In the Pyrenees

The Beanmeister got to use her passport for the first time as we set off overland and under-sea to within spitting distance of Spain, up in the Pyrenees at my Father-in-law’s cottage overlooking the valley.

It was quite a logistical challenge figuring out what to bring with us, given that we had no boot to throw everything into. The train demands efficiency of packing, so we came up with a highly optimised solution involving about two changes of clothing each for us, leaving the remaining 90% capacity for her stuff.

It didn’t start well. Someone threw themselves under the train in front soon after setting off, so we had to turn back and get on another train, missing our Eurostar, but more distressingly, leaving the poor little Quaver in a terrible state as we pulled into Marylebone desperate to escape the crammed-in carriage.

Just for the record if you’re reading this Vashti, your first ever stay in a hotel was Thursday 4th October at Paris Gare de Lyon in a nice hotel called Novotel.

The first half of the week was spent luxuriating in the heat of southern France, collecting bread from the bread van at 9:53am and introducing V to the local ladies (I learnt the french for cute). The end didn’t go so well due to an unfortunate incident involving a bad dad, some hot water and a small foot (now healing nicely).

We had fun on the Paris Metro, getting trapped within the unstaffed ticket zone due to some malfunctionioning barriers and a rash decision to run through a disabled barrier. With the clock ticking we were unable to escape until we found an gate stuck open and legged it through. How does the Paris Metro always seem to involve some drama for our family.

Now we’re back and V has celebrated her first 1/2 birthday. Where shall we go next? Portugal?

Cornwall

It’s been, oh, at least eight years since we were last down in Cornwall. This version of the hotel we’re staying in, St Moritz was probably just beginning to gestate in the owner’s mind. And this time, in late February, it’s really… foggy. We’ve supposedly got a sea view from our room, but the mists have only cleared enough for us to catch a glimpse for a few precious minutes this morning.
We took the ferry over from Rock to Padstow, and ended up walking rather a long way along the squishy sand thanks to the very low spring tide.

Stockholm

In the 1999 film Ghost World, an aggressive redneck guards a Greek convenience store with a pair of nun-chucks for 36 hours. That’s quite a long shift and, as it happens, about the length of time that it will take us to travel by train from Birmingham to Stockholm. This may seem expensive and time consuming to you, but did you know that it enabled Katie to return in luxury from her last IETM in Berlin at the height of the Icelandic ash cloud last April?

The route is… Birmingham to London, to Brussels, to Cologne, to Copenhagen (overnight sleeper), where we spent a few hours, then an 8 hour train to Stockholm.

In Copenhagen, we burnt a few hours in the design museum. I’d never considered how many design classics that we use every day were the brainchildren of Danish designers. Interestingly, some of the items (doorhandles, taps, …) were designed in the 70’s, but are only now beginning to permeate to the UK.

In Stockholm, I am at this IETM under slightly false pretenses, with a paid up delegate pass, but no involvement in the theatre sector. But thanks to years of marriage to Katie, I can hold my own in any discussion about theatre, with my ready assortment of received wisdom and second-hand opinions.

There are some great benefits to having a delegate pass. How about a free meal and loads of wine refills (totalling to more than the cost of the delegate pass, by my estimation)? Even better, it was in this chuck of a building:

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Back home

We’re back in Brum now. The big trip from Thessaloniki to Switzerland went very smoothly, even if we were looking like extras from Sean Of The Dead by the end. The only real problem was when we got to Swizerland late at night and with a five minute connection time and realized that we didn’t have any Swiss Francs. Whoops. Well, they just laughed at us and waved us on.

We were hoping to spend a full day at Anthony’s, but it turned out that the final performance of his course was even more frantic than he’d expected. We spent a few hours being shown around the alpine valley and the village where he lives, and also the shiney course buildings where he rehearses. We left early to go back to Milan to give ourselves an unscheduled full day of sightseeing.

Milan was amazing! I think our image of it was a bit like people think about Brum – a bit industrial and dirty. It certainly had the polution, but the Duomo, the Castello, the parks and the nightlife made it almost as appealing as Birmingham 🙂 A particular highlight was the way they have an enormous spread of free food in every bar in the evening. I’m glad we’re learning Italian.

Here are some pictures…


Anthony doesn’t normally let three people on his bike. I think I know why.


The roof of the Duomo is as spectacular as the interior.


The Castello in Milan


The Italians love Ice Cream