Ypres

After spending an afternoon in Bruges we drove on to Ypres or Ieper as the locals prefer to call it nowadays. We were there last year for the first time, mainly because we wanted to attend one of the services of remembrance that are held every evening at 8 pm at the Menin Gate. You can just see the edge of the massive gateway to the town in this photo. It has thousands of names of the ‘fallen’ on it. The road is closed off every evening which does annoy some of the locals, but as so many visitors are going there just to track down family graves, and it brings a lot of money into the local economy, I think it’s something that they’ll just have to put up with.

Menin Gate from street

The photo below is another view of the Menin Gate taken from the west.
Menin Gate from West

Below is another view of the Menin Gate and the moat which surrounds the town.
Menin Gate from ramparts

The photo below was taken from the ramparts near the Menin Gate and the houses are on the other side of the moat. They’re all individually designed and some are very smart looking.
houses in Ypres Belgium

I didn’t take any photos of the town of Ypres this time but you can see some I took last year here.

And we stayed at the same hotel which you can see here, we had much better weather last year.

This year we just took the photo below, in the evening.
Hotel Kasteelhof ‘t Hooghe

More Bruges

St Salvator’s in Bruges is quite different from the only other St Salvator’s church that I know of, it’s in St Andrews University and is known fondly as St Sally‘s.

St Salvatore

They are well off for churches in Bruges, below is the Church of Our Lady

St Salvatore

We in Britain are used to underground car parks but this was new to me, an underground bicycle park.

Bicycle Park

I was quite amazed by that as there seem to be thousands of bikes parked on streets, I wonder how many bikes are taken into Bruges every day.

Like Ypres (Ieper) Bruges is a moated city and it still has a medieval gatehouse.

Gatehouse

It makes for a very scenic entrance into town.

Bosky Dell

Bosky Dell

I took these ones from the bridge leading into the town, it’s a lovely tranquil area and other tourists seemed to have neglected to wander here, which was a plus for us!

Bosky Dell

Bruges in Belgium – by water

Like many towns in Belgium and Holland Bruges is ringed by water, it’s part of the charm of their towns. Bruges is in west Flanders and is known as the Venice of the north. The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mind you, I don’t think I would like to be living in one of the houses that have water lapping at their walls, they must be terribly damp. There have been settlements in this area since the Bronze Age.

Boat trip

Anyway, we decided that a trip on the canal was a must although as the boat filled up with fellow tourists I was looking over the edge and wondering if it was safe, they don’t half pack people in! I think it is partly the boat trip that made me think that Bruges was so busy with tourists because when I look at the other photos it doesn’t look too crowded.

Boat trip

The name Bruges actually means bridges – obviously because there are so many small bridges all over the town, they’re all quite low but there’s only one that you have to duck your head to get under it though, when you’re in the boat.

This is definitely the best way to get a view of the many ancient buildings around the town. It must be quite annoying though for the people living in the houses with constant tourist filled boats going past – with a guide talking through a microphone.
Boat trip

Boat trip
The swans mainly seem to congregate in this area, probably they take to the water when the boats retire for the evening.

Boat trip swans

We noticed what seemed to be two Swaene Hotels, a bit confusing.

The Swaene Hotel, Bruges

The Swaene Hotel, Bruges

A lovely lilac tree overhung the canal.

Boat trip

More photos of Bruges will be forthcoming, eventually!

I’m Back! – and Bruges, Belgium

In fact I’ve been back home for a couple of days now, but I’ve been busy getting back to ‘normal’ and doing the garden, it looked very lush when we got back – and I had been worrying that it would all be frazzled up as I knew the weather had been dry while we were away. It’s amazing how much everything had grown in the two weeks we were away in Belgium and Holland.

We got the car ferry from Hull in the north of England, sailing to Zeebrugge in Belgium. You might know that I enjoy a good rough sea, I keep saying that but for all I know I might suffer from sea-sickness now as every time we sail anywhere it’s always a flat calm, even when we were in the notorious Bay of Biscay. Luckily I don’t seem to suffer from claustrophobia as the cabins on the car ferries are teeny, definitely not even space to swing a cat – if you were that way inclined.

