(The other) Bali

I write this in thirty-odd degree heat, with the beach grinning at me to my right and a fridge full of rosé to my left. It seems a world away from Luzern where it snowed twice in the fortnight prior to us leaving, although technically we’re only a few hours by plane. We’re on the island of Crete in Greece, staying in a small beachside village called Bali.

Never having visited its Indonesian counterpart I can’t really compare them, but I can say this Bali is working out just fine for us. Our villa is perched just out of town, nestled in some olive groves with the dramatic volcanic mountains the island is known for rising around us. We had audacious plans to climb them one morning but the lure of the villa’s pool (and aftermath of afore mentioned rosé) has been too strong.

Addie is loving it. Her days include dangling her feet in the water, watching her father and I dive for toys she relentlessly throws into the pool, swimming, building sandcastles at the beach, timidly testing out the waves and screaming in public when she gets overtired. At this stage – almost five months old – it’s hard to say if Teddy is having much in the way of fun but since he’s not telling us otherwise, I have to assume it’s a win for him too. Neither child is wearing much in the way of clothes and our snow suits are happily a repressed memory. We stroll down to the local taverna a lot, and there’s a funny little toot-toot (train, to those of us who have fully mastered the English language) that chugs us into town should our horizons need expanding. It’s lazy, and warm, and I’ve finished one book and started on the next: exactly what a summer break should be.

We’re here with my parents, which has allowed us to indulge in freedoms we’re no longer used to. See those rocks in that snap down below? We went diving in the reef just below them. Like we used to do before the children. It was lovely – the water was clear and clean, visibility was amazing and we saw schools of neon fish, eels, crabs, sea cucumbers and all manner of interesting rock formations. But the best thing of all was the sound: the blissful, meditative inhalation and exhalation from my tank. This sound – and diving in general – used to scare me a little, but now my primary aural fears are relegated to middle of the night wailing, and the absence of these was pure heaven.

Crete, Greece-361Our town is a tiny tourist spot but we’re not too far from Rethymno, a larger coastal city where we headed one morning to check out the local markets. Our girl loves olives so she was in heaven as we trotted through sampling the local wares.

The old town – the largest on Crete – was lovely, with the winding alleys you’d expect providing welcome shade during the heat of the day. We stopped for lunch to belatedly celebrate my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary, and feasted on local anchovies, octopus and lamb.

And enough rosé to tucker out one of our party for the bus ride home (and ensure I was looking suitably bedraggled).

Crete, Greece-331-2We also got a boat trip in, a three hour cruise around out of the heads and round the coastline. The water here is an unbelievable mix of greeny blues, contrasting dramatically against the grey rocks. The captain pulled us in to little caves and skirted around goat-roamed rocky escarpments with great skill.

Unbeknownst to us, the boat moored for swimming (and wine or ouzo, take your boozy pick) and although we were unprepared I am pleased to advise that Motsy made the most of the situation, his Bonds doubling just fine (by European standards) as swimwear. (An aside: I’d like to pretend that these snaps of our kids accurately reflect the trip; that Teddy took the voyage calmly and that Ads was keenly interested in nautical affairs. However this was not the case. Our grizzly bear screamed for a large chunk of the trip – soothed only by his father rigorously dancing the Zorba with him in the carrier, and Adelaide clutched the iPad as if it were a buoy. Which I suppose it was, of sorts.)

Still.

And not to boast or anything, but we’re about to have our second night out sans kids; we’re all set to indulge in something seafoody and delicious while my suckers parents take care of our littles. Having said that, the nights in haven’t been all bad, with Tim revisiting his grill skills and all of us reaping the benefits.

We’ve only a day and a bit left (and we still haven’t visited two of the three beaches in town), but the week has felt long and luxurious. Even our littlest guy has worked on his chill skills. Crete, Greece-394And with that, the local taverna and its nondescript cold white wines call. Antio sas!

