Caernarfon: Within These Town Walls

Market Hall - Looking north in Caernarfon

Caernarfon is an historical town located in north-east Wales. It is famous for the imposing and magnificent Caernarfon Castle, one of King Edward I’s famous castles, but its name derives from the time that it was a Roman fortification. Caernarfon was named Segontium in Roman times but it was an important strategic post against Ynys Môn (now known as the the Isle of Anglesey) and thus the current name derives from the Welsh name "y gaer yn Arfon" which means "the stronghold in the land over against Môn".

There is evidence that Caernarfon has been inhabited since pre-historic times by the Celtic tribe the Ordovices. The Ordovices were subjugated by the Romans and used in their battles against the druids living on Môn.

Môn was also known as the isle of Mona and historians might know that Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus moved on from the absolute destruction and devastation of Mona to defeating Queen Boudica in the battle of Watling Street in 60 or 61AD. I would apologise for the impromptu history lesson but I am fascinated with anything to do with Boudica!

Looking east in Caernarfon

Caernarfon is a special treat for a castle lover like me because in addition to the magnificent castle, the town itself is surrounded by town walls that were built at the time the castle was built (1283-1285).  The photo at the top shows the view looking north, towards Anglesey.  You can see the famous Market Hall which was built in 1832.  If you click on the photo, you will be able to see the northern walls in the distance. 

The photo above shows the view of the East Gate, one of two original entrances to the town.  Caernarfon has extended beyond the boundaries of the town walls and that is the road you would take to access the new town.

The Black Boy Inn Caernarfon

Another view of the northern wall.  On the left, you can find the Black Boy Inn which was built circa 1522.  You can still stay at the inn, giving you the privilege of staying within the town walls, and you may or may not be happy to know that the price of a room no longer includes a free bottle of gin and the services of a young lady for the night.

On the inn’s website, they say that the archway through the wall was not part of the original design but was only added in the 19th century to aid the flow of traffic in and out of the old town.

Castle walls and playground Caernarfon

This is the north-eastern tower of the town walls.  It is one of the eight towers and is in remarkable condition given that it was built over 725 years ago!  It is difficult to see, but the tower is still mostly intact and you can get a better idea of the intact state of the entire wall by checking out this aerial view on Bing maps.

Looking West in Caernarfon

This is the view to the west, showing the West or Water Gate.  In 1854, the The Royal Welsh Yacht Club took the West Gate as its clubhouse.

Market Hall Caernarfon

The old Market Hall is still in use today although I doubt that they still use this old lifting mechanism.  I love seeing old contraptions like this though.

Looking towards Caernarfon Castle

Having explored north, east and west within the old town walls of Caernarfon, it was time to head south, towards the grand Caernarfon Castle.  I love the photo above with the narrow street, shops, pub and castle up ahead.  There is something unmistakeably Welsh about the scene, especially when you notice the bilingual signs everywhere.

Caernarfon town

The new town of Caernarfon seems almost plain in comparison to the charming old town that resides within the town walls.

Returning to Novi Sad, Serbia

Fruska Gora Serbia

Apart from posting photos of warm and sunny places, I have another cunning trick for avoiding the winter blues this season: planning my vacations outside of the UK next year.  For various boring reasons, not least of which was the fact that Stephen was applying for his British citizenship and passport, we haven’t left this country since January 1st. I don’t know why this makes me so sad, but perhaps it is because we are so close to the wonders that Europe has to offer.

It is our tenth wedding anniversary next year, so I have demanded planned a trip to Italy in April.  We were also planning on going to Croatia and Bosnia in September but that might not pan out anymore.  We’re definitely going to South Africa in December though. 

With all that travel planned, I still wanted to return to Serbia, the country I fell in love with last year.  So I made a promise to myself: if I could manage to put aside some extra money, I would reward myself with a short trip.  It worked and I can finally say with some certainty that I will return to Serbia in 2012.

So this week’s instalment of Blue Skies and Sunshine is dedicated to Serbia.  This time I intend to spend at least 1-2 days in Belgrade as I didn’t see much of the city last time, apart from the airport.  It would be great if we could spend some time in the famous Fruška Gora mountains too, if only so that I can smell that glorious pine-scented air again.

