The magnificent Deer of Richmond Park, London

The magnificent Deer of Richmond Park, London

If you ever want to break free the hustle and bustle of the big city, then head down to the southwest suburb of Richmond. Here you’ll be able to escape and enter the wonderfully serene Richmond Park. Covering around 2,500 acres (making it the largest of the Royal Parks), Richmond Park has some incredible residents – hundreds of deer. As a national nature reserve and deer park, these deer have had a key part throughout the park’s history and have been roaming throughout the landscape since 1529.

As you walk around the different paths of the park, every-now and then you’ll come across these splendid animals. Whilst down in London, a visit to Richmond Park was a high priority on my list! Armed with my camera and zoom lens, I was ready and prepared for an encounter with the deer! After some walking, they were spotted, and off I went! It was like being on safari! (not quite the same obviously, but as I’ve never experienced it, this was a close as I am currently going to get!) There really is something very magical and tranquil about these deer, and although I approached them with caution, they didn’t seem too bothered by my close presence. Here are just a few of the photos I took whilst in the park – there were so many, that I feel like these are probably some of the best.

If you would like to check out more photos, head over to my Flickr here.

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

Deer of Richmond Park, London

The Impressionist’s heaven: Claude Monet’s Gardens in Giverny

The Impressionist’s heaven: Claude Monet’s Gardens in Giverny

Not too long ago, I finally experienced something that I have been longing to see since I can remember. That was taking a trip to explore Monet’s gardens for the first time. It seems to be a cliché as an Art Historian to say that you love the Impressionists – but I really do! There’s something about their work, especially Monet’s, dreaminess and visionary paintings that captivates the viewers. When looking at their work, I could stand for hours staring at the various colours, watching them wash and merge into one another as you move your gaze around the surface.

It was here in Giverny where Claude Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. Living in a delightfully sweet house, Monet transformed his gardens into an amazing landscape of beauty – an ode to nature.

“It’s maybe because of flowers that I’ve become a painter.” Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

Monet’s gardens are divided into two separate areas – the Close-Normand and the Water Garden. Starting at the Close-Normand, which was remodeled according to the original design, the garden is made of winding paths with a variety of beautiful flowers wherever you go. The sheer amount of flowers is overwhelming – in the good sense! Everywhere you look there seems to be a different species, and of course you don’t want to miss a thing. The amazing array of colours within the garden reflects the work of Monet, and walking around the Close-Normand, one feels as if they have entered one of his paintings.

A descent through an under-ground path takes you to the infamous landscape that was the inspiration of Monet’s Water Lilies collection. Purchased in 1893, Monet transformed this land into a heaven – and into the ‘Jardin d’eau’ (Water Garden). This garden reflects Monet’s interest in Japanese Culture, with its own Japanese bridges and oriental plants, including magnificent Weeping Willows surrounding the pond. In contrast to the traditional red bridges of Japan, Monet’s were painted green – as if to blend into the landscape of the garden.

Having seen many of Monet’s Water-Lilly paintings in person all over the world, it was a surreal experience to finally be able to come to the place which ignited his inspiration for those works. Having spent time wandering around the Water Garden, it was easy to see how Monet was so inspired and devoted to this garden.

Monet once wrote of the gardens: “The overall effect is endlessly varied. Not just from one season to the next, but from one minute to the next… the heart of everything is the reflecting mirror of the water, whose appearance fluctuates endlessly according as it catches the teeming life and movement of the every-changing sky. A passing cloud, a freshening breeze, a squall that looms then strikes, the gale that comes without warning, the light that fades then intensifies anew – all these things transform the color and texture [of art].”

I felt that I experienced this when visiting the gardens, as every view created a different vision, with the reflections of the water changing and the slight breeze moving the plants.

As well as exploring the gardens, you can also head inside the house itself. Recently renovated in the style of Monet’s original décor, it’s interesting to be able to attempt to picture yourself in his life. In the bedrooms on the second floor, you can gaze out onto the landscape, which I can only imagine being twice as serene without the tourists. I am a little obsessed with the pink exterior of the house – it looks almost as if it could fit in Notting Hill without looking too conspicuous!

Overall, I had an amazing time visiting Claud Monet’s Gardens. It was a beautifully sunny day, with the flowers in full bloom – what more could you ask for? Despite taking around 600 photos, I still don’t feel as if I got enough, or did the stunning landscape any justice!

Advice for visiting Monet’s Gardens in Giverny:

  • Pre-book tickets: I had pre-booked my tickets online – which included no a fixed date, meaning that I had a lot of flexibility for when I decided to go. When I arrived at the Museum, despite it being early in the morning, there was already a big queue. But with my pre-booked ticket I was able to skip all of this and enter extremely quickly!
  • Getting there: Take a train from Saint-Lazare in Paris to Gare Vernon, which takes around 45 – 50 minutes. From there, either take the shuttle bus or hire bikes (or walk!). If a nice day, I would recommend hiring bikes – you cycle along a beautiful cycle path, and get to experience the cute town of Giverny.

You can see all the photos that I took during my visit to Monet’s Gardens here.

Sunset of Cassis

Sunset of Cassis

I have just returned from a wonderful week down in the South of France in Cassis with my fantastic host-family. Many of you may already know that I spent a week there back in April. Having had an unforgettable time back in spring, I was looking forward to heading back down to enjoy the summer. Summer it definitely is, with the temperatures ranging between 30 degrees and higher, many a time I thought I would melt into the ground.

With the nights being long and the weather so perfect, I was able to watch many of the sunsets here in the South. Below are just a few photos of the sun setting here in Cassis. There’s something truly magical watching the sky change colours as the sun descends for another day.

Sunset Cassis, France

Sunset Cassis, France

Sunset Cassis, France

Sunset Cassis, France

Sunset Cassis, France

Sunset Cassis, France

Sunset Cassis, France

Weekend in Berlin

Weekend in Berlin

What a weekend! I have a surprise for many of you (for those who follow my instagram account, the surprise is unfortunately ruined…). Last weekend in France was a holiday, which meant that we had a four-day weekend. With so much time off, I decided it was the perfect time to go and visit one of my best friends, Sally. So, I headed of to Berlin! Yes, I spent the four-day weekend exploring the city and hanging out with one of my dearest pals.

Berlin is an awesome city. It was my first time there, and to Germany! Having studied German for five years with the expectation of going to visit the country with my family, you can probably imagine how excited I was to finally go. There is something really interesting about Berlin. As we wandered the city, I felt as if there was not ‘one’ Berlin. The capital is incredibly diverse, and as you progress around the city, it almost feels as if you yourself are traveling through different cultures and countries. Berlin is super cool and edgy, owning a fantastically active art and music scene. Although I could never see myself living there (Paris has stolen my heart), I would love to go and visit again.

My friend Sally is also an Au Pair, and her German ‘family’ owns a beautiful apartment right in the centre of the city. Being in such a central location meant that we saw and did lots of different things – of which I am currently writing in an upcoming blog photo diary post.

Overall I had an awesome weekend, and got to finally tick one of the cities that I have been desperate to visit! If you have been there, I would love to know what you thought of the city.

Geneva: Photo Diary

Geneva: Photo Diary

This is a very belated account of my mini-adventure to Geneva in February. So with out delay, here it is:

The day after my return from the Alps to Paris, an early 4am start took me onto my next adventure: less than two days in the city of Geneva with one of my best friends, Kate (don’t forget to check out her blog! https://wherekateresides.wordpress.com) Unfortunately for us, Geneva welcomed us with grey skies and light rain. Despite this, we were determined to make the most of the hours that we had in this fascinating city.

Our first day consisted of wandering around the streets, taking in all the different architecture. Whilst also looking in the windows in a few of the designer shops. Our first ‘tourist attraction’ was Saint Pierre Cathedral, situated in the old part of the city. I was surprised that the Cathedral was begun in the 12th century, and was therefore immediately captivated. In addition, we decided to head on down into the Archaeological site directly underneath the cathedral, wherein we explored the vast history of this beautiful building. Originally there had been a 6th century basilica, to which over the centuries had been developed and built upon. I’m really glad that we decided to go to the cathedral and down into the archaeological site. It was incredibly fascinating to learn all about the cathedral’s rich history, and it has definitely sparked some ideas and further questions that could possibly be explored in the future. After being taken back in time, as well as seeing one or two skeletons down below the cathedral, we decided to venture upwards and began are ascent up to the cathedral towers. From here we had great views of the city. Unfortunately, the sky was still gray, so we couldn’t see as far as we had hoped – it would have been amazing to have had clear blue skies to see the beautiful mountains in the distance. But alas.

After all of this, we continued to wander around the city. Geneva is quite small, so you can easily walk from one end to the other, which I’m sure we did! During our walking, we stopped of at the Grand Théâtre de Geneva, which is the home of the Opera. The building is stunning, although it must be noted that we went inside as one of the main reasons was to attempt to get some warmth! Whilst there we noted that there was a production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, performed by a company from New York, and spontaneously decided to go! After a slight mix-up with our seats (it turns out that we had been sold tickets for the following night – which was when we’d be back in Paris!), we enjoyed a much better view of the performance. It was Kate’s first time seeing an Opera and so I hope she enjoyed it, I just thank my stars it was in English.

With limited time on our second day, we started the morning with a trip to CERN, aka, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. Although I know little about Physics, I do recall the splitting of the atom taking place here in 2010. Unfortunately we were unable to take a tour of the full facilities, but we had the chance to explore the visitor section of the organisation. Entering into a dark and mysterious space, titled: ‘Universe of Particles’, we floated around absorbing all the information that we could, and then headed back to the city centre.

Luckily, our second day provided us with somewhat nicer weather, and so we took this opportunity to venture to the Conservatoire et Jardin botanics de la Ville de Geneve. Although still in the middle of winter, it was lovely to be able to wander around the various parts of the park. Although a highlight for us was probably watching all the people running and commentating on their weird running techniques! Sorry to any runners out there, and now I am afraid to run, knowing what we thought of others haha!

