Posts Tagged ‘ocean’

Seventh Sense

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

I think I have found my natural calling. This morning, while enjoying a relaxing dip at North Cottesloe beach, I was literally struck by a deeply embedded reaction that could potentially save lives. I am a… Stinger Siren.

There haven’t been many stingers at the beach this year which is great news for super-sensitive-skin me. I have had to spend many summers wrapped from head to toe in fashion-faux-pas rashys whenever I go swimming to avoid being stung by the barbed tentacles of invisible stingers. Once stung, I don’t just react that your average human with a bit of a red welt that disappears by the end of the day. Oh no. Why would I do that? Instead, my skin flares up and hops between pain and extreme itchiness for at least a week. It’s extremely attractive, particularly when I get hit on the face and neck.

This morning, however, I realised that my skin is so sensitive to whatever toxins those creatures send out into the water, that I can sense their presence. While swimming in the water this morning, my skin went prickly and my natural instinct was to stand up and get my body out of the water. And as I looked down into the particularly clear water, there he was. A lone stinger, floating oh-so-innocently yet oh-so-invisibly about half a metre away from me. I had managed to find the one stinger in the entire beach (or it had managed to find me. The bastard.)

He had managed to get one of his tentacles on my skin but nothing anywhere near as bad as the time in 2008 when I had a huge stinger drape itself across my neck, back and chest and I had to peel it off my skin.

So I am now thinking that along with the shark patrols they now have at the beach, North Cottesloe lifesaving club should employ me for Stinger Patrol. Protecting the innocent from the invisible evils of the sea.

I Come From the Land Down Under

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Greetings to one and all from the most isolated city on the earth. Or is it? Some people say there’s somewhere in Hawaii that beats us but I am willing to bet there is more to do in Hawaii than there is in Perth. Well, at least you won’t have to sell you left arm in order to do it.

Perth. I do love this city and every time I come home I realise how nice it is. But then I try and do something or buy something or eat something and I realise that something is fundamentally wrong. I have complained about the prices of food in Perth previously but I am going to do it again. IT IS RIDICULOUS. I can’t afford to live here. Ever. So it looks like France will have to accept me and let me stay in Paris forever. Good plan.

My time in Perth so far has involved various ‘catching up’s with friends and family, helping my Dad build a shed at the Wanneroo Museum, and digging holes in the backyard in order to find a leaking pipe. Even the unsuccessful hole digging has brought an element of happiness to my life. The shed installation involved me, a pair of electric shears and some corrugated iron which is the recipe for GOOD TIMES.

Shed at the Wanneroo Museum

Nice shed.

I do enjoy coming back to Perth and seeing what power tool my Dad give me to try out. We’re going to be making a printing press for me to take back to France as well, so who knows what electric saws/drills/sanders I’ll get to use. I should have been a boy.

I am also remembering how glorious the Australian landscape is with its wide open spaces and clean, clean air. I haven’t smelt the horrible stench of urine for over a week! BLISS!

Perth sky

Look at that blue.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings of last week, I dragged myself out of bed at 7am when the temperature was hovering around 10 degrees, put on my bathers, and went to the beach. Am I insane? Most probably. Did I feel good jumping into the ridiculously cold waters of the Indian Ocean the day after there was a shark sighting? Not particularly. Will I do it again this week? It is likely. The thing is, after you have gone through the pain of getting so cold that it hurts to walk and you finally go home and step into the warm shower, get dressed and have a cup of tea and some breakfast, and then life is good and you want to do it all again! It is a drug – a very healthy, sinus cleansing drug, and as long as my toes don’t fall off then I think I will continue to do it for as long as I can.

Beach Time Fun

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Isn’t it funny how you don’t realise what you take for granted until you don’t have it anymore. Funny sad, not funny ha ha. In Perth I lived a 10 minute drive away from North Cottesloe and would go every morning for a wake-up swim. In Paris, the closest beach doesn’t even look like a beach because it has these weird lumpy bits of rock that you have to walk across and most people just lie in the sun turning into wrinkled, brown sausages. So a holiday to a country with potentially more passable beaches was a tad exciting.

