Friday, February 25, 2011

You had me at bonjour

Tonight is my fifth and final night in Paris and whilst it has been a short love affair, it has been one to remember. The Seine, Notre Dame, Tour Eiffel, Musee du Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the escargot, the pain au chocolat, the cannard, the creme brulee, the cognanc, the vin rouge... a girl could go on and on and on.

I love the romance of the city - it's everywhere, from the buildings to the stories, to the vibe. Yes, that could partly be me reading into everything I see but honestly, I have not come across any of the rude and arrogant Parisians I had been warned about, only people willing to battle through pseudo-French with me to find out what I want, and lovely walking tour guides who explain the stories behind the facades with such grace that you fall in love three times over before your tour concludes. I cannot wait to come back here for a summer and experience (and join) the Parisians drinking wine by the river, watching the sun set over Notre Dame, and learning how to tango by the banks of the Seine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Squonk time

Normally I would write a few paragraphs about a family member on their birthday but, for this one, only one word needs to be said...


To my youngest nephew: I hope you have a birthday that is every bit as awesome as you are - hard, I know, but if anyone can do it, you can! I can't wait to see you in less that a fortnight - we'll do something totally awesome for your birthday then so start thinking :-)



Happy birthday Jont!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Long John's

If there was an award for the person who could eat the biggest chocolate filled chocolate iced donut in the world, it would have to go to my second eldest nephew.

If there was an award for the person who has eaten the most cheeseburgers from McDonalds restaurants all around Europe, it would probably also have to go to my second eldest nephew.

If there was an award for the person who was 23 kinds of awesome at a Christmas Day snowball fight last year, it would go to me, but I'd give special acknowledgement to my second eldest nephew, who did try hard, even with snow in his ear...

Drivers on the roads of Queensland, beware... Today, Jonathan, my anime-addicted nephew, turns 16. I'm sure he wont be watching anime whilst he's driving through... Well, I'm pretty sure.

Jonathan is a brilliant sportsman, a brilliant student, an above-average snowballer, and a nephew I wouldn't swap for any other, and I hope he as an amazing day today filled with everything that makes him smile, and nothing that doesn't.

Happy birthday shorty!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day three of learning to become a snow queen

Day three, yesterday, was a much, much, much better day than day two. Certain people had me worried that day three was going to be more horrendous than day two (not mentioning anyone based in the US currently MG...) but fortunately, after a few goes on the baby slopes with the lovely Di-bird guiding me, and after some strong persuasion, I sat petrified in the chair lift heading back to the top of the mountain.

There had been some fresh snow so not quite so many patches of grass and rocks to navigate around, and this time my efforts were concentrated solely on control and the ability to stop myself whenever I so wished. I managed to navigate past the location of my previous yard sale (a term given to me by Star and MG meaning when you stack it and everything flies everywhere) and beyond, falling, if not rarely, then at least far less often than I feel previously, and much more softly - a good thing considering I'd forgotten to bring along my wrist guards that day. We made plenty of group stops along the way, taking our time to take in the mountains and allowing the stragglers (ie, me) to catch up.

I will admit to still walking down the final part of the run - it scares the bejeebers out of me, with a sudden drop off one side of the relatively narrow run, and a rock wall on the other. With my limited ability to control my board I don't fancy the outcome either of those two options offer, so I find it best to take the slow, easy way down. But, I'll get there. Persistence is key.

Today was a rest day. I did go up the mountain to take some photos but the weather was bad and the mountains were shrouded in cloud, affording very few photo opportunities.

Cross on top of the mountain

In the afternoon we explored the old town of Bansko, saw some shaggy goats, played in the playground, and had some flaming lunch...

... Followed by a Bulgarian dinner, complete with folk music.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day two of learning to become a snow queen, otherwise known as 'bring the pain'

I had been told by several people in the lead up to this ski trip that whilst skiing is relatively easy to pick up and run with, it takes quite some time to then actually get good at it whilst snowboarding on the other hand, is somewhat difficult to pick up, and you will hate it because you will be hurting from all the falls you take, but that once you've got it, you kick proverbial.

Today proved the hurting and hating part quite satisfactorily with a bend towards being an over-achiever. I spent a great deal of Valentines Day in quite an unpleasant amount of pain, coming close to tears on several occasions due to frustration and my sore knees and coccyx.

