The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Fawlty Towers

The trip to China was made a bit more complicated than usual by Chinese New Year.

Huge numbers have about a week off, and are traveling all over China, or all over the world. Flights out of Hong Kong in the last few days have been full – damn close to standing room only, and hotels are booked out.

Hotels are booked out… this meant that we could not get into either of the places we normally use in Shenzhen – so we ended up in the Luo Hu hotel, where I’m convinced that Fawlty Towers was used as the staff training film.

Let’s summarise the experience:

  • None of the staff could speak more then 5 words of English (but hey – this is China, we can live with that). They understood “Check-in”, “Check-out”, and “Blekfast”. After that… forget it.
  • They issued Blekfast vouchers for the buffet which was supposed to be included in the price. I haven’t seen vouchers used in a hotel for years! 4 vouchers, one for each of 4 mornings. All completely written in Chinese, and stamped with something in red.
  • The Blekfast vouchers turned out to be marked for each day – it was not ok to just present a voucher, it had to be the CORRECT voucher. Why?
  • Blekfast was perhaps better described as Blech-fast. Not much there, and very strange.
  • On the last 2 days, there was no Blekfast at all. No explanation, just no food! Fortunately there was a supermarket and (strange) bakery down the road where we could go to buy something on the way to the office. Come checkout time, the unused vouchers had to be handed back! No discount from the rate for an unused Blekfast, either.
  • This hotel has floor-wardens!! Near the lifts was a small thing like a lectern on each guest floor, and somebody was there to periodically and seemingly at random, button-hole guests and ask questions. Hard when all they speak is Chinese. And they had pads of forms to fill out. And for what purpose? Weird.
  • The hotel phone system was completely broken. It had instructions on how to make an international call, but it did not work. I tried every combination known, and used the correct international access codes, but each time I would get about 1/3 the way through dialing a number and it would break in with some odd recorded message. Phoning home was impossible.
  • After a few days where I could only call from the office and leave messages on the answering machine at home, SWMBO tried to call me at the hotel. They must have found the one person who could speak 10 words of English. This person assured her that I was not staying there!
    • Making up the room was very odd. It seemed to be made up about 3 or 4 times a day. If I came back at the end of a day, and went out again, things would be moved. Not just a bit, like a “turn-down” service. A lot. Things in the bathroom came and went. Stuff was shifted or adjusted. Weird.
    • This hotel has a disco. On floors 2 through 5 (go figure). I was on floor 15, but all night long, every night, from 10 pm to 8 am, was subjected to “doof doof doof”. All night. Every night. And from 10 floors below. And loud enough to get through the ear-plugs I jammed in each night. You have to wonder what sort of concrete was used to build the place.
    • Most hotels take a credit card imprint so they can charge if you do a runner. This place charged an up-front deposit of about 120% of the total stay charge! We are hoping like hell they will refund it as part of the final check-out and charging. It’s a long way to go back if there is a dispute.
    • The sign inside the door. One of the more interesting pieces of Chinglish:
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    You will all be very pleased to know that I VERY carefully street tripped ticket the yellow handbill defends to fall into trap to cheat!

    But perhaps the most unexpected was the extras supplied in the bathroom:

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    Yes, thats right: “Miss World Final appointed products”… 2 condoms. And something in a long thin box. Given the couple pictured on the box, I can only hazard a guess at what what it was.

    Back from HK and China (again)… Next job!

    A short post until I get some of the (small number) of photos out of the camera.

    Got back from Hong Kong, and did something clever this time. I made sure I only had a small bag that I could carry on to the plane – so no checked baggage to collect in Melbourne.

    This meant that instead of waiting an hour for baggage to arrive and then joining the massed throng waiting to go through incoming quarantine, I could just walk straight up – I was out of immigration, customs and what-not in under 15 minutes – a record!

    I was then able to go straight to the domestic terminal to get the connecting flight back to Adelaide. When there I found there was a flight that was boarding, and Qantas were able to get me swapped onto that so I did not have to wait an extra hour in Melbourne. Full marks to Qantas for customer service. I had thought there would be no way they would switch me to a flight that was already boarding, but they did. I arrived home at least an hour earlier than expected. Wonderful!

