My recent Christmas holiday included Paris as our real travel destination. Paris is a city that I am quite familiar with having lived and worked there some years ago. It is a big, bustling, but also coy city. You might question the description, coy, but the majority of Parisiens keep to themselves and lead their lives in the midst of the Napoleonic grandeur doing their own thing.

So you can imagine my shock when we arrived only a few days in the wake of the tragedy of Charlie Hebdo. When the incidents occurred, we were over at Disneyland Paris and you could see an immediate and overt increase in Police and security presence. So when we got to the city centre for our last night before returning home, there was an uneasy feeling pervading the fabric of the city. Like I said, most Parisiens do their own thing and lead their own lives most of the time. Quite often neighbours have only one thing in common, that they are neighbours. But Charlie Hebdo was on everyone’s lips, and when red beret soldiers in flak jackets are walking around flaunting their automatic rifles around the prime tourist destinations something was up.

But I was not going to let that stop me or my family from touring the beautiful city of light. We stayed at the Pullman, Eiffel Tower and I wanted to walk around the locale of my old office. The tower itself was only a block away, right on our doorstep. Capturing it never gets tired.

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The Seine itself was quiet, but that was not surprising given it was the middle of Winter. As always there were several canal boats unassumingly moored on its banks.

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I was shocked to find the big ‘Je Suis Charlie’ banner draped on the Palais de Tokyo. Normally these pillars hold the banners for the latest exhibition of modern art.

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At Place d’Iena, the location of my old office, both the French and European Union flags flew at half mast in solidarity.

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I was surprised to see electric car charging booths on quite a few streets. I am a keen fan of Elon Musk’s Tesla, but these little electric buggies were new to me as were their berths. Maybe Australian politicians could learn a thing or two from where France is going with clean and sustainable transport. (I still want the Tesla – Model S P85D please…)

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Did I mention there were Police everywhere? If you look to the end of the platform you can see several gendarmes – they were everywhere.

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When we emerged out of the metro at the L’Arc de Triomphe, the first sight we were greeted with was… three burly gendarmes making their presence felt on the Champs-Élysées.

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The L’Arc de Triomphe itself was bearing the projection of solidarity for the whole city.

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Paris remains a city in love with movies since the time when Lumiere gifted the world with his new performance medium. There are more cinemas in Paris than there are pubs in Dublin.

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We were making our way to a restaurant that I dined at regularly when I was working there. Though it has changed hands and has a new proprietor Oscar remains a great restaurant which is well patroned by the locals. I think most tourists in Paris are hoodwinked by the overpriced eating establishments when all it takes is to walk off the main streets to find fantastic food and wine at half the price without the BS. The team at Oscar made us feel welcome even when we were dragging two children and a wet pram into their restaurant – so I (and many others on tripadvisor) definitely recommend this place to dine.

Even with all the unease and tension, the city remains the city of light. And when my boy saw the Eiffel Tower light up and glitter for the first time, for a brief few moments the tension was pushed away.

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Hopefully the next time I visit it will be under a different set of circumstances.

Addendum: I wrote this post last night and overnight tragedy befell Copenhagen too. Two worlds are colliding right now; one secular, modern, and liberal (but not necessarily without religion or morals) against the other ultra-doctrinal, intolerant, and archaic. Neil Degrasse Tyson tells us that colliding worlds are not a good thing at all.

While I am not in Paris for St Valentine’s Day, I imagine that a few more locks will be added to the Passerelle Debilly today.

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Happy Lunar New Year 2015! Baaaaa…

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This is a slightly different from my normal ‘World According to Pok’ posts in that it is a story of a different kind rather than the usual anecdote of what my son blurts out. The stars of this post are ‘The Pok’ (my 4 year old son) and ‘Kiki’ (our 7 month old daughter). And this story is told by photos.

The Pok, running onto the bed where his sister is lying: “Daddy, come and take a photo of me and [Kiki]”

Father of the Pok (me) – fumbling around: “Hang on, let me get my phone”

Moments later, with my phone in hand…

Father of the Pok: “[Pok], can you hold your sister and give her a hug?”

Kiki [non-verbal]: “I don’t want to take a photo, have it!” [WHACK]

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The Pok [non-verbal]: “What the heck?”

Kiki [non-verbal]: “That got him!”

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The Pok [non-verbal]: “That hurt :-(“

Kiki [non-verbal]: “Hey Dad, check out my follow through.”

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The Pok [non-verbal]: “Hey Sis, why did you do that? I was trying to give you a hug for a photo.”

Kiki [non-verbal]: “Quick, his guard is down.”

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The Pok [non-verbal]: “You’re lining me up again? C’mon”

Kiki [non-verbal]: “Right uppercut, karate kick”

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Needless to say, I did not get a photo of the two together during this photoshoot. And Kiki was not able to land the karate kick.

 

Summer is in it’s final month here in Sydney. But being Summer it also means water and outdoors at night. One of our favourite things to try and do each year is to attend the Open Air Cinema between the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. It is not cheap, but seeing at least one movie during the season has become a tradition of ours. The first time we went was to see the movie “Saving Grace” which turned out to be quite hilarious for two reasons. Firstly good movie, and secondly we watched the entire movie in a torrential downpour with ponchos on. I suppose a big part of what you pay for is the stunning location to watch the movie – here was our movie theatre for the evening.

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For the uninitiated, you can get caught out with the way the whole thing works. There are no reserved seats, and one of the first things you have to do is lay claim to yours for the evening (not before grabbing a Lindor ball though – though no black or blue ones were on offer).

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For the evening I was ‘Bill Collins’ of “Golden Years of Hollywood” fame (it’s an Aussie thing).

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Once the seats are secured, then it is off to get fed and watered. This is the best way to catch dinner and a movie with a great view. Again, reserving your seats for the dining is essential to.

