Pencarrow House…this time in April


Last year we had our first visit to this fascinating house in May and, as it is well known for its dazzling display of camellias and rhododendrons, we caught them just past their best. Much better this time round, although we could try even earlier next year. Because you have to go on set-times guided tours of the house we settled down, whilst waiting, for a cup of tea in the Peacock cafe…… said peacocks were very much visible..20180425_121230.jpgWe learned more in the tour with a different guide this time. I was desperate to take some interior photos but you can’t, and this is not because the family object, but because the insurance company won’t allow it. Not surprising really I suppose, especially when you consider that the family has probably the finest collection of Reynolds portraits anywhere in one place. One room was indeed stuffed full of them! Interesting to see historic artefacts mingled with the day-to-day bits and pieces of family living. One little story I liked (could be true) concerns the Meissen swan. Apparently the daughter, when very young obviously, overheard a guide telling visitors about it and reported to Daddy that the guides were telling stories….the problem? when told about it she had thought it was mice and swan, and no mice! Some visitors now bring china mice to hide behind the swan.

Catching sight of one particularly magnificent rhododendron through the windows, I was itching to go and see it in all its glory. However immediately our tour had finished, a vicious downpour and hail drove us to our car for some time. Clear skies followed…as often in Cornwall, and out we went………20180425_140634.jpg20180425_140504.jpgWe then started on the circular walk round the whole grounds, about two and a half miles….first looking back at what used to be the main entrance (and still should be in our opinion)…20180425_140603.jpgthen past the ancient Cornish cross…we were told it is the largest of its type. I was expecting something about twenty feet high, but the head is impressive!20180425_141016.jpgall along the walk you pass beautiful camellias and rhododendrons ….20180425_141301.jpgand magnolias too at this time of year…20180425_141417.jpgand then you go along Moles garden a living memorial to the current inhabitant’s husband, and prettily laid out with absolutely lovely views back to the house..20180425_141504.jpg20180425_141529.jpgb33119b4-1c8b-4c31-b7a6-0a1179cb09f2.jpgnext, past the Palm House, it looks as though said palms outgrew their house!20180425_141851.jpga beautiful lake next….20180425_142238.jpgand then, very exciting, well to me, you walk through the Iron Age hill fort20180425_143701.jpgThis survives to a height of 3m in places and has terrific views all round as you would expect….20180425_143510.jpgthen through an area the family call the cathedral…20180425_144117.jpg…before carrying on down the one mile long main carriage drive lined all the way with mainly camellias and rhododendrons, some spectacular…20180425_144430.jpg20180425_144649.jpg20180425_144735.jpg20180425_144754.jpg20180425_144838.jpg20180425_144932.jpg20180425_145028.jpg20180425_145532.jpgplenty of woodland plants underfoot only add character at this time of year…bluebells as well as the wild garlic…20180425_145817.jpgthen just before reaching the house again, two signs to add to my collection….20180425_145841.jpgyou couldn’t make it up….20180425_145859.jpg

Enjoying Exeter….

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After dropping off Katherine, Nasar and Aiisha at Exeter airport for their flight home today Saturday, with all their accoutrements including Nasar’s lovely new leather holdall, we left the car at the Park and Ride and travelled into Exeter on top of the double decker. Exeter’s suburbs are ok…we passed neat mainly Edwardian houses. First stop, lunch at JLP’s roof restaurant where the weather was so nice that we sat outside – brilliant! Next, to Waterstone’s which was opposite JLP. Unlike the Truro branch, This seemed to emphasise its books rather than ‘non-books’. Since I chose a couple of good non-fiction titles, F. felt obliged to choose two fiction. We had a nice chat with the guy behind the counter who was pleased that our 2 bookshops are still doing well and told us that one of their best categories of customer now is teenage, the group we had always found so difficult. Good news. We then wandered along Exeter’s main shopping street stopping to admire the umbrella ‘installation’…and the upside of some of the buildings20180421_155312.jpg20180421_171544.jpgbefore dipping into  a back street where we examined some old almshouses..preserved after destruction in the Second World War..20180421_155847.jpgthen onto Cathedral Close20180421_171229.jpgwhere we admired the many old buildings of different ages……. 20180421_160114.jpgincluding the doorway of Number 11 which used to be the residence of the Archdeacon of Barnstable, a medieval house modified during the seventeenth century….. 20180421_160342.jpg20180421_171252.jpgWe then decided to explore the city walls which we had glimpsed on past visits, but reading that around 72 per cent of the circuit still survives, we were keen to compare with York where we used to live….what we found was quite remarkable….20180421_160822.jpg20180421_160931.jpgthe more we walked the more astonished we were that so much has survived, and a lot of it Roman (generally the purple stones in the fabric, as opposed to the soft red sandstone which was used to repair it in later ages)…..20180421_161220.jpg20180421_161108.jpgFor a terrific write-up on the walls (and many other things) see Wolfpaw’s blog         Whilst walking we came across a nice little group of houses….colour has an important role to play in architecture as our friend Alan pointed out…20180421_162233.jpgAs we were getting rather warm on this glorious day we decided to call in to the Prospect Inn on the Quayside for a quick pint…much enjoyed!20180421_165840.jpgWe weren’t following a route as such but we saw more wall on the way back and so reckon we must have see the most of it…the only thing to say about the wall which is a bit of a disappointment is that you cannot walk on it unlike Chester or York…20180421_163024.jpgHowever, it would be nice to have some Roman/Medieval wall as your garden wall! 20180421_162714.jpg    Which reminds me we very nearly bought a house at one time at Cawood in Yorkshire which had a piece of Cawood Castle at the bottom of the garden. Cardinal Wolsey lived there for a while and he is believed to be the inspiration for Humpty Dumpty. A great day out. We like Exeter a lot.



