Inspiration for going walking

Basecamp, South Lake Tahoe provide the following motivation for exploring the local trails…

Take A Hike

…and…

Get Lost

And just in case you needed more information on what’s available, this might be the 1st thing you see waking up in the morning…

Lake Tahoe Draped Headboard

My Shutterstock Portfolio

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How to collect brownie points on a birthday

Keeping to the newly established tradition of doing something for Vicky’s birthday (as opposed to presents), this year’s effort was a top-class weekend in London, doing whatever was on her wish list. There were 2 pre-booked events but more about them later.

We caught the 17:45 King’s Cross train out of Leeds, travelling 1st class. Those empty seats you keep eyeing up through the carriage window are really comfy! And they serve a range of alcohol at your table. So much so that the journey of a couple of hours is over in no time. Almost too quick in fact!

We arrived at the hotel in time to freshen up and wander down to The Comedy Store for the late show. The best comedian of the night by far was Paul Tonkinson and not just because he’s a northerner!

Punch & Judy

We had breakfast in Covent Garden on Saturday morning followed by a browse through the enclosed shops and the near-by market. Heading for the London Eye, the long queue and the rain were enough to quickly put us off that idea. So it was back across the river to the British Museum for a different kind of browsing. It’s not my kind of place but then again, this wasn’t my weekend. (I was collecting brownie points!)

We ate a late lunch in a very nice Mexican restaurant we picked off Trip Advisor before getting ready for the highlight of the weekend. Tickets to Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre (which we both really enjoyed – the show, not just the tickets!) and dinner at an authentic Italian restaurant just down the street. (As I say, some serious brownie points!)

Previously, we had watched a segment of Saturday Kitchen with Lawrence Keogh from The Wolseley as 1 of the guest chefs so that’s where we had breakfast on Sunday morning. And that’s where the surrealism of the day started. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice place and the food was REALLY nice but I just don’t belong in such relaxed (in inverted commas) yet regimented social settings. Give me a greasy spoon any day!

For my 10-year long service award, I choose vouchers for Harrods specifically as a… well, more than just a birthday stocking filler really. Having rather awkwardly tried to sidle past security (there’s a dress code dontcha know!), walking around the themed areas of each of the 5 floors was a REAL eye-opener. Oh how the other half live! It freaked us both out a little quite frankly. What was to be the icing on the cake for the weekend was on the cusp of ruining it all! Until we both took a moment just to gain some composure. The place has a certain overwhelming closed-in atmosphere but once we realised that’s all it was, we were both able to browse more comfortably.

Totem

To round the weekend off, Vicky wanted to go back to the British Museum again to view an exhibition we didn’t have time for on the Saturday. On the way there, we stopped for tea and cake in Sicilian Avenue.

Finally, it was back “Oopnorf!” again after a very memorable weekend for both of us. Although I suspect for slightly different reasons.

I Hate Camping!!! Or At Least I Thought I Did

I’m not a huge fan of camping. I find it claustrophobic and uncomfortable – even with a thermarest and a karrimat underneath me, I never sleep very well.

However, when there’s no other option, my ideal camp site doesn’t have to have fantastic (or any) showers. It doesn’t even have to have a half decent toilet block; a buff and some cheap aftershave can disguise that. What it absolutely MUST have is reasonable access to good food! You can wash in a mountain stream or go to the loo behind a tree (or with a shovel if you must) but if you’re hungry, you’re not at your best; not by a long chalk!

However, recently I’ve been cajoled into a couple of camping trips with more on the horizon. With that in mind, we paid a visit to Cotswold Outdoor and acquired a Primus stove. If you’re in the market for a new stove, I can highly recommend it.

In food terms, we found that dried pasta, a tin of tuna, a tin of sweetcorn and a jar of stir-in tomato sauce goes a LONG way towards feeling better after a big day in the hills. For breakfast, a bacon butty on really fresh bread with red sauce is something worth getting out of your sleeping bag for; so long as you give it a little time to settle, it’ll set you up for the day quite nicely.

If this is going to carry on, the next big purchase will HAVE to be a 4-season down sleeping bag. Even with 2 liners – 1 silk, 1 fleece – the bag I’ve got just doesn’t keep my warm enough. But then there was ice on the inside(!) of some tents the next morning.

We’re all Closet Meteorologists at Heart

The first weather warning of snow in the area for this winter season has been given. That really does fill me with dread. Don’t get me wrong, snow on the hills is brilliant! I got some fantastic photos during the cold snap last year and it turned everyday walks into expeditions.

However, I’ve got a rear-wheel drive car (a Merc CLC 200) and it’s rubbish in the snow! Driving it last winter was an exciting experience to say the least. It didn’t move for about 3 weeks while there was snow on the ground. When it was moving, there was far too much wheel spin for my liking. It felt like the traction control warning light was never off.

In some areas of some European countries, drivers are legally obliged to switch to winter tyres around November time. In the UK, snow is far from guaranteed each year (except maybe the far north of Scotland) and even when it is around, there isn’t usually enough of it for long enough to call for a whole new set of tyres.

The gauling thing is, I traded in a perfectly good 4×4 with permanent 4-wheel drive for something I really wanted at the time but now can’t wait to get rid of.

I’m not a fan of global warming, far from it; I think it’s a major problem and it has definitely left its mark on the 1st decade of the 21st century. However, at the moment in the UK, we’re in a bit of limbo where, generally speaking, the summers aren’t as warm as they used to be and the winters aren’t as cold; apart from these crazy spikes in either direction from time-to-time.

A Day in Geneva

There are some areas of Geneva that feel a little claustrophobic with narrow side streets and small enclosed squares.  The old town is full of narrow cobbled streets.

