Category Archives: Travel

The wonder of stained glass windows.

One thing I really enjoyed this holiday was all the wonderful stained glass throughout Europe. There was a healthy mix of medieval and contemporary to explore. We came across it in majestic cathedrals,  in out of the way monastries and in tiny local churches. Ancient or modern, it lifted my soul to see the glorious , glowing colours and spend a little time reflecting on higher things than the next ice cream!

Here’s a little sample of some of my favourites:

We were walking through the small village of Penne and came across  the village church. We ducked inside to have a look ( it just seems disrespectful not to) and were rewarded with some stunning modern stained glass windows that really lit up the otherwise dark space. Even more impressive were the refracted light patterns that blazed across the widow sills and spilled onto the tiled floor.

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Stained glass. Penne, France

 

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Refracted light on tiles

 

There were many examples of biblical story depictions. They were a window ( excuse the pun) into medieval times when congregations were taught through the parables and stories found in the church windows. If I find them so remarkable today, standing out from all the competing visual stimuli, how astonishing must they have been to the ordinary villager who lived a life with little ornamentation.

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There were also windows that were more an art form than a worshipful window, complete with signature. I’m not sure who the artist is but I found their work in several churches in France. I like the looseness and fluidity of these windows and the invitation to interpret them as the viewer wishes.

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Sometimes the whole church seemed to be filled with the refracted light from the lofty stained glass windows, light bouncing off columns , across floors and onto empty chairs.

 

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My favourite refracted light pattern is this star shaped dazzler I came across in the entrance to the former pilgrimage church of Pilgrimage church of St. John Nepomuk (Zelana Hora) in the Cezch Republic. The church is famous for it’s star shaped design and is  full of star symbols. The girl on duty kindly moved a rope barrier so I could take this shot. We were lucky enough to have this Unesco listed church to ourselves and it was a great experience.

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Hope you enjoyed my round up of stained glass windows from this years trip. Of course there were many famous windows we didn’t visit this time, but it was interesting to see so many different styles and how widespread modern windows are. It’s encouraging to see this ecclesiastical art form continuing to evolve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latest painting

Back from holidays and just recovering from the old jet lag which has really hit me this year. Still … I managed to find a few good hours to finish the painting I started 6 weeks ago. It’s always difficult painting an iconic location – the silhouette is so well known that it’s immediately obvious if you get it wrong! So here’s my attempt at the wonderful Cradle Mountain and sunset reflections in Dove Lake, which nestles at it’s foot.

Cradle mountain sunset
Cradle Mountain sunset

Pre flight checklist..

I’ve just been doing my pre flight checklist.
The bags have been packed, weighed, repacked and reweighed and are now sitting on the doorstep ready to go.
There’s a few meals in the freezer for the IT Geek for those nights when the days have been too busy.
I’ve visited Mum and had a good long dose of her loveliness.
I’ve planned The Writers funeral in the wee hours of the morning ( should I bring his body home or just scatter his ashes in France where he so loves to be?)
The sheets are washed and in the dryer ready to make up a fresh new bed for the first night home.
The list of phone numbers is safely installed on the phone and the in laws have been rung for a goodbye.(managed not to seek their opinion on where The Writer should be scattered)
I’ve made and scheduled 6 videos for release on You Tube every Monday we’re away so as not to disappoint my die hard fans.
The “Closed for holidays” sign is in my Etsy shop window.
Only one last thing to check……
The cat was definitely out of the bag before I locked it wasn’t she?

A change is as good as a holiday…

I decided to test the old adage that a change is as good as a holiday so I changed my blog theme and I’ll tell you  when I get back from my upcoming Europe holiday if it was as good as 6 weeks of culture, food, art, landscapes, coastlines and general hedonistic holiday revelry.

Sorry to keep you on tenterhooks for the next few weeks but it’s anyones guess how this little experiment will turn out.

The last summer day trip.

Saturday was a blue sky day and heralded the last weekend of summer. We’re into rain and colder weather this week so the pool cover will be going on and the ugg boots coming out. Yes – I do have that most ugly of Australian footwear but they are just so toasty warm I gave in and gratefully accepted some Mother’s Day ugg slippers a few years ago.My feet have never stopped thanking me. Anyway , I digress as I often do.What I started out writing about was the blue sky day and here I am blathering on about toasty feet, winter rain and ugg boots!

