Now I have been back for a few weeks and the jetlag has worn off figured it was time to provide a few summary articles.
The jetlag was truly epic. Arriving back home in the middle of winter on dark days, didn't help adjust our internal clocks. It was a new record from me -- six days to recover. I have diverted the early-morning wake-up in to early morning gym sessions, in the hope that I can burn off accumulated gelati. Made some progress but I guess it took me 80 days to add a couple of kilos I can expect it may take as long to burn it off.
There were so many highlights to the trip it is difficult to choose just some, but here are some
Switzerland was so beautiful it hurts our eyes -- it truly is like a picture postcard brought to life. Going to sleep at night the sound of cowbells was particularly magical.
Angela looking after our dogs -- we couldn't have travelled so peacefully without knowing Noodle and Max were being well cared for.
WiFi virtually everywhere except three nights in Scotland and one night in stresa - too expensive at €25 per night!
Ice cream and cheeses and pizza -- I'm still wearing the consequences around my midriff, and the gelati seem particularly hard to shift, despite my efforts at the gym!
Kid friendly waiters everywhere we went -- we were made to feel particularly welcome in Italy and Switzerland. We had limited experience of dining out in Paris (not vegetarian friendly). Despite its reputation we found the UK to be fine, perhaps we chose child friendly places!
Climbing buildings -- a theme we pursued in Rome, Florence, Siena, Paris but got a bit lazy when it came to London. We worked our way up to the Eiffel Tower; we climbed as far as we were allowed (600 steps to Level 2), and then took the elevator to the top.
Inexpensive books in UK – we've carried forward cheap prices by buying a Sony e-book reader; now we can enjoy UK prices in Australia by buying books over the 'net.
IPhone for skype and movies – the movies were a pleasant night time treat – didn't expect to be enjoying movies on such a small screen but it really does work; saved myself a packet using Skype, wherever I could get WiFI coverage
My employer -- giving me time off and not bothering me on my break. I have settled back in now. It is as if I never went on holidays!
Kid fun -- Longleat and Disneyland -- kids grew in confidence and tried many new things! Even the big kids had great fun on the rollercoasters.
Qantas -- perhaps we just take them for granted but we had very smooth flights to and from Europe, and we were made welcome despite the constraints of economy class.
Citroen -- this is starting to sound like a commercial, but we really enjoyed our rental car through Italy and France. Cossette was comfortable, reliable and very family friendly. Only niggle was the GPS.
Kids misbehaving -- pushing our buttons and the boundaries -- but this is no different to home, and overall they were amazingly well-behaved particularly as we stayed in 16 different places during our travels.
Northwest trains in London -- trip from King's Cross to Bracknell took longer than King's Cross to Disneyland Paris. A trip to Bracknell was disrupted by a fatality on the line ahead. But the real challenge was that there was no communication from the railway staff to explain was going and to provide alternative travel arrangements. We were lucky that we didn't have to do this sort of travel everyday, as many people have to.
NAB card – While it worked at merchants, the NAB Bank could not provide us with a PIN that worked; thus no ATM access. Thank heavens I had an alternative card. Despite frustration the card saved us several hundred dollars in fees -- due to no currency conversion fees, and no ATM withdrawal fees. The last a moot point, as we had no PIN. If we had used our American Express card or Citibank Visa we would have been billed 3.5% on every single transaction!
Iberian Airlines didn't like me using my iPhone even when it was in flight mode
Short battery life of Dell laptop – should have taken slice battery, not media base
No data plan for iPhone -- as we had much WiFi wasn't too bad; just one time I really needed the maps
Should have pre-booked London theatre shows – I've usually visited London outside the peak of summer and seats are easily found. This time we struggled and should have booked at least three weeks in advance.
Oh dear I'm starting to sound like a whinger.
We were incredibly fortunate to go on this trip. We have many memories that will last a lifetime. And it is fantastic to be able to catch up with friends and relatives -- it's just a pity they live so far away. As for the rest, it will live on through slideshows, and through enjoying the hunt for gelatis in our local neighbourhood. But that will have to wait until summer, by which time my body might have room for them again.