Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Steen and Lange Wapper

The Steen and Lange Wapper

The Steen is all that remains of a much bigger castle that was built over the site of a 6th c fortress in Oude Werf, the oldest part of Antwerp.

The castle was built around 1200 and was the first building to be built of stone (steen in Dutch) and was the home of the Burgrave of Antwerp. The complex included a church, courthouse and several other buildings, all of which were protected by a defensive wall surrounding it.

Around 1520 the castle was thoroughly renovated by Charles V and you don’t need to have gone to Specsavers to see where the old and newer stone joins up.

Up unto the 1820s it was used as a prison, but later that century a decision was made to demolish most of the castle and Oude Werf district to prevent the Scheldt silting up. The port was vital to Antwerp, and so the river was widened and new quays built. It must have been a difficult decision to make as it involved knocking down over five hundred historic buildings, and even the Steen was only saved from the chop by a single vote.

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The Grote Markt

The Grote Markt

If someone was to ask me what Belgium is famous for, I would have to include Moules et Frites, beer, and maybe chocolate, but I would also have to add town squares to the list. It may sound a bit odd to lump a town square with food and drink, but they go together like Laurel and Hardy or Starsky and Hutch. In fact, I can’t think of anything better than to sit in a Grand Square with a plate of Moules et Frites and a Belgian beer.

The Grand Place in Brussels is probably the best-known square, but Antwerp has a pretty good one too, but as we’re in Flanders we’d better call it the Grote Markt.

The square is triangular in shape, if that makes any sense, and is dominated by its wonderful 16thc City Hall. In front of it is the Brabo Fountain, a famous Antwerp symbol, which requires further explanation.

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Marienviertel

Marienkirche and the Neptune Fountain

Marienviertel

The area on the north-east side of the Spree around Nikolaiviertel and Spandauer Str was the oldest part of Berlin. I say was because the events of the Second World War virtually wiped the whole area off the face of the map. Very little remained intact, and although the Nikolaiviertel district was put back together in a way that only the communist authorities could have thought looked good, the wasteland that was once known as Marienviertel, has been left more or less as an open concrete space between the river and the TV Tower.

Marienviertel is no longer known by that name, but literally speaking it means St. Mary’s Quarter, which pays homage to Marienkirche or St. Mary’s Church.

The church was the only building to be re-constructed in the quarter after the bombing and is worth visiting if only for its historical connection. The original church was built in the 13th century and now stands isolated on the edge of an unnamed square and adjacent to Karl-Liebknecht Str.

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Shieldaig

Shieldaig

Tucked away on Loch Shieldaig between Loch Torridon and Upper Loch Torridon is the picturesque village of Shieldaig.

Situated just off of the A896 Kinlochewe to Lochcarron road, it could easily be missed, but shouldn’t be.

The village was conceived in the early years of the 19th century when the Admiralty enticed families here with grants for housing and boat building. The idea was to build up a reserve force of able bodied seamen to help the Royal Navy out against Napoleon should the need arise, but fortunately for the men of Shieldaig it didn’t.

The name of Shieldaig seems to originate from Viking days and means Herring Bay, and the silver darlings gave fisher folk a source of income for many years. These days, the boats are more likely to return with prawns and mussels, rather than herring.

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Inverness

Inverness Castle and the River Ness

Inverness - Capital of The Highlands

Inverness is the self-proclaimed, and undisputed, capital of The Highlands.

Its strategic position at the end of the Great Glen where the River Ness flows into the Moray Firth, has meant that it’s always been at the historical heart of The Highlands, even if it isn’t geographically.

In 2000 it became Scotland’s 5th city, therefore making it the UK’s most northerly city, and one of the fastest growing. The city’s population in 2012 was 46,870, and 59,910 for the Greater Inverness area, which means that a quarter of the Highland population live in, or around, Inverness.

Historically speaking, its location made it an idea place for a battle or two, most notably at Culloden, but the biggest battle these days can be getting across the Keswick Bridge in rush hour.

Apart from Culloden (4 miles away) and Fort George (13 miles), both of which are connected to the Jacobite Uprising, there aren’t too many other tourist attractions for visitors to seek out. In fact, I’ve always seen Inverness as a place of convenience for a trip to The Highlands, rather than a destination in its own right.

Being the administrative and retail centre for the Highland area, the city lends itself more to the practical side of things, and it seems to be doing that pretty well because surveys in 2014, and again in 2015, show that Inverness to be the happiest place in Scotland.

