Thursday, 25 December 2008

Season’s Greetings from Timaru in the South Island of New Zealand.
Paris - Dubai – Auckland: The stop-over in Dubai really helped to break up the journey but we were all shattered by the time we landed in Auckland. It is good to be home, it was really funny to hear all the thick kiwi accents as soon as we got into Auckland airport. After a few slow days we managed some last minute Christmas shopping and have bumped into quite a few friends and neighbours in the process. On Sunday night we had a BBQ at our house in Northcote Point. James and George, our friends and tenants, have kept the house spotless and it was good to sit out on the deck with some bubbly and catch up. The boys are really excited to be home and it took them no time at all to give the ‘ol tree house and trampoline a good workout. Ange has already been out for a first job interview on Tuesday, she is on the case our Ange. There appear to be plenty of good options for her in the telecommunications industry. I will start doing the rounds in January and also have a few options to follow up. The global economy is an ongoing concern but we are fortunate in that we can afford to wait it out if we have to but I don’t expect it will come to that. The Biscuit Bunch is in Timaru for Christmas where we are staying with Ange’s mum. My mum, who has also flown down from Auckland, is staying just around the corner at a local motel. It is quite surreal to be back in New Zealand. We miss many aspects of life in France.. the rural life, good friends, exciting adventures, great boulangerie bread, fantastic cheeses and don’t get me started about the wine. The time went by far too quickly and we would have liked to have stayed longer. We can’t wait to move back home on January 5th.. it is going to be hard work to unpack the house, all our belongings are packed floor to ceiling in the downstairs bedroom. The freight company have also been in touch, our belongings have arrived and I need to arrange for it to get inspected by MAF inspectors to ensure they comply with the very strict import rules. Should be fun (not). Well I’m going to keep this short as I don’t have lots of time. I’m relying on the Internet access from mum’s motel and need to have this finished in order to drop her off at home. I expect that my blog posts will be few and far between until I get back to a permanent Internet connection but I have a number of ‘work in progress’ posts that I need some time to complete. I plan to keep the blog going but it won’t be as regular as it was in France.
All the best wishes for a great Christmas and happy new year.

Cheers Don, Ange, Jack, Henry, James
Timaru, South Island, New Zealand

Friday, 19 December 2008

Auckland 19th December

L O N G  F L I G H T  but we are safely home.  Staying with my mum for a few days before heading south for Christmas.

We are very tired. There is a pillow somewhere with my name on it.

 

 

HOME !!!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Desert

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Just got back from the desert tonight.. we headed out in three cars. I was a somewhat nervous driver in the middle car. Denise rode shotgun, I was doing my level best to follow in Jeremy’s tracks.

Fortunately I didn’t get stuck and it was great fun. The car following me bottomed out on this small dune but it seemed bigger than Mount Cook when I was driving over the top.

Jeremy took a few of us for a dune busting tour. We headed up the big dune in the top left pictures, amongst others.  This was something else. Took some great video which will have to get posted later.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Shisha

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Shisha (Arabic: شيشة‎), from the Persian word shīshe (شیشه), meaning glass, is the common term for the hookah in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf.  

A hookah is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based) water pipe for smoking. Originally from India, the hookah has gained immense popularity, especially in the middle east.

A hookah operates by water filtration and indirect heat and is used to smoke herbal fruits or tobacco.  Jeremy had double apple and we have grape (?).  It seems like a rather poor substitute for alcohol but you have to try everything at least once.

The hookah are banned in NZ because too many kiwi's like to use them to smoke cannabis.

la photo du jour

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Not sure if this still warrants the french title but what the hell.  We spent the day relaxing at the British Club or just "The Club".

It is just one of the many resort like places with a licence to serve alcohol which as a result is somewhere for expats to hang-out.

The kids spent most of the day in the pool and beach and were sent off to bed early tonight.  Denise has a babysitter in and we are off to try some shisha.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

One Camel, Two Hijabs and the tomb of Sheikh Zayed

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Pretty busy day today..  we headed down to the cultural centre to check out some local history. The boys got to ride a camel - I was too scared.

We then shot over to the Grand Mosque.. it was impressive although the best part was that Denise and Ange had to put on a hijab.  This new mosque was built at the direction of the previous ruler of UAE, Sheihk Zayed, who died in 2004.  He wanted the mosque to be accessible to non-Muslims to promote understanding etc.  His tomb is built on the site and he has a team of guys to constantly sing/ recite the Qur’an around the clock.

We had a lunch at a shopping mall with a huge indoor fountain and shot through to the public beach. This was strictly divided into two areas: single female + family area and separate area for single men.  I think if you were a single man travelling to this part of the world, you would be best off to turn gay, as you probably see more action that way.  Anyway, I was still quite surprised that in the female/ family section bikini's easily outnumbered one-piece outfits and there was even a g-string or two. 

