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Archive for the ‘Landmark’ Category

Sun. Paella at La Pepica. Roman architecture in the city centre. Spontaneous street parades. Independent designer street vendors. Reflexology from my beach chair. 14 girl hen / bachelorette party. Sangria. Cava.

A great weekend in a beautiful city with a wicked group of ladies. I really do love Spain. Although Seville is so far my favorite Spanish city, it does lack a beach, a quality Valencia delivers highly on. Unfortunately my fancy pants camera is in the shop. Again. Well, technically it’s not in the shop anymore. It’s being held ransom in UK customs. Here are a few shots I took with my extremely vintage iPhone. Let me know what you think.

We were greeted at the airport by these lovely gluten free, vegan hen cupcakes. What a great way to start our journey.

Valencia has a thriving night life and the old city at night is absolutely breathtaking.

The silly sunglasses man made out like a bandit on us. Here is the normally gorgeous Anna giving the rest of us a fair shot at looking beautiful too.

Valencia Beach. If you get a reflexology on the beach, pick the lady with the Dora the Explorer bag and flowered hat. The rest pale in comparison. Kind of like standing next to Anna when she's not wearing those ugly glasses.

After some partying and beach time with the ladies, I took a later flight so that I could explore the old city myself. I am so glad I did as I ran across many spectacular moments in the short span of a Sunday afternoon.

The Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

Torre del Micalet.

Couple at Torre del Micalet.

City view from Torre del Micalet..

Fountain in Plaza de la Virgin

Child vs. pigeon standoff in Plaza de la Virgin.

A bit of modern architecture mixed in.

Valencia street view.

Random street performance. These ladies were amazing.

Clarinet player in the street performance band.

Costumed men joining the street performance.

And now I’m finding it difficult to get back to the mundane tasks that life is requiring. I guess that’s what Monday is all about. What do you think the people of Valencia are doing right now? With a current 24% unemployment in Spain, perhaps I should stop day dreaming and get back to work…. for now.

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Last month I had two BFFs come all the way from Texas to visit. Of course in the line-up of events was the obligatory trip to Stonehenge where my lovely friend, Jennifer, snapped this one.

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The night before the Royal Wedding, the Mall and Buckingham Palace were already packed with people who had flown across the world to sleep in a tent in a foreign country’s public park along side strangers. Their dedication made me envious. I knew it was impossible to sleep in a comfortable bed AND get a glimpse of the royal couple on their wedding day. You can guess which option I chose.

The dedicated hailed from many backgrounds with the Americans making a big showing. Also making a big showing were flags and pajamas.

Pajama Party along the Mall

These ladies were making it a Girl's Night Out

Home sweet home

Having a kip. (That means nap.)

This guy offered to trade me a cupcake for a kiss. Thanks, but I'm not hungry.

Country of Georgia, represent!

Texas girls, represent!

We all know why the souvenir shop owners are smiling.

Prepared for the big day.

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After my post about bluebonnets and daffodils, I was pointed to this Guardian article on bluebells in Southwest Britain. Seems like the UK has it’s own spring time sea of blue. In the past few weeks I have started to notice blue flowers in small and large patches of green around town. For an excursion, a friend recommend I check out Abbey Wood.

A walk through the ancient south east London woods did not disappoint.

Bluebells at Abbey Wood

Bluebells in Abbey Woods

As we wandered through the woods, we eventually came up on Lesnes Abbey. The abbey, now in ruins, was founded by Richard de Luci in 1178 as penance for his involvement in the murder of Thomas Becket. In 1524, Lesnes was closed by Henry VIII along with scores of other monasteries in England and Wales. The ruins make an interesting backdrop for picnics and the like. The proximity of the woods and abbey to London makes it an easy place to visit.

Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey

After our outing, we stopped by the Old Mill, a converted 18th century mill with a large beer garden. The locals were on good form and so was the owner, so we ended our day in Southwest London with a few real ales. I am embarrassed to admit that  real ale tastes like flat warm beer to me. Perhaps I need to spend more time at the pub to develop a true appreciation.

Authentic Real Ale at the Old Mill

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Leroy and Mariah were both in town visiting. We were at a pub looking through our travel guides  and trying to decide what exactly it was we wanted to do with our week. The contrasts were stark.  Husband was completely embarrassed by our public display of tourism. Mariah, ever the planner, had her wheels spinning. Laid-back Leroy was agreeing to every suggestion without too much enthusiasm. That is, until we mentioned visiting a few monoliths. The Discovery Channel buff in him suddenly perked up and Mariah and I knew we had to make it happen.

Since Stonehenge is a little cliche and Mariah and I had already been there, we decided to visit Avebury. Word was that it was better and the oldest stone circle in Europe. The stone circles are multiple in number, more accessible and integrated into the town. In fact, the town is built inside these massive stone circles.

Luck was with us as the sun was shining for our drive out to Avebury. We parked the car and quickly found the main attraction: strategically placed large stones. Although Avebury does not carry the iconic image that Stonehenge has blazed in our collective consciousness, the sheer number of stones and organization was much greater than that of Stonehenge.

Avebury

After a bit of walking around the stones we headed into the museum. I needed context for what we were viewing. The staff at the museum was a breathe of fresh air. Tourist sites have a tendency to make one feel like cattle. The people at Avebury seemed generally excited to have our company. It was a bit like dating the sister of the prom queen.

A walk through the stones.

