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 of Bruges

Second square

Bruges – or Brugge if you prefer, depending on whether you are speaking French or Flemish – they both mean ‘bridge’ anyway – smells mainly of chocolate due to all the chocolate shops around, and the cafes and restaurants serving waffles with chocolate sauce. I have to admit that occasionally there is a whiff of what I will politely call drains, it’s a fact that old places also have ancient drainage systems.

Second square

Bruges is full of grand buildings set around several squares, some of these ones are just local government buildings I think.

Second square
Others are really old like these two, there were queues of schoolkids going up the stairs most of the time we were there, so we decided to give that sightseeing opportunity a miss – whatever the building was!

Second square

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.

St Athernase Church in Leuchars, Fife

Leuchars in Fife is a village just five or so miles from the far bigger and better known town of St Andrews, and probably that’s why we had never been there before, as St Andrews is my favourite place in Fife and by the time we’ve had an afternoon out there I’m usually tired and just want to get home.
St Athernase

Last Wednesday we planned to visit Leuchars at last, mainly to see St Athernase Church, we had seen an information leaflet about it, aimed at tourists I suppose but you know what it’s like – you rarely visit the places on your own doorstep. The really ancient part is the rounded area with the tower. Until recently I had assumed that all these old churches had originally been Roman Catholic but of course there was a Celtic church originally and at some point the RCs took over.

St Athernase

There has been a church on that site since around 1225 and although quite a lot of the church from that date is still surviving it was damaged during the Reformation, so there has been some rebuilding done over the years and the main part of the kirk which houses the congregation was built around 1745. It’s the really old bit that has the most charm for me though. I love the gargoyle-like faces on the wall which is where the original altar would have been. To me they don’t look at all Christian, more Viking or Celtic.
St Athernase

The next day was Maundy Thursday and although I’m not at all into organised religion it seemed apt to visit an ancient church around Easter. I think all of those really old churches, or kirks as we call them in Scotland, were built on the highest land in the settlement they were located in. So you have to walk through a gate and up quite a few steps to reach the churchyard. Almost as soon as we got into the churchyard a man approached us and asked us if we were documenting the graves, we aren’t of course. He was thinking of doing it if nobody else is, and I can’t find any evidence that it has already been done, I hope he takes on the task.

St Athernase

We were just looking around the churchyard, never thinking that the church would actually be open, but the minister – Rev. John C Duncan – hailed us and asked us if we would like to look around the inside – and so he ended up giving us a very interesting guided tour. I’m usually quite wary of ministers but this one couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps his previous experience of being a minister in the army made the difference. He was awarded an MBE for his service.

Luckily it seems that the Christian fundamentalists (the equivalent of those maniacs destroying everything they don’t approve of in the Middle East) didn’t spend too much time trying to destroy St Athernase because they were probably in such a hurry to march on to the more important St Andrews Cathedral – and they certainly well and truly smashed that.

If you’re interested have a look at the images of Leuchars here. There used to be an RAF station there but recently the army took over from them.

St Athernase

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago some friends invited us to spend an afternoon along the coast at Cellardyke, their house is very handy for the beach, in fact it backs onto it, the tide was almost as high as it gets. I just took some photos of a small part of the beach, the North Sea looked lovely and clear, but I suspect that like most other stretches of sea nowadays – it’s full of teeny wee plastic particles.

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

It looks like I must have taken this photograph from a boat but it’s just the angle that the beach takes. I’ve always wondered why the village was called Cellardyke and I’ve just discovered that it’s a corruption of Sil’erdykes as the harbour walls were covered with the drying fishing nets which were covered in silvery fish scales.

You can see more images of Cellardyke here.

We’ll be going back to that area soonish as we plan to take the boat over to the Isle of May (weather permitting) as we’ve never been there before and I dying to get some photos of puffins and whatever other seabirds might be around the place.

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.

A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!

Dunkeld

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to Dunkeld for the day. It’s one of my favourite wee towns. It was the day we were in search of autumnal trees.

aDunkeld trees 4

I took the photo below from the bridge in Dunkeld, looking north up the River Tay.

aDunkeld trees 1

I crossed the road to the other side of the bridge to capture the view to the south.
Dunkeld trees 3

Some houses just off the High Street in Dunkeld.

aDunkeld street 5

The town was decorated with bunting, it wasn’t long after Halloween but I think it was something to do with a local tradition.

aDunkeld street 3

aDunkeld street 2

If you look closely at the photo below you can just see the beginning of the bridge.

aDunkeld street 1

Here’s the bridge itself, built by Thomas Telford.

Bridge through trees

The River Tay is famous for salmon fishing but you have to put them back if you catch any.

aDunkeld trees stitch

Honfleur in France

Our last port of call on that cruise we went on in October was Honfleur in France. It’s north western France and the weather was very similar to British weather as it tends to be in that area. In fact we had to go into a shop and buy ‘une paraplui s’il vous plait’ – yes the rain was coming down in buckets! That was the only bad weather we had the whole cruise. Luckily we had taken most of our photos before the deluge.

aharbour 1

aharbour 4

But Honfleur itself turned out to be a wee gem of a town, very ancient as you can see.

old building 2

The town is just a very short walk from where our ship Black Watch was berthed.

aharbour 7

aOld building 3

aOld building 5

Some of the houses are very chocolate boxy and others are in dire need of some tender loving care, the one below looks scarily dilapidated!

aOld Building 6

And the house in the photo below is where the composer Erik Satie was born.

aOld Building 8

Sadly it was a Monday again and although most of the shops were open, because Honfleur’s economy must be massively boosted by the cruise ships that visit – the second-hand booksellers obviously didn’t think it was worth their while to open on a Monday. I was SO ANNOYED because I was dying to get in there and get in amongst those books. I wasn’t bothered that they were in French. I would have bought that old copy of Gulliver’s Travels if it had been open and I could see boxes full of old Tintin books in there.

abookshop

Some women press their noses up against jewellery shop windows but with me it’s the bookshops – or chocolate shops!

I’m sure you know who Erik Satie was but just because I love this piece of music by him I’m putting it on here. Gymnopedie.