It’s 2pm and it’s surgery time! I arrived at the Casa with my guide Ann, and fellow soul pod companion, Sherril, and waited to go into surgery. We entered the main hall, sat down and once again, I immediately burst into tears, as the energy was overwhelming. Sherril fetched me some blessed water to calm me down and it did. When the lines were called for surgery, Ann walks me through all the current and medium rooms and I observe people deep in meditation, eyes shut, and very relaxed. I enter the surgery or blessing room and immediately feel a zephyr of air and smell of psychic anaesthetic – this is evidence of the spirit doctor working in here. I felt very calm, and sat down with hands on my legs, palms facing up and eyes gently closed.
Whilst sitting there, prayers are recited in Portuguese, and then repeated in English. You are asked if you want a physical or spiritual operation. Physical is when an individual needs to feel or actually be touched (i.e. cut open etc by Joao) and spiritual or invisible is where spirits work through your body and energy, but still cutting and performing a surgery on you. It is said that your soul knows what you need and that if you are asked what kind of surgery you want your hand will either voluntarily raise up or not. As for me I chose a spiritual surgery, so in doing so, I placed my right hand over my heart, and allow spirit to work on my whole being.
I don’t know how long I was sitting there for, time stands still in this place and doesn’t seem to exist. With my prescription in hand and vibrationally charged for me, I await for the surgery to be over. Shakily I move outside after the surgery and get debriefed on the post surgery instructions:
You may feel anesthetised or light headed afterward. You will collect a prescription for a post-operation herb (Passiflora) which has no real benefit; it is the vibration of energy that Entity has placed into them that is of benefit.
Post operation instructions include the following:
- Do not eat pork, chilli peppers, spicy food, or drink alcohol while taking the herbs.
- You will be instructed to not engage in sex for 40 days (to conserve all your energy for healing).
- You will be instructed to stay out of the sun for at least 7 days (to conserve your energy)
- You will write your name, home address, country and the pousada where you are staying on a piece of paper and leave it in the basket in the first office. This is so the Spirits can work on you while you are in Abadiania and for one year after you return home. It is also so they can visit you to remove any stitches.
- You will then take a taxi to your Pousada and rest for 24 or more hours. Do not walk. Some people feel exhausted for a 2nd day. Even if you feel fine, remain in bed for 24 hours. Not 15 or 22, but at least 24 hours.
- Lay in bed, with your eyes closed. No sun, no lifting, no exercise, no long walks for 8 days, and take it easy for 40 days. So I spend the days walking around with an umbrella to shield myself, along with everyone else. Such a shame to have left the winter of home, to come to tropical weather, yet not able to enjoy it – that would come later though J
- We are also unable to leave a large radius of the area in which we are living, known to many as the bubble or vortex. You need to get permission to go outside of the main street.
Whilst waiting outside, Ann collects my prescription and then arranges a taxi back to Luz Divina Pousada. I now rest for 24 hours. Even though I was so tired from days of travelling I still felt very unrested or overtired. After surgery, my entire body ached all over, I felt totally wiped out and my entire legs were on fire, burning. Being in my room for 24 hours to rest, without contact or stimulation was welcomed by me.
After 24 hours I emerged at dinner time, and Ann had bought me one of Frutti’s fabulous Strawberry Shakes. I attempted to face the energy of people around me – it was very difficult – I was so shaky, my energy open and exposed. After some food, I began to feel my grounded again.
Following dinner there was a talk and photographic slideshow of Joao (and incorporation) by Karen Lefner, Joao’s only photographer. It was amazing to see and hear about his life. I enjoyed this, and then had the best night’s sleep ever.
By this stage, my days begin to blur. I begin to learn what truly being in the ‘Now’ actually means. Time doesn’t matter here and my mind is set aside for the soul and heart to operate for maximum healing and experiences in Abadiania. Only Ego (the mind) operates on past and present.
Sherril and I take our time to enjoy the beautiful breakfasts we would become accustomed to – fresh watermelon, payaya, mango, avocado, traditional Brazilian cheese rolls, and beautiful jam. After a leisurely breakfast we walk down the Casa, umbrella’s in hand (we have to remain covered for the next 8 days) and have strict rules in place for diet and activity.
The Casa is open every day, but the sessions with John of God operate Wednesday, Thursday and Friday only. Sherril and I take pieces of paper from the office and write prayers, and wishes, for ourselves, loved ones, friends and family. We enter the main Hall, where we remove our shoes, walk up to the stage and place them in the blessed triangle. You place your head in the centre of the triangle and your hands touch the outside of it. This sacred triangle is like an interdimensional portal, an energy vortex, and people have been known to feel as if they are sucked into it or that the wall doesn’t exist.
After our blessings we go to the beautiful Casa lookout and meditate. It’s so beautiful here, there are an array of wooden benches here, or just outside of the canopy. It’s a silent area, where you can reflect, or listen to the birds, watch a wandering cow in the fields below and just to Be. Following this a trip to the Casa Bookshop, which is where you can purchase crystal beds, blessed water, buy crystals, books, cds and an array of gifts, all blessed by entity.
On the way back to our Pousada, we stop at Frutti’s – this place is like an institution. We would frequent here 1-2 times each day. My favourite drink at this point is the Strawberry Shake. This place has such an open and friendly ambiance, brightly yellow painted with murals, open aired, and fresh produce. Out the back is like a tropical garden of lush palms, exotic flower trees, and tables with a earthy feel. On certain days they play movies at night for a donation or welcome travellers who wish to share their music. This place is where you get to meet others from all over the world, and catch up with your group. The experience in this small part of town actually reminds me of growing up in a small community. Similarly we didn’t use our mobile phones, and if you wanted to find someone, it usually happened at the right time, or you just ‘knew’ where you would bump into them.
I was humbled by Sherril’s words to me, that I’m an inspiration to her – that every step I take for me is like walking into the unknown. Her demonstrated emotion and care touched me – she said I display such courage. I admit, nobody realises how my very walking is a waking miracle because I refuse to never give up or question what is impossible. The remainder of the day was one of resting, as I felt very tired.
Dinner was shared with my group in the evening. At the moment there are only a few of us, as our remaining Aussies are still stuck in Sydney due to the Chile volcano which has delayed their flights. We adopted an American at Frutti’s; Catherine was travelling alone and like any one new to coming here, you really need a guide and we welcomed her into our Soul Pod.
