Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallows Eve

I am re posting a Halloween post from 2010 because I don't think there is anything to beat a Gothic tale on All Hallows Eve...

Miss Havisham requests the pleasure of your company...

Trust me, you need to humour her

 Mrs Danvers is waiting


 Deanna Maksimovic
Can you see Cathy at the window?

 Could this passageway lead to Bertha's rooms?

Remember, walls, have ears

So be careful who you trust!

Roman Solowiej
Where does this staircase lead?

Ahh, Dorians secret

Don't they make a handsome couple!

 Do you see her?

Elle Dunn
Enter at your peril!

They are waiting for you...



 You may need help.

Recommended Viewing  for Halloween:

Great Expectations
Wuthering Heights
Jane Eyre
The Servant
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Bram Stokers Dracula
The Turn of the Screw
The Others
Sleepy Hollow

Wishing you all a Spooky but Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Jacques Henri Lartigue

Jacques Henri Lartigue Storm in Nice 1925

Wishing all my friends in the affected areas of the Eastern Seaboard safety from Sandy during the next few days.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Downton Effect

Once again my poor blog has been woefully neglected. The reason; I have been back to dear old Blighty where I have been involved in family drama that would give the scriptwriters of Downton Abbey a run for their money.

I have been in Downton Abbey land, literally. Downton Abbey may be filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire but observant followers of the series will know that the program is set in North Yorkshire... coincidentally the county where I am from and where I found myself last week.

Like most things which become hugely popular Downton Abbey is currently being treated to a certain amount of derision and criticism; corny, predictable, hammy, wooden, clichéd, full of solecisms, and so on. There maybe some truth in some of these criticisms however like thousands of others I look forward to my Sunday evening fix of escapism which  Downton Abbey provides so well. It may not always be 100 percent historically accurate, it may paint a rose tinted view of  life in service far removed from reality but after all, it is fictional drama loosely based on fact.  The costumes are glorious, the setting lovely and it's worth tuning in just to hear Dame Maggie Smiths wonderfully delivered one liners. But what is the Downton effect?

Downton Abbey is contributing to Britain's economy in a similar way that Mad Men has contributed to the vintage and retro market.  The program (or is it now a brand?) has now been sold to many other countries and as we know is proving to be hugely popular worldwide. Visits to Britain's Stately homes and National Trust properties reached record levels last year and it would not surprise me if tourism to Britain has/will increase due to the Downton effect. Grand old British houses which have now turned into luxury country hotels, offering fine dining and sumptuous surroundings along with country pursuits, find their rooms fully booked as people clamour for a slice of a Downtonish experience. Even other British TV programs and documentaries have appeared no doubt on the back of  Downton such as Doctor Pamela Cox's excellent 'Servants - the True Story of Life Below Stairs'.

Back to Downton Abbey Land, ahem, North Yorkshire, from my home town I can count five grand country  houses I could visit all within a fifteen minute drive: Harewood House, Ripley Castle, Newby HallGoldsbrough Hall and Rudding Park and those are the one's still standing, according to my research 1, 841 English Country houses have been demolished, seriously reduced in size or lie in ruins.

 Today inheriting a large country estate is a poisoned chalice, the upkeep and inheritance taxes are exorbitant only the grand houses which adapt can survive and profit.  Nowadays rather than the lord and lady of the manor being waited on hand and foot by the servant classes they are more likely to be found working hard supported by a large team of well paid staff, maintaining and securing a heritage site, it's contents and land for future generations to enjoy.  As we know most of Britain's great houses which are not owned by oligarchs, rock stars, bankers and exotic Princes are open to the public and offer everything from safari parks to photography and art courses or become venues for sporting and corporate events, weddings, rock, pop and classical music extravaganzas. And not forgetting film and photography shoot locations.

If it all becomes too much for a family or in the case of intestate wills, no issue or heirs a listed property can be turned over to The National Trust.  Developers sometimes buy a listed property and turn it into luxury apartments.  I know a few brave souls who have taken on crumbling country estates, lovingly restored them sometimes on a shoestring and turned them back into family homes or luxury boutique style country hotels and wedding venues.

And the others?  Well there is still a staggering amount of British country houses and heritage sites at risk, quietly decaying, waiting for people with passion or deep pockets to rescue them.  I found an excellent site whilst researching this post with great links to some of the most at risk heritage properties here.

All photos taken last week at Rudding Park

Wishing you all a Wonderful Weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Autumnal Cities, Exhibitions and Museums

Rainy Autumn in London via Pinterest

 Autumn in Paris via Pinterest

As I mentioned in my previous post, Autumn is well and truly under way and I am starting to dream about visiting cities, for me this time of year is the best time for going to the great cities of the Western Hemisphere something about the cold tang in the air, strolling through leaf littered parks and streets, huddling under an umbrella before making a dash into cosy cafes, pubs and bars, afternoon tea in fine establishments and the more obvious attractions of the grand department stores, shopping, theatre, opera, galleries and museums...

I could spend hours at the Louvre in Paris or the V&A in London but sometimes it's worth taking a look at what's going on at smaller venues, here are some that have caught my eye and if I am lucky enough to find myself in Paris or London in the near future I will definitely be checking them out...Paris up first, two exhibitions which have piqued my curiosity.

Exhibition Interieurs Romantiques at the Musee de La Vie Romantique, Paris 
 exhibition organised by Daniel Marchesseau, director of the museum, this time with Gail S. Davidson from the Cooper-Hewitt as invited curator. 
 This is a collection of ninety watercolours of interiors collected over the past thirty years by the American dealer and collector Eugene V. Thaw and his wife Clare E. Thaw. The whole collection has been given to the Cooper-Hewitt museum in New York.

Edouard Petrovitch Hau (Estonie, actif en Russie, 1807-1887) 
Petit Cabinet de l’impératrice Alexandra Feodorovna, 1830-1835
© Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, photo Matt Flynn

James Roberts (Angleterre, vers 1800-1867)
Le Cabinet de travail du roi Louis-Philippe a Neuilly 1845
 © Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, photo Matt Flynn

C. Rath (Autriche probablement, actif dans les années 1870)
Alcôve dans le salon de la grande duchesse Anna de Mecklenburg-Schwerin, 1877
© Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, photo Matt Flynn

Hilaire Thierry (actif de 1815 à 1825) Un salon dans le goût Restauration, début des années 1820. (détail)
© Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, photo Matt Flynn

Le Salon de George Sand, Paris musée de la Vie romantique 
© Musée de la vie romantique / Roger-Viollet

Musée de la Vie Romantique
16 rue Chaptal
75009 Paris.
Telephone : 01 55 31 95 67

Open every day from 10 am until 6 pm, except Mondays and public holidays.

Tickets at 7 Euros ( 5 Euros reduced price, 3.50 Euros half-price)

Hardbound fully illustrated catalogue 30 Euros. (The museum has a small book shop).

The easiest and best choice of public transport is the 68 bus.
The exhibition runs until 13th January 2013 

Meanwhile over at the Musee Quai Branly, Paris...

Why is long hair supposed to be feminine ? Where do the beliefs about red heads come from? All these hairy questions are explored in this terrific exhibition on hair and their sexy mythologie.
Head for the Musée du Quai Branly to understand how hair has become an army of massive seduction.
If you don't have enough time, don't go grey overnight, the venue is open until June !
Not to be missed !

text from here


Musée du quai Branly
37, quai Branly
75007 Paris
Tel: 01 47 53 68 00

 The exhibition runs until 14th July 2013

 Now lets go to London where there are no shortage of small museums, in fact there are so many small museums in London that whatever your interests you will find one that appeals, most of them are listed and include details on opening hours and directions on Time Outs wonderful site here
I have already visited a few on various trips but here are a couple on my yet to visit list: 

Linley Sambourne House

 Linley Sambourne House is the Kensington house where from 1875 Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne lived with his wife and two children, and provides a chance to see a late-Victorian, middle-class home that has survived largely unchanged. Linley Sambourne House was passed on from one generation of the family to the next and almost all the original decoration remains intact, the rooms filled with the furniture and personal possessions the Sambournes left behind. A huge archive of diaries, papers, bills and letters also survived, providing an exceptionally detailed picture of daily life in the house. Around Christmas each year, atmospheric Victorian Twilight Encounters tours are held, which explore the seedier side of the artist's work.

Text from Time Out

18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH

Sir John Soane's Museum 

This is one place where the term 'spring cleaning' has probably never once been uttered: Sir John Soane's Museum in Holborn. The museum is actually the townhouse of one of Georgian London's most famous architects, Sir John Soane, the man behind the Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery - and someone who was evidently not a fan of the 'less is more' school of interior design.

Soane was an obsessive collector of art, furniture and architectural ornamentation, a hobby which he pursued partly for enjoyment and partly for research. In the early nineteenth century he turned his house into a museum to which 'amateurs and students' should have access. The result is truly amazing.

Much of the museum's appeal derives from its domestic setting. Rooms are modestly sized but Soane's ingenious designs channel and direct natural daylight and expand available space, including semi-secret doors that swing out like cabinets to display his many paintings (works by Canaletto, Turner and two series by Hogarth). It's only when you step beyond into the rear of the house that the sheer oddness of the building confronts you. Every space in this warren of rooms is filled with some artistic object, in most cases classical, be that a bust, column or statue. For a real 'wow' factor, search out The Monumental Court, a multistory affair stuffed with an array of sculpted stone detailing that was removed from ancient and medieval buildings.
At the lowest level of the court is a sarcophagus made of alabaster that's so thin it's almost translucent. It was discovered in a tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings before being removed by nineteenth-century treasure hunters. Soane bought it after the British Museum declined the opportunity; he was so elated, he partied for three days.

There are also numerous examples of Soane's eccentricity, not least the imaginary 'cell' - a set of rooms in the basement - set aside for 'Padre Giovanni', a fictional monk invented by Soane. The yard even contains the 'Monk's grave' topped by a headstone engraved with the words 'Alas! Poor Fanny!' - the grave actually contains the corpse of Mrs Soane's lapdog, Fanny.

What you see at Soane's townhouse is just as he intended it to be. He wangled a private act of Parliament to set up the museum and stipulate that its contents should be left alone 'as nearly as possible'. His wish is now even closer to perfect fulfilment thanks to a £6 million project to move the museum shop and facilities into neighbouring buildings, which should be completed by mid-2012.
Be warned, though: the curator only allows a certain number of visitors into the house at any one time, so you may have to queue briefly out on the pavement before being admitted. It's worth the wait.

Text from Time Out

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2

 Well there's a few to be going on with, note I have only mentioned Paris and London, I am currently fantasising of a Christmas Shopping trip to New York, in December, it's been so long since I visited NYC...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Summers End

Hello I am back with a post about the end of Summer and the start of Autumn, for me it happens a bit later as I take my holiday in September so my Autumn starts in October, only now can I think of warm cosy scenery, log fires, making soups, cashmere, boots and visiting the cities I love in the run up to Christmas but for now I leave you with some photographs I shot of Provence and the Italian Riviera in mid September....

Harley Davidson meet South of France!

"What do you mean no towel!  I didn't know it was that cold, I wouldn't have jumped in if I had known you had not thought of bringing a towel for my rub down!"

 Sadly getting off the coast road and onto the auto-route... although still quite spectacular not to mention an amazing feat of engineering look at the auto-route bridge leading to the tunnel which links France and Italy.