Glasgow Weekend : The Remains

In addition to all the Mackintosh connections in Glasgow we found time to explore the permanent collections at both the Hunterian and the Kelvingrove Galleries; to visit Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis and enjoy a session at Glasgow’s Annual Book Festival “Aye Write“. The festival takes place in the beautiful Mitchell Library, one of Europe’s largest public libraries, which has been one of Glasgow’s iconic landmarks since it opened in 1911.

waterstones

Waterstones Pop-up Shop at The Mitchell Library

Continue reading

A 90-Minute Walk Around Renaissance Florence [Afternoon]

In order to complete this walk in 90 minutes you would have to virtually run, or at least walk very quickly and not stop to look, admire, take photos, be waylaid by shops and buildings not listed in the route description. After about 4 hours we decided on lunch and a place that was very nearby, and whose description had caught my eye, was a stall in the Mercato Centrale – Nerbone.

nerbone mat

Continue reading

A 90-Minute Walk Around Renaissance Florence [Morning]

It seemed like a good idea on our first morning to follow the self-guided walk described in the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Florence and Tuscany Guide Book.

This walk takes in the Renaissance heart of the city and passes some of its greatest landmarks. Ideally it should be done early on in your visit to get a real feel for the place and if you incorporate a climb up Giotto’s Campanile, you will get a bird’s-eye view of the narrow streets, the characteristic red-tiled rooftops and the many towers that are not so easy to see from ground level.” Continue reading

Birmingham Architectural, Historical and Modern Gems, 2

As I said already, the jewels and gems of Birmingham don’t stop in the Jewellery Quarter …

There is also the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which houses one of the best collections of fine and decorative art, historical artefacts and archaeological treasures in Britain today; all displayed in an elegant Grade II* listed building. The collection is particularly strong in Pre-Raphaelite art. There is also a permanent display of items from the Staffordshire Hoard. [Adapted from Art Fund Guide]

Egg-travelling

Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg (1862) one of my favourite Victorian paintings is in the care of BMAG

On Sunday afternoon we were on the trail of the gold and gems of the Staffordshire Hoard. No photography allowed.

Discovered in 2009 and acquired jointly with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent with assistance from the Art Fund, this treasure trove of 7th century Anglo-Saxon art features 4,000 pieces of gold and silver displaying intricate filigree and cloisonné work. Since October 2014 a new permanent gallery interprets the story of the hoard and its context within Anglo-Saxon history. Beyond the richness of the materials and the exquisite decoration, the hoard is significant because of its strictly masculine nature. These are exclusively military items created for Mercia’s best  fighters.” [Art Quarterly, winter 2014, p.31]

St Chad's and roads

St Chad’s Cathedral or Traffic Circle

Birmingham has two cathedrals both gems of their type. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad is a little out of the immediate city centre but we could easily walk there. How many times did we remark to each – “Car is King in Birmingham”? Pedestrians must wait at lights, use underpasses and walkways and over-road links. The RC Cathedral appeared to be sited in the middle of the road. Access is not easy. However, we made it safely through its doors on Monday morning and into another world. A world of peace and calm and of glorious art. No photography was allowed but I had already taken this one before I saw the sign.

St Chad's

The Nave, St Chad’s Cathedral

A significant stopping-off point on Birmingham’s Pugin Trail the Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to built in the UK since the Reformation. The superb original internal decorations and fittings were made by skilled craftsmen re-introducing skills of the Medieval era.  John Hardman plate and windows; Herbert Minton tiles; William Warrington chancel window. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin also supplied original Medieval furnishings from his own collection including the stalls and pulpit. His rood screen was removed in 1967.

Only after dropping in to St Philip’s Cathedral on Sunday afternoon and deciding to stay for Evensong – more members of the choir than members of the congregation and followed by a brief organ recital – did I read this suggestion in my LV City Guide 2012 Birmingham, London, Dublin :

Birmingham Cathedral

St Philip’s Cathedral [source]

Sunday in Birmingham : Attend a service in 18th century Birmingham Cathedral which has a number of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Colmore Row.”

