Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it. And in many ways it is my journal of everyday life. If you click on the Index you can see my posts under various topic headings.
I am a Freelance Journalist and Photographer based in Bunbury, Western Australia. My published work specialises in Western Australian travel articles and stories about inspiring everyday people. My passion is photography, writing, travel, wildflower and food photography.
Most recently I have been enjoying exploring other art genres, including Eco-printing with Australian leaves onto cloth and paper.
I hope you enjoy scrolling through my blog. To visit other pages, please click on the tabs above, or go to my Blog Archive on the side bar. Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of any of my posts. I value your messages and look forward to hearing from you.If you like my work, and would like to buy a print, or commission me for some work, please go to my "contact me" tab.
Thank you for visiting my blog and helping me "step into the light".



Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Welcome to Malta - merħba f'Malta

As the first streaks of light seeped around the edges of the curtains, and the muffled sound of early morning traffic threaded its way into my consciousness, I threw back the bed covers, grabbed my camera, and on bare feet quietly padded along the cool lino of the passageway to the front window. I swept back the curtains, slid open the glass door, and stepped onto the balcony. The view of the harbour lay before me. The air is crisp and I can smell cooking. The first golden rays of the morning sun filtered through the buildings lighting up the yachts floating peacefully at their moorings, making perfect reflections. A seagull rode the gentle upcurrents, his wings silvery in the light. A couple of joggers paced along the waterfront beneath the palm trees.  

On the opposite shore the creamy-yellow sandstone buildings reminded me of Africa which lies only 290 kilometers (180 miles) away across the Mediterranean. My first morning in Malta was here. 

The cityscape is a mixture of the very old and the very new. and there appears to be a lot of reconstruction building going on as evidenced by the cranes on the skyline. The view from our front balcony (above" seemed to be more modern, whereas the view from our back balcony (below) was more old style. We had rented a small apartment for our stay and yes we had two balconies! Happy me!

We had arrived in Malta the evening before after a flight from Barcelona in Spain. A Maltese born Australian picked us up from the airport. He told us he came here 26 years ago for a 6 week holiday and never left. He still had his Aussie accent and told us a lot about the island on the way to our hotel which was situated in a narrow sidestreet.  After booking in, we followed a "man" with our suitcases in tow, down the street to our apartment which was separate from the hotel, and along the waterfront. I had booked a sea view apartment, so after the narrow lane where we had first been deposited by the driver I was relieved.

We hadn't had anything to eat, except for a snack, since lunch time, (our Ryanair flight from Barcelona didn't provide meals), so even though it was 10pm, we headed down the street to Moos, a Turkish-Pizza bar along The Strand on the waterfront, which I had noticed on the way to the hotel, to buy some dinner. 

Being a crossroads in the Mediterranean and with a rich history which goes back to the Neolithic period and includes Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, Arabs, French and English (from who they gained independence in 1964), it is not surprising that Malta enjoys a mix of cuisines. 

The official languages in Malta are Maltese and English, and Italian is also widely spoken, so English speakers won't have any problem with the language. 

 The main reason for our visit was to visit our French friend, Aude, and meet her Maltese husband and little boy. We had not seen our friend for 13 years, so it was great to meet up with her again and she hadn't changed a bit. She owned a cafe-bookshop in Malta for a couple of years, but now teaches English. 

As she was working during the day and we only three full days in Malta between our Spain and Italy tours, we booked a couple of tours so we could see some of Malta while we were there. Aude was horrified when we told her that our taxi driver from the airport told us we could easily explore Malta using local buses. Malta may be a small island (245.7 sq kms, 94.9 sq miles) but for a tourist it is difficult to get around and local buses often require long waits. 

The arrow on this map shows the approximate location of our apartment, part of the Blue Bay Hotel chain. Not five star but clean and comfortable, and a million dollar view as you can see in the photos and video below. We had to walk a couple of doors down from our apartment to the main hotel where we had our breakfasts which was part of our package.

Malta is very densely populated, and a great proportion of Malta can be considered as one metropolitan area, made up of a number of towns. Our apartment was located in the town of Gzira which looks over the water towards the capital Valletta. 

We were very happy with the location of our apartment. Along the waterfront there were many eating places, and you can catch ferries, join tours, and the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus along here. And of course, we had a view!

 Looking across the water to Valletta and St Johns Cathedral.  

There are several tour companies operating in Malta. We opted for a full day tour with Hello Malta which conveniently picked us up from the front of our hotel. Our tour guide was very informative with his information about Malta. After picking up all the guests for the day our first stop was the church of St Mary in Mosta. 

Mosta is an Arab word meaning "centre". The remains of the first people who lived in Mosta goes back to the Copper Age (circa 4100--2500 BC). Work began on the church in 1833 and took 27 years to complete. Built on the site of an existing church, the church was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. Most of the work was done by the Mostins themselves without any remuneration. The central rotunda dome of Mosta's beautiful church is the third largest unsupported dome in the world with an internal diameter of 35.97 metres and an internal height of 54.86 metres.

On 9 April 1942 in World War 2 a German bomb dropped through the dome but did not explode (one of 4 bombs that hit the church). The church was crowded with worshipers when the bomb dropped but no one was injured so this event is considered by the people to be a miracle. A replica of the bomb can be seen in a small side room.  Our guide pointed out where the bomb came through the dome.  In the right hand image you can see one of the tiles that is slightly worn looking, this is one of the original tiles where the bomb hit.
  After a stop at filigree and glass blowing workshops, we visited the town of Mdina, in the centre of the island. Once the capital of Malta, Mdina, sometimes known as the 'silent city', has had many different names and titles depending on its rulers and its role. The Phoenicians, named it Maleth 'away from the sea', the Romans Melite meaning 'honey,' and the Arabs Merdina - 'city of fortifications'.  

Mdina's history is linked to the 'Knights of St Johns" who came here in the 1530s. Across the Maltese Islands you'll find more evidence of their stay in military engineering, architectural, art and medicine.

In the courtyard of the Mdina Natural History Museum you can see the Maltese Cross which was adopted by the Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John in 1126. The cross has eight points denoting the eight obligations of the knights, namely "to live in truth, have faith, repent one's sins, give proof of humility, love justice, be merciful, be sincere and whole-hearted, and to endure persecution". 

The eight points also came to represent the eight languages of the Knights of St Johns - German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalonian, Bavarian and English. 

Although I just found this, so don't quote me: Malta Uncovered.com With time, the eight points also came to represent the eight “langues” (literally “tongues”, but in effect national groupings) of the noblemen who were admitted to the famed order, namely those of Auvergne, Provence (France), Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Baviere (Germany), and England (with Scotland and Ireland).

Home to many noble families, Mdina is one of Europe's finest examples of an ancient walled city and a mix of medieval and baroque architecture. The houses are actually palaces. Royalty stay here when they visit Malta. It is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city. Despite the rain when we visited we enjoyed our walk around part of Mdina.  I loved capturing the detail and would have liked to have had our own time here exploring the beautiful city. 
 Don't you just love this balcony? The pink was such a contrast from the sandstone.

Our next stop was Valletta over the water from where we were staying in Gzira.  Valletta is the capital city of Malta and the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Valetta contains buildings from the 16th Century built during the rule of the Order of the Knights of St Johns. 

Unfortunately because of the weather, and that the tour was running late because we had been held up by a traffic accident, and the fact that we had to purchase our late lunch in Valletta, we really didn't get much time to explore the city.  At the Barracca Gardens we had views over the harbour and city.

We were guided through the St John's Co-Cathedral, designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, who designed several of the more prominent buildings in Valletta. In the 17th century, its interior was redecorated in the Baroque style by Mattia Preti and other artists. The interior of the church is considered to be one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe.
The Cathedral was a shrine to the Knights, and many sons of Europe's noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries lie buried here. Their intricate, marble-inlaid tombstones form magnificently crafted pavimento floor tiles.
On our last day we spent the morning exploring some of the back streets in Gzira. This is what I enjoyed the most, exploring in our own time with my camera. Lots of balconies to add to my collection!

And in the afternoon we joined a two hour harbour boat cruise with commentary with Supreme Cruises.
 Disappointingly a lot of the old buildings in Malta are being pulled down to make way for new apartments and hotels. I hope they preserve their historical heritage and don't tear everything down in the name of progress. This notice you see below here announces that an application has be made to demolish the site and built a nine-storey complex including 16 residential units and shops. This sort of redevelopment is heart-breaking to many Maltese.

On our last night we went to Ta' Kris restaurant which was located a short walk from our hotel. Look for the sign on Bisazza street, up from the waterfront in Sliema, then head up the stairs. Housed in an old bakery, with a friendly warm ambiance, the food is fresh and authentic home-style Maltese cuisine. We shared a tasting plate to start (our friend had snails) and then I had the Braggioli, a thick home made beef stew, delicious.
Our trip to Malta was over too soon, as we bade a sad farewell to our friends. We could easily have stayed in Malta for at least a week and still not seen everything. Until next time...."suhha Malta".

We would have loved to have visited the nearby island of Gozo where you can visit the Ġgantija Temple complex. The two temples here are amongst the oldest free-standing stone buildings in the world, dating back to 3600BC and have UNESCO World Heritage status.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed visiting Malta with me. Have you been to Malta? Perhaps you would like to tell us about it in your comments. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week.  

For more information on Malta, visit here - Visit Malta
and for more balconies - Hola Spain! 

I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!
Life in Reflection

Hello there! I love reading your comments. If you scroll down to the bottom you can comment too! I would love to hear from you.

If you are blogger you can link to the Wednesday Around the World linky party right here! 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Oranges and Lemons - Wintery July in Western Australia

"Oranges and lemons say the Bells of St Clements"

This post has nothing to do with the nursery rhyme and it's rather sinister background, but the oranges and lemons growing in my garden did bring the nursery rhyme to my mind, 
 and then coincidentally the little girl, Ivory, in the book that I am reading -  Kate Morton's "The Forgotten Garden" - was singing this rhyme in the hidden garden in the chapter that I have just read. 

Have you read it? It is a fascinating story with each chapter set in different years - 1900 - 1913, 1930, 1975, 2005 - and following the lives of several women who are woven together by a family secret - Nell (whose actual name is Ivory), Rose, Elisa and Cassandra. Mostly set in Cornwall, the earlier chapters are set in Brisbane and London. When Cassandra's grandmother Nell (Ivory) dies Cassandra discovers she has inherited a cottage in Cornwall. Cassandra travels to Cornwall to find out the true identity of Nell and why she was left sitting alone on the wharf in Brisbane in 1913 with a suitcase containing a book of fairy tales. I love these sort of books that flit between characters and times.  
I would love this book to come out as a movie!

If you would like to learn more about Kate and the inspiration for her books, go here - Kate Morton

 How about meeting on the porch with friends? French marmalade on bread. Delicious.

It is winter here in Australia, and a lovely time to be curled up with a book, especially if it is cold and raining outside.

But we have beautiful clear blue sky days too, when the air is crisp and the sun is deliciously warm.  Perfect for getting outside. And lets face it, in winter, we need all the sunshine and Vitamin D we can get.

These sunny days are perfect weather to spend time in the garden. The bees on my yellow daisy bush were enjoying my garden too. A few last yellow rose buds are hanging on, the last of the grape vine leaves are ready to drop, the spring bulbs are pushing up, and I planted out some new herb plants.

And with an abundance of lemons on our tree this time of year it is a great time to make lemon meringue pie and lemon butter - both are family favourites.

These crisp winter days are a great time go for a walk and after the crowds of Europe it has been lovely to get out in the bush and enjoy the peace and the fresh air.

We went walking in the Myalup 100 Acre Wood which I had known about for a while but hadn't visited. Whilst there is nothing spectacular about this walk, it does take you along relatively easy sandy tracks through a variety woodland to the beach, and during spring I am sure there would be lovely displays of wildflowers. There are a couple of different trails which are marked with coloured posts. You access the walks from Reading Road, where you will see a map at the information shelter.

This are Cockies Tongues - Templetonia retusa - which we saw along the trail.

