Paris is always a good idea

Paris, France

February 8, 2017

France. My European home. Now I get to share it with my love.

After spending two months on exchange in Dijon at the age of 16, returning to France on subsequent trips felt very much like returning to somewhere so familiar. I understood the customs, I knew how to navigate and I could communicate with the people. I couldn’t wait to share this place I’d spent so much time in and grown to love so much with my husband on our honeymoon.

Paris greeted us with a smoke smog that was to linger for most of our stay, which was a shame but even that couldn’t kill the beauty of this city – though I don’t think it helped John’s cold that he’d developed before the wedding.

We were staying in our first AirBnb – a little apartment in Montmartre. The stairs were a bit of a killer but the location was fantastic – on a surprisingly quiet street near the Moulin Rouge (ooh la la!).

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The weather was a shock to the system even though I’ve done several European winters. You really have to spend your time flitting in and out of shops and cafes to stay warm.

I had a few places I wanted to hit up while we were here – either for a revisit or to catch something I had missed on previous visits – but of course when you’re a part of someone’s first trip to Paris there are a few obligatory places you have to go.

So over the next few days we made our way to the Champs-Elysées and its Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre and the Notre Dame.

 

The highlight of these for me was the Notre Dame. I’ve been inside it before but never climbed it and the view was gorgeous. The main reason I loved it though was because as soon as we got there it started snowing a tiny bit. Snow wasn’t even forecast for our time in Paris and I practically squealed with delight when it began. By the time we reached the top of the cathedral more snow had come in and it was truly magical. It was also John’s first time seeing falling snow.

 

To warm up we found tea and hot gaufres (waffles) at a nearby cafe while the snow kept falling outside. Honestly, this was the stuff of my dreams being in snowy Paris with my husband!

L’Arc de Triomphe was also well worth the admission. There’s not quite as many stairs to climb here but the 360 degree view is truly spectacular, as you watch cars zoom dangerously around the ginormous roundabout and check out the sights down the twelve main streets that lead from it. On a clear day I’m sure you could see a long way off, but on our visit we had to embrace the smog adding to the atmosphere of our photos.

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There are a couple of places I just love in Paris and I was excited to see them again and show these to John. The first was Shakespeare and Co. I spent ages in here on my last visit. Much to my delight John fell just as in love with it as I did and we had a great time picking out a couple of books to take home, playing on the typewriters, exploring little nooks and he even played some tunes on the piano (which did actually ask people to play on it). It’s a booklover’s dream place to stay all cosy on a freezing winter day.

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The famous Parisian macaron house of Ladurée was also on my hit up list. They may be pricey but nothing compares to the macarons here. Last time, I just purchased a salted caramel macaron at their airport store. This time we found ourselves in a queue at their restaurant on the Champs-Elysees. This place was seriously beautiful. There seemed to be a million different rooms in the building where diners were taken to tables. The carpet, walls, ceiling, chandeliers and tables and chairs were all like dining in Versailles itself.

We ordered a selection of macarons to sample and a chocolate frappé each. Hands down, best iced chocolate drink I’ve ever had, but way too small to satisfy.

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The rest of our time in Paris was spent just exploring the streets – my favourite way to get to know any city – and enjoying lots of the local cuisine (namely sweets but we did throw in some French onion soup for good measure).

Unconsciously Absorbing the Emirates

Dubai, U.A.E

February 7, 2017.

 

 

The idea behind a stop in Dubai was to give us a more chilled journey from Australia to Europe post the wedding madness. However, as good as it was to crash on a horizontal bed for one night I’m still unsure if a few hours layover was worth it, especially as we were setting the alarm for another extremely early morning flight!

If nothing else it was the opportunity I had wanted to set foot outside of the airport this time and experience a culture so different from our own.

Well, I didn’t have to leave the airport to get my first taste of that. What was to become quite the hassle during our European travels began on day one as my 20kg suitcase slid round the conveyor belt of baggage collection with a very obvious defect. Yes Emirates, thanks for the missing wheel from the get go.