Looking_down_on_bar_3536

Old Joint Stock Bar [source]

Opposite the Cathedral is the famous Birmingham pub The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre. Just a few paces from the Cathedral we decided to pay a visit. Unfortunately the theatre wasn’t open that evening but the island bar was impressive. Also from my LV Guide :

Old_Joint_Stock_External2_3539

Julius Alfred Chatwin was primarily a designer of Birmingham churches … But there were exceptions to his church work and the opulent interiors of the Old Joint Stock, opposite St Philip’s Cathedral (in which he had a hand), showed that he could be moved to great things in the temporal sphere as well. Completed in 1864, the building first belonged to the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. It was converted into a pub in 1997. Under a glass domed ceiling, beside an island bar and with sumptuous interiors, this is one of the grandest pubs in the city. Upstairs is an 80-seat theatre, minimalist in decor, but the sort of facility few pubs can shout about.

ET ad

ET Mural

Tea Room Mural

On Monday we returned to The Art Gallery to the highly recommended Edwardian Tea Room for a light lunch before heading to our raison de visite The Library of Birmingham.

Few other tea rooms in the world can boast a stellar gathering as was here under the ornate ceiling and glass canopy in May 1998. The G8 Summit was being held in the city and for a short time a group that included Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair (and their interpreters) sat around a table commissioned from David Linley for the occasion, surrounded by a pick of the museum’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings hung here especially for the event. Even without the table and the paintings, The Edwardian Tea Room is still a grand setting for tea, coffee, snacks and lunches.” [LV Guide]

Wedding Cake

The Library Building Decorated on the Exterior to Represent Rings and Birmingham’s Jewellery Heritage

The Giant Wedding Cake, as the library is affectionately known, offers pre-bookable guided  tours to the building and its contents on Mondays at 2.15.  The building was officially opened by Malala Yousafzai in September 2013.

We took the glass lift up to the 9th floor from where we had long-reaching views of the city  and beyond from the Skyline Viewpoint. Also on the ninth floor is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare in his Memorial Room

“This original feature from the city’s Victorian library was designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. Since then
it has changed home twice, moving to Central Library when it was built in the early 1970s, and to the Library of Birmingham almost forty years later. It originally housed the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, which is still available at the Library of Birmingham. The Room is wood panelled with glass printed shelves inspired by the Elizabethan age with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by noted woodcarver Mr Barfield, and the brass and metal work is most likely crafted by Hardmans. The Shakespeare Memorial Room has been painstakingly reconstructed by local craftsmen A. Edmonds & Co. Ltd and the Victorian Cornice Company whorestored the elaborate ceiling. The books and memorabilia you see on the shelves are interesting items from the Library’s general collections (the Shakespeare collection outgrew the room as early as 1906).” [source]

70s library

The old Central Library seen through the rings

We then descended floor by floor visiting two gardens on our way down including the Secret Garden and The Discovery Terrace.

secret garden

The Secret Garden on the Seventh Floor

Lift and escalators

Looking down into the Library and the Book Rotunda

Book Rotunda

The Book Rotunda – Shades of The British Museum and Waterstones Book Shops

Children's Library

The Book Browse Fiction Library

Here is a Library buzzing with enthusiasm and offering its readers so much more than books (although I’d be happy with just the books). The What’s On programme that I picked up lists Exhibitions (we visited The Voices of War during our tour), Films, Music, Activities, Performances, Dance, Poetry and Workshops. Lucky Birmingham to have this facility in the heart of the city I hope the citizens make good use of it and what it offers.

Despite a packed two days and two half days we  are sure that there are many more Birmingham gems still to be visited!

Acquapendente to Bolsena and Bolsena to Orvieto

Day 6

Free day in Bolsena: Explore Bolsena, its ancient streets, castle, Etruscan temples and church, and catacombs of Santa Cristina, site of the miracle of Corpus Christi. Swimming in the lake. Optional walk from Acquapendente through the low Monti Volsinii (12.2 miles, 6 hours).

Bolsena

Bolsena comes into view as we complete our walk from Acquapendente

Being gluttons for punishment of course we’d decided all along on the optional walk from Acquapendente. Lucky for us that Tuesday morning had been assigned by Annalisa as our ‘feedback’ time for the trip. So, as previously arranged, we met Annalisa in the hotel lobby and gave our views on the walks and hotels, restaurants etc. This slightly delayed our departure so A, whose home is in Acquapendente, offered us a lift to the start of the walk advising on places to buy lunch and water for the day. We bid her a very fond farewell as she drove off to her next assignment.

