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Archive for September, 2010

And we are sadly just cheerleaders… but very, very good ones. Our next stop was Budapest, Hungary for the triathlon World Championships where a few of our pals from home would be and all of the best triathletes in the world. We were in for a lot fun and a little jealousy! 

Our campsite was really close to the swim start, but the transition and finish line were a fair hike and we’d get our first run in ages while making our way there. It was fantastic being there a couple days before the racing began and we relished in the buzz of the world championship, especially being our favourite sport. But before the starting gun sounded, we went for a little tour of the city… in the pouring rain but c’est la vie, no?! 

We started at the turkish spas (Hungary has a fair bit of Turkish influence due to an invasion a few hundred years ago… look at me, history buffing it up) and chose a fancy pants hotel Galert, at the end of the beautiful Elizabeth Bridge. It was quite hilarious getting to the communal pool, i did a few laps of the changerooms which were an absolute maze, almost high-fiving the same women who were doing the same until we eventually found the pool.  

Sean arrived 5 minutes later although swears he wasn’t lost, just exploring. Mm-hmm. We had a brief swim in the chilly waters of the swimming pool before jumping into the hot spring. I really did expect to love this activity. I love a spa, but call me crazy, I love it by myself or with my husband. Not 20 old men who are picking at their faces, noses and that was just what I saw above the water. The underwater happenings are just too scary to think about. Despite paying through the nose to get in, I didn’t last long. There were no sun loungers to stretch out on and read my book, it was raining outside so the indoor pools were way overcrowded and being in the hot spas was just making my skin crawl. I felt like a  piker, but we left soon after, not before having a very thorough shower. Sorry no cameras allowed in there, not that we’d be showing off our bikini bods right now anyhow I’m afraid! 

Next we popped up the hill to castle district where a castle, a cathedral and some ruins lay. It was fun wandering around but after a while, the rain got the better of us and we hunted down a coffee shop for refuge. 

Sean, from the castle, overlooking Budapest

 

By the way, did you all know that Budapest is said Budapeshhh? Sounds like you have a wee speech impediment but it’s the right way. 

That night we were very, very excited because it was time to catch up with our Perth buds!! Hopefully I remember all the beautiful faces here but we caught up with Tiff and Brendan, Kylie, Brynt and Katie, Glen, Katie’s mum and dad, Brynt’s mum, Steve… and went out for an amazing Hungarian meal. I didn’t realise how delicious it would be! I had salmon which was great, but was eyeing off the deer soup in bread loaf, the goulash and many others. 

Hungry triathletes waiting for the Hungarian delicacies

 

Brynt and Katie with Brynt's food... he has an unstoppable appetite that is very impressive!

 

The next day it was time for racing! The elite men were on Saturday and we hollered loudly for all the Aussies racing, especially my favourite Courtney Atkinson who unfortunately didn’t have a great day but he had some good moments! 

The lead swimmers heading out on the bike (the third dude is eventual winner Alistair Brownlee from GB)

 

Sean with Perth triathlete Ben Lyons watching the bike leg

 

The run... Brownlee steam-training to the front with Gomez not far behind

 

The next day had to be the highlight though, with all our age group friends from home performing and the amazing Aussie women putting on a spectacular show. We set our alarm (Sean’s fancy watch) and woke up at an ungodly hour (6am, how our life has changed on holiday!) and headed to the start. It was so exciting watching everyone, the nerves, the big smiles, the last hugs before starting etc. We were too busy cheering to get any snaps of our friends, but after their races (they all did amazingly – congrats ya big superstars!!!) we headed to the grandstand which looked like the best seats for the womens’ race. 

Sean and i literally camped out for four hours until the elite race! Luckily we had the age group racing to keep us busy and mouth-watering freshly cooked Hungarian food stalls nearby to keep hunger at bay. 

Us, not budging from our most excellent spot.

 

we sat right in front of Emma Snowsill's bike... what are the chances? So lucky! PS She is tiny.

Emma Snowsill, winning the race with nobody else in sight. Amaze.

Watching Emma Snowsill dominate the run leg and ultimately win the race by streets was amazing. 

Uhoh we are getting kicked out of mcdonalds where we are blogging… so this goes up now! 

Love you all, see you from Dubai xoxo

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The hills are alive!

