Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hello world, it's me, I'm still here!

Oops, where does the time go? Last time I wrote, I was relaxing on the beach in Greece without a care in the world. Now, I'm sitting at my desk in Melbourne, the rain pattering on the window beside me and deadlines piling up alarmingly all around, with mediteranean beaches a long-gone dream. In between then and now there's been 39 degree days in Athens, a final weekend in Paris, afternoon tea in London, mini-breaks in the english countryside, and an excruciating 22 hour flight which landed me back in this strange country sometimes referred to as home.

I'm still getting used to the idea of not living in Paris anymore (I wont say it doesn't hurt), but there are upsides to being back in Australia - notably not having to pre-plan scripts before attempting any kind of social interaction. (Everyone here speaks english! What a revelation!) I do miss my french friends though, and strolling down the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and catching glimpses of the Seine every day. Actually, don't get me started...

Paris, tu me manques.

Alice x

P.S. I took this polaroid in Santorini - I think it's completely impossible to take a photo of that place that isn't beautiful. More to come!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mini-update #1: Paros vs Paris

Ahoy there! I've swapped Paris for Paros, an island in the Cyclades in Greece. The weather has been completely beautiful, I can't believe it's still raining in Paris (or indeed, anywhere in the world!) I spent most of today lying under a palm leaf umbrella with the agean sea lapping at my toes, and my plans for tomorrow are very similar, although I think I may mix it up with a bit of strolling along the beach and perhaps a spot or two of sitting on a balcony sipping cocktails. Life is awful, truly. More + pics soon!

Alice x

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Conflicting emotions

The art of travel, originally uploaded by CromagnondePeyrignac.

Well my suitcase is packed, my apartment is clean and by this time tomorrow I'll be in Barcelona. I'm a little bit sad, actually, but I'm trying not to let it get to me - there are so many adventures ahead! I'm going to miss this little apartment though, with its big windows and proximity to the boulangerie. I can't believe this year has gone by so fast.

There's only one surefire way I know to shake myself out of this melancholy mood - talking about travelling! Lucky I've got lots of adventures ahead of me this month.

Tomorrow I'm headed to Barcelona with a friend for the weekend, where we plan to spend the whole time lying on the beach drinking cocktails and eating paella.

Then next week, I'm off to Greece. I'm planning on doing a bit of tripping around the Cyclades, definitely stopping off in Santorini, plus maybe a few other islands.

I'm going to swing by Athens for a few days (and check out the just-opened archeological museum) before heading back to Paris for one last final fling with the ville lumiere. I won't have my apartment anymore, so I'll be kipping on a friend's couch, and I have a feeling there will be lots of cheese and wine involved.

After my farewell to Paris I'll be jumping on the Eurostar and heading over to jolly England for a week or so to catch up with some friends and rellies. I've already booked tickets to the Globe and a ballet, plus I'm planning on lots of devonshire tea (for lunch) and fish & chips (for tea)!

Finally, 25 days from now, I will be boarding the new Airbus 380, destination: Melbourne. (I'm a bit scared, actually - how can something that big float up in the air?) I'm sad that this year has almost come to an end, but happy to be going home, and excited about the next few weeks.

Stay tuned!

Alice x

Monday, June 22, 2009

The rain in spain stays mainly in the plain

I've had a crazy day. I've been trying to simultaneously pack up my whole apartment, study for my final exam (which I had today - yippee!), write two papers, plan my trip to Greece and organise the food for a dinner party I'm throwing tomorrow. Not to mention mentally preparing myself for the idea that, as of friday, I will no longer live in Paris. Eek!

All of which is to say, I'm completely run off my feet, so if I disappear from the blogosphere for awhile don't despair: I wont have fallen off the face of the earth (I'll be running much too fast for that). I'll definitely be back at least once more before friday, to fill you in on my travel plans for the next month. For now, here's a picture of my feet. Just because.


Alice x

Friday, June 19, 2009

Crêpes, icecream and a sunset - what more could you want?

The rue st andre-des-arts in the 6éme is packed with all sorts of restaurants, but for some reason I only ever go there for crêpes. So when I was in the area last night catching up with friends for the last time before I leave Paris (sad!) it was only natural that we stopped in at one of the tiny little hole-in-the-wall crêperies for a bite to eat.