Topping off this day, we cruised along to Frutti’s for conversation, Keylime pie, and hot chocolate before retiring to bed at 8pm, and slept til 6am.
My first night at Luz Divina, and I didn’t sleep much – I woke at 3.30am then at 5.45am – as I was anticipating my first visit to the Casa. My travel companion Sherril, kindly greeted me at my door (along with Luz the Cat) with a cup of coffee as I prepared to get dressed in the customary ‘white’ clothing. The Entities do request that people wear white. In fact, the rules, the layout of the Casa, and everything about how the Casa operates is guided by the Entities.
When the entities who work through John of God scan your energy field, white makes it easier for them to “see” the energetic imbalances. Also, white helps facilitate a flow of energy in the current room. Darker colors break the energetic current, but it doesn’t mean that you will be turned away, for example there are poorer people from Brazil and beyond, who travel days to arrive in Abadiânia – they do not have the luxury to afford a new white wardrobe.
Once I was ready to go, we walked down the road to the Casa. Our Pousada was very close to the Casa, and as we end our street and turn left, Frutti’s Cafe, with it’s bright yellow exterior is nearby and would soon become to me (and others) the Hub of activity, meetings with friends, movie nights, laughter, music and pure joy. As you walk down the road, it looks like a sea of white, people of all ages and cultures on a pilgrimage. We left earlier, in order to make a crystal bed session that our guide had booked for us prior to seeing the Entity for the first time. In doing this we were ensuring our energy was as clear as possible, and after the ordeal in getting to Brazil, I was truly not in the best physical, emotional or mental state.
The crystal bed was quite an experience. I had read about such a device in Brian Weiss’ past life books, where messages from Ascended Masters talk about the future of Energy Medicine and crystal vibrations for healing. During the 20 minute session I felt my 3rd eye prying open and very hot, then lots of tears just flowed out!
A crystal bed has 7 extremely clear and highly polished quartz crystals suspended about 12 inches above you or so, whilst you lay on a bed or massage table. Each crystal has been cut to a specific frequence, and is aligned with the chakras. Coloured lights, matching your chakras radiate light and energy through the crystals to each chakra, alternating patterns and spiralling an amplication of energy from the root chakra to the crown chakra – shinning on and off in rhythm to cleanse, balance and align your energies. You can feel an array of sensations during and after sessions – pressure, weight, lightness, heaviness, hot, cold, wind, tickling, tingling and can evoke peace, relaxation and serenity.
After the crystal bed, I felt a vibrational lightness, like my energy was pulsing very fast, and I didn’t feel so heavy. You do have to be careful after a crystal bed, because you are more open, and sensitive to things around you. It’s like having a shower and washing everything away.
We didn’t have much time after the crystal bed to get ready to enter the main assembly hall of the Casa. A quick coffee and breakfast (the amazing Brazilian cheese bread rolls – pão de queijo, made with tapioca flour) was in order to ground us a little first.
Walking into the main hall of the Casa at 8am was quite an experience for me as a clairsentient – I could see and feel the energy of the people, sense desperation, hope, faith, heartache, everything! So when I sat down for the very first time, a bubble burst, it came out of no where – I was spontaneously overwhelmed by emotion, I gasped and cried and cried. Even though I was crying, I didn’t quite know why, there was no emotion.
I settled eventually and composed myself. The main hall is where people gather before each session on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A brief orientation and prayers occur here and then lines are called for people to line up in preparation to see John of God. Each person comes with their requests, and these have to be translated in Portuguese by a translator, or if you have a guide this is already organised for you. You will condense your thoughts into brief notes so you can present to the Entity (although Entity already knows what you need). Because of the number of people, you get very little time with the Entity, so you need to be clear on what you wish to ask for (it can be health, emotional, spiritual or life situations).
There are different lines which are called each morning and afternoon at the Casa. Because this was my first visit to Entity (and no photo had been presented before, or any previous visit) I would go into the ‘First Time Line’. When the first time line is called, my guide walks me through the first and second rooms (known as the Current and Medium Current’s rooms – more about this later). As soon as Entity locks onto sight of you, he knows All, we are a soul blueprint of everything past and present of your soul. I touch the hand of Joao, he holds it, as Entity and we maintain eye contact. It’s a powerful moment. Entity instructs me via interpreter that I will be having an Intervention (Surgery) today. This will take place in the afternoon session at 2pm. After seeing the Entity we go into a blessing room where we sit with eyes shut, palms facing up as we are blessed and cleansed in preparation for the afternoon.
I leave this room, then walk out to the beautiful blue skies, and tropical sunshine we would enjoy during our time in Brazil. We head off to line up with hundreds of others to partake in blessed soup, a lightly seasoned vegetable and noodle soup with some bread. I felt very peaceful.
The remainder of my morning, I take note of my surroundings – the beautiful gardens of the Casa, the pictures of King Solomon, Dalai Lama dedication, and reflect on what is to come. As a group we venture back to the Luz Divina, but not without stopping at what would become our ‘regular’ hangout, Frutti’s. The sun is warm, the sky is blue and cloudless – I surmise …this place is truly divine. Having arrived at midnight, I hadn’t had a chance to savour the sights of my new home either. The Luz Divina garden is tropical, featuring a big mango and avocado tree, hammocks, exotic flowers, plants like orchids, frangipani, Bougainvillea, a walking labyrinth, crystal charged fountain and lots of beautiful birds.
By the time lunch arrived, I began to feel very different within my body, it was the start of Entities at work on my Being – I was shaking, barely able to use my cutlery, felt floaty, out of my body – essentially not with it. So after a buffet lunch of organic papaya, juices, fresh vegetable salads, mango, avocado, chicken and beans, I went to lay down in my room to rest. Soon I would return to the afternoon Casa session where I would have my first Intervention (surgery). After Intervention, I would be going directly back to my room for 24 hours, keeping my eyes shut in bed (no music, visitors, reading etc) to recover. My meals will be brought to me.
To be continued in Part 4.
It’s been about 4 months now since I returned from Abadiânia – a small town in the state of Goiás, Brazil and home to a famous Brazilian medium and “psychic surgeon” known as— João de Deus (God of God) – please click on link to read more about this man.
