Monday, 11 December 2017

Monday Mural - Geometrics II

Another murals from Cascais, seen during my visit to Portugal, at Rua Estrela do Mar 261.
This was was painted during the Muraliza 2016 initiative, by Italian artist Moneyless.

For more Monday Murals from around the world click here.

You can also see the murals Moneyless painted in Perth in 2015:

Friday, 8 December 2017

France - Marseille - day 4

On the fourth day we woke up early and walked to the Vieux Port (Old port), to catch the ferry to Château d'If on the island of Frioul, but just like the previous day, this day was even worse, the winds were so strong that most boats were moored and no ferries were leaving the port due to the rough sea.

Thomas's dad Max joined us with extra jackets, as the wind was icy cold and showed us his boat moored in the Old Port. He's owned it for many years and uses it for recreational fishing.

Max showing his boat to Jose 

                                                        The windy day can be seen in these photos
The Church of Saint Laurent (Eglise St Laurent), church of sailors and fishermen with an octagonal bell tower, was built in the 13th century. It sits on a hill between the Old Port and the Panier. It is believed to have been built on the site of a Greek temple to Apollo, and has survived many threats. 

Church of St Laurent (top left)

From the Old Port we walked just north to the suburb of Panier (Quartier Le Panier) where we met with Thomas's Mom, Isabelle who works in a pathology lab.

Sadly I wasn't really aware of the historical importance of this suburb, so I didn't pay much attention, although I saw a lot of narrow cobbled streets, lots of steps and little lanes and even compared it to some parts of Lisbon. But I think my eyes were mostly drawn to the many murals I found in this area. 

Narrow lanes and stairs leading to houses, art in the Panier

This area was first settled by the Greeks in 600 B.C. when they founded the city of Massalia.
During World War II, the Jews living in this area were deported to concentration camps.
Due to it's maze of narrow streets, it was considered a hiding place for members of the French Resistance, and in 1943 Le Panier and the Old Port were evacuated and about 1500 buildings were destroyed with bombs.

We got into Max's car that was parked in the Panier and he drove us across town to the highest point of Marseille where the magnificent Church of Lady of the Guard (Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde) is.

Views of Marseille, the Old Port, the Frioul Islands

This Catholic basilica is Marseille's best known symbol and most visited site with around a million and a half visitors a year, many coming just for the views.
Built in 1853 and consecrated in 1864,  in the Neo-Byzantine style on the foundations of an ancient fort, this 149 mt high limestone building has the best views all around.
The bell tower is topped by a 11,2 mt high, 9 tonnes,  statue of Madonna and Child (La Bonne Mère) made of copper and gilded with gold leaf.

La Bonne Mere

Because sailors and fishermen would come here to the site of the original church to pray for safe voyages and return to give thanks when they came home safe and sound, it then became the custom for those that had nearly perished at sea to commission paintings of their ships to hang on one of the church's walls or to donate replica models of their ships that hang from the ceiling vaults - they are called the Ex Votos or "from the vows made".
And these are truly works of art too.

A wall with over 60 paintings offered to Notre Dame de la Garde by sailors

Replicas of ships hanging from the vaulted ceilings
Before leaving what I consider to be the most beautiful Church I have ever seen, I was taking a photo of my family down below. 
They were looking up at me, when I noticed the driver of a black car parking and going to back door to open it. The car suddenly started to slide and I screamed. They all noticed and the driver realized that he hadn't pulled up the brakes in the car!! That was a disaster averted, as it was on a slope...
My family below with the city in the background

From the Church we were driven south to Borely Park (Parc Borely), a 17 hectares municipal park adjoining the Botanic gardens.
Formerly owned by Joseph Borely, a French ship owner and merchant in the 17th century, who built a country house in the middle of the gardens, it was acquired by the city in the 19th century. It has a lake, a horse racing track by the sea, a wooden pavilion and a large expanse of grassed area.
One side is bordered by a river and I spotted some beautiful small apartment blocks located next to the river.
Before going in we bought churros with caramel filling (fried dough pastry traditional sold in Portugal and Spain).

