Writing

A Bishop Auckland Revival

There’s a new bustle to Bishop Auckland these days, and it’s not before time.  It’s been a sad little place for the last many years, but finally someone has taken pity on it and started to breath new life into the dejected streets.  There’s still an impoverished look to the shops, in common with many of our high streets, but change is afoot.  In the vanguard, No. 42 leads the way with it’s fiercely pointy roof.  Describing itself as a gateway to both past and future, upstairs the Pod provides studio space to encourage artistic creativity.  And look!  The yarn bombers are about.

It all began with Auckland Castle, and a vision to turn it into a faith, art and heritage destination on an international scale.  Jonathan Ruffer, Chairman of the Auckland Project, has never lacked for ambition, but what is being achieved in Bishop Auckland is remarkable.  Back in 2014 I took you on a walk through the beautiful castle and grounds, with their distinctive Deer House.  A highlight of the post was the story of the paintings by Spanish master, Francisco de Zurbaran.  Auctioned for in excess of 15 million pounds, they were bought by Ruffer and the Trust he set up, to enable them to stay in Bishop Auckland.  They are soon to feature in a state of the art Spanish Gallery, opposite the new Mining Museum, on Market Square.  The castle is closed to the public and the gardens a bit of a mess until they reopen in December this year.  Meantime Kynren, a spectacular action show, taking you through 2000 years of history, will enliven the grounds again this summer.  I need to book a ticket.

The town isn’t lacking in history, having strong links with the Prince Bishops of Durham.  Surrounded by the mining industry until its decline, the town was once a railway hub and has an enormous entry in Wikipedia, for those who might be interested.  I’ll leave you with that happy chappy, Stan Laurel, who lived in the town as a child.  “Another fine mess you’ve got me into”.

Speaking of which, I didn’t have my camera that day, and had to improvise with some shots taken on my phone.  Scratches head!  You’ll get a better look around, and a peep at the paintings, on my original Auckland Castle post.

The 3 Day Quote Challenge #2

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” -crime fiction writer, Lawrence Block

Arbeia Roman Fort

Following on from yesterday’s post, this is my second response to Annika’s kind invitation to take part in The 3 Day Quote challenge.  Thanks, hon!

Now for the rules :

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

This quote is tailor made for me.  Anyone who follows my Monday walks will know that I’m the best ‘stumbler upon’ ever!  It’s not every day that you come across a reconstructed Roman Fort in the middle of a housing estate, now is it?  Whether I’m up the north east coast in South Shields, or poking about in the back streets of Jerez, I seem to have a penchant for stumbling.  Where next, I wonder.

My nominees?  Please join in, if you can.  No hurry to take part if you’re busy.

My lovely Greek friend, EfiSoul63 

Amanda at Something to Ponder About

And Nanette, The Grey Divorcee

See you tomorrow, with number 3.

 

The 3 Day Quote Challenge #1


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

I’m not a great one for quotes, nor indeed for challenges and rules, but when a very lovely lady plucks at my heartstrings… well, I can’t help but respond.  If it’s good enough for Annika Perry, who am I to quibble?  I’ve long admired her writing, which seems to flow effortlessly.

The rules :

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

Why this quote, from India’s first Prime Minister?  I’m always straining at the leash, to be somewhere else.  It’s a gentle reminder to self.  The world IS a beautiful place and I don’t always need to go beyond my garden to experience the wonder.  It’s all there, waiting for me.  A rhododendron, after the rain, my source of today’s delight.  Tomorrow?  Maybe a little further.

My nominees?  No hurry, ladies!  Join in if you’d like :

Tish, my Writer on the Edge

Sue, at Words Visual

And Pauline, who’s Living in Paradise

See you all tomorrow!

 

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

What is it that draws you to a place?  It’s a good question that Cathy asks on her new blog, Wanderessence and one that I can’t resist answering.  I’m going to start with my most recent visit to a ‘new’ place, Jerez de la Frontera, but I will be returning to this challenge.

