Posts Tagged With: bus

“N’oublions jamais l’Australie”

We are on the road again…  We are off to Villers-Bretonneux a little town that experienced the first world’s battle (in World War I) between two tank forces (the British and the Germans).  The Germans took the town but the Australian Imperial Force recaptured it a few days later.  1,200 Australians died in the process.  A few miles from the town is an Australian Memorial and a cemetery where 770 are buried.  That is where we are headed.

Initially we were to take a bus to the Amiens train station but it is such a beautiful day that we end up walking.  In front of the Amiens station I spotted the cutest of buses.  I still get a kick out of how little cars are – even traditionally big ones as the Range Rover and Mercedes – in Europe.  Seems that they miniaturize buses too!miniature bus, Amiens, Fance

At the station train station, Amiens, France we buy our aller-rétour (round trip) ticket to Villers-Bretonneux.  We are lucky that the train departs about 15 minutes from when we arrive.  train workers, train, Amiens, France In one hour we will be there. The train is pretty comfortable SNCF, train interior, Amiens, Franceand I settle in with my espresso.  train, SNCF, Amiens, France  To my side, a reminder that I am in France: a baguette a main part of a traveler’s luggage.  Luggage, train, baguette, Amiens, France

We arrive.  station, sign, Villers Bretonneux, France  train, Villers Bretonneaux, France  Villers Bretonneux, France, train station, gare

We are two of only few that exit here.  No signs guiding us to the memorial so we decide to follow the only person that is on foot. Villers Bretonneux, France  Should we take the path unknown?  dirt road, Villers Bretonneux, France, Australian Memorial  The Franco-Australian Museum  comes up (the first thing that attracts me is the tiles on the floor)  Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, Franceso we go in Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, France   Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, France  Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux, Francefor info on how to get to the Memorial.

They tell us that the Memorial is a couple of miles out of town and that it’s walkable.  So we continue. I am loving the stone houses. Villers Bretonneux, France. stone house,  Everything in this town has something Australian on it. Villers Bretonneux, France. kangaroo

We are leaving the boundaries of town. See the sign with a diagonal red line on it?  sign, leaving town, Villers Bretonneux

I promise not to go more than 50 km per hour (31 mph) in the construction zone.  In fact I don’t think I can walk that fast. Villers Bretonneux, France, road, road signs, km per hour   Though I may have to because that memorial looks quite far…Villers Bretonneux, France, countryside

The walk is long, the day is hot so I extend my right thumb in good hitch hiking mode and… nothing happens. So we continue on.  It doesn’t seem to be getting any closer yet suddenly we are there. Australian Memorial, Villers Bretonneux, France No one around.  We are alone. I fall silent.  Villers Bretonneux, France  Villers Bretonneux, France

Words of the mayor in 1919: “Soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for…”

Villers Bretonneux, France Villers Bretonneux, France Many tombstones engraved with the one date they all died.  All so very young. Fighting someone else’s war. But the people of Villers Bretonneux are grateful, for, according to Wikipedia, on top of every blackboard in the school there is an inscription “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Let us never forget Australia.)

P1180639  P1180653  P1180649

There are stairs to go to the top of the memorial and I decide to go up disregarding my fear of heights. Villers Bretonneux, France, memorial  Going up. P1180656 The door to the outside.  P1180660  A few more steps and I’m outside.  The wind assaults me. I am quite high but vertigo does not take over and I am able to enjoy the view. P1180663 P1180665 P1180666  The markers have some names with significance to me. Amiens, London, Berlin, Paris and Villers Bretonneux.

 P1180675 P1180674 P1180673  We are not alone any more and as I climb down Dean remains upstairs and chatting with a fellow Aussie that thankfully gives us a ride back to Amiens where they are also staying.

We walk through town  children playing, fountain, water,  to meet with Lydie for us to have a mini table read.  The pastry shops are going to be the death of me.  This one has the dessert that I so loved: Paris-Brest (I know there is a joke here but please refrain.)P1180697 P1180696 Casa Crepes which kind of joins my culture with theirs, don’t you think? P1180700  But not all is food.  I’m taking my door photos too.  P1180710 P1180708  And windows.  P1180714  And buildings. P1180712 P1180711 Okay, back to the table read. Amiens, France, outdoor café  These are the remains of sorbets that our réalisateur (director) has devoured while we work. P1180717  Think I’m back to the food subject.  We leave.

I am now starving.  I get cranky when I am hungry.  I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry.  I need to eat now!  And when I’m this hungry even a McDonald’s will do.  And this one holds some surprises.  It is manned by smiley, cute people and it’s more in the vein of an upscale café than a McDonald’s, with comfy chairs and cool decor. Amiens, France, chair, McDonald's  And a sauce for the fries that is more on the mayo side which I like. Amiens, France, McDonald's. fast food A chicken wrap with a package that you can stand it up in.  P1180719 Amiens, France, McDonald's. fast food Prices are also a surprise: not cheap at all.

Now that I’ve been fed I have energy and will to have a walk around town.  We find a gem of a square.  Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square

I find the building that I would like to own.

 Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square Amiens, France, Amiens Square

The day is done.  We have mentally wept for those gone, honored them, taken a step back in time, taken a step forward to filming, fed our minds and our bodies, and fantasized a bit about what we wanted.  Pretty full day. I smile and sleep once more.

Categories: Amiens, Amiens Square, Australian War Memorial, Franco-Australian Museum, Villers Bretonneux | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

I Have an Eye on London and a Golden Ticket

After the rainy and cold two days we have had, I firmly believe we are due for a wonderfully sunny day.  Do they exist in London?  Yes! They do.  Though the cold has not left, the  morning shows no clouds with the sun actually out.

The hotel is on Queens Gate which leads to the Queens Gate entrance to Hyde Park. only half a block away.  Queens Gate, Hyde Park, London

I have grown used to the the red double-deck buses but this old one in a gray that reminds me of and Airstream makes me smile widely. Double-decker bus, London, England

Destination today will be Portobello Road Portobello Road, London, England where there is a world famous market on Saturdays and Sundays. Portobello Market, Portobello Road, London, England

It gives me a bit of nostalgia to see all the antiques. Antique market, Portobello Road, London, England  Antiques, Portobello Road, Portobello Market, London, England I used to have an antique store and I found much joy in discovering treasures to sell.  Today I am not a buyer.  I am one of the thousands who visit from all over to listen to music, to browse and, if lucky enough to get good weather, to enjoy the sun that so rarely comes out.  bicycle, mews, London, England

Back on the bus double-decker bus, London, England because again the weather rules our steps and there is not day better than to visit the London Eye.   First Big Ben welcomes us.  Big Ben, London, England Big, bold, beautiful, regal, imposing and so very iconically London. Big Ben, London, England

There are seas of yellows and red everywhere.   Two German soccer teams are playing the final game in London today.  You see them all over catching the sights before the game.

German soccer team

 And here is the London Eye.  London Eye, ferris wheel, London, England  A huge ferris wheel where I will put my fear of heights to rest so as to be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of this city.

First, a look back at old Big Ben.  Big Ben

And after the tickets are bought an hour wait before going to the line (cue in Brit English) so a walk around, seeing performers perform and kids and adults enjoy, is to be.  Street performers, bubbles, London, England

The London Eye has little space-like capsules London Eye in which it takes you up to give you an incredibly wonderful view of the city.  Vertigo does not hit me at all.  The capsule is stable and they don’t pack too many people in London Eye  so no claustrophobia either.  It’s a well run machine.  Don’t think that even Disney could do better.  And now I will quiet so you can savor the view.

But first, let me introduce the competitor of the Eye:  The Shard.London Eye, The Shard  And now I really am going to let you enjoy the view. P1170106

Hey, they are higher than me for now!  London Eye capsule   London Eye, London Eye view, London

London Eye  Big Ben from London Eye  London Eye  Back into the tube (Westminster Station) and to a very industrial feel.  Westminster Station

All sorts of transportation are used today.

I am now going to hold my breath, make a wish, count to three and be a child again.  I want to view paradise so I will simply look around and view it.  Does chocolate give away were I will be next?

I present my Golden Ticket Willy Wonka,  at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.  Royal Drury Lane Theater, Charlie and the Cocolate Factory  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Magic it was.  So well staged and engrossing .  Funny, sweet and the vessel through which I regress to a time where only a few things matter.

Dinner at an Italian restaurant -continuing our Italy themed English vacation- and headed back to The Gore where a warm four-poster bed will cocoon me until morning.

Tomorrow will be epic so please come with me.   Would love to share.

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And So It Starts…

2013 has started.   It’s around 12:30 am and we find out that there may not be much of a bus service to the Overlake Station where we left the Prius.  After waiting a bit we stick our hand out and a taxi materializes.  The driver is big and bubbly and has a Tom Petty CD blaring on the stereo.  Traffic leaving the city is pretty heavy and he tells us he won’t turn the meter on until we are on the freeway.  I’m liking him already.  Our cab fare will be around $40.  We are not sure of the exit and neither is he so we end up paying around $50 which he almost didn’t want to charge us ’cause he messed up.  An honest cab driver.  Guess the New Year has greeted us in a good way.  Baby Blue is alone except for another car in the parking lot at 2 am and is covered in a not so thin sheet of ice.  Yep, it’s cold.

As expected we rise late on January 1st 2013.  What is left of it will be spent on the computer and lazing around.  We decide to go out walking to dinner where there is a mall and Firenze, an italian restaurant that is open tonight.  Food was really good and service excellent.

The second day of the year was to be spent lunching with a friend Ramon Shiloh frog Ramon Shiloh which I haven’t seen in years since we were mentors for the Young Native American Playwrights Program.  He is a wonderful artist, illustrator, and storyteller.  He has a book published and one out soon: Listener.   Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to happen. We’ve been a bit under the weather and exhausted. Another day of lazing around it is.

The third day of the year finds us in our tourist mode.  It’s the first Thursday of the month and the Seattle Art Museum (among others) has free admission.  It’s close to where the Underground Tours are so as they say in my neck of the woods we are going to “matar dos pájaros de un tiro” (to kill two birds with one stone) Disclaimer: I am not advocating any violence against animals or anything of the like… it’s a saying that has existed for eons.

We drive to the Overlake Station Overlake Station   and go on the bus to downtown.

I like how the buses are accordion-like and bend in the middle.  Accordion Bus

As we cross the bridge it looks like we are inches from the water.Seattle Bus

Steep Seattle streets   Wait a second, are we in San Francisco?  Some roads are steep!

I’m liking the architecture of this city.  Seattle City Hall

Seattle Smith Center  The Smith Center, built in 1916, is a beauty.  It has an outdoor observation deck which we did not go up to.

It’s cold.  Somehow that fact is really diminishing my enjoyment of this city.  This city is grey even on sunny days!  It has earned its reputation as the Suicide Capital of the world. The cold and the rain and the lack of sunshine is conducive to depression but as this link  states it isn’t even on the top 10. It also debunks other myths about states and cities. Fun read.

The Underground Tour is about to start.  They have us congregated in this really old bar.  Solid wood, defying time to lessen its stance.  The guide, Gail, is funny but I concentrate on the floor.  Old tile floorLove the tiles.

We go outside and I look up. P1140484  We are going into the bowels of the city and I concentrate on what’s on top.  Just being a bit contrarian here. But I love old buildings.

