Truly Unique and Unbelievable – Damien Hirst – Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

Wow. I know it’s in the eye of the beholder but maybe they went to a different show to the rest of us.

Truly Unique and Unbelievable – Damien Hirst – Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

I’d first of all like to give FULL credit to all the artists and sculptors and workers who alongside Damien Hirst produced such a unique awe inspiring exhibition. (Actually two, in separate locations in Venice.)

Damien Hirst - Gold painted sculpture

You produced work that truly brought the ‘Wow’ factor, to almost every visitor through the doors.

Whilst being lucky enough to visit Venice, I also had chance to see this exhibition spread over two venues in the city.

Damien Hirst - coral

A fantastic contrast to all the historic art and culture which packs the city between canals and waterways.

 



I can’t even contemplate how you achieved it, how you managed to get such huge and outrageous pieces into the country let alone into the galleries.

Amazing!

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How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip – My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

I use Ikea alongside salvage yards and junk shops to bring the rooms to life and make them my own.

How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip – My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

How to Survive The Ikea Shopping Trip - My Guide, and Yes it Includes Meatballs!

I love interior design. I adore art. I love beautiful things and want to be surrounded by them. Sadly my budget doesn’t always match my aspirations.

Over the years I’ve lived in rented one room apartments, mortgaged victorian terraces and larger ex-council properties. Whilst renovating my various homes over the years, I’ve made no end of mistakes, some more costly than others. I’ve learned by them.

Let me help with a few tips to keep you safe and sane.

They may just save you from making those time consuming or expensive mistakes.

The best friend of the interior designer on a budget is Ikea. Can you believe it’s nearly 30 years since they opened their first UK store? I’m a self confessed addict. It started with a mutual love of wood and candles and has developed over the years as we’ve both aged and matured.

I use Ikea alongside salvage yards and junk shops to bring the rooms to life and make them my own.



Here’s how I do it…

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Doha, Qatar – Through My Eyes

Next time you have a stop over, make it a few days and explore this jewel in the Middle East.

Doha, Qatar – Through My Eyes

It’s a city packed with surprise architecture…

Here are just a few of my favourite images of this beautiful, bustling, breath-taking city.

Doha, Qatar is a joy and a real hidden treasure and it hosts one of my favourite museums.

The souq ranks as one of the best in the world.

Next time you have a stop over, make it a few days and make the most of this jewel in the Middle East.

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Volterra, Italy – History and Handbags High in the Tuscan Hills

Painters, artists and writers have been drawn to this part of the world across the years.

Volterra, Italy – History and Handbags High in the Tuscan Hills

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I was lucky enough to spend a week working in Tuscany. I know, sorry, stressful but someone had to do it, I’m such a martyr for my cause eh? On an afternoon off I was driven to this joy of a ancient mountain town, Volterra.

I’d seen it from a distance across the valley from the work location. High in the clouds first thing in the morning, safely nestling above the expanse of green valleys and hillsides later in the day.

I’m glad I wasn’t driving the roads are winding with huge drops to certain death on one side, although as a passenger I’m not sure which took my breath away most, the vertiginous drops or the STUNNING panoramic views beauty of nature all around! So if you do drive you may miss out on the numerous opportunities to look past the trees and extreme drops to the famous Tuscan views.

Volterra Tuscany view from the town over hills
Breathtaking!

Painters, artists and writers have been drawn to this part of the world across the years. It is a calm, light, green, panoramic countryside and it’s very easy to understand why so many found it inspirational.

‘I am a product of my native land, Tuscany, Italy’ – Andrea Bocelli

We arrived in Volterra and parked in a municipal underground car park. Ignoring this very concrete 1970’s spiral of a carpark as anything other than a convenience, we got walking shoes on, credit cards and cameras at the ready and started the wonderful stroll. Starting with a view over red tiled roofs and out to the far fields rampant with greenery and various farmed crops.