    As usual, I did not get much more than about 45 minutes sleep on the flights, so after close on 24 hours with no sleep, I crashed. Saturday was pretty slow.

    Today has been grape-picking and wine-making day. That means the grapes are picked, and this years red wine is starting. Due to birds and weird weather, the crop is way, way, way down. Instead of a maximum of 30 litres in a good year, this year is likely to be about 8 to 10 litres. The colour looks good, though, and what there is should be loaded with sugar and flavour. Sometime in the next 2 weeks we’ll have an idea of how it is working out. The real test will be about 5 years away, though.

    Monarto

    Rewind… after a weekend in the rain cleaning up our DISGRACEFUL bushfire hazard, now it’s time to revisit Friday.

    Friday, I took a day on leave to spend with SWMBO and the little chilluns, seeing as school will be back soon and we really should do SOMETHING together before the chance is gone. By about next week the chilluns will be aged about 28 and bringing girlfriend #5 or 6 home for dinner – to giggle afterwards about the grumpy frumpy parents. But I digress. Again.

    We went to the Monarto open range zoo.

    Most normal people just find their way to the South Eastern Freeway, head toward Murray Bridge, and plant the foot.

    But the South Eastern Freeway fills me with boredom, and besides, we needed to go South East and live North East. There must be a way through the hills. Mustn’t there?

    My ennui led to looking at a few maps, and a plan was hatched. The need to drop in at the bank saw us head to Modbury, stop at the bank, then up Lower North East Road to Birdwood. From there to Tungkillo and Palmer. From Palmer there is a road to Murray Bridge, but Monarto is about 25 km on the Adelaide side. Going into Murray Bridge and turning back seemed a terrible waste, and our map clearly showed a second grade road heading direct into Monarto (population 4, on a good day) off the Palmer – Murray Bridge Road.

    I’m still not quite sure where that second grade road is. We found A ROAD of sorts, and went happily barelling off down dirt roads, figuring that they had to go somewhere. By this stage, son #2 was asleep, and son #1 was asking “Are you sure this is the right way”. Naturally both parents exuded confidence.

    After the third intersection of dirt roads, all with names, none with destinations marked, and none appearing on the map, we took the only sensible course of action – we discarded the map.

    30 minutes later, we seemed to be going up small hill, down small dale, and occasionally round and round. A full tank of fuel meant there was nothing to be concerned about, apart from hunger and the voice in the back saying “I thought you said it was only 5 more minutes”. By this time I was having some small doubts:

    I wonder where the heck we are
    I wonder where the heck we are?

    Pressing on though saw us arrive at the exact intersection that you come to when leaving the freeway, and we were there! All that worry for nothing.

    After the obligatory time, the family were adamant that we take the freeway home. But, mwah hah hah! I was driver and had other plans!!! We took the old Princes Highway, and came home via Woodside, Lobethal, Gumeracha, and Tea Tree Gully. The drive home was 90 minutes exactly. The same time that the freeway would have taken but a much more pleasant drive with a lot of countryside to look at, and a lot less traffic.

    Obligatory pics, click to enlarge:

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    More HK pictures

    The material of choice for ALL scaffolding in building work is bamboo. The poles seem to be about 10 metres long, and they are lashed together with some kind of natural fibre thing (bamboo leaves??):

    There were numerous examples, including a 60 storey building under construction next to our hotel where the entire outside of the building (top to bottom) used bamboo scaffolding (and green shade cloth to prevent debris from falling onto passers-by).

    (And I’ve thumbnailed this lot for those in dial-up land)

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    Some of the older apartment buildings are very grotty:

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    And some are not:

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    The Star Ferry gets a very high billing as a “must-do” tourist thing. It’s also very convenient to get around, and widely used as just plain old public transport. Views are good:

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    Weight loss must be a big thing, these signs were everywhere. I was quite taken by the name: “FLABeLOS”. Somebody I don’t believe that the tummy on the left was able to transform into the one of the right:

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    In spite of the high population, a large amount of Hong Kong is not developed, and there are some very nice public spaces with public art:

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    All for now… maybe more if I get keen.

