Monthly Archives: September 2011

Back to Australia!


That’s it, the time has come! Tomorrow we will be moving back from Hong Kong to Australia, not to Sydney where I normally live, but to Melbourne. It’s an exciting time for us, and we’re happy to settle in a new city. Of course, I have been to Melbourne many times for work, but never actually lived there. It was recently voted the most liveable city in the world, so it can’t be a bad choice, can it? :-) Having said that, I have no idea when my next post will go up. With having to find somewhere to live, organising all the paperwork, meeting with friends, and last but not least starting a new job, I think my blog may suffer a bit. Bear with me!

I’m currently reading “We need to talk about Kevin“, by Lionel Shriver. It’s a difficult topic (a school shooting in the US) but so far I’m loving it, as it is well written. It actually won the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction. I have been told the ending is both unexpected and striking, so I can’t wait. Of course I will write about it as soon as I can. The next three books on my list are “The Tiger” by John Vaillant, “The Colour of Death” by Michael Cordy, and – yes, I have never read it! – “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte.

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Jervis Bay, Australia


As I’m about to move back home to Australia, I’ve just realised that I haven’t posted that many photos of Australia. It’s such a beautiful place that one has to wonder why. I suppose it’s just because as with most places where you’ve lived, I actually don’t have too many pictures of home. I have a few interesting ones though, and I will post them in the near future. I have a Christmas trip planned to some wonderful places in Tasmania this year, so I will make sure to get some snaps. Meanwhile, here are a few of Jervis Bay, a three-hour drive South of Sydney. Jervis Bay is a very natural place with a huge national park and many wild animals. You are bound to see lots of kangaroos, parrots but also seals and dolphins. The sand is said to be the whitest in the world, and truth be told, it almost hurts the eyes on a sunny day. I love it there, as I am sure you would too!

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Visiting Pompeii, Italy


Every time I visit Pompeii near Naples, I can’t help being amazed. Okay, this is a little pretentious, I have actually only been twice to Pompeii. But it did amaze me every time. On the contrary to many other archeological sites, in Pompeii you get a real feel for what the city was like. The ashes and the pumice that fell from Mount Vesuvius onto Pompeii (4 to 6 metres of it!) have actually protected it – well, so to speak, because they destroyed it first! The walls of many houses are still there, the cobblestone streets, the shops, the prostitute houses, the public squares, ovens, bedrooms etc. The bodies of some inhabitants have even been “preserved” by the ash, creating a mould which can be used to recreate the people in the positions they died in. A little scary when you think of it. Pompeii is big – it is estimated that the population at the time it disappeared was around 20,000 people. I would have loved to be there at that time to experience the way of life of Pompeiians. If you are visiting the site, I would suggest taking a guide – you will get so much more out of it. And make sure you have enough time. As I said before, it is big. Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Flowers in Lorraine, France


It’s funny how sometimes you are so used to seeing things that your eyes just glaze over them. Going back to Lorraine in North East France last summer – which is where I grew up – I rode my bike everywhere and it allowed me to take the time to rediscover things. I remember that when I was little, the sides of the roads were covered with beautiful wild flowers. As I grew up, with the ever-increasing use of pesticides, they had all but disappeared. If anything, we had lost the variety of flowers that made the country so beautiful. I was therefore pleasantly surprised last summer to see that wild flowers seem to have made a come back, at least many of them, including poppies which, as kids, we were not allowed to cut because it meant it would rain the next day! I hope they are here to stay, and I also hope it means less chemicals are sprayed in the fields these days.

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Sacrifice, by S.J. Bolton


I love this one from S.J. Bolton. As usual coming from her, a gripping, gruesome story of a hidden clinic in the Shetland Islands trafficking premature babies and murdering innocent women. The closer you get to the truth, the more horrifying the story. Tora Hamilton is a newcomer on the Islands. She has followed her husband, who was born and grew up there before leaving behind a murky past. It all starts when Tora wants to bury a dead horse and… finds the mummified body of a woman. Little does she know that her property hosts very dark secrets. And in fact, it’s not just the property, but the islands themselves, and a well protected circle of murderers.  Of course, Tora has to find what happened, even it means working against the police, her boss and her own husband. Yes, it is not for the faint-hearted, but having said that, as in all Bolton novels, there are few graphic details, and it is more the topic and the atmosphere of the books that make them nail-biting. I really like that in Bolton. I know I’ve said it before, but I think she is a fantastic writer. I can’t wait for the next one!

