Monthly Archives: April 2012

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What’s in the box?!

ring box

Could it be a genuine 1920s Art Deco diamond and platinum engagement ring?

Diamond and platinum engagement ring in its ring box

I think it might be!!

For those interested: it’s 0.42 carats. Personally, I think the 0.4 of that is the diamond in the middle and 0.02 is the 22 grain diamonds surrounding it (12 on the top level and five on each side). They’re seriously tiny and I keep thinking I’ve lost one all the time!

I don’t know anything about the history of the ring except that it’s from the 1920s and it’s possible it could’ve originally come from America.

The proposal happened early evening 11 April which was our last full day in Paris while we were taking a walk in the Luxembourg Gardens.

And that was the highlight of my trip 🙂

Oh the humidity!

You know how I said previously that the French people had been a delight and that the stereotype of them being rude wasn’t true? Weeeeeeeell, you get rude people in every culture and we ran into one on the flight from Paris to Hong Kong.

The flight to Hong Kong was… uh… not great. I’m now rather puzzled as to why people rave about Cathay Pacific. My experience was the exact opposite. It didn’t start well. When we got on the plane, there was absolutely no room left in the overhead locker because people had gone crazy with the duty free shopping. Which, of course, you have to take on the plane with you. Then the guy in the aisle seat in our bit of row was most indignant when we indicated those two empty seats next to him were ours. He begrudgingly got up to let up get in. The air conditioning on the plane was incredibly noisy so it was impossible to hear any of the cabin announcements except, interestingly enough, the captain’s and the ones in French. The seats were weird. Instead of reclining like normal airline seats, the seat padding moved. Which was totally useless for me because it left an enormous and uncomfortable gap between the back bit and the base. I could only recline a little bit which wasn’t conducive to sleep at all.

For the first time ever, I felt totally ignored by the hosties. One came through with what turned out to be entry paperwork for Hong Kong – which we needed – but he zoomed right past us and we couldn’t actually hear what he was saying because of the A/C. Later in the flight, the hosties came through the cabin with water but I missed out because I couldn’t get their attention, even though it was obvious I was awake and reading. So I ended up with a massive headache because I was dehydrated.

But what takes the cake was the odious man in the row with us. He wedged himself into that seat and he wasn’t moving for hell or high water. I only got up twice but each time I did, he gave me the evil eye and then wouldn’t get out of his seat. We both had to climb over him. I’ve never had that happen before and it was disturbing. Personally I think he was hoping I’d stumble and end up in his lap. Eugh!!! *shudders* He was my first rude French person but at least it was on the plane on the way out.

All in all, it was an awful flight. I definitely won’t be in any rush to fly with Cathay Pacific again.

So yes, Hong Kong. The humidity has turned out to be too much for me and we’ve spent our two days here in the hotel, enjoying the air conditioning. I can deal with hot weather. After all, I grew up in country Victoria where the summers are blazingly hot and a cool change is when it dropped a couple of degrees from 39°C to 35°C. But I can’t deal with humidity at all. I hate the sensation of being sweaty and clammy all the time. I hate that it takes so much effort to move around. We went for a walk yesterday morning but I just couldn’t hack it. The whole time we were out I just wanted to go back to the hotel and read my book (I’ve joined The Games of Thrones bandwagon and have already gotten through the first book and well into the second one).

The hotel is pretty awesome though. I decided that we should go five star for our final hotel stay so we’re at the Regal Hong Kong Hotel in Causeway Bay. And we’re on the 33rd floor in a room that faces out towards the mountains, which are rather close.

View from our hotel in Hong Kong
This is about half of what we can see out our window.

To be honest, I’m kinda glad that we’re heading home. We’ve spent a lot of time in airports and on planes which sounds so much more fun than what it actually is. Reality is, airplanes are boring places to be. Don’t get me wrong – I love to travel but I really wish teleportation was a reality.

Au revoir Paris

Aaahh… Paris. I know I haven’t visited very many cities in the world but I’m going to go out on limb and say Paris would have to be one of my favourite places in the world. It’s just magic and I was sad to leave it. There were still so many places I’m sure we could’ve visited.

I love being in cities that seem to encourage you to discover it by walking. Even when it was raining, Paris always seemed to whisper that you should be outside walking her grand boulevards, ambling through her pretty parks. It was such a pleasure to be there and I know it’s somewhere I will visit again.

And all this rubbish about the French being rude is just that – rubbish. The people we talked to were always polite and friendly. I think that particular stereotype has gotten around because the French still have manners and it is considered rude to not greet someone when you enter a premises, in French of course. I got a handle on that really quickly but I kept saying ‘thank you’ instead of ‘merci’. At least I was trying, even if it was in the wrong language. (And I must say it’s normal for me to say thank you when the situation warrants it. It’s not like I’m rude all the time or anything!)

