A quiet day in the country.

IMG_6951Today we went out for a quiet drive in the country. Mark came with us as well. The first stop on our agenda was Foxton Locks. It’s all to do with canals and boats and getting boats in canals up and down hills. Read the link if you want more detailed information. I have nothing more to give.

Glorious sky, isn’t it? Only two more days and I’ll be jumping miserably on the plane to come home. (Of course I’ll be happy to see Poppy and Jeff.)

(And the boys.)

IMG_6945

IMG_6949This cute little house at the top of the locks used to be the lock Master’s place. Now it’s a café. I like the lines against the skyline.

IMG_6944

It has swans and their cygnets. AND DOGS!!!

IMG_6962

I met and patted many dogs, but the best ones were Amber and Ruby, a mother and daughter Mini long-haired dachshund family. It’s a sign. (Maybe I need 2??)

IMG_6959

Look at how small they are. Amber is 10 and Ruby is 6. Poppy and Jeff need a little sister.

IMG_6964

After that dose of deliciousness we drove to Market Harborough because I haven’t been to a market town. Also, as an added bonus, this town was in Georgette Heyer’s ‘Cousin Kate’. This trip just keeps on giving.

Here’s the church, with a lovely sundial on it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take daylight savings into consideration.

IMG_6963

This was a very cute little building next to the church. It had a little second-hand market under it.

IMG_6969

On the way back to the car I saw this car with a picnic basket on the back.

IMG_6970

Now this next stop was pretty cool. Scott has been researching his family tree and last year he was driving through the countryside with some other friends who were staying with him when he recognised the name of the town they were in. They went to the churchyard and discovered the graves of 4 generations of his family. All in a row right by the church door. Imagine. It’s almost as if they were waiting for him.

So one of these is his great-great-great-great grandfather, and another one is the grave of the great-great grandmother who died in the insane asylum in Leicester. No comment.

Then we went to a pub for lunch. This pub used to be owned by his great-great-great-great grandfather. This guy was originally a wheelwright, which is why it’s called ‘The Wheel and Compass.’ They certainly feed you well here. We rolled out the door.

IMG_6977

Look! Here’s a badger! It was in an antiques place we went to on the way home.

IMG_6980Argh!

IMG_6979

The label on it said, “Scary animal from America’. I said to Scott and Mark that I should buy it to see what customs would say when I landed in Australia. They dared me, but I backed out.

IMG_6978

I saw these green Staffordshire dogs. I ummed and arred about getting these but we left without them. If I do a google search tonight and find out that they’re incredibly rare or something I’ll be getting Scott to drive back tomorrow. :)

IMG_6981

But look what I bought for myself. A marcasite and onyx bracelet. Look at my tanned arm, by the way. This is after being 2 months in the summer.

To be honest, I’m the most tanned I’ve ever been, but when I said that to Scott he laughed and laughed. “Frogdancer, you’re off-white,” he said. Which is quite true and is STILL the most tanned I’ve ever been.

Tonight I’m going to be getting my head around the awful fact that I have only one full day left in England. In a desperate bid to avoid going back to reality I looked at going to New York for a week to stay with some friends, but I’ve left the bid for a visa too late.

Tomorrow we go to see an Elizabethan mansion that William Cecil built. OMG.

Posted in holidays | 1 Comment

Bath.

IMG_6825

I decided to start the day with a walking tour. I think it’s the best way to orient yourself in a strange city, though from what I saw yesterday, Bath appears to be remarkably compact.

IMG_6823

I went with a free tour run by the Mayor’s department. While I was waiting there was a soprano singing outside the abbey. Bath has a lot of buskers, which gives a lot of life and jauntiness to the place. Except when a soprano sings something tragically operatic, of course.

IMG_6827

Beau Nash’s house!!! Seriously, you have to read this link to find out what his mistress did after he died. OMG.

IMG_6826

This is on the side of the house. Apologies for the greenery along the bottom. I had to take this quickly, as I didn’t want to lose my spot at the front of the walking tour. I get agitated if I fall amongst the dawdlers at the back.

IMG_6833

Look! A guerilla garden. I was so pleased to see this that I only gave a cursory look at where we were. I love this idea – that people take over neglected bits and bobs of land and actually use them, instead of just letting them fill up with litter and weeds.

Then our guide asked us if anyone was a fan of Jane Austen.

IMG_6835

The Gravel Walk… remember the love scene in ‘Persuasion’? THIS is where it’s set. Wewalked along it, feet crunching the gravel just as Anne and Captain Wentworth’s feet must have done in Jane’s head as she was writing it. And has hers obviously did in real life.

*sigh* Persuasion. Yet another book I have to reread… I finished ‘Desirée’ two days ago and now I’m halfway through the sequel to ‘Wolf Hall’.. ‘Bring out the Bodies.’ Travelling on the train is good for being able to plough through a book.

IMG_6841

The Royal Crescent. This was classed as high-end rural living when it was being built, as farm animals used to graze on this green.

IMG_6843

The ha-ha (the fence) would have made it look from the houses as though the field stretched on indefinitely. But the ha-ha stopped the animals from getting up near the houses and soiling the grass near where the rich people would walk. IMG_6842

Lovely, isn’t it?

IMG_6848

Here’s another street – The Circus. See what’s on top of all the houses?

IMG_6856

Acorns! Have a look at the link… Not sure how pigs would catch leprosy… the mind boggles… but anyway.

IMG_6849

The Circus has a beautiful circle of grass and trees in its centre. In the olden days it would have been pebbles and a cistern where the Georgian houses would have fetched their water from, as there was no running water in the Georgian houses.

IMG_6859

We were walking past the Assembly Rooms (more on them later, Bek!) and we stopped near this. Being at the front of the line, I whipped in to have a look. This is a memorial to Captain Arthur Phillip. Yes… THAT Arthur Phillip.

IMG_6862

This is the house where he lived, where the flagpole is and where the red car is parked. There are suggestions that he threw himself off the balcony though others disagree.

IMG_6864

On the way back into town, I noticed a familiar street name. It’s still a major shopping street, just as in Austen’s day.