I have already reviewed Bolton’s Now You See Me, The Awakening, and Blood Harvest. Sacrifice is Bolton’s first novel. You can hear her talking about the novel here:

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Ajaccio, Corsica, a jewel in the Mediterranean


I had been to Corsica before, but only to the Northern part of the island: Cap Corse, Calvi, Bastia, and the mountains inside the island, but never to the South. I spent a few hours in Ajaccio last summer and found it as beautiful as the rest of the island. Corsica is also called the “Isle of Beauty” and the name fits is very well. It has beaches and mountains, gorges and plains, bush and forests, rivers and smaller streams, beautifully protected villages, excellent food, nice people and a very interesting wildlife. What more do you want? Driving is usually challenging, especially if you don’t like narrow, winding roads, but the drive is always worth the effort. As for Ajaccio, it lives all things Napoleon, since he was born there in 1769, at the end of the Corsican resistance which was it incorporated into France (It previously belonged to the Republic of Genoa) . There are statues of Bonaparte everywhere, his name is on everything, you can visit the house where he was born, and even sit on the rocks he used to sit on while dreaming of wider horizons. But the town itself remains extremely pretty and very pleasant. Don’t hesitate to drop by!

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The Awakening, by S.J. Bolton


Another great crime novel by S.J. Bolton, with an unusual theme: Clara is a veterinary surgeon but lives as a recluse because she was disfigured in a childhood accident. She saves the life of a baby sleeping next to a venomous snake. And it’s only the first occurrence of snake biting or attacks in this little English village. A taipan (An extremely venomous snake from Australia) even appears on the scene. Where do all these snakes come from and who uses them to kill people? This is the mystery Clara has to solve, in company of a policeman and a weird snake expert. What Clara uncovers is a sinister ancient ritual, which makes use of snakes. This is a good novel, even if the ritual in question is somewhat far-fetched (whether true or not). Tension is good and characters interesting. Bolton has once again delivered a good thriller with a gothic theme and a fast-paced plot.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in August this year (I can’t believe I managed to see it the same year as it was released… I am usually years behind with films!) It was directed by Rupert Wyatt and stars James Franco. If I had paid attention to the title, I would have realised that the film is about the RISE of the planet of the apes, and not about the planet of the apes itself, as I so expected! In other words, it depicts how the world was taken over by the apes in the very early stage. It’s all about a researcher in San Francisco who thinks he has found a cure for Alzheimer but has in fact found a virus that makes apes very smart and kills people. Simple! The movie is okay, the story easy to follow and the apes are done well. Of course, it’s very black and white, but so are many movies these days. Enjoyable enough…

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Tunis – Carthage and Sidi Bou Said


Part of our trip to Europe last summer took us to Tunis – OK, it’s not Europe, but North Africa, I know, but it was still part of our “Europe” tour. The heat was terrible with temperatures up to 40 degrees, so it was a little hard at times. I had been to Tunisia a few times before but only once to Tunis and I realised with horror that it was thirty years ago! I spent a few weeks in Tunisia as a teen-ager helping to build a school in the desert, and the trip had started with a visit of the capital. It has changed, of course – it is more modern – but not that much, and it has retained its charm. I love the white houses, the thick vegetation and the mixed smells. We visited Carthage, even if there is not much of it left, but to think of what a city it was never ceases to amaze me. I keep hearing my Latin teacher when I was twelve years old, who loved to remind us that “Carthago delenda est” (“Carthage must be destroyed”), a sentence which Cato the Elder was supposed to finish all his speeches with. The Romans did end up capturing (and destroying) Punic Carthage in 146 BC  before making it one of the most important Roman cities until its final destruction by the Muslims in AD 698. The ruins of the city are in the wealthy suburbs of Tunis today, close to Sidi Bou Said, another touristy spot. Sidi Bou Said is full of white-washed houses with blue doors and windows. It has become a major tourist attraction and its main street is full of shops. It’s still cute but I think it has lost a lot of its charm. Here are a few pics for you to see…

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Sanctum


It was a quiet night at home last night and we watched Sanctum, a movie I had purchased in China a while ago. Sanctum is a thriller/action movie that came out in 2011. It was directed by Alister Grierson. It’s the story of an underwater caving expedition in Papua-New Guinea, which goes wrong (of course). Because of a tropical storm, the team finds themselves trapped in the abyss, with little air and a lot of water! Who will survive, that is the question… I got one right and one wrong! I love diving but can’t stand diving in caves because of a certain level of claustrophobia – I’ve even gone as far as doing caving (not underwater) for a week with friends, but hated it and won’t be doing it again in the near future. Being claustrophobic, I should have known better. Of course, I was a bit nervous during the movie, not really my thing, but it was part of the “fun” of watching it. It’s a 3-D movie, by the way. Having said that, I was disappointed. It’s an okay movie, but it lacks real tension, it’s a little cheesy at times, and all too easy towards the end (which you can predict from the start). If you’ve seen it, let me know what you think!

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