Thatched home

One image I didn’t give you from our England visit is of a thatched-roofed building. This one is neither a remarkable structure nor unusual thatch. Seems like many of the still-thatched buildings are right next to the road, suggesting they are old country routes…. Quite a chimney on this one, no? Note, too, the use of dense hedges as visual barriers….

Chaucer sleeping ca1864

This is not church-glass, but ca. 1864 by a Neo-Gothic arts-and-crafts artist, a small piece we saw at the Musée National du Moyen Âge, titled “Chaucer asleep.” The designer was Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, and it was made by William Morris‘s decorative arts guild, which had six partners including Burne-Jones (photo of both men in 1874 here). They founded the group in 1861, and this piece was made just before their firm garnered a lot of business. In the 1850s, Burne-Jones was enamored of Canterbury Tales, so his choice of Chaucer before his design was in service of clients makes sense.

What I especially liked is all the plant-detail—in the meadow with the sleeping figure, against the fence, and glimpsed through openings in the wall. I like the angel holding the solar timepiece, left, and the poppies(?) by the fence. Interesting that the cloak is green, but not the plants…. I also like that his foot pokes gently out of what is otherwise the boundary of the rectangular piece, and into the framing area. BTW, the words are “Imago Chaucer Poetae.”

What’s next?

Teensy dishwasher

This is the smallest dishwasher I remember seeing (largest interior dimension maybe 1ft). We did not use it.


I learned another new French word: Bronzage. It does not mean Bronze Age, but bronzed/bronzing, as in changing the color of your skin (as in tanning place).

Paris gambling

We took the bus and not the train to the airport, which we had not done before. Thus, we saw neighborhoods we’d only tunneled beneath before. Gambling anyone?

Paris air view

We had a pretty darned good view of Paris as we climbed away from the earth. That’s the Eiffel Tower “above” and back from the oblique white “doughnut” stadium in the right half of the photo. You can see the Seine next to it….

Inflight goodies

Wonder of wonders, the flight was not full (not at all), and the flight attendants were a bit giddy (or maybe not), offering two bottles of bourbon when I asked for liquor. Why not?

We are home safely and all is well. What’s next, you may ask…laundry, I’d say, being prosaic…but not until tomorrow….

Ups and downs, with laterals

North n uphill

Once completely coffee-d, we headed uphill on foot. Uphill from here means north and toward Montmartre. The buildings obscured the tall dome of Sacré-Cœur until we were half-way there (horizontally—we’d already gained maybe ten flights). Here’s looking back along a side street off Pigalle.

Road dropping off

Farther uphill; look how the road heads toward airborne obscurity.

Valley below

Now we’re up so high the roofs and walls below are mosaic of greyish shapes.

Sparkling church trash

We wound through the Place—should be the Place des peintres et des taxis. We avoided the taxis and bought no art en route to the small church up here, Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre. This church is the oldest in Paris, and is said to be atop the ruins of a Roman temple to Mars—hence the name Montmartre, now corrupted to refer to a martyrdom. The church pertained to a Benedictine abbey—long gone. I loved the glittery stars and other shapes between the paving stones in front of the church.

Saint Pierre front

It’s a modest church, with the usual accouterments. For the big candles, with glass surrounds and images of the Madonna, the requested donation was €10…for simple tea lights it was €3. Pricey up here closer to the deity.

Saint Pierre altar side

Illustration in glass and metal on one side of the chunky altar.

Saint Pierre right chapel ceiling

Side chapel ceiling and upper walls.

Montmartre view south

Yes, we did wind around to prepare to descend the front garden-and-staircases…whatta view!

SacreCoeur from below

And look back up at Sacré-Cœur. Iconic.

Busy roadies

Down the way, loving the descent, we stopped to eat in a simple brasserie at about the same elevation as the Moulin Rouge. Our table was in the window, and we watched pedestrians, the usual. Then these roadies pushed this heavy trailer uphill (the truck that brought it and other gear was parked below, around the corner and out of sight) and jockeyed it into a parking spot (or what became a parking spot) in front of the venue. They earned their wages for the unloading and man-handling; there were at least seven of them pushing—it was heavy and gravity was not in their favor.

