Claire and Jonathan

Adventures in Paradise

Outposts Along the via Aurelia

It’s quite simple: We flew to Nice to get to Provence. After a lifetime of waiting, we were more than eager to sample this famous region’s food, climate, history, culture, landscape, and (in case I forgot to mention it) food.

Driving down the Côte d’Azur to Sainte-Maxime was just a necessary diversion (one of Claire’s basic principles in life is that if you are near water or horses, you must stop and enjoy them). So, after eating a proper French breakfast of croissants and baguettes, it was time to head towards the heart of Provence.

"Valbelle castle ruins" Based on prior research, we had chosen three “appetizer” destinations on today’s menu, to whet our appetite for tomorrow’s main course: Tourves (with its ruined castle and small roman bridge), Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume (don’t be confused by the similar-sounding name, this town with a lovely medieval section and basilica is different than the seaside village we visited yesterday), and Aix-en-Provence (eek! a big city!).

Bypassing the Côte d’Azur

Brisbane to Singapore. Singapore to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Nice. That’s 44 hours of travel, nearly 23 hours spent enduring a cramped airline seat’s best attempt at comfort.

The end result of such a journey is two time-lagged, weary travellers sleep-walking their four suitcases at night, trudging a kilometer or so without a map in hopes of finding a well-hidden hotel. Evidently, French cabs don’t run that route, so we must. What we discover: The room is small and unimpressive, the food is uninspired, but the sleep is divine.

"The Sea at Sainte-Maxime" In the morning, after picking up our rental car (a wonderful Peugeot that served us so well), we do the unthinkable. We drive away from Nice, without visiting the Old Town or walking along the beachside Promenade des Anglais. We go west, instead of east towards royal, rocky Monaco. We rocket past Cannes, without savoring any of its glitz and glamor. Even the jet-set resort of Saint-Tropez fails to merit a drive-by.

Why do we bypass these jewels along the French Riviera?

A Taste of Singapore

We do not have much to say about Singapore. A five-hour layover on our flight from Brisbane to Amsterdam only gave us the chance to wander its massive and impressive airport.

"Enchanted Garden at Changi Airport"

Nonetheless, Singapore makes an outsized and distinctive impression. This is signaled by the captain’s rather ominous arrival message: “Please ensure you are not bringing any illegal drugs into Singapore. Anyone caught violating this law is subject to mandatory execution.”

This is evidently no idle threat.

Buddy, the Magnadoodle

Do you know how to irresistibly tempt a well-behaved pooch?


Allow me to reveal the secret by way of a story. For that, I blame the dog (as you will see).

"Buddy the Magnadoodle"

Down the road, beyond the traffic crossing, there is a spacious house yard. A sturdy, white picket fence lines the walkway, firm in its resolve to keep you out. Guarding this yard is Buddy, the fluffy Magnadoodle, a lumberingly large, white-cotton bundle of addictive cuddle-nip.

Shark Dive!

When an e-mail coupon offers the chance to go nose-to-nose with many fish whose teeth are WAY bigger than yours, how do you say no?

"Ravenous Sandbar Whaler"

Not us … we signed up quickly! (otherwise, how could we post about it?)

Underwater World in Mooloolooba (try saying that name fast three times) hosts the Shark Dive Xtreme experience, which offers you up as bait for 8 species of shark, stingrays and hundreds of fish for an hour and a half in their spacious tank.