December 28, 2016

The Great Fire of London

I’m very interested in the history of places I visit and the Great Fire of 1666 was a major turning point in the story of London. I toured the Museum of London’s Fire! Fire! exhibition which commemorates the 350th anniversary of this catastrophic event. Later I visited a notable victim of the inferno and Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest achievement, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Fire! Fire! Exhibit at the  Museum of London

December 19, 2016

Buckingham Palace & The Royal Mews

The official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II is a familiar sight to many of us, from the ceremonial Changing of the Guards to the balcony where royal newlyweds kiss for a cheering crowd. I wanted to peek behind the palace walls so I timed my trip to England for the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace, London

December 12, 2016

A Very Downton Day

Once I became a fan of the popular television series Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle quickly found its way onto my travel bucket list. On my recent trip to England I not only visited the estate where the series was filmed but I also toured the scenic Oxfordshire locations that doubled as fictional Downton Village and Yew Tree Farm.

Highclere Castle, the Real Downton Abbey

December 05, 2016

Animals and Armour at the Tower of London

Tower Bridge is one of London’s most famous landmarks but it’s not as old as it appears. The bridge was built in the late 1800s and designed in keeping with its medieval neighbour, the Tower of London. I got a closer look at the bridge while crossing the River Thames to visit the Tower, the oldest of Her Majesty’s Historic Royal Palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tower Bridge, London

November 28, 2016

South Bank of the Thames

On our first full day back in London we took a bus to the south bank of the historic River Thames. The stretch of riverbank from Westminster Bridge in the west to Tower Bridge in the east is comprised of three districts: South Bank, Bankside and London Bridge. There are enough restaurants, pubs, museums and entertainment venues to keep any visitor amused. Here’s a photo tour of sights between the London Eye and City Hall.

Westminster Bridge, London

November 21, 2016

London's Oxford Street

After spending a quiet week in England’s West Country, the hustle and bustle of London came as a bit of a shock. Our home for the next ten days would be The Cumberland Hotel, conveniently located at Marble Arch on the doorstep of Oxford Street, the busiest shopping street in Europe. We checked into the hotel, brought our luggage to our room and then set out to explore the neighbourhood. At the top of my list was Selfridges department store.

Marble Arch, London

November 14, 2016

Salisbury, Medieval and Modern

By the end of the day our Corners of Cornwall tour with Back-Roads Touring would be over. But before we returned to London, we would also visit one of England’s great cathedrals in the city of Salisbury. As we drove through the Dorset countryside enroute to Salisbury, a unique landform appeared along the coastline. Was this what those curious cows were looking at?

Chesil Bank, Dorset 

November 07, 2016

From Cornwall to Dorset

Our weeklong tour of Cornwall, England was sweeping eastward again, passing through the counties of Devon and Dorset on our way back to London, but there was still much more to see. The day ahead promised a visit to a village with a history of smuggling, a working Benedictine abbey, and a popular seaside resort.

Polperro, Cornwall

October 31, 2016

Daphne du Maurier's Fowey

“Fowey has a magic all of its own.”

~ Daphne du Maurier

One of my favourite stops on our tour of Cornwall was the town of Fowey with its scenic seaside location at the mouth of the River Fowey. When I stepped off the motor couch outside the Fowey Hotel I was welcomed by lush hydrangeas, fragrant English lavender and a grand view of the harbour below. The hotel also has a connection to author Daphne du Maurier.

Fowey, Cornwall

October 24, 2016

England's Tea Plantation

It’s no secret that the British love their tea but I was surprised to learn that England has its own tea plantation in the county of Cornwall. Tea bushes thrive in the microclimate of the Tregothnan estate near Truro, which mimics that of the Himalayan foothills.

England's Tea Plantation, Tregothnan

October 17, 2016

Falmouth and St. Mawes

The town of Falmouth on the southwest coast of England is Cornwall’s largest port. It boasts a National Maritime Museum plus two fortresses built by King Henry VIII. But we took a break from sightseeing one morning to browse through the town’s shops and soak up the seaside ambience. And I was delighted with the fishing village across the harbour, picturesque St. Mawes.

October 10, 2016

Coastal Marvels of Cornwall

My second day in Cornwall proved to be even wetter than the first; so much for my dream of strolling along a sunny beach with a Cornish ice cream in hand. I donned my rain jacket and grabbed an umbrella, reminding myself that I was experiencing authentic British weather. Despite the rain, the coast of Cornwall was spectacular.

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

October 03, 2016

Doc Martin's Port Isaac

Morning skies filled with darkening clouds did not bode well for our visit to the Cornish coast and Port Isaac, the fishing village known as Portwenn on the hit British TV series, Doc Martin. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll recognize locations from the show; if you’ve never watched Doc Martin you may still appreciate the beauty of Cornwall.

The Cornish Coast at Port Isaac

September 26, 2016

England's West Country

One of the many places I’ve dreamed of visiting is Cornwall and this summer my dream became reality. After two days in London we departed for the West Country, the southwestern region of England that includes the counties of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset. The first day of our week-long tour took us to the city of Wells and Dartmoor National Park.

Dartmoor National Park

September 19, 2016

Cruising the Thames to Greenwich

London is no longer a major port city but the River Thames still bustles with barges, yachts and sightseeing cruises. So it seemed only fitting that we take to the water for our journey to the World Heritage Site of Maritime Greenwich

The River Thames, London

September 12, 2016

Bridget Jones's London

Are you a fan of the Bridget Jones novels by Helen Fielding or the movies starring Renée Zellweger? If so, you’re probably looking forward to the latest film in the franchise, Bridget Jones’s Baby, which opens in North American theatres on Friday. I’m taking a slight detour from my planned posts to share some photos of London filming locations from the first two movies, Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004).

Bridget Jones's Door

September 05, 2016

Day One in London

I’m back from England and what an amazing trip. We spent a week touring the charming villages and beautiful scenery of the West Country, plus another twelve days exploring the many sights in and near London. I took 4,000 pictures and there’s a lot to tell you so let's start from the beginning, in London.

The London Eye

August 29, 2016

News and Surprises from England

When I research a trip I'm about to take, I go into a lot of detail. I want to know everything that will be going on and all the wonderful things I can see while I'm there. Sometimes I worry that I might overdo it and lose the element of surprise. But England didn't disappointment me. Several unexpected sights were in store for me – like the object of the cows' attention. (I'll tell you more about that another time.) After returning home and doing more research, I continue to be surprised.

What are these cows looking at?

July 25, 2016

Next Stop: England

In a few days I'll be leaving on my trip to England so I've been very busy with the last minute preparations. All of my travel documents have arrived, I was able to take advantage of the drop in the British pound brought on by Brexit, and my packing is well underway.

I won't be posting to my blog while I'm away but when I return I'll have lots of new photos to share, not only from London but also Oxford, Canterbury and a tour through Devon and Cornwall. And I'll tell you about the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, that officially premieres this weekend (without giving away any secrets, of course). I also plan to track down some of the BFG Dream Jars scattered amongst London's landmarks.

If you're following me on Twitter, I hope to tweet a few photos as time and technology will allow.

Have a wonderful summer. See you in September!

If you'd like to see some of the photos from my trip, from Buckingham Palace to Doc Martin's Port Isaac, you'll find them on my Pinterest boards:

London Day Trips
England: The West Country

July 18, 2016

And Now, Nice

After the tragic events in Nice on Bastille Day, I remember the city in happier times.

July 11, 2016

Festa del Redentore, Venice

The third weekend in July is a very special occasion on the Venetian calendar. This is when Festa del Redentore, the Feast of the Redeemer, celebrates the end of a devastating plague that killed 25% of the population of Venice. I first read about the festival in Rosanna Chiofalo's debut novel, Bella Fortuna.

Redentore Church, Venice

July 04, 2016

My 5 Favourite Food Moments

I love to try different foods while visiting other counties. Even within individual European nations there can be so many different regional cuisines. It was a difficult task to narrow my choices down to only five, but here are some of my favourite food moments in France and Italy.

1.  Beef Bourguignon in Beaune, France

Home to grazing Charolais cattle and sun-drenched vineyards, the region of Burgundy was the ideal place to try the local specialty, Boeuf Bourguignon.

