Postscript

Rob experiences metal tube in the sky syndrome as they return – he is overwhelmingly content to touch down in Melbourne.

Leaving the airport, Rob and Vic choose to complete the journey by travelling by bus and train to home.

Chance encounter at the Spice Market with Joe, who was engaged in a spirited conversation about refugees.  His country of origin, Jordon, has taken in 500,000 displaced people, mainly from Syria, in the last year. Rob felt dispirited and embarrassed as he entered the conversation and spoke timidly about the policies of both sides of politics in his own country.

What is it with travel and elections? Last time Ellie was out of the country, she returned with Julia Gillard as Prime Minster.  This time, Ellie, Matt, Rob, Vic, Sue, Tara, Alysia, Victor, Caro, Ali and Ineke will all return to an Abbott Government. Gabby sensibly returns to India.

Rob reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson sees worrying psychopathic behavioural similarities with a number of current politicians.  His anxiety turns from metal tubes to the political landscape.

Rob and Vic experience the weird sensation of Ellie in Paris and Matt in New York, whilst we are here in Camberwell and look forward to reading their posts or viewing photographs!

There is nothing like your own bed and town for that matter!

Slowly coming back down to earth and already talking about our next trip and how we restructure work… this blog will live on!!

Art Imitating Art, The Centre Pompidou, Paris

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Istanbul – The Spices of Life!

We were ready to move on from our very positive central Turkey experience; Ellie to Paris and Vic and Rob back to Melbourne… except for the lure and unexpected surprises that awaited us in Istanbul.

Turkish influence on architecture in San Fransico?

Turkish influence on architecture in San Fransico?

Narrow streets on our way to the Galata Tower

Narrow streets on our way to the Galata Tower

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Arriving in the Old City at the end of the day, we quickly orientated ourselves to the spectacle of spice markets, opulent palaces, bazars, rivers and waterways, mosques and above all, food.

Too much Turkish Delight consumed by all!

Too much Turkish Delight consumed by all!

Spice Market

Spice Market

Our love of Kebabs grows!

Our love of Kebabs grows!

But we also had a feel for this city of 17 million with expansive trade, development and an amazing transport system  In fact, Rob became very excited about travelling the Articulated Tram which weaves its way through narrow streets. Istanbul should win the Olympics bid on their transport system, alone.  Turkey, with a conservative government, has committed to a huge infrastructure project called Marmaray, which is a 76.3 km rail transport project linking Asia to Europe and will run under the Bosphorus strait, transporting up to 75,000 people an hour!  Total cost?  Something like $US 3 billion.  And Melbourne? It chooses to spend 8 billion dollars on an 8km road tunnel when it could build a Metro system for less and move more people from point A to point B?  Go figure.

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The Blue Mosque built early 17th century

The Blue Mosque built early 17th century

Capturing the Islamic way in the Blue Mosque

Capturing the Islamic way in the Blue Mosque

Our leaving date arrived all too soon and this whirlwind adventure has come to an end. It has seen Rob, Vic and Ellie visit four countries, including four amazing cities and four small villages, absorb music, cultures, experience food and kindle new and old friendships.

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Turkey – from one family union to another

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – in another city.

George Burns  

The Global Village moment has arrived: a family that lives less than an hour’s drive from one another in Melbourne, gathers in a small Turkish village to spend more time together than they have since childhood.  And it all centres on the marriage of local, Ali Cingitas, to niece and cousin, Ineke Lam. But the dramas that unfold in order for this moment to arrive easily outdo the cultural and language challenges that might arise in transitioning from Ireland to Turkey.

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We were woken on the first day by Victor, Ineke’s father, with the news.  Caro was still in Melbourne due to foot cellulitis, while Tara was in the local Turkish hospital on a drip. This sudden turn of events is not an unusual occurrence for Lams or Wares, but as is often the way, things turn out for the best. Speaking to Caro in Melbourne, Rob learns that she will fly out on Friday, pending on the Doctor’s okay. This way she would arrive on Saturday for the commencement of three days of celebration and possibly be in a wheelchair as she makes her way round the cobble stones and steep hills of Göreme.  Antibiotics begin to kick in for Tara and she makes an appearance in the afternoon after two hospital stays, but spends most of her time recuperating with sister Susan by her side.

