Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mosaic Monday with Monet

1700-plus photos taken during our three-week trip mean lots of memories and lots of editing, along with some deleting. I hate to delete photos, always thinking that perhaps there will be some bit of information I might use, or some corner to crop.

Let's revisit Monet's home in Giverny. I showed you bits of the garden in this post. We'll walk through the pathways and arrive at the rose-framed house where the door is standing open. 

It's early in the morning, before the crowds arrive. We wander through sitting rooms and up a narrow stairway.

Most houses of this time favored dark rooms full of dark furniture and lots of wood. As one might expect from Monet, the painter of light, he disregarded the fashion of the day and chose the colours he loved. Light streams through large windows into his bedroom, above, and fills it with airiness.

Monet's step-daughter, Blanche, also loved to paint. Her room is seen above. After Monet's death, his son Michel inherited the house and allowed Blanche to live in the house until her death in 1947. The gardens fell to ruin and restoration was begun in 1966, after Michel died. Here's a link to a site with photos of the house as it was. It's in French, but the photos speak for themselves. 

Several years ago I took a book out of the library - Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet. He loved cooking (and eating) and planning menus. After reading the book I was inspired to keep a journal of meals I'd cooked and served for special occasions.

I was most curious to see the dining room with its bright yellow walls. I wondered if it would look as inviting in real life as it had in the book. The room exceeded my expectations. 

Those clear yellow walls, red-checked floor and blue accents work so beautifully together. It's daring and masterful. I can just imagine the laughter and clinking of cutlery against plates around the table.

Such a pretty room. Monet had an amazing collection of woodblock prints which are displayed throughout the house. 

A few details from the house - a clock in the sitting room, a dining room chair, and a demure eyelet lace curtained window.

Then, the kitchen. Oh my. Beautiful blue and white tiles on the walls, made in nearby Rouen, add such life to this large room. 

I think that any food would taste delicious and turn out exquisitely if prepared using those gorgeous copper pots and pans. 

One last rose from the garden to close this post. I'm linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted for the first time by Maggie of Normandy Life. Many thanks to Judith for her work in keeping the link up going for several years. There are so many interesting blogs that link there. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Five Windows on the World

We live in a rather nondescript house, not very old, not terribly charming on the outside. (I love the inside.) As I sorted through my photos from our trip, I wondered if I had taken enough of windows to do a post for Five on Friday. Uh, yeah. Definitely. These are just a few, from France. There are many more, and perhaps I'll do another post on English or Welsh windows.

These windows illustrate individuality to me. Shutters can be painted in one's favorite shade, and plants act as frames. Monet's dining room window, above, is lush with colour and texture.

Another window in Giverny shows simplicity and charm with the gingham curtains that match the colour of the shutters. Blue and white is my all time first choice colour combination. 

In contrast, this stark photo of the abbey at Jumi├Ęges shows abandonment and devastation, and yet the pure lines of the window and wall speak eloquently of the architect's aesthetic.

Bright red shutters that match the roses growing nearby made for a striking look in Arromanches. 

The Abbey of Saint-Wandrille is a working monastery. In the photo on the right, can you see the figure of a small fox? The man who patiently carved the intricate stone for the pillar beside the window left his mark centuries ago. "I was here." "I created this." It's a statement of individuality.

In the top left photo, a ram serves as signature of the stoneworker who is helping to replace some of the windows in the cloister. She, for stone work is not restricted to men anymore, chose this symbol from the story of Abraham and Isaac on the mountain; the ram caught in the thickets.

We all display our individuality in unique ways. It might be via words or gardens, music or cooking, kindness or sports - these are our windows to the world. 

Linking to Amy's Five on Friday post. This will be the last until September. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It's All about the Hat

Sports leave me cold. I have no interest in watching them, playing them, nor do I really care who wins. Oh, I can drum up some national spirit if Team Canada is vying for the gold medal in hockey at the Olympics, but that's about it. 

