All posts filed under: travel

Prepare to lie. Prepare to buy. Prepare to die. Part Two

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (yet) in Australia, nor do we have Black Friday. This year, more than 154 million Americans shopped either online or in store, according to a National Retail federation survey from CNN, Nov 27 2016. They spent $1.9 billion online on Thanksgiving Day and another $3.3 billion on Friday, according to Adobe. In 2014, total spending for the 4-day Thanksgiving/Black Friday holiday weekend was over $50 billion. In 1994, I went travelling through Indonesia with a flatmate from Sydney. We went to Sumatra, way off the beaten track then, and got terrible ‘Bali belly’ the day after we landed. It was the morning of an all-day bus ride up the island, and my period arrived too. So there I was, losing all my bodily fluids explosively from all holes, sitting on a crammed bus where we were the only white faces, driving further and further off into the unknown. We literally staggered off the bus that night and collapsed into a small family guesthouse, both of us thinking we may die. Of …

Ugh. Jetlag. Who needs it? #firstworldproblemsIknow

We’re back in Oz safely. ‘15’ was SO ready to leave Europe, and had become obsessed with Instagram surfing videos, dreaming of his first dive into our warm, welcoming ocean. I had to practice patient acceptance of his daily mantra ‘I just want to go home and be with my friends…’ So now we’re back. We landed early in Brisbane, and high-fived each other. I hadn’t seen such a big grin on his face for a while, and it was delightful to see him hugging his Dad (he and I broke up when ’15’ was about 3; I wouldn’t define us as ‘good friends’, but it’s been a long, rocky road, and this is probably the best it’s going to get, which is fine). They dropped me at my place on the way home (we live 20 mins apart), and ‘15’ ran in quickly to say hello to our beloved cat, plus comment that ‘the house smells different’, then got back into the car saying ‘I’ll probably see you in January some time Mum…’ I …

How to never end up at Shit Creek

Our journey back to London from Barcelona Wednesday 4 November 2015 started OK, got really Good, then went Pear-Shaped, and fell out the bottom of Shit Creek with the most expensive non-existent paddles I ever bought. It begins with the flight time. I thought it was 10am. That’s OK. We would have to get up very early, but we’d be fine, we’re both good at that. I checked the e-ticket: it was actually 13.50. That’s really Good. Lots more time to negotiate the metro system to the airport, and save wasting Euros on a taxi [insert ironic, manic laughter here, and repeat phrase ‘save wasting Euros’ while frothing at mouth. Oops sorry, *spoiler alert*]. I looked it all up on Journey Planner. Took screen shots of the connections we had to make (walk, metro, change metro, walk, train, shuttle bus). Timed it so we’d be at the airport by 12.30 at the latest, with the Gate closing at 13.30: Packed the night before. Agreed we’d get up at 8.30, to leave by 10.30. Slept quite …

Mum vs Teenager & Teenager vs Mum

Let me start by saying son ‘15’ is awesome. 90% of the time, he’s smart, funny, pretty thoughtful. But oh boy, that other 10% is so stubborn, so critical, so dismissive! And of course, that’s his job: he’s being a Teenager, which involves the rejection of, and rebellion against, parental control, advice, and even experience. I get that. I did that. I did that massively, and my Mum (who turns 80 next year) would probably add that I still do. But when we’re in Barcelona, a place neither of us has ever been before, and a place I’m pretty certain I’ll never come to again, and it’s our first full day here, and I’ve bought tickets online worth $80 to get into the Gaudi-designed ‘Park Guell’, and we need to be there by 10.15am for our entry in the 10.30-11 time slot, and you, dearest ‘15’, want to watch surf movie clips on Instagram while dawdling over getting ready to go (me having been up for nearly 2 hours already, and gone to get the necessary …

With his tail tucked down

So we’re getting on the train at St Astier, ready to cross France for 8 hours to visit with an old family friend, and there’s some kind of problem on board with one of the other passengers. A young man, perhaps 25, dressed in black hoodie jacket, loose black pants, with a big, scruffy black suitcase. He’s white-skinned, sunken eyes, sweating slightly. He reminds me of a nervous dog, who got that way by being beaten. The conductor is standing in front of him, arms folded, legs wide apart, telling him he needs a ticket to travel, and where is it? A younger conductor is standing further along, in exactly the same pose, blocking the exit down the carriage. There’s only the door to get off, and the tight corridor surrounding us. Other passengers are looking over and away, then over again. Son ‘15’ and I are each lugging big suitcases, a small backpack, a bag of food, and my handbag, plus a 5 litre bottle of water. We are now in the middle of …

5 things we miss, and 5 things we’ve learnt to love and appreciate

Tonight is the Last One of Everything. Our last fire. The last dinner. Our last evening of badminton. Tomorrow we pack up all the furniture, empty the fridge, drain all the pipes of water (so that they don’t freeze and crack during Winter), cover the mattresses in plastic, and go stay with the neighbours up the road for a night (very kindly taking in the 2 cold Aussies, and asking us genuine questions like ‘Are kangaroos everywhere? Do they attack you?’) I feel melancholy. I know I’ll never have this time again. Not with ‘15’. Because soon he’ll be 16, then 18, then 20, and [hopefully] travelling the world by himself, or with mates and a girlfriend [I’m not assuming heterosexuality there, by the way; I’ve been referencing ‘boyfriends and/or girlfriends’ since he was about 9, and he finally sat me down firmly and told me he was definitely not gay, which I was very disappointed about- no marching proudly in the Mardi Gras with my child sigh]. ANYWAY, back to feeling sad by the …

“France is a desperate party girl.”

I thought that yesterday, as we drove home from the local village with fresh bread. Autumn is really here: all the trees are red, gold, yellow, throwing their leaves onto the road in front of us. France has become a fraught, older ‘woman of the world’, throwing one last drunken ‘soirée’ before the lonely slam of Winter. She’s piling on her jewels, strings of rubies and gold chains, wrapping round and round her big bosom, as she leans forward into our space, spilling cheap champagne, desperate for us not to leave yet. She’s talking too loudly, her perfume’s too strong. She’s painted her toenails Tangerine, clinging to the last cotton dress of summer, her last green lace petticoat. She’s straining to throw bright sunsets, ignoring the bite of chill in the air, laughing hard at our more introspective moods, which lower on us as the darkness comes sooner. France has a population of 60 million, and her visitors number 76 million a year. She’s busy, receiving them all, mostly from June-September 30. And now her …

I seem to have packed my routines as well

Ah yes, the freedom of Travel with a capital T: being ready for anything, meeting anyone, changing plans in an instant. No work commitments, no diary appointments, no regular routines getting in the way of spontaneous adventure… When we first arrived in the Barn, I was finishing a 2-month ‘cleanse’ of no sugar, almost no wheat, minimal carbs, and various herb concoctions before and after eating (on the advice of both a doctor and naturopath, trying to deal with a water-borne parasite I’d picked up somewhere- Hello Blasto 😦 ). Within a week I was having fresh bread spread with unsalted butter and homemade jam for breakfast, or croissants and pain au chocolat; incredibly rich and varied omelets for lunch followed by more cheese and bread; chicken or fish with garlic potatoes for dinner, finished with more cheese of course. The other day I even drank a glass of champagne in the afternoon, which honestly for me is the equivalent of Keith Richards going on a three-week bender. So we can say I’m letting loose …

Périgueux- home to perhaps the dodgiest Airbnb listing you’ve ever seen

Glorious day last week, with blue skies to rival Australia’s. Time to visit the mediaeval town of Périguèux, 40 minutes drive away, including its cathedral, built in the 6th, 12th, and 16th century: Time to be enchanted by the surrounding laneways, leading to the marketplace where son ‘15’ ate “…The best ribs of my whole life, even better than Dad’s, I’m sorry to say…” (no pics allowed, but let me assure you, there was Grease Chin, sticky fingers, and complete carnivorous delight): Time to take my favourite picture of the trip so far: Time to marvel at the unwelcome front doors they make round here: A chance to picture Juliet, calling down to her love: And then, walking along the river, we saw this- The Place You Don’t Want To Stay: We were flabbergasted. ‘15’ kept giggling, and imagining having parties inside, and getting everyone to run from one side to the other to rock it [Oh the way teenagers’ minds work huh?!]. Let’s look at it one more time shall we? Imagine turning up …

Our last swallow has flown South for summer

We arrived 2 weeks ago in the Dordogne (rural France at its best), down by train from Paris through late summer fields and villages. Old stone walls glowed gold at sunset. The air was warm, thick and welcoming, like a fresh baked cinnamon bun straight out of the oven. The ‘Barn’ has stood for more than 300 years, and been in the family since 1981, thanks to the pioneering and determined spirit of Aunt ‘M’ (she of the infamous parking fine in previous post HERE). The solid stone building was full of energy and chatter: twin girls here with their Dad, an Uncle from England, cousins, partners, ‘M’ the matriarch, a visiting octogenarian, old friends and locals alike popping in. Badminton games and barbeques. Loads of washing taken in and out, beds made up, beds stripped down. Wine bottles brought home, and emptied with loud laughter. Old stoneware bowls filled with baked potatoes, garlic, cheese and cream, matching the smoked salmon and rosemary baked chicken. Various neighbours invited for afternoon snacks, as we piled chips, …