Tag Archives: Owen

A “Drink the Bar Dry” Leaving Party

A downside of Ex-pat living is the goodbye’s that have to be made, to friends that have been quickly made in our environment.  Rob & Jen are off to Bangkok, Thailand at the end of February and as they cannot pack any alcohol, they decided to hold a “Drink the Bar Dry” party to try and get rid of it all in a fun way.  It was a little unusual to get an invite that said, “PLEASE do not bring a bottle!”  Instead we were asked to bring a plate of finger food to share.  Owen and I had fun with this and made mini jacket potatoes stuffed with different cheeses and Thyme Gougere’s (which were delicious).  It was lovely to taste the wonderful selection of food that everyone had brought!

The evening was a fun mix of people from Emerald living, as well as colleagues and work friends of Rob & Jen’s.  It quickly moved into Karaoke and several of our friends surprised us with their strong singing voices!  I managed one duet with JC before Owen said he would disown me if I sang any more!!

Squeezing as many party goers as possible onto the staircase for a goodbye photo opportunity.

Squeezing as many party goers as possible onto the staircase for a goodbye photo opportuni

Some of the girls towards the end of the evening.
Jane, Marie, Lin, Jen, Jane among this fun loving group!

Rob & Jen love Karaoke, so they have many props  – wigs, fake tattoo sleeves, glasses and instruments.   They were kind enough to let us borrow some of these for Isabelle’s party last September, and they really make a difference to the fun.  It is amazing to see the personas people portray when they can hide behind the props!!!

It was another fun night out.  Owen and I are sorry to see them leave – lovely people, lovely family.

Snorkeling, Surfing and Swimming

While in Beautiful Bali we packed so many activities in to our week there.  Another first for the children was snorkeling.

Kadek drove us to a great beach where there were many water sports available.  We decided to start with snorkeling and then see what else the kids would be up for!  We got suited up with life jackets, masks and snorkels.  My first time snorkeling is a very vivid memory of quick, panic short breaths breathing through the tube.  I found it difficult to remember that I could actually keep my face in the water (something I was not keen on when I was younger) and still breathe.  The ability to see so many wonderful fish is what kept me going back then and now I love it!  Even considering getting dive qualified once the kids are old enough to do it with me and Owen.

So, out onto the boat – just the 4 of us with the captain.  We had to go very slowly over the shallow water which was filled with fishermen!  Once we past them, we sped up and 5 minutes later we arrived at a lovely spot, attached to the buoy and then over the side we went.

We are not that far from land, despite the view from here!  Isabelle and Oliver loved it!

We are not that far from land, despite the view from here! Isabelle and Oliver loved it!

Following a little apprehension about jumping off the side of the boat into the ocean, the kids were soon bobbing about on the ocean.  It took a little more persuasion to mask up and look down, but once they got the hang of it, they both loved it!  We saw a couple of fish that looked like fish from “Finding Nemo” and both children took great delight in pointing these out to us!  They loved the fish that swam slightly higher, the optical illusion of light in the water made it seem like we could touch them.  It was not the best snorkeling that Owen and I have done, but it was a good first for Isabelle and Oliver.

Chilling on the boat after the ocean swim and snorkel!

Chilling on the boat after the ocean swim and snorkel!

Lovely shot of Owen and Isabelle xx

Lovely shot of Owen and Isabelle xx

It was a lovely few hours trying something new again!  Once back at the beach we enjoyed a leisurely time watching the fishermen and other water sport activity.

The kids loved the surf at the beach by our villa.  They spent many hours wave jumping and getting knocked over by the huge waves!

Pure joy on these faces!

Pure joy on these faces!

 

Beautiful Bali

Owen and the kids returned from UK on August 9th (just in time to celebrate Isabelle’s birthday!), then on August 13th we all flew from Shanghai to Bali for a week of family relaxation before the new school year starts.

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Owen had found us a beautiful villa on the beach with its own pool and it was paradise.  Because of the flight times, we decided to fly in 1 day early and stay at a hotel near the airport.  We checked into Baliwood Property to find a lovely 2 bedroom hotel room.  It had a great pool that the kids enjoyed for the morning before it was time to pack up and wait for our driver to take us to Villa Nova at Seminyak.

Kadek arrived on time and was a very entertaining driver.  He is very proud of his Country, heritage, traditions and culture and was very eager to share all of that with us.  It was fascinating listening to him – a wonderful story telling style with lots of facts and view points.  1 hour later we arrived at the villa =  paradise.

Welcome to Villa Nova, Seminyak, Bali

Welcome to Villa Nova, Seminyak, Bali

This is the view of our beautiful villa from the pool.

This is the view of our beautiful villa from the pool.

The villa had 4 koi fish ponds, a lovely outdoor dining and sitting area, a pool and a private walkway to the beach.  It had an open-plan layout, 3 en-suite bedrooms and a very modern kitchen.  Best of all, it came with Kadek (our driver) and a wonderful married couple called Ketut and Nyoman who looked after the property and cooked for us.  It was truly a treat to be looked after so well.

Isabelle and Oliver enjoying the pool.

Isabelle and Oliver enjoying the pool.

How lovely to laze in the cabana, hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach, read a book or play on iPads!!

How lovely to laze in the cabana, hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach, read a book or play on iPads!!