The next time I visit France, it’s going to be after I’ve learnt some basic French. It was such a pain not being able to read menus. I also didn’t like having to rely on people being able to speak English. Made me feel like an uncultured lout! The majority of menus do have English on them but it would’ve been nice to be able to order in French. The restaurant we went to our on final night only had a French menu so the poor waiter had to tell us everything that was on it and then we had to try to remember what he’d said.

The croissants in France are so much better than the ones we get in Melbourne. There was a boulangerie very close to the hotel so we’d stop in the morning before heading off to wherever we were going. It has to be said that the macarons we get in Melbourne are just as good as the ones in Paris – not that they weren’t yummy of course! And now I need to find a crêperie in Melbourne because I’ve developed a love for nutella and banana crepes.

Now that I have visited both the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, I can say that I prefer the Louvre. I loved the grandeur of it all. And yes, we did go look at the Mona Lisa and the Venus De Milo but I didn’t feel compelled to get a photo of me standing in front of either of them. I don’t understand why people do that. I don’t need a photo to remind me, I know I’ve been there. We skipped entire sections as there was simply too much to see but we did spend quite a while in Napoleon III’s apartments. What really astonished me was that they had the throne of Neopleon Bonaparte. I would’ve thought that something like that would’ve been destroyed when they deposed him. There were so many beautiful things to look at and the Louvre definitely needs more than one visit to do it justice.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral. We didn’t go in because the line was huuuuuuge!!

Statues on roof of Notre Dame
Okay, these kinda creeped me out when I realised they didn’t have a head underneath the helmet.

Paris streetscape

Cafe Oz in Paris
Yes, really. It wasn’t that far away from our hotel but I know you’ll all be terribly shocked when I say we didn’t go there.

Musee d'Louvre

Heading into the courtyard for the Louvre

Pyramid entrance at the Louvre

Eiffel Tower

Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the rain.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Forecourt of the Louvre
The forecourt of the Louvre.

Queue to get into the Louvre
And this is the queue to get into the Louvre. We already had tickets so we got to go in a different entrance.

Eiffel Tower at night
Au revoir Paris.

Things to do on a Sunday when you’re in France

When I slipped my beanie and gloves into my suitcase I felt a bit silly. Surely it wasn’t going to be that cold. But when I was standing on a Paris street on Sunday 8 April before the sun came up and it was about 1°C, it didn’t feel like such a stupid idea!

It was only last year that I told myself I had to get to the Roubaix velodrome at least once in my life. Strike one thing off the bucket list!! It’s an experience I think I’ll always remember. The roar of the crowd as Tom Boonen edged closer and closer to the velodrome, only to reach an amazing intensity when he actually entered. Not something that you easily forget.

Start line of Paris Roubaix 2012
The start for Paris Roubaix

Pave at the start of the race
They even have to start on pave!

Pros of the future
Future pros perhaps?

Stuart O'Grady's shoulder
Stuart O’Grady’s shoulder…

Stuart O'Grady's ear
Stuart O’Grady’s ear…

Stuart O'Grady adjusting his helmet
Look! It’s Stuart O’Grady!!

Pro at the starting line for Paris Roobaix
Contemplating what’s to come.

Australian flag
It’s not a bike race in Europe if there’s not at least one Australian flag.

Sign for Paris Roubaix route
Ya gotta go that way!

Our first cobble section at Inchy. I had enough trouble walking on it, couldn’t imagine what it’d be like to ride on it.

Pros come past our corner at Inchy
All that standing around and they go by so quickly!

Pros going by at Inchy
There they go!

Entering the corner at Haveluy
Breakaway group entering the corner at our second stop, Haveluy.

Pros in the corner at Haveluy

Thor Hushovd in the peleton

Georgoe Hincapie

Peleton making its way around the corner at Haveluy
These are not happy faces. Stuart O’Grady tucked right in the middle. From what I can gather, GreenEdge did not have a good race.

Breakaway group at Orchies
Breakaway group at Orchies.

Peleton at Orchies
Peleton coming through!!

The Roubaix velodrome
Roubaix velodrome.

Tom Boonen entering the velodrome
And he’s arrived! Tom Boonen entering the Roubaix velodrome.

Boonen receiving a congrations hug
I think he deserves a hug.

Viva Paris!

No updates recently because the hotel we’re in has no wi-fi which makes it a bit difficult. You have to trek all the way to down to the breakfast room (which is underground!) to plug into a cabled router. And then sit there, as I am doing now. I have a bunch of photos to put up but as that’s a time consuming process so it’ll have to wait until we’re in Hong Kong.