The Rose garden was a bit bare, but I still found some roses. I saw a black and white bird that could be mistaken for a Willie wagtail, and Australian bird, but this one didn't wag it's tail, so I'm sure it's something else. 
Another interesting animal I came across looked from afar like a Quokka, a marsupial from the island of Rottnest (just across Perth), but it was a Coypu, from the beaver family.

Rose Garden
A coypu (beaver), the lake and other areas of Borely park

It was time to return home, and Max dropped us near our Airbnb. We still had time to put our feet up for half an hour and then get ready to go out to our last dinner in Marseille at the invitation of Max and Isabelle.
The 4 of us took the tram to the area known as The Corniche (La Corniche), the picturesque 5km seaside road along the Mediterranean coast. Part of the road has been named after President Kennedy. (Corniche = a road cut into the edge of a cliff, especially one running along a coast).
Beautiful views of the sea, the Frioul islands and the Prado beaches, with a couple of restaurants hanging on cliff rocks over the sea. 
In the Lieutenant Danjaume Square is a war memorial built in 1927, of a 5mt tall woman with arms raised to the sky, and it's dedicated to those who died in the Army of the East and distant lands. At sunset this was a magical place!

La Corniche, a ferry leaving the harbour, monument to those fallen in wars

Just around the corner and down a staircase we reached the picture postcard fishing village of Vallon des Auffes. (Auffes is a type of grass of the area used to make ropes).
It's just 2,5km south-west of the Vieux-Port in the 7th arrondissement, but it feels like a different world. A lot of fishermen have little cabins here used to store their fishing gear and cook the traditional bouillabaisse on Sunday.

Vallon des Auffes little harbour, Chez Jeannot restaurant (white building at end of harbour)

Thomas's parents and his younger brother arrive and they go up to the first floor of the Chez Jeannot Pizzeria while I finish taking photos of the sun setting behind the bridge.
The top floor has glass windows overlooking the little harbour, so a fantastic view, the food was ok, apparently those who had pizzas liked them, the restaurant was full, and service left a bit to be desired considering the prices.
My husband asked for butter to put on the bread, and was told they had no butter!
A French restaurant with no butter? Very strange. Eventually another waiter brought some butter.

Karina, Isabelle and Max, Jose standing, me, Thomas and brother,  Steak dish and fish dish
And so ended our 4th day in Marseille. Next installment will be the last day in Marseille and Portugal.
I can hear a sigh of relief from all of last it's ending! 😉😉

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

France - Arles - Day 3

We had intended to go to Château d'If on the island of Frioul, where the Alexandre Dumas novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" was set.
But due to the rain, we had to change our plans and instead Thomas's' Dad Max drove us to Arles about 90km away.
Arles is famous for inspiring Van Gogh's painting, and having been part of ancient Rome is home to many Roman monuments
The day was gray, but at least we didn't get wet while walking around.

On arrival we went into the Tourist Information centre to get a map and some information in English, but the queue was huge and there wasn't anything on display that would help us, so we followed Max.

The area where the Roman monuments are has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Area since 1981.

The first street we walked in had some interesting things hanging from one side of the street to the other - plastic windmills, and statues hanging from umbrellas.

The Church of St. Trophime is a Roman Catholic church and former cathedral, built between the 12th and 15th century.

The two level Roman Amphitheatre was built in 90 A.D., capable of seating 20 thousand spectators. It's still used today for concerts and plays and unfortunately for bullfighting during one of Arles festivals.

One of three spas discovered in Arles are the Constantine Baths, dating from the 4th century A.D., believed to have been part of the Palace of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. The brick and limestone structure was the center of Roman society, a place for exercise and hygiene, with pools, saunas, changing rooms and exercise rooms.

