Vampires of Venice

Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to attend the Venetian Carnival. Although I visited Venice around 20 years ago, I couldn’t remember too  much about it, apart from the fact I’d missed the Carnival by a matter of days. From then on, it’s been on my bucket list, and last week I got my wish 🙂

It was wet!

It was wet!

We arrived by river taxi on Friday evening. With no map, navigating our way around the streets of Venice was almost impossible. I guess you get the impression it’s a small city but it’s really not. To begin with the narrow cobbled alleyways and winding canals all look the same. We walked around in circles for about an hour before stumbling across the quaint little Ca San Giorgio hotel. The ancient building was beautiful and unspoiled and our room boasted its own roof terrace. If only it’d stopped raining we might have been able to use it.

Venetian Costume

Saturday was wet. I’m not sure that word is quite descriptive enough but it’ll have to do. Many of the Carnival activities were cancelled but it didn’t stop the tourists from donning masks and many hardened Venetians from dressing in the most elaborate costumes.

Venetian Costume

By night, Venice is the most mystical city on earth. With nothing having been altered in hundreds of years, it’s easy to imagine what things would have been like for past generations. The place is crawling with vampires. Okay, so that is only my imaginative opinion but with passageways which lead directly into canals (yes, nearly came a cropper) and derelict facades hiding the most awe-inspiring buildings, nothing is quite what it seems.

Venetian bridge

On Sunday, we stayed in the stunning Hotel Palazzo Giovanelli. With views over the Grand Canal this was a beautiful place to stay. Waking up to views of the canals is the way to start a day in Venice.

Hotel Palazzo Giovanelli

The sun did eventually come out for us, and the city took on a whole new look. Brightly coloured buildings gleamed against the blue sky and the canal sparkled. Squares filled with tables and chairs played host to the most beautiful characters.

view from Rialto

With shops filled with the most stunning masks, I went on a hunt for the perfect keepsake…

Blue Moon

Blue Moon

And I found it 🙂

Bianca

Bianca

Venice has a hold over me. It always has, and I hope that comes across in my second novel The Vampire Katya.

More pics on my flickr

February’s Full Snow Moon – 14th February.

This month, the full moon is a beautifully wrapped gift to all the romantics out there, as the night of the full moon just happens to fall on Valentines night this year.

Image

February’s full moon is known as the full Snow Moon due to heavy snowfall that traditionally arrives in this month, or hunger moon due to the lack of food and difficulty hunting. As we haven’t seen much of the white stuff this year, I wonder if they should change the name and call it the full Flood Moon instead.

Happy moon gazing 🙂

Full Wolf Moon 15th January

On the 15th of this month (weather permitting) we should encounter the first full moon of the year.

January’s full moon is known as the Wolf Moon. This has to be one of the most mystical moon names of the year. The name comes from the hungry wolves howling outside snow-covered native American villages. Just imagine.

Happy moon gazing 🙂

Page 2, Chapter 1, of the 365 page book that will be 2014

Let me start by wishing everyone a belated Happy New Year. The name of the year is beyond futuristic now, it’s simply not a valid name at all.

As I glanced back over the past twelve months, I wouldn’t have said it’d been the most memorable year. In fact I would describe it as a bit of a blahh year. The macaroni cheese of main courses or the tapioca of deserts. But if I look a little closer and really recall the good things that happened then I can only describe it as a fantastic year.

After all I had two books published. Now that doesn’t happen everyday. Okay so they are not best sellers (yet) but I’m working on it. I also spent a week in my beloved Spain, and a fortnight in Cyprus, which is a place completely new to me. I remember staring at the warm ocean with the sun glistening off the surface and knew I’d be able to recall that image when ever I needed a lift. And it works, too.

Also, I started running this year. Okay, so I’m no marathon runner, but on a good day I can just about wheeze and splutter my way around 5k.

In September my husband treated me to the most wonderful day out for my (ahem) milestone birthday, with lunch on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower gazing down upon the sun-drenched city of London, followed by a stroll along the Thames and coffee on the riverbank. Bliss.

In fact I started dating again– my husband that is 🙂 We decided that as we have such busy lives, that one night a week we should go out for a drink on our own. Much as we adore our kids, we always look forward to that particular evening each week.

And finally I ended the year marking 30 years of a very strong friendship with my best friend. I am now sporting a brand new tattoo (never too old eh).

So before you glance back and think what a blahh year you had, recall the good things, I bet there were a few 🙂

10 Great places to visit at Halloween (UK)

If you’re looking for some ideas on where to go this Halloween, here is a list of places worth visiting:

Chillingham Castle dungeon (Ok, so I’ve not actually been here, but it’s high on my to-do list)

Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe (Spooky…great for the kids)

The real Mary Kings Close & Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh (Spooky as hell)

Highgate Cemetery (Serene rather than spooky)

Leeds Castle (Not in Leeds)

Brighton Ghost Walk

Haunted house, York (A bit cheesy but at least there’s a shop!)

Oxford Castle

Chester Ghost Walk

Warwick Castle (Quite commercial) & Kenilworth Castle (Ruin)

For more great spooky ideas, visit: mumsnet

Highgate Cemetery…

a journey into the unknown. This is exactly what the architects of the magnificent Highgate Cemetery were aiming for when landscaping the enormous site, and they certainly achieved it.

Highgate Cemetery

Built in the 1830’s Highgate was one of seven sites across London allocated for one of the new style cemeteries. The seven, which came to be known as the magnificent seven, also included Kensal Green and Tower Hamlets but Highgate soon became THE place to be buried.

Highgate Cemetery

The West cemetery is only accessible via one of the many guided tours, and much as the idea of being led around by a grouchy tour guide didn’t really appeal to me, it soon became clear that without a guide, we wouldn’t have appreciated anywhere near as much about the rich history of the site. And far from the grumpy guide I was expecting (thanks to tripadvisor) we were lucky enough to be taken around by John Waite. His passion and knowledge were enlightening and we couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

Victorian Coffin

Victorian Coffin

Our journey began in the courtyard, where a set of stone steps led us up to the labyrinth of grave lined pathways that ran in all directions beneath a dense canopy of trees. We were told that within more than 50,000 graves lay over 150,000 bodies, so you can appreciate the size and scale of the place. Laid to rest within that vast site are all the most important people of their day, and although most of their names mean little to us now, we still benefit from their achievements today. 

Highgate Cemetery

The highlights of the cemetery have to be the Egyptian Avenue, and the catacombs. Unfortunately, of the thousand coffins that once rested within those vaults, only a couple of hundred remain. The rest fell victim to grave robbers and vandals.

Highgate Cemetery

Because of the Victorian gothic architecture, the location proved to be the perfect setting for 1970’s horror movies. Taste the blood of Dracula and Tales from the Crypt are just a couple of the films they shot here.

Highgate Cemetery

The cemetery fell into decline and was locked away for over fifty years. It was taken over by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, a group of volunteers set on restoring and preserving the site. Although the restoration is an ongoing project, more and more of the cemetery is opening to the public, giving a new experience each and every time you visit.

Ok, who dropped a house on the graveyard?

Ok, who dropped a house on the graveyard?

This place is truly fascinating and well worth a visit. For more information visit: Highgate Cemetery

Moon on the med

I just wanted to share with you, a few of photographs I took on my recent visit to Pahpos, Cyprus. There is something about the ocean that really captures the imagination. Maybe it’s because I live so far from it, but when I do visit the sea, I feel completely drawn to it. By day it’s magical, but by night it is truly mysterious. The reflections create stunning natural works of art, and these particular shots couldn’t go un-taken.

Pahpos by night

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Paphos by night