Quellenhof - July Town hall in Merano and the river in bright sunshine.

For the second part of our summer holiday, Jules and I headed to south Tyrol to stay in the Quellenhof hotel. We had a lovely time chilling out (despite there being quite a few children around), and enjoying the facilities and surrounding countryside & amenities.

We headed down on Wednesday and arrived in the mid afternoon after an easier drive than we feared. After checking in we went for a swim in some of the pools, with the warm saltwater pool being Jules' favourite, although she did pass on the natural pool with the terrapins and tadpoles, which I quite liked. Relaxed after the journey, we headed down for dinner, and managed only to eat 4 of the 6 courses offered.

On Thursday Jules went riding in the morning, and then we drove into Merano to see the sights and do a bit of emergency shopping for some trousers suitable for me to use for fly-fishing in the afternoon. I had a great session with Robert Kofler, who tolerated my rather poor attempts at fishing with good humour and plenty of encouragement. I did manage to catch something this time - 5 rainbow trout and 1 baby brown trout.

Me, holding a rainbow trout.

On Friday we cycled into Merano to see the local market, which we found after a bit of a wander around. The market was huge, and we managed to pick up some rather nice wurst and dried ham. After cycling back to Quellenhof - slightly more effort uphill - I went fishing again with Robert. This time we weren't so lucky with the number of fish, although I did manage to catch one that Robert declared photo-worthy!

On Saturday we went for a walk up the Hirzer. We took the cable car up from Saltaus to the middle station and then walked up to the Gampn Alm and round to Hintereggalm before looping back to take the cable car down from the top station. We stopped for drinks at the rather nice looking restaurant at Gampn Alm, and then for some good knoedel and pfefferlingen at Tallner Alm Kaser just above the Hirzer Hutte. We arrived back at the hotel in time for a relaxed dinner - the first time in the last couple of days!

On Sunday we went out for a run in the morning first thing before going for a nice relaxed breakfast and driving back home to round off a lovely few days.

Walking Holiday Corisca - June

For the main part of our summer holiday, Jules and I headed to Corsica for a self-guided walking holiday starting in Corte in the centre of the island and ending up on the west coast near Piana. We had 6 days of full walking, plus a few rest and transfer days.

Path leading through rocky terrain

Saturday travel to Corte
Travel day - we spent most of the day in transit from Zurich to Corte. It was a slightly long journey, with some excitement cause by a strike in Corsica (insert the ususal stereotypes here), but we managed to get on the right train to Corte after a bit of fuss. We arrived at the Hôtel Dominique Colonna in the early evening and after freshening up we sat down for a lovely dinner on the terrace next to the river with a rather nice rose. Not a bad way to finish the day!

Sunday - walk up Tavignanu Valley
After a very good breakfast, we put on our walking clothes and headed into town and up to the Tavignanu valley. The valley itself is very pretty, and more green than we were expecting. The path winds up through broken woodlands which were quite welcome in the heat. The most pleasant surprise was the lovely bathing pools at Pasarelle Russulinu where we stopped for lunch and a swim to cool down a bit.

Suitably refreshed we headed back down the way we came, passed by some crazy hill runners, and back into town. The walk was more effort than we expected - the 17.9km with 640m ascent/descent taking us 4 hours 45 minutes (not including lunch or breaks), and fairly hard work in the heat.

We declined the full dinner and instead had some tapas on the balcony at the hotel, which was very pleasant.

Rock pools fed by a stream

Monday - Scalia di Santa Régina Spring to Calacuccia
After breakfast we had a fairly prompt start with a taxi transfer to the start of the walk, which was a small spring by the side of the road a bit north of Corte. From there the path climbed steadily in the heat for the first section, but with a nice stop at the recommended bridge after an hour or so.

We continued on along the quite stark gorge, which wa relatively hard work being a bit broken underfoot and climbing steadily on average. We then dropped down for lunch at the very beautiful Pont d´Erco bridge - with a paddle in the pools below the bridge and lunch in the shade. After lunch we climbed steadily again up to Lozzi where Jules got puppy cuddles from quite a little guard dog (who was still working on the whole "guarding" bit), before dropping down into Calacuccia for a hard-earned cold drink. The day was a bit tougher than expected 12.1 km and 750m ascent / 400m descent taking us 3 hours 35 minutes (plus breaks and lunch).

We had a quick drink at a bar in Aquaviva before shopping and freshening up. Not blown away by the hotel, we headed back into town for a glass of rose in Cafe de France then pizza for dinner in the better than expected Valduniellu (our reserved restaurant was closed, somewhat unhelpfully), before collapsing into bed quite knackered.

Tuesday - Calacuccia to Col de Vergio
After a fairly prompt start, we headed off on the longest day of the holiday - 19km to the Col de Vergio.

