Tag: architecture

Let’s talk about tourists

We’re all tourists in some shape or form. If you’ve ever visited anywhere outside of where you live, with the intention of seeing a place or an attraction, then you’re a tourist. I know this information hurts hardened travellers – you know, people who have given up their homes and jobs to spend their life savings on a round the world trip; living on dried noodles and sleeping in mud huts with holes in the roof* But it’s true.

Whether it’s a day trip, a week in an all inclusive hotel or living nomadically from country to country, we’re all tourists.

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3 days in Dubrovnik

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As I gear up for my next holiday, I realised I haven’t blogged about my last trip, to Dubrovnik. It’s not like I haven’t had time or anything. The trip was 2 months ago and I’ve been off work for 5 weeks now <<sore point>>. But I didn’t so I’m going to correct that fact and tell you about it now.

I’m not sure when and why going to Dubrovnik became one of my travel priorities. It was definitely already right up there back in April 2016 when I wrote a list of places I wanted to visit. The architecture, city walls and coastal location made it a really appealing city break. Dubrovnik is small enough to get around in a few days. That said, there’s enough to do and see to fill the time and feel the city. Of course, later we started watching Game of Thrones, some of which is filmed in Dubrovnik, and my interest was piqued.

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DAYS OUT: Cardiff Castle

This week I had some emails telling me that Friendsfest tickets are on sale for this year. I guffawed loudly and remembered how crap it was last year – so overpriced and underwhelming (you can read about it, with pics, here). It didn’t help that we’d driven 100+ miles, from Birmingham to Cardiff, for the “privilege” and that it was one of the husband’s birthday presents.

Huge fail!

In an effort to make the day less of a fail we also went to Cardiff Castle, which was 10 minutes walk from Bute Park where FF was hosted. And honestly? That was a disappointment too! As a castle lover I was very much looking forward to visiting but I felt that it was overpriced (£12.50 per adult, for basic entry, plus an additional £3.25 for the house tour). Much of the castle has been rebuilt in more recent years, so it feels like it lacks authenticity (I like my castles gnarly and ruined and grand). The Norman keep was the best bit, in my opinion, as that’s what my idea of a castle is, and it’s a bit of a rip off to charge extra for the house tour considering how little else there is to see and do compared to other Welsh castles that charge much less for entry (we didn’t do it on principal and because it struck us more as entering into stately home territory, which isn’t really our bag).

It’s fair to say I wouldn’t recommend it unless you happen to be in the area (don’t make a special journey); there are much more interesting and striking castles in Wales.

On that note, here are some pics!

 

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Cardiff Castle? What did you think? Am I doing it a disservice?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

A trip to Rome (aka the holiday that almost never was)

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I went to Rome for a few days before Christmas, to celebrate my 40th birthday.

You may also have noticed that we almost never made it out of Luton airport.

In case you don’t follow me on insta (you should, by the way, shameless plug of link to my account here) or if their silly algorithm means you don’t see my posts, here’s what happened.

Our flight from Luton was at 6.40am on the Monday morning, so we travelled down the day before and stayed in a hotel near the airport. Early start (3am alarm, eek) was fairly uneventful and we checked in and went to buy some currency (because dimwit here had forgotten to collect the euros I’d pre-ordered from the Post Office, d’oh!) I bought some bits from Boots (2 more travel plugs to ad to our growing – but missing – collection) and had a tasty breakfast with a cocktail to start an exciting and momentous trip. All was well, so with 20 minutes until the departure gate opened we had a browse in WH Smith to buy some magazines for the flight.

