ESCAPE TO THE SOUTH, FRAMING FRANCE

 

A weekend in Marseille, Frioul, Cassis and the hills and beaches of Calanque…

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Frioul Archipelago

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Marseille seen from the Frioul and the island of If, from The Count of Monte Cristo

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Vieux Port, Marseille 

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Calanque

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View from the restaurant in Calanque 

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Calanque de Sugiton

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Backstreet of charm in Cassis

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Pastis before brunch

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All photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENES FROM SOUTH KOREA, JEJU, PART 5,000

 

And finally we fly to Jeju Island, home to blue seas, lava tubes, volcanos, sunsets and tangerines…

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A fisherman at the beach

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Blue sea, white sand and volcanic rock

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Seongsan Volcano, World Heritage Site

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Seongsan Volcano, World Heritage Site

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Seongsan Volcano, World Heritage Site

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Seongsan Volcano, we climbed at 4.30am to watch the sunrise

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Cloudy sunrise!

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Drying shallots along the road

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Manjanggul Lava Tube caves, UNSECO World Heritage Site

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Manjanggul Lava Tube caves

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Manjanggul Lava Tube caves

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Along the Olle Trail, Jeju has 26 hiking trails

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In the frame, Hallasan Mountain in the background

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Carved from volcanic rock

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Fruit Market and Tangerines

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The Mother of mushrooms

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Tangerines and strange shaped lemon coloured melons

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Seowipo 

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Seowipo

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Me, braced with braces!

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Tribute to the women divers of Seowipo, some of whom are in their 80’s

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Breakfast with garden views, a childfree garden. Seriously! There was a sign!

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Ferry to Gaopdo, an island as flat as a pancake

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The little village on Gapodo island

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I want to go to this school!

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Ferry Terminus

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Lunch in a shell.

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Stone Guards of Jeju City

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Colorful transport

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Hotel corridor, Seowipo, Sumorum Hotel

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Balacony with a view, Sumorum Hotel

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Arario Museum of modern art, also one in Seoul

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Arario Museum

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Arario Museum

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Arario Museum

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Arario Museum 

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And the sunset begins on the holiday

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And goodnight South Korea

All photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENES FROM SOUTH KOREA, GYEONGJU, PART 3,

And further south the camera goes, Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Shilla Kingdom…

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Coloured umbrellas along the markets streets of Gyeongju

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Tumuli Gongwon, Park with 23 Tombs/Tumili of the Shilla monarchs 

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Rice Fields at sunset

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Polaris Tourist Pension in Gyeongju

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Our place for two days at the Polaris Tourist Pension in Gyeongju

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The start of our Namsan Park mountain climb

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Namsan

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Namsan

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Time to climb, it wasn’t all this easy

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Breaking through

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Chilbulam Temple were we were offered a free lunch by the beautiful Buddhist monk

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Chilbumlam Buddha on Namsan Mountain

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Climbing Namsan

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Topside of Namsan

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Another Buddha in the rock

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And another Buddha 

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The view from above

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Another beautiful Buddha

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Cute warnings are everywhere

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Rocks and trees and nature forever

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Temple at base camp

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Street Art 

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The park under night light

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An ancient astrological observatory constructed between AD 632 and 646 

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Divine dining at Dolsolmaeul

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The gardens of the Gyeongju National Museum

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The Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond from 674 CE

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Wolji Pond

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The Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond from 674 CE

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Temple guards at Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple

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Lanterns at Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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More Bulkuk Temple Guards, Gyeongju

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The Bell

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The climb to the covered Buddha at Seokguram.

Next Stop Busan…

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 

SCENES FROM SOUTH KOREA, ANDONG, PART 2

The holiday memories continue. Second stop Andong….

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Andong City centre

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ET in Andong

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How to figure out what the restaurant has to offer, Cow this time

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30 limit, 30 degrees and sunset in Andong

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The UNESCO world Heritage 600 year old Hahoe Folk Village with 232 inhabitants

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Rice Fields in Hahoe Folk Village

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Hahoe Folk Village, once home to Prime Minister Ryu Sengryong (1592 to 1598)

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Thatched roofs in Hahoe Folk Village

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The Mask Dance in the Hahoe Folk Village, shoulder walking

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The dance of the lions

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The Bull

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The Butcher out for the bull’s balls

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The forlorn Granny

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The village concubine, Bune

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Hahoe Folk Village

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Hahoe Folk Village

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Our lunch restaurant in the Hahoe Folk Village

