And so Paris…

When good Americans die, they go to Paris -Oscar Wilde

If you’ve missed me, it’s because I’m preparing some of my more recent travels for the blog. But I seem to be caught in indecision city. Australia? Seattle? Maybe that weekend in Waikiki? The confusion of what to write here has echoed in the planning for my next trip, a certain birthday coming up in a few months. Brisbane? Indonesia? A bucket list trip to Kathmandu? I want it all.

The very act of going through photographs from past trips feels almost like caffeine coursing through my veins, a heightened sense of smell, of sight allowing me anticipate the next. It’s equal parts torture and nostalgia. Perhaps that’s all travel is for me, going out into the world to execute my plan, looking back fondly later.

Who am I kidding, I love the travel part, too.

So whilst I agonize over Tijuana, Prague or Zeeland, here is the first of a few posts, snaps and snippets from two nights in Paris, which is what I shall call my book of short travel stories some day. (All rights reserved, natch.)


Not everyone in England is lucky to live near an international airport, though most airports in England are. It’s on an island, after all, the North Sea separating it from the continent. And as an American expat, I was always so amazed at how easy and inexpensive it was to fly internationally, the travel time on a flight to Belgium taking less than rush hour traffic through Downtown LA on a Tuesday to Pasadena.

For real.

So being in Leicestershire, we have the delightful East Midlands Airport just thirty some odd minutes from our front door. It’s a small facility that used to be an RAF base, Castle Donington to be exact. It does the requisite European short-haul flights and recently even added some long haul to the mix, though I don’t think that will ever stretch to direct flights to LAX. Long of the short of it is if you’re happy for a quick hop to Spain or Paris, you’re in luck.

We chose to do a mid-week trip, thinking the crowds in the French capital may be a little more forgiving in the height of August’s peak season and knowing the locals have mostly skipped town for their summer holidays. We were partially correct, the locals had definitely split town, but the tourists were abundant.

And the nostalgia… The last time I was in Paris I stayed on the right bank in a youth hostel by the Anvers Metro, just in the foothills of romantic Montmartre and the stunning Sacré-Coeur. It was September 2001, just a three days after the 11th. It was an interesting time, with a quiet city going about its business under the watchful eye of soldiers with automatic weapons on high alert. Since then, not much has changed on that respect, though the city was far more vibrant on this visit.

Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant. -Honoré de Balzac

So true, Honoré, and that’s why we stayed at the delightful Hotel le Bellechasse just across the Seine on the left bank. Le Bellechasse is a boutique hotel using its Christian Lacroix designer pedigree to make it stand out in a city full of beautiful design hotels. What made this hotel stand out for us was its location only a few short steps from the Musée D’Orsay, du Louvre and the outdoor cafés of Saint-Germain des Prés. For a two-day trip we didn’t want to travel far to our tourist destinations.

We arrived late on the first night, checking in after ten PM and realizing our desire for dinner was going to go unanswered. That meant early morning hunt for un café et deux croissants. We wandered south toward Rue de Bac Metro in search of caffeine and popped into a little brasserie that served the purpose.

I’d heard somewhere that most of these little cafés and bistros, like pubs in the UK, are chains. That didn’t ruin the charm of standing at the bar with our breakfast cafe au lait. Saying à bientôt, we marched into the nearby Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger to stock up on our continental breakfast. We had a big day ahead of us.

But first… one of my favorite things to do in a city is strolling to find a place to picnic, wandering to a local lunch spot, picking up provisions and dining al fresco. With our fresh croissants in hand, we were on a mission.

The walk from our hotel was gorgeous, bright sun and blue skies with nary a tourist in sight. The Seine shimmered its hello.

Our plan was to check out the queue at the Louvre, so what better place to plan a picnic than at Jardin des Tuileries, Louvre-side?

Flaky pastries consumed, we found where all the tourists were hiding.

Why yes, that is a queue of people snaking around the side of the pyramid, the entrance to the Louvre. Without tickets.

What are they thinking?

I’m not one to judge. The boy and I have a habit of heading to a destination without pre-booking tickets. Maybe it’s the lure of our younger years as seat of the pants travellers. It’s definitely how we’ve managed to miss out on some of the world’s greatest attractions. Like that time we went to New York just after the Statue of Liberty opened and we couldn’t get tickets to the top. Too bad. And the time we went to Paris and didn’t get our Tour Eiffel tix either.

Oh, you mean this trip?

So we weren’t going to miss out on the Louvre. Our hotel concierge gave us a tip of purchasing tickets from the counter in FNAC, a shop that sells electronics slash cultural products (yep, that’s the description, and kind of what it looks like on the inside). We did a little research and discovered the Forum des Halles was the place to go. We designed a further wander through the streets of Paris to the mostly underground des Halles, determined to find something new.

Like a different view of the Louvre.

Or a look down one of the covered arcades of le Palais-Royal, a grand palace that used to be Cardinal Richelieu’s house and was later absorbed by the crown after his death. Now it’s the home of the Ministry of Culture,  the National Library and the Constitutional Council. We chose to wander through the arcade adjacent rue de Richelieu alongside the Comedie-Française, one of France’s state-run theatres.

I feel like its worth mentioning at this point that we’d only walked a mere 3 minutes from the entrance to the Louvre. It’s impossible to visit Paris without marvelling at the history literally everywhere.

A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life. -Thomas Jefferson

C’est incroyable.

We kept walking up rue de Richelieu to rue des Petits-Champs, a street originally opened in 1634. That’s where we stumbled upon Galerie Vivienne (Metro: Bourse).

As you can see, Galerie Vivienne is one of Paris’ many covered passages with a purpose. Built in 1823, it’s now filled with boutiques and cafés fit for luxury city centre living. One might say this could be the inspiration for modern-day malls.

If only our malls looked like this.

Upon leaving Galerie Vivienne, we soon stumbled across another Notre-Dame:

Basilica Notre-Dame des Victoires, to be exact.

This little church began its life as part of a convent in 1619. King Louis XIII himself laid the cornerstone. How’s that for pedigree?

Leaving le petit Notre-Dame we made our way toward Forum des Halles via the picturesque back streets…

… past cafés that would not have looked out of place in Amsterdam or Brussels…

… to the under construction entrance to the Forum des Halles.

I took absolutely no photographs in this mainly underground expanse of shopping, cinemas and passageways to the Metro and nearby residences. It’s something out of a science fiction film, so futuristic in its retro design that I knew my sad camera phone would not do it justice, my micro 4/3rds Olympus Pen even worse.

Besides, we had a FNAC to visit and my high school french to exercise.

Bonjour, je voudrais deux billet s’il vous plait, le Louvre. -this girl

And so we walked back.

Did you know that you don’t have to wander through Paris streets to buy tickets and avoid the queue? Just head to the Carrousel du Louvre, another underground shopping mall, literally across the pavement right next door.  It even connects to the Louvre by another clever underground passage. Just head downstairs and there are museum passes ready for purchase.

Secrets travel fast in Paris. -Napoleon Bonaparte

Yes, Napoleon, but fast is not the way to see Paris. Stroll, take in, taste. That’s how you experience this city.

Next time I’ll show you there are places in the Louvre where you may actually find yourself blissfully alone.

à bientôt!

Driving around the Isle of Skye, or Yay! Our time lapse camera finally worked


Where was I? Oh yes.

In our last Isle of Skye adventure, we were having a picnic lunch on the hill overlooking the quaint fishing harbour of Elgol. The midges left us pretty much alone. They were probably more interested in our nearby dining friends.

Now back to the Road to Elgol. From Broadford it really isn’t that far, and you’ll be rewarded with some pretty stunning scenery. As well as some vestiges of normal, every day island life.

Oh hai.

We couldn’t help but notice that leaving Elgol gave even better views than driving to Elgol. So, you know, a few stops were warranted. As you do.

Like these, the Beinn na Caillich, or as the locals call them, The Beinn. They’re also known as the Hills of the Old Woman and also Red Hills to us mere non-Gaelic speaking mortals. You can definitely see why.

And below, here’s what The Beinn gets to look at every day. She sits right above Loch Slapin, the village of Torrin on its banks. You can click on this pic for the full effect.

Beinn na Caillich over Loch Slapin

This little bend in the Road to Elgol contains a double whammy. Not only are The Beinn on one side, but the other? The majestic Bla Bheinn, aka Blavin. These guys are not messing around.

(Below is another panorama – click and enjoy)

Loch Slapin with the overlooking Bla Bheinn
Loch Slapin with the Bla Bheinn holding court above

Now once you’ve filled up your memory card or received that annoying iPhone storage is full warning, go ahead and do what you need to do to make space because there’s some ruins in a few miles that need your camera’s full attention.

Cill Chriosd, or Christ’s Church, sits just past the eponymous Loch. The ruins are difficult to find on google maps, but you can’t miss it while driving. It kind of stands out.

Legend says that there has been some form of worship taking place here since the 7th century. The current ruins were probably originally constructed in the 16th century to replace a medieval church. Now it serves as a graveyard and snacking location for the local lawnmowers, as my photographs and video below show.

I’ve always been a fan of graveyards. They make excellent subjects for photographers and every stone is different, tells a story of the person or people buried below. The story this church’s yard told me were that there were quite a lot of MacLeods and MacKinnons laid to rest here.

There were also quite a few who had died abroad in wars or after emigrating, like Charles who moved to Australia. I’d like to think they finally found their way home.

Now back to the ruins.

Obviously these little guys are used to folk like me and my partner interrupting their grazing. They barely even gave me the light of day.

After all, they had some ruins to keep neat and tidy!

You’ve been such a great sport waiting around for me to finally deliver on my promise of a time lapse drive around the Isle of Skye. Before I embed my wee vid, let me explain a little of what you see.

We turned on the time lapse function on our little Canon point and shoot in Broadford after the drive down from Portree. The spot takes you down the Road to Elgol, then back and around south to the Sleat Peninsula and finishing at our little B&B in Ardvasar.

Now you may recall that so far in our five-day strong trip this little venture had not worked even once. Not in Loch Lommond & The Trossachs. Not in the gorgeous beyond words man-I-wish-we-recorded-every-single-second-of-the-Highlands. And not even when we passed over the Skye Bridge. So we weren’t very hopeful.

And when it finally worked, it only took about three years for me to get off my arse and put it to some inspiring kick-butt music for you to view.



You may now pass.

One summer evening, we took a walk in Glasgow

Driving into Glasgow, Scotland was rather like driving in to any major US city, a freeway running right through it which drops you off at the city centre. My thoughts went to Hartford, Connecticut or even, in a much smaller way, Downtown Los Angeles, where the elevated 110 freeway slices through on its way to Pasadena. That is how I felt about the M8 which cut through Glasgow like a butterknife. To keep going we’d eventually run out of motorway and end up following along the River Clyde until it turned into Lochs.

But our focus for just one night was the city of Glasgow. I can’t explain how much I loved the little stone city, recent stand in for Philadelphia in the zombie flick “World War Z”, more that I thought I would. And it turns out I didn’t even see the half of it.

I was there for the architecture. I wanted to see Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, walk down Buchanan Street and visit Glasgow Cathedral. Unfortunately we arrived at our destination pretty late so that all we wanted to do was find a nice place to sit down for a meal and check in to our hotel. So why not see what we could see along the way?

Thus begins our walking tour of Glasgow.

After checking in to the budget friendly and incredibly comfortable Citizen M Hotel on Renfew Street, which by the way was incredibly easy. Computerized check in with staff on hand nearby in case one gets confused. We wanted a high floor, so it was necessary to talk to a lovely human.

Clever signs and copywriting. I approve:



And a stunning view.

Heading down Renfew toward Buchanan. I really liked the mix of old and new:

Buchanan Street – at least one thing off my list. The street is your basic pedestrian shopping thoroughfare, the more upmarket of the shopping areas of Glasgow. Though by the time we arrived there was no shopping to be had for us, just a lovely stroll.

Should we have stayed in town longer, taking the subway would have been a great way to get around the city. Again, I really appreciated the appearance of the modern glass subway access against the Victorian architecture. Pretty.

And next to Nelson Mandela Place (once St George’s Place, natch), the spire of St George’s Tron, Church of Scotland.

Looking down George Street. I can see why they may have used this area for Philly.

On the other side of the church, the old, Venetian Gothic style Glasgow Stock Exchange.

Now home to a bustling Urban Outfitters.

Looking east down St Vincent Place and more grand Victorian buildings. If I’m correct, on the right hand side, that cast-iron fencing may actually contain, erm, subterranean public convenience. Ahem.

On the left, it’s a bit dark due to the back light of the sun in the west, however at the corner of St Vincent Street I discovered a building that at one time was far too important to house a Post Office and Jack Wills.

In fact, with a little research, I found out quite quickly that the crest (which might be the Royal coat of arms) was on the old National Bank Chambers, the word “Impune” above the now modern Post Office sign.

A little further research and I found the motto of Scotland to be:

Nero me immune laces sit: No one provokes me with impunity.

Here here.

Continuing our walking tour, we took a right on Gordon Street and found the entrance to Central Station, the Grand Central Hotel presiding above it. It is a beautiful specimen of the Queen Anne style. Or so I’ve read.


Our culinary destination was just around the bend from the station. After a day on the roads of England and Scotland, we were hungry for some steaks. And, housed in another stunning Victorian, The Grill on the Corner obliged.

It had some pretty amazing interior details. What this photo lacks in style and composition, the interior of this restaurant held in spades.

Lovely cornicing.

After a wonderful dinner that I can’t actually remember these almost three years later… although when I look at the menu, I have a certain hankering for the Sirloin or the Sea Trout, hoping the trout might be from local seas, but I may have just grabbed myself a burger, because there is nothing more lovely than a grass fed, premium beef burger. America, pull yourself together.

Upon leaving the restaurant, it was still light enough to snap a few more photos of the beautiful red brick found in the area. These have made some pretty awesome desktop images.

And being just past 9pm. And being full to the brim with tasty food. And arriving back at our little hotel with the 7th floor view. It was time to bid Glasgow adieu and bon nuit and get ready for tomorrow’s drive.

Isle of Skye, here we come.

Richmond, England… we’re back!

In this writer’s opinion, the only thing missing from the idyllic North Yorkshire market town of Richmond is a railway station.

I’m sure any residents who come across this post will tell me why not having a railway station is a good thing. After all…

They have a flourishing weekly market on Saturdays!

IMG_1537 IMG_1536 IMG_1532

And at the market square’s center, a really old church! (Is that the castle tower?)


Oh, and an obelisk. Impressive. (Hey, it’s that castle again…)


And part of its charming skyline, a Norman Castle!


Have you not seen our beautiful countryside? No need to spoil that with a train.


But I digress. Check out my previous post on Richmond to see more pics of the exterior of Richmond Castle. But this visit? It’s what’s inside that counts.

So, of course, I start with a really, really terrible photograph of the opening times. In case you decide to happen by.

Don’t judge me.


On to the interior. Really well kept. A few rooms surround the now grassy interior.


Once the bustling fortress protecting this village, it’s now a lovely place to worship the sun!


And seek out some amazing views.


You really get a sense of what this market town’s about from the tower of Richmond Castle.


Surely, Richmond’s placement, nestled in the very elbow of the A1 and the A66 make it a prime destination for travelers and commuters, even without a train line. I can’t say anything to the latter, but to the former? Why yes, it does make for a very excellent stop on one’s way, well, anywhere.

And that’s why we chose to happen there again, the lovely town of Richmond calling us a one hour side trip on our way north. I can say with some authority, now that I’ve spent a total of three hours there, that Richmond is the perfect place for a stop and stretch one’s legs and explore parts of it that were not previously explored.

Next time we will find out what the big deal is with that River Swale! The photos out there make it look incredibly special.

But back to our midsummer jaunt up to the Isle of Skye. Next stop: Glasgow!



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And so we left NYC and landed in London (Hooray!)

Raise your hand if you suffer from serious jet lag.

Right? After a 7 hour red eye flight, spending easily up to minimum one hour navigating Heathrow’s hallways, immigration queues and baggage carrousels to then wheel all your goods to the Heathrow Express, then off at Paddington, then into a cab… frankly I’m exhausted writing about it.

That’s why we stay in a lovely hotel for one night before collapsing at the family pile. Just one night of sleep. Starting at 1:30 in the afternoon, please.

As we do when we get to town, we checked in to the Zetter Townhouse… just in time for their Bastille Day celebrations which, although utterly charming and inviting, we were wary of. If we weren’t so tired I’m sure we’d have joined in the Boules, getting sand in our flip flops and spending too much money on Kronenbourgs, because the weather was glorious. It was what summertime in London should always be: bright blue skies, warm sun, people out on bicycles, pubs overflowing into the streets.  Happy, smiling Londoners filled with mirth and ale. What more could you want?

