Thursday, November 29, 2012

London Day 1 - Palace and Guards

We traveled to London for our Thanksgiving Holiday this year.  We stayed in an apartment downtown and had a wonderful time.  Over the next few days I'll show you the fun we had.

The first day we took a walk with London Walks.  This was "The London Tour" and we spent two hours with a friendly local guide learning the history of the major buildings in famous London while taking a brisk walk amongst the sites.  I really enjoyed it.  I always like having a guide.  

We'll start withe the obligatory first pic - family and THE landmark...Big Ben.  We took a BAJILLION pix of the clock tower so you'll get some shots of him in each installment.

Of course it was raining.  It's London.  
This was our view of Westminster Abbey.  We did not go inside because you had to pay.  The guide gave us a hint on how to see a service there without paying, but we did not think the kids were up to it.

K enjoyed this prayer on the front of the Abbey.

After crossing one of the many parks we came to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard.
Note the Queen's standard is flying.  She was in the palace for the day for a luncheon.  Too bad we weren't invited.  
A cool taxi we captured as we walked around the crowds at the Palace.

In the Winter, every two days, the guard regiments swap out with a parade of bands, horses, and soldiers.

There are always massive crowds in place to watch the "changing" of the guard.  Our guide took us to a second smaller palace that also changes the guard at the same time.  A smaller force of 8 guards separates from the larger regiment and guards this location.  Here you can see that they were in Winter uniforms - grey not red.  Cory loved the bear-skin hats.  He was also amazed at the "real-guns" with the bayonet on the end.

Here the old and new guard are in place waiting for the reading of the orders of the day.

I'll finish with another pic of Big Ben from later in the day.  I told you we had a bunch!

Google just told me I maxed out my pic storage...hmmm.  Might be time to start a new blog.  Stay tuned for more London!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Halloween 2012--with a little school added in for grins

What already seems a lifetime ago, what with elections and all happening in between, Halloween brought about the typical fun for the kids--dressing up to beg for candy and carving pumpkins.  Here are the pictures to prove it...

Our Cat, Dog, Cowboy and Cowgirl...I won't mention (oh wait, it looks like I am) that I bought the youngest two costumes, but at the last minute they each decided to wear things out of our dress up bin.  Grrrrr...that's $40 I could have spent on something else.
 Since Italians don't trick or treat, we attended a base sponsored Fall Fest with booths for candy, games, a "pumpkin patch" and lots of fun.  In fact, we skipped the annual Zucca Fest (pumpkin festival) in beautiful Venzone in large part so the kids wouldn't miss out on Fall Fest.

Of course there was pumpkin carving too!!  I had the kids all come to the dinner table that night with facts about pumpkins and Halloween (some research and speaking skills).
love this picture--she's so pretty!
Pumpkin was originally used in the pie crust, not the filling.
Lucy wanted to cut something, so she cut out the nose

 The word pumpkin comes from a Greek word meaning 'large melon.'
 The largest pumpkin recorded weighed in at over 1 ton.
Illinois produces more than 95% of America's pumpkins.

Pumpkins originated in Central America.

The pumpkin is 90% water and is in the same family as cucumbers.
Riley found a pattern online to make something fabulous

After all the carving, we also counted our pumpkin seeds before roasting them.  You didn't think I was going to let an opportunity to also have a math lesson go by, did you?

Our research later told us that all pumpkins have an average of 500 seeds in them.  Our pumpkins' results?  between 450-550, so it looks like we follow the norm.  The kids all bemoaned the fact that it would have been nice to know that information before they made their estimates (no one estimated more than 250 seeds).

The end results of carving were quite pretty...

Riley's hard work paid off--look how awesome this is.  Looks just like our beloved Ammo, big ears and and all.

The original carved jack-o-lanterns were large turnips or potatoes, and the Celtic tradition was brought to America by Europeans.

All smiles!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Salzburg Finale

Here are some final pictures and stories from our short visit to Salzburg.

The church in the town where we stayed was very quaint.

MOZART--The birthplace of Mozart, we stopped for a picture at this Mozart statue.

SCHNITZEL!  The kids love going to Austria and Germany so that they can get weinerschnitzel.  Yum Yum Yum!  After our arrival on the first night, we walked to a nearby restaurant to get some classic foods and beer.  Oh, and the kids' favorites--spezi, which is half fanta half coke, and apfel spritzer, which is a carbonated apple drink.

SCHLOSS HELLBRUN  This was a place the older two girls really wanted to make sure we went.  When Mom and Dad Nikkel visited we had gone with them, and it was a highlight for the girls.  There is an extensive fountain system in the gardens...

and not just any fountains, but trick fountains--you never knew where the water was going to squirt out at you.

Also at Schloss Hellbrun is a fabulous kids playground, with Untersberg Mountain as a backdrop.  Could it get any better?

The weather was beautiful and the leaves were turning--it was a perfect weekend to visit.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Hills Are Alive

You're singing, aren't you?  Just imagine the fun we had on The Sound of Music tour, seeing the locations of many of the outdoor scenes in the movie and singing along the way to the soundtrack.  It was a fun and very educational morning, at least on all things Sound of Music--although sometimes when you know the behind-the-scenes stories, some of the romanticism is forever gone.
**as an aside, several of these stops were very brief, and since it was difficult for Grandma to get in and out of the bus with her new cast, she stayed in the bus for most of the stops.  However, we returned a second day on our own so that she could get out and see them.**

I am confident in sunshine... Maria left Nonnberg Abbey singing this song on her way to the von Trapp household

Along the way, she walked past this fountain in Old Salzburg.

Her bus driver wore a cap like this one (our tour company prided itself on being the original bus company from the movie).

I am sixteen going on seventeen...  The gazebo.  No longer in the original location, this gazebo has been restored after it took much abuse in a separate public area.  It is now on the private grounds of Schloss Hellbrun (Hellbrun Palace).

Cory is rockin' it in the hat.

Do a deer a female deer...  Mirabelle Gardens was one of several locations the children and Maria sang, skipped and played on their way through Salzburg.

Maria and the children found themselves falling into this lake after seeing the Captain had returned and was outside on the home's terrace.

How do you solve a problem like Maria... Mondsee Cathedral was the site of the wedding in the movie (but not in real life).

Can you see the skeletons? And were they in the movie?

The cathedral was in the Lakes and Mountains region of Austria--this was a breathtaking drive (Mom and Dad Nikkel, sorry we didn't go here when you were visiting).  It was beautiful.

And finally, The Hills are Alive!!  Untersberg Mountain, the "hill" they were climbing to Switzerland (although if they had really planned to go that way, they would have ended up in Germany.  That would have resulted in a very different ending).