Saturday, 2 August 2014

Rottnest Island

It's not July anymore, and while it's tempting to do still more Paris shots, I thought this week I'd turn my attention to somewhere a little closer to home (for me), but still really very far away.

Last month I took a short trip to Perth with Master Wicker. Only three short days. Too short really. But an important family birthday was to be celebrated in Perth that weekend, and it was great to be able to get there at all.

Master Wicker and I made the most of our one free day and did some sightseeing. We took the Rottnest Explorer out to Rottnest Island for the day. If Perth is one of the most remote capital cities in the world, then Rottnest is even more remote. A large island 18km off the coast, in the Indian Ocean.

It's a very rugged and beautiful place.

One of the salt lakes
Sometimes it was serene though

There are no cars allowed on the island, so everyone walks or bikes about. You can take a tourist bus, but the bikes were more fun. 

We hired bikes to try and see as much as we could in the 3 hours
We did a loop around the right hand end,
around the salt lakes, over to the lighthouse and back

You can look back to the mainland.

And what of the famous quokkas that supposedly overrun the place, and gave Rottnest it's name?

We didn't see a one! They are predominantly nocturnal which does make it hard when you're there at lunchtime. 

Although we did see where they'd been- everywhere. Rottnest was a fantastic day out- but really the day trip gives you just a taste- you only get a bit over 3 hours on the island- not nearly long enough. Not long enough at all. I'm keen to go back. 

and stay a while

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Friday, 1 August 2014

Amazon's 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime

I was powerless to resist this list when I saw it today. Of course many of these titles are familiar from my 1001 quest- but that list is only fiction, and from titles before 2007, this Amazon list is somewhat broader and includes some titles from the last 7 years.

The one's I've read are in RED.

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (see my review)

The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables - Don Daily

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Amelia Bedelia - Peggy Parish

And Tango Makes Three - Justin Richardson (see my review)

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery

Are You My Mother? - P.D. Eastman

Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume (see my review)

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales - Beatrix Potter

Betsy- Tacy - Maud Hart Lovelace

Black Beauty - Anna Sewell

Bread and Jam for Frances - Russell Hoban

Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson

Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White 

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - Bill Martin Jr

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett

Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Corduroy - Don Freeman

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths - Ingri D'Aulaire

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus - Mo Willems

Dr Seuss Beginner Book Collection - Dr Seuss

Encyclopaedia Brown Boy Detective - Donald J. Sobol

Esperanza Ryan - Pam Munoz Ryan

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg (see my review)

Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site - Sherry Dusky Rinker

Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales - Jacob Grimm

Guess How Much I Love You - Sam McBratney

Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson

Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh

Harry Potter and the Scorcer's/Philosopher's Stone - J.K Rowling

Holes - Louis Sachar

Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell (see my review)

Jumanji - Chris van Allsburg

Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Llama Llama Red Pajama - Anna Dewdney

Madeline - Ludwig Bemelmans

Make Way for Ducklings - Robert McCloskey

Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel - Virginia Lee Burton

Mr Popper's Penguins - Richard Atwater (see my review)

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs Piggle- Wiggle - Betty MacDonald

My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George (see my review)

Olivia - Ian Falconer

Owen - Kevin Henkes

Paddle-to-the-Sea - Holling C. Holling

Pat the Bunny - Dorothy Kunhardt

Peter Pan - J.M Barrie (see my review)

Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren

Press Here - Hervé Tullet

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - William Steig

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket

The Borrowers - Mary Norton

The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Call of the Wild - Jack London (see my review)

The Complete Adventures of Curious George - Margaret and H.A Rey

The Cricket in Times Square - George Selden

The Day the Crayons Quit - Drew Daywalt

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore - William Joyce (see my review)

The Giver - Lois Lowry (see my review)

The House at Pooh Corner - A.A. Milne

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick (see my review)

The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling

The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S Lewis

The Little Engine That Could - Watty Piper

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Mouse and the Motorcycle - Beverly Cleary

The New Way Things Work - David Macaulay

The Paper Bag Princess - Robert Munsch

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

The Real Mother Goose - Blanche Fisher Wright

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (see my review)

The Secret of the Old Clock - Carolyn Keene

The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats

The Story of Barbar - Jean de Brunhoff

The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf

The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

The Tower Treasure - Franklin W. Dixon (see my review)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle

The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis

The Wednesday Wars - Gary D. Schmidt

The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (see my review)

The Wizard of Oz - Frank L. Baum

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbit

Walk Two Moons - Sharon Creech

Watership Down - Richard Adams (see my review)

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Grace Lin

Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls (see my review)

Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

Wonder - R.J. Palacio (see my review)


I do love how there's always books I've never heard of, and then immediately want to read. If I ever finish 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (a month now and counting) then I'll be able to read something else.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Paris for tourists - what's on in Paris

Paris is amazing. There are so many fantastic places to go, so many amazing things to see, so many great things to eat and drink. There are international icons of course- the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame. If you only have a short time in Paris you might only get to see the big names. That's still all good of course.

But if you have that most precious gift of time in Paris then it really pays to check out what's on in Paris. It can be difficult to find out what's on in a foreign country, with different customs, and in a foreign language, but it really pays big dividends if you do. Some of our best times in Paris have come from keeping our eyes and ears open to special events.

Seeing Hugh Masekala at the Paris Jazz Festival in 2013

Walking up the Tour Saint Jacques (the first time it had been open to the public in 500 years)

Learning how Gerard Mulot makes his macarons

Partying with the locals at the Bal des Pompiers

There are many exhibitions on in Paris at any time, and there is bound to be something that takes your fancy, like last years Haute Couture exhibition at the Hotel de Ville.

There are many places to look for information before you go to Paris. Some things will be in French but don't let that deter you too much, you can often work out enough particularly if there's pictures, and google translate can help tremendously. A basic knowledge of days of the week is helpful.

At the Paris city website click on the Que Faire a Paris? button.

TimeOut Paris is a great resource in English. You can follow them on Facebook. They do a weekly what's on in Paris this weekend post that will then pop up on your timeline.

Evous France is another fantastic resource. They will send you a free email each week (in French) about what's happening now and what's coming up in Paris. To subscribe go here, scroll down a bit, until you see a box on the right "Inscrivez-vous ici pour recevoir gratuitement notre lettre d'information sur Paris." Add your email address to the box and sit back and wait. 

Of course there are lots of fabulous Paris blogs you can turn to for inspiration. Everyone has their favourites.

The utterly delightful Carol at Parisbreakfasts is out and about in Paris every day, finding new treasures to visit, and delicious things to eat it must be said. There are always new pearls to be learned from every post. Just today while reading about vanilla ice-cream I learnt that Le Gateau et du Pain is now open on Rue du Bac! They weren't there last year….

The equally lovely Genie at Paris and Beyond publishes a beautiful Paris photo every day and I've followed in her footsteps many times. I visited Chapelle St Vincent de Paul after seeing it first in her pictures.

And blog events like Paris in July or Paulita's weekly Dreaming of France bring Francophiles together to exchange information and voice our passion.

Once you've arrived in Paris keep your eyes peeled on the Metro. There are lots of posters everywhere- on the platforms, in the passages, on the trains, for special events and places of interest.

The Palais Garnier is truly a Paris highlight
I've been quite a few times and will go again- it's magnificent

There are free weekly newspapers at the Metro stations, in French obviously, but if you see something you can always google it in English if you don't understand enough of it in French. 

If you feel brave enough to navigate the local newsagent/presse kioske then you can buy Pariscope each Wednesdaywith lots of information for the upcoming week, including movie listings- I haven't ever braved seeing a movie in Paris. Yet. 

A bargain at 50 cents
There are many posters out and about on the streets too.

We went to a Gospel Dream concert in 2010
It was sensational, I'd love to go again.

I walked past this poster so many times
that I ended up going

So check out what's coming up for your Paris holiday. There's always more to find and do. I'd love to go to some bookish events in Paris one time- Shakespeare and Company run events in English,  as does the American Library in Paris.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Tour de France on the Rue de Rivoli

The Tour de France will wrap up for another year tomorrow. This time last year I was in Paris and decided to head in to catch the very final moments. It was a spur of the moment decision really. I hadn't been planning to go, but in the end I couldn't stay away.

