Monthly Archives: December 2016

Costa Rica

Another first visiting Costa Rica. A place I’ve always wanted to see and so far the only one of all the places I’ve visited I would like to go back to for longer – even though the first thing they told us on the bus on the way there was that Costa Rica has a one inch frog whose poison can kill 100 humans! Not sure I really needed to know that?

 I chose the “walk through the clouds” tour which took us through a beautiful tropical rainforest full of humming birds and butterflies and across 4 wobbly bridges high above the forest. Had to admit defeat trying to photograph the hummingbirds (the country has 52 varieties) – they are just too fast but got some butterflies and a feel for the colors in the forest. 

It would have been much nicer if they had not also decided to build a zip line through the forest – shattering the peace too often with yelling idiots – oh dear – it’s offical – I must be turning into a Grumpy Old Woman …

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Christmas Day on the Panama Canal

Today’s featured pic was my appetizer on Xmas Day – my favourite:)

Certainly a novel way to spend December 25 – traversing the Panama Canal – which takes about ten hours and involves going through three locks which by the magic of engineering lifted our huge Seabourn Odyssey ship 80 feet upwards in one go on the Gatun Lock  and then a few hours later lowered it again across two more locks. View along the way also interesting and as you will see some ships have barely 6 inches between them and the side of the locks. We had a luxurious 3 feet but still often felt the need to breathe in!Ω


Books I’m reading while travelling

Books I’ve been reading on my travels – warning there are no business or management books here (!).
Miss You – Kate Eberlen

Quirky kind of sliding doors theme with a touch of the Rosie Project – an easy read and great for a long flight.

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

A story covering a few decades and how perspectives of things that happen at different times in your life change as you get older and sometimes wiser. Well written and good read

The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain

I’ve yet to read any book by Rose Tremain that doesn’t have me thinking about it for days afterwards. They are all so different from one another too. This one is set in Switzerland and tells about the lifelong relationship between two boys – Gustav and Anton – the story of a neutral country that demands it’s people remain dispassionate about everything – and how difficult that actually can be. Loved it. I think there are a few of hers I have yet to read – sadly not enough. She is brilliant.

Euphoria – Lily King

This one was recommended to me by my HR colleague and fellow book reader Sarah Traynor. It tells the story of a strong and willful woman who is an anthropologist in PNG – loosely based on Margaret Mead and her contemporaries experiences – with various tribes in that part of the world – but nevertheless fiction. Fascinating to understand how this profession works and how there are nuances in what different anthropologists choose to specialise in. As someone who has been lucky enough to visit some of the more remote parts of PNG I especially enjoyed this,

Any Human Heart – William Boyd

He is fast becoming one of my favourite writers – shades of John Irving with an ability to write about completely different topics. This one – which has also been made into a BBC series – is about the life of a man – sometimes simple, sad, unbelievable, spread over different countries and just a great way to see how a life can twist and turn on a dime. Excellent. I also loved his book Sweet Caress about a fictional character but interspersing real events into her story – from deb to photographer with many roles in between. Spans a number of decades.

A Little Life – Hanna Yanagihara

I finished this a few days ago but it had such a profound effect on me it has taken me a while to assimilate it all. This is a long book, but easy to read – that is, it is unputdownable but not easy in terms of its content. It includes unspeakable evil and pure love and is a roller coaster of a novel. I believe it has been nominated for many awards and deservedly so. It is the lifelong story of four male college buddies and how they stay in each others’ lives over the following decades – read it.

NEW SINCE JANUARY

This Must Be The Place  – Maggie o’Farrell. 

Unresolved Relationships over decades are always a good read. I liked the first 3/4 of the book better than the end and the female lead – the former actress – was a character I found rather irritating – but I did enjoy the male storyteller’s perspective. 

Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh

 A very small but significant  period in a young girl’s life that allows her to break out of a boring life and small town. Tightly written but ending lacked the gusto of the first half in my view. However it was listed for the Booker prize so others may disagree. Maybe I have a thing about poor endings?

The Drowning Guard – Linda Lafferty 

I really liked this book. It is set in Constantinople during the time of the Ottoman Empire – an era I really like as my ancestors lived there for many centuries after leaving Spain. It is based on the sister of the sultan and the man who does the drowning of the men she has spent the night with – possible an even tougher  job than HR? 

NEW SINCE MARCH

The newest thing is that thanks to my friend Margot, I’ve discovered audio books. Why this has taken me so long is a mystery but honestly when you listen to a well read story it takes you back to being a child in junior school and leaves you free to imagine things much more vividly. The challenge now is which books to buy to read and which to listen. At the moment I am listening to  Australian novels only using Audible and reading others on the kindle. So newest updates are:

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee  – Agnes Martin-Lugand

A nice plane read – not too taxing about a woman finding her emotional wings again after losing her family in a tragedy.

Moon glow – Michael Chabon

This is the first time I had read Michael Chabon – a well known writer who has a wry observation about life and tells a readable story. This one is about this grandfather and his larger than life exploits which he chooses to share with his grandson when he knows he is dying. It is funny but also full of pathos and reminds us all that what fate has in store for us is not always in our control.

A Town Like Alice – audio book narrated by Robin Bailey

I’m sure most of my Australian friends would have read this book and indeed I had but so long ago I had forgotten it. So I really enjoyed this version, especially as I loved the narration style – but also I found it an interesting mix of an exciting story, an unusual heroine and hero in Jean Paget and Joe, an insight into Malaya during the war and the Australian outback after it as well as the lonely voice of the writer who in some way has fallen for the heroine but is much too much of a gentleman to admit it or do anything about it. In many ways it is dated and some of the references make you cringe with today’s political correctness in mind – but I do think it has stood the test of time.

The Potato Factory – Bryce Courteney narrated by Humphrey Bower

Thanks Tania for suggesting this one. Boy can Bryce Courteney write a good yarn in the style of a  modern day Charles Dickens type epic. This is the first of a trilogy based on the story of Ikey Solomon the notorious Jewish criminal in the east end of London in the mid 1800s who was subsequently transported to Australia. Two thirds of this book is set in Dickensian London and the last part inAustralia. It is just wonderful – the three main characters – Ikey, his wife Hannah and his partner and mistress Mary Abacus are brilliantly bought to life as is the awful environment they come from and end up in. Ikey is based on Fagin – the fence for stolen goods who trained young urchins to pick pockets for him as seen and read by many of us in the book and musical of Oliver. This book is a homage to Australia and really helps explain the mindset of the convicts who came to Australia and how they vowed that their new lives would never be the same as they were in England. It certainly explains a lot about the “fair go” and “tall poppy” syndromes. I can’t wait to hear the second and third parts of the trilogy

Sent from my iPad

Panama 

First time to Panama from the Caribbean side but then took bus across the country to Panama City on the Pacific side. Have been there a few times before on business but got to see the old part of town this time around which was fun – despite some occasional rip roaring tropical rain showers – but of course it stays warm so like a pleasant shower. As you can see in the montage photos I had a bit of a thing about the trees and doors!


The Panamanians are very cross about the descriptor “the Panama Papers” as a general catch all for a range of illegal matters impacting many well known people that they feel have nothing to do with their country just because one of the lawyers managing the funds was based here – they are appealing to the press and others to use another name. Not sure if it will work as it seems to have stuck? I seem to remember a few parents doing the same kind of thing in Australia in respect of the use of “ISIS” as a name for the terrorist group as quite a few children have that as their first name – this did lead to more use of just IS – so who knows?

Fascinating fact (well to me at least) is that there is a large Jewish community here and as a result Panama City houses the largest Kosher supermarket outside of Israel – who knew?

Cartagena, Colombia

First stop after 3 days at sea is exciting for me as it is a new country to add to my list getting me a little closer to the magic 100. Colombia makes 83. What did I know about Colombia before I visited? Well only the obvious -drug lords, emeralds and the place where the character Gloria from Modern Family and I think also the actress who plays her (Sophia Vargaras) comes from.
Completed a tour of the old town which is a UNESCO world heritage site which it should be as it mixes every style of architecture known in this part of the world – colonial, creole, and republican – very pretty in a faded kind of way. As usual, a statue of Simon Bolivar is in the central square – he features very heavily in the history of independence around these parts and frankly it seems a bit unfair that he only had one country named after him! But I suppose that’s more than the rest of us can say.

The old and new in Cartagena.

 

Some images of old town Cartagena

 

Sent from my iPad

Life at Sea

First three days of the cruise have been at sea. Blissfully relaxing – lots to do if you want to or alternatively doing nothing but reading, binge watching TV series – I’m alternating between The White Queen and Borgen season 3. Shows and high quality music each evening and sometimes I’m invited to join other hosted tables so good way to meet people for a couple of hours. 

As you can see they do Xmas very well on board – but thankfully minus any children. Perfect. Haven’t seen even one yet! I am still getting my sea legs so walk around like a permanent drunk person – but at least I’m not alone. No nausea so far – take a table each night and working so far. Reading loads – will publish separate blog on what I’ve read as I go. Another advantage of doing very little is that your nail polish lasts a lot longer than normal – bonus points for that:)