Oh Tuscany, my home Tuscany

12 December 2017 – I had arrived early onto the platform at Gare-de-Lyon, to catch the 10:40 AM train to Milan. Leaving Paris is difficult. Leaving Paris for Italy makes everything easier. Italy is like France. Except cheap, sunny and more emotional. I tracked down a comfortable seat by the window, opened chapter Six of The High Mountains of Portugal by Yan Martel and drifted into a book that I began to increasingly not understand.

The train had passed Lyon, now close to the French-Italian broader when I received my first few sights of the French Alps. It had began to snow heavily but for brief minutes, through which the shards of rock towering above rivers and wide lakes could be marveled. The mist hovered above the rivers and homesteads, blending into the chimney smoke. The mountains were rough, sharp, cutting deep into the mist.

The train stopped in the boarder town of Fourneaux. The snow must have at lest come up to about one meter deep. French soldiers searched the train, inspecting documentation and luggage. “Est-ce votre valise?” His eyes darting towards me. “Ouioui” I replied waving my book up in the air. All of the passengers within the car had their passport’ inspected. But not mine. I must have appeared quite the Frenchman.

After a late lunch in the restaurant car, with a warm cappuccino gazing out into the snowstorm, I had arrived into Italy. I had not returned to the country since childhood. I was curious to see how, if at all, Italy had changed. For a time I had lived as a child in a farmhouse up above a small Tuscan town named Incisa in Valdarno, which is situated about twenty minutes South of Florence. On my way to Rome I was interested to visit the  town and reconnect with old friends. Therefore, I booked accommodation in Florence with knowledge that in order to reach Florence from Paris in one day would be long hours traveling across Europe.

Travel by train gives one time to think, read and think some more. In this respect a train is quite different to a plane, where passengers are fixated at blue screens wasting away. Why was I here? Alone on a train moving through the French Alps? Perhaps it was necessary to think about what I truly wanted to achieve in my life. Perhaps I put too deep of a trust into the film Before Sunrise and had a real faith that I would meet a smiling french girl on the seat beside me reading the same book.

The Train had passed Turin and had arrived in Milan at about 6 30 PM. Pulling into Milan Garibaldi station. At this point I ran in circles for a train to Florence. Finally, after a heated exchange with a grumpy conductor, using my mostly forgotten Italian, I discovered that in fact Garibaldi Station does not connect on to Florence! I needed to head to Milano Centrale Station. Catching the metro, arriving into Milano Centrale I successfully booked a first-class ticket to Florence departing Milan approximately 8 PM.

10 PM- Arrived at Santa Maria Novella Station, Florence. Dragging my suitcase out onto the familiar streets of my childhood. The air was much warmer. The snowfalls were only limited to Turin and its surroundings. After checking into accommodation I found the need for a midnight passeggiata around the city. Florence must be one of the most beautiful cities in the word. The most remarkable quality is how small the city actually is. It’s a large town.

Florence by midnight is at it’s most authentic. Hoards of Italian teenagers converse for gossip around the gelato shops in the Piazzas surrounding il Dumo. The American tourists are also a never-ending noise in the posh overpriced wine bars. In the Piazza of the Uffizi Gallery there was a cellist and violinist. The Ponte Vecchio empty. One or two couples on a romantic weekend walking alongside the river Arno.

13 December – Morning breakfast out on the terrace with views across the city. Although not warm, it was possible to drink the coffee outside in the fresh air. Back on the train and arrived in Incisa a little before midday. I had lunch with Domenico, a good friend in a villa no less than 200 meters than my old villa. Across the other side of the farmland, between the olive groves and vineyard was a international house for young people. I was greeted with bottles of limoncello and guitar jams into the night. Even a bed was provided

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Photography courtesy of Callum Osborne who arrived in Florence shortly after I sadly left.

On Paris

8 December 2017- Morning train from Ingolstadt to Paris with stops in Munich and Strasbourg. Arrived at Gare de l’Est in the evening. Retiring from the platform towards a rainy and somewhat empty Paris. There were two middle-aged Parisian women in fur coats in a cafe across from the station. They sat there, with ceramic coffee cups, likely waiting for a friend or relative to arrive from Strasbourg. Their Dachshunds asleep under the coffee table.

In my camel topcoat, merino gloves, navy and red scarf, I began walking in the light rain. Dragging my suitcase over the narrow cobblestone footpath down beside canal Saint Martin within the 10th arrondissement. Cutting East onto the 11th onto Boulevard De Belleville. Located on the street corner was my hostel accommodation for 4 nights, Les Piaules.

What lay behind that front door was no less than splendid. The sight and atmosphere a welcomed experience to now a tired traveler. There was a warm Parisian café with a long thick pine bench on which it was used to order, eat, converse or read. Copies of the French papers and the international edition of the New York Times folded down at the far end of the table. Students from the University of Paris studying on two of the tables across from the pine bench. At the far end of the café was a fireplace, bookshelf and a pair of old sofas.

My room was located upstairs on the 2nd floor. It was small with 6 others to share. The main feature was a prominent window from which one could look out onto the boulevard bellow. The rain was now heavy. Hammering the tarpaulins placed over the vegetable market in the center of the boulevard. The 5th floor opened out onto a rooftop terrace from which one could see the whole of Paris. Sacré-Cœur imposed. The Eiffel tower in the distance, lit in light seen across the whole city. A photograph of this skyline does not give justice. It is the noise that is the most interesting and profound. From that rooftop I heard the whole of Paris, chaotic, cosmopolitan and a champion for thought and expression itself.

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9 December- Awoke early. The rain had subsided to frost. Lit the fire downstairs.  Collected the New York Times to read while waiting for croissants to bake. The smell of freshly baked croissants and french pressed coffee beside a fire can only be enjoyed by those who brave a European winter. Paris in the winter! No tourists, still frightfully expensive and frightfully beautiful. On February 4th 1922 in The Toronto Star Weekly, a Mr Ernest Hemingway commented on Paris in the winter. Paris in the winter is rainy, cold, beautiful and cheap. It is also noisy, jostling, crowded and cheap. It is anything you want – and cheap.” How times they are have changed.   

All the papers this morning both French and international press held the same cover. It was announced that President Trump will shift the Embassy of the United States in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The consequence of this policy will no doubt solidify the position of the United States as an adversary of the Palestinian people. What was left of any peace process now come to an indefinite hold. Indeed, until Palestine itself consolidates and unifies under a signal government, with a clear appropriate national interest, and Israel itself departs from zero-sum policy thinking towards an open, creative and common-interest based negotiation strategy, peace in the Middle East is limited to an abstract ambition.

When Israel and Palestine do reach an understanding and resolve their differences, one of the two relationships will be formed that can bring perpetual peace to the Middle East. The other relationship that between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Arab peoples.

My roommate was a young gentleman from Baghdad. He looked about 25. Scruffy black curly hair and a distinguishable beard. He came with a free spirit attitude towards life which perplexed me as he grew up within conflict after conflict. In Baghdad the man worked in a women’s makeup shop. He knew no French, little English, not much about France itself nor Europe as a matter of fact. Nevertheless, he was here in Paris for a holiday and to Instagram the glamour back to his 20,000 follows in Iraq.

There was a protest against the announcement to move the US Embassy on Place de la République. My new companion and myself came across the unfolding event on our way to the football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille. Paris convincingly overcame the Lille defense despite Neymar Jr out for injury. Di Maria and Calvani both played well.

10 December- 9 AM I walked down to Notre Dame. In Paris you will find that if you are walking downhill you will reach the Seine. Back again moving uphill you will eventually reach Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur. So it is difficult to get lost beside the fact all the town houses look the same.

Notre Dame is beautiful, breathtakingly so on the inside. The Cathedral is not to large nor to cold. The church has not lost its character or purpose very much still the spiritual heart of France. Listening to the organ was listing to the French story itself, a drama, tragedy, comedy or perhaps none and still much unwritten. The gargoyles of Norte Dame have all very pleasant faces, all with good intentions except two. On the North-East side of the tower are two gargoyles, gazing out over the French capital towards Germany. One devours a helpless dog whereas the other looks down over France with a triumphant smirk.

After an afternoon in the Louvre I meet two Australians and one American girl named Lilly about my age from DC. One of the Australians was named Jarrod, the other escaped my memory. At 3 AM we concluded what was a heavy night of drink and stories of our adventures.

