Saturday, 31 July 2010

Practice makes perfect... or does it?

We were invited to dinner tonight to witness a spectacular firework practice for the upcoming Singapore National day, which takes place on Monday 9th August.

I found this to be a novel idea - a firework practice. It's a bit like a theatrical dress rehearsal only it's not limited to the 'in' crowd, for everybody and anybody can see it.

Today's practice was the fourth in preparation for Singapore's day of national pride. Yes, you read correctly, the FOURTH practice. I couldn't help wondering... how much practice does one need to prepare for a big event... and whether or not four is overkill.

Is it?

I ponder...

Have I become overly tainted by the all too Australian happy-go-lucky attitude? Have I adopted the 'she'll be right mate' mentality to a fault?

As much as I was truly grateful to witness this explosive display of colour and sparkly bling ten days prior the 'real' event, I couldn't help thinking that the element of surprise would be somewhat diminished by such a profuse act of practicing.

At that point of realisation, I simply had to ask the question - does practice make perfect? Which soon followed by - is perfection what we really want?

Unable to answer myself satisfactorily, I am handing over the question to you. Call it this Saturday's quiz if you will. All answers, thoughts and, or insights welcome.

Until tomorrow, remember that perfection is not necessarily perfect.

Grace xx

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Friday, 30 July 2010

In the land of merlions and monsoon

So here I am in Singapore, the land of merlions, monsoon and the best ever black pepper crab.

Though it's technically not monsoon season, it appears someone forgot to tell the rain gods about that today as it has not stopped pouring since I touched down (Singapouring for that matter - ooooooh, bad joke - I'm delirious!).

My visions of lazing poolside with my new book "Petite Anglaise" did not come into fruition today. Instead I collapsed into bed near noon local time and roused six hours later when Pat got in from his flight.

Yes we're like royalty flying separately. I've made several jokes about having the eleven secret herbs and spices to a happy life but didn't get so much as a chuckle. It appears that failing to pursue a career in stand up comedy was wise.

Our hosts and dear friends Marc and Louise, who also own the Swiss chalet we stayed in a month ago, have got the bubbles on ice and we are about to celebrate life. I just love that. There's nothing more precious or more worthy of a Champagne celebration than now.

As I reflect on my last six weeks, I realise that there have been a number of nows worth celebrating... and if I didn't know it then, I know it now. I will raise a glass and nostalgically toast to what I have deemed to be an amazing experience - operating a tour during Le Tour de France.

I am pleased to announce that I've been invited back again next year and cannot be more delighted with that outcome. The next few days for me are about settling and setting sights on my future.

Until tomorrow, be sure to celebrate now with bubbles - be it Champagne or the bath kind.

Grace xx

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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Au Revoir Paris

Tonight is my last here in Paris.

My former couch surfing hostesses come friends Rachel and Adelia joined Patrick and I for yet another picnic, only this time we were at the Paris Plage - a makeshift beach along the banks of the river Seine.

Our plan was to catch up with a band, however that did not eventuate. Instead we sat and watched dusk put on a rosey show behind Notre Dame. Stunning.

Apres dinner we observed couples doing the Tango by the river's edge and Rachel demonstrated her smooth flowing moves, which was just fabulous.

We've just walked in the door and I have to be up in five hours so I bid you adieu for now, and will be in touch somewhere in South East Asia.

Until tomorrow, celebrate the evolution of friendship.

Grace xx

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Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Oh my goodness, I don't think I've ever slept so much!

We returned to Paris on TGV to see the last day of Le Tour, which concluded on Sunday. I was prohibited to go on line yet again, though this time it was by obscene internet prices (9 Euro per hour).

Our last supper with the Adventure Travel NZ tour took place at the extraordinary Le Train Bleu restaurant - something you ought to put on your bucket list. AMAZING.

After bidding all our NZ guests farewell, we reunited with my former couching surfing host and now very good friend Adelia, who invited us to a picnic under a Parisian bridge.

After a belly full of delicious French fare and an ear full of guitar classics, we returned to Chez Adelia to sleep on her mega-couch. And sleep we did. It's just gone 10:30am and I'm still in my nightgown rubbing sleep out of my eyes.

