Tag Archives: Beaches

Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

Shell on a Beach:

Just south of Santa Clara was the beach of Azuraia where we parked the car and walked over the golden sand that had been washed clean by the high tide and went down to the waters edge.  There was a good clear view back to Vila do Conde and the fort that we hadn’t had time to visit. The beach was deserted and instead of people we were outnumbered by the seagulls that stood at the edge of the water but paid little attention to us as we walked along the sand.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

On the Beach at Cleethorpes:

Cleethorpes Cloudy Sky

Cleethorpes Donkeys

Cleethorpes Child Digging on Beach

 

Northern France, Wimereux and Ambleteuse

Northern France Wimereaux

It was only a short drive from La Colonne de la Grande Armée at Wimille to Wimereux and after only a few minutes we were parking the car again on the seafront where a lot of people were gathered to watch a sailing race just a few hundred metres out to sea.

The tide was fully in and surf was crashing over the sea defences and onto the pavement so we had to take care not to walk too close to the edge and get a soaking and stayed close to the back edge and walked past the rows of beach huts, all painted a uniform blue and white and each with a charming, sometimes obvious, sometimes esoteric, nameplate attached to it.

Wimereux became a popular seaside resort at the time of the Second Empire, a hundred and fifty years ago and today retains an air of sophistication that presents a slightly faded but still elegant seaside resort with hotels, bars, cafés and restaurants, and an alternately sandy and rocky shoreline.  

This was a charming place full of families on the beach and I was struck by the fact that if the French continue to take their children to cultured and sophisticated places to enjoy simple natural pleasures such as this lovely unspoilt place this tradition is passed on down through families and will forever be this way, down through the generations.  Contrast this with an English family that take their children to Skegness for ‘Games Zone’, fish and chips, penny arcades, bingo, candy floss and football shirts, which simply perpetuate all of the the disagreeable things about the English seaside. 

Wherever I go I am always struck by the fact that everywhere has a tale to tell and at Wimereux it is the story of the first recorded death in an aviation accident (not counting Icarus of course).  Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was a science teacher and one of the pioneers of aviation and he made the first manned free balloon flight on 21st November 1783 in a Montgolfier balloon. He later died when his balloon crashed near Wimereux on 15th June 1785 during, what must with hindsight surely have been, a ludicrously ambitious attempt to fly across the English Channel.

Wimereaux Northern France

The sun was shining, the temperature was rising but there was a stiff breeze blowing in from the sea so we found a bar with protective glass panels and sat with a beer and enjoyed the view across the water, the competing sail boats out at sea and the beach activity that was increasing all the time as the tide started to retreat and more people were drawn down onto the caramel sandy beach.

After our walk along the seafront we left Wimereux and drove the short distance to our next destination on the beach and added the car to a ribbon of vehicles parked along the side of the road and next to the sand dunes that neatly separated the beach from the road.  It was a short walk along a rugged path to the beach and when we reached it the tide was fully out and there was a wide expanse of sand that stretched for two kilometres all the way to the little town of Ambleteuse to the north.

Ambleteuse is a picturesque village that used to be a harbour and has a lot of association with England just across the Channel. The reason it is here relates to the temporary needs of various invaders for conquering people from either side of the English Channel.  It is said that Julius Caesar used this convenient place to set out from for his invasion of Britain in 54 BC.  Henry VIII of England had two forts built here to maintain a show of power towards the French kings.  James II fleeing England after his abdication arrived here in 1689 and Fort Mahon, built to protect the harbour in the seventeenth century, was used by Napoleon to moor port of his England invasion fleet in 1805.

Nowadays Ambleteuse is a very quiet sophisticated seaside resort where fishermen’s houses line the seafront next to once grand nineteenth century villas which go back to a time when this was a popular place for holidays for people from Lille and Paris and it became a middle class holiday resort for those who enjoyed sea-bathing and hunting, shooting and fishing, playing golf, good living and fine dining.

At about this time our thoughts turned to dining for ourselves and a spot of lunch and we returned to Wimereux and returned to the restaurant that we had visited a couple of days earlier where we agreed not to order too much food and then went right ahead and did exactly that and worried again about spoiling our evening meal so we were careful and made sure that we left some on the sides of our plates so that we wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

As it was our final day we needed to purchase some cheap wine to take home and pulled in to do some shopping at a store called Auchan which was positively massive and for someone who doesn’t like shopping completely overwhelming in scale so we agreed to stay focused and after being momentarily distracted by the free samples of meat and cheese made our way straight to the wine section and made our purchases.

For our final evening we enjoyed drinks on the terrace where we chatted to fellow guests all of whom seemed to have stayed at this hotel several times before and were full of praise for the place and then we had a final excellent meal and at this point I think I knew that it was inevitable that I too would almost certainly become a returning customer myself.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

Contemplating the Surf:

After leaving the town we 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 cracked with the snap of a dime bar breaking in two as we walked across the long roaming silver lines which marked the tide line where the sea had merged with the sand.

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Wales 2011, New Quay, Sunshine, Beaches and Boats

New Quay Wales

And for once the weathermen seemed to have guessed correctly because it was a fine morning that greeted us when Molly decided that it was time to get up and go downstairs.  We followed the same early morning routine as the previous day and I prepared a full sizzling English (Welsh?) breakfast before dispatching Molly upstairs with instructions to wake Jonathan.  ‘Wake up Jon, it’s morning – time to get up’ I heard her shout in his unsuspecting ear and I don’t think he absolutely appreciated that as he made his way downstairs still half asleep.

