Palavas les Flots – Montpelier’s Seaside

Just six kilometres south of Montpelier lies Palavas-les-Flots, a seaside town with some very fine seafood restaurants lining the canalised section of the River Lez  that runs through the centre of the town just before it enters the sea.    This has the effect of splitting the town into two sections, a Left Bank and a Right Bank, the names by which they are known.

Chair-Lift-Over-Palabas-Les-Flot

See Palavas by Chair Lift- Mari Nicholson

In the centre of the town is the distinctive ‘lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ with its popular revolving restaurant: next to this stands the church of Saint Pierre with its attractive garden.  There are few other sights to detain one in this seaside resort – it is a place for relaxation and enjoyment of the watersports and the facilities on hand.  What is a charming sight, though, is the canalised section of the town on which the fishing fleet makes a fine picture on a sunny day as they get ready to set sail.  And again, on their return, photographers line up to  photograph the fishermen who sell the fish directly from the decks of their boats to customers from the nearby flats and even from towns beyond.

Fishing-boats-ready-to-sail---Mari-Nicholson

The restaurants that line the canal are a magnet for visitors from Montpelier, especially at weekends, and you should be prepared to wait a while for a table and again for the meal to be served once you have chosen a restaurant.  The favourite meal is  mussels , served n every imaginable style, and always in the traditional big, blue enamel pots beloved of French restaurants.  They can be recommended.

Those who enjoy the fun of local markets should visit on the mornings of Monday, Wednesday and Friday when there is a market in the town.

The seafront is a short distance from the town centre and has a wide sandy beach, not what one would call a ‘golden beach’ but nevertheless, sandy and clean.  It is seven kilometres long and with this massive stretch of seaside comes all the water-related sports activities you could wish for  – kayaking, jet-skis, windsurfing, paragliding, swimming, snorkelling and diving.  Most of the equipment can be hired from concessions on and around the beach.

The sprawl of apartment buildings that is a backdrop to the beach either side of the centre is not especially handsome but the little harbour is attractive and from the small concrete pier are some good views of the town and across the bay to La Grande Motte.   And as I said, the good stretch of sandy beach is an ideal spot for families and couples to enjoy the facilities on offer.

Just outside Palavas, a short walk away, there are natural ponds that are home to an interesting selection of wildlife.   What attracts most people to the area, however, are the flocks of flamingoes that live here and that make a visit to the ponds something rather special.

How to Get to Palavas-les-Flots from Montpelier

By Tram or Bus, but the tram is so quick and fun to ride that I recommend them.  Purchase tickets before boarding, multi-lingual ticket machines at each tram stop. A day pass is recommended if you plan to use the tram much. Be sure to validate your ticket in the machines, being found without a valid ticket means an on-the-spot fine of around 30 euros. Not speaking French is not accepted as an excuse.

One-way tickets cost €1.40 round-trip €2.50. A 24-hour bus and tram ticket is €3.80.  Line 28 runs to the beach at Palavas les Flots.

The “Navette des Plages” bus runs non-stop to the “Face a la Plage” beach, between Palavas les Flots and La Grande Motte. Bus 131 runs to Palavas-les-Flots.

 

HUA HIN, THAILAND

Dateline 11th August 2016

My favourite town in Thailand is in the news today for all the wrong reasons.  A terrorist attack in this quiet, respectable, tourist town, two hours from Bangkok, has left one local street-seller dead and about ten wounded, some seriously.  Of all the places I expected to be attacked in Thailand, Hua Hin is the last place I would have picked.

No one has claimed responsibility yet (12/08/2016) but it is being assumed that the terrorists are from the South of the country bordering on Malaysia where a group of insurgents has been causing problems for the past decade.  Bombs  and killings (usually of policemen) have almost attained normalcy there, but the terrorists had not moved further north, nor had they even ventured into the hot-spots of Phuket or Pattaya.

Setting out the Deck Chairs, Dawn at Hua Hin Beach, Thailand
It’s 6.30 a.m. and the cafe owner is setting out the deck-chairs for the day ahead. An old-fashioned beach in Hua Hin. Thailand

The latter two I fully expected to be hit after Bali.  Pattaya is a town of somewhat sleazy hedonism, and it has often been thought that the more disapproving members of society might one day be tempted to release a bomb there.  Likewise, Patong in Phuket, another place of girlie bars, ladyboy bars, and a place where drunkenness is tolerated, was a town that could be considered in the same way.