Family visit…April 2018

20180416_153848.jpgAlways nice when family visit, and much different again when our granddaughter comes, as we tend to revert to childhood, and doing child-oriented things! Despite cold conditions on the first day a trip to our nearest seaside (Looe is 15 minutes away) was in order. Now, a kite and a windmill, this looks interesting…and putting the stunt kite together even more so. Pity the conditions were too windy…….20180416_154335.jpgBut, even without bucket and spade, we were able to make the semblance of a Norman motte and bailey, and the windmill came in handy.20180416_155638.jpg20180416_155537.jpgWe did see something we haven’t seen here before…an eider. All those feathers needed to keep itself warm.20180416_160813.jpgStill time before the bus for rides…..20180416_161719.jpgand arcades….we were all desperate to keep playing the penny drop, and Aiisha won some coins and a unicorn….20180416_162938.jpga hot chocolate in the cafe overlooking the beach was very welcome, and allowed some time for more serious stuff….20180416_165802.jpgAll of this was good preparation for our next day’s jaunt into Devon to Dingles Heritage Centre. ‘The Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre is proud to present the National Fairground Collection. It is a facility unique in the UK, designed to capture the magic of a bygone age through exhibits, vintage engineering and stunning artwork displays. The Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre is a 45,000 square foot indoor attraction that provides a unique opportunity to view our Fairground Heritage in a beautiful rural location.’ No arguments with that…it was great. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.20180417_143756.jpg20180417_144000.jpg20180417_144614.jpgBecause it was so quiet (start of season, no school holidays)  the punters almost outnumbered the staff.  But not quite, and at first we had to wait for a member of staff to turn up to whichever ride we wanted. We soon learned to keep in step with where the operator was, and then he followed us as we got talking and got to know him. So, we had our pick, and he always offered different speeds….although it was soon clear that Aiisha and Katherine always wanted the fastest.20180417_145215.jpg20180417_145626.jpg20180417_145736(0).jpg20180417_151856.jpg20180417_152715.jpg20180417_153559.jpgThis was the oldest ride and went very fast….20180417_154315.jpgand it seemed faster as the bit in the middle rotated the other way….an old fairground trick which first of all used the iconic figure of Popeye, which is still preserved here…20180417_154004.jpg20180417_154951.jpgOne of my highlights was the old Ghost Train which had come here from Blackpool, and which I had been on when young and gullible…it was pretty frightening for a 3 year-old, but no tears. The weather wasn’t great again, but at least we were inside. Home via Tavistock where we called in to probably our favourite pub in the South West…..the Cornish Arms. We also stopped to take a couple of pics of an old stone bridge and the manor house it was leading towards……must look it up on the OS map.20180417_162745.jpg20180417_162749.jpgAn unexpectedly great day.

