Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

Cape to Cape Capers

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Last weekend was a long weekend, celebrating what was once called Foundation Day and has now been politically corrected to WA Day. To make the most of the break, my cousin Kate had rented an apartment down in Yallingup and invited me and my brother, plus four of her friends, to join her. We headed down on Friday after work and by 9pm had arrived at our fancy-pants beach side apartment with ‘squint and you can see the ocean’ views. Good work, Kate.

The weekend involved large amounts of food, numerous bottles of wine and plenty of outdoor time. The weather turned it on for us with remarkably warm temperatures and heaps of sunshine. My Sunday morning involved a walk along the beach and then a swim in the surprisingly warm ocean. Not what you would expect for the day before winter.

Yallingup beach

Yallingup beach

On Saturday morning, Kate, Karina and I went for a run. The other two are in training for a marathon and had planned a 30 kilometre run. I was still sore from last week’s half marathon and really couldn’t be bothered running that far so instead decided I would run 5 kilometres with them and then turn around and go back. While part of me felt lazy and guilty for taking the easy option, as soon as we started running I was so glad I had made this decision.

Kate had planned the route from the apartment in Yallingup along the Cape to Cape walk, around the Cape Leeuwin light house and back down to Eagle Bay. The rest of us would meet the runners (and Tim who was their back up crew on his bike) at the Eagle Bay brewery for an early lunch. As soon as we set off, we discovered that the Cape to Cape trail was definitely ‘off road’ with a lot of soft sand and a large number of hills. The path wound its way along the coast, going up and down the undulating cliffs. It was a very tough run and after my 5 kilometres I was definitely ready to turn around. I don’t know how the others kept going – to their extreme credit they made it the whole way to Eagle Bay in remarkably good time.

Despite the tough terrain, the run was really amazing – we had shrubby bush to one side and rocky cliffs leading down to the Indian Ocean on the other. The weather was perfect without too much wind and the waves were rolling in to the shore, much to the delight of the hundreds of surfers.

View from the Cape to Cape trail. Photo courtesy of Kate Smith

View from the Cape to Cape trail. Photo courtesy of Kate Smith

It has sparked my interest in doing cross country running, something I have avoided since I was at primary school and we had to run around and around the school multiple times. I have friends in England who go for long distance runs along country paths and my Cape to Cape experience may have just enticed me to give it a go when I get back. It is a LOT harder than running on the road and my ankles aren’t all that happy with me, but since when have I ever listened to my joints? Silly weak ankles… Some rocks might just do them good.

AONBs

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

While visiting Northern Ireland, I had the absolute pleasure of staying with Sir Pubert’s aunt, Lady BonBon. One of the kindest and most generous people that I have ever met, we were treated like royalty during our three night stay. I wasn’t even told to write this – I honestly mean it.

Lady BonBon had collected a range of maps and tourist information for Pubert and I to use to plan our day trips out and about. One of the maps was of the Areas of Natural Beauty (AONBs) to the north of where we were staying. So on Friday, Pubert and I headed out in Lady BonBon’s automobile (a Skoda) to discover them for ourselves.

ANOB #1 – The Dark Hedges

The map was what I would call “diagrammatical” or “lacking detail” and so we took a few scenic detours before finally reaching our first destination. All we knew about the dark hedges was that they were a bunch of trees covering a road and that they were near a golf course. Thanks to perseverance, a bit of GPS Jess map reading, and a lot of good luck, we finally found what we were looking for. A road in the middle of no where with over hanging trees. Thanks to some good weather and a little bit of sunshine, we managed to see the road in great light. Definitely an ANOB.

Dark hedges

The Dark Hedges. WoooOOoooOOOooo….

ANOB #2 – The Giant’s Causeway

I had heard about and seen photographs of the Giant’s Causeway but didn’t know a lot about it. I was thrilled to discover that it was a short drive from where we were staying and that it was an official ANOB on our tourist map. After parking the car and slightly fraudulently getting into the National Trust visitor’s centre thanks to Ken and Katy’s membership, we walked down along the coastal road to the famous site.

