The Joy Of Wandering… #travel

This morning, while eating breakfast, I read an article about hummus, and how the Israelis make it. I love hummus and often make my own, so this was an interesting article. But what I also loved about it was the descriptions of life in Jerusalem, glimpses into homes and kitchens and restaurants, to the idea of eating hummus for breakfast, a different way of life.

This is what travel offers us. The opportunity to see how other people on the planet live, what they consider part of their daily routines. We are all human, of course, and have needs that are universal (though not always available to everyone). Food, shelter, sleep, clothing. Work, friendship, family. Once those are in place, we diverge in how we conduct our daily routines. And that, to me, is one of the great joys of travelling. The opportunity to try new flavours, new ways of doing things. Different ideas on how to decorate homes, serve meals, shop and eat out. And also the history of a place and how it has shaped these ideas.

When we were in Dubai about ten years ago, we visited to the museum in the old town. It was very well done, not just in terms of informing us of the history of the place, but also how the desert landscape and the ocean had shaped their customs and clothing styles and diet, even their palaces built of shells. It made me consider my own life, and how where I’ve lived has also shaped the person I am and the things I enjoy doing.

Whenever we go somewhere new, I make a point of doing some research before we go. Of interesting places to visit, restaurants to try, things to see, customs to observe. While I can certainly appreciate the idea of going on holiday simply to lie in the sun, I prefer to get out and about. Last year I went to Australia, Croatia and Denmark. This year, however, things are quite different.

A planned trip to Morocco in April was cancelled for obvious reasons, and there doesn’t look to be much travel outside this small island for the foreseeable future. However, while we may be physically confined in space, there are still opportunities to let our spirits roam free. Whether in the pages of a book, or a blog like this, through travel documentaries and magazines, or even by looking at photos of places you’ve already been. And may I introduce you to the wonders of Window Swap? The premise is simple – loops of window views from around the world, submitted by users. From rain in Bangalore to sun in Melbourne, Tyrolean meadows and skyscrapers in Seoul, you can travel across the globe at the click of a mouse. People’s pets show up in some of the loops, while others have sound, and it is utterly delightful (and quite easy to lose yourself in for a little while).

So I guess this post is more about my love of wandering, rather than being a wander in itself. I’ve been fortunate to visit lots of places, but there are plenty more I still want to see. The world may be on pause for now, but one day I know we’ll all be out there again. Until then, virtual wandering will have to do…


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

In Memoriam 9/11 – Ground Zero Memorial, New York City

It’s not Wednesday, I know, and this was originally posted as a Wednesday Wander. Yet it seemed fitting to share today, 19 years after that terrible moment when the world changed…

We had to go there. It didn’t seem right to be in New York and not visit the site of an event which has shaped the modern city, and much of the world, since it happened. And so this week my Wednesday Wander is to Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centre attacks in New York.

I don’t think there are many of us who were alive at the time who don’t remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when those first terrible images of planes crashing into the World Trade Centre appeared on the television. It was an unprecedented moment, and one where the world changed forever. It was also an event where over 3000 people lost their lives, so it seemed appropriate that we go and pay our respects.

The gorgeous girl knew what had happened that day, though her exposure to images of the event has been very limited. So, after our trip to the Statue of Liberty, and a stop to see the Mighty Girl facing down the Charging Bull on Wall Street, we made our way to the memorial, on the site of the twin towers.

It is an extraordinary place to visit, and you can’t help but imagine how it must have been that day, the horrors that took place there. Yet, for all that, it is a place of overwhelming sorrow and peace, rather than anger and pain.

The footprint of both towers has been retained, marked by spectacular water features, the endlessly falling water marking the outlines of where the towers stood. Around the edges are the names of every single person who died there. We took a moment to read a few, to remember them as people who were just at work, or taking a routine flight cross-country, when disaster struck.

The gorgeous girl and I sat together for a little while, watching people walk around in the pale sunshine. ‘This is a sad place,’ she said, and I hugged her and agreed. It felt as though it was time to go. But, on our way out, we stopped to take a closer look at an extraordinary structure in one corner of the square.

