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.

A Wednesday Wander for Roald Dahl Day

img_1684Today is Roald Dahl day, a celebration to mark what would have been the 101st birthday of the author, so I decided to do a Wednesday Wander with a Roald Dahl connection. I’ve visited Dahl’s grave, seen the footsteps of the BFG leading to it, and spent time in the excellent museum nearby (though took no photographs, sadly). However, I’ve also been to the Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, where Roald Dahl’s The Witches was filmed, starring Angelica Houston as the Head Witch. Full disclosure: I have posted about this location before. As it was quite a long while ago and I’ve already meandered elsewhere this week, I thought it might be fun to visit again.

img_1700With magnificent sea views overlooking Fistral Beach, the hotel has a storied history. The so-called Newquay Riots took place during the building of the hotel, when local fisherman claimed the land was common land where they had dried their nets for generations. Out of work miners were eventually brought in to complete the build, but arson, looting and general anarchy carried on for several years.

img_1702However, eventually the hotel was completed, and the first guests arrived in 1900. It was considered the height of luxury at the time, and several royals, including King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, stayed there. However, after the Second World War the hotel fell into decline, until the 1970s when it was purchased by the Armstrong family, who restored it to its former glory.

img_1688Since then, the hotel has been used for many TV and film productions, and is also a very nice place to stay. We were lucky enough to spend a few nights there several years ago, and I can recommend the food, the ambience and the spa, as well as the surfboard storage lockers (very handy when catching a wave out front!)

img_1694It’s not a bad place to watch the sun set, either!

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.

Wednesday Wander – Manyana Beach

manana-2My wander this week is to Manyana Beach, on the NSW coast south of Sydney, Australia.

I visited Manyana many years ago with my now-husband. I think I’ve mentioned before that he’s Australian, and likes to surf. On this particular trip we were driving north from Melbourne to Sydney, a drive that takes seven hours or so if you head straight up the Hume Highway inland, or one or two days, depending how often you stop, along the winding coast road.

At the time we were living in Sydney, and had been in Melbourne for Christmas with his family. We’d decided to drive back up to Sydney in time for New Year’s Eve so set off a couple of days before. For some reason, even though we knew it was high summer, school holidays and the magic week between Christmas and New Year that pretty much everyone has off work, we didn’t book any accommodation, confident that we’d be able to find somewhere in the many towns and hotels along the route.

Haha. We spent our first night on the road sleeping in our car, parked in a grocery story car park near the beach. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, especially when we were entertained by the local youth frolicking nearby, one girl squealing ‘I’m in a trolley!’ as they clattered past the car around 4am. Still, we were younger then so, after an early morning dip in the ocean, we hit the road once more, although with firm instructions (from me) that we were to find somewhere nice to stay that night.

And we did. The last remaining room in a small bed and breakfast, patio doors looking across a paddock lined with gum trees, curious horses wandering up to have their noses scratched over the wire fence. A place where the friendly owners told us about the time they swam with whales as they fed us an excellent home-cooked breakfast. To say it was a step up from the previous night’s accommodation would be an understatement.

And then we went to Manyana. I sat on the sand with my book and parasol, while hubby-to-be surfed the blue waves. It was idyllic, the beach almost deserted, the weather splendid. We left in the afternoon and headed north, arriving in Sydney that evening. I can still remember driving over the Harbour Bridge as the sun was setting, relieved to be almost home.

manana-1And now I sit in a different home, halfway across the world, writing my Wednesday Wanders. Thanks for coming with me – see you next time.

Wednesday Wander – Surfing Santa Cruz, California

I’ve been away for a few days visiting family, so have been a little bit absent on the blog front. However, it’s Wednesday, and I couldn’t let it pass without taking my usual Wednesday Wander.

IMG_0366I am married to a man who loves to surf so, when we visited California last year, we spent a fair bit of time looking at beaches, watching the waves roll in. Not so bad a way to pass the time, really. We drove south from San Francisco to Cambria, and a stop at Santa Cruz was a definite highlight.

IMG_0369After all, this is the place where, in 1885, three Hawaiian princes surfed the entrance to the San Mateo river, on redwood boards they’d ordered from a local lumber yard. It was the introduction of surfing to the U.S. mainland and the rest, as they say, is history.

IMG_0382These days the waves still break, rolling and blue, and the surfers still come to surf, though the fibreglass boards they ride are a world away from the floating redwoods of Hawaiian royalty.

IMG_0374And yet, the spirit remains the same. To capture, for a moment, how it feels to fly, or to be a dolphin – to be one with the ocean. To honour the waves, and be free.

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

 

Wednesday Wander – Twelve Apostles, Australia

twelve apostles 1This is the Twelve Apostles, a rock formation located on the southern coast of Australia, and probably one of the country’s most recognisable tourist icons.

I only visited the Apostles twice when I lived in Australia – even though we also lived on the coast, we were to the east of Melbourne, whereas these are to the west, several hours drive along the Great Ocean Road.

twelve apostles 2The Apostles are usually shown from the cliffs above, an ideal vantage point from which to see their arrangement against the blue ocean and sky. However, if you do get the chance to visit, head down to the beach for a different perspective . We did, the first time I went there, the boys surfing between golden pillars of stone as we lay on the sand and paddled in the azure waves. However, don’t get too close. The pillars have been known to collapse without warning – in fact, one if not two of the pillars in my first photo are now gone, the ocean that created them taking them back.

Thanks for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – see you next time!

Mountains and Surf

I took a couple of days off over the weekend.

There were a couple of reasons for doing so: the first was that I’d finally pressed ‘Publish‘ on No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth Series. The second was that my husband had booked himself and our daughter in for sessions at Snowdonia Surf, the outdoor surf pool in North Wales.

Mountains and blue sky, taken from the car
Mountains and blue sky, taken from the car

I may have mentioned this before, but North Wales is one of my absolute favourite places on earth. Something about the landscape, the light, the grey stone and green dreaming mountains speaks to me, connecting to something deep in my bones. Most of my family come from Wales, so perhaps it is my blood calling me home – I don’t know, but whatever the case may be, I always feel a little bit like it’s Christmas morning when I’m there (and I’m a big fan of Christmas morning).

Friday night we headed out, stopping first at my parents’ house for dinner and an overnight stay, then leaving early the next morning and heading over the border into Wales. We stopped on the outskirts of Wrexham, in the small village where my grandmother was born. We were staying with family there as well, and an afternoon in Llangollen beckoned.

Canal walk
Canal walk

Our afternoon in Llangollen was lovely – the sun shone and we walked along the canal into the town centre, enjoying lunch at an ancient mill on the banks of the River Dee. A party of white water rafters became stuck in the shallows directly in front of the large restaurant terrace and bumbled around for about fifteen minutes trying to get free, to increasingly loud calls and hilarity from the crowds on the riverbank – we all clapped and cheered when they finally worked themselves loose and headed off down the river, no doubt glad to see the back of us.

The River Dee - rafters gone on their way
The River Dee – rafters gone on their way

 

After lunch we visited Courtyard Books, one of my favourite independent bookstores. After a couple of purchases we headed back along the canal to the car and I snapped a photo of Castle Dinas Bran through the trees. On my post about Rivendell last week, Barbara commented that she thought the ruins of Dinas Bran would make a great Weathertop, and I have to agree – what do you think?

You might have to zoom in a little...
You might have to zoom in a little…

 

 

The next day dawned bright and sunny and we headed off early to make our booking time. We took the A5 through Llangollen and into the mountains, driving through leafy tree tunnels opening out into valleys starting to gleam with autumn, looming mountainsides patched with bronze. I’ve driven along a few of the world’s scenic routes – the Sea to Sky Highway in Vancouver, the Great Ocean Road in Australia, the California Coast road through Big Sur and Monterey, and I have to say that I think this drive compares in beauty, especially when the sun is shining. So I was definitely in my happy place as we headed into the Conwy Valley, where the Surf Snowdonia pool is located.

IMG_2301Other than the prototype in Spain, Surf Snowdonia is the first facility of its kind in the world, and is pretty amazing. It’s a large man-made lagoon with a long pier stretching down the middle – this is where the waves are created. A large block moving along a track under the pier pushes the water ahead of it, creating a perfect surf wave. There are zones for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers, and the fact that you have to book a time means the waves are never crowded.

IMG_2307Additionally, and a bonus for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sitting on beaches for hours on end, there’s a very nice restaurant alongside the pool, so you can sit in comfort and watch the surfers go past. However, I found I spent a lot of time outside – the weather was so glorious and the pool so fascinating to watch I couldn’t resist.

IMG_2303The final verdict was one word: awesome! Both surfers had a great time and, as we headed home under the super moon hanging like a golden lantern in the sky, we took a moment to appreciate the weekend and all we’d experienced.

 

And now IMG_2327I’m sharing it with you 🙂