Drama and passion are two of the things that brought me to Jerez.  I’m sure I must have gypsy blood somewhere in the ancestry.  The rhythmic stamp of that foot and the proud arch of the neck has me on the edge of my seat, breathing suspended, totally in the moment.  Who wouldn’t travel for this?  Andalusia Day in Jerez, during the Festival of Flamenco.  All was quiet in the city as we arrived on this National Holiday.  Until we stumbled, by accident, into the Centro Cultural Flamenco Don Antonio Chacon, in search of food.  Five deep at the tiny bar, half of Jerez were assembled to watch the show, all chattering like magpies.  A hush fell as the artist took to the stage.  Looking out into the packed hall, he claimed his audience, all eyes upon him.  And then… the passion ignites!

Our lovely host, Alejandro, at La Fonda Barranco, said that he had guests returning year on year to take part in the festival.  And to sample the sherry, of course.  No visit to Jerez would be complete without tasting two or three.  Sherish (Xères) was the Arab name for this city, founded by the Phoenicians three thousand years ago.  The warm climate, with both easterly and westerly winds and soil that was once covered by the ocean, produces sherry, a unique, inimitable wine.  Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, sweet Pedro Ximenez… so many choices!

Something else unique to the city had drawn me here.  The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art trains horses from the age of three, and riders, to perform advanced dressage and Spanish horse riding, country style.  The culmination of their training is the show ‘How Andalusian Horses Dance’.  Performed to classical music, and to a packed house, this is pure equestrian ballet.  Beautifully groomed and beribboned, the horses demonstrate rhythmic trotting and the ‘Spanish walk’.  They twirl, leap and balance on hind legs, all in complete unison with their rider.

Photographs, understandably, were not permitted but I can share a little of the atmosphere and excitement in this video, which shows the beautiful palace and grounds as well as the arena.  I don’t think it would be out of place in a fairy tale.

This is only a small part of my Jerez story.  There’s a mighty cathedral, beautiful churches, bodegas aplenty, distinctive architecture and wonderful food.  I can’t wait to show you my sherry trifle!  But first it’s your turn to share.  What is it that draws you to a place?  Cathy would love to know.

Jo’s Monday walk : Bristol Blues!

The last time I was in Bristol was to see the highly spectacular Balloon Festival.  It had been my first visit to the city and I was quite keen to take an introductory walking tour.  Due to the volume of people in Bristol for the festival, in glorious August weather, the tour had been cancelled.  Little did I know then that I would have another opportunity.  But this time was very different.  The sky was an unrelenting grey, rather matching my disconsolate mood, and my weekend seemed to be unravelling around me.

You see, I had made a surprise visit for an 80th birthday party.  I flew into Bristol at 8 in the morning, and had the whole day ahead of me.  I had planned to spend it with my lovely friend, Gilly.  Not only was Gilly sadly unable to meet me, but I had neglected to bring with me a vital contact number.  I had no means of getting to the party.

Leaving Bristol bus station, I wandered into the city, trying to formulate a plan.  As so often, my camera came to my rescue and I started to observe my surroundings.  Bristol is well known as the birth place of Banksy and the wave of street art that took Bristol by storm in the 1980s.

I’m always ambivalent about street art.  Some, I hate.  Some, I love.  In this case it was a welcome distraction, highlighting good and bad in the city.  I especially felt for the semi-derelict St. John on the Wall church, on Broad Street.  Posters on the rusted grills covering the windows advertised for volunteers to enable the church to continue to be opened to visitors.  600 years of history hidden from view.

I was hopeful that the Tourist Information office might come to my rescue.  The battery on my ancient cell phone was fading fast and I needed somewhere that I might connect to the Internet. The phone number I needed was on Messenger.  At 9.30 on a Saturday morning the TI was still closed, but I had a map from my previous trip.  The Central Library appeared to be just behind the Watershed, where I now stood.   A spark of hope propelled me in that direction.