So, back to the blue sky day. As  previously mentioned the sky was a startling blue, not a cloud in sight, just a vast canvas of cerulean blue. It was too beautiful and inviting to resist so the Writer made curried egg sandwiches ( his current obsession) I grabbed the snorkles and we both picked up our cameras as we headed out the door. The plan was a day trip down the Tasman Peninsula with a spot of swimming if the water was still warm enough.Down south the water temp starts dropping pretty quickly at the end of summer so I wasn’t about to commit until I’d dipped my toes in the water.

Toe dipping went fine and we swam at Safety Cove amongst schools of salmon and dancing gardens of seaweed with the sun casting golden ribbons of light over the sandy seabed. It was joyous! Later we dipped in again at the Tesselated Pavements. In between we drove around the Peninsula stopping so often for photos of the coast that it may have been quicker to walk! A splendiferous end to summer.

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Tesselated Pavenment and Pirates Bay
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Tesselated Pavement reflections
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Emerald Water
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Safety Cove
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Great roost for a seagull
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Whitecaps and fields of gold
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Ripple reflections

Travel collections

Last night I came home from work to find the house filled with flowers from our garden. The Writer had been putting down the mulch all day and celebrated by filling almost every vase we have with casual bunches of blooms. It looked so lovely after a slog of a day!

When we travel The Writer and I are always on the look out for an artsy find to add to our travel collection. We both love vases of flowers scattered around the house and since there’s not a lot of wall space left we often choose a unique vase to bring home.

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This is one of the first vases we bought. We’d just made the walk up to the stunningly situated abbey of ST Martin Du Canigou ( The Writer almost broke his face smiling when we finally got there as it had been on his list for a very long time!) On the way home we stopped to explore Villefranche-de-Conflent and found it full of art galleries and ceramic shops.We loved the colours which reflect our own house palette and the black lettering was so graceful we couldn’t help ourselves. I remember packing it in trepidation- lots of jumpers wrapped around it and hoping for the best. We still love this piece and use it often.

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If not a vase then it’s likely to be a useable piece of kitchen art in the form of a bowl or platter.Every time I use these ceramics I’m transported back to sunny holidays. Even the simplest meal eaten off the red, yellow and black plates I bought in Bolseno at a tiny ceramic studio in a back street becomes a feast. The vivid red broken by the abstract yellow lines just sings to me. I loved these small plates so much that the next time we were in Tuscany we made a special detour to Bolseno to visit the studio and I saw some similar larger dinner plates – but there were only three. So… I asked could she make a fourth and we would come back again in a week to pick it up. Yes- she could! Over the course of 4 or 5 trips we gathered a collection of pasta bowls, small and large dinner plates, 2 serving bowls and a large platter and I absolutely love using them.

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We couldn’t choose between the plate and the bowl with this lovely kaleidoscope pattern of coloured glazes . So we didn’t choose – we just bought them both and now we can’t remember who preferred which! We found them in a the Worthington Gallery in Springdale , Utah when we were visiting Zion National Park.

 

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Not every piece is functional. I fell in love with this earthy , desert coloured pot with it’s leather bound wooden handle by K.Rasmussen simply because the colours were so evocative of the Utah desert landscape. It wasn’t cheap but I love it more each day and The Writer appreciates that I insisted on this one as he had his eye on another – he says the colours remind him of that great desert national parks holiday every day. I was so scared about getting this safely home I spent 2 hours in Santa Barbara shopping for a carry on bag big enough to hold the box it was packed in. Finally found a $15 dollar beach bag that fitted it perfectly!

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Sometimes it’s a simple design that grabs my attention and this small, blue vase was a very inexspensive find in a small Spanish town neat the Pyrennes. The simple geometric pattern adds real interest and it’s one of The Writers favourites.