Farewell Annalisa

Goodbye Annalisa and Thank you! – Keep Smiling! You’re doing a great job!

Day 7

Bolsena to Orvieto: An old Etruscan lane leads up through woods to a plateau and across farmland. The first view of Orvieto, situated high on its extinct volcano, is unforgettable (11.3 miles, 5.5 hours). Don’t miss the magnificent cathedral with frescoes.

Wednesday, the final day of our journey to Orvieto, the weather was back to its usual blue sky and sunshine. We walked up through the old town of Bolsena and up out of the crater following a paved Roman Road and an Etruscan Lane. We were told that the route follows the historic trail of the procession of the Miracle of Bolsena.

Lake Bolsena last morning

Lake Bolsena as we leave the town

Bolsena 1

Historic Bolsena

Bolsena 2

Old Bolsena

La Medusa  Shop

La Medusa Shop – Maker of Replica Roman/Etruscan Artefacts??

La Medusa

La Medusa

Bolsena rooftops

The Rooftops and Lake – Bolsena

Bolsena Castle

Bolsena Castle

Leaving the town we soon turned from the tarmac road onto a long ancient track. “You are now walking on the old paved Roman Road to Orvieto with the flagstones clearly visible underfoot” declared the Route Booklet. I think possibly our route diverted quite a bit from the typical Roman straight-line road but we certainly approached Orvieto downhill and then uphill in a straight line.

Roman Road

The Roman Road leaving Bolsena

Ronman Road 2

Flagstones clearly visible underfoot

We crossed the border from Lazio into Umbria (Bolsena and Acquapendente are both in Lazio we left Tuscany behind between San Quirico and Latera on Monday). A couple of kilometres later we visited our final 9 Etruscan tombs. They appeared rather abandoned and the Information Board had been stripped of all information. About 5 km from our hotel in Orvieto we had our first view of the city perched on its extinct volcanic rock.

Some of 9 Etruscan tombs

Some of the 9 Etruscan Tombs

First view of Orvieto

Our first view of Orvieto

We made it! We arrived at our hotel in Orvieto with a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Our last night was spent in Orvieto but although the ATG holiday finished with breakfast the next day we were to travel on to Rome for a further night before returning to Yorkshire on Friday.

Orvieto Cathedral 1

The Orvieto Duomo or Cathedral at night

Orvieto Cathedral day

Begun in 1290 it is probably the finest example of Romanesque Gothic in Italy – The Duomo by day

Like our achievement – Magnificent!!

 

Tournai in Belgium : A Unesco cathedral and a small town art gallery of substance

After a dip into the Roubaix swimming pool our coach transported us just over the border and into Belgium. The town of Tournai was our destination. Such a small quiet town but with so much to offer. We were given an hour and a quarter to find a luncheon venue and meet again under the towering belfry at the end of the picturesque town square.

The Belfry Tournai

A life-size black and white cow tempted us into an intimate brasserie Au Boeuf Qui Rit where we chose I salmon salad and  my companion chose cheese croquettes.

World Heritage

Next to the Belfry is the Cathedral of Tournai. Begun in the 12th century the cathedral’s cultural value was recognised by UNESCO and designated a World Heritage Site in the year 2000.

[The Cathedral] has been preserved in its original state , particularly the capitals of the nave, which makes the cathedral one of the few remaining great Romanesque buildings in this region. The World Heritage committee also pointed out the historical continuity of the cathedral as a place of worship from the 5th century onwards as well as the role of the chapter in the political, social, economic, intellectual and cultural life of the city, documented by centuries old archives.” [Poster shown above]

Photos at Tournai Cathedral :

Tournai 1

Tournai 2

Tournai 3

Tournai 4

Repair work on the cathedral continues but we were able to visit the main body of the church and also the Treasury. No photography was allowed inside The Treasury as almost 5 years ago to the day a priceless jewelled cross was stolen by thieves :