 It was nearly lunch time by the time we finished our stroll, so we drove a few kilometres up the road to The Crooked Carrot Cafe. We have passed this cafe many times on the way to and from Perth, and there are always cars there, but we had never stopped in. We enjoyed a delicious lunch. There are various sitting areas ranging from inside, to the patio, to outside. There is also a fabulous children's playground. This is a great place to stop on the way south.

We also went up to the bush with our grandkids. The water bush, which you can see in this first picture will be flowering soon. Noodle Cups made a easy lunch for us.

This morning it was a perfect morning to walk around the Leshenault Inlet in town, finishing with a coffee at the new cafe at Koombana Bay just along from the new children's playground which opened earlier this year.  It is school holidays so there were lots of families enjoying the playground.

Another walk close to home is along the shady Cathedral Avenue at Australind beneath the old paperbark trees and beside the Lescheanult Estuary.  There were lots of black swans on the water, but I couldn't get close enough to take a descent photo. We are lucky to have a number of walks close to home 

Last weekend our son and daughter-in-law were doing some work out at their small acreage which they recently purchased.  They invited us out for roast dinner cooked in their camp oven on the hot coals. The kids enjoyed their swing tree and the kangaroos were curious to see what we were up to. By the size of her lower belly, I am fairly sure she must have had a joey in her pouch.

 Unfortunately on one of our walks my small Canon G11 go-everywhere camera decided it didn't want to focus anymore, then the lens wouldn't retract, and it stopped working altogether. I've had this camera for a long time, and it has been repaired for a similar thing previously in 2014, but it has been a great little camera for when I don't want to haul my "big" DSLR camera. So now I am waiting to find out if if can be repaired. If not I think I might buy one of the new mirrorless cameras. Do you know anything about mirrorless cameras? I would be interested to know if you have one what you think of them.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week. 

You might also like:
Paperbark Walk, Cathedral Avenue, Australind 
Leschenault Inlet, Bunbury 
Bushwalking at Hoffmans Mill, Harvey 
I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!
Life in Reflection

Hello there! I love reading your comments. If you scroll down to the bottom you can comment too! I would love to hear from you.

If you are a blogger you can also link your blog to Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global. 

Monday, 2 July 2018

Barcelona - heart of Catalonia

All too soon our visit to Spain was drawing to a close and we arrived in our final city, Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and Spain’s major Mediterranean port, and commercial centre. Barcelona is famed for its individuality, cultural interest, and physical beauty. 

The past six months or so there has been a lot on the media about the bid for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, and while we were in Barcelona we saw a lot of evidence of Catalan pride with Catalan flags displayed prominently from balconies and in public places. Although both have their origins in Latin, the Catalan language is different to the Spanish language – Castilian Spanish. 

The city is an interesting and vibrant mix of modern, gothic and art nouveau architectural styles and has many fine examples of Modernisme - the Catalan/Art Nouveau movement from around 1878 to 1910. The art nouveau style imitates natural forms, examples of which you can see in carved flower decorations on buildings for instance.  

 The most ingenious of the art nouveau architects was Antoni Gaudi (1862-1926).

The most famous of the Gaudi’s buildings is La Sagrada Familia Basilica. Building began in 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2030 (worked stopped during the 1936-39 Civil War).   

The Basilica was originally a Neo-Gothic church when Gaudi took over the construction in 1883. Gaudi died in 1926 after being knocked down by a tram in the street. At the time of his death only one tower on the Nativity façade had been completed. Gaudi is buried in the crypt. We were told that all his paper plans for the Basilica were destroyed by fire but he had made plaster models of his designs from which the building is now being completed. To date only 8 of the 18 towers have been completed, each topped by Venetian mosaics. Approximately 60 million Euro is collected per year from visitors which goes towards the construction. 

Our local guide took us on a walk around Sagrada Familia. Honestly it defies description. To my eyes, there seems to be several different architectural styles perhaps influenced by the eight different architects who have worked on the project. The detail in the design is intricate and it is difficult to take it all in. You could spend hours walking around the outside and still not see it all. 

This is the front entrance - the carving style is quite different. This facade with its angular figures was completed between 1986-2000 by artist Joseph Maria Subirachs.