The sky maintained a dreary grey as I bypassed Millennium Square with its lofty wheel.  Bristol Science Centre held promise of an interesting haven from the cold, which I might need later. Crossing over the road I headed uphill towards the Cathedral spires.  The Abbey Gatehouse provided a welcoming entrance to the Cathedral grounds and the adjoining library.

10am was opening time for the library.  I turned my gaze upon the grand countenance of the City Hall buildings on College Green.

City Hall is a grade II listed building, the seat of local government in Bristol since 1956.  I had paid it scant attention on my last visit, when rain had driven me to the bosom of the Cathedral. I still had time in hand for a swift return to the lovely cloisters.

At 10 o’ clock precisely, the doors to the Central Library admitted me.  I was totally astounded at what I found inside.

Opened in 1906, the grade 1 listed Central Library was built on land adjacent to the gatehouse of St. Augustine’s Abbey, or Bristol Cathedral. Charles Holden, the architect, has created an Edwardian building that filled me with reverence.  Quietly I mounted the sweeping stairs, from the marbled entrance to the reference library.  Chandeliers dangled from the vaulted glass ceiling, between 2 tiers of galleries crammed with books. The history of Bristol was all around me.

To my enormous relief, there was an alcove where I could plug in my phone, and in a little while had found the number I needed.  There was a temptation to stay cocooned in the library, but it was time to set forth.  I had thought I might visit the botanic gardens at the University of Bristol, but the weather was still unsettled.  The TI was now open, of course, and there were leaflets outside proposing a number of walks.  Banksy perhaps? Just as I was contemplating coffee, I realised that the 11 o’clock walk that I had missed on my previous visit was all set to go. It was meant to be…

The funny thing was that my historic walking tour retraced many of my steps.  Back to Millennium Square, where we discussed Bristol and shipping, overlooked by the globe-shaped Planetarium.  Up to the Cathedral and College Green, this time with highly informative Ken, who covered the slave trade, imports of tea and Fry’s Chocolate factory.  Dates were affixed to the many beautiful architectural details.  While I very much enjoyed having company, one thing of significance did happen.  I had seen an illustration of a Banksy entitled ‘Well Hung Lover’, about which I was curious, but had no idea where to find it.  Would you believe that it was barely two steps from where I had been previously, that morning?

At the junction of College Green with Park Street.  You might have noticed that a watery sunshine was beginning to brighten the skies, and my spirits lifted like the prancing unicorn on the top of City Hall.

The tour continued past the huge old warehouses where Bristol Sherry used to be stored, down to St. Augustine’s Parade and the art deco Hippodrome Theatre, beloved of Cary Grant.  Back to the Floating Harbour and the incredible story of how the river was diverted to ensure that Bristol’s life force, trade and shipping, could continue to prosper.

Huge Queen Square next, and it’s grand Georgian houses.  The Bristol Riots took place here in 1831 and almost 100 of the buildings were burned to the ground.  They’re a feisty lot, Bristolians.  As we looked towards the Bristol Old Vic theatre, currently undergoing renovation, a tribe of Norsemen and their ladies stomped past.

Past the Welsh Backs, and a wonderful jazz pub, ‘The Old Duke’, honky tonk music tripping off the keys.  Our tour ended at St. Nicholas Market, where you can purchase almost anything your heart desires in the lovely old Exchange building, or outside on the busy street.

It was definitely time to take the weight off my feet and I found the perfect venue,  The Cosy Club.  Yet another grade II listed building, and a former bank, the ceilings romped with art and the music had my toes tapping.  A comfortable banquette was my resting place for the next couple of hours. And then it was time to head for the party!

I hope you enjoyed my wanderings in Bristol.  So did I, after a bad start.  If you saw my Six word Saturday you’ll know how the party went.

Definitely time for a cuppa, isn’t it?  I have some wonderful walks to share with you, again. Many thanks to all of you who take part, and to you comfy armchair types too.  If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I’d love it if you could.

