Where does your mind wander to in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep?
Mine took off for the Lake District tonight and dragged me along for the ride.
So, I thought I’d take you to another beautiful Greek island, Crete. We spent 3 weeks there a few years ago staying in a wonderful villa with its own pool and views over the ocean. Many a pleasant evening was spent eating dinner on the balcony of my room, drinking the local red wine or the lethal Greek Metaxa, as the sun set casting a pink glow over the town below.
Yet another place I would love to go back to.
You know how some blog posts just pour from your mind fully formed, you hit the keyboard and there it is in front of you. You also know those blog posts that just won’t happen. You know what you want to write about, you know how it needs to go down on the page but for some inexplicable reason it just won’t happen.
Well, this post is one of the latter. I’ve been trying to write a post on Santorini since I first started this blog almost a year ago (hard to imagine I’ve been doing this for nearly 12 months now). I knew what I wanted to say, about the island and its history, but for some reason I just couldn’t put it together.
I still can’t but I’m waiting no longer, I’ll give you the shortened version of what I’ve been trying to compose all these months.
For years Santorini was at the top of my ‘to do – eventually’ list.
During my forties and fifties, while studying Ancient History for my degree, I’d learnt all about the history of the island. I’d studied the Minoan civilisation and seen the pictures of the magnificent wall paintings that had survived from that time, I’d learnt about the eruption of the volcano, one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, that destroyed a larger island and created the current caldera, and of course I’d seen the famous photos of this blue and white island in many gift shops.
But at that point in my life a trip to this beautiful Greek island was an unrealistic dream.
Things changed, life moved on and in 2007 I got to sail over that caldera, gazing, speechless, from the rails of the ferry, at the sheer cliffs topped by the capital of the island, Fira, that we were heading for.
Up to this point, nowhere else that I’ve visited has had such a profound effect on me. I’ve been to some wonderful places, seen some brilliant scenery and experienced different cultures but nothing has come close to the emotional effect this place had on me.
There were tears in my eyes, but I couldn’t put into words how I felt. I still don’t think I can.
Good intentions are just not enough sometimes. I fully intended to write this post during the Olympics. I knew the angle I was going to take and, let’s face it, not only did I have the two weeks of the actual events in which to get it on to the page but there was quite a long time before that when we all knew it was going to happen. I could have been more prepared and got it written. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. So, here you are, a little late but useful information all the same.
I’m sure I was squinting at the television when I was watching the Olympic sailing events recently. Do I need new glasses you might be asking. Well, no actually, I was just trying to get a better view of the coastline behind the boats. Although several hours from the hub of Olympic activity in London, the guys and girls who seem to love the thrill of ocean sailing definitely got lucky as far as venue was concerned, I used to live around there so I know what I’m talking about.
The Jurassic Coast, stretching 95 miles from Exmouth in the west to Old Harry Rocks in Studland Bay in the east, was designated England’s first and only natural World Heritage Site in December 2001. It was quite fitting that this ancient landscape should be chosen to play its part in the 2012 Olympics by hosting the sailing, one of the oldest sports to be part of the Olympic movement.
I’m going to quote the Jurassic Coast website here because they say this much better than I could. ‘It is the only place on Earth where 185 million years of the Earth’s history are sequentially exposed in dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, coastal stacks and barrier beaches. The ‘tilt’ of the rock creates a unique ‘walk through time’ from 250 million to 65 million years ago, through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods as you walk eastwards along the site.’
This area has a huge range of attractions for all members of the family and when we lived here we were never short of somewhere to head to on a weekend. From beaches rich in fossils to World War II test sites, from traditional seaside resorts to the source of stone used in St Pauls Cathedral.
For 12 months, in the late 1990s, we lived in Swanage. This is one of those towns so typically British. No one does the seaside quite like the British. Complete with a row of bathing huts, a promenade that is closed to traffic in the summer months and a steam train that takes you through the beautiful countryside on the Isle of Purbeck with magnificent views of the ruins of Corfe Castle, I have very fond memories of our time there. As a bonus, from the front windows of the flat we were renting we had views over the Solent to the Isle of Wight, on a clear day that is, and the writer within me liked this sort of inspiration.
Some of my favourite spots along this ancient coastline which you MUST visit if you ever get the chance are:
Not a long post this one but I had to share, and how appropriate for Paris in July. It’s always surprising the places that you stumble across when you’re not even looking.
This morning I had to go into the city of Perth. I don’t go very often, there’s never much need to, but today I had to go boot shopping (more about that later) and I ventured further up Hay St than I normally do.
After becoming completely befuddled by the whole array of gear available for trekkers (and the cost, incidentally) I was in desperate need of a coffee. There was a coffee shop a couple of doors away, excellent, I could sit and mull over my options in regard to the boots.
Well, did I find a gem – a FRENCH coffee shop. And I mean a PROPER FRENCH coffee shop. The owners are French, several of the waitstaff are French and the food is French.
This coffee shop, sorry Boulangerie & Patisserie, is called Jean Pierre Sancho and has apparently been in Perth since 2010. Its origins lie in the medieval town of Lodeve in the South of France, where the Sancho bakery has been in existence since 1904.
Apart from the Hay St establishment, there is one in St Georges Tce and another in Northbridge. When I’d finished my shopping I did go back and by a baguette to take home for lunch, I resisted the tempting array of pastries, but next time I might have to treat myself – for there will be a next time. If you’re anywhere near, I would highly recommend a visit.
Did you ever consider that Parisians could be speaking Italian and be called Lutetians? No, I guess not. Doesn’t have quite the same allure, does it? But it could have happened, if the Roman Empire hadn’t collapsed in a heap.
Amongst the many books relating to Paris– novels set in Paris, French cookbooks, French tourist tomes, memoirs of famous French residents and those from other countries who have chosen to make France their home – one ancient literary endeavour may have been overlooked. Julius Caesar was probably the first author to use France (or to be precise, Gaul, which includes a few other modern countries) as the backdrop for his de Bello Gallico, a series of commentaries on the Gallic Wars. Now I’m sure you don’t need me boring you with a history lesson, suffice to say that, like any author, Caesar had an agenda. His commentaries were pure political propaganda aimed at establishing his military reputation. Worth a read if you like history.
But, back to the Lutetians. The name Paris stems from the Parisii, a Celtic tribe that inhabited the area around the Ȋle de la Cité from the first to the third century BC. However, in 52BC, when the Parisii broke their agreement with the Romans in order to support the Gallic war leader Vercingetorix, the city was captured and burned by the Romans and a new town Lutetia established on the Left Bank of the Seine It was not until the decline of the Roman Empire in the third century AD that the name Paris was resurrected. So, as I said there was a possibility that we could have been celebrating Lutetia in July!
The Louvre is home to a wonderful array of Roman artefacts and the busts of several Roman Emperors. Not half as attractive as the current Parisians though 🙂
I’ve always loved Paris and have been lucky enough to visit there three times. The first was many, many years ago with two very young daughters and a husband (now ex) in tow. We were travelling round Europe in a campervan and we had a ball. Somehow as we drove into Paris we managed to run straight into the Arc de Triomphe, well, not literally but you know what I mean. Stressful or what? Now I’m not sure whose fault it was that the said husband ended up having to negotiate the organised chaos that is the traffic around that monument, but as the navigator I feel that, at this late stage, I should possibly bear some responsibility. I think we missed the turn off to the Bois de Boulogne at the previous roundabout. Anyway he did an amazing job while I closed my eyes and eventually we made our way back to the Bois de Boulogne and the camp site.
That was in March, the second time I visited it was late September and finally two years ago I was there in July. Although Paris in summer is wonderful unfortunately it is also full to brimming with tourists!
Whatever time of the year you visit though, the architecture in this city is amazing. Whether it’s the Notre-Dame Cathedral, that Gothic masterpiece with its Gallery of Kings and its gargoyles, the nineteenth century Eiffel Tower with its 1200 pieces fitting neatly together or the modern glass pyramid of the Louvre, you can’t help but be in awe.
Pictures of these Paris landmarks are easily recognisable but would you pick them from these photos? I’ve also thrown in a couple of photos of Paris buildings taken from a slightly different angle – they’re probably easily recognisable as Paris but just a different perspective. What’s your favourite Paris building?
Browsing through the blogosphere this week I came upon this wonderful initiative. Karen at BookBath and Tamara at Thyme for Tea are hosting Paris in July 2012. They’ve done it in previous years and have lots of loyal followers so I am throwing my support behind it because, after all, who can resist Paris in July, or Paris at any time of the year for that matter?
As the girls explain, the idea is that we’celebrate our French experiences through reading, watching, listening to, observing, cooking and eating all things French.’ I’m thinking drinking French Champagne might count.
My intentions during July are to write a Paris themed post at least once a week, to buy the book on Paris that I have been wanting for ages (regardless of the fact that it is not cheap), to read The Paris Wife and to generally revisit memories of my times there. Who knows what may pop up and inspire me during the month, I’ll keep you posted.
To begin, I thought I’d share a couple of delectable shop windows with you. Now, although the rest of the world is trying to catch up nobody really does pastries like the French, do they?
Got your attention? Why not drop in on BookBath or Thyme for Tea and sign up to help us celebrate all things French. In the meantime tell me, what do you love best about Paris?
You know how sometimes your mind just starts to wander. Well, mine does anyway and very often this wandering mind is triggered by the weather. Lately it has been rainy and cool and I started to think about the cold, rainy times I’ve experienced before. Every winter there’s rain and cold so why does my mind pick out certain times and places? This time my mind took me back to England (pretty normal I’d say when it comes to cold, wet weather) and a short period of time in late 1997 when we were living in Bournemouth. I’ve spent a lot of time in England but again, why did I think back specifically to that time? Is it because the mind says – hey, you enjoyed that, let’s give you another go at it? I’d like to think so.
Anyway, Bournemouth in winter. We were there for a few months and needed to work. I was lucky enough (?) to get a job in the Christmas shop at BHS, one of the department stores (ring any bells anybody?). It was hard work but it was fun. I worked with a couple of girls who lived close to us and would pick them up on the way to work. If my memory serves me correctly we had a 6.30am start. I know it was dark, cold and often wet at that time of the morning and we would be bundled up in coats, scarfs and gloves. By Christmas we had moved to Milford on Sea and I had a long (and I’m talking 90 minutes) bus trip back from work. Also by Christmas we had snow and I do love snow.
Snow. Switzerland, Scotland, England. Cornwall and the New Forest.
We spent a few Easters in Cornwall and Easter there does not appear to be conducive to good weather. Yes, we had snow one year and then there’s the year that we nearly got blown off our feet in Boscastle while battling the sleet.
And did I mention that we were staying in a caravan. But I guess I enjoyed those times ’cause the memories do keep coming back.
The New Forest under snow simply cannot be beaten for picturesqueness (I know it’s not a word, but deal with it because I like it). On our first morning in the New Forest (back in 1989), the heath across the road from the 200 year old stone cottage we were staying in was covered in bright, white snow. The ponies stood forlornly, bearing the cold and wet with considerable resilience. Having left a hot Australian summer only days earlier, the sight mesmerised us and we couldn’t wait to get out in it and build a snowman!
The winter creates an almost magical scene on the heaths and in the woodlands and, even after nearly twenty years back in Australia, I still think of that beautiful landscape that would change with every passing day.
Now, where was I? Ahh yes, wondering how and why my mind wanders the way it does. Who knows, but stay tuned, there will be more wanderings to come.
I want a turret. Not just any old turret, but a turret with a view. Somewhere that I can have a desk, old and preferably with a leather inlay, a chair, comfortable obviously and I want the turret built on to my library, the one I hope to have with walls of bookshelves, floor to ceiling with a ladder to reach the top shelf. I know exactly what my turret should look like because I have a model to work with.
That turret belonged to John Ruskin, 19th century visionary and advocate of free schools and libraries, amongst other things. He built it onto his bedroom at Brantwood, overlooking Coniston Water in the Lake District, after he bought the house in 1871. I felt perfectly at home in that turret when I visited but, unfortunately, I don’t think it would quite work on my modest suburban home.
It did fit perfectly at Brantwood though where Ruskin, a regular traveller throughout Europe, settled for the last three decades of his life. Set on 250 acres on the banks of Coniston Water, Brantwood began life as a modest farmhouse. What the visitor sees today is Ruskin’s creation of a grand home where visitors would arrive by coach and enter through a glazed doorway. The dining room that they would have been served in had a magnificent seven arched window providing a magnificent view of the Lake.
Coniston Water has a long and varied history. The Fells above the lake were a source of copper for the Romans and, during medieval times, it was owned by the monks of Furness Abbey. Just over five miles long the lake was the setting for numerous attempts on the world water speed record and in 1967 Donald Campbell tragically lost his life attempting to exceed 300 miles per hour. He actually managed 320 miles per hour on one run but the return leg saw his vehicle Bluebird somersault and crash killing Campbell instantly. Campbell’s was not the only body to end up in the lake either, in 1976 a local school teacher was murdered and her body dumped in it.
Whatever its associations, today Coniston Water, the third largest lake in the English Lake District at almost 5km², is a drawcard for tourists from all over the world. Many come to see the famous lake that took Cambell’s life, some come to see the places that Arthur Ransome put into his famous children’s book, Swallows and Amazons, while many others come simply to admire the sheer beauty of the place.
Whatever your reason for visiting, you should not miss taking a trip on the lake with Coniston Launch www.conistonlaunch.co.uk. The engaging commentary by the skipper provides information about the history and surroundings of the lake and special cruises on the solar-electric powered launches are also scheduled that will take you more deeply into the world of Swallows and Amazons or the history of the world water speed record attempts on the lake.The view from the launch is the best view that you are going to get of Brantwood and if John Ruskin was still around today he would probably be sitting at his desk in that turret watching you and the world go by.
Every writer should definately have a turret.
“Morning breaks as I write, along those Coniston Fells, and the level mists, motionless, and grey beneath the rose of the moorlands, veil the woods, and the sleeping village, and the long lawns of the lake-shore.”
Notes by Mr Ruskin on his drawings by J.M.W.Turner, 1878.