A Postcard from Stockholm (Part 2 – The Museums)

Hello again! As promised, here is part 2 of my Postcard from Stockholm…

As I mentioned in the first part of my Postcard from Stockholm last week, we visited a few museums and tourist sites while we were visiting the beautiful capital city of Sweden. Our first museum visit was to the ABBA Museum in Djurgårdsvägen. It’s an amazing place, which charts the lives of the four band members from their childhoods, to their first meetings and the relationships which developed.

Their Eurovision Song Contest winning medal was on display with many pieces of memorabilia from their time at the top of the charts. There were mock ups of recording studios they used…

…and even their costume making department, which I particularly enjoyed being a dressmaking student myself.

Many of their stage costumes were there for you to admire up close too…

I couldn’t get over how slim they all were!

The work which must have gone into their costumes was incredible.

They even had the Spitting Image puppets which featured in this video

The museum was such fun, there were Karaoke booths for you to sing along, mixing desks for you to have a go at recreating the ‘ABBA sound’, a stage where you could dance and sing along with holograms of the band and I even got to sit in a helicopter just like the one which featured on the album cover ‘Arrival’.

I had a whale of a time and on a couple of occasions was disowned by my teenaged travelling companion. But it would have been rude not to have completely got involved in everything – don’t you think?!

I would highly recommend a visit to any ABBA fan, whether you remember the music the first time round or whether only came to know them recently through the Mama Mia films. ABBA, thank you for the music!

Nordiska Museet

The imposing building of the Nordiska Museet is just one tram stop along from the ABBA Museum in Djurgårdsvägen. Initially built to house exhibits from all the Nordic countries, it now only houses items from Sweden.

Inside it was equally beautiful…

And this rather portly regal gentleman welcomed us in…

King Gustav Vasa

The museum itself is dedicated to the cultural history of Sweden as well as its ethnography. Our first port of call was the exhibition detailing how Swedish homes have evolved over the years beginning with a typical farmer’s dwelling, which would have been shared with workers and livestock – especially in the cold winter months.

Right through to a 1960s style government built apartment, then a modern home decked out for a mid-summer celebration.

There was also an extensive collection of Swedish furniture over the years.

The exhibits which resonated with me most of all were the ones featuring arts and crafts. From the beautifully decorated clothes worn by the native Sami people..

To the folk art and traditional dowry gifts made ahead of weddings.

The embroidery was just beautiful…

Sweden is famous for its woven fabrics and literally thousands of examples of weaving were on display.

There was even a woven pictorial bible…

One exhibition which was right up my street was one dedicated to women’s fashion in the 1950s & 1960s and particularly home sewing.

Oh, to have a nipped-in waist to be able to carry one of those dresses off!!

City Hall (Stadshuset)

Another interesting place we visited while on our Stockholm adventure was the City Hall (pictured below in the view from our hotel room) on the island of Kungsholmen.

This beautiful red brick building is less than 100 years old and was built as a home for the local city council.

As it’s a functioning building and home to the City Council of Stockholm known as Stadshuset, tourists aren’t allowed to wander around at will. We signed up for one of the English speaking tours and were taken around by a lovely guide called Christopher.

The Blue Hall (above) was originally going to be plastered and painted blue but we were told that the architect liked the look of the traditional red bricks so left it like that – but the name stayed! Christopher led us up from the ‘Blue Hall’ and along a corridor which offered views to the internal courtyard below.

We were led into the council chambers which are used on a regular basis for political meetings and debates which can be viewed by the public from the public gallery (see auditorium at the rear of the chamber in photo below).

The ceiling in the chamber was beautiful. It was made to resemble the open roof of a traditional Viking longhouse.

As was the ceiling in one of the stairwells…

Above this ceiling stands the tower which has on its summit the three golden crowns, the crest of Stockholm. Our tour guide told us that as the tower was being built, a civic building in Copenhagen was also being built at the same time. As the Danish tower was taller than this one, the plans were altered to extend the original tower height, so that this one would stand 1 metre taller!