Whenever we wanted exercise near home we could step from our garden onto the path by the river which leads to the play area which is usually very quiet..20180418_112127.jpg20180418_112228.jpgand, if the weather was nice, eat in our own garden using our brand new table and chairs…salad with my home-made bread, (seeded walnut and raisin wholemeal), and of course a bottle of wine…what could be nicer?20180418_120528.jpgBuses from our village of St Keyne to Looe are every hour so no problem fitting in the beach whenever we wanted…20180418_133808.jpgsun glasses and ice-cream de rigeur…20180418_140706.jpg20180418_142452.jpgand the sea in April? almost warm enough to dip a toe….20180418_142809.jpg20180418_143411.jpg20180418_143423.jpg20180418_143837.jpgcatching butterflies is an unusual sport at Looe!20180418_145235.jpgWhen Nasar arrived to join us, we decided a picnic on the river would be a nice family thing to do, and so we arrived at Mylor with much anticipation despite the grey day….20180419_100342.jpgThe girls at Mylor Boat Hire were very friendly and helpful and they at least were optimistic that the mist, which was really quite thick, would burn off. It was an adventure taking the little motor boat through the packed harbour and with the help of the map which was provided we headed for Trelissick and the King Harry ferry where we were told there was a mid-river mooring we could tie up to. Here we had our picnic brunch or lunch…20180419_111048.jpgand the weather was indeed changing for the better as we headed off in the other direction towards St Mawes…20180419_113943.jpg great fun was had by all although sometimes……20180419_124959.jpga little concentration was needed…..20180419_125001.jpg20180419_131623 2.jpg20180419_114658.jpgrounding the point at St Mawes we were enveloped in lovely sunshine……20180419_121409.jpg20180419_122108.jpgand the castle looked as majestic as ever……20180419_121442.jpgFor four and a half people, £70 was excellent value for 4 hours cruising on the wonderful Fal river…we shall do it again when the opportunity arises…..driving into Falmouth afterwards we stopped at the pretty Kimberley Park to run off some energy…..20180419_142051.jpg20180419_142214.jpg20180419_142253.jpgand then did a bit of shopping. Falmouth really has a terrific assortment of independent shops – often with views of the river. As it was Katherine’s birthday, we stopped at The Alverton Hotel in Truro for afternoon tea..what used to house nuns now retains great character..methode-times-prod-web-bin-aeb5f0ba-8bc7-11e6-aa51-f33df6df2868.jpgthere were certainly enough goodies to go round and in fact we asked for a doggy bag in the end!20180419_174653.jpgThe last day of the visit we split up. F. and I dropped the others off at Woodlands Theme Park on the top of the hill outside Dartmouth, whilst we had a really good wander around the town. Didn’t realise Simon Drew now had a giraffe!20180420_144500.jpgLooking for lunch we hit upon the Dartmouth Yacht Club on the Embankment, and what a fantastic choice we found we had made. Up on the first floor was the lovely bar/restaurant where we had a delightful lunch and a long chat with the manager about football, sailing, life in general, and just sat and admired the view…..20180420_124440.jpgwanting a little liquid refreshment before the journey home we all ended up at Coronation Park with views of the pretty terrace below Dartmouth Naval College…20180420_152125.jpgand the river..20180420_135922.jpg20180420_140121.jpgThe cafe adjoined the play park which was good and had its own table tennis table…20180420_164153.jpgSuitably rested we made our way back home…after another wonderful day out.


The garden in April…


Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!

It’s a pleasure to open the bedroom curtains in April (well any month really). And cutting down the two big trees has certainly has opened up the view of farmland beyond the garden20180325_133522.jpg. The star magnolia is starting to come into its own in front of a rather too vivid azalea…..20180423_121917.jpg20180423_122013.jpgThe view out front, here from the kitchen, is making progress and next year will be much better……20180423_121946.jpgThe pots are cheerful too…20180325_133522.jpg20180325_133459.jpg20180325_133040.jpgThere are some good individual plants20180424_161406.jpg

20180424_161420.jpg and some pretty juxtapositions, here forget-me-nots with primroses…20180424_161504.jpghere two azaleas…20180424_161553.jpghere red azalea and white camellia….20180424_161602.jpgand although we don’t often get to the bottom of the garden (tho we keep urging each other to do so), it is worth the effort….20180424_161616.jpg20180424_161708.jpg20180424_161720.jpg 20180424_161746.jpgand our fruit trees are down here too… an espalier pear, planted last year…20180424_161630.jpgand a Shropshire prune…blossom’s looking good…20180424_161647.jpgThe slate steps and pathway however are crumbly and lethal in the wet….20180424_161930.jpgThe two ceramic sinks I converted last year with tufa are now looking a little more aged and distinguished….20180424_161429.jpg20180424_161434.jpgSo, all in all, things are looking rosy, apart from things affected by the slugs and snails of which we have literally hundreds. And the pics from our lanes show that all it needs is a bit of sunshine to bring everything on a treat…20180411_163823.jpg20180325_124139.jpg20180414_175637.jpgThe ransoms are just about to take over from the primroses…20180414_180215.jpg20180325_132549.jpg20180325_132454.jpg


Rubbish to the tip…and on to Caerhays Castle….

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Just as the day before, we had a task to do…to take large amounts of cut bamboo from our garden to the tip. Really there are swathes of Cornwall where bamboo is running riot and becoming a real nuisance – most of it in, or escaping from, people’s gardens. Something needs to be done. Anyway, the tip is quite a way from our house and on the way to Caerhays Castle which we visited a couple of weeks ago. So off we went. Last time we went round the house. This time we were here to see the gardens. And how fantastic they were.

‘Home to a National Magnolia Collection, the gardens at Caerhays are a spring-time wonderland for visitors.                                                                                                                     The 120 acre woodland gardens are English Heritage Listed Grade II*. The origins of this historically important collection of Chinese plants can be traced back to the work of the great plant hunters Ernest Wilson (1876 – 1930) and George Forrest (1873 – 1932).               J C Williams of Caerhays (1862 – 1939) gave up politics in 1895 and became passionate about gardening. He was quick to recognise the importance of the plant hunters’ work and contributed £300,000 (in today’s terms) of his own money towards Forrest’s 1911 and subsequent expeditions, as well as being involved in the joint funding of many other trips.In return, Caerhays received a wealth of seed from newly discovered species of Chinese rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias, azaleas, acers and evergreen oaks to mention but a few. A large number of these unique plants can be seen growing in maturity at Caerhays today.’

