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.

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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 Life, Photography, Travel

316

In Sydney’s Hyde Park, Haruki skates in a swarm of controversy.

I asked Haruki (I admit to not knowing his name at this point) to do a jump so I could shoot him in the light bouncing off the War Memorial. An elderly couple (read: older than me) roundly castigated us both – Haruki for skating and ‘potentially killing a small child’, me for ‘encouraging him, particularly as I was old enough to know better’. It was a moment of instant bonding with my new friend Haruki.

Posted in Photography, Travel

313

There was a man in Sydney’s Hyde Park, playing an instrument that makes the fountain work.

Well, that’s what I like to think anyway.

Posted in Life, Photography, Travel

309

Staying with the Sydney theme for another day … although, really, this image could have come from anywhere. All over the world people rage against injustice, and express their rage in different ways. And some photograph the man who covers himself in a sign, while others photograph the photographer.

What this image doesn’t show is busker Joe Moore, playing in the Pitt St mall … the music this man was joyfully dancing to. The dancing man signifies balance to me – the injustice he’s railing against hasn’t dampened his spirit – he can still dance with enthusiastic abandon while sending passers-by a message.

Posted in Life, Photography, Travel

307

In Sydney’s Blythe St, a hoarding around a building invites me into another world.

I like Sydney.
I like the parks in the centre of the city, and the gardens at the edges.
I like the expanse of the harbour, and the ferries dotted across it.
I like the iconic buildings and structures, and the mix of old and new – sandstone rubbing shoulders with and being dwarfed by glass and steel.
I like the spaces to sit and eat lunch outside with colleagues or on your own, the breadth of Martin Place.
And I like that Martin Place always brings to mind Les Murray’s An absolutely ordinary rainbow.
It too invites me into another world.