More memories, this time from Family Holidays in Northern France (1978-2017)…
Category Archives: Beaches
In February 2017 my Grandchildren came to stay for a few days at school half term holiday.
I took them to the Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea.
I live close to the sea myself, near the resort town of Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day.
By contrast, Hornsea ia a real North Sea coast town with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.
I am inspired today by my blogging Pal Jo who has completed a thirty one day challenge to post in pictures and in words about a visit to Barcelona.
In 2018 I visited Barcelona and my friend and keen photographer Richard spent every spare minute taking pictures of Sagrada Familia. I am convinced that he possesses the largest collection of pictures of the Gaudi masterpiece in the entire World.
I am quite unable to compete with either Jo or Richard so I offer you these alternative images.
These are from the walls of the nearby metro station…
This is from the beach at Barconaleta…
And this is from the inevitable gift shop…
In January 2007 we made our third visit to the Latvian capital of Riga and on 28th January we took a ride to the nearby seaside resort of Jurmala…
We walked along the frozen shore and enjoyed every minute of kicking through snow and picking our way along tracks made of ice. None of us had seen a beach frozen solid before and none of us had walked on water before either.
On 25th January 2016, I was on my third and final day in Essaouira.
“The camel and his driver — each has his own plan.”
The day started badly and it was my own fault. Entirely without question my own fault. After an excellent breakfast in the Riad Chakaris the plan was to visit the beach.
This meant walking once again past the fishing port and this morning by chance straying into the boat building yard. I was admiring the boats when a man appeared and beckoned me over. I wasn’t sufficiently alert and wandered across and he invited me inside a wooden picket fence to take a closer look.
To be fair he gave me an informative ten minute tour of the yard but then at the furthest point from the fence he asked me in a rather threatening way for 200 dirham (about £15). I said no way but he was big and smelly and intimidating and blocked my way. I stood my ground but even so eventually handed over 50 dirham which was still too much and money that I would have preferred to give to a street beggar rather than a thief. Lesson learned!
On this day in 2016 I was in the Moroccan city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast…
I really need to be careful about making bold statements because upon returning from Morocco in December 2011 I said that I would never return there. This is what I said…
“I enjoyed the experience of Fez, the Riad was excellent, the food was good, the sightseeing was unexpected and we were treated with courtesy and respect by everyone associated with the Riad but I have seen Morocco now and I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”
Well, now I have to eat my words because our first overseas trip in 2016 was to Essouria on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.
Sure enough, in the morning, it was still steadily raining and over the first cup of tea of the day there developed an awful realisation that this might turn into a ‘killing off time’ sort of day. We took our time getting ready and then stretched breakfast out for as long as we realistically could and discussed our rather limited choices.
As we lamented the weather and talked through the options however the rain started to ease off and by half past ten, although it had not stopped completely, it was at last possible to go outside and only get slightly damp rather than completely drenched.
It was another depressing morning, the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky, as we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Huagesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a mile or so outside of the city.
We joined a handful of local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ Goretex jackets and stout hiking boots who were much better equipped for this sort of weather than us and were wandering along the meandering coast line rough cinder path stopping occasionally for no good reason other than to stare out beyond the boulders into the grey, unwelcoming vast expanse of nothingness that is the North Sea. Little wonder the Vikings sailed to England, it must have been the tenth century equivalent of Brits flying to Benidorm.
We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.
The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.
The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes are part true, part fable and, although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio in their character of unwelcome guest or charming visitor and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.
Haraldshaugen was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 . Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an empty deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, damp day in January.
On the way back it started to rain again so we quickened our pace and returned to the hotel and made for the tea machine and the television lounge. Twelve o’clock was checking out time so we completed the formalities and then wondered what to do. The city museum was open from midday today but I couldn’t persuade Kim to step out in the drizzle for a second time so I left her in the comfy chair next to the log fire that was crackling in the grate and went back out by myself.
I wasn’t expecting a great deal I have to say but it was something to do for an hour or so and I walked back and went inside the rather grey and boxy utilitarian building. I
t wasn’t very busy and a young museum attendant greeted me in Norwegian which meant nothing to me of course so I just said that I would like to visit the museum. ‘You speak English’ she asked, ‘I am English’ I replied and she gave me a quizzical look that asked what I was doing there so I felt obliged to offer an explanation about cheap flight opportunities and never been to Norway before etc. and she seemed genuinely pleased to see me and in perfect English explained about the museum and suggested that I might find it nice to return in the summer.
