Day 11: White Caps on a Sea of Blue

I woke up this morning after a fantastic sleep and headed down to a delightful breakfast provided by our wonderful hosts, including a myriad of delicious homemade jams and apple juice. We piled into our VW and hit the road towards another seaside town called Étretat, 20 minutes west of Fécamp. I wanted to go to Étretat because it features some really beautiful and interesting coastal rock formations. The drive there was again very picturesque – green hills, quaint villages, cows cows cows.

We took a sharp turn and headed up a steep hill and found parking, bundled up and wandered out onto the cliffs.

The main point of interest in the formations is the one called “l’aiguille”, or “the needle”. It was windy and sky was moody and it was a truly breathtaking sight.

The tops of the cliffs feature rocky winding paths and in the typical European fashion, no safety railings to be seen (if you get too close to the edge and fall over, it’s your own dumb fault). We wandered and meandered, admiring the cliffs, ocean, flora, fauna, and a single white-sailed sail boat on the water.

We had all taken about 200 of the same photo of the cliffs and decided it was time to hit the beach. We got back in the car and headed town to the town of Étretat, found a créperie/pizzeria, had some lunch and headed to the beach. Étretat, like Fécamp has a pebble beach, but does not have as much as a natural protected harbour as Fécamp.

Along the promenade are fact placards about French Impressionist painter Claude Monet and his paintings featuring Étretat and its alabaster cliffs.

As we got closer to the “Needle”, we noticed that there were a fair deal of surfers and stand up paddle boarders in the water, braving the winds and chilly waters.

The rain started picking up so we headed back to our car and drove back to Fécamp.

One of the points of interest of Fécamp is that it is the home of the Palais Bénédictine, a gothic/Renaissance/Art Deco structure that not only houses Bénédictine monks, but is the only distillery in the world of the liqueur Bénédictine. I had no previous knowledge of this liqueur prior to planning our trip, but when I mentioned it to Pa, he was pretty keen, which is part of the reason we chose Fécamp as our Normandy home base.

What we didn’t know is that the Palais houses a wealth of old liturgical relics, art and artefacts, as well as old Art Deco print ads for the liqueur.

We perused the artefacts and ancient letters on our own, but had to join a group tour for the distillery portion. The distilling seems like quite the time consuming process, taking 2 years of macerating, heating and ageing 27 herbs and spices in their basement and cellars until the elixir is bottled.

There have been many many imitations, but the only real Bénédictine is distilled in this one location.

After touring the cellar it was time for a sample, and we could choose between classic Bénédictine, B&B (Bénédictine and Brandy) and Bénédictine single cask. Given there were 3 samples and 3 of us, we all got a different sample so we could share. My apologies to the monks who saved the recipe during the scattering of their props during the French Revolution, but I am not a fan of Bénédictine.

After Pa helped us finish our samples, we hit up the local grocery store and boulangerie for a baguette, some cider, éclairs and gummy bears and brought them back to our B&B where we sat in the dining room, tore apart the baguette and smothered it in salted butter and emptied the bottle of cider. We then retired to our rooms to read and rest before a busy day tomorrow.

The Sun’ll Come Out…

It’s been a long winter on the the west coast this year.  More snow than we’ve seen in years, not to mention the rain, rain rain.  Earlier this week we had a rare bright spot, and lucky for us, the cherry blossoms were out too!  I took the opportunity to shoot the cherry blossom in Ma and Pa’s front yard – planted the same time my sister was born.  My friend was telling me that part of the reason why he loves cherry blossoms so much because they’re are so ephemeral – here for a few weeks and then poof!  Gone for another year.

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Croatia (Part 5: Zadar)

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Our pleasant-est of pleasant surprises on our trip to the Balkans was the coastal town of Zadar.  We decided to stay in Zadar randomly – it was a coastal town almost a straight line from the more inland Plitvice Lakes.  We read that it had a pretty old town and a newer interesting waterfront feature – the Marine Organ.

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After most of our day in Plitvice lakes we decided to head into town to check out the Organ and get some dinner.  We wandered through the old town and marvelled at the beautiful Venetian stone work – it was like a miniature, less crowded version of Dubrovnik.  The city is very clean and the stones shiny, like they polish them on a regular basis.  Little art galleries and pizzerias were strewn about the town.

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When we made our way outside of the old wall we were thrust upon a vision of utter majesty – the orange-red sun setting on the restless, white-capped Adriatic Sea, the sound of Nikola Basic’s award winning urban art instalment – the Marine Organ.  As mentioned in a previous post, the Marine Organ is a set of polyethylene pipes of varying lengths and widths set into the concrete seafront with slats on one end to allow the wind, waves, and water in and an opening on the other to the let the chance music out.

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We sat on the steps, watched the sailboats pass by in the choppy waters and the sun set, and listened to the music.  The music was enchanting, harmonious, hypnotizing.  I could have listened to it all day.  We noticed that there were a few cafes set back from the concrete steps and decided that some day, one day, when we return, we will spend more time in Zadar and sit at one of those cafes for a day, drink the delicious coffee and listen to the music of the ocean.

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It Makes Me Mellow

 

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White Rock

I love taking photos of chaos.  I love when the shot is busy, lots going on.  I love lots of colours, details, movement.  I find taking calm or placid scenes challenging because they are a lot less forgiving than the busy ones.  The shot has to be perfectly level and the light optimal.  I’m lucky that because of where I live geographically I get plenty of practice, at least for calm ocean/water shots.  Above is in White Rock, a wealthy suburb of Surrey.  It’s hopping in the summer with a great pier and a strip of restaurants (Uli’s being a personal favourite) but in the winter it’s much more subdued and serene.

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Howe Sound

Howe Sound is a lovely, calm inlet north of West Vancouver.  This was taken somewhere between Lion’s Bay and Squamish.  Both the weather and the sea were calm that day, a typical West Coast October.  Not too cold but definitely not warm.  The ocean isn’t quite a completely calm piece of glass, but still flat enough that it was a bit of a tricky shot to get right.

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Mount Triglav National Park, Slovenia

We took this peaceful scenic detour through one of Slovenia’s most iconic landscapes (Mount Triglav is on their flag) towards the end of our trip there.  First of all, Slovenia is awesome.  The people were warm and generous and the natural beauty was absolutely gobsmacking.  Go there.  Anyway, this was the typical view of our drive – shades of green and yellow, quiet, bright.  Manicured hayfields and alpine homesteads dotted the landscape.  Some of the stress of driving in a foreign land (temporarily) melted away.

 

 

Croatia (Part 2: Korcula)

 

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Korcula, Croatia

The second part of our Croatian adventure was to the island of Korcula.  Korcula is a sleepy, beach-y island, much quieter and humbler than its glitzy neighbour Hvar.  We wanted to go to one of the Dalmatian islands and seeing as Ma, Pa and I are all pretty introverted, we chose the quieter island.

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The island ended up being a vacation within our vacation.  We’d met back up with Pa on our last day in Dubrovnik and decided to take it easy on this tranquil rock.  As you can see, the waters are just as beautiful and inviting as they are outside of Dubrovnik.  IMG_8031

The climate was Mediterranean – warm, some palm trees, rocky and the architecture Venetian – lots of red tiled roofs.  Korcula was fun to photograph because of not only its stunning natural beauty, but because of the whole laid back feel there.   The locals love to talk about their maybe native son Marco Polo and you can visit his perhaps birthplace.  It wasn’t too crowded so you weren’t rubbing elbows with everyone like we were in Dubrovnik and not cursing every clueless selfie sticky-carrying doofus who ambled into your shot.

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Like Dubrovnik there were plenty of laneways and staircases, just without the people, so you could get mysterious shots like this one.  I often think back to Croatia and if I had to choose only one part to go back to and spend more time, it would be Korcula.  Maybe.

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Somewhere Beyond the Sea

Like I’ve previously mentioned, I love the sea.  I was born and raised on the west coast of Canada, so going to the beach has been a staple activity of mine since I was a kid.  Also, Ma is a sailor, and both of her parents were sailors so I feel like some of that love is in my bones.  That’s probably why I have so many shots of the ocean and why I love photographing it so much.  It’s very colourful, temperamental and unpredictable.  Profoundly dramatic.

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This is the Pacific from when Ma and I went to Ucluelet last year.  We were both totally gobsmacked at the awesome power of the wild Pacific, the energy of the waves on the rocks, the sea spray, the colour of the sky reflected on the water.  Also technically speaking, this was the point in the photography journey where I stopped relying on Canon’s fantastic “Creative Auto” setting and started shooting on Manuel so that I could learn “on the job” as it were about adjusting ISO and aperture.

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Here is the Adriatic Sea from Zadar, Croatia’s Marine Organ.  I love the way the water would climb up onto the concrete steps, splatter and retreat, different every time.  No two waves are the same.  The blazing red sun had just set leaving this pastel palette over the landscape.  I laid flat on my belly to try and get as far down as I good, and I’m happy with how those other photographers are reflected in the puddle.

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I love that the ocean also has reflecting power, sometimes glass, sometimes a funhouse mirror.  I love that the Lions Gate Bridge’s string of lights is reflected in the harbour, and although slightly distorted, still beautiful.  I feel like the Pacific Ocean here is mysterious, inky and secretive, not letting us know what is going on in its depths.