Sunday, 5 July 2015


Weather report - heatwave over Britain and much of Northern Europe - warnings 'to take care'. It's not unusual for Wimbledon tennis fortnight to be hot - I sympathise with the tennis players fighting it out on the courts like gladiators of old in this weather. Wishing to escape the heat ourselves we took off for our nearest resort hoping to find some refreshing ocean breezes, but the seascape shimmered - and it was hot
Clevedon is an English Victorian seaside town - bandstand, pier, ice creams, lunches outside beneath stripey parasols, old folk sitting along the seafront gazing out to the distant horizon
Rock pool hunters seeking shells, shrimps, and any other aquatic treasures they might discover
Partially made out of discarded Isambard Kingdom Brunel railway lines, Clevedon Pier opened in 1869. It was described by Sir John Betjeman as "The Most beautiful little pier in England". The coastline beyond is Wales - Cardiff is over there somewhere. At the turn of the C20th there were over 100 piers around our coastline, but now there are only 56. All the ones that are left are now listed, and being actively preserved
Victorian seaside villas
Not a cloud in the sky
Victorian crown chimney pots marching along the rooftops!
It's a birds eye view from up here
Clevedon has the second highest tidal range in the world rising to over 47 feet from low water on Spring Tides - it can be very dangerous 
The old folk have abandoned their shady benches and gone home - an ice-cream cone for us and then we will do the same

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Washington Old Hall

In the heart of Washington village, located near the north east coast of England, is Washington Old Hall. It stands as a testimony to Anglo-American friendship. 
This charming Hall is an historic landmark with links to the first US President, George Washington. The house predominantly dates from the 17th century but still incorporates a large portion of the original 12th century building. It was once home to George Washington's ancestors and it is from here that they took the family name. By 1860 the house had slid down the social scale. It became a working class tenement for 70 years. During that time it was rented out with up to 35 people living in appalling conditions until 1930. It was due to be demolished in 1933 but was saved by Frederick Hill, a local School Master, who formed a preservation committee to protect it.
It is a place of pilgrimage for many visitors from across the pond, and every year on the 4th July they hold a special Independence Day ceremony.
The manor house and its pretty jacobean gardens provide a tranquil oasis.
There is plenty of box topiary hedging within the garden including this beautifully manicured woven feature.
The central hall within the manor house
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale - 1850 
George Washington, the first president of the US, was born in 1732 to Captain Augustine Washington and Mary Ball. 
Captain Washington was a direct descendant of Colonel John Washington who emigrated to Virginia from England in 1656.
John was a descendant of William de Hertburn, who acquired the original dwelling on the site of the Old Hall around 1183.
The house stayed within the Washington family until 1613 when it was sold to the Bishop of Durham.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


It's not unusual to see 'striking workers' parading through the streets of Paris flag waving, blowing trumpets, beating drums, and generally voicing their rights - some of which are extremely generous - for example many workers are able to retire on a full pension whilst still in their mid 50s 
There must always be plenty of work for the French arborists. Not only do the municipal parks and gardens have pollarded and pleached trees, but most roads, avenues, streets and pathways up and down the country have trees marching along them like regimental soldiers
Did you notice the elegant street lighting?

Beautiful bridges crossing the River Seine are collapsing from the weight of these so called love-locks - why do tourists continue to do it? not only damaging historical bridges but marring classic views along the river
Les amoureux, Jardin de Luxembourg
mode élégante
Don't you just love the street furniture?
Hector Guimard's Art Nouveau metro entrances
with their stylish organic flower bud lights
Wallace drinking fountains are a symbol of Paris found scattered along the sidewalks. Designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg, they are named after an Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction. A Wallace fountain can also be found outside the Wallace Collection in London, a gallery that houses works of art collected by him 
Art Nouveau glass canopies
and these quaint newspaper and magazine stands
I am guessing that this stylish little building in Jardin de Luxembourg could be where boules or pétanque is played. There is a stone bench seat running around the outside of the building - may be the equipment is safely stored inside!
How about sailing un bateau jolie - just choose your flag - 
and then sail it on the water in front of the Palais du Luxembourg?
Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the French baroque architect, was the person most responsible for popularising the mansard roof seen all across France. A mansard roof has steep sides often with a double pitch, and many have extraordinary dormer windows
Last year whilst visiting Paris I showed you the area where my son lives. It is an area by the River Seine which was not only beloved of the Impressionists but 
musicians too - one of which was Bizet
His home in Bourgival looking out across the Seine
Bizet had a brilliant student career at the Conservatoire de Paris but he died prematurely at the age of 37 years. For most of his life he suffered from recurrent throat complaints possibly aggravated by smoking.  Whilst completing Carmen he suffered attacks of what he called 'throat angina' and became depressed by the evident failure of Carmen. He decided to take a rest at his home in Bougival, and feeling a little better took a swim in the Seine. The following day he was afflicted by a high fever and pain which was followed by a heart attack. He seemed temporarily to recover, but three days later on his wedding anniversary, he suffered a second fatal attack
What about this life size, stylish, colourful snail? We had a very brief splash of rain during our time in Paris and at least 20 of these monsters crawled out from under our son's garden hedge. They are unlike snails seen in the UK - I think perhaps they have a little more 'je ne sais quoi' about them than ours!
What I enjoy about Paris is its timelessness
I like the fact that it is still the same Paris I discovered on my first visit as a teenager - my gilded memories remain intact
Unlike so many other cities, London included, 20th/21st century architecture is largely absent from the centre of Paris, apart from Pyramide du Louvre and Centre Pompidou 
Much of the modern glass and steel architecture, some of which is exciting and adventurous, is sited on the periphery of Paris at La Défense.
Taken on a hill in Saint.Germain-en-Laye 8 miles away from La Défense - Paris is hidden away on the far side
Finally the pound is strong against the euro - these little delights would have cost almost £1.50 last summer - this year they were the equivalent of just over £1, but I resisted