We sailed into Zeebrugge at 9.30 am and in no time Jack was driving towards Bruges which is just ten or so miles away from the port. There’s always that slightly hairy few minutes before you get used to driving/being driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
Square in Bruges
Neither of us had ever been to Bruges before but had heard from loads of people that it is well worth visiting, and they were correct. It’s actually much bigger than I had imagined it would be – lots of tourists of course, but also plenty of locals around. Bikes are almost as popular in Belgium as in Holland and I saw a tandem that was for hire amongst a pile of bikes, I was tempted by it, but J isn’t a cyclist so we explored by foot. Well the horse drawn carriage trip cost 50 euros, so I settled for taking a photo of them, but loads of people did hire them.
Square  in Bruges horses
Between us we took over 500 photos, but I won’t inflict them all on you – honestly, these are just a few of them for now.

Square in Bruges

Everything here looks slightly misty. I didn’t think it really was even if the sky was a bit overcast.

Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

Visit Scotland – and Stromness, Orkney

I’ve received another email from Visit Scotland, telling of the many attractions of this country. You can see it all here.

We’re already booked up for Stromness in Orkney later in the year and you can see some of its attractions here.

It looks very peaceful in this photo but I imagine it must be quite a busy place – when the ferry comes in anyway.

Stromness

Woodsman by Ben Law

Woodsman cover

Woodsman by Ben Law was a random choice from a local library. I had never heard of him before but apparently he is well known through being on TV’s Grand Designs after having built a house in his own woodland Prickly Nut Wood.

This book is good in parts, Law tells the story of how he started out living in Prickly Nut Wood in a bender he made himself, later upgrading to a yurt before eventually building his own home from the local wood. But in the last chapter the author zips forward to 2037 and imagines life will be more land based with people taking the place of machinery due to a lack of oil. He doesn’t seem to have heard of green energy, the renewables that will definitely take-over in the future. He imagines the future as looking like a step back in time, it’s all a bit silly.

To begin with he didn’t have much in the way of woodland skills and apparently these aren’t easy to learn as in times past those who made their living coppicing and such were keen to keep their knowledge to themselves for fear of doing themselves out of work in the future. I’m glad to say that nowadays things seem to have improved and it’s possible to go on courses to learn woodcraft. Mind you I already knew a lot of the skills involved and I’m sure I learned of them through reading Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, as I recall he even explained how charcoal was made.

Ben Law started living in a bender in his woodland but decided to build his yurt when his first child was due, presumably his partner wasn’t keen to bring up a baby in a bender. But apart from that there is absolutely no mention of family life, except that he has three children.

I wish I had seen the Grand Design TV show which featured the house he built, but I gave up watching that programme because all of the ones I had seen featured enormous piles and much wrangling with banks for finances, really the programme should have been called Grand Debts.

Ben Law’s house is built more on a human scale though.

Ben Law House
As it happens there is an article in this week’s Guardian Weekend magazine about people who have bought woodland, it’s becoming very popular. You can read it here if you’re interested in it. In fact some years ago I thought about buying a small woodland – it was for sale at a bargain basement price, but the fact that there was a fairly busy road along the edge of it put me off because I suspect that it could be a place that people would fly tip their junk, instead of going an extra few miles to the municipal tip – you know how awful some human beings can be!

I’ve found the Grand Designs on Vimeo, the woodland is lovely, an idyllic place to bring up a family I think.

Grand Designs – Woodsman Cottage (Ben Law) from Nebruks on Vimeo.

Another Trip to Edinburgh

Last week we decided to have another jaunt over to Edinburgh, mainly to visit the J.M.W. Turner watercolour exhibition which is on every January and then disappears for the rest of the year.

So we made our way along Princes Street to The National Gallery where we met up with a couple of family members who had never seen the watercolours. You can have a look at the collection and watch a wee video here. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, but this time it was busier than usual, it serves us right for going on a Saturday!

