Monday, 30 September 2013

The Beaney Institute, Canterbury Library

I popped into the Beaney library in Canterbury at the weekend and found my books on their shelf. It was such a thrill as this was a favourite haunt of mine during my childhood. I used to dream about seeing my books in the library and now they are. The library at Canterbury is a very busy place and has just gone through a refurbishment program that took two years to complete. It is also a museum and meeting place, so lots of people coming and going. I was signing books there a couple of weeks ago, it was great fun as I got the opportunity to speak to lots of people and raise my profile.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Medieval wall paintings

We came upon a beautiful church in France when on holiday in the Languedoc.
The day was very hot and the cool interior welcoming, but once inside we discovered a treasure.

This panel is simply standing on a block.  It looks like an individual painting but was obviously part of a wall painting.


The impressive ceiling of a vaulted side chapel.  The colours are still vibrant after all these centuries.


It's hard to believe that this is a 12th century statue, it is in perfect condition.  How many people over the years have seen this?

One of many beautiful stained glass windows.


Can anyone read the ancient Latin inscription?


The paintings were breathtaking, the colours so vibrant.  Of course there was damage but considering the time they have been there it was a rare treat indeed to see them.  I've never seen medieval wall paintings covering whole walls before, usually you come across part of a wall or small panels, but here huge areas have survived.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Abbaye de Villelongue in the Laguedoc

We stumbled across this beautiful abbey in Saint Martin le Vieil, and it was absolutely stunning.  It's a privately owned 12th century monument, the family bought it in 1916 and still live there today.  Fancy having all this in your back yard!

It was a blisteringly hot day and just sitting under the shady trees in the cloisters was divine.
The stone table in this picture was huge, not sure if the monks used it for picnics!
The monks used these stairs every day to go to chapel for prayers.  You can see the wear in the stone from many centuries of use.  I climbed these steps, following in their footsteps.

A shady niche in the ruined church.

Where does this magnificent door go?

Beautiful stonework and windows.  There was no glass left now but once it must have been magnificent.

These carved faces were in very good condition.  They were once inside the church, but as half of the building is missing, are now exposed to the elements.

It seems the monks were never short of wine.  We saw in some villages these huge barrel fronts used as front doors, just like hobbit houses!

Abbaye de Villelongue is such a tranquil place, it was very nice just to sit there in the shady ruins of the cloisters and imagine what it must have been like eight hundred years ago. 


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Alaigne in the Languedoc

The little village of Alaigne is where where a Chateau once stood on top of a hill.  Today old houses occupy the space around the square on the same footprint as the old castle.

One of the arches leading up to the square

A shady spot

The village Auberge called La Galloise, ( TheWelsh),
owned by a Welsh couple.

The square centre of the village

The fountain in the square

A shady spot in the square where the old men sit and chat

La Boulangerie where I bought Croissants, pain au chocolat and baguette each morning for breakfast

the village church of course

Shuttered windows typical of the region

Holiday in France

Returned from France yesterday to much cooler weather.
The Languedoc is a beautiful place to visit.  Vineyards abound the vast countryside and in the shadow of the Pyrenees, tiny ancient villages delight the weary traveller.  The people we met were friendly and had time to stop and chat.  The village of Alaigne, where we stayed, has a population of about 275, 15 of these are English, Welsh, Irish and one Scot.  They all get on famously and in the season the British population rises due to visitors occupying gites that are found dotted around the village.  The largest town nearby is Limoux where shops, cinema and grand square can be enjoyed.

 A mountain with windmills on a ridge!
 A view towards Carcassonne

I had to stop on a narrow mountain road to take these pictures.  It was a blisteringly hot day and when I stopped the car the silence was deafening!

A few more landscape pics, taken from a high spot on the mountainside.
The Pyrenees mountains form the backdrop with the Hault Valles  in the foreground.

  Vineyards and old castle ruins spread out like a carpet to the horizon.