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Day 108: Liaison

As I had missed skiing down the valley the other day, I had another chance to ski the liaison between Plampinet and Val des Pres today. Me and BF set off down Les Arras to plampinet and GM met us there to join us down the liaison.

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It was suprsingly bare, considering the reports Les Grumblies had given a couple of days ago – there was mud and stones sticking out of the tracks, and the snow was very variable, being soft and sticky in the sunlight and then hard and smooth in the shade, which through me off quite a lot.

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I had kind of wanted to consolidate the gliding technique I had worked on yesterday but htere was not much chance of that down this track. It was very nice though through the trees.

There were a lot of Italians on the track as well, some of which were not great skiers. I managed to not fall over as well which was good. Taking people over on a piste is a bit awkward. First getting their attention and then trying to sidestep their pride as well as their skis is always a bit of a chore!

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We stopped at the point where normally you would go off to Val Des Pres. We weren’t doing that today as the car was up at Plampinet, unfortunately (I kept on thinking of the nice flat loop down at the bottom of the valley). After les grumblies had had a quick bite to eat we head off again. There had been a substantial amount of down, so I expected it to be a bit of a flog.

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Instead though I got my motor on, and burned both BF and GM off for most of the trip. I don’t think they saw my trails for dust and it felt great. I was pretty out of breath when I fetched up before the home stretch up to plampinet and let them catch up. I was myself pretty beaten by then. My technique has definitely improved but my fitness has some way to go yet.

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The last hill on the way up finished me off in fact and I was glad to stop when I did. Still, the 16km we skied seemed to go surprisingly easily. Also note I haven’t fallen over in a while!

On the way up we saw an odd sight – a skier tied to his big golden retriever. I thought it was a bit of a cheaty way to do it really…

Day 105: Col d’Echelle

Started to feel really ill today. My ribs are hurting like mad, and I have a bad cold and haven’t been able to sleep well, which is making me very lethargic and not wanting to do anything. In particular, I really didn’t want to risk exacerbating my aching ribs by going ski de fond, so while les grumblies headed off for a ski down the valley I stayed at home.

I did want to do something though and quite late in the afternoon I decided to go for a walk along the piste up the Col d’Echelle. It was quite a nice walk up. There were very few people around, although I looked a bit jealously on as some skiiers whizzed past me. I’d like to ski up here soon – it’s a nice piste, especially at the top.

I walked all the way up beyond the altitude marker today and then back. On the way down I noticed some snow-shoe paths thorugh the forrest, cutting off loops in the road. I foolishly tried to walk along them in my boots and sunk in to my waist.

on a the whole a lovely walk and good to get out of the house.

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Day 98: Boxing Day

As is traditional for us brits, we went for a walk on Boxing day. Well, actually, we went for a ski. Ski de fond is now becoming quite a regular fixture in my daily routine it has to be said.

We went round Les Combes today, a long red piste that starts directly beside the house and follows a large field above it along the length of the commune. I had seen people attempt it the other day and fall over owing to the number of people walking on it during the festival so had not been tempted to try it then. I did so now.

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The first ascent of the piste is really long and a real flog. I stopped a lot to catch my breath, as did BF. Even GM, who is quite a fit man for his age, was out of breath at the top of the climb. It was worth it though – the piste has a really nice skating swoop to it, with lots of nice easy descents.

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There were quite a few newbies out on the piste today and we saw some reasonably hilarious falls. Going downhill on skinny skies is not the cakewalk that alpine skis allow you. It’s scary and unnerving to go down the smallest of bumps, and unless you relax, take your time, keep a good snow plow and body position then you’re going down (unless of course you’re really good, when you don’t have to do all those things).

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Anyhoo, we got round it in 40 mins or so. At the end GM headed off for a bit more round the Clapiere and BF wanted to go home. I felt I needed a bit more so I went round the clapiere again. This time it was much easier and I got round quite quickly. Something can be said of how much easier it is if you warm up first.

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In passing, GM pointed out a very odd structure on the side of the piste. Apparently it cost €6,000 and is a dry toilet. I have no idea how to use it.

weirdest toilet I have ever seen...

weirdest toilet I have ever seen…

Day 73: The Cutty Sark

Today I travelled to London to meet up with a friend, who I shall name Pumblechook, and have a nice afternoon looking round the newly opened Cutty Sark museum in greenwich.