Forgive me. I’m not sure how I will convey the loveliness of Austria as I’m punch-drunk on the gloriousness of Italy right now. Two creamy gelato cups each day, crispy-based pizzas making their way without a moment hesitation into my mouth most days and when we’re not eating we’re soaking up incredible vista after incredible vista or shopping til we’re dropping. It’s magic and I left it too long to blog about Austria but I’m going to give it a good crack anyway, coz it’s worthy of it!

We left Switzerland dragging our heels, because it really was so majestic. Alas, our friends arriving in Budapest and our rapidly emptying wallets forced us to depart and Austria was next. Sean was keen on Austria because there was mountains, he seems to have a thing for big humps. Make of that what you will and I’ll move on. Ahem.

Our first stop in Austria was Innsbruck and we hit jackpot with a 5-star campground. Holler! It had a big lake, waterslides, fancy bar and lovely restaurant. We didn’t even mind (too much) that it was a little below freezing at night causing me to whimper upon entering the tent each night.

We started our Innsbruck day in the main town which was bustling despite being Sunday. We parked up at the coffee shop in the piazza that looks up at the Golden Roof which was very pretty. We may or may not have chosen that coffee shop because of its cappuccino and sacher torte (Austrian specialty) combo deal. Ok, you got us. We totally chose it for the sacher torte deal. It was worth it, a little slice of chocolatey heaven was this cake.

Me out front of the Golden Roof, considering which cafe to tackle.

Sean eyeing off the sacher torte, it never stood a chance.

After this we wandered around and peered inside a big cathedral and Sean got all gothic and went down into the tombs while I floated up top thinking nice thoughts.

We then got to do my pick of the day and went to the Swarovski Factory which is very cool. Built centuries ago, it is very cool, built into a grassy knoll with a fountain spouting out of it. Inside it is a glittery maze of cool stuff. We had a ball walking from room to room with the special effects and clever things made out of crystals. I had grand notions of finding many good presents there like I did in 2001 but unfortunately the prices were far more than I remembered and nothing really grabbed us. Bummer.

Big hunk of spunk out front of the Swarovski Factory.

We then found all the Olympic spots we could which was good fun, the ski jump was awesome. Innsbruck would have been a fantastic spot for the winter Olympics.

Sean, wishing there was snow, at the Olympic ski jump in Innsbruck.

That night we went for a jog through fields and a forest, seeing as our campground was up in the hills which was magic. After feeling a little parched, it was soon after time for a drink and we hit up the local bar where an amorous barman awaited us. As his only customers he lavished attention upon us which led to some very contrived conversation after the usual chit chat options ran out and very strong drinks.

I took a big gulp of my mojito and my eyes crossed and brain fizzed.

“You like it?” our enthusiastic barman says while nodding, encouraging a positive response.

“Oh it’s good, yah, just a bit strong,” I say, mimicking his nod.

“Strong! That is good,” he says, with a wink at Sean. We stumbled to dinner that night and had far more hilarious conversation than normal, so perhaps “strong” was good indeed.

The next stop was Salzburg after a fairly hefty drive (read: we arrived tense and in need of good coffee). It was such a cool city, you get to it via a massive tunnel that goes straight through a massive rock. We spent the afternoon climbing up to the most amazing castle which overlooked the entire city and featured loads of historic artifacts. Sean rated it his favourite castle and I concurred, it was pretty damn good.

The Salzberg fortress, quite magnificent, overlooking the city and for miles past it.

Overlooking Salzberg from the castle

From there we drove on to a brilliant town called Filzmoos which made us love Austria even more. There were loads of little hotels and alas, no campgrounds in this quaint location and I felt excitement bubbling! We drove up and down the street while I mentally took note of my favourite hotels while Sean scanned for little signs with pictures of tents on them. It was not to be for poor Sean and we picked a gorgeous hotel called Happy Filzmoos, a family-run joint which was second to none.

Sean tries escargots for the first time! Slippery little suckers...

My favourite hotel of the entire trip, we had a gorgeous room, a massive comfy bed and a huge balcony overlooking the hotel pool (although the temp was a little chilly to use it). The husband and wife team ran the hotel restaurant too and both nights we were there we chose to eat in as it was so good. We lived like a king and queen for just two nights and I was blissed out.

