Thursday 30 November 2017

37th Wedding Anniversary and Memoir writing workshop

As part of the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), I took part in a free workshop held at the Bentley Library (near my workplace), called "Writing your life stories".

The lady giving the workshop explained what a Memoir was, the beneficial effects that writing our stories has on our health - memory improvement, ability to resolve conflicts, sense of value, reminiscing about our youth, passing on our life story to our family... and how to go about structuring our memoir writing - chronological, events, theme, before and after...

This was followed by two writing exercises - 5 minutes to summarise our life in a few sentences in a bullet point format, thinking about the past and how we got to be who we are today and the second exercise - 30 minutes to write up to 500 words about one or two of the given topics:
1) Which friend had the biggest impact on  your life and in what way?
2) What was the first moment you felt truly grown up and independent?
3) How much was your first pay check and what did you do with it?
4) What do you regret not doing?
5) Is your retirement what you thought it would be like?
6) How did you meet your partner/husband/wife?

I started with topic 3, and because I still had time I went on to topic 6.
At the end some of the participants got to read their stories to the group, and I chose to read about how I met my husband, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too.

And since today is our 37th Wedding Anniversary, I'm relaying the story I wrote about how I met my husband.

30 November 1980

January 2017

I met my husband when I accompanied a friend to the house of a Greek girl, when we both lived in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Alessa had invited a few friends for coffee, and even though I'd never tried Greek coffee I foolishly accepted one. It was so bitter and thick that I almost spat it out as soon as I sipped it!
I reached for the sugar bowl and put in 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar. The young man sitting across from me jokingly said: "Do you want to be as sweet as me?"
He had just put the spotlight on me, a shy 19 year old, and I blushed as I felt many eyes on me.
- "What an idiot!!" I thought, and just ignored him.
I worked in a Bank, and was trying to save some extra money to go travelling to Brazil and the USA, so I started doing a couple of night shifts in the function rooms of the fancy Carlton Hotel, waitressing for company functions over the Christmas season.  
One night I came across that same annoying  young man working as a barman at the same function as myself.
He looked at me, smiled and said he remembered me. We chatted for a while and I found myself enjoying the conversation.
A couple of weeks later he invited me to lunch and we had a great time, and he wasn't as silly as I thought he was! In fact he was intelligent, hardworking and had a great sense of humour.
We got married 1 year after we started dating, still very young at 20 and 22 years of age, and today we celebrate our 37th anniversary.

Our family - daughter Karina, her fiance Thomas, me, hubby Jose, son Michael, daughter in law Sara and grandson J - photo taken in Jan 2017 by Andrew Cranner (from Andrew Cranner photography).

Hope you have enjoyed my little writing exercise and story of how I met my husband.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

France - Marseille - Day 1 & 2

Saturday, 16th September 2017 - Hubby Jose, daughter Karina and I took and early flight from Lisbon to Marseille and were picked up by our daughter's fiancé Thomas who had flown over from Amsterdam where they live. Thomas's parents who live in Marseille had lent him the car.

We landed just after 10am, and because it was still too early to get into the Airbnb that Thomas had rented, our first stop was at a small Bistro in the city centre where we had lunch.

After lunch, we strolled around the Vieux Port (Old port) - There was a humongous yacht anchored there - the "Grace E", a 73mt long mega yacht with a crew of 20 doing maintenance work. And if you have a spare €749,000 you can rent it for a week in Summer!!
But before you decide first check the photos of the interior, on the link above 😊

The modern mirror cover wasn't there a few years ago when I visited Marseille, and it seemed to attract a lot of interest.

Vieux Port, Mirror ceiling, The Grace E and me and my husband taking a photo of ourselves on the mirror above
Walking around the port,  to the left was a plain looking white building - the Church of Saint Ferreol Les Augustins, built in the 16th century on the former site of the Knights Templar. 
It was part of an Augustinian convent that hosted the wedding of  the Italian Catherine de Medici with Henry II of France in 1533, both at the age of 14!! 
Nowadays only a few original walls remain, with the church having suffered a few restorations over the years.
The next stop  was the beautiful Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). Built in the 17th century, it was commissioned by Louis XIV as the city's new political status symbol.

