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Scheveningen Beach (Strandweg) is Holland’s most famous seaside resort. And being only 15 minutes from the center of The Hague (Den Haag), it is being used year around by residents and visitors.

The beach faces the North Sea (which is generally not known for fine weather). I imagine it must be quite a change from day to day and season to season.

The water was probably too cold for bathing in early May when I was there.

Presumably, this was low tide. What a wide beach, see how much sand there was between the water and the umbrellas.

Beach club. The beach is at least 1 km long.

It has an abundance of attractions and beach pavilions. The Pier offers visitors a unique experience in a historical location. Scheveningen was mentioned in records as early as the 1200’s.

The Pier offers broad thoroughfares, both outdoor and enclosed, bars, clubs and traditional food trucks, a Ferris wheel, a zip line, a bungie jumping tower, and hotel suites.

From this photo, it looks like I was on a cruise ship.

At the end of the Pier is the hotel (De Pier Suites, I think).

The Ferris wheel is over forty meters high and has 36 closed gondolas with air conditioning (otherwise too cold and windy in the winter!).

Looks rather dramatic.

Visitors can zip line (side by side) down the 55 meter high Bungy tower on the Pier reaching a speed of 60-80 kilometres per hour. The total distance is 350 meters.

I can imagine this place to be packed and really fun and lively in the summer, especially in the evening.

Bungie jumping is facilitated by a crane which moves a cage that serve as a platform for the jump. There was an attendant manning the cage who probably whispers words of encouragement to those who become cowardly at the last minute.

We have been to two other beaches in Europe this year – click to see Biarritz and Arcachon (also has Ferris wheel on the beach).

 

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I(Chris) was visiting The Hague, Holland – in May 2017 and spent a few hours to see the Escher in Het Palais. The semi-permanent exhibition is held in the former Winter palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands – Lange Voorhout Palace, which was built in the 1700’s.

The regular exhibition features fantastic, mathematics-inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints created by Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898-1972). You would likely have seen his works before.

 

Escher’s art became well known especially after it was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 Mathematical Games column in Scientific American.

While his works were well recognized, the art world did not pay much attention. Perhaps, because the works often reflected a mathematical-mechanical theme, his works are being considered a lesser accomplishment.

I first saw Escher’s art in the Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach. And later I collected postcards of his works (when I went through a phase of buying a ton of postcards after every museum trip).

Early in his career, he drew inspiration from nature, making studies of insects, landscapes, and plants, all of which he used as details in his artworks.

His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations.

Here is an explanation of tessellation – the art of tiling a surface with repetitive irregular shapes.

A special exhibition entitled “Escher Close Up” was running. It shows for the first time, a selection of photos from Escher’s personal archive.

Three versions of the Metamorphosis, from the first small one, to the third, of 7 meters, shown in a circle. To appreciate it, you need to be there.

The exhibit is spread out on three floors, each room decorated with a chandelier made of crystals to form a shape (it has nothing to do with Escher).

In the atrium, a string of crystal artefacts were on display suspended from the ceiling.

The third floor of the museum is dedicated to optical illusion – many of which were featured in Escher’s works.

In this illusion, as you walk through the door way, there is a moment when you look as if you are inside the cube. There is a video monitor to show you the effect.

This illusion features an endless pit in the floor.

Very glad to have gone to visit the palace.

Almost forgot this post which we wrote earlier in the year.

We visited The former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, now renamed PMQ 元創方 in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong earlier this year. The buildings and grounds have been turned into a landmark for the creative industries. It is truly a great place to wander and shop as well as to soak up some local history and creative culture.

The history and preservation efforts of the site are well researched and documented here officially. Much of the writings below have been taken from various Hong Kong government sources.

In 1951, the site started as the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters — the first dormitory for Chinese rank and file police officers. The site included 140 single rooms and 28 double rooms, with a semi-open design that allowed greater interaction between the residents. The site had been vacant since 2000.

The two buildings have been refurbished and upgraded for new uses. Residential units have been converted into design studios and shops, offices for creative enterprises and lodging for visiting designers. The buildings of PMQ are of modern style, feature a simple and clean appearance with a more utility approach for the design of space and form. This style emerged in the early 1950s when there was a great increase in population, resulting in great demand in buildings which required fast and efficient construction.

