Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Posts Tagged ‘Bookish moments’

Auckland Writers Festival: Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 16, 2019

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold took place in the Heartland Festival room, which is a bit like the Melbourne Festival’s Melba Spiegeltent.  It’s a most congenial venue, especially if you get there early like we did and enjoy a glass of bubbly at the cabaret-style seating with a table and comfortable velvet padded seating.

The event was an opportunity for readings from some of the Māori writers who contributed to the book Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold.  The readers were some that I knew: Tina Makereti (see my reviews of two of her novels); Paula Morris (see my review of Rangatira); and Nic Low (whose short story collection Arms Race was a giveaway for Indigenous Literature Week in 2014).  Other readers were Kelly Joseph, Regan Taylor and Whiti Hereaka, and the whole performance was accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Kingsley Melhuish who blended brass and percussion instruments with conch shells…

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Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Auckland, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Auckland Writers Festival: Orlando (Dyad Productions)

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 16, 2019

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

We have just seen a magnificent stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.  (See my review of the book here).

The performance was a special event for the Auckland Writers Festival, and this is the blurb:

A theatrical triumph and an intriguing exposition of art and identity: personal, sexual, national. Acclaimed British theatre company Dyad Productions present their latest offering – an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 satire Orlando: A Biography – with their usual elan. The ageless, gender-fluid, immortal fictional poet Orlando, played by Rebecca Vaughan, sweeps through four centuries of English history. Vaughan’s turn is “towering” (The Scotsman), surpassing her artistry in previous Festival favourites Austen’s Women, Dalloway and Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Written and directed by Elton Townend Jones.

Supported by Platinum Patrons Julienne Brown & David McLean.

Rebecca Vaughan was superb. In a one-woman performance lasting 90 minutes, she captured the playful…

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New Zealand Day 10: Auckland War Memorial Museum

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 16, 2019

First, a little bit of catching up…

In Napier, Tim went to the aquarium while I put my feet up with a book.


So, back to Wednesday in Auckland!

After a scrumptious breakfast in the hotel (the Scenic, on Queen Street) we headed off to the wharf, not far from the Maritime Museum.  It was a beautiful morning, sun shining with a light breeze, so a trip across to Devonport on the ferry seemed like a good idea.  And even though as the day wore on there were intermittent flurries of wind and rain, for the most part the day stayed congenial. We have been very lucky.

Devonport is lovely.  I can understand why people would want to commute across the harbour to work in the CBD!  We had coffee and friands at a really nice café called Twister Tomato, and then strolled around the shops and admired their lovely houses.  Best of all we found a second-hand bookshop called Bookmarks and spent a blissful half hour browsing their extensive collections.  I bought three, and so did Tim, so we are going to have to be careful with further purchases, but backlist books of Catherine Chidgey and Kirsty Gunn are impossible to source in Australia so it would have been daft not to buy them.

Back on the mainland, we went to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.  The architecture is neo-classical with Roman columns inside and out, and entablature on the exterior features scenes of war on the frieze. Inside, it’s what I call a traditional museum, (i.e. the kind I like), with collections focussing on the natural world, NZ’s geological history, and a representative collection of classical artefacts from Egypt, Greece, Rome and China.  There were also a couple of replicas of Greek statuary including the Laocoon and the Dying Gaul, and I think this is a good idea: it’s a very long way to travel for students studying these classical civilisations to see the originals, and just as the V&A in London has replicas for its students, so the Auckland Museum enhances its collection of original artefacts with these life-sized replicas as well.

They have a very good fossil collection.  (I am fascinated by fossils, and have my own small collection at home, including a trilobite).  Here’s the slideshow, including a giant ammonite and a reconstruction of the extinct giant moa.

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They also have a good (if somewhat disconcerting) exhibition about volcanoes.  NZ doesn’t just have to worry about devastating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions in their cities is a possibility too.  An animation shows how volcanic eruptions from the sea reshaped these islands over millions of years: my photos don’t capture it all that well, but it’s one of the best exhibits I’ve seen on this topic.

Upstairs is dedicated to the War Memorial and associated exhibits, including a real Spitfire on display, and a poignant cabinet of POW’s handwritten stories.  New Zealanders served in many theatres of war, and so there are cards written by people captured everywhere from Germany to Crete and of course in Singapore as well.  As well as the exhibits you’d expect to see about WW1 and WW2, there was also an exhibit about women’s war service, and one about peace-keeping operations as well.


And I had my first Bookish Moment of the trip.  (The visit to Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace, you may recall, didn’t work out because the house was closed for the duration). In a delightfully idiosyncratic collection donated by a gentleman called Mackelvie, there was this: ivory mini-busts of Voltaire and Rousseau.  (The man at the front isn’t anybody, the signage just says he’s a man, so why he’s at the front in the way I do not know!)

