life, loves, random snippets, travel, the law, film, politics and so much more
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Presently in Coromandel Town, New Zealand after 4 days in Auckland.
Arrived in Auckland last Thursday.... stayed with M's friend Paula, who lives in the beautiful Waitakere (West Auckland) rainforest.
Friday explored the Waitakere region. Hiking (aka tramping in NZ terminology), Piha beach (a beautiful black-sand beach) and driving around. Hiking through rainforest with H in a backpack on my back was incredible, and lunch at Piha Cafe was great.
Saturday was H's first birthday, and a day in Auckland. Auckland Art Gallery (the contemporary NZ art was really good) and shopping in and around High Street. Horrible weather. At night a dinner party at Paula's house with an interesting group of people.
Sunday more exploration of West Auckland. Walked to Waitakere Dam (an extremely beautiful view of a very full, spilling dam) and a very, very steep walk back up. Lunch in Swanson, various further explorations and a walk to another dam. Got very wet. Summer in Auckland has been non-existent this year, apparently. We certainly experienced a succession of crappy weather days.
Monday breakfast on Ponsonby Road, then headed up to the Coromandel Peninsula. The last 30-45 minutes of the drive were amazing. A bit like the best sections of the Great Ocean Road, but with the road immediately next to the coast rather than elevated. Staying at Driving Creek Villas. V nice.
Today the weather was particularly bad. Drove to the very isolated far north of the Coromandel Peninsula. Long stretches of unmade road, very few cars or people. Amazing views of rushing streams, beach, clifftops, ... An exhausting drive, but very beautiful.
MIFF for 2011 is over for me - I haven't seen as many films as I would have liked, but I've been pretty happy with the ones I've seen. MIFF is back on track this year with a new artistic director and a far, far better program than the past few years.
So, my festival:
A Korean crime drama. Seoul and everyone in it is corrupt.
Violent and confusing, but I really enjoyed it. Classic Korean-style gritty cop/crime drama.
A classic Errol Morris documentary about a bizarre sex scandal decades ago, where a beautiful young woman took a Mormon captive, chained him up and forcibly had sex with him.
A Swedish(?) film about a teenage girl growing up without a mother and exploring her sexuality and frienships, and her little sister. An interesting counterpoint to the numerous films I've seen over festivals past in which teenage girls take tentative first steps towards lesbianism.
Martha, Marcy, May Marlene
A fantastic film about a girl who escapes/leaves a cult, and tries to reintegrate into 'normal' life with her sister and her sister's new husband. The tension really builds and it definitely stuck with me afterwards.
You Are Here
The Yellow Sea
A long and very violent film about a man from a rural border region where China and North Korea meet. Most of the action takes place in South Korea. Many really good moments, but it veers wildly between violence, sadness and farce. Much too long.
Excellent documentary about Eliot Spitzer. By the filmmaker who made 'The Smartest Guys in the Room'.
A fantastic film about a man who begins to have horrible dreams. Is he going crazy, or is he a visionary? Deals really, really well with mental illness and a man trying to keep his family together, while unsure if he is in fact the problem.
A film about a young woman who causes a tragic car accident, and the man who loses his family but survives. A slow drama. Well acted by the two principals, with some weird camera work. Told against the background of another planet, identical to Earth, having emerged. Very little is done with this background story, but it is still an intriguing concept.
James is doing a great job at handling incredibly unfair and perjorative questioning by a bunch of fools.
It is very hard to take these clowns seriously. The House of Commons looks to be populated by morons focussed solely on personal publicity.
Today was our last full day in Bali.
This morning played with H - she was very happy and we had lots of fun.
Warm and sunny, swam in the fantastic pool at The Purist.
Headed out for lunch at Sari Organic, just out of Ubud. An amazing and beautiful 15 minute walk through rice terraces to the restaurant. Good food and very relaxing. One of the best things we've done in Bali.
This afternoon had a really good massage.
Tonight a delicious Balinese dinner.
Now watching the Murdochs being questioned (most unfairly) by the House of Commons Committee.
Watching James and Rupert being interrogated by the parliamentary committee.
a witchhunt: the Murdochs are asking loaded questions intended to attract publicity and to make the Murdochs look bad. It is apparent there is no intention to actually learn anything relevant from them.
An unedifying and unimpressive spectacle.
We are in Ubud and M is watching Eat Pray Love as I write this. It is making my stomach turn. It is amazing how many colourful locals Julia Roberts' character meets everywhere she goes! Foreigners are so cute and interesting!! And they say so many wise things!!!
We are now at The Purist - a small resort of 7 villas a little way out of Ubud. It is beautiful and very well designed and relaxing.
In Ubud, still having a great time. We've been staying at Komaneka Bisma, an amazing hotel a few minutes out of Ubud built into a cliff overlooking rice paddies, a river and coconut palms.
Walking along the beach yesterday, we were fairly startled to see a middle-aged Asian man wearing a singlet reading "two in the pink / one in the stink". A real conversation-starter.
A very quiet, fantastic couple of days. Swimming in our private pool, reading New Yorkers by the pool, eating lots of great Indonesian food and some reasonable western food, going to the gym, a pretty good massage, sleeping well, good weather, walking along the streets dodging motorbikes, a walk along the beach from Seminyak towards Legian and Kuta and a sunset drink on a beanbag on the beach.
H is doing really well - she is a local celebrity and gets huge attention everywhere she goes. She's had her first couple of swims and is loving it - she's now so happy in the water.
It is Sunday evening. Had a really good second full day here...
Today we moved into the villa we're staying in for the next few days - our own pool, a garden area, an outdoor living area and a bedroom. It's great; loving the privacy. Spent most of the day hanging out at the villa and relaxing. Randomly bumped into people we knew at a Melbourne-style cafe up the road while out this morning. Dinner tonight at La Lucciola was good - a fairly competent Italian restaurant in an amazing location on the beach and with a great view of sunset.
Enjoying the Balinese and Indonesian food - I've only had one Western-style meal so far (dinner tonight) - otherwise keeping it Indonesian. Bit off a little bit more than I could chew this morning. Had rice porridge for breakfast - fairly bland - I asked for some chilli, and was delivered freshly cut chilli that was absolutely explosive. Amazing flavour, but a little bit went a very long way.
Today was a big day of firsts for H - she had her first swim, plus she has become fascinated by her feet and has started putting her foot in her mouth. She's having a great time - other than this afternoon, when M went for a massage and she screamed for me for about 90 minutes.
Now in Seminyak; arrived very late last night.
The trip over was much better than expected... cognac in the Qantas Club, then a Jetstar flight full of Aussie bogans - but through a series of events which we are struggling to piece together it emerged that we had ordered all of the optional extras. Plus immediately after take-off we were moved to the front row, which had a bassinet, and we had 2 seats each... H crying during take-off really worked in our favour!
I felt like we were Kath and Kim if they'd won tattslotto; flying Jetstar to Bali but with 2 seats each and with all of the options (blow-up neck pillow, portable DVD player, blanket, food, etc etc?!?).
As soon as she was put in the bassinet H fell asleep, and slept pretty much the whole flight.
Late at night arrival in Bali... the journey through the airport was pretty good - going through immigration we were waved through the diplomatic aisle - the benefits of travelling with a cute baby.
A terrible night - after all of the commotion H decided it was morning (we finally got to bed about 130am local time, 330 Melbourne time). She didn't sleep more than 30 minutes straight after that. Looking forward to a better sleep tonight, hopefully.
Our hotel is pretty good - not all that close to the beach, but nice. After a good indonesian breakfast, we went for a wander. Our stroller is totally useless and we shouldn't have brought it. The streets are crappy and falling apart and not suitable for a stroller, plus there is people and traffic everywhere. Constant beeping by taxis wanting to attract your attention. Lots of people trying to sell stuff to tourists (not on the scale of Cambodia, but still quite a few).
Sat down for a drink at Ku De Ta - a v nice beach club / bar / restaurant on the beach. Very relaxing and a great place to spend some time. The beach itself was pretty good, but not amazing.
Relaxed and swam at the hotel, then quite a long walk through busy and crazy streets to Made's Warung. It felt like we had taken a few wrong turns and got really lost, but it emerged that by fluke we had headed directly there. A really fantastic Balinese/Indonesian meal, and H slept through the whole thing (plus the walk there and back).
Now relaxing at the hotel, soon we'll watch sunset. H is having a great time, and seems to be coping really well with the change in temperature. M still has a ferocious head cold, but the weather seems to be helping. I'm looking forward to finding time to read the MIFF guide properly.
Has been a whirlwind few days...
Birmingham on Monday - spent the morning being shown the sights of Birmingham by a very warm and friendly local - he's spent his life in the city and knew it well. Lots to say about politics, race relations and what has changed and what has stayed the same over the past 40 years. Then lunch at The Club (it is said THE Club - you have to emphasise the word 'the' - a Birmingham institution). Met some fascinating (and very successful businesspeople and talked business, politics, history and etc.
Waited at Birmingham airport a few hours for our delayed flight. Eventually made it to Philadelphia quite late at night. Dinner at a cool little Italian place that miraculously was still open.
Tuesday morning early train to NYC (1 1/2 hours). Stayed at the Gansevoort Park Hotel and very happy with it. Good room - cool + good size, good staff, good location (on Park Avenue right near the 28th street subway station). Met up with Susie for an excellent coffee at The Ace Hotel. Wandered the streets, visited the New York Public Library (including a fantastic exhibition on religion and religious writings), shopped for discount designer clothes. Met up with Susie again and dinner at the bar at Keen's - an amazing old steakhouse - the sort of place where you order a martini without even thinking about it. Then saw Time Stands Still on Broadway - a really good play, with Laura Linney and Christina Ricci.
Wednesday morning at The Met. My favourite painting was in storage (Zuburan - 'The Crucifixion') but still always good. Checked out the antiquities, the armour and European paintings. Met Susie again for a great lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar - really good. Wandered the Lower East Side then caught the train back to Philadelphia. A dinner last night for M's Fellowship group.
I wandered around Philadelphia this morning - good coffee at La Colombe on 19th. A lunch as part of the Fellowship, with the Chairman of Intel as the guest. She was very impressive. A relaxed afternoon and a formal function tonight.
Now in Birmingham, Alabama. I don't think they get too many Australians here. People seem very surprised to hear our accents and keep asking why we are here and telling us we're a long way from home.
Had dinner at Sweet Bones Alabama. Amazing barbeque. Bizarre fried pickles, great brisket, pulled chicken and steak + sides of collard greens, white beans and coleslaw.
It was a long day today - 3 1/2 hour flight from San Francisco to Houston, then another flight from Houston to Birmingham. Bad coffee, crappy service on Continental.
Started very early this morning driving to San Francisco airport - all good, other than a detour over the Bay Bridge when M misread the driving instructions and directed me most of the way to Oakland airport instead of San Francisco airport.