Australia and Oceania, Asia, Europe, North America · 34 Days · 143 Moments · May 2017

Gerard & Craig on tour 2017

30 June 2017

And that, as they say, is a wrap! Home to chilly, familiar Melbourne - and it's nice to be here.

28 June 2017

Last day of holidays today and we had a fantastic lunch at Little Sister Downtown in 7th Street, Los Angeles. This popular restaurant served delicious Asian fusion food in a really great, casual way. We enjoyed a delicious raw beef salad, Vietnamese crepe and crab dumplings! If your in DTLA (aka Downtown Los Angeles) makes sure you get there for lunch.

27 June 2017

Night time LA ...
And a few more from the Broad ...
A selection of the works on exhibition at the Broad ...
The plaza outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion provided welcome shade while we waited for our entry time to the Broad museum. This private gallery is free to the public and contains a great collection of art in a very beautiful building.
Some more scenes around downtown LA ... Including the beautiful old Bradbury Building, and a small selection of Australian plants growing in the shade of some very healthy gum trees in Grand Park.
More photos from the Cathedral ... Not quite sure what the black dalek like building is nearby ...
From the Disney Hall we walked further up the road to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This massive Cathedral was build only a few years ago and is cool and beautiful inside. Beneath it is a huge mausoleum. You will get the sense from these and pics to follow.
More pictures from the Disney Concert Hall ... the self-guided tour is worth doing.
Woke to a beautiful morning in downtown Los Angeles and after breakfast at the hotel we went for a walk. Nearby our hotel is the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Broad Gallery, the Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion and a whole lot more of the cultural centre of LA. The photos show the Broad (white), the Disney (silver) and the Chandler (older style). You can do a self guided tour of the Disney which we did and the next groups of photos will show some of this amazing building.

26 June 2017

Woke up this morning in New York city and will sleep tonight in Los Angeles. After packing and a nice lunch at Estiatorio Milos we set forth for JFK Airport and the slowest ever check-in with American Airlines - good thing we had allowed plenty of time. Flight from NYC to LA is about 6 hours and the AA Airbus 321 was great - very comfortable and good service. Arrived in the evening and saw the expanse and lights of LA. Eventually we received the luggage we thought we may never see again and set forth for our accommodation at the Omni Hotel in downtown LA. We shall see where we are tomorrow.

25 June 2017

After Sondheim we took the subway downtown to visit our friend, Dan, who lives at Hudson Yards around W28th Street. This is the Highline area and undergoing a major renewal. After a couple of drinks on the roof of his building and a good catch-up we were on the subway again heading back to Midtown.
The performers in Sondheim Unplugged were wonderful and we had a great table, coincidentally with an Aussie guy and his partner in town from Malta. Three of the performers were from original Broadway casts.
Feinstein's 54 Below is a cabaret venue below Studio 54 on W54th St! Last night we took ourselves to a great show called Sondheim Unplugged.
Yesterday was New York gay pride day and the city was decked out and there were hundreds of thousands of people moving around. After brunch we took ourselves off to see Come From Away. This is a fantastic musical about the people on board flights to the USA on 9/11/2001 when the airspace was closed after the terrorist attacks. About 7000 people ended up diverted to a small town in Newfoundland where they were stranded for a few days, and the show tells this story. It's high energy, has fantastic music and is very moving and funny at the same time. We loved it ... Fantastic performances by all 12 players.
Started the day with brunch at Estela ... absolutely delicious dishes in a really friendly, casual environment. Estela opens for brunch only on the weekend, and during the rest of the week only for dinner. Next NY visit dinner at Estela may be necessary.

24 June 2017

Following Marea, we made our way down Broadway to see the revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close. It was a great performance by GC and all the cast ... good to see. Returned home via 6th Avenue past Radio City Music Hall which is always nice to see lit up at night.
Dinner tonight at Marea ... Another repeat restaurant and while the food was excellent the service was a little haphazard. We did get to sit near a Russian mafia princess though!
So Groundhog Day the Musical was a fun show ... really enjoyable. I sometimes wonder how it will go when a well known movie is translated to musical theatre but I'm happy to report that this is a successful transfer. Lots of fun, and most enjoyable!
For Brunch today we returned to a restaurant we visited last year. Cosme produces beautiful Mexican dishes so, along with a couple of Plymouth gins (one with rhubarb and the second with beetroot) we enjoyed a cactus salad, stuffed avocado, huevos rancheros and duck enmolados - more detail is available on the menu photo :-)
Double header day today ... two shows to fit in as well as some wandering about and some good food. As the photos show its a beautiful day in NYC after a stormy night and the beautiful skyline of New York looks at its best.