I'm due to fly to KL tomorrow and then onto Singapore for a few days of recovery - and to dine on black pepper crabs (yum!). I toyed with the idea of visiting my relatives in Italy, however what I need more than anything right now is rest by a pool with a good book in my hands. I will build Italian family time into my next trip, which is already on the cards for next year (woohoo!).

Thanks for sticking with me through my media blackout and I hope to be back on track within a few days. At this point I ought to mention that I now have a computer blackout (the screen shuddered then went black - ouch!). I need to sort out what went wrong and how I can resolve it. In the meantime, I'm using Pat's laptop.

Until tomorrow, may you indulge in blackouts of the sleeping kind.

Grace xx

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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Media Blackout - ENDED!

Bonjour tout le monde!

Wow it's been so long since my last post, I don't know where to begin...

Our tour started in Voiron 10-days ago and I have not had any decent internet connections to do my daily posts - nor did I have the luxury of time to figure out a solution.

For that I offer my sincere apologies and plan to give you some samples of what a magnificent experience I have just had. Amazing really.

The first five days were a blur.

Operating on an average of four hours sleep, we've been hosting a fabulous bunch of New Zealanders and have had a brilliant time. We've experienced a diversity of culture, scenery and culinary delights - not to mention the excitement that is Le Tour de France.

We then spent four nights in Lourdes where I was certain I'd have time to catch up on my blog, but alas - the internet was worse than ever (and no miracle manifested despite pleading with the universe). Yesterday we did a super-long transfer to Bordeaux via Saint Emilion, which you might remember is were I had the moules mariniere during our 'rekky'.

I am now in my hotel room, catching up on what I call 'administration'. At 4:45pm this afternoon we board a TGV train bound for Paris, where Le Tour concludes tomorrow - and ours the day after. I have to say, I'm a bit sad about that.

I'll leave you with this link that features your's truly being interviewed for a national Belgian sports programme called SPORZA. We were exploring Chateau de Foix in the south of France when I was asked whether I'd mind answering a few questions. Well, you know me and my fondness for cameras and microphones - how could I say no.

Untill tomorrow, may you find it in your heart to forgive my absence.

Grace xx

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Adventure Starts NOW!

Just in case you thought all this talk about doing a reconnaissance for a tour was just a bit of jibber-jabber to ease your envy of our exploits in the South of France...

I took this self portrait of me in my uniform - avec name tag.

Yes, it is true. All this fun was for a greater cause. I did it all to share with a group of fabulous Kiwis who are as excited about being here as we are.

The next 12-days are going to be action packed with a combination of guiding, administration and strategic planning and I am uncertain how much time I'll have to give you a decent post.

I can promise you I will make every effort to give you at least something - no matter how small. I have also promised myself to be in bed no later than 2am so I am fresh for my 6am rising.

Tonight I welcomed clients in Voiron, near Grenoble. Tomorrow we spend in Valence before seeing our first Tour de France stage finish (woohoo!). Then we head to Montpellier for the night.

Until tomorrow, remember that life ebbs and flows - and I'm at high tide.

Grace xx

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

G'day Mussels!

Hello gorgeous people.

After travelling over 3,000km in the south of France, we managed to compress ten days worth of itinerary into six.

We are stuffed. Although that might have had more to do with our last lunch stop than the journey. Or perhaps a little of both.

As we walked through the picturesque UNESCO heritage listed wine village of St. Emilion, we could see people tucking into giant black cauldrons overflowing with Moules Marinière (black mussels swimming in a delicious warm soup of white wine, garlic and a dash of cream - glorious!).

The last time Patrick and I shared this experience together was five years ago in Paris and we've fantasised about it ever since.

Pat was 'unfaithful' in his last trips to France and indulged without me (very jealous). We'd talked about doing it again however our restricted time schedule proved too demanding to indulge.

I questioned the authenticity of eating moules in St. Emilion seeing it's not exactly on the water. Yet in this stunningly beautiful village, we found it impossible to resist the intoxicating aromas. I convinced myself that being less than 100km from the ocean was a near enough and we sat down to succumb to the overwhelming temptation.

Verdict? To die for.

