Wednesday, July 18

minus 16

A friend of my Phil has been down in Antartica for the last few months wintering over and helping to restore items in Shackleton's Hut. Her blog makes an interesting read, and the last few posts have photos of the first rays of sun that are now creeping over the horizon. While the cold weather we've been experiencing lately is resulting in a bit of cabin fever, at least its not minus 16 outside.

Tuesday, June 26

cellphone salesman singing opera

this guy in simon cowell's latest uk talent search totally nails his audition. it's always great to see regular people doing extraordinary things. tried to embed the video using blogger's new video upload service, but google must be experiencing overload because I couldn't get through to register for the trial.

Monday, May 28

catching up

Its been great catching up with Myra and Graham, Patrick, Dave and Matt et al while down in chch. After loving the festival last year, I was really looking forward to to heading out with everyone to the Banff Mountain Film Festival - World Tour on Saturday night.

Highlight for me was Patagonia - A travel to the end of the World. A film about two Norwegian mountaineers crossing the South Patagonia ice cap. Borge Ousland and Thomas Ulrich conquered the ice shelf overcoming the harsh conditions with a dry sense of humour, and a single-minded focus on their goal. Really inspiring.

You couldn't get a more different cinematic experience than Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End. A bunch of us went along to Hoyts on Sunday, which was packed out for the screening, with Patrick and others ready for action in their pirate hats and eye patches.

According to trivia on imdb they started filming without a completed script, which maybe explains some of the reasons it rambled a bit. I fell asleep during 3 hours of confusing plot lines and some really bad acting from Orlando. Once again Johnny Depp was the highlight for me.

Thursday, May 24

interclue launch

Congratulations to Seth who has now launched his new 'killer startup' browser plug-in called Interclue. I've used Interclue and trialled his competitors cooliris and snap but found that Seth had really nailed the whole point of having a preview to links - Interclue was *really* unobtrusive and useful.

As you hover over a link on a webpage, a small icon appears at the end of the link, and if you hover over it the window pops up and feeds you the relevant content of that link - other plug-ins automatically open if you just pass your mouse over the link which I find annoying. Interclue doesn't show snapshots of the page like snap. Instead it provides a useful and informative summary of the content of the link, which then helps users make a decision whether to click through to it or not. In many cases you can just read what you need to from the window. It also allows you to immediately email the link to a friend or post to by clicking on the frame of the window.

I found that after having used it for a week, when it wasn't activated I missed it. During beta Interclue has picked up feedback to consolidate the design and features, and I'm sure its functionality will continue to evolve.

Seth and his team really deserve the reviews they have been getting - all you need to do is use it and you'll see why.

Wednesday, May 23

flight of the conchords

Just watching tv3 tonight to see the entire first episode of Jemaine and Bret's series has been released on the internet a month before its due to be screened on tv in the states. The HBO site even has it set up so you can easily embed part of the episode - cool. how incredible is it that regular (albeit supremely talented) guys from wellington can get their own series on HBO. when it screens next month it's being broadcast in the timeslot previously held by the sopranos...insanely cool. unfortunately the broadband connection at my sister's means that it will probably be screened in the US before I actually ever get to see the whole episode on my computer. On the HBO page it says "After clicking, the video may take several seconds to load"....errrrrrgh. Jemaine and Brett need to work in a gag about the fact that if they ever make it big in New York, New Zealand will hear about it with the establishment of internet2.

There is a page on the HBO site dedicated to the show so you can also go there and see even smaller bite sized pieces.

Tuesday, May 22

learning more about branding and design

Branding and design are essential elements of an effective web 2.0 marketing strategy. I've been to a branding workshop recently as part of a Positively Wellington Business and NZTE series for startups. It's obvious that to compete with all the other startups out there, the design of a new site needs to be instinctive, user friendly, and good to look at. If the branding has the wrong look and feel, it can be hard to retain users...even if you are offering a killer service. It's amazing to see all the different interpretations of what user friendly might mean when you scan services on the net. I think keeping things simple is an important part of it..for me...if members of my family can't use it then its one good way of testing whether the user friendly threshold has been met.