23 June 2017

No trip to New York is complete without a visit to Zibetto Espresso Bar on 6th Avenue - the best coffee in NYC. You can see how happy it makes Craig! This evening we went to see the musical War Paint about the rivalry between Elizabeth Arden and (our own) Helena Rubenstein. The show starred two great dames of Broadway - Christine Ebersole (Arden) and Patti LuPone (Rubenstein). We saw great performances from both in a good, but not great show. The story line was a little thin and, in spite of the show being about their rivalry lacked tension due to the fact they never really met! But, all said and done, it was a good show and we enjoyed it. Cheese and glass (or 2) of gamay finished the evening at Casellula Wine and Cheese Café on W52nd Street - another place worth a visit if you're in the neighbourhood.
And bonus take home treats from the Momofuku lab ...
Still more Momofuku Ko ...
More Momofuku Ko ...
Ok ... get ready ... this and the next couple of posts are going to be lots of delicious food and accompanying drinks! Momofuku Ko is magnificent ... We ate here about 3 years ago in a different locationand loved it. The new Momofuku Ko is bigger and brighter, and we loved it even more. The menu is attached ... I'll leave it you to match the food and drink descriptions to the photos.
Today's agenda started with a trip downtown to the East Village for lunch ... So plenty of time to do a little shopping, take a pic of a timber escalator at Macy's on 34th and stumble across a small, neighbourhood garden! Not sure who Liz Christy is ... But she's done a great job with her garden.

22 June 2017

To finish the day we joined the slightly over-excited crowds at the evening performance of Hello Dolly, starring Bette Midler! The Divine Miss M was simply divine as Dolly Levi, and the show an absolute wonder. It was beautiful from start to finish and the audience members were beside themselves with excitement. One really needs to see how a star struck American audience behaves and responds ... It is an entertainment in and of itself. But ... We loved Dolly and Bette capped off a fantastic day in NYC - a full-force, non-stop, high energy performance. Not bad for a girl in her 72nd year and a 53 year old show!
Returned for lunch to Gabriel Kreuther in 42 St opposite Bryant Park. This is a beautiful restaurant and we enjoyed cured Marlin and sashimi cobia, followed by Berkshire pork and duck - and it was all delicious. As usual in these restaurants the treats before and after are delicious.
Having not been there for a number of years we decided to venture south to the World Trade Centre to see the redevelopment, enjoy the view from the observatory and visit the beautiful memorial park. While much has been built the site is still a construction zone after all these years, and I suspect will remain so for some time. The new tower - the One World Trade Center - is a beautiful sleek building which rises the ground alongside the two memorial pools on the sites of the twin towers. The observatory is great - there is an immersive, multimedia experience as you travel through the building to the observatory floor on Level 100. Great views, of course. The memorial pools and gardens are.beautiful. A white rose marks the name of any victim whose birthday it would have been that day. Part of the complex is a Westfield shopping centre - the subway connections beneath appear to be still under construction. In all, this is a beautiful place constructed on a site of horror.

21 June 2017

Final stop of the evening was the Broadway show The Great Comet starring Josh Groban. Based on a section of War and Peace it was everything, including the kitchen sink. The audience and the stage were intermingled, the orchestra was everywhere including in the hands of the wandering performers, there was wild dancing, strobe lights, audience participation and never-ending sung dialogue! There were some beautiful songs and equally beautiful performances, and interestingly (for Broadway) a very muted audience response to what the NY Times critic believes is the best thing since sliced bread. Okay, you guessed it ... I was not a fan, although I am rather fond of my red egg maraca which I played enthusiastically at the required moment in the show, and will play all the way home on the plane to keep the memory alive! Finally, a shot of me looking increasingly lile Santa Claus or in a pale blue light, a lot like Papa Smurf apparently ... Broadway show idea?? Maybe! #smurfthemusical
Dining at Le Bernadin comes at a price - the requirement for gentlemen to wear a jacket - but it is well worth the effort. The menu we chose featured delicious and delicately prepared fish and seafood. Every mouthful from the trio of the amuse bouche , through red snapper tartare, Tasmanian trout, langoustine, monk fish, striped sea bass and more was fantastic. The photo of the slice of chocolate cake is in tribute to Sue, Debbie, Debbie and Marion who were our charming neighbours and had popped over to Manhattan from Westchester to celebrate their combined birthdays. What a delightful group! Marion loved Malcolm Turnbull's Press Club send up of Donald Trump and is confident Trump will be seething!
A normal New York summer day awaited us ... bright sunshine, the noises of a busy, crowded city and heat tempered by a pleasant breeze. We took the N train downtown to Great Jones St to have a late brunch at Il Buco Alimentaria which was recommended to us by a Kiwi friend a few years back and which is always worth a visit. Delicious! Afterwards we had a wander through the streets and did a little shopping before taking the Q train back uptown from Canal St. The modern glass tower opposite our hotel reflects beautiful images of our New York neighbourhood around W55th and 8th Avenue and yesterday was a perfect example. In the evening we returned after many years to the restaurant Le Bernadin! It's not easy to get into but if you're persistent like someone I know anything can be achieved. The second half of the photos on this post begin the Le Bernadin experience.

