Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We could find that we're all alone in the dream of the proud

Man, so much going on here, I haven't even gotten onto the last and longest part of the trip yet. Paris.
louvre light_img_1241
I hadn't expected to, but I did make it to the Louvre, thanks to a late opening night. I was pretty tired and only had two hours in the massive museum.
So I wandered around, slightly manic and directionless, which actually was not as unpleasant as it sounds. I enjoyed the people-watching as much as anything else. There were the popular greatest hits of course. I sort of glimpsed the Mona Lisa behind a crowd of people. I got a better look at the Venus de Milo.
One exhibit I did enjoy was of artifacts that had been excavated in an architectural dig of the courtyard area in the 1980s when the pyramid and new entrance were constructed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

We don't do things because they are easy, we do them because they are the right thing.

Elizabeth McClung has asked for help spreading the word about her vocation - the Postcard Project.

In spite of, but also because of, very severe and deteriorating health problems, Elizabeth has embarked on a project to send postcards to absolutely anyone who asks for them. Anyone at all. (Apparently if George Bush actually asked, he'd be in). You just have to ask. She will do her best to find a suitable card for each person, including for children. As she says,

How am I going to convince anyone, much less myself, that they as a human being, regardless of disability, depression, feelings of isolation, political or religious difference, are worthy of everyones complete and equal respect as a human being if I do not start.

I'm on Elizabeth's list and love receiving her beautiful work. I didn't sign up at first, thinking I wasn't a particularly needy recipient, and aware that most of her regular readers and commenters are living with disabilities and I'm not part of that circle . Silly way to think isn't it? Aren't we all different people who make a connection through the words and thoughts shared in a medium, in this case a blog? Finally one of her pleas for people to email her to ask for a postcard convinced me. And then her postcard arrived as a bright spot in the week that Grandma died.

Elizabeth needs more people, not to raise money or raise awareness or do anything really, just to be part of her project, because it makes a difference to people and that knowledge is what she seeks most of all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Can you tell a green field?

After a night and a day in Amsterdam, I had a wonderful, peaceful two days in London with my great uncle. It's great, each time I see him it seems like we pick up just where we left off. On the Saturday afternoon we went for a short drive in the country to Box Hill. It was a beautiful sunny weekend at the end of the very rainy summer. Everywhere you looked (in the city too) there were people out getting their vitamin D.
Box Hill
On the Sunday we went into town for a walk, taking in the Tate Modern (below), Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, St Paul's Cathedral and a freaky moving statue.
I didn't know it when I took this picture, but I seem to have happened across Scott King's Temporary Eyesore installation as part of the London Festival of Architecture.
St Paul's Cathedral
st pauls_img_0935
On the Sunday evening I flew back to the Netherlands. Monday was a day of meetings in Den Haag and then we hopped on the Thalys fast train bound for Paris.
Unfortuately the fast train didn't seem all that fast overall when we stopped at a station very early in the journey and ended up waiting for over two hours because of an incident further down the line.

Click here to check out a few more of my photos from this short UK side trip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We've bred all our kittens white so you can see them in the night

into the night
We arrived in Amsterdam quite late at night, flying from Goteborg and changing flights at Copenhagen. I got an amazing view of Copenhagen as the plane skirted the city before landing, and I now I would love to visit - we didn't leave the airport. It had this incredible, clean, tidy Toytown look about it.
I had been yawning on the train from the airport into Amsterdam, and I thought that the only thing I wanted in the whole world was to get to the hotel and fall into bed. But actually the walk to the hotel - dragging luggage, dodging traffic - woke me up, and suddenly I just had to get out again to take some night time photos.
graffiti and bikes
The rest of the group were going to spend the whole weekend there, but this was going to be my only night before heading to London for the weekend. Luckily I had some companions to walk the red light district, share some chips with mayonnaise (when in Amsterdam, this should always be the first order of business), and drink very unusual beer.
Did you watch the last season of The Amazing Race? I am pretty sure this is that bike storage place.

And the full set of my Amsterdam photos can be found on Flickr.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

All I wanna do is...

Probably more than 75% of my Amsterdam photos have bikes in them.

I've visited the Netherlands twice now and both times I've come home wanting to get myself a bike. They have their serious cyclists, sure (you can spot them by the lycra and because they're the only people who wear helmets) but the majority of the population just ride bikes to get around. They wear their normal daytime clothing and lightly scuffed shoes. I'm pretty sure they don't feel the need to shower and change when they get to work. I think that's the sort of riding for me. Yes I absolutely would wear a helmet - it's the law here and I don't have a problem with it anyway.

And this time I really think I might do it. Any advice where I should start with the bike search? I want something comfortable and cruisy, I don't care to go fast. More for leisurely weekend and fair weather transport than sport or exercise.

Friday, October 10, 2008

No, really, no connection with where Batman lives*

Gothenburg / Göteborg, Sweden
I didn't have nearly enough time to explore the city or even really get my bearings - much the same lament throughout this whirlwhind two-week tour. But I got a good taste of Göteborg.

