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A Taste of Cornwall, England, June 2018

We recently spent nine very nice days in Cornwall, based in Falmouth, with four days touring places I'd always wanted to visit - the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in particular. The weather was somewhat variable!

BTW: If you would like to see some great pictures of Cornwall, may I direct you to the fine pages of Reflections.

Falmouth (Click the image for the photoblog)

The Eden Project (Click the image for the photoblog)

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Click the image for the photoblog)

St Ives, St Michael's Mount, Fowey, Land's End - and the filming locations of BBC's "Poldark"
(Click the image for the photoblog)

Some posts about our recent visit to Cornwall appear below (or click a picture to go to a particular one).

If you would like to skip them, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Portugal (Sintra and Lisbon), June 2017

Last month we returned to Portugal, one of our favourite countries. The people are so nice, the cost of living is low, and the Portuguese really care about their environment, with almost 100% of their energy needs coming from renewables (as we learnt last year on a wonderful cruise on the Douro river).

We spent 6 days in Sintra, a very picturesque place near Lisbon...

... and 6 days exploring more of Lisbon, one of our favourite cities

Posts about our visit appear below (or click a picture above to go to the corresponding place). The direct links are also here:

[Sintra, Portugal, June 2017]
[Lisbon, Portugal, June 2017]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Palm Island, Florida, March 2017

Palm Island is somewhat hard to find on a Google Map (you can find it here (map link)). It's actually the northern end of Don Pedro Island.

We spent two weeks in this very nice place during the first 100 days of Trump's presidency (a holiday with our American family, booked before Trump's election), living in a very pleasant bubble of unreality.

As far as visitors and locals there were concerned, it seemed, nothing political was happening. TVs in bars and restaurants showed only sports and weather. Nobody talked about Trump. It sometimes felt like there was an elephant in the room, but nobody was discussing it.

I hope you enjoy the elephantless photos below (I kind of like "elephantless" - it's an adjective that can be applied truthfully to so many things!).

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

There is only one way to get to Palm Island with a car... the (expensive) ferry. No real food shops on the island, and none reachable by boat, so it saves money to bring most of your provisions with you.

A very short distance to cross - you can see the arrival ramp just across the water, in front of the tallest tree

The communal pool area at our rental, the Pigeon Toed Pelican, right across from the beach

Our rental is across the road, behind that clump of trees

Large Gopher Tortoise, after it very slowly crossed our road

Cold front... (luckily we weren't staying further north in the USA)

Osprey nest near the beach. High winds and storms have no effect on this!

"Our" beach, still rough after the cold front

Many examples of beach art - liked this one

Photo of a print on the living room wall at our rental (I can now at least recognize snook and grouper)
(taken from below and to the side to avoid reflections, then cropped and perspective-adjusted)

Kids skimboarding at Boca Grande (map link), the "Large Mouth" at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island, where inland waters meet the Gulf of Mexico

The replica of the Niña, passing by...

...the Boca Grande lighthouse (several iguanas around here)

Fast opposing currents, definitely no swimming!

Sunset on "our" beach

Loved the evening light

Junk boats with real junk (permanently moored)

Fun way to travel

We met many of the locals...

...who often turned up when anything interesting or appetizing was going on

Stump Pass (map link) with new sea wall being constructed. (is that a person snorkelling in the middle?)

Enormous floating work platform...

...whose rusty sides were an amazing palette of colours

Many trees around here were killed by salt water raised by the last hurricane. I suspect these were among them.

Evening trip (by boat) to Leverock's (map link), our favourite nearby restaurant

Evening view from Leverock's restaurant (part of a hotel complex, I believe)

Creek behind the rental

Loved the patterns cast by solar lights on the path to our creek

If you like this...

[Index of all my photoblogs]

Supermoon, November 14th 2016

Last night's supermoon where we are. the largest since 1948, through light cloud.

I still couldn't make it look what the eye sees (there was lots of detail on the real thing) - but it was definitely big and bright!

Click my photo if you would like to see many better ones from around the world.

Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

We returned again this year to one of our favourite cities. We were anxious to see how the people of Nice were faring after the horrific events of 14th July (short version: very well, they are carrying on with life as normal although the event will never be forgotten).

Out and about in Nice (click the picture to see more)

We had a nice day at nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer, mainly to see the Villa Kérylos (click the picture to see more)

We also visited the National Marc Chagall Museum in Nice, on one of the few cloudy days (click the picture to see more)

If you are interested, these are also the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Out and About in Nice]
[Beaulieu-sur-Mer and the Villa Kérylos]
[National Marc Chagall Museum]

[Our first visit to Nice in 2015 (many pictures)]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Cruise on the Douro River, Portugal (with a day trip to Salamanca in Spain), June 2016

We recently went on a 7-day cruise on the Douro River in Portugal, a wonderful experience. This cruise started and ended at Porto and included navigating 5 locks, among them the highest single-lift lock in Europe.

We saw many examples of Portugal's use of solar power and hydro-electric power, and learnt why its world-leading investment in renewable energy is so good for its economy, as well as for the environment.

Click the above image to see the trip itself...

...or click this one to see my photos of some of the art we found in public places

We also visited the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum in Salamanca. Photography wasn't permitted there, but click the picture for my post about it.

If you are interested, these are also the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Cruise on the Douro River]
[Some Wall Art Along the Douro]
[The Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, Salamanca]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Florida - Jensen Beach and Stuart, February 2016

Some posts about our recent visit to Florida appear below (or click either picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to each section:

[Florida Sunsets]
[Stuart - Atlantic Coast]
[Jensen Beach - Indian Riverside Park]
[Stuart - near St Lucie River]
[Savannas Preserve State Park, near Jensen Beach]
[Moss Park, near Orlando Airport]

I have also made a major update to the place information on my Florida Map.

