Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

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[57] Worth a Thousand Words

[57] Worth a Thousand Words – A Blog about Signs without Words

I am going to start this one with the bit about the title that usually goes at the end of the blog. I have to admit that I thought the origin of the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words” was an old Chinese saying but it’s history is complicated and I take my information, as always from Wikipedia, which say that it is ‘an English idiom.’

The expression “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” appears in a 1911 newspaper article quoting newspaper editor Tess Flanders discussing journalism and publicity. A similar phrase, “One Look Is worth a thousand words”, appears in a 1913 newspaper advertisement for the Piqua Auto Supply House of Piqua, Ohio. An early use of the exact phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” appears in a 1918 newspaper advertisement for the San Antonio Light.

Perhaps the modern use of the phrase stems from an article by Fred R. Barnard in the advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink, promoting the use of images in advertisements that appeared on the sides of streetcars. The December 8, 1921, issue carries an advertisement entitled, “One Look is Worth a Thousand Words.” Another advertisement by Barnard appeared in 1927 with the phrase “One Picture Worth Ten Thousand Words”, where it was labeled as a Chinese proverb. The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Familiar Phrases quotes Barnard as saying he called it “a Chinese proverb, so that people would take it seriously.” The proverb soon became popularly attributed to Confucius.

The actual Chinese expression “Hearing something a hundred times isn’t better than seeing it once” () is sometimes considered as an equivalent.

Despite this modern origin of the popular phrase, the sentiment has been expressed by earlier writers. For example, the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote in Fathers and Sons in 1861, “The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.” The quote is sometimes attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, who said “A good sketch is better than a long speech” (Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours.)

[I won’t confuse you by considering ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,’ a genuine Chinese saying attributed to Lao Tzu.]

It does, of course, mean that a complex idea may be conveyed with just a single still image, perhaps more effectively than a long description in words. In a strange way when we use pictures as symbols the opposite is true. A detailed picture is used to replace a statement of a few words.

The green gross is an internationally recognized term for what we used to call a Chemist. Now it’s sometimes called a Pharmacy – somewhere that dispenses controlled drugs. As a symbol it just represents one word.

The next just means ‘Litter Bin.’ (At least it does in the UK. Americans may call it a ‘Trash Can.’ Perhaps in a way the picture says a little more.)

The next two again replace what could have been one-word signs in an amusing way. With typical British euphemism and politeness we don’t say ‘Toilets,’ and we generally prefer ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Ladies’ to ‘Men’ and ‘Women.’ Sometimes pubs have more amusing ideas such as ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ (or in seaside towns I have seen ‘Buoys’ and ‘Gulls.’) These pictures say the same thing.

Here are two more symbols, both just a little more than a symbol. The horse-shoe outside a house was presumable a token of good luck and the trigonometric point, used long ago to aid map-making, had to be enduring and fixed.

The next two large pictures are like signs to show a bird hide. They were very large and made the purpose of the little wooden building very obvious.

But the hide did actually also have its name on a sign in letters – in English and Welsh. So perhaps the birds were just pictures.

Traffic Signs

I am doing this blog, as I generally do, in a fairly random order, and next we have some traffic lights. Even a simple red or green circular light is a picture sign.

By the gates at level crossings we have flashing lights (and accompanying noises.)

There are various versions of pedestrian lights. Some are small, others are larger on the other side of the street.


(It’s easier to photograph the red signs. I feel I ought to cross when they are green.)

Some include cycle crossings and so include a picture of a cycle.

[I am not sure why something bright red turns out to be more or less white when photographed with a red or orange border. Perhaps it’s a trick of perception or perhaps the camera does strange things with bright lights.]

Here are some more symbols on roads, pedestrian and cycle paths and car parks.

Logos and Advertising

All logos are pictures without words. They are instantly recognizable and may convey more than just the name. Where we don’t know who is selling sometimes a picture shows us what is for sale in an attempt to invoke impulse buying.

