A London walk – Rotherhithe, the Mayflower and more

I first moved to the SW London area, as an 18 year old student. I haven’t lived in London since I had my family but I still enjoy visiting the capital and discovering new areas. I especially enjoy walking in London. When I was younger, I was always rushing everywhere and I’m not sure that I fully appreciated my surroundings

This latest walk began at Rotherhithe station. It is located on the South Bank of the River Thames in Southwark. I had caught the train from Clapham Junction which is always frantic. I was surprised by how quiet it was when I came out of Rotherhithe station.

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I was with a friend who had done the walk before and she suggested that we start at the Mayflower Pub. This is said to be the oldest pub on the Thames.

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The pub is named after the ship which left from here in 1620. Aboard were the Pilgrim Fathers bound for America.

Apparently, the pub is the only place in England licensed to sell American postage stamps.

There is a very attractive outside decked area where you can sit and enjoy the incredible views across the Thames.

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The pub is very quaint, traditional and atmospheric. It is filled with interesting artefacts. The sign below is on the way into the pub. It made me think!

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The Mayflower’s captain, Christopher Jones, is buried in the nearby St Mary’s Church. He was buried here in 1622, aged 55. The sculpture, representing Captain Christopher Jones, was made by Jamie Sargeant and unveiled in 1995. It’s very impressive.

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Our next stop was through the churchyard to St Mary’s Free School. This was founded in 1613 by  Peter Hills and Robert Bell. It was originally set up to educate 8 sons of seafarers from the parish. By the early eighteenth century, the school had expanded to educate 65 boys and 50 girls.

I  particularly liked the two stone statues of the school children who ‘guard’ the entrance.

As we continued on our walk, I was surprised by how much there was to see along the way. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see the remains of King Edward the Third’s Manor House. It was built in 1350 and was probably used as a place where the King could practise his falconry.

Our next stop was to look at the bronze sculptures known as ‘Dr Salter’s Daydream’. Dr Alfred Salter and his wife Ada were well known for their community work in the Bermondsey slums in the early 1900s. They treated their patients for free. This was before our wonderful (in my opinion) NHS was available. Ada became Mayor of Bermondsey in 1922. She was the first female London Mayor. They had a much beloved daughter, Joyce. Sadly, she died after catching scarlet fever at the age of eight.

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There are bronze statues, created by Diane Gorvin, of the whole family and Joyce’s pet cat. Unfortunately, I only managed to get decent photos of two of the figures.

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I love the sculpture of the cat on top of the wall, looking as if it is about to pounce. You can just glimpse the Thames behind.

In the other photo of Ada Salter, I like the sky line and the different London sights that can be spotted.

IMG_0824We then concluded our walk back to London Bridge Station. This walk could easily be extended by continuing along the South Bank until Waterloo and beyond!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little stroll with me to a lesser known part of London!

Blogging bits and bobs!

‘Confessions of a bad blogger’ was the other title I had in mind for this post!

This is mainly because I have been nominated for a blogging award and I have done nothing about it. I haven’t even thanked the blogger who nominated me. Sometimes life just gets in the way.
blogawardI have been nominated for a Blogger Recognition Award by Enzo Martinelli whose blog is called ‘Travel, good food, arts and more’ and can be found at https://enzomartinelli.wordpress.com/

Thank you, Enzo!

2B8DF9E5-15E0-4912-8D37-8C11A9119491Enzo writes on a variety of fascinating topics and he is multilingual. Impressive! Do have a look at Enzo’s blog. I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?
It is an award that is given to bloggers by bloggers to encourage, acknowledge and promote the hard work and effort that goes into creating their blogs. It’s an opportunity for bloggers to recognize one another for their contributions, both to their blog and the blogging community.

Award Rules:

  • Thank the nominator, and publish a post on your blog about receiving the Blogger Recognition Award. Make sure to provide a link to the nominator’s blog in your post.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award, and inform them of their nomination.

How my blog started:

I’ve always enjoyed writing and, having been inspired by other bloggers, felt that my love of France and search for a French house would be the focus for my blog. ‘FancyingFrance’ is definitely a creative outlet for me. I really enjoy the writing process.

