Some Baby Steps Towards Living Off The Grid

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Last night I went to a restaurant for a 20-mile meal, with all the fresh produce being sourced within a radius of 20 miles. (I know we use the metric system but I’m guessing a 32.18688 km meal doesn’t have the same ring to it.) I live an hour’s drive north of Sydney, and once you start looking, an incredible amount of wonderful food is grown locally.
Which is now starting to include my backyard. There is still so much to do, but spring has arrived so what we have planted has really taken off. Much in my herb garden self-seeded while we were rebuilding, somehow surviving amidst all the overgrowth to sprout forth once I’d cleared the bed. (Many have sent their offspring far and wide, and I’m always finding Chinese greens or lettuce growing at various places in the yard.)
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Aesculapius In Rome

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In the middle of the Tiber lies the picturesque Isola Tiberina. Even today the island remains an oasis in the chaos of modern Rome. On one side of the island lies the still medieval neighbourhood of Trastevere; on the other it’s but a short walk to the Colosseum and Forum.

The Isola Tiberina embraces two millennia of Roman history, for it has been important to Rome from her beginnings as a small river-side settlement through to her growth into the Eternal City. Founded in myth in and legend, the foundations of the island date back to the Iron Age – long before Romulus and Remus were mothered by their She-wolf.

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Cluny Museum, Paris

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Flying anywhere from Australia takes forever, arriving in another world before the break of dawn. It was still dark when the plane landed, and the train from the airport sped through unseen suburbs and endless tunnels. Even the Left Bank was still asleep when I emerged from the metro at St-Michel. Naturally, my hotel room was not ready. A light autumn rain fell, and cars splashed through puddles as street lights glowed in the mist. Tattered posters for jazz bands flapped in the breeze, and well-dressed Parisians hurried past on their way to work or else sat in cafes watching the rain.

For a little while I did the same, in the well placed Café St-Michel. Un cafe au lait, un croissant, and fresh butter to die for. I couldn’t believe the taste – such a rich, creamy fullness I needed only a little. So completely different to what passes for butter back home (although I do think my coffee is better). Continue Reading →

The Castellers of Terrassa

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Draining my cup of coffee, I stepped into the Middle Ages.

Giants passed by, and a king and queen danced with a peasant couple in a game of courtly love. The sound from hundreds of drums and whistles filled the air as smoking dragons shot flames over my head, while towers of men rose to the sky.

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Resurrecting the Veggie Garden

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Driving from Barcelona to Mont Serrat, the bus wound past many a farm. The earth was dry and heavy, used relentlessly down the centuries, all nutrients washed down the steep slopes to the river below. Yet despite the scorching heat the dark green of vegetable gardens bloomed everywhere against the rocky backdrop.

A lot of effort must go into these plots. The lush green rises from an earth which looks barren. Hoses stretch across the ground, a moving pattern of irrigation. Large zucchinis nestle against the ground, and pumpkin and squash plants spread across the earth. Tomatoes of all types stand staked in rows, while netting protects the larger plants from birds. To produce crops here requires dedication and vigilance – and probably a lot of heartbreak. Continue Reading →

An Overnight Stopover in Singapore

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The heat and humidity slapped me in the face as soon as I walked outside the airport. Gravid clouds massed on the horizon.

The afternoon had begun and tomorrow morning I had to leave. Any trip begins and ends at the airport, and were I completely lazy I could spend the entire time here. Singapore Airport boasts endless shops, restaurants, a movie cinema, beauty salons, spas, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, orchid and butterfly gardens – even a dedicated area for sleeping (the airport was recently voted Best in the World for sleeping. Strange, but true).

Bravely, I left these wonders behind and ventured out to find a few highlights of the city.

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