Recently in photography Category

Four years ago this month, my friend Paula and her boyfriend got married at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. I'm only now just getting around to editing my photogaphs of their wedding because there were so many photographs that I liked that I struggled to edit them down. First of all, I cannot believe that it was four years ago. Second, I had a seven-hour flight last December, and used that time to go through and edit the photographs that I wanted to post. When I was looking through the wedding photographs, I was reminded of the good memories of that frosty February afternoon at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

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We arrived early at St. Paul's Cathedral. The day was a typical London February day with grey skies and a beautiful view of the cathedral. I took a few photographs outside before we went inside, and I tried to get a sneaky photograph of the interior of the dome and was told off. Because we were attending a wedding, we did not have to pay the extortionate fee of £20.00 per person (or whatever it was). I know that it costs a lot of money to maintain a cathedral, but the price tag is hefty for a Londoner who pays taxes and wouldn't mind visiting every now and again.

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Other notables who got married at St. Paul's Cathedral included various royals, such as Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981. (Prince William and Katherine Middleton got married in Westminster Abbey in 2012.)

Weddings at St. Paul's Cathedral take place in the crypt in the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire. The crypt is also where many famous people are buried, including Christopher Wren (who built the new cathedral after the first one burnt in 1666). 

To get married at St. Paul's Cathedral, you or your immediate family need to be a VIP. Only members of the cathedral or members of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, the Order of the British Empire, holders of the British Empire Medal, and members of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor and their children can get married. Paula's father was a member of one of these orders/societies due to his charity work regarding medical conditions.

Without further delay, the photographs of the wedding are below. The bride wore a beautiful white gown and veil with pearls and a boquet of roses that were primarily orange and white with yellows and spring greens. Despite the cold weather and the sleeveless gown, she happily came outside to get photographs taken in front of the cathedral. I can't imagine how cold she was in the sleeveless dress, but you cannot tell it in the photographs. She did have a stylish and warm white fleece and gloves to help keep her warm.

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I loved the photographs that I took of the couple goofing around and enjoying their big day, and I also loved the photographs with the groom's friends and the bridesmaids on the iconic stairs of St. Paul's Cathedral.

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While the groom and his guys were dressed in black and white, the bridgesmaids were dressed in beautiful beige dresses, holding similar boquets and wearing similar white fleeces.

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At the ceremony, the children were also dressed very smart and were very polite. They look so grown up. What a memorable day!

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Thank you Paula and Andrew for inviting us.

Advent Photographs in Numbers

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Today is the first of December. The countdown begins as the first day of advent. I've had a long and busy week, and I cannot wait to have a few days off later this month. I actually have had a migraine all day today. I am going to take a bath and go to bed early. (That's the plan, at least.) Over this year, I've been taking photographs of numbers from 1 to 25 to post a special "advent"-themed blog post with the photographs of different sets of numbers on signs, doors, shop windows, clocks, in street art, packaging, and anywhere else where I could find a number. My gallery of the advent is below.

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Which is your favourite? I can't believe that it will be December 25 in less than 25 days now. Enjoy the countdown.

Photo of the Day: London Icon

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Today's photograph of the day is a photograph that I took a couple of years ago of Big Ben from the South Bank. The South Bank is one of my favourite places to walk. When I lived outside of London and came into Waterloo Station, I would walk to Borough Market and Tower Bridge along the South Bank. It's a pleasant walk. The weather this May has been all over the place, but we have had a few warm days. These are the best days to walk along the South Bank, catching street performers and avoiding tourists who have decided to visit the London Eye. (Remember when it was previously called the Millennium Wheel?)

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The South Bank walk has many of my favourite views of London, and I am particularly fond of the view of Big Ben from South Bank (near Hungerford Bridge) and Waterloo station. Perhaps this is what the Kinks were thinking about when they sang "Waterloo Sunset"?

A few weeks ago, I came across this beautiful vintage classic car with the back-drop of the old buildings of Spitalfields. This is Elder Street, near Folgate Street. It is a stone's throw from Spitalfields Market and a decent pub, the Waterpoet. This was a usual haunt for me and my colleagues when I worked on Brick Lane.  

Unfortunately, I understand that this area is marked to be redeveloped with some of the buildings being torn down and replaced. I know that some of this area is a little run-down as it's on the fringe of the city, and some of these warehouses and buildings (especially at the end toward Bishopsgate) look a little run-down, but these are historic and beautiful buildings. Many similar buildings have been phased out recently, and I do not want the same to happen here as this is an identity and a culture of London. 

