Posted in Photography, Travel

Day #4 – Paris – London – Bristol – Cheddar

Dimanche 24 Decembre 2017

Christmas Eve.

To be completely honest I was expecting Paris to be more Christmas-y than it was. Maybe we don’t go into those areas that were Christmas-y, and maybe the sex shops of Montmartre didn’t need Christmas baubles to lure customers in, but still it was a touch disappointing. I’d heard so much about Paris at Christmas and how pretty it was.

And there was no snow.

Yes, I know. I hate the cold, but snow is pretty and that would have made up for it. Wouldn’t it?

Spending Christmas on the other side of the world is all well and good, but I’ve not had a non-family Christmas before and so, when we were planning our trip, I asked my niece Melanie and her partner Craig if we could barge into their Christmas celebrations.

‘Yes, absolutely’ was the quick response, and so we added one more country to our itinerary.

Melanie and Craig live in Cheddar, a small village in the south-west of England. The closest big city is Bristol, so we made our way there (Eurostar – Uber – National Express bus – Melanie in her blue Ford) … I’m not sure what was faster, the Eurostar or Melanie, but we made it safely, although I have to admit to having my eyes shut most of the way so I didn’t get to see much of the countryside between Bristol and Cheddar.

I can’t remember if this was taken on the Eurostar or in Mel’s car!

I’d not been to Cheddar before so was keen to see it, but as it gets dark at 4pm, that wasn’t going to be today.

Mel’s place was Christmas-y … a giant tree, baubles galore (including the one from New Zealand my sister Debbie had entrusted into my keeping), and if it’s possible, more presents than baubles.

Bruce, the rabbit, had made a start on opening some of the presents, but he only likes the paper … and the tags.

Another early night for us – a combination of jet lag and the fact it’s dark so early (4pm – that’s the time it gets dark, not the time we went to bed!!) … this time in a bed that wasn’t made of concrete!


Posted in Life, Photography, Travel

Day #3 – Paris

Samedi 23 Decembre 2017

When Tim mentioned he’d like to go to Paris for Christmas, I have to admit that my response was not one of enthusiasm or excitement.

Christmas in Paris means winter.
Winter means cold.
I hate the cold.

No, you don’t understand.
I really hate it!

But I said yes anyway – who could say no to Tim’s obvious enthusiasm and excitement, and I made a promise to myself to limit my whingeing about the cold to a bare minimum.

Luckily for Tim, it hasn’t been too cold so far. 10C each day – which I’ve been able to live with quite comfortably. It helps that we stocked up on merino tops, merino thermals, merino socks, merino buffs … and, for me, fur-lined boots. Sharon, a colleague from work, lent me her duck down, knee-length puffy jacket and matching beanie … so with multiple layers, and thus, nowhere for the cold to touch my skin, I’ve actually remained surprisingly warm.


For both of us!

The l’Orangerie was on the agenda for today – a Christmas gift from Daniel and Cathy – and sitting (calmly – as the sign asked us to) taking in Monet’s waterlillies was a fabulous way to spend the morning. One of the things I love about Paris is the ready access to artworks we often don’t get to see in Australia – except for travelling exhibitions. Downstairs from Monet’s waterlillies were works by Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir and others … a visual treat!

We find our way to No Glu – a gluten free cafe (thanks Michelle) – for lunch (our first meal for the day) and do a lot of Google translating to work out the menu before the waiter brings us the English version.

It’s started to rain but we are warm and dry inside our layers as we make our way to the Louvre – ready to laugh our way around it. Cedrik is our guide – a historian and stand up comedian. It’s an entertaining way to see key works in the world’s (second?) largest museum – apparently, if you were to spend two minutes looking at each of the art works, you’d be there for 150 days!

It’s an overwhelming place – so much history, so much art, so many people and selfie sticks and pushing to get a photo with the Mona Lisa. We didn’t push, but we also didn’t get selfies with her. Her smile was enough thanks.

On our way to and from the Louvre, we make some of our own art works – works of a photographic nature. Here’s a small sample of mine. As you can see, it’s a very wintery day!

From Pont Neuf looking towards Tour Eiffel


Looking from Richelieu Passage into the Musee du Louvre


The French Institute – home to the Immortals
Posted in Travel

Day #2 – Paris

Vendredi 22 Decembre 2017

Not an early start, it has to be said despite the hotel bed being as soft as concrete. It was a delight to stop lying on it, truth be told, and to get out and about.

I opt for a breakfast of oeufs brouilles, which came with salad, while Tim couldn’t go past the American breakfast (a breakfast he said he’d never find in America).

No plans for the morning, just wherever we find ourselves is fine.

We find ourselves at Republique Metro Station, buy a billet from the machine (once we work out where to find the “English” option), mix up the 1 & 2 euro coins because the 2s are bigger than the 1s, up stairs, down stairs, through white tiled tunnels, to the platform. It feels like an adventure – which is weird, given we catch trains almost every day at home.

Squish onto the train, head to Montmartre. Off at Pigalle, turn right, wander past the Moulin Rouge and about a thousand sex shops, into Starbucks (!) for a chaud the, then another wander through what to me feels like a familiar area as we head up towards the Sacre Coeur (I’d stayed in this area in 2011 when I came over with Mum, Dad, Deb, Grant, Mel, Sarah and Ben). I ate at that restaurant, bought shoes from that shop, dresses for Sakye and Lily from that one and lollies for the other kids from that shop over there.

We meet Paulette, our photo tour guide, and Nida and Yannick – two youngsters from Berlin – at 2 and spend the next few hours taking photos around Montmartre, revisiting some of the places Deb, Grant and I had visited on a walking tour with tour guide William six years before. Paulette’s stories are gentler and have less of a political edge than William’s, but are no less interesting.




It gets dark here at 5pm and our body clocks were still slightly off, so we head back to our hotel, via a cafe for dinner, and are asleep by 8.

And yes, that meant being awake at 2 … but sleep crept over me again about 6. It doesn’t get light here till almost 9, so another three hours was more than enough!

Posted in Travel

Melbourne-Paris Day #1

Wednesday 20-Thursday 21 December 2017

The hours between 7 & 9pm dragged. We’d made lists, checked them twice, decided who was naughty or … no, wait … that’s the old fat dude in the red suit!

We’d made lists, put together an itinerary, forgot to send it to Mum, got caught in a whirl of activity at 9pm as it hit us that this was really going to happen.

We showered, found backpacks, packed them with those things we’d need in the next 30 hours – passports, entertainment of all kinds (movies, TV shows, music, books all downloaded), snacks, toothpaste – and then it was time to go.

Our Uber driver was non-communicative, the car was rattly and old, and the traffic was at a standstill miles before the airport, but we made it, checked in, felt the thrill of excitement walking through the yellow doors to international departures, passed through security without being explosives tested or body scanned, slid my passport into the scanner then looked into the camera (how it ever matched my face with my hideous passport photo I’ll never know- although that suggests I actually look as bad as my passport photo and that’s not a good thought), and we were into the world of duty free.

We passed through that world unscathed and make our way to the gate. I sat and tried my best not to fall asleep.

12:30am – we boarded and before too long were on our way!

Nine uneventful hours flew by – literally. I slept intermittently, and watched the sun come up over the South China Sea.

The number of boats in that sea surprised me, although when I think about it, it makes sense. China makes a lot of stuff to send out into the world.

The number of islands also surprised me – Hong Kong is like a fishtail jutting out of the water, a thin slice of mountain poking up from the ocean. It has a dystopian feel – the height of the mountains, the number of them, and then the concrete tower blocks on the mountain side of the airport. Strange. And strange to think that many (many) years ago people made their way here without the help of social media and mass communication. How did they find it and how (and why) was a massive shopping island constructed here?

Three hours later and we’re in the air again – this time for 13 hours. We fly over China, Kazakhstan, Russia … I fall asleep and wake up moments out of Paris. The clouds are low, and we’re just out of them before we land. The Australian pilot says a cheery ‘welcome to Paris’, we collect our things, and before we know it we’re on the shuttle and heading into the city. Almost two hours later we’re at our hotel, which as we’re soon to discover is not far from Republique Square.

It didn’t mean much to us either at first, but we were quick to find out it meant lots of restaurants – and a metro station. We ate, then caught the metro to the Trocadero, watched the Eiffel Tower twinkle, then desperately tried to stay awake on the train so we didn’t miss our stop on the way back.


I was asleep within nano seconds and 10 hours later woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our first proper day in Paris.

Posted in Life, Travel

It’s finally happened …

Just over five years ago – on September 28, 2012 – I packed my bags (well, ‘bag’ actually because I only took one) and headed to Paris and from there caught a train through France and Italy to Germany, stopping off at various places along the way. I went on my own – Tim had something else on – although I did meet up with my niece Sarah and her (now) husband Ben in Venice for a few days.

The year before – on September 28, 2011 – I had also packed my bag and headed to Paris to spend some time with various members of my family before the majority of them headed on a bike and barge tour to Bruges. I was fat and unfit in those days and decided to spend my time wandering around Paris on my own and visiting Elke in Germany, rather than jumping on a bike and riding for days and days.

In that year – 2011 – my granddaughter Lily was born (on the day I left), so the date remains in my memory long after other details have seeped out. What did I wear on the plane? How and when did I get European money? Useful stuff like that, that would come in handy right about now.

I vowed and declared I would return in 2013 and my hope was, every year thereafter.

I didn’t.

Fast forward to today. 20 December, 2017.

Our (yes, Tim is coming with me this time) bags are packed and we’re ready to go. Almost. We have time for dinner and a shower before we head to the airport – and one final check to ensure we haven’t left some small detail unattended to – like grabbing my passport from the drawer where I shoved it last month, hoping it would never see the light of a security check because the photo is THE worst passport photo. EVER. No, it truly is.