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11 December- Breakfast with Jarrod and Lilly in a small café beside the bookshop Shakespeare & Co across the river from Norte Dame. Jarrod promptly took his leave to catch his train to Milan so we bid him good luck and farewell. Together with Lilly I spent the morning in the bookshop reading in the attic and putting the piano to use. The bookshop even has it’s own pet cat. I purchased Old Man By the Sea which I scornfully admit I had not read.

We walked along the Seine to the Louvre over a clear blue winter sky. There were no tourists, painters or booksellers beside the Seine. Paris was ours. Although I was here yesterday I could not find any English or American landscapes despite the brochure confirming there is a collection. Half an hour until closing, after two days within the museum I struck gold. Behind the landscape and portrait gallery of the Spanish Renaissance there were a flight of steps. These steps led to a toilet. Behind the toilet, hidden in a typically French manor in a room corner I found what I had come to see. One dreamy melancholy beach by John Constable and it’s neighbor, an abstract impression of color from Turner.

After closing we walked towards the Eiffel tower past Pont Alexandre 3rd. Perhaps when one does go to Pairs one should see the tower up close. But only once. It is more romantic at a distance. We dined at an empty Pizzeria and then walked on into the park.

Later that evening we found ourselves in a Jazz club named 38 Riv on Rue de Rivoli. The bar and club was underground in a old, arched wine cellar with terracotta colored stones. It is in bars like these where conversation moves freely, and the most interesting of people converse, relax and plan their next day. There we met at the bar the most eloquent girl. she was alone so asked if she could join us (after she had overheard our English). I wish I remembered her name. She was Canadian but had lived in New York city dancing in the Ballet. Last night she had flown out to Paris, arriving into the city this morning and completing an audition for the Ballet in Paris. She got the part! Consequently at that moment she decided with us that she would move to Paris to pursue her dream. Paris, still a magnet for dreamers and want to be dreamers.

It was about 1 AM, which on a Monday night bars began to close. I thought of one bar that would perhaps still leave the doors open, if you can get in. Earlier in the morning I came across a story during my reading in Shakespeare & Co. The story was as follows; during the Second World War, on the attack of Paris from the Allied forces. Hemingway, with a small detachment of infantry led to liberate the ladies bar at the Ritz Hotel, as Hemingway was overly fond of the bar. The hotel staff did not allow arms to enter the building. It was recorded that Hemingway opened a tap for 51 dry martinis in a mission to liberate the Ritz. I was personally confounded. How could a man drink 51 Martinis? I convinced Lilly to come and together we would discover the truth by asking the barman of the legendary bar itself.

In the early hours of the morning, acting like we owned the world waltzed up to the Ritz. With no questions we were let in, attended to and I asked a member of staff for directions to the legendary bar. The Ritz was dressed for Christmas. I must have counted at least Eight Christmas trees. It took only one stair case to reach the bar, as it is located at the back of the first floor of the hotel and now aptly named the Hemingway Bar.

We were introduced to the head barman Colin Peter Field. He had a large sophisticated smile and a larger ego. He claimed he was the best cocktail maker in the world. We asked the head barman if Hemingway did drink 51 martins in a single tab. Mr Field did confirm the legend but admitting, pulled out a small shot glass from under the bar bench. “This was a standard 1940’s martini glass” he dutifully informed us. Nevertheless, despite the size of the glass I was impressed by the legend’s authenticity. I ordered the two most expensive dry martinis in my life. Worth every Euro. After a Colin Field cocktail, I wondered why he does not have a bigger ego.

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Photography courtesy of Callum Osborne. A good photographer but a better friend.

 

 

An old home

December 3 – It was 5:10 AM when our plane touched down on unseen black tarmac at Munich Airport Germany. Us passengers felt the crisp, calmingly still winter air as it clapped in waves at and through the portable passageway connecting the plane to the airport terminal. Kunt, the father of my good friend Johannes was waiting for me with his black Audi sedan. He was dressed in a black Hugo Boss suit, all tailored to a well-kept physic maintained through a diet of regular exercise and red wine. Kunt is an commercial lawyer if I ever saw one. A handshake allowed me to notice, although he looked remarkable young and fit for his age, there were spots of grey scattered through his dark brown hair.

Together we drove to the family house in Geisenfeld. Which is about half an hour easy driving from Munich. Located in the Hallertau region of Bavaria, world famous for hops. Geisenfeld is a small Bavarian town in which I had previously lived in for two months on an exchange in 2014 and 2015.