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Historically, the buildings in this area were homes and businesses that primarily belonged to the silk weavers. Tearing some of them down and building tall buildings around it would make this place lose its essence. I do hope that the buildings can be preserved and additional buildings be built of the same or similar architectural style. It is a pity to lose more of London's history and essence, and I believe that future generations will look back on and regard as a mistake if this is allowed to happen. Perhaps what needs to be looked at is the housing and building situation, such as allowing houses/flats to be sold to millionaires who do not live there and keep the properties empty, which increases the property values. Not only that, but London has had a major influx of people over the last decade and not much has been done to anticipate or prepare for that.

Apologies for another 'Photo of the Day' blog post two days in a row. Truth be told that I've not had much time recently to dedicate to my blog due to work. Last weekend was a three-day weekend (I worked three days of hours in two weekend days) and I've had to work late nights most of this week, particularly on Tuesday night when a group of us stayed late to work. This month has been particularly busy with work, so my blog has had to suffer for it. I'm hoping that things can quiet down a little bit.

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself walking down the Strand toward Fleet Street and Covent Garden. The weather was not the best that day; it was like any other early spring day in London with droplets of rain, clouds, and a chill in the wind. The Strand to Fleet Street is a built-up area in London without a lot of green space, but I noticed the churches (first St. Clement's and then Saint Mary-le-Strand a few paces further) in the middle of the road in 'Aldwych' straight away. 

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Saint Mary-le-Strand

A tree in full pink blossom provided some inspiration for an otherwise uninspiring and grey spring day.

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Saint Mary-le-Strand

Saint Mary-le-Strand was almost torn down to widen the road in the 20th century (as several other historical buildings were), but it did not happen. However, the graves were moved to make way for the road. The church's steeple is carved from stone that was meant to be for a statue of Queen Anne that was to be placed near the church, but she passed away and the stone was used for the church instead.

The church also suffered bomb damage in World War II. It has visible damage toward the back. 

Contrast in Photography (London)

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Today's photograph features contrast. The small house is located in the shadow of the large high-rise buildings. It's also a contrast in style: the new meets the old. I actually took this photograph several years ago. I have fond memories of this place. It is located near where I used to work in the City of London next to St. Stephen Walbrook church, which has a Starbucks branch that is located as part of the church building. I actually dubbed it "The Starbucks Church". Across the street from it was a new office building (seen on the right) that was under construction at the time. Across the road from that was a development site and also the location of one of the old rivers of London and the Temple of Mirthas. They're building a new office building here and have found a lot of ancient pieces.

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I've visited this area from time to time and miss seeing this little house nestled in between the buildings.

On a Friday toward the end of last month, I paid a visit to Lavender Fields in Hampshire, England. Lavender Fields is a farm that grows lavender and arranges items (such as soaps, perfumes, food) to be produced from the lavender. These items are then and sold in a shop on site. I have driven past the farm, near Alton in Hampshire, a few times in the past.

I wanted to stop in, drawn by the beautiful flowers. A stressful few months and overtime earlier in that week prompted me to take a half a day off and visit the farm. Lucky for me, this was the final day for tours before shutting for the season. However, there are other 'Open Days' earlier in the season from June until late July, and I'm sure that one could stop in to the shop on site and pay a small amount in order to get some photographs of the lavender fields. These fields would actually be a perfect setting for family photographs, fashion photographs, or photographs of children/pets.

Originally, I was not a fan of lavender because it's always been associated with a scent popular with grannies. However, after a trip to Hvar island in Croatia, I actually enjoyed the scent and the beautiful purple flowers growing on the mountains. You can see a few of my photographs here. Lavender is a naturally calming scent, and many products exist to aid in relaxation and sleep (or de-stress). 

The day that we visited was pouring with rain, and the weather was the worst that it had been in awhile, but we did not let this stop us from visiting and enjoying ourselves. In fact, a large bus load of people turned up for a tour as well.

Instead of having the tour and being told about the lavender and history of the farm from outside or in the lavender fields, we listened to information inside a tent before walking to the fields. The rain had died down somewhat, so we managed to get some shelter before it started to pour again and we headed into a barn to listen to the remainder of the chat. We were shown the equipment used to harvest and press the lavender.

