Tag: cultural tourism

Why next year is the perfect time to rediscover Ruskin’s Cumbria

I started the year with an assignment in the Lake District and I was back this weekend for probably my last freelance job of 2018 — a feature for Discover Britain magazine.

This time it was Coniston water [pictured above] and a visit to Brantwood for a preview of events to mark the bicentenary of the birth of John Ruskin in 2019.

Ruskin was a hugely influential figure but has fallen out of fashion compared to the Romantic Poets.

Next year is a chance to put his legacy back on the map of the Cumbrian fells.

Inspiring landscape

While the Romantics were busy crafting purple prose about the beauty of the Lakes, a new movement of artists was also discovering Cumbria.

JMW Turner, Gainsborough and, later, Constable all journeyed north in search of those quintessentially brooding Lakeland vistas.

Most importantly, it is the Victorian polymath, John Ruskin, who picked up the mantle and took the Romantic Movement forward to a new era.

Lakeland home

When Ruskin moved to Brantwood House, the elegant, stately home on the peaceful eastern shore of Coniston Water, the Lakes Poets had waned.

Wordsworth had become increasingly disillusioned with what he saw as the invading hordes and Coleridge, a victim of ill health and opium addiction, had settled into a steady decline.

But Ruskin, the artist, writer and social reformer, took their ideas, blending them with his patronage of Turner and his friendship with Charles Darwin.

His ideas would inspire a new generation of thinkers, writers and activists, Ghandi and Tolstoy amongst them.

Brantwood Director, Howard Hull, explains:

Ruskin evolved the ideas of the Romantics. His vital role was taking the notion of nature as an inspiration to the human spirit and reconciling it with the scientific world.”

Accommodation at Badger’s Cottage, Coniston, provided via The Coppermines & Lakes Cottages Ltd.

Making The Most Of The Amazing Light Festival In Lyon

We live in dark times.

As if the political climate wasn’t bad enough, changing the clocks to winter mode casts an even longer shadow.

But not so in Lyon, a city I hadn’t visited in over ten years.

The city hosts the world’s biggest light festival each December and I was back in Lyon, or Lugdunum as it was founded by the Romans in 43AD, for a preview of this year’s event.

With the gloom of winter setting in, it brightened up my week no end.

Light relief

“Lyon is the mother of all light festivals,” said Jean-Francois Zurawik.

I was having lunch with the Event Director of Lyon’s Fete des Lumierés in one of the low-key bistros France’s capital of gastronomy does so well — see the mural of Lyon’s most famous chef, Paul Bocuse, above.

“Light is universal. The battle between light and darkness is fundamental to the human condition,” he added.

This year’s event runs December 6-9 with 75 light and laser installations at 45 locations across the city, many focused on the historic buildings of Old Lyon.

The festival has its origins in the Middle Ages and took its inspiration from a 1852 celebration to mark the blessing of the Virgin Mary by placing candles in the windows of houses across the city.

It will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2019 and has grown to a spectacle attracting some 2m people to the city, spawning spin-off festivals in places as diverse as Ghent, Hong Kong and Durham.

Come together 

For Jean-Francois, however, it’s less about the size of the spectacle and more about bringing people together.

“My job is to find light artists to create a poetic moment. It’s about emotion, not technology,” he told me, finishing his petit café before heading out to another last-minute planning meeting.

And let’s face it: when we live in dark times like these, anything that can bring people together is something to cherish.

Vive la lumiére!

More: Fete des Lumières Lyon

The best hotels in Liverpool to see the Giants

Image: istock

My latest article for Independent Travel is a guide to the best hotels in Liverpool.

It’s a timely piece to plan a visit to the area for the forthcoming Liverpool Dreams event, the street performance by French giant-puppet troupe Royal de Luxe over the weekend of October 4-7.

Featuring the likes of the Hope Street Hotel and 2 Blackburn Terrace, here’s a preview:

The city on the Mersey is celebrating 10 years since its successful tenure as the European Capital of Culture and has continued to boom since. Based in the Northwest, I’ve seen Liverpool’s fortunes ebb and flow with the tides of the Mersey estuary. Today, it’s a vibrant city with a strong cultural scene and a hedonistic nightlife. But it also has a rich heritage of classical architecture, notably the Unesco World Heritage-listed sweep of the waterfront.

Read the whole story, Liverpool hotels: 10 of the best places to stay.

See also the follow-up article: Liverpool – 7 best places to stay for value for money.

And plan your Giants itinerary here.

The amazing story of the Normandy artist behind the Water-Lilies

Just back home.

I spent last week on the Monet trail In Normandy, exploring sites associated with the father of the Impressionist art movement.

It was scorching hot and peak-season chaos but I could still get a sense of the delicious tranquility of Monet’s garden at Giverny [pictured above].

And, by visiting places in the Seine Valley between Paris and Rouen, I could also get a sense of the man behind the movement.

Best of all, a visit to the Musée d’Orangerie offered me a chance to get up close with his master opus, the Water-Lilies cycle — les Nympheas in French.

The article is for the November issue of France Magazine but, meanwhile, here’s a taster.

To get up close to the Water-Lilies requires a visit to Musée de L’Orangerie, tucked into the corner of the Tuileries Garden in Paris.

The eight compositions, moving from dawn to sunset across two light-filed rooms, form the striking centrepiece of the overall exhibition.

In the words of Monet himself, it was created to give “… the illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore”.