Bike ride From Sledmere House – Preparation for Europe!

As we are preparing for our cyle trip through the Netherlands and Belgium we had a training ride from the beautiful Sledmere House and back.This was a hilly 17 miles but we will be doing between 20 and 40 miles a day next week.

We will take the bikes on the ferry to Rotterdam then down the ramp and off we go, destination Zeebruge – The long way round! Carrying all our gear in panniers is a bit of a challenge but we have done it before so I can be minimalist!.

So here are some taster pics from Sledmere House in Yorkshire. More to come of our Netherlands/Belgium trip when we get back!

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Moments in Time

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Sometimes you find yourself in a beautiful place,

fleeting, transient, perfect.

You cannot hold on to it, or make it last,

neither can you replay it or revisit.

The moment is unique,

one of a kind, never to be repeated.

It may be captured in a photo,

but its only a glimpse of something gone forever.

The smell, the feel,  the sound, the taste,

fleeting like a delicate butterfly.

These brief moments in time are what make life beautiful,

Don’t just look but really see, the rewards are truly unforgettable.

Do something that scares you every day! Go Skiing!

DSC_0101  Isn’t that one of those dittys/ that go around that is supossed to enhance and challenge your life? It seems a bit much  to say ‘every’ day, maybe once a week/month would be enough to stimulate the grey matter and get the endorphins circulating. However on our annual ski trip that’s exactly what happens. It scares the bejesus out of me in various degrees EVERY day!

This is my 4th year skiing, this time we are in Avoriaz and as everyone knows the older you are when you start the harder it is. We all watch in awe at the little dwarf commando skiers age no more than 7 whizzing down the slopes in a stiff upright but oh so confident manner that put us oldies to shame. However they are young, have no fear, have a very low centre of gravity which means when they fall they are pretty much already on  the floor!

I take the arbitrary ESF lessons and end up with the inevitable  crusty old french guy who churns out the standard lines every week. ‘Follow my line!’ Yeah that’s fine if you are next in line to him but 7/8 people back in the snake means you can’t see or hear him so you are pretty much on your own. If he speaks English it is a bonus. So it’s a case of go with the flow and do your best.

So day 1 – 3 is Ok (after all I have been in level 1 for 4 years!) I am cruising at the top end of the class. Then Day 4 hits and we go on steeper slopes.! The fear kicks in and all the good techniques and form are replaced by the survival/’get me to the bottom of this mountain the size of Everest at any cost’ stance = BAD!

Day 4/5 is the wobble day when I struggle with the decision of jacking it all in and spending the rest of the week in the gym/spa.
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The afternoons are taken up with leisurely ski trips and frequent vin chaud/hot chocolate stops with the OH who has learnt (the hard way) to ply me with platitudes and to big up my skiing skills at every occasion in the deperate hope I won’t throw in the towel and leave him without a ski companion in future years. It’s a fine line!

If I get over the wobble (which I have always managed thus far) day 5/6 are challenging/scary testing lessons but (once over) Oh so exhilarating! I feel good, alive, like I cheated death again and feeling invincible!

I have made progress in small steps, I feel good about myself for holding in there and I definately did something every day that scared me! Tick!

I end the week with a sense of relief, achievement and feel good factor. I cant wait to get home to my comfort zone. Will I be here next year! Of course, it you don’t scare and stretch yourself every year/month/day you will never experience the satisfactory high of knowing you came through and conquered a fear!

I might even manage level 2 next year! Go for it!

So this is the scenario every year, and every year I get a bit better and a bit more confident, this year I tackled a red run, that must be progress.  I wasn’t too petrified.DSC_0128

I have a love hate relationship with fear, I can never let it beat me and without it life can be dull and too safe so I’ll keep to my motto: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Its worth it!   DSC_0108

The Dreaming Spires of Oxford

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Oxford is a city of dichotomy. Is the city part of the university or the university part of the the city? We explored this unique place at the weekend. Beautiful ancient architecture, dreaming spires, student life and tourist activity.

Undeniably a beautiful place for ‘beautiful minds’ but what of  the reality of the place. Oxford is surely dominated by the colleges of the famous university, but where does the university and the city begin and end? As a visitor accompanied with a daughter attending Bath university it was an interesting insight. I had no expectations except for the knowledge of a very interesting, beautiful academic city.

On our day of exploration it was entirely tangible how the university is entwined with the city, its hard to separate the two. I fully understand how historically the  ‘town vs gown conflict’ came about. We as foot soldiers on a walking tour, one of many of the day, encountered a body of graduating students and the mayhem that entails. Including by night the various vikings/Pokemon/fantasy characters roaming around which adds to the charm of the place, including the  sight of a naked (I am guessing) student running the centre followed by a crowd of cheering onlookers  Most of the colleges we hoped to visit were closed for the ceremonies and according to a local ‘we have graduations all the time, it’s an everyday occurence’ Whilst it made a great spectacle of mortar boards and gowns in succession in front of beautiful buildings we were slightly frustrated that we could not enter the buildings and places we came to see.

