More York

May. 29th, 2017 11:29 am
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Many thanks to those of you who liked yesterday's post about our trip to York - but you didn't think you'd escape that lightly did you?  Because there's more ...

More York )


May. 28th, 2017 03:32 pm
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We had an excellent couple of days in York.  There is a very good park and ride system, so we didn't have the hassle of driving into the centre of the city, coping with the one way system and finding anywhere to park.

York )


Nov. 28th, 2016 07:21 pm
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When we visited the Porcelain Museum at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence I took several pictures which I didn't include in my blog post at the time.  However, they were entirely too pretty not to share, so have some more photos.

Porcelain )
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On our last day we felt we'd had enough of the crowds, so we took a bus to the local town of Fiesole.  The town was a Roman settlement and also home to the Lombards, something I only learnt through their museum (finally, a museum telling people about the history).

Fiesole and Farewell )
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We visited the Palazzo on our second full day in Florence.  To get there we crossed the Ponte Vecchio, with the crowds.  So much of Florence was built and put on show to display the wealth and power of its rulers.  It has the same effect on the tourists today, who are equally impressed by what they see.  It is perhaps what made me feel, despite admiring the beauty, that it wasn't my sort of place.  I'm so pleased we went, but it wasn't a city I could relate to particularly.

Palazzo Pitti )


Nov. 5th, 2016 03:28 pm
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I've been wanting to go to Florence for a long time and finally we made it.  It is a beautiful city.  I was delighted to be in the city where the Medici family lived, although surprised at how little there was about them, although it's possible we didn't look in the right places.  The three main spots for tourists to visit are the Uffizi, the Duomo and the Palazzio Pitti.  One out of three isn't bad.

Our first day was a Monday, and only the Duomo was open.  It was also a public holiday (Ogni Santi - All Saints) so the queues for the Duomo were very long.  I have mixed feelings about paying to go into a place of worship, so we decided to wander round the city centre and see what else appealled.

Florence )
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And we were in Florence - hooray!

Birthday )And yes, we were in Florence, and there will be further details to come, but, as a taster, here's the view from the rooftop terrace of our hotel:
Florence )
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One thing which did surprise us was the number of people who wore traditional dress on the Sunday.  This is the hotel proprietor with his wife and daughter:

Final photos )
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One day we went to Bad Ischl, which is where Emperor Franz-Joseph had his summer villa.  It's also where he signed the document which took Austro-Hungary into armed conflict with Serbia and thus began World War 1.  It was interesting seeing a facsimile of the letter he wrote to the Austrian people explaining why he was taking that step.  His bedroom has been preserved next to the study where he wrote the letter and looking at it I wondered whether he would have done the same even if he had realised the catastrophe he was unleashing.  I got the impression he would.

Bad Ischl, Salzburg and Koblenz )
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We were getting ready for dinner one evening when we heard the sound of a band coming down the road.  I went onto our balcony and began to take pictures of the parade:

The parade )
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Firstly, it is not recommended to break a glass when doing the washing up just before leaving to go on holiday.  You will then spend time running round finding plasters five minutes before you are being picked up.  Fortunately the cut was clean and healed rapidly, but we could have done without the drama.

The holiday begins )
smallhobbit: (Reichenbach)
Never have I been so organised with regard to holidays for the year.

Firstly, we are going to an Andre Rieu concert.  In Salzburg.  Yes, it's a coach tour again, so not only do we get to go to the concert, but also get to visit something of Austria.  I probably ought to do some more German.  We're away for a week in the second half of May.

Then I've been sorting out my regular few days break in London.  I normally go mid July, but accommodation was quite expensive, so I had a thought and realised the timing of the other holidays meant I could go later.  And surprisingly it's about two-thirds the price in August.  So with the Waterloo Travelodge booked I'm now waiting to see what's on at the theatres.

