Turquoise

…like sapphires in colour, only that it is paler and more closely resembles the tint of the water near the sea-shore in appearance.

(Pliny the Elder: Natural History, XXXVII.56)

It is found in the countries that lie at the back of India, among the Phycari, namely, who inhabit Mount Caucasus, the Sacæ, and the Dahæ. It is remarkable for its size, but is covered with holes and full of extraneous matter; that, however, which is found in Carmania is of a finer quality, and far superior. In both cases, however, it is only amid frozen and inaccessible rocks that it is found, protruding from the surface, like an eye in appearance, and slightly adhering to the rock; not as though it formed an integral part of it, but with all the appearance of having been attached to it. People so habituated as they are to riding on horseback, cannot find the energy and dexterity requisite for climbing the rocks to obtain the stones, while, at the same time, they are quite terrified at the danger of doing so. Hence it is, that they attack the stones with slings from a distance, and so bring them down, moss and all. It is with this stone that the people pay their tribute, and this the rich look upon as their most graceful ornament for the neck. This constitutes the whole of their wealth, with some, and it is their chief glory to recount how many of these stones they have brought down from the mountain heights since the days of their childhood. Their success, however, is extremely variable; for while some, at the very first throw, have brought down remarkably fine specimens, many have arrived at old age without obtaining any.

Such is the method of procuring these stones; their form being given them by cutting, a thing that is easily effected. The best of them have just the colour of smaragdus, a thing that proves that the most pleasing property in them is one that belongs of right to another stone. Their beauty is heightened by setting them in gold, and there is no stone to which the contrast of the gold is more becoming. The finest of them lose their colour by coming in contact with oil, unguents, or undiluted wine even; whereas those of a poorer quality preserve their colour better. There is no stone, too, that is more easily counterfeited in glass. Some writers say, that this stone is to be found in Arabia also, in the nest of the bird known as the “melancoryphus.”

(Pliny the Elder: Natural History XXXVII.33)

In response to Ailsa's travel theme: Turquoise.

Sun-Drenched

I don’t know about you but at around this time of the year, I invariably reach the point when I could murder for sunshine, flowers and the ability to go out without a coat.

(Not to mention it’s Monday.)

So what we need right now is a little sunshine:

Wishing you all a happy sunny Monday! (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Night at the Museum

Many of London’s museums and galleries stay open late into the evening once a week. You might think day or night makes no difference…

But it’s nice to break the daily routine once in a while. Instead of going home after work, I head for Bloomsbury.

british-museum-p1020724

The British Museum after six pm is a different place

The lights are dimmed. The crowds are gone; it’s quiet. I relax in the members’ room with my book and a glass of wine before going for a wander.

I can get up close to the most popular exhibits without an elbow fight. I can contemplate. I can read the labels in peace.

I can take pictures.

Till next Friday.

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Under Italian Influence: The Queen’s House in Greenwich

Today I’m going to depart a little from the usual topics to share instead some photos of the Queen’s House in Greenwich – built by one of England’s greatest architects, Inigo Jones. If you wonder why we’re looking at an English building on Mediterranean Monday, it’s because:

  1. The Queen’s House is the first pure, classical, Italianate building in England – which to English eyes at the time must have looked shockingly foreign
  2. Inigo Jones was heavily influenced by the classical architecture he saw in Italy in 1613-14, and in particular by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio
  3. It’s beautiful

Continue reading “Under Italian Influence: The Queen’s House in Greenwich”

Through the Doors of the Queen’s House, Greenwich

The Queen’s House in Greenwich is one of those buildings that I walked past dozens of times each year and never once entered, despite being a member in the Maritime Museum and despite the entry being free in any case. There is so much to see in Greenwich that the Queen’s House always ended up bypassed. I finally went in two weeks ago – to see the so-called Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that the museum had recently acquired and which was about to disappear into a conservator’s workshop for the near future. The building is so stunning I can’t believe I ignored it for years – don’t miss it if you ever visit Greenwich!

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (The Drake Version) [public domain] via Wikipedia
The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (The Drake Version) [public domain] via Wikipedia
Continue reading “Through the Doors of the Queen’s House, Greenwich”

Spain in Black & White II (España en blanco y negro II)

No comment.  Sin comentarios. 

(Click on the images to enlarge. Haz click en las imágenes para ampliar.)

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This also doubles as my entry to Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge this week!

The Roman Theatre of Mérida

The Extremadura region (in the west, bordering Portugal) is not a part of Spain that’s particularly overrun by tourists. But although it hasn’t got beaches, it’s still well worth a visit for anyone who’s at all interested in history, in architecture or indeed, for anyone who’d just like to holiday somewhere beautiful and atmospheric without the crowds.

Continue reading “The Roman Theatre of Mérida”

Hills (And What People Built On Them)

Hills are a natural choice as locations for some of the most beautiful structures mankind has ever erected: castles and temples, statues and palaces, lighthouses and crosses – I’m sure you all can think of many stunning examples. Today, in response to Ailsa’s weekly travel theme Hills on her blog Where’s My Backpack, I thought I’d share with you some of the hills I had the good fortune to climb in the Mediterranean. And I chose these particular hills for one reason: what people chose to build on them.

The Old Town of Toledo

Toledo
Toledo

The old town of Toledo was built on a hill which is almost fully encircled by the River Tajo. This view shows the Roman bridge across the river with the Alcázar of Toledo topping the crest of the hill. For this view alone, Toledo will always be one of my favourite cities.

Continue reading “Hills (And What People Built On Them)”

Malta in Black & White

Today’s miscellany is in the manner of my Venice in Black & White at the end of May (which was easily one of my most popular photo posts) and it doubles as response to Cee’s Compose Yourself photo challenge on the theme of Black & White: The Basics.

I took these photos when I was still under the impression that photography’s only purpose was to faithfully re-create the colourful, aromatic, tactile reality of the 3-D world around me, less than a year ago, during our holiday on Malta. Only one of the photos was taken with an actual camera, the rest were captured on phone.

Continue reading “Malta in Black & White”