Recently I was asked which city I would live in if money (and language) was no barrier. And I decided rather randomly that it would be Paris. Now that I’m here, I heartily stand by my choice. Paris is just magic. There are no high rises in the heart of the city. They’ve all been shoved off to one end, far away from the very pretty city.

We’ve been doing a lot of walking so we’ve had plenty of time to take in the sights. We walked up to the Arc de Triomphe yesterday from the Louvre and it’s a lot further than it looks when the pros are sprinting up and down it on the last stage of Le Tour de France. Today was a visit to Musée d’Orsay. It was insanely packed on the fifth floor where they’ve moved the Impressionists to so we kinda skimmed through that area reasonably quickly. In my defense, I think I’ve seen quite of few of the paintings before when they’ve been toured to Australia. Or the Melbourne Art Gallery has somehow managed a loan or two.

I was a little disappointed with the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec paintings they had on display. I was hoping for some of his brilliant posters but there were none to be seen. But of course the star for me was the Van Goghs – except it was absolutely packed and today must’ve been “bump into Lauren and nearly knock her over” day. Happened to me three times in the Van Gogh room! The other clear favourite was all the Art Nouveau rooms. The gallery had some beautiful pieces of furniture and glassware. But really I shouldn’t say surprisingly because Art Nouveau was a precursor to Art Deco.

Tomorrow we’re going to the Louvre, hopefully with pre-purchased tickets so we don’t have to queue. The wait today for Musée d’Orsay was an hour and a half – in the rain. I did get to use my new umbrella so it’s all good 🙂

And of course there’s that bike race that was on on Sunday just gone. Lots of driving, being cold, bumping around on cobblestones and standing around waiting for a bunch of cyclists to vibrate past. But it was just excellent. Really exciting to be out there on the backroads of rural France and actually seeing the race as it happened. Of course, I have no idea what actually went down during the race but who cares? I was in the Roubaix velodrome to see Tom Boonen win. The roar when he entered was amazing.

New York! New York! New York?

Three New Yorks doesn’t really work but I’m sticking with my theme.

We visited The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was packed but worth the visit. They have The Starry Night which, of course, was extremely popular so I only managed to spend a few minutes looking at it before all the camera flashes drove me away. It was wonderful though. They also has some stunning Monets but I was very disappointed in their single Lichtenstein painting on display. I was hoping for more. After all, Roy Lichtenstein worked out of New York for all of his career and I would’ve thought MoMA would’ve had a few more paintings on display.

The Cindy Sherman exhibition surprised me. I’ve never been a fan of her work but it was easily my favourite thing that we viewed. It was amazing to see one artist change her physical appearance so much for her portraiture. There was also a wonderful display of photos by a turn of the century French photographer, Eugène Atget.

The other cool thing was a real helicopter suspended in a floor to ceiling space.

Open umbrella
Your average, run-of-the-mill umbrella right?

Inside of umbrella which is printed to look like a blue sky with clouds
Ta-dah!! This is my new umbrella, bought from the MoMA store. It might be raining but under my brolly it’s all blue sky and fluffy clouds.

New York! New York!

Day two in New York. This involved lots of walking. Lots and lots of walking.

Today we took in:
The Lego Store,
The Rockefeller Centre,
M&Ms World,
Time Square,
Lunch in Hell’s Kitchen (I looked for Daredevil but didn’t see him),
The Empire State Building (but we didn’t go in),
and two bike shops – of which I got the street wrong for the second one and made us walk an extra two blocks that we didn’t need to.

But now I’m set for bike gloves for quite a while which is good. I also got some waterproof shoe covers for all the riding I intend on doing this winter in preparation for Amy’s Grand Fondo in September. We’ll see just how waterproof they are.

Millennium Falcon made from Lego
Lego Han and Chewie in the cockpit of a Lego Millennium Falcon.

Joker, Batman and Green Lantern Lego figures
Before anyone asks, no, I didn’t buy a Batman. The Joker, Batman and Green Lantern action figures made by Lego.

Batmobile made from Lego
Batmobile made from Lego.

Fountain at the Rockefeller Centre
The fountain at the Rockefeller Centre.

Ice skaters performing at the Rockefeller Centre
There was an ice skating performance at the Rockefeller Centre but I have no clue what it was meant to be about.

Carving over one of the doors to the Rockefeller Centre
Carving above one of the entrances to the Rockefeller Centre.

American flag

M&Ms monopoly
Coming under the heading of “now I’ve seen everything” – M&Ms Monopoly.

Times Square
Times Square

The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building, again.

New York!

Okay, I’m a little less intimidated by New York than I was yesterday. Yes, the scale of it is massive but really, it’s just another city with people living in it. Lots and lots of people.