Meanwhile, the rest of us enjoy Turkish hospitality and explore the incredible landscape that surrounds us under the guidance of Ali’s uncle, Yashir (Black Snake). We soon learn about Turkish time, which essentially means that our one hour bus tour, mysteriously becomes three.

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With a generosity that knows no bounds, Fatima (Ali’s mother) provides delicious Turkish home cooked meals for the extended family at her home (which extends out from the rock cave and has been in the family for several generations).  In fact, Ali’s family provide a meal for the whole village, with utter strangers also joining in the festivities.   We soon realise that there is little distinction between extended family, invited guests and hanger-ons, which is a cultural difference not emulated at Australian weddings.

Wedding eve arrives and after a huge day of site seeing, extended family, invited guests and hanger-ons, all meet for dinner. Gaby, Ineke’s sister (who arrived from India where she is working as a Myotherapist training the Barefoot Doctors) speculates that her eldest sister, Alysia, might escort her mother on the journey from Australia.  The clue is that Henry, Alysia’s husband, joins Viber.

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Sahide, Ali's Auntie, Fatma, Ali's Mum and Christa with Turkish tea and brilliant tea pot

Sahide, Ali’s Auntie, Fatima, Ali’s Mum and Christa (whose come over from Sudan) with Turkish tea and brilliant tea pot

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Excitement mounts throughout Göreme as the day of festivities commences.  And after days of family drama, Caro arrives with Alysia in extraordinary good form, given they only decided three days earlier to make the journey.  Forget the wheelchair  –  Caro is up on the dance floor at the Henna night which is our equivalent to a hen’s night except that it involves no less than three costume changes for Ineke.

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Ali's cafe where we spent many hours drinking superb coffee

Ali’s cafe where we spent many hours drinking superb coffee

News of the wedding is broadcast throughout the town, via the loud speakers attached to the mosque.  There are fireworks and loud Turkish music playing throughout Göreme – and huge discounts at the shops to be had by simply mentioning the name Ali and Ineke.  There is speculation that 700 people will attend the Reception – the wedding finale.

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Caro (left), Vicki, and Susan

Caro (left), Vic and Susan

It is a joy to see the Lam family united together with the Ware clan, minus sister/aunty Vicki  (in Tasmania) and Matt (in Montreal). The whole experience is one of joy and happiness which is only improved by the geological setting in which we find ourselves.

The Lam family  - Gabby, Caro, Alysia, Ineke, Victor

The Lam family – Gaby, Caro, Alysia, Ineke, Victor

Rob finds the regular Islamic ‘call to prayer’, over the loud speaker, a welcome interlude to the day, which encourages him to spend some meditative moments on top of a mountain that overlooks Göreme.

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PHOTOS FROM PREVIOUS POST

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AIRONDAC 68

It appears that my dad has discovered one of the many features of the internet. That is, to record inane thoughts about topics insignificant to almost every person in existence but the author in question and put them up for all to see. Of course, I am not exempt to recording inane thoughts, so here are some of mine.

I’m writing this from a ten hour train ride from Montreal to New York City. A ten hour train ride I have done already once this week. To give you an idea of how draining this train ride can be, the drive from Montreal to New York only takes about 6 hours, this gives it about four hours of stopping and starting. Although in reality, this train takes you through some great upstate New York country side that is great to get lost in.

