Bilgola Beach, Sydney, Australia.

The view of Bilgola Beach from our Airbnb.

I joined our niece, Lauren, together with two of my daughters and four grandchildren, in Bilgola Beach, a suburb in northern Sydney, Australia. Lauren was enjoying a respite, during the school holidays, from the freezing winter in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where she is currently living.

Our party numbered 13 in all. Lauren, her two boys and stepdaughter; we seven, plus a friend of my granddaughter, Shannon; and Gail, an old friend of Lauren’s, with her daughter, Mia. Lauren had booked us all in to a three-story Airbnb, so we could catch up and enjoy some beach time. Fortunately, the house was big enough to accommodate all.

Bilgola Beach is in a bay between two cliffs

Our first day at the beach

Australian beaches are generally safe as long as you only swim between the flags, where there are lifeguards on duty. But, just to be safe, Tatum (pictured centre in the sea) was with the children, while the other adults relaxed on the beach under Jainy’s tent.

Casey and Jordy playing cards

One day a violent storm came through, but the children managed to amuse themselves by playing games and watching television.

Finley watching TV

One morning, Jordy was up early, and was fascinated by the birds that came to perch on the balcony.

Here is his favourite photo of a Kookaburra

All the other kids thought that his photos were cool, so they started looking out for the birds, too. Sarah has a cockatiel at home, so when she saw a cockatoo, she wanted to feed it.

Sarah and Jordy feeding the birds

Two rainbow lorikeets being fed by Mia.

Even though these were wild birds, it seemed as though they had adapted to city life, and were happy to accept gifts from the children. It certainly kept everyone amused.

Thank you very much! Yummy!

We were constantly amused by the cockatoos

Each day more and more birds turned up. Lauren posted a video on Facebook after we left, showing, at least, 9 cockatoos, and numerous rainbow lorikeets, making a racket and demanding food. Probably a good thing they were all leaving the next day!

The storm passed, and everyone was able to enjoy the sea again.

Lauren and a freezing Finley, coming back onto the beach

Sarah and Shannon enjoyed the beach so much, they didn’t want to leave

Casey found another use for his surf board.

A photo to remember, when they all look back on their youth

We all had a wonderful time at Bilgola Beach. Many thanks to Lauren for organizing our few days together. It is a memory we shall all cherish in the years to come. Perhaps we can have another one next year? Just a thought!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Swiss Christmas Market, Abu Dhabi 2017

The annual Swiss Christmas Market is organized by the
Swiss Business Council in Abu Dhabi

The Swiss Christmas Market is a highly popular event on the expat calendar in Abu Dhabi. It is held each year in the Courtyard and Beach Garden of the Beach Rotana in the Al Zahiya Area, near the Abu Dhabi Mall.

I heard of the Swiss Christmas Market through the Expat Ladies Coffee Morning Group who had arranged a visit. Before sampling the market's wares, we gorged on a sumptuous Christmas High Tea in the Beach Rotana Hotel.

Members of our group enjoying the Swiss Christmas market

This 4-day event features wooden chalets resembling a Swiss village, where vendors can sell seasonal items and handicrafts, accompanied by traditional Swiss music, while sampling traditional Swiss gourmet delights.

“Original Appenzeller Streichmusik Alder”

This band – “Original Appenzeller Streichmusik Alder” - is one of the most famous Swiss folklore bands. They provided the perfect musical background to the market.  I almost felt like I should be dancing from chalet to chalet, in time with their lively music.

People from all over the world are here in Abu Dhabi.
This stall is from South Africa

Sometimes it’s hard to resist such beautifully made items.

There was an amazing variety of handwork on display…

…that we really needed more time to enjoy it all.

There were plenty of people keen to shop…

…in the prettily decorated chalets.

I spent some time chatting to Andy Anderson, a fellow photographer,
who was selling examples of his wall art.

Andy had a wonderful selection of images, and also copies of his book, "The United Arab Emirates Through My Eyes", which is on sale in Spinneys and in the Louvre, Abu Dhabi. Andy is a very talented photographer, who I am now following on Facebook. I love his work, which I found very inspiring.

A very Merry Christmas to all.

Elizabeth Coughlan


United Arab Emirates Celebrates 46 Years

Highly skilled pilots gave a heart-stopping aerobatic display.

National Day is always a major event in Abu Dhabi, with lots of entertainment. This year was no exception. The United Arab Emirates’  Airforce, with their death-defying stunts, entertained the thousands that gathered on the Corniche to watch them.

The jets soared high into the sky,
Streaming the colours of the National Flag behind them.

Another group of jets gave us a rainbow across the sky…

…which the wind blew into colourful clouds…

…hanging over the city

Suddenly, a beautiful arc appeared, followed by another…

…Leaving a heart, suspended in the sky.

All too soon, they were gone, 
leaving their colourful clouds suspended over Abu Dhabi.

I do hope I get to see this again next year. It really is a wonderful spectacle.

Elizabeth Coughlan


We Visit the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

The Louvre Abu Dhabi provides a unique perspective on presenting the history of mankind. Here, everything is arranged chronologically, so you travel through time, rather than individual cultures. This results in an eclectic mix of artifacts and artworks ranging from Prehistoric times through to the world of today.

Walkway to the Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi

Set on the edge of Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Jean Nouvel, a Pritzker Prize winning French architect. Although there are 55 separate buildings in the museum, all are sheltered by the enormous 180 metre “Rain of Light” dome, composed of 7,850 stars.

The “Rain of Light” Dome in the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

“Rain of Light” on visitors to the museum

There are 23 galleries in the museum, divided into 12 separate chapters, showing the similarities in the development of different cultures throughout history. They demonstrate that, whatever their perceived cultural differences, all mankind has a shared intuition leading to the development of civilization.

Although many of the exhibits are loaned from the Louvre, Paris, and from other museums, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has also begun collecting its own artifacts for display.

The galleries begin with the first village communities, when  beliefs and rituals bound people together in groups.

Monumental Statue with Two Heads, dating from about 6500 BC 
(Department of Antiquities, Jordan)

This two-headed statue is one of the oldest monuments in the history of man. It was discovered in  the Neolithic village of Ain Ghazal, Jordan. It is not clear whether these are two ancestors, or two divinities, but it shows there was a belief system in place at that time.

Gradually the first kingdoms appeared, when powerful individuals began to be revered. This happened in all parts of the world at a similar time.

 Together in the same gallery are the statues of Gudea, Prince of Lagash,
and Ramesses II, pharaoh of Egypt.

Although the Greeks in the 5th century were renowned for concentrating on the human figure in their art, other artists elsewhere preferred to focus on animals as their symbolic decorations.

A winged dragon from Northern China, 475-221 BC, Louvre Abu Dhabi,
and a weight in the form of a lion, from Iran, Susa, about 330 BC.

Kingdoms gradually gave way to empires from about 1,000 BC, on most continents. But despite their differences in beliefs, and the distances separating them, there are surprising similarities in their art-work. The following two statues, while exhibiting cultural differences, were both inspired by the Greek tradition of sculpture, evident in the folds of their robes.

The statue of the “Orator”, sculpted in Rome in the 1st century BC, and
The statue of the bodhisattva, which was produced during the same period in Gandhara.

Leaping forward to the 18th century, art became focused on the individual, especially monarchs and important leaders. Many artistic pieces strove to create an historical record of the time for perpetuity.

Portrait of George Washington, First President of the United States by Gilbert Stuart, 1822, and
Portrait of Voltaire, French writer and philosopher by Nicholas de Largilliere, 1718…

…and Napoléon Bonaparte, Crossing the Alps on 20 May 1800 by Jacques-Louis David, 1803

When photography began to become a popular way of recording images, it revolutionised artistic creation. Painters began changing the way they translated their vision onto canvas.

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet, 1866, Musée d’Orsay

Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887. Musée d’Orsay

The Louvre Abu Dhabi presents the history of art right up to the present time, in a variety of genres.

Chirisei Kyubiki by Kazuo Shiraga, Japan, 1960. Louvre Abu Dhabi

For this, the artist  put the canvas on the ground and painted it with his feet. The artist described it as a struggle between himself, colour, and matter.

 Fountain of Light by Ai Weiwei, 2016 Louvre Abu Dhabi

Food for Thought, Al Muallaqat by Maha Malluh, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Louvre Abu Dhabi

These eleven burned cooking pots were used to cook a traditional goat stew. For the artist, this is a visual poem, demonstrating the pots, blackened by fire, but retaining the imprint of the stories told during meal times in the nomadic tradition.

This is just a brief overview of all the Louvre museum, Abu Dhabi has to offer. It is an exciting way to present the history of the world through art, in a unique way, that brings together shared experiences and intuitions. I will definitely go again, and if you ever have the chance, you should too.

 Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!