Saturday, 4 July 2015

Washington Old Hall

In the heart of Washington village, located near the north east coast of England, is Washington Old Hall. It stands as a testimony to Anglo-American friendship. 
This charming Hall is an historic landmark with links to the first US President, George Washington. The house predominantly dates from the 17th century but still incorporates a large portion of the original 12th century building. It was once home to George Washington's ancestors and it is from here that they took the family name. By 1860 the house had slid down the social scale. It became a working class tenement for 70 years. During that time it was rented out with up to 35 people living in appalling conditions until 1930. It was due to be demolished in 1933 but was saved by Frederick Hill, a local School Master, who formed a preservation committee to protect it.
It is a place of pilgrimage for many visitors from across the pond, and every year on the 4th July they hold a special Independence Day ceremony.
The manor house and its pretty jacobean gardens provide a tranquil oasis.
There is plenty of box topiary hedging within the garden including this beautifully manicured woven feature.
The central hall within the manor house
George Washington by Rembrandt Peale - 1850 
George Washington, the first president of the US, was born in 1732 to Captain Augustine Washington and Mary Ball. 
Captain Washington was a direct descendant of Colonel John Washington who emigrated to Virginia from England in 1656.
John was a descendant of William de Hertburn, who acquired the original dwelling on the site of the Old Hall around 1183.
The house stayed within the Washington family until 1613 when it was sold to the Bishop of Durham.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


It's not unusual to see 'striking workers' parading through the streets of Paris flag waving, blowing trumpets, beating drums, and generally voicing their rights - some of which are extremely generous - for example many workers are able to retire on a full pension whilst still in their mid 50s 
There must always be plenty of work for the French arborists. Not only do the municipal parks and gardens have pollarded and pleached trees, but most roads, avenues, streets and pathways up and down the country have trees marching along them like regimental soldiers
Did you notice the elegant street lighting?

Beautiful bridges crossing the River Seine are collapsing from the weight of these so called love-locks - why do tourists continue to do it? not only damaging historical bridges but marring classic views along the river
Les amoureux, Jardin de Luxembourg
mode élégante
Don't you just love the street furniture?
Hector Guimard's Art Nouveau metro entrances
with their stylish organic flower bud lights
Wallace drinking fountains are a symbol of Paris found scattered along the sidewalks. Designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg, they are named after an Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction. A Wallace fountain can also be found outside the Wallace Collection in London, a gallery that houses works of art collected by him 
Art Nouveau glass canopies
and these quaint newspaper and magazine stands
I am guessing that this stylish little building in Jardin de Luxembourg could be where boules or pétanque is played. There is a stone bench seat running around the outside of the building - may be the equipment is safely stored inside!
How about sailing un bateau jolie - just choose your flag - 
and then sail it on the water in front of the Palais du Luxembourg?
Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the French baroque architect, was the person most responsible for popularising the mansard roof seen all across France. A mansard roof has steep sides often with a double pitch, and many have extraordinary dormer windows
Last year whilst visiting Paris I showed you the area where my son lives. It is an area by the River Seine which was not only beloved of the Impressionists but 
musicians too - one of which was Bizet
His home in Bourgival looking out across the Seine
Bizet had a brilliant student career at the Conservatoire de Paris but he died prematurely at the age of 37 years. For most of his life he suffered from recurrent throat complaints possibly aggravated by smoking.  Whilst completing Carmen he suffered attacks of what he called 'throat angina' and became depressed by the evident failure of Carmen. He decided to take a rest at his home in Bougival, and feeling a little better took a swim in the Seine. The following day he was afflicted by a high fever and pain which was followed by a heart attack. He seemed temporarily to recover, but three days later on his wedding anniversary, he suffered a second fatal attack
What about this life size, stylish, colourful snail? We had a very brief splash of rain during our time in Paris and at least 20 of these monsters crawled out from under our son's garden hedge. They are unlike snails seen in the UK - I think perhaps they have a little more 'je ne sais quoi' about them than ours!
What I enjoy about Paris is its timelessness
I like the fact that it is still the same Paris I discovered on my first visit as a teenager - my gilded memories remain intact
Unlike so many other cities, London included, 20th/21st century architecture is largely absent from the centre of Paris, apart from Pyramide du Louvre and Centre Pompidou 
Much of the modern glass and steel architecture, some of which is exciting and adventurous, is sited on the periphery of Paris at La Défense.
Taken on a hill in Saint.Germain-en-Laye 8 miles away from La Défense - Paris is hidden away on the far side
Finally the pound is strong against the euro - these little delights would have cost almost £1.50 last summer - this year they were the equivalent of just over £1, but I resisted

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Architectural Quiz - the Eiffel Tower - Amy, Olympia, Gina, biebkriebels, Inge, Mark, Mac n' Janet, Catherine, Jim, and last but not least "Britta" were all correct - very well done 

Designed by engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, whose company built the tower as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. The radical design was criticised by 300 of France's leading artists, architects, and intellectuals who signed the following manifesto - "We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, passionate lovers of the beauty, until now intact in Paris, hereby protest with all our might, with all our indignation, in the name of French taste gone unrecognised, in the name of French art and history under threat, we are against this construction set in the very heart of our capital - the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower."
A bride and groom dance beside the Eiffel Tower to the delight of onlookers
Intended to be a temporary structure, the tower has become both a global and cultural icon for France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The domed building beyond the tower is the École Militaire - our 18 year old granddaughter attended a black-tie birthday party in there on the evening we flew home from Paris
The École Militaire was founded in 1750 and in 1784 it was where the 15 year old Napoleon Bonaparte was accepted, graduating in only one year instead of two
L'Hôtel National des Invalides
A wonderful Baroque series of buildings housing a Military Museum, Church, Hospital, Retirement Home for war veterans, and the burial site of some of France's war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte
The stunning golden dome on the church can be seen for miles and is easily recognisable because of its great height and exquisite beauty. Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, French architect, whose work is generally considered to be the apex of Baroque architecture in France representing the power and grandeur of Louis XlV.

Jardin des Invalides - the low building is where war veterans live 
The entrance door to the chapel of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides
De La Foss's allegories painted in the dome

Marble steps lead down to the tomb situated in a sunken rotunda immediately below the dome 
The tomb made from red quartzite resting on a green granite base is huge - Napoleon was initially interred on Saint Helena in 1821, but King Louis-Philippe arranged for his remains to be brought back to France in 1840. 

Historical war trophy banners seized in battle decorate either side of the chapel 

Inner Court housing the Army Museum
The north front of Les Invalides showing Mansart's dome sitting behind Bruant's entrance with its handsome rounded pediment