Monday, January 31, 2011

Lock and Key

Whilst out walking I needed to cross the seine so stummbled across the Pont des Art. At first you think, yes it's another bridge so what? but then you look closer...

Pont des Art
Maybe a little closer..


It turns out this is the place to go to publicly declare ones love for another, by placing a lock on the bridge. There were hundreds perhaps thousands of locks lining the bridge, although it is a bit of an eyesore, I guess it's romantic. Apparently it is a bit of a trend at the moment and similar bridges can be found across Europe.


 

The Tourist

Played tourist today and revisited some important Paris monuments, here are my photos..

Notre Dame

Arc de Triomphe

Sacre Coeur

Crepe Shop

It was a wonderful day, and have to say the crepe shop was the real highlight. Mainly due to crazy french Jonathan Rhys Meyer crepe maker man!

Brrrr.. It's cold in here

Today it was cold, ice cold...

Cafe de Flore

I decided it was about time I went to a lonely planet approved cafe. My choice was the 1880's cafe, Cafe de Flore where "Sartre and de Beauvoir essentially set up office, writing in its warmth during the Nazi occupation" (thanks guide book).

Cafe de Flore!

I was warned the prices were "lofty", however I was pleasantly suprised. For 5.50 euro I received a cup with a jug of coffee and a jug of hot milk which turned into at least 2 cafe cremes! Success...



My Cafe Creme

Cafe de Flore also receives extra points because of the helpful staff. When I ordered with my terrible french the waiter didn't immediately answer in english, instead responded with slow and clear french leaving me feeling a little less like a tourist. However when the man sitting next to me tried to have a conversation, this feeling passed pretty quickly...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

That Time of Year Again.

Although some people think I have problems, movie awards seasons is my favourite time of year. I have been pretty excited over the last few months and now the oscars are within sight, I feel it's about time I write down some predictions.

Best Actor - Colin Firth
Best Actress - Natalie Portman
Best Supporting Actor - Batman
Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams

Best Director - David Fincher

Best Film - The King's Speech

Best Supporting Actress will be the only surprise of the night, it is without a doubt the tightest race. The favourite is Melissa Leo but i'm going for her co star Amy Adams. Although I really hope it goes to Jacki Weaver..

PS. last year i was completely wrong..

Also there are lots of awards i wont predict, it would take too long!


Can You Believe It?

I went to the movies again...

 The Kings Speech

I should start by saying I love Colin Firth and in my eyes he can do no wrong. I was obsessed with A Single Man, loved Love Actually and do we really need to mention Pride and Prejudice… so maybe this will be a little biased but I’ll try not to be.

By now I would say most people with slight interest in cinema have heard about his film, the awards have been piling up and I’m sure there will be more to come. The film takes place from 1925 up until 1939 and centers around King George VI and the man who helped him overcome his stammer.

All performances deserve praise, Colin Firth is perfect as the vulnerable King and Helena Bonham Carter is wonderful as his caring other half. Geoffrey Rush is once again terrific as speech therapist Lionel Logue, and proves he is one of the greatest character actors around. However, I mustn't overlook Guy Pearce who reminds us of the brilliance that is his acting ability (remember Memento??).

The acting aside this film is flawless. The music, set design and costumes work together perfectly to bring the audience into the story. I left the theatre feeling completely satisfied and uplifted, and I didn’t even have a choc top.

People take note, come Oscar night I have no doubt Colin Firth will deliver a stammer less acceptance speech.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Black Swan


OK… I really think there should be some sort of warning about this film.

It really freaked me out. Scared the bajeez out of me, and i'm not sure what else to say…

Black Swan follows Nina and her quest to be the perfect ballerina. Nina has worked very hard to please her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) and her demanding company director (Vincent Cassel) , and things just go downhill when she is chosen as the lead for a new production of Swan Lake.

Darren Aronofsky's last film was The Wrestler which received lots of acclaim left me with mixed feelings, and this is exactly how I also feel about Black Swan.

Natalie Portman is terrific as the tortured Nina. The film is also very sharp, creating an unnerving amount of tension and anticipation. However I'm not sure what, but something was missing, possibly the supporting casts character developments but then again i'm not sure if that would have been necessary?! So really the more I think about it, this film was a very intriguing exploration of the human mind and the idea of passion vs madness.

It is definitely worth a look, but be warned it is not a happy two hours and is not particularly enjoyable in the traditional sense.

Also, I think Natalie Portman will win the Oscar this year.. and I will continue to have nightmares.

