Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: ocean

Skies, seas, and Cherbourg

I’ve been to Cherbourg in Normandy twice, each time was a three-day stay. Yet, I’ve never written about it. For a period of time, the circumstances under which I made these visits bore too much burden on my heart and my mind. After almost three years, I dug out these memories and looked back at those very peaceful days that I spent in Cherbourg, and there was nothing to regret.

Cherbourg is a port city at the tip of northwestern France, part of the department of Lower Normandy, where the sea seemed to be an indispensable part of the people’s lives in Cherbourg

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March getaway part 1, Saint-Émilion and Arcachon

Yes yes, I know it’s been almost two weeks (again) since the last update, but I had big plans. March is a very active month because of two main events. First, LY, a friend/colleague from my lab in Belgium, came to visit last week, and we went on a 3-day trip to some places around Bordeaux. Second, the annual IDS-FunMat training school is taking place next week…in Annecy! Since it’s so close to Switzerland, I planned a little detour to Geneva and Lausanne with my IDS colleagues, but you’ll read about that when I come back at the end of March 😉

Alright, let’s first talk about my visitor from Belgium and our little trip. We’ve been planning LY’s visit since what, last November? All the details – itineraries, flights, train tickets, hotels, places to visit – have been arranged. So I awaited his arrival on Thursday and the journey began.

There are two must-see points of interests for any visitor in Bordeaux, outside of the city itself: Saint-Émilion and Arcachon, both of which I had been to (perhaps too many times, to Saint-Émilion). And we were going to do both places in one day, as proposed by my guest. I was skeptical for two reasons: timing and weather. In order for this to work, we’d have to leave quite early and hop on and off trains and buses non-stop. As for the weather, early March may be a bit too cold for Arcachon and the Dune du Pilat, and the forecast predicted rain for the entire weekend…uh oh.

Even with the skepticism in mind, we went. I mean, we couldn’t have let months of planning go to waste, right? Saint-Émilion would be alright in the rain, but Arcachon would have been disastrous if it rained, but no such worries existed in the end because we were blessed with the most gorgeous weather of this year by far. I guess my friend was right in saying that luck accompanies him wherever he goes 😉

The morning started in Saint-Émilion when we realized that…LY left his memory card at home. So I lent him mine. I’ve probably already taken enough pictures of Saint-Émilion to last a lifetime anyway. I did take a photo or two with his Canon EOS 60D though, and this is one of them. I liked this photo so much that I put it on Picture Worthy and named it “City and vineyards”, as the town of Saint-Émilion could be seen in a distance, contrasted with the vineyards, still leafless, right in front of us 🙂

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Northwestern France, days 3 and 4

On day 3 of my Christmas escape from Bordeaux, I visited the famous Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy…or is it part of Brittany? I’m not sure. The bus ride was a little less than an hour and a half from Rennes, perfect for a day trip. I figured since I was in Rennes, why not drop by to see what’s the big deal?

Day 4 was an unplanned but interesting detour…you’ll see. (See all photos.)

Obligatory front shot of Mont Saint-Michel upon arrival. Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island that is connected to the mainland via a causeway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the entire “town” of Mont Saint-Michel is enclosed by a fortress, with a gigantic abbey at the very top in the centre.

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Basque Country part 4: Biarritz

Last but not least, Biarritz! It’s been more than two weeks, but Biarritz will be the concluding post in the Basque Country series.

Training school finished at around noon on a Saturday. While most people either headed back to Bordeaux with the school shuttle buses or left for their flights back to their host universities, a small group of us had some time to spare. Mariel and I would be taking the 18h45 bus in Biarritz to San Sebastián, while Nhi, Naresh, and Ragu had a train to catch in Bayonne at 18h30. That gave us five hours of free time from 13h00, after lunch. Hmm. Mini-Biarritz exploration team, anyone?

Of course, we decided that the little we saw on the bus to the excursion was definitely not enough, and since we had the time, we took a taxi to the Biarritz town centre to walk around a bit until it was time to go. We were joined by Diana, whose flight was at around 17h00 and who would leave Biarritz at 15h00. A cozy group of six, off we went!

The taxi dropped us off at the Biarritz town centre, and before going anywhere, I needed to head to the tourist information centre to make sure that there was actually a bus later that day that would take Mariel and me to San Sebastián. Biarritz has a very cute tourist information centre – it looks like a noble castle! I would have thought this was a tourist attraction itself, hehe 😉

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Basque Country part 1: 2nd IDS-FunMat training school in Anglet

IDS-FunMat (International Doctoral School in Functional Materials) training week is perhaps the only time of the year when I look forward to a Monday. It is an annual training week in my PhD program where all the PhD candidates meet at one place to undergo lectures, workshops, and discussions. Of course that means a lot of interaction and socializing, and what better place to do it than right beside the Atlantic Ocean? The destination this year…Anglet!

When I told friends that I was going to Anglet, no one knew where that was. Then I said Biarritz…still doesn’t sound familiar until I popped out the name Bayonne. Turns out the three places are actually one big community, kinda like Bordeaux and Pessac and Mérignac, I suppose.

Last year, the first training school took place in Portugal. Yes, it was also by the Atlantic, but one can never get too much of the ocean. I met my colleagues – or classmates – for the first time last year and had a blast getting to know everyone, coming from all over the world ranging from the Philippines, Mexico, Nepal, Canada (yes there was another Canadian aside from me!) etc. This year, in addition to my class, there was the new class of 2011 that has joined the program. The nationalities were as diverse as before, if not more diverse – Turkey, Singapore, Ukraine, Italy…you name it! Double the people, double the fun!

The people – I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with everyone in the IDS-FunMat program, and I was so excited to see the people in my class, some of which whom I haven’t seen since Portugal last year! It’s a marvelous thing, bonding with people. Nature nourishes us, but human interaction keeps us alive.

Seems like Mariel from the Philippines (left) and Daniel from Australia (right) are having an intense scientific discussion on the beach! From photovoltaics to biomaterials to solar cells, PhD candidates from all areas of functional materials met during this training week to discuss our progress, problems, and prospects.

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