This culinary triumph was washed down with a glass of St. Emilion, which I wouldn't ordinarily marry the two together. Red wine and seafood is often considered a 'no no', yet I continued to breach wine and food etiquette in favour of what I really wanted.

It takes courage to go against the grain. Even at a restaurant. Ordering dessert before mains (Pat), coffee with your cheese (Pat's dad), red wine with seafood when you're 100km from the water (me). However sometimes you have to flex your muscles and choose what you want, despite it being 'wrong'.

We had a delicious lunch and a memorable day... and I have little regard for what the waiter had to say.

Until tomorrow, be brave and flex your muscles - choose what you want!

Grace xx

ps. The title of this blog is what Patrick often says when I get home from the gym. It's a cute pet greeting and I thought it appropriate.

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Monday, 12 July 2010

Coffee Break French

Yesterday I was in the thermal spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon, nestled in the stunning Pyrenees (pictured right).

After the waiter delivered my café au lait, I made an in joke with my husband about us taking a 'coffee break French'.

Coffee Break French is a free podcast that we'd been listening to daily leading up to our trip. Hosted by a Scottish duo, we were certain we'd learned to speak French with a Aussie-Scottish accent that made us impossible to understand.

We also concurred that it was easier to practice French in the privacy of our own home, than what it was to the native speakers of France... or members of the French Conversation in Melbourne Group for that matter. I had strategically joined said group prior to my trip but never managed to attend a meetup (tut tut tut).

I was so ashamed of my minuscule vocabulary and poor grammar that I thought I needed to learn more before inflicting myself onto others. When I first arrived here, I avoided speaking French at all costs (despite having spent $500 at Melbourne's Lyceum Language Centre earlier this year). At first I would flush bright red and utter "je parle un petit peu de francais" before attempting to get to the point.

Oh how silly. How vain.

Fast forward a month and I'm happy to report that I'm well chuffed with how my French is coming along. This has become especially evident when communicating with those who speak not a word of anglais. Now I dive in head first, faux pas' and all!

I realised how cute it is when someone is learning English. The difficult-to-comprehend accent and all the little nuances that get lost in translation, just makes it endearing. So if people with petit peu English are endearing to me, then perhaps I might be endearing to the French?

One can hope.

I've had nothing but great fun doing my very best (which might sound like your very worst) in speaking the local lingo. In almost all cases, everybody loves to see me try - and they give me space to do so before rescuing me with English, or sign language.

Until tomorrow, if you're avoiding doing something new because you're not perfect - give yourself a break... a coffee break French even.

Grace xx

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Sunday, 11 July 2010

Sunday Sentence

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
- Soren Kierkegaard

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Saturday, 10 July 2010

Saturday Quiz No.4 - Mega Clue

Seeing I'm travelling and Saturday Quiz No. 4 is still up for grabs... I thought I'd give you a few more clues... in fact, it's a MEGA clue:
  1. It is one word, though it can sound like a 3-word statement said quickly
  2. The word is made up of 4 syllables
  3. The first syllable is the name of a famous a Scottish Loch (aka 'lock')
  4. The third syllable is depicted in the picture
  5. It is essential
Good luck!

Until Monday, have a chilled out Sunday.

Grace xx

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Friday, 9 July 2010

What the Carcassonne!

We are just on the outskirts of the medieval citadel Carcassonne, where I'll be getting close and personal with it tomorrow.

After a squishy night in the back of our van in Millau, we were rewarded with an amazing route through the Gorges du Tarn (stunning), Mende (quaint) and Béziers (a poor man's Paris - amazing).

We ended the journey at a Formula 1 hotel less than 5km (3mi) from the fortress town. As we were checking in, I discovered this most bizarre tourist brochure (pictured right).

Out of all the things I imagined I might find in an ancient UNESCO world heritage site, Le Parc Australien was not quite what I had anticipated. Needless to say I have no interest in exploring the parc as I didn't come a gazillion miles away from home just to be transported back there in a cheesey touristic experience. Non merci.

So it's off to be I go and pray for a cool change. We've had temperatures in excess of 37°C (98.6°F) and I'm a wilting.

Until tomorrow, stay cool.

