Monday, June 30, 2008

It's London, it's summer, it's Wimbledon!! (and I'm glued to the telly!). But yesterday was Sunday, and they allow the players to take the day off to get revved up for week two, so I also took the day off and joined some friends in the lovely Brockwell Park at Herne Hill in south London for a picnic in the sun.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just got back into London late last night on Eurostar from Paris (train delayed by an hour!). Millions of photos and a lot of catching up to do before I take off again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bright sun and tropical temperatures, and Parisians are still walking around in suit jackets and even overcoats, leather boots and sweaters. Only the tourists would dare commit such fashion faux-pas as wearing a t-shirt! Every building is a monument to history, outrageously grand and grandiose, and the gold leaf has not been spared in helping the city to shine for this summer season.
Yesterday I walked for six hours and by evening my feet couldn't drag me any further. Today I shall limit my expectations!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yesterday I hiked the Samaria Gorge - 18km - and today my legs are reminding me all about it!! I leave Crete tonight, flying back to London. Will spend a few hours in Rethymnon and Iraklio (Heraklion) before taking off.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On 14th May I had just a few hours in York , famous for its Minster and the Shambles and other old buildings, so I wandered around with a friend snapping photos without paying too much attention as to what the buildings actually were. Apologies for not providing much detail with the photographs – I hope they will speak for themselves; or, if you’re especially interested, then they will encourage you to visit York and learn more. I was visiting together with another old school-friend whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years, so my attention was more on getting re-connected with my friend than re-connected with York. In my childhood I came to York only occasionally, usually with family visitors interested in seeing the historic city.

At one time presumably all the city lay behind the city wall and was entered through gates such as this one:

Much of the old city wall still exists, and it's possible to walk on top of the wall, from where you get good views of the Minster. Here's a section of the wall:

View of the Minster from the wall:

The Abbey, destroyed when King Henry VIII dissolved monasteries in Britain, would have been outside the City walls, but is now well within the city proper. ("The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the formal process between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monastic communities in England, Wales and Ireland and confiscated their property. He was given the authority to do this by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church in England, and by the First Suppression Act (1536) and the Second Suppression Act (1539)". Ref:

I love the details of the old buildings, such as these window panes and (below) the carvings on the external window frames:

This useful plaque shows us that the building was constructed sometime before 1606:

One street in York which is particularly well-known is The Shambles. This type of narrow street survives from the 16th century, and one detail I remember from my school-days is that in those days cities had no sewer system and slop buckets and chamber pots were simply emptied onto the street below from upstairs windows - passers-by beware!

York Minster seen in the background from a street near The Shambles:

Here are some different views of York Minister, which lies in the centre of the city:

Street scene:

Outdoor cafes in England are still a surprise to me - they didn't exist when I was young. Have continental fashions come to Britain, or do we have global warming to thank?

An old-fashioned pub sign:

Like many other British cities, York has many parks and gardens with beautiful trees, where people of all ages can pass the time:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Harrogate, Yorkshire

As you leave London the sign on the M1 motorway just says: "The North", as if everything north of London were a dark and mysterious place where few dare to go. A mere four hours' drive further on brings you to Yorkshire. I was born and grew up in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and left as soon as I could: the day after I finished my A-levels (high school leaving exams). I have only ventured back three times since then - the third time was from the 11th to 16th May this year. I went with Helen, an old friend from high school, who had also escaped at the same time.

A typical Yorkshire sight: lots of green fields, sheep in the distance

You know you're in Yorkshire when you see fields full of sheep! May is still Spring, and springtime in Yorkshire means lambs in the fields. Falling asleep to the sound of the ewes baa-ing and lambs meh-meh-ing, I felt like I was back in a very familiar place, although it's been many years since I called it home.

Sheep in the fields at Burnbridge outside Harrogate

Harrogate was well-known as a spa town where people used to come to "take the waters" for cures. Grand hotels like the Swan and the Majestic sprang up to cater for all the visitors, and facilities where they could take the waters were also built, such as The Royal Baths and the Pump Room.

The Pump Room Museum - you can drink the water, which has a strong taste of sulphur!

The Swan Hotel later became famous as the place where Agatha Christie disappeared to when she had a nervous breakdown.
The Swan Hotel is in the background of this Harrogate street scene

Nowadays Harrogate has developed into a major conference center where the large hotels and meeting and exhibition facilities cater to many big events. One of the attractions of the town are the Valley Gardens - a large park with beautifully tended gardens and tall trees.

A path through the Valley Gardens

Man on a bench in the Valley Gardens - note the size of the trees! All trees in Harrogate - including those on private property - are under a preservation order and may not be cut down without permission.

The Valley Gardens Cafe, where we used to get vanilla wafer ice-creams when we were children (a small block of vanilla ice-cream pressed between two thin wafers; it was a special treat in those days!). When we were very small, my siblings and I were frequently taken for walks in the Gardens. When I attended primary school, my sister and I used to walk through the Gardens every day to reach our school. When there was enough snow we would go sledging on the hillside in the Gardens. I remember attending a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream there one summer evening; a flower show one spring; art exhibitions in the covered terraces, and doubtless many other events over the years.

Walking out of the Valley Gardens, past the Pump Room and then the Crown Hotel, around a flower-decorated roundabout and past the divine Farrahs confectionary shop (heaven for chocaholics!), one comes to the much-photographed Montpellier Parade which leads up to the War Memorial and the town centre:

At the top of Montpellier Parade you will find the famous Betty's Cafe, a Harrogate tradition, where all the best ladies go for afternoon tea. You can now go there for dinner too. Betty's is a small, family-owned business which also owns "Yorkshire Tea" - a brand of strong English tea that you can probably find in a supermarket or speciality tea shop near you. Thanks to global warming they are now experimenting with actually growing tea in Yorkshire!

The famous Betty's Cafe, Harrogate

And close to Betty's you will see the War Memorial in the centre of Harrogate

Tree with blossoms, near the town centre

Just outside of town you will find the Harlow Carr Gardens, now owned by the Royal Horticultural Society. Here are a few photos to tempt the gardeners amongst you:

Decorative Garden Shed, 
Harlow Carr Gardens

Frilly Tulips in the Harlow Carr Gardens

The Facts: please note that due to writing this piece from a weak memory after 10pm in a hotel room in Crete without internet connection, I haven't actually bothered to check any facts. If you'd like to add corrections, please do!