When we came to pay, we of course needed one of our boarding passes, which of course wasn’t a problem because they were safely in an envelope in my handbag alongside the passports. Except they weren’t. No boarding cards, no envelope and no passports. Cue frantic retracing of steps to the restaurant and boots (to no avail), heart in mouth and panic sweats. The husband, it must be pointed out, was taking things remarkably well (for him) and stayed fairly level headed and non-angry, despite the fact that the look in his eyes said otherwise. We raced back to security in the hope that someone had handed them in (as I reasonably pointed out, if you found some travel documents in an airport you’d have to be a total shit to throw them away) and THANK GOD a smiling security lady located them under a desk and gave them back to a calm-on-the-outside-frantic-on-the-inside me! I hadn’t even left them in the security tray after scanning though, no, they hadn’t even got that far. When I was putting my liquids in a bag, before the security check, I’d left the envelope on a shelf. An envelope which, with being shoved in and out of my bag on the journey so far, could easily have been mistaken for some tatty old rubbish,

Total muppet – it was almost a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons…

Needless to say I wasn’t allowed to keep the passports for the rest of the trip, even though I’m usually Chief Security Officer; they remained securely in the husband’s inside pocket of his coat, and I was the butt of multiple jokes as a result!

I’m glad to report that the rest of the trip went by without incident. We arrived at Rome Fiumicino airport at around 10.30am, collected our luggage and headed out into the arrivals lounge where we were met by our pre-booked driver (I always try and do this, where possible, it saves lots of hassle and is usually cheaper than getting a cab at the airport, plus you get to feel a little bit like a famous person for a nanosecond!). The transfer to the city centre and our hotel took around 30 minutes, and the closer we got to the centre, the more evidence of Roman architecture started to appear; like random columns in the middle of modern buildings. That’s one of the things that surprised me about Rome, many of the tourist attractions are just in the middle of the working city, not on a dedicated site with a big wide open space around them. We stumbled on both the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain in this way; we turned a corner and there they were, in the middle of a piazza. It’s quite strange!

We arrived at our hotel – Antica Dimora dell Cinque Lune (I’ll review that in another post) – at around 11.30, which was too early to check in, but the receptionist was incredibly helpful and stored our luggage so we were free to set off and explore. We spent a few minutes getting our bearings, but knowing we were just steps from the River Tiber and the Palace of Justice meant we already knew where to head to if we were to get lost!

Spotting a number of hop on hop off bus tours on the main road alongside the river, we set off to find a bus stop, and by midday we were upstairs on a double decker, earphones firmly in place to listen to the commentary, and heading off on a 90 minute round trip of the city. We find that this kind of bus tour is a great way to see the highlights, get a feel for a city and an overview of what’s where, and then delve into the deeper sightseeing after that. On this occasion we used the Big Bus company, and paid 35 euros each for a 48 hour ticket, but other companies run within the city too (although your ticket is only valid for the bus company you buy it from).

As suspected, the bus tour was a great place to start. We went across the river, marvelling at the architecture of the city, winding through Via del Corso, the main shopping street, saw centuries old churches and buildings, detailed sculptures, statues and fountains, felt blown away by the magnificent sight of the colosseum at the bottom of a busy thoroughfare and imagined the site of the chariot racing on Circus Maximus.

Then we got off the bus where we’d started and stopped for lunch in a little bistro on the side of the road who did a lunch menu of bruschetta, choice of pizza or pasta and a glass of wine or beer for just 12 euros – not at all what we’d expected from reports of Rome being expensive. We sat outside on the terrace under a patio heater and it was just fabulous!

After checking into the hotel we headed out once more; this time over the river on foot and past Castel Sant’Angelo, with St Peters Basilica in our eye line. As our Vatican and St Peters visit was planned for the next day, we crossed across the River Tiber, meandered through tiny cobbled side streets, just soaking up how fabulous Rome is, declaring that we already loved the place and beaming with happiness.

 

Our hotel was just round the corner from Piazza Navona, which we’d read would have a Christmas market. It was all running remarkably late, setting up but not at all Christmassy, but the Fountain of Neptune and Fountain of the Four Rivers in front of the Santa Agnese in Agona church were beautiful to look at.

We found a beautiful bistro, covered in fairy lights with a rather gorgeous menu and decided we would head back there later that evening to eat, which we did – the most delicious medium rare steak wrapped in bacon with shaved truffles, accompanied by a bottle of chianti. Heading back to our hotel through Piazza Navona and past the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi it’s fair to say we were giddy with happiness and giddy with Rome.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and Santa Agnese in Agone church at night

Coming soon – day 2 at the Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica.