This is the Oculus, the most expensive train station in the world, built to replace the World Trade Centre station which was destroyed in the attack. It is a building that has apparently divided New Yorkers, with some loving it and others hating it. To me, it felt triumphant, like some sort of fantastic bird rising from the ashes of sorrow. Inside it was spectacular, like a bright vision of the future. Quite appropriate, in such a place.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Why Turning Fifty Is Something To Celebrate

In Denmark this past December. Almost fifty…

Earlier this year, I turned fifty. As I approached the milestone age, I wrote a few pieces about how I felt. About those I’ve known over the years who left too early, never to see fifty, or thirty, or even twenty. About how women ‘of a certain age’ are somehow meant to disappear from the narrative, and how I won’t be going quietly (or anywhere!). About how I’m Generation X, and we really don’t give a shit about boxes and being put in them – all we’ve ever tried to do is survive. About how life, which seems so long when you’re twenty, seems so much shorter when you’re fifty.

With Gaz from Supergrass after their London show in March – I had a very exciting birthday weekend (just before the world changed)…

But none of these pieces seemed to truly articulate what I felt. In the end, I didn’t publish any of them. And I discovered that what I really wanted to do, in fact, was celebrate. Celebrate the fact that I’ve lived through five decades on this tumultuous planet. I’ve done so much over these years, yet wish I’d done more. And I really don’t feel any different to that girl in her vinyl mini skirt and big boots who left home to follow love, even though there is as much time between her and I as there was between her and the day she came into the world. Only what you see in the mirror changes, really.

In London, aged twenty-five…

Time, more than ever, seems to slip through my fingers. And I realise there is so much more I want to do and experience. I know I am fortunate to have choice, to have love, and to experience wonder.

And so, in fifty years, this is (some of) what I’ve learned:

Life is short

Children grow more quickly than you can imagine

Opportunities and people come and go

So dance all the dances,

Sing all the songs

See all the things

Visit all the places

Tell all the stories

Hug all the hugs

Watch the sunset

Watch the sunrise

Count shooting stars

And never, ever be ashamed of your age

Life is a gift, and to be here for another year is something to celebrate

Follow your heart

Your dreams

The wind

And see where it takes you

There is so much more, still, to do

Life, as much as possible, is to be lived. So look to the stars, to the night sky, to your dreams. They are free, and no one can take them from you.

We are stardust, after all…


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander Revisited – Warwick Castle

This week, I’m wandering to a view that I’ve seen many times. It’s of an ancient castle, almost a thousand years old in parts – a place steeped in legend, where kings were made and battles fought, mysteries still hiding in its thick stone walls. This is Warwick Castle.

The original castle at Warwick was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror as part of his strategy to stamp his authority on the newly conquered country. It is situated along a bend of the storied River Avon and, until 1978, was still residence of the Earls of Warwick, the legendary Kingmakers.

Kings, Queens and assorted nobility have all stayed within its grey walls over the centuries, including Elizabeth I, Richard III and Queen Victoria. The castle has been painted by Canaletto, among others, and its collection of arms and armour is considered second only to that in the Tower of London. Hardly surprising, considered the many and varied wars fought on behalf of kings and queens by Warwicks over the years.

The castle is also home to one of the world’s largest working trebuchets, or siege engines. Eighteen metres tall and made of oak, it can fling projectiles as far as 300 metres. I have seen it in action and it is something to behold – it takes four men running in treadmills just to lift the counterweight!

Near to the castle is a lovely park I’ve often visited. It’s home to a funfair and mini golf, as well as lovely gardens and, down by the river, there is a place to picnic and fly kites. Water lilies float serene, as do the ducks and swans, and for a moment you could be anywhere, at any time.

On the edge of the park is a bridge across the river, where you can pause and take in the view to the castle. Set into the pavement is this plaque. I think I would have to agree. 🙂

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


I Can’t Pay My Mortgage with ‘Exposure’ – Why Creatives Should Be Paid For Their Work

I originally wrote this post back in 2016, but it seems that not much has changed when it comes to payment for working in the creative arts and the seeming value placed upon such work, so I thought I might share it again. While I write books, I also do freelance writing work, and I recently came across a job posting for a Michelin-starred restaurant in London, who were looking to emply freelance writers. I’ve written for restaurants before, so I clicked on the link, and was disappointed to see that the role was listed as paying £10-15/hour, and that the job description consisted of ‘Send us some poems and articles, and if we like them, you might be considered.’

