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Tournai, Belgium

Guess what’s new? – Corona. Guess how long it will last? – China.

Never mind. The travel ban is still on for Belgium, so explorations within the country continues. This weekend was reserved for Tournai. A beautiful city on the west of Belgium. Kinda looks like Lille at the first sight.  Although, being part of the province of Hainaut, Tournai is part of Eurometropolis Lille–Kortrijk–Tournai.

Tournai is one of the oldest cities in Belgium and has played an important role in the country’s cultural history. It was the first capital of the Frankish Empire, with Clovis I being born here – the first king of France, crowned and buried in Reims.

Tournai, known as Tornacum, was a place of minor importance in Roman times, a stopping place where the Roman road from Cologne on the Rhine to Boulogne on the coast crossed the river Scheldt. It came into the possession of the Salian Franks in 5th century. Clovis moved the center of power to Paris. In turn, a native son of Tournai, Eleutherius, became bishop of the newly created bishopric of Tournai, extending over most of the area west of the Scheldt. In 9th century Charles the Bald, first king of Western Francia and still to become Holy Roman Emperor, would make Tournai the seat of the County of Flanders.

river Scheldt

After the partition of the Frankish empire by the Treaties of Verdun (843) Tournai remained in the western part of the empire, which in 10th century became France. The city participated in 11th-century rise of towns with a woollen cloth industry based on English wool, which soon made it attractive to wealthy merchants. An ambitious rebuilding of the cathedral was initiated in 11th century. The stone Pont des Trous over the Scheldt, with defensive towers at either end, was built in 1290, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

Le Pont des Trous à Tournai

During the 15th century, the city’s textile trade boomed and it became an important supplier of tapestry. The art of painting flourished too. It was captured in 1513 by Henry VIII of England, making it the only Belgian city ever to have been ruled by England. The city was handed back to French rule three years later, following the Treaty of London (1518).

Belfry of Tournai

In 16th century, Habsburg Emperor Charles V added the city to his possessions in the so-called Low Countries, leading to a period of religious strife and economic decline. During the 16th century, Tournai was a bulwark of Calvinism, but eventually it was conquered by the Spanish governor of the Low Countries, the Duke of Parma, following a prolonged famous Siege of Tournai in 1581. After the fall of the city, its Protestant inhabitants were given one year to sell their possessions and emigrate, a policy that was at the time considered relatively humane, since very often religious opponents were simply massacred.

Monument of local artist van der Wayden, in front of the Cathedral, 15th century

One century later, the city briefly returned to France under Louis XIV in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Tournai formed part of the newly independent Belgium.

Unfortunately, local specialties were skipped this time as the bars and restaurants were closed.

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York, UK

There is no proper introduction to this city as I arrived totally unprepared, being just a day before on the southwest of Europe (in Lisbon) – different lifestyle, different weather, different clothes…

I arrived at noon to the train station without any excitements. Noticing firstly the Georgian houses.

But then I passed the city walls and ended up in the medieval city centre. Astonished!

I have soon realize that the city is very photogenic. Especially The Shambles – once a place for butchers to trade, the houses (called Shambles) were built with overhanging timber-framed buildings to stop meat from going bad in the sun. Retaining much of their medieval charm, they’re now filled with quirky eateries and shopping spots. 

My colleagues and I were having dinners every night in different pub. As the girl who read so many books about War of Roses, my heart totally melted on the names of pubs such as Tudor bar.

Oh, and not to forget the absolute hit: House of Trembling Madness It’s an homage to ‘delirium tremens’ – an absolute cavern of beery goodness.

House of Trembling madness – a 14th century bar

A secret to share: I escaped one morning for half an hour to cross the brifge over the river Ouse to take some photos. The river was floated but still peaceful.

I have also entered some Parish church on my way back to hotel. It was from the 15th century, one of a kind…

If you ever visit York, do not skip the Richard III experience. It is about the Battle of York between two kings Henry VII and Richard III – the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty before it became united in Tudors. Of course, the Elizabeth of York had to play her part in this story as well. Chercher le femme.

Total War of Roses fan here! 🙂

The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster dominates the skyline and has a history of building that dates back to the 8th century at least. The biggest stained glass of windows can be found here.

York was founded by the Romans. Being home of the 9th and later the 6th Legion, it soon became the city.

However, it did not become vivid until the Vikings arrived and called it Jorvik. I really recommend you to visit the Viking experience as it takes you 2000 years backwards.

My last stop was a market. Fresh and medieval in the same time. Actually, it was very useful as I found a towel with some yorkshire expressions – the dialect I was so hard to understand these 3 days.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

3 days in Edinburgh! A weekend getaway 🙂 Except that we expected to see creepy, grey, sleepy, medieval town, but instead the sunshine was blessing us most of the weekend while we were running the gazes of the centre.

First stop was the bar, of course!

I mean, we arrived quite late to Edinburgh as our flight was delayed. Our hotel was in the old port called Leith so after quick check-in we ran into a first pub to eat but unfortunately too late. Some Scottish whiskey for dinner and typical Scottish pub scene: men discussing their business while holding beer, students mingling around while ordering a beer, Ladies smoking outside in their open outfits… Ever watched Transpotting? It was exactly like that.

Nobles pub

About Edinburgh: the capital of Scotland since at least from 15th century. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been invaded by the Romans so the city has splendid mazes and many main squares.

Of course, the traces of Celtic culture are visible as well.

Streets of Edinburgh
Royal Mile – the longest street in Edinburgh

In one of these first day wanderings, we went some shopping. The reason was the kilt. It’s a type of knee-length skirt worn by Scottish men. Every pattern belongs to different Scottish clan since the times of fighting against English. Ever watched The Braveheart? 🙂

Clans of Scotland and their kilts

Well, in case you didn’t, let me introduce you to William Wallace – a peasant who fought English Army and became knight. And King Robert Bruce. They are bought at the main entrance to the Castle.

Edinburgh castle

The Castle stands on volcanic rock which is more than 350 millions old and is centered in the heart of the city.

