Category Archives: Architecture and Architectural Details

Breathtaking Brittany — Multiple Posts Coming Up!

We’re on the road in Brittany right now — taking a much needed holiday. I’ll have a whole series of posts from Dinan and Morlaix and the Finistere and Quimper. From ancient towns filled with half-timbered or stone buildings to pre-historic standing stones to gothic cathedrals — this part of France is simply stunning.

Just a tease or two — so shhhh — come back soon!

Rooftop Jumble in the historic city of Quimper in the Finistere Brittany, France.

Side entry of the Cathedral in Quimper, Brittany, France.

Standing stones near Camaret-sur-Mer

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UPDATES on the Ad Lib Artisans website

Interesting how quickly time slides away — and we’re a bit shocked to realise that we are leaving the house that Mark has been working on since November in TWO WEEKS!

We’re headed over to the other side of Normandy for another reno — but it also looks like we’ll be leaving France in mid-June to have some adventures in other countries. Sooooo — it was time to update Mark’s online work portfolio with a LOT of pictures.

Gallery 1 has the images from here in Normandy over the last 5 months. And Gallery 2 is full of the pictures from that huge renovation he did on the Mid Century ranch house in Australia in 2014 through mid-2016.

Want a peek? Then go to Ad Lib Artisans to see what I’m talking about. DOZENS of photos showing the range of the work that Mark does.

Mark inside the Calvados house from the 1400s.

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The Medieval Abbey of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy

There is no way to miss this impressive abbey from anywhere within the small town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. And it is easily visible as you drive across the Calvados countryside, too. It’s quite wonderful to be living a mere ten minutes away from a place like this.

Founded in 1011 by Countess Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror — the abbey has undergone a variety of extensions and renovations over the subsequent centuries and those renovations continue right into the present day. Here’s a small photo essay of this truly gorgeous abbey.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The main altar area of the abbey.

The main altar area of the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

Abbey interior.

Abbey interior.

Lovely angles and arches.

Lovely angles and arches.

A drawing of the original layout -- much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

A drawing of the original layout — much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex -- the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex — the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

The ever-present candles.

The ever-present candles.

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From AU to the UK to the EU in 5 weeks!

I’m tired just thinking about it — but we have gone from Australia to the UK to France in the very short space of 5 weeks. Seriously — whew!

We don’t bounce back energy-wise as fast as we did 20+ years ago — so we were well into Week 2 in England at Mark’s parents’ house before we started to shed SOME of the jet-lag. But even when we first arrived in France in the 3rd week of November, we were still exhausted.

Once we had the shopping and car insurance and ferry reservations and so forth sorted out, we drove in the wind and rain to Portsmouth to take the night ferry to Caen. I had booked a cabin so we could get some sleep, but the staff hadn’t finished cleaning the rooms when we arrived, so we ended up getting very few hours of shut-eye.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Arriving in France, we drove through persistent rain towards Caen and then south to the town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives and onward to the nearby village where we will be living for the next several months as Mark does a large renovation project.

The house was built over several centuries — but the oldest section is from the 1400s. And the part we are living in — the red brick section — is from the 1800s. We even have a resident mouser named (badly!) Caramel who SHOULD be named Rocky because he’s such a sturdy bruiser of a cat. However (ahem!) — he has now adopted Mark and he follows him around like a puppy. So much for the cat’s stand-offish reputation!

The Normandy renovation project.

The Normandy renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark's new playmate -- the cat in residence.

Mark’s new playmate — the cat in residence.

The town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives is quite stunning and given the fact that they were occupied by the German army during World War II — a remarkable amount of truly old and lovely buildings are intact.

Every Monday morning, there is a large local market that takes place both inside the medieval market hall (another post about that coming soon!) and in the nearby street and huge parking lot. The range of fresh produce, cheese, wine, meat, seafood, and more was a wonderful surprise.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

And finally — a hello from our next door neighbours on ALL sides — the lovely cows of Normandy. I’ll be back with more slices of life-in-France in the next few days. Enjoy!

