2013 has been an unusual year for me in that I have not left the shores of the UK once! That doesn’t mean that I have stayed at home all year – no I have travelled to the south-east, the south-west, right across the Midlands to the east coast and to the west into Wales. The only direction I haven’t been in this year is North! And in between all this to-ing and fro-ing I even managed to have a few local trips, all of which have made me grateful that I have my health to enjoy such travels.
So here are some of my favourite memories of this year, enjoy them and I wish a Happy New Yearto all my WordPress blogging friends 😀
This week’s challenge from Liberated Traveler is the wonderful city of San Francisco, a place that found its way into my heart during the 1960s hippy movement when it was the world’s “City of Love”. I have already written extensively about this city and how it has messed with my head over the decades, so for this challenge I am going to tell you about the delightful Misión San Francisco de Asís, popularly known as Mission Dolores.
This is the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco and the only intact Mission Chapel in the chain of 21 established under the direction of Father Serra. It is the third most northerly with only Sonoma and San Rafael further north and the sixth mission to be founded – June 29 1776. I have a ‘thing’ for the Californian missions, or as my husband would say, an obsession. For some reason I am drawn to their simplicity, their history and the tranquillity of their sites. As someone who is an atheist, this is odd, but no different I suppose than my general interest in churches and graveyards. One added bonus though is that the California Missions are all located on or near Highway 101, which roughly traces El Camino Real and I don’t need much more of an excuse to take a road-trip!
To find the mission you have to step outside the usual tourist areas of the city (Union Square, Alamo Square, Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf) and head to Mission District. The 16th Street Mission Station is the nearest BART, and the mission itself is on the corner of 16th Street and Dolores Street. Much of Mission Dolores is original with adobe walls and redwood logs supporting the roof. The gilded reredos came from Mexico in 1796 and the colourful wall paintings are good examples of early California art. Whilst I was there a school trip was visiting and the children seemed more interested in me and my camera than the teacher who was telling them about the history of the site. I on the other hand was very interested.
Access to the Choir Loft
St Joseph’s Altar
The Basilica is a few steps away, but although the Mission survived the 1906 earthquake, the parish church wasn’t so fortunate. The present building dates from 1918. It contains some beautiful stained windows, including angels and 21 California Missions and a lovely sunburst pattern.
One of the 21 Mission Windows
There is also a little museum on the site, but my favourite part has to be the cemetery. Most of the headstones are of people who died in the decades following the Gold Rush when San Francisco was growing fast with many illnesses and early deaths. Many people buried here gave their names to the streets of San Francisco.
Monument to a firefighter
Monument to a firefighter
Father Junipero Serra
So my advice to you is that if you are lucky to travel to the lovely city of San Francisco, try and make some time ( a couple of hours will suffice) to visit this beautiful historic site – you won’t regret it.
This week’s place from Liberated Traveler is Ireland, so I have had to cast my mind back to the one and only time I visited this country for four days in October 2003. I could only have four days because at the time I was doing a PGCE course to become a secondary school teacher. Although it was half-term and in theory we should have had a week’s holiday, the training school insisted we went in for three days for additional lectures. So making the most of a very cheap Ryan Air flight to Dublin from Birmingham (£1 one way) we arrived in a very wet Dublin airport on an early Wednesday evening. Continue reading Travel Journey of the Week: The Emerald Isle
Dictionary definition: 1. extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension or fear. 2. extremely good; excellent
People use this word so habitually that it becomes meaningless; however today I am happy to use it myself. I have been to a place in accordance with both definitions.
What has reduced my vocabulary to a single word, uttered with a breathless wonder? I will tell you. Only a few days ago I was standing on an empty beach alongside the River Merced in the heart of Yosemite Valley, surrounded by vast slabs of granite in all directions and facing one of the world’s iconic mountains – El Capitan.
The nausea, the dizziness, the swollen ankles and shortness of breath may have been the result of mild altitude sickness – after all this valley floor is still 4,000 feet above sea level – or possibly the 4 mile hike from the village that you have to make to reach this spot if you are without a car.
Yosemite: It’s like you have arrived at the very centre of the earth, at the planet’s temple. It is strong, powerful and very moving. These rocks, those waterfalls – they came out of nothing and now stand two thousand metres high.
I have teetered on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
I have marvelled at the balancing rocks in Marble Canyon.
I have gazed in wonder at the red sandstone hoodoos of Bryce’s Amphitheatre
and shaken my head at the craziness of climbers scaling the sheer side of Angel’s Landing in Zion.
Although each and every one of these has filled me with surprise and astonishment at the unique formation of their landscape and sheer scale and size none have quite moved me like this place.
It doesn’t have to be Zen, but it is a place where you can breathe and be inspired.
I had come across references to “Les Passages” in a Paris guidebook and decided to take a closer look at them during my last visit to “The City of Light”. So on a very wet and chilly spring day I set off on my Passages Walk. Between the late 18th and early 19th centuries the Right Bank included a network of 140 covered passageways – the fashionable shopping arcades of the time. In a city without sewers, pavements or sheltered walkways, these arcades allowed shoppers to stroll from one boutique to another protected from the filth of the city streets. Today there are fewer than 30 left, some well-preserved with their original mosaic floors and neoclassical decoration. It was time to check them out and find out what it was like living in 19th century Paris.
Starting from the Metro station Palais-Royal I headed east on Rue Saint-Honoré towards Place Colette and then turned left into Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau to enter the Galerie du Passage Véro Dodat. This is one of the prettiest and oldest passages, built in 1823. It has mahogany panelling and an old-fashioned floor of chequered black and white tiles, Corinthian columns and gas globe fittings (which have been converted to electricity). There are 38 identical boutiques with narrow arched windows surrounded by gilt edging including the beautiful window display of musical instruments in Luthier. Don’t forget to look up at the ceiling either as you will be rewarded with beautiful gilt framed 19th century murals.
Retracing my steps towards the Louvre I took a detour through the Louvre des Antiquaires as it had started to rain heavily. It is a most extraordinary store of antiquities on three levels, with goods ranging from Eastern carpets to Baccarat crystal and delicate Sevres tea sets to incredibly ornate porcelain decorated grand pianos. A very interesting complex to while a way a few rainy hours, but definitely not a place to take children! Being a little too expensive for my pockets (and anyway, where would I put that enormous baby grand?) I exited onto Place Colette and retraced my steps towards the Comedie-Francaise (interesting metro design) next to the Palais-Royal with its Revolutionary history (another story entirely) and entered the Jardin du Palais Royal where elegant 18th century arcades (1786) surround a very peaceful garden. Although not strictly passageways they are considered to be the prototype of what was to come. Continue reading Walking the Right Bank Passages in Paris