In October, in autumn as the leaves were turning, we lived for a month in ‘de Pijp’, Amsterdam’s southern bohemian shabby-chic neighbourhood. I’ve always loved the Pijp. I thought I knew it, but I didn’t really. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the broad Albert Cuypstraat bereft of it’s famous street market and all of it’s charm. Oceans of tarmac, shuttered shops, a few parked cars … Continue reading Home. In Amsterdam.
We couldn’t decide. Should we go or not? It looked cold outside and the couch was calling. We’d got a stack of films recorded and food galore. On the other hand it wasn’t raining and we could get there direct from the tram stop outside the front door. We shrugged off the Christmas inertia, put on the layers and went for it. Sloterplas, the lake … Continue reading Taking The Plunge.
How difficult it is to pick highlights out of a packed year. So many places big and small. Countless seemingly inconsequential moments of happiness. What I see is not a destination but a detail – a colour, a shape, an expression. Housesitting interspersed with trips to far flung lands. Animals. People. Friends. Food. Joy. Learning, always learning. I give thanks for it all. 2017 was … Continue reading Happy New Year.
On a Sunday morning in November I stood on the Magere Brug in Amsterdam, surrounded by the under-tens, waiting for the Sint to roll up on his steamboat. The weather was throwing everything at us: showers, the occasional icy blast and an even more occasional burst of sunshine. The Sint probably wished he’d stayed in Spain, where he spends most of his year, but needs … Continue reading It’s Christmas!
Shelley likened them to ‘moths of which a coffin might have been the chrysalis’. Travelling down the Grand Canal on a vaporetto is wonderful, but the gondola is the ‘crème de la crème‘ of the water craft. To simply sit in one of those beautiful hand-crafted vessels is to feel like royalty. In the sixteenth century there were ten thousand gondolas in Venice. Today the … Continue reading The Gondola.
‘She would go to the piazza from where the doges had once set out to wed the sea with rings’.* Like Miss Garnet, we headed first for the piazza. It seemed the natural place to begin. A public space so grand that no other square in the city was thought fit to bear the name – all the others are campi or if they are … Continue reading The Piazza.
Byron swam home along it, George Elliot’s husband fell in it, Robert Browning lived in a palace along it, caught a cold and died by it. A hawker once towed a dolphin up and down it; and in the fourteenth century an earthquake drained it and left it dry for two weeks. The Grand Canal, at two miles long, and seventy-six yards wide at it’s … Continue reading The Grand Canal.
Ponte Ruga Vecchia, 1446, was our destination. Billed as ‘room apartment in Venice heart’. We wanted to live among the locals, away from tourist thoroughfares. Ten minutes walk from the railway station, down narrow calles and over hump-backed bridges. Shops, a beggar woman with outstretched hand, crumbling bricks, and pale rippling water – it passed by in a blur. But it’s beauty struck deep. I … Continue reading Our House In The Middle Of Our Street.
Memories are made of this. It was all very Brief Encounter. Clouds of steam on a quaint platform. A whistle. A chug of the wheels and a prolonged hiss, as train 31806 came to a halt. I should have been wearing gloves and a hat. I was transported back to a time when travel was slow, genteel and convivial; shared flasks of hot tea, pork pies … Continue reading The Age Of Steam.