We had two days there, one of which was spent at Volvo headquarters, where amongst other things, we had a glimpse of the crashlab (no actual crash tests) and were taken on the factory tour! This was very cool, and much more fascinating than I might have expected, seeing all the stages of how cars are made. There were no photos allowed. I understand why, but just wished I could have shared this experience with my dad or my nephew, both of whom would have LOVED it.
Our Ibis 'floating hotel' was actually a boat. That's it in the picture above. I was happy to not feel any movement of the boat while I was there. My room looked out onto the harbour, which was lovely.

We received an excellent tip from a local, to take a walk just a short way upriver from the hotel, into an area with lots of old boats.
Many of them were rusting and crumbling. But there were also many that were being worked on or even lived on. I've been trying to work out what this area is called (if it has a name of its own - it wasn't very large) but my Google-fu has failed me so far. The whole place was so photogenic, I'm surprised I haven't come across a Flickr group or something similar in my searches.
In the city I wandered through a mall that seemed reasonably big. Later research suggests it in fact the biggest in Scandinavia, Nordstan, with 180 shops. No, not huge by Australian standards.

Click here for more of my Göteborg photos on Flickr.

*That would be the fictional Gotham City.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Oslo by day

Day 2
Oslo, Norway

Just to clarify, I'm well and truly back in Canberra now, almost two weeks. I'm being a bit old-fashioned, sharing the photos and stories from my trip after the fact. I didn't take a laptop with me, and while I was away I favoured photography & sightseeing (or sleep) over internet time.
So, just one night and one day in Oslo. We had work meetings in the morning and free time after lunch. Everyone was keen to see Vigeland Sculpture Park so we all went there together and spent a while there. It is a fascinating place, all the sculptures are by the same artist (Gustav Vigeland) yet with some variety of themes and styles. Later we wandered off in smaller groups until we had to meet in the late afternoon to catch our train to Sweden.
I had an excellent afternoon's walk through the city with a friend, with a peek in a shop or two but mostly just strolling and taking photos. There are more of my Oslo photos in the Oslo Flickr set.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oslo by night

From Lillehammer we took the train to Oslo in the late afternoon, and our hosts treated us to a six-course dinner at a very fancy restaurant on a hill overlooking the city. The bright streak of light on the hill in the background (in the middle of the upper third of the photo) is another ski jump, strikingly lit up at night.

Oslo night_img_0556
Fancy restaurants are always more tricky - they'll never just throw together a pizza or pull a quiche out of the freezer. This place really made a gallant attempt to come up with something different for the two of us vegetarians for each of the six courses, and each plate did look different, though they all seemed to involve a similar pile of salad leaves. There was a cheese course but unfortunately I am also a bit squeamish when it comes to strong cheeses. All the meat-eaters were complaining of being too full by the end, whereas I was just comfortable.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where were they going without even knowing the way?

walk top_img_0520
Day 1.
We started our trip in Lillehammer, Norway (and neighbouring Hunderfossen where we stayed the Sunday night). After the work portion of the day was done, we were driven to the top of the town and offered the choice to walk down beside the ski jumps. It seemed like a fun thing to do and a good opportunity to admire the views and take photos.
What we hadn't expected was the people would actually be jumping! There was no snow but apparently they don't need it, they were just landing on the green plastic surface - some kind of fake grass I suppose.



pimp myspace
gif created with Gickr

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I never promised you a rose garden

I've been back since Sunday morning, and sleepy most of the time since then. Except for at 5am on Monday morning when I was WIDE AWAKE and that was all there was to it. (This never happens to me, I can always sleep a bit more in the morning if time permits, so it was disconcerting).

I had a terrible time trying to watch Dark Knight last night, at the pricey Dendy Premium cinema. I had really been looking forwarding to seeing it and we been trying to find a time to see it before I went away. We ended up at the premium cinema because there was no evening session in the regular cinemas. And even with iced tea to start, coffee and cake about an hour in, a loud soundtrack with a subwoofer that shakes the seats, and overall an intense and violent movie, I simply had no control over my level of consciousness, and was horrified to find myself nodding off a few times. I didn't miss all that much time-wise but I seemed to miss a lot of important plot points. It was excruciatingly frustrating. Maybe I'll laugh about it later. But I am determined to see it again as soon as possible.
Metro strings_img_1340
Thanks to this week's sleepiness, I haven't done much with my trip photos yet. This one is from my last day in Paris. After using up almost all the available time (I was leaving Paris earlier than most of the others) getting across town to a particular restaurant for our last group lunch, which I wasn't able to stick around to order and eat, I was racing through the metro station on my way back to the hotel for my luggage. I heard beautiful music up ahead and came across this string group with a small crowd watching and photographing. I felt slightly bad that I took the time to get out the camera but not to fish out any coins!