Sunday, 17 June 2018

Mosaic Monday # 88 - "Achilleion" Sissi's Palace in Corfu.

In the early 1980's the Senior Partner's career took us to Bavaria, West Germany, we lived there for over 13 years. 
Our home overlooked Starnberger See (Lake Starnberg) and it was whilst I was living there that I came to learn a little of the history of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, (1837-1898).
"Sissi" was the daughter of the Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria, wife of  Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and half sister to King Ludvig I of Bavaria.

As a child Sissi enjoyed spending time with other family members by Lake Starnberg at their summer residence Possenhofen Castle, situated in the pretty lake shore village of the same name.
Sissi's adult life was not as pleasant.
Her marriage to Franz Joseph was not a happy one, overshadowed as it was by her domineering mother in law who also happened to be her aunt, the Archduchess Sophie (of Bavaria).
The suicide/murder of her son and heir, Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, and his mistress at his hunting lodge, Mayerling, in 1889 was a tragedy from which she never recovered.
Elisabeth fled Austria and travelled to the island of Corfu, a place she had visited often during her extended travels and a sanctuary from life at court in Vienna, Austria.
After purchasing a large villa in the village of Gastouri and later also the land surrounding it down as far as the coast she instructed the Italian architect, Raffaele Caritto to design a palace in the Pompeian style. 
Building began in 1889 and took two years to complete.
As a great admirer of Achilles, a hero of Greek mythology, Elisabeth named the palace Achilleion and had several statues of him installed in the house and throughout the grounds.
She visited Achilleion twice each year until she was murdered in 1898 in Geneva.
The palace remained closed until it was sold in 1907 by her daughter, Maria Valeria, to Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Achilleion Palace is now a Museum operated by the Greek Tourist Organization and we were able to tour both it and the extensive gardens during our recent stay in Corfu.

It was wonderful to walk the halls and climb the elaborate staircase however many of the rooms were unfurnished and in need of some TLC.

I so enjoyed learning more about the Empress Elisabeth and seeing her most favourite home but was saddened to discover that her visits were cut short when her life ended so tragically at the hands of an assassin.
On a lighter note to finish, some movie trivia for you to enjoy.
The teenage German actress Romy Schneider starred in a trilogy of movies entitled "Sissi" (1955, 1956 & 1957) playing the role of Elisabeth. The three films were later condensed into one version "Forever My Love" and dubbed into English.
In 1968 Omar Sharif played the leading role of Crown Prince Rudolph in a movie based on the Mayerling Incident. 
Scenes from the 1981 James Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only" were filmed in the Casino on the upper storey of Achilleion.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Mosaic Monday # 87 - a visit from friends

In the week that towns and cities across Normandy took part in splendid celebrations to commemorate the Allied invasion of France, June1944, we welcomed new friends, Elaine and Mark, to the Presbytère for the first time.
They arrived late Thursday afternoon after a tiring day of sightseeing in Bayeux, we hadn't met Mark before but he and the SP immediately hit it off and I don't think that they stopped talking, joking and enjoying each others company at all during the next day and a half.
As it was their first time in Normandy we put on our tour guide hats the following day and headed towards the coast. 
We began the tour at Pointe du Hoc and the Ranger Monument.

As we walked the site we paused to watch, silently, as a WWII veteran slowly marched to the Monument accompanied by pipes and drum. 
As he passed by I thanked him for his service.
Our next stop along the coast was the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. The weather that day for us was misty and damp and lent extra poignancy to our visit.
A quick lunch stop in Port en Bessin for moules and frites then we headed to Arromanches and the 360 degree cinema.
They are currently showing the HD film "Normandy 100 Jours" which shows the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy on 9 screens.
That evening we sat around outside, drinking wine and sharing our memories of the day, before heading indoors for a late dinner and more lively conversation which ranged from the sublime - "best vacation ever" to the ridiculous "TV's gogglebox"! 
We certainly enjoyed sharing our little corner of Normandy with these lovely people and we hope that they come back again one day.

P.S. It wasn't possible for me to add links to either The Ranger Monument or The American Cemetery but if you're interested in learning more about either of these very interesting monuments then a quick google search is all it takes to find a link.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Mosaic Monday # 86 - life lately.

What a crazy week it's been weather wise since our return home from Corfu.
We haven't suffered as much as others parts of France, no hailstorms or crashing thunderstorms here, but we've had plenty of rain, followed by a couple of sunshine and blue sky days, followed by more rain.
We even lost internet access during one heavy downpour.
Still, every cloud has a silver lining and the garden does seem to be thriving despite or probably because of the changeable weather.
On the day we were "unplugged" we headed to a local garden centre to buy plants for the planters which are dotted around the front of the house. A family run business with a great selection of plants at reasonable prices.
We came home with geraniums, marigolds and a little blue plant that I don't know the name of but which has been excellent for filling in all the odd little spaces.
Elsewhere in the garden, a bright and brassy rhododendron adds colour to a shady corner, roses clamber through the Virginia creeper at the front of the house, purple flowering chives are taking over the herb bed, small fruits are appearing on the espaliered pear tree whilst the windchimes, found on a shopping trip in Savanna, GA provide a melodic soundtrack to the loveliness of it all.
My sister sent me some photographs of her remodelled front garden the other day, I just had to share this one of her miniature schnauzer Jet as a living statue posed next to his Mini Me!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Mosaic Monday # 85 - Efharisto, ikos Dassia, Corfu - you were amazing!

We're back home again after our wonderful trip to the Greek island of Corfu.
On the day of departure our flight was delayed because the plane that was supposed to be waiting for us on the tarmac had been sent on a rescue mission to Turkey to bring back holidaymakers stranded there when their plane was unable to take off.
An hour and a half later we were on our way!
The flight was uneventful and after collecting our luggage we headed out to meet our driver.
During the short journey we couldn't help noticing the many closed businesses and abandoned, partially constructed, building projects and we were saddened to see how badly the downturn in Greece's economy has affected this beautiful island which held such happy memories for us from many years ago.
When we reached the town of Dassia it was obvious that the new ikos Dassia 5* hotel was beginning to bring back pride and prosperity to the area and we received a wonderful welcome from all the staff there.
Weather wise it did rain a little and there were some grey skies but the sun shone through almost all of the time and we soon found ourselves relaxing into a slower pace of life, (slower than la vie quotidienne in Normandy, if you can believe it).
Our plans to hire a car and revisit other areas of the island seemed less important as we lazed in the garden, or by the pool, reading books and sipping cocktails.
Cocktail of choice -  a cheeky retro Pina Colada!
We did stir ourselves in the middle of our stay to spend a day and an evening in old Corfu town - sightseeing, dining out and people watching, three of my favorite things to do.
I have many photographs to sift through and a couple of stories to share but for now a few snapshots of the resort and those wonderful views.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Mosaic Monday # 84 - we're on vacation (almost)

Just one week from now and I'll be on a plane, with the Senior Partner, heading for the Greek island of Corfu. This will be our second visit to Corfu, the first was 39 years ago in 1979!
We love the Greek islands and try to get away to one of them at least once a year,
This time we'll be staying at a brand new hotel, the Ikos Dassia. 
We have stayed at the Ikos Oceania on two previous trips and have high hopes for this new sister hotel.
We'll also be revisiting some of the places we discovered on that first holiday together, all those years ago.
So...............this means that Mosaic Monday will be on vacation for two weeks, returning fresh as a daisy on Monday May 28th.
That's 05/28/18 which in the US is Memorial Day this year.
My head is full of ideas and plans of what we'll see, do and experience, but truth be told we may just sit in the sun by the pool drinking Mojitos and eating wonderful food.

Je reve!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Mosaic Monday # 83 - indulging the senses

Do you ever think about how often we indulge our five senses?
Magical perceptions without which we couldn't understand the world around us, every moment of every day even during sleep!
Sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. 
It's lilac time here in Normandy and despite the April showers which we've had this week my lilac tree is in bloom.

As I cut some stems to enjoy indoors I noticed that the rosemary in the herb bed was covered in pretty little purple flowers, so I cut some of that too.
I created a welcoming vignette on top of the chest of drawers in the entrance hall.
A tall lantern with a church candle which I can light in the evenings to add a warm glow, faux lavender stems in a contemporary shallow bowl are both Ikea purchases.
The jug, cups and saucers are from my Grandmothers "bottom drawer".
The two bunnies, which were part of my Easter décor, seem to have taken up permanent residence this Spring so I let them stay.
The perfume from the lilac and rosemary together was divine.
In Spring my thoughts turn to lighter fare, well, hearty soups and stews are for cold winter days aren't they?

I made a beetroot and goat's cheese tart for supper one night last week, it was delicious.

Click here for the recipe.
This might be considered a bit of a stretch but handling my scrapbooking materials is an indulgence for me, squirreling myself away in my attic craft room to play with paper and glue is the way I like to spend my free time.
I created this layout for a challenge on the UK Scrappers website this week which was inspired by BBC Radio 4's weekly "Desert Island Discs" programme in which "castaways" have to choose 8 recordings and a book to take onto their Desert Island with them. 

My disc choices were:
The Dock Of A Bay - Otis Redding
My Guy - Mary Wells
Maggie May (natch!) - Rod Stewart
If I Fell - The Beatles
Imagine - John Lennon
Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
Songbird - Eva Cassidy (which is also my funeral song).
My book choice was A Redbird Christmas - Fannie Flagg (what else could it be?).
(I left this one until last!)
Early in the week I had root canal treatment. I'll spare you the details but the sound of the dentists drill has always instilled fear in me ever since I was a little girl.
and on that note..................................

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Mosaic Monday # 82 - a surprising few days

The biggest surprise here this past week has been the scorching weather we've been experiencing since Tuesday, making this the hottest April in Normandy since records began.
It was lovely to sit outside midmorning Wednesday with a cup of coffee browsing through a gardening magazine and planning which herbs to grow.
In the afternoon the SP surprised me with these sweet treats.
Thursday brought another lovely surprise, the cows came back to their summer home in the field next door.
The house martins which take up residence in the nests that previous families have made, in the rafters over the garage, arrived too making Thursday extra special.
They fly so fast and the nests are so up high that it's impossible for me to photograph them.
image courtesy RSPB

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Website
On Saturday morning we enjoyed petit dejeuner outside before heading off to a vide grenier in a nearby town, in the afternoon the temperature climbed to 28 C that's over 82 F!
I didn't uncover any hidden gems at the vide grenier but there were lots of pots and rusty old tools to be had if I'd needed any.
Early evening brought a terrific downpour followed by thunder and lightening and more rain.
Sunday was cooler so we decided to take a trip to the beach for our walk, there were quite a few tourists about taking advantage of the beautiful weather, the forecast for the coming week however is for temperatures closer to those which we normally expect in April.

Look how green everything is.....................

Wishing you a week full of blue skies and sunshine.