Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

A Cretan Odyssey | Part 2 – Chania’s Labyrinth

Crete is an ancient land. Its very rocks breathe a thousand tales of nymphs and satyrs, of the birth of Zeus and the anger of Pasiphaë. But the most famous tale of all is spun from the endless twists and turns of the renowned labyrinth, built by master craftsman Daedalus to house the bloodthirsty Minotaur, bastard son of King Minos’ queen. There, somewhere in the labyrinthine grounds of the great Palace of Knossos, Ariadne spun her thread to lead Theseus out of the complex maze, but only after his bravery put the Minotaur to death. Today, there remain many theories about exactly what shape the labyrinth might have taken; some even suggest it was the Palace of Knossos itself. However, one things is certain in modern day Crete: head to the utterly quaint, twisting and convoluted streets of Chania’s old town, and you will feel like you have found the ancient relics of Daedalus’ mastery.

DSC04208DSC04244DSC04200DSC03789DSC03780DSC03768DSC04196DSC04223DSC04210DSC03764

We adored Chania. How could it be otherwise? With cosy little streets, strung with canopies of the pinkest bougainvillea, offset against yellow, blue and dusky pink houses and white-edged cobbled streets, it is a town of picture-perfect quality. Everything about the archetype of postcard Greece is embodied here: the bright blue rickety wooden chairs set outside cafes and tavernas serving Greek salad on blue and white checked table clothes, wine in terracotta pitchers, and lazy cats strewn languidly across the streets in the afternoon sun. Unlike many places which have fallen foul of the ravages of tourism, Chania has upped its game. Its shops and restaurants are positively up-market; there is a real feeling of Capri town or the Amalfi Coast about this town. And our unbroken record of finding perfect eateries, night after night, only confirmed the consistent quality of the place.

DSC03760DSC04214DSC04237DSC04228DSC03765DSC04218IMG_1107DSC03779DSC03767

So while Chania’s true highlight may be its dazzling Venetian harbour, just behind the front line of seaside houses, this maze of quaint alleyways will ensnare with equal charm. This is one labyrinth to enthusiastically get lost in. 

© 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.

Advertisements

Terracotta Collective: Chania Harbour

Those eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed a painting in progress hidden in amongst the photos paying homage to Crete in Tuesday’s post. Perched on a little travel easel on the balcony of our hotel in Chania, a canvas, quickly filled with the sun-soaked colours and gently bouncing water which filled our view. So lucky we were to enjoy such an extensive and exclusive platform from which to enjoy Chania’s harbour at all times. It would have been a travesty not to have painted it.

So the very same afternoon I set about erecting my easel and filling my bite-sized canvas. I started with the background – a broad, roughly applied swathe of terracotta, colour of the rich soil which underpins the geography of Greece. Next, the sea and the sky, roughly applied with ultra marine, brush stroke daubings still visible across both. Then came the houses and the mosque which characterise the view – that pink blancmange dome and the gently crumbling whitewash of nearby houses. I tried to capture something of the delicate, transient beauty of the place, with roughly applied dappled paints and terracotta roofs allowing that original tone to shine through from the base of the canvas.

Terracotta Collective 1 CHANIA

Terracotta Collective 1: Chania Harbour ©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas

This is the first painting in my new Terracotta Collective. Painted on a terracotta background whose rich earthy colour is allowed to shine through amongst surface brush strokes of differing thickness, it is a collection which references the rich ground which underpins the life and vivacity of the wider Mediterranean. 

© 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 

A Cretan Odyssey | Part 1 – Chania’s Venetian Harbour

You’ll excuse the long absence of The Daily Norm from your inboxes and browsers: We’ve been on an adventure; an Odyssey if you like, to the birthplace of Zeus and the land of the entrapped Minotaur, haunt of Olympian gods and roaming mystical beasts. For as the year rolls on and the summer reaches a glorious pinnacle, our 2018 travels continue – we’re off to the delectable Greek island of Crete.

Laced with mythological connotations, imbued with the smell of wild oregano, and jangling to the sound of wild goats and the sea which swishes upon its mammoth mountainous coastline, Crete is one of the longest continuously inhabited and historically relevant of all European destinations, as well as one of the Southernmost located. Yet for our summer holiday, it provided all of the luxuries, the aesthetics and the charm that could possibly be required of a modern holiday. Daily Norm readers: I welcome you, to Crete.

DSC04256DSC04122DSC03899DSC03896DSC04061DSC03900DSC03887DSC04264DSC04261

We start our adventure in Crete’s second city: Chania. Sprawling along the coast on the North-Western side of the island, Chania doesn’t feel like a city at all when you’re nestled inside the ancient walls of its richly-encircled old town. The sensation is one of a quaint little village, with picturesque roaming streets winding steadily down to a waterfront which is the beating heart of the city.