I adjust my directional rebellion by looking across the street and liking the iron bus stop pavilion.  Station in Seattle

And down we go. Underground Tour

And my attention is grabbed by this sad seat, tattered and faded holding no vibrancy in its color or plushness in its seat.  Underground Tour  I imagine it in the lobby of a theater surrounded  by rustling skirts, colors and overall excitement.

The floors are unleveled and sinking in parts.  Seattle below  We are given a lot of info on the building and rebuilding of the city and on its history, all in the context of a comedy routine that is a bit too much, but she is funny and makes it entertaining. We go back up before going back down but I’m so used to looking down that I spot another set of tiles Merchant's Cafe  that I like in front of what professes to be the oldest restaurant in Seattle.

Steam Baths lower level… Steambaths lower level

We are now under a skylight.  Purple Skylight Glass made circa 1800’s – it turned purple with age. sk

We head back up.  Underground Tour

And here is a skylight from above.  Seattle Skylight

My stomach is grumbling as usual and we go to a Cajun restaurant close by.  A nice hot gumbo sounds just like the best antidote to the cold.  The place, Marcela’s Creole Cookery, is a hodgepodge of decorating.  Marcela's Creole Cookery But the gumbo does warm me up and I got some colorful beads as a send-off.

Before we go to the Art Museum we decide to stop at Seattle’s Central Library.  I’m glad we did.  The building is structurally stunning and massive.  Seattle Central Library     Seattle Central Library

Today, surprise of surprises, it’s a grey day but on a sunny day it must be so stunning to see it from within with all the angles this place has.  And a really stormy rainy day probably creates quite a symphony in here.

The colors inside are pretty cool. Stairs in Seattle Central Library  Seattle Central Library  Stairs Seattle Central Library    P1140539    Seattle Central Library

Just in case you are wondering (as I did for a minute) if this really is a library, here is a librarian to go with it.Seattle Central Library

The world in books at your fingertips.  Seattle Central Library

Futuristic, eh?

Seattle Central Library  Seattle Central Library  Seattle Central Library

I almost want to stay.  Cocoon myself with a book and let the hours pass without notice.  But I bid my farewell by taking a few more shots of its facade.  Seattle Central Library   Seattle Central Library   Seattle Central Library   Seattle

Seattle Art Museum  is now at our feet. And above us, some flying Fords with lights coming out of every opening in an explosion exposure.  Seattle Art Museum

I like that the museum has a large quantity of Native American and Aboriginal art, something my Australian was quite happy to see.  Native Art   Native Art  This is not one of it, by the way.

However, in some floors, periods and mediums are mixed in and somehow I am not drawn in.   What does, is this painting of a mother and child (his wife and daughter) by William Sergeant Kendall which brings my mom to mind.  In two days it will be three years since her passing.  Mother and Child

A lot of modern art.  Modern Art   Seattle Art MuseumMedia Installation

 

 

 

 

 

Then a statue of cupid.  I photograph its bum for I have the full intention of decorating my bathroom with photos of behinds taken all over the world.

Cupid

We are not far from Pike’s Market so we decide to have dinner there.  End up at Etta’s.  Food was really good though I found it expensive for what it was. But it won me over (I had serious hesitation looking at the menu).  It starts pouring which gives me an excellent excuse to order a decadent dessert while we wait for the rain to turn into a drizzle.  I am just going to become a roly poly if I keep on eating like this so Seattle has to promise not to give me any more excuses for me to keep on eating!

Categories: Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Central Library, Underground Tours | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Oi Goi Oi!

Again my eyes open early though I can’t capture a sunrise on my lens due to the fact that the hotel is in a very busy area of Ho Chi Minh City.  Not much of a sky to see here.

After our morning ritual of coffee, breakfast and climbing on the bus we are all set for our day-long trip to Chau Doc via Cantho.

A few hours in, most on the bus need either a coffee or a bathroom  break so we stop at the Vietnamese version of a Starbucks.   Much more relaxed atmosphere than the chain, with much better coffee!  They use this aluminum coffee filter and place it on top of a glass, one-third filled with condensed milk.  They pour hot water on the filter of ground coffee beans and when the condensed milk and freshly brewed coffee meet, the result is heaven to the taste buds! Don’t know how these people remain thin!     