I've really been impressed with Decisive Flow, a Wellington-based web design company. They worked on PlanHQ which is another kiwi-based online business service aimed at SME's and startups like me. Planhq allows users to create financial, marketing and strategic business goals around a "live" business plan so they can then manage and constantly update the variables to measure progress. The business plan can then be shared with anyone, including current and potential investors, and company directors. As a kiwi business if you are capital raising with overseas investors, but want to stay and develop your business in New Zealand, PlanHQ would be an easy way to maintain a good investor relationship from a distance. Being able to travel domestically and globally, access information and manage my New Zealand company from anywhere is all part of the dream for me, so Planhq fits into my web-based approach.

I've also been inspired by one of New Zealand's all time branding success stories - 42below vodka. Their advertising strategy was inspired, and they just stood out from their competitors. While its not a tech company, I learnt a thing or two from their global marketing approach and their attitude towards achieving their goals.

Monday, May 21

heaps going on

After settling ourselves in Wellington and beginning to enjoy new opportunities and the coffee, Glynn and I are now back down in Christchurch for a short while looking after Sam, Lily and Mia - while Brett and Sarah enjoy a much deserved trip of a lifetime to Europe. After a traumatic first attempt Glynn's now changing Sam's nappies like a pro. Unfortunately he's on his way back to San Francisco for another week of meetings and escaping the daily duties. The grandparents are around as well though, so we are all pitching in.

Glynn and I have had a productive time in Wellington so far. I've been picking up some more government consulting work for Fivepeas Limited, and networking with some great people in Wellington for lifebox - silicon welly is a such small town. Glynn's been enjoying meeting the folks at the Sun Head Office, and having fun on the fishing expeditions even though we've really only had success at Castlepoint so far. Our bad run with the fishing has been totally surpassed by the fact he won us a trip for two to Martinborough for a couple of nights at a five star resort! I never win anything. It must be the luck of the irish ..or the 6 bottles of wine he had to buy to be in the draw at a local winetasting we went to at the Boatshed. According to certain irish folk, the luck of the irish means you have good luck one day and then bad luck the next (i guess that could count as the hangover?).

xero IPO

High levels of interest and excitement in the city about the xero IPO. I've been using xero and really like the interface and the simple step processes throughout the application. For me personally the *real* excitement around xero is the future potential uses for the online platform model, its not just "software as a service"... but "software as part of a live platform".... which can provide the user with all sorts integrated and hence convenient, internet-based tools. A very basic example of this is that ASB is already signed up and feeding realtime data into xero for its customers - I intend to ask my bank whether it will do the same for me. Imagine what other payment or administrative services can be linked to your online business accounts using the internet or mobile devices?

Whatever the future holds for xero and its IPO (and I wish them well), for the moment the real benefits of the product for me are:

* The reports are done for me so I limit the time my accountant has to spend on them
* My accountant can view my accounts and reports information from his home in CHCH, without having to send data up and down the country via email
* I can generate and send an invoice with the push of a button - from within xero
* I know that if anything happens I have a backup of my account information elsewhere, that's invaluable to me.
* I don't have to worry that I'm using the latest version - I know that for my monthly fee its constantly being updated and improved, with new features added.

I just don't want to go back to a desktop application.

Wednesday, March 7

wellington bound

Glynn and I are heading to Wellington for a while - I'm going to focus on a particular phase of my project and Glynn's going to check out the Wellington scene. Can't wait to see old friends, and we are both looking forward to networking around 'siliconwelly'. Retaining links to CHCH though with opportunities to find synergies between the two cities and the various web communities in each. Hoping for lots of visits from new friends I've made down here in Christchurch. Will miss Sarah, Brett, Mia, Lily and Sam.

Sunday, February 18

london highlights

I've been meaning to post some photos of our stop in London for a while. Here's some quick pics and highlights of our last port of call on the way home, in no particular time and date order.

New Zealand War Memorial - Hyde Park

After learning a bit more about the New Zealand War Memorial on the way over, I was really looking forward to our visit to Hyde Park to see the monument on the return visit.

There were a few other visitors the day we went, was trying to spot the ex-pats, but no joy. Kiwis have left their mark there though and there were some wreaths laid to pay tribute to New Zealanders who have lost their lives in battle along side their British counterparts.