In order to cope with this, the design of building aimed at meeting the minimum requirement and standard which resulted in a simple and functional design. Buildings of this style are mainly built of strictly utilitarian reinforced concrete with flat roofs with minimal decoration.

This place turns out to be the childhood homes of both Hong Kong ex-Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his predecessor Donald Tsang.

When the government was going to auction the land, conservationists launched a campaign, citing social historical values embedded in the buildings and the fact it was once the site of Hong Kong’s first government school offering Western-style education.

Given that nearly HK$600 million of public funds has been spent on its renovation, PMQ is seen as a major test case on how Hong Kong conserves and revitalises historic buildings.

We thought about Common Ground in Seoul (see post here) – which is also a cool place for locals and tourists to socialize and shop.  Common Ground is more commercial while PMQ is more artsy – perhaps it can afford to be so as some of the tenants are sponsored.

PMQ’s mission statement says it wants to nurture the best design entrepreneurs in town, put them on the path to commercial success and become a popular destination for tourists and locals in its own right.

On the ground and first floors, there are fancy eateries and established designers and retailers like Vivienne Tam and G.O.D. Having known designer names on the premises is vital to the sustainability of the whole project, not just because of the higher rent that they pay, but also their crowd-pulling power.

We rested our feet with a few drinks at the Tai Lung Fung which adopts a certain vintage Hong Kong eatery designs.

The style is before our time and we cannot tell if it is accurate but it looks authentic.

 

Highly recommended.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #326 – cubicles no. 1 & 2 – budapest

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random photo  #327 – early – aosta

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random photo #328 – big wheel – budapest

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random photo #329 – alpine

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random photo #330 – double trap
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random photo #331 – baconized

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random photo #332 – view – chexbres

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random photo #333 – sent – budapest

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random photo #334 – partitions – milano

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random photo #335 – coast – san juan

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If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
We have nothing to do with the ads below.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #316 – well-heeled – Budapest

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random photo #317 – thought control – Miami

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random photo #318 – blurry danube – Budapest

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random photo #319 – white – Lausanne

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andom photo #320 – nurture – Budapest

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random photo #321 – follow – near Asti
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random photo #322 – strings – miami

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random photo #323 – covered – alba

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random photo #324 – fresh – budapest

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random photos #325 – new cart / old building – san juan

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If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
We have nothing to do with the ads below.

In June, we went to Cardiff to see the Champions League final match between Real Madrid and Juventus. Real won.

We stayed an extra day and visited the famous Cardiff Castle which is in the middle of the city. It was also used as to host hospitality services to sponsors of the match and their guests.

The Castle was a Roman fort, has an impressive Norman castle and an extraordinary Victorian Gothic fantasy palace, created by art-architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the world’s richest men at his time.  The Bute family brought prosperity to Cardiff by exporting coal all over the world.

In 1947 the Castle was given to the people of Cardiff by the 5th Marquess of Bute.

Within the walls of the Castle are tunnels which came into their own as air-raid shelters during the Second World War.

The Norman castle has an outer walls which provides a shell for smaller buildings within it.

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From the top of the Keep, one has panoramic views of the city of Cardiff.

The stadium is just visible behind the clock tower.

The house was renovated in 1865 and the process lasted 16 years. There are a number of opulent, highly decorated rooms in the main house.

The Arab Room is stunning.

Almost a theme park but this is real – somebody with serious money lived in it.

The house is being used to host various functions, both governmental and private.

We walked through the library where they had shelves full of old or antique books, all topics from science to literature. E.g., a set of books about English gardens in four seasons.

The Clock Tower was built on the site of a Roman bastion and completed in 1875.

It is a great tourist attraction.

Cymru !

Continuing with our trip to the West, from the Alps to the Atlantic …

From Arcachon, we took a ferry across the bay to Cap Ferret.

Cap Ferret is a headland which takes the form of a spit, which separates the Atlantic Ocean from Arcachon Bay.

Lots of people took their bike across as there are good beach and forest trials (so we hear).

By the time we bought the ticket and waited for the boat, it was past 4pm. And the last boat to come back to Arcachon would leave in less than 30 minutes, which was the time we had on that side of the bay.