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Restaurant treasures

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300 year old tree in the centre of the village with paper wishes

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Hahoe Folk Village

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Hahoe Folk Village

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Tourist transport in the Hahoe Folk Village

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The Mansongjeong Pine Forest in the Hahoe Folk Village

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The Mansongjeong Pine Forest and the Buyongdae Cliff

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Buyongdae Cliff

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Our African Queen ferry at Hahoe Folk Village

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Seen from above

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On top of the Buyongdae Cliff

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Welcome to ConfucianLand, Andong

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The uber modern Confucianland

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ConfucianLand which we renamed Confusionland (a lack of english explanations)

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The longest wooden Bridge in Andong

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The Wooden Bridge

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Looking towards the dam

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The wooden Trail

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village rest stop where we received free tea

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Andong Folk Village

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Interior of house in Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Climbing the hills of the Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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Andong Folk Village

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The cutest snake warning sign ever.

To be continued…

All photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENES FROM SOUTH KOREA, SEOUL, PART 1

 

Looking back at the last 18 days of holiday.

And so the journey begins, Seoul, South Korea… 

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The Dongaemum Design Plaza

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The Dongaemum Design Plaza

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The Dongaemum Design Plaza

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Pink character in the The Dongaemum Design Center

 

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1st night of arrival, we ask a taxi to bring us to the centre of Gangnam and he drops us off in front of & Other Stories, I work at the Paris Atelier of & Other Stories!

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The City Hall water wave of glass over the Metropolitan Library 

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Cycling through the traffic at Yeouido

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A modern shopping mall 

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Bike ride along the Han River

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The city seen from the National Museum of Korea

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Interior Ceiling of the National Museum of Korea

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Buddha in the National Museum of Korea 

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The city rising at Yeouido

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A face sculpture near Seoul Station

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The Lotte World Tower seen from Lotte World (think Disney in pastel shades)

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The city and Namsan Mountain seen from the N Seoul Tower

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Namsan Mountain, Seoul

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The N Seoul Tower seen from the Namsagol Hanok Village

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Interior of a house in the Hanok village

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Taekwondo in Action at the Hanok Village 

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Traditional Costume (Hanbok) at the Hanok Village 

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The changing of the Deoksungung palace guard

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Deoksungung palace

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British colonial architecture on the Deoksungung palace grounds

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Bell on the grounds of Deoksungung palace

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Deoksungung palace detail

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Traditional Hanbok costume at the Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Girls taking pictures at the Changdeokgung Palace 

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Relaxing at the Changdeokgung Palace

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Hand painted detail of the wooden roof at the Changdeokgung Palace

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Gyeonghoeru Pavilion at the Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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The Secret Garden and Pavilion at the Changdeokgung Palace (Joseon Dynasty 1392-1910)

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace

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The Men’s quarters in the secret garden at the Changdeokgung Palace

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The Men’s quarters in the secret garden at the Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace

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Ready for the hike at Bukansan National Park Mountain Range

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Buddhas at the first Temple along the mountain trail 

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Buddhist Temple along the mountain trail 

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Buddhist Temple along the mountain trail 

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Going up

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Another mountain Temple 

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Mountain Temple Bell

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Temple entrance gate 

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Golden Buddha in the hills

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Temple roof detail 

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Buddhist Temple 

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Top of the mountain 

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A view from the top.

To be continued…

All photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 10, PORTUGAL, PEACE AND…

 

Scene in Europe, Scene 10, Portugal, Peace and…

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Henry spent the first two days of the Portugal leg of his trip in Lisbon, amid a wave of modern architecture in stark contrast with its older, neighbouring terracotta rooftops of charm and a sea of towering cranes best seen from the sleek cable-stayed Vasco da Gama Bridge while he satisfied his appetite with an array of fish dishes and an impressive selection of wines from the region but, after two days of hectic life in another city, he craved something a little more remote, so he hired a car and took to the hills and valleys and happily lost himself along country roads twirling through the landscape of forest covered mountains, tiny, almost deserted towns and sprawling vineyards that crept their way over the scenery as he coasted past it all.

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He stopped, finally, at the Pousada Convento Vila Pouca da Beira, a place that had quite literally been chosen for him when he fell upon it during a spectacular rainstorm; a white beacon of hope in the early evening’s sudden downpour, with it’s huge cross and flickering lanterns on either side of its front door, a vision of sanctuary that came out of nowhere as his wipers frantically swept across the windscreen of the car just as he’d started to worry that finding a decent place to stay, in the middle of nowhere, in this erratic weather, might prove positively impossible.

