Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

We spent our first weekend in the UK checking out the annual Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Our younger daughter, Mlle, works in the music PR industry and was working there all the long weekend though we did manage to catch up with her in between all her commitments!

We saw some great artists performing including the world premier of “Decade Zero” by David Maric with Phronesis & the Engines Orchestra, the multi instrumentalist, singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello and scored last minute tickets to the Grammy winning ensemble Snarky Puppy. We also sat in on some radio shows – the range of music was wide and eclectic some of it far removed from “traditional” jazz. The age range of visitors spanned small children right through to the elderly – there were even quite a few dogs there though not sure what they made of the music! 

We also checked out the food stalls and watched quite a few of the many street performances. Cheltenham is a bustling spa town and the elegant Regency buildings made a lovely backdrop for the festival.  Venues included the Town Hall as well as the central site in Montpellier Gardens. All in all we had a fabulous time and were also able to see a lot of Monsieur’s family who live locally. 

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival normally takes place at the end of April and spreads across the May bank holiday weekend – we’ll be looking out for the 2018 programme! 

I’m writing this post up on my iPad so please excuse the fact it’s not up to my usual editorial standards! I don’t find the WordPress  iPad app particularly user friendly but at least it means I can get some posts out whilst on the road! 

Le Chic En Rose is heading off “En The Road” again! We’ll be in the Uk for a couple of weeks catching up with family, including our London-based daughter and then spending 8 days relaxing amongst the stunning lakes and mountains of Switzerland.

It seems rather far off at present and just hope we manage to get on the plane later this week! I won’t be blogging as much whilst travelling although I hope to stay in touch as best I can. I plan to put photos up on my Instagram and Facebook pages (see here and here for links) and I will pop in to check on what’s happening in the blogosphere from time to time.

Although we’re looking forward to our holiday, I always have a few mixed feelings – leaving the other half of our family (our other daughter, son-in-law and little granddaughters), not to mention our 2 pampered pets, Winston the Schnoodle and Duchess the cat (though they will no doubt be equally pampered by our lovely house sitters). I’ll also miss my daily walks round about especially as we’ve been having a stunning autumn so far!

 

 

A bientôt Perth!

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We’ve often been on the road at Easter time but this year we’ll be spending it with family and friends in Perth. Our seasons “Down Under” being in reverse we’re enjoying the pleasant autumnal weather – crisper nights but still sunny days.

Going through the photo vaults I came across some lovely photos of a day out in the Yorkshire Dales a few years back when visiting our UK families at Easter time. The green countryside and profusion of daffodils sum up my childhood memories of Easter. We drove up to the pretty village of Kettlewell and had lunch at the Blue Bell Inn (the waitress was from a small country town in New South Wales!). We used to go here a lot when I was growing up as my late Nanna knew the then owners. It had all the character and charm I remembered – a great little spot for a welcoming pub lunch.

 

 

After a quick walk round the village to walk off our rather hearty lunch, we headed off back over the moors. Our drive took us into Upper Wharfedale via the quaintly named Hubberholme and its little church, then over the top to Wensleydale calling by the stunning Aysgarth Falls before wending our way down the dales back towards Ripon and Harrogate.

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone a very happy Easter!

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

On our last night in Berlin we decided to head down the Oranienburger Strasse not too far from our Mitte base. I knew it had been the heart of the old Jewish settlement in Berlin back in the 19th and 20th centuries and that amongst the hub of restaurants, clubs and bars were some memorials of the past.

We decided to walk from our hotel by the Spree River (which took us about 20 minutes or so). So far the street seemed fairly unremarkable and we were debating which restaurant to go into when we came across the “New Synagogue” . Originally built to serve the growing Jewish population coming from the east into Berlin in the mid 19th century, it has been restored in recent years and has a poignant inscription on the front.

New Synagogue Oranienburger Strasse Berlin

Inscription On The Front Of The New Synagogue Berlin

The translation (by me) is as follows:

“This synagogue is 100 years old and was set on fire by the Nazis on 9th November 1938 in Kristallnacht. 

