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Posts from the ‘Compendium’ Category

Norms in Rome | The Piazza Navona

Norms in Rome, Rome in the Norms… such has been the delicious longevity of the Norms’ devoted acquaintance with Italy’s beating heart that the Norms feel permanently wedded to this city of ancient glory and modern glamour. They’ve been in piazzas aplenty, gorged on delectable Roman food fare, explored ruins, historical monuments and strolled riverside. But as the Norms prepare to take their leave of the city, with their bags packed from some summertime travels, these blobby creatures have made one last visit – to a Piazza equal in glory to the spectacle of the Piazza della Rotonda where their adventure began some three months ago… the glorious Piazza Navona.

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Norms on the Piazza Navona ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown 2018, pen on paper

Retaining the shape of the Stadium of Domitian which lies beneath its current day ground-level manifestation, but filled with some of the most magnificent sculptures of the Roman baroque, the Piazza Navona embodies Rome at its unique best, evidencing like a geological cross-section Rome’s complex trajectory throughout history. Whether it be those exquisite fountains, the countless cafes, or the temporary carousel which appears whenever a festival is in town, the Piazza Navona is the ideal location for the Norms to bid Rome arrivederci…until their inevitable return very soon.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

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Compendium // Porto > The secret side of a garden city

It’s hard not to get comfortable in among the wash of blue and white tiles and the swill of a good sweet port served alongside them, but to rest on ones laurels in Porto is to miss out on one of the city’s best kept secrets: its gardens. Though not obvious from the heart of the Ribeira, even when the city is seen from the rooftops, it’s remarkable how frequently this densely packed city is punctuated by an exquisite green space. And in fact Porto’s gardens not only provide respite from the bustle of the centre: they also provide the perfect viewing platform from which to admire the city… in utmost tranquility.

The first garden on my list is the Jardim da Cordoaria. Nestled in between some of Porto’s principle sights – the blue tiled Igreja das Carmelitas and the tall, narrow Torre dos Clérigos, the Cordoaria gardens provide an oasis of calm in the city centre. There, an avenue of what look like birch trees but which seem to grow out of huge almost deformed trunks sets the scene for a garden which is dappled with filtered sunlight and which benefits from a very tranquil pond surrounded by perfectly placed benches. The park is not only peppered with pretty pink flowers and curving meandering paths: it is also a veritable outdoor art galley, filled with amusing sculptures depicting groups of men in conversation or at play. They make a perfect little selfie spot… for those so inclined.

Jardim da Cordoaria

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Next up in the garden which satisfies every element of the kind of magical secret garden you long to find in childhood dreams: the Jardim das Virtudes. Literally lining the sloping sides of a masterfully terraced valley, blink and you will miss the discrete entrance to this garden which only starts to come into view when you enter the verdant valley. Once down there, what opens up is a place of spiritual magnitude, with seemingly deserted moss-covered fountains managing only the most meagre trickle into green ponds, while all around, stone walls, topiary and wild flowers give the garden the impression of carefully constructed desertion. And best of all, look between overhanging boughs and around mighty tree trunks and you will be treated to beautiful views over the Duoro river.

Jardim das Virtudes

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Down the road from the Virtudes gardes is the biggest and perhaps the most impressive garden of them all – the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal. Because here, the visitor with time of their hands (which we sadly lacked) will be treated to not one but a whole handful of differing garden styles and topography, each sharing unbeatable views over Porto’s rooftops and the breathtaking Duoro as it widens on its way down to the sea. In these gardens, asides from a peculiar flying saucer-style construction at its centre, you will see nature at its manicured best, with knot gardens and tropical palms swaying in the breeze, a cafe next to a Monet style waterlily pond and bridge, and roaming free, peacocks and cockerels who defy any form of control on the extravagance of their coats of many colours.

Jardim do Palácio de Cristal

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My final tip would be to leave yourself time to explore these gardens and sink stupendously within their atmosphere of mesmerising stupor. It’s the only way to really experience a garden at its best, leaving thoughts of city life and travel far, far behind.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Folio // Porto from the Rooftops

When I look through my photos of Porto, one thing really stands out, even more than the blue and white ceramics which embellish the houses – the rooftops. Swathes of terracotta dominate my photographic collection, and as many will know, I do like a good rooftop, especially when offset by the colours which inherently characterise southern Europe. Porto is no exception for a city resplendent in colour, but what it has more than your average city is a most unusual topography – one which rises and falls over undulating hills so that, even if you’re not climbing up towers and high stories, you can benefit from the most glorious views of warm red roofs and green bushy treetops.

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This little collection of rooftop photos enjoys a variety of angles, from the Miradouro de Vitoria, an almost hidden street which suddenly opens up into a splendid view over the Ribeira and across to the cellars of the Vila Nova de Gaia, and the spectacular square outside the Sé Cathedral, to the stunning vistas afforded by the Ponte Dom Luís Bridge, and from the heady heights of the dominating Torre dos Clérigos. There, laid out before us, rooftops seemed to jostle for space, vying for light light trees in a forest. And in that forest, cranes seems to rise above the city like new shoots of spring – a sign perhaps that Porto is itself enjoying a new regrowth, as it repairs and reinvents itself in response to its renewed popularity.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Compendium // Porto > Port tasting in the Vila Nova de Gaia

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot go to Porto without tasting the port. It would be like going to York without a trip to Betty’s, or indeed to Champagne without a glass of the bubbly stuff. So having crossed the Duoro river over the mighty Dom Luís Bridge, you will find yourself ideally located to wet your taste buds with the sweet and delectable nectar which has maybe made Porto the favourite haunt of the Olympian gods. For in the Vila Nova de Gaia, the quaint riverside zone bang opposite Porto’s Ribeira, you will find the air filled with the subtle perfume of oak barrels soaked with wine, as you wander past the headquarters of practically every of the most important Port manufacturers in the world.

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Walking away from the bustling quayside, where boats carrying barrels of port from the vineyards up the Duoro valley can still be seen (probably more for show, but still…), you will find yourself in narrow little streets filled with port showrooms and cellars. Look up, and the large illuminated lettering of each port house exhibits the most famous names in port: Graham’s, Ramos Pinto, Fonseca, Porto Cruz… they’re all there for the tasting. But being mildly patriotic, we decided to head to one of the most famous British-founded brands, and one which today still wears the seal of approval of the British royals: Taylor’s.

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Walking into Taylor’s was bit like visiting a colonial embassy. It felt very British, very sophisticated, but with all the hallmarks of a much hotter climate: plush gardens, a vine dappled courtyard with a tricking fountain, all traversed by peacocks walking haughtily around their dominion. Inside we were given a very handy self-toured audio guide which led us through a vast vault filled on all sides with barrel upon barrel of the famous fortified wine, and the heady scent of fermenting grapes. Past the barrels, a state of the art exhibition taught us more about port than we can ever have wished to know: I can now tell you the difference between a tawny and a late bottled vintage; why tawny’s are honey coloured and standard port red, and the traditions which accompany the human-trod grape harvesting process.

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All more interesting than it sounds, although the real treat came at the tasting, enjoyed in the heavenly surroundings of a perfectly tamed box-hedged garden alive with the scent of roses and accompanied by the solemn call of those same majestic peacocks. Served with chocolate truffles picked to perfectly balance the rich syrupy nectar served to use by a manicured waiter, we could quite easily have closed our eyes and followed those gods back to Olympus. Naturally we could not leave without buying a bottle of our favourite: the 20 year old tawny. And whenever it is opened the heady scent will remind me of that moment in Porto’s winey paradise – a treat not to be missed. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Compendium // Porto > Traversing the Duoro

While it may have to beat off competition from ample bottles of port, a rolling city geography and ceramic tiled houses, the Ponte Dom Luís I, aka the Bridge of Luis I, is the undisputed icon of the city of Porto. Extending across the Duoro river with a mighty 172 metre span and a boasting a double decker construction allowing trains to rumble across the top and cars to take the lower road (pedestrians can enjoy both routes), Porto’s bridge is the ultimate way to cross the river which otherwise splits the city in two.

While many assume that the 1886 iron construction was the work of the legendary Gustave Eiffel, it was in fact the design of one of Eiffel’s chief disciples, Théophile Seyrig, Eiffel’s single-story idea having been previously rejected owing to the rapidly expanding city demographic. At the time, it was the widest bridge ever to have been constructed. Today, it may have lost that epithet, but it remains one of the most recognisable bridges in Europe.

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After exploring the wonderful region of the Ribeira, next on your list should be a visit to the Dom Luis bridge which will not only provide you with some stunning rooftop views of Porto, but also take you across to the Vila Nova de Gaia region of the city, where the all important Port houses are to be found. While pedestrians can choose between the upper or lower decks, the latter being reached pretty easily from the riverbank of the Ribeira, we opted for the somewhat more vertiginous upper deck, this being reached by walking in a straight line from the wonderful tile-covered central train station. I’m not a vertigo sufferer, but I have to admit that from up there, my arms turned a little shaky as I extended my camera over the side of the bridge to capture the beautiful views it affords of the city.

But as these photos will demonstrate, those both enamoured and feared of heights should opt for the Ponte Dom Luís I – ultimate icon of Porto and the undisputed platform from which to see the city. And so long as you head over the bridge from the Ribeira to the Gaia, you can rest assured that a glass of ruby coloured port will be waiting for you on the other side. 

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Trajan’s Wedding Cake

Oh dear. The Norms’ reversion to the simpler things in life didn’t last for long. No sooner had they settled in the laid back Roman neighbourhood of Trastevere than they got itchy bottoms, and decided to trek again across the river in search of the grandeur for which Rome is famous. And this time they have hit the bullseye, arriving at the monument which, in modern times at least, is probably the grandest spectacle the city of Rome has ever created. Conspicuously named the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), but otherwise known as “the Wedding cake”, “the Typewriter” and the “English Trifle”, this pompous and mammoth construction was, in the early 20th century, built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first King of a unified Italy. However, it caused great controversy in its construction, doing away with large swathes of the historically critical Capitoline Hill as well as sticking out like a sore thumb for its gleaming whiteness in amongst a city of ochres and reds.

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Norms at the Wedding Cake (2018 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

Yet for all this, being white themselves, the Norms feel rather attracted to this mass of dazzling white theatricality and have made it a high point in their Roman adventure. That is not to say that they are ignoring the spiralling column of Trajan in the ruins of said Emperor’s forum just across the road. For one really can’t do one of these historical monuments without the other. And happily there’s an ice cream stop between the two, just in case the Norms required further inducement to enjoy these two indisputable icons of Rome.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Folio // Porto, Ceramic City

Porto is a city which literally smiles through its tiles. Every facade is alive with the glinting sheen of ceramic glaze. Their colours are abundant, their pattern even more so, and there is barely a house without a tile attached. When one wanders around Porto, gazing in abject fascination at these dazzling facades, one tends to question why we don’t all affix tiles to the front of our houses and buildings? Isn’t this the simplest way to give our exteriors something of the personality within, while – practically speaking – saving the need to repaint every year?

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Be they a practical solution or a traditional embellishment, the ceramic tiles of Porto are completely characteristic of the city. From the simple geometric designs and slightly more elaborate three dimensional variations emblazoned on homes to the pure masterpieces of blue and white illustrative design which narrate the walls of churches and (best of all) the San Bento central station, there are tiles to be admired throughout Porto. Here is a folio of my photos of just a few of them.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Trastevere living

The Daily Norm office may have decamped to Porto, but the Norms have decided not to stray from Roma. And if the Norms’ trip around Rome is about immersing themselves, unquestionably, in every aspect of the city, then they don’t want to visit just temples and ruins. For the essence of Rome extends far beyond its historical significance, to the robust character of her people, and the sense of contemporary spirit filling her streets and piazzas. The Trastevere may be an area popular with tourists – it is after all undeniably quaint – but it is also a part of the city with a proud working class heritage which is in no way acted out for the benefit of visitors. This is an area where laundry is strung across the streets because it needs to dry, not because it looks good in photos. And here, the restaurant terraces which hug buildings in narrow cobbled lanes serve up great Italian fare because the locals go there too.

