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A week ago today we were soaking up the sunshine in Giverny, France, visiting Monet’s house and garden.

I think it’s a sign of ageing that I enjoy the nostalgia of a place such as this,

that and it’s cute, old world french-ness.

He lived here for forty-three years from 1883 to 1926 and I love theres still the sense that (however romantic and untrue it may be!) that he just sat here, or ate there…


The original house was very small and Monet enlarged it on both sides making it not very deep but very wide, which is kind of nice as there are now lots of windows all looking onto the garden.

The barn next to the house was adapted to become his studio although it was mostly for storage as he painted in the open air.

Above it’s the product of patience – below the reality! People everywhere.

Monet chose all the colours in the house and particularly wanted the blue kitchen to show through to the yellow dining room.

If you visit and happen to arrive when the queue to look around the house is small, then my advice is do it before the garden. We couldn’t resist the garden first and ended up with a long hot queue in the sun.

Hope you’ve enjoyed an armchair tour – here’s some fun facts I happened across if you want more 🙂

 

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This past weekend we nipped over to Normandy, France to visit Monet’s garden in Giverny.

It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for years and HB had a spontaneous moment of birthday gifting and made it happen.

I’d heard a lot before I went about how small it was, how many visitors crammed in to see it, how it was the wrong season for this and that…

Some of that may be true – here’s a ‘truth’ photo of the constant crowds getting the bridge shot!

But generally I found that most people seemed to be storming around as they only had limited time on their coach/cruise ship excursion and so if you just linger and wait a quiet spot does open up around you.

The planting is unbelievable – whether you’re a gardener or a painter (or neither!) you can’t fail to appreciate it.

The borders are planted up in great long swathes of tonal groups – all yellows, reds and oranges or pinks or a quiet harmony of all-white plants.

It’s hard to get a really good photo of that as you are only allowed to walk the perimeter paths and not actually in and through the garden.

To get to the water lilies you use an under-the-road tunnel as Monet bought a plot of land across the road from the house and garden and landscaped it.

It’s much quieter in both its planting and because of the tranquility that all the water brings.

You can also paint in the gardens after hours Mon – Fri (not the weekends) by buying an artists pass at the ticket booth on the day you want to paint – buy the ticket between 5/5.30pm and then wait for the gardens to close and go back in after 6pm till 8pm.

If you want details I think the press office was the best source of information (details here)

It’s also worth knowing I think, that even if you print out your e-ticket and take it with you still have to stand in queue to go through with all those buying their tickets at the door. We had  a false sense of security that we would get flagged through an express queue -no! so we were glad we’d gone early on in the day.

I’ll do a another post showing the house soon.

Just back from a few days away in Portugal – Lisbon and Sintra.

Here’s Lisbon looking moody (read that as bad weather) My umbrella, gloves and hat were the best things I packed.


When in Portugal you must partake of the Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart pastry that it’s famous for.

And of course there are old and new tiled buildings everywhere.

Heaven for the pattern lover here!

This was my favourite tile and that’s no men feat because I probably photographed 50 plus!

And of course one must ride on and also photograph the ubiquitous old yellow tram.

We also went out to Sintra (an hour away from Lisbon) a lovely rich, old town bursting with old palaces and old mansions with beautiful gardens to explore. The stand-out place being this: The Pena Palace.

There are more (and different) photos over on my Instagram account  here if you enjoyed.

 

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Two months since I last blogged…can’t believe how time flies. I’m determined to keep a record of my days here so lets fill that gap.

We went to South Africa  – a country with the most magnificent coastline, the biggest skies, abundant nature (even in their wintertime) whales to watch courting and beautiful national parks to discover.

I’ve tried to edit my 1000’s of photos down to just the four that sum up my experience – I loved the Bo Kaap district in Cape Town (I think you can guess why)

We drove a circular route from Cape Town to Knysna and back up through Franschhoek during which I began to see the contrasts in how people live and who and where those people are. Not comfortable and I’m still mulling over how the seeing of this might turn into a response and what that response may be.

The Egg Hillary Goodwin

I visited The Festival of Quilts – not sooo amazing as usual in my book but this one was awesome – that’s stitch work making those patterns people!