Child playing in unusual fountain-thing

Child playing in unusual fountain-thing

I got into London early and left all my stuff in Euston. The trip over to Greenwich took a surprising amount of time, however it was nice to pass through Canary Wharf, which was beautifully scenic.

Hurrah!

Hurrah!

The Sark, one of two Tea Clippers of that era left in the world (apparently) was encased in a glass covering. The ship was recently re-opened to the public and was beautifully done. We came in to a guide explaining how the fire had started, which I didn’t quite get.

Avast ye land lubbers etc.

Avast ye land lubbers etc.

The exhibits were great and it was pretty cool to be on board the ship. When I was young I used to be in the Sea scouts and loved sailing. I would have killed to sail on a big clipper like this or similar. Pumblechook had, and I was pretty impressed and jealous, but her tales of her time on board a sailing boat with a youth project were really great.

I'm the king of the world! Well, shoreditch.

I’m the king of the world! Well, shoreditch.

Two of my favourite exhibits were an interactive sailing simulation in which we had to sail a ship using the best of the wind currents from New York (I think), which we tried with a hand each on the tiller and failed miserably, but which I managed, although not very well, on my own second time round.

Little man climbing rigging - looks scary and fun :)

Little man climbing rigging – looks scary and fun :)

Another cool exhibit was a bench that simulated the swing of the ship on rough waters. It was pretty simple but also quite soporific – like a motorised see-saw. Also really cool was a display of figureheads, all of which were found at the bottom of the sea, broken off ships. Not all of them had a description but they were all interesting. It reminded me of being in china in the temple of 400 buddha statues, all with a different character and all staring at me in rows. Spooky but brilliant.

ooooh sarky

ooooh sarky

Best of all was being on deck and looking up at the intricate rigging, imagining what it would be like to be a at sea and climbing the rigging.

The Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum

After the Sark we head off down the road to the Royal Naval Maritime Museum. This was an absolutely brilliant place. Pumblechook took me first to the exhibit of the uniform that Nelson was wearing when he was shot. You can still see the bullet-wound, with dried up blood around the edges and also his bloody under-garments.

Cool space-age style boat

Cool space-age style boat

Other cool things there included an enormous set of gears for powering paddle-boats in operation so that you can see how it works (basically, some huge cogs, the biggest bicycle chain you’ve ever seen and a huge paddle wheels, as PC put it, “for crushing little boys” (paraphrase).

Also more figure heads, and a fun boat simulator which chucked us about and was good fun. Also a great wee kids exhibit with signal devices and code-sheets for trying out morse code, both with lights and radio-blips. LOL, ROFL, and other text-speak things proved a boon. Also, morse-coding in french was fun too (PC speaks amazing French, much better than me)

Finally there was another simulator which mimicked a life-guard boat full size, in which we had to navigate to a ship-wreck and find a body in the water. We failed but only just :)

mmm unusual breads, oil, balsamic vinegar and later meats and chips.

mmm unusual breads, oil, balsamic vinegar and later meats and chips.

After that we went on to have a lovely meal at a place in Bank whose name escapes me. A lovely time was had quoting shakespeare, eating nice food, drinking wine and getting funny looks in the street by singing two part carols as we walked, apart from an old couple at the station, who found it really sweet.

Not really an exercise based post today, but I had a really amazing time and thought I’d share. Took lots of pictures to :)

Cool wee thing I saw on the tube back to Euston

Cool wee thing I saw on the tube back to Euston

Day 71: Bridgnorth

Woke up in Bridgnorth today, near Birmingham, staying with my friends TheLuckyLadybird and Sarlog Homs. Sarlog is a teacher at a school there and LuckyLadybird is a crafts person and runs the arts and crafts magazine Cassiopeia Magazine, a craft blog TheLuckyLadybird and sells awesome sushi themed bags and purses on Etsy. Check her out!

I had a favourite aunt that came from Bridgnorth and I seemed to remember there being some nice walking round about, so the plan was to go for a walk and if I could, a ride on the steam train!

Steam train wasn’t running unfortunately so instead it was a walk and a look round bridgnorth. We found a local walk online and set off on it. It started pretty much directly outside their house and head off along the field boundaries of a local farm.

Beautiful English countryside :)

Beautiful English countryside :)

I’m so used in France to walks being clearly defined and signposted that this one took me by surprise. We initially got a bit lost owing to the poor wording of the walk description on the website (“go half left on the definitive line and forward in a straight line across the arable field to the facing high hedge. (If the route is obstructed by a crop it might be easier to go left and walk around the field boundary). At the hedgeline go left and ahead on field edge to a stile a few yards left of the corner adjacent double gates and exit on to a lane.”).