    Thoughts about Asia & Australia & Climate Change

    More Australians should take a visit in Asia. Admittedly, Hong Kong has a heavy British influence – hardly surprising after being a colony for a hundred years.

    However, the reason for suggesting this is to see the pace, the activity, and the win-at-all-costs mentality.

    There are 6.5 million people living in Hong Kong. Everywhere we went, there was building work going on. The amount of development, and re-development is staggering.

    With my employer I took a look through some show apartments. These are places for the up and coming Chinese. Typically, the SELL price on these apartments is A$1 million. That will get you about 200 sq metres, 2 or 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, lounge, kitchen. That’s a BIG apartment, with a price to match. These apartments are decked out with everything you can dream of – more gadgets and thingies than you can poke a stick at. And they sell like hot cakes.

    Admittedly this is aimed at the group of the population with money, but there seems to be plenty of it. It was also explained to me that in a lot of cases they will be bought by a young couple who will end up living there with one or both sets of parents (hence the many bedrooms and bathrooms). So you might get 2 generations of an extended family – but it’s still a lot of money.

    Across the border in China, the city of Shenzhen has 20 million people living there. The average age is 25, and 20 years ago the city was all farming country. The amount of money spent to build Shenzhen is incomprehensible.

    To put that population in perspective: In the one city of Shenzhen, they have roughly the same population as the WHOLE of Australia. Or roughly 1/10 the population of the entire USA. Or 1/4 the population of Germany. Or 1/3 the population of France. Or 4 TIMES the population of Denmark.

    This part of the world is hot and humid. I have never seen so many air-conditioner units before. These folks buy split systems at about the same rate that most people buy hot meals. Don’t believe that they are accustomed to the climate and live in harmony with it. They hate the humidity just like everybody else, and they have the income to do something about it.

    In HK and Shenzhen, they don’t give a toss about the things we worry about – they are too busy making a living, or making the next fortune.

    Climate change? Who cares!.

    Electricity to run your air-con? Who cares! Just put in some more cables and hook it up.

    Water? Plenty.

    Lessons to take away from this:

    Australia is way too introspective and parochial.

    All that crap that’s been coming out about the response Australia should take to climate change… it’s all bullshit.

    Australia tosses out about 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions, and if Australia were to close shop tomorrow, the NEW emissions from China would take up that slack in 10 MONTHS.

    In other words, China is ADDING the equivalent of 4 entire Australias, about every 3 years.

    You want to do something serious about climate change? Forget Australia – waste of time. Tackle the big ones: China, USA, Europe.

    In Oz we could spend a fortune, and achieve nothing tangible for the money. In this respect (and about in only this respect) I agree with our glorious PM Mr Little Johnny.

    ——

    For today’s pop quiz:

    How many US$ millionaires are there in China?

    We still think of China as a fairly poor country….

    There are about 134,000 US$ millionaires in Australia.

    There are about 17 million US$ millionares in the USA.

    There are about 318,000 US$ millionaires in China. This also seems to be increasing by about 50,000 PER YEAR.

    A few sights from HK

    Here is a random collection of a FEW photos from Hong Kong. (More coming soon).

    Taken out of a bus window: This advertisement is PAINTED down the side of an apartment building:
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    Contrast the shop (”Lingerie and Pink” with the truck below – bamboo scaffolding and the drivers hand hanging out with a fag in it):
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    Cool building: It really does taper. Perhaps it was a terrible mistake and was built upside-down?
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    The weary travellers are returned

    We is back. Tired after flying through the night and having about an hours sleep. A short nap this afternoon helped.

    We have about 300 photos from 2 cameras, so getting this lot organised to put up a small selection of pictures might take a few days.

    Brief impressions of Hong Kong:

    - Food is expensive unless you eat in a local greasy spoon (we did not – they are notorious for giving you food poisoning)

    - The air pollution is worse over the border in Shenzhen. HK was not too bad, just grey and hazy every morning – gradually clearing to a pale blue-ish sky by late afternoon.