As you may remember, the Euro Cup 2016 took place earlier this month. In France. In fact, the final matches were the week we were on the cruise boat. Team spirit ran high. When the final came down to France vs Portugal, most people had strong opinions one way or the other. Our boat docked in Paris that night, and the Eiffel Tower was visible from the top deck. Big screens played the game to the crowds at the Tower. We weren't certain if the smoke visible in the photo was from fireworks or tear gas - both of which played a part in the evening. Off-duty crew were able to watch the match from a small television on deck. 

I didn't really care about the outcome, although if someone asked me, I'd say I'd like France to win. What I really wanted was ...

...a hat. Like this one, seen on the captain of the ship. I thought it would be a great addition to my French classroom. There were lots of hats being worn that week, but I couldn't find any in the stores. Perhaps we were in the wrong stores. 

The night of the big game, I spoke to the captain and he told me that if France won, I could have the hat the very next day. 

You might know how that turned out. France lost to Portugal. In overtime. I said nothing to the captain the next day. He looked very, very glum. Devastated, I heard someone say. 

No hat for my French class. Dommage. 

As Tim and I trundled our bags away from the ship on the last day, a group of crew members chatted a little distance away. One of them came over - it was the captain.

"Do you still want the hat?" he asked. 

Mais oui! 

He asked me to wait and brought me his hat. He apparently recovered from his "devastation" for he's smiling here.

"Next time, perhaps France will win," I suggested, in my best French.

"I hope so," he replied.

As a bonus, there's a music box in the hat that plays the Marseillaise - the French national anthem. Won't this be a great story to tell my Grade 8s? 

PS. The other gentleman in the photo is our cruise director. He cared as much about who won the game as I did, but thought the hat incident great fun. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Not a Fashion Blog, but a Fashion Post

Clothes. We all wear them. I like wearing clothes that suit me, that I feel comfortable in, and that are reasonably fashionable. People seem to dress in similar ways throughout the Western world, with a few differences.

Here's a little bit of what I observed being worn in Paris and London: 

Skirts - short (not just on younger women), mid-knee, and maxi (but never trailing on the ground). Lots of prints, usually small geometrics and florals. In Paris the prints were in softer shades, like the skirt above, than in London, where black backgrounds were seen more.

Dresses, again in a variety of lengths and prints. Black was not uncommon. Lots and lots of jean jackets, on big girls and small ones.  

The weather was warm, but not hot, and almost everyone in Paris wore sandals, either flat or wedged. Scarves almost always. Above is one of our tour guides. Lace seems to be a continuing trend - yokes on knit tops, or more rarely, a textured top.

Well-fitted and well-balanced outfits - fitted pants and top with a more flowing third layer that was never over-sized. 

Then there was tourist style - earbuds and listening devices, hats and sunglasses. 

Walking into our home very very early on Sunday morning (12:30 am) was lovely. We slept well, spent yesterday quietly at home, and today Tim is back to work. The garden needs attention and I have a list of projects I'd like to accomplish. All in good time. 

There will be more posts about our trip - so many places I have not yet shown, but they will come slowly. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

From the Welsh Seaside and South London

Any possible view of the Irish coastline was obliterated by a thick bank of fog. Aberaeron is a seaside town with pastel-coloured houses and a harbour full of boats.

The fog tumbled quickly landward and we, along with the town, were enveloped in a chilly mist.

My cousin's husband showed us quickly around the town, and then we went off to visit a manor house that I'll tell you about later. 

We did return to town for lunch and the sun made another appearance. We ate at the restaurant in the bright red-orange building at the end of the street - The Hive. The Fish and Chips were crispy and filling.

For navigation on this trip we're relying on a GPS, known here as a SatNav. We downloaded the maps and routes onto my phone and it's served us well. Or so we thought. 

When we left the Cotswolds on Tuesday, we soon turned onto a small road and came upon a large fire truck blocking it entirely. Hmmm. What could be happening? I volunteered to check it out. 