That led to this :)

That led to this :)

However we ended up on pretty much the right track. Most of the walk was along field boundaries, with no defined path, and there was a lot of confusion that came out of a wood seemingly being in the wrong place. In hindsight, we should have bought an OS map. Oh well

Strange kind of pig...

Strange kind of pig…

Amusements along the way included LLB’s not-very-waterproof walking boots and fording a reasonably deep stream, trying to walk with half of the field sticking to our boots, looking for ‘undulating ground’ through a woodland that didn’t seem to exist. LLB accidently *stepping* in some undulating ground and finding the missing woodland finally.

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The wood was very pretty, and it had been a while since I had walked through an english woodland like it. At one point a slipped royally in the “undulating ground” and got it all over me I warned LLB to “watch your st–!” and gave my Rohans another coating of undulating goodness.

I love these towns with a market building in the middle of the high street

I love these towns with a market building in the middle of the high street

It was a very merry walk and we tramped off down into bridgnorth to find some lunch. Bridgnorth is a funny little place with a nice not-quite castle which was destroyed in the somethingth century leaving only a heavily leading wall (I believe there were sandstone mines underneath which were filled with explosives, causing the castle to break apart and fall into the cavern). There was also a cool wee cliff-tram-thing which we didn’t ride but were sorely tempted to.

Cool cliff thing :)

Cool cliff thing :)

The alarmingly leaning remains of Bridgnorth castle

The alarmingly leaning remains of Bridgnorth castle

We visited a couple of nice crafty-arty tea shops and had a generally nice time. I’d say a good 2 hours of exercise were had, which was nice to blow off the cobwebs, as it were. The description of the walk itself said that it was 3 hours, which was a bit generous – we completed it in one and a half.

This building now is mainly derelict, with a costa coffee on the ground floor. A great shame as it's a beautiful building.

This building now is mainly derelict, with a costa coffee on the ground floor. A great shame as it’s a beautiful building.

Day 70: Frodsham

Today while Judo was at work me and preggers climbed the hill by their house up to the Frodsham war memorial. A nice steep hill to get the juices going a bit, and lord knows my juices needed it. I’m ashamed to say I got a bit out of breath. Not too much – It’s not too long since I was climbing mountains, but enough to get me annoyed at myself for being complacent.

At the top of the hill there was a really beautiful look-out over Frodsham, towards Manchester (Manchester cathedral was visible from where we were standing). The view was pretty fun, and included a power plant, a chemical plant, a railroad and motorways. I quite liked that though – a busy industrialised country-side. Very British.

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After we got back we went for a nice lunch in Frodsham – an abstemious chicken wrap, inexplicably served on a wooden chopping board (why? Why do people do this?).

waiting at the station. sadface!

waiting at the station. sadface!

And then it was time to go. Like all these visits, they seem to be over all too soon.

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Day 62: Back to Blighty

Hurrah! Today I head back to the UK on a flying visit, mainly to go to a friend’s wedding, but also including a whistle-stop tour of other UK locations, an 88th birthday for my actual dad (GM is a step-relation) and the desperate process of trying to finish my PhD while I’m here.

I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends again, and York, which is where I hang my proverbial hat. It’s also great to be able to get away and assert my independence again, and feel like a real person with free will. Essentially I needed this change for a while.

I haven’t forgotten about the regime though, and I will be doing something everyday, as much as I possibly can while travelling about the countryside.

We got up at 5am and headed to Turin. The plane journey went of without a hitch. The alps as I flew over them looked like mere ruts in a rocky ground, easy targets for the errant foot.

As we came in to Stansted, there was a huge cloud over Britain, which didn’t bode well. By 3.30pm I was in York, in an extremely pokey B & B room with a terrible shower featuring 0% hot water.

Ooh look! It’s one of those special clouds that mean that the weather in the UK is going to be lovely.

My exercise for today was to walk around York (which was by that time in darkness) and up the hill to the university, probably about 6 miles in total, and a couple of hours, so not nothing. After so much sitting down and with my cold, I felt pretty graisse today.

Nope, yucky.

It didn’t help that I didn’t have any dinner and so decided to do the “meal for one” thing at a pizzaria, which made me feel a bit sad really.

