Tag Archives: museums

Totally Terrific Toulouse — Part 1

Stepping into the time machine a bit, here’s a bit of reporting on the lovely city of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrenees of France. We spent several days there this year to celebrate my birthday and I thought I’d share some images from that trip over the next few posts.

The Musee des Augustins is housed in a large former Augustinian monastery built in 1309. The former home of 200 monks during the Middle Ages, this is a truly beautiful conversion of a set of buildings into museum space. Cloistered walkways surround a central courtyard and sweeping stairways take you to galleries on two levels. These contain architectural remnants dating back to medieval times, elegant sculpture, and several large rooms of paintings.


Entry to the Musee Des Augustins, the fine arts museum in Toulouse.

Entry to the Musee des Augustins, the fine arts museum in Toulouse.


Medieval tower of the former Augustinian monastery.

Medieval tower of the former Augustinian monastery.


The small but elegant courtyard garden of the Musee des Augustins.

The small but elegant courtyard garden of the Musee Des Augustins.


Cloistered walkways surround the garden courtyard.

Cloistered walkways surround the garden courtyard.


Historic gargoyles on display along the cloister walk.

Historic gargoyles on display along the cloister walk.


The wonderful collection of gargoyles seen above was salvaged from another convent/monastery from the 1300s, the Couvent des Cordeliers, prior to its destruction and preserved here in Toulouse. These gargoyles are now displayed on pedestals beneath the covered roofline of the cloister walkways.

Did you note the distinctly pinkish tones of the bricks that the monastery is constructed of? Toulouse has long been known as the ‘Pink City’ for just that reason.

Part 2 coming soon!


©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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A Tiny and Pretty Dusting of Snow

There you go — I have changed the Weather Widget! Now you can see what the conditions are as we travel around the UK.

In contrast to the bucket loads of snow that has been dumped on the USA and parts of the UK, we had a charming bit of snowy dusting yesterday morning — not a lot, as you can see, but just enough to sparkle, look pretty, and NOT make the roads treacherous. And we had errands to run in the afternoon, so it was good not to fret about road conditions or whether icy streets have been visited by the grit truck.

A small & soft snowfall across the deck toward the garage & garden.


View out the side window toward ever-so-slightly snowy Norfolk fields.


We’ve locked in the first of our travel dates and we’re leaving Norfolk around the 20th-22nd of February. First stop — Newcastle. It’s a place that’s been of interest to us for awhile — ever since reading several articles about how Newcastle had changed its industrial image and had become a vibrant place with a strong cultural scene including museums, film festivals, and art galleries. We are quite looking forward to this!

Back to work. I’m trying to sort out my huge photo backlog!

More soon…

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Rambling Around Rotterdam – Part Three

Note to self — never think that you will be attending any museums in Rotterdam on a Monday because they are ALL CLOSED!!!

Museumless on Monday in Rotterdam

We had a list of museums that we were interested in seeing on our last full day in Rotterdam, but I had failed to note the days and times and absorb the fact that none of them are are open on a Monday!

Ah well — move to the back-up plan — just walk around Rotterdam, take lots of photos, see new parts of the cities.

We walked into the shopping precinct, had a quick lunch, and then caught a bus across a bridge and over onto a small island. And as we walked, we passed some of the things that you see below. Click on any of the smaller ones and they will enlarge quite nicely!

Old BMV with sidecar parked at the docks in Rotterdam

Looking back towards Rotterdam

Is white REALLY the new black???

Touring Rotterdam with a By Cycle tour

Orange Citroen at a French wine tasting in Rotterdam

Straw-clad bicycle in a Rotterdam courtyard

Finally, in a charming affirmation of their multicultural citizenship of Rotterdam, even the mannequins of infants in a children’s store come in every shade of the rainbow.

And as the icing on the cake, doesn’t your special little Princess or Prince need a made-in-Italy by Piaggio electric version of a Vespa???

Multicultural infant mannequins in Rotterdam window

Multicultural infant mannequins in Rotterdam window

Italian electric version of a Vespa for children

Come back soon for more on-the-road adventures!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the text and photos on this page. All rights are reserved.

How Wonderful and Quirky Is Edinburgh

Look up, look up! Re-tune your eyes so you fill your memory with the many snippets of marvelous things scattered about the city — tiny pieces of poignant sculpture — partial bits of quotes or poems — monumental architecture with almost-hidden carvings — all of it weaving a mysterious cloak that wraps this city up tightly.

Quirky, quietly beautiful, and never failing to amuse with the non-stop parade of ‘interesting’ residents and visitors alike, Edinburgh has so much going for it as a travel destination.

Squeezed between the shopfronts on the Royal Mile is a perfect example — the carving over Paisley Close which commemorates the survival of one young lad who was found amidst the rubble of several collapsed buildings in 1861. “Heave awa’ chaps, I’m no’ dead yet” is inscribed above the arch.

"Heave awa' chaps, I'm no' dead yet" sculpture above Paisley Close arched opening in Edinburgh, Scotland


Under the category of sweetness, where else in the world do you expect to see three charming teenage boys walking across a bridge in the heart of a city, two of them holding hands, and one of them wearing his kilt. It put a smile on the faces of everyone that they passed.