20 June 2017

In the evening we took ourselves to dinner at a very nice, new Indian restaurant called Indian Accent in W56th St just a couple of blocks from our hotel. The food, which we shared, was delicious and consisted of familiar Indian tastes but presented in a less than traditional way. The lamb dish was presented like Peking Duck ... Beautiful tender lamb curry with wraps, vegetables and condiments. The beautifully spiced soft shell crab was served with rice, and there was delicious dal and paneer as well. Well worth a visit if you are passing. Apparently, there is also one in Delhi and soon to be one in London. After dinner we descended upon W45th St and the Music Box Theatre to see Dear Evan Hansen. The winner of a number of Tony Awards in 2017, including for best new musical, this is a wonderful modern musical dealing with the struggles of a young man. We really loved it ... and the audience was wild about it (in typical Broadway audience style).
A few more shots from our walk on the Highline - after which we wandered around Chelsea before stopping for a little lunch at a small wine bar ( in the Chelsea Market.
Woke to a beautiful New York City day and decided on a walk along the Highline. It has been a few years since we last visited the Highline and the development in that part of New York is amazing. A few photos attached hopefully give some sense.

19 June 2017

Departing Helsinki in the early afternoon we arrived in New York city and hour later after 8+ hours of flying. We had just seated ourselves in an Uber for the journey in to Manhattan from JFKbwhen the heavens opened and the torrential rain began. As a consequence, our first glimpse of NYC was rather grey and soggy. Despite the weather we made it to our hotel in good time, unpacked a little and freshened up in time to go to Town Hall for the final performance of Broadway by the Year (2007 - 2017). This narrated concert gives you a guided journey through some of the good songs that were using on Broadway in shows during those years. It was very good and a gentle entry to NY theatre going and the crowds. After the show we wandered to a small wine and cheese bar we know which is not too far from our hotel, and being between 9th and 10th Avenues a little away from the crowds. New York looks the same (in the rain) ... there seems to be a more noticeable police presence.
It's a waiting game this morning at the Helsinki Airport Hilton hotel ... our flight to New York is scheduled for early afternoon.
Hmm ... Interesting weather report ... It's after midnight and, I think, dark outside

18 June 2017

Ok, so now we are in Helsinki for the night ... well at Vantaa Airport to be precise. Beautiful sunset over Finland as we arrived and a weird collection of.people in hats in the bar at the Hilton ... I have no idea!
And so we arrived again in Switzerland ... and with a couple of hours to kill before check in for our flight we took ourselves into Geneva for some lunch. It's a beautiful, sunny Sunday in Geneva and nothing is open except restaurants!
Having departed Chasselas we made our way towards Geneva Aeroport stopping off at the Royal Monastery of Brou near Bourg-en-Bresse. This beautiful historic monument is worth a detour ...

17 June 2017

Fuissé wins the award for the smallest local village with the biggest church in the middle of a vineyard ... and it looked beautiful at night.
After some relaxation by/in the pool at the Château de Chasselas we ventured forth to the nearby village of Fuissé for dinner at D'O des Vignes. The tasting menu was a fine selection of French food from brocolli soup with goat's cheese, to fish, chicken liver, seafood, duck, cheese and dessert. All delicious and a lovely way to finish our days in Burgundy.
Last pics from Mâcon ... Home now and pondering a siesta by the pool!
Delicious lunch at a small restaurant found by the tour guide and then as bit more strolling around town talking in the ambience and the sights.
Last full day in Burgundy today so we decided to stay closer to home and make our way to the nearby town of Mâcon. We weren't expecting a lot so we're pleasantly surprised by this town. Lovely narrow streets and quaint buildings surround the square where the Church of St Pierre and Les Halles are located. The light in the church was quite atmospheric and the windows cast some beautiful coloured patterns on the stone floors.