Brazil was an amazing place to visit – the people are so friendly, welcoming and spiritual. I do yearn to go back in the future, and I know that those close to me in my soul pod, also feel this pull. This trip impacted me almost beyond words, so it has been very very difficult to find a way to explain to others what one could mostly describe as an ‘energy’ or feeling of coming home spiritually. I went there to find peace within myself, to be able to heal on levels of my being that I could not access myself on a soul level. I recorded my experience as best I could in a journal, but it is just the iceberg, and I’m not sure I can still convey the depth of experience.
For me, the very trip was very much a pilgrimage, and I was not in best physical form due to ill health. At one point I was so distressed if I would ever make it to Brazil, that I could barely breathe, and was in a state of anxiety. The reason for this was because the Chilean volcano erupted in early June and affected all flights to Argentina, and from there to Brazil.So to paint the picture for you, my travel plan involved flying from Perth to Sydney, from there to Buenos Aires, from there to Sao Paulo on route to Brasillia and then by car to Abadiânia. After 3 cancellations/delays I flew to Sydney still not knowing if I was going to be flying to Argentina. When I got to Sydney, all seemed to be okay, however they then changed the departure gates and a large number of travellers and I had to make our way to a different gate much further away. I met two of my travelling companions at the airport and we eventually boarded the plane. But once we were seated it become apparent that there was a problem. The Chilean ash had now moved to the Pacific ocean affecting the standard flight path to South America. We sat on the plane for two hours, whilst four technicians worked on developing a new flight path to Buenos Aires. Eventually we were on our way, but it was one of the most turbulent flights I had ever been on, and to be honest after the dramas of getting to this point, I did wonder if I was going to make IT!
By the time I got to Buenos Aires and enjoyed a day or two there, we were then on our way to the airport to fly to Brazil only to find the airport shut down and requiring us to stay another night in BsAs. The next day upon arriving early at the airport we missed the crowd and got aboard the plane very quickly. However, because of the crowds of people, other passengers were delayed and so our flight was delayed leaving resulting in us arriving in Sao Paulo and missing our connecting flight. By the time we go to Brasillia, and taxi ride hour and a half to Abadiânia, it was close to midnight.
We arrived at the Pousada (Luz Divina) in darkness – very tired – and would need to be awake early for the first visit to see John of God at the Casa, (the healing centre) which attracts up to 2,000 people from all over Brazil, and the world, each day. Even though it was so late at night, our beautiful guide Ann was there to warmly welcome us, and show us our personal rooms. I was in room number 12, which was beautifully adorned with spiritual images, bathroom, room with hammock and desk, and felt so peaceful. Ann left me a welcoming card with Archangel Michael and lovely blessed Citrine rosary necklace, which would be soon charged up with even more love and energy.
Abadiânia was to become my spiritual home for the month, and the catalyst for healing, a connection to soul, lifelong friendships, stories of miracles, and awakening.
I’m such a sentient and kinesthetic soul, always daydreaming, always imagining beautiful places to be that would evoke my consciousness – a place to absorb and intoxicate and dip into all my senses to a synergistic blend of harmonious energies. My spirit fires up almost physically imagining this. As John Lennon sang ‘You may say that I’m a dreamer…’.
Here are some amazing places in the world that have inspired me, and perhaps you, a place where you can sleep & reverie….
ANANTARA GOLDEN TRIANGLE RESORT & SPA (LAOS)
Located in the lush tropical Thailand jungle, is this Elephant rescue camp and luxurious resort. It is an environmentally responsible resort, where you can also dine with the elephants at breakfast time. Full of rich Siam heritage, home of hill tribes and natural wilderness. Learn about the threatened population of Elephants (34 live here also) and the culture of the people. Imagine earthy camp floors, being cocooned by silk furnishings, teak stained floors and exotic thai styled rooms overlooking the jungle-clad Laos hills. Enjoy the beautiful loving and gentle elephants, explore the Mekong river & markets, take yoga or cooking classes…immerse yourself in this inspiring and humbling adventure.
TREE HOTEL (SWEDEN)
Ah, the country of my originating ancestory – it conjures up thoughts of viking history, the dala horse, northern lights and nordic wilderness. I love the tree house concept which you can experience in Northern Sweden, a combination of harmony with nature and ecological values. The concept was inspired by a documentary called “Trädälskaren” (Treelover) by Jonas Selberg Augustsen, a story about ‘the tree’ and what it means to humans culturally and historically.
There are six separate Tree Rooms to choose from – The Mirror Cube, The Bird’s Nest, The Cabin and The Blue Cone, The Ufo in October and A room with a View. There is also a Tree Room with Sauna for larger groups – imagine immersing yourself in the four elements – fertile earth, burning fire, fresh air and clean water, fit to drink. This place is definately on my bucket list!!!
MOLJA LIGHTHOUSE (NORWAY)
I’ve always been drawn to lighthouses – perhaps it is because they are isolated, abutting wild oceans with panoramic views or perhaps it is the metaphoric representations, the water represents the emotions, the Lighthouse is a symbol for spiritual strength and emotional guidance which is available to us during the times we feel we are being helplessly tossed around in a sea of inner turmoil.
You can stay in this still active 150 year-old lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour of Aalesund, Norway. Designed with the blend of modern and rustic nostalgic interior you can enjoy two levels of luxury. It is located close to the town but isolated enough to hear only sounds of waves, passing boats and be lost in skies of stars.
KASBAH DU TOUBKAL (MOROCCO)
This retreat offers stunning north African views from the exotic tiled rooftop terrace, and conjures up drinking in colourful sunsets and dawns, trekking the Atlas mountains, Berber hospitality with ornate rituals of mint tea, and spicy tagines, and of course romantic splendor. This retreat is a mountain refuge, and ecologically and culturally found venture.
Museum Hotel (TURKEY)
Enjoy an experience like no other, located in Cappadocia, this hotel inspired to be like a living museum for it is indeed based on existing ruins and caves and traditions of the area. It features 30 unique and special rooms. Cappadocia is a fairy tale land in the middle of Anatolia, full of history, architecture, nature and scenery entwined perfectly. Cappadocia, “Land of Beautiful Horses” in the ancient Persian tongue, is the oldest heart of the world. This is why everyone who comes here falls in love with it.
