Toulouse, France

The drive from Andorra to Toulouse was long and windy, and it rained, a lot, once we got down to lower levels.  Just like the movies, sitting on a bus, leaning against the window, looking wistfully out, while the rain drops slide down the misty windows.   If I looked down at all on the bus ride, I got sick, so I put Harry Potter on audio book, and listened and napped the whole way.   It wasn’t raining by the time we got to Toulouse.    It was very nice to have a big, white bed, after the little beds we had been sleeping on.  They weren’t bad, and the studio rooms in Andorra were a great price, but nothing like getting back to a real bed.

We checked into the hotel, and then wandered the streets a bit.
We had dinner at La Capacio, which had absolutely amazing fresh pasta. I had 4 cheeses tortellini, one of the best fresh pasta dishes I’ve had, amazing sauce. The boys had fois gras sauce on theirs.

A cute little bird

A cute little bird

Pretty buildings

Pretty buildings

Tourist Info center

Tourist Info center

Free Wifi in the garden

Free Wifi in the garden

Fountain

Fountain

Town Hall

Town Hall

Town Hall

Town Hall

Town Hall

Town Hall

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Pont Neuf, the non symmetrical bridge

Buildings

Buildings

A pretty bridge

Rue du Pont Saint-Pierre

Streets

Streets

Shutters

Shutters

Tower

Tower

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins

Tiny little building, tucked away

Tiny little building, tucked away

A door

A door

A carousel!

A carousel!

 

Saturday
Dale and I went to the Space museum!  It was a bus ride out of the way, but it was pretty cool.  They had lots of real size models of space ships, and lots of exhibits, and a couple of movie theatres.

Space Museum

Ariane 5 Rocket, Space Museum

Space Museum

Soyouz Capsule, Space Museum

Space Museum

Space Museum

Space Museum

Space Museum

Curiosity Space Museum

Curiosity,
Space Museum

Space Museum

Replica of the MIR Space Station, Space Museum

Space Museum

Replica of the MIR Space Station, Space Museum

Space Museum

Space Museum

Dinner was at Pizzeria Bambino, and they had lovely pizzas. Alastair had steak tartare, his favourite, and it was huge!
It rained after dinner, which was sad, but we found haagen dazs for dessert, which was yum.

Sunday
We woke, and went to the local market, for fresh breakfast food:  bread, cheese, and tartes.  We left our bags at the hotel, and spent the day biking around, looking at churches and bridges, and just generally exploring town.

The tastiest cheese

The tastiest cheese

Vege market

Vege market

A square

A square

A statue

A statue

Some guy

Some guy

It has been rainig, so the river was up a bit

It has been raining, so the river was up a bit

Buildings in every space

Buildings in every space

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

DUCKS

DUCKS

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Le Chateau d'Eau,

Le Chateau d’Eau,

Yellah poppy

Yellah poppy

The Basilica of Saint Sernin

The Basilica of Saint Sernin

The Basilica of Saint Sernin

The Basilica of Saint Sernin

The Basilica of Saint Sernin

The Basilica of Saint Sernin

Thin building in the road

Thin building in the road

Boop the water fountain

Boop the water fountain

Street names

Street names

Street names

Street names

Fountain

Fountain

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture

Andorra Part 2 – February 2016

~Wednesday~
Pretty sure it stopped snowing once we went to sleep, as there wasn’t much more when we woke up. But that’s OK, at least we had some freshies!  We were up early and on the first chairs up, and had a pretty good day. Visibility came and went, and it occasionally snowed a bit. Again, we met Erin and Chris for some afternoon boarding.

Alastair and the poor vis

Alastair and the poor vis

Selfie.. I'm up a mountain, really...

Selfie.. I’m up a mountain, really…

Tbar ><

Welcome to the pommer!   The sacrificial lift to goodness knows where.

The igluuu

The igluuu

Cliffs

Cliffs

Front left, Erin, Becca, Chris. Back: Dale, Henri, Alastiar

Erin, Dale, Henri, Becca, Alastair, Chris

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Lots of sitting around

Board lineup

Board lineup

Lovely view from our place

Lovely view from our place

Thursday
No freshies, but we got going early again. There was a lot of low cloud around, just hanging out in the valleys, and generally being annoying. Couldn’t see the ground really, it made boarding not as fun, so we headed to a little bar near one of the lifts, for vin chaud, and waited for it to clear a bit. It eventually kind of did, and we did some lovely runs down some powder that hadn’t been ruined yet.