Lien display

On a lark, we headed out northeast, but still well within metro Paris, to a design school to see a free exhibition. The billing was that it was recent student work. I saw dates like 2005 and 2010 and 2008, so maybe not so recent after all…although these forms were kinda cute.

Club med emergency stair

Around the corner but still in the complex, we found a park to sit in and gather our thoughts. I felt compelled by this emergency staircase, black metal against a stone wall…the building housing a Club Med, no lie.

Galleria LaFayette dome balconies

Back in our neighborhood, we’ve been walking around the Galleries Lafayette Haussmann. Apparently there are other Galleries Lafayette. This one is the flagship; it was darned busy, and especially caters to Chinese shoppers. The dome is an elegant show stopper, with tier after tier of balconies leading the eye to the dome-center (completed in 1912). We only wound our way through the choked aisles of the basement and main floor…trying to escape.

Sunday best

ClunyLaSorbonne station

We collected by far the most images at the Cluny. Or, many call it the Cluny, but the name is actually Musée National du Moyen Âge—Thermes et hôtel de Cluny. Cluny was a Benedictine abbey 225mi SSE of Paris, near Mâcon, and this was their “townhouse” in Paris (begun in the 1300s and rebuilt around 1500). It was built atop Roman baths, hence the second part of of the name…. The first part refers to the Middle Ages, which is the temporal focus of the collection. The nearest subway station honors the arts with tile versions of artists signatures on the ceiling.

Cluny entrance

Euros are being spent on revamping parts of the complex, and the entrance currently is through a narrow portal into a non-symmetrical quadrilateral courtyard (with a security tent…open your handbag, ma’am, please (only in French)).

Cluny stair

Many stone walls of the abbey are…very clean, no stucco, no paint. Stairwells and so on have been added to make the buildings into a museum.

SainteChapelle bull

We didn’t make it into the Sainte-Chapelle (near Notre-Dame), but we did get to see about two dozen small window panels from it…very close up. Love the detail on this bull and man’s face.

SainteChapelle aggressive knight

Also on this murderous knight and his non-plussed horse.

Cluny Daniel lion 1030 1040 stGermainPres

This is detail from a capital from the church in the abbey complex of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris), showing Daniel tangling with the lion. This abbey was founded in the 500s, and this stonework dates to 1030–1040. Through the Middle Ages, the abbey owned quite a chunk of land on the West Bank.

Unicorn mirror tapestry

The Cluny collection may be best known for the La Dame à la licorne/the lady and the unicorn tapestries. There are six, with five obviously pertaining to the senses—smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight. The sixth has the words À mon seul désir…what the soul desires, so is a bit enigmatic—maybe love, joie de vivre, something along those lines. This is a detail from the sight one, with the lady holding a mirror for the unicorn to see its reflection. The tapestries are huge.

Cluny stainedglass two critters

Stained glass detail (I/we did not record the source).

Cluny bookhours 1490 93 Anthoine Verard

1490–1493 Book of Hours devotional by Antoine Vérard, who was first to combine printed black text with hand-drafted colored “capital” letters, thereby combining the best of the new printing process with the artistic elegance of the old by-hand-only methods.

Cluny reliquary StAnne 1472

This is a detail of a reliquary of St Anne, and she is holding a mini-reliquary. That does make the point, doesn’t it?

Cluny chapel peek

The chapel of the Cluny monastery complex is stripped of its decorations and has only a few museum pieces in it. The emptiness and bare walls are striking. Footsteps echo loudly.

Cluny garden through old glass

From an upper level I could see into the garden. We were only able to enter a small portion that did not include this part.

Cluny ruins thermae

From the street, here is Cluny ruins atop thermae ruins (I think).

StSeverin behind altar

Somehow we made it into another church, the Église Saint-Séverin. Séverin apparently was a hermit in Paris’s early Christian times. Behind the altar (and behind me for this photo) are six large stained glass windows dating to 1970, with modernist (not realist) color panels that we both liked.

