A Travellerspoint blog

October - Departure Minus 1 - Routes and Roads


“No camel route is long, with good company” - Turkish Proverb

The road since my last travel blog has been a seemingly never-ending stretch of uni assignments, work projects, business trips and assorted other mundane Things To Do. As we draw closer to our departure date, the road is diverging and I've begun to focus on other roads - real ones this time, not metaphorical ones.


What tours (if any)? What route will we drive from Paris - Rome, and then later from London - Shaldon - Edinburgh - York - London? What are the roads like? What do we want to see and do along the way? What factors do we need to consider?

I hit the point of overload yesterday. Thankfully, that point came just after we'd decided everything we needed to decide.

We'll do a little bit of the usual touristy things in each location, but we're more interested in experiencing the people and the, well, ...vibe of each place.

We've booked a few tours and Things To Do (Pompeii from Rome, Lochness from Edinburgh, the Vatican, Les Miserables live in the West End) so we'll see those things which for us were 'must sees'. But we've also planned enough unplanned days (that sounds like a contradiction, I know) so that we can follow whatever muse descends at the time.

(Note: I'd like the muse to inspire us to at least do the following: drink red wine by the fire in our Tuscan Villa, wander the Christmas markets in Paris, and take meandering drives through Provence. Not that I'm a control freak...much)

In just over 5 weeks we begin our journey.

I love the company I'll be in, so no matter what we do it'll be a good route to travel.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 16:51 Archived in Australia Tagged london scotland edinburgh england york work christmas rome wine route pompeii planning provence les_miserables weekdays Comments (0)

May 2012 - Departure Minus 6...Daydream Believer


"The dream is always bigger than the reality. That's what keeps us going - trying to match the dream." Andrew James Gibson.

In six months' time, the dream gets real. We'll be on a plane for Paris.

Back in January when we booked our tickets, I cast my vision forward to this day and through that misty, soft-focus lens I felt the shiver of anticipation of when I could at last say 'In six months' time we'll be on a plane to Paris'.

The reality?

Oh, much, much more mundane unfortunately.

I've spent the past week packing up a house, lugging furniture, and unpacking in the new house. I have major projects underway at work, and assignments due at uni. He For Whom I have Forsaken All Others is working away for ten weeks. Our 11 year old son has almost as much study to do as me.

What is with this business of real life getting in the way of my fantasy???

Packing to move house is Boring and should be Someone Else's Job. Packing for travel is equally boring and, I have to admit, infinitely more stressful for one as Vain and Shallow as I - because my vision, you see, is that I must look like a young(ish) Audrey Hepburn everywhere I go. I won't, of course, I know that. Quite conveniently, the gap between what I know and what my vision is will determine what I buy once we get there. Said vanity has also ensured I research thoroughly, and have come across fantastic blogs with practical and stylish advice.

I have another vision with which I play on days like these when it all seems so far away. One of the movies I run in my head involves Mark & I having at least one of these moments in Paris (not sure where our son is in this scenario...let's assume he's taking the photo, because it isn't real if there's no photo to upload onto to Facebook or our Blog).

As I've been writing this, I realise my entire view of Paris is outlined by my teenage dreams, filled in by images such as Doisneau's and movies like Sabrina (the original) and bought to life by my years of high-school French. My Grown Up Brain is aware it won't always match the dream. I'm quite comfortable with that actually, because just the fact that I'll be in Paris and will be able to experience the difference between fact and fantasy - that's action and dreams being woven together.

While I have no doubt there'll be very little of the England of my romantically-Jane-Austen-Shakespearean-Sonnets-inspired days (the only reference to Jane Austen Mark finds acceptable is Pride & Prejudice & Zombies), I'll still find the romance, darnit! Even if we don't visit Derbyshire estates with staircases down which I can gracefully descend (or based on my previous experiences, down which I can loudly fall), I'll walk along the street my husband lived as a child, and as we journey through the UK I'll develop a better understanding of his people and by extension, of him.

