Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leaving the Royal Mews
to deliver the daily mail to Buckingham Palace

Royal coach

If only...

The Queen's horse, Maasa

Ornamentation on the roof of a royal coach

Lantern to light the way on a
dark and stormy night

Dressed up for the occasion

More to come...

All images copyright Anne Gordon

Monday, April 23, 2012

       Walking one afternoon with environmentalist and tour guide Tim Tranter in Australia"s Blue Mountains, we looked across a deep valley at a panorama of soaring cliffs.  Spray drifted across the canyon from Katoomba Falls. In these unusual drought conditions, a mere trickle of water dribbled over the lip of the Falls, caught in the wind and dissipated before reaching the ground.
        In the void before us, a flock of Sulphur Crested cockatoos went through their paces in a comical display. Tim explained; “They’re crazy birds! They perform aerial acrobatics shrieking as they go, then suddenly plummet hundreds of feet towards the earth. Often, for no reason, they simply fall off a branch!” And as we watched, a cockatoo with snowy feathers and a sulphur tinted crest alighted on a branch near us. Then, seemingly just to prove a point, the bird stumbled sideways and fell, plummeting towards the valley floor before righting itself.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Monday, 23rd April, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012


London's "Big Eye"

The Thames at Hampton Court Palace

Ice cream for sale at Westminster Bridge

Big Ben, Westminster Bridge

Beefeater at the Tower of London

Small garden in the Tower of London

The Clink Prison Museum

One of Hampton Court Palaces many gardens

More to come...

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Regimental bank of the Welsh Guards

       Tom Jones, with his golden vocals captured the hearts of women, including mine, for well over 50 years. At a banquet in Wales a stirring rendition of Delilah, a Tom Jones hit belted out with vigour by the regimental band of the Welsh Guards had the entire audience on its feet roaring approval, clapping and stamping.
       As a lady’s man the actor Richard Burton was no slouch. He reached the pinnacle in his career in both live theatre and movies, and lured Elizabeth Taylor, the world’s most beautiful woman into his matrimonial net. 
       Catherine Zeta Jones, a quintessential Welsh beauty, also hails from Wales. Comfortable with the strange Welsh disinterest in celebrity, she’s quoted as saying, “In Wales it’s brilliant. I go to the pub and see everybody who I went to school with. And everybody goes ‘So what are you doing now?’ ‘Oh, I’m doing a film with Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins.’ And they go, ‘Ooh, good.’ And that’s it.
       In the role of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins who studied at the Cardiff College of Music and Drama conjured up new ways to terrorize. His more gentle persona in Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day”attests to the versatility of this great Welsh actor. 
       Rebel Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was in his time a master of the spoken word. A brief extract from his famous tome “Under Milkwood” reveals a powerful talent. I imagine the lyrical prose of the man weaving a spell as he describes night in a small Welsh seaside town called Llareggub (reverse spelling “buggerall”).
      In Thomas's words, “Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nanny-goats, sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino; in Ocky Milkman’s lofts like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Read’s bakery flying like black flour.
      It is tonight in Donkey Street trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtain, fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.”

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Monday, 16th April, 2012

Downtown Cardiff

     In the golden light of late afternoon I explore Cardiff’s bustling pedestrian downtown. Hip clothing outlets; among them Zaras a treasure chest for the young, and Marks and Spencers long noted for good value for money draw me in. Marks and Specers now tops the charts with sequined purses, Isadore Duncan floaty scarves, shoes that look as if they are the work of Spanish shoe designers, and stylish dresses with unmistakeable English panache.

Welsh Craft shop
          I found Victorian and Edwardian arcades with a wealth of intimate boutiques fascinating. For the sight of the world’s largest Welsh lovespoon and a choice of dozens of love spoon designs, stop off in the Welsh Craft shop on Queens.
Madame Fromage's Cheese Shop
selling Welsh Cawl
         Madame Fromage’s cheese shop was especially inviting as I sat to enjoy a cup of frothy espresso sprinkled with cinnamon. A delectable aroma wafting from a chocolate cake heaped with creamy icing and cupcakes placed strategically within my view, took just minutes to destroy my intention to ignore sweet tooth temptations. 
         Should I stay on for dinner I wondered as I examined the wall advert for a delicious Welsh Cawl (soup). Tess, my companion hustled me out before further temptation clouded my judgment. We were, after all, scheduled for a banquet at Cardiff Castle that night.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Monday, 16th April, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My view from Harlech Castle's crumbling tower

     On the west coast of Wales I climb a steep circular stairway to Harlech Castle’s upper reaches for a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Up there where the winds are fierce, I stand amid crumbling rock surrounded by miniature wild flowers nestled in stony clefts. 
       All around me black crows glare with beady eyes. They screech raucously each time I raise my camera. Ignoring their threats while standing alone at its heady summit, I’m transported back to ancient times when the castle was a bustling fortification.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Saturday, 14 April, 2012

       At Lake Powell just minutes from the city of Page in the United States, I boarded a James Bond style launch for a two hour ride to the Rainbow Bridge.
       To reach the highest natural bridge in the world - ``higher than the nation`s capitol and nearly as long as a football field`` - we turned right off the main Lake Powell waterway and slipped through impossibly narrow passageways between rock cliffs that shielded us from the sun. Then walking for a mile, we finally reached what for me was a most stirring spectacle. 
        At first sight, the soaring structure literally took my breath away. It was hard to imagine how something so massive could from afar appear so ethereal. The Navajo believe it to be the source of rainbows, clouds and rain. 
       Seeing this sacred emblem for the first time people are affected in different ways. One of our party sat on the rocks close to the arch, legs crossed in typical yoga pose, and meditated, others stood and stared, and yet others wandered back and forth marvelling at a structure that dates back 80 million years.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Saturday, 14th April, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Noordenmarkt in the Jordaan, Amsterdam