The Town Hall, Catholic Church of St Ferreol, M for Marseille and Notre Dame de La Garde on top of the hill

At the entrance of the Old Port is the Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification built in 1660 by Louis XIV. It's now linked via two thin metal bridges to the historical district of Le Panier and to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations known as MuCem.

It was the first cathedral to be constructed in France in two centuries on the site of a former church. It was the brainchild of Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted to ingratiate himself with the Church and well as with the people of the city of Marseille. The MuCem is an bold modern building by Algerian born architect Rudy Riccioti, who trained in Marseille and Geneva. With a double facade, the building is wrapped in what appears to be a lacework screen that gives it a North African feel. Depending on the weather and light the building changes colours and inside the sun streaming through the lattice creates beautiful effects of light and shade.
There is a fee to visit the exhibitions, but access is free to the gardens, open-air theatre and restaurants.

Close to the Museum and next to the former commercial port is the Catholic Cathedral Sainte Marie Majeure, also known as La Major.

Built in the Byzantine-Roman style, construction started in 1852 and ended in 1896. The Cathedral is 142mt long, the cupula is 70mt high and it has the capacity to seat 3000 people, being one of the largest cathedrals in France.

Later in the day Thomas went to get the car with our luggage from the parking garage, picked us up and 
drove us to the apartment.
Located in the bohemian suburb of Cours Julien, in the 6th arrondissement, the area has plenty of restaurants, bars and colourful shops, and although the building was a bit of a disappointment when we reached it, we were thrilled when we came indoors.

In fact most buildings in this area are tagged and look dirty, but there's also a lot of beautiful murals around. The area is also famous for its night life.

My daughter and husband coming out of the building where we stayed

Beautifully remodeled and tastefully decorated, the 2 bed-roomed ground floor apartment had an inner courtyard that we loved. The kitchen had all the mod-cons including dishwasher, coffee machine and even a lot groceries left behind by previous renters.
No street parking, so Thomas drove his parents car to their home and returned by metro. 
The apartment was within a 20 min walk to the Old Port, so quite central too. 
After unpacking, we went to the local grocer to buy some essentials and rested a little bit before dinner.

Lounge, Kitchen, corredor next to courtyard into 2nd bedroom, inner courtyard, dining room

2nd bedroom, main bedroom, courtyard seen from 2nd bedroom, bathroom

That evening we walked to Bistro Venetien "Chez Marie", a restaurant in the elongated square at the heart of Cours Julien. This tree shaded area is full of restaurants, bars, tattoo parlours and bookshops, and its walls are covered by graffiti/murals.

We met up with Thomas's parents and brother for dinner. The restaurant serves Gluten free food (T's Mom is cealiac) and dinner was tasty and well served. Their specialty dessert was GF Tiramisu served in mason jars. I had the burger and chips, without the bread bun.

After dinner we all went back to the apartment for a drink, but the in-laws didn't stay long, as Thomas's Mom, Isabelle had to work the next day.
                                                                        * * * * * * * * *             
 DAY 2
After a lazy morning we walked to the Notre Dame Du Mont Metro station (line 2) and caught the train to T's parents for Sunday lunch with the family.
They live in a charming double storey house with a small courtyard. It used to be 2 separate houses and when they bought it they renovated and joined the house.
Of course the famous French macaroons were presented at coffee time.

Lunch setting, macaroons, Sunday lunch in the backyard, the garden and pond 

Thomas's parents just behind the the Palais (Palace) Longchamp, so when returning home we walked back instead of taking the metro, so that I could take photos of things on the way - murals, churches, palaces, etc. The entrance to the gardens was about to close, so I just had time to snap a few pictures.

Located in the 4th arrondissement, the Palais houses the Museum of Fine arts (Musée des Beaux-arts) and the Natural History Museum (Museum d'Histoire Naturelle) and the surrounding park is considered one of France's notable gardens.

