Thursday, May 25, 2017

CORNWALL 2017: Tintagel Castle


Of all the places we saw and things we did this trip to Cornwall, visiting the Tintagel Castle on the north coast was the most memorable.

First off, here's Cornwall at the southern end of England.
The distance from the St. Austell area to Tintagel is 39 km., so not that far away.

After parking on a gorgeous, sunny day, we walked through the village of Tintagel.
With a population of only 2K +/- people, it is still one of the most-visited places in Britain.

And to whet our appetite for the connected legend of King Arthur,
we stopped and had our fun along the way to the rocky headland on the Atlantic coast.
This is King Arthur's Hall, originally the headquarters of the Order of the Fellowship 
of the Knights of the Round Table, used now as a Masonic hall.
Don't you love this stuff!

But THIS is the spot on the coast that was occupied from the late Roman period, 
becoming a thriving Dark Age settlement and port.  In the 12th century, 
Geoffrey of Monmouth named it as the legendary site of Arthur's conception and birth.
Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built his castle here during the 1230s.
The bridge at the bottom, #5, is what takes you over into another world.

Leaving Pauline and Chris in the village to fend for themselves, Astrid and I went off on our own.
We were flanked high on the left by the Tintagel Church and on the right by the Camelot Castle hotel.
The road took us down and down and down to the Atlantic Ocean.
I must go down to the sea again...

Once passing the information center, we came to The Haven, where we began our tour.
OMG.  What is it about the sea.  The big water!

Here at the cove, The Haven, is Merlin's Cave, on the left..
It's huge!  See how tiny the people are?
And all this part of the site is free.

We could have stayed there forever but we were not there to see Merlin's Cave.
We were there to walk the island amongst the ruins of history!
So from the shore we had to start climbing up and up and up to the bridge that would take us over.

At that point, the bridge, we had to pay our entrance fee for the island,
after which we climbed up yet again.  This is not a place for the weak of heart or limb.

At the top, the doorway took us into the other world...
of ruins and vistas and imagination.

Look how Mother Earth grows where she can, seemingly oblivious to history and legend.

How do you explain the vastness of the place!
You can close your eyes and picture the island courtyard and Great Hall.

It felt like we were forever climbing, this time to the northern ruins.
We knew the statue of Gallos was at the most northern tip of the island...

and there we saw him, all 8 feet of him.
I thought it was Merlin but have read that it is Gallos, the Cornish word for "power."
I'm now confused, but we fell in love with him, whoever he is.

Apparently not everyone is impressed but he was one of our biggest highlights and thrills.

From Gallos we walked to the southern cliffs of the island, looking back to Tintagel church,

while walking back down to the courtyard and Great Hall.

Bronze artifacts with their write-ups educated us along the way.

When we got to the doorway through which we would climb back down to cross the bridge again,
we left behind a world of fantasy and legend I'll never forget.  

And now all I want to do is watch all those King Arthur movies again!
My favorite is The Mists of Avalon but First Knight comes close behind.
Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Pendragon...so many characters sustain the King Arthur legend!
I wonder, of course, if you have your own favorite movie/story?


Thursday, May 18, 2017

CORNWALL 2017: The Facebook Preview


Let's take a break from our Venice/Verona trip!

We just got back from Cornwall late last night, minutes before midnight, and are now up and at it in getting settled back in.  You know how that it.  It's always good to get back home.  Astrid even went back to work today after maybe 4 hours of sleep.  What a trooper!

What you are about to see is a learning curve for me away from the laptop and PhotoShop!  We took only our iPads for this 6-day trip, so I learned how to make collages with the Live Collage app, figuring out every new day how to tweak images the way I wanted there as well as in the Photos app.

So, here goes:

Friday, May 12:  Arrival in Exeter

As soon as Chris and Pauline picked us up at the airport, Pauline said she had a surprise for me!
We think it represents the  Red Arrows from the Royal Air Force aerobatic display team,
even though they usually fly in teams of 9.
Ironically, it was the only weathervane we found the entire trip, other than a couple of arrows.
But it more than made up for the lack elsewhere.

We ate out at a pub that day but that was basically it, before driving home near St. Austell.

