My family’s quizzical response to our wanting to visit Gloucester for a day trip was not entirely unjustified. Gloucester is not high on the list of must see cities in the United Kingdom. Yet our trip last December has been a source of fond memories over the year.
The city was helped by being covered in a beautiful layer of frost when we got off the train. The crisp clear morning air combined with glittering frost covering every surface dispelled any preconceived notion of a drab uninspiring destination.
It is worth noting the train platforms in Gloucester are long; where we stepped down from the train had me wondering if we had even reached the city proper. In both directions were industrial looking buildings and a platform that stretched on and on. We had arrived. It was just a bit of a walk to the station buildings and then into the centre.
Gloucester is not unlike Hereford or another regional county town. The usual selection of shops and cafes are here, along with a cathedral that dominates the list of must see sights.
In the cathedral grounds a robin flitted close by.
What we were unprepared for was the redevelopment of the docks. Now an area proudly labelled as Gloucester Quays. A once industrial section of the city transformed into apartments and a factory outlet centre. All very new and busy with shoppers.
Having been I can recommend a day trip to anyone passing nearby. I am not sure I can recommend specific sights or things to do, but we spent our time easily wandering around. Gloucester turned out to be a surprisingly photogenic town.
We had been advised to visit Sainte-Chapelle but had not researched what to expect. When we arrived there was a short queue of about half an hour’s worth of waiting. The queue consisted mainly of Europeans with a heavy leaning towards Italian being the main language.
The chapel is on two floors. The ground floor, where you enter, is beautiful and alone worth the time to visit. There is an obligatory shop embedded on the left hand side. Odd but not unexpected in a popular tourist destination.
We joined the visitors milling around quietly. Lots of photos, lots of hushed whispers. After a reasonable amount of time, Megan and I decided it was time to move on. At this moment, I had presumed we had seen the chapel proper and that the upper floor would be more or less the same.
The upper floor is a treat. The small spiral stone stairs are tucked away in a corner. They take you from the lower floor and up out into the main chapel. Immediately you are surrounded on three sides by huge towering expanses of stained glass. It took a moment to adjust.
I took my photos, most of which turned out badly, and some footage. The resulting short film of Sainte-Chapelle comes closest to recreating the visit.
There are photos on the Internet that try to capture the awe. These photos feel overworked and artificial compared to what we saw. There is something reassuring in that seeing Sainte-Chapelle in person, you gain an experience that is impossible to replicate remotely.
What photos I took that did survive the difficult lighting are reasonable. A selection are below.
Having experienced the sensory overload of Sainte-Chapelle’s two floors, it would forgivable to overlook the outside. Sainte-Chapelle is a religious building enclosed within a courtyard. Surrounded on all sides by administrative buildings the chapel is difficult to photograph in isolation or at any distance. The views looking up however exude power and prestige.
Each time we visit friends in Geneva, we can not fail but catch sight of the jet d’eau (jet of water). The fountain dominates the Geneva shore of the lake. We viewed it from the United Nations open day celebrations and again as we walked along the waterfront.
As we walked along the shore, we discussed the lake’s name. Lake Geneva is the local name and one that would raise an eyebrow elsewhere. After all, Geneva is but one settlement on the edge of the lake. A lake that touches multiple countries. Google’s map refers to the body of water as Lac Léman and OpenStreetMap wisely avoids applying any name.
Wikipedia provides the following insight into the name:
The first recorded name of the lake is Lacus Lemannus, dated from Roman times; Lemannus comes from Ancient greek Limanos, Limènos Limne Λιμένος Λίμνη meaning port’s lake; it became Lacus Lausonius, although this name was also used for a town or district on the lake, Lacus Losanetes and then the Lac de Lausanne in the Middle Ages. Following the rise of Geneva it became Lac de Genève (translated into English as Lake Geneva). In the 18th century, Lac Léman was revived in French and is the customary name in that language. In contemporary English, the name Lake Geneva is predominant.
Just outside our main window is a gutter. It is not a traditionally sought after view. Sometimes, as in July, we reap a little reward. Birds flock around the city and swoop into and out of the courtyards.
During July we are treated to a show of birds feeding just outside our window. We live in an old apartment block in Lyon, France, and like most buildings this one is adorned with pipes and retro-fitted services.
Just outside our main window is a gutter. It is not a traditionally sought after view. Sometimes, as in July, we reap a little reward. Birds flock around the city and swoop into and out of the courtyards. For a short while, our gutter becomes a stopping off point for many a bird looking for insects.
These birds are picking insects from cobwebs, from the gutters, and from around the pipes.