Sharleen Spiteri – Bristol

Absolutely amazing. She is a truly professional performer. Had a good selection of her new solo hits and the good stuff from Texas. I have been waiting a long time to see her in concert and she surpassed all expectations. I had no idea she had so much energy, it even seemed to rub off to the Bristol crowd. I have never seen so many people dancing at the Colston Hall.

Sharleen Spiteri

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A White Christmas

Sunday 21st of December we were up bright and early to catch our flight to Austria with Amy and Derk for our first proper white Christmas (thanks to Amy organising it) unfortunately the weather wasn’t with us and after holding above Innesbruck for quite a while we were diverted to Munich and the shuttled back by coach.  There we meet Sharon & Mark, who also had been diverted but a little earlier, picked up the rental car (thanks to Derk for driving) and headed off to Reith im Alpbachtal.  After finding our accommodation (only getting lost a little) a traditional farm house, Kupfnerhof, The Farmhousehigh in the mountains of which we had the top floor complete with our own cosy kitchen.  Our hosts Elisabeth and Georg brought us up breakfast the next day loaded with excellent farm produce after which it was of to town to hire ski gear and get groceries for the week.  Not having enough time to ski that day it was back to Kupfnerhof and practice a little skiing on the slopes of the farm and of course build a snowman, quite a scary one at that.  Georg was kind enough to bring out some locally made schnapps to share with us which certainly warmed us up.  The next two days were ski days, up early and home when the fields closed to Gluwein cooking dinner and playing cards.  We went to different ski fields each day the first just below where we stayed in Reith (Ian & I had lessons on this day, a very good idea that made the rest of the time skiing more enjoyable) and the second day at Alpbach (a bigger field).  Alpbach was stunning above the clouds a perfect day blue sky and sunshine.  A friend of Derk’s, Fabian who lives in Germany not far from where we were joined us so we had a traditional European Christmas celebrating on Christmas eve, we cooked a large roast dinner, drank lots of wine & beer and opened our presents while listening to Christmas carols.  Christmas day we enjoyed a champagne breakfast then went for a walk though the snowy countryside playing in a children’s playground and generally having fun in the snow.  Winter BarbecueFor Christmas dinner we decided to go traditionally kiwi and had a BBQ, Elisabeth and Georg thought we were crazy and had a good laugh at our BBQ in the snow.  We even made pavlova for desert, which must have been the flattest pavlova in history but the good thing with pav is it still tastes great no matter what it looks like!  The next two days we spent skiing this time at  Zillertal, this was my favorite ski field and once again it was perfect weather.  It really was stunning up on the mountain. 

Lunch at Zillertal Unfortunately this brought an end to our Christmas holiday the next day we were up and back off to the airport, everyone secretly wishing we would be fogged in and have to stay another day.

Athens & Santorini

After what feels like a very long time we finally went on holiday this time to Athens & Santorini.  We flew out of the new terminal 5 at Heathrow and after all the trouble they had when it opened it is a smooth and painless process now.  Arriving in Athens early afternoon, we headed to the hotel and dropped our luggage before heading down to Pireas, the port, to book our ferry to Santorini having achieved that we could relax and have a look around watching, over a frappe (cold coffee drink), mass hordes of people being unloaded from the ferries just in.  We took the metro back to Synagma Square and from there walked leisurely back to our hotel taking in the sights and sounds of Athens, before having a well deserved rest before dinner (we had been up since 3am!) We had dinner at a small restaurant close to the hotel not realising straight away that it was a Romanian restaurant, not that it mattered the food was good and after ordering a beer each and an ouzo (thinking we’d get a shot but instead received a 350 ml bottle!) no need to say but we were both in a rather good mood by the time we’d finished.

The following day we spent at the ancient sites of the Acropolis, Arch of Hadrian, Temple of Olympian Zeus then wandering through the Plaka (old turkish quarter) & the national gardens before finally making our way to Lykavittos hill, taking the funicular railway to the top to see the sun set and Athens illuminate.

Up early the next morning we were down at the port before 6.30 to catch our ferry to Santorini, we had decided on the fast ferry which took 5 hours instead of 9.  Arriving around midday we manage to find in the chaos a bus up to the main town of Fira, the road zigzags up the very steep cliffs finally reaching the top.  From Fira we had to catch another bus to Imerovigli, however having the misfortune of a very unhelpful driver we completely missed our stop ending up in Oia, after a half hour wait the next bus arrived with a much better driver who told us when we reached our destination.  Finding our hotel took a little while, not knowing exactly where it was but it is one of those places that once you know it’s easy, being very hot the first thing on the agenda was a swim in the pool and a beer while enjoying the incredible view.  We had an easy night having picked up a few supplies from the supermarket we ate dinner on our balcony with a bottle of local wine.

