Monday 27 January 2014

Iconic Paris

The Seine, the views from its bridges, rive gauche, rive droite, the Louvre, the Eiffel tower ... these must be amongst Paris's best known and most photographed images. Overworked and clichéd for sure, but somehow still impossibly photogenic in every season and type of weather. Here, in autumn, from my last visit there.

View of the Eiffel tower from the roof terrace restaurant Les Ombres at Quai Branly museum and, below, crossing the river, looking forward to the Palais de Tokyo and Paris Museum of Modern Art  - and back to the tower, silhouetted by a sunburst.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Alternate Paris

It's not Fez or Muscat, but Paris. The Grande Mosquée de Paris is a peaceful haven in the centre of the city that I discovered in the autumn. It has the fountain and tree-filled inner courtyard and brilliantly coloured mosaics of typical Moorish architecture (its builders inspired by the Alhambra), and there's also a tearoom in a pretty tree-shaded courtyard where you can have thé à la menthe and North African pastries.

From here it was an easy walk towards the Seine, through the Jardin des Plantes, past the quaint Natural History Museum going back to the French revolution ...

to the contrasting modernity of the Institut du Monde Arabe

for a close-up view of architect Jean Nouvel's amazing building: 
a metallic brise soleil is constructed of hundreds of light-sensitive openings - the shapes inspired by traditional middle eastern latticework façades - that regulate the amount of light entering the building. 

These 'eyes' open and shut in response to the amount of sunlight, creating and re-creating shifting geometric patterns on the outside, as well as changing interior spaces with filtered light - function and aesthetics merging perfectly. (I noticed only later, looking at the photos, how the paving stones on the ground mimic the façade).

From the terrace surrounding the glassed panoramic restaurant on the roof of the Institut there are fantastic views of the Île de la Cité and Île Saint Louis

Thursday 23 January 2014

Highland Walk

A walk on the west coast of Scotland, near the tiny village of Achahoish 
had us wading through fens and rivers to emerge into wetlands stretching towards  the sea.

The quality of light up here is amazing, though this is not particularly far north, and made me long to travel further up, beyond Oban, to see the landscapes of Skye and Harris and beyond.
A straight line west across the sea from here in Achahoish would take you under the tip of Greenland all the way to Newfoundland.

What would living here be like, with views to Newfoundland and only seagulls and highland cows for company?

For small people it was an opportunity to bravely dip bare toes in the freezing North Atlantic. (My daughters' tiny and characterful second cousin, with her mother who is lucky enough to have a home in the highlands)

Monday 6 January 2014

Guest Post by Daughter Number 2: Music Festivals

For my high school yearbook, I have been voted as "most likely to be found at a music festival". There is a reason why my superlative is so accurate and why I love festivals so much, despite the mud, the grubbiness of camping, and the far from ideal toilet situations. It's hard to put the feeling that music festivals give me into words (or bad quality phone pictures) but I'll attempt to take you through the journey of my unforgettable memories made at the three times I've been (so far) to music festivals. 

The first festival I went to was Sziget festival in Budapest, Hungary in 2012.

Not only were their fantastic artists, 

but there was also entertainment to be found in body paint (I'm on the far right), 

Pretend gay marriage,
Friends to be made (I made sure to meet the people carrying the South African flag)

And bungee jumping (one day I'll be brave enough to try it!).

The week after Sziget, I was off to my next festival: Reading (which I have been to twice now). This is our campsite, equipped with a poor quality tent (which flooded), lots of mud, and fold up chairs.

I discovered festivals are the best way to get closer with friends. Sharing a tent and waking up looking your worst is a great way to cement friendships!

These are some of the crowds (there are 100,000 people at Reading), featuring someone standing on top of someone else's shoulders and the typical festival fashion of shorts and wellies (suitable for the widely varying weather).

There are always people dressed up at festivals! 

A surprise visit from Green Day.

Carefully going over the schedule for the day to minimise missing as many bands as possible. 

The emotional moment when the final song plays and confetti fills the air.

Two dedicated fans with the 'Black Keys' album title written across their chests.

One of my favourite parts of festivals - the signing tent. I got to meet some of my favourite bands, including one who I asked to sign my chest.
My friend and I relaxing and listening.
A selfie with the crowd taken from on top of a kind stranger's shoulders. Face paint, band shirt, and flower headband included. 

Me in the crowd

The memories will be forever remembered on my wrist.

One of my greatest memories, not pictured, was seeing Foo Fighter's perform for their very last time after a long and monumentally successful career. That was spectacular in it's own right, especially as Dave Grohl (frontman, as well as drummer for Nirvana) made a very emotional speech halfway through and then continued to play songs with 100,000 people singing along every word with him. Not only that, but it was his mother's birthday (she was standing on the side of the stage) and Dave Grohl got 100,000 people to sing happy birthday to her. At the end of their set, confetti and fire blazed from the stage, making one very unforgettable memory. On top of all that, I was standing next to a couple in the crowd, and between songs, the man proposed to the woman and she said yes.
I think perhaps it is this eventful memory that really sums up why I love music festivals so much. Music brings people together, whether it be lovers, good friends, or complete strangers. It's a chance for you to feel the same emotional experiences with bands and artists that you've idolised for your whole life. There is something about hearing lyrics that you deeply connect with, but there is something even more special about singing those lyrics at the top of your lungs along with the artist who wrote them.
As Dave Grohl sums it up:
"That's one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they'll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons".

I hope 2014 (year of my high school graduation) is full of new festivals and experiences for me to always remember.
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