Christmas in Paradise: Part 1

Happy New Year!

What’s all this about Christmas in Paradise? Well, that’s where we went over the Christmas period, partly doing research for another book but mostly for a long-awaited warm-weather holiday (our first ever, I believe). Now I like my adopted home town a lot, but let’s face it, it’s 52 degrees north and we’re close to the winter solstice. Paradise is not going to be round the corner, is it? We have to do the journey there in stages.

First stop: Singapore. We stay in the predominantly Chinese Balestier district; adjacent to our hotel are the two local places of interest:

A taoist temple:
Taoist temple 2
and the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Sun Yat Sen Hall balcony

Dr Sun was a Chinese revolutionary, the inspiration for the international movement that led to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911. He became the first president of the Republic of China.

Zhongshan2Ten years ago I was a visiting prof at Sun Yat Sen University (Zhongshan in Mandarin) in Guangzhou, so the name was already familiar to me and I’d a vague idea who he was. It’s interesting to learn more about his life and the historic upheavals he was part of.

Next stop: Sydney. The next stage of our journey involves an overnight flight with a budget airline called Scoot. It feels like an airborne primate enclosure, but with toddlers. We emerge dazed, weary and confused.

Are we there yet? No!

But we’re booked in for a couple of nights at a great apartment in the heart of downtown Sydney. It’s easy walking distance from there to Hyde Park and St Mary’s Cathedral and the weather’s lovely:
HydePark fountain&St Mary's
Then there’s the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
artgallery of NSW
The Royal Botanic Gardens and the harbour:
We spend a great evening with Bryan’s cousin John, a Sydney resident. He shows us round the oldest part of town, the Rocks. Here’s the two of them by the observatory overlooking the harbour:
John and Bryan
Then we’re off for a seriously bracing ferry trip round the harbour the next day:
Sydneyferry tallship
We’ve another flight in the evening. It’s just a short one this time. Our destination is a South Pacific island called la Grande Terre, part of the French territory of New Caledonia. And it’s starting to feel a lot like paradise…
Magenta Bay flame tree

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