And the reason why I can go in August?  We go to Florence at the end of October for my birthday.  Yes, finally we're going there.  Well, the flights are booked, we just need to book the hotel.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
We stayed in Germany in two Maritim hotels, very posh!  The first, in Timmendorfer Strand, was lovely.  It had two salt water swimming pools, one inside and one outside.  SM swam in the outside one every day.  I tried it, but preferred the indoor one - whilst the water in the pool was warm, the air wasn't.  I could definitely get used to wandering downstairs and going for a swim every day.

final thoughts )
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Our last day in Germany.  We began the journey west, stopping in Bremen for lunch.  SM spent an hour in a music shop, while I did a quick dash for souvenirs for family.  I bought him a book of Brahms' Lieder we should keep him happy for weeks.  Bremen was another city I would happily have spent much longer in.

Bremen and Cologne )
smallhobbit: (Cat)
The next day we went to Lubeck and had a guided tour on the waterways around the old town.  It was fascinating and the guide included plenty of historical detail which I appreciated.  Lubeck is very pretty, as you can hopefully see.
Lubeck and Kiel )
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Right, I'm back and have successfully done battle with the photos on my phone to download them to my computer.  If there hadn't been so many I'd have done it the usual way and emailed them to myself.  Scrap that, now emailed pictures to myself.  I hate technology!

Holiday, days one and two )
smallhobbit: (Team Awesome)
Saturday saw the arrival of the famous annual [ profile] shpicnic

Actually my preparations began the previous day when I tweeted [ profile] flawedamythyst saying "Have found handcuffs. Will buy them unless I hear from you in the next 90 minutes."  The reply I recieved requested I buy four pairs.

As is traditional we met in Regent's Park and enjoyed the picnic.  Various picnickers brought along Sherlock themed food, including an array of chocolates and the competition winner by [ profile] ascendant_angel, cakes decorated with pink icing as brains.

During the afternoon we played various games.  [ profile] jupiter_ash had the doubtful benefit of partnering me for the three legged race (hence the handcuffs).  We came third, which wasn't bad - mainly because our opponent in our round fell over!  There was also racing in a bed sheet, racing with an umbrella, the chocolate game and pin the moustache on the Watson.

After which we adjourned to the pub.  Where I drank cider, since Wetherspoons still had its cider festival running.  After the previous few days I was feeling quite tired, so was glad when my friends all had to leave at about 8pm so I could make an equally early departure without feeling bad about it.

It was a lovely day, with the highlight being a group of fangirls holding signs saying 221B MINE.  One of the picnickers had chosen the picnic to propose to his boyfriend.  Who accepted with tears and kisses.  Can't have a much better day than that.
smallhobbit: (Butterfly)
I was determined not to waste any of my time in London, so I selected various things to do during the day.

First up, on Thursday morning I went to the V&A (my favourite museum) to see Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852 - 1860.  It's a free exhibition and one I found fascinating.  Tripe (what a splendid Dickensian name) was an army captain and engineer employed by the East India Company.  What particularly impressed me, apart from the way he adapted and improved the means of developing his photographs to combat the Indian climate, was the pride he must have taken in his pictures.  He would deliberately alter the negatives with his thumb so leaves and clouds would have much greater depth than was possible given the length of time it took to take a photo.  The pictures he was sent to take had a commercial/military purpose and yet he made them artistic as well.

Friday morning I took the National Theatre backstage tour.  We saw three of the four theatres and learnt much about all of them.  In the Olivier we were able to watch the start of the transformation of the stage from Everyman to The Beaux Strategem.  The different staging possibilities are amazing, especially considering the plays are in rep and therefore change between two different productions every few days.  From there we were taken to the Littleton and saw the scenery being installed prior to Three Days in the Country.  That looks stunning.  We were also able to hear a pianist at work on one side of the stage.  We were able to visit the rehearsal room for Three Days and see the costumes hanging on a clothes rail.  We walked through the Dorfman, but were unable to stop as there was a workshop in progress.  There's a new walkway installed, which means people can walk along above the workshops and see what's being made.  And I even saw the statue made for King Lear of Simon Russell-Beale.

From there I went to the Museum of London Docklands, for an exhibition of photographs taken by Christina Broom, entitled Soldiers and Suffragettes.  Although interesting I wasn't as taken by this exhibition.  Broom was a good photographer, but it was evident her photographs were all taken with an eye to earning a living.  There's no fault with this, but she was clearly intent on keeping on the right side of establishment.  Her suffragettes were parading and talking, but not really protesting.  Her soldiers were brave and patriotic and did as they were told.

