Street photography?

There isn’t a subject in the world I’d less rather tackle than people.  They’re so tricky and they just won’t sit still!  And they get in the way of my beautiful compositions!  I’m that person who waits patiently (or not) until someone has taken the hint and moved along, out of frame.  But there are some places you have no hope of getting all to yourself, and I confess to trying to make an appealing picture of the above.  Lovers and Paris!  They go hand in hand, don’t they?

Maybe better when the subject doesn't move

Can I count this as street photography? It was on the street.

And I'm not averse to spying from my bedroom window

Nor am I averse to spying from my bedroom window!

Barcelona now- that’s a city for fun.  And FULL of people!  But I avoided as many as I could.

I've always like this harbour shot

I’ve always liked this harbour shot

And a statue is an easy target

And a statue is an easy target

But I struggled mightily with the bubbles

But I struggled mightily with the bubble makers and shakers

I think I’d better go and practise some street photography and report back, don’t you?  But I’m sure Yvette would agree it’s all about the fun, and I do try to have that.

Join me at Paula’s place for Thursday’s Special to see how it should be done.






6 Friends Theory- trip of a lifetime!


I had little idea what I was getting involved in when I received my invitation to the 6 Friends Theory event from Mercure Hotels.  A bubble of excitement rose inside me as I read the details and then watched the video.  If I understood correctly, Mercure were planning to send someone around the world!  I needed to know more.

How often have we said ‘it’s a small world’?  The Six Degrees of Separation theory is what lies behind Mercure Hotels initiative.  This suggests that everyone is six steps away or fewer, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world.  A chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people, in a maximum of six steps.  Such is the theory set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929.  In this age of social media, Mercure are proposing to test the theory, offering one lucky person a round the world trip to do so.

Six Mercure Hotels will host the winner, on an unprecedented 30 day trip, starting in Paris, and scheduled for March 2015.  Could it be you?  I have wonderful memories of Paris last Summer.

Is there a more exciting city in the world than Paris?

Paris, in all its evening glory!

If you’ve watched the video you’ll know that Mercure propose to select an individual, and take them to meet an Aboriginal from the Bundjalung tribe in Australia.  They will meet through the chain of friends, and friends of friends, that connect them.  Exciting?  I’ll tell you how to get involved soon.

First I need to tell you a little about your hosts.  Mercure are passionate hoteliers, dedicated to providing a warm experience in their network of 707 hotels in 53 countries around the globe. Part of Accor, the world’s leading hotel operator with more than 3,600 hotels, the Mercure brand has a strong personal identity.  From the second I walked through the doors of the Mercure London Bridge, I was greeted with warm smiles.  This continued throughout my stay, and everyone from the receptionists to the hotel maids had a friendly greeting for me.

Click on any photo to see it enlarged. 

The bedroom was fully equipped, with tea and coffee making facilities and a plate of delicious fresh fruit.  The first thing I did was to kick off my boots, put the kettle on, and check out the free high speed Wifi connection, which worked to perfection.  Slippers and a towelling robe beckoned, and a full range of toiletries in the bathroom.  A hot shower, and London waiting on the doorstep. What could be better?

The reception area has sleek modern lines, with inviting vases of sweets on almost every available surface.  I don’t know how I restrained myself!  Perhaps the prospect of supper in nearby Borough Market?  The 4 star hotel is situated on Southwark Street and is just minutes from the London Bridge or Southwark Metro station.  I have yet to visit beautiful Southwark Cathedral, but I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, just around the corner on Bankside. Tate Modern and the London Eye are a wander away, while St. Paul’s Cathedral is just across the river.  The area is also perfect for a romantic evening stroll.

St. Paul's, across the Millenium Bridge

St. Paul’s, across the Millenium Bridge

I think it’s probably time I got to the competition details, don’t you?  Of course, it involves social media.  Mercure are interested in the question of human bonds in the digital era.  A societal study of friendship is being conducted alongside the Six Friends Theory operation.

To take part in the competition, you need to post a 60 second video on Facebook.  In this, you should describe your personality and motivations, and explain why you think you are the best person to undertake this trip.  As one of the judges says, ‘The candidate will be the nice friend everybody would like to go around the world with’.   Is that you? You have until 10th February to convince everybody and pull in the votes on Facebook.  Follow this link for full details.  It just remains to wish you good luck, or ‘bonne chance’!

Mercure were kind enough to invite me to their promotional event, as part of a group of bloggers, but all photos and opinions are my own.



A Lingering Look at windows : week 41

Any guesses where?

Any guesses where?

