Have you ever seen the TV show Doc Martin? If you haven’t, I demand you go find it right now and watch it. It stars Martin Clunes as a possibly Asperger’s surgeon who developed a phobia for blood and had to take a position as a town doctor in the small coastal town of Port Wenn in Cornwall. Port Isaac is the place where this show is filmed and Kosta and I made a special trip to see it during our 2012 trip to England.
My parking place at the hotel.
Let me first tell you about driving in Cornwall–if you have any tiny little hint of anxiety disorder I suggest you avoid it at all costs. The roads are about the width of a horse’s butt, lined with tall hedgerows and corkscrew around like a Matchbox car race course. Don’t forget as an American, I was driving backwards to what I was used to. And then of course the locals drive like demons escaped from hell. I felt like peering through my fingers the whole time I was behind the wheel.
Doc Martin’s house!
A view of the port from up on the hill.
But once we got there? PERFECTION. This town is so breathtakingly charming I could have stayed for months, just wandering the streets and the grassy cliffs above. We didn’t see anyone famous as they weren’t filming, but we did see Doc Martin’s house, Mrs. Tischel’s chemist’s shop, and actually stayed at the Old School Hotel which is the school where Louisa Glassin teaches. It was an extremely cool experience.
Old School Hotel
Until we had to get back in the car and drive back to Oxford.
I’ve spent a little time in this achingly beautiful town. In 1995 I did a study abroad tour called Eurospring where a group of us studied at Oxford for five weeks and then had a three-week bus tour of the Continent. It was the best thing I had ever done in my young life and the travel bug bit me hard.
Theology school from the 12th century. (Also, for you Harry Potter nerds, the hospital wing at Hogwarts.)
I’ve been back twice since: once with my mother in 1997 and once in 2012 with my husband. If you’ve been reading my posts this month you’ll already know I studied Gothic architecture in college, and this town is chock-a-block with it. It’s heaven for someone like me to just wander the streets and look up at all the beautiful buildings.
Wandering the streets.
I can’t believe though, that it took me until 2012 to take a tour of the Bodleian Library. Kosta and I both positively went weak at the knees when we were led up to the stacks on the second floor. Oh, but could we have touched those books. Just one little fingertip on a spine.
Bodleian Library…Don’t you just want to take a peek?
Yes, I know I’m a nerd. Proud of it too.
Notre Dame de Paris
I have visited this cathedral twice in my life–once on a study abroad tour in 1995 and once with my husband in 2013. It was really the first true Gothic cathedral I visited and it blew me away with it being massively cavernous, and yet somehow delicate and ethereal at the same time.
The western facade
Both times were crowded, but my most recent visit was truly packed. We were there in September and the line to get inside wound around the square in front of it. And much to our dismay, some hillbilly with a thick southern accent was pointing at the church and shouting at the line, “Is this FREE?” I wanted to die, I was so embarrassed to be an American. I’m not usually, but ask me again if Trump gets elected.
Light and shadow
If the place wasn’t so crowded I imagine it would be a place full of quiet peace. We found it to be stuffy, loud, and hard to navigate through the throngs of people. Even so, it is a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold.
At the southern edge of Colorado is a National Park that tugs at me. Mesa Verde is home to a series of cliff dwellings made by the Anasazi, or Ancient Ones. Their heyday was about 800 years ago, and the stone and wood structures they created on the cliff sides still remain in remarkably good condition.
Cliff Palace–the largest of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.
In 2007 Kosta and I took our first vacation together and learned just how well-matched we are as a traveling team. We both dig the same things: history, archaeology, and the glorious beauty of the great outdoors. We had both been there as children and had a marvelous time rediscovering the place together. My favorite dwelling was Balcony House, which is only accessible by climbing a 32 foot ladder and then crawling through a tunnel to get out.
Going up the ladder at Balcony House.
I find it truly remarkable that these people used to live on the side of the cliff and with the skeletal remains they have found, there has been no evidence anyone fell to their death.
The view of mesa country from Balcony House.