After a two hour lesson this morning where I practiced descending straight down on my toe edge, and going down on the heel edge in the falling leaf, I ascended with the group to the top of the mountain to have a go at my first blue run. After a few minor falls initially, I managed to get quite a bit of speed up... completely unintentionally... and then managed to pull off what I can only imagine was a spectacular forward somersault with a half twist that left me on my back, head down the mountain, with my beanie and glasses scattered some meters behind me. At this point I came to realise the value of having a ski helmet... Head Vs Mountain came up in a definite win for the mountain.

After a few self-pitying moments I managed to pick myself up, clean off the snow that had been hard-compacted onto my glasses, and carry on down the slope to where the team were waiting for me. We carried on for a bit (only a few uninteresting falls following) before a tricky left-then-right turn came up that I navigated disastrously. Coccyx, meet hard, compacted, thin layer of snow upon hard mountain-top... Coccyx Vs Mountain came up in another definite win for the mountain.

At some point further down the mountain, as I was nervously navigating my way down a reasonably easy slope (multiple falls, and an inability to control the board properly combined with a sudden drop off the cliff on one side of the run and a wall of rocks on the other makes for a nervous descent) right near the end of the run, a man on ski's, who I'm hoping can blame his ineptitude on his beginner-status, came up behind me and, in order to pass me, grabbed me by the waist and moved me out of the way, throwing off my precarious balance and slamming me down onto my knees. Knees Vs Mountain; yet another convincing win for the mountain.

So all in all, today was a day filled with pain, frustration, and almost-tears. But, a hot chocolate with Bailey's did help a little, and the great group of people I have managed to fall in with certainly made the day much better than it otherwise would have been. Now, laying in bed with my aching head, bruised knees, and bruised coccyx, I'm psyching myself up to tackle the mountain again tomorrow. It can't get any worse right? And besides, I have new ski gloves and goggles - that's got to make a difference!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day one of learning to become a snow queen

Today was my first day on the slopes at Bansko in Bulgaria, and I am definitely not at queen status yet!

But, let's start at the very beginning - I've heard it's a very good place to start. My dance husband and I were up before dawn yesterday to get ourselves to Heathrow for our flight to Sofia. Half asleep, we clumsily made our way from bus to bus, to the airport, and after a speedy check in (it seems not that many people are at the world's busiest airport at six in the morning) we settled ourselves down into the British Airways Executive Club and proceeded with a tasty breakfast of pan au chocolat and cognac - that's how we roll.

Dance Husband on the bus to the airport

The flight itself was uneventful - I managed to score us emergency aisle seats (huzzah!)... the ones that *don't* recline (un-huzzah)... Upon arriving at Sofia we then saw a sign being held by a guy for Bansko, and jumped eagerly into the van. It wasn't until the party of 12 joining us couldn't fit all of their people in that we realised we were in the wrong van and had to pull all of the luggage out again to get to ours... Who knew there'd be more than one van going to a popular ski village? Back in the airport, we managed to find our correct driver, and settled in with our fellow Mila-ites - Di, RJ, Kev, and Nick. I chose to make friends by buying them all beer; Having now spent the entire day with them, the ploy seems to have worked!

First clear view of the snow-capped mountains

The drive from Sofia to Blansko took a few hours, and we were greeted upon arrival with white chocolate chip cookies and mulled wine - oh sweet heavens yes! After afternoon tea, we sat and chatted the hours away until dinner, which was a delectable feast of spinach and stilton soup, sausage pie with peas and carrots, and black forest cake for dessert. I went to bed so full last night, I could not sleep on my stomach!

This morning we were up for breakfast at half seven, and were on our way to the ski hire shop by half eight. Snowboards in hand and snowboard boots on feet, we bought our ski passes and headed up the mountain. Dance Husband, having decided that having two feet stuck to a plank of wood is somewhat similar to dancing, headed off on his own to teach himself to snowboard. A few others were already proficient and went off to do their own thing, leaving the complete newbies - Nick, RJ, Kev, and I - to our first two hour lesson for the day.

For the first half of our lesson we learned how to gently turn and come to a stop (theoretically), first using our heels, then using our toes, with the lead foot strapped in whilst the following foot was left loose in order to save yourself (if you could) from falling over. After that, the natural progression was to have both feet strapped in - I was mildly panicked by this idea at first, but gradually managed to suffer only minute levels of panic at not being able to save myself from falling onto the ice cleverly disguised as snow.