It was so relaxing to fall asleep listening to the waves rolling in every night.  Our beach was a surfers paradise so the ocean was loud enough!  It was therapeutic to laze on the cabana, read, watch the kids play in the pool and just let the day float by.

Deserted beach at sunset.  Spectacular colours - the photo does not do it justice!

Deserted beach at sunset. Spectacular colours – the photo does not do it justice!

Playing in the waves.

Playing in the waves.

How our garden was lit up at night.

How our garden was lit up at night.

The sunsets in Bali were wonderful

The sunsets in Bali were wonderful

Just one of the stone carvings by one of the fish ponds.  The children enjoyed feeding them every day.

Just one of the stone
carvings by one of the fish ponds. The children enjoyed feeding them every day.  Check out the lizard on the cheek!

Me and my gorgeous girl with local flowers in our hair.

Me and my gorgeous girl with local flowers in our hair.

We decided to alternate days at the pool/beach with full activity days.  I have already written about our White Water Rafting and Elephant Safari (Bucket List Day) and the Tree Top Adventures.  Another day was to Ubud to the many villages that specialise in wood carving, silver work, stone work and painting.  These traditions get handed down through generations.  One gallery we visited had 15 family members all doing amazing art work in many different mediums.  We were so fortunate to have Kadek, such a knowledgeable local, giving us a running commentary as we were driving through this beautiful, amazing Island.  They are a very spiritual culture, there are shrines and temples everywhere.  Every day, offerings are made to the spirits and Gods in the form of flowers that are specially grown along side rice and other crops.  These are presented in woven baskets.

One of the hundreds of offerings that we saw around Bali.

One of the hundreds of offerings that we saw around Bali.

Our visit coincided with Bali Independence festival and there were many flags along the roadside displaying the red and white of Bali colours.  There are many festivals in Bali – in fact, Kadek joked that business and schools were shut more than they were open because of all the festivals!  Bali is the largest and most popular Island in Indonesia and tourism is the main form of economy.  It is classed as a third world environment and in talking with Kadek, this came through in many discussions.  For example, Kadek’s wife has to shop every day because not only do they not have a refrigerator, but there is not one in their village.  Cock fighting is a popular form of passing the time and a social event for whole villages.  Many times we were diverted because roads were closed due to cremation events.  These are expensive for Balinese families, but follow a very traditional process.  Carved animals and elaborate structures are lovingly created by family members and the entire village.  There is a long and loud procession through the streets before the final ceremonial burning.  If a family cannot afford to perform this ceremony, they will bury their loved ones, but dig them up later when they can afford to do it.

The Balinese believe that special spirits associated with the Earth live in some of the larger trees on the Island.  They will protect these spirits by wrapping the trees in a black and white cloth.  We saw these cloths wrapped around some of the shrines too.

This large tree is wrapped in the black and white cloth to protect the Gods and Spirits that live within.

This large tree is wrapped in the black and white cloth to protect the Gods and Spirits that live within.

This local lady is bringing an offering to this shrine.  You can see that this is also protected with the black and white cloth.

This local lady is bringing an offering to this shrine. You can see that this is also protected with the black and white cloth.

Colourful flags to keep the birds away from the rice fields.

Colourful flags to keep the birds away from the rice fields.

Locals harvesting the rice.

Locals harvesting the rice.

As the climate is so temperate there is no set time for planting or reaping.  The rice fields are a wonderful site throughout the Island.

A wonderful view of the rice fields.

A wonderful view of the rice fields.

More rice fields

More rice fields

This gallery has 15 family members working in it.  We bought some artwork here!  Wonderful, talented family.

This gallery has 15 family members working in it. We bought some artwork here! Wonderful, talented family.

Our day to Ubud included a visit to a Jewellery gallery.  They make all the silver (and a little gold) on the premises.

This exquisite piece is made from silver by the talented artists in this village.

This exquisite piece is made from silver by the talented artists in this village.

Oliver and Isabelle at the Silver shop.  The gallery is surrounded by fish ponds and they had great fun looking at all the different fish.

Oliver and Isabelle at the Silver shop. The gallery is surrounded by fish ponds and they had great fun looking at all the different fish.

Kadek took us to a lovely restaurant on this day trip out.  One of the highlights was a pizza oven shaped like a turtle.

The turtle pizza oven.

The turtle pizza oven.

Oliver posing by some artwork in the restaurant.

Oliver posing by some artwork in the restaurant.

Me and my little chicks at lunch.  We ate on the upper level and had a fantastic view across the fields.

Me and my little chicks at lunch. We ate on the upper level and had a fantastic view across the fields.

Our last stop on this day was to a wood carving gallery.  This place had a bird that was a perfect mimic.  He was “chatting” away to the kids and even copied Owen’s laugh!

Looking down from the upper level of the restaurant to a pool.

Looking down from the upper level of the restaurant to a pool.

After we completed the Tree Top Adventure we went to the Floating Temple.  The lake that the Temple floats on is in the belly of a Volcanic mountain.  This made for some great photos as we were so high in the mountains and the clouds were so low.

The lake that the Floating Temple is on.

The lake that the Floating Temple is on.  The clouds are so low here and it is much cooler than everywhere else we visited on the Island.

The Floating Temple

The Floating Temple

This photo shows a mosque in the middle of the Temple towers.

This photo shows a mosque in the middle of the Temple towers.

The top of the driveway into the Botanical Gardens where we did the Tree Top Adventure.  The mountains behind this statue are a fabulous back drop.

