Sunday, November 30, 2014

Top 5: Favourite Albums for 2014

Apparently the ARIAs happened in Australia this week, although I feel pretty removed from the First World whilst here at work. Still, I usually do a Top 5 Favourite Albums of the year post around this time, so here it is....

1 Chet Faker's Built On Glass - loved it from the first listen, and have listened to it pretty consistently since. Chilled,

2 Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. Love this sound from the Swedish female duo. So beautiful, and some very poignant tracks.

3 Dan Sultan's Blackbird was probably my most played tunes over this year.

4 Black Keys and their Turn Blue, followed me around this year in my iPod, and all around on my travels. Loved it!

5 Tough call, because again I have been pretty removed from new music and new albums this year because of travel and work. I would have to put Slow Dancer's Surrender here. Former guitarist for Oh Mercy, I loved these tracks from the moment we heard them live when he played as support to the band, and the album release this year is very good.

End of November is always good, as it's the end of the hard slog for NaBloPoMo - although this year was another fail, with 2 posts planned but not completed and published. Just way too hard here at work!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where Else Shuts The Country's Main Road When A Plane Is About To Land?

Where else but the Pacific nation of Nauru! The airport runway is surrounded on both sides by the single road that runs all the way around the island, and so, because it is so close to where the planes land, traffic is stopped.

Having watched the process as I waited for my flight to leave, I can tell you that someone mans the gate just outside the airport, and when they receive a radio-ed message from the air traffic control tower, they close the gate.
Planes land on the strip which has ocean at either end of it, just after the main road, and rumour has it, just 50 metres to spare in terms of regulation length based on the class of planes that land.

Here is an Our Airlines plane landing, obscuring the parliament buildings on the island.

Once the plane has landed, and taxi-ed into the airport building, the road remains closed because the plane will off load people and cargo, then reload and take off again.

It's a pretty unique experience, and pretty amusing the first few times!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jessica and Heath's Wedding: Reception

After the ceremony, and drinks and photos, the gathering for Jessica and Heath wedding made their way around the corner to the Queen Victoria Market Deli Hall.

Greeting guests were the amazing catering staff for the night, and a spread of cheese and antipasto that was sensational! More mingling, great food, and champagne.

This most beautiful venue was so unique - only one other wedding has been held here, with the light from the skylights as the sun was fading, and then the lit up stores along each of the two main corridors of the Hall. Just stunning!

Heath and Jessie entered the Hall and joined the party. Their speeches began the night.

The seating in the next section of the Hall was stunning - each place was set around the veggie centrepieces all the way along the tables, from the produce sellers, of course.

Starters were served, and before I knew it it was time for me to make the family speech on behalf of myself, sisters, Mum and Dad. Max followed me, for Heath's family.

Then mains were served - the food was so very good!

Next was the traditional cutting of the cake, which was served as dessert, and then the bride and groom hit the dancefloor!

A totally romantic dance ensued, with the two of them having so much fun, and delighting the adoring audience. And then the rest of the party was invite to join, and the playlist kept people there. There was a moment when all the girls from Jess' Hen's took over the space in the Hall for dance, with the vaguely remembered moves for The Look.

It was such  an incredible day and night, for such a lovely couple. A day so very them, with all the details. Everything ran perfectly, and it was such a happy occasion. So lovely!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Standing Guard At Syntagma

I wandered through Syntagma Square in Athens while getting around the city taking in the sights, but didn't time it for the changing of the guards at the Parliament Building. Nonetheless, I got to see the guards, and their pretty uniforms, being pestered by a throng of tourists trying to get selfies with them. They stayed as stoic as they are supposed to - stern and still. Check out that pompom at the tip of his shoes - how can they take themselves seriously with that there!?!

Monday, November 24, 2014

More Athens Faces - Street Art Finds

I can't tell you how excited I was to discover so much Athens street art - it was scattered throughout the neighbourhood I stayed in, and then would also pop up in my wanderings around the city, sightseeing.

The top one, which echos Picaso, was a couple of doors down from my apartment building entrance and helped me know I was home. The hatted purple man was also a similar landmark for my stay and wanderings, and I was always happy to see him, meaning I was on the right path of laneways and little streets to get home!

This bottom one is by Sonke, and it's said that the girl that he paints is a former girlfriend who broke his heart. He now paints her everywhere, as a way to work through the breakup, and maybe reminder her of him when she sees these faces around the city. These girls are pretty captivating!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Top 5: Favourite Cities Around The World

After traveling to world for some 15 years now, predominately solo, and visited 54 countries and counting, there are a number of cities across the globe that I love, and yearn to go back to. And several of these I do go back to, frequently. One is the place I consider home, as much as life at the moment allows that notion.

My Top 5 Favourite Cities:

1 New York. This raging metropolis has been top of my list right from my very first visit back in 1999 - and I have been back 5 times now, with my last visit an opportunity to show it to my little sister. The magic of the Brooklyn Bridge, the wonder of wandering different neighbourhoods and getting totally different vibes for each, and the fact that there is always something happening somewhere, all appeal. The frantic bustle, the buzz and energy, and the possibilities, all make me dream of living there one day.

2 Tokyo - the Asian New York. But Tokyo is more perfected, more precise and efficient. So easy to get around, the food is amazing, the people are so cute, hip, and super friendly. I loved the energy and the cultural polar opposites at every turn. I'd love to return one day.

3 Phnom Penh. A city and country that got under my skin when I lived and worked there as a volunteer some 12 years ago now, and always feel a yearning to return. I would live and work there again in a heartbeat, for the right role. Going back early last year, the elements that I loved and hated about living in the city were ever present, reminding me of the buzz of the place - the amazing people and the killer traffic and pollution, the feeling of humanity from the way most people live and then the huge disparity between the rich and poor, the sense of rebuilding and resilience and then the evidence of the persistent corruption. The food, the buzz of new places to patronage, the feeling that just being there amongst it gives, as if you are somehow in the middle of something happening, something good and real and reborn.

4 Toronto. Just three months living there, admittedly over Summer (I am not sure I would survive a Canadian Winter!), was enough to know that this is a city that feels very much like home. And it IS very similar to Melbourne in many ways - the multiculturalism, the notion that there is always a festival going on somewhere, there is a great music scene, and different neighbourhoods are different little pockets across the city.

5 Melbourne, of course. One of the world's most livable cities, so the city finds itself claiming every year - and where I would sit still if the planets aligned again for that to happen (Hmmm, I am not sure what that would take, though!). The city that is my benchmark for everywhere else, in terms of what I want in a city - good sports events, a buzzing music scene, easy to get around, neighbourhoods that are unique from each other and have their own distinct character. Multiculturalism is what makes Melbourne so vibrant and full of so many amazing and diverse events, all year round. Good food, and always something new to discover and track down.

What would yours be?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Russell Street Substation: Open House Melbourne

One of the most popular buildings for Open House Melbourne, for many years running now, is the Russell Street Substation. The opportunity to go underground in the city, and check out a live electricity zone substations, gets an almost constant line up for the weekend. It's worth waiting to get a look, and the full personalised tour, to this unique part of our city!
Once at the front of the line, in the alleyway off Little Collins and Bourke Streets, you need to kit up for the experience. This means full length industrial grey jackets and a hard hat over a hair net! Not everyday you would donn such an outfit, unless working in such a place is your day job.

For the guys for whom this is their day job, you can tell it is a labour of love the moment they begin the tour, for which they have volunteered their weekend to deliver all day, both days of OHM. Their enthusiasm and knowledge, and obvious joy at showing off their little hub of electricity, is brimming.

Once down on the level below, the tour groups are taken through the rooms below, which house the equipment which was part of the first public electricity supply in the southern hemisphere. It it also the last substation to supply DC to local businesses, as last as just 8 years ago.

But the gem of the visit, along with the quirky electrical conductors and transformers, are the blue glowing mercury arc rectifiers. Looking like something from an outer space alien movie, these illuminated glass bulbs (turned on and off by tour participants) are still running just for show, and given their age and lack of actual use now, when they go out or break down, that will be the end of them at this location.

Worth going along just to see this weird and strange science in Melbourne, that cannot be repaired when it reaches it's natural end. But the dress-ups and the fun tour guides make this a don't-miss for Open House Melbourne.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Occupy Central - Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement

Being in Hong Kong this week, I managed to walk down through the Occupy Central site, where tens of thousands of students are camping out to protest the democratic process in Hong Kong, whereby they can vote directly for their Chief Executive, rather than having a group China approves for election. This pro-democracy fight is to seek to be governed by the people Hong Kong choose. This protest began in September, and is now into it's 55th day today.

The yellow umbrella has become a symbol of the protest, mainly because of it's use to protest the unarmed protesters against pepper-spray yielding police, who were in full riot gear trying to move the protestors along just 6 days into the mass sit-in. The everyday Hong Kong umbrella was their protector.

The symbol of the umbrella, and the vision of one protester walking through a cloud of tear gas with an umbrella raised, has been likened to the image of Tank Man in the Tiananmen Square. Powerful stuff!

Walking through the protest area was pretty easy, as many people were walking in, and very many office workers were sitting eating lunch around the tents. Lending their support.

The set up of the site is pretty impressive - there are recycling waste stations, there are several First Aid tents, and all the way through there are structures build to allow safe passage across the usual road barrier between lanes. There is a Social Work tent.

