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Chinese New Year 2017: the Year of the Rooster

02/02/2017

The advantage of my daily commute to the heart of the midlands is that it doesn’t feel very far away, and so if there’s something fun on at the weekend, it feels easy to load the kids onto the train and head off for an adventure.  Which is exactly what we did on Sunday.  We left John to get ready for the second of the weekend’s hockey matches and the kids and I went to Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter to see if we could find a lion or a dragon or two.  Kitty’s nursery were very keen on celebrating Chinese New Year; to be honest they celebrated everything in the spirit of equality, but Chinese New Year meant lots of crafting with red paper and gold glitter, Chinese food for lunch and for the older kids, performing a little dragon dance for the toddlers and babies.  I think she missed it when she headed off to school.

She is a Tiger, Elma is a Dragon and Pip a Horse, while John and I are the suitably mischievous as a pair of monkeys. As, I now know, is the Lord Mayor of Birmingham.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

We started our day at the main stage to watch the opening ceremonies, including the spotting of the new Birmingham Lion, a wonderfully furry monster in pale blue and white who ‘came alive’ when the mayor dotted in his final eye.  We’d managed to wiggle our way through the crowds pretty well, and with Kitty holding on to a railing, Elma perched on top of it holding onto me, and Pip in the sling on my back, we all had a pretty good view despite the rain.  Nothing could quite prepare us for the firecrackers though; they rattled off as the lions came to life bouncing and prancing all over the stage.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

With four lions and one dragon under our belts we found another one, this time mechanical, with a handle to turn to move each little bit and an open invitation to come and play. It was set outside the Hippodrome which was running a whole loads of free activities.  They had stands to sit and make a rooster mask or a chinese lantern but after watching for a bit I realised that we were in for a long wait to get all three sat down at once, and that my chances of getting three lanterns home in any state approaching dry and uncrushed was more than I could realistically hope for, so after committing the method to memory we went to play with the Lego and have a nice sit down out of the wet and wind.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

And when rumbling tummies pushed us back out in search of food I promise our first intentions were to find some actual Chinese food from one of the street stalls.  The problem was that after 10 minutes in the queue for dumplings we hadn’t actually moved.  In fact, in the time it took us to leave the queue, go and queue up for Thai food, get the food and come back we still wouldn’t have moved more than a pace forward.  It was full on culture clash; eating Thai food (and then churros) at Chinese New Year celebrations on what was an unmistakably British winter’s day while the rain pattered down and the corners of the marquee dripped.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

Our next escape was to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, whose family taster day included trying on costumes and dancing a rooster dance.  Kitty loved it, and while I haven’t put it in our film of the day’s adventures because there are obviously other kids in it, I do now have proof that Kitty once danced with members of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  She made the cutest chicken.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017 Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

We made our way back to the main stage at the point when the weather was at its worst and the only audience watching the classes of a mandarin school sing their hearts out were their devoted parents.  But it meant that Kitty and Elma could creep forward to the very front to be in the perfect spot for the finale that followed; a face changer with phenomenal sleight of hand, to the point that I only worked out how he was doing it by watching the video slowly, and another lion.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

And when that lion roared, you could feel it in every bone in your body; it was incredibly skilful and the perfect way to end our day out.

Space for the Butterflies - Chinese New Year 2017

Well almost, because as you’ll see, it may have inspired my Dragon and Tiger to be little lions instead:

A Postcard From Europe 2016 Family

a postcard from Paris

12/11/2016

In every grand European Adventure there has to be a day where you turn for home and start laying down some westward miles, and as we struck camp in Munich, we knew it was time to be heading for home.  Well almost.  If you are a knitter then Wollemeisse needs no introduction.  If you’re not, then think of your favourite hobby and think of the very nicest materials you can imagine; that’s Wollmeise yarn.

Space for the Butterflies - the Wollmeisse Shop

The company has a worldwide reputation for gorgeous saturated colours and softer than butter base yarns and it is highly prized and very sought after.  They also have a shop, open on Fridays and Saturdays, just to the north of Munich.  Well I couldn’t come that close and not pay a visit could I? It’s yarn paradise, complete with a husband corner (comfy chairs, hot drinks) and materials for the bribery and corruption of small children (bottles of water and sweets!).  We might have been a bit squished for space in the car but that yarn was coming home with me if I had to hug it all the way to Calais.