In contrast my daughter,  who turned down the opportunity of applying here, when asked, ‘Would you have liked to have applied here? replied, ‘Its beautiful place but I would be really frustrated by all this tourist activity around ‘my’ campus when I am trying to get around to lectures, learn and do my studies. Hence the Gown vs Town perspective.

I loved my visit to Oxford and it was a truly magical place and a must see city. I was enchanted by the view from the towers of the central church and the general atmosphere of academic learning in the ancient buildings spanning back centuries but would I like to live here, probably not , too many students, would I like to be a student? probably not, too many tourists! All in all very beautiful place, most definitely worth a visit.

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Taking the Rough with the Smooth. Paradise Found.

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Last Year in November I think I found a slice of Paradise. I have embarked on more than my fair share of backpacking/roughing it holidays, I have paid my dues and gone through the initiation rights to be called a traveller and not a tourist. Some of the tales of places we have stayed across the world could make your hair curl but this is not one of them. Our third and no means last visit to Thailand was on an altogether different scale. Roughing it? Oh no, we ‘Smoothed’ it big time and I liked it!

We stayed on two islands, firstly the very beautiful and famous Ko Phi Phi but we avoided the bustling backpacker town of Tonsai and continued on the ferry to go around the corner to a tranquil and azure blue water beach. Here we had a week of snorkelling and taking it easy. I have Scuba Dived many times in Thailand, the Red Sea and Spain (!)  and been slightly disappointed at times, in all those deeper dives I have never seen such an array of colorful and abundant marine life as I saw around these islands, here you need nothing more than a snorkel mask and fins (optional) We even managed to hit Maya Bay (The Beach) and virtually have it to ourselves, it really is a stunning location!

All perfectly idyllic but no, the slice of paradise I was talking about came in the second venue which was Ko Lanta and the Layana Hotel.

The Layana is a small scale boutique hotel that promises to make time stand still for just a moment and to create a harmonious and tranquil setting. It did not disappoint. The moment that you enter the tree-lined drive, magic starts to happen. The first day we lay by the smooth saline pool (its composition equivalent to human tears apparently) and I just drank it all in (not the pool I hasten to add) The beautiful palm fringed manicured gardens to the left, the infinity pool reaching out towards the beach and sea with a serene buddha statue keeping guard on the right. We truly thought we had found heaven. The staff were discrete and very hospitable, we lay in the glorious sunshine until suitably toasted then cooled off in the glassy aquamarine pool only to start the routine over again. We were treated to cold flannels by the passing waiters and constant top ups of iced water. As if that wasn’t enough they would re-appear with fresh chilled fruit from time to time.

Once night falls the restaurant and bar areas come alive, the beach side dining terrace lit by candles and fairy lights in the trees was pure romance. To eat amazing food in the balmy night air to the sound of the lapping waves was perfection.

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I have never wanted time to stand still so much as when we had 1 day left. I sat on our the balcony listening to the unfamiliar birds singing, watching a rare little cloud waft across the sky, Enjoying the  last moments of enveloping heat around me  and feeling a million miles away from the stresses of real life. I wished I could freeze the moment and remember every detail so that I could replay it back at any time.

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But all good things must come to an end and this was no exception . I felt a definite tinge of sadness as the staff waved us off on our departure, it felt like leaving home but I did manage to capture those moments in my mind and writing this on a cold and dreary February day in the UK  has taken me back there to all the sounds, smells and sights I was lucky enough to experience in Thailand and at the Layana. Perhaps I have indeed managed to freeze a moment in time, I will recall it whenever I need to be transported away from reality and to a calming place.

I have learned and experienced so much from travelling and roughing it on many levels around the world, there is a rich, colourful and vibrant planet out there not to be missed. These days we are eager to tick off that bucket list as if there really is no tomorrow. we  ‘go’ and ‘do’ as much as possible, of course one day for all of us there won’t be a tomorrow but don’t forget to ‘see’, ‘feel’ and ‘soak in’ the small details no matter where you are. I found a rare peace, serenity and  ‘happy place’ in a sometimes frenetic life by ‘smoothing’ it just this once!

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Moonlight at Castle Howard

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Moonlight at Castle Howard

My second home!

Castle Howard is 10 minutes from where we live,  we visit regularly and have taken the children there since they were small. They are now adults and we visited at Christmas where I captured this shot at moonlight. It is beautiful  in every season.