16 February 2014

Circum-navigated the globe, now back in the saddle

Back in the Saddle !

I have just returned from traveling right around the globe with my family.

We had a great time: From the tropical beaches to the (almost) frozen north. Our travels took us from the beaches of Thailand to London, Paris, Dublin, to California, Tahiti and home. Tried to soak up as much history as we went, but not always easy if you have 3 female folk who are not particularly enarmoured with military museums and gaming shops.

Had to suffice with the Tower of London, Dark Sphere (see my Fantasy blog and previous post  for details on this), and Hamleys Toy Shop. Struck there again how disadvantaged we antipodeans are by living on a pimple on the backside of the world. Prices are astronomical here, even the humble Airfix kit is overpriced when compared to European and US prices. (Have already had my GW rant on my Fantasy blog)

Did find this ornate gem at the Tower of London:


A cannon right out of the Warhammer world. Apparently commissioned for the Knights of Malta in the defense of the Island of Malta.

Had to pass on the Imperial War Museum (Apparently they are renovating for the Centenary of WW 1 anyhow)  and Bovington (Aaaarrrgh!)

The whole of Europe is so steeped in history that you don't have to look far anyhow. You literally trip over history as you walk the Capitals of Europe ! The obligatory bus-top tour gave the kids a good idea of the lay of the city, and also a brief run-down on British History. Equally fascinating was a visit to Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, where the Butler Family held court for centuries, in all accounts a pretty Anglophile family them !

Night at the real Museum

The trade-off with the youngest of my female offspring was to go to the Natural History Museaum, which is a treat for any Paleontolophile anyhow. The animatronic T. Rex was the obvious favourite here.

Paris saw a lightning visit to the Catacombs for Luc and I. A macabre but very tangible connection to history. We were physically able to touch and see what remains of participants in the historical events of old Paris: Strange to see the actual bones of victims of the guillotine and the uprising that inspired Victor Hugo to pen Les Misrables:

The principal events of Les Misérables took place in 1832. The July Revolution two years earlier had put the Orléanist monarchy on the throne, under the popular “Citizen King” Louis-Philippe.  Popular for awhile, that was.  Despite his unpretentious manners and a character that Les Mis author Victor Hugo commended as “good” and “admirable,” the income gap widened and the conditions of the working class deteriorated.  By the spring of 1832, a deadly cholera epidemic had exacerbated a severe economic crisis in France.

In the early morning hours of June 5, crowds of workers, students, and others gathered in the streets of Paris.  The immediate trigger was the death of General Jean Maximilien Lamarque, who had been a friend to the poor and downtrodden.  The crowd had hoped to accompany Lamarque’s hearse before it took the general home to his native district in the southwest of France.  Those mourning and those with a political agenda merged into a mob that numbered in the tens of thousands – some witnesses claimed it eventually grew to 100,000.

The 30-year-old Victor Hugo was nearby, in the Tuileries Gardens, writing a play.  Then he heard gunfire from the direction of Les Halles.  Instead of going home to safety, he followed the sounds of gunfire through the deserted streets. He was unaware that the mob had taken half of Paris, and the barricades were everywhere in Les Halles.  Wikipedia reports that Hugo headed north up the Rue Montmartre, then turned right onto the Passage du Saumon, finally turning before the Rue du Bout du Monde (if this street still exists, it has a different name now): “Halfway down the alley, the grilles at either end were slammed shut. Hugo was surrounded by barricades and flung himself against a wall, as all the shops and stores had been closed for some time. He found shelter between some columns. For a quarter of an hour, bullets flew both ways.”  Three decades later, he would write about this unforgettable experience in Les Misérables.

The catacombs hold some of the bones of those unfortunate enough not to live to tell the tale. And many others...

15 February 2014

Dark Sphere and back: Circum-navigating the globe

Dark Sphere and back: In NZ again after 30 days' circum-navigating the globe

Back to blogging: I am back at the keyboard after 30 days of travelling the world, many great experiences and addition to the ever growing pile of un-built models.

 Luc and I are now working on our lists for the NZTC Warhammer  Tournament (Team Champs) coming up in March. He plans on fielding an Ogre list, and I am working on my Dark Elves (No surprise that, eh, with the great new rules and models)

Our trip took us around the world, from NZ to the land of cheap electronics (Malaysia), beach paradise no 1 (Koh Lipe, Thailand) The land of affordable Warhammer models and Anglophile history (UK), the land of Guiness beer, whiskey in a jar, and folk music (Eire), the land of great cheese, foi gras, garlic and red wine (and things Napoleonic) - France, to Tinseltown (US), and finally to beach paradise no 2 (Moorea, Tahiti) before winging our way back to Aotearoa (NZ)

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Dark Sphere, London's biggest gaming store, now in Lambeth, London. They recently moved, and are now situated a stone's throw from the Imperial War Museum. This shop just cannot be missed! We arrived at this gaming cornucopia after a visit to the Natural History Museum. (Trade-off with Lisa, as she didn't want to go to the IWM, and they are renovating for the 100th Anniversary of WW1 anyhow.

The bulging shelves of the right hand side of Dark Sphere's new home.

The purveyors of joy at Dark Sphere were still unpacking, having just moved into the new premises. Boxes of models were piled up to 3 metres high in places, and it took great discipline to stay within budget.

Needless to say being free of the mark-up we endure in NZ made the experience all the sweeter. We had to tear ourselves away, as it was getting late, and as usual when games meet we fell into taking about our hobby.

Looking forward to the next year of gaming the two of us had to discipline ourselves severely to stick to the agreed budget. We ended up buying a DE cauldron/medusa, warlocks/dark riders, scourge runner, Ogre fire belly and a unit of ogre bulls, an ironblaster (yes, Luc needed more ogres and another blaster!), Gor Rok, and a Carnosaur/Trogothingy, and board game that retails for $120 here, for the grand sum of 150 pounds ($300) Would have been even cheaper had we ordered it online beforehand.

I had to refrain from getting more Chaos Daemons and Empire stuff, as we still had 2 weeks of travel ahead of us, and resolutely looked past the racks and racks of Privateer Press, and almost any other model maker you could imagine. Yes, Battlefront was also there, but with price equity in NZ. Only Plastic Soldier Co was absent from the racks, and some of the more obscure brands, such as Wargods of Hyperborea (Crocodile games, which I had hoped to find there)

I have just calculated the cost of our GW haul if we had bought it here - $563NZ! (Not counting the $120+ board game, which would have brought the cost to $680+ had we bought these here)  We are talking almost a 100% mark-up. Surely this cannot be justified on transport costs alone.

Anyhow, we got the expected scolding from mommy dearest when we arrived back at our accommodation with 4 bags bulging with models and games. We swiftly de-boxed the models and posted them back to NZ for the princely cost of 15 Euros when we got to Dublin. (26-28 NZ$).