Giant's causeway

Walking down to the Giant’s Causeway

Thanks to a volcano, the ice age and various other earthly movements, the Giant’s Causeway is a collection of rocks that have magically formed in hexagonal pillars. It is absolutely remarkable – as I walked across the rocks it became more and more phenomenal how these unique shapes formed. And on top of that, how they have lasted in this manner for hundreds/thousands/millions of years.

Giant's causeway

Giant’s Causeway

My favourite rocks were those that were speckled with what I presume is some sort of algae. The white specks reminded me of the pyrite encrusted ring Pubert bought me for my birthday.

Giant's causeway

Hexagons

After an overpriced and average tasting lunch at the National Trust cafe and having been chatted up by one of the elderly gentlemen volunteers in the visitor’s centre, we headed off towards our next stop on our ANOB discovery tour.

ANOB #3 – Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Once again, thanks to a slightly inappropriate use of a National Trust membership (“You don’t look old enough to be a senior…”) we made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. My new boyfriend from the Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre had said the walk to the bridge was at least 40 minutes, so imagine our surprise when we managed to do it in around 15. Clearly we were keen to get there.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

A long way down.

The rope bridge connects the mainland to a small island off the coast where fishermen used to go to check their salmon nets. They have improved the quality of the bridge, however it is still a hair-raising experience as you step out onto a wobbly bridge, the sea below your feet and a bunch of tourists watching, hoping you’ll slip and fall for the perfect photo opportunity. Unfortunately for them, we both made it across safely.

Carrick a Rede

Nice.

Once again, the views definitely rated high on the ANOB scale.

ANOB #4 – Dunluce Castle

The problem with being a tourist at this time of the year is the extreme lack of day light. The sun is going to bed before 4pm so we were restricted by how much we could fit into our day. We headed back along the coast to Dunluce Castle, old castle ruins sitting precariously on top of the cliffs. We discovered that the once free to enter attraction now had a £5 per person entry fee. We were running short on time, so decided to head down a path to the side of the castle that took you underneath the ruins.

Dunluce Castle

A castle with a view

Below the castle is a cave where boats would come to the shore after being out at sea. Despite signage recommending No Entry and some encouragement from a local man who happened to walk past, we ventured into the mouth of the cave to listen to the waves hitting the shore.

ANOB #5 – Bushmills Distillery

While not technically an ANOB, I am going to classify the Bushmills distillery as a natural beauty unto itself. Anyone who creates a drink as glorious as Irish whiskey deserves a classification like ANOB. We had hoped to do one of the tours and my Giant’s Causeway boyfriend had said that the last tour was at 4.30pm. Turns out his knowledge of tour hours is about as correct as his knowledge of length of walking times. We arrived at Bushmills at 3.49pm. The last tour had started at 3.30pm. Dang.

We went inside anyway, checking out the gift shop and then wandering into the cafe area. We were contemplating purchasing a whiskey to drink to help us get over our disappointment for missing the tour, and the lovely girl behind the bar offered us a free sample.

Thanks to this knowledgable wee lass, we managed to get a lot of the tour information and learnt a lot about the Bushmills range. We sampled four whiskeys, debating on which were our favourites. We managed to agree on our number one choice while the other three were a mixed bag.

We left without buying anything. So overall a very successful visit.

ANOB #6 – ASDA

Our final stop for the day was an ASDA supermarket where Pubert and I were given the task of purchasing ingredients for Lady BonBon to use for a funeral catering service she was preparing for the following day. We wandered around the supermarket looking for square bread, salad cream and crushed pineapple.

And then it was home for a delicious meal with Lady BonBon and an evening in front of the fire. Good times.

Aye, Nessie

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

It has been far too long since my last entry. I have many excuses – great excuses. They mostly involve ‘real work that pays and helps me to afford to eat’ and a significant lack of internet in the Scottish highlands. Yes, since I last wrote, I have travelled north and found myself in the land of green, green, green mountains and not very many roads.