16 June 2017

A few more photos from around Cluny ... the sisters who managed Corpus Christi seminary in Melbourne were members of the order of St Joseph of Cluny who were founded by a local woman to care for the poor and needy, and spread from here to all parts of the world including Melbourne.
After lunch we took ourselves off to the town of Cluny to see the abbey founded there in the 10th century. The remnants of the original abbey church still stand and give some indication of just how big it was. The abbey itself is huge and rather dilapidated and seems to be used in part as a conference centre. Hopefully the pics attached give some idea.
The tail end of lunch and some shots wandering about Beaune
Main meal at lunch today at a beautiful restaurant called Le Carmin in Beaune. We were seated in a lovely internal courtyard and enjoyed a delicious meal ... as detailed in the menu attached.
A few Beaune street scenes and a gratuitous shot of some saffron gin ... Sadly the shop was closed,
As you can imagine, over the centuries the hospital and the sisters collected and produced some magnificent artifacts as they went about their work and their religious lives. These pictures give you some idea of what is on display.
Today we set forth in sunny, but less humid conditions to travel to the city of Beaune. The Hotel Dieu de Beaune was founded in 1443 to provide medical care for the poor, as well as an order of sisters to run the hospital. The buildings are still existing, now as a museum and are quite beautiful. It still exists today, though in more modern premises fortunately. It seems the hospital ran in its original site until the 1980s. Over the years the hospital has been gifted land and also now produces wine.

15 June 2017

The menu and some random shots of this inspiring space ... everything was perfection.
More inspired food from Au 14 Fevrier ...
Dinner tonight was an amazing treat ... a beautiful restaurant in the nearby village of Saint-Armour-Bellevue ... if you're in the area make sure you reserve for dinner at Au 14 Fevrier. This French restaurant has a Japanese chef and Japanese staff. The food is inspired and delicious and the staff are wonderful. More photos will follow in subsequent posts, as well as the menu. PS there was even a local red wine produced by a local Japanese winemaker. Rural Burgundy and Japan ... a match made in heaven!
A collation of interesting and beautiful windows today in the Abbey of St Philbert at Tournus, the Cathedral at Châlon sur Soâne and the Chateau of Cormatin.
A few final glimpses of Cormatin ... and off we went into a wild rain storm the likes of which has not been seen in Melbourne for some time. What fun driving a Skoda Yeti on the wrong side of the narrow country roads of France during torrential rain! But ... we live to tour another day.
Glimpses of the Château de Cormatin ...
Le Château de Cormatin is a great example of its type and shows various periods of its existence through the history of France ... but particularly in the lead up to the revolution. The tour is well worth doing ...
After a delicious lunch of Tina Niçoise at Tournus we boarded the Yeti and set forth for the town of Chalon sur Soâne. The highlights were, of course, a fountain which appeared to serve unending rosé quite close to the Rue des Poulets! Surely this is a match made in heaven?
A few more scenes from the Abbey at Tournus and around ...
The Abbey of St Philbert at Tournus appears to have existed since 875! Pretty good innings so far, I'd say. It was a very cool refuge away from the sticky heat outside and worth a visit. Interesting crypt ... the inhabitants appeared to have escaped (or risen ahead of time). Oh, and Girard I was Abbot in 1061 ...
Le Château de Chasselas from the road above ... evening and morning
Good morning from Le Château de Chasselas ! It's a beautiful morning in Bourgogne, perfect for taking and sharing some photos if this beautiful house and it's environs.

14 June 2017

Tonight, on the recommendation of our host we took ourselves to the pretty little town of Solutré-Pouilly et un restaurant "La Courtille de Solutré". The food was fantastic ... a most delicious meal - from the courgette gazpacho amuse bouche, through lobster, veal carpaccio, turbot, slow cooked beef and peach soup. If you're passing by, make sure and stop for a meal.
It's a rainy evening in Chasselas with the distant rumble of thunder and the occasional flash of lightning. There are rumours that there could be hail so our host, Jean-Marc, is concerned for his vines. Last year there was hail and production was reduced to 1/8 of the usual! We just enjoyed a sample of some of his wines - some different chardonnays and gamay in the château tasting room (in the 14th century part of the building) before a look at the winery itself and the cellar (under the 18th century part of the château). There are two large 200 year old barrels down there (which I neglected to photograph) and the temperature is cool and even year round.
A few more photos from our wanderings in Dijon. I liked the statue of S. Jean d'Arc (I assume) standing watch over the names of all those who died from Dijon in WW1. Also found out a lot about S Elizabeth de la Trinité a French Carmelite nun who died in Dijon in 1906 and was canonised on 16 October 2016. She has a beautiful small, highly decorated casket in a Church in Dijon. Who knew?
Woke to a beautiful morning at Le Château de Chasselas and set forth in the Skoda Yeti for the Ville de Dijon. 130kmh on freeways is an excellent Idea, Daniel Andrews. Its amazing how quickly the miles fly by and how carefully people drive. Trucks - of which there are plenty are restricted to 110kmh and the right lane making for great traffic flow and speedy coverage of distance. End of political commentary. Dijon is beautiful ... a UNESCO world heritage site and full of beautiful buildings and small cobbled streets. More later ...

