Monday 29 April 2019

A la Ronde a unique little building in Devon with fine views looking out over the countryside towards the Exe estuary. 
It was built in 1796 to a design conceived by the maiden cousins Jane and Mary Parminter in order to house their shell collection.  

The cousins designed this unusually shaped 16 sided building originally with a thatched roof. The most important consideration for them was to ensure that they gained as much possible natural light throughout the day into the top of the building. 
They busied themselves every day creating a shell gallery in the upper lantern room using their very large collection of shells, feathers, sand, seaweed, and crushed minerals.
The Parminter family had very extensive business interests - Jane was born in 1750 in Portugal where her father owned a wine export company. Independent wealth gave both of these women an unusual amount of freedom for that period in time.
They both set off together on a Grand Tour and it is considered that they may have been travelling for around four years. There was no set time or programme to a Grand Tour and four years or even longer was quite normal. 
It is likely that Jane and Mary conceived the idea of their own shell gallery following a visit made to the shell grotto on the island of Isola Bella in Lago Maggiore, Italy.
Sadly, now over 300 years old, it is no longer possible to actually see their shell craftwork - it is far too fragile for many visitors to walk around the narrow gallery.
looking up to the shell gallery
However, luckily I can still remember visiting it as a child, my parents brought me here whilst holidaying in Devon. It is now only viewable from a 3D screen, but that does not negate in anyway from the pleasure of being in such a delightful little building. 
The shell gallery via National Trust

Sunday 21 April 2019

Choose Optimism

........and you will feel much better. Do something that will personally lift your own spirits whatever that may be. Currently all of us are being bombarded on a daily basis with so much negativity and strife. I am feeling particularly shocked by the most recent news. I have just realised that one of the bombs that exploded in Sri Lanka happened in the Cinnamon Grand hotel, a place where we stayed for one night on our arrival in Sri Lanka 10 months ago. The man who exploded the bomb booked into the hotel on Easter Saturday, and then calmly walked into the breakfast room the following day with a bomb strapped inside a rucksack on his back. Just as many of the guests were enjoying their Sunday breakfast he exploded the bomb.  
I took a walk around the garden, a good way to lift my spirits, and whilst I was there I noticed that the warm weather had finally opened up the tightly coiled copper spearlike buds of the Beech Trees. 
The newly emerging leaves are a lovely chartreuse green with silky hairs running around their edge. They do, however, quickly loose these downy hairs, and become a darker shade of green as they mature. Now is the moment to enjoy them during their brief infancy, and catch them if you can on a day when the sun filters it way through their baby leaves.
Walking in the Beech Woods at this time of year is always an uplifting moment for me, and we are fortunate to have some beautiful trees sitting on the steep Cotswold escarpment where we live.

These giant trees soar forever straight and true and have done so for more than 200 years. 
With a profusion of wild garlic and bluebells at their feet, walking in mother natures kingdom offers up a haven of peace and serenity in our tumultuous world.

Friday 19 April 2019

A Flower For Easter

Pasqueflowers are not easily found - they rank amongst the ten rarest wild flowers in Britain.
They bloom during this Easter period, hence the name pasque, a word derived from pasakh, which is Hebrew for Passover.
It prefers to grow undisturbed in chalk and limestone grasslands, and can be found here in the Cotswolds just a stones throw from where I live. However, unless you know exactly where to look, finding it can be tricky. 
Several myths and legends surround the Pasqueflower -  it is said that the plant was first created from drops of Adonis' blood after he was gored by a wild boar on Mount Lebanon - Adonis being the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite. Others say that the plant sprang from her tears after she learnt of his death. An alternative legend states that the flower sprang from the blood of dead Viking warriors, probably because it thrives in this country on some of our chalky Neolithic Barrows. Years ago I lived in Hertfordshire, and it was there that I saw my first wild Pasqueflower. The flowers were thriving near to the small town of Royston on a well drained, chalky, grassy mound called Church Hill, but a mound that is known to be a prehistoric chamber tomb. 
Fairy folk lore tells of fairies resting inside it's furry flowers at sundown.
With it's purple petals covered in long, silky, white, hairs, bright yellow stamens, and grey-green feathery leaves, it is actually possible to grow these little gems, but only if you have a southerly aspect, and well drained chalky/alkaline soil. They can be hard to establish, but once they are thriving, they will continue to flourish as long as you leave them undisturbed.
Wishing you all a Very Happy Easter.