I’m not the sort of person to let these things just slide so I marched right up to the baggage service desk to let them know about the damage. While waiting in line two men appeared alongside me also needing assistance. When the woman had finished with the man in front these men proceeded to move towards the counter first. I was overtired, over-traveled and not in the mood so I also edged forward making sure they were very aware I was there first. I got next to no acknowledgement, and if it wasn’t for the woman at the desk who had noticed me I would have easily been pushed aside. Even when she explained I was next they were not willing to concede.

It was an extremely unsettling feeling to be treated this way by other adults. This was not to be my only experience of this either. On our return home I also found myself pushed to the side at checkouts by other men and downright ignored. It was an eye opening experience to the local culture. At the time I was so tired, so sick of traveling that I found it too much and returned to John in tears. It really got me thinking about how crippling the restrictions placed on women in these parts of the world could feel. I’ve been so blessed to live in a country when in my eyes I’m treated as an equal to men and it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about.

All that being said, Dubai is a magnificent place. I have never seen anything like it. Driving through felt like being in a futuristic city with road bridges high above the traffic, looping over everywhere. After spending some time in our hotel, and doing our best to not give in to the desire to sleep, we set foot outside into pleasantly mild weather and a bustling city.

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We were staying in downtown Dubai with a view over a construction site, but handy proximity to the world’s largest shopping centre.

We didn’t much feel in the mood for shopping but we didn’t need to do that here. We were thoroughly entertained for ages with the 10 million litre aquarium and we didn’t even pay to enter the exhibit!

The shopping centre also has an indoor ice rink, countless levels of stores, a more cultural marketplace and an outdoor dining precinct where we watched a light, fountain show while enjoying our greasy Five Guys’ burgers.

We caught up with some of my family while over here too, which was a great opportunity.

After an all-too brief night’s sleep we were up bright an early for our next flight to Paris!

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Goodnight, no wait ‘Will you marry me?’

It’s been almost one whole month since John asked me to marry him! Time has really flown. We’ve been swept up in a wave of incredible joy, blessing, excitement and busyness as we plan our wedding and start to set up our lives together.

The first few days of our engagement were a whirl and I explained our engagement story in many different long and short variants. Here, I will tell it in full for those who never got to hear it or only heard the main points.

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About a month and a half before, John asked if i would like to go on a date some time the next month where we could film parts of the date and create a vlog from it. I was a little bit suspicious of this and thought it sounded out of the ordinary, but at the same time he had just come back from Vidcon and had talked about doing a vlog for some time so I tried not to get ahead of myself.

August came and went and we never went on the date. When I brought it up John feigned having forgotten and asked if i still even wanted to do it. I was a bit disappointed by that but let him know that yes, i did indeed want to go on a special date. (This was all part of an elaborate plan that would make me think the date was more my idea).

During the week of, John told me he was going to buy a new suit for our date and encouraged me to also get a new dress. I went shopping with Lauren and bought something a couple of nights before and we talked about our suspicions and excitement about this date, all the while trying to make sure I didn’t get my hopes up. On the day dear Susan came around to do my hair and make up beforehand. I’m lousy at doing both of these and wanted to look a little nicer than just diverting to the messy bun.

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John came to my door and picked me up just like he did for our very first date and looked very handsome in his navy blue suit with brown shoes and bright red socks (which he knew i would appreciate). He brought me a huge bouquet of flowers as well!

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He drove us to a surprise dinner at Friends restaurant in the city. We were given the perfect table sitting right in front of the window overlooking the Swan River. We enjoyed an amazing five course meal and were devastated that we both couldn’t come close to finishing our dessert.

Towards the end of the meal, I said I might order a cup of tea with dessert, to which John said he had thought that maybe we could go next door to the Hyatt to have tea, but then added that I could have one in the restaurant instead if i wanted. I said we would stick with what he had in mind, but it did make me think i must be wrong about the date and he didn’t actually have a particular plan.