The Roman Theater was built in the 1st century during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Seating 8 thousand people, over 33 tiers of steps. Only a few pillars and columns remain, and the theater is used for Summer concerts and sporting events.

We had some difficulty choosing lunch at "Les Ateliers" restaurant, at Victor Hugo Avenue, but in the end we made the right choice and the food was very nice.
Just across the street was this very modern building being constructed - Parc des Ateliers.

After some investigation I found out that the area where the building is coming up, was previously the old railway yards, now being redeveloped.
The piece de resistance is the 56mt high twisting building made of stainless steel, metal panels and glass, designed by Frank Gehry, and which will make Arles the centre for art and creativity, with the building having galleries, workshops, a cafe and restaurant and a glass atrium open to the public. Started in 2014, it's expected to be finished by 2019.

After lunch we walked towards the river Rhône and walked along the promenade.
It was here that Van Gogh painted the picture entitled "Starry night over the Rhone" in September 1888. There were quite a few cruise ships docked here too.

I loved the history and art of Arles, but found the town lacked some colour, that is apart from some beautiful blue and green doors and windows and a small street whose houses were covered in greenery, so quaint.

Other interesting monuments
Quaint doors and windows
A beautiful area where houses were covered with greenery

And before departing to Marseille we had time to sit down and have a drink at the Garden Cafe, on the ground floor of the Hotel Le Calendal. The front esplanade was full, so we were offered a table in the back garden, and it was cool and green, a great spot to spend a while savouring a slice of cake and tea, and a great way to end our visit to Arles.
I also loved their chandelier with hanging cups and saucers in one of the rooms we walked through on our way to the garden.

Garden Cafe at the Hotel Le Calendal - Karina, Max, Thomas and Jose standing.

We arrived in Marseille in time for dinner, at Thomas's parents, lovingly cooked by his Mom.

**Follow this link to read about Day 1 and 2 in Marseille.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Monday Mural - Beam me up

Another one of the murals I saw in Cascais, during my visit to Portugal.
This was was painted during the Muraliza 2016 initiative, by Portuguese artist Gonçalo Ribeiro, AKA MAR, using elements of Japanese culture and comic strip art, his characters are multicoloured and surreal.
Found in Rua Estrela do Mar 830, Cascais.

For more Monday Murals from around the world click here.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

37th Wedding Anniversary and Memoir writing workshop

As part of the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), I took part in a free workshop held at the Bentley Library (near my workplace), called "Writing your life stories".

The lady giving the workshop explained what a Memoir was, the beneficial effects that writing our stories has on our health - memory improvement, ability to resolve conflicts, sense of value, reminiscing about our youth, passing on our life story to our family... and how to go about structuring our memoir writing - chronological, events, theme, before and after...

This was followed by two writing exercises - 5 minutes to summarise our life in a few sentences in a bullet point format, thinking about the past and how we got to be who we are today and the second exercise - 30 minutes to write up to 500 words about one or two of the given topics:
1) Which friend had the biggest impact on  your life and in what way?
2) What was the first moment you felt truly grown up and independent?
3) How much was your first pay check and what did you do with it?
4) What do you regret not doing?
5) Is your retirement what you thought it would be like?
6) How did you meet your partner/husband/wife?

I started with topic 3, and because I still had time I went on to topic 6.
At the end some of the participants got to read their stories to the group, and I chose to read about how I met my husband, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too.

And since today is our 37th Wedding Anniversary, I'm relaying the story I wrote about how I met my husband.