As I haven’t published this yet and my memory is beginning to fade here are just the highlights from the rest of the trip.  Sailing round the caldera for sunset which included a hike up the volcano and a swim in the warm sulfuric water.  Hiring a quad bike and zipping round the Island with me on the back a little scared at times.  Visiting an art gallery/vineyard buying a bit of both.  Finding a little shop in Fira which made the best cakes ever.  Sitting in a outdoor cafe on the cliffs drinking cocktails and watching the sun set.

After 5 days it was back to Athens for a night then back home.  An awesome holiday!!

Switzerland

7th to the 11th March we spent an event filled long weekend in Switzerland. Taking off straight after work on Friday we flew to Geneva, caught the train into the city, found our hotel, checked in and hit the sack. 

The next morning we were up and out walking around the city & lake taking in the sights such as the Jet D’eau, the worlds tallest water fountain at 140 meters before catching the train to Lausanne. We spent the afternoon walking around the lake front before heading up to the old town to see the old gothic cathedral & Chateau St Maire.

Sunday we caught the train to Yverdon Les Bains and the a connecting train to Sainte Croix to visit the music box museum, unfortunately it opened at 2pm and we were there at 11am although a lovely place there was not a lot to do and it was a bit cold so we caught the train back to Yverdon Les Bains and walked around even visiting the thermal pools as a warm dip sounded lovely. As we did not have our togs or enough time we didn’t get a swim but headed back up the mountain (the train ride was very cool) to Sainte Croix where we had a tour of the music box museum in French. We brought a Reuge music box, which is quite special being brought from where the are made, it’s a 72 note with 3 melodies by Grieg including “In the hall of the mountain king”. For dinner that night we had a tradition cheese fondu which even Ian liked (he’s not quite the cheese fan I am) have to admit I couldn’t eat it every night but it was good!

On the Monday we headed back to Geneva and to CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) to look round the interactive museum, unfortunately it was too late to book a tour through the actual lab but we are thinking about going back to do this. In the afternoon we caught the bus to the French boarder as just on the other side is a cable car up a mountain with a great view of Geneva, unfortunately on the winter timetable it only opens on the weekends so we headed back for a little shopping. For dinner we had another traditional dish where you have a fondu pot of smoking hot oil and cook chunks of beef in it at your leisure, which was great fun abd a very sociable way to have a meal.

On our last day we wen to the 78th Geneva International Motor Show, the size was incredible (so was the number of mid life crisis men). There were this years new production cars, lots of “green” cars, concept cars and of course the sports cars – even I was impressed. Finally it was time to head home, we found Switzerland a great place to visit, it was easy to get around, the people were friendly, there was lots to see and the food was delicious.

Home for Christmas

For the first time in 7 years Ian & I spent Christmas at home with our families, I can’t begin to describe how great it was to be back. We took a month off, arriving on the 13th December and not leaving until the 12th January, and as luck would have it the weather was awesome.

The first couple of weeks were spent chilling out with family, meeting new family, Jayden my nephew, Sarah my sister in law & Clinton her husband, catching up with friends and christmas shopping. It’s funny how things stay the same but are different too.

Christmas day was spent firstly with the Bulloch family for lunch and then dinner with the Barnes family and with the usual plentiful food, wine and laughs. A long standing tradition in the Barnes family is the Boxing Day Outing, this year being the 20th anniversary something special was called for, so a few days away at the Koura lodge in Rotorua was organised by Neil. Sadly Ian’s aunt died Christmas eve so some had to return to Auckland for the funeral, Deb had been unwell for sometime so Ian & I felt grateful we were able to see her before she passed away.

As a little time out Ian & I camped at Hahei for a couple of days, we had a excellent camp site one row back from the beach. We swam every day, walked to Cathedral Cove, went over to hot water beach (where due to geological activity you can dig holes in the sand which will fill up with hot water – natures own spa), ate proper fish & chips, played cards and relaxed.

Much to both our parents relief being home also gave us the chance to go through all our stuff we had stored with them and get rid of a good proportion of it which was much harder for Ian I think!

Dad took us out fishing on the Manukau harbour we had a great afternoon catching sharks, pity they were only babies, my hammerhead was impressive though. Dad did catch a good sized Gurnard which he cooked for Ian & I as an entree before dinner. 

Sarah & Clinton recently brought a new house in Blenhiem so Ian & I flew down to spend a few days with them, Sarah works for Montana wines so we were able to have a tour and tasting while we were there. We also spent our time fishing (Ian was the only one to catch anything and that was a sprat), visiting wineries, sight seeing, playing cards, .

All too soon it was time to come back to the UK, and to winter.