Weekend Wanderings: Coastal Walk In Biarritz, France

Biarritz, queen of beaches, beach of kings. I fell in love with this cute town on day 1 of my visit. I even remember exactly when it happened: at the very moment when I stepped out of one of the town’s narrow alleys, overlooking a long stretch of sandy beach from above with hundreds of surfers paddling their boards towards a magical sunset above the mountains of the Spanish Basque country in the background.

Here is what I enjoyed most while walking along the French Atlantic coast between Pointe Saint-Martin (Lighthouse) and the Plage de la Côte des Basques.

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Weekend Wanderings: Tulips Galore, Holland

keukenhof-holland-tulips16

Flower carpets near Keukenhof, Holland

Each year, between March and May, the western coast of the Netherlands is like a bazaar for brightly coloured blossom carpets. Just admit it already; you simply want to sit down, stare, sniff or swim through this sea of spring, don’t you? I do!

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Solitude

solitude

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.
~Ram Dass

Photo details (please click on the image for best quality):
Canon EOS 60D, 31mm, ISO 1000, F9, 1/640 sec.
Location: Lake Rotopounamu, Tongariro NP, New Zealand.

Please watch the video below if you are curious what you can actually hear in the forest surrounding this lake:

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Weekend Wanderings: Mont Saint Michel

When talking about Mont Saint Michel, we are talking about one of the most visited tourist attractions in France. The island commune with its strategic position just at the border of the Normandy and the Bretagne originally served as castle to defend Normans against Bretons, later on to defend the French against the English. Today, the abbey and medieval city of Mont Saint Michel are on the list of UNSECO world heritage.

mont saint michel horses

Visiting Mont Saint Michel with style! Since the parking places are a few kilometres away from the island, you can alternatively walk, bike or take a shuttle bus. A long bridge will lead you to the island, which is located just a few hundred metres off the French coast.

mont saint michel cathedral

A mass is held each day (except Monday) in the abbey of Mont Saint Michel, which crowns the islet and makes it twice as high. Due to its special location, history and look, Mont Saint Michel was inscribed into the UNESCO world heritage list in 1979.

mont saint michel hall

Mont St Michel is built on 3 levels due to the steep slope of the mount. In the Great Halls under the abbey, monks used to study and host members of the royal family. Did you know that there are still monks living in Mont Saint Michel?

Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel’s main alley is a bustling tourist trap. Most products offered there can be found way cheaper in other Brittany towns, but of course you can’t say you bought them IN Mont Saint Michel. Originally, the series of stairways, alleyways, courtyards and paths were built due to the need to feed and house the pilgrims visiting the site since the middle age.

mont saint michel

The quicksand and tides surrounding Mont Saint Michel form a natural defence; the tides can reach speeds of 10 km/h and can rise and fall up to 13m (highest tide in Europe). During the low tide you can book a guided walk around Mont Saint Michel — I definitely need to come back for that!

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Dangerous Winter Wonderland

Before blogging about the first signs of spring I would like to share some winter photos with you that I took in Germany last year. They depict a weather phenomenon, which is both beautiful and dangerous at once.

Fichtelberg ski lift Germany

Frozen ski lift on the Fichtelberg, the highest peak of the German Erzgebirge

In December, Saxony’s low mountain range (Erzgebirge, East Germany) was wrapped into thick fog layers lasting for weeks. The high air humidity coming along with the fog covered the region’s trees with hoar frost, which built up to a 30 to 40 cm thick ice crust. Needless to say that trees snapped off like matches under the heavy weight.

To avoid accidents, local public services decided to impose a ban to enter the forest above 800 metres. Streets were blocked for days and ski lifts had to shut down when some tree branches threatened to fall on the ropes.

Once streets reopened, we wanted to have a closer look at this newly created winter wonderland and went on a day trip to the highest point of the German Erzgebirge, the Fichtelberg (1,215 m), which looked as stunning as I had never seen it before. Me and my camera(s) got all excited; I could have easily spent the day looking at the most bizarre ice formations, but the cold…the severe cold…

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Photo Essay: Queensland, Australia

As we travelled from Cairns to Brisbane (North to South) we discovered that Queensland is much more than sunny beaches, surfers and adventure parks. There are also endless stretches of straight boring roads, millions of acres of sugar cane and in between — these treasures…

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Witnessing Australian Bushfires

bushfires in kakadu, australia

Bushfires in Kakadu NP as seen from the plane towards Cairns

Remember when I explained why Australian bushfires can be good — not talking about wild fires of course? I witnessed burning bush and grass in the Darwin region (Northern Territory) on 5 out of 6 days last July (cool season).

Even though prescribed burnings are considered “low intensity” it felt odd to drive through forest areas burning till the border of the street. The following photos are taken out of the car while passing fires in Kakadu National Park.

1. Approaching a managed fire area by car. Park Rangers scout the park for high growing plants, then throw in a few matches to avoid that too much fuel is building up. This shall prevent the region from struggling with high intensity fires, which would be much harder to control.

bushfire australia northern territory

2. Most of the bushfires I have seen around Darwin were smouldering, producing lots of smoke only. However, I did come across fires with high flames as well, and despite of my distance I clearly heard it crackling and sizzling. Controlled fires usually extinguish on their own during the colder morning hours.

bushfire australia northern territory

3. The sun through a thick smoke cloud. Since Park Rangers only burn small patches here and there, animals like birds and kangaroos can easily change location. For mice, lizards and other small ground animals however, fires are a real threat. They have to leave their ground holes and escape the heat while hawks are circling above them, watching out for food (yes, the black dots on the photo below are hawks — click on the image to see it in big). They learned fast that fires mean feast time for them.

northern territory bushfire

Bushfire between Kakadu NP and Litchfield NP

4. Passing a part of the forest which had been recently burned and now starts to recover. The ashes act like fertilizer for fireproof seedlings.

bushfire australia northern territory

A few months after, nature recovered, new plants grow wildly and the whole cylce restarts.

What do you think of fire management?

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