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As he slowed the car down and turned into the cobbled courtyard, the building and its adjoining church loomed over him in the darkness, looking haunted, naturally, but somehow cosy too, austere, yet comforting at the same time.

It turned out to be one of a chain of hotels all established in former convents or historical buildings throughout the country, hence its name. But it’s timing and arrival along Henry’s route was nothing less than a miracle. The large entrance door had just clanged shut behind him when the heavens finally crashed with thunder and, as he was lead to his room, past an inner courtyard and up a huge marble staircase with enormous tapestries and a thousand shadows that loomed ominously, the lightening clashed with the blackness of the night sky and echoed through the hallows of the building itself, giving an eerie uncertainty to the shapes, columns, corners and stone eyed angels that decorated the walls, lingering in shadows, waiting for the next bolt of lighting to announce their spooky presence.

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The room itself was basic but spacious and, when morning woke him, he opened the doors, stepped onto his balcony and took in the breathtaking view that spread itself out before him. The rain had washed away the shadows and the landscape now sparkled in a million shades of vibrant, life affirming greens as a scent swept through the air of the bounty of nature’s freshness, crispness and energy while below him, fresh coffee was brewing which enticed him back through the same corridors, inner courtyard and down the same glorious staircase which had been home only to ghosts and shadows the night before, but which was now bathed in its own glow of morning light as antique treasures glistened in their own grandeur before he took a seat on the empty terrance overlooking the lushness and life of the whole valley.

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It was silent, he was silent, the whole world was silent as he sat himself down. It was exactly what he had needed after almost a month of being constantly on-the-go; looking, searching, rushing, seducing, being seduced, being let down. A time of huge highs and a few comical lows. A time to become a man, he though as he figuratively tapped himself on the back. He had secretly feared the trip to Europe, all by himself. He hadn’t even travelled in the States without the boozed-up comfort of his often out-of-it mother, the occasionally present father or just on the road with his own friends, at the very least. But this trip had been his test, his personal journey, his own awakening. And boy, oh boy, was he beginning to feel awake.

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He sipped his coffee, looking down over the vineyard that grew out from the end of the gardens by swimming pool of the former convent before it disappeared into the forest below it, just as the land rose up to greet the sky, sighing in the welcome return of the sun after a night of unimaginable rain which seemed like a dream now on front of this view; this mirage of tranquil wilderness. The car had been pounded so heavily with rain that he’d feared for his own safely along the tiny, mud soaked road the night before, so when he’d seen the light, literally, at the end of the road, he’d stopped the car and knocked on the door without a single care as to who or what answered. He’d already seen the ghosts of Europe, bold and brazen and tempting him on streets in broad daylight. What was wrong with another one or two to add to his list?

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But surprisingly, in a place that looked more welcoming to the afterlife, even with its own gated old chapel in the basement, a crucifix on every available wall, and saints, carefully carved in stone, perched in every nook and cranny, the only souls that lingered about were living, breathing ones; smiling, nodding and giving off not a single scent of the scary.

The only Portuguese visions he saw came from nature itself as he wandered down the hills, amid the vines, and over fences to open pastures with grazing sheep and sleeping cows. The only smells he noticed sprang up from either the dew in the morning or out of every oven; simple roadside restaurants with the best roast chicken he’d ever tasted, deliciously fragrant cheeses from goats and sheep that came in clumps and spread itself over bread like butter or the traditional mini custard tarts, pasteis de nata, which was the one thing that haunted him as their delicate taste lingered on the tongue long after he’d finished them.

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It was life and it was his for the tasting, his for the taking, his for the smelling, he said to himself as he swaggered nakedly over to his bed as the open window let a gentle, warm breeze blow in past the curtains and he turned off the light and slipped his youthful, unlined body beneath the folds of the perfectly crisp hotel sheets. He closed his eyes and let his head nestle into the soft pillow, sensing sleep lean in to take him just as a hand reached over behind him, beneath the constriction of the blankets, and ran its icy cold, fine, foreign fingers up along his spine while his entire body froze in fear and the window slammed shut as the scent of death crept along his flared and frightened nostrils…

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All Words and Photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 9, ABERDEENSHIRE

Scene in Europe, Scene 9, Aberdeenshire, Roses and Thorns

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Sophie and Marty were sitting across from an ancient dovecot, amid the topiary gardens of Craigievar Castle, on a hill in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, not far from the Queen’s summer retreat in Balmoral which they’d driven through earlier in the hope of a royal glimpse but settled for buying a packet of custard creams in the local convenience store. It was an unexpectedly sunny day having arrived 4 days earlier to their two story Nordic styled lodge in the Hilton’s Craigendarroch resort, tucked into the woods of Royal Deeside, under a heavy blanket of clouds and rain. They’d detoured from their mainland European vacation for a family wedding, a distant relation of Sophie’s whose name she kept forgetting, but the festivities had distracted them from the downpour of the previous days. But now the party was over and it was their second day of Scottish exploration, at a slow pace, of course, considering the bunions, new hips, angina and all round ageing. Thankfully all bowel blockages were now a thing of the past, helped hugely by the sausage, bacon, eggs and haggis breakfasts.

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“It’s a castle,” Marty said disappointedly to his wife.

“I can see that, Marty, you think I bring you with me to point out the obvious? You think I thought it was mall?” his wife joked in her usual sarcastic tone, “this is what happens when you don’t want a shoe larger than your foot!” she whispered to herself. Even as a young girl, she knew she would never be able to cope with marrying someone bigger or better than herself, so you get what you’re given instead.

“But another castle, Sophie, really?” her husband questioned.

“Yes, another castle. Oy, if only I coulda got me another husband. Listen Marty, we don’t have these back home. It’s a once in a lifetime trip and at least it ain’t a cathedral,” she reminded him.

“But it ain’t all that different either,” he tried to point out.

“Oy Marty, you old putz, it’s a whole other story to a cathedral. People lived here; lords, earls, barons; the elite, gentry. Didn’t you watch Downton Abbey, it’s all the rage these days, all that old fashioned stuff; maids and servants, upstairs, downstairs; the traditions. We don’t have that sorta thing back home, all that land and not a bit of room for tradition. We pretend we do… but it’s all fake. We prefer a good condo to an old castle, even though we build our condo’s to look like castles.”

“Sophie, may I remind you that we’re Jewish, we have nothing but tradition.”

“Well, mazel tov to you then. We have our path, I know that, our Halakhah. I walk it daily and with you, believe me, Marty, it all takes on a whole other meaning,” she said with an exhaustive shrug, “we have Shabbat, Hanukkah, Yom Kappur, the mitzvah’s, the brit’s, the kipa, yada, yada, yada… they’re all a part of me, I ain’t denying that. But this, this is a whole other something, this is tradition on a whole other level. This is grandeur, this is excess, ain’t no one chopping anything off in these traditions, Marty.”

“Soph, you can’t say that,” her husband replied in an attempt to reprimand his wife’s words of disrespect for their faith.

“Really Marty,” she slapped back at him with that look he knew so well, reminding him instantly that he had forgotten that nothing was ever forbidden from falling from her lips, aside from a few words of affection that wouldn’t go amiss occasionally and a few other unmentionable words that he used to miss in the bedroom department, although that was now a department they no longer visited together. Someone had to love her, he told himself, maybe this was his Halakhah; his path in life.

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The baronial 17th century Craigievar Castle with it’s practically pink turret towers and glaring gargoyles loomed over them like a fairytale come to life as they shaded themselves beneath a giant topiary bush which Marty suggested was shaped like a UFO, a comment he’d earlier regretted sharing with Sophie.

“This one has a ghost too, you know, another story of love and loss,” his wife mentioned with a certain lightness to her gravel based voice while she scanned over the guide book, “seemingly, the father of a beautiful damsel tried to kill one of her suiters while he was climbing in the window one night, but before he was pierced in the heart, he fell from the window itself and plummeted to his death. Right here. Now they say he roams the hallways, in the eternal search for his love,” Sophie told him, “now ain’t that just darling. See Marty, men knew what love was back then, would do anything they could for it, dead or alive.”

“You know, Soph, they told us all this while on the tour, is your hearing all right? You think it’s time for a hearing aid? We could be hearing aid buddies,” he joked but as usual, she didn’t smile.

“The only aid I need is carrying around your lard ass, Marty. That pizza overload from Italy’s still pushing your tush southwards. And I can hear damn fine, thank you. Just can’t understand a thing anyone round here is saying. You sure it’s really English they speak in Scotland? I have my doubts. I can tell you. But it sure does sound good and boy oh boy, the men round here are real men, Marty,” she said, reminding him once again, in her own not-so-subtle way, of all his inadequacies.