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Mountains

Not much vis

Not much vis

Just relaxin...

Just relaxin…

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Clouds coming in

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To that way

Met Erin and Chris on top of the main lift from Pas, where we stopped for lunch at the lookout cafe. Fabulous food, I had a spinach and goats cheese lasagne, and tarte tatin, and it was so yum. The clouds came and went, and we would get occasional glimpses of the surrounding craggy mountain peaks. The sun was out for the afternoon, which was lovely, and we did some runs down the valley.

The camebert cafe, on top of the mountain

The camebert cafe, on top of the mountain

Spinach and goats cheese lasagne, so good

Spinach and goats cheese lasagne, so good

Up a mountain! Erin and Chris

Up a mountain! Erin and Chris

Ended the day with some lovely clear speed runs down one of the black runs, very fun.
Headed down at 5pm, another did a last few runs under the lights. It was cloudy and snowing a bit, and weird to be still boarding as it gets dark…Boarding from light to light, with the snow inbetween, pretty invisible.   The lifts usually close at 4pm-5pm, so that you’re well off the mountains before it gets dark.

Tunnels

Tunnels

A playground

A playground

Snow dog

Snow dog

Fllags

Flags

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Chris and Erin try the Slalom

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I love a skifield with trees

End of the trip

End of the trip

We ended our boarding week, and headed back to change. Dinner was an interesting mix of all the food left over from our last few dinners, with plenty of vin chaud, cider.
Then it was sleepies.
Woke up the next morning to it snowing, big fat fluffy flakes, my favourite kind. Disappointing, as we were simply cleaning and leaving.

Handing back the key, we quickly trotted out the edge of town, and crossed a little bridge…into France!   The border was right there, along the streambed, so we enjoyed crossing over that a couple of times, in the snow.  It was so lovely and snowey.

 

A bridge between France and Andorra

A bridge between France and Andorra

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Alastair in the snow

Adorable snow puppy

Adorable snow puppy

Walked to the bus stop getting covered in snow, then the bus was half an hour late, possibly cause of the snow. Back to Toulouse.  Got kinda travel sick on teh ride, as it was a super windy mountain road, and the driver seemed to think he knew it very well, and was super speedy, despite the downhill, and the fact that it was snowing. Luckily I had an audio book, so could listen to that, while looking out the window.   As we got lower in altitude, the lovely snow turned to pelting rain, and it was grey and rainy all the way back to Toulouse.

Henri and Alastair

Henri and Alastair

Henri and meeeeee

Henri and meeeeee

Sunshine

Sunshine

VIews down the valley

VIews down the valley

Bye, Andorra!

Bye, Andorra!

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A tiny castle tower on a hill

A bit sad to be finished snowboarding, as it means we are finished for the year, it is different when we’re living in the UK to NZ.  NZ we used to go up every couple of weekends, with a South Island trip in there somewhere.   Here in the UK, we just take a week and do it all at once.  I will definitely miss it until next year.

Andorra Part 1 – February 2016

This year, for our annual ski trip, we decided to go to Andorra.  Henrietta and Alastair had been there a few years ago, and were keen to take us. I hadn’t even heard of the place, before they told me about it. It is a tiny country.. well, technically it is the Principality of Andorra, though I’m not entirely sure if that differs, or how it differs from being a country. It is tiny, 468km*2, with a population of 85,000 people.  It is located in the Pyrenees mountains, between France and Spain.  I’m pretty sure it’s mostly just mountains.  It is a tax haven, so some things, that are taxed heavily in other countries, are cheaper there.  The main language is Catalan, but you also hear French and Spanish, and sometimes Portugese, spoken.  The touristy centers will speak English.

~Saturday~
Had to get up super early, to get to the airport in time. The flight was uneventful, and landed easily in Toulouse. Had to hang our in the airport for a couple of hours, while we waited for our shuttle, but we amused ourselves by eating bread, cheese and tarts, the usual fare in France.
Shuttle took us south towards Andorra, and I slept most of the trip, but woke as we were heading up into the mountains, and it was so lovely to see mountains! And snow! And all the cute little French towns that were tucked into valleys and on ridges.

Silly little girraffe in the airport

Silly little girraffe in the airport

little town

little town

village

Village

The cliffs had lots of caves in them

The cliffs had lots of caves in them

Dramatic cliffs

Dramatic cliffs

A carousel

A carousel

houses

Cute houses, the villages seemed to be made of pretty stone buildings

The last part of the drive was a long climb into Andorra, via a very thin, silly, windy, curvy road.  The bus driver seemed familiar with it, and was by no means slow.  I greatly wished I had brought my travel sick tablets.     Pas de la Casa is just past the French border, and is very cute, but surprisingly busy. Lots of apartments, shops, supermarkets and eating places. The town was bare of snow, but it looked like there was a decent amount on the field. We found our apartment, which had amazing views of the town and mountains, and we could even see the start of the chairlift! So close.

Mountains!

Mountains!

We made it across the border between France and Andorra

We made it across the border between France and Andorra

Dinner at a little restaurant, where Henri and I had raclette, yum! We had sangria to drink. Pas was an interesting mix of French and Spanish, and many of the restaurants you would have national dishes from both of the surrounding countries. Also seemed to be a lot of pizzas.

All the shops had people standing outside, who would actively talk to you, and encourage you to come in.  In a nice way though, I’ve seen places where they do this, and it mostly just makes you want to avoid them.  But this didn’t seem too bad, and the people were pretty friendly.

We were staying in studio apartments, that had a couch that turned into a bed, a table, dresser, small kitchen, and a bathroom.  Small, but everything you need, and pretty cheap.   We quickly settled in to sleep, as it had been a long day.

The view from our room. Between the buildings down there, is where the chairlift starts.

The view from our room. Between the buildings down there, is where the chairlift starts.

~Sunday~
I woke a bit groggy – mornings are not one of my strengths – and had a quick look out the window… To 10cm of fresh snow!! That woke me up pretty quick, and I excitedly made everyone look. It took a while to get going though, as it had been a year since we last boarded, and there is a fair amount of prep, with making sure you have food, water, the right amount of layers, and all the gear for the day. Also, renting the right bits, and buying lift passes.

Eeeeeeee SNOW

Eeeeeeee SNOW

The snow was fantastic. We found heaps of powder, trees, freshies, and lots to keep us entertained. We headed off across the valleys to El Tarter for lunch, riding each  lift up the next ridge, then boarding down the valley to the next lift. It was a fun day.

River in El Tarter

River in El Tarter

River in El Tarter

River in El Tarter

Chairlift

Chairlift up from El Tarter

yay snowing

yay snowing

We went searching the supermarkets for food for dinner.  So many of the supermarkets were little, but half of the shop was dedicated to alcohol.  Cause of the tax haven thing, it was all so cheap.  Dale bought a large bottle of melon schnapps, for 5€.  Also found bottles of nice port for super cheap.
Henri made us delishuz butter sauce pasta for dinner.
Eric and Chris arrived after 10pm on the shuttle, Dale had sorted their room key, and they just picked it up from us, and we all went to sleep.

~Monday~ was a bluebird day. They are the best,especially if you have fresh snow.  Bright sun, and everything is lovely and warm.
Had lunch down the bottom, with Erin and Chris, who were recovering from their first lesson, and first day of boarding, ever.

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One of the villages

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Another cute valley

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Pretty peaks

zoom around the people

zoom around the people

Sunshine!

Sunshine and smiles!  Alastair, Henri, Dale, myself

Henri ready to go

Henri ready to go

Had après-ski (this is the after skiing event, usually consisting of snacks and alcohol) at the cafe at the top of Pas de la casa, with vin chaud (hot, spiced wine), and the best waffles ever.   It was beautiful, with mountains and sunshine everywhere.

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The best afternoon stop view.

Looking down to Pas de la Casa

Looking down to Pas de la Casa

Dinner was spag bol with fresh pasta. Went to bed, all very tired.
The first night you’re usually exhausted, the second night, still pretty darn tired, as you used all the sore muscles again.

To talk about apres ski, usually its a drink and relax after a hard day on the slopes, but for a lot of people, especially in Andorra, it seemed to be an event that started once the lifts closed, and sometimes went till the early hours of the morning… we would hear people yelling in the streets at all hours of the night, and occasionally witness people getting home at 10 or 11pm, still in their ski boots, and looking a little unsteady.  I’m all for a relaxing drink after, but we like to then get a good nights sleep, so we can make the most of the next day.  Also, from my experience, if you’ve put in a decent day on the mountain, you’re too damn tired to drink and party every night.