The place really deserved some slow quiet exploration. Oh well, it was a rush for us but the trip across the bay was pleasant and relaxing.

This region is a haven for wildlife. Islands within the bay include the isle of birds (‘L’ile aux Oiseaux’) and a protected nature sanctuary  – Banc d’Arguin, a landing ground for migrating terns.

Next to the ferry landing are restaurants, bars and ice cream parlors – low key but popular. Holiday homes are further behind.

After we and many daytrippers left on the last boat, the place must be quieter and cozier.

Conde Nast Traveller has a really nice piece about Cap Ferret.

According to the article, the place is like a European Martha’s Vineyard. Don’t confuse it with Cap Ferrat another beach town which is located on the Mediterranean shore of France.

The place that we missed is Dune du Pilat – the tallest dune in Europe, with sand stretching one and a half miles long and piled 350 feet high. Not visible in the photo below, there were wind-assisted sand surfing on the dunes.

The completely white stretch of shore in the photo is it. One can drive to the bottom of it and climb to the top by stairs.

Because it was the last boat back to Arcachon, the line to get on the boat was long but every one was in good spirit and the weather was cooperating.

The pier on the Arcachon side later that day.

Arcachon was developed as a resort in the 19th century, and the promenade is populated with large hotels – some with a fancy façade but most are efficient modern constructions.

The big hotels, the shopping streets behind them and the wide, sandy beaches in front are all part of the ville d’été (summer town), the district of Arcachon designed to accommodate and amuse Victorian holiday makers arriving on the train from Bordeaux.

When we were there, Easter was still a bit too chilly for sea-bathing.

The streets were packed with people, however. We were lucky to have found underground parking near the beach after some searching.

We did not have time to explore the ville d’hiver (winter town) which has beautiful splendid mansion so we read in a guide afterwards. Some are visible from the water while we were crossing the bay to Cap Ferret (see later post).

The ferry pier after the last boat service was quiet.

We could not resist the Ferris wheel – never been on one that is on the beach.

For the first revolution, because the sea is featureless, we did not really see/feel how quickly we rose in altitude.

Tiny people we saw … it happened surprisingly quickly.

 

Near the top, looking towards Arcachon Bay …

Very quickly we found ourselves at the very top – the view was magnifique and the breeze was so refreshing. Unforgettable.

Looking towards the mouth of the Bay … we couldn’t quite see the Atlantic which is on the other side of the peninsula.

Before Google Earth, the quiet aerial view of any place, let alone a beach town, at this height must have been so unique.

We will try to go on more in the future, for now, see our other Ferris wheel experience in Vienna, London, and Lyon.

 

 

 

 

While we were staying in Bordeaux-Medoc, we decided to go to the Atlantic coast and visit Arcachon (more about Arcachon in a later post).

To avoid traffic on the main highway, we detoured according to our GPS and drove along D650. Since the landscape is flat, D650 is almost mathematically straight and run parallel to the main highway. We recommend you follow us on Google map as the above map is too small to see it on the post.

The area’s main business apart from tourism is oyster farming in Arcachon Bay (Bassin d’Arcachon). The road runs along the southern shore of the bay linking a number of oyster farming villages. We stopped off at the port of Larros where there is a jetty promenade.

The bay covers an area of 150 km² at high tide and 40 km² at low tide. Obviously we arrived when the tide was low. It was a mess but there was no smell.

The port offered a view that we have not seen before. Boats were moored and beached, until the tidal water returns. Acres of mud as far as the eye can see and in less than 12 hours, all submerged (we assume).

The mud was apparently solid enough for people to walk out. Love to make a time-lapse video of the returning and receding tide.

This bay is the largest oyster culture area in France – “Ostréiculture arcachonnaise” – it even has its own wikipedia entry.

According to Wikipedia, wild oysters have always been collected and consumed there, as evidenced by some writings dating from the Gallo – Roman period. The oyster which was then found in the bay was the flat oyster, or “gravette” (Ostrea edulis). The official exploitation of oysters began in 1849.

Several different species of oysters dominated the bay in succession, first the Portugese Crassostera angulata in 1868 after the flat oysters were decimated by disease in 1920’s, then in the early 1970’s viral outbreaks killed most of the oysters in the bay. It threatened all the farms in the area.

Later it was decided to introduce a Japanese species Crassostrea gigas which is the only species raised today. The jetty has a roll of small buildings presumably housing all the equipment for oyster farming. Some were left rusting outside.

Lining the sides of the jetty are several large oyster bars – but they served a very limited menu. “La Tradition” on the menu includes twelve No. 3 oysters, bread and wine, 19 euros. This is as fresh as one can get but no discount here.

We were hungry and went to a proper restaurant – Les Viviers.

Our 12 No. 2’s.

This was how one gentleman ate his seafood platter solo at Les Viviers.

This lucky fisherman caught a mermaid in his cage.

After lunch, we continued our journey to Arcachon.

Here are some photos of the sights around Haut-Medoc and the chateaux that we passed on our drives through the region.

From Blanquefort, we drove north on D2 along the river, passing Macau (where we stocked up on cheeses and crackers), Margaux, Saint-Julien, and Pauillac. We did not go further up to Saint-Estephe. Each of the villages producing wine has its own tourist information center (maison). There are 8 appellations in Medoc (Medoc, Saint-Estephe, Haut-Medoc, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis and Margaux), all producing AOC wines.

We stopped at Margaux to visit Chateau Ferriere (see earlier post) and had lunch at Le Savoie (nothing remarkable).

In the Medoc region, a total of 60 Grand Cru Classé wines were included in the 1855 Official Classification.

Pauillac visiter center with a giant unlabelled bottle.

Along the way, we stopped briefly at Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac.

The chateau was built in 1851 in Renaissance style with two turrets.

In front of the chateau are two ornamental pools, which with a blue sky created a Margrittesque canvas.

The wine of Pichon Baron was recognized in the 1855 classification as Second Growths (Deuxièmes Crus).

We walked in the grounds of Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien.

Missed the tour but loved the garden.

The wine of Beychevelle was recognized in the 1855 classification as Fourth Growths (Quartrièmes Crus).

A typical scene of a generic Bordeaux vineyard and chateau. No idea now where in Medoc was this taken.

Voilà, les vignobles Bordelais.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuing with our travel in the Bordeaux-Medoc region …

At Pauillac’s tourist information, we asked about any last minute tour and they suggested we try Château Lamothe Bergeron, Cussac-Fort-Médoc, without a reservation.

By the time we got there, all the visitors had left already. The owner/manager saw us lingering and asked the guide to give us a tour.  A private tour !

Everything about this establishment seem new even though it has been around for a long time, the chateau was built in 1868. The wine is classified as Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc.

The reception area is decorated like a living room.

The tour started with a visit to a hut overlooking a field of grapes.

Some of the big production spaces on the tour have nightclub lightings.

With massive stainless steel tanks lining the space, reflective walls and high ceilings, all one need is a DJ and nice sound system.

The tour included a multimedia experience, a kind of augmented reality without the headset. Very slick presentation of the blending process projected on a glass partition with the barrel room in the background – state of the art technology.

According to its web site (click here):

Nestling between the terroirs of Margaux and Saint-Julien, Lamothe-Bergeron forms part of the closed circle of châteaux “with a river view”, in other words those occupying the best gravels left by the Gironde estuary. This magical soil warms the grapes, provides perfect drainage and produces grapes with finesse…

The vineyards cover 67 hectares, of which 58% are planted with Merlot grapes, 38% with Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

At the end of the tour, we were invited to try 2 vintages.

The tasting station is diffusely lit from the bottom.

The wines were both good. We bought a 2009 and a 2014.

Fun.

 

 

 

Continuing with our travel in the Bordeaux-Medoc region …

Everything was last minute on this trip and that made it impossible to join a tour of any one of the famous first growth (Grand Cru Classé – Primer Cru) winemakers. We kind of knew it but kept our plan loose.

The staff at our chateau (see earlier post) was very kind and secured us a spot on a tour of Château Ferrière.

Château Ferrière is a winery in the Margaux appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of fourteen Troisièmes Crus (Third Growths) in the historic Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Interesting machine. We thought grapes are still picked by hand … probably depends on the vinyard.

The 1855 classification contained more wines from Margaux than from any other appellation, and its best-known vineyard, Château Margaux, was one of only four wines to be awarded the Premier Cru status.

