everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

New York books and things 

I love New York. I don’t have the t-shirt or mug or hat with that message plastered on it, but I really do heart New York. So many amazing things to see and do and watch and eat and drink, but today I wanted to tell you about a book shop (book store, if you prefer). It’s called Book Culture, and it’s brilliant. 

But first, here’s Central Park under snow this week…

Anyway, my favourite link in the Book Culture chain is the store on Columbus. If you’re in town, it’s a great place to look around and spent some quality time with books and gifts and trinkets and cool things. Even if you’re the fussiest fuss-pot, or if you’re looking for a gift for said fussiest fuss-pot, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something (or things) here.

I was lucky enough to visit again this week, and wanted to share a couple of examples of their awesomeness with you: a blind date with a book; and a beautiful desk with stationery and encouragement to sit down, relax, and write a letter. 

The “Blind Date with a book” table is full of different novels wrapped in brown paper. On each mysterious package is a note that helps you choose the best match for your date: with a list of three other novels (if you liked them, you’ll like this book too). Like an old-fashioned book match making service / lucky dip. Love it. 


And then there’s this desk, with a note encouraging letter writers to sit, write, and have their letter posted by the good people of Book Culture. With nearly 2,000 letters sent from this very spot, it’s clearly helping to rekindle the art of letter writing. And they have included some political addresses, but you could also write to your granny, kindergarten teacher, or boy next door. (Or anyone else.) Such a great idea.


And now here’s the city lit with a few touches of green on St Patrick’s Day. (The beautiful view is from the fab Top of the Rock experience.) Just because.

‘Til next time, NYC. Love ya.

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Meanwhile, in the Bunbury Herald

Some interesting snaps from the local paper I found on my travels this week…It’s so Australian it almost hurts.

I think poor Dianne is reconsidering how much she loves her job. Not Rosemary, though – living the dream.

Yikes.

Straya.

Oh, that Roysy.

And a warning that the next clipping is from the ‘adult services’ section (which is in the Sport section of the paper, strangely enough)…

Good parking is important. (Really hope it’s not a euphemism for an adult service that I don’t understand.)

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Capitol A for Amazing

I feel like I have seen a lot in my two days in Washington DC. Equally, I feel like I have seen hardly any of what’s possible to see in Washington DC. Suffice it to say, I hope to come back for more visits as I had a fantastic time. Even if it was super hot and humid weather!  

The Capitol. Adding to my collection of pics of landmarks under scaffolding when I visit.

 
Given my short trip, I knew I’d be happy if I got to spend time at Newseum (which I have been wanting to see for years), see some of the city, and maybe get to geek out at some other museums and historical places. Yesterday was a great day, but I’ll tell you more about that another time. 

Today was very interesting, with a case of (accidental) great timing leading to a pretty special experience. I was on the hop on-hop off city bus, and, given the furnace that awaited outside the air-conditioned bus, I definitely had to psych myself up to hop off at all. But of course I did, with less than a day left before I hopped on the train back to NYC.   

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

 

View from Lincoln Memorial to Washington Monument.

 
Great views, sure. But mostly, I wanted to see this big guy. And he was just as awesome as I’d hoped he’d be… 

Honest Abe.

 

And, for scale, here’s a normal-sized man next to President Lincoln… 

I shall name the other man Honest Gabe. Little pixie man that he is.

So that was all very interesting and in a stunning location. Then I headed down to the Korean War Memorial, and that’s where the magic happened. The memorial itself is incredible – 19 life-sized statues of men dressed in the heavy cold weather gear they would’ve worn during the war. Their faces are modeled on 19 actual US soldiers from that war, apparently. And they are set in a beautiful green garden. Very moving stuff – and proof that traditional art still works: you don’t always need a clever hologram or techno trickery to make your point.   

And then, I noticed a group of Korean gentlemen (mostly old timers, all in uniform) and one young Korean lady (in uniform) gathering, along with a couple of old American gentlemen with service medals and partly dressed in uniform.