 

~Tuesday~
Slow start this morning. the weather forecast was for 10 cm snow overnight, so we got up early with the hopes of new snow, but when we got up, the streets were bare 😦 there was no new snow, so we hopped back into bed for a bit. It took us ages to get going, with picking up skis, boards, and fixing bits and pieces. I ended up renting a board for the day. I wasn’t happy at first, as the board seemed choppy and unresponsive, but I think it was just stiffer than my actual board, and once I started being more aggressive with it, it was quite a good board, very stable and solid on the rough bits. Very fun.
Someone took a good tumble, and we ended up having an early morning tea at the chocolate shop, where the hot chocolates were so thick that I think they were mostly just chocolate. Delishuz!! They served them with churros, and also served crepes, all of which we partook in.
After that, we headed out and over the hills, towards Funicamp, but the weather turned out to be nasty as, the clouds all came over and the visibility turned out to be pretty much nothing, and the wind picked up. It was quite cold.

Snapped pole!

Snapped pole!

It was a bit surreal, some of the times you would be boarding along, with people all around you, but because of the wind blowing all the snow everywhere, and the dull light, you couldn’t actually see the ground most of the time, and it felt a bit like you were all floating in the clouds. You were all moving around each other, and you were moving, but you couldn’t actually tell how fast you were going.
The wind picked up stupidly, so we headed back down to Pas de la Casa, and met up with Erin and Chris, and hung out with them on the little slopes. Even there the wind was blustery and would blow you around.

Erin is zoomy

Erin is zoomy

Yahhhh! Chris, Dale, Erin

Yahhhh! Chris, Dale, Erin

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Chris, Alastair, Erin

Chairlift buddies

Chairlift buddies

Chairlift buddies

Ninjas!

We finished the day with a speedy run, and headed back for showers, snacks and dinner. It was snowing lightly when we finished for the day, and it just kept getting heavier and heavier, and started sticking. Looking forward to freshies tomorrow, will have to be up early.

 

Towns tucked away in the mountains

France – Towns tucked away in the mountains

OMG Snow

OMG Snow

pretty rivers in the mountains

Pretty rivers in the mountains

Devil’s Dyke in snow

Winter has finally started in full force, and it snowed in many parts of the UK overnight. I slept in super late, but eventually we got up, and biked up to Devils Dyke, for some exercise.   It had totally snowed, though most of it had melted by the time we got up there.  However, we enjoyed the bracing air (ie freezing), and wandered around in the mud for a while, to get excited about the itty bitty bit of snow.    Looking forward to our ski trip in a few weeks, when we get to see real snow!

A tiny snowman, with malteser eyes

A tiny snowman, with malteser eyes

Dramatic clouds

Dramatic clouds

See?? Snow

See?? Snow

Selfie, of course

Selfie, of course

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New Years 2015

It has come to my attention that I have fallen behind in my blogging this year…and last year…  I have many posts written, but it is mainly the photo sorting, adjusting, and then adding into the post that takes so much time.  After one or two, I lose the will, and don’t get me started on our long trips.
I don’t particularly have any resolutions this new year, as I’ve already been doing (trying to do) the exercise/healthy thing, already doing the travel thing…so my main goal is to actually be better at blogging, and finish posting all the things we have been up to for the last nearly two years.  So, you will see posts from April 2014, all the way to now, appearing in the next few months.  Don’t be alarmed!  I will try and post them with the date we did them, so things stay in chronological order.

 

In the meantime, here is what we did for New Years..

We hadn’t planned to do anything much for New Years, my only real idea was to find some fireworks, and hang out with friends. I had to work New Years Eve morning, but after, we headed over to Chris and Erin’s, for some quick planning. Once idea was to go up to the Fireworks in London, but, of course, it is very popular, and no tickets were left. The fireworks are near the London Eye, along the Thames, and I hear it gets very busy. The roads are all closed around, and it looked hard to get somewhere to see.  Security was up a bit, what with concerns about large gatherings of people in a popular city being a target.
We decided we could head to Primrose Hill, which has a good view of London, and join the others that would be revelling there. It was a good plan, but turns out there were bus replacements, so the hour ride up there, and hour ride back would be a 2-2.5 hour ride each way. Not fun! We gave up on that plan, and instead headed out to the Pavillion, for a cheery dinner, and ice skating, which was very fun, then home for a quick mulled wine, mulled wine into the thermos, then headed down to the beach. There seemed to be no planned fireworks in Brighton, but we figured, if there were gonna be any others celebrating, they would probably do it on the beach. So we went there, and welcomed in the new year, along with lots of other cheery people, on the cold, windswept beach, though it wasn’t lonely. There were fireworks along the beach, as far as we could see, and lots of happy people, chinese lanterns, and general revelry.