We started with a cool dark room where the tanks made of concrete are used for primary fermentation. We did not expect concrete as a material to make the tanks.

The Château has 29 acres (12 hectares) planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It has the smallest surface of vines of all the classified growth in 1855. A parcel of this small terroir lies in the heart of the Margaux village, next to Chateau Margaux.

The 1855 Classification resulted from the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris, when Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France’s best Bordeaux wines that were to be on display for visitors from around the world. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a château’s reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality.

The tour was led by a staff member using English, although an Italian family joined us on the tour.

The second stage, malolactic fermentation is carried out in new oak barrels.

A second wine is produced under the label Les Remparts de Ferriere. We tried a few vintages and bought two bottles of Chateau Ferriere.

Buying and taking wine home over a long drive is generally not recommended because the temperature in a car under the sun might ruin the wine.

Bon vin.

For the last leg of our Alps-to-Atlantic Easter trip, we stayed in the Bordeaux-Medoc region for a few days. Fa and An stayed behind in Biarritz to do some more surfing.

Our last minute searches landed us at the Château Grattequina in Blanquefort, just north of the city of Bordeaux. Click here for their website.

Built in 1872, the château was surrounded by farmland at the gateway of Bordeaux (which is only about 10 km away), on the road to the Medoc. We entered the grounds through an automatic gate and can see the chateau in a distance.

The sight of the chateau is rather dramatic at night as there are no other lighted buildings in sight. The River Garonne is behind the chateau.

Looking back toward the main road (D209) from the chateau, as far as we can see, there is no vine growing here now, just agricultural land. Corn ? In the middle of the photo is the private access road.

The chateau has only 10 guest rooms, all on the upper two floors. It was restored in 1999 and took 4 years, and it was re-painted this year (we could smell it).

Our room was spacious with simple furniture. It was so quiet all around and therefore quite relaxing.

Loved the double sink in the bathroom, but we would have liked a proper shower.

Very helpful staff. They called a bunch of chateaux for us to check if we can join their tours at the last minute.

Since the chateau is on the left bank of the River Garonne, the chateau has its own private dock, in theory one can arrive by boat. In practice, the owner can take guests into Bordeaux city (upstream) or go wine tasting in Margaux direction (downstream). See boat parked on the left in photo.

The view across the river is rather uninspiring. Because the river is not far from its mouth where it enters the Atlantic Ocean, the flow is slow and the water looks muddy.

The owner lives on the property in a separate modern building, behind the tower.

Nice breakfast room. No on-site restaurant. This chateau is really a B-n-B.

“Enomatic” – wine-on-demand – eight local wines (2 Margaux, Saint-Emilion, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Pessac Leognan and Saint Julien) at various price points were sold by the glass. Three sizes to choose from. Pay via a special debit card from the hotel that is settled when checking out. We got several different glasses and enjoyed them with cheeses back in our room.

Next to the chateau is a building that can be used for conferences and weddings. We believe that it is probably a significant part of the business.

The pool was not yet opened but the chateau provides bikes for us to explore the grounds.

Relaxing place to stay if you want easy access to Bordeaux city. But it does not have a working vineyard, unlike those further downstream towards Haut-Medoc.

After reaching our westernmost destination on our Alps-Atlantic trip at Biarritz (click here to see related posts), we came back via Bordeaux and stopped for a few days to explore the area.

The Cité du Vin is a museum as well as a place of exhibitions and academic seminars on the theme of wine located in the city of Bordeaux.

The building, meant to suggest a decanter, was designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières of XTU architects.

La Cite du Vins was official opened by the President, François Hollande on May 31, 2016. So the place is not even a year old, it is brand new.

The building has 8 floors with most of the exhibition spaces and classrooms on the lower floors.

In an open exhibition space occupying more than 3,000 m², nearly twenty different themed areas invite you to take a voyage of discovery and enjoy a unique experience exploring the many and varied facets of wine across time and space.

One can spend hours watching, listening, and even smelling the exhibits. There is so much media content to be consumed.

One darkened area has several tables where visitors can sit around and watch a virtual host explain various topics – history, entertaining, food pairing.

The table is actually a screen and the image changes continuously – sometimes it is a dining table but it could morph into another image seamlessly and quickly.

There were several tables that allow visitors to discern the aromas present in a wine. A squeeze of the small black rubber bulb releases the aroma which can be inhaled from the copper horn.

This part of the exhibition was unique in that they provided many different sources of aroma.

We participated in a multi-sensory workshop where we tasted several wines, learnt about its origin (not all were French) and pairing with food around the world. It is “multi-sensory” because certain aromas were sprayed into the room to invoke a sense of a place and its food which were projected on surround screen.

The workshop was entertaining and its delivery employed state of the art technology.

There are 2 restaurants. We did not eat there. Our entry ticket include a free glass of wine to be enjoyed at the belvedere which affords a 360 degree view of the northern end of Bordeaux city and the river Garonne.

“Downtown” direction view of the city of Bordeaux.

There is a souvenir shop “La Boutique” which sells every wine-related gifts one can imagine.

Next to it is the wine store which stocks thousands of bottles from around the world. Not just Bordeaux or French, a truly comprehensive international collection.

We spent almost the entire day here. The city really did a good job in creating this museum to educate and promote wine culture, and giving adults the sense of fun that kids have in a themed amusement park.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the city).

random photo #306 – portraits – Miami

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random photo #307 – chaos – Milano

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random photo #308 – terroir
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random photo #309 – escape – Sao Paulo
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random photo #310 – west – Pully
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random photo #311 – migraine – Milano

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random photo #312 – minor triffid – Chenonceau

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random photo #313 – salon – Köln

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random photo #314 – big funnel – Orleans
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random photo #315 – go & no go – Bern

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If you are interested in seeing other Random Photos, click on the  random  tag on the left.
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One morning in Biarritz, we went over to the town’s main market to get coffee and some breakfast.

Pastries.

Busy, as expected. But lots to see and buy.

The sandwiches for Fa and An looked really good. Very fresh.

This stand specializes in goat cheese, so many varieties.

Fresh goat cheese with fruits.

Poultry and rabbit.

Something internal (gesiers) and drumstick (manchons) smeared with duck fat – only in France.

As Biarritz is so close to the Spanish border, there were lots of jamon. Wanna see more Spanish ham ? – click here.

Hams, ruccola, grilled eggplant and peppers wrapped in mozzarella.

Canned seafood for tapas.

A nice way to spend a morning.

Another entry to our tour of bookstores around the world …

We found this gem of a bookstore in Biarritz.  The bookstore is called “BOOKSTORE”. And to confirm the nature of its business, on the storefront below the name, it says “Librairie Bookstore”.

It is understandable that this establishment at a French beach town is so named in English because historically, many British tourists including royalties like Queen Victoria and King Edward VII spent their vacation at this seaside resort.

On its website, it lists its Summer opening hours which are 1 hour longer and are applicable from July 8 to September 1.  After all, the bookstore is barely a block from the beach – No. 27 Place Clemenceau.

The bookstore is remarkable in that it is really quite small – not much larger than a newsagent that sells only magazines, cigarettes, sodas and chewing gum.

The back of the store has a lower section that sells “livre de poche” – paperback books – perfect for the beach.

The front room has a main area and a set of stairs that lead to a mezzanine level.

There is a “bureau” in the front room as well as at the mezzanine level. These bureaus are essentially little single-person booths where a storekeeper helps customers with payment and questions.

The bureau on the mezzenine level is rather unusual as it is suspended in the airspace (hovers) above the main area. A small souvenir street nameplate stuck on this bureau says “Place de la Contrescarpe” – a square in Paris considered the center of the 5th arrondisement – the Latin Quarter – an area known for scholarly and literary pursuits.

Despite its size, it affords a nice small leather sofa (oversized relative to the floor space) on the mezzanine level.

All the offerings here appear to be quality reading materials – most if not all are in French and we are not yet proficient to understand/gauge – so we judged them by their covers.

Books are displayed three-sixty degrees on all available shelf space, wall space and any flat surfaces.

The store is generously lit by big bright round light bulbs  – without them the space might feel a bit claustrophobic.

We presume the bookstore is fully stocked since we were at the beginning of the tourist season, hence multiple copies of the same book in stacks on display.

One of a kind.

 

La Cabane à Huitres – we went to this oyster shack on rue Gambetta – a street lined with shops, and at the top end, restaurants (that are not overly touristy).