22/02/08 — Theft — Tournai, Cathedral — The “tresor” of the Tournai Cathedral was the victim of a major theft on Tuesday 19 February. In broad daylight, three men using baseball bats broke the glass display cases and stole, despite the attempts of several by-standers, thirteen objects including a famous Byzantine cross. This reliquary which holds a piece of the Cross and probably dates back to the VIIIth-IXth centuries was most likely brought to Tournai from Constantinople in 1205 by a Crusader. One can only hope that the object will not be dismounted in order to sell off the precious stones ornating it. ” [Source]

Beaux arts tournai

From the Cathedral it was a very short walk to the Museum of Fine Arts [Musée Beaux Arts Tournai]

Inaugurated on Sunday 17th June 1928, the Museum of Fine Arts is a building created by the genius for spatial conception, the great Belgian  Art Nouveau architect Victor HORTA. He conceived it especially for presenting the very rich collections bequeathed to the city by the Brussels patron of the arts Henri VAN CUTSEM, deceased in 1904.

The combination of the rooms that radiate from the central polygonal entrance hall is so original that the building itself deserves a visit. The collections shown include many ancient paintings, which added to the works bequeathed by Henri VAN CUTSEM, together with purchases, deposits, gifts and legacies, permit to offer the visitors an interesting overvieuw of the pictorial production history from the 15th century up to now.” [source]

I just chose two pictures on a reading theme on show at the Museum.

Courbet The Reader

Gustave Courbet’s “La Lecture”

Fantin-Latour The Reader

Henri de Fantin-Latour “La Lecture”

Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille and Antwerp : Day One

Last Thursday I set off from St Pancras Station to Lille along with 23 others booked on a Travel Editions art trip to northern France and Belgium.  The train journey took just less than 1 hour 30minutes.

Lille Town Hall and belfry

Lille Town Hall and Belfry [UNESCO World Heritage listed] from the hotel balcony

Day 1 : Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras to Lille and transfer by coach to hotel for check in for 3 night stay. Afternoon walking tour of central Lille.
Welcome reception lecture “Art nouveau – an Overview” and dinner with wine at the atmospheric Art Nouveau Brasserie de la Paix located 2-3 minutes from the hotel.

Vieille Bourse with Belfry behind

Unfortunately, it was raining hard in Lille so an hour after arrival and check-in with our brollies out we were on our first guided walk with tour guide and lecturer Mike Hope who mixed his vast knowledge with humour, patience and enthusiasm and from whom I learned all I now know about Art Deco and Art Nouveau in Lille (and nearby towns) and Antwerp during the following three days.

La Grand Place in the rain

The Grand Place in the rain

Once the jewel of the Spanish Netherlands, Lille is France’s most besieged city. It was incorporated into the royal domain in 1304 before passing under Burgundian (1369), then Austrian (1477), then Spanish rule under Charles V. The city became French in 1667 and remained so, except for a brief interlude from 1708 to 1713 and the absurd Nazi Aryanization (1940) from which it was delivered by its illustrious native son, a certain Charles de Gaulle. Throughout the 20th century, Lille was the capital of the French textile industry. … The city [has made] an extraordinary transformation that began with the arrival of France’s high-speed train, the TGV. [It] boasts prestigious colleges, abounds with café terraces and brasseries. Since 2004, when Lille was European City of Culture, it has stood at the forefront of the French cultural scene.” [From my LV Guide Lille, Lyon, Monaco, Toulouse 2012]

From the hotel we were just steps away from the main square and the important civic buildings – the town hall, the old bourse (now a secondhand book market), the opera and theatre – and shopping and business areas.

Vielle Bourse

V Bourse

VB Detail

VB Drainpipe

In the Vieille Bourse

Theatre du Nord

The Voix du Nord Building: Mike points out the architectural features

Paul, Lille

Art Deco Bakery on the rue Lepelletier – still a bakery shop

Huitriere

A L’Huitriere

A L'Huitriere

A L’Huîtriere, rue des Chats Bossus. Renowned fishmonger and restaurant with pure Art Deco decor inside and out.

ND de la Treille

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille : building began in 1854 and was finally finished in time for Lille’s European City of Culture year 2004

West Window

The West Window from Inside

… and other Art Deco and Art Nouveau façades in Lille :

Others 1

Others 2

Others 3

Others 4

And the best place to finish is at Méert famous for its butter and vanilla waffles

Meert