After that it was time for lunch so we crossed Princes Street and went up South Saint David Street (I think – I’m not good with Edinburgh’s geography), turned left into George Street to have lunch at The Dome. It’s a fabulously ornate building in Edinburgh’s New Town (which of course is quite old by now, Georgian in fact.)
Dome

The Dome

The Dome was indeed originally a bank, it definitely has that feel about it, very opulent, all of our poshest buildings seem to have been built by banks – nothing changes does it?

The Dome

The Dome

You can see more images of The Dome here.

After that we went back up to Princes Street, really so that we could sign up to become ‘friends’ of The National Galleries.
Princes Street

Princes Street

Then we walked through the Christmas market, I thought it would have been cleared away by now but it’s still hanging on. It is really incongruous to see these fairground rides sitting cheek by jowl with Sir Walter Scott’s monument. I must say that they do get a great view of it from those swing seats but you won’t catch me up there!

Princes Street Gardens Christmas 7

Audley End near Saffron Walden in Essex

I was looking through some photos recently and I realised that I had never got around to doing a blogpost about Audley End. We went there on our way back from our trip to Holland last May. We had actually driven past the place the year before but as it was after 4 pm we weren’t able to go into it.

Audley End

Audley End

Audley End

It’s a very large 17th century Jacobean house not far from Saffron Walden in Essex. It’s apparently a third of its original size which is quite amazing, over the years the rest of it has been demolished, but it still seems a complete house now. The parkland was designed by Capability Brown – as so many of them were.
Audley End

Audley End
The house has had a very checkered career over the years but nowadays Audley End is owned by English Heritage and if you are a member of Historic Scotland you get in free. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are interested in historic houses and gardens and you find yourself in East Anglia.

Below is a photograph of the nursery.

Audley End

A sitting room.
Audley End

A doll’s hosue.
aAudley End 11

Tulip beds.
Audley End

The photo below is of a wee bridge and much smaller house which I think is/was used to house staff.

Audley End

You can see more images of Audley End here.

Honfleur in France

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the building in the photo below, it’s up for sale but it looks like nature is going to beat any buyer to it.

aplant cliff 1

From there we went for a snoop around a supermarket, it’s always interesting in a foreign country – to see what different things are on offer food-wise. But with French supermarkets you always have to pluck up courage to go in as when you first step through the doors you are invariably assailed by such a horrendous smell that it takes some courage not to just turn around and dash out again for fresh air. I don’t know how they manage it, I suspect they just never clean the places.

Below is a photo of an old style French ‘gents’ public toilet – and it’s still in use. As usual Jack was in need of a loo (I swear I could write a guidebook on the public loos of Scotland – I seem to have stood outside most of them at some point!) Anyway, he went into the small white building which he thought was unisex, but I’m not so sure as the old metal structure is still in use, I saw chaps using it, and I mean saw as their heads were in view. This is all rather alien to Brits, but French toilet facilities still leave a lot to be desired, in some places it is literally just a hole in the ground!
toilets

It reminded me of Clochemerle, it’s a book by Gabriel Chevallier and it was televised way back in the early 1970s on the BBC, very late due to its subject matter being seen as rather risque in those days.

From the ‘cor blimey’ to the sublime Saint Catherine’s Church below is really old, 15th century in some parts I believe.

Honfleur Church

The church has a separate belltower.
achurch 4 belltower
And this other church was actually open.

achurch 5

As you can see the internal decor is quite different from British churches.

achurch archway

The very intricate designs on the walls and ceilings seem to be more in keeping with a grand house, but maybe that is a feature of French Roman Catholic churches. It’s beautiful anyway.

achurch frieze

aleaving harbour 1

Sailing on out of Honfleur, the surroundings are lovely, with this heavily wooded area right by the coast.
aleaving harbour 2

Sailing back out to sea, as you can see it’s a flat calm but the sea did get a wee bit more interesting in the next few days as we sailed back to Scotland. Most of the time though lying in bed on ship made me think of how it would feel if you were being stirred around gently in a big bowl. I find it very relaxing – rock-a-bye-baby sort of sensation, although I always worried about that lullaby’s words. Even as a small child that sounded crazily dangerous to me!

aleaving harbour 3