25 September 2006

And some more....


Dad at the market...

Fresh blackberries everywhere....

The hospice at Beaune....

Pinicking on the cliffs, watching the paragliders take off....

Mum and the sausages...

Laurent high in the sky!

Images from Burgundy

Here are some images from our trip to Bourgogne.... Vineyards, castles, Beaune...

24 September 2006

La Rochepot, Bourgogne

Laurent and I wanted to take my folks on a bit of a trip somewhere.... so we scoured the websites of not-too-close, but not-too-far, not-tooooo-touristy, not-too-expensive-but-still-charming potential destinations and finally came up with - ta-da-daa - BOURGOGNE (Burgundy)!!! We figured we couldn’t go too wrong with a French B&B surrounded by vineyards.

We found a little village called La Rochepot... and eventually got a booking with one of the many "Fouquerand" families that seem to rule the place (or at least the B&B industry).

After a lazy breakfast we managed to squeeze ourselves into the car. This was quite a feat considering Laurent had insisted on packing his paraglide (for those of you who remain unacquainted with Laurent's paraglide - when it is all packaged up it looks like a massive hiking pack and is approximately the size of a small cow!!).

But at least we all fit – and we were off! The trusty Michelin Man had told us it might take about 5 and a half hours to get there…. Unfortunately, due to a long lunch stop, several road works, a missed turning, a poorly-functioning GPS (and no map), it ended up taking closer to 8!!

I have to say though, it was worth it…. We ended up in a tiny little village of old stone houses and flower boxes, a centuries-old church and fruit trees. Nestled in a valley and overlooked by a medieval castle (Le Château de la Rochepot); La Rochepot was wunderful!

21 September 2006


While my parents were in town, Marie-Noëlle, Laurent's mum, treated us all to a night at "Alegria" by Cirque du Soleil.... It was incredible - the lights, the shows, the costumes... The most memorable act for me was that of the "snake women".... a couple of Chinese (?) sisters (?) who were able to bend themselves in ways and places that did not look humanly possible (below). It was fascinating, if but a little freaky....


We also spent time in Bruges (a famous city about an hour out of Brussels). It was lovely, although at times the horse-and-carriages and tourist boats on the canals made it feel a bit like an amusement park.

Off one of the main streets we found the peaceful beginhof. A beginhof is a little cluster of houses, centred around a garden and church, and surrounded by a protective wall. Beginhofs tend to date from the 12th Century and were originally constructed for and inhabited by a catholic order of unmarried or widowed women known as the Beguines. Basically, with the Crusades and the resulting gender-imbalances, many women found themselves without much chance of marriage and ended up establishing or joining such religious communities instead. (I'm sure that piece of trivia will come in very handy for you all).

The beginhof in Bruges dates from the 13th Century and is still well preserved. It was beautiful inside - whitewashed houses surrounding a grassy, tree-filled coutyard: A peaceful little island for the Benedictine nuns that still live there... (unfortunately I didn't have a picture of the beginhof so I've stuck one in of mum and dad scoffing their icecreams instead.... )

Although it was a nice break from dodging the other tourists on the sidewalks, we decided to get back on the streets and explore. As a warning (?) to all the chocoholics out there - in Bruges you can count on every second shop to be overflowing with pralines, white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, truffles, chocolate-dipped fruits, chocolate-covered almonds, liquer chocolates, chocolate-coated coffee beans... Life's tough in Belgium.

20 September 2006

Sunshine from Darwin

I don’t know what happened in August. After enjoying several consecutive days of sunshine (what the locals like to call a “heatwave”) in July, August felt like a slap in the face. It was cold and grey… I despondently pulled out my coat again and spent much of my time mulling tragically over the fact that what I would normally wear in WINTER in Australia, I was wearing at the height of the European SUMMER!

My only consolation was that I had been planning to take leave in September so maybe there was a chance that things would change back again… For some reason, luck was on side: my parents arrived in Brussels on the 30 August and with them came the sunshine! (Not that it probably would have worried mum too much in the end – she was well prepared with multiple sets of thermal underwear and tracksuits to sleep in! he he)

We spent the first few days around the centre…. Wandering up and down the tourist mecca that is the Grand Place and surrounding streets. We ran the gauntlet of cheesy restaurants behind the Grand Place and, like all good tourists, had a meal of mussels and fries at Chez Léon!! The weirdest part was when this enormous herd of tourists went past and their guide paused to point out what we were eating!

Laurent arrived back from Cambodia (work) on the 1st of September… I went to pick him up at the airport then we all drove down to Porcheresse for the weekend. On Sunday Laurent’s mum prepared a feast for us and about 10 of Laurent’s extended family... We weren’t sure how the whole thing was going to go due to language barriers and the like. Mum had once taken a course at Alliance Française, but it had been a while ago and her French had reduced to about one line. Dad's inkling of French was from the time he was about 8 and his older brother David (who was learning it at school) taught him how to count to 10... (?! Hmm) Luckily many of Laurent’s family could speak at least some English and I helped to "translate" for the rest (my translations are actually quite effective as long as no genuine bilingual witnesses break the façade!)

In any case, there was plenty of wine and good food and much laughter. Seeing everyone together was rather quirky but in a nice kinda way!

To be continued…

Kelud Volcano

I realise it’s been a while since we’ve put anything on the Blog so I’ll fill you in a bit first before getting on to more recent happenings…. In July I went to Indonesia for work. It was just a short mission aimed at launching a study on volcanic hazards and risk perception.

I was there for about 10 days during which we travelled out to Kelud volcano, located about 5-6 hours drive from Yogyakarta (Java). We met with our Indonesian partners from the University of Indonesia, as well as the Belgian volcanologists who were busy setting up the monitoring equipment which will hopefully provide much-needed data on the volcano’s activity over the next three years. Our role in the project will be to conduct a series of focus groups and interviews to examine community risk perceptions and attitudes to the volcano which will inform local disaster preparation and the development of warning messages.

When I was there, Yogyakarta, which is normally quite a bustling city, was still trying to recover from the earthquake and was emptier than what I remembered of it from my trip there in 2004. Merapi had already erupted once and people in the region were still wary that it might go again. It seems to be one thing after another. Whilst we were in Yogya, the coastline was hit by another tsunami…. It was surreal being there only months after the devastating earthquake and then to know that yet another disaster had hit so close by…. It was very sad…

On a more positive note I managed to catch up with Navita (for those of you who don’t know her – she’s a friend of mine I met whilst doing my masters in Sweden). We both ended up at CRED for our internships as well. It was great seeing her again and hearing about her work with JRS. I was lucky to catch her as she was just leaving Yogya for Aceh; it was just a shame it was so short….