Before Montreal, I spent a couple of days staying with a friend in the Bronx, New York, where I probably did more stuff than in the whole week in Montreal. This is really just a testament to the way the two cities operate. Montreal, being incredibly relaxed and New York being just about anything and everything but. The Bronx is reasonably ghetto and my friend’s place is right next to the projects. I slept on a yoga mat on the ground and every time a truck went past (which was a lot), the whole building would vibrate and the content of each truck would shake around. This is due to some large pot holes in the middle of the street. There is also a local gang called ‘The Wheelie Boys’. The Wheelie Boys live in the projects and ride dirt motorbikes everywhere. They are called that because instead of riding on two wheels, the mostly ride on one. Wheelieing everywhere. I didn’t think Manhattan was still ghetto at all, but going through Harlem at 7 in the morning to get to the train station proved otherwise. The streets were literally littered with crack heads and bums, awakened by sun rise but still in various states of drug stupor. Although for all I know, they may have been filming a B grade zombie film that morning in Harlem.

Montreal can only be described as mellow. Canadians seem genuinely laid back and this city is no exception. Although, it is hard to put a finger exactly on what the city reminds me of. Of course it has some pretty heavy French influences, but is in no way similar to Paris. Perhaps because the city is under snow for half the year, people are happy to make the most of the warmer months. It’s reasonably trendy, but not contrived, which is probably one of the highest compliments a city can receive (from me). I wouldn’t describe the city as boring, but a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like there is much happening. Then again, I imagine there is probably a lot of cool stuff going on behind closed doors. The main park in Montreal is absolutely amazing with plenty of green grass and trees. It is pretty much a small national park that goes up a mountain with a huge cross on top. The city has some pretty amazing architecture from the mid 1960’s, when they discovered they would be host to the World Fair in 1967. Olympic Park is one such structure which is an incredibly outdated stadium which appears exactly as you would imagine a ‘forward thinking’ project of 1965 would. The stadium was built to host the 1968 Olympics, and was so out there that they didn’t actually end up finishing it until the eighties. Apparently the city is still paying off debt caused by the stadium, which is now a largely unused space. Although, it has been one of Montreal’s most significant skate spots since the early 90’s. The structure itself can be seen from most places around the city thanks to a 100 metre high phallic observation deck towering over the top of the stadium.

Another building designed in the strange creative outburst that 1967 World Fair brought to the city, is the aptly named ‘Habitat 67’. Habitat 67 is probably one of strangest looking block of apartments that exist in the western world (I’m sure Japan has something more interesting to offer). It was designed by a young student at Montreal’s McGill University as his thesis. Then they built it in real life. I’m not going to bother describing Habitat 67, as there is little point. Please see the attached picture. An interesting fact about Habitat 67 is that it was designed with high density living in mind, almost along the lines of public housing complexes, and it was intended to be extended into multiple complexes. However, in reality, each apartment ended up costing around $140 000 to build, and therefore the building is only occupied by very wealthy individuals.

Since I was staying with Amy and her parents, some tourist activities were necessary. The main one being an ultra cool tour of the city on little electric mopeds. Our tour guide was Dave, an ultra outgoing me me me kind of guy. When he wasn’t telling us jokes about marijuana, or telling us about the guys over the other side of the mountain partying and ‘pouring one out for the homies’, he was telling us off for going too fast and leaving him in the dust. He also insisted on blocking traffic to let eight middle aged men and women (the intended age of the target audience of the tour) riding mopeds through. He also insisted on taking as many pictures possible of one couple who owned a quality digital SLR. Dave also took us to some of the best street art in the city (see attached photo). All the embarrassment  aside, and the fact that we didn’t actually see anything new, or interesting on the tour, it was great fun. Riding very weak mopeds through traffic on a tour of a city with a bunch of old people was hilarious and definitely a great experience. Dave kept on asking everyone if they didn’t think it was too dangerous. Classic Dave.

So now I am once again headed to New York have, where I am looking forward to almost a month of getting up to mischief and photographing the many freaks that a city that big seems to endlessly churn out.

Until Next Time.

Matt.

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NOTE: I will post the pictures separately from my phone.

Note: you can look at some other pictures here if you care about me enough

http://www.warewolfkillah.tumblr.com

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Ireland – Up Close and Personal

Google Elphin, County Roscommon, and you will have some idea of the small village in which we spent almost our entire time in Ireland.  ‘On the road to nowhere’ was mentioned at least twice during our time there.   But what you won’t learn from Google is the warmth and music that transpires from this small village to nowhere.

