Wednesday 28 January 2015

Home and Away

'It is a truth universally acknowledged', to borrow from Jane Austen, that the British coastline is gradually, but steadily, being eroded away. On this we speak with a degree of authority. But lest we digress further, let us explain.

Whilst Budapest remains home to us, for some months now we have toyed with the idea of a place by the sea - proper sea. For although we enjoy the time we spend in Brighton, which we shall continue so to do, we crave soft sand, rock pools, fishing fleets, pleasure boats, cliff walks, seaweed, ozone in the air, deckchairs for hire, indeed all of those things associated with seaside holidays from childhood, now rather too long ago.

'On the Coast, Isle of Wight' [1860 Frederic, Lord Leighton]

So, availing ourselves of the internet and establishing with the various estate agents our intention to buy 'off plan', so to speak, for to arrange an actual viewing, we decided, involved far too much time and effort and would, almost certainly, become tedious, we set about our search.

'Near Swanage' [1916 Mark Gertler]

We favoured Dorset. An apartment, directly overlooking Durlston Bay in Swanage and sited at the cliff edge, we thought it wise to abandon when it was revealed that the authorities could no longer maintain or support coastal defences and that the magnificent views of the sea crashing against the rocks below were likely to become even better, and that before we had finished placing the furniture.

'Ventnor from the East Cliff' [1899]

In Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, we fell in love, on line of course [the estate agents produce such alluring pictures], with a charming little Edwardian villa. The first sentence of the structural survey report, when we read it, indicated that our desired house was in a 'landslip zone'. We moved on, and so perhaps did the villa.

'Barbican & River Stour, Sandwich, Kent [1900 Henry Maurice Page]

Sandwich, an attractive mediaeval town and Cinque Port, now two or so miles inland from the Kent coast, seemed perfect. A pretty terraced cottage, nestling within the Conservation area, upon which we set our hearts, was prone to flooding. We let it go.

the exterior of a house which we actually, and unusually, saw

Lance Hattatt taking a bracing walk along the promenade

Warned away from both Lyme Regis [more shades of Miss Austen] and Cromer, and not a little dispirited, we journeyed to Cornwall in the belief that we should do so much better if on the spot. Four days later we returned to Hungary satisfied that our search was over. A stone built, late Victorian house, a pebble's throw from the sea, seemed ideal, the eight hour bus journey from London a mere nothing. Sadly the dream died with the discovery of high levels of Radon lurking within all those rocks.

'Bournemouth by the Sea' [1896 Henry Maidment]

Let us not bore you with the detail of the brand new, Art Deco style apartment in Bournemouth, and never let it be said that the chance remark overheard of 'Bournemouth for the newly wed or nearly dead' affected our decision in any way. Nor will we repeat here our eulogies for a smuggler's cottage on the borders of Devon or a mansion flat in Eastbourne. Suffice it to say, they have come and gone.

'Norwich Cathedral' [1955 David Freeman]

For at last we are settled. It is for Norwich we are enthusing and if this cathedral city, to which we have never been, and this artisan cottage, which we have yet to see and will not until it is finally ours, are as far removed from the sea as can be, then so be it.

Steeped in history, replete with period features, our little house, built originally for the workers of the Colman's Mustard Factory, will, we are sure, provide a wonderful holiday home from which to explore both the historical city, surrounding towns and unspoilt countryside beyond. In a matter of just a few weeks we shall take possession, and how exciting is that!

Christmas Day 2010, Sunset over the Terraces of Norwich [Unknown]

Now, what was that about earthquakes?

[We have been unable to ascertain ownership of the image, Christmas Day 2010, but will be pleased to provide full acknowledgement]

Friday 23 January 2015

Musings on Museums

The museums of Montevideo are of particular interest on two counts. First, there is universal free admission when, erratically of course, they are open. Secondly, they contain very little in the way of exhibits. Sparsely furnished rooms, oddly curated ephemera, scant information, in Spanish alone, and a complete absence of other visitors is the order of the day. However, none of this should deter the contemporary traveller or explorer. Far from it since, when one does finally secure entry, these 'Museo' are hidden gems in the fascinating crown of cultural history of Uruguay.

at the entrance to the Museo de Juan Zorrilla de San Martin, Montevideo, Uruguay

the windows of the museum draped in lace curtains forming protection from the sunlight

Our guide book promised that the Museo de Juan Zorrilla de San Martin, the summer house of the nineteenth century poet and diplomat of that name, would provide a café, a shop, an air-conditioned gallery space as well as a museum. Within sight of the sea, a pretty white Andalusia style villa, built in 1904 and expanded in 1921, and set within peaceful gardens hid amongst towering modern apartment blocks waiting to be discovered.