Church Saint Louis d Antin

And one more church…near where we’re staying…the Église Saint-Louis-d’Antin. It began as a Capuchin establishment about 1775. Most of the rest of the complex became a lycée in 1883.

What a Sunday.

Industrial design + old church


Meet Marianne. She’s the personification of the Republic of France, and the visual anchor of Paris’s Place de la République. In particular, she represents the dissolution of the monarchy and the installation of the republic. Power to the people (more or less). A female figure representing liberty goes back to the later 1700s, and became a widely used icon with the 1789 storming of the Bastille, a prison and symbol of royal authority in central Paris.

This is not far from the neighborhood of the blown-up nightclub, etc., and it has been and continues to be a place of political statements and demonstrations.

Republique lion

Below Marianne and still above eye level is an oversized lion guarding a ballot-box. More République. Today he had golden tears.

Republique candles plants

And, on the surface at knee level, many candles and living and plastic/fabric flowers and plants. The topics addressed in word and picture range around the world.

AnM attic

We chose the Musée des Arts et Métiers for today’s brain teaser. It is a museum of industrial design including models of large, complex things (steel furnace), and smaller complicated mechanical items (measuring devices). They sent us to the attic to work our way through the galleries and descend…. Loved the open beams there….

AnM 1713 double horizontal sundial

1713 double horizontal sundial.

AnM 1825 clock

1825 clock, close-up of upper section.

Bobbins on loom machine

Bobbins on a mechanical weaving machine.

AnM maquette Statue Liberty

Detailed diorama of the building of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.

Ader avion III by 1897

We descended a final staircase, very fancy, marble, wide, and highly decorated. Above us, curators have installed Clément Ader’s Avion/Éole III (1897), with the form modeled on a bat, with feather-shaped propellors. It crashed on its first attempt at flight, and was restored in the 1980s. It does look rather like a modular bat.

Peugeot in black

Through a hallway of transportation (this is a Peugeot), we headed for the Chapel of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, a part of what once was the second-most important priory in France, and now within the museum complex. Most of the complex was removed during the Revolution.

Church pendulum

The “front” of the church is empty, very interesting, with a pendulum slowly moving, showing the earth’s revolutions.

AnM church glass

The bulk of the church-space has exhibits, which include a small engineering wonder—stairs and glass exhibit-floors extending four stories (or so) up. While I had some trepidation about the height, I was glad to get so close to the stained glass panels.

AnM church exhibit staging

This museum—industrial design from start to finish….

Serendipity and plans

We added serendipity to our planning, spurred by the diminution of water to our flat. Management claimed it was a problem for all their properties and across the immediate area. (Shower later, I thought.) So, we headed to Starbucks for an energy boost, then took the train over to the V&A, founded 1852 and now with 145 galleries (I read that; I did not count even the ones I entered). Whew. Here’s a tiny sampling of the sample that we saw.

Sion gospel book binding justbefore1200

Sion gospel book, cover/binding dates to ~AD 1140-1150; central panel of Christ probably later.

SymmachiPanel AD400 pagan

Carved ivory panel portraying a pagan (non-Christian) ceremony probably celebrating Dionysus, Symmachi family, Rome, AD 400. This was after Constantine declared for Christianity for the Empire, and during the time that both persisted. Heavy-featured priestess, no?

TomimotoKenkichi 1931

Tomimoto Kenkichi painted pottery plate, 1931. Friend of Bernard Leach’s from Tokyo.

Picasso 1950 51 Cavalier sur sa monture

Pablo Picasso, 1950–51, “Cavalier sur sa Monture.” On that web page, the V&A says, “Picasso successfully challenged traditional divisions in the arts world and made a major impression on a new generation of potters.” (It’s Picasso, so it’s a big pic.)

1877 78 ante room ceiling TheGrove Harborne Chamberlain design

Ceiling of the ante-room of the 1877–78 home, The Grove, in Harborne, near Birmingham. Designed by John Henry Chamberlain; woodwork by Samuel Barfield. The V&A got the room just before the building was demolished in the mid-1960s.

