Inside Prague’s St Agnes of Bohemia Convent

The Cloister at Saint Agnes of Bohemia

Saint Agnes was the sister of King Wenceslas I and in 1234, she founded a convent of the Poor Clares in what is now the Jewish Quarter of Prague. It might seem unusual to visit a convent when touring the Jewish Quarter of Prague but there are three very good reasons that we did: it was cool inside and provided a welcome respite from the sweltering June heat but it was also a Saturday afternoon and many of the locations in the Jewish were closed. You would think that I would know this, given my Jewish heritage. The most important reason to visit the St Agnes of Bohemia Convent is that it is beautiful.

Built between 1231 and 1234, St Agnes is not only one of the oldest convents in Europe but it is also the oldest example of Gothic architecture in Bohemia, the former name of the Czech Republic.

Cloister St Agnes of Bohemia

We began our exploration in the cloisters which date back to the 14th century. I was particularly entranced by the Gothic vaulted ceilings and the shadows of the windows throughout the cloister.

Gothic vaulted ceilings in the Cloister of St Agnes of Bohemia

This lone man resting on the bench gives an idea of the scale of the cloisters.

I walked around the cloisters twice, once without taking any photos at all and simply taking in my surroundings. I love Gothic architecture and St Agnes is one of the finest instances I have seen to date.

Looking into the Presbytery of the Church of St Francis, St Agnes of Bohemia

We soon moved on to the Presbytery of the Church of St Francis. This is known as the ‘new’ section of the church, built only in 1261. The church was consecrated during the coronation of the Přemysl king Otakar II and was intended to become the final resting place of the Přemyslid dynasty but Otakar II was buried in St Vitus Cathedral along with his father.

Decorated capital Presbytery of the Church of St Francis, St Agnes of Bohemia

Vaulted ceiling in Presbytery of the Church of St Francis, St Agnes of Bohemia

Windows Presbytery of the Church of St Francis, St Agnes of Bohemia¬

Presbytery of the Church of St Francis, St Agnes of Bohemia

The Church of St Francis is vast and quite breathtaking. You can see that Stephen looks quite tiny in the photo above, giving some idea of its scale.

Gothic Doorway St Agnes of Bohemia

Leading off from the Church of St Francis is the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, another vast and impressive room. Agnes’s private chapel and living quarters were built into the upper floor of this space.

Chapel of the Virgin Mary at St Agnes of Bohemia

Passageway St Agnes of Bohemia

Turning back the way we had come, we walked towards the cloisters and noticed one last room to the right.

The refectory and nun's workroom at St Agnes of Bohemia

This was the refectory and nun’s work room, once two rooms and now one large space.

Statues on display at St Agnes of Bohemia

Winding our way around the cloisters again, I stopped to admire the collection of religious sculptures. 

Statue of Jesus at St Agnes of Bohemia

With one last look at the Gothic vaulted ceilings, it was time to move on to the first floor.

Gothic cloister St Agnes of Bohemia

Visitors to St Agnes of Bohemia can also treat themselves to an impressive collection of medieval art at the National Gallery which is housed on the first floor of the old convent. The collection is vast and arranged in chronological order. Not surprisingly, no photography is allowed in the gallery but you can visit the website to see more: Narodni Galerie. My favourite section was the triptychs, including the Reininghaus Altarpiece which came from Southern Bohemia and was dated to about 1430. There is also a collection of Madonna and Child sculptures and a selection of stained glass crucifixions.

St Agnes of Bohemia
U Milosrdných 17
110 00 Prague 1 - Old Town
Tel.: +420 224 810 628

The entry fee is 300 CZK and will grant admission for seven days to all six permanent exhibitions of the National Gallery in Prague – Kinský Palace, Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia, Trade Fair Palace, Sternberg Palace, Schwarzenberg Palace, Salm Palace. My next trip to Prague will be a dedicated art tour and I will definitely be using this ticket!