On from the stair well and into this beautiful hall, known as the Princes’ Gallery…

….where the walls were covered by murals painted by royalty – Prince Eugen.

Our next room was a true show stopper- the Golden Hall…

At the far end, the image shows the Queen of Lake Mälaren who sits on a throne and has the city of Stockholm on her lap. To her left is the western world, complete with the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Tower of London among other images of the ‘West’.

And to her right lie images of the East including an elephant, tiger and camel.

Stockholm’s industry and important Swedish historical figures as well as other significant chapters in the city’s past were depicted in the stunning mosaics.

It’s an absolutely mind blowing place – and to think all this mosaic work was completed in just 2 years!

We left the Golden Hall to return to the Blue Hall again, where we learned about its role in important celebrations. It is here where Nobel Prize winners are entertained with a banquet after the prize giving ceremony.

And those stairs down below were specially designed to assist the prize winners and other dignitaries (especially the ladies in their long dresses and high heels) navigate the stairs on their way down to the banquet while all eyes are upon them.

The stairs are apparently shallower in depth but are longer in length than ‘normal’ stairs to allow for a graceful descent and a special star (below) carved in the wall ahead is the point at which you should look to prevent you from falling or from looking down so the press photographers can get a decent photo of you!

Our tour was finished as we left the Blue Hall and said our thanks and goodbyes to Christopher, then we went outside to cross the courtyard and see the gardens and waterfront on the other side of the Stadshuset.

It was rather nippy outside for us Southern softies from the Med! We don’t see ice on the water where live!

Our trip to Stockholm was truly lovely, and if you ever get the chance to visit it for yourself, I’d highly recommend it. We were made to feel so welcome, and we hope one day, that we will be able to return.

A postcard from Stockholm (Part 1)

Recently I went on an adventure to Stockholm. It was a short city break but we packed a lot in!

I was traveling with Eldest, a Mum and son adventure. Our first taste of Sweden was at Stockholm Arlanda airport. The quietest, and most pleasant airport I’ve ever visited. People spoke in hushed tones – even the children in the play area sat quietly reading!

There was seating for so many people… no need to sit on the floor here! How civilized!

There was no problem finding out where to go to get the train into the City Centre! What a stunning station…

And here comes the train…

Our first impression of Sweden was incredibly positive….

…if a little bit colder than what we had left behind at home!

The view from our hotel room (above) was amazing – look at the frozen waterways below! The building with the golden tipped tower is Stockholm City Hall – where the Nobel Prize celebrations take place. There will be more on that later on…

On our first evening we headed out for a stroll to get our bearings. It was really rather chilly, but incredibly beautiful.

This building (above & below) belongs to the Swedish parliament.

And this square looked like something out of Bladerunner when it was lit up at night!

Back at our hotel our view came alive at night.

On the first full day of our trip we headed by tram through the City Centre to get to somewhere I just had to visit…

….the ABBA Museum!!

It was amazing and told the story of all four band members from their childhoods to their 1974 win at the Eurovision Song Contest and beyond…

I will be writing another post about all the museums and buildings we visited because there is too much to put into just one post!

Suffice to say, it was magnificent and a must-visit for any fan of ABBA!

Lunch had to be at Starbucks – I was traveling with a fan of the place and as we don’t have one in Gibraltar it’s a novelty. We did have a taste of Sweden though – this Cardamom Bolle was utterly delicious.

Talking of edibles. We had no end of giggles at the name of the chocolate (which is very nice by the way!)

I couldn’t visit a new country without going into a crafty shop could I? I was very restrained though and only bought one ball of yarn… but I could’ve got so much more if I had a bigger case!

Late afternoon/early evening we headed out to a dinner date which had been planned for us by Mr Postcard in advance. I think he wanted to make sure we tried some proper Swedish food, so he booked us a table at an award winning restaurant.