After lunch, we headed back for our second two hour lesson, this time on the beginners slope, where we had to go down the slope face forwards on our heels, the board parallel to the slope rather than perpendicular to it. This is pretty much where my advancements in the art of snowboarding plateaued for the day. Whilst I kept working on this skill, Nick and Kev progressed onto doing the same thing backwards, on their toes, and then Nick went further still onto doing the falling leaf. RJ had decided he'd had enough for the day whilst I continued worked on my heel-edge decent, going down several times with the instructor, and once with Di who kindly volunteered to be my counter balance. I gradually worked up to a solo decent and finally, on my last run for the day, nailed the entire slope without falling down!!! Go me! So no broken bones or dislocated shoulders (although I think on one fall I may have come a *little* close to doing that) after day one. So far, so good!

Afternoon tea back at the chalet was a delicious lemon poppy cake and hot chocolate, and now it's rest time, before pate, pork chops, and apple crumble for dessert. I must say - I'm liking the lifestyle so far :-)

Our room at Chalet Mila

The mountains from our balcony at Chalet Mila

Saturday, February 12, 2011

King of stones and oxes

Seeing as how it's almost the weekend, it must be time to talk about last weekend!

'O' is for the way you get 'old school' with me.
'X' is for the x-cellent sights to see.
'F' is fairly freakin', extraordinary.
'ORD' is a ridiculous thing to rhyme with. But, Oxford is beautiful and I had such a brilliant time there! Gorgeous old buildings stand stoically along almost every street and make you feel more intelligent just by being in their shadows.

Unfortunately, being winter, there was no punting to be had, but the river is ever so lovely and I can only imagine how beautiful this place would be in summer with boats and flowers and Harry Potter look-a-likes roaming the streets.

Better than all of this though, was seeing some old friends of mine from way back in my 'younger' traveling days!

Jan and Al (aka green beanie girl and stripy scarf boy) and I first met in Vietnam circa 2005 and after some fun Beer Hoi sessions we became friends. A few months later, I hosted the pommy couple in Adelaide, where I was living at the time, and we had a blast doing wine tours, going to footy matches, and eating delicious Al-cooked roast chicken dinners. Apparently Al's roast chicken dinners have improved somewhat over the last six years, but alas, he didn't love me enough to cook me one... *le sigh* But, they did take us out for cream teas, and to see CW Stoneking play, which was awesome!!

It was a fabulous weekend, and I really didn't want to leave, but my last week of employment was calling... I do hope though, that it will not be anywhere near another six years before I see these guys again. In fact, I'm pretty sure they promised to come visit me again later this year... right?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Frocks on rocks

Friday at work I made the executive decision to get a little romantic and take myself out on a Friday night date. A three course French dinner including oysters, white wine, and baked cheese in Soho? Yes please. A ticket to a musical playing in the West End? What fun!

Priscilla Queen of the Desert starring Alf Stewart - how much more Australian can you get?!

I have to admit to screaming (just a little bit) when Ray came out on stage - I hadn't actually looked into who was cast in the performance, so it was a flamin' surprise to see an Aussie icon walk out onto the stage!

I had an absolutely brilliant night out and have decided I am definitely one heck of a date. Maybe next time I'll go a little bit crazy and date someone other than myself...

Friday, February 4, 2011

It ain't too much for me to jam

Things are going to get sketchy. Not that they aren't already Miss Last Post Was Over A Week Ago, you say.

Well - times-a-runnin'-out and things need to be done, Dance Husbands need to be entertained, bags need to be packed, weighed, re-packed, re-weighed (etc), and trips to lovely places need to be taken!

The weekend just gone, for example, Dance Husband and I rented a car along with Miss Revival and Curly Haired Canadian Rob, and we drove up to the beautiful city of Durham for DJAM 2011. It was a fabulous weekend and so much fun - I highly recommend this event to any swing dancers looking for a highly organised and excellently put together program! The weekend was run like a university - you could choose to do whichever 'course' you liked and could switch around at any time. Dance Husband and I mostly concentrated on blues, but I also attempted to learn the Tranky Do before my head imploded.

The location itself was oh-so-lovely. Durham has a gorgeous river wrapping around its centre, a stunning cathedral, and beautiful bridges. The hotel was lovely, the food was delicious, DJAM rocked, and this was certainly the most relaxing weekend I've had in while.

This coming weekend we're off to Oxford, followed by my last week of work, then a ski trip to Bulgaria, and finally, five nights in Paris before I do a final pack, final weigh, final re-pack, final re-weigh (etc), off-load some of my excess stuff to my lovely Dance Husband who has been ever so kind as to let me use some of his weight allowance, and we head home to the great brown flooded windswept land!

Her Other Tales

Related Posts with Thumbnails