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Crêpes are pretty high on my list of must-eats while in Paris. They originate from Brittany, in the north of France, and traditionally contain just one or two ingredients, although most crêperies these days offer gourmet-style crêpes that contain everything from fetta to pine-nuts. The best place for crêperies in Paris is in the 15éme arrondisment, near the Gare Montparnasse, where immigrants from Brittany used to arrive and set up shop. Nowadays there are also takeaway crêpe stalls all over the city, which are especially good for late-night nutella crêpes on the way home from a night out (though true crêpe connoisseurs would probably be shocked at such an idea).

crepes on st andre des arts

Despite their less authentic location, however, the crêperies in the 6éme offer an equally delicious (and reasonably cheap) taste of Brittany. Not being one to mess with a classic, I went with the basic egg-and-cheese galette, while my dining companions were a bit more adventurous, as you can see!

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After dinner we grabbed some ice-cream from Amorino (the best icecream in Paris, in my entirely biased opinion. If you go there, be sure to try the 'inimitable' flavour - it's like heaven in a cup) and went for a stroll along the banks of the Seine while we waited for the sun to set.


There's not many places that can hold a candle to a view like that!

Happy weekending :)

Alice x

P.S. If you're in Paris and on a budget, most of the crêperies on st-andre-des-arts have lunch-time deals where you can get a savoury galette, a desert crepe and drink for about 10 euros: a great way to experience parisian dining without the dinner-time price tag :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Art is all around (this is Paris)

I came home yesterday to discover that my courtyard had been temporarily transformed into an art gallery:

courtyard gallery

There's a children's drawing atelier that operates out of our basement and I can only assume that this was their end-of-semester exhibition, though the drawings are astonishingly good quality for children - I wish I could draw half as well!

For a few hours there was a constant buzz of activity outside my windows, as people streamed in our front gate to gaze at the lovely works - I managed to snap this shot at a relatively quiet moment (I was too afraid to take photos earlier on, as my camera is quite noisy and french mothers terrify me!) After awhile I went out for dinner, and when I came home it was all gone and silence had returned, with only this photo to prove that I hadn't imagined the whole thing.

Only in Paris.

Alice x

P.S. If you click on the photo it will take you to the full size file, so that you can see the drawings close-up. Some of those kids are incredibly talented - I wonder if I've unwittingly captured the first exhibition of the next Picasso?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last bunch of Sunday fleurs

Last Sunday Fleurs
I splurged a little on the weekend and bought this bunch of peonies from the fancy florist up the road (instead of my normal cheap bulk flower shop). I rationalised it by telling myself that they were the last bunch of flowers that I would buy in Paris, so I could afford to spend a bit more than usual. And they're beautiful, right? 

Eight days to go. 

Alice x 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday Night Fever in Paris

Strolling down by the Jardin de Plantes on Saturday night I stumbled upon the most happening spot in Paris - this little paved area on the banks of the Seine, where possibly the most atmospheric ballroom dance class ever was taking place.

Ballroom dancing by the Seine

Tinkly music was drifting on the breeze and the couples were waltzing and twirling like pros, while boats cruised by and the sun set over the Notre Dame in the distance.

Sunset over Notre Dame

Sometimes Paris is so amazing I almost can't stand it.

Alice x


You're probably wondering where all my polaroids have gone. Well, disaster struck this weekend. As I was putting my camera in my bag to take it on a bit of an outing to the park, I dropped it on the floor, and a bit broke off, and now it doesn't work! Very sad. I had hoped that I'd be able to do some kind of DIY repair-job, but no such luck. So my idea of daily-polaroids to record my last days in Paris is no more. Here's the very last photo I took with my dearly departed camera before its sad demise: 

Last class at Sciences Po

It's of the classroom where on friday I had my very last class at Sciences Po. Hurrah! Just the horrid exams to go now, of course. 

Alice x 

P.S. I just realised, since all the polaroid film in the world is expiring in September, this might be the last polaroid I take EVER. Sad thoughts :(

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two more days slip by...

I've still been sticking to my plan to take a polaroid a day to record my last 20 days in Paris. (16 days to go!) 