The chat was followed by a dash back to the tent where afternoon cream tea was served for us to enjoy. The warm tea was welcome as were the scones with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

When we finished the afternoon tea, I wandered back into the fields to take a lot of photographs. The rain did not ease off, but I think I was able to capture some nice photographs despite the weather. 

In addition to the rows of lavender (I'd estimate that it was two or three acres next to the road, and this isn't their main crop), the fields were also transformed into wildflower meadows. These were filled with cornflowers, which are my absolute favourite flowers (I like daffodils too) and my wedding flower. In addition, there were red poppies and yellow daisy-like flowers and a few other types of wildflower mixed in.

I believe that some fantastic photographs can be shot here, particularly in the dusk or dawn light. Despite the weather, we had a good time. More photographs frm my visit can be seen below.

Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit London. All of those years ago, my first visit to London was in the spring. It was at the end of March and during the week we had as 'spring break' between quarters at university. The spring season tends to start at least two weeks earlier than where I lived in the states, and I remember the spring flowers out and the trees budding. Although signs of spring can be seen in most places in the city, I have three favourite places to enjoy spring: St. James' Park, Green Park, and South Bank.

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First up, St. James' Park. This is the oldest of London's eight royal parks and is located along the Mall, to the side of Buckingham Palace. The park has several unique birds, including Pelicans, and has a complex history. It was once the location where King James in the early 1600s kept his exotic birds and animals, such as crocodiles and camels and an elephant. Later on, it was landscaped with a canal. When it became open to the public, it was not a nice place to visit at dark as it attracted the wrong people. The park also has an island called Duck Island, which became inhabited by an exiled Frenchman; apparently he'd been told he could be the governor of this island, which turned out being a tiny island inhabited by birds. Until the the 1800s, a group of women would daily bring a cow into the park and would sell milk to visitors from it. Today, the park is home to many different types of birds, trees, and beautiful gardens. In the spring, there are nicer views of House Guards Palace and Buckingham Palace as the trees are not in full leaf to obscure these views.

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In spring, the park is covered in thousands of daffodils. 

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Ornamental trees are in full blossom, and I also caught a green bird in one of the trees. Actually, there were three green birds (which I learned are called ring-necked Parakeets) in this tree. They liked picking the flowers off of the tree.

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I watched the parakeet for a few more moments to get some photographs.

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The views of the London Eye and Big Ben from St. James' park are unobstructed from view with beautiful flowers in the foreground. 

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Next up is Green Park, which is opposite the Mall from St. James' Park. The park is mainly large trees, but the daffodils are in abundance here as well, and there's a few different varieties and colours of daffodils.

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Finally, South Bank is another place in London that I recommend to visit in spring. Actually, South Bank is pleasant during any time of year, and at the weekends on nice days, there are often street performers along here. Spring is a nice time to visit because the views of Big Ben are unobstructed by trees in full-leaf.

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Enjoy!

Nuremberg Christmas Market

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After Thanksgiving, the bloke and I jetted off to Germany to spend a few days visiting Nuremberg and its famous Christmas market (Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt). We arrived on Friday evening, the opening day of the Christmas market. We headed into the city's main square (Hauptmarkt) after dropping off our luggage at the hotel. As it was the opening day, the market was exceptionally busy.

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On the way to the main square, we walked through Ludwig Platz where we saw a living nativity with donkeys, goats, an alpaca, and a camel. The Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were not living, of course. We saw the animals here almost every day that we walked past the nativity, though they do take them away at night.

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The Christmas Market in Nuremberg consists of the main market, a children's market, and a sister city market. The sister city market is based on Nuremberg's twinned (sister) cities, and each has its own market stall that specialises in its country's products off of the main square. For example, shortbread and whisky were available to buy in the Glasgow stall. American sweets were available from the Atlanta, Georgia stall.

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The Christmas market is huge, and it took us about half of a day to go through it and see everything. We did visit it a few times over the few days that we were there, but we had a proper look around all of the stalls on one of the weekday mornings when the market was quieter.

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The market gets incredibly busy as the day goes on, and dusk is the busiest time to visit the market. At times, such as the weekend and the opening night, it was too busy to browse. I do not enjoy browsing busy places as it is impossible to have a proper look.

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The fountain in the Hauptmarkt is called Schöner Brunnen, and during the Christmas market, all but one side is surrounded by stalls. A gold ring is located on the railing of the fountain, and turning this three times will make wishes come true. The fountain was always surrounded by tour groups during our visits to the market.

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Upon entering the square, visitors will see a large gold tinsel angel. This is one of the symbols of Nuremberg. The golden tinsel angel is made of thin metal and is made to be a tree topper. It is a symbol of the Christkind, translated Christ Child. The Christ Child is a Nuremberg tradition. She is a giver of gifts and became a tradition for the market in the early 1930s.

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Every year, young women between the ages of 16 and 19 can enter the competition to be the Christmas Market's symbol, Christkind. In this tradition, they open the Christmas Market each year with a speech and also visit the market nearly every afternoon. The ChristKind is popular with children, and every child and some adults wanted their photograph taken with her.

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Another area of the square, in front of the Church of Our Lady, is sectioned off and contains the antique nativity scene.

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One of the most popular items for sale are Christmas ornaments and Christmas craft items. Some of these are so beautiful but also so fragile as they are made of delicate glass. I loved looking at them, but I am put off buying them because I am afraid that they would not make the journey back in one piece, and if they did, I would be worried that they would break in storage or fall off the Christmas tree.

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One tradition is the pickle tree ornament. Each year, the pickle is hidden on the tree. When the child discovers it, he/she will receive a special prize. The size of the pickle varies. For younger children, the pickle is larger so that it is easier for them to find. As the children get older, the pickle becomes smaller and more difficult to find.

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The market stalls were covered in ornaments. It was impossible to see all of them. There were so many that I loved.

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In addition to the traditional glass ornaments, visitors could buy ornaments that were cookies baked and then painted into Christmas designs. I remember making these types of ornaments when I was younger. 

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Food is also popular at the Christmas market. Sausages, candy apples, chocolate, gingerbread, and Christmas cake were all popular. Nuremberg is most known for its special Nuremberg sausage and gingerbread. I had some gingerbread, and it was nice, but it was not the type of gingerbread that I am familiar with. A mulled wine drink is also popular, and this goes well with the gingerbread. Gingerbread, known as lebkuchen, dates from medieval times.

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One of the most interesting stalls sold chocolate items that were shaped like tools and other everyday items. At first, I thought that these were antique items because they did look real. However, all items were made from chocolate with a dusting of cocao powder to make them look 'worn' and slightly rusty. Scissors, wrenches, faucets, bottle caps, horseshoes, clothes pegs, cameras, locks, keys, and scissors were some of the items. 

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I also had a wander to the Christmas Children's Market, which was extremely popular with school groups of children. A small ferris wheel, carousel, and other games and crafts were available for the children. Children could make their own candles or ice and decorate their own gingerbread. Between the two markets is also a nativity trail with some nativity scenes. A large model train set with a few running trains was also at the far end of the Children's Christmas Market. Each of the market stalls in the Children's Christmas Market had a decoration on top of it. These varied from a family of bears making treats, a family sitting in a Christmas room, snowmen, Santa and reindeer, and a group of bakers.

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Snowglobes were a popular item in the Christmas markets.

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A couple of stalls also sold a large range of dollhouse items.

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The best architectual structure (and oldest) was Frauenkirche, Church of Our Lady. Visitors could listen to church services here, and they had special advent services. Visitors could also climb up part of the way to the balcony to have an elevated view of the Christmas market, and this is the balcony that the Christkind stands on for the opening ceremony of the Christmas Market every year. At noon each day, the clock on Frauenkirche moves and little figures move around the clockface.

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I took a few photographs from the balcony of Frauenkirche. The market was not the busiest at this time but the crowds were growing.

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Another traditional item to buy at the Nuremberg Christmas Market at the prune men (Zwetschgenmännle). These little men and women are made from prunes and have a walnut head. A few stalls around the Christmas Market were selling these novelty items.

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There are many different designs for the prune men, and a few of my photographs are below. They are said to bring happiness and luck.

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Springerle is another Nuremberg traditional food. It is an embossed white biscuit design, and it is translated to "little knights". This cookie is from Renaissance times, and it is made with egg white and anise. Some of the deisgns have been coloured, otherwise they are simply embossed. I did try these, and they are a wafer-like biscuit with a slight anise taste. A few of the different designs can be seen below.