 The Nativity Facade has doorways representing Faith, Hope and Charity. Scenes of the Nativity and Christ's childhood contain imagery such as doves, whcih symbolise the congregation. At the time of Gaudi's death only one tower of the facade had been completed. 

 We would have liked to have gone inside but we were unable to buy tickets at a time that fitted with our schedule. I suggest you book tickets ahead. 
Masses are held at the Basilica. Please refer to the web site for times. 

 There are many Gaudi designed buildings in Barcelona and I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to visit more. One we did see on our walking tour was Casa Batlló which is the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877. Note the unusual balconies in the shape of skulls, it is no surprise it was criticised during construction due to its radical design. You can find out more about Gaudi's buildings here - 10 Gaudi buildings

 We also drove up to the mountain of Montserrat “Serrated Mountain” to visit Catalonia’s holiest place, the Monastery of Montserrat which sits at 2000 feet above sea level. The earliest record of a chapel here dates back to the 9th Century. The monastery was founded in the 11th century but was destroyed in 1811 when the French attached Catalonia in the War of Independence. Rebuilt in 1844 in Renaissance style, Benedictine monks now live here. The famous 'L'Escolania' boys choir studies at the Monastery.
An integral part of the Montserrat Monastery is the worship of the Black Madonna in the Basilica. Carbon dating estimates that this wooden statue was carved around the 12th century.  Historical descriptions indicate that the Madonna has turned black simply by darkening over time, possibly from the smoke of candles.  Thousands of pilgrims visit Montserrat every year. The Madonna sits above the altar behind glass. Her wooden orb protrudes for pilgrims to touch. 

Interestingly Montserrat is a common name in Spain. 

You might like to visit the Montserrat Museum which is an art museum with a wide selection of works dating from the thirteenth century to the present day.
The day we visited thick fog blanked the mountains obliterating our view, but this added to the mystical feel of the Monastery. The views would be spectacular on a clear day.

 Montserrat Mountain was officially declared to be a natural park in 1987. There are five walks that commence at the Monastery and the mountain is also popular with bike riders. There is also a funicular railway. Walking back to the bus we stopped along the market stalls where we were able to try some local produce. 

Click here to find out more about Montserrat -  Montserrat Tourist Guide

The Camino Catilan trail passes through Montserrat to connect with the Camino de Santiago pilgrims trail. 

We had our last morning to ourselves in Barcelona before catching our plane to Malta, so we caught a taxi to La Rambla and then wandered through some of the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic), before wandering back to our hotel, stopping off for lunch in a tapas bar along the way. It was a perfect way to finish our Spanish tour.
I had been concerned about visiting the famous Las Ramblas as the terror attack on Las Ramblas in August 2017 (Thirteen people died and dozens were injured when a van ploughed into crowds) happened on the day we booked our trip, and we had been warned about pick-pockets. However we enjoyed our stroll along this tree-lined boulevard and had no problems. There are many stalls selling touristy mementos, cafes, and places to sit and people watch. We even saw a stall selling Australian boomerangs ??

The name Las Ramblas comes from the Arabic rambla meaning the dried-up bed of a seasonal river which used to run along here. The Ramblas is actually made up of five sections.
Here are some images from our last day in Barcelona. Unfortunately we didn't have much of a map, and for a little while we followed a group on a walking tour that we came across. Lucky for us they took us into the Gothic Quarter which I wanted to see.
  A flower shop selling Australian eucalypt!
The Barcelona Cathedral in the Barri Gothic - Gothic Quarter. Begun in 1298 this Gothic cathedral was not completed until the 19th century. An orchestra was tuning up on the front steps, gypsies were touting in the square and a bubble blower was entertaining tourists.
 Market stalls and lunch in a tapas bar.
Oh! I almost forgot - the Montjuic musical fountains Built for the 1929 World's Fair they are a treat for everyone! Refer to the link for dates they are playing.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed my blog post about my visit to Barcelona. Have you been to Barcelona. Have you any suggestions of places to visit? Perhaps you would like to tell us about it in your comments.

I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week. 

I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!
Life in Reflection

Hello there! I love reading your comments. If you scroll down to the bottom you can comment too! I would love to hear from you.