The atmosphere was cozy and welcoming, and the food very interesting…

We had crispy pork rinds with smoked mayo & dill flower as an appetizer. Then pork & chicken skewers, with baked cabbage with buttermilk & lovage. And for dessert, Petrus Bun bread pudding with Swedish punsch crème. The flavor combinations were completely new to me but very tasty.

Then it was back on the train to the hotel for the night…

On day 2 we crossed over from our hotel to visit the City Hall.

It’s a magestic building and only around 100 years old. This amazing golden hall took just 2 years to complete the mosaics! It was stunning to see.

It’s also the home of the Stockholm City Council….

… the council chamber has the most amazing ceiling.

After the City Hall, we took a tram to visit the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum).

Another imposing building…

With a rather regal gentleman to greet you as you enter!

It documented all kinds of Swedish life, from homes & furniture to celebrations and death. More will follow in part 2 of my Stockholm postcard.

On our wanderings we passed the Royal Palace (above) and had a mooch around the old town on the island of Gamla Stan…

…which is charming and full of character.

As night began to fall, we headed back out again in search of something we couldn’t come to Sweden without tasting….

….meatballs!

They were a bit special! And washed down perfectly with some Swedish beer! And that lovely meal brought our fabulous few days in Stockholm to an end, this was our last sunrise before heading back to the airport and flying home.

Thank you Stockholm for having us to stay and making us feel so welcome, we had a wonderful time and hope to return one day!

Remember that chocolate with the funny name? Well being the mature individual that I am, I had lots of fun with some other words I spotted on my travels…. (I will never truly grow up!).

Next week, I will share more about the museums we visited and the City Hall. Look out for part 2!

Postcard from Gibraltar Review of 2018

Well here we are at the end of another year, it’s been a year of crafty and photo challenges, and on the whole a good one for the Postcard clan. It’s only now I’ve taken a look back at what we’ve done that I realised that we’ve packed a lot in! Here are some of my highlights from 2018…

January

I started the year off with a lovely walk up the Rock, those paperwhite narcissi were photographed on New Year’s Day. After enjoying participating in a photo challenge in 2017 under the stewardship of Sandra at Wild Daffodil, I decided to have a go at running one in 2018, so #postcardfromgibfridayphoto was born on Instagram and in Blogland. I also embarked on the Seaside Stash Busting Blanket CAL in January too. Little did I know what fun it would become.

February

February saw plenty more crochet and a fair bit of watercolour painting, along with the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth to Gibraltar. The huge Royal Naval aircraft carrier was quite a sight to behold.

March

March, very fortunately for us was a month for travel, first to attempt skiing for the very first time in the Italian Dolomites – it was amazing, and second to take the Little Postcards on an Easter trip to the South of England.

April

We began April on Easter Sunday on the Jurassic Coast in Devon, then headed to London for a few days before heading home. It was a fun trip.

May

May meant Med Steps 5 Challenge, Gibraltar’s Comic Con and some lovely spring weather.

June

June brought with it the Calentita! food festival and my very first printed article in the Calentita! magazine. We celebrated World Environment Day and I had a go at Yarnbombing the Alameda Gardens!

July

Summer holidays we the order of the day in July (along with my now traditional annual Summer Craft Challenge). We headed off to Suffolk to help celebrate a big birthday for a member of the Postcard family. We traveled by plane, old trains and kayak! Which reminds me, we went to a fabulous country fair at Worstead, I really should get a post written about that…

August

August was spent in Suffolk, Gibraltar and visiting my family in Manchester. We watched acrobats and magicians in Gib and followed the Bee trail around Manchester.

September

Back to Gibraltar in time for school starting and the end of the Gibraltar Fair. We had National Day celebrations and the MTV Presents Gibraltar Calling Music Festival.

October

At midterm in October we headed off for a short break in Portugal. We’re so lucky to be able to drive to so many lovely places from where we live. This was also the month that I finished my Sandy Bay blanket.

November

November began for us in Portugal and ended with the Christmas light switch on with the fabulous Gibraltar Literary Festival in between. It’s a truly wonderful festival which happens right on our doorstep.