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Yesterday, before their walk around the Spittal of Glenmuick at the end of Loch Muick, protected by the luscious heather covered hills dancing over glorious green mosses all rejoicing from the recent rainfall, they’d driven to Braemar Castle, built as a 17th century hunting lodge. It was there that Sophie had first been driven wild with excitement by the history of it’s reported ghost; a young woman who’d killed herself on her wedding night after awaking alone and believing her husband had deserted her. Sophie was almost teary eyed at the thought of the poor ghost, newly married and newly dead. And yet Marty’s wife managed to spent most of her time critiquing him, chastising him, chopping him. Today Marty realised he would never fully understand this woman on front of him, even if he managed to survive as long as this castle on front of him.

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He looked over at her; her dyed blonde hair, the skin a little softer now on the face as she’d missed her last two Botox sessions since they’d been away, her once buoyant chest now almost leaning on her fanny pack as she bent over to adjust the side seam of her turquoise leggings. Romance, he said to himself, half the time her heart’s as stone cold as these bloody castles and cathedrals, impervious to time and man himself. And other times, well, sometimes the drawbridge lowers itself to allow entrance but nowadays, with body getting older, that drawbridge seemed to be having trouble opening up as much as it used to.

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“You’re a real oxymoron,” he told her with a smile on his face.

“And you’re a real son of one, but so what? We make do with what we have, Marty,” she said as she took his hand to heave herself up out of the seat, “all these tales of youth and romance, they bring a flicker of something to me, what can I say?” she said with another shrug, an annoying habit she’d picked up in France.

“And what about us, what about our romance?” he asked, hands back to hiding in his tracksuit pockets, fearing the reply.

“Oy Marty, come on now, love in youth is a crown of roses, love in old age… it’s a crown of willows,” she told her husband as he made a small yelp, having leaned back too far against the shrubbery and pricked himself on a thorn from one of the low lying rose bushes.

“All righty then,” she continued, ignoring his pain, “how about we see about getting you a kilt to show off those legs of yours? You know how much I like your legs.”

“Well Sophie, that’s real nice of you to say,” he said, instantly forgetting the prick and suddenly beaming with an underused sense of pride and a rise in affection for his fortified wife. Perhaps the drawbridge just needed a little oil, after all, he thought to himself.

“Yeah well, Marty, anything to distract me from that saggy ass of yours.”

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SCENE IN EUROPE, SCENE 8, MADRID

 

Scene in Europe, Scene 8, Madrid and the Reoccurring Scent of a Dream

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Henry sat on the edge of the bed feeling his burgeoning body cave and crumble. He was exhausted, confused and broken. In Cologne, after a date that proved as evaporating as water, he’d met a group of Spaniards celebrating their last night before heading home to Madrid the following day, and, although he spoke no Spanish and they had hardly any English, he managed to wangle a free ride to Spain.
Little did he know that it would take so long, that the car would be so small or even worse, how much and quickly they would all speak, simultaneously, in a language he’d only ever heard his mother’s overly familiar gardener speaking. The trip unfolded into a 17 hour long cacophony of voices clashing within the confines of a sardine can while everyone sweated, salivated and slurped up whatever liquids they could find from motorway takeaways. Sleep had been hoped for but proved impossible sitting between two 18 year old boys intent on beating each other up. He’d envisioned an entirely different kind of road trip when they’d first made the offer, thinking of positioning himself between the two girls of the party but they turned out to be the designated driver and navigator and claimed the more spacious position in the front of the car, so close but just far enough to be out of reach.
Up till now, his European vacation had not overly taxed his Father’s credit card but his Father had told him that, if absolutely necessary, he could treat himself to a little comfort and so, as soon as he arrived in Madrid, he jumped ship, or car, grabbed a cab and headed to straight to Plaza de Santa Ana and the ME Madrid Reine Victoria Hotel, lush and lavish and on his list of just-in-case-emergency hotels.
“A shower and then a little rest,” he told himself as the bed seemed to lift up to meet his back and sooth his aching head before, almost immediately, all went dark. The next thing he knew there was a bright, warm light shining on his face, his mouth was so parched that his tongue kept sticking to the roof of it and a drool had dried itself to the side of his stubbled cheek. He moved slowly in the bed realising he’d fallen asleep, missing the afternoon and dinner, along with the entire night as it was now 11am the following day.