There is one thing that I particualarly wanted to do today on the first day back in Yorkshire, and after 56 days of mainly tee-total behaviour I ended the day with a couple of pints of nice Yorkshire Ale.

I miss living here.

Day 61: Constitutional down the road

I felt I had to get out today. I did manage to finish the section that I was inputting int the computer, but didn’t really want to do much, and was aware I needed to start packing for the trip to the UK tomorrow.

I took a walk down the road, to the valley this time instead of the village. The weather has been very nice recently and it has been tough being inside a lot of the time. To make things worse I’m coming down with a stinking cold that has made me very phlegmy and not a little bit cranky.

It was not a particularly exciting walk, but I felt better for getting out. The jeans I was walking in, originally a hurried purchase that was a full size too small for me, were now hanging off of my thighs.

I was listening to music and a bit groggy and bunged up, so I was frequently surprised by cars tearing past me. They certainly speed a bit round here and it’s probably not a good idea to walk along the road like I was.

It was pretty cold, and I got pretty rosy-cheeked walking, but I felt a lot better for the walk, if only because it got me away from the house for a while.

I used to hate French cheeses but, I think I’m about ready to make my piece with them (piece = sandwich in scottish)

I walked for a couple of hours this time, and got about 3/4 of the way to Plampinet and back.

Day 56: Cold Feet

I decided to be a bit more adventurous today and do a walk that incorporated a bit of a climb. On the way up to the Chalet des Thures (one of my favourite walks) there is a nice loop around La Damoiselle which would ordinarily last around 1h30m.

I was wondering slightly whether it would not be prudent to have snow shoes on the way up, but the jury was out, so I just ended up wearing my heavy duty water-proof walking boots.

By the time I was halfway up, my boots were already sinking underneath the surface of the deep powdery snow. I followed a track of, yes, snow-shoes on the way up the track as the snow got steadily deeper and deeper.

Deep…

The stream was also a lot higher after a week of snow and rain, and was beginning to resemble the river in the film Return to Oz (a film which terrified me when I was young, and still kinda terrifies me now), both in hue and in rapidity, although luckily still kinda shallow.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more…

When I got up to the start of the loop round to the Damoiselle, the snow was clear above my boots and completely clean. Nobody had come this way, and it was somehow scary.

To make matters scarier there were a number of trees uprooted and lying across the path. I kept on anyway, snow starting to creep up my calves.

Deeper…

After I passed the Damoiselle the snow started to get thicker still. The path on the other side of the loop doesn’t travel immediately down and, although I had thought that the snow might be thinner in the trees, it turned out that the extra shade had just prevented it from melting. At one point it went up to my knees.

By this time snowballs were forming behind the tongues of my boots and my feet were getting cold and wet. Every step started to squelch.

Nobody apart from me had walked along this path, although there were a set of ski tracks trailing a dare-devil path through the trees. The snow was virtually untouched, except by some deer.

Luckily there were marks on the trees to show where the path was or I would have easily lost it. As I started to descend the snow got shallower and at one point the path got pretty indistinct.

wh– where was the path now?

I saw a deer bound off at this point – they rarely stay for a photo unfortunately.

So I squelched my way down the rest of the path. It was a nice walk and good to get out, but definitely snow shoes next time!

1h50m in total today. Not bad.

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Day 55: Constitutional

Today I headed out for a short constitutional along the river at the bottom of the valley. Instead of heading into the forrest as I have numerous times before, I followed the track to the left of the river down to the road.

On the way there I noticed a couple of men in hi-vis orange vests carrying large poles. This officially means winter is upon us. The poles are to line the roads so that they are clearly marked above the snow-line.

Hooray skis!

I also saw the first ski-tracks of the season, carved through the field. The snow was pretty crusty today so I’d guess they were a day old.

The track follows down the river past the hut of the man that breeds huskies (the huskies barked at me today, luckily from behind a wire mesh. What is it with me and dogs all of a sudden?)

The track also passes a little chapel that I’ve always had a fondness for. It reminded me of visiting this place with my ex-girlfriend a couple of years ago. It’s been long since I last went out on any sort of date really. Hmm. Perhaps I wont go into that.

The track led to the main road (the route that I have nicknamed “The Usual” for cycling). After trailing a little down it I decided to turn back, as it had been just over 30 mins (am still on an hour-or-so exercise a day) and walked back up the road.

In the end it was an hour and ten minutes. Better than nothing certainly.