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Thursday, 9 October 2014

CARCASSONNE

It was a few weeks ago now but the trip to Carcassonne was wonderful. We caught a glimpse of the walled city above the trees as we drove in from Collioure in the south-west of France.

We were booked into the Mercure at Carcassonne and it must be the closest hotel to the gates to the old city.
It was a Sunday and the whole city was having an "Open Day" because of a famous anniversary whose fame is now forgotten. It was free entry and so everyone within cooee was there or making an effort to get there.
We walked around the walls and through the small streets and alleyways inside. Great restoration work has been done. The view of these tiled roofs attracted me.
And snippets of the outer town from the windows were lovely too...
After dinner at the hotel we returned for a walk to see the lights.
And indulged in a selfie...
Cheers
Gillian

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

ANDORRA AND A DOOR

...Then we travelled north to Andorra. The land became more elevated and rugged.
We arrived just south of the town of Soldeu and stayed in an out of season ski resort hotel. That's our balcony, second from the left in the middle....
....and here it is from the inside.
It was a lovely hotel. It suffered from being off season and the staff were a bit casual about our arrival but they cheered up when the Andorran Government Minister's daughter arrived for her wedding in one of the RRs owned by the hotel owner. Andorra is making a great effort to encourage tourists in the summer to help to balance out the immense income provided by the Ski Tourism and the Duty Free Trade. On our way over the Pyrenees northwards to France we were faced by a steady stream of traffic heading up the hills to fill their fuel tanks and then their boots with the cheaper supplies.
As you can see, there is a chair lift to the top of the piste, which goes up the mountain just outside our hotel. Then you just ski back down!
Just up the road were telecabins and they were working on the weekends in the summer to provide access for sight-seers like us, downhill-mountain bikers and golfers.
We had a great time driving round the mountains and visiting pretty towns, monasteries, "Pyrenees" the department store and the "Melting Clock" statue donated to Andorra by Dali.
It stands quietly on a bridge in the centre of Andorra La Vella. You can walk up to it, touch it, feel it and appreciate it at close range.
We drove on to France but I have to show you what we have done to the front door when we came home and I shall show you Carcassonne later.
We have had a screen door added to the front door. You Ozzies will wonder how we have coped without one. There have been quite a few wasps and bluebottles this summer and we have decided that Billy is to be an indoor cat now that he is "Billy-Eight-Lives".
It does blur the door from the front a bit but it is much better than DJ expected and just as I had hoped.
As you can see, it is a bit of a puzzle to Billy.
But he has worked it out. He still can't understand what the mesh is made of and why he can't get through it , but it allows us to have the fresh air into the house and I have always loved to have the door open.
I hope this continues to go well. Billy is coping well with being an indoor cat and I am more relaxed too.
We have spent a couple of days trimming the yard and hanging the tomatoes in the shed...
It is impossible to grow and ripen tomatoes outdoors in the northeast of England. These have been outside in a lovely warm summer but they still need to go on ripening in the shed for a while. Next year our plan is to grow them in a poly-house on wheels so that it can be dragged around the sunshine patches in the courtyard!
Soon more news on Carcassonne. It was the highlight of the tour for me...
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Catalonia, Carcassonne and Andorra

We're just back from touring the Pyrenees and surrounding areas! Some great sites, terrific weather and amazing places.
We flew into and out of Barcelona from Newcastle, which is very handy for us. We only had a short time in the city and will return for a longer visit soon.
The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a favourite tourist site and really needs to be booked ahead. The queue both times we went there was snaking all the way around the block and people were expecting to be there for hours.
Other examples of Gaudi's design can be found all around town and other modernist artists and architects are well represented.
We visited the market and ambled down the Ramblas. This enabled us to pay an extortionate price for paella and beers for lunch at one of the cafes together with all the other tourists.
Our hotel at the Placa Espanya was well placed for the metro and local sight-seeing and the musical fountains played at night.
Then we travelled north to Andorra.
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Railway Ride on the SETTLE To CARLISLE Line

We drove over to Kirkby Stephen to catch a ride on the Settle to Carlisle Line.
There was quite a chilly wind on the top of the Pennines. The second station to the south is Dent.
All the stations are very pretty with picture postcard buildings and structures.
Behind the station at Horton is Ingleborough, the second highest of The Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales NP.
It is 723m above sea level and spent most of the day with its peak covered by a tablecloth of cloud.
The old water tower outside Settle Station has been transformed into a unique and fascinating home. It was the subject of one of the episodes of "Grand Designs" on TV a few months or more ago. Wonderful to see it completed and so handsomely too.
We travelled south on the "Freddie Truman" but on our return we missed the name of the train in our desire to get a seat! A whole bus trip/day-out group had joined us on the station platform and we knew there would only be two carriages.
We were very relieved to reach Kirkby Stephen and even more relieved when the train stopped so that we could disembark. It hadn't stopped at any of the other stations along the way and we wondered if were on an unplanned trip to Carlisle. Not really the sort of adventure you want on a Sunday if your car is at Kirkby Stephen.
The Ribble flows through Settle and a house on the banks looks lovely. There was one for sale and I shall look it up soon and assess its appeal and value, but like many old and pretty places....parking is lousy.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 22 August 2014

DRYPOINT ETCHING ON PERSPEX

This is my latest "hobby". I love it. I saw it advertised in our local free paper, "The Bishop Press" and rang up to book in straight away. The sessions are run at the Town hall once a month. Downstairs is a gallery and art studio/work space. It houses the printing press donated by Tom McGuinness, one of the "Pitman Painters".
He donated much to the local community. His press is for general use, some signed prints are for sale at a reasonable price at the library and I have even admired some magnificent paintings on the wall at the local GP's surgery. The receptionist simply said..."Oh Yes, Tom was a great friend of the Doctor".