Scotland is a bit like a lumpier, greener, lusher, colder, wetter version of Australia. By that I mean I finally accepted that it would be potentially possible to get ‘lost’ in the UK. Up until recently, I had laughed at anyone who had tried to tell me it was possible to get lost and die around here as I have always felt that there is a road/house/shop/farm within a five mile walking distance of practically everywhere. Not in bonny Scotland! Start heading into the mountainous highlands and you soon find a lack of roads and a lack of inhabitants. It is vast and open. It is wonderful.

Scottish mountains

Rainy Scotland from the comfort of a car

I spent two nights with my Mum’s dutch cousins in a small village near Perth in Scotland. They then dropped me off in Edinburgh where I met up with my English third or forth cousin, Les. From the blissful nothingness of a small Jane-Austen-esque cottage in the middle of nowhere, to the manic insanity of “FREE COMEDY!” at the Edinburgh festival, it was quite a see-saw holiday for the senses. Both extremes were fantastic and I promise I will expand further when I am not about to be kicked out of my office (I have seven minutes until the security guards suggest I leave) but I just wanted to quickly write something to let you all know that I am still alive. So here is a quick piece of news:

I SAW THE LOCH NESS MONSTER!

Ok, that’s a lie. No one has seen Nessie, but my Dutch rellies did perform a wonderful service by driving for over two hours to get me to Loch Ness. And then another two-plus hours to get back. I have been able to tick one of my ‘Must Visit’ boxes in a very unexpected and last minute sort of way.

(Short aside – I wrote the above last night. I was then kicked out of my office three minutes earlier than expected and therefore couldn’t finish. It is now another day. Moving on.)

Loch Ness was… well… much like the many other lochs that we had driven past in order to get there. A large body of water, surrounded by trees. It did have the additional feature of ‘Tourism’ with the town of Fort Augustus filled with buses, American and Italian tourists and stuffed Loch Ness monsters. We didn’t stop for long – we drove through Fort Augustus, found a small car park to stop in, and took photographs of ourselves with the lake in the background. And then we drove home. There were no signs of giant, lake-dwelling creatures but it was raining so maybe she was keeping a low profile.

Loch Ness

This may or may not be the Loch Ness Monster.

Croatia

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

A long time ago, I went to Croatia. At least it feels like a long time ago – I have since returned to the reality of life, work and responsibilities and all notions of relaxation that I gained on my travels have disappeared. I have been particularly busy on my return to Manchester and haven’t had time to write about my time away. I am slowly putting my photographs up on my Flickr site so you can eventually see photographic evidence of my trip. Just keep checking back for more updates. I like to keep you in suspense.

Croatia – country of fancy boats, blue water, and red roof tiles

Croatia – country of fancy boats, blue water, and red roof tiles

The biggest highlight of the trip was being able to spend an extended period of time with my best friend, Gill. We haven’t lived in the same city for years and so being able to hang out and eat food together was an absolute luxury.

Croatia was both all that I hoped it to be and full of little surprises. I had imagined it to be a combination of Italy and Greece and found the Italian influences a lot stronger than expected. This was particularly evident in the food with a lot of pizzas, pasta and risotto on the menus. Seafood was the main player food wise and I consumed more seabass in a week than I had in the entirety of my life.

On our first night in Croatia, Gill and I ate two seabass each. It was unintentional but delicious.

On our first night in Croatia, Gill and I ate two seabass each. It was unintentional but delicious.

There was also plenty of ice cream around, however the quality was no where near that of Italian gelato. It seems ice cream supply is ruled by two main companies that add ridiculously over the top flavours to vanilla ice cream. This fact, however, did not stop us from averaging two ice creams a day. Ice cream is good for us – it contains calcium.

This Hello Kitty ice cream did not taste like cat.

This Hello Kitty ice cream did not taste like cat.

The beaches weren’t quite as spectacular as those I swam at in Crete but that’s just me being picky. I always find it remarkable to discover that ocean water really can be the bright aqua blue that you see in photographs in tourist magazines. It had been over a year since I had last swam in the ocean so the sensation of submerging into water was wonderful.

