Taking a break

Cup of tea

We’re taking a bit of a break. The day job has been hectic lately. And the computer needs replacing because it’s getting old and slow and crippled. I’ve been putting it off all year because I’ve been lazy and squeezing every last bit of juice out of it.

We decided that it is an opportune time to have a re-think about the blog. The kids have grown up and are embracing other social media. They’ve got ideas of their own. Our family travelling habits are shifting. They want to go backpacking on their own … and so they should. But we’ll be back, perhaps in another guise. I don’t know yet what that will be. But we’ll let you know.

~ Spotted Cow

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Local

bagels at Columbia Road

I love travelling, but I also love coming home to all things familiar. One of my favourite local things to do on a Sunday morning is to head down to Columbia Road market to have breakfast, before having a wander around the flower & plant stalls. The market has become popular with London tourists, so I have to get cracking fairly early to avoid the crowds.

~ Spotted Cow

Mallaig

Mallaig harbour

The Jacobite steam train stopped at Mallaig for a couple of hours before it headed back to Fort William. When we stepped off, the dark clouds started rolling in. We did a short walk around the picturesque harbour before heading to the pub. Not many photos on this stop, but I wanted to share this one where the dark clouds jostle with the sunlight over the boats in the marina.

Weekly Photo Challenge: H2O

~ Spotted Cow

Jacobite Steam Train

Glenfinnan viaduct

I love train journeys, and our Scottish itinerary was built around the Jacobite steam train that runs on the West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig. It is billed as the UK’s most scenic railway, and I can certainly vouch for that. The scenery is gloriously verdant and the highlight is running over the 21-arch span Glenfinnan viaduct. If you recognise it, it’s because both the train and the viaduct have featured in the Harry Potter movies, as well as some others. Indeed, there were several Harry Potter fans on board, recognisable by their broomsticks and Harry Potter lightning scar pencilled on their foreheads.

You can also do this trip on ScotRail, but we wanted the romance of travelling First Class on the heritage steam train. It’s an affordable luxury and I’m glad we did.

~ Spotted Cow

Jacobite steam train

First Class

Out the train window

 

 

First night

Giant checkers

Our first night in Scotland was at the Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel at Aberfoyle, near Loch Lomond. The hotel setting is stunning as it sits on the shores of Loch Ard. I had no phone signal while we were there and I couldn’t get onto the hotel wifi. So I was quite cut off from the world, and it was wonderful. It certainly didn’t matter when we took evening drinks on the terrace and admired the view. And when we were hungry, we headed into the restaurant for dinner and still managed to enjoy the view because it had windows all round. We only stayed the one evening, but it set us up in the right mindset for the rest of our trip.

~ Spotted Cow

MacDonald Forest Hills Hotel

Dining room

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Road trip

Road trip

The most amazing thing I did this summer was a road trip in the Scottish Highlands for 6 days. The scenery was unbelievable and a lot of the time, the most beautiful bits were un-capturable because it was so big & grand and we were whizzing by. I’m excited about posting the pictures here over the coming sessions, and I’ve included a few starters below. It was very difficult to pick and so I’ve chosen Scottish icons like the flag, the thistle and the highland cow. Unfortunately no Nessie. Boo.

~ Spotted Cow

Scottish flag

Scottish thistle

Scottish souvenirs

Highland cow

Loch Ness life float

An English seal

Seal

I went to the Blythburgh summer fete last month and among the day’s frivolities was a boat ride around the local waterways. And we saw a seal ! It had never occurred to me that I might see a seal in England. The said creature, however, was none too impressed by us, a boat load of humans leaning over the side to take his picture. His look of disdain says it all.

~ Spotted Cow

My grandfather’s clock

Clock face

Lewes was famous for its clockmaking in the 18th and 19th centuries, and I saw some fine examples at the Anne of Cleves House. This one has a lovely decorated face set within a gilded frame. It made me think of the song “My Grandfather’s Clock”. In fact, the song is responsible for how the longcase clock came to be known as the grandfather clock. I bet most people – including me – wouldn’t know to call it anything other than a grandfather clock.

~ Spotted Cow

Lewes War Memorial

Lewes War Memorial

I like angel statues. Hence, when I saw this bronze angel in the middle of Lewes, standing atop a pillar with arms stretched out, I was enamoured. I took several pictures even though the circumstances weren’t easy. The sun was behind her, and while the road wasn’t very busy, there were cars coming and going around the island on which she stood. When I went up to read the plaques I learnt that it is the Lewes War Memorial to commemorate the fallen in the First and Second World Wars. That pretty much determined that it was going to be a black & white photograph.

~ Spotted Cow

Cooling down

Dog in the fountain

We’ve had a cracking few days weather-wise this week in London. It’s been hot hot hot. I would’ve preferred to be sitting on the beach in Brighton than sitting in the office in London, but there you go. The heat made me think of a picture I took in Madrid last month when a walker let her dog paddle through a fountain to cool off. It must’ve felt heavenly.

~ Spotted Cow

Weekly Photo Challenge: Edge

Castle wall

Most of the main walls of Lewes Castle are intact. However, in some sections like this one, only an edge of a wall remains.

