Thursday, 30 April 2015

Friends that last the distance

One upon a time (well, last July actually) five strangers from across Australia gathered in France to take an Intrepid Highlights of France tour. There were nine people on that tour, and while everyone got on really well, those five girls bonded over a love of French food, wine, people, scenery, shopping - and pretty much everything else you can think of - and became friends. 

Hellooooo Melbourne!
It's common to make friends on holiday when all you have to do is enjoy the sights and sounds of a foreign location. But while you all pledge to keep in touch, removing yourself from the leisurely enjoyment of holidays coupled with the glare of real life means that most acquaintances wither and die within a few weeks.

But not with these gals.

In the last nine months, we've had some riotous chats on Facebook where the crazy in-jokes you make on holiday seem to have grown and spawned a life of their own.  We've texted on birthdays and big events, and called to say hi and have a chat. 

And we've just returned from our second reunion trip!

Last October, four of us met in Sydney for a weekend of feasting and fun, walking the sights and stopping for tapas.

And over the Anzac Day weekend, the whole gang caught up in Melbourne and spent a few days catching up on the news while jumping on and off trams all over the city. The weekend was wet and windy, but the conversation was lively and warm.  We walked the streets of Brunswick, Carlton, and Southbank and journeyed around the city centre. We ate pastries at Brunetti and cheese platters at Milk the Cow.  We talked non stop about all kinds of topics and generally ate and drank our way around the city.  It was a fabulous weekend and there is no better way to see a city than under the guidance of a local.

I don't think that any of us foresaw that a friendship would grow from that first day that we took the Metro to Montmartre for lunch, but I know I'm not the only one who is glad it did.

Each person in the group is different, but I treasure them all for their wit and wisdom - and of course their love of travel, good wine and cheese! 

With Sydney and Melbourne complete, we're planning a big Brisbane get-together later in the year and a wild Perth break early in 2016.  While most of us won't be able to get to Europe this summer, we're lucky to be able to relive the memories of a wonderful holiday and make new memories in our own country.

Have you made a holiday friendship that has lasted the distance?

Friday, 17 April 2015

20 things about me

This post is inspired by '20 things about me' from the Fat Mum Slim blog. I find Chantelle's blog
endlessly interesting and refreshing and when I read this post I thought it might be time to step up a bit - so here goes......

1.  I'm not very good at talking about me.  Now if you know me you are probably laughing to read this, but it's true. I'll chat forever about the weather or the news or a meeting I had, or people I've met, but I don't give away too much about myself until I know you well.

2. I'm trying to learn how to draw at the moment.  I'm really interested in both illustration and watercolours so every night I sit in front of the TV with my sketchbook. I've got a huge folder of inspirational ideas on Pinterest and I get books out of the library all the time. It's fun trying something new.

3. The iPad is the greatest invention ever.  I love that I can laze in bed on a Sunday morning and read the paper, talk with friends all over the world, catch-up on the latest episode of Downton Abbey and reply to work emails - all without lifting my head off the pillow or brushing my hair - not that I ever do that! I also love that it means I don't have to take a heavy laptop when I go overseas.

4. I'm blessed to have an amazing circle of friends.  I have friends from so many different phases of my life and I treasure each and every one of them.  They are fun to spend time with, interesting, inspiring and I know they have my back. I hope to always be there to give them the love and support they have given me during the difficult times.

5. Watching a travel show or a program set in France (or anywhere in Europe for that matter) makes me want to get on a plane RIGHT NOW.  If I could, I'd travel for at least half the year and spend the other half planning my next adventure.  There are so many fabulous places in the world to explore and so many that I want to go back to that I never regret driving an old car and living in a smaller house, because I'd rather buy my next plane ticket and just go.

6. I love to cook - sometimes.  Of course there are nights when I grab something quick or have fish fingers on toast (totally yummy by the way), but I enjoy trying new recipes and creating something delicious.  In the last few years I've learned that you can make a simple dish truly fabulous when you cook with intent and mindfulness. The dishes I create when I'm happy and at peace in my kitchen, singing along to the radio always taste the best.

7. I hate any letter or email that starts with the phrase: "As you may know". Believe me, if I knew, I wouldn't be reading it. Just get to the point straight away please!

8. Learning to travel alone has been one of my greatest accomplishments.  The first time I headed overseas by myself I was literally shaking in my shoes.  There were so many 'what if's' running around my brain that I couldn't function and I didn't believe any of the friends who had told me that I would love it were right.  But you know what? They were!  I discovered that I can find my way when I don't know where I am and that I can communicate when I don't know the language. I've met the most amazing people along the way.

