Hi, Dale is recovering the blog posts here, in the meantime enjoy this nice picture of icicles from a waterfall in Iceland from November 2017 🙂
This is the post excerpt.
Hi, Dale is recovering the blog posts here, in the meantime enjoy this nice picture of icicles from a waterfall in Iceland from November 2017 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
For those who don’t know, I have two younger brothers. Tommy lives in North Germany, with his wife and tiny adorable little human, Teddy. Nicky lives in Perth, Ausralia. I don’t see them very often.
Nic has come over to see us in Europe for a few weeks, and we all planned to go to Amsterdam for the weekend, to celebrate his birthday.
I flew out after work, from Gatwick to Amsterdam. This was my third trip to Amsterdam, so I had seen most of the Tourist stuff I wanted, this trip was to hang out with the siblings.
Nic drove from Germany, into Amsterdam (by himself, without maps, and on the wrong side of the road). Once he arrived at the airport, I think he gave up on driving, parked the car, and we just left it there. Tommy was flying back from New Zealand and we met him in town.
Nic and I wandered around the airport, using their free wifi, and facebook call, trying to find each other..turns out we were each at the opposite end. Finally found each other, lovely to see him, as it has been about a year and a half!
Family bring the best presents 🙂 Nic bought me enough stocks to keep me going a while…
We hopped on a bus, and headed into town, to meet Tommy, who had sorted us out some accommodation for the night. It was about 11pm. Dropped our bags off, and headed out to have a quick beer and relax, as it had been ages since we had been all together.
The bar we were in kicked us out about 4am, so we wandered a bit, then I went to grab a little sleep, while the other two did.. who knows what. We all got a little sleep, then sluggishly got up, dressed and packed, to take our bags to the next accommodation.
I don’t usually bash hotels, but I wasn’t impressed with that one. It is called the Marnix Hotel, and it is near Leidersplein. Don’t stay there. The floors were pretty dirty, and their was a weird hole in the roof area. Which later, I decided, is where the rats were getting in. Yes, RATS. They opened my bag of m n ms, and opened the bags of cookies I had from England to share. They ate my jammy dodgers! :< They were obviously scurrying around on the floor while we were sleeping, having little rat parties with all my food.
Also, the wifi in the hostel was only on the first floor, and we were on the fourth, so to use it, I had to traipse down 4 flights of steep and narrow staircases to get wifi, then climb back up again to the room.
This might have all been ok, but when I informed management about their rats, the apologies, but didn’t try to make any reparations. Like they knew, and just didn’t really care. Which is disappointing, as the reception guys seemed pretty nice. But, I wouldn’t recommend them at all.
Anyway, headed off to down near Vondelpark, where we were staying the second night. In comparison, it was a dream. Quiet, clean, peaceful. In a lovely suburban street, with trees and orange leaves everywhere. Our room was already ready, so we abandoned our bags, and headed off to hire bikes.
We spent the afternoon biking around: through Vondel Park, did the sandemans walking tour, then watched the rugby in a sports bar (World cup final, NZ vs Aus, WE ROCK). Ate some foods, hung out in the main plaza, then headed home for a relaxed eveniing.
The weather of the weekend was all lovely, calm, mostly clear, crisp, but not too cold. The trees were tall turning, gold, yellow, brown, and leaves were piled everywhere. On Sunday, there was a cute little foggyness everywhere (which was affecting a lot of Europe and England, and turns out, wasn’t so much cute, as stupid and annoying), and the sun came through the mist and the trees, and it was all very pretty.
We ate pancakes for brunch, then checked out the windmill. At that point, they cancelled my flight (and pretty much all other flights going to Gatwick), due to fog. I was a bit frowny about this, but we finished up in town, then headed out to pick up our bags, and head to the airport. I Went inside to see if I could talk to a desk person, but the line for that stretched a long way around the airport, and I gave up. Good thing too, I would have been in that line all night. Called up Dale, who sorted out switching my flight to leave Hamburg the next day at 7am, and a hotel right next to the airport. Tommy drove me to Hamburg on the way home, which was quite nice, as we got to hang a bit longer, and I got to see Kati and Teddy briefly. There was fog, from Amsterdam, all the way.
