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Looking down on the Duomo

My only real disappointment in Florence came with the Duomo.  I arrived too late in the day to be able to climb high into Brunelleschi’s dome to see for myself this amazing construction.  I had to be content with worshipping from the ground, but I knew that there was more than one place to admire from.  Palazzo Vecchio provided a perfect viewing platform, and so much more.

Funny to think of this grandiose building as the town hall of Florence, but so it is. Built in 1299 as Palazzo della Signoria, to house the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, the Signoria, its fortress-like appearance belies the opulence inside. Much of this was added when Duke Cosimo 1 de Medici made it his official residence in 1540.

Intrigue was rife and in 1549 Cosimo moved his family across the River Arno to the security of Palazzo Pitti, renaming his former residence Palazzo Vecchio. The ‘Old Palace’ houses many secrets.  Can you imagine the extreme need for privacy that led to the commissioning of an above-ground ‘hidden’ walkway?  The Vasari Corridor leads from Palazzo Vecchio, through the Uffizzi, and across Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace.

Impossible to orchestrate the full history of this palace, but come with me to whet your appetite a little.

And we’ve barely reached the cloisters!  In the vast ground floor space I was challenged as to which ticket to purchase.  ‘Tower plus Museum’ sent me off in the direction of my first flight of steps, while the other half reclined with a coffee.

A statue beckons from a niche, and in no time I’m on a level with the roofs of Florence.  The 94 metre high tower sits on the solid structure below and contains 2 small cells.  Savonarola was detained here before his trial.  A not too challenging stairwell leads you upwards until you are atop the tower, with sweeping views across Florence, even on a grey day.  I watched the clouds anxiously as I knew the tower is closed if it rains.

The impact of the Salone dei Cinquecento  defies description. Built in the 15th century to house Maggiore Consiglio, Florence’s legislative assembly, the ‘Hall of the 500’ is still used today for ceremonial events.  Folding chairs sit in the hush, while you try to take in the wonder of Michelangelo and his contemporaries, all around you.

Using my Museum ticket I was free to go at my own pace.  A circuit of the palace takes you through a sequence of splendour, each ceiling a work of art, the walls bathed in beauty.  The culmination is a view down into the hall from the second floor. Breathtaking!

Through realms of fantasy, pomp and splendour to Eleanora’s private apartments and chapel. Did ever a family live in such style?

And then the Room of the Elements.  You don’t have to be an art lover to be spellbound by this place.  Not for everybody, the style and eloquence of the de Medici’s.  But you can’t help but be snared by the imagination and sheer daring of these people.

I don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing more.  I can only urge that if you find yourself in Florence, you dedicate a little time to Palazzo Vecchio. You can take a number of tours that delve deeper into the history, or simply do as I did.  And it is a simply splendid place to be Atop Florence.

Six Word Saturday

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Not easy to find in Seaham?

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You’d think that a bleak north eastern beach would be a good place to find a little Solitude, wouldn’t you?  Strangely enough, that isn’t the case. This particular beach has become a mecca for sea glass hunters and gatherers.   img_6644

You could hide out in the caves with a fair chance of solitude, but they’re not very safe. Erosion has created some fascinating shapes, though.

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So your best bet is to head as far down the beach as you can go, without getting your feet wet, that is.  Even there, a far from home Devon artist was determinedly hunting through the pebbles, looking for sea glass.

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This is the lure, at the end of the beach.  A solitary and beautiful rock, leaning out to sea. Seeking its own solitude.

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There’s always a way to find solitude, if you crave it.  For me, it’s an essential part of life.  A bit like the Weekly Photo Challenge.

I hope this weekend brings you whatever you require.  Cate usually requires six words on a Saturday, but often she gets more.

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Six word Saturday

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‘But Peter, who was very naughty…’

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Every year I look forward to Fenwick’s Christmas windows in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Rarely do they disappoint.  This year they celebrate 150 years of Beatrix Potter.  What could be finer? Come window gazing with me.

What would life be without Jemima Puddle-duck?  Or handsome Jeremy Fisher?

We all have our favourites.  These cats look rather mean to me but the details are simply delicious.

And I can almost hear the squeaks of those tailoring mice.  Every year the Anticipation is the same, and every year they deliver.  I hope you won’t be disappointed.  Let’s put Peter to bed, shall we?

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Share your six words this Saturday, and have a happy weekend.

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Six word Saturday

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The devil is in the detail

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Mistress of the beach

Drifting, swirling on the tide.

Fronds that tease tiny fish

Then lie stranded on the shore-

A frothy, green petticoat.

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Jen’s photo in the Weekly Photo Challenge this week is a real beauty.  I can’t hope to compete, but I did want to share with you a few of the details of my recent trip to the Algarve.  As half expected, it was unbelievably hot, and much of the time was spent with my toes in the water.

A weekend at home in the UK will be an entirely different prospect.  Perhaps I shall relish the cool.  Whatever your weekend brings, I hope it’s a good one.  Join me on Monday and we’ll find somewhere to walk.  But first, pop in on Cate with six words?

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Jo’s Monday walk : Seal sanctuary

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Today’s walk brings us full circle with where my Monday walks began, just over 2 years ago, in Greatham Creek.  Doesn’t time fly? And have I worn you out yet?  There are days when I feel quite weary myself.

On Wednesday I woke with that restlessness upon me.  The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds and I needed to be out.  My partner in crime suggested Saltholme, the local nature reserve, but somehow that felt too tame.  I don’t do compromise well, but we headed along the Seal Sands Road, in that direction.  It’s an area I find very depressing, and if you saw my Forbidding skies on Thursday, you’ll know what’s coming.

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Heavy industry crowds the skyline, and the power station’s ugly presence broods malignantly nearby.  If you can ignore that, there’s a world of wildlife to explore.  To give it it’s grandest title, this is Teesmouth National Nature Reserve, a site of more than 350 hectares.

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Natural England have recently extended the footpaths and installed bird hides.  Parking on Seal Sands Rd, you can cross over A178 (carefully- you don’t want to be run over by a bus!) and follow the path beside the creek, out towards the sea.  In the distance you can see the Transporter Bridge, in Middlesbrough.  Closer to hand, a family of swans usually enjoy the salt water.

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Looking back, A178 spans the creek, and on the far shore industry looms, threateningly.  But we won’t be intimidated.  A ragged sign on the fence gives a clue to the area’s past.  There are still defence structures to be seen, and if you are interested this document gives full details.

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The skies alternately boil and shimmer, as I follow the path beside the creek, and along to the first bird hide.

If you click on the last shot you might be able to make out the windmills of the offshore wind farm.  Here they look very distant, but it’s not so.

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This is a remnant of the military installations, but history goes much further back.  In Medieval times the area was important for its salt, which was extracted by boiling salt water until the liquid evaporated, leaving behind precious salt crystals.  For thousands of years, the sea swept across the Tees estuary, exposing mudflats and sand bars as it ebbed.  Defensive banks were built against the tides, changing the flow of the currents. Gradually the ground lost its saltiness and became fit for agriculture.  Sheep grazed on the salt marshes, growing the thick fleeces sold by medieval monks to much of Europe.

A second bird hide but a distinct lack of wildlife, though the sign tells us of plenty.  Maybe the birds are all at nearby Saltholme, where they will undoubtedly be better fed.  And then, the strangeness of the brine fields.

The landscape changed enormously after World War II.  In the 1960s the area east of A178 was intensively developed for brine fields and the storage of petrochemicals.  Pollution in the estuary had been heavy, but when Natural England became involved the site became a Special Protection Area.  Careful management and reclamation has helped to restore and maintain the natural habitat.

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Returning along the creek, my sharp eyed companion spots a grey mammal, paddling his leisurely way out to sea.  They are one of the great success stories of the nature reserve.  200 years ago a seal population of around 1000 lived in these mudflats.  A survey in the 1930s failed to reveal any.  They had been decimated by hunting and pollution.  Today there are about 100 seals, and several pups are born each summer.