St. Margarets’ Chapel, is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh in which also, famous Mary Queen of Scots was praying (cousin of Elizabeth I). Then the famous canon that still fires every day at 13:00 is also worth to see. As well as the chambers of the prisoners and how they lived, engraved their names, secrets and compassion into the doors and walls. Many of the prisoners were from the Napoleonic wars of American War for Independence.

The view from the Castle

Time for a break again. Do you know what is haggis?

A typical scottish meal containing sheep’s pluck, minced with onion, oatmeal etc. We found a chips of haggis! 🙂

In 12th century, Edinburgh, trying to prove its essence of the capital city, Edinburgh aastarted to build the St Giles’ Cathedral, or the High Kirk of Edinburgh.

Mediaval Edinburgh was noisy, dark, with small streets, usually with poor sources of water. So living there had its own problems. Water had to be collected from water wells and carried up by many stairs. With no flush toilets, residents used to open their windows in the evening and (after shouting gardyloo) tip their foul nuisances into the streets below. Hazardous evenings, no?

Public well

Time for a beer! 🙂 and some Edinburgh Golden old ale!

More mediaval stories? Well how about the Greyfriars bobby? A nice pub, full of flowers from the outside but it actually sits on the Graveyard and is full of stories. Like the story of the dog called Bobby, who never wanted to leave his masters’ grave.

Bobby

The graveyard just behind helds the secrets of more than 60,000 people. The graveyard looks calm and nice, with students visiting the place, even J.K. Rowling when writing her Harry Potter… Until the rain comes and starts to drag down the mud and discover the bones of deaths…

Graveyard

As I said, next to it is the pub where the Harry Potter was born. The author like to sit in this pub and write the book. She was usually finding her inspiration in names at the monuments of those who were buried there.

That day, I met my lovely friend from Montenegro who lives in Edinburgh. So the medieval storytelling continued. 🙂

We strolled down the famous Cockburn street (you don’t pronounce the K – otherwise they will mock you!).

Cockburn street

Down the Cockburn street we strolled to the Grassmarket area. This place is surrounded by pubs with some really interesting names. We entered the pub called The Last Drop as the square used to be the execution place and the accused ones used to go this pub for their last drop of whisky.

Or perhaps Maggie Dicksons pub… as it used to be her own house. Maggie was famous for surviving the execution by sleeping with the executor the night before and convincing him not to strength the robe too high. After surviving this experience, she became famous across Scotland and bought the house at the Grassmarket square.

Up through to Victoria street for some more wandering…

Following the Treaty of Union in 1706, the Parliaments of England and Scotland passed Acts of Union in 1706 and 1707 respectively, uniting the two kingdoms in the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 18th century, Edinburgh was described as one of Europe’s most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns. Visitors were struck by the fact that the various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings. So the New Town was re-urbanized with parallel streets and squares. The most popular street is the Princess Street with all the shopping stores.

Princess Street – shopping street

There is a statue of Sir Walter Scott – a Scottish historical novelist and poet of 18th century Scotland. Ever heard of Ivanhoe?

Sir Walter Scott

And not to forget the Duke of Wellington. The guy who beat Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium.

Duke of Wellington

In the second half of the century, the city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, when thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith were familiar figures in its streets. Edinburgh became a major intellectual centre, earning it the nickname “Athens of the North” because of its many neo-classical buildings and reputation for learning.

PS I am really not a fan of calling some place after some other, like Venice of the North or New York of the East…

David Hume
Adam Smith

Time to stop for a second. Whiskey tasting? 🙂

Often simply called The Scotch, it is a Celtic spirit and the most popular drink here.

The Scottish Parliament is an old building from 13th century, except that in 1999 somehow Scotland decided to re-build and gave the trust to some Catalan architectures. Now, there is nothing wrong with this except that Barcelona is full of modern architecture that to my eye leads to dis-functionalities and nonsense. For example, the weird shapes of windows that are supposed to present people, or the leaves, or the birds or whatever kind of freedom because there is really no right answer, but in reality is just hard to open and close the widow and let the fresh air in. Not even talking about politics and federalism led by British Parliament in London and reasons of having (or rather not) this one here in Edinburgh… (sorry, political scientist here speaking!) 🙂

Sovereignty given by the Queen Elizabeth II

Eat haggis, sleep in Leith and climb the Arthur seat. It is an extinct volcano peak in the middle of the city, some 250 meters high where king Arthur used to come to think, before he would chair the table of the 12 knights. Remember Sir Lancelot?

The view from Arthur seat

Except the Arthur, some other notable peeps from Edinburgh like Sir James Maxwell and Alexander Graham Bell – the inventor of the telephone.

James Clerk Maxwell a Scottish mathematical physicist of electromagnetic radiation. And his dog to who him explained his equations. (?!!)

Now, there is something strange about Edinburgh – apart the fact that there are dog statues and commemorations across the city.

We noticed that almost every business from before has been turned into a pub business. Just like the birth house of the Alexander Bell above on the photo, or the pub which was the cinema before, or the barberry shop that became the pub or even the bank!

A bank turned into a pub and a statue of a loan giver. This person would used to go in pubs and offer the money to be loaned on some expensive rates, ofc.

Being now in modern ages again, we visited the Georgian houses. The typical architectural style from the times of George V. When he died, all the doors were supposed to be coloured in black but the Scots and Irish protested and coloured in pink, green, red, blue…

Georgian houses

The last day was used to visit Britannia – famous ship of The Queen Elizabeth II, but retired and given to tourists for visit. You can see the ship from the inside, check the rooms of the Queen or even the private sleeping room of Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they outset for they honeymoon.

Britannia ship
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Girona, Catalunya, Spain

Again some short weekend trip to some EU city. You gotta love it, right? Well, we did 🙂 We hopped on the plane Friday after work and landed to some cute hotel nearby airport in Girona. That night was reserved for spa and some nice tapas.

The next day was about to explore the city of Girona. Apparently entire season 6 of Game of Thrones was filmed here. Let me show you the data:

Entrance to medieval city of Girona at the confluence of the rivers Ter, Onyar, Galligants, and Güell

The first historical inhabitants in the region were Iberians.  Later, the Romans built a citadel there. Until it was conquered by the Moors in 8th century. Finally, Charlemagne reconquered it in late 8thcentury and made it one of the fourteen original counties of Catalonia. Yes, Girona is in Catalonia, right next to grande Barcelona. 🙂

As of then it has been given to spanish kings of Aragon.

Important to mention is that during this period of time the Jewish community of Girona flourish, having one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. The presence of the Jewish community of Girona came to an end in 15th century, when the Catholic Monarchs outlawed Judaism throughout Spain and Jews were given the choice of conversion or exile.

As a result of many battles by different rulers, Girona has amazing and long defensive city walls untouched but abandoned.

In recent years, the city walls on the eastern side of the city have been reconstructed. Called the Passeig de la Muralla it now forms a tourist route around the old city.

Time for break 🙂

The typical beer here is Estrella. Lager.

As the many things on this photo above remind about the Catalonia resistance, I couldn’t help but notice that the protesting symbols and marks are everywhere around.

Especially the yellow ribbons are symbol of protest for Catalonian Independence and freedom of political prisoners.

The ancient cathedral, which stood on the site of the Roman Forum, was used by the Moors as a mosque, but nowadsy is a fine and excellent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. It is approached by eighty-six steps.

The Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu or Saint Felix 🙂 is noteworthy from an architectural point of view. Its style is 14th-century Gothic and it is one of the few Spanish churches which possesses a genuine spire. It contains, besides the sepulchre of its patron and the tomb of the valiant Álvarez, a chapel dedicated to St. Narcissus, who according to tradition was one of the early bishops of the see.

The last thing we visited was the Museum of Art. If you love romantic and gothic art, you will love this place as well.

Before you leave this city, amke sure you got this amazing view on the cityscape at the sunset 🙂

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Köln, Deutschland

Some time ago, still living in Brussels, – I realized I have a friend from hometown in Croatia that lives currently in Köln.

I used some app for shared drive and arrived in 2 hours. My friend was waiting for me at the main station. 🙂

It  is the largest city of Germany’s most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, making it the fourth most populous city in Germany after BerlinHamburg, and Munich. It is the largest city on the Rhine river…

The city is famous for the Cologne Cathedral or in deu. Kölner Dom. This roman catholic monument started to be built in 13th century and it is the biggest example of gothic architecture.

Cologne’s medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as “a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value” and “a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe”

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Rouen, France – steps of Jeanne d’Arc 🗡

Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France. It is the capital of the region of Normandy. Formerly one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy during the Middle Ages.

We made a short stop in this city to have lunch and spread our legs from the long ride as coming back to Brussels. Bad for me, I soon realized this city deserves much more attention. So I promised to come back – event though I do not re-visit. Life is to short! World is to wide!

The first stop was Le gros horloge (The Big Clock) recently restored, located in the middle of the Rue du Gros Horloge.

Le gros horloge

It is a 14th century astronomical clock.

The clock is installed in a Renaissance arch. The mechanism is one of the oldest in France. The Renaissance facade represents a golden sun with 24 rays on a starry blue background. The dial measures 2.5 metres in diameter. The phases of the moon are shown in the oculus of the upper part of the dial. It completes a full rotation in 29 days. The week days are shown in an opening at the base of the dial with allegorical subjects for each day of the week.

Already in love? Me too…

The little cobbled pedestrianised streets will accompany your weekends, holidays… These incomparable charming streets are decked on both sides with timber-framed houses dating from the Middle Ages were so cozy to my traveller heart…

Then the 16th century glory of the Palais de Justice… no it is not a cathedral, yet…

Now, this is the Cathedral… Ready?

It started on the site of the 4th century local church. Then, all the buildings perished during a Viking raid in the 9th century. The Viking leader, Rollo, founder of the Duchy of Normandy, was baptised here in 10th century and buried as well. The next generations of his sons were re-constructing the building to become greater and greater.

The gothic church became the Cathedral in 15th century . In the late 16th century the cathedral was badly damaged during the French Wars of Religion: the Calvinists damaged much of the furniture, tombs, stained-glass windows and statuary. 

The statue of Jeanne d’Arc
The relics from the baptizing ceremony of Viking king who brought the Christianity later to Baltics

Time for lunch. We went typical Norman: the neck of the beef… yuck! But apparently the favourite dish of the former French president Jacques Chirac.

The last rushy thing we did was the Place du Vieux Marché – famous again for the timer houses but also for being the burning site of Joan of Arc. Yes, I am a total fan of this discussible icon so the feeling was weird. Ebven more, when I realised that the marking place was some badly recognized statue and modern church… Not enough for this French saint who ran the battles against English to free the nothern France.

However, there is still a lot to see and space to update this post… Gustave Flaubert, Claude Monet…

Until next time, Rouen!

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Normandie: Alencon, Domfront, St-Céneri-le-Gérei, Le Mans

Easter was a trip to northern part of France: Normandie or
historical Duchy of Normandy.

Driving through its landscapes was total mind relaxation 🙂

Domfront

On our way to Mont St Michel, we had an opportunity to stop in city of Domfront – established in the 6th century round the oratory of the hermit St. Front, and played an important part in the wars against the English and the French Wars of Religion.

The most impressive was the castle from 11th century. Firstly occupied by the forces of Geoffrey of Anjou, and then it was besieged by William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy.

Who ever possessed the castle, had an amazing view on the lilacs 🙂

Alencon

The city is located less than 200 km from Paris.

William Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror and king of England
Then the citizen William of Poitiers insulted William by hanging animal skins from the walls, in reference to his ancestry as the illegitimate son. As a revenge, William had a number of the citizens’ hands and feet cut off so Alençon remained occupied by the English during the Anglo-Norman wars until 13th century.

