Into the blue: Aquarium Mare Nostrum | Montpellier, France

aquarium1Surprisingly fun, even for adults.

aquarium2

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Things were different back in 1626 | New York, USA

And the fact that the East River covered what are now several square miles of streets, sidewalks and buildings in Lower Manhattan back then was the least impressive.

In 1626, the Dutch – who had been using the southern tip of Manhattan as a fur trading post, purchased the entire island from the Lenape, a Native American tribe, for 60 guilders (whose value was estimated at about $1000 in 2006) and called it New Amsterdam.

About four decades later, in 1664, the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English, who promptly renamed it New York, in exchange for Dutch control over Run, which was deemed to be a much more valuable asset at the time.

The fact that I just had to look up what Run is (a 3-by-1 km island which is now part of Indonesia, if you’re curious) just goes to show the Dutch lack of foresight, although it is anybody’s guess if New York would have become what it is today had it remained under control of the Netherlands. Somehow, “If I can make it there / I’ll make it anywhere / It’s up to you / New Amsterdam, New Amsterdam” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but who knows, it might be just a prejudice on my part.

Nautical theme | Nea Skioni, Greece

Three things:

1. Today marks the 100th anniversary since the sinking of Titanic – an event that caused the death of 1,514 people (making it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history) and that, in the century that followed, became the iconic subject of endless paraphernalia, books, movies, exhibitions and proverbial sayings. (I highly recommend reading this unusual story about the mark left by the Titanic’s sinking on an otherwise unremarkable Bulgarian village.)

2. The color of the Aegean that you can see on the left edge of the right picture above is exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to paint my living room’s wall “the color of the sea”. I almost gave up, as I looked for paint everywhere and almost became convinced that this color doesn’t exits anywhere but in my imagination, but finally had it made especially (to pretty great results, if I say so myself – you can see the resulting wall color here).

3. The first glimpse of the sea still takes my breath away, although it was neither the first time I saw the sea this year (after the Atlantic in January and the Mediterranean in February), nor was it the long-awaited first sight of the Black Sea from my childhood (that I have written about here).

I’ve spent the last 40 minutes trying to pick one of these three things around which to spin a nautically-themed post, but then I thought, why not include all of them? Then, I proceeded to ignore the possible answers to that question (such as: because they are neither related nor equally compelling or interesting to read) and did it anyway. I hope you find something worthwhile here either way, and – at worst, that I’ve made you think and dream of the sea, which is never a bad thing. And by never, I mean all the times you do it while managing to banish nagging thoughts of maritime disasters.

Morceaux de Marseille* | Marseille, France

* I’m well aware of how pretentious it is to use French phrases in lieu (ooops, did it again!) of perfectly good English ones, but “pieces of Marseille” somehow doesn’t have as nice of a ring to it, does it? On second thought, I could have named this post “Morsels of Marseille” but that just sounds weird.

P.S. Isn’t the light in the second part of the photos just magical? Almost as magical as walking on the beach in February, I must say.

Silvia and Alexander**: Walking on water | New York City, US of A

Silveto and Alexander walking on the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River

Even when they are on the other side of the Atlantic, they can't seem to stay away from the Black Sea

**This is part of a week-long series of photographs sent in by friends standing on, over or above exciting places around the world**


Albena**: Over the Channel | Atlantic Ocean between France and England

Albena's feet hanging over La Manche, on the side of Bretagne, France

**This is part of a week-long series of photographs sent in by friends standing on, over or above exciting places around the world**


A question of perspective | Nervión River, Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

These two pictures were taken at Bilbao’s Arenal Bridge (in Spanish known as Puente del Arenal and in Basque as Areatzako zubia), within mere seconds of one another and while standing at exactly the same spot, without moving, not even by a centimeter, anything but the camera’s angle. Crazy, no?

Note: Next to me stands my endlessly entertaining friend and no less than perfect travel companion – Mariana, who was largely responsible for our spontaneous visit to Bilbao and heroically endured my constant lingering to take pictures of my feet not just throughout this trip, but during all of our many travels together – in Sarajevo, Serbia, Bratislava, Budapest, Balchik and most recently, Barcelona.

Martian, like the planet | Lake Salagou, Languedoc Roussillon, France

The landscape around Lake Salagou was decidedly martian, or at least it came really close to how the landscape on Mars looks like in my mind. We went there just before dusk. The whole area was deserted, it seemed like we were the only people for miles and miles. The slopes that descended into the water looked like sand dunes and were swept by a constant, strong wind. But most of all, it was the strangely intense, deep copper red color of the ground around the lake that made it seem like we were on the Red Planet and not on Earth.*

At places, the soil was gravel-like, spilling over onto the paved road…

In other spots, the dunes turned into terraces of solid rock with a sharp, jagged surface.

On the way down to the lake’s shore, where the red soil bled into the water and made its blue color murky with a rusty hue, things got ever more outer-worldly.

I don’t know if it was the spots where the rocks had cracked, thousands of years ago, and now looked like the scales on the skin of a snake, with fossilized shells forever trapped in them.

Or maybe it was the pile of moss-covered stones that looked like they were dropped there by an invisible hand.

Or it could have been the strange plants that seemed like they belonged either in the desert or on another planet, but which somehow grew…

… although they often looked like they were pinned into the rocky soil artificially.

As the skies began to darken, and pink, purple and yellow patches peeked brightly from between the thick and voluptuous clouds, we hurriedly climbed back up towards the road, then got into the car and drove back to Planet Earth.

[Thanks, Kentin and Natacha for taking me and showing me this place. And for the delicious bread.]

*And just so you don’t go away having read all this and learned nothing, here is some factual information: the red hills in the area, called ruffes in French, were created over hundreds of millions of years by a series of geological events and apparently used to hide – in addition to the fossilized shells, dinosaurs’ footprints until they were destroyed by humans. The reason why the plants in the area look so particular is the high levels of iron oxyde in the soil, which incidentally is the same compound that gives the planet Mars its reddish appearance. So, don’t say you never learned anything from me.