Now, if you don’t like magnolias, azaleas and rhodedendrons in large quantities look away now…..there are 4 designated ‘routes’ through the gardens and we did the second longest – after a cup of tea of course and the usual excellent cakes for sale here. They are really luscious.WP_20180413_15_13_24_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_15_10_20_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_15_11_49_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_01_42_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_23_34_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_25_26_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_30_07_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_33_07_Pro 2.jpgand there were plenty of benches for you to just sit and take in the views…wp_20180413_15_00_45_pro-2.jpg……which were amazing, because the castle and its grounds behind are set on a hill within a sort of bowl of lovely Cornish countryside, with occasional views of the lake or the sea…castle-from-behind.jpgwp_20180413_14_56_32_pro-2.jpgWP_20180413_14_38_37_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_31_40_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_34_09_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_37_50_Pro 2.jpgWP_20180413_14_35_59_Pro 2.jpg

A lovely day indeed. Many gardens in Cornwall are called Spring gardens, and justly so. We visited at the very best time, marvelled at the work of the Victorians and Edwardians,   and were lost in a magic world mainly created from China and the Far East…..Highly recommended.

Looking for gas…and on to Hartland Abbey…April 12th


Our car runs on lpg gas which is great normally as it is half the price of petrol. However for the past few weeks there has been a national shortage and none of our usual garages has had any in stock. Much ringing around led me to discover my lpg repair man had stocks. Only problem – he was on the North Coast at Camelford. thus we decided to kill two birds with one stone and fill up with gas and then proceed on the so-called Atlantic Highway to Hartland Abbey which we have never visited before. It was certainly well-hidden and we wondered how the Keeper of Henry V111’s Wine Cellar (who was gifted it by the King, lucky man!), ever managed to find it. We first made a flying stop at the tiny village of Hartland for a ‘comfort break’ as our American friends would say, and we found a beautiful little place with two good pubs by the looks of it which reminded me very much of Cartmel in Cumbria…..20180411_132736.jpgOur first glimpse of the Abbey itself (first pic ) showed an idyllic valley setting, and having parked we explored the outside…… 20180411_162030.jpgwhere we could clearly see the old cloisters incorporated into the fabric…20180411_142059.jpgThe story of the site is very interesting, see the web site...but in essence……                   ‘Hartland Abbey was built in 1157 and consecrated by Bishop Bartholomew of Exeter in 1160AD as a monastery of the regular canons of the Order of St Augustine of Hippo. The Abbey remained as a monastery until 1539 when it became the last monastery in the country to be Dissolved by Henry VIII. The King made a gift of the Abbey to the Sergeant of his Wine Cellar at Hampton Court, Mr. William Abbott, whose descendants live here today.In 1583 the first of three heiresses, Prudence Abbott, married Andrew Luttrell of Dunster Castle in Somerset and the Abbey remained in that family for some 100 years. In 1704, the second heiress, Mary Luttrell married Paul Orchard. The Orchards were to remain at the Abbey through the 18th century until the third heiress, Anne Orchard, married George Buck and moved into the Abbey on the death of her brother in 1812.

The great grandfather of the present owner, Sir Hugh Stucley Bt., who was also called George Buck changed his name to Stucley (being a much older family name) when he was created a Baronet for political services to North Devon, in 1859. Today the Abbey is home to Sir Hugh and Lady Stucley with their four married children, nine grandchildren, the dogs, Madge, Nellie and Rosie and Tim the cat.’ And, in terms of the architecture….                                                                                                                                     ‘The Abbey was originally built across the valley much as it stands today, but covering a greater area. A Chapel was joined at right angles to the north wall in an easterly direction and the Great Hall on the south wall, forming an open courtyard. In 1704 Paul Orchard carried out alterations to the southern end of the house in the Queen Anne style. Later in the 1770’s his son, the second Paul Orchard, carried out a major reconstruction of the house.                                                                                                                                          The Chapel and the Great Hall were demolished and he levelled the main body of the house to the height of the cloisters on which he built three large reception rooms with a row of guest bedrooms above. Along with a classical Strawberry Hill facade the project was completed in 1779. In 1845 Sir George Stucley carried out further alterations. The Drawing Room, Dining Room and Billiard Room were redecorated and two bay windows were added.                                                                                                                                             In the Drawing Room he erected linenfold panelling with a set of twelve murals above, depicting events in history in which his forebears took part. The same theme was continued in the Dining Room above the original Elizabethan oak panelling, removed from the Great Hall and painted in Victorian times.
The Little Dining Room is typical of the Queen Anne period whereas The Library is the Regency room in the house in the Strawberry Hill gothic style with panelling by Meadows and a fabulous ogee fireplace by Batty Langley                                                                           One of the main features of the house is the Alhambra Passage with its vaulted and stencilled ceiling. Sir George Stucley commissioned Sir George Gilbert Scott to design this after he visited the Alhambra Palace in Granada.                                                                  Evidence of the original Abbey building can still be seen in the Basement where the cloisters run the whole length of the passage on the west side of the house. A few original doorways still remain.’

