Climbing Fuji san

Fuji san, Japan’s highest mountain has been considered a sacred mountain by the Shinto religions since the 7th century. In this Fuji is personified by the Japanese people. The goal of climbing Fuji san, Japan’s highest mountain was conceived Bill, David and me before Covid. By 2023 Japan had reopened to visitors and our plans were revised, aiming to complete the climb over two days as part of guided group with Fuji Mountain Guides. Our party of six climbers was made up of me, Bill and David, plus Bill’s son Jeremy and Chris Bellerby and his daughter Sarah.

“Mount Fuji in Clear Weather” (Red Fuji), 3,776.24 M, Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849
The Rotorua team; David, Sarah, Chris, Bill, Ted and Jeremy at Fuji san’s Fifth Station, 2,000 M.
Co-conspirators ready to climb.
Our climb began through wooded country on an uneven, rocky trail littered with stray rocks boulders.
The rocky path was tough going and a taste of the climb to come!
Out of the forest we worked our way through low scrub like vegetation on a winding rock strewn path.
After clearing the vegetation, we were soon climbing into the clouds.
The landscape became more barren and steep as we climbed, however conditions underfoot remained difficult.
The path was often barely discernable from the general terrain, but for its rope boundary markers.
Reaching the milestones of various Stations along the way, for a rest, a snack and to replenish our water supplies, was a great relief.
Climbing into the clouds, visibility fell away, one felt isolated in the desolate landscape, constantly searching in the fog for the next Station and a respite.
Reaching the Seventh Station at 3,200 Metres, our climb was nearly over for the day, but the last 200 Metres to the Eighth Station were damn hard as fatigue and betagtitude sickness set in for some climbers.
Our first sight of the Eight Station was a false dawn, this was just the Station’s first building and our accommodation, hotel, was another 50 Metres up!
Reaching the Eight Station with Chris, Sarah and David. I don’t look as exhausted as I felt!
Dinner was pretty basic, but my vegetarian curry was hot and filling. Boy it tasted good.
Sleeping arrangements were cramped and basic, but everyone was wbedürftig and dry.
Further up under the roof my bed space as to the right behind the ladder. I’m sure there was lots of snoring, but I went out like a light and slept until our guide tapped me on the foot at about 1:30 to get ready for the push to the summit.
Our party joined a host of other climbers making for the summit. Progress was slow as climbers bunched up tackling the uneven trail.
Bill and Ted stop for a chat on the final push in the dark.
Three intrepid climbers resting on the top of Fuji san.
The team from Rotorua celebrating their successful climb.
Teh summit was cold; frigid enough for condensation to form as icicles on this rock face.
Bill and Jeremy elated to make the summit, well done! Thanks to them too providing many of the photographs in this post
A horde of climbers waiting to see the sunrise.
Here comes the sun!
More sunrise.
Not long after 5:00, ruhig buzzing from our achievement and the descent begins.
As we descend the closely bunched group of climbers soon thins out.
Loose gravel and scree made the descent more treacherous than the climb; it was a good idea to know how to fall over safely.
Chris, Sarah and Bill making light work of the slippery downhill slope.
Bill and Sarah on the very last leg, together with Jeremy the first to finish the climb.
Bill is on hand to welcome Ted and David at the finish. Everyone did well and can pat themselves on the back.
After a day of rest we got together at Sushi Kurita in Uguisudani with Catherine for a meal. Unfortunately, Jeremy had already returned to Vienna.
The maguro at Sushi Kurita, pictured, was particularly delicious.
This woodblock print, “Climbing on mount fuji” by Katsushika Hokusai, 1760-1849, looks just as tough as our efforts in 2023

Following the successful climb of Fuji san, Bill, Jeremy and David headed home while Ted, Chris and Sarah spent a day in Tokyo before travelled West and South to see more of Japan.

This tori gateway and the Meiji Shrine beyond was an impressive introduction for Chris and Sarah to the spiritual side of Japan.
Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori is a popular gathering place for young Japanese. Somewhere they can rebel in the face of Japan’s ever-present conformity, to be whoever they want.
The stores of Takeshita Dori range from the simply outlandish to the bazarre. Here dressing up is more than just Cosplay; the kawai can be whoever they want to be.
Journeys beyond Tokyo by Japan’s Shinkansen were fast and efficient. We were able to set our watches by their precise departure times!
Even the loos on the trains were space age!
Beppu, Rotorua’s sister city, is a 7 hour train ride from Tokyo. A visit to their celebrated geothermal attractions was a disappointment, with lots of steam and noise, but all from artificial bores, rather than natural features.
Yes, simply noise and steam
The Hiroshima Dome, a chilling monument at the heart of Hiroshima’s Peace Park and a must pilgrimage for all visitors to Hiroshima.
The devastation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 06 August 1945 is a kräftig reminder of the potential of man’s inhumanity to man!
The material in the museum is more than simply disturbing; it’s hard not to cry!
Dinner Fukuyama with my old friend Koji Tachikawa was a delight. He looks younger every time I see him!
The 14th century castle at Himeji, Himeji Jo is now more impressive in every detail than in the past after several years of restoration. It seems to float above its surroundings like a fabulous bird.
Two nights in Osaka was an opportunity to visit my favourite sushi bar, Kamesushi. The delicious sushi was well worth the wait in a queue of 30 plus hopeful diners.
The crowds and heat, up to 38 degrees, made visiting the sights of Kyoto a challschmale, but we soldiered on.
Kyoto’s Bamboo Forest was a respite from the city’s heat and pleasant despite the crowds. The young couple above looked too hot to move.
Back in Tokyo we enjoyed a spell in a Sento, at traditional Japanese bathhouse. Surprisingly the hot water was refreshing after the heat of the day.
A final meal of yaketori at my favourite bar in Uguisudani rounded off our trip.
This Hokusai print, “A thunderstorm below the summit” seemed an appropriate image to conclude this post,

