Friday, 5 February 2016

Au revoir once more

The brilliance of Picasso was on display at the Musée Picasso, despite two floors being closed in preparation for an exhibition. The sheer volume of work this man produced is astounding. The amount of stuff he kept throughout his lifetime, little doodles and tickets and pieces of paper and all manner of tiny clues to his personality and creative process is second to none. A wonderful museum, and definitely one to revisit when it is completely open.

The Eiffel Tower and the Arc du Triomphe - staples of Paris they may be, but they always look impressive, especially in a fine haze of rain. Eating a Nutella crepe and riding the carousel nearby simply enhances the experience.

Montmartre, my heart. Another walking tour, another couple of hours of bliss, even in the cold night air. Revisiting the homes of Van Gogh and Picasso, witnessing the beauty of Sacre Coeur, even buying original work from the artists who frequent the mountain. Finishing a tour in a tiny, warm bistro, with hot onion soup full of cheese and bread, red wine and a French salade too big to finish (normal salad fare like lettuce and tomatoes, but with bread, two types of cheese, potatoes, and meat in the mix also).

Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise - a peaceful, sombre experience. Among the monuments and the graves of writers, thinkers, and artists lies a smaller plot for a 21 year old woman who died at the Bataclan in November. Visceral sculptures reach toward the sky to commemorate victims of war.

The Abbey Bookshop - an English-speaking treasure trove for book lovers. Towers of paperbacks teeter precariously on either side of ever-diminishing aisle space. A fresh pot of coffee is propped on a hidden shelf. I buy two books, determined to excavate space in my suitcase, including a 1996 issue of the Paris Review with a short story by then-unknown writer, Elizabeth Gilbert. (Whether or not you liked Eat, Pray, Love, you must read Big Magic).

The Latin Quarter yields more and more bookshops. The Pantheon with its crypt full of writers and philosophers and scientists and Resistance heroes is huge, overwhelming, and beautiful. Frescoes of Jeanne d'Arc and Sainte-Genevieve adorn the walls among their male counterparts. Foucault's pendulum mesmerises visitors.

The church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont is just as beautiful, only smaller. The tomb of Sainte-Genevieve is surrounded by candles. I pray quietly and thankfully. Next door, the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve is a hive of activity, students racing in and out of the reading room and the reserve section with its cabinet of curiosities at the entrance. An accommodating guide takes me for a tour in a small group, speaking French to everyone else and translating for me. I try to express my gratitude in clumsy French first, then English.

Our last night in Paris, and the four of us find a restaurant in the Latin Quarter. I have another beautiful French salade and am able to finish it this time. We drink more red wine and order dessert - my creme brûlée is the best I have ever tasted. We return to our mostly packed-up apartment, and in the morning we have cleaned up and are on the train to the airport by 9am. I finish this blog post at the gate, about to board our flight to Manchester and the start of our UK adventure. I will always love France, its language, its people, its capital city, and I look forward to many more return trips.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The adventure continues...

I write this sitting in a food-and-wine induced fog, having just returned from the Latin Quarter with Sean after the most beautiful dinner I have had in a long time. A bottle of red, a starter of vol-au-vent with escargot in a creamy sauce, duck breast and the most tender vegetables for a main, and a chocolate 'Napoleon' dish. Sean had the most divine chestnut soup for his starter, and a creme-brulee-type dish that was served on fire to finish. Bliss.

We have spent the last couple of days walking up and down and all around this amazing city. We started at the Grande Galerie de L'evolution in the Jardin des Plantes yesterday. Even in winter, the wide open spaces are beautiful with splashes of colour made all the more precious by their rarity. The Galerie is enormous, like no natural history museum I have seen before, and the temporary exhibit on big apes was particularly interesting.

Then we embarked on a walking tour of the Latin Quarter - I have found my new favourite place in Paris. I can't believe it is my fourth time in the city and I haven't explored this until now! Thankfully, the walking tour takes you through the Roman ruins, the history of the Sorbonne, the haunts and abodes of great writers and thinkers, and the majesty of it's architecture. Sean and I were the only two people on the tour which made for a very informative and custom-made experience!

Today we visited the Musee d'Orsay, a completely new experience for me, and concentrated mainly on the Impressionists, the sculptures, and the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, though the collection is far, far larger (and still only a fraction of the size of the Louvre). We filled up on mulled wine and crepes for lunch, and then joined Claire and Steve for the catacombs. I've been through the catacombs before, but was glad to go again. There is nothing quite like it in this world - walking through the remains of six million Parisians, miles underground, and reflecting on how many people have come before you and shared the same experience - it is sobering to say the least.