Norms in the Trastevere

So to this most authentic of Roman neighbourhoods the Norms have strayed, enjoying a lunch of home made pasta which is as delicious as it is simple. Here the Norms can take a break from the big monuments and the grand boulevards, but focus instead on the charms of a very charismatic village-within-a-city, where plants grown in abundance and the architecture follows no pre-planned objective. It’s an atmosphere that suits the Norms down to the ground… in fact, after lunch, their next stop is an estate agent. This is clearly where they need to settle indefinitely! 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Porto > The enchanting Ribeira

As mellow as the perfume of port-filled oak barrels, but as vivacious as the glint and sparkle of that same honeyed wine as it sloshes into an eagerly waiting glass, the Portuguese city of Porto has all of the tempting characteristics of the sweet nectar which put the city on the world’s map. But if Porto was to be described in a palette of colour, its rich amber terracotta tones are to be offset by the bedazzlement of blue and white in its omnipotent ceramic tile-covered buildings, and in the dazzling stretch of the Douro River carving the city in two on its broad sweep down to the Atlantic Ocean.

Porto is a city alive with the spirit of its geography, as though enlivened by Atlantic breezes and nourished by the hilly fertile Duoro valley beyond. Its hilly topography has created a city which is topsy-turvy to say the least. Take a step back and houses appear to balance atop one another as streets zigzag along steep hillsides which rise and fall like ocean waves. It’s a city which defies the typical sense of direction, but which is generous to whomsoever gets lost in its maze of streets. For in Porto there is something enchanting to behold at each narrow corner.

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Our new compendium tour starts where that maze is at its most convoluted: in the knotty twist of streets which work their way over and around the hilly slopes which plunge down dramatically into the Duoro river – the Ribeira. Famed throughout the world and appropriately UNESCO protected, the Ribeira area is undaunted by the tourists naturally attracted to its streets and squares, retaining the authenticity of its carefree locals who can be seen enjoying the views and the sun from their ceramic tiled balconies with as much enthusiasm as the zealous tourist.

It is an area which exhibits numerous personalities. At its apex, the fortress bulk of the grand Sé Cathedral and it’s domineering Episcopal palace soar above the twisting mass of narrow lanes below, offering unbeatable rooftop views and an appreciation for Porto’s undulating geography. Delve into the streets beyond, and an impenetrable shadiness is punctuated by light only near the rooftops. However, soon enough, those darker alleys give way onto the soaring light of the riverbank, which is where the true heart of the Ribeira pulsates to the rhythm of street musicians and crowded restaurants, all benefiting from an unrivaled view of the Ponte de Dom Luis I, iron icon of the city.

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An encounter with the Ribeira marks an ideal introduction to this multifaceted city, suggesting something of the charismatic nuances of Portugal’s second city, as well as the distinct geography which has shaped Porto into a true feast for the eyes at every turn. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | The River Tiber

When one thinks of Rome, it’s easy to forget the river which twists its way through the centre of the city, carving a divide between the ancient centre on the one side, and Vatican City and the neighbouring area of Trastevere on the other. Yet the River Tiber is as much part of the fabric of the city as the Castel Sant’angelo which sits proudly on its banks, once the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian himself. Not only did it bring crucial transportation and supplies to the city throughout its burgeoning past, but it was also the source of plague and pestilence, bringing the relentless annual swathe of mosquitoes to the city where malaria routinely reduced the population to a mere fraction of its former self.

Today the River Tiber is one of the most tranquil areas of Rome. Indeed, I have barely ever seen a boat move along its waters, and the river bank, which could be as vibrant as the South Bank in London, is practically deserted, the odd piece of graffiti reminding that the presence of some is not entirely lacking. Yet the banks of the River Tiber are as much a historical treasure as other parts of the city, leading as they do to the ancient Pons Fabricius, the oldest bridge in Rome, together with the mighty Ponte Sant’angelo, lined with glorious sculpture and affording visitors the most stunning view of St Peter’s and the Vatican beyond.

Norms on the Tiber

Norms on the River Tiber (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

It is from that very bridge that this week’s Norm sketch is located, with the dome of St Peter’s accompanied by a panoply of pine trees, Vatican buildings, and a river bank suitably populated by eager Norms. While the bank itself may be a place for the down and outs, the Norms kissing in secret, and the frustrated teenager Norm, spray painting the wall because his creativity has been suppressed at home, its river is a place for recreation and relaxation – these two Norm boats find themselves quite secluded, despite being in the very centre of Rome. Such are the advantages of a river which is integral to the city, but which today is quite forgotten, in the grand Roman scheme of things.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com