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Posts tagged ‘Town’

Tuscan Towns #2 – Bolgheri

Bolgheri is a tiny town, more of a hamlet really, based as it is along one main street which latterly converges into two, a sunny square and a row of delightful little houses and restaurants precipitating the divide. For the majority, the closest they will come to knowing Bolgheri will be to read its name upon one of the plethora of nectarean bottles of wine produced by the region every year. Yet for the lucky few, who are led, magnetised, down the perfectly straight cypress-lined Roman road to the tiny little village, finding Bolgheri will feel like stumbling upon a hidden jewel.

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While Bolgheri has a castle, it is as proportionately small as the village. It is not a place for museums, nor a city for those wishing to stroll endlessly from one new corner to another. No, the real attraction of Bolgheri is its atmosphere. It is enchanting. While a visit at any time of the day will be enthralling enough, there is a poetic grace about Bolgheri in the late afternoon, as the sun starts to set over the vineyards and rolling hills to the West, and every cafe and shop and house seems to fling open its shutters greedily urging the peach coloured light to spill into its small little terracotta buildings.

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Bolgheri in the afternoon is a place in which to sit and close your eyes, feeling the sunlight spill across your face. It is a village where sipping upon an aperol spritz takes on new majesty, and where an ice cream glimmers with a precious golden aura. It is a time which is all about relaxing, chatting, strolling, thinking, and if I wanted to do anything when I set out to take these photos, it was to capture this time of utopia. So apologies in advance to the fellow visitors who ended up in the photos on this post, but without the look of sheer pleasure and relaxation written all over their faces, I don’t think I could ever have properly expressed the blissful experience of an afternoon in Bolgheri.

© 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. 

My travel sketchbook: Hvar

I’ve already described those dying moments of a creamy honey-coloured sunset when we sat in the perfectly picturesque port of Hvar, the indulgently exclusive little island off the coast of Croatia, waiting for our ferry to take us back to Split. The ferry arrived late, a fact which might have caused vexation were it not for the opportunity it provided for the commencement of a new sketch in my trusty travel sketchbook. That same enthusiastically filled moleskin book was mercifully one item which the woefully incapable lost luggage services of Vueling did not have at their relentless disposal, and constantly, deprived of my paints, I was at least able to sketch out the most significant and happy episodes from our trip.

The beauty of Hvar Town’s little harbour, looking over to the Italianate cathedral of St Stephen’s, was one view which could not go unaccounted for as I embarked upon my last sketch of the trip. Here is the result, hoping as ever that in its creation and subsequent sharing, I can relive with you a little of those special moments of our brief Croatian summer.

Hvar

Hvar (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen 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

Discovering Mallorca: Pollensa Revisted

Living on an island so ripe with beauty tends to make discovery of the new a prerequisite. But there is something to be said for rediscovery too. How many times have I returned to my beloved village of Deia for example, and found some new reason to love the place on each visit? And so, having avoided returning to the little Tramuntana town of Pollensa because I had subconsciously listed it as “done”, I was surprised to find that when we headed back there last weekend, more through necessity than anything else (i.e. the sun had disappeared rendering the planned beach day a non-starter), I fell in love with the town afresh.

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Sometimes overlooked by its altogether more glitzy port, the town of Pollensa is a true diamond in amongst the mountainous rough of the Northerly tip of Mallorca. Built very consistently throughout in a warm ochre stone, and containing its fair share of quaint cobbled shopping streets and bustling leafy squares, Pollensa is a perfectly formed little Mallorca town, free from many of the modern pollutants which have marred many of the island’s coastal resorts. At its centre, the 18th century Nostra Senyora Del Angels church may look fairly plain from the outside but hides a startlingly ornate interior complete with multi-coloured ceiling frescoes and glittering ornamentation.

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Behind it, the greatest attraction of all is undoubtedly the town’s Calvari steps, a staircase of some 365 steps rising up against the mountains which form the backdrop of the town and which lead those with sufficient energy to complete the climb to the Calvari Church and some of the best views of the town.

With an effortless swagger, we ascended the Calvari steps with far greater ease than on our first trip to the town some 4 years ago (thanks no doubt to increased gym efforts and lamentably fewer cupcakes) and there reflected on the success of this return trip to Pollensa, bemoaning why it had taken us so long to rediscover it. For as these photos show, all of which benefit from a pleasingly creamy antique-style filter, Pollensa is a town loaded with atmosphere, and which makes for the perfect visit, no matter how many times you choose to go.

