Scotland – day 5

After a wonderful breakfast in our castle (that will never get old), we headed to the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary in Oban. I had hoped to see some otters and seals in the wild, but a trip to the Sea Life Sanctuary guaranteed that we would see some and it was also interesting to learn about the amazing work they do. It also meant that we saw some adorable cubs in the seal hospital, and I’ve just seen on Twitter that one of those cubs has now been released back into the wild.

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For our final night we would be back in Fort William, so we decided to drive back the scenic route taking in Kilchurn Castle, which took some finding! It was built in the mid-1400s but was abandoned in the 1700s.

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The next part of our scenic tour back to Fort William took in the stunning Glen Coe, which I have to admit did overwhelm me in its beauty and scale.

 

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Felt like we’d just been sent up someone’s drive…

 

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Glen Coe in the distance

 

 

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Glen Coe certainly felt like the climax of our trip, and it felt quite humbling standing in the middle and taking it all in.

For our last evening, we had a lovely meal in the Garrison West, a friendly pub where the bar staff talked us through some whiskeys! It was a gorgeous sunset for our last night, but unfortunately, I had left my camera at the hotel so I took these on my phone.

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A beautiful end to our last night on this trip.

 

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Scotland – day 3 (part 1)

On the morning of day 3, after a full Scottish breakfast, we visited Fort George. Fort George is one of the most impressive fortresses in Europe, it was built after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and is still an active military base.

But I had another reason for visiting, my Grandad had been based there in the 1950’s when he was doing National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps and I wanted to retrace his footsteps. He was very lucky to be sent to Fort George, in my opinion, as other places that the Royal Army Medical Corps were sent during this time included Korea.

It was quite surreal arriving at Fort George and walking around, imaging my Grandad there as a young man 60 years ago. I took some photos of him and his mates and tried to find where those photos may have been taken.

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I hope my Grandad had a nicer place to sleep than this!

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Day 3 (part 2) coming soon, where we visit the Cairngorms and spot a red squirrel!

 

 

 

Florence – exploring the city

Our recent trip to Italy began in Florence, I was excited to see the city as had heard so much about it from friends and colleagues. It is a stunning place, however, it is such a tourist trap that we didn’t enjoy walking the streets in the centre of the city. Too much hard work – especially in 34ºc heat! We did manage to find some quieter corners and some delicious food in local restaurants so, despite the crowds, I could enjoy the magic of such a beautiful city. DSCF8325

Our AirBnB was very close to the stunning Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, completed in 1436. It is an awe-inspiring building with white, pink and green marble adorning its outer walls. My boyfriend braved the climb up the Dome however, having seen Richard Ayoade and Rebel Wilson tackle the climb in Travel Man, I opted for a less strenuous activity. I went to the Palazzo Vacchio and explored the imposing chamber which featured a sculpture by Michelangelo (not the one, although a replica stands outside the museum entrance) and some beautifully decorated apartments which were the private quarters of Cosimo I. The Hall of Lilies was beautiful too – there were no photos allowed inside so I have nothing to share but I recommend a visit if you go to Florence (there was also no queue to visit the museum!).

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One morning we stumbled upon the Loggia dei Lanzi which is an open-air sculpture gallery and features some striking and intriguing sculptures. There are plenty of world-renowned galleries in Florence, but the queues are so long that we found it quite off-putting. It’s also a sad fact that when there are so many tourists just “ticking off” masterpieces, you can feel slightly herded along.

My boyfriend and I both felt this way when visiting the Vatican in Rome, so decided not to join the queues and see what we really wanted to without feeling an obligation.  I really recommend both the Palazzo Vacchio and this collection of sculptures which can both be enjoyed without queues – and the Loggia dei Lanzi is free!

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Above – The striking and disturbing masterpiece from Giambologna, Rape of the Sabine Women which was carved from a single block of stone.

Below – Another work from Giambologna, Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus, 1599.

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The famous Ponte Vecchio … a tourist hotspot!

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I hadn’t realised it at the time, but on the Ponte Santa Trinita there are 4 statues representing the four seasons. This particular one represents autumn, by Giovan Battista Caccini.

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To escape the crowds, we went for a wander on the other side of the river. We noticed that there was a fort on top of a hill which was unfortunately closed once we reached the top. But we enjoyed the walk and the views that it rewarded us with. The fort we were walking towards is the Forte di Belvedere and apparently offers stunning views of the city if it is open, it is probably worth checking the opening times before you make the trek – learn from our mistake.

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Despite the fort being closed, we loved our walk back down the hill through these wonderful streets. And look – no crowds!

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So that’s a brief overview of our exploration of Florence and some of the photographs I am most pleased with. Of course, our trip was mainly focused on seeing Radiohead perform at the Visarno Arena … have I mentioned that yet?

Look out for another post soon with some of my photographs taken in Bologna – taken in the rare moments when we weren’t busy eating pasta.

 

Sunset in Florence

I’m back in London after four fabulous days in Italy. I love visiting this country, and having already been to Rome, Verona and Venice, I was excited to explore some more Italian cities. This time my boyfriend and I went to Florence and Bologna. Our main reason for the trip was to see Radiohead perform at the Visarno Arena in Florence – a stunning setting for a phenomenal gig. But this was just the cherry on the cake. I’ll be sharing my photos over a few posts, but first I wanted to share one of my highlights. Watching the sun set over Florence. It’s a very touristy city, and I have to admit that it was a little too busy for us, but watching the sunset on the first night, we couldn’t deny it’s beauty.

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I have to admit I’m particularly proud of the shot above, taken kneeling down next to a pool/fountain of some kind halfway up the hill which we had climbed to admire the view.

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More posts from this trip to follow – watch this space!