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Sunday
May212017

The Azores

Ponta Delgada

Fire Crater Lake, the volcano crater makes up the mountains of the island

Caldeira Valha. The rainforest looked just like Australian rainforest; only after did we find out that it was largely seeded by Australian plants, with few indigenous plant species

Ribeira Grande had one of the loveliest town centres I have seen

Sao Miguel

Blue and Green Lake

Sete Cidades

Miradouro do Escalvado

Saturday
May202017

Pirate Night

We all dressed up for Pirate Night

Hayden was a fierce pirate, and quickly took us captive

But he was no match for this three year old girl

Sunday
May142017

Setting sail

Saturday
May132017

How things work

Sometimes the questions Hayden asks reveal how much knowledge we take for granted. Last night we went out for a great Italian dinner after a full day exploring the Kennedy Space Centre. "Sweet home Alabama" was playing, and Hayden asked "which movie is this from?". We suddenly released that, never playing music in our house, Hayden was assuming that all songs were from movies, like his favourite Vaiana songs. He goes to music camp a few times a year, and learns songs every week at school, so he is exposed to music, just not in the professional format.

Then this morning, Hayden was watching cartoons in bed. He told me, "I think the people here know that little ones like TV, so they put a TV in the little one's bedroom". Hayden has his own iPad, he watches YouTube videos with Lydia and we go out to the movies quite often, but he has probably only watched TV a few times at a friend's house. So this morning when he asked how to pause the TV so he could go potty, it makes perfect sense that he wouldn't know how TVs are different from an iPad.

From Hayden's perspective, of course, he sees the opposite. Yesterday many people came up to him and said he was an astronaut. He carefully explained to them all that he was not a real astronaut, not assuming that people would know. He then comes and laughs to us, "Mummy/Daddy, that person thought I was a real astronaut!"

Saturday
May132017

Kennedy Space Centre

Guess who was excited to be visiting Kennedy Space Centre?

Watching SpaceX's launch being set-up

"Mission abort!"

Practising his run for the International Space Station

Hayden takes space very seriously. He wants to go the university to study engineering so that he can be an astronaut. He likes space a lot, and Mars is his favourite because it is where all the robots live.

Perhaps one day Hayden's space suit with Mars dust will be on display? Hopefully at the European Space Museum though.

Saturday
May062017

EU open day


EU Open Day at the Commission. Hayden met Captain Europe, but was somewhat dubious.

Every country had a booth. Hayden's favourite was the Netherlands.

Disgracefully, the UK didn't bother to turn up for Open Day.

Fortunately, the official UK negotiator realised the collosal mistake the UK was making, and formally made a plea to re-join the EU.

The Minister for Belgium nominated the UK to rejoin the EU

Seconded by Poland

And the UK is back in the EU! Crisis averted everyone!

Friday
May052017

The Residenz’ wine-cellars

The Prince-Bishops of Würzburg were seriously rich. They lived in a castle above the city, and when castles became unfashionable they had a 300 room palace built in the city. Despite heavy bombing in WWII, much of the palace survived and the rest was painstakingly rebuilt in the original style, so today you can still see how decadently rich the Bishops lived. Gold leaf and marble cover the rooms, with the ceilings elaborately painted frescos.  It screamed the type of opulence that you can only get by giving billions of dollars to someone with the aesthetic taste of a five year old. An American colleague commented that it was such a different world from today. I gently ribbed back, “yeah, it is hard to imagine today a ruler who wants gold leaf covering their toilet and needs their entry to be announced by a fanfare of ‘hail to the chief’”.

The most interesting part of the Residenz is the wine cellars beneath, the largest in Germany and the oldest in the world, founded in 1128. At the end of our conference we got to walk through the stone catacombs; heavy stone encasing the enormous oak barrels, dark shadows punctuated only by candle light. An enormous cheese plater and the tasting of seven Franconian wines rounded out a very satisfying trip.

Clearly this castle doesn't cut it anymore, so time to build a palace:

The wine cellars. No tapping on the barrels, or else: 

Thursday
May042017

The Else-Kröner foundation

I am in Würzburg for a Translational Immunology conference. The conference is hosted by the Else Kröner foundation, which is quite an inspiring story. Else started out with a pretty bad roll of the dice – her father died before she was born, and her mother, struggling as a cleaner for a pharmacy, died while she was still young. The story could easily have ended in poverty, but fortunately Else was adopted by the pharmacist. Even this stroke of luck soon ended, with her adopted father dying during WWII, and a young Else inheriting a bombed out pharmacy. It must have been an amazing story of courage, talent and dedication for Else to rebuild her pharmacy and turn it into a multi-million dollar company, Fresenius, specialising in nutritional supplements. In her will, Else put enough money aside to look after her children until they graduated from university, and turned the rest into a foundation for medical research. The foundation is still the majority shareholder of Fresenius, and sponsors early-career clinical researchers, such as the excellent Translational Immunology program they run in Würzburg. 

Monday
Apr242017

Chile

Sunday
Apr232017

Travelling as a vegetarian

So, inspired by my recent trip to Chile, I thought I would make a map of where it is easy/hard to be a vegetarian. It ranges from:

Amazing: India, Italy and Thailand, oh my!

Good: you don't need to check the menu, every place will have a couple of decent vegetarian options

Okay: you might need to search a bit, but you are not going to go hungry and there are occasional gems

Poor: waiters will look at you funny, but the cook will try to make you an omlet or something

Bad: yeah, expect to have a few meals based around fries and beer. Waiters are just going to say "no".

Food desert: desperately looking for a Subway or pizza place, you'll end up appreciating airline food at the end

Note: a lot of these places can flip dramatically if you eat fish, most notably Spain, Indonesia and Japan