John & Anne Wiley

2018/11/14

London Calling

As we left Bruges, we could feel London calling as we hopped a train to rejoin our friends there. We’d decided on the fast “chunnel” train from Brussels, and got there early for extra margin. Lucky, because we couldn’t find it! After fruitlessly asking several train people and others in the massive terminal, mixed with speed walking up and down scanning all directional signs, I got a lucky break.

6621 See It?

6621 See It?

Outside the arrival terminal, scanning to the right far beyond the crowded attached indoor mall I got curious about a barely visible up-right arrow next to a blue and white train sign. Putting the camera on 600mm max zoom and enlarging that on the screen I could just read the lettering on that little square black sign: “Eurostar Channel Tunnel.” We started running. We were the last people to board that train.

Among the many things I like about train rides is seeing the industrial “underbelly” along the way, especially at switching yards and terminals.

175532 Off Track

175532 Off Track

This train moves at a clip, and I liked how an old leather suitcase looks in this setting.

184717 Old & Fast

184717 Old & Fast

Soon we were rumbling into London amid commuters immersed in various media.

094321 Silence In A Loud Tube

094321 Silence In A Loud Tube

We checked into a “Hub” hotel, where the focus is bed. This upper floor room had a modest rooftop view. Premier Inn’s chain had the most comfortable beds of anyplace we stayed on this trip, and the rates were relatively low – especially at their Hub properties. The “price” we paid, is there not being much else in the room (note the “sleeper car” nook and drawer under the bed for getting luggage out from under foot).

091710 Hub. Bed. Period.

091710 Hub. Bed. Period.

We woke early after a good sleep to grab breakfast and a double decker to meet up with our friends.

092957 New Fleet

092957 New Fleet

Having only been in London once many years ago, I was impressed by the new bus fleet’s comfort and safety. After a fun look from that top-front seat at parts of London new to us, we reached the V&A. Victoria & Albert Museum, that is. This is one of the few fabulous London museums and attractions we planned to visit, that we actually did.

135439 V&A

135439 V&A

I’m sparing you my fav pix from the bus ride and inside the museum, other than this one in the inner courtyard.

102942 Apple Of Eye

102942 Apple Of Eye

After an interesting and wonderful time with our friends from Santa Barbara and Germany, we headed out atop another double decker to explore more of London on our own. Like our other transportation, the bus ride to our next destination complemented the delights of arriving there.

6634 Journey & Destination

6634 Journey & Destination

There are some really grand parks in the world, and London has a good share. We savored this stroll among the mossed knobby legs of stately trees, relaxing in the calm sheltered light.

6660 Here & There

6660 Here & There

In this moment we could almost forget our destination and join those resting quietly on the grass and benches. But at the end of this walkway is Buckingham Palace.

6685 Buckingham Palace

6685 Buckingham Palace

The guards are trained and equipped to take on any challenge, yet kindly smile for every tourist who trains a camera their way. The one on the left smiled first, the second is about to wave with a “Don’t mess with this” grin, and on the right I see “Undecided.”

6678 Gate Guards

6678 Gate Guards

Behind us across the square, people were enjoying the sculptures (and benches).

6680 Palace Courtyard Sculptures

6680 Palace Courtyard Sculptures

At the left side of that pic, I zoomed in to capture this delightful moment.

6684 Timeless Youth

6684 Timeless Youth

Soon we were back on the move, this time walking toward another palace. On the way we paused to take in the Italian Gardens.

161553 Hyde Park Paradise

161553 Hyde Park Paradise

This peaceful, re-creating people place is also heaven for ducks.

161822 Delighted Duck

161822 Delighted Duck

Prince Albert’s landscape design provides an easy escape from bustling London.

161930 Flowerbed Barrier

161930 Flowerbed Barrier

Back on the path to Kensington Palace we got a call from Dave inviting us to join their foursome for Cream Tea he was generously providing at the Wolseley. Now hustling to get there we paused at this small park awaiting a bus. The man quietly reading in repose provided my eye a contrast with the dynamic sculpture he’s ignoring.