Saturday, May 13:  Mevagissey Fishing Port and the Spit Cliffs

Pauline and Chris racked their brains for us on what to see and where to go each day.
But they found out it doesn't take much to make us happy!
 So we first went to the fishing port of Mevagissey, 16 km away.
Lucky for us, we were there during low tide.
Do beached boats enthrall you like they do us who never see them??!!

After eating lunch back at home, we three girls went out to take a walk along the Spit cliffs.
Actually, Chris dropped us off at the beginning and then picked us up at the end in Charlestown.
 During the 4 miles, with the English Channel on one side and a golf course on the other, 
we had intermittent rain but didn't care a hoot.

Sunday, May 14:  Tintagel Castle and King Arthur's Birthplace

When Astrid and I found out there was a legendary birthplace of King Arthur 39 km away,
we made it absolutely clear that THAT would be a highlight of our trip!
So we picked the best weather day to go, which was Sunday.
OMG.  Wait till I show you more later...but for now, that's the statue of Merlin with Astrid, 
overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the north Cornwall coast.

Monday, May 15:  St Mawgan and St. Eval Parish Churches

After Sunday's gorgeous, sunny day on the north coast, it rained the rest of our time!
Rain limits what you can do, of course, but it didn't stop us from going out to do something.
We didn't need much, especially after the full day on Sunday.

So off we went to see two parish churches, both from the 13th century:
St. Mawgan (top row) and St. Eval (bottom row).

This time on the inside, St. Mawgan (top row) and St. Eval (bottom row).
I love these wee parish churches almost more than the cathedrals, to be honest.
I always think of my preacher dad loving and choosing them for his pastorates.

Tuesday, May 16:  Looe

Knowing we love the seaside ports, Chris and Pauline came up with our final adventure, 42 km away.
We actually arrived while the tide was still in but, after first eating lunch, we got lucky.
Look at that.  Pure magic for us!

Wednesday, May 17:  Exeter Cathedral (and home)

Wednesday started off with a 2-hour train ride to Exeter for our flight back to Amsterdam.
Dear friend, Lisl (from Bath), came by train to join us (including Pauline) for the rest of the rainy day.
After a lovely, leisurely lunch, we walked to the nearby cathedral and had a peek.
No time for a good look that came with an entrance fee, so we did just peek.
For me it was enough...or at least better than nothing.
A great way to end a good week with friends!

You know me...this is but the skeleton to which I will add the flesh in the days to come.
The good news is that we have no further trips on deck till America in October,
so there's a nice, gentle sigh being released as I take my time, now, going forward.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

VERONA 2017: Piazza Erbe and the House of Juliet


Let's mix things up a bit and go back to Verona!  Specifically, let's go to the center of Verona's commercial and administrative life:  the Piazza Erbe.

I love this map because it shows the most important landmarks of the city, all of which we saw.
But today's post is centered on the red numbers 2-5.

We'll start with the Piazza Erbe (#5), which was the town's forum during the Roman Empire.
Today it is a bustling market square with hawkers selling their wares.

It has 4 major landmarks:
Colonna di San Marco (1528) topped by St. Mark's Lion, symbol of Venetian rule (bottom-left).
The Fountain (1368) topped by the Madonna of Verona, symbolizing Commerce (bottom-right).
The Capitello (13th century) for ceremonies, called Tribune (top-right).
The ornate carved Aedicula (shrine) from 1410 (bottom-center).

Of the 4 landmarks, the fountain is the center-point of attraction.
The Madonna statue on top is a Roman sculpture dating to 390 AD.
We actually sat at the nearby Capitello to take it all in.

Just a wee walk away from the last column, the Aedicula shrine, we found Juliet's House (#2).
In Italian, it's the Casa di Giulietta, connected to Shakespeare's tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

Upon passing through the gateway/entrance, you enter the courtyard.
And yes, that's the balcony of legend and fantasy...where you can even get married!
And no, we didn't even try to make it through the crowd to go up.

The real darling of the courtyard was Juliet herself.
Older men and women, all the way down to young boys and girls, wanted to touch her.
No one seemed at all embarrassed to have their turn, a good-luck ritual for the unmarried.

