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QF10 – Paris to Melbourne – a revolutionary road

So there was plenty of space in business class and I got my upgrade. Yippee do dah !

That means I get the chair that turns into a bed and blankets, cushions and PJs. Good food, wine and big screen movies. Nice headsets and stretching out all make it much more comfortable when travelling 19000 kms over Belgium, Russia, India and down to Singapore, where I’ve just had a 60 minute stopover.

Back in the air I’ve moved forward one row to 12. I’ve got two seats to boot!
12 A and B !

I had the marinated chicken, salad and a wonderful tart that was teamed up with a Coonawarra cab sav.

The food together with the movie I’m watching “Revoltutionary Road” got me thinking about France and the wonderful experience it was. I really liked the way life happened there. Maybe it’s a romantic notion and there is something in that. But I think there’s more to it. It also depends on which slice of life you cut through to I suppose.

Yet on the crowded Metro yesterday I saw even the regular folk were doing something apart from the rest of the world even just up the road in Belgium or across the street in Switzerland. France is different. Paris – “people are alive there” Frank from Revolutionary Road.

Another film I watched, a doco, was “Not Forgotten”. A story about the World War 1 memorials and the personal stories of the names on those stones.

It was a very moving work. I’m going to build on and share my experience in Northern France and Beligum. I want to share those stories of my family so the victims of W.A.R. are not forgotten.

Those victims were on both at home and on those far away fields that are not so far away anymore. I’ve seen them and they are real.

Beynat, a village in France

Beynat has a human population of about 400 growing to a 1000 in summer time when visitors come and people return to their holiday homes.

It’s located in the southern end of France and is designated Department 19. The nearest “big” town is Brieve about 20 km away.

The centre of town has two squares, one is located in front of the post office, “Poste” with the town hall ( Hotel de Ville )on the side. I thought Hotel de Ville was a chain of hotels because almost every town had one! Language !

The other square is the main one with a memorial to the war dead, a parking area and a cluster of shops and cafes including Jean Claude’s Bar/cafe.

The cafes in country France generally only serve drinks and not food which is a dilema if you want something to eat especially on a Sunday. The sabbath seems to be strictly observed in the country areas so you have to make sure you’ve get some food with you on a Sunday if you travel.

During the week businesses close for 2 hours at lunch time as well. So buy for your baguette early!

Back to Baynat (pronouced Baynah). If you want accommodation there, the best by far is Agatha’s Garden, B&B owned and managed by Françoise with the warm French smile.

She has the most beautiful house that has been in her family for more than a hundred years. The interior speaks of a lifetime of exposure to art and design. A simple elegance and ambience in every corner of every room.

Toast and tea/cafe for breakfast is included with handmade chestnut bread and sweet fruit jams.

There are a few resturants in the area but having her home cooked bio-dynamic cusine, like her cottage interior is not to missed. Wholesome food, mostly grown in her own garden (Agatha’s) accompanied by wine that has been sourced by her son is fabulous!

Surrounding Beynat are many more delightful villiages and landscapes. Ancient abbeys and churches, villiages built into the rock of riversides and fertile farmlands where beef cattle graze. Renaissance places like Collonges-la-Rouge in Corrèze.

Vallée de la Dordogne – Corrézienne
Authentique …..

Spring time in Paris

What really stunned me in the Hall of Mirrors at Versaille was out the window and not in the hallway.

The breathtaking view of the grand canal and the colanade that leads to it. Another unforgettable view was from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, an uninterrupted view across the city in four directions. The Paris planners have not given into the skyscaper cult and instead have maintained a 4-5 story landscape.

The breadth of scale of the Lourve is another feature of the city that shocks me as a visitor from the antipodes. It so huge and then there’s the parks and squares that people congregate in. The backyards of Paris. People sit around the fountains on state provided deckchairs to nibble on Parisian baguettes or drink coffee in the sunshine.

The Eiffle Tower is heavy duty plus with its tonnes of steel, views and avenue of grassland to sit on.

I can see why the world comes to Paris.

My 4 days in prison about to end

Some say it should have happened long ago, others that the 4 nights was grossly underweight.

Nevertheless I’ll be out tomorrow and sadly be leaving the “Cool City of the North” for Paris.

Tonight I’m celebrating my pending release with a good dinner in a cool venue eating a creamy crab soup and a medium rare beef steak. My first in 5 weeks or more.

How come? Eating prison breakfast and no lunch means making big saves on the travel budget. (Thanks Kev07, for the extra tax return, I’ll spend it all in a foreign land and save the world economy!)

The steak was a wee bit ordinary, either the steak knife wasn’t sharp enough or the cow was working out a tad too much.

The desert was “to die for” as they say in the classics. Those berries sneak into everything. I’ve never seen or tasted those small round red berries in .au they’re YUM. They’re around every corner here. As is licorice.

However the hot chocolate was something else. Everywhere does things differently and Finns are masters of the different. The left of the centre left, are they.

Here is a hot chocolate of massive proportions! Did I mistakely order a swimming pool? A chocolate hot tub? And another thing, they overdress for dinner! or they don’t go out much. Formal stiffness.

So that’s my final nights’ eating experience in Helsingfors.

So what does a coffee cost an Australian in Helsinki?

The snow stopped coming down last night and gradually through the day all the accumulation that was all over the footpaths melted or got pushed away by workers.

The sun even made a brief appearance low in the southern sky. It made my experience a little easier in that I could get about and even see outside the hood on my jacket.

I went to a glorious place today, a former fort on an island called Suomenlinna. It was a ferry ride from Market Square (the Victoria Market of Helsinki) through the sea ice to the island beautiful buildings and colours I’ve never seen. All set against a blanket of snow. I took a very long way around, through the ramparts and scattered buildings like cafés and churches to a snow covered headland.

There were old cannons mounted there behind the thick walls to protect the town from her enemies and impress her friends and allies.

The colours and hues were stunning. I saw this little frog, black against the snow hopping along bound for god knows where.

Helsinki is famous for music. Just ask the Finn Brothers. Wednesday night I went out to find some. Hard work but I tracked down a jazz place called Storyville. They had a special night with a New Yorker called Gene Taylor. It was good music, I enjoyed it.

Here people start talking to me in Finnish, just asking something or whatever. I must look shocked and then I say, “sorry I don’t speak Finnish, I’m a traveller” then we try to work out some English words.

But I have learned Kippies – Cheers, Salute, Kampie, Chin Chin etc.

The price of a good coffee in Helsinki, €3.80 or $A7.53 so don’t complain about the price in Melbourne, have two. And to the coffee snobs, it’s better kohe here than Melbourne which means anywhere in .au

Nihon des

“Ladies and Gentlemen you are on the Narita Express bound for Narita Airport……………”

So says the announcement. Now I’m leaving Japan till next time.

I’m a little nervous leaving here for unfamiliar Europe. I’ve always felt at home in Japan and it’s safe and inviting.

I took the shinkensen up from Okayama and the highlight was seeing the Fuji-san, snowcapped and above the clouds rising to the heavens.

I spent last night in Tokyo, went up to the top of the Metro Building watching the sun set and the evening lights of the city come on. The blinking red safety lights are so eerie. It looked wonderful though.

Then I went over to the Apple store to check some email, download updates on my iPhone and check out storage devices. Then a last Japanese dinner in Ginza before heading back to the hotel.

Japan des.

A long climb

It’s a long way to the top if you want to look!

The local train takes about three quarters of an hour to reach Bitchu-Takahashie from Kurushiki. Once there, there are a few historical houses and sites to visit on the way including a samuai house that’s in very good order.

A nihongo map with the sights can be found on a rack at the station or there is a small tourist office that caters to locals that may be of some help. There is no bus to the castle and if you don’t want to walk you may catch a taxi at the station.

If not, get ready for a long walk.

A few kms and some of it up 850 metres of steps and climbing.

If you take a taxi it takes you to a bus shuttle location and then up in the small bus and there’s still a fair climb to the castle. It’s unbelievable how they built the castle up there, perched high on Mt. Gagyu in 1240 AD. It’s Japan highest altitude castle.

The birds view of the river and the town below is awesome. Well worth the hike and climb.

Walking all the way down along the track that leads to Takihachi takes you through a national park and the Japanese bushland. A sign indicates that about 20 bird species that inhabit the area.

Back on the outskirts of the town you pass by microhydro water wheels that are turned by tiny canal flows and feed power out to consumers.

Walking back along the streets to the station seems so easy then.

Another Japan