Walks around London

It was great to be able to stay with Fiona, a friend from back home, who now lives in London working at the Houses of Parliament. One day we walked together around the older parts of the city, including a tour around parts of the square mile to see remnants of the old walls of London and the monument where the Great Fire of London apparently started in a bakery.

One morning we went to the Columbia Road flower market, with stunning flower stalls and quaint shops lining the road. The marketeers sing out as you walk by "three bunches a fiva" and "cheap enough to give to give to someone you don't even like". They banter across the road to each other - "hey bryan, I got blisters bryan, from takin' all the monee" - hilarious. I guess you had to be there ...but I just loved the cockney accent.

Churchill's Museum

One of the highlights was a visit to the Churchill Museum which is located underneath the city streets, within the bunker where Churchill and his war cabinet met during World War 2. It was from the relative safety of the bunker that Churchill and his cabinet slept, ate, plotted and communicated with Stalin and Hoover. It was also where Churchill's regular radio broadcasts to the people of Britain were recorded. Everything has been left as it was the day the war ended in 1945. It's just quite remarkable and the museum attached to the old bunker highlights Churchill's life and career both before and after his stints as Prime Minister and as a great war time leader.

What I found most fascinating was the maps they had on the walls to monitor the progress of the war. The front line and other key boundaries were marked out with different coloured wool and drawing pins - red wool for the front line.

They used to keep score by counting the losses each side had suffered on a small blackboard and its still sitting there with the last scores entered on the board the day Germany surrendered.

Buckingham Palace

We missed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace because they only parade and change guard every other day of the week in winter time. It seems its more about the amount of tourist demand than the issue of guards having to stand out in the cold, and obviously has nothing to do with whether the Queen is in residence or not. It kind of takes the enchantment out of it all, but when you've grown up with AA Milne's classic "They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin went down with Alice..." it's hard not to get just a little bit excited about being there, even though all you can do is stand outside the gates and wonder what's going on inside - but not for very long - places to go, more sites to see.

The Globe Theatre

Glynn and I really enjoyed the tour of the new Globe Theatre which has been completely re-built exactly how it would have been in Shakespeare's time. It has a great museum and we took the guided tour which was well worth it. See a photo below of Fiona and Glynn outside the Globe.

There's a huge amount of audience participation required during plays held here because the stage is so small, and those on the theatre floor were often and still are called upon to be in the crowd scenes. I can't wait to come back one day and see Julius Caesar, so when Mark Antony asks the Romans whether they want to see Caesar's will I can yell "show us the will, show us the will" - fun!

Tower of London

The Tower of London feels like the heart of English history. From the museum displays in the old white castle to the surrounding towers where Elizabeth 1 was once held amongst many others, including most wives of Henry VIII.

We lined up to see the crown jewels and got to see guards marching (tick), and the famous black ravens. Legend has it if they leave the tower the Queen's realm will fall into the hands of its enemies.

Arriving early enough we caught the first guided tour of the day with one of the famous Beefeaters who live on the grounds and are charged with protecting the crown jewels and defending the Tower itself. They are called Beefeaters because they were once fattened up to make sure they looked like they could defend the Tower, and one of the kings once used them to test out the meat on his plate because he was scared of being poisoned.

These people were paranoid about loosing their reign and being cheated on by their spouses so, many died at the Tower including Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII's wives who was beheaded in the courtyard and buried at the Royal Chapel in the Tower grounds. Legend has it that Anne was born with six fingers and was given as one reason she was often seen as a heretical figure or a witch. She was apparently so despised by the King that in the end she was buried in an unmarked grave in the Royal Chapel in quick lime. The Beefeater tour took us into the chapel and explained that when Queen Victoria had all the graves excavated for identification Anne's remains were found with one hand indeed having an extra digit. Her grave in the chapel is now marked, and her life story quite a read. While the royal family still attract a lot of attention today, I guess England must be thankful there's a bit more stability and reason nowadays than during Henry's reign.

Other highlights

Some other highlights were a visit to the Tate Modern, with a large scale interactive exhibition of a tube that you can ride down on a sack, although Glynn, Fi and I were all keen as mustard it was fully booked for the day. A walk over the Millenium Bridge to the other side of the Thames to see St Paul's Cathedral. No photos but a great visit out to Greenwich Museum and the international dateline. A self-guided tour of Westminster Abbey and a peek at the Tower Bridge from a vantage point inside the Tower of London.

Guided tour of the Houses of Parliament

We were lucky enough to get a personal tour courtesy of Fi, through the House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Palace. Fi's been working as a Clerk of a select committee of Parliament, and when required sometimes assists counting the votes when the House sits in the evenings. Over time Fi's built up an impressive knowledge of the history of the place. We were one of the first kiwi contingents to experience the McLean tour and I can recommend it if you are heading over to London - one not to be missed. No photos of the inside allowed unfortunately, but the House of Lords is just stunning.

It was really nice to spend time with Fiona and her man, Patrick. We had lunch together on Sunday at a small italian restaurant in Covent Garden and then on our last night we shared drinks at a traditional old english pub called the Holly Bush Inn in Hampstead. Glynn and I stayed on for dinner at the pub and he finally accomplished one of his missions while in London to try three different types of warm English ales. It was a great way to spend our last night in London and effectively the last night of our great Christmas holiday in the northern hemisphere - how fitting that it be in a pub.

Thanks to Fiona for having us stay and for all the guided tours and letting us borrow her A-Z of London. What a massive city and like our trip to Paris, left with a long list of all the places to see next time.

a good start to 2007

Since returning from overseas its been a busy start to the year and apart from Baa Camp other highlights have included obtaining some more contract and consulting work; a visit from two Wellington friends - Dean this week, and Phil ,who stayed with us on her way down to Antartica last week for her winter placement restoring Ernest Shackleton's hut. A trip up to Wellington this week to provide some training and a public workshop for Change Training.

Looking forward to what the rest of 2007 will bring - its been a great start so far.

baa camp madness

Early this year I got the awesome opportunity to attend Kiwi Foo aka Baa Camp in Walkworth. I got to meet some amazing people doing incredible things. Thanks to Nat who organised the 'unconference'. It was so encouraging (and kind of reassuring) for me to meet others working in the same web 2.0 space.

Web 2.0 is characterised by emerging internet technologies and business models that don't fit with the more traditional investment opportunity. Web 2.0 is really just a fancy way of describing the next generation of internet services that are focussed on the user having more control over their own content and choice of platform. The best of these internet platforms balance the desire for users to have control, with the need to provide a structured interactive and user-friendly environment to store, manipulate and easily share information with others online. Kathy Sierra, as always, explains the user control v organised structure balance well.

The more practical the applications are to the user experience, the more mainstream web 2.0 services are becoming, till they form part of everyday life - who hasn't now heard of YouTube?

While many web 2.0 internet companies are focussing on innovative niche opportunities, there are many others that are trying to use web 2.0 technologies to develop new online services to compete with current desktop software products. Xero is a prime example of how an online business product can be pitched against a traditional desktop software product - MYOB.

From these internet platforms we will manage our finances, our communications, and our personal information and storage needs. Many "mashup" services are out there piecing it altogether for users already but there are tonnes of opportunities for webdesigners and developers to create new and interesting online applications (especially using open source technology) harnessing all the benefits of the internet. Check out this funky demo of what the current state of web 2.0 means to Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University.

It is such an exciting time to be involved in the web space and you could feel the energy at kiwi foo. I really hope I have the opportunity to go again next year to experience some more baa camp madness.

Monday, January 15

three days in paris

Well three days in total - we actually had two half days and two full days. It's amazing what you can pack in if you ignore the blisters!

Arriving in Charles de Gaulle airport at lunchtime on Tuesday, it took us two and half hours to make it to our hotel via the underground train RER, with time spent just getting out of the airport to the train station. It was a bit of a trek with all our bags and we were happy to reach Hotel Langlois in Saint Lazare north of the River Seine. It was a gem, with a real Parisian atmosphere and our suite had a bathroom the size of Glynn's flat.

Tuesday afternoon and evening - Sacre Coeur, Montmarte, Ile de la Cite, Notre Dame

My friend Jason and several others recommended the walk up to the Sacre Coeur and down through Montmarte, and as it wasn't far from our hotel we thought that would be a great place to start. We wandered up through St Lazare, past the famous Moulin Rouge and made the gradual ascent up to the Basilica.

The Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) is perched on the top of a hill surrounded by the village of Montmarte. In the 19th century Montmarte lay outside the city limits. Consequently, it became a cultural centre and with the local nuns making wine it became a popular drinking area, so it wasn't surprising to see an irish pub as we wondered up to the church gates. It's free to enter the basilica and with the fading daylight its darkening interior was lit by the red glow of thousands of candles. Glynn and I made a donation and lit one too - it was just magic.

The architecture in Paris is beautiful, and the views are stunning from the steps of the Sacre Coeur, the highest lookout point in the city. You can understand why the french government in World War Two declared Paris to be an open city, protecting it from bombardment. Although the armistice with Germany was controversial at the time, and led to the formation of the French Resistance, the declaration helped to preserve the city. The sun was going down as we got to the top and we were rewarded with perfect snaps of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

The whole scene was quite romantic, and even though the metro service extended to Montmarte you couldn't help but want to walk everywhere and just soak it all up. Artists and performers set up each day outside the Sacre Coeur and around Montmarte, and there was a real wintery carnival feel as we descended back down through the village and back into the central city. It was a great way to start our tour of Paris.

We still had time left on the clock and decided to head in to see Notre Dame and find a french restaurant on the Ile de la Cite, the original roman settlement situated on a small island in the middle of the River Seine. Unfortunately, and most unromantically, I got a migraine and we had to excuse ourselves from the restaurant we had painstakingly chosen, so I could throw up in rubbish bins all the way home.

Wednesday - Musee du Louvre, La Defense, Arc de Triomphe, and Musee D'Orsay

The Paris Museum Pass was a great discovery - at 30 euro for two days it was well worth it. It lets you in to over 60 museums and monuments, and allowed us to avoid all the queues. At most places we visited on Wednesday the lines were over an hour long, and it would have seriously affected our enjoyment of the day and limited our time.

The Louvre is the largest museum in the world and is massive, and lucky for us is open late on Wednesdays. It gets 5 million visitors a year (over 7 million the year the Da Vinci Code was published), and I just couldn't help but feel everyone had decided to come on the same day as us, as we fought our way to see the Mona Lisa. Once a fortress, and home to various leaders, including Napolean the Third, it has four main wings and you could spend days in each.

The Louvre is a masterpiece in itself, and I found myself stopping constantly to look at door and window frames, and the multitude of statues that stand on the outside ledges of the building.

Highlights for me were the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, Michelangelo's Dying Slave and the apartments of Napoleon III.

We took a break from the Louvre in the middle of the day to meet a work colleague of Glynn's at La Defense, the commercial district of Paris, about 15mins from the Louvre on the metro. Completely modern in style the area is a total contrast to the older parts of the city. It is home to La Grande Arche a massive rectangular structure, and from its steps you can see right down the avenues to the Arc de Triomphe.

After our traditional french lunchtime meal of duck and red wine, we headed back towards the Louvre on the metro stopping briefly at the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe is a focus for patriotic events and the eternal flame dedicated to the memory of the unknown soldier is located at its base. It is also the central hub of a vehicular round-a-bout called Place Charles de Gaulle. Cars cannot be insured for the small ring road that surrounds the famous landmark, upon which 12 avenues converge, including the famous Avenue des Champs Elysees.

There is no pedestrian crossing so access to the monument is by a tunnel under the road. Courtesy of our museum pass we again avoided the lines and climbed straight to the top of the monument, which also houses a museum beneath the viewing platform. The views from the top are well worth the climb, and you can see the avenues fanning out like the spokes of a wheel.

See below photos I took from the monument, one of the Eiffel Tower and one looking back up at the Sacre Coeur on Montmarte Hill.

Since the Louvre was open till 9.45pm we headed to the Musee D'Orsay, which closed at 6pm. It was my first taste of more recent works and the impressionists' paintings blew us away. We saw original paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Manet, Millet, Degas, Monet and Cezanne to name a few. You are allowed to take photos without a flash, which surprised me.

Back to the Louvre for a quick bite to eat and a tour of the italian marble statues, french painters, the Mesopotamia treasures, and another peak at the Mona Lisa without the midday crowds. We spent quite a bit of time gazing at her until we reached the point we felt we'd seen her, and then headed to Napoleon's apartments which were spectacular, and part of the old Tuileries Palace connected to the Louvre.

