Category Archives: BLOG

Cat Sitting in Northern Ireland (Day Three)

With news of Storm Ciara moving across Ireland and this being our last full day, we set off back along the Causeway Coastal Route hoping to avoid bad weather.   This time we went in search of 700 year old Layd Old Church in Cushendall.

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We’d read somewhere that Medieval warriors are buried in the cemetery, but we didn’t find their tombs.  However, this headstone was intriguing.   Since we’ve been home I’ve done some research and it turns out Bud ‘CJ’ Platt, Wizard of Zigton is alive and well and living somewhere in America.   He sounds like quite a character!

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One of the headstones is a hole stone which has a legend “The Holestone is an ancient Celtic Stone that provides eternal love and happiness.  Couples undertake an traditional ceremony where the woman reaches her hand through the circular hole and her partner takes it, thus pledging themselves to love each other for ever”.Img_0809

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Game of Thrones was filmed in several locations and we were keen to find The Dark Hedges.   We would have found them earlier if I hadn’t sent us down the wrong road for miles!  The beauty of visiting Ireland during the winter months meant that there was only a small number of other fans/tourists there so we were able to take photos pretty unhindered.

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The avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road form a beautiful tunnel.  Legend has it that a ghost travels along the hedges flitting from tree to tree!

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Another 13 miles and we were at our last stop of the day.  We’d read that Dunluce Castle was beautiful but nothing prepared us for the view as we rounded the bend high up on the coastal road.  With nowhere to stop at this point, it was impossible to take a photo of the castle from this angle but believe me, the ruins looked incredible against the darkening sky.

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Another film location for Game of Thrones, Dunluce Castle represented House of Greyjoy, the ruler of the Iron Islands in the show, but obviously with digital reconstruction!

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The light was fading fast and the wind was so strong it was hard to stand up so we called it a day and headed back.

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A pretty little rock sculpture island, snapped from the car.

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Back in time for dinner and lots of cuddles with this pretty pusscat.  When we first arrived she wasn’t too sure about sharing the sofa with us, but after three days of treats, combing and a playing with catnip mouse, I think we won her over.  Hope to be back soon <3

Cat sitting in Northern Ireland (Day Two)

After spending time with the pusscat we decided to visit the award-winning St George’s Market in Belfast.  We jumped on a train and enjoyed the ride to Lanyon Place.

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The Market is inside a beautiful Victorian building and has become one of the city’s most popular places to visit.  As soon as we walked through the entrance we could hear live music, smell fresh coffee and see beautiful original artworks and crafts.

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After lunch in the market we set off to find The Big Fish.  No trip is complete unless I’ve seen a mosaic!

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The Big Fish printed mosaic sculpture by John Kindness.

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Cat sitting in Northern Ireland (Day One)

When we were asked by friends if we could look after their cat for a few days in Northern Ireland we jumped at the chance.   Apart from never passing up the opportunity to cuddle a pusscat, we really needed a mini-break.  So last week, with weather warnings of the approaching Storm Ciara ringing in our ears, we boarded a plane to Belfast.

Shortly after arriving we had a brief tour of Belfast streets and saw murals depicting The Troubles and, more importantly, the hope for a brighter future in Peace artwork. celebrating community and tolerance.

Peace muralCultural Icons Van Morrison, George Best and C S Lewis, to name a few. ‘Luminaries & Legends of Eastside’ by artist Dee Craig.  

The following day we set off in our hire car along the Causeway Coastal Route.  Every twist and turn in the road revealed one spectacular view after another.  Day 1 (8) GOT resize

Fans of Game of Thrones will already know that the epic series was largely filmed in Northern Ireland (more about that later).  I loved this signpost sitting in O’Kane’s Layby.

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First visit of the day was to CARRICK-A-REDE rope bridge.   For 350 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge 30m above the sea to allow them to access the best places to catch the migrating salmon.

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The next stop had been on my ‘bucket list’ forever.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Steeped in myth and legend.  Carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool ….. or a geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of intense volvanic and geological activity!

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The walk back up to the Visitor Centre was blowy to say the least.  The Audio Guide told us about The Stookans, (or Windy Gap to locals!) a path between the cliff face and a tall rock.   At one point I was nearly blown off my feet!

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Quick stop to take a photo of this beautiful church tower before heading back for pusscat feeding time and cuddles.

 

Elsa

On a sunny April morning in 2005 we met Elsa and our lives were never the same again.  In June we celebrated Elsa’s 15th birthday.   Some might say that’s a grand age for a dog, but it wasn’t enough.  On 16th September we said goodbye.  She brought so much joy and fun to our lives that it’s hard to imagine ever feeling complete again.

Over the last three weeks I’ve been going through hundreds of photos and she is pretty much in all of them, so many happy memories.

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Nick & Elsa

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Sweet dreams my puppydog, until we meet again xx

Our little mitten noir

I just checked and it’s six months since I’ve been here.

