• Valencia 2011 – Part 2

    In Valencia our hotel was situated right next to the port. Being from the Liverpool City Region we love a good port. It was interesting seeing familiar ships visiting. Our main reason for being here was not to look at the port though. It was to sit on the beach and rest after running the Liverpool 2011 Marathon. That said, you can’t keep an architectural photographer from wanting to explore and we didn’t have to go far to find an interesting building.

    Vales e Vents aka the America’s Cup Building was built in 2007 for the International Yacht Race. I enjoyed playing with the clean lines in the early morning sun. It feels like it was designed by Sir Johnny Ive.

  • Madrid 2011 – Day 2

    Our second day in Madrid was much like the first. Beautiful. Sunny. Warm.

    Our first stop was Atocha Station. The inside of this iconic train station has been turned into an arboretum. You can still catch a train there but the older part of the station is this wonderfully relaxing calm space to sit and wait for your train. It’s brilliant. There should be more spaces like that in cities that lack green space (oh hey Liverpool).

    We got on a bus and did a different bus tour route. It was painful for me to step up onto the bus and I welcomed the tour. This time we went up close to the motorway that is now a river. We didn’t see much of it as I couldn’t get off the bus but what I saw looked great. Having seen the removal of green space in Liverpool over the years I welcome any city that puts a higher priority on space for people over the car or student flats.

    Madrid is a city that I really want to revisit.

  • Spain – Day 1

    October 2011

    On 9th October 2011 I ran the Liverpool marathon. The first marathon in I think 23 years. My time was 5 hours and 24 minutes. The next day we were on the train to Paris for a Refuges des Fondu special and then to Madrid to relax. In planning this trip I forgot that I wouldn’t be able to walk after the marathon so someday we hope to revisit Madrid.

    We arrived late the previous night to the sight of a man in speedos holding a sign in the Plaza del Sol. The sign read;

    Respect this man who has to undress to live

    No idea why and the police left him alone.

    Our first full day in Madrid was spent on an open tour bus. It was a great way to see the city and not something we would normally do. I prefer to wander and stop to take photos. Hard to do that on a bus but it’s hard to wander after running a marathon so you take what you can get. We took the extended tour which took us to where Madrid had turned a motorway into a river and public park area. Great! I need to explore that next time.

    The city is beautiful. I love the pastel colours and the architecture is pristine. We stayed in a nice enough hotel just off Plaza del Sol which certainly lived up to its name. It was a very hot day so I bought a Buff. One of those neckerchiefs bikers wear but the instructions showed how to make it into a head covering to protect me from the heat.

    As I couldn’t walk much food was whatever we bumped into. We didn’t find an amazing restaurant or have a life changing food experience like I did in Paris the previous year. If you ignore the churros that is. I’ll get to them in a future post.


  • Paris Day 4

    September 2010

    Our final full day in Paris. We had a lazy morning, packed and went to Amelie’s cafe for lunch. We’ve been many times and it’s a solid little cafe. Never too busy with tourists. Highly recommend it. Nice to say goodbye to the Montmartre area.

    After lunch it rained. It rained heavily. Our final port of call was to visit la Defense and see Grande Arche de la Defense. According to ArchDaily;

    Situated just outside of Paris in the business district of la Défense, the Grande Arche completes the Historical Axis – extending from the Louvre along the Champs-Elysees to the Arche de Triomphe – and guides Paris to the future.

    You can see it from the Champs-Elysees which we walked the previous day. I’d like to revisit it on a less wet day as we didn’t spend much time there.

    We returned to Refuges des Fondu for tea. Packed out. Great fun. The thing to do there is sign your name on the wall when you visit. We’ve tried to find our original ones but in the years we’ve been we never could. We have seen John Lasseter’s name up there with a drawing of Buzz and Woody from Toy Story. Cool. I love the fun of it all and that you cook the food to your liking. There’s no rush or anything. It’s a great little place.

    Our final stop in Paris was in torrential rain to get a long exposure photo I had been hoping for. We made it just in time. I didn’t fancy standing around in the rain.

    I noticed how interesting the bridge we were standing under looked so I took a photo. The bridge would later feature in Inception. That’s pretty cool.

    On our way back to the hotel I noticed that all this time we could see the light from the Eiffel Tower but we never noticed it till our final moment in the city.

    So ended my first trip to Paris. I loved the architecture. The city feels like it embraces nature in a way other cities don’t. Lots of window boxes and green everywhere. It’s a beautiful city to wander around or to sit in a cafe and look at over an espresso. I miss the it.

  • Paris – Day 3

    September 2010

    Day 3 on our week in France began with a trip to see the Eiffel Tower up close. My wife, then girlfriend, took me to this area across the river. Coming out the train station she put her hands over my eyes to guide me round to the viewing spot. I had no idea what to expect. Was I beneath it? Right next to it? No. I was a good distance away with a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower and Paris behind. It was a great spot. For reference it’s called the Trocadéro. Oddly it wasn’t too busy back in 2010. Great spot though. Good view over the Jardins du Trocadéro leading up to the Eiffel Tower.

    From there we walked across the River Seine to get a close up view of the Eiffel Tower. Did we go up? No. It’s too much of a cliche and not the best view of the city. Head to the Montparnasse Tower, 56th floor Observatory for a great view. Instead we wandered down the Seine and took a boat ride.

    Two films inspired by love of Paris. Amelié and Angel-A. Wonderfully shot films. Amelié has a red / green colour palette whereas Angel-A is strong black and white. Different takes on the city. I’d recommend them before visiting. There’s a key scene in Angel-A that takes place on bridge Pont Alexandre III. It was nice to see that bridge from the river. Of course I originally took these photos in black and white to echo the film but upon a 10 year reflection I feel they work just fine in colour.

    The boat ride took us down to Notre Dame. Great to see it from this unique location.

    We took quick stop to see the Arc de Triomphe which was surrounded by an absolutely bonkers roundabout.

    From there we walked down Avenue des Champs-Élyéses towards the Louvre. I had always wanted to see the Louvre and the Pyramide du Louvre. Arriving perfectly at dusk it was a treat and surprisingly quiet. Pre-Instagram times eh.

    We took a quick look around the inside to see the inverted pyramid and the Apple store. Always got to see the local Apple store.

    I love the contrast of architecture here. The modern pyramid set against the older architecture of the Louvre. As to be expected it wasn’t welcomed at the time but has become accepted and loved. I think it’s great. One day we’ll go inside the Louvre. It’s nice to have a reason to revisit the city.

    As night fell we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before tea at Refuges des Fondu.

  • Paris – Day 2

    September 2010

    (Un)Fortunately our hotel was just down the road from a couple of camera shops. A Leica store and a generic camera shop. This was a great start to the day. I was able to look at real Leica cameras in Paris and hoping that maybe one day I would have one. (Spoiler – I got one 2 months later). The second store we went to had a load of bags to play with. I love camera bags. I tried a few with the intention of getting a new one but I wasn’t 100% sure so I took a photo of the one I liked. (2020 Pete – Years later I bought this bag but completely forgot I first saw it in Paris).

    Our next stop was a boulangerie where my wife introduced me to the correct version of an eclair. Why the British one is so bland I don’t know. It is impossible to get a good eclair in the UK. Chocolate filled choux pastry. That’s it. This was the start of a food revolution for me. Albeit a tiny tiny one but an eye opener. Whenever my wife and I travel we bump into little treats that are simple, as I like simple things, and yet impossible to find back home. Brownies are great n all. I made some last night. But the UK is basically cupcakes, and salted caramel something. Where’s the chocolate filled bread ring I got on the beach in Bulgaria every day? Where’s a decent patisserie? Why is a ham sandwich a dumpster fire?

    I really feared I wouldn’t be able to eat much when I travelled outside the UK but what I found was a fascinating variety of food and in a way I was being held back by British food. In Paris it was so easy to get a ham baguette for lunch every day. Fresh baguette. Ham. Great butter. That’s it. I couldn’t believe it. No goop, gunk or greens. Simple good flavours. To think I’d spent my life with food issues only to be proven right or at least to find that “right” is location based. The UK still looks at me funny when I order food but I know I’m right. Paris taught me this. Vive la France! Vive jamon de beurre!

    Our wander took us to Notre Dame Cathedral where my girlfriend (now wife) explained the architectural details to me. What a magnificent building. It’s almost impossible to believe it opened 675 years ago. Is modern architecture too minimalist and boxy? The structure and cleverness of a building can often be hidden behind the pristine walls where as old cathedrals have to show the support structure. A wonderful building.

    From there we walked up to Centre Pompidou that in some ways is a contemporary illustration of that point. All the infrastructure that would normally be hidden on the inside of the building is on the outside which helps create more usable space inside. It was designed by Renzo Piano (The Shard fame) and Richard Rogers (Lloyd’s Building, London fame). Just like Notre Dame Cathedral it is quite a striking building on the Paris skyline.

    After this we headed back to Pigalle to see the Moulin Rouge building. We didn’t go in. It’s not a show I’ve had any interest in seeing. Honestly, I don’t really know what a night in there is like outside of the can-can and surely they can’t can’t can can all night? Can can they? Nice building anyway. There’s a big vent outside it that people stand on and it blows your hair up for fun photos. It’s silly and fun to play with. I didn’t have the hair for it unfortunately. How fun it would be to have a gang of Scotsmen in kilts there for a photo.

    I also had fun using my Polaroid Sun 600 camera that my wife secretly packed for me. I thought it would be too big. The photos have almost faded now which is a shame but I like how ephemeral they were.

    That was day 2 in Paris. A tour of architectural highlights.


  • Paris – Day 1

    September 2010

    My first trip to Paris. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s a city for romantics, passion and love. Would I feel that way? At the time I didn’t feel that but over the years I’ve been visiting the city I have fallen in love with it. I never get bored of walking around the city. I’m not a foodie so that is a bit lost on me. It is simply a beautiful city to wander. Oh but I do adore chocolate eclairs. Proper choux pastry with chocolate cream.



  • Nantes

    Through November I’m going to do a travelogue each day from our trips. I didn’t get around to it at the time and it feels right to do it now.



  • Nantes. September 2010. #Blogvember

    Before 2010 I never travelled. I was held back by "What if?" type thoughts and food issues. That changed when I met now wife Sam. She introduced me to Europe and to being able to travel. It’s still stressful and complicated to get somewhere but I’ve done it enough times now that I know I can again. 2020 was supposed to be our last hurrah around Europe to cap off 10 years of travel before Brexit made everything even more complicated. Europe has been such a great place to travel around. We’ve never had any issues and everyone has been welcoming.

    Through November I’m going to do a travelogue each day from our trips. I didn’t get around to it at the time and it feels right to do it now.

    Nantes, France. September 2010

    We arrive in Nantes late on Saturday evening. Tired and hungry we tour the city looking for food. My first real night in France and the only place that seems to be open is McDonalds. We keep looking and settle on chips from a little fast food place. At least it’s authentic genuine local food right? On our way back to the hotel we stop in a small bar for a draught pint of Kronenbourg 1664. My wife teaches me what to say and I ask for 2 beers. We sit outside and watch the world pass us by feeling good about our first night. People wearing shopping bags walk past us. It’s an interesting night.

    The next day is all about wandering the city, seeing the sights and visiting Les Machines de l’île. They’re the people behind the Sultan’s Elephant in London and we were inspired to visit them after seeing a similar project, La Machine (the spider), in Liverpool. I, of course, want to visit late in the day when the light is right. As we cross a bridge we see the Sultan’s Elephant wandering around the docks and all my ideas of perfect light go out the window. It was an amazing sight to see. A dinosaur sized elephant made of wood and metal wandering around an old dockyard.

    I never realised just how similar Nantes was to Liverpool. An old port city that reinvented itself with art and culture. They had been doing this for over a decade before Liverpool did its Capital of Culture year. My wife and I have always planned to go back there and really explore. Our 2010 trip was mainly to visit Les Machines de l’île before heading to Paris. One day…

    As we watched the elephant walk around my wife mentions to the crew that we’re from Liverpool. They say "This is for you. Watch." The elephant stands proudly and shoots water from its trunk. Amazing! The people behind the elephant are incredibly talented. The machine is beautifully crafted and a wonder to see. If you get the chance to go I highly recommend it.

    After watching the elephant we go on a tour of their workshop. We get to see what they’re working on next. A multi-storey carrousel inspired by Jules Verne. There are boats to ride on and sea creatures to play with. They’re all beautifully crafted and so much fun to see come to life. As it’s my birthday I get to ride on a sea creature and operate the controls. It’s so cool. We’re having so much fun we almost miss the elephant walk through the workshop and get in the queue for tickets to ride it.

    The elephant ride is great fun. There was plenty of space to move around on it. You never felt like you were getting in the way of someone else’s photo. Of course this was 2010 and Instagram wasn’t a thing then. The ride goes around the outside of the workshop before entering and you’re about 1 storey high. It’s an interesting perspective on the area. I really loved it.

    The following day was my birthday. We wandered with no real plan other than to wander. I love a good wander. The joy is in the wander not the destination. There’s no need to rush or get somewhere. Wherever you are is the right place at the right time. Enjoy it. We wander. We enjoy it. There are little 8bit styled pixel art on the corner of the streets. Most places are closed for some reason on a Monday but we find food in a restaurant called Amour de Pomme de Terre. We get chips with a side of baked potato (yup), some greens and steak. The steak is cut but not cooked. It’s a fun little activity during the meal as we cook each slice to our liking. I’ve never seen it anywhere else and that’s a shame.

    Our next day is the trip to Paris. My first time there.