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Greece 2010, Two Almost Similar Days in Lindos

The walk and the climb to the entrance to the site actually turned out to be the easy bit because once inside there was an energy sapping ascent up a steep stone staircase with a sheer drop on each side to the entrance to the medieval fortress which was built by the Knights of Saint John in the fourteenth century to defend the island against the Ottoman Turks.

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Croatia, Mlini Beach and the Adriatic Sea

 

The pine fringed white beach was even busier today (school must have finished early) and we had to squeeze ourselves in on a vacant patch right at the sea’s edge.  This was a beach of stones all carefully graduated by size as though someone had carefully arranged it that way.  At the back of the beach there were rocks, then stones giving way to pebbles and finally shingle disappearing into the sea.

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France, Boulogne-Sur-Mer and the old town

Boulogne Old Town

Boulogne’s Old Town is built within the original Roman walls and has recently been well restored and it was in complete contrast to the concrete and glass of the sea front and the shopping streets.  Here was the beating heart of a medieval city with a castle, one of the biggest Cathedrals in Europe and narrow streets lined with charming properties, little shops, cafés and bars.

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Croatia, Dubrovnik Beaches

We did some more wandering about but we were beginning to cover the same ground now so we left the walled city by the Pile Gate and with the unused portion of the previous day’s ticket for the visit to the walls visited the adjacent fortress of Lokanda Peskarija which included an awful lot of steps to climb but the reward was an excellent final view over the city and its famously restored red tiled roofs and I wondered just why anyone would want to destroy something so beautiful.

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Blue Flag Beaches

Cofete Beach Fuerteventura Canary Islands

The Blue Flag beach award was originally conceived in France in 1985 where the first coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag on the basis of criteria covering standards relating to sewage treatment and bathing water quality.

Two years later, 1987 was the ‘European Year of the Environment’ and the concept of the Blue Flag was developed as a European initiative by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe to include other areas of environmental management, such as waste disposal and coastal planning and protection and in that first year two hundred and forty four beaches from ten countries were awarded the new Blue Flag status.  Twenty-two years later in 2009 when the updated list was published in June there were two thousand seven hundred and ten (up by ninety-eight from 2008).

Thirty-eight countries are currently participating in the Blue Flag Programme: Bahamas, Belgium-Flanders, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and Wales,

Spain has more blue flag beaches than any other participating country with four hundred and ninety-three along almost five thousand kilometres of coastline.  Andalusia has the most kilometres of blue flag beach but in absolute terms, Galicia is the community with more blue flags (124), followed by Catalonia (108), Valencian Community (101), the Balearics (85), Andalusia (83), the Canary Islands (35), Murcia (16), Asturias (12), Basque Country (3) and Ceuta and Melilla (2 each).

The United Kingdom by comparison, has only one hundred and seven in nearly twelve thousand five hundred kilometres.  Sadly this is thirty-seven beaches down on the previous year, which means we must be getting dirtier. Greece has the second most blue flags at four hundred and twenty-five  (down five) and the most in the Mediterranean Sea.  Even though France increased its successful beaches from two hundred and thirty-eight to two hundred and sixty-three it has been replaced in third spot by Turkey, which has increased by fifty-one to two hundred and eighty-six. Portugal completes the top five list with two hundred and twenty five beaches.

What is interesting however is to put this into context by relating success in terms of numbers to the total length of coastline because that reveals that Slovenia has a blue flag beach every six kilometres, Portugal every eight and Spain every ten.  In the United Kingdom you have to travel one hundred and sixteen kilometres between each blue flag beach and that puts us twenty fifth out of the top twenty-five.  That is even worse than our annual performance in the Eurovision song contest!  Mind you would have to travel a lot further in Norway because it has only three blue flag beaches in eighty-three thousand kilometres of coast (including all the fjords of course).

Blue-flag-beaches 2010 update

jurmala blue flag

To be honest I am not really a beach person, I get quickly bored and I think that sand is completely incompatible with the intimate nooks and crannies of the human body but one blue flag beach that I have visited and enjoyed is Jurmala in Latvia (in the picture above receiving its blue flag in 2007).

The first time that I saw Jurmala was in June 2006 and it was a real eye opener because this was a very high quality beach with miles of scrupulously clean sand, three blue flags and a clear Baltic Sea stretching out over the Gulf of Riga towards Sweden over the horizon.  I had expected the sea to be grey and forbidding like the North Sea of my childhood holidays but instead it was a serene denim blue and looked genuinely inviting.  There were a few holidaymakers on the beach but not many in the sea because I suspect that looks were deceptive and that the Baltic remains fairly inhospitable for most of the year.

Under the Communist regime up until 1991 this was a popular destination for high-level Communist Party officials and it was a favourite destination of Russian Presidents Brezhnev and Khrushchev.  I cannot help finding it ironic that Blue Flags should be awarded to a Red Army beach.

Some nice beaches that I recommend:

Ambleteuse, France

Mwnt Beach, South Wales

Galicia Blue Flag Beaches

Cofete Beach

Albufiera

Portimão, Carvoeiro, Praia Vale de Centianes and Silves

Kefalonia, Fiskardo and Assos

Kefalonia, Villages and Beaches

Kefalonia, Lassi and Hotel Mediterranee

Benidorm 1977- Beaches, the Old Town and Peacock Island

Greece 2009 – Ios, Beaches and Naturists

Serifos Psili-Ammos

Cephalonia beach