The show did inspire me to begin an English Paper Pieced hexagon thing – might be a quilt top, a curtain or a pin cushion! It’s early days.

Went to London with my lovely girl.

We braved the Natural History museum which made me glad to be in the company of a young adult and not a young (tired, crying, hot) child. It was sooooo noisy.

 

I also taught a tonne at the MAC which doesn’t look much in four small squares but has been a really wide and fun range of classes for all ages from Toddlers through to adult learners. It really is the best job I’ve ever had.

And the rest of the time in between all this has been spent contending with the biggest bit home renovation we’ve done since moving here 7 years ago. I’ll spare you the photos (v. boring to look at and it’s not finished yet) This however was a design I’d worked on for several hours….I was a little stuck mulling over colour choices and thought I’d go and walk the dog and come back fresh to it. Alas, I didn’t save a PS file (only this jpg) and while I was out the electrician cut the power forcing my computer to shut down. Game over.

That’s indicative of the last two months really – it has been hard to do any meaningful work this summer with people buzzing around, endless cups of tea to make and interruptions.

When I’ve not been out I’ve tried to hide in my studio doing quick bits of art to keep my sanity intact.

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And that about sums things up. Hope you’ve had a lovely summer where ever you are.

This was one of my favorite places that we visited in Budapest – the Hungarian National Gallery

It’s up in the Castle district and you can  pay to ride up in this cute Funicular.

It was very quiet and cool (in a not hot way!) and has a broad range of beautiful art from way back when.

I think because it was all new to my eyes – not ‘famous’ works of art that had been widely published –  I was able to really see the details and workmanship.

I took lots of detail photos, particularly of how artists represented pattern.

Canzi_ Grape Harvest

I took a zillion photos but these are some of my stand-outs – I didn’t take the name down of this one above but when I got home and looked at the close-up shots on my computer, I was blown away by the expressions on these characters faces.

The expressions captured are incredible.

I just loved the colours in this one below – but I probably said that about most of them.

Szonyi Funeral ion Zebegeny

Also – little known fact but after you have feasted on all the beautiful art over three floors, you can go up another and out onto the balcony for free! Budapest is all about climbing up to look back and get a good view and this was by far the least painful way to do it. Enjoy!

We are just back from the beautiful Budapest.

 I always do a lot of internet research before I go any where and so I thought I’d return the favour and leave some recommendations here in amongst all the photos. Firstly it’s Buda’pesh (not pest)! and if you want the view you have to walk up to get it 😉

Matthias Church

The guide books and travel blogs will tell you the Top 10 of places to see but there is literally a beautiful old building on every street you walk down as Art Nouveau had a strong influence in the style of architecture.


Royal Postal Savings Bank

But don’t be deceived – going inside will often yield hidden treasures of beautiful plaster work, gold leaf and painted walls – case in point The Museum of Applied Arts up by the park.

It’s a walkable city on both sides of The Danube and there is loads to do and go and see.

Basilica

That said, taxis are slightly cheaper than here if your feet are failing you but you’re advised not to pick them up from the street even if they are all yellow.

We used Fo Taxis and were happy especially when we first arrived late at night – ignore being offered a cab at Arrivals and step outside to the Fo Taxi booth where they assign you a car and number and give you a receipt.

Szimpla Kert

 They also have a vibrant nightlife and food and drink culture – we happened upon lots of food festivals popped up in green spaces all over the city and they have the weather to enjoy these to the max.  We also loved the ‘ruin bar’ we went in – Szimpla Kert the grand-daddy of them all.

Cirkusz

 We ate and drank a lot! Some of our favourites were: Cirkusz for breakfast (well worth the 20 min queue) Vicky Cristina tapas and superb live music,

Tama for a fine dining experience – lovely staff and Doblo Wine Bar was very cool and did a super Hungarian wine tasting with finger food and a really good explanation of all the wines and regions in impeccable English.

We went to the Hungarian State Opera largely so we could see inside and it was worth it. you can walk all around during the interval so don’t worry if your seats don’t give you ‘the view’ but bear in mind once it’s over, they want you to leave quickly and don’t welcome photo shoots then.

The Parliament building is beautiful inside and out. Build on the Pest side to show the Buda side that the people’s voice was more important than the Royal Palace on the Buda side, it was also 2 m longer than our Houses of Parliament so it could be the biggest in the world.

Pre book a guided tour before you go – well worth it to snoop inside – it’s beautiful.

A river ride is good if you’re hot and tired – we went at night in order to get this view of Parliament.

fisherman’s Bastion

I didn’t expect it to be so hot so it’s good that they have a culture for  thermal bathing but research where and when you go.

Szechenyi Baths

We think we turned up at the wrong time and maybe at the wrong door and the outcome was a very expensive ‘swim’ in an outdoor public pool albeit one with nice architecture to look at and endless sunshine. Wish we’d gone to Gellert Baths.

As the Museum of Fine Art is shut for renovation we went to the zoo but left with very mixed feelings despite reviews saying it was a great day out and the zoo buildings alone were worth the trip – some animals were having fun, one building was beautifully tiled…

Last thing to mention as it might save you a wasted trip, is that the flea market in the park had been cancelled for sometime when we went so don’t get up early on your first day for it like we did!

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Back with some more Hungarian painty/textiley things soon.

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Hope some of this helps if you visit.

We are just back from a week away in the Peak District and I had forgotten just how beautiful it was up there.

We did lots of walking as the weather was extremely kind to us and I even got to sit and sketch on a couple of days.

And we took in a lot of art when we visited Chatsworth house.

The wallpaper was AmAzInG!

There was a whole wall of Lucian Freud work.

And this Gainsborough – I didn’t notice until I looked back at the photograph that her expression is both quizzical and a bit sassy – both unusual for a woman in a portrait of that time.

And there were gorgeous Spring flowers to inspire everywhere.



And lots to eat and drink (!) and all that fresh air and lack of the usual responsibilities has re-charged my batteries.


A few weekends ago, HB and I had a little sojourn in Bristol and whilst there came across the Lubaina Himid exhibition showing at Spike Island.

Naming The Money is an installation of 100 life-sized wooden cutout figures representing Africans brought to Europe as servants.

My name is Ahmed
They call me Henry
I used to play the music of my people
Now I play to forget them
But I love the notes

Historically these slaves were given new names and roles and Himid attached their printed stories on the back of each figure.

My name is Zody
They call me Jenny
I used to grind herbs into powder
Now I blend fine tea for the ladies
But I am the best

I found this to be one of the most touching things – both sadness at their loss and humiliation but humbled by the positivity too.

My name is Essian
They call me Dan
I used to lead the army
Now I play for children
But I love their laughter

The fact that these were freestanding and you could walk among them was very effecting and their life-size-ness really made me connect with them as the real people they represented.

Himid was originally a set designer and wanted this exhibition to bring slaves out of the shadows and corners of traditional portrait painting and give them center stage.

My name is Emmi
They call me Jenny
I used to make potions and keep them in a jar
Now I help to make jam
They say it tastes good

And on a superficial note, I also enjoyed all the colours and patterning. Simply done but very moving.

My name is Akron
They call me Henry
I used to play at weddings
Now I play at funerals
But I have the memory

hockney4

We made a family visit this weekend and while ‘Up North’ made a trip out to Salts Mill.

saltsmill1

The mill is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire and as such exhibits lots of Hockney.

saltsmill2

These beautiful paintings were part of the history of the Mill in the People and Process exhibition.

hockney2

These are some of Hockney’s iPad drawings which make up The arrival of Spring exhibition.

hockney1

They are studies done in the same location, Woldgate, as the seasons passed.

hockney_textures_grid1

The colouring, the textures and mark-making were so inspiring.

hockney3
And the book(s) shop were worth the trip too – highly recommended day out 😉

provence-alpes-cote-dazur_500px

 I’m so very ready for Spring now and there’s nothing like painting from holiday photos to banish the grey, wet days away. This one is from the south of France last year and is inspired by the Fauvists use of hot and cold, bright, bright colours.

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