Notes

Notes: Music & Coffee

Whilst trying to stay out of the rain, I found a great cafe in St Martin's Lane, just near Leicester square. I say great as it was just like one of my much loved melbourne cafes, good music playing, friendly staff, simple yet tastily food and most importantly strong coffee!


I made two trips here over my four days in London and was equally impressed both times. They had a variety of coffee and coffee preparation methods and small meals including focaccia and croissants. The cafe also includes a music/book/dvd shop, which mainly seemed to concentrate on classical and independent releases.

 

Tattooed barista, where have you been hiding??


My coffee and focaccia... yum yum
After way too long, I finally made another trip to the cinema..

Love and Other Drugs


Love and Other Drugs follows a pretty standard story arch, playboy guy meets girl, girl is not looking for a relationship, guy falls in love, and comedy ensues. The only difference with this film is the girl is suffering early onset Parkinson’s.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway take the leads in this adult aimed comedy/drama, however it’s the supporting cast who are really superb, Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt steal the show and are my personal favourites. We also see lots of naked Jake so I shouldn’t really complain.

However, my main issue with this film was one Ms Hathaway, she was so very annoying and therefore I did not care what was happening to her. It was probably not only her fault as the story was so painfully obvious that I should have just watched the preview and imagined I’d seen it.

It can be difficult to balance comedy and drama without creating too much cheese, which is clear in this film, however I guess I did still enjoy it a little…

 If you like Anne Hathaway and cheesy American faux art house this film would be amazing!

The Hummingbird Bakery

Who doesn't love cake?

I had drooled over the pages of the Hummingbird bakery cookbook many a times, and when I stumbled across the store on Portobello Road I knew it was my lucky day.



This bakery makes cakes, and boy oh boy do they make cake. I was slightly overwhelmed by the selection, there was roughly ten different cupcakes, brownies, cheese cake, carrot cake and the list goes on.

I love cupcakes so decided to give them all my attention..

Finally deciding on Black Bottom Cupcake... amazing

I was very impressed with the Humingbird Bakery, and it definitely lived up to the hype. If only the staff were a little less sullen... they work in a bakery what it there to be pissy about??

London

I went, I saw, I conquered!

So here are some pictures..


Millenium Bridge!
I just had to go here after seeing Harry Potter,
Argh those pesky dementors..

A Different Bridge.
(Actually two different Bridges!)

The Eye and Big Benny Boy

Betty's House
Overall very good trip!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ben's Cookies

So, although I did live in the UK for a year after school, I had never had the pleasure of tasting Ben's Cookies.




Last year there was much talk of Ben and his cookies when a friends of mine ( an award winning baker might I add!) was talking about going into the baking business. She loves Ben, and thinks his cookies are grand.

I however, was disappinted..

I think the problem was I ordered badly, I couldn't decide so made a rash decision I regreted immediately. I went for the peanut butter cookie as when done well these are amazing, however this one tasted of butter and not much peanut.

There was also a really annoying person in front of me, who spent ages umming and ahhing before finally asking for a discount because she was wearing a tiara?!?



I feel I should give them another shot, but this time must order chocolate.

London


Sunday morning I took an early morning train ride across the pond. London was calling me and with its great shops, beautiful weather and love for pork gelatine I was eager to arrive.

After deciding I was too old for youth hostels, the trusty Ibis did me well. Almost made me reminisce on the good times of being a hotel receptionist, but shook that feeling pretty quick.




No concrete plans meant I was free as a bird to wander, to eat and just be merry!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Swoon...


I really want to see Blue Valentine, even though my sources tell me it's rubbish. And this just makes me want to see it more..




 
Ahh Paris.
This is taken from the Louvre, overlooking the Eiffel Tower
thats two in one Lonely Planet.. Check Check!!


Paris

I've now arrived in Paris, and it is cold...
I shouldn't complain as I think it  may be warmer than when I was here in november.

Anyway, I have two weeks in Paris before heading back home to Australia, and I think I may play tourist for most of it. This is because I want to do what the Lonely Planet book says to do, they say I should visit:

1. Eiffel Tower
2. Musee D'Orsay
3. Jardin Du Luxembourg
4. Markets
5. Mosquee De Paris
6. Shakespeare & Company
7. Ile St-Louis
8. The Louvre
9. Promenade Plantee
10. Cimetiere Du Pere Lachaise
11. Canel St-Martin
12. Sacre Coeur

OK, Lonely Planet I accept your challenge!! Although I also may add visit a cinema.

Leaving Tunis

On Monday I sadly made my way to the airport headed for Paris. My two months in Tunisia had come to an end, however I will always remember them fondly.

The Ben Lazreg family made me feel so at home and I had the most amazing time because of it. I even got to experience a revolution for crying out loud!!