6703 Predator, Prey, Reader

6703 Predator, Prey, Reader

 

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2018/11/09

Bridges

Bruges is the Dutch word for bridges, and on this second visit we saw some of them first hand on a canal tour.

6357 Bridge & Swans

6357 Bridge & Swans

There’s a story about the swans in this epic pic too. But in the excitement to share pix from the canal tour I’ve jumped ahead. Our day began after B&B breakfast, walking into town on back alleys where we paused at this flower shop.

6322 Bloom

6322 Bloom

Next door was an interesting facade with heart shapes in teardrop-shaped stained glass windows. Bas relief faces were inset in the brickwork, including two on the curved brick snake shapes above those windows. Out of frame in this pic were more faces and another pair of windows identical except for being upside down. I wonder what the faces, heart and teardrop shapes connoted when this was built.

6333 Forgotten Meanings?

6333 Forgotten Meanings?

The town square was already buzzing by the time we’d wandered our way through quiet neighborhoods outside the main attractions and tour routes.

115021 Another Path

115021 Another Path

We’ve gone on a few tours over the years and enjoyed them. Still, rather than waiting to be led and learning interesting facts soon forgotten, it was wonderful to just follow our whims and sniff out enigmas. That said, having dreamed of it since our first visit long before, the canal tour was Job One for this day! So we stood in that line.  In contrast with the unstructured rhythm of wandering, we stood looking around in detail  and enjoyed that intro to being one of those people in the structured tour.

131545 Outside In

131545 Outside In

Soon we were in a boat watching counterparts approaching in theirs, having been where we were going.

132707 Back & Forth

132707 Back & Forth

On this brief tour we passed beneath countless bridges. Probably a small fraction of the total number in the city of Bruges.

6346 One Bridge At A Time

6346 One Bridge At A Time

Each of the bridges is different, all are interesting, and they accentuate the variety of buildings.

6366 Centuries of Architecture

6366 Centuries of Architecture

Venice of course has plenty of canals and bridges, and like there some of the buildings have boat access and docks built in.

6379 Water Portal

6379 Water Portal

The age and style of buildings covers a wide range, even here in the core of the ancient city.

6385 Tudor?

6385 Tudor?

The colors of buildings differs too, though far less than contemporary cities. Here most are shades of red and white, presumably originating with brick and stucco.

6417 Colors

6417 Colors

Mossy bridges, stepped roof facades and spires all combine for the Bruges look and feel.

6453 Bruges Harmony

6453 Bruges Harmony

Entranced by the canal tour, we set off on foot again and chanced upon Roman ruins next to one of the cathedrals.

6475 Layers of Time

6475 Layers of Time

The streets lead in many directions, each beckoning with fascinations changing with time and season.

6492 Different Journeys

6492 Different Journeys

One choice we made was going into a church overflowing with art and architecture going back into faded history.

6529 Once New

6529 Once New

There’s a Michelangelo sculpture of Madonna & Child there that’s not included in the extensive portion of the building with free admission. Though we did pay (both to see it and to support the massive maintenance budget), aside from the intriguing story it lacks for us the artistry of his Pietà. Somehow I was more captivated by this gated room.

6531 Still

6531 Still

Rather than add more of our 300-some pix from that day, I’ll close with this one that for me captures a sense of the quiet timelessness infused in the people of Bruges amid their millions of wired visitors.

6594 Woman & Wayfarers

6594 Woman & Wayfarers

2018/11/03

Bruges

Bruges (aka Brugge, Bruges & Brügge) is a place we’ve longed to see since a 1996 work trip brief stop. Our late Mom the travel agent’s favorite. So that draw eased the pain of leaving lovely Haarlem so soon. We had a few hours of Trains ahead of us: Haarlem to Amsterdam to Antwerp to Bruges. We got up early and where the market had delighted and the concert had surprised us, the town square was now preparing for something new.

102607 What Next?

102607 What Next?

Haarlem’s canals were even quieter this time of day, silently asking why we hadn’t hired a boat tour.