The best part was, once we were done, it was a 10 minute walk home, instead of a 2.5 hour train and bus ride.  Fireworks, ice skating, mulled wine, good friends, and lots of sleep!  Happy New Year!

Someone is a fox

Someone is a fox

Ice skating!

Ice skating!

Dinner

Dinner

I Had lights

I Had lights

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Pengins

Pengins

The Pavillion is very pretty, alllit up

The Pavillion is very pretty, all lit up

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A quick pic in front of Rocky Horror, which we went to see a few days ago

A quick pic in front of Rocky Horror, which we went to see a few days ago

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Fireworks

Fireworks

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Christmas 2015

Christmas in the UK.. I had workmates and English people asking me if it was weird to have Christmas in Winter, and how different does it feel?

Christmas in NZ is in Summer.  We usually still have a big tree, with tinsel, decorations and lights, and usually a big cooked dinner.  We wear fluffy Santa hats for as long as we can, but they usually come off pretty quickly, as it is summer, and if we’re lucky, it gets hot.  Christmas day activities are usually walks in the park, beach visits, or a swim at the lake.  There is usually warmth and sunshine* and jandals.  But our cards are still covered in snow, wrapped up santas, robins, and roaring fires.  So in a way, it was setting us up for winter.

Christmas in the UK is cold, dark, and grey.   But weirdly, it doesn’t feel that out of place, it feels like it should be.    There’s a reason for having the Christmas lights, and decorating houses and shops, and being festive, and that’s because it is dark by 4.30pm!  You need the lights and cheer and parties, otherwise everyone would be sad.  Christmas Jumpers are totally a thing here, and its because its darn cold, and you want to snuggle up.  Also, the worse the jumper, the better.  Bobbles and pompoms and fluff stuck on the front, santas and reindeer and lights that  actually light up, cause there is a battery pack attached to the sweater.

I had made my usual mince pies and christmas cake, and we were looking forward to eating them.

Carol Service

Carol Service

The best mince pies have kitties on them

The best mince pies have kitties on them

The tree in the square

The tree in the square

Pretty tree

Pretty tree

Present time

Present time

Squirrel lens!!!!! (a zoom lens for squirrels)

Squirrel lens!!!!! (a zoom lens for squirrels)

Squirrel (Thanks Erin :) )

Tree Squirrel (Thanks Erin 🙂 )

Our Christmas consisted of a delicious pancake breakfast at Erin and Chris’s house, with Stacey, and a friend.  It came complete with berries, maple syrup, and plenty of bubbles.

"Roaring fire"

“Roaring fire”

Gingerbread house

Gingerbread house

What a pretty table! I should have taken an after shot too

What a pretty table! I should have taken an after shot too

Food and booze! Becca, Erin, Chris, Stacey, Dale

Food and booze! Becca, Erin, Chris, Stacey, Dale

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Mmmm mince pies

We relaxed and hung out, then later on went for a walk along the beach, even though it was grey and windy and cold.  I tried out my new zoom lens, and we tried to stay warm, meeting up with Lenka, and her dog Luna.  They played on the beach, and we watched the starlings .. murmurating…  where they all fly around in a crazy flock together.   The like to do it at dusk and dawn, and it was getting dark by 4pm, cause of the clouds.

Beach walk

Beach walk

Lets skip!

Lets skip!

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Birdies

Birdies

 

Old pier

Old pier

Cuties

Cuties

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Erin doing her vlogging thing

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Even the doggies had jumpers!

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Starlings over Brighton Pier

Santas on a bike

Santas on a bike

Walkies

Walkies

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Brighton Pier

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Luna

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Shark egg

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A rough and stormy channel

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Sunset lolz

After a nice long walk, we headed back to ours, for a good and proper cooked roast dinner, and then game playing.  It was just how I like Christmas, nice and relaxed, with plenty of food, and family.

Xmas dindins

Xmas dindins

peeps!

peeps!

Pretty baubles

Pretty baubles

Even puggle got into the xmas spirit

Even puggle got into the xmas spirit

 

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old pier

old pier

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Starlings, doing their thing

Starlings