Visby, Views, Svimming and Vind

A day in Visby saw us battling what felt like, gale force winds! We met up with Jen and Will, Emma and Charlie for – yes, you guessed it, afternoon coffee! And then Dave and I took a walk around this really nice port town.

We wandered around the old wall, checked out some very old buildings, stopped in the botanical gardens (for some photo opp’s when then sun came out!) and sat on some sheep! (stone ones of course!)

At Charlie’s reccommendation, we drove to a fabulous part of Gotland. The views here are spectacular and after a short walk, we felt on top of the world. It was on a point looking out into the ocean – over the tops of cliffs, with sandy beaches below and nothing in front of you except water. We put Charlotte in her sling and hiked up there. It was beautiful.

Emma and I worked up enough sweat to take a dip (or so we thought until we stripped off and felt how cold the wind actually was when you weren’t wearing a fleece, jeans and jackets!) We braved it though…. you couldv’e heard our screams for miles – but we even swam (or gasped!) our way around from the beach to the end of a small jetty! what wild women we are!!

Casual Cycle

We had nice weather on Monday in Gotland. Emma and Charlie had a great idea for the day. ‘Let’s hire bikes and go for this lovely little casual cycle around a small island off Gotland. We can rent bikes and ride them onto the free barge that takes you over the other side. We know a really nice cafe to have lunch in, a bit more of a ride and coffee in the afternoon – then back on the barge.’ We had Charlie’s folks staying too, so Will and Jen were keen to go for a ride also – so off we went.

Poor little Charlotte – we still couldn’t get a helmet to fit her, so we nervously strapped her into a kiddie seat and pedalled off towards the boat. The riding on the other side was great – fairly flat (or so we thought!) and we seemed even to have tailwinds that pushed us effortlessly along! We all knew it was going to

be a mission coming back if the wind didn’t change! Ohe well, let’s not think about that now, just enjoy the ride!

We stopped a great spot for lunch! It was pretty windy now and cold – but the cafe had blankets so we could sit outside and dine al fresco quite comfortably. It had been a long morning, and very tiring for Tilly and Charlotte and as we pulled our bikes into the garden at the cafe, the girls were slumped forward as asleep, in their bike seats! So cute!

After a few stops at a couple of beaches to admire the view,we pushed on. A small ‘scenic route’ took us an axtra 15 or so km and finally we were back on the r

d that took us to the ferry. It was 18 km away. As we turned into the wind, it suddenly seemed very uphill! By then, we were all complaining (except Charlie – buns of steel!) that our butts were sore. Our legs were like jelly… but we were determined.

Eventually about 6pm, we could see it – the ferry terminal was in sight! We’d made it! Hooray!!! After some careful calculations, we estimated we covered over 50km on our ‘little ride!’. Not bad for people who haven’t ridden a bike in years! And how many times, I hear you ask, did they get off and push?? NOT ONCE! Nope, we pedalled through the pain, we pushed it through the envelope…. we were heroes! (well, in the Barker luncbox anyway!)

A quick drink of milk for the very hungry babies (and help for their mums to get off their

ground once they had fallen there with sheer exhaustion!) and we were on the boat back again!

Thanks for a great day guys!

Transport Delights

We left for Gotland, from Frankfurt Hahn airport on Friday 24th August. We spent the evening before, Thurs the 23rd with Lauren and Justin, eating and drinking whilest discussing travel plans. Hope all is going well for you guys!

Friday morning saw us up at 5am! We were then on the 625am barge to cross the Rhine River. Arriving at the airport, we then flew out at 925am. After getting to Skavsta airport, Sweden, we discovered that buses were only available 30 mins after each flight had landed. If you missed it, then you had to wait until another flight arrived into the airport. So after a mad dash we found our bus and sat on it for the 80 minute journey into Stockholm central.

We sat for half an hour waiting to get information at the train station (they have a ‘get a ticket and wait to be called’ system!) – only to be told, we needed to go downstairs for our particular query. GRRRR… then after another, get your ticket efforts – we found out the train we needed left at 1422, it was now 1415! So, with no lunch and feeling pretty tired by now, we managed to get on our train. Only then to have to get off it 45 mins later – to get the connection that would get us to the ferry terminal. Our connection was already waiting on the opposite platform and of course, the lift wasn’t working – so we legged it down and then up again, the stairs. Poor Charlotte’s head was nearly bounced off as we jiggled her down and up again!

After our second train trip of about 40 mins again, we reached the ferry terminal. Well, almost…. we still had to lug our gear about a 15 mins walk! But, hooray we’d made it -Nynasham Ferry terminal. After our 3 hr ferry crossing, we pulled in to Visby, Gotland. Our fabulous Rent-a-Bomb, was waiting there for us and we drove the 25 minute trip to Emma and Charlie. Our Swedish vacation was well on the way……

Bad Wildbad

In 2005 I attended a midwifery conference in the quaint German town of Bad Wildbad. It was such a pretty little place I vowed to take Dave back there. So, we took this opportunity to meet up with our great mates, Cath and Flip. They were even keen to lower their usual 5 star standard, and meet us in a campsite!