Our trusty nine seater Opel

Our trusty nine seater Opel

Grace and John invited us to join them on what became known as a music tour, which sounded as if we were part of a travelling Irish music band.  In reality, it was an opportunity for locals, as well as for Grace’s extended family, to meet each night, share a song, a jig or poem over a pint or four of Guinness.

We spent a couple of nights at the Thatch pub

We spent a couple of nights at the Thatch pub

Frank and wife Frances.  Frank sang a number of obscure Australian ballads nobody had heard before

Frank and wife Frances. Frank sang a number of obscure Australian ballads nobody had heard before

Locals enjoying the music and a few pints of Guinness

Locals enjoying the music and a few pints of Guinness

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Things really got going around midnight and in quite isolated and out of the way pubs, locals would still be arriving, not leaving, to join in the celebration of all thing Irish.  One night, a woman who was said to be 93, gave us a fine rendition of Danny Boy.  Soon after, another local, who had been quiet all night, stood up and offered an interpretation of Raglan Road in a near perfect voice.

...and the winning band is! Memorable performance at Elphin.

…and the winning band is! Memorable performance at Elphin.

Talent seems to know no bounds in Ireland. And in Elphin, the town to nowhere, we were treated to an amazing night of Irish music performed by the national winner of the Irish Traditional Music Awards – won by no less than a local band! Us Aussies were amazed to witness young people pick up their instruments and join a ‘session’ as if it was as natural as texting.  No fuss, no apparent embarrassment – it’s just what you do – you pick up your squeeze box, flute, tin whistle, or bodhran and join a session.

The Aussies who were part of John and Grace’s entourage, were expected to contribute with an Australian performance of Waltzing Matilda or another Australian ballad. It must be said that Ellie went down very well with the crowds, particularly with her version of Down Under.  Rob joined forces with Shay who played a mean harmonica as well as being an accomplished concertina player. But the real praise went to John and Grace who led many of the sessions with both words and music – every night.

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Living in an ordinary suburban house in Elphin for a week allowed us to absorb the local community and for those who John and Grace had brought together, to jell as a group. This proved to be easy for the nine of us, as we shared many a meal,  a tea, whiskey or G&T in the kitchen or on the road in the nine seater, often making our way back home along narrow roads as late as 3.00 in the morning.  Rob would relieve John of the late night driving.

John, Shay, Tricia, Bernie (sister), Grace  Roscommon Castle

Vic, Elle, John, Shay, Tricia, Bernie (sister), Grace
Roscommon Castle

Our experience of Ireland was enhanced through Grace’s many siblings, who are living full lives in their local community, including her brother, John.  He has taken on this extraordinary project to restore a completely dilapidated Bishop’s palace built in the 18th century. but with a history that goes back to the 14th Century. Worthy of Grand Design status, his brothers, Tom and Paddy are also contributing extensive hours of labour to see through the project as well as putting back together a small part of Irish’s troubled past.

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John (left) explaining his passion for Bishop's Palace

John (left) explaining his passion for Bishop’s Palace

The Bishop's Palace

IMG_5162 The Bishop’s Palace unveiled

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And it’s this troubled past that we may have missed had we been fly in, fly out tourists. We learned, through song and story, the impact of the famine in the 1840’s, the oppressive role the British played in Ireland’s downfall and the truth about Oliver Cromwell, which wasn’t very kind. We visited a pre Celtic burial site, standing there on a mount in the wind and rain as we heard from a learned anthropologist about the intoxicating and seductive warrior, Queen Maeve.

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Our close encounter with a little bit of Ireland showed us people experiencing real love, sweat and tears, grounded in humour, storytelling and of course, music.  It wasn’t until our last day that Paddy was heard to mention that he had reached his quota of Irish music for some time! We then realised that, as the John and Grace entourage left town, village life would somehow return to normal.  Now that really is something to be said for the Irish!