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Newcastle-upon-Tyne

View of Newcastle Quayside from the Baltic Centre

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Shipbuilding, coal and bridges are all words that conjure up images of Newcastle, but so does nightlife, football and a sometimes hard to understand dialect.

This is a city that has always liked to work hard and play hard, but the native Geordies also jealously guard their city’s strong identity with a fierce pride that few other English cities can match. Newcastle is as much about the people as it is the city itself.

The city centre has an eclectic mix of medieval, Georgian, Victorian, and modern architecture, with Grey’s Monument standing pride of place at the top of Grey St which sweeps downhill towards Dean St and the Quayside.

The ‘New’ Castle is Norman in origin and built on the site where the Romans built a fort to guard Pons Aelius (Aelian Bridge). It was part of Hadrian’s Wall that passed through present day Newcastle and ended just outside the city boundary at the appropriately named Wallsend.

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Lambeth

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth

There are so many things to write about on London that it can be difficult to know how to categorise them all, and for me I find putting articles under the borough they belong to seems to make the most sense, so before I expand on some of the things to see and do in Lambeth, here is a brief introduction to the borough itself.

Lambeth is a long thin wedge of South London that runs for about seven miles from the Thames down to Streatham and West Norwood, but I think it’s fair to say that the riverside stretch between Gabriel’s Wharf and just slightly upstream of Vauxhall Bridge is the area that most visitors would be interested in.

Records show that in 1062 the area was called Lambehitha, which meant ‘Landing Place for Lambs’. It must have seen many changes since then, but for almost 800 years Lambeth Palace has continued to be the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England.

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The City of London Corporation

The Guildhall

The City of London Corporation

The City of London is run totally differently from any other part of London and I never really understood why, so to try and make some sense of it I’ve decided to unravel some of its history and workings and find out more.

It’s not my intentions for this article to appeal mainly to those who suffer from insomnia, and so I’ll gloss over much of it and just concentrate on the main reasons why the City has become what it has today.

There’s no official date as to when the City of London came under municipal control, but there’s proof that it was before the Norman Conquest, and that probably makes it the world’s oldest continuously elected local government authority.

In Saxon and medieval times, the authority was principally administered by Aldermen (Elder men), and they still hold important positions today. One Alderman is elected from each one of the 25 wards that make up the City of London.

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A Wander around Salisbury City Centre

Fish Row

A Wander around Salisbury City Centre

There’s no denying that the Cathedral and its Close are the main attractions in Salisbury, but the small city centre is worth exploring in its own right, and so I’ve devised this short walk with the aim of helping visitors get acquainted with what else there is to see.

For the most part, the points of interest on this walk are places that can be taken in without spending too much time on them, but it will obviously depend on the individual’s personal interests. To give you some idea on how long it will take, it could probably take somebody who was on a mission no more than 45 minutes, but I recommend at least double that.

The walk starts from the Guildhall in Market Square, but before starting off take a look along the row of buildings next to it. If you look up on the wall above Reeve the Baker you’ll see that this is known as Ox Row. Formerly known as Pot Row, this was one of many rows of stalls that originated in the Middle Ages and which later became more substantial permanent fixtures. Other names around here included Cordwainer Row, Ironmonger Row and Wheeler Row.

Between the Guildhall and Reeve the Baker there’s a small passageway which, if you can tear yourself away from the pies, pasties and cakes in the shop window, will bring you out into Fish Row with the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) on the left. If you want any information on Salisbury and the surrounding area this is the best place to get it.

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The Close

Chorister's Green

The Close

In my Salisbury Cathedral Pt 2 review I gave James Wyatt a bit of a rough time for his so-called improvements to the church, but I’m going to give ’Wrecker’ Wyatt a bit of credit here for a change.

Between 1789 and 1792 he embarked on his mission to improve the Cathedral and its surroundings including the churchyard which was situated in an area of swampy marshland. He removed the tombstones, drained the swamp, and created a landscape fit for a Cathedral.

It now stands in the centre of a large enclosed Green known as ‘The Close’, which is entered by one of three gates – the North Gate, St. Ann’s Gate, and Harnham Gate. Inside these gates is an oasis of peace and tranquillity no matter how many people come to visit the Cathedral. This is the largest Close in England with plenty of room for everyone and the buildings surrounding it are an absolute architectural delight. They’ve evolved over the centuries into a harmonious composition of different styles.

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