(still, their little apartment they rented – was a great treat for us!) We spent 5 days here, enjoying the walks and Cath and Flip took time to indulge in their passion of mountain biking.

We tried to rent bikes, and had a couple lined up but couldn’t get a helmet or bike seat small enough for Charlotte – so it was not to be this trip!

We took a couple of drives to surrounding towns like Calmbach and Calw (and no, this is not a spelling mistake – there actually is a place by this name!) We sampled Black Forest Gateau (as you have to when in the black forest!), the wonderful chocolate florentines and went on some great walks.

There is a small funicular railway that takes you up to the top of one of the small alps in the town of Bad Wildbad. It is a very popular downhill mountain biking place with treacherous looking paths aiming straight down. The funicular was full of guys with their bikes, wearing their fulls suits of protective gear. We went up here and had a little stroll, then back down the mountain – for coffee of course!

Charlotte had a great time scuffling about on the floor of Cath and Flip’s apartment. She loved having breakfast on the balcony and looking at the ‘other baby’ on the mirror there! Thanks so much for meeting uop with guys, we had a great time. It was wonderful to see you again. And of course, you are welcome – with the fancy coffee machine – to join us at any campsite, any time!!

Nipped into France…. just!

Our time in Engleberg ended on Wed the 15th August and we headed back to France. Charlotte’s Zio (Uncle) Tulio has a house on the edge of the French/Swiss border and we have spent a lovely 3 days here. We went to Lake Geneva today and had lunch in a small cafe in the town of Coppet. So although we have been sleeping in Frrance, we spent the day backover the border in Switzerland. It is tricky for the budget as you swap between Swiss Francs and Euros – but hey, it’s all part of the fun.

Many Thanks to Tulio for the use of his house – it has been wonderful, Thankyou!

Saturday sees us heading to Germany – about a 4.5 hour drive to where we are meeting dear friends Cath and Flip.

Until the next update……Au revoir xxx N, D + C xx

Tit(li)s and All

Sunday saw us heading to the 3000m mountain named Mt Titlis. The area of Engelberg is surrounded by mountains with cable cars to get up them. There are several cable car stops and different routes you can take to explore them all. It would take a very long visit to get through them all so we decided to go for the biggest!

There is a small cable car that took us up the mountain for the first leg. They are very small ones and we just fitted in with Lottie in her buggy. As the top of Titlis is 3000m above sea level, we had been advised to take Lottie up in stages so she ould not suffer any adverse effects at the top. So we stopped at Trubsee – 1800m above sea level.

We had taken our usual picnic lunch and walked round the Lake Trubsee. It was very pretty here with little signs along the away in English to describe the many different plants and herbs that were growing in the area. There were also plenty of cows around to fertilise for the plants!

We sat for lunch on the edge of the lake and took some nice pics in the sun. There were little round stone barbecue pits complete with boxes of wood and paper for you to light a fire and cook your lunch. We saw a family using one with spare log seating around them, so we started chatting with them whilest our sandwiches were toasting!

Swiss Family Mathis not Robinson!

It was here we met the Mathis Family. Denise and her hubby Hans are both Swiss farmers. They own milking cows and spent the summer on the Alps, following the cows to various levels up and down the Alp where they live in a hut- with their 7 children! They have huts on each level and they live, wherever the cows are living! In winter, they have a house in Engelberg.

Denise also has bees and makes her own honey. We asked her where we could buy some of it and she invited us around to her home (the winter one!) that evening. We found the Mathis home and were overwhelmed by the beauty of it. A traditional Swiss Chalet perched on the side of a mountain, with stunning views. the Mathis Family built this house themselves – mostly Hans and his son, and they had help from a co-op style organisation. It took them 3 years! Plenty of wood, sloped roof, planter boxes with bright coloured flowers, spread over 3 floors – with 7 bedrooms and 2 kitchens it is an amazing home – you should be very proud. wWe were treated to a lovely supper. We sampled Denise’s honey with her homemade butter and cheese.
We met some of the Mathis children – Antonia (who at the age of 5 and speaking no english, was fearless in her playing with Charlotte and took great delight in showing off her bunny rabbit and one of their 9 cats!) Vreni and Barbara – whose English was great and it was nice chatting to you both. Good Luck to Barbara who is off to the USA in a week or two – have fun and hope to hear from you soon Barbara!

We had an unexpected meeting on a mountain over lunch, that led to us meeting a wonderful family. We wish you all the best with your farming and your family – and Thanks again for the lovely hospitality!

