Posted in Photography

Day #9: Paris – Basel

Vendredi 29 Decembre 2017

It’s with great reluctance we say au revoir to our Bastille loft this morning. It really has been a great place to come back to each evening – so spacious and warm and comfortable.

But we’re heading east to see yet another city in yet another country and so saying au revoir is inevitable. We can certainly see ourselves coming back though!

We decide to walk to Gare Lyon – it isn’t far and it’s an opportunity to see a different part of the city. There’s no passport and security checks here as there was when going to the UK and that certainly makes the beginning of our next train trip much more pleasant and stress free.

Without any fuss we’re heading off through the suburbs. Ludovico Einaudi provides the soundscape once more – the exquisite delicacy of the piano in Run is a fine counterpoint to the industrial nature of the cityscape flashing past outside. The trains are so comfortable and roomy and the leisurely nature of train travel (despite hitting a top speed of 320kms per hour) makes moving from one place (city or country) to another a seamless experience that has a certain rhythm and flow – an experience I particularly enjoy.

We are heading to Venice but have decided to stay overnight in Basel, a city sitting almost at the juncture of Switzerland, Germany, and France. If we’d had more time we’d have stood on that spot of confluence, but our time was short and the helpful man at the tourist centre gave us loads of ideas for things to see in Basel itself.

We had designed it as a stop over only, but found it a lovely place to visit. The old town is gorgeous – and that’s where we were when it snowed a little (amazingly exciting experience – so amazing I made a video). We wandered through the old town, watched large groups of young Swiss people dance outside the Cathedral with some nuns, were carried over the Rhine on a boat connected to a wire (which stops it floating off in the current), wandered through the Christmas market, were amazed by the redness of the Rathaus, came across a food van selling spinat borek so had to try one (delicious), bought some Swiss chocolate for a colleague of Tim’s (which he ate, so he had to buy some more!), and miraculously found our way back to the hotel (well, when I say miraculously I really mean ‘thanks Google maps’) where we drank tea like the posh people around us and listened to the piano player, trying not to doze as that would have seemed rude.

I sat there thinking how fortunate we are to have this experience – to spend even small amounts of time in other cities, to see different cultures, to experience different ways of life. And to know that I can handle the cold – and not whinge about it! Not even once 😜.

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Anyone would think I hadn’t seen snow before! Well, I haven’t had it fall on me before and certainly not in a town!!

Posted in Photography

Day #6 – Cheddar – Bristol – London – Paris

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Our whistlestop trip to Cheddar was over and we headed back to Bristol via Cheddar Gorge. It had rained overnight – hailed even if the ice on Melanie’s car was anything to go by – and there was plenty of water lying about. Mel had just finished saying that the particular road we were on sometimes floods, when we crested the hill and saw the flooded road ahead of us.

The Gorge is wild and rugged and we’ve decided we need to come back in the warmer month to explore it more fully.

What a treat it was to spend a few days with family when we’re so far away from home – a real shame we couldn’t spend more time in England to catch up with Aunty Carol. Next time!

We arrived at the bus terminal with plenty of time to spare, and were fortunate enough to catch the earlier bus, meaning we weren’t so squeezed for time in London getting from Victoria Cross to St Pancras. Our Uber driver took us past Buckingham Palace but we didn’t have enough time to pop in.

Buckingham Palace from the back of the Uber

Why don’t we have trains like the Eurostar in Australia? It’s fast, it’s clean, it’s comfortable … we hurtled across the English countryside and then the French countryside in comfort and before we knew it were back in Paris.

Adrian, our AirBnB host for this part of our stay in Paris, had given us detailed instructions for getting to his place from Gare du Nord and despite it being dark by the time we arrived we found our way through cobbled laneways and the early dinner crowd with ease.

Djidji – Adrian’s assistant – was there to welcome us and show us all the features of the apartment. She spoke enthusiastic, but broken English, which was still much better than our French, and we eventually worked things out.

The apartment was amazing, with the world’s comfiest bed – if you’re heading to Paris in the near future and looking for a fabulous place to stay let me know and I’ll give you the details.

 

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.

Luckily.

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 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!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

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One more colour image of the calla lily Tim found in a laneway last week. I could take endless photos of these flowers – I love their delicacy and seeming-simplicity, yet there’s a robustness and complexity to them too.

What do you think? Are you as captivated by these flowers as I am?

Posted in Photography

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As I mentioned yesterday, I had in mind a particular shot I wanted of a calla lily.

This wasn’t it, but I’m drawn to the backs of flowers as much as to the fronts, particularly when they’re this beautiful.

Again, thanks to Tim for the light.