Posts Tagged With: architecture

Where I’m at

I’ve been quite out of sorts lately with my life.  I’ve been what I can only describe as numb when it comes to getting my thoughts out, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, writing or blogging, on the computer or on paper.  I’ve been questioning what has been my ultimate dream forever.  Do I still want to write?

I still have stories in my head, but I can’t seem to get them out.  A lack of ability or drive, or something else, I don’t know.

Is it because I don’t talk much most days, have I become locked in my head?

Is it because I don’t use the language as much, living in a foreign country?

Is it because I no longer want to escape my life into an imaginary world?

Is it because I no longer daydream?

Or is it because it’s not meant to be?

Is this a midlife crisis?



Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Barcelona Post #3 – random architecture

Both Stephen and I really enjoyed the architecture in the city – we were both constantly pointing and saying, “Look at that one.”  I especially loved the pretty balconies and stained glass windows.  Here’s a sampling of what we saw:


Architecture, Barcelona Spain


Barcelona Spain

Architecture Barcelona Spain



Barcelona Spain

Unique door handle


Agbar Tower



Former bullfighting arena

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grand Designs

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Stephen and I have been completely sucked into watching Grand Designs.  It’s a British series that follows a couple or family that is building a house that is somewhat “outside of the box.”  No cookie cutter, standard homes for these people.  These are people who buy crumbling 15th century castles and rebuild them, people who buy enormous former commercial buildings and refurb them, people who build giant white contemporary homes in the middle of quaint half-timber houses, people who use super-sustainable building products like straw insulation and composting toilets.

My favorites, for the most part, are the ones where they buy a crumbling historic property and try to bring it back to life.  I love crumbling ruins, they fascinate me, and seeing these people actually succeed at making a home out of them is amazing.  Especially when it doesn’t seem the building will even stay together long enough to fix the damage time has done.  What makes people think they can do this? A 15th century castle with only three walls, a collapsed roof, and a center wall that literally falls apart in three seconds while on camera?  Insane!

Even though both Stephen and I, while watching this show, agree that we will never build a house (ohmigod the stress!), I can’t help but want to give one of those crumbling ruins a second chance.  I simply love the idea.

So now, while traveling, every time we see an old house, falling apart, we’ll say, “Grand Design!”


Old house at Valley of the Temples in Sicily - Grand Design?

Old house at Valley of the Temples in Sicily – Grand Design?

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Normandy France, Day 5

Mont Saint Michel today!  And it’s just as beautiful as expected.

Since I knew we wouldn’t get to Mont Saint Michel very early, I wanted to arrive late, after 4pm as Rick Steves suggests.  So we stopped in Caen along the way and visited the Memorial Museum for Peace.  I didn’t take any photos while I was there.  It didn’t seem right, somehow.  And I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t like the museum.  That’s not to say it’s not incredibly educational and well put together – it absolutely is.  This  is a must see for WWII buffs, and it’s very educational – we saw several school groups there, and I think the museum did a very good job of putting all the information together in a wonderful way.

The drive through Western Normandy was spectacular – I absolutely loved the countryside.  Rolling hills, towns nestled in valleys or on hillsides, wind turbines and cows and poppies along the roadside – it was beautiful.  I took some photos from the car, but of course, they don’t do it justice.

Mont Saint Michel – wow.  Wowie-wow-wow.  We caught a glimpse of it from 10 miles away – floating “like a mirage on the horizon,” indeed.  I took entirely too many pictures, but here are just a few:

Mont Saint Michel from a distance

Mont Saint Michel – through the poppies! (For those that don’t know, I love poppies!)

Mont Saint Michel

We bypassed the main street and went up along the ramparts, as suggested. Glad we did – we missed the crowds and the kitschy shops. This is looking down on the main street-

I was captivated by the mud flats surrounding Mont Saint Michel.

A view of the smaller island through a window in the abbey – Mont Saint Michel

On top of Mont Saint Michel, looking down to the mud flats

Saint Michael at the top of Mont Saint Michel

Looking out from Mont Saint Michel over the mud flats and the reclaimed, salty pastureland

“Pilgrims” crossing the mudflats to Mont Saint Michel

It was absolutely gorgeous, and I definitely recommend you visit!

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Normandy France, Day 3

Rouen today!  Cathedrals, big clocks, and half-timbered houses galore.

Our day started out with an hour drive to the Southeast, a little later than I would have liked, but that came to be the norm.  But there was so much to do today, and I knew we wouldn’t have time, so we had to pick and choose.

