What I learnt from Venice

Tired of all my Venice photos? Good – neither am I!

What I learnt from Venice:

When we give people (or nature) the space and love they need

They can go their own way and create something wonderful.

Go your own way copy

Going off the beaten path

Leads to new wonders and perspectives.


Handle with love —

A philosophy that makes life more beautiful.

Love handle

And, sometimes, in the midst of ruins

Treasures can be found.

Old door copy

For more beauty, please visit: Our World.


The Isle of the Dead

Since the 1800s, Venetians haven’t been allowed to bury their dead in Venice.

Instead, they come out to Isola di San Michele — two islands joined together to form a floating cemetery.

The first thing you see as you arrive

Is one of Venice’s first Renaissance churches.

(I took the photo through the ferry window.)


You can find graceful courtyards

And hidden-away sunny spots

Full of graves.

Pretty courtyard

The rich families could afford

To honour their sleeping beauties in marble.

Sleeping beauty copy

Even the more humble resting places

Are taken care of with love.


There are crosses as far as the eye can see —

A sobering reminder of what awaits us all.


The cemetery island is the burial place of many famous people,

Including Ezra Pound, Doppler, Stravinsky and Diaghilev.

Our visit there was both life-affirming and moving.



For those of you who want to know what happens when the cemetery gets ‘full': the bodies are allowed to lie here for about 12 years, and then they are taken back to Venice and kept in an ossarium to make room for more burials.

For more histories, please visit: Our World.



Wide horizons

Part of the joy of life

Is broadening our horizons, seeing new skies

And experiencing new things.

Here’s a London view:

London view

Travel is a great way of doing this —

And of discovering that our little part of the world

Isn’t the centre of things.

Travel helps us discover that there isn’t only one way of doing things —

But many ways.

Here’s a New York view:

NY sky

For that reason, my daughter and I

Are leaving the cozy horizons of Stockholm —

Known as ‘The Venice of the North’ —

(See photo below)

For the real Venice in Italy.

Can’t wait!

Moody Stockholm skies_copy

(Back next week – so I might not be able to visit you all.)

In the meantime, please visit: Skywatch for great skies

And Our World, for a glimpse into new discoveries.

Finding rainbows

Sometimes you can find beauty in the most unexpected places.

Entering the interior of Paris’ oldest church, Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres, once so mighty but now eclipsed by Notre Dame,

I was struck by the beauty of a humble set of chairs next to some ancient chipped pillars.


The light from the stained glass window behind them

Transformed the chairs into miracles of colour and form

Rainbow chairs copy

And the floor, worn by centuries of visitors,

Became a dazzling thing of rainbow beauty.

(I have to say that out of all my Paris photos, these are some of my favourites.)

“The most astonishing thing about miracles is that they happen.”
G. K. Chesterton

Rainbow floor_2 copy

For more everyday miracles, please visit: Our World.

La lumiere d’oree

That golden evening light

Painted a lovely picture of tower and sky

Eiffel skies copy

And lampposts that seemed to throw back

Golden orbs into infinity.

Golden light

For more golden light, please visit: Skywatch.

Breathing Paris

According to Victor Hugo, ‘Breathing Paris preserves the soul.’

It is a city full of unexpected sights and surprises:

Like a vintage merry-go-round

La belle epoque

Or the exquisite stained glass window

Of the Galeries Lafayette.

Galeries Lafayette

It is a place where you turn a corner

To find history towering over you —

Old spire

And love being locked forever

On bridges while the ancient cathedral,

Notre Dame, looks on.


It is a mix of the old and the new,

History and modern day,

Light and life.

Concorde copy

For more historic stories, please visit: Our World Tuesday.

Creatures in Paris

As you probably know, I’ve just got back from a trip to Paris.

Parisians love their dogs and you can see them following their owners off the lead in even the busiest streets.

Owners and dogs enjoy life along the banks of the Seine.

Dog and man

The pigeons on the many bridges of Paris

Are remarkably tame and pose willingly for photos.

Tame pigeons

This bird has one of the best backdrops in Paris —

Notre Dame.

Bird ND

My favourite animals, however, have to be

The stone gargoyles that decorate the many churches.

(This one is smiling at me from Notre Dame.

Like me, he seems happy to see some spring blossoms.)


For more animals, please visit: Camera Critters.

Strange Shores: edition number … heck – who’s counting?

Welcome to another blog carnival! The one – the only: Strange Shores! I do believe this is number five, but can’t be sure. I rely on my co-conspirator Paddy to keep count – at  least until he runs out of fingers. Just in case you’re new to Strange Shores: this is a blog carnival where we take a look at the world from an ex-pat’s point of view.

treesAs you can see from my photo, spring hasn’t actually got to Sweden yet. Luckily, we got a break from the headlines about snow when Princess Victoria, who will one day be the Queen of Sweden, announced her engagement (at last!) to a regular guy. PaddyK brings you the good news with his tongue in cheek. (Where else would it be? Wait a moment – don’t answer that!)

Someone else who suffered at the hands of the weather gods is the charming Louise of Carmine Superiore. This story shows that she and her family are made of sterner stuff than … say, sugar!

A new friend of mine is the very funny Honeypiehorse. (What is a honeypiehorse anyway?) She’s a Californian transplanted to the chillier climate of Bavaria. Here she takes a look at the four phases of the Oktoberfest – complete with photographic evidence.

Another American is Kelli, who lives in Denmark. She has just started working at Herning High School and this has given her the chance to ponder the differences between education in Texas and Denmark. This will give your little grey cells some food for thought!

An ex-expat is Expateek: an American who lived in Poland but has just moved back to the USA. Trying to give stuff to charity in Poland requires muscles of strangec003steel. One way of getting those muscles – or dying in the attempt – is to go to the gym. However, if you’re Po from South African visiting a gym in the UK, then anything can happen!

And talking of the unexpected, Brenda in Paraguay takes an entertaining look at driving in Paraguay. In fact, her story reminded me of living in Fiji: the driving there was so exuberant that the buses would drive up onto the pavement and chase us poor pedestrians!

By the way, what do you listen to when you’re riding public transport? This is what Planet Nomad has to say about the music of her adolescence

Last but not least – my good self. This is how I get buns of steel... on my kick-ass sled! If that doesn’t work, then I just throw myself on the ground and have a good tantrum.

So, all you have to do my friends, is to sit back, grab a cup of your favourite beverage and enjoy these posts! They’ll be up for a few days so that you can always pop back now and then to savour these literary delights.

As for that three-faced horse – it’s been bugging me for weeks. I don’t see why I should be the only who is bugged by it: so here you are! Well, you know what they say about sharing a joy…

Mutiny and the beast

cargo_boatAfter my three years of teaching English in China, I decided to cash in my plane ticket home to England and head off to Cairns, Queensland, where my sister was based. One of the highlights of my year there was learning to scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, I was so hooked (and broke) that I decided the only way to get in some more dives was to work on a dive boat.

Except I didn’t sign on to work on a dive boat. It turned out that the job I got as all-round helping hand was actually on a cargo ship that took supplies out to the shrimp boats at sea off the Queensland coast. As a way of supplementing his income, the slave driver captain took paying guests on board and promised them some stop-offs for diving. We employees too were promised free diving in our leisure time.

The only problem was that we didn’t have much free time at all. In fact, we didn’t even have a cabin to sleep in. The boys slept in the engine room (smelly and noisy) and we girls slept in a hold (smelly and noisy). I don’t think we had a shower during the entire 10-day trip.

mapAs I boarded the mothership, I was blissfully unaware of the fact that the captain had hired us as slaves for ten days. There I was thinking that I could cope with serving the paying guests, doing a spot of washing up and a lot of scuba diving.

“Make some scones!” ordered the captain as I stowed my meagre belongings in the hold.

Scones? From scratch? Without a cookery book in sight… Wild panic threatened to overwhelm me, until I met my angel.

Her name was Sarah and she DID know how to cook. Without using a cookbook. She even enjoyed it!

As we chugged off on our sea voyage from Cairns up to Cape York and then onto Thursday Island in the Torres Straits, I suddenly remembered a vital fact…

… I get seasick!

The first couple of days were tough until the queasiness went away. I scurried around alternating between serving the guests, puking over the rail, washing up, puking over the rail, serving the guests, puking over the rail…

Once the seasickness left me, all that remained was the hard slog of getting up at 6 am to prepare breakfast, clear up, make elevenses, wash up, make lunch, clear up, make afternoon tea, wash up, make dinner and wash up until about midnight.

We did get to go on one fantastic dive with a guest who was an expert scuba diver. And we were allowed off the boat at Lizard Island to enjoy the feeling of sand between our toes for a couple of hours. Other than that, it was hard work all the way. By the time we passed Cape York, Sarah and I and the two deck hands, decided to mutiny once we got to Thursday Island. The captain had completely gone back on his word to let us dive and enjoy the trip.

He didn’t want to let us off the boat at Thursday Island but we went anyway and headed to the pub to drown our sorrows with at least one beer.


There was no time for anything else. One of the guests came running up to us to say that the captain was going to leave us stranded on the isolated island. And although that option was more enticing than working our way back, we realized that we would be well and truly stuck without any money or a change of clothes. So, we dashed back and jumped aboard.

The worst part was that when we got back to Cairns and disembarked, the captain refused to pay us our wages. We could hear him laughing as he sailed off – he had just got free labour for ten days – while we were left empty-handed and despondent.

But not too despondent, I might add – because I did have one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. One day during our trip, the cry went up that there were whales swimming alongside us. I grabbed a mask and snorkel and dived into the water with my clothes on. It was an amazing and humbling experience to swim alongside these gentle giants.

That alone was worth more than any amount of money.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,210 other followers