There are hammocks all over and when you order your coffee they will bring it to your selected hammock.  We congregate around some low, small tables so we can chat.  Again, Vietnam unexpectedly is providing me a flood of memories of my childhood and my country.   Hammocks are a standard in Paraguay.  Rarely will you see a back yard that doesn’t have one.  The shade from the trees they are usually tied to, providing a perfect setting for a siesta and shelter from the brutal sun, while the hypnotic side-to-side swing helps keep the flies away and you sound asleep.  But no time to sleep now.  I do not waste the chance to go back in time and space and lie on one, nonetheless.  I recall, while I do so, that it takes a bit of balance to climb on!  

After a few more hours (observing daily life alongside my window)  

and a stop at a lotus plantation

we arrive to Cantho   and it’s time for lunch near the river.   

Lunch of vegetable soup,  steamed shrimp with mango sauce,

stuffed pumpkin flower   and crispy pork with mushroom sauce, is divine.  Heavenly coffee, divine lunch… there’s an out of this world theme in this post. 🙂

There is a market on the side and I buy yet another scarf and t-shirt.   Our guide has taught me to say “Oh my god!” in Vietnamese and when I exclaim:  “Oi gioi oi!” when a vendor quotes me the price, I get a look of total surprise and the most charming  of giggles  as she calls the other vendors and has me repeat it.  This was me just before I said it.  They are having a ball.  Didn’t get me much of a discount but it did make for fabulous interaction.

A short distance from there we climb on scooters for another of what my tour company calls UFE’s (Unforgettable Experiences).  Scooters and drivers wait for us to take us to a bird sanctuary at the other end of the town, Banglang.    Didn’t spot many birds.

They leave us and we walk through town.  My “inside quietness” surfaces as I photograph their faces, their houses, their town.   


Back to bus.   Karaoke or Internet anyone?  

Long Xuyen is our next stop where we visit the Cao Dai Temple.  Not a promising start…  

Then a surprisingly pretty building…  

Then puzzlement when I see the monument in front with a reverse swastika embedded. Turns out that the reverse swastika, which happens to have a Buddhist influence, is sacred to many Vietnamese.  The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness.

Cao Dai is a religion that aims “to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers form a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”  May get my vote on that premise.   I am mesmerized by its colors and by its principles.  About 2 million people practice it in Vietnam.  Persecuted by the communist rule, it gained in the ’80’s its acceptance.

Back on the bus.  Am really liking crossing the countryside.  We are taking this route so as to be near the Cambodian border.  Tomorrow we are cruising from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Pnom Penh, Cambodia on the Mekong River.

On the way we view a bit more of daily life.  School is out and some girls are in the traditional ào dái dress, used as uniforms in the school. They are heading towards the local ferry which will take them home.  A lot of life takes place on the river; they are so dependent on it.  

We arrive to the Dong Nam Hotel in Chau Doc.  I take a shower and again get on the bus to go to dinner at a local family’s house.  It’s actually a bakery by day and at night she hosts small dinners for tourists.  I try taro and rice soup –purple in color with what to me was a pretty strange taste.   Egg noodle with seafood –great.  Stir-fried morning glory (a plant not the same as the one in the US which is not edible) –delicious!   Catfish cooked in a clay pot –good.

When we arrive it was pouring. First downpour in almost 20 days of travel. It reminded me so much of the storms that hit Asunción and used to scare my mom so much. Ay Vietnam, what are you doing to me?  You have generated so many memories!

The rain brings in a visitor that was not invited to the table.    Mom did not like them; I liked them less.  She got accustomed to them; my aversion got stronger.

Back to the hotel.  The rain is steady and strong and turns into the prequel of dreams of times long gone.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cantho, Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Long Xuyen, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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