Today we had a bit of a lie in and then went over to have a look at the local town, Vire. Dad strongly approved of their parking policy which seemed to be the novel idea of having large free car parks in the middle of the town!
After lunch – where Dad got into the swing of being in France by opting for Moule Mariniere – we had a look round. Unfortunately, the extensive town museum was closed for even more extensive renovation! But we did manage to have a reasonable look round the centre and visit the cathedral..
The start of our summer holiday in Normandy. After depositing Gordon at the cat hotel we made our way to Poole to catch the ferry.
There weren’t many passengers which made the advantage of our cabin rather less than it might have been, never the less it was handy having somewhere to retreat to and it also allowed us to keep the cool box plugged in to keep the sandwiches chilled. We ate on the ferry as we were intending to eat our sandwiches on the drive to the cottage.
Ferry leaving UK
Entering Cherbourg harbour
Cruise liner leaving harbour ahead of us
On arrival in Cherbourg, Garry the Garmin showed his normal behaviour by selecting weird routes. The initial route involved a huge detour and the second rather shorter one had the tendency to leave a main road, wend through a town and then re-join the road we had left. Needless to say this tended to waste a lot of time! Fortunately, Sophia managed to get the hang of the paper map and spot some of these detours in advance.
As always when in France, Dad found driving rather stressful. Fortunately, there was very little traffic.
We stopped to eat our sandwiches in Pont-Hébert where, to Sophia’s delight there was a pizza dispensing machine. We didn’t use it, but it was a joy to observe such a technological advance.
We arrived at the cottage at about 2215. The hostess (confusingly also called Marina) spoke good English and also excellent Russian.
For our last full day at the cottage we took ourselves over to Bowness on Windermere, and on the way we stopped to look at the two viaducts Dad had viewed yesterday from Winder Fell.
Waterside Viaduct with Winder Fell in the background
Ingleton Viaduct with Sophia for scale
We visited the recently opened (we only missed the Prince of Wales by three days) Windermere Jetty boat museum. Everything was very new and shiny and Dad was of course much taken by some of the steam engines. Our only real criticism was that information about the boats afloat in the boat house section was a little limited.
Today I decided that I would walk to the top of Winder Fell which overlooks Sedbergh and looms over the cottage. As I walked into town I passed an excellent tree stump sculpture of two owls which we had noticed being carved the day before.
The route I took to the top started by climbing up to the head of Settlebeck Gill. Mostly this was not too strenuous although there were a couple of rocky stretches and the last few hundred metres was a stiff climb. The path then joined one running along the col leading to the summit and this was easy going.
Looking up Settlebeck Gill.
The path to the head of Settlebeck Gill.
Looking back down the gill.
The path along the col to the summit.
The summit in sight.
The weather was excellent and the views from the summit spectacular. It was possible to see the cottage quite clearly and Mum and Sophia came out to wave.
It was also possible to trace the course of the old railway line from the cottage all the way to the current mainline near the M6 motorway, including the Waterside and Ingleton viaducts.
View towards cottage with disused railway embankment visible to left.
After a slightly late start, we walked into Sedbergh and then followed a walk Mum had found to the Farfield Mill Heritage Centre where we had a modest but pleasant lunch (very nice soup) and a look round the various artists studios.
We then walked back to Sedbergh and then spent rather too long in Westwood Books. Being a proper second hand bookshop (and a very large one) the books were rather more expensive than the charity shops we usually frequent and we spent rather more than we were hoping but probably somewhat less than we feared.
A long drive from Wiltshire to Yorkshire hampered as always by Dad’s annoyingly slow driving and motorway congestion. Stopped for lunch at a Toby in Worcester where the carvery was as acceptable as usual.
Staying in part of an old railway station much to Dad’s delight. Cottage seems very comfortable and Dad can step outside onto the old platform and pretend that he is a Station Master.
Drove into Sedbergh to eat and discovered that it calls itself “England’s Book Town” and claims to have more second hand bookshops than Birmingham – although if true this would seem to say more about Birmingham than Sedbergh! Mum swore that she hadn’t been aware of this when booking the holiday, but the rest of the family were sceptical.
For dinner we tried the “Al Forno” where are meals were mixed.
Our last day in Rome and actually more of a half day as we had to leave after lunch to catch our flight. We were going to go to what we thought was a Klimpt exhibition not far from the flat, but when we got there it turned out to be some sort of multimedia “experience” so we gave it a miss!
Instead we checked out a local church and cathedral which we hadn’t had time to see previously.
First we went the strange octagonal baptistry of San Giovanni in Fonte
Battistero Lateranense which is a fascinating and unusual structure. It is hard to avoid the view that it must have been build on the base of an earlier Roman structure, but apparently there is no evidence to demonstrate this.
We then moved on to the cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano which is a huge and most impressive building.
Today we divided our forces. Mum and Sophia went to see the Hiroshiga “Visions from Japan” exhibition of 19th century Japanese art whilst Dad went to see the Roman port town of Ostia Antica.
The exhibition contained 230 prints by Hiroshiga, mostly landscapes from some of his famous series of views. It provided some excellent variety, delightfully lacked large deranged groups of tourists and instead contained mostly educated looking Italians of a certain age. Sophia was able to practice trying to read some of the titles on Japanese and identified some interesting stylistic connections with Manga.
Dad meanwhile was hugely impressed with Ostia Antica. It took about 20 minutes to get there on the train from Rome and was well worth it. The site is HUGE and despite being there from 11:30 to 18:00 with a short break for lunch, Dad only managed to see just over a third of it.
Much of the site is overgrown and rarely visited.
A quiet Roman side street.
Some houses and quite overgrown.
A cafe entrance with bar (all original).
Grinding stones in a bakery.
Pavement sign outside the office of a merchant guild.
The large formal buildings such as the theatre are very impressive, but what Dad liked most was wandering through the suburbs and exploring the numerous houses. Although the site was busy with visitors, it was only necessary to wander a short way down a side road to be nearly alone and able to imagine the that one was back in Roman times.
Until late in the day, the more popular areas were spoilt by numerous school parties. Why is it that the members of such groups have to bellow to each other all of the time?
Clearly, with less than half of the site covered, at least one more visit is required!
Finally, Dad would like to apologise for the annoying white splodges spoiling some of his photos. He got some dirt on his lens near the start of the day and didn’t notice until nearly the end. He is very annoyed about this!
Dad’s Health Tip – Don’t wander around a Roman world heritage site in the pouring rain if you want to remain able to speak to people or, at the very least, don’t be so pig headed as to ignore your wife when she insists that you take and use an umbrella!
A relatively quiet day with Dad’s throat not permitting much in the way of communication! After a late start we header for the Vatican. We weren’t really intending to visit the Vatican museum as it would clearly take several days and by the time we arrived we wanted lunch anyway. The queue was huge and basically it wouldn’t have been worth while.
We looked round St Peter’s square. Dad loved the fountains and as usual expressed the view that something similar would look good in the garden. Amazingly, the square is infested with the same annoying selfi-stick sellers as the rest of the centre of Rome. It is astonishing that the pontiff puts up with them!
The main event of the day was a visit to the Papal castle at Castel Sant Angelo. This turned out to be an excellent and well worth while visit (14 Euros each and free for Sophia). The castle was originally the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian and for Dad the most spectacular part was the huge roman spiral ramp which you descend to exit. It is an amazing piece of roman civil engineering constructed purely for Hadrian’s funeral cortège.
A serious change in the weather. After several warm and sunny days, today it was cold, windy and raining heavily. Dad elected to go the Colosseum as the tickets from yesterday we valid for two days. In the end it was far from successful as the Colosseum is almost entirely outdoors and the rain was heavy and unrelenting. Never the less, it was still heaving with people. On his shivering return Dad admitted that we wouldn’t have been wetter if he had swum home.
The Colosseum is certainly spectacular, but really needs to be seen in better weather and preferably with fewer people and here is a basic conclusion about visiting Rome. There are countless things to see and the less popular ones (e.g. Etruscan museum, many of the churches) are not significantly less worth seeing than the key sites but much less stressful and usually cheaper!
After lunch we went to the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in the centre of the city. It has some excellent paintings in sumptuous, if sometimes slightly faded, surroundings but there was one slight snag. They had run out of audio guides. This didn’t seem to be a big problem but it was. Normally an audio guide is just an adjunct, but here is is the only guide available. In most art galleries (at least in the UK), the is written information about all the paintings. Sometimes this is small sign next to each one or perhaps there is folder on a table in each room which you can consult. In the Pamphilj there are none of these things. Each painting simply has the name of the artist and a serial number. Some (perhaps 1 in 20) of the paintings has a number referencing the audio guide but for the other 95% there is nothing to be discovered even if you have a guide.
You can buy two guide books in English, but one just lists the titles and dates of all the paintings whilst the other gives full details but only covered the 5% covered by the audio guide.
Finally, we went to an area near the Spanish steps to see a plaque on a house where Gogol lived.
The weather remained dreadful all day, but the combination of rain and wind was excellent for our “Broken Umbrellas” photo project.