This gem of a town hidden high in the Tuscan hills is worth the drive. Don’t miss the panoramic views near the car park on the main road into the town. The heavy red tiled roofs sit solid and reassuring as you look out over the valley, on the edge of town, although the brickwork is quite wonky in places. No doubt after years of carrying the burden of the deeply ridged terracotta tiles. It all adds to the sense of place, rooted strongly to this mountain top in this country of earthquakes and tremors.

The Romans built an impressive theatre here, wow they must have been fit to hike up those hills! No straight Roman road would climb this high. Surprisingly they still trekked all the way up here, despite the lack of straight roads to ascend the hills,  and built amongst other things a huge theatre.

‘Roman Theatre of Volterra’

Spend a few of your euros to see the historic sites, you can get a multi saver although as time was limited I just chose to spend time at the ‘Roman Theatre of Volterra’. As I wandered around paved pathways and stared awestruck as mosaic floors and marble columns, still standing all these years on, I knew I was walking in the footsteps of Roman poets and actors in leather sandals alongside Roman goddesses in long white robes and gold headdresses.

They had the right idea building here, truly near to their gods in the clouds, although I can imagine them moving elsewhere in winter. This place is HIGH!

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How a Day Alone in Pisa can Change Your Life (Even if you Don’t Drive a Ferrari)

I realised people travel to recover, to discover, to lose themselves, to find themselves, to work, to go back to basics, to move forwards to a new life.

How a Day Alone in Pisa can Change Your Life (Even if you Don’t Drive a Ferrari)

I was sitting outside an Italian cafe sipping a coffee, eating a slice of heavy indulgent cheese cake and watching Ferraris drive by. The scene couldn’t have been more stereotypically Italian and more importantly I’d finally, in my mid 50s, become an independent traveller.

Pisa coffee and cheesecake

As a youngster we went camping each weekend, my parents had a caravan and I slept in the awning. You wouldn’t believe how much noise a tent zip makes when everyone else is asleep. There was always a closed Tupperware cup of milk waiting for me, with a digestive biscuit on the lid.

On rainy days the sound of pattering on the caravan roof accompanied the shouts of ‘rummy’ as we played cards as a family. It wasn’t until my very late teens that my parents finally had enough money to take the family overseas. My memories of camping in Bordeaux in France and the giant pinecones we collected are still cemented by the dish of similar pinecones in my home. I enjoyed it as I was able to spend time alone wandering on pine needles watching giant ants climb over obstacles I put in their way. Children don’t need expensive trips, but I wished for trips overseas like my school peers. It would be 40+ years until I got over my travel envy.



In my 20s, I went, just once, with a friend on the compulsory 18-30 holiday.

Those naive days of alcohol and sunburn. It was a total financial rip off, a taste of independence all the same. In hindsight I imagine my parents were having a few sleep-ness nights back home. I remember the escapades but it certainly wasn’t something I wished to repeat.

My 30s were the amazing years I watched my daughter grow.

I couldn’t afford many trips. I was lucky enough to be given some camping gear by a colleague, so I always tried to fit in a week or two camping near my parent’s Devon home.

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5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East

The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.

5 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar – The Up And Coming Jewel Of The Middle East

I’m sure most of you have heard of Dubai, but Qatar may not be on your radar, unless of course you’re a soccer fan. In which case you’ll be aware the FIFA World Cup will be held there in 2022. I’m not going to dig any deeper on that, just please don’t judge a place or its people until you’ve been there.

Dubai is leading the field in this area in the development of tourism but Qatar is not far behind, and with all the positivity and enthusiasm I’m sure they will soon be not far behind. The good thing about Qatar is that whilst it isn’t cheap, it isn’t prohibitively expensive so try it now before the crowds.

The modern hi-tech airport in Doha is an award winner and their staff are probably the friendliest airport staff I’ve come across. I’m impressed as I’m sure it’s not easy to keep your calm when stressed travellers are shouting in every language you can imagine. The taxi rank is easy to find, the taxis are all aqua blue.



