Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pembrokeshire - South Wales

The Place: In the South of Wales took a road trip over a long weekend to Newgale, Manorbier, Freshwater East, Tenby and Laugharne.
Some highlights: Fresh sea air with great views, walks on the beach (we were hoping for some surfing as Pembrokeshire is meant to be one of the best surf spots in the UK - however I think we missed the season as it was glassy at all beaches), rock pools, freaky animals (including a couple walking a miniature pony the size of a dog, and steriod bull above), camping, lighting a fire on the beach in Tenby and playing djembe drums in the evening, impressive castles - which you can't miss as they're everywhere, and visiting the boathouse and grave of Dylan Thomas, famous welsh poet.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

South Downs Cycle - England

The event: Together with 6 work colleagues set out on a 100 mile+ cycle along the South Downs from Winchester to Eastborne with the aim of completing in 3 days, camping along the way.
Some features: The first day was a gruelling 40 miles, taking us 12 and a half hours of cycling in the rain up and down steep hills. We arrived at our campsite in the dark at 10:30 in the evening to set up our tents in a downpour with a total of 7 punctures and 2 broken chains.
The severe conditions saw 3 of our team pack it in and go home. Luckily the rest of us had awesome weather for day 2 (35 miles) and day 3 (28 miles), which enabled us to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the South Downs. The days were very challenging and we managed another puncture and 2 broken chains but we were in fantastic spirits as we approached Eastbourne.
The highlight: Arriving in Eastbourne we descended the most amazing downhill. Green velvety grass from heaven paved the way for about ten minutes of downward flight. Awesome.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Köln - Germany

The Place: Spent a day and night in Cologne based along the river Rhine.
Some features: The city has a spectacular cathedral. The pictures don't do it justice, as it is just massive and very eerily gothic, standing out in contrast amongst and dwarfing the modern high rise shopping streets. Went out in the old town which was overrun by stag and hen do's but very festive. Clearly a popular place to come before getting married, the bridge's sides are lined with locks engraved mostly with newly wed couples' names otherwise dedications to passed away loved ones or other memories.

Dusseldorf - Germany

The Place: Went to Essen with a colleague for the International Energy Accounting Forum, so took the opportunity to check out some of the surrounding German cities on the weekend. Started by spending a day and night in Dusseldorf.
Some features: In Essen tried a german meal called knauserhaxe, pork knuckles, which was a massive bone with a lump of pork at the end, covered in crackling - very tasty though kind of resembled something out of an Asterix comic. The walkway along the Rhine is full of activity and has a few good views. Restaurants line the river afterwhich follows a string of Boules courts where locals old and young challenge each other to throw heavy metal balls as close to the jack as possible. Went out in the Altstadt where there is a thriving nightlife, watched an old oom-pah band playing some traditional german folk.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lisbon - Portugal

The Place: Spent two days in the city of Lisbon, a very beautiful city with a mix of old and new.
Some features: Walked up to the cities castle which dates back to the 6th century BC. Ate out in a traditional restaurant playing fado music before partying in the Bairro Alto district. It's a network of tiny streets high up on a hill, where people roam, sangria or grinja in hand, enjoying the live music.

Peniche - Portugal

The Place: Host to world champ surfing because of it's high speed 'super tubos' wave, rated the best in Europe, Peniche is a great little beach town with cool people.
Highlights: Went surfing on Praia de Peniche, made friends with some of the surfers at Peniche Beach House Hostel and partied with some of the students at a small spot on the beach.

Porto - Portugal

The Place: Was taken from Paris to Porto as a birthday surprise. Crossing the bridge at the Ribeiro over the Douro river takes you to Vila Nova De Gaia famous for it's many Port Cellars.
Features: The town is full of history and character, and most of our time was spent roaming the narrow streets finding new places of interest. The trams, tiled churches, tightly packed houses, old markets and riverside cafe's were all very impressive. Visited two Port cellars, Calem and Kopke to taste what the town is famous for.

Paris - France

The Place: Spent a weekend in Paris cycling around the city, joining french protests, and seeing the sights.
Highlights: Bicycles were a really cool way to get around. Paris have a system which allows you to collect a bike from any of the allocated bays in the city. You then have the freedom to park your bike at any bay, go and do something, then pick up another bike from another bay.
Joined a May day protest not really sure of what we were protesting, but had fun wandering among the different festivities of the day. We ended up climbing up onto the Column of the Bastille in the centre of the square where we had a good view of activities going on below. The march went by the name of 'Rêve générale' (General Dream) as a pun on 'Grêve générale' (General Strike), and found out afterwards it was organised by the eight biggest unions against Nicolas Sarkozy's reforms against the public sector - jobs, health care, universities, etc. Though the issues may have been serious, the march was a lot of fun including jazz bands performing on the back of moving vehicles, walking samba bands, street meats and mojitos!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snowdonia - Wales

The Place: In Northern Wales, Snowdonia, went camping close by to the small town of Betws y Coed.
Some features: Walked the very scenic Llyn Elsi trail ("llwybr" in Welsch - what the?) which took us high up in the hills passed old grown over house ruins to a small lake in the mountains.
Spent the next day cycling in Coed y Brenin, which opened my eyes to the world of mountain biking. The trail was about 18 kms and technically challenging, featuring steps and drop-offs and steep declines. While Nic, Trev and Kath took the "Dragon's Back" route, Liz, Tim and I rode the 'Mbr' trail which saw all three of us flying head over handlebars at one stage or another. Liz's fall was spectacular as she somehow managed to turn off the road down a sheer drop (about the height of a person) and dived thru the air ahead of her bike which came following close behind her. Apart from some bruises and scrapes she was uninjured. Good times.