Eight years ago one of the artists of this masterpiece and I started loosely dreaming of a Christmas together:


By 'artists', I mean finger-painters and by 'loosely', I mean we both made vague, non-committal statements like 'you should come here for Christmas' 'yeah, that would be great'...(rinse and repeat on a semi-annual basis). This year, it's really happening. We will spend Christmas with our questionably artistic friends, and the experiences we will share will exceed my dreams...I know this because the beautiful Miia has told me she has castle plans, wild wintry moor walk plans, hot chocolate in country pub plans, Christingle service plans and mulled wine plans - all things an English Christmas (in my mind anyway) should have.

The truth is, for all my self-absorbed movies-in-my-mind where I'm the star in Paris or Rome or Edinburgh, no matter where we go and what 'things' we see; its the people we're with who make the reality better than the dream.

Although it must be said that in those movies, I am fabulous.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 07:26 Archived in Australia Tagged people scotland paris england history europe movies vision artists dreams vanity audrey_hepburn finger_painting Comments (0)

April 2012 - Departure Minus 7...The Castle, and A Castle


"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them." Albert Einstein

I have re-discovered something about myself as the planning for our adventure progresses…I’m really good at having a Grand Plan. To quote an iconic Australian movie, The Castle, I’m an ‘ideas man, Steve’ - (although I’m not a man and you might not be called Steve those are details which are irrelevant to my point, so let's agree to skip over them.)

When it comes to ideas, I’m a marathon runner. I never tire of discussing concepts, unleashing new dreams, letting an idea float by and follow it to see where it settles.

When it comes to details, I’m a sprinter; I'm quick, direct and focused. For about a minute.

One of my Visions for our adventure was a few nights in a castle. Instead of casting said vision and letting Someone Else Do the Work, I found myself researching castles, jumping from website to website, converting pounds and euros to dollars and endlessly emailing with booking enquiries…this is because I am studying a Masters in Management and checking out websites about castles was a perfect way to fill my ‘break from study’ time - or was my study time a perfect way to fill my ‘break from castle websites’ time?

So many factors to consider, you see. To quote The Castle again, 'location, location, location'...we’ll be in Scotland for New Year's, but how much of Scotland is accessible by clueless Australian travelers in the middle of winter? Cost...it will be our most expensive accommodation while we're away; it's a Special Treat, so we’re not expecting backpacker rates for a 4- or 5-star castle, but paying upwards of AUD 15,000 a week for accommodation is somewhat - okay - a LOT outside of our price range. I had to find something which fit our budget, time frame, itinerary, and most importantly, fit the vision. What type of castle, age of castle, size of castle; did we want bed and breakfast; dinner, bed & breakfast; just the bed…endless details through which I began to trudge.

As my pace slowed to a crawl, I remembered I’m a detail-sprinter, and this was taking too long.

I began to appreciate the value of our travel advisor, Mim Davies. She is a woman with an ability to manage ideas AND detail, who does not get frustrated with my constant change of Ideas, and who patiently explains why some of my Good Ideas are in fact just Not Going To Work. She’s quite comfortable with my thought processes which do not follow a linear path. She has the capacity to keep up and fill in the details, and she knows just when to slow me down, push me along or pull me back on track.

I finally booked the castle (with the help of the good folk at Celtic Castles), and now I’m spent. large_topcastle.jpg

All that detail has exhausted me. I’m handing the rest of the planning over to Mim, because she is far better equipped for it.

Except, maybe, just the detail attached to the Inspiring Vision I have about experiencing the French countryside, and how we can fully experience (quoting The Castle again) the serenity….but NO. Imagine how much further we'll go if I do what I do best, and let Mim do what she does best.

It took me three edits before I noticed the detail that I'd quoted the movie The Castle in my blog about our stay in A Castle.

It's all about accepting my limits.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 07:23 Archived in Australia Tagged castles scotland details preparation location ideas dreams travel_agent visions planning... australian_films vibe Comments (3)

Scotland the Brave...

Mark... I used to wear a Kilt..

Growing up is never an easy thing to do. Being a child is easy, staying a child is wrong, growing up is painful. Fortunately we have people who can help us. We have adults around us who can guide us through the process, help us come to terms with learning who and what we are. Theoretically at least.

For some, those adults are absent, or uninvolved, and the child is left to wander through the wasteland of emotional, mental and spiritual turmoil. Growing up can be messy, and dangerous. At a time when the child is no longer enough and the adult has not yet been formed, people can get lost, identities can be warped, pain and anger can pervert and subvert bringing forth an identity broken and suffering.