The top of the driveway into the Botanical Gardens where we did the Tree Top Adventure. The mountains behind this statue are a fabulous back drop.

The bottom of the driveway to the Botanical Gardens.  Look at the flags to celebrate Independence Day.

The bottom of the driveway to the Botanical Gardens. Look at the flags to celebrate Independence Day.

Isabelle by one of the displays floating by the Temple.

Isabelle by one of the displays floating by the Temple.

The roof of the temple is made from palm tree husks/silks.  There are very few on each palm tree so it takes a long time and huge effort to make this.

The roof of the temple is made from palm tree husks/silks. There are very few on each palm tree so it takes a long time and huge effort to make this.

Amazing structure

Amazing structure

A huge tree on the walk down to the Temple.  Again, it is covered in the black and white cloth to keep spirits in.

A huge tree on the walk down to the Temple. Again, it is covered in the black and white cloth to keep spirits in.

Most of the Temples in Bali have an inner and outer area.  We could walk around the outer area, but were not allowed inside.  Here we are on the steps.

Most of the Temples in Bali have an inner and outer area. We could walk around the outer area, but were not allowed inside. Here we are on the steps.

Isabelle and Oliver posing on the steps.

Isabelle and Oliver posing on the steps.

There are lovely gardens surrounding the Temple with many animal statues.  Isabelle and Oliver loved posing with all these:

Riding the giant goldfish!

Riding the giant goldfish!

Roaring with the Tiger

Roaring with the Tiger

Getting eaten by the bear

Getting eaten by the bear

Flying with the Eagle

Flying with the Eagle

With Dad on the lizard

With Dad on the lizard

By the deer

By the deer

Owen and I have always said that the world is too large and that there is so much to see, that we would not go back to anywhere that we have previously visited.  However, we loved Bali so much, that we have had to revise our thoughts!  The people are so friendly and welcoming – always smiling.  The land is a mix of mountains, fields, rivers, jungle, beaches, villages and tourist cities.  This was a fantastic week away and we will be returning soon.

Beautiful Temples all over the Island.

Beautiful Temples all over the Island.

Treetop Adventures in Bali

The Treetop Adventure Park in the Botanical Gardens in Bali gave us several hours of thrills and excitement.  There are 7 adventure circuits within the trees from between 2 – 20 meters high.  In total there are 72 challenges including Suspended Bridges, Spider Nets, Tarzan Jumps, Flying-Fox, Flying Swings, and many more fun challenges.  All of the circuit platforms are held in place using an innovative compression system to protect trees from any damage and all of the cables are protected from cutting into the trees.

Once we arrived, we were kitted up in the safety harnesses with pulley and carabiners.  We then completed the training circuit where all of us learned how to  work the safety harness (1 of the 2 carabiners must always be attached to the guide wires) and how to work the pulleys for the flying fox zip lines.

The different circuit levels for ages 4 - 74!

The different circuit levels for ages 4 – 74!

The 4 of us having fun on the wires in the treetops!

The 4 of us having fun on the wires in the treetops!

We started on the Squirrel Yellow Circuit and Isabelle was straight up and taking the lead.  She was so confident and having so much fun doing it!  She was a little scared at some points but managed to keep going.  Oliver, who always wants to do everything that Isabelle does, kept up with us all on everything!

Isabelle high in the trees!

Isabelle high in the trees!

Oliver climbing like a monkey!

Oliver climbing like a monkey!

Smiling in the tunnels!

Smiling in the tunnels!

Owen on the Flying Fox Zip Line

Owen on the Flying Fox Zip Line

Me getting confident on the Flying Fox Zip line - look, no hands!!

Me getting confident on the Flying Fox Zip line – look, no hands!!

Once we had finished the Yellow Circuit, we went on to do the Green and Orange Circuits.  My heart was thumping on the Orange Circuit, and I was not sure that I was going to be able to finish……  (I used to be such a dare devil, but the older I get, the more I do not like heights).  However, seeing that Isabelle and Oliver had both finished this round, I could not let them see me wimp out!

Super nervous on this one.  Owen had to talk me through it!  I was so happy to finish this circuit!

Super nervous on this one. Owen had to talk me through it! I was so happy to finish this circuit!

Walking high and confident!

Walking high and confident!

Isabelle loving 1 of the Flying Fox Zip Wires

Isabelle loving 1 of the Flying Fox Zip Wires

Oliver on 1 of the Flying Fox Zip Wires

Oliver on 1 of the Flying Fox Zip Wires

After we had completed the 3 circuits that the kids could do, they wanted to start all over again!  So, we went round again, but this time Oliver went first.

Owen and Isabelle on round 2!

Owen and Isabelle on round 2!

Oliver in the lead!

Oliver in the lead!

So much fun!

So much fun!

Wheeee - we love Bali!!!!

Wheeee – we love Bali!!!!

 

A Bucket List Day

In 2009, after watching the movie “The Bucket List” and after going through a full physical for the first time in my life(!!), I wrote my own Bucket List.  Number 1 on my list is: “African Safari – ride an Elephant, see Gorilla’s in the wild, see Victoria Falls (between Zambia and Zimbabwe).”  There are 78 items on my Bucket List and vary from the very simple (Number 12 – See a spectacular sunrise. This one is complete – it was the sunrise from top of Mount Haleakalā on Maui Island in Hawaii) to the hard-to-achieve (Number 77 – take off and land in a plane on an aircraft carrier in the ocean).  Number 25 on my list is “Go White Water Rafting”.