December

December saw the end of the Friday photo challenge I curated as well as a rather pleasant pre Christmas trip up the Med Steps

Thank you to everyone who has followed and read my posts this year, it’s been lovely to know that there’s someone out there actually reading them! I hope that 2018 has been a good year for you and that 2019 is too!

A postcard from Lagos

We’ve just had the midterm holidays and last week, we packed up the car and headed off to Portugal, Lagos to be precise. We’ve been to this part of the world a couple of times before but stayed closer to Portimão, this time we fancied a change of scenery and headed further west to Lagos.

We stayed in a lovely apartment on the western edge of Lagos. Sadly it was too nippy to make use of the outdoor pool (well for the softy grown-ups at least!). Can you see the Atlantic Ocean in the distance? It was a lovely spot.

Lagos has a rather pretty old town which is surrounded by city walls.

The archetypal Portuguese tiles are in abundance here.

Even the pavements are artistic…

And there are some gorgeous front doors too…

At the start of our visit to the city there was a craft fair going on in town. Housed in an old building which used to be a munitions store, it was the home for stalls selling needlework, jewelry, fused glass and cork items.

I was in my element and bought a few bits and bobs which will come in handy for Christmas presents.

Among the stalls was a marvelous collection of yarns and woven items.

The lady who runs this stall hand dyes all her yarns and weaves them into beautiful scarves and bags. She also sold balls of yarn…

She dyes the yarn using seeds, vegetables, bark (for the deep purple) and insects for the pink and red tones. I bought this gorgeous yarn which was coloured using tree roots.

If you would like to see more of her work, you can check out her Facebook page.

Another craft emporium had this fabulous window display;

It was run by a German couple who between them wrote books and poetry and whittled beautiful wooden jewelry. They had been living in Lagos for 20+ years and raised their children here. I bought some earrings made by the wife and a book of folk lore stories written and illustrated by the husband.

Zoo Lagos

One morning we took a drive out to Lagos Zoo. I’m uncomfortable with the whole ‘zoo’ thing but at this one, the animals seemed well cared for.

It was a perfect small zoo for young children. In some areas there were no fences at all, and some of the creatures just wandered around at will.

These pelicans caused quite a stir as they just ambled along the path amongst the visitors. We even got to see them being fed a little while later…

There were plenty of primates, many of whom lived on this primate island. The noise of the calls and booming cries could be heard a good distance away in the car park!

This bird had a really funky hairdo…

I’m told that this Pygmy hippo bore a more than passing resemblance to me…

I loved the flying foxes, they were fascinating to see up close.

My absolute favorites had to be the rainbow coloured parrots (macaws to be precise) and this angora nanny goat!

Lagos fort

At the western edge of Lagos seafront/riverfront stands an old fort-like building. Rectangular in shape, with lookout towers at each corner and with a drawbridge on the land side, it caught my eye the first time I saw it.

On our first trip into Lagos, we had tried to get in, but it was closed for lunch sadly. I made it my mission to be back in town one day while it was open to have a mosey inside.

Over the drawbridge and through the old wooden doors we went to buy our entrance tickets.

The Forte da Ponta da Bandeira is a restored 17th Century maritime fortress. On the ground floor are a series of small rooms which were being used as galleries displaying a photographic exhibition.

There was also a very small chapel, dedicated to Santa Barbara. It may be small, but there was such a calming, yet powerful atmosphere in there, and as you can see it was totally covered with traditional Portuguese tiles.

Up the ramp, to the upper floor…

… and the many wind sculptures…

They were so striking.

In each corner of the fort, as I mentioned, there is a little lookout turret, and we were able to go into three of them.

The narrow slit windows perfectly framed the views they looked out on…

…. both inland….

….and out to sea.

It was such a lovely spot.

Back downstairs, we found another small gallery featuring more work from the artist who had created the sculptures on the roof…

José Maria Silva Pereira is the artist who created these installations and the sculptures on the roof are called Caminhos do Vento (which I think translates of Paths of Wind). They were specially designed to be moved by the north wind which is common in Lagos during the summer months.

