Last weekend, in the quiet of an autumn afternoon, my husband and I went for a drive into the mountains, searching for our own private Provencal home. The rain was light and drizzled, as if not rain at all but condensation hung in the air, tiny transparent pearls of water. Just enough to moisten your skin were you to venture outside.
We had been entertaining the idea of moving to the country for some time when we stumbled across an advertisement for a beautiful, hand-built stone house. The pictures made it look like it was taken straight out of an Enid Blyton fairytale; it was dusk, and the lit windows made it feel warm and homely, a safe haven from the dark forest outside. In person, it lived up to our expectations. The property was in the middle of Watagan Forest, the only entry via a narrow mountain road, curving in and out of the treescape. It was built on acres of land – so well outside of our price range – but it made for a pretty Sunday drive.
It was also the moment we realised how much we are “mountain people” — and how much we craved to be back in Provence.
What I remember most about Provence was the thin, crisp mountain air, like the cool comfort which slivers of after-dinner mints bring to a heavy belly. The sun on my shoulders that warmed but never burned. The way each and every home looked as inviting as my own, regardless of how aged or weathered the stone exterior. The sense of open space and freedom one doesn’t find within the city limits. The simple pleasures. Fields of lavender, lakes to swim in, friendly locals.
It’s April in Sydney, and Autumn is upon us. The trees outside my window bend and bow in the terror of the great north wind, as he bellows and shakes them to and fro. There are heavy clouds as far as the eye can see, their pregnant bellies bursting with a haze of downpour, shrouding the world outside with a vaporous fog. Shadows grow across the land. Dusk falls quicker these days.
My mind wanders to an identical scene, on the other side of the world, exactly a year ago today. It was springtime in Paris, and everything was wet. We were treated to highs of 12 degrees by day, and close to freezing by night. My toes were wrinkled and damp inside my three layers of sock and boots. My nose wept constantly, even when wrapped night-rider style under a scarf. My jeans were sticky and cold against my bum and legs from sitting on the rain-drenched seat of our scooter. It was wet, wet, wet… a typical Parisian Spring.
“What do you do when you’re caught in the middle of a springtime downpour”, you ask? These are my top tips to surviving Paris in the Rain.
It was May 21, 2010; the tail-end of what was three months of political unrest between the Thai government and the “Red Shirts”, also known as the Bangkok riots – and we had just landed in Bangkok.
Two days prior, the army had marched on the Red Shirt’s headquarters in central Bangkok, launching an all-out attack, destroying 35 buildings including the Stock Exchange, banks, shopping centres, a TV station, and a cinema. A “do not travel” notice was issued for Bangkok. All the hotels in the vicinity were shut, tourists evacuated, and barricades built around them. Our hotel was one of these.
We were notified of the closure via email, and I then spent the next day (the day before we left for Thailand) frantically organising alternate accommodation on the outskirts of the city. Call us crazy (many did!), but through the tears and stress and mania, we decided not to cancel our plans. Too much had gone into this trip. Work had reached a crescendo of pain, and, after all, the whole point of it was that we were invited to a friend’s wedding in Koh Samui. We couldn’t back out now.
And I’m glad we didn’t – keep reading to find out why!
We hired the services of an honest Tuk Tuk driver for our first day in Bangkok. He took us everywhere from the temples to the riot-destroyed city center. Afterwards, we rewarded him with a nice tip and made his day – read on below to see his biggest of smiles!
Hungerford Hill winery has been a favourite of mine for some time now. With a brilliant selection of hearty reds (my beverage of choice), whites that will tickle even my tastebuds, and moreish fortifieds which don’t last long in our house, they are the one place I ensure my friends and family visit when they venture into wine country. Not to mention, the two-chefs-hatted adjoining Muse Dining, by multi-award-winning Chef Troy Rhoades-Brown. When combined, these culinary powers create a true-to-its-name “Epic Tasting Experience“; a mini degustation with matching wines at a bargain price.
The pretty, Mediterranean town of Nice, with its pebbled shore and brilliant blue waters, may not be known for a famous landmark or a world-class attraction akin to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, or even nearby Monaco’s grand casino, but it does make a great base if you intend to explore the region. It’s close enough for day trips to Cannes, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Eze, Menton, and more. But it also has it’s own little personality, which makes it the perfect place to stop along the coast for a couple of days, if you can afford the time. (If you’re the sort of person to travel for long stints of time, like I am, you’ll know how important a well-planned rest stop is!) I’ll stick to Nice in this article, but please check back soon for more on the rest of the Cote d’Azur!