IMG_6866

Here’s a lovely ceiling inside a bank on Milsom Street, all Wedgewood blue and white. I was going to take a better picture after the walk if I found my way back, but I didn’t.

Find my way back, I mean.

IMG_6868

We were walking down one of the old streets in the town towards the Pulteney bridge when the guide mentioned that we were reasonable near Jane Austen’s ACTUAL house where she lived with her parents. Hmmm…

IMG_6870

Here’s the famous Pulteney Street Bridge. Like in Florence, the builder made it appear like part of the road.

IMG_6871

Here’s the view of the river under the bridge.

IMG_6872

See those windows? I was going to have lunch up there. But first I had something to see. I decided to leave the walk as we were nearly finished anyway, said goodbye to the guide, got my directions for Jane Austen’s ACTUAL house and headed off at a brisk trot. The sky was getting grey and I wanted to make the most of what good weather I had left.

IMG_6873

I headed off to the end of the long street, then turn left. Half way along, it occurred to me that these are streets that she would have walked along every day. I mean, I knew it before, but it forcibly occurred to me.

IMG_6878

Getting closer. Now where’s number 4?

IMG_6875

It’s a guest house. You can actually stay here. OMG. Put it on the list of Things To Do When I’m Next In England.

IMG_6876

Here’s the servant’s entrance.

IMG_6877

Here’s the doorknob. The History!!!!! (Assuming it’s the same doorknob.)IMG_6869

Nice window box work on a house on the way back into town..

IMG_6880

Just before the rain hit, I raced into a café on the end of Pulteney Bridge and I landed a table in the smallest, narrowest café I’ve ever seen. Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again! I made friends with a lovely Welsh woman and her daughter sitting at the table next to that window. She said that the movie of ‘Les Mis’ was shot here, where Russell Crowe jumps off the bridge. She pointed out in great glee and said, “I can see the exact spot!”

IMG_6882

 

This is how narrow it is. Just enough to sit 4 or 5 people across.

IMG_6883

Honestly, wthout a doubt the best Devonshire Tea I’ve ever had in my life. The scones were warm, the cream was so clotted it was almost like icecream and the wasp stayed away after a while and bothered someone else.

IMG_6890

While I ate it rained like cats and dogs. As soon as I paid and stepped out on the pavement it clared up and the sun shone. I started walking back to the Assembly Rooms, stopping off at the Guildhall market to buy an amber pendant along the way. (Very Jurassic Park and The Many Coloured Land.)IMG_6891Look at how the sky cleared up! Here’s  the entrance to the Assembly Rooms.

Bek, remember Hero Wantage in ‘Friday’s Child’ going here? Lady Serena in ‘Bath Tangle’? Jane Austen of course wrote about the rooms in ‘Northanger Abbey’and ‘Persuasion’. She attended functions here. I stepped through the doors and imagined…

IMG_6892

Here’s the hallway they would have entered.

IMG_6893

There are elegant Georgian fireplaces and mirrors.

IMG_6904

The ballroom. Quite a large room but not as large as I’d imagined. No wonder Hero and Sherry bumped into each other here!! You could imagine that even with all of the gentlefolk of Bath crammed into here there’d be no avoiding people.

I could almost see the lines of people dancing in the middle of the room and hear the music playing fromthe band upstairs, with the dowagers and other people lining the walls and watching and gossiping. It must have been quite a sight.

IMG_6897

Look up!

IMG_6902

Here is the room where they’d go for light refreshments in between dancing and flirting.

IMG_6900

And this is the octagon room, where the gentlemen would go to gamble. I have to say, this room is HUGE. People aren’t kidding when they say that the Georgians were keen on their gambling.

IMG_6901This room had an incredible high ceiling. It must have been a bit nippy in winter, but by then the Season would be over and people would be back in London.

 

IMG_6909

I went back via the Royal Crescent and the Circus because they were so beautiful I wanted another look. I debated about going in to the Georgian House in the Crescent but after talking with one of the guides decided that I’ve aleady covered this ground in Edinburgh with Pam. Saved myself an hour and 9GBP. 

I walked down through the park and out the gates at the other end.

IMG_6910

After Versailles the gilding seems positively restrained.

IMG_6911

Though I quite like the gold balls the lions are playing with.

I went down to the Jane Austen museum in Gay street after this. This is not in any house she ever lived in and, to be honest, was not much chop. I think that the cottage in Chawton is the REAL museum you should go to if you’re a Jane Austen fan, as this one seemed to me to be pretty soulless after being in her actual home in Chawton and seeing all of her belongings and surroundings there. But this was pretty much what I expected, as she lived in Bath for only 4 or 5 years, whereas Chawton was her home.

And if I’d seen any more invitations on screen or in writing to “go upstairs to the Regency tearooms. You MUST try some real Regency biscuits” I would have done something drastic. I mean, fair’s fair. Let us know that the tearooms are there and suggest that it might be a nice way to round off your visit, but by the time I was reminded of them every five minutes, including by the actor who played Wickham on the film intended to educate us about Jane and her life in Bath, it began to seem like harrassment.

I bought a book of her letters, as most of the things I saw at this place that were new to me were extracts from the letters. But I left feeling like I was glad I’d seen it so I could compare it to the Chawton one, but I wouldn’t go back again. Interestingly, the Bath museum had the Austen family tree up on the wall. No mention made of the oldest son who they think was deaf and dumb and was put away in a village with a nice family to look after him. I learned about that in Chawton.

However, onward and upward!

I went back to the hotel room to drop off my shopping… did I mention that the Assembly rooms had a very good gift shop, plus Bath has lots of very nice boutiques… I now own a Mr Darcy necklace and a marcasite brooch in the shape of a kangaroo… and I flipped open my computer and did some research. I wanted to know if there was anyone interesting buried in the cathedral, so I could race around and see them. 

IMG_6922

This guy is buried there. This plaque was above my loo in my room at the Harington Hotel. Beau Nash also has a plaque on the wall dedicated to him and Arthur Phillip had a memorial thingy there. Armed with this knowledge, I set off in search of History.