Walking around the fire truck, I came upon a group of firemen and a few farmers looking at something in the ditch. Nothing seemed too urgent. A little closer look revealed a large, dead cow that they were trying to hoist out of the ditch. Poor cow.

me: How long do you expect the road to be closed?

fireman: Do you live around here, love?

me: No, we're just following our GPS.

fireman: Where're you going? 

me: Wales.

fireman: Wales? (blank look) (then, to his mates) She's going to Wales.

(heads all swivel my way) (laughter)

second fireman: Wales? You need to get to the A.... (whatever it was)

Lots of directions ensued, to which I nodded and went back to the car, where Tim had already figured out that, although our sweet-voiced GPS lady was taking us to Wales, she appeared to favour the scenic route. We laughed all the way to the main road. I'm sure the men went home and told their wives about this lady with the strange accent who thought she was going to Wales on their country road.

The scenic route to Wales got us there just fine, although we wished Mrs. GPS would have taken the direct, main road route. Paper maps are not a bad thing. We couldn't figure out a way to make her choose a different route. 

A classic Morris Minor car parked in Aberaeron. It coordinates well with the house in the background, doesn't it?

I'm writing this post from a hotel near Gatwick Airport. We fly out tomorrow at noon. Our lovely vacation is at its end. There are more photos and more stories to tell, but for now, our hearts are beginning to yearn homeward. I'm thinking of what's blooming in my garden, and how much weeding there will be. I'm longing to hug my children and grandchildren, and sleep in my own bed. 

Thank you for your warm comments on my travel posts. I've enjoyed composing them, thinking of how much I enjoy others' such posts, and wanting to bring a little bit of France, England and Wales into your lives as well. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

More about Sudeley Castle

I was so enchanted by Sudeley Castle that here is another post with more photos. The Cotswold countryside is full of fields and pastures that resemble a patchwork quilt with wide blocks of green forests. 

More of the ruins of the great banqueting hall, this time taken from the second story of the house, in the section still lived in by the family. This view is from one of the guest bedrooms. 

Elizabeth I visited the castle at least 3 times. She got on well with her stepmother Catherine Parr, and likely spent some time there with her before she (Elizabeth) became queen. The knot garden is based on a design from a dress that Elizabeth I wore for a painting that hangs in the castle.

Another detail of that banquet hall ruin. Can't get enough of it. 

This rose climbed very, very high to bloom alongside the empty window. I zoomed in as much as possible to get this shot. 

There's a wonderful rose garden, with all the roses labeled. I took many photos there, but this rose was against the castle wall, nameless, but oh, so wonderfully scented. Isn't she beautiful?

What did we do today? A little of this and not much of that. Walked a little, got lost, drove even narrower roads without a scratch, sat in the garden here and read. I have nothing but admiration for English drivers. They are patient with us, seem to be able to stop on a dime to avoid collisions, and take the narrow roads with savoir faire. Amazing!

Tomorrow we head for Wales. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Out and About - Sudeley Castle

Here we go. Up the hill, hoping whoever is on the other side is hugging their side of the road. After a good night's sleep and a good breakfast (I ate well, Tim had half a piece of toast and some tea), we programmed our little GPS (on my cell phone - without data!) for Hailes Abbey and Sudeley Castle, said a little prayer, and ventured out. 

Here's another stone wall. I told you there would be more. Isn't it picturesque? 

So. First thing - I've been mispronouncing Sudeley - it's "Soodeley" with a long "u", not a short one. Before visiting the castle, I knew that the last wife of Henry VIII (who managed to outlive him and keep her head) was buried in the church here, and had lived here with her second husband, Thomas Seymour (who was later beheaded by Queen Elizabeth I). Whew! That's a lot of history just there. But there's so much more. I won't burden you with all of it, but I was fascinated.

Sudeley Castle (with a long "u") is set in an AOB - Area of Outstanding Beauty. Gentle hills, clumps of forest, sheep grazing, golden stoned cottages - it's pure loveliness.

So what does one do with a very large tithe barn missing most of the walls and all of the roof? One creates a peaceful garden. This is half of the garden, behind the unseen photographer is the other half. 