This is a Michelin-starred restaurant in one of the most expensive cities in the world. They are asking for people to create content that represents them and their brand, work that requires skill and experience, yet they’re only willing to pay just above minimum wage for the privilege. And, as they only want freelance writers, anyone who got the job would have to pay their own taxes and expenses out of that £10-15/hour rate. For comparison’s sake, standard freelance rates for this type of work in London usually start at about £40/hour. Anyway, it frustrated me. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I’m working at the moment, and so is my husband. But these are desperate times for many people, and I could see that the job had had several hundred applicants already. However, it was still listed, so perhaps they haven’t found the right person yet – and I doubt they will, at those rates.
So here, in all its glory, is one of the few rants I have ever posted on this blog – enjoy!

IMGP0001_5I don’t usually post rants on this blog – it’s not really my thing. I actually wasn’t even going to publish this piece at all, but I had a short online conversation about it with Ali Isaac, and so here we are. And perhaps this isn’t so much a rant as a collection of thoughts. But I feel the need to talk about the idea of ‘free’, and the seeming value placed on writing these days.

I would like to be clear that I am not talking about choosing to list our own books for free, nor am I talking about writing guest posts for other blogs. This is because I believe that offering books for free can be a strategic marketing tool leading on to more sales, especially if you have several titles on offer – Nick Rossis recently featured an excellent guest post on the subject, well worth a read. Besides, offering our books for free is optional. As independent writers we can price our books however we like, and still remain in control. And guest posts are a great way to exchange information with other bloggers – more often than not, you get the same in return.

Rather, I am talking about the expectation that creative work be offered for free to other businesses, with no expectation of return other than that elusive beast, ‘exposure’. One obvious example would be Huffington Post, which has come under a lot of flack lately after the UK editor-in-chief, Steven Hull, stated that:

‘If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.’

So. A multi-million dollar company basically saying that they made their money from people writing for free. And pushing the idea that we, as writers, should be happy to do so, because we ‘want to write.’ Well, I do ‘want to write’, but I also want to eat, and maybe pay the mortgage. And I’m afraid I don’t entirely buy into the concept of working for ‘exposure’ – apart from the creative arts, is there any other field where people are expected to do their job for free, in the hopes that they might impress someone enough to actually get paid? I doubt if my toilet broke, the plumber would be happy to repair it for me in return for a shout-out on Instagram.

Here’s what I think about ‘exposure.’ Maybe ten years ago, maybe even five years ago, when the blogosphere wasn’t saturated, when content wasn’t raining down at 73 tweets per second into our feeds, exposure might have meant something. But these days we are more likely to simply disappear into a digital forest of a billion trees or more, each with something different to say. And I know there will be those of you out there who say ‘but I posted a blog on HuffPo (or similar) and my stats went up and I sold x amount of books and it was AWESOME.’ To which I say, well done you. You beat the odds. Because it’s a gamble, at best. A gamble that people will find your post, will click on it, will read it, will follow through to your blog or website, then follow through again to your books and buy them. You might then say ‘Well, why are you blogging? You don’t get paid for it.’ True. I don’t. But I do get the benefits of being part of a blogging community, knowledge sharing and support for and from fellow writers, plus the chance to write whenever I want, about whatever I want. And, you know what – I’ve met new readers and sold books too. And I’ve done it on my terms.

This sort of exploitative behaviour isn’t limited to writing – Sainsbury’s in Camden recently ran an ad looking for an artist to decorate their company canteen. For free. Incentives included ‘doing what you love,’ and ‘a chance to leave your mark.’ All very noble, I’m sure, but you can’t exactly pay the bills with this sort of stuff. Sainsbury’s were ripped apart on social media, and rightly so – the ad was pulled and the company apologised, adding that the ad had been run by the store in question, rather than by the company itself.

