Sunday 28 June 2015


Architectural Quiz - the Eiffel Tower - Amy, Olympia, Gina, biebkriebels, Inge, Mark, Mac n' Janet, Catherine, Jim, and last but not least "Britta" were all correct - very well done 

Designed by engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, whose company built the tower as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. The radical design was criticised by 300 of France's leading artists, architects, and intellectuals who signed the following manifesto - "We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, passionate lovers of the beauty, until now intact in Paris, hereby protest with all our might, with all our indignation, in the name of French taste gone unrecognised, in the name of French art and history under threat, we are against this construction set in the very heart of our capital - the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower."
A bride and groom dance beside the Eiffel Tower to the delight of onlookers
Intended to be a temporary structure, the tower has become both a global and cultural icon for France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The domed building beyond the tower is the École Militaire - our 18 year old granddaughter attended a black-tie birthday party in there on the evening we flew home from Paris
The École Militaire was founded in 1750 and in 1784 it was where the 15 year old Napoleon Bonaparte was accepted, graduating in only one year instead of two
L'Hôtel National des Invalides
A wonderful Baroque series of buildings housing a Military Museum, Church, Hospital, Retirement Home for war veterans, and the burial site of some of France's war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte
The stunning golden dome on the church can be seen for miles and is easily recognisable because of its great height and exquisite beauty. Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, French architect, whose work is generally considered to be the apex of Baroque architecture in France representing the power and grandeur of Louis XlV.

Jardin des Invalides - the low building is where war veterans live 
The entrance door to the chapel of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides
De La Foss's allegories painted in the dome

Marble steps lead down to the tomb situated in a sunken rotunda immediately below the dome 
The tomb made from red quartzite resting on a green granite base is huge - Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena in 1821, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought back to France in 1840. 

Historical war trophy banners seized in battle decorate either side of the chapel 

Inner Court housing the Army Museum
The north front of Les Invalides showing Mansart's dome sitting behind Bruant's entrance with its handsome rounded pediment 

Friday 26 June 2015

Architectural Quiz

What is its name?
Comment moderation switched off - correct answers retained until Sunday morning

Tuesday 16 June 2015

French Apricot Conserve

As I fly away to Paris visiting eldest son and family why don't you bring a taste of France to your homes and make some delicious French Apricot Conserve. I have shown this recipe before, but it is so quick and easy that even a child could make it. I am not a jam maker, and would never contemplate attempting this conserve if it was not simple, life is just too short.
I purchased three packets of apricots from Lidl which worked out at £2.50 per kilo plus sugar 
1 kilo stoned apricots
750 grams sugar
That's it - two ingredients - absolutely nothing else!
Leave the washed and stoned apricots in a large bowl covered in all the sugar for at least 18 - 24 hours. After that time they will look like the photo above - this is called macerating. The apricots are now surrounded by their own concentrated viscous juice and the sugar has almost dissolved
Now bring to the boil gently 
Boiling point reached
Simmer for 20 - 25 mins
Put into warm sterilised jars, screw on lids 
and seal the French way by turning jars upside down until they cool - that's it, what could possibly be easier or quicker