Space for the Butterflies - the Wollmeise Shop

But first, we had one more stop.  We left Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm at lunchtime and pointed to France, aiming to get as many miles in as possible, and intending to skip making our own home for one night.  We rolled up to a budget Ibis by the ringroad in Metz at dusk, next to a whole load of cars also packed to the gunwhales with camping kit whose owners clearly had the same idea as us.  It is obviously more expensive than camping, even in a budget Ibis, and because there are five of us we generally need two rooms, but £70 for both rooms for a night is pretty reasonable.  It was clean, it was pretty basic and it did the job.  And when we got up and away first thing the next morning it meant that we arrived at our final destination just around lunchtime.

Paris.  The same campsite as last year, and almost the same pitch, on the banks of the Seine and shaded by the tall trees from the stifling heat. It was lovely to be back for the very last day of our adventure.

I cannot imagine growing tired of Paris, it’s such a beautiful city and as we can feel that we ticked off a few touristy landmarks last year, this year we were free to spend our time in our favourite spots, even if they’re not quite as highbrow as wandering the banks of the Seine and considering the meaning of life.  For us a favourite spot is the art department at BHV where we swapped some of our Euros for pretty pens and a couple of little crafty kits that have been tucked away for Christmas, nor was I going to pass up on a chance to go to Lil Weasel, ostensibly to buy the last ball of wool needed to finish Pip’s birthday sweater, though the bag I came away with rather suggests a little more shopping than that, but with our two shopping destinations happily ticked off we could devote ourselves to full scale exploring.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Paris

And this year, more than last, it really felt like we had the space to explore.  The city just wasn’t as busy as we remembered (though if anything, hotter) and the campsite was all but deserted.  The French summer season ended the day that we arrived, and I’m sure that had an impact on the number of people around.  But talking to other people on site who’d been around earlier in the season, it seems as though Paris was just quieter this year, for reasons that are as understandable as they are heartbreaking.  The police presence was certainly more visible, and a little nudge to the memory every time you encountered them, and there were bag checks on the way in to BHV that were a new addition, but we never felt anything but happy and relaxed while we were there.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Paris

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Paris

The weather was spectacularly scorching while we were there, hitting 34 degrees with ease, so we went to hang out at the Paris Plage, a gorgeous artificial beach on the low road on the banks of the Seine.  Sitting under umbrellas and watching the boats go by while the children tried to make sandcastles and wiggled their toes is an unexpected pleasure in the centre of a city that’s hard to beat.  What with surfing in Munich (watching not doing) and a beach in Paris, we seemed to be more than making up for having stayed decidedly inland this holiday.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Paris

But our final spot was the most special, the place that probably drew us to Paris and the one thing on everyone’s list.  As the crowds poured out of the metro station heading across the road to the Eiffel Tower, to climb it or maybe just stand underneath it and stare up as it stretches to the stars, we crossed over and headed along the river bank to the Carousel.

Five tokens, a horse named Raspberry, a zebra, a princess carriage and another horse later, and we were whirling our way around.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Paris

And if it’s strange that a carousel ride should be emotional then I’ll embrace the strange.  This carousel is Paris to me, and if we had to skip anything and everything else I would, because no matter how serious the children all look in the video, this was what they looked forward to from the minute that the P of Paris passed our lips.  It’s a golden moment; a moment that you can hold in your hands and know with absolute certainty that you will never forget what you were doing and how you felt in this one moment. For me it was a feeling of being completely and blissfully happy and such a strong sense of the five of us as a unit, each taking as much pleasure from the moment as the next.

It may not be next year, but whenever we’re in Paris, I know we’ll be there again.

The carousel marked the end of our holiday; from there we headed back to camp, picked up the car and headed for Calais, while the car thermometer in the dashboard hit 36 and we embraced the air conditioning like a long lost friend.  When we stopped along the way for fuel my glasses steamed up the moment I stepped outside.  We came back by tunnel, on a crossing booked as we left Paris, and finally late that night we pulled up on the driveway home.

