Top comment from friends/family on hearing we went to Barcelona: "Did you get pickpocketed?"
And now that we've got that important question out of the way, here's a vague summary of what did happen:
Sagrada Familia and other Gaudí stuff
I've seen plenty of photos of the exterior of the Sagrada Familia, and yet I was still surprised that it managed to be even uglier in real life. The nativity facade features carvings on top of carvings on top of carvings. I believe this side was 'finished' before Gaudí got squashed by a tram, but I can't help wondering how much more, well,... continue reading »
An extra day off work for my birthday seemed like a good excuse for a long weekend away. In fact, I insisted on it! After some debate, we settled on Malta for a mix of history, culture and sunshine. I've been to Malta before, in 2013, but Jon hadn't.
Six thirty am flight. Nnnggghhh... We landed at about 11, dropped our bags off at the hotel in Sliema, and hopped on a bus to Mdina. Wandered around the walled city (which doesn't take long!) and shared a very tasty Maltese platter for lunch. Fresh bread, crackers, sheep's cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes,... continue reading »
We enjoyed our ski trip to Serre Chevalier a couple of years ago so much that we decided to go back and stay at Pinewood again - and take a few friends with us.
This was my first time skiing in a group (not counting skiing with new friends made in chalets, of course) and it was great fun. Between six of us, we had abilities ranging from 'complete beginner' to 'could probably ski backwards with eyes closed' to 'not actually skiing on account of growing a baby'. It was nice to all meet up for lunch though - and to... continue reading »
My ski holidays have, until now, all been booked fairly last minute. But this time our Christmas trip got booked really early - in August! We intended to have a quick browse of flight prices just in case of bargains, then sort the rest later - but instead found a very good package deal for a week of B&B at Hotel Serre Palas in Les Deux Alpes.
Jon is determined to properly learn to ski this winter, so our first morning was spent doing many slow laps of the nursery drag lifts. He'd booked himself some afternoon lessons, giving me time to zoom... continue reading »
For our final ski trip of the season, we booked a package deal to Passo Tonale in Italy. It's been a while since we went for a package, and the 0630 flight did remind me one of the reasons why... But hey, it was a good price.
Early on in the week we received bad news from back home, which put a dampener on things somewhat. This led to more subdued evenings than normal, with not as much alcohol and probably better sleep because of it...
We stayed at Grand Hotel Paradiso, which is a little bit out of the main town,... continue reading »
The holiday started well because for the first time in a while I actually managed to get the window seat - usually Jon whinges about leg room and makes me swap. I amused myself for a while admiring a glory, then took a lot of photos during our descent into Geneva, because, well, just look at it:
We arrived at our chalet in Les Gets and were immediately ushered to the table and handed tartiflette. Delicious and well timed!
This holiday also marks my first time skiing somewhere other than France - on the Tuesday we skiied to Morzine, then slogged our... continue reading »
I am really not a christmas person. Partly due to the whole atheism thing, but mostly because there's too much hype and expectation and it stresses me out. Bah humbug etc. This time, I avoided it all completely by spending the week playing in the snow in Courchevel.
(Though actually I think that photo was taken somewhere in between VT and Meribel)
The Three Valleys is big - the biggest linked ski resort in the world, with around 600km of piste. That's a lot, and far too much for me to cover in six days. We got area passes but mostly stayed... continue reading »
For a late summer holiday this year we had a week in Croatia.
We flew from Luton, because we were booking late and that's where affordable flights were... stupid traffic jams on the M25 and M1 made me rather anxious about getting to the airport on time, but obviously we did get there or I wouldn't be writing this!
Anyway, we landed in Dubrovnik airport just before 10pm. Our accommodation for the first two nights was at Villa RadoviÄ‡ in Cavtat, and I'd taken them up on the offer of an airport transfer (which took all of 15 minutes!). Within an hour... continue reading »
This winter, I seem to have mostly been skiing. Eighteen days on the snow! That's a week in Les Deux Alpes in December, La Plagne in February, and finally Serre Chevalier in March. Good thing I got a large payrise when I changed jobs last summer...
For once our resort choice wasn't just down to "found a cheap late deal to somewhere with enough snow". I've been to the area in summer (kayaking, three times), it gets good reviews as a reasonably quiet resort with a high treeline, and Briancon is the sort of place that might be nice to live... continue reading »
Who needs last minute christmas shopping/preparation when you can go skiing instead?
Unfortunately the Alps have been having a bit of a snow drought during the last month, as well as it being early in the season. We decided to go to Les Deux Alpes as it's high up, has a glacier (you can ski there in summer too) and a good selection of (open!) pistes for those of us who are still learning.
As usual, it was a bit of a last minute booking. We couldn't find a package deal that suited (a lot were doing different days due to Christmas... continue reading »
As I may or may not have already mentioned, for the second half of our week in Italy we stayed in Sorrento. It's a convenient location for visiting Pompeii, and has the added benefit of not being Naples!
On our first evening we were treated to this rather stunning sunset:
There's not a huge amount to do in the town itself. Lots of nice places to eat and drink, even more shops selling limoncello and other lemon themed products, and travel companies selling day trips to Capri or tours of the Amalfi coast.
After four nights in Rome we headed south for the rest of the week.
Visiting Pompeii has been on my bucket list (not that really I have such a thing) for a while. But the more research I did, the more I kept seeing reports that Herculaneum is in many ways 'better', due to being smaller and a lot quieter than Pompeii.
We'd pencilled in two days to visit both sites and walk up to the top of Vesuvius. Herculaneum was first up. The excavated area is relatively small, but a lot more of the town is still buried deep under the... continue reading »
The Vatican City is very small, but does have several popular tourist attractions: the Sistine Chapel/Vatican museums and St Peter's Basilica. We only visited the latter, because I wanted to go all the way up to the top of the dome and enjoy the views.
Queuing to get into St Peter's was probably our longest queue of the week, at about 20 minutes. This was mostly just a bottleneck at the security scanners.
Top tip: if you carry a penknife in your handbag, leave it at your hotel. I can't possibly comment about whether... continue reading »
Three weeks ago I was on holiday in Italy. I have various excuses for why it's taking so long to sort my holiday photos out (illness, being busy doing important life things like finding a new job, etc etc) but you can probably mostly blame laziness.
We started off in Rome, where the sun was shining and it was 30° plus. Definitely gelato weather, yum.
We purchased Roma Passes, which covered all public transport, 2 free tourist attractions and discounts on many others. I think we probably got our money's worth out of it, and it was very convenient too.
Six weeks after our trip to La Rosière, I found myself on the exact same MAN-LYS flight heading out for another week of sliding down snowy mountains.
This time, La Plagne. Big resort, lots of snow, plenty of blue runs to keep me entertained. Most of the week was beautiful sunshine, and of course the scenery is lovely:
After boot related pain and suffering somewhat spoilt my week in La Rosière, I invested in my own boots - and luckily for me, mid March counts as end of season sale so in theory I saved a bit of money. They're so much... continue reading »
After last year's successful first ski trip, I was very excited about getting back on the slopes this season - especially having acquired some more bits of proper ski kit (jacket and goggles) recently.
We went to La Rosière. Again in a catered chalet, but this time not quite so last minute - booked a week and a bit in advance!
We had a few snowy days, several big dumps of fresh powder overnight, and a lot of glorious sunshine. Oh, and plenty of vin chaud, of course!
One of my days in Luxembourg was filled with a trip to Clervaux. This started well when I got to the railway station to find that there were works on the line, so I'd have to get a rail replacement bus as far as Ettelbruck. But as it wasn't the UK, the bus turned up in the right place at the right time and all was well. Ooh, and the train from Ettelbruck was a double decker!
There isn't a huge amount in Clervaux - a castle, a church, a toy museum and the usual shops/cafés. I was there on a... continue reading »
At the end of June I had a long weekend in Luxembourg, because small European countries are cool and it gave me another excuse to practise speaking French.
First up, here is a view from the Chemin de la Corniche, looking over the Old Town/Grund area of the city. Very pretty! This was taken as I was following the signposted Wenzel Walk, which I combined with the City Promenade (not signposted, but leaflets for both are available from tourist information) to spend a morning walking around most of the city.
