‘Hello bear, here we are. How ya doin?’
Our lead guide was talking to an enormous white bear which had appeared 20 metres in front of us. It stood straight up on its hind legs, a dazzling tower of power. It blinked. It focused. It tried to make sense of this huddle of hyperventilating polar bear spotters fumbling with our cameras.
But I was not afraid – and not because there were eight other tasty morsels, including my children, between the bear and me. Continue reading
“Madame, vous aller pleurer d’émotion.” [Madame, you are going to weep from emotion.]
The Monsieur paused for dramatic effect then presented a tiny cup of amour de poire, a delicate pear wine produced high up in the French Alps, a cork’s throw from the Italian border.
I knew it was a good idea to step into this curious little shop.
“You’ll get stuck in there,” Sabbatical Man had warned, eyeing the many signs at the door that suggested an eccentricity of proprietorship and eclecticism of wares that would make a quick browse impossible. Continue reading
Camera too small, landscape too big.
I was struggling with this problem yet again in Iceland, on the side of an enormous glacier, when an Australian approached.
We exchanged adjectives and smiled at the view.
“Still,” he said. “It must be just like home for you here.” Continue reading
“Why the bloody hell do they build these monstrosities?” the cross English woman shouted at her terrified little husband. “Why? It’s just so bloody awful!”
She was glaring at a sparkling new adventure playground in the final stages of construction high up the side of a Swiss mountain.
The husband nodded sadly and watched his wife pull her hat down over her ears, stretch her waistband high up under her bosom and storm off to start the bloody nature walk she had bloody come here for.
Meanwhile the five of us, absentmindedly wiping her spittle from our faces, were spellbound.
How did I end up on top of a Swiss mountain, feet planted, pistol-ready hands, blocking the entrance to the cable car in which I am standing?
The man and woman facing me cannot wait.
They must get onto the cable car.
Yet I don’t seem to be letting them.
Every now and then travellers are rewarded with a moment of sublime timing.
Ours came at the end of a lovely day exploring The Camargue wildlife reserve, spotting flamingoes, wild horses, beavers and thousands of water birds. We were planning to top off the day with a late afternoon ice cream at a sleepy seaside village nearby.
But Saintes Maries de la Mer was not asleep.
Marseille: smile for the camera
Marseille is just 30 minutes’ drive south of Aix-en-Provence – but it might as well be Baghdad as far as many locals are concerned. Continue reading