Monday, 30 June 2014

I'm puffered out

Winter has arrived here in Melbourne with a vengeance.  And with it comes a relatively new fashion which was once the domain of ski outfits. I'm talking of the ubiquitous 'puffer' jacket/coat. Now I like to follow fashion but looking like the Michelin man just isn't my kind of style. And as far as I'm concerned this is where they should have stayed!
Bibendum in all his puffed up glory (
Interestingly Bibendum (his 'real' name) has been around since his introduction at the Lyon Exhibition in 1894 - meaning he is celebrating his 120th birthday this year! Not surprisingly he is one of the world's oldest trademarks. 
I think he/she is on (Michelin tyred?)roller skates as well (
During my visit to Italy late last year I was on a mission to buy a new 3/4 length leather coat. I thought it would be a breeze. I assumed they would be everywhere - my memory of the Florence leather markets returned to me often. Sadly unless spending many thousands of euros at the top designer stores they were never sighted. We never came across a leather coat shop. And we were on the look out every day. It was bizarre. 
Puffers for men
But everywhere we went there was the puffer. Sleeveless puffers, cropped puffers, jacket puffers, short puffers, long puffers - you name it - there was a puffer to cover all contingencies - and more! But nary a leather coat in sight.
Puffers for women
Puffers for children
And now they've hit Melbourne. Are you a puffer fan? Yes I know they're warm (I must admit I bought a sleeveless one yesterday!) but elegant they are not.

Now this is cute! A gold onesie puffer suit

Monday, 23 June 2014

I M Pei - I salute you - again

Back in 2011 during my early blogging attempts (pre Musings) I saluted the extraordinary I M Pei. This celebrated Chinese-born architect has recently been awarded the 2014 International Union of Architects Gold Medal, considered the highest architectural honour as it is awarded by one's peers. The amazing Pei - now a mere 97 years young - was born in Guangzhou and educated at Harvard (see my earlier post on Harvard here) His achievements include the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, the John F Kennedy library in Boston, the meandering Miho Museum in Japan and the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar - a building designed to house a collection rather than a building where the collection is made to fit - so that piece is shown in magnificent spaces that are truly exotic in their simplicity!  So it's time once again to salute this 'living treasure'.
An elegant and upright I M Pei on the cover of the MIA Museum book
You may have seen a TV special which seems to have been shown a number of times over the last  few years on the creation of the museum. I happened to see it while ironing - anything for a diversion - and I made a pact with myself (!) that I would find a way to see it. The opportunity came and I grabbed it, visiting Doha in 2011. It blew me away. Since then I've encouraged friends to visit and they've all agreed that it is something special. You can either fly to Europe using the 'dreaded' Qatar Airlines or by taking a short sidetrip to Doha from Dubai, Abu Dhabi or elsewhere. It's certainly worth considering.
The Burqua-like facade

Now as an aside I mention the 'dreaded' Qatar Airlines. It has nothing to do with their safety record but it has everything to do with their response after I won two tickets to fly anywhere world-wide with them. Imagine my excitement. I'd never even won a chook raffle in the past! Sadly this is the airline that congratulates you for winning and then finds every reason for you not to use the tickets. It took months to receive the terms and conditions and then another 2 months to plead where in their network they would honour the prize before it ran out! By that stage we were 'over' each other. They did everything to ensure that flying with them was the last thing I ever want to do in the future. An aisle seating request due to a knee issue = middle seat. Gluten free = never heard of my request and never actioned when they had! Still a visit to wonderful Venice was worth all the angst (see earlier posts here, here, here, here and here !!).