As a writer, I work every hour I can – writing, honing ideas, editing, planning, marketing, designing, reading, studying craft books… well, you get the picture. And I’m sure I’m no different from the majority of writers out there. We all know that, for the most part, we’re doing it for the love of the craft, for the joy that writing brings us – with the average yearly writer earnings in the UK working out to an underwhelming £11,000, the vast majority of us are not in the game to get rich.

I’ve been fortunate, over the past ten years or so, to be paid to write for other people, bringing in a reasonable income. My books, however, are operating at a loss – the cost of a professional edit has not yet been offset by sales, although I’m close to breaking even. But once again it’s my choice to have an edit done because I wish to present the best, most professional product I can, and so I consider the expense to be worth it. I’m laying foundations too, eventually planning to have several titles available – therefore I’m starting as I mean to go on. Building a brand, so to speak. And all of this takes time and study and practice, as does gaining proficiency in any other type of job.

So why should I, or any other creative individual, be expected to work for free?


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Short Break and A Holy Well

I recently returned from a short break away with family, something I think the three of us needed after the months of lockdown. We decided to stay within the UK, not quite ready to tackle airports and planes and the rapidly changing quarantine laws, instead driving down south to the coast of Devon.

And it was utterly gorgeous. We stayed at Croyde Bay, a golden curve of beach held within a cradle of hills, where mists came and went and the sea shone silver, sunsets painting golden trails across the waves. Croyde is home to some of the best surfing in the UK, which suited my surfing hubby, and the gorgeous girl and I danced in the waves and explored the rockpools every day, letting cool water wash away the stresses of the past few months.

There were still reminders, of course. It was an unusual holiday in that we didn’t eat out anywhere, choosing to stay in our self-catering accommodation. Masks were worn wherever we went within the resort, and the indoor pool could only be booked for a limited number of people at one time. But it was just a short walk across golden dunes to a beach that remained mostly uncrowded, plenty of room on the sand and in the water for everyone to keep their distance, life feeling almost normal again. We also ventured along the coastal path, where long fingers of rock stretched into the sea, brambles and orchids and butterflies lining the way.

I do like to explore when I visit new places, and I’d done a little bit of research about the area before we arrived. The small viallge of Croyde sits on the bay, home to a few shops and restaurants, as well as some lovely homes. There is evidence that the settlement dates back to before the Saxon era, and there are a few standing stones in the area, as well as some erratics, boulders said to have been left by retreating glaciers after the end of the last Ice Age. The village is mentioned in the Domesday book as Crideholde, and the oldest building in the village is a chapel from the 12th century, which was a daughter-house to the nearby Benedictine Priory at what is now Barnstaple.

And the chapel is dedicated to none other than… St Helen. When I read that I knew I needed to go and find it. We wandered off down narrow lanes, clues to the landscape in house names all around us – Chapel House, Chapel Nook, Priory Stables. However, apparently the chapel is now ruined and on private land, so we had no luck in seeing it,though local lore has it hat many of the stones were used to build some of the nearby cottages.

And there is one small remnant of the chapel still open to the public. This is the ancient holy well of St Helen, located on the driveway of a house called Ladywell (appropriately).

While it is a holy well, I do wonder whether the tradition around it goes back to a time before Christianity – it is fed by a natural spring, one of several in the area, and there were clouties decorating the scrolled iron gate, which are often seen at Celtic holy places.

Christianity has a long history of appropriating holy places and symbols for their own, as I suppose it’s easier to convert people when things don’t seem too different to what they’re already doing. But that’s another blog post 😉 Whatever the situation, this lovely little well was a treat to see, a small hidden treasure and a reminder of the ancient roots of this green land.

Our last day dawned rainy and cold, and we bade farewell to the ocean, to the calling gulls and cradling hills. I can still feel the pull, though, of the cool waves, the tide’s pulse in my blood, the soft grit of sand beneath my feet. We were so fortunate to be able to get away, and to do so safely – I’m truly grateful. Now it’s back to routine, to writing and working and getting the gorgeous girl ready for school in a few weeks, in whatever form that might take.

I hope that, wherever you are, you’re all keeping safe and well xx


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Wednesday Wander Revisited – A Wet Day in New York City

Is it a wet day where you are? Or are you suffering with the heat, as so many of us are across the UK? We’re on the Devon coast at the moment, so it’s a bit cooler than inland, but there have been some spectacular thunderstorms. Still, we don’t let the weather stop us from exploring – as you can see in this Wander from a couple of years ago, when we were in New York. We arrived to brilliant sunshine, woke the next day to a snowstorm, then rain, rain, rain. Still a fabulous city, whatever the weather…Our second day in New York dawned a little warmer than the day before, but that just meant rain instead of snow, Manhattan Island still blanketed in cloud. However, it wasn’t going to stop us – we only had a few days in New York and didn’t want to waste any of them!

The gorgeous girl, who, like most kids at the moment, is caught up in the squishy craze, wanted to visit Chinatown. We decided, despite the rain, to walk from Soho through Greenwich Village, taking in Little Italy before reaching Chinatown. Soho was filled with lovely boutiques and restaurants, (and I may have stopped in a few of them en route), while Greenwich had lovely old homes and interesting shops, including one which sold only puppies (!) with a puppy play area where you could play with them *squee*

We planned a route via Washington Square Park, with its famous white marble archway built to commemorate the anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington. Constructed in 1892, the arch replaced an earlier wooden one. The park itself was once marshland, but was acquired by the city in 1797, as a place to hold public executions. Later it became a military parade ground, then a park for the wealthy inhabitants of the nineteenth century mansions still lining one side of the park. In the twentieth century it became a haven for protestors and performers, including the beatniks of the 40s and 50s, and the folk musicians of the sixties. Nowadays it’s a community park which holds regular events – they were setting up for one while we were there, as you can see from my photo.

Not far from Washington Square is the Electric Lady studios, which my husband was keen to see. In 1968, Jimi Hendrix and his manager bought the premises, which had been a nightclub, and turned it into a professional recording studio. It has hosted many famous musicians including Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie, and, in more recent years, Adele, Lana Del Rey, The Kills and Daft Punk. It’s now the oldest operating recording studio in New York City.

As you can see, the weather hadn’t improved much, but we pressed on. I was fascinated by the zig-zagging fire escapes on the old apartment buildingsas we wound our way through Manhattan to Little Italy. The streets smelled of garlic and cooking and sweets, and were still decorated for Easter.

The interesting thing about Little Italy and Chinatown is that they exist right next to each other, so you can walk down one street lined with Italian cafes and market stalls, yet when you turn the corner you’re surrounded by the spicy smells of Chinese food, bright neon on the buildings. I really enjoyed it, and wished the weather had been better. As it was, we were keen to get inside, eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then spending a little bit of time searching for squishies, which was a success! The gorgeous girl got quite a haul, so was very pleased with her day out.

As we headed back up to midtown, the rain finally started to ease, giving us hope the next day might be a bit brighter. I snapped this last image of a wonderful Art Deco building (of which there are so many in New York). I loved the shapes it made, the lines and shadows like an ancient ziggurat.

And then it was back to our hotel for dinner and a rest. We had another big day planned for tomorrow…

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander Revisited – Panathenaic Olympic Stadium, Greece

I originally posted this Wander almost exactly four years ago, when the Olympics were in full swing in Rio, the world celebrating together as it usually does. However, although the 2020 Olympics were scheduled to take place this month, things are much different. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until next year, but even that hasn’t been confirmed, as we live in such uncertain times. It’s such a shame, and I really feel for the athletes who have been working towards this for so long. I’m not much of a watcher of sport, but there is something about the Olympic Games that captures my imagination, and I find myself caught up in the atmosphere and excitement of it all. Therefore, as we have no Olympics to celebrate this year, I thought I might revisit a Wander that takes us to where the modern Olympics began…

Olympic Stadium 2I thought it might be fun this week to wander to Greece, where the Olympics began. Now, this is obviously not a stadium built for the 2004 Athens Olympics – rather, this is the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

The stadium, interestingly, was built on the site of an actual ancient Greek stadium, thought to have been constructed in around 330BC, for use at the Panathenaic Games (hence the name). This was a religious and athletic festival held every four years in honour of the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. The stadium was used for several centuries before being abandoned, then rediscovered and excavated in 1869, before being refurbished for the modern Olympic Games.