It’s flying by

I have spent the last week with the very best type of visitor: an old and dear friend (apologies to my parents who are due to arrive next week, but you know how it is). It’s been a week of walking, gossip and wine (not necessarily in that order. Actually, definitely not in that order). I’ve known Mel longer than I haven’t, which is generally my favourite description of my favourite people. I met her the first day of high school, and although she moved to Sydney we stayed in touch, fortunately going through similar phases (bad 90s grunge, anyone?) at the same time. We both lived in Ireland together and enjoyed our ‘fake lives’, the details of which can never be divulged (mainly due to fake life alcohol consumption and subsequent memory haze). On my return to Sydney we lived together in a few different houses, one which received the dubious compliment ‘this looks like a dude’s place’ (due no doubt to our stubby holder collection and gentleman calendar aka porn wall). It was through her that I met ‘Dr T’ as she called him, and in those first bleary months of having a new baby she’d swing by our house – happily around the corner from hers – to have a cheeky Friday night beverage, making me feel I’d maintained a footing, however precarious, in the Real World. Having her in our neck of the woods has been an absolute treat. It’s also been – for both of us, in our different ways – a chance to reflect on the [insert embarrassingly high number of] years that we’ve known each other, as well as the here and now.

My boy turned three months a few weeks ago. He’s one quarter, which is not really much of an age to be. He seems to be making the most of it though, with sodden smiles and under-the-chin giggles and unbelievably vile gas, which I assume is what having a son is all about for the next twenty years or so. Three months with my girl seemed an age. I’d just accepted a voluntary redundancy and signed off on a not especially illustrious public service career, and we were in the process of making the decision to move over here. Despite all the large scale change that was going on, I was stuck in a weird baby time warp. This time, it’s flying by.

The girl is finally talking fluently(ish) and it has been both a joy and a bewilderment to finally get some insight into what’s going on in that wee noggin of hers. She lives for slippery dips and cake (all flavours, but caramel slice cake – a mythical yet delicious sounding delicacy – is apparently her favourite) (I’m not so interested in the carrot stew cake, thanks all the same Ads). She is obsessed with the mild earthquake she completely slept through the other night, recounting where I was, the fact that her father saw his water ripple Jurassic-park style, and that she and Teddy were tucked up ‘niiiiiiice and tight’. She’s terribly bossy to her dolls, telling them she’s ‘too old’ to do certain tasks, and that ‘there are rules’ about others, clearly mimicking…um…some other unidentified bossy person. She continues to be a stellar older sister, joining in the clapping when the lad rolled for the first time, enthusiastically offering him toys, (unsuccessfully) soothing him and proudly saying ‘Addie and Teddy are best friends’ (which is equal parts adorable and loser-y). She thinks his full name is Teddy Bear and got two-year-old cranky – which is to say all hell broke loose – when I advised her otherwise.

These vignettes of daily life – my here and now – are simple and sweet (and at times horrendously dull, but the idea of caramel slice cake generally keeps me going). What’s harder is the reflection on the passage of time since we were those twelve? thirteen? year old selves, and maybe more pertinently those years in our twenties when everything was heady and full of promise (and, erm, beer). Mel and I spent a glorious spring day sans kids in a mineral spa on a nearby Alp – which I can assure you was every bit as heavenly as it sounds – mulling over all the things. A lot of it was reflective of where we’re both at respectively now, and where we’d like to be heading, but the easy nourishing nature of that conversation was only possible due to our patchwork of shared history. We know each others’ people, backstories, interests and (most fun of all) dislikes; we have also shared conversations like this more often than I could possibly recall, each one a building block. There’s a familiarity, a security, to this that allows for all manner of exploration and it is without question the thing I miss most about living away from her and my other ‘longer than I haven’t’ people.

There was nothing revolutionary discussed; in fact, a variation of the exact conversation was probably held in 1996. Still, days later – even with my return to the doldrums of screeching children, daily chores and no Mel – I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Such is the power of a (horrifyingly close to thirty year strong) friendship, which seems to have flown just as quickly as the life of the wee lad of mine.

Just across the border

Following the debaucheries of Fasnacht, Tim’s dad had scheduled a week in Berlin, staying with Tim’s sister and her partner. We met Dom and Roh in the German village of Rhinaeu to hand over the paternal cargo. We stayed in an Escher-esque German farmhouse, with odd lofts and wings, two lovely wood fireplaces, and a view of a creek with a population of (we hope) water voles (as opposed to the possibility of their less attractive cousin, water rats). After a night of catching up and sampling yet again delicious Alsatian wines, we made our way to the French town of Strasbourg, just across the border. Our early business of the day included glasses-shopping: our little girl has to wear goggles like her mother, and French specs are significantly cheaper than their Swiss counterparts. Fortunately, Peppa Pig wants to wear glasses so our little miss is down with the idea (I am coming around. I will admit there have been tears on several occasions – mine, not hers – but the cute red frames we picked together have gone a way to perking me back up). We also sourced some excellent coffee – much needed after a rocky-ish night with the youngest Purler – and hit the centre of town for some Gothic cathedral viewing.

And some sleeping in her uncle’s digs (the Palais Rohan, home of a group of cardinals, stood majestically across from the cathedral).

The largest town in the Alsace region (and the ninth largest in France), Strasbourg architecture was very similar to that of Colmar, although being a much bigger city it also had a broader range of styles. The cathedral above was an obvious difference, but many almost Parisian style balconied buildings also lined the squares. Being a border town, Strasbourg was also impacted early on in the second world war, its 80,000 inhabitants evacuated and several buildings destroyed by bombs.

After a decent amount of wandering we made our way to indulge in the local specialties of Crémant d’Alsace (the sparkling wine of the region) and ‘pie baked in the flames’ – tarte flambée or flammkuchen, depending on which side of the border you’re standing on.

The rest of the weekend was spent grocery shopping in an overwhelmingly and depressingly large French store (and subsequently skipping back across to Switzerland with our goods), feasting in our weird farmhouse and enjoying our final time with Mike for a while.

Reality has hit this week with Hotel starting a run of travel for work, meaning I’m the lone sailor on the ship at home (because let’s face it, my two wee deckhands are not good for much other than cake eating, giggling and wearing cute onesies). Amongst other boring household and administrative tasks, we’ve finally managed to secure the youngest Purler’s citizenship and – as of today – a passport, so happily in future it will only be groceries smuggled across the border.

 

(Freaky but fun) Fasnacht

This is Tim’s story, really. I’ve been a ([largely] supportive, amused, bemused and frequently jealous) bystander throughout the experience. It started after last year’s Fasnacht, when an always-enthusiastic Tim got chatting to colleagues at his office about the festival. It turned out one of them plays trumpet in a local Guggenmusik band. Tim is also a trumpeter, and it was suggested that he might be able to play along in the festival the following year.

Firstly, the band had to agree he could join. Although some members come from slightly further afield, the majority are Luzerners and certainly there were no other foreigners. He then had to audition, something which inspired more than a few nerves as it had been many years since he had picked up his horn. He left, trumpet strapped to his back as he cycled to the bunker where the band rehearsed, while I waited at home nervously on his behalf. The hours passed and eventually I went to sleep. He rolled in well after 2am reeking of beer and cigars and declared the audition a success despite having not played a note. Turns out as long as he could booze with them, the band were down with the foreigner joining.

Rehearsals started in earnest last September, held weekly. The first few sessions had Tim feeling a little glum: there was no music as everyone played by ear, the names of the traditional tunes were long forgotten, and the conversing and instruction was all in Swiss German. However as the weeks went by it started falling into place and he would come home from practice with increasing enthusiasm as his skills grew (other than the Swiss German. Still haven’t even remotely nailed that). My nerves increased in line with my due date – there was no mobile reception in that bunker – but little Teddy didn’t interrupt his father’s hobby and was rewarded with the band filming a tri-language rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to welcome him, and celebrate his sister’s birthday.

