Sunshine, Birdsong and St. Dunstan-In-The-East

 

I stood in the middle of London on a summer’s day listening to birdsong. Sparrows and other small birds hoped around me and darted through the undergrowth. A breeze cooled by the foliage softened the heat. The sounds of traffic were barely audible. Some people from the nearby offices sat amongst the stones and vines eating their lunch, nodding to us as we wandered by.

London in summer continued to surprise me. With only two days I planned to show my daughter a range of places, from the old to the new, from the hidden to the startling obvious (yes, Big Ben was included). Common tourist sites are popular because they’re great places to go – but there are always other places well worth hunting down. Half the delight is in the contrast between them – followed by lunch at a nearby pub.

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Cormorant Fishing in Arashiyama – The Night I Walked into a Fairytale

             

 

He led me to a bridge, carrying in his arms with him certain dive-droppers or water-fowls, bound to perches and about every one of their necks he tied a thread, lest they should eat the fish as fast as they took them. He loosened the dive-droppers from the pole, and within less than the space of one hour, caught as many fish as filled three baskets; which being full, my host untied the threads from about their necks, and entering the second time into the river they fed themselves with fish, and being satisfied, they returned and allowed themselves to be bound to their perches, as they were before.

 

So wrote the Franciscan monk Friar Oderic, as he wandered barefoot across Asia in 1321. Little, it seems, has changed. Arashiyama may be but twenty minutes from Kyoto, yet I felt I’d strayed into an enchanted world long gone. The night was warm, filled with the chirping of crickets and frogs. Against the darkness of the surrounding hills, lights twinkled from restaurants hiding on the other side of the bay. Coloured lights lit the narrow streets, and lanterns hung amongst the trees leading down to the water.

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Braving the Doctor Fish of Singapore

 

I’ve never offered up my feet to be eaten by doctor fish before. Being Australian, I’ve had my share of unwanted nibbles and stings when in the surf. Not to mention how my great uncle, after surviving WWI, was taken by a shark just off Mosman Bay. (Another great uncle died in the Battle of the Somme and lies buried in France. It was a tough time to be alive.) So it took a moment of bravery, and encouraging laughs from the assistants, for me to slip off my shoes and place my feet beside my daughter’s in the clear water of the tank.

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Time, Butter, and the Sands of Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel anneharrison.com.au

I don’t do time.

I realised this as I sat eating breakfast while watching the sands of Mont St Michel disappear beneath the waves. Victor Hugo wrote of how the tides move à la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (as swiftly as a galloping horse). A bell tolls as the surge begins for, like many a medieval pilgrim, people still drown making their way across the tidal flats. The force of the rolling waves creates ever-changing fields of quicksand which confuse even the locals. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a trapped rider and horse, with the Abbey of Mont St Michel clearly visible in the background. Other riders are being rescued, with Hic Harold dux trahebat eos de arena embroidered beneath; (Duke Harold pulled them from the sand).

The grey sands literally do vanish; in the time it took to spread butter on my croissant and have a sip of my café au lait, another island of sand had disappeared.

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Travels With an Epicurean Zombie

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It Begins In Australia

The zombie apocalypse is upon us. There is no point denying it. Just because we are all about to rise from the dead, however, is no excuse not to enjoy epicurean delights.

Brains have long been the Holy Grail of the zombie repertoire. Indeed, eating brains seems to be their raison d’être. Although rarely featured on the menu of a local pub or restaurant, they have long been considered a delicacy. In Moby Dick, for example, Hermann Melville lovingly describes the preparation of those two white globes comprising the brain of a smaller sperm whale.

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Nasoni – Rome’s Fountains of the Big Noses

Convent Stays

The history of Rome can be seen in her nasoni, or fountains of the big noses. From the aqueducts supplying an ancient city, to the beauty of her Renaissance fountains, Rome has always been dependant upon a fresh water supply. In 98 AD the Roman Consul was named as Guardian of the city’s water supply; today the Romans have l’acqua del sindaco – the mayor’s water. Free to residents and tourists alike, clean water sprouts from drinking fountains, called nasoni, all over the city.

 

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