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Happy World Champagne Day!

Some of my collection of champagne capsules.

Some of my collection of champagne capsules.

To mark this delightful annual tradition (alright, I know, it’s really a very clever marketing ploy by the wine makers of Champagne), I’ll be part of Moët & Chandon’s attempt to get into the Guinnesss Book of Records for hosting the World’s Largest Champagne Tasting. It’ll be tough, but I’m willing to do my part. #MOETMOMENT

Confession time: I am a placomusophile. Sounds vaguely illegal, doesn’t it? It comes from the French world ‘placomusophilie’, which means the act of collecting the metal capsules (known as a ‘plaque de muselet’) that sit atop the corks in bottles of champagne and other sparkling wines. Hence the photo! The familiar system of wire muzzle and metal capsule used to keep corks in place in bottles of these potentially explosive wines was invented by Adolphe Jacqueson in 1844.

World Champagne Day is 20 October, so if you live in an earlier time zone than Sydney’s and are reading this on 19 October, you still have a chance to get out and do something. 😉

UPDATE: It’s official, a new Guinness World Record was set! The previous record had been 698 people at an event in Sweden in 2015. We managed to just squeak past, at 715 people, as counted by the official Guinness adjudicators on site.

Here are some photos of the event:

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Shine a (little) light

A perfectly ordinary reading lamp.

As the caption above says, here is an ordinary reading lamp. You may have one at home, on your desk or on a table beside your favourite reading chair. Those bendy arms are so convenient for getting the light in just the right place.

But, through the magic of scale manipulation, the lamp shrinks! This book looms over it.

Perfectly ordinary reading light shrunk to half the height of a paperback book.

And how many ordinary reading lamps can hang over the top of a Kindle?

Even smaller when hanging over the top of a Kindle.

Clever shots, you may think, but not achieved through forced perspective or other photography tricks. This is no ordinary reading lamp: it’s actually a miniature. The book and Kindle are full size. (And I really do hang the lamp over the Kindle, it’s very useful!)

The moment of truth: the lamp is actually tiny!

(I hope you’ll forgive the bit of shameless self-promotion: the featured books are two of my own novels written under my pen name of Elizabeth Krall.)

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The Three Beaches Walk

I’ve dubbed this The Three Beaches Walk because it covers Sydney’s three most northerly beaches: it begins at Palm Beach, takes in Whale Beach and ends at Avalon Beach, roughly 9km. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a map.) I did it last weekend, and as the photos reveal, it was a beautiful spring day, 22C and sunny.

Looking back (north) along Palm Beach from the point I started walking, you can see the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head.

Looking in the direction of the walk (south), this is where I was headed.

I had to get from sea level to the top of that hill, though. At the end of the beach are stairs. Lots of them.

Once at the top, you can look back to Palm Beach and beyond, and marvel how high you’ve come.

The houses along here are big, expensive, and face the sea. Only walls and roofs can be glimpsed from the road. (According to friends who grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, this is known — unflatteringly — as the Insular Pensinsula.)

Flowering plants aplently!

Here’s the next beach, Whale Beach.

I had a sinking feeling when I spotted that headland at the end of Whale Beach, but luckily didn’t have to scale it. However, I knew the headland beyond this one would have to be tackled.

It was a bit of a trek up the hill at the far end of the beach. In the bottom right you can see Whale Beach, and how tiny the people are.

This bench is hardly a stunning specimen, but it was sturdy and in the shade, so I sat for a bit. 🙂

This louvred door and shrub caught my eye. It looks as if they’re blocking access to something, but in a fun way.

Time to go off road! This is the beginning of the bushwalk at Bangalley Head.

“Relatively hard”. “Highest point”. hmmm

More stairs, of course …

Once at the top, and with my breathing back to normal and heartbeat no longer thumping in my ears, the walking was delightful. Sun-dappled paths through the trees, and glimpses to the right of yachts in secluded bays.

The end is in sight! That’s Avalon Beach in the distance. How to get off this headland, though??

I finally found the path down. More stairs (naturally) but easier to bounce down than up. When I turned a corner in the path and saw this perfectly framed sight, I actually exclaimed, “Wow.”

These cliff edge warning signs were dotted along the Bangalley Head walk. You can see how close the edge is.

Once off the headland and looking back, the height of the drop is all too apparent.

The path continues between cliff edge and front gardens. I hope these people have insurance, because that’s a pretty steep drop.

The end! Here is Avalon Beach.

Now, I’m not a great fan of ocean swimming — too much sand, too much surf, too much getting knocked over by waves. But the pool at the hotel I stayed at that night in Newport is much more my style!

Here’s a Google Maps shot of where the walk is, if you’re not sure of the relation to Sydney.

If you enjoyed this walk, be sure to check out other people’s offerings on Jo’s Monday Walks.

And if you’d like to see more about Palm Beach and the Barrenjoey lighthouse, Jude has a great post.

(A note about the photos. I didn’t want to lug my ‘real’ camera around for three days, so took a smaller ‘point and shoot’. The quality is not as good as I’d like, but that was the trade-off for less weight and bulk. Still, you get the idea!)


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Passing by in a blur

People walking along Martin Place, Sydney.

These two photos of pedestrians on Martin Place were taken a couple of years ago during the annual Vivid light festival. The long exposure needed for the lights created some interesting motion blur as people passed by!

I’m really not sure what this person was doing to turn into such an odd shape!

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The coveted Bondi Beach view — if you don’t have it, fake it!

The “view” from my bathroom. The sun always shines, and it’s always summer on Bondi Beach.

I live in an apartment building on Campbell Parade, the street that curves along Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach. Any dwelling along the road that has a beach view is prime property indeed! I, however, live at the back of my building — much quieter, and with sweeping “district views”. One wall in my bathroom does face the beach, though it does not have a window (just as well, really, because on the other side of that wall is the foyer/lobby area for my floor!).

So I gave myself a view. I took a photo of the beach, slipped it behind a graphic of a window frame (complete with pot plant on the window ledge) and had it printed as a large poster. Then I put it on the wall, and for the finishing touch added real curtains.

Hey presto! I too now have the coveted Bondi Beach view.

(btw, the peach-painted wall is the landlord’s idea, not mine!)


The view from the window

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Jousting (in the 21st Century)

An official watches as a contestant’s lance goes flying. (And in the foreground, a photographer — much closer to the action than I was — films the encounter.)

Did you, like me, think jousting was dead? That the days were long gone when men donned 75lb of metal armour, carried 12ft of long pointed weapon and thundered at their opponent on a horse? Then you, like me, have been living a sheltered life. On Sunday I went with two friends to the St Ives Medieval Faire [sic] — and if having pseudo-medieval revels in modern-day Cornwall seems odd, it will seem even odder when I tell you that this St Ives is a suburb of Sydney. Australia. A country that didn’t exist in medieval times.

Two opponents gallop closer together on either side of the tilt.

Weird as the whole thing was, there is no denying that the jousting was pretty amazing. People were standing four deep, making it impossible to see anything. I joined other spectators standing on the tables and benches of ye olde tavern (it ran out of cider and didn’t seem to ever have the promised mead, leaving only beer or water as options — which in itself may be quite authentically medieval!).

Two more participants in the tournament. You can spot the flying pieces of the broken lance on the right.

It’s a curious sport, not unlike cricket in that long stretches of inactivity are punctuated by a burst of action (and dust). This was the inaugural World Jousting Championship, with participants from England, Norway, Canada and Australia (other countries that I forget, too). It was also not unlike Eurovision, with points awarded after each encounter — even “nul points”.

Men and horses were all gorgeously kitted out.

This horse surveys the world through mesh eye protectors while his rider has a helmet touchup.

Seriously cool head gear!

Tiramisu slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)
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Luscious layers of cakey scrumptiousness

Tiramisu slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Layer upon layer of sinful delight, topped with an cheeky little disc of white chocolate.

When I read that the theme for this week’s photo challenge is layered, only one thing popped into my head: cake! (Though to be honest, cake needs little prompting to pop into my head.) So I stopped by my local bakery on the way home (the dangerously tempting Wellington Cake Shop on Bondi Road) for a slice of something layered.

I ended up buying two — the second one purely as a backup, for photographic purposes, of course. Just look at these cakes: tiramisu (above) and hazelnut (below). The richly textured cake layers with their flecks of nuts and chocolate, the silken melt-in-your-mouth creaminess of the filling. Oh my.

Hazelnut slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Small flakes of nuts cling to the cake like mountain climbers scaling Everest.

Hazelnut slice from Wellington Cakes (Bondi)

Eat me. You know you want to.