I had wanted to go to Rouen on Saturday, as that was the big “market day.”  We started out at the Place du Vieux Marche and walked through the market – not nearly as exciting as I was hoping for.  Granted, I didn’t have much of a chance to really immerse myself in it.

We walked down past the palais de justice, a restored gothic building complete with gargoyles.  They had a great display on the Southwest side describing the damage to the building in WWII and the reconstruction.

Then we hit the Cathedral, which has a very rich history.  It contains the tombs of Richard the Lionheart and the Viking Rollo.    The Cathedral was painted quite often by Monet, and I hear that during the summer, they project these images on the facade of the Cathedral at night.

It was around 1pm, so a lot of the places we wanted to see were closed, so we went tot he Musee des Beaux-Arts and wandered around for a couple of hours.  They have a large collection of 17th century religious paintings – not my favorite school of art.  However, they did have a couple of cool things:

This was an installation in the stairwell (I didn’t get the artist’s name) – in the mirror, you can see that it’s a bullseye, but it’s distorted on the wall.

“Anamorphose d’apres L’Erection de la Croix de Pierre Paul Rubens” by Domenico Piola – this was pretty cool, you can see that it’s done in like a circular, distorted fashion, but when you have the reflection pole in the middle, it turns into something viewable.

After the museum, we were quite thirsty, so we stopped in at a nearby Brasserie and had some wine and a bit to eat.  I ordered the tomato and mozzerella appetizer, and Stephen ordered the charcuterie, and the waiter was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure?”  We wondered if we were going to get small plates, but no, it was plenty for us for a small lunch!

Then we hit the Ironworks Museum (link in French, you’ll need to translate).  I had read that this museum was pretty good, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to waste my time there.  But Stephen wants to do ironworking when he retires, so we stopped to check it out, and I’m glad we did – it was really great!  They have around 14,000 pieces of ironwork – lots of keys, but also signs that would have hung outside business, chests, sewing bobbins, scissors, swords, knives, and a ton of other stuff!

That’s a big gun…and if it’s iron, can you imagine how heavy it is?!

A sewing bobbin

Swiss Army Knife with eating utensils?

Hair irons

Did they have Hershey Bars 200 years ago?

We wandered down toward what turned out to be the Hotel de Ville, so we stopped in next door and toured St. Maclou.  The flying butresses and rose window were definite highlights.

After that, I wanted to check out the Plague Cemetery, but we missed it and got turned around (not sure how – we were right there).  Instead, we headed up to Le Gros Herloge (the Big Clock) just in time to get to walk to the top.  The audio tour was great, explaining a lot of what we were seeing, including the different parts of the building, the operation of the clock, and the history.  At the top, you can go outside and get a bird’s eye view of the city.

A view from inside the tower – see the little lamb pointing toward the hour (6)?

The view from the top – that’s the cathedral on the right, and the Church of St Ouen on the left, and in front of the cathedral you can see the mass of people on Rue Saint-Romain.

Some miscellaneous pictures from around town:

Half-timber buildings

A little park behind St Maclou

Stay tuned for Day 4: Taking it easy around Deauville and Trouville.

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Contest: Where should we go for our first vacation?

My husband is probably going to kill me for this.  He’s left it up to me to choose where we take our first vacation, and I am at a loss.  The problem?  I’ve never been to Europe, and I want to go EVERYWHERE. How the hell am I supposed to narrow it down to one place?  Where should we go first?  Hence…

THE CONTEST.  Tell me where we should go and why, and what we should see and do while we’re there.  Is it a vacation that you’ve been on and enjoyed?  Is it a dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take?  Is there a festival that we absolutely must attend?

DETAILS: We’re going for about 7 days, around the end of May, early June.  We like art and architecture, food, wine, history, and the outdoors.  I’ve never been to Europe before moving to Finland.  Hubster lived in Germany for a spell, and has traveled some, including Paris and Rome.

THE PRIZE:  A nice little gift from wherever we go.  Do you collect anything – snow globes, shot glasses, ornaments?  Is there something in particular you want from the area – soap, textiles?  A pretty piece of handmade jewelry?  Let me know if you want something in particular!  (Don’t tell me in the comments – I’ll contact the winner to find out what you want.)

Leave your suggestions in the comments below by 4pm GMT, Wednesday February 29th.  (That’s 11am EST.)

(FYI – currently on the Want To Travel To List, in no particular order:  UK, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Poland, Budapest, Prague, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and more.  You can see my issue about trying to determine where to go first!)

Ready.  Set.  GO!

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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