Well I think that's enough detail.. it was all quite interesting from a cultural perspective.  I don't think I could live in this type of environment though - just far too conservative for my liking.

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Hijab Babes

Some video from today.. couldn't quite get this into the main post so here it is all on its own.

Pretty far out there from our New Zealand (or even French) perspective so it good to get this moment recorded for the numerous playback opportunities that will no doubt present themselves sometime in the future.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Dubai

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We've arrived.  Not a bad flight... the kids even managed a bit of shut eye.  The new terminal is substantially more modern than the terminal we used back in January. 
It was great to see Denise, Jeremy and kids.  We had good day in Dubai, shooting around some of the key spots.  The markets were a hit.. the indoor ski field at the shopping mall was something else.
Just as the sun was setting we headed home to Abu Dhabi for nice meal a few wines and lots of catch-up.
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Saturday, 13 December 2008

From the gate at CDG

What a mission.. I'll need to help myself to a few wines once we are aboard.  Either that or crack open the duty free.

We made it through Friday afternoon Paris traffic without running out of fuel.. however the McD's at the airport had run out of burgers and then fries. Have you ever heard of that.. so no fries or burgers - what else is there? 

The check-in was a mission.. there were two groups in front of us and both left the counter without boarding passes looking to go pay for excess luggage. I knew this was going to be hard but when the lady asked to weigh our carry on, I really thought that we were screwed.  I put on my best french and started to move the kids around like the 'ol "watch the moving box" street trick.  I managed to totally confuse her.. she ended up weighing our lightest carry-on three times (instead of the heavy ones) and completely missed my computer bag. The strap of this bag is starting to tear, well it does weight 20kg.

Anyway - we thankfully got through all the luggage checks with lots of smiles and merci's.

We were then confronted by the border patrol who insisted that we should have had carte de sejours for the three kids as well as ourselves.. who were we to say that the prefecture in Dordogne told us we didn't need them.  Anyway lots of phone calls and a few supervisors later then let us through.

Now we only had to get our carry past the final security check..  some people were being sent back to check luggage in.  Imagine the line of five of us each pulling a large carry on and getting through scanner. Henry and James can barely pull theirs let alone lift them.  Of course there was something in the one of bags that drew their interest.. but the guy picked out the wrong bag to check.. the light one with clothes.  I opened a few others pulling out various brocant items.. I think they got they picture and decided to wave this troublesome group through before the traffic to CDG started to back up on the A1.

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Phew.... I found the only electrical outlet (battery is stuffed remember) right next to a small pay area with a playstation for the kids.  Ange is off duty free shopping...  Boarding in 15 mins. Life is good. 

We are off!!!!

Thats it.. all bags packed except for my computer bag.  Checked luggage weighs in at around 108kg, our limit is 100kg but there are a few items we can ditch if we have to. I had better keep quiet about all the carry-on stuff in the hope that Emirates don't notice it.  

The car is pretty full.. it is just 27km to the airport and the dial tells me that I have 50km of diesel left.. The idea with euro lease is that you hand the car back empty, which in this case I'm interpreting quite literally.

We are going to arrive at the airport with hours to spare, our plane leaves at 9pm, which is 12pm local time Dubai, we arrive at 6:40am local and Denise has arranged a big day for us to explore the sights of Dubai.  No pressure or In her own words we just have "to suck it up".

Friday, 12 December 2008

One More Sleep

We have finally reached the end of this grand adventure.. our first as a family.  It's a big milestone and the significance is not lost on either Ange or I.  This adventure was an ambitious undertaking from its conception and it not over, not by a long way. We are still a long way from home, still have to get settled back into jobs and get the kids reestablished at school.

Then we have to start planning the next big adventure....

I don't think I can express all the powerful emotions that I've been experiencing these last few days: longing for home, desire to accomplish more, regret for missed opportunities and mostly a sense of satisfaction, individually and for the whole family. 

We did this...  it wasn't like bumming around Europe in our carefree early twenties.  This was uprooting a family and resettling in a foreign language and culture.  I'm very proud of this achievement, especially for the boys, who despite the school lunches were thrown far into the deep end both at school and socially.

Tomorrow evening we leave Charles de Gaulle bound for Dubai on route to Auckland.  It looks like all our remaining "checked" luggage will come in under the 100kg limit but this was a near thing as just today we stumbled upon a  brocante shop while on an afternoon stroll around the neighbourhood.

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We had a fantastic last meal tonight.  The owner of the apartment came over to drop off the deposit cheque and recommended a small cafe/ tavern a few blocks away.  It turned out to be just the type of restaurant we had been looking for: very french, not too flash and with a good selection.  Perhaps a year ago, I would have also had to include "with a menu suitable for our kids"  but these days they'll try anything, in fact tonight Henry had king prawns marinated in garlic and basil with basmati rice.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

la photo du jour

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The Folies Bergère is a Parisian music hall which opened on 2 May 1869 and was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s through the 1920s.