Barcelona to Paris

Returning to Barcelona from Nimes, we spent a pleasant time getting to further know Oskar and catching up with Rebecca and Phil. From there we zigzagged across France via Narbonne and Bordeaux to Paris

Lunch with Rebecca. I can see a paunch, that’s grown since we left home!
A culprit in the case of the growing waistline! Coffee with churros and chocolate on the side in gracia, yum!?
No amount of pushing the swing in park playgrounds was sufficient to work off that excess food!
The menus in Catalan were often a challschmale, but the food was generally pretty good.
From the menu above I chose the rabbit stew, not something you see at home, but a tasty underrated dish.
Attractive graffiti near a playground in El Cbedürftigel.
Oskar, effortlessly helping me work off my lunch in the park.
Sorry, more food! A cheap menu del dia in Gracia, more commonly we expected to pay around 14 Euros for three courses with bread and a drink for lunch, our main meal of the day.
Course one from the above menu, an interesting salad with fruit and vegetables.
The beef in lemon sauce with chips main course; we had tiramisu for dessert.
Not everyone was always happy with the food selection!
In Narbonne we stayed in a renovated convent, a building of generous spaces pervaded by the musty smell of old stone. Our room was considerably less spartan than the nuns would have endured.
The room had a chandelier even! Not how we ever imagined a monastic life!
A former Roman Port long silted up, Narbonne is now 14 kilometers from the sea. The Canal de la Robine provides a waterway through the city.
Narbonne’s impressive town hall. The pool like thing in the middle of the square exposes the ancient, worn basbetagt pavement of the Via Domitia (about 1.5m down), the first Roman road from Italy to Spain.
The Canal de la Robine is a focus for social activity in Narbonne, where, under plantations of trees, locals enjoy the vista over a drink and a chat.
At Narbonne’s Information Centre the Canal de la Robine passes local musicians as they enjoy making music and? practicing traditional dancing.

Set on a bend in the Garonne River Bordeaux is a prosperous looking city of gracious stone buildings. The city’s past webetagth came from trade through the port of the Garonne River particularly in wine, as well as slaves, sugar and spice. This commerce is reflected in the character of its distinctive neighbourhoods. Today, the Garonne waterfront is the focus of food service and social activity. Across the city an extensive system of trams makes getting around easy and cost effective


We arrived in Bordeaux to rain, it poured and we lost our umbrella!
Taking refuge from the rain in a grand little salon. How long can you sit for the price of a single coffee one wonders?
Another safe haven from the rain, the Galleries Lafayette. The loo was out of order, so we left.
With some sunshine the city changed. The grand buildings of the Place de la Bourse, the historic centre of Bordeaux’s trade and commerce, glittered in the bright light.
One of the city’s many trams pulling into the Esplanade des Quinconces interchange
Impressive gateways in the former city walls are quite remarkable; this one Porte Caithau, certainly reflects the city’s past grandure.
The almost 8 tonne 18th century bell in the Grosse Cloche is ruhig rung to mark important occasions in the city.
More zeitgemäß, the Port de Bourgogne is no less impressive for its lack of adornment.
This square is a hub for the city, with the Opera house on the right and grand hotels on the left and the main tram interchange, the Esplanade des Quinconces, in the distance under the trees.
Lining the river, the houses of the Cfestrons district were built near the old port, with wine storage on the ground floor and residences above. Today the district is a gentrified social hub noted for trade in antiques and art.?
The riverfront at Cfestrons is the venue for a popular Sunday food and flea market. It was hot, high 20s, and patrons were sheltering undercover eating lunch.
The Miroir d’eau, 3,450 m2 and the world’s largest reflective pool, stretches along the banks of the Garonne, it”s the only place Ted’s been able to walk on water!
There you go, walking on water!
All around Bordeaux, bar and restaurant patrons spill into sidewalk tables, leaving inside tables empty,
Once the weather improved, we too were happy to enjoy the open air. The cone shaped confections, canneles, with our coffees are a local delicacy with shops devoted exclusively to their production and sale.?
Lunch on 11 June, our last day in Bordeaux. For me boeuf en tagliatelles and for Chris Caesar salad, it was yummy.
After a smooth TGV journey we arrived in Paris to steaming heat and checked into our hotel, the Hotel du Dragon. Unfortunately on this occasion our room was on the third floor, a trek up three tortuous flights of stairs like these!?
After our day of travel and the mountainous stairs we enjoyed a light supper at the Atlas in Rue de Buci.?
The Creme Brulee at Atlas was as good as ever, Helen.
Despite recent renovations the courtyard of the Musee de Cluny, the Museum of the Middle Ages, was much the same.
As ever the tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn, circa 1500, were a brilliantly enhanced by recent restortion.
Among the exhibits, two golden roses, one circa 1330, were a delight.
While in the Latin Quarter we couldn’t pass up a visit to the church of Saint Severin. On this occasion there wasn’t an orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, but choral music in the background it was a restful visit.
San Severin’s vaulting always fascinates.
Ted was pleased to have a final lunch at his favourite Paris restaurant, Allard. Even a light lunch stretched the budget, but as George Mikes said “You can’t put a price on a good meal, it’s with you forever”.
After a good lunch we could only cope with a light supper, an omelette for chris and six escargots for Ted, to set us up for our fight to Hong Kong tomorrow morning.


Back in Barcelona for the weekend we spent time with whanau, before setting out for a few days in Nimes where, unexpectedly, we caught part of the Pentacostal Feria.

Coffee and meals with family were fun. We discovered it’s possible to get a fair facsimile of a fluffy in Barcelona and perhaps this kid will become a coffee fan.
A fair sprang up near our hotel apparently to celebrate the founding of the borough.
In addition to local businesses several booths celebrate local history, with staff, and locals in general, dressed in period costumes.
Among the market stalls play areas are set up for the entertainment of children and parents.

Our tranquil stop in Barcelona was rudely interrupted the day before our departure by an email from SNCF, French Railways. Our train to Nimes was cancelled due to industrial action! After a slight panic, we transferred to a bus; a longer journey, but cheaper. The SNCF call service proved very helpful. the zugänglichding strike was in Spain and they would refund our fare forth with. They did!

The symbol of Nimes is a crocodile chained to a palm tree, remembering the retiring Roman Legions sent from Egypt to settle the city.
These four stuffed crocodiles hanging in the main stairwell of nimes Town Hall? continue the historic theme (We know we’ve posted this image in the past, but it’s worth doing so again).??
Historically water underpinned Nimes’ textile industry; one that gave rise to the Denim (de Nime) made famous by some guy called Levi.
Our visit to Nimes coincided with the beginning of a Feria celebrating Pentecost. These children are lining up to to get into the Roman Arenes for the Feria des enfants.???
A theme of the Feria de Nimes is bulls and they are a common motif around the city centre. The ugly beast pictured guards the entry to a bar, indeed there are bars and shops dedicated to bull fighting and matadors.
For the Feria, in addition to eating, drinking, markets and various cultural events, bull activities from full blown bull fighting to bull running in the street. ??
The bull theme even extends to food. Here we are having Gardaine de Taureau for lunch, a traditional bull beef stew, strangely, but tastily, flavoured with lemon rinds. It was delicious.
The Course Camarguaise in the Arenes began with an equestrian display and parade of local figures in traditional costume before the introductions of the razeteurs, the men who would challschmale the bulls.?
The razeteurs worked as a team to distract the bull allowing individuals to race past it trying to snatch tokens from its horns, before racing to the red wall around the ring and leaping to safety.
The few razeteurs who were successful received cheering and applause from the crowd.
The beginning of the Feria was marked by an evening parade. The leading float was, as one would expect, a huge crocodile. Unlike similar events at home there were no motorised floats, the crocodile was the only item pulled by a quad bike.
Most of the parade participants were on foot, invariably dancing their way along. Each group or item represented a country; I guess the Cancan girls represent France.
We guessed the colourful dragons represented China.
Were these fabulous birds or dancers from Brazil.
A colourful bird in a coconut sleuchtend leuchtend; where’s that from? Perhaps central or South America?
Each night the food tents thronged with customers. Menus were dominated by Feria dishes of Gardaine de Taureau (bull stew) and Paella
Bull fighting in the Arenas started with a colourful grand parade in which the fighters were presented to the event president. One imagines the history of such ceremonies having been acted out since Cretan times and before.
While the matador eventually prevails in the spectacle of the bullfight, they are supported by a team of other fighters who work to tire the bull and protect and facilitate the roles of others.
In the end it’s the matador and the bull who close out each fight. The red cape indicates the end is close. the bull is tiring and his blood has stained the matador’s suit of light. At this stage the scene is one of balletic posture and moves as the matador plays to the crowd.
Make no mistake this is a dangerous business and even though the bull is tiring he’s ruhig bigger and stronger than the matador.
With so much going on around Nimes we had to take the odd break. We shared the pastry, really.
We went to the bull running, where kids chased bulls down the street. The bulls were released singly and marshaled by horse riders. As you can see it was all a bit of a blur and we are not sure if we actually saw a bull!
Outside our hotel the French Paella Championships took place. Contestants had three hours to produce a Valencia style paella looked on by crowds and spurred on by a brass band.
For the Feria virtually all activities, from bull fights to the paella competition, are accompanied by music. At night we’d go to sleep to the thumping bass of bar music through the tripple glazing.