WmMorris 1889 Bullerswood Carpet w JH Dearle

Now somewhat faded due to the use of natural dyes, this hand-knotted piece was co-designed by William Morris and John Henry Dearle, and is called the Bullerswood Carpet, as it was made for John Sanderson’s house in Kent, called Bullers Wood some places. The design elements are drawn from nature. Date:1889.

VnA dirty window view

View through dirty window. And this is paved, clean London. Think what it used to be like….

Bentleys Harrods dover sole lunch

On to Harrods (founded 1834; apparently now owned by Qatar Investment Authority), first for lunch and then to browse. This was my lunch, grilled Dover sole with hollandaise sauce, a glass of sancerre, and a side salad of rocket and shaved parmesan, with a lovely, light vinaigrette that included fine-chopped shallots. Oh, yum. We went in honor of the pre-Al-Fayed history, and the extensive offerings. Probably won’t go back—too much merchandise with Harrods imprinted on it and too commercial in general; however, food tasty and high-quality in food hall and this seafood grill.

Jarre AeroBull wireless bluetooth speakers bone remote

Bluetooth speakers with bone-shaped remote.

Harrods army men

“Army men” display in Toys section.

Off to nearby Hyde Park to sit in the sun, and…

Mounted police in park

…heard an incoming clop-clop, and had mounted police come by our sun-bench…

Bluebell meadow HydePark

…and saw a meadow of bluebells foregrounding…police vehicles as we left the park. We can say: police presence, no?

Water’s back on and we’re recovering in our flat (all feet are tired; whole of The Guru is tired.)


Second Severn Crossing

The Severn Bridge we took into Wales opened in 1966. I bet traffic patterns changed immensely, even with the substantial toll. In 1996, the Second Severn Crossing opened; set a bit downstream, it especially carries vehicles flowing to/from southwest Wales, including Cardiff and Swansea. The powers-that-be had the two combined into a single concession to share toll collection and debt repayment. So, we entered Wales on the old bridge (not that old), and left on the new bridge. Bye-bye Wales, we are London-bound with two Roman stops en route.

Great Whitcombe all

Discovered in 1818, this modest Roman villa commanded the upper area of a smallish drainage, and was built into a hill. Construction began in the AD 250s, and the place was abandoned in the early 400s, when the Roman military pulled out of Britannia. The mosaics are under the roof. The place was ours to visit, quiet except for distant pheasant squawks and generic country sounds.

Chedworth model

Chedworth Roman Villa, on the other hand, was bustling with docents and vendors, school groups, walkers, and generic tourists. The complex grew over about the same period as the previous villa, and also was set into a hill’s upper slope. This complex became much larger, and much more architecturally elaborate. It ultimately had two bath areas, for example. In this view of the metal maquette, uphill is to the lower right, with the lower, larger courtyard planted into a garden that opens to the upper left (actually east) and views of the valley.

Chedworth passageway lateAD200s

This was among the earliest mosaic floors at Chedworth, along a passageway in the upper “horizontal” bank of rooms that faced the valley (late AD 200s). The earliest construction was up here, three separate buildings that eventually became a single “range” of attached rooms.

Chedworth dining early300s

In the early 300s, this elaborate dining room was added, with considerable wealth invested in the floor. This was a typical choice of elite homeowners, as the dining room was the principal location for entertaining (plus the decorative gardens).

Chedworth floor mushrooms

Love the mushroom pillars of the hypocaust floor…. It seems to me that more rooms than in a Rome-area Roman villa had heated floors, I’m assuming because they had the water/firewood to make the heat, and because it was colder than Rome here, and this was how elites made living in the colonies more like life at the imperial center, and thus more Roman.

Chedworth ox hoofprints rooftile

Just one detail from the museum, from the display of impressions in roof tiles. The tiles were made locally, but probably not on the villa property. These are ox-hoof impressions. Other displayed examples were dog, cat, human fingers….