This harbour, so called Venetian because of time of its construction under the dictate of La Serenissima, is understandably the focal point for the city. It is alive at all hours with the bustle of its bars and restaurants whose collective unity beguiles the visitor with a harmonious panoply of sun-drenched little buildings hugging the shore. It is a waterfront which sparkles and ripples as water bounces off the crystal clear sea and makes fun of the straight lines adjacent, and a place imbued with a historical ambience translated through the presence of ancient stone houses and cobbled pavements. But pulling focus on the harbour is undoubtedly the Küçük Hasan Pasha Mosque, a leftover from Ottoman rule, and which today looks like a perfectly balanced candy-pink blancmange which turns ever so butterscotch in the golden evening sun. 

DSC04268DSC04257DSC03885DSC04133DSC03834DSC03897DSC04095DSC04168DSC03892DSC03869DSC04279DSC04255

We were lucky: our hotel room enjoyed the most stunning balcony views over this harbour, affording us the opportunity to revel in the changing faces of Chania’s ancient heart as it metamorphosed from slow and sleepy morning village to a bustling evening spectacle whose lights sparkled across the deep inky waters. We saw its colours dance vividly in the morning sun, and bathed in the golden light of early evening. And we breathed the deliriously fresh seawater perfume which pervaded the entire harbour, morning till night.

Chania’s Venetian harbour was the perfect way to commence our Cretan Odyssey, promising great things were in store from this island of plenty.

DSC03931DSC04278DSC04251DSC04093DSC04100DSC04247DSC04188DSC04142DSC04117DSC04161DSC04054DSC04156DSC03924

© 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.

Musing on the Seashore

I found myself on Monday morning sitting by the lapping shore of the Mediterranean, which was softly sweeping golden currents of calm, watery loveliness onto the freshly wet sand. The sun was warm despite the winter, and across the vertical column of light reflected over the water, small sardine fishing boats glided slowly into harbour to unload their night’s catch. I was lucky. A quick weekend at my family home in Marbella coincided with a few bursts of sunshine, while back in London, Monday’s regular commuter stream was being battered by arctic winds and snow showers in some 20 degrees less than I enjoyed back on that seashore.

As the water licked the beach’s edge, giving temporary glimmer to all the stones and shells it passed over, those who like me value the early light of daybreak took a similar stroll along the sand, an excitable dog invariably at their side (at least when it was not jumping in the waters, who teased with their swift withdrawal from shore line back towards the mass of sea). One such passer-by approached me, laughing apologetically for her dog who, nuzzling my side with his freshly wet face, seemed to sense that I was, at that moment, all at one with the sea which so delighted him.

IMG_7629IMG_7725IMG_7737IMG_7727IMG_7739

I not only took time to contemplate my luck at enjoying this transformative moment of winter sunshine; I also reflected upon the very accessible humanity which you can find amongst those who live in the sun, and in alignment with nature. In Spain especially, where the golden warmth of sun graces the country on most days of the year, there is an intrinsic approachability and outwards civility to everyone you meet. Strangers greet you like members of their family. Passers-by exchange not merely a glance but a comment on the beauty of the day. My time living in Mallorca open my soul to the kind of embrace of humanity I found in the Spanish. Now back in London, when I’m on the tube, and in the angry streets of the city, I feel the need to hide away that recharged humanity, in a place where smiles are too often met by scowls and courtesy left for others to administer.

Circumstances are so often the source of our mood and our civility. But as that moment in the sun reminded me, we should all take time out to smile, give and share with others, even when the demands of the daily grind render this difficult.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.

One morning in Zürich

Last weekend was joyfully sunny, despite being spent in London during the midsts of its Winter. Sitting on Clapham Common, enjoying coffee on consecutive days reminded me of another winter weekend we enjoyed as 2017 turned into 2018; when in the pristine clean air and surrounded by the magnificence of tall snowy mountains and glistening mirrored lakes, we enjoyed a winter’s day which exhibited all the joyful qualities of Spring: one morning in Zürich.

Zürich enchanted us right from the outset. Expecting something of a super-urbanised banking city metropolis, we were surprised to find a town which was so quaint that it could be the setting of a nursery rhyme, with its gothic spires, cobbled streets and oversized clocks. Yet perhaps the best feature of Zürich is its location: nudging the shore of the Northern tip of Lake Zürich, and surrounded by pristine mountain scenery, it is a place to behold, whatever the season.

DSC09924DSC00038DSC09867DSC09972DSC09834DSC09813DSC09888DSC09912DSC09865

That morning in Zürich showed off the city at its best. With the sun high in the blue sky, all thoughts of winter were swept away as locals took to the gentile path which borders the lake and takes those perambulating on a broad sweep along shallow waters and past progressively green parks and residential enclaves. At the end of the path, and with the city far behind, the view of an uninterrupted mountainous Elysium was ripe to behold, and with the sun beating down on the path and the glassy lake beyond, we stripped off winter layers and breathed deep of the purity of nature that only Switzerland can bring.

That day still lives strong in our mind as we look forward to Spring. Gradually, as each day passes, the optimistic summertime draws near. But occasionally days like that one remind that there is hope even mid-Winter. That’s the transformative power of sunshine. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.

Post 1004 | Mountains Pass

I feel giddy with the excitement of this past week on The Daily Norm. Celebrating the moment when my blog reached 1000 posts gave me a perfect opportunity to take a retrospective glance back across 6 years of musings, and realise just how vital blogging has become in my life. As this week nears its end, I felt it was time to look forwards again, and as The Daily Norm surges forwards into a new thousand, I wanted to share one of my newest artworks with you.

Entitled Mountains Pass, this gouache was inspired by the most momentous of train journeys which we enjoyed on a perfectly streamlined, brilliantly efficient Swiss train as we traversed the boarder between Italy and Switzerland and sped through the stunningly snow-topped Alpine scenery on our way to Zurich. Journeys are so often a means to an end, but this one was an event all of its own.

Mountains Pass FINAL

Mountains Pass (Journey to Zurich) ©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper

Sitting in the very luxurious first class carriage, we were able to enjoy these views from the comfiest of seats; and the views couldn’t have been any better. As if they weren’t vast enough already, the enormous mountains were doubled by their reflection is mirror-still lakes, while up their craggy sides, little idyllic wooden chalets pumped small streams of log fire smoke into the clear blue sky. It was just like the most perfect Christmas card image blown up into super-sized reality.

So from that journey to this: a simple gouache which, with modern lines and an earthy colour palette which recalls the scenery as it sped past our windows and I gazed, captivated, by the majesty of landscape before me. As the mountains passed by, this image lodged itself in my mind. Now it’s on paper and ripe to be shared in this new era of The Daily Norm.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.

Magnificent Milano (Part 6): Stazione Centrale

It’s not often when you leave a city that you start snapping away with your camera, but with the stupendous scale and majesty of its liberty-style architecture, the Stazione Centrale of Milan makes for one hell of a farewell. Inaugurated in 1931, and heavily influenced by the onset of Italy’s Fascist age of might and power, the building pronounces Milan and Italy a true powerhouse of the modern age and a gateway to the advanced engineering which meant that Milan was connected through vast railway tunnels running North through the Alps, and along endless expanses of track traversing the Italian peninsula.

DSC09440DSC09402DSC09435DSC09422DSC09413DSC09399DSC09442DSC09415

It’s hard to know where to look. While passengers may be accustomed to concentrating on the departures board, Milan’s central station is itself a masterpiece of art which beckons the viewer to look beyond the travel information and up into the soaring 72 metre height of its great loft ceilings, and over the art deco lines and cubist sculptures which represent, in very Fascist terms, the will of the worker and the strength of Milan as Italy’s industrial capital.

DSC09397DSC09420DSC09409DSC09388DSC09401DSC09391DSC09394DSC09390

The station is mightily impressive. You have to traverse three huge entrance porticos before you even reach the 24 platforms, each bigger than the one before and displaying new feats of architectural engineering and decorative brilliance. What can be termed as “halls” are each double the size of your average city train station, and pack their punch in aesthetic excellence and awe-inspiring impact.

It made leaving Milan that sunny blue-sky day all the more difficult, but think how it must impress as a gateway to the city? Whether it be political propaganda or a testament to design, the Stazione Centrale is a true icon of its age, and seeing it was a magnificent end to our Milanese Odyssey. Arrivederci Milano… we will return to revel in your splendour one day soon.

IMG_6162

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.

Magnificent Milano (Part 5): Città di Notte

I feel as though this is progressively becoming a one-man crusade to prove the beauty of Milan. Even the other day, when I spoke of our travels, my dinner companion piped up: “ah yes, Milan is ugly so they say”. No! I protested, as I proceeded to upload the pages of  The Daily Norm on my phone. And now that you’ve seen the famous Duomo in all its guises together with Milan in its sparkling sunlit state, I thought I would further demonstrate the beauty of this Northern Italian city by showing yet another facet of its elegant urban character: Milan by Night.

DSC08843DSC08819IMG_6016DSC08857DSC09383

I don’t have many photos to share – you know that cameras (or at least the photographer) can be a little shaky at night – but those I do have show something of the vivacity of a city which is emboldened after hours, as the city comes alive with thousands of sparkling lights, and its iconic buildings take on a new robust character which makes them pop from amongst their unlit neighbours. Milan is a city known for its intemperate rain showers, and this we experienced on our first night in the city. But the result was to scatter those street lights across every wet reflective surface making, to my mind, an even more beautiful pictorial celebration of Milan by moonlight.

DSC08859DSC09376DSC09035DSC08929DSC08845

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.

Magnificent Milano (Part 4): The Duomo, Rooftop forest

In fashioning the most extravagantly elegantly shaped dresses and forging trends to go bankrupt for, the designers of Milan are merely following in the footsteps of their city forefathers who constructed a Cathedral to wow, inside and out. And while their objective was most certainly achieved in all the most conspicuous of places, they didn’t fall short of embellishing even those sections seen more regularly by the birds than by the faithful down below. For the Duomo’s rooftop is every bit as beautiful as its marble facade and its stunning grandiose interior. In fact to my mind, it’s the icing on the cake, and the cherry on top all rolled into one magnificent exhibition of man’s greatest craftsmanship.

DSC09121DSC09101DSC09106DSC09135DSC09115DSC09138DSC09110

The roof of the Duomo of Milan is a veritable forest of marble Gothic spires (some 135 in all) topped by perfectly sculpted images of the saints, flowers and gargoyles. These upward thrusts of stone are coupled with gently arching buttresses which support the nave and make the initial approach along one side of the building and up to the central section a real treat of overlapping stone. Once on the very top, you need to have both a head for heights and a steady footing, as you literally walk on the sloping sides of the vaulted ceiling. But if you suffer from vertigo, think of Mary, whose golden statue still looks minuscule, even from the roof, as it soars upwards hundreds of metres into the sky.

DSC09102DSC09128DSC09145DSC09116DSC09153DSC09139

But perhaps the greatest aspect of the roof is the view. Behind the spires and the ancient statues is a city skyline progressing fast with the times. Out of the shadow of modernista palazzos, a vibrant new landscape of skyscrapers and apartment blocks is growing, from Ponti and Pier Lugui Nervi’s iconic Pirelli Tower, to the more recent, twisting form of Zaha Hadid’s Generali Tower or the strangely verdant Bosco Verticale by Stefano Boeri. It’s ancient meets modern, which more or less sums up the character of Milan: A city forging way ahead of many of its ancient Italian cousins, but retaining at its heart one of the most impressive historical buildings of them all: the Duomo.

DSC09142DSC09124DSC09149DSC09095DSC09127DSC09118

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.

Magnificent Milano (Part 3): The Duomo, Inside and Out

Move aside Prada, take a seat La Scala. For when it comes to the true and undisputed icon of Milan, it’s the mighty cathedral, Milan’s Duomo which will always take centre stage. The ultimate celebration of the gothic style at its most flamboyant, the Duomo is a veritable forest of multiple spires, and a jewellery box of delightfully pearlescent Candoglia marble which is crafted into an entire cast and crew of saints, sinners and ghoulish gargoyles peppering every inch of the abundantly decorated facade.

We must consider ourselves lucky in this century to see the Duomo in its current state of perfection. For the gigantic structure, which is surely one of the most dazzlingly ambitious historical structures to have ever been built, took some 6 centuries to complete after its commencement in 1386. And happily too, it survived the WW2 bombs which made mincemeat of much of the surrounding area.

Outside…

DSC09181DSC09086DSC09089DSC09090DSC09178DSC09175DSC09166DSC09172DSC09168

So not knowing quite where to begin with this enormous building, which is in fact the third largest church in the world, we spent almost a whole sunny day admiring the Duomo from all angles. Starting with the wonderful roof (which will have a post all of its own), we turned our visit on its head, following the great heights of the soaring cathedral with a protracted study of its beautiful exterior furnishings while waiting, somewhat agonisingly, in the freezing wind, as we queued to get inside. While it took some time to defrost when we finally made it through one of the Duomo’s great bronze doors, the visual feast to be discovered within was more than sufficient to warm us up again.

I have been in many a cathedral, but I don’t think I have ever been quite so dazzled as when faced by the sheer scale and magnitude of this cathedral. Appearing even bigger on the inside than it did on the out, I didn’t know whether to focus first on the elaborately patterned marble floor, the soaring forest of 40 great pillars, the soaring, vaulting ceilings far, far above, or the stained glass windows which are the most complex and stunningly coloured I have ever seen. A mere side chapel of this Cathedral is the size of the principal place of worship of most countries. And just one small panel of the great stained glass windows close to the altar was packed with more detail and narrative than you would find across the entire diameter of a finely crafted rose window elsewhere.

…and inside

DSC09188DSC09284DSC09214DSC09194DSC09213DSC09255DSC09232DSC09199DSC09241

If the great propaganda machine of historical Catholicism intended to dazzle and dominate with the sheer theatre of its religious spectacle, this place had me converted. Like a mere supplicant, I felt lost in the scale and sense of awestruck enormity of it all, and by the time we made our way outside again, I had quite lost all sense of proportion. Happily a Milanese lunch, and a quick look at some of the nearby boutique’s average prices gave me the sharp shock I needed to bring me back to reality.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. 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.