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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 75: York Again

Got up early (not early enough, as I ended up rushing and being late) and got on the train to York from Kings Langley. For reasons I won’t go into, I was feeling pretty awful today, and ended up comfort eating on the train. It was only a whispa bar, and I felt bad about doing it, but it is the first time I have in 2 months or so.


As penance, after I had got into York and dumped my stuff I set off into town for a walk. I wanted to take a walk around the city walls but for some completely unknown reason they were closed.

The closed walls

The closed walls

I found out later on that there’s ice on the wall. Not such a big problem for me but h well. Instead I walked into town. I got me a nice bagel at Filmore, a really nice restaurant that uses good local fresh ingredients.

High Petergate

High Petergate

The bagel was really tasty. My plan after that was to head into the minster for a trip up the tower. I’ve been meaning to do this for months. I had planned to take some pictures from the top to take with me when I moved to France, but it was always closed when I tried.

mmm bagel

mmm bagel

The trip up was different to how I remember and had become much more health and safety conscious. For example, there was a mesh at the top.


The climb up was surprisingly steep and long. Despite my mountain training, I was pretty out of breath, although it’s not that surprising given the last couple of weeks of excess. The view was very nice though.



The rest of the afternoon I spent in the shops and headed back to the music department pretty early. About 2 hours not-very-stressful exercise with a climb in the middle so not nothing.

Roof! Roof!

Roof! Roof!

I’m staying with my lovely friends whom I shall call HoneyPie and SweetyDarling. I’m still not feeling great but it’s nice to have friends to cheer me up. And port, and I also ate some more chocolates. I should stop before this gets worse. At least I didn’t go so far as to eat the ice cream I bought and hid in their fridge :)

I took loads more photos – here they are:

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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.


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.


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.


Day 69: Chester

I hopped on the train today to Frodsham to stay with my friend Preggers and Judo. Preggers is, yes, heavily pregnant although in great shape for how far along she is. When I got there we went for a nice walk around Chester, which I hadn’t visited before, although I love the nearby zoo.

Chester is a really beautiful town, and I particularly like the on-show bits of history dotted aorund the place, like the ampitheatre in the middle of town, the church with a coffin on display in the wall (apparently relocated there by the victorians in their morbid obsession).

We also walked down to the river, which was very pretty in the falling evening light, and toured the make-out spots. Particularly amusing to me was an old-fashioned band stand crowded round with benches for the audience, and a young couple ‘sucking face’ on the stage.

Our walk ended with a lovely coffee and chat and then back home. An hour or so walking around is not too bad I guess.

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 57: Nevache in Snow

I’ve decided to start computerising what I’ve got of my orchestral piece. I’ve got the backbone now and I need to be able to see the detail a bit more intimately to add some of the other layers.

To that end though I’m beginning to freak out about it. I decided to go for a “boring walk” today and just head along to Nevache up the road. I had some thoughts of walking up to the upper valley for a peek, as it’s closed now and snowy. Apparently one of the nice things you can do is take touring skis up there and then ski back down the road, which sounds great!

cool wee snow mobile

But as I set off I started to feel really anxious about pretty much everything – my PhD, the orchestral piece, the fact that I’m not currently “In the ring” i.e. I’m not engaged in applying for composing opportunities or working with any other musicians or basically doing all the things I usually do. Admittedly that is a bit silly because I can’t do any of those things while I finish this damn degree.

Anyway, in the end I just walked up to Nevache and back, walking briskly, partly because of the anxiety. When I got back I went straight up to the office to work. I was too despondent by then though so had to have a calm-down break before I could do any more work.

Anyway, at least I got some exercise – 1h10m today.

You may not be able to see it, but that’s a cat climbing a ladder right there…

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.


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.


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.

Day 54: Here wabbit

So today I’m starting my sucky minimal-exercise-while-I-desperately-try-to-finish-the-PhD phase. Each day I’m only doing an hour to an hour-and-a-half of exercise, and trying to make up for it by being brisk. I’m feeling pretty lame for the last week, which, although not all my fault (weather and illness did conspire somewhat), has nevertheless left me feeling pretty disappointed in myself. It’s hard going from scaling the aguille rouge for fun to just ambling out along the road for an hour.

At least I’m feeling the guilt though, and trying to make a conscious effort to do what I can, albeit this is not very much. If you’re paying attention you’ll notice that I’ve started reducing the frequency with which I update this blog. I’m just trying to be economical with my time at the moment and focus as entirely as I can on finishing this damn orchestral piece. Normal service will resume once I’m shot of it, and when I get back from England around the 8th December, the Ski season will have started, and I’ll have a whole load of new things to update the blog with, and no other obligations for the time being (fingers crossed).

A quick note on eating – since more people have started coming around (we now have a tiler resident and sharing meals with us) BF has been cooking and buying more pudding-y stuff, which is starting to prove a problem, socially and in terms of conscience. The cooking smells alone are driving me a bit mad.

So much snow!

So today I went for a constitutional up the now-closed-due-to-snow-until-next-year col d’Echelle. The snow was really thick on the ground and just about ski-able. It’s often hard to call how cold it is going to be on such occasions and I left the house with a jacket that was way too warm. Luckily I also packed my handy strip-pole and a boom box with “voulez vous couchez avec moi, cet soir”, otherwise the inevitable stripping of layers could have been awkward.

I was originally thinking of going to the top of the Echelle and then checking out a bit of the path down to Plampinet. As I reached the bottom of the road though I noticed a jeep and a sign which I didn’t understand but had a picture of a boar running on it.

Chasse— what?

As I climbed up the col I realised what it meant. The road was lined with hunters, each standing very quietly and aiming their rifles over the edge of the road into the forrest below. I became very aware of the loud clumping sound my boots were making in the snow as I went past them. They didn’t seem too bothered by my presence, giving me a “bonjour” as I passed, so I kept on going. When I was about halfway up and I could see the third huntsman ahead I decided to turn back. It’s a bit freaky being around live arms and I didn’t want to disturb their hunt or worse, get caught in the crossfire.

I took this picture covertly as I passed.

To make up for time I made a look round the floor of the valley and headed back up to the house.

Sorry for the lameness of these updates. Just want to get this PhD over and done with now.

Sigh. Really wish I’d thought of a less complicated piece to write.