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph inside the house…who can really blame them, it is after all a private house with Romneys, Gainsboroughs etc etc…but here are a few lifted pics..I do love Strawberry Gothic….H&A_Hartland_13--.jpgthe influence of Gilbert Scott’s work on the Houses of Parliament  can clearly be seen in the panelling and decoration of a couple of the major rooms….H&A_Hartland_02--.jpgand the round table in the Dining Room is fascinating was purchased for only £10 in 1934 by Sheila, Lady Stucley and can be enlarged by twisting the table around, to sit 10, 16, or 22 people with the insertion of triangular leaves. Its quite an extraordinary piece of clever furniture construction. H&A_Hartland_10--.jpgthe fireplace in the billiard room is spectacular…H&A_Hartland_07--.jpgand, as for Scott’s Alhambra Passage, well…….3522_The-Alhambra-Corridor.jpgWe had a couple of very interesting chats with guides, and they were obviously as enamoured of the house as we were and full of enthusiasm for its history…and there were fascinating exhibitions on the use of the house for many films and TV programs, and on associations of the family for instance, the life and colourful career of perhaps the most most influential member of the Stucley family, antiquarian William Stucley, famed for his studies of Stonehenge and other prehistoric sites. William Stucley is unfairly remembered for his conviction that ancient stone circles were built by the Druids, which he decided must have evolved from a much older Abrahamic tradition (in essence making Druidism a direct ancestor of Christianity).
Though Stucleys Druidic theories were later a source of amusement among modern archaeologists, he was also the first to rigorously measure ancient sites like Stonehenge and put forward the now widely accepted theory that the stones were aligned in accordance with celestial events such as midsummer sunrise. Modern archaeology owes a debt of gratitude to William Stucley, and his life is explored in fascinating detail in the exhibit.

The gardens and estate then called to us, as a nice day was developing, cloudless at times…..20180411_163823.jpgand we decided to do the one-mile walk through the grounds to Hartland Beach…..we were surrounded by wildflowers all the way….20180411_161426.jpg20180411_162544.jpg20180411_162614.jpgand were really surprised to see even bluebells in bloom at the same time as the primroses, well ahead of our own…20180411_162629.jpg20180411_164342.jpgand we were fascinated by one of the estate houses (used in the BBC’s Sense and Sensibility) which seemed to have a roof reflecting the actions of the sea…..20180411_164657.jpg20180411_164303.jpgHartland Beach was great, we were virtually on our own and the sea was at its best…20180411_164845.jpg20180411_165001.jpg20180411_165228.jpg20180411_165211.jpg20180411_165314.jpg20180411_165539.jpgthe walk back wasn’t so bad either….20180411_171338.jpgWe drove back home through Launceston, where we called in for a quick lubrication stop, and were amazed once more at the views of the almost surreal Norman castle…Launceston_Castle.jpg



A Memorable Trip to Lisbon..March/April

20180328_212435.jpgThe iconic 28 old wooden tram that still plies its way up and down the hills of Lisbon. I probably used this very tram on my last trip to Lisbon when aged 13. A lot has changed but Lisbon remains as beautiful as ever. F. and I were invited to go for a few days holiday with David and Jennifer ostensibly for various ‘missed’ anniversaries and, setting out across the Tamar first-class on GWR (I booked well beforehand), there was already a sense of adventure…..20180327_105206.jpgAfter leaving a cold and rainy London we arrived in a coldish and overcast Lisbon where we used the first of many Uber taxis to get us from the airport to our hotel….incredibly and amazingly cheap – 6 Euros for quite a lengthy journey. When Jennifer talked to some of the Portuguese and Brazilian drivers later, it still seemed they made a reasonable living…..20180328_160832.jpgAfter dumping our cases we headed for the rooftop solarium where drinks by the pool were in order, and it was just warm enough for the British contingent to sit without a coat (not Jennifer of course…).20180328_170735.jpgWe then took an Uber into the city centre to do a bit of exploring and have our first meal. Bit of a disaster for me as I chose the local speciality of Bacalao or salt cod and it stank to high heaven and tasted the same. This was our only instance of bad food during our stay thank goodness (recommended by The Times, but you can’t win them all……). Wandering through the centre we made our way to one of Lisbon’s many beautiful open spaces, this time a magnificent colonnaded square by the sea where we were able to enjoy a post-prandial coffee at one of the inviting cafes…20180328_192809.jpgon our way we marvelled at the stunning architecture of the buildings, 20180328_182152.jpgthe fantastic coloured, mosaic-like Portuguese pavements or calcada portuguesa, coming in many patterns…20180328_193453.jpgthe jolly colours of the buildings themselves…just looking gladdens the heart…20180328_193536.jpg20180328_194325.jpg20180328_194507.jpg20180328_195737.jpg20180328_194614.jpg20180328_194727.jpg20180328_194910.jpg20180328_200435.jpgRefreshed for more wandering we found by chance the oldest operating bookshop in the world (Guinness Book of Records) which was in an absolutely lovely building itself, long and arcaded with a terrific selection of books…it was a privilege for us ex bookshop-owners to see it….20180328_210826.jpg20180328_210639.jpgMore footwork led us to the square with a statue of Camoes, the famous Portuguese poet. I was always familiar with Camoes as, when on my visit aged 13, I fell head over heels in love with our local guide, she gifted me a copy of his poetry. Ah, the joys of being 13! Maybe I read this of his….

