Thursday, January 05, 2012

Holiday in Northern Spain/ France September 2011



This year we decided that we would take the ferry down to Bilbao in Northern Spain and spend a few days there before driving up to our place in France. It’s only a 6 hour journey from the ferry port in Bilbao all the way up to near La Rochelle in the Vendee. The ferry journey itself was a full 24 hours but quite enjoyable.

We spent the first night in Bilbao, on the outskirts and spent the evening drinking beer and eating tapas- or ‘Pintxos’ as they call it in the Basque Country- in various bars and pubs. We had a great time and got rather drunk- so no photos I’m afraid! I do have 2 pictures actually, the first is of some graffiti we spotted that looked great and the other is of the river that ran through where the hotel was.

Then we drove on up to San Sebastian and on to a place called Hendaye which is right on the border between France and Spain. The roads in Northern Spain are unbelievable. They are really very twisty and winding and constantly up and down hills and mountains. The drivers were quite impatient and stupid too, often overtaking us or trucks on uphill, hairpin bends! Ridiculous!

We decided we’d stay and camp at a site in Hendaye. The beach there was just stunning. It was a surfing beach though so no swimming for me. It was constantly filled with surfers- the waves were so rough and big! We actually managed to run the beach twice in the few days we were there. We ran barefoot in the wet sand and it was just lovely. It was about 3.5 miles in total.

Here are a few of my favourite pictures of the beach.

Hendaye Beach

Hendaye Beach

Hendaye beach

I love these dusk shots:

Hendaye Beach sunset

Hendaye beach dusk


This picture is of 2 tiny wading birds, dippers I think, that I spotted sheltering from the violent surf on the rocks at the beach.

Dippers?


Just across the river from Hendaye, about 5 minutes by car, there was Spain. It was much livelier on their side and I much preferred it over there. My Spanish is fluent but my French really isn’t… The town we visited most was called Hondarribia and had a beautiful little beach that was a complete contrast to the French side. As it was between two groins the water was dead still- just like Mediterranean waters. We managed to spend 1 day there when the weather was scorching and not windy and I got to get in and swim a fair bit. Well, I can’t really call it swimming, more like flailing around!

Here is the beautiful beach.

Hondarrabia

beach

brian

me

One day we decided to drive down to Pamplona, where they do the running of the bulls in the San Fermin festival.

Pamplona itself is quite a beautiful city. We enjoyed our day out. We spent all day walking around taking photographs in the sun. They had beautiful parks there filled with peacocks and other exotic birds. It was really a great place to visit.

Pamplona view

Door artwork pamplona

Pamplona Streets

Pamplona main Plaza

Pamplona

Pamplona Plaza de Toros

Pamplona calles


We also took a day trip to a place called San Sebastian. It is one of the famous Basque Country cities and was a very beautiful place. It is steeped in history due to it’s strategic location. It has a huge fort up on the hill and it’s a great walk.
Here are some pictures from San Sebastian.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian from Fort

Fort at San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

View of san Sebastian



After 4 days or so we decided to head on up the coast back to our place in France. We stopped at Biarritz (they call it the Monaco of the West coast of France) along the way and took some beautiful photos of the coastline, stopping at other coves and bays also.

Biarritz:

Biarritz


When we got back up to our place in Mervent we were astonished to see the low level of the dam fed lake/ river system there. We have never seen it so low. Once every few years they near enough dry out the lake for some reason- obviously due to managing it right but I’m not sure of the specifics.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the low level. I have posted a couple of old pictures underneath to show you the difference.

Mervent Lake from Randos

Mervent Lake low level

Mervent Lake drained

How the lake is normally:

full lake 2

full lake



This last picture is of a sunrise one morning at our little house. I woke up and looked out the window and literally jumped up to get my camera and out the door to capture this. I had not seen this there before, just the sunset. It was beautiful and the picture really doesn’t do it as much justice as it deserved.