Last November we suddenly became aware that our little mitten had a health problem when she began breathing heavily.  Cats are clever like that, they mask their pain.  Unfortunately she was hiding several critical conditions and although we tried a month of veterinary treatment and medicating her, we couldn’t save her.   The last six months have been so hard because we weren’t ready to say goodbye and she has left a huge gaping hole in our lives.

Samba collageSamba 10.05.2005 – 14.12.2018

Our elderly dog, Elsa now requires around the clock care and we think the loss of Samba had an impact on her health too;  they really didn’t know life without each other.

I’ve lost so many furry friends over the last few years so I know that many of you will understand the great feelings of loss, but we have to remember how lucky we were to have spent our lives with each other and cherish all the memories we made.

Autumn 2018

What a glorious start to Autumn.  The temperature has been perfect, the colours have been amazing and the sunsets have been incredible.

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Not a cloud in sight.

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All of a sudden it’s turned a bit nippy, the clocks have turned back and the light has changed.  I’m fighting the need to hibernate, the only way to keep me awake is to make more art :)

Frida Kahlo

I don’t know when I first became aware of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo and, if I’m honest, I don’t know what I like more, her paintings or her image – because she was also a work of art – but I do know that I was thrilled when I learned an exhibition was coming to the V&A London and I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.

I remember my son coming home from school and telling me his class were studying Frida’s work and I remember telling my daughter how much I loved Frida’s floral headbands and months later her presenting me with a handmade headband to thank me for all the lifts backwards and forwards along the motorway to Uni.Frida catlo_Fotor_CollageI have two portraits of Frida, a ‘Frida Catlo’ pin (cats and dogs are another obsession), matchboxes and Christmas decorations all bearing Frida’s image.  My DVD “Frida” staring Salma Hayek has been played many times.  I believe I’m a little bit obsessed!  As you can imagine, I was quite excited about the exhibition, but then again, so were many others.

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We had lunch in a nearby restaurant and then rushed over to the beautiful Victoria & Albert Museum.  I didn’t have the confidence to ‘dress up’ in my Frida headband but I was so happy to see that other ladies did.  One lady in the gardens was wearing a pink outfit with matching pink hair and floral band.

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Frida headress frame

Inside the exhibition rooms lots of women wore pompoms, flowers or fancy headbands.  The spirit of Frida was very much alive.  It was in stark contrast to many of the exhibits which dealt with her disabilities;  polio as a child, the bus crash as a teenager and the subsequent operations that followed throughout her life.  French writer, André Breton once described her art as ” .. a ribbon around a bomb”.  I felt like this could also be applied to Frida.  She said of herself “I have enjoyed being contradictory”.

Her costumes and jewellery were exquisite;  seeing her make-up, perfumes and nail polishes was insightful, but I felt seeing her medicines was a little intrusive.  Her medical notes lay in a cabinet for all to see and I couldn’t help wondering if that was something that should have been kept private.  It felt a little like the exhibition was feeding the beast of celebrity and we, the paying public, were eating it all up.

I learned a little more about Frida Kahlo, her relationships and her life.  There are many, many books available telling her story but it really hit home seeing the prosthetic leg, plaster corsets and the body braces she wore.  The pain she felt must sometimes have been unbearable and yet she found the strength to paint, she dressed her hair with ribbons or flowers and her body in beautiful clothes and even matched her nail polish and lipstick.

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Photography was not allowed in the exhibition so I visited the shop and bought lots of postcards, a poster and some little Mexican figures and I came home with even more respect for the Mexican artist (if that’s even possible).

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Now I would like to have a moan about the exhibition, or should I say the curating of the exhibition.  At this point I would like to remind anyone reading this that these are my opinions and this is my little space on the internet, so I’m going to voice my thoughts.  Someone else might visit the exhibition and have an entirely different experience or point of view.  Don’t let my opinion stop you from going.

When we arrived at gallery 38, our tickets were scanned and we were allowed through the door – and this is where my disappointment began.   Just beyond the doors was an information panel outlining the exhibition which was being read by at least ten people, the small entryway was almost filled with people arriving, reading at different speeds and causing a bottleneck.   We then entered the first room which had framed images lining the walls with information panels that were printed in what seemed like font size 10.  To read the image details I had to stand about a foot or so away, but that was not always possible because virtually everyone there was of a ‘certain’ age and probably needed a larger font and was also trying to read up-close.  At one point a rather large lady even rested her breast on my arm in order to lean over and get a better view!  Bustling for space continued throughout the room so after a while we skipped ahead and entered the next room.  To add to the small font size problem, the lighting here was so bad it made it almost impossible to read the information.  Even with reading glasses on I still couldn’t focus on the writing.

I understand the need to protect the exhibits from light but I also think there must be alternative solutions.   If the flow of visitors were fed through the entrance at 2 or 3 minute intervals it would allow more time and space to study the exhibits.  The information panels should be printed on a

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and perhaps they could also be illuminated.  There also seems to be too many tickets sold for each 15 minute time slot because we were continuously jostling for space and needed to check we weren’t about to step on anybody when we moved along.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is light and bright with ceilings seeming touching the sky but the gallery where the exhibition was held was dark, claustrophobic and hot.  A few years ago I visited the exhibition “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” and I left with a terrible migraine, probably for the same reasons.

On a positive note, unless you are able to travel to La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, Mexico you may never get the opportunity to see Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up and if you are a fan that would be a terrible shame.

Venice Beach

Hiring bikes and cycling to Venice Beach was a must.  We picked the bikes up at Santa Monica Pier and set off, careful to avoid skaters and runners.  The dedicated road runs all the way along the beach which makes for a leisurely ride and, although the bikes were in pretty good condition, with sand on the surface it made the brakes a little useless – luckily we didn’t need them much!

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Taking a photo whilst cycling was a bit wobbly …… it felt a bit like the “can you pat your head whilst rubbing your tummy” kind of challenge!  But we made it to Venice Beach in one piece, so all good and after cycling along the boardwalk with all the street vendors and performers we stopped to watch the skateboarders.

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This little skater-dude was particularly impressive.

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Fotor_Collage !After returning the bikes to the hire shop we decided to head back to Venice Beach again so we explore some more.  We mooched around in a vintage clothes shop, walked along the boardwalk and took photos of the iconic VENICE sign (which wasn’t easy because you have to take it from the middle of the road when the lights are in your favour!)

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As the sun was about to go down we strolled past Muscle Beach outdoor gym (not feeling the need to pop in for a workout!) and along Ocean Front Walk.

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That evening we went for dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant (Forest Gump/Tom Hanks film) and had cocktails and delicious food.

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As soon as it began my holiday was over and I flew back home to Autumn in England.  We met some lovely people in LA and I’ll take back a journal full of notes, lots of photographs and many happy memories :)

Oh, for anyone still reading this far ……. I’m 99.9% sure I saw will.i.am at the airport!

Mosaic Tile House, Venice

Breakfast today was at The Cheesecake Factory.  As anyone who watches The Big Bang Theory will know, this is were Penny works :)   Today was the day that I tried American pancakes for the first time, buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, followed by a vanilla milkshake that was almost as big as me!   Although we were barely able to move after the gigantic portions, we headed off to the place that was high on my list of ‘things to do’ - THE MOSAIC TILE HOUSE.

Driving down Palms Boulevard you would be forgiven for thinking it was just another street.  With mainly bungalows and two storey houses you’d never know that you were about to walk into a riot of colour.  As we approached the house we could see from the mosaic fence that we were in for something special.

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We were met at the gate by Cheri, one half of the artist couple who created this crazy, crazy house.   Cheri and Gonzalo open their home to the public for tours for an hour every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Cheri makes and decorates the tiles and Gonzalo creates sculptural forms, breaks and lays the tiles – a perfect partnership.  The house and garden are covered from top to bottom – inside and out.

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AAA (381)The working kitchen.

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Fotor_Collage_Paintings 2Their devotion to each other is evident throughout the house.  Any area not covered in mosaic has a painted story, a love story.Fotor_Collage_PaintingsOn the tour of their huge studio Gonzalo explained that Cheri likes to paint him and the end result depended on what mood she’s in!

AAA (376)Gonzalo also paints and has artwork in each room and quotes on many of the tiles.Fotor_Collage_Inspo messages Fotor_Collage-Loo2

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I had to put my feet up before we left :)

Mr Abbot Kinney

Day three was all about a man called Abbot Kinney.

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Venice Canals was so serene.  Walking along the narrow paths which edge the gardens and canals, viewing the different architecture and design which vary from old California bungalows to sleek modern homes; crossing bridges from one side to the other, seeing the odd boat go by. Day 3 am Venice Canals (3) resize_Fotor_Collage 5

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It was good fun deciding which house we’d chose to live in!

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After much deliberation I decided that this would be my house :)

So, with rumbly tumblies we headed off to nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard in search of lunch and a ‘unique shopping experience’.Fotor_Collage 1

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Cactus shop GROW Abbot Kinney Blvd

Grow was probably my favourite shop, I could have bought everything in there but instead I only bought what I could carry!  Also BURRO had some great gifts and some incredibly cool hats and clothes.Day 3 pm Abbot Kinney Blvd (7)_01_Fotor_Collage 1It obviously helps to have a dry and warm climate, but it was so nice to see the ‘lounge’ areas and displays outside the shops.Fotor_Collage 4Fotor_Collage 2Rag and Bone BenchI fell in love with this bench <3

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So as the sun was about to set and we were back where we started, we headed back to our airbnb.   The trip back was so funny, our Uber driver was an ACTOR and he was hilarious.  We got talking about accents and I asked him where his was from.  He told us the story of how he was adopted at 2 months old and went to live in Virginia with an African-American father and Japanese mother.   We got out of the car with his business card and said we’d remember his name when we saw it in lights!