Catnip

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The Instagram feed @churchescathedralsofbritain could have been drawn up just for me. After a childhood of summer holidays involving a hefty amount of church crawling, I really believe these are some of great most beautiful overlooked buildings in the U.K. All photos from the feed.

Nesting again

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Rather like these projects by Neil Dusheiko architects; they look very livable, and have a good use of light and space. He uses some interesting materials too, like charred wood, which is naturally rain and fire resistant.

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Remembrance

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Still finding London’s war memorials whenever I go. This one’s in Baker Street. If you want a literary record of the Second World War, then VS Pritchett’s London Perceived, written in 1962 but republished with a new foreword in 1985, reflected how the post war building boom saw London lose its “almost Venetian” low skyline. Funny to read as a Londoner who’s grown up with a much more diverse city and rather likes the skyline from Waterloo Bridge.

Heart-lifting

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In some years it’s September that’s a mix of seasons, but this year October seems to be hovering between the seasons. This pin sharp view was last week as I went out to walk across Blackfriars Bridge at lunch.

Fleet Street, October 2017.

Rubenshuis

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The last day of Antwerp we talked about whether it was worth going to see this. It’s the home of the painter Rubens, built when he was already rich and successful as a base to trade paintings from and I’d been keen, but now I was feeling lazy, and there were biscuits to buy, naps to have. I wasn’t so bothered about seeing a lot of art.

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But it was five minutes from the flat, on the way to the station and actually this place – far bigger than expected, and showing a delightful mix of the art Rubens himself collected – was a charming mix of Italianate gardens, domestic rooms and fine art.

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Possibly my favourite thing after the Begijnhof and Mode Museum?

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All photos August 2017.

Ham House

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Blazing hot on bank holiday weekend, reached by a welcome walk through trees or by the river.

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Cool and dark inside, with tapestries, leather walls, portraits and a gallery

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and then back outside to the grounds in the midday heat. August 2017.

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Variety

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I don’t think many people would think of Antwerp as a holiday destination, or that there’d be much to see there, but it’s a tremendously varied town.

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The port area is still working, and there’s a huge warehouse along with marinas, a shipping authority building, a giant red sandstone modern art gallery and shining point by Zaha Hadid. I got the impression when we visited that it’s a popular area for students to sit down and have a drink, for older couples to take a stroll round some art, and of course a stream of kayak lessons for kids.

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The centre is much more typical: cobbled streets, pretty church fronts and little courtyards. (Thanks to the waiter who brought us omelettes that first night, even though “the kitchens were shut and all the food finished” after we lost track of time wandering.)

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And in the south east is this, the Cogels-Oyslei neighbourhood, near Berchem station. Probably the Brooklyn of Antwerp, given the locals we saw playing in the street, and full of these incredibly over the top, vast houses.

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Photos August 2017.

Les Jacobins

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Not quite sure why a former Dominican monastery in Toulouse is known as Musee les Jacobins – the Jacobins are a name I associate mainly with a particular group in the early days of the French Revolution – but never mind. Isn’t it impressive? There was also a very good exhibition The Sky Before Us on when I visited, which was different photographers capturing churches, mainly modern concrete structures, or else the little meeting rooms over chicken shops / on industrial parks in urban wastelands. Not romantic at all, but definitely respectful.

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photos August 2017.