For dinner we went to a restaurant that claimed to serve Japanese-influenced European dishes—but they don’t.  They serve Japanese dishes with the inclusion of mismatched European ingredients. such as bits of shredded raw potato, red radish instead of daikon and (a mortal sin, IMO) mustard drowning out the subtle flavour of freshwater caviar.  The dishes were the usual unpalatable raw fish in feeble sauces.  If you like Japanese cuisine, and Tim does, then it was fine, if grotesquely overpriced. If you don’t, and I really don’t, then the only ‘European’ dish in a seven-course degustation that you might like will be dessert.  And this is a shame because Tim chose this particular restaurant because he thought a fusion cuisine might suit us both.  But the irresponsible table service was something else again: the tables are very close together, so all night long anything the waitstaff said to us was drowned out by a boisterous couple next to us, made worse by the way the waitstaff kept replenishing the father’s glass with sake and beer so he became louder and louder and more and more obnoxious. Not a happy experience at all.

Photo credit:

Auckland War Memorial Museum by User:Antilived – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3493161

Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Auckland, Dining out, Museums | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

New Zealand 2019 Day 4: A bookish moment… that wasn’t

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 9, 2019

Yesterday at the Te Papa Museum we picked up the brochure for Katherine Mansfield’s House, and today we checked the days and hours of opening, and found a taxi to take us there for a very special literary pilgrimage.

Here I am outside the house, all excited by the Bookish Moment.  (And impressed that a taxi slowed down so that his vehicle wouldn’t block Tim taking a photo from the other side of the road!)

But…

The gates were locked.  Impenetrably locked.

We got out the brochure and rang the number, only to discover that the site is closed for renovation and wouldn’t be open again till Spring.

Oh.

Now, I don’t mind them closing it, and since it’s the Off Season here in NZ, this is the best time to do it.

But why promote it with brochures in tourist venues if it’s not open?

I took some photos of Wellington houses so that it wasn’t an entirely wasted trip:

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Posted in 2019 New Zealand, Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Wellington | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

The Little Prince, artwork at the Fullerton Hotel

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2015

Artheline is the signature of artists Arnaud and Adeline Nazare-Aga, whose stunning sculptures – inspired by the original illustrations in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery – are on display in the Fullerton Hotel.

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Posted in Singapore 2015 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Carnavalet Museum, Paris

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2012

We had a lovely lunch at the Royal Turenne Bistro (where the food was scrumptious and the waiters were friendly and helpful (and kind to me about my awful French) and then made our way to a most enjoyable afternoon at the Carnavalet Museum, Paris.

This museum traces the history of the city from its beginnings to the present day and it is full of fascinating exhibits.  If you watch the slideshow you can see

  • fragments of a massive statue of Louis XIV which was pulled down during the revolution, locks of hair from the murdered royal family, the dauphin’s toys and a model of the guillotine
  • Voltaire’s chair, and a bust of him too
  • Proust’s bedroom where he did much of his writing,
  • gorgeous miniatures and lovely porcelain used to advertise wares in the days when people were illiterate (and a modern one of Lanvin’s boutique)
  • Fouquet’s glorious art nouveau cafe, and
  • memorabilia from the French Revolution.

All of this is in two lovely buildings with more than 100 rooms decorated in style from the 17th to the 20th century.  There are also two formal gardens and a kitchen garden, a pleasant place to sit and rest weary feet.

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Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Museums, Paris 2012 | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Victor Hugo’s House, Paris

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2012

On our way home now, and with just one full day day in Paris, we decided to dawdle around in the Marais, a district we have not explored before.

We marked an historic moment at the site of the Bastille, and then went to Victor Hugo’s house.   Like Dostoyevsky Hugo had many addresses, but I was content to enjoy this one which (though the street address is authentic) is more of a reconstruction of a ‘typical house of that era’ than the way it really was in his day.   The Chinese Room is very startling – not a restful room by any means, but there was interesting memorabilia including a photo commemorating the visit of Aung Sun Suu Chi.  (By coincidence, I ‘watched’ the recent film of her life, ‘The Lady’, on the plane).

You can read my thoughts about Les Misérables on my ANZ LitLovers blog.

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Posted in Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Paris 2012 | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Dostoyevsky Museum, St Petersburg

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 2, 2012

We spent our last day in St Petersburg at the Dostoyevsky Museum.

Like some of the other tours we’ve attended, the tour consists of transport provided by the tour company and the services of an interpreter who translates for the local guide.  It was like this at the Tolstoy and Chekhov estates and although I suppose it’s possible to go independently, (which may be cheaper) it has been a real pleasure to hear from local guides who are experts on their topics and have a passion for their work.

So it was today where the local guide enthused about Dostoyevsky, so much so that the interpreter apologised afterwards for not quite keeping up with her, but we didn’t mind at all.  It was a great experience to go through his house – one of many that he lived in, but this is the one that he wrote The Brothers Karamazov in, and the one that he died in, aged only 59.

The house had been subdivided during ‘Soviet Times’ (as locals call the era) but it has now been restored to the way that it would have been during Dostoyevsky’s lifetime.  They peeled off 20 layers of wallpaper and then made reproductions of the original, and they have decorated it with authentic furniture, including the author’s own desk, the one where he was working when he died.