I had this cove to myself on my last morning in Croatia.

I had this cove to myself on my last morning in Croatia.

I don’t think I will ever accept stone-covered beaches. They just hurt. You can’t sit on them, you can’t stand on them, and they make you look like a stumbling idiot getting in and out of the water. Rock beaches aren’t that much better as you have to clamber over spiky rocks and then try not to slip on the green algae that coats the rocks closer to the water. Where is the romance? The locals and the tourists were certainly making use of every spare spot of sun-baking space. As Gill and I hunted for shade and coated our whitest-of-white skin in ten layers of 50+ sunscreen, we watched as everyone else turned into crispy bacon lying for hours in the direct sun.

Beautiful but painful.

Beautiful but painful.

We stayed in three towns during our trip – Split, Zadar and Trogir. All had booming tourist trades with restaurant menus translated into five different languages and endless shops selling postcards, white and navy striped clothing, and magnets. While I am aware that I am a tourist myself and therefore part of the problem, it saddens me how beautiful old cities are destroyed by tourism. Nothing is left untouched and every monument you enter has a shop at the exit selling miniature snow-dome versions of what you just saw. While the majority of the Croatians we met were very friendly and welcoming, there were many instances where it was obvious that the fact that we were just another set of tourists was a great annoyance to them. I wish it was possible to travel and visit new places without having to participate in the tourism industry but it is becoming increasingly more difficult. We weren’t even travelling during peak tourist season. I wonder how it feels to have grown up in one of these cities and to have seen your home town transformed into Disneyland. You don’t have much choice but to join in and make the most of the lucrative benefits of rich tourists.

Some particularly amusing translation. I had the goldfish – it was surprisingly large.

Some particularly amusing translation. I had the goldfish – it was surprisingly large.

One particularly interesting thing we noticed was that most tourists in Croatia were either German, French or another nationality that we couldn’t quite recognise. There weren’t many anglophones which was a HUGE relief as we couldn’t understand the annoying things they were saying. Gone was the cringe factor I usually feel while standing in a line to climb a tower and l overhear the conversations of fellow English speakers. Instead we just had to deal with grumpy fat germans and backpacking French teenagers. Easy.

Gill and I decided that for our next Croatian adventure we would rent a car and explore more of the inland areas. The country has some fascinating landscapes that deserve exploration and a car would remove the need to join evil bus tour groups and we could see some of the unspoiled and non-tourist areas.

A Visit to Cheshire

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Last Friday I caught a train to a small town in Cheshire to visit some more of my numerous extended cousins. Jan and Bill live in a beautiful cottage home on a tiny lane in a cute little town in the middle of nowhere. While I love cities, I always enjoy escaping them and enjoy the quiet and solitude of country life. We sat in their garden relaxing and enjoying cups of coffee while watching the birds and insects dashing around. Glorious. I now have big plans to move to a small town in country England work in the local pub. Now there’s a book.

On Saturday we visited the ruins of Beeston Castle – built in the 1200s, it sits high on a sandstone hill allowing you to see eight counties (on a clear day.) We had great weather and the walk up the hill was surprisingly warm. I particularly enjoyed the fact that you can see Wales from the top. It isn’t every day that you climb a hill and see another country. We had a picnic lunch with views over Cheshire during which I was in a state of constant amazement that we were eating outside in mid-summer and not being bothered by flies. The British have got some things right.

Approaching Beeston Castle

Approaching Beeston Castle

Hello, Wales.

Hello, Wales.

Italia

Monday, August 27th, 2012

My trip to Italy was wonderful – good food, nice people, astonishingly beautiful views. Lake Como is one of those places in the world that make you wonder how somewhere like that can exist. A little piece of natural beauty – a super model of nature. I spent one and a half days in Milan and was somewhat disappointed with the city. I had been told by various Italian friends that it wasn’t the most beautiful city in Italy – they were right. It has pockets of ‘nice’ that make up for the general concrete-box architecture, but I can’t say I wanted to stay there for much longer. Maybe if I was rich and wanted to go shopping at Chanel, Prada and D&G I would have been more entertained, but as your average adventurer there wasn’t much to see.