It was built to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, which brought water from the Durance River to Marseille. It took 30 years to build due to costs and the building was centered around the elaborate fountain known as water castle.
Longchamp was opened in 1869 and later it contained a zoo, run by the city from 1898 until 1987 when it was closed.

Palais Longchamp - seen from the  Boulevard Longchamp

Further down we walked past another beautiful church - Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (St Vincent de Paul church) a Roman Catholic church located at Cours Franklin Roosevelt (avenue named after the American President). The church was built on the site of a demolished convent and chapel, and built from 1855 to 1886 in Neo-Gothic style. 

Further down the avenue we encountered two cute giraffe statues, the smaller one serving as a swop library, as well as a fountain and other statues.

Towards the end of the afternoon we finally arrived at Cours Julien, at the square where restaurants and bars abound and where we had dinner at Bistro Venetien the night before. 
From here it was just a 5 minute walk home where we just had a snack for dinner and watched a movie on tv.

I was very proud of my husband for still remembering a lot of his school learnt French and managing to converse with the in-laws. I on the other hand tended to have more difficulty communicating (I also learned French for 5 years in school) and somehow German words would pop up here and there in the conversation. 
We lived in Germany during 6 years in the 80's, but because it's another language that I don't use I can hardly hold a decent conversation in German nowadays!
Luckily our daughter is fluent in French and English and her French fiance is fluent in English and French, so we had translators at hand in case we got stuck. Thoma's parents English was quite rudimentary.

More of Marseille in the next post. 

Monday 27 November 2017

Monday Mural - 404 Bus

This mural painted in 2016 in one of the residential buildings in the Torre (Tower) suburb of Cascais, shows the 404 bus that services the area.
Next to the bus are the letters "Bairro da Torre" (Tower suburb).
From the signature I couldn't figure out who painted the mural.

For other murals from around the world follow this link.

Friday 24 November 2017

Portugal - Casino, Pink street and Viewpoint in Lisbon

Our visit to Portugal was fast coming to an end.
On Thursday 14th September, my husband, daughter and I had lunch at another refurbished market, this time in Alges, on the coast halfway from Lisbon to Cascais.

The Algés market opened in the 50's, selling fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
In 2015, it changed it's concept (probably due to the popularity of Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon), adding food and drinks to it's traditional products.
It's smaller than the Lisbon one, but well decorated and pleasant. You order your choice of food, pay for it and get a buzzer. When it buzzes you collect your tray.
There are drink stations and the waiters will come around to your table to take your drinks order, but not food.
The market is open from 10am to midnight from Monday to Thursday and from 10am to 1am on  Friday and Saturday.

They also have entertainment, and we heard about this market from our daughter who a few days before had been invited by a friend for dinner and a concert at the market.
And that's when she saw that one of the eateries was selling snails which she and her Dad love!  The lady said the season was about to end too, and this was the reason for our visit.
My choice - Sweet potato chips with 3 chicken sausage (farinheira) balls with mustard. Husband & daughter's choice - snails and chocolate cake for me.
After my meal I went to the pastry counter and chose a slice of chocolate cake.
It was a cake from "The best chocolate cake in the world" (looking at the Portuguese website  I just discovered that the cake gets sold in a couple of Sydney suburbs too).
It's a flourless cake, and yes it was good, crunchy with all it's different layers, but a bit too sweet for my taste as since I cut down on sweet stuff, most sweets are just too sweet.

We had previously arranged to meet with the 3 Doctors at the Estoril Casino that evening after dinner, with the rest of my family too.
The Casino has daily shows and you have to consume 10 euros (food or drink) during the night while you sit watching the shows, so it's very reasonable.

Estoril Casino, Flamenco show
On that evening the show was a Flamenco show with a dancer/singer and his band.
We enjoyed it, the tiny dancer was very agile and passionate, the only thing was that he was obviously getting hot and sweaty with all that dancing so at every turn his sweat would fly around him...glad we weren't sitting within reach 😊😊.

It was well past midnight when the show ended and we said our goodbyes. The Doctors were going to fly to France the following day (Friday) and we would be flying to Marseille the day after.