Saturday 13 June 2015

Kentchurch Court

The Scudamore Bear
Leaving the Laskett Garden our travels took us deeper into Herefordshire to Kentchurch Court nestling under Garway Hill in the Monnow Valley.
The Lucas-Scudamore family have lived here for almost 1,000 years
The house dates from the 14th century, but the family trace their roots back to 1042 when Ralph Scudamore came to Herefordshire from Normandy and built a castle in Ewyas Harold for Edward the Confessor
Deer roam the surrounding parkland
Kentchurch Court is an English C14 fortified manor house sitting in five thousand acres close to the Welsh borders. In 1795 the interior of the house was modernised in the Gothic Style by John Nash using a schedule of designs put forward earlier by Anthony Keck.  In 1820 Thomas Tudor completed the alterations by adding a new front door and a barrel vaulted ceiling to the hallway
Lunch was taken beneath the watchful eyes of some Scudamore ancestors - there was also some fine Grinling Gibbons wood carving to admire.
First and foremost Kentchurch Court is a family home run by Jan Lucas-Scudamore, the very welcoming and friendly owner. She took us on a private tour of the house, but had to abandon us towards the end leaving us in the very capable hands of her young daughter and baby grandson
Strolling around the grounds and gardens I reflected on how wonderful the flowers have been this year. Even roadside verges resemble colourful herbaceous borders
All gardens, my own included, are filled with Aqualegias showing off their many different hues from white through to deepest purple. What promiscuous but pretty little flowers they are busily seeding themselves everywhere!
The Kentchurch walled gardens held a huge varied of colourful flowers all jostling for attention 
A Gothic Perpendicular window on the far side of the house floods the interior hallway with light
Across the lawn a pathway leads into a Rhododendron wood which then goes down to a tributary of the Monnow river
A Flame/Fire Tree grows in the woods
I am not very familiar with these trees but believe this one is Embothrium coccineum - Chilean Fire Tree
It would have been lovely to walk down to the river
but it was time to take our leave

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Laskett garden

To understand this garden it is important to know something about the two owners. It is a deeply personal space created by Sir Roy Strong and his late wife Dr Julia Trevelyan Oman reflecting their lives, loves, interests and careers 

Following their marriage in 1973, they purchased this early Victorian house set on the corner of a four acre triangular plot in Herefordshire, the land amounted to nothing more than a field 

Sir Roy Strong joined the National Portrait Gallery in 1959 and became its Director in 1967. In 1973 around the time of their marriage he became the Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, a post which he resigned in 1987 to pursue a freelance career in the media and as a writer. Julia was a renown film, theatre and television designer and her understanding of the use of perspectives is evident throughout the garden - Laskett is very flamboyant and highly theatrical.
From the entrance pillars that lead you into the garden to the last exit it is obvious whose garden is being visited! It provokes strong feelings amongst visitors - love, not sure, or even dislike. 
It is not possible to visit the garden as an individual. Admission to the grounds is open to groups of 20 or more only, one in the morning and one in the afternoon for 2 days per week - I went with my Fine Art Society
My feelings are that a garden does not have to be 'one size fits all' or conform to any particular stereotypical style. 
What pleases one eye will not necessarily appeal to another
Since Julia's death in 2003 Sir Roy Strong has embellished the outside of the early Victorian house so that it now resembles one from the Georgian Period. In the garden too he has reconfigured it and added many more features 
Nymphaeum - an Italianate tableau constructed this year to mark Sir Roy's 80th birthday. The statue in the middle of the grotto is Apollo.  
The criteria for me when visiting a new garden is whether I enjoy walking through it, hopefully spying some, new to me, flowers and seeing interesting ideas and surprises along the way - Laskett fulfilled that brief
I should have listened more closely to my audio guide! Is this stone plaque on the house wall Sir Roy Strong? - after all he has written a book called 'The Cult of Elizabeth' 
image from The National Portrait Gallery, London
here he is dressed as an Elizabethan gentleman -  what do you think?
It appears to link with this creation of an Elizabethan Tudor Avenue which comes 
complete with one of Queen Elizabeth I's emblems, a crowned pillar  
Gateway leading to the Colonnade Court - originally a kitchen garden. The area is now a concourse for events
Stag - just look at those golden antlers!
The lead artichoke sculpture appealed to me - thank goodness the gold leaf has been kept well away from it!
Silver Jubilee garden

Diamond Jubilee Urn
I have probably shown about a third of the Laskett Garden here. It was a garden that I enjoyed wandering through with lots of surprises down each pathway and around every corner. 
 My only comment would be that I personally would not have so many garden statues, urns, and buildings, nor cover stone with paint and gold leaf,
but it was a visit that I enjoyed and so did the majority of our group