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Streets of London

Rob was uncertain whether Lee Abbey International Student Club was going to prove suitable accommodation, given his judgment was based on his experience 35 years before when he lived and worked at the LA community. Family members are still in a state of hysterics to learn that he was part of the maintenance team given his record at home.  Despite the maintenance issues being weirdly similar to all those years earlier (eg. broken loos, torn curtains, blown light globes etc.), Lee Abbey turns out to be a terrific, central haven, with a warm and safe environment and very cheap for London.  Ellie chooses to stay on  for some extra days, before joining Rob and Vic in Ireland.

View from our view at Lee Abbey

View from our room at Lee Abbey

London was always going to be about catching up with old friends and  sharing experiences.

Compton Rd, near Harrods

Compton Rd, near Harrods

Fresh from our arrival in London that afternoon, champagne in hand, our conversation with Carl and Theresa flowed in the drawing room where the grand piano, Theresa’s 50th birthday present to Carl, rested before the French doors facing the manicured garden.  Over dinner, there was a great deal of warmth and humour exchanged between the two families and reminiscing of things that have transpired in the 27 years since Carl lived with Rob in Melbourne.

Rob and Vic stayed at Linda’s in 1986, and the last time Rob and Linda saw one another was when she was pregnant with Holly, so the curiosity factor was high for all, particularly with offspring present; The WOW factor kicked in when we met at Covent Garden, spending the next 5 or so hours exchanging stories and laughing about past times whilst walking the streets of London.  Holly imagines visiting Australia while Vic and Rob and Linda would like to spend more time together  – all things are possible!

Minutes after meeting at Covent Garden

Minutes after meeting at Covent Garden

Museums, cathedrals and monuments aside, London is marked by Ain’t Nothing But the Blues bar, Jersey Boys, a brilliant piano at Lee Abbey for Ellie and Rob to play; and a visit to Harrods where Rob showed Ellie his old workplace. The Pet Accessory Department has now expanded 10 fold since the days when he worked there, including offering beer slabs for dogs.  We consider a dog dress for metro Ted but at 80 pounds each, we dismiss the idea.

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We walked all day till the sun set

We walked all day till the sun set

On their way to visit the Queen

On their way to visit the Queen

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Maison Coutin, Bourg St. Maurice

Close to the Italian border, we are now higher in the mountains, near where the Winter Olympics was once held, in a quaint town called Peisey-Nancroix.  Endless clusters of neighbouring communities, full of very fit people highlighting a lifestyle different from our own! Nevertheless, we joined the lifestyle, jumped on two very efficient chair lifts (plus some decent walking) and found ourselves viewing Mont Blanc in all its majesty surrounded by cows grazing and their cow bells chiming.

Peisey-Nancroix

Peisey-Nancroix

On our walk towards Arc 1800

On our walk towards Arc 1800

Relaxing at a festival we stumbled upon close to Bourg St. Maurice.

Relaxing at a festival we stumbled upon close to Bourg St. Maurice.

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Three days later, it was surreal for us to leave the French Alps and travel by car down the mountain to the local village where we took a train to Chambery, then on to Paris and a couple more train exchanges, finally arriving in London on the same afternoon by Eurostar.

One last stop over in Paris before we leave for London

One last stop over in Paris before we leave for London

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Chateau de Paquier, St Martin de Cluze

Bob and Anne were there to greet us at Grenoble after arriving on the very fast train from Paris which travelled 700ks in two and a half hours. The contrast to our own rail system is painful to ponder as the French, despite frequent strikes and cafe patronage, really know how to move people around – fast.

Le château de Pâquier is the very place you imagine the French artist or writer to seek inspiration during the day and then argue and debate ideas well into the night over a French wine.  In contrast to Paris, the silence is such that one is able to hear the bees buzzing away on the massive vine that covers the 15th/16th century Château.  Our two bedroom suite which overlooks the French Alps in the distance, is five times the size of our Paris accommodation only cheaper. Click on the photos for a better view.