Have you ever been to Rome? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading, x

Teachings of Islam at Masjid Kapitan Keling in Penang

I had planned this post as a standalone to my other Malaysia trip posts as soon as I left the Kapitan Keling mosque in Penang and, in view of the bombing in Manchester, which has now been claimed by Muslim terrorists, today seems the right time to write it.

I love religious architecture; the grand scale, the intricate detail, the commitment to beauty. As I mentioned in my previous Malaysia post, the temples were one of the things I couldn’t wait to visit on our trip. I’m fascinated with churches, despite being a firm atheist, and will always seek out grand religious buildings whenever we’re on a trip.

Yet I’ve never been in a mosque.

On one of our visits to George Town, capital of Penang Island, we walked past the Kapitan Keling mosque – a stark, white building in the middle of the city, with it’s strong arches, rounded domes, and towering minaret.

Masjid Kapitan Keling outside

We took some pictures from the outside and were spotted by a volunteer in the foyer, who invited me in. I was given a scarf to cover my head (I was already dressed conservatively, with my legs and shoulders covered because of the possibility of visiting religious sites, but people who were dressed in strappy tops and shorts were cordially invited in and given clothes to cover themselves) and the young female volunteer began to tell me about the history of the mosque, and more about the Muslim faith.

I was struck by the simplicity of the inside of the mosque. In contrast to churches, and the Buddhist and Thai temples we had visited earlier in our trip, there were no physical depictions of Allah, no decorations or ostentatious shrines.

My guide explained to me that Allah’s physical appearance was never described anywhere in the Koran and so there are no imaginations of what he looks like anywhere – not just in a mosque but in every day life. Also, it is against the religion of Islam for any person or animal be represented in a mosque, part of which is that it can lead to idolatry, and also that there is no distraction during the praying process. Praying is a direct connection between the individual and Allah.

She explained to me about the pre-prayer washing process, which has to be done in a particular order, and that prayer water is inhaled into the nose and mouth for healing and purity reasons. She explained to me about the call to prayer, and prayer times – I incorrectly thought a prayer time had to be adhered to exactly, but she told me that as long as prayer is taken between the first call to prayer time and before the next call to prayer then that’s acceptable. She pointed out the segregated women’s prayer area, showed me the Koran, and read the Islamic prayer which is said to Allah 5 times each day.

It was incredibly enlightening, calming and interesting.

When I left the mosque she gave me some leaflets to take away and, because I’d been gone for a while, the husband joked that I’d been radicalised which is just the kind of sense of humour we have but not quite so funny in view of recent events.

Leaflets about Islam

When we got back to the hotel I sat and read the leaflets (more inappropriate radicalisation jokes!) which are designed to dispel some of the myths, rumours and negative press that Islam gets across the world.

Two quotes stand out to me:

“Have you ever wondered why a nun can be covered from head to toe and she’s respected for devoting herself to God, but when a Muslim woman covers, she’s viewed as “oppressed”? Or why a Jew can grow a beard and he’s just practising his faith, and when a Muslim does that, he’s an “extremist”?”

And this:

“Would you send your car to a butcher for repair, or a sick child to a florist? Of course not. A butcher is not qualified to repair a car, nor a florist qualified to treat the sick. Likewise, people without Islamic knowledge are not qualified to inform others about Islam. So why is it that people are willing to accept information about Islam from those that do not have the required knowledge?”

I’m not here to preach or change people’s minds, or even to share the content of the leaflets, but the way they approach common misconceptions was definitely an interesting read, and something I believe a lot of people could benefit from reading (EDL and Britain First members, I’m looking at you).

Whenever there’s a terror attack, the level of vitriol towards the Muslim community rises, and it’s so often misplaced – aimed at innocent people who simply believe in a religion and a God who is there for them; in the same way as a Christian or Catholic may believe in religion and God. We don’t turn against Christians when a Christian fundamentalist commits a murderous crime. We don’t see the religions of criminals reported in the news – unless they’re Muslim.

Crimes committed by Muslims in the name of Islam are anything but what they profess to be. They are extremist individuals who have a twisted view of “their” religion and the world at large, and try to justify a thirst for blood and an anger against a perceived threat in the name of a God who would deplore such actions.

