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Shame, regret and cruelty to tomatoes

Shame, regret and cruelty to tomatoes

If there was a prize for worst vegetable gardener, I'd be a contender. Vegetable gardening is fundamentally incompatible with my gardening style, which consists of bursts of frenetic activity interspersed with long periods of staying inside with a good book. Every few years I resurrect a fantasy about tending a productive garden. Inspired by this [...]

Are French council gardeners horticultural geniuses?

Are French council gardeners horticultural geniuses?

Wine, cheese, fashion, architecture. I was expecting these. But no one told me about the street plantings! I associate French gardens with formality, symmetry, topiary, parterres. I thought Monet's garden at Giverny was the exception, not the rule. Yet wherever I went in France, the streets and parks were planted with dramatic foliage and intensely [...]

Paulownia on a dark and stormy night

Paulownia on a dark and stormy night

I know it's October when my son celebrates his birthday and the paulownia blooms in the back yard. A storm battered Melbourne on Sunday night, felling trees, taking out power lines, flooding roads and bringing the trains and roads to a grinding halt on Monday morning. Meanwhile, our paulownia sprinkled a few flowers onto the [...]

A day of winter cutbacks

A day of winter cutbacks

In July, I spent a day cutting back my shaggy front garden. At 10am the plants were in their full overblown end-of-season glory. The gravel path was an obstacle course and winter weeds filled any gaps. It's been a while since I planted small, pretty things. The toughest, most neglect-tolerant plants have taken over. By [...]

Paris – my mind is blown

Paris – my mind is blown

Ah, Paris. It was my first visit, and after Lyon, Strasbourg and Reims, the culmination of our French library tour. I confess I didn't experience the fabled, unequivocal "falling in love with Paris" in the four short days I was there. It's a city of 12 million people, plus what feels like a million tourists [...]

Art Deco and Gothic masterpieces in Reims

Art Deco and Gothic masterpieces in Reims

I'm back from my Great Library Tour, jetlagged and awake since 2am. Time to get back into blogging. (Ten days into my three week trip, I reached Paris and gave up on blogging as I went. Too much to see and no time for sitting round in the hotel connected to wifi). Before Paris, we [...]

Old meets new at Médiathèque André Malraux

Old meets new at Médiathèque André Malraux

Médiathèque André Malraux is the main public library in Strasbourg. Like Lyon Public Library, it is part of France's network of municipal libraries which were modernised in the 1970s and 1980s, opening up to the community and throwing off their previous image as staid guardians of old books. Some changed their name to 'mediathèque' to [...]

Looking German in Bergheim and Haut-Koenigsbourg

Looking German in Bergheim and Haut-Koenigsbourg

Having spent the morning in Colmar, the travelling librarians visited the medieval town of Bergheim. The gate tower was built in 1300. People in the Alsace region traditionally spoke Alsatian, a German dialect, and like Strasbourg and Colmer, the German influence is evident in Bergheim. I have a kind of curiosity about German culture simply [...]

Ridiculously good-looking Colmar

Ridiculously good-looking Colmar

On Sunday, the travelling librarians headed out of Strasbourg for a day trip to the historic towns of Colmar and Bergheim and Haut-Koenigsbourg castle. We hit the road with Rudolphe the bus driver and Yves the tour guide. Yves had taken us on a walking tour of Strasbourg the previous day and I could fill [...]

Treasures from the Strasbourg market

Treasures from the Strasbourg market

In a popular tourist destination like Strasbourg, the best way to avoid the crowds is to go out early in the morning or in the evening. On Saturday, before our scheduled library visit, a few of my group headed out at 8am to the antique and secondhand goods market. We had arranged to meet Priscilla, [...]

In Strasbourg

In Strasbourg

On Wednesday, our group caught the train from Lyon to Paris. Our tickets made it clear that librarians were on the move. Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region, very close to the border with Germany. The region has been violently disputed for hundreds of years and has changed hands between France and Germany [...]

Faces of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon

Faces of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon

Visiting the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Lyon Museum of Fine Arts), I started with the sculptures and found myself looking at the faces, carved from stone yet so expressive. As I moved through the museum, I continued to focus on faces. What emotions were revealed though chisel or paint? What commonalities linked faces of [...]

Art, music and retro concrete at Lyon Public Library

Art, music and retro concrete at Lyon Public Library

Having said I wouldn't blog about libraries... I visited the central branch of the Lyon Public Library (Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon) this week and found my visual antennae twitching. The facade is 'Municipal Moderne' with grey cladding and diagonal angles that would look at home in Melbourne. Near the entrance, a temporary exhibition showcases some [...]

Evening in Lyon

Evening in Lyon

I'm in beautiful Lyon, France, for the International Federation of Library Associations World Library and Information Congress. Lyon is the first stop on the Great Library Tour of France and England organised by Public Libraries Victoria Network. My family are well aware of my library tourist tendencies, having indulged my habit of stopping in at [...]

Melbourne Now exhibition

Melbourne Now exhibition

I visited the Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria on two occasions - first with my dad and kids, and later with colleagues from the State Library. Here are some snapshots from my first visit. One of my favourite exhibits was this modest and idiosyncratic display of drawings curated by artist John [...]

Bush camping in Lerderderg

Bush camping in Lerderderg

Over the Anzac Day long weekend we went camping in Lerderderg State Park, 14,250 hectares of rocky, scrubby bush about an hour north-west of Melbourne. Normally we avoid camping in school holidays and on long weekends. We prefer to stage 'commando' camping raids on regular weekends, doing a quick set-up on Friday night and driving [...]

Snippets of Gove

Snippets of Gove

In January my kids, my mum and I visited my brother and his family in Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula in far north east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Geographically and culturally, this is about as far as you can get from Melbourne and still be in Australia. It was deep wet season so we were [...]

How I saw in the new year

Happy New Year! Here's what I was doing at midnight: Feeding ice cubes to my feverish husband, who has been down with the flu for three days. Half-watching The Karate Kid (new version) with my kids, who were determined to make it to midnight. Listening to fireworks in the distance. Painting fish. If there's any [...]