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The restaurant gave me a flower as we left and went next door to the Hyatt conservatory for tea. As we often do on dates we talked a bit about marriage and the future, and John said he promised to make a decision about us before we got to four years of dating as he knew he needed to make one soon. I got quite sad at that point, realising that I was obviously all wrong. (Later that night John told me that he said it because he felt i was getting too close to guessing, but tried to change the topic when he saw how it affected me).

After leaving the conservatory John suggested a walk around Elizabeth Quay if i felt up to it, but that maybe I would like to go home as it was getting on in the evening and we were both still recovering from colds. At this point i was fairly convinced he couldn’t have anything planned since so much of the date seemed to be my prerogative. We did end up going on a little walk about the Quay and John set up his camera on a step to film us hugging in front of the changing lights. Something in his personality changed during that moment and he held me for a long time (he later told me he was tempted to propose then but decided to stick to the plan and not do something “so cliche”).

After this lovely evening of talking, eating and enjoying being with one another we drove  back to mine. John walked me to my door (as he does every time he takes me home) and said goodnight. As he hugged me goodbye he said in my ear “just a little bit longer”. It made me smile, knowing that he was thinking about our future and that maybe he had intentions to propose in a few more months (little did i know it was more like a few minutes).

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I went inside and said hello to my parents (who knew and were wondering what on earth happened). I told them about each course of our dinner and went to get ready for bed when John texted me to ask if i had changed yet. He said he lost some of the footage we had filmed and asked if he could come back to redo it.

We walked to a nearby park with his camera and as we entered the park I saw all these candles lighting up the ground and could eventually make out his keyboard with fairylights. I was so confused and happy and completely overwhelmed. In my mind our date was done, so what was happening now!?

He stood behind the keyboard and played the beautiful piano piece he wrote me when we first started dating. I was gone. I completely burst into tears. John said he couldn’t finish the rest of the song as he wanted to come and grab me. He took me around the side of the piano, held me close and said a whole lot of lovely things.

Then he took out a ring box and got on one knee and i couldn’t believe what was happening. Still writing it it feels surreal, but wonderful. More crying followed until i had to take off my glasses because i couldn’t see a thing!

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John asked me to marry him in the same park where I embarrassed myself two and a half years ago by telling him i already knew i wanted to marry him.

All through the date i kept asking what was going to be the end of our vlog as just the date alone didn’t seem like a very good story. Well this was by far the most perfect ending. John set up the camera before he played the song and filmed the whole proposal.

God has blessed me with a love story better than what I could have ever been praying for.

 

 

 

 

South West is best

I just can’t seem to get enough of our South West.

I’ve been down three or four times the winter just gone. Sometimes for camps, and the other times for a weekend getaway.

There’s something about leaving the ‘burbs behind and getting out into the fresh country air that feels so good for the soul.

My last trip was with my dear friend Allison to show her a bit more of our lovely state before she heads back home to the US of A.

We spent two nights at Dunsborough Railway Carriages and Cottages – a place I had remembered staying with my family at least 10 years ago. Then we stayed in a cottage, now we had a cute old railway carriage. It was simple but neat and just what we needed for a weekend.

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This weekend was about getting out and seeing the Margaret River Region and we managed to squeeze a whole lot into our day and a half.

I enjoyed a morning run on Saturday, exploring the grounds of the place we were staying. They had cows, alpacas and chickens on the property who all stared at me as I ran past as if to say ‘why on earth would you do that?’. I also saw several kangaroos as I ran a small trail through the trees, finding bridges and native flowers. It truly was incredibly refreshing and serene.

Our first destination was to explore the town centre of Margaret River. We found an amazing bakery for morning tea that was a little squishy due to it’s popularity but offered an amazing selection of breads and desserts.

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Next stop was Rosa Brook for some hose riding. It was a pleasant ride despite a bit of drizzle. However we both wished we would have had the opportunity to canter our horses but we rode in quite a large group with several young children.