It seems so long since we were there, yet it’s barely two months.  I suspect it’s much longer than that since I took part in Dawn’s Lingering Look at windows, so I thought that I’d bring the two together this week.

Come and press your nose up against a few windows with me.  Click on a photo to start the gallery and look for clues.

But just in case you haven't guessed

But just in case you haven’t guessed

It’s Paris, of course!  One of my many wonderful memories this year.

Dawn keeps finding interesting windows, week after week.  Maybe you have some you’d like to share?  Click on this link to visit the challenge.

Six word Saturday


Five places to go back to

The light cascades down over you

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

I was invited a while ago by to take part in their promotion and maybe have the chance to win myself an iPhone6.  All I had to do was write a post about 5 places I would be happy to go back to.  It’s a tempting idea and it just happens to work well with my Six word Saturday.

Barcelona had to be on my list.  Gaudi’s work left me speechless (and you should know, that’s not easy to do!) and I would be more than happy to revisit Parc Guell.  The main reason for going back would have to be to observe the progress of the incredible Sagrada Familia.  It’s not due for completion for a number of years yet so I shall postpone my revisit a while.

Especially with the swimming pool!

The lovely location of The Vintage Hotel on the banks of the Douro

Somewhere far more serene than Barcelona, the Douro region of Portugal made a lasting impression on me.  Using Porto as a base, I had only a couple of days to explore the natural beauty of this landscape.  The highlight for me was cruising back from Peso da Regua along the Douro River, the vineyards rolling away on either shore.  I am quite determined to return some day and stay in one of the hillside villages where I can savour the pure, clear air. (and maybe sample the grape)  Springtime, with the blossom all around me, would be ideal.  Or Autumn, when all those vines turn wine red!

The frocks shimmered in the dark and then began to change colour

Shimmering frocks at Lumiere 2013, in Durham Cathedral

The city of Durham is right on my doorstep, and I return to it again and again.  The University and student population make it a lively place and there’s always an event of some kind going on. Currently the Cathedral is fund raising via their Buy a Lego Brick campaign.  I did, of course, and it’s fun to return and see the project grow.

If you really want to see something special, you should time your visit for Lumiere.  This event only takes place once every two years, the next being November 2015.  It’s a long way off, but put it in your diary.  I’ll be there!

Theview from the cafe in magnificent Musee d'Orsay

The view from the cafe in magnificent Musee d’Orsay, Paris

How could I not include my new love, Paris, in my list?  I wandered far and wide around the city and found nothing to disappoint. Even sitting on the top deck of an open top bus with the rain streaming down my neck didn’t seem so bad in Paris!  The wonders of Versailles and Monet’s incredible garden at Giverny will stay with me forever but I would love to go back.  I don’t really think it matters how or when.

A place where the spirit soars

The Algarve, a place where my spirit soars

My last choice won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, and I’m returning there on Monday.  The Algarve is where I am at peace with the world.  I have spent endless hours wandering on its beaches, and hope to spend many more.  Tavira feels like home to me, and that’s always a reason for going back.  It’s time for another glass or two of port in this beautiful riverside setting.  I’d love it if you could join me there some day.


I won’t be around for Six Word Saturday next week.  I’ll be wandering on one of those beaches!  But I hope you’ll still join Cate at Show My Face.

One of the entry conditions of the promotions was to name 5 other bloggers to participate.  I’m not sure if we’re out of time but my nominations would be Le chic en Roselolawi, Behind the Story, Stranger in USA and Hey Jude.

Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There


Impressed by Versailles

Water babies at Versailles

Water babies at Versailles

As the sea of humanity surged past me up the platform, I had to wonder just how much I was going to enjoy the experience of Versailles .  The 7 million yearly visitors couldn’t all be wrong, but I’d had the impression that at least half of them had been on the train with me!

I had crisscrossed Paris to join the RER train to Versailles-Rive Gauche on line C5, at Javel Metro station.  Standing on the platform, with a twitch of anticipation, I could see the Eiffel Tower looming in the distance as I watched for the approach of my double decker train.  This was to have been a first- a ride upstairs on a train- but it was not to be!  When the train pulled in, it was already full to sufficiency, and I had to spend the journey leaning up against a swaying wall.  Just a little deflated, I had 30 minutes in which to wonder whether Versailles could possibly hold this volume of people.

Arriving at the palace gates, I felt hugely relieved that I ‘d had the foresight to book tickets for the gardens online.  The queues were immense, but following the signs to the right, I slipped peacefully past the ticket barrier and into the empty gardens.  No queue!  This might not be so bad, after all.  The day was rather overcast, but I had 20 minutes to explore before the fountains were turned on at 11.00am.