IMG_6941

Bath Abbey. It’s right in the centre of town, next to the Roman Baths. You can’t miss it.

IMG_6939

When I was on the Walk in the morning, the guide showed us this thing that the Bishop who renovated and completed the cathedral put on it to stamp his mark. He was a bishop (see the bishop’s hat?), called Oliver King. (The olive tree with the crown around it?) Most people back then couldn’t read, so this is the way people communicated in ‘print’. Cool, isn’t it?

IMG_6923

It’s pretty inside. Before I walked in I talked to some guys on the front desk and they drew on a map of the cathedral exactly where my people were that I wanted to visit. I was set.

IMG_6928

I particularly liked these lamps.

I went looking for Beau Nash first. This is what I found:

IMG_6933

I gazed at each one of the visible plaques on the walls of this part of the cathedral. He wasn’t there. I just bet some genius put up that noticeboard directly over the plaque of one of the two famous people in the whole place. I was gobsmacked.

But I still had my map. I knew that Arthur Phillip and John Harington were close together. Bound for glory, I headed over to the other side of the church.

IMG_6930

Arthur Phillip. Couldn’t miss him. Gave him a nod, sent a little prayer hoping that he hadn’t jumped out the window and that it was all a misunderstanding and then I went looking for my toilet man.

I found this:

IMG_6932

He must be secreted behind these delightful examples of children’s art. Somewhere.

Undeterred… well, slightly deterred, I looked at other plaques and found some heartbreaking ones:

IMG_6936

I’ve got a close up of her name for one of my friends:

IMG_6937

I wonder if she’s a relative, Tex? Funny how friends’ names can leap out at you.

IMG_6927

Read this one, remembering that what looks like f is actually s. This guy had a lot of wives and a lot of children. I don’t know that I’d be lining up to marry him; he seems like bad luck to women.

IMG_6938

Look at this one. That poor woman! Imagine going through all of this. No wonder she calls herself “afflicted”.

After this visit I grabbed something cheap and cheerful for dinner, then went on a comedy walk at 8PM. We met at the Huntsman pub.

IMG_6942

Silly English people. Not a picture of a spider in sight!

I feel like I’ve whinged a bit about Bath but I really loved it. This is almost as picturesque as Florence and I’d happily come back again just to wander around the town. It’s THAT pretty. I also found out that the town of Lacock is nearby. This is where they filmed the Meryton parts of the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice, so its now down on the list of things on my phone of Things To See When I’m Next Back In England. Stonehenge is nearby too, though I’ve been to some standing stones on my tour through England so I’m ok with saving this till later.

Travelling back to Leicester tomorrow for my last few days of freedom from responsibility and drudgery my holiday. Looking forward to seeing Scott, Mark, Oliver, Ruby and Rose again.

And now this blog is up to date!!

 

 

Posted in holidays | 4 Comments

The Roman Baths at Bath.

IMG_6775Look at what I saw at Bristol station on the way to Bath. It’s a sign…

IMG_6777

Here’s the street where my hotel is. Pretty, isn’t it?

IMG_6778

As soon as I threw my bags in my room I hot-footed it down to the Roman Baths. I asked the girl at the desks for directions to the baths and she sent me to a day spa. Silly girl. Doesn’t she realise that it’s all about The History?

IMG_6779The baths in front, the cathedral behind.

To be honest, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be. It was a bit dull.

IMG_6784

But there were bits that were ok. Like this woman’s hairdo.

IMG_6786

This is it from the back. Lucky for her she had slaves to do her hair or she would’ve been there for a week trying to get it right.

IMG_6796

These are curses. If you were angry at someone, you’d write their name and their crime against you on a piece of lead and throw it in the pool. Then the gods would take care of them.

IMG_6801

IMG_6799IMG_6800

The things stolen are usually not so huge, yet they call down the most grievous curses on the heads of the thieves.

IMG_6812

Just to show that it’s not just Scott who ruins shots. :)

IMG_6802

IMG_6781

This is the sacred spring, where the hot water bubbles to the surface. It arrives at around 40C, which is just the temperature for a hot bath. Convenient. It’s also carbonated.

IMG_6811

It’s definitely warm.

IMG_6807

The baths were ok, but after all… it’s just hot water. We all have a kettle.

I was glad I’d knocked it over on the first night, because that left the day free to explore the rest of the city. Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer plots abound here!!

IMG_6819

I went to the pub across the road from my hotel and planned out my day.

IMG_6820

Apparently a sprig of parsley and a cherry tomato is all you need!

Big day tomorrow. :)

Posted in holidays | Leave a comment

Leicester: Richard III and stuff.

IMG_6680

Well, if the white roses at the base of the statue and the title of this blog post weren’t enough, then let me tell you that this is Richard III. We did a few things today as well as see all about him, but I’ll deal with him first and then mop up around the edges.

For those not keen on their history or their Shakespeare, Richard III was the King in the Carpark.

IMG_6684

And there’s the car park, where the cars are in the distance.

IMG_6690

Richard was only king for 2 years, before he was defeated by Henry VII, (Henry VIII”S dad) and was killed on the field of battle, the last English king to die this way. At least, so far…

I think that your attitude towards him all depends on how you encounter him first. If you first read Shakespeare’s play or watched a movie based on this, you think he’s a villain. You may have a sneaking sympathy for him, but that’s as far as it goes. However if you, like me, first read a book like Sharon Penman’s, “The Sunne in Splendour”, then you love Richard and know that he was a lovely guy and that Shakespeare did the worst hatchet job in history on him. Can you imagine how lacerated my feelings were when I had to teach Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ to my year 12s for years??? I’m fond of the play but it’s full of dirty rotten lies.

IMG_6691

Here’s a reconstruction that they’ve done of his skull to picture what he probably looked like. The woman who did this work had no idea whose skull it was when it was given to her, so she wasn’t swayed by portraits like the one above.

IMG_6685IMG_6686

Interesting. Where’s the hunched back, Shakespeare???

This is so fabulous I just had to show you. The music! The Power! The Pageantry! The 1950’s!!