a green oasis, the gardens of the museum, now overlooked by apartment blocks

a typical tiled fireplace to be found in the villa's principal reception room

the poet-diplomat's simply furnished bedroom on the ground floor of the villa

Simply furnished and tenderly kept, complete with its private chapel, the villa proved to be a pure delight. It was as if the poet himself had merely stepped out for a moment and we were welcome guests free to roam at will. And, all around the house, a lush green 'hortus conclusus' decorated with vivid blue tiles, provided a calm and shady sanctuary from the searing heat of the summer sun. Peace was gently broken by a gentle fountain without a café, shop, gallery or other visitor to be seen.

the two intrepid tourists of the day, camera to the ready, examine the books in the poet's library

the private chapel within the villa, an aspiration as yet, and most likely never, to be fulfilled

Also whitewashed but in every other sense completely different, Casapueblo situated between the Uruguayan coastal towns of Piriapolis and Punta del Este, is visually eccentric and stunningly beautiful in its setting. A huge Gaudi-esque house-sculpture, it was begun in 1960 by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró around a shack in which he was living. It grew first into a studio, then a house with accommodation for friends, and then finally, as it has become today, an hotel and museum as a monument to the artist and his work.

the entrance to Casapueblo, the museum of the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró

Casapueblo, glimpsed in the background, overlooking the South Atlantic

We risked life and limb to photograph the exterior of this extraordinary building, as it clings to the rock with the South Atlantic Ocean at its feet, avoiding as we did the hordes of day trippers and tourists and the greatly overpriced museum entrance fee.

the dramatic situation of Casapueblo perched above the South Atlantic Ocean

Take us back to Montevideo, we cried. How we had loved the vintage cars in the Museo del Automovil Club del Uruguay, especially the Armstrong Siddeley and the cache of trophies won by Hector Suppici Sedes, a Uruguayan racing driver killed in a crash in Chile in 1948. And what pleasure we had had in exploring the near bare rooms of the charming Palacio Taranco, housing as it does the Museo de Artes Decorativas.

But, no matter its free admission, we had given the Museo del Fútbol a miss!

Friday 9 January 2015

Coastal Convalescence

Let it not be thought for a single moment that your good wishes, your concern for our well being and your many, many kindnesses expressed on our last post of Friday, 31st. October 2014, as well as through emails and letters, should have passed unnoticed. We have been so very touched by your warm heartedness and generosity of spirit making our thanks so completely inadequate. But thank you we do, and from the bottom of our hearts.

Jane Hattatt within the hotel in Pocitos, Montevideo, Uruguay [January 2015]

Lance Hattatt on the cliff top at Casapueblo, Uruguay [January 2015]

So, disdaining taking the waters of the Spa towns and cities which punctuate the British Isles and much of Europe, mindful of the sanatoriums of Switzerland and fearful of the December chill winds of the Riviera, we ventured for recuperation to far flung South America and the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo.

In truth this had been arranged for the better part of a year when travel plans had been made with what now must be regarded as our erstwhile friend and guide whose behaviour, seen in retrospect, has proved to be both disappointing and alarmingly dishonest.

However, such joy that we went. Staying in the Pocitos area of Montevideo we delighted in the warmth of the summer sun, the broad sandy beaches, the shade of a local park, in delicious dinners to be found in nearby restaurants, in good local wines and in all the sights and sounds so very different from the cities of Europe.

shopping abroad - always to be found as a very different experience

one of many colourful streets to be explored in Pocitos, Montevideo

a favourite local restaurant, El Viejo y Querido, in Pocitos, Montevideo

Of course there were the museums, a day excursion to Punta del Este, a rather over priced and over glamorised resort along the coast, picturesque Casapueblo, fireworks at New Year, strolls along the Rambla and endless people watching. In the main though, Lazy Tarts as we are, we did very little and loved and relished every single moment.
the beach at Punta del Este, a resort on the coast of Uruguay

before the heat of the day, a solitary figure on the beach at Montevideo

But of everything, most lasting will be the connections made and the memories of the people, old and young alike, who became a part of our daily lives and whose warmth, vivacity and friendship have found for them a very special place in our hearts.

the smiling face of the waiter at the restaurant, El Viejo y Querido

together with the staff of our local café and wine bar, La Dulcería

Now a new year stretches ahead with so much yet to happen and so much to which to look forward. But for the present we are happy once more to be back with you all and give to each one of you our warmest wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2015. Happy New Year!

paddling in the shallows of the River Plate [January 2015]