Earlier today we visited Hailes Abbey. That will be another post. Hailes Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. Thomas Cromwell was Henry VIII's minister who oversaw the destruction. 

Ironically, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas' great-great-grand-nephew, destroyed much of Sudeley Castle years later during the English civil war. 

The remains of two walls of the banqueting hall loom over the gardens evoking the grandeur of the past. Empty windows frame the view of the yew hedge and rose knot garden.

Roses, clematis, and all sorts of plants clamber up the walls. There's a lot of scope for imagination here, and plenty of inspiration for photos. 

Another window from the banqueting hall ruin. And a stone chair. Not too comfy looking, but elegant with its festoon of roses.

Here's a view of the church with the castle in the background. Oliver Cromwell did a number on the church, too, using it as a butcher shop for hanging animals, and cutting meat on the communion table.

Acts of terror and desecration are not new, unfortunately. Power and greed corrupt throughout history. 

But let's move on. Don't those clouds add to the mood of the photo? We're enjoying warm, dry, beautiful weather. 

The building was left roofless and vandalized and the church members gathered in a very small chapel accessed by this door.

The quietness and peace of the gardens belies its disturbed past. 

In 1979 the present owner, Lady Ashcombe and her late husband, created this garden in honour of their wedding that year. Wide beds of perennials line each side. Tim and I sat on one of the benches for some time, soaking in the warmth and sunshine.

The rose garden is worthy of its own post, too, later. I'll leave you with Rosa Eglantyne- isn't she a beauty? 

Tonight we're going to The Apple Tree pub for dinner. Tim's ready to eat a proper meal. Thank you for all your kind comments. I wish you could all be here, too. What fun we could have had at the castle today.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Taking it Easy

Scientists say that learning new things is a good way to maintain brain plasticity. Our brains had a good workout yesterday as we rented a car and drove to the Cotswolds. Tim drove and I went "eek, eek" from the driver's seat. It seemed like cars approaching around corners were going to drive straight into us. As we left the motorway (the M roads), and the A roads, the way became narrower and narrower. I sucked in my stomach and pulled my elbows closer to my body in an involuntary response to shrink the car. It didn't work. But somehow, we made it without incident. Thanks be to God.

As we zoomed along, tall stalks of cow parsley waved at us from the roadsides. In places, the road seemed to be a mere track between two high banks. Unnerving. Then I saw my first Cotswold stacked stone wall. So picturesque. There was no way I was going to ask Tim to stop for photos. Where would we stop? There's no shoulder. 

The wall above surrounds the churchyard in the small town of Woodmancote where we are staying. It's so pretty. There are bound to be more photos of stone walls. 

We arrived around dinnertime and after settling into our Air BnB room (delightful), and talking with our host, we walked into town to find some dinner. We didn't have much luck. The one pub was full up until 11 pm, and the other we tried didn't serve food in the evenings. A dinner of ale wasn't appealing, so we found a pizza place, ordered, and walked home with it.

Before we went to bed, I started feeling a bit off. In the middle of night, Tim began. Something we ate, I assume. It's been a very quiet day here. Tim slept most of the day. I was doing better so I walked, much more slowly than usual, to the local Tesco supermarket and got him some Sprite. He slept. I read. Watched a little television. Took a nap. He still didn't want anything to eat in the evening, so I took another walk to Tesco's and bought myself some bread, cooked chicken and an avocado for dinner. The rental car is only in Tim's name so I can't drive it. Can't say that's a bad thing.

If we have to be ill, we've settled in a wonderful location. Our Air BnB lodging has a private entrance through a sunlit conservatory where I'm sitting now, at the table, overlooking the very quiet and pretty garden, and an upstairs loft bedroom and bath. 

I'm feeling much better and Tim seems to be on the mend as well. Nothing to worry about. Tomorrow we hope to visit Hailes Abbey and perhaps Sudeley Castle. I don't think we'll be doing a vigorous hike quite yet.

Thank you for all of your comments on these posts. I will catch up with you when we return from our travels. I took these photos during my walk to and from Tesco's this morning.

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...