Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year, Everybody

I am very deliberately going to answer the same questions I answered 12 months ago, even though some of them are perhaps not quite the same questions I would ask of myself twelve months later. If I think of any new questions, I will put them at the end. Looking back from January 1, I am struck by how much better were the parties I attended this year.

Countries I visited in 2003
United Kingdom, France (three times), Spain, Germany, Australia, Japan, Belgium.

Countries I visited in 2003 that I had not visited before
None, although I almost went to Denmark and Sweden

Greatest product I discovered while travelling to one of these countries
No such countries.

Greatest product I discovered in a country I had visited before
Authentic bouillabaisse in Marseilles

Total number of countries visisted in my life
33 (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, USA, Canada, UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Kenya, Tanzania, Portugal, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Thailand, Nepal, Macau, Finland, Estonia, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium, Turkey).

Number of these countries that no longer exist
3 (Czechoslovakia, Macau and Hong Kong, although you can argue both that Hong Kong and Macau are still countries or that they never were).

Best theatrical production I saw this year
I didn't see a single theatre production on stage this year. (Pathetic. Must do better).

Movies I most enjoyed in 2003
Spirited Away, The Return of the King, Matchstick Men. (It has been a truly awful year for movies).

Most over the top (and very Japanese) movie I saw this year
Spirited Away . (Not actually over the top, but Japanese at least. Must see more over the top Japanese movies in 2004).

Books that I most enjoyed reading in 2003
Engines of Creation by K Eric Drexler (which I should have read a decade ago), Beyond a Boundary by CLR James (ditto).

Musical acts that I would have liked to have seen, and that I could have seen in London in 2002 if I had bought tickets in time, but didn't
Saint Etienne.

Favourite television program of 2003
For the last time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Most stunning place I visited in 2003
The Basque coast between Bilbao and Donostia/San Sebastian, with Marseilles being a close second. (Tokyo is always stunning, too)

Place I visited where I felt most like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes, he spied the Pacific, and all his men looked at each other, wild with surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien
The observation deck around Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles, looking out over the Mediterranean.

Great bridges I walked over in 2003
The year wasn't actually a great one for me and bridges. The trip to Sweden and Denmark was intended as a principally bridge related trip, but it got called off at the last moment. I also had some thought of going to see the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge that connects Kobe to Shikoku, but I was unable to manage the stopover in Osaka that would have been necessary for this. I suppose that the Pont de Gard counts as a "great bridge", although it is actually an aqueduct. This is another of those "Must do better" situations. (I really need to see the Iron Bridge in Shropshire).

Great Bridges I travelled over in vehicles in 2003
Isambard Brunel's Saltash Bridge at Plymouth.

Great Bridges I saw, but did not travel over in 2003
None immediately come to mind.

Great tunnels I travelled through in 2003
The Channel Tunnel.
The Rotherhithe Tunnel.
(These were listed last year, but I did go through both of them again this year on multiple occasions. Possibly I need to go to Switzerland to do better in this category. If I had made the trip to Denmark, this would have give me something extra in this category, too).

Other places I visited in 2003 that are of interest to the hacker tourist
The Museum of Undersea Telegraphy in Porthcurno, Cornwall. I think the Pont de Gard probably qualifies here, too.

Places that are of interest to Jane Austen fans that I visited in 2003
I didn't really do any Jane Austeny things this year. (I still haven't managed to get to Lyme Regis where Louisa Musgrove fell over in Persuasion).

Most upsetting event of the year.
Terrorist attacks on both Turks and British in Istanbul.

Rawest emotional reaction of the year
My reaction to the anti-Bush demonstrations in London a month or two back.

Moments in 2003 that most reminded me how Australian I still am
Watching the World Cup cricket final in a crowd of Australians in a bar in Shepherd's Bush. Watching the World Cup rugby semi-final in a faux Irish pub full of Australians and New Zealanders in Shibuya, Tokyo. Being quite annoyed by the extent to which the Australian sportsmanship was disparaged by the English press during the rugby World Cup. Sitting in a bar in Belgium with a couple of random Sydneysiders and drinking beer for the evening.

Most time consuming but rewarding activity I took up in 2003.
Digital photography. (Not nearly as time consuming as blogging, which was the answer last year).

And, we have one new question.

Most surreal literary/travel experience in 2003.

Sitting in a cafe in Avignon in Provence, reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Blue Mars, a scece of which was set in the exact place I was sitting, but 125 years in the future.

May 2004 be as interesting.


Most unexpected thing that happened to me in 2003

Becoming a world famous hobbit

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