Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lakes, London, Belvoir, Nottingham...

Hi Ho, Catching up on my picture blogging, I now have various pics on various websites for you too ogle at. Christina has popped across the ocean a couple of times, and that has been a good excuse to get out and about and see the green and pleasant land. We've had a weekend in London, where highlights included some West End Theatre (Lion King), and together with 3 friends from high school my first English yum cha and Christina's first ever.

These pics are on Facebook:

More pics are on Flickr - a better photo presentation site, of trip around mid-to northwest england:
Click on "view as a slideshow" on the right, and if you want to see some pic info or title, just click on each pic. Click again to restart.

We also had a week over Easter together, where we went to Nottingham to start exploring the heritage of Robin Hood, and had a quiet ale in England's Oldest Pub, est.1189, where Richard the Lionheart stopped off on his way to the Crusades. We also caught the Nottingham Jazz Orchestra playing at the 5 ways hotel. It felt like walking into an RSL on bingo night. I've done some looking for jazz big bands to play in in the area, and the websites are dominated by pictures of grey haired men in american GI uniforms playing to the whole swing hits of the 30's and 40's era. Need to find somewhere to play 70's funk arrangements and such. But the band OK and it was good to hear some live music. We took a quick 2 day trip to the Lakes district, driving through Snake Pass in the Peaks district. We took a driving tour of the region, driving through sunshine, sleet, fog, snow, sunshine again. It is a beautiful area, with even higher peaks than in the Peak district, water all round, and a really great combination of manmade features like hedgerows and stone walls snaking over the hillsides. Fish and chips on Good Friday, KFC, Pizza Hut, Melton Mowbray pork pies (actually bought in Melton Mowbray), added up to at least 3 months worth of fast food allowance eaten all in a week. And to pondering the question of just how hard can it be to get peas right? Just keep cooking until they're soft, dammit. But the most important thing we learned, was to trust our GPS. GPS is always right.

Then Winnie and Andrew and some friends Sid and Debbie who were on their way back from their own Lakes trip, dropped into Loughborough, and we hopped off to Belvoir Castle, which has been mispronounced as Beaver Castle ever since it was built just to snub the French. The film Little Lord Fauntelroy was filmed there - a film that gets played every Christmas in Germany and one of Christina's favourites. So we went on the tour, Christina could point out where some of the key scenes were filmed, and an art historian gave us a 15 minute overview of one painting. We were a little underwhelmed by the 'military re-enactments', and then retired to a local gastro-pub for some fine pub food in a little village just outside L'boro called Woodhouse Eaves.

Some tasters:

Thursday, April 3, 2008


"Flaine! I want to live forever, I want to learn how to fly..."

"4 days in the French Alps, a snowboard, some school mates, and more cheese than you could poke a fondue fork at; that was my trip to France, and it was great... "

"Flew into France, found Flaine, flopped down onto the fofabed..."

3 potential starts to the post. None of them winners. And that last one was really bad and wasn't true - I flew into Geneva.

Anyway I did wake up one on a Sun morning to sounds of grendades de-avalanchersizing the slopes around Flaine, with some minus degrees in the air, and a whole lotta snowboard gear to get into.
Flaine is the highest village in the Alps at 1600m and the runs go up to 2500, so fog, sleet, massive wind gusts were all to be dealt with which closed down the the gondolas quite often, but there was also sun. I was still finding my feet a bit after not boarding much last year due to the dud shoulder, but it gave me no probs this year. There was a threat of snowfall in the forecasts, and it hit Mon night, which meant Tuesday was absolutely, positively, Powderlicious! Some nice snow on the groomed runs, and knee-height on the edges of the pistes meant a great day of power action. All the tumbles and falls were almost fun! And with another boarder in the group, equipped to hit the real deep stuff, some real off-piste adventure was also had. The kind where you stop every few meters because you didn't hold your line and dropped too low so can't go where you want and the only way now is through the trees or over the rocks... woo hoo!

The last day though was very Aussie-alpenesque with rain, and slush. Didn't go out for long as the body was aching, and the main runs open involved really, really long and steep T-bars, which take a lot of effort to ride on a snowboard.

I held the prize for "most spectular faceplant in front of all of your friends",, until Nick the other boarder upstaged me with a stunning double backflip that actually shook him up a bit. Much use of the word 'akimbo' was to be had.

ff the slopes wasn't entirely embarassment free. There was something about all the excercise, lack of sleep, and thin air which meant my first apres-ski beer was generally enough to have a noticeable effect. After a pint or so before starting to prepare dinner on my last night there, which was a fondue & raclette cheesfest, I was a little sozzled by the time we sat down to eat, and I had to rush and finish by 6.20 to catch my bus. The dinner was great and involved melting 11 different cheeses in 2 different devices with plates of various meats, baguette and vegies to dip in or drizzle cheese on, and what a stringy cheesy mess I made! Needless to say I made my bus and got home at midnight (after about a 10 minute lecture from the passport control guy about biodiesel) and was at work with swiss chocolates in hand for our regular Thur morning team meeting.

Thanks again to Duncan and Peta for being the catalyst for it all, and the rest of the gang: Winnie, Andrew, Sean and Nick.
Couple of pics here, more on Facebook - just click the link:

Genepi is an alpine flower related to Juniper, which is turned into sweet, herby liqueurs, of which my favourite Chartreuse is the most famous. Good to know that there are plenty others out there to try!