A Travellerspoint blog

Pyramid Moments in Paris

2 °C

"Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?" - Alfred Lord Tennyson

My step-mum tells a story of when she and my dad were travelling through Egypt a few years ago. They were at the Great Pyramids, and she noticed my dad - a stoic, Aussie bloke who normally has no truck with emotional outbursts - touching a pyramid, tears streaming down his cheeks muttering 'it's the f&#*ing Pyramids'.

That moment has become an integral part of our family language. Mark, Kobi and I have used it this weekend several times (minus the colourful expletive). When we refer to Pyramid Moments, we mean "that moment when dream and reality converge, emotions overwhelm and result in a person being able to do nothing more than mutter incoherently."

A 'How cool is that?!' Moment refers to a more regularly occurring, less emotionally moving experience (but still, as the unoriginal name suggests, Cool :P ).

I differentiate between Pyramid Moments and regular 'How cool is that?!' (HCIT) moments, if for no other reason than it creates a bit of order in my thoughts.

HCIT?! Moment:
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The cheese. To quote Monty Python, blessed are the cheesemakers.

HCIT?! Moment:
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The clothes, the shops, the fashion. Parisian women combine comfort and warmth with so much style. For the first time in my life, I purchased something which looks awesome AND is warm (my vanity usually dictates I go for 'look awesome' and forsake warm).

HCIT?! Moment:
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Refer to HCIT?! Moment # 1. I am warm. I look good.

Pyramid Moment:
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Watching my son and husband have their own Pyramid Moments in the Musee du Louvre. Both were overwhelmed by the story and the beauty of the art. I loved it too, but as soon as we saw the Mona Lisa, I was done and ready for coffee.

Pyramid Moment:
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My first coffee in Paris. At the Louvre, overlooking the central courtyard. It was perfect - the coffee was smooth and black, the company excellent, the view spectacular. It met my pretentious adolescent dreams, and my adult caffeine-related standards.

Pyramid Moment:
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Me. My man. The Eiffel Tower. An image in sepia. What more to say?

HCIT?! Moment:
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We did the L'Open Tour - hop on/hop off buses. Brilliant way to see the city and capture moments like this.

HCIT?! Moment:
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Coffee after a brisk morning walk, in a cosy, friendly cafe in Tour Eiffel.

HCIT?! Moment:
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L'Hotel Residence du Roy. Our room was large by Paris standards (45 square metres), and more importantly it had a really, really big bath. The bath proved invaluable for warming up after each outing:)

HCIT Moment:
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I decided my favourite time in Paris was early morning, before the world woke up.

HCIT?! Moment:

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We discovered Quatre Temps shopping centre near La Defense. Good coffee there too.

Pyramid Moment:

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Notre Dame Cathedral.

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We arrived during a church service. As we entered a choir was singing a breathtaking song. There are no words or images to capture the history and beauty of this place. We were blessed to experience it.

Pyramid Moment:
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Yep. Another cafe related one:). This time, dinner and coffee in the Left Bank. The liveliness and energy of this areaway exactly as I imagined it would be.

HCIT?! Moment:

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The view from our bus stop in the Left Bank.

Beyond our arrival/ departure date and accommodation, we had made no plans for our time in Paris. We did what we felt inspired to do at any given time, and it was perfect.

I've always had a vivid imagination, and the dreams I've dreamed for my life are always grand. Not all have come to pass (in some cases, I'm glad of that!). But the dreams I had of Paris - spot on.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 00:11 Archived in France Tagged paris france christmas coffee cafe louvre seine notre_dame dreams left_bank Comments (0)

Paris: Hot Chocolate, Pickpockets and the Mona Lisa

.mark

sunny 3 °C

So four days in Paris and there are a few things first time visitors should know.

1. The Hot Chocolate here is amazing.
2. Paris is beautiful.
3. English is widely spoken, but it pays to learn some French, even if it is only to say "I don't understand French".
4. No one talks to or acknowledges each other when walking on the streets.
5. If anyone does try to talk to you while walking, say no, and keep walking.
6. Beware of pickpockets and con artists.
7. Get out and about in the morning, early. Less lines to get into places.
8. Use the "hop on, hop off" bus service to get around the city, a very good way of getting to and from the major sights.
9. Try the local cuisine, breads, pastries, even escargot. Amazing
10. The Hot Chocolate is amazing.

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There are so many things that can be done in Paris, the bucket list could be endless, choose carefully as time does run away fast. A trip to the Louvre can take up days by itself. In our case once Kalie had seen the Mona Lisa she was done and ready for the next thing on the list. There is, however more to the Louvre than just the Mona Lisa, the art works are beautiful, without a doubt, but for me it was the weight of history upon them that I was totally unprepared for. The Louvre itself is almost a thousand years old, and some of the pieces on display are older. That does tend to make one feel somewhat small and brief. My favourite photo so far is of my wife and son in front of the Mona Lisa.

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I had a moment when I saw the Mona Lisa, mind you that was moment number "way past counting", and it was not so much for seeing the Mona Lisa (I've seen the painting many times before, in everything from t'shirts to the Simpsons), but for the fact of actually being there. That is the real impact, not the art works themselves, but the fact that I am actually there to see them. Being present with some of the worlds finest art prices, all gathered together under the one roof, on display in a building that has itself seen a thousand years of human history with millions of visitors entering through its doors.

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When in the major tourist areas keep mindful of pickpockets and con artists. Try to maintain a healthy distance from others, if you can't, make sure everything important to you is put away. Zips are wonderful inventions, use them. I got a pair of cargo pants and had zips put on all the pockets, you have no idea how useful that was. If you want to keep it, zip it up. Try to not look like a tourist, backpacks are a target. Shopping bags make you look like a target also. If someone stops you to tell you that you've dropped something, don't stop, it's a con. They may hold up a gold ring or a small piece of jewellery like a bangle or watch, don't fall for it. Just say no and keep waking. They will ask you for money. If anyone asks you to sign a petition for whatever cause (land rights for gay whales) you can be guaranteed that there will be a donation required along with your signature, just say no and keep walking. Travel in a pack if you can, the three of us have held hands the entire time, and I steer my family around the streets and through the other pedestrians. Of which there are THOUSANDS...

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Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 23:22 Archived in France Tagged mona_lisa hot_chocolate Comments (0)

Delayed flights and the meaning of life on the way to Paris

.kalie

overcast 3 °C

'Don't panic' - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams' outstanding trilogy in five parts, identified the answer to the question 'what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?' is 42.

When we travel, '42' is the code word we use to diffuse arguments, stress or anxiety. It re-focusses us on enjoying the experience and enjoying each other. The rule is that any of us can say 42, and we have to choose to regroup, stop the grump/tantrum/stressing/all of the above. It sometimes takes a few attempts, depending on the situation, but it generally works:).

The number of our table at the cafe in Perth airport as we waited for our flight to Paris was 42. I liked the symmetry of that.
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And it turned out we needed to keep 42 in our sights.  We had clear blue skies and over 30 degrees fairly consistently for the last few weeks. But not Wednesday. Wednesday it rained. A lot.

Between the weather, and Perth airport having only one runway open, our flight was delayed by three hours which meant we missed our connecting flight to Paris.

The first part of this was written on our Perth-Singapore leg, while I was trying valiantly to not be upset that we'd be late into Paris.  Trying to figure out how, without mobile phones or internet, we'd be ale to contact our hotel to change the time of pick up for the car we had arranged.

How did people do such things before mobile phones and the internet? I am stymied - yes, that's right, stymied.

Thankfully, we didn't have to travel back intime to a world before Internet. We arrived into Singapore at midnight and to their credit, Qantas did a great job with all passengers; we were put straight on to a flight to London. We used the free kiosk at Changi Airport to frantically email our hotel before running to board our London flight.

With only a few minor tired-stressed-grumbles at each other, we handled the delayed flight/missed connection remarkably well.

We had breakfast at Heathrow, where Kobi discovered a love for English sausages, I spent much time watching the constant parade of winter fashion, and Mark took photos of the Ugly Blue Fish in various locations at the airport. Thankfully, we are easily amused.

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On the plus side...had we flown direct to Paris we wouldn't have seen the white cliffs of Dover. Unexpected, unplanned treat as we flew to Paris.

It was spectacular.

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...and then there we were. In Paris. A car collected us as the airport...I pause at this point to reflecton the jaw dropping experience that is driving in central Paris. Oh. My. Goodness.

In the evening, we battled jet lag (and won) by strolling along the Champs Élysées, checking out the Christmas markets, wandering through narrow streets, window shopping on l'Avenue de Montaigne and generally living the dream.

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No need to panic. We arrived eventually, and it was worth the wait.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 19:20 Archived in France Tagged markets paris lights dream heathrow qantas Comments (2)

June 2012 - Departure Minus 5...Packing Challenge Accepted!

.kalie

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." Walt Whitman

I've been reading some fantastic blogs which combine the benefits of travelling as a family, and packing light.

It struck me how practical and obvious it is to pack light (and equally, how challenging).

Thus far my planning and thinking for this trip has been more about trying to match dreams, and less about practical realities...my dad recently read our travel blog for the first time. It caused him to reflect on memories of his own trip to Europe a few years ago, memories which are "fond, although not as - 'fanciful'", he tells me.

