Torbay on the English Riviera

October 11th, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: General |

View from Torquay towards Paignton © Kicior99/cc-by-3.0

View from Torquay towards Paignton © Kicior99/cc-by-3.0

Torbay is a borough in Devon, administered by the unitary authority of Torbay Council. It consists of 62.87 square kilometres (24.27 sq mi) of land, spanning the towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, located around an east-facing natural harbour (Tor Bay) on the English Channel. Torbay is roughly equidistant from the cities of Exeter and Plymouth. A popular tourist destination with a tight conurbation of resort towns, Torbay’s sandy beaches, mild climate and recreational and leisure attractions have given rise to the nickname of the English Riviera. Torbay’s main industry is tourism. It has a large number of European students learning English. The fishing port of Brixham is home to one of England and Wales’ most successful fishing fleets and regularly lands more value than any UK port outside Scotland. It is also a base for Her Majesty’s Coastguard and the Torbay Lifeboat Station. Famous former residents of Torbay include author Agatha Christie, who set many of her novels in a thinly disguised version of the borough.   read more…

Strawberry Hill House

August 28th, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: Architecture, European Union, General, London, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks |

© panoramio.com - Maxwell Hamilton/cc-by-sa-3.0

© panoramio.com – Maxwell Hamilton/cc-by-sa-3.0

Strawberry Hill House—often called simply Strawberry Hill—is the Gothic Revival villa that was built in Twickenham, London by Horace Walpole (1717–1797) from 1749 onward. It is the type example of the “Strawberry Hill Gothic” style of architecture, and it prefigured the nineteenth-century Gothic revival. Walpole rebuilt the existing house in stages starting in 1749, 1760, 1772 and 1776. These added gothic features such as towers and battlements outside and elaborate decoration inside to create “gloomth” to suit Walpole’s collection of antiquarian objects, contrasting with the more cheerful or “riant” garden. The interior included a Robert Adam fireplace; parts of the exterior were designed by James Essex. The garden contained a large seat shaped like a Rococo sea shell; it has been recreated in the 2012 restoration.   read more…

Design Museum London

July 7th, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: Architecture, Design & Products, General, London, Museums, Exhibitions |

© designmuseum.org

© designmuseum.org

The Design Museum is a museum founded in 1989, originally located by the River Thames near Tower Bridge in London, and later relocated to Kensington. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design. The museum operates as a registered charity, and all funds generated by ticket sales aid the museum in curating new exhibitions. Entrance is expected to be free to the museum’s permanent collection display, “Designer Maker User”. In June 2011 Sir Terence Conran donated £17.5 million to enable the Museum to move in 2016 from the warehouse to a larger site which formerly housed the Commonwealth Institute in west London. This landmark from the 1960s, a Grade II* listed building that had stood vacant for over a decade, was developed by a design team led by John Pawson who made the building fit for a 21st century museum, whilst at the same time retaining its spatial qualities.   read more…

Trafalgar Square in London

June 7th, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: General, London |

© flickr.com - Vibin/cc-by-2.0

© flickr.com – Vibin/cc-by-2.0

Trafalgar Square is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London, built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross. Its name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain that took place on 21 October 1805 off the coast of Cape Trafalgar. The site of Trafalgar Square had been a significant landmark since the 13th century and originally contained the King’s Mews. After George IV moved the mews to Buckingham Palace, the area was redeveloped by John Nash, but progress was slow after his death, and the square did not open until 1844. The 169-foot (52 m) Nelson’s Column at its centre is guarded by four lion statues. A number of commemorative statues and sculptures occupy the square, but the Fourth Plinth, left empty since 1840, has been host to contemporary art since 1999. The square has been used for community gatherings and political demonstrations, including Bloody Sunday, the first Aldermaston March, anti-war protests, and campaigns against climate change. A Christmas tree has been donated to the square by Norway since 1947 and is erected for twelve days before and after Christmas Day. The square is a centre of annual celebrations on New Year’s Eve. It was well known for its feral pigeons until their removal in the early 21st century.   read more…

Notting Hill Carnival in London

April 28th, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: General, London, Events |

© Romazur/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Romazur/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event that has taken place since 1966 on the streets of Notting Hill, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, each August over two days (the August bank holiday Monday and the preceding Sunday). It is led by members of the British West Indian community, and attracts around one million people annually, making it one of the world’s largest street festivals (others are the Carnival of Cultures in Berlin and the Summer Carnival in Rotterdam), and a significant event in British culture. In 2006, the UK public voted it onto the list of icons of England. Despite its name, it is not part of the global Carnival season preceding Lent. Professor David Dabydeen has stated: “Carnival is not alien to British culture. Bartholomew Fair and Southwark Fair in the 18th century were moments of great festivity and release. There was juggling, pickpocketing, whoring, drinking, masquerade — people dressed up as the Archbishop of Canterbury and indulged in vulgar acts. It allowed people a space to free-up but it was banned for moral reasons and for the antiauthoritarian behaviour that went on like stoning of constables. Carnival allowed people to dramatise their grievances against the authorities on the street… Notting Hill Carnival single-handedly revived this tradition and is a great contribution to British cultural life.” Bartholomew’s Fair was suppressed in 1855 by the City authorities for encouraging debauchery and public disorder. The roots of the Notting Hill Carnival that took shape in the mid-1960s come from two separate but connected strands. A “Caribbean Carnival” was held on 30 January 1959 in St Pancras Town Hall as a response to the problematic state of race relations at the time; the UK’s first widespread racial attacks, the Notting Hill race riots in which 108 people were charged, had occurred the previous year. The 1959 event, held indoors and televised by the BBC, was organised by the Trinidadian Claudia Jones (often described as “the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival”) in her capacity as editor of Britain’s first black newspaper The West Indian Gazette, and directed by Edric Connor; showcasing elements of a Caribbean carnival in a cabaret style, it “featured among other things the Mighty Terror singing the calypso ‘Carnival at St Pancras’, a Caribbean Carnival Queen beauty contest, the Trinidad All Stars and Hi–fi steel bands dance troupe and a Grand Finale Jump-Up by West Indians who attended the event.”   read more…

Clarence House in London

April 1st, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: General, House of the Month, London, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks |

© ChrisO/cc-by-sa-3.0

© ChrisO/cc-by-sa-3.0

Clarence House is a royal residence in London, situated on The Mall, in the City of Westminster. It is attached to St. James’s Palace and shares the palace’s garden. For nearly 50 years, from 1953 to 2002, it was home to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It has since been the official residence of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Clarence House also served as the official residence for Prince William from 2003 until his 2011 marriage and for Prince Harry from 2003 until 2012. It is open to visitors for approximately one month each summer, usually August, and is one of many royal buildings in London. Since 2003, the term “Clarence House” has often been used as a metonym for the Prince of Wales’s private office. The term “St. James’s Palace” had been previously used. Clarence House is Grade I listed on the National Heritage List for England.   read more…

Portrait: Cnut the Great

March 22nd, 2017 | Destination: | Rubric: Portrait |

Winchester Cathedral - Burial chest of Cnut the Great © Ealdgyth

Winchester Cathedral – Burial chest of Cnut the Great © Ealdgyth

King Cnut the Great, also known as Canute, was King of Denmark, England, and Norway, together often referred to as the Anglo-Scandinavian or North Sea Empire. The North Sea Empire was one of several forerunners of the European Union and the Eurozone. After his death, the deaths of his heirs within a decade, and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, his legacy was mostly forgotten. The medieval historian Norman Cantor stated that he was “the most effective king in Anglo-Saxon history”, although Cnut himself was Danish and not a Briton or Anglo-Saxon. Cnut is popularly invoked in the context of the legend of King Canute and the waves, but usually misrepresents Cnut as a deluded monarch believing he has supernatural powers, when the original legend in fact states the opposite and portrays a wise king.   read more…

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