New Year's Eve - 2013 Waddesdon Manor, main entrance

For a New Years Eve break, Jules and I decided to head out of town to spend a (mostly) civilised evening in a nice hotel. The chosen venue was The Five Arrows at Waddesdon. This turned out to be a very pleasant hotel with a surprisingly well done room and excellent food.

Before dinner we went for a brief refresher at the Long Dog and got stamps on our hands and made a general agreement to come back for the party ‘til 4am. Relaxed we headed back to the room to enjoy a bottle of champagne before heading down to dinner. The food was excellent, and easily on a par with the food we’ll often have in town. The portions were a good size for six courses, and the atmosphere was pleasant. We declined the last course and instead headed back to the room to see the New Year in.

We had planned to walk to Cuddington for lunch on New Years Day, but the inclement weather put a stop to that. Instead we went for a shorter walk around the grounds of Waddesdon Manor, which was rather impressive and would be a lovely day out in summer. Afterwards we drove to Cuddington for lunch at The Crown (which we just about managed to finish, having eaten and drunk plenty in the last 24 hours) before heading back to town. All in all a very pleasant end to 2013 and a great start to the new year.

Kirsten's Birthday Party - October alt text

Many thanks to Kirsten for throwing an extra-special Birthday party this year. As per usual a great time was had by everyone, who showed their support by eating and drinking far too much good food and wine. I don't think I've ever seen that much champagne in one fridge...

The food in particular was extra special this year - the venison carpaccio was a revelation, and the lobster bisque was worthy of a special mention. After dinner we managed to stay up just a little longer on the dance floor, fortified by cocktails.

The trees were particularly spectacular this year, with the Beech leaves in their glorious russets, contrasted nicely by the green of the conifers. There would have been more walks and photos, but we were too busy partying (or recovering).

Travelling back to the UK was more of a challenge, with the remnants of St. Jude battering the South, but we all made it safe and sound, one way or another....

Norfolk - September Holkham Beach in the sunshine

For a more relaxing weekend (no pre-dawn starts) Jules and I headed to one of our favourites - Byfords in Holt. As always the room, food and service were lovely, and we had a very pleasant and relaxing weekend.

Our itinerary for the weekend was;

Friday night - drove out of London to Holt, arriving 20:30. Dinner and a well earned pint in the Kings Head.

Saturday. After a good breakfast, we headed out on bikes (kindly arranged by Byfords). Great ride on quiet country roads, navigating somewhat by the map (Goldeneye Norfolk Cycling Country Lanes), partly by the sun, and significantly by guesswork. Stopped briefly at the old priory at Binfield partly for old times sake, to have a wander around the priory ruins. Carried on to Burnham market for lunch in the Jockey. After lunch headed back via Roadkill Alley (so many dead animals on the road) Little Walsingham & Thursford, arriving back tired but happy. Went for a very well earned pint in the Kings Head before a lovely dinner in Byfords.

Sunday. After another good breakfast we headed over to Holkham beach for a walk along the sand in lovely sunshine. For lunch we stopped in the Victoria for a very pleasant light lunch.

Padstow - September View down the estuary from the hills above Padstow

Pash managed to persuade me to go surfing for the first time in (cough) years. To make a bit of a weekend of it we headed down for a long weekend, and stayed in Rick Steins St. Edmonds house (which was lovely, although not cheap). Overall it was a lovely weekend while we were there, but on balance it's a very long way to travel for a weekend.

Friday

We drove down to Cornwall in pretty heavy rain, which was not particularly pleasant at all! Int he evening we met Pash & Sara for a quiet drink in Bin Two (which was very pleasant) followed by dinner at St. Petroc’s House – a very good  steak, although the sides were a bit salty.

Saturday

With the best surf of the weekend forecast early on Saturday morning, Pash and I up at dawn to hit the beach. Conditions weren't too bad, the sea warm and some half decent waves, and we were treated to a lovely sunrise at about 7am. Sarah very kindly lent me her new board, and Pash headed out on his new surfboard. We headed back in time for breakfast before meeting up. In the afternoon we went for a good walk around the headland to Trevone bay for lunch, before looping back to Padstow. We finished off the afternoon with a couple of pints in the sun at the Shipwrights then headed to Rick Stein's cafe for dinner - nice food, but the service was a bit random.

