Amy has invited us to thumb through our archives for this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #250 and choose skyscapes and clouds. I’ve found it impossible to be dispassionate about this. There’s something about these images that’s so bound up with memories that I can’t distinguish good photos from the merely ordinary. I’m transported to that place, that time, that set of souvenirs.

Take my header photo, for instance, which I’ve posted before, more than once. It takes me immediately to that special day when I was part of an evening boat trip quietly floating through the lagoons of l’Albufera near Valencia, while birds made their final flights as the sun settled below the horizon. It’s a memory which will never leave me, whether the photo is a winner or not.

Longish sea trips to the continent bring memories of languidly looking at cloudscapes from early morning till nightfall as our ship smoothly purrs towards its destination. Here’s one …

… or this…

Or there are those memories of January days in Cádiz. An unmissable part of our routine was to head to the beach at dusk to watch the sun slowly disappear into the sea.

This shot, from our time in the Balkans shows that a slightly neutral skyscape can be a perfect backdrop for a questing bird of prey. And this was a holiday of birdsong, wild flowers – and memories of a still wild landscape.

A quick visit to France, to the Minervois for a moody sky. This was a trip just a few weeks ago, when on the same day as this shot was taken, we saw tiny daffodils sheltering from the brisk wind.

I can’t leave this post without a local shot, taken as we walked a habitual path alongside our River Ure.

Out in the Streets of El Masnou

Take a trip northwards along the coast out of Barcelona, and you’ll enter a different world. You’ll trade Tourist Central for pleasant, ordinary towns where people can just get on with life. You’ll only hear Catalan and Spanish in the streets, and souvenir shops or restaurants with tourist menus and helpful pictures and translations into several languages are unknown.

The town just before our daughter-and-family’s is El Masnou, and we recently enjoyed a stroll around after a long lazy lunch there. Old and new, high-rise and low rise all live together in a congenial hotch-potch. There’s a harbour, as shown in the feature photo, and pleasant squares with Modernista villas once built for sea-captains.

And of course there’s street art … such as a series of images of women, whom I ought to recognise, but don’t …

… and any number of images with an axe to grind …

Or not ..

And then just a couple of others, near a disused factory, with a building site beyond …

… before finishing up in a square outside the church shown above, looking out at the Mediterranean, with Barcelona on the skyline at the right. And with an image of the winter, summer, autumn and winter painted on one of the walls.

Actually, I’m cheating. The photo at the bottom was taken on a January day when the sun was absent.

For John’s Lens-Artists Challenge #249

and Natalie’s Photographing Public Art

The Gegants of Catalonia

Visit Catalonia while there’s some kind of festival going on, and you might be lucky enough to see Gegants. They’re huge and heavy figures which, during festivals, are carried by some poor – unseen – soul probably sweating and longing for the moment when he (and it’s invariably a ‘he’) can put his burden down and disappear for a drink. They usually represent various traditional characters, though in the early days, way back in the 15th century, they had the job of telling Bible stories.

Can you spot the boy underneath the gegant? He’s about to try, and almost fail, to lift it onto his shoulders.

While we were staying with daughter-and-family in Premià de Mar over Easter, Malcolm and I, out with granddaughter Anaïs, had a piece of luck. A small band of people were hauling the local gegants out of store, and generally checking them over . They invited us to look round the store if we wanted, and we did. I find some of these creatures a little on the creepy side: all the same, I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t be around on the day that these lumbering giants stalked the streets of the town for one day only.

Come and have a look round the store room with us …

I’ve a feeling that this time, a love story was on the cards. The sort where the Hunk and the Kind and Virtuous Maid live happily ever after.

Do you agree?

For Natalie’s Exploring Public Art Challenge – again.

Still Life: a Gallimaufry

If I said ‘Still life‘ to you, I’d bet you’d immediately think of those ultra-realistic studies of fruits, cheeses and other good things cascading artfully from a shelf or plate in a painting by one of those 17th and 18th century Dutch painters who specialised in painting them. Like this, for instance, by Floris van Dijk in the Rijksmuseum:

Patti, who’s challenged us to produce still life images for this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge #246 isn’t going to be a bit impressed by anyone who blogs only about images of Old Masters whose work happens to be in the public domain. She wants our own efforts. We can compose them; or we can find them, the unselfconscious efforts of others which we’ve spotted, and seized, and made our own.

I’ve got a rag-bag of images for her. The fish stall in Valencia which is my feature photo. The marvellous greengrocer in Cádiz, who daily displayed on the wall outside his tiny shop a tableau of some of the goods he had to offer:

Fruit and veg. from Spain; fermented and pickled vegetables from South Korea; and dried fish from there too. As well as a vase of flowers from home. All these in homage to Dutch Old Masters.

Market in Alicante
Market in Busan

Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate, England has a display in an Edwardian gardener’s shed. I was rather taken by these rusted tools.

In Barcelona, temporarily totally ignoring all the wonders on display in Gaudi’s Casa Vicens, I glanced out of the window to see a washing line still life:

And only the other week, in Canet de Mar, Catalonia, in the museum dedicated to Lluis Domenech i Montaner (Note to self: get that post about him written), I found an extraordinary still life with which to finish this post: the ephemera gathered into the studio of early 20th century photographer Eugenie Forcano.

Well, Patti, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve had a lot of fun. Thanks.


This week, Denzil, for his Nature Photo Challenge #9, invites us to hunt down long-legged birds.

So I’m going to book-end my post with herons, omnipresent herons, seen in every continent but Antarctica, almost anywhere where there is fresh water. I could have shown you one of our local birds, patiently fishing in the River Ure. Instead, I feature one seen in urban Busan, South Korea, and finish with one surveying the evening scene from his look-out post in l’Albufera, Valencia, Spain.

Let’s stay in Spain, and showcase a stork supervising the nest a-top a church in Tudela, Navarre.

Now Greece, and another member of the heron family, the egret, hunting for breakfast.

Let’s return to England. But you’ll only find flamingos in places like Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

Just as Lockdown came to an end, we ventured once more into the Yorkshire Dales, and found curlews, so newly unaccustomed to traffic that as we parked ready to go on our walk, they stayed nearby, unconcerned.

The patterned curlew blends in so well with the less-than patterned grasses. Especially the legs. Keep looking – you’ll find them.

I bet you wouldn’t expect to find a hen in this post. But our neighbour’s chickens have long legs. And they lay the smallest hens’ eggs ever.

And finally, as promised, here’s our Spanish heron.

L’Albufera, Valencia

A Very Good Friday in Canet de Mar

A public holiday. Where to go, when everyone everywhere is looking for an outing? Emily and Miquel chose Canet de Mar, a few miles up the coast. A characterful little town that was the home of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, a Modernist architect whom I hugely admire, and who deserves a post later. A museum visit (the featured photo), a long lazy meal, moments on the beach playing with Anaïs. I call that the perfect day.


Here we are in Spain. Between travel fatigue and the fun of a family wedding – all in Catalan – getting an album of Sharp Shots for Denzil’s photo challenge this week has been an unusual one.

But here are a few shots of prickly plants from nearby gardens.

And here’s another sort of sharp.

Peace, Perfect Peace

Last week, when posting about the joys of solitude, my header photo came from the afternoon and evening I spent in my own company in ‘l’Albufera, near Valencia. I think of it still as one of the most serene and contented days of my life.

It’s five years since I went in November to spend a fortnight in Valencia to do an intensive Spanish course. All morning I studied at the language school with a motley bunch of fellow students from Saudi Arabia, Germany, Ireland … anywhere but England, apparently. The afternoon was mine to explore Valencia’s city streets, its museums and parks, its churches, its markets. And in the evening I returned to lodge with a Spanish woman who spoke even less English than I did Spanish (I’d gone as a total beginner). So it was a wonderful but intense experience, with my senses always on alert to learn, discover and understand.

I’d heard about the l’Albufera wetlands just outside the city as a natural park to relax and enjoy a stroll among its paths and waterways, wildlife-spotting, and thought this would be just the thing for my last afternoon. I caught one of the infrequent buses, and was on my way.

It really is only just beyond the city boundaries, and very near a rather unlovely social housing development, as you can see here:

But start walking, and you can enjoy paths through Mediterranean coastal forest, probably not meeting another soul.

For the rest, I’ll let my photos do the talking. Several hours of walking, observing, mooching. Sometimes, like Winnie the Pooh, I sat and thought: and sometimes I just sat. As the skies suggested that evening was on its way, I joined a small queue at the waterside of El Perellonet, waiting for a boat trip. And about five of us sat ourselves in a simple boat, which for over an hour puttered about the wetland lakes, inching its way through tall reeds, disturbing herons and other water birds, as the sun slowly started to set. Though we spoke little to each other, it was a companionable, shared occasion which has rarely been bettered in my life. Just once, two years later, I shared the same experience in almost the same way with my husband and the magic was repeated.

For Tina’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #239

PS to WordPress bloggers: though if you’re affected you may not see this. WordPress for smartphones has now migrated to Jetpack. It’s hard to imagine that this was a glitch-free event. That’s the only reason I can think of for my post on Wednesday getting hardly any sightings, with almost all the usual suspects who are kind enough to ‘like’ and/or comment being conspicuous by their absence. Has anyone else had this experience?

Alone Time

I don’t have a problem being alone. As an only child who was often uprooted while growing up, I was used to my own company. Nowadays, though I value family and friends, time to myself is important too. My happiest memories of lockdown are of the Daily Exercise we were permitted, when I’d take myself off to enjoy the differences each day made on familiar daily walks, and discover new tracks and pathways.

Here’s a rather random gallery of landscapes that may meet the needs of the solitary walker. Put on your hiking boots and yes, why not? We’ll go and enjoy them together.

…. and then you could just go off by yourself if you wanted …

For Ann-Christine AKA Leya’s Lens-Artists Challenge #238 Alone Time

The header image is from l’Albufera, near Valencia, Spain, where I had a wonderfully solitary afternoon and evening one November about four years ago.