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Le château de Pâquier includes gastronomic feasts with four course meals served each night on the premises from all local produce; we are feeling truly blessed by this place.  Our first meal together is celebratory with Bob and Bob as they are affectionately known by their long suffering wives, sharing a joke or two, always at one another’s expense. At the height of our frivolity, it is Ellen who makes the most telling observation about her father’s French skills by pointing out that when he attempts to converse with the French, he actually speaks in English with a French accent.  This sad but truthful commentary about Rob is only topped by Anne’s observation that she overheard Bob refer to Rob as Darl.  This of course reflects a long friendship rather than anything untoward, and given they have not seen each other for a long time, a slight slip of the tongue, is expected.

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Bob and Anne are travelling across Europe for 3 months and have become quite the seasoned travellers, so it is good to see them in their element, but we struggle to keep up with their cracking pace climbing mountain after mountain.  Some of us retreat to our extravagant accommodation and chill out.

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down time

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At our departure just before we all crammed into the Peugeot

At our departure just before we all crammed into the Peugeot

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Midnight In Paris

Everything you can imagine is real  – Pablo Picasso

Woody Allen was right with Midnight in Paris.  The young man’s great love for a city and the art of imagination that allowed him to connect with the cultural and intellectual Parisian giants of the past, is totally believable.  You might be able to connect to WiFi on every street corner but Paris does not need electronics to feel connected.  Maybe it’s the warm and  established  architecture or the many Vesper lookalikes that fly around the streets, narrowly missing pedestrians.  Or maybe it is the cafes that are full of conversation, coffee and cigarettes. So many Lygon streets, so many Acland streets that stretch as far as the eye can see.  And these eating places are all full, no matter what time of day or the week.  We wonder if there is anybody working.

Day of arrival.  Experiencing Ellie's superior French negotiation skills.

Day of arrival. Experiencing Ellie’s superior French negotiation skills.

Within a short time of arriving, Ellie has totally impressed us with her natural use of the French language in negotiating lunch, coffees and hotels.  Whilst we were all still recovering from the 24hour flight/metal tube  experience, we embraced the challenge of walking from our totally French Hotel to the Sacré Coeur basilica of Montmartre with its sweeping views of Paris. In the basilica,  a service is taking place and the Nuns, in full regalia, are chanting.

With the guidance of our local Parisian friend Axelle, we were to learn so much more. The nuns for example, are known to Axelle in her role  as Deputy Principal of a large catholic school.  She describes them, as how do you say?  Persuasive: good at selling. We have an unexpected moment at La Madeleine where Rob has a music heart experience, at the sight and sound of a massive pipe organ. The organist is playing a modern piece using jazz chords which surprises and delights.  All the more interesting is to learn that Axelle attends this 900 year old church and finds a supportive and progressive community.

Negotiating with a French sales women

Negotiating with a French sales women

Ellie on Rue La Fayette

Ellie on Rue La Fayette

Over the next few days Axelle guides us through places away from the tourist trail.  We confess that we have been to Paris and not seen the Mona Lisa but we have walked from one end of Paris to the other, with a little help from the Metro.  We have encountered the Impressionists and been face to face with Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh among others at the Musee d’Orsay.  We have enjoyed Lichtenstein at the Pompidou.

Focusing on the technology rather than the moment at the Louvre Pyramid, an Egyptian icon, strangely designed by a Chinese architect.

Focusing on the technology rather than the moment at the Louvre Pyramid, an Egyptian icon, strangely designed by a Chinese architect.

As with all travellers, we have adopted local landmarks as a sign that we are near to our temporary home.  Our local landmark has been L’Opéra and our little French hotel has been our central refuge where we have regrouped and rested.

Our landmark, L’Opéra with Axelle

Our landmark, L’Opéra with Axelle

Body and spirit fatigue aside, we are beginning to acclimatise to this European adventure and will allow the imagination to work its magic as we make our way down to Grenoble on a TGV train, where we join our good friends, Anne and Rob.

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