Category Archives: Monday Travel Posts

Today would be a good day to be on Île des Pins

My usual preference for travel is exploring cities with culture, history, art, and vibrant communities. I love learning from the places and the people I meet there. Being exposed to difference and diversity challenges me and provokes me, causing me to question some of the assumptions of my own life.

However, I am aware that for many people the idea of a holiday that is packed full of ‘educational activities’ just sounds like more work and lying on a beach somewhere doing nothing is eminently more appealing. And that challenges me as well. I’m not so good at slowing down, being still, taking time just to relax and ‘be’. So in the midst of a busy few weeks, and in the midst of some wintery days, today I’m thinking a visit to the Isle of Pines wouldn’t be a bad thing.

What did I love about the Isle of Pines?

The beauty of this true paradise.

Sparkling white sand, crystal blue water, lush green trees. #nofiltersneeded

I’m not sure there are too many places in the world more picturesque.

And that’s even without a camera that could capture the stunning beauty that lies beneath the water on the world’s second longest coral reef!

What did I learn from the Isle of Pines?

Isle of Pines was a great reminder to slow down. To just be for a while. There is really not much to do here other than enjoy the spectacular scenery – to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe.

A small island in the middle of a large ocean is always a good reminder of perspective. In particular, perspective on my own smallness in this big world.

The friendliness and slower paced life of the local people is a challenge to my own sense of what is ‘necessary’ and ‘important’.

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These are things I need to remember in the busyness of my daily life.

And because I’m still me, I did enjoy learning a little bit about New Caledonia’s history and culture. I admit to entire ignorance before I arrived, and so visiting the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in nearby Noumea was helpful and important for me to get a sense of the people of this place. And reading a bit more about the recent political history has left me intrigued to see where the future lies for this little collectivity.

For today, I’m hoping to find some moments to just be still and ‘be’ – even without the sun, sand and snorkelling – and to notice and appreciate the beauty in my own surroundings. It’s always a good day for that.

 

Today would be a good day to be on the Sea of Galilee

We’ve just started to plan our next study tour to Israel and Jordan in 2018, which of course has got me thinking about some of my favourite places in that part of the world. I love the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem and the beautiful history of Caesarea, but for a tranquil place to contemplate and reflect, a favourite place of mine in Israel is the Sea of Galilee. I’d love to be able to spend the day there today.

What do I love about the Sea of Galilee?

Many of the places in Israel feel like a tour through church history, seeing how previous generations have chosen to remember places that have biblical significance. So the first time I visited the Sea of Galilee, there was a sense of relief at its untouched natural beauty – “they can’t build a church on this!”

The Sea is somehow both bigger and smaller than I had imagined it to be.

Visiting it brought many stories to life. Reading through the gospels, the Sea is almost a character in the narratives as Jesus and his disciples transverse back and forth across it …

fish from it …

experience storms upon it …

and even walk on it.

When I returned to spend time in this part of the world by myself, I stayed in one of the most beautiful and tranquil guesthouses I have ever visited and had the privilege of this view out my window:

It was a wonderful, peaceful place for reflection and contemplation, whether at dawn …

as the sun rose …

… or after dark.

What did I learn from the Sea of Galilee?

There is something beautiful and pristine about many bodies of water. But this one is special to me because of its connection to the story and history of One Man.

As a follower of Jesus, I walk in his footsteps metaphorically every day. Being able to connect that tangibly to real places is a wonderful privilege. It brings a concreteness and a specificity to my faith.

But the bigger truth it teaches me is not so much that I have walked where he has walked, but that I have a God who has walked where I walk. Who entered into human history and everyday life and experienced beauty and sorrow, tiredness and energy, rest and bustle, food and water and sunlight and dirt and noise and taste and smell and everything else that makes up the ordinariness of my life. And somehow the fact that he has done so transforms it all and makes it all new, inviting me into a new experience every day of walking with him.

 

 

 

 

Today would be a good day to be in Lisbon

My blogging frequency has slowed a bit recently, but after a couple of prompts to get back into it, I’m heading into another Monday morning with a place I’d love to be able to visit for the day. After discovering some authentic Portuguese custard tarts in Adelaide this weekend,  I’d love to go back to the place where I discovered these delectable treats … and just enjoyed the vibe of a really cool city for a few days.

What did I love about Lisbon?

While Lisbon might not have some of the “big ticket” tourist items of other places in Europe, it was one of my favourite stops on my recent trip. It’s just a lovely city to wander and get lost in.

Apparently the world’s third hilliest city (after La Paz and San Francisco), Lisbon’s geography makes for good exercise as well as great panoramic views.

Navigating the hills has led to some innovative methods of public transport including the beautiful Santa Justa elevator …

… and the cool Gloria funicular.

The city’s coloured buildings and tiled facades add to the funky vibe.

The city’s architecture testifies to the passage of time, like the intricate details on the facades of the gothic Jerónimos monastery.

While walking the walls of the São Jorge Castle is like stepping back into medieval times.

Contrasting this is the brand new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology built on the bank of the Tagus River with a roof made for walking, gathering and people watching.

And of course, discovering the Pastel de Nata was a true joy …

… and has made me disavow the custard tarts of my homeland as unworthy to share the same name!

What did I learn from Lisbon?

Lisbon is also a ‘city of churches’, with plenty of old, beautiful, and quirky places of worship to visit.

The Sé, Lisbon’s Cathedral, is nearly 900 years old and I found myself sitting in its pews just trying to imagine all those who had preceded me in taking time out in this same space to pray and worship.

Excavations in the church’s cloisters point back even further, to Roman times. If only walls could speak …

Lisbon is a city that speaks to me of everyday lives. Of people who have made their way and made their mark. Of fun and family and fortitude and fortune and food and faith – all the things that make up a life and together make up history.

And as I sat in Lisbon’s main square on the final night of my visit, I marvelled at the combination of the setting sun and the statue of the Risen Son, watching over the city. And I remember that wherever I go, as I make my way through the everyday things of life, as the passage of time happens to me too, this is what keeps me centred. The dawning of each new day bringing God’s mercies anew, and the reality of an Easter Sunday dawning that is making all things new.