Two pieces of advice to new bloggers:

  • Enjoy and have fun with your blog. Otherwise, what’s the point? (Unless you’re a ‘professional’ blogger, of course.)
  • Connect with other bloggers. I read many blogs before I started my own and found them inspirational. I often comment on other blogs and really appreciate comments on mine.

I would also say that, in my opinion, it is not necessary to follow any ‘ blogging rules’. However, there is plenty of blogging advice out there, should you want some support.

Nominate other bloggers for this award:

I recently nominated certain bloggers for the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award‘. There are so many brilliant blogs that I enjoy and it seems that most of them have (well deserved) awards already. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to think about my nominations a bit longer. Watch this space…

As for my own blog, I have chosen a new theme which I will be uploading very soon. Fingers crossed that I don’t lose any parts of my blog, in the process!

 

Heatwave

It is very hot here in SW France. Temperatures are currently 38C. We were in the UK when the previous heatwave hit France. Not this time.

I follow the official Castelnaudary Facebook page. It has all sorts of useful information. Like this:
IMG_0425Luckily, at our house we have these:

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Shutters. These are invaluable when it comes to hot weather. We keep our bedroom shutters closed as soon as the sun is on the front of the house. They stay closed all day and help to keep the room as cool as possible. They are so effective that we are considering investing in some internal shutters for our bedroom in the UK. We do have blackout blinds but they don’t seem to work as well. Or perhaps we should go back to good old fashioned curtains!

We also have fans. Not quite like the one below but very efficient, just the same.

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Last but not least.

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When we were looking for our French home, a swimming pool was never a priority for me. But it’s given such pleasure to our sons, their friends and other guests that I’m pleased we do have one. In this very hot weather when I can’t do my usual amount of walking, I’m very pleased to be able to swim a few lengths and get my exercise that way.

I can remember when sunbathing was something that most people did. At the time we weren’t aware of the risks. As a hard up student in France, I can remember when we bought cooking oil and covered ourselves. The result being that we ‘fried’ and a fair skinned friend ended up in hospital with sunstroke.

Now I am careful. I’m fortunate to be olive skinned but I’m much more aware of the damage the sun can do. I wear a moisturiser with a high SP factor, every day, even in the winter and I always carry sunscreen in my bag.

Currently, the advice here is to stay out of the sun between 11.00 and 21.00h.

I still love sunlight but I find I just can’t take the sun and the heat the way I once could. Is it part of the ageing process, global warning or a combination?

Early in June, when we were back in the UK, there was a cold spell and we resorted to putting the heating on in the evenings. I did mention to Mr FF that if I ever say I’m too hot, just shoot me. Oops!

Are you a sun worshipper? Do you love the heat? I’d love to know!

 

Monday market, Castelnaudary.

I love wandering around a French market. I always have! You might be wondering why? To me French markets are a symbol of  French life and tradition. Not to mention that they are colourful, lively and full of tempting goods and interesting characters.

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Photo by Dennis Dude: freeimages.com

Our local market takes place on a Monday morning and I would say it’s fairly typical of a small French town market. It has local produce as well as products bought in from further afield. You can buy fruit, veg, wine, cheese, meat, bread, eggs and many other food items.

You can see, in the photo below, that the school holidays have already begun in France!

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There are also stalls selling clothes, shoes, belts and other accessories. Not forgetting tools, kitchen items and baskets. Here is the basket I bought a couple of years ago. I mainly use it for transporting all the materials I need for my English lessons but I do take it to the market as well.

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Markets are not necessarily cheaper than supermarkets and you are likely to pay extra for quality and freshness but you can’t put a price on the atmosphere!

When I first visited the market in Castelnaudary, I was overwhelmed by the choice. Although I knew it would be a useful indication to look out for the stalls that have queues.

Luckily one of my English students, who is very much a local resident and has been for many years, offered to give me an insiders guide to the market. We met up bright and early and she introduced me to the stalls that offered the best local produce (in her opinion!) and also to some of the stall holders. Very useful!img_0174.jpeg

The stall pictured below has local produce. One of the clues is in the sign. Castelnaudary is in the Aude department of the Occitanie region. This was formerly known as Languedoc Roussillon. This area is well known for its link to the Cathars. I am fascinated by the history of the Cathars. Perhaps a future blog post?

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The stall above only sold two products: apricots and nectarines. It was very popular and had a long queue. As Brits, we are stereotypically known for our queuing abilities. I have to confess that I find it hard to accept the inability of some nationalities to queue ‘properly’!!

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I was most impressed by the person in front of me. She took out her brown paper bags for reuse.

The original market was, and still is, held in the Place de Verdun. It has recently been renovated but remains a shady square edged with shops and cafés .  This is just one part of the market which extends into the Place de La République.

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The square and surrounding streets also have  some interesting and decorative 18th – 19th century grand townhouses. Not in these photos, however!

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As we walked from Place Verdun, we looked up to see these colourful kites.

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To make the most of the market, we had got up early and going from stall to stall is hungry work. We decided a pain aux raisins and a strong coffee was needed.

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It was now time to make our final purchases, a jar of honey and a rotisserie chicken.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief glimpse of our local market.

Espadrilles

I probably bought my first pair of espadrilles when I was a student in France. This was partly because I thought they would make me look more French and also because they were cheap! I have been wearing them ever since. Not the same pair!!

My latest espadrilles were purchased very recently. They have a wedge heel and they are very comfortable. There was a time when I wore ‘Killer heels’ but those days are long gone. I liked this style so much that I bought two pairs, one navy and one black!

79C043DD-7AA2-4725-81EA-63DD6D8FB94CEspadrilles have been around for centuries. They can be traced back to the 13th century to the Occitane and Catalan areas of France and Spain. Apparently, the name of the shoe is derived from the word ‘esperato’. This is the type of plant that was used to make the very recognisable espadrille sole.

Known for their practicality, espadrilles were worn by soldiers, workers and priests, amongst others.

When we were in Perpignan recently, we visited an exhibition which focused on the Sardana, the Catalan national dance. We saw photos of the dancers wearing espadrilles with ribbon ties.

Espadrilles did not stray far from their place of origin, in the Basque country, until the 19th Century when they started to be sold, in much larger quantities, in the French city of Mauléon. At this time, the shoes were hand-made by inhabitants of local villages and collected door-to-door.

Between 1850 and 1880 the method of production progressed from traditional to pre-industrial. From 1880 onwards espadrilles were manufactured in factories using machinery that was adapted over time.

Even today Mauléon is a hub of the espadrille industry, although not as big as it once was. If you are ever in Mauléon you can always visit their factory and shop if you want to buy some authentic espadrilles. If you have a look at the clip at the end of this post, you can find out more.

Another famous producer of espadrilles is the Spanish manufacturer Castañer. This company was founded in 1927. But it was a meeting with Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s, at a Parisian trade show, that lead to the creation of the first wedge espadrille. The pair below are from the current Castañer range and are in the sale at 156 euros. Bit out of my price range but they are fun!
021182-4145-1Espadrilles are worn by women, men and children. Salvador Dali often worn a pair of black ones with laces. He isn’t the only ‘celebrity’ to wear them, of course. Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Don Johnson (star of the original Miami Vice) are just a few of the stars who have sported espadrilles across the years.

Are you a fan of espadrilles? Or perhaps you don’t find them comfortable or stylish? I’d love to know!

 

French doors but why are they French?!

This was the question that I was asked by one of my closest friends. (You know who you are!) Unfortunately, I didn’t know the answer. Time for some research.

To me, French doors are full length doors, usually with small panes of glass, which open directly from an indoor room into a garden. Nowadays, we are more likely to talk about patio doors.

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I looked up the dictionary definition. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, French doors are ‘a pair of  glass doors usually opening from the back of a house into  its garden’.

The Collins dictionary says this ‘a pair of casement windows extending to floor level and opening onto a balcony, garden, etc.’

Neither tell me why French doors are called French.

However, my research tells me that the origin of French doors can be traced back to the 16th – 17th Century and the influence of Italian Renaissance design. As this was prior to electricity, light in houses was very important or, more importantly, lack of light! Therefore, a window like door with full length glass panes would let in more light.

French doors actually started as floor length windows that led on to small balconies, usually on the upper stories of homes.
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Over time, these doors were to be found on the ground floor where they are still popular today.

Does these mean that French doors are actually Italian?!

In our French home, we have a total of 5 sets of French doors. I love them because they let in so much light and air. In the photo below, three sets can be spotted.

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Are you a fan of French doors or do you prefer modern patio or bifold doors? I’d love to know.