Lourmarin is a beautiful village in the hills of Provence. We visited in 2013 and were infinitely lucky we turned up on market day. You would not believe the markets in France, they are the best and most wonderful in the world, in my humble opinion. That day we bought fresh goat cheeses, tapenade, olives, crusty bread, and wine. There were also Provencal soaps, lavender, scarves, lace, olive wood bowls and spoons, herbs, and all sorts of gorgeous goods all heaped together.
Olives, olives, olives!
Kosta in the thick of things.
After we wandered the stalls we sat at an outdoor cafe and had a drink while we watched people. There was a crazy bald man with an accordion busking for change and making us all laugh with his songs and dancing. My husband, who is a huge fan of Peter Mayle, noticed later that his author photo on his books was taken at the very same cafe where we sat. Sadly, we did not see him, otherwise we may have had to gush.
Highly entertaining kook with an accordion.
My husband is 100% Greek extraction. His mother’s maiden name is Karnegis, and there is actually a town on the Peloponnese named for that family. His aunt Froso (see Irea post from April 11) has a house there and we got to stay for a few days 2011. There are perhaps 10-12 houses, but they have their own church and it is painted beautifully inside over every surface with icons of saints and angels. It really took my breath away and I wish I could show you but it is not polite to take pictures inside churches in Greece.
Karnezaika–the road in town.
The town has one shop, used to have a gas station, and just about everyone is related. The cemetery that clings to the side of the church at the top of the hill is filled with my husband’s relatives and ancestors. The house where Froso grew up now houses her niece and family. In fact, the Germans occupied that very house during World War II. Karnezaika is quiet, dusty, hot, and completely wonderful.
Kosta and Froso.
The cemetery next to the church–full of Kosta’s ancestors.
Beauty everywhere you look.
Jamb of Chartres Cathedral
J is hard. I searched and searched for a town or a place we visited that began with J but had no luck. But there is a place, or more specifically a thing that takes up space that starts with J: the door jamb of Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France.
The western facade of Chartres cathedral
Way back in the mid to late 90’s I was an Art History student at the University of Minnesota, and I specialized in Gothic architecture and sculpture. Chartres Cathedral is lousy with amazing sculptures and the door jambs have some amazing religious and royal statues adorning them. I love their long, ethereal bodies and uplifted faces.
Five figures of the Old Testament. The second from the left is Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Kings of France
An ethereal depiction of St. John the Baptist.
Irea is a small village on the Peloponnese of Greece. When Kosta and I were there in 2011, Kosta’s relative (we call her an aunt–close enough) Froso took us to a local festival there for the Assumption of the Virgin. The whole town was strung with lights and we went up the hill to the church. The icon of the Virgin Mary was bought out and paraded around the town with everyone following behind with candles.
The church in Irea, all lit up.
After the service we went down the hill and feasted on roast pig, fresh bread, and lots of ice-cold beer. There was music and dancing and we were the only two tourists in the whole place. It was amazing.
Roast pork–so delicious.
Hampton Court Palace
When we visited England in 2012 I needed to do some research on Tudor England for I book I was about to write. There is no better place to get a feel for that time period than visiting Hampton Court Palace, one of Henry VIII’s favorite residences.
Front facade of Hampton Court Palace in all its Tudor glory.
While the main edifice is thoroughly Tudor in appearance, it was added to significantly in the Baroque period, adding a stylistically discordant addition. Still, it was really neat to walk around and see the character actors play the parts of Henry and his wives (all together? Shocking!).
The Great Hall
Here you can see the Tudor building join with the later Baroque section of the palace.
The beautiful gardens.
On the border of Minnesota and Canada on the shores of Lake Superior is an old fur trading outpost. It’s a national monument and has been preserved to show what life was like for the early explorers of the fur trading routes of the northern Great Lakes. Visiting is like taking a step way back in time.
Looking at the lodge from the dock.
We paid a visit here back in 2008 while we were vacationing in my home state. It was very cool to walk around and see the way these folks lived in the 18th and 19th centuries in that far north outpost. Even though it was August it was still a cool day with the breeze blowing off the lake. Furs would have been appreciated.
Tools for making a birch bark canoe.
A finished birch bark canoe
They aren’t kidding. Lake Superior maybe warms up to 40 degrees F in the height of summer.