Grace xx

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Packed like Sardines

We have been flat out doing our rekky (reconnaissance) for the upcoming tour and last night culminated in a Joseph and Mary moment on Christmas eve.

We had a day of woes, too many to tell, and by the time we pulled into the town of Millau past midnight, all the hotels were 'closed'.

Despite driving around for over an hour we decided our best (and only) option was to put all our stuff in the front seat, which included three bikes.

Why three bikes? I hear you ask. Because we are travelling with Pat's mum and dad. It's a National Lampoons vacation on steroids!

So we ripped the back seats out of our Ford Galaxy hire van and the four of us squeezed in for the night. Packed as tight as a tin of sardines. Luckily none of us ate onions, cabbage or beans or we could have been in for one gut wrenching night. Phew.

So here I am at Millau McDonalds for their free wi-fi and clean bathrooms. The things we do, the things we do.

Until tomorrow, be grateful for all the space that surrounds you.

Grace xx

ps. This photo was taken from David Wray's blog because I love it.

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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Wednesday - CLOSED!

Sorry guys - did not get access to wifi.

Please see tomorrow's post for your dose of Graceness.

Grace xx

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Happy 75th Birthday Dalai Lama

Today marks the Dalai Lama's 75th birthday.

You know when you're asked "If there's anybody in the world, dead or alive, that you could have dinner with - who would it be?"?

More often than not, I'll answer "The Dalai Lama".

I don't know what I'd say to his holiness face to face as I had a hard enough time signing his birthday global tribute.

His balding head, square glasses and warming smile reminds me of my late grandfather - though I'm not so sure that's appropriate dinner conversation.

What I'd like to know is how he feels. What's it like to be a world spiritual leader. Did he graciously accept his destiny or were there times when he questioned it. I'd like to know the human being behind the smile and the words of wisdom.

In the meantime, I'll keep feeling all warm and fuzzy over his likeness to my beloved Nonno. That'll be our secret.

Until tomorrow, is there someone in the world that you'd like to have dinner with? If so, who and why?

Grace xx

PS. Back in France on day one of our pre-tour reconnaissance. The tour starts in one week and we have a LOT of work to do - yikes!

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Monday, 5 July 2010

Milder Dick-Jogurt

One thing I love about travelling is discovering all the little nuances in languages.

Everything from funny road signs to a-la-carte menu items, there are words to be learned (if not chuckled at) all around.

My last night in Germany culminated in an apres-concert dinner. It was a farewell to those leaving the Darmstadt Staatsoper company and a 'woohoo, it's summer holidays' for the remainder of the performers.

As I sat down to peruse the menu, I noticed a rather interesting dessert. Milder Dick-Jogurt (the Germans pronounce 'j' as 'y' for example 'ja' is pronounced 'ya').

"Hmmmm... " I wondered what Dick Yoghurt was, and what made it milder (obviously NOT asparagus).

Unable to contain my amusement, I chuckled aloud and photographed the menu for your delight.

I learned that 'dick' means 'thick' and so the yoghurt in question had nothing to do with the male anatomy and all to do with its consistency.

Until tomorrow, celebrate international nuances by realising that there ought be no barriers to humour and laughter. It unites us all, irrespective of language.

Grace xx

PS. Congratulations Germany to your 4 - nil win over Argentina at this year's soccer World Cup. You guys sure know how to celebrate. I've never seen live car-surfing before. Makes my couch-surfing look positively lame.

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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sunday Sentence

"Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long"

- Tom Cochran

(Inspired by the last three days, where I drove just under 1,000km in Switzerland and Germany reaching speeds in excess of 160km+ per hour in a little Fiat that rattled over 140km per hour. Hilarious.)

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Saturday, 3 July 2010

Confessions of a shoe addict

I have a deep dark secret that I've been trying to hide for way too long - especially from my husband (though I think he's figured it out by now).

It's an illness.

I have an addiction and a somewhat bizarre affection for decorative inanimate objects that are designed to house one's feet.

Here is my confession... I am completely and utterly in love with shoes - the quirkier the better.

Is that wrong?

It is unhealthy?

How many shoes can one own?

Is this affliction only confined to females or do men suffer it too?