Paris Polaroid #3

Wednesday's polaroid is of my metro stop at Saint-Germain de Prés. The guy in the bike rode through the shot at the last minute, but it's really a good example of the constantly bustling nature of the quartier. Just opposite this metro station is the Place Sartre-Beauvoir and the famous café, Les Deux Magots, where they used to go to write their books and wax lyrical about the nature of the universe. I've only been there once - it's completely lovely but a hot chocolate costs 7 euros! No wonder Sartre & Beauvoir eventually moved down the street to Café Flore

Paris Polaroid #4

Yesterday's photo is of dinner-time last night at L'As  du Falafel in the Marais: they have the best falafels in Paris (and possibly even the world). Words can not express how delicious they are. My mouth is watering right now. 

Alice x 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eighteen days and counting

I've pretty much been inside all day, as it's been kinda rainy and I've had masses of work to do. So today's polaroid doesn't show much about Paris, though I suppose it could go under the sub-heading  of 'my parisian life'? 


Anyway, this is a little corner of my little apartment. I would say it's a corner of my bedroom, but it's pretty hard to distinguish between the bedroom, lounge room and kitchen around here. I don't mind, though. Actually, I kind of love it. 

Why is it that you only realise how much you love something when you're about to leave it? 

Alice x 

P.S. Incase you were wondering, those books you can see on the bedside table are Alice Munroe's "hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage", Louis de Bernières "The troublesome offspring of Cardinal Guzman" and an awful book about Napoleon that I put there just incase I felt like learning something before I went to sleep. Bet you can guess how often that happens! 

Monday, June 8, 2009

I have 19 days...

...left in Paris. 

I can't believe it. This year has just flown by. Even though I can now order a croissant without fear and give people directions to the nearest metro without giving myself a headache, I sometimes feel as though I'm still newly arrived off the plane, just finding my feet in this strange new world. 

I'm not sure that I'm ready to leave Paris. I'm trying not to think about it. 

Instead, I have many a plan for my last 19 days. Visits to Laduree, and Angelina's, and Les deux magots. Picnics by the Seine. One last glance round the d'Orsay. 

And to document it all: two new packs of polaroid film. Which gives me 20 photos. Or, one for every day left. 

So here's today's Paris Daily Polaroid: the view from my kitchen window this morning (see my potted geranium?) I'm going to miss this apartment! 

Paris Polaroid #1

Alice x 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

world environment day revisited...

Here's a few pics from the World Environment Day event on the Champs de Mars last night. It was so lovely sitting on our picnic blanket, eating popcorn (we were at the cinema) and waiting for the sun to go down so the movie could start. 


I was amazed how many people showed up! We were there quite early so we had a pretty prime spot near the screens - but I wonder how much those people up the back there could actually see? 


In any case it was a lovely way to spend a friday evening, under the sparkling eiffel tower - and an added bonus that we were supporting world environment day, too! :) 

Alice x 

P.S. The film ("Home") was really great, with amazing cinematography. If you haven't seen it yet you definitely should, it's available to view for free on the website

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy World Environment Day

I'm just emerging out of my study-induced hibernation to wish you all a very happy World Environment Day! It's lovely and sunny in Paris today and I'm feeling particularly fond of mother nature. 

Originally uploaded by Eric Lafforgue

According to the United Nations Environment Program, the aim of World Environment Day is to "stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and action". One of the best ways you can help raise awareness today is to attend one of the events organized in your local area and lend your physical support to your local environmental charities. People equal power! Check out the UNEP website for info on what's happening in your neighbourhood.

Personally, I'm heading down to the Champs de Mars tonight to catch the premiere of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's film HOME (which serves a slightly selfish double-purpose, actually, as I get to have a picnic under the eiffel tower and support world environment day at the same time!) It's screening simultaneously in Paris, New York, Barcelona, Bristol & Cancun, so if you're in any of those cities go here to find out all about it. For those of you not lucky enough to be near a venue that's screening the film tonight, it can also be viewed (for free!) at the website. So grab some buddies and some popcorn, and help raise environmental awareness!

Happy tree-planting,
Alice x

P.S. You can follow the UNEP on twitter - they will plant 1 tree for every follower so head over there and follow them now!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

There's more to life than books, you know. But not much more.

Driving through Northumberland recently, I happened upon heaven disguised as a second-hand bookshop.  

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Barter Books in Alnwick has been described as "The British Library of secondhand books" though in my opinion it's even better than the BL because you can take the books home with you! The shop is housed in an old railway station that is filled to the rafters with every type of book under the sun, as well as a little café, a children's area, and tons of reading space. After much coveting of the huge selection of first editions and out-of-print paperbacks I finally settled on a lovely old copy of "The Wishing Chair Again" plus two biographies (Helene Hanff & JRR Tolkein) - only the realization that if I bought any more books they wouldn't let me back on the plane stopped me from taking home half the store. 


If you're a lover of second-hand bookshops and anywhere nearby the Scottish border (I passed through on my way from Edinburgh to York) it's definitely worth the detour. Alnwick itself is a pretty town, perfect for a lunch stop, and as a bonus it has the added drawcard of Alnwick castle (which - for Harry Potter nerds - happens to be the castle that Hogwarts is based on). 

Off to read a book, 

Alice x 

(P.S. Title quote is from The Smiths' song Handsome Devil. Hurrah for pop-culture references.) 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Let's be serious for a second

(Via Jezebel, Israeli children playing in an illegal Jewish settlement in Ramallah on the West Bank. )

I've been working on an essay this week focussing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and then just this morning I logged onto Jezebel and saw this photograph which made me stop and reconsider everything I've been reading. It's been all too easy, from the comfort of my apartment, to be condescending and even flippant about the sources of the conflict, and to judge those who are perpetuating it. For days now, I've been writing about the frustrating political deadlock that various governments have seemed unable (and sometimes unwilling) to try and solve. It had come to the point where I was so caught up in the political rhetoric, I'd forgotten about the human element to these kind of conflicts. This photograph pulled me up short. 

Yes, horrible mistakes have been committed by both sides. But these three little girls? They've done nothing wrong. You cannot blame the children for the sins of their parents. 

I'm not sure what the solution is here, because as far as I can see there is no moral high ground to escape to. But for the people living in these countries, there is no escape at all. The only way that these children can grow up having happy, safe lives is if the political leaders of their communities can come to some sort of an agreement. The paths that their lives will take is proof that politics is about more than just rhetoric. I'm glad to have been reminded of it. 

Alice x 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

where troubles melt like lemondrops

The sun was sparkling over the Mediterranean as we strolled down the path from one postcard-perfect village to the next.  We stopped for coffee at a tiny cafe literally hanging over the side of the cliff and watched as, further down the path, some fellow-walkers abandoned their hike for an improputu swim. Was there anything, we pondered, that could make already-magical Cinque Terre feel more like wonderland? 

Well, how about a pair of playful butterflies, flittering around us as we walked? Oh, yes, we had those too. 


Somedays you just get lucky. 


Alice x 

P.S. More on Cinque Terre coming soon, as well as London, Cambridge, York, Epernay, Versailles, Bruges and Amsterdam! Oh la la, the places I have been lately - scarcely time to breathe. And with summer just around the corner, too... 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

and a rustle of tulle from the wings...

Last night some friends and I got all dolled up in our swishest frocks and headed out to the prettiest venue in Paris, the Opera Garnier. We had tickets to see Onéguine  (a classical ballet based on the novel by Pushkin) but as excited as we were about the show, we were just as interested in getting a peek inside the amazing building that is the Palais Garnier. 


Our tickets themselves were thanks to a parisienne insider tip which I'll share with you all (but shhh!): if you go directly to the box office at the opera house you can get "limited visibility" tickets for all the shows for super-cheap that aren't available online - ours were 10 euros! The view was a little bit limited from our seats, which were the back row of one of the boxes, but we found that we could always stand up if the dancers went out of our line of sight and then we could see perfectly. Which was totally acceptable for 10! (especially considering a ticket to get into the opera house to sightsee when there are no shows on costs 8€- for the extra 2 you get a ballet thrown in!)


The Opera Garnier is the building that inspired Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera (which also happens to be my favourite musical of all time). I kept an eye out for the phantom all night, but he didn't make an appearance, though his infamous chandeliers were glitteringly present. 


In any case, even if the curtains had never opened, it would have been 10€ well spent for a night out in Paris. Now don't you go telling everyone about those cheap seats - at least not until I've bought my next ticket! (I'm thinking La fille mal gardée in June - it was one of my favourite ballets when I used to dance). 

Happy opera-going! 
Alice x 

P.S. Onéguine was lovely, I definitely recommend it if you're going to be in Paris before it ends on the 20th of May.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another year older

Did I tell you that it was my birthday a few days ago? With all the excitement of recent travels I almost forgot it myself, but someone else remembered and got me this delicious cake from my favourite patisserie. How lucky am I? 