Sunday

After an early breakfast we all headed out to go surfing. Myself and Pash on surfboards and Sara and (wave-meister) Jules on bodyboards. Conditions were pretty good, some waves but a bit overcast and raining. In the afternoon we chilled out after dropping Jules at the station. Dinner was takeaway from Rick Steins’ Fish & Chip shop and a couple of pints in the London Inn, musical accompaniment provided by the locals. Pity they couldn’t sing in tune.

Austria - August

For our main Summer holiday, Jules and I headed to Austria to do some walking, cycling, horseriding, swimming (you get the idea) outdoors holiday, followed by a couple of days recuperating in Saltzberg

View over the mountains from the Salve Hohe Sunday

A day of travelling, with a brief recce to Bad Richenhall, which turned out to be very pleasant indeed. We stopped for a wander around the town, followed by a coffee & Apfelstrudel - less than 2 hrs after touching down, a record even for Jules. We then headed to Brixen in Thale along the A8, a bad plan - lots of road works and congestion. Arriving in Brixen the hotel was very good, with a large room very clean & well presented. We wandered into town for dinner, a pleasant stretch of the legs after a day of travel.

Monday

With good weather forecast we decided to head up the Hohe Salve. We took the Gondelbahn Hochbrixen then followed rt. 95 up to the Salvensee. From there we followed rt. 70 to the top of the Hohe Salve, which was the Erste Berg! After recuperating with a Goulash & dumpling soup we headed further along rt. 70 past Rigihaus and round Kleine Salve to Kraftalm where Jules had the most enormous (kinder's) portion of Kaiser Schmarmm mit apfelmuss - for strength, she said. After digesting we looped back on rt. 50 past Herenwasser and then rt. 99 to Speichersee Filzalm where yours truly had a swim in the lake. To get back to Brixen we headed down rt. 96 which conveniently dropped us into the middle of town.  Overall the walk took us just shy of 7 hours, and we'd rate it 9/10 difficutly for the 10 miles ~1200 VG & 2000 L. Lovely panoramic views, on fairly easy paths (not technical) very well maintained and signed.

Small chapel with mountains in background Tuesday

With rain and low cloud forecast we decided to go for a cycle ride. We rented bikes in Brixen im Thale and followed the Radweg #21 east through Kirchberg and on to Kitzbuhel, where we stopped for a Frankfurter, coffee and a wander around to see the sights. Feeling somewhat recuperated and recharged we then headed north past Opendorf and onto St. Johann for 2nd lunch. For a bit of variety we decided to come back a slightly different route and headed west under the shadow of the Wilder Kase before turning south at Sonnserte (a village so small it didn’t have a name sign!) From there we passed through Reith (along a fiarly major road) and on to re-join rt #21 back through Kirchberg and back to Brixen im Thale, just about making it back before the bike rental shop closed as 6pm. all in all it was a good day, gently passing along the Alpine valleys and quaint villages.

Wednesday

For a more strenuous we went up the Hahenkamm from Kitzbuhel, following rt. 25a. The climb was a bit sheer in places, but generally safe and secure underfoot. The highlight of the day was briefly seeing a wild mountain goat near the top of the mountain before it crashed off into the woods. After the ascent we had a rather good lunch at the Almhouse at the top and then headed onto Ehrenbackhohe and down via Ochsalm into Kirchberg via rt .11. After a brief once round Kirchberg we walked back to Brixen im Thale along the radweg #21, which we'd cycled the previous day. All in all the 10miles, ~1200m VG/L took us  7hrs30 and we'd rate it 8/10.

Thursday

Trying to make the most of a transfer day, Jules went horse riding. There was a bit of a mix up about the timing of the lesson, but that meant that she got a lovely horse for an hour. I went up Kandleralm and back via Waldweg #3, which was a good uphill walk, with splendid views over the village, but turned out to be a bit tight in the 1hr 25 I had, but good fun nonetheless. In the afternoon we travelled to Zell am See.

Friday

To get a feel for the town and the lake, we rented bicycles and went for a cycle ride. Possibly the worst bike I've ever ridden in my life! It had a comedy three - creak pedal (Jules couldn't stop laughing when I went up hill), and virtually no way to stop except back-pedal brakes! We made it to Bruck for a coffee and a huge pile of Kaiserschmarmm mit Apfelmuss at hotel Lukashansl (for old times’ sake) then back to the lake for a swim and a chill out in the sun.