Love is a fire that burns unseen,
a wound that aches yet isn’t felt,
an always discontent contentment,
a pain that rages without hurting,

a longing for nothing but to long,
a loneliness in the midst of people,
a never feeling pleased when pleased,
a passion that gains when lost in thought.

It’s being enslaved of your own free will;
it’s counting your defeat a victory;
it’s staying loyal to your killer.

But if it’s so self-contradictory,
how can Love, when Love chooses,
bring human hearts into sympathy?

20180328_211646.jpgand here, by chance, the 28 tram was waiting for us to board, 20180328_212435.jpgand we took it to its terminus by the cathedral called Sé. The word Sé derives its name from the initials of Sedes Episcopalis which when translated means bishop’s seat. Interestingly the first bishop of Lisbon to have his seat here had no roots or ties to the region but was actually an English crusader named Gilbert.20180328_213818.jpg20180328_213854.jpgThrough the gates opposite the cathedral was a marvellous park, which even in the dark we enjoyed! And on the other side of the park we found a local bar/restaurant. It looked busy with locals eating, but the door was shut. Undeterred we knocked, and the friendly owner admitted us through what we saw was a disguised heavy iron security door. He quickly made two tables available for us, and we enjoyed a nice relaxing bottle of vino verde our first of the trip (but not the last). It was late but when we asked what time he served food till, he said 2am…….quite astonishing!20180328_214009.jpg20180328_213945.jpgNext day, which dawned nicer,  we made for the historic area of Belem and had our first breakfast of croissants and pastel de nata at the historic Pastéis de Belém. We were so lucky in our timing not to queue in this astonishing place which makes 20,000 of these alone each day and which is an absolute maze of a building holding up to 500 foodies.20180329_112707.jpg20180329_115853.jpgthe front shop itself is extraordinary….20180329_115944.jpgand it adjoins the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery where the first tarts were baked…20180329_120952.jpgthank goodness Jennifer knew all about this place! A pleasant stroll through the park by the side of the River Tagus took us, past the marina, to the monuments which remind us of Portugal’s significant role in the Age of Discoveries. The Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) was built in the 16th century as a fort to protect the coast from foreign attacks, and like the Jerónimos Monastery, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an example of Manueline architecture.20180329_121136-1.jpg20180329_125127(0).jpgand further on was the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (or Monument to the Discoveries) which was built in 1960 and pays tribute to 33 prominent figures in Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, including Henry the Navigator and the poet Luís Vaz de Camões.20180329_121953.jpg20180329_122744.jpg20180329_122000.jpgWandering back (we did a lot of wandering) we saw the old crane which lifted the sea-planes from their landing site……commemorated in a rather nice sculpture…20180329_123705.jpg20180329_124917.jpgand enjoyed the port architecture (so different from many ports I can think of)….20180329_124308.jpg and thrilled Jennifer (only joking) by letting her stand on Brazil….in this rather nice map of the world…..20180329_122128.jpg20180329_151039.jpgOur next stop, past some more stylish buildings was the Alfama district by far the oldest of all districts in the capital of Portugal. It has kept a strong medieval atmosphere, mostly due to the fact the 1755 earthquake had no impact on the area (given the solid dense rock foundation of the district).20180329_154653.jpg

20180329_154807.jpg20180329_155230.jpg20180329_155624-1.jpgat the top of the hill is the imposing castle of St George which we visited. 1200px-LisbonCastle.jpg20180329_154954.jpg20180329_161024.jpg20180329_161607.jpgVery interesting history…Moorish at first and then captured by the Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, at which it became a royal palace and fortification for King Afonso Henriques  in 1147. Its battlements and towers are well-preserved and the views of Lisbon are stunning.

