Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Thames Path signpostWe’ve been in London for a couple of weeks. The Boy has been to stay on his way back to Europe from Australia and it has been lovely having him here even if it was rather brief (for now). There’ll be another instalment in a couple of months.

Always on the look out for new places to walk Nora, we were going to Richmond Park when I thought I’d stop in Barnes on the way and see if I could find a way down to the river. By ‘the river’ Londoners mean the Thames, although the walk actually begins at an old cemetery, alongside a tributary of the Thames called Beverley Brook which flows through Barnes both above and below ground. Most of London’s rivers were diverted into the sewers in Victorian times and their names, for example, Stamford Brook or the River Fleet, mainly exist as place or street names today.

Overgrown graves

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Nora really loves this walk as there are good woodland smells, open grass and water to splash in.

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For me, as well as the obligatory grungy bit to photograph and some wildlife, the walk’s a lot less challenging than trying to stop Nora from constantly diving into overflowing park bins, which is one of the less pleasant aspects of summer in the city. I am training her to stop scavenging but I wish people would take their rubbish home with them if they’re going to leave a lot of food waste for Nora and the foxes to play with.

Thames Path at Barnes

There’s always something though. This morning we were shouted at by a fat-arsed French lady who said she wasn’t cycling ‘orl zat forst’ when I complained that she almost ran Nora over. But if you have to do an emergency stop on a path where pedestrians have priority, you’re going too fast!

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Dog on the banks of the Thames

The pictures are experimental as I was testing the Boy’s Nikon and I haven’t really got the hang of it. It has a bit of a wonky lens but I think I like it. It seems to have a good depth of colour and works well in low light on its point-and-shoot setting, which is basically all I have time for with all the other distractions…

Beverley Brook outflow

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Thames Embankment at Putney

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In Jerusalem’s old city the flagstones have been polished by probably millions of footsteps. The pale, mellow stone brightens the narrow alleys, reflecting the sunshine that manages to penetrate between the overhanging awnings and radiates the warmth of the day after dark. In the souk, ancient stone ramps between the risers allow traders to push trolleys laden with wares up steep steps to their shops and stalls as they have for centuries.

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On the shores of the Sea of Galilee ficus, eucalyptus and olive trees grow and tourists visit. Among the visitors are those who inscribe their names in their bark as everywhere in the world. Groups of pilgrims from all over the world paddle here in the shallow waters near the Church of the Multiplication, which celebrates the feeding of the five thousand, taking pictures on their iPads, while others sing hymns and speak in tongues.

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In Bethlehem I snapped a fragment of Byzantine mosaic in the Milk Grotto, a Christian shrine. At the time, it seemed to be just a jumble of pale coloured stones. Now I see it is a Star of David. Like the swastika, this symbol originates from the Indian subcontinent.

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Bethlehem is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and there’s a massive concrete and turnstile procedure you have to go through to pass from the Israeli side and back again. This particular bit of rusty barbed wire has nothing to do with the separation of the West Bank from the rest of Israel but its inclusion here is symbolic. The buildings in the background are in Jerusalem on the other side of the tall concrete wall that has been built around Israeli territory. The picture was taken from the Palestinian side.

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These ancient and, I hope, disused letterboxes were the first thing that caught my eye on arriving in Jerusalem’s old city. I could have spent all day finding such delights but sometimes I had to listen to the guide and follow the rest of the group.

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Impoverished as some of the neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv are, their inhabitants find ways of decorating their balconies. Sometimes cracked old pots full of vibrant flowers, sometimes just bits of fishing line threaded with beads. I wonder who did this: a grandparent entertaining bored grandchildren or someone who just wanted to brighten the view out over the bustling street market? I suspect that, while I find this picturesque, whoever lives here would love to sweep it away in exchange for something more stylish and glamorous.

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I have a confession. I am that person who is always lagging behind taking a photograph in a smelly street corner because there’s an interesting looking bit of peeling plaster that I just must capture. There’s something about worn layers of paint and plaster, and other decrepitude, that I find fascinating. I suppose they tell a story of previous lives and I love the muted colours that result simply from the passage of time.

Last week I was in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which gave me a lot of opportunity to indulge my obsession. As in most hot countries, buildings in the region fall into disrepair quite quickly. Add to that a degree of poverty, an abundance of graffiti and about a million tourists, and you’ve got an extraordinary degree of wear and tear on which to focus.

I usually use detail images like this to remind me of the feel of places I visit or to add a bit of context to a blogpost. But rather than waffle on generally about my trip I’ve decided to let some of these pictures speak for themselves. Except, of course, I’m waffling as well. Can’t be helped…

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This bit of peeling pink paint on the outside wall of an old house in a Tel Aviv lane overshadowed by swanky, new, high-rise blocks reminds me a little of a printed furnishing fabric. I love the combination of colours: the pink and the grey with just enough cream to emphasise what could almost be a floral pattern if you squint.

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I had to smile at this jaunty heart that cheered up a cottage in the same road. Tel Aviv seemed to be covered with graffiti’ed hearts. It will always remind me of a long walk in the blazing hot sun on our way to see the Bauhaus architecture of Boulevard Rothschild. We passed through this much older area when we weren’t quite sure where we were heading and started wandering around. Most of the old streets had been torn down to become temporary car parks or wasteland awaiting development but this little row of worn-looking but cared-for houses remained.

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Number 29 was around the back of our hotel in the flea market area of Jaffa. It must have been in the process of being demolished when the work to ground to a halt, leaving a whole corner of the house behind.

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I’ve no idea what these posters in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s old city say but I like the way that they have seem to have become part of the metal utility box cover they were stuck to. The grey, ochre and yellow complement each other and I can see both the colours and shapes being the inspiration for a geometric design of some kind. Perhaps something with a 1950s influence?

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Here paint and rust have fused on the windowsill of an old warehouse in Jaffa that now houses a cool restaurant with a vibrant music scene called Container. The different shades of blue make me think of a piece of china, or perhaps of clouds and sea. Really quite appropriate for its portside location.

Maybe I’ll do an occasional series of Detail Freak posts. I’ve certainly got enough material…

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I always think of Glastonbury as being quite near but it isn’t really. It’s the other side of the M5 motorway from the Quantocks for a start and that’s quite a divider, although it’s not hard to cross. It’s also the other side of the Somerset Levels, the very flat part of North Somerset which was badly flooded in 2013-14. The countryside is really different from here: quite flat but with big hills that seem to suddenly loom up at random. Of course it’s random, it’s geology, not planning but you know what I mean.

Somerset’s like that. Big and with a very varied landscape, ranging from tidal mudflats of the northern coast to sharply delineated hills and valleys, or combes (pronounced ‘cooms’) as they’re called locally. Densely wooded hillsides fill your ears with birdsong and windswept beaches that give you the best blowdry should you get drenched in a shower of rain.

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Somerset includes beautiful cities like Bath and tiny farming hamlets down long, winding lanes without even a sign to tell you you’re there, like ours. People often say: “Oh, I know someone in Somerset,” and it turns out they mean in Frome or thereabouts. I’ve never even been to Frome (rhymes with combe, in other words, ‘Froom’), although I must go one day. It’s south of here and apparently quite hip but for now I’m pleased that I managed to make it to visit Glastonbury, finally, after six years. I have been there before but that was in the days of fitting out the cottage and searching for bits and pieces at reclamation yards, which isn’t the same as pottering around the place, dog in tow.

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Glastonbury High Street

Glastonbury is pretty dog friendly with lots of shops quite happy for you to take your four-legged companion inside. There are water bowls outside lots of shops and many cafes have outdoor tables, so that you and your pooch can eat al fresco.

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Labrador dog on Glastonbury Tor

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There were also lots of dogs on Glastonbury Tor, which is a steep climb right in the middle of the town. Don’t wear stiff old wellies as I did because getting up the hill with no ankle flexion is rather hard work. It was also blustery and drizzly, and hence there wasn’t a very good view which was a pity as it’s obviously fabulous on a good day. The trade off – not that many people around, although up at the top there we found lots of people sheltering from the squally showers inside the small base of the tower.

Mural with girl in floaty dress

macabre graffiti of skeletons

Fireman's witch

Quirky and lively, Glastonbury’s a great size to walk around and the contrast between the grassy hill of the Tor and the town makes for a good combination of activities. The atmosphere of old hippy tat reminds me of the Kensington Market of my teenage years but Glastonbury clearly is still a place of serious pilgrimage for many. It attracts young and old: grizzled guys with long beards, middle-aged women in flowing robes, young women with flowers in their hair and colourful leggings, guys sporting long black coats and top hats leading dogs along on floral garlands. And lots of tourists of all nationalities.

New Age shop in Glastonbury

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It’s become all to easy just to sit here and not venture out once I’ve arrived. It’s a longish drive and if I pick up some essentials on the way, then I can just stay here for days without going much further afield than our local walking spots. Not that it isn’t lovely here with the start of the spring flowers in the back garden but it’s still nice to get out and actually do something. So, I checked the tide times at Blue Anchor Bay and decided to take Nora for a walk on the beach.

Spring garden primroses

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We dawdled along a bit because low tide wasn’t until after lunch. First we stopped off in Crowcombe on the A358. (Sometime, I’d like to make a point of taking every turning off this road between Bishops Lydeard, near here, and Minehead and visit all the villages in turn.) Anyway, Crowcombe. I drove through the village slowly admiring the cottages, the war memorial, the village store, the Carew Arms pub, the church, and Exmoor looking unusually clear in the distance. I wondered why I had settled in a funny, spread-out little hamlet rather than a place with such an obvious community.

Side door, church of the Holy Ghost, Crowcombe, Somerset

Hopping quickly out of the car, I did a quick turn around the church before driving on. And, as they often are hereabouts, it was rather fine. Small and dark, it smelled wonderfully of polishes for brass and wood. The floor is part ancient paving worn concave by generations of feet, part restored, and in part laid with the tombs of local gentryfolk.

tombstone dated 1743

The sixteenth century bench (pew) ends were particularly good. One is dated 1534, although the Roman numerals aren’t what we would expect now (MDXXXIV). But this was made at a time when little that was written was standard. To put this woodcarving into context, it was made in the year in which Martin Luther’s German translation of the bible was first printed, the year the Parliament of England passed the Act recognising the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the year the newly created Church of England with Henry at its head separated from the Church of Rome, and the year that parts of the east coast of Canada were being discovered.

Bench end dated 1534

Then I drove on to Watchet. I’ve visited several times before and didn’t take any photographs. But I made a mental note to leave Nora in the car next time so that I can visit the Contains Art exhibition space properly. The town seems to be thriving. Five or six years ago a few of the little high street shops had closed down and there was a slightly tawdry feel about the place. Not so now, I was happy to see.

Then we finally got to Blue Anchor where Nora stayed in the car while I had lunch and then we had a good walk on the beach. I’ve written about Blue Anchor before so I won’t go into any detail here. It hasn’t changed. The beach is still as huge as always (Bondi eat your heart out), the Driftwood Cafe is still serving delicious fish and chips and great big pieces of cake. And there are still happy dogs running along the sand.

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While in the Blue Mountains, we drove about a bit and came across the pretty little town of Leura. Like many smaller places in New South Wales, the town looks mainly wooden-built. The original development seems to have been mainly between 1915 and 1940 and there is, of course, newer construction on the perimeter.

It’s a lovely little place with many shops that would have been interesting to have a proper look at, but as we got there rather late in the day, we had to make do with window-shopping. My purse thought that was a good thing though.

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Sydney Harbour is so vast and has so many bays that the seafront is miles and miles long and stretches from the city into the far distant suburbs. There are cliffs, woodland areas and parks, as well as wharves and industry, although less and less of the latter. We came upon water almost everywhere we went and here are a few of my impressions.

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beach 1

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beach 2 beach 3  beach 5 beach 6

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beach foot

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I hope people will not mind the lack of words. I seem to have few of them at the moment.

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