Enjoy the view of the clearest beach in Mauritius, Perybere. These are my roots.
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.
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.
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.
At Place d’Iena, the location of my old office, both the French and European Union flags flew at half mast in solidarity.
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…)
Did I mention there were Police everywhere? If you look to the end of the platform you can see several gendarmes – they were everywhere.
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.
The L’Arc de Triomphe itself was bearing the projection of solidarity for the whole city.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Still in Bangkok, but really a world away, is this beautiful entrance into one of the buildings at Jim Thompson’s house.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In the Mediterranean, the stunning island of Santorini, Greece has doors of all shades including pastels. Beautiful island…
The historic university town of Cambridge, United Kingdom has some eclectic architecture. But these three simple entrances were what caught my eye.
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.
This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Rivers. Really late to the party this week. Work has been busy and a quiet Friday night in at home is allowing me to finally post.
I am going to start in the USA first with the river that defines the Big Apple – The Hudson River. They even land jumbo jets on it… This was taken from the top of the Empire State Building about 5 minutes after the viewing deck had opened, and we were blessed with a phenomenally clear day.
One of the many work trips that I took was to Pittsburgh, and I had the fortune of going on a sunset dining cruise with my American work colleagues on the Monongahela River in the city of steel.
Over in China, and we went to Shanghai for our honeymoon a few years back. It is a crazy, bustling city, which has created its own version of New York in Pudong on the banks of the great Yangtze River. The river is naturally brown with sediment, but that brown haze in the air is pollution.
One of the other stops on our honeymoon trip was to the town of Porvoo in Finland, located on the Provoonjoki River. The red painted houses are famous for the honour that was paid to the visiting Swedish King over a century ago.
Zurich in Switzerland was a city that I briefly visited. Located on the Limmat River, it is the home of Swiss banking, but not really all that interesting a city for tourists.
Paris in France is so popular for tourism, particularly along the banks of the Seine River. But this photo is one that most tourists are unlikely to ever have the opportunity to shoot. It is taken from the top of the offices of the Mairie de Paris (Mayor). I had the opportunity to attend a work meeting on the top floor to which our meeting hosts ensured that we took photos from the unique balcony position. Too bad about the grey sky, but you can’t have everything.
My last trip to the UK was also the first opportunity that I had to visit the venerable university town of Cambridge, located on the River Cam. The students gladly made some money by driving the gondolas for visitors.
Finally back home in Australia and the iconic river of the city of Brisbane – the Brisbane River. This river flooded to catastrophic consequences a couple of years back. The boardwalk that I shot this photo from was ripped away from its position among all the other flotsam.
Tennis fans would be familiar with the Yarra River in the city of Melbourne. It is the traditional bath for the winner of the Australian Open. There are cycling paths along the river for many kilometres and rowers ply their trade up and down on most mornings.
Finally, one of the best things I have ever done as a traveler was to take an open door helicopter ride over Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. Running North to South is the East Alligator River, which is full of… crocodiles. This was one of the most fantastic experiences that I have ever had as a tourist and the camera didn’t stop shooting while we were flying.
This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Close-Up. I love photographing big landscapes and big buildings, but the thing I get very close up on quite often are animals. After all living in an dense urban environment doesn’t offer too many wild critters to photograph other than birds. What I realised about this collection of photos from my travels is that all the photos are from or near seaside locations.
First photo is from our night dive with manta rays off the Big Island of Hawai’i. The rays were huge, and they got so close to us. Those patterns that you can see underneath the ray on its “belly” are unique for each ray and are used to identify the different fish. I posted a video of our dive a few months back, you can find it here.
Across the Pacific Ocean, and all the way to Thailand. We went on a cruise run by locals in the Andaman Sea among the small islands. I was surprised to see these monkeys on outcrops of rock. Apparently these guys eat sea crabs. They were so close that I could have reached out and patted him (but I didn’t after having visions of ebola being transferred via the bite of a monkey).