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Notre Dame, Paris

As a result of the devastating fire in Notre Dame Cathedral last night, I am showing a repost from my last visit in 2015.
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture
Before entering the cathedral, it is worth looking upwards to observe the stonework surrounding each of the three great western portal doors. Carved in 1220 the first portal depicts scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and the third shows scenes from the life of St. Anne (the Virgin Mary's mother). It is, however, the central portal showing 'The Last Judgment' that particularly caught my eye.
On the lower lintel, the dead are being resuscitated and awakened from their tombs by angels blowing trumpets. Above the archangel Michael is weighing their souls according to the lives they led on earth and the love they showed to God and to man. The chosen people are led to the left towards Heaven (on Christ's right) and the condemned are lead to the right, to hell, by evil looking devils. In the tympanum, Christ is seated in majesty on his throne of glory, reminding the observer that he came to earth to save humankind through his sacrifice on the cross. He is showing the wounds on his hands and side whilst the two angels next to him bear the instruments of Passion: the angel on the left is holding the spear and the nails of the Cross, and the angel on the right is holding the Cross itself. Mary and John the Baptist, kneel behind the angels in support of Christ as they did at his crucifixion. At the top can be seen the Heavenly Court showing angels, patriarchs, prophets, martyrs and virgins
A medieval stone carvers idea of heaven and
hell - lots of lively antics going on here!!!
In closeup note the anxious and distressed faces of the condemned and the wicked expressions of the devils. Amongst the condemned are bishops, monks, kings and queens. Beneath the lintel the resurrected, their eyes still sealed in death, are pushing up their tomb lids. One has to marvel at the exquisite artistry and vivid imaginations of these medieval stone carvers

The South Rose Window
The three rosettes Notre-Dame de Paris are some of the greatest glass masterpieces in Christianity. The South Rose Window was donated by King St. Louis designed by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil. The rosette is dedicated to the New Testament and has 84 panes divided into four circles. The first one has 12 medallions and the second has 24. A third circle is made up of quadrilobes, and the fourth circles has 24 trilobes. This window features the religious symbolic number 4, along with its multiples, 12 and 24
A 1000 years of hand stroking has polished the base of these stone pillars
Just like York Minster in England which suffered a similar devastating fire in 1984, Notre Dame, will once again, hopefully, rise from the ashes.

Saturday 13 April 2019

The Monastery of Agia Triada Tsangarolon

 sits in a large olive grove. The long stately driveway is lined with pairs of cypress trees, and on arrival you are greeted by this impressive renaissance stairway. The steps lead on up to a courtyard filled with orange trees, and entrance to the church. The monastic community is now very small but it still plays an important role in the religious and economic life of Crete. 
A Byzantine Imperial yellow flag showing a double-headed eagle and crown flies at the entrance. The flag does not have any official status in Greek Orthodox Churches, but shows an allegiance to the Patriarch of Constantinople. This is not dissimilar to the way that Catholic churches around the world fly the Vatican Flag.
The monastery has lots of cats which are very happy to be stroked and photographed but pictures showing the other incumbents are not allowed.

The church is built in a typically Byzantine architectural cruciform style and has three domes. At the front there are two pairs of Doric columns and a pair of Corinthian columns on either side of the main entrance.

The interior of the church is colourful and extremely ornate.

The monastery library has many fine, rare books, and the museum houses a collection of icons, and silver.
They produce and export organic olive oil, fine wines, honey, vinegar and soap made using their olive oil - all of which are highly regarded.

Having been given samples of their wines, and homemade bread dipped in various different flavoured oils and vinegars - all agreed that it was excellent.

Sunday 7 April 2019


Spinalonga is a small island located in north-eastern Crete. The Venetians built a formidable fortress on the island in 1579 to enable them to control the approaches to the Gulf of Mirabello. Following the 1669 Ottoman/Venetian war, Heraklion (Candia as it was known then) fell to the Turks, but the Venetians continued to hold Spinalonga. It wasn't until fifty years later in 1715 that they were finally forced to surrender the island to the Turks.
The boat for Spinalonga leaves the mainland at Elounda - you can sail around the island, or if you have plenty of time go ashore to explore.
Due to the islands remoteness it became a leper colony in 1903. You may know or have heard about the island if you have read Victoria Hislop's novel, The Island. Although the colony was cut off from everyone, they managed to create a community amongst themselves. Leprosy had long been feared since biblical times when lepers were treated as 'unclean'. The unsightly deformities which affected their faces and limbs were believed to be evidence of their sins. This belief lasted for centuries even until the early 20th century when it was still considered to be a highly contagious and incurable disease. It is in fact a mildly infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. Today we know that it doesn't spread easily and treatment is very effective.
The colony buildings are now just empty shells.
However, the Venetian fortifications appear to be mainly intact, and are impressive. 
Mainland Elounda was formally a peaceful fishing town, but is now one Greece's most luxurious destinations with the highest concentration of five star hotels and holiday homes after Santorini.

It would make an ideal destination for family holidays with it's beautiful beaches, warm sea, fishing, and boating. The island would be a perfect place for children to explore, and have adventures.