In the children’s bedroom you can see a poignant little note from his son, and also a rocking horse – Dostoyevsky was devastated by the deaths of two of his children: his daughter Sofia died when an infant, and his son Aleksei died of epilepsy when only three.

In the study of his second wife Anna you can see her account books and her abacus where she kept meticulous records of their money.  Despite his fame, the family was often in debt, partly because he was a gambler but also because he had spent time in prison due to the political nature of his works. (Apparently Anna’s family was none too keen on the marriage because he was disreputable, but she was crazy about him so they married anyway).

There are family photographs on the walls, and in the reception room there are photos of the notables who came to visit Dostoyevsky once he became famous.  I thought it was rather sad that in the last home of an author who died of lung disease, they have kept his last packet of tobacco on display under a glass case.

There is also an exhibition of photos and facsimiles of his manuscripts, and of course, a monument outside!

Update: November 2013

I’m still scrapbooking this trip, and I’ve realised that I skipped a whole day of the tour.

It was the day we went to the Yuspov Palace, and had lunch at the Renaissance Hotel afterwards.

The Yusopov Palace is, apparently, one of 57 palaces owned by the Yusopovs but it was Felix Yusopov’s favourite.  It features a theatre, because it wasn’t respectable for princesses to attend the theatre, so they built one in-house.   The palace is famous for being the site of Rasputin’s murder, a bizarre tale, which you can read about at Wikipedia.

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Russian Museum, The Benois WingAfter that we took a walk and ended up at the Benois Wing of the ‘Russian Museum’, which is mostly 20th century Russian Art.  Here’s a link to a virtual tour of it.  

And we had dinner at the Vodka Museum, which has over 200 different kinds of vodka to try, which may be why I didn’t get round to writing about the day …

Posted in Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Museums, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Gogol’s Restaurant, St Petersburg

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

Last night we took the advice of our genial tour guide, Igor, and went to dinner at Gogol’s Restaurant.  We were told that Gogol himself lived here, (and perhaps it is true) and there are Bookish touches throughout the restaurant, most notably the menu which has been crafted like a novel.  The restaurant is composed of several small rooms, so it is like eating in a 19th century home, and the waitresses are dressed in simple 19th century costumes.

There is always a risk with places like this that are designed to reel in the tourists, that the food will be a disappointment, but no.  We dined with five of our new friends from the tour group – two fellow-Aussies from Heathmont in Melbourne, an American couple from New York, and a Professor of Fine Arts from the UK, and all of us enjoyed our choices.

I forgot to photograph our second courses (possibly because our Languedoc wine was so nice), but you can see our entrees in the slideshow below.  Ron’s little pastries that look like ravioli are white fish pelmeni; that little glass on the plate of fish is vodka with horseradish (which Tim said was delicious); the Prof had an excellent borscht, and Betsy had black ‘milk’ Siberian mushrooms.  Mine was a prawn salad with a delicious cherry sauce, and Tony’s was an excellent eggplant salad.   You can also see the scrumptious homemade breads as well.  The service was excellent, and the ambience a delight.  Good company, good Russian cuisine – what more could we want, eh?

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Posted in Dining out, Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

St Petersburg: St Isaac’s Cathedral

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 29, 2012

St Isaac’s Cathedral is just around the corner from our hotel, the Renaissance Baltic, and like all the other churches we’ve seen today it’s splendid.  Unlike the others, however, it’s a museum, not a religious building, though apparently church leaders are campaigning to have it returned to them.

Among the many impressive aspects are the massive doors.  There are three of them, carved  by Ivan Vitali, with reliefs of Christ and the saints, and the main ones weigh 20 tons.  Understandably they’re not opened very often, most recently on the 300th anniversary of the city, and before that in 1917 during the Revolution.   Unusual in a Russian church, there is also a stained glass window which is the centrepiece of the iconostasis (the royal doors, which correspond to where an altar would be in a Christian church).  Again there are all kinds of precious stones but the most amazing of all are two priceless columns of lapiz lazuli, some of which had to be imported from Afghanistan.  When you think how expensive a small piece of lapis lazuli jewellery is, these columns must be worth a king’s ransom.

All these splendours, however, were created at enormous human cost.  The gold leaf on the turrets was applied by to a mercury base which was heated to secure the gold leaf – and the serfs who worked on it all died from mercury poisoning.  Building went on all year round, right throughout Russia’s frigid winter, and hundreds of serfs perished in the cold and damp.  And, while not the same kind of tragedy, the architect who came from Italy as a young man and spent his entire life building it, was denied his last request to be buried there because it was against Russian church tradition.  His widow took his body back to Italy where he lies in an unknown grave.   You can see a bust of this remarkable man, Auguste de Montferrard, in the slideshow.

St Isaac’s was our last stop for the day.  After a short rest we went out for dinner to Gogol’s – a gorgeous restaurant where Gogol the author wrote Dead Souls. My other bookish moment for the day was a glimpse of the monument to Peter the Great, which I read about it Andrei Bely’s Petersburg.  Hopefully I’ll get back there to take a proper picture in due course.

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Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Historic buildings, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »