Friday, May 30, 2014

British Isles #4:
Wandering the Walls of York

The ancient and spectacular city of York in Northern England has no shortage of history and much of it can still be seen and certainly felt. Relics of York's historic past, the city walls encircle the town and are still mostly intact. Certainly they have been rebuilt and restored over the years but their integrity has not been lost. There have been walls around York since the first century when the Romans had set up fort and had need for a protective wall. The Danes (good ol' Vikings), who took over York in 866, built over what remained of the walls, added onto them, and extended them to encompass more of the city. And on through the years they were nearly demolished and the parts that were got restored. Four large "gates" were built into the wall. They look and act like small scale fortresses. It was only through these gates that one could enter the walled city. Today, cars drive under their arches into York city center and visitors can explore the interiors of these gates. You can read more about York's Walls here.
Now, most ancient architecture is to be viewed from afar, velvety-red-roped off, and walked around but the city walls of York are to be walked upon. That's right. The walls are open for walking from dusk 'til dawn and can be accessed at one of the gates (for free!). A short flight of stairs and there you find yourself walking on history accompanied by some grand views of York. There are 2.75 miles of wall in York and we nearly walked it all. We were there in late March and the daffodils were blooming. Thousands lined the earthen banks of the walls like sentry soldiers. 

Micklegate Bar

Bootham Bar (I think)

View of York Minster from the wall

Thursday, May 29, 2014

British Isles # 3:
The Snickelways of York

Many moons ago (dozens, in fact), I stumbled upon an enchanting book tucked away in the dusty corners of a used bookshop. A Walk around the Snickelways of York it was called. Well, that title was enough to snatch it up but the sketchy illustrations and all of the fantastic hand lettering sealed the deal. Dollars were exchanged and this gem found a new home on my shelves (which are no less dusty than those in a used book shop). Serendipitously, I would one day find this book useful as I journeyed to York to explore said snickelways.
What is a snickelway exactly? The author/illustrator/calligrapher extraordinaire, Mark W. Jones, explains that a snickelway is a "narrow place to walk along, leading from somewhere to somewhere else, usually in a town or city, especially in the city of York." The word itself is a fusion of three others: snicket, ginnel, & alleyway. A snicket is Northern British dialect for a passageway between walls or fences. A ginnel, also Northern British, is a narrow passageway between buildings. And an alleyway is simply a narrow passage.
So, through the dark and narrow, hedged in and overhung we went.
I'm not sure if the book is still in print, as my copy is from 1987, but if it is and you find yourself traveling to York, do procure a copy for yourself. Do note the Mr. Jones is a native of York.

A fold out, hand drawn map in the back with numbers corresponding to snickelways throughout the book.
Exploring the snickelways was grand. Unless it was lined with trashcans (and some were) or it had mysterious goings-on at the other end (and some had), I darted into any passageway that a car could not enter. York, especially around The Shambles, is incredibly labyrinth-like and lost is exactly where you want to end up. And so we did. We explored some in the day and some at night. The nightwalking in York was especially lovely and haunting. The streets were mostly deserted, all the pavement and cobbles wet, and the air damp enough to diffuse every light into a glow. It was effortless to imagine myself in another time. (Note that low lighting, my tiny camera, and many pints of ale resulted in very poor evening photos of York - blurry and blurrier). Here are a few of the snickelways through which we ambled...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Who Would Call These Weeds?

Wildflowers plucked May 12, 2014 in the woods I call my backyard.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mailbox Envy

Another lovely Address Book. It's good to know that folks are still sending letters. I hope the new owner of this gem sends lots of letters. Get your own custom Address Book here.


All My Lovin' I Will Send to You

Here is a recent creation for a custom Address Book for an Etsy Customer. These Address Books are labors of love and handcrafted and designed down to the smallest detail: hand stitched binding, filler pages, hand cut tabs, hand painted alphabet, custom leather cover.  I hope my customers love these special creations. Grab one for yourself here.

Within each of my creations are a few worldly postage stamps. These hail from Germany and Pakistan.

Monday, May 12, 2014

British Isles #2: Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is a ruined Cistercian abbey from the 12th century near Ripon, England (a town familiar to Downton Abbey fans). There are many ruined buildings around the abbey that were once part of the monastic community including a Cistercian corn mill. The grounds are expansive (800 acres) and well maintained. There are many things to see here of which we saw only a few. After a short walk through woodland, trees thin and the enormous ruins rise up from a valley. The scale of these ruins were so incredible and remained the largest that we saw during the remainder of our trip. Pheasants pecked the green lawn as we wove our way through the columns and arches.  The architecture and setting of these ruins are stunning. To add to our pleasure it was not raining and there very few people visiting the site. Also, the folks at the ticket counter let us in free of charge because we had Scottish Heritage passes though we were only supposed to receive a discount. (It had one of the better gift shops as well).

I spy in the great cloister....


160 ft. Tower

British Isles #1: By the Numbers

Here begins my journey back through the wild expanses of Scottish Highlands, dark snickelways of York, wynds of Edinburgh, and through crumbling, windswept ruins that dot the whole of the British Isles. From Manchester to the Isle of Skye and back again, I'll will share the wild, weird, and wonderful of my wanders. I'll post chronologically for my sanity and number the posts sequentially. So put the kettle on and join me. Feel free to ask any questions in a comment below posts. Cheers!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Good Old Fashioned Book (Sale)

Twice a year the local Friends of the Library have a huge used book sale. The spring sale has just ended. It's nice to rub elbows with others who love books, especially the paper kind. Here we all are rescuing books like others rescue kittens & puppies from the pound. I'm not a cat lady but one could call me a book lady with a collection teetering on too many. This haul of eight books was carefully chosen with what felt like great self control. My collection ended up being an accurate slice of my personality and interests - a few worldly travels, Norwegian Fairy Tales, French Fables, Medieval History, poetry, word origins, and a little blue book from 1931 called My Caravan A Book of Poems for Boys and Girls in Search of Adventure. It has the most wonderful woodcuts throughout by Florence Sampson. This must be my favorite, the jewel in the rough. I went through so many books, ran my fingers over thousands, read titles of hundreds, leafed through dozens. Some books just find you. Really, who could refuse A Time for Trolls? 


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Swooning for Stained Glass

Nothing like a trip to Europe to inspire some medieval nail art representing stained glass windows of the marvelous Gothic cathedrals I've been lucky enough to visit (these aren't representative of any specific window, however).