It was Great Saturday so we decided to visit the local market and buy some food for the Eastern breakfast.

Quail

The 16th century Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Alençon is more or less dominating the cityscape.

Alençon lace or point d’Alençon is a needle lace that originated in Alençon. It is sometimes called the “Queen of lace.” Lace making began in Alençon during the 16th century and the local industry was rapidly expanded during the reign of Louis XIV, producing the lace in the Venetian style in 17th century. So soon, Alencon became famous as the prominent historical personalities like Marie Antoinette were wearing dresses trimmed with Alençon lace.

The rest of the day we spent in the park. I have to say I was impressed with mini labyrinths and bridges and houses for birds 🙂

Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei

A short afternoon trip to this place just to get more into nature and have a drink while watching the sunset. It was incredible.

Every corner of this small, beautiful place is picturesque and calling for a beauty shot.

Some sacrla bees which attacked the church demolishers

Le Mans

In the old town, the Gothic-style Le Mans Cathedral of St Julian occupied my mind, as it features stained-glass windows and flying buttresses.


Henry II Plantagenet, king of England, was born and baptized here

As being located on the Sarthe River, it was reaching its glory in medieval times. Hence the streets and houses dating from that time are just astonishing:

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Mont Saint Michel

Dating a French is hard. Twinkling with my blue slavic eyes while asking him if we can go to Mont Saint Michel – easy peasy.

So our trip through Normandie started here… at some pre-area of Mont Sant Michel which is salty as the sea level goes on and off so the sheeps eat the salty grass, make salty milk and cheese and special pre-salty meat. They say it is a delicatesse!

Mont Saint Michel is an island and mainland commune in Normandy, France.
The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.

As you can see, there is an approach via the bridge. The buses are constantly circuiting around. However, many people do take the courage to walk through the mud when the tide is low. It is highly recommended to do it in the group as yearly people die by getting stuck in the vivid mud and not being able to get out of it as the tide is getting high and sea is approaching…

The island looks totally medieval. There is less than 100 people living and most of them are owning the restaurant, which are, btw total tourist trap. Some omelette costs 65 euros. :O And that omelette or cafe au lait will not be that good…

Famous family restaurant

Anyhow, we were climbing up towards the abbey.

The Mont/ mountain remained unconquered during the Hundred Years’ War; a small garrison fended off a full attack by the English in 15th century. The later it was used as a prison – especially after the French Revolution and during the Ancien Regime.

The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres between highest and lowest water marks.

Popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims  – it really offers a beautiful got-lost-in-time experience. Although, this moment might be ruined by the number of tourists surrounded.

The monks and nuns of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem are present in this abbey since 14th century.

Archangel Gabriel – the protector of the mount

The gothic church has the golden statue of Arch-angel Michel on its top as being the protector of the knights and shelter in the battles.

By going down, we admired a bit more the architecture…

Also, did you know that in Normandy there are no vineyards? So it is this particular part of France where actually you can not get any wine… awkward…

Awkward because me – being blond and thinking how France is all about the red wine, wanted to sit on a terrace and get my self a glass of local red wine. You could imagine the face of my boyfriend and his patience when he started to educate me about the maps of the french vineyards… and none of them is in Normandie… ooops 😛

However, the region is famous for apples so they will offer the great cider

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Corsica – Île de Beauté

What a beautiful island! 🙂 Landed with AirCorsica some beautiful Thursday afternoon just shortly after French President Macron.

My hotel was a splendid accommodation with a view on the Mediterranean.

As my flight has been postponed couple of times, I decided – totally tired and exhausted – just to chill in my hotel and read the Corsica intro.

The next morning I was totally fresh and ready to start exploring as of early in the morning.

Ajaccio

Totally italian city, but french speaking, but with italian accent. 🙂

After being ruled by the Republic of Genoa since 13 century, Corsica was briefly an Italian-speaking independent republic from 18th century, until it was officially ceded by the Republic of Genoa to France.

Port of Ajaccio

The people of Corsica are very proud of their flag so you can literally find it anywhere:

The very first day I went n the market at Place Foch. To go completely local. Spot the flag there as well:

Statue of Napoleon at Place Foch

The Musée Fesch is the central museum of fine arts in Ajaccio on Corsica. Located within the gated Palais Fesch, it is in the town’s Borgu d’Ajaccio quarter. It was established by Napoleon I’s uncle, cardinal Joseph Fesch. I did not enter as this time I had an intention to skip the masterpieces of renaissance.

However, I continued walking and admiring the italian style of the city.


Ex Grand Hôtel Continental (now office of the Collectivité territoriale de Corse)

Even the Cathedral is very simple style, dating from 16th century, called officially the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio.

My day continued with the visit to the birthplace of Napoleon. He was born and lived until the age of 9 in the Bonaparte House. He returned once shortly after his battle in Egypt.

Statue of Napoleon

And then continuing towards the citadelle with the city walls from 16th century.

The city is even more beautiful as the city has the beach just there in the city center called Plage Saint – Francois.
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And yes, there is a Place Charles de Gaulle, as well.

Place Charles de Gaulle

And then it was the lunch time. Do you like sea food? Yap urchins!

Corte

Then I took the train towards the center of the island. Corsica is a mountainous island with its highest peak of 2,700 meters. Surprisingly, on my way through the mountains, there was some snow. And many animals like goats and sheeps…

Cortu is a historical capital in the middle of the island, deep in the mountains.

A small town in the heart of Corsica, Corte was the capital of the island (in 18th under Pasquale Paoli – a name you will hear often in Corsica as he was
a Corsican patriot, statesman and military leader who was at the forefront of resistance movements against the Genoese and later French rule in the island ).

As well as being an interesting town in itself Corte is in a great location for exploring the mountains, valleys and scenery of central Corsica and the surrounding Natural Park.

As I arrived in Corte – it is the dramatic citadel sitting on top of a rocky outcrop above the town and the Tavignano valley that first grabbed my attention.

Sertena

The third day I continued towards the south and passed through the beautiful city of Sertena – famous for wines!

This territory will allure you by the diversity of its landscapes: vineyards, forests, cliffs…

Bonifacio

This city was a total discovery for me and the main reason of what I will remember Corsica for!

It is the southest of the island and the setting of Guy de Maupassant‘s short story “Vendetta”

The citadel of Bonifacio

The city in evidence today was founded as a fortress by and subsequently named after Boniface II of Tuscany in 9th century. He had led a naval expedition to suppress the Saracens (Saracens’ head on the flags) of North Africa and returned to build an unassailable fortress and naval base from which the domains of Tuscany could be defended at the outermost frontier.

Short lunch and then taking the stairs towards the city fortress…

The city lays on the cliffs which were demolished by the sea so when you look at the citadelle, you can notice that it is practically hanging… Totally anti – gravitation…

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Bonifacio is located directly on the Mediterranean Sea, separated from Sardinia by the Strait of Bonifacio.

The island of Sardinia across the Bonifacio
Stairs of Aragon Kings
Entrance to Citadelle

There is also the largest church of the island, built in Norman style: Église Saint-Dominique de Bonifacio

Saint Dominique church

Îles Sanguinaires

The last day was reserved for Isles Sanguinaires (together forming the Archipelago of the Sanguinaires) which are about 15km from Ajaccio by boat but only just off the headland at Pointe de la Parata. 

The Parata headland is itself classified as one of the ‘grand sites of France’ and there is a Genoese lookout tower here.

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Luxembourg

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small landlocked country in western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, together with Brussels and Strasbourg, is one of the three official capitals of the European Union. 

The repeated invasions by Germany, especially in World War II, resulted in the country’s strong will for mediation between France and Germany and, among other things, led to the foundation of the European Union.

WW1 and WW2 Memorial

The residents are speaking german, french and letzeburgish which is a mixture of both mentioned languages.

Although it is one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe it is the popular center for bank headquarters.

Bank Museum and State Savings Bank

As a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, it is headed by Grand Duke Henri and is the world’s only remaining grand duchy.

Parliament

Groussherzogleche Palais – the Duke’s residential palace and city hall

The history of Luxembourg is considered to begin in 10th century, when count Siegfried I acquired a rocky castle.

By 15th century – the House of Luxembourg became so powerful that it produced Kings of Germans and Holy Roman Emperors.  

Fortress Thungen

The Adolphe Bridge has become an unofficial national symbol of sorts, representing Luxembourg’s independence

The bridge was named after Grand Duke Adolphe, who reigned Luxembourg in 19th century.

Another reminder to the succesful battle times is the Golden Lady or the Gaelle Fra. The Monument of Remembrance is a war memorial  dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during both World Wars and the Korean War.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Luxembourg City. It was originally a Jesuit church, dating since 17th century. It is the only cathedral in Luxembourg.


I have actually visited Luxembourg two times and managed to enter the Museum of the Luxembourg city where I discovered the legend of Meluzines seducing a fisherman on the night of full moon, plotting the destiny of Luxembourg.

Old city: Neumunster villa and abbey from 16th century at River Alzette

River Alzette at Bock Casemates


In 2020 – one of the worst years to be traveler, I went to Luxembourg again to do the haircut. It was the only country in the neighborhood of Brussels with open hair saloons. The Christmasing times had just begun and Luxembourg just opened its advent squares. The gluhwein was smelling from every corner.

As the bars and restaurants were open, we have decided to give please ourselves after 3 months of curfew.

I have noticed as well that the gastronomy of Luxembourg changed, offering us verities of locally produced kraft beer. I have to say, after walking around on the cold weather, exciting for every new corner, the meal felt very well.

After a good meal, we strolled down to the old village. The walk next to the river Alzette was inspiring. Are you familiar with the Melusines? If not, perhaps the links on my blog should tell you a story.

Melusina is a figure of European folklore and mythology, a female spirit of fresh water depicted as a woman who turns into a mermaid during the nights of the full Moon. I have discovered the similar legends when visiting Warsaw and London.

Especially the House of Plantagenet  (kings of England) and the French House of Lusignan (kings of Cyprus in 13-14th century) and for shorter periods over Armenia and Jerusalem) are said in folk tales and medieval literature to be descended from Melusine.

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Naples, Italy

Early morning flight for 25 EUR but it was totally worth it. 🙂 We woke up at 3:30 and landed to Naples just before 9:00.

Upon our arrival we have soon noticed the chaotic city and how nobody respects the traffic lights. However, it took us one day to adjust.

Our accommodation was in the city center in some old 19th century palace.


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However, there is no reception so we talked a bit italian and soon discovered that we should sit at the coffee place opposite of the building, have an espresso and wait the owner. We also tried sfogliatelle or translated: lobster’s tail. It is original napolitano (Campania region) recipe.

Espresso and sfoglitella

We started to wander around through this chaotic city full of grafittis. The old city – Citta Vecchia has some old and high buildings dating from 16h century, creating some narrow passages and really narrow streets. But somehow logical to the Italians.

Citta Vecchia – old city

It is the third biggest city in Italy after Rome and Milano. And one of the cities that have constantly being inhabited.

First settled by Greeks in 2nd millenium BCE, then the Romans, then it became capital of the Duchy of Naples (7 – 12 century – Angevin Dynasty), then of the Kingdom of Naples (13 – 19 century) and finally of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Wherever you look in Naples you will see artworks, even in the streets. It’s not a joke: street artists always loved this city and often leaved a sign of their passage. Maybe, some of the best artworks are just the ones in the streets. Many of them connected to the religion.

Visiting Naples’s historic center means traveling through twenty centuries of history. The design of its streets, piazzas, churches, monuments and public buildings and castles constitute a jewel box of artistic and historical treasures of exceptional importance, so much so that together, they earned their spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

We continued towards the Piazza San Lorenzo Maggiore with the church from 14th century.

Piazza San Lorenzo Maggioere

We entered the church to admire the ceiling above us – indeed painted in 16th century representing the evocative atmosphere.