    - More Indian tailors offering to make a suit than you could believe. I must have refused about 20 to 30 offers A DAY for tailors.

    - Ditto for copy Rolex watches!

    - The MTR public transport system is fantastic. Getting around is easy, and fairly cheap. For more than a single day of travel the OCTOPUS card is a must. This is an electronic stored-value card which you can cash out when you leave. Makes hopping on and off trains very fast and very easy.

    - Walking large distances is hot, and can be difficult because some roads are so busy that pedestrian access from one side to another means you need to go quite out of your way.

    Pics soon.

    ———-

    For reference, last years trip to HK and Shenzhen (Sep 2005):

    Airbus
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong Computer Shopping
    Some HK pics
    Shenzhen
    Shenzhen Photos (be sure to check the picture about the services available in the hotel)

    The Lindeman Pics

    An assortment of photos from the Lindeman Island work conference trip…

    The view from my room… looking toward the beach… not bad, eh!

    And this one, from the room door: looking at the boardwalk that heads up the hill:

    From the pool, looking back:

    Onthe sunset cruise:

    This lot put a show on every night… a few pirates in town the other evening:

    My colleague Darren doing a few magic tricks at the bar:

    These wierd turkey things wandering around all over the place:

    Pool:

    Beach… and boats… and nice warm day (in July!):

    When you arrive, this is what greets you:

    Arrive and depart on this… does 20-something knots and cuts through the waves like you would not believe:

    Christmas Hols

    Aaarrrrrgggghhhh!

    After all the trouble to load up the Christmas photos (with cropping and fiddling about), I forgot to put a link in.

    Anybody want to know what Port Douglas is like in December / January? Take a look here.

    Back from hols

    Back from the Christmas / New Year holiday.

    lots of photos to sort / clean up / post etc. Maybe soon. It will take a little while to get it organised.

    The great Bali holiday adventure

    Sorry Gra, but I’m not taking your suggestion.

    We had booked 3 generations of the extended family for a Bali holiday at Christmas – not in the touristy areas, up in the mountains.

    We booked accommodation and air fares back in January, and have since been watching with concern what seems to be a campaign to target Australians for drug trafficking. Mind you – it does seem that most of them are damn idiots, but I’m not so sure about one of them…

    The second bombing though has done the trick. This was a deliberate targeting of families and children eating in a public area, with home-made bombs loaded with ball bearings and other nasties to make lots of shrapnel, and inflict as much damage as possible.

    After much agonising and discussion and phone calls and emails between the various family members in Adelaide and Melbourne, we’ve pulled the pin. The trip is off.

    Instead we are all going to Port Douglas. It will be hot and steamy, and rainy – much like Bali, I guess. I can think of a few advantages though:

    - no passports and customs
    - a shorter flight
    - slightly lower cost (mainly air fares – even after the cancellation fees)
    - very unlikely to get blown up
    - less likely to get drugs planted in your luggage
    - if anything happens it’s in the Australian legal system
    - and best of all, it avoids coming home through that hell-hole known as International Arrivals in Melbourne.

    So, lets hope this all works out OK. Maybe one of these days the Indonesians will get their local radicals sorted out – I hope for their sake it will be soon because if not, their economy will go down the toilet pretty quickly.

    Shenzhen Photos

    Some photographs in Shenzhen… Not many because I did not get many chances…

    View from my Hotel at about 8:30 in the morning. Is that haze due to pollution?

    I think (based onthe play equipment that this is a kindy for small children. I was especially taken with the contrast between the tiny building with the fading blue roof, and the huge multi-story buildings all around:

    The subway is vast, clean, efficient. In the early morning, the pedestrian view at one of the stations was this:

    We took a visit to a huge new apartment complex being built. There will be >1300 apartments at Mangrove West when this is complete:

    A couple of night scenes:

    And finally… this was in the bathroom in my hotel. I was especially amused by the ear cleaning:

    The relevant part, enlarged a bit so you can read it. The colums are time (30 minutes), and cost (120 RMB – about A$24, or 80 RMB – about A$16 if completed before 9pm):

    Shenzhen

    I was picked up from the flash and expensive hotel and driven over the border into Shenzhen – about an hours drive.