And so this is the end of my postcards home; the very last one has arrived, damp and bedraggled and so much later than I planned on writing it.  I’m going to be updating our How to Travel around Europe page with all of the nitty gritty of this year’s trip, so if you’re planning on having an adventure of your own, do go and check it out.

If you’d like to read some of our other postcards home from this year’s adventures check out:

Enzklosterle and the Black Forest

Stuttgart

Walchensee

Innsbruck

Munich

A Postcard From Europe 2016 Family

a postcard from Munich

07/11/2016

Right in the heart of Germany, 500 kilometres from the nearest bit of coast (two countries away in Venice), is an unlikely surfers paradise, but that’s Munich.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Capital of Bavaria, and the most easterly point of our journey, it was only a two hour hop north from Walchensee, a tiny move by our measurements, and I’ll admit it was nice to be the first on camp and not the last for once.  The campsite was our first surprise; leaving the autobahn we drove our way through a very suburban suburb only to go under the railway, around a corner, past a cornfield and find a tiny lake, tucked away in the trees, and our campsite next to it.  And when a thunderstorm rolled overhead mere minutes after we’d finished putting up the tent using all the tent pegs and guy lines, just because we could, we felt right at home.

The train into the centre of Munich took around half an hour from a station five minutes from where we were camping, and just about made Pip’s day.  It’s not a particularly beautiful train ride, but it does deliver you right to the centre of Munich without spotting any spoilers out of the window, and when we climbed up the escalator and arrived into the centre of the Marienplatz into glorious sunshine it was perfect.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Marienplatz is the site of the New Town Hall (a mere 108 years old) whose Rathaus-Glockenspiel chimes an entire 15 minute tune on 45 bells complete with 32 life size wooden figures along the lines of the largest cuckoo clock you’ve ever seen.  It is incredible, just when you think it’s finished, another bit starts moving and the bells start up again and to be honest, it knocks Big Ben into a cocked hat.  The girls were transfixed; they’d been hankering after a cuckoo clock since the Black Forest, or at the very least one of those thermometers with the little man and woman that go in and out if it’s going to rain, and this was more than they could ever have imagined. And as for little Pip Squeak, perched up on my back in the sling, he started clapping and loved it too much to stop, much to the amusement of a little old Greek lady who came over to tell us how much she’d loved watching him watching the clock.  It took us a little while to find a common-ish language and I’m not sure whether she’d lost her husband or her child but she’d been sad and he had cheered her up, and for that I will always be thankful.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Munich is exactly how you think a southern German city should look; little short cut alleys, big wide streets with tall tiled buildings on either side and while a lot of the buildings are really from the 50’s, it was no surprise to learn that they were all reconstructed in exactly the same pattern as their predecessors, including the Frauenkirche, the Munich Cathedral whose towers were sadly shrouded in tarpaulin as part of a renovation project, but whose cool interior was a welcome break from the sunshine, and whose windows were quietly stunning.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

If you wanted anything made of wood, there was a shop for it, a beautiful candle shop next to the cathedral that was hard to resist, and a tiny little shop tucked into the middle of one of the main roads that simply sold wool felt.  I’m guessing perhaps it plays an important part in German national dress but they had every colour under the rainbow and some, and it’s a miracle I escaped unburdened by a beautiful snippet.  And speaking of national dress, the first night at camp we headed out to the supermarket and found that half of Munich was all dressed up in dirndls and lederhosen and heading for the train.  I am still secretly quite gutted that the English don’t have a national dress; I can remember reading a book when I was little with pictures of the little scottish and irish girls in kilts and little Welsh girls in stovepipe hats and wondering where mine was.  Surely we could have had something, although as I’d draw the line at a morris dancer perhaps it’s for the best.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

The Germans have got one of the prettiest options, at least for the girls, and while Kitty, Elma and I window shopped and debated patterns and colours, I suspect John and Pip were rather glad to have escaped Lederhosen, especially the calf warmers, which look like nothing so much as the top of socks where the moths have got to the bottom.  I’m sure there’s a terribly practical purpose to the bare feel, warm calves thing, but it’s possibly not strictly necessary in central Munich. Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