Unfortunately, neither Lisbon or Porto are beachside resorts (although this is also a good thing because I tend to dislike beach side resorts with a passion) so to reach the beach we either had to catch a bus or walk a really long way. We did both. In Lisbon we waited at a bus station with bikini-clad girls and guys carrying bodyboards and headed to a beachside town called Costa da Caparica. Due to a miscommunication between myself and Tom, he had brought his bathers while I had left mine at the hotel, thinking we were just going to walk along the beach. Of course, as soon as I saw sandy coast with clear water and a few small waves, my brain switched to “Swim” mode and I went in search of appropriate attire.

Costa da Caparica

Costa da Caparica

At least it was cheap. For less than eight Euros I managed to buy a bikini (the first I have ever owned in my life) plus an extra four Euros for a pair of ugly shorts that would cover the fact that the bikini bottoms were very… well… Portuguese. However, it wasn’t until I was striding towards the water in my new outfit that I realised that despite me thinking I had developed quite an impressive tan while in Europe, I was most certainly the whitest thing on that beach. The sand was darker than me. My thighs that never see the light of day were reflecting laser beams of sunlight back to shore and people were cowering in fear. Ok, not completely true but almost. I felt like a Brit who sits in the shade on Australian beaches, looking vampiresque and rapidly turning into a lobster.

Jess at the beach

Please notice the beach and the fact that I am there. Please ignore my weird tan lines, food belly, awful shorts and the couple lying on the beach behind me.

Once I was in the water my whiteness was less of an issue and I managed to enjoy a cold but refreshing swim. It is such a pleasurable experience to have sea water gliding around you. I did have to fight with a few freak waves but the water was generally calm and there were little sparkles of gold floating through it. Delightful.

Our second visit to the beach happened in Porto. We looked at the map and decided to walk along the river edge until it hit the ocean and then head north towards where the map showed beach umbrellas and ‘sand’ coloured patches. The walk was longer than expected but it was really enjoyable, walking along the river and seeing little pockets of outer Porto along the way. Once we reached the ocean things got a bit windy and we discovered that the surf was up with a cold breeze coming off the water. Not very pleasant. So no swimming but the walk along the coast was beautiful.

Porto beach

Porto coastline

The problem was, there was too much wind for me to wear a hat and for it to remain on my head so I walked most of the way without it. Of course, there was then a lot of sun and I’m reasonably certain that the strong winds and sunny conditions were what led to me feeling rather unwell that evening and the following day. But that, my friends, is the danger of outdoor adventures.

Mackerel in Maine

Monday, September 12th, 2011

A very quick post just to inform you of my brilliant fishing skills. We are currently in Georgetown, Maine, visiting my second cousin and her family. The past few days have involved a fair amount of fishing as this area of the world is fishing heaven. Tom is beside himself. However, today while out on the boat we fished for mackerel and before starting Tom and I declared it was a competition to see who could catch the most (it started off as the biggest but all the fish were about the same size so it turned into quantity over quality.) Final score? Tom: Two. Marijke (my second cousin): Two. Me: Eight.

In other news, we eventually made it to the airport in New York to catch our flight (Tom got stuck in a water-clogged underground for a while) which was then delayed and then cancelled for a second time as we were sitting on the plane being told the safety instructions. The crew had clocked off the number of hours they’re allowed to do and decided to tell us when we were already on the plane. We were going to have to wait until the next day to fly but then they decided that another crew flying in on another plane could take us so we had to get off the plane, wait for the new crew to prepare the plane (again), get back on, be re-told the safety instructions and then finally it took off. We were supposed to leave New York on our original flight at 3.30pm. We actually left at midnight. We weren’t very impressed. Tomorrow we are placing a lot of hope and trust into Delta once again to deliver us back to New York in time for us to transfer airports and then fly to Paris. If they fail I will be REALLY REALLY MAD.

So hopefully next time you hear from me I will be very sleepy but in Paris, waiting for my brother to arrive.

A la Bretagne

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Grave apologies for the lack of posts. Actually, no… My Dad said to me via email that it is good when he doesn’t hear from me as it means I am too busy doing enjoyable things. Therefore if I don’t write on my blog it is because I am far too busy discovering new places, travelling, shopping, eating etc to spend time telling you about it. But today my planned shopping trip with my friend Pip has been postponed and so I am finally having a day at home. And so I shall write.

I think I will do as I did when I returned home from Nancy and write a list of things to write about in case I forget. Ok, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  1. More sickness
  2. Bretagne in all its glory
    • Crepes
    • Coastline and countryside
    • Friends
    • Salted butter caramel
  3. Mont Saint Michel and impressive tidal movements
  4. The weirdest salmon dish I have ever eaten.