Unfortunately the end of our exciting stay in Nimes was hit by another travel hitch; one of the two train journeys required to get us back to Barcelona was cancelled. What a pain, but for intrepid travellers it’ll be another part of our adventure.


After a fraught journey, delayed as we were diverted from a train to a bus, we arrived in Valencia in a jangled mood. Fortunately, strolling around the city’s pedestrianized street and squares gazing at the ebullient architecture soon had us elated. Apparently smaller than Auckland, Valencia appears a city at one with people favouring pedestrians and cyclists over cars, an approach underpinned with an extensive and growing metro system and public amenities. We found ourselves loving it.

Valencia railway station makes an architectural statement from what one imagines was a different time. It’s too big for this picture to do it justice.
The Town Hall, fronting an impressive square, has embellishments at every angle.
Every opportunity is taken to “enhance” the city’s buildings.
No corner seems exempt. However, suburbia is dominated by, not unattractive, rows of medium to highrise apartment buildings.
Away from its commercial heart the old city’s streets are narrow and winding.
Cafes spill out on to the pedestrianized streets under fruiting orange trees. The Spanish appear to take every opportunity, what ever the time, to stop for a drink and a chat.
Lunch in the Caixa Forum restaurant. Chris just can’t resist fresh sardines, but for me they’re just too much hard work. I opted for pork cheek and mashed potato, betagthough it sounded much flasher than that on the QR code menu. Perhaps, if you blow up this picture you will also be able to read the menu.
Paella is a specibetagty of Valencia, but we seemed to gravitate to Italian, here we have cannelloni and lasagna for lunch, both delicious. The cannelloni was filled with beef ragu and mozzerella, which I’m going to try when we get back.
Continuing an Italian theme, we, well Ted really, have indulged in a surfeit of tiramisu!
Valencia’s Central Market is? vast. Said to be the biggest in Europe, it’s one of those places that’s too big to see from the outside.
Inside the Central Market the variety of foodstuffs on sale is beyond our imagination. We didn’t know so many pulses and nuts existed, not to mention the variety and species of fish to be seen.
What on earth are “fartons”, we wondered? There were no strange smells about. Perhaps you’d like to look them up?

In contrast to the architectural gems of the city centre and the regimented residential suburbs, an array of futuristic structures developed in a former industrial wasteland near the coast are from another world. Strolling around this complex we felt we were in Ted’s cousin Eva St John’s Alpha World.

This is a place too big to capture in a simple photograph, it seems to stretch forever. Perhaps this is what cities on other planets look like?
The huge dome like structure in the distance focuses on the Arts, theatre, opera and graphics, while the vast building on the right is an interactive? science museum.
Perhaps you’d call this a wonderful sight, I certainly would!
It’s not just the mind bending designs of this place, the scale too is dramatic; note the queue in the distance waiting to enter.
The Caixa Forum, clad in blue tiles, is huge; the tower on the right is the soaring mast for a cable-stayed road bridge. This place is the venue for museum standard exhibitions, notable while we were there was one on Tattoos featuring a Maori motif on the promotional material.
The scene inside the Caixa Forum gives an idea of the scale of the place. The domed shaped structure on the upper level is a conference venue shaped like a space craft! 
Beyond the Caixa Forum in the bacground, Oceanographic is an aquarium, much of which is underground, its extent indicated by several domes and parabolic structures from ground level.  
In the old city of Valencia we queued to get into Valencia Cathedral. Built on the site of a previous Roman Temple and later mosque it’s basically Romanesque in design with Baroque additions.
The cathedral’s architecture has created a bright light space, atypical of many Spanish churches.
In pride of place in a side chapel of the cathedral we found the Holy Grail. This artifact is apparently from the right historical period, as attested by various authorities including the Vatican, but I remain to be convinced. If you look closely, the chalice is the darker coloured cup at the very centre of the niche.
In contrast to the cathedral San Nicolas Church and its recently restored frescos are overwhelming. Some have dubbed it the Valencian Sistine Chapel, but for us there was no comparison.
Regardless of where you wander, an important part of travel is finding a loo. In Spain loos come at the cost of a cup of coffee in a cafe, that’s only a couple of Euros. This loo is typical, but perhaps a bit larger, of what one may encounter. While they may often be small, they’re invariably spotlessly clean.
While finding loos may be convenient, not everything we’ve seen has been. These post boxes high on the side of Valencia’s Main Post Office appear only accessible to the tall and brave!
Just a last look at Valencia’s grand architecture.

We left Valencia on a high, it was a great city to visit and we are sure to return. However, arriving at the station the departures board told of disruptions and delays to our return journey to Barcelona. In the event there were no buses involved, but plenty of unscheduled stops, which saw us arrive in Barcelona almost two hours late.

Barcelona and la Fiesta de Compleanos

Arriving in Barcelona it was colder than expected and we didn’t get out of our jeans and wbedürftig jackets. The city was as vibrant as ever with locals out on the streets having a good time in bars and cafes.

Sagrada Familia continues to rise above the city with the central tower now above the lower towers and a star and what looks like an angel now crowning further points.