You’ll no doubt be ferried down the city centre roads which are 6 lane motorways. They are packed with the biggest variety of 4x4s doing U turns and lane jumping you’ll see. If you don’t need to drive, don’t, it’s a skill here so let the taxis take the strain. The taxi drivers are mostly Indian, I asked ours if he liked driving in Doha or India. He laughed, much preferring Doha, as in India he advised us the traffic is just as chaotic but there are people, cattle, dogs and tuk-tuks as well. He thought the actions of the Ferraris, Bentleys and 4x4s were much easier to predict!

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If you’re heading across the globe you may be offered a stopover in Qatar, you can do much worse. Try to arrange a long weekend in Doha, it has some real gems.

1. Museum of Islamic Art

Doha_Museum_architecture

I could easily spend a full day here, on a regular basis. It’s a huge well designed modern museum, packed with well protected and well labelled artifacts from across a huge swath of the ancient and modern muslim world.

The various galleries span three floors. The fourth floor was closed on our visit, I think probably to prepare another exhibit. There was a temporary ‘threads’ exhibition on the ground floor, all of which was stunning in it’s beauty and history, it included unique an no doubt highly prized historic pieces. The whole museum is an educational, artistic and informative haven from the heat. If I lived in this city this would be a regular haunt.

Doha_jewelled_falcon

The cafe at the entrance is worth a visit too, although menu quite small, it’s ideal for a drink and snack. The free parking and free entry is great, and unexpected.

They should ask for donations as I’m sure all the tourists and locals alike would give generously. The fund could go towards continued protection of our art and histories, vital work in these troubled times.

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Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin – The Vatican Museum, Rome

Some of the most important art in the world is there and folk just barge you out of the way and literally run through the galleries

Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin

Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin – The Vatican Museum, Rome

Some say size matters, boy did they get that one wrong. Always choose quality over quantity!

I am so lucky, I have seen some of the most beautiful, historic, thought provoking stunning art. I’ve visited Paris to see Mona Lisa, despite what you may have perceived from the media images, she’s tiny! None the less she’s worth the trip. Wow! Amazing.

Whilst on a recent trip to Rome I was walking around the breathtaking Vatican Museum. A huge number of people almost run through that place. It’s bizarre. Some of the most important art in the world is there and folk just barge you out of the way and literally run through the galleries to get to the Sistine Chapel.

Shame.

Now the Sistine Chapel is just indescribable, although I will try in a future blog post, but please people…

slow down…

take a breath…

take in the beauty around you…

As I meandered through the long halls and enjoyed the galleries held securely in between, I was surprised to see an artwork I’d not even realised was there. It wasn’t mentioned in my brochures and my research had missed it, my bad.

Stood on a humble pillar, within a small off shot gallery sat this gorgeous man. He wasn’t drawing attention to himself, he sat quietly, some visitors almost knocked him from his pedestal in their haste to pass him by.

Who was this tactile, bronze, muscular naked figure quietly demanding my attention? Silently calling out to me to reach out a hand and almost tentatively touch his shoulder, I resisted the temptation, as you do with a forbidden love.

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My Tiny Scottish City Break – it’s not just whisky and midges

The colours and light change and drift from bright jewels of purple to stormy greys and back again. Your camera will not do it justice.

My Tiny Scottish City Break - it's not just whisky and midgesMy Tiny Scottish City Break – it’s not just whisky and midges

OK, so I confess, I don’t like weddings and I don’t like rooms full of people I don’t know. So at the weekend where did I decide to spend a weekend, yes a wedding. A wedding where I wouldn’t know anyone. No one, except my other half.

To add to the overall joy of anticipation I also came down with really bad cold. I now had not only a sore throat, peeling snotty nose and no tastebuds, but would be exposing all the guests I met to my germs. Oh dear.

