Wednesday, November 13

Lisbon 2013 - Gulbenkian Museum (Museu Calouste Gulbenkian)

Another rainy day sent me off to the Gulbenkian Museum, which (along with the Gulbenkian Foundation, which funds the arts, social welfare, education and science) is housed in some interesting Modernist buildings.

The buildings are set in a beautifully landscaped park, and softened by lots of plants.

Calouste Gulbenkian was a very interesting man, who made his pile acting as a middleman in oil deals in Iraq post the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th Cent. His shrewd business deals lead to his nickname 'Mr Five Percent' (note to self, must look for a good biography).

His extensive art and textile collection would have probably ended up in the UK, had he not followed the French government to Vichy. The British government declared him an enemy alien and sized his oil revenues. You can't blame him for being a bit miffed.

The collection is absolutely superb. My favourite pieces were the little, Egyptian cat sarcophagus (above) and the collection of Mamluk glass.

Saturday, November 9

Lisbon October 2013 - the Oceanarium

The boy had a conference in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago, so I cam along as 'plus one'. Sadly, the first couple of days weren't exactly sunny.

It was French half-term and the city was rammed with French families, also trying to hide from the rain. On Thursday was all headed for the oceanarium (think aquarium but posher [they feed the sharks by hand]).

It's the only aquarium in Europe with SEA OTTERS! I ruthlessly pushed all the little Jean-Pauls and Claudettes out of the way to have a good commune.

It's an absolutely magical place...

...with some fine merchandise (although no sea otter SOCKS).

RIP Maisie

Last week our Snr Cat Maisie was taken very ill, and we had to have her put down. She was sixteen and a half, and had been with us for fifteen years (the majority of our married life). She was a friendly, homebody who like nothing better than to sit on my lap.

I'm not going to apologise for missing her. Hard is hard, and there's no point playing the 'my hard is harder than your hard' game. 

Thursday, September 26

France 2013(2) - Laon

Rather than just bombing up the motorway back to Calais, we broke our journey in Laon, which was the Carolingian capital of France.

The main part of the town was bombed to bits during WWII...

...but the medieval centre on top of the hill came out mostly unscathed.

The present cathedral dates from 12th and early 13th centuries, and is absolutely stunning.

The stonemasons became so fond of the oxen who carried the stone, that they added them to the tower.

There are also lots of other fun details...

...but the interior is absolutely breathtaking.

The lantern under the tower is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen...

...the stained glass is stunning.

The font dates from the 8th or 9th century...

...and has the  most amazing patterns and heads.

I loved the remains of this painting. Imagine what the cathedral must have looked like when it was all painted.

This panel shows the Visitation, the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother when they are both pregnant. When John senses Jesus presence, he leaps in the womb. I'm also very moved by this story.

I really don't have the words...

...or the pictures... convey how beautiful it is.

What a fantastic name for an eatery!

I'm sure we'll be back.

France 2013(2) - Lac des Settons

I've been very slow to blog my holiday pictures this time, I think it's because for once, I really didn't want to come home.

The Boy and I are far from being 'Beach Holiday' people, but we ended our trip with a blissful couple of afternoons sat next to a beautiful reservoir, the Lac des Settons.

We read, snoozed and I swam in fresh water for the first time in forever.

It was close to perfection.

Friday, September 20

France 2013(2) - Mont Beuvray

Mont Beuvray is a very special place.

It's the site of the Gaulish settlement, Bibracte...

...and there's still a lot of digging going on. This was a Roman villa.

There are some amazing tree roots...

...and a Holy Well...

...some interesting modern structures to cover excavations...

...views over the beautiful Morvan...

...and walks through the woods.

France 2013(2) - Paray-le-Monial

Avoiding the rain clouds, via a very strange SatNav route, we made our way to Paray-le-Monial. It's home to the 12th century basilica. It was a daughter church to the great abbey at Cluny.

The basilica was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but was rededicated to the Sacred Heart.

It's a HUGE pilgrimage site, but I must admit that I found the church to be over-manicured, and curiously soulless.

Inside the church, things have highly restored, but outside things look a little more weathered...

...and you can get a feel of the character of place. It gives rise to an interesting debate about restoration. I'm sure that the interior is probably very close to how it was when it was built, but if returning it to that state removes its soul?

The exterior reminded me of the basilicas we saw in Ravenna.

There is the lovely St Nicholas tower...

....and the fantastic Hotel-de-Ville.

I rather liked this sturdy warrior ( are those breasts under the breastplate?)...

...and these little critters.

I'd like a little 'pencil' tower like this too.