Let’s consult Wikipedia for historical background.

Constructed around 2600 BCE, during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

It’s wild to think about someone chopping down this ancient stone arrangement to build onto their house. I guess it felt silly to go in search of new raw materials when these had been delivered right to your doorstep. Plus, the historical nature of the stones may not have been widely understood or respected in the Late Medieval and Early Modern times.

Stone Marked Road

One thing about Avebury that I absolutely can not recommend is the Red Lion Pub in the village. The service was more than atrocious, it was comical.  The food was just plain bad. They were out of half the menu. I don’t know how you mess up fried food that badly but the chips were terrible. We were treated like an annoyance by the kid behind the bar. They forgot to bring our dessert. They were out of coffee cups. Not out of coffee, just out of vessels (for there or to go) to hold it in because they had a rush of visitors a few days earlier. Not that morning. Not yesterday. A few DAYS earlier. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either.

Do not eat here.

Constructed around 2600 BCE,[1] during the Neolithic, or ‘New Stone Age’, the monument comprises of a large henge, surrounded by a bank and a ditch. Inside this henge is a large outer stone circle, with two separate smaller stone circles situated inside the centre of the monument. Its original purpose is not known, although archaeologists believe that it was most likely used for some form of ritual or ceremonial usage. The Avebury monument was a part of a larger prehistoric landscape containing several older monuments nearby, including West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill.

In the Late Mediaeval and Early Modern periods, locals destroyed many of the standing stones in the monument, and a village was built in the centre of it. The antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley however took an interest in Avebury, and recorded much of the site before its destruction. Archaeologists proceeded to excavate at the site in the 20th century.

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“Some people dream their entire lives about going to Italy” I tell Husband. We are unenthusiastically packing for a weekend jaunt to Milan and I want to be reminded of how amazing the phrase “weekend jaunt to Milan” actually is. Don’t get me wrong, we are happy about going on this trip. We just have so much else going on as well.

Access to so many cultures. This is why people dream about living in Europe. When it gets integrated into everyday life it may start to feel blase.

I had a conversation with my neighbor about the sites and history we live among in Central London. He found it odd that people he met traveling were so enamored by his proximity to world heritage sites. “I mean, they live around great stuff too. You know, like in America they have the Grand Canyon.”

“Except people don’t really live at the Grand Canyon. It’s in the middle of nowhere,” I point out.

I walk past Buckingham Palace a few times a week on my way to the studio where I practice yoga and sometimes work. Because it’s me and because it’s London, I am usually late.  I should be enjoying my surroundings but instead I feel frustrated. The area is jammed with tourists. One can only stop and let tourists set up their next Facebook profile photographs so many times. I have been this tourist. I have been this tourist in London. My impatience is practicality, not malice.

I wonder how many holiday photographs feature a rushed me in the background.

I pause sometimes to contemplate the gravity of my scenery. A place I heard about but never knew if I would see is now a part of my everyday life.

I took this quick photo while dodging tourists during one of those sudden contemplations.

Just another stroll past Buckingham Palace

Gotta go, I’m late for the studio.

Don’t get me wrong, we are happy about going on this trip. We just have so much else going on as well.

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www.themonument.info
Open Daily: 09.30 – 17.30 (last admission) 17.00
Phone: +44 (0) 207 626 2717

Ever wonder why there is a tube stop called Monument? I didn’t, but it didn’t surprise me to learn that there was an actual monument there. I don’t expect there to be a real Chalk Farm or an actual Elephant and Castle, but we all know there is a Tower Bridge and a Marble Arch. Sometimes tube stop names are still relevant, sometimes they are not.

Monument

The Monument was built in the 1670s to mark the rebuilding of London post the Great Fire of 1666.The structure, built by Sir Christopher Wren is 202 feet tall which is the distance between the monument and the location that the fire began.

Plaque on the Monument

Everything before the fire that wasn’t built of stone was a goner. The city must have felt so new and young in the years directly after the fire as a whole new generation of architecture made its way to the forefront. Wren built 51 churches after the fire. Would he have ever had such an opportunity? Would he be a common household name otherwise? What would the cityscape look like now if there had never been such a destructive event?

This type of opportunity intrigues me. I’m reminded of cities like Le Havre, France that were completely bombed out during WWII. The city now feels strangely overwhelmed by immediately post WWII design. If the whole city hadn’t needed to be rebuilt, would Oscar Niemeyer have found another forum for his googly hand?

Niemeyer's The Volcan in Le Havre

Anyway, for £3 you can climb the 311 steps to the top of the Monument and take in the views. Honestly, you can get better views in other structures around London, but it is neat to try and imagine where the fire started. If the monument were to topple over, there is a chance you would land there.

Views from the top of the Monument

Views from the top of Monument

While the climb up got narrow and uncomfortable, the climb down made me really dizzy and claustrophobic. Flip flops were a bad choice of footwear. At one point I lost a shoe and decided it was safer to make the remainder of the trip barefoot.

Dizzzzzzzzy.

As I exited, I was awarded a nice little certificate to show off that I had made the journey to the top. The certificate depicted how the Monument appeared when it first opened. Nice touch.

An engraving by Sutton Nicholls of the Monument in 1750

Drawing from Certificate, courtesy of http://www.themonument.info

Bottom Line: It’s a good way to contemplate the Great Fire of 1666. I am glad I did it once, but I don’t think I need to do it again. Wear appropriate footwear.

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