 

Ceramic treasures
Ceramic cat and vase- treasured memories

The Second Son bought this little ceramic cat home on a trip to Europe where he befriended every stray cat or kitten he could find. He lured them into our apartments with offerings of ham and bowls of milk, he spend hours playing with the landlords kittens and couldn’t resist feeding strays with titbits from the alfresco restaurant meals. A purrfect souvenir. We found the slab built vase in the artist village of Rousillon in Provence. The earthy colours are a reflection of the ochre cliffs in the area.

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This grouping of holiday memories inclueds a trio of vases from  Tournus , France , a large pot from Springdale, Utah and a photo taken in St Guillem de Desert, france. I love the earthy colours!

So there you have it – a peek into our collection of holiday ceramics. What do you like to collect on your travels?

 

 

Capo Testa Sardinia- the next painting

Had a clear weekend so gessoed up a canvas and did my second painting in the Sardinia series. Capo Testa is  a wonderful area on the north-west coast of Sardinia. There’s a maze of walking tracks amongst the huge boulders and so many  wildflowers it’s like a series of rock gardens. There’s the mild scent of curry wafting over the cape from the yellow curry plants and the stunning blue of the Mediterranean in the background. Hope I managed to capture just a little of this amazing place which I hope to get back to some day.

Acrylic painting Capo Testa Sardinia
Capo Testa Sardinia. Acrylic painting
Sardinia Capo Testo 3
Capo Testa Sardinia Acrylic Painitng
Sardinia Capo Testo 4
Capo Testa – wildflowers
Sardinia Capo Testo 2
Capo Testa Sardinia

Steinbock stalking in the Gran Paradiso…

I was driving along in the glorious, summer sunshine when a glimpse of light bouncing off something caused me to suddenly swerve onto the verge of the road and come to a spine jolting halt. The Writer craned his whip lashed neck in all directions looking for whatever it was that had caused this aberration in my usually impeccable ability to get us from A to B without running off the road.I waved my hand in the general direction of a pile of boulders excitedly yelling “horns- I’m sure I saw horns”.

We were  heading up the Valsavarenche, one of three valleys that make up the Gran Paradiso National Park in Northern Italy, and we were steinbock hunting!

Grabbing the cameras we stealthily sidled out of the car – I’m no sure why ,since any animal in the vicinity had surely heard the gravel flying as I skidded to a stop. Anyway , sidle we did, pointing and whispering as we tried to catch a glimpse of anything moving on the rocks above us. It wasn’t long before  The Writer began to mutter in a rather scathing manner something along the lines of  ” wishful thinking…”

Just as the muttering started to gain momentum I shouted “over there!” and pointed ( in what I hoped was a “I told you so” sort of way) at a lone steinbock leaping over the rocks just metres away. His long, curled horns quickly vanished from sight as we started clicking away. I back tracked down the road following the line of the rocks and as I rounded the corner so did the steinbock. He politely posed , nibbling first on a patch of grass , then on the low branches of a pine tree, twisting and turning his handsome head as if to show off his sweeping, serrated horns.

Steinbock. Gran Paradiso
Steinbock – heading off over the rocks.
Steinbock lunching. Italy
Head down – munching lunch. Steinbock.
Steinbock. Gran Paradiso.
Just a little lunch. Steinbock.

The Writer was still hanging round the car hoping for a return of the steinbock so I headed back and nudged him in the general direction of the photo worthy horns. We spent a happy 20 minutes tracking  and shooting stills and video and came across a couple of other young bucks frolicking over the rocks and alpine meadows.

Feeling very blessed to have had such luck we happily mooched on back to the car and decided we still had time for a quick walk  in this beautiful valley.

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Waterfall. Valsavarenche
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Gran Paradiso. Valsavarenche
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Valsavarenche. Rain coming.

 

There were a few cars in the carpark and as we hoofed it up the track we met a couple heading back with cameras and tripods slung across their shoulders. The Writer, deciding they were kindred spirits, regaled them with tales of our successful steinbocks potting advising them to head on back down the road where, if they were lucky, they might find a one with enormous horns posing on the rocks. They thanked us politely but not with what you would call effusiveness. I did think I caught “30 something” in amongst their rapid fire Italian and assumed they where asking how far to the big horns. “No,no – it’s only 5 minutes from the carpark ” I assured them.