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Thriving in the midst of all that ugliness.  It’s good to know, isn’t it?  The sign boards ask you to respect the seals privacy and remain behind the hide.  While this may not be the prettiest Landscape, I do hope that you found it interesting.

I know how you all like a cuppa after a walk.  RSPB Saltholme is just 2km south of this site, and the cafe has a panoramic lake view. The website includes a map and full details of the area.

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Two years and more of walking.  It must be time to put the kettle on!  Many thanks to all of you who’ve supported me along the way, and made such wonderful contributions.  Details of how to join me are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Just click on the logo.  You’ll be made very welcome.

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Riverside walks are among my favourites.  A smattering of history makes them even better.  Thanks, Anabel!

Bothwell and Blantyre

Denzil is leading us intrepidly, step by step, across Belgium :

GR571: Aywaille to Stoumont

Jackie combines sunshine with some rather intriguing sculpture this week :

Lenora Carrington

Liesbet takes us roaming about in Connecticut, just one last time :

A Walk in Housatonic Meadows State Park

Time spent with Drake is absolutely never wasted!

Actually needed more time

Ruth joins us again, amongst some beautiful tree ferns :

Fern Tree to Spring Falls

Something I know you won’t be able to resist!  A trip to Narnia, with Debbie :

From Narnia to Albert Bridge

Just a little optimistic this early?  Elaine goes looking for Bluebells :

In search of Bluebells

Miriam’s got herself great company for her rather cloudy walk :

Meandering in Mount Macedon

Jaspa’s walk was written with Easter very much in mind :

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

BiTi is in love with green.  Colour themed walks?  Not a bad idea!

A Study in Green on my walk 

Coincidentally, Geoff is already ahead in this game :

Three Greens 

Please say hello to Patrick, who’s just starting a walking challenge :

52 Hike Challenge- No. 1

And to lovely Pat, ‘living life almost gracefully’, in Florida :

Walk in the Park

This week Susan goes looking for seals, (Snap!) and trying not to tumble over cliffs!

Estero Bluffs Walk

While Pauline captures all of nature with her camera.  Don’t miss this gem!

7 Day Nature Photo : Day 1- a walk in the national Park

That’s it for another week!  Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  I have one more walk for you next week and then I will be missing for a little while.  Have a great week everybody!

A note for Joanne : If you’re reading this, there’s a conversation between me and Bill Blackwell, who used to live on the creek, in the comments on my Greatham Creek post.  It starts- “I am one of the lucky kids whose family had a boathouse on the creek. At 80years old my memories go back to when in my opinion the creek was at its best, with more people than seals,yet I very much enjoyed the photos.”

 

Six word Saturday

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This is the final part of my 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge and I’d like to say a big thank you to The Happy Traveler for my nomination.  If you’ve enjoyed it and would like to join in, please feel free to do so.  And now for my six words…

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Where does your heart lead you?

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Inevitable that it should be the Algarve, don’t you think?  But maybe not so inevitable that it should lead to the Weekly Photo Challenge?

Hope you have a happy Saturday and a great weekend!  Don’t forget to call in on Cate.   See you on Monday for another walk?

 

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There is a season,

Turn, turn….

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In Faro old town, in the Algarve, it was mating season for storks.  Everywhere you looked, they were swooping through the sky, calling and shrieking to each other.  The cacophony had everyone riveted to the spot, staring upwards.  Try as I might, I couldn’t capture a good photo of these magnificent creatures in flight.  I was always a wing beat, if not two, behind them.

Storks

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Fortunately, the architecture almost compensates.  Have you noticed the seasons changing?  The Weekly Photo Challenge would love you to share. Me, I’ll probably be singing ‘that song’ all day!

And popping in to see Cate at Six Word Saturday, of course.  Enjoy your weekend!  Hope to see you on Monday, for a walk.

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