Visiting the Durham Home of the Prince Bishops


It is difficult to imagine a defensive structure more strategically situated. Guarded by steep slopes descending to an almost complete loop of the River Wear, Durham Castle remained impregnable for eight centuries. Yet even this fortress is dwarfed … [Read more...]

Learning about Scotland’s History in the Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

It started raining as soon as I entered the Edinburgh Castle, even though the sky had looked bright when I climbed up the hill. Tip for visitors: Bring an umbrella, the weather changes quickly in Scotland. The Edinburgh Castle has stood on a … [Read more...]

Imagining the Lives of the Harem Women at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace

Decorated ceiling

The surroundings are stunning. Sumptuous Ottoman architecture, Moorish arches, and Iznik tile mosaics. This was where the Sultan lived with his numerous wives, children and concubines, and I am trying to imagine what it must have been like to live … [Read more...]

Appreciating Chippendale Furniture at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, Scotland

Dumfries House (photo credit Ann Burnett c 2013)

If it hadn’t been for Prince Charles, we wouldn’t be walking through the grounds of Dumfries House. In 2007, the House and its extensive grounds were put up for sale by the owner, the 7th Marquess of Bute. The Prince heard of this and, realizing the … [Read more...]

Paying Homage to King James V at Stirling Castle, Scotland

Stirling Castle sits high above the plain (photo credit: Ann Burnett c 2013)

It’s the color that strikes us at first. How could sixteenth century Scotland be so full of color? Even on this dull, rainy day (dreich as the Scots call it) the outside of the Great Hall of Stirling Castle is a luminous cream. One of the many guides … [Read more...]

Walking Beside the Orange Trees at Córdoba’s Alcazar

The orange trees of Cordoba's Alcazar

The gardens of Córdoba’s Alcazar may be smaller than those of rival palaces in Seville and Granada, but they are still impressive. Even in the rain. I had walked through Córdoba’s UNESCO listed historic centre, from the magnificent La Mezquita and … [Read more...]

Pondering Power at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, A UNESCO World Heritage Site in London, England

Long brown building with many pointed spires and a giant clock tower at the right hand end, on the far side of a broad river

When in London, listen to the stones. The Tower of London says, "Power comes from the King and his army." Westminster Abbey says, "Power comes from God." You would expect the Houses of Parliament to say, "Power comes from the people", but that's not … [Read more...]

Finding the Bodies and the Loot at the Tower of London, A UNESCO World Heritage Site in London, England

Skyline of the Tower of London showing light coloured walls and many towers

The Tower of London is an architectural bully, a big tough bouncer at the door of England’s history. Don’t worry, the people at the Tower are lovely and helpful. But the walls themselves? They were built to keep the likes of you and me in our … [Read more...]

Finding Byzantium in the byways of Ioannina, Greece

Castle of Ali Pasha, Ioannina

As my sisters and I disembark the ferryboat onto into a calliope of sound, smell, and color, we walk up to what seems to be a pet shop. Chickens and doves squabble in hanging cages. Turtles elbow frogs for a better view. Eels shimmer amidst schools … [Read more...]