Shows featured elaborate costumes; the women's were frequently revealing, practically leaving them naked.

In 1926, Joséphine Baker, an African-American expatriate singer, dancer, and entertainer, became an overnight sensation at the Folies Bergère with her suggestive "banana dance", in which she wore a skirt made of bananas and little else.

la photo du jour

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A statue alongside rue Rambuteau, which was the first wide street to be built in medieval Paris, a concept introduced to improve hygiene and combat cholera. 

Excerpt from wikipedia: La rue Rambuteau est une rue du centre de Paris qui relie le quartier des Halles, dans le 1er arrondissement, au quartier du Marais dans le 4e. Elle longe le Forum des Halles et la façade nord du centre Georges-Pompidou, et marque la limite entre le 3e et le 4e. Elle occupe une place particulière dans l'histoire de Paris, car c'est la première rue percée à travers le centre médiéval, sous le règne de Louis-Philippe, quelques années avant les grands travaux haussmanniens.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tuesday Tune-up

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Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • A few weeks ago I was really looking forward to going home but now I realise how much I will regret leaving...  one year was just too short.  I'm just starting to get more confident with the language: people are asking me for directions and I can understand them.  However even if they mistake me for a local, I certainly don't sound like one.

  • Tonight Ange and I had some 'Foie Gras' as a pre-dinner treat/snack. I jokingly offered James a taste fully expecting a "no way" response.. he came and sat with us, scoffed a helping or two and was telling us about the different pâtés or terrines he had for lunch at school.  The verdict: this wasn't the "best he had tried but it was still pretty good".

  • It great to be in Paris even if the weather is crap.. it such a vibrant city.  Ange definitely regrets not having a extra suitcase or two.  I'm just happy to chill out with a coffee and watch the city walk by.  After a pretty rural existence over the last year, city life is a big change.  Our apartment is pretty cool, even a bit trendy. The owner works in the music industry and has a larger CD collection then my mum.. which is quite something.

  • This evening I managed to find a suitable 'patch' to get video posts online.  My new camera uses a different format and all the good software is on the other computer which is in a box somewhere bound for Auckland.  This notebook is a real pain in the arse and besides it is in constant demand as an entertainment device for young minds.

  • Driving around Paris has also been good, although it is not for the feint hearted.  The one way systems work well if you know which way the traffic is going but the roundabouts are a bit more challenging.

  • We still have quite a few things we would like to do before we leave on Friday.   I'm really dreading the "final pack" - it will be pretty scary.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Henry does Disney

I was intending to post a blog about our latest adventure at Paris Disney but Henry has blackmailed me into putting this clip online first.

He loved this video of his drive around the Autopia track. It is really quite cute.

Jack drove himself but didn't enjoy this ride: the pedal was too stiff dad.. For Jack it was an only blemish on an otherwise fantastic day. Post on Disney Pending.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Last Brocante

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One, well two if I'm truthful last shops at my beloved Brocante.  I dragged all the boys out to Porte de Vanves on Saturday morning to a place that I heard was pretty good.  It didn't disappoint and I could have stayed for hours.  Oh for currency exchange and baggage restrictions!! 
And then as luck would have it, a Brocante fair was on next to the place we took the boys to that afternoon for a play in the playground while I had my last shop at LIDL (stocking up on food essentials only).  Bliss, Don took the groceries home and I had a whole hour and a half to myself.  I was very restrained and the whole day only set us back 9 euros and less than 100 grams in luggage.  Job  done... for now

Sunday, 7 December 2008

la photo du jour

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Just around half a block from Place de la Republique you will find this cool mask/ costume / party shop. 

We had a good look through the window - too scary to go inside with wallets intact.

Nothing too special.. just had nice colours for an overdue photo post.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Back in Paris

Back in Paris.. we left behind a cold, wet and windy Normandie.  Even despite the weather we all had a great time in Normandie. It was well worth it!

All the sites and museums dedicated to the allied landings in 1944 were fascinating. I thought the kids would get bored but they were enthralled, it has more than made up for the week of school they would have missed. I'm still being bombarded by questions.  The German bunkers were a definite highlight as you may have guessed from Jack's posts.

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Finally resting up in the Paris apartment.

 

Today we hit the road and hardly stopped until we reached Paris.  We had deadlines: people to meet, rent to pay and all that stuff.

Ange was chief navigator through Paris, we sort of missed Plan A and hastily reverted to Plan B. This involved driving around l'Arc de Triomphe, from which we emerged unscathed and made it to our destination. Home for the next few days is right on the border of the 10th and 3rd arrondissement, we are only 10 metres from the Bonne Nouvelle metro stop.