ELQUI DOMOS (CHILE)
A dream experience, combining a love of horses and the night sky! This Chilean resort offers Astronomy horseback tours to study the skies. Imagine lying in your duvet watching stars from your bed through the top of the tent -your own telescope is included in each room. The sky is the clearest in this region and so blue, and the mountains embrace you like you are in another world.
KAKSLAUTTANEN HOTEL & IGLOO VILLAGE (FINLAND)
Get rugged up for this one, and enjoy watching the dancing light show of the Northern Lights (late August to April) in the beautiful Lapland igloo village. Be surrounded by stunning scenery and choose to sleep in snow or glass igloos or alternatively a log cabin!
I hope I have inspired you in some way – sweet dreams
Here is another bucket list mention, and I really want to get my feet moving so I can get up here and yell…”I finally did it, I beat the odds, I proved anything is possible”. I would love to be sharing the moment with loved ones.
The name Machu Picchu is really just an educated guess because so little is known about this ancient city, possibly created around 1450 in the height of the Inca Empire. This lost city of the Incas, is nestled 7,500 feet above sea level in the Andean mountain range above the Urubamba valley and became one of the new 7 wonders of the world in 2007. No one really knows the true purpose of this city. A self sustaining city based on archelogical evidence, and the architecture, like Egyptian pyramids, involved hauling massive stones over great distances, and they were cut to precision! no mortar was used. Speculation abounds about how the Incas could have made such cut stone to such precise dimensions without the help of modern technology. Some have even suggested that the Inca had extraterrestrial help!
What a magical experience it would be to embark on the path, and to imagine what it would be like to have lived here…every stone would have stories to tell…
A Poem to Machu Picchu by Pablo Neruda
Poem to Machu Picchu – Poem VI
And then up the ladder of the earth I climbed
through the horrible thicket of the lost jungles
to you, Machu Picchu .
Tall city of stones stacked up in steps,
at last a dwelling where what is earthly
was not hidden under slumbering clothes.
In you, like two parallel lines,
the cradle of lightning and humanity
rocking together in a thorny wind.
Mother of stone, spume of the condors.
Highest reef of the human dawn.
Shovel buried in the first sand.
This is the spot, the place where they lived:
here the fat kernels of corn were carried up
and fell again to earth like red hail.
Here the gold wool came off the vicuña
to dress the loves, the burial mounds, the mothers,
the king, the prayers, the warriors.
Here men’s feet took their rest at night
next to the feet of eagles, in the lofty lairs
of the meat-eaters, and at dawn
they trod with thunderous steps over the rarefied fog,
and touched the ground and the rocks
until they knew them in the dark or in death.
I look at their clothes and their hands,
the traces of water in the echoing hollows,
the wall worn smooth by the touch of a face
that looked with my eyes a the earthly lamps,
that oiled with my hands the vanished
timbers: because everything –the clothes, the hides, the vessels,
the words, the wine, the bread-
was gone, fallen into the earth.
And the air came in with orange-blossom fingers
over all the sleepers:
a thousand years of air, months, weeks of air,
of blue wind and iron mountains,
as if soft hurricanes of running feet
were polishing the solitary enclosure of the stone.
Find a little nook, a cosy sofa…A spot under a tree, with the spring or summer sun shinning…Your beautiful garden….A lovely earthy cafe….a book is a great solitary splendor where you can go off to another time, place, world
The pleasures of sleeping as mother nature intended, the spanish well know the art of siestas and naps, and I know on some days when at work I wish I could hide somewhere and grab some 15 minutes to recharge and escape. Energy is restored, confusion and minds made clear, the body heals, and we travel off (in soul) to unknown places and we dream the most amazing things.
Plan a retreat, whether at home or a weekend away…just do it. When you feel you need to escape, had enough of the trudge of work, it’s time to retreat and pull yourself together, mind body and spirit. Plan a monthy retreat, you have so many options.
What more obvious way to escape reality than leaving where you are and going someplace else? Where would you go, somewhere new or old? Find a place that resonates with you. Travel is inspiring and when you have had enough, just pack a bag and head for the road. Plan that road trip and have fun thinking about the little places you can stop on the way.
See your dreams and act them out as if they are happening now, that you already have them. Use your senses to imagine sight, smell, touch, hearing and feeling. What stories or events make you happy. You can create a new event or relive and feel something from the past that brings you much joy.
Watch a Movie
Go and find some movies that make you feel good! or take you to a different place or fantasy…and enjoy the trip!
Do you have any other ideas??
In my teens I daydreamed of visiting this sacred ancient site in England’s south west, called Ynys yr Afalon (meaning ‘the isle of Avalon) by the early Britons, which is often thought to be Avalon, King Arthur’s legendary base. Adding validity to this, when the great abbey was being rebuilt , a grave was discovered carrying the following inscription: Hic jacet Arturus, rex quondam, rexque futurus (“Here lies Arthur, the once and future King”).
The Tower is all that remains of the medieval St. Michael’s church – which was destroyed by an earthquake on September 11, 1275. Some say that the Tor is an entry point to the Underworld and a place that the dead meet before they move on to another existence.
Full of myths and legends this place exudes an energy that draws me to visit one day, and feel my hand upon the ancient stone walls, and behold the view of the valley and sense the energy.
In August 2009, my friend Jodie and I spent a month abroad enjoying the life of leisure through the sights, tastes, and sounds of France, Spain and Morocco. And here I have extracted from my notebook some little tidbits of information, stories, and pictures to describe our experiences in Hong Kong, Paris, Barcelona, Málaga, Algeciras, Gibraltar and Tangier.
My first impressions of Hong Kong – dirty, humid, hot, and highly polluted. Having just endured a 9 hour flight from Perth, we still had most of the day to explore the city before departing for Paris.
The public transport system however is highly fast, effective and very cheap in Hong Kong and so easy to get around. We left the airport, and caught a bus, followed by train to the hub of the city. We trekked around the city and visited the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, a small rectangular garden where songbird owners carry their beloved pets around in ornate carved cages. So many beautiful birds were to be seen here, singing beautifully. It was nice place to sit, cool down and repose from the tiring humidity. Nearby, was one of many colourful street markets, and in particular the Flower Market, which is a jungle of gorgeous exotic blossoms, luck-bringing houseplants and sweet scents.