30 November 1980

January 2017

I met my husband when I accompanied a friend to the house of a Greek girl, when we both lived in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Alessa had invited a few friends for coffee, and even though I'd never tried Greek coffee I foolishly accepted one. It was so bitter and thick that I almost spat it out as soon as I sipped it!
I reached for the sugar bowl and put in 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar. The young man sitting across from me jokingly said: "Do you want to be as sweet as me?"
He had just put the spotlight on me, a shy 19 year old, and I blushed as I felt many eyes on me.
- "What an idiot!!" I thought, and just ignored him.
I worked in a Bank, and was trying to save some extra money to go travelling to Brazil and the USA, so I started doing a couple of night shifts in the function rooms of the fancy Carlton Hotel, waitressing for company functions over the Christmas season.  
One night I came across that same annoying  young man working as a barman at the same function as myself.
He looked at me, smiled and said he remembered me. We chatted for a while and I found myself enjoying the conversation.
A couple of weeks later he invited me to lunch and we had a great time, and he wasn't as silly as I thought he was! In fact he was intelligent, hardworking and had a great sense of humour.
We got married 1 year after we started dating, still very young at 20 and 22 years of age, and today we celebrate our 37th anniversary.

Our family - daughter Karina, her fiance Thomas, me, hubby Jose, son Michael, daughter in law Sara and grandson J - photo taken in Jan 2017 by Andrew Cranner (from Andrew Cranner photography).

Hope you have enjoyed my little writing exercise and story of how I met my husband.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

France - Marseille - Day 1 & 2

Hubby Jose, daughter Karina and I took and early flight from Lisbon to Marseille on Saturday, 16th September and were picked up by our daughter's fiancé Thomas who had flown over from Amsterdam where they live. Thomas's parents who live in Marseille had lent him the car.

We landed just after 10am, and because it was still too early to get into the Airbnb that Thomas had rented, our first stop was at a small Bistro in the city centre where we had lunch.

After lunch, we strolled around the Vieux Port (Old port) - There was a humongous yacht anchored there - the "Grace E", a 73mt long mega yacht with a crew of 20 doing maintenance work. And if you have a spare €749,000 you can rent it for a week in Summer!!
But before you decide first check the photos of the interior, on the link above 😊

The modern mirror cover wasn't there a few years ago when I visited Marseille, and it seemed to attract a lot of interest.

Vieux Port, Mirror ceiling, The Grace E and me and my husband taking a photo of ourselves on the mirror above

Walking around the port,  to the left was a plain looking white building - the Church of Saint Ferreol Les Augustins, built in the 16th century on the former site of the Knights Templar. 
It was part of an Augustinian convent that hosted the wedding of  the Italian Catherine de Medici with Henry II of France in 1533, both at the age of 14!! 
Nowadays only a few original walls remain, with the church having suffered a few restorations over the years.
The next stop  was the beautiful Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). Built in the 17th century, it was commissioned by Louis XIV as the city's new political status symbol.

The Town Hall, Catholic Church of St Ferreol, M for Marseille and Notre Dame de La Garde on top of the hill

At the entrance of the Old Port is the Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification built in 1660 by Louis XIV. It's now linked via two thin metal bridges to the historical district of Le Panier and to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations known as MuCem.

The MuCem is an bold modern building by Algerian born architect Rudy Riccioti, who trained in Marseille and Geneva. With a double facade, the building is wrapped in what appears to be a lacework screen that gives it a North African feel. Depending on the weather and light the building changes colours and inside the sun streaming through the lattice creates beautiful effects of light and shade.
There is a fee to visit the exhibitions, but access is free to the gardens, open-air theatre and restaurants.

Close to the Museum and next to the former commercial port is the Catholic Cathedral Sainte Marie Majeure, also known as La Major.

It was the first cathedral to be constructed in France in two centuries on the site of a former church. It was the brainchild of Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted to ingratiate himself with the Church and well as with the people of the city of Marseille. 

Built in the Byzantine-Roman style, construction started in 1852 and ended in 1896. The Cathedral is 142mt long, the cupula is 70mt high and it has the capacity to seat 3000 people, being one of the largest cathedrals in France.

Later in the day Thomas went to get the car with our luggage from the parking garage, picked us up and drove us to the apartment.
Located in the bohemian suburb of Cours Julien, in the 6th arrondissement, the area has plenty of restaurants, bars and colourful shops, and although the building was a bit of a disappointment when we reached it, we were thrilled when we came indoors.