In the picture you can see that the wall is leaning slightly to the right.  I straightened the doorway, but the resulting image showed the chairs & people leaning awkwardly and I had to un-do the change. The ground must have shifted in the years since the wall was built.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Edge

~ Spotted Cow

Lewes Castle

Lewes Castle

About 20 years ago – when we were young adults who thought we were worldly – Purple Cow and I happened upon Lewes in our travels around the south coast of England. We didn’t stay the night because there was a festival in town and there were no beds. So, we wandered around the lovely streets, thinking what a quaint town it was, before we got on the train to Brighton.

Somehow, we managed to miss Lewes Castle, which is smack bang in the middle of town, on the top of a hill. Those were the days before the internet told us everything. Nevertheless, it seems incredulous that we missed such a prominent landmark. I don’t know if it wasn’t as clearly signposted as it is now or if the tourist office wasn’t open or we just never looked up.

A few weeks ago, on a sunny summer’s weekend, I visited Lewes on a day trip. Imagine my surprise when I read that it has a 1000-year old Norman Castle built by William the Conquerer’s son-in-law, William de Warenne, and that it has incredible views over the Sussex countryside. I felt like a wally. Look at the pictures. It is incredible that we completely missed it. It’s a good thing that I’m not so slack on my travel research.

~ Spotted Cow

The Barbican

View of Lewes town from the castle

View of bowling green from Lewes Castle

The stuff other people throw out

Flea market finds

I’ve had an ongoing de-cluttering project around my house for the last couple of years and it’s been a good exercise. I don’t think that I need to own so many things, but more than that, there’s all the stuff that has been put away neatly in drawers that haven’t been used in years.

When I visited the Lewes flea market, I saw – on sale – the mass of things that people don’t want, throw out and give away. And it is literally a huge collection of stuff that some good soul has categorised and displayed for the passing footfall to view and perhaps purchase for themselves. I like the idea of buying pre-loved goods.

On this occasion I didn’t buy anything but I did go round taking photos. It was a bit of a challenge with the low lighting, the clutter, narrow corridors and people walking in front of the lens (the cheek !) All my photos were taken on ISO 1600. I contemplated going up to ISO 3200 a few times, but in my experience they tend to come out quite grainy.

Any yes, the last picture was my submission to the Photo Challenge this week.

Side note. Lewes is a lovely historic county town about 1½ hours south of London by train.

~ Spotted Cow

Underwear model in the mirror

Mannequin & mirror among a pile of random bits

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror

Close up of mannequin, mirror and puppet

I snapped this while wandering around the Lewes flea market, thinking I’d use it in a post called “the stuff other people throw away” … and I might yet do that ! In particular, I liked the trio of the mirror, the Mexican doll puppet and the mannequin with the headset. The picture was originally taken in portrait but I cropped it because my blog template prefers landscape compositions in the main picture.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror

~ Spotted Cow

Mannequin & mirror among a pile of random bits

Spying

Having a drink outside

My balcony in Madrid had a view onto the outdoor tables of a bar. I loved looking out onto the street, watching the comings and goings, and spying on the people who sat down to have a drink. Looking back, I now wish that I had made a project of it as I am somewhat frustrated with the short series of unsatisfactory pictures I took. Hmph. It will have to keep for next time … and I’ll have to make sure that I have a balcony that is as advantageously situated.

~ Spotted Cow

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque Retiro, Madrid

The Crystal Palace edifice isn’t rare like a diamond, but there are not so many of them around. Certainly, I’ve only ever seen pictures of the London Crystal Palace which was destroyed by fire, and upon which the Madrid one is modelled. It was originally built as a greenhouse – and it reminds me of the Kew Garden greenhouses – but these days it is used for art exhibitions.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was very hot inside when I went to have a look at what seemed a disparate set of exhibits, including a swinging pendulum that looked like an upside-down Empire State Building, a model ship hoisted at an angle and various retro electronics. The greenhouse wasn’t much respite from the heat outside, but it was a beautiful building to admire. I lingered to take some photographs indoors and had to be patient for what I thought was the right grouping and movement of people, with the right space between them. Such is the character of street photography that you can’t direct people around as you would like !

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare

~ Spotted Cow

Detail on the Crystal Palace

Model boat exhibit

Pendulum exhibit

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fun!

Street art chase

I love the creativity of street art on electricity boxes that you see in many cities, but I don’t tend to take pictures of them. Until today, that is, when I saw a composition that made me laugh. The stationary bicycle looks like it’s chasing the cartoon monster downhill. I snapped the picture quickly with my camera phone … and hopped out of the way of a beeping car. I’m going to have to come back with my proper camera and hope that a bicycle is there again.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fun!

~ Spotted Cow

August hiatus

Sunglasses

I’m off on holidays and weekends away through August – Madrid, the Sussex coast, Suffolk and the Scottish Highlands. Woo hoo ! The blog postings are going to be erratic over the coming weeks. However, I have good intentions of carrying my camera around and hopefully there will some interesting pictures to show & share for it.

~ Spotted Cow

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

We were treated to a whole week – an entire week ! – of summer sunshine in London. Of course, the underground & the trains were too hot. People who work in old buildings with no air-conditioning had a helluva time. You had to sleep with all the windows open and the portable fan on max. But I’m not complaining, given what we get in the rest of the year.

The other side to this is the London parks become your living room on the weekend. And you can get away from the masses, as I discovered when walking around Hampstead Heath on Saturday afternoon. This little trio had a whole field to themselves.

~ Spotted Cow