Navigli

The canal in the Navigli area was my favourite part of Milan.

I met up with my brother and parents in Bellagio, a small town on the edge of Lake Como. Most of the towns scattered around the lake now operate as tourist resorts and while I had gone there expecting tourists, I don’t think I had adequately prepared myself. Lots of souvenir shops, inflated prices, average food and annoying tourists. Thankfully our way of travelling made us remove ourselves as much as possible from these situations and we explored beyond the tourist track, met some locals and sampled some decent food.

Lake Como

Wowzers.

Overall I was a little disappointed with my food intake – not so much as far as quantity but the quality wasn’t what I was hoping for. This is to be expected in a tourist-filled zone where food is produced to please international taste buds en masse rather than offering a REAL experience. The best pizza I ate was in Milan at a restaurant I picked because it was full of locals.

Pizza in Milan

Pizza Caprese

The best gelato was from a gourmet, hipster café, Ronchi, in Como whose cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) was beyond amazing.

Gelato from Ronchi

The colour says it all.

The best experience of the trip happened on our last day in Bellagio. We had spotted a small church on the other side of the lake and on top of a hill and as we had run out of tourist ferries to take, we decided to walk there.

San Martino

Our destination

I felt very holy and considered converting to Catholicism as we made our way up (and I mean UP) a twisty path that went through towns, forests, gorges and along the edge of cliffs. The view from the top was spectacular – looking down to the lake and across at the mountain ranges. I was surprised by the number of other people who were walking the trail, but it also provided a pleasant relief from the swarms of tourists in the towns.

San Martino

Heading uphill

San Martino

The reward for making it to San Martino

For more photographs of my trip in Italy (we’re talking over 400), visit my Flickr site. To really know what Lake Como looks like, go there.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Snow

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Easter crept up on me this year – perhaps it was the lack of dried-fruit-filled-dough-balls, although I think I had enough of the Dutch fried version of these over New Years. Tom and I spent our Easter weekend (it was clearly stated as a ‘weekend’ in France and definitely not a holiday) with our friends Louise and Marcelo in the Alps. We stayed in Louise’s aunt’s cottage in a tiny village called Boudin. I felt like we had said farewell to civilisation and had run away to join a hippie cult in the middle of the French mountains. Boudin consisted of less than 15 wooden chalets that were inaccessible by road. You had to park your car in the car park at the base of the village and walk up.

Boudin

Boudin

It took us approximately eight hours to drive to Boudin from Paris – this was largely due to some bad advice from the GPS, and then a few misguided decisions as we worked out the best way to get to the mountains. By the time we arrived, it was dark, it was raining, the clouds were settling low and we had to drive up a one-lane, twisty road with some particularly useless windscreen wipers. Oh, did I mention the lightning?

Fear not, we made it and were all overwhelmingly happy to get our things into the house and sit down to some food and some good wine. The next day as the sun came up, the rooster started crowing outside my bedroom window and I finally dared to peak outside, I realised why an eight hour drive is really ok. WOW. WHAT A VIEW.

Boudin

Good morning, mountains.

Perhaps it is the Australian in me and my complete foreignness to all things mountainous, but geez those lumps of land are just spectacular! Particularly when coated in white snow. I think I have only stayed in one other place in the world that had such an inspirational view – Crete and our view of Plakias bay. I could have sat and stared at the mountains all day, watching the clouds roll through, the passages of rain and then light snow. Beautiful.

Boudin mountains

Fluffy.

Saturday we had a quiet day as the weather wasn’t great and we were all feeling very lazy. We bought a truck load of local produce – cheese (Beaufort is one of the towns nearby), fromage blanc, blueberry coulis, saucisson, and blueberry tarts. Then we essentially just ate all day. For dinner we made cheese fondu with locally produced cheeses. It is fantastic – you can go to the local fromagerie, buy the fondu cheese and they will lend you a fondu pot, the sticks to hold the bread and the little heating element to keep the cheese warm. All you have to do is bring it back the next day. Now that’s small town trust. I like it.