Back at home in Australia, one of the most amazing places that we have ever visited is the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland. We stayed on Hamilton Island when we went there and it is a good base to travel to the other islands in the Whitsunday chain or the outer reef. Hamilton Island itself is amazing and it is very easy to get away from the accommodation zone into wild bushland. Here are a couple of possums up to no good when we went on a trek at night in the wooded area on the Southern side of the island.
Out on the reef itself, it was surreal swimming among the fishes in what was an amazing wonderland of colour and shapes. I struggle with snorkeling and scuba diving (it’s the breathing) even though I enjoy them both immensely. But I absolutely cr@pped myself when my wife pulled my fin and pointed to barracudas. As I turned back around, these fish were directly in my face. Surreal.
Closer to home, we used to go down to Jervis Bay in NSW quite often. Fishing down there is amazing, but one particular trip to Currarong the best thing that I caught was a photo of this little critter – an echidna 🙂
Finally in Calalla Bay in Jervis Bay, this little crab outstretched was not even close to being bigger than my hand. He was straining with all his might to resist the water with every tidal lunge.
Love the theme this week.
This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Statues. I am late to the party this week, but I had to do a post on this one. I take loads of photos of statues on my travels. I don’t know why, but the ones that are grandiose or imposing are the real attention grabbers for me. Often there is so much history and meaning behind why a statue was put in place. As usual all the images link through to my larger photos on Flickr.
First stop on my travels is New York, United States, and my most favourite building(s) in the world (did I just sound like a school child?) is the Rockefeller Center. The architecture and art are a perfect mix, and in my humble opinion it is the beating heart of New York City (alongside Central Park of course). Poor old Atlas certainly is carrying some weight on his shoulders at the moment. But even then he looks imposing.
A travel theme about statues must include the French grand dame of liberty herself (yes she is originally French – and she came over by boat). I remember vividly travelling to Liberty Island with my wife and seeing her for the first time. A gift from one country to another sharing a common ideal of freedom. I was lucky to be greeted by her and a deep blue sky.
Lightening the mood a bit on this theme is this funny statue that I captured in Toronto, Canada, on the Rogers Centre. I am sure many a baseball fan walking to the stadium from downtown Toronto have walked under the noses of these characters.
European cities are awash with statues. I could have posted thousands that I have captured. But I chose a simple one from one of the dens of academia – Cambridge, United Kingdom. What a beautiful university town, but don’t forget that even as a tourist the old academics are watching over you.
Finally to Asia, and one of my favourite photos is from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, of the demon guardians looking down over the trespassers of the grounds below them. They are colourful, imposing, and look… well demonic. He is so full of colour!
Lastly onto Tokyo, Japan, and the strong imposing figure of 14th century samurai Kusunoki Masashige astride on his horse. He has the honour of being forever enshrined in front of the Imperial Palace. The storm filled clouds later opened up on top of me on my first day in Tokyo.
Great theme this week Ailsa, I could have posted so many more but I wanted to show the ones that stirred something in me for this week’s theme.
This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Pink. I struggled with this theme, my first reaction was – c’mon Ailsa, I don’t take photos of pink things. But sure enough, there was sufficient “pink” stuff in my travels to participate in this week’s travel theme.
I am going to start in Tallinn, Estonia (awesome place to go – even it was like us, just a quick day trip from Helsinki), where the Parliament Building nestled in the old town is coloured pink of all things. We visited Tallinn on our honeymoon.
Across to Asia, and another stop on our honeymoon, the bustle of Shanghai. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the Pudong district looks like some 1970’s spaceship landed vertically in the business district. It has reflective pink glass panels around its “spheres”. Did I say that this tower was huge? The top observation deck is 350m off the ground and the tower tops out at 480m. Huge! The non-pink bits are very concrete ugly by the way.
Further South in Singapore, the National Orchid Gardens are a treasure of colour. There was bound to be a pink flower here.
Over to North America and my favourite city in the whole Americas (so far) would have to be Montreal. As my brother says, Montreal is the bomb! Pick up a bit of France (a good bit) and dump it in Canada, add a bit of cheekiness and fun and you have Montreal. This is the interior of the Palais des congrès de Montréal where we have Claude Cormier’s sculpture “Lipstick Forest”. There are 52 of these trees inside, holding up the building.
