Author: restlessjo

Hi! I’m Jo! Johanna when I’m feeling posh, Jan to my Dad, and Joasiu to my Polish family. A bit of a mix-up, that’s me. The one constant, however, is my restless nature. I love to travel and to explore our world. It doesn’t have to be the big wide world. I can be ridiculously happy not too far from home, so long as I’m seeking new horizons. Of course I have a wish list, and it was to help me fulfil my dreams that I started to write travel guides for a venture called Simonseeks. I’d always kept a travel diary, and it was hugely satisfying to share my experiences and to make new friends who shared my passion for travel. Alas, Simonseeks hit a few troubles, but I still find myself writing about my travels. I’ve become addicted. I’d love to share them, and to make more friends. So, it has to be a blog- right? Or do I mean- write?

Jo’s Monday walk : Ponte Vecchio

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I’m going to be very gentle with you this week.  We’re going to stroll along the banks of the River Arno.  Can there be anybody who thinks of Florence and not immediately of the Ponte Vecchio?  It’s the iconic image, and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.

A stone bridge has existed here, at the narrowest point of the entire Arno river, since 972.  In that time the bridge has twice been destroyed by flood, in 1177 and 1333.  The current bridge has been in place since 1345 and is a bit of a survivor.  It was the only one of the city’s bridges left standing when the Germans retreated in 1944, having bombed all of the others.  You shouldn’t be too disappointed to find that, up close, it has a slightly ramshackle appearance.  Hitler may have declined to destroy the bridge, but in 1966 nature did her very best to sweep it away.  The floods that year were catastrophic, damaging buildings and destroying artworks.  But the bridge held.

I’m starting my stroll at pretty, arched Ponte Santa Trinita, with it’s four statues. Here Via de Tornabuoni joins Lungoarno at the riverside.

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It’s a peaceful sight on this early Spring morning, but down on the river bank a team of workers are clearing debris.  This is not a river to turn your back on.  Heavy rain the previous day had caused it to rise.

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The deep shadows herald our very special bridge.  In 1593, Ferdinando de Medici commanded that the rather smelly butcher’s shops, used to discharging unwanted produce into the Arno, be replaced by sartorially more elegant jewellers.  And there they remain, to this day.

Above the jewellery shops, on the eastern side of the bridge, runs part of the Vasari Corridor. This amazing secret passageway was built in 1565 for Cosimo de Medici.  Connecting the Palazzo Vecchio with the Pitti Palace, about 1km away on the opposite side of the river, it assured privacy and protection in those times of intrigue.  During WWII the treasures of the Uffizi were stored in this corridor, for preservation.  Art resides there still. You can clearly see the grilled windows, over the shops, in the photo below.

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Crossing over the bridge to Oltrarno, literally the other side of the Arno, continue along the river bank.  It’s hard not to stop to look back.

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Across the river rises the delicate spire of Basilica di Santa Croce.  With just a short detour you could admire it’s magnificent facade.  Recross the river by graceful Ponte alle Grazie.  In the far distance, snow kissed mountains brush the sky.

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Via de Benci will take you directly to Piazza di Santa Croce.  In Savonarolo’s day, this was a place of execution, and violence is still enacted here in the 3rd week of June each year, when calcio storico takes place.  Roughly combining football and rugby, it is not for the faint hearted.  Headbutting, punching and choking are all allowed.

Basilica de Santa Croce is an altogether more peaceful place, where you will find the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli, among others. The cloisters are renowned for their wonderful frescoes by Giotto.

Retrace your steps to the river, or choose to linger in the maze of streets that lead to the Uffizi. There are too many distractions by far.

Me, I’m drawn back to the spectacle of the bridge.  Spanning the river for all those years, it’s beaten gold resisting all the forces that nature can summon.  But powerless against the lovelocks.

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I hope you enjoyed my first venture into Florence by daylight.  Next week’s walk will be far more strenuous.  There are heights to scale!

In my absence the walks continued to tumble in.  Please take some time to read and enjoy them. Many thanks to all of you for your patience, and continued support.  Now, let’s get the kettle on! I’m sure I saw cake somewhere.

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I hope you’ll join me for more of alluring Florence next week.  Details of how to contribute a walk are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I’d love to have your company.