And that, is just about it for this postcard from the Algarve. We had a lovely few days, and mainly good weather, if you’re ever in this neck of the woods I’d definitely recommend a visit.

Sunday Sevens #161 4.11.18

Well it’s been a lovely half term week, we escaped to Portugal for a few days, and it was fab. Here’s this week’s Portuguese Sunday Sevens (well actually it’s Sunday Eights this week):

Hello Lagos

We woke up on Sunday morning to bright blue skies in Lagos, in the eastern Algarve. It’s a lovely seaside town which we visited for the day on our Portuguese holiday in summer 2017 and fancied seeing a bit more. There are a few pictures here in Sunday Sevens but a longer post will be coming your way soon…

And relax…

We did a few things while we were away, but it was overwhelmingly a holiday for doing nothing and it was delightful. I felt so relaxed and recharged, just what the doctor ordered!

Lagos Zoo

We took the Little Postcards to Lagos Zoo and were very surprised to see this pair of pelicans waddling towards us down the footpath! Where possible, there were no railings or fences, and it was great to see the animals up close.

Bad weather

While Gibraltar was being drenched with very heavy rainstorms midweek, we had bad weather too, but thankfully not quite as much rain as Gib.

Homeward bound

Our lovely time away came to an end and we hit the highway to head home. It’s always lovely to see the Rock come into view, so we know we’re nearly there.

Med steps and blue skies

It was gloriously beautiful day yesterday, I simply had to make the most of it and head up the Med Steps. It was like spring, and there were even narcissi out in bloom..

Instead of heading straight home as I usually do, I took a detour towards the Skywalk as it was such a beautiful day. I happened across a levitating ape!

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Sevens, back to normal from tomorrow as school restarts and we get back into a routine again. As always I’m linking with Natalie from Threads and Bobbins for this weekly blog series.

Sunday Sevens #144 8.7.18

It’s scorchio in Gibraltar today, I’m sitting by my open window out of the sun, slowly melting… here’s this week’s slightly sticky edition of Sunday Sevens…

Sunday lunch

Last Sunday we took an impromptu trip into Ocean Village for a lovely lunch. It wasn’t planned and it just worked to perfection; the food was lovely, everyone behaved well and we went home contented!

Party time

There was a birthday party this week… one of the Little Postcards is due to have his birthday in the summer holidays when many of his classmates are on holiday, so we brought the birthday celebrations forwards a bit so he could spend it with his friends. I find (my) children’s parties very stressful as a rule and approach them with great dread. I’m thrilled to say that on this occasion it went off without incident and the play zone we hired for the party had hardly anyone else in there at the same time so we almost had it to ourselves – which was bliss!

A floral rainbow

There seems to be a plethora of bright blousy blooms about at the moment in Gibraltar’s municipal flower beds. Here’s just a small selection.

Sewing school’s out for summer

My sewing lessons have come to an end for the summer break, I shall miss my morning sessions with sewing and banter with the girls. As it’s the end of term, I can now show you my finished dress… it’s taken almost a whole academic year to draft the pattern, make a cotton version to check for fitting and get the correct drape on the frill before making the actual dress.

I’m very pleased with it, especially as the fabric cost about €20 from La Linea market!! I just need the right occasion to wear it!

Happy post!

I have been watching Instagram enviously over the past few weeks seeing people announce that their latest Little Box of Crochet had arrived through the post. As usual mine arrived much later, as it has a longer distance to travel, on Thursday it finally arrived.

As I was in Catalan Bay anyway and the box has a special summer seaside theme, it seemed the perfect photo opportunity. I swear the folk watching me position it on an upturned boat and getting my focus right though I was bonkers…

Anyway, it arrived just in time for my annual summer craft challenge, which I started yesterday. My aim this year, as in the last two, is to do something crafty everyday throughout the school holidays in a bid to carve out a little bit of tranquil creativity while the world is going wild around me.