The costume was the next hurdle. The band had a Venetian theme and he needed both a coherent outfit as well as the traditional style of Fasnacht mask. The costume was sourced at a local Fasnacht speciality store, the staff happily knowing Tim’s band’s theme and being able to ensure he wasn’t out of place. The band’s conductor makes masks, and Tim had several fittings of the sculpted fibreglass headpiece, choosing eye colour, final touches and hair style (which I somewhat cruelly mocked, given his current choice is ‘bald’). The finished mask arrived about two weeks before the festival and sat in pride of place in our living room, prompting Addie to wander around declaring ‘Daddy’s mask’s scary‘ on a regular basis. To be honest, I couldn’t argue.

Finally, the week prior to lent arrived and with it, the festival. The schedule for Fasnacht is gruelling. Starting on Dirty Thursday, Tim played from the official cannon shot at 5am through till one the following morning, with similar shifts again on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. His group follows the tradition of the early Fasnacht bands, marching the catacombe-like streets of the Luzern Altstadt playing, and popping into local restaurants to serenade diners with their tunes.

Marching the cobbled, bustling streets of the city while trumpeting in an oversized mask is, apparently, tricky business.

Luckily, the rest of the band were old hands and made sure Tim was well-fuelled for the task.

Let’s drop the euphemism:  by well-fuelled of course I mean drunk. In between playing sessions they hung out at the band’s stand which converted into a bar. The day started with beers, progressed through wine to gin and tonics, and then when someone needed a pick-me-up, espresso grappa shots. It was little wonder their audition process was so exacting.

Tim’s dad had travelled from Australia for the festival, having been here last year and falling for its bawdy charm. Himself a trumpet player (it’s genetic, clearly) Mike became the band’s groupie at first and then joined them on the final few days as an honorary ring-in, making his trip quite the experience. I confess that as much as I love my two littles, I also love festivals and day drinking, and holding the fort while the lads had a ball was at times hard. Luckily, the kids and I made it down a few times to experience the hullaballoo.

Fasnacht was weird and wild and the streets were pumping throughout the day and night (and provided me with some good ‘here’s what happens if you don’t eat your vegetables’ material).

And of course, I did my best to make up for lost party time.dsc_8952In a country where we’d been warned the locals were not particularly welcoming, and that it would be hard to make meaningful Swiss connections, Tim feels so fortunate to have shared this crazy experience with a bunch of people who he now calls friends (or at the very least, epic drinking buddies). The hospitality was extended to me and the kids as well as Tim’s dad, making a week that will be remembered for years to come (even if said memory is sightly beer and grappa hazy).

(Also, that’s our baby’s rattle Tim’s a-shaking there. Nothing but the best instruments for our family.)

A forest fling

The last weeks have been hectic yet dull as I’ve been learning to juggle a not-so-tired-anymore ten week old and his increasingly tempestuous (cough terrible) two year old sister. There are differences to when she was young – he smiles so much! eats so easily! who’d have thought the two might be related! – but there are also similarities. The primary one: walking. When Adelaide was teeny I walked everywhere with her as it was a surefire way to get her to sleep (bus roulette, anyone?). With the Tedster there’s little choice; toddler sisters demand movement. We traipse the streets (well, the streets that lead to slippery dips) of Luzern until one out of the three of us are exhausted. The upside of this is that when Tim’s dad – the kids’ Grumps – who is visiting expressed interest in checking out the local bush, we were happy to oblige.

We made our way to Adligenswil – about 20 minutes away – for a hike through the no-longer-snow-covered forest. I’m not so bold as to call it spring quite yet, but there’s something going on.

Hiking in Switzerland is a very common pastime and we ‘grüezi mitenand’-ed people constantly (not least because we were somewhat map deficient and may have circled back on ourselves a few times). Tracks are well marked, and hobbies well catered for: we came across bird-watching towers (enthusiastically investigated by Grumps) and exercise circuits as we walked.

As always with hikes – here and anywhere – it’s the intimacy of the landscape that makes it worthwhile. Tim fell for bedraggled trees, Grumps found himself lost amid towering trunks and, every now and then, corners were turned to spectacular vistas, reminding us of where we were.

 

…et la deuxième partie

In part, our trip to Paris was to celebrate my birthday. It’s the last year before I have to be in denial about being forty, and we saw it in well: a luxurious lunch at the (surprisingly child tolerant) local and an epic cake that delighted Addie and bored Teddles.

In the height of decadence, my wonderful mother in law looked after the kids while Tim and I hit the town for dinner. By ‘hit the town’ I mean we raced out, guzzled wine and a bistro dinner, and legged it back home as the clock ticked over to double figures (and my boy started screaming). But the delicious wine came in a ginormous wine-glass shaped decanter, and the boeuf was the size of my head, and it was totally worth the sleepless night.

Our holiday rationale (not that one needs an excuse to go to Paris), other than my birthday, was to get out and travelling again as soon as possible as a family of four. We’d taken Addie on her first trip at six weeks (to a 90th birthday bash in Melbourne. We know how to party, people) and conquering my ‘travelling with a newborn’ fears stood us in good stead for future adventures. We wanted to do the same with the lad, especially as Gra was with us to pick up any disastrous slack. I’m not quite prepared to call it a roaring success, but it forced us to leave our comfort zone and we know a bit better how to coordinate ourselves in future. The week certainly had its challenges, and in some ways I feel we slightly short changed Paris as we weren’t able to experience quite as much as we’d have been able to,say, sans kids. I’ve never thought they’d be to my taste, but I now understand why people with littles choose package sun holidays.

paris-792However! It felt terribly indulgent to be there, and we explored as much as we could (I am fairly sure we covered every single playground in a 5k radius). And as we succumbed to the sweet lure of technology on the train ride home, we all agreed that it was a wonderful trip (although perhaps not quite so much for our waistlines. It’s officially Diet Town in our house).

Gra departed yesterday afternoon; she’ll be sorely missed by us all. In a minor miracle both the children are asleep at once (well, they’re quiet at any rate, and I don’t want to be advised differently) and it feels we’ve turned a small corner away from crazy newborn land. We couldn’t have done it without her gentle helping hands (especially when they passed my delicious nourishing wine) and our little family feels much fuller, more balanced for the experience.

Paris, partie un…

I’m not going to lie: travelling with both a five week and a two year old ain’t the most fun I’ve ever had. Admittedly it’s not the absolute worst, but as Tim’s mum has said on numerous occasions, my holiday standards need to be temporarily lowered (I could, of course, be making jokes about travelling with said bambinos and my mother-in-law, but in fairness she’s been the holiday hero and is quite right about standard adjustments).

We’re in Paris for a week. We caught a train from Luzern last Thursday – it’s only a four hour trip, and we figured there would be plenty of capacity for the kids to wriggle around if needed. Also, due to the bureaucratic complications of both our home and adopted countries, Teddles is currently a Man of No State meaning the passport controls of airports needed to be, um, dodged. We’re staying in an apartment near the Place de la République, an area which we’re getting to know quite well given the boy is on three hourly feeds and the French do not support out-of-the-home breast feeding. Again: standard adjustments.

Happily, we have some fine literature on Paris which is keeping us informed (although is apparently a little dull for some of the crew). It’s also helped our wee mademoiselle identify the ‘wow, fantastic’ Eiffel Tower.

If the truth be told, I don’t actually mind having an excuse to keep it local. We’ve found a delicious bistro around the corner that we’re tag-teaming visiting for dinner, a lovely coffee shop to provide necessary support for our late nights, and of course all the street pounding our hearts (and cranky unsettled children) desire.

We were joined for the weekend by Aunty Dom and Uncle Roh, who as always brought the fun times (and entertained our kids, which is always greatly appreciated. NEVER LEAVE EUROPE YOU GUYS).

We decided fairly early on that waiting in line for hours for The Art (which wouldn’t be particularly appreciated by half of our family) wasn’t for us. Instead we’ve opted to wander the streets – and the Seine – to absorb the city (and to attempt to counteract at least some of the pastries, pomme frites and vin rouge being consumed). Thus far, we’ve spent several days meandering, one on a river tour, and made daily trips to assorted parks to appease the resident toddler.

And of course, in Paris, that’s pretty much enough.

(Other than the food. Did I mention that?)