Farewell Tunisia.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Last Night In Tunis

The title says it all..


From the roof at sunset

I don't know how I feel about leaving Tunis just yet, i'll sleep on it and let you know.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tunisia continues to be in a state of unrest. The speaker of Parliament Foued Mebazaa has now taken over the role of interim President amid new bouts of violence.


A sense of community and pride is shining through the violence with neighbourhoods coming together to protect their families and possessions, from the violent gangs. Men stand on suburban street corners with found weapons of wood and rock, not to cause trouble, but rather protect what is loved.


Nearly 50 people have reportedly been killed after a large prison fire in Monastir, and vandalism and looting continues in central Tunis. 


Mr Mebazaa has called for a national unity government to be created with the guidance of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi. He has stated "All Tunisians without exception and exclusion must be associated in the political process,". 


The general consensus is that too much has been sacrificed, including young lives, for the chance of a democratic future to slip through their fingers.


Change is wanted and change is needed. 




Tunisia please, you are making it difficult for me to love you!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Also available, fresh oranges from the trees in the front yard!


No bread available this morning, but they did have pain au chocolate!

Tunis I love you..

Yum Yum

Tunisian Revolution

Political corruption and high unemployment has caused public uproar across Tunisian over the last month. Riots have been increasingly reported, Tunis took centre stage this week.


Rioters were confronted by armed police, resulting in a number of fatalities and many more injured. The number of fatalities has not been confirmed due to the governments control over the media, it is believed to have surpassed 60.


The initial trigger for the riots was unemployment. In protest, on December 17th a university graduate publicly set himself on fire after he was prohibited from selling vegetables, his only means of earning a living, because he didn't have a licence. He died some weeks later from his injuries.        


The public also objected to the heavy censorship on information, including the internet, set by the government and the corruption in the presidents family.  


Unprecedented protests appeared in the following weeks throughout Tunisia before reaching the capital on Monday 10th January. Schools and Universities were closed indefinitely and a city curfew was also introduced to help the government maintain control.

Three live to air speeches were given by President Zein El Abidine Ben Ali where he admitted to failing the people and stated that he wouldn't be challenging the constitution to run for president again in 2014. However this did little to halt the protestors.

Thousands came together to strike in central Tunis today. The protesters called for his immediate resignation and a legal investigation into his families corruption.



At 5.45pm on the 14th January, President Zein El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down ending his 23 years in power.



Friday, January 14, 2011

21 in Tunis

During my time in Tunis one of my fellow students celebrated her 21st Birthday, in honour of this her host family put together a party to help her celebrate.

It was a fabulous evening, the family cooked an impressive array of Tunisian dishes and we laughed and danced the night away.

They even labelled the food, with a full recipe so
we could make it ourselves in Australia!

The man of the house pulled out all the moves for us!

We sang happy birthday three times,
in three different languages!


It was an amazing evening spent with wonderful new friends.

I Love Dance..


Back in class, we had been working really hard to perfect our version of the hit song Sidi Mansour. As at the completion of our program we were set to perform a spectacular for all our new Tunisian friends and faux families.

This is a snippet of what we had so far:


video



We are pretty darn talented...
At least that's what dance coach Claus tells us!
I think I have finally figured out how to put videos up....

wait.. oh no.

Oscars Countdown


So the Golden Globes are approaching which only fuels oscars talk. The nominations are released 25th January and predicting these is also a fun game. I was reading Deadline Hollywood ,where they listed the top contenders for best supporting actress and found this:

"Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom(Sony Pictures Classics) - It swept the Australian Oscars and has managed to win Weaver, tough and unforgettable, major critical acclaim as well as Golden Globe, CCMA, and National Board of Review plaudits, though she missed out on SAG."

I love that a small Australian film has gained American acclaim, but mainly found myself distracted by the use of "Australian Oscars"... it made me giggle...

Anyway, yes, please let Jacki Weaver be nominated. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm all riot, how are you?

Tunisia has seen better days. I only have 4 days left of my Tunisian adventure and it looks like it will be spent indoors!

The military have moved in and Tunis now has a dusk till dawn curfew. Many people are actively fighting for their cause and I sincerely hope things can be resolved peacefully.

Until then, I might revisit some of my favourite photos and again explore the wonders of Tunisia.

** I also stole the pun from a friend.. it was just too good to pass up***

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Markets

There is no denying that secondhand or vintage clothing is all the rage now. You can pay big bucks for anything from clothes to leather goods, but not in Tunisia. Here the markets are untapped goldmines...

After seeing the amazing loot my friends had found on previous weekend visits, I decided it was about time I had a look for myself.