Boeuf Bourguignon, Beaune

June 27, 2016

Travel Theme: Exits

As I looked through my travel photos for samples of exits I realized I was much more likely to take photographs from the point of view of the entrance, a time of anticipation. When I leave a place my mind has often moved on to the next. There are a few notable exceptions. The sculpture of Seated Hermes in the sculpture loggia of Villa San Michele in Capri drew me in to the pergola covered pathway beyond.

Villa San Michele, Capri

June 20, 2016

Art: Larger than Life

Works of art are no longer confined to the hallways of museums and galleries. Contemporary pieces sometimes appear outdoors where you least expect them – like this colourful bouquet of metal flowers in Place Antonin Poncet in Lyon. The piece was designed by Korean artist Jeong Hwa Choi for the Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2003.

The Flower Tree, by Jeong Hwa Choi

June 16, 2016

The Setting Thesaurus Books are Here!

The Setting Thesaurus Duo
Today's post is for my writer friends.

I've always loved a good thesaurus. And what's armchair travel fiction without a fabulous setting? So of course I had to help Becca and Angela celebrate the release this week of their two new books: The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus. (There's even a vault full of prizes to be won!)

June 13, 2016

European Luxury Cars

I’ve never been much of a car person but I must admit there are some pretty incredible automobiles on the streets of Europe. These aren’t just any old vehicles but iconic sports models like Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren. I thought I’d share some photos of these cars in honour of Father’s Day on Sunday.

Ferrari Sports Car

June 06, 2016

Travel Theme: Plants

I just couldn't resist this week's travel theme. I love plants but I challenged myself to exclude all the flowers (my favourites) and look for more unusual specimens among my photos, like this eccentric Agave Americana near the beach on Cap Ferrat.

Agave Americana on Cap Ferrat

May 30, 2016

Travel Theme: Neutral

Many of my favourite travel photos are those with vibrant blue skies, tempting foods or lush gardens. A neutral colour palette makes me appreciate other aspects of the subject, like the texture of the shell on this African spurred tortoise or the startled expression on this street performer in Florence.

African Spurred Tortoise, Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

May 23, 2016

Happy Birthday Queen Victoria

It's the first long weekend of the summer here in Canada. We're celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria, Britain's longest reigning monarch until Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her last September. Here are a few related London sights, beginning with the Victoria Monument in front of Buckingham Palace.

Victoria Monument, Buckingham Palace

May 16, 2016

The Lady and the Unicorn

On Wednesday the world celebrates International Museum Day. I’ve been lucky to see some of the greatest works of European art in museums like the Uffizi and the Louvre, and I’m amazed that something as lovely as The Lady and the Unicorn, a series of medieval tapestries, came out of an age known more for Barbarian invaders and the Black Death.

The Lady and the Unicorn
Musée de Cluny, Paris

May 09, 2016

Changing of the Guards

One of London’s most popular tourist attractions is the ceremonial changing of the Household Troops with their iconic red tunics, bearskin hats and accompanying brass marching band. Large crowds gather in front of Buckingham Palace and around Victoria Monument to watch the spectacle unfold but London isn’t the only place to witness this traditional military ceremony. Similar events also take place at Windsor Castle and the Prince’s Palace in Monaco.

Changing of the Guard, London

May 02, 2016

My 3 Favourite Gardens

In honour of Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’d like to revisit three of my favourite gardens in France and Italy. These are special gardens filled with colourful flowers but they also have elements that make them unique: musical fountains at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild; Chinese white peacocks on Isola Bella; and spectacular scenery at the Gardens of Augustus.

April 25, 2016

The Old Customs House of Venice

In Venice there’s a triangular area of land where the Grand Canal converges with the Giudecca Canal. Sitting on this point, the Punta della Dogana, is the Old Customs House where merchant ships once stopped for inspection and to pay taxes on their cargo before proceeding down the Grand Canal.

The Old Customs House, Dogana di Mare,
on Punta della Dogana

April 18, 2016

Cruising the Rhone River

River cruising continues to grow in popularity and the Rhone is one of Europe’s major waterways, originating high in the Swiss Alps and flowing southward through France to the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way it passes through the rugged Ardeche and the scenic landscapes of Provence. Cruise itineraries operate in both directions and usually offer pre- or post-cruise stays in Paris. Here are some of the historic towns and cities you may visit on a Rhone River cruise.

