PhotoFlashback: The Gothic Temple, Stowe Gardens, Buckinghamshire, UK

Triangular Gothic Temple, Stowe Gardens

Triangular in shape, with circular rooms in the three corner towers. This is not your average holiday home. The Landmark Trust took over management of the Gothic Temple in late 1960’s. The building was renovated between 1969 and 1970. The Landmark Trust preserves notable buildings of of distinction by renovating them and adding living space. Landmark Trust properties are rented out to visitors. The profits from the rentals fund further similar projects. The Gothic Temple sleeps four people with a high standard of comfort.

Gothic Temple, Stowe Gardens, Buckinghamshire History:

The temple was built for Lord Cobham in 1741. Originally called the Temple of Liberty it had painted glass added in 1748. A domed ceiling was added in 1749.

The Gothic Temple can only be visited by persons renting the property, although it is possible to see the building from the outside by visiting Stowe Gardens. The Gardens are managed by the National Trust while Stowe School still occupies Stowe

Aosta: crossroads of France, Switzerland and Italy

Aosta can deceive, presenting you with a significant amount of industry as you enter. But it would be a mistake to write the city off.  A closer look reveals a rich history, with monuments and remains dating back to at least Roman times. Stay and explore Aosta and you will be able to discover the Arco di Augusto; a grand arch, dating to the First Century, a Roman Gate, Roman Theatre and even the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre. Later buildings of note worth a visit, are the Collegiata dis Orso and the Cathedral. Looking at the city up close will reveal that the inscriptions on the buildings are almost all in French. This region held on to its French Provençal dialect for a long time.

Roman Theatre

On my visits to the city, I’ve wandered around savouring the feeling that only being in Italy can bring. I’ve wandered around taking in buildings, doing some window shopping interspersed with real shopping before stopping at a café to enjoy a Cioccolata caldo (Italian hot chocolate) and a Tiramisu. Here I’d sit and do some people watching.

Porta Praetoria
Aosta occupies an important strategic position in the Aosta Valley, with three major Alpine crossing routes passing through the city. The oldest two being the where the roads Petit (Little) Saint Bernard Pass from France and the Grand Saint Bernard Pass from the Swiss Valais. Since the 1960’s the road from the Mont Blanc Tunnel also comes down to Aosta.

Roman bridge

Roman bridge, Aosta

Lift to Pila

Lift to Pila

The valley in which Aosta is located is named after it, and so is the Region. The Aosta Valley has some highly rated ski resorts including Courmayeur and La Thuile. There is even a ski lift bottom station in Aosta where you can board one of the gondolas to be whisked up to the resort of Pila. If your aspirations are for a bigger resort then Cervina the resort on the Italian side of the Matterhorn is not too far away as well.

Getting there:

The nearest railway station is Aosta. Book a rail ticket there with RailEurope.
Flixbus also stop here on their Amsterdam to Milan route.

#PhotoFlashback: Paragliding at Chamonix

Paraglider above Chamonix

A paraglider soars above Chamonix

Paragliding above Chamonix in front of the Mont Blanc Massif. A pilot soars above the Chamonix Valley, after taking off from Planpraz, where this photo was taken. The Aiguille du Midi towers over the town on the left of the picture.  Mont Blanc is the mountain on the right. The true majesty of Mont Blanc cannot be comprehended, even from up here in the mountains opposite. Move further away to at least as far as Megéve, then the summit can be seen as the tallest in the Mont Blanc Massif.

Chamonix is a popular place for paragliding. It has numerous paragliding schools where you can take a tandem flight. If you get the bug, it is possible to progress to obtaining a solo licence after one week’s continuous  tuition. The photo is from August, but as long as the weather conditions are amenable, then it is possible to fly at all times of the year using the the cable cars and Europe’s highest cable car lift to the Aiguille du Midi to gain access to the take off zones.

I’ve decided to call this series of posts #PhotoFlashbacks as I don’t intend to post a ‘Photo of the Day’ everyday. Furthermore, they are not Postcards from anywhere. Unless of course you are one of those people who buy postcards at a place then forget to send them and end up sending them from home.

Getting there:
Chamonix is served by SNCF and FlixBus.

 Paragliding schools:
Evolution 2
Fly Chamonix
Absolute Chamonix

Grand Saint Bernard Pass, Switzerland to Italy

The Saint Bernard Pass is one of the main routes from Western Switzerland to Italy. The road to it starts at Martigny, travels through the Dranse River valley with its numerous vineyards and orchards growing apricots. Keeping to the main road instead of forking left for Verbier is a little traumatic for me, but to get to Italy I’ve no choice. The road goes up the right hand valley until we reach the terminus of the Saint Bernard Express train at Orsieres. It then climbs through tiny villages with half wooden buildings and window boxes with bright red flowers, past hydroelectric dams of azure glacier melt water until it enters an avalanche tunnel. Then after a couple of kilometres the road forks into the Saint Bernard Tunnel or right to the pass. After half a kilometre you could be on the on a pass in Welsh, Snowdonia. But the snowcapped mountains behind remind us that we are in the Alps as this is September. Another strong clue was ice in the shadows under the large rocks at 11 am.
St Bernard Pass, Swiss side
Eventually the summit is reached at the Hospice. Here a sign informs all that the altitude is 2473 m or 8114 feet. There are also signs recording how Napoleon took an army of 46292 men in May 1800 on his way to attack the Austrians who were besieging French held Genoa. But over the millennia many armies have used the pass. It is believed that the pass has been an important crossing point since the Bronze Age. It is possible to make out the old Roman Road from the current road on the climb.
The hospice for travellers was set up by Saint Bernard of Menthon in 1049. The pass has carried his name since the 16 th century.  St Bernard’s concern in the first instance was to make the pass safe from bandits for travellers. From this initial role they moved on to providing a rescue service. To this end the Saint Bernard dog was bred large enough to cross deep snow and locate missing persons. The story of them carrying brandy is a myth.  Saint Bernard was made Patron Saint of the Alps in 1923 by Pope Pius XI.

 St Bernard Pass
A statue of Saint Bernard can be viewed below the summit of the pass on Italian territory. It is built on the site of old Roman ruins.

[googlemaps width=640 height=480]

#PhotoFlashback: The Roman Theatre at Gubbio, Umbria

Gubbio was one of the visits on my recent vacation this September, in Umbria, Italy. It was  recommended by Rebecca, the kind provider of our prize in the 2011 Passports with purpose competition. When I asked for typical Umbrian towns and villages to visit for a short hike, this was one of her selections. Then she said there was a gondola type lift where you stood inside a cage to take you up the mountain, I just had to go there!

We did end up hiking to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo on skyline in this photo. One of my friends even came down using the lift. For a number of reasons, that I will not bore you with, we hiked down again. Then spent the best part of the day exploring the town before heading to the old Roman Theatre where I took this HDR photo with a Panasonic TZ6 set to autobracket at -1, 0, +1 and then processed in Photomatix Essentials.

Plaes to stay:
Our prize in the Passports with purpose competition was a week’s stay at Brigolante Guest Apartments which was a couple of hours drive through some breathtaking countryside.

Getting there:
The nearest train station is Fossato di Vico at about 20 km away. A bus service connects Gubbio to the station. There is also a bus from Perugia to Gubbio. Nearest airport is Perugia.

Photo from the Western Isles for #BeachThursday

Today is #BeachThursday on Twitter. This was started a long time ago in social media terms, by Isabelle Kenis of Isabelle’s Travel Guide to share favourite beaches. This beach is one of many deserted beaches to be found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Western Isles. It is located between Shawbost and Carloway.

[googlemaps width=640 height=480]
This beach was less than an hours walk from a house I rented for a week in Shawbost. When I tried to book a house from the owner’s listed in the accommodation guides for the islands I found that I’d left it too late for a peak week at the end of July. However, one of the accommodation owners told me that although they were fully booked, if I rang another owner not listed, then she might just have availability. She did and as a result I enjoyed one of the best week’s vacation of my life. No phone, no internet and the only GSM signal was O2 so couldn’t use that either. The only place where I could connect to the internet or get a 3G signal was at Stornoway.

The next beach over to the South is also a surfing Mecca. That is one for another Thursday. Have you visited the Isle of Lewis? Do you have any tips for the area?

#PhotoFlashback photo: Portree harbour, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The harbour at Portree on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.
Portree, Isle of Skye,The Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye is an awe-inspiring landscape of rocks breaking out of verdant hills. If you are looking for a touring base for the area, then Portree is a good choice. The capital of Skye it has an ample supply of hotels, restaurants and shops.
[googlemaps width=640 height=480]

Getting there:
Train to Kyle of Lochalsh then bus to Portree.

Somewhere to stay:
Find a late booking deal from LateRooms: Hotels in Portree with up to 50% off*

Misty Mountain Hop

A companion post to Sunrise from a Welsh Castle on the VisitBritain SuperBlog. Look it up for more photos of misty valleys at sunrise.
Llangollen drowned in a sea of mist
The sun sinking in a blaze of red skies is the first clue. The second is hints of frost on the windows the next day. This is the cue to get climbing above the Vale of Llangollen, for a sight that has to be witnessed to be appreciated. The previous day’s sun has warmed the valley and pulled some moisture from the River Dee into the air. As it cooled overnight the this air became thick with mist filling the U shaped valley formed by a glacier in the last Ice Age.
Climb up high above the valley and the river of mist lit by the orange rays of the rising sun and just marvel at nature and the science of mist formation.

Before I sink like a Led Zeppelin. Here is the Misty Mountain Hop.

Getting ready to hop

[googlemaps width=640 height=480]

Getting there:
Train* to Ruabon then bus to Llangollen (every 10 minutes)

Somewhere to stay:
Find a late booking deal from LateRooms: Hotels in Llangollen with up to 50% off*

Why the *?
There are two types of link on Eurapart. Normal and Affiliate.
Affiliate links are identified with an * (asterisk) or a banner
advert. When you use these links, then the Eurapart site may
receive commission from that company, if certain other conditions
are met.

The second type of link will take you to the company’s site, but
without this site getting any commission. In both cases the price you pay will
be the same. If you prefer you can use these normal links:


#PhotoFlashback: Crayontaceous pencils

Appeared close to the official dinosaur skeletons at the steps leading to the Brussels Natural History Museum. The Pencil artist has a record of making tributes to other street artists. Dinosaur pencils
[googlemaps width=640 height=480]
Getting there:
Eurostar by*  from London
ICE High speed train from Koln, Frankfurt
Thalys* from Paris, Amsterdam, Koln
Eurolines* bus Paris, Amsterdam and more
Airports: Zaventem, Charleroi

Hotels close by:
Look up Brussels Hotels at HotelsCombined*

* Indicates Affiliate link for more information go to the Privacy and Cookies page.

Take a seat Mr Bond!


A photo for #FriFotos on Twitter, Friday 19 October 2012. To take part just get your photos on the theme of ‘Chairs’ and share with the #FriFotos hashtag.
This in addition to regular hosts  Jonathan Epstein (@EpsteinTravels), Stephanie Diehl (@TravelDesigned) and Charles Yap (@CharlesYap); this week’s guest co-hosts are:Carrie Finley-Bajak (@CruiseBuzz) and Maria Laborde (@latinAbroad).