Afterwards they served some fresh bread with dukkah to enjoy, which was a nice touch.

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Having worked up quite an appetite we drove to The Berry Farm for lunch. It’s a sweet little spot for a meal. Expect a few little chirpy visitors at your table as you eat. The birds are quite happy to come close, especially if there’s some sugar to eat on your table.

I imagine there’s more to do here in the warmer months as visitors are free to pick berries, but as our visit wasn’t seasonal there wasn’t anything growing.

We did really enjoy sampling all the unique jams and couldn’t help grab a couple, as well as a bag of avocados for $5!

We hit up the Margaret River Chocolate Factory for some free samples on our way to Indijup Beach.

Another stunning location, we trekked across the beach to watch the sun start to go down atop some impressive rock formations. It truly was a beautiful sight.

I love how it doesn’t seem to matter how often I visit our South West, each time I discover just how little of it I have seen and just how many more hidden gems there are to find.

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Fair ladies at Fairbridge

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Our state is so beautiful. Whether it’s the bustling city, the rough and tumble of the red outback or the tranquility in the lush south I can’t help but find myself in awe of the beauty that surrounds us.

I spent the last stormy weekend on a retreat, with a bunch of beautiful women from my church, at the quaint Fairbridge Village near Pinjarra.

This was a wonderful time to get away and share connection with one another and hear and experience some powerful things God wanted to do over that weekend.

The first morning we woke to the great storm of 2016. The thundering of rain on the tin roof of the dorm while I was cocooned in my sleeping bag was the most cosy sensation.

Although the rain pelted down and the wind was fierce it didn’t dampen our moods in the slightest. And for those like me who love winter weather, made it all the more enjoyable.

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During a period of free time, my lively and lovable friend Jordi and I ventured out of Fairbridge, through debris on the road from the storm and into Pinjarra.

We had a quick squiz in an op shop and enjoyed a little walk around one of the town’s churches and then by the Murray River. It was a gorgeous place and we took some snaps that were quite insta-worthy (that is how you rate quality pictures theses days). Enjoy!

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Social media: The time cruncher

Everybody’s pet peeve is the same. I can almost guarantee you.

While one person might think their’s to be traffic jams, another person finds people who take more than the designated 12 items through the express checkout simply unbearable, or still another feels ridiculously slow internet upload speed is the worse thing they can bare. All these frustrations have one thing in common.

Time.

None of us like to have our time wasted. And almost anything that really annoys us has to do with this.

I’d say this has a lot to do with being largely impatient people, living in an instantaneous world. But it also has to do with the intrinsic value placed on our time.

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When I started working full time I valued my time far more highly than I had before, because I suddenly had much less of it. Most of the hours from Monday to Friday had been written off for work and so now I found myself with precious few hours each night and on weekends that were mine to decide what to do with.

These hours are quickly filled however, with other commitments, simple necessities such as cleaning and organising meals, exercise and training, and the remainder dedicated to catch ups with friends and some time for myself to read and relax.

Whenever something unexpected comes up, I can be fully aware of it cutting into my quickly disappearing free time. Making the most of my time is the main reason I switched from driving to work every day, and consequently wasting almost 10 hours a week in traffic, to catching public transport and fitting in an hour of reading or listening to a podcast on the way to work and then another hour on the way home. My commute is now often the highlight of my day.

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Several days ago I made a list of all the things I spend my time on, in an effort to find places where I can declutter my life and spend more time on the things I really care about.

I was slightly disappointed to find there was really hardly any wiggle room to cut anything at all, deeming it all too important.

Although, one small but significant user of my time could be amended and that was social media.

I wrote down the use of social media platforms on my list as it’s something I use every day so I know full well they must take up a fair amount of my time. I’m also the type of person who will recheck my newsfeeds within several minutes of closing the application for no good reason at all.