Saturday

After the fairly relaxing day previously, we decided to do a more substantial walk, and Jules' (excellent) suggestion was the Pinzgauer Spaziergang, which is a panoramic ridge walk from the top of the Schmittenhohe to Ostgipfel above Saalbach. The walk takes a bit of arranging, because it starts and ends with Gondolas which are time constrained (and not very frequent as we discovered as we nearly missed the first one!). Once up on the ridge the walk didn't disappoint - the views were incredible and the route was fairly eash to follow as it wound along just below the top of the ridge. Overall the 11 miles / 500m VG/L took us 5hrs 45. We were grateful to have taken plenty of water, because there was nowhere to eat or drink past the first hour, with the exception of the wild (sour) blueberries that Jules delighted in.

alt text Sunday

After the exertions of the previous day we decided to take a have a less strenuous day by the lake. We hired a Canadian canoe and went around the lake, popping in for an ice-cream at a little cafe on the eastern shore. Being out on the water (and  sometimes in it) was great - the weather was lovely and the water was warm. A great way to relax..

Monday

Expecting a gentle and picturesque walk we decided the head up to see the Stausee Wasser Fallboden from Kesselfall Alpenhaus. This turned out to be a much harder-than-expected walk, because of the vertical gain and the rough terrain underfoot. The landscape was quite impressive however, with spectacular gulleys and huge boulders washed down from the peaks. We made it up to the first reservoir, which was a little disappointing - basically a large concrete construction with a road along one side. Seeing that the path followed the road for the next section we decided not to carry on to the seconds reservoir (which might have been more picturesque) and instead turned round and headed back down. The clouds descended with us, and we just made the car before the heavens  opened and there was 12 hours of torrential rain - a useful lesson in  always being prepared for what the mountains can throw at you. Overall the 5 miles / 800m VG/L took us 3 hrs, and we probably wouldn't do this walk again.

Tuesday

With the storms from Monday not quite cleared and with heavy cloud on the peaks in the morning we decided to walk round the Zell am See lake. This was a gentle and generally easy stroll, and having cycled the route already we had no problem navigating. Arriving back in Zell we headed up to Sonnberg for lunch, which was quite good – a much more modern restaurant than we had expected. After lunch, and with the peaks then clear of clouds we headed up the Schmittenhohebahn to walk back down to the appartment. We picked up rt. 50 and followed this past Brieteckalm and Glockerhaus (stopped briefly for a go on the schon wooden swing) then past Ghf Mittlestation and on to Ebenbergalm for a cheeky Radler before dropping down into town. In total the day was fairly long, we were out for 8hrs and walked about 14 miles. We'd rate the day 7/10 for difficulty.

Wednesday

Jules went riding in the morning, whilst I went to scour the local outdoor shops for any additional kit that I could possibly justify buying (failed, miserably). In the early afternoon we went up the MaiskogelBahn and then up rt. 27. We stopped at the Alpenhaus Glocknerblick alm for a coffee and saw a very large bird – dark underside, white/light across back, dark wingtips, which we assume was an eagle. Nearly made it to Schoppach Horn before time (and a mild case of vertigo) turned us back. On the way back to the Gondola the Grosseglockner just appeared out of the clouds for us to say goodbye. Drove back to Salzberg.

Salzburg Castle, viewed from the river Thursday

Took the ever popular Hop-on/Hop-off tour of Salzberg, and finally saw a proper schloss! We spent the day taking in most of the sights, both on the bus and on foot. Salzberg is a lovely little city - plenty of character combined with quaint coffee houses and small shops. In the evening we had a lovely meal on the terrace of the museum of modern art at restaurant M32, where we both managed all six courses! A very pleasant day indeed.

Friday

Relaxing day in Salzberg. In the morning we headed up to the Hohensalzburg schloss (which was very impressive), and had a light lunch of dumplings in bown butter. We spent the rest of the day shopping, eating and chilling out. A nice way to wind down the holiday.

Lake District - July Panoramic view from the top of Helvellyn, including Swirrel Edge, Red Tarn and Striding Edge

To celebrate their wedding anniversary, my parents invited us up to the Lake District for family holiday, including some walking, hanging out and eating good food. Never ones to miss any of that, Jules and I headed up to join them for the best part of a week in Ambleside.

Overall we had a great time. Little Elsie managed to keep 6 adults on their toes, and Tess was generally quite excited by the prospect of exploring the area. We managed ascents of Scafell Pike (despite the weather), which Dad was very keen on doing, and yours truly managed Helvellyn via Striding Edge (picture above) which was very exciting.

View over Grasmere Lake

Loughrigg Fell

A gentle stroll above Ambleside as a bit of a warm up for the week. This time we actually managed to follow route #13 in "Day Walks in the Lake District", which turned out to be fairly easy navigation, if one just sticks to the blinkin' path! We also managed to have tea in Rydall hall, before heading back to Ambleside.

Scafell Pike

The first big walk of the trip was an ascent of Scafell Pike, which Dad was quite keen to do having tried previously and been turned back by weather. We ascended from Langdale, which was a good route up in the prevailiing conditions being sheltered from a south-westerly wind. The conditions up on the peak were a little less than ideal as most of the journey along the ridge to the summit was in cloud, which made for tricky navigation. We were also grateful for the occassional shelter and the chance to sit down out of the wind. In total we managed the 11 miles and 1150m VG/L in 7hrs 35 and would rate the walk as 8/10 difficulty. The most important lesson was not to forget your compass! After the walk we went to dinner at Lucy's on a Plate in Ambleside for a lovely evening dinner all together.

View down into Langdale valley Helvellyn and Fairfields

The second really big walk of the holiday (for me at least) was an ascent of Helvellyn via Striding Edge, then down to Grizedale valley before heading back up to the top of Fairfields and then back to Ambleside via Hart crag and High & Low Pikes. Len and I set off from Grizedale at about 7:40am, and headed straight up to and along Striding Edge. The weather was just about perfect for this route, bright, dry and with hardly a breeze. after the summit at 10am we took a slow and easy descent down to Grizedale Tarn where Len went  for a swim (?!?) before heading down the valley to meet everyone else for a late bite of lunch.

After some refreshment, Dad and I headed back up to Grizedale Tarn (Len took over the Elsie-carrying duties) and then up the very steep climb to the top of Fairfields - a real calf-burner! The weather closed in on the way up, and once again we found ourselves with some careful navigation (I did remember to take my compass this time) round to Hart Crag. From there it was a slightly wet descent back into Ambleside for a well deserved pint and a rest, finishing at about 6:45 pm. In total I did 16 miles / 1600m VG/L and I'd rate it 10/10 for effort. A hard but very rewarding day...

George & Susie Wedding - June George and Susie

We were looking forward to a weekend away down in the West Country, to celebrate George & Suise's marriage (well, someone has to take care of him), and with good weather forecast and summer finally arriving it was a very jolly affair

Yours truly headed down the A303 on Friday afternoon (Jules took the more sensible option of a train out of Waterloo), but we all made it down there without mishap. We stayed in the Heathfield Inn in Honniton, which was functional but it's going to win any awards for hospitality or cleanliness.

The wedding was beautifully set in bright sunshine and afterwards we all retired to the party for a good feed, plenty of watering and a bit of a knees up.

View of Hurlstone Point from outside Porlock

On Sunday, for a bit of a stretch of the legs we went for a walk from Porlock round Hurlstone Point. Well provisioned by The Big Cheese on the highstreet (including a rather good cup of coffee) we headed off round to Hurlstone Point on the headland.

The weather started out a little overcast, but brightened up later on. We had our lunch on a grassy bank on the point overlooking the bay, generally enjoying the view. Not the most strenuous of walks (1/10) - the 5.5 miles took us about 2hrs30 all in, but good to get out.

Sailing St. Katherine's Dock to Southampton - May View of Tower Bridge from the Thames

For a bit of a get-out and sail, Dad & I headed out from St Katherine's Docks and headed round the Kent coast back to the home berth in Southampton. Overall the weather was mixed, but broadly alright. We had a bit of everything, but predominantly the wind was from North to North-West, which made the journey more easy than it might otherwise have been.

The 220 odd miles took us 5 days,  and broke down as follows;

Sunday
Gentle down tth eesturary, grey but mosly dry. Made good progress with tide, anchored just off medway river / Dinner on the baor - steak, chips & wine, very civilised.

Monday
Easy start, good sail out of hte estury & round ? point. needed engine to get down to Dover. A bit wet but fine. night in dover marins.

Tuesday
Easy start to the day waiting for tides. good cooked breakfast to set us up for the day then headed off about 11am. Great day sailing, wind NW 4-5 & tides with us for most fo the way. Saw a dolphin just off Dungeness. Overnight in Eastbourne Marina, and dinner on shore.

View of Beachy Head Lighthouse

Wednesday
Bit of a boring day in terms of sailing -  we were driving for all the day (with the exception of 10 minutes), to make the 60 miles from Eastbourne to Portsmouth. The wind was just too light for sailing, and we wanted to make the distance. Happy to make it to Portsmouth in time for dinner in the Bridge Tavern.

Thursday
Started very well, with a good North-North Westerly breeze speeding us along from Portsmouth and around Cowes (just about made it past Cowes without tacking, pinching the wind and using the gusts as best we could). After that it was a bit of a beat up Southampton water against a F6 NNW, under engine and sail, and just about made it to the pontoon in time to moor safely before the ebb and wind made it too difficult.

Walking Mallorca - April View over Port de Soller

Looking forward to a bit of Easter sun, and getting out for a good walk or two (with appropriate recuperation on a beach) Jules and I headed to Port de Soller in northern Mallorca for a well deserved holiday.

The weather was pretty kind to us, mostly high teens with blue skies and lots of sunshine, perfect for walking and not too bad for sitting next to the beach. Overall we were very impressed with Port de Soller at that time of year - not too busy, but with plenty of bars and restaurants to visit when not out enjoying the countryside.

We managed a few good walks (and a couple of not so good ones) during the holiday, all from the Cicerone Guide "Walking in Mallorca" (which we didn't rate at all) supported by the Walk! 1:40,000 map of Northern Mallorca (which was quite good). Details below...

Monday - Deia to Port de Soller, Coastal path

We took a taxi out to Deia to follow the Coastal path - route # 51 in the Cicerco guide "Walking in Mallorca". We arrived at a little after midday and after a brief stroll around the very pretty village headed off. The route led down to the Cala de Deia where we stopped for a coffee, then along the coast to Bens d' Avall, then followed the Gr221 out to the Refuge de Mulletta (the lighthouse on the end of Cap Gross) before dropping back into Port del Soller.

The walk was a bit harder than we were expecting, with conditions underfoot very loose and slippery and quite challenging in places - Juliane had an interesting crash course in scrambling at one point! Overall it took us 5hrs 25  to do the 14 km & 300m VG including coffee and lunch breaks and we'd give it a 7/10 for difficulty.

Arriving back in Port de Soller we stopped at the Hotel Marina for a well earned tortilla a espanola and a sangria. For dinner we went to Es Raco for an excellent paella.

View of limestone mount in sunlight Tuesday - Valldemossa & around El Teix

For a slightly more challenging walk we headed to Valldemossa to climb up and around El Tiex, following route # 56 in "Walking in Mallorca".

The route had a somewhat draining climb at the start - up roads and tracks but fairly steep and long. There were good views from the summit but we didn't stay there very long becuase the wind was being driven up and over the ridge and was forming clouds/mist which made it fairly cold - ended up wearing a waterproof jacket and sunglasses - always a funny combination! From the top we followed easy paths along the Cami de s' Arxiduc ridge with amazing views back to Deia as long as you ignored the 400m drop only a couple of feet away. From the end of the ridge we did one more ascent to the top of Talaia Vella followed by a longer and harder than expected descent into Valldemossa for a well earned cortado.

Overall we'd rate the walk 6/10 for the 10 miles  & 880m VG which took us nearly exactly 6 hours including lunch and breaks.

Wednesday - Port de Soller to Soller

For a slightly more relaxing day, we decided to take the very pleasant stroll from Port de Soller to Soller old town, via route #53 in "Walking in Mallorca".  This is a very roundabout route heading up to the Muletta plateau where it briefly joins the Gr221 before dropping down into Soller.

There were lovely views of Port de Soller on the way up and out of town and the route meandered through woods with easy navigation on well worn tracks into Soller. We didn't rush and the 6 miles took us about 2hrs 25 and we'd rate it a 2/10 for difficulty.

We spent a bit of time in Soller, stopping for a coffee and lunch and having a bit of a wander around town before heading back to Port de Soller on the tram and spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the harbour.

Thursday - Puig de sa Rateta and Cuber and Comasema circular

Not a good day! We started out on route # 32 "Puig de sa Rateta & Puig de l'Ofre" (rated B+) but were defeated about an hour in when a very steep gulley with loose rock turned from a scramble into a proper climb. I would not have attempted that route for the first time without protection, both against the slippery and crumbling rock underfoot and from rocks falling from above.