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First up we have Eunice with a wonderfully unspoiled bit of Wales :

A discovery walk on the Llyn Peninsula

Closely followed by Jude, with more delicious shots of Lincoln and the cathedral :

Lincoln’s Minster Yard

And there’s also a stunner of a garden walk from my Queen of the Gardens :

Garden Portrait : Trebah in Winter (or A Walk to Alice’s Seat)

Woolly’s still travelling.  It’s like that game…’Where’s Woolly?’

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Jackie’s all ready to party, and when better than Carnaval?

Carnaval and more- Mazatlan, Mexico

What do you know about the Israeli countryside?  Why not let Lisa show you around?

Givat Barfilia

Becky had to get the waders out for this walk!  Well, clean socks and a towel, anyway.  Cute pigs, though!

A three river adventure in the Algarvian hills

And environmental changes are a constant concern on the Algarve’s beaches :

The sands of the Ria Formosa are forever changing

Drake brings a lovely soft palette to our world :

Less colourless

While Jaspa has us climbing a volcano!

The Views from Mount Vesuvius

Do join Nicole and her lovely family in the desert!  You have choices :

Hiking Saguaro National Park

Sabino Canyon : A Hike along the Phone Line Trail

I never can resist the Azores!  I’ll get there one day!  Please say hello to Uncover Travel :

Hike up Ponta dos Capelinhos, Faial 

Beautiful and individual images for you from Jesh :

A Morning Walk

Finally, I’m very familiar with the city walls at York, but not with these in Chester, so thank you, Carol!

Wall Walking

Another wonderful selection, you have to agree.  Wishing you all a good week, with lots of healthy walking.

 

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

St. Mary of the Flower, the Duomo, in Florence, and a cherished dream.  Would she disappoint?

I arrived mid-evening, after a long days travel, with legs that needed to be stretched and a bubble of excitement inside.  Into the darkening streets, gay voices filling the air and a buzz of purely Italian sociability.  Waiting for that moment when, rounding a corner, there she was, shining like a beacon.  Beckoning me to come closer, in adoration, and gaze on her transcendent beauty.

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Round and round her I walked, gazing up at every aspect of her beauty.  Dizzy with the wonder of it all and beaming like a child.

Arms spread wide, my eyes followed her majesty up to the heavens.  I did not want my bubble ever to burst.  Easing myself away, with many a backward glance, I tried to reassure myself that she was real.  Never could I conjure such a figment of imagination.

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In the days to come I will be sharing with you some of the history, as well as the beauty, that is Florence.  Right now I’m clinging to the Indelible memory of that first night.  Thank you, Paula, for such a very apt prompt.

Focus on Fountain’s Abbey

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I very often lack focus and tend to meander through my life.  Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, in Yorkshire, were a case in point.  Looking for somewhere to admire snowdrops, I ventured there last week.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Swathes of them nestled beneath the trees.  I captured one or two shots, but I was soon drawn into the magnificence of the water gardens.

It was a gloomy old day and I stopped to read the cheerful sign inside the fishing tabernacles. They are part of the balustrade and cascade into the lake and date back to 1719.  Probably designed as a base for fishing excursions, they cleverly concealed the sluices used to drain the canal quickly in time of flooding.

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The water gardens must be one of the finest sights in England, and neither I nor the swans allowed ourselves to be depressed by the weather, while the pheasants seemed positively immune.  Not well focused though!

It wasn’t long before I was ambling among the ruins of the Abbey, smitten by the hues in the aged stones.  Snowdrops there were aplenty but I’m afraid that they played second fiddle.

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Fountains Abbey, 3 miles south west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, is one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, it had an active life until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

A full history can be found here.  Today the Abbey and Water Gardens are successfully managed by the National Trust and they have some delightfully focused snowdrops on their site.

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Paula focused on black and white photography in her Traces of the Past on Sunday.  It’s not my forte, so I’m compromising.  But I would love to draw your attention to her very beautiful Focus in Thursday’s Special.

Jo’s Monday walk : Spring at Crook Hall, Durham

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Stroll along the river bank with me, in the heart of Durham City, and let me take you to an idyllic garden.  I intended to visit a new exhibition at Durham Cathedral but, as luck would have it, it was closed that day.  I’m a firm believer in serendipity and, as the gentle sunshine warmed my cheeks, I suddenly knew where I wanted to go.

Crook Hall dates from 13th century and is a vision in golden ivy-clad stone.  It sits back a little from the footpath and the gently elevated position makes for majestic views over Durham. Crook is a Grade 1 listed Medieval hall with a rich and colourful history.  As all such places should, it has a resident ghost, ‘The White Lady’, and has been enjoyed by such luminaries as William Wordsworth and John Ruskin.  Today I’m going to focus on the garden rooms, described on the website as each having their own personality.

