Thursday Doors – San Sebastian Aquarium, Spain

Continuing with the aquarium theme from yesterday’s Wander, today’s door belongs to the San Sebastian Aquarium. Located at the very end of the old harbour, the Aquarium was built in 1928, when much of the area was redeveloped.

And it has a rather spectacular door, don’t you think?

As well as being a rather wonderful place to watch the sun set…

This is my response to Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s site and click the link.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Highgate Cemetery, London

It’s Wednesday, and it’s time to wander once more. This week I’m heading to a rather unusual attraction in London, a place one could describe as the ‘dead centre’ of town. This is Highgate Cemetery.

Up until the 1830’s, burial in London was a somewhat haphazard affair, with burial grounds crammed into small spaces, highly unsanitary in a large city with a growing population. In 1836, in response to the growing health crisis, Parliament passed an act creating the London Cemetery Company. Land was set aside to create seven new cemeteries, one of which was Highgate.

Opened in 1839, Highgate Cemetery was created after the acquisition of seventeen acres of private land, set on a steep hillside overlooking the city. Its elevated position encouraged the wealthy to invest, as did the effort expended on exotic formal planting and Gothic architecture. Burial rights were granted for either a limited period or in perpetuity, and the first burial there was of Elizabeth Jackson, aged 36.

The cemetery became so popular that a second site across the road from the original, known as the East Cemetery, was opened in 1860. Many famous people chose to spend their eternity among the trees, including writers, musicians and political figures.

However, after the Second World War the cemetery’s fortunes began to wane and in 1960 the London Cemetery Company was declared bankrupt. The cemetery closed and its future was uncertain, with vandalism and desecration damaging some of the graves. In 1975 The Friends of Highgate Cemetery was formed, work began on repairing and restoring the cemetery, and it was opened to the public once more.

Nowadays you can take tours of the West Cemetery, wandering among the Victorian graves. I went this summer past, and could have spend literally hours there just reading the inscriptions, stories told of lives lived and families intertwined.

However, the West Cemetery can only be viewed by taking a tour, so we booked in and were taken around by an affable and entertaining volunteer, who clearly loved his job. The tour took just over an hour and included the Egyptian Avenue, a passageway containing sixteen vaults accessed by an imposing Egyptian style entrance.

We also visited the Circle of Lebanon, a circular structure of thirty-two vaults created by excavating earth around an ancient Cedar of Lebanon, which had been planted when the grounds belonged to a private house.

The tree towers above the vaults and is a fantastic sight to see, testament to the imagination of the cemetery designers.

Once the tour was finished we went across to the East Cemetery, where you can, for a small entrance fee, wander freely among the graves. (If you take the tour of the West Cemetery, entrance to the East Cemetery is included). There are many famous names there, including George Eliot, Malcolm Maclaren and Douglas Adams. One of the fascinating things about the cemetery is the sheer creative range of funerary architecture, said to be some of the finest in the country. There are graves with faithful hounds, lions, movie reels and even a grand piano, all final statements of those they memorialise, set forever in stone. And each grave holds a story, a life lived.

The cemetery now faces a new threat. Its romantic overgrown look is wonderful for photographs and meandering walks, but the trees and ivy that have sprung up on and around the tombstones are threatening to clog the cemetery entirely, blocking the once fantastic views of the city skyline and damaging some of the graves. There are discussions underway of how best to manage this without losing the atmosphere of the place. For Highgate is still a working cemetery, and burials still take place there. One of the more recent high profile ones is that of the late, wonderful George Michael, who lived only a short walk away. After our tour we ventured up into Highgate village and stood in front of his house, marvelling at the makeshift memorial that had sprung up to the much-loved singer after his untimely death. The photo below is only a fraction of what’s there – as his grave is in a private part of the cemetery, it was to his house that fans came to pay their last respects.

I realise we are only a day out from Halloween, and so perhaps this was an appropriate wander for this week. However, Highgate is not a spooky place – at least, not during the daytime. It is atmospheric, a little melancholy, and certainly peaceful – I enjoyed my visit there immensely.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Watchet, Somerset

This little harbour town in Somerset is has neither the fame of San Francisco nor the glamour of Biarritz, yet it is where I’m wandering this week.

Watchet is a charming place with an ancient history, situated at the mouth of the River Severn. An Iron age hill-fort nearby, later re-fortified by Alfred the Great, is said to be the origin of the settlement, with the harbour originally named Gow Coed by the Celts, meaning ‘under the wood’. Across the water lie the misty hills of Wales and it is from the harbour, looking at the view, that Coleridge is said to have been inspired to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A statue marks the spot, the Ancient Mariner and his albatross together for eternity.

We stayed in a pink-painted cottage with a view of the sea, walking the cobbled streets to the local pub or fish and chip shop, wandering the bric-a-brac and antique stores (where I scored an excellent pair of vintage boots).

A trip to the nearby beach produced further treasure in the shape of fossils – ammonites and oyster shells frozen in time for millions of years, tumbled among the stones that lined the shore.

As we walked back from the beach we took a bramble-lined path running between the trainline and the sea. In the 19th century, Watchet was a centre of the industrialised paper industry, its products travelling country-wide. Now the tracks are used by commuters and sightseers, and it was a rather special day. The famous Flying Scotsman steam train was in town, taking people on journeys through the beautiful green countryside. People lined the tracks to watch it pass, and so did we.