13 June 2017

Had a lovely dinner this evening at a restaurant called La Cassolette in the nearby village of Crêche-sur-Saône. The salad of lettuce, ham and egg had a delicious vinaigrette, while the sausage was served with potato and a local beaujolais red wine sauce. To top it all off there was a selection of local cheeses - delicious. If you're in town ... make sure you go there.
Checked in now to our home for the next five days at the Chateau de Chasselas and have been for our first swim. Beautiful setting in southern Bourgogne - surrounded by small villages and mile after mile of vineyards. Lovely evening views from the windows of our room.
Forsaking Lyon we have moved on and are now enjoying lunch in the beautiful town of Autun. Lovely place to stop and wander ...

12 June 2017

After lunch we walked a few hundred metres in Croix-Rousse to La Maison des Canuts. La Maison des Canuts is a small museum dedicated to the history of silk making in France and Lyon. It's not extensive, but it is interesting to learn the history of this craft.
Next to the park is Cité International designed by Renzo Piano. Among the things housed there are the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon which unfortunately was closed today. On our way we passed an interesting sculpture which turned out to be a tribute to the G7 unveiled by Jaques Chirac before Bill Clinton and others. After a bit of a wander around Cité International we took ourselves off to Croix-Rousse for lunch ... a very delicious Salade Lyonaisse.
Another warm and humid day in Lyon so we took ourselves out early-ish to visit the Jardin Botanique de Lyon. The garden is huge and contains extensive grounds, lovu old green houses, a large lake, zoo, rose gardens and plenty of ducks.

11 June 2017

Dining low key tonight at Chateauneuf Du Peuple in Vieux Lyon. This is a great, low key tapas wine bar where we had great wine and delicious oysters, smoked mackerel and smoked salmon. If you're in Lyon ... Go find it.
Finally we reached the end of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, and after a small bite to eat headed home for a siesta.
And once more with feeling - Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
You guessed it ... Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
You know where ... Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon!
And again ... Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
More Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon ...
Nothing like too much rich French food and a late night to slow you down. Arose rather late this morning to another hot day in Lyon. After a slow breakfast and a few domestic chores we set forth to visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon! The museum turned out to be quite extensive, with a lovely collection spanning multiple eras and forms. Some pictures here and following.

10 June 2017

And then there was dinner at Paul Bocuse ...
So much delicious food ... Have never seen so many cheese choices followed by so many dessert options, after more food than could satisfy the French Foreign Legion! Amazing ... Rich and delicious.
See the next entry for the menu ... Ooh la la
Final stop of the day before heading back to the apartment for a siesta was the Musée des Confluences. This beautiful building sits at the confluence of the two rivers of Lyon ... hence the creative name. It is a museum of natural science and anthropology and opened in 2014. It's rather beautiful sitting above the river.
Time for lunch ... and to choose a candidate for tomorrow's election. I'm going with the kitten after extensive examination of all parties' policies. Vive le chat!
Along the way we stumbled across a very large and very popular street market. The French really do know how to do food and markets ... it had everything and more! We sampled one of the local "oddities" ... pralinette ... A small bread role studded with something red, sweet and sticky. It could grow on you, I think.
It's a beautiful sunny day again in Lyon so we set off early for a bit if a wander. Our first destination was some areas of the city famous for their large wall paintings. They are really well done. Along the way we passed the Lyon Opera, the Hotel de Ville and many other interesting sights.

9 June 2017

And so the day ended with a delicious meal at a little brasserie around the corner from our apartment ... Le Petit Carron ( We enjoyed: Ceviche de Thon mariné au citron vert et ses condiments , sauce pistache, framboise et aneth Salade folle de la Mer: Saumon gravlax, crevettes marinées, déclinaison d'agrumes , vinaigrette au miel et à la moutarde ancienne And Filet de Bœuf Simmental, sauce porto aux saveurs de Truffes. Oh, there was also a bottle of very nice red wine as well.
Ok so I'm not saying much, but the pics give the general gist of the day in Lyon.
Mary Poppins was here ...
More views of Lyon ... We walked miles again today
Views of Lyon ...
First stop today in Lyon was Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse - what an amazing array of all things delectable! If you're in the neighbourhood, drop by for an amazing array of fish, meat, cheese, vegetables and fruit, bread, cakes ... ... oh and don't forget your credit card or at least to extend your overdraft at the bank.