Apologies if there are any inaccuracies in my writings about the mosque, but that’s the information as I recall it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

My first…wedding anniversary

Another first of another month!

This month the husband and I will have been married for 8 whole years. Wowsers! We have a way to go to catch up with Chris and Charlotte, who I posted about yesterday, but it’s pretty good going for an unmarriable handful (me) and a previously engaged twice commitment-phobe (him!)

There are two things that stick out in my mind about our first wedding anniversary. The first is that my Dad actually said “I don’t know how you’ve made it to a year” with the reasoning that I am the afore-mentioned unmarriable handful. I mean, he had a point. But still!

The second thing is that we went to Marseille

Based in the South of France, Marseilles has an enviable climate and a very Mediterranean feel. We totally fell in love with the place. It’s small enough to get around quickly with a great public transport system, lots of pretty buildings and great architecture, harbours, beaches and we got door to door in 6 hours. We declared it our new go-to weekend break.

Unfortunately, after we got back, Ryanair ceased the Birmingham to Marseille flight route and we haven’t been back since.

My top tips for visiting Marseille:

  • Pre-plan your airport transfer. Stupidly I didn’t, thinking it would be cheap enough to grab a cab on arrival. All the drivers wanted between 60 and 70 euros; no way! So we jumped on a bus, me blagging the husband that I knew exactly where we were going, when actually I had no idea (if I’d ‘fessed up he’d have panicked and just thrown money at a taxi). Between a printed map and some pigeon English to the very French bus driver we established he was only going as far as the main bus station. So from there we jumped in a cab to our apartment; which still ended up costing us 20 euros for what would have been a 5 minute walk, had we known where we were going.
  • Jump on an open top bus tour. This is something I recommend wherever you go on a city break, as it gives you a really good feel for a city and you can then decide which bits you want to revisit. The audio guides are usually pretty interesting too for some history. If the weather’s good try and sit upstairs for the best views.
  • Do consider going for longer than a couple of days. Ours was just a flying weekend visit but there are lots of beaches with watersports and activities in Marseille, so you could easily have a mix of city and beach break.
  • Get familiar with the underground metro system. There are only 3 lines (from memory) so it’s easy to use, very cheap and very convenient with little to no crowding and comfortable air conditioned trains.

On that note, here are a few pics! I have less than I would like, because 8 years ago phone cameras were pretty naff and I didn’t blog or live my life on instagram – if I went back now I’d be snapping everything!

Have you ever been to Marseille?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Our trip to Lyon – what we did

Lyon is the third biggest city in France, after Paris and Marseilles, according to the commentary on our bus tour of the city. The open top bus, where everyone was crammed downstairs because the weather was so bloody awful…

Thank goodness for overpacking. As I mentioned in my previous post the weather forecast for the first two days was cold and rainy, followed by warmer temperatures and sunshine for the next two. There’s always the hope that the forecasters have got it wrong, and in fact they had, it was colder than suggested!

Our first stop was the Basilica de Notre Dame, situated high on Fourviere Hill on the old town side of the River Saone. We took the (impressively clean and organised) Metro and then the funicular railway to the top of the hill. The Basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 and is one of the most breathtaking churches I’ve ever been in – from sheer scale through to attention to detail.

Inside was mind blowing.

I spent so long looking at the mosaics – each one must have been 3 metres long and was made entirely out of tiny half centimetre squares. The dedication and attention to detail is hard to comprehend.

Mosaic fresco at Basilica de Notre Dame Lyon

On a good day you can see Mont Blanc from Fourviere Hill. On a cold, rainy, windy, 6 degree day, you can’t!

Vieux Lyon, old town, is a maze of cobbled streets and little squares with restaurants and traditional Lyonnais bouchons – tiny eateries serving rustic cuisine from the region. It was very pretty, but hampered by the weather even though we struggled on in the face of adversity!

You can get a perspective of how high the Basilica rises above the city from this picture.

Vieux Lyon with view of Basilica

Parc de la Tête d’Or covers 290 acres. It’s huge! I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a multi faceted park in my life, and we spent 2 hours just wandering around.

