Wanderlust: Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY

As much as I want to go fully medieval all over this post, I will do my best to restrain myself....

Armed with shiny new National Trust cards, on a rather overcast and miserable March weekday, Des and I decided to get out of York and explore further afield.

We decided to head out towards one of the best preserved monastic ruins in the country, Fountains Abbey, which is situated a few miles south of Ripon in North Yorkshire.

I'll just give a short bit of historical context!

The abbey was founded in 1132 and remained a thriving monastic community up until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 (anyone who watched Wolf Hall - we have Cromwell to thank for this!)

The abbey then passed into crown hands, stripped of all it's wealth (it was actually one of the richest monasteries in the country!) and then sold into private ownership.

In the 18th century, the abbey became part of Studley Royal Estate and was incorporated into the beautifully landscaped Studley Royal Water Garden.

The site was acquired by the National Trust in 1983 and is managed in partnership with English Heritage.

In 1986 the entire Park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to it's importance as:

"A masterpiece of human creative genius, and an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history."

The peace and tranquility of the whole site is striking

As we are still in March, we were one of very few visitors to the Abbey. However there are plenty of places to explore and hide away from the crowds, especially as there is the whole of the Water Garden and Studley Estate to explore!

What I love about visiting historical places, especially ruins, are all the little details that you can uncover - carvings, tiles, hidden passages and archways.

Latin Inscriptions in the Transept

The weathered sandstone is beautifully coloured!

The vaulted undercroft where food and provisions were stored

My life in the past few weeks has been pretty hectic and accordingly stressful, not that I should complain really, as this flurry of activity is due to lots of exciting business ventures!

It was amazing how relaxing it was just being outside in the countryside, surrounded by stunning views and architecture.

There's almost too much to see here, I recommend taking a full day in order to get round everything.

View from the water garden, looking back to the abbey

The first and only shot from my short career as a medieval model.

Wanderlust: Paris, July 2014, Part 2

This is my second post showcasing some of the places I visited during my summer trip to Paris (Part 1 can be found here.)

Autumn is probably my favourite time of year, the season's earthy palette seems so vibrant in the low autumn light. Part of me still craves the heat of the sun and I find myself wishing to return to Paris and the glorious weather we had. Next year perhaps!

During our July trip, we packed rather a lot into the six days we were there. One of my favourite hidden gems that we stumbled upon was the Cite de l'architecture et du patrimoine, the City of Architecture and Heritage. This architecture museum comprises of both permanent and temporary exhibitions, which covers a large chronological span of buildings, from ancient to modern. 

Much of the permanent exhibition is taken up with full size plaster replicas of building facades, columns and rooms. My favourite section comprised of replicas of early church interiors which were used as exhibit spaces for modern sculpture and furniture. As you can see in the picture below, the modern forms looked pretty alien in their ancient environments!

ecclesiastical architectural details.
During one of my wanders I stumbled across the beautiful window of Faucon. Apologies for the reflection in the image, I think I was just mesmerized by the chocolates and macarons. Somehow  all food in Paris, even in small bakeries, looks both wildly decadent and enticing!

As we were staying in Montmartre, it would have been inexcusable not to visit the Musee Montmartre, which is also surrounded by the Renoir Gardens. The permanent collection is composed of paintings, posters and drawings by some of Montmartre's leading artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Kupka, Steinlen, Valadon, and Utrillo. 

Just below the gardens is the only surviving vineyard in the city, which has existed since the medieval period.

 On the swing in the Renoir Gardens

More idyllic garden space

The musee d'orsay has to be on every tourist's list when visiting Paris, the museum collection mainly comprises of 19th century and early 20th century French art. 

During my visit, I was particularly bowled over by the temporary Van Gogh exhibition, "Van Gogh / Artaud. The Man Suicided by Society" Based on an essay by Artaud, an artist in his own right, the exhibition explores Van Goghs place in a society which rejected his work - 

"Challenging the thesis of alienation, Artaud was determined to show how van Gogh’s exceptional lucidity made lesser minds uncomfortable.  Wishing to prevent him from uttering certain "intolerable truths", those who were disturbed by his painting drove him to suicide. "

The Pompidou Centre is another mecca for art lovers visiting the city, the modern art museum boasts a unique building and the views from the top are particularly spectacular, as you can see below!

During my visit there were two stand out exhibitions, the first being on the work of the architect Bernard Tschumi, who drew inspiration for his designs from many other mixed media sources, including the movement of actors on film. Tschumi was particularly interested in movement and movement within spaces.