There were an abundance of markets, and many hawkers, trying to sell you copy jewellry, bags, shoes, and clothing, and they became very repetitive – and something of little interest to me. We left the main island and caught one of the many old ferries (no thrills wooden seats, open air) back to Kowloon across the Victoria Harbour, to make our way back to the International Airport -stopping on route to a large department store.
Upon touchdown in Paris, after a 13 hour flight, we were surprised by a round of clapping applause from passengers ! I don’t know if this is normal for Paris, but not something we expected, it wasn’t a difficult landing or anything.
Having got through customs, we caught the train to Gare du Nord and made our way to the Oops Hostel to drop off our luggage. Unfortunately we arrived in the early hours, and we could not check in, therefore as tired as we were having not slept for almost 48 hours we ventured out to the Tulleries Garden to find a bench to relax and reverie.
OOPS Hostel! – Located in the start of Latin Quarter, with nearby Metro lines directly to Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées – all line 6 – as well as line 7 direct to the Marais, the Louvre, the Opera and the Montmartre neighbourhood. Les Gobelins the closest stop.
It’s a shoe box hostel, brightly coloured, with small dorm and shower – however it was Air Conditioned, and it was Summertime. The street had some fantastic restaurants, cafes, dancing and cinema, making it a lively place to be. In our dorm we had two young Russian guys who we enjoyed random conversations with, and Jodie would try an explain Australia Football to them, as they were interested in it.
Cinema Night – One evening we went to a french restaurant before seeing the movie “The Ugly Truth”, and Jodie’s charms caught the attention of an older waiter who jokingly tried to take her off into the kitchen, and whispered that the other waiter was going to be jealous. After the movie, we had to go past the restaurant and the same waiter waved at us, tried to say something to Jodie, and about ‘her friend’, yes moi..lol..but we just laughed and walked it off.
Apartment – We booked 7 nights (A$1,071 for 2) in a lovely residential apartment in Saint-Mandé (12 arrondissement) via the French Experience website. They were professional and all instructions for getting the keys were clear, even if it did seem like a puzzle to unlock the Da Vinci Code.
Our nearest station was called Picpus (line 1), which we found amusing. It has some great restaurants, and cafes which we enjoyed eating at regularly and meeting up with my french friends, as well as a local boulangerie, where we enjoyed buying daily, raspberry tarts, croissants of all types, fresh juices, jams and berries from little market shops. It was a highly secure apartment, but the size of a box; as you entered the door a little kitchenette was to the right, and an oblong triangle bathroom with toilet and shower. The only main room comprised sofa bed, large double bed, and small dining table and chairs. When my great friend Celine, from Belgium, visited for a few days, we had to share the bed.
Bateaux Mouche (The Fly boat) Pont de l’Alma– One special evening, Jodie, Celine and I dressed for a beautiful evening out (courtesy of someone very dear to me). We enjoyed a dinner cruise and prestige a la carte menu. My choices were: Smoked Salmon millefeuille with scandinavian bread, creamed dill and horseradish; Medallion of Lamb, green beans and goat’s cheese, cheese plate, and iced flute with strawberry and mascapone. It was a magical cruise, to see the beautiful city alive at night in lights, and gold. Piano and violin played in the background and it was lovely to see the Parisians picnicing, romancing and dancing along the river banks as the sun goes down.
Tour Eiffel– Of course you cannot come to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower, or E.T as I affectionately call it. This time we stayed on the ground, as Jodie and I had both been there before, and enjoyed the views. We went to the local supermache and bought some cheeses, bread, fruit and drink to enjoy a picnic on the grass and soak up the sunshine. It was very relaxing, and interesting to people watch. A lot of gypsies move through the groups of people trying to obtain money or charm you with a story, but we were not bothered.
Jardin Des Tuleries Garden – A place where it’s good to relax and watch the world go by- but ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs are everywhere.
The garden occupies an area of 25 hectares, between the Carousel du Louvre and the place de la Concorde, the rue de Rivoli and the banks of the Seine. As it was summer, a carnival was set up with rides, carousels, ice creams and ferris wheel, so we wandered through soaking up the atmosphere. In one of the large ponds you see children being amused with toy sailing boats, and adults sun bathing in the chairs that encircle it.
As we were leaving towards the Louvre, we saw two police on roller blades, a big tourist attraction, as it was evident they enjoyed having their photos taken with tourists – how could I resist too!
The Louvre – Such a great museum, and I’ve been there 2-3 times now! and I’ve never had to endure a big line up to get in. Not only the exhibitions, and rooms, but the whole architecture is just amazing. I personally love the history of the place, knowing that I am walking upon stones and walls hundreds of years old. It started as a fortress at the turn of the 13th century, and later a royal residence. The gold, crystal and ruby opulence of Napoléon III’s rooms is incredible to see. The Mona Lisa was difficult to get close to, and such a quaint painting.
Canal St Martin – Some would say that it’s not that interesting walking along a canal, and admittedly there is very little along the path as you walk. However, at times we would spot Cafés and quirky and colourful boutiques flanking the water and iron footbridges. Our entertainment on our walk along this canal, was a group of 20 or so people in their roller skates, dancing and cruising along to loud and funky 80’s and 90’s music emanating from their portable music blaster.
The Estate of Versailles Palace and Gardens – Only 30 minutes by train, this place was amazing and so vast it was impossible to see in even one day. The chateaus were stately, with manicured gardens, opulent and ornate architecture and furnishings. This place is one of the most prestigious of world heritage sites, and 17th century art. Whilst extremely busy with tourists, the glimpses into rooms of Mary Antoinette, and gardens and groves, were ingrained into my senses.
Champs Elysses – We spent part of the day exploring this prestigious and elegant street, and definitely a lot of window shopping. You will find high end cafes, cinemas, designer stores, elite car dealers, and If you’re a fan of all things pastry, pretty and macaroon-y then the Champs élysees branch of Laduree will make you gaze wide-eyed once you step through the door. We tried to take some photographs of the Arc de Triomphe, but there were so many people around trying to do the same!
Rock On Seine -This was a great music festival, and very different from an Australia music concert. People dress conservatively, not in the funky outfits, dress-up theatrics you see back at home. Instead of fried chips, hot dogs, and juices we get back home, the food was fresh, and you could choose from a variety including Ethiopian, Japanese, and Moroccan. There were wine bars, and beer gardens with seating and uncrowded lines, and you could visit various modern art exhibitions. The hot, sunny ambiance almost overshadowed the Gallagher brothers’ split (and subsequent cancellation of the Oasis gig which we had hoped to see, we thought it was a joke when they didn’t come on stage but they had a big fight), which was the only bum note of the festival.
The Line Up: Madness, Keane, Bloc Party, Amy Macdonald, Vitalic, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, Just Jack, James Hunter, Oceana, Bill Callahan, Passion Pit, Gush, The Tatianas.
Musee de Erotisme – After visiting Montmartre, this museum was not very far to walk to and explore as a novelty. Deceptive in size, it spans 7 floors or more, and comprises 2000 items.The facts are not too in-depth so don’t expect an anthropological insight here, simply a fun museum with a wide array of sexual art through the centuries and comprises modern art, model enactments, video footage, photographs of prostitutes from the 30’s and 40’s. It’s interesting, and not for the prudish. I bought some tasteful modern erotica postcards from the shop before leaving.
Bois de Vincennes – The Bois de Vincennes had its beginning in the 13th century when Philippe Auguste surrounded the area with a 12 kilometre wall creating a royal hunting preserve for himself. This beautiful english landscaped park has lots to offer, and we enjoyed rowing on the lake, and taking the beautiful and relaxing scenery.
Centre Pompidou – This building is a piece of modern art and you will either love or hate it. It houses an art collection although I didn’t go inside to see this. Instead Jodie and I soaked up the surrounding atmosphere of buskers, cafes and modern art.
A quick 1 hour flight via EasyJet from Paris. Barcelona is lively, festive and touristy. Las Ramblas is full of flower stalls, restaurants, markets, cobbled streets and lanes that are a maze to move through. Attractions along the Ramblas including live performances, human statue art, artists that will draw your portrait or caricature, as well as established attractions like the Wax Museum or hidden shops and bars tucked away and discovered by accident.
Absolutely love the weather, and even more, the food and Sangria!! Lots of ice creameries, freshly made juices, that can be found just about everywhere. The Market (Marcat de la boqueria) was incredible – everything so fresh, seafood, meats, vegetables, and fruits, and not to mention the pre-blended juices on ice ‘to go’ – I tried coconut & papaya, and strawberry -and it cost only $1 euro each.
Tapas & Guitar – On arrival we feasted on lots of Tapas – tomato bread, mixed mushrooms in oil and garlic, asparagus, potatas bravas, sardines baked whole with oil and garlic, and all enjoyed with generous Mojitos :). Behind our hostel was an old church, and we bought tickets to an acoustic concert with maestro Manuel Gonzalez. Sitting in the pews, and listening to the acoustics of the chords being played was magical, but the room was very hot, with only a little fan firing
Museu da la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum) – The story of chocolate! and a chocolate bar as a ticket :). An interesting exhibition with the historical information, and chocolate moulded confectionary sculptures scattered around in glass cages. From animals to matadors, they’ve chipped and chiselled every block of thick brown chocolate and shaped it into a significant spread. We could not depart without having a traditional stodgy, and super thick, spanish hot chocolate stirred up in their kitchen- with sponge biscuit to dip into it.
Barcelona Zoo – We found the zoo to be enjoyable and well laid out. The Barcelona zoo is world famous for housing Snowflake, the only captive albino gorilla in the world. Jodie, a big monkey fan, who was so excited to be seeing Snowflake, however sadly he passed away a couple of years before. My favourite were the dolphins, I’ve never seen them so close up before, but I did feel sad at the same time seeing them living in a round fishbowl. The zoo is centrally located and easy walking distance from where we were staying.
On the way walking back to hostel, we witness the mugging of a woman. She was walking along, and a guy on a bicycle grabbed her bag. She put up a huge fight, and held on for dear life to her bag as he dragged her along from behind. She managed to make him fall off, but he got her bag and sprinted off on foot with it. Locals helped her to her feet, she was shaken understandably.
Museu de Cera (Wax Museum) – Whilst I wouldn’t say the resemblances were overly representative of their subjects, it was an entertaining experience. Over 360 waxworks of personalities from different periods and walks of life covering -History, Culture, Fantasy, Cinema, Music, Literature, Art. They are exhibited in different settings with projections and audio-visual effects.
Bosc de les Fades -This beautiful little cafe is hidden off the side of the Ramblas – its like being in a forest. You walk in the front door and you are among a forest of realistic trees from a Sleepy Hollow movie. There are waterfalls and small caves and the weather changes from being calm to lightening flashing and thunder roaring.
We enjoyed some drinks, and met some Irish boys who were working in Barcelona. They had been heavily drinking, and were continuously breaking their glasses and ended up being threatened to leave. They were harmless and funny to talk with. Next door there’s a very intriging gift shop, the window fully decorated with origami, with all sorts of little bits and pieces to look at and buy.
The Port Vell– Absolutely awesome tapas and Sangria again
. It’s nice to be able to order little plates of different tapas, and enjoy the sunshine, and atmosphere for as long as you want. Enjoyed Potatos bravas with spicy sauce and cream, seafood pieces, tomato bread, cheese balls and mushrooms. The area also has IMAX, aquarium, restaurants and bars, and huge shopping complex which we explored and did some shopping.
Had an ill feeling leaving Barcelona for Málaga, there were many delays in getting to take off, and we seemed to be just driving around the runway.I felt apprehensive as we were flying into Málaga. The plane was tilting left and right constantly, as we flew over dicey arid mountains. But we got there safe and sound in once piece, and grabbed a taxi. We were immediately in bright spirits as the Aussie Men at Work song “Down Under” played as soon as we drove off. The Hostel we stayed at was adequate, but the flight of stairs was not great for my foot problems, and I had already endured the same struggle in Barcelona.
Even though our hostel was not central, we had some shops and cafes close by, for example a little pastry shop, where we could buy small cakes for $0.44 euro and cup of coffee for $1.20, and a bus fare was minimal!
Málaga is one of the oldest cities of the world, and sits in Andalusian part of Spain. My first impressions was that it looked very industrial and was not attractive. A lot of Málaga is ugly blocks of urban sprawl flats, but in the old centre you can find a beautiful heart. Full of narrow sometimes cobbled pedestrian streets winding in and out of each other, and the weather was absolutely perfect with cloudless skies and 35 degree days. We also found the cost of shopping and eating one of the cheapest, and they have some very phallic asparaguses!.
The malls and streets are marbled and beautiful and there are little cafes, and shops, around every nook and cranny. We met a local construction worker who we befriended us one afternoon, so we spent a couple of days enjoying the sites with him, and doing what we do best in Spain, eating great tapas! Siestas do occur everyday with shops shutting completely, but later reopen to late.
Some of the highlights :
Museo Picasso Málaga – a little overrated, and heavily secured. Before you can enter you have to go into a security room, and take out everything out of your bag and put into a tray which is then placed in a locker. You cannot take photographs or mobiles in. Their are security guards just about at every corner. It was interesting to see Picasso’s work however but it was not worth the entry fee in my opinion.
The Castillo (Moorish castle ruins)– We endured a big hill walk to the 14th century Castillo Gibralfaro (which dates back to Pheonican times) but it was worth the stunning view of the city, and below you can see the old teatro romano (roman theatre) which was hidden for centuries, until it reappeared in 1951 during the completion of the gardens of the Palais des Archives and Libraries.
Paseo del Parque – this was our haven for relaxing and also keeping cool in the heat of the day. It extends along the harbor, flanked by promenades shaded by palms and plane-trees, and full of rare flowers and plants, fountains and benches. Click on this 360 view to see how beautiful and peaceful this place is.
Horse Carriage ride – a lovely way to get around and see the city!
We got up early and packed ready for a bus trip to Algeciras, a quick and cheap ($11 euro) 2 hour ride to Algeciras. I had found some advice through travel blogs about how to get to Gibraltar the easiest way, and this little port was the answer.
Finally after staying in hostels, we enjoyed the luxury of a andalusian styled hotel (Hotel Alboran), one that afforded spacious rooms, with massive bathroom and bath – our night was one of pampering. The following day we had our sights set on the looming big rock, Gibraltar.
The Hotel Stalker – also known as the aqua polo shirt man
Jodie and I enjoyed a lovely little dinner in the restaurant in the evening, and the wine admittedly went to my head, and we giggled like school girls, and I got a bit silly! Anyway, so the restaurant was quite vacated and we were sitting around a corner, however from my vantage I could see diners. So here was this guy, in an aqua polo shirt, on his own and staring me down whilst eating. Jodie of course didn’t see him! It wasn’t until we later ventured outside to go for a brief walk to see where we would be catching the bus to Gibraltar the next day, that I saw him again, this time on the balcony watching us! I still don’t know if she believed me at that stage or thought I was tipsy!.
It was the following day, upon returning from Gibraltar, that by chance we took the stairs, and at that moment he walks up the stairs in his aqua polo shirt, and looks at me again, and I hold my breath, til we get down and then laugh…because now Jodie believes me!!!
We were lucky to be staying on a main road, which had buses to La Linea bus port, where we could then walk 5 minutes to the customs gate to Gibraltar. When we arrived at the entrance we purchased a ticket for $22 euro which covered buses, cable car trip, and reserve access on top of the rock.
It’s quite incredible to step over a line/road and everything is suddenly all English – you see double decker buses, UK brand shops, English flags everywhere, pubs, and use Pounds for currency.
The magic was the view from the top of the rock, even though it was overcast, thick with cloud and wind, it was rather incredible. However, it was the Barbary Apes that enraptured us for many hours across the rock – they are everywhere, and are so cheeky. I had the shock of one jumping onto my back from behind, and it was fascinated in playing with my hair. They feel so soft! Apparently the Barbary Macaques were introduced here by the Moors who lived there between 700 and 1492.
St Michaels Cave – this place is wet, immense and very old – a place made of myths! I recently learned that it is linked with Plaeides. Homer, the poet also wrote of the caves, and artifacts that have been found inside the caves reveal that it was known to Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians in ancient times.
It cost $31 euro for a ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. As we were preparing to board the ferry, I got questioned at customs because there was nothing in my passport that actually indicated how I arrived in Spain! After this little drama, we boarded and endured a very rough ride to northern Africa.
Now, I had read a lot about what to be aware (i.e scams & safety) of upon arriving at the port in Tangier, however, as we arrived, my friend had already been approached by a man called Sherrief, who claimed he was from the Tourist Board. I knew immediately it was too late! He was already helping with baggage, taking us to an ATM, being overly helpful, and had a car organised. In hindsight…this is rather scary, we could have been taken anywhere! We cooperated calmly and he did get us to the hotel we were staying at.
Sherrief was keen to take us to the markets and show us Tangier. We told him to give us 2 hours to unwind. Sure enough he was waiting for us in the foyer later, and we set out on foot, at a cracking speed through the rabbit warren of cobbled streets, markets with smell of mint, live chickens clucking and carpets!. I knew his intention, and it was no surprise to arrive at a friend’s carpet shop, where we were given fresh mint tea and cushion seats. Then we watched with curiosity and awkwardness as an array of carpets were pulled out, turned around showing their best views, and my friend invited to step on it and feel it! We told them we could not take carpet back home, and managed to leave without too much hassle.
The medina is a maze, and if we left Sherrief we would have no clue where we were. You see lots of coloured string around the cobbled pathways, apparently this is so the children can find their way back? Our next stop was a berber’s shop featuring carpets and jewellry and discussions about how we would be worth about 5000 camels! After stating we had no interest in carpet, and having our heads wrapped in scarfs, we showed interest in the jewellry….it become certain that we were not getting out of here without a purchase.
Whilst perusing the jewellry, the berber sounded just like Fagan out of Oliver’s Twist, he would say in a scratchy lowly voice…”it looks beeeeeautiful on you…yes yes..”. I picked out a necklace I did actually like, and my friend had a number of items, then we sat down for the bargaining process. Sherrief became less friendly and become more aggressive in his manner, and told us to accept the price (we still thought it was over inflated), so in order to get out of here we agreed.
Finally, we were taken to a restaurant at dusk to have dinner as the men were heading off to call of prayer, it was also Ramadan when we arrived. We got sketchy directions from Sherrief on how to get back to our hotel, and ended up lost. We fortunately found a UK couple familiar with Tangier and they tried to give us directions, but we still felt disorientated. We were headed up this huge hill, just as prayer had finished, and the streets then filled with men – it was a really scary experience – we were intimidated and felt vulnerable. Luckily, our UK couple, who were worried about us, decided to find us, and they stopped men hassling us as we made our way back to the hotel.