But Hua Hin, the favourite resort of the Thai royal family whose Palace along the seafront brings the royals to the town on many occasions, a place which is regarded as a resort for the more mature holidaymaker, and one that is home to many Europeans and Americans who have retired there to take advantage of the seven superb golf clubs in the town?  Never.  And Hua Hin has much to offer.

The world is changing fast nowadays.  Old certainties have gone and personal safety is now a worry for everyone.  But I hope that I, and all the others who love Thailand and the lovely old town of Hua Hin, can continue to visit it and enjoy the friendliness, the hospitality and the very Thai way of doing things.

Terrorism will be defeated in the end.  It may take time, but we must not let it alter our way of life.  I, for one, certainly won’t allow it to alter mine and I hope to spend my next long-haul holiday in what is, still, the safest country to visit , bar none.

All Photographs copyright – Mari Nicholson

 

 

An Illustrated Walk on the Beach, Isle of Wight

 

My new camera, the Sony A6000, has a brilliant inbuilt programme that turns the image from a  basic photograph to one that can isolate one colour, say red or blue, leaving the remainder of the photograph in black & white; changes the image to one that looks like a water-colour with the tints bleeding into each other; and, my favourite, illustration which alters the photograph miraculously so that it looks like a graphic illustration.  It is tempting to embark on designing a comic strip, or to illustrate an article with an illustration instead of an image.

Here I give you a few samples of Illustration, taken on a walk along my local beach the other day, a cold wintry day but with a blue sky lighting the day.  I hope they reproduce in the blog as they do on my screen, best viewed very large.

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Beach and Cliffs with People, Sandown, Isle of Wight
DSC00754
Fishing Boat on Horizon at Sandown, Isle of Wight
By the Pier a Young Man Kicks a Football and Children Play in the Sand, at Sandown, IoW on a wintry day.
By the Pier a young lad kicks a football and two children play in the sand, at Sandown, IOW, on a wintry day.
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Blue skies, calm(ish) waters with the White Cliffs of Culver at Sandown, Isle of Wight.

Hua Hin – Thailand’s Royal Town

People often ask what is my favourite town or city in Thailand.  The answer is easy, it is Hua Hin, a once quiet fishing village on the Gulf of Siam, two hours drive from Bangkok, and a world away from the bustle and noise of the capital city.  Mind you, Bangkok is up there with the favourites as well, but it is the capital city after all, and all capital cities are deserving of their popularity.

I have been visiting Hua Hin for about 25 years now, stopping off on every holiday to recharge my batteries in the peace and tranquillity of one of the hotels just outside the town.  For the last twenty years, that hotel has been the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, a 5-star establishment that attracts guests from far and wide, but it also pleases the Thai people because come the week-end, they flock to it for the great food (especially the Saturday night barbecue), the delightful seaside setting, and the chance to go horse-riding at dawn on the beach (the only hotel at which this is available).

Today’s Hua Hin owes much of its popularity to the fact that many people discovered it only after the tsunami that devastated the southern beaches of Phi Phi, Phuket, Kao Lak etc.  Before the tsunami it could be said that the fishing village atmosphere was very evident, but today, the little fishing harbour is being crowded by the shops, restaurants, and tailors that line the roads leading to the sea.

Most of the major hotel chains have a presence here – Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Aleena, Sofitel, and of course, the only already mentioned, Dusit Thani.  I choose Dusit Thani because it is a purely Thai owned hotel with service and attention to detail that reflects the Thai ideal of hospitality.  All these hotels have excellent restaurants but Hua Hin itself must be one of the best towns in which to find food from every nation.  As well as Thai restaurants, of which there are many, there are Chinese, French, German, Indian, Italian, Korean, Swiss, Japansese, Vietnamese, American and European/Mediterranean fusion.

With the growth of a well-heeled retirement colony in the town, bakeries have sprung up as well as cheese and meat importers.  Fresh vegetables can be purchased daily at the local market, or there is a Tesco/Lotus supermarket for those who feel the need for packaged veggies and air-conditioned stores.

Hua Hin is one of the most popular spots to which people want to retire as the climate is never too hot or too humid, unlike say Phuket or the islands in the south.  It is also within easy distance of Bangkok, there is a good transport network, and perhaps most important of all, there are six championship golf courses in the area.

I cannot recommend the town too much.  For me it is the perfect place for a holiday.