Precedding further down from the medieval level, we faced the Roman and 3 metres lower the Greek settlements. To be more precise – the catacombs.

The claustrophobic me managed to survive up to 20 min and then run away to some fresh air. The streets were chaotic again but the air was clearer. And the sun was there. Btw, I noticed that the nativity scenes were all over the city still, even though the Christmas passed some weeks ago!

I guess, the people of Napoli never miss their opportunity to sell the souvenirs. Btw, red pepper is the luck charm of Napoli, or should I say Nea Polis? 🙂

Souvenirs, souvenirs!

The patron of Naples is San Genaro thanks to his reliquary of the blood which heals the pilgrims for centuries. Hence we visited the Cathedral where his body lays. Twice a year, the body is taken out for the ceremony and celebration. Don’t know why twice a year?

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Cathedral of San Gennaro

The present cathedral was commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou in early 12th century.

Finally lunch! Pizza or pasta? Hard choice, but we were really hungry, startijng our day at 3:30, already walked more than 15 km that day and had in mind that pizza actually came from Napoli!

Some zucchini as starters

Did you know that Diego Maradona was playing in Napoli football club? Apparently, the Napolitans respecting him so much, calling him Italian and even having a bar to his name with his hair as relics.

Bar Nilo of Maradona

The bar is callled Bar Nilo and contains a chapel with Maradona’s name as santo.

Time for an espresso and something sweet. Boy we became Italians quickly, having our short coffee at the bar, standing while sipping. How should I explain you that a Croatian girl like me takes her coffee slowly, some time for some hours, enjoying every sip? 🙂

Beware! Another did you know on its way!

Did you know that Naples has more than 500 churches. This boasts the highest number of churches in the world: we’re talking about an artistic and spiritual heritage of enormous importance, formed within seventeen centuries; this is the reason, since ‘700, it has been named the “city of 500 domes”. Early christian or gothic, baroque or neoclassical, the churches of Naples can mix contrasting and pluralist styles and traditions, bringing down the visitor both in a magical and almost pagan atmosphere and in a profoundly mystical and Christian experience.

Somehow, we saw this:

And we decided to enter.

It is a double floor church where the grounds floor is a church decorated in familiar style but the lower ground is in grey, black and white, shaddy and reminding of purgatory.

The next stop was National Archaeological Museum: from early Naples until today. I was, as always, impressed with classical statues of Greek and Roman Gods.

Atlas holding the world

The afternoon brought even more sun and we wanted to get some more of it. The sea was so close!

Piazza Nazionale

Piazza del Plebiscito is named after the plebiscite taken on October 2, 1860 that brought Naples into the unified Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy. It is located very closely to the gulf of Naples, and bounded on the east by the Royal Palace  with the statues of all the kingls of Naples (most of them were spanish and french).

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Statues of the so far kings of Napoli

Piazza del Plebiscito, monument to Charles III of Spain in foreground and the cupola of the Galleria Umberto I and Basilica in background.

Then finally we strolled down towards the port and Gulf of Naples. With the terrifying vulcano Vesuvio in the background.

Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvio – the famous vulcano

The colours of afternoon started to be red and our pressure lower and lower. It was time for another espresso but this time with limoncello – a delicious shot from this region of Campania!

Somehow we found the energy to take a promenade and visit the castels.


Castel dell’Ovo (or egg catle) is located on the former island of Megaride, now a peninsula, since 9th century. The Roman poet Virgil put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. Had this egg been broken, the castle would have been destroyed and a series of disastrous events for Naples would have followed.
Castel Nuovo –
one of the main architectural landmarks since 12th century. It was a royal seat for kings of Naples, Aragon and Spain until 1815.

I used to read the Courtesan’s Lover – set in 18th century Naples, so I was daydreaming almost every single moment.

And that was it. We literally smashed into our beds before the 20:00. The next morning was again: eat, visit, repeat! 🙂

We started the day again with espresso schiumato and sfogliatelle! 🙂 With little fragolino as an additive (made of strawberry!).

On our way to Pompeii we visited the church where St Peter held his very first mass.

Basilica di San Petro ad Aram
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Lille, France

So far been there three times and I am pretty sure I will keep visiting this rather Flemish city at the northern France. When you see the architecture, you will know what I am talking about: bricks and gold.

Food is oriented on the fish and shells from the Northern sea. I captured this oyster seller at the streets of Lille, on early Sunday morning just preparing his tent.

That Sunday morning markets, however, were noisy and hectic…

The original inhabitants of this region were the Gauls. Until the Vikings came in 10th century.

The 16th and 17th centuries were marked by a boom in the regional textile industry, the Protestant revolts, and outbreaks of the Plague.

I am particularly in love with the city center of this city!
The charm of this city is that, despite being the largest in northern France, it doesn’t behave like a grand French city  – no pace for arrogance – only warm hearts here.

Place Charles de Gaulle

Opéra de Lille

And then the Bourse just there – the magnificent building open to host the flea market.

Bourse –
17th-century Old Stock Exchang

Then the Post-French Revolution period resulted with another economic growth as being close to the cities like Saint Omer, Brugge or Roubaix. But soon the Europe was back again in World Wars. In the aftermath – the art deco style and the Belle Epoque were present (that was the time of discovery of champagne). 🙂


Lille’s Art Deco city hall (1932)

Lille Cathedral or Basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille is a Roman Catholic church dating from 12th century.

Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille

Walking around and across the Old city I stumbled upon the Palace of Justice. Nice building!

Palais de la Justice

The city lays on the river La Doule. Not something particularly amazing but still nice and romantic.

Along the river Doule

Close to it is the citadelle Vauban. Thebuilding was raised in 17th century by one of the notable French kings. However, of course Napoleon used it up most.

Citadelle Vauban

Did you know that Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille?

He was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II.

Time to eat local! As I mentioned, the shells are on the main plate here!