We'd both reached saturation point by the end of the day, and I was literally hobbling, but I still came away completely inspired. I have started an acrylic on canvas for Glynn here at home, and what I would give to be able to continually access these paintings and galleries regularly. I hope Parisians realise how lucky they are to have all that on their doorstep.

Thursday - Saint Chapelle, Le Musee Picasso, Centre Pompidou, Catacombs, Eiffel Tower

It's amazing what a hot bath can do to fool your legs and feet into thinking they are okay to walk. Ready for the next day and fuelled with breakfast at the hotel of boiled egg, pastries and coffee we headed off for our second full day in Paris.

We had heard from Tim and Bob that Sainte Chapelle was worth a visit and so we headed back towards Ile de la Cite. Built in the gothic tradition, it was consecrated in 1248 and translates as The Holy Chapel. The stain-glass windows on all sides of the chapel depict scenes from the bible. There are better photos of the chapel on this wikipedia link . Pick a sunny day if you plan to go, because the stained glass effect will be at its best.

We spent the next part of the morning at the Picasso Museum. I especially enjoyed wandering through the back streets of Paris to get to it, and we stopped for coffee and a pastry on the way.

After exiting the museum we stopped briefly to buy some cheese and bread for lunch and then on to the nearby modern art collection at Centre Pompidou, a controversial building well known for its exterior. Its utility pipes are on the outside of the structure, and are colour coded. It was interesting but many of the works seemed trivial and light, and I really struggled with the room with pink flowing material and the giant red shoe. It only seemed to make it worse when I read the intentions of many of the artists. Maybe I'm yet to attain enlightenment, but I think I just prefer more traditional forms of art and I'm okay with that.

The catacombs were next on the list and something completely different from the constant stream of beauty since arriving in the city. Paris is riddled with over 300 km of catacombs under the surface of the city. Originally they were limestone quarries until the tunnels were converted into mass burial sites in the 18th century. Its very cold down there, but I found it quite a peaceful place. All the remains are stacked in decorated piles and there are several altars where services have been held to commemorate those buried there. If you aren't afraid of the dark, or enclosed spaces and don't get squeemish I would definitely recommend a visit.

We emerged from the tunnels about one kilometre along from the entrance to the catacombs and headed to Les Invalides, Napoleon Bonaparte's resting place. A quick stop for a pint and coffee on the way there to warm up meant we arrived in time to see the doorman closing up early for some reason at 5.30pm, so we headed to the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower was one of the last things on our list of places to visit. It's open until 11pm each night, which is good because it took 30mins in line just to get our tickets to the top. We paid slightly less (11 euro) to walk up the stairs to the second level rather than catch the lift.

It was bigger than I thought with two restaurants, a maze, shops and a cafe on the first level. We nievely wandered into a restaurant to ask if there was a table for two, but seemingly tables are reserved weeks in advance. Walking up the tower was great, not that we needed the exercise by that stage of the day, but every stair landing had interesting fact displays about historic events that had occurred on the tower and famous visitors. We had dinner at the a cafe and then stood in line on the second floor for 45mins to get the lifts up to the very top.

I can see why Paris is known as the city of lights - what a view. The Eiffel Tower itself contributes its own fair share by being lit up with thousands of twinkly lights all over on the hour. It also has a radiating beam of light that shines out from the top so its easily located at night from most areas in Paris. The direction and distance to both Wellington and Auckland are recorded at the top and although it can sway in the wind it felt safe out on the observation deck, but really cold.

A wonderful evening was complete with dinner at a restaurant near our hotel called La Brabant. Glynn enjoyed oysters and salad and I just went straight from soup to dessert - yum. I was absolutely shattered by the end of dinner, but you can't complain after a perfect day like that...and a lovely bottle of french pinot noir.

Friday - St Lazare

We only had a short time in the morning before needing to head to the airport, so we checked out of the hotel leaving our bags at the desk, and wandered around St Lazare. There had been no time for shopping during our stay, so we popped into Le Printemps, the largest department store in Paris, and about 5 mins walk from Hotel Langlois. We admired the pastries while we drank our coffee.

Sadly it was time to leave. We caught the airport bus this time rather than the train, which leaves from the National Opera House, another stunning landmark.

There were so many places we didn't get to visit, so I'm already looking forward to returning to the beautiful city of lights.