I spent 100 days of those 6 months sketching the city, thanks to the lovely Katherine Geppert, who suggested a group of us try out the Instagram 100 Day Project. Armed with a notebook and pencil I sketched urban scenes from October through to January.
As well as being a good reason to explore the city, practising my sketching was another thing on my to-do list. What I’ve learned from the 100 days is definitely practise, practise, practise. I might compare some sketching in the summer to see how different the urban scenes would be.
After a three year hiatus from this blog it’s probably a good time to start this whole wandering architects endeavour again since Tim, Edie and I have moved to a new city. It’s now been 6 months living in Berlin, most of it feeling homesick for Glasgow where we’ve left some wonderful friends and a three-quarter renovated flat. We’ve also spent the time making this new city our new home; learning a new language and exploring the many wonders this energetic and complex city has to offer. It’s been exploring architecture, history, public transportation, play parks, city parks, cafe culture, bar culture (not so much these days), markets, museums, galleries, and so forth.
6 months and I’ve barely covered any great breadth of this city. I guess starting this blog up again would ensure I made a concerted effort to get my arse out of P-berg and see parts of Berlin I haven’t seen before.
We missed the first snow of the season this weekend, instead dodging sleet and hail on our first visit to Manchester.
We stayed with an old colleague of mine in the lovely village in a suburb of Chorley. We packed a fair bit in on Saturday, with a visit to the new architecture at Salford Docks as well as the highlights of the city centre, including the beautiful John Ryland library – a great secular temple.
The new stuff was generally pretty bland (though better than anything Scottish) as my preparatory reading of the relevant chapter of The New Ruins of Great Britain had made out.
On Sunday after an adventurous evening that ended up in an eclectic Cuban cafe we pottered around the lovely Whitworth Museum, whose luminous red brick was quite striking against the grey.
Monday we spent exploring the fantastic Northern Quarter in more detail, with great warehouses and fire escapes, along narrow streets combined with the requisite cafes and vintage shops creating our natural habitat 😉
More from a year ago – work took me to Toronto for a joint submission for the Fort York Battlefield Visitor Centre with Canadian practice RAW Design. The folks at RAW turned on the hospitality in a whirlwind couple of days. We were very pleased with the final outcome but ended up runners-up.
Another historic post, for our Christmas – NW break last year – we tested Oswald to the maximum with a trip around the north west of Scotland (some of the most remote regions in Europe) in what turned out to be the coldest winter in 30 years.
He coped admirably – we only got stuck once although the deep snow did mean we stuck to main routes and didn’t get to explore off the beaten path much – mind you ‘main’ is probably a bit of a euphemism some of the single track roads were pretty hairy!.
Our flickr set tells the story in all the blinding white glory.
We went to Copenhagen (almost a year ago) for a quick weekend visit to Howe before he left back to Vietnam – was a great weekend including lunch at Noma (above) for some ‘food as art’ foamy goodness – the second best restaurant in the world apparently!
Mum & Dad came to visit through September. After a couple of weeks with my aunt & uncle in Lyon we met them in Paris, where gorgeous weather let us explore all the highlights, Eiffel Tower, Louvre (outside at least) Notre Dame, Monmartre and the Sacre Coure.
Catching the eurostar we moved on to London for a couple of days where some decidedly British weather kept us a little housebound (luckily we were staying in a spacious modernist gem of an apartment in Bloomsbury so all was not lost).
M&D provided an excuse to do all the tourist things we would never dream of in our usual east-end hipster type jaunts to the capital. Dad and Tim went up the London eye, we saw the crown jewels at the Tower of London and said g’day to Liz at Buckingham Palace. We also managed to catch up with Touch and meet Annalise her new super-cute baby and have a birthday dinner for me to catch up with all the Glasgow expatriates of the credit crunch!
Having squeezed all of that in we were suitably exhausted by the time we collapsed onto the East Coast mainline for the scenic ride back to Glasgow.
Eschewing the energetic hill walks or mountain biking expeditions to nearby Helvellyn Chhay & I opted instead for a more lesiurely sail on the lake in true Swallows & Amazon’s style.
Miserable weather on the Sunday kept us to a short lakeside walk before a languid afternnon tea in nearby Pooley Bridge. Oswald proved very popular with the kids who claimed him as their castle during the days.
We spent four days exploring the Banff coast east of Inverness in our first proper adventure with Oswald. Claire joined us too so we got to test the upstairs bed!
The first day was spent getting Oswald over the Glenshee pass. Having stopped for a delightful lunch at the very prim and proper Dunkeld we had our first mechanical breakdown (an anti-roll bar) which a proper old school mechanic assured us was ok for the rest of the weekend. We struck more trouble when we went to pick up Claire off the train with the only road through being closed due to a collision between a police car and an ambulance!
We were wild camping over the weekend so spent a fair bit of time scouring for campsites and then looking for somewhere to shower the following day, but it was much more fun that being stuck in the fairly nasty caravan parks that characterise the Scottish countryside.
We reached the coast at Findhorn and had some great seafood in the village before checking out the hippies at the Findhorn Foundation. We then tootled east looking for a place to camp via a series of picturesque villages. We ended up in an isolated car park on the outskirts of Lossiemouth, with the benefits of the facilities at the yacht club nearby. After a sunset dinner we briefly visited the local bar before retiring in the face of a scary metal band at full volume. Our sense of isolation was broken at about 6 am by a steady trickle of golfers arriving for an early morning round so that by the time we were up we were completely surrounded!
East of Lossimouth the scenery became even more spectacular with tiny fishing villages clinging to precipitously to the base of steep cliffs. Partiuclar favourites were Portsoy with fantanstic old warehouses by the harbour, the incredibly tiny Crovie where the space at the base of the cliffs is only just wide enough for the smattering of houses and can only be accessed by foot, and our finishing point Pennan the star of 80’s scottish classic Local Hero.
Our first test of Oswald’s camping abilities was successful if a little disorganized. Taking off after work on a Friday without proper preparation was our first mistake, as was not practicing our packing – we spent a large proportion of the weekend rifling through the cupboards for the thing we needed for that particular Oswald transformation.
We were headed to the Borders region in Scotland’s south east. We had never been past Edinburgh before, except taking in the fantastic coastal views from the (about to be nationalised) East Coast Mainline but had heard some great recommendations for the region.
On the Friday night we made it as far as St Abbs, descending into the misty harbour to wild camp after a late dinner at the pub in Coldringham at the top of the cliffs that line this coast. As it is a diving centre there were even free showers – a deluxe setup for wild capervan camping.
Come Saturday morning with an early start to clear camp the mist was still thick as we picked out way along the coast through little harbour towns. We made it to the border at Berwick on Tweed for breakfast. Having already skipped through the coastal areas of the Borders we decided to push down into England to Holy Island.
Reachable by a causeway only at low tide the mist was still thick as we ventured across creating a spooky impression with water lapping at each side of the road and the occasional sand dune looming out of the fog. By the time we had wandered about the island, with its intriguing ‘boat’ houses and visited the amazingly situated Lindesfarne Castle (renovated by Lutyens into a beautiful summerhouse) the fog had finally lifted revealing the beauty of the island.
After a farm shop lunch and a little cruise along the Northumberland coast we made a quick dash to the incredible Cragside House (to make the most out of our newly purchased National Trust membership). Although we arrived too late to get into the house itself the grounds were impressive enough!
On the Sunday we pottered back into the Borders this time through the inland route passing through picturesque towns such as Coldstream, Kelso and Melrose. A quick stop in the sprawling Galshiels to check out the quirky (listed) modernist football stadium, before a long lunch and exploration of the delightful Peebles rounded off our trip.