Petrovaradin Fortress Novi Sad Serbia

I haven’t decided whether my trip will coincide with the Exit Festival again.  The problem is that the more time I spend at the festival at night, the less I am going to see of the surrounding city and area.  Regardless of when I go, I intend to explore more of the Petrovaradin Fortress, especially during the day.  Exit Festival is held inside an exquisite 18th century Austrian fortress, making it the most beautiful festival I have ever attended.

The Slovak Lutheran Church Novi Sad

I also hope to see more of the streets of Novi Sad and Belgrade, to observe the stunning architecture and the contrast between old and new.  I want to see more of the graffiti and street signs, especially as I’ll be able to read it this time (I taught myself to read Cyrillic after my last visit).

I’d also like to visit some of the towns and cities in the surrounding area of Vojvodina, maybe Pančevo or Subotica. That would only really be possible if I didn’t visit during festival time.  I guess I’ll have to wait to see who is headlining before I decide.

Novi Sad countryside

When I visited in 2010, we went up into the mountains for a barbeque with Maja’s friends.  There was something so familiar about it all, about the hills and countryside, the pig on the spit, the friends sitting around the fire, chatting all afternoon and drinking beer.  It really reminded me of South Africa and it just felt like home.  Home with a stunning array of neoclassical and Baroque renaissance architecture just a half hour away.

Art by Offenders at Royal Festival Hall

The Great White Shark by Adie McLellanThe Great White Shark, Adie McLellan, HM Prison Wayland, Norfolk

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Jenny Woolf’s blog An English Travel Writer and I saw that she had been to a fascinating exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank.  The exhibition was called Art by Offenders, Secure Patients and Detainees and it is run by the Koestler Trust, the body that awards, exhibits and sells the artwork of offenders, detainees and secure patients in the UK.

Jenny mentioned that the exhibition was in its final days (it closed on Sunday) and I knew I just had to visit it myself.

In a word, I was amazed by what I saw.  The level of talent, expression and emotion expressed in these works of art was incredible and I was really touched.

The work above was created using matchsticks and it must have taking extreme patience, focus and time to complete.  Lots of time.

Art by Offenders-The Heeds 1-Know Your Enemy-Misspent YouthThe Heed 1, Garry Slavem, HM Prison Addiewell, Scotland
Know Your Enemy, Anon, HM Prison Shotts, Scotland
Misspent Youth, Daniel Hogg, Bracknell Probation Service, Berkshire

This is not the type of exhibition that you rush around, that is for sure.  The pieces just seem to draw you in, to demand that you consider them, look at them and think about them. For instance, in Know Your Enemy, the artist commented on the fact that society judges and pigeon-holes people based on appearances or circumstances which causes alienation and marginalisation.  But we mustn’t jump to conclusions as maybe this character is not the enemy after all. 

Misspent Youth - Art by OffendersMisspent Youth, Daniel Hogg, Bracknell Probation Service, Berkshire

This piece of work really impressed me and the strangest thing is that I was going to walk past it when it pulled me back.  I realised that the brush on the left (see above) was the finished product, the person who grew up, completed their rites of passage.  And the unfinished work represented the person who fell into crime, drugs or gangs at a young age.  I totally got that.  So many of the people I have spoken to who have overcome those early experiences feel that there were so many areas of their life that were left unfinished, so many things they had to learn about the most basic things when they entered back into the mainstream.  This artist has left prison now, having completed A-level art in prison, and is now completing an art degree.

Not So Amazing by AnonNot So Amazing, Anon, HM Prison Whatton, Nottingham

The work above was quite interesting and I tried to get a close up of the detail (you can click on the photo for a better look).  The man on the far left has “I’m not a number” written on his shirt and the prison is called HMP Mazed.  I love the play on words and the depiction of the prison as a maze.  This painting won the James Wood Q.C. Platinum Award and was submitted for the theme ‘Help’.

