05/4/16

Things to do – Whitby, Staithes & Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire.

Clean beaches awash with seaweed and driftwood, fat seagulls yawking overhead, a giant whalebone arch,  terracotta rooftops and a sea that never seems to rest. Whitby, Staithes and Robin’s Hood Bay can feel like stepping into the pages of a child’s story book.

By contrast there’s a ruined abbey, a Goth festival and Whitby’s association with Dracula. This cluster of towns on the coast of North Yorkshire is one of my favourite places in the UK.

Take a stroll round the harbour.

Whitby fishing boats

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11/17/13

Inside the Belly of an Underground Reservoir.

 water reflections, underground reservoir, clayton, lancashire

For over a hundred years, this underground reservoir in Clayton,  Lancashire held a bellyful of water – 300 000 gallons of it to be exact –  until it was drained in 1992. The  Chorley Historical and Archeological Society made two applications to English Heritage for the reservoir to become a listed building but it was deemed to be ‘neither rare nor an exceptional example of its type.’

Its empty belly is now being be filled in to provide building space for a new housing development but before sending the bright, shiny bull-dozers in, Kingsway homes opened the reservoir to the public.  Excellent! I love murky places where nobody ever goes so my partner and I hot-footed it over there with our cameras.

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11/12/13

Pendle Hill for the Bone Idle.

trig point, pendle hill, lancashireTrig point at Pendle Hill.

Pendle Hill in East Lancashire is a great big sheep-strewn lump of a thing.   If it were 53m higher it would be a mountain but it’s not so it has to be content with being everybody’s favourite whale-shaped hill for the rest of its life.

Any local can tell you about the Pendle Witch trials of the early 1600s.  Twenty people, mostly women, were hauled off to Lancaster and tried for witchcraft.  Four were acquitted and the rest were hanged. Continue reading

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10/7/13

Berlin Wall East Side Gallery, Germany.

The exuberant paintings of the East Side Gallery, Berlin are often provocative, sometimes poke fun and often depict the dark side of the Communist regime.

The gallery sits on the banks of the River Spree in former East Berlin.   The ‘canvas’ is a 1.3km length of the Berlin Wall, one of the few remaining sections still standing. The gallery was founded in 1990, the year after the Wall came down, and features over 100 paintings from artists all over the world.

Naturally the Wall was loathed by the people of East Berlin; it was vandalised and scrawled with graffiti during the Communist era but the East Side Gallery, with its collection of bright paintings is a physical reminder of the regime that divided families and pulled friendships apart.

One of the most famous paintins is by Dmitri Vrubel of a kiss between Brezhnev, former Soviet leader and Honecker, former GDR leader.  The caption translates as My God, help me to survive this deadly love. 

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10/4/13

The Ampelmann – East German Traffic Light Man

I was delighted by the Ampelmann, East German traffic light man, when I visited East Berlin in 1987, during the Communist era.

His jaunty hat looked in danger of slipping off in his feverish determination to get to the other side of the road, causing me to spend an unhealthy amount of time pondering the artistic merit of our traffic light designers in the UK.

I was back in Berlin last summer and thrilled to see the lively Ampelmann was still there, encouraging everybody to either march across roads or stand with our arms outstretched on the corner.       green ampleman east german traffic light man

The Ampelmann is a much-loved, very familiar symbol of the former GDR and he still stands (or marches)  happily on across roads in Eastern Germany today.  But his life wasn’t always so carefree.

He was conceived as a child-friendly traffic light by Karl Peglau who felt that humans, especially children, would respond more quickly to an image than to a changing light so his secretary, Anneliese Wegner, designed the two Ampelmannchen. Continue reading

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09/27/13

Rocking the Campanile,San Giorgio Maggiore Island,Venice

Top of the Campanile, San Giorgio Maggiore Island, Venice

At the top of the Campanile, San Giorgio Maggiore Island, Venice, you will find fresh air, fabulous views and a peaceful retreat from the sweaty throngs of the mainland below.

The tiny island of San Giorgio is just a short hop on the vaporetto (water bus) from San Marco. In the 10th century the marshy land was drained and the island given over to a Benedictine monastery which became one of the most wealthy and influential monasteries in the world until it was flattened by an earthquake in 1223.

No matter. After a quick rebuild, it was business as usual until the Republic of Venice was dissolved and the monks were kicked out.  It became a free port and the city’s artillery was later stored there. Now the monastery is back, together with an arts centre, open air theatre and a perpetual dribble of Venice-fatigued tourists in search of respite. Continue reading

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09/27/13

Tried & Convicted.Bridge of Sighs, Venice.

The Bridge of Sighs links the Doge’s Palace and prison.  Hapless convicts were bundled straight from the court, across the bridge, to the prison which is why the limestone palace on the right gleams prettily in the sunlight while the prison on the left of the canal looks, well, like a prison, I suppose.

The Bridge of Sighs is carved from limestone, was built in 1602 and links the two buildings high above the water. No getting out of that one then.

gondolier and bridge of sighs, venice

This gondolier seems quite unconcerned by the contrast between the gleaming palace on the right and the grotty prison on the left.

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09/12/13

Island Hopping in Venice – Torcello.

‘Torcello’ means ‘tower and sky’ but I thought it sounded like something you could eat or drink that was both sweet and delicious, possibly alcoholic. Bearing this in mind, and as it’s only a short hop on the vaporetto (water bus)  from Burano, it would have been just plain rude not to visit.

canal on torcello island, venice, italy

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09/3/13

Murano Island, Venice – Coloured Houses, Glass blowing and Chafing Thighs.

Murano island looks like a bubble coming out of fish-shaped Venice. Glass makers were kicked out of the city and sent to Murano at the end of the 13th Century so that should their enthusiastic huffing and puffing get out of hand, any resulting fires would be contained far more easily than in the maze of buildings on the mainland.

Murano Island, Venice Italy

First sight of Murano Island from the vaporetto

Like many people with a background in ceramics, I’m bonkers about glass and wanted to watch it being made. Actually what I really wanted was to have a go myself but there was fat chance of that but a stroll round a peaceful island was a very appealing thought after hot, tourist-riddled Venice.

At the vaporetto stop, a very beautiful and very exasperated attendant was dealing with a gaggle of confused tourists trying to get to Lido. Using one hand to rope the vaporetto to the pontoon and the other to flick her hair back in the way that makes an Italian woman look like a film star and a other woman of any other nationality look pretentious, she bawled: ‘No! No Lido!  Murano!  Moo.Rah.No.’  The crowd shuffled off, muttering into their maps, leaving the way clear for me to grab a window seat in the coolest part of the boat (which wasn’t very). Continue reading

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07/20/12

In Berlin with a map, a camera and a new man.

Easyjetting to Berlin on Monday.

I’m taking my new camera. Am also taking my new man.

I will do my best not to break or lose either of them.

I have instructions for the camera, a map for Berlin but no instructions or map for my new man.

However I am still confident about finding my way around all three.

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