It's long gone now, of course. Can't leave something that valuable sitting around in the fridge! 

Alice x 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

London with Christopher Robin

They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace - 
Christopher Robin went down with Alice. 
Alice is marrying one of the guard. 
"A soldier's life is terribly hard," 
Says Alice. 


They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace - 
Christopher Robin went down with Alice. 
We saw a guard in a sentry-box. 
"One of the sergeants looks after their socks," 
Says Alice.


They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace - 
Christopher Robin went down with Alice. 
"Do you think the King knows all about me?" 
"Sure to, dear, but it's time for tea," 
Says Alice.


{Words by A.A. Milne}

Have finally returned from gallivanting around Britain, and am now suffering from severe tea & scone withdrawal symptoms which even croissants from my favourite boulangerie are failing to soothe. 

More on lovely london (including Shakespeare's birthday celebrations!) to come. 

A different Alice x 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A little something to tide you over

In essence, I suppose, this is a post about how I'm too busy to post! I've been a bit of a busy bee since Easter - so far I've been to Portsmouth, the Lakes, Edinburgh, York, Cambridge, and now, London. Phew. We've had the full spectrum of weather, as well - teeming rain, fog so thick you can barely see the end of your nose, blue skies, grey clouds, thunderstorms, and today, finally, one of those completely perfect english spring days that almost makes you forget the rest of it ever happened. 

I've got two jam-packed days in London to go, and then back to Paris for rest & recuperation (and work, I suppose). Until then, here's a little pic of the blossoms in Cambridge. 

Spring! Hurrah! 


Alice x 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Words and Pictures - Cold Feet

Via Meet Me at Mikes - "Words and Pictures is a weekly creative challenge, posting words (or pictures!) to suit a weekly theme." This weeks theme is 'Cold Feet' - if you're looking for some inspiration, head over to Mikes and check out the posts on the previous topics! 

Ice at the Louvre

My feet have never been colder than they were this past winter in Paris! Even with two layers of tights and a pair of fluffy woolen socks stuffed inside my boots, every time I stepped out of the house my feet would go numb within seconds of hitting the snow-covered pavements, and it would take hours of sitting infront of the tiny radiator in my flat before the feeling returned to them. Now that spring has sprung and the footpaths are no longer icy accidents waiting to happen, I can waltz outside with nary a sock in sight - but I will never again take my warm feet for granted! 

Alice x 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Looking for Amélie's Paris

Some of my family from Australia are visiting me at the moment, so we've been trekking around all the regular tourist haunts. Yesterday the day dawned clear and bright, so we headed up to Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement to check out the view over Paris. 

The 'bohemian village' of Montmartre, with its clichéd cafes, dancehalls and perpetually starving artists, is one of the most recognizable images of Paris (after the Eiffel Tower, perhaps!) Made famous by films like Moulin Rouge and Amélie (called, more evocatively, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain in french), its narrow winding streets are crowned by the breathtaking Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, built in 1873 in order to atone for the crimes committed during the reign of the Paris Commune. The steps leading up to the church are surrounded by large patches of lush green lawn, perfect for lying around enjoying the beautiful spring weather - as the masses of locals and tourists we spotted soaking up the sun yesterday can attest to. 


We wound our way through the crowds up to the top of the hill, but soon escaped the madness of the main thoroughfare for the calm of the back streets. We wandered past windmills, vineyards and hidden gardens, stopping along the way for icecream and coffee, and were just about to head back down when I caught this glimpse of the basilica. Though the building features prominently on every postcard-stand in Paris, seeing a sliver of it like this from a slightly unusual angle can still take your breath away. 


I can just imagine Amélie skipping down here on her way home, can't you?  

Alice x  

All the world's a stage

Coming home late last night I walked past this gorgeous advertisement for the Paris Opera, illuminated on the side of a bus shelter . I'm often disparaging of advertising in general, but I must admit sometimes there are gems amongst the garbage. Doesn't this make you want to run straight down to the opera house and book a ticket? And I don't even like opera!

Alice x

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A rainbow of doorways

The locals in Asilah seemed to be having a competition as to who could paint their door the most beautiful shade of blue or green. There wasn't a single unpainted panel in town. I would have loved to have seen the local paintshop - I wonder how often they sell a tin of red or orange? 