8 June 2017

Arriving in Lyon we found our way in our Skoda Yeti through some pretty crowded streets to our accommodation for the next 5 nights - a small apartment in the 3eme arrondissement. After a little time to relax and unpack we took ourselves for an evening promenade along Cours Gambetta across the Rhône river and as far as the Saône river - a few hundred metres on, before turning back. Finding ourselves outside the Paul Bocuse brasserie, Le Sud, we decided this was as good a place as any to get something to eat. So our day of travel finished with some very delicious chicken and lamb, and a half bottle of Sancerre Rouge! Who knew there was Sancerre Rouge?
So, we arrived at our last day in Switzerland for this visit. We packed our bags again and took the SBB to Geneve Aeroport, but we stopped for a couple of hours to wander around Geneva and enjoy the sunshine. Both times we have been to Geneva previously it has been bucketing down, so it was a very pleasant change to see sunshine, blue skies, sparkling water, colourful flags and elegant swans. We eventually resumed our train ride to the airport where we collected our Skoda Yeti, and hit the road for France and the city of Lyon. We're sitting now in our AirBnB and pondering the merits of dinner. It's warm here ... 32.5°C when we arrived.
Today we depart Switzerland and head first by train to Geneva, where we will pick up a car and drive to Lyon in France. It has been great to be in Switzerland again and meet old friends and new, and see familiar things and experience more of this lovely country. À bientôt, Suisse. À prochaine.

7 June 2017

The rest of Isola Bella appears to be boutiques and restaurants. Having reached lunchtime we enjoyed a delicious lunch on the terrace of a restaurant before heading back across the water to Stresa. By then we were ready for an Aperol Spritz at the Skybar on the roof of the Hotel de Palma. When in Italy on a sunny day, an Aperol Spritz is mandatory. Boarding the train at Stresa we had a short stop at the Italian town of Domodossola, which is the last main stop in Italy before passing beneath the mountains and back into Switzerland. Domodossola turned out to be a quite picturesque and historic town. Back in Bümpliz Nord I had to snap a pic of the Geelong footballer who appears on the wall of the train station underpass. Not sure what he's doing here ...
And then when you thought there could be no more you entered the palazzo gardens complete with white peacocks, beautiful statuary, and stunning views. One peacock decided that a bride having her photos taken was posing a threat and decided to fight back with his own display of white finery. If you have a chance to visit Isola Bella ... I would recommend it.
More views of the Borromeo family palazzo on Isola Bella, near Stresa in Italy. Among the highlights were a couple of beautiful marionette sets and a series of indoor-outdoor rooms decorated entirely with small stones and pebbles.
Next stop on our Italian interlude was the Isola Bella. Isola Bella is the location for a beautiful palace and garden built by the Borromeo family throughout the 17th century. The palace is quite a surprise inside ... full of interesting and beautiful things that you'd never imagine were there from the outside. A selection of photos are attached which I trust gives a small taste.
One of the advantages of Switzerland is that you can leave easily on the SBB, so today we boarded the train to Milano Centrale and alighted on the shores of Lago Maggiore in Stresa, Italy. Stresa is a beautiful lakeside village with many luxury hotels and the jumping off point for three small islands - Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Bella. First stop for us after a boat ride across the lake beneath beautiful blue skies was Isola dei Pescatori. About 100m wide and a few hundred long the island is, in fact, a quaint village mainly occupied by small hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist shops. A very quaint church had 4 silver bishops heads among the candles on the altar - nit sure what that was about, and a lovely image of S. Agatha (who suffered a very cruel fate). After an hour we boarded our boat for our next stop.

6 June 2017

Woke to a beautiful rainy day in Bern, ironed and shopped before a delicious lunch of white asparagus, hollandaise and prosciutto - all washed down with some very nice white wine from Zurich. The afternoon saw us heading for downtown Bern and the Kunstmuseum Bern where there is a post-revolution Soviet art exhibition showing. It was really good to see ... kind of depressing in parts. Late afternoon we headed to the Swiss parliament with Andrea and his history class. We met with a parliamentarian from Graubunden and listened while the students grilled him about transport policy (in Swiss German). We then spent an interesting 30 minutes witnessing the parliament in action, before a tour of the main public galleries of the building. It was most interesting to observe the differences in form and style. Women got the vote in Switzerland in 1971 (😱) and 25% of inhabitants are not Swiss citizens. Then, dinner with Andrea & Rene (for the first time) at a very nice French bistro!

