A Volcano, A Dinosaur and Clouds.

 

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New Zealand is a land of mountains. Flying into the South Island I saw nothing but an enormous snow-capped range, smothered in white clouds lying trapped on their peaks. Little wonder the Maoris called this land Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud). Not four hours from Sydney (it takes me longer to fly to Perth), yet a completely different land lay below me.

With mountains come volcanoes. Cruising The Bay of Plenty in New Zealand’s North Island, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the boat circled a smoking volcano rising from the sea. Only a small part of White Island is visible; most of the mountain lies beneath the sea.

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Dawn in Hoi An

 

It is autumn, and dawn comes late, and the darkness early, in Hoi An. Autumn by the calender, but not by feel, for it is easily 30C each day, the humidity reaching the 90s.

In the darkness of the pre-dawn, the air felt cool. Once on the water, a sea breeze played around us as we set out over the waves. Around us, were struggling with their nets in the darkness, somehow balancing in their tiny boats. Larger boats circled around them, buying the fresh catch from the fishermen and delivering it to the markets, or straight to the restaurants of Hoi An.
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The Art Deco Imperial Hotel Prague – My Review and Musings

 

It was the trams which did it. I lay in bed, listening to them rattle past; what a delightful way to fall asleep. It had, after all, been a long day; some 26 hours of flying from Australia, then an afternoon spent walking around this magical city.

I’ve yet to find anyone who has not fallen under Prague’s spell. It is simply the most delightful city. Even on a cold day when the wind nips at your face and fog is threatening to blanket the spring day, the place reaches out to delight and entrance with her hidden nooks and cobbled streets; a market place, tulips in bloom, a river winding into a golden distance.

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Walking the Île St Louis, Paris

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For the short while I had in Paris, every day I would venture down to a little supermarket on the Île St Louis. I never left empty-handed: a smoked chicken, some quail, or perhaps some cheese; yoghurt in its own ceramic pot (which I collected and brought home), a bottle of red. Consisting of two aisles barely wide enough for people to pass one another the place could hardly be classified as a supermarket, yet it was not a corner store, for in that small shop lay a wealth of offerings to put any supermarket to shame. The shop was simply the essence of the Île St Louis.

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Stocking My Minimalist Weekender Pantry

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One of the best things about a weekender is arriving late on a Friday, sitting on the veranda with a glass of bubbles in hand, and watching the late afternoon light play across the hills. Surrounded by 100 acres of Australian bush, with neither phone nor television to disturb, and the electricity occasionally taken out by a passing kangaroo, it’s the perfect place to escape and recharge the soul.

Part of that serenity comes from not stressing about cooking. Simplicity is always best. With the place being only an hour from home, bringing fresh food is not a problem, plus local fruit and veggie stalls line the way. We’re lucky enough to have the Great Northern Trading Post five minutes away (complete with the oldest continual liquor licence in the colony outside of Sydney), which serves the like of grilled spatchcock or steak with pommes frites, yet it takes little effort to have the makings of meals for every time of day.

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In Search Of A Perfect Japanese Curry

I never eat hospital food. I used to, some twenty years ago, if my break coincided with their irregular hours. The food was cheap, plentiful, and grey – including the vegetables. One evening as I searched for something to eat, I turned the wrong way coming out of the lifts and found myself outside the morgue. I never ate in the cafeteria again.

Luckily, every hospital nowadays has a private café, usually near the entrance and doused in sunlight. There are even express lines for those flourishing a hospital ID. The range of food extends from sandwiches and pies to offerings such as Persian rice salad or glass noodles. Last time I waited for my coffee I noticed a Japanese curry.

Until discovering the works of Haruki Murakami, I never thought of Japan as a land of curries, my knowledge instead restricted to sushi, sashimi, sake and Iron Chef. (Nor had I had associated Japan with truck stops, but in Kafka on the Shore I found both.) In Murakami the curries fed both body and soul; the curry I ordered tasted brown. So began my quest to find a true Japanese curry.

 

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