Tag Archives: Art

UK, action packed 3 day side trip to Liverpool – Beatles, art galleries, Docks, Beach and those friendly scousers too.

Just 2 hours and 15 minutes out of Euston and you are in Liverpool – not very far but a world away from London. Everyone I know who has been told me I would love it here – and they were right. My first visit ever was lots of fun.

First afternoon I headed down to the well renovated docks – a short walk from the town centre – which is no a mixture of museums, cafes, restaurants, shops and areas to stroll by the water. It is also where you can pick up ferries – but I decided against that given limited time and there does not appear to be much on the other side?

So first stop , after a walk through Cavern Quarter in town, was to get a dose of Beatles at the Excellent Beatles Story at Albert Dock. Everything you ever wanted to know was well organised and explained with headphones included.

The Cavern Quarter including the entrance to the original Cavern and a wonderful statue of Cilla Black. Every bar down, including the Cavern a few doors down, here plays music sets all day long. And I succumbed to a Beatles hoodie.

The impressively revitalised docks of Liverpool

Statues of Billy Fury, the Beatles and the majestic “Three Graces” at Pier Head – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard HQ and the Port of Liverpool Building.

Inside the Beatles Story Museum

Close by in the Dock area is the excellent International Museum of Slavery which shares its home with the maritime museum. While there is not a lot to photograph it is a great place to spend a couple of hours to understand the horror of slavery both in the past and sadly also in the present. Liverpool was a key port during the slave trade and it is impressive that they are willing to take ownership for those wrongs and educate people now so that it never happens again. I am not sure all those involved in the slave trade are quite as open on this topic.

A visit to the Tate Liverpool also by the Docks was next – like the Tate Modern it focuses on contemporary art and I was glad to be able to see the Keith Haring exhibit which I had just missed on my visit to Melbourne earlier this year. I also got the pink triangle t shirt!

Keith Haring artworks

A Matisse from the permanent collection plus some more Kusama dots of light – because I love her!

The British Music Experience – which moved to Liverpool from London was probably my biggest disappointment. Somehow it just didn’t work very well (and of course I have been spoiled by the superlative Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which is super fab. I amused myself of checking out “my era” and the album covers and clothes I remember well.

Some great memories at the BME

Back to the Beatles. On the advice of my friend Sylvie, I had pre-booked the National Trust’s tour to the homes where John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up. Only this tour lets you inside both houses with two excellent guides who take you through what it was like growing up in these houses and their early years and you get to see the rooms where many well known early tunes were written. Lots of great photos inside taken my Paul’s brother Mike and all sorts of stories too. Both of them lost a parent when they were young. It was very cool and interesting – has to be pre-booked online. Lasted 2.5 hours.

The houses where John and Paul grew up. Only John gets the blue plaque – you have to be dead for more than 20 years for one of them.

Again on the advice of my friend Ann this time I took the Mersey Metro to Port Sunlight about 20 minutes away. This is where what is now known as Unilever started his empire but what makes him and this place so interesting is that he didn’t just build a soap factory but he also built an entire village, school, church, pub, leisure centre etc for his workers and as long as they retired with the company they could stay in their houses. He also introduced old age pensions and medical cover and allowed women to work (but only if they were single or widowed:) – it was the late 1800s! Beautiful place where people still live and work at the factory and locally. Everyone from the royal family at the time and beyond came to visit this experiment!

Lord Lever understood the power of advertising – both locally and globally. Love the fancy gear they ladies are wearing to do the washing!

The grounds and some of the houses in Port Sunlight

All the houses are different in design and so are the front door colours. Individuality was encouraged.

The Lever soap factory and people working in it today

Also good to stop by at the Lady Lever art gallery – also funded by him. Great art collection.

Lady Lever Gallery at Port Sunlight

Now that I had figured out the Mersey Metro system I decided to get good use out of my GBP 5.30 unlimited day pass and headed out to Crosby to see Another Place by Anthony Gormley on 1.5 miles of fabulous beach. I’d been advised to check to tides so that I could see all the 100 life size male nudes that are scattered at various points (some disappear as the tide comes in which would be very Reggie Perrin to see). It is well worth visiting – walking along the beach was lovely as it was a warm day and these pieces are very thought provoking. This was his first (and was meant to be temporary) large installation of nude men – there are a few different ones around the world now.

A visit to a local theatre is always a must whenever I can make it happen so was pleased to visit the Liverpool Empire theatre (holds 2500 people) to see the Motown Story – seen it before; liked it then, liked it now.

Final art gallery visit was to the Walker Gallery (Liverpool is pretty darned good for art and culture). Excellent and broad collection of masters and also a lot of pre-raphaelite which I am quite fond of – so here we go.

