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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

Paris by Day

How time flies… it’s something on which I comment often. But who can help but do otherwise when already we find ourselves 10 days into a New Year with not a single post on The Daily Norm to bid you all welcome to a brand new year! So in doing so now, I am choosing to start the year as I mean to carry on… by featuring photos of what must easily be the most elegant city in the world, not to mention one of history’s most important cultural bedrocks. Just one glimpse below this text, and the familiar geometric lattice work of the Tour Eiffel will reveal that I can only be talking about one city…my beloved Paris.

Ever since my first encounter with Paris at the age of 14 I was inspired to an extent never repeated by any other city. It was as though cupid’s arrow unfurled itself from the bronze casting of one of the city’s many streaming fountains and lodged its way firmly into my heart. Since that first trip, I have made it my intention to visit Paris as often as I can, recharging my batteries in the Rues of the countless arrondissements in the way that a mobile telephone needs a frequent reconnection with an electricity socket. When, a few days after Christmas, I made my most recent voyage to the City of Lights, almost two years had passed since the last. Too long a separation for this Francophile, but oh how absence made the heart grow fonder, as on this most recent reacquaintance, the cobbled streets, palatial apartment blocks, flowing fountains and grand tree-lined boulevards inspired me like never before.

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Splitting up my photos from this recent trip into both day and night, we start with those shots taken during my three December days in the city. While we spent much of our time inside some of the best art exhibitions of the moment, these photos were captured during our strolls from place to place. For as the odd glimpse of myself and my partner thoroughly wrapped up clearly suggest, the temperatures were crisp and low, and did not lend themselves to prolonged perambulations. But in those moments when a sun trap was found, whether it be on the vast steps of the Madeleine church, or alongside the riverbank where the sun bounced across the gentle ripples of the River Seine, there were some spectacular winter moments to be had.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 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. 

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A weekend in Barcelona

Barcelona: the creative beacon of Catalunya, a thriving city with all the charm of a seaside town, a capital for culture and a statement in gastronomic, stylistic and artistic innovation. It is a mere hop across the sea from Mallorca; on occasional days of peculiar weather, some have even declared that one place can be seen over the horizon of the other. And yet Barcelona may as well be a world apart. It is not just a pretty city fringed by palm trees and an attractive port – it has been the inspiration for some of history’s most famous creatives, and today continues to be an icon for stylists, fashionistas, foodies, designers, architects and artists across the world.

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Famous for its modernista architecture by the likes of genius Antoni Gaudí, as well as for its connections with the likes of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, and more recently for the 1992 Olympics which put it firmly on the global map, Barcelona is a veritable feast of visual inspiration for any artist or photographer. Yet as I took the opportunity to fly the short 30 minute journey across the sea to Barcelona last weekend, I found myself so utterly wrapped up in the striking city vibe that I quite forgot to photograph anything. Almost complacently I walked the ravishing streets, soaking in the atmosphere but forgetting to capture the sights all around me in a two dimensional form. That is why, as a new week begins, I am left with a head full of wonderful memories and few photos to support them.

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And yet those few photos which I did capture are fully representative of the kind of weekend which we really enjoyed. For rather than prioritising previously experienced touristic sites or much-explored museums, this trip was about reconnecting with the urban vibe, and enjoying all of the accompanying pleasures which inevitably partner a large city. For us that meant a combination of (largely window) shopping, particularly in chic concept stores such as Jamie Beriestain, where Christmas has come early in the form of full-sized pine trees glittering with gold, or fully indulgent fine dining in new eatery hot spots such as the El Nacional food market or the impressive restaurant, Petit Comite.

This little album is therefore representative of a weekend in Barcelona which involved much dining, and much refined wine-ing, strolls in the autumn sunshine and the odd Gaudi interaction. In short everything which a weekend in one of my favourite cities is guaranteed to offer.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. 

The Greatness of Granada, Part 5: Final reflections

It’s funny, because when I think back to our time in Granada it feels like a different time and place, even though as I sit here contemplating the holiday, I do so still surrounded by Spain. Of course I always knew that Mallorca was very different from Andalucia, but Granada has something about it which marks it out from the rest. It might be that very distinctive perfume of arabia which wafts around the street full of oriental musk and spices. Or perhaps it is the fact that wherever you turn, the imposing ochre silhouette of the Alhambra is never far from view. Granada is a city whose surroundings are baked like the crunchy top of a Crema Catalana, but whose inner heart beats with a lazy vivacity, and whose lifeblood is the range of mountains whose outline is like a theatrical backdrop to the city-show, and whose icy heights provide the fresh water which runs through Granada like a god-given lifeline.

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This final post of my Granada adventure is more of a reflective musing, sharing those photos which I like, but which somehow never slotted into my otherwise tidy rendering of our city trip story. So here you will find a few ghoulish gargoyles, plenty of sunbaked landscapes, a fountain or two, and a panoply of architectural details. All combined they are the well-spiced ingredients that make up the visually rich, exotically perfumed city of Granada.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 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. 

My Granada Sketchbook: La Plaza Bib-Rambla

I’ve lost count of quite how many pages my leather-bound moleskin sketchbook has. What I do know is that it has been my trusty travel companion for over 2 years now, from the first tentative sketches in Dubrovnik in May 2014, through to Capri, Marbella, Mallorca, Venice, Vienna and of course Granada to name but a few. And finally, with its corners now thoroughly battered and its pages filled, I have reached the last page of the sketchbook, and drawn my last sketch.

Between you and me, my last page was actually the rooftops of the Albayzín which I shared on The Daily Norm last week. It was an appropriate last sketch, since with its terracotta tiled rooftops it very closely resembled the first sketch I made in Croatia, albeit that there has been a clear improvement in my technique (practice makes perfect). But today’s sketch, while  being the first I undertook in Granada, is the last I have to share from my sketchbook of plenty.

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Tree in the Plaza Bib-Rambla, Granada (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

The scene was set for this sketch in the beautiful Plaza Bib-Rambla, a tranquil leafy square a stone’s throw from Granada’s imposing cathedral, and a real centre point for restaurants and cafes, and a place merely to relax surrounded by flowerbeds full of roses. When I sat down to make the sketch, my initial strokes made to shape the image of the rather unusual fountain, complete with ogres holding up the main basin of water, which sits at the centre of the square. But within seconds of starting, my attention was captured by this beautifully bumpy looking tree standing by a kiosk near the cafe where we were enjoying afternoon tea. So I quickly changed tack and the result was this far less clichéd, much more atmospheric sketch.

And with that, my sketchbook is at an end, a true testament to my travels and my enjoyment of capturing those experiences on paper. It will not be my last sketch however, of that I am sure. Once a new sketchbook is purchased, the journey will continue…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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 work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Greatness of Granada, Part 4: Lorca’s Legacy

Federico Garcia Lorca was easily one of Spain’s greatest ever creative talents, and his premature death at the hands of Franco’s fascists one of its greatest tragedies.

Lorca was many things. Artist, poet, playwright, musician, but across the board he was a true Andalucían, a man whose sensitive heart was worn on a sleeve embroidered from the sun of the south, and whose soul was moved by Granada’s gypsy cry. Reading Lorca’s poetry in both Spanish and even in English is to take a path across the heat-baked planes of the South of Spain. His words resonate with the visceral emotion which Andalucía lays bare. His verses are characterised by a spirit lifted free by the pure power of the sun’s optimism and the darker mysteries of the night.

Gardens of the Huerta de San Vicente today

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Lorca, Granada’s favourite son, is everywhere in the city. He was the fresh human face of a city otherwise characterised by its ancient history. And today his forward thinking mind and bohemian spirit fits perfectly with the 21st century manifestation of Granada. While his tragic loss in the early months of the Spanish Civil War took Lorca from the city long ago, a reminder of his life in his most devoted home town remains in the form of the Huerta de San Vicente, the Lorca’s happy holiday home on the city’s outskirts. The pretty little white house would once have been surrounded by open countryside. Today, it remains a bucolic enclave in a concrete jungle, but happily the land immediately surrounding it has been converted into a park.

The Huerta de San Vicente in Lorca’s day

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Lavishly planted with roses and agapanthus, cypress trees and palms, it a garden of reflection whose mood is somehow rendered all the more romantic by association with the home of a poet who used to find so much inspiration here. In fact Lorca was so moved by the Huerta that he used to refer to it as his “Poetry factory”. The energy which drove him to write the most spectacular poetry ripples through the house today, and the ability to walk within and around this space remains for me a true highlight of any Granada trip. It is a home exuding the creative energy and the familial love which was so clearly integral to Lorca’s writing, and the foundation of his overflowing love for the city which continued to inspire him right up until the end.

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That inspiration resulted in the most stunning body of written works which today is Lorca’s lasting and most precious legacy. Moved by our visit to the Huerta, Dominik and I would sit up at night, both in Granada and then besides our jasmine tree in Marbella, reciting his verses, first in Spanish and then in English, loving how the sound of his verses would run over the tongue like water bubbling over a mountain brook, full of free sentiment and the most mellifluous melody.

This post includes my photos of the gardens surrounding the Huerta de San Vicente (photos inside the house were prohibited) as well as a glimpse of how the house, and of course Lorca himself, had looked. But it wouldn’t be complete without a few of his words too. Chosen at random from my precious anthology of his work, it was a coincidence that the page should fall open at a poem written in evident homage to both Granada and nearby Córdoba. It is a perfect demonstration of Lorca’s love for Andalucía, and his ability to capture its soul in just a few expertly chosen words.

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Alba / Dawn

Campanas de Córdoba / Bells of Córdoba
en la madrugada. / in the early hours.
Campanas de amanecer /Bells of dawn
en Granada. / in Granada
Os sienten todas las muchachas / They hear you,
que lloran a la tierna / all the girls who cry
Soleá enlutada. / for the tender Soleá in mourning.
Las muchachas / The girls
de Andalucía la alta / of Andalucía the High
y la baja. / and the low
Las niñas de España, / Young girls of Spain
de pie menudo / with tiny feet
 y temblorosas faldas, / and trembling skirts
que han llenado de luces / who’ve filled the crossroads
las encrucijadas. / with light. 
¡Oh campanas de Córdoba / Oh bells of Córdoba
en la madrugada, / in the early hours
y oh campanas de amanecer / and oh, bells of dawn
en Granada! / in Granada!
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Own photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 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. 

My Granada Sketchbook: Rooftops of the Albayzín

I love people watching, especially over a coffee in the most chic of cafeterias, but I love view-watching more. It’s why I always ask a hotel for the best view they have available and so often they come up trumps. This was very much the case during my recent stay at the Casa 1800 Hotel in Granada where a room with terrace provided exceptional inspiration for a painting of the Alhambra seen from our own exclusive viewing space. But this was a terrace with much to offer, and sat looking the other way, we were able to enjoy an equally appealing view of the ancient rooftops of the Albayzin.

Famed for its tiny narrow maze like streets and its historical Islamic heritage, the Albayzin is one of the most iconic areas of Granada. Seen from above, it is just as alluring, as layer upon layer of rickety roof tops and old wooden balconies appear to interweave like a well-trodden tapestry. Keen to capture the sight, I set about sketching it in my now almost complete travel sketchbook.

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Rooftops of the Albayzín (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

I never imagined there would be so many terracotta tiles to draw, but as I sat on our terrace slowly executing the piece I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the monotony of it all!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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 work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Interpretation No.20: The Albayzín from the Generalife, Granada

After 3 years of on and off painting, I have arrived at no. 20 of my Interpretation series, the gouache landscapes which concentrate on how human built and nature made landscapes interact, signified by simplified flat colour planes. Upon arrival in Granada, I knew I would have to paint a landscape. As cliché as it may be, how could I help but be inspired by the green and auburn rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada over which the historical, magnificent city of Granada presides? From a first glimpse up at the Alhambra, sitting proudly on the uppermost hills of the city, it was pretty much decided in my head that there lay the protagonist of my Granada painting. That was until I got into the Alhambra itself.

From the gardens of the Generalife l was not only able to enjoy the most mystifying maze-like rose gardens straight out of Lewis Carroll, and fountains redolent of a thousand and one nights. I was also greeted by a view so beautiful that it stopped me in my step. The vista across the valley of the Darro river in Granada, looking over to the ancient Muslim quarter of the city, the Albayzín, arrested my senses. With its sprawl of mostly white little houses nestled in amongst church towers and cypress trees, all gracing a peaceful mountainous landscape, I knew that this was the one. Interpretation 20 was born. I hope you like it.

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Interpretation No.20: The Albayzín from the Generalife, Granada (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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 work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Greatness of Granada, Part 3: The Generalife

Of all the treasures that the Alhambra complex holds within its vast stone and green boarders, the Generalife gardens are without a doubt my favourite gem. Set apart, across a ravine which was once linked via a covered walkway to the Nasrid palace, the Generalife was once the summer palace of the Nasrid Emirs of the Emirate of Granada. Today it is preserved as a garden paradise which seems a world apart from the ancient and modern sprawling city which spreads out across the Andalucian planes all around it.

With a multiply arched white palace at its heart, the likes of which appears to have informed all of the most typical Andalucian buildings which have developed in its likeness, as well as a long narrow pool over which arched fountains meet like lovers reaching across a mountain spring, the gardens of the Generalife are the most romantic place of natural contemplation imaginable.

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Strolling between trimmed boxed hedges and flowerbeds abundant with fragrant roses and vivid bourganvilla, a walk around the Generalife is like being lost in the gardens of the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s wonderland. There, the many examples of arabic craftsmanship carved deep into the palace walls are overshadowed by the work of tended nature manifest in the multiply-layered gardens. And even on the hottest of days, there is a cool calm which reflects off the surface of mountain-fed water springs which make a visit to the gardens the most pleasant of contemplative activities.

This was my second visit to the Generalife palace and gardens, and the place is as much of a paradise as I remember. Perambulating through the verdant passages during a late afternoon, when the sun over the Albayzín was turning a caramelised yellow, proved to be the most perfect time to enjoy this reflective space. Not even my photos are able to capture the utmost tranquility of those all too brief moments in paradise. But they surely go someway in reflecting the mood of soulful restfulness which the atmosphere of the Generalife creates.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 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. 

My Granada Sketchbook: Patio de Daraxa

Sometimes it can be pretty unnerving sketching in public, especially when to do so means being sat in the heart of a tourist location. Very quickly, the budding artist finds themselves being subsumed into the attraction itself, and becoming every bit the focus of the tourists´gaze. This is the position in which I found myself in the Alhambra when, desperate to sit down in a shady spot after hours of queuing and touring the mammoth complex of the Alhambra, the Alcazaba and the Nazrid Palace, we found a perfect little bench in the Patio de Daraxa, an idyllic little shady garden set at the very heart of the palace complex.

With a direct view onto the patio’s ancient fountain, its water sparkling in the light, and surrounded by the intricately trimmed box-tree hedges, fragrant orange and cypress trees, and agapanthus flowers dancing around in a gentle breeze, I knew that I had to capture the essence of this space in my sketchbook. So reaching more my pen, I started nervously mapping out the space, hoping to do homage to the perfect symmetry which the Moorish inhabitants had executed with such precision. However no sooner had I placed pen to paper, than tourists, without any kind of timid apology, started peering onto the page, beckoning their friends closer, taking my photo and waiting stubbornly for the completion of the piece. That never happened. After only a basic sketch I retired from the spot, unable to bare the intensity of the tourists´gaze any longer.

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Patio de Daraxa, Alhambra (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

 

This sketch was finished over coffee in one of my favourite haunts in Marbella. Despite that, I believe it still captures the magical spirit of that perfect Alhambra resting place.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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 work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

The Greatness of Granada, Part 2: The Alhambra

Few places in all the world have the power to arrest the eyes and ensnare the heart quite like the Alhambra in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Glowing every shade of ochre, and pale gold through to deep russet and coral red, it is no wonder that in arabic, the name of the fortress like construct means “The Red One”. But the true treasures of the Alhambra lie in wait inside, where room after room of twisting, tangling geometric patterns, forests of marble columns, and incredibly carved honeycomb like domes seem to reach up into infinity. It is a place which offers visitors a vision from paradise, even when it is (as always) hosting its daily quota of tourists, a sensation augmented by the plethora of pools and trickling waterways, magnifying the space with reflection and filling its stone halls with the gentle harmony of trickles and splashes.

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Originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, the complex was constructed into its current state of glory by the Emirate of Granada in the 13th century. Converted into the most lavish royal palace the world had ever seen, it was revered by the reconquering Christians when they took the city in 1492, becoming part of the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and subsequent monarchs. While they embellished the site in turn with Renaissance-style palaces which didn’t quite live up to the beauty of the Moorish offerings, they did so at least in the same glowing gold stone thus creating the complete whole which now permanently characterises the landscape of Granada. Shockingly, the palace was later allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, until it was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, becoming the favourite of Romantic-age travellers and inspiring generations of artists, poets, and writers since.

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Today, unsurprisingly, the site is UNESCO protected and is a ravishing complex of echoing courtyards and colonnaded porticos each enjoying the most incredible views over to the Albayzín below. Lucky then that these hallowed halls should be salvaged for generations to come, where we can but imagine the lives of kings and their hareems languishing in the finest coloured silks by reflective pools and in throne rooms built for the imperial best. Beyond, of course, are the gardens, perhaps the most sensually lavish spectacles of all. But those wonders of nature and man’s creative touch I will leave for another day.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 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.