We felt a little silly a few minutes later as we rounded the corner to find a herd of 30 something big horned steinbock grazing in the meadows!! They obligingly munched away as we clicked away. They waited while The Writer set up his tripod, they arranged themselves in picturesque groupings, draped themselves on the nearby rocks and generally behaved as any well educated model might. They knew the moves, they could hold the pose and they were politely disinterested in the photographers.

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Steinbock herd
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Posing Steinbock

On the way home, we passed the rocky slope where we’d seen our first steinbock earlier in the day. In unison we turned to each other and said “ours was better!”

Looking back at our photos from the comfort of our living room several weeks later we’re still in agreement. It was a thrill to catch a glimpse of horns , see them disappear and then track silently until we came across a proud and majestic wild animal , alone on the rocks. The herd seemed altogether a more domesticated group!

What do you think?

The Italian Paintings

I’ve unpacked the suitcase, done the laundry and distributed the gifts. I’ve settled back into work reacquainting myself with the myriad small disasters of the working day. I’ve rearranged the studio and tidied up a bit. So now there’s so more excuses for putting off starting on the post holiday paintings.

It might surprise you to know that as much as I love painting there’s something a bit daunting about sorting through my memories, masses of photos and all those small sketches I did and trying to distill the essence of the holiday that I now want to capture in larger pastel paintings.

Sometimes I absolutely know what I’m interested in. One holiday it was patterns- roof tiles, fields of different crops, rows of lavender, five metal jugs on a wall, bicycle wheels- stone fences-the list went on. Other times it takes a while for a them to emerge and this last Italian holiday was one of those.

When that happens sometimes I just decide to jump in and start painting whatever and see what develops. So here are my first three paintings and I think what might be developing is a visual essay on the varied landscapes of Italy.

When you live as far “down under” as we do, in southern Tasmania, it’s a long way to Europe and our usual approach is to whittle away at our wish list across 2 or 3 countries each trip. This holiday we spent 5 weeks in Italy instead of our usual 1-2 weeks and it really made a difference. We were able to stay a week each in four very different  regions and explore a bit more in depth than we usually have time for and I think the vastly different landscapes, architecture and traditional work is what captured our interest. Of course this variety shouldn’t be a surprise given that the Italy we know today is a very recent entity .

A gentle morning landscape with mist rising over the Tuscan wheatfields, the emerald waters of Sardinia and snowcapped mountains reflected in Lake Arpy in the northern Italian alps – the start of a series celebrating the diverse landscapes of Italy.

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Morning wheatfields. Tuscany

 

Capo di Cavello. Sardinia
Capo di Cavello. Sardinia

 

Lake Arpy. Italy
Lake Arpy reflections. Italy

A working theory on holiday disasters.

For quite some time The Writer and I have been testing the theory that a little bit of disaster punctuating a holiday just makes the good bits better. You might have read about the border incident which showcased a classic example where stress and imminent starvation resulted in a bog standard schnitzel consumed an hour later tasting like something a team of Michelin starred chefs had dreamed up for the culmination of the final dinner at a gourmet retreat.

You might be surprised to learn  we’ve amassed a fairly hefty set of data to support our working theory over the years. Indeed, The Writer has already published some early data based on a single holiday with five subjects participating in the field experiment-me ,The Writer, MIL and the two offspring.He has a perky little writing style and many a reader has commented along the lines of : “I bust a gut laughing at the antics of the Whitton family on holiday”. If you think you might enjoy a bust gut you can join the gang down at the hospital after reading Bon Voyage.

Sometimes the geek in me wins out so I decided to create an equation to express the working theory and here it is:

(Within the confines of H) D  followed by  NPE = HSH

where

H= a holiday from the usual place of residence ( preferably overseas with limited local language skills)

D= any event that precipitates pain, stress, financial loss, misery, tears, shouting or actual bodily harm

NHP= any normal happy event such as a dinner that is edible, a car that gets you from A to B without breaking down, a mobile phone that has signal when you want to use it or a swimming pool that is full of water on a hot day.

and

HSH = a heightened state of happiness.

I plan to post a few examples of D followed by NPE = HSH over the next little while so get your inner geek on, set up a journal club and join in the evaluation of the working theory.