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Decorative fungi, Baulk Wood, January 2016

I took this picture a week ago in Baulk Wood, near Henlow in southern England (a site reclaimed beautifully from what used to be a rubbish tip, and extended as a nature reserve and walking area).

If you like this...

[Fantastic Fungi (science)]

Storm Henry approaching, January 31st, 2016

I took this yesterday evening - enough already, you guys don't have to keep sending these over!

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, November 2015

This was our second trip to Nice this year (our first trip in Feb/March can be found here if you are interested). We revisited many of our favourite places, so this time I am showing our visit to the Asian Arts Museum and Phoenix Park, both in a nicely redeveloped area near the airport.

Click the image above if you would like to see this visit, otherwise if you would like to skip the photoblog then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post.

Shadows in the mist - September 28th, 2015

High pressure finally building after a long gloomy summer, leading to chilly clear mornings which started misty. I took this while walking the dog - less than 800 yards away the sun was shining brightly on leaves turning brilliant fall colours, worthy of Vermont!

If you like this...

[Beautiful autumn - Havant and the South Downs, October 2012]

Lisbon, September 2015

Some posts about our recent visit to Lisbon appear below (or click a picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Lisbon, September 2015 - Local scenes]
[Lisbon, September 2015 - Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, and the walk back]
[Lisbon, September 2015 - Lisbon Oceanarium]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

First touch of autumn - August 17th, 2015

A chilly start to a beautiful day on our meadow. It was also the first time that I had to use manual focus on my camera, which couldn't “see” this one!

Parham House and Gardens, Sussex, July 22nd, 2015

My photoblog of our July visit to Parham House and Gardens appears below (or click the image to go there).

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe, May 2015

After a sad event in my life, I spent part of the next day in this wonderfully peaceful place, set in the hills above Charlottesville, Virginia, not far from the more famous (and much more busy and expensive to visit) Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson.

It was very quiet, a slight breeze blowing and just the sound of birds singing.

A very interesting guy, I discovered - see here

An old game where you flip a ball up with your foot and hit it with something like a small cricket bat to a group of catchers

A modest home for a great man, set in a beautiful part of the world

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015

Some posts about our recent visit to Nice on the Côte d'Azur appear below (or click either picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015]
[Day trip to Saint Paul de Vence, medieval walled commune in the Alpes-Maritimes]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

This was 8th December outside my window... After the big storm a few days earlier which flooded homes on the east coast high pressure settled in, and we had some really nice sunsets. But today another storm is moving in from the south west (lowest pressure in 65 years in the depression, almost the lowest ever recorded). It's very windy outside!

Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast, Italy, September 2013

My photo of the sailing cruise ship Club Med 2 lying off Sorrento, with Vesuvius in the background

Start of a beautiful day in late September, leaving Sorrento for Capri

Click either picture, or go here, if you would like to see my photoblog of our recent trip to the Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast (you can skip the photoblog if you click the >> below)

An unusualy quiet evening at the hotel Villa La Massa, Florence (a truly wonderful place to treat yourself for a few days, as will be seen if you click the link), taken in late June 2013.

This hotel is situated on the river Arno, about 8 km upstream of the centre of Florence, and comes into my "died-and-gone-to-heaven" category. Worth saving up for!

If you like this...

[A much less expensive but beautiful hotel in Majorca]

Devon and Somerset (Knightshayes Court and Cothay Manor) April 2013

A beautiful willow sculpture in the gardens of Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, Devon

Click the picture if you would like to see some posts about our recent visit to Devon and Somerset

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Knightshayes Court, National Trust gardens, Devon]
[Cothay Manor, privately owned with beautiful gardens, Somerset]

"Old Friends", 5th December 2012

A group of gravestones in the old cemetery in a nearby meadow. The inscriptions are almost faded - all I know from the dates is that they lived their whole lives during the reign of Queen Victoria

Havant and the South Downs, October 2012

A much-photographed scene that I took near the Royal Oak at Havant (near Portsmouth), a favourite pub of ours

Click the picture if you would like to see a post about our recent visit to Havant and the South Downs

Autumn is here again... this happened suddenly to just a few trees near us, a few nights ago (it's been chilly)

[Autumn is one of my favourite seasons... and tags]

Dartmouth, South Devon, Sept/Oct 2012

View of Kingswear (left) and Dartmouth castle (right, in the distance) from near the Bayards Cove Inn, Dartmouth

Click the picture if you would like to see some posts about our recent visit to South Devon

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Dartmouth, boat trip to Totnes, local walks and steam railway trip to Paignton]
[Visit to Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home above the river Dart]

Majorca, September 2012

Click the picture if you would like to see a post about our recent visit to the south-west coast of Majorca

France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012

The approach to the Abbaye Château de Camon (now a hotel owned by an English couple), in unseasonal weather

Click the picture to see some posts about our recent visit to the Midi-Pyrénées

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Abbaye Château de Camon]
[Carcassonne Old Walled City]
[Château de Foix]

"Corsican Cats"

A rainy day in Corsica... and the local cats find a great way to spend it. Click the picture for the full story!

(It's been raining in England for what seems like forever - ever since drought warnings and the enforcement of a hosepipe ban....)

We have had very variable weather in England. This was our communal garden on January 14th, after a spell of very windy weather brought down large branches from many old trees in our area. These branches were weakened by the wind in the night but actually fell in the morning when the wind had all but died down - glad I wasn't walking underneath!

Anyway, this was a cold, misty, frosty morning some time after this happened, on of the last nice days for quite a while... since then snow has come and gone, with air from Russia and temperatures down to 10 below freezing, and we're now having the mild Atlantic airstream again.