During breakfast I surprised myself how well spoken my German was. (In New Zealand it is sometimes difficult to practice the language on a regular basis.) At 2.30 PM the doorbell rung eloquently throughout the hallway. Down the far end of the hallway is a modern Yamaha white piano. I was practicing Beethoven’s moonlight Sonata, admitting the cords and tempo to memory. Lotta, the family dog, a short hair brown Labrador cross Retriever ran barking mad towards the front dog. Lotta repeats this action every time the doorbell is struck.

Alex had arrived to picked me up. It was three years since I had seen her. That felt like yesterday. Her long golden blond hair in waves with deep sealike eyes the color of the Summer sky, I did not forget. We hugged, and, while smiling to ourselves at each others accents (Alex is Canadian/American) walked in that crisp Winter air towards Alex’s new red Mini Cooper.

One of the most beautiful cities found in Bavaria is the city of Regensburg. Dark Gothic church towers, city gates, pizzeria’s in white brick wine cellars and a cobble stone bridge from which to watch a sunset over the river Danube. We walked and talked through the Christmas market in the main square. Alex wore a dark green winter puffer jacket that provided a blanket down to her knees. She wore a brown woolen beanie and her favorite black Dr Martians. We talked about Christmas and university, our families, reminiscing old memories.

Although more than a year younger than myself, Alex is one of the most intelligent people I have had the pleasure to meet. She can hold a conversation on any topic, from fashion to politics, interior-design to nutrition. Fittingly so, Alex has her eyes on studying medicine in Berlin.

We crossed that cobblestone bridge and it started to snow. Arriving to another Christmas market with rickety wooden stalls set up alongside the river. I ordered a glühwein and Alex a kinderpunch (non-alcoholic hot punch). They came in the most beautiful clay mugs. We stood by the river, snow dancing down into the wine. Steam rising out from our mugs. We smiled. There was nowhere in the world I would rather be. It was only yesterday I was in China!

Due to the weather, although comically romantic, a warm dinner inside was decided to be a more reasonable option. We dined at Hans Im Glück located in Marktplatz. Hans Im Glück is a new restaurant chain that provides Germany’s best gourmet burgers. The interior of the restaurant consists of a earthy decor with tree trunks that rise from the floor and carry upwards into the ceiling. The design is an interpretation of the forest described in the original children’s book Hans Im Glück thus appealing to the childhood memories of the Germans who dine.

Table talk was mostly related to anything practically related to a Hospital. Hospitals or anything medical is not my favorite topic of interest but I believe I made a satisfactory effort to take an interest and contribute. In any event, due to my jet lag it was socially acceptable to only nod and smile.

With arms linked we began to make our way back to the car. The snow thickening and the temperature dropping. By the hour, we arrived on the Autobahn. What was a romantic snowfall and developed in a blizzard. Traffic was in virtual standstill. After a many back country road in thick show we arrived back in Geisenfeld. A first day back in Germany to remember.

 

Paris of the East

2nd December 2017

Take off 12.40 PM from Auckland Airport to Shanghai, China. The direct route is operated by Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 freshly purchased Dreamliner. Made in the USA this plane may carry 302 passengers with a take-off weight of 250 tonne at a maximin cruising speed of 910 km/h. Such a feat of engineering now taken for granted but nevertheless seen as remarkable from the wide eyed children I saw glaring out into the vastness night sky during takeoff.

It was 68 years ago, in 1950 when the “Kangaroo Service” hopped passengers with deep pockets from Sydney to London in 4 1/2 days via Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo and Rome. This was operated by Qantas Empire Airways and the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation with Air New Zealand operating the return service from Auckland to Sydney. This was the only rote from the Pacific to Europe by sky.

Until 1970 Economy Class was many months of toil at sea. The great ocean liners disembarked New Zealand ports bound for Southampton via Tahiti and onward through the Panama canal which opened in 1914. Those who decided to embark on the longest journey of migration in history often faced treacherous conditions and the reality of life at sea. From next year a passenger will have the choice to fly an astonishing 17 hours direct from Australia to London.

