Paris – the very name is synonymous with fine taste, understated elegance, subtle beauty and discreet charm.
Paris architecture is uniform, proportioned, restrained and where there are flourishes of extravagance, they serve to highlight and underline the harmony of the whole.
Even nature in Paris is organised and ordered – straight lines of trees and parterres with patterned plantings fill the parks.
Generally here is nothing jarring or glaring in the Paris landscape. There is however, the odd aberration. I found the American Dream Multiplexe, in a beautiful little backstreet near the Opera some years ago. It stood among its nineteenth century neighbours, bold and brash, a riot of modern pop symbolism, a loud, unruly blot on the quiet, ordered streetscape – an American Dream in Paris.
No matter how you approach Rotorua, in the centre Aotearoa New Zealand’s North Island, you’re assured of some spectacular country.
Come from the North and you’ll cross the steep, rugged Mamaku Ranges, winding up and down through the bush until suddenly, the road straightens and there, just below, is Lake Rotorua, with Mokoia Island at its centre and the city spread around its shores.
Come from the east and you’ll follow a string of smaller lakes – Rotoma, Rotoehu and Rotoiti. You’ll pass by scorched, steaming, sulphur encrusted Tikitere thermal park, then through a small stretch of farmland until suddenly, there just ahead, is the island, the lake and Rotorua.
Come from the south and you’ll travel through plantations of pines, then through dry, pumice land where steam curls upwards from breaks in the low scrub and where the scent of sulphur hangs in the air. Finally you crest a hill, round a bend and there before you is Rotorua.
Fly in and you’ll look down on farms laid out like crinkled green quilts, dark stands of pine, dense blue-green bush, bleached, steaming volcanic country and spread across it is a vast pattern lakes of totally impossible colours.