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