103636 Beckoning Silence

103636 Beckoning Silence

With a bit of time remaining we explored at random, so I got more building ornamentation pix.

6188 Barbera?

6188 Barbera?

Could the name at bottom-left of the above photo be about the unctions of Saint Barbara, or a guest house where the people in bed cubicles along the right are getting haircuts? Regardless, it’s intriguing for me along with the repaired cracks. Below is a last impression of our Haarlem collection from that day, and our reflective mood moving between worlds.

6219 Contemplative Mermaid

6219 Contemplative Mermaid

A Belgian friend suggested a visit to Antwerp, so even though we only got a brief layover, the station (inside & out) and glimpse of the surrounding streets puts it on our bucket list.

6222 Antwerp Yearning

6222 Antwerp Yearning

The DVD for the 2008 In Bruges has an extra feature of quiet music background of an early morning canal tour. We got there in late afternoon on a busy tourist day, so the scene was different yet still charming.

6238 Return to Bruges

6238 Return to Bruges

The fanciful new bridge at right, ancient buildings, and neck release at left frame this memory of our long walk from train into the old city core. Are you surprised that I spotted building ornamentations along the way?

6244 Tong Workers

6244 Tong Workers

Worker images portray a city of trades and crafts, and I wonder what this pair is doing. In the main square there was a lull in the crowd as everyone except crazy Americans was enjoying a delicious dinner.

6270 Sidewalk Cafe Entertainment

6270 Sidewalk Cafe Entertainment

Looking right from that view is this imposing structure, with a sculpture near top-center.

6274 It's a Bird, it's...

6274 It’s a Bird, it’s…

I love zoom lenses, because they enable checking out stuff like this without carrying lots of heavy and bulky gear. So in a few seconds I got this closer look.

6276 George?

6276 George?

Could this be depicting a version of Saint George and the Dragon where he has wings? Perhaps the oldest and most enigmatic dated building ornament I saw on this trip was in Bruges.

6302 Scissors and ???

6302 Scissors and ???

Walking to our B&B, this moment on a bridge over a canal reified memories of our first visit (and that DVD extra).

6307 Remembered Essence

6307 Remembered Essence

Now recalling back to the town square, another 90 degrees to the right of the big building with George & Dragon was the famous carillon clock tower aka “Belfry of Bruges.” I call it a carillon because we heard several concerts and saw one being filmed by a Japanese crew inside its small open courtyard. I’ve put it here at the end of this post so it can be full width and you can scroll to view if it doesn’t fit your screen.

6279 Bruges Carillon

6279 Bruges Carillon

2018/11/01

Happy Haarlem

After waking early and exploring more of Amsterdam, meeting up with Richele again in her beloved Haarlem was a surprising change. So nearby, we thought it would be much the same. Though a city, for us it has a more human scale somehow. Like this public market near the cathedral.

6076 Open Market

6076 Open Market

Again with the building ornamentations, I wondered what the story is about the roosters we saw so often.

6077 Wake Up Call?

6077 Wake Up Call?

Another church is now a museum, but it was closed by the time we arrived so we stood outside checking it out.

6082 Museum

6082 Museum

Richele managed to coax the door monitor into letting us inside for a few minutes, which only allowed us to glance quickly. In that brief time, I was most taken by the art created by looking out through hand-blown 17th century glass panes.

6089 Impressions of Haarlem

6089 Impressions of Haarlem

I like the contrast provided by the two more contemporary panes, and wonder how the originals came to be broken and replaced. We wandered more of that open air market, drinking in the colors, aromas and sounds of life.

6092 Taste of Haarlem

6092 Taste of Haarlem

We learned about the “widow’s garden” created some time in the past as a sanctuary for grieving. I guess by now it’s integrated but residents enjoy the extra privacy.

6108 Widow's Garden

6108 Widow’s Garden

Like the Vondelpark in bustling Amsterdam there are many quiet places, but here they seemed to be distributed all around the city. Also like Amsterdam there are of course lots of canals, though I took surprisingly few pix of them on this brief visit.