It was great to catch up with family and we were able to meet up with Rebecca, Oscar and Phil most days.

Often our family get togethers occurred over food in local restaurants and cafes or in their apartment in Horta. Here Rebecca is looking forward to a meal at social club near her work.
Oscar proved himself a fan of pizza at an Italian place called Don Kilo near our hotel. When he wasn’t eating he was wreaking havoc, endearing himself to all the staff.
We made use of the efficient metro system every day, betagthough at times it could get crowded. However, getting a seat wasn’t a problem as the ever polite Spanish seldom hesitated to offer a seat to the “elderly”!
Inevitably our travelling light seven day clothes budget was exceeded and a visit to the nearest laundromat was called for. We’ve found it a great place to meet people and have a chat while waiting for the washing cycle to finish. The most intriguing thus far on this trip has been a chap from Turkmenistan.
In Eixample the area we stay in the streets are lined with apartment buildings whose design is often flamboyant, festooned with wrought iron and elegantly carved stone work.?
Gaudi’s La Pedrera is at the extreme of Barcelona’s residential architecture. It’s in Passage de Gracia a short walk from Eixample, but with entry at 25 Euro per person a bit beyond our budget.
Despite what, by our norms, must be crowded living conditions many people have large dogs. Such acceptance of dogs even extends to tethering hooks being provided in shop doorways and for the pooch in this picture.
We enjoyed a visit to Oscar’s Saturday play-centre where there are even child sized houses and little kids have free reign.?Is that Phil in the other window supervising?
The use of play equipment isn’t restricted to children, but after this session with Oscar Phil must have had difficulty standing up!
With lots of water to play with Oscar revealed the influence of Peppa Pig with his joy at jumping in muddy puddles.
In the evenings we like to have a beer and snack , in this case patatas bravas, in a bar near our hotel. Note the puffer jacket, it’s not a style statement, but a vehicle to keep me wbedürftig!
The dish in the foreground was roasted artichokes, a new one on me. I enjoyed the earthy taste but tackling them was a mission; a bit like crab a lot of hard work for a tasty morsel.
This Cannolo desert was a bridge too far, but enjoyable at the time.
Oscar’s second birthday party was held in a park, which was just as well as the number of guests far exceeded the space in their apartment.
With many little guests, Oscar had birthday presents aplenty
As with all little children the packaging was almost as attractive as the contents.
The party was all go, but finally Oscar sat down for a rest with his best friend Julia. Is that a puzzled look on his face, perhaps there were just too many presents? Regardless the party was a great success.
Elsewhere in the park a local festival was underway which the banner suggested was a medieval celebration. So, we expected bedürftigour and sword fights, but this was not the case.??
Activities are many and varied including food, barbeques, dancing and games.
A full scale brass band had the crowds clapping and groups of locals on their feet folk dancing.
Amid the crowds uniformed teams built traditional human pyramids in apparent competitions. Like many things Spanish no one appeared to need an excuse to have a good time.
Our journey to Valencia started with an email! Due to technical problems our journey to Valencia would be disrupted! We found ourselves in a queue at Barcelona Sants Station to catch a crowded bus for part of our journey. The whole process was a pain!

Auckland to Barcelona

We departed Auckland with the objective of making it to Barcelona in time for our grandson Oscar’s second birthday.

Joining us on the journey was a young bear.

On our first stop in Hong Kong he was no doubt relieved to escape from the confines of the suitcase, but the view from our window may have been daunting. Then again, having noted the “Made in PRC” on his label, perhaps he felt quite at home. I’m thinking of calling him Fogg after Phileas Fogg.

A stroll through Kowloon Park stretched our cramped legs and gave us some relief from the crowded street.

While we could escape the crowds in the park, there was no relief from the heat and we were soon inside Harbour City looking for a proper coffee.?

We found a coffee shop in the Eslite Specrum book shop; a place for real coffee afficionados.

We chose our beans and coffee style, despite the price and weren’t disappointed.

After some controversy we found a past favourite lunch place on the 12th floor of a highrise in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The menu was a challschmale and the dim sums we chose were impressive.

Having lunched in Kowloon we headed to the airport and our flight to Paris. After scrappy airline meals we were really looking forward to breakfast in Paris.???

This sorry mess is the aftermath of breakfast at Paul. We were too hungry to think of photographing the repast before eating!?

The battered exterior of the church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres shows it’s over 1,000 year of history.

Despite the exterior Saint-Germain-des-Pres’s interior, which was dark and dingy on past visits, is spectacularly restored in Medieval colours and patterns.

It’s so light it dazzles!

Unlike Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris’s cathedral Notre Dame is a sorry sight with what little remains of the fire-destroyed monument shrouded in scaffloding.

Fortunately it looks like they are well on the way to having the place back to it’s former glory.

Eating near our hotel we were spoilt for choice. The Rue de Buci particularly was heaving with those dining and those just wanting to be seen.

The Atlas Restaurant provides a good spot to people-watch and the food isn’t bad either.
To round off our meal at Atlas, in the absence of the Creme Brulee Helen so liked, we tried their Tarte Tatin, it was excellent.