* * * * * * * * * *

On Friday 15th September, my daughter and I took the train into Lisbon, so we could hunt for a couple more murals, check out Lisbon's Pink street and later meet with a friend I originally met in Perth, but who was in Lisbon on a trip from his native Island of Madeira. 

Just a 4 minute walk away from the Cais do Sodre Station is the Rua Nova do Carvalho, better know as Pink street.

Situated in the former seedy suburb of Cais do Sodre, this street has become the center of Lisbon's nightlife. In 2013, during an urban renewal project, this street was painted pink and it now attracts locals and tourists who come to eat, drink and dance at the various clubs and bars.
Some of the bars have names alluding to what the area was previously known for - mainly prostitution and sailors - like "Cantinho do Prazer" (Pleasure's Corner), or "Pensão Amor" (Love Guesthouse), which was a former brothel, still complete with a striper pole and seductive atmosphere. 

Pink street
Pink Street, photo taken atop the arched bridge

From the Pink Street we walked around the corner and climbed some steps where we found coffee shops on two of the landings, both with outdoor tables, and we stopped for a juice and coffee on the first one.

River views, old tram, mannequin hanging from shop wall, landing with coffee shop, nice blue building
After our stop we walked towards the meeting point where our friend would wait for us, and on the way there we walked past an old ceramic factory - Sant'Ana, which was established in 1741 and still operates today. The factory can be toured, and they will make replicas of tiles you like too.

We walked past the Church of Sao Roque , where I quickly went inside to investigate. This Roman Catholic church was the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, opened in 1619. Very plain on the outside, but very ornate inside, with a beautiful ceiling.
The ceiling structure was executed by Flemish professionals under the order of King Philip II of Spain from 1587 to 1589. In the 17th century another painter added the central medallion and the biblical scenes along the sides.

Just two minutes down the road we stopped to take photos of the "Elevador da Gloria" or Gloria Funicular. This funicular railway line was inaugurated in 1885, connecting the downtown area of Restauradores Square to the uptown area of Bairro Alto.
We didn't travel down with it, but I did it last time I was in Lisbon, just for the fun of it, as you can also descend the street which is easier than climbing it.
There's always murals on the one side of the street.

The very colourful Gloria Funicular, murals on the left side of street

Right next to the Funicular is the Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara at Rua (street) Sao Pedro de Alcantara, one of Lisbon's best viewpoints. Below is a beautiful and well kept garden. They were renovating the area, so they had a fence all around, and there was no access to the garden either. 

Sao Pedro de Alcantara Viewpoint over Lisbon and the Saint George's castle
The gardens below the Viewpoint (photo from 2016)
And it was time to meet my friend for coffee, so we made our way into the city center walking through the narrow cobbled streets.
As you can see on the photo below the cars in this narrow street were for some unknown reason at a standstill...glad I don't drive in Lisbon!

Narrow cobbled street in Lisbon

Funny shop front
After coffee and now laden with 3 Madeira Honey cakes given to me by my friend B (they are dark, not too sweet and last for ages) - one for my Mom, one for us and one for a common friend in Perth, it was time to go and catch a train back to Cascais.

Through the train window I took photos of this monument  - Discoveries Monument -
located in the suburb of Belém, on the north bank of the River Tagus, from where the ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient.

The 52mt high piece of concrete was inaugurated in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the NavigatorIn the form of a ship's prow, with the figure of Henry the Navigator at the top and on either side along the ramp are 16 figures (33 in total) looking towards the sea, representing figures from the Portuguese Age of Discovery, which include monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries.
The monument can be climbed and from where you have views of other monuments in the Belém area, but I've actually never climbed this monument.

Next time I'll be in Marseille, so look forward to seeing you there.

And back to the present day, today (23 November) we commemorated my grandson's first birthday. I can still remember the day he was born and our first visit to the hospital, and can hardly believe that he's growing up so quickly - now crawling, already standing holding on to things, 6 teeth....
He's such a joy, always smiling.
So happy birthday to little J. On Saturday he will have a big birthday party with lots of little kids from Mother's group and Day care.