Wouldn't these be wonderful to come home to after a long day? (I especially love the twin doors - I wonder who lives behind them?)

And then there's this view. 


But then again I've always had a weakness for sunsets over the ocean.

Alice x

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?


No, it's a roller-blading policeman...

This is one of those things that would be hilarious in any other city, but in Paris it's just accepted without question. Policemen on rollerblades? "C'est normale, non?" (often accompanied by a shrug and a sidelong glance that says "you silly uneducated foreigner"). 

Knowing we've been a bit word-heavy this week, I deliberately took my camera with me when I went out this afternoon so that I could share some lovely parisian springtime images with you - and then promptly forgot about it. So this image is actually from last September, just after I first moved to Paris. I was peacefully strolling down the side of the Seine one day when I was almost bowled over by these three policemen speeding past me on roller-blades - as soon as I realised what they were I scrambled to get my camera out before they disappeared, and just managed to snap this shot. Meanwhile, noone else around me so much as batted an eyelid, apparently roller-blading policemen are nothing out of the ordinary. Vive la France, I say. 

Alice x 

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Long Drive


I always left Melbourne after work on Fridays,  often sneaking out a little early to try and avoid the long lines of traffic which always lead out of the city at the beginning of the weekend. Once I  made it through the congestion and onto the freeway, I would wind down the windows and press the accelerator to the floor, checking the time - 2.5 hours to go, and counting. 

The first half hour was always the worst, as the roads were still clogged with commuters and city folk heading out to fashionable weekend destinations nearby. As we got closer to the middle of nowhere, however, the traffic thinned and, depending on how early I'd managed to escape Melbourne, I was often one of the only cars on the road. 

Sometimes, depending on the time, I would stop at the same little wayside stop for some hot chips, juggling them and the steering wheel as the towns skipped merrily by. 

Hours passed, and eventually, as the sky began to darken, a familiar green exit sign would appear and I would swing the wheel to the left, stepping gently on the brakes. The township I was entering was almost as well-known to me as my final destination, and the familiar signs and shopfronts were a comfort - a reminder that things rarely change out here. 

At this point, I would pull over and make a final call, before the rolling hills made mobile-phone reception an impossibility. "Where are you?" the voice on the other end would say, and I would smile. "I"m nearly there. Do you need me to pick up anything?". "No", the voice always said, "Just keep coming. We'll see you soon". 

Driving through the town, I turned onto a little road without a signpost, but it didn't matter - I didn't need directions anymore. This road was narrow and winding, with trees crowded around the fence-line and wide paddocks beyond. Ramshackle farmhouses appeared infrequently on its edges, and their little flickering lights were often the only other signs of life. The constant bends and turns could have been worrying to someone who was driving the road for the first time, but to me they were familiar and welcoming, and I felt that even if I should close my eyes they would carry me on. 

Often, as I got closer, people would raise their hand in greeting as I drove past - farmers putting their animals in the home paddock for the night or mothers out for a walk in the twilight. They knew my car, and they knew where I was headed, and they smiled and waved - later to go home and say to their families "I saw young Alice heading up the road tonight". It's that kind of place, where everyone knows your name and your business, and after the cold anonymity of the city it feels almost like you've entered a different world. 

At last I would round the final bend and see up ahead a gatepost so familiar that I would know it's every line and contour in the dark. I would turn slowly into the long driveway, bumping over the stones, and as I negotiated the puddles and potholes the dog would begin to bark and the porch-lights would flick on. Parking the car under the old elm trees, I would turn the engine off, leaving the keys in the ignition (there was no fear of theft here), and walk across the lawn to the front door, spying through the flyscreen the kitchen table with something delicious already waiting - noone goes hungry here. Mounting the steps, I would swing open the door and step inside, my shoes already abandoned on the edge of the veranda. "Hello darling", my mum always said, "how was the drive?". 

Welcome home. 