Up to the top

After our walk and lunch at Trubsee, we headed further up towards the top of Mt Titlis. You take a large cable car where you are all crammed in like sardines and standing until you reach Stand. Here you change into another type of cable car where the centre rotates. It only taked 4 minutes in this car, but as you are rotating it seems longer! Charlotte drank milk during this time to make sure her ears did not suffer. She was fine.

At the top of Mt Titlis there is an Ice Grotto. It is a cave in under the glacier that has been naturally formed. It is a fairly constant temperature of -1deg to 1 deg c and the ice temp sits around -1degc. We rugged up and went in for a look. It is free and pretty amazing in here!

We decided to be brave (or stupid perhaps!) and take an open chair lift over the glacier itself. The visibility was pretty awful as we were surrounded by cloud. The sun glare off the white ice made it impossible to see without sunnies on and Charlotte was squinting badly for most of this time.
The chair lift was scarey but we survived and went down into the Glacier Funpark. They have free ‘toys’ for big and small kids to play with – so we took it in turns to nurse Charlotte in her sling and have a go! Dave tried SnowTubing – which involved sitting on a big rubber tyre and shooting around a curved track in the ice.Narelle tried her hand at a toboggan! We had a great time. When our wet undies got the better of us, we headed back to the top of Titlis for a hot chocolate and to begin our descent back down the mountain.

A truly awesome day.

Hiking High

The weather on Friday (10th August) was lovely so we decided to putLottie in a sling a tackle some of the hiking trails around us. Narelletook her on they way there, and Dave on the way back!

There is a area called Furenalps that we wlked to from the campsitethat took about 45 minutes. We passed sensational waterfalls and evenfound one on the way back – that was not signposted! After our picniclunch on the edge of a valley containing crystal clear blue rushingwater, we takcled the paths up into the Furenalps.
There were roaming cows – complete with their heavy cow bells andloads of people walking. We felt a bit out of place as we didn’t seemto have the right kit! You needed red jackets, walking poles, men -wear your knee high socks and your pants tucked into your hikingboots, khakki was the clour of the day! Anyhow – we walked for anotheror so then took a pretty path through the forest back to camp.

We saw rock climbers, paragliders, walkers, mountain bikers – it was great to be out amongst it ourselves.

And of course, the camera was busy. Enjoy the pics – it was a great day.

Enticing Engelberg

Hello Fans!

Finally another update you say?! We have broken this one up into a few seperate posts to make for easier reading. We left sunny hot Italy on the Wednesday before last to continue on our way to our next destination – Switzerland. We had found a great looking campsite in our trusty Alan Rogers campsite Guidebook (which is now our bible!) that started with the words ..”.This super site has facilities which must make it one of the best in Switzerland” So being Barkers who want nothing but the best – we arrived at Camping Eienwaldli, Engelberg around 530pm. It was pouring rain and grey and gloomy and a chilly 12 deg c outside. Leaving our screaming daughter int he car – we legged it and got the camper up in record time of 25 mintues. We went to sleep that night fully prepared to move into the onsite hotel if our camper leaked or began to float away – the rain didn’t let up.

The next morning – the view took our breath away. We were overlooked by mountains – lush forest covered ones, grey rocky outcrop covered ones and even snow capped ones to the left of our awning. It was fantastic. Although the rain came and went for our stay here, it was just amazing. The campsite is DEFINATELY the best one we have been to this trip. There was hot water in the sinks that you actually needed to add cold to to get your hands in. They had a below ground bunker room that held the washing machines that were the cheapest on our trip so far – at only 2francs per wash. Also this room had a giant air blower in it that dried all your washing – or even just your teatowels in the evening if you wanted to – brilliant! The shop at this site is also the best stocked one at any campsite we have visited so far. The pastries are to die for!

There is a tv room, soap and toilet paper in the loos (this is great because in Italy and France you take your own!), good pressure in the showers (although they coast a franc it is worth it!) – it’s the little things in life eh?! The site also has an indoor pool complex. It has been done like caves or grottoes and has an adult pool and a childrens area with water slide! There are saunas, beauty treatments, spas and steam rooms! Posh camping this is! Although, it has also been on eof the cheapest campsites we have stayed at. So – we cannot recommend this place highly enough.

The views were also absolutley stunning. We spent 7 nights here and fell in love with it. The town of Engelberg has so much to offer in both summer and in winter. The sounds of clanging cow bells – (yes cows actually do wear them here!) the sounds of the rushing water – you are surrounded by it here as it comes down the mountains as the snow from the night before melts – MAGIC!

The skiing here is huge in winter and the campsite is fully equipped if you want to brave the cold to camp- with heated bathrooms and ski racks… the lot! I
Anyhow – enough bragging about where we stayed.. want to hear what we got up to during our visit?