IMG_6700

Here’s where he was found. Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again… I’ve had amazing luck with many things on this trip. This time around I just happen to rock up on the 530th anniversary of the very day that he was buried. I was so excited.

There were only a couple of other people in the room, not counting Scott, and the guide told me to stand back in the far corner of the room to take this shot, to get the effect of the light. “Normally there’s too many people in here,” he said. Fortunate Frogdancer….

IMG_6699

You can see where his body was buried – hard up against this wall. The team looking for him only had 3 weeks to get the job done, so they dug 3 trenches and hoped for the best. The guide said that if they’d started 2 feet away from where the first trench was, they’d have missed him altogether.

This effect with the bones comes and goes every 30 seconds.

Then we went out through the gift shop and I fell in love with a chain mail necklace. Trust me, it looks better than it sounds. Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again.

“It’s the last one we have,” said the nice girl on the till. “Do you mind having the one on display?”

“It’s the one I made my decision on, so that’s ok!” said I.

Yay.

We then went and visited his tomb in Leicester Cathedral, just across the courtyard.

IMG_6703

Here’s Richard from a different angle. I love how people have brought white roses for him. In the War of the Roses, Richard’s family, the Yorks, had a white rose as their emblem, while their cousins the Lancasters had a red rose. When Henry VII defeated Richard and took the throne, he married Richard’s niece and  took as his emblem the Tudor rose… a mix of the red and white. Clever.

IMG_6720

IMG_6501

IMG_6735

This was on display outside the niche where his tomb is. It’s what was prepared for his funeral.

IMG_6736

IMG_6738

A close-up of the crown they made for him.

IMG_6739

The stitchery was amazing.

But Richard isn’t the only guy I wanted to see in Leicester that day. Sharon Penman has also written another book, this time about Simon de Montfort.  I’ve mentioned him before.

IMG_6672See the medieval tower-y thing?

IMG_6675

*gasp* Simon de Montfort!! It’s even better than seeing his shield in the stained glass window of Kenilworth church. Remember? I love how all the bits and pieces of this trip are coming together.

IMG_6752

We were walking past this and Scott said, “Hang on, it’s open. It’s never open.” Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again. I was clearly on a roll.

IMG_6751

The middle part of the building is 14th century.

IMG_6747

To be honest, there was nothing much to see. EXCEPT this guy upstairs playing a hurdy-gurdy. He was banging out some rollicking show tunes from the 1500’s and they were toe-tapping songs.

IMG_6748

Then he broke our his dulcimer. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d use, except as a euphemism. He had a cd so I bought one for the boys, as I’m pretty sure they’ll be new sounds for them to play with.

IMG_6753

Back in England… scones and jam and clotted cream.

IMG_6757

I love how things in this country are called ‘New’ even though they’ve been around for over 200 years. We took a stroll down here and visited the museum. It had some Picasso ceramics.

IMG_6762

I could live with this one.

Apparently he did hundreds of these ceramic plates and vases, dishes and bowls. They’d let him play and them when he was happy with a design they’d mass produce it and sell them off. There was only one totally unique one here:

IMG_6766IMG_6765

IMG_6763

Quite liked this one, but most of them were pretty ‘meh’.

IMG_6767

They also had an art collection, but it was from Germany between the wars. It was full of works like this and this:

IMG_6768

It was a bit of a downer so we left to cheer ourselves up.

IMG_6773

And then look what I saw… Simon again.IMG_6769AND A SQUIRREL!!!!!!

IMG_6771

In the wild. It was like we were on safari.

IMG_6772

Then he ran up a tree and vanished.

Bath tomorrow. As in the city.

Posted in holidays | 2 Comments

Travel day back to England.

IMG_6668Here’s a nice short post, as I’m DAYS behind. This is Monday I’m blogging about, and I’m here in Thursday. It’s like I’ve got my own time machine.

My friend Jenny is probably hyperventilating at the photo above. In Australia these Staffordshire Cavaliers are horrendously expensive, but every Cavalier breeder wants a set. Even though it’s been a long time since I was breeding them, I still have a hankering for them. I was talking about this to Scott while we were in Lincoln and he offered to check on eBay and see if he could find anything reasonable. 40GBP.

Remember when I spotted these at Beatrix Potter’s house?

My mantlepiece at home is in for a revamp.

IMG_6667

This is the present I bought for Scott as a thank you for everything he’s done. I spotted it in St Paul du Vence and bought it, crossing all the fingers and toes that he’d like it. I thought he would but I wasn’t sure….

Turns out it’s a Rosina Wachtmeister (who knew??? heh heh…. certainly not me), and he already has a painting with a cat in it that’s almost exactly the same. How amazingly cool (and phew!) is THAT?

IMG_6669

When we got back to Scot’s place there was some serious organisation to do with my luggage. What was I going to post home and what was I going to bring back in my suitcase? It was all GOOD STUFF. I wasn’t going to leave it behind.

IMG_6671

I think Ruby wants to meet Daphne and Maris. :)

See? I told you it’d be short. Sight seeing takes off again tomorrow. Leicester must be conquered!

 

Posted in holidays | 3 Comments

Paris: DEATH day…

IMG_6464On a rainy Sunday morning, our last full day in Paris, I decided that I wanted to see the Catacombs and to go to Pére Lachaise graveyard. Scott wasn’t interested in either, so we went our separate ways. Clutching my Navigo (what a fantastic thing for travellers, by the way) and the very detailed directions he wrote out for me as to which Metro stations to change to, I successfully made my way from one side of the city to the other and back again.

IMG_6441

First off – learn from my fail. Even though I got there half an hour before the opening time, I still had to wait 2 hours to get in. They allow 200 people at each time to go in, so after the first 200, then people are let in by dribs and drabs, as there’s no time limit on how long you can stay in there for.

So get there early. I found it interesting, but not 2 hours worth of wait interesting. Still, at least I’ve seen it and I don’t have to queue up ever again for it. This photo was taken when I finally made my way along the street, around the corner and within sight of the door. I still had half an hour to wait after this point.

Before this, I was reading Desirée on my ipad, but then the battery ran out. I was forced to listen to the most banal conversation between 4 upper class English twits. They went on and on about nail polish, the impossibly demanding behaviour of wedding photographers, how one just wanted to sit down in the middle of the street yesterday and Just Not Walk Another Step and everything else clichéd that you could think of. I knew I had to steer clear of them once we got in.

IMG_6442

You have to descend quite a way to get there. The catacombs are under the sewers and the Metro.

IMG_6443

Lots of tunnels. I’d stopped to read an information label on a wall with a German couple when we heard the English twits coming from a mile off. They were laughing, saying intelligent things like, “this is freaking. Me. Out!” when we hadn’t seen a single skull yet and talking about how the vibrations of the dead could be felt. As they got close to us one said, “OOOO, we’d better be quiet. People are going to hate us.”

The german guy quietly said, “Yes, we will.”

I fixed them with the teacher glare and said, “Girls. You’re too loud.”

As they walked off they were subdued and they weren’t a problem after that.

IMG_6451Here’s a bit of a sad tale. One of the guys digging for limestone used to stay down here during his breaks and work on this sculpture. In his younger days he was a prisoner of war somewhere or other and this is a perfect replica of his prison. He worked on it for years. Then, when he started work on a staircase so that the public could see it, his staircase collapsed and he was crushed to death.

Bugger.

IMG_6460IMG_6462

Here’s some modern-day efforts. Pathetic, isn’t it?

IMG_6473

Yes, that’s a real skull and real bones.

IMG_6475

The catacombs came about after the graveyards around Paris were getting too full and things were starting to get a bit unsanitary.

IMG_6468

The last straw was when a graveyard kind of errupted and filled the basements of the surrounding houses with corpses. (can you imagine??) Something had to be done.

IMG_6504

So they exhumed all the bodies, put those who still had flesh on them into quicklime, then desposited then in the old limestone tunnels.

IMG_6495At first they just threw them in, but then later they organised them as we see today.

IMG_6514

Right from the start it was a tourist attraction.

IMG_6470

There are around 6 million skeletons down here. The tunnels go on for ages.

IMG_6513

Some are more decorative than others.

IMG_6492

It’s a steady 14C down here all year round, so bring a jumper.

IMG_6491

IMG_6520

It’s quite a climb back up to the top. Once there, they inspect bags to make sure that you haven’t tried to pinch a bone. The tour guide I had in the afternoon, when I mentioned I’d spent the morning here, said that he’s seen people get marched back down to the tunnels to put back the skull that they’d lifted. Amazing.

IMG_6523

Then it was lunch in a café. I would’ve liked a cheap and cheerful baguette, but the perennial search for a loo you don’t have to pay for dictates that it’s easier to just eat in a café and then use their toilet before you go. The Queen Mother’s advice is the best: When you see a loo, use it!

IMG_6525

This was in a shop window next to the café. Imagine paying by the kilo for your bread!

IMG_6526

I went on a walking tour with Paris Walks for this one, as I didn’t fancy stumbling all over a cemetary that covers 44 hectares looking for a few scattered graves. I wanted to be time efficient, unlike these people.

IMG_6531

It’s a very pretty place.

IMG_6532

The day had fined up and I was raring to go. There was one grave in particular that I was earnestly eager to see.

IMG_6534

Some people had been moved into the graveyard in the 1700s to make it more tourist-friendly. This is the tomb of Heloise and Abelard. The link is worth reading: what a story! Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

IMG_6535

IMG_6538Other graves are more fun.

IMG_6537

Isn’t this sweet? One arm is male, the other female.

IMG_6541 IMG_6542 IMG_6539

Here’s the most visited grave in the cemetary… Chopin.

IMG_6541

They couldn’t fit his full name across the top, so he’s called Fred.

IMG_6542

The muse of music is in mourning.

IMG_6543

I like how this guy has flowers.

IMG_6544

Loved this one. Look at the drapery…

IMG_6545

Then we went for a bit of a walk until we hit:

IMG_6547

Jim Morrison’s grave.

IMG_6550

As we resumed our walk, I reflected that this guy isn’t creepy at all……

IMG_6551

There were quite a few obelisks here, but this one is really appropriate.

IMG_6553

It’s the Egyptan hieroglyphics guy!!

IMG_6554

This one’s quite interesting. The guy died in prison, and this is his wife either trying to get in there with him or trying to break him out.

IMG_6559

The guy who owns this plot is still alive. He’s a photographer, and he’s taking photos of us taking photos of him.

IMG_6556

This is the grave of a famous French recording star. (I’d never heard of him.) See how this has the grooves from an LP on it?

IMG_6565

This is the grave of the painter who did ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ that we saw in the Louvre.

IMG_6563

Here it is at the front.

IMG_6567

The Eiffel Tower. :)

IMG_6569

This is one of Alexandre Dumas’s ghost writers, with the titles of the novels he wrote for him on either side.

IMG_6573

For the art fans among us.

IMG_6576

Read the part in the link about “Sentimental Life”. What a strange, sad romance.

IMG_6578

I like this little touch, though.

IMG_6590

Proust. This isn’t the original grave marker; homophobes damaged it and this is a later replacement.

IMG_6589

I miss Poppy and Jeff.

IMG_6588

In the distance you can see the memorial to a lion tamer. He was eaten by his lions.

IMG_6592

OMG. Here it is. The guide told me it was coming up so I ran ahead of the group. Oscar Wilde. Flowers and letters are at the base of his grave.

IMG_6597

People kissing the stone and leaving lipstick was damaging it, so they’ve put glass in front of it. I had to do it…

IMG_6602

You can see at the side that some idiots still kiss the stone, but now they have to climb on the grave of the poor guy beside him. There used to be a cross or something on top of his grave but they’ve damaged that. Unbelievable.

IMG_6606

Gertrude Stein. I bought her book as a souvenir of Paris.

IMG_6608

Her partner is buried behind her.

IMG_6615

This wall was a bit horrific. This was where, in 1871, 147 people were shot and buried in a trench where he grass is. It’s called The Communards Wall.

IMG_6624

Heather, guess whose grave this is?

IMG_6622

Yep.

IMG_6625

Modigliani and his wife. So sad. She came from a very middle-class, respectable family who were appalled that their daughter had taken up with a drunken, dissoulute artist. After he died, her family brought her home and a day later she threw herself out of a fifth story window, killing both herself and their unborn baby. At first her family wouldn’t let them be buried together… it took over 10 years before they allowed her remains to be buried with his. (Probably only after he started to become famous.)

IMG_6628

This is one of the cartoonists from Charlie Hedbo. You can see that people have brought pens and pencils.

This next one was amusing:

IMG_6629

Victor Noir. Worth scanning the link. he’s become a fertility symbol for Paris.

IMG_6630

 

Our guide told us not to touch him if we didn’t want to get pregnant. I steered a wide berth….IMG_6631

I think you can work out which parts of him are the… efficacious ones.

IMG_6636

Guess what this guy invented?

IMG_6638

French fries! That’s why people leave potatoes. This cracks me up.

IMG_6640

Moliére. This was another body that was moved into the cemetary in the 1700’s to make it attractive to tourists. Read the thing in the link about his death…. he collapsed on stage during his play about a hypochondriac, in the scene where the character pretends to be dead so he can hear what people say about him. When he was supposed to leap up and come back to life he didn’t. Weirdly, the same thing happeed to another actor after him, which now supports the susperstition that if the part is offered to you, you turn it down.

IMG_6648

Liked this one.

IMG_6655

Interesting woman.

After the cemetary I zipped back through 3 changes of train back home.

IMG_6656

I can highly recommend getting one of these if you’re in Paris; we saved a fortune.

IMG_6657

Walking out to dinner….

IMG_6663

We ordered cocktails to celebrate our week in Paris.

IMG_6659

Goodbye lovely Eiffel Tower.

 

 

Posted in holidays | 1 Comment

The Paris Opera House.

IMG_6346

One of the really cool things about the apartment we’re staying in is that it’s so close to the centre of town. The Eiffel Tower pops up everywhere, as does the gold dome of the Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. This is a market that happens twice a week, literally one door down from our place. We decided to do our shopping for dinner here, before going off to the Musée Marmottan for more Monets.

You can never have too much of Monet when you’re in Paris. However, I digress.

IMG_6347

IMG_6349

The food was crisp and fresh and the people were lively. The market was smaller than it usually would be, as so many Parisians go on holidays during August. (This means it’s a good time to come… the streets are less crowded.)

IMG_6351They even had fresh fish.

IMG_6352

However, look at these peaches! I’ve never seen any this shape before. I bought one for dessert and it was lovely, so I’ve placed an order with Daley’s to let me know when they have any available.

Then it was off to the Marmottan. They don’t let you take photos, as I found out when I took a photo of this Chagall:

IMG_6353A guard came up to me, clicking his tongue in disapproval. I put my phone away, though I couldn’t help wishing I could show you some of the pictures. They were incredible, especially this one. I bought a copy to put in my room.

But then, as I was wondering in one of the duller upstairs rooms, I saw a portrait. It was in with some Napoleonic family members. I wandered over to it. ‘Desiree Clary.’

OMG. I spluttered with excitement and leaned in to read the label. YES!!!!! Yes, it was her. I was so rapt. When I was a teenager I picked up an old book in a second-hand book shop called ‘Desirée’. It was written in diary form, about a young silk merchant’s daughter who was once engaged to Napoleon Bonaparte, who ended up marrying a French General and, when he was offered the Swedish crown by the Swedish people, ended up becoming Queen of Sweden and Norway. Her descendants still sit on the Swedish throne today, as well as 4 other countries. It’s an incredible story and it’s TRUE. I had to circumvent the guards and get a photo.

IMG_6355

What a find. I was inarticulate with bliss, which must have been annoying for Scott. Or maybe it was a relief, who knows? When we got home that night I hunted up the novel on kindle and it’s now on my ipad, being read. I’m loving it, especially because I now know where a lot of the places she talks about look like and where they are. Isn’t living in the modern age lovely? So convenient for things like this.

Anyway, we had some time to spare after leaving the museum, so we took a stroll along the Bois de Boulogne in the middle of the day. As you do.

IMG_6357Here’s the track to cut across to it, between where the museum is and where the park is. You wouldn’t believe that we were in the centre of the suburbs, would you?

IMG_6358

IMG_6359

This is a restaurant across the lake. We ate our cheap and cheerful lunch from the market, then took a ferry across to see what was over there.

IMG_6363

Nothing much, as it happens, so we hung around for awhile, enjoying the shade and the greenery. Then it was off, back into Paris for our 2:30 tour of the Opera House.

IMG_6368Look up! This is in a French department store. Scott was after some Lalique and we were trying to hunt it down before the opera house tour.

IMG_6369

It was mayhem down on the ground floor, while above was all beauty and serenity. But no Lalique. We had to leave the hunt and go and join the tour.

IMG_6438

Here’s the front of the Opera House, where the phantom lives. The story goes that there was a competition to design Paris’s new opera hous. This design came up. The Empress Eugénie said to Garnier, the designer, “What is this? It’s not classical, it’s not any clear sort of architecture.”

He replied, “Those styles have passed. This is the style of Napoleon III.”

She loved that answer so he got the job.

IMG_6428

The Grand Staircase was the first thing we saw. In the nineteenth century you really didn’t go to the opera to hear the music… you came to see and be seen. So this was almost like an extension to the stage. People could slowly parade around in their fashionable clothes, while enjoying all of the marble, mosaics and sumptuous surroundings.

 

IMG_6376

Mosaics. These were both on the ceilings and the floors. The reasoning was that rich people wouldn’t come unless they could have surroundings that amazed even them.

IMG_6377

These were on the staircase.

IMG_6378

Nice shoes.

IMG_6372

I like the lines in this one. It’s a side view of the staircase as we were dragged out to look at a drawing of the plans of the whole place. This part of the tour was a bit dull so I’ve spared you.

IMG_6381

Then we went in to see the actual theatre, along with the famous roof by Chagall.

IMG_6379

I loved it. It really didn’t suit the rest of the place at all, as it was all so opulent and red and gold, but it looked gorgeous all the same.

IMG_6384

See the lines on either side of the bird? That’s how big the canvases are. I think the tour guide said there were 24.

IMG_6386

IMG_6389

Here is box 5, where the phantom comes to listen to the performances…

Then we wandered around until we came to a place that blew my mind.

IMG_6409

The Grand Foyer.

IMG_6402

I think I’m saying, “Look up!”

IMG_6403

And…

IMG_6415

IMG_6397

Very reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, particularly as we only saw it yesterday, but where the Hall of Mirrors was all light and air, this was all sumptuous and glitz.

IMG_6412

Detail of what the columns look like.

IMG_6408

I loved it.

IMG_6410

And here’s a last shot almost echoing the Hall of Mirrors shots we got.

Then it was off to Printemps to hunt down Lalique.

 

IMG_6429

Woo hoo!! FINALLY! Success!

IMG_6433

Scott was a happy man. But would they have the thing he was looking for in stock?

IMG_6435

Why yes. Yes they did.

IMG_6436

Look at how they put something in a bag for you. Lovely.

IMG_6439

And then we finished the day with dinner at home, with the produce we bought from the market and the boulangerie. But first we had a drink at our local café. How could we not?

 

Posted in holidays | Leave a comment

Versailles #4

IMG_6244Back in the golf buggy!!! Off to Le Grand Trianon after the joys of Le Petit Trianon.

IMG_6245This one was much bigger, as you’d expect by the name, and was covered in pink marble. The middle part is open to the elements as a patio and the two ends are stuffed to the gills with luxury and history.

IMG_6247IMG_6248

From memory, this is where Napoleon’s mother, Madame Mére, had her living quarters.IMG_6249Look at the shutters…. I love the shutters that the Europeans have. These are doozies.

IMG_6258IMG_6260Someone was clearly a fan of yellow.

IMG_6253IMG_6252Others prefer red; a bit racier.

IMG_6257

Look at all the marble and the tiling… the scale is incredible. The pink marble isn’t just here; it goes all around the palace.

IMG_6266The big hall… or whatever it’s called. I took a closer look at the picture frames lining the walls.

IMG_6267Not bad, hey? This was NOT an isolated case… there were many of them.

IMG_6276This is a portrait of Hortense de Beauharnais…. Josephine’s daughter. You know, Josephine – Napoleon’s first wife. She of, “Not tonight, Josephine” fame.

IMG_6272Here’s Madame de Pompadour. Now there’s an interesting woman.

IMG_6274

Here’s Marie Louise, aka Mrs Napoleon Bonaparte.

IMG_6283

They really landscaped in terms of vistas, didn’t they?

Then we drove back, dropped off the buggy and then walked to the Potager du Roi, or the KIng’s Veggie Patch. Once we found that it wasn’t covered by our Museum card (what an outrage) Scott decided to go for a drink and I went in.

IMG_6293

This is only one section of it. It’s really very large.

IMG_6339Permaculture insists on a water feature somewhere in a garden to increase biodiversity and give birds and insects a ready supply of drinking water. It seems that Louis XIV was ahead of his time.

IMG_6294

Espaliered fruit trees were everywhere. Indeed, for a while I didn’t think there were many veggies at all, because all I could see where literally hundreds of fruit trees.

IMG_6295Here’s a close up.

IMG_6296

They had a goodly row of hothouses, though at this time of the year, their summer, nothing much was going on in them.

IMG_6302

See what I mean about fruit trees? This garden wasn’t mucking around; there were hundreds of them.

IMG_6327

They had different ways of espaliering them.

IMG_6335I found this one particularly interesting. This is one tree, but look how the gardeners have trained it along the wires and teased it out.

IMG_6329Here’s a different way again.

IMG_6322

And again…

IMG_6305As I got further into the garden the espaliered trees were being used not just as gardens on their own, but as borders to the vegetable beds.

IMG_6330IMG_6332This is out of synch but I like the bright splash of colour.

IMG_6324IMG_6326There was a great sense of order here. IMG_6338IMG_6337There was a section of raised garden beds, instead of the usual beds cut straight into the soil.

IMG_6336IMG_6303To be honest, I was a little surprised that the garden should be so…. relatively unkempt. Compared to the palace, there were a lot of raggedy edges and watering that needed doing.

IMG_6307IMG_6310It wasn’t just fruit trees that were the borders of the garden sections; here some beans are espaliered.

IMG_6314

Asparagus!!!! There was heaps of this; like me, the palace evidently requires lots of this when it’s in season.

IMG_6315I found this interesting… I don’t know anyone who would willingly put black plastic down in their garden. Yet here it is around the tomatoes and the strawbs.

IMG_6316

I can’t fault their fondness for strawberries though… there’s enough here to sink a ship.

My battery gave up the ghost then, so I wandered around for a little while longer, popped into the gift shop attached to it and bought my Versailles souvenir – a wooden scrubbing brush to clean my root veggies with… I know everyone gets one of these from Versaille (such a cliché!) but I couldn’t resist t.

Phew! Versailles is finally finished!! What a day. I loved it.

 

Posted in holidays | 2 Comments

Versailles #3

IMG_6167

After hiring the golf buggy we set off, not allowing these other two buggies to catch us. Seriously, such a great thing to do. The day was warm and Le Petit Trianon and Le Grande Trianon were a long way away. We would never have made it. Plus it was fun.

IMG_6176

IMG_6172

This was gardening on a grand scale. This lake went on for miles; we caught up with it later that day in La Grande Trianon.

IMG_6173

It had a little water feature of Apollo driving his chariot up towards Versailles. We had a short walk around it and then it was off to Le Petit Trianon.

IMG_6178

Taken from the golf buggy. Those cobblestones are little bumpy. There was a long avenue to drive down. We passed by pedestrians who glared at us with hatred. It really was a very warm day. We had a spoken commentary telling us all about the building as we got close to it; almost like having our own guide.

IMG_6180

This is the house given to Marie Antoinette by her husband, the king. The court life at Versailles was incredibly intricate and full of etiquette. This was where Marie Antoinette came to escape the fussiness and restriction of court life. Her little holiday house, you might say.

IMG_6189

The house was decorated in a far less elaborate style than Versailles, but it still had its moments.

IMG_6188

So did Scott. This became a bit of a sport. :)

IMG_6185

The main staircase was beautiful, but you can see that the walls are quite plain.

IMG_6195The decor was stylish but simple(r). It looked like a pleasant place to spend some time away from the suffocating way of life just up the road, only a short golf buggy drive away.

IMG_6201

I liked these gilded flowers.

IMG_6199

Here’s her bed.

IMG_6203On the mantelpiece in her room this clock caught my eye. Look at the detailed work on it. And this is just one little clock out of the many they would’ve possessed.

IMG_6206Then we set off on a very long walk to find the farm and the Temple de l’Amour.

Unfortunately no golf buggies were allowed on the grounds so we had to slum it. Thank goodness for my blue umbrella from Hampton court Palace that kept off most of the sun!

IMG_6204

Soon enough it came into sight.

IMG_6207

I like this photo.

IMG_6208

Apparently you can see this temple from the Queen’s bedroom. How romantic.

Then we set off for the farm. I was really eager to see this, as I’ve heard stories about how the queen used to dress up in silks and satins and pretend to be a milkmaid, and dress as a shepherdess in gorgeous gowns and run around after freshly bathed sheep. I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful this little model farm was.

IMG_6230

IMG_6229

IMG_6228

IMG_6227

IMG_6226

IMG_6233

Maybe I could make my veggie garden at home look like this?

IMG_6221

Honestly, is it any wonder why she used to love spending time here? It’s so beautiful.

IMG_6220

IMG_6218IMG_6216

Onions pulled and drying, nearly ready to be stored.

IMG_6215

IMG_6214IMG_6225

IMG_6232

Look at the thatch! It’s not covered with chicken wire like most of the thatched roofs in England seem to be.

IMG_6234I hope you’ll be able to read this. It’s quite interesting.

IMG_6236IMG_6238Thank goodness they’re keeping the grape vines well watered!

IMG_6239This was the view as we were walking away, heading back to the house and the golf buggy. Idyllic, isn’t it? It’s sad to think that something so beautiful, and something that at its heart was so innocent, could have been a big contributor in how hated and despised the queen became.

IMG_6242

IMG_6241

IMG_6240

Then it was on to her husband’s domain… Le Grand Trianon. Actually, it’s more known for Napoleon, because he and his second wife Marie Louise  chose to live there. (I’ve just finished reading the link I’ve put here about her life… it’s pretty interesting. I’m glad I wasn’t her.)

I’ve just had a look at how many photos I’ve still got to go about Versailles. I’m finishing it here, so expect a Versailles #4 soon. Le Grande Trianon AND the King’s Veggie Garden.

 

Posted in holidays | 1 Comment

Versailles #2.

IMG_6057After the Hall of Mirrors we went through other rooms. Here’s a look out of one of the windows. Even when the palace wasn’t facing the street, it still has gilding all over it.

IMG_6063

They weren’t too shy about slapping the gilt on inside, either.

IMG_6070

The King’s bedroom. That little fence was to stop people getting too close when he was being put to bed and when he got up in the morning. It was expected that the King would be on display to his people.

IMG_6073

IMG_6074

Nice doorway.

IMG_6093

The Queen’s bedchamber was very pretty.

IMG_6095It’s important to have good light in your bedchamber, in case you want to read at night.

IMG_6106

Pretty, isn’t it? (I didn’t realise until I put it up here that I inadvertently took a photo of myself.)

IMG_6107Look up!

IMG_6096

This doorway, to the left of the bed, was where the Queen fled on the morning of October 6 1789 when Versailles was stormed by rioters looking for her head. Wanting to keep it attached to her body, she raced through this door and made it to the King’s apartments in her bare feet. This was where they were captured.

IMG_6131

After a few more sumptuous rooms we came to a corridor that had heaps of busts and statues of famous French people. I was in my element!!!

This guy was the one who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphics from The Rosetta stone.

IMG_6132

Francis I. He was a very interesting guy. He was Catherine de Medici’s father-in-law and was the patron to Leonardo da Vinci.

IMG_6136

He also sported a jaunty garter.

IMG_6137Voltaire. Doesn’t he look like a nice man?

IMG_6140

Here’s the king that Joan of Arc helped put on the throne. Pity he was such a nasty person towards her.

IMG_6141

Henri IV, the guy who said that Paris was worth a mass. Here is is, un-assassinated and with his head still on. I really like this king; so pragmatic.

IMG_6145

I was excited to see this king… he was the French king who hated Richard the Lionheart of England so much. Interesting that he’s in chain mail… by all accounts he was a terrible general.

IMG_6150

Once through this hallway, it was time for refreshments. Remember when I was in Paris with Heather and Mal and Heather forced us to go to Angelina’s and insisted we drink the most delectable hot chocolate we’d ever tasted?? Well, now it was my turn to initiate Scott into the Hot Chocolate Family.

IMG_6147

Yes, Angelina’s has a branch at Versailles.

IMG_6151We had the King’s high tea. It was delicious and enabled us to keep our strength up for the next stage of our Versailles adventure. Oh yes, there’s more….

IMG_6159

We emerged out into the gardens….

IMG_6154

… where there are lots of pretty things to admire…

IMG_6168

… but the best thing of all was….

IMG_6161

… THE GOLF BUGGY!!!!!!!

IMG_6160

Yes, you can hire a golf buggy to drive around the grounds of Versailles and see all there is to see without getting exhausted. It’s a very big place.

I’ll continue Versailles tomorrow because Scott is raring to go and I’d better get moving. (We’re back in Leicester now and we have to go and post all of my souvenirs home.)

More of Versailles and Paris soon.

xx

 

 

Posted in holidays | 1 Comment