June 2013

Note: I also made a post yesterday.  See below “Back to Spotts beach”.

Recently Julie & I  had the privilege of spending some time in France.  I had a business meeting so we decided to make a vacation of it. In fact, we got there a few days early and visited Paris.  After my business stuff, we then went for a road trip to the Atlantic coast. The main stops being near La Rochelle and then in Normandy.

Paris was fun, but for us not the best part. Of course we saw most of the “standard” tourist things in Paris and like millions before us had our picture taken in front of the Eiffel tower at the Trocadero.


After leaving Paris, we had a few things on the agenda.  Notably, visit some Chateau, visit some family and also see the D-day locations in Normandy.  Considering my family’s involvement and how they were impacted in WWII, it was very important for me to see the Normandy beaches.

First off, my odd ball stop of the trip.   A German Uboat pen in St-Nazaire.  This massive structure is 300 meters long by 130 wide.  The roof (which you can see on the below picture) is 30ft thick concrete to resist any bombs the allies to throw at it.   This thing is so big that apparently the city of St-Nazaire is just leaving it these since the cost of destroying it would be prohibitive. Anyone can just go in and walk around. Its a very austere and grim place, but fascinating nevertheless.


Another neat stop was the Mont St-Michel. After the visit of the island where the Monastery is located, I opted to go for a guided walk on the sands at low tide. Where I am standing in the picture, there would normally be +-3 meters (10ft) of water at high tide.   The tide is so fast, that you can see its progression with the naked eye, hence why you go for a guided tour and not on your own.  The Mont St-Michel has the highest tides in Europe.   (The highest in the world are at the Bay of Fundy in Canada – shame on me, I have never visited)



This is Juno beach, the beach where the brave Canadian troops landed in “Courseulles-sur-Mer” on that fateful day 69 years ago.   The Canadian visitor center is located just a few hundred feet away.  Julie & I really enjoyed the center. Once could easily spend a whole day ; there is so much to see.  The US visitor center at Omaha beach (+-30 minutes away) was also very nice.


Here is the USA cemetery.  Very serene and beautifully done.  The grass is perfect and not a long strand of grass to be see around the individual crosses ; our guess is that they are done by hand so to not damage them.



Here is John Steele!  He is the US paratrooper that landed (and got stuck) on top of the Church at Sainte-Mere-Eglise on D-day.  If you have see the movie “The longest day”, there is scene where they show how this happened.



Next, we went to see some really awesome Chateau in the Loire valley.  Here is Chateau Chenonceau, one of the most spectacular, considering its spans over a river.


Finally, here is the entire trip.  Starting in Paris, then down to the coast near La Rochelle.  Then up the coast all the way to Normandy.  After Normandy, back down to the “Vallée de la Loire” for some awesome Chateau and then back to Paris.  Total +-2,400km (+-1,500 miles).  Awesome trip 🙂




For the car guys who will likely ask if I don’t post a pic, here was the rental car.  Its a 2013 Peugeot 508.   It was a manual transmission (fun!) and for all the KM we did, cost under 200 euro (<260$) due to it being a diesel engine.  Brilliant.


Spotts beach is what I would call one of Grand Cayman’s hidden gems.  Its a rather small beach, but has some unique features to offer.  For those that are wondering, Spotts beach is on the southern coast of Grand Cayman, just before getting to Savannah.

Here is Spotts beach.  Of course, this amazing color is not the unique feature 🙂  But, I have to admit it makes for great pictures.   The dark patches are sea grass.



Today we had a strange long cloud formation over Cayman. This cloud spanned almost the entire island from what I could see from the beach.   No rain though and plenty hot!


Did I mention it was hot today?  It was really hot!  A trip to the beach for some snorkeling was a must.



Ok, so the unique feature at Spotts beach is unfortunately something I don’t have a picture of.  That sea grass I mention earlier : its a favorite of turtles!  90% of the time we snorkel here, we see at least one turtle eating away.  If we just float and watch they don’t seem to mind and will carry on with their lunch.  Its a lovely spectacle.   Also, its a great place for people who love to snorkel but who are not necessarily comfortable in the water or afraid of the deep (not our case though …).  The whole beach is protected by a reef +- 300 ft out.  Inside the reef water rarely is more than 8ft deep and many places you could stand up if needed.

To the east of the beach along the coast, some pretty big wave action can be seen.



On the other end of the beach, someone’s property and stairs go directly to the beach; how awesome is that?



Finally, we even had a plane come in fairly close for a look.  This United 737 was likely doing a “go around” after a missed landing or needed to go for a spin because of other traffic on our lone runway which is quite possible on a Saturday. Note how blue the sky was.



If you are in Cayman and have a car to go east, I definitely suggest a stop at Spotts beach.  If you want to see the turtles, swim out to the left of the pier (the pier is right at the middle of the beach) and go about 100ft past the pier.  Once there, swim around without making too much noise and odds are you will see at least one turtle. I once saw 8 in one outing.