Recent Days

We have had a couple of outings in the past few days. We went to Stresa and visited the funivia which is a cable car that takes you to the top of Mountain with amazing views. A great ski spot but also very beautiful in summer.

Saturday night was a great success with dinner at our new friends caravan! Silvana cooked a magnifico feast and we spent the evening chatting. Well, Chatting is perhaps a strong word to use – shall we call it speaking pigdin! Me with my broken italian, consulting every third word or so in our excellent phrase book. Silvana and her hubby Ivan speak no english – but we still managed to laugh and enjoy the company. A few things were L.I.T as Dave and I say…. Lost In Translation…. but it was good. We then all came down to the beach where there Entertainment Co-Ordinator (a fiesty black Cuban called Daniel) was gathering the troops for dancing. It was great fun! Charlotte was brilliant – asleep in her buggy amongst all the noise until 100am when we returned to our camper.

Then the screaming started….. after transferring her from the buggy into her cot and we knew she was just tired so we let her cry it out. Unfortunately.. this took over an hour and after a big drink from me.. she settled and slept till 700am. In the morning, about 10 people came up to us and asked if ‘Carlotta’ was ‘male’ (italian for unwell!) – was she sick as they heard her in the night! The joys of communal living!

We had an icecream at our local gelateria yesterday and the owner took Charlotte off our hands for a while. She was taken behind the counter.. showed to locals… given a cone to play with – the works! The website for their business is and it you are in the area we recommend a visit!

Yesterday we took a ferry ride to Isola Bella (beautiful island) and then to Isola Pescatori (fisherman’s island). We checked out the Palace and gardens at our first stop and Charlotte ate her first grape. The views from the gardens were gorgeous.

We spent today on the terrazzo making use of the free internet access and getting our washing done. (domestic bliss!) and our new friends were all playing with Charlotte. She has been given toys (bought for her by proud fellow campers!), cuddled by other children, sat in the arms of many a nonna and in between, had a very short nap!

Special thanks to Fr Giovanni (brother of the campsite owners – Sante and Nucci) as he has had a great day with Charlotte today. He is a missionary priest and has lived all over the world (including Africa, USA and UK) so he has been a great help with babysitting and translating. We have learnt a few extra words with him today and wish him well in his future work. His website is so take a gander!

We have decided to stay here an extra night and plan to head towards Switzerland on Wed.

Leisurely Lazy Lakes

We arrived yesterday at this beautiful camp site Camping Italia Lido. It is set on the southern tip of Lake Maggiore. The facilities are basic but kept very clean; the main attraction is definately the lake.

For the first time on this vacation we are surrounded by locals (Italians); so far we have always been in the pressence of mostly Dutch and Belgian campers. This makes a change as it is challenging our Italian speaking skills (well Narelles anyway). We had coffee last night with an Italian, Silvana, who Narelle got chatting with when doing the washing up. Silvana is on vacation with her son, Manuel and her husband who is coming on the weekend. After some broken conversation we have been invited for dinner on Saturday night; after Narelle had tried to invite them to dinner at the on site Restaurant; but it became confusing as we think Silvana thought we meant the restaurant outside of the camp site; and it ended up being easier for Silvana to invite us to dinner in her caravan. So we will keep you posted!
The Italians around us are very friendly and always want to say hello (ciao) to Charlotte; and we hand her over for cuddles with strangers in an effort to make sure that she does not get too clingy with us; this is especially important for the waiting grandparents back in Australia.

We are thinking of going to Lake Como sometime this trip, we have not booked anything further than this campsite so we are fairly flexible in terms of time, however we are filling up the diary with appointments. Our rough itinerary is as follows:

  • 2nd-7th August at Lake Maggiore
  • 7th – 16th in Switzerland somewhere most likely in the Bern area
  • 16th – 18th in Geneva with Daves previous employer
  • 18th – 23rd in Bad Wildbad meeting some friends from Holland
  • 25rd – 3rd Sept in Sweden (Gotland)
  • 3rd – 13th in Germany heading north to Belgium
  • 13th – 18th in Bruges Belguim with some friends
  • 18th Sept – 10th Oct heading north through Holland, Denmark, Sweden and maybe Norway.
  • 10th – 31st Oct selling the car and camper ( we hope!)
  • 2nd Nov – 6th Nov Singapore
  • 5th Nov – 12th Melborne
  • 12th – 19th Sydney
  • 19th Perth (for good?)

So far the only real indefinite is after the 18th of September as we are not sure where we will be or how far north we will go, as it will all depend on weather, money and time. We will keep you posted.If you fancy a vacation somewhere in Europe – and you can see youreslves ‘popping across’ to join us somwhere – just drop us an email and let us know – the more the merrier!
Make sure you check out the photos we have uploaded another 42 for your viewing pleasure.