I usually struggle to find the amazing pieces at savers, but at the tunisian markets it is impossible to leave empty handed. So far I have seen those of Bizerte and Rades and the amount of stuff was obscene, clothes of every variety filled almost a 2 block radius.

I got these boots for a dollar!!

I think I have also discovered a future business opportunity...

Free Time!

At the end of this week I have 4 exams for my arabic language course, but due to some current issues in Tunis all universities are now closed for 2 days!

Although, I know I should still be studying, I really don't want to!!

What is an ideal pastime during a political uprising???

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Food! Again

Crazily obsessed with Tunisian food.... err problematic!





Harry New Year!

To welcome in the new year we decided it was about time we ventured to the cinema. Although I love the movies, it appears there are not a great deal of Tunisian film goers. Don't get me wrong there are quite a number of cinemas around Tunis, but from the people I've talked to it is not hugely popular.

It also appeared to be near impossible to find movie listings and session times, so when we happened to stumble across a cinema in La Marsa that was showing my man Harry Potter we figured it was fate.



The film was dubbed into french which was interesting*^, but besides that, it was very nice to be back in the dark visiting my imaginary friends.


* Because i don't speak french
^ Also due to the dubbing, french Voldemort is super scary but french Ron is still hubba hubba!!  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dancing..

Dancing seems to have become a staple in any of our group events. When we visited Monastir we spent the night dancing with some mime artists, our trip to the south included dancing around the bonfire. The christmas party had us dancing around the tables, there was new years dancing, and tunisian dance also happens to be a subject in our course.  

I have a collection of amazing dance videos captured during the majority of these events, however my computer currently doesn't want me to put them up on this blog. 

Argh computer you win again!

I will fight back. eventually..

But in the meantime, here is a picture of our
 faceless dance group, we dance with sticks...



More Food!

Unfortunately i am obsessed with eating again, and it really doesn't help that the Tunisians serve everything with bread and cheese. So far we have found the best place to get crepes, the best place to get take away crepes, the ultimate shawarma venue and amazing an Lablabi hut, and now I think we have found the best couscous place ( well at least within a 5min walk from uni..).


Not only is the food amazing, but the venue is also worth the visit. It is a tiny restaurant and you really struggle to get a table at lunchtime, however there is rickety ladder in the corner leading upstairs to some extra seating (which is where we were).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Years Day Shenanigans

After a number of different ideas I spent New Years in Hammamet. Along with some friends, we spent the night exploring some interesting local bars and also a great late night kebab place. We then welcomed in the new year with a very adventurous and stupendous 1/1/2011

After a few false starts, a great shawarma and a brief train fire we made it to Friguia Park to swim with the dolphins!! Friguia Park is a large wildlife park located about 30 mins from Hammamet which apparently is filled with a large range of animals and is a great day out. We only saw the dolphins, but they were amazing!

We were pretty excited.. mainly by the beautiful wetsuits and headgear!

Our dolphins!!
The day couldn't have been better, it was such a buzz and yet another great day in Tunisia!

We were still absurdly happy the entire way back to Tunis

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tunisian Coffee

I love coffee , it encourages my brain to co-orperate in the mornings and it is just pretty darn amazing. In tunisia they also love coffee, which is great, I accompanied my tunisian family to grab a morning coffee and we were at the cafe for over 3 hours.

Tunisian coffee drinkers are just a very social bunch, cafes are always filled with loads of people talking, laughing and smoking. I am currently searching for the perfect local coffee shop and have found the staff in every cafe to be very welcoming (Brunswick cafes could take note).

This was a decorated coffee that we got at our favourite cafe,
the waiter is sweet on a friend!

Although they don't really do take away coffees, well, you can get a coffee to go but it comes in a flimsy plastic cup similar to that which cordial comes in at a kids party. I might try and order on soon, just so I can send a picture to the excellent coffee and book reviewer bean there, read that

Also there are mens cafes, which have lines of chairs facing the street so the men can ogle the ladies who pass by. I also need to share a picture of that!!

Sidi Bou Said

Just prior to the new year, I took a afternoon trip to Sidi Bou Said. Located about 30 mins from Tunis, Sidi Bou Said is one of the most popular villages with tourists and locals alike.


 The buildings are all painted with the traditional white and blue. This was apparently done to represent the white of the jasmine flower and the blue from the Mediterranean.


This is a Bombalouni, greatest doughnut-esq thing in the whole wide world...


We visited Cafe Sidi Chabaane, which has the most amazing views over the sea. Although the prices are highly inflated due to the picturesque setting it was still a great place to rest your feet.


Tunisia continues to provide new places that are more and more beautiful than the next.