We had only a couple of days in Watchet, yet it made an impression that lingers, of hidden houses down curving streets, distant hills and fossil beaches, and water that changes with the sky and tides. I hope to go back there one day…

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Wednesday Wander – Warwick Castle

This week, I’m wandering to a view that I’ve seen many times. It’s of an ancient castle, almost a thousand years old in parts – a place steeped in legend, where kings were made and battles fought, mysteries still hiding in its thick stone walls. This is Warwick Castle.

The original castle at Warwick was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror as part of his strategy to stamp his authority on the newly conquered country. It is situated along a bend of the storied River Avon and, until 1978, was still residence of the Earls of Warwick, the legendary Kingmakers.

Kings, Queens and assorted nobility have all stayed within its grey walls over the centuries, including Elizabeth I, Richard III and Queen Victoria. The castle has been painted by Canaletto, among others, and its collection of arms and armour is considered second only to that in the Tower of London. Hardly surprising, considered the many and varied wars fought on behalf of kings and queens by Warwicks over the years.

The castle is also home to one of the world’s largest working trebuchets, or siege engines. Eighteen metres tall and made of oak, it can fling projectiles as far as 300 metres. I have seen it in action and it is something to behold – it takes four men running in treadmills just to lift the counterweight!

Near to the castle is a lovely park I’ve often visited. It’s home to a funfair and mini golf, as well as lovely gardens and, down by the river, there is a place to picnic and fly kites. Water lilies float serene, as do the ducks and swans, and for a moment you could be anywhere, at any time.

On the edge of the park is a bridge across the river, where you can pause and take in the view to the castle. Set into the pavement is this plaque. I think I would have to agree. 🙂

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Parc Guell, Barcelona

It’s Wednesday, and time to wander again. This week I’m heading to Barcelona, Spain, and to Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent Parc Guell.

High on a hilltop overlooking the city, the park is accessed via a series of escalators and steps up a narrow and very steep street. There may have been some complaining from certain family members on our way up the hill, but when we got there it was certainly worth it!

Built between 1900 and 1914, the park was the brainchild of Count Eusebi Guell, who wanted to create a luxury housing estate on the site, and worked with Gaudi on the design. However, only two houses were ever built, one of which Gaudi and his family ended up living in for twenty years – it is now a museum.

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, the park is full of Gaudi’s signature design style, from undulating dragon-spine rooftops to stylised stalactites and sculpted pillars. The park is laid out across several levels, and can be walked in a circular fashion up to the topmost point (marked by a stone cross) before heading downhill once more.

I’m a huge fan of Gaudi’s design style, so a visit to the park was high on my list of things to do when we visited Barcelona. And I was definitely not disappointed. Although it was a bit crowded at times, the views, the design, the wonderful shapes and whimsy of Gaudi’s unique vision were all there to be seen and enjoyed. There is a freshness and modernity to his work which makes it hard to believe it’s over a century old.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Sanur, Bali

sanurThe winter weather has been pretty cold and dismal of late, so I thought I’d wander to an island paradise, at least in spirit. This is Sanur, on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Sanur is located on the opposite side of the island from busy Kuta and, as I remember it, is a much more relaxed sort of place. The beaches are long, the water shimmering, the view one of purple mountains and a cloud-hung volcano. We didn’t stay at Sanur – rather, we were staying in another part of the island but, on the day we visited, red-sailed boats dotted the water, the sun shone, and the wind off the water was warm.

Apart from being Bali’s oldest beach resort area, Sanur is also home to the oldest Balinese artifact, a pillar in the Blanjong Temple inscribed with the story of a Javanese king who visited the island in the tenth century. I didn’t get to see the temple, but plan to visit next time I’m lucky enough to wander to this lush green island.

balinese-figure-1Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday Wander, Sacre Coeur, Paris

sacre-coeur-1It’s my birthday in a few weeks’ time, and I’m very excited about it. Not so much for the event itself – I mean, I still quite like birthdays, but they do seem to be adding up in recent years. The reason I’m so excited is that one of my best friends from Australia is coming for a visit, and she and I are going to Paris for the weekend. We’ve booked rooms in a charming small hotel where we’ve both stayed before, although not at the same time, we have seats on the Eurostar, and really, it’s going to be lovely.

The hotel we’re staying in is not far from the Montmartre district and the imposing dome of Sacre Coeur. There is also a nearby street market where, last time I visited, oranges still with their leaves were piled high on tables, while the scent of fresh bread and raspberries filled the air.

sacre-coeur-2Construction on Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, started in 1875 and was completed in 1914. Built as both penance and memorial for the 1871 defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War, the basilica is located high on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s a beautiful building and the interior is spectacular, with four huge stone angels inside the large dome looking down at the worshippers – however, I wasn’t able to take any photographs. A perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted there since 1885, and so for that reason visitors are asked to dress appropriately, be as quiet as possible and take no interior photos, so as not to disturb the worshippers.

The view outside is also spectacular, and you can see Paris in all directions. My then four-year-old daughter took the photo below – I think the view impressed her too.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Paris again, and hope to visit a few other destinations this year. Of course, I’ll share them with you. Thanks for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.