FosseWay today

Within ten miles of Chedworth are eleven villas, including Great Whitcombe that we visited earlier today. Chedworth is between two roads that radiate in a northerly direction from Cirencester. We misheard our navigation-voice say that place as Siren-sister (hence today’s title); it’s pretty close. While that sounds like the Roman name, it isn’t; the Roman name was Corinium Dobunnorum. During the time of the villas, Corinium also had many domestic complexes with elaborate mosaic floors and other markers of wealth. Money could be made here, both through agricultural pursuits and through regional and long-distance trade. Anyway, this modern road follows Fosse Way, the Roman route to the NNE out of Corinium. The complete Fosse Way went NNE from Exeter to Lincoln (today’s names).

Heathrow POD

En route around Heathrow’s runways to the car rental return, we again noticed these little human transporters on a rail. I only got this one crappy picture, at a distance. These self-driving units are called pods, and the service is aimed at business travelers, linking a special parking lot with Terminal 5. It opened in 2011.

London home

Our London home is an Ikea special. The folding chairs are actually from Ikea. If you have long arms, you can almost make coffee from the bed. We have a window with a park view and wifi; life is good.

Fountain nearby park

We took off for the Thames and points en route. We thought we might take the train back, but hoofed it the whole evening. Here’s a fountain in a nearby park (not our window-park). We saw several groups sitting on the grass enjoying an early meal/snack.

Thames dying light

We saw the Thames in the last of the day’s light. And heard Big Ben chime at 8pm.

Trafalgar square details

Turning north, we entered Trafalgar Square. Fountains. Spires. Blocky buildings. Man-on-horse statues.

Nelson glowing arch

And…Admiral Nelson towering over a red glowing Roman arch. Art. The Guardian says it’s a Carrara marble replica of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph, recently destroyed by Daesh/Isis. It is here for three days and gorgeously lit.

Welcome to Wales

Foggy moor Bristol Bay

Fog on the moor this morning. Love the visual contrasts of, from front to back, the uncultivated moor, the quilt of fields separated by hedges, the sea, the Wales coast, and the muted sky.

St Andrews Clevedon exterior St Andrews Clevedon interior

Quick stop in Clevedon to see several places used as the town in “Broadchurch”—including this church, St Andrews in real life. This is a living church, as it were, with a gravedigger (man and machine) busy opening a new spot and prayer books shelved by the door.

Severn Bridge

Then, farther up the coast, we turned west to cross this Big Bridge, the pleasure for which we paid the princely sum of £6.60. Of course, leaving Wales is no charge…just a one-way fee collection plan…perhaps to encourage the English to leave but not to visit?

Araf Slow

Welsh lesson: ARAF means slow. Sometimes they’re in the other order. (I was going to make the title of this post “post wan,” which translates as “weak bridge,” a not uncommon phrasing on a sign on a country lane.)

And, now for Tintern’s church ruins. It is mostly commonly referred to as an abbey, and it was, but most photos are, frankly, not of the monastery, but of the church.

Tintern above altar Tintern door rose Tintern transept rose door

First, the window opening above the east, altar end of the main hall. Second, the newly restored upper window area of the opposite, west (door) end. North transept, wall of high window openings extending to west end.

The light was transcendent.

Welsh sheep

Today is our first visit to Wales. Signs are different—bilingual. Sheep seem the same to us non-shepherds.

National Assembly Wales

And this is the National Assembly building in the dock-front area of Cardiff. Shipping is not what it used to be and this zone is being repurposed to draw locals and visitors. While somewhat commercialized, there are also stunning modern and historic buildings. And glittering water, wheeling gulls, and, for a while just for us(!), late-afternoon warm-toned sunshine.

Living fence detail

Here’s a closeup of a living fence, mentioned yesterday. This one has the uprights just bent to the side, rather than all the way horizontal. After growing, it has the same effect of making a latticework impenetrable to sheep, cattle, and people. Small birds, rodents, and other small creatures may well make their home here….