Rembrandt and Cranach to name a couple of the famous names!

Love all this whimsy and color

More pre Raphael it’s plus the tinted Venus (kind of browny colored to look more human?) and a Lucien Freud

Also the famous “When did you last see your Father painting is here”

So yes I crammed a lot into my 3.5 days here but still had plenty of time to enjoy what I visited. Highly recommended that you visit Liverpool for something different.

Israel, Jerusalem – the Israel Museum

I started my visit in Jerusalem in one museum and ended it in another – this time the amazing Israel Museum which has something for everyone. We got onto a free tour which lasted two hours and was fascinating. The docent managed to cover the history of mankind (really, she did!) as she took as around the evidence from archaeological digs to the first signs of man to their move from hunters to settlers and farmers to developing thought processes to plan for the future. She was brilliant and was able to carefully cover the perspectives from the bible and clarify what people believe to be true, what they have proved to be true and also said that a lot of unanswered questions still remain.

For instance on the top right below is what is believed to be the remains of the very first fire place (first sign of people staying put and starting to farm and eat food in one place) and the remains on the bottom left is a girl cradling her dog (first sign of domestic animals). Note whenever you see bones they are casts of original bones as Jewish people do not believe in showcasing real bones of people.

Below top right is the oldest known fragment of the written bible. It predates the Dead Sea Scrolls which is the oldest known complete written bible. Top left is one half of the fortress gate at Hazor during the time of King Ahab. Below right – the gorgeous sculpture of a head was only found in 2017. It is an elegant style so they know it must be a distinguished person – probably a king but it was found on the border of 3 different kingdoms – they just haven’t figured out who yet BUT they do know it dates back to the 9th Century BC.

And then humans very early on began to like aesthetics – how things looked had to be just right – and this was well before the selfie era! This is reflected in the intricate carvings on the mummy, the first known use of gold (about 6000 years BC) – probably a form of ingot rather then jewellery but very pretty nevertheless and also as people started to stay put they realised the importance of things like weather to their ability to survive and so amulets started to appear for good luck and protection.

The docent then took us to a fabulous section of the museum on Judaica – where the best of the best is on display from Jewish communities all around the world. Some of the clothes worn on special occasions from Eastern Europe and the Levant and Arab world are below.

The museum also has four synagogues in it – 3 in very good condition that have been shipped over and reconstructed in the museum. I loved the fact that they came from very different parts of the world and have adapted their design to that used in the country they were created but as the pointed out the contents of the Torah never change – she described it as “Same prayer, different melodies”.

The two synagogues below are from Italy (baroque style abundant) and India (Cochin) where the Indian woodwork design prevails. And when the Indian one was built they were into listening to females speak publicly so the upstairs section has a place where they could read from the Torah!

The synagogue immediately below is from Suriname and designed in the Dutch Protestant style (as they were colonising this part of the world at that time) and it has sand on the floor – something I had seen in Caribbean synagogues – and no-one knows why for sure. The least good condition synagogue was the one from Bavaria which is where my mother came from so I immediately recognised the style of adornment.

They also have some beautiful embroidered coverings and wedding gifts in this section of the museum.

Outside the main buildings – and there are a lot of them – is a full scale model of Old Jerusalem as they believed it to be during the time of the 2nd Temple – using a scale of 1:50 – really fun to walk around having been to the real thing (sadly without the 2nd temple of course). On the right is the place called the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed – no inside pics allowed.

Aside from all the anthropological and historical and Judaica items – the Isreal Museum has a pretty good selection of international and Israeli art. I chose these four Picassos.

And the building and gardens around are impressive and house some excellent modern and contemporary sculptures including Anish Kapoor’s Turning the World Upside Down.

If I come back to Jerusalem I will definitely return to this museum. We stayed nearly 5 hours without a break.

Australia, Returning to Melbourne – friends, food, art, theatre and one of the loveliest cities around

As Melbourne feels like home to me have decided to just do one large blog on this three week visit., Will be back to more frequent blogs once I am in new places again later in March.

MELBOURNE – the place.

Still one of the loveliest cities. Never tire of wandering the lanes and cafes and always find new ones just when I think I have tried them all. Only downside at the moment is that a lot of central Melbourne seems to be under construction as they are building an extended subway system. Lots of very large holes in the ground.

Nice to finally see the scaffolding off Flinders Street Station though


Always one of my favourite reasons to be in Melbourne – and that includes drinks too of course. It is the city of cool bars – many are hidden speakeasys or rooftop sites. Here is the kind of thing you can expect here including some home cooking if you have nice friends who entertain you (thanks Mike and Maria)


As usual I had to visit the NGV – not just once but twice. I loved this exhibit of dogs as fashion models.

And some examples of the more modern permanent collection,

but the best thing was the Escher X Nendo exhibit. M C Escher is a Dutch graphic artist who makes most of his drawings using woodcuts and lithographs – quite amazing the detail and colourations he can create through this medium. My woodcuts at school never looked like this! Then to make it even more interesting the exhibit is displayed in an environment created by Japanese Design studio – Nendo – just brilliant. And watch how Escher plays with perspective and you mind with some of his works. Where does one bit start and another begin? And how do this birds turn into fish?

A visit to the Melbourne museum included a look at the Mandela – my life exhibit just before it closes. It was done very well and it remains shocking to read and watch videos about how people were treated under apartheid so recently.

Then a trip to Heide to see the Mirka Mora exhibit of dolls – drawings and stuffed ones. I am a huge fan of Heide and always like what they show – Mora was a prolific artist who spent a lot of time at Heide as an exile from Paris. She died last year. I like her naive style.


I saw some wonderful shows in Melbourne this trip – Miriam Margolyes in Woman in the Van; MSO doing the Beatles at Hamer Hall; Eddie Izzzard at The Arts Centre; Macbeth in the Botanical Gardens; Evita with Tina Arena and my favourite – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It must be the magic……


Always the best bit of coming back to a place after some time away. Catching up with my pals has been amazing – many of my friends I made during the time I worked at ANZ here for 10 years and it is fantastic that we are still buddies. Some I’ve even known since my HSBC days and it was also really special to have a few drinks with my former HR team from ANZ – so exciting to see them all and already looking forward to doing the same thing next year.

And BIG HUGE THANKS to the lovely Tania and Shane for opening their home to me and putting up with my comings and goings. They are the GREATEST xxxooo

Spain, The Sherry Triangle – Sanlúcar de Barremeda, Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria – plus art and flamenco!

Just enjoyed an interesting side trip from Estepona – visiting the three towns of the sherry triangle which is the only official part of the world where the wine made can be called sherry (or in the case of Sanlúcar de Barremeda Manzanilla which is a different version again).

I have learned that sherry is wine that is aged differently and for much longer. There are three main kinds (although actually about nine) all from a white grape – fino (dry and my favourite); amontillado (medium sweet) and ollorosso (sweet) – the darker colours of the latter two come from the aging process and oxidization (fino never sees the air as it is covered by a layer of yeast while it ferments) and most sherries age between 7 years minimum and up to 30 for some.

Anyway enough of the technical stuff – the towns we visited were all interesting to see and also include many bodegas where you can taste all kinds of sherries (plus a few brandies too)

Below is Sanlúcar de Barremeda – downtown and the seaside (a ten minute walk away). Very pretty.

This was our first bodegas visit. You can see the barrels are only partially filled to give room to the yeast to ferment on the top.

Then on to Jerez which is the largest of the three towns and has the most bodegas with names some of you will know – Croft, Timo Pepe and Gonzalez Byas. A visit to the local market was colourful.

The bodegas in Jerez is called Tradicion and that is because everything is done by hand – including the bottling. At this bodega there is an unexpected bonus of being able to see the (obviously wealthy) owner’s art collection. Yes that is a tile by Picasso and paintings by El Greco and Murillo.

In Jerez we also visited a traditional and very authentic flamenco show. Started at 10pm of course! We were just about the only non Spaniards there and it was amazing. Tiny bar, tiny stage and fantastic music and dancing. And as a contrast we visited the world famous Spanish Riding School and training centre – unfortunately no photos of the show allowed but suffice to say those riders and their horses are very well trained. And the last of the jacaranda trees too.

Of course Jerez has a cathedral which is as always in this part of the world impressive and very full of silver and gold!

And also a Small Alcázar in moorish style

We didn’t see much of interest in El Puerto de Santa Maria but we ate an amazing selection of tapas at Bespoke – worth it just for that!

Thailand, Chiang Rai – the Black House

Well here I am in the very northern part of Thailand – close to the Laos and Myanmar borders and famous for elephants and opium production (in the last im assures). It is quite an artsy and artisan place which prompted me to visit The Black House. This is a collection of many black teak traditional Thai houses (well except when they are white ultra modern pods?) owned by a renowned Thai artist who is, to say the least, a bit offbeat.

From trad black

To modern white

I enjoyed the architecture of the exteriors and interiors.

And the Buddha’s and shrines inside and outside

The interiors are his eclectic collection of artifacts that inspire his art

Overall a very Thai (and non Thai) experience. Glad I went but it may not be for everyone.