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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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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The Umbrella Revolution and Me

 

The morning was still young. I seemed to be the only person about, which is a rare occurrence in Hong Kong. An occasional snore, or a soft rustle – little other noise came from the tents.

For tents there were, stretching along a highway which would normally be a traffic jam. The skyscrapers towered over them, emblazoned with huge advertisements for the next product to bring wealth and happiness. In contrast, protest signs hung from the overpasses, along with clusters of umbrellas. Continue Reading →

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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