Friday, December 30, 2011

A Night on the Tiles.....

Just a quick post to say that I've been doing some tiling. Been meaning to tile the small hallway between the two back bedrooms and the bathroom. Its one of those holiday jobs which takes a few days to do.
The sub straight was laid first, then I had to cut the tiles to shape. Yesterday the tiles were glued down and after New Years we will finish with grouting - I can return to work knowing one more house job is finished.

No small feat to do this tiling.
New Year is a time when we like to spend alone together and if we don't feel like staying up to midnight - we don't have to.
So!!!! We are leaving for Ballarat for the weekend (leaving our son in charge of the house and the cats).
Booked in to a hotel and a restaurant for dinner and take in the history of one of Victoria's larger regional history. Ballarat is home of the Eureka Stockade - read more on this here:

A painting depicting the pledging of the oath and the raising of the Eureka flag.
I guess the Eureka Rebellion could be likened a little to the Boston Tea Party or the French Revolution although Australia is fortunate to not have had many conflicts on home soil.

It should be a good trip to Ballarat, a city built on the riches of the gold rush as was Bendigo. We'll post on it for next Monday.

Sunday will be the second photo in the series of 365 daily photos for "TRAVELLING THROUGH FRANCE - a daily photographic memoir".

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Riding with my Dad, the Legend

Jack - The Legend
He's 90 - he's got no right to ride a bike five days a week.
His passion started at a young age, much like myself. It was in our teenage years we both became enthralled by the sport albeit him many years earlier than me obviously. He was 29 when I was born. He bought me a bike when I was two and I would ride it in a circle down the hallway into the dining room and lounge room, then back into the hallway. It was my private velodrome. Its weird but our current house has the same plan but Sue won't allow me to ride my bike in the house.

Jack - that's his name started the sport maybe at 17, he doesn't talk much about the past - says it too far back to remember but I suspect its modesty. He's a humble man.

He did tell me he once rode to Sydney from Melbourne to race in an event - performed dismally and then road back home to Melbourne - a distance of 2400 kms return. That feat on it's own makes him a Legend.
When I started racing, He supported me by helping me with my equipment, taking me to the races - he was my first coach and sponsor.

To see him still riding at the age of 90 and clocking up 100 kms per week amazes me - he is my Hero and a Legend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our 3rd Trip to France begins - 2009

Sitting in a little cafe in North Melbourne enjoying a caffe latte and reading the Melbourne broadsheet, the Age newspaper, I saw cheap air fares to Europe. We'd not long returned from France with no thought that we would return for many years to come.
I rang Sue and told her of the cheap air fares - she said, "How can we afford to to this?" - Me being the eternal optimist said, "How can we afford not to?"
With a big fat tax return on the horizon, 12 months to save and with a little bit of luck and some hard work resulting in a few commissions, I thought we could do it. After all I did have my long service leave owing after 10 years with the same company.

"Where should we go?"  I said to Sue - "Why not back to France!", "Oh yes please", she said.
Once she has a "bee in her bonnet" beware. Researching began with the force of Niagara Falls.
North of Paris - return to the Loire - drive over Burgundy to Dijon, Lyon and then drop off the car and TGV it back to Paris for a week. "Lovely", I said. "Lets do it".
She said, "But how" - I said, "We'll find a way - we're dead toooo long".

Before we knew it, we were in the queue at the airport to book in with our luggage. Sue had pre-booked our seats and to her dismay, Emirates had changed our allocated seats. Dismay and disappointment - that is until they told her that we had been upgraded to business class for the first leg of our journey.
A glass of Moet Mrs Sims and Happy Birthday, hope you have a nice flight. She did enjoy the lobster tails.

She was in heaven literally, that is until Dubai by which time we were back to cattle class. By the time we arrived at CDG Paris we were ready for bed. We'd booked a room at the airport for the first night because the leased Citroen office was located there and we felt a good night's sleep was conducive to safe driving after 26 hours in the air.

We'd just come from the airport hotel  after picking up our leased Citroen and then drove to Senlis which is in the region of Oise only 40 kms from Paris.
Our first real night in France was Senlis, 40 kms north of Paris. Senlis came to my attention in a cycling novel I'd read a few years back and its history intrigued me. In the Roman Imperial times it was known as Augustomagus and there are still remains of the amphitheatre not far outside the ancient city walls.