But back to that surfing.  Heading away from the city centre to the north we arrived at the English Gardens, which make Hyde Park look like a village green in comparison.  The gardens are enormous, stretching all the way up to the edge of the city and you could spend an entire day there without ever exploring it all.  We were headed for the all important play park, when we spotted a crowd of people standing on the banks of the Eisbach, the little artificial stream running through the gardens.  It’s very pretty, and very fast flowing as water is pumped up and into the stream to keep it moving, and just as the stream enters the gardens, the pumping mechanism makes an artificial wave.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

It’s just big enough for one person to surf it for a few seconds until they either fall off (most of them) or jump off to let someone else have a go.  The water carried the dumped surfer a little way down stream and it’s only chest deep so they hop out and head up the bank to have another go. No one stays up for more than a few seconds but it looked like so much fun and was completely mesmerising to watch.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

If you’re ever in Munich I’d put it on a must-see list, but it’s only the tiniest part of the gardens as a whole.  We found the playground, and a spot for our picnic, and then meandered back along the riverbank, around the parliament, and back into town to hunt a lion.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

Of the non moving variety; the Munich lions guard the Residenz and it’s considered a good luck charm to give them a quick pat as you walk past.  In fact we only noticed them because people were walking down the street and reaching out to touch them almost without thinking about it, and certainly without slowing down, and we headed over to investigate.  Technically these are no longer the 400 year old originals because they were getting rubbed out, but by the look of the muzzle, the luck seemed to have stayed with them.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

A good omen from a lovely city, and somewhere I’m sure we will be visiting again.

Space for the Butterflies - Munich

If you’d like to read some of our other postcards home from this year’s adventures check out:

Enzklosterle and the Black Forest

Stuttgart

Walchensee

Innsbruck

A Postcard From Europe 2016 Exploring Family Video

a postcard from Innsbruck

27/10/2016

The foothills of the Bavarian Alps build steadily on the German side, tracing the road up through the valleys until suddenly you round the corner, the road falls away beneath you and there, several hairpin turns below you, is Austria and the Tyrollean plateau.  It’s completely unexpected and breathtakingly beautiful, even half smothered in mist.

I think I thought of Innsbruck as being a larger version of Zermatt; tucked into the side of the mountain, nestled among the Austrian Alps, but they’re more of a fence, soaring hundreds of feet into the sky wrapped around the valley below.  Perhaps they’re not quite so awe inspiring as their Swiss cousins, but they still dominate the sky line; a solid wall of rock  and snow capped peaks to the south and west, with little green swards appliquéd on to the side, looking utterly flat compared to the mountains behind.  They looked completely inaccessible, and yet more often than not there would be a little village and a church tower perched up on top; dropped there by giants playing at keeping house.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

Innsbruck itself is beautiful.  We headed for the old town and its famous gold roof, meandering along the riverside as all of the past few days worth of  thunderstorms washed away downstream.  I’d started taking pictures of the pretty coloured buildings before we got anywhere near; they were the perfect oranges and golds to brighten the sky on a misty grey day while we waited for the clouds to clear, and reminded me so much of growing up in Devon where we paint out houses the colours of ice cream and think its totally normal.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

But by the time we found the gold roof all thoughts of beautiful buildings were entirely forgotten, even though we were in the heart of the pretty bit.  On the way in we’d been stopped by an actual traffic policeman (a first in itself) and redirected to clear the road to allow the police marching band to go past. I love marching bands, they’re definitely one of my guilty pleasures, and it seems that Kitty has similarly excellent taste in music as she insisted that we rolled the windows down and listened for as long as possible.  To our huge delight, as we turned around the corner to see the gold roof, we could hear a solid brass oompa-oomp-pa.  There’s something about that music that makes my toes itch to be moving, and Kitty and I sped up as we headed forward and around the corner to see the band set up in front of the old town hall.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

Exploring to do? What exploring.  John and Elma went for a little wonder but while Pip was busy batting out a beat on my back, Kitty was mesmerised.  She found a spot on the cobbles and sat in front of them, immersed in the music and utterly in the moment.  And with a bit of time to stop and look around we finally worked out what all the little white banners were about; we’d come to Innsbruck in the middle of Music Festival.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

Having thoroughly enjoyed one impromptu concert we lucked out again when our stop for a picnic in the Innsbrucker Hofgarten turned out to be just outside the Musikpavillion where a group of students from the Innsbruck School of Music put on a more classical concert to a packed pavilion and a good number of people just outside the door.  We couldn’t stay for the whole concert, but to hear just the start, and be able to watch the children running around quite happily outside was a serious treat.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