This intaglio etching is a style of scratching on plexiglass with a steel pointed scriber...

The sheets I have used so far are 11x15cm. Not too big and ,therefore, easy to scratch away at with the scriber. It is considered artistic to scratch in different directions and with different strengths so that the scrapes have a rough or smooth edge and a variety of depth to hold the ink....
First effort shows from top to bottom...
*not enough ink wiped on and off the surface
*too much ink left on the plate
*maybe JUST RIGHT
It's a bit like the three bears and their porridge.
I inked this plate (on the left) with mixed inks. The two prints on the right are made with cotton buds applying the ink and lots of old phone book pages and cheap paper towel removing and blending it.
Here's another one done the same way in a few different colours.
I side placed the above prints on the sheet of paper so that I could fold them as cards, then I centre placed this one below.
I've started on another one using one of my own photos of Low Barns which is a wild life sanctuary near here. Here are the three stages I've done so far.
On the left is the photo, centre is the textural-tracing, right is the scratching/etching...as yet not complete. I'll see how it prints next month. It's only on once a month.

The other innovation chez nous is ...........A pressure cooker.
It came yesterday and I have already advanced from boiling potatoes to steaming gammon and making grand rice pudding. It is not to be a nine day wonder. Apart from it's own cooking benefits it will also reduce the cost of gas used in this house. I've never had one before so I'm sure you will hear more about it as I go.
Cheers
Gillian

Saturday, 2 August 2014

July Was A Busy Time

After the trip to Masham we settled in at home for a couple of sets of visitors. My sister and her husband brought Mum up to stay with a friend and undertook necessary work on the student rental house that they own.
Then the Great Granddaughter was brought north by her parents.
Outings to the usual places prepared her for the future. Fish and Chips from the Almighty Cod at Seaton Carew and Jersey ice cream from Archers.
I got to rock her in the rain while the chips were eaten.
After that we headed to the Midlands to visit friends and then down to Lancing to visit relatives and new kittens. Fortunately the weather was fine and we we had BBQs at Goring Gap and at the campsite.
Then on to stay in Mudeford with sister and husband again.
There was an Arts Festival on and I'd submitted some pictures.
They hung happily amongst the others enjoying their outing and then they all got packed up to come home. My art tutor warned me that black frames don't sell!!! The few pictures that sold seemed to be photos and animals. Traditional watercolours and scenery seem to be out of fashion. And my art tutor was right. My pictures looked quite sombre amongst their brighter companions.
A new allotment was also on the visiting list.
DJ checked out the shed and...
Both he and T looked carefully for Raspberries.
We took a big bag of fresh veggies home and at the bottom was thus little fellow sitting with his legs crossed.
We stopped and camped overnight in Whatstandwell and then went up in the cable car to The Heights of Abraham.
Great views, a cavern to look round and some lovely fossils were the best bits and the cable car was super.
Then on home to pick up Billy who was so surprised to see us that he must have thought we were never coming back.
His first birthday is tomorrow.
Cheers for now,
Gillian

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Grand Depart and the Grand De-Party! at Masham.

Last weekend was spent at Masham in Yorkshire. We parked the campervan for a couple of nights at The Old Station Campsite. This was on the route of the Tour de France and allowed us to get really close.  After a wander round town on the Saturday morning, to view the artwork and sculptures...
 ....we settled at the side of the A6108.
We set up the table and a couple of chairs, newspapers, quiche and salad and wine, just across the road, from the gate to the campsite......and waited. Eventually they all arrived at once.
They were only an arms length away. They seemed to pass in a blur, it was all so fast.
It was VERY exciting and a giant cheer must have followed them along their miles of this stage of the ride.
We all cheered till the last ones went by. It wasn't long!
On our return home, My sister and BIL had been to stay and we wrapped up some paintings for them to take back to the Mudeford Arts Festival.
I've bought some frames from Ezeframe on the internet. They are black floater frames...meant for canvases to drop into. The pics on the sides here are in their frames and the large one in the middle and the two others are waiting for their frames.
This is the latest and is from a lesson in a painting magazine. Very effective and it will be framed the same way.
Life is lovely and busy at the moment. Lots of visitors. More tomorrow including the new great-grand-daughter. Visited the pick-your-own farm today and six jars of jam have been made and "tons" of frozen peas and broad beans are in the freezer.
Cheers for now
Gillian