9. A simple, old-style, 70's- type lemon cheesecake is the best dessert in all the world.

10. I'm constantly battling to feel as though I'm 'enough'.  I was bought up to strive to achieve and to be successful - however there isn't a yardstick about what that means so you never know when you have reached it.  I feel as though I 'fail' all the time and it can be a crushing feeling.  But I'm also getting better at reminding myself that I'm doing the best I can, that I'm still learning every day and that we're all struggling with the same feelings.  Luckily it gets easier as you get older to remember this.

11. I almost never eat tomato - never have.  Asian food is my friend because it almost never has it as an ingredient.

12. I don't like text messages unless they are a confirmation about where to meet or to advise I'm running late.  I know they are popular but I think too many people run their relationships by text message and the fact is, you don't get enough information from a text to really know what someone means or is thinking - and too many people make big decisions based on text rather than conversation.

13. There is nothing so glorious as lavender fields in bloom.

14. I love learning about photography.  It's been my hobby since before digital SLRs were a thing. I have a long, long, way to go to be a decent amateur - but that's ok.  I love that I have a hobby that I'll be doing until I'm 90 and that I will slowly grow and evolve with.  My photos from this year are better than last year's - and hopefully next year's will be better again.

15. I've had the same pair of RM Williams boots for 17 years - and I never plan to replace them. Of all the things I've ever bought, I think they are the most long lasting.  They still look great and when they finally do get a bit worn, I'll just get them resoled.

16. Hair straighteners have saved my sanity. Ask anyone with curly, frizzy hair and they will agree.

17. I try to keep up to date with current affairs and the news but I don't always dig as deep as I would like.  Sometimes I don't feel that I should have an opinion about something because I haven't read enough balanced material.

18. House of Cards is a truly brilliant TV series. I love the way the characters have layers like onions and show themselves one thin piece at a time.  I love that even the worst of people have redeeming qualities and that no one is infallible. One day I hope I can write as well as that.

19. One day I hope to write a book - not sure what it will be about yet but I have lots of paragraphs and ideas floating around my head.

20. I try to practice gratitude every day.  Happiness is a very elusive goal and so I aim for gratitude instead.  Every day I try to think of the things that I'm grateful for - a cool breeze, great cup of coffee, phone call from a friend, deadline met, people who read my blog who aren't just my friends!  The more you look for things to be grateful about, the more you'll find.  Somehow, learning the practice of gratitude gave me happiness.

So what about you - share some things about you - even if it's only one!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Spring in Paris

Here in Queensland we have been sweltering through the warmest Autumn for many years.  The days are still hot and humid and it feels more like February than April. Thankfully the nights are cooler or I think I would cry! 

But while we dream of cooler temperatures, jeans, shirts with sleeves and actually being able to enjoy a hot cup of tea, it's SPRING in Europe.  Lately I've been spending lots of time lying under the fan and browsing my favourite photographers on Instagram and dreaming of springtime in Paris where the flowers are in bloom.

If I was in Paris right now, this is what I would be doing:

Taking the escalators to the roof of the Galleries Lafayette to have a glass of wine at the bar and look out at the chimney tops of Paris.  I'm sure it's not fun to live with chimneys that have to be cleaned, but I romanticise them just the same.  If I was lucky enough to be there in July, I might also be able to pick up a bargain in Galleries Lafayette's annual sale.

Panting my way up the 280 stairs to the top of the Arch du Triomphe to look down onto the Champs Elysees. The climb is brutal (although it's fun to stop and take a photo of the endlessly winding staircase below you) but the view is so worth it.  The whole of Paris is there before you.

Walking along the banks of the Seine towards Notre Dame.  As the morning lengthens, the booksellers open their riverside stalls.  There is always so much happening along the river that there is lots to look at.

After a morning of walking, the best thing you can do is stop off in a charming café for a reviving Noisette (the French version of a Macchiato). It costs a little more to sit outside, but it's the best place to rest tired feet and watch the world go by.

And it wouldn't be a visit to Paris if I didn't wander past the city's most famous landmark, surrounded by blooms of spring.

There are so many things I love about this city that this just doesn't scratch the surface, but the beauty of this place is that you find something new every time you visit. Hopefully next spring will see me packing my bags for another adventure.
Paris, I love you!
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