1 BIG fountain! on Twitpic

On the flip side, there are plenty of wide open spaces. The promenade along the Lake Geneva shoreline is very relaxing and wide enough to feel that bit detached from the city itself.  All along, there is the ever-present spectacle of the Jet d’Eau.The water in the lake is surprisingly clean and clear. I was looking for fish and was pleasantly surprised when I saw some.

Lunch in Switzerland...  on Twitpic

Geneva gets my seal of approval for fantastic coffee and even better food. I have never ever spent so much on 1 meal in my life and it’s not something I intend to repeat in a hurry but I can say, hand on heart, that it was well worth it!

The city also has the honours of…

  1. being the city where the International committee of the Red Cross was founded by Henry Dunant in 1863; &
  2. giving its name to the Geneva Conventions.

Apologies for the poor picture quality. These are off my camera phone as my compact camera battery was flat by this stage of the trip.

Glastonbury

40 Years of Glastonbury

I went to Glastonbury for the first time this year. I tried and failed to get a ticket last year and then spent the festival weekend kicking myself. Not so this time and what a fantastic festival it was.

I’ve never seen so many tents pitched so close together. There’s an instant market for the 2 story tent.

Rolf Harris opened with a very entertaining set. It’s hard to believe the guy was 80 years old this year. Others sets of note for me were the Bootleg Beatles, Paloma Faith, Faithless and of course Stevie Wonder. He closed the festival with a marvellous gig.

It was smack bang in the middle of a heat wave by UK standards. A huge amount of dust was being raised by people and traffic moving about the site. So much so that the tracks were watered to keep it down. Most years mud is an unwelcome facet of the festival. This year it was missed so they had to create some.

2 other things that I will always remember about this year’s festival (I’m definitely going again!):
1) the irony of an emergency ambulance with blue lights flashing in the healing field; &
2) the flags billowing in the breeze.

White Flags at Sunset

Activity Holiday in Majorca

The suggestion to go rock climbing in Majorca at February half-term spawned from a rather drunken night out for a meal with friends at the end of last summer but unlike a lot of other ideas, this one got followed through. Alasdair had been there before quite a few years ago and the trip was based on his recommendation. Majorca didn’t disappoint us. I used to climb about 10 years ago but I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee a while back so now I’ve got to be careful of the stresses I put on it. Swimming and cycling are OK but any twisting or turning movement means I can be limping for weeks. However, not 1 to miss out on an outdoors holiday, I was going to use the trip as a photo opportunity.

Booking the Holiday

We booked flights with EasyJet from Liverpool John Lennon Airport to Palma, secure parking with Imagine, accommodation in the Aquasol Aparthotel in Palma Nova and a hire car with Hiper Rent a Car. Isn’t the internet fantastic!!!

The Weather Forecast

I had checked the weather forecast for the week before we left and it looked really promising – 16 to 19 degrees Celsius with occasional cloud – but as we got off the plane, it started to rain. This lasted all afternoon until finally it rained good and proper that evening. And that was the last we saw of it. Over the course of the week, the weather just got better and better. It was always a good idea to carry a spare top or fleece just in case the wind picked up or the sun went in but generally we only needed t-shirts because we were so active. Beforehand, carrying sun cream seemed daft but we needed it most days. Going out at night, you need a top or a jacket as the temperature drops away fairly quickly. It was too cold to sit outside and eat.

Palma Nova

We stayed in Palma Nova which is just a stone’s throw along from Magalluf. It’s your typical resort with everything on hand to cater for Johnny Foreigner. Spar shops ( which were never open – must have been too early in the year ), English Breakfasts ( but not before 9am – guess they only cater for people with hangovers ), etc. Although it hadn’t even started to gear up for the season, there was still a constant stream of people around. It must be a complete nightmare at high season. I’m so glad we spent so much time driving around the island. It seemed a lot at the time but you get to see a whole different way of life than what’s in the brochures. Getting away from the resorts and exploring for yourself is highly recommended.

Eating Out

Having rubbished the resort, we did find a cracking French restaurant in Palma Nova. We were only there for a week but we ate at La P’tit Bistro 4 of the 7 nights. Each time, we all ate something different and none of us were ever disappointed. The food is just heavenly. Try any of the starters, the lamb and finish with the crepe white lady if it’s still on the menu. None of the other places we ate at came anywhere close.

Rock Climbing

We spent days climbing at Cala Magraner, Valldemossa, Sa Gubia & La Creveta.

  1. Cala Magraner – From Manacour, take the road to Porto Cristo. There is parking for 5 or 6 cars in a layby opposite the sign post but it is on a blind bend so be on the look out for passing cars. The walk in is easy and takes about 25 minutes.
  2. Valldemossa – Parking is limited as the crag is next to and overhangs the road. This means belaying can be dangerous as the road down to Port d’Valldemossa is narrow and surprisingly busy.
  3. Sa Gubia – Park up in a large layby on the MA-11 just outside Bunyola. The walk in is down a track about 100 metres to the south of the layby. Turn right to follow a dried up river bed which is rocky and uneven. This takes about 30 to 40 minutes as the gradient rises as you get closer to the crag.
  4. La Creveta – From Port de Polença, take the MA-2210 going to Cap de Forementor and park up at the viewing point. Find the old pipe line heading back down the hill. Without it, the trail to the saddle is much more difficult. Cross the saddle and scramble down and to the left underneath the outcrop. The path to the crag becomes more obvious at the bottom.

Scrambling the Cavall Bernat Ridge

To the north of Puerto Pollenca is the Bouquer Valley, lined on 1 side by the Cavall Bernat Ridge. This classic saw-toothed walk has been compared to the infamous Crib Goch scramble in Wales. Traversing the ridge can be made as difficult as you like. There are sections which are quite exposed and may require a safety rope but you’ll need a head for heights and reasonable level of fitness. The upside is the views are spectacular.