I was grateful that Economy Class has moved sky high. My boarding pass gripped like a good novel, I politely navigated my way through the plane to seat 43K. Due to the narrowness of the aisle, I was pleased to pull it off. Climbing into my window seat allowed for a few second assessment of the cabin. I was one of the few Europeans on board. Naturally, the passengers consisted of Chinese nationals returning home to the Middle Kingdom. Climbing to 5965 M with a ground speed of 869 KM per hour we left Middle Earth. 11 hr 18 Min to Shanghai. Outside air temp above Auckland -25 Degrees Celsius. ETA 07.07 AM China Standard Time (CST), Shanghai.

Breakfast of scrambled eggs , yogurt and a small fruit salad over the Japanese island of Okinawa in the East China Sea. I awoke around 5.30 AM CST after an inviting 7 hours sleep over the Pacific. The Asian Sun filling the cabin with dancing rays. Once again experienced the morning of December 2 now at an altitude of 11887 M. Clear Skies with a light Northerly wind. ETA 07.05 AM.

It was 7 AM when I landed in Shanghai Pudong Airport. Breezing through immigration and customs using crudely basic Mandarin. I caught the Maglev train from Terminal Two to Longyang Station in central Shanghai. This is the fastest commercial train in the world. It was the only sensible way to travel from the airport into the city. The Maglev uses magnetic levitation technology to reach speeds of up to 300 km per hour, thus taking 6 min to Nanjing East from Shanghai Pudong Airport. From Nanjing East I took a taxi to Pudong Ave across the Huangpu river. Now, in a taxi screaming in and out of the highways of Shanghai in an uncontrollable pace I could see China. I was charged 100 Yaun for that near death experience. (I later discovered that such a price is 50 Yaun).

Still shaken with Yuan feeling like monopoly money I checked into Novotel Shanghai Atlantis. From the 39th floor, room 3619 offered views of a ‘communist with Chinese characteristics’ skyline. Futuristic, ambitious and enormous. Shanghai is the largest city in the world consisting of 24 million people who live, eat, work and think between the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers that form the worlds largest commercial port.

I left my hotel on foot taking a path through Lujiaziu residential district, the city is a web of antonyms from the perspective of a first-time foreigner. I saw poverty alongside slick Ferraris. Commerce alongside communism. Tradition alongside modernism. One can see all these in an half an hour passagata in Shanghai.

The City God temple is located in the old walled city. As the ferry terminal was under repair I crossed the Huangpu to the old town via taxi and tunnel. The City God temple was first dedicated to the spirit of Sishan but converted in 1403 to dedicate the city Gods. The city Gods are Huo Guang, Qin Yubo and Chen Huacheng. I stood back. Much to the similarity of the Chinese officials standing back with approval. Thousands of Chinese with incense sticks spiraling smoke in confucius ecstasy. There was a great brazier in the central courtyard with which the faithful could light their incense sticks.

I was pushed back by the shear quantity of people entering the Temple. I decided to retreat to the Yu Garden. Not assuming but wishing for tranquility. The Yu Garden is Ming Dynasty work. Acquired by merchants in 1770 and then consequently renovated. It was first opened to the public in 1780 but during the First Opium War the garden was damaged. The most popular sight in the garden is the Currow ancient stone. In fact, it was such a popular sight I was again trapped by the crowd and never saw the stone. One of several stories is that the stone was intended to be part of the Imperial palace but was recovered when a boat sank close to Shanghai. Whatever the origin of the stone, its importance to the Chinese is unquestionable.

The Bund is the lifeblood of Shanghai. Living and changing with those many Chinese who go there to walk. They come to take it’s aspirational and entrepreneurial energy. The Chinese are a people of dreamers. They now here talk of a Chinese dream. A dream where happiness is achieved through the collective success of the country. The Bund reflects this dream with it’s view towards the Shanghai skyline reaching for the stairs themselves. I turned around and saw the many colonial era buildings. The Chinese never destroyed these buildings. In fact, they are all completely persevered with the exception of the red stair displayed above every door and on every clock tower. Here on the Bund I was treated to the Chinese story. Behind me its history. The Paris of the East and the statue of Mao. Out in front, over the river I saw the future of Shanghai, unshakably bold, ambitions and with purpose.

