Vinegar Hill

Next on our tour of Brooklyn we’re heading to a curious little neighbourhood that is not exactly on the tourist trail – Vinegar Hill.

It’s a tiny neighbourhood in Brooklyn on the East River Waterfront between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The neighbourhood gets its name from the Battle of Vinegar Hill, an engagement near Enniscorthy during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Vinegar Hill was commonly known as Irishtown in the 19th century, one of several places in the New York area with that name because of its sizeable population of Irish immigrants.

Most of Vinegar Hill consists of 19th-century Federal Style and Greek Revival style homes mixed with industrial buildings.

Hudson Avenue and Plymouth, Water and Front Streets are not tarmacked roads, rather they are made of Belgian Blocks which are similar to cobbles but a bit flatter and more rectangular.

The tiny little district is like a miniature open air architecture museum.

It feels like a place stranded in time – a odd, out of place that has sealed the past in amber and shows how Brooklyn would have looked in the early 19th century.

The area was declared a Historical District in the late 1990s but it does not feel as if any investment is forthcoming, rather it feels like the developers are circling like vultures, just waiting to be able to level these characterful properties and throw up more homogeneous, glass sky scrapers.

Sadly it has a air of slow and inevitable decay, as is evidenced by the lone three story walk-up houses that are still standing defiantly even though their neighbours have long been demolished.


It is one of a vanishing breed of areas that shows how New York was, back when it was a mecca for anyone with a dream.

A place of opportunity no matter how rich or poor you were. There is little space for penniless dreamers in the Big Apple these days.

With its endless concrete canyons and ever higher towers, New York feels like a place so concerned with rushing to its future that it has no time to appreciate where it has come from.

Long may places like Vinegar Hill stay standing to allow for a nostalgic remembrance of the ordinary people that contributed to NYCs success.

Walls and terror

One of the best ways to get to grips with the rich and layered history of Berlin, and Germany as a whole, is to take part in one of the many free walking tours on offer.

There are so many to chose from but we opted for the Original Free Berlin Tour here.

This tour covers many of the darkest days of Berlin’s history from the horror of Nazi Germany to the division of the country post war and the history of the infamous Berlin Wall.

One of the most saddening, and poignant stops on the tour is the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.

Also known as the Holocaust Memorial is was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It is a 4.7-acre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”.

Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.

However individual interpretations of the meaning behind the memorial are very varied. Regardless of the original idea behind the project, the whole place evoked in me a sense of growing claustrophobia and panic as you began to feel lost amongst the every bigger, formidable, grey stones. The feeling of being trapped in an inhuman, alien landscape.

Moving on from the memorial we get our first glimpse of one of the most complete lengths of the Berlin wall. Now many removed, there are still a few places where complete pieces remain.

This stretch runs alongside the former site of the SS. Now appropriately housing a museum called the Topography of Terror.


The wall divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989 and was constructed by the German Democratic Republic in an attempt to stop the intellectual ‘brain drain’ of people fleeing the repressive East German sector into the more liberal and well off West.

The Eastern bloc portrayed the Wall as protecting its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany.

Regardless of the difficulties, people continued to find ever more daring ways of trying to escape over the wall including hot air balloons, driving cars at full speed through the border, swimming canals and even jumping out of buildings close to the wall and into the other side.

As time went on the fortifications of the wall, and its policing, became ever more draconian. This did not stop people from trying however and official figures claim 140 deaths throughout the wall’s history, mainly a result of the shoot to kill policy put in place by the East German government.


Having seen our first glimpse of the wall we are heading to one of the most well known sections now – Check Point Charlie. On-route we pass by a tethered balloon that offers amazing views of the city.


Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Checkpoint Charlie was designated as the single crossing point for foreigners and members of the Allied forces who could not use any of the other crossings.

What is left now is basically a reconstruction and a bit of a tourist trap but it does give you a sense of how restrictive life would have been.

After a good four hours of walking we are more than ready for one of our favourite German traditions – Cafe und Kuchen!

Lots more to come from this fascinating city!

Berlin by day

We’re up and out early to cram in lots and lots of walking and history. Before heading out I pause to enjoy this incredible example of extreme flyposting!

We swing by the Berliner Dom again to enjoy it in the light before heading to The sunken library.

This poignant memorial shows what is missing. Underground, almost out of sight, no books, empty white shelves, directly under the Bebelplatz.

Symbolically, the underground bookshelves have space for around 20,000 books, as a reminder of the 20,000 books that went up in flames here on 10 May 1933

A plaque also commerates the site of the Nazi book burnings. “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine.

More recent history can be seen close to the Brandenburg Gate as a line of bricks in the road denotes where the Berlin Wall once stood.

Then we feel the need to indulge in some stereotypical German food – pretzels, Gluhwein and currywurst! Plus an additional bonus East German stereotype – The Trabant.


Historic Berlin

After checking out the bang up to date street art of the Mitte district we head out to see a whistle stop tour of some of the older sights of Berlin.

First up is Berlin Cathedral AKA Berliner Dom AKA the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church which is located on Museum Island in the Mitte borough.

The current building was finished in 1905 but suffered heavy damage during the Second World War.

Another iconic sight on the Berlin skyline is the TV Tower, the Berliner Fernsehturm.

The tower was built by the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It was intended to be both a symbol of Communist power and of Berlin and sat close to the wall.

It is 368 metres high and is the tallest structure in Germany, and the second-tallest structure in the European Union. More of this later as naturally we will be heading up!

Next up our Berlin by night tour takes us by the iconic Brandenburg Gate. This impressive 18th-century neoclassical monument was built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II.


Vehicles and pedestrians could travel freely through the gate, located in East Berlin, until the Berlin Wall was built and the border crossing was closed on 14 August 1961.

More heavyweight history can be found at the imposing Reichstag building just around the corner from the gate.


The Reichstag was opened in 1894 and housed the Imperial Diet (the highest representative assembly in an empire) until 1933.

It was then severely damaged after being set on fire – an act that was used by the Nazi party as an excuse to crack down on communism. This event is seen as being pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany.

After this brief foray into the wealth of Berlin’s history we head onwards to do a bit more street art spotting. We’ll dig deeper into the chequered past of the city during a walking tour later on.

We finish off the evening with a HUGE burger from the tasty Krauts Burger joint in Mitte.

We’ve got a packed itinerary to get through so stick with us! We’ll head back to see the sights in the daylight tomorrow!

Closer to home

While I (impatiently) wait for the first of this year’s global jaunts I thought I’d celebrate the gorgeous place that I live – Derbyshire!

This lovely county is home to one of the most visited national parks in the world – The Peak District.

We’re just outside of the peak park in the tiny tourist town of Matlock. Lots of charity shops and some stunning scenery! Prepare for a selfie overload!!!!


Just minutes away from home are the atmospheric old ruined mills of Lumsdale. Apologies for the rather misty pics they’re taken on the phone!


The Lumsdale Valley is a small wooded gorge of outstanding natural beauty tucked away high above Matlock.

Gradually decaying back into the woods, these old waterpowered bleach and paint mills are a reminder of the town’s industrial history.


The winter sunshine provided some lovely special effects – almost giving the man a halo!

The mills were powered by a series of mill ponds, all filled by Bentley Brook, the local watercourse.

The site is now looked after, and being restored, by the Arkwright Society who also look after Cromford Mill – Sir Richard Arkwright’s water powered masterpiece, often cited as the birthplace of the industrial revolution.

According to the website “Lumsdale is also one of the best examples of a water-powered industrial archaeological site in Great Britain and it is unusual to see such extensive use of water power in such a relatively small area.”

Above you can see one of the impressive manmade waterfalls where stored water from the mill ponds crashes down and would have turned the huge water wheels.


Naturally the mountain goat needed to get perilously close to the water source.

Here’s a couple of arty farty black and white shots (thanks Instagram!)


And the odd couple . .  .


Below is one of the mill ponds that fed the mills, another view of Bentley Brook, the source of the power and an arty shot of knotted ivy!


All in all a lovely Sunday stroll with some wonderful winter sun shine. Reminding me that no matter what wonderous things I see across the world, home is pretty special too!

Rhodes town

Now dear readers, you all know that we don’t usually do package holidays and yet that is what we found ourselves on in Rhodes.

However, never fear, we still managed to break away and do our own thing for a few days. Although we were based in Pefkos we decided to spend a few days in Rhodes town itself.

So we booked into the lovely little October Down Town Rooms just a few minutes walks from the harbour and beach and about ten minutes from the fantastic old town.

The old town is surrounded by impressive battlements and that just adds to the Disneyesque feel to the whole place.

425913_10151067206352353_1732343798_nThe Old Town of Rhodes is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Inside it feels like a stage set, complete with cobbled streets, detailed tiling and FANTASTIC pom pom slippers!!

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Here’s a few more of the stalls tempting tourists with a variety of religious artifacts, replica Greecian temples and other wooden do dars.

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One of my favourite ever things is these super cute ice cream animals!!!


Lemon ducks, chocolate orange mice and strawberry fishes!!


Once inside the walls you are met with a bewildering array of possible wandering options. There are roughly 200 streets or lanes that simply have no name and you WILL get lost!

Here’s a view of the fantastic  Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. It is one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Greece. The site was previously a citadel of the Knights Hospitaller that functioned as a palace, headquarters and fortress.

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The palace was built in the early 14th century by the Knights of Rhodes, who controlled Rhodes and some other Greek islands from 1309 to 1522, to house the Grand Master of the Order.

And here’s the rosy exterior of the Suleiman Mosque.


Here’s a few more colourful sights from the maze of back streets in the old town. I am loving the yellow and blue combo.Wonder if I can persuade the other half to have it at home . . .

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So many delightful peely paint photo opps here! So I’ll dedicate a few obsessive posts purely to paint piccies later on . . . (I do spoil you all!)

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One of the other main sights of the old town is the Street of the Knights – one of the best preserved medieval relics in the world.

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The 600m  long, cobble – paved street was constructed over an ancient pathway that led in a straight line from the Acropolis of Rhodes to the port.

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All in all Rhodes Old Town is a fantabulous place to while away a few hours just getting lost in back allies, sampling icecreams and enjoying a chilled beer!!!



Next up on the Greecian odyssey is the adorable little sugar cube village of Lindos.


The village is a sprawl of traditional white houses, many of which have rooftop terraces complete with bars and restaurants. Here’s the man pausing as we head up to the Acropolis.


The acropolis is a  natural citadel which was fortified successively by the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans and the Byzantines.


The imposing facade of the structure seems carved almost from the rock itself. Some scenes from the famous film The Guns of Navarone, were filmed here.

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Below is the Doric temple of Athena Lindia. Before it’s off for a trawl of some of the narrow back streets and the colourful stalls. A particular favourite is the local olive oil soap in pretty packaging.

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Piles of artwork and teeny tiny kitchen scenes and front doors attract my gaze.

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Not to mention the multitude of magnets, swathes of scarfs and more miniature views.

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Then it’s off for a well earned dip in the very pretty St Paul’s Bay.


It is reported that the apostle landed here during a storm.

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The turquoise water offers a well needed refresh from the steamingly hot day.


We have to tear ourselves away from the tempting scene for a little more exploration.


As we potter around Lindos I can’t help noticing all the ornate door knockers. A particular favourite seems to be hands!

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Enjoy this little selection of the knobs and knockers that adorn the village doors.


Dubrovnik town

After our jaunt around the walls we had another saunter into the charming old town. (This time it wasn’t pouring with rain!!)


Heading to the Stradun via Pile Gate


Lots of pictures of the harbour now . . .

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St Johns fortress again in all its austre glory.


Finally I get to see the town bathed in sunshine, its gorgeous

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The harbour is a picturesque setting for a very pricey drink and some food, or you can go cheap skatey, get a picnic like us and enjoy the same views


Makes me want to be back there right down, given the 3 degrees temperature outside and the grey drizzle!


Cable cars and sea swimming coming up next for your enjoyment!

More Mostar markets!

Before we headed back to Croatia, we had time to mooch around some more of the picturesque little stalls that line the main cobbled street of Mostar.

From colourful slippers to beaten copper work, tiny traditionally attired dolls to artwork, there’s almost too much to take in.

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Colourful wooden instruments make interesting (and custom friendly) souvenirs!


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Copper wear, sumptuous fabrics and cute little tea sets are also displayed to attract the magpie eyes of the tourist.


The plethora of textiles make me salivate slightly . . .so many cushion covers that could be made from them.

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Everywhere you look there’s a riot of colour, pattern and texture to delight the snap happy and trinket gatherer! (Both of which I happen to be)


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We also stuck our heads inside the courtyard of a traditional Moorish home, but, as we’d no cash for the entrance fee, we didn’t venture further!

Here’s some carpets instead . . .


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Finally a few  more bridge snaps. (I really need to find a blog template that arranges pictures better!!!!!)



Here’s me attempting to strike a pose . . weirdly I look like I have one HUGE hand and one freakishly tiny one.