Monthly Archives: August 2010

Invaders ahead

During the visit to La Camargue, the guide pointed out some “invasive species”. One were a muskrat*, the other one some unnoticeable plant as well as a turtle and crayfish**. What he did not point out where the rice, the Asian reed or the Spanish buffalo (contrary to the original Camargue ones) though they are as foreign to la Camargue as the four others.

What really struck me is that all those species were qualified invasive depending on whether they were useful to humans or not. Some of them – like the rice, the reed AND the muskrat – were actually introduced by humans. The last one for their then valuable skin.

Now, the muskrat is not only qualified as invasive but furthermore as harmful. Harmful because its digging it’s dens in the dikes. Dikes built by humans to keep the Rhône from overflowing. Only that these previously regular floods were an integral part of the delta and its ecosystem. But that’s not the only change man did.

Rice is only growing in the Camargue thanks to lots of subsidies and even more pesticides; altering the landscape and the soil and huge industrial petrochemical plants are located right outside the protected conservation area.

It doesn’t leave much space to wonder which species might actually be the most invasive and harmful on earth…

* Bisamratte, rat musqué
** écrevisse, Flusskrebs


Small quiz for the day

What have the residents of Arizona, Cuba, Iran, New Jersey, North Korea, Puerto Rico, the Province of Quebec, Sudan, Syria and Vermont in common?

It’s actually not that complicated

One of those things men don’t understand (and women don’t bother explaining) is perceived temperature.

Men basically know two temperatures: warm and cold. In extreme cases, they may add two more: too warm and hot; hardly ever too cold.Women know roughly 15 levels of temperature of which one ‘status’ totally escapes the male comprehension: “I’m not cold but it is not warm either.”

In case you don’t see what I mean: that’s the point at which most women put on a light sweater or jersey while they are not cold; leading to some head shaking, sighs and other expressions of utter non understanding.

Note: putting on this jersey is indeed not a matter of being cold or warm. It is a matter of feeling the cloth against the skin and the however light weight of the jersey that makes the difference.

Now, if you still don’t understand it, then I can help it. Just deal with it as a matter of fact.

Any idea

what plant that is?:

It is a climbing plant – at least it was holding on nicely to a fence. Which then belonged to a school yard. Therefore my assumption that it is not poisoning.

Traveller’s diary: Provence

  • Better speak some French: Actually, in Provence; it is possible to travel well and have a good time without speaking French. Maybe it’s because tourism is a big source of income. Still, the moment the online booking didn’t come through and you risk finding yourself without a place to stay and arguing with the hotel staff; it comes in quite handy.
  • As of the third day – and of the third city – it’s getting difficult to tell the places apart. Never mind weekdays…
  • Getting into a city later than 20:00 is not a good idea. In the small cities in the South, public transport doesn’t run later than this. Unless you enjoy a 30 minutes walk with 15kg luggage at the end of the day.
  • I only realised on my way that I was following down le Rhône from Lyon, over Avignon to Arles. Not planned but very pretty!
  • Provence smells like a mix of goat cheese, ripe peaches and lavender. Yamee!

And I am stuck in Brussels

Le carnet de voyage – Marseille II

1) Sunshine is addictive.

2) La Cagole is THE beer of Marseille. Though it’s brewed in Czech Republic as the owner of a tourist souvenir shop told me. From a taste point of view, it’s equivalent a Stella or a Heineken; i.e. it really makes you miss a good Belgian beer. The only interesting part is the branding. Une cagole – in the slang of Marseille – is a woman of rather liberal morals using more men make-up than is good for her.

3 & 4) The great wall of Marseille – or better what is left of it – was meant to stop the citizens of Marseille to leave the city. As a harbour city, it had business but this came with a price: constant arrival of unwanted guests, especially diseases such as the plague.

5) While the sand on the beaches here in Belgium is incredibly fine and soft, the beaches in Marseille are all stony. But as the sea is incredibly blue, nobody is complaining about it. Sun beats stone it seems, not paper.

6) …

Le carnet de voyage – Marseille I

After the windsurfing classes in the morning, my afternoons in Marseille were mainly meant to be relaxing. Therefore no overload of tourist activities. Juste ce qu’il faut.

Among others, we went up to la bonne Mère and saw the old harbour. Despite Marseille being founded by the Greeks, there isn’t much left of the old city as it was heavily bombarded during the 2nd WW.

One of the things the Germans did not manage to destroy (even though they tried) is the church de “Notre Dame de la Garde” commonly called la bonne mère.

Small from the outside, the church is richly decorated with mosaics on the inside. What’s most impressive though are all the gifts – replica of boats, paintings and ’tiles’ – offered to the la bonne mère either as prayers for her protection or as thanks after the safe return of the beloved ones.

It felt as if the church belongs to the people and the people to the church.

Windsurfing – day 5 & end

Mistral wind again. This time coming straight from the north, i.e. the land. We constantly drift towards the other bay. But it is such a pleasure to feel the wind in the sail.

The waves are much rougher and the trickiest part is to get started. Once you have the dead point, turn into the wind and get to handle the sail, the speed is amazing! It starts to feel natural to have the ankles balancing the board to the moves of the sea, while the knees are flexible; the abdominals tense and the shoulders drawn back. Maximum stability in the upper body while the legs do the balance part and the arms hold the sail.

Almost every time the teacher comes over to give instructions or correct something – “on entre les fesses” – I fall or have to stop. It seems that my entire being is busy with controlling every part of my body to handle the surfboard…

Another 20 minutes track back to the beach all along the beautiful scenery put an end to an amazing 5 day experience.


After trying and failing at surfing, I was surprised how relatively easy the windsurfing went. The sail gives a perfect counterweight to the body.

Of course, there were still some  muscles hurt, I didn’t suspect the existence of and I was totally exhausted the first two days. The best were my legs, especially the calves full of bruises and scratches from the rough surface of the board…

It would have been perfect to have another week but even as it was – short, intensive and making speedy progress – it was absolutely great!

Windsurfing – day 4

Mistral wind; coming from North-East. We’re dragged by the boat to the very eastern limit of the bay and finish on the opposite side. The wind is perfect to learn how to balance the board when being half dragged of by its force.

For the first time, the exciting feeling of getting the board to some speed but very happy at the fact that I have only a small sail – 2.5 m². On the way back home – tracked by the boat, the beautiful sight of Cap Canaille: