Tag Archives: crowds

Moving Masses At Melbourne Central

Decided to take a break from unpacking boxes and listing things on Ebay today. First stop — the tram stop RIGHT outside our front door!


Blue tram travelling down St. Kilda Road

Blue tram travelling down St. Kilda Road


Down to the shopping precincts on Bourke Street Mall and Melbourne Central to try on clothes amongst the (literally!) thousands of other people milling around. Mixed success, but after living in rural France, Melbourne can be a bit of a jolt to the senses when there are so MANY people swirling around!


Moving masses of people at Melbourne Central shopping centre

Moving masses of people at Melbourne Central shopping centre


More soon!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Up To Montmartre & Sacre Couer

It has been over two decades since I last visited Montmartre and the Basilica of Sacre Couer — and somehow Mark had never gone there at all. So we made a trip to that elevated part of Paris and I’ll be dividing the coverage into Sacre Couer alone and Montmartre in general.

One historical note — the Basilica was completed in 1914 — a mere 99 years ago. So it is not one of the ancient monuments of Paris.

Mark had found a link online to an alternative way to get there that would be a lot less stressful regarding the amount of stairs to climb. And it also would be keeping us away from the scam artists and pickpockets that cluster outside the Abbesses stop on the Metro. That report online is at this link.

As suggested, we got off at the Lamarck station, followed the signs, and took the much more gentle route up Rue Lamarck.

Lamarck Metro entry


Montmartre sign leading to the top


A gentle ramble up Rue Lamarck in Montmartre


After climbing a few dozen stairs, we arrived on the much quieter (and equally pretty!) back facade of Sacre Couer. The skies were so gray that my pictures looked practically black and white.

Arriving at Sacre Couer from the back of the hilltop overlooking Montmartre and Paris


Main interior of Sacre Couer in Paris, France


Lit candles glow softly in front of a statue of Mary inside Sacre Couer atop Montmartre in Paris, France


It was a less than relaxed visit given the number of teenage schoolchildren swarming all over the entry to the massive church and clustered outside on the plaza in front of the main entry. Truly — I enjoyed the architecture (including the gargoyles and crisp domes) more than the ‘vibe’ of the place.

Come back in a day or two to read (and see!) the parts of Montmartre that I did REALLY enjoy!


Gargoyles along the top of Sacre Couer in the Montmartre district of Paris, France


©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Violence and Vandalism Continue Throughout England

We had hoped for a peaceful night in North London and yes, it was quieter than the previous night of chaos. But just as we were going to sleep after midnight, we heard loud booms — explosions — and then a wave of sirens.

Checking the online news this morning, I discovered that what we had heard was the local council depot being broken into and the fuel tanks on site that are meant to fuel the council’s trucks were set alight. The sound of those exploding fuel tanks echoed throughout the area and sent a plume of black smoke into the air.

London may have had fewer episodes of violence and vandalism in contrast to the previous nights and yes, the introduction of an extra 10,000 police personnel made an obvious difference. But people are exhausted, edgy, frightened, and uncertain about where the next random event will pop up. This is no way to live and it is taking an obvious toll.

The unfortunate result of sending police from outside of London into the capital meant that those areas who sent the police were left with inadequate police protection for their own communities. And didn’t the mobs of looters and vandals seize that opportunity! Cities like Manchester, Salford, Gloucestershire, and Birmingham were set ablaze and looted as the violence spread outside of London.

The morning news coverage is filled with a discussion of how broken the society is here in Great Britain, that the values and standards of days gone by have vanished, that people taking responsibility for their lives and their actions has been wiped away by decades of people feeling that they were ‘entitled’ and that their ‘human rights’ were more important than the good of society as a whole. This is an astonishing potential turnaround for me to personally witness. I have been dismayed since returning to Great Britain about how very different it is now to the generally law abiding place that I lived in during the 1990s.

This is a healthy dialogue amongst ordinary, law-abiding citizens that is long overdue and the heads of government seem to be finally listening to how completely fed up the people are by the lawlessness and lack of common respect for one another that they are witnessing on a daily basis. But balanced with that anger about the rampant criminal behaviour is a thread of understanding that many young people in current society feel that they have nothing to lose by acting like mini-gangsters since they are essentially uneducated and unemployable and the government has made such severe cuts to educational grants for low income students, job creation programs, and even local neighbourhood clubs for the underprivileged that there was bound to be a backlash at some point.

No one is condoning the violence — no one. Far too many homes and businesses have been lost for people to feel that immediate forgiveness or accepting excuses for thuggish behaviour is appropriate. The government revealed this morning that they may have to resort to using water cannons and plastic bullets to regain control of the mobs. And there are an increasing number of angry citizens who feel that ‘citizen action’ in the form of vigilantism is a controversial but potential solution. The police have warned against this approach on the morning news. Balance is required and none of these solutions will be easy or fast.

It certainly is an interesting time to have returned to Great Britain. I am watchful and hopeful that this vibrant and resilient country can find a middle ground that solves at least some of the dilemmas that have surfaced this week.