Although in my work life, I'm exceptionally practical & results-driven, it's a commonly held truth that in our family I am the one for whom the line between reality and fantasy has been a bit blurry at times. In the past few years, I have to admit to being quite comfortable with the contradictions that make up 'me'. (Side note - my 30s are by far my best decade yet!)

So we have the Romantic, Idealistic Kalie, with visions of stolen kisses in foggy Parisien streets, drinking red wine by the fire in Tuscany, adventuring as a family...etc etc and so forth.

Then we have Professional, Practical Kalie. The me to whom airy-fairy dreams are pointless without a well-developed strategy and who is focussed on efficiency, key performance indicators, and measurable outcomes. This is actually who I am most of the time and it's rare for me to unearth the 'girlie' version of me...although she's getting a good run in the lead up to this trip.

I've decided it's time to unleash the organised, efficient me in regard to our holiday planning.

I'm highly motivated by challenge, and I'm competitive. Case in point: I have never let my son win a game of cards, or Trivial Pursuit, or any other board game we've played. I tell myself it's because learning to lose well is an important part of learning to win graciously...but really it's because I don't like to lose. Which probably defeats the purpose of the lesson I tell myself I'm giving him.

All that aside, I've identified a small goal I want to achieve.

I want to - wait for it - pack light.

We'll be away for six weeks, and due to my at times unchecked vanity I thought packing light would be a monumental challenge for me. However, as evidenced by my years of various fitness phases (I'm not one of those people who looks good while exercising, but I do it anyway because I enjoy the sense of achievement at the end), my need to meet a challenge far outweighs my vanity.

So last week I bought an appropriate, small cabin-luggage-sized bag, and today (because I will not be beaten by a small suitcase) I have victory!

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I wanted to make sure I had room for new purchases, so I packed everything - including the clothes I'll be wearing on the flight. The fact that it all fits means even if I buy new clothes in Europe - or rather, when I buy new clothes, I'll have room for them...and if (when) I buy more than I have room for, I'll mail them back home.

The practical information:
I have packed -
Requisite underwear (all appropriately comfortable AND sexy, because both qualities are equally important)
2 x dresses (which can be worn over jeans or leggings, and layered for warmth)
3 x bamboo thermal tops (brilliantly warm, and feel so smooth on)
3 x pair bamboo socks
1 x pair yoga pants
2 x leggings (1 pair are thermal)
3 x tops (can be layered underneath)
1 x pair of jeans (jury is still out on whether to take these)
1 x pair skechers (flight shoes)
1 x pair cargos (flight clothes)
1 x thick hoodie-style coat (flight clothes)
1 x small hairbrush
1 x small bag of makeup & assorted toiletries

This leaves room for the boots and jacket I'm planning to buy on Day 1 in Paris. Anything else (scarves, hats, gloves) will easily squash in. Most of the places we're staying will have shampoo, conditioner, soap etc in the rooms and if not, we can buy them whenever we need to.

In actual fact, I think my fanciful ideals have aided in this victorious endeavour...not only am I motivated to meet an efficiency challenge, but my vanity has motivated me to do whatever is necessary to enable me to appear calm, confident and fabulous while travelling - and not staggering around with a bulky backpack or suitcase certainly helps in that regard.

I do so enjoy my contradictions.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 20:46 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping europe romance dreams practical vanity packing_light ideals Comments (2)

Preparing Natho's Ugly Fish Clock for departure

.Kalie/ Natho's Ugly Fish Clock

“Inanimate objects never live, yet at the same time live forever.” Brett Shandler

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We inherited Natho's Ugly Fish Clock from our friend Mim.

Mim discovered it among her husband Nathan's Treasured Possessions when they moved in together. At her request, Mark liberated it. It's a fascinatingly weird object, so odd it's kinda cool (which fit our family perfectly). About a year later, Nathan noticed it missing and we had to 'fess up. We always planned to return it because Nathan's love for this strange blue clock is deep and true. Three years later we moved across the country, unpacked our boxes and realised that we still had it - much to Mim's delight and Nathan's disappointment.

History lesson over.

The time is near for our adventure to begin in earnest (2 weeks, 4 days). Since joining our family Natho's Ugly Fish Clock has had an identity of it's own. It is part of the eclectic DNA of our family and the history of those we love, so it will travel with us - because that's how we roll :P.

One of my favourite authors, Tom Robbins, wrote a book called Skinny Legs and All in which three of the main protagonists are a painted stick, an old sock, and a can of beans. I loved the world perceived by these inanimate objects; the story being told through their eyes as well as the humans they were with.

Welcome to the travels of Natho's Ugly Fish Clock.

It's going to be a rollicking good adventure.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 15:55 Archived in Australia Tagged fish travel clock adventures tom_robbins Comments (4)

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