I wanted to do a lot of pub signs. When I was young all pubs had pictures as signs. We used to play Pub Cricket on long journeys. Now most of the pubs have gone, most of those that are left have become restaurants and the remaining country pubs have nearly all lost their pictorial signs.


A few more picture signs without comment.

Crosses and Flags are symbolic picture signs.

A Little Story

Almost hidden away in Cheltenham’s High Street is a series of mosaic pictures showing the story of an elephant that supposedly escaped from a circus in the town. The first bits of the words of the story have been removed but here are the pictures.

[I am not sure that these are signs but I wanted to include them somewhere!]

Weather Vanes

I wasn’t quite sure where to put these but they are signs and they are pictures.

Many of my photographs have been heavily cropped for this blog to show just the sign.

I will end with one of my shots of pedestrian traffic lights.

You have to be careful with photographing glass surfaces. You can see me with my camera, camera case and shopping bag!


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[45] Digging for Gold

[45] Digging for Gold – A Pictorial Blog about Streets

This will be just pictures – pictures of streets. Some are from England including Cheltenham, Oxford and Cirencester. Some are from France, Croatia or Antwerp. I have randomized them a bit so that you can have fun working out where each one comes from.

Streets remind me of the story of Dick Whittington but also of the song sung by Peter Sarstedt, The Mountains of Mourne. It is sung to a traditional folk tune but the words by Percy French are from around 1900.

Here is the first verse.

Dear Mary this London’s a wonderful sight Oh there’s people here working by day and by night They don’t plant potatoes, nor barley, or wheat But there’s gangs of them digging for gold in the street At least when I asked them that’s what I was told So I just took a hand at this digging for gold But for all that I found there I might as well be Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Of course I also remember a bit from the second verse.

I believe that in writing a wish you expressed As to how the fine ladies in London are dressed Well if you’ll believe me, when asked to a ball Oh They don’t wear no tops to their dresses at all Oh I’ve seen them myself and you could not in truth Say if they were bound for a ball or a bath Don’t go starting them fashions, now Mary McCree Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

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[14] A Bird in a Gilded Cage – A Blog About Birds

[14] A Bird in a Gilded Cage – A Blog About Birds

I have so many pictures of animals. Before I get on with Insects I will do the last blog about Birds. I have done Water Birds and some Common Birds so this will cover all the others. Pictures come from various locations.

Gulls, Crows and Pigeons

I will start with some that might have slipped into the Common Birds blog. I promised you a Black-headed Gull in summer plumage when it has a brown hood – no, not a black head!

I also saved one from the Crow family – the Magpie, Pica pica.

At its best you can see the shiny blue it its wings.

It’s almost never seen on bird feeders because of its size but it can show initiative with two feeders placed together.

I also showed you some Woodpigeon. Here is an unusual one, seen a couple of times at Slimbridge, with more white markings on its feathers.

Here are our other two common Gulls. First the Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, with a lighter grey back and pink legs.

The picture above is bird in winter plumage. Below are some stages of the juvenile plumages.

[You can see from this picture, above, that the Herring Gull is significantly larger than its Black-headed relatives. These two are starting the transition from a winter black smudge to a summer full hood.]

The Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, has a darker grey back (not really black) and yellow legs. It too has various markings on the juvenile stages.

At seaside towns you generally see either Herring Gulls or Lesser Black-backed. They tend not to mix. In towns such as Cheltenham they are less discriminate. We have both.

Water Birds

I have one goose to add to Waterfowl, this Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiaca. It’s really more like a shelduck than a goose.

And this Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus, is a relative of Coots and Moorhens – but much less common!

There are many shore birds and waders of various sizes that don’t often come close for good portrait pictures. The two relatively large ones are Lapwing and Oystercatcher, Haemotopus haemotopus.

The bird above (after what looks like an accident with fishing net wire) hopped about on one leg. I have seen birds from about ten species manage without two legs.

My last two waders are the Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta, now widespread after almost disappearing from Britain, and a Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, difficult to spot because of its excellent camouflage.

Blackbirds and Robins

Not everything works to plan. The Thrush family has two fairly common birds – Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush – and two winter visitors – Fieldfare and Redwing – that might have appeared here. Without suitable pictures of them I do at least have some shots of the very common Blackbird, Turdus merula. Only the male is black, the female is a well camouflaged brown.

As we have seen above with the Woodpigeon, sometimes birds’ plumage is not quite as expected. We have already seen albino Pigeons. Occasionally you may see an all-white or half-white Blackbird. This female just had a few white feathers, more obvious when she turned round.

While the Blackbird is closely related to our thrushes, the smaller Robin, Erithacus rubecula, is also less closely related but is in the Thrush family. It is one of many birds with an interesting history to its name. It used to be a Redbreast, from the much older use of the word ‘red’ to include orange or brown tones. Then it became a Robin Redbreast in the same anthropomorphic way that Wrens became Jenny Wren. Then the ‘Redbreast’ bit disappeared.

Tits and Finches

I won’t say much about our smaller birds. They do at least come to bird feeders – a great help in taking pictures!

Just one picture of each of these – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

Other Little Birds

A few more small birds, mostly from bird feeders. The best places for Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, are Motorway services. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, and Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba, are common and widespread.

The Nuthatch, Sitta europaea, is a woodland bird but it will visit bird feeders in woods. The Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, is a bird of reed-land areas but it migrates to others areas in winter and is now well-known to survive from bird feeders. As with many birds the male bunting has to be good-looking to attract the mottled brown female.

Other Birds

I start this final section with two raptors, always difficult to photograph. The Buzzard, Buteo buteo, was perched on a fence at Slimbridge and the poor quality pictures of Red Kite, Milvus milvus, are just about recognizable.

I have to admit that the better pictures of Cormorant, Phalocrocorax carbo, come from Croatia.

The Common Crane, Grus grus, is just beginning to be seen in the wild after a reintroduction scheme. They are now not an uncommon sight at Slimbridge.

I suppose I have mixed feelings about Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus. It is with us so that it can be hunted but many survive and breed.

I’m not quite sure of the status of peacocks either. (Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus) These ones on Brownsea Island looked wild to me.

You can see a few more birds in my blog about Croatian Wildlife – Yellow-legged Gulls, Hooded Crows, Green Woodpecker, Jay and others.

A Bird in a Gilded Cage is a sentimental ballad composed by Arthur Lamb and Harry von Tilzer that became one of the most popular songs of 1900. It describes the sad life of a beautiful woman who has married for money instead of love. Here is the chorus.

She’s only a bird in a gilded cage; a beautiful sight to see;

You may think she’s happy and free from care; she’s not, though she seems to be;

‘Tis sad when you think of her wasted life; for youth cannot mate with age;

And her beauty was sold; For an old man’s gold;

She’s a bird in a gilded cage.


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[49] Working His Purpose out – a Pictorial Blog about Water

[49] Working His Purpose out – a Pictorial Blog about Water

I started with a category covering Landscapes and Buildings and thought of Seascapes – but Water as a topic covers so much more than the sea. There are lakes, rivers, waterfalls and fountains. This blog will have a lot of pictures with nothing in the way of comments. Because it’s pictorial I have adjusted some pictures for contrast and colour balance to improve the artistic impression!

Coastal pictures may come from Bournemouth or Croatia or Antwerp or France. River pictures will be mostly from walking along the Thames Path and lakes and wetland pictures may come from my birdwatching haunts – Slimbridge, the Forest of Dean and Pittville Park.


Lakes and Rivers

Boats and Bridges

Canals, Locks and Weirs


Reflections and Water Surface

Water Drops and Fountains

No apologies for another Biblical quote. As always, only the Authorized Version of King James, from Habakkuk Chapter 2: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” I remember it for the stirring hymn, God is Working His Purpose Out.

God is working his purpose out – as year succeeds to year: God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.


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[65] Trains and Boats and Planes

[65] Trains and Boats and Planes – A Pictorial Blog about Transport

Trains and Boats and Planes” is a song written by composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David, first recorded in 1965. Hit versions were recorded by Bacharach; Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas; and Dionne Warwick.

I won’t add much to that. This is just a collection of pictures loosely categorized as pertaining to forms of transport. They come from England, Wales, Croatia, Italy, Belgium, France and the seas in between.

I will start with trains, boats and planes!


Now some more land transport.


Two Wheels.

Some more marine transport including boatyards and fishing.

That’s about it, just lots of pictures.



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[38] I was Born for This

[38] I was Born for This – A Blog about France

At least, it’s a blog about the tiny bit of France that we visited on a short cruise. We went to Rouen then to Le Havre and from Le Havre I took a short coach trip to visit Deauville and Honfleur.

Joan of Arc

I will start with a brief introduction to one of the most famous heroines of France. You will find out why a bit later.

Joan of Arc did not come from a place called Arc. She was born in Domrémy in the northeast of France. In French she is always known as Jeanne d’Arc. She was Jeanne, spelt in medieval times as Jehanne, and her father’s surname was D’Arc. In the English language her first name has been always been Joan since the fifteenth century because that was the only English equivalent for the feminine form of John during her lifetime.

The surname of Arc is a translation of d’Arc, which itself is a nineteenth-century French approximation of her father’s name. Apostrophes were never used in Fifteenth Century French surnames, which sometimes leads to confusion between place names and other names that begin with the letter D. Based on Latin records, which do reflect a difference, her father’s name was more likely to have been Darc. Spelling was also phonetic and original records produce his surname in at least nine different forms, such as Dars, Day, Darx, Dare, Tarc, Tart or Dart. [Perhaps she was related to another hero – from Pride and Prejudice!] She also has the common nickname la Pucelle d’Orléans (“the Maid of Orléans”).

I won’t say much about her life. As a young peasant girl, she had visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine speaking to her. She left home; supported King Charles VII against the English in the Hundred Years War; was apparently important in the ending of the siege of Orléans (hence the nickname) but was captured by the English. After a trial she was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of about nineteen. It was not until the Twentieth Century that the Roman Catholic Church finally made her a saint.

While Our Lady of the Assumption, the Virgin Mary is the patron saint of France, Joan of Arc is one of the nine secondary patron saints of France, along with Saint Denis, Saint Martin of Tours, Saint Louis, Saint Michael, Saint Rémi, Saint Petronilla, Saint Radegund and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.


Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France. It is the capital of Normandy, formerly one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe. It was founded by the Gaulish tribe of Veliocasses, who named the settlement Ratumacos. The Romans called it Rotomagus, the second city of Gallia Lugdunensis, after Lugdunum (Lyon). In the Fifth Century it became the seat of a bishopric and later a capital of Merovingian Neustria.

During the Hundred Years’ War, in 1419, Rouen with a population of 70,000 surrendered to Henry V of England, who annexed Normandy once again to the Plantagenet domains. It became the capital city of English power in occupied France. When the Duke of Bedford, John of Lancaster bought Joan of Arc her liberty from the Duke of Burgundy who had been keeping her in jail since May 1430, she was sent to be tried in the city during Christmas 1430. After a long trial by a church court, she was sentenced to be burned at the stake. The sentence was carried out on 30 May 1431 in the city. Note this date as we visited on 30 May 2017.

For our very short visit we were deposited by the shuttle bus near the old city and started with Rouen Cathedral (Cathédrale primatiale Notre-Dame de l’Assomption de Rouen.) the see of the Archbishop of Rouen, Primate of Normandy. Our visit was quite late in the evening when the cathedral was shut but even from the outside it was impressive, starting with its pointed spire currently being restored.

With no real aim in mind we followed the narrow street from the cathedral towards the market square. The buildings still had a mediaeval look to them and we passed under an arch bearing large ornate clock faces.

We came to an insignificant church and tucked behind it was an unassuming statue of a young girl.

There was a large cross and a little garden area.

We had just come to see an old French city and it was strange to discover this monument almost by chance.

And we realised that we were there on the anniversary of the day Joan of Arc was burned. 586 years later we had the opportunity to reflect how much the World has changed since then – and how much it hasn’t.

