Hells bells, with rings on

I was recently coralled into participating into this daily post challenge thing (NaBloPoMo) by Katie of Katiefoolery but couldn’t figure out what its affiliation (if any) was to NaNoWriMo. The official home of NaBloPoMo made my eyes bleed (poor design, advertisements). There was no link entitled “What is NaBloPoMo” or “About Us.” There were a lot of links to cross-posting on BlogHer and why I should join BlogHer. The cynic in me wondered if this might have something to do with raising revenue but BlogHer informed me this was actually about us participants self-promoting our blog posts for the love and wonderment of mankind and the chance of a prize! Phew. There’s probably a link on that site somewhere about donating laptops and supporting charitable acts that improve literacy, just like NaNoWriMo, but I just couldn’t find it. Onwards to google!

NaBloPoMo (aka National Blog Posting Month) was created by Eden Kennedy who wrote:

In 2006 I started NaBloPoMo as kind of a joke because I’d failed at NaNoWriMo the previous year. I decided that if I couldn’t write a novel in thirty days, at the very least I could post on my blog every day for a month. I thought maybe thirty or forty people would do it with me. We ended up with around 2,000 bloggers, I think. In 2007 we moved to a real web site and got almost 6,000 people, and by January of 2010 we had more than 16,000 members. WHERE DID ALL YOU PEOPLE COME FROM?!
In 2010 Eden sold NaBloPoMo to BlogHer.com. On November 1st, 2011, the old NaBloPoMo site (hosted at Ning) was closed, and NaBloPoMo is now hosted at BlogHer.


There’s something rather dodgy about quoting a quote but there you have it. The golden history of NaBloPoMo written by a very helpful individual who has been participating in NaBloPoMo since 2007. Much appreciated! Onwards to white noise…

A random sunset with no relevance to this post

Cruising Day 1

On the 26th September I boarded a P&O cruise ship. The itinerary included New Caledonia, Port Vila, Lifou, Mystery Island and the Isle of Pines. My friends had thoroughly enjoyed their previous cruise. I was a little more sceptical.  Today Tonight had provided a glowing advertisement of the Pacific Jewel to its audiences. I generally find that taking the opposite view of current affair programs is a sensible approach to life. For example, I think taxi drivers on a whole do a good job. I try not to misrepresent people I’ve never met (like immigrants and people on welfare). I am not interested in diets or shopping and I think Media Watch, libel laws and accountability are fine ideas. What could a business who targeted Today Tonight viewers possibly offer me? Two thousand people drinking, partying and participating in group activities in a confined space? If only pyramids could float.

It could be an upside-down floating pyramid if you squint really hard

I joined my friends at Hickson Road wharf in Sydney, dreaming of a stress free holiday with cocktails and tropical islands.We were effeciently herded through large temporary shelters that evoked a certain post apocalyptic atmosphere, through check in, identity photographs, customs and onto the cruise ship.

First we stopped at the Plantation restaurant for a belated buffet lunch. There was a lot of food that reflected its mass production and cheap, frozen ingredients. Knowing that this was my future breakfast and lunch for the next nine days made me sad.

We made our way to the Sailaway Party on the top deck. Waiters handed out cocktails and beer. The MC required that the people on deck respond to her question “Are you ready to party?!” positively, loudly and in unision. On stage, entertainers dressed in Australian flag shorts land skirts sung a medley of Australiana songs. Vanessa Amarossi, Men at Work, Christine Anu, Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, Waltzing Matilda. There was a mistimed countdown to pass under the Harbour Bridge. One of the circus performers waved an Australian flag. As we sailed past the Opera House, people happily waved to one another – ship to shore. Behind us, some individuals tried to raise an ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi” but lost enthusiasm after two rounds. The Governor Bligh harbour master guided us out of the harbour and the sun began to set. The jingoistic performance petered out and people begun to drift back inside the ship.

Exploration of the ship ensued. Today Tonight had not lied. I was on some kind of bogan-boat – a floating amalgam of a live-in RSL and Westfield. I booked myself into an overpriced massage to get over the shock.

New Years and Niagara Falls

31 December – 1 January

My brother, Matt and I spent seven hours on a bus from Montreal to Toronto. There we were met by my brother’s friend. We then spent some additional hours in the car to Niagara Falls. Our plan – join the masses at the Falls to celebrate New Years. We killed time at my brother’s friend’s friend’s house in Niagara Falls suburbia by watching bad movies and eating good food. We called several taxis. They told us to wait outside. And that is how we spent New Years – standing in the ‘warm’ on a suburban street in Niagara Falls, waiting for a taxi that never showed. Some small children ran down the street with sparklers.

The next morning we visited Niagara Falls proper after a Canadian style breakfast of french toast, bacon and maple syrup. We drove through the Las Vegas style hotels, casinos and arcades with flashing lights. We could hear the sound of games machines, pinballs and hawkers. Down by the falls, a hooker stumbled down the street worse for wear. Some tourist in a SUV stopped to take a photo of her. Crew from last night’s New Years concert were dismantling the stage and sound equipment. A thick fog obscured most of the falls. Through the fog you could see an old hydro-electricity station. On the way out of Niagara Falls, we drove back to the falls and got a clear view.

Onwards to Kitchener and the exceptionally good cuisine of my brother and his friend…


22 December – 31 December 2010

In the interest of this travel blog catching up to some time remotely near the present I will enlist a listing strategy.

  • We caught Amtrak’s Airondrack to Montreal on the 22nd December. It was cheap, comfortable and long. I liked watching the climate get more and more icy.
  • It was snowing in Montreal.
  • We stayed at Auberge Espace Confort. The first night, after we had gone to bed, the fire alarm went off. There were no staff in the building. The fire brigade arrive. Our room, with all the electronic appliances unplugged and a lack of fire, was the culprit. We went back to sleep, safe and unburnt.
  • Walking through the Latin Quarter, the Old Quarter and the Old Port.
  • Ice-skating at the Old Port.
  • Extremely good meal at L’ Epicier in the Old Port. They accomodated vegan requirements without a reservation. The best creme brulee of my life.
  • Contrasted by the number of homeless people and mentally ill having to walk and walk all night in sub-zero temperatures. The lucky ones were in the ATM rooms and subway stations.
  • Christmas day in Trois Riviere with a Montreal family.
  • Moved in with S., a friend of my brother, who very graciously acted as our tour guide.
  • The archaeology museum has an unusual method of incorporating First Nations into the history of Montreal for the 21st century. The level of ‘Hoorah’ left me somewhat uncomfortable.
  • Saw Black Swan. No surprises.
  • Mont Royal is pretty. Recommend the view over the city at nightime.
  • Otto Dix exhibition. Amazing art, bad exhibition space for that amount of people (not) moving through it. I wanted to punch someone after ten minutes of it and one of our party was physically stuck and unable to move for an hour.
  • Don’t eat at L’Avenue unless you like having lunch after four, waiting in line, doof doof music and waiters who are more interesting in chatting/feeling each other up than serving your meal. We were also unfortunate in that one of our four meals was cold by the time it was served another rendered me queasy for 24 hours. For the love of god, go across the road to any of the other exceptionally good restaurants.
  • Strombolini excellent.
  • Blue Nile african restaurant also excellent.
  • So much good food and wine…
  • The Food Pyramid

    December 2010

    The quest for pyramids is hungry business. Fortunately there is a lot to eat in New York. There is so much to eat that the city of New York has had to enlist the entire population to eat it. The exact chain of food supply, distribution and waste management is not well understood. In 2010 Columbia University published a brief study trying to identify the basic elements of food supply for New York City. City Harvest collects 35,000kg of leftover food a day and redistributes it to New York’s hungry.

    Our contribution to consumption was modest. For those who appreciate vegan food, I recommend Ozu’s almond cream, azuki mousse, chocolate tofu pie and jasmine tea; Peacefood Cafe‘s peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate ganache, dumplings, soup and Daiya ‘cheese’; Wild Ginger‘s menu in general and; Quantum Leap’s Big Leap Burger. Happiness indeed for the vegan in New York City.