In fact most buildings in this area are tagged and look dirty, but there's also a lot of beautiful murals around. The area is also famous for it's night life.

My daughter and husband coming out of the building where we stayed
Beautifully remodeled and tastefully decorated, the 2 bed-roomed ground floor apartment had an inner courtyard that we loved. The kitchen also had all the mod-cons including dishwasher, coffee machine and even a lot groceries left behind by previous renters.
No street parking, so Thomas drove his parents car to their home and returned by metro. 
The apartment was within a 20 min walk to the Old Port, so quite central too. 
After unpacking, we went to the local grocer to buy some essentials and rested a little bit before dinner.

Lounge, Kitchen, corredor next to courtyard into 2nd bedroom, inner courtyard, dining room

2nd bedroom, main bedroom, courtyard seen from 2nd bedroom, bathroom

That evening we walked to Bistro Venetien "Chez Marie", a restaurant in the elongated square at the heart of Cours Julien. This tree shaded area is full of restaurants, bars, tattoo parlours and bookshops, and it's walls are covered by graffiti/murals.
We met up with Thomas's parents and brother for dinner. The restaurant serves Gluten free food (T's Mom is celiac) and dinner was tasty and well served. Their specialty dessert was GF Tiramisu served in mason jars. I had the burger and chips, but no bread.

After dinner we all went back to the apartment for a drink, but the in-laws didn't stay long, as the Mom had to work the next day.
                                                                        * * * * * * * * *             
 DAY 2
After a lazy morning we walked to the Notre Dame Du Mont Metro station (line 2) and caught the train to T's parents for Sunday lunch with the family.
They live in a charming double storey house with a small courtyard. It used to be 2 separate houses and when they bought it they renovated and joined the house.
Of course the famous French macaroons were presented at coffee time.

Lunch setting, macaroons, Sunday lunch in the backyard, the garden and pond 

Thomas's parents live near the Palais (Palace) Longchamp, so when returning home we actually walked back instead of taking the metro, so that I could take photos of things on the way - murals, churches, palaces, etc. The entrance to the gardens was about to close, so I just had time to snap a few pictures.

Located in the 4th arrondissement, the Palais houses the Museum of Fine arts (Musée des beaux-arts) and the Natural History Museum (Museum d'Histoire Naturelle) and the surrounding park is considered one of France's notable gardens.

It was built to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, which brought water from the Durance River to Marseille. It took 30 years to build due to costs and the building was centered around the elaborate fountain known as water castle.
Longchamp was opened in 1869 and later it contained a zoo, run by the city from 1898 until 1987 when it was closed.

Palais Longchamp - seen from the  Boulevard Longchamp
Further down we walked past another beautiful church - Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (St Vincent de Paul church) a Roman Catholic church located at Cours Franklin Roosevelt (avenue named after the American President). The church was built on the site of a demolished convent and chapel, and built from 1855 to 1886 in Neo-gothic style. 

Further down the avenue we encountered two cute giraffes, the smaller one serving as swap library, as well as a fountain and other statues.

And towards the end of the afternoon we finally arrived at Cours Julien, at the square where restaurants and bars abound and where we had dinner at Bistro Venetien the night before. 
From here it was just a 5 minute walk home where we just had a snack for dinner and watched a movie on tv.

I was very proud of my husband for still remembering a lot of his school learnt French and managing to converse with the in-laws. I on the other hand tended to have more difficulty communicating (I also learned French for 5 years in school) and somehow German words would pop up here and there in the conversation. 
We lived in Germany during 6 years in the 80's, but because it's another language that I don't use I can hardly hold a decent conversation in German nowadays!
Luckily our daughter is fluent in French and English and her French fiance is fluent in English and French, so we had translators at hand in case we got stuck. T's parents English was quite rudimentary.

More of Marseille to come next week.