I put all the guilt of that on hold and went anyway. The guilt of missing out on the wedding, letting people down and wasting what was relatively the small fortune it costs to travel and stay in the UK being my main motivations. As any of you know who follow my blog, I’m currently earning about $1 per month from Amazon Affiliates so small fortune it is! 

Did I mention that the car broke down the day before too, so last minute train tickets had to be bought – ouch! Pricey!

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle at sunsetBack to the wedding. It was to be held on the Saturday so it would be foolish to miss out on a chance to spend time in one of my favourite cities in the WORLD, so Friday became travel day.

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I am no bird…

‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.’

Charlotte Bronte

i-am-no-bird-and-no-net-ensnares-me-i-am-a-free-human-being-with-an-independent-will-charlotte-bronte

 

Inspirational Quote

‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.’

Charlotte Bronte

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5 Reasons You Should Visit Christchurch, New Zealand, Aotearoa

People who had been said there wasn’t much to see. I think they went to the wrong place, because I found it inspirational.

5 Reasons You Should Visit Christchurch, New Zealand, Aotearoa5 Reasons You Should Visit Christchurch, New Zealand, Aotearoa

Christchurch, New Zealand wasn’t particularly high up on the priority list for this trip. People who had been said there wasn’t much to see. I think they went to the wrong place, because I found Christchurch truly inspirational. 

1. It is rebuilding and needs tourists to bring in much needed income

Throughout its history it has suffered earthquakes, and just within the past 5 years suffered a big one, and aftershocks. People died. Enquiries into building construction still continue, however all that is for another time, I’d rather post an optimistic tale of resurrection and rebuilding of a community.

185 Empty White ChairsChristchurch needs visitors, if you do get there ensure you fit in a hour or so to visit the small earthquake museum, and the 185 empty chairs both very moving tributes to those lost.

2. Its history and small ‘English town’ atmosphere

They have gorgeous old street trams with informative and witty drivers who will give you a really informative dialogue as you travel around the sights of the small city. The mountains in the distance solid and sure, reassuring in some sense.

Christchurch river A river with small punts being manoeuvred thorough the winding waters, reminiscent of Oxford and Cambridge in England. It is a very ‘English’ city.


3. Churches and Cathedrals

Cardboard CathedralFor those who love churches (It is Christchurch after all) you will see the only cardboard cathedral in the world (I think) Even for those not religious you can’t question the beauty, ingenuity and fighting spirit of the people who had this inspired plan.

The half destroyed cathedral stands nearby, still awaiting politicians and committees to decide its fate. A sobering sight.

4. Street Art

Christchurch street art

The street art is stunning, bright, amusing, optimistic and everywhere. It adorns wrecked high-rises and new builder’s hoardings.

Christchurch street art and sheepThe city encourage artists and it has helped paint (Excuse the pun) the city in a new optimistic light. Note the amusing sheep shaped bollards.

Iconic 'Face' street art, Christchurch

The use of the humble metal shipping container comes into its own at ‘restart’ as well as around the city to protect old architecture etc. Just one request there ‘restart’ it would have been nice to be able to get a coffee after 4pm, even if it was a quiet day.

5. For inspiration

Everywhere you look there is evidence of destruction, it must be a daily reminder, as if they need one, to those who lie and work there. It brings home just how powerful our planet is when it chooses to fight back. It is also showed the resilience and determination of the people to live in a place so in touch with nature and its forces. Most people still live where they used to, maybe with defiance. Many seem to accept the risk and remember those who have gone with affection and accepting sadness. I hope the powers that be soon move forwards with further rebuilding / demolition etc.

I personally hope they will build anew, not look back and try to replicate things that are gone. Some iconic frontages may need saving however that can be done in sympathy with new design, not always in its original form. Enhance the old, embrace the new.

Yet again, I found a small plaque of inspiration beneath my feet. “All animals, except man, know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it”  The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902

Christie Adams feet on quote plaque at Christchurch

Thanks Christchurch I wish you well.

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I hope I’ve inspired you to travel, tweet me from your next coffee stop!