I caught the stupidly early flight, after not much sleep. Departed a little late, and arrived in Gatwick a little late, but made it to work by 10am on Monday, so not too terrible! Good thing I’d done that , and not waited in line, as the flights all got pretty full.
It was a bit of a crazy weekend, and a busy week, and I am only just recovering.
Having been up so late the night before, we had a lie in, then Henri directed us in making a delushuz cooked breakfast. The sun was (mostly out), so we ate on the rooftop patio in the sun. Absolutely lovely.
Sunday afternoon we headed on the bikes, to a cheese tasting. We were supplied with the correct wine for each cheese, and we were supplied with several varieties. We learned to cut it thinly with a little cheese guillotine, and then how to smell and taste like a proper connoisseur. It was all very yum.
As part of the cheese tasting, we also got to ride a canal boat, which was a very enjoyable meander through the canals. The sun even came out a few times, and it was all very pleasant. The cheese and canal tour all up was 22 euro, which I feel was a pretty good deal, considering the amount of cheese I ate, along with a glass of red and white wine, and a glass of port.
After the cheese and wine and boats, we wandered back through town, and did Rick Steve’s Audio tour of the Red light district, and right to the start of the town. I honestly don’t have a lot to write about the day, so here are a bunch of photos of canals, boats, and crooked houses! It was just very enjoyable and relaxing, biking around, wandering, and the boat trip was definitely fun, a good way to see a lot of the city from a different view.
Henrietta made us another lovely dinner, mostly cheese and potato, but with a few colourful veges thrown in. After dinner, we took the cameras out and biked around in the dark, which was actually very fun, if a little chilly. Did some night photos, and the main thing I realised is that I need a tripod!
Breakfasted on more bread and cheese. Europe can be a hard country to dine in. Stepped outside to chilly weather, had been raining overnight. Was quite chilly. We headed off on our bikes to the Rejikmuseum. Bike to it, then through the little archway, parked our bikes with the hundreds that were already parked, and headed in. Stayed till about 1pm, lots to see.
It was a lovely building, very pretty, both inside and out. Lots of amazing paintings. Lots of people too.
Went to burgermeester for lunch, quite good. They sell ‘mini burgers’, so you can buy three of those, in different flavours, instead of one big one. Very good. Burgers.
Then went and saw a windmill, The Grooyer. It has a brewery/bar next to it, with tons of people lunching. It was built in the 1600’s, was moved around a bit, and renovated a few times. It was used to grind corn during WWII, when there was no power. It is apparently the tallest wooden mill in Amsterdam. The blades still work well, but it no longer grinds anything.
Biked around a bit, went to an island via some bridges, and admired the lovely bike lanes everywhere. Missed the rain, as we were in the supermarket (buying more bread and cheese). Went home about 5pm and had a nap.
Set out about 8.30pm to go find dinner. A very pleasant bike ride across town, to a restaurant called Seasons. Overall, a very good experience. A little pricey, but the food was scrumptious, and the service excellent. Food came out in a timely manner, and they were happy to cater to special requests.
After dinner, which ended just after 11pm, we headed over to the red light district for a wander. It was definitely interesting. There were a lot of people., though the general crowd had changed from tourist groups and a few families, to rowdier people out for the nightlife, and a few simply curious tourists like us.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, so it is all out in the open..as in, literally the girls will lounge around in front of their shop front full-length windows, winking and smiling to entice people over. There is a lot oc skin showing, but somehow all the important bits are covered. Even if only with suspenders.
Most windows are basically a full length glass door, usually with thick and heavy curtains, a stool or chair, and a red light above. Not much else. A display window, if you will. When the woman is looking for customers, her light is on, and curtains are open. They don’t let just anyone into the door, I saw a few talking to them, and then the door closing and them moving on their way. If you’re rude or rough, they call security on you.
It was a little surreal biking home, through the outskirts of the red light district.. There were still plenty of locals biking around, lots of people out in the streets, and windows with red lights and girls. No pictures though, they don’t appreciate pictures!