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Greetings from UnderDownUnder

I’ve just returned from Canberra (Australia’s Capitol City) where I went to see a glorious exhibition of Post-Impressionist paintings from Paris.  It was, well, Masterful!   The paintings are on tour from the Musee d’Orsay.  The entire Post-Impressionist Collection, I believe, while their ‘home’ is being refurbished.  Our good fortune!  It isn’t traveling to many galleries — only the National Gallery in Australia, for example.  I don’t know where it has been (or will go to?) in America, but if it comes to a gallery that you can get to, DO GO.

To see masterpieces like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Gauguin’s “Tahitian Women” in person is just stunning.  I’ve seen other masterpieces, of course, but there were just so many of them in one place . . .  I eventually hit overload, but not before I made my way through the entire exhibition.  Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, and on an on.  A feast for the eyes, and for the soul.  I look forward to seeing them again some day, when they are back home in Paris.

The trip to Canberra was a special treat for another reason.  I went with a friend who I did not know well, and was delighted to get to know better.  Louise is in my book club, and I only knew her in that context (so to speak).  Getting acquainted with her was fun and interesting.  Getting re-acquainted with Canberra was, well, okay, I guess.  I have to confess, I don’t have a lot of fondness for Canberra.  I worked there for a year (off and on) in 1985.  I never really got to know anything about the place outside of Parliament House (that was before the current Parliament House was built).  What I knew then, and was confirmed this week, was that Canberra is an easy city to get around in (operative word: around) if you are used to running around in circles. If not, it’s a dog’s breakfast.

I’m not a good walker.  When someone says “Oh, it isn’t far.  Only about a twenty minute walk,” I shudder.  The taxi drivers were not amused when asked to take us/me the short distance to the city center. After twice getting the same reaction, I decided I had to have a go on foot.  Louise had walked in to the city center to reconnoiter the route, and I took a taxi to meet her later.  I was persuaded that it was an easy walk back, so we walked home. Over hill and down dale.  After that, no more taxis.  I’m sure it did me good.  I think it did me good.  It might have done me good.

The problem with walking in Canberra is that even though there seem to be endless (!) foot paths and bicycle tracks, you can’t get directions to anywhere that don’t involve a car.  Everyone is happy to tell you that it’s only a short walk to wherever, but then they can only tell you how to get there by car (which is never a short walk).

The food was generally quite good, except that I seem to be awkward when it comes to lunches.  I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches, so I tend to go for salads.  The first day we had lunch at the National Library’s cafe.  They seemed to do very nice food.  I ordered a salad that looked good in the display case: spinach with roasted pumpkin, eggplant, and carmelised onions.  When it came, it was a mountain of rocket with an assortment of pumpkin, eggplant, and onions perched on its slopes.  I don’t like rocket all that much.  When I was finished there was still a mountain of rocket.  Next day, we ate in the National Gallery’s cafe.  Again I ordered a salad.  I think it was supposed to be a Greek salad.  I did see a tray of  it before I ordered it, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when a huge bowl of tomatoes arrived.  It had bits of cucumber and onion, and a sort of feta dressing, but 98% of it was halved cherry tomatoes.  To be fair, there were two kinds of cherry tomatoes: red and orange, but they were still tomatoes.  Louise had good lunches both days.  As I say, I think I must just be awkward at lunchtime.

The weather was perfect the whole four days. Absolutely glorious.  It made outdoor dining essential.  Warm balmy evenings, sitting out under a big tree, a perfect way to enjoy dinner.  Until some clod sits down at the next table and lights up a cigar.  Not surprisingly, we weren’t the only people that migrated to a table as far away as possible.  Anyone stupid enough to light up a cigar where people are dining is too stupid to get the message and put it out, so he continued puffing away, surrounded by empty tables.    I despair.

To offset the indulgent dinners, we did spend an hour at the Olympic-size pool “a short walk” from the hotel.  Louise did something like 20 laps (or whatever number it takes to make a mile) and I did, well, a good bit of exercise.  I had to, to keep warm.  It was not the heated pool I am used to . . .  but it was lovely and refreshing.  I enjoyed it, and felt better for it.  And by the time we walked back to the hotel, my color was back to normal.  Did I mention it was refreshing?

It was a great trip.  Especially the company and the paintings.  Ah, but it’s always nice to get home.        MM