Wednesday Wander – Biarritz At Dusk

I recently took a trip to Basque country, visiting San Sebastian in Spain and Biarritz in France. Less than an hour’s drive lies between the two cities, even though they are in different countries. I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday – there is a magic to that stretch of coast and I felt very at home there, for some reason.

I saw a lot of different places while I was away, including two locations used for Dragonstone in Game of Thrones (I blogged about them here and here), so will be writing a few Wednesday Wanders about the various locales. This week, I’m wandering to Biarritz, and the beautiful main beach at dusk. We spent a lot of time walking along here, both day and night, as it was the direct route into the town centre. With the beautiful view, the combination of rocks and sea and sky coupled with Art Deco architecture, it was a pleasure every time.

One of the buildings along the seafront at Biarritz is the Casino. Built in the 1920s, it was opened only a few weeks before the Stock Market crash that marked the end of the glittering art Deco era. It is a beautiful reminder of that decadent time, nonetheless, and a survivor – plans to knock it down in the 90s were thankfully scuppered, and the building restored and designated a historical monument. Nowadays it contains a pool, restaurants and a casino, and was full of people every time we passed by.

The walk along the beach also passes this lovely islet, connected by a stone bridge to the mainland. It seemed like something out of a fairy tale (so I loved it, obviously). There was also a lovely church, as well as the old fishing village, which I’ll write about in more detail soon.

But for now, let us look at the gold and violet sky, the shimmer of ocean against dark sand, the clean lines of the Art Deco building, the warm lights of the coastline against the dusk sky. It is a supremely romantic coastline, with a warmth in the air that filled me with joy.

I can’t wait to go back one day.

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


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Weekend Jaunt

img_5399If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably know that I spent this past weekend in Paris. A quick trip, leaving London early Saturday morning and arriving back (late) last night, I went with a close friend from Australia who arrived in England on Friday.

img_5423And it was wonderful. Paris is one of my favourite cities – I’ve felt at home there since the first time I visited, almost thirty years ago. The streets, the language, the way the light falls, the art, the architecture and the atmosphere – something about it speaks to me.

img_5413Even though it rained most of the weekend, the streets shimmered with light. And the sun did, eventually, make an appearance, further gilding an already golden city. And, despite the rain, there was shopping and sightseeing and sitting in cafes talking, catching up on five years of distance and time.

img_5477It was a fabulous weekend, even with the two hour delay at Gare Du Nord, which meant I got home close to midnight, rather than the more civilised 10pm I’d had planned. And so I start the week tired but happy, the scent of coffee and roses lingering with me.

img_5456Happy Monday, everyone!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday Wander, Sacre Coeur, Paris

sacre-coeur-1It’s my birthday in a few weeks’ time, and I’m very excited about it. Not so much for the event itself – I mean, I still quite like birthdays, but they do seem to be adding up in recent years. The reason I’m so excited is that one of my best friends from Australia is coming for a visit, and she and I are going to Paris for the weekend. We’ve booked rooms in a charming small hotel where we’ve both stayed before, although not at the same time, we have seats on the Eurostar, and really, it’s going to be lovely.

The hotel we’re staying in is not far from the Montmartre district and the imposing dome of Sacre Coeur. There is also a nearby street market where, last time I visited, oranges still with their leaves were piled high on tables, while the scent of fresh bread and raspberries filled the air.

sacre-coeur-2Construction on Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, started in 1875 and was completed in 1914. Built as both penance and memorial for the 1871 defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War, the basilica is located high on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s a beautiful building and the interior is spectacular, with four huge stone angels inside the large dome looking down at the worshippers – however, I wasn’t able to take any photographs. A perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted there since 1885, and so for that reason visitors are asked to dress appropriately, be as quiet as possible and take no interior photos, so as not to disturb the worshippers.

The view outside is also spectacular, and you can see Paris in all directions. My then four-year-old daughter took the photo below – I think the view impressed her too.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Paris again, and hope to visit a few other destinations this year. Of course, I’ll share them with you. Thanks for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday Wander – Pont Du Gard, France

Pont Du Gard 2This rather splendid aqueduct is the Pont Du Gard, a Unesco World Heritage site located in France. Pont Du Gard is about 2000 years old, built by the Romans when they were occupying what was then Gaul, to channel water from a spring at Ucetia (now Uzes) to the city of Nemausus (modern Nimes). The aqueduct is the best preserved section remaining of a system that ran for about 50km, or 31 miles.

On an overcast day in May, many years ago, I climbed the steps to the top level of the aqueduct (along with quite a few other people), crossing to the other side. A few brave souls walked along the top of the outer walls, but most of us stuck to the safety of the water channel running along the centre. To give you an idea of scale, the small dots visible on the top level are people.

Pont Du Gard 1When I dug these images out of an old photo album, there were exclamation marks on the captions I’d written underneath – I’d obviously been impressed. By the age, the precision and the sheer scale of the aqueduct – the fact that it was part of a much larger system says much about the Romans and how technologically advanced they were. And I was not the only one impressed – the aqueduct has fascinated visitors through the centuries. The novelist Henry James, visiting in 1884, wrote that,

‘The hugeness, the solidity, the unexpectedness, the monumental rectitude of the whole thing leave you nothing to say – at the time – and make you stand gazing. You simply feel that it is noble and perfect, that it has the quality of greatness …’

I think the Romans would have been pleased with that.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time 🙂

Wednesday Wander – Andorra-La-Vella, Andorra

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Hidden in a valley, walled by high mountains, Andorra is built from wood and stone, houses perched on cliff edges and peaks, the main road following the path of the river that rushes from the mountains, carving the land. When I told a friend that I was going to Andorra last year, he commented that he’d always thought of it as a made-up place, one of those mythical European kingdoms you see in movies.

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The capital city of Andorra-La-Vella does have a bit of a fairytale feel, especially in the old part of town, though beyond there are shiny modern office buildings as well as lots of excellent tax-free shopping. Located between, and jointly governed by, France and Spain, Andorra is an ancient Principality steeped in history, with the capital city founded by Charlemagne over a thousand years ago.

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The Casa De La Vall, above, was built in the sixteenth century and is still the state’s parliamentary house, though a new modern building nearby now houses much of the administration.

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I loved the way the mountains felt, like a wall against the outside world, embracing and protecting the towns running along the valley. Apparently it can feel quite shut in during winter when the snow is high and travel more difficult, but the increasing popularity of the many ski resorts mean that there is plenty to do all year round.

When we left Andorra we followed the rushing river, which became wider and lazier as it headed towards Spain. As we crossed the plains I looked back, and all I could see were mountains, Andorra hidden from sight once more, as though it were never there.


Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next week!

Wednesday Wander – Andorra La Vella

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This Wednesday Wander takes us to Andorra La Vella, the capital of the tiny mountainous principality of Andorra. While known now mainly for skiing and tax-free shopping, Andorra has a long history, positioned as it is between Spain and France. The site of Andorra La Vella has been settled since pre-Christian times, and in the eighth century was defended by Charlemagne against Iberian invaders.

We spent five days in Andorra earlier this year and the city is lovely, especially the old town. Artworks adorn the streets while mountains rise all around, the river that tumbled past our hillside hotel widening to a racing torrent running through the city and mountains into Spain, only a short drive away. These sculptures in the sky are outside the modern replacement of the 16th century Casa De La Vall, which was, until recently, the main municipal building.

Thanks for joining me on my Wednesday Wander – where to next week?