So there you have it. This pretty much sums up our mini-adventure to Geneva. Although we had two days to absorb all that the city has to offer, both Kate and I later agreed that you do not need any more additional days to see all the sites and things in the city. Due to the dull and miserable weather, I think a visit to Geneva in the Summer months would be much better, if anyone is thinking of going. If you’ve been to Geneva, I would love to hear about your travels and the things that you got up to!

You can see the rest of the photos that I took on my Flickr account here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/roisingrace/sets/72157650759707678/

 

IMG_9801

Skiing in the Alps, 2015

Skiing in the Alps, 2015

Recently I was lucky enough to go away on holiday with my Au Pair family for the week to their house in the Alps. Getting there required an 8 hour car journey from Paris, with an overnight stay near Lyon. After spending the majority of the journey sleeping or reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, one can only imagine the sheer excitement that I experienced once we turned a corner and the beautiful snow-covered mountains welcomed us. My Au Pair family’s house is located in a small city in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, called Barcelonnette. Here, you are surrounded by mountains, of which the peak of the highest is around 3412m – very high indeed!

Once we arrived at the house, it was clear that it had snowed for a long time before our arrival. Therefore, we had to make the most of it! After loading everything into the house, the kids and I put on our snow gear, grabbed a sledge each, and headed to the nearest hill for some sledging! (Which in French is: faire de la luge) That evening, the eldest son of the family arrived with his friends. This meant that tomorrow (Monday) would be the first day of skiing!

Now, the last time I went skiing must have been when I was 13 years old (feel free to correct me Mum!), and so, now being 21 you might think I was a little bit rusty. I must admit that my very first attempt to get on the ski lift failed, with me dragging along behind for a while… But nevertheless, I seemed to remember more than I thought! After having an hour-long private lesson, the ski instructor informed me that he had never seen someone progress as quickly as I had! Queue ego boost… So after another successful lesson the following day, this time with a group for two hours; my family decided to take me on one of their ski runs. This doesn’t sound too bad, or out of the ordinary, but wait. You see, my Au Pair family are amazing at skiing – they have all been doing it since they came straight out of the womb, and as for me, I’m not quite at their level (that’s putting it mildly) So this particular run that we did turned out to be the hardest one of the resort. After managing to ski off-piste, falling over several times, and attempting to ski down one slope with a gradient that felt somewhat like a straight vertical line down, I eventually finished. Despite sweating my entire body-weight, wanting to cry and praying to God to make sure that I survived, it was a very good feeling knowing that I had managed to make it to the bottom. However, I quickly declined the invite to go again, and decided to take a more leisurely blue run for my second day.

The next few days involved around 6 hours worth of time spent on the mountains, with lovely nights in by the fire. Although one evening, I joined the youngest child in my Au Pair family for a spot of Go-Karting. As everyone had turned down the invite to go with him, I thought why not? I was, however, quite apprehensive that it was going to be full of tiny kids, but boy was I surprised. Racing along us were grown men! They were indeed the fathers of some of the children racing. So whilst the youngsters were leisurely taking their time around the course, the men were absolutely going for it! I remained semi-relaxed, whilst not wanting to be overtaken by a child, and ended up coming fifth. Sadly, I think my career as a Go-Karter has come to an end, and I will bid adieu to this.

Ah yes, back to the skiing. One of the Ski resorts that we spent a lot of time at is called Pra-Loup. There are a couple of snow parks that I went to with my Au Pair kids, and it was such fun to be able to see them do jumps. Alas, I did not have a go. At the time I felt too scared, but now looking back, I wish just done it. Next time eh?

On the Saturday, the day before we were due to leave, we decided to have a day off from skiing. In the afternoon we just about to set off to take the kids sledging one last time, when all of a sudden the clouds burst open and it absolutely poured down with snow! It was amazing. I have never seen snow so thick. We spent that afternoon playing in the snow and sledging. I have so many funny videos of the children sledging, and falling off their sledges. I will wait till their 18th birthdays to embarrass them! That evening, we went for a lovely walk. There is something magical about the freshly fallen snow, especially as the sunlight glistens off the surface making it look almost like glitter or a precious diamond. It was what I imagine a winter wonderland to be like.

The next day we were supposed to leave apres-midi, in the afternoon in order to get back to Paris at a semi-resonable time. I had decided a few days earlier that I wasn’t going to ski that morning. The whole inconvenience of being all sweaty and smelling on the 8/9 hour car journey did not appeal to me. However, when I awoke that Sunday morning and saw the beautiful scenery, it was hard not to be tempted. So, indeed I went skiing for the last time this holiday. The snow was in perfect condition as well – where there was once ice, it was now fresh thick snow. Whilst the family went off-piste, I decided to venture on my own and went down a few of my favourite runs. By now, the hardest red runs were actually not too bad! So after a quite a few goes down the mountain, and without any falls (yay!), we bid farewell to the slopes and began our journey back home.

Overall, I had the most amazing experience. As you can tell by the photos, the landscape was stunning. I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to go with my Au Pair. I just hope that the next time I go skiing will be sooner rather than later!

Be sure to check out all the photos that I took during my time in the Alps on my flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/roisingrace/sets/72157648721661464/