Saturday, 17 December 2016

Norwich - Weekend Break

A pre - Christmas getaway at a luxury hotel set in 150 acres of woodland with it's own golf course! Just what the Doctor ordered. Not that I play golf these days of course ,long time since my sticks saw the light of day. I will take full advantage of the gym, pool,sauna, steam room and jacuzzi though thank you very much. Set just outside Norwich and locate half a mile from the 'Park 'n' Ride' the Dunston Hall is the perfect location. Saturday morning saw a trip into Norwich the County Town of Norfolk via the aforementioned 'Park 'n' Ride'. First port of call was the ancient market place, established by the Normans between 1071 and 1074, which is today the largest six-days-a-week open-air market in England. Very impressive and puts Northampton's to shame. From the market we took a short walk to Norwich Cathedral. The Norman Cathedral has stood for over 900 years !The cathedral spire, measuring at 315 ft or 96 m, is the second tallest in England despite being partly rebuilt after being struck by lightning in 1169. Inside the Cathedral is equally impressive. The ground plan remains almost entirely as it was in Norman times, except for that of the easternmost chapel. The cathedral has an unusually long nave of fourteen bays. I got talking to the Pastor who was telling me that he was evacuated from London to Weedon in Northants during the war. He also said that it costs £3000 a staggering day to heat the Cathedral. The Cloisters are the passageway that linked the different parts of the Cathedral. In the ceiling there are over a thousand bosses. What is a boss I hear you cry ? Well it is a knob or protrusion of stone or wood,often found in the ceilings of buildings, particularly at at the intersections of a rib vault. In Gothic architecture, such roof bosses are often intricately carved with foliage, heraldic devices or other decorations. Many feature animals, birds, or human figures or faces, sometimes realistic, but often grotesque: the Green Man is a frequent subject. I do love a Green Man so was very happy to capture the two below. From the Cathedral we took the short walk to Norwich Castle founded by William the Conqueror some time between 1066 and 1075. I didn't go inside the Castle but did walk all the way around which provided stunning views of the City and Cathedral. Definitely a great place to visit with plenty to see. Enjoyed a well earned couple of pints amongst the Norwich City football fans prior to their home game with Brentford. Was tempted to tag along but Mrs A had other ideas involving the 'John Lewis' store.

Friday, 4 November 2016

France 2016- Prix De L'arc De Triomphe Chantilly

The stunning backdrop of the Château de Chantilly is just perfect for the racecourse at Chantilly. Owned by the Institut de France, the château houses the Musée Condé. It is one of the finest art galleries in France. Not only that it was the setting for the James Bond film 'View to a Kill'. Additionally footballer Ronaldo got married here in 2005.

Pink Floyd played two nights of the Division Bell Tour here in 1994.

Chantilly Racecourse is a Thoroughbred turf racecourse for flat racing in Chantilly, Oise, France, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Paris. It's a busy horseracing and and stands on 65 hectares next to Chantilly Forest. A right-handed course, the main course is 2,400 metres long, with another at 2,150 metres, plus a round course adaptable from 1,400 to 2,400 metres. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is normally run at Longchamp. However ongoing renovation work has resulted in the race being moved temporarily for 2016. the race should return to its historical home in 2017. Before the races we had a wander through Chantilly and it really is a lovely place. The England football team were based here in the 2016 Euros. Reminded me of a larger version of Olney with similar style of brickwork. But today was all about the racing and we were keen to get in , which was easier said than done ! We virtually did a full circuit before finding the correct entrance. It really is a beautiful course with all the surrounding forest, I even brought a few French conkers home to plant. I was surprised that it wasn't too busy , I remember Longchamp being rammed and difficult to get a bet on. It really was a picturesque setting as the band came out prior to the first race and the jockeys walked the track.

The betting was totally different to the English system with no on course bookmakers. Not only that any bets had to be done via a computer terminal system thing which only added to the confusion. Something that came back to haunt us when we thought we had first and second in a forecast at good prices. The other thing with the French betting is they don't pay out as quickly as here. So thinking we were sitting on a nice pick -up we re-invested only to find we hadn't covered all bases.... There was a large contingent from the UK and in particular Ireland who didn't take long to get into the full party spirit. I spotted Andrew LLoyd-Webber in the parade ring along with Trainer John Gosden, but it wasn't to be their day either. The big race did have a British winner though in the shape of 'Found' ridden by Ryan Moore and trained by Aiden O'brien in Ireland. It won convincingly and was one of those you wonder how you overlooked at a price around 10/1... Winners were definitely thin on the ground but it was all about the occasion and taking it all in. Without really noticing the crowd had swelled and I was struck by the mess created of empty beer and wine bottles and wrappers. What had started out as a serene landscape had become tainted by ignorance. No doubt the cleaners would get to work afterwards and restore to it's former glory but that didn't seem the point. 

There were great views of the horses from on the rails.
It turned out to be a beautiful early Autumn afternoon and as the afternoon slowly drifted into early evening there was a wonderful light over the racecourse. Hopefully one or two of these photos might have captured the mood? 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

France- Paris 2016

Always good to get back to Paris even in these troubled times that sees it at the forefront of terrorist atrocities. Just the one day unfortunately as we are en route to Chantilly for the big horse race 'The Prix De L'arc De Triomphe. So with the Saturday at our disposal it was an opportunity to see some of the sights. We were dropped off at The Trocadero an area across from The River Seine and the Eifel Tower.

The place was named in honour of the Battle of Trocadero, in which the fortified Isla del Trocadero, in southern Spain, was captured by French forces led by the Duc d'Angoulême, son of the future king. Today the square is officially named Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, although it is usually simply called the Place du Trocadéro. Without doubt my favourite part of the City is Monmartre and The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Couer Basilica and often simply Sacré-Couer. This is also perhaps not unsurprisingly the highest point of the City. Always busy and a haven for entertainers and artists it always popular. There is an amazing uplifting air inside which I always find extremely moving and emotional. As always I try to find the highest vantage point to get the best views. I was able to get up to the viewing gallery n the central dome, some 400 plus steep steps. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919. After a lot of walking around the busy streets of Paris it was nice to chillax over some good food and a few beers !

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Menorca - Ciutadella

The historic second city of Ciutadella, with it's beautiful harbour and elegant architecture was our first venture away from Sant Tomas. We caught the bus outside the hotel and the journey was about 45 minutes. The name Ciutadella means 'Little City'and it was the British who moved the capital to Mahon in 1722 due to it's deeper harbour. The harbour is flanked by the city walls and the fortified structure of the former Town Hall rising behind them. There is along narrow inlet full of yachts that outnumber the fishing boats.Plenty of cafes and bars to enjoy a cold beer in the sun , now that does sound a good idea!
In the In the ceremonial square (Placa de's Born) there is a large Obelisk that takes centre stage. It commemorates those who died defending the city against The Turks in 1558. Nearby is also the Cathedral de Santa Maria built in the early 14th century. Walking around the old city it is clear to see why it remains the religious capital of Menorca at least. Its Muslim legacy is evident on every corner and labrynth of streets. It really is like stepping back in history.