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We went with friends this year, and managed to get tickets to the Christopher Nolan film – “Interstellar”. I was quite chuffed! It was the first time our mates had been to this Open Air Cinema – which for me was a real shock because they are proper movie buffs. Every year we try and go see anything, so long as we go. But it was a bonus to get tickets (and they sell out real fast!) to a movie that we both wanted to see. [side note – last year we saw “Anna Karenina”… nuff said about those two hours of my life lost forever]

So as the sun set on our meal which was watered with a couple of bottles of New Zealand’s finest, the pre-show experience begun. Lift the screen!

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Yes, the screen is firmly planted within Sydney Harbour. Now the only gripe that I had about this year was that I missed out on the latest Peroni beer advert which is usually screened before the film. Apparently there was a minor firework display which was more important. [second side note – unless the fireworks display is great and loud, us Sydneysiders will be very critical. New Year’s Eve anyone?]

With all that harbour and skyline behind the screen you would think it would be a major distraction to watching the movie. Except, the sound is awesome! No chance of a directionally challenged fruit bat ruining the evening by crashing into the screen, its sonar is overpowered by the fantastic audio setup.

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So we settled in to watch the movie, and had a good time interrupting our fellow movie patrons by discerning whether there were flaws in Hollywood science. The robots were cool, the spaceships were cool (not Rebel Alliance cool, but cool), and the story was cool.

[third and final side note – sorry ladies but I don’t know what the fuss about McConaughey is, he looked a bit ragged in this movie ;-) ]

While it is hard to get tickets, if you are in Sydney over the January / February period this is quite an experience. Our friends loved it and I think they will be return patrons. I definitely recommend it, and look forward to going again hopefully next year. Just be prepared with a poncho…

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Doorways. Very late to the show this week, and the first time in a long time that I have posted to the travel theme.

I love doors and the efforts that people go to as a decorated entrance to their [choose type of construction] house, castle, temple, church, apartment… And I have so many door photos in my travel stash – no wonder my wife wonders what I shoot at sometimes. Here is my go…

Starting in the Royal Palace of Bangkok, Thailand. Yes that is real gold!

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Still in Bangkok, but really a world away, is this beautiful entrance into one of the buildings at Jim Thompson’s house.

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A little further east, to the beautiful city of Kanazawa, Japan. This is modern Japanese architecture at its best, and I love the curtain pattern.

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Further east, to the heart of the country is the imposing doorways at Nijo Castle in Kyoto. This was the power base for the shogunate for centuries.

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Over in Europe, and I could have done this whole post on doorways in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia. This was my favourite with intricate carvings.

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Across the pond by ferry, and this was the doorway entrance to our hotel in Helsinki, Finland on the same trip. The ceiling paintings are the highlight.

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In Paris, France, there is a treasure trove along every street of doors – modern, classical, and some antique. But this caught my eye in the 8e arrondissement. I love the metal work and the little critters all over the “branches”. Someone wealthy lives here!

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In the Mediterranean, the stunning island of Santorini, Greece has doors of all shades including pastels. Beautiful island…

 

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The historic university town of Cambridge, United Kingdom has some eclectic architecture. But these three simple entrances were what caught my eye.

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Finally the door with all the irony in the world. It was not the door so much at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, USA – but the stone carvings on either side. The symbols of communism at the very centre of heart of capitalism.

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Nothing to say, just the photo…

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I hope that those wearing skirts or dresses are not put off by this store entrance…

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My first post for 2015 brings a smile to my face. We have returned from our Christmas holiday travels to the UK and France and spent copious hours travelling in planes, trains and automobiles. To which ‘The Pok’ (AKA my four year old son) quickly learned the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” or as he calls it “Scissors, Paper, Rock”. The concept of one tool trumping another was difficult for him at first, but he quickly figured it out.

So as we were sitting at my father in-law’s place on Boxing Day he asked me, “Daddy, can we play a game?”

I duly responded, “Sure, what would you like to play?”

His response, “Scissors, Paper, Rock.”

I restrained displaying my disappointment at not being asked by my four year old to play Chess or Risk and told him – “Let’s play!”

As the first round went down it was a draw – two rocks

The second round was a draw again – two rocks

The third round was a win to me! – paper over ‘The Pok’s’ rock (I am not competitive – honestly).

The fourth round was another win to me – scissors to ‘The Pok’s’ paper

At this point, he was visibly unhappy at his burgeoning losing streak.

The fifth round produced a wildcard result – I was scissors, ‘The Pok’ was a fist with his index and middle finger extend making what looked like a knife.

I asked him, “What is that?”

He replied gleefully, “Daddy, it’s a ‘super cutter’! It cuts through scissors.”

I tried to explain to him, “you can’t have a ‘super cutter’, it has to be either a rock, paper, or scissors.” But it was no use, he invented the new tool and it was good against scissors.

Round six I decided to pull out a rock to bash this new ‘super cutter’. But NO!!!!

‘The Pok’ schooled me, “Daddy, the ‘super cutter’ cuts through everything – I win!”

Since then, several other tools have been invented to combat the ‘super cutter’. We now have the ‘super claw’ (crushes the ‘super cutter’ and all the regular tools), and the ‘super shooter’ (which blows away the ‘super claw’).

He is busily scheming up other tools as I write this (BTW – this is his game face).

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Christmas has arrived, and I am happy. I am enjoying Christmas Day with my wife, son, daughter, and in-laws. My son has been spoilt, and we are enjoying a cold Christmas for the first time in years. Here is to a chilled Boxing Day (maybe watching some football or cricket – or both), and in parting I wish to repeat the annunciation to the shepherds by the angels.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Merry Christmas all!

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