Did you notice the gum door behind Juliet?  Even the tree was gummed!
And, of course, there were enough love padlocks to sink the entire place.
How can you not have intrigue for such a place of Love and Tragedy!

From Juliet's House we walked back to the Palazzo della Ragione (#4), the Palace of Reason.
The medieval palace features an elegant Renaissance staircase, 
leading from the exterior courtyard to the magistrates' offices above.
The Lamberti tower attached to the palace, begun in 1172, is 275 ft. tall (top-center).  
The clock was added in 1779. and for €1 were could take the lift to the top.

How fun to zoom in on all the Piazza Erbe landmarks from above...

to say nothing for all the other landmarks we had already seen or would see later
(covering all the blue and red numbers in the map above).

You know how I always say we learn much about a people/culture from their cemeteries.
I often think the same about their rooftops!

Outside the Palace of Reason we spotted the Dante statue from 1865 (bottom-right). 
He was the medieval poet who was a guest of the Scaliger family during his exile from Florence.

Speaking of cemeteries and the Scaliger family, and last but not least...
we stood in awe of the Scaliger Tombs from the 14th century, high and lifted up.
They're a group of 5 Gothic tombs celebrating said Scaliger family.

This didn't end our day but it does end this post.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Tomorrow Astrid and I fly to Cornwall, England, for 6 days of mini-vacation with friends.
You know what that means...a gazillion more images to wade through.  HA!
The things I have to put up with!


Thursday, May 04, 2017

VENICE 2017: The San Michele Island Cemetery


So, after lunch on Murano (last post), we hopped on the vaporetto for the 1.5 km. ride to the San Michele island, which we had passed that morning.

See how close it is, halfway between Venice and Murano.  (Wiki image)
But how many tourists ever visit San Michele???

You can actually see the island easily from the northern coast of Venice.
What you see is a walled island...and what's inside is a cemetery.
Have you ever heard of an island that is a cemetery?

It became a cemetery in 1807 "when under French occupation it was decreed that burial on the mainland...was unsanitary." 

The Church of San Michele from 1469 is the main landmark of the island,
the first Renaissance church in Venice.
See how close the Murano lighthouse appears behind it (top-right).

In fact, on our way to Murano that morning, look what we saw leaving the cemetery stop.
There had just been a service, after which the casket was being transported back to Venice.
Because of increasing lack of space, most bodies are now buried on the mainland.

But later, there's the Murano lighthouse again, when we left after lunch,
and then quickly rounded the church on our way to the San Michele vaporetto stop.

The entrance through the wall is immediately there upon disembarking.
And then?  Where to begin!

Because it was right there, we decided to start with the church,
passing through the 15th century cloister.

We wondered if the flowers were from the morning's service?

You know how much we love these places of worship...
like museums to us who view them without a Roman Catholic upbringing.

Then we started to wander about.
There are three different cemeteries on the island and this is the Roman Catholic section.

We hate seeing the graves for children, of course...or for anyone, for that matter.

But we knew famous foreigners were also buried there:
Ezra Pound, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky, for example.
We found the latter two, with their tell-tale signs of music and ballet, in the Greek Orthodox section.

As you'd expect, we often came to the wall's perimeter of the cemetery 
and had to turn into a new direction....

leading us to sections totally different from the last,

like to the 7 war graves from WWI.

This is the Protestant section of the cemetery.  Can you tell?

This San Cristoforo church originally belonged to San Cristoforo della Pace, 
another island that was eventually merged together with San Michele for the cemetery.
The original church was demolished and rebuilt in the mid-19th century,
but we did not visit it.

Lining the walls to the church were more tombs...

and then the other end of the cemetery.
I'm sure we missed a lot but we got the gist, which is what we had come to see.

As we left, we had a better view of the floating statue we had seen earlier:

It's the Barque of Dante created by Georgy Frangulyan in 2007.
"The composition is based on the episode from The Divine Comedy in which Dante and Virgil
cross the river Acheron, and the water boils with damned souls.  Virgil of bronze shows Dante
to the island of San Michele, where the famous Venetian cemetery is situated."

Supposedly it's the only statue in the world standing in the water.
It was created for the 52nd Venice Biennale but will now remain there forever.
A fitting close to an afternoon at the San Michele cemetery!