Ok, that will do. I have other things to write about but they fit under other categories and will have to appear separately. Ready? GO!

So Tuesday afternoon I wandered around Montmartre shopping with my Australian friends, Rom and Sam. I bought an amazing dress from a wonderful clothing store called Aeschne and was served, dressed and sold the dress by the woman who made it. I also had a chat with a model who was in all of the photographs scattered around the store. I didn’t just talk to the photos – she was actually there and was very friendly. Anyway, the dress is a beautiful blue silk and is just stunning. I am now searching for a reason to wear it and will continue to hint to Tom that he needs to take me out for a nice meal. You can see the dress if you go to the Aeschne website and look at the Automne/Hiver 2010 collection and look for the picture of a short-haired woman standing against a white wall. My dress is a nicer colour though. And it looks WAY better on me.

So my point is that I had a good day but at about 5.30pm my stomach started turning on me again and I felt like the dread E-coli was returning. It didn’t completely but I did have a dinner of plain rice and boiled broccoli (which I actually enjoyed). On top of this, Tom had been complaining about feeling off all day but as I decided I was feeling worse I ignored him.

The next day we got up early (too early – we ended up waiting about 40 minutes at the train station because we were too organised) and caught the metro to Montparnasse before catching a train to Morlaix in Bretagne. Tom spent most of the train ride groaning and saying he was sickly, which I continued to ignore. We arrived in Morlaix and were met by Sarah (a friend who had been staying at Tom’s house the week before we left for Paris. Sarah is French and her husband, Brandon, is American and they live in Paris but are spending the year travelling through Australia. They had to return to Paris for a few weeks to sort out Brandon’s visa) who took us to her house for lunch before showing us around Morlaix. That evening, Tom lay in bed with a fever as he had apparently caught the flu and actually was sick. Damn.

 

Sick Tom

French blood tests are just as gross as Australian blood tests – I had to watch in case he fainted and I had to translate his unconscious groans.

So Tom ended up spending about two and a half days in bed while Sarah and Brandon took me exploring in Bretagne. Tom went to the doctor and had a blood test which I kept trying to talk-up as an ‘exciting experience in France’! I don’t think Tom felt the same way.

Bretagne is beautiful – rugged coastline, beaches and green, green, green countryside. We had one day of amazing sunshine and Sarah took me (Tom stayed home) on a long drive along the northern coast of France, visiting little coastal towns along the way. A highlight – galettes and crepes for lunch (a galette is a savoury crepe). Also being able to walk along the beach in the sunshine and inhale fresh sea air was quite wonderful. It has been awhile and I am getting a bit sick of Paris’s pollution and general secondary-smoke.

 

Bretagne

From a cold and windy day...

Bretagne

To sunshine by the beach – Bretagne has it all.

It was nice to be in a family environment again and to speak a bit of French. It is quite strange talking to Sarah and Brandon in French as I spent a week talking to them in English in Perth but now that we are in France it seems only appropriate to change languages. Speaking French with Brandon is very weird – he is American so it is instinctual to speak to him in English but we spent a lot of our time speaking in French. I guess when you are surrounded by the language it is easier to just stick to it rather than constantly reverting back. I do enjoy jumping between English and French with people who can speak both languages. It adds a new level to conversations and you can explain yourself to a much greater extent. Somethings sound better in French than English and vice versa.

I think it is about time that I wrote about the food. As I have previously mentioned, galettes and crepes are products of Bretagne and it is customary to drink cider with them. As they say, do as the locals. While I find eating galettes fun and a bit naughty, I’m not sure I would choose to eat them often. Crepes, on the other hand, I would eat at the end of every meal if I wasn’t guaranteed to get fat. Particularly if they are filled with nutella…

 

Galette

Spot the difference between a galette...

Crepe

... and a crepe

I also sampled a cake which was made from pastry, sugar and butter and butter and butter and butter. You had to drink a litre of water after every mouthful as it was so buttery. So so good. And then there was the salted butter caramel. I’m generally not that interested in caramel but this stuff was amazing. On our way to Mont Saint Michel, Sarah took us to Saint Malo where we had afternoon tea at an amazing cafe with amazing cakes. I had a piece of chocolate and caramel tart which was one of the greatest things I have ever eaten in my life. Crispy tart base with a huge slab of gooey, buttery caramel and then a thick layer of dark chocolate on top. My eyes almost popped out of my head as I ate it. It was a huge piece and I doubted my ability to finish it, but I did. I worked through it and I made it to the end. I am proud of my achievements.

 

Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Look at it! That's a burst artery.

So the few days we spent with Sarah and Brandon were full of fun and exploration (and Tom’s constant coughing fits and general groans) and it was sad to part ways. At least we did it at the top of Mont Saint Michel as we were being surrounded by approaching tides. Very cool.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Mont Saint Michel is an island off the coast of Normandy on top of which there is an abbey dating back to the 700s. It has become a bit of a tourist haunt as most days of the year (as the moon prescribes) during the day the tide goes out and you can walk across the sand (being careful to avoid quick sand) to the island, while at night the tides return and the island is surrounded by water. There is a dyke with a road allowing for easy access these days but you still need to remove your car from certain car parks before the water returns to avoid having it washed away.

 

Mont Saint Michel

Wow.

We arrived on the island at about 5.30pm and stood in the rain and slightly cool temperatures until 7.45pm and watched the water come in from the ocean.

 

Mont Saint Michel

The water approaches

It was one of the most amazing natural phenomena that I have ever seen. I put it on a similar scale to seeing the salt lakes near Menzies in Western Australia – truly spectacular. It started slowly – you could see the water approaching from the ocean far off in the distance and slowly covering the sand. Then, at about 7.15pm, it all started happening – the water broke over the lip of sand and you could see waves of water sweeping across and filling every hole it could find in the sand. The current was strong and before we knew it we were surrounded by water. Of course, my camera ran out of batteries as the water really started doing its thing, but you can see some photos and movies on my flickr site if you are interested.

 

Mont Saint Michel

Waves!

Staying on Mont Saint Michel was nice as there were hardly any other tourists around, but it was also very touristy and every shop and restaurant was set up to remove money from us. We knew we would have no option but to eat rubbish touristy food and so tried to find the best option. I don’t think we made a wise decision. We each had a set menu which is the normal deal for tourist restaurants. The food was edible but not special and my main meal was one of the most thought-provoking dishes I have ever eaten. I ordered “saumon avec riz de bretagne” – simply translated, it means salmon with rice of Bretagne. It sounded ok – I like salmon and rice so I couldn’t go too wrong. The salmon was a fairly average fillet but at least it was salmon. The rice consisted of two inverted cups of rice – one flavoured with saffron, the other was some sort of ‘wild rice’. Tasteless but I love plain rice so that was ok. It was the sauce that really got me – I think they were trying to make a béarnaise sauce but I’m not sure what they were thinking. I’m fairly certain they had whipped it, creating a soft, fluffy sauce that was just WEIRD. The fish was completely surrounded (swimming, if you will) in the stuff. Further consideration of the dish makes me wonder if perhaps the chefs were trying to represent Mont Saint Michel and the tidal movements in the form of a seafood meal. Whatever they were thinking, they should think again.

 

Salmon

Just weird.

The other problem with Mont Saint Michel is accessing it without a car. We had to catch a train from Rennes, a town 1.5 hours away at 6.30pm and so we figured we had plenty of time to wander the island before catching a connecting bus to the train station. Luckily I decided to check the bus timetable in the morning and discovered we would have to catch a bus at 2.30pm in order to be in Rennes at the right time. There were only four buses a day and the last bus would arrive 15 minutes after our train left. So we visited the abbey, wandered through the town, ate a quick lunch before catching the bus to Rennes and wandering aimlessly through the town for 2.5 hours. Luckily the weather was beautiful and Rennes is a lovely town so it wasn’t so bad. But considering the bus connection between Mont Saint Michel and Rennes is promoted as being the way to get there, it was quite disappointing.

 

Rennes

Look at how French Rennes is!

So a great week away was had and we returned to Paris being not all that excited to see rubbish and filth and dog-poo everywhere again. That said, this week Paris has had amazingly warm weather and I have been quite happy to wander aimlessly through the streets. The parks are in full bloom and every evening the canal is chock-a-block full with people sitting by the water drinking wine and eating Pringles. Tom and I joined them on Wednesday night with beer and cashews before trying out another local restaurant. Very, very pleasant. I think we will be doing that a lot in summer.

 

Beer and the canal

Good times.

Canal

All of the French people were silly and faced away from the nice view

Canal

But not the Australians!