A Candle Lit in Carcassonne

A Week of Red Wine and Reminiscence

The sun was rising over Carcassonne, but I was alone as I explored the Medieval Cite

Mum and I spent a week in France in October, just us. I cannot remember the last time we spent alone together like this, and I was delighted that she wanted to see our project

I slept at our house but installed her in our neighbour’s apartment, and the nicest parts of the days were the evenings when we’d have something to eat together and then settle down with a glass or two of red wine, and simply natter

Through the week we discussed various family histories (and, we decided, perhaps a few myths). We also talked about her childhood and siblings, of her experiences and loss as a young girl during World War Two, and then of her long and happy marriage to Dad

We stayed overnight at Carcassonne on the way home, as I wanted to share the Medieval Cite with her

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I was tired, having picked up ‘something’ which turned out to be a chest infection and struck me dumb for eight full days once I was home. Still, the early October weather was kind and we sat in the sun with afternoon drinks, and then wandered off to soak up the al fresco atmosphere at dinner within the city walls

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The next day was our last, so I went out early to take a few snaps. The solitude and peace was totally different from the previous evening, and the light was just catching the Cite

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I noticed someone else: a nun, on her way to open the Cathedral

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I followed inside. She glanced at me, perhaps slightly disapproving, but didn’t ask me to leave. Inside, candles still burned in dedication from the day before, and the enormous windows were illuminated in the golden morning light

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I continued to wander a while, before heading back to breakfast with Mum. We were travelling with only hand luggage and so we were quickly packed and out again to explore. I was keen to show Mum the Cathedral, and the day was deliciously warm

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That day Mum and I lit a candle of our own, as if to mark the end of our week together. It felt right, somehow, and I think of it often


I wouldn’t normally include travel notes, but:

Carcassonne is not ideal for anyone who uses a walking aid, such as my Mum, but it is worth the effort and we just took our time. We saw a lot of wheelchair users managing too

The little road train provides a cheap and convenient tour. However, it is very bumpy so I strongly recommend wearing a sports bra!

 

 

Our hotel was pretty much opposite the entrance to the Cite. Even if you just fancy a sit down over a cuppa or a glass of wine, I can recommend it Hotel du Chateau

There is a beautiful old cemetery just outside the Cite entrance. Worth a look if – like me – you like cemeteries

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What We Saw When We Couldn’t See

A day when the fog beckons

img_3897After a Saturday night out in Bridport which had delivered wine, beer and Hendricks Mojitos at the Venner Bar, the last thing I expected was an early morning. I am notoriously NOT a morning person

But at 7am on this December Sunday we threw on some layers, grabbed our cameras and headed off to soak up the atmosphere at West Bayimg_3830

The Station Kitchen Restaurant would have been a lovely stop – if only it had been openimg_3827img_3820

We walked by the harbour, where few brave boats headed out and quickly vanished. After taking a lie in, the sun stretched out, pushing the fog along the cliffs to Bradstockimg_3871

img_3927Leaving only stillness and calm in West Bayimg_3956

img_3955So: would you have gone out, or stayed in bed until the sun came up?

Not Everyday – the Wolfsonian

Just getting my regular fix

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We hadn’t researched Miami. Having been there years ago it seemed unnecessary. So when we stumbled upon this sight in the foyer of a building I was frantically taking photos through the glass doors until Baz explained that we were allowed inside. We had found the temple that is Miami’s Wolfsonian Institute

The Institute is apparently 15 years old (yes, it’s obviously a while since we visited!) and holds a small and beautifully chosen selection of items. Artworks include some rather unsettling 20th Century pictures, including a painting which deals openly with suicide. I apologise for the lack of quality in the photo, but I felt I had to include it

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Of course, I found myself mentally furnishing a home with the jaw-dropping selection of home items

IMG_0550Look at these gorgeous nouveau theatre chairs – I could definitely find space for these. And the leather is perfectly patinated and worn

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Cooking technology may have improved but you can’t tell me there’s a more lovely cooker anywhere today. Never mind practicalities, I would happily have this and never cook

And this would in turn mean that I would need the perfect toaster IMG_0569

But why have just one?

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My tea set would be flawlessly simple and silverIMG_0576

And of course I would have a stunning dressing table, with mirrored shelves and a floor-length mirror, in exactly the right shade of green

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.. and the latest beats. Though I would of course never part with my sunburst cabinet

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I realise that the items here might not push everyone’s buttons, but frankly I will never understand why. This post is obviously not for those people

It is for those of you who will feel exactly what I do when I look at these pieces. I want to touch these things and put them into my house context

Only kidding. Of course I mean my house really!

Beyond the Pale – Miami Pastels

IMG_0345A business trip brought us here, but it’s good to be back. There’s a special quality about the light, the orange juice (OMG I had forgotten how good it tastes!) and the ubiquitous form of art deco that we almost take for granted when the word ‘Miami’ is uttered

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The first few times we came here C was just a baby and so she has no recollection. One time, we stayed at the Breakwater, right in the hub of South Beach, where the downstairs nightclubs throbbed all night

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South Beach is where she took her early steps, but what she sees now is an exhibitionist’s chaotic paradise where nothing or no-one can be too bright, too loud or too visible. She adores the flashy top-end sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – that compete for attention, and loves the music emanating from every window of restaurants, bars and carsIMG_0736

Baz and I are not too old to enjoy these things, we’re honestly not

But for us Miami is still all about the art deco. Obviously. Many of these hotels were cheaply built, as is so often the case, and must require frequent maintenance. A few are shrouded in hoardings where major works are taking place, but there’s still plenty to seeIMG_0437

deco

I think it’s hard to beat these simple perfect curvesIMG_0411

I also adore the motifs featured on so many buildings – often painted in typical Miami-deco styledeco

And the odd bit of glass…

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For me, South beach is not somewhere to come for a rest, but for a change. There is a collision here, where the light meets the pastel colours and the shapes. Miami is a confection that relies on all these elements. In addition, it’s a bustling chaotic hub of a town where the buildings and the beach are an almost incidental background now to the nightlifeIMG_0347 We took a walk before the sun was up, and the only other people on the streets were dozing on the cafe chairs or walking aimlessly, hand-in-hand. Definitely a good time to enjoy it

 

 

Those kittens won’t shoot themselves

encounters on South Beach

The boardwalk provides a 4-mile morning loop on an ideal running surface to the temple of Starbucks at South Beach. It’s an easy run as long as I am back to the hotel before it gets impossibly hot each day (around 7 am)

The distinctive huts along the beach are my landmarks
IMG_0625Enjoying my temporary routine I notice others around me, who also start their day by coming hereIMG_0666

The cats are in all shades of ginger, grey, white and ‘Branston pickle’IMG_0710Taking shade in the sea grape bushes during the heat of the day, they appear each morning to enjoy small piles of kitty biscuits, lovingly placed by dedicated locals

By the second day I recognise several of the cats, and I am on nodding terms with a few people – some of them runners and some ‘feeders’. One lady says she feeds them ‘every day, sixty three of them’. Another man tells me he gives food to ‘about three dozen’. Clearly this is a great commitment and a real passion

As we settle in bed one night, we tell C that we will both be getting up at a time she’s only heard of, for me to run and Baz to find and photograph the groups of kittens that she won’t see during the day. She groans and pulls her cover over her head, unimpressed

‘Those kittens aren’t going to shoot themselves,’ says Baz, but in the morning the kittens elude us, ushered away by protective parents before we can snap them

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The beach walk is popular with runners, cyclists, dog walkers. Many people practise yoga. Many more sleep on the beach – some through choice, some through necessity. I see one man asleep each morning on the same piece of boardwalk, and there are many more adrift here

After a chaotic Saturday night in SOBE a pair of abandoned or forgotten gold-heeled shoes lounge on the beach. There are lovers and revellers not yet returned from clubbing. As I pass two men in their twenties sharing an early morning joint, one shouts out to me: ‘Good morning beautiful lady, you look great’

I am glad of his encouragement. Name me one fifty year old woman who wouldn’t enjoy that!IMG_0481

The initial warm breeze will become a searing heat by 7 am, so I am delighted to see the beach hut we christened ‘half-of-Lisa-Simpson-hut’, signalling that I am almost back at the hotel. It’s now our last morning in Miami, my last run in Miami, and a man shouts gruffly to me: ‘Cold! Eyes! Bitch!’

Just another nutter, this place is full of them …

Beautiful and Brutally Honest

An Unexpected Truth in Lincoln

It’s never good to be behind someone who has stayed at the hotel before and wants to check that her room is ‘not by the refrigerator units because they’re quite loud’. The guy’s response that she’ll probably be fine doesn’t do much to reassure me because I know the hotel is full all week, so if my room is awful, I’m stuck with it

When I reach the desk, the manager advises me that I have received an internal upgrade. I  pay little attention because I am (a) soaking wet head to sandals from the tempest, (b) wrestling a heavy two and a half foot wide and three foot tall brass light fitting picked up at a train station sort-of-en-route and (c) almost in touching distance of the bar

Things get better very quickly. After squeezing into the tiny lift with all my crap I discover that my room is in fact a four-poster suite on the fourth floor, with cracking far-reaching views over the rooftops and access to a large roof terrace facing the stunning Cathedral

Just me and my random metal objects snuggling up for two nights until Baz arrivesIMG_9959.JPG

Lincoln really could be the fudge-lovers world capital, and there are plenty of places to stop and get a cuppa or, indeed, an ice cream. I had a strange craving for rose petals that day so I had Turkish delight, Stem ginger and Liquorice flavours all together and loved it!

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The spirit of creativity runs high in the Bailgate area. Galleries and small independent shops are plentiful, and Baz and I LOVED the photographic exhibition at the Harding House Gallery by Jane Wright inspired by the beauty in the dereliction of industrial sites in Sheffield

The Bailgate streets are full of character and there are frequent glimpses of the Cathedral and castle between the houses

So what hadn’t I expected?

Inside the fantastical Cathedral building, alongside the historic tombs, very contemporary works of art reside, such as the incredibly beautiful and moving ‘Forest Stations’ by William Fairbank. I found no online links that do them justice and my camera battery ran out so I have no pictures, so my advice is simply to go and see them

And more surprising to me was ‘Little Hugh’s Tomb’, where a warning against racial hatred and bigotry, illustrated by a terrifying true piece of local history, ends with the wonderful greeting of ‘Shalom’. For me as an atheist this was really refreshing and honest in such a grand Cathedral, and I welled up as I read it:

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Times are strange right now. There are many people feeling resentment and fear in the world and many more suffering terribly, but no good ever comes of bigotry or cruelty. History has provided enough evidence that people are capable of terrible acts, but also of wonderful kindness and creativity. Let’s remind ourselves that it is our responsibility to find the goodness and nurture it

Drenched and Delicious

Strength and beauty in the wake of the storm

I just had to share these poppies I snapped on my phone this morning. Despite their delicacy they have survived last night’s torrential rainIMG_2728

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IMG_2749Some had folded over their silken petals IMG_2745 in an attempt to protect themselvesIMG_2736

IMG_2751The bees fed wellIMG_2756Next year’s legacy is assured