The reason for our scuttling away, despite the very excellent tree climbing trees, and the discovery of the princess and the frog in a fountain, was a castle.  Not the Habsburg Palace (beautiful though it is), but a gorgeous castle adventure playground, complete with tower, battlements and a nice swirly slide.  One of the two was always going to get the majority vote in our family and much as I would like to go everywhere and see everything when we travel, the priority for travelling with little kids has to be making sure that they’re having as good a time as you are, so play parks and good spaces for running around  have as much merit as very pretty palaces.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

The funny thing about being in Innsbruck is that it doesn’t feel like an alpine town when you’re just walking around the gardens, or along one of the main roads.  It’s completely flat, and it’s not until you suddenly look up about the roofline of the streets, or something that isn’t quite a cloud catches your eye, that you realise that you’re surrounded by these stunning peaks.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

In a day we were only ever going to scratch the surface of Innsbruck, and tempted though we were by the idea of a cable car up the mountain, or a visit to the Alpine Zoo, we opted to spend what time we had pottering around and soaking up the atmosphere.  And paying a visit to a yarn and fabric shop of course.  If you follow my handmade posts you’ll know that I have developed a serious addiction to making leggings for the children.  It meant that after owning it for four years I finally got around to figuring out my Mum’s overlocker (and promptly wondered what on earth took me so long) and it all started in Innsbruck when a window display of Christmas table cloths caught my eye and before I knew it we were standing in the middle of one of the biggest and loveliest fabric shops I have seen in years, facing a wall full of rolls of cotton jersey.  That I only came home with four lengths for leggings for the children, a starry cotton print to make Pip shorts next summer and the most eye-popping sock yarn I’ve knit for John to date I see as a testament to my restraint, though I agree that may not be a view entirely mirrored by everyone else within the household.  I have made all of the leggings though!

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

When the family finally tore me away, there were still little winding lanes to explore; grockle shops filled with miniature dirndls and lederhosen and every souvenir you’ve ever thought existed.  Splurging our pennies on ice cream instead, we peeked into a glass blower and became appropriately dazzled by the swarovski crystal displays in front of the museum; enough sparkles even for my glitter loving lot.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Down Maria-Teresien Strasse we found a wonderfully pink church, and a little further on the Annasaule (St Anna’s column), also in pink, this time of the marble variety and therefore much admired.  By the time we arrived it was mid afternoon, the skies had mostly cleared and the sun shone; perfect timing because this is one of the views of Innsbruck; the street, the column, the church and the mountains.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

I know we want to explore more of Austria some day and we couldn’t help but love what little we did see, but this was the far point of our trip, the furthest we were ever going to be from home, all 866 miles of it, and I think we were all a little reluctant as we turned for the hills; back to Germany, and an acknowledgment that for this year at least, it was time to start making our way home.

Space for the Butterflies - a postcard from Innsbruck

I loved filming in Innsbruck and got slightly obsessed with the Police band and recorded quite a few snippets of their performance, so it seemed only appropriate that for our little film postcard home, I should turn the soundtrack over to the very talented Polizeimusik Tirol.

If you’d like to read some of our other postcards home from this year’s adventures check out:

Enzklosterle and the Black Forest

Stuttgart

Walchensee

 

A Postcard From Europe 2016 Exploring Family Photography Video

a postcard from Walchensee

25/10/2016

Walchensee is a landscape painted in blues; all turquoise, teal and midnight.  We arrived on a scorcher of an afternoon, having taken far longer than we expected to drive the width of southern Germany and we were all hot, tired, and more than ready to arrive.  Curling our way down the mountain pass, dodging hairpin bends and bicyclists in equal measure, suddenly a glimpse of water opened up and through the trees, there was the lake, and it was all we could do not to jump straight in it to cool off.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

The lake is Walchensee, as is the village half way down the western shore, but the campsite (also going by the same name) is around the corner, over a bridge across the stream that could have been lifted straight from the Lake District, and along the side of a low spur pointing its finger out into the water.

