Staying in the Hôtel-Hopitel Dieu, Paris


 Hôtel-Hospitel Dieu

I lay in bed, staring at the flood-lit towers of Notre Dame. The sky-light in my room looked straight onto the cathedral. Founded by Saint Landry in 651 AD, the Hôtel-Hopitel Dieu was the first hospital in Paris, and still cares for ill Parisians. The ghosts of some 1300 years of medical history glide along its marble corridors, whispering in consultation outside the wards, then pass into the old-fashioned lifts to visit the fourteen quiet hotel rooms hidden on the sixth floor.

Hotels can be seen as merely a place to sleep, or they can be another layer in all the experiences of travel. They don’t have to be expensive (fortunately!) but as I love pre-dawn and evening strolls, and watching a neighbourhood change by the hour, I try to pick a place to stay somewhere interesting for my walks. If the hotel comes with its own history, is in a old part of town and has a great cafe or restaurant nearby (hello, Paris!) it’s hard to resist. The Hôtel-Hopitel Dieu offered it all.

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Shopping Hong Kong’s Markets – My 101 Guide

Hong Kong's Markets

I first went to Hong Kong some forty years ago, and immediately felt a bond with her vibrancy and way of life, her noise, her chaos, even the smell of the place. Shopping Hong Kong’s markets are always high on my to do list whenever I visit. Every visit I discover a new one, maybe only a street or two long, but I still have my favourites I return to again and again. They are also a great place to start when discovering The Fragrant Harbour for the first time. Combining local atmosphere with bargains, Hong Kong’s markets are a place where everything from bobby pins to (mostly fake) antiques are for sale – and when the heat and haggling become too much, there is always somewhere to sit and, with a cool drink and a delicacy to nibble, watch the world pass by.

Here are some of my suggestions for both first time and also frequent visitors: Continue Reading →

Mont St Michel – An Earthly Image of Paradise



Mont St Michel rising from the sea

The train sped through the rainy afternoon, past green fields dotted with stone farmhouses and fat cows. As dusk gathered the train finally stopped in the deserted village of Pontorson. In the gloom it took me a while to find the exit from the station: a walk over the tracks then through a knee-high gate, to the patiently waiting bus.

After some twenty minutes the lights of the island suddenly appeared. Against the darkness Mont St Michel rose from the sea, unchanged from medieval times when the island became a mystical emblem of the heavenly Jerusalem, an earthly image of paradise.

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Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

A medieval scholar
Writing writing writing

I stumbled into reading this book. My first introduction to Moriarty was hearing my husband laugh as he read Big Little Lies. When our kids were younger he had been head of the local school’s P&C. A school very much like the one Moriarty describes. With much the same parents.
Truly Madly Guilty has moved from the school grounds to tree-lined suburbia. Essentially the story revolves around three married couples. Everyday, ordinary couples – and as always with the everyday, they carry their secrets and failings, believing no one else can see them. As the opening epitaph states: Music is the silence between the notes (Debussy). The novel revolves around what is said, and not said – and when the little things aren’t spoken about, they grow to assume profound significance.
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The Poltergeist On My Roof

Death on a hunt from

I should start by saying I don’t believe in ghosts. Never have. Belief is probably the wrong word, as it has no role in scientific argument. Belief and facts are two separate issues. (The classic example: 2+2 = 4. I can believe 2+2 =5 all I want, but the fact remains.) The concept of an incorporeal being able to also interacting with the physical world – tapping me on the shoulder then walking through a wall, for example – defines scientific laws. The only I can see is that a being a spirit or whichever term you care to use comes with an innate knowledge of quantum physics as yet unknown to us (just as vampires seem to have a great knowledge of king fu). Continue Reading →

The Physicians of Myddfai – 13th C Welsh Medicine


Typical medicinal garden

Medieval Medicine: Rhiwallon of Myddfai 


       Rosemary is useful as a lotion when a man is threatened with insanity. It is an excellent remedy for the stranguary, stone and catarrh. For swelling and pain in the legs, bruise rue, honey and salt. Apply thereto and it will disperse the swelling.

In the early 13th century, Rhys the Stammerer (warrior son of the Welsh Prince Rhys ap

Gruffydd), became Lord of Dinefwr and Llandovery castles. This title granted the right to call to his service a doctor from amongst his freeholders. Under Rhys’ patronage, Rhiwallon and his three sons, Cadwgan, Gruffydd and Einon, established a medical dynasty; the last of their line, Rice Williams, died in 1842. The gravestones of two other descendants, David Jones (d.1719) and John Jones (d.1739), stand in the parish church of Myddfai (in Carmarthenshire, south western Wales). Continue Reading →