Finally, The Duomo, Florence, Italy

Florence 2016 – We had finally arrived at The Duomo, Florence’s Cathedral and I wasn’t quite prepared for the size of the building, its massive.  You come across it quite suddenly, turning a corner and its there, it fills the whole space that you are looking at.  Its amazing, just a bit overwhelming for a second or two, still you eyes adjust to the sheer size and the decorative mix of pink, white and green marble.  As it was late in the day and the queues were still long, we didn’t see the stunning interior, but maybe one day.  For me, I was just happy to stand and take photographs of  this splendid Gothic building, which was began in 1296 and structurally finished in 1436.  The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The Gardens of Boboli, Florence, Italy

Florence 2016, The Gardens of Boboli where you really do need to be wearing walking boots, thank goodness we were.  Of course its just more then a garden, its one of the greatest open air museums in Florence….The gardens are a spectacular example of “green architecture” decorated with sculptures and the prototype which inspired many European Royal gardens, in particular, Versailles.  My husband had read about the sculptures and this was the reason we were now visiting this amazing green oasis, after the heaving city centre and a bonus…..the rain had stopped.

The building of the garden start in the 15th century, the original fields and gardens were laid out by the Borgolo family, in 1418 the property was bought by Luca Pitti.  In 1549 the gardens were greatly enlarged and became the Medici family’s new city residence.

The gardens continued to be enrich and enlarged in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, becoming a wonderful outdoor museum setting, for both Roman and Renaissance statues.

When you reach the highest point in the garden, you can rest and look out over the amazing view of Florence and the surrounding country side.  Next stop is the ‘The Museums of the Pitti Palace’.

Pitti Palace


A Walk Through Florence, Itlay

Florence 2016, after our lunch, we made our way to a garden that was on my husbands wish list, Boboli Gardens, husband has a thing about gardens, so on our way there, and its quite a walk, I took some photos.  I have played around a little with the photos as they were very dark, due to the poor light.  Next stop, the gardens.  

Through A High Speed Train Window

Last year, 2016, we travelled to Venice, Italy by train, in fact about a dozen trains there and back.  The first part of the trip was by Euro Star from London to Brussels, there wasn’t that much to see through the window, and anyway we were moving way too fast.  Brussels to Frankfurt was more interesting, and the train had slowed down, just a little, so I could take a few photos through the window.  It is quite amazing what you can see, a little different than a car window, so here are just a few shots of what I found interesting.  After Frankfurt we changed trains again to take us for an overnight stop in Munich, and a very early morning walkabout of the city……to follow.


A Postcard from Misty Zurich, Switzerland

Last year 2016, on our way back from Venice, we stopped over night in Zurich.  I was really looking forward to taking some photos of the old part of Zurich.  We got up early and went straight out……..into really thick mist……I was so disappointed.  It had been years since I last visited Zurich, so I was not going to be thwarted by a bit or rather a lot of mist.  We made do with a walk around the hotel, along the river into a riverside park, found a castle like building and a wonderful penknife shop……so not too bad for a misty morning.

Huntingdon Castle Hills, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

I am in castle mode at the moment, I am trying to post what castles I have left in my archives, it’s amazing how many are left, I did think I had caught up with them all…….but no, they just seem to grow on their own.  Anyway you do need to have some imagination for this castle, but I have added the notice board, because I needed help with this one when we visited the site back in 2015.  Unfortunately the board was not in very good condition at the time, so I copied the details for the post.  

We are looking at what was Huntingdon Castle, built in 1068 on the orders of William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion.  He needed castles to help him keep military an political control of England.  The inhabitants of Huntingdon may have had to come to the castle to pay taxes to William’s representative.  The Domesday Book states that 20 dwellings were demolished to make way for the castle.  The layout of the surviving earthworks confirms that the castle was a motte an daily type.  It would have been built quickly by soldiers and local forced labour, using wood instead of stone. 

The site is surrounded by a large defensive ditch on three sides and the river on the fourth.  On top of the mott, or mound where the pine trees now stand, would have been a tower and the bailey below you would have been protected by earthen ramparts with wooden palisades on top.  There would also have been a gatehouse to the castle with a drawbridge.  Motte and bailey castles acted as forts during war, but in peacetime served as home for the powerful.  The bailey would have contained the dwellings of those who worked for the castle, barns and pens for animal and storehouses for food.

The castle played an important role in the rebellion against King Henry II in 1174.  At that time it was owed by William I, King of Scotland, who was also the Earl of Huntingdon and who sided with the rebels.  Henry II himself came to Huntingdon, besieged the castle for a month, and then ordered it to be destroyed.

At some point a windmill was built on the top of the motte, where it stood until the end of the 19th century.  The cart track that led up to it, is clearly visible.  Part of the castle grounds then became the garden of Castle Hiull House an some landscaping took place.  Part of the castle site was destroyed when the first railway line was built in 1847.

All the details are from the notice board on site – 28th December 2015

The Norman Castle of Rochester, Kent

It’s time for another castle, Rochester Castle is located in the town of Rochester on the Medway estuary in Kent, SE England.  Rochester is well known for its connections with Charles Dickens, and also has a splendid Cathedral.   We visited both, Castle and Cathedral, but because I forgot our English Heritage cards, I only took photos of the exterior of the castle, the interior will have to wait until our next visit.


The best way to enter the castle is by the castle gate and climb the steps up into the Bailey, the large green area, in front of the remains of the castle, which is now a public park. 

Some history, Rochester Castle is one of the best preserved and finest examples of Norman architecture in England. Its great keep, square, massive and one of the tallest in the country, measures 113 feet high, 70 feet square and has walls 12 feet thick in places. It was on or close to the present castle site that the Romans built their first fort to guard the bridge carrying their legions over the river on their way from Dover to London and beyond. Centuries later, in 1087, Bishop Gundulf – one of William the Conqueror’s finest architects – began the construction of today’s castle, making use of what remained of the original Roman city walls. The great keep was built by William de Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom Henry I granted custody of the castle in 1127.

The castle has a chequered history, having been subjected to siege three times and in 1215 King John lay siege to the castle and took it after two long months. He finally undermined the south east tower and burned the props with the “fat of forty pigs” causing the tower to collapse. The city was well placed for raids on London and it also enabled them to devastate the lands of Kent, particularly those belonging to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had crowned Rufus and was therefore Odo’s and the rebels’ enemy.

By the 17th century, the castle had become neglected, the keep had been burned out, and the site was being used as a local quarry for building materials. In 1870 the castle grounds were leased to the City of Rochester, who turned them into a public park and eventually, in the 20th century, responsibility for this imposing old structure was taken over by English Heritage.

You can also see the Cathedral from the castle walls, and that its our next visit.