During World War 2 (1939 – 1945) it was destroyed in 1943 through bombing attacks.

The front of this House of God should remain for all time a place of reminder and remembrance.

Never Forget

Jewish Community of Greater Berlin – The Board

September 1966

Jewish services are once again held in the New Synagogue. Most of the building, however, houses offices and a museum.

We felt it fitting to go into the next door building, Cafe Orange, for our dinner. Situated in a lovely old building, Cafe Orange took us back into Berlin’s pre war heyday with jazz music accompanying our meal in the background and posters of the original cafe decorating the walls (with faded ochre paintwork).

 

It was a wonderfully relaxing meal and a great way to spend our last evening in Berlin. We’d been walking all day though so decided to catch a tram back to our hotel (they trundle up and down Oranienburger Strasse linking Hackescher Markt with Friedrichstrasse).

One slight word of caution – Oranienburger Strasse is probably not the best place to take young children or anyone easily shocked out at night, as it is one of the centres of Berlin’s perfectly legal red light trade. You may need to explain why a number of ladies are standing on street corners wearing thigh high PVC leather black boots! We felt, however, perfectly safe – just exercise the usual safety precautions that you would do anywhere if out at night.

The journey back on the tram was a chance to sit back and enjoy the night lights of Berlin. We’ll certainly be coming back again at some point to this wonderful and vibrant city!

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The Mauermuseum was one of the highlights of our trip to Berlin last year. “The Wall” is such a huge part of the consciousness of Berliners and indeed many others such as Monsieur and myself who grew up with the concept of the “Iron Curtain”. The iconic museum just by Checkpoint Charlie does a fabulous job of putting this grim period of history into historical context and is well worth the entry price.

 

 

 

The museum’s founder, Rainer Hildebrandt, was a fervent campaigner against the Soviet occupation (here is part of his obituary).

Rather than going into a lengthy dissertation on all the background, here is the mission statement from the museum’s website:

Our museum was founded shortly after the construction of the Berlin Wall(August 13th 1961), on October 19th, 1962. The founder of our museum, Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt, believed that it was vital in the non-violent struggle for human rights „to be as close as possible to the injustice itself, where human greatness fully unfolds“. He came to Checkpoint Charlie to express his protest against the Wall and to provide assistance to the persons seeking help. Gradually the museum increased its exhibition space and contributed to the fall of the Wall. The museum had a vital role in history.

 

It is sobering to think how close the museum was to the border of the two zones. Today the streets are bustling with locals and tourists going about their business. Back in the day the view would have been very different – grim border posts and armed soldiers (rather than the actors who recreate the roles for today’s audience).

 

Mauermuseum Berlin

View From Window – Mauermuseum Berlin

 

 

The museum isn’t pretty like many others with classical antiquities and beautiful works of art, so although I took quite a few photos they are atmospheric rather than attractive! There is a huge range of memorabilia including chunks of the now torn down wall and plenty of interactive displays. Large sections are also devoted to displays on various human rights struggles around the globe.

It is a lot to take in and quite draining at times but fascinating stuff. Three hours was about my limit – some of the escape attempts from east to west were harrowing and my brain just couldn’t take in any more information! However we would definitely go back again – we still have the third floor of the museum to cover!

A lengthy browse in the well-stocked gift shop and debates about how many more books we could fit into our luggage revived our spirits! On the way home we had a pleasant detour through the old Nikolaiviertel and late afternoon drinks by the Spree restored our energies.

The Mauermuseum is compelling stuff but like many museums can be quite a tiring experience especially if like us you try and read absolutely everything. We found interspersing “heavy” museums with lighter activities for the rest of the day was the way to cope with information overload and the darker chapters of Berlin’s past.

Other museums I can highly recommend in no particular order are the Deutsches Historisches Museum (permanent displays and seasonal exhibitions), The Story Of Berlin (800 years of the capital’s history and a tour of the nuclear bunker under Kurfuerstendamm), and the quirkily kitsch DDR Museum (another one with fantastic interactive displays including one of the infamous Trabi car). There are so many others and we have yet to visit all of them – saving those for future visits!