I’ve had intentions about changing this for a while now. While I still want a social media presence, I would like to shake the hold it’s got over me where I fear missing out on something significant if I haven’t read my newsfeed all the way back to the point I finished last time.

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It’s funny how protective of our time we can be and how easily frustrated we get with things that demand our time and really give us nothing in return, such as waiting in queues or having to refill out an application, when we willing chose to engage with the thing that’s crunching away at huge portions of every day and leaving nothing of lasting benefit in our lives. More often than not it actually makes us lose any bit of contentment and joy we do have about our own lives, because of what we see in our feeds of what other people have. It’s something that would not have bothered us at all if we hadn’t decided to mindlessly scroll down the newsfeed for 15 minutes before heading to work.

So if you’re like me and feel like there’s never enough time to do the things you enjoy. Can I encourage you not to waste the time when you get it just checking how everybody else is spending there’s and whether yours measures up.

Disclaimer: If I’m being completely honest I was scrolling through my social media while writing this post. It probably meant I spent twice as long writing this.

 

Let’s put travel in perspective

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed – like any typical Friday (or Monday or Tuesday or any day for that matter) – I came across an article titled Why Not Quitting Your Job to Travel is a Waste of Your Life.

Wow!

Now I don’t know if your first thoughts upon reading that were at all like mine, but I was fairly taken aback.

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First, let me put it out in the open that yes, I am a full time worker who has evidently not quit their job to travel. But, anyone who knows me knows that I love travelling. In fact, I have done more than many people’s fair share of travelling for my age. I owned a passport before the age of 4, have spent extended periods of time abroad, flown on multiple solo trips from 16 to countries where I didn’t speak the language and I have loved and treasured those experiences.

I truly believe that travel is far more than a money-can-buy-experience and teaches us many things… BUT, and I want people to understand this, travel is not the be all and end all and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having not been anywhere, nor having little desire to venture beyond one’s own shores.

Back in my grandparent’s days very few people could afford the luxury of holiday adventures. The concept of backpacking through Europe in your 20s, family holidays to Disneyland, snow adventures in Japan or exotic South American treks are relatively recent and have gained momentum fast.

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People who have travelled little, or not at all, often receive a bizarre look as if they are from somewhere completely foreign (‘scuse the pun). There is nothing wrong with these people and I think we have a very valuable lesson we can learn from them – the importance of finding contentment wherever you find yourself and for however long you may be there.

When having seen as many places as possible on Earth as you can is highly regarded among our friends. It’s almost as if travel has become a bit of a competition, who’s been to the most remote place?  Who’s been to the most countries, airports included/excluded? Who’s climbed all 669 steps of the Eiffel tower? (For the record I have done that and never again!)

So, why do I have such a problem with the title of this article?

It’s simply this. The implication that those who have not travelled are wasting their life is quite frankly nonsense. Ask them what they’ve been doing with all the time they’ve had while you’ve been away and you’ll likely discover something pretty extraordinary. Maybe they’re creative and they’ve spent time writing a book or making music, maybe they’ve hung out with their friends and built fantastic relationships… or maybe they have followed ‘convention’ and ‘stereotypes’ *gasp* *scream* (the horror!) and got themselves a job. A job they’ve worked hard to get, a job they rock up to every day, some days joyfully others a little reluctantly but either way they’ve committed, they’ve pushed through the long days, the busy schedules, the mundane tasks, the irritable co-workers to bring home a wage for their family, or for their saving plan, or to work their way to their goal position.

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Quitting a job to roam our beautiful earth can take courage, but more often the real courage is overlooked, of the people who choose to stay and find contentment in their lot.

By no means do I mean to kill your dream of seeing wild elephants in Africa or make you feel selfish for your wonderful adventures. For those of us who have travel consider yourself blessed, treasure your memories and continue to plan your next trip if that excites you and you are able, but may we consider there is far more important things than how many places we can tick off our bucket list.

For the record I do hope to continue to post travel articles to all the exciting places I visit because it’s something I love to do!