Giving up on the first route, we headed back to we try a second route in the area, # 33 "Cuber and Comasema Circular". This started out fine at first but about an hour in we couldn't find the proper route over Col des Bosc and ended up pushing through rough bushes and down a stream bed to make the bottom of the valley. Once back on the route we headed up from Comasema following the pilgrims path (not recommended for anyone who's nervous about heights), but at the top we failed to find the "forest track" despite spending about 1.5 hours looking for it in the woods. With darkness fast approaching we made the tough decision to go back down the difficult ascent and to the nearest village, Orient, which we just made at dusk.  We had a bite to eat and then took a € 60 taxi ride back to the car.

Not very happy with the guide book at this point - that was twice in one day we had to abort a walk becuase it was either unsafe or we couldn't find the next waypoint.

We arrived back in Port de Soller exhausted, scratched and bruised and a bit disappointed but satisfied that we'd made good decisions under hard circumstances.

Skiing La Plagne - March Panoramic view of Champagny en Vanoise Valley

Catching the tail-end of an excellent season, Marcus, Wendy, Jessica-Monkey, JP and I headed to La Plagne for a fairly gentle week on the slopes. The conditions were pretty good this late in the season, the snow was in good nick higher up but occassionally a bit warm and slushy further down the mountain. Generally it was warm and sunny with only one really cold day.

Mont Blanc viewed through a gap in the trees

The major points for the week were:

  • Champagny en Vanoise has some great off-piste skiing if it's snowed recently.
  • The area under the top of Les Blanchets can be good fun, if you like bumps.
  • Au Bon Vieux Temps bar/restaurant at the bottom of Golf lift - we ended up here most days for a post-ski Genepie.

Saturday - Day 6
Skiing by myself (boo hoo) owing to changeover day for Marcus and Wendy, and JP still not feeling quite right. The day mostly spent around Plagne Centre, but did include a couple of trips into Champagny en Vanoise, and down & up La Roche chair. For the sake of posterity I also took a trip up to Roche de Mio and up & down Les Blachettes one last time on the way home. Had a good burger in La Chaudron in Plagne Centre for lunch.

Friday - Day 5
A fair amount of snow overnight, bright and sunny but quite cold made for excellent conditions overall. We headed up over into Champagny en Vanoise in the morning and managed to find some very good off-piste skiing under Verdons Sud lift which kept us amused for a few runs. For lunch we headed up to Roche de Mio, and after missing the intended restaurant ended up having a perfectly acceptable meal after all. After lunch we headed back slowly down to Plagne Villages, stopping briefly to recuperate with a Vin Chaud in Plagne Villages - not a bad spot for a bit of sun-bathing.

Thursday - Day 4
Rest day - spent the afternoon in Au Bon Vieux Temps restaurant - at the bottom of Golf lift,  eating, drinking, and being merry. Marcus & I broke JP at some point.

The guys enjoying a Geneipe in the snow

Wednesday - Day 3
Headed out swiftly in the morning and made our way over to Les Arcs, which wasn't as long a trip as we had  feared - we made it to the Les Arcs side for a little after 10am. Had a very pleasant day skiing around Les Arcs - the best run was Muguet / Comborciere  which had excellent snow at the top of the run, and was in fairly good nick all the way down to the bottom at Pre St. Esprit. We stopped for a very brief lunch in the sun before beginning the journey back to La Plagne. All in all, a very pleasant day of ranging skiing on-piste and we all finished quite tired. The most notable event of the day was yours truly nearly being taken out by a random ski halfway down a piste - we never did work out where it cam from - noone around seemed to be missing one, and there were no lifts overhead.

Tuesday - Day 2
Started out a bit later than usual, and then headed over to the back of the mountain, above Champagny, for a couple of runs before the area got too warm and slushy in the sun - snow conditions OK, but a bit slushy / hard packed in places. Headed up to Roche de Mio for lunch - a bargain at €12, then up to the glacier. Hardest red run we've ever done - la Combe down from the top of Traversee - steep, big bumps and icy! Afterwards made our way back across the valley slowly, taking detours wherever we fancied them. The snow was definitely better higher up the mountain, being less re-frozen. Went back to the bar with the puppies, but the mother was keeping them safely inside in the warm.