The Charlton Athletic Football Fan by Paul DenhamThe Charlton Athletic Football Fan, Paul Denham, Salinas Valley State Prison, California, USA

The image above caught my eye not only because of the unusual scene that it depicts but also because of the artists’ sense of humour in the title that he chose.   It occurred to me that spending time in a prison a million miles away from home must be incredibly difficult and I wonder whether he needs to hold on to his identity as an English football fan.

Inner Turmoils by Sebastion WilburInner Turmoils, Sebastion Wilbur, John Howard Centre, London (secure psychiatric centre)

The detail on this piece was incredible and much of this piece was done in pen on paper.  It had been torn in places and it was quite sad as although framed, putting it behind glass would have detracted from it, so I feel it is a fragile piece of work.  As the curator remarked, it is as though the artist poured his emotions out of his head and into his hand.

Art by OffendersHeads Up, Anon, HM Prison Pentonville, London
The Dallery, Group of 2, HM Prison Hewell, Worcestershire
Prison of the Future, Anon, HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, London
Demon in Solitary, Dean Polley, HM Prison Littlehey
They Still Wear Suits Like This, Don’t They?, Michael Lester, HM Prison Shepton Mallet
All Alone, Richard Gordon, HM Prison Lindholme, Doncaster

I found many of the images above quite powerful.  In The Dallery, the woman’s sense of isolation and resignation is quite clear, especially when you notice that her eyes are closed beneath her sunglasses.  They Still Wear Suits Like This, Don’t They? was especially powerful and reminded me that individuals often spend upwards of 25 years behind bars only to emerge into a completely different world from the one they left behind.

Untitled by Darren PerryUntitled,Darren Perry, HM Prison Ranby, Nottinghamshire

The artist explained that the work above was about how "many prisoners get out and take for granted all the really good things they have". I thought this was quite an important message and wonder how many of us sit through our lives ignoring what is right in front of us.

Art by Offenders montageWho’s Bad, Bevan Davidson, HM Prison Hewell, Worcestershire
They Still Wear Suits Like This, Don’t They?, Michael Lester, HM Prison Shepton Mallet
Last Supper, Christopher Courana, Swinfen Hall Young Offender Institution
My World, Anon, HM Prison Full Sutton, York 
Disappoint Man, Anon, Feltham Young Offender Institution, London 
U Got Mail, Anon, HM Prison Shotts, Scotland 
Door, Mukhtak Noor, Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre

I stood looking at this collection of works for a long time, as did a man next to me. I was particularly taken with the Michael Lester piece, as mentioned above, and also Mukhtak Noor’s Door.  I felt quite strange that we have ‘immigration removal centres’ and it felt a bit like the England of Children of Men, not the civilised country I thought I was moving to.  The man next to me stood looking at U Got Mail for a long time and then remarked to me how powerful that feeling is, receiving a letter in prison.

Life- by Group of 8Life?, Group of 8, HM Prison & Young Offender Institution, Hydebank Wood, NI

This group work is so simple and yet it raises so many questions.  What is life? What is life in prison? Is that life? A very good piece.

My Twisted Path to A Lightermint by AnonMy Twisted Path to A Lightermint, Anon, HM Prison Whatton, Nottingham

This last piece really impressed me because it was so current and it dealt with so many of the issues that are facing people today.  It cannot be easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the law and to feel that the whole system is against you.  I quite liked the humour in the title of this one too.

My Twisted Path to A Lightermint (detail)My Twisted Path to A Lightermint, Anon, HM Prison Whatton, Nottingham

Once I finished walking around the exhibition, I wondered outside to the riverside terraces of the Royal Festival Hall.  Everything looked so pretty and festive and I took a moment to admire the London Eye and the lights on the river.  It was to be the last remotely warm evening in an unseasonably warm autumn.

South Bank

Drink Shop Do

I then headed off to Drink, Shop, Do near King’s Cross Station to attend the re-launch of Richenda Walford’s fabulous site London Remembers.  Richenda’s goal is to visit every single street in London to catalogue all of the memorials, plaques, monuments and statues that the city has to offer.  She has thousands of entries on her site and counting.

It was also amazing that in a city of 7.5 million people, I ran into Melizza from Pincushion Treats.  It is not the first time I have randomly run into people I know in this city!