The very first King of the Franks, Hugh Capet, eldest son of Hugh the Great was elected there in 987 AD before being crowned. Senlis was the home of subsequent French Monarchs due to its closeness to the Chantilly forests where the hunting was the main sport of the day. Chantilly would be the next stop for us on the following day.

With a population of around 17,000 Senlis wasn't going to be too difficult for me to navigate on our first day of driving on the right hand side. I always get a little nervous on the first few days.
Senlis is worth a visit for its Cathedral which was constructed between 1153 to 1191. The old city is well preserved and walking along the curved narrow cobbled streets on a spring morning was delightful.

Sue reads the maps and absorbs herself in the history of Senlis.

Senlis' Cathedral Notre Dame

We entered those huge wooden doors and as we walked down the central part of the cathedral, we turned to see the light shining through the Rose window above and the many stained glass leadlight windows.

She's every where in the north of France - Jeanne D'Arc. From Chinon to Senlis.
I could be wrong and most probably am when I guess that this may be Saint Denis who walked from Paris to Montmartre holding his head in his hands after being decapitated.

The craftsmanship of the ceilings within Senlis Cathedral are certainly worth taking time to appreciate.
 Unbeknown to Sue I took her on a short drive that eventually led me to a velodrome that was described in the cycling novel I mentioned earlier - surprise, surprise. This chance appearance of velodrome sightings, strangely reoccurred many times during our time in France. And why not??? Cycling is very much of French history. As a young cyclist, I couldn't wait to hear news of Anquetil, Poulidour and later, Fignon and Hinault in the magazines that took months to arrive - today is the internet within moments of a race finish.

Yes, I know that this is a boring photo but its what brought us to Senlis. The description in the most appalling cycling novel I've read....of a team vying for an entry to the Tour de France. It was a mixture of a Sam Spade and a Hercule Poirot detective story. Yet, if I had not read this drivel, we may never had paid Senlis a visit.

Starting on January 1, we will be posting a daily picture series of French scenes for the following 365 days from our collection of the four trips to France and possibly from the impending May 2012 trip.
Log in as a follower and join us on a pictorial tour.

Follow this link:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Christmas Eve

Yes, that's right, Christmas Eve and the visitors have left. The rellies have been and drank all the champagne.
It's really nice to sit on the deck on a balmy Christmas Eve night with good company, exchanging good wishes and gifts.
 I'll leave you with two Festive Season songs from Aussie artists before I go to bed.
Sue and I wish you a wonderful Christmas and look forward to the New Year with some great blog reading to come from our favorite Bloggers around the world.
Hope Santa is kind to you all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Birthday Boys as Christmas draws closer

Al and KT celebrate their birthday.
Can you imagine having your birthday so close to Christmas? Two of my bike buddies celebrated anther year of life at the Sandringham Yacht Club, just a few kms down the road from home. It always reminds me of the time back in 2006 when we spent an over night stay in Menton on the border of France and Italy.
We sat on the balcony of our hotel room overlooking the Mediterranean ocean. The scenes from the Sandy Yacht Club are very much the same.

No white Christmas for us in Melbourne - Blue skies, and 26 degrees predicted for Christmas Day. As I call it a day it's still 27C now with a low of 17C in the morning.

Monaco - no, just the Sandy Yacht Club.

How come this place is not crowded on such a lovely day - maybe they are doing the last of their Christmas shopping?

Two more sleeps before Santa arrives and people enjoy the beack with their children and dogs on the beach beside the Sandringham Yacht Club.
As Christmas draws closer (two more sleeps) we think of our son Andrew who is currently in Morocco. I know that many of you out there are also a long way from family at this time. A time for phone calls and emails and maybe a call on Skype.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Yes, one last gallery before leaving Paris that I almost forgot to mention.
No antique artifacts, no memorable paintings from the Impressionists or Great Masters.

Galeries Lafayette has been on our list of return visits on each occasion that we have had the good fortune to be in Paris. I'm not big on shopping but Galeries Lafayette has one big attraction for me that brings back memories of  my past.
My first full time job was with Melbourne's iconic department store, the Myer Emporium. It had a feeling, an atmosphere about it that I occasionally feel on the odd time that I might return to the Melbourne CBD and Myer. It had three cafeterias, the general public one and the Mural Hall for those special occasions. Naturally as lowly paid staff member, I would occasionally grab a pie and chips with gravy, my very favorite at the general public cafeteria - there was also a staff cafeteria.

I also have a very favorite at Galeries Lafayette - its the Atlantic Salmon with a glass of white wine. When I said that this "Gallery" doesn't have any exhibits, I wasn't quite right. It's so interesting watching the people flow in and out of the cafeteria - so many different nationalities, cultures and classes. People watching is fascinating, isn't it.

Galeries Lafayette actually was named after the street where the store was initially established - on the corner of Rue la Fayette in 1893. The 10 story building of today on Boulevard Haussmann was opened 1905 with the steel and glass dome and staircases added in 1912 if I'm to believe Wikipedia.

And after the Salmon and white wine at the cafeteria, its a trip up to the roof to look at Paris one last time before returning home to Melbourne until the next trip.

Wednesday's in France so far has covered our first 2006 trip and this 2008 trip - Although we felt that we may not return, we did in 2009 as I found a special price on flights and I had eight weeks long service leave due.
2009 took us from CDG airport to Senlis, Chantilly and then down to the Loire for a week in Thenay, near Pontlevoy and Montrichard. Leaving the Loire we ventured off to Dijon for another one week stay and a couple of days in Lyon and back to Paris for another whole week. It was a most exciting trip and the longest we had spent in France. 2010 took us back for a shorter stay but more about that sometime later.

A few Paris scenes to say goodbye. That is until the next Wednesday's in France.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MGs and Misguided Passions

Sometimes we have a passion for something and we let our heart rule our head. I guess that two particular passions in my life have been cars and bikes (bicycles that is!). I should say that obviously Sue is my first passion (she's looking over my shoulder as I write).

On occasions these passions let you down and in the case of cars, this happens often. Our cars over the years have included MGs, Triumphs, Citroens, Alfa Romeos, and Peugeots, oh yes and a Mini.

Sue calls these collector's cars because when they break down, you have to go out have them collected. In the case of my MGZT190, this has happened on more than one occasion and it's really not old enough to be a Collector's car yet being born in 2005. Being a member of the MG Car Club since 1982, I thought it would be nice to continue with the Marque as my work car. Well it did a water pump last week and when one thing goes, other things need replacement - it went to an MG specialist called MG Workshop. One thing led to another and before we knew it, timing belts were replaced and then some of those computer thingies that modern cars have these days. I remember on weekends I would have my head under the bonnet, changing thermostats, spark plugs, points and sometimes even changing a gearbox. Not today!!!

We took our MGB to MG Workshop many years ago and it was always fascinating to wander around the premises. Although MG Workshop has moved it still invites you to wander around the cars and say hello.

These days I find the bike more reliable than the MG.
Having said that, I'm discovering that the motor that drives the bike is getting slower.

The owner of MG Workshop, Andrew has a liking for BIG motors. Note the white Mustang. The Damask MGBGT is actually a V8 from the Rover of the same era. My MGZT190 is from the Rover family as well.
Why is it that most MGBs are RED?

Although some are white! Looking down the line is the MGF, and a boy racer TC.

Although the first MGB will be 50 years old in 2012, you can still get all the parts to keep your passion on the road.
Strangely its probably easier to get replacements (and cheaper) for an MGB than my six year old MGZT.

Old and not so old side by side. MGTC boy racer and an MGBGTV8.

To wander around MG Workshop is a delight in itself for an MG enthusiast.

MG Workshop - a passion for MGs since the 70s.
Speaking with Tow Truck drivers and people in the automotive trade, I've been advised that the most reliable car on the road these days is the Toyota Camry - BUT where is the Passion in that?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm not sure if I was overly enthusiastic about visiting the Louvre - it's toooo mind boggling. So much to see and how do you fit it all in on a day visit - quite simply, you don't.
It was Sue's idea or was it her desire to see the Egyptian Antiquities exhibition. 50,000 pieces covering the Nile civilization from 4000bc to the 4th century. Yes, a morning visit should cover that!!!
It was after all only 20 rooms of displays.
Most people I'm told enter the Louvre from this level.
BUT they miss the most exciting part, well to me!

Down below you get to see the original foundations of a fortress built during the time of Phillip II in the 12 century.

A model of what was - before what is!
This is what excites me - the base of the 12 Century Fortress. WOW!

OK, we're inside now - this what you wanted to see isn't it Sue?

You guessed it - Sue is a cat lover.

What I did notice with Egyptian Antiquities was that all the statues were seated!!

I rest my case - another seated sculpture.
And more to follow.

I'd like to know what any of you out there have experienced on visits to the Louvre. We will be back next May and Sue and I would like your advise.