Óbidos, Portugal. 2009

I’ve been a bit tardy with my posts lately because not only have I been dealing with jet lag and catching up with friends after our trip, I took about 4500 photos while I was away. It’s taking me an age to deal with all the images. I put all my shots on DVD as I went and I ended up with 28 discs which in turn took over 15 hours to load to my new external hard drive. I’m not complaining, but some things just take a long time.

As I sort through my photos I hope that you forgive me as I toss a few shots your way in a vain hope to keep you amused while I get my house in order.

The trouble with long distance air travel. Paris to Sydney. 2009

After the long flight back to Australia from France, we passed a Emirates airline billboard near the airport. As we sped by in our taxi homeward, I saw that the advertising slogan for the airline said something like, “Europe is almost as beautiful as the journey”.
My first thought at seeing the slogan was a very resounding, “BULLSHIT!”
Our flight back comprised of a  total 19 hours in the air and 2 and a half hours stop over in Singapore and after that long being cooped up  in cattle-class, I can definitively say, that unlike the pseudo philosophical “it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey” sentiments expressed on the billboard, flying long distances sucks! Unless one is rich and can afford first class or business class tickets, long haul flights are an exercise in a type of exquisite torture that combines uncomfortable cramped conditions and monotony, with the chance of a high speed, fiery, violent death.
Anyone who has read this blog over a period of time knows that I have a lot of goodwill towards the French, but my love of the French was sorely tested on the flight from Paris to Singapore.
Firstly the line to the check in at Paris for our flight on an Airbus A380 (largest passenger aircraft in the world that carries over 500 people) was obstructed and choked by a large group of French people on a tour.
For such a large aircraft as the Airbus A380, the line ups at check in can be very long, and everybody but them was lined up, but they insisted forming a large amorphous clump of well dressed stupidity that stood at the entrance to the check in without moving into the actual line. They weren’t moving forward and they weren’t allowing other people to move forward.
As the group was in a lump, there was no longer any order in the line and it was impossible for people wanting to check in to know where the line actually started. So Engogirl and I, with many other independent travellers formed up into a queue after the group. The line started to move into the nylon taped maze that is used in such situations and as we progressed, latecomers to the group started to passive aggressively try and push pass the rest of us who had been patiently waiting for the rest of their group to get their act’s together.
When I say “passive aggressively push past”, what I mean is that although there is an obvious line of people, the large group of late latecomers would wave at their friends, whilst making sure that they didn’t make eye contact with the people the were barging in front of. One or two people wanting to join their spouses or friends doesn’t bug me at all but when about 20 or 30 people try it on, it really gets on my wick and when I’m “pushed” in such cases, I always make it a point to “push back”. After a severl bunches of these French group members had weaselled their way past me, I blocked any further transgression of queue etiquette with my baggage trolley and faced off to the group and asked, “don’t you know what a line is?”
To which I was met with the kind of withering looks that the passive aggressive practice, and they ignored me as they kept trying to get around me. I stood my ground and told them to wait their turn.
One of the group members in the clot, tried to intervene with the startling logical argument of, “they’re with us”, as if that made all the difference in the world after so many people had already shown us how little they regarded anybody except them and their group.
I countered with, “there’s a line, and they can wait their turn”.
One of the group members started to go around sticking “La vache qui rit” (Laughing Cow) stickers on all the group members bag’s. I thought how apt, stickers for a cheese that is only surpassed by Velveeta in blandness, would be used by a tour group displaying a bovine herd mentality. As the members got their stickers on their bags it was as though they became aware of how big a group they were, and a few more people started to indicate with that the people who were trying to push in were with them.
By this time, even Engogirl who is a model of restraint and civility (concepts that I’ve only recently become aware of) spoke up and said, “but can’t you see there is a line?”, to which the passive aggressives still not wanting to make eye contact with me tried to push forward some more.
It was at this stage I used my black belt in communication and hit them and the group with a solid roundhouse, “fuck you!”
Finally I heard what I took to be the group leader (an alpha passive aggressive), unseen and hiding behind a wall of his minions, utter in the sort of unctious and wheedling voice that can control the sorts that go on tours, “is there a problem sir?”
To which he heard from me, “yes, there is a line here and I’m sick of so many people pushing past us”. There was no reply and after a few more minutes of our stalemate, a Singapore Airlines ground crew came up to us and undid the nylon tape that was being used to corral us towards the check in, saying “follow me”. He led us to the front of the queue just to get rid of us. Goes to show, that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and of course all the nice people behind us just had to put up with further pushing in.
What a pain in the butt!
When we got to our seats at the back of the plane it was obvious that we were seated amongst another large group of well dressed French tourists.
They all looked a bit older than me and it was obvious that most of them hadn’t travelled that much. The group was agog with excitement and they wouldn’t sit down out of the way as people were trying to get to their seats. Guys in their sixties who were probably the life of the party in their hey-day, where wandering around, “working the room”, getting in people’s way.
It was bedlam.
I expect better from the French , but the real truth be known, “clothes don’t maketh the man” and you can dress up a ignorant person from anywhere and they are still clueless no matter what striking figures they cut from a distance.
All through our leg from Paris to Singapore, the French tour group was like an excited class of school girls. They were up and down out of their seats, walking up and down the aisles, yelling across the middle seats to each other. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was being constantly hit by those raucous oafs as they partied up and down the isles I wouldn’t have minded. Even when there was turbulence, the determined socialisers continued to mingle with what seemed to be an attitude of “give me a party or give me death!”.
Both aisles were full of the noisy bastards for most of the flight. The only time they sat down was when the food was served. I spent half my flight with either a groin or butt near my face.
Over the years I’ve flown so much that I’ve seen what happens when a plane hits “clear air turbulence” and I’m one of those people who always has their seatbelt done up when flying. At least once or twice a year, here in Australia there are reports of people being hurt (usually, head, neck or back injuries) during flights going through rough turbulence because they haven’t been wearing their seatbelts (probably on the way to the toilets, I’d say).
It wasn’t just the constant jostling that was annoying it was also the state of the toilets after the superannuated  party animals had been in them. I’m not joking, they were always left in a mess and one occasion some bright spark thought it would be a great idea to piss all over the seat. I’m not talking a little sprinkle here, I’m talking, unload their whole cargo everywhere but in the toilet. I just couldn’t believe it and what made me really angry was that I knew that if I left in that state, people would think I’d done the dirty deed.
So I cleaned it up.
So much for the pleasures of flying!
As we disembarked in Singapore I was shocked at the mess of the place wherever the large French groups had been. It looked as though someone had emptied garbage cans all over, and there was a very distinct pattern formed by their litter.
A modern French midden if you will. 
What a bunch of peasants (even if they were wearing expensive clothing)! It just shows you can’t buy class, no matter what the advertising industry would have us believe.
The trip from Singapore to Australia was a complete contrast. It was a quietly civilised and orderly trip. When I was leaving I made a point of looking around the seats and floor and there was hardly any litter at all. Such a completely different attitude to flying couldn’t have been more clearly demonstrated.
Lastly I’d like to say that Singapore airlines is a great airline and their staff are a bunch saints. 

An Epic lunch for my 500th post. Paris, France. 2009

Yesterday was the last full day we were in Paris and it was the day that fellow blogger, Epicurienne caught the Eurostar over from London for the day to meet up with us before we left.

As a happy coincidence, I’ve been able to make sure that my landmark 500th post could be about my wife and I meeting up with Epicurienne, who like us comes from the southern hemisphere, likes to travel, eat good food (who doesn’t!) and of course is also a blogger.

The plan was that Epicurienne was going to show us around Paris a bit, but it was a little cool and drizzling rain.

The great indoors looked far more appealing so I piped up with, “why don’t we find a really nice little restaurant and have a fabulous meal with some lovely wine and blow heaps of money doing it!”

Epic ruminated upon the question with great deliberation for about a nanosecond and replied, “sounds like a plan!”

So off the three of us went to wander around Ile St Louis on our quest, where we stumbled across an absolute gem of a restaurant called “Sorza”.

The Sorza provided the perfect setting for a day with Epic who often writes about restaurants and the cusine she has had around the world. The food was excellent and the wine that Epic picked was perfect (I know nothing about French wines).

I’ll leave a more detailed description of our meal to Epic, as she is much better than me at writing about food.

Just like before when I met up with fellow bloggers Cashmere Cafe, Grasswire and Robert in Slovenia, it was remarkable how easy and pleasant it was to talk to Epic. We came to the conclusion that we felt we’d know each other for ages through our blogs which made the conversation so comfortable and fluid.

Also, just like in Slovenia I felt I had met another person that I wish I lived closer to. I would love to cook for Epic some time. I can’t even really begin to describe what a nice day Engogirl and I have had.

To be in Paris on our last day and to spend it with such a delightful and lovely person such as Epic would have been more than good enough, but the icing on the cake was our meal together.

Meeting up with fellow bloggers has been so pleasant that it is something that I’m going to have to do more often. It’s just a pity that Australia is so far away from where the bloggers I read, come from.

Some feminine art from the Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, France. 2009

Here are some images of art that I really liked from the exhibition of feminine art called “elles@centrepompidou” at the Centre Georges Pompidou that we went to yesterday.

Generally (this is were I whack the hornet’s nest), when ever I hear the term “feminist art”, I think about so many shows that I’ve seen that have been dominated with works dealing with, vaginas, blood and naked artists making statements about how they’re treated as sex objects. I’ve always had a problem with the notion of “feminist art” because I think that if we are all equal then it shouldn’t matter what sex a person is and their work should be judged on its own strengths and not the sex of its producer.

I’ve never liked the idea of victimhood from any group.

And before anyone gets full of righteous rage and wants to start jumping all over my case because I’m a middle aged white guy (the punching bag of choice by the world’s disaffected), all I have to say is, “try growing up as an overweight freckle faced red headed male”. I’ve never seen a poster of a guy like me on any teenage girl’s wall or my type described as the ideal, but yet life goes on and we can’t all be the focus of everyone’s desires and in control of the world.

Having had my little rant and bleat, there are of course many issues faced by women artists, like they are discriminated against and their work is often ignored. While at the exhibition, I gave myself the task of naming female artists and you know what, I could only name about five.

I hang my head in shame.

Having banged on about “feminist art”, the refreshing thing about the elles@centrepompidou exhibition was that the museum was displaying the feminine side of its own collections rather than making just a feminist statement.

The Guerilla Girls make plenty of salient points and combat discrimination with sharp wit and humor. No victimhood here just action.


Alisa Andrasek’s “Biothing” is a beautiful tour de force of applied intelligence. 


Adaptive Agent Based Extreme Structures are created using a computer program, not unlike the one Engogirl uses in her work in Computational Fluid Dynamics. As a matter of fact my wife got very excited about Alisa Andrasek’s work and I’m sure that she’d like to meet her and play around with the software she uses.

Niki de Saint Phalle is someone I’ve been aware of for a while, and this work is quite different from most of her work that I’d seen before.


Kristin Backer’s “Passage at section K-P” (2004) acknowledges how structures are so dominant in the landscapes we now live in.


Lee Bontecou’s untitled work (1966) is about sitting on a jet airplane’s wing. I really loved this piece and it’s something that I’d like to own so I could look at it more often.


I’ve saved Helen Frankenthaler’s “Spring Bank” (1974) for last as it was the piece I liked the most.

Some interiors from the Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, France. 2009

Engogirl and I went to the Centre Georges Pompidou today as an antidote to going to the Prado a few days ago. We just had to see something that was more expressive than the visual catalogues of possessions owned by the rich and powerful from years gone by, that makes up most of the Prado’s collection. Let’s not even talk about the mountain of stuff with the guy nailed to a cross and his bummed-out friends.

It was just the same thing over and over again.

I’ve never been a fan of the outside of the Pompidou center. It just looks like a industrial plant that has become a little shabby over the years, but some of the interiors are fun. There are sections of the restaurant on the top floor that look as though they were lifted straight out of Kubrick’s “2001,  A Space Odyssey” and then crossed with Roger Dean’s designs.

Although the price of the automatic machine produced coffee was scandalously high (a whole family in a developing country could be fed for a week, for what we paid for our two drinks), it was a pretty cool place to hang out in for a while, just to soak up the design ideas.

A short while after we finished our coffee, a staff member came by and sprayed scent on all the roses. No, it didn’t smell anything like roses but the roses themselves were real.

Go figure?

This next shot is of a little bar (not open at the time we were there) that was tucked away in a little bubble-like silver dome structure.

Around the corner from the bar are restrooms, which have to been seen to be believed.

The whole place was mirrored and you can have the dubious pleasure of watching yourself on the can from four different directions……..