On Thursday August 15th in Bali, I managed to do 1.5 items off my Bucket List!  After a 45 minute drive from our villa in Seminyak to the Bali Adventure Tour center, we were shown to the locker room.  After stowing our change of clothes, we then went to get kitted out in helmets, life jackets and collect our paddles!

Ready to go!  Oliver & Isabelle with Wayan, our fantastic guide.  Life vest - check; helmet - check; paddle - check!

Ready to go! Oliver & Isabelle with Wayan, our fantastic guide. Life vest – check; helmet – check; paddle – check!

As you can see, they are used to children as young as Isabelle and Oliver as all their gear was sized for them.  There were about 500 steps down from the reception center to the River Ayung.  These are well built, with solid handrails and are wide enough to accommodate a couple of people.  It is just a long walk down – Owen and the kids had jelly legs at the bottom!

The view from half way down the 500+ steps

The view from half way down the 500+ steps

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

Isabelle and Oliver were a little bit scared at this point.  Time for a Family Jones Motto" Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway!"

Isabelle and Oliver were a little bit scared at this point. Time for a Family Jones Motto: “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway!”

Once in the raft, the action started.  It was just us 4 plus Wayan in our raft, so a very personalized and fun experience.  The rafts had safety ropes and foot holes and none of us fell out!!  We spent about 2.5 hours going down a 9.6km stretch of river, navigating through 33 class II and III rapids.  Superb unspoiled rainforest, rice paddy fields, waterfalls that seem to drop from heaven and the most spectacular 500 meter stone carving were our views for the entire ride.

Posing by a part of the stone carving.

Posing by a part of the stone carving.

Along several parts of our journey, Wayan stopped the raft so that we could get out and take photos and stand underneath ice cold waterfalls!  The picture above is just one small section of the 500 meter long carving in the rock.

Rock Carving

Rock Carving

More Rock Carving

More Rock Carving

More Rock Carving

More Rock Carving

Posing with another part of the Rock Carving

Posing with another part of the Rock Carving

Time to move on :-)

Time to move on 🙂

This ice cold waterfall appeared to fall out of the trees.  It was very powerful and none of us could stand under for more than a couple of seconds.

This ice cold waterfall appeared to fall out of the trees. It was very powerful and none of us could stand under for more than a couple of seconds.

Photo opportunity!

Photo opportunity!

Brrrr - this is cold Mum!

Brrrr – this is cold Mum!

At one point, at a particularly good rapid drop off, Bali Adventure Tour photographers took photos of us.  I love this set of 5 because you can see the surprise in the kids faces as we come over the rapids…..

Woo hoo - this is SOOOOO much fun!

Woo hoo – this is SOOOOO much fun!

Fun, fun, fun

Fun, fun, fun

Over we go.....

Over we go…..

Kids faces are a picture.

Kids faces are a picture.

And, repeat for 32 more times.  Awesome!

And, repeat for 32 more times. Awesome!

Once we reached the end of the rapids, we had to climb back up more stairs.  Another 500 steps and this time all our legs were jelly!!  Oliver, the charmer, was carried some of the way by Wayan.

Wish I had been carried too!

Wish I had been carried too!

When will we get to the top??

When will we get to the top??

The facilities were excellent with good showers (including shampoo and soap!) plus hairdryers.  Once we were all clean, it was up to the top of the building for a buffet meal and rehydration.  Great views over the rain forest and rice fields from here.  This was a very short turnaround as we needed to get in the bus to go to the Elephant Safari park, Taro, Ubud.  This park is an official member of the World Zoo Association and meets International Standards for animal care.  It is set in more than 2 hectares of eco tourism landscaped botanical gardens, surrounded by national forest.  Acclaimed as the World’s Best Elephant Park, the facilities include a full Reception and Information Centre, a comprehensive Museum, with a large collection of elephant memorabilia and the only Mammoth Skeleton in South East Asia.

For people who know me well, this chance to get up close and personal with these incredible animals is a dream.  I have collected elephants in all forms (except for ivory, of course) since I was little.  I have supported specific campaigns through Ele-Friends and the WWF to protect these magnificent creatures.  All of us had the opportunity to hand feed them, touch them, take photos with them, and then – best of all – ride on them in a night time safari.

Arriving, and I am so excited.  This is a dream come true for me.

Arriving, and I am so excited. This is a dream come true for me.

Oliver posing with a lovely statue outside the park.  Little did he know that he was just about to do the same thing with a real one!

Oliver posing with a lovely statue outside the park. Little did he know that he was just about to do the same thing with a real one!

This lovely gentle giant is 30 years old.  I fed him for about 20 minutes!

This lovely gentle giant is 30 years old. I fed him for about 20 minutes!

Owen feeding the Big Daddy!

Owen feeding the Big Daddy!

Oliver and Isabelle being presented with a garland.

Oliver and Isabelle being presented with a garland.

This elephant is resting her trunk on my shoulder and breathing down my back.  It was very ticklish.

This elephant is resting her trunk on my shoulder and breathing down my back. It was very ticklish.

This elephant was our favourite.

This elephant was our favourite.

There are 3 baby elephants in this Safari park and successful breeding is a sure sign of animal wellness.  The elephants in this park are the Sumatran elephant and is the smallest in the world, up to five times smaller than its African cousin (which are actually my favourites).  While they can be gentle and playful, they have strong and unique personalities and get bored and despondent if they are just hanging around.  They also need to exercise, so their rides through the jungle is a key to their happiness and health.  (The weight of two people is easily borne by an 800 kilo creature).  After we had fed a few of the elephants we walked over to the Mother and Baby.

So fuzzy, so cute!

So fuzzy, so cute!

The Mummy's poop contains partially digested food that their babies love and are full of nutrients.  YUCK!

The Mummy’s poop contains partially digested food that their babies love and are full of nutrients. YUCK!

Quite amazing to see these animals sitting down!

Quite amazing to see these animals sitting down!

There was a brief “talent show”.  3 elephants played football, basketball and walked along the beam that these 2 are sitting on above.  While an elephant skillfully kicking a soccer ball or wielding a paint brush may seem a little gimmicky (and made me a little uncomfortable), I have learned that in the wild they will often kick around coconuts, or use sticks, pebbles and leaves to make pictures in the earth.

Isabelle and Owen enjoying their elephant night time ride.

Isabelle and Owen enjoying their elephant night time ride.

WOW - that was BRILLIANT!

WOW – that was BRILLIANT!

BRILLIANT!

AWESOME!

End of the day and the kids could not resist a cuddle with 1 or 2 more statues

End of the day and the kids could not resist a cuddle with 1 or 2 more statues

Feeling sorry for the wounded, bandaged ele.

Feeling sorry for the wounded, bandaged ele.

The elephants are beautiful!  They certainly looked healthy and happy.  I believe that the wild is the best place for all animals, but due to human devastation, most of the Elephant land in Sumatra is now unavailable to them.  If you would like to see the elephants that we fed and rode on, then check out this link:

http://earthcam.com/indonesia/bali/?cam=bali1

Oh – I have now completed 19 of the 78 items on my bucket!  Number 25 – complete!  Number 1 – partially complete!

Birthday Girl – Brunch at the 2nd tallest tower in Shanghai

On May 20th last year, we enjoyed the Lobster Sunday Brunch in the tallest tower in Shanghai – the SWFC (Shanghai World Financial Center), AKA the Bottle Opener.   When we asked Isabelle where she would like to go for her birthday lunch out, she said the Bottle Opener as she wanted Lobster, Crab, Shrimp and Prawn “on top of the world”.  (I cannot think where she gets her expensive taste from!!!)  Well, this year we had to make do with eating this in the 2nd tallest building in Shanghai as the “Shanghai Tower” is now officially taller!

The Shanghai Tower, the SWFC (Bottle Opener) and Jin Mao Tower.

The Shanghai Tower, the SWFC (Bottle Opener) and Jin Mao Tower.

Scott, Jo, Georgia and Saskia joined us and we had a lovely leisurely time.  All the kids had fun too!  Brunch is in the Park Hyatt hotel which occupy the 79th – 93rd floors of this tower.

Georgia, Oliver (in Isabelle's shades!), Saskia and Isabelle

Georgia, Oliver (in Isabelle’s shades!), Saskia and Isabelle

The view across the top of the Jin Mao Tower to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The view across the top of the Jin Mao Tower to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The view of the Shanghai Tower - construction is still going on the upper levels.

The view of the Shanghai Tower – construction is still going on the upper levels.

Saskia, Oliver, Isabelle and Georgia posing by the statues in the lobby.

Saskia, Oliver, Isabelle and Georgia posing by the statues in the lobby.

Saskia, Scott, Isabelle, Jo, Georgia, Oliver, Sara & Owen - a fab lunch out!

Saskia, Scott, Isabelle, Jo, Georgia, Oliver, Sara & Owen – a fab lunch out!

The most important thing is that Isabelle really enjoyed her birthday meal out!  Happy Birthday to my sweet girl xx

Summer Vacation Fun – Germany & UK

The summer arrived in Shanghai, school finished and that means – time to leave Shanghai!!  The kids last day of school was June 27th and on the 28th we were all on a plane heading back to the UK.  Both children had EXCELLENT school reports – which obviously made us very proud.  They are happy, excelling and trying their best at whatever they do – I cannot ask for more.

We arrived to glorious weather in the UK.  Blue skies, brilliant sunshine and heat!  We spent several days with family: my parents had celebrated their 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary earlier in June so we had a family meal out to celebrate.  It was wonderful to see Isabelle and Oliver re-connecting with their cousins – they picked up as though it was only yesterday that they had seen them!

Happy Cousins: Oliver, Oscar, Isabelle and Maeve

Happy Cousins: Oliver, Oscar, Isabelle and Maeve

I love this family photo: Back - Owen, Emma, Peter and Sara Front - Isabelle, Maeve, Oscar and Oliver.

I love this family photo: Back – Owen, Emma, Peter and Sara
Front – Isabelle, Maeve, Oscar and Oliver.

We also had a brilliant day with my favourite Uncle and Auntie who live in a lovely village next to a Country Park that the kids loved.

Then it was off to Germany!  We flew into Munich and drove 1.5 hours to Steinberg am See in Bavaria, passing lots of hops growing on the way – it is beer country, after all!  What a wonderful reunion with Steffi!  Steffi was our first Au Pair in America and quickly became a part of our family.  She has visited us many times since she returned to Germany and we keep in close contact.  It was our turn to visit her, especially to celebrate the occasion of her wedding!  Even though we had not met her Fiancé, Heiko, before this trip, he and his family welcomed us although we were family members.  Both sides of our “German family” treated us so well and we felt like we were at home.