(You can probably tell that I'm way behind in my blogging... personal things to take care of.)

If you like this...

[More winter pics from the previous year...]

November 2nd - autumn colours on the meadow (it's grey and misty now)

England's West Country, October 2011

Dusk light at Kingsbridge, Devon - low tide

Click the picture to see some posts about our recent visit to England's West Country (with some side trips)

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Sherborne Castles, Dorset]
[Sherborne Town and Abbey]
[Tintinhull Gardens, Somerset]
[Kingsbridge, Devon (with visits to Salcombe, Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth)]

If you like the whiff of sea air...

[My Whitby photoblog]
[More seascapes...]

You might also like...

[Places to enjoy life... in England]

Index of Photoblogs

The following are links to my photoblogs (more for my convenience than anyone's!):

“Fairfield Light”, taken around Fairfield Hospital mostly in 2018**
Cornwall, England (including Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan), June 2018

Sintra, Portugal, June 2017
Lisbon, Portugal, June 2017
Palm Island, Florida, March 2017
Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016
Cruise on the Douro River, Portugal (with a day trip to Salamanca in Spain), June 2016

Florida - Jensen Beach and Stuart, February 2016
Nice, Côte d'Azur, France (mostly Asian Arts Museum and Phoenix Park), November 2015
Lisbon, Portugal, September 2015 (includes visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium)
Parham House and Gardens, Sussex, July 22nd, 2015
Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe, May 2015

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015
Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast, Italy, September 2013
Devon and Somerset (Knightshayes Court and Cothay Manor) April 2013
Beautiful autumn - Havant and the South Downs, October 2012
Scenic seaside and the home of Agatha Christie - Dartmouth, Sept/Oct 2012

A beautiful hotel in Majorca, September 2012
France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012
Gardens, picturesque towns and the Devon seaside - West Country, October 2011
Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy, July 2011
Gardens, lake walks and home of Wordsworth - English Lake District, April 2011

Aix-en-Provence, October 2010
Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2010
Malta, the Pope and the Volcano - April 2010
A Walk in the New Forest, May, 2010
Mykonos, Greece - Summer 2006

Snow in England, December 2009**
Waddesdon Manor, Historic House and Gardens, December 21st 2009
Whitby, Yorkshire - November 17th, 2009
Cannero-Riviera on Lake Maggiore, Italy - July 23rd 2009
Fantasy of Flight, World's Greatest Aircraft Collection, April 2009

Fell walking, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome, Blackwell House - English Lake District, September 2008
Wrest Park, August 29th, 2008
Florida Keys, June 2008
Corsican Cats, September 2007
Venice (and what came after), September 2001

(** indicates local photography)

Singles, shorts, and contributions by offspring:

Oxfordshire Skies, 9th September 2017 (as Hurricane Irma hits Florida)

Supermoon, November 14th 2016**
Decorative fungi, Baulk Wood, January 2016**
Storm Henry approaching, January 2016**
Shadows in the mist, September 2015**
First touch of autumn (spiderweb), August 2015**

Sky over Baulk Wood**
Lisbon, Portugal, July 2014
December Sunset, December 8th 2013**
A quiet evening at the hotel Villa La Massa, Florence, June 2013
"Old Friends", 5th December 2012 - a group of gravestones in the old cemetery in a nearby meadow**

Autumn is here again... October 2012**
Trees, mist and frost, January 14th 2012**
Epping Forest - autumn and winter, 2011
Super Full Moon, March 19th 2011**
February Sunrise, 2011**

Autumn in England - November 6th, 2010**
Cold Front - weather dividing overhead, November 16th, 2010**
Winter (early) in England - frost and mist, December 15th, 2010**
Early morning with frost (manual HDR) - February 2010**
Snow in England December 2009**

Snow in England February 2009**
Matamanoa sunsets (daughter's picture), January 19th 2009
Bleinheim Palace in the snow (daughter's picture) early 2007
Stepping stones at Bolton Abbey (daughter's picture)
A quiet corner of Western Venice, September 2001

(** indicates local photography)

Is this your first time here?

A good way to get a quick intro to the rest of my Categorian blog, should you want to, is to visit my White Rabbit Index.

To go to my Categorian blog home page, click the chevrons (>>) below.

Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy, July 2011

Some posts about our recent visit to Sirmione on Lake Garda (with some side trips) appear below.

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Verona and an "agriturismo" vineyard]
[Isola di Garda]
[Catullus's villa, Sirmione, and Lausanne]

You might also like...

[Places to enjoy life... in Italy]

Aix-en-Provence, October 2010

We spent the first half of October in a rented place near Aix-en-Provence, a part of France that I have always wanted to visit (and the favourite hang-out of Paul Cézanne).

What can I say? It was just wonderful.

If you would like to see our pictures of that trip, please click the image above or go here.

(Original post: March 21st, 2011)

From the page:

On March 19th, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It's a super "perigee moon"--the biggest in almost 20 years.

"The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. "I'd say it's worth a look."

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee): diagram. Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon's orbit... More...

I took this picture from outside our back door, just after moonrise on the 19th - the real thing was quite impressive (this is the best I can do with my small camera). Thanks to Catcaley for the article share!

February sunrise

Sunrise from outside our back door, 2nd February 2011... the start of the first nice day for a long time

Winter (early) in England - December 15th, 2010

7th December... 5 degrees below freezing, misty...

... resulting in some interesting frost patterns!

It got less cold a few days later, but now (15th December) the arctic air is on its way down to us again...

[Cold front, November 16th]

Cold Front - November 16th, 2010

Living on a small plateau, a few hundred feet above the surrounding countryside, we often find ourselves on the boundary between two kinds of weather.