Small place with brisk service. Simple decor made it feel like a shack.

They have oysters from Marennes d’Oleron Fines de Claires at three different sizes as well as Regal oysters from Ireland.

Everything on the menu is in the refrigerated display cabinet.

Between the French and the Irish which we tried, the Irish tasted sweeter.

Our dinner was mostly seafood except this grilled, salted chili peppers.

We also had fresh anchovies, and octopus marinated in red sauce.

The garlicky-chili clams (palourdes) were great.

Apple crumble for dessert.

This local wine was refreshing and had a subtle mineral taste that went well with the shellfish.

Recommended.

Continuing with our Easter Alps to Atlantic trip …

After Saint-Emilion, we headed south directly to Biarritz by-passing the city of Bordeaux (which we would later visit). The drive down A63 was easier, a lot less twists and turns, and the landscape is flat. This area, Landes is part of an estuary but looks a bit like Florida, for different geological reasons.

The day we arrived, the weather was incredibly warm – every one rushed onto the beach – we suspect that most of the people on the beach were locals as the tourists had not yet descended on this place.

Yoga on the beach sponsored by a local radio station.

Biarritz is a beach town on the Côte Basque, French surfing mecca, resort for royalties since the 1800’s, and only 15 miles from the Spanish border.  It is only 50 kilometers from Donostia-San Sebastian where we visited last summer, see here and here.

Our hotel room offered an incredible beach view. We could hear the surf all night.

The colors of the sky and the sea changed quite dramatically during our stay. In front of the hotel is a plaza and a rusty modern sculpture.

It was quiet at night. From a distance, one can see the lighthouse.

The lighthouse – Phare de Biarritz – is dramatic with its sweeping searchlight.

On the waterfront separating the Grand Plage and the Plage du Miramar (not visible) is the Hôtel du Palais (the brightly lit building above), the city’s landmark luxury resort and former royal residence.

A symbol of Biarritz, the Rocher de la Vierge is a rocky outcrop topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Reachable via a footbridge built in 1887 by Gustave Eiffel, who is also known to have worked in the capital.

Looking across the Grand Plage late afternoon, the Rocher and footbridge were just visible through the holes and arches in the rocks.

Rock arches.

The above has been predicted to collapse in a few years time.

Surf class

These kayaks came from somewhere, landed on the beach for a while and then paddled back out and left in minutes  …

According to the New York Times, this beach town is back in vogue since its popularity peaked in the 1950’s. The newspaper article (here) was published in May 2017 – two months after we visited Biarritz – we were literally ahead of the Times. <wink>

Lots more photos to come …

 

 

A few more snapshots …

Saint-Emilion is on the east in the Bordeaux wine region and the right bank of the Dordogne. In the region, there are 5400 hectares for growing vines, 800 wine estates and 127 that are listed and opened to the public.

The vineyards of Saint-Emilion are ancient. Back in the Roman times – as early as the second century, vines were planted to take advantage of the limestone soil and temperate oceanic climate (no temperature extremes and rainfall well distributed throughout the year).

Saint-Emilion was ruled by a jurade – a council of local notables – until the French Revolution. In 1948, the council was turned into a guild to promote the wines of the appellation.

For a thousand years, Saint-Emilion exported its limestone for construction use leaving behind underground quarries and miles of tunnels – some becoming wine cellars. This Cave is next to our hotel and uses the remaining defensive wall as a part of the cellar.

There are 3 levels of quality in the classification of Saint-Emilion wines – Grand Cru Classé, 1er Grand Cru Classé B and 1er Grand Cru Classé A (highest).

We have never seen such a range of bottle sizes.

And there is the Comptoir des vignoble in the village main street which deals in high-end wines and has a monolith cellar from the 12th century.

It lists the prices, like stock prices, of four famously good and expensive wines by the vintage year, Chateaux d’Yquem, Mouton, Cheval Blanc and Petrus, outside at its entrance. Petrus 2009 was listed at around 3500 euro.

Another wine store – Merchant of Thirst

We had dinner at L’Envers du Décor which was recommended by the hotel receptionist.

All the tables and several walls were covered with the ends of wine box which were stamped with the name of the wine it contained and its origin.

The wine we ordered – its box happened to appear on our table top.

Fun place.