I’d have to say that the experience did put a damper on how we felt about the city, and we spent our final day not venturing very far. Instead we found a place with internet and then a cafe for lunch that was surrounded by 15 cats or so. In the evening we enjoyed a lovely meal and I had a drink at the bar in which the waiter put 3/4 of a glass of gin with tonic, it was so strong and sickly and impossible to enjoy.
Back to Paris
At the Tangier airport, my friend’s charming ways with the security guard, allowed us to get our names written in arabic on a piece of paper,which stroked his ego nicely.
The flight was eventful back to Paris, we had a disruptive and arrogant young man who refused to comply with mobile phone use and seating arrangements, and there was a medical emergency with a young wheelchair bound girl who stopped breathing.
We eventually arrived back in Paris, and boarded a train to Gare du Nord. We found it impossible trying to get a taxi so we decided to go for a wander as we were hungry and were fortunate to stumble across a great Indian restaurant (Restaurant Bharath 51 rue Louis Blanc 75010) which had delicious curries and tropical smoothies.
The rest of our trip was spent staying at the Suite Hotel for a week (chain of Novotel – 22 Avenue du professeur lemierre
75020 PARIS) which was great. Modern, funky, better than any hotel room and featured free massage on arrival and unlimited and free internet, movies, music and tv. The remainder of our time was spent catching up with friends who were living here, having lunch with a couple we knew who were going to be in Paris at the same time, and exploring the wonderful city of Paris.
We also shopped locally and bought snacks, novelty meals and wine. Explored markets across the road from the Suite, and shopped at boutiques in our little village district.
One outing we were returning from the metro to head back to the hotel, and my friend went to the supermarket whilst I went back home, and an old man followed me and tried to get me to go with him in his car! for some fun :S
Disneyland – the weather was not the best on the day, but we had lots of fun. My favourite rides being the Pirates of the Carribean and the Haunted House. The train ride back to Paris was interesting, there was a man in white gym gear walking up and down and doing pushups in the carriage, then getting off running down and back on to train again.
Restaurants – The Durer in Montmartre, named after the artist and complete with similar paintings. The place is cosy, candlelit and warm. Went to a traditional french bistro where I tried escargot, but decided it was not something I enjoyed.
Grevin Wax Museum – this was actually fun.It takes you through history, magic, illusion and mystery with about 500 wax models from politicians, actors, models, french stars, writers, film makers and important historical figures. Before you enter, you get to enter the room of mirrors or the Palais des Mirages, as it is known, which is a hexagonal room that has a very special effect with the lights and multiple reflections from the mirrors that go from floor to ceiling and completely surround you and invokes all your senses.
Notre Dame – extraordinary architecture!. To think that the Notre Dame Cathedral, undertaken at the initiative of Maurice de Sully, began about 1160 and was completed within 40 years.
Berthillon Ice Cream – so divine and lovely to visit! I enjoyed Apricot :).The company is owned and operated by the Chauvin family, descendants of the eponymous Monsieur Berthillon, who opened the first store in 1954 and prides itself on its natural ingredients. The sun was shinning, accordians were playing and people were riding by on bicycles.
One month of fun and memories to last a lifetime.
This is a poem I wrote in 1993 about the Australian high country, and the ghostly memories and history embedded in the highland alps and bushland.
My memories of the mountain scene
of mountain ashes, snowgum trees
and climbing slopes of emerald green
where once our stouthearted cattlemen
drove wild steeds through bush with ease
The high ridges outline a country rough
it’s hemmed by a haunting dark treeline
where the air is pure, the ground tough
I ponder images of stories untold
stories of ancestors, yours and thine
When I cast my eye upon a lonely hill
I envision a ruin of a rustic hut
So forlorn, yet it stands at will
In the old days it stood with glory
and the door used to always shut
But now our history lay quiet and still
deep in valleys, below and above
where our true soul lay veiled at will
In a majestic aura of our high country
the part of Australia I most love.
I grew up for a short part in south eastern Victoria, in the Gippsland region, an area comprising snow fields, wilderness, the high country, rainforests, farming and more. I adored the mysterious mountains, with abundant streams, forests and creeks.As a family we used to visit family friends with rustic farm homes in the mountains, or explore the highlands and snowfields, pick wild blackberries, or go hiking in towns steeped in gold mining history. I particularly loved the pine forests, here you stand in towering heights of Pine trees, the scent permeating the air around you, the scene dark and misty around you, with almost eerily silence.
I credit my father to my love of nature, he instilled a sense of adventure and appreciation for the natural environment, and we explored a lot of our country. He also used to find animals in nature and bring them home to show us, but then he would return them exactly where he found them. One time, he had an echidna, and I nursed it gently on my lap, as we returned it to it’s little burrow.
Walhalla, is one such place we would visit. It is a historic township located in picturesque mountains edging a steep valley called Stringers Creek winding through thick forests of the Baw Baws (snow country). In it’s day, 1880 and 1895, more than 4000 people lived in this rural town. I loved the old rustic buildings that existed, the old tram line, and I would enjoy climbing and exploring places with my dad, and discovering huts off the beaten track.
The high country is synonomous with the Man from Snowy River, and if you visit this link you will see what inspired the poem above and the stories you can imagine unfolding from behind old wooden hut doors. There is something beautiful I find about huts and cabins nestled in a wild country side – perhaps it is that feeling of being connected to nature, of being self sufficient, being in harmony.
One of the best ways to enjoy the countryside is via horse, and so living in this region gave me the opportunity to enjoy riding through the vast high lands. There is a great company called Bogong Horseback Adventures and it was an experience to remember, we did a half day high country trail ride with ploughman’s lunch along the way. We traversed through mountains, rivers, fern gully plains, forest, and swamps. There were times the bush was so thick that, we were instructed to lean forward, put our arms around the horse and have trust they would follow each other through. My favourite experience was a huge swamp, and cantering through it, with mud flying everywhere…so wild and fun for this free spirited girl.
Also, the Man from Snowy River is one of my favourite Australian poems by Banjo Patterson, and tells the story of a young mountain man who on his little mountain pony, rides out with the stockmen in pursuit of a runaway horse. He is laughed at by the other men, because of his small pony and youth, but when he takes to the wild and rugged high country with the wild bush horses, he and his pony grow with courage and respect…..