We had a couple of days to settle in, re-connect with Steffi’s friends and family, before all the festivities started.  First was the “official” wedding.  This event was in Regensburg at the Rat House (Town Hall) and was just for immediate family.  We were shocked and stunned to find that we were also invited to this celebration.  After a short ceremony, with Steffi and Heiko in traditional Bavarian costume, it was off to a lunch celebration.

Just Married (first time!)  In Regensberg with Steffi and Heiko.

Just Married (first time!) In Regensberg with Steffi and Heiko.

Immediate family (plus us) after the ceremony.

Immediate family (plus us) after the ceremony.

Stopping for photos on a bridge in Regensburg after the Town Hall ceremony.  On our way to lunch!

Stopping for photos on a bridge in Regensburg after the Town Hall ceremony. On our way to lunch!  It was a lovely walk through the town and many people commented on the new bride and groom.

We were lucky with the weather here too, as they have had so much rain that many areas had been flooded.  But, it was sunny and hot with beautiful blue skies for our whole week in Germany.  The town hall wedding was on Thursday, with the church service on Saturday.  So, Friday we went to the “Moving Ground” which is a large play area by the huge lake.  There was so much for us to do there and we had a lot of fun on water slides, trampoline bungie jumping, normal trampolines and a giant inflatable bouncy dome.

Enjoying the Moving Ground at the "Am See" part of Steinberg!  Fantastic things to do for the kids - big and small.

Enjoying the Moving Ground at the “Am See” part of Steinberg! Fantastic things to do for the kids – big and small.

We woke to another beautiful day for the wedding.  Rushed off to get Isabelle’s done – as flower girl/bridesmaid she had to look perfect!  Oliver also got his hair cut so he would look super smart in his new suit!

Gorgeous children!

Gorgeous children!

Posing by the wedding car.  The flowers made it to the church, lake and reception!

Posing by the wedding car. The flowers made it to the church, lake and reception!

The wedding was so much fun.  Even though it was all in German and I could only follow bits of what was going on, the atmosphere was terrific.  All of Steffi and Heiko’s friends and family were so open and friendly.  Steffi, of course, looked absolutely gorgeous – Isabelle thought she looked like a Princess.  After the church service, we went to a local cafe for cold cuts and beer.  This is when Steffi and Heiko were off at the lake having photos taken.  Meanwhile we were all socialising and enjoying the sunshine.  Once they returned we then drove in a long convoy to the reception hotel about 10 minutes away.  Even this was fun as all the cars were honking their horns and driving in a wavy crocodile fashion.

The beautiful bride and groom with 2 wonderful children!

The beautiful bride and groom with 2 wonderful children!

The flower girls, plus Oliver and Patrick (Steffi's nephew).

The flower girls, plus Oliver and Patrick (Steffi’s nephew).

There was traditional Bavarian music playing as we arrived and it was time for coffee and cake.  Heiko’s mum and Steffi’s mum had spent several days making the most gorgeous range of cakes for this part of the day.  We all ate several!  While everyone was enjoying the cake, the music kept playing and the dancing started.  Then it was time for the “Bride Stealing”!!  One of their friends stole Steffi to another location and Heiko now had to win her back.  We all walked to another restaurant to the bride’s secret location  and enjoyed some games while waiting for the Groom to come and rescue Steffi.  This was very different from any other wedding we have attended and we all enjoyed this part.  After several humiliations on Heiko’s behalf, he won her back and we returned to the restaurant for dinner and more dancing.

All of the guests had their picture taken with the frame - it will make a lovely photo album for the happy couple!

All of the guests had their picture taken with the frame – it will make a lovely photo album for the happy couple!

After more food, much dancing (I enjoyed learning some bavarian dances!) we had to leave as the kids were fading fast.  As it had been such a full, fabulous day, I was surprised that they made it to 10:30pm!  The party was still going strong as we left – such a brilliant event.  🙂

We spent the next couple of days enjoying the Moving Ground at the Lake, site seeing in Schwandorf and the Pony Hof in Steinberg.  Steffi and Heiko have delayed their honeymoon until later in the year, so we spent these days catching up with them and relaxing after all the lead up to the wedding.

We took some boats out on the lake – one even had a slide on it that the kids loved.  I had a go at water ski-ing which I had not done since living in America.  I had also never water skied on a cable system before so it took a couple of attempts to master the corners of that!  (I ached soooooo much the next few days after!)  Both children mastered the paddle boats while I was water ski-ing – displaying great balancing skills.  They had plenty of fun in Germany!

Isabelle and Oliver had swam across to Steffi and Heiko's boat.

Isabelle and Oliver had swam across to Steffi and Heiko’s boat.

Both of them stood up and could work these boards.

Both of them stood up and could work these boards.

Water ski-ing!

Water ski-ing!

All too quickly our time was up and we had to return to the UK.  It was a fantastic visit and so wonderful to be able to see our lovely Steffi get married.

Back in the UK and time to catch up with other family members and friends.  It is always a whirlwind visit and impossible to see everyone.  Mum and Dad babysat a couple of times so that Owen and I could enjoy adult nights out with Laurence and Mark & Sandra.  We also arranged for Isabelle and Oliver to see special friends from the UK.  It was a joyous reunion and Isabelle was especially thrilled to see her best friend again.  The 2 of them were thick as thieves, just like they had never been apart.

Isabelle and Aimee spent the entire day in the pool!

Isabelle and Aimee spent the entire day in the pool!

Sam and Oliver - 2 buddies back together!

Sam and Oliver – 2 buddies back together!

The giggling did not seem to stop between these 2.

The giggling did not seem to stop between these 2.

Happy chappies!

Happy chappies!

Grandad soaking the kids in the garden.

Grandad soaking the kids in the garden.  He also got a little wet from their water pistols!

We had 1 scare with Oliver – a severe allergic reaction to something (probably peanuts) meant a visit to the A&E / ER to reduce the swelling and rash.  He is now going for an Allergy panel test to let us know exactly what we need to avoid.  He gave us all a scare though.

The weather really makes a difference to a British Summer.  When it is sunny and warm, it is so easy to fill many hours at the park, with the hose or at the pool.  That is all Isabelle and Oliver wanted to do, anyway!  The time seemed to fly by too fast.  Not enough time spent with my Mum & Dad or with Sandra (my BFF), never mind so many other people that I really wanted to see.  The downside of the Ex-pat life 😦

I returned to Shanghai after 3 short weeks away, leaving my 3 loves in UK.  It is heart-breaking to be apart and I miss them all dreadfully.  But, they would all be so bored in China as no-one is here.  So, I am busy working, working, working and trying to stay out of the blistering heat and humidity that is Shanghai in July and August.  It is countdown mode for me until they return.

Fathers Day Brunch celebration

Father’s Day sneaked up on me this year and came around very quickly!  Nevertheless, I managed to find a card, which is no mean feat in China!  The kids made beautiful cards for their Daddy.

To celebrate, we went out to the Kerry Parkside Hotel for brunch with 2 other families.  This was a new brunch location for us, and it did not disappoint.  All of the food stations were marvellous – I especially enjoyed the noodle soup station.  All of the kids loved the pasta station (plus the fantastic kids club area).

Georgia, Isabelle, Ava, Saskia, Ethan and Oliver at the children's area of brunch.

Georgia, Isabelle, Ethan, Ava, Saskia, and Oliver at the children’s area of brunch.

In the photo above you can see the abundance of sweeties and goodies for the chocolate fountain behind the kids!  The kids area also had a big screen tv, beanbags, face painters and other activities.

Isabelle getting her face painted at the Kerry Parkside Brunch - children's area.

Isabelle getting her face painted at the Kerry Parkside Brunch – children’s area.

The end result!

The end result!

Ethan and Oliver chilling out on the bean bags!

Ethan and Oliver chilling out on the bean bags!

All of the girls getting pampered.

All of the girls getting pampered.

Shanghai can be such a small city sometimes!  While we were at Brunch with Jo, Scott. Emma and Matt, we bumped into Rob and Jen who were out with their boys.  After we had all eaten, they joined our table to socialize!

Jen, Matt, Jo, Scott, Emma. Owen, me and Rob

Jen, Matt, Jo, Scott, Emma. Owen, me and Rob

The Fathers on Father's Day - Scott, Matt, Rob and Owen

The Fathers on Father’s Day – Scott, Matt, Rob and Owen

Georgia, Saskia, Ava and Isabelle - good friends enjoying a lovely day.

Georgia, Saskia, Ava and Isabelle – good friends enjoying a lovely day.

After a very leisurely long lunch (4+ hours!) we finished with some lovely family photo shots – it is great when you have friends who can take photos of the whole family 🙂

Saskia, Scott, Georgia and Jo

Saskia, Scott, Georgia and Jo

Emma. Ethan, Ava and Matt

Emma. Ethan, Ava and Matt

 

Sara, Oliver, Owen and Isabelle

Sara, Oliver, Owen and Isabelle

Then, it was back to Jo & Scott’s home to continue the party!  Lots of water fights, trampolining and running around screaming at the tops of their voices – well, that was the kids anyway!

For us adults, it was more fizz and bubbles!  A lovely Sunday with friends 🙂

Get ready for the water......

Get ready for the water……

It's coming......

It’s coming……

 

YEAH!  Drenched and soaked!  And.... repeat for many, many times!

YEAH! Drenched and soaked! And…. repeat for many, many times!

WOW - that was AWESOME!  Let's do it again.....

WOW – that was AWESOME! Let’s do it again…..

Round 105.......

Round 105…….

What a fantastic way to end the day :-)

What a fantastic way to end the day 🙂

 

Shanghai Sculpture Park

The Shanghai Sculpture Park is a wonderful day out, especially with a dog!  The Park opened in 2005 and is located in Sheshan area in West Shanghai.  It covers an area of 85+ hectares, surrounded by the Sheshan mountains with Lake Yuehu (Moon Lake) at the center.  It is a beautiful location with more than 70 sculptures located around the park.  They were truly magnificent and the park encourage you to touch them, sit on them and experience them!

On a lovely sunshine day, the whole family plus Tetley piled into the car for the 1 hour drive across to the other side of town.  We had prepared a picnic so that we could spend the day enjoying the sunshine.  John, Dan, Luke and their dog, Poppy, also joined us for the day.