I had happened across the beginning of a service of some sort. Some words were said (in Korean), a large wreath was laid, and they all saluted as the anthems of both countries were played. Then a bugler played (bugler, not burglar, to be clear) and everyone that was lurking and watching the scene like me was as quiet as a mouse. It was very moving.  

And a reminder that sometimes when you’re traveling, the unplanned experiences are the best.   

   

And after that, I went to the Museum of American History – yet another interesting museum, and so well designed and presented. These guys know how to do a good museum, that’s for sure. Too many cool things to mention, so I’ll just share this: Al Capone’s mug shot. Doesn’t he look like a nice young man, who would maybe serve you in a bookstore, or sit next to you on the bus to work? 

   

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Greetings from here 

Ah, the glamour of travel. Greetings from this place, which is not quite in Baltimore, but somewhere close, apparently. The train has been stopped for more than 30 minutes, which could be seen as an annoying thing, delaying our arrival at our destination.  

But I bet very few international (or domestic, for that matter) travelers have had such a close look at this exact place. As the sun sets on the last day of summer (that’s official, as it’s 31 August, that’s not me being romantic), it’s catching the yellowing leaves on the big trees here. 

The announcements from the poor lady running this train service are sounding increasingly desperate as the wait time for our unscheduled stop spirals out of control, with no end in sight. I suspect the passengers on this busy service aren’t as content with the delights of the ‘cafeteria car’ as she thinks they should be. 

Calm yourselves and look out the windows, people! There are things to be seen, I tell you. For example, I can see a caravan under covers and a car under covers in the backyard over the wire fence here. And a Jeep and a van. Who are these people? Doomsday preppers, maybe? 

Guess I shouldn’t mock, as we may need to call on them soon to ask for dinner or a shower or a bed if this delay continues…

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Village oasis

On Friday, I met my lovely friend Sophie for lunch in NYC. Soph and I used to work together, joining our professional services firm on the same day around six years ago. Fortunately, we have remained friends long after our interesting challenges at that place were over. (But those days will be a chapter in my book one day: the working title for that section, “Mon Dieu! Surviving the GFC and a crazy French Canadian boss”.)

Anyways, Soph is now living and working in New York, so it was great to get the chance to catch up while I’m in town. We met at a great little restaurant, Rosemary’s, near Soph’s home in the West Village. (Not that this is a food blog, but I definitely recommend Rosemary’s for a casual meal – they even have a rooftop garden that supplies some of their delicious fresh ingredients.)

[Image from rosemarysnyc.com]

 
I arrived early, so spent time wandering around the Village and discovered an amazing oasis amidst the bustle of the busy city, where sounds of sirens, car horns and construction can be kinda overwhelming. This magical place was filled with the sounds of birds, insects and quiet chatter (plus one man talking loudly on his phone for a loooong time). Turns out it’s also the site of Miranda and Steve’s wedding in Sex and the City. And normal people can get married there too, just fyi.    

    
    
    
 Jefferson Market Garden. An amazing place, staffed by volunteers, and well worth a visit if you’re in town – a perfect spot to take a break, take a breath, and enjoy this oasis in the Village.

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A bike ride in Paris

This morning, I went for a bike ride around Champ de Mars in Paris. It was a ride of about 4km and the scenery was lovely. I saw the Eiffel Tower up close (I think I even rode under it), some Parisian pups, lots of tourists, and fit looking people running through the park. I saw all this today*, I did…

Bonjour! Off to a nice start...

Bonjour! Off to a nice start…

Lots of lovely pathways, although it did feel a lot steeper than this appears...

Lots of lovely pathways, although it did feel a lot steeper than this appears…

Et voila.

Et voila.

People even appeared to be taking my photo of as I rode past. Obviously, the photo would have just been a blur...