After a much needed shower, he gelled back his blonde quiff, admired his now refreshed physique and set out through the tiny, twisting streets of burnt orange buildings, bustling with determined locals and distracted tourists until he made his way to the Puerta del Sol, the swarming centre of the city and centre of Spain itself, with its famous Bear and Madrone Tree statue, the symbol of city, and the ever ticking bell tower, famous to all Spaniards as it rings in the New Year on every TV in the country while everyone tries of gobble down 12 grapes in the first minute of the midnight. Freeing himself from the crowd, he took the Calle Mayor with its 19th century buildings either falling, fading or fabulous, he found his way down to the sun drenched, sand coloured Palacio surrounded by melting tourists all queuing to see the guilt lined walls so he wandered around the neighbouring Almudena Cathedral instead before managing to make it all the way across town to the Prado Museum before 4pm.
“I’m gonna know this place in less than two days,” he told himself when he got back to the hotel and through down the postcards of El Greco, Goya and Velazquez before devouring two twisting, sugar coated churros looking like giant french fries.

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An evening nap left him dozy when he woke up as the clock flashed 10.15pm and he thought he’d missed another night till he heard the heavy bass of a sound system steaming in through the open window. Dressed casually in a fitted black V neck tee and white jeans, he took the elevator up to the top floor and gasped as the doors opened to the sight of the city spread out before him, glistening in the night light while the coolest group of people partied and paraded above it; beautiful girls in revealing dresses; sleeveless, backless, breathless and men in cropped trousers of every colour imaginable. It was the United Colours of Benetton meets Victoria’s Secret, all under a magnificent sky full of stars.

“Como Estas,” asked a dark haired goddess as he stepped onto the wonderfully scented terrace while she offered him a glass of champagne from the tray in her hand.

“Muy bien, gracias” he said, a little shocked at her beauty but taking the glass anyway as she looked him up and down and smiled seductively before turning away and vanishing into the crowd.

“Como Estas,” came a voice from over his shoulder and he turned to see another dark diva smiling at him while serpent-like curls swayed over her barely covered breasts. Henry didn’t know where to look but couldn’t bring himself to divert his eyes.

“Muy bien,” he replied again, ‘I am fine’ being the only reply in Spanish he knew how to say but she’d already turned and was sauntering away like a model twirling back on the end of a catwalk.

This felt crazy, like he’d woken up to his hottest, favourite dream, with audio as well as visual.
As he watched her disappear like the last one, into the crowd, another girl, this time a blonde with silver painted lips and an almost transparent dress, sailed past him, blew him an air kiss and offered another “Como Estas,” without even stopping for a reply.

Henry knocked back the champagne and made his way to the bar for something stronger but, from out of nowhere, another tray of champagne glasses came up to his face, held again by another Spanish beauty, offering the same “Como Estas” greeting.

“I’m in love,” he answered this time, the last glass kicking his courage and labido into place, “you smell amazing,” he told her as the nights breeze caressed him with her scent, realising it was the same smell he had been inhaling since the doors of the elevator had opened.

“Lo siento, no hablo Ingles,” she told him before she offered the same greeting to a man standing next to him, along with the same enticing smile. At least he understood when someone told him they couldn’t speak English but he was a little offended that the smile and look of come-to-bed-with-me wasn’t just for him.

“Fucking hell mate, d’you see the ass on that one?” questioned the man next to him in a heavy British accent.

Henry turned, relieved he could finally speak to someone in his own language but a tiny badge on the collar of the man’s shirt distracted him. It looked like a tiny bottle and splashed across it were the words ‘Como Estas’.

“I’m sorry, you mind if I ask… what’s with the badge… on your shirt?” Henry asked, pointing to the welcome words that he’d originally thought were opening lines and already a little worried as to what the response might be.

“Ah, didn’t you get one in your room, when you checked in, with the stash of samples? I’m with the sales team, over from London… for the bash. So there’s an American team, eh?” the man asked him, “didn’t realise they’d take it global, so fucking soon. It’s a bit cheesy for my liking but I guess you lot like cheesy, sorry mate.”

“That’s all right but I’m still missing something, sales team for what?” Henry asked.

“Christ mate, you had too much bloody booze or what? The launch… this launch. ‘Como Estas’, the new perfume. Don’t it smell like a real dirty fucking dream?”

“Yes,” relied Henry, deflated and disappointed yet again, “like a reoccurring dream you just can’t wake up from,” he admitted as he downed the glass of champagne in one go. Europe was suddenly beginning to smell far to aromatic for his liking.

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All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly