John & Anne Wiley

2018/12/05

Inverness

“It’s my fault.”

Someone once told me that statement is the husband’s secret to happiness. I’m happy to say it in jest, because Anne’s open heart and mind enable us to talk about everything until consensus emerges. So this time the quip is that during initial planning for this UK/EU Adventure I wanted to visit Inverness and she didn’t. Now that we’ve both greatly enjoyed this lovely city in the Scottish Highlands (and the thoughtful dialog that brought us here), “taking the blame” is my playful “told you so.” 😀

105639 LHR to Inverness

105639 LHR to Inverness

It didn’t add all that much to the cost of our trip, so a night’s sleep after our whirlwind London walking tour we were winging out of LHR up over the English countryside. Far too soon, high and fast in this jet, we descended over the heather nearing the wide mouth (Inver) of the River Ness.

115518 Scottish Highlands

115518 Scottish Highlands

We both enjoyed every moment of the journey: London hotel to LHR, flight, and bus into the city. But I’ll spare you those pix and go next to what greeted us outside the bus station.

6772 Scottish Air

6772 Scottish Air

The general air of healthy, friendly, hardy people bustling about uncrowded sidewalks contrasts with stolid stone buildings, noble statues, and flags snapping in the brisk wind. It’s instantly refreshing. Those signs on the left point out the direction and walking times to various local points of interest in the native Gaelic and English. We wandered smiling, popping into the occasional shop in large part just to taste the flavor of routine life here.

104650 Colorful Streets

104650 Colorful Streets

An easy stroll from here is the river, where a beautiful pedestrian bridge beckoned us to explore the more residential side.

6788 Footbridge

6788 Footbridge

Instead we detoured a few steps to check out perhaps the city’s oldest active church.

6793 Old & Older

6793 Old & Older

The building on the right is older than most in the U.S., and on the left stand remains of one with 1607 carved on it and tombstones silently crumbling to sand inside.

From there we wandered more of the city’s daily life. In time we strolled back to that footbridge, and paused out over the Ness for a longer look at the residential side.

6828 Along the Ness

6828 Along the Ness

Back on the downtown side an imposing brick castle (now refurbished government building) stands guard on the distant hill.

6829 River Ness

6829 River Ness

Walking along the river we got a closer look at the castle and imagined how everything looked at various points back into the distant past.

6847 Proud Castle

6847 Proud Castle

Eventually we explored our way toward our B&B that seemed so exotic when booked from home, now nestled among assorted tidy homes. We’d already exchanged friendly looks, greetings and some conversation with locals but when we noticed this dude’s dog he proffered what was easily the most demonstrative wave and posed for a pic.

DSC06871-b.jpg

Most yards had flowers in front, and glancing over the fence as we passed this back yard glimpsed the owner’s little heaven.

6877 Scottish Sanctum

6877 Scottish Sanctum

Unlike many (most?) cities, fences here are of a height to establish dominion but low enough to invite conversation if agreed by exchange of mutually approving non-verbal eye contact.

After friendly dialog with our host, depositing our light luggage and freshening up, we headed back toward town to seek out dinner. We enjoyed a gourmet meal with glorious view of the Ness & castle, a sound sleep in our comfy room, and a morning meander around the castle. In front of the castle wall atop the hill we snapped these views before heading to catch our train.

6895 Castle View

6895 Castle View

6908 Along the Ness

6908 Along the Ness

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2018/11/30

London Night

 

Following kind and tireless Andrea’s excellent nose, after the Wolseley cream tea gathering she took her guy (our Berlin friend) Wolfgang and us on a quick West End walking tour. As daylight softened we started out with a look at Picadilly Circus.

182131 Picadilly Times

182131 Picadilly Times

Andrea firmly disagreed with Wolfgang’s assertion that this is London’s equivalent to NYC’s Times Square. It has that giant wraparound TV sign, and people sitting on the central steps are similar to the NYC bleachers I suppose.

185353 Step "Bleacher"

185353 Step “Bleacher”

Luckily for us, that disagreement launched our night whirlwind tour because Andrea claimed Trafalgar is London’s NYC T. Square equivalent.

191817 Stately Times

191817 Stately Times

Trafalgar Square is much bigger than Picadilly and has hosted some massive crowds, so while lacking the NYC glitz its historic grandeur is perhaps a more British equivalent. From there she led us through Leicester Square, with its own unique flavor and night population.

192947 Leicester Square

192947 Leicester Square

Next we paused this quick walk with an introductory glance at Chinatown in this city of the world.

193447 London "Chinatown"

193447 London “Chinatown”

A few steps away, the totally different setting where we passed the Queen’s theater and the Gielgud.

193552 Theatre District

193552 Theatre District

Entering the heart of Soho nearby offers its own unique and quite different variety of entertainments.

193907 Soho Streets

193907 Soho Streets

I was intrigued by that tall curved “containment” fence in the distance, presumably to protect what’s beneath but adding to the potential for an ominous perspective. Moments later we saw on the left side of the street a storefront “Addiction” sign and on the right an offering of “Remedies.”

194048 Addiction Remedies

194048 Addiction Remedies

With another part of this big adventure looming in the morning, we picked up the pace even more heading back to the hotel for a morning train. Here’s a last look at a relatively quiet street where signs encouraged folk to enjoy business as usual.

194355 Folk Business As Usual

194355 Folk Business As Usual

 

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

 

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

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