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Porto, Portugal

Short one day trip from Lisbon to Porto! Not much time plus the rain, but oh boy, we enjoyed! 🙂

We rented a car and cross the country driving for almost 4 hours. We arrived to the hill where from you can beautifully sea the river Douro that flows into the Atlantic ocean.

With its historical core which was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 it is medieval and charming city and I have to admit – a unique city.

The city is famous for wine. And many cellars.

Wine, produced in the Douro valley, was already in the 13th century transported to Porto in barcos rabelos (flat sailing vessels). In 1703, the Methuen Treaty established the trade relations between Portugal and England and the rest is history.

Souvenirs from Porto

Porto’s Cathedral (‘Sé’) is the city’s most important church. Built in the 12th century, it’s a national monument. 

The Sao Bento train station has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations. The outside is super-cool, in a Belle Epoque Parisian kind of way, but it’s the interiors that will really knocked me out: the station lobby walls are covered with 20,000 decorative tiles, which took painter Jorge Colaço 11 years to complete, portraying scenes of Portuguese history, daily life and transportation (for the trainspotters). 

The rain was still falling but we fell in love with the city so despite the weather we continued walking around and enjoy as much as we could!

The last moments we spent in the cellars, of course. At the opposite site of Ribeira – the city center, being hosted by the most charming people enjoying the great wine, great sea food and amazing fado.

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Saint Omer and Nazi bunker visit, France

A weekend trip to northern France. 🙂 The region is called Pas de Calais.

It has been named due to its famous Saint Audomar who brought Christianity to the area.

The first stop was the main square where the Christmas market was held. We decided to have a glass of champagne (which was surprisingly a bit sour) and stroll down the food market to buy cheeses and eggs.

The main square contains typical 17th century buildings sticking together on a small but cold rain. This is the area of constant past conflict between French, Dutch, English and Spanish Army for the territory and dominance. Not to mention World Wars…

We were driving a bit more than two hours from Brussels. 

As it was past noon already we decided to go local and have a local cuisine: the welsh and local Saint Omer beer. 

Odd restaurant where we had lunch

The old cathedral was constructed almost entirely in the 13th century. The church contains Biblical paintings, a colossal statue of Christ seated between the Virgin Mary and St John – all dating from 13th century and presented by the emperor Charles V. 

And of course, the symbol of France like statue of Jeanne d’Orleans.

Walking around before we decided to get warm in some coffee place, I noticed the Palais de Justice and its portal. It was beautiful and richly representative for the small city like Saint Omer – indeed rich country, or at least it used to be.

The next stop was Saint Bertin Abbey ruins. It was one of the most powerful abbeys in Northern Europe during the entire medieval period.

Three monks founded the first benedictine abbey along the Aa river in the 7th century. These three monks, Momelin, Ebertram and Bertin were sent by St. Omer to evangelize the territories on the north.

The night we welcomed in beautiful holiday inn called Villa Saint Marguerite. We had a view on the lake and river Aa and listened the rain.

The next day we visited La Coupole!

Also known as the Coupole d’Helfaut-Wizernes and originally codenamed Bauvorhaben 21 (Building Project 21). It was a Second World War bunker complex located about 5 km from Saint Omer.

It was built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base for V-2 rockets directed against London and southern England. Luckily, the WW2 ended 2 weeks before they were launched.

We entered into this claustrophobic and moistened and depressive underground building. There were photo exhibitions about rockets from World Wars.

We watched the movie about Nazi occupation of French territory from where the Nazis were building rockets and bombard UK. However, Winston Churchill discovered their intentions and destroyed the rocket constructions by bombing from the air. The Nazis decided to go underground.

Poor engineers and camp prisoners were building the rocket in terrible conditions wearing the prison clothes.

V2 rockets production (photo from museum)

Of course, we all know how the World War ll ended. The main creator of this idea, the Nazi Wernher von Braun was later invided by US (even though he was a strong SS member) to become member of NASA and participate the project of first man landing to Moon. In fact, he created the rocket that landed on the Moon. You do the moral here.

Wernher van Braun and USA president Kennedy

We walked a bit more through the museum of French resistance and then entered the Planetarium. We sat into the chairs (more precisely we laid) and listened the guiding voice of nice French lady explaining us the solar system while the planets and stars were appearing in front of us in 4D technique.

Planetarium
Planetarium

Lunch time! Welsh again, but vegetarian version and brilliant local beer La Goudale 🙂 with pizza, of course!

The last thing we visited was Maison du Marais. Actually, we were not able to enter cause it is closed on Sunday but we made a walk around through the beautiful nature: the bog, birds, river Aa, tall grass…

For the end, let me show you the beer I decided to buy for home. In case you are interested in local dialect:

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Valencia, España

From a conference in Barcelona and visiting a friend, I was sent on a bus to meet another one 🙂 She picked me up at the bus station, brought her home and made the best paella valenciana ever! The best one!

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I arrived to Estacion del Norte in the city centre next to the Plaza de Toros de Valencia. 

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Estacion del Norte

At Plaza de Tores you can find the Collosseum aaand yes, you can nowadays watch the corrida there (the bull fights) – but rather don’t. 🙂

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Colloseum

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Corrida

Since the day was half gone, my friend wanted to impress me with the sunset light show to City of Art and Sciences. It is a complex of modern buildings and an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex . Very popular as one of 12 Treasures of Spain.

As the sun was setting down, the photos became prettier and prettier. 🙂

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The City of Arts and Sciences is situated on river Turia, which was drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood in 1957. The old riverbed was turned into a picturesque sunken park.

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Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona. Founded as a roman colony, and occupied by Moroccan and Arab Moors  in 8th century. You can see it in the architecture and art at some places in the city.

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Moorish influence in street art of Valencia

In 14th century kings of Aragon arrived but then in 18th century Philip V of Spain abolished the privileges as punishment to the kingdom of Valencia for aligning with the Habsburg side in the War of the Spanish Succession.

From these times are the Towers of Serrans – one of the twelve gates that was guarding the Christian city walls of Valencia. Built in Valencian Gothic style, this gate was used by kings to enter the city.

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Torres de Serranos

Where today is a Cathedral, (at Plaza de la Virgen) a Roman temple stood on this site, then a mosque, before the cathedral was built between (13th century), mixing Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque features. The legend says that inside possibly the original Holy Grail lays.

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St Mary’s Cathedral at Plaza de la Virgen

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Plaza de la Virgen

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St Mary’s Cathedral

 

We didn’t go inside, but we climbed on it and enjoyed the view.  🙂

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In the middle of the city’s old town is 13th century bell tower named after main clock bell el Micalet. 

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Torre del Micalet

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Old city passages

The last day we saved to go on the beach of Malvarosa. We took some food and beers and a kite (because it was windy day in March).

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Malvarosa beach

Valencia is also famous by its oranges of Valencia. Everywhere I looked around, especially on my way from Barcelona to Valencia, I could see the fileds planted with orange trees.

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Manchester love, UK

They call you love in Manchester. The taxi driver, the lady at the cashmashine, your friend that recently moved to Manchester, the guy who wants randomly pay your drink at the bar etc…

The vibe is so good.

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I arrived a bit before midnight to the airport at needed to take the taxi to my hotel.

I was happily surprised that Little Black Cab is waiting for me in front of the building. 🙂

And there is so many room in this car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hotel was a bit far away from the city – in Stockport. So I was taking a Doubledecker and explored a bit the suburbeans of Manchester. It is part of Greater Manchester and where the River Goyt and Tame merge to create the River Mersey.

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When I arrived to the city, my first stop was the Picadilly Gardens – there she was, the Queen Victoria sitting in her glory of imperialism. So I got my first hint – the city was developed under her reign.

I was caught with Saturday vibe, music in the street and youngsters scrolling down the center having their coffee-to-go. I shopped around, had my fast brunch and continue to discover.

The second stop was Town Hall – a Victorian, neo-gothic municipal building from 19th century.

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I continued my way to more victorian epoche – The John Ryland’s Library. Now, if you thought Manchester is culturally empty – you are wrong! This a late-Victorian neo-Gothic building on Deansgate was opened to public in 1900 by  Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands.

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Enriqueta Augustina Rylands

This victorian lady, meaning in seek for education got the special collections  believed to be among the largest in the United Kingdom from medieval illuminated manuscripts and examples of early European printing, including a Gutenberg Bible, the second largest collection of printing by William Caxton, and the most extensive collection of the editions of the Aldine Press of Venice – a Venetian humanist, scholar, and educators press foundation (probably the first in Europe) that printed Bible and literature wworks in local veneto language rather than in Latin due to mass education of people.

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Letter written by Martin Luther to Germany

 

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First edition of Ulysses by James Joyce

 

In the times of Reformation, King Henry VIII executed both Protestants and Catholics who challenged his reformation (Anglican Church). This included prominent figures like his Chancellor Thomas More who wrote Utopia, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation.

This public executions were suppose to serve as warning to others but they attracted the crowd from many cities across England.

 

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Example of print machine in The Library

 

With discovery of printing press the Lutheran’s message helped to spread across Europe and further to new continents.

Clearly it was a war in print as Luther printed many pamphlets and documents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below the examples of Martin Luther’s thesis agaist the Indulgence – (in the Roman Catholic Church) a grant by the Pope of remission of the temporal punishment in purgatory for money, widespread during the later Middle Ages.

Following this path, in 19th century Manchester became the world’s first great industrial city. It gained international reputation during the 19th century industrial revolution for making cotton and other textiles.

Many radical and innovative ideas about politics, economics and science have emerged from this complex urabn community. Hence I visited People’s History Museum where the story is told in following way:

123185-121653 (1)Manchester was the world’s first great industrial city. It gained an international reputation during the 19th century for making cotton and other textiles. As the production was spreading, the need for more people working on machines was needed but these were working in very poor conditions, 16 hours per day and child labour was a very known fact.

 

In 1819 during the peaceful demonstrations requiring the right to vote, 18 people were killed in the Peterloo Massacre.

The Industrial revolution was a period of great change which brought to Great Reform Act and Thories and Wigs and Liberals. The museum describes the roots of todays British political parties and establishment.

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The museum is former storage warehouse so I was making photos of rests of old machines, the dam door etc as it is placed at the river Irwell at Salford – former commercial area with many boats taking goods and warehouses.

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Canals and later railways provided efficient methods of transporting goods. The invention of steem machine resulted with first railway between Manchester and Liverpool.

Over the past 200 years Manchester have developed into a vibrant community. Individuals such as John Dalton achieved world – wide recognition for their contributions to science and technology. Hence first atom was split in Mnachester, first computer comes from Manchester University etc.

Several important political campaign started in Manchester including the sufragette movement. 

Frydryk Chopin (polish/ french composer) enjoyed his time in Manchester too. He visited the city a ear before his death in age of 39. He performed despite his great illness insisting to allow people of England to enjoy his music.

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In tribute to Frydryk Chopin

Continuing through Deansgate – a main road through the city centre I went to Manchester Cathedral and Medieval Quarter. My heart wanted to melt as I adore meadieval times and cozy wooden bars.

The Cathedral was currently under renovation, especially the tower.

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But this absolutely amazed me 🙂

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I needed to buy myself a book 😀 😀

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Talking about churches, I ended up in some Hidden Gem and entered the St Ann Church. The Holy Stations are completely 21st century – never seen so far and it is great mystery to discover the content even though is well known.

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The last tourist site I visited was the National Football Museum. I entered there for free. Don’t understand how but I was with some children’s group and we all entered and started to admire gained trophies of England.

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I finished my day in a pub drinking some local beer from Stockport of a funky name: Dizzie Blonde. That night the Manchester United and Newcastle were playing football and the rivalry was quite big. The crowd in pub was merry and cheerful. 🙂

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The next day I visited Liverpool.

But if anyone ever asks me to choose: Manchester is love!