Tuesday, 3 January 2012


I may have mentioned this before. . . No, not "may have"; I'm pretty sure that I have actually mentioned this before. It's just that I can't find exactly where I mentioned it. I'm a list person. No, not Brahms and Liszt. That's Cockney rhyming slang for. . . Anyway, I'm the sort of chap who makes lists. If I had been on the Titanic I would probably have been making a list of how many deckchairs were floating off to sea or something just as idiotic. But I did find when I was working that a few minutes spent at the end of the working day drawing up a list of the important things to be done the next day paid off. Now I'm retired I still make lists. Lists like shopping lists. Even if I have only four or five things to buy, if I don't take my list with me I'm bound to come home without something vital. Before going to a Lions meeting, I make a list of the things I need (or want) to say. I don't always say everything on the list but at least I have thought things through. This train of thought comes courtesy of Skip, via Matt and Suldog, all of whom have posted lists on their blogs in recent days (or weeks or even months/years). Having seen their lists, I have felt the itch, the yearning, the burnig desire to create another list. But what should I list? My CDs? No, perhaps not. Books I plan to read in 2012? Hardly, since I never plan to read books, I just pick up those that look interesting. No, none of those. I'll make it a list that might, just might, be of interest or use to other people, other people who are travelling in Europe. Here are a few of the things that I have found in cities across Euro pe and that have delighted me. Whimsical, stunningly beautiful, just plain surprising: all, to my mind, well worth seeing.

Postman's Park, London. This is one of the many parks in London and is one of the smallest and least well-known. It gets its name from its situation, very close to what was at one time the General Post Office, which itself is close to St Paul's cathedral. It is this park that one finds a very moving memorial, the Watts Memorial, which has over 50 plaques made of Royal Doulton tiles, each commemorating somebody who died trying to save another life. Each is full of tragic detail, like that to David Selves, aged 12 of Woolwich who "supported his drowning playfellow and sank with him clasped in his arms".

Begijnhof, Amsterdam. I found this delightful little square when visiting Amsterdam with my family (wife and three children) and with my friend Chris and his family (wife and two children). It offered a peaceful spot for a picnic in a city with few green spots in the centre.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. Paris, like London, abounds in tourist attractions but, to my mind, this is the most magnificent and yet it is one of the least known. Situated on the Île de la Cité not far from Notre Dame and tucked away behind the Ministry of Justice. Another of those places I have found by accident,the first time I visited was a sunny morning. The stained glass around the upper chapel is absolutely stunning with the sun shining through. I have not found a picture to really do it justice but the rose window gives a taste of what is there.

Florence - the Baptistry. Forget the cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio, the statue of David and the art galleries. Facing the main west door of the cathedral is the Baptistry. The doors of this building consist of several metal panels - highly polished brass, I should think - on which are depicted biblical scenes such as the one on the left. Absolutely stunning.

Jeanneke Pis, Brussels. Possibly the best known attraction in Brussels is the Manneken Pis, a statue of a small boy urinating and thereby providing an amusing fountain. The original statue dated from the 14th century but was replaced in the 17th. However, in a nod to feminism, another statue was made in the 1980s - Jeanneke Pis. This is a little girl squatting and urinating. Tucked away in a narrow, dead-end alley, it is found by few tourists.

Figline in Val d'Arno, Italy. Greve-in-Chianti is noted for its triangular piazza but when I visited I found it unpleasantly crowded. A few miles away the little town of Figline also has an attractive, triangular piazza where it is possible to sit at a cafe terrace enjoying a coffee while locals go about their business without the hassle of umpteen tourists.

And, in my opinion, two well worth not visiting: the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbour is too small to be worth bothering with and is poorly situated. You can't get close enought to the Mona Lisa to see the picture, which is behind thick glass anyway and always has a hundred or so people elbowing each other in an attempt to get closer.


stephen Hayes said...

What a great post. An interesting note: Florence's Baptistry doors were created by an artist named Ghiberti. When the young Michelangelo saw them he said that they were fit to be the "Gates of Paradise," which is what they are known as today. You're an excellent photographer, by the way.

Suldog said...

Wow. I always wondered why it was that a little boy pissing into a pond was considered the height of art (by some people) and I always wondered if anyone would think the same if it had been a little girl. Now that I've seen it, I still don't know :-)

Thanks for the shout out! Happy New Year!

Buck said...

I've only visited one of your attractions: the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. My French teacher took me there when I was nine or ten years old (my father was stationed in Paris at the time) and the sight had a lasting impact on me. When I took The Second Mrs. Pennington to Paris the first time the Sainte-Chapelle was the highlight of our trip. Or so she said.

Brighton Pensioner said...

Stephen, many thanks for your comment but I must confess to having purloined three of the five photos!

Anonymous said...

Desperate to go to the Postman's park now...it's on my list!