5 June 2017

After a monster day yesterday, we started today at a more leisurely pace, attended to some laundry matters, and watched a movie (The Duchess) on DVD before having a quiet lunch with Andrea. After lunch we set forth again to meet Ovi at Bern main station and travel together to Lotzwil to visit Andrea's mother, Marianne. Marianne lives in a house built the same year Captain Cook stumbled across what is now Australia (1770) and which has been in her family since 1900 - before Australia came into being at Federation. It was lovely to pass the afternoon and early evening with Marianne and Andrea's brother and his partner. We shared a lovely meal together and engaged as best we could in multi-lingual conversation about life, the country and the world. It was a delightful, relaxing way to pass the day and lovely to see Marianne again. We first met her and Andrea's late father, Settimio, back in 2002 and we've always felt welcome. Home now - I think it could be an early night!
Going to Lotzwil to visit Andrea's mother ... someone is happy not to have to walk far today.

4 June 2017

The main reason for the climb was to see a truly spectacular formation ... which I guess could be described as an enormous semi-circular cliff. The cloud, at first made the whole experience rather surreal and scary - standing on the edge of a drop without knowing whether it was 10m or 500m, and with white swirling mist obscuring the view and any sense of perspective. Add to that the very cheerful sign in memory of the soldier who accidentally walked off the edge in 1940 and it was a rather disconcerting experience. When the cloud began to clear, however, it was plain to see why so many people had made the trek to the top. It is simply stunning. But the walk down ... different route and difficult. Distance covered on foot for the day ... 25km!
So when you're in Switzerland it is a visa condition for entry that you make like a Swiss person and climb high mountains!L Taking the train from Bümpliz Nord we went to Neuchâtel, and then on to Noiraigue where we set forth to climb to Creux du Van. The climb was steep and saw us walking up into the clouds ... let me tell you that it wasn't a stroll in the park, but it was not unbearable. Two and a half hours later we reached the top and were rewarded with a delicious lunch of meats, cheese and salad. Despite the signage we saw no kangaroos, but plenty of giant slugs ... and a very chubby, brown mouse.

3 June 2017

After lunch we made our way to the Basel Art Museum where there is a special exhibition of pieces from the Prado in Madrid. Apparently it was not permitted to take photos ... oops! Some beautiful pieces on loan to Switzerland and great to be able to see them.
Fantastic lunch at a very beautiful restaurant called Stucki - chef, Tanja Grandits. Every dish was delicate and delicious ... interesting play on colour, taste and texture.
Next stop, only a short tram ride away, was the town of Arlesheim and a small, Rococco church - Arlesheim Dom. Someone had taken pity on St Sebastian and removed all his arrows, but there was no disguising the places where they had been.
Today we set forth with Andrea, Ovi and Tony for Basel. First stop was the Goetheanum, built in the 1920's and the HQ for the Rudolph Steiner philosophy. Interesting building(s) and surrounds. Nary a straight line or right angle in sight, but an interesting place to explore. From the photos the centrepiece is a beautiful auditorium, but sadly not open for viewing until 1pm and by then we needed to be in a restaurant for lunch. More soon ...

2 June 2017

Arrived in Switzerland and Berne, and were reunited with our good friend, Andrea. Three years since our last visit to Bern and so much water under the bridge in that time.
It's a slow news day today ... traveling by road, air and rail from Paris, France to Berne, Switzerland via Zurich, Switzerland. It's about 500km and will take us about 8 hours door to door ... still I guess it's better than the 4 days, 8 hours it would take if we'd chosen to walk with the aid of Google maps :-) PS ... and for the really adventurous there is the option of taking the route that is 2 minutes slower! 🎉
Welcome to the baggage hall at Zurich Flughafen! It's so nice to be back in Switzerland - maybe this time we will find Heidi!
Let me introduce this lovely couple - Stephanie & Damien. It was so nice to catch up with them again in Paris, to share a meal in their new home, in a lovely restaurant and at a very special bar! Au revoir et merci ...

1 June 2017

After a good night's sleep and some exploration of the local shopping possibilities, we set off today for Fondation Louis Vuitton. This beautiful, Frank Gehry designed building presents wonderful architecture, views and special exhibitions. Currently, there is an interesting exhibition of African art. A few sample photos give you some idea.

31 May 2017

Met up with Stephanie this afternoon and went to see the Rodin exhibition at the Grand Palais. It is 100 years this year since his death and a great exhibition of his work and the work of others influenced by him has been put together. We had a nice time wandering about before heading off for a drink and a chat.
At one stage we killed some time waiting for Stephanie and keeping company with General De Gaulle - what can I say, I was bored. It is a good statue though - very active and commanding.
And I'm here to tell you that a relaxing wander in the streets of Paris is never unrewarding. There are so many things to see and explore, and when you need a rest you can always stop for an Aperol Spritz on the Boulevard St. Germain. And ... all this before midday ...
Woke to another beautiful day in Paris and after breakfast at the hotel (1er Étage, Le Marais) we decided it was a perfect morning to wander down the Champs Élysée ! Metro line 1 took us to Charles De Gaulle Étoile and the base of the Arc de Triomphe. From there its a pleasant walk along the tree-lined boulevard until we found ourselves 3.5km later at the doors of the Louvre, having passed many familiar sights. Along the way we saw historic sites like the Place de Concorde and the Grand Palais, popular sights like the Louis Vuitton boutique (complete with queueing Chinese tourists), and a sad memorial to the modern world and the site of the murder of the policeman recently.

30 May 2017

... and a great way to end our first full day in Paris in 2017 - dinner with Stephanie and Damien (& Ipanema) at their apartment in Charonne. Lovely company, lots of laughs and good food! Oh, and another celebration in the longest birthday in history! Home now and ready to sleep - walked 25.13km today! Paris is lovely.
I decided that the Philharmonie de Paris deserves a few more photos ... it truly is a building that is worth seeing, and in a very interesting "music" section of Paris.
Continuing on we passed some familiar sights before we found ourselves at our favourite boutique in Paris (Daum), and about 2.30 decided it was time for a little lunch. Home now and resting the tired feet. It appears we have walked a little more than 22km today ... so far!
Pre lunch aperitif
A snapshot of the day so far ... breakfast at 1er Étage started the day, and then a metro trip from Hotel de Ville to see the new home of the Philharmonie de Paris - spectacular building, and worth a visit. We then wandered through the Parc de Villette and along the Canal to Stalingrad, followed by a short metro ride to Montmarte and the Basilica du Sacre Couer. The sun is out; it's warm and slightly humid - must be time for a late morning biere! A Grimbergen Blanche? Mais oui! Pourquoi pas.
C'est magnifique ! Philharmonie de Paris
Life's good when you wake up in Paris! It's 6am - early you say, but it's the normal time for waking up so that's a good sign and after 7 hours sleep. What's there to say ... Paris is still Paris (thankfully). Despite all that goes on in the world this city goes on. We've noticed one small group of military on patrol and the usual police, and Paris is getting on with life. The Kiwis are in town ... if you want to see "le pierre sacrée des Maori". We had a good catch up with Stephanie and Damien over a couple of cocktails ... and discovered a very nice cocktail bar called La Resistance ( a hundred metres or so down our street (16 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris) - I need to return to see if the Dirty Dry Polish is as good as it tasted or it was just the after effects of flying! Also in our street we discovered Hanoi (41 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, 75004 Paris) where we had a quick phở gà and papaya salad - tasty and fresh.

29 May 2017

So, here we are and getting right into it ... well, into buying a SIM with data for my phone! (And you can't go past the offer - €29.95 for 2 months with calls and more data than you can poke a social media site at, and it works in France, Switzerland and the USA! Seriously! Are we getting ripped off in Australia?) On our way to the boutique we stumbled across the Madelaine, the Place Vendome, expensive boutique after expensive boutique and found ourselves in a bar for a little refreshment mid-afternoon. Catching up with Stephanie (ma nièce préférée) and Damien (son mari) later ... all going well.
Finally arrived at our first stay for the trip ... the small hotel 1er Etage in the Marais. Time for a shower ...
Loving the RER B vibe en route from Charles De Gaulle airport to our hotel in Marais. It's always a treat on the RER ... and so well air-conditioned today!
Welcome to Helsinki Vantaa Airport on a busy Finish morning. The lounge is packed to the point of explosion and the aircraft activity on the runway is frantic. It's a very different airport to the first time we came here 15 years ago, but still a nice and civilised way to enter Europe.
You have to love an airline with complimentary wi-fi on board. Thanks Finnair!

28 May 2017

All aboard Finnair AY082 to Helsinki ... Time for more champagne and a good night's sleep!
First flight down and now cooling our heels in the Qantas Lounge in Singapore. What is there to say? It was an uneventful flight on QF35 - decent service and better than average food. Watched three movies: Silence - about Portugese missionaries in Japan ... not bad if you enjoy history; Elle - french movie about a woman trying to discover the identity of her rapist; Hidden Figures - about three African American women who played significant roles in the space race in the 1960's at a time when segregation still ruled the world ... worth watching. A bit of time to fill now before our next flight on Finnair to Helsinki.
Somewhere over somewhere between Melbourne and Singapore ...
All aboard QF35 for the first leg ... Paris here we come
It's a waiting game at the Qantas First Class Lounge at Melbourne Airport.
Chauffeur driven to Melbourne Airport by the lovely Miss Vivienne! Thanks, Viv!

27 May 2017

All packed, so time for a gin and tonic, I think. Flying tomorrow morning with Qantas & Finnair to Paris to begin our journey.