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.

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part VIII: Antibes

Of all the places we visited on the French Riviera, I think Antibes was most probably my favourite. Drawn to the old coastal town by its arty reputation, and in particular by its well known connection with Picasso and the museum which now bears his name, we didn’t ultimately end up going to the Picasso museum at all, such were the alternative attractions the town had to offer. For Antibes was all about the atmosphere of its street life – its bustling covered market place, its squares full of cafes and its ancient city walls today imbedded with art galleries – and to enjoy this, one could do no better than to simply stroll. And that is precisely what we did.

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Beginning our visit in the more modern spread of the town, we gasped in delight as we walked along the sandy beach to see the old town in the distance, its silhouette characterised by the rising tower of the Picasso museum, by the old roof of the terracotta and yellow Church of the Immaculate Conception, and by the ancient ramparts which encircle the town. Moving inside those ancient walls under a series of arches and along various beautiful streets, we entered a centre teeming with life, colourful houses, and cafés spilling out onto the pavements.

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Having sampled one such elegant café all decorated in soothing shades of grey, olive and white, we moved out of the town slightly to tour its amply sized marina, full of yachts and sailing craft, and then spent some time on the little beach which is perfectly nestled within the curve of the ancient walls, like a mother’s arm, scooping up sand enough for her child to play in. It was back to the cafés after that, via a multitude of art galleries, colourful shops selling local produce, and sandy squares where locals played pétanque. In the Place Nacionale, we found Antibes’ beating heart in the form of a shady square lined with cafés, bistros and brasseries, and playing host to a busy antiques market, and there, around a fountain which reminded me of the stunning street fountains we had discovered in Aix, we ended the day with a well deserved ice coffee and a glass of wine. Santé!

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown ©2015 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.

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part VI: Cagnes-sur-Mer

Sadly our stay at La Colombe d’Or could not last forever, and for our last remaining two days on the French Riviera, we packed up our things and moved a 20 minute ride or so towards the coast to the unique little old town of Cagnes-sur-Mer. As the name suggests, it’s a town which is well appointed alongside the sea, and also handily close to Nice airport. Split more or less into three parts, it has a coastal town, and upper main town, and an ancient little old town atop a hill (le Haut-de-Cagnes). We had no interest in the first two parts of the triptych, these having been very much ravished by the overdevelopment which in my opinion has cast a horrible shadow over the French Riviera. But the old town, which could never be easily redeveloped such is the character of its ancient steep streets crammed into ramparts hanging on precariously to the edge of a rising highland, was certainly worth further exploration. And luckily it was also where our hotel was situated.

The cemetery of Cagnes-sur-Mer

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We entered Le Haut via a beautiful cemetery, also clustered steeply up hill in rising tiers of decorative stones, crosses and angels. We knew that there was something familiar about it, and were excited to discover that this was the very same graveyard used for scenes of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Having then explored the site, and had our fill reenacting said scenes from this, one of our favourite films, we headed steeply up hill to the old town.

Le Haut-de-Cagnes

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Le Haut-de-Cagnes is a uniquely medieval other-worldly kind of place whose streets appeared even narrower and steeper than those we had enjoyed in Vence and St-Paul. Somewhat shedding the Riviera vivacity of pastel colours, the houses here were altogether more sombre, with stones and beiges dominating with an innately historical result. At times it felt like we were in the world of King Arthur, not least when we got to centre of town, whose huge square castle can be seen for miles around. However lighter relief could also be found in the main Place Grimaldi, which offered beautiful views Northwards to the stunning mountain range which dominates the region.

Rosy views as the sun went down

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However all in all, this historical richness was somewhat spoilt by the inevitable creep of modernity and development, not in the old town itself, but by the views looking south, west and east. For the French Riviera is nowadays far from the wild paradise which tempted the likes of Auguste Renoir to move south to the Riviera, and in fact to the town of Cagnes where he later lived. Today, it is a sprawling metropolis of busy roads, hotels, and villas crammed one upon another. This did not feel like a coast of luxury, but rather one of the busiest tourist destinations I have experienced outside of London. Sadly, the golden years of the world’s greatest artists discovering a ripe Riviera seem to be long past. But at least we have their paintings, to look upon that lost paradise once more.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.