People even appeared to be taking my photo of as I rode past. Obviously, the photo would have just been a blur…

Les runners et les walkers.

Les runners et les walkers.

* OK, so the tracking information in the first two pics, along with the Google watermarks, show that I wasn’t really in Paris this morning. I was in sunny Sydney, sweating it out on my exercise bike, which features a clever black box designed to trick the exerciser into thinking they’re having fun.

This little iFit device links my stationary bike to the ‘live feed’ Google map of the route I am riding, so I can watch the images on my ipad as they update (along with the incline/resistance on the bike) to simulate my progress on a ride on this actual track. Oui oui.

As a gadget geek, I am quite taken with this new toy – I have already ridden through a park in Spain and Central Park is on the schedule too. Of course, looking at photos on an iPad as I pedal doesn’t take away from the pain and discomfort, and it’s not even close to being there in real life (or IRL as the gamers say). And there’s no incentive in the form of a fresh baguette or pain au chocolat at the end of the ride.

But it’s definitely better than staring at this…

Old school.

Old school.

Au revoir!

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Some snaps from WA

Greetings from here, the sunny south west of Western Australia. Rather than document the picture-perfect scenery, I thought I’d share some other snaps from WA. Not ones that you’ll be seeing in the tourist guidebooks any time soon, but I think they provide an important insight into some aspects of life in the west.

Supermarket elves pre-peel the onions here

Naked onions.

Naked onions.

Customised car license plates are very big here

Hey

Mrs

Even churches put wacky Christmas ads in the local paper here

Uh huh.

Uh huh.

So, there you go. There’s so much more to this stunningly beautiful part of the world than the incredible beaches, wine and food. You’re welcome!

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This time last year…

Sometimes I like to think back to this time last year/month/week and remember what I was doing. It’s hard to believe it, but this time last year, I was walking across Spain on the Camino Frances. My friend Steph and I were about one week into our journey and had already made some new life-long friends. These were the innocent days, before I got attacked (firstly by unidentified bugs and, shortly thereafter, by my own body trying to deal with the crazy looking bites). Ah yes, when all we had to worry about was being tired and a bit sore, the summer heat, blisters and washing our clothes by hand.

I do miss the guilt-free carb loading that came with 30 km days.

I do miss the guilt-free carb loading that came with 30 km days.

It has been nice to have a look back at my posts from this time. Such great days – beautiful places and people. And wine.

Sure, it wasn't always picturesque...

Sure, it wasn’t always picturesque… 

In case you’d like to reminisce about the Camino, or if you’re planning your own Camino adventure, I recommend this documentary by Drew Robinson: A Journey of the Mind. It brings back a lot of memories for me – undoubtedly, walking the Camino was one of the best things I’ve ever done. More for the people than for the bugs. But then the bugs showed me a different side of the people (myself included), so it really was all good.

We thought we'd need our rain gear for sure here. We didn't.

We thought we’d need our rain gear for sure walking into this. We didn’t.

The doco runs for 40 minutes, so maybe grab some sangria and tapas (bug spray is optional) before you settle down to watch it. Buen Camino!

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Life after the Camino

It’s so hard to believe, but it’s already one month since our Camino family arrived in Santiago. At that time, I think the magnitude of what we’d done was only just starting to sink in – I do remember wanting to blurt out to some of the day trippers crowding the streets of Santiago “HEY, I WALKED HERE FROM FRANCE”. It was such a great feeling to be fit and relaxed and happy after our month on the road.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

A pretty spectacular finish line in Santiago de Compostela.

And now I’m back at home and it’s been really lovely to catch up with my family and friends and tell them a bit about our great adventure. I have found it a bit tricky to explain though – it really is one of those ‘you just had to be there’ kind of situations. And the return to the pace of ‘the real world’ has been a challenge for me – every day, it seems there are so many different decisions to be made, timetables to follow, commitments to meet, things to do.