A nap, actually.

Then food. And that’s where I snapped all these lovely photographs you are about to look at.


We jumped on the bus to TCR.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Where’s that, you ask? Why Tottenham Court Road, of course! Looking for cut rate electronics? A Fuji X100S perhaps? Yes!

And that’s when we made our way back, not having found the cheap electronics we were looking for. Instead we sought out sustenance.


We found plenty of sustenance at Sicillian Avenue. But it looks like everybody got there first.

Perhaps we should follow these cyclists.



That’s when we found ourselves at Exmouth Market. Although the market itself had already shut for the day, a restaurant/roastery called Caravan. It’s lovely.



It’s windows open up to get an outside indoors feel and on a day like today, the restaurant was ours.

Day One London-37 Day One London-39

And so are these saddles. But I digress.


We found the Michael Palin Centre on our walk back to the hotel.


And down this little walkway, we found a park I didn’t even know about.


Apparently in this spot of beauty, called Spa Fields, was once a neighborhood of ill manners. “Rude sports” were conducted here like duck-hunting, prize-fighting and bull-baiting.

Now one finds lavender, kids drinking and hanging out and office workers on their luncheons.



Someone once told me that this area is also full of plague pits. Spooky.

One of the cool things for an American who lives in Los Angeles with its wide roads and concrete are Clerkenwell’s alleys and passages of brick and glass. I can’t get enough of them, even when I lived there I’d take a passage if I could.



Whilst fooling around with my black and white setting, we went down a passage and found one of Wren’s churches, St James’ Church. So many green spaces! The Southwood Garden, as it is called, was recently replanted in 2012. I might have a colour photo of it around here somewhere.




Day One London-40

The Southwood Garden provides a lovely cut through to Aylesbury Street, its square often filled with afternoon revelers.


But we had only one thing in mind as we went down another popular passage.


Our hotel. Complete with Bastille Day celebrations…Day One London-35

The elevator…


And this.

Day One London-36


One year ago in South London, aka taking a walk down someone else’s memory lane

Outside my window right now it looks like this:

The Channel

But one year ago, the view looked like this:

Lewisham-Catford 2

Both days were beautiful, sunny spring days, the kind of days that really stick in one’s memory long after one leaves. Okay, to be fair, that top photo is what it looks like almost every day in Los Angeles. Isn’t that just boring? Sun sun sun!

Blah blah blah, I say.

If I had to chose a winner of a day, it would definitely be 11 March 2012, the day my man took me on a little tour of his old hood, Lewisham and Catford. And of course, I brought my camera.

My London knowledge is mostly centered around west and southwest London, with the recent addition of north London to the mix. It’s when it gets to southeast London that my knowledge gets fairly lackluster, my opinion formed of what my man told me, what my friends told me, what I saw on telly, and that one time back in 2001 when I went to the Greenwich Observatory on my first visit to town. Shame, I know, all those years living in London and the furthest southeast I’d gotten to this point was Bermondsey.

Lewisham has a bit of a reputation for being a bit rough. Perhaps that’s because it hasn’t become as gentrified as other parts of London; it still keeps its urban roots. Ten minutes by train from London Bridge, it’s definitely not a shopping mecca. It’s shopping centres are serious blasts from the past, built in the 60s and 70s and in desperate need of some of that regeneration money that’s being poured into the area. The shops are not Westfield standard. You won’t be buying anything Vuitton here unless it’s a knock off. But in saying that, it’s kept some of the local heritage alive, the fact that American Apparel and Gap haven’t moved in keeps the daily Lewisham Street Market authentic.

Lewisham was actually not so bad once you got to the pedestrian shopping area. Of course, that may have been the sun blinding my eyes. The walk from the station to the high street is down a busy road that’s not quite as pretty. But if you walk left around that first roundabout, you’ll see a little bit of green and an old church that could use some help – and in front of it the River Quaggy, which at this point is what’s knows as an urban stream. Think a really small LA River – once it used to be a natural waterway, but now it consists of run off and is likely redirected because of the population around it. I even think that part of the Quaggy is actually subterranean, but I’d have to look further than just Wikipedia to find that out. Ho hum.

So here’s some photographs of lovely Lewisham to show you what I mean:

Starting with a boot scraper from St Mary’s Lewisham.


Can’t. Get. Enough.




A little further down the high street you’ll find the gorgeous old Lewisham library. Not sure what the building is used for now, but it is in incredible nick for its location. Might be used as a government building as it is attached to the Births & Deaths office. Anyone know?





Now originally I thought that the tower blocks pictured above might have been built on land destroyed by bombs in WW2, as Lewisham was indeed ravaged by German bombs. However, that’s actually not the case  in this instance. This is the the location of Lewisham Park, and it was once surrounded on all sides by houses. But these three tower blocks were built during the mid sixties, an era where councils thought it better to buy up (if applicable, sometimes they just moved residents if they were already council tenants) all the houses along this stretch of the high road and build purpose built tower blocks instead and named them Malling, Kemsley and Bredgar. This practice happened all over London, in many instances to get rid of areas the government thought to be slums: families living in one room, no indoor plumbing, that sort of thing. Little did they know that by building these forward thinking homes in the sky, they were actually creating the very slums they tried to eradicate.

Wow, deep.

Further down Lewisham High Road you hit Catford. Poor Catford really had the shit beat out of it during the 1960s and 70s with some truly appalling architecture. The obsession with tearing down beautiful old buildings and replacing them with brutalist office blocks and residences continued. Lots of brick. Lots of concrete.

But these days it’s probably best known for it’s Cat:


Its shopping centres continue in the same vein as Lewisham…


And at least there are small businesses about, like this Chick Chicken! Word of advice: avoid all fast food chicken shops in the UK unless you want to play russian roulette with food poisoning. Luckily I’ve not succumbed to such a fate, but many others I know have. What were you thinking, boys?


… a stall where you can get a mobile phone case, a banana and fresh fish inside (take that, Asda!).


Looking down Catford Broadway.


A bit of old Catford… I think this alleyway into the Catford Conservative Club is a front for organized crime.



VW driving crime lords. Why not?

Okay, so Catford’s history may a bit prettier than its present, however I think the area has a lot to offer the interested photographer. Fulham it is not – but even Fulham has its rough edges. One day someone’s going to get wise about Catford and spruce it up, because in the light of day, it might not be a bad investment.

I wish I took more photos, but at this point my dogs were barkin’. In Catford.

Get it?

The other side of Ely

Ely, just 15 minutes outside of Cambridge, is an obvious tourist destination for the history and religious buffs who meander through Cambridge with their eyes stuck to their viewfinders. Architecture enthusiasts and even boot scraper collectors also would find Ely a lovely day trip.

Boot scraper collectors. What do you mean by that? You mean slightly obsessive people who, whenever they see a boot scraper, must compulsively take a photograph of it?

Like this?


3396238551_a8c4214a7c_oI see what you’re saying –  where someone might scrape their boot before entering the house.

3396237729_c8cfa26aa5_oWhat a lovely little boot scraper!

Anyway, back on topic.

Besides the nutty bootscraper people (like me), walkers, ramblers, boaters and cyclists love Ely too, because it is far more than its Cathedral.

It’s also a riverside village on the Fen Rivers Way, a multi-river, multi-county walk that starts in Cambridge, winds its way up through Ely where its Cathedral dominates the horizon for many miles and finishes in Norfolk in King’s Lynn. It’s a 50 mile footpath, with Ely an obvious stop en route.

We only walked about one mile of the Fen Rivers Way. We were too full of brunch and had a 4 year old leading the way. But we took some fun photos, which is what this blog is all about. So I’ll stop blubbering on and get to it, shall I?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a beautiful April Sunday, lovely day for a walk along the banks of the River Ouse.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARiverside table for five, please.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd yes, since I was well restrained last night, I will have a bottle of Rose.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd some chicharones for the table.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe local Ouse Cruise. (yes, it rhymes)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACheese menu? Yes please. We’ll need that before we head out on our walk:


So what have we learned today, boys and girls? Just because a town has a Cathedral, doesn’t make it a one trick pony. Canterbury has its tales, Lincoln its hill. Ely is all about lazy riverside afternoons.

That being said, I’ll leave you, and Ely, with the following panorama. We cannot ignore the main attraction, can we?

cathedral back garden

After all, who doesn’t want a back garden like that?