It was one of our final days in Paris, and had been rather packed already. In the morning we'd ventured over to the Marais on a pilgrimage to Blé Sucré to try their famous madelaines, visited the Marche Bastille, and walked through Place des Vosges again. Then we went out to Parc Floral to see the legendary Hugh Masekala play at the Paris Jazz Festival. Home for dinner and our vanilla challenge.

Oh my- beauties from Hugo and Victor, Patisseries des Reves
and Pierre Herme.

Sitting about after dinner we could hear the helicopters circling, and I was drawn like a moth to the action. There were lots of street closures of course making traversing the city difficult even for pedestrians so I took the Metro over the river, and took up a position on the Rue de Rivoli.

The surrounding streets were eerily empty
The atmosphere on the Rue de Rivoli was electric. There were many English fans there to see Chris Froome win for Team Sky.

Beaucoup des gendarmes of course.

But everyone was well behaved. Despite all the beer being sold from wheelie bins.

Le Maillot Jaune!
Why the leader wears yellow.
The final stage is always processional allowing the winner to rejoice in the moment. The riders do quite a few laps of central Paris.

picture source

Still they really do fly by
On the ground you can tell where the riders are by the circling helicopters

It was over all too soon! But I was there for the final moments of the 100th tour. And I got to walk home in the Paris twilight. Which is always a good thing.

Not fully up with Le Tour de France? Pas de problem! There are plenty of online resources to get you up to speed quickly. An interactive guide from The Age. Or Tour de France 101 from SBS (our Australian TDF broadcaster). It's an always fascinating spectacle. And a bike race seems to happen too.

A cute animation explanation

Friday, 25 July 2014

Favourite Toddler Paris Reads

I was excited recently to see yet another list of favourite books about Paris, especially as this is a list of favourite reads for a pair of Channel-crossing toddlers. I've never been jealous of toddlers before, but have managed it now. They have good taste these toddlers.

A Lion in Paris - Beatrice Alemagna

I really need to find this one

This is Paris - Miroslav Sasek

Oops - Jean-Luc Fromental, Joëlle Jolivet (illustrator) (see my review)

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris - Leigh Hobbs (see my review)

Minette's Feast - Susanna Reich, Amy Bates (illustrator)

I should make my own Paris list one day.

Books on France, a great 2014 challenge
 from Emma at 
Words and Peace

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Inside Out & Back Again

I thought that Inside Out & Back Again was a book I'd never heard of when I plucked it off the shelf at my library. I was browsing the shelves and lured by something about the green spine and the font. I picked it up, noticed the Newbery Honor Book sticker, and wondered that I hadn't heard of it. I flipped through and realised that it was a verse novel. An then faint bells started ringing, and I thought of a different cover. 

And I knew that I had heard of it, a bit, but a while ago- it was a Newbery Honour Book back in 2012. Before this year the verse novel form would have put me off, but now that Steven Herrick is teaching me to read and enjoy verse novels I was less put off, and was even  intrigued enough to bring it home and read it.

Inside Out &Back Again is a rather autobiographical novel about a young girls journey from Saigon to Alabama after the fall of Saigon in 1975. It tells the story of ten year old Hà, who has grown up in Saigon with her family- her mother and three brothers living a simple life. Hà's mother works two jobs to support the family since her husband disappeared nearly a decade earlier.

Father left home
on a navy mission
on this day
nine years ago
when I was almost one. 

He was captured
on Route 1
an hours south of the city
by moped.

They live a simple, traditional life in Saigon, until they are forced to flee Vietnam by political circumstance. The family then spend a harrowing three weeks at sea before arriving at Guam, and transferred to America. There are interesting perspectives on migrant experience- learning a new language, fitting in, the shock of a new culture.

 Thanhha Lai dedicates her book

To the millions of refugees in the world, may you each find a home. 
She writes an interesting Author Note at the end of the book.

Aside from remembering facts, I worked hard to capture Hà's emotional life. What was it like to live where bombs exploded every night yet where sweet snacks popped up at every corner? What was it  like to sit on a ship heading toward hope? What was it like to go from knowing you're smart to feeling dumb all the time?

Thanhha Lai achieves this emotional perspective quite well. I was moved, both saddened, and made to smile by her story. I'm not sure why this book needed a verse novel perspective, but then I am only a novice for this story form.