Fondu

They eat this every day in the mountains

On Sunday we celebrated Easter by walking up a snow covered hill. The idea sounded great – we would hire ‘raquettes’ (or giant tennis rackets that you attach to your feet), take the chair lift to the top of the first part of a mountain and then walk up to a restaurant where we would eat good food in the sunshine while surrounded by snow. Louise was the only person who a. was French and had been to the mountains before and b. had skis so she left the two Australians and one Brazilian in the middle of a field of snow, lost, lonely and cold. Not really, there were very obvious ski-routes to follow but still. So cold.

Raquettes

These shoes are made for snow walking

So we started walking and immediately discovered that walking with tennis rackets attached to your feet is really quite tricky. You turn into a transformer and your feet suddenly weigh a lot more than you ever thought they could. We set off completely unsure about what direction we were supposed to be going but eventually figured that as long as we were heading uphill we were probably on the right track.

Mountain edge

I think I'll avoid walking over that hill

The second thing I learnt is that despite it being cold, snowy and probably some sort of minus-temperature, if you are wearing lots of layers of clothing and are trudging up a hill with tennis rackets on your feet then you get very, very sweaty very, very quickly. I was soon stripping off my beanie, scarf and gloves and turning bright red and complaining a lot. I wasn’t the only one. It was really hard! Walking uphill in snow is worse than running 30km and I almost threw my walking sticks down into the snow in frustration. But the food! We were walking towards food! Onwards we went, meeting up with Louise once as she glided past on her skis, the wind in her hair, a smile on her face. She, of course, felt dreadful but everyone just laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation and how much we really wanted to get to the restaurant. Louise informed us we were almost half way. Great.

Raquette

Up we go

Two hours later we arrived at the restaurant, removed as many clothes as possible while attempting to remain decent and flopped into our chairs demanding water, water, water. My tshirt was saturated and I’m fairly certain the table behind me left due to my stench. But after a slice of beaufort cheese tart, a huge plate of chips (yes, delicious, salty, deep-fried chips… something I usually avoid but at this moment they were the best things ever), and salad followed by a Nutella crêpe, I was happy. And ready to walk back down the hill.

Beaufort tart

Tarte au Beaufort

Nutella crepe

Nutella-full

The walk back was AMAZING. I have to admit that the walk up the hill was completely worth it once I started going back down. There is something so wonderful about standing still on a snow covered mountain and listening to the silence. It is one of the most beautiful sounds on the earth.

Snow on pine tree

Snowy

The snow was such a pure white and everything looked like a movie. The three raquetteers were in much jollier moods walking back to the chair lift and we stopped at a patch of gloriously white, soft snow, threw ourselves back onto it and made snow angels. My first snow angel! It was heavenly to lie in the snow! It is so soft and luxurious – sure, I got a bit wet, but I was already drenched so who cares?

Snow angel

Don't I look angelic?

It was hard to drive back to Paris the next day as the sun was shining in the mountains and it would have been a great day to sit on the chalet balcony in the sunshine and read a book. Unfortunately work and responsibilities called and we repacked the car and drove another seven hours to get home. This time we had the joy of Parisian traffic jams as everyone returned home from their Easter holidays. Next time we’re all taking an extra day off work.

Cars Make Me Anxious

Friday, April 6th, 2012

This week I realised that I am really quite happy to not have a car as they can cause a high level of anxiety as they start failing on you. We hired a car which we picked up from a town about six miles away and Ben took me on a small tour of the local area. After he had shown me the Welbeck Estate where he does his baking course, the car decided to tell us that we needed to check the coolant level. The temperature of the car hadn’t increased and after a small about of concern and discussion we decided to keep going and we’d check the coolant when we got home.

Ben took us on a scenic drive home, showing me where he rides his bike with a local cycle group and as we pulled into a side road between two farms the car then informed us that it was going to turn off the air conditioner because the car was getting too hot. That’s when the temperature gauge shot up and Ben quickly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the car. No more coolant.