There wasn’t any question that this place was built to impress, and impress it did!  I felt a thrill of excitement as the fountains began to trickle.  In a few moments my cherubs were magically clothed in a veil of water.

Holding hands!

Holding hands!

A gentleman with a large ‘key’ made his way around the gardens, in an unhurried fashion, turning on the fountains in sequence.  The race was on to visit as many of the garden rooms as possible before the fountains stopped again at 12.00.

Here we go!

Here we go!

Laying down on the job!

Laying down on the job?

Note the hooves

Note the hooves

Taking aim!

Taking aim!

Fountain of Apollo's Chariot with the Grand Canal in the background

Fountain of Apollo’s Chariot with the Grand Canal in the background

You might have noticed the odd umbrella in the background.  A light drizzle had started to fall.  With just a few minutes till the fountains ceased playing, it was time to consider food and shelter.  As the skies suddenly opened, instant decision was required and ‘La Flotille’ was the nearest port in a storm.  With my back to the burners and the rain pouring off the awning, a Grand Marnier crepe and a pichet of Bordeaux helped to pass the time rather nicely.

Half an hour later, the sun made a welcome appearance.  A  couple of rowers were out on the Grand Canal, but a gentle stroll to the Grand Trianon seemed a better bet.  Dappled sunshine and puddles- such a nice combination!

There were still more garden rooms to visit and I had my favourites.  The Ballroom was landscaped by Le Notre in 1680 and is decorated with millstones and shells brought back from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea by the French Navy of that time.

The Mirror Fountain was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1702.  It currently performs to music at 10 minute intervals all day long- the only fountain to do so.

And the Mirror Fountain twirled all day long

Dancing to the music of Rameau and Lully

Climbing the steps back up to the Water Parterres, I could look down on the Orangerie in all its magnificence.  The clouds came and went but the beauty was endless.

The Orangerie, beautifully laid out

The Orangerie, beautifully laid out

And seen from above

Seen from above

And with moody skies

And with moody skies

850 hectares of parks and gardens means little to me, but I can tell you that it was huge, and absorbed all those people from my train with ease.  And many more!  The fountains play again from 15.30 to 17.00 and at 17.20 the grand finale of the Neptune Fountain.

On Saturday evenings throughout the Summer there is a Fountains Night Show.  What a spectacle that must be!  The Versailles website is a wealth of information and I could recommend a visit to anyone.  Because of the scale of the place a little disruption from renovation is inevitable and on my visit the Latona Parterre and Water Theatre Grove were unavailable.

The incomparable chateau

The incomparable chateau

Are you wondering about the Chateau?  I had made a conscious decision to limit my visit to the grounds.  I did not want to share the Hall of Mirrors and in August there would have been little choice.  Another day, maybe!

Versailles is chalk and cheese with my lovely Giverny, but there’s room for both in this world.  Don’t you think?

Six word Saturday


Paris images that made me smile!

One of the delightful statues on Pont Alexandre III

One of the delightful statues on Pont Alexandre III

Doorknobs to die for!

Doorknobs to die for!

A shop window in Galerie Vivienne

A leaning Eiffel Tower or two in Galerie Vivienne

Rodin's wonderful sculpture garden

Rodin’s wonderful sculpture garden

Soupe a l'oignon

Soupe a l’oignon- to keep my strength up!

The clock at Musee d'Orsay

The clock at Musee d’Orsay

More door knobs!

More delicious door knobs!

More wedding album shots, while the world looks on

Wedding album shots, while the world looks on

Worshipping at the Louvre

Worshipping at the Louvre

The sparkling Seine by night

The sparkling Seine by night

A concert at Saint Chapelle

In concert at Saint Chapelle

A parting shot at Charles de Gaulle airport

My parting shot, at Charles de Gaulle airport

Sigh!  It’s wonderful to look back on.  I hope you enjoyed it too.  It’s a long Bank Holiday weekend here in England, so plenty to see and do.  I’ll still be walking on Monday so I’ll see you then.  Have fun, whatever you do, even if that’s nothing at all!

Cate at Show My Face would love you to play Six word Saturday, if you can find the time.


Jo’s Monday walk : Discovering Montmartre

Where else but the Moulin Rouge?

Where else but the Moulin Rouge?

Whenever I visit a new city I like to take a guided walk with a local.  You might remember that in Barcelona I accompanied Aleksandra on an eye-opening tour of the old side.  Paris was no exception.

A couple of my blogging friends are Paris experts and Lucy at On the Luce has a great post on which I spotted Discover Walks.  I was tempted by several of the choices, and so it was that, last Monday, I met Olivier.  A personable and very charming 20 year old, I knew at the outset that I was going to enjoy my walk.  And it was free, apart from a tip!

