Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Trail running - who knew?

Last weekend, Tane and I joined two Aussies that like beer, two Englishmen that like tea and Stephen who likes both for a long weekend roadtrip to the Lake District. Our motivation for going was a 15 km trail run around Hawkshead, a small English village that looked like something right out of an Enid Blyton book. We hired a cottage, a 7 seat car that could fit a bike as well as our combined body weight in junk food and a cooler of beer, and off we went.

The trail run was one of those things that felt like a great idea back in January when Sarah first told me about it, and that we all signed up to assuming that we would spend the next three months training hard. Trail runs are, as the name suggests, runs through the bush, up and down hills, and over lots of gravel and mud. Naturally, though, none of us did any training, unless you count the odd walk through Hyde Park and lots of exercising my mouth by talking about my intentions to go running.

At about the 5km mark, photo courtesy of a photographer who sold me this picture afterward.

I was surprised to find that the trail run is one of the most satisfying things I have done in a long long time. The up hill parts killed me and I was sure that the downhill parts would result in a broken bone, but in the run was still awesome. The scenery was fabulous, and I don't think I have ever smiled so much while being so tired and sore. I was especially happy that my white sneakers are now a dingy shade of brown, proof to the world that I have actually used them. :)

Afterwards with James and Richard

Tane, alas, was too sick to participate, but he and the English boys had a nice run up a steep hill just for the sake of it a couple of days later.

Down they come ..

The weekend was fabulous, and I will add more photos later when I manage to get copies from some of the others. In the meantime, though, I will be searching for more trail runs to do later this year - assuming of course that the current wooden-plank feeling in my legs goes away and I am ever able to walk properly again!
Megan and some rural England

Thursday, 17 April 2008

How often?

As you can see on the right hand side, I've added a wee poll of how often you read our blog. It doesn't really matter as I enjoy blogging so much I probably would continue even if no one read it (yes, like that tree falling in a forest with nobody to hear), but am just curious. I read lots of blogs and rarely leave comments, so the owners of those would probably have no idea that I enjoy their blogs as much as I do. I am interested in what you have to say in any case ...

Paris in the Spring

I never realised that going to Paris in the Spring was something to get misty-eyed about until we booked a trip there for our one year anniversary which, coincidentally, falls in the Spring. When I told people that we were going in April, I got the same reaction over and over. "Oh!" people would say. "Paris in the Spring!" I'd never been to Paris before Spring or not, so have no idea how it is the rest of the year. Maybe it was because of it being Spring, or maybe just because it's Paris, but I simply loved it there.

Notre Dame - just like in the Disney cartoon! And, yeah, the Victor Hugo book as well I suppose

We spent the better part of three days in Paris wandering the streets, sampling the food, sitting in cafes, and taking in so many cultural sights we were knackered at the end of each day. It was great fun though, especially when we found the odd place to relax and watch the world go by. This garden in Montmartre was a particular favourite.
We did most of the usual stuff while there - Notre Dame, looking at the Moulin Rogue, walking along the Seine, looking at snails on the menu and crunching up my nose at them, walking down Champs-Elysees singing "Aux! Champs-Elysees!" and taking cheesy photos in front of the Eiffel Tower. We also, of course, went to the Louvre. While I was a little underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa on account of not being able to get close enough to see the difference between the real thing and a reproduction, the Louvre was still far and away the best art gallery I have ever seen. It felt like we were there for hours, but when we left I realised that I had only seen about one tenth of what's on display, if that. The sad thing is that unless the art is located on the way to get to the Mona Lisa it is probably ignored by many who visit.

The pyramid outside the Louvre from below. If Dan Brown was correct in The Da Vinci Code, that's where all the secrets that would undermine the Church forever are hidden. I didn't see anything exciting, though.
Trying to get a look at the Mona Lisa. Yes, we found it strange that you are allowed to take photos in the Louvre as well, but without a flash it's supposed to be OK. It still feels a little wrong though...

A further highlight was the church of Sainte-Chapelle, located near Notre Dame. This church was stunning, even if we struggled with the idea of Chapelle being a religious name rather than a convicted drug smuggler currently serving time in Bali. After having a conversation in line about did Chapelle do it or didn't she, we went into the church and forgot all about the Bali Chapelle on account of it being so stunning.Paris was fabulous, and given it only takes two hours by train I expect I'll be going back a few times before moving back to NZ. I will be lucky to have such a great time as we did last weekend though, and it was a slightly cheesy but perfect way to celebrate one year of being hitched. Yay!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

One year on

This weekend is our one year anniversary of being hitched! Hurrah! Apparently one year is the paper anniversary, so we have acquired two paper Eurostar tickets to Paris for the weekend to celebrate. It's been a great year, and to date probably one of the worst moments in our relationship was an hour ago when I discovered that Tane had accidentally put the aforementioned tickets in the rubbish bin. After him digging them out and grovelling appropriately, though, we are now back on track. And it wouldn't be a real marriage without the odd "I can't believe you put our Eurostar tickets in the bin!" moments, eh? As we head into year two of our civil partnership, I just wanted to post some photos of the event a year ago for a shameless foray down memory lane .

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Spring has sprung?

As of a few weeks ago, Spring officially sprung. The days are longer, and I have been enjoying long post work strolls through Hyde Park after work. I have started looking through my t-shirt drawer again, and have a place in the darkest depths of the closet reserved for my winter coat. Outdoor seating has appeared at restaurants, and parties feel like they are happening a little more often. Imagine our surprise, then, to wake up to this last weekend.
Snow in Spring has winners and losers. One winner was Tane, who had never before experienced snow in a place that he has lived before. He was pretty excited about it to say the least.
The losers, though, were the new buds on the trees as well as the spring flowers. Although the snow melted quite quickly, it looked a little late for these little buddies.
Is the weather nuts all over the world or is it just here?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Down and out, and up again, in Prague

First up, I should say that Prague is gorgeous. In fact, in terms of architecture, it’s the loveliest city I’ve seen (sorry Paris), with endless streets of pastel apartments, more grand buildings than you can poke a Pilsner at and my favourites, the pointy towers.

The view from our hostel

View from the old town hall

Statue of Jan Hus

However, in Prague we were hit by something unimaginable a few months ago. For all the beauty, after a day of wandering around our reaction was a bit … meh. Yup, travel weariness had caught up with us at last.

Maybe it was the hordes of other tourists, maybe it was the similarity to Budapest (river, hilly on one bank, flat the other, lots of Austro-Hungarian splendour - but less grime and no baths) and all the other European Old Towns we’ve seen, or just the sheer amount of travel we’ve been doing in the last few months. Probably a mix of them all.

Prague: pretty darn pretty ...

... and don't we all know it.

Anyhow, we discovered a cure – day two was taken up by a bus ride into the Czech countryside and visit to Terezin (see below). Oddly, being immersed in Holocaust history (plus some greenery and open space) left us refreshed and reinvigorated. On our last day in Prague we enjoyed the city a heck of a lot more. We even had some cute little flurries of snow to add to the fairytale feel.

Central Prague

Hansel and Gretel had nothing on Lauren.

Any of you have any travel weariness stories? Have you found yourself somewhere fabulous, and been rather bored? What point in a trip does it kick in for you?

Oh, and a note on what lots of wealthy tourists do to prices. A small beer in a posh restaurant in Prage: 124 krona (c.NZ $12). The same beer in a restaurant a little bit away from the main visitor areas: 25 krona (c.NZ$ 2.50). And at a restaurant run for charity in Terezin: 11 krona.