Another day and more pleasure. To be honest I was just as happy wandering the streets near our hotel in the commercial sector and admiring the different styles of buildings. Pity there is no book on ‘the buildings of Lisbon’ or come to that ‘the buildings of Barcelona’ (I have looked far and wide).20180330_135010.jpg20180330_135018.jpg20180330_135044.jpg20180330_135214(0).jpg20180330_135409.jpg20180330_135503.jpg20180330_135556.jpg20180330_135725.jpg20180330_135918.jpg20180330_140907.jpg20180330_140823.jpgbut our destination today was the Escher exhibition which we had noticed was on when in Belem. It really was worth the admission price (cheap). It was fascinating to learn how Escher’s work developed and how it became of interest to scientists and mathematicians (amongst others). 20180330_153339.jpgBy looking at his earlier prints and lithographs of stays in Italy and Spain, of nature, and of Moorish art, you could see how this would lead him eventually to the works of ‘impossibility’ for which he has become so famous…20180330_150405.jpg20180330_151128.jpg20180330_151227.jpg20180330_151354.jpg20180330_151716(0).jpg20180330_152434.jpgIt was his minute viewing of detail that led him onwards…20180330_152549.jpgnhW5n4lspNC-9spVP2HKvA-Escher+-+Relativity.jpg20180330_152648.jpg20180330_152901.jpg

THE-AMAZING-WORLD-OF-M.-C-009.jpgand wide interest (although strangely not in the art world) led to him doing commissions for bookplates,20180330_155552.jpgalbum covers (here Pink Floyd)690f9c18c624288ebe48eed1ca89b35b.jpgand even fashion….20180330_160423.jpgNot all exhibitions hold your interest all the way through, but this one did. From the exhibition we went to meet one of Jennifer’s friends who lives and teaches in Lisbon, Tanya. We met near our hotel in a lovely old-fashioned tea rooms which reminded us of Betty’s in Harrogate….A lovely friend from whom we learned a terrific amount about Lisbon and living in Lisbon. I feel guilty about not inviting her with us to dinner.

20180330_175759.jpgOur meal this evening was in a Times recommended restaurant in the Market, the largest market in Lisbon, the Mercado da Ribeira which as well as selling fantastic produce during the day (which we missed), also houses a large food pavilion created by Time Out where some of the city’s top chiefs have bars….for on the ground floor this is just like some street market of your dreams, unlike anywhere I have ever seen, and with a buzzing atmosphere from the crowds of mainly young eaters. What an amazing place. Being slightly separate upstairs we went to Pap’Açôrda, one of Lisbon’s most iconic restaurants, and we were not disappointed. Fantastic food (including their signature chocolate mousse served from the biggest bowl of chocolate mousse ever seen), fantastic value. One of our best-ever meals.20180330_215902.jpg20180330_220348.jpg

Next day started with breakfast at Lab near the hotel, a pristine, wonderful bakery with incredible value and delicious food.20180331_110836.jpg 20180331_110943.jpg20180331_112214.jpgWe then took the train to local seaside hotspot Cascais, along with lots of Lisboans and enjoyed a pastel de nata on the sands soaking up the sun….20180331_124628.jpg20180331_134116.jpg20180331_134709.jpgbefore wending our way through tourist streets and back streets, again admiring the architecture…and the pavements…20180331_142622.jpg20180331_142658.jpg20180331_134045.jpg20180331_141817.jpg20180331_142300.jpg20180331_142747.jpgup the hill, past the citadel in order to lunch at the marina and get a shot which is iconic…very nice too….20180331_144950.jpgour next move was by Uber to Sintra a quite extraordinary town in the mountains where we didn’t quite manage it up to the castle or one of the royal palaces because of a snarl-up in traffic, but enjoyed very much looking round the quaint town itself and having a coffee in another traditional cafe full of atmosphere …….20180331_182943.jpg20180331_184253.jpg20180331_184350.jpg20180331_185205.jpg20180331_185242.jpg20180331_185609.jpg20180331_190001.jpg20180331_190235.jpg20180331_190804.jpgon our last night we had to decide where to eat, a no-brainer really….theMercado da Ribeira in an attempt to find the stall where the Times correspondent had had pork cheek on mash. Again the whole ground floor was swimming with people all enjoying themselves immensely and there didn’t seem a seat to be had anywhere. We were so lucky to find four seats in our last trawl up the aisles, two on either side of a local couple who charmingly moved so that we could sit together……..and the incredible bit was that this was exactly the place where pork cheek was served. We did enjoy our food, the vino verde, and the atmosphere, as our studied concentration shows…..terrific.20180331_212654.jpg20180331_213341.jpg20180331_212657.jpg

So, our last few hours in Lisbon, what to do? A stroll down the streets from our hotel with its quirky mural for breakfast at Lab (of course). Then into town through more beautiful parks and past more really interesting architecture….20180401_105727.jpg20180401_122424.jpg20180401_122723.jpg20180401_122752.jpg20180401_123111.jpg20180401_124032.jpg20180401_124707.jpg20180401_131338.jpg20180401_131653.jpg





Finally, on Tanya’s recommendation by Uber to the Parque das Nações which was built for Lisbon’s Expo 98. It’s a futuristic new town of modern apartments and gardens flanking various tourist attractions, including a casino, science museum and an Oceanarium which is one of the largest in Europe. It made a very different diversion for us, and i even managed to go on the cable car with enjoyment….a first.