It has a lake where people can boat in summertime, a beautiful fountain surrounded by flowers, and there’s a big velodrome in the grounds too!

There’s a small deer park, which randomly also has some ostriches?!

A zoo with flamingos, a giraffe (who we didn’t see, unfortunately), lions (who wouldn’t stand up for a photo!), a variety of monkies who I couldn’t photograph through glass, buffalo, toucans and tortoises! An eclectic mix!

The park is famous for it’s rose gardens, although we were slightly too early as they weren’t fully in flower. I can only imagine what a riot of colour there is in high season.

And the Botanical Gardens which, although not my thing (too claustrophobic) were  very impressive.

There you have it, an overview of our time in Lyon! We didn’t mange to see everything we’d have liked because of the weather, the fact that 1st May is Labour Day and there is no public transport running (WHAT???!!! I didn’t know that when I booked!) and also my Mother-in-Law, who was our travelling companion, isn’t at 100% health right now so we were tourist dawdlers rather than striding out all over the place and walking miles like we usually do.

Special mention, before I finish, to my first time of eating snails! Which I enjoyed so much I had them a second time too! They’re fiddly to get out of the shells and not very filling, but they were so tasty and enjoyable. A similar texture to mussels, they were cooked in garlic butter and I loved them.

Tomorrow I’ll share some pictures from our daytrip to Annecy, in the Alps.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Amalfi and Positano (aka the day we wore kagouls)

I mentioned during my packing post that the forecast for Italy wasn’t great and that I had invested in waterproofs. In the first few days I’d only used mine to walk from the bedroom to the bar (and therefore it was already a worthy investment!) By Thursday, it was worth it’s weight in gold.

The Amalfi Coast drive is renowned as being absolutely beautiful, with sheer cliff drops, sea views, and towns precariously built into the rockface. There are the usual organised trip options, which we always avoid where possible, plus the local SITA buses and the red sightseeing bus. The SITA bus, although cheaper, makes quite a lot of stops between Sorrento and Amalfi and is renowned for being very busy and hot. The red sightseeing bus stops just once at Positano and then again at Amalfi – a 90 minute journey overall. It also has the benefit of audio description in 5 different languages, which is useful for finding out what you’re seeing and a bit of history.

By the time we got on the 10.45 departure there were only 4 seats left – all of which were on the left side of the bus, The right side is the place to sit on the outward journey for the best views. Luckily, at Positano (which is where the best views of the coastline start) some people got off, so I pushed the husband into grave jumping action and we got to see more of what was going on.

It had looked overcast when we had breakfast that morning but seemed to be brightening up (in my little optimistic head) by the time we left the hotel. I’d checked the forecast and Positano looked to be getting better weather during the day than Amalfi, but I was confident (in my own naive manner) that we’d get away with it.

My little optimistic head was wrong; alas it wasn’t to be. I’d be lying if I said the weather made no difference, as visibility was reduced and everything looks better in the sunshine, but the coastline was beautiful nonetheless.

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast 2

Amalfi Coast 3

Amalfi Coast 4

Amalfi Coast 5

Amalfi Coast 6

Then came the rain. Full credit to the driver, who’s dexterity around the sharp bends and twisty turns made for a comfortable drive as we meandered our way along the coast.. I couldn’t have navigated it in a car, let alone a great big bus! Just look at them!

Amalfi Coast winding road

As we headed down towards Amalfi the weather took a distinct turn for the worse and the wind started to howl; leaving the harbour looking grey and uninviting rather than the pretty blue sea we’d imagined. The harbour itself was a myriad of buses and coaches, and people huddled under canopies to escape the weather – not the picturesque scene we expected and made for a rather gloomy destination.

We hadn’t planned to spend too long in Amalfi anyway, wanting to get back to Positano, but the weather made our decision easier and we stayed just long enough to snap a few pictures and christen our kagouls before jumping back on a dry bus.

The cathedral is a fabulous building.

I don’t want to do Amalfi a disservice, as I’m sure on a dry day it’s absolutely beautiful, but it’s not much fun squelching around and getting rain in your eyes while trying to sightsee (believe me, I tried). I would definitely give it another try next time I’m in Italy.

Frantically looking for the light at the end of the tunnel (literally!) I used the wifi on board the bus to check the weather forecast in Positano, which suggested the rain would definitely be stopping! Clinging to that hope we took the 45 minute drive back along the coastline, laughing and freaking out at some of the terrible driving on this crazy road!

I’d read that Positano was a must see for it’s prettiness and higgledy piggledy cliffside development. And so we got off the bus once again, into the rain, with the dogged determination to see what all the fuss was about.

Wearing my kagoul (again!) with an umbrella up (it was that wet) we set off down the hill. The rainwater was running down the gutter and the views across the bay were somewhat obscured by a myriad of tourist umbrellas but it was impossible not to fall in love with the tumble of pastel buildings, ceramic shops and restaurant terraces with gorgeous seaviews.

 

Positano 5

Positano 4

Positano 3

Positano 2

We followed the natural slope of the town down towards the harbour, pleased to note that the rain was easing.

We took refuge in a beachfront restaurant where we ate bruschetta, aubergine parmiagiana (me – boy was this good; one of the best meals of the holiday for me), spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter sauce (husband said this was delicious) and drank wine and beer.

Bruschetta La Cambusa restaurant

Aubergine Parmiagiana La Cambusa restaurant

Spinach and ricotta ravioli La Cambusa restaurant

After lunch the rain had stopped and we had a mooch on the beachfront. There are some great boat trips available including a trip to Grotto Smerelda which I’d love to see.I’d happily base myself in Positano next time in Italy. You can visit Capri by boat, as well as being a short drive back to Amalfi where there are bus trips to other villages along the coast like Raffaello and Maiori.

It’s just so pretty!

Positano painted tables

Positano painted tables 2

Positano walkway

Positano building

Positano flowers

Positano plants

Positano shrub

Positana Santa Maria Assunta

We jumped on the SITA bus back to Sorrento as it arrived just as we reached the bus stop, and it’s fair to say the driver was a lunatic! I was glad we hadn’t taken that bus all the way along!

It’s unfortunate that we did the drive on a rainy day, but it was either that or miss out (as it was our last full day) and I’d rather have seen it not it’s very best than not seen it at all.

Have you ever been to this part of Italy?

 

 

 

Herculaneum – ancient roman city

A week ago today we visited Herculaneum; which is the smaller, less well known cousin to the famous Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Originally the husband wanted to go to Pompeii, as he said “no-one ever says Herculaneum is on their bucket list” but after advice from my Dad and further investigation, it became clear that Herculaneum was the one for us – further vindicated by some people at our hotel who visited both and said Herculaneum was better (I do love knowing we’ve done the right thing!)

Unlike Pompeii which was covered by ash, Herculaneum was covered by volcanic gas and mud, which meant it was better preserved. It was also under 20 metres of volcano eruption coverage, unlike the 4 metres covering Pompeii, which again added to the quality of preservation. While Herculaneum is a smaller site, it does make it easier to get around and see everything, and there are actual buildings and decorations still in tact.

We hopped on the train in Sorrento and got off about an hour later at Ercolano. I expected the site to be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s just at the bottom of a hill in the middle of the town. In fact, much of Herculaneum remains underground – an estimated 75% – because the town of Ercolano with it’s businesses and residents is thriving above it.

On entering the site you get an overview of the full excavation site, and it’s mindblowing. It’s like looking back into history, a very unusual and eerie feeling.Herculaneum overview

Herculaneum overview 2

Herculaneum overview 3

At just 12 euros each to enter, it’s an unmissable visit if you’re in the area and have any interest at all in history and ancient roman culture and way of life. You can employ the services of a guide, or pay for an audio guide, but we preferred to just wander around and immerse ourselves at our own pace.

