Travel Link-Up: The Scent of the Seaside

1-1930I was a little bit stumped when I got the theme for this month’s travel link-up: scent. I know of all our senses the sense of smell is one of the most powerful, but how could I use it to sum up a holiday experience? I mean, I could talk about Hong Kong, which for me is the scent of food, heat and sewers; coal smoke, which always reminds me of growing up in North Wales (steam trains); the tinsel suitcase we brought out every December, and which therefore smelt to me exactly like Christmas. But it took a while to settle on the right topic; the one scent which I could recurringly bring back to memories of travel, holidays and the summer. The smell of the seaside.

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I spent nearly 6 years growing up close to the coast of North Wales, and I could see the sea out of my window [Disclaimer: NONE of these photos were taken in North Wales. It’s never normally this sunny, for starters! They were all taken in California]. We often walked our gorgeous dog along the beach, and my mum used to point out the white horses on the surface of the sea. We moved to the Suffolk countryside, where we had to travel further to reach the coast, and it was more of a treat to visit the beach. And then I moved to London and had to make do with frequent walks to the River Thames in my attempt to be close to the water and that scent of the sea which has always been tied to so many memories.

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So what do I think of when I catch a hint of salty sea air? I think about days spent on Aldeburgh beach with my friends, paddling, throwing frisbees and enjoying fish and chips and ice cream. I think about freezing cold afternoons on Brighton Pier with Anna, peering through the gaps in the wooden floorboards to the roiling sea below as we tried desperately to keep warm. I think about watching a rose-pink sunset on the Scottish coast when I was fifteen, playing Hide and Seek with my friends whilst camping on the island of Great Cumbrae. I think about walking along Bondi Beach on a grey winter’s day with my family, and padding barefoot along the hot Californian sand. I think about a boat trip across San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz, the wind a welcome breeze against the blazing sun.

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Maybe this is a bit of a cheat, as thinking about it, the seaside encompasses several scents in one. Because besides the smell of the sea itself, there’s the smell of suncream sizzling on warm skin; smoke wafting up from the sausages and burgers being cremated on a BBQ; salt and vinegar on hot fish and chips, and the sweetness of melted ice cream running down arms.

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This photo was taken on the Pacific Coast Highway in California in September 2014. Ben and I were road tripping around the state, and this particular day of our trip was one of the best of our holiday for me. In fact, it was one of the best days of my life. I felt so light and happy and carefree, basking in the warmth of the sun and taking about a billion photos along the way. We watched elephant seals wrestling in the surf, ate clam chowder in a surfing town and got up close and personal with a pelican perched on the pier. We sang along to American rock anthems and watched the sun arc across the sky, following us to Monterey. I have never felt so free as I have that day. And every time I breathe in the sea air, a small part of me remembers that sense of total freedom and joy.

  • I love this post. The smell of the sea is my favorite. It’s tied to so may memories for me growing up so close to the ocean in New York and then living in Hawaii. It’s crazy to me how a scent can evoke so many memories. Now I need to go get myself some salt and vinegar on hot fish and chips…. you’ve got me hungry!

    • Sophie

      It’s a brilliant scent, isn’t it? So distinctive and so evocative! I can just imagine how it reminds you of New York and Hawaii!
      Haha, sorry for making you hungry! But definitely go and get yourself some fish and chips, stat!

  • Lovely take on the theme! The seaside definitely has a distinct smell and one that is so welcomed, especially when living in the city and escaping to the sea for a weekend 🙂

    • Sophie

      Thank you so much! And absolutely-I love nothing better than a trip to the beach when I go home to Suffolk to visit my family-it’s so calming and refreshing! 🙂

  • I love the smell of the seaside too! Like you, I grew up near an ocean and we would take family trips down to the Oregon seaside, so I have lots of happy memories associated with this smell. And – so cool that you grew up in North Wales! My husband and I eloped to Llandudno and were married in the Conwy Registry Office, so that region of Wales has a very special place in my heart. 🙂

    • Sophie

      Ooh, I would love to visit the beaches around Oregon-if they’re anything like as beautiful as California (and most American beaches seem pretty stunning), then it’s a must do!
      Oh my God, no way! That’s awesome! I lived in Old Colwyn for about 5 years, just down the coast from Llandudno! (In fact it was the Ottaker’s bookshop in Llandudno where I queued to be the first person to buy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire…true story…😳) What made you guys choose Llandudno and Conwy of all places to get married? I still love that area of North Wales-I need to go back and visit someday soon! 🙂

  • Clare Thomson

    I’m on the Suffolk coast right now and it smells just gorgeous – that wonderful mix of salty air with the vinegar and hot oil of fish and chips! Lovely post.

    • Sophie

      Yay, Iove a bit of appreciation for the Suffolk coast! I love it all year round-there’s nothing like fish and chips to warm you on a chilly day! If you’re just visiting I’d highly recommend heading to Aldeburgh-lovely little town with epic fish and chips and ice cream for the better weather! 🙂

  • Reading this post makes me wish it was summer already! Although the beach won’t compare to California, will definitely be making a trip to Cornwall as soon as the sun is out 🙂 x

    • Sophie

      Haha, I must have been channelling that vibe when I wrote it-I definitely wish it was summer too right now! And Cornwall is so dramatic and rugged, it definitely counts, even if it isn’t as warm as California! 🙂

  • Nothing quite like the smell of the seaside…my favourite too!

  • You have evoked some of my happiest memories, thank you!

    • Sophie

      Aww, it’s my pleasure, Emma. Any time!

  • Mmm I adore the scent of the sea. Lovely photos too!

    • Sophie

      Thank you very much! And I know, it’s such a unique scent, so distinctive!

  • lovely post! I’ve been to Aldeburgh! I live by the sea so I can often get seaside scents:))

    • Sophie

      That’s awesome-I do miss being close to the seaside! And I love Aldeburgh, I think it’s one of my favourite places on earth! Did you like it when you visited?