The start of the walk was fairly easy and pleasant heading down to and along the head of the reservoir. Things were going smoothly until we came across a family of Sanglier (Corsican wild pigs) in a narrow path, with high banks lined with barbed wire fences on each side. The pigs weren't very happy about being disturbed and came towards us quite threateningly. After a tactical retreat (without much dignity) we tried to find a way around through a local farm, but found the way blocked by guard dogs. We went back to the Sangliers, this time blowing a loud whistle as we went (it'll henceforth be known as the pig whistle), and they were nowhere to be seen, and we could continue along the path. I reflected later that it's been a long time since I picked up a rock in self defence...

We stopped for a snack and a swim in the very beautiful pools at the Pont de Virdi - natural pools formed in the granite with a lovely little cascade and crystal clear water. Refreshed, we continued along the Mare a Mare Nord climbing above the valley and into pine forests and chestnut groves where we saw some cows in the trees. The route passed over the col above Ravin di Furnacce then traces along the contour above the valley. We stopped for lunch in a rock cave where a little colony of lizards came to drink at the trickles of water. The lizards had a strange gesture of waving one arm when they stopped (presumably a signal of some kind) and were immediately christened DJ lizards.

We continued on the path and saw some goats - thereby completing the large fauna set for Corsica. The published route took a slightly longer loop to the hotel Castel de Vergio, taking a small path up to the GR20 and then following the contours to finish. It was just turning to evening as we completed the final stretch of the walk and we saw some big fat Sanglier near to the road - after our experience in the morning we got past them with some purpose and then went back for another look.

We arrived after 19km and 900m ascent /340m descent having taken us 5 hours and having drunk about 3 litres of water each in the 32 degree heat. A cold drink was much appreciated on arrival!

View over pine trees to a distant mountain peak

Wednesday - around Castel de Vergio
After an aborted attempt to get to Elvisa for the day - a complete lack of taxis to get us back being the problem - we were persuaded to take a trip to the Cascade de Radule (Radule waterfalls) instead. These turned out to be about 3.6km north, following the GR20 for most of the way from the hotel.

The walk wasn't very technical, aside from the last 100m to get down to the pools, which was a little steep. The pools themselves were very pleasant to swim in, and the area around was great to chill out - some in the sun and some in the shade. It was a poorly kept secret, with a steady stream of people taking a break on the GR20 and cooling down a bit, but it never felt crowded or busy.

Overall it was a pretty relaxing day - 7.3km and 250m of ascent/descent which took us just a little under 2 hours in total.

Thursday Castel de Vergio to Ota
With a reasonably long day ahead of us, and the deadline of a taxi waiting to pick us up, we set off at 8am from Castel de Vergio and started on the long descent to Ota.

We made good progress in the morning, heading down through pine forests from the col, broadly following the path of the river. We made Evisa in good time for lunch where we stopped for a much appreciated salad and omelette, after many days of sandwiches. After lunch we descended into the rather spectacular Spelunca gorge and headed down even more steeply until we reached the river again at the bottom . From there it was a last stretch along the river to reach la deux Pont de Ota, where we went for a much appreciated swim in the rock pools to cool off after a fairly long morning.

There was a slight misunderstand with where the taxi was suppppsed to pick us up, but this was resolved with a quick phone call and we headed off to la Piana and the Roches Rouge Hotel. After freshening up we went to the terrace for a cold drink before heading into town for a stroll around. We had a very pleasant drink in the cafe Phocea in the centre ville before retiring for a very rich dinner in the hotel - perhaps not the first choice in 30+ degrees! Still, the rose helped.

View of beach with turquoise water

Friday - around Piana
Declining the walk to Capa Rosa in the heat, plus the taxi logistics and the walk having vertiginous sections, we instead headed down to la Plage Ficaghjola. This was a 3.5km, 460m descent from the hotel (the same back up), to reach a lovely Mediterranean beach with crystal clear waters, and views out across the bay.

We treated ourselves to a picnic lunch from little delicatessen in Piana - including a very good taboleh and pasta salad, and perfect after rather too much white bread and rich food. Suitably victual'd we headed down and were treated to the sights of impressive red rocks of Les Calanches de Piana on the way.

We spent a very pleasant couple of hours swimming, relaxing and chilling out on the beach before beginning the climb back up. Overall the walk was 7km, with 440m ascent / descent, and took us 2 hrs. It was a little harder in the heat than it would have been normally, and we stopped at the top for a cold drink in the cafe Phocea.

In the late afternoon we headed slightly out of town for a helicopter flight, which was quite good fun and great views of the coast that we'd walked down earlier in the day.