At Sea

I will say very little about our cruise. Here are just a few pictures of our Ship, Magellan – outside the ship; the Bridge room where we spent several hours playing cards; and part of the long corridor leading to our cabin.

It was a short cruise and we had just come from Antwerp. The Seine was very wide as we made our slow progress over several hours passing under some impressive bridges to Rouen and after our visit we made the return journey through the night.

The first bridge, nearest to the estuary was the Pont de Normandie a cable-stayed road bridge that links Le Havre to Honfleur. Its total length is 2,143.21 metres – 856 metres between the two piers. It is a motorway toll bridge, but there is a footpath as well as a narrow cycle lane in each direction allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross the bridge free of charge. The bridge was constructed from 1988 to 1995. At that time the bridge was both the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, and had the record for the longest distance between piers for any cable-stayed bridge. This what it looked like as we passed underneath.

It was only a day later when I took the coach from Le Havre. To get to Deauville and Honfleur we had to cross the same bridge.

Le Havre

Our second port of call in France was Le Havre, an urban French commune and city in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region of northwestern France, situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine. Modern Le Havre retains its maritime traditions. Its port is the second largest in France, after that of Marseille, for total traffic, and the largest French container port. The name Le Havre means “the harbour” or “the port”. The city and port were founded by the King Francis I of France in 1517. Celebrations were starting for the six hundred year anniversary.

The city was largely destroyed (by the Allies) during the Second World War, and rebuilt according to the plans of the architect Auguste Perret between 1945 and 1964. Only the town hall and the Church of Saint Joseph were personally designed by Auguste Perret. UNESCO listed the city of Le Havre in 2005 as a World Heritage Site. The architecture of the area is characterized by the use of precast concrete using a system of a modular frame.

We didn’t venture into Le Havre but here is the view from the ship.


Deauville is a commune in Normandy just beyond Honfleur. With its race course, harbour, international film festival, marinas, conference centre, villas, Grand Casino and sumptuous hotels, it is regarded as the “queen of the Norman beaches” and one of the most prestigious seaside resorts in all of France. It is the closest seaside resort to Paris, and has long been home to French high society’s seaside houses and is often referred to as the Parisian Riviera. Since the Nineteenth Century, the town of Deauville has been a fashionable holiday resort for the international upper class and the wealthy. In France, it is known perhaps above all for its role in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

We were dropped by the coach by the very expensive Normandy Hotel and the Casino and walked to the famous boardwalk with the row of beach huts, each bearing the name of one of its famous Hollywood visitors. I walked out over the beach and briefly visited the harbour and marina area.


Honfleur is a commune in the Calvados department on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine across from Le Havre and very close to the exit of the Pont de Normandie. It is especially known for its old, beautiful picturesque port, characterized by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted many times by artists, including in particular Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind, forming the école de Honfleur, which contributed to the appearance of the Impressionist movement.

From the Eleventh Century it was variously named Hunefleth, Hunefloth, Honneflo, Honflue and Honnefleu, up to the Eighteenth Century. It was traditional pronunciation with the h strongly expirated as in ‘loch’.

The marker -fleur, formerly -fleu which is widespread in Normandy means ‘stream, or river running into the sea’ and was still in use in the Thirteenth Century. It is probably cognate with the English ending -fleet seen in place-names. The element Hon- seems to come from an Anglo-Saxon personal name Huna or the Norse Húni.

[The port of Honfleur is le port de Honfleur, not le port d’Honfleur. Those interested in linguistics will note that Le Havre and Honfleur both use the rather uncommon ‘aspirated H’ (“h” aspiré) an initial silent letter that represents a hiatus and prevents the normal contraction and liaison processes. It does not represent aspiration but derives from the voiceless glottal fricative [h] of Old French and Middle French, now remaining only in some words in Belgian dialects.]

We started our visit to Honfleur with a walking tour through the mediaeval streets and an excellent guide.

