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Hello Southern France!

One of the big perks about being a researcher, is the travel. In July I wasn’t travelling for a conference, but to give a presentation and work together with researchers near Nice. Sucks to be me 🙂

The visit to the research lab was really nice, and actually already led to a short paper and a longer one in the making.  But since I’d never been to that part of France, I decided to stay on for the weekend for some nice food and weather. The one slightly annoying thing was that right after MadNes, I found a tick under my arm, and as I wasn’t feeling too well the days after removing it, the GP put me on antibiotics. Which means you can’t go into the sun. So my outfit of choice was a big sun hat and light linnen clothes, and as the old town has nice narrow alleys and lots of ice cream parlours, I managed to stay cool while enjoying the city.

I didn’t just stay around in Nice. On Saturday, I took the train to Antibes (awesome train ride!! The layout of most of the route: beach, narrow road, train tracks) where I first visited the market where I bought some goat’s cheese and a few macarons and then a bakery for some nice bread. There was a nice view and some shade by the Picasso museum, so I decided to have lunch there. As I didn’t have a cheese knife with me, I decided to use my frequent flyer card. A French man who came by told me that this was not done, and he offered me his knife. This was the start of a little conversation in French about the boats and the area (turns out he was a local judge who was hanging around town waiting for his boat to get fixed).

The Picasso museum was pretty cool, not so much for the art as they don’t really have his best pieces, and half of the museum is filled with art by other artists, but the building is great. I also went for a really short swim in the mediterranean (couldn’t resist) but stayed out of the sun, traipsed around town and read my book (Good Omens) in the shade.

On the Sunday, I stayed around Nice as I had to catch a flight home again later in the day. The day started off beautifully, so I went up the hill on the one side of town where on top there are ruins of an old castle and really enjoyed the views on the bay. In the afternoon, I traipsed around the boulevard, had another really brief swim and finished my book. Just as I got back from my hostel to pick up my bag and arrived at the bus stop for the airport it started to rain. Time to go home 🙂

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Regularly Surfing in the Netherlands Again

I love surfing. But for some reason, the past few years I was only surfing on holiday and it wasn’t really happening in the Netherlands. It sort of started to change a little bit with some girls surf events organised in the Netherlands where I found out that it is possible to go surfing by public transport (OK, it’s a bit of a hassle) and the waves are actually quite worth it (sometimes).

Anyway, in April, I decided I should try to surf at least twice a month during the non-winter season. That should be doable. Actually, it’s become easier than ever. Sometimes I rent a Greenwheels car (it’s a wee bit expensive, but if you share it with someone for a morning session it’s quite doable). I’ve also done some coaching sessions in Scheveningen, which is fairly easy to get to by train and tram and I’ve also been lucky in catching rides. Also, having it scheduled every Tuesday and there are other people to surf with makes that you just go (I’m also quite a social surfer). So I’ve actually learnt a lot the past spring, summer and autumn. I didn’t surf so much in winter because work was super busy, and with it getting dark earlier, it’s just harder to schedule, but luckily I got some surf over Christmas in Florida. I did go out in January, and even participated in a match (not really competing, but having a good time nonetheless). And it feels good. I’m feeling more confident in the water, my technique is getting better (that’s what I assume, as my rides are getting longer) and surfing is just one of the coolest activities to do.

After a pretty cold and seemingly endless winter, the days are getting longer again. Let’s see what this season brings 🙂

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MadNes

It had been ages since I’d camped out, and we do have a new tent. Also, I’d never been to the “Waddeneilanden” (the islands in the northeast of the Netherlands). So when one of my surfmates pointed out MadNes festival, it took me no time at all to decide to get a ticket.

MadNes festival is a two day beach festival on Ameland and it’s not just music, but also lots of watersports clinics (such as windsurfing), creative activities (I made a bag!)  and other types of things (I also did a capoeira clinic). Besides that, there is of course nice reggae and ska music.

As we’d signed up for our first clinic (kite buggy) at noon already, we had to leave really early. On my way to the tram in Amsterdam I realised one of the wheels of my suitcase was broken, but it was too late to go back and move stuff to a different one. I met E. in Amersfoort and we made it on time to Leeuwarden, found the bus to Holwerd and there we got onto the boat to Ameland. After the little ferry ride, buses were ready to take all the festival goers to the camp site (with all their stuff) and we set up our tents around the edge.

It takes around 30 minutes to set up the tent. Good to know. We were a little bit too late for our first clinic, but as other people were late for their slot, we could still have a go. Controlling the kite is fairly simple, only there were some stronger gusts of wind, making it a bit difficult. Controlling the kite and the buggy at the same time: not so simple. So my rides were usually only a few seconds before the kite found its way to the ground and I sometimes even ran it over (the buggy does not have a break). But it was a nice experience.

After the clinic, we made our way to the main festival area. During the day the festival area is also open to locals, so your proto-typical festival goer hangs out together with locals and families holidaying on the island with their children. We watched some BMX bikers in the half pipe (crazy!), hung out on the beach, did some dance jogging, and listened to bands I don’t know. Nothing new there, except that I’m used to sitting on the grass at festivals and this was with sand between my feet on the beach.

The only thing not so swell were the nights, as it turned out that the tent and sleeping mat are fine, the sleeping bag wasn’t. I was freezing! So I had to put on my jumper and stuff. Nothing that can’t be solved, just a bit annoying.

After two-and-a-half days of beach party-awesomeness, we managed to score a ride on a super nice campervan with a few guys who needed to go to Amsterdam too (actually one of them knew one of my co-workers, small world). So I also got to go over the “Afsluitdijk” for the first time in my life 🙂

See more pics at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/merpel/sets/72157631588968010/

Tenerife!

In May 2012, Paul and I travelled to Tenerife for a week of sun, sea and no surf. We got sun alright, as it was a fair number of degrees warmer than it was supposed to be for the time of year. We got sea, as we could see the sea from our apartment. But there was no surf. Not even wind for windsurfing (which is highly unusual there).

But no worries, there were plenty of other fun things to do. As it was so hot, I went swimming of course (well, Paul thought the water was still too cold, so he sipped Spanish with milk and condensed milk and read books while I swam). Flip flops are obligatory on some of the beaches as the (black) sand got so hot you’d burn your feet. I also rented a stand-up paddle board, which is just fun to do.

We also did a boat tour at a place called “Los Gigantes” (which refers to the height of the cliffs: 600m). The boat tour along the cliffs was already really awesome, but we also got to see some dolphins on the way back. And we had the boat to ourselves (with the crew).

As we had rented a car, and the petrol is fairly cheap on the Canary islands we also did a lot of driving. For example along the TF-21 through the Parque Nacional del Teide which takes you around the Teide vulcano. This also happens to be Spain’s tallest mountain. The road was pretty steep in parts, but there were also cyclists going up (we were happy that we got a nice strong engine in our car). The landscapes in the national park were absolutely stunning and around every bend, the landscape seemed to change dramatically. On the way back, we visited the dragon tree and took a road along the coast back.

We also had fabulous food. There is lots of nice fresh fish, but we also sampled some of the more traditional Canarian cuisine which includes lots of delicious stews (I bought a cookbook and it’s not that hard to do, it just takes time as it usually needs to marinate overnight). Somehow we also ended up at a Belgian tennis club barbecue, with French karaoke. Weird? Yes. Fun? Absolutely!

See the pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/merpel/sets/72157631588968032/