6111 Duck & Couple

6111 Duck & Couple

There seemed to be more quiet alleys and back streets than we’d seen in Amsterdam.

6114 Quiet Alley

6114 Quiet Alley

There were far fewer tourists, and we saw many Dutch families out for a leisurely stroll, and bikes with kid seats like the one at left in this pic.

6116 Dutch Life

6116 Dutch Life

Of course, plenty of new and interesting building ornamentations abounded for me to check out with a zoom lens.

6121 Tale of Woe

6121 Tale of Woe

I’m curious what’s going on between the two characters at the left of that bas relief. But soon enough I was distracted by a canal, drawbridge, and colorful brick work.

6136 Canal Bridge

6136 Canal Bridge

Before long dusk was approaching and we headed back toward the town square, where something was odd. Distributed around the square, small groups and families had gathered in a large crowd. There was some quiet conversation, but mostly something like silent anticipation.

6159 Strange Gathering

6159 Strange Gathering

Just as we paused to wonder what might be going on, a canon went off and music came from all around us! We hadn’t noticed that musicians were scattered around the square and amidst the crowd. Turns out we had chanced upon the opening of “The Haarlem Culture Festival” which initiates the cultural season for the arts. It was totally enchanting for us to hear the avant garde orchestral music in company of mostly locals joined by a few startled visitors like us. Having once performed in “Fiddler On The Roof” as the tailor Motel, I particularly enjoyed the spot chosen by a reed section.

6177 Roof Reeds

6177 Roof Reeds

The next day of this fast paced trip, we headed for Bruges.

2018/10/31

Amstel Dawn

We woke early in Amsterdam, eager to soak up more of it in the brief time we had there. Choosing the Lima Cafe at the left in this pic, we talked over breakfast about where to walk next.

164300 Morning Stroll

164300 Morning Stroll

Then we wandered some streets we’d not explored with Richele, taking in the architecture and of course I snapped some building ornamentations like this historic one.

5906 Symbolic Emblem

5906 Symbolic Emblem

This modern building also evokes a ship, along with a hint of ecological balance in its sod roof.

5907 Green Roof

5907 Green Roof

Grand old buildings testify to the power and importance of the Netherlands (Holland) in past centuries, and to the science and engineering that drained the land and enabled massive structures to stand amid canals.

5942 Grand Buildings

5942 Grand Buildings

We detoured past the central train station, where a sea of bikes begs the question of how anyone could find their own.

5950 Land of Bikes

5950 Land of Bikes

The station is where people on bikes and on foot, in trams and buses, and a few in cars all come to ride fast trains to other towns and cities. The building itself is also intriguing, and today we were taking more time to check it out.

5951 Ornate Station

5951 Ornate Station

The building above the main entrance has a wind direction indicator on the left and a clock on the right, with lots of ornamentation in between.

5972 Above Main Entrance

5972 Above Main Entrance

Sculptures adorn the walls and lintels, each telling different stories that unaided observers like us could only guess at and be inspired to return.

5977 Diversity

5977 Diversity

The cathedral stands straight and tall among a herd of buildings each leaning slightly shoulder to shoulder as if holding one another up.

5982 Shepherd and Flock

5982 Shepherd and Flock

I liked how this building ornament complements mementos on the windowsill above.

6004 Spanning 385 Years

6004 Spanning 385 Years

Eventually we  reached the Vondelpark recommended by several Dutch friends, and relished entering this gateway to an urban paradise.

6056 Island of Nature

6056 Island of Nature

As with all great urban parks, it has many sanctuaries along winding footpaths.

6063 Quiet Water

6063 Quiet Water

Countless spots beckon, and different people are each drawn to their own relaxing place.

6071 Choices

6071 Choices

Here the people of Amsterdam mingle with their neighbors and visitors from around the world, in hushed harmony.

6075 Gentle Mingling

6075 Gentle Mingling

After this all too brief breath of silence, we made our way back to the station for a quick trip to the magical 10th century city of Haarlem.

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