Ever sat in a restaurant and realised that the person sitting opposite you will have had an entirely different view from yours. Maybe you’ve got the view to the street and pavement outside, while your companion can see the hustle and bustle of the kitchens and the serving hatch. Your experience of the restaurant might be qualitatively distinct as a result of the simple matter of perspective and outlook.
Apply this thinking to the cities of the United Kingdom and you might suddenly begin to understand something of the particular character of one of the greatest of those cities – Liverpool.
The picture above was taken last night down by the shore of the wide River Mersey as the sun was starting to set. In the distance, the mouth of the great river is still lit as the sun drops in the West. I’ve been picturing the UK’s cities in my mind and their rivers – London and the Thames, Newcastle and the Tyne, Bristol and the Avon, yet none of these rivers open so clearly onto the oceans beyond like the Mersey as it flows in and out of Liverpool. As a Liverpudlian, your imagination is constantly drawn by this slipway to the rest of the world. To the cities of North America; Montreal, Quebec, New York and San Francisco. To the far shores of the antipodes; Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. To the Orient; Shanghai, Hong Kong and beyond. If you want a clue to the character, personality and outlook of Liverpool and it’s citizens, look no further than the River Mersey and the seven seas lapping at the city’s shores.
It’s nearly the New Year in China – and this year it’ll be the Year of the Horse.
Or maybe it should be the Year of the Rowing Boat for this happy crew.
I snapped this while being rowed lazily around the almost impossibly beautiful West Lake at Hangzhou, a sizeable city of a mere 8 million souls a little over an hour away from Shanghai by high speed train.
So many happy memories of China and hope to back there soon.
Kings Cross Station in London has been round for a long time – since 1852 to be precise. It’s Victorian structure is easily recognisable for passengers heading to York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. For today’s traveller, the surprise lies beyond the station’s facade –
The stunning roof shown here is breathtaking – opened in 2012, this amazing structure sits high above the milling passengers below. Not to mention the celebrated Platform 9 and three quarters from Harry Potter.
I’d not been too well earlier in the year and I’d promised myself that I’d visit the Van Gogh Museum before 2013 was through. We made it with a little under a month to go.
I’d bought tickets for the Van Gogh Museum online and after a great breakfast in the nearby ‘Small Talk’ cafe, spent several hours in awe of the work of this amazing artist. Something of a lump in the throat, too, as I looked at his last painting, left incomplete just before his death. But Amsterdam itself soon takes your mind off things – not least the glorious canal network that surely served the commercial advance of the Dutch in the past.
And then there’s the ubiquitous bicycle. Just watch the variety of locals who ride these at speed and you get a sense of a people comfortable in their own skin.
I wasn’t quite expecting to see so much colour everywhere but then we’d been lucky with the weather and Amsterdam was gearing up for Christmas. Even these ripped billboards seem to have an artistic life of their own. You can just see the Christmas decorations hung above the street below.
One part of Amsterdam that did leave a different sort of mark was the Anne Frank House.
But then there’s always a houseboat gently resting on a canal that’s never too far away to cheer you up.
This cosy and inviting residence almost seems to sum up the warmth of an Amsterdam welcome. I’ll be back.
Being a bit of language monkey, I’d often thought the small town of El Algar ,near the coast in the Murcia region of Spain, might well have had arabic origins. After all, check out the map and you’ll see this part of Spain in only a stone’s throw across the Mediterranean from modern day Algeria.
The town’s inhabitants from the various ethnic groups seem to rub along just fine. Here, a group of Muslim men are shooting the breeze at a table in the shadow of the local Catholic church.
There’s not an awful lot to see in El Algar but we’d decided it was worth a quick detour off the highway to take a look.
This modern sculpture in front of an old theatre caught my eye.
And I definitely think this old property’s got potential.
If it’s true to the town’s arabic roots, it could well have a cool, quiet courtyard hidden inside.
A glorious Sunday morning on Crosby Beach yesterday and a chance to let the dog off the lead. The sands were golden in the bright morning sunshine and the tide was high. Many of Anthony Gormley’s figures were submerged up to their waists far out to sea. I don’t claim any merit for this shot but include it on my blog out of interest really.
It’s the Stena Line ferry heading out from the mouth of the River Mersey into Liverpool Bay en route to Belfast. In the foreground, seaweed has washed up on the shoreline, while in the distance, the Welsh hills. Looks like the voyage to Belfast could be a pleasant one.
The pictures don’t show it but this was around mid-day and the temperature on the Dubai Creek was hitting the high 30s.
There was a slight breeze on the Creek though and the beautiful colours of this traditional sailing craft were soothing too.
Plenty of interesting decorative detail to customise the boat and everywhere you looked there were fascinating shapes to see.
Only a short taxi ride away in a sleek Lexus was the glittering mecca of conspicuous wealth – the Mall of the Emirates. And overhead, huge jets were swooping in to the ever expanding international airport that is serving the development of the United Arab Emirates so well. But here on the creek, traditional craft like the one above ply a more traditional trade as they sail back and forth across the Persian Gulf between Dubai and Iran.
Here’s a crew member putting aside the commercial, maritime imperative and instead answering the traditional call to prayer.
The Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle can take your breath away when you first see it. Modelled on Versailles in France, its striking grandeur is incongruous in the north of England. The museum was conceived and built by the Bowes family – that’s the same lot that Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (mother of Queen Elizabeth II) was related to.
The Bowes Museum currently have an exhibition featuring art inspired by Rokeby – an epic poem by Sir Walter Scott – including work by JMW Turner.
Rokeby, of course, is an idyllic place located in the same region where I’ve just spent a long weekend in a rented cottage. The drama of the wide open skies catches something of the rugged splendour of the area.
The cottage was fabulous with views across empty fields and just the noise of the chickens to rouse you in the morning – here it is –
Restful and restorative – not least to be able to walk and sketch just a short stroll from your front door.
Plenty of sheep with their new born lambs dotted the fields too – take a look to the right on this picture. After a very hectic schedule followed by a sudden illness, a weekend in these beautiful surroundings is to be recommended.
Kind of disconcerting to find yourself in the Middle East and to experience deja vu. Been a few years since I was in Los Angeles, but waking up and taking a look out from my balcony in Dubai, I could have sworn I was looking out at the L.A. skyline. What do you think? That sonic screwdriver of a skyscraper on the left is the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – by the way.
Forget Katie Melua and the bicycles of Beijing. This is hazy Hangzhou – a city of nearly 8 millions souls sitting on the indecently beautiful shores of China’s renowned West Lake. And that view above shows Qinghefang Street, home to a parade of shops selling Hangzhou’s famous silk. It had a languid feel when I visited in the warm October sunshine in spite of the bikes and bicycles.
No more languid than here at the end of the street. Even the cops are chilled and have time to read the papers.
It is kind of surreal though. Mannequins that look like they’re reprising the role of Joanna Lumley’s Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous are everywhere.
And amid the traditional silks the younger generation of Chinese eagerly display their taste for western fashions and kit.
Don’t be fooled, though. For every Mercedes and BMW you’ll see sights like these even in the busiest of thoroughfares. But for how much longer?
If this has whetted your appetite you might want to take a look at this site – http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/zhejiang/hangzhou/shopping.htm