Third times the charm, or a weekend in Ely starts at the Cathedral

Outside of London, there are not too many towns and cities I’ve been to more than once. The midlands get most of my visits: Birmingham to visit in-laws and Selfridges (a very important Boxing Day Mission), Leicester has had a few visits as DH’s family lives northeast in the Leicestershire countryside, Melton Mowbray is frequented for its supermarkets and independent butchers, selling what Melton is best known for: pork pies. I’ve been to Bicester Village consistently every year because who doesn’t love a high end outdoor outlet mall?

Especially when it snows:


Now that we are not living in the UK, even London gets fewer and fewer of our days. If it weren’t for nonstop flights to Heathrow, we’d likely give it a miss altogether.

And now it looks like Ely is a contender for Places I Visit a Whole Bunch in England. And that’s not surprising when you see some of these photographs from our most recent visit in April. After a fun night in at our friends’ lovely home, we woke up bright eyed and slightly less bushy tailed (wine will do that to you) but ready to take on the town, starting at its one big selling point:












And there’s more…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn past visits, I must have missed this little original feature.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACathedral and a lantern? <me = exploding head>


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImagine this view as you walk to work every day. I can’t. Nobody walks in LA.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking through Ely Park. I honestly cannot recall the significance of these bent branches. But the view back is a stunner.


Ely Cathedral reveals itself in new ways every time I visit. I’m looking forward to seeing it all dressed up in its winter clothes, with all its Christmas bobbles.

See you next month!



Once, twice, three times in Ely

When I first expatriated to England, I was committed to being a London girl. I learned how to take public transport, to see walking as a joy instead of a chore and to accept the weather for what it was. Being from the east coast, I found it all very familiar and welcoming, the brick buildings and pubs, the strong sense of history. It felt like I was going home.

Over the years I found that I got used to the scary children on the bus, the dodgy mini-cab drivers, the dried vomit on a seemingly quiet suburban sidewalk. I gave in to the red tape to get a flat, the inability to get a visa debit card as I had no credit rating, the shocking lack of decent customer service.

In short, London is a shiny beacon of the western world with ring around the collar. Or armpit stains.

So when the city gets you down, what do you do? Get out! Go somewhere! And luckily we had some close friends who we’d not seen in years who had settled down in one of my favourite Cathedral towns: Ely.

Ely is in Cambridgeshire, just north east of Cambridge itself. Ely was actually built on an island, surrounded by marshland, or fens. It’s not an island anymore, the area having been drained for agriculture, however it remains a geologically significant area. My research uncovered all sorts of things to do with jurassic period. Think dinosaurs and fossils. Very cool when you think about it.

The first time I came to Ely it was by train. I was on my way to the south of France with DH for a bit of R&R (as you do) and to get to Stansted we took the slow train from Melton Mowbray. We were only stopped a few minutes, however it immediately became one of my must-sees because of the view of its Cathedral. Here’s my only shot of the Cathedral from inside the train.

Hence our second visit, a road trip with the family specifically to visit the Cathedral. I was a kid in a candy store. Here are a few choice shots from that visit:

The Crimean Cannon memorial out front, gifted to Ely by Queen Victoria.

Check out the detailing on the front doors.

As you can see, this is a proper Norman Cathedral. I’m pretty sure if I went into Los Angeles’ “Cathedral” I’d be sorely disappointed. This is hundreds of years of construction. Blood, sweat and toil. This is a building meant to get its worshipers closer to their god.

Hell, it almost has me convinced.

So when our friends moved there, we found ourselves poised for our third visit. A proper visit. With real locals (my favourite kind)! The train from London is very fast, though not inexpensive. The Cambridge to London commuter route is one of the priciest, starting at £5400 per annum for a season ticket, including London Underground. So a single ticket on its own meant we were spending almost all our monthly food budget on transport. Oh to have a car!

But we’re not here to whinge about how much trains costs. We’re here to look at some of the images I took on my third Ely trip. Alright then, you asked for it:

A sneak peak from the window of our room. Hello Cathedral!

Our friends led the way.

DH in front of Ely. I can just see his foot tapping, waiting for me to catch up.

And that’s all for today. I must dash and do something important (don’t worry, I’ll think of something). More photographs from the lovely Ely, Cambridgeshire coming tomorrow.

Can you stand the excitement?