             Saturday markets are a Dutch tradition and we headed for the open-air Noordernmarkt in “the Jordaan” where shoppers wander through narrow aisles buying Dutch cheeses, organically grown fruit and vegetables, fresh herbs and flowers. Earlier in the day the Vogeltjes market (Bird market) had done brisk business selling Fantail Pigeons and a variety of fancy fowl.
       Beside a stall where pails of flowers reminiscent of a Rembrandt painting spilled in a riot of colour across the sidewalk, a massive Dutch barrel organ belted out traditional organ music, whilst its operator worked the crowds with upturned hat and a winning smile.
       Just steps away, life on the water moves apace as ferry boats transport sightseers and visitors past historic houses. At 453 Keisersgracht (Emperor’s canal) Vincent Van Gogh’s uncle owned a bookshop where the artist visited regularly. At 527 Heregrackt (Gentleman’s canal) in the 1716, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia stayed with the Russian Ambassador when recuperating from a night's drunken revelry.
        More recently, at 263 Prinsengracht Anne Frank and her family found refuge from the Nazis for two years during World War II. In a hidden space behind a revolving bookcase two families, the Franks and the van Daans, lived in secret until they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belson in 1945. Her now famous diary relates in intimate detail the story of those times in the annex of the house overlooking the Prinsengracht.
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 12th April, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Princess Diana Memorial in St. James's Park

The Queen's Coronation Coach in the Royal Mews

The Rubens at the Palace Hotel, across from the Royal Mews

The Bag O' Nails Pub

Horse Guards

Victoria Palace Theatre

London Punks

Guard outside Clarence House,
home of Prince Charles and Camilla



Saturday, April 7, 2012

     Yesterday I went to the races. This first day of the season was lauded on the internet as “Absoulute Heaven in Woodbine opener”, and who, you may ask, won the first race of the day ridden by Steve Bahen – no less than “Absoulute Heaven”. Steve Bahen is a veteran jockey with 1200 races to his credit. And so it was a fitting description for a champion horse and his jockey, as it was for a perfect spring day.
      In the massive parking lot of Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack cars ranged from Kias to sleek Mercedes. Inside the human variety was just as diverse

      Giant-size murals of racing horses decorated interior walls. Vintage images of race days dating back decades caught my eye. Narrow escalators drew the punters in and funnelled them up to the viewing gallery. Literally thousands of avid fans filled the closed-in stands overlooking the track. Lined up facing overhead computers, race fans watched mesmerized as up-to-date information flashed across the screens. The al fresco banked seating was awash with people. The tension was palpable.

      The horses assembled in the distance. Then away...they thundered in a disintegrating streak around Toronto's Thoroughbred racetrack. As I watched they passed the halfway line and a low rumble like thunder built all around me. In a tight wad the horses pounded the track as they vied for the top place at the finish line. 

      The burgeoning rumble erupted in a mighty roar. Onlookers jumped to their feet urging their choice to greater efforts. “Absoulute Heaven” crossed the finish line. A triumphant overhead hand clasp heralded a win and the crowd, elated or devastated sank to their seats.
      There's a powerful incentive here to enter in, to lay down your dollars and take a chance. It is a primitive urge to win that has throughout the ages lured humanity.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 7th April, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

There are those who dream and those who act upon their dreams. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who claimed descent from Gruffydd ap Cynan, a 12th century Welsh king, was one of the latter. His dream was to create a village on the fertile Snowdonia coast of Wales and model it on the Italian Riviera town of Portofino.

 Today Portmerion is one of Wales's most intriguing attractions. It has been called weird, batty, a monumental joke, a ridiculous Welsh fantasy, and even a take on Disney World.

Its fifty buildings – all habitable, each with a unique theme and ranging in hue from peach to cinnamon, turquoise, French blue, terra cotta, orange and sunshine yellow - would fit well in Mexico, Spain or even India.

The architectural style is eclectic: a bell tower complete with a chiming clock rescued from a brewery about to be demolished, a town hall in the Arts-and-Crafts style with mullioned windows from Emral Hall, home of the Puleston family for seven centuries, a colonnade built in Bristol in 1760, transported and rebuilt in Portmeiron in 1959, an Italian piazza and Romeo and Juliet balconies. Leaning from a terrace overlooking the sea, a ceramic Shakespeare adds a whimsical touch.

 A visit to Portmeirion, a strange but wonderful place, provides a tantalizing glimpse into the mind of Sir Clough.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Thursday, 5th April, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Need SpainKnights Templar Route
The order of the Knights Templar dates back almost millennia to 1119 A.D., forming in Jerusalem as guardians of European pilgrims visiting the Holy City. By 1312, their order was abolished by the pope, but the mystery surrounding their downfall continues to intrigue today. This secretive and very powerful monastic order, synonymous with the crusades has fascinated historians and masses alike for centuries. The Knights Templar were quite active in Spain (regions of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia) for nearly two hundred years and many reminders of their presence can be experienced by the modern day traveler following this route, which can be completed in 2 or 3 days.

Photo and content courtesy of the Tourist Office of Spain.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday, 2 April, 2012