English countryside

At least we had a nice view.

Luckily for us, the car hire office was still open with 15 minutes to spare, so we called them and the AA (that’s British for RAC) to organise for someone to come and look at the car. This was a feat in itself as Ben had to use his phone, iPad and Skype in order to find a good enough signal to call the AA. Thank goodness for technology.

An hour later and the AA guy arrived, checked the car and informed us that the water pump wasn’t working. We’d need to be towed. By this time the sun was almost set and the relatively warm day was becoming rapidly cold and Ben and I wished we had decided to bring jumpers “just in case”. As I cursed Vauxhall for their poor craftsmanship and prepared for another long way for the tow truck, the AA guy simply turned his van around, popped the boot et voila! – a very neat winch and pulley system that after 20 minutes was attached to our car and we were on our way to the car yard. Brilliant! I declared England the home of ingenious car service people and wished Australia was a bit more like the Mother Country.

AA car rescue

The sun sets on our broken-down car

So that was fun. It meant that our planned pub meal couldn’t happen as the kitchens had closed by the time we’d finished dealing with the car. Wonderfully, Enterprise, the car hire place, waited for us at the office and gave us a new car with a free tank of petrol. It was another Vauxhall and this time a bit of a family wagon so we spent the rest of our holiday driving around trying to find children to put in the back seats.

Life in Country England

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I am currently sitting on the Eurostar heading back to Paris. Both to and from England, I have been placed in one of the worst seats on the train – an aisle seat next to the baggage rack meaning I have no views. So I am taking the time to pre-prepare blog entries for you – how efficient.

I have spent the last six days visiting my brother, Ben, in his current location of Creswell, England. Creswell is a small ex-mining town located about two hours north of London, somewhere between Nottingham and Sheffield. The countryside around Creswell is stunning – rolling hills, lots of lambs scampering about and Creswell isn’t far from the Peak District where rolling hills become fairly impressive rocky inclines. This is lucky because Creswell itself looks like it has been hit (or perhaps SHOULD be hit) by some sort of bomb and no one has really bothered to clean it up. People are sad in Creswell – I thought Parisians were sad but really they are just grumpy and annoyed at everything. Creswellians are truly sad and you can feel it like a heavy cloud hanging over the town. There are fights most nights at the pub across the road from where Ben lives and there are lots of young people with babies. It seems the only thing to do as a 15 year old in Creswell is pop out kids. That’s scary.

Creswell train station

Creswell.

Ben isn’t living there for the nightlife, he is currently completing an artisan baking course at the nearby Welbeck estate and the student accommodation is located in Creswell. It has been great to see where Ben has been living for the last few months, to visit the school and to meet some of the staff and students he has been working with.

School of Artisan Food

Ben's baking school

We hired a car for the week so that we could get out of Creswell and explore England. In our short time we managed to see a lot and ate plenty of good food. I shall provide you with more detail in individual blog entries to allow for easy reading fun. Enjoy.

I Need a Holiday

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Gosh… living in Paris is TOUGH. I need a holiday. So I am catching a train to England tomorrow morning to visit my brother. Almost everyone in Paris who has heard of my up and coming travels has questioned my sanity and why on earth I would choose to go to England, land of bad food, socks with sandals, and POMS. Well,

  1. My brother lives there
  2. I think country England is actually quite pretty and the pollution in Paris is making me nauseous again
  3. My brother happens to be the second-biggest hunter of delicious foods in the world (after me).

So I don’t think it will be all bad, but I’ll let you know how I go. In case it is a complete flop, (it won’t be – I am, of course, super excited to see my big brother) the day after my return to Paris, we are heading into the mountains (I believe the Alps but Tom and I are currently having an argument about where exactly our friends are taking us) where we are guaranteed superb fondu, cheese and more cheese. It is moments like this that make me forget that I currently am at war with French bureaucracy and allow me to remember why I am fighting to stay in this country.