizz' doesn't factor into the bladder's future storage capacity or prevent an uncomfortable walk less than half an hour later when your mother says, "I don't care how lovely this market square is, if we don't find a toilet soon, I'm going to change the colour of the water in that fountain." 

5) If you smoke in France, you can make a cup of coffee last for two hours.

Unfortunately - no, not really, it's very fortunate - none of us suck on ciggies, so we can't make an overpriced and small hit of caffeine last for as long as it takes to nonchalantly smoke twenty cigarettes over a stone cold espresso cup. It'd be interesting to see the stats on lung cancer as well....... Instead, my father lacks any sort of capacity to sip a beverage no matter how hot it is and chugs it down and usually eats his croissant in a single mouthful, so our butts barely touch the seats before the waiter whips our cups away and we're back out on the streets again. 

6) Undies dry out really well when hung from cupboard handles.

We Reads (that is, me and my parents) love a good batch of hand washed clothes in an already-cluttered hotel room. Jocks on (door) knobs, t-shirts hung from the thief-proof coat hangers to drip on flattened plastic bags carefully set out on the carpet below as well as damp socks on window sills means that a small cabin bag is sufficient for a fortnight on the railway system instead of having to drag a 23 kilogram behemoth whose left wheel was popped off by a cobblestone in Nice.

7) Germans don't age very well.

Now I'm aware that this statement comes from someone so aged that even a coffee, followed by a hot shower and intense moisturising does not erase the pillow folds from her face, but the middle-aged Deutschlander is a sight to behold. Still, there must be a 'best before' switch that God flicks over at, say, age forty. The previously blonde, nubile and slim German male and female then get to see the shocking results of two or three decades of worth of stealing sunbeds at dawn, scoffing down various fat-filled offal products and cheeses and bingeing in beer gardens. When the switch is activated, the faces turn to dour scone dough, the butts widen to double-door entry only and hairs sprout where once only dewy beauty lingered. Trust me.

8) It's what's NOT said that's important. 

Is it lying if an important fact is omitted?  For example, Neuschwanstein Castle. We'd booked a hot, more-like-fifth-class second class train that saw Love Chunks hoon ahead to push aside a dozen old ladies and thrust his foot out of the carriage door in order to 'reserve' some seats that didn't have gum on them or be situated in the 'Bikes Only' section.  

Enduring a crowded and sweaty ride from Munich, we told ourselves that the discomfort would all be worth it to lay our beadies on the famed, Cinderella-like vision plonked amongst the stunning German hill tops.  From the information we'd gleaned from many sources, I anticipated seeing this:

...but instead was presented with this:

....which made us all firstly stop in shock; then laugh uproariously before being shocked again at the thousands of tourists swarming around us who were still happy to take photographs. Me included I s'pose. It would have perhaps changed our day trip plans if - oh, I don't know - the website, ticket seller, train station or tourist office had told us that the ENTIRE CASTLE would be covered by scaffolding and gauze....!??  AND that horse and carts took lazy farts up the hill and I'd invariably put my sandalled feet into a freshly-dropped frisbee of moist manure.

Same goes for the famed interior of Lyon basilica.  Not manure, but Lord knows what the poor tour guide was telling her group in Russian when the entire interior was hidden behind the world's largest Meccano set.

.......Or the cable car trip up the mountain to Saleve for the breathtaking view of Lac Leman, Geneva and the French hills beyond.  We'd booked the posh restaurant on top of the peak for 7pm and arrived at the bottom to discover that the cable car's last run for the day was 6pm.  If we'd been any earlier we'd have caught the last ride, enjoyed a terrific panoroma and meal and then been stuck up the top until the telepherique cranked up again on Sunday morning.

As it was, as we trooped back down to the bus stop we phoned the restaurant to cancel our booking and explained why.  "Didn't anybodeeee tell you zzat zee cable car was not running?" 

No they didn't, buddy.

9) Items presented over and over and over in souvenir shops are rarely seen in the real world.

Take Edelweiss.  Switzerland's national (and protected, which should have given me a hint) flower.  It is to be found on key rings, the fabric bands that hold cow bells, place mats, coffee cups, earrings, hand soap, snow domes, stickers, pencils, gingerbread, fondue pots and army bags but I've yet to see one in the wild.

Berne bears.  Three live ones are currently living a peaceful life by the river's edge and all were imported from Russia.

Lac Leman 'filets de perche,' found in every restaurant in the Geneva, Vaud, Valais and Haute-Savoie.  It has been revealed that over ninety percent are caught in Norway, and snap frozen before being sent to Geneva for deep frying and charging CHF 44 a plate.

10) Never underestimate the power of IKEA.

When extra guests arrive, there is nowhere else that sells pillows, sheets and serviettes cheaper.   On a rainy day with cobwebs in the wallet it's also the place to get the afore-mentioned 'filets de perche' and chips for CHF 4 francs and a bottomless glass of diet coke complete with the endless entertainment of watching other patrons eat, fight about furniture selections and accidentally spritz mayonnaise instead of topping onto their soft serves.  Mum and Dad loved the place.

And so, it is now time to drape more wet sheets over doors, towels over the outdoor chairs and muster up a skerrick of interest in collating the documents for our long overdue Australian tax returns.

Then again, I could just have a little rest before reading other blogs, making a coffee and patting my dog....


Andrew said...

'but the middle-aged Deutschlander is a sight to behold.'

You really ought not talk about Chancellor Merkel like that, but I was ever so pleased to see you pop up.

Elisabeth said...

Sounds like you have the business of travel in Europe summed up well. Thanks for all the travel hints.

uf said...