Kilt wearing, hand holding teenagers in Edinburgh, Scotland


Stereotypes exist for a reason, and the sheer determination, outright stubbornness, and frugality of the Scottish nature were all on display in bits and pieces on our travels. Our 2 week visit certainly convinced us that the lovely Scottish friends that we had back in Australia derived their fearless attitude and ferocious tenacity from their ancestry as well as their general personality.

The beauty of Edinburgh manages to mask the occasionally simmering resentment of the governing powers down in London. That historic anger was certainly on display in the National Museum of Scotland where the arresting poster below found quite a few people stopping, nodding their heads up and down in agreement as we watched, and creating a strong impression on me that those decades old resentments are still not forgotten.

National Gallery of Art & Edinburgh Castle Atop The Hill


Margaret Thatcher 'Oil Vampire' poster

But under the category of just-plain-quirky, how about the whiskey store right next door to the health food store? Or the wine shop that is an ‘homage’ to the old sci-fi film, Planet Of The Apes? Click to enlarge them and have a giggle!

Odd choice of shops to be side-by-side

A quirky homage to Cornelius from Planet Of The Apes


Calligraphy on wall of National Museum of Scotland: Declaration of Arbroath - 1320 AD

My most recent visit was my 4th time in Edinburgh and I have still barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do. Trust me, I’ll be going back!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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All rights reserved.


Frugal Travel in Expensive Melbourne – Part 3

What to do — what to see. You have arrived in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, so how can you make the best decisions about where to spend your energy and your dollars?

First, wrap your head around the idea that you are going to nibble at the edges of a very LARGE cake full of delights. That will give you some perspective as you begin to realize that you will be coming back to Melbourne again and again before you can begin to say that you ‘know’ the place.

Consider planning your to-do list by going to either of these websites for information prior to your arrival. The first one is the That’s Melbourne site where you can click on the various categories in the left-side column to find out what art, music, festival, sports, or other events in your own particular areas of interest are available during your visit. The second site to check is the What’s On Melbourne Guide which lets you search by DATE or by TOPIC.

You can learn a lot about a city and its ‘vibe’ by people-watching and often this proves to be a highly amusing free activity.

Lunch hour tap dancer on Bourke Street, Melbourne, Australia

Lunch hour tap dancer, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne, Australia

A few days ago as I walked down Bourke Street, I saw a young red-haired man with a backpack and a bright yellow milk crate suddenly stop and plonk a portable tape player down on the pavement. Next a flowerpot appeared. Finally, he carefully placed a square of timber halfway between the tram stop and the steps in front of the GPO building. Without saying a word, he began to tap dance vigorously (and well!) for the lunchtime crowd that was milling around, his flowerpot began to fill with coins, and the silent tap dancer smiled sweetly at everyone. It was a tiny bit of magic on a cold and gloomy day.

Having walked a mere few metres further down the street, I began to chuckle quietly when I saw a faux-concrete mime who had removed his hat, thus revealing part of his un-made-up face and hair beneath. As he stood next to his upturned hat, his hand resting on his cart full of props, he dropped all pretense being in character as he made a phone call. As surreptitiously as I could, I raised my camera and began to take pictures of this unguarded and funny moment.

Mime Making Phone Call

If fine arts and culture are as much ‘your thing’ as they are mine, you will be happy to read that Melbourne is quite blessed to have three art museums that charge absolutely NO admission price. The only exception to that statement is for those blockbuster travelling exhibits from overseas that arrive once a year or so.

The permanent collection at the beautifully proportioned bluestone building housing the NGV International – National Gallery of Victoria on St. Kilda Road is quite comprehensive and covers several floors of exhibits that range from the ancient through to the contemporary. You can easily allow yourself a half of a day or more to see it all. And as an added bonus, there are wonderful cafes on both the ground floor and the first floor that serve quite good food. Seating areas are tucked around on every level and are much appreciated by those who wish to enjoy the various galleries at a more leisurely pace. The large gift shop on the ground floor, just before you exit next to the wall of water, is a joy for art lovers, book lovers, or anyone who appreciates finely crafted jewelry, stationary, art objects, and educational toys.

Another entirely free (except for those previously mentioned special exhibitions) museum is the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square (corner of Swanston Street and Flinders Street). This smaller museum is dedicated to Australian art. Although it is part of the National Gallery of Victoria, it is housed up the street from the main NGV in a light, airy, and very contemporary glass and steel building set amidst the ultra-modern Federation Square complex.

Finally, there is the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art — ACCA (111 Sturt Street in the Southbank area) and it too is completely free of entry charges. The stated goal of this particular institution is as follows. “It is the only major public art gallery in Australia focused on commissioning rather than collecting.” For that reason, there is a non-stop stream of cutting edge exhibitions to entice those interested in contemporary art.

This three-part article on frugal travel in Melbourne has barely scratched the surface of your options for places to stay, places to eat, sights to see, or walks to enjoy. My intention was to allow the reader to fine-tune their trip according to their interests and needs. I also hoped to let you understand that absorbing the media’s ongoing statement that Melbourne is one of the world’s most expensive cities comes at a cost. It closes people’s minds to the alternatives to big-price-ticket travel — alternatives called frugal travel, budget travel, manageable travel that keep those dollars in your pocket to spend as you choose, not as you must if you are booked into 5 star hotels and are only eating at 5 star restaurants. Frugal travel makes the world a better place for all of us because it gives us freedom and choice.