Back at the Hotel went for a swim followed with dinner on the 50th floor. I was surprised to find the restaurant was slowly rotating which offered a complete view of the night skyline. Shortly after dinner I called a cab to Nanjing East station. Maglav train back to Shanghai Pudong airport. Flew with Lufthansa to Munich Germany departing midnight CST. Arrived in Munich 5.06 AM Central European Time Sunday 3 December 2017.

 

All Roads lead to Rome

Wellington 20th October 2017 – It was last night the outcome of our election was decided. Yesterday the Rt Hon Winston Peters was the most feared man in New Zealand. Leader of the “New Zealand First” party (established well before the phrase “America First”). Mr Peters is now a changed man. A few Months back the grandfather of the House of Representatives, often found in the Parliamentary billiard room but known for his fiery temper inside the Chamber, lead a minor Nationalist party on the fringes of political power. Soon, in his black pinstripe suit and monk shoes. Mr Peters will make his way to Government House and become New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister.

It is common under a mixed member proportional electoral system that hung parliaments are produced. The ruling 9-year center-right National party, supported by some smaller parties has now lost power. The Government is to be replaced by the Labour, New Zealand First and Green Parties. The largest of the three parties is Labour, the center-left social democratic party. Labour had for many years experienced dismal support until just two Months prior to the election. The party elected Ms Jacinda Ardern as the 36th Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

This year voter turnout was about 79% of those enrolled. The figure is somewhat more than in 2014. However this only takes into consideration those firstly enrolled.

Ms Ardern did not receive the largest share of the vote but her strong, values based oratory did have public appeal and allowed Labour to re-motivate lost voters and volunteers. Ms Ardern will now become the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand.

It was on the 23 September that I received notice of the end of my employment. Thankfully it was no surprise. This year alongside my University studies I have been working part-time in the Parliamentary Service. My role was varied. But was centred on policy and research assistance for two different Members of Parliament. As my contract was with the 51st New Zealand Parliament, which has been subsequently dissolved by the Crown. My contract could no longer be valid with an institution which no longer exists.

This October spring has not come to Wellington. The southernmost Capital in the world. Famous for gale-force winds but more commonly changeable weather has led Spring either North or South, whichever the answer, sunshine and calm seas have generally gone elsewhere. I was about to give up on October in Wellington. Until, at about 6:15 AM, I gazed up from my cheese and Salami sandwiches to see the Sun rising over the Tararua Ranges. It was Ranginui himself. The sunrise, glinting into the dining room. In such a way giving light to a clear blue sky and thus broke an introduction to a Spring day in Wellington. Sunshine with light winds. With my new tartan tie and navy suit I was off to my last day of work.

Parliament is like school. The members huddle to class when the bell toils. And Mr Speaker the headmaster who all look too for guidance. The Parliamentary precinct itself is a sprawl of different buildings with their own stories and architectural styles. Parliament House, which includes the House of Representatives was somewhat built but still unfinished in 1918 when the House moved in. Due to Politics which I will never understand the building remains half finished. Designed in the Neo-classical style the plan originally depicted a left wing of the building symmetrical to the right wing. By 1979 all hope failed to finish what would have been an impressive state building.

The left wing was replaced by the Executive-wing. The Beehive. The story follows that the British architect Sir Basil Spence designed the brutalist structure on the back of a serviette while attending a dinner in Government House. As I have never seen this supposed serviette nor meet anyone who has the authenticity is doubtful but nevertheless it is a good story.

The most beautiful building is naturally the Parliament Library which housed parliament until 1918. When walking into the Victorian reading room the walls speak stories like the moving paintings in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Parliament’s best kept secret is hidden in the bathrooms found in different passageways throughout the old building. Found in the Bathrooms are shoe stools complete with polish, brush and rage so a gentleman may clean his shoes on his way out.

I made my way under Parliament House into the passageway connecting the Executive-wing to Bowen House. An office building used by Parliament located on Lambton Quay. In Bowen is found the Air New Zealand Travel Office. Used for private and business travel by the Government.

In Wellington it was spring, but soon I would be in Europe’s Winter. From 1 December I will depart Wellington to Munich Germany via Auckland and Shanghai. This is one of the longest regular commercial air-routes in the world.  With exams soon to be complete and no contract needed to keep I was to depart for a three Month European Winter journey. Mostly to be taken by plane and train. All roads lead to Rome. It is also true for railroads! My goal is to reach the Eternal City before Christmas.