Saturday & Sunday - Ajaccio
The main activity for the day was the transfer to Ajaccio - which didn't start brilliantly with some slight confusion with the time for the taxi. Fortunately we were just about ready anyway, so we headed off on the 1hr40 journey - grateful not to have taken the bus!

After arriving and checking in, we took a stroll into Ajaccio. It was a very warm day, and even hotter in the sun. We enjoyed a perfectly pleasant stroll around town and a good lunch by the docks. We made the mistake of catching a bus back to the hotel, which was rather overpriced as we had to pay the full fare to the airport.

Our evening meal was a pretty bad experience at the restaurant opposite the hotel - After moving us from our table because some locals arrived :-(, they ran out of steaks and sausages, which is a bit rubbish for a Grill restaurant. Needless to say will not be recommending Courteapaille in Ajaccio.

We enjoyed a lazy start to Sunday, and after a swim at the beach, we wandered into town for a drink and dinner. We had a much better experience at the lovely "Le Cheval Blanc" including a very good Iberico steak, and home made lasagne. A nice relaxing way to finish a walking holiday...

Lermoos - May Zugspitze, bottom half in shade, top half in the setting sun.

As a bit of a treat for Jules' birthday we headed off to Lermoos to stay once again in the lovely Mohr Life Resort.

After an uneventful drive to Lermoos, we had as good a check-in experience as last time, a glass of pink champagne to welcome us and a room with lovely views out over the Zugspitz.

After enjoying the light lunch buffet a little too much we headed out for a bit of a stretch of the legs. We tried a route just to the north of town, up the Tuflalm to the lookout point above the valley. It was a bit of a climb - yours truly a bit tired from the week at work, and legs not entirely happy after four days of cycling and running. However, we managed the 8.5km with 600m ascent/descent in 2 hrs 15, so quite a respectable time.

Loisach river, fishing for trout.

Back at the hotel Juliane headed off for a massage, and yours truly retired to the bar for a different type of therapy.

On Saturday I tried my hand at fly fishing - good fun after the initial shock of the fishing guide that I'd never done any before. After a bit of casting practice in a wide open space we then headed off to the Loisach river. We didn't have much luck with the trout - Marco said that the water was too cold for the fish to be biting, but I suspect that might have been politeness on his part. That said, Marco caught the only fish of the day - a medium brown trout, and he and I each managed to hook (but not land) one more each. Whilst we were out enjoying the river, Jules had a great western riding lesson, including 360 turns.

In the afternoon we retired to the spa for a nice relax in the very hot Finnish sauna with views out of the glass wall over the Zugsptiz, and a gentle swim in the outdoor pool.

We had a lazy start on Sunday aand after a good breakfast we went for a gentle stroll via Bieberwier and then back around the Moosweg where we saw some Alpacas and some very small baby cows. It was a pretty gentle 6.6km, with 150m ascent/descent and which took us 1 hr 15 minutes. It was a good way to round off a lovely weekend, with both of us happy that the hotel and area lived up to our memories.

Weekend Away Amsterdam - April Small boats on an Amsterdam Canal

Fancying a bit of a change of scenery, Jules and I headed to Amsterdam for a chilled out weekend wandering around and generally taking in the sights. We were very lucky with the weather which was glorious for the entire weekend, which really made a difference. We stayed in the Hoxton hotel in the Canal district, just to the west of the centre which was a great location and a very pleasant hotel with a nice bar and lounge to chill out in the evenings.

We arrived Friday afternoon, and after checking into the hotel we wandered out and found a nice bar nearby, next to the canal in the sun. After we'd relaxed a bit we spend the late afternoon and early evening wandering through town, around the canals and past the flower market. We stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant before heading back to the hotel. We finished the evening with a cocktail before retiring - quite surprised that the waitress asked us if we were going out for dinner - had to explain that although it was early we were going to bed!

On Saturday we headed down to Albert Cuypmarkt for a wander around. We then continued to stroll along the canals stopping for a coffee and a beer. We had lunch in Stuy Ve Sant wine bar In Haarlemmerstraat with lots of funky shops around before heading back to town. In the late afternoon Jules went clothes shopping whilst yours truly retired to a cafe with a book. For dinner we headed slightly further into town to Humphrey's restaurant for a perfectly acceptable roast ham for me, and an excellent Dover Sole for Jules. The highlight of the evening was the Spanish family exclaiming "Mas Canales" on the way home. We finished with a cocktail at the bar before retiring.

We had a slightly lazy start on Sunday, before heading to Leidseplein for a good brunch at the ITA , then a stroll around Vindelpark, where Jules finally found some Poffertjes after many days of searching. In the afternoon we headed down to Dana & Jaspers for a barbecue - an excellent choice in the lovely sunshine.

On Monday we got up and made our way steadily to the airport for a lunchtime flight home to complete a lovely weekend in Amsterdam.