Tintagel, Exmoor peek

Steps shadow

Whatever you think you know about Tintagel Castle, it’s probably wrong. The King Arthur association, no chance. The rocky almost-island has plenty of ruins, mostly dating to three periods, the Dark Ages (here AD 500–600s, roughly), the 1200s, and to Victorian times. The DA ruins are pretty humble and meager. While the landform is defensible, there’s little else to recommend it—not much area to grow food and everything’s rocky, although the harbor situation for small watercraft is workable if the seas are relatively calm (says this landlubber). The “castle” dates to about 1230, including the ruins of a Great Hall and Chapel (the most recognizable architecture). The Great Hall had to be modified as part of it slid into the sea not long after it was constructed. The rest of what commonly constitutes a castle—not here or only small bits. The Victorian modifications look like versions of a folly to me….

Great hall Tintagel

Here’s the Great Hall…. Both these pictures show Tintagel’s most salient feature: elevation changes. This is rough terrain. Note that the bridge below (far below) my shadow is steps—not flat. See: terrain!

We were glad it was only breezy (and not windy) and not rainy (and slick underfoot) during our Tintagel visit. BTW, that big, chunky, rectangular building on the far hill is a hotel. Great location for them; bit of an eyesore from Tintagel.

Wind generators

Wind generators…all busy generating—none still.

Exmoor road hedges

And on Exmoor (our last moor, I think), elaborate hedging…and the secret of how they’re made was revealed to us along this stretch—no photos; too fascinating to snap, just looked. So, here’s the secret to that dense vegetation. About 10cm very upright trees in the existing hedge are cut in a not-quite-vertical slice, so that the top is still attached to the root. Then, the branches are sliced off the tops, which are laid down along the top of the existing hedgerow (two parallel rows), and tied together to keep them from springing back up or shifting out of alignment. They must subsequently send up new verticals, making the dense hedgerows we see, along with the horizontals below the verticals.

The hedging on the left has been trimmed mostly I think to give drivers better line of sight, although also to keep branches from brushing vehicles.

Exmoor pony

Exmoor pony. That’s Wales on the other side of Bristol Channel, below the line of clouds. We go there tomorrow.

Exmoor stone duo

Since it’s a moor, standing stones, right? These two are leaners at this point. And someone’s planted daffodils. We have been enjoying daffodil and primrose season in southern England. We are so lucky with the weather (fingers crossed for the coming days).

Clockwise Cornwall


St Michael’s Mount, established by monks from the four-times larger Mont Saint-Michel off the Lower Normandy coast in the 1200s. Evidence still turns up of Neolithic and Iron Age use of this prominent landform. Castle closed. Garden closed. Parking prices steep at £3.50 and £4. Rain setting in, so we drove on. (Honeymoon revisit).

Tregiffian burial chamber

The road destroyed half of this large stone-walled burial chamber (probably Neolithic); no doubt it had been looted centuries before. Still: massive stones. One looked like it had deliberate large pits made in it. (Info on-the-net suggests this is a copy (“cups”), and the original is museum-ed.)

Merry Maidens stone circle

In a nearby field is the Merry Maidens stone circle, which has several names and many stories associated with it. What we see today is in part a fanciful (and likely earnest) reconstruction. Several outlying stones are in other fields. Loved having the rainbow join us.


With rain, you can find…mud on road.

Ducks on road

And ducks near ponds. These kindly drifted off the pavement so we could pass, and returned as soon as we were by.

Tin mining stack

This is Cornish tin mining country. There must have been terrible environmental degradation during that time. These sentinel chimneys (stacks they call them) are scattered about. Most have this shape and the two-toned appearance.

Port Isaac

We went to Port Isaac! You may know it as Port Wenn from the British TV series “Doc Martin.” His surgery is to the right. And don’t even try to peek in the windows. Tide was in. Parking costs still high here—and you need coins for the P&D machine, although they tried to offer a smart phone option—but the interface was crap.

PortQuin pilchard palace

Next town over is Port Quin, now mostly ruins and cottages, and not many of either. And the coast path, of course. The building to the left was the pilchard palace, where they aged(?) the pilchards. The row of square holes was for beams that pressed the fish in the barrels, if I understood correctly. Must have smelled just fine all across town. One must have hoped for the near ever-present wind.

Sunset sky over PortIsaac

View from our room under the eaves (and in our price range). That’s Port Isaac in the bay. And we can hear the wind on the slate roof.