On 13th November a weather front spent the day waving to and fro above our heads...

On the south side of the building it was grey and miserable. Even the birds seem hacked-off.

On the other side, it was a different story. This is a cold front (I think), producing some spectacular skies as it tried to decide which way it was going...

... and a couple of days later, we're having a period of beautiful cold, crisp weather, while 4 miles south of us our local town is still covered in grey clag...

Sometime all you can do with the weather is laugh.

They say in Ireland that if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.

I sometimes tell our visitors (especially after a week of the depressing grey stuff) that the good news is that in England you are never more than 5 miles from bright sunny weather. The bad news is that it's 5 miles straight up...

Some more pictures of this place...

[Summer nights]
[Last winter in the snow]

Autumn in England - November 6th, 2010

6 November... after a very rainy Guy Fawkes night, it's a beautiful morning, sunny and much colder...

... our summer has resulted in a great crop of mushrooms!

Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2010

I had to visit Charlottesville in Virginia for a few days in late October, which was no hardship because it is one of my very favourite towns.

It has been rated as "the best place to live in the USA", and in spite of becoming a victim of its own success as more and more people move in around it, it's still a great place.

Charlottesville is a University town, set in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, and was the local big town for "The Waltons" (which was actually filmed in California).

Charlottesville seen from the Monticello Memory Gardens, close to the famous Michie Tavern and Monticello, the estate and resting place of Thomas Jefferson

The heart of Charlottesville (and one of the main reasons for its immense popularity) is its historic Downtown, and in particular the Downtown Mall. You can walk from one end of the Mall to the other in just a few minutes, enjoying the restaurants, bookshops, pavement cafés, street entertainment, theatres and much else besides.

People read here, promenade here, play chess in the Mudhouse Internet café, and just sit here and do nothing but watch the world go by. It's my kind of place!

A fountain in one of the many pavement cafés

A pawn shop, Charlottesville-style!

At the west end of the Mall... the building on the left is the indoor air-conditioned ice rink (which was under threat of closure, but has thankfully reopened as the multi-use Main Street Arena)

At the other end of the Mall is the Charlottesville Pavilion where many events take place. If the Mall was being built today, no doubt JC Penney would be at one end and Sears at the other - and Charlottesville would be nowhere near as popular as it it is.

[Continues in Charlottesville Part 2]

[Continued from Charlottesville Part 1]

The best place to stay while enjoying the historic centre of Charlottesville (IMO) is the 200 South Street Inn. The room rate reflects its location, a few hundred yards from the Downtown Mall, and its well-deserved popularity.

Dating from 1856, it has been in its time a private residence, a girls' finishing school, a brothel (!) and a boarding house. It finally became today's Inn in 1986.

I love the old-style verandahs...

...where you can sit and enjoy the free wine and cheese laid out in the library / breakfast room from 5-7 pm each day

The Inn has many nice touches (and gave me an excuse to try out some HDR photography)

While the decor is in the historical tradition, the hotel is well lit by bulbs of the modern eco-friendly variety. These ceiling spotlights were too bright for the camera to show clearly, even when I decreased the exposure - they are LED spotlights which the owner tells me he bought for $17 from Sam's Club. They cost almost nothing to run and will last so long that the next person to have to climb up and change those bulbs will probably be one of the present owner's grand-children!

If you liked this...

[Some other places to enjoy life]

A glimpse of the moon...

(Original post: September 8th, 2010)

August was a lousy month here, weather-wise. It rained a lot, and we didn't see much of the sun. One night, though, I was outside when the clouds started clearing, so I rushed inside for my camera and tripod and made yet another attempt to get a picture of the moon that resembled what it really looked like. Alas, this was another failure, but I still sort of like it. The real scene had an amazing tunnel-in-the-sky 3D quality to it, and the moon had detail.

I'll get there one day.

Malta, the Pope and the Volcano - April 2010

This picture is from my photoblog of a trip to Malta in April this year, which was made extra interesting by a certain Icelandic volcano and the arrival of the Pope right on our doorstep! Click the image or go here if you would like to see the pictures of that trip.


I might mention that I use a relatively cheap camera - not an SLR or anything. I try to improve the quality of the pictures using the "digital darkroom" that is Photoshop. I rarely use Photoshop to "falsify" a picture for creative or blemish-removal purposes - mostly I use it to improve colour, exposure and contrast (and sometimes to reduce depth of focus) where it makes the picture look more like what the eye saw at the time.

I started learning Photoshop in 2009, which eventually led to me writing a Beginner's Guide to Photoshop, as much for my own benefit as anyone else's (if I had known that it would take nearly 200 hours to create then I probably never would have started!).

If you can't afford Photoshop, my guide should also be of some help in using the excellent freeware GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) or other programs like Paint Shop Pro.

If you like this...

[Click the photoblogs tag at the top of this post for more of my own photoblogs]

A Walk in the New Forest - May, 2010

The New Forest (called that by William the Conqueror in 1079 when he cleared settlements to make it his new hunting forest - why change the name now?) is a great walking area. Many suggestions for walks in this area can be found here.

It's going to be a beautiful day... 15.1 hours of sun forecast, which duly arrived (we were lucky - the next weekend, the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, had its traditional dreadful weather)

The best walks start and finish at a pub... This one is The Oak Inn at Bank, near Lyndhurst

Some very nice properties around here...

Anyone for Poohsticks?

The circular walk (about 5km) followed this curving stream for much of its length

In the bright sun, this beautiful fungus was acting as a natural uplighter

And of course, we met the locals...

Back at The Oak Inn for the traditional end to a good walk!

If you liked this...

[Places to Enjoy Life... In England]

Epping Forest - autumn and winter

Some of my photos of Epping Forest in autumn and winter, taken when we used to live near there.

Epping Forest was one of the main filming locations for the Internet-released prequel to The Lord of the Rings, "Born of Hope" (see my next post above).

Located to the north east of London, it's a relatively small remnant of a much larger ancient forest, which somehow makes it seem appropriate as a choice for this movie.

Mykonos, Greece - Summer 2006

Just a few hundred yards from here, ahead and slightly to the left, is where Jason Bourne meets Marie again at the end of the movie "The Bourne Identity".

I got so fed up with our miserable weather that I went back and dug out some of my old photographs of Mykonos, taken on a very windy day in the summer of 2006, and tried to improve them as a learning exercise with Photoshop.

They certainly bring back some sunny memories!

If you like this...

[Mykonos Windmills]
[My other posts about Greece]
[My shared photo albums page]
[My 'Beginner's Guide to Photoshop']

Early morning with frost - February 2010

Early morning with frost still on the trees - the view from our apartment window

(If you are interested, this is an HDR image from two photos, separated by a sky mask/selection, with saturation increased in some selected areas... I was quite proud of this one!)

[Snow in the same place, December 2009]

Snow in England, December 2009

Early morning, December 18th... We woke up to a winter wonderland!

The joy of being retired... I don't have to break into my car, just walk the dog!

Milo is definitely a snow dog

Trying to get on the OTHER side of Milo so he doesn't have his back to the sun...
the trouble is, he thinks it's a game and he's a lot faster than I am!

... did you spot the chilly wood pigeon in the previous photo?

A new walk-friend of Milo's, a cross between a Pug and a Cavalier King Charles - this one had a lovely temperament

There's a slightly Narnia feeling about this...

My second-ever HDR photo. The upper and lower parts come from two different images at different exposures, and a lot more work after that! My little Lumix camera will take three photos in rapid succession at different exposures, and even without a tripod it wasn't hard to align two of the images in different Photoshop layers. I temporarily used the "multiply" blend with one image inverted so that I could see both images at once, and used the Move tool and arrow keys to nudge one layer a pixel at a time. There are fancier ways of doing HDR but this worked fine for me with Photoshop 7.

23rd December... we nearly had a White Christmas, but this was the last properly snowy day.
For those who didn't have to travel, the last 6 days have been great!

[My Photoshop page]

(Original post: December 21st, 2009)

Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, is one of the most attractive National Trust properties in England. As it says here:

"Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, creator of Waddesdon, loved France and French art. With his French architect Destailleur and his landscape gardener Laine, he built this Renaissance-style chateau in a dramatic setting. Waddesdon has one of the best collections of French 18th century decorative arts in the world, paintings, furniture, carpets and curiosities, lovingly assembled over 35 years by Ferdinand to please his weekend guests. Outside, his creation includes an aviary, flamboyant bedding, winding walks, colorful trees and panoramic views."

We visited it recently for their Christmas event. When you arrive it's already very dark, and you feel like you are on the set of "Brideshead Revisited" as you make the long unlit drive up to the Rothschild manor, where on this occasion you can park right in front, in a long row of giant illuminated Christmas trees. You get to tour a wing of the house, beautifully decorated for Christmas (no words will do it justice), followed by a dinner in the excellent restaurant. For £55 this is perhaps the best-value Christmas event one can imagine!

We stayed overnight at the Five Arrows Hotel in Waddesdon village, planning to go for a walk in the Waddesdon estate the next morning. From our hotel window we had a view of wonderful tiled roofs like this one.

This is part of the long drive up to the Manor. It was a cold, beautiful day. The sun at this time of year is very low, making for interesting photography, and we had the place almost to ourselves (very unusual).

All the statues on the estate were shrouded against the weather...

Frost still on the grass

Some fun with Photoshop. This wasn't taken with a telephoto lens, it's the result of a blurred layer on top of a sharp layer, with the lower part of the blurred layer masked out.

My first-ever HDR photo. The upper and lower parts come from two different images at different exposures, with some blending in the middle. My little Lumix camera will take three photos in rapid succession at different exposures, and even without a tripod it wasn't hard to align two of the images in different Photoshop layers. I temporarily used the "multiply" blend so that I could see both images at once, and used the Move tool and arrow keys to nudge one layer a pixel at a time. There are fancier ways of doing HDR but this worked fine for me with Photoshop 7.

As with the previous picture and several others, I am experimenting here with a Photoshop curves adjustment layer. Dragging the cursor in a shadow area (say) shows on part of the graph as a moving pointer. Adjusting the slope of that part of the graph improves the tonal range and contrast in that part of the picture, while sometimes messing up other parts. Then you mask out the other parts, leaving only the improved bits overlaying the original image.

On the way out I saw these rather beautiful Christmas tree ornaments in the National Trust shop, which reminded me slightly of Faberge eggs (but a lot cheaper!). They are about 20 times too large for the tiny tree we have at home, but I asked my wife if she could arrange them in a kind of nest, which she kindly did! (There's a blur layer being used here in Photoshop, too.)

[My Photoshop page]

Whitby, Yorkshire - November 17th, 2009

This was a day out in Whitby, Yorkshire, on the east coast of England (close to Robin Hood's Bay, the end of Wainwright's coast-to-coast walk). The rest of the week was fairly miserable, weather-wise, so we took full advantage of this sunny (if cold) day...

Hole of Horcum, on the North Yorkshire Moors on the approach to Whitby. The North Yorkshire Moors are the largest area of continuous moorland in England (in case you wanted to know that).

Whitby harbour entrance

St Mary's Church and Whitby Abbey, seen from other side of the harbour through the whalebone arch

Captain James Cook's memorial

Taken from Whitby pier

This was a "Goth Weekend", possibly associated with the full moon (for lots more Whitby Goth pictures, see here!)

One of the local yobbos, who sometimes eat fish (when they can't get fish and chips)

The best fish and chips place in Whitby, apparently! (There is fierce competition, but I can certainly recommend this place.)

The steps up to the church and abbey

Before this visit I had dabbled a bit with Photoshop, but I used these (non-expert!) photos to explore more of Photoshop's features. The main thing I learnt here was to use an additional curves layer in order to adjust the contrast and brightness of some parts of the picture that would otherwise be too bright or in deep shadow, and paint out the unwanted parts of the new layer with a black brush, letting the original show through. The Whitby Memorial Gate, for example, had no detail on the metalwork in the original, the Whitby Fudge window was dark, and the sunny area at the top of the stairs to the abbey was much too bright (it still is).

[My Photoshop page]

Cannero-Riviera on Lake Maggiore, Italy - July 23rd 2009

Cannero Riviera on Lake Maggiore is one of our very favourite places.

A photo-blog of our 2009 visit there will be found here.

Even if you have been to Florida several times, you may not have discovered a wonderful attraction called Fantasy of Flight.

This place is not a theme park and it is not the work of a corporation. It is the lifetime achievement of one extraordinary man, the billionaire aviator Kermit Weeks - a man with the spirt of the legendary Howard Hughes.

Among other things, it houses the greatest private collection of aircraft in the world, all of which are, or are in the process of being, restored to full flying condition. It includes an airfield, many hangars and workshops, and a lake from which flying boats take off and land.

We had a fascinating day there, including visits to the workshops where dedicated enthusiasts think nothing of undertaking restoration projects lasting 10 to 15 years, or even more. If you like working in wood (many of the planes have wood and fabric frames), or any kind of craft where the joy is in doing something right, then the workshop tours are a don't-miss.

One of the most beautiful aircraft ever made, the Lockheed Constellation. I once crossed the Atlantic as an unaccompanied minor in one of these - it had shiny TWA livery then!

The PBY Catalina, one of the most successful multi-role military aircraft of all time. Used extensively in WW2, it was not retired from military service until the 1980s, and is still used today all over the world for aerial firefighting.

A 1944 Short Sunderland flying boat, the last airworthy example of its kind. It is not as big as Howard Hughes' awesome Spruce Goose, but it saw considerably more service!

This is an engine that literally changed the world. It is the Rolls-Royce Merlin, a specially-supercharged V12 engine of incredible performance and reliability. Each of its 12 cylinders develops the power of an average family car. Rolls-Royce kept running it at full power until something failed, and then redesigned that failed part - a strategy that eventually allowed it to be run at full power for eight-hour bombing missions, and made it one of the most reliable aero engines in the world. The unique supercharger gave it unparalleled high-altitude performance.

Although it was used in many WW2 aircraft, including American aircraft, the most famous application of this engine was probably in the Supermarine Spitfire. Without this engine, and the bravery and skill of the pilots who flew the aircraft in which it was fitted, the world would be a very different place today.

These are two superbly restored North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs, undergoing routine maintenance. When fitted with Merlin engines (manufactured under licence in the USA), the P-51 Mustang was generally reckoned to be the finest fighter plane of WW2.

If you saw Steven Spielberg's superb film Empire of the Sun, you will remember the extraordinary scene where American planes shoot up the airfield next to the internment camp. Jim dances on the block roof, all the sounds of battle fade away, a plane passes him in slow motion, the pilot waving cheerily to him - and Jim, exalted, shouts: "P-51! Cadillac of the sky!"

The Ford Tri-Motor that many people have seen in the movie "Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom". (The blue object in the foreground, BTW, is a flying car... like most hybrids, it does neither job well. It is not good at flying, and not much good as a car, but it does work!)

A top view of a classic helicopter, the Bell 47. We saw one of these every week on our TV screens for what seemed like years, as the medevac chopper in that wonderful series M*A*S*H.

There are many ways in which Kermit Weeks uses Fantasy of Flight to pass on his passion for aviation and personal achievement. This is the hang-glider simulator which is part of the educational and entertaining children's area. It is simple (no thermals) but extraordinarily realistic and effective, as you fly it exactly as you fly a real hang-glider (I know because I snuck onto it at the very end of the day, when the last kid had gone!).

On the day we went, a cold front was going through Florida, with winds just too high to permit flying - hence no flying photographs - sorry!

If you do visit this inspiring place, be prepared to spend a long time. And if you get a chance to meet Kermit Weeks in person (we didn't, but he was around) then take full advantage! He's the guy with the pony-tail and moustache...

More details on this attraction will be found here.

[My "Florida" page]
[My "Flight Simulator" page]

Snow in England February 2009

This was a cold, very clear night just before the snow started. The picture above is of the Moon and Venus, the least bad of many failed attempts to capture something approaching what they actually looked like!

Although I didn't notice it at the time, I could swear that not only is there a crescent of sunlight on the Moon, but on Venus as well. Furthermore, the planet being so much further away and at a different angle to the Sun, the crescent of sunlight on Venus (reflecting off the planet's total cloud cover) is much further advanced. Perhaps any astronomy experts will tell me whether this is just an illusion from the photograph!

Early morning... the snow that is still covering most of the British Isles is just starting...

England doesn't often get real snow across the whole country for any length of time, because of the prevailing Atlantic weather and the warmth of the Gulf Stream. About once in 20 years or so we get a prolonged period of cold air from northern Europe and Scandinavia - and then this happens. I am sure that folks living in parts of the world that regularly get snow will be having a good laugh!

One meteorologist said that the nearest similar winter he can remember was 1962-63. What worried him was that with these very similar air conditions, it is actually much less cold across the country than it was then.

Matamanoa sunsets
(Original post: January 9th, 2009)

My daughter Sam, who has recently married a Kiwi, returned from their honeymoon in New Zealand and Fiji with about 600 photos, including these wonderful sunset pictures taken from the tiny Fijian island of Matamanoa:

I had no idea where Fiji was, let alone Matamanoa... hence this map, for my own benefit (it turns out that if you sail off into this sunset, and keep going for a very long time, you would eventually make landfall in Australia)!

(Sam tells me that it was something of a thermal shock to return to England.)

This is one of my own photos of the quiet Western Quarter of Venice.

It has appeared before (in my Venice post) but I just wanted to see it again...

[Venice, September 2001]

(Original post: August 29th, 2008)

This is Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, one of the less well known English Heritage sites, and one of our favourite walking and picnic spots.

This view southwards from the "new" house (begun in 1834) shows the main vista down to the The Long Water, with the Pavilion in the far distance.

The "old" house was situated about halfway between the new one and The Long Water - if you walk there then you can still see the outline of its foundations as bumps in the grass.

Because the house was effectively moved backwards, the newer developments in the foreground were added while leaving the framework of the original 18th Century gardens in the distance still largely intact.

Around The Long Water in the picture above you can see the Woodland Garden, designed for getting pleasantly lost in.

Looking south-east from the house...

Walking south from the house, just before you get to The Long Water, you come to an area dedicated to Croquet, that most English of games (invented by the French).

Walking south-west from the house you come to the Orangery. Inside there are now café tables and chairs where you can picnic in bad weather, as well as interesting historical stuff. (No café though - Wrest Park doesn't have any of those, although it does have a shop in the house where you can buy drinks.)

If you head south from the Orangery you come to the Bowling Green House, reminiscent of a small Italian railway station.

It was originally intended as a Tea Room.

Alongside the bowling green is one of the mini-canals, this one called The Leg O'Mutton Lake, running east-west.

Through the back (or front) door of the Bowling Green House is the western edge of the grounds...

...go through the door, turn left, and you are walking along the naturalistic canal developed by Capability Brown that loops nearly all around the Woodland Garden, forming a pleasant boundary to the Park for much of its perimeter.

Originally the canal was formal and laid out in straight lines; Capability Brown softened it to a curving waterway that looks like a natural river.

Inside the Woodland Garden is a maze of paths, some straight, some curved, with "secret rooms" in the woods containing statues, ornaments, a Victorian Pet Cemetery (still trying to get a good photo of this), and other interesting things!

My wife must be about the millionth visitor to do this (it's hard to resist).

If you take the left-hand path at a fork like this and then take the next right, don't expect it lead to the right-hand path from the fork - it might, or it might not!

I don't remember exactly where we came across this 18th Century lead statue, one of many interesting statues in the park.

Although most statues in the park are the originals, many of them are not in their original positions - various owners liked moving them around.

The Ladies' Lake on the east side of the park is the mirror image of the Leg O'Mutton Lake on the west side.

Originally these two water features formed a single east-west canal that intersected The Long Water.

The Ladies' Lake is currently leaking, hence the low water levels. If it isn't fixed soon and wildlife moves in and becomes established (not necessarily a bad thing), then regulations may prevent restoring the original water level.

Emerging from the Woodland Garden, often somewhat bewildered, you come across the Pavilion that stands at the far end of The Long Water.

The Pavilion is a rather magnificent structure, intended as a Tea Room and for more elaborate entertainments.

Following Capability Brown's man-made river anti-clockwise, we can see that it is obviously enjoyed by many different residents!

The "river" curves into the park at this point, so when you cross the "Chinese" bridge (earlier versions were more Chinese than this) you are actually heading north-east-ish.

If you bear left and keep walking for some distance... are back here!

There is a lot more to Wrest Park than I can show here - I may update this post from time to time.

Admission is free to English Heritage members. If you visit and you're not a member, it's probably worth joining!

[Location of Wrest Park on my England Map]
[More on Wrest Park]

[My photoblog of RHS Gardens, Rosemoor, Devon]

"Corsican Cats"

My wife always insisted that she was not a cat person. The trouble is, cats don't know this.

2004 was the year she finally got busted, and it took Corsican cats to do it.

Corsica has a large population of feral cats, but there is a distinct sub-species of these that inhabits anywhere within a five mile radius of a self-catering villa (and that covers a lot of territory).

It wasn't long before our local cat found her. It ignored me. It headed straight for the person who didn't like cats.

Sigh... wasn't long before plates of cat food and other gourmet cat delicacies were mysteriously appearing outside the kitchen door, and that had nothing to do with me!

The word spread, and 3 years later when we returned to Corsica, only a few miles from our previous place, the local cat appeared within seconds...

As I say, this is a distinct sub-species of "feral"...

...and turned out to be the advance guard of a large family with ever-increasing ramifications.

The youngest members of the family weren't introduced until several days had gone by.

On the few rainy days when we were stuck indoors, we spent what seemed like hours watching this wild bunch of felines hang out on the beach towel (probably mine) that my cat-hating spouse had so kindly provided.

We have never felt the need to watch TV while staying in Corsica.

If you like this...

[My Corsica page]

This was Venice in early September, 2001. It was our first trip, and we loved it. We only had a week, so we saw all the "must see" places like the Ca' Rezzonico...

...and the Piazza San Marco (and many more that you have seen zillions of photos of before).

Only a few hundred yards west of the Rialto Bridge, the crowds magically disappeared...

...and we greatly enjoyed exploring the (much) quieter Western Quarter.

Such a beautiful place - and nobody here but ourselves!

The weather was hot and brassy that week, so we mostly had a siesta in the afternoon and went out for an evening stroll just before sunset. We caught the low sun reflecting on the gold leaf of the Basilica...

...and enjoyed window shopping (much cheaper than the real thing!)...

...while trying to choose a nice place to eat. At one of these places, we learnt the hard way that fish was priced by the 100g, not by the course!

Walking home one night after our meal, we encountered this spooky looking wall of masks in the window of a shop that had closed for the night.

And then we returned to England. It was September 11th, and we were greeted by our daughter running across the drive, telling us what she had just seen on television.

We knew, over the next hours and days, that the world would never be quite the same place again. There were acts of incredible tragedy and heroism. There was a feeling of solidarity across the Atlantic that was quite astonishing, as the e-mails, forums and phone calls went to and fro.

A few days later, in our small town of Epping, England, scenes like this were taking place, similar to those in many, many other places.

At the time, I remember thinking that there were going to be very bad times ahead - and there were - but also that really bad times seem to bring out the best in people - and they did, nowhere more so than in New York. Among the good things that came out of this tragedy, there was New York's "Pay It Forward" programme, described here on my web site.

(Originally posted: June 14th 2008)

This is the southern-most end of a (very) long and (slightly) winding road - the other end of U.S. Route 1 is more than 2,000 miles away at Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border!

This end of the road is in Key West. I was here with my extended family (12 of us) as part of a wonderful vacation in the Florida Keys. Several photos follow!

I love these banyan trees. Hemingway lived near here. Also near here is Kelly's Caribbean Bar Grill and Brewery, which I can highly recommend. We had an absolutely wonderful meal there, with great service and good wine, for $60 a head.

A relatively quiet evening (I'm told) in Mallory Square, where people gather nightly at the southern-most point of the mainland USA to watch the sunset.

This band was performing great Island versions of Neil Diamond hits.

I swiped this one from my brother-in-law!

There are sometimes better things to do than watch the ships go by...

I really like my wife's little Sony Cybershot! It's light, inexpensive and it lets me take hand-held pictures like these after dark, without a flash. It's the only camera that we used on this holiday.

[This trip continues in the post below. Also see where this place is on my Florida Map.]
[Continuing the trip in the post above.]

This is the Dolphin Research Center at Grassy Key. We liked it very much - it's quiet, education-based and very different from other entertainment-oriented marine parks. As the staff keep pointing out, the visitors are here to entertain the dolphins, not the other way around (actually, it's thoroughly mutual).

We were here to fulfil a life-time ambition of my wife's, which was to swim with dolphins. Before you get to do that you have to attend a half-hour class (relatives and friends of swimmers can attend too). I'm glad I didn't miss it, as I learnt more about dolphins (and these particular dolphins) than I have every done previously.

This is probably Pax, although I'm not absolutely sure. Like the other dolphins he is quite capable of jumping out of the lagoons into the rest of the Gulf of Mexico, but he stays here because it's an easy and enjoyable life and he wouldn't be able to cope in the open ocean. Many of the dolphins here are rescue dolphins, or were born in captivity to rescue dolphins.

Being given the once-over by Tanner (again, I'm not absolutely sure, it might have been A.J.)

This and the following pictures of my wife's dream coming true were taken by a pro photographer down on the dock. (I was taking zillions also, but I won't inflict them on you here.)

My wife with A.J. and Tanner.
It's obvious from watching that nobody who has had this experience will ever, ever forget it.

In return for some nice scritching, the dolphins produce some amazing sounds (the dolphins at this center can imitate almost anything, using their blowholes). In this case one couldn't help feeling that the dolphins just like being scritched!

[This trip continues in the post below. Also see where this place is on my Florida Map.]

[Continuing the trip in the post above.]

On this trip we (12 of us) stayed here at Cannon Point at Marathon Key. It's a great spot if you have a large family and a boat, situated in a narrow strip of waterway between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (both very shallow around here, typically only 7 feet of water under the keel until you get well out).

Just a few photos (the last in this series!) to give some flavour of the place...

Kayaks provided with the place... Those who got up early to explore the creeks from kayaks saw the occasional iguana on the banks under the mangroves, but there is plenty of other wildlife around here.

It was nice at this time of day, when the heat had cooled off... (Another picture swiped from a family member)

"Allah does not subtract from man's allotted time the hours spent in fishing."
In the case of my cousin, it's just as well!

That's it, you'll be glad to hear... If you're mad enough to want to see all 153 photos of this trip, including Key West, all the dolphin pics and many mug-shots of my family, send me a PM and I'll email you the album link!

[You'll find more Florida stuff on my Florida Page. Also see where this place is on my Florida Map.]

This is the wonderful Bearslake Inn, on the edge of Dartmoor, where we broke our journey last week on the way to Cornwall (see the centre of my map). It's a great place to have a drink, or a great meal, or to stay the night, or any combination of these!

Dartmoor from the bedroom window, in the evening light - the last time that we saw any real sun for a while...

The same view several days later, on the morning of our return trip. Now that our holiday is over, the mist is lifting and it's going to be a beautiful day...

[This trip continues in the post below.]
[This trip continues from the post above.]

One place that you can reach easily from the Bearslake Inn (see my post above) is the RHS Garden at Rosemoor (see the centre of my map). Rosemoor is a particularly beautiful and peaceful place, with natural woodland walks and replanted wild meadows, as well as some formal gardens.

It was a cloudy day (until we were about to leave, naturally). One day I hope to take some photos here when the sun is out!

We're about to leave... finally, a gleam of sun!

Many grand places have peacocks roaming around... Rosemoor is a little different!