    You have the completely bizarre experience of filling out a Hong Kong exit card, and a China entry card (as well as needing a China entry visa), then passing through HK and China immigration and customs.

    Der… I thought Hong Kong was part of China now… but not for customs and immigration.

    I did not get to see a great deal of Shenzhen, so I can only give a few fleeting impressions, here is a stream of consciousness dump:

    Big…

    lots of money been spent…

    fantastic subway and cheap to use – journeys start at 1 Yuan (about A$0.20)…

    hot and humid…

    lots and lots of people…

    is that murkiness in the air due to the heat and humidity, or pollution? …

    beggers…

    lots of people about doing very menial jobs…

    busy… activity everywhere…

    After a couple of days I was sure I was coming down with a cold. By then time I got back to Hong Kong I was sniffly and feeling lousy. Strangely though after coming back to Australia it cleared up pretty much immediately. I’m wondering now if the air is full of gunge that was making me feel sick.

    As for the people with menial jobs:

    - There was a guard in a nice uniform at the entrance to the company office building. She stood there each day doing nothing at all – just watching. Can you imagine having that as a job – standing all day in uniform in about 32 degrees with about 98% humidity???

    - We went for lunch each day to a few eateries nearby. Each had people standing around who would leap out and open doors, or say Nee Hah (hello??) as you walked in. That was their job…

    Photos to follow…

    PICs from Hong Kong

    A few assorted pictures from Hong Kong:

    View from my Hotel window out over Hong Kong harbour:

    Bundles of bamboo sitting in the street waiting to be used as scaffolding:

    Fuk Wa Street is just near the Golden Computer Arcade:

    General street sights:

    Hong Kong Computer Shopping

    I had a escorted visit to the “Golden Computer Arcade” in Hong Kong (thanks Mark).

    This is simply jaw-dropping.

    The arcade occupies one floor of a building occupying a city block, so it must be about the floor area of a decent sized department store. Inside, there are hundreds of small shops selling every imaginable thing you could ever want for a PC or electronic game. The passageways between shops are small, and very crowded.

    Interestingly, prices are not all that good: Hard drives for maybe A$10 less than I pay here, software at the same prices as here, flat screen LCD monitors are actually cheaper in Australia. This just goes to show that computers have become a world-wide commodity and competition drives the prices close to rock-bottom everywhere you go.

    I did not buy anything – the prices were not good enough to justify the warranty risk that comes with buying overseas. Any bargains were, at best, only about 10% better than you would pay here.

    It was definitely worth the visit, just to walk around and listen, and look at the sights.

    Hong Kong

    On arrival, late at night, I took the airport express train instead of a taxi, then a shuttle bus to the hotel. You see a lot looking out train and bus windows, and the sights are very different between night and day.

    I was very fortunate, spending my time in flash hotels with everything that opens and shuts. I had only a couple of days, so my impressions are very limited by where I went and what I saw.

    Hong Kong is a strange mix between the steroetype of China, and any big modern city. Some parts are very poor and primitive, some parts shiny, high tech, glossy and sophisticated. For those who have been to England – its quite amusing to have British illuminated road bollards in roads with names like “Lo Fuk Road” and “Gloucester St”.

    There are 7 million people living in Hong Kong, all jammed into a small area. The number of 40 to 60 floor apartment buildings has to be seen to be believed.

    The train systems for moving people are fairly cheap, and very very effective. Trains run frequently, and the sign systems in the stations announces the time to wait until the next train arrives. In Adelaide we have stupid arguments about train ticketing systems. In Hong Kong they have very effective barrier entry systems, ticketing machines, and also allow use of a contactless stored-value smart card. It is fast and effective. Why can’t our decision makers do something like this?

    In one of the more industrial areas you could find an apartment building (falling down) next to the headquarters for a billion dollar company. At street level you will find a guy selling tyres from a 5 x 3 metre shop, next to somebody processing recycled cardboard in a 4 x 2 metre shop. The contrasts are around every corner.

    This is truly a city that never stops, devoted to making money. The tourist areas are something I did not see – but besides, who cares, you get that rubbish anywhere. Seeing other parts of a big city is far more interesting.

    Travel

    Duncan wrote this as a comment about my Airbus post:

    Welcome back to Australia… the dumb country :) We’ve been so left behind by the rest of the world.. really, we’re bordering on primitive, culturally coarse, objectionable, ill-educated, technologically primitive, fat and arrogant too boot. Lets start a new country :)

    I’m sad to say I have to agree with pretty much all of this.

    Australians don’t travel enough, and when they do, they don’t open their eyes.

    We in Australia are insular, parochial, self-absorbed and self-satisfied. We have no idea how lucky we are. We are a country full of yobs who only seem interested in grabbing a pay rise so we can buy a new plasma TV.

    As for Australian customs and security: I’ve done two foreign trips this year – Europe in April, and Hong Kong / China just now. The most difficult customs and security people in the world seem to be Australian. More luggage X-Rays than anywhere else, more delays, less organisation.

    I’ve just been to Hong Kong and China (Shenzhen), and I’ll do a few postings over the next week or so giving potted impressions.

    Airbus

    I’m back.

    Slightly unwell but no throwing up – thankfully. That last meal in the dodgy Hong Kong diner is probably the cause.

    Anyhow – I’m VERY impressed with the Airbus A330 which Qantas use for the Australia / Hong Kong (and Australia / Singapore) routes. It is a nicely built aircraft – quiet, reasonably spacious in cattle class, well finished. The video-on-demand in every seat is nice also. Watch one of about 20 movies whenever you want, pause, skip, etc, without affecting anybody else.

    I’m VERY UNIMPRESSED with clearing customs in Melbourne. ALWAYS allow 2 hours for this. I missed my connecting flight this morning because of the hell-hole called Melbourne International Customs. This has a capacity of about 4 large planes, so these wallies put 10 through there in half an hour this morning. It started with not enough gates so they use buses from the tarmac out in the boondocks somewhere. But the buses are not big enough… Once inside the terminal, the baggage system is grossly overloaded with 4 planes per carousel… So it takes up to an hour for your bag to appear, and then there were about 3000 people in queues about 300 metres long waiting to clear customs – some people came close to punch-ups.

    Melbourne Airport and Australian customs seriously need to get their act together. This crappy dump called Melbourne International is a disgrace.

    Off to Honkers

    Today (Sunday) I’m off to Hong Kong and China for a weeks worth of work meetings.

    So there won’t be any posts here for a while – but maybe a few photo’s later on.

    Rodin

    Whilst in France in April for that work trip , I used a part of my rest day to visit the Rodin Museum. (pronounce it “Roadann” and you get pretty close.)

    August Rodin was a sculptor, born in 1840. He discovered sculpting at the age of 15, and finally died in 1917, aged 77.

    The museum is in the middle of Paris, just around the corner from Napolean’s Tomb. It is surrounded by a large walled garden, making it quiet and peaceful inside. The gardens are magnificent, especially on a warm sunny day.

    Rodin was prolific in marble, clay and bronze. How anybody can be so damn good I do not know. And you how hard marble is? Damn hard….

    His best known sculpture has to be “The Thinker”:

    Here are a few photos..

    Europe & World War 2

    During the work trip to France earlier this year, I did a lot of walking and looking at things.

    I went to les Invalides – the former hospital for returned soldiers. Only a small part of it is still a hospital, the rest is now used (mainly) for the Museum of the Army. Right alongside is Napoleons Tomb. (That’s the bit with the gold dome.)

    Besides being in a very old building with the usual static displays, this museum had two exhibits that are powerful, moving, and disturbing.

    The first was a photo exhibition of the fighting on the Russian front.