Today’s amblings took in:
Central Park,
The Guggenheim,
Two trips on the subway,
World Trade Centre (but we didn’t go into the memorial – queue was way too long),
Battery Park,
and believe it or not, a hotdog from one of those stands.

Squirrel in Central Park
Yup, it’s a squirrel and it’s in Central Park.

Open carriage ride in Central Park
People taking a carriage ride in Central Park.

Black and white photo of grape vines
What I think are grape vines growing over a walkway.

People rowing boats on one of the lakes in Central Park
Row, row, row your boat…

City skyline from Central Park

Part of the roof of the Guggenheim Museum
Part of the roof of the Guggenhiem.

Out of the front of the Guggenhiem

Part of the skylight and spiral walkway of the Guggenhiem
Part of the skylight and the spiral walkway of the Guggenhiem.

The skylight of the Guggenhiem
The skylight of the Guggenhiem.

Umbrella with New York written on it

New York street signs

New York skyline from Central Park

New York skyline from Battery Park

The new tower being built at the WTC site
This is the new tower that’s being built at the WTC site.

Statue of Liberty

Woman dressed up as the Statue of Liberty
I think this is about as close as I’m going to get to the Statue of Liberty 😉

My feet ended up being really, really wet

So, day three of Emerald City Comic Con and this time we deliberately slept in and missed the whole queuing up thing. I had pretty much gotten everything I wanted so there seemed little point in getting up early and rushing down to the convention centre.

We actually spent hardly any time at all at the con. It was decided to do the Seattle Underground Tour and get a little local history. For example, I didn’t know that Seattle burnt down in 1889 or that the term “Skid row” has its origins in the American English lexicon in the area (originally it was Skid Road as workers would chop down trees at the top of the cliffs surrounding Seattle and skid them down to the docks). I also didn’t know that the hills originally had a gradient of 49%. Try riding up those suckers!!

However, on the way to the tour it started to pour with rain and we got thoroughly soaked. I discovered that my new sneakers, whilst being quite water resistant, are definitely not waterproof and I had to squish my way through the tour with wet feet. It’s been awhile since I’ve been quite that cold.

This has been my first trip to Seattle where it’s rained so I suppose I should really count myself as fortunate. I do love Seattle though. It’s a wonderful city and I’ve enjoyed all my visits there. Plus this time I discovered the joy of the crepe shop right out of the front of the convention centre (last crepe from them was a lemon and sugar one – om nom nom nom nom nom).

Monday was lost to travel. We got up obscenely early (4am!) to get on a 7am flight to New York. It appears that the majority of direct flights to New York are either red eyes (no!!) or this early in the morning. This means that the Seattle airport is horrendously busy at a time when you would think it would be quiet. The queue to get through security was huge and we ended up getting to our gate at about 6:15am even though we’d been at the airport since 5am. Luckily we’d been warned to be there early.

New York is intimidating. It’s a city on a simply massive scale and it makes all Australian cities look like small country towns in comparison. And my, do New Yorkers love their car horns! That old joke of the smallest measurement of time being the time between the light turning green and someone leaning on their horn? It’s true!

Now my feet really hurt

Day two of Emerald City Comic Con and my day started with queuing up with everyone else. They opened the doors 15 minutes early and I made a beeline for Bruce Timm’s table, determined to get on his list for the day. I had promises to keep! And I met with success. Hooray!

Then it was time for a Nutella crepe but with bananas this time.

Today was spent waiting in line for Barry Kitson. It’s been four years since I last got a sketch from him so I figured it was time for another one. Thus I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Thank god Barry is such a pleasant person to be around and he usually attracts equally nice people who wait for his sketches. Barry started my piece at about 6:10 and the show was closing at 7pm. It was a race to see what would happen first – Barry finishing the piece or the bugle being sounded to indicate the end of the day and then the dimming of the lights. The bugle won. Barry decided he couldn’t finish the piece in the reduced light so I’ll be back in his line tomorrow to see him put the final touches on it. Maybe. I might just sleep in instead. After all, my feet are killing me!

Barry Kitson working on his first Supergirl piece for the day
Barry working his magic with a stunning Supergirl watercolour. Seattle, 31 March.

Storm trooper getting Matt Wagner to sign some comics
This is the comic book creator you’re looking for. Hey, Storm Troopers like comics too! This one has excellent taste as he’s getting stuff signed by Matt Wagner. Seattle, 31 March.

Two girls dressed up as daleks
I’d have serious trouble seeing the daleks as a threat if they all looked like this 😉 Seattle, 31 March.

Mum and baby both dressed up as Catwoman
Cutest. Catwoman. EVER! Seattle, 31 March.

Woman and baby both dressed as Catwoman
All together now: aaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!! Seattle, 31 March.

Man dressed up as Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story
To infinity and beyond!!! Seattle, 31 March.