Alone With My Camera in Barcelona

Sagrada Família, Barcelona

It was one of those conversations. I'm quite certain it began with the two of us communicating like adults but it had somehow become quite fraught. I began to backtrack. "Okay, Stephen, is there anything you'd like to specifically see in Barcelona?" I asked. "Well, don't you want visit Camp Nou?" he replied. Somewhat adept at this communication thing after 18 years together, I restrained myself from replying that of course I didn't want to visit a football stadium during my visit to one of the world's most architecturally and artistically important cities. I simply smiled sweetly and suggested that we part ways at Sagrada Família and that Stephen visit the hallowed grounds of FC Barcelona's football team and I'd embark on my planned 5 mile walk into the centre of the city. 

And so it was that I found myself alone on the streets of Barcelona with just my camera and a map to guide my way. 

Crowds at Sagrada Familia

Stephen and I had walked to the Sagrada Família together and once he left, I cast my eyes around for something to catch my fancy. The crowds were interesting to a point, but dissatisfied with the sheer number of selfie-sticks and mobile phones, I started walking. 

Catalan flag

Like many cities, it took a little while to get a feel for Barcelona. The first thing I noticed was the large number of Catalan flags draped over people's balconies. I was reminded of a friend who earnestly told me the last time I was in the region that Catalunya is not Spain. It made me smile to remember that. 

Man with phone in Barcelona

As I walked down the street I noticed this young man perched against the wall and I had to take his photo. I loved the relaxed vibe of Barcelona. 

Barcelona facade

Barcelona is a very pretty city and the architecture is quite spectacular. I loved how much detail each structure had. 

Monument to Narcís Monturiol, Barcelona

I quite liked this monument dedicated to Narcís Monturiol who invented the first combustion-engine-driven submarine in the mid 19th century. 

Cyclist in Barcelona

I soon learned that to cross roads in Barcelona is to take your life into your own hands. I'm happy to say that conditions seem less perilous for cyclists. 

Antoni Gaudí's Casa Milà

I soon arrived at Antoni Gaudí's Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera. Completed in 1912, Gaudí designed this building for Roser Segimon and Pere Milà. The building is built around a central space, designed so that the inhabitants can speak with each other. I wanted so badly to go inside but knew that I had to press on to make my lunch time rendezvous with Le Husband. 

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batlló

A short walk from Casa Milà was Casa Batlló, a building restored by Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol between 1904 and 1906. 

Casa Batlló - Gaudi

The building features Gaudí's distinctive oval Windows and reminded me, not for the first time, of Dr Seuss. 

Barceona bus stop

If you like people-watching and street photography, then Barcelona will certainly appeal to you. 

Casa Calvet

I finally arrived at the Casa Calvet. The plans for this building were initially rejected (on account of the area being exceeded) and Gaudí famously returned them, uncorrected, stating that the building would be severely compromised if not built to his exact specifications. It was built to his exact specifications. 

Barcelona street scene

Soon enough, it was time to head off to my meeting point with Stephen. 

Barcelona sign

I spotted this quote upon the wall and tried my best to translate it. I think it roughly translates to "And now I leave with regret and my heart breaks because I long to leave the streets of Barcelona".  I’d love to know the proper translation!

Catalan flags in Barcelona

I encountered more Catalan flags...

Puppet heads in Barcelona

...and some eerie puppet heads in a window. 

Pastries in a shop window in Barcelona

I spotted some delicious cakes in a shop window and was reminded how hungry I was. I kid, I didn't need reminding. 

Barcelona manhole cover

I admired this quirky manhole cover outside the London Bar...

Street in Barcelona

...and peered down this tree-lined street. 

Bikes for hire in Barcelona

I looked longingly at this quirky bike-hire business and promised that next time I would hire a bike rather than walking myself ragged. 

Statue in Barcelona

At last, Stephen and I found each other and it was time for lunch and a bit of relaxation. I must say, I rather deftly positioned this photo to avoid a rather rude shop front behind the statue. This poor girl seems doomed to overlook an adult entertainment establishment for the rest of her days. 

Thank you for joining in on yet another one of my epic walks. I promise to tell you all about Palau Guëll soon.

The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle

Wisteria and vine at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

Have you ever encountered a story so big that you simply had no idea where to start? This is how I feel about The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle. I want to tell you everything and show you every single photo that I took while I was there but that would simply be impossible. Where to begin?

Perhaps it would be best to begin where it all started. In March 2000, Tom Hart Dyke was on a plant hunting exhibition in the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia when he was abducted and held hostage for nine months. Threatened daily with execution, Tom began to conceive of a garden where he would collect plants from every corner of the globe and lay them out in their respective countries of origin.

Tom returned home one week before Christmas in 2000 and immediately set about making his dream a reality. The result is The World Garden and I’m going to let you in on a spoiler: it is wonderful.

Seduction and abduction - The Story of Europa

The garden is a little bit like the British Museum – there are so many plants and there is so much to see that you could easily spend an entire day there and not see everything. Unlike the British Museum where I spent my first few visits in Ancient Egypt alone, I am proud to say that I visited every continent in the World Garden. It will surprise nobody that my favourite areas were Africa and the rain forests. I do like it hot and humid, that is for sure!

Because I’ve already spoiled everything by telling you how wonderful the World Garden is and because there is just so much to see, I’m going to tell you about my six favourite areas.

The Moon Gate at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

First, we need to enter the World Garden via the Moon Gate. You enter at the top of the world and walk through England with Asia to the left and North America to the right.

South America

Bird of Paradise at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

I loved the plants in the South America area. So many of them look familiar to me – possibly because the climate in Africa and South America can be similar and because millions of years ago, the two continents were one.

Passion flower at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

Hot & Spikey House

Cacti in the hot and spiky room at the World Garden

Walking through the Hot & Spiky House brought back so many memories. Firstly, cacti, agaves and aloes grow all over South Africa and suit our sometimes dry climate perfectly. Secondly, I once lived in a house with a massive cactus garden. Anyone who has ever collected cacti can tell you how expensive they are but luckily we inherited the garden.

Agave macroacantha in the hot and spiky house World Garden

And finally, one of my very first art projects in high school was to draw a yellow and green agave just like this. Well, we were actually meant to be drawing the entire cactus garden at school but I remember trying to get this one right.

Variegated agave

The Moroccan Blue Room

Blue Room at the World Garden

The Moroccan Blue Room was fashioned after the iconic Marjorelle Gardens in Marrakesh and the room had such a beautiful atmosphere that I could have stayed there for ages.

The Blue Room at the World Garden

The Cloud Garden

China Doll Tree in the Cloud Garden at the World Garden

I have a thing about indoor gardens. I remember going to an exhibition at Blackpool Tower when I was about five and they had steamed up the interior and brought in tropical plants and they had monkeys and tropical birds too. It was my first taste of life in the tropics, taking place a good four years before we moved to South Africa.

The Cloud Garden at Lullingstone reminded me of that – a specially constructed polypropylene structure built to create the ideal temperate environment for plants from New Zealand, South Africa and Asia.

Oak leafed papaya in the Cloud Garden at the World Garden

The Orchid House

Purple orchids at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

I have to tell you, I had a hard time choosing two photos from the Orchid House after managing to take almost thirty! That wasn’t why this is one of the best parts of the World Garden though. Oh no, the reason is because it houses the Dendrocnide moroides or Queensland Stinger, rumoured to be be the most dangerous plant on the planet. Actually, there are no rumours about it – the entire plant is covered in stinging hairs that transmit a neurotoxin and one touch can leave you with blisters and up to nine months of intense throbbing pain. I don’t have a photo of the plant because it scared the heck out of me!

White Orchids at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

South Africa

Baobab tree at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

I loved the South Africa section of the garden and wondered around aimlessly for the longest time, running my hands through the plants and remembering our life in South Africa. For instance, we used to have feathered reed grass just like in the photo above in our very first house in South Africa.

Red hot poker at Lullingstone Castle World Garden

And so it was that I took a journey around the globe in the World Garden and had the chance to see plants that I had never even imagined as well as plants that took me on a stroll down memory lane.

The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle is open on Sundays until the end of October. It will then close for the season and reopen on Easter weekend 2017. Definitely check out their website for all the Halloween activities.

Lullingstone Castle
Tel: 01322 862114 (pls leave message)
Fax: 01322 862115

Admission Prices
Adult £8.00
Child £4.00 (5-15 yrs old)
Senior citizen £6.50
Family £18.00 (2 adults & 2 children or 1 adult & 3 children)

I’m linking up to Wanderful Wednesday today with Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.