    The second, and far more powerful, is the World War 2 rooms. This display opened in 2000 and covers 4 levels. It needs at least an hour to go through, and that at a very fast clip. Ideally, 1/2 day would be about right. And don’t worry about everything being in French. About 3/4 of the text and placards are in English – which is more than sufficient.

    In their own words:

    The Musée de l’Armée has the mission to explain a determining conflict in our contemporary history, to transmit to the new generations the memory of those who committed themselves in the fights for democracy and the defence of freedom.

    This is one of the most confronting, emotionally wrenching, graphic exhibitions I have ever seen. It has a very French perspective as you would expect. There are not just photographs, there are uniforms, weapons, artifacts, audio, video, etc etc.

    I now firmly believe that the degree of suffering and destruction through Europe in the second world war is vastly under-appreciated outside Europe.

    If you want to understand why Europeans are the way that are, and have some of the opinions they have, see this exhibition. Then you may gain a tiny glimmer of understanding.

    Americans have only had their civil war on their own soil. That was in a time of muskets and flintlocks. Sure there was a lot of death and suffering. Compared to WW2 (only 60 years ago), the American civil war was a Sunday- school picnic.

    Americans have never, in their own country, had the massive loss of life (millions of people), the all-encompassing property damage, complete takeover of government, removal of liberty, invasion, occupation, and the all-encompassing psychological damage that comes with it. Instead they inflict this on others and call it liberty.

    George Bush, his henchmen, and those who snear at “Old Europe” should go the the Museum of the Army in Paris, and see the World War 2 rooms. Doing so might, just might, help them to understand others and curb their adventurism.

    France

    At the beginning of April, I had to do a short visit to France for work (and no – this does not happen often).

    I had a day to myself in Paris at the end of a long flight, so rather than sleeping off the jet lag I spent the day walking.

    It’s a bit of a cliché, but my hotel was close to the Eiffel tower so I just had to go there.

    I was walking down a road with commercial and apartment buildings on both sides. It was warm and sunny, getting close to lunch time. There were the smells of people cooking, children talking, when I came around a corner and saw this:

    tower_in_france

    Wow! It is not the usual way that tourists get there (normally its tour buses or the Metro) – but I think that my way of arriving gave the best view, and was one of the best experiences ever.

    There are certainly loads of other photos – but too many makes for extreme boredom.

    Impressions of Paris and France:

    . The only experience of the famous French arrogance was a very frazzled airport security guard. Everybody was friendly, everybody tried hard, they are a bunch of nice people.

    . Many many people speak English, and immediately switched to it on hearing my awfully pronounced “Bonjour” (or “Bonsoir” if after about 5 pm)

    . Learn to say Bonjour and Merci. You can go a long way on only a few words.

    . Prices in Euros are about the same numerically as A$ – or maybe a little less. That means with about A$1.60 to the Euro, it does cost more for food and accommodation but not outrageously so.

    . If you want an evening meal, forget it before 7pm. Bistros and brasseries are not really in the business of serving a meal until then. Before that time you can get coffee, wine, beer, cake, etc.

    . Walk around Paris or take the Metro. It’s a lovely city (especially on a sunny day).

    . The bread in France is the best in the world.

    . The coffee is damn good also – expresso of course!

    . They have vending machines that dispense real expresso coffee!!!!

    . The croissants are fantastic – not too buttery (many that you get in Australia are way too buttery)

    . There are more varieties of cheese than you have ever seen before. It’s also the only place I have ever liked a blue cheese.

    . Food is a pretty serious business, and even in one of the crappy airport hotels, the food was very good.

    . In spite of the amount of cheese and bread (and other high carb foods) that are eaten, I did not see a single fat person (apart from tourists). Maybe they are there but I did not see any.

    . If you have to travel from Paris, take the TGV. This is a high speed train which goes (I’m told) about 300 km / hour. It’s quiet, fast, efficient, and relatively inexpensive. REALLY, REALLY impressive.

    . All the buildings are overheated.

    I had a really good time in France, so thank you to everybody I met, who put up with my 5 words of French, who looked after me.

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