Sunrise at my house

Anyway, these are my favourite pictures from our holiday in September 2011 but I have plenty more up on my Flickr page. See you soon with more photos!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Birthday in Cairo, March 21st 2011

We took the Sharm el Sheikh holiday over my birthday and decided that we would visit Cairo and the Pyramids on my actual birthday. I really wanted to go to Luxor as well but we decided we will definitely be going back to Egypt in the future and we will go to Luxor another time.

We managed to get the Cairo trip with a really good discount seeing as they didn’t have many tourists at the time. We had made a couple of friends at our hotel called Richard and Sarah and they decided they wanted to come too. We used a company called Sharm Club as we had seen excellent reviews and recommendations and they were also the cheapest. We got picked up from the hotel about 5am and got taken by taxi to the airport. We booked in and found out we had been upgraded to business class which meant a free drink before we left. (We found out afterwards that they had given us business class because they didn’t have any economy seats left for that day and the travel rep didn’t want to make us go on another day because it was my birthday. How sweet!)

On the plane we were put at the front with the business customers and the economy ‘paupers’ were shut away by curtains and a burly security guard! We were given drinks and cakes during the 40 minute journey. All 4 of us were pleased as punch by this point already! When we landed we were ushered off first while the security guard held the others back and we were put on our own bus to the terminal. The economy passengers were held back until we were all out of customs- it was great! As you can tell, I’ve never flown business class before :)

We met our tour guide for the day, Shariff (he was the BEST!) and 1 other guy who was to be in our party. It was pretty much like a private tour as we had 1 guide for just 5 of us. He told us there were normally 20 odd people per group. The guide was excellent and really made our day so much fun.

We started out by going to the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo. It was really quite something. Cairo itself was hectic and very run down and full of immense traffic. To make it worse though, it was a mess thanks to the huge uprising of January 2011 which saw the long time president Hosni Mubarak forced out of power.

Next to the beautiful museum was the ruling party’s HQ building that had been completely destroyed by fire. It was pretty surreal to see it burnt out next to this awesome museum which was surrounded by real artifacts… See the picture here:

Egyptian Government HQ after uprising!

I could have spent all day in that museum. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed the cameras inside; we had to leave them in a guarded kiosk. It was so, so amazing to see all the artifacts and coffins and just everything! We didn’t have a look at the mummies as none of us fancied it to be honest but we did get to see Tutankhamen’s Mask and jewellery. It was pretty awe inspiring to see it all. 17kg of solid gold mask. Wow. They were lucky that these things were not looted by the Mubarak thugs…

After the museum, we went on a sailing boat across the Nile. It was really cool and we all enjoyed it. The boat ride was about 20 minutes long. We then went and had our lunch (included with the trip) at a huge floating TGI Fridays. I was so happy with this! We got a 3 course meal which was very, very enjoyable. We then headed off to the Pyramids.

The Pyramids are an amazing sight. We were all pretty gobsmacked when we got there. It is quite surreal really as you are driving along amongst traffic and buildings and tower blocks and then you spot these big stone peaks every now and again through the buildings. Very odd.

Here are some pictures of how amazing they look. Our guide also tipped one of the security guards so we were able to take our cameras into one of the smaller pyramids and get some great pictures.

Pyramids

Sphinx & Pyramids

Pyamids
Brian being silly!

Inside a Pyramid

We then went on and visited the Sphinx. It was surprising how quiet it was really. We were advised that normally it is literally heaving with tourists and people trying to make some money by selling the normal tat. Which I bought by the way! I bought my Mum a lovely wooden cat for about £2- can’t go wrong really!

Sphinx

Sphinx

Brian and Sphinx
Brian being silly again!


After the seeing the Sphinx and posing for silly photographs, we headed off to a papyrus shop where we saw how they were made and even though none of us bought any artwork (way too expensive!) they still gave us a free gift of papyrus bookmarks as we left.

At the end of the day we flew back to Sharm and zonked out! IT was a very tiring yet amazing day and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are going to Sharm el SheikhCheck out Sharm Club (By the way, I am in no way affiliated with them, I just really did enjoy my trip and really do recommend them)

Don’t forget these photos and more are on my Flickr page.