Skiing St. Anton - February

For my main skiing holiday I headed to St. Anton to spend a week with the Gileys (and some runs with the Olives). I stayed in the Hotel Goldenez Kreuz again, and it was as convenient, well organised, and pleasant as last year. The snow conditions changed a bit over the week, with a good base down, then snowing at the start of the week, then very warm towards the end.

Sunday
I started the week with a gentle day cruising around St Anton. There was fairly good snow up at Albonagrat, and I also made it up to the top of Schindler Spitz for a run down Skiroute #86. In general conditions were better on-piste, although there were little pockets of soft snow to be found. One change I noticed was that there appeared to be more skiroutes than in previous years - a good addition, I think. The highlight of the day was an excellent pasta tartuto with fungi at Base Camp - possible the best pasta I've ever had. Overall the day clocked in at 42.1km, with 8,200m descent over 18 runs.

Marcus and Wendy on a ski slope with bright blue skies.

Monday
We woke up to pretty bad conditions for skiing. It was snowing quite heavily and heavy winds had closed the top of the mountain and even the Nasserein lift was closing on and off. We pottered about in St Anton lower down, but did manage to get to Galzig and back down black #52. We met up with the gang for lunch at the restaurant in Gampen - surprising good, and worth booking a table if you're tempted. After lunch we all skied together down blue route # 50 to finish off a pretty easy and relaxing day. All in it was 22.1km, with 4,900m descent over 9 runs

Tuesday
The storm from Monday hadn't fully blown through by the morning on Tuesday, and conditions still weren't great. The top of the mountain was still closed, so we stayed pretty low and local. We headed over to St Christoph for a late lunch in the Hospice-Alm with the Olives, which was good fun as usual. After lunch we skied down blue 56/55 to get back to the St. Anton side. That wasn't much fun for the beginners - poor visibility and lots of people around made for nervous conditions. Slightly exhausted we finished with apres in Sonnegg. It was another fairly easy day, clocking in at 23.4km with 4,400m descent over 11 runs.

Wednesday
No plan survives first contact, and instead of doing the white ring, we decided to meet up with the Olives for lunch, which necessitated staying a little closer to home. It was the first good day of the week and everyone was out to enjoy the weather. We ended up staying quite low on the mountain where the lift queues were shorter (interestingly) and did some really good cruising runs under Gampig lift, including the red & black in perfect conditions with hardly anyone on them. With a bit of time to spare before lunch we headed over to Reidl for a bit of a cruise around (great snow and good visibility) and where I persuades Giley to do the first skiroute of the holiday - #16 From the very top, which was good fun although it would have been easier in powder skis! We had a good cruise down back to St. Anton then headed over to Stuben Via ski route #75 (Somehow persuading Wendy to go down - I think I’m still in the dog house about that one). We caught up the Olives struggling down route #100 in really terrible conditions - massive moguls for a blue run and generally no fun at all for them. We did a quick loop via Stuben before meeting up for late lunch at Alte Post House in Stuben After lunch cruised back via very busy route blue 55 - a tiny bit better than on Monday, but still a long way from enjoyable. In total the day was 37.3km and 7,400m descent over 16 runs.

View down into Lech town from a little way up the ski slope.

Thursday
With another excellent day ahead, we decided to do the White Ring from Nasserein. It was as much fun as usual, and my concerns about long queues never really materialised. We stopped at Rud-Alp just above Lech for an excellent burger, but then decided to head back - Giley hiding his slight disappointment about once again not getting to Warth. We did a couple of extra runs on the way back, and finished the day about 3pm having started in the queue when the lifts started that morning. In total it was 37.4km and 7,100m descent over 17 runs

Friday
I woke up not feeling great - a bad nights sleep caused by a lousy cold. We had a fairly relaxing start and did a couple of runs under Gampen to warm up, before heading up Schindler Spitz to do Skiroute #86 (Woo managed to be persuaded), then headed back to Gampen for lunch with the gang. After lunch did three runs of blue #26 & #50, both of the Olives doing very well. We celebrated with a beer in Base Camp before heading back for medals for the kids and refreshments in Sonnegg. The day clocked in at 28.9km and 4,900m descent over 11 runs

Saturday
We woke up on the last day with bright blue skies once again. We were all together for the morning and started out with the Olives, a couple of runs on the button lift to warm up, then down route #50 - not a particular success, but we got everyone down safe and sound eventually. The Gileys and I then headed up to Rendel, for a quick blast around the mountain there before stopping for a relaxed lunch. Suitably fortified we headed back down into St. Anton for one more run down under Gampen to finish - slightly marred by a spectacular backwards cartwheel down the hill by monkey - not seriously hurt, thank goodness. A gentle day to finish a lovely week.