Posted in Travellogue

Amiens, a Journey

Reading was a favourite pass time of mine as a child.My childhood days were filled with wondrous tales and stories from across the world. Stories from a range of books fed the curiosity of a child with vivid imagination, introducing me to these fabulous places and people. Reading made  the stories in the book come to life , with beautiful words , making me travel with the pages to faraway lands, laden with mysteries and adventures. The Stories of Gods and Goddesses from Indian Mythologies, fantasies and magical tales from Arabian Nights, fairy tales from Russia, Enid Blyton’s Magic Far away series, adventure series of Famous five, comic books with stories of Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, Sci fi adventures of H G Wells and Jules Verne. I could travel any where I wanted, with a flick of a hand and a flip of a page. Those were the simple days, before the advent of phones and internet, where you had to use the power of your imagination to conjure up a place and travel with your mind as a child. One particular story I enjoyed very much as a child and as well as an adult , is ‘Around the world in 80 days’ by Jules Verne. The very first time I heard the story, was from my father, who narrated the story from his memory, and I remember being fascinated with words like circumnavigate and perplexed with the word wager and amazed by the fact you save a day travelling from East to West , Mr Fogg s Determination, and Passeportout s resourcefulness really inspired me.

“Did you know , Jules Verne lived the later part of his years in Amiens, and his house is open to public is not very far from Paris by train?” said my better half one day, while browsing through a random map on google maps on his phone. Browsing through google maps randomly, is a favourite pass time of my husband, he has a penchant for finding locations of inspiration for travel. I needed very little persuasion further on this for a petite trip to the French city, not very far from Paris.

Vinnie at 10th arrondisement

On a Friday night we boarded the Eurostar from St Pancras London, to Paris Gare Du Nord, for a late Autumn trip to Amiens. We stayed overnight in Paris, next morning we walked out of our Hotel in Paris, with our SNCF tickets in our hand, strolled around the streets of Paris, spotted the street art Vinnie at 10th arrondissement, which made me very happy. We grabbed some breakfast before boarding the train from Gare Du Nord, to Amiens, it took an hour to reach Amiens. The present structure of the station what we see was built after the World War II having been  destroyed during the War.

Gare D’Amiens

We dropped our luggage at the Hotel, which was right across the station. We had a quick bite to eat since it was already the lunch time, then we walked towards the Maison Du Jules-Verne. It’s a charming little museum, with English audio guides, and little leaflets in each room in English. There is an exhibition on his publisher, (Pierre Hetzel) too. The house is large, warm , and welcoming, with a tower at the very top. The house has been kept, as if the humble author has just walked out and would be back soon. When I walked around the house, I felt it exudes a warmth of a well lived house, full of love and tenderness. He lived in the house with his wife for 18 years , until his death. I particularly loved the spiral staircases in the middle of the house which takes you all the way up to the tower. The house is filled with furniture from the  era of the author, additionally it showcases the objects giving insights in to his work. His degree certificate can be seen framed and hung on the wall, and of course there is a photo of the novelist himself on the wall. The other objects of interest for me were the various maps, paper clippings which illustrated the travel plan of the book. If you are an admirer of Jules-Verne, like me then his house is definitely worth a visit. The house closes down in middle of October and reopens in April.

View of the house from street

Spiral staircase running all the way up to the tower

Amiens is also referred as the Little Venice of North. A walk along the River Somme on an autumnal morning , with its meandering canals, riverside restaurants and bistros, gorgeous colourful houses by the edge of the canal and you begin to understand, why the city may have acquired the title of Little Venice of North. I have not been to Venice, so I am not the best judge whether it is like Venice or not. But sitting by the canal, sipping coffee,under a canopy, watching swans and ducks floating on the canal, with  sound of bells of the Notre Dame Amiens peeling in the background, the quaint city feels ethereal, making you leave the cares of the world behind and just savour the moment you are in.

I was interested in visiting the Hortillonnage- floating market gardens. It is a floating market garden grown on the marshlands, and can only be accessed by boats. It is a preserved site around 300 hectares of marshland , capable of producing beautiful flora and fauna. The tour on the boat takes around 45 minutes, which are run at regular intervals. There are leaflets available in English, but the tour is in French. Although the guide on our boat, knew a bit of English, and pointed and explained to us some parts in English. It was extremely kind of him to do so and I really appreciated his efforts. At the beginning of the tour, it was mentioned to us at that the tour guide would speak in French. The Hortillonnages are small plots of lands, separated by canals, and accessible only by flat bottom boats. The water level is essential for the canals and to support the flora and fauna around. This water level is maintained by three locks around the canal. The gardener, called the Hortillon is in charge of maintenance of the banks of the canal, as the mud from canal has to retrieved and laid on the banks to keep the fragile banks intact. I quiet enjoyed the tour, it is so serene and secluded, far from the sounds of the city, and is tucked away between beautiful canals ,with vibrant colours and diverse birdlife.

Amiens is of course known for its Cathedral D’Amiens, with its magnificent gothic architecture, which is worth a visit. The quaint city has plenty of shops and also has a branch of Gallery Laffeyette, if you are interested in a bit of retail therapy.

I enjoyed dinner at Ristorante Del Arte. It is an Italian restaurant, situated not far from where we stayed. We did have the waitress attending to us , speak to us in English. Her English speaking skills were limited to as much as my French language skill are, which is not great. I wanted to order a vegetarian pasta, my husband very cleverly ordered a Margarita Pizza. I inquired in English, about the contents of my pasta and wanted to confirm it had no meat, and I managed to completely confuse her and she looked worried. I had to literally wrack my brains, and I managed to say in French.”Je voudrais des pâtes, pas de viande, pas de poisson” . She looked relieved and pointed at the menu a pasta dish, and said it was vegetarian contained no meat. The pasta arrived and it was very delicious. She came in to check later if everything was okay. I love such interactions with people during travel and that’s what makes travel a little bit more fun.

I often read on blogs disclosures being made on recommendations. It made me realise I often mention hotel and restaurant names and have not added any disclosures . I thought it is worth mentioning now, my blogs are usually anecdotal, they are my experiences, and I would like to think, they are almost like a story, a tale that happened to me on a travel. The hotels and restaurants I mention on my blog are part of the stories. Somewhere I have been, someplace I have stayed, eaten in and enjoyed and paid for myself. It is merely my recommendation. I would like to be the narrator, the catalyst, who makes you embark on a journey, your journey, explore what you love, find out what you like. It is the human connection that interests me. You my dear reader, are what I am interested in. If with my blog I am able to connect to you, I am able to take you along my journey with my words, make you wonder, Hmmm.. would I do that?, shall I go there?. That connection would make me happy.

Jules Verne who wrote Around the World in 80 days in late 1800, inspired a woman in 21st century , to take the train to Paris and then to Amiens, experience a wonderful walk and a lunch on the Riverside, a delicious dinner at Del Arte, admire the Street art on 10th arrondissement , Paris and many more experiences. A man in born in France in 19th century, long dead, managed to form a connection with a little girl in 20th century, in a far away land, a land where he never stepped a foot on, at different times., yet with his stories he managed to amuse her. To me that’s a marvellous journey. Would you like to embark on a journey of your own ?
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Lou Messugo

Posted in Travellogue

Rails, Rail stations and Rouen

I find train journeys very captivating and enthralling. Train stations to me are like a magical portal , a doorway to a land of wonders, beginning of an amazing adventure. They are very dear to me and have a nostalgic connection,having travelled extensively on trains during childhood years, while growing up in India. I am also a huge fan of book, ‘The Railway Children’.  Rail and railway stations have been an integral part of my life. Such is my fascination for trains and train stations, that I had breakfast in Kings Cross station this year as a birthday treat. Any opportunity of travelling by train, I hardly ever would miss. We have been planning a trip to Rouen for a while now and this Easter break we did a journey to Rouen, by train.

Continue reading “Rails, Rail stations and Rouen”
Posted in Musings

Beautiful Hampstead

We all have our special  places or cities. A special attachment to a place, a place which cheers you up, where you are alive, where you are yourself and you shed all your worries and concerns. Hampstead in London is one such place for me, which raises my spirits

Hampstead has captured a special place in my heart, with its woodland  and walking paths, heritage homes, museums, cafes and streets bustling with people. Hampstead is very charming, often referred to as the Hampstead Village. Along  with the cafes, high street shops , the heath with its vast green meadows spread out like a velvety carpet, with  little ponds and tall trees are a pleasing sight. I have a very vivid memory of me and a friend ,  walking in to Hampstead heath, one summer weekend, to talk about daily drudgery  and monotony of our life. We settled on a bench facing the pond, we could see and hear  kids squealing in joy and playing Frisbee on the other side of the pond, the water of the pond was glistening in the sun, and then a swan gracefully landed on the  pond,  there was a combined noise  of  swishing wings, water and the swift landing ,creating beautiful ripples in the shimmering water. We both sat there gazing silently, transfixed by the beautiful sight in front of us. Nature has a very subtle yet powerful way  of reminding us the simple truths about life and bringing about the profound silence of the mind. I had read a quote by Rabindranath Tagore many years ago ,“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” It was a bright day and the beautiful sight in front made me truly understand the verse and feel what  the quote meant. I have many times walked in to Hampstead on a gloomy overcast day, my mind buzzing with my list of to-dos and my brain already on an overdrive, a little walk in the Flask Walk, with its antique Bookstore, little cafes and  fragrance of flowers from the florist on Flask walk, are enough to brighten my day and make me cast aside the worries. Hampstead has many activities to offer, one could go on a walk to explore Hampstead village, there are many interesting museums and heritage properties to visit Keats House, Kenwood House,Freud Museum, ISOKON building, Burgh House, Fenton House,  and 2 Willow Road and it is also good spot for a bit of people watching, find a cosy corner in a café by the window , with a coffee.

Hampstead has been often called as residence of the intelligentsia. When I first heard the word I had to look up in a dictionary to find out what it meant, it refers to  intellectuals or a group of highly educated people, who  are critiques and guides and considered to have the power to influence culture and may be politics.  It includes writers, architects, painters, teachers ,composers , artists,  intellectuals etc. Many famous artists have lived for a short while in Hampstead and there are a many who have made it their home. To name a few  Rabindranath Tagore, is believed to have lived in Hampstead for a short while,  Agatha Christie is said to have lived for a few years in ISOKON building,  Roland Penrose, famous Artist, Historian and known for surrealist movement in England,  modernist Architect Erno Goldfinger whose home is now a museum.

Another reason I have an affinity to Hampstead is because of the two houses in National Trusts care, where I volunteer from time to time. It is through these two houses that my love for Hampstead began. 2 Willow Road, home of Erno Gold finger, is one of the earliest Modernist properties in London. It is because of this house, I have learnt about the surrealist Movement of art, modernist art and architecture. Erno ,an Austro-Hungarian by birth , studied in Paris, married an English woman,who moved to London, built this house for himself and his young family. He had to face a lot of opposition, from the local residents and council, who were not very keen on having a modernist property in the area. But he persevered, made a  bit of modifications on his original plans and got his plan approved from the council. The house is here today, standing the test of time, as a testimonial of perseverance and standing up for what you believe in. It is said that one of the petitioners against  this modernist property,  was the famous Ian Fleming, and it is rumoured  hence he named the villain in one of his books as Goldfinger. However, there is no concrete evidence as to why he used the name. Ian Fleming is known to use names that he has come across in his life in his books. The house has a certain quality about it, it grows on you and you fall in love with it over the time. It is a very functional house, unlike its contemporaries it is not ornate, with ample natural lighting, plenty of storage, and everything in the house is much thought through. And the house beyond doubt is way ahead of its time, given the fact that house was completed in 1939. Often visitors say it is hard to believe that it belongs to that era. I love volunteering at the house , I meet people from different walks of life, some of them have immense knowledge about arts, and I end up learning something from them, some share their anecdotes from another property and sometimes standing by the  large windows with the view on to the Heath, I just watch the dynamic painting in front of me, meadows with daffodils and other new spring blossoms, and as the season progress the scene through the window keeps changing, yet never fails to enthral me.

The other house I volunteer at Hampstead is a 17th century house called Fenton House. It is very different to 2 Willow Road, it houses  three different collections from three different collectors. The house was left to National Trust by the last owner of the house, Lady Bining, with its  large porcelain collection.  The house has been furnished by the trust taking in to account the era, and some based on photographs published in the Countrylife magazine. When the trust opened the house to public, it housed the porcelain collection and a collection of musical instruments, by another collector named Benton Fletcher. He had nothing to do with the house, it is just that his collection of musical instruments is housed in Fenton House. Later on there was a collection of paintings bequeathed to the house by another collector by name of Peter Bakworth. Now the house has three collections, porcelain, musical instruments and paintings. Its  a pleasure to volunteer when  someone comes to play the instruments, or there is a musical tour in the house, the music brings the house alive and I find it very uplifting. The house has amazing views of London skyline from the balconies of the house on a clear day. The house also a beautiful garden, a kitchen Garden and  Apple orchard. I am waiting with anticipation for the apple blossoms to come next month. Every autumn, the trust organises an event called  Apple Weekend. It is a fun filled event for the entire family, you can taste the apples from the orchard, there is storytelling for kids, badge making, you can buy apple products, food stalls and the garden is dotted with deck chairs for you to relax and unwind.

It is through this opportunity of volunteering, I have met some wonderful people, I started learning and know a great deal about modernist and surrealist movements, I  got introduced to visit and explore  Hampstead, which I have come to love now and I  have had some memorable experiences.  Just last week, while volunteering,  I had an amazing cup of coffee at Willow Road while watching the daffodils swaying in the breeze from the windows of the living room, which an visitor mentioned makes the house more  dynamic, because the house is being experienced in its truest sense. I couldn’t agree more.

