All posts filed under: travels

Paris in the springtime

I feel like I should be composing one of those end-of-the-holidays school essays, During my holiday, I…The older two have had a two weeks & two days off school, and it has been pretty magical. We started with Easter weekend in Paris. Everyone I mentioned it to asked me whether the children were coming too. All I can (smugly) say, is AirBnB. Take the hotel out of the equation & visiting Paris with three young children is totally blissful. We stayed in the 15 arrondissment —  quiet and residential but twenty minutes walk to the Eiffel Tower — in the apartment of a family with two young daughters who went off to Amsterdam for the weekend. We remembered how much we enjoy living in a city, we saw plenty of sights & for the first time ever could imagine what it might be like to actually live in Paris. So all in all, a definite win. There was a week with B’s parents in their beautiful part of France. Days of sunshine and warmth after …

Wanderings & wonderings

Earlier in the month, our customary January picnic for B’s birthday. Another year, another Iron Age hill fort. This year was much, much colder. The pushchair, wheels jammed with mud, was abandoned half-way up the path, and collected again on our way back a couple of hours later. Whenever I think I might be safe to be let out into the countryside, I make a mistake like this. Who would try to push a Maclaren buggy up a very muddy hill? In our defense, we’ve just given our Phil & Ted’s — perfect for muddy walks — to a friend, desperate to rock her newborn to sleep in her living room. Anyway, mistakes were made, but fun — of a very muddy kind — was had, & the Pip-Pop proved himself to have some very sturdy walking legs. From the top, on a clear day, you can see the Isle of Wight. We couldn’t see that far, but the wind buffeting us up there was so strong that it sounded very much like the sea.

Barbara Hepworth

  “Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic. For ten years I had passed by with my shopping bags not knowing what lay behind the twenty foot wall…Here was a studio, a yard and garden, where I could work in open air and space.” from Barbara Hepworth — A Pictorial Autobiography Back to St Ives & our magical visit to the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden one late-autumn morning. The light was amazing: winter sun low in the sky, filtering through the foliage and burnishing the bronze. The shadows of leaves playing on stone. And then B showed me the shadows the sculptures cast on other elements of themselves.   Hepworth bought Trewyn Studio in 1949 and lived and worked there from 1950 until her death in 1975. The studio leads directly into the garden, which she gradually filled with her work. The parish church & sea are just visible over the garden wall. And, everywhere you look: green & Hepworth’s sculptures. Bamboo, palm trees; a rose, fuchsias, Japanese anemones; a small pond; …

Notebook: two journeys

25 October. The journey, nightmare long. 11ish before we set out; 3.30 by the time we’d covered the 140 miles to Castle Drogo. Driving past Stonehenge — seeing it for the first time — and how close you are. First a pattern of people in the distance, ring-fenced it turned out, a circle of black figures against green field. The stones themselves, ancient, humping — lower to the ground, more worn than I had known. The road passes close — the traffic jam seemingly just people gazing at the stones. Green. Hills and rolling valleys. Sheep: white and brown. South Somerset, & then Devon. Castle Drogo and the sun low in the sky. Light grazing the autumnal trees as the little ones run through the gardens. Vague echoes of being here as a child, running myself. Beech nuts out of their three-sided cupules. The castle shrouded in white for its restoration. Then another two hours: Dartmoor and Bodmin. Chimney stacks and wind turbines. The road faster now: up hills and down. Until, finally, in the …

St Ives

Half-term, and we’ve escaped to St Ives. We make like the three bears and have porridge for breakfast, with a starter of grapefruit & a dessert of chocolate-spread covered toast. Mornings on one of the beaches, sipping coffees & watching the little ones mess about in the sand. Lunch back in the cottage that T insists has come straight from a fairytale: Cornish pasties or scrambled eggs, maybe leftovers from the night before. Afternoons, and B works while I read Littlenose — my own brother’s childhood favourite & staple of my babysitting years — to T & the Moose, and the littlest bear sleeps off his sandy adventures. A walk into town with one or other of the older children to buy provisions and visit the wonderful bookshops. Dinner together & then a round of Uno. Evenings: for more work and for reading. Mint tea before bed. The perfect routine.  

There was the light

Home, which brings its own strange dislocation. A seeing which is impossible in the rush and familiarity of the everyday. I notice all that we have started and not finished: the unpainted wall in our bedroom, the bare light bulb at the end of the kitchen, the half-read books piled on the shelf. The season too has shifted: the rhythms of our summer — all those hours in the garden — no longer fit the weather or the length of the day. The evening air feels autumnal, dusk falls early. We shop for school shoes. But, there was the light. The light at the coast and the light at B’s parents’ which holds you in its embrace — a fly in amber. Liquid, dripping light. Light into which to dive. My notebook is full of questions, plans. How to carry the energy of this holiday, the bliss of its togetherness, its ease, its possibility? How to work towards this being more what we have? How to hold to all that I have promised myself? I …

Happiness is at the farm

We’ve been camping. Camping in Brittany. Camping, to be precise, in Finistère: the end of the world. We stayed on a beautiful dairy farm, with goats, pigs, donkeys, rabbits and geese, as well as the cows and their calves. It was pretty magical. But also pretty cold and wet. I now finally understand those tactful comments people made when I told them where we were going. My lovely neighbour who told me of her many trips camping in France, her many trips to Brittany, but never, as far as she could remember, camping in Brittany. Later, B told me that she’d said to him that they’d bought a caravan in the end after getting washed-out one summer. Still, the enormous tent we bought second-hand on eBay in December (a cheap time to buy a tent!) but hadn’t had time to put up, did have all its parts, and was wonderfully waterproof. And it only took us an hour and three-quarters to put up in the pouring rain, and, well, about five hours to pack it …

Summer

Today was the first day of T’s summer holiday, so we hit the beach. I have a secret rule of making the first and last days of the summer holidays particularly special – a sleight of hand by which I hope they will remember their summers as being good ones, magical ones even, as summers should be. And it was a good day. An amazingly good day considering I took three children to the beach alone for the first time. I grew up in the Midlands, hours from the nearest sea (Weston-super-Mare where, famously, the tidal range is so great that the low tide mark is a mile from the sea front), so the idea of going to the beach for the day is still novel to me and we still have many beaches to check out. This is Lepe Country Park and you can see the Isle of Wight across the Solent. T gives it ten out of ten. If I were making an album of memories, I would slip today – three swim-suited …

Oxford

Painting from nature is not a matter of copying the subject, but of expressing one’s feelings. Paul Cézanne On Saturday I had an adventure all of my own. A day with no responsibilities, no requirements, no restrictions. I took myself on the train to Oxford, to the Ashmolean to see Cézanne and the Modern. The whole day was magically mine in a way that no other day has been for far, far too long. The exhibition, and the whole Ashmolean, were a revelation: small enough to enjoy, but vast in scope and perspective. In the exhibition a Van Gogh lit up an entire room, an electric shock of colour. But my favourites, the paintings that I chose to stand or sit in front of and just breath in, were quieter. Cézanne’s still life watercolour of three pears, so exquisitely simple and lucid. A small oil study of a male bather. And another nude from behind, this time a woman by Degas. I seemed to be particularly attracted to these figures seen only from behind – there’s …