River Cruise Vessels Docked in Lyon

April 11, 2016

The Roman Spa Town of Bath

The English city of Bath is perhaps best known for its association with Georgian era novelist, Jane Austen. She made the city her home for several years and set two of her novels here: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.  But Bath was also the site of a Roman public bathing complex that gave the city its name.

The Circus, Bath

April 04, 2016

7 Sights on Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco seems to be on the itinerary of every visitor to Venice. Napoleon described the square as the finest drawing room in Europe; powerful doges ruled the Venetian Republic from a pink marble palazzo; and Caffé Florian served the continent’s first cup of coffee. From the Byzantine basilica that gives the square its name to a colourful zodiac clock, here are seven sights you’ll see on one of the world’s most famous squares, Piazza San Marco.

Dusk on the Piazza

March 28, 2016

3 Scenic Hill Towns

Some of the most scenic towns I've visited are those that are perched high atop a hill. These towns offer great views of the surrounding countryside and medieval buildings add to their charm. From Provence and the Cote d'Azur in the south of France, to the region of Tuscany in Italy, here are some photos of my three favourites.

Eze Village, France

March 21, 2016

The Flowers of Spring

Yesterday was the first day of spring. I don't know what the weather is like where you live but we just had another large snowfall. It will be quite a while before it looks like spring. Nothing signals the change of season to me like gardens in bloom so here are some flowers I've enjoyed during my spring travels in Europe, beginning with Kensington Palace in London.

Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London

March 14, 2016

The Market of Campo Santa Margherita

I love visiting markets when I travel, especially food markets. You can learn a lot about the local cuisine by browsing the stalls filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables, fresh seafood and beautiful flowers. The squares where markets take place are often a neighbourhood gathering place and this is true for Campo Santa Margherita, the largest square in the Dorsoduro district of Venice.

February 29, 2016

Tuileries Garden, Paris

It’s the last day of February and I’m craving a little dose of summer. How about you? One of my favourite cities is Paris so I went back through my photos (some very old) and decided to share some images of the city’s oldest public park, the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries).

Tuileries Garden (1981)

February 22, 2016

Campo San Barnaba, Venice

It's Oscar time! The 88th Annual Academy Awards are coming up on Sunday night. In keeping with this yearly celebration of excellence in film, my post this week features a small square in Venice with a large presence on the silver screen: Campo San Barnaba.

February 15, 2016

Ca' Rezzonico: Museum of 18th Century Venice

The name Casanova is synonymous with the city of Venice. The exploits of the notorious womanizer have become legend and I was eager to take a look inside one of the Grand Canal palazzos where Venetians like Casanova would have socialized. I got my opportunity at Ca' Rezzonico, the Museum of 18th Century Venice.

February 08, 2016

7 Must-Sees in London for 2016

Plans for my trip to England this summer are coming along really well. My research keeps turning up more things to see and do – I wish I could stay a week longer to fit it all in! From art and anniversaries to fashion and theatre, here are just a few of the special events taking place in London in 2016.

February 01, 2016

Modern Art in Historic Venice

In a city as old as Venice, modern art may not be on your sightseeing radar. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is therefore an unexpected treat. In 1948, the American heiress succumbed to the charms of La Serenissima and purchased a villa on the Grand Canal. As the patron of many notable artists of the 20th century, Peggy filled Palazzo Venier dei Leoni with avant-garde paintings and sculpture. In 1951, she opened her collection to the public.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

January 18, 2016

Travel Theme: Entertainment

There are many different kinds of entertainment and music is probably my favourite. I've attended some formal concerts in wonderful settings, like St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London with its amazing acoustics.  I've also come across some memorable musicians playing outdoors.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London

January 11, 2016

The Best Views of Venice

No visit to Venice is complete without seeing one of the world's great squares, Piazza San Marco. It's said that Napoleon once described the piazza as "the most elegant drawing room in Europe" and its grand cafés were frequented by the likes of Casanova. But it's not the only spot for scenic views.

Piazza San Marco, Venice