Down South again in Mexico, on the Riviera Maya at Xcaret we have the beautiful flamingo being bred and taken care of.
Finally back home in Australia and the annual Vivid Light Festival in Sydney is a feast of light and colour at night. A couple of years ago, some artist decided to erect a chandelier in the rocks. I think that the artist was being a bit greedy having the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House too.
In Canberra, we visited the Parliament House and for the second time in a blog post we have a photo of a parliament building. This time it is of our Australian Senate chamber and the pink hued setting. These colours would drive me nuts if I sat there all day – no wonder the politicians stir and argue all the time.
Finally, I haven’t posted anything cycling related for a while and pink is the colour of … Lampre. Nobody does fluoro in the peloton like the guys from Italy. This was taken from when I went to the Tour Down Under in Adelaide a few years back – super fun trip.
This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Gardens. When having a look at my past travels I found a whole load of photos from Gardens in the different places that I visited. Some were grand, others were small. I guess I find solace in a little bit of nature – controlled. What I really enjoy discovering is where there is a mix of urban environment with botanic endeavours. The other funny thing about this theme is that my family name is probably derived from the French word for garden – jardin.
Sydney, Australia (my home town), is where I am going to start. The Botanical Gardens marry the harbour with the city and with the skyline immediately adjacent. It provides for an interesting background.
Brisbane, Australia, has a similar location for the City Botanic Gardens. But its gardens are more tropical in nature.
Asian destinations have gardens aplenty, which I think is deeply rooted in many Asian cultures. In Kanazawa, Japan, you will find one of the three best gardens in the whole of the country – the Kenrokuen Gardens. They are stunning and right in the heart of the city, adjacent to the remains of Kanazawa Castle. It was too bad that it was such an overcast day, but I was fortunate that I was on the Western side of the country as the rest of the country was in the grips of a typhoon.
Singapore is called the Garden City, and for good reason. It’s tropical climate is perfect for botanical ventures. My new favourite gardens in Singapore are the Gardens by the Bay (which I have posted about before). The “super” trees are something else.
Going to Europe and France maintains a rich legacy of its past with the many formal (and geometric) gardens. One of the most famous in Paris is the Jardin de Tuileries. They used to make tiles for the buildings in the city at this location. Just don’t walk on the grass!… and yes that is the Tour Eiffel in the background.
The Château de Versailles, just outside of Paris, has the most amazing gardens I have ever seen with its fountains and the hedgerow mazes. I recommend this far better than spending your time queuing to see some overly ornate interiors that are only for royalty (or other hob-knobs). Here you must definitely keep off the grass!
When I was in Athens for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, I did appreciate the effort that the Greeks put in to build the Olympic venues (though it possibly bankrupted the country). The main Olympic Park, OAKA, had a garden of a different kind with its tree lined boulevards, ponds, and steel structured agora designed by Calatrava. Night time was surreal in the park. Unfortunately the park is in a state of ruin as the bleak economic situation takes its toll on the country.
What continues to surprise me when visiting big American cities is how the locals have gone to great efforts to build gardens in the heart of their home towns. In Washington DC, the most beautiful of all the presidential memorials is the Roosevelt monument. It is very understated and is quite the opposite to the overly grand structures located around the rest of the National Mall.
San Francisco is quite a site, and not too dissimilar to Sydney in many respects. There are plenty of Gardens here too, but the ones I like the most were those surrounding that infamously steep bit of bitumen – Lombard Street. Even the surrounding houses got in on the botanic act.
But in all my travels, by far my favourite garden to visit has been the New York City High Line. It is a garden that has been built by a collective of locals who regenerated an elevated railway line. It is a fantastic example of urban regeneration, but it is special for me as it was one of the first overseas destinations that I took my boy soon after he had started to walk.
Great theme this week Ailsa! I had quite a few more, but that is enough for this post.