Living in our beautiful island, a beach holiday means going to the coast; even from the very middle of the country it’s only a couple of hours drive to the nearest beach, and it wouldn’t take much effort to find a campsite somewhere near the seaside, and when you’ve grown up with that as your default setting you forget that it’s not the norm.  If you live in southern Germany, proper seaside holidays are two countries away down by Venice and so if you want to hang out on a beach, you go to a lake.  Walchensee is where the Germans go for their holidays, and in contrast to Enzerklosterle where we met mostly Dutch and British travellers, here we were the only foreign car in the car park, and 71% of the Brits on site.  And because of that, people potter about on site and get chatting to their neighbours; even if it is to take the mick out of the size of our tent; “Ist Buckingham Palace?!” (es is nicht Buckingham Palace, es ist beeindruckend

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

While the carvans have set pitches, the tent section of Walchensee is two grassy sections down by the water.  You pitch your tent anywhere you can find space for it, and when we showed up there was just about room enough to squeeze our lovely big green tent into the remaining gap, even if we had to forgoe pegging out large sections of the guy ropes.  With the rest of the space being filled with the teeny tiny sort of tents that people take up mountains, we did stick out a bit, and I definitely felt a lot less self conscious the second night when another nice big family tent came and made its home next to us.

The plus side of course was that we were mere metres from the water; beautiful deep clear water, blissfully cool and perfect for swimming; shallow enough at the shore line that the kids could paddle and throw pebbles and deep enough that we could swim properly without having to wade out for half a mile.  We were in the water less than 10 minutes after we finished pitching the tent.

20160815-dsc_0229

The lake was stunningly beautiful at all times of the day and night.  Our first evening we went for a drive to see if there were any other options to pasta and sauce (plenty of restaurants, no shops so pasta it was), and we stopped up at the northernmost point to turn back around.   All but the palest pearly pink light had faded from the sky, and the hills were midnight as they put on their cloak of darkness, and there was a stillness and a calmness that seeped into your bones.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

If last year was a “doing” holiday, this year’s intention was for a “being” holiday; just being together and not trying to bat round a million miles a minute, conscious that when we got back home I’d be straight back into work and the girls wouldn’t have that much of a gap before school and nursery started. Walchensee was where we embraced the just being.  We went on a day trip to Innsbruck, and we did the occasional run to Edeka and the petrol station, but mostly we sat on the beach and enjoyed that view; no circumnavigating the lake, no trying to climb a mountain to get a better view, just watching the children play along the water’s edge while I knit and John snoozed, or going for a swim, and then another swim because it was just too lovely to get out.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Each night the children would go to sleep worn out from being waterbabies all day, and John and I would crack open the secret supplies of various German beers and catch up on the Olympics.  We were in Walchensee when the women’s hockey team won gold, willing the phone battery and the 4G signal to hold out as we went through to penalties.  Gold medal winning aside, it was lovely to have that bit of time together, just the two of us.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

And then, about eleven o’clock, every night, the show really started.  Our first evening we looked up at the weather, saw the beginnings of a clear night sky and the twinkle of the first stars, and decided to leave our swimming cozzies out on the guy ropes.  It was not a mistake we’d make twice.  Just as we were turning in, the first drops began to fall, and out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of light that might have been from a camera.  It wasn’t.  Thunder ripped through the valley and the storm started up with a vengance.  I’ve not heard thunder in the mountains before and unless you ever experience it yourself it’s had to imagine.  There’s no build up of humidity, or low rumble from miles away as the first sign, just a crack that sounds like the very earth is being wrenched in two and forged into a new arrangement.  The acoustics of the hills bounce the sound around, but there’s no mistaking when the storm is right overhead; rumble after rumble interspersed with sheet lightening and the rain pelting down on the roof of your tent a few inches above your face.  The tent did us proud though; not a drop inside, and very few wobbles when we considered how little pegged out we were.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

For every gently glorious day, the nights were a reminder of the violent beauty of stormy weather, and we came to expect them and even enjoy the storms, as we checked that the children were try and warm, and cuddled them in close.  They for their part slept right through every single storm; such is the power of paddling and rock throwing to wear you out.

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

Space for the Butterflies - Walchensee, Germany

It is a truly beautiful spot, and if our little film postcard home suggests that we spent nearly every moment in the water – could you really blame us?