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Friendly Friday: Favourite Photo Challenge

Linked to the Sandy Chronicles

Chef Eddie does his thing

This picture is one I love because it captures, for me, a moment of total relaxation during a cargo ship cruise we took about 30 years ago. The ship was ‘The Author’, one of what I learned to call “the big whites”, boats of the South African Safmarine line.

Sunday was a big day for the crew when they had the brai, or barbeque, a tradition that was almost a religion for the South African crew on board. It was dress-down day when even the captain sported shorts and tee shirt, hair-cutting took place in quiet corners on the decks, and the crew relaxed in their ‘civvies’.

I was surprised that a barbeque was allowed on the deck, but I was assured all was perfectly safe. Eddie, the chef, had everyone’s favourite food ready, from salads to heavy carbs, fruits to exotic vegetables, and a fine selection of meats, fish and shellfish. As passenger we numbered only 7 but we had become friends with the crew over the course of our trip from Tilbury via northern Europe to South America. In fact we were their ‘shoppers’ as well, as some of the countries we stopped at would not allow the S.A. crew to disembark (political not racist) so we were given shopping lists when we disembarked – usually tee shirts for themselves and a gift for a Mum or a son or daughter.

I know this isn’t a good photograph, it’s blurry and lacks definition but it’s one of my all-time favourites because that holiday was one of the best ever and that evening sums it up so well. I must add here that I don’t go on cruises as floating hotels are not my cup of tea but a trip on a cargo-ship is a world apart.

On “The Author” we mixed with the crew as they went about their work during the day, and in the evening we socialised with them over drinks and dinner, played games in either their lounge or ours and swapped books and DVDs. Some evenings we lay on our backs on the deck and were taken through the star system by one of the crew, seen to its best away from the lights on land.

Thirty years after and I’m still in contact with one of the captains and two of the crew. It was an unforgettable holiday and I remember every minute of my time aboard “The Author”, Eddie’s great food, and the treats left in our cabin daily, from warm biscuits to gooey cake, the ever-changing menus due to the fresh produce he picked up at the different ports, and the tears and the hugs when we all said good-bye to some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Lens Artists Challenge: Picking Favourites

Linked to Toonsarah who is hosting this week’s Lens Artists Challenge

It is with great trepidation that I sit down once more to enter one of the photographic challenges on the site, but I’ve been looking at various entries in different categories and especially Sarah’s today so here I am. I haven’t posted for a few months now but I have managed to dip in and out of the site and kept up with what’s been happening.

I said “with great trepidation” and I meant it, because after seeing some of the entries in today’s challenge and some of those from former weeks, I realize how far short of “artistic” my work falls. Being more interested in the words than the pictures I’ve never looked really closely at my images, or taken enough time to get them right.

Apologies over. Here are a few of my favourites, and I stress the word favourites as I can’t claim they are great!

  1. This is one of the monuments to World War ll spotted along the coast of Normandy. I do like this picture mainly because of the sky, the clouds were wonderful on that day and seemed to change shape every few seconds so I was lucky to get them just when they looked especially good.

I didn’t get to know the Normandy coast well until a few years ago when, with a friend, I spent 10 days touring the area. I loved the horses trotting along the beach, their passengers snugly wrapped up in carriages behind them, the serious tourists with their maps and photographs of relatives who landed on these beaches during WWll, and the fact that the food in Normandy was as good as I remembered from many years back. And I loved the fact that the museums and monuments, cemeteries and commemorative parks are still there to tell the story of what happened in France between 1939-1945.

The Library of Celsus at Ephesus, Turkey

This is Ephesus in Turkey. It’s a print taken probably about 30 years ago and yes, it did win a prize.

I don’t think it’s a great image but I think it does show the magnificence of that place and when I look at it I can still remember my awe as we walked in and faced this extraordinary facade.

Ephesus was an ancient port city lying just 80 km from Izmir, and whose well-preserved ruins are in modern-day Turkey.  Once considered the most important Greek city and the most important trading centre in the Mediterranean region, it survived multiple attacks and changed hands many times.

Today it is one of Turkey’s most significant ancient cities and it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015.

Ephesus came to prominence under the ancient Greeks and became a city under the Romans in 133 BC and the capital of Asia Minor in 27 BC, seen as its historical turning point as it then became second in importance only to Rome.

Ephesus is also important from the point of view of Christian history in that St. Paul wrote his “First letter to the Corinthians” from here, St. John wrote his gospel here, and it is believed to be the final resting place of the Virgin Mary.

