Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Highlights of the Decade

I can hardly believe that it's the start of a new decade tomorrow.  Of course it's entirely a human construction, just another day like any other as the natural world unfurls.  But still, being human and spending lots of time looking through old photos these days, I thought it would be interesting to find some of the highlights of the decade just past.  When I was finished I was surprised to find that all but two of the highlights in my own brain are our big trips, so here are some highlights from our biggest five trips - lots of pictures!

The biggest highlight was of course simply retiring and moving to our home in the valley.  It started a whole new wonderful chapter in our lives.

Our first stop was the famous Chelsea Flower Show, the top bucket list item for Mrs. F.G.  That year all the garden designers had to include a small shelter in their garden designs.  This one was totally over the top, a room that had to be lifted up by a huge crane so you could relax in the sky overlooking your garden - garden design gone mad!
Luckily the dates fell into place to enable us to leave London and join an adventure cruise around the outer islands of Scotland.  One of our first stops was to visit Iona Abbey on the Isle of Iona, where Saint Columba established the first outpost of Christianity on the British Isles, now a popular pilgrimage destination.  That story alone deserves an entire book!

A couple of stops later we disembarked on St. Kilda, a now uninhabited island 40 miles out in the Atlantic west of the Outer Hebrides, voluntarily evacuated in the '30s.  Another fascinating story.

Later we toured the sea caves on Papa Stour, one of the Shetland Islands.  The water was just a little rough.  When we got back to the ship and timed our jump to avoid the 6 foot up and down swell, Mrs. F.G. grinned and said "Next time let's go to Antarctica!"

Only one picture to highlight our short camping trip to the Great Smokies, and this photo could be taken anywhere.  In fact it was my first experience of 'combat photography, at an overlook on the highway up to Clingmans Dome, photographers lined up shoulder to shoulder to get sunset shots.  Luckily we were there early.

In 2013 we took a tour of Italy, where Mrs. F.G. had been born.  She had never been back.  One of our big memories is all the fresh fruit, especially the lemons which were as big as small footballs.  (I had never believed my father-in-law!)

Florence was the historical highlight of that trip, where we saw both Brunelleschi's famous dome on the cathedral, and Michelangelo's 'David', this model of it in it's appropriate place making a political statement outside the local town hall.

It's hard to get an iconic picture of Venice tat doesn't feature gondolas, St. Mark's Square or canals, but we wandered the back streets and saw parts of Venice most tourists (who have to be back to their cruise ships by 4 o'clock) never see.  This is at the fish market.

And these are the famous painted homes on the fishing island of Burano.

Our next trip was a river cruise down the Rhine, but we managed to stop for a few days in London first for a family wedding.  On our one spare day we rode out to Kew Gardens, where I got to explore the child-sized Badger sett, which we had missed on our previous visit.  It was great fun crawling through the tunnels!

A fun sculpture in Basel where our credit cards got scammed, and an evening passage through a lock on the Rhine.

Finally we went to England again, but started off with a few days in Paris.  We enjoyed the city, but were there for two gardens!

The first was Versailles, the opulent palace and gardens of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, until the French Revolution.  Looking at how the king lived you can understand the revolution!

The second was Monet's amazing garden where he grew colourful flowers including waterlilies, which he could paint.  His paintings of his waterlilies are some of the most famous paintings in the world.

Then we stopped back in England to revisit some of the gardens we saw on our fist trip, the photos of which I lost in our house fire.  These are Hestercombe and Hidcote, two of the best known of those gardens.

We managed to squeeze in a bit of history too; this is the knot garden at Sudeley Castle, where four of England's queens stayed at one time or another.  the design of the knot is based on the embroidery of one of Queen Elizabeth I's dresses.

A lavender farm we discovered by accident, and the old abbey in Shrewsbury where Ellis Peters set her 13th century Cadfael mystery series.

 And our final big adventure of the decade, our new lie with me in a wheelchair!


  1. Lots of great trips - thanks for the highlights! Wishing you and Mrs FG the best in 2020!

  2. Wonderful photos and memories. I am so glad we still have FG and the missus to enjoy for the upcoming decade! :-)

  3. Beautiful photos -- and how many more do you have?

  4. What a great overview! You showed great constraint with the pictures. Gord.

  5. You have been to quite an array of interesting places. I look forward to reading more of your local adventures and perspectives in 2020. Happy New Year to you, Mr & Mrs. Furry Gnome!

  6. Happy New Year! I enjoyed your photos and recalls of where you have visited! Life is ever changing for all of us so we have to make the best of each day! :)

  7. Wishing you both a wonderful healthy 2020. Enjoyed your adventures of the last decade.

  8. Beautiful photos. I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year!

  9. I wonder if that emerald green Frog's name is Winston. As in Churchill that is.

  10. You sure saw some wonderful places last year, and your photos are beautiful. I enjoyed looking at them. My father-in-law was from Italy (Naples). He took us there for two weeks when we were relative newlyweds. I remember being blown away by the lemons, too. I hope that you have a good year and that something can be done to recover your walking ability.

  11. It was quite a decade! Happy New Year to you both!