Unsurprisingly for a city built around two deep river gorges, there are... continue reading »
We found a last minute deal to stay in a catered chalet in Les Arcs (seriously - booked Wednesday to fly on Saturday morning), then I had a mad scramble of trying to find suitable ski clothing. Turns out the end of March isn't an ideal time to find winter things in the shops, so I ended up borrowing stuff from various lovely friends.
As I hadn't skied before (not counting 3 painful lessons on the dry slope many years ago), I spent my mornings in ski school. The first few days we just snowploughed, but just... continue reading »
I've previously mentioned that I'd been having French lessons. Sadly this term it turned out that the 'intermediate' class was far too easy and there weren't any more advanced options, so that ended up being refunded.
French learning continues with occasional Duolingo, working through the text book, and a few days in France in mid October... Not that I really needed an excuse for a holiday, having not taken any time off work since June. oops.
I went for the "spend as little money as possible" option - flights from Bristol to Béziers were £20 each way, and I stayed in an... continue reading »
Last full day in Iceland - no bus trips! Instead we bought a Reykjavík welcome card and hit the museums.
We started with the maritime museum, which was very much like any other maritime museum, but with more dried fish. There'd been a fair amount of fishing related stuff at the folk museum too - as obviously the sea is rather important in the history of small island countries!
Then we went to the 871±2 settlement museum - located under a random hotel, where they found the remains of a longhouse during building work. This one was really interesting, and nicely done... continue reading »
17th June is Iceland's national day - this year marked the 70th anniversary of their independence from Denmark. I didn't realise it was so recent, but history has never been my strong point...
Anyway, we spent the day on another coach tour - the South Shore Adventure with Reykjavik Excursions. It rained. I took far too many very similar photos, none of which are particularly spectacular. But it was a really interesting day, with a lot of stuff crammed in. Definitely recommended.
I've walked on/in glaciers in France and Austria, but mum had never seen one before. This one is covered in... continue reading »
The first of two days sat on tour buses, and another Icelandic "must do" - the Golden Circle. Loads of companies offer this tour, but we picked Iceland Excursions because it mentioned a tour of a geothermal power station. Which did not occur - instead we went to a horse place. But nevermind!
The first big stop of the day was Þingvellir, an interesting place for several reasons. It's the location of Iceland's first parliament, and it's a rift valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. So there's all sorts of fissures and big rocky walls and things, as... continue reading »
To celebrate this year's Significant Birthdays, last month my mum and I went to Iceland! Very exciting, as I've wanted to go there for years We flew Easyjet from Bristol, and stayed in Reykjavik at Hotel Leifur Eiriksson.
Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) we managed to pick a rainy week so a lot of the beautiful panoramic scenery I'd hoped to see (and photograph) was hidden behind large amounts of cloud. But I've been to Wales on rainy days, so this is nothing new! Didn't stop me taking about a million photos, of course..
A later season Alps trip this year - spending the first week of August on the River Inn in Austria and Switzerland. There's a bit of everything there, from flat to death on a stick - more than enough to keep everyone happy!
We stayed in Prutz, which has two rather nice pizza restaurants and a lot of apricot trees.
Besides kayaking, we also went swimming several times - in the local pool, lake, and an amazing spa - more on that later. Much entertainment whenever we came across any sort of slide!
I spent last week on Malta, having my first proper foreign holiday in a very long time to not involve a canoe club. Here's some of what I got up to, in no particular order:
Lots of balconies
I did a lot of wandering around various Maltese towns. They certainly like their balconies! Streets tend to be narrow, and for some reason a lot of the pavements are very shiny. I lost count of how many times I nearly slipped and fell over - walking on the road often felt safer. (the locals seem to agree)
It's been snowing! As usual we've not got it as bad as the rest of the country, but meh.
So being a responsible grown up, I went and built a snowman in my garden. I had started one at work on Friday whilst waiting for anyone else to show up and unlock, but that one didn't get much past 'skittle' size/shape.
Two faces because I did the first one (on the left, with leaf tie/scarf), then realised you could only see it from standing inside the garden - hence second face on the other side, visible to the neighbours.
It seems Slovenia is just as lovely as it was two years ago. So I probably don't need to repeat all the waffle about how beautiful and chilled out it is...
