Perceptions so often create expectations, some good and others not so: when it comes to travel, I’m not immune to having my expectations surpassed. It’s not that I aim low – it’s more that I prefer not to count my chickens before they hatch. I tend to live by this somewhat simple philosophy, and over the years I’m sure it’s helped me dodge staring too often down the barrel of disappointment. I prefer to avoid pre-empting how things will be on the back of other people’s views. I’d much rather work stuff out for myself.
Fortunately my passion for exploring our beautiful planet has not dwindled in the slightest over the years… being on my third passport is testament to that. For a number of years it was sport that provided the vehicle for exploring and revelling in the opportunity to purchase duty-free when departing or returning home. I think it’s almost a mandatory part of international travel now. I see it as the ultimate chance of bagging a bargain.
As a child growing up on the banks of the mighty Murray River in beautiful Tocumwal, I’d often look skywards in amazement at the highflying aircraft. I’d think about the people on board and the exciting adventures they must be having.
Tocumwal, as my dad would remind me, was directly under the flight path from Brisbane to Melbourne. My work and the occasional family holiday have led me to concur with my dad about this, and thanks to my many flights I’ve become one of those travellers fortunate enough to have been on a plane flying over their home town on their very own exciting adventure. It’s wonderful to look down as proud as punch at the spot on earth where your childhood memories lay.
There are few nations better positioned than mine to beat its chest about its offerings not only to the people fortunate enough to call it home, but also to the many thousands that visit yearly. Over the years I’ve been sure not to neglect my own amazing country travel-wise.
In Australia we have a tendency to do things big. Some would say we’re famous for it. We have one of the biggest rocks in the world, we have the Big Pineapple, the Big Banana, the Big Koala… in Tocumwal we even have a Big Fish. There are many more Big things Australia can be proud of, and most locals in towns with something Big are only too pleased to let you know just why theirs is so special.
One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is that people from all over the world are proud of what they have in the place they call home, and sometimes it’s not just the locals shouting to the sky about their treasure. One place that seems to have the whole world talking up its features is Paris, the romantic capital of the world. It’s not a place I’d anticipated seeing so soon – after all, Paris is 25,423km from Tocumwal.
For many years I’ve heard of the captivating power of the Eiffel Tower, and I’ve imagined a tower so big that they’d needed to build a city just to accommodate it. I thought it would be so big that all of Australia’s Big things would seem like little toys in comparison.
I’ve recently seen the Eiffel Tower for myself. I approached by the same route taken by many a tourist before me, and at the risk of sounding somewhat spoilt for choice, at first I was a little – dare I say it? – disappointed. I’d expected more. I was ready to be lost in the size and beauty of what I’d come to believe was one of the most romantic places on earth, but sadly I wasn’t moved as I’d anticipated. It was something of an anti-climax.
I don’t recall an experience quite like the one I’ve just had in Paris. They say first impressions are the lasting ones. Well, I can honestly say my second and third impressions of the Eiffel Tower will stay with me for a lifetime for all the right reasons.
I’m a huge fan of illumination and the spectacle it provides. Someone who spends as much time and money wildly decorating his house with flashing lights come Christmas time as I do was always going to get back to the Tower to see how it came up after dark.
It was that return trip that changed everything. To see the Tower at night is a privilege, and something I’d suggest should be on everyone’s bucket list. I finally understood why the world has been singing its the praises for as long as I can recall. What an incredibly amazing spectacle the Eiffel Tower is at night. Just when you’re coming to terms with the true beauty of this man-made masterpiece, the clock strikes the hour and a light-shower second to none springs into life for the next 5 minutes. With strobe lights flashing from top to bottom it’s near impossible to look away. You break briefly to ensure you’ve managed to capture the perfect photo… though I’m not even sure that’s possible.
Any photo is highly likely to fall short of doing justice to what I can only describe as one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen.
On the back of this more-than-memorable trip I’m already planning my next adventure. As a huge fan of travel and with an increasingly open mind, I eagerly await the opportunity of experiencing another chapter of this extraordinary facet of life that’s only beyond your reach if you let it be.
Oh, and if you ever find yourself flying over Tocumwal, be sure to smile. I have no doubt there’ll be another little boy down there looking up and dreaming of one day sitting right where you are and heading off on his own excellent adventure.