As you can see a quirky, colourful, pleasant, clean, interesting capital city which we all really enjoyed. Can’t wait to go back. Thanks David and Jennifer…..

Back to a rainy London, but when you are away you forget how wonderful London really is, what incredible architecture and art it contains…..we were off to the Tate (never visited before), but I simply couldn’t resist taking pictures of the buildings we passed on the bus and walking….20180402_182531.jpg20180402_182622.jpg20180402_192437.jpg20180402_182441.jpg20180402_182503.jpg


And so the Tate…’s a bit late in the day for me to be going to these wonderful places for the first time, but probably that makes my wonder and enjoyment even more powerful. It was a great building….20180403_145634.jpg20180403_130124.jpg20180403_140124.jpgwith all the ‘additional’ bits and pieces you would wish…..20180403_125909.jpgbut absolutely marvellous to see art in the flesh within touching distance one had only seen in books or on TV…how infinitely better to see the real thing…..20180403_131149.jpg20180403_131550.jpgand to see the development of British art through the ages (which is what the Tate is all about)20180403_141549.jpg20180403_131610.jpgart so luscious at times you could eat it!20180403_131952.jpgextravagant busts by Le Sueur… 20180403_132300.jpgand a bust of Wellington cleverly placed in front of a canvas of Waterloo…20180403_140257.jpgand statues so tactile you wanted to touch (too many people around of course)…..20180403_140450.jpg20180403_141023.jpgand what a really good idea Reynolds had to picture a young lad as Henry The Eighth20180403_134933.jpgand to finish we enjoyed a guided tour around the paintings of Turner (of which the Tate has the most incredible collection)….so much better than wandering around on our own to see it through the eyes of an expert….20180403_151524 2.jpg20180403_155242.jpg20180403_152333.jpg20180403_154219.jpga tremendous experience, and how lucky the Art School next door…….

An evening was spent seeing the area where Jennifer is to start her new job – the Embankment….20180402_193655.jpg

20180402_193729.jpgplenty of interest around…a memorial to the very great W S Gilbert20180402_193609.jpgand one to the King of London’s sewage……(and much else to be fair)20180402_193327.jpgand she will be working in the iconic Adelphi building, very impressive indeed…strange that there should be a statue of Robbie Burns in front…..20180402_195017.jpgand after all we (or rather I) couldn’t resist a drink in another iconic building yards away…Gordon’s Wine Bar thought to be the oldest wine bar in London having been established in 1890. 20180402_202158.jpgCan’t wait to meet Jennifer from work!

Our last morning on this lovely trip was spent using our National Art Passes once more to visit Chiswick House………

‘Chiswick House is one of the most glorious examples of 18th-century British architecture. Its gardens are the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement.

The house and grounds were created by two Georgian trend setters, the architect and designer William Kent and his friend and patron Lord Burlington, the third Earl. Influenced by their travels on the Grand Tour, they rejected the showy, Baroque style, fashionable in England, in favour of a simpler, symmetrical design based on the classical architecture of Italy. They championed the work of the Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio and Chiswick House was one of the earliest English examples of what is called “neo-Palladian” style…..’

We were impressed as soon as we entered the grounds….20180404_114346.jpg20180404_114704.jpg20180404_114721.jpg20180404_114910.jpg20180404_114654.jpg

and after our usual coffee and pastry in a rather nice cafe full of dog-walkers and Mums with children, we found the inside of the house as Classical and refined as the outside…with long vistas….20180404_123458.jpgand Roman statuary…20180404_124001.jpgelegant rooms beautifully decorated…20180404_124049.jpg

20180404_130206.jpg20180404_130211.jpg20180404_130302.jpg20180404_130800.jpgpaintings displayed as they would have been….20180404_134125.jpg…as original paintings of the house interiors showed….20180404_130053.jpgand we even were impressed by the Blue Drawing Room…not usually my cup-of-tea….20180404_133836.jpg20180404_133907.jpgThe Orangery (must this be the largest?)…was especially breath-taking..20180404_134920.jpg20180404_135115.jpg20180404_135207.jpgand the grounds worthy of a more extensive exploration on a nicer day…20180404_135505.jpgWhat I find really heart-warming is that the Ministry of Works who restored the building, and now English Heritage, have done so much to trace many of the original contents and restore them to their rightful place. They were helped by the Devonshires of Chatsworth who had taken many things to Chatsworth when they rented out Chiswick from the 1860’s….they have been very helpful in bringing back furniture and paintings. But also people like the V+A who held certain items in store have loaned them to their place of origin. Why oh why is this not done almost as a matter of course when all our big institutions have hundreds of thousands of items in store? Perhaps a lesson to be learned here….I do hope so……