Dan, Isabelle, Luke, Tetley and Oliver - climbing all over  1 of the sculpture displays.

Dan, Isabelle, Luke, Tetley and Oliver – climbing all over 1 of the sculpture displays.

2 of the beautiful sculptures by the lake

2 of the beautiful sculptures by the lake

These tall poles rotate around and catch the sunlight.

These tall poles rotate around and catch the sunlight.

This park is quite unique in China as you are allowed to have your dog off leash.  Tetley and Poppy both loved this and were racing around all day.  Poppy (being a Labrador) was in the water as soon as she saw it!  Tetley was so busy chasing her around that she was in soon after, much to her disgust!!

Clever rock formations - into a village of people.  The 2 in front are real!!

Clever rock formations – into a village of people. The 2 in front are real!!

I was amazed that not only are you allowed to climb and touch the exhibits, but it is encouraged!

I was amazed that not only are you allowed to climb and touch the exhibits, but it is encouraged!

The sculptures are made of all sorts of different materials and are of varied style and design.

The sculptures are made of all sorts of different materials and are of varied style and design.

Me and Isabelle trying to re-create the poses.

Me and Isabelle trying to re-create the poses.

Everyone enjoyed climbing all over this one!

Everyone enjoyed climbing all over this one!

The walk around the lake takes some time if you are doing it at a leisurely pace.  About half way around there is a man made beach (with people sculptures on the beach too!).  There is a small amusement park, several attractions for kids and places to eat and drink.

Tetley paddling at the man made beach.

Tetley paddling at the man made beach.

All of the kids - Luke, Oliver, Dan and Isabelle, sitting in a rock boat!

All of the kids – Luke, Oliver, Dan and Isabelle, sitting in a rock boat!

Oliver got quite wet here – thank goodness it was a hot and sunny day!

A tree house.  87 steps take you to the top where there are some gorgeous views.

A tree house. 87 steps take you to the top where there are some gorgeous views.  You can also see a water Zorb that is available to rent for fun on the lake.

One of the views from the top of the tree house.

One of the views from the top of the tree house.

Looking down into the water park from the top of the tree house.

Looking down into the water park from the top of the tree house.

One of the activities in this area of the park is a giant bouncy sculpture.  It is called the Fuma Fuma Dome and is a cross between an inflatable bouncy and a trampoline.  I had a go with the kids.  They loved it and spent considerable time running, bouncing and rolling around on this huge bouncy “thing”.

The Fuma Fuma Dome.

The Fuma Fuma Dome.

As you can see from the photos, this park is not crowded.  It was an absolute delight to discover this park that is well maintained, clean, quiet, fun and a great day out.

Isabelle riding on one of the attractions at the small fair at the back of the park.

Isabelle riding on one of the attractions at the small fair at the back of the park.

Here is Oliver - telling us all how he is controlling the plane going up and down!

Here is Oliver – telling us all how he is controlling the plane going up and down!

This reminded me of a Dr Suess character.

This reminded me of a Dr Suess character.

I liked this stone fish on the top of the water.

I liked this stone fish on the top of the water.

Almost all the way round the park at this point.  We were all tired, sweaty and hot!

Almost all the way round the park at this point. We were all tired, sweaty and hot!

I like the frame of the shade.  The

I like the frame of the shade. The main museum can be seen in the background.  There is a magnificent church on the top of the mountain .  (This is a rare sight in China!)

Even the toilets were lovely!  They were set in man made caves and the water comes down the stalactites!  (Normal too - no squats here!!!!)

Even the toilets were lovely! They were set in man made caves and the water comes down the stalactites! (Normal too – no squats here!!!!)

I can highly recommend this day out.

Dads and Lads plus a Girlie night out

Saturday night was the Annual Dad’s and Lad’s campout at BISS.  Owen was not looking forward to this as his arm is still in a cast and he definitely does not like sleeping on the ground anymore!  However, Oliver was very excited to be camping out, in a tent, with his Dad.

They certainly looked like they were packing for a week and not just 1 night!  Tent, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, sleep mats….. plus a change of clothes and toiletries!

Matt and Ethan arrived at 2.45pm to collect them.  Then they met all the “Emerald Dads and Lads” at our Clubhouse so they could travel to the school together.  Once they arrived, they were directed to a place on the athletic field ready to pitch their tents and settle in for the night.

Chilling with Daddy

Chilling with Daddy

After an  afternoon of activities, food and fun, it was time to go to sleep.  Oliver and Ethan watched a movie on Owen’s iPad and once Ethan had fallen asleep, it was lights out for Oliver too!!  Once he was fast asleep, it was time for Owen to chill with the rest of the Dads.

Bedtime in the tent

Bedtime in the tent

While the boys were away, it was girlie time!  Emma and Ava came to collect us very soon after the boys had left.  We had appointments for pedicures together!  We were early enough to enjoy a leisurely coffee and enjoy the wine celebration going on at the Kerry Parkside.

We all had a fantastic experience at Dragonfly:

Pedicure time!

Pedicure time!

Nails, nails, nails.  Isabelle (Flower) and Ava (Rose), Emma (Red) and Sara (Pink)

Nails, nails, nails. Isabelle (Flower) and Ava (Rose), Emma (Red) and Sara (Pink)

After all the pampering it was off to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner!  Back to our house for a girlie movie and to wrap up a lovely afternoon and evening with just the girls.