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Nutcrackers were amongst the popular Christmas crafts.

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Around the Christmas area (though not inside the actual market square itself) and main streets were a couple of different buskers dressed as Santa with small, cute dogs. 

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Last but not least, a twenty-minute dash around the Christmas Market and streets of Nuremberg is possible in the German post (Deutsche Post) stagecoach. The men driving the horse would blow a horn to signal the approach of the carriage as we were taken around the market, and everyone would stop to look. I felt like a celebrity for those twenty minutes.

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Also, if you love postcards and stamps like I do, do not forget to visit the special Christmas market stall for German Post. This is located across the road from the fountain. Tickets for the stagecoach rides mentioned above can be purchased here as well as stamps and postcards. Even if you have written your postcards, stamped or not, you can take your postcards here to receive one of two special Nuremberg German postmark stamps. I went back to this stall several times to receive the special postmarks.

Last but not least, I have put together a list of tips for visiting the Nuremberg Christmas Market. The list below mentions good points and what to avoid.

Tips for Nuremberg Christmas Market:

  • Some of the stallholders are dishonest and rude. I gave money for a glass of mulled punch across from the horse stagecoaches, and the stallholder tried to deny I had given her money even after I kept insisting, and she and her boss were extremely rude to me. I eventually got my money, but I had to make a scene by arguing. Make sure that the stallholder has your full and undivided attention throughout the transaction and force them to make eye contact with you.
  • Prices vary greatly for the same item and change as the market gets busier. Again, some of the stallholders are dishonest and will charge more. Look around first and note the price. If the price is not on display, ask and then continue to look for the best price. Prices can vary greatly fort he exact same item. Also, as I did visit the market several times, I noticed that the stalls changed their prices during busier times. I saw one stall sell one particular item for 2.50, and this price was raised to 3.50 as the day progressed and market got busier.
  • Watch your money and possessions as there are pickpockets. I did not have any trouble, but this was advice given to me.
  • Visit in the morning when it's quiet. The evenings and dusk gets extremely busy, and it's not possible to browse when it's too busy. The market opens at 10:00am, but some stalls open a little later, and the market is relatively quiet then.  
  • Try new things. Sausage, mulled wine, and gingerbread are a few items to try.
  • Get a map of the Christmas Market. A map of all stalls in the main Christmas Market, the Children's Christmas Market, and the International Christmas Market is available in the Tourist Information building on the market square. This is located near the church.
  • Look for prune men. The map available from the Tourist Information centre includes locations of the stalls for the prune men separately. 
  • Get your special stamps and postmarks. For those sending postcards, visit this stall opposite the fountain and receive a special postmark. Postcards and stamps can also be purchased here.
  • See Christkind. She makes an appearance daily at approximately 3:00 in the afternoon on most days. The brochure in the Tourist Information can provide more information as the timing and availability is subject to change.
  • Have fun!

Launceston Castle: A Visit

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I visited Launceston Castle this spring on Easter Sunday, after I paid my visit to Okehampton Castle (Morning Visit at Okehampton Castle - Jenikya's Blog). Launceston Castle is in the village by the same name, located in Cornwall, England. The castle grounds were occupied from the 1000s by William the Conquerer's brother, and the fortification is a motte-and-bailey design, which means that it is a fortification on raised earthworks. The keep itself was built in 1240 and was used as a prison from the mid-1600s and was demolished because of poor and cramped conditions in the mid-1800s. 

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Berries

The castle is accessible through the town centre, and we parked in the middle of the town, more or less opposite the old Gatehouse. Then, we climbed up steep steps to the High Tower, the highest point of the castle. 

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The High Tower and Gatehouse

There were beautiful views over Launceston from the High Tower, and I took some photographs.

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Castle and views over Launceston from High Tower

Inside the interior of the High Tower, there was not much to see. The High Tower was intact and consisted of a circular wall with another circular wall inside. The inner circle contained a winding staircase that could be climbed a little further.

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High Tower interior

The views from the top of the tower were equally amazing.

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Launceston views from castle

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Launceston views from castle

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View from the top of High Tower

After having a quick look around the castle, we descended and admired the view of where we had just been.

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Castle

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Gatehouse exiting the castle

The conditions were wet, but we enjoyed our trip to Launceston Castle. We visited it on Easter Sunday, and it was a rainy Easter Sunday this year. We had the castle to ourselves.

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