The facade of the library of Celsus which looms over the city and which you see above has been very carefully reconstructed from original pieces. It was originally built in 125 AD and Celsus is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it.

Apart from the facade of the library, there are many impressive ruins to see in Ephesus. Allow at least 4 hours to see it all, the amphitheatre (largest in the ancient world), the Odeon with its Corinthian-style pillars made of red granite, the 2nd century Temple of Hadrian, the aqueducts and the Agoras.

Sadly, Ephesus died, by reason of silt building up in the harbour to the point where no ships could reach the city. Without ships, trade died, and without trade the city died and was abandoned.

Torii Gate at Miyajima, Japan

I have so many Torii Gates in my files that the problem was picking out the one I like best but then the problem was, do I want one with a boat, with a beach, or set in a forest? In the end I decided on this misty morning scene.

I think everyone has seen images of Torii gates, the most famous of which is probably the above gate near Hiroshima, but there are many dotted around the seas, all calling out for a photograph.

A Torii gates represents the boundary between a sacred shrine and the human world. Once you pass through the torii gate you have entered the sacred, special space. 

Originally Torii gates were white, but now they are mostly painted red because the colour symbolises vitality in Japan and it is believed red gives protection against evil. (It is also said that as red paint contains mercury, the gates are preserved for longer – practical as well as spiritual).

White was the original color of torii gates which were more common than red ones until the arrival of Buddhism in Japan. After the separation of Shinto and Buddhism was officially implemented in the mid-to-late 19th century, some shrines started to paint over their red torii gates with white again, but they are fewer in number than the red.

Although the most photographed appear to be those that are located in the waters, torii gates appear in many inland spots such as the base of famous mountains, or along forest routes. These gates are said to embody the deity which is believed to exist in nature, sacred mountains and the ocean.

If you do come across a torii gate on your travels in Japan, as a mark of respect and if you wish not to offend your hosts, it is a good idea to bow before entering through the gate.

Linked to Toonsarah who is hosting this week’s Lens Artists Challenge

Leonardslee Gardens, Horsham, Sussex

I was promised a picture-perfect display of glorious colour, a sensual overload and a vibrant experience in one of the loveliest gardens in Sussex. And that is just what I had.

From March to June, the 100-year-old majestic rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and towering magnolias with which Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens are planted, offer a late spring experience like no other.

Jewel-coloured rhododendrons light up the woodland against a backdrop of red and green acers whose leaves re just beginning to take on their summer colouring. Many more are reflected in the waters of the 7 lakes that dot the woodland, doubling the colour and the display. I hadn’t realized how highly perfumed rhododendrons were, until my walk through the landscape of Leonardslee. One path that was lined with blowsy, yellow rhodos was a sheer delight and the scent almost overwhelmed.

You have to stop and smell the flowers when you walk through an avenue of yellow rhododendrons

It’s not only about flowers and trees though, hidden among the 240 acre woodland gardens is an exquisite Rock Garden with mini waterfall, ferns and the makings of a fairy-glen. And just off the main walkway is the enclosure for the resident wallabies whose interest in their visitors, charms everyone Not all the wallabies are in enclosures, only those needing protection – some of the younger joeys and the pregnant ones – so you may have a close-up encounter with a friendly wallaby as you amble round the park.

The sculptures, strategically placed to attract your attention, seem to be an organic part of the whole so easily do they sit among the flowers and trees. All of them demand time to look and ponder – and wonder at the quotations that accompany them. The current exhibition, The Walk of Life, is by South African Anton Smit and is a wonderful complement to the display of colour, the calmness of the lakes, and the birdlife.

Some of the plants at Leonardslee are extremely rare and the gardens are a living example of successful biodiversity. Nearly 200 rare and endangered plants are grown here by a dedicated team of gardeners.

The colour and vibrancy of the blossom is echoed in the birdsong that is a constant as you walk along the pathways or sit by the lakes and you’ll spot a vast variety of birds and animals even without trying, from green woodpeckers to electric blue kingfishers, yellow wagtails, peacocks, blue tits, Canada Geese and herons who congregate at the shallow lakeside where carp feed on the surface. You may also meet some of the shy fallow deer, a cheeky squirrel or two, and, of course, the wallabies, brown and white.

The Grade l listed gardens are at their vibrant best at the moment, and with plenty of seating dotted around the lakes and on the lawns, it is a perfect time to indulge in a day out.

A carpet of purple blossoms under a large rhododendron tree

Go earlier in the year for the daffodils and the bluebells and to walk through the camellia grove with its hundreds of varieties of camellias,or early April to see the magnificent magnolias bloom. Whatever time of the year you visit, you’ll find something to please and a restful area to commune with nature.

Water Irises on an island of flowers in the lake

And when it’s time for tea, you’ll find Leonardslee Tea Shop all you could hope for, with seasonal delights, home made biscuits, locally sourced food, cream teas with warm home-made scones. What more could you wish for.

Except maybe to spend the night in the fabulous Leonardslee House Hotel.




A Break from Blogging

Apologies to the many people on whose blogs I regularly comment but unfortunately, I have to take a break from looking at the screen for at least a week. I’ve had a major eye problem for some time now and yesterday, the new consultant I saw recommended a break from all screens – including TV – for a week to see if that helped the problem. I also have to have some more calcium deposits lasered off my eyes, but I’ve had this done before so I know what happens. It’s just a hassle because they don’t do it in my area and I have to travel to the mainland for the procedure.

I know that easing off the screen time will help, as I found this to be the case when I was trying to be my own doctor!

I’ve been logging on and reading a few blogs but unable to comment because the ‘comment’ screen comes up white whereas I can view your blogs on my normal screen which I have set to black to make it easier for me to look at.

So, I hope to be back again soon but meantime, if you don’t see my comments, it’s not that I’m not bothering, it’s just that I can’t read them at the moment.

Mari

A FAVOURITE ABBEY IN FRANCE

It was while staying in the village of Bize in southern France, that I came across the Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Fontfroide, a former Cistercian monastery that sits in the foothills of the Corbières, 15 kilometres south-west of Narbonne.  There are many abbeys in France, but the Abbaye de Fontfroide at Bize is special, located as it is in the heart of the unspoiled Fontfroide Massif and nestled in the heart of a typically Mediterranean landscape.

The exterior view of the Abbaye

This sumptuous 12th and 13th century Cistercian complex consists of large terraced gardens, a rose garden, a good restaurant and rooms to let. It also holds an annual orchid festival, and produces its own wine.  What’s not to like about that?

The monks would use the cloisters as a passageway to read and to meditate. The original cloisters had a wooden roof but through the centuries it was expanded and marble pillars were added

Founded in 1093 by a few Benedictine monks, Fontfroide was linked in 1145 to the Cistercian order and quickly became one of the most powerful abbeys in Christianity, growing in status and power, due in no small part to having been gifted land by the Viscountess Ermengard of Narbonne.   During the Crusade against the Albigensians, it asserted itself as a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy in the face of Catharism.

It seems it had a rocky history from then on under the ownership of three different families in the 14th and 15th centuries, with further depredations taking place in the 15th and 16th centuries when the commendatory abbots (ecclesiastics/laymen) took more and more of the income from the abbey to the point where it became increasingly poor. By the time of the French Revolution, it had to be abandoned.

Things seemed to be looking up when, in 1858, the monks from the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque in Gordes formed a new community at Fontfroide, but sadly, they were sent into exile in Spain in 1901 due to legal changes, and the monastery was once again abandoned.

But in 1908, fate stepped in again when French painter Gustave Fayet and his wife Madeleine Fayet purchased the abbey and began its restoration which is an on-going project. It is still privately owned and throughout each year there are festivals and artistic presentations, including the orchid festival already mentioned. The Abbey produces AOC Corbières wines and one can have lunch at their “La Table de Fonfroide” restaurant or café where the wines can be sampled and bought.

Truly, a place worth visiting.

  • Address: Route Départementale 613, 11100 Narbonne (in the Aude department)
  • Open: daily from mid-May to the end of December

BIZE – Just a VILLAGE IN FRANCE

I wondered whether to write about Bize or not because it is such a small village and not one that seems to attract many visitors. When I mention Bize, people usually say, ‘Do you mean Beziers’ (a town not very far away from Bize)?

With a population of approximately 1,000 it is well served by two bakers, two general stores, a post office, a hairdresser, a pharmacy, a wine cave, several restaurants and a couple of bars and a general market every Wednesday morning throughout the year. About a quarter of the houses are second homes, a fact I think that stands as a testament to its charms.

So why do I like it so much. I think it’s because despite being a village housing many second home owners, Bize-Minervois, to give it its full title, located on the banks of the Cesse in the middle of a mountain gorge surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, has retained its old world charm.

The old stone houses, some covered in ivy, their shutters brightly coloured and their decorative iron balconies draped with red and pink geraniums, green ferns and leafy plants, the old fashioned little shops and narrow cobbled alleys lends Bize a sleepy air. It should all feel a tad overdone, rusticity applied with a trowel, but somehow it doesn’t. It is also eerily quiet in the afternoon, which I love, and the street cats aren’t feral!

It doesn’t take long to walk through Bize but along the way you will be intrigued with the little jokes that the inhabitants have placed here and there. Sculptures of animals and some peculiar faces will peek out of walls and on corners but you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled to see them.

In much need of repair

Apart from the hidden sculptures, things to look out for are Bize-Minervois’ ancient main gate, Porte Saint-Michel which dates from around the 8th century and which leads in turn to a small square where gardeners once sold their produce – the Place aux Herbes,

Two kilometres from Bize you will find L’Oubilo, my main reason for visiting when I’m in the area. For me this is olive heaven, a co-operative that sells the Rolls-Royce of table olives cultivated only in the Languedoc – the lucques. Lucques are not your usual olives, they are buttery, creamy, totally smooth and very moreish. I’ve never managed to find them in the UK.

L’Oubilo also does a good line in wines from their own vineyard. Tastings are always available and it will be hard to resist driving away without a couple of boxes of really great wines – and some olives of course and the by-products of the olive, tapenades and oils. If you are hiking or cycling you will just have to sample on the spot and maybe pack a bottle or two?

Cycling or driving, the most important sight-seeing spot in the area is the beautiful Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Fontfroidede which you can read about here. It is also a good spot for a midday snack, or a more substantial meal if needed, plus a glass or two of the wine produced by the Abbey.

For a day’s total relaxing, head for the wide, wide beach at Guissans, where the sand is soft, the swimming is good and there is a wonderful fresh seafood restaurant right on the beach.

And if it’s history you’re after then a visit to the Cathar village of Minerve, perched on a column of rock in the gorges of the river Cesse and one of the most beautiful villages in France, will deliver food for the mind and scenery to delight the eye.

Before you leave the area, be sure to drive or cycle down to La Somail on the Canal du Midi, relax by the waters while you watch the boats go by, nurse an aperitif while you peruse the menu before dining in the lovely L’O de la Bouche, a restaurant invariably full of locals.

One thing’s for sure, you won’t be short of options for spending time in this lovely area of France.

Walking along the banks of the Cesse

Another fine mess I’ve got me Into

Intrigued by the recent email from WP I thought I’d have a look at the new themes they are offering. I shouldn’t have!

I seem to remember that in earlier days I could activate a theme to see how it would look on my current site but this didn’t happen. Instead clicking ‘Activate’ meant that I accepted the site – and of course, I didn’t like it – but I couldn’t remember the name of my old site, nor could I find it again.

Many changes of site and I’m still befuddled, left with a site that has caused me to swear and shout at the screen. It actually transported a page from the site I’d tried earlier (but with that page’s wording etc. not fitting with my content) and I had to delete the pictures and text block by block and then save the blank page!

For tonight I’ll leave it and I maybe able to get back to it tomorrow but if not, you’ll know why my site looks odder than usual.

It’s probably all my fault. I should leave well alone, but it’s like touching the surface when it says Wet Paint – Do Not Touch, I just can’t resist clicking to see what is hiding behind the italics!

Odds & Ends 189.

Linked to Lens Artist Challenge Odds and Ends,

I started trawling through my archives sure I would find heaps of oddities but somehow when I came across oddities I found myself thinking, hold on there, you could use that in something else one day. I did have some though, and here they are.

This is a ruby on a banknote, or so the seller tried to convince me, when we stepped into a jewellry shop in Bangkok to have a watch strap repaired. Never do that! If you walk into a jewellry shop in Bangkok you have only one reason for doing so – according to the seller – you want to buy something.

Two very odd tree trunks I found in a village in the Pyranees.

No, neither do I! Nor do I know where it was taken: it was probably somewhere near Malaga, going by the surrounding images.

Another Trio

Something a bit unusual I think, for Mama Cormier’s Thursday Trios.

These are total immersion suits that will keep you alive for at least 6 hours in freezing water. I photographed these some years ago when I visited the workshop of Survitec in Sweden. Survitec is the worldwide group that manufactures and maintains rescue craft for ships, planes, oil rigs and container ships, as well as the above survival suits. Chances are that whatever cruise line or airline you are travelling on, its life rafts will be serviced and supplied by Survitec.

It’s something we take for granted, but I saw at first hand how important it is for this safety equipment to be in perfect order and how thorough the inspection is – right down to the medicines for pain, the batteries for the torches, and the bottled water, carried on board. So, a big clap for SURVITEC for keeping us safe, in the air and on the sea, and for the engineers and mechanics who test everything in freezing waters.

Join Mama Cormier’s Thursday Trios HERE