We met outside Blanche Metro station, at Place Pigalle, looking directly at that Paris icon, the Moulin Rouge.  There was quite a big group of us.  Why don’t you tag along?  I promise not to give away the best stories.  You’ll have to join Olivier for those.  I should warn you that this area is very steep, but we’ll take it slowly and pause to admire the views.

With all of Paris at your feet!

With all of Paris at our feet!

We started off up Rue Lepic- a street full of shops and locals.  It was tempting to linger over some of the pastries on display, but I hoped there would be time for them later.  For now, I wanted to absorb all that Montmartre has to offer.  Originally a village, outside of the city walls, the name Montmartre derives from martyrs who once were tortured and died on this hill.  Despite being incorporated into the city of Paris in 1860, Montmartre retains a strong identity and almost a village feeling.  It’s a community to which you would love to belong.

Olivier carried with him a satchel full of goodies and it wasn’t long before he was delving in. Outside Bateau-Lavoir, on tiny Place Emile-Goudeau, he produced a copy of a painting.  In this former piano factory, in 1907, Picasso painted his Cubist ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’; a portrayal of 5 naked prostitutes, outrageous for its time.  No longer is there evidence of the squalid conditions he and his compatriots lived in, as the building has since burned down.  A replica currently marks the spot.

The facade of Le Bateau-Lavoir (laundry boat)

The facade of Le Bateau-Lavoir (laundry boat)

Artists and their haunts abound in Montmartre.  Dalida was unlucky in love.  After the suicides of three of her lovers she finally committed suicide herself.  A beautiful home isn’t everything, is it?

Around the corner another copy of a painting emerged from Olivier’s satchel.  Enthralled I looked at the windmills Van Gogh had painted, in their surrounding fields.  His countryside setting was nothing like that before me.  Once Montmartre had more than 30 windmills, used for grinding wheat and pressing grapes.  Now just two remain.  At the junction of rues Lepic and Tholoze, Moulin de la Galette is one of them.  A Michelin starred restaurant, it’s definitely a sign of the times.

Later, in the Musee d’Orsay, I was to stare wide-eyed at Renoir’s immortalisation of the windmill in ‘Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette’, so beautiful in closeup.  I can only manage a photograph.

A seat on the terrace should give you the nicest views

A seat on the terrace should give you the nicest views

Our next introduction was to a gentleman by the name of Marcel Aymé.  Have you heard of ‘The Man who walked through walls’?  No, neither had I, but there he was, protruding from the wall!  I gather that he haunts Rue Norvins by night- a good reason not to loiter.

Olivier with Dutilleul, the 'hero' of the book

Olivier with Dutilleul, the ‘hero’ of the book

A look at the Montmartre vineyard was to follow, but with strict instructions not to buy the product.  Pollution levels in Paris are apparently not conducive to producing fine wine.

The Montmartre vineyard

The Montmartre vineyard- it’s green enough, isn’t it?

And down the hill, Lapin Agile

And down the hill,  ‘Au Lapin Agile’- the nimble rabbit- a cabaret spot

It’s a green and leafy space where you can hear the birds sing.  It’s not until you start to approach the monumental church that things begin to get busy.  I could happily wander these quiet back streets but inevitably you are drawn to Place du Tertre, where all of life spills over.

Not for us the crush of the main square.  We pass through peaceful gardens and emerge behind Sacre Coeur, where Olivier shares a final few tips and bids us ‘adieu’.  A job well done!  Merci!

Gazing on the Sacre Couer

Sacre Coeur from the gardens at the rear

You know where I’m going next, don’t you?  But first let’s have a quick peek at Place du Tertre.

Too many people for me!  I’m heading right for the top.  I figure with all that practise up four flights of stairs to our apartment, 300 steps will be a piece of cake?


The church first, but I wasn't allowed to take photos

The church doorway, but I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside

Are you worn out now?  You didn’t have to climb all those steps with me!  My legs are a bit jelly, too.  I hope you enjoyed my Paris walk.  Back down is simple.  Just meander!  Many thanks to Olivier for his delightful assistance.

walking logo

I turned my back for 5 minutes this week and you walkers took off at a pace!  Please make some time to read these.  There are some superb walks here.  Put your feet up and enjoy! (and then start walking)  Click on my Monday walks logo to find out more.

Drake?  Well, he was at a quarry  :

Secluded works of art

And Jude was in her beloved Cornwall  :

Capturing Cornwall

Madhu made me sad with her wistful haveli photos  :

Lucknow- a walk in the Chowk

And Pauline introduced me to a pretty section of Canberra  :

Canberra Lakeside walk

While Amy was out chasing beautiful butterflies  :

Trail walking

The definitive London walk- you won’t want to miss it!  :

A glorious Summer’s day in London

And by way of complete contrast, Sue has us dangling in wide open spaces  :

Grassi Lakes- the Canmore jewels

Not quite so reckless but another lover of the great outdoors, join Suzan on a bear adventure  :

Close encounters of the Bear kind

Right back to London, Laura shows us a side that tourists seldom see  :

Walkabout 3- the Branch Line

I thought I was eating choux pastry with Jude.  It must have been those steps!

New Abbey Buildings

And finally my lovely Viveka in Vienna.  You will never have taken a finer tour!  :

Felt like a local

Happy walking all!  See you next week.

Six word Saturday


A red Eiffel Tower? How strange!

Look closely- you'll see it's made of chairs!

I have to admit, I was surprised!

If you look closely you can see it's made up of chairs

If you look closely, you can see it’s made up of stacked chairs.  So clever!

It was built to celebrate the Eiffel Tower’s 125th birthday and is made up of 324 garden chairs. Our 25 years seemed almost insignificant by comparison.

It's currently down on Paris Plage

The red tower is currently down on Paris Plage

While the 'real' tower sparkles distantly

While the ‘real’ tower sparkles in the distance

It can still look quite small, depending where you stand

It can still look quite small, depending on where you stand

But my favourite images are watery ones

But my favourite images are watery ones

The fountains playing bring out the child in me

The fountains playing bring out the child in me

And I want to play in all that water

And I want to play with all that water!

Thank you for all the kind and wonderful wishes we received last weekend.  As you can see from the dramatic skies, we had a mix of weather, but Paris sparkled for us.  And on our return home, a huge bouquet arrived from my lovely lady friends.

I hope this weekend brings a little sparkle into your lives.  Please don’t forget to share it with Cate at Show My Face.


Six word Saturday


The cards are opened.  Enfin, Paris!


Apologies for the terrible photographs, but I’m excited, you see!  I haven’t opened the top card, from ‘the girls’- it’s boxed and going with us.  Our anniversary is on Tuesday, when we hope to be at Monet’s Giverny.  Thank you so much for all your support and good wishes.  These are just a sample of the cards.  People have been so very kind.

This is where I shall be staying- in miniature.  No, not me- the photo!

My artist's garret

My artist’s garret

As usual, my six words aren’t!  There I’ll be, in the garret, scribbling away in my diary.  Happy Saturday to you!  Don’t forget to join Cate at Show My Face.  I’ll leave you with a few flowers.

Roses for romance!

Roses for romance!

I won’t be around to answer you till late Thursday.  Take care!


Cities of Kings

Cities_Of_Kings_Cover_2a.225x225-75I have to admit to being a little nervous when I was approached recently for my views on the above book, Cities of Kings.  I have followed Bespoke Traveller for quite some time and didn’t want to spoil a good friendship.  I needn’t have worried. Atreyee Gupta and Jesse Japitana have done a great job.  Their passion and enthusiasm for architecture and history transmits readily to this self-publication, and I am delighted to be able to heartily recommend it.

London is a city which captured my imagination as a girl, and it has never really let it go.  I visit infrequently these days, but when I do it conjures the same excitement and sense of pride I felt back then.  I delight in the architecture, old and new, and in that skyline, pierced anew by gravity-defying creations.

With Paris, I have only a fleeting acquaintance.  That same starry-eyed girl boarded a plane and wandered the banks of the Seine with the same enthusiasm she had bestowed on the Thames.  Sadly, I have never been back, but reading Cities and Kings I feel the need to return more than ever.

St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge- courtesy of Mike Bradley

St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge- courtesy of Mike Bradley

In the book the two cities are compared and contrasted and their architectural histories told.  Detailed photographs accompany the text, and I learnt many little intriguing facts.  I hadn’t realised how ignorant I was of parts of my own history! The stories of the kings and queens and their passions are expertly woven into the fabric of London and Paris.

I love it when enthusiasm for a subject shines through as it does here.  I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil a good read, but you can be sure that you will be taken to The Tower, and stroll in the gardens of Hampton Court.  In Paris, I particularly enjoyed my visit to the Louvre, and to the lesser known area of La Defense.

The book is concluded with a practical section on visiting and getting around in the twin cities.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.  You can purchase the book on Amazon Kindle or at the Apple iBookstore.  I think it would make a rather good Christmas present.

Meantime I’m thinking that Paris would make a fine destination for our Silver Wedding next August.  What do you think?