Saint-Catherine’s Church

The church, dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, is the largest church made out of wood in France. The first nave, the oldest part of the building, dates from the second half of the Fifteenth Century right after the Hundred Years War. It was built on the model of a market hall, using naval construction techniques, which gives the impression of an upside-down ship’s hull. Then the bell tower was built a good distance away, so that parishioners would not be burnt in case of a fire. In the Sixteenth Century, a second nave was added. This second part was rather rounder, and did not look like a ship’s hull. The famous “Axe masters” of the naval yards of the city created the building without using any saws, just like their Norman ancestors.

The beams used to create the pillars of the nave and the side walls are of unequal length, because there were not anymore any oak trees long enough to construct them. Also, some have a footing of stone, some of greater or lesser height, and some have no footing.

Here are outside views of the twin naves from the front and the campanile and two inside views.

The classical organ comes from the parish St. Vincent of Rouen. It is situated at the back of the church and the seats can be reversed by flipping the backs!

I had a little time to see the port, which is still used for fishing.


There is a small municipality in Quebec called Honfleur, founded in 1904. It is similar to Honfleur in France, from where many sailors came from during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries to North America.

There was a plaque on an arch of the Lieutenancy building at the port of Honfleur commemorating some of these early settlers.

Much of the information in this blog is taken unashamedly from Wikipedia. The pictures are, of course, all my own.

I will end with the source of my title. As Joan of Arc was leaving Vaucouleurs to begin her mission to save France she was asked by a woman: “How can you make such a journey when on all sides are soldiers?” to which Joan responded: “I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me; and if the soldiers come, I have God, my Lord, who will know how to clear the route that leads to the Dauphin. It was for this that I was born!” The original in French is: “Je n’ai pas peur des soldats, car ma route m’a été ouverte, et si les soldats viennent, j’ai Dieu, mon Seigneur, qui saura comment libérer la route qui mène à Sieur le Dauphin. C’est pour cela que je fus nais.” It is often quoted as just:

“I am not afraid, for God is with me. I was born for this!”


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[46] The Man who bears the Cross

[46] The Man Who Bears the Cross – a Blog about the City of Antwerp
I am using my categories loosely and there is a lot of overlap between [3] Places and [4] Outside. The Outside category is about landscapes and buildings and will have topics such as Churches, Streets, Buildings and Statues. This one is about a visit to the city of Antwerp concentrating on two of its buildings and several of its statues.


As always, Wikipedia provides some helpful information. Antwerp is the most populous city of Belgium (second to Brussels if you count the extended metropolitan areas.) It is the capital of the Antwerp province in the region of Flanders – the northern Dutch speaking part of the country. Its inhabitants are nicknamed ‘Sinjoren’ referring to the Spanish noblemen (señor) who ruled the city in the Seventeenth Century.

It lies on the river Scheldt and is linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary, the remaining part of what was a more complex delta before management by a number of dams.

The port of Antwerp is the second largest in Europe. We visited for just part of one day in late May when our ship docked at the cruise terminal.

There are differing versions of the city’s name. A legend, illustrated by a statue in front of the Town Hall, talks of a giant called Antigoon who lived near the Scheldt. He exacted a toll from passing boatmen. For those who refused he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river. He was eventually killed by a young hero called Silvius Brabo, who cut of the giant’s own hand and threw it into the river. Antwerpen is said to come from hand werpen (similar to Old English hand wearpan) meaning ‘throwing the hand.’

Another longstanding theory puts it from the Roman period and the Latin Antverpia from ante verpia meaning ‘before sedimentation.’ The Scheldt used to follow a different track with the city in a curve of the river. Perhaps Antverpia was a small outpost by a river crossing.

Many historians and etymologists now argue that it derives from “An ‘t werf” meaning ‘on the wharf.’ Another possibility is from “Aan ‘t werp” (at the warp.) This “warp” (thrown ground) is a man-made hill or a river deposit, high enough to remain dry at high tide, for the construction of dykes and polders.

Before I start with our city visit here is an example of Belgian hospitality. We just asked for Americano coffee but we each had a little madeleine and a tiny amaretto – and it wasn’t expensive.

