Tuesday, April 30, 2013

enchanting gardens of europe.

Italian Garden at Powerscourt House and Gardens, Co. Wicklow.
Europe is blessed with some of the world’s finest gardens, offering escapism whatever the weather. Here are some of our favourites.

Rousham House & Garden, Bicester
Rousham, on the doorstep of Bicester Village, is said to be the finest garden in England. It’s dotted with eccentric English touches including architectural follies, a grotto and an old dovecote. Still in use today, the dovecote is full of cooing birds that fly around the surrounding fruit trees and flowers. The celebrated landscapes frame classical sculptures and statues and stretch down to the River Cherwell.

Villa Borromeo Visconti Litta, Milan
If you happen to have an afternoon to spare after a trip to Fidenza Village, head for this unusual garden created by Count Pirro I Visconti, just north of Milan. If it’s a hot and sunny afternoon, even better. This nymphaeum, dedicated to the water nymphs of classical myth, hides numerous giochi d’acqua – water jokes designed to drench the Count’s unwary friends. Stepping on the wrong spot triggered a soaking, but nonetheless, visitors returned time and again to enjoy the riot of mosaics and surreal sculptures.

Powerscourt House & Gardens, County Wicklow
Add a short detour to Powerscourt when visiting Kildare Village. The gardens, set against the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains, are among the most spectacular in Ireland. From tree plantations, a walled garden, a fishpond, wooded walks, cascades, grottos, and terraces to the fabulous winged horses overlooking the lake, the variety here delights at every turn.

Promenade Plantée, Paris
The Promenade Plantée is one of the most imaginative Parisian gardens. Planted along a retired nineteenth-century railway viaduct, this earthy promenade stretches nearly three miles east from Bastille. Abundantly green and richly planted, it contrasts brightly with the stone and brick of the city around it. Visit en route to La Vallée Village.

Jardins Artigas, Catalonia
Antoni Gaudí is one of Catalonia’s most famous sons, his genius clear throughout Barcelona. But the great Modernist architect also turned his hand to gardens. Although Park Güell in the Catalan capital is his most famous, the Jardins Artigas, north of the city and La Roca, is arguably his most spectacular. Classically Gaudí-esque, with wooden beams, odd figurines and jagged local-stone structures flowing through a gorge, it is as vivid and absorbing as his architecture.

Court Gardens, Würzburg
The grounds of the Würzburg Residenz, one of Germany’s grandest baroque palaces, feature the delightful Hofgarten (Court Gardens), created by the energetic eighteenth century court gardener, Johann Prokop Mayer, under the patronage of the city’s prince-bishops. His topiary was a sight to behold and its legacy lives on – trees continue to be cultivated using methods that Mayer noted in his handbook, Pomona Franconica. They can be seen in the reconstructed kitchen garden, a charming spot to linger after a visit to the Wertheim Village.

The Court Gardens at Würzburg Residenz, Germnany.

Parc des Topiaires, Durbuy
The pretty Belgian town of Durbuy, near Maasmechelen Village, is so tiny that it claims to be the smallest town in the world. Dotted around its Parc des Topiares garden are 250 yew, laurel, holly and cypress trees, pruned and sculpted into human figures and animals as diverse as elephants and squirrels. The surreal result of a local man’s hobby, the park is slightly bizarre, but very entertaining.

Friday, April 26, 2013

end of the semester existential crises + everyday existential crises.

I’ve just had my last class of Third Year. Media Discourse Analysis is about as fun as it sounds (and I’m pretty much betting my FYP on that). I’m sitting in Scholars’ and I’m exhausted. I had a nap yesterday evening but I haven’t slept since. I’ve been power-writing an essay on Victorian literature and I’ve been managing to continue breathing. I’ve also bathed and brushed my teeth and put on some slap. I feel physically sick from tiredness but I have a cup of coffee in front of me and I’m on my own and I feel pretentious and I’m having my third existential crisis in as many days. But it’s cool, you know.

Today feels like the end of an era. I mean, it’s not. I still have another week (and about three assignments) left in Limerick  before I head home for the summer. I still have a lot of packing and a lot of organising to do before then. And then it’s home for a couple of weeks, back to Limerick for another couple of weeks, back home again, and then back again to Limerick for my fourth and final year at university. Scary thought. But this time next year I’ll have submitted my Final Year Project and hopefully whatever other essays I’ll have. I might be facing an exam or two. Or I might just be facing the real world. Weird.

In the meantime, between right this minute and me eventually joining the real world, I’ve got a lot to do. I have to post a letter and I have to pay a library fine and I have to conjure up some self-esteem. Is it possible to function in the real world without self-esteem? I mean really function? I’m just about coping now but the only topics of conversation I carry around with me on a daily basis are Pubes, Homosexuality, Carbs, and Bowel Movements. I like fashion and books too but I feel I can’t say anything original on those subjects. With pubes and carbs, I probably have a story or a quip you haven’t heard before.

Existential crises are not fun but I’m on a real Alanis Morissette vibe at the moment and I guess that’s helping.

P.S. I’ve officially had a Golden Semester. I haven’t missed a single class in twelve long weeks. Click here to celebrate with me.

Friday, April 19, 2013

i’m thinking about my face.

Imagine being conventionally pretty. I don’t know why I’m so angry at myself for not being conventionally pretty; it’s not as though I can help it. The way I look is a combination of luck, genetics, and environment. (Although the highlighted hair and the specs are a choice. And the excess fat is a bad choice. But even if I lost a lot of weight, I’d still be the same shape and I’d still have the same face and I’d still have the same natural pout. So I dunno.) Being conventionally pretty probably makes life easier but I’m not conventionally pretty so maybe I just suck it up and be a man. (I am reasonably comfortable with my gender.)

Image from Tumblr.

Monday, April 15, 2013

update on my life xoxo

So I got the shift at the Clubs and Societies Ball (but Out in UL didn’t win any awards) and that shift led to subsequent dates and even more shifts. (The president of the chess club is a ride – who’d have thought it?)

I got that job I’d been coveting but sadly it’s only a four week contract so I need another job to fill up the other eight weeks of summer. (I have the distinct and very ominous feeling that I’ll be selling strawberries by the side of the road again. Still, plenty of time to read Ulysses ahead of next year’s Literary Modernism module.)

My Golden Semester is still intact which I think is pretty impressive when you consider my break-up, my regular bouts of depression, and my general laziness. (Of course, because of the Golden Semester, the Final Year Project has been put on the back-burner and the “Progress Report” I submitted last week was a joke: I haven’t made any progress at all. )

I am once again poverty-stricken and I’ve set myself a personal challenge: I am not going to spend any money this week. (I can get free tea and biscuits in the chaplaincy and the carbs in the kitchen should last me at least until Friday.)

In between now and the summer holidays (summer? what summer?), I’ve got four essays to write and two more weeks of classes. If anyone wants to donate some chocolate to the cause (and I am a lost cause), you can find me in the Students’ Union or Scholars’. (Stalkers/psychopaths need not apply.)