Lastly I went to the main Museum of London for a tour of the gateway of the Roman fort.  This was very interesting - there isn't that much to see, but the guide, one of the museum curators, was full of knowledge, which she communicated well.  She had an ability to encourage her listeners to imagine themselves back in the Roman era - and also in the Victorian era, when the wall of the fort was the back of a row of shops.  I think Gloucester has more to show in the way of ruined fort, but it was well worth making the trip to see it.
smallhobbit: (Butterfly)
In addition to the theatre I went to three very different performances which involved music.

Firstly, High Society at the Old Vic.  Up to a couple of years ago I would never have thought I'd enjoy musicals, but now I really do.  It's definitely a feel good experience.  Plot with a happy ending; singing; dancing - just so much fun.  And songs which everyone recognises.  Jamie Parker as Mike Connor, forgetting one of the lines in "Well, did you evah?"  Joe Stilgoe as Joey Powell, playing the piano at the beginning and incorporating tunes suggested by the audience.  It was the first thing I went to and started my holiday on and excellent footing.

As a complete contrast Thursday lunchtime I went to St Martin in the Fields for Great Sacred Music.  A short performance, lasting little over half an hour, which included a couple of hymns the congregation were invited to join in with.  The theme for that particular week was the modern Scottish composer James MacMillan.  He's not a composer I would go out of my way to hear, but being in Trafalgar Square anyway I was glad to have had the opportunity to learn more about him.

And then in the evening I went to Sadler's Wells to see Matthew Bourne's The Car Man.   My best description would be fanfic set to ballet.  It is an AU of Bizet's opera Carmen.  There is slash: Luca/Angelo and full-frontal nudity.  I prefer my ballet to be slightly more traditional and in that sense enjoyed the second act more than the first.  To me some of the ensemble pieces would have been at home on the set of a musical rather more than a ballet.  Nevertheless I enjoyed the spectacle and have added it to my list of things I am glad to have seen.  Also, I was pleased to identify Bizet's L'Arlessiene as being included in the ballet.
smallhobbit: (Butterfly)
Having been in London for the greater part of last week, I'm now planning on writing up my experiences.  It won't be one long entry, but spread over the next few days, so if you're looking for something else, feel free to come back at the end of the week.

Firstly, the three plays I saw:

Wednesday evening I went to Everyman at the National Theatre.  It's generally had very good reviews, but it did nothing for me.  Carol Ann Duffy has rewritten the fifteenth century morality tale and brought it into the current decade.  The production relies on a lot of clever visual images projected onto the back of the stage.  In fact a good proportion was strongly visual.  Really well done and yes, clever, but not what I look for at the theatre.  It did cause me to wonder whether I was reacting negatively to 'modern' theatre.

But then on Thursday afternoon I went to the Trafalgar Studios to see Constellations.  This play has been on tour and had only recently found a West End theatre for a very limited run.  It was written in 2011 by Nick Payne, first performed at the Royal Court and I was thrilled to have the chance to see it.  The play is a two-hander, with Louise Brearley as Marianne and Joe Armstrong as Roland.  The concept of the play is there is a different universe for each small decision which is taken and therefore many of the lines are repeated with different emphasis or with a different line following.  I am amazed the two actors (who are on stage for the 75 minutes non-stop) remembered the order of events.  In addition whilst the audience sees the beginning of a relationship play out in various ways, there is the ending of one version shown backwards.  The only indication of a change of 'scene' was the change of lights.  I found it totally compelling and extremely moving.  In fact, some people left the theatre part way through, I suspect because they found the subject matter too close to home.  Really powerful modern theatre.

To finish my theatre visits on the Friday evening I was back at the National Theatre.  This time for George Farquhar's Restoration comedy The Beaux' Stratagem.  It was a glorious romp and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The cast interracted with the audience.  I realised I was definitely attracted to men in knee breeches and stockings.  My favourite actor was Geoffrey Streatfeild as Archer.  The music was great, with the musicians coming onto stage as required.  Nothing deep, nothing complicated, pure enjoyment.


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