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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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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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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Time, Butter, and the Sands of Mont St Michel

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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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