As it turned out I wasn’t disappointed by the museum at all and a spent an interesting hour looking around the exhibits. As I left the museum attendant reminded me to come back in Summer, preferably in August when there is an annual herring festival – a three hundred and fifty metre long table along Haraldsgate with 101 species of herring to sample. The World’s longest herring table. That sounded like fun.
I walked back to the hotel where we watched television and counted down the clock until waffle time and shortly before three o’clock the batter arrived and we had a snack just ahead of the taxi arriving at quarter past.
This seems unfair but I wasn’t desperately sad about leaving Norway. Unfair because Haugesund is probably a much better place to visit in the summer when the days are longer and the place enjoys relatively good weather so I think we will have to return at a different time of the year.
By a mocking twist of fate as we sat waiting for the flight the clouds broke up and at the end of daylight hours a blue sky opened up to greet the plane and the next set of visitors enjoying a cheap flight bargain to a place they have never heard of.
I am always up for a quick break after Christmas and on 11th January 2009 I visited Northern Portugal…
When we left Stansted Airport on a six-thirty Ryanair flight to Porto there was a hard frost on the ground and the temperature was minus 3º centigrade and when we arrived less than two hours later in Porto there was a hard frost on the ground and the temperature was also minus 3º centigrade.
It is unusual to get frosts on the west coast of Portugal and this had clearly taken people by surprise and at the airport there were shivering staff on duty to make sure we avoided the untreated icy patches on the short walk to passport control.
Once through we were met by a lady from the car hire company who explained how cold it had been and why this necessitated the wearing of several layers of clothes, a scarf, a hat and a pair of woolly gloves. I have to concede that it was a bit chilly but I have to say that she seemed to me to be exaggerating the effect. Later we were told that on the day before that it had actually snowed and this was the first time that anyone here could remember such a weather event.
After picking up the car we put our watches forward one hour, as you do when you visit mainland Europe and we set off for our hotel at the nearby town of Vila do Conde.
After checking in we left the town and drove to the sea front and were delighted to find an empty golden beach and a big Atlantic Ocean with huge waves crashing in over the rocks that fringed the edge of the water like steadfast guards on eternal sentry duty. It must have been a very cold night because the damp sand was still frozen and it broke with the snap of a chocolate dime bar as we walked across the long roaming silver lines which marked the tide line right down to the rocks and the salty spray.
It was beginning to warm up and according to a street sign at a chemist shop the temperature was approaching double figures so as it was about midday we looked for somewhere to stop for a drink and choose a bar with outside tables and selected one in the sunshine at the edge of the pavement. This seemed to perplex the young girl at work behind the bar and she apologised as she chipped the ice of the table and wiped it down as she explained that she hadn’t really expected anyone to sit outside this early.
After the sun had warmed us through we left Vila do Conde and drove north to the neighbouring city of Póvoa de Varzim and then carried on along the coast road adjacent to the wide beaches and arrived in the village of Apúlia where we thought we might look for somewhere for lunch.
We found just what we were looking for and came across a café bar on the seafront with tables on a terrace in a sheltered spot and in the full glare of what was by now a very warm sun.
With low expectations we ordered food from the menu at about €5 a plate and were surprised to be served with a quite splendid excellent value for money lunch, which together with beers and a glass of wine came to less than €15, including the tip.
It was really very warm now and although the locals were still wrapped up I was down to my shirt sleeves as we sat and lapped up the January sun.
Later the sun began to dip and we wondered if we might be fortunate enough to see a sunset and we were not disappointed because as the sun went down over the Atlantic horizon it filled the sky with a vivid red. It seemed late for a January sunset at nearly half past six but we didn’t question the fact and we gleefully took pictures and enjoyed the moment.
We booked a table for eight-thirty and then went to the room to try the wine and after a couple of glasses we went to the dining room and although we had booked they seemed a little surprised to see us. After an excellent meal in a restaurant overlooking the river and the illuminated Convent we were tired at the end of a day that had started very early and so we went to bed and hoped that the weather would hold out for at least another day.
“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath