All posts filed under: travel

My bed. My cat. My pillow. My son. Yes, that’s the correct order.

I’m home in Australia after 3 weeks travelling. I left my cousin’s place in London at 5am Sunday after minimal sleep and used taxi, train, plane, 3 travelators, plane, bus, & 2 cars to get here. It was by far the smoothest return journey I’ve ever had, and I know not why. Everything just flowed, for the entire 28hr door-to-door ordeal. We even landed 30 mins early from Singapore, which meant I could catch the earlier airport shuttle bus rather than sit around for 3 more hours (which would have felt like a slow torture at that stage). I was deliriously happy to see my Australian sun setting: But not as happy as my cat when he saw me! He even woke me in the night purring and snuggling, but I didn’t mind. I felt the same. I missed him so much But not as much as my BED. And pillow. I can’t begin to tell you how much I  missed my bed and pillow… Son ’17’ is coming over this afternoon after school; I can’t …

Final French flurry of fotos

12 glorious days in France has wound up, filling my heart. I was born there, in a tiny village halfway up a mountain, looking across to the snow-covered Alps, so it’s always special to celebrate an actual birthday there. I’m a very lucky woman, I know. I spent the entire time sucking the language and culture in through my pores. I literally feel a craving I can obviously quench no other way. So I just delight in all things French, especially the local markets and food. Cue the slideshow (except I don’t know how to do it, so a nice even-paced scrolling is now up to you):     I wish I could upload the smells.     And cheese galore, incl that end one which was as big as my entire upper body:     Plus everywhere, the passionate, poetic tumble of language that makes my soul sing.   And feel truly at Home.    

By the way, I’m being teased from afar

It’s my 51st birthday in 5 days. Last year I was in Paris, watching fireworks at the Palace of Versailles, and cycling all over the city with my old lover, staying in 2 different apartments. This time, I’m choosing the simplicity of staying still in the Barn with family. But my dear, sweet, online love ‘H’ will [obviously] not be around to celebrate with me. A few days before I left Australia however, H handed me a package: ‘I made you this for your birthday. Don’t open it till the actual day.’ ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? That’s so cruel! How can I resist it? ‘And don’t hassle me about what it might be; I’m not going to tell you.’ But H, how can I not try to guess? Obviously it’s a book of some kind… Maybe I could just peek in a corner? Later, my son ‘17’ said: ‘You could just open it before your birthday but not tell H.’ [This suggestion reveals so much about the teenage brain, doesn’t it?]. For a naughty moment, …

How to cook Paella for 100 guests in one easy step: hire the local experts

We’re here in the Dordogne for a weekend of family, friends, fun, and the long-awaited 50th. Saturday evening was the big gathering, with long wooden tables and benches spread under the trees outside: We hung fairy lights, tiny candles in jam jars, and foraged greenery from the woods and fields around us: Someone even came up with a creative solution to that dangerous rusty farming implement right near where we’re sitting: The views completely sucked: It was a pleasant 22 degrees or so, and the sunset was as always stunning (such soft light here compared to Australia; I can’t describe it any other way than it looks like it’s been smudged or half rubbed out): There was a mojito bar set up in the ruined BBQ area, plus trestle table bar inside with kegs of wine and champagne bottles. And then of course, everyone had to be fed. So the triumphant organization of this celebration peaked with the Paella King & Queen. We cleared a space in the centre of the Barn, and they just …

Long haul air flights: an utter privilege which sucks

It started so well. Good house/petsitters; efficient packing (roll don’t fold); timely train transport to the airport. The cute gay boy at the check-in counter asks me if I’m staying in Paris? No I’m not. Since 1980, my favourite Aunt ‘M’ (who lives in Sydney) has owned a 300-yr old barn in the French countryside. For years, we have all travelled to and from The Barn (Australians are so good with names aren’t they?) in the Dordogne region; Dad first took me there when I was 15, and I took my son there a couple of years ago when he was 15 (we sat there for 2 months, reading/eating/playing badminton LINK HERE & HERE TO OLD STORIES). Now we’re all gathering again, for my cousin’s 50th celebration weekend July 14-16. She lives in Sydney too, but has been telling us about this party plan for 3 years, supremely organized being that she is; thus approximately 85 people are turning up- mostly from Australia! A HUGE EXCITING EVENT. But first, I have to get there. It …

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 …