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It’s impossible to ignore the constant presence of the house.  It provides a benign backdrop, yet with an almost tangible air of mystery.

Close by the house, a secret garden has been in existence for more than 700 years.

Statuary is an integral part of the gardens.  Nymphs and maidens shake out their tresses, demurely lower their eyes, or gaze seductively out.  Monks perform solemn duties, urns cast playful shadows and a rather mischievous Puck plays his pan pipes, sheltered beneath a weathered tree.

The golden lady follows me with her eyes, and what of the lady reclining, neglected, on the bare earth?  She must have a story to tell. Ornate chairs and benches invite me to linger, admiring the pure white snowdrops.  Beyond the lake, fiery witch hazel brands the limpid blue sky.

I drift from ‘room to room’, each leading to the next, yet independent and sufficient in itself.  A mighty lion bench, breathing fire, gives me pause.

Through a gate, precisely trimmed hedges in the newest of these still evolving gardens, etched with remnants of winter shadows.

Leaving the house behind, I wander down towards the rusty maze, bereft of leaves this early in the year.  Did you glimpse the koala, dangling in the tree?  And yet another selfie!  One more surprise awaits- a softly slumbering giant!

And then I’m back at the entrance and The Garden Gate Cafe. (open all day, separately from the Hall, but there are Tea Rooms inside the Hall too) The Sparkling Afternoon Tea looked very inviting but my lift had arrived and so I’ll have to disappoint you yet again.  No cake!  How come you missed this place, Jude?  It would have been a natural for the Garden Challenge.

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Down at the river bank, this scene awaits, but if you turn and walk back towards the cathedral you might just be able to catch the exhibition, Open Treasure.  And if not, Durham Cathedral is always beautiful.

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Lots of walks to share this week and I hope you can spare time to visit as many as you can. Especially as I won’t be posting a walk next week.  I will, I hope, be skip, hop and jumping (or walking) in Florence.  I don’t want to schedule a walk in my absence because it’s too hard to catch up again afterwards.  So I hope you’ll forgive me if I hang on to any walks you share till the following week?  Details are all on my Jo’s Monday walk page.

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Eddy was close in my footsteps last week, but his were even cooler!

Do you want owt fromt’ shops?

There’s nothing nicer than a gentle stroll with Jude.  Treat yourself!

Historic Uphill Lincoln

Anabel ventured further up the coast from me, in some delightful villages :

Fife Coastal Path

Another coastal path for you, but Eunice is over on the other coast :

Anglesey Coastal Path- the White Arch and Tyger’s memorial

Two for the price of one from Eunice this week!

A long canal walk

Imagine my surprise on seeing Ana’s post!  Right on my very own doorstep :

Strolling along the River Wear in Durham

Quite a leap of the imagination from Durham to Buenos Aires, Ana :

Beloved Argentinian characters at Paseo de la Historieta

Jackie’s having fun down Mexico way- lovely bougainvillea!

A Mexican walk

I do love Woolly’s perspective on life!

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Lady Lee is completely at home in the Philippines :

What’s in Bohol?

And Liesbet is pretty good at balancing a budget!

Laguna Beach, CA- On a Shoestring

Amy’s back, and she’s chosen to ride, but who can blame her?

An Elephant Ride

I love Yvette’s take on life, but brrrh, those Falls look chilly!

Walk with Jo in Niagara, NY (doors and windows) 

Drake is always irrepressible.  Got to love him!

Warm feet and cold nose

Isn’t it always walking weather?  Well mostly, when you’re with Susan :

Walking, Weather or Not

And Carol has a most appropriate question :

When is a Walk not a Walk?

Rounding off with a highly informative walk from Denzil.  He’s doing a grand job promoting Belgium :

Walking from Tervuren to Bertem

And Cathy, beavering away in the States, but still found time to walk with me :

Philadelphia : the south mural arts walk 

Remember- no Monday walk next week!  But I’ll try to find you some cake in Florence.  Stay safe till the next time!

 

Lazy Poet’s Thursday Haiku

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An old, fisherman’s table

Rusted now and all forlorn

‘Gainst the shimmering

Stealing my title from Gilly this morning, but I know she won’t mind.  I’m just sharing a last few soothing Algarve images before I return to the real world.  If you’ve never met Gilly, you’re in for a treat.  Go and say hello!