But I digress! Let's get back to the extraordinary I M Pei because on all fronts I salute you:
  • I salute you for your vision and architectural genius
  • I salute you for staying true to your belief by not entering architectural competions
  • I salute you for accepting the offer to design the Doha Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Qatar when the competition's winning design did not go ahead
  • I salute you for holding your vision regarding the location for the MIA - you insisted that it must be built on its own island so that it stands proudly in all its simple glory
  • I salute you for spending 6 months touring the world in order for in your words to “grasp the essence of Islamic Architecture”. The journey took you from Iberia in Spain as far east as Mughal India and to the gates of China before finally finding that ‘essence’ in the central courtyard of the Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Cairo
  • I salute you for finding that at Ahmad Ibn Tulun you found that severe architecture comes to life in the sun, with its shadows and shades of colour and that it offered an almost Cubist expression of geometric progression - the key design elements of Islamic architecture.
  • I salute you for even considering coming out of retirement to design MIA. After all you were born in 1917 – making you just 90 at the time!
  • I salute you for designing so many buildings in your extraordinarily long career - some famous and some not so famous - including Melbourne’s Collins Place – now home to the Sofitel Hotel
  • I salute you for choosing the Paris-based Interior Designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte who you have worked with on a number of other projects (including the Louvre). Together you have changed the way Museums display their collections. Incidentally Wilmotte has just completed the renovation of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (I'll need to put this on my 'list')
  • I salute you for the simplicity of the design which seems to incorporate the ‘burqua eyes’ even though you say that this was not your intention
  • I salute you for creating a sense of peace, calm, coolness and tranquility when outside the temperature is a mere 40++ degrees (great for playing World Cup soccer in 2022!!!)
  • I salute you for creating such wonderful angles throughout the building and for the magical light which fills the foyer
  • I salute you for ensuring that your building (opened in 2008) becomes a ‘must see’ not only for the stunning Islamic Art on display but also for what you have accomplished
  • I salute you for leaving those who visit with a sense of awe at what you achieved and how it has been executed. Every visitor will know they have been privileged to see the work of an architectural ‘living treasure’
So come on a visit of the museum with me:
Looking across from the island to high-rise, high-rise, high-rise
Stair detail inside
Nothing out of place and everything 'in keeping'
Sweeping staircases and suspended lightfittings above
No dusty old stone columns here - lit to perfection
I'm a ruby gal myself but I could be persuaded to change stone preferences!!
A jewel-encrusted falcon simply displayed
I salute you I M Pei

Monday, 16 June 2014

Sunsets in the west

I have to admit that I never did make it to sunrise on my recent Odyssey Expedition cruise in the Kimberley! But the compensation of sunset in the Indian Ocean certainly compensated. Well that's my justification for those extra few minutes in bed. After all I've never been a 'morning person'. 
Skies as big as ..... (with the 2 trusty dinghies following behind)
Odessey Expeditions - our 'little' home for the journey - awaits
Around 20 years ago I happened to be in Broome for one of the world's most beautiful phenomenan. And it only happens in the Broome region and in Hawaii (well that's what I've been told - and who am I to question it!) On that first visit I had gone for a rest from my hectic workload in Melbourne. I had hoped to spend all my time by the divine Cable Beach Club pool and strolling on the amazing beach right out the front of the hotel. "How lucky you are to be here for Staircase to the Moon" the receptionist kept mentioning as I made my way to breakfast/lunch/dinner. "I hope you're coming to see it" Well it wasn't on my agenda! I was there for poolside relaxation - not for some ridiculously named 'Staircase to the Moon'! (click for details). Still to keep her smiling I decided to go and see whatever it was I was supposed to see. And was I glad I did! It is on my forever-list where I have been moved to a spontaneous cry with the beauty/magnificence of the unexpected. (I'll list them all to date in a future post). It occurs from March to October and is caused when the full moon rises and reflects the exposed sandflats at extremely low tide (the tide goes out 3 kilometres - yes kms!!) - creating a beautiful optical illusion of stairs reaching to the moon. 
The moon appears over the horizon - you have to see it to believe it - extraordinary
So I was thrilled to think that our cruise happened to co-incide with it again - but alas - we missed it by - can you believe this - a day - the calendar was wrong (nature!) - aaaagh. So if you have a choice of dates to visit Broome then try and get there for a tear jerking experience. 

The sunset colours throughout our stay in the Kimberley were amazing. They were ever-changing but always spellbinding. I'll leave you with just a few images to tempt you.
Farewell dear sun

You are the light of my life - but soon I'll be another day older

The famed Cable Beach - walk for miles and marvel at the colours

While we are on the topic of sunsets and phenomenon - my friend tells me that just as the sun sinks in the west a green flash appears on some occasions. Of course I looked every night but didn't see it. I probably blinked just at the critical moment. I thought he might have been pulling my leg so on returning home I popped into Google and blow me down there it was The "Green Flash", also known as the "Green Ray", is a visual phenomenon that occurs at sunset. It is considered good luck in some cultures to see the green flash; others see it as a more foreboding omen. Whatever your view, it is a brief but memorable sight but you have to be quite lucky to see it.  

Have you ever seen the Green Flash or Staircase to the Moon or any other visual phenomenon? This world never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Kompulsory Kimberley Klimb

If you want to be safe from of the jaws of crocodiles and sharks then the Kimberley Klimb is Kompulsory. And you won't find magnificent aboriginal art (created a mere 40,000 years ago) without working at it - you need to klimb, klimb, klimb! So if you're 'of a certain age' and still considering visiting the Kimberley then I recommend that you do it sooner rather than later. This is a land where fitness and agility are compulsory. 
Take your time, watch where you step. There are no rails, no public safety warnings and it's a long way down!
And suddenly under a ledge - there they are - the famed Bradshaws
They've been dancing for 40,000 years
Don't look down, watch where you step and keep your footing
Now Mr Krocodile is loathe to scrape his belly on rough rocks so in order to avoid him the higher the climb the more likely you are to find a peaceful, pristine freshwater billabong in which to frolic and swim as a reward for your efforts.

Through the dappled light we stroll - en route to another billabong
There's no-one else around
It's never crowded with tourists. In fact where ever one goes on the Kimberley coast it's almost exciting to see another person or boat - after all there are no highways, no roads and the only way in is by boat. 

A crystal clear shower - why didn't I bring my shampoo?
Now don't tell me this isn't alluring
There's just us and nature - I'll take this any day
Of course care must be taken. We visited the ominous but aptly named Crocodile Creek which is usually a safe (!) waterhole. But the tide was in and so we were able to cruise over the sharp rocks which usually stop Mr Kroc from entering the waterhole. So if we could get in then so could.... My question remained unanswered "When the tide goes out - if Mr Kroc doesn't make it before the rocks are exposed - doesn't that mean that he could be stuck in the waterhole until the tide came back in again - just waiting for a juicy tourist?!" Not surprisingly we didn't swim!

Good old Homer - our small, manoeverable tender - slipping into the Crocodile Creek waterhole
But climbing has its rewards. What a joy to be in such vast open spaces, to know that few have gone before and apart from 20 laughing tourists there is not a busload arriving to 'snap and go'. There's only you to disturb the silence.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The wild wild west

I've just returned to cold and rainy Melbourne from the magnificent Kimberley area in the far north west of Western Australia. I'd previously had a taste of the area over 20 years ago on a brief visit to the famed pearling town of Broome. I took two extraordinary day trips back then, flying over the magnificent Bungle Bungle Ranges and on another day I visited Windjana Gorge in the King Leopold Ranges, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Gap - just to name a few stops. 
Flying from Broome to the Mitchell Plateau - it's big, empty and unforgiving
Deserts - they do something to my soul. A few years ago I heard Nikki Gemmell (Ms Anonymous - of The Bride Stripped Bare - fame) speak about her love for deserts - including the world's largest - Antarctica (another favourite of mine). In fact we corresponded about our mutual loves (pre the Bride Stripped Bare - we were just discussing deserts!!) and one of her favourite mantras of life is from another famed Aussie writer David Malouf:
What should our lives be 
But a serries of settings out into the unknown
Pushing off from the edges of consciousness
Into the mystery of what we have not yet become

Well the Kimberley is all of the above and more. Personally I think it should be compulsory that all Australians visit the deserts of our land to comprehend the size, magnificence, rawness and somehow get in touch with the soul of this land as old as time. You can feel and see the ages in the shapes of the sandstone rock formations that give some indication of the journey this land has taken as the rocks have been pushed and pulled and squashed into what we see today.
Sandstone cliffs standing proud and impenetrable
The ever changing view and the ever changing light
Oo that looks like a city - oh sorry just another old lump of amazing sandstone!
From a distance all looks green and lush. From up-close-and-personal one can feel how harsh and unforgiving this land is. Only the indigenous peoples learnt to work with it while we 'newcomers' tried to tame it. Instead it tamed us!
Take 1 of a geography lesson in how the rock was formed
Take 2 of the lesson - it looks like filo pastry layers!
Take 3 of the lesson - keep pushing!
This is a land where the skies are big, the rocks are big, the crocodiles are big, the sharks are big, the fish are big, the waterfalls are big, the emptiness is big, the boab trees are big, while all other life is stunted as it struggles to survive. It really is a land of extremes.
Why build the Great Wall of China when you can find it in the vast Kimberley
Reflections of the land I love
And so I'll conclude the first of many posts on the Kimberley (brace yourselves!) with another of Nikki's favourite quotes although I'm sure this is not the original meaning. Yes out there in the vastness we can see the stars (and the Sputniks flying through the sky). So take this quote by the one-and-only-man-with-a-perfect-quote - Emerson - as you choose.

When it is dark enough you can see the stars