Saigon. December 2019 I didn’t know much about Vietnamese history. But I did know that the Reunification Palace is a bit of a must for history buffs. We’d walked past it a few times. A 1960’s ugly block of a building, which cast a sort of eerie shadow over the city, palm trees and manicured gardens notwithstanding. When we visited I had the approach and … Continue reading From Independence to Reunification – A Palace Full of History.
Shekhawati. 2010. Shekhawati is a landscape of narrow country roads, half forgotten villages and beautiful havelis. (large ornate traditional houses). Crops of bright green mustard seeds, wheat and cauliflower interlaced with sandy tracks, ornate yellow sandstone wells and crumbling cenotaphs. An open air painting of shifting colour and light. Once an area on the silk trade route between the ports of the Arabian Sea and … Continue reading Shekhawati: An Outdoor Gallery.
Every October in the 8th month of Kartika, business and religion come together and the quiet town of Pushkar is transformed into the circus that is the Pushkar camel festival. Thousands of livestock owners stir in the Thar desert, pack family and belongings onto wooden carts, trailing camels, horses, and cows behind them, to trade on the Mela ground – a huge, dry, expanse of … Continue reading Pulsating Pushkar.
It was a complete gift. We knew nothing about it; on a whim decided to chance it, and then just fell head-over-heels in love with it. Poetry in stone. A beech-hedged drive. A sixteenth-century dovecote. A bridge over the river Wye. Turrets and battlements playing hide-and-seek with tree tops and the hall sitting on it’s limestone bluff above us. Past the Elizabethan stables, through the … Continue reading Haddon – a hall and a home.
Above me a velvety night sky full of stars. Concentric circles shimmer. I’m in a vortex. Static but giddy. Drowning in light. It is a beauty that knocks me off my feet. For days now, I’ve been standing, head knocked back at a curious angle, neck cricked, staring up at apses and arches, mesmerised by sparkling, spangling bits of coloured glass. The mausoleum is small, … Continue reading Ravenna: Meals and Mosaics.
We almost missed it. Just slightly off the beaten track. Huge and labyrinthine. We searched for the way in, while people on the inside looked for a way out. Once a Carthusian monastery. Now a cemetery. Colonnades. Cloisters. Loggias. Mausoleums and monuments. Marble, mosaic and wrought iron. Wealth and luxury. Art and beauty. Haunting, heart-stopping, jaw-dropping and even a tad horrifying. Our legs gave out … Continue reading The Charterhouse of Bologna.
I have just finished an online learning course on the Book of Kells. It was offered for free and I wanted to stretch my brain. And stretch my brain it did. In fact it quite bent it out of shape. A whole lot of facts to ponder and wonder over, and, rather surprisingly for a religious work, an inordinate number of cats prowling through the … Continue reading Cats and the Book of Kells.
We stepped into the courtyard and straight into the heart of a little family business. And it was more heart than business. On a low bench along a wall a young man sat pencilling designs on small rounded tan-coloured gourds. Two young women next to him, carving out his drawings, using nothing more than a nail sharpened to a point. I noticed the plasters wound … Continue reading The Gourd Man.
Once you went in, you never came out. Santa Catalina: a pretty prison, but a prison nonetheless. Painted letters over the entrance to the first courtyard urge SILENCE, yet noise from the city surrounds you: the cries of street vendors, the clop of horses hooves, the hum of voices, the sound of life. There are forty-foot-high walls, but your prison is open to the air; … Continue reading Sisters Doing It For Themselves.
Set high, amidst pock-marked mined mountains at 4,100m, the town of Potosi has a faded, drained air. It’s glory days are long gone, and while remnants of beauty remain, the flesh has clearly been picked from it’s bones. Twenty-three kilometers, 30 minutes, and another world away, lies the rich fertile valley and hacienda of Cayara; the oldest country estate in the continent of South America. … Continue reading The Time Machine of Hacienda Cayara.