Posted in Learning, Life

A hard reset

Tim messages me late on Thursday afternoon: We can get to Tassie for $750. Will I book it?

I thought for a nanosecond and despite not having been to Tasmania so far this year, and despite my usual ‘nothing will keep me away from Tasmania when I have a few days off’, this time something was different. I simply didn’t want to go.

Tassie is known and familiar and I wanted, desperately needed, intuitively knew I needed to be somewhere unknown and unfamiliar. And somewhere a long way away. As far as it was possible to go in the six days we had available to us. Somewhere we hadn’t been before. Somewhere where all the people were strangers and all the roads new.

I wanted to go to Broken Hill.

Tim turns to me late on Thursday night: So. What are we doing over Easter?

It’s 9pm. I mention Broken Hill for the first time. Tim doesn’t blink an eye. It’s no wonder I love this man!

By 11pm our trip is organised, accommodation booked, distances calculated.

By 9am we are on the road, bags packed, keep cups full of tea/coffee, water bottles full, lunches tucked into the cooler bag along with a rudimentary first aid kit, snacks, tea bags and a tea towel – just in case!

I drive out of Melbourne – our usual arrangement – and then over the next six days keep driving.

Photo by Tim Moss

Driving means I’m present, aware of ‘now’, focussing only on the road not on writing rubrics, determining how to publish the children’s stories I’ve written and had illustrated, responding to online discussion threads, reporting on how many law academics I’ve worked with, drafting journal articles and performance objectives, organising photo shoots, exercising, keeping up with social media …

… all left behind, all fading into the increasingly hazy distance as the road unwinds ahead of us. 

Importantly we have a bag of CDs, all compilations we put together for my radio shows over 10 years ago. It’s only on day 6 we have to replay a CD. We have music for every part of our journey, even if it means pressing pause on Damien Rice’s Eskimo until we’re out of Wentworth because it’s a song that deserves space and the open road.

I drive and am present, focussed on this moment, on seeing new landscapes, new combinations of colours, new horizons, new destinations.

I drive and keep my eyes looking forward, into the distance, into the immediate future. I shed the city like a skin by the second day and there’s only the road and the wide-open spaces to contain me. I can feel myself expanding under the warmth and width of the bluest of blue skies.

The ribbons of road shimmering into the distance are my favourite – endless horizons full of possibilities and discovery, full of newness and unfamiliarity. Roads without curves, one line on the map, taking us to the edge of the outback.

The road stretches out before us. The compass says west and then north and they’re the only directions I want to head.

Warmth, colour, distance, the unfamiliarity of the landscape … the only place I want to be.

Broken Hill sunset

Away … so far away … into the desert where the hills gently whisper, and where, right before sunset the silence is audible. The desert where the horizon sits in some distant space way, way over yonder and where time and space mean different things. The desert where my grief for Dad pales against the vastness of the landscape, and I can drop it here, knowing threads of it will return to the city with me but also knowing that it’s safe out here in the warmth and almost limitless space between the far horizons.

The dying ends of the day

It’s a hard reset on a hard start to the year – a chance to stay in the ‘now’, to not think beyond the next bend in an arrow-straight road, to simply be.

Away … so far away … and then home.

Re-evaluated.

Refreshed.

Reset.

 

 


A few days after we came home, we made a book about our journey and published it on Blurb. You can see a preview here if you’re interested. I wrote the blog post above for the book, which also features essays Tim wrote and a selection of our photos from the trip.

It was one of the most significant and important trips I’ve ever taken.

We made it!
Posted in Life, Nature

The consolation of trees

Flicking through Instagram on Sunday morning, I came across a quote attributed to Winnie the Pooh.

There was something about the simplicity of that little sentence that touched me deeply and at that point my morning dissolved into tears.

When I remembered it was Tim’s father’s birthday, the tears threatened to overwhelm me.

You see, it’s my father’s birthday in a few weeks and it’ll be the first birthday he won’t be with us. Oh, there were birthdays when he was away – but he was always within reach of a card and after the Navy years he was always reachable by phone.

But not this year.

It’s one of those firsts I’ve been warned about but haven’t fully understood, in the way you just don’t until you actually experience it.

After big and comforting hugs, we headed into the forest to the north-east of Melbourne, into the consolation of trees.

As an added bonus, there was water.

Never underestimate the consoling power of trees … and a waterfall at the end of the path.

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 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.

Paulette

 

 

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.

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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, Travel

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Antony, from Paris, decided, at the age of 20, to travel the world. He’s now 23 and has been to 40 countries. When I asked his favourite, he listed about ten in quick succession.

Wherever he goes, Antony lays his map out, with photos of his travels around the edge, and waits for people to be curious enough to talk to him. There’s a cap for donations – to help support his journey – and it seems that that’s how he gets by. A crowd-funding scheme that’s quite low-tech. But what an adventure!