Mudpie Fridays




Posted in Museums and Art Galleries

A visit to National Portrait Gallery

I have become an ardent fan of  Magic FM s breakfast show presented by Nick Snaith. Last week as  part of the May Bank Holiday, Magic was hosting all week event called Magic Payday, where by a phone number would be picked up randomly and that said number would win GBP 10,000 pounds. I have been told by a friend that we should inculcate positive thoughts, it is a theory called Law of attraction, if we think positive, we attract positivity and  by merely thinking something, we can will it to happen. Apparently, we all have the power in our mind. For instance, if we think negative, we beget negative, and if we think positive we get positive outcome. I have often wondered if this is true. I do believe we should have a positive outlook and positive frame of mind, but whether we can make something happen by positive or negative thoughts, I am not so sure. I believe good and bad happen in life, how we handle  is what is important. Sometimes things go bad and it creates negativity and makes me react negatively, on which I have control over. I can choose to be positive, I am not sure if I can will something positive to happen or stop negative things to happen. I am currently in high crest of  positive waves,  I decided I was going to register my phone number and give this theory a try. I registered my number without a doubt that I was going to be the winner of Magic Payday. I was certain in my heart that I was going to get a call from Nick Snaith. I drove my husband mad with my air of positivity – ‘ Nick Snaith was going to call me on Friday morning, to tell me I have won 10K’. On Friday morning I waited with the phone in my hand and listening to Magic FM. When the actual winner was announced on the radio, I called my husband and informed him my positive thoughts had not done the trick  to make us win Maypay, but just cost us the text money. We both had a hearty laugh over it and perhaps I still have a long way to go in discovering the power of  mind. Yet I enjoyed the whole experience of positivity, registering my phone for the Mayday Pay day and waiting for the call, in my heart I was certain, I was going to be the winner and I would be getting the call. In spite of not getting the call, I had a wonderful Friday.

I have a number items on my  list of things to do on ‘My  To Do while  on a break’. Its been two months since I have stopped working and I decided it was high time I started to get on the top of my To Do list.  One of them being visit museums and art galleries on my own as many times as possible during the break. I have been meaning to visit the National Portrait Gallery and since there was an exhibition of Dutch Flower artist, with that positive vibe charging in my veins, I decided it was the time to visit the Gallery.

The exhibition is beautiful, it consists of 17th to 18th century Dutch artists’ work, but just flower art work. The artwork was just marvellous, so vibrant and life like. The artists’ had captured the still life, in the form of flowers and vases, and insects around them. In some of the artwork, the paintings of flowers in glass vase had reflections of windows/doors on them, in some there were tiny lady bird bug, or a dew drop of flowers, a droplet of water on the sill. Such attention to detail, was really enthralling. The exhibit is small, but is very captivating. The exhibition is on till 29th August 2016, if you are interested in flowers and paintings, and you are in London, I would urge you to pay a little visit to the National Portrait Gallery.

Once I finished viewing the exhibition, I decided I would pick up an artist/art work of my choice and look at that artwork in peace and in leisure. I chose John Constable’s Hay wain painting. I have a special admiration for  John Constable’s paintings, the way he paints the clouds ,the countryside and woods. And Hay wain, my personal favourite ,  with its rural backdrop and mill, is very comforting. And every time I see Hay Wain, I always find a new minute detail which I missed the previous time.

The next one, I saw was Claude Monet’s Thames with Westminster. The painting with its shadows and shrouding mist has an air of romance/mystery. I always find it very amusing how an impressionist paintings when you look at them closely are just brush strokes with no specific form, yet when you view  it from a distance it takes a beautiful form, a lovely scene, and has a depth to it. Like life, when you add the little moments together, they make a beautiful day or a beautiful life.

The last one I saw was Gainsborough s unfinished painting of his daughters with a cat. I was not intending to look at anything else , yet I stopped at this painting  with out knowing it was Gainsborough, to admire the work. There was something captivating about the girls’ gaze, and then  I read the title it said ‘ the painters daughters with a cat’. I looked closely but there was no cat in the painting, there just a shadowy  outline of the cat, hence it is unfinished.

After the exhibition, I met a friend at a Turkish restaurant for  dinner. The dinner was delicious, the company was great. My hypothesis , positive thoughts and outlook leads to positivity, since I had a wonderful afternoon and evening. I read somewhere a quote , I am not sure whose. I love the quote

“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.”