Balloons & Spires

A pre-dawn start today (11:45 Australian time… we’ll have some adjusting to do on our return next week) for a balloon flight in Goreme.

I counted I think 102 balloons, around 24 passengers to a balloon so this is a serious business here. For comparison, the township of Urgup has signs claiming 19,700 (permanent) residents. It is quite remarkable how successfully Cappadocia markets itself in the global tourism industry. The aerial vantage point is a great way to appreciate the natural rock spires and canyons.

Our travel agent organised a tour with a Turkish travel agent who ultimately organised with Kaya Balloons. They ran a professional, safe and friendly operation and we seemed to be ahead of the pack on take off, giving the pilot more opportunities to get lower & closer I think.


Hot Air Ballooning is a very inefficient, unpredictable way to travel. The pilot can gain and lose altitude, and that’s about it. So it was a credit to the man driving ours this morning that we could drift along the valley, at times so close we could touch the tree tops.

Dawn came after very clear skies, soft, pale gradations of light, a slight haze on the horizon. And an amazing number of balloons. I now wish to know the collective noun for hot air balloons.

Cats in Istanbul

I have a theory on national civic development. As countries move from some Hobbsian “State of Nature” through to highly developed, there are several key regimes of treatment of stray dogs. At the worst, stray dogs are food. At the best, stray dogs are lovingly captured by local authorities assigned that responsibility by one or two other tiers of government, and transferred to custody pending adoption or execution. It is only in the middle of the spectrum that stray dogs exist in any quantities roaming free in populated areas.

So Turkey is perhaps a corollary of this theory. With scarcely a stray dog to be seen, it seems that the stray cat’s life is easy, perhaps even pampered. There are a variety of theories as to why. What I do know is that on the whole they are very cute.




The drive from Breuzeville-Grenier to Bayeux would essentially take us through Lillebonne, so we took the time to stop and see the “Theatre Romain”. Somewhat hysterically, the gardening crew were mowing the 45-55 degree slope of what was formerly tiered seating… with ropes. A top rope to control the fall of the mower and a bottom rope to steer. Despite being told by the tourist office the theatre was closed, the gardening crew and everyone else at the site seemed keen to have us walk around.

The theatre escaped being quarried for its stone in the 1800s, and is currently having access ramping built around the periphery. Across the road a museum houses excavated artefacts from the theatre and the region, including coins and amphoras. Coins included those minted under the reign of Constantine, by which time the Roman empire was moving eastwards – as Danielle and I would be soon.

We walked through the remainder of the quite busy village centre, marvelled at the terrines, and wrapped up what was meant to be a ten minute stop with a visit to the Boulangerie-Patisserie… for a most excellent Tarte Citron – lemon tart. Beautiful shortcrust pastry.



Having had two rather full tourist days whilst dragging round the jet-lag crankiness, I still find Paris marvellously interesting.  Public buildings are decorated tastefully. 

The Metro is efficient.  Historical events shaped the culture they have today – we have agreed we need to read a lot more to sort out all the Louis and the Napoleons, and to determine the real motivation for French art and the revolution.

The food is all good.  I don’t understand why the food is so good.  We wonder if it relates to butter content……..

Today, I get to see Foucault’s original Pendulum!

Saint Chapelle

Breathtaking. Anything other than wide angle HDR won’t do it justice, so this is just a teaser.


The rest (updated now):

Car prices in the UAE

So spending the afternoon walking aroumd on Abu Dhabi At this time of year really required mall air conditioning. From what the taxi driver said, even the round-the-clock construction work crews break between midday and 3pm for the heat. So in the new Centrepoint mall at Marina Village, not only are there approximately 40 watch stores, but you can also browse a Emirates Motor Company show floor. All Mercedes dissappointingly (where are the ferraris?) but keen keen prices. If I travel internationally each year I may avoid ever buying a new car out of resentment for Australian price structures. Current model C63 AMG Coupe going for about $105k Australian.


Abu Dhabi

Very Hot.  We often encountered the faint smell of of burnt spices or incense.  All the buildings are new, towering piles of glass and steel and concrete only shades darker than the sky.  The pale dusty sand almost blends with the heat haze and the grey palm trees in the bright light.

The opulent, cool modern interiors seem a world away from the blanketing humidity outside.