The day we spent in Filzmoos we rented bikes for 5 euros each (bargain!) and had a massive adventure, riding up the local mountains as far as we could and taking off-road routes as much as possible. We spent four hours roaming and chatting to fellow travelers (mostly hikers, a few bikers) before calling it quits and spending the afternoon wandering the town, finding the town donkey (they actually had a donkey and its baby in a big pen! It was very cute), washing and blow-drying hair (even Sean, he needs more work these days for his ever-increasing mop), blogging and emailing. I loved it and we both felt like this was one of those perfect days.

Heh heh, two geeky-lookin' bikers having a blast in the mountains

After our heavenly time in Filzmoos we headed to our last stop, Vienna, where we were reminded of that beastly phenomenon, rain. We half-heartedly roamed the town for a couple hours before retiring to our campsite where the weather god showed mercy and allowed us to put up our tent with a brief dry patch. A quiet night here as Sean had caught a really bad cold and felt awful. We went to a restaurant nearby and had an excellent Italian meal before heading to bed and getting excited about seeing our friends in a couple of days!

So, poor Vienna was largely skipped over and I’m sure it was a great city but our hearts had already taken off to Hungary. The rest of Austria was absolutely brilliant though, we loved it and counted it as a favourite country.

Sooo… I’ve managed to tick off another blog! Sorry friends and family, I know they are trickling into your lives so very slowly these days but hopefully it’s just increasing the frenzy you’ve gotten yourselves into that we are home in just over two weeks! Start chilling the champagne (or rather fire up the coffee machines, more appropriate for us little caffeine addicts), we’ve missed y’all so much and can’t wait to hear all your stories and show you the blooper photos that didn’t quite make the blog. More bum shots. Kidding, Sean kept his pants on after Lake Tahoe, I promise. At least when the camera was around.

Arriverdeci and ciao – must dash and hunt down another gelato. Isn’t it always gelato hour in Italy?

Next up, triathlon adventures and goulash in Budapest!!

Lisa and Sean xoxo

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Mercy me, after all that rain we drove out of Germany and into the sunny patch of Europe that is Switzerland. Drenched in sunshine, we almost skipped around Zurich, which was our first taste of Swiss deliciousness. It was a Sunday and everyone was out in force by the lake, riding, walking, couples lying with legs intertwined. However, might they have been there purely because there was nothing else to do on a Sunday? The first place we’ve been where pretty much everything was closed except for a Starbucks and billions of seemingly successful ice cream vendors. 

We were undeterred and took the opportunity to walk about 5km lakeside. That night we checked into this most expensive campsite we’d been to yet in Europe (without great reason other than it’s proximity – 4km – from the city centre) and found a local fair with heaps of food stalls with ridiculous queues and a few street performers. Despite the great atmosphere, we yet again declined to wait in a queue and had a quiet meal elsewhere. 

Zurich was a great start, but nothing prepared us for the joy that was Lausanne. Another city built around a huge, peacock blue lake. It was so mellow, without the tourist rush we’d experienced elsewhere, yet so stunning we were blown away by this undiscovered gem. 

Me out front of Lake Lausanne, soaking up the sunshine

The day we spent in Lausanne was the stuff dreams are made of. We started off with hours spent at the Olympic museum. It was a big block of inspiration, with the history, greatest memories, scientific findings and interactive areas for visitors to play with. Rochelle Hawkes’ reading of the athlete’s oath at the Sydney Olympics was playing over and over in one section and the first time I had tears welling in my eyes. The seventh time I considered ripping apart the sound system and kicking it, but I calmly moved on instead. It was absolutely fantastic and if anyone is in Switzerland, make the trip to Lausanne just to see this as it was special. 

Heh heh heh... short ass, out front of Olympic Museum with world record high jump set up

That afternoon, after testing our body fat levels at the Olympic museum (outrageous as you can imagine), there was nowhere we’d rather be than Broc’s Callier/Nestle Factory. About 45-minutes drive from Lausanne, and the athlete’s source of all sources of inspiration, lay the chocolate addicts’ equivalent. We bought tickets for the factory tour which was very interesting indeed but we were hopping from foot to foot waiting for our taste tests. Do you really go to chocolate factories to find out that the bean was traded in the Amazon, that the Swiss combined the stuff with milk and extra sugar to make the stuff we now know and guzzle – or do you go to get a big bite of the brown stuff? 

Where's the CHOCOLATE?!!! Beans beans everywhere and no chocolate for us to eat!

We got to the best bit at the end, where they show little nuggets of nutty chocolate being made and at the end of the tunnel where you ooh and aah at the magnificence, there waits a big bowl of them in brightly-coloured foil! We thought this was the main testing section, so about ten went into my handbag and we ate two. 

chocolate love bites... these things are delicious!

We then went through another door only to find their finest truffles, all 20 or so of them, ready to be sampled. Oh lordy, it tested even my chocolate stamina. Sean did me proud, he did two rounds of the tables, going back a second time to pluck extra tastes of his favourites while I watched ladies in wheelchairs use a pamphlet to collect more for later. Clever things they were and I followed suit! No need to have a puke outside after forcing down more, save some for later – genius! 

Sean goes to work, his stamina in chocolate eating was world-beating!

It was brilliant and we swore never to eat chocolate again, but couldn’t resist buying a few very cheap, good quality finds at the store. Just in case, you know. Stranger things have happened and all that. 

From here we headed to one of our favourite spots yet, Interlaken (thanks Anna-lee for this hot tip!). We set up camp at a place which had views of Jungfrau’s peak and dug out our winter clothes as it had snowed on top of the mountain the night before. Fortunately, the weather was sensational the whole 4 days we were there. 

Our campsite looking out to Jungfrau, it was magic.

 We spent our days there hiking (a lot more puffing and water stops than in the US), taking a super-expensive-but-worth-it train trip to the top of Jungfrau which was covered in snow, swimming in the lake (about 10 degs, I have discovered my reaction to hypothermia is high-pitched giggles, the locals thought we were mad as they sun-baked nearby), visiting incredible waterfalls, drinking delicious coffees, rediscovering chocolate after a 24-hour hiatus (the Swiss stuff is unbeatable) and then the final day happened… 

Sean and a bit of tomfoolery at a glacial waterfall flowing through a mountain

Me, climbing up to Jungfrau busting my weak legs and reminding them of the muscles that once were.

Sean out on the glacier up at Jungfrau, one of the most famous mountains in the world. Very beautiful!

Just when we thought Interlaken could not serve up any more fun to us! I bought Sean a paragliding experience for his birthday and he decided to cash in here in Interlaken. Up he went with two fellow Aussie travelers and I waited below. As he swooped elegantly over pockets of air, experiencing all kinds of elation, I noticed with unease that I was being photographed by an Indian man through rose bushes. He gave me a guilty grin when I spotted him and then Sean floated back down to earth and I forgot about him for a bit. As Sean garbled on about how amazing it was, it was time for his wife to get a slice of amazing. 

One of Sean's highlights of the trip as he soared high in the sky.

Feelings of elation.

The photographer appeared with a substantially more savoury-looking, well-dressed Indian. 

“We are shooting a movie here today and we need someone to carry these roses, will you do it?” the well-dressed man asked, while the photographer grins shyly. 

“Erm… I don’t speak Indian or Swiss, is that ok?” I ask, thinking more about the fact that I chose today to avoid any hint of make up and thongs (flip flops) adorned my feet. 

“No problem, no problem, come come,” he says and all of a sudden I go from adoring wife of star paraglider to Bollywood superstar. It was a natural progression really, just waiting to happen. 

After three takes (apparently that’s verrrry good in movie land) they declare my scene a wrap! The director and all the other behind-the-scenes peeps that I have no idea what they’re called clap each other on the back before lining up to shake my hand. 

Me with my red roses, charming the crowds... sort of.

In the meantime, I am accosted by people on the street asking to have their picture taken with ME. Not the stars of the show, with the glistening hair and perfect make up. Hi ho, they line up to get a picture of me to show their mums back home. Oh me, oh my, I could have gotten used to that. The movie people (not the stars, strangely) all ask to have a pic with me too (couldn’t deny true fans, could I). All the while, Sean was taking his own pics and killing himself with laughter. Covering his jealousy, I expect. 

He did nominate himself for husband of the year as we walked off and a moment of humility returned to me. 

“I wonder why on earth they chose me, looking like this?” I say, pointing at my ruffled camp hair and scuffing a thong (flip flop, must be clear) along the pavement. 

“Because even without make up you are gorgeous, Rooster,” he says, slinging his arm over the new celebrity. Wow. Best. Day. Ever. PS My nickname from Sean is rooster, real affectionate and loving isn’t it? Particularly as I hate poultry when it’s alive. 

So the paragliding champion and Bollywood superstar left Interlaken, with people cheering (and crying at the same time, not happy-to-see-us-leave cheering) and waving Australian flags for us. 

Next stop was Austria… til next blog, friends!! 

Rooster and Prawn xoxo 

PS Bunny Wheater has arrived! Congratulations Em and Muz, little Josephine (Josie) looks like an angel, a chubby-cheeked angel. Well done, you guys. We are thrilled for you! xoxo

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Lessons learnt from Hamburg campsite

  1. Riverside location with beach sand does not generate romance, just really sore calf muscles and an additional 5 minutes to walk anywhere.
  2. Unless you’ve seen evidence the campsite food is good, find a local restaurant (not even the camp dog would touch the lurid, yellow sausage I attempted to eat for dinner after a long day driving… I still gag at the thought).
  3. Always make sure your mattress pump is fully charged unless you enjoy the sensation of sleeping downhill or on the ground.
  4. Always check what time the campsite turns off their hot water unless arctic water skimming over your goose-bump ridden body while it rains outside is your thing.
  5. Never drink a cup of tea in the last hour before bed when your tent is 500m from the toilet with only beach sand and other tents between it, it’s raining very heavily and you wear a white t-shirt to bed.

 It wasn’t a great night for our first night in Germany. Pretty much what could go wrong, did. Fortunately, we both managed to laugh at the situation although I do admit some self-pitying tears slipped out while dipping a toe gingerly under the freezing cold water pumping merrily out of the shower.

Fortunately, the next day in Hamburg turned out to be a great one. Still raining heavily, we headed into town and spent the day sampling German pastries with hot chocolate, roaming the local shops (Sean finally found the perfect pair of shoes! I’d given up suggesting as there was always something not right about the ones I found… so a “hallelujah” was thrown out there when we made this purchase), wandering along the Alster when the weather cleared and marveling at the classy architecture.

Sean on the streets of Hamburg in THOSE shoes... cool eh?

 But while it was lovely, I don’t really want to spend too much time discussing it because Berlin was where it was all at. Although one more tip for y’all that Berlin campsite taught us – try not to stay at a campsite right next to the airport. Loud and constant. However, we loved this place big time. We booked ourselves onto the Berlin walking tour and prayed for sunshine… which we largely got – hurrah! We managed to score the most passionate tour guide ever in Kiwi Mike. He was awesome and knew a ridiculous amount about the city he has spent the last seven years in. I was particularly fond of him because he moved there for love, awww. I learnt so much about Berlin’s early days and the destruction it suffered throughout the war, the divide between communism and democracy so explicit in the Berlin Wall, more about the suffering of the Jewish people and the incredibly interesting yet demonic Adolf Hitler.

We were enthralled the whole four and a half hours. Here are the pics…

The Berlin Cathedral which had a missile sail through the top dome which blew the internal up in World War 2.

A memorial was built here for it was the place the burning of the books was, where all Jewish books from the Berlin library were burned.

Our passionate tour guide NZ Mike at Checkpoint Charlie.

Me at the Jewish memorial... haunting.

Next stop was the Black Forest, which of course, is the birthplace of Black Forest cake. Delicious if whipped cream, chocolate cake and black cherries smushed together is your thing, unfortunately it ain’t mine (one of the few desserts I decline) but Sean forged ahead for both of us and downed a hefty piece.

The rain still hadn’t let up, so we splurged and stayed in a really nice little hotel for two nights. Interesting side note – the area of Black Forest we stayed in was called Bad Wildbad yet was filled with retirees… talk about not living up to your name, right? 

Anyhoo, can’t find any pics for there… must be still on the camera oops! But we must forge on, chaps! We have to be in Vienna asap and i’m still tapping away on the laptop in Salzburg. The Prawn is just itching to get in the car so he can crank up the iPod and work on his duets. His performance has been lacking lately, so pray for us.

Next blog – Switzerland!!

