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Sunday, April 26, 2015

284. Venice on my mind..........

Blue skies were there none, just clouds in abundance,nevertheless as I passed St Paul's on my way to the Millenium bridge I was thinking of my forthcoming visit to the Venice Biennale  and quite certain that it would be under a blue canopy.
As I battled against the wind whilst crossing the river I saw the Shard disappearing in mist and the Globe there nestled on the south bank in close proximity to Tate Modern.
Spring seemed to have taken a break .
I was keen to reach my seat in The Globe for the performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice,with Jonathan Pryce playing the role of Shylock.
As always it was full to the rafters and as it is open to the elements,unlike the Sam Wanamaker playhouse next door which is cozy and warm ,I am certain that we were all willing the sun to appear.

 Happily I had a good seat undercover, as my days of standing for 3 hours possibly in the rain, have now passed.
It was naturally a magnificent performance by all of the actors and the scenery was completely life like and of course I enjoyed immensely the costumes  ,featuring Venetian silks in exquisite patterns.
When the judges arrived from Padua it reminded me that I was there less than a year ago visiting the original operating theatre,what a beautiful city it is .
There were many groups of school children there too,how wonderful to be able to see and hear Shakespeare in such amazing surroundings.

Recently I learned that Shakespeare first performed as an actor in 'The Theatre ' which was built by James Burbage in 1576 in Shoreditch and this is where his career as a dramatist began.Romeo and Juliet  and Hamlet being performed in this theatre.
Further reading of 'Spitalfields life 'by The Gentle Author will give you an amazing picture of the history of this ancient and Roman part of London.

I was at a Meeting last week in the local church of St Leonard's to hear Dan Cruikshank talk about the Save Norton Folgate campaign ,an area of London between Shoreditch and Spitalfields which 
British Land are attempting to turn into MORE office blocks and forever lose an important part of London .

I digress !
The play was superb as always and my mind was flitting between the stage and the Rialto in Venice.i was lucky enough to be able to visit Venice several times each year when I lived in Italy and the fish market beneath the Rialto is a sight to see- it's wonderful.

Floating under The Rialto bridge in some form of boat is equally exciting and leads onto the many side canals and areas to enjoy and investigate. It never ceases to excite me finding quiet spots and unknown alleyways ever since my first visit at the age of 17.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Globe I urge you to make a reservation well in advance as the seats sell out very quickly,it's a really fabulous way to see Shakespeare as the locals did in the 16th century.
 And now I'm remembering the 2013 Biennale ,it was
an exciting collection of modern art from around the globe and I can't can't wait to feast my eyes on the  2015 Biennale which opens in just a couple of weeks time.its provocative and crazy in many ways but a truly amazing feast of original painting and sculpture and housed in unique and dazzling venues.
I will be there at the end of May  
Do go if you can.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

283. Luxurious lunch in leafy lyon........

My visits to France have been many and
varied over the years but this was my first time in the Rhone-Alpes area and specifically the ancient city of Lyon.

Last Easter I spent in Nancy and environs and was overwhelmed by the architecture  and food and the natural warmth of the people,so I didn't know what to expect on this visit . I was aware of its great reputation for excellent food ,in fact the birth of nouvelle cuisine was in the hands of Paul Bercuse, so I was clearly going to indulge in some serious eating .

I was certainly not disappointed.
In the 5 days over the Easter break I climbed to the top of each mountain ,only wearing my Louboutins for the special lunch !

I was immediately struck by the similarities to Florence ,the architecture and colours of the buildings ,so I immediately felt at home. It was also clearly similar to Paris and even touches of Côte d'Azur architecture !the fish scale domes being dotted around the never ending enormous squares.

So for me it was a feast of architectural styles as well as super delicious food AND the sky was blue for most of my visit , what more could I desire.
Like all French cities the history I find fascinating and to know that the silk weavers of Lyon ( brought in by Francis 1 ,500 years ago ) were producing silk which was also taken to Florence to create the exquisite gowns and palatial drapery of Florence was a delight to discover.
In the 16th century noble Italien families moved to Lyon and hence the strong flavour remains in architecture ,food and history.
I had another lovely surprise when I climbed the mountain to the Croix Russe area in the first big square was a statue of Jacquard, inventor of the loom producing luxurious  silken textiles.
My father having been a textile designer had worked with the company many years ago .

In Florence there is still working ,one of the 17th century looms producing these exotic reams of dreams.Princess Michael of Kent having ordered vast amounts for her sons wedding .
I was keen to see the traboules, an extensive network of corridors  throughout the old part of the city .these were originally used by the silk workers to transport the silk down to the river for export .
 In modern history they were used by the Resistance and being able to enter them I found quite overwhelming.
One of the local delicacies is something I had found in only one place in Paris several years ago .it is now more widely available it's the brioche  and gateaux with shocking pink praline,otherwise recognised as sugary neon rose petals , certainly delicious!
For my special lunch ,and I had several delicious lunches in Lyon I was taken to the banks of the river Saone into the countryside,To what appeared to be a Hansel and Gretal house in green and red with shutters at the windows,quite a surprise. 
 It was Apparently built by the father of Paul Bercuse and painted in these colours by Paul so that it would not  be forgotten !
 Not much danger of that, he is 91 years old now and the restaurant has maintained 3 Michelin stars since the 1960 s , quite a feat I think you will agree. 

 He has cooked for many presidents of France but is well known for his truffle soup and chocolate cake which he created for President Valerie Giscard d'estaing and as I was quite a fan of his I was delighted to sample the same wildly frilly chocolate concoction decorated with 24 carat gold !,what an indulgence for Saturday afternoon!
 Yes it was a 3 and a half hour lunch !
I also climbed ( the hard way ) to the top of another mountain through a nuns garden which was almost identical to the Bandini gardens in Florence and was rewarded at the top by the opulent basilica of Fourviere built in 1872 on the site of the Roman forum of Trajan. It had mosaics by the metre and gold by the ton  and the view from the summit was like Florence but 10 times larger .

To have one river running through the centre of a city is fabulous but to have two is unbelievable .the Rhone and the Saone are truly beautiful and are each crossed by a variety of interesting bridges, and I crossed all of them !
 There are many Romans remains including an amphitheatre and it was fun to keep stumbling across them.
I hope that by this short sojourn into the southern region of France you will be encouraged to visit and sample delicious food at some of its 2000 restaurants.
 The people were warm and friendly and chatted easily and the museum of Beaux artes houses some beautiful  creations.
It's a city full of trees and the many magnolias and cherry blossoms were a  tonic for the soul.
As always I took a couple of thousand photographs for my photo

diary but here are a few which you might enjoy  and hope that it gives you a flavour to savour!
 Fay xx
Tired paws