I am well aware that I only have two feet, thus find my obsession quite perplexing. Perhaps in a former life I was a barefooted millipede and my mission in this life is to find a unique abode for each of my thousand tootsies. Could that be it?

Yesterday I stumbled upon the most beautiful pair of retro-style aqua heeled sandals (pictured above right). It was lust at first sight, however I reluctantly decided to leave them behind because the heels were covered in woven raffia (paper) rendering them too fragile pour moi. And they were a tad pricey.

The following 24 hours were torturous. I've been tossing and turning, completely obsessing about them. I imagined what I would wear them with, how fabulous they would look and how gorgeous I would feel. Agony.

Today I could stand it no more. I HAD to go back and see them again. Though there was an equally gorgeous yet far more practical sister model in fuscia (the heels were covered in fabric instead of paper), my heart was yearning for the more fragile turquoise sibling.

This was a classic tug of war between my head and heart. Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool.

Thanks to a bit of coaching from Margaret, my heart won the day. I am now the proud owner of the most gorgeous, comfortable and somewhat impractical retro heeled sandals. I feel like Samantha from Bewitched when they're on my feet. They are without a doubt, magic.

However it ponders a question. Is it wise to enter a love affair, knowing that it's destined to end prematurely and that I'm likely to be broken hearted at the inevitable end? No, it's not wise. But sometimes lust and pleasure is no match for wisdom.

Until tomorrow, be sure to allow your heart to indulge in pleasures despite being void of wisdom.

Grace xx

PS. Saturday Quiz No.4 is still up for grabs. The clue is a Scottish lock (AKA loch), which forms the first syllable of the four syllable word.

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Friday, 2 July 2010

Hi Jacked

Tonight I have Hi Jacked Grace's blog.

Why have I Hi Jacked my own wife's blog I hear you ask?

Well, the short version is that Grace, as you already know is in Coburg Germany.

So I thought it might be a good time for me to get in on this blogging thingy and hi jack Grace's blog prior to her coming on line to do a post apres Opera.

Yep you heard right. Grace is off for more cultural adventures this evening in the beautiful town of Coburg in Germany to watch 'Top Gun Tenor' Garrie Davis Lim. Toi Toi Toi Gaz ;-)

Right nuff of that.

What have I been up to the past few days I hear you ask?

Well, I am glad you asked. Because I have been in the north west of Switzerland in Grenchen. For those of you that don't know Grenchen is famous for a few things, but mostly famous for the watches that come out of this region. Think of an exclusive watch brand made in Switzerland and it's probably made here. Think Rolex, Tissot, Breitling and many many more.

The other thing this area is famous for is bikes and component manufacturing. Yep you heard right they still make stuff up here in Switzerland and are exceptionally proud of what they make.

We have been at the launch of the BMC bikes 2011 range release these past few days. It has been an educational, informative and fun few days. Yesterday we watched the brand new process that BMC uses to make carbon fibre bikes, raced go carts with 30 other journalist from all parts of the world and met a very inspirational guy called Andy Rees.

Andy just happens to one of those inspirational serial entrepreneur types who has his finger in so many pie's it is incredible. Everything from vineyards, Phonak hearing aids and BMC bikes to name a few. BMC is the race team that Cadel Evans will race for in the tour de france which starts tomorrow in Rotterdam.

Until tomorrow.

I trust you find the serial entrepreneur in yourself today ;-)

Go Cadel

Big Love


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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Hand delivered prize in Germany

What do you do when you get an opportunity to drive to Germany and hand deliver a Saturday Quiz prize?

Go for it!

Turns out the my husband's bike launch was a mere three and a half hours drive (that turned into five) from Top Gun Tenor, Garrie - who lives in Germany... and yes, he is a top gun tenor.

Garrie correctly guessed Saturday Quiz No.3 and I couldn't resist the temptation to personally deliver the Eiffel Tower key ring.

So here I am, on his couch (which I'll be surfing later on), writing this to you.

Now I'd love to sit and chat some more, but I have to get ready to indulge in a very cultural evening of German opera. I'm seeing Mozart's Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute), featuring the very gorgeous Margaret Koenn (Gazza's missus).

So I have to dash.

Until tomorrow, find ways to get more culture than a tub of yoghurt.

Grace xx

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