Unexpected polar encounter

It’s night but it’s not dark. At this latitude, the day lasts almost 24 hours. It is 3 am and the campsite is bathed in a dark light. No need for a flashlight to guide me. As I walk through the motorhomes, a shadow leaps suddenly in front of me. It saw me, and as stupefied as me, stops. Its two bright eyes stare at me. The moment is fleeting, the beast leaves immediately, a dark ball of hair that runs like an arrow before disappearing behind a bush. What was it? I am perplexed because, apart from sheep, there are few animals on this island. Too big to be a cat. And the gait was not a canine thing. Pointed ears and a long snout, a bushy tail, a soft and agile look. In the half-light and awake, I did not realize that I had just met a polar fox, rare endemic species of Iceland.

July 2017 – Family road trip – 1 week

Malta

I discovered Malta, 40 years after the country took its independence from Great Britain (it was a former colony) and just before it entered the European Union.

3 good reasons to go

Malta is a great place to send teenagers on a language study holiday, rather than in England. First, the weather is definitely much better, as the country is located in the Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and Tunisia. Then, food has many Italian influences and colors, with pasta and tomatoes among it. And last but not least, it’s an archipelago made up of Malta the main island with the capital Valletta, Gozo, Comino, plus 5 other little islands. This means you can swim.

A little bit of Geography

Most of the time, when I speak about Malta, people don’t see what it looks like, so to resume, the islands are just rocks in the middle of the sea. I mean it, they are really rocky islands, with few plants, it looks like quite arid, with almost no relief. Another important thing to know before getting there is that it’s not an island with sandy beaches. As I said, it’s rocky, so you have wonderful cliffs. To swim some artificial pools where curved in the rocks to allow tourists to swim.

A little bit of History

Malta is also a very interesting cultural destination, due to its crossroad position in the Mediterranean Sea. You can still see traces of its early History, with Megalithic Temples from the Neolithic period. The country was dominated successively by the Carthaginian, the Roman, the Byzantine, the Arabian, the Sicilian, the Knights of Saint John, the French thanks to Napoleon, and finally the British until its independence in 1964. Each domination left its influence. For example, the Maltese language sounds like Arabic, despite its written with the Latin alphabet, and the fact that everyone speaks also English. The Order of Knights of Saint John built the fortified city of Valletta (named after one of the Grand Master of the Order who defeated the Ottoman). Last occupiers, the British left the main traces: driving on the left side of the road, red telephone box, etc.

What’s typical in Malta?

What I liked about Malta is its originality: its old fashion and colorful bus; its colorful little boats with an eye at the bow; the little-paved streets of Valletta with its green windows.

Lastly, Malta got famous because of Game of Thrones. You’ll probably recognize the gate of M’dina (the former capital) as the gate of King’s landing. Many cities and fort of Malta were used as the scenery of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. The wedding of Daenerys and Khal Drogo was spotted near the Azure Arch, which, unfortunately, was destroyed by a storm in 2017.

Just one last tip before you book your next holidays in Malta: sometimes its windy, I mean fresh breeze which is very welcomed. But, be careful, because you won’t feel the sun burning you, and you can quickly turn red.

April 2004 – Language study holiday – 1 week

Austria

The first time I’ve been traveling abroad, it was in Austria, when I was a little girl. Yes, it was a long time ago …

Zell Am See’s lake

Zell Am See – Skiing Resort

I went there 3 winters in a row, just to let you know how much I enjoyed it. I can’t say I was a skiing expert, but my parents put me on ski when I was 2 years old, and when I discovered Austria, I already knew several skiing resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees. I immediately liked Zell Am See, which is located in the North-west part of Austria, near Salzburg, Munich is the closest airport.

The Skiing resort is settled on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, offering a large range of slopes. It’s there I discover for the first a kind of lifts I never saw in France: pickaxes. Unlike single ski lift, it’s a 2 persons ski lift. It’s funny if your partner doesn’t make you fall of course, which means you need to choose your partner carefully. Imagine, as a kid, how fun it was to make your partner fall. I was there on a winter camp, with many other kids of my age. And I have to admit most of the time I was the only girl in my group, because the best skier were boys.


Kitzsteinhorn glacier

I always love mountains in winter, because it’s just blue and white. Or sometimes just white when it’s not sunny. You hit the slopes all day, like if you were at the top of the world, at least you’re at the top of the mountains. You hardly see the valley, hidden under a sea of cloud. There are just the white slopes and the bright sun in a perfect blue sky above you. You feel the speed, it’s stirring.

I remember accessing the slopes using a funicular, starting in Karpun down in the valley. For me, it was a strange kind of train. Every train I knew where horizontal with seats. That one was slanting, following the mountain slope. The main part of the journey was inside the mountain, so we were just standing in that dark tunnel, and in my memories, we were waiting for ages, and I never really like it. Sadly, in 2000, I learned there’s been an accident in that funicular, a fire occurred and more than a hundred people died inside the tunnel, and it was never re-opened.

Salzburg

It’s Mozart birthplace, and when I was there it was also the centenary of the Empress Sissi’s death. So, I let you guess that in every tourist shops, everything was related to these two historical characters. Despite that, Salzburg remains a pretty city, typical from Eastern Europe, in Bavarian style, with bell towers with green bulbs. In my memories, there is a castle on top of a hill, with a river at its feet. Everything is very clean and well maintained, like everywhere in Austria I think. I remember its lovely gardens in baroque style and all these places where you can drink coffee and eat chocolates. I might have bought some to bring back home to my family. But what remains in my memories about food, was the cheese and ham I had for breakfast. For a french little girl like me, it was something really strange, as in my mind you only eat sweet food for breakfast.

April 1997, 1998 & 1999 – Kids camp – 1 week