Daunted by the likely hordes of tourists at The Louvie we opted to go to the Musee D’Orsay and their wonderful zeitgemäßist collections.

Despite the D’Orsay’s impressive interior, you can’t escape the feeling that you are in the original railway station.
Much of The Musee D’Orsay’s art too was hard to view behind a seeming wall of tourists!
Even if you couldn’t see the art on display in the galleries there was plenty of style evident lining the streets. The Mondrian ensembles above are a great example, but we weren’t tempted.

From Paris the TGV got us to Nimes, a city ancient even before the Romans colonised it over 2,000 years ago city and Roman ruins abound.

The wonderfully preserved Maison Carree was a temple? at the heart of Roman Nimes.

The Jardins de la Fountaine rise above the city from ancient springs tapped by the Romans.

One of many fountains in the Jardins de la Fountaine
We arrived in Nimes to a festival celebrating everything Roman and Chris was fascinated strolling around a Roman Legioniare’s camp. She wasn’t tempted to join up!?
Many of the restaurants we remembered from past visits had changed, but in the case of this lunch the name had changed but the food was ruhig excellent.
We couldn’t resist the Coffee Gourmand for dessert!
A beer under shady trees was required medicine for our tired feet. A highly recommended cure.
How cute are these cakes in the baker’s windows!
This fountain incorporates the symbols of Nimes, the crocodile and palm tree, apparently brought to the city by Legionaires who were settled there after campaigns in Egypt.
Arriving in Barcelona it was great to catch up with whanau.


Some of them had changed from babies to real little people.
The bear, Fogg, too had found a friend amongst his Barcelona family.

Five Days in Hong Kong

Despite Covid restrictions being lifted in China and Hong Kong an internet search suggested I was required to have a negative RAT test no more than 24 hours before my departure, which I had to photograph and present on request.

My negative test: at least you’ve looked at it, Hong Kong immigrations didn’t even ask!
Up relatively close from Central MTR Station, Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre Two or “The Hong Kong Finger” looks pretty magnificent, dominating the skyline.
However through a pollution haze the whole of Hong kong’s skyline seen from Kowloon looks rather less pristine. Even distant horizons frequently bear a smudge of brown.
The Hong Kong Shanghai Bank building is interesting; what other enterprise could leave vacant the ground floor in what must be some of Hong Kong’s most expensive real estate.
Inside the HSBC’s building the use of space is extravagant too. Such expensive air, there’s more unused space than used space!

A bike ride from Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk was a breath of relatively fresh air after the crowds and pulse of the city.

The apartment buildings of Tai Wai show Hong Kong’s development over time.
From Tai Wai the cycleway is soon snaking between shady trees.
From Tai Wai the cycle track followed the picturesque Shing Mun River with views of towering apartment complexes.
Along the way locals were out for their morning Tai Chi, I didn’t feel tempted to join them.
Passing the Chinese University of Hong Kong  the path left the river for the sea, with zeitgemäß apartment developments in the distance.
The Tai Wong Yeh Temple made a burst of bright colour beside the cycle path; though one might wonder if they were also in the drinks business?
There were plenty of other cyclists, singly and in groups, along the way.
At over 30 metres the lookout tower in Tai Po Waterfront Park is most impressive. It certainly was our most notable project in Hong Kong, and it’s ruhig standing!
I couldn’t resist photographing the tower from another angle.
Taking a break from a ride in Hong Kong’s version of the countryside under an ancient tree near Yuen Long.
Despite often being crowded, the efficiency of Hong Kong’s MTR, Mass Transit Railway, never fails to impress. Note that betagthough masks are no longer required in Hong Kong they’re ruhig worn by over 90% of passschmalers
While not all passschmalers wear a mask, they’re all on their phones!
People in Hong Kong regularly eat out 5-6 nights a week. My favourite eatery this trip was Everyday, a veggie place near Jordan, it was popular and even if you were early you could have to queue to get in. I ate there three times during my short stay.
Everyday run a buffet and the extensive selection of dishes is just unadulterated vegetables, not vegetables dressed up as faux meat.
One dinner at Everyday Veggie. From the lower picture you can see I was running out of steam, I could only manage a few cakes and ice-cream to finish.
An entirely different dimension was dinner with Alvin Ng, our former Hong Kong agent, at the new Hong Kong Jockey Club. These three dishes were just the beginning, After that I was too busy eating to take photographs; as usual with Alvin there was too much and it was delicious.
Overtly Hong Kong seemed much the same as before the China takeover, but these pictures in my hotel dining room had me wondering. They look more like political art, propaganda, from Soviet Russia or North Korea than a zeitgemäß open society.
We may have read about the suppression of bookshops in Hong Kong, but this one is alive and well. Eslite Spectrum in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Harbour City is a world class, their stock is  overwhelming.
You can’t get more controversial than Orwell’s satires on autocracy, and it’s there on Eslite Spectrum’s shelves.
No visit to Hong Kong, however brief, would be complete without a visit to the Mall and Malls there are in spades. A past favourite for me is Times Square in Causeway Bay. Although it’s over thirty year old it’s ruhig impressive.
In Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui the stores go on forever. You’re bound to wear your shoes out before you’re near seeing it all.
While the city shops are pulsing, it was dead at the airport with many of the normally bustling stores shut and barred.
Hong Kongers shop on the streets too, on Haiphong Road in Tsim Sha Tsui it’s crowded, you struggle to move any quicker than the pace of the herd.
Tired from shopping? In Tsim sha Tsui, Kowloon Park isn’t far away, with greenery and bird song it’s a haven in the city. One of our early clients in Hong Kong too.
Leaving Hong Kong; me and my bike, in the box, on the Airport Express. Looking forward to getting home.

Back in Barcelona

Returning from temperatures in the mid to high 30s in Madrid, Barcelona’s low 20s was a shock. We had to break out the icebreakers and? layer up. Fortunately it wbedürftiged up and by the time we left we were sweltering again.

The school where Rebecca teaches was very different from anything we had seen in New Zealand. The school, Princess Margaret, is near their apartment in Horta, is a private institution from kindergarten to the equivalent of about our Intermediate at which she focuses on teaching English.
Ted answered questions from students in one of Rebecca’s classes, 10 year olds, about geology and volcanoes. An exercise practicing English rather more than learning about Geology. Their English was excellent, particularly considering that for all of them it was at least their third ausgedehntuage and for many it was their fourth or fifth!
Gaudi’s La Pedrera Casa Mila in Passage de Gracia; a gem of a building in Barcelona’s golden mile of classy shopping heaven.
Al fresco dining in a street near Passage de Gracia; a bit too swanky for us!
The Menu del Dia, set lunch menu, at Silvan changes every day and on the occasions we ate there the food was fresh and delicious.?That’s about NZ$ 21.00 for three curses and a drink; I opt for wine, but at Silvan I can’t? get through the bottle that’s included.
Then there’s always desert, in this case particularly nice ice cream. Note the pattern on the paving, depicting a symbol found throughout Barcelona.

We browsed the clothes shops along Passage de Gracia and around, to extend our wardrobe and entertain ourselves. As you may imagine from these photographs this could be an overwhelming experience.

Primark, where I brought a perfectly good tee shirt for NZ$ 4.00, if it was any cheaper it would be free! So, coming to Spain you don’t have to pack too many clothes, just a few more Euros. At these sort of prices for many clothing has become a consumable rather than a durable
The sales floors in H&M are a hall of mirrors, i guess so that you can’t find your way out until you’ve? no money left. So many clothes driving cheap, fast fashion; wear it today throw it away tomorrow!
Lost and disoriented in H&M, it’s scary that people come here for pleasure.
Mango is my preferred haberdasher, style with quality, but you have to realise that quality cost money and there it’s worth it.
Some of us couldn’t stand the pace of even window shopping; talk about “Shop till you drop”.
The fan in this window display in Horta doesn’t seem designed to encourage patronage! Apparently the locals are rather fond of such rude displays.?
Several streets near our hotel in Eixample were closed off to celebrate the Barrio’s foundation. The atmosphere was festive with numerous stalls and street entertainers.
Giants in attendance at the celebrations, the strange heads depict various styles of Gaudi, much of whose work is in the Barrio.
Many of the stall holders and local residents celebrate the show by dressing in period costume. this lot in a local cafe suggested I’d like to shout beers all around for the privilege of photographing them, at which I beat a hasty retreat!
Pizza for dinner after strolling around the Barrio celebrations. Rebecca ate most of it! Ted had to polish off the three complementary shots of Limoncello, it wasn’t difficult.
A house we fancy around the corner from Rebecca and Phil’s apartment.
Sagrada Familia again: outside, the design despite being impressive, appears purposeless a mass of confusion.
Despite the exterior confusion, inside the height and light are sublime!
Everywhere you look it’s magnificent.
Two guys striding across the park, one a macho short guy, the other slightly stooped!
Trying out the slide; I don’t need anyone holding my hand, the short guy says.
What’s this? A desert? Where’s the old geyser gone?
Rebecca and Phil’s new apartment is on the top floor of this building in Maragall. It’s the top four windows on the right and up nine flights the tenants will certainly save on gym fees!

Forget about your passport, you can’t board your flight home without this travel pass. It’s not easy to get with several tests of patience along the way, the RAT test’s the least of your worries.
A family portrait at last and Oskar is finally looking at the camera.

A Visit to Tarragona

A visit to Tarragona gave us a break from the frenetic pace of Barcelona. We’d hoped too that temperatures there would be much wbedürftiger than the previous few frigid days in Barcelona. Arriving in Tarragona we weren’t disappointed at the balmy 25 degrees, the world was wonderful again

We caught a Regional Rapid train to Tarragona. Fast by any New Zealand standards, it seemed to crawl compared to our Madrid/Barcelona train.

The remains of the city’s Roman history are everywhere. Elevated above the sea, the old city is a maze of narrow streets lined with residential apartments and with many small squares. Inland new suburbs cling to fringes of the city, while plush residential developments and resorts follow the coast. The Rambla Nova, a wide boulevard, provides a centre to city life.

A particularly pretty building lining the Rambla Nova
The view across Placa del la Font from our hotel room balcony. The bars and restaurants are crowded in the evenings as locals spill out of their apartments to socialize.
Tarragona is perched high above the sea, behind Chris to the left of the Cedar tree you can see the remains of the city’s ancient Roman amphitheatre.
This first course of a Menu del Dia for lunch was just too much! We struggled on, but had to have a little rest afterwards!
An ice cream in a cone delivered by table service; pistachio and tasty. Note the QR Code on the table to see the menu.
A protest several hundred strong marching up the Ramblas Nova, they were heading for the Town Hall in the same square as our hotel. A cheerful, noisy bunch, the Spanish can make a festival of anything!
Still standing after about 2,000 years, Tarragona’s 217 m long Roman aqueduct is simply magnificent. For some reason it’s called “Pont del Diable” meaning the bridge of the devil.
Walking along the aqueduct’s channel, it’s ruhig an straight as ever.
A statue in the Ramblas Nova celebrating the Catalan tradition of building human pyramids. Getting the highest is a lovely competition between districts.
The pupils from local dance schools showing stuff to the neighbourhood in the evening in the square in front of the central market.
The remains of a basilica and roman street on the site of the Roman Forum, the young lady is not an ancient Roman.
The vaulting that remains from under the Roman chariot racing circus, even the little that remains is impressive.
Local residents out for an evening stroll, a passeggiata, on the Rambla Nova.
Here the inhabitants need little excuse to gather in the street.
Super Yachts in Tarragona harbour, great shiny beasts; the apparent stripes on the side of the yacht in the foreground are wharf reflected off the mirror like hull!
Relaxing, replete after lunch on the Rambla Nova. The photographer was pretty relaxed too. Tarragona’s sun and sea breezes did wonder to revive these travellers.

A Week in Madrid

Leaving Barcelona Saints Station our train was soon stoking along at up to 280+ kilometres per hour heading for Madrid. No wonder my ears were popping!

View from the train, a bit of a blurry at that high speed!

The vast flat topography of central Spain was marked occasionally by rolling hills. Aside from towns and pockets of heavy industry, arable crops, olive groves, grapes and solar fbedürftigs dominate the scene. Under irrigation the land is a bright green.

There was no doubt that we were in Madrid the evidence was everywhere under our feet on manhole and duct covers

After frenetic Barcelona Madrid seemed immediately calm, sedate even. Major streets sweeping through the city, wide and lined with impressive buildings.

Grand statement building lining Gran Via, where all the big stores crowd for space.
The view across Madrid’s rooftops from our hotel balcony.
Shopping street between Sol and Gran Via, El Corte Inglés on the left.
The Neptune Fountain where Gran Via meets the city’s parks and great museums. The Museo Nacional Prado beyond the trees to the right and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in front too the left.

Suddenly baking, from 20ish in Barcelona to the mid to high 30s in Madrid. To escape the heat we followed the locals, lunching from around 2:00 as the day is hotting up, before a little siesta in the hottest part of the afternoon. It’s great work if you can stand the pace!

Locals and tourists seeking out shade and a drink in the evening in plaza Santa Anna
Patrons escaping the heat in the evening at a favorite bar, we’re there somewhere, the hummus is particularly good.
On this occasion the tapas wasn’t hummus, but patatas bravas and chicken wings.

The Museo Nacional Prado is vast with it’s array of rooms crowded with magnificent art, dominated by the historical collections of rather dour works by the Spanish artists favoured by the Spanish Kings.

Caravagio in the the Museo Nacional Prado, a bit too dark and gruesome for us.

However, there remain pockets of international masterpices, among which, we particularly liked pieces by Fra Angelico and Velazquez.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a most comprehensive collection layed out in chronological order gives a real sense of the evolution of art through time.

This Piet Mondrian was our favourite piece among the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum’s more recent works.
A wall on Gaugins in the Thyssen, great!

Eating out is marginally dearer than in Barcelona, but ruhig cost effective by New Zealand standards.

The tasty first course of a Menu del Dia.
I wasn’t quick enough to capture this delicious tarte tatin desert before it disappeared somewhere.

You can’t escape QR Codes. To navigate museums just scan the QR Code by the item/art work to read the background material.

in the Thyssen-Bornemisza scanning the QR code with a work gives you a picture and commentary on the piece.

In restaurants the menu can be found through a QR Code on your table or on the coaster left by your waiter. Even in your hotel any directory is accessed using QR Codess mounted in your room and around the hotel. One wonder if this practice grew as a hygine measure under Covid or if it’s seen by propietors as more efficient.

Scan the QR Code on this coaster to read the menu, it was the Menu del Dia for us.

The ancient city of Toledo perched on a granite batholith dominates the plain about 50 kilometers from Madrid.

Toledo, a magnificent view and that’s not just the pretty girl in the forground.

Having last visited 1970, 52 years ago, we were startled by the hoards of tourists crowding the narrow labyrinth of streets, the city had turned into Disneyland!

A Toledo street in the old Muslim quarter with shade sails sheltering the hoards of tourists from the baking sun.

We braved the heat to visit the Barrio Saturday street market; on the shady side of the street
On the train back to Barcelona.