Olympic Stadium 1

Here are some of my travelling companions, attempting to start a race… or something.

When the Games returned to Greece in 2004, the old stadium once again came to life, hosting several events. It’s also the place where the Olympic Flame is handed over to the host country, so holds a very special place in Olympic history. As Rio draws to a close, it’s nice to wander back to where it all began in the modern era – thanks for coming along with me.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

What’s In A Name?

You may have noticed a recent small change to my site. Well, more accurately, to my name.

For a number of reasons, some to do with searchability, and others to do with honouring family ties, I’ve decided to add my married name to my public author name.

I was never that bothered about changing my name when I got married. As far as I was concerned, I had a perfectly good name and there wasn’t much point in going through the paperwork of changing everything over. It also seemed a bit unfair, in the scheme of things, a throwback to a time when women lost their identity, their property and many of their rights upon getting married.

However, I’m not going to get into the whole patriarchy/changing names thing here – we are fortunate that nowadays it’s a personal decision and that we can do whatever makes us happy. I have many friends and family who have delighted in changing their names upon getting married, others who have double-barrelled with their spouse’s last name (as I’ve done here), and others still who go by a variety of names personally and professionally (which I will also be doing.)

Anyway, I suppose this is a long way of saying: I’ve changed my author name! There will be more changes to come as I set up a long overdue website, of which this blog will be part, and I’m also hoping to have some exciting publishing news to share soon.

Watch this space…

PS – And you can still find all my currently published books under my original author name – it’s a bit more complex to change things over on the various sites, but I’m working on it…


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Wednesday Wander Revisited – Donostia San Sebastian Beaches

This week I felt like taking a beach break (perhaps because I can’t actually take one in real life). So I’m revisiting the glorious beaches of Donostia San Sebastian, Spain. I still remember my first glimpse of La Concha Beach between two buildings – the blue-green water and glorious view – and how unreal it felt. It’s somewhere I’d really like to see again, one day…

It’s Wednesday and time for my weekly wander. This week we’re heading to Donostia San Sebastian, in the Basque country region of Spain. Donostia is the Basque name for the city, and is another way of saying San Sebastian – in honour of the dual heritage of the city, both names are used.

I visited earlier this year and fell under its spell straight away. The gorgeous old buildings and curving golden beaches were like a scene from a story – it was hard to believe people were lucky enough to live in such a place.

This is the iconic La Concha beach, the best known of the city’s beaches, voted the second best city beach in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. A well- deserved award, I think. As you can see, it’s pretty popular – the clear green waves and golden sand make it a wonderful spot to lounge and take photographs during the day.

At night the beach changes, the deckchairs folded away, the entrance to the bay a perfect frame for glorious sunsets.

I sat for a half hour or so on the cool sand, watching the light change across the water, gold to red to violet, hardly able to take in such beauty.  Dark silhouettes danced at the water’s edge, the illuminated statue of Jesus on Monte Urgull seeming to watch over it all.

Day and night, the ornate promenade was full of people, families and couples and young people, all walking, laughing, enjoying the view. There are several small restaurants built into the seawall itself – one of them made excellent pizza, and was a fantastic place to watch the waves and people passing by.

Another city beach in San Sebastian is Zurriola, which is on the other side of Monte Urgull. This beach is wilder, the waves popular with surfers, although it is safe for swimming in parts, the Spanish lifeguards using a flag system similar to that we were used to in Australia. We visited La Zurriola most days – it was less crowded, yet easy to get to with ample parking nearby. I actually got dumped by a wave the first day there, scraping my knee – haven’t done that in years! Oh, and apparently, Zurriola is also somewhere you can hang ten in the buff, should you choose to – one of several beaches in Europe which allow nude surfing! Just remember to apply plenty of sunscreen 😉

When I began writing this Wander, I’d thought I would write a single post about San Sebastian. But, when I began writing about the beaches, they seemed to merit a post of their own. It seems certain that I’ll be wandering back to San Sebastian, both on this blog and (I hope) in real life too.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time 🙂


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.