Alice x 

P.S. For words and pictures about "A Long Drive" check out other people's take on the theme at Meet Me At Mikes

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Paint the town white and blue in Asilah


We were the only foreigners on the bus to Asilah, Moroccan seaside resorts not being a major tourist attraction in the middle of winter. Unfortunately, our intended destination's lack of popularity meant that we'd been sitting stationary in the bus station in Tangiers for an hour, since Moroccan buses, as a rule, don't leave until they're full. As the morning ticked by, the bus slowly filled up with locals headed for various destinations down the coast, and we finally got underway, only to discover a second idiosyncrasy of the Moroccan bus system - basically, you can get off the bus wherever you like. This had the result of turning what should have been a quick 40-minute journey into a 2-hour saga of continual stops and starts, as the bus pulled over at seemingly random intervals to drop locals off on the side of the highway - often with absolutely no dwellings (or any signs of life, apart from the occasional goat) nearby. 

Our nerves were already slightly frayed, then, by the time the we pulled up outside a ramshackle concrete building, with goats grazing peacefully under a faded sign saying 'Asilah'. We looked at each other with slightly raised eyebrows - was this the sophisticated costal resort town we'd been promised? There was no point in quibbling, however, as the bus had already departed, so, with noone in sight to ask directions from, we shouldered our packs and headed cautiously towards what we hoped was the centre of town. 

It got better. 

Smiles crept slowly onto our faces as we neared the medina - the costal breeze danced around us (a welcome feeling after a week in the desert) and then swept up to rustle the leaves of the palm trees which rose above white-washed houses. The whole effect, coming from the seediness of Tangiers, was astounding. We wandered, slightly awestruck, through the almost deserted streets marvelling at the buildings, which were painted in every shade of blue imaginable - from darkest navy to delicate cornflower. 

Stopping at a tiny patisserie we bought a little box of cakes and then climbed up onto the walls to watch the sun set over the ocean, the colours playing across the blue-and-white medina. Bliss. 

In the end, the bus-ride was completely worthwhile. 

Alice x 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The winding streets of Fes

Unlike Marrakesh, the medina in Fes didn't seem to have distinct areas for tourists and locals. While some streets were certainly more touristy than others, for the most part everyone was all lumped in together in a fantastic melange. The café where we had breakfast every morning was chock-full of locals hashing out the affairs of the day over a glass of mint tea, while tunic-wearing school children mixed seamlessly with tourists on the street. Vendors hawking souvenirs and leather goods squeezed happily in between stalls stacked with oranges and live chickens. In some ways I think this meant the city felt more alive than Marrakesh - you never felt like you were separated from everyday life. 


It was one of my favourite places in Morocco. We had breakfast in the same café every morning (I still dream of the freshly squeezed OJ) and then, after a quick glance at our map to choose a vague direction, we started walking. We walked miles and miles up, down and around the alleys of the medina, passing beautiful mosques, tiny hidden gardens, and gorgeous riads. The wonderful thing about Fes was how easy it was to spend a whole day walking in seeming circles, and yet never pass the same thing twice. (As far as we knew!) 


In between plates of couscous, we checked out the dye pits at the tanneries - they were dying red leather the day we were there, can you tell what the day before was? - as well as the amazing local pottery, which is blue and white and completely beautiful. (Sadly after much coveting I left without a single bowl, as I knew there was no way I could get it home in one piece. But all the more reason to go back, right?)


After a long days walking we were pretty exhausted, so the only sensible thing to do was to head straight to one of the rooftop restaurants near the main gate and soak up the last of the sun's rays over a mint tea.

Just thinking about it makes me long for Morocco so much it almost hurts. 

Alice x 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pretty Parisian Peonies (or: "things I like about Paris")

{originally uploaded by maralina}

One thing I love about living in Paris is the flower markets. Having lived in a perpetually drought-stricken country town for much of my life, fresh flowers have always seemed to me like the most beautiful of luxuries. How wonderful, then, to be able to buy (cheap!) fresh flowers at a moment's notice! Every quartier in Paris has at least one florist - and then there are the flower markets, brimming over with colourful blooms at all times of the year.

{originally uploaded by victoria}

After my rather disastrous day yesterday, I decided that heading out to find some flowers today would be a sure-fire way of rekindling my passion for parisian living. And I wasn't disappointed - after much indecision, I settled on these beautiful peonies. (I'd been secretly coveting fresh peonies ever since Jo blogged about their significance in feng shui - not that I would ever admit to believing in that kind of thing. But hey, can't hurt, right?)


Ce sont trés jolies, n'est-ce pas? 

Happy weekend-ing.

Alice x