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

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By The Sea in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK

By the sea is where I wish I was right now. But in lieu of that reality, here’s a flashback photo essay from a trip to the lovely seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk in the UK.

By the way, not ALL beaches are sandy. This one is a perfect example of that. Enjoy!

 

Medieval Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, built in 1520, with the village memorial cross to the left.

Medieval Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, built in 1520, with the village memorial cross to the left.


 
A seagull sitting atop one of the medieval brick chimneys on Moot Hall,.

A seagull sitting atop one of the medieval brick chimneys on Moot Hall,.


 
Fishing boats on a gravel, sometimes called shingle, beach in the UK.

Fishing boats on a gravel, sometimes called shingle, beach in the UK.


 
Close-up of a the beautifully coloured pieces of stone comprising a gravel beach, sometimes called a shingle beach, in the UK.

Close-up of a the beautifully coloured pieces of stone comprising a gravel beach, sometimes called a shingle beach, in the UK.


 

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Photo Of The Day From Scotland: Golden Light On The Royal Mile

The photo of the day for today is from Edinburgh, Scotland.

The sun was beginning to go down on this cold Spring day when suddenly the sun blasted through the clouds, creating a golden-white light on one end of the Royal Mile and deep shade on the other side.

 

A blast of golden-white light illuminates one end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland on a brisk late-winter day.

A blast of golden-white light illuminates one end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland on a brisk late-winter day.


 

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Vintage World War II Posters from Germany

In this second part of the visit to the Zeughaus, the late 17th and early 18th Century building that houses the German Historical Museum in Berlin, the Deutsches Historisches Museum — I must admit that it was both fascinating and a bit off-putting.

In the lead-up to those galleries full of nationalistic poster art, there are exhibits of social history that explained the frightful poverty and economic collapse in Germany in the period leading up to World War II.

Since there are so many images, I have decided to do a 3rd post about this museum. With the exception of the one rather depressing ink drawing style poster from the 1930s showing a starving family, today’s article shows lots of happy and upbeat propaganda to reinforce the message that the German people were unified in their thinking and to drum up feelings of purposefulness about their cause.

 

A 1930s poster showing a woman and child in extreme poverty.

A 1930s poster showing a mother and children in extreme poverty.


 
1936 Winter Olympics poster

1936 Winter Olympics poster


 
Silhouette of the top of the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin overlaid onto this poster for the summer Olympics.

Silhouette of the top of the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin overlaid onto this poster for the summer Olympics.


 
The German ideal of happy families with blonde hair and healthy bodies was highly encouraged.

The German ideal of happy families with blonde hair and healthy bodies was highly encouraged.


 
More perfect-looking blonde children to create Hitler's future Utopia.

More perfect-looking blonde children to create Hitler’s future Utopia.


 
And of course, the idea was heavily promoted that once this temporary messiness of war was over, all good German working families would have prosperity and their own car for drives in the countryside. Recognise the early Volkswagon?

And of course, the idea was heavily promoted that once this temporary messiness of war was over, all good German working families would have prosperity and their own car for drives in the countryside. Recognise the early Volkswagon?


 
Whether you are a university educated man who works with his brain or a tradesman who works with his hands, the we're-all-in-this-together approach is on display in this propaganda poster.

Whether you are a university educated man who works with his brain or a tradesman who works with his hands, the we’re-all-in-this-together approach is on display in this propaganda poster.


 
The glamourous airships or Zeppelins were still flying into the late 1930s. They provided a mental boost to the German public about their superiority with the construction of these massive airships.

The glamourous airships or Zeppelins were still flying into the late 1930s. They provided a mental boost to the German public about their superiority with the construction of these massive airships.


 
The era of the Zeppelins came to an end in 1937 with the Hindenburg Disaster which took the lives of 35 out of 97 people on board. All remaining German airships were ordered to be destroyed in 1940. The article at the link above is quite comprehensive and if you are interested in that sort of aviation history, it’s definitely worth the time to read through it.

The third and final article from this museum in Berlin shows World War II posters from Germany that are significantly less sunny and optimistic. Watch for those in my next article.

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