Miss you all, hope you’re all having loads of fun.

Lisa and Sean xoxo

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The number one thing I associated with Belgium was chocolate. Is anybody surprised? So within an hour or so of crossing the border, we headed straight for Roose’s Chocolate World despite the fact it was 5.30pm and borderline “ruin your dinner” time. But when you are in the country that inspires thoughts of chocolate as soon as you think of it… you must, mustn’t you?

This place was supposed to be a chocolate factory, but turned out to be a giant chocolate shop with loads of tastings. We happily partook in the suggested activitiy of sampling. We then sat down for a hot cup of somethin’ and a couple of truffles and felt happy about life.

Contemplating how sweet life is at Roose's Chocolate World

After this, we headed to Brussels which was really gorgeous. Belgium is known for its excellent architecture and we weren’t let down. Incredible buildings, monuments and cobblestoned roads greeted us at every turn and we constantly were yelling and pointing at things out the window.

Our one day in Brussels was good fun, but we did run out of things to do which is why I guess some people think Belgium can be a little boring. We went to the Atomium which was massive and quite a spectacle.

Some spunk out front of the Atomium

We had a day of wandering around the  major attractions and Brussels was completely beautiful, just maybe a little sans atmosphere.

Our next stop would be abundant in atmosphere. We were headed to the place where drugs and sex are readily available, while rich in history and plenty of beauty. Amsterdam. We found the most amazing camping spot, right on the waterfront which was really quiet and the perfect place to come back to after the mayhem of Amsterdam.

Talk about room with a view... people pay squillions for waterfront views right?!

So I may have painted a sorry picture to garner some sympathy from y’all, but look, I’m tougher than I thought. Despite the bug bites, bad hair and occasional lack of shower (some campsites make you pay to use their dirty, wonky showers!), I really quite like camping! Who would have thought? Although please don’t tell Sean, as I reeeeeally like it when he takes me to a hotel every now and then and spoils me for being such a trouper.  He’s a good husband!!!

So Amsterdam, we hit it up in style. While we didn’t eat a brownie or smoke a joint, we both believe we were high just from the fumes pouring out onto the street as nearly every cafe has a little green symbol indicating they do condone drugs. Or at least, that’s our excuse when we both ordered double scoops of ice cream after an Italian dinner. Munchies. Not greedy or ice cream addicted at all, munchies was the cause of the ferocious desire to consume ice cream and there’s no other reason we’d resort to such gluttony.

We hired bikes for the day because there just isn’t any other way to get around in ‘Dam. Bikers rule the roads, walkways and tramlines here and we really loved that. Especially the fact our bikes were so much more comfortable than those crazy carbon contraptions we get around on back home. Why do we do that to ourselves when the high handle bars and big squishy seat are sooo good?

The basket up front totally suited Prawn, he may be trading in the speed machine for comfort and convenience. But probably not, maybe that's just me.

The days we were in amsterdam there was a major sailing event with tall ships happening there so there were people everywhere. Which freaked out Sean who claims to be a country boy at heart, but the bonus was there was a massive concert with beautiful orchestral music which was magic to hear.

Hoards of people and boats watching the concert, this was a nice part of Amsterdam as opposed to...

We went for a wander around the red light district which was interesting and sad. It’s hard to believe that the girls would live like this and put themselves on display, but hopefully they all have good lives despite being so very different to what I know. We did have fun walking around as there were street parties everywhere and everyone seemed to be in holiday mode.

Sean in the red light district which was going off, this was the furthest I let him get, I clutched his hand the rest of the time.

Amsterdam was a little overwhelming for us and I think it would have been better without the hoards of people. By the time we left we couldn’t wait to see some countryside, but before that, we were off to Germany. Next post will be Hamburg, Berlin and the Black Forest (with a very quick trip to Prague).

As many of you know from Facebook, we’re now in Switzerland and this has been the highlight of our European trip (apart from Uckfield and Fleur and Ricky’s wedding obviously)!! Beautiful, just beautiful. Plus today involved paragliding (for Sean) and being a star in a Bollywood movie (me) so you can’t reeeeally top that huh?!!!

Have a fab weekend and do something a little crazy. Bollywood, paragliding,  excessive ice cream consumption… something like that, do it, it’s so much fun!

Lisa and Sean xoxo

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