The second temporary exhibit which blew me away was the video installation "The Clock" by Christian Marclay. The Clock is a 24 hour montage of thousands of time related film excerpts which are edited to be correspondent with the time during the film. (e.g the 3:10 to Yuma scene which talks about the 3:10 to Yuma, is shown at 3:10 exactly.)

View from the Pompidou looking to the hill of Montmartre and Sacre Couer

View looking towards the eiffel Tower.
Our good friend Kathryn said that we could not go to Paris without visiting Sainte-Chapelle, the medieval gothic chapel situated at the heart of the city on the Île de la Cité.

The chapel is considered to represent the pinnacle of gothic architecture and was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns. It was completed in 1248 and is literally awash with stained glass and beautifully ornate detail. 

We visited at the weekend, therefore the chapel was very busy and we had to queue for around half an hour. It may therefore be worth going during a quieter weekday morning! However the building is an absolute jewel, the colours inside as the sun hits the windows are dazzling. Therefore it is and an absolute must, just be aware that there are building works currently taking place and currently the rose window is obscured.

Finally, a little bit of street art for you

I wonder where the top of the stairs lead.... where is the man going with his briefcase?

Wanderlust: Paris, July 2014, Part 1

This is a bit of a belated post, as I actually visited Paris all the way back in July! (It's almost October now, how crazy is that?!)

I was extremely lucky to get the chance to visit, as I tagged along on my boyfriend's trip to study for two weeks at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique.)

I thought I would share with you some of my snaps from the trip which document the places we visited, food we ate and the city in full summertime glory. I think our trip was slightly atypical, in that we got off the beaten path somewhat and stumbled across some quite marvelous places, however we also did do a lot of the more usual tourist sightseeing.

We stayed in a functional, but clean, hostel in Montmartre which was just around the corner from a wonderful bistro, le Cépage. We had afternoon coffee and dinner here a couple of times during our stay, I fully recommend the steak as the highlight of the menu, though the salads on other tables also looked pretty spectacular. It was just a great place to sit in the afternoon/evening sun and soak in the atmosphere.

Part of the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestry series
 As a former medievalist, I couldn't pass up the chance to go and see the medieval treasures at the MUSÉE DE CLUNY/Musée national du Moyen Âge. It was well worth the trip south of the river! The museum is filled with a large variety of pieces, ranging from tithe bowls to reliquaries and tapestries. Even if you have a general interest in History or Art, this is definitely one to visit as the collection is large and impressive.

After a rather abortive attempt to see the famous Catacombs (top tip; don't try to go at midday on a weekend, the queue is huge!) we inadvertently stumbled upon the nearby Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, a beautiful glass and steel building which houses an impressive modern art collection. 

Opened in 1994, the foundation "promotes discovery, by revealing young artists to the public or by unveiling the secret side of world-renowned artists. It promotes creation through the commissioning and production of works. By opening up to the most diverse realms of creation and knowledge, it stimulates curiosity and discovery through its exhibitions." 

Again, this is another hidden gem which is slightly off the usual tourist track, but I really would urge you to go, if not just for the peaceful gardens which nestle around the building, providing an urban oasis away from the metropolis.

Beef in sticky sweet sauce (sorry I completely can't remember what it was!!) with rice and salad. Be assured it was delicious.

Seafood soup with mussels, squid and prawns

Now onto my favourite stuff! Food! whilst we ate a hell of a lot of brioche and baguette, we also went out for quite a few meals. One of the highlights in my memory has to be at the Restaurant Tin Tin, a Vietnamese establishment near the Belleville metro stop. The seafood soup in particular was full of flavour and extremely hearty. I also seem to remember that prices were very reasonable here, as the place is off the tourist trail.

Please forgive me, the selfie seemed like the only way here.

Of course, a trip to Paris would not be complete without a visit to the Louvre. I went on a Saturday and arrived just as the doors were opening, however there still was a sizeable queue. I think this is typical of a Saturday, so my advice would be to go during the week if you can. It was well worth the wait though and i particularly enjoyed the Napoleon III apartments, which were jam packed full of Georgian splendour. 

I really do think the Louvre is a museum which requires several visits, like the British Museum, there is far too much to digest in one sitting. I only really got a taste for a very small proportion of the collection. Though this of course provides an excellent excuse to continue visiting Paris!

Has anyone else been to Paris and have any top tips for places to visit?


P.S - Look out for part 2 of this post!