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Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A few years back we stumbled by complete chance into a wonderful garden festival taking place in the historic town of  Koblenz on the Rhine. We were spending a few days there and kept seeing signs for BUGA everywhere! Intrigued, we finally asked someone in the local tourist office and found that Koblenz was hosting the biannual “Bundesgartenschau”, an exhibition of gardening and horticulture held every 2 years in a different town or city in Germany.

 

 

In 2017 it is Berlin’s turn to act as host but this year’s event will be combined with the Internationale Garten Ausstellung (IGA for short, see here for more details).  So by way of a preview here are some photos from the Koblenz festival in April 2011 – a real blast from the past!

 

Koblenz Germany

Signs In The Palace Grounds

 

We were there over the Easter holidays and the colours were glorious. No doubt they would have continued to develop and change as the months went by. We had a great time in Koblenz, which is a beautiful spot at the confluence of the Rhine & Moselle rivers, with high cliffs overlooking the junction point at Deutsches Eck. The old fortress, Ehrenbreitstein, that perches on the opposite river bank can be reached by the Koblenz Cable Car.

 

 

 

The castle grounds at the top of the cable ride were a profusion of spring colours – the tulips especially were at their best.

 

 

But there were also indoor pavilions housing more exotic plants, a wealth of horticultural information and (right up our street) a wine and food festival taking place in conjunction with the flower festival!

 

 

Back down at river level, the beautiful Baroque style Electoral Palace provided yet another stage for some wonderful displays.

 

 

The IGA in Berlin is due to start next month on the 13th April and will run until the 15th October 2017. It is being held in the former Marzahn Recreational Park in the outer area of Marzahn-Hellersdorf to the north east of the city. If it is half as good as the Koblenz one was a few years back, it would be well worth taking a trip there if you happen to be visiting Berlin in the next few months!

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Not to be outdone by his uncle Frederick The Great, his successor, Frederick William II, decided to build his own legacy for posterity in the form of the rather unoriginally named Neuer Garten (New Garden). This epithet was presumably to distinguish it from the “old” gardens associated with his uncle at Sanssouci. All the Hohenzollern rulers appear to be called Frederick, William or when they ran out of ideas Frederick William – it does get a bit confusing!

 

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Orangerie – Grounds Of The Neuer Garten Potsdam

 

The Cecilienhof, site of the famous Potsdam Conference, sits at the northern end of the park and after a quick visit (see here) we wandered round the rest of the park grounds. The Neuer Garten is beautifully laid out with serene views over a couple of lakes, the Heiliger See and the Jungfernsee.

The Marmorpalais, constructed at the same time, dominates the scenery but in a stylish and pleasant way. Frederick William II had a couple of wives (not at the same time!) and several mistresses. The official mistress, Wilhelmine, Graefin von Lichtenau, oversaw much of the interior design of the palace. With a charming Orangerie, pretty English style gardens and dreamy views it conjures up images of bygone times.

 

 

The royal household came up with an ingenious way of storing perishable goods and presumably keeping the royal wine collection in tact. The Ice House, which sits near Heiliger See in the grounds, is constructed in the form of a pyramid. During winter ice was removed from the lake and buried deep under the structure – this acted as a refrigeration unit and royal beer fridge for the rest of the year!

 

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The Ice House – Near Heiliger See Potsdam

 

The Neuer Garten is reminiscent of a grand country estate. On the way out of the grounds we passed by Dutch style houses used mainly in the past for stables and servants quarters.

 

 

Just outside the Neuer Garten, en route into the centre of town, we came across a rather curious little settlement. The Alexandrowska is, as its name suggests, a nod to the Russian Empire. It transpired that Frederick William III (Frederick William II’s son and successor) was a good friend of the Russian Tsar. As a tribute he had the Russian colony constructed between 1826 and 1827. The Russian wooden style houses were home to Russian singers and musicians who were attached originally to the First Prussian Regiment Of The Guards. Today a small museum can give you an insight into this fascinating historical episode (something that will have to wait for another day as we ran out of time to visit).

 

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Alexandrowska – Russian Colony Potsdam

 

For more inspiration and wonderful walks around the world visit Restless Jo at her regular Monday Walk!

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The name Potsdam is probably most closely associated with the conference held there in the summer of 1945 during the closing stages of the 2nd World War. The leaders of the United States (Truman), the Soviet Union (Stalin) and Great Britain (Churchill then later Attlee) met to work out the future of Europe post war and also the surrender of Japan.

In very simple terms it set the stage for the division of Europe and the Cold War. Since it would take a thesis to write all about that, there is an interesting link here for background reading!

The setting for this important political gathering was the slightly incongruous Cecilienhof Palace, which looks more like an English Tudor mansion than a Hohenzollern Palace.

 

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Cecilienhof Potsdam – View From The Neuer Garten

 

It was chosen as it had been virtually undamaged by the bombing that had ravaged Berlin and the industrial areas of Potsdam. In fact it was the last Hohenzollern palace ever built and was constructed between 1914 and 1917 for Crown Prince William and his wife Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin – hence the name “Cecilienhof”.

 

 

Part of the large complex of palaces and parks that make up the UNESCO World Heritage site in Potsdam, the Cecilienhof sits at the northern end of the Neuer Garten (New Garden). Designed by architect Paul Schultze-Naumburg it was created on the lines of an English country house in a Tudor style (I guess the German royal family did have a lot of English relatives?). Now a museum, you can visit the conference room and see the rooms where all the discussions and work took place.

Unfortunately we only had time to breeze in and out of the palace gardens so have yet to go round the museum. It was also rather crowded (not surprisingly) so many of my photos have “gatecrashers”!

 

 

The surrounding gardens and parkland are definitely not to be missed – more to follow next week to conclude the Potsdam series of posts!

 

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Neuer Garten Potsdam – Marmorpalais

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Potsdam isn’t just associated with the pomp and elegance of the Hohenzollern rulers. It also has a very different past dating from the Cold War era when it was firmly entrenched behind the Iron Curtain as part of the DDR. So close to West Berlin and yet light years away in so many respects.

We found out more about this side of Potsdam on our first visit back in 2013. We walked probably three times our daily steps quota with Original Berlin Walks on their Discover Potsdam Tour! Sanssouci and the city centre was just a small part of the day (see here, here and here for previous posts).

Our starting point was the eastern side of the city (Sanssouci is on the west) and our first destination was a pretty spot on the River Havel. Basking in the sunshine it was hard to imagine its more sinister past. Glienicker Bruecke or Glienicke Bridge is best known as the “Bridge Of Spies”, the transfer point for cross-iron curtain spy swaps in the Cold War era. As luck would have it we’d arrived on the day of a spring fun run!

 

 

The Glienicke Bridge was the only checkpoint under full Soviet Control in the divided Berlin era – others in the zone were also manned by East German border guards and this is probably why the Allies and Soviets used the bridge as their spy swap point.

The first prisoner exchange took place on 10 February 1962. The Americans released Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel in exchange for American spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers captured by the USSR following the U-2 Crisis of 1960. The 2015 film, Bridge Of Spies, is based on their story (haven’t seen it myself though).

The final exchange, which I can remember as it got quite a bit of press coverage at the time, was on 11 February 1986. Anatoly Shcharansky (now Natan Sharanksy), the human rights campaigner and political prisoner, plus three Western agents were exchanged for Karl Koecher and four other Eastern agents.

For a long time secluded and closed off, the bridge and surrounding parks and palaces can once again be enjoyed by tourists and visitors for recreational purposes (as well as the locals of course).

 

 

 

The People’s Park (Glienicker Volkspark) is a beautiful place in which to have a wander especially in the spring time. Elegant villas and gardens have been restored and the feeling is a world away from the grey bleakness of the post war era.

 

 

You can find out more about other attractions such as the 19th century Babelsberg Castle (overlooking the River Havel on the other side of Glienicke Bridge), travel information and river cruises, which operate during the warmer months, here at the Potsdam Tourist Site.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

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