There were narrow streets in the central old part of the city, probably only so empty because we were early on a Monday morning. In the background of the picture above you can see the Cathedral, the main attraction. We did have to wait for it to open so we went elsewhere to begin our sightseeing. We will come back to the cathedral.

The Steen

Known in Dutch as Het Steen, (‘the Stone’ or ‘the Stone Castle,’) this is a medieval fortress, the oldest building in Antwerp. It was originally known as Antwerpen Burcht (Antwerp Fortress) but it became “‘s Heeren Steen” (‘the King’s castle’) in the early Sixteenth Century after extensive rebuilding by Charles V, and later just Het Steen.

It controlled access to the river Scheldt and was used as a prison from 1303 to 1827. In the Nineteenth Century most of the fortress was demolished when the quays were straightened to prevent the river silting up. The remaining building was heavily modified and became a maritime museum. More recently the museum has moved and the building is no longer open for public access but we could walk round it and see various statues and plaques.

There is a rather unusual statue at the entrance depicting the giant known as Lange Wapper and two ordinary men. He is not the same giant mentioned above but is a character in several stories about Antwerp from Flemish medieval folklore.

Just by this statue a ramp takes you through an arch round the back to another arch. In the picture above you can see a crucifix overlooking a view of the Scheldt and a coat of arms on the wall ahead. Both of these are shown in more detail below.

The arms are those of the Margraviate of Antwerpen, Mechelen and Turnhout (an earlier version of the province of Antwerp) with the eagle of the Holy Roman Empire over the arms of the city. The city arms now are just the castle with two hands. The motto Fortunata Antverpia was only used in the Sixteenth Century. The lord and lady as supporters also date to the Sixteenth Century. The modern arms have male and female savages.

Shown above is a view of the castle from the city side.

The Cathedral

The cathedral with its tower and gold clock-faces dominated the city and I will start with some external views.

The front entrance (above) is impressive but so is the side door!

As the notice proclaims it is the Cathedral of Our Lady, ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal,’ and it took 170 years to build. It was designed to be the largest Gothic church in Belgium but was never fully completed. Instead of having two towers of equal height its south tower is far from complete. The architect Pieter Appelmans will be mentioned later.

Inside we find an impressive nave with a magnificent ceiling.

The carved choir stalls were equally impressive but very reminiscent of similar carvings in many English cathedrals.

The carved pulpit and many of the other statues and decorations came originally from other churches.

It was full of baroque art including pieces by Rubens.

The stained glass windows were difficult to photograph.

I suppose I was thinking of how the cathedral differed from those I had seen in England. The art was different and the windows were not quite the same. But the organ could have been British and the crypt was not unusual.

I was surprised at these memorial stones. We do have them in churches and cathedrals in England but the lettering fades over the centuries. I have never seen them before like this with white stone set into the black monuments. They were in Latin and said much less (perhaps because this technique only works with large letters,) but they had survived for three or four hundred years.


I start with three statues of people you have already met.

Here is the one with Silvius Brabo and the severed hand. It’s actually a large fountain – a very unusual fountain without a visible reservoir of water. The water just disappears under the fountain.

Next tucked into a corner outside the cathedral, a monument to its architect and some of his master craftsmen.

I have to admit that there were some statues of people I had never heard of but I had to include this son of the city.

Two more statues on buildings that, like the large fountain, showed the green patina of copper. They also had something in common with their subject matter.

I have three more from buildings before I come to one of my favourites.

I loved this child snuggling in bed with a canine family member. The statue was given to the city by the people of China.

Moving away from the city centre to the area by the Steen and the river there were a few more statues starting with an anchor outside the Steen.

I don’t remember Minerva as the goddess of automobiles from my classical education.

Jan Fabre, who lives and works in Antwerp is described by Wikipedia as ‘a Belgian artist, playwright, stage director, choreographer and designer.’ He is responsible for this statue in Antwerp Cathedral called ‘the Man who Bears the Cross.

I won’t attempt to explain its deeper significance but is a life-like statue of a man balancing a cross.

There will be another blog from our very short cruise.