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Posts tagged ‘Holiday’

A walk one early Tuscan morning: Vineyards and poppies

Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo, Grosseto… Tuscany plays host to more stunning cities than you can even begin to list, let alone visit on a single trip to the region. Full of art history’s jewels, quaint little streets and magical churches, these are the cities which inspired a golden age of travel. Yet the cities are only one facet of Tuscany’s charm. All along the length of the region, there are beaches so sandy that they can rival the very best of Spain’s costas. In its restaurants, the Tuscan people will tell you that the very best food of Italy is served up, from wild boar to Sopa Della Pescaia. But above all things, Tuscany is characterised by its iconic landscapes. Who hasn’t salivated over the picture postcard views of undulating hills truncated by a cypress-lined winding road? And it is this landscape, punctuated by vines and olive trees and pine-perfumed air that I like to enjoy above all things.

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I’m lucky. I have family living in the region. And that means proximity. When we visit them my favourite thing to do is to get up early, as the sun is just starting to make its ascent, and walk. Walk in whatever direction my feet take me. For all roads in Tuscany lead to a lovely landscape, as countryside paths take the earnest visitor through those perfectly ordered vineyards, across freshly ploughed fields and amongst wild flowers.

These photos are from one such morning walk when the hour was perfectly peaceful and the light a creamy tone of reflected gold. But despite the sun’s fast ascent, there was a tangible sleepiness to the air, as poppy heads drooped delicately along grassy verges, snails curled up in snoozing groups on deserted street posts, and the birds, slowly awakening, heralded the start of a sunny new day. Pure. Bliss.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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. 

Mallorca My highlights – Part One: The First Year

A big move is in progress. The Daily Norm has one gelatinous leg in its new London home, and the other floating somewhere in transit as we await the delivery of all the possessions – and post importantly the computer – which makes writing of The Daily Norm a regular possibility. So excuses are sought from all readers for the temporary scarcity of posts. But at the same time, as any self respected blogger, I don’t want to lose this moment to reflect upon the magnitude of this change, nor to miss the opportunity to look back on my time in Mallorca. For two short years it may only have been, but those 27ish months provided a lifetime of unforgettable experiences for which I am so grateful.

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So in the next two posts, I plan to reflect back upon those two years, doing so by way of the medium of my photos which is surely the best way of reliving the memories. For the mere process of selecting these photos for part one of these posts – the first year of my Mallorca experience – demonstrated with such potency what an incredible time we had. The colours alone speak of a thousand moments, of all those sunsets and sunny days and spring flowers and autumn leaves. The incredible mountains and the craggy coast, the windmills and the sheep and the little shops of Palma’s Casco Antiguo. All goes in the mix as I reflect on my first of two years in Mallorca – two years which can be very easily labelled the best in my life. So far.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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 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. 

Our Alhambra Terrace

People take inspiration from holidays in various ways, weather through collating a set of ravishing photos, collecting foodie ideas, or even rounding up the tackiest and most whimsical souvenir. For me, it’s all about art.  There is no better way, in my mind, to look back on a holiday than through the art I great during that time. Because more than just taking a photo, the process of creating a painting or sketch involves time and contemplation, and therefore has the power to instil the final product with the great value of a comprehensive collection of memories and sensations. That is why I always do my best to get a hotel room with a view, in the knowledge that that alone will provide me with much of the inspiration I will need in the place I will feel most comfortable creating.

On our trip to Granada, we stayed in the Hotel Casa 1800, a stunningly quaint property characteristic of the rickety old houses and palazzos crammed into the ancient Albayzín district alongside the banks of the Darro River. Incredibly located just off the Plaza Santa Ana, the hotel boasted an unrivalled view of the Alhambra, but not in every room. In fact very few benefited from the crème de la crème of Granada views, but with ours, we were given the opportunity not just to enjoy the view through a window, but from our very own little terrace.

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Alhambra Terrace (Hotel Casa 1800 Granada) 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper

As soon as we saw it, we knew it would be hard to tear ourselves away from the hotel. Such a cosy space and an unbeatable view could not easily be rivalled by a public space after all. With a moment’s glance, I knew the painting I would create that would best befit our experience of this space. And here it is. Making clear reference to the Honeymoon Suite collection created one year ago, this gouache painting continues the trend of painting the view from the hotel rooms enjoyed on our various travels. However with its Alhambra view, painted in a creamy orange with deep green shadows, this is one hotel room it will be hard to beat, no matter how much my future painting needs might demand it.

© 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 1: Dual Faith, Double Identity

Granada in the heart of Spanish Andalucia is a city deeply characterised by the historical vicissitudes of its religious and political identity. On one street you may confidently conclude that you are in a richly embellished bastion of Catholicism; mere metres away, you feel as though you have been magically relocated to Marrakech. In Granada, you can find shisha pipes being smoked and moroccan mint tea being sipped with baklava right next door to where, in one of Europe’s biggest and most imposing cathedrals, the bells of a campanile call the Catholic faithful to prayer, and incense is swung majestically before a statue of the Virgin Mary. It is a stark contrast which can be noted across the city, recalling the turbulent but glorious history which has made Granada truly unique in the modern world.

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Of course much of what you see today has a ring of Disneyland about it, The tightly packed streets full of arabic wears and shops clustered with so many glittering glass lamps, silks and leather goods that you feel as though you have entered Aladdin’s cave, are all somewhat contrived for the tourists. But they are nonetheless deeply rooted in a past which begun in the early 700s, when the muslims crossed the narrow Straits of Gibraltar and swiftly conquered the Iberian Peninsula, founding Al Andalus, a kingdom of such rich prosperity and harmonious living that it was the nearest any civilisation had come to the Roman Empire before it. But the State’s precarious location encircled by Catholic countries meant that it was never destined to last for ever. One by one, a Catholic reconquista swept through the Iberian Peninsula, reclaiming Spain for the Christian world, until only one citadel of Al Andalus remained, the strongest of all – Granada.

Granada’s magnificent Catholic face

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It took some 250 years of negotiations, wrangling and final all out war before Ferdinand and Isabella, the “Catholic Monarchs” were able to complete the Christian reconquest of Spain, take Granada, and banish the Muslims for good. But they were never able to banish the heritage they had left behind. Spectacular monuments such as the Alhambra Palace remained as a clear testament to the stunning creativity of the artisans of Al Andalus, and remain today because their beauty was such that the Christian’s could not bear to destroy them.

However a visitor to Granada today will likewise note that the city is bounteous in its Christian relics too. Constructions such as the vast Cathedral of the Incarnation are every bit as glorious an architectural gem of the city as the Alhambra, and were no doubt contrived to be all the more beautiful owing to the need for the Christians to show-off their creative prowess in the aftermath of the reconquest.

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Happily, the dual identity of Granada is one which has returned to the city, long after the terrible years when all non-Christians were expelled from Granada. While much of the Arabian shops and bizarres are laid on for the tourists, there is a very evident presence of a renewed muslim population in the city, allowing visitors – us included – to enjoy the wealth of their religious and social culture alongside the distinctive Spanish culture which has emerged from the years of more recent Catholic rule. These photos are testament to our discovery of both cultures.

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. 

Roman Holiday

There was something intrinsically Roman about the place we briefly called home in Rome. We were staying in the Relais Leone, not so much a hotel as a converted apartment, whose reception was open only a few hours a day, and which otherwise bore all the appearance of a series of private apartments. This, together with an entrance through a very grand (and extremely heavy) great gilded door and up three flights of marble stairs, made the whole adventure feel all very colloquial, as though we were residents of that great Italian city. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, or so the great adage goes, and in our little corner apartment, we felt Roman to the core.

While we immediately fell in love with a bedroom decorated in a simple yet instantaneously lavish baroque design, together with the kind of free-standing bath which makes frequent languishing appearances in my dreams, the highlight of the room was its views. Not the most spectacular – here we did not exactly have Diocletian’s palace as in Split – but whose grace was founded in the simple expanse of the terracotta building ahead, elegant in its embellishment of pale blue shutters. And if the building itself were not enticing enough, beneath it, the bustling Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina spread out before us, two cafes spilling onto its cobbled pavement, and a little press-pergola crowning its centre.

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Roman Holiday (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

One year ago, at about this time, I completed a collection of small gouache views onto the various bedrooms, or honeymoon suites, we had enjoyed after our marriage. A year later, it felt only appropriate that I should capture this Roman bedroom in gouache on paper, with the various dimensions of the room, its view, and of course that all important free standing bath included. It’s a scene which for me sums up both our experience and the elegance of this Spagna region of the city – lined with boutiques and posing Romans sipping Aperol Spritz in the shade, it felt iconically Roman, and us very comfortable guests within it.

© 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

From Illyria to Italy, Part 4: The island of Hvar

I’d heard of the island of Hvar before I even knew about Split. With its uniquely mild climate, art treasures, beautiful beaches including many hidden spots on its panoply of little adjacent islands, and fields full of scented lavender, the island is well known to be one of the jewels of the Adriatic. However, as the luxury yachts have gradually started to make themselves at home in its crystal clear waters, the island has slowly become a haven for the well to do, and the island is quickly earning itself the reputation of the St Tropez of Illyria.

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The proximity to Split of this rather difficult to pronounce island made it a must-visit destination on our Dalmatian adventure. Taking a catamaran full of enthusiastic backpackers from the sulphur-scented port of Split (somewhat off putting so close to breakfast) we reached Hvar in just over an hour of calm(ish) sea travel. First impressions were very good. The quayside of Hvar Town seemed to exhibit all of the characteristics of a Riviera style cafe-lined promenade, with pristinely pruned and plucked palm trees perfectly lined up alongside carefully maintained Venetian-style palazzos.

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Evidently characterised by the influence of its past Venetian rule, when the island was a key stop-over point for Venetian merchants returning from the Orient, Hvar Town bears all of the hallmarks of its cultivated past, including one of the first theatres ever built in Europe, and the splendid little Cathedral of St Stephen perfectly located with a sprawling piazza before it, and a rolling green mountainside behind.

Set around a natural harbour, the town was one of those places whose aspect improved from every angle. Walking around the port, a picture-postcard view could be enjoyed from across cerulean waters peppered with colourful fishing boats, or from small shady gardens set alongside the Renaissance Civic Loggia characterised 15th Century Venetian Gothic windows. Up a steep staircase, past one of the town’s monasteries, the views improved yet further, as appreciated from the heights of the Napoleonic Fort which casts a protective fatherly glance across the town from the steep hills rising up behind it.

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We only had a few hours between ferries to enjoy the island, and in reality we kept ourselves limited to the treasures of Hvar Town. And while from there, we may not have run amongst fields of fragrant lavender, nor enjoyed the unspoilt beaches of the island’s craggy coastline, our brief acquaintance with Hvar was nonetheless one of the highlights of our trip to Croatia. Tranquil, elegant and unpretentious despite its natural attractiveness, Hvar Town felt as exclusive as the French Riviera but without the hype. And while the quaint beauty of the Town was evident at all times of the day, I think you would have to go far to beat the town at sunset, as the sun turned a milky honey hue. In that calm meditative light, we were at serious risk of missing our ferry home, as we sat on the quayside slowly contemplating the facade of St Stephen’s turn a rich honeycomb gold, and ancient walls of the Arsenale a warm ginger.

Alas the ferry came, and we returned to the welcoming lights of bustling Split. But oh how I could have stayed in that moment forever.

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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. 

From Illyria to Italy, Part 3: The Riva and the Water

There is such a glorious panoply of architectural treasure to consume the mind in Split in Croatia that you would be excused for forgetting that the city lies on one of the most beautiful coastal stretches of the Adriatic sea. With an archipelago of little islands dotted all along the horizon as far as the eye can see, and a skyline of imposing mountains backing up the city, Split’s coastal views are stunning whichever way you look, no more so than from the Riva, the city´s bustling seaside promenade. The Riva stretches along the southern facade of Diocletian’s palace, and exhibits the laid back, chic French Riviera essence which no doubt remains a left over of the era of Napoleonic rule in Croatia, the time of its construction.

Today the Riva is arguably one of the centre points of the town, and although it is not a place to dip into the sea (not least because of the fairly off-putting smell of sulphur which pervades the area – apparently owing to the natural supplies of the mineral in the area, said to be one reason why Diocletian set up home here), it is certainly a place to stroll, sit on one of many flower-fringed benches, and take a coffee or a cocktail in crowded cafes squeezed into every inch of the pavement space.

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Beyond the Riva, Split does have its fair share of beaches. Living in Mallorca, I am somewhat spoilt when it comes to the choice of paradise beaches, and compared with those, we found Croatia’s offerings to be all a little hard underfoot… we discovered either beaches constructed from concrete, or others made naturally from stones. Nonetheless, few could deny the beautiful cerulean waters nor the warm clean currents which finally enticed us into the sea. They may not be sandy, but these beaches are popular… I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a crowded beach in my life!

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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. 