What I’m about to say next sounds very silly, but it’s how I felt. It’s almost too good. It’s really hard to imagine that the roads and columns and mosaic floors are that old. It could almost be a film set, if that makes sense? It’s really hard to comprehend that you’re looking at thousands of years of history. After all, the eruption happened in 79 A.D but many of the buildings would already have been in existence prior to that – back into B.C territory. That’s almost incomprehensible! When you look at the detail in the brickwork, and the decorative nature of the arches it’s difficult to get your head around (or, at least, it was for me!) The roads and kerb stones are of a quality you just wouldn’t expect for such a long time ago – nothing has changed from how the Romans did it to how it’s done today.

Herculaneum roman roads

Herculaneum road

Columns – interesting that that they’re brick built and then rendered and engraved with the decorative line detail.

Herculaneum columns

Herculaneum columns 3

Herculaneum columns 2

Many of the buildings still have wall décor in reds and blues.

Herculaneum wall decor 2

Herculaneum wall decor 3

Herculaneum wall decor

The mosaic floors are made from hundreds of thousands of tiny tiles – imagine laying them by hand! This one has a mermaid pattern – it was the floor of the public baths (slightly sunken in places, but you can kind of forgive that, considering it’s age!)

Herculaneum mosaic floor

Look at the detail in this room.

Herculaneum room

I assumed these round holes were toilets, but having googled it I found the answer on Sarah Ryan’s blog – they were holes for cooking pots – this may well have been an early form of restaurant or takeaway!

Herculaneum cooking area

Herculaneum food area

Unfortunately these baths aren’t open to the public due to safety reasons – only scholars and researchers can get access (never been more tempted to lie about my job!) but I took this photograph through the glass. You can imagine they would be absolutely spectacular.

Herculaneum roman baths

There are artefacts and engravings and statues also scattered around the site.

Herculaneum bench

Herculaneum bust

Herculaneum carving

Herculaneum tiles

Herculaneum statue

Herculaneum crypt

These skeletons are residents that huddled together in boat houses, presumably awaiting evacuation from the town. The hot gases from the volcanic eruption would have killed them instantly.

Herculaneum skeletons 2

Herculaneum skeletons

Herculaneum bones

Herculaneum was fantastically interesting and worthwhile – truly a memorable experience and a great part of our trip to Italy.

 

 

 

 

Stay-at-home tourist: Birmingham

On Saturday I had a fabulous afternoon seeing my home city through tourist eyes; looking at it in a way I don’t generally experience.

And it was brill.

It started from the desire to go owl hunting – The Big Hoot has scattered hand painted owls all around the city to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. They’ve been around since July, but I haven’t had chance to get into the centre of town to check them out (although I did see a couple locally about a month back).

So off we went, with no particular plans apart from to find as many owls as we could and then see where the day would take us.

One thing you forget, walking round Birmingham with a purpose in mind, is how beautiful some of the architecture is.

Floozie in the Jacuzzi

Floozie in the Jacuzzi Floozie in the Jacuzzi 2

Town Hall

Birmingham Town Hall

St Philips Cathedral (with added owl!)

St Philips Cathedral

Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Victoria Square

Council House

Birmingham Council House

One such piece of architecture is the new (ish) library. I never truly appreciated what a structure it is. In the past I would have classed myself as not being a fan, but for the first time I went up close and personal and was astounded. The circular metal cladding gives the building an industrial feel.

Birmingham Library

Birmingham library looking up

Inside, all the escalators have futuristic blue lights.

Inside Birmingham Library

I didn’t realise until recently that the building has two outdoor viewing platforms, with gardens.

Birmingham library viewing platform 2

Birmingham library gardens

Birmingham library viewing platform

The views across the city are pretty cool.

View from Birmingham Library viewing platform

View from Birmingham library secret garden

Out of towners often think of Birmingham as being dull and bleak, but there are flowers everywhere.Birmingham flowers 1

Birmingham flowers 3

Birmingham flowers

Birmingham flowers 4

And miles of canals.. Hard to believe that I’ve lived in or around this city my whole life and didn’t actually realise how beautiful the canal area is.

Birmingham canal 3

Birmingham canal 2

We found about 30 owls altogether, here are some of my favourites.

Night owl

Owl by Night

Bob the Bat

Bob the Bat owl

Clash

Clash owl

Tick Tock

Tick Tock owl

I love living in Birmingham!

Do you ever look at your home town through fresh eyes?