By the way, Drink, Shop, Do is a fabulous little tea shop that is open until late at night and they served us yummy sandwiches.  I would love to visit there again one day.

A Little Turkish Sunshine

The View from Grand Newport Hotel in Gumbet

I began blogging at Emm in London in July 2008 and our trip to Turkey was the very first trip I blogged about.  We had only arrived in London a year before but by July, we certainly needed a beach holiday.  So it was that we headed off to the Grand Newport Hotel in Gümbet, near Bodrum, for an all-inclusive holiday.

This was the view that greeted us when we arrived at the hotel at about 7am in the morning.  The hotel overlooked a bay which lead to the Aegean Sea. 

The Aegean Sea from Grand Newport Hotel

For seven long days, the temperature soared into the early 40°c (which is very hot in Fahrenheit) and it was still hovering around 30°c at midnight each evening.  Suffice to say, I was in heaven.

I am pleased to say that we didn’t spend every day by the pool and we managed to take an excursion to the ancient city of Ephesus.  Ephesus is a photographer’s dream and it really helps to have a knowledgable guide like we did because I found it just fascinating.

Pillars in Ephesus

The photo above shows some columns from the temple of Hadrian and the next photo shows the breath-taking, exquisite Celsus Library.

Celsus Library Ephesus

We like to maintain a good mix of culture and relaxation on holidays like this, so in addition to our day trip to Ephesus, we went on an excursion to a Turkish village, sampling their food and seeing how they make their famous Turkish carpets, and we also went on a Turkish night, complete with belly dancers and traditional food.

The last day of our holiday was perhaps the best as we left the hotel and spent the day in a beachside bar at Bitez Beach.  Well, not inside the bar, exactly, but beside the sea. 

Bitez Beach

I definitely want to return to Turkey but I think we’d head out for Istanbul next time and try to see something new.  I’m really keen to see the Bosphorus Strait and bridge.

Bitez Beach Turkey

As far as beach holidays go, I am planning a trip to Croatia in around September next year and I have promised that it will include at least 2 or 3 days lying on the beach at Split or Hvar.  I cannot wait.

This past week was so successful in terms of getting things done! I have worked for four days, studied for 3 nights and a day, gone out twice to meet up with London bloggers and I even squeezed in breakfast with my family today and three taxation mock exams.  I didn’t pass them all so I guess I’ll be even busier in the next 36 hours as I take a day of study leave and write the exam on Tuesday.  Fingers crossed!

Blue Skies and Sunshine in Johannesburg

Quite a few people remarked on how sad I seemed to be about the lack of sunshine in my post on Southend-on-Sea.  The truth is that I love hot weather and I will always miss sunshine and blue skies when they are not around.  In order to stave off the winter blues as we head into what JaPRA coined 100 Days of Darkness, I have decided that from now until the end of winter, Sundays will be sun days.  It will give me a chance to tell you about some of the places I have seen and it will also give me some much needed blue-sky-therapy each weekend.

And because my friends and family in South Africa have been so helpful in moaning about the heat wave this week, I thought I would start off with some of the beautiful blue skies we saw on our trip there last December.

To be honest, this is what most of my photographs from the trip looked like, which is why I never got round to posting about it much.

Arrival 12 December Arrival, 12 December 2011

This was taken on the day we arrived on 12 December.  By this time, London was about to head into their second serious snow-storm of the season and we were seeing blue sky for the first time in weeks.  Summer is the rainy season in Johannesburg so it is very likely that most photos will have some evidence of clouds.

Sunset 13 December Sunset, 13 December. 

Johannesburg has the most incredible sunsets.  There just seems to be so much sky and the whole expanse of it just lights up with beauty and wonder during the sunsets.  It is at times like this that I feel the most liberated.

Loeries relaxing 14 December Loeries relaxing on a telephone wire, 14 December. 

I love loeries and they are one of my favourite South African birds.  The Wikipedia article I linked to above is hilarious; I have never, ever heard of them referred to as “go away” birds.

Sun filter 19 December Sun filter, 19 December 2011

I think it is fairly typical of any city with a rainy summer season that sometimes you’re not going to see much sunshine for a couple of days.  That certainly happened during our last holiday but I didn’t mind as it was still warm and cloudy weather is perfect sun tanning weather.