From Illyria to Italy, Part 1: Diocletian’s Palace

We’ve just got back from a Roman adventure, a trip back in time some 2 millennia, both in terms of the cities visited, and the antiquated service received from Veiling airlines who lost our luggage on the first day (but more about that vexation another time). For our double-dose city tour took us from the ancient Roman ruins which form the centrepiece of the beautiful Croatian town of Split, to both the ancient and the modern manifestation of the Roman world in the city of Rome herself.

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So first let me sweep you over along the graceful Adriatic coast, to the coastline of Croatia littered with an archipelago of dalmatian spotted-islands, stopping at Split, one of the most splendid cities of old Illyria. The city has an illustrious history, but the man who truly placed it on the map was Emperor Diocletian who, attracted to the city because of its naturally occurring sulphur springs amongst other things, constructed a vast palace complex in the city to which he retired in 305AD. It is that very palace, still incredibly well preserved, which sits at the centre of today’s modern but manageably sized city. However unlike the standard Roman ruins sitting apart and cordoned off in most modern cities, these actually form part and parcel of daily life, since the Medieval city was actually built on, and expanded within, the old palace remains.

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Thus it was that in around 615AD, long after the collapse of the Roman Empire, refugees from Salona settled in the palace, gradually building within its walls, and changing the fabric of its interior. Such is the history which gives Split it’s inherently unique character – a city of ancient cobbled stones, Roman pillars and ancient temples coupled with superimposed Medieval houses, early-Christian churches and later Venetian-gothic touches.

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This architectural medley is the focus of this first post of photos from my holiday in Split. Staying bang in the centre, with the most incredible views onto the Cathedral of St Dominus which itself was built on the old sight of Diocletian’s mausoleum, we were ideally situated to make the most of this UNESCO protected marvel. With its hodgepodge of styles, bustling narrow streets, and Roman columns, archways and temples at every turn, the city made for an easy photographic target, as this small selection of a very large collection of photos suggests.

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. 

Memoirs from Venezia, Part 2: Sestiere di Castello

Venice is not just any city for me. It was present at the inception of my teenage renaissance, when at the age of 18 I travelled to Italy with 20 likeminded young people to study art history. Venice was the first stop, and it was in that city that I felt myself transform, like a butterfly whose wings burst forth upon a mega-wave of sights, images and inspirations. So whenever I return to the city, there is always a part of me which yearns to revisit all of the sites which gave birth to that transformative experience. But at the same time I always want to see something new, and despite its compact size, the intricate labyrinth of the city always provides a new surprise around every corner.

On this trip, I was determined to discover some of the areas which I do not know so well, and there to expose myself to some of the lesser-known gems of the city. One such area is the Sestiere di Castello, which, tucked just behind San Marco, sprawls eastwards from the Rialto across to the Arsenale and beyond.

Gems of the Sestiere di Castello

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It is easy to tire of the repetitiveness of central Venice, with every shopfront loaded with mass-produced masks and tacky souvenirs, but walk just a few canals beyond the centre, and a more quaint, authentic city is ripe for the discovery. Such is the case with the Castello, from the grand Campo Santa Maria Formosa with its curving church, to the impressive square in front of the Zanipolo church, the size and scale of which makes it a clear rival to St. Mark’s itself. All this we explored as we traversed the area on foot, gawping at the stunning stone mausoleums of the doges set within the walls of the Zanipolo, as well as being mesmerised by the haunting chants of a Greek Orthodox service on the Rio del Greci in a beautiful little church which has its very own leaning tower.

The Zanipolo and the Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Greci

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But for me, the real star of the region is the Arsenale, this massive former industrial site which would have been the heart not only of the Venetian Republic’s economy, but also of its military prowess. Although sadly unused today, from the mammoth encircling walls, and the huge classical gates at its entrance, once can still feel the might and power of the place. For Arsenale was not only large, taking up some 1/15th of Venice’s entire landmass and giving employment to a huge proportion of the city’s population, but it was also a place of innovation, being the first to mass-manufacture boats with the kind of conveyor-belt style product output which can only be dreamed of by car factories of today.

The Arsenale

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But beyond the hard lines of the Arsenale, a stunning city of view is always just around the corner, and as our day came to an end, we were treated to a glimpse of sunshine (in an otherwise foggy visit) over the lagoon, where Palladio’s masterpiece, San Giorgio Maggiore glistened in the light, and along the lagoon, the warm cosy interior of Harry’s Bar lay in wait. Most expensive amaretto known to man? It was surely so, but an apt treat at the end of an impressive day exploring the real Venice.

The lagoon and a rest in Harry’s Bar

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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.