Versailles: An Unofficial Guide

Versailles: An Unofficial Guide

The Palace of Versailles, approximately 20km south-west of Paris is one of the most visited sites in Europe, and is on everybody's to-do list while in the City of Lights. It is an absolutely spectacular place, and one of my favourite sites in the Paris region, but it's not the kind of place you should just pitch up to and wing it. 

Due to its size and popularity, a day in Versailles can easily descend into a disaster of long lines, bad timing, long walks in the dust and cancelled trains. 

As a tour guide I've spent thousands of hours in the town and estate, and I firmly believe that preparation is the key. So read on, because I'm about to share as much advice as I can. 

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The Ultimate Paris Marathon Spectator Guide

The Ultimate Paris Marathon Spectator Guide

Watching the Paris Marathon isn't easy, even for a local. I was rushed, unprepared and even had to take a cab at one point. *shame*

Yet loads of people come to Paris from out of town to watch, so with this in mind, I've designed the perfect user-friendly Ultimate Paris Marathon Spectator Route. 

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Exploring Chartres: a Cathedral-sized adventure in the Eure-et-Loire

Exploring Chartres: a Cathedral-sized adventure in the Eure-et-Loire

Chartres is about 80km south-west of Paris, 1h20 by train. Perfect for a day visit, visitors go to see the UNESCO World Heritage listed Notre Dame de Chartres, arguably the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in France.

Back in May 2015, I spent a day in this beautiful little town with my Dad and his wife. Being the deadline-oriented, timely writer I am, I’ve let nothing get between me and this post.

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What Lies Beneath: Exploring the illegal Catacombes of Paris

What Lies Beneath: Exploring the illegal Catacombes of Paris

There’s a world you don’t see. Under your feet. A dark, wet, scurrying world. A muddy, candle-lit, labyrinthine world. Of immeasurable interconnected tunnels, dislodged boulders, vaulting galleries. Private dens, stone-carved temples and sprayed artworks. A world of pit-pat drips and natural springs, sagging electrical wires and bones.

A burrowing, endless honeycomb of a world under the huge, light, airy city you walk through every day. And one evening, this girl fell down the rabbit hole.

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How I overcame my fears and spoke French on national TV

How I overcame my fears and spoke French on national TV

Speaking French is not a simple matter of flicking a switch and carrying on with life. It is inextricably related to feelings of legitimacy, falsehood, belonging and alienation. It is associated with anger and frustration, inadequacy, stupidity, and triumph. It is related to who and what I am, my place in the world around me and a constant negotiation and re-negotiation of meaning, intention and power. 

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Hey You! Yes You: meet Lynne, who rode a motorbike 7,500km through the Australian outback

Hey You! Yes You: meet Lynne, who rode a motorbike 7,500km through the Australian outback

Meet Lynne Oakes, aka my mother.

Although she might not describe herself as such, she is a gutsy and adventurous lady, and last year she and her lovely fella rode their motorbikes over 7,500km across the middle of Australia. She generously agreed to let me wear my reporter hat and ask her all about it.

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Exporing Melbourne, One Meal At A Time

Exporing Melbourne, One Meal At A Time

Published in לאשה‎ Laisha Magazine, January 2016

Bing! I hop out of the way as another tram trundles through the middle of a busy street. Having long since disappeared from many cities, the tram is still very much part of Melbourne, a quirky patch on the quilt that is this complex, vibrant city. A melting pot of cultures, of interests, languages and history, Australia’s second largest city has a lot to offer visitors, and I’m eager to get to know it a little on my three day visit.

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Hey You! Yes You: meet Ellen, who has been up the Eiffel Tower over 700 times

Hey You! Yes You: meet Ellen, who has been up the Eiffel Tower over 700 times

Welcome to "Hey You! Yes You", a new series in which I'll introduce you to a new marvelous person that I have encountered here on Earth,  each with their own interesting story. 

For the first ever post of I have chosen a friend of mine here in Paris, Ellen. Ellen is a seriously talented musician and singer, who has just finished recording a to-be-named new album.  

By regularly coaxes the magic of unicorns out of her voice and into our ears on the Paris music scene. By day she works in one of the most beautiful places on earth: The Eiffel Tower. As a tour guide, and has been up the Tower more than a hundred times. Like, way more.

I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about what that is like. 

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How To Be A Tourist (That Tour Guides Like)

How To Be A Tourist (That Tour Guides Like)

I’ve been a bicycle tour guide in Paris for more than two years, and this is a topic I’ve been thinking of writing about for a while. I resisted it because I’m not a fan of bitchsticles (bitchy-list-articles) and I couldn’t really see how this would interest anybody except me and my guide friends.

Then I realised something that changed my mind:

The tour you get depends on the tourist you are.

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(un petit) Tour de France: Riding From Paris to le Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

(un petit) Tour de France: Riding From Paris to le Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

One of the hazards of being a bike guide is that lots of your friends will also be bike guides, and will invite you to go on crazy rides to strange places with very little planning.

It's awful. 

Last month, we went to the Vaux le Vicomte estate, 41km from Paris as the crow flies. 

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Adventures in the South of France: Exploring the 'perched village' of Lacoste

Adventures in the South of France: Exploring the 'perched village' of Lacoste

Provence has got to be one of the most adorable regions in France.

A land of lavender, vineyards, fruit trees, gently rolling hills and the occasional limestone range... Of ancient village centres, narrow cobblestone streets and carved stone fountains... The true paysage, the authentic rural heart of France which has remained unchanged throughout the centuries in its deeply significant traditions and unrelenting adorableness.

Did I mention lavender? 

If I'm honest, the self-conscious provincialism can wear pretty thin, especially in the bigger towns where vendors cackle with delight at the commencement of the tourist season, and even on brand new buildings the paint is artfully weather-worn.

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Oh Brothers, where art thou? Exploring New Norcia, a Benedictine monastery hidden in the Western Australian outback

Oh Brothers, where art thou? Exploring New Norcia, a Benedictine monastery hidden in the Western Australian outback

Published in The Washington Post, June 18 2015

"You can find some incredible things in the outback of Western Australia, and after about two hours of driving we come upon one: a Benedictine monastery. This is New Norcia, founded more than a century and a half ago as a mission and now one of the state’s most unlikely tourist destinations."

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My Love is Pure (As Snow)

My Love is Pure (As Snow)

It was the hardness that surprised me. That something so light and fleeting could pack down into a dense lump of ice, hard enough to get a yelp out of whoever you threw it at. I noticed that my gloves were getting wet. The dry-looking snow was deceitful in its appearance, and the coldness seeped into my hands as I eagerly scraped the bonnet of the car, rolling the powder between my hands. I stared into the middle of the ball, past the billion crystals glittering at me, trying to divine some hidden meaning ... as a snowball sailed past my right ear. Maëlstrom was creeping forward into my territory, pushing a wheely bin in front of him as the first line of defence. Laughing, I pegged my newly formed missile at his exposed elbow and completely missed, showering the wall behind him in a spray of white ice. Two seconds later I cracked up again as Joris nailed me on my right side with a well-aimed throw. I couldn't complain, I'd started it.

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The Sea, The Sea

The Sea, The Sea

We looked at each other and cracked up laughing.

"Well who the hell else would be picking up big huge rocks and walking 'round with them?" Teddy Rux demanded in mock consternation, slapping the top of the undulating, salty water to emphasise her point.

The Sydney twang had reached us at the same moment as we saw them, two young Adonises waist deep in the water, passing a very large rock back and forth for no discernible reason.

The rock-bearers drifted closer, unaware that I was fluent in their particular dialect.

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