One definite improvement on last time is the fact that I did not capsize all week - compared to 5 swims in 2010. Partly this may be due to me now having a fatass boat (which is awesome, I love it), but mostly I would like to think it's because I've actually got better at paddling.
The first couple of days were really misty. Not being able to see what's coming... continue reading »
August bank holiday weekend in North Wales - usually means guaranteed rain, but this time only in the form of short showers between bits of sunshine.
I took Friday off work for an extra long weekend, and in the afternoon we headed up to Bala. Not without incident - for starters, I'd had to beg a security person to let me load my car up (Tall Ships festival = busy docks!). We went via the back roads, which took forever due to getting stuck behind several slow moving lorries full of hay. Still prettier than going via motorway though.
It's June, and I've been on holiday. Must be Alps time! France again this year - third time lucky?
Well, sort of. The first few days were great. The sun shone, squiggly mountain passes were driven over, rivers were paddled (wearing shorty cags!), ice creams were eaten...
...and then we woke up on Wednesday morning to find it was cold and snowing. Brilliant.
Snow turned to heavy rain, the rivers rose and turned interesting colours (Durance was yellow, Guil grey, and Ubaye nearly black). This made me lose enthusiasm for paddling - faster with fewer eddies? eek. I was never going to push... continue reading »
It's April, which means Scotland time! Previous trips have been over Easter, but as that's stupidly late this year we went a weekend earlier, in the hope of more chance of rain.
Hah! A gloriously sunny weekend, and very little water in the rivers (but I believe things haven't improved in the week since, so still a good call, methinks)
Still plenty to do for our 'intermediate' trip though! We had a very long weekend, taking the whole of Thursday to travel up to Kinlochleven, where we were staying - Blackwater bunkhouse, highly recommended!
Last year, I spent Easter weekend up in Scotland. This year, we were more sensible and went for an entire week.
(Yeah, I could/should have posted this weeks ago. But I've been somewhat busy with work, business trips and hours and hours of photo editing...)
Awesome week! Plenty of rivers, mountains, gorgeous scenery, lovely people, drinking, cakes, faff, etc etc. And one not so lovely stomach bug that went round throughout the week, knocking most of us out for a day. grr
We travelled up on Good Friday, stopping in the Lake District to run the River Kent on the way. Camping on... continue reading »
It's been one of those rare weekends where I haven't had anything planned to do. So as it was reasonable weather yesterday, I thought I'd go for a nice bike ride.
Bit bored of the towpath close to home now (obviously it's rather flat, and generally has lots of people walking along it to avoid/scare the crap out of), so I thought I'd take the bike into the Forest and do something a bit more interesting
First step - a trip to Halfords to buy a bike carrier for my car - something I've been meaning to do for the last... continue reading »
I've been on holiday to the French Alps again! Been back a week now, but it's taken me until now to sort through the 300+ photos I took (split between 2 cameras, as I now have a little waterproof one too, which is rather cool)
Anyway, same campsite as last year, with some of the same people. But this time, no floods and barely any rain! So much more kayaking was done - not especially by me, as it turns out I'm not so keen on Alpine water (it's fast and continuous and scary). Obviously I fell out of my boat... continue reading »
Bit of a last minute plan, following a conversation the weekend before that went something like "Scotland next weekend?" "ooh, can I come?" "yeah, sure".
Wild camping around the Fort William area - near to rivers, obviously (yes, it was a kayaking trip).
We left Birmingham at stupid o'clock on Friday morning, and arrived at about half 2 I think. Went for a walk along the banks of the Etive, which had a lot of water in it. Randomly bumped into some people from Cheltenham canoe club while we were there. As a side note, walking... continue reading »
Because it would take far too long to properly write up the two weeks I've just spent in the French Alps, here's a random photo and a list:
32 hours of driving (at least)
one river paddled (l'Argentiere Slalom course, and a bit beyond due to missing the eddy)
half of the Chateau Q via ferrata (because it started raining and got quite slippery)
one glacier and ice cave
several bottles of wine
two very yummy crepes
many croissants/pain au chocolat
various bits of sunburn
about 160 photos (using up 6 sets of batteries!! not impressed!)
large quantities of faff
a general lack of sleep