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Photo Of The Day: Tour de France Parade

One of the stages of the Tour de France went through the nearby town of Vire in Normandy this past week on a particularly cold and rainy day. I opted out of going, but Mark decided to brave the weather and he was one of the many folks who lined the streets to watch the professional cyclists go by.

He caught this simply splendid shot between the rain showers when the parade came through town prior to the race. And it actually isn’t of a living cyclist — it’s a rather huge replica of a cyclist sitting atop a tiny little car. I just love this shot and I hope you will enjoy it too!


Cyclist replica atop parade car at Tour de France in Vire, Normandy, France


©Mark Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Berlin – The Brandenburg Gate or Brandenburger Tor

It wasn’t even the official high-tourism season so we hoped for the best regarding overcrowding. The Brandenburg Gate — more correctly known to Berliners as the Brandenburger Tor, was high on our list of ‘must see’ places in Berlin.

I can now report that yes, it was beautiful — yes, it had historic significance in layer-upon-layer — and yes we ‘did it’ just as we endured standing in line for oh-so-long in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. But be aware that there are always hoards of tourists standing in front of it getting their photos taken — just as I did with my grumpy little face below because the sun was in my eyes. Ah well!

It’s a massive set of sculptures atop that classical gate and the side view below give you a better perspective of the size.

Brandenburger Tor - Brandenburg Gate sideview

Four horses and iron cross atop Brandenburger Tor/Brandenburg Gate

Deborah at Brandenburger Tor with grumpy face from too much sun & wind

You can click on the link for Brandenburg Gate and read the history and see some of the photographs from various periods of time. But I have to admit, I was more impacted by the idea that it had been so integral in the recent history when the Berlin Wall was still in place than during the World War II era. The photos we have seen in various places around the city have made us realize what a shock it must have been to the people of Berlin to suddenly have whole sections of their beloved city cut off — including famous and familiar landmarks.

In spite of the crowds — some of whom were high school students on their end-of-term field trips — the area is quite lovely and even the lamp posts overhead have a strong design element. I hadn’t expected to see a Kennedy Museum right next to the Starbucks coffee shop in Pariser Platz, the actual name of the square in front of the gate. But it makes sense when you remember that Berlin was the site of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech — “Ich bin ein Berliner” at the Rathaus Schöneberg — and that the Berliners regarded the Kennedy family fondly as a result of that visit.

Elegant lamp posts at the Pariser Platz

Kennedy Museum across from Brandenburg Gate/Brandenburger Tor

The quietest moment that we had was in a rather unexpected place — the previously mentioned Starbucks coffee shop on Pariser Platz. The coffee and muffin were very so-so, but the view was certainly rather special! And yes — I am rather glad that we took the time to go and see this historical site. It was, in the end, quite worth all of the crowds and all of the noise.

View of the Brandenburg Gate/Brandenburger Tor from Starbucks

Unfortunately the original beauty of these images is now partially obscured by a watermark. I have been forced to do this after discovering that other websites were using my images without permission and without payment for the usage rights.

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Crushed By Crowds and Crabby

Note to self — no matter which of us says to the other one, “Oooo! They have a really big market over at (insert location of choice). Want to go?” — the default answer in a humongous city the size of London should always be no-no-no-no-no. This also falls under the category of ‘How to spoil a perfectly lovely day on the weekend.’

Jammed up in the crowds at Camden Market

But wait — it gets better. Not once (are we slow learners on occasion?) but twice on the same weekend we sampled a market. At least on the second try I took zero pictures and we walked briskly through the crowds and out the other side in less than five minutes with me saying “This is not the way I remember things being.”

Am I getting old and crabby? (don’t answer that!) Or has my tolerance for being crushed by crowds, smelling too many overlapping food aromas, hearing music playing loudly that I outgrew decades ago, seeing people draped on every available surface, and looking at items that I could find on Ebay simply erased my joy in the whole ‘market scene’ rather a lot?

I choose to regard this minor case of a shock-horror moment — complete with remarks from my husband to the effect of “If you could see your face, Deborah!” — as another time capsule moment when things were viewed from a different perspective 17 years ago. Otherwise, the population boom in London really has resulted in a population boom at the large markets and they are no longer a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Camden Lock

Crowds on every waterside walkway at Camden Market

It isn’t strictly a ‘young scene’ although the preponderance of people sitting, standing, or elbowing their way through the throngs on the waterside walkways did appear to primarily be in the under-30 category.

Elsewhere there were people in attendance of all shapes, sizes, and ages — gamely picking through the goods on offer, slurping down a latte or a chai tea, or simply people watching.

I continue to read that this market is a recommended place to go when you visit London. But unless you have lived a deprived or rural or shopping-zone-free life, I cannot for the life of me understand why a guidebook writer would find this place thrilling.

Crowded shopping in the Camden Market halls

So, if a crush of crowds with pointy elbows and massive feet, a plethora of ‘cuisine’ smells, dated music sounds, and so-so merchandise makes you as crabby as it made me, this might just be a place to avoid!

Copyright ©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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