Last breakfast

Also on Thursday (in fact just before the above photo was taken) I popped out for one last moment of calm and tranquility before the end of term chaos ensued. The eggs Benedict I had was truly lovely! (Schools broke up on Friday and I had too many jobs to take care of to have my last breakfast then.)

A curry before kick off

Please excuse the repetitive food theme to these photos…. yesterday we decided to make a meal of it (well of a certain football match). It’s not every day England gets to the quarter finals of the World Cup is it? We headed out for a lovely curry before kick off and then stayed in the restaurant to watch the match. It was a perfect place – not too rowdy – as we had the Little Postcards with us.

Now, thanks to Messrs Maguire and Dele Alli we need to think of how we are going to spend the next semi-final match. I’m not sure my nerves can take it….

I wonder what I will be writing about England’s progress in next week’s Sunday Sevens??

Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope you have had a good week and that the one ahead is kind to you too. Until next time, bye for now.

I’m linking with Natalie from Threads and Bobbins for this weekly blog series.

A Postcard from Carcassonne

Last summer, we visited Southern France and stopped off for a few days in the beautiful medieval city of Carcassonne. It’s taken me a while, but at last, I have finally got round to writing this long awaited postcard….

Fate brought me and Carcassonne together. Several years ago, while visiting family in the UK we found ourselves with babysitters for a couple of hours one evening so we visited a nearby pub. The establishment in question had shelves of second hand books for drinkers to read and Mr Postcard perused the books as we waited for our drinks. He handed me a rather dog-eared green book with a golden circular labyrinth image on the front and said “I think that’s up your street”.

He was right. I read the blurb on the back and was immediately drawn in (we were at the pub with Mr Postcard’s brother and I was very antisocial I’m afraid, because I became absorbed by the book which had found its way into my hands). I felt a bit  disappointed when the time came to leave and go home, reluctantly I replaced the book on the shelf and made a mental note to hunt down my own copy.

Fortuitously, as we walked through the airport to catch our flight back to Gibraltar, I spotted a brand spanking new copy of the book in a shop and had just enough time to buy it before catching our plane. The book was Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.

I loved it, both the characters and the setting of Carcassonne. It sounded like such a magical, special place. For the first time ever, I felt compelled to visit a place I had read about. I had no idea when that would happen, just that I really wanted to go there. I went on to read the next two books in the Languedoc trilogy (Sepulchre & Citadel) and thoroughly enjoyed them both. I even got the members of the book club I belong to to read Labyrinth (I had to spread the love). Then, in 2015, I had the good fortune to be able to see a talk with the author, Kate Mosse, when she came to the Gibraltar Literary Festival.

I went to hear her talk about her latest book, the Taxidermist’s Daughter, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay on afterwards to meet her (as I had to dash off to collect a child). I rushed back later with said child in tow in the hope that I would be able to get my book signed.

I couldn’t believe my luck. As we arrived at the front door of the hall where Kate had been speaking, there she was, about to leave, alongside another literary heroine of mine, Joanne Harris. Totally star struck, and full of apologies for detaining her further I asked if she would mind signing my book. She was very gracious and obliged.

And so, several years had passed since I first laid eyes on Labyrinth and last summer we were planning a trip to France. There were two direct flights available from Malaga airport, to Paris and Toulouse. We opted for Toulouse as we fancied exploring somewhere we hadn’t visited before.

It was only after booking the flight that the penny dropped that Carcassonne wasn’t far from Toulouse. [I may have applied a little pressure for us to hire a car so we could have a day trip out to Carcassonne ;-)]. As it turned out, Mr Postcard surprised me by booking a gîte just outside the old city walls for a few nights so that we could explore Carcassonne properly. I can’t tell you how happy that made me!

I’m not sure I have enough superlatives to describe the medieval Cité. It’s just beautiful and as atmospheric as I imagined. We had a day or so to potter around the narrow streets by ourselves, before going on a pre-booked tour with a guide, so that we didn’t miss anything.

It’s taken me a while, but at last, I have finally got round to writing this long awaited postcard….