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What a privilege to be joined by Tish AND a gardening legend from our past!

Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend

And if anyone can put a beautiful post together, it’s Debbie :

A Flowering Island

Wander back in time with Drake :

Historical flashback

Nice to see old traditions still observed, but with a modern twist.  Thanks, Lady Lee!

Maypole- raising

What’s Jackie up to this week?

Day 5- So Cal- Solvang 

And where would we be without Woolly?  Still serious this week :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk18-Anzac-Day-2

Enjoy the gentlest of ‘potter arounds’, with Susan :

Walking Small 

And a sequence of reminiscences and beautiful wistfulness, with Meg :

One tree beach

Eurobodalla beaches : One Tree Beach (the north end)

Delighted to be tiptoeing through the bluebells with Elaine.  Today I’ll be bluebell-ing in Durham, weather permitting :

Bluebell time

While Eunice shows us England’s green and pleasant land in all its beauty :

A woodland walk

My lovely friend, Cathy, is walking marathons around Japan, making the most of her time there :

From Tokyo station to the Imperial Palace Outer Gardens, topped off by a beer garden in Hibiya

That’s all for now, folks!  Hopefully I’m off to count bluebells this morning.  Have yourselves a great week!

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!

24 hours in… Florence

coupole-firenze-fresco_potpis

Yes, I’m dreaming again but I do have able assistance.  Take a look at Paula on Lost in Translation.  The lady has a supreme talent in photography. These are all her images, which I’ve stolen in a good cause.  I hope I’ll be forgiven.

It’s ages since I’ve entered a competition but this one by Accor Hotels is too good to resist, even though I’m pushing the deadline.  24 Hours In…   Just name your city, and off you go.  My initial reaction- ’24 hours in Florence?’ Impossible!!!  But then resourcefulness kicks in.  I’m a huge fan of free walking tours.  Nothing I like better than a good ramble and to just follow my nose, but my nose has a terrible habit of getting me lost.  With time at a premium I’ll opt to follow ‘one who knows’.  And afterwards pick their brains for good places to eat and whatever else I can pack in.

Florence Free Tour has 2 options.  One at 11.00 and one at 14.00, both starting from the Santa Maria Novella church.

duomo_firenze_potpis

I know I won’t be able to sleep for excitement so I’ll be up at the crack of dawn, grab a coffee and out on the streets to just absorb Florence.  I’ve heard tell there are secret bakeries, open very early, so if I stumble upon a waft of pastry, so much the better.  The other half is always reluctant to be prised from his bed but, if I can persuade him, I’ll have a slot booked at the Uffizi.  They open at 8.15, so not too hard to escape the crowds.

Culture tucked in my back pocket, time to join the morning walking tour, when I can hope to get my bearings. Afterwards I’m going to allow a substantial time for collapse and a leisurely lunch.  Somehow I have to find the energy to climb the 463 steps to get a proper look at Brunelleschi’s Cupola in the Duomo.  I’ve seen Paula’s photo and I know it will be worth it.

I always gravitate to a river, and in Florence there is the biggest incentive of all time, the Ponte Vecchio.  I might have to pinch myself when I get there.  Not since Venice have I been this excited!  A browse through the arcades and a nice little cafe for a restoring coffee. (and I know he’ll want a cake!)  There’s one more must see on my list.  You can’t be married to a garden designer and not visit the Boboli Gardens.  Even if it rains!  It seems the perfect place to watch the sun set over this lovely city.  Maybe there will be an evening concert at the Pitti Palace, but if not it will be a leisurely meal, and then just strolling and sighing until my legs won’t walk any more.

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I haven’t been there yet, but when I do, next February, I very much hope to enjoy this vista, at Twilight.  And when I do I’ll be telling you all about it.

Meantime, do you have any tips on how to spend 24 hours in your favourite city?  Accor Hotels would very much like to hear them, and if you’re awfully quick there are super prizes!  Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin ring any bells?