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Archive for January, 2008

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go…

January 20th, 2008 No comments

On the off chance that I still have readers, after months of inactivity, I thought I might just note that I’m still alive. In fact, I’m alive back in the Southern Hemisphere, and working from sunrise to sunset, to increase your GDP. And my account balance. But that’s purely incidental, you understand. You’d better be grateful!

Thought I’d just record a couple of snippets from the Northern Hemisphere…

Avoid Heathrow Airport like the plague

Heathrow airport on a quiet day

Here was the plan: catch the 300 km/h Eurostar train from Paris Gare du Nord to London St Pancras, seamless connection to a Piccadilly Line train from King’s Cross-St Pancras to Heathrow Airport (right, pictured on a quiet day), hop off the train, hop on a plane, back in Sydney in 23 hours.

All of that in 5 hours. Sounds easy, right? First the 300 km/h turned into a 15 km/h service once it reached England, and was half an hour late getting into St Pancras. Then I walked to the National Rail end of the station thinking, for some reason, that there was an express service to the airport from St Pancras. Finally it was a huge, huge hike from the station to the airport terminal, nothing like the advertised five minute stroll.

All of that would have been okay, because I got to Heathrow airport an hour before the flight.  But what I didn’t count on was that Virgin Atlantic used stupid check-in machines. After I took a few minutes to rearrange my luggage due to the stupid “one-bag rule” (curses unto a thousand generations to whoever came up with that daft idea), the machine wouldn’t let me check in. Not realising that I was running out of time, I tried wrestling with it. By the time I was directed to the manual check-in, it was too late. Yes, it was five minutes past last check-in, and I had to sleep in the airport, £42 lighter in the wallet department, on a bench in an airport terminal that looks like it was last renovated back when the sun never set on the British Empire. And I still had to face the Greyshirts enforcing the stupid “one bag rule” (one piece of carry-on baggage per person), the ludicrous “size rule” (that single piece of carry-on baggage has to fit within a thoughtfully provided wire basket the size of a small walnut), and the evil “no liquid rule”.

Avoid Heathrow like the plague.

Macarons

Macarons Paris is possibly my favourite city anywhere, simply because of the sheer genius of the French when it comes to delicious food. There is a bakery on every second street corner selling the most delicious pastries or baguettes for about half the price you would pay in London. Every street is filled with restaurants serving deliciously mysterious-sounding fares. And then – and then there are the crêperies. Who else but the French could create such a simple yet glorious delight as the Nutella crêpe?

The only food item I brought back from Paris, though, was a box of mini-macarons from PAUL, a bakery chain that started in Lille in France but now has branches in several countries, including the UK. These come in an assorted tray with six flavours each in its own vivid colour – “magenta” for raspberry, green for pistachio, brown for coffee. Each is delicately crisp, shattering at the first impact with one’s teeths – or sometimes hands – while deliciously moist at the centre as one gets to the filling.

 And what made it even better was that it was about half the price compared to the same product from the same store in London!

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