We have two more days in Paris after this. Then we start our adventure in the UK. Our job-hunting, house-finding adventure. Time will tell how we handle this, but I am excited and optimistic. We are incredibly lucky to have this opportunity and I don't intend to waste it.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Très bien

We've been in Paris for two days now and it is just as beautiful as I remember, even in a rainy mist, even in a jet lagged fog. We have eaten amazing food - croissants, croque madame, crepes, and even some things that don't begin with the letters 'cr'. We have walked up, down, and around the area we are staying, on the Rue Saint-Denis in Le Marais, and ventured forth on a Sandeman's free walking tour (my third time taking this particular tour, learning new and different things every time!). Oh yes, and our tour group was small, only about ten people. One of the other group participants went to Mount Waverley Secondary College and knows my brother. Go figure!

We walked through the glory of history and architecture that is the Notre Dame cathedral, and we bathed ourselves in words and pages in Shakespeare and Company, a place I could visit every day and never tire of. We have practiced our rudimentary French in restaurants and cafés, and purchased bottles of wine from tiny groceries to drink in our apartment, which is new, small, pretty, and warm. My heart is so full. And my brain is so jet lagged. To bed, then.



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

New beginnings...

Tomorrow, Sean and I are moving to Scotland for two years. I am over-the-moon happy. This has been a dream of mine since I was too young to think it possible. I am scared, and nervous, and somewhat melancholy. I have learned so much about myself over the last year, and I don't want to disrupt the process of growth and healing. I don't know what will happen, and I know I can only control things to a very tiny extent - both terrifying and liberating.

Time, love, effort, travel, care will tell.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

I don't want to come home!

BOOO! Holidays are THE WORST. They always have to end >:(. The last two days have been a little less eventful than the rest of our holiday, largely due to us getting to the tail end (and also my exhaustion). Sean and Keith went to the 'tech district' part of Seoul yesterday, but I stayed home, trying to catch up on the rest I was missing. When they got home, we were allowed two hours with Keith and another supervisor in the Black Hawk simulator on base! That was without a doubt one of the weirdest but coolest things I've done. The whole thing tilts and shifts and moves, and more than once we took over the controls ourselves and 'flew' the chopper, as well as take-off, landing, and hovering. It was utterly bizarre, being in an exact replica, but knowing that we were just in a big moving box. LOVED IT. Then, for dinner on our last night in Seoul, we went to another 'beef and leaf' place, this one right near the base. It was so delicious - the meat was, I think, better than the night before, and we ate far more than we needed to. Sean and Keith went out again, and I went to sleep, but woke up when they got back to the apartment for a chat.

This morning, Keith drove us to the Airport Shuttle stop, then we took the bus to Seoul Incheon International, and flew to Narita! We're in a nice, if very 70's hotel, and our flight for Melbourne leaves at noon tomorrow. Thus, this will very probably be my last blog for this trip! I have loved every minute, yes, even with the weather being so like an underwater oven, and relished the opportunity to see Japan once more, and experience Seoul as a brand new travel encounter. Meeting friends, old and new, has been, as usual, the main highlight, and I think having the language barrier makes it even more interesting (the other night on a train in Seoul, I watched an adolescent genius solve a Rubix cube about twenty times over half an hour. He kept looking up to check I was watching, and smiling when he saw I was!) Next time, I will definitely come back at a different time of year, but I enjoyed Daimonji and the Miyajima Summer Festival fireworks, two events that we could not have experienced at any other time (as well as almost-war with North Korea). When we are back in Melbourne, our first priority will be planning the next trip....

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Insa-dong

We didn't get out of the house until late again today and it is 100% Keith and Sean's fault for keeping us up late again (though it will probably happen again tonight). We headed for Insa-dong, a trendy, touristy suburb with a long main street full of little handicraft stores and street food. It was really pleasant to wander and shop, though I have well exceeded the budget I gave myself for this trip so far. YOLO. After a couple of hours of killing time wandering (including finding Seoul's version of the Parisian 'love locks' bridge and adding our own), we went and found dinner at a traditional sort of 'beef and leaf' restaurant, where you cook the meat over little charcoal braziers and wrap it in lettuce leaves with vegetables and bean sauce and kimchi and all sorts of little treats. My stomach was happy.