Students are the majority of those camped, and so in the middle of it all there is a study tent and library, which seemed to hold the most people when I walked through.

In addition to all this are the amazing art displays, and powerful and inspiring slogans of peace, hope and freedom. The Lennon Wall is a stairway covered in post-it notes filled with messages.

The umbrella symbol is used everywhere in the pro-democracy signs and messages. And then, it's also used in art, such as this sewn-together canopy between two of the city's elevated walkways.

It was inspiring, walking through the protest. So much symbolism, and the sheer volume of people camped was so impressive! Many people, of all ages, were around making art or gathering in discussions in tents or communal areas.

The camp sprawls along a major multi-lane city arterial, and then creeps through side streets to position in front of several key government buildings. It has disrupted traffic, and access to many buildings, for all these months.

The day I was there was the first day where protesters where ordered by court order to move some of the camping set ups, for access to certain buildings. Bailiffs were reportedly moving some people along, who were peacefully complying. An article that I read quoted one of the organisers of the protest as saying that perhaps it was time to start moving along, and beginning a new direction for the pro-democracy movement.

I saw police gathered, moving barricades in a certain area. A heavy media presence was there, and added security in the same area.

I hope things from here remain peaceful, as is the aim, as well as the continued voice and fight for Hong Kong democracy. In a world that seems so often politically apathetic, this protest has reminded me that people can stand up for things that matter, than mean something, with the right, motivated leaders.

I was sent this petition after posting some of my photos on Instagram - check it out and throw them some support.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ancient Ruins Of Athens

Admittedly, I didn't know what there was to see and do when I planned my trip to Athens, I just knew that I wanted to go. Checking pictures of the city online, I could not really get a handle on the city sprawl with the old ruins sitting on the mountain in the middle of it all. It looked pretty unreal!

My first stop on my first day of exploring was to get up to the Acropolis, to see what it was all about. I got the Metro to the foot of the hill, and made my way up with all the other tourists of the day.

Walking through the chaos of the entrance, through the hoards of tour groups, I made it up the stairs, past the amazing Temple to Athena Nike, and through the arches and columns to the top of the hill. Taking in the size of the Parthenon - 17 columns down, and 8 across - the obvious craftsmanship and detail, before sweeping my eyes across the view of Athens city all around, below.

To the left on this hill was the Erechtheion, where the stunning Caryatids captured my attention for some time.

Walking to the back of the open section on the Acropolis hill, I could take in both impressive ruin structures, in addition to spotting each of the other ancient structures dotted around below, as far as the eye could see. It gave me a good idea of what to aim for next in my Athens sights exploring, and map out a bit of a path, in real visualisation.

Once I made it back down the hill, and past the Theatre of Dionysus halfway down, I followed my mapped out directions and found a much needed shade break with lunch, along a pretty tourist street between the Acropolis and Hadrian's Arch - an ancient arch sitting next to a very busy modern intersection of traffic. Old meets new!

Back to walking, and crossing the road at the arch, I got to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, with a number of columns still standing to give you an impression of the size of this structure in it's day. The massive park space showed off ruin pieces of the structure, and one columns was left laid when it had fallen, showing the sections making up the tall column - was pretty cool!

From here I wandered to the Panathenaic Stadium, before returning to go into the new Acropolis Museum, before climbing the Filapappou Hill for a spectacular sunset.

The next day, I continued with the ruin trail, getting to the other side of the hill and seeing more of the works from the Ancient Greeks. These columns along the wall are the strongest ruins left of Hadrian's Library. The ones below are those found at the Roman Agora and the beautiful Temple of the Winds.

These sights were fascinating, and impressive. Plus, walking around to see them allowed me to get a feel for the city around these ancient ruins. A perfect city visit for me!

jouljet notes:
Serious Tip: Each of these sites are walking distance from each other, which is how I got around to see them - in the heat. Several gelato stops were needed, of course, and there are plenty of places to stop and rest, and take in the views of the buildings of the Ancient Greeks, and indeed the modern Greeks too!
Time Spent: Across 2 days of walking, and stopping for meals, and to be home before it was too dark, I managed to get around to each of these. You could cram them all in in one day, if needed.
Cost: Ticket to the Acropolis was just 12Euro, and also allowed you entry to a host of other ruins around the area. So cheap!
Quirky Tip: The way to try and see the lighter side of all the crowds and tour groups shuffling through is people watching! Tourists in big groups are really something else.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jessica and Heath's Wedding: Ceremony

At the beginning of this month my sister Jessica got married! She and Heath had such an incredibly gorgeous day, with every detail so very them! The beautiful ceremony was held in the atrium of the Mercat Cross Hotel.

The girls stayed in a hotel just down the road in Williams Street, and so once hair and make up for all had been done, and glasses of champagne consumed along the morning's preparations, it was take to make our way together to the ceremony.

We took the tram! The looks from people on this quiet work day in the city as bride, 2 sparkly bridesmaides, and Mum and myself and Melissa made our way to the tram stop were pretty funny!

Once at the stop at the Queen Victoria Market, we all walked through the laneway through it, in blazing sunshine.

After final moments of readying at the bottom of the stairs, each of us took our positions - each of her sisters, Mum and Kelly were positioned along Jessie's walk to the front and to where Heath stood.

As Jessie made her way up the stairs, through the gathering of loved ones, she collected a section of her gorgeous bouquet from each of us - as Viv sang Mango Tree by Angus And Julia Stone. It was magical!

Once at the top, with her completed bouquet tied up by Mum, the ceremony commenced. Dianna conducted the ceremony, making it even more special and personalised.

Vows, tears and laughs, sunshine and music. Angus And Julia Stone's The Wedding Song, and Bella, played as they signed the registry. And then they were married!

The gathering mingled, chatted, drank and met each other. They came and congratulated the new married couple, and I got to catch up with family. The Bridal Party and families went across the road to get some more formal photos taken, while the party began in this beautiful space.

Once back from my portion of photos, I got to mix with the crew and catch up with people I haven't seen for ages. Daggs and I took over some champagne and water to the wedding party as they had more photos taken, which looked like they were having such a great time!

Before long, the word was passed along that it was time to make our way around the corner to the reception venue. Such a lovely start to this most beautiful day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

View Of The Acropolis From The Temple Of Olympian Zeus

The view of the great Acropolis on top of the hill in the middle of Athens could be seen from so many vantage points - like this one, being at the foot of the columns that remain standing from the Temple Of Olympian Zeus, just down the way.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Athens Faces - Street Art Finds

I didn't know what to expect when I traveled to Athens - knew nothing really of the city and the culture and feel of the place. I was delighted to find a vibrant cafe world in the neighbourhood of my AirBnB stay, with street art and other quirky features everywhere.

These faces actually guided me home from a day of exploring the city. They marked the little laneways and turns I needed to make, to get back to my apartment building.

"Welcome to Athens", says the sign with the little guy on the top of the right hand window on this derelict building - indeed!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Top 5: Places In The World I Would Runaway To

Many times when I am wandering the streets of a new city in a new country, it occurs to me that no one there knows who I am, and really, no one else knows where I am. I mean, family and friends have a rough idea when I head off somewhere of what country/city I will be in, but when I am on the move a bit when travelling and exploring, that plan may be pretty vague. The idea of being far from home, away from everything appeals, a lot of the time.

In that vein, there have been a few places on my travels where things have just felt right, and away and good, that the idea of running away to said place and staying there, has popped into my head. Living, maybe escaping from everything. I guess posting this won't make it a secret anymore - so if I do vanish from the world, these may be the places I have gone to!

It must be the country girl in me, who needs periodic escapes from the city to return to a more rural, slower paced setting.

So, here is my list:

1 Banff, Canada. Little town feel, in the middle of the mountains, with spectacular views, even from the little, quaint main streets. Far from the world, without being cut off. The food was amazing, and there were some pretty amazing sights to be seen not far away - and I would imagine tons more to discover.

2 Wilderness, South Africa. A little piece of natural forest next to the ocean, and along the Garden Route road. The people were friendly, the guesthouse I found I would return to for a longer term stay in a heartbeat, and the food was amazing (like everywhere in South Africa, really). Tucked away, peaceful and beautiful.

3 Green Island, Queensland, Australia. The place that really stood out for me on a trip to Far North Queensland - a little island where you can day trip, or stay.
Another forest meets the ocean place, so it's the best of both worlds. It was possible to take an early morning walk around the island, and oftentimes it felt like we were the only people there. The water was calm, so scaredy-swimmers like me could enjoy, and managed to snorkel there to see the amazing underwater world.

4 Fafa Island, Tonga. Lying in a hammock next to your private entry to the island beach, personalised staff service, minimal contact with the outside world, on an island in the Pacific - need I say more? Simple, clean living - the perfect place to recharge. It has day trips off the island to snorkel, and to see the main island of Tongatapu and the sights there, which could give me my fill out outside world a little bit.

5 Luang Prabang (but from what I have read of late from travellers, this entry is from the memory of the little Laotion town from 12ish years ago), Laos. I loved it there when I made it across from Cambodia for a few days - it's was a sleepy local town, with authentic streets of local stores and cafes, surrounded by mountains. The night market was lovely, the small bars at night had a great feel to them, and everything was easy.
Maybe it's not like that anymore, which would be such a shame. It's a place around the world that still lives in my memory as one of my favourite towns.

Where would you go? Where should I escape to next?
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