Latest Posts:

Paris & Notre Dame

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

▲ Looking past a gargoyle from the Notre Dame tower across the Seine and Left Bank towards the Eiffel Tower

In 1996 I lived in Paris for the whole year and most days walked from our apartment on Rue Saint-Paul in the Marais across the Seine River to the Lonely Planet office near Place de la Contrescarpe. Today Google maps tells me my twice daily stroll was 1.6km in each direction, we didn’t have Google Maps in the mid-90s.

Usually I walked along Rue des Deux Ponts across Île Saint-Louis and then the Pont de la Tournelle across to the Left Bank – La Rive Gauche – the south side of the Seine. Quite often, however, I’d walk up Rue-Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile and cross to the Île de la Cité, walking along Quai de l’Archevêché right by the east end of Notre Dame. Then I’d take the Pont de l’Archevêché across to the Left Bank and continue.

▲ I even made the walk in snow a few times, here’s the east end of Notre Dame and La Fontaine de la Vierge in the snow.

◄ I explored the cathedral a few times during the year, on this occasion looking back at the spire from the towers. You can see the statues – there are 16 of them – below the spire which were removed for restoration just days before the fire.

Looking back at my diary for that year there are several accounts of that delightful walk. On 8 July 1996: It’s a great walk from our apartment to the office. I leave the Marais and cross the Seine via the Île St Louis, either in the middle passing the restaurants along Rue des Deux Ponts and then the Tour d’Argent, one of the most famous (and expensive) restaurants in Paris, or at the next bridge upstream, passing by the interesting Institut du Monde Arab building.

The two routes meet a block south and climb uphill along Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, past the metro stop to our office, hidden away down an alley at 71 bis. James Joyce used to live at the front, at 71, and a stone’s throw further south, just off the picturesque Place de la Contrescarpe, a sign proclaims a Hemingway residence. Sometimes I cross the Seine further west and walk by Notre Dame, pinching myself that I get to do this everyday this year. At the entrance to 71 bis I push my magnetic key card into the slot and then enter the couloir du mort or ‘death row’, a bizarre mirrored corridor which goes under the apartment building to pop up in the office part of the complex. It’s bright, modern, airy and very French.

Or a week later on 15 July: Wandering to work via a different route past Notre Dame I come up behind one of the EOL model shops on Boulevard St-Germain. The front is all amazingly intricate little model cars and airplanes, the back, which I’d not seen before, has all sorts of equally amazing little fantasy figures, warriors and soldiery. There are fairytale figures of five cm high half-naked witches walking pet dragons and neat little boxes of Viking barbarians labeled: ‘rape & pillage series’. Once I saw sets of little figures to inhabit an authentic model train set red light district, complete with prostitutes swinging their handbags and pimps leaning ominously against lamp posts.

Paris & Notre Dame

16 April 2019 | Places

▲ Looking past a gargoyle from the Notre Dame tower across the Seine and Left Bank towards the Eiffel Tower In 1996 I lived in Paris for the whole year and most days walked from our apartment on Rue Saint-Paul in the Marais across the Seine River to the Lonely Plan...

View Post

Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

15 April 2019 | Places

Head out to the north-west of the Australian state of Victoria and you come to a lot of flat farmland, dotted with a scatter of small towns – country towns in the Australian parlance. The area is known as the Mallee and part of it as the Wimmera. They’re regions that ...

View Post

Deep South – Four Seasons on Back Roads

3 April 2019 | Media

Books by Paul Theroux are always more readable when Mr Theroux is unhappy – grumpy even – and in Deep South he finds plenty to be annoyed about. It’s unusual for a Theroux book – a fact that he points out more than once – that it isn’t a linear (or circular) journey, ...

View Post

Melbourne’s Pink Lake

2 April 2019 | Places

Late last year I travelled by boat from Esperance in Western Australia out to Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago to see its famous (if little visited) pink Lake Hillier. Why did I bother, right now I can drive to Melbourne’s equally pink lake in 15 minutes or ...

View Post

Islands in Sydney Harbour

28 March 2019 | Places

My next book, Tony Wheeler’s Islands of Australia, is coming from the National Library in Canberra in October. Working on this title has certainly extended my knowledge about Australia’s 8222 islands and I’ve managed to visit quite a few more of them. I’ve reported re...

View Post

Cyprus Avenue, Cyprus Avenue again, Say Nothing

25 March 2019 | Media

▲ Back in 2015 I went to Belfast to see Van Morrison perform Cyprus Avenue – his wonderful  1968 track from Astral Weeks – on Cyprus Avenue. I’d already seen him run through Astral Weeks, that classic favourite, at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2009. In 2015 it w...

View Post

The 737 Max, Compromised Design, the FAA, déjà vu & perhaps 346 is the Magic Number

22 March 2019 | Transport

There’s a lot of talk about the causes of the two 737 Max crashes – Lion Air on 29 October 2018 (157 deaths) and Ethiopian Airlines on 10 March 2019 (189 deaths). Two thoughts and one case of déjà vu, that handy French expression which means ‘we’ve been here before.’ ...

View Post

More Aerial Views

16 March 2019 | Transport

Flying from Dubai to Baku in Azerbaijan late last year a wonderful view of Iran’s snow-capped Mt Damavand popped up in my Fly Dubai 737 window. ▲ A few months later (ie just a week or two ago), flying from London to Singapore there it was again, this time I was fly...

View Post

Empty Skies

15 March 2019 | Transport

Of course the skies are currently empty of Boeing 737 Max aircraft, but as a result of the recent India-Pakistan dispute, from Wednesday 27 February Pakistan closed its airspace to commercial flights. All those flights between Europe and South-East Asia – Bangkok, Kua...

View Post

Courtyard Blackbirds, Backyard Dragon

13 March 2019 | Living

We often have birds nesting in our courtyard in Australia, it’s totally enclosed so they’re safe from cats and other intruders. The last few years it has been blackbirds, which are an exotic, ie not a native Australian bird. This year they produced not one, but three ...

View Post