Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: bird

Basque Country part 2: San Sebastián

This series on the Basque Country is not in chronological order. I wanted to write the San Sebastián post before La Rhune and Biarritz, while it is still relatively fresh in my mind, since it was such an interesting trip.

So, San Sebastián. It is a city on the Spanish side of the Basque Country known for its lovely beaches. I am truly willing to say that I liked it more than Barcelona, the only other big city in Spain that I have visited so far. Before going to San Sebastián, I got the impression that it was a small, touristy city that would require no more than one day to experience. In fact, I was going to stay only one night and head back to Bordeaux the next day before Mariel suggested staying two nights. I’m glad I took her advice, as San Sebastián had much more to offer than I had anticipated!

From Biarritz, Mariel and I hopped onto the PESA bus that took us directly to San Sebastián. The ride itself wasn’t particularly pleasant – it was the first time after a very long time that I got carsick (or…bus-sick, if there is such a term?) I believe it must have been due to the rough roads from Biarritz to San Sebastián, though I couldn’t be sure because I was half asleep during most of the trip.

We arrived at night, found our hostel, dropped off our belongings, and headed out to dinner right away. The real exploration started the next morning, when we decided to stroll along the riverside and head up Monte Urgull, a hill right in the midst of the city between the two beaches, Zurriola and La Concha.

We climbed up Monte Urgull at a very leisurely pace, occasionally stopping to enjoy the view of San Sebastián. From Monte Urgull, the entire crescent of the Bay of La Concha could be viewed, and all of San Sebastián was laid out right in front of your eyes.

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If this is the beginning of spring

Two more weeks until daylight saving time begins. Two more weeks until our second annual training school. Two more weeks until I head back to France. Hooray!

I know I mentioned that there hasn’t been much sunshine in Louvain-la-Neuve lately, but when when there is sun, this is quite a relaxing place to be at. Ever since the trip to Ghent, I’ve stayed in Louvain-la-Neuve every weekend – gasp! Weekend afternoon walks became my activity of choice here, especially pleasant during the two weekends when it was warm and sunny out! Spring was definitely coming, right?

Wrong. Weather here fluctuates like the lottery. When I thought the sunny weather meant that it was the beginning of spring, Mother Nature burst my bubble by sending snow last week. Splendid. For two or three days I felt like we were back in that period of time at the beginning of February when Europe was invaded by a sudden cold attack. I almost had to get my scarf and gloves out again. Not amusing.

I am glad, however, that I did take advantage of those warm days and left the house to enjoy the rarity. My favourite place in Louvain-la-Neuve is definitely the lake. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the lake for a nice, relaxing afternoon.

On this day, my original destination was actually not the lake. I began by wandering through some residential areas of LLN, stumbling upon some new, unvisited places, before somehow ending back at the lake, as always. Really, how far could you go?

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One year – then, now, and favourites

It’s been one year since I arrived in France.

It’s been one year since I started this blog.

It’s been one year since I stepped into this exciting stage in my life.

It’s really been one year. Wow.

I want to make this a comprehensive and representative post of the past year, in Bordeaux, in Louvain-la-Neuve, and really, just Europe in general (minus the one month back in Canada).

What changed since I first stepped foot into Bordeaux? What didn’t change? Let’s try chart form.

As another school year has just begun (yup, second year thesis student now!) I thought I’d take a memory trip back and list some “favourites” of the year in photos. This will definitely be a fun entry to write and also to look back on in the future!

Favourite place in Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse at night, by the Miroir d’Eau

Without a doubt, it is the Miroir d’Eau, or Water Mirror by the riverside. I like to take strolls at night after dinner and somehow I often end up here to chill or just watch the reflection of Place de la Bourse in the water while waiting for the mist to come out every 15 minutes. When it is not too cold, I love to take off my shoes and dip my feet into the water, sometimes having water fights with my buddies who come along. It’s one of those places that makes you feel like you’re truly in France, carefree and relaxed.

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Holland part 2: Gone with the windmills

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on a weekend trip to the Netherlands. Click here for part 1 and here for part 3. If you just want to see pictures, click here. If you’re actually interested in a bit of narration, please carry on.

My first impression of Holland when I was a young child was the windmill. Whenever anyone mentioned Holland, I would imagine huge windmills and women wearing cute white traditional Dutch dresses. Tulips came later into the picture, but nothing beats windmills when you’re talking about symbols of Holland.

When my colleague suggested a visit to the tiny village of Zaanse Schans, I gladly accepted the proposition. After a “crazy” night in Amsterdam (which I will write about later, and explain what “crazy” means), Zaanse Schans was a humble little place to visit first thing on a Sunday morning, with the weather in our favour every step of the way.

It turned out to be more than worth it because first of all, there is no admission fee. Of course, if you choose to buy souvenirs, that’s your choice. I’m usually not a souvenirs person, but Zaanse Schans was the only destination in the Netherlands from which I actually bought souvenirs for my friends. All the variety and all the adorable designs – and surprisingly not too too expensive (except for the postcards that sold for 1.25 Euros each)!

Also, the scenery at Zaanse Schans was beautiful. As soon as we stepped into the entrance of the village, we were captivated by the windmills waving in the distance and the photo-snapping began, even though we weren’t anywhere close to the windmills. Along with souvenir-buying, we spent a good half an hour in the entrance area, and we haven’t even crossed the bridge that led to the actual attraction itself. The parking cost was 1 Euro for 30 minutes and 7 Euros for any duration more than 30 minutes, so to make the parking cost worthwhile, we’d have to stay for at least 3.5 hours. It didn’t seem possible at first, but with the half an hour spent just at the entrance, maybe we spoke too early and underestimated the charm of the little place…

Entrance area with lots of tourists. The two houses up ahead were the souvenir shops and we spent much more time than expected in there, though I did manage to get some goodies.

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Beyond V-Day

I had been contemplating the idea of investing in a better camera for a long time. At one point in time I was seriously looking into a purchase within the next three months. This week, I gave it a little more thought. My final decision is that I will not be buying any fancy camera any time soon (that probably means at least not this year). I will stick to my basic Canon A2000 (and my Sony Ericsson K770i cell phone camera, if I don’t have my Canon) for my day-to-day photography.

Many friends have encouraged me to get a DSLR for my adventures in Europe, and I do admit it’s going to be quite a loss if I were to insist on getting the perfect images, but really, anything beyond a pocket camera is simply impractical for me at the moment. Not to mention the cost of getting one of these babies, but having to carry a large camera around everywhere I go would be a hassle in the first place. I don’t think a DSLR would be on my list of things-I-bring-to-work-in-my-backpack-every-day, and it certainly is not something I’d like to lug around my neck most of the day. (Maybe I just need to be convinced that they’re not all as inconvenient as I imagine them to be.) My little A2000, however, conveniently fits into my coat pocket and I can draw it out any time when I see anything interesting that catches my attention (examples to follow).

I have no intention of becoming anything near a professional any time soon, although I have definitely developed a strong interest in photography after observing the works of my peers. However, I think I have also underestimated the amount of time that is needed to dive into the field and truly experience the essence of professional photography. I realize that this is time that I am unable to afford at this stage, and so I will remain as an outsider and retain this interest until much later, when I feel that I have the time to take on the challenge.

In the end, my purpose for taking photos is not to have gorgeous colours and effects, though that would be an added bonus. Photographing daily life is a pleasure in itself and does not require any extensive equipment beyond a small camera for an amateur. Of course, travel photography is much more thrilling, but to get a DSLR just for this purpose – with the constraints of budget and time in mind – is not worth it, in my opinion.

Enough about cameras and on with the photos 😛 By the way, happy Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day, whichever one applies to you. Personally I think V-Day is immensely overrated anyway.

 
We start off this post with some adorable animals that I’ve encountered in Bordeaux. The first two photos are of a cat that happened to be staying at a friend’s house for a couple of weeks when I was visiting. It was a shy fellow, always hiding in the corner like a spy observing our every move. It has such sharp and beautiful eyes though, and no, it is not dead in the second picture. Next, friend and I met a small puppy during a walk. This little guy was tricky; I was never able to capture a picture of it from the front, but it was cute, nevertheless. (Click on photos for full-sized version.)

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