I miss the simplicity of just getting up when the alarm goes off, getting dressed in one of only two available options, packing up everything I have and walking, walking, walking. I haven’t forgotten about the heat, the bites, the flies, the tendinitis, the shower without a door – but even at the time, all of those things just felt like part of the Camino experience.

And an incredible experience it was too (captured in the following YouTube clip by our resident rapper, Idol C).

So now I am home and I feel a bit restless. My work situation as a consultant means that I didn’t have to rush back to an office or a workplace routine – I think that is both a blessing and a curse though, as it means that I have had a lot of time to think and try and work out what to do next. And I feel like I should do something BIG after doing the Camino, as I try to hold on to the things that I learned about myself and the world when I was walking. But I am not entirely sure what that is yet.

And I am reminded of when I first moved home after living overseas for a couple of years – it felt like everything here was pretty much the same, but I felt soooo different (not in a lah-di-dah, I-am-so-awesome kind of way) and there was definitely a transition period to work out how to fit back in to everything. Maybe it’s like a snow globe – things are settled and look a certain way, then when the globe gets a shake, everything turns upside down and gets covered in large white flakes – or preferably glitter – before it settles again.

Stepping out at the end of the earth - morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

Stepping out at the end of the earth – morning walk on the beach in Finisterre.

So, after the Camino-shake, I am sort of upside down and covered in large white flakes (metaphorically, not from another Camino skin condition, I assure you). I am more active, walking a lot and even completing my first timed 5k run last Saturday (more on that in another post) and trying not to get sucked back in to the rush of doing all of the things. I watch less TV and I do less shopping – after carrying every single thing I required in a bag on my back for a month, I definitely have a different perception of how much stuff I really need.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

In the Phoenix Park kitchen garden, Dublin.

But I don’t want to make it sound as though I’m now all woo-woo-woo herbal and alternative and changing my name to Starchild – I am not a totally different person and am sure that most people don’t notice any change at all. Maybe the snow globe has just settled in a slightly different way this time. And I am sure there are countless scientific studies that agree it’s a good thing to have your snow globe shaken every now and again, just to see what happens.

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The road to Santiago

Here are some pics from these past two days as we come to the end of our journey. We revised our plan a bit – instead of cruising into Santiago on Saturday, we have added some km and will arrive on Friday instead. The 30km trek today felt quite long (tho the eucalyptus trees were a welcome touch of home), but tomorrow should be less than 25km for the final stretch to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Mixed feelings now – after 31 days of walking, it will be so strange to fall out of this routine (5.45am wake up; 6.30am departure; stop in the first town for cafe con leche and toast or a chocolate napolitana; walk til 1.30pm or thereabouts; find a bed; shower; wash clothes; eat lunch; find a supermarket for supplies; fill in time til early dinner; bed at around 9pm – usually later in the earlier days, sometimes earlier in the latter days).
I have met some wonderful people, seen some truly beautiful sights, eaten some delicious food, drunk some nice wines (once even mixed with Coke, a Spanish taste sensation, and often chilled reds with Lift and ice to make a refreshing sangria-style number). I have walked more than 800km, carrying a backpack that weighed around 8kg. I have laughed a lot, thought a lot, prayed a bit and enjoyed my time away from everything in the real world.
Without wanting to get too sappy, this experience has been a real gift and I am so grateful to my peeps at home for their love, support and encouragement; to my Camino family for their extraordinary friendship and incredible care (especially Steph, Susana and Dave); to all the people we have met along the Way who have shared this awesome experience; to the Boss who arranged for perfect weather, great people, beautiful sunrises & sunsets and a safe journey; to the slightly crabby Doctor who jabbed me with two healing injections; to the people of France & Spain who have welcomed us into their towns and baked delicious pastries; and of course, to Steph – my blister sister – without whom I would never have gone on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
And to YOU: if you get the chance, or can make the chance, to take part in a little or a lot of this epic ride, I wish you a super dooper Buen Camino. Xo

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