Monday - Day 1
A fairly easy day, getting the skiing legs back and generally warming up. That said, we managed to cover a fair bit of the mountain, starting on the Plagne Aime side, then heading over & up to Roche de Mio then down to Montchavin for lunch. After a good feed we made our way slowly back to  Plagne Central via Bell Plagne and Plagne Bellecote, taking the scenic route with a few detours. To finish off the day we went off the (skiers) left side of Plagne Aime via les Coqs before ending up on a bar below Plagne Aime for a well earned beer and Genepie outside in the snow. A fairly pleasant day, with conditions a bit slushy lower down on the mountain. Saw a really tiny puppy (2 days old), with quite a protective mother in the bar in the evening.

New Forest - February Silhouette of Isle of Wight Needles, viewed from Hurt Spit

Many thanks to Misuk & Jean for arranging a trip to the new forest for the gang. We stayed at The Old Masters house in Lymington, which turned out to be a very pleasantly restored Georgian Infirmary with a fascinating history.

Overall it was a fairly laid-back affair, with plenty of entertainment provided by George & Peonarie, who did remarkably well in a house full of strange (mostly sober) adults. We did manage to get out for a pleasant - bright and a bit blustery- walk out along the spit to Hurst Castle, then took a ferry ride back.

Overall a very pleasant and relaxing weekend out of town with good company, food and drink.

Skiing Tignes - January alt text

With Europe having a cracking start to the season, Andy and I headed back to Tignes (we fear change) to try to take advantage. Unfortunately the snow fall didn't continue into January and when we arrived the conditions were not as we'd hoped - still ski-able but not great until Friday when we were blessed with a decent snowfall and headed out to make the most of it for two days of awesome powder. Really a week of three-thirds...

The major lessons learned on this holiday were:

  1. There are some good areas above Val d'Isere  (around Cugnai & Glacier Express) if the snow's not great.
  2. If there's snow and it's cold enough, then there are some cracking routes above Les Brevieres - dropping off Chardons and Pavot.
  3. The area around Col des Ves and the boardercross route can be awesome in fresh powder, if the lifts are open.

The days panned out as follows;

Monday - Day 1
Sun shining (barely a cloud in the sky) snow conditions a little hard-packed, but good enough in places - not too tracked out and sheltered from the sun. Spent the morning under the Col de Ves Lift, with good conditions off piste. After lunch went up to the top of the Grand Motte Funicular and skied the runs & dips under Leisse for old times sake. Later on in the afternoon went for a blast over easy pistes over the East side of Tignes, around Grand Huit, Aiguille Percee, Merles and Grattula. at the end of the afternoon we took the Aeroski up to Toviere and then down Cretes, Combe Folle & Trolles, which was a bit mistake - far too busy and hard packed, must try to avoid this in future.

Tuesday - Day 2
Another day of great sunshine and we decided to head over to the Val d'Isere side. After a brief detour - proof that I shouldn't let Andy navigate - we made it to the top of La Face, which was surprisingly pleasant, having been recently piste-bashed. We spent the morning up by the Glacier de Pissaillas under Cascade lift, before heading down to Signal restaurant for an excellent lunch. In the afternoon we played around under Cugnai lift, occassionally dropping down to the Glacier Express lift. I managed to give myself whiplash at some point in the day (possibly coming down Piste "S" to get back to Val d'Isere village), which wasn't the smartest plan.

Wednesday - Day 3
Rest day, recovering from whiplash / bad neck

Thursday - Day 4
Another rest day, recovering from whiplash / bad neck - getting a bit boring now...

Friday - Day 5
Back on the slopes at last - hurrah! With a decent snowfall overnight (which kept coming during the day) we headed over to Les Brevieres where there was a bit more tree cover to help with visibility and a bit lower and out of the cloud base somewhat. This turned out to be a great plan - we had a fantastic day playing above Chardons, below Pavot and even found a little powder meadow just above Les Breviere. We finished the day off with an amazing run down a nearly untouched powderfield underneath Palafour lift (dropping off Oeillet) to finish off an awesome powder day.

Saturday - Day 6
Skiing rarely gets this good - blue skies, untouched powder fields and changeover day (so the slopes were empty). We had a truly awesome day putting down fresh tracks until our legs gave out and the lifts started to close on us. We spent most of the day in two areas: Col des Ves lifts, in particular the areas right under the lift and the shallow bowls off to (skier's) left. Secondly, and very close by, the area dropping left off the Col du Pallet draglift / Signal run joining up with the lower section of Guerlain Chicherit