The ‘old’ Carcassonne sat on the hill above where we were staying, beckoning us up to explore…

The first thing I was struck by, was how well preserved the medieval Cité was. Sitting atop a hill with a clear view of the River Aude, it looked magestic. It hasn’t always been so though. After its heyday, the Cité fell into disrepair and locals moved out into the modern city on the opposite side of the river. Over time the stones of the Cité walls and its buildings began to be taken by scavengers who needed the stone for new buildings in the new city, effectively turning it into a quarry. It wasn’t until 1853 that Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was given the job of attempting to restore the Cité to its former glory. It is his Carcassonne which you see today when you visit.

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Although we did have plenty of time to explore the ancient streets and buildings ourselves, we decided to pay to join one of the official guided tours which left from the tourist office on a regular basis.

We gathered together under the giant horse chestnut trees outside the main entrance of the Cité to begin our tour. One of the first questions our guide asked was whether any of us English speakers had read Labyrinth. I was the only one and put my hand up. I just happened to have my copy with me (it was at this point that the Little Postcards died in embarrassment and ever so slightly disowned me! Cue the cry of “Muuuum! I can’t believe you brought that with you!”).

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We were led in over the drawbridge (which isn’t original, it was created during the renovation works).

Our first port of call was the Lices area between the two sets of ancient walls which encircle the Cité. Once filled with housing for the less well off in society, but now cleared to make a pleasant green area.

We then headed into the rabbit warren of streets and alleyways. Full of hidden corners and nookie holes and history. The architecture is really beautiful.

I won’t give you a blow by blow account of our tour, as I couldn’t do it justice. I’ll just share a few bits with you…

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I’m so glad that we did take the tour, the significance of certain buildings were highlighted and it put the Cité into a much clearer context both in medieval times and the intervening years. The most interesting thing I learned was that it became the Southern French HQ of the Gestapo during WWII and they took over the 5* Hotel de la Cité as they explored the surrounding mountains of Languedoc in search of buried Cathar treasure. In more recent times a host of celebrities from Michael Jackson to the Queen Mother have stayed there.

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The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire nearby is surrounded with some very ominous looking gargoyles. They must have seen some sights over the centuries!

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Inside the Cathedral are the most stunning stained glass windows.

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We bought tickets to go into the 12th Century Château Comtal, which is the only part of the Cité you have to pay to enter.

Another interesting fact is that the Château Comtal (which is where Alaïs, the heroine of Labyrinth lives at the start of the novel), was actually used as a location in the making of the Kevin Costner film; Robin Hood Prince of Theives. The exterior of the Château became the outside of Nottingham Castle, home to Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham.

While much of the Château is just a network of empty rooms which tourists wander through on a trail from one section to another, the views were pretty spectacular from the windows. (There may have been some really interesting stuff in there but I had a slightly impatient 5 year old with me, who’s patience had run out, so it was a bit of a whistle stop tour for us).

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Inside the Château is a collection of archaeological exhibits from the Cité’s past.

The end of the Château tour led us out onto the inner ramparts, which afforded us lovely views across the valley and to the more modern city beyond the River Aude.

Every day we were in Carcassonne, it was busy with tourists. However, as we were staying nearby, we were lucky enough to be able to come back up to the Cité in the evenings and enjoy it while the streets were a good bit quieter, and really soak up the atmosphere among the medieval buildings.

I had high hopes for Carcassonne before I had arrived, and it didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere and the architecture are just lovely. As an old romantic who would love to live in a castle, it was marvellous to spend some time there. So that was last summer, and as luck would have it just two weeks ago this beauty was published….

…. another Kate Mosse novel which is partially set in Carcassonne. This time I can read it knowing exactly what the places are like which are described in it’s pages. I had to patiently wait for my copy to make it down to Gibraltar, but now it’s here, and I’m off to put the kettle on and start reading!

Thanks for stopping by, and if you made it all the way to the end of this particularly long postcard – thank you! You deserve a pat on the back!!