I can tell already that this is going to be a different sort of adventure.

For one thing, it’s winter in Paris and I’m not a big fan of the cold. My challenge will be to not whinge about it. It’s going to be a really (really) big challenge. Except I keep hearing how beautiful it will be, so a tiny part of me is thinking that it won’t be as much of a challenge not to whinge as I think. One challenge has been to pack for the cold when it’s 36C outside – trying clothes and my fur-lined boots on has been a sweat-filled task of epic proportions!

We’re going to France and Italy and the Czech Republic. Neither of us speak French, Italian or Czech and that wouldn’t usually matter because English is quite widely spoken, except that Tim has particular food intolerances (he doesn’t tolerate onion and garlic, for instance) and neither of us thought to learn to say ‘no onion; no garlic’ in any of those languages. We also neglected to learn the word for bathroom. Luckily for us we live in the 21st century, not the ones before, and that means we can use technology when our attempts at miming fails. We might even bypass miming ‘I need the loo’ and go straight to the technology.


We’ve booked photo tours in each major city we’re visiting – sometimes more than one – plus a ‘laugh your way around the Louvre’ tour with Cedrik – a clown. And yes, I checked, and no, he doesn’t dress up like a clown. He’s just a funny and entertaining man who makes the Louvre all kinds of fun. Daniel and Cathy gave us tickets to the Musee de l’orangerie so we’ll have fun exploring that as well.

We’re catching trains – my favourite form of transport – from Paris to London and from Paris to Mont Saint Michel and from Paris to Venice (via Basel and Milan). And then we’re catching a plane from Venice to Prague.

It’s going to be all kinds of interesting.

In a few hours we’ll be on our way. The excitement is building!

Who knows, we might even get some snow … although we possibly should have gone to Tassie for that!!

Ready … set … almost time to go!
Posted in Photography

52 weeks … a year in words and images

As you’re no doubt aware, I like to take photos. Some of them are even okay. Others are relegated to the ‘do not ever open’ folder on my computer.

I generally take photos of flowers*, and when I travel I take photos of buildings and gardens and bridges. And people. Especially people. As someone who prefers not to interact with people, I’m often bemused by my love of taking photos of people.

I’ll happily walk up to someone in the city and ask to take their photo and have a chat with them – but put me in a room with other people at a conference for instance, and I find a corner in which to stand awkwardly, avoiding eye contact with other conference participants in case they somehow, inexplicably, think it’s okay to talk to me. It never is. Ever. Standing awkwardly in a corner is fine with me, and because I’m so old, I can even do it without a phone in my hand.

So, photos of flowers and people. But I’m also part of a small group of photographers who are engaged in a 52 Week Photography Project (note the caps – that means it’s a ‘thing’, an important and significant thing), and that means I have to extend my range, photographically speaking, beyond people and flowers. And it’s often (read ‘always’) a challenge.

We have a theme each week and I generally spend the week thinking of ideas. Or at least knowing I should be thinking of ideas. By the weekend, when no ideas have fallen on me from the ideas generator in the sky (I’m beginning to think the ideas generator doesn’t exist and that I’ll have to do my own thinking!), I get desperate and take a photo of the first thing that crosses my path.

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that, but sometimes my creativity tank is very low and I feel pressured to find something to photograph. I have a few cringe-worthy shots as proof of my depleted creativity – but let’s focus on the positives shall we?

Our themes have included ‘blue‘, ‘still life with food‘, and ‘the natural world‘. We shoot a self-portrait in Week 1, Week 13, Week 26, Week 39, and Week 52; and in Weeks 10, 20, 30, 40, & 50 the theme is photographer’s choice (now, if you think it’s hard to think of something when you have a theme, let me tell you it’s VERY difficult to think of something to shoot when there isn’t one).

The weekly post is released each Sunday night on the 52 Week Photography blog, and we sit and chat (electronically, as we’re spread across the globe) about each other’s images. As my sister Debbie, her husband Grant, their daughter Melanie, my son Daniel, my husband Tim, and our friend Alison form the group, it’s a lovely way to end the week.

I love to see how each person has interpreted the theme and marvel at the photographic prowess on display, and commit (to myself at least) to trying harder next week, which, come Monday I promptly forget, only to be reminded the following week when I see everyone else’s shots.

And it’s already Week 21 (the year really is flying by) and the theme this week is ‘play’ … how would you interpret that theme? Feel free to upload your photographic interpretation in the comments.

[Using my readers as potential ideas generators?? Never!!]

[Please (please) feel free to play along!]

* I don’t actually only take photos of flowers. Sometimes I also take photos of lightbulbs! (This is a shot from last year’s 52 Week Project.)

Fun fact: I was contacted by an energy company in the UK earlier this week asking if they could use this image on their promotional material!