    In the non-vegan category and in general there were many many cheesecakes, cheeseburgers and cheap pizza slices of happiness. Good coffee was hard to find. Roasting Plant Coffee on 7th Avenue had some groovy pneumatic tube grinding and roasting contraption that resulted in tasty coffee. Ecopolis in Brooklyn on Smith Street was also above par. I didn’t partake but who can object to street stands selling milkshakes and cupcakes…

    Cupcakes outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Things I have found amusing in New York

    Despite the ambiguous name, the 3 Star Coffee a great friendly place for a cheap, decent feed. Family run for over 45 years.

    Eight dollars before tax and tip at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Bar. The service was the worst I’ve had since arriving here. The Plaza Hotel may be a good source of funds for building a pyramid.

    A common sight in Central Park and the Upper West Side.


    Chichen Itza, Mexico (Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndaandee/3051368203/#/)

    8 November 2010

    I’m on the train, heading to Newtown. The carriage smells of damp. Dashed lines of rain interrupt my view of the grey sky, the grey rip-rap and the wet rusted railway lines. It’s meant to be late Spring but I’m dressed in a red jacket and a knee length woollen coat. My sunflower-print umbrella, the one that leaked all the way to the station, is at my feet. A paperback, Donald Westlake’s The Ax, has been stashed in my satchel bag. I got through four pages. I can’t focus. It’s three weeks until Matt and I head off overseas for what he calls our Global Prowl. To keep himself busy while we travel he’s got himself a spot writing travel articles for PopMatters.com. He’s  also got two novels to write and about forty paperbacks to read – the Donald Westlake in my bag being one of them. Each of those forty paperbacks I’ve been told is the perfect size and weight for travelling. Now that I’m reading the Westlake maybe it won’t make the cut.

    My planning hasn’t gotten that far. I’m a bit worried that three weeks out I still haven’t been to the doctor to get my shots, still haven’t applied for an Egyptian Visa or the American ESTA, still don’t know whether to book transport to Kitchener or Montreal for Christmas, and still haven’t found a good pair of walking shoes.

    Our itinerary so far includes a seven month trip through San Francisco, New York, Kitchener/Toronto/Montreal, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico City, London, Cairo (via an unconfirmed number of countries), Athens (via an unconfirmed number of countries) and finally Thailand where no doubt we will squeeze the last juices from our savings. France, Portugal, Spain Croatia, Bulgaria and Poland may or may not be added. No doubt the trip will be an exploration of cultural jetsam: museums; archaeological ruins; art galleries; literary pilgrimages and hopefully a good meal or two.

    Everyone has been telling me that New York is the best city in the world except the newspapers that tell me it’s the best city in the world for bedbugs. I’ve given offence to my New York-initiated friends on several occasions by doubting that New York is a wonderful town. Beyond museums and the unavoidable jazz venues I don’t know what I shall see, eat, do. I have been told that you can do anything, any time in New York. This is great, because I really want to climb a pyramid.

    In case climbing pyramids in New York falls through, I should get to explore exotic old ruins in Mexico – Cakamul, Palenque, Tulum, Chichen Itza – along with the other million tourists washing up onto the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula during January. Treasure, trash in unequal portions. I guess I’ll get to see how tourism and conservation co-exist (and be part of the conservation problem).

    A man in a poncho sits next to me on the train and plays chess on his phone. I don’t believe he is Mexican -that would be too much of a co-incidence – but I bet he doesn’t worry about theft and kidnapping when he travels, just as he doesn’t mind wearing something a little out of the norm for Sydney.  I’m embarrassed to say that I hold all the fears and trepidations of an inexperienced and nervous traveller. Such fears make me the kind of tourist who is all too tempted to get on that tour bus to avoid standing out and those little impracticalities caused by blatant ignorance and stupidity. While on that tour, I’d probably feel tempted to buy a poncho at the tourist shop but feel guilty for a) spending money and b) spending money on an item that probably sent a granny blind. Six months later you’d probably find me back in Sydney shivering at train stations because I didn’t pack my poncho in case someone looked at me. If that’s not self-indictment, I don’t know what is.

    I don’t buy into the whole travelling to find yourself bullshit. I don’t have work at any of our planned destinations, I’m not writing a book and I’m not studying anything. I’ve bought a plane ticket to see stuff. This makes me a consumer. Let’s hope that this trip at least gives me a more global perspective and maybe in amongst all the interesting bits of cultural driftwood we find there are a few pieces worth turning over for a second look. Maybe even New York.