Wednesday Wander – Le Musee De La Mar, Biarritz

It’s Wednesday, and time to wander again. I recently visited the French coastal town of Biarritz, and this week I’m going to wander to Le Musee De La Mer – the Biarritz Aquarium.

Opened to the public in 1933, the building is a stylish example of Art Deco architecture, much like the nearby Casino. However, the origins of the aquarium go back a few decades earlier, when the Marquis de Folin convinced the French authorities to commence scientific studies of the Bay of Biscay. He wanted to create a ‘seat of learning’ where people could come and learn about the oceans, a field of study that was gaining in popularity at the time. The First World War halted development of his idea, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that it came to fruition.

Perched upon cliffs high above the town, the Aquarium looks out onto the sea…

…and also onto some fairly impressive houses. This one would be fairly close to my dream home, I think!

The Aquarium has been extended and renovated since the 1930s, but still retains its original Art Deco interior design. There is something about this style of design that lends itself particularly well to maritime themes, I think.

The aquarium also houses a Scientific Study and Research Centre, which focuses mainly on the nearby Bay of Biscay. There is a museum section which houses sailing and surfing artifacts, and different exhibit areas for each of the world’s oceans.

Like much in central Biarritz, the Aquarium is easy to get to on foot – a short walk along the beach path and through a picturesque old harbour, then up a (not too steep) hill. Once inside, we spent several hours exploring the oceans – we listened to whale songs, examined skeletons and surfboards, watched seals play and found Dory, as well as Nemo.

We also visited the Shark Cave, a massive tank home to several species of sharks, including a rather lonely looking hammerhead. To be honest, I’m not too fond of seeing animals in captivity, even though I’m sure these tanks are top of the line. However, the gorgeous girl is particularly fond of all things aquatic, so an aquarium stop is de rigeur wherever we go on holiday. She thoroughly enjoyed this one, especially the glow-in-the-dark exhibits.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Biarritz, and will definitely wander there again, both on this blog and in real life. Thanks 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.

Guest Post: C.S. Boyack – The Importance of Research in Speculative Fiction

Today Craig Boyack, author of C.S Boyack’s Experimental Notebook and his newest release, The Playground, is visiting Journey to Ambeth with a fantastic post about research. As he says, writing speculative fiction means that you can do pretty much whatever you choose within a story – however, for it to be effective, there has to be some basis in reality. That’s where research comes into play.


The Playground - available to pre-order now

The Playground – available to pre-order now

People don’t often realize how much research goes into speculative fiction. Obviously we’re making some pretty fantastic stuff up, but there are points where it has to be grounded in reality, and/or history. This is where research is required.

The heroine in The Playground is Dr. Gina Greybill. She’s an oncologist who survived her own bout with cancer. There are a few futuristic items in play here, but her life gets turned on its head by a paranormal encounter.

As she adapts to her new circumstances, she has to deal with the big issues behind the story and needs more information. Having recently been exposed to the paranormal world, she thinks an oracle of some kind might be able to help her.

It turns out, oracles are in short supply. There is one in North Korea, but no chance of contacting her. This leads to a scheme to contact a dead one. I spent a long time researching the trances of Edgar Cayce. Cayce has his fans even today, and I want to keep a smidgen of reality to this part of the story. Several days of effort led to a few paragraphs in the story.

The Playground becomes a chase for the maguffin. Of course it involves competitors, and tension. I wanted the characters to wind up in New Orleans. I can’t just hop in the truck and drive down for a fun weekend.

Google Earth became my best friend. I used street views, and more to make sure the area is as realistic as possible. The names may have been changed, but the places in the story are real. I used the same approach in Memphis.

I did some looking though the seven deadly sins too. These made great encounters for Gina to overcome as lesser demons. You’ll find despair worms and pride crabs in the story.

This may not seem like a ton of research, but it took many days. I’m pretty serious about this part of my work. The Playground has a paranormal bent, but it doesn’t matter if it’s science fiction, or fantasy. Readers need some things to ground them into the story. This makes them more willing to accept the fantastic things that go on.

In speculative fiction you can make the world any way you like. It’s a bad idea to change
absolutely everything. The readers will have a hard time keeping up. I like to keep trees pointed toward the sky, water flowing downhill, and day vs night. Glaciers are for mountains, and lakes are in the low places.

A bit of additional research helps with these concepts. I could have made up my own seer. I could have used a fictitious city. Any kind of creepy monsters could have filled in the gaps, but relating them to the seven deadly sins makes them more familiar. By researching these items, it helps ground the reader for the amazing things that occur.


CS Boyack PhotoI was born in a town called Elko, Nevada. I like to tell everyone I was born in a small town in the 1940s. I’m not quite that old, but Elko has always been a little behind the times. This gives me a unique perspective of earlier times, and other ways of getting by. Some of this bleeds through into my fiction.

I moved to Idaho right after the turn of the century, and never looked back. My writing career was born here, with access to other writers and critique groups I jumped in with both feet. I like to write about things that have something unusual. My works are in the realm of science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. The goal is to entertain you for a few hours. I hope you enjoy the ride.


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