At a time in my life when I was asking the most fundamental questions about myself, who am I? How do I be a man? What should a man be like? I had no one to help me with the answers. My father was mostly absent... divorced parents, weekend visits with not much in-depth or personal involvement. My step father was no help, wrapped up in his own life and not really interested in anyone else. Home life was not good = understatement of the century. My role models for being a man were sadly lacking.

And then something happened. An "uncle" of mine (my step father's sister's husband) asked me to come to band practice and have a look. He was a Scottish man called "Jimmy".. of course! He played in a pipe band. He was kind, funny, fiercely moral and very very Scottish. I went to the practice and had a look, didn't think much of the bagpipes (my clumsy fingers were no good for playing) but I fell in love with the drums. So I joined a pipe band.

Try being a 15 year old male with no self confidence having to wear a kilt in public for the first time! Terrifying, and yet every man in the band walked around as if he was ten foot tall and bullet proof. "och lad, nay problem.... the ladies love a man in a kilt, gives em something to imagine." wink wink.. I got given a dirk to wear with my kilt. (If you don't know that that is, it is a short sword that is worn on the hip.) My first piece of weaponry given to me by my uncle Jimmy.. I still have it...


I had a "clan" that I belonged to, I wore that kilt with pride and in honour. I learnt that there is more to being a man than just getting taller and hairier. I was shown by the men in that band what it is to be a man. Over the next six years I played in pipe bands, and I learnt a lot about being an adult from those men, predominantly Scots. I learnt how to carry myself with pride, how to be honourable and how to stay true to who I am. I also learnt how to swear, drink and fight as well as how to understand and speak the accent. I speak it so well in fact that I get asked where in Scotland was I born... by Scots. The latest of which swore blind that there was no way I could speak with that accent except that I was born in Scotland.. It was my "uncle Jimmy" accent.

Uncle Jimmy was the first man to take an interest in me as a person and to see me as more than just the child I used to be, he invested into my life and took time to teach me. For that I owe him a debt of gratitude greater than I can adequately express. He also welcomed me into his culture, his family and his life. He set me on a path that gave me a culture in which to be safe while I grew up. I was for a time wrapped up in Scotland, its history and flavour. The centuries of history and events that have shaped Scotland, influenced the development of the culture, shaped the Scots as people, was all passed along.. to me...

Everything those men taught me is still there. I still get chills when I hear the bagpipes and have fierce burning pride when they play Scotland the Brave. I may have no Scottish blood in me that I know of, but I have Scotland in my blood, it is a part of who I am. My son will be twelve when we are in Scotland and I want to show him a taste of the culture that took me in. I want to share with him something of what I saw, to give him context for the lessons that I am passing onto him.

My wife is booking our holiday accommodations at the moment, a castle stay in Scotland. Even though I am years away from my days in the pipe band and my life has changed in many ways, I cannot help but feel like I am going home.



Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 20:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged drums bagpipes kilts Comments (0)

Of Castles and Wars - and of Dragons

.kobi(age eleven)

Ever since reading books like the Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan, I have been fascinated with medieval England and Europe.

I have always thought that if I travelled back in time I would want to go to the medieval period. Perhaps I am idealistic to think that those times would have been a good time. In fact, I know they were riddled with poverty, battles and plagues, but their historical romance and their role in fiction novels makes me overlook those facts.

The treasure trove of information and history in England and Europe fascinates me.

The rich history. The Colosseum, the great temples, castles, fortresses, churches. All awe inspiring reminders of those days long past, wars, invasions and perhaps more war. The invasions, political uproar, assassination, poverty and plagues of Europe has become a sort of scratching post to authors and film makers alike.

Medieval ages has a mystery to it which has captured many a curious mind. Like mine. Perhaps my image of this era is shaped by fiction therefore among the castles and villages I often see in my mind's eye, a dragon soaring over fields - sometimes the dragon has a rider on it (who is a good guy, sometimes the rider is not-so-good).

That is why I am so excited about going there. To learn more of the castles. To learn more of the wars. To have a good and informative time.

And if we see any dragons (which would be cool) hopefully the rider will be the hero, not the villain.

Posted by mark.kalie.kobi 05:21 Archived in Australia Tagged castles england history europe dragons wars plagues Comments (2)

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