It’s hard to believe that almost a week has passed already since I left home and not a single blog update of what’s been happening. If you missed the backstory on why I’m attending a farming conference in France, read here.
Last Monday I departed home and travelled to Adelaide, in preparation for my leisurely 9:35am flight from Adelaide to Sydney. After a pleasant flight to Sydney my adventure really begun by meeting up with some of my fellow Nuffield Scholars in the Qantas Sydney International lounge. This world of nice food, pleasant surroundings and excited conversation was a clue to the fact that I was getting on a plane to another place.
Not only another place physically, as we endured long 24 hour Sydney-Dubai-London flights. But another place socially, emotionally and even, dare I say it, intellectually.
Wednesday Arriving in London at 6am gave us a whole day to explore the city and acclimatise. We were greeted by a typical London winters day, around 6 degrees with occasional light rain. But despite the thermometer, it didn’t feel as cold as I imagined it to be. Our winters at home are almost always windy, here it was still and made the cold much more bearable. I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone with my love of cricket. So after clearing immigration we caught the train into the centre of London. Featuring my first ever ride on the London tube in morning peak hour. We dropped our bags at The Farmers Club, where we would be staying and set off for Lords. I felt like a kid in a candy store visiting the home of cricket. Going through the Long Room, the dressing rooms and up into the media centre was brilliant. The rest of our day was taken up with a walking tour and dinner followed by early bed. I’ve never come so close to falling asleep standing up before.
Thursday was a full day of meetings and briefings on our upcoming Global Focus Programs. We did some behaviour profiling using the DiSC analysis, had briefings and advice given on how to travel cohesively with 9 others in close quarters for several weeks. Following these in the evening we had a short talk given to us by an AusTrade representative based in Brussels. This was an introduction to European Agriculture and the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) which is the legislation that deals with the farm subsidy programs in Europe and the UK. An interesting and stimulating look into another world for us Aussie producers. I think this topic of subsidies is going to keep coming up over our time here in France and in the UK. I also got to hand out my first business card to my Victorian Agent General in Paris. So that was exciting.
Friday had us up before the sun to catch the tube back to Heathrow airport for our long and endurance testing 45 minute flight from London to Paris. It was actually neither of those things, probably the shortest flight I’ve ever been on. After checking into our hotel at lunchtime we had a bus tour of Paris. It was a stunning sunny day in the city of love and while Tiarnee and I had been there before it was great to go back. Paris is truly beautiful. Magnificent. At the completion of our driving tour several of us decided to stay in the city for tea. This was a great decision. A wander past the Notre Dame cathedral and across the Seine into the Latin (student) district was wonderful. Wandering up some alleyways reminded me a bit of Melbourne only on a grand scale. The Guillotine Pub hosted us for a drink before the most hilarious and entertaining tea at the La Marathon resturant. We paid $10 Euro for a basic 3 course dinner complete with entertainment from our hysterically funny Philipino waiter. Who was apparently a talented martial artist.
Saturday – Saw us spend the day at the Salon International de l’Agriculture. (International Agricultural Show) in Paris. An agricultural show that attracts 700,000 people over 9 days each year. It was estimated there was around 100,000 people there the day we were as it was a weekend. It was an interface between the public and agricultural producers that I’m not sure we have back at home. Certainly not on the same scale. It was the Parisian answer to our Royal Shows in Australia. But there were no gimmicks. No rides or fireworks or clowns. The whole show was solely based around food promotion and marketing and consumer education.