Swimming 24 December Swimming, 24 December 2011

I spent the overwhelming majority of my time next to this swimming pool.  I bet you’re really glad that I didn’t blog a day by day breakdown of my trip!  Can you remember where you were last Christmas Eve?

Always look up 24 December Always look up, 24 December 2011

Of course, there is no better place to look up than in Johannesburg in summer.  How beautiful is that?

Sunset 24 December Sunset, 24 December 2011

We had a magical time on Christmas Eve and Stephen made sure to call me out of the house so that I could see this exquisite sunset.

Man Made Forest 25 December Man-made Forest, 25 December 2011

Johannesburg is the largest man-made forest in the world with over ten million trees. The second largest is also in South Africa at Graskop. I miss living in a city with so many big, healthy (and often evergreen) trees.  This photo was taken in my brother- and sister-in-law’s garden.  Look how you can’t even see their neighbours!

Orange Iris 25 December Orange Iris, 25 December 2011

I love irises and they have a huge patch of orange irises in their garden.

Flags in Sandton 25 December Flags in Sandton, 25 December 2011

Ever since I went to New York City and Washington in 2009 and noticed how many flags there were flying everywhere, I have had this “thing” about Great Britain and how seemingly embarrassed they are to display the Union Jack.  Of course, what I saw in the USA is nothing compared to South Africa.  You see the national flag everywhere, on car bumpers, over their wing mirrors, randomly on the side of the road, on products and outside buildings.  We South Africans love our flag as it symbolises hope, unity and our exceptional sporting abilities.

Well now, the sun has just broken out in England too! Perhaps I worked some voodoo with this post?

Street Art London: Invader

I had a slightly embarrassing experience a couple of weeks ago. I picked up my sister-in-law from Paddington Station and as we drove through London's East End, I got terribly excited when I saw a couple of Invader pieces. Of course, no one else in the car knew what I was on about so I thought it a very good idea to remedy that situation.  This is a guest post on the incredible Invader by Griff from Street Art London.  Have fun spotting the invader in each photo!

Invader Street Art London

Those of you have seen Exit Through the Gift Shop will be familiar with the work of 'Invader' who featured heavily in Banksy's film. For those who are not so acquainted, Invader, as he is known, is a French street artist who has been invading cities around the World since the 1990's. It all began in Paris in 1998, but since then waves and waves of Invaders have spread rapidly to cities all over the World from Bangkok to New York, Tokyo to Berlin and most recently, this Summer, Sao Paulo. London has not been spared.

Invader Street Art London

Invaders are literally that – homages to the classic Space Invaders arcade game of the 1980s. To create his street art, Invader uses tiles – usually the two by two centimetre glass ceramic ones of the type that you would tile the bottom of a swimming pool with. Thus, classic Invaders are very small and sometimes quite hard to spot given that they are made up of these mosaic tiles. However, Invader has been known to 'go big' on occasion with larger tiles and there are a few such examples lurking in London – most notably at the Truman Brewery's Ely's Yard, just off Brick Lane.

Invader Truman Brewery

Invader's work centres around the increasing surveillance in today's urban environments and society as a whole. Invader seeks to countenance this developing trend by installing his own silent sentinels in cities to monitor its population. Invader doesn't make it easy for us to find him though and always places his Invaders in nooks and crannies, up high and down low – in places that only become obvious once you have discovered them.

Invader Street Art London 3

Invader has visited London on many occasions since his first visit in 1999 and overall has left over 100 Invaders in the city. Many of them are still around today if you know where to look... The images that accompany this post should yield some clues as they are all still riding on the street. There's a particularly high concentration around Soho to get you started.

Invader Street Art London 7

For more street art news, sightings and photographs, you can visit Street Art London and check out their Facebook community.  You can also attend one of their street art tours around east London and experience the works of Invader, Stik, Roa and even Banksy for yourself.

Invader Street Art London 2

Invader Street Art London 5 Invader Street Art London 6

All photographs in this post are copyright of Street Art London.