Re: the edelweiss, it only grows very high up in the mountains. That could be the reason you didn't see it. I saw plenty of them when my parents dragged me around the Slovenian Alps as a kid.
(then again, they're very pretty flowers so it's possible the turists picked them all)

MedicatedMoo said...

Thanks Andrew. As for Angela, she's in pretty good nick comparatively!

No worries Elisabeth. There'll be a few more coming.

Hi 'uf' - you're right about the altitude for Edelweiss, but even in Zermatt (Matterhorn country) we didn't see a single one.

Nuttynoton said...

Wise travel tips from someone getting a lot of practice, nice to see you back blogging keep em coming!

wilbo43 said...

European travel is certainly different to traveling down under. But that's half the fun of it and it looks like you had an interesting trip.

Like you, we've visited many places in Europe 'shut for renovations.' Like the Picasso museum in Niece.

Have another fondue for me.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Welcome back.

(3) A work colleague and I shared a cheese fondue in Zurich - and the following morning I felt really really sick - and I had to give a training course. It felt like I had a massive ball of cheese in my stomach.

(7) Some people in Europe have mistaken me for a German (blonde hair is a curse sometimes). I wonder what they are saying?

(10) Couldn't agree more.




drb said...

6) Undies dry out really well when hung from cupboard handles.

You are absolutely correct about that. The Read I married, travels with the biggest suitcase one can buy but still does that everywhere we stay every night. It must be in the gene.

drb said...

5) If you smoke in France, you can make a cup of coffee last for two hours.

We think that J made it a sport to inhale everything ASAP. The quickest record we have observed was - inhaled 3 large scoops of NZ icecream, cone and all while crossing a single lane road to get to the beach to enjoy the ice cream, i.e. 5 steps!!
Why? Because I can.
No brain freeze? No.

JahTeh said...

Keep it up Kath, so I won't have to worry about deep vein thrombosis flying to Europe. I believe in saving the world by surfing the net and it's safer and closer to food and toilet.

franzy said...

I am metaphorically rolling on the floor screaming with laughter about Neuschwanstein. My friend from work took his daughter last year because she had wanted to see it since birth, and fortunately it was unwrapped and they had a great time, but I will show him this photo!
But, just think: millions of people have seen it like in picture one, but you are now one of the very few in history to be able to claim to have seen it entirely wrapped. Ditto Lyon basilica - that really is impressive. Cold comfort, I know, but still hilarious.

Elephant's Child said...

How I have missed you. My face hurts from smiling my way through this gem of a post. Thank you.

Fen said...

Brilliant! I shall tell my bestie that his new German wife may be due for a trade in in a few years! She's already strangely blokey looking!!!

Aaw there's still bears in Berne? Are their living conditions any better?

diane b said...

Glad to find another post by you to give me a laugh. Your stories of travel bring back so many memories of similar happenings. I bet your parents had a whale of a time.

MedicatedMoo said...

Thanks Nutty - I can see already that I'm not going to be the sort of person who wafts in wearing some amazing outfit or shoes that earn breathless 'where did you get that' questions as my souvenirs are things like band aids from the Munich train station, a water bottle from Marseille and foot cream from Zurich!

Wilbo43, you're spot on. Each and every lesson was hilariously fun to learn.

Plasman - I have met you in the flesh and can categorically say, you ain't a middle aged German!

drb, the handwashing in hotels is clearly a Read OCD thing but the inhalation of food and hot drinks in a single gulp is all Dad. :)

JahTeh - plus you won't have to pay a euro to find a pee-splashed, seatless and paperless toilet if you stay at home....

Franzy, I'm glad you can derive some hilarity from the wrapped up Neuschwanstein - we all stood there for several moments in utter shock before pissing ourselves with laughter. I'll have to return one day to get the obligatory 'unwrapped' shots.

Thank you, E-Child - you've made my day!

Fernstar, there are bears and they have a multi-million franc enclosure that makes their lives very pleasant indeed as well as the best view in town.

River said...

There is SO Much to read here! I'm going to have to come back several times and make notes so I can leave a decent comment.
I'll start with #7 "Germans don't age very well". Now I'm glad Mum had some Swedish ancestry. She didn't look her age until the cancer really took hold and I'm happy to say that I think I look pretty good for 60.

MedicatedMoo said...

Thanks Dianeb - I think that my folks enjoyed themselves and said that they can now 'picture' everything we talk about on the phone.

River, maybe it's because your mother had some other 'blood' in her ancestry is why she escaped the German curse...?

Hannah said...

I will never forget Neuschwanstein Castle. I have never, ever experience a tour guide with less interest in his job nor a human with eyes more like a dead fish. *shudder*

I, too, am of the QUICK A BATHROOM USE IT OR LOSE IT mentality, but of course I have the most ridiculous bladder so generally always need one anyway.

Hurrah for Kath voice!

ropcorn said...

Wow! You have been a busy lady lately. Hehe. Looks and sounds like you had a great time traveling around though. Always fun to be a tourist I think. :p And of course my fave photos here are those of Milly! I especially love the one with her and all the children. :-)

Thanks for sharing Kath, and welcome back to the blogosphere again. :-)

Kirstie said...

That's a pity about the edelweiss and the castle. It's great to hear IKEA is the same the world over, tho.

MedicatedMoo said...

Hannah you just may have to *describe* Neuschwanstein to me seeing as I didn't actually get to see it! :)

Thanks Ropcorn. Milly's a pretty good 'magnet' for kids.

MedicatedMoo said...

Don't worry Kirstie, I'm sure we'll visit the castle again and I'm DETERMINED to spot some edelweiss 'in the wild' with my own beady little eyes.