I do love a good horse (nearly as much as I hate a bad one), and in he Camargue, there are lovely horses.
Riding in the Camargue had been high on J’s bucket list for a long time. It was lower on mine due to the risk of getting a bad horse. Horses are a bit like bosses. If you have a good one, life is fantastic. You feel like you are mostly achieving things, it’s easy and fun, but you still have to work hard and listen to the boss when required. A bad one makes every minute a bit of a challenge, and not in a “I’m James and I love a challenge” kind of way. More in a “I’m James, and how many rocks do I need to break before I can enjoy my bowl of cold gruel” kind of way.
I had a good boss in the Camargue and it’s a really beautiful area to see from the back of one. Our horses were a mix between the white local horses and Arabic ones. It was a cross that Napoleon favoured (I have taken snuff from the hoof of one of Napoleon’s horses in the mess at St James’s Palace on one of my last nights in the army. I didn’t mention this to my horse in fear he would think I’m a cunt and throw me in a ditch, and he was perfectly behaved. He tolerated my bad riding.
The Camargue is a mix of lovely countryside, canals, rivers, fields, birds, horses, cows and flowers. Bloody lovely.
We stayed for two nights in Arles on the edge of the area, in an airbnb that was always going to be an airbnb; ie, style over substance and all too minimalist. Arles is nice: some lovely old bits, a couple of really great new buildings and a fresh food market that has great cheese, meat, fruit and bread, and there are some lovely places to run. The only disappointment was that the next door neighbours decided they hated each other, shouted a lot all night, banged and shouted at our door when we helpfully banged on the adjoining wall and made me question if my ninja skills were up to scratch enough to protect us.
From there it was am epic long drive on the peage (that we could afford thanks to our Valencia prudence) to striking distance from Paris. My plan was to drive north until I got bored, jump off the motorway, then find a cheap place to crash. By the time I got bored there was few cheap places to crash……. We ended up in an old grand house in an old grand village with an old (closed) grand cathedral.
At this stage I had thoughts about why I am more at home in Spain than France. Firstly I can have a bit of a chat. More importantly, Spain seems to be just a little bit more open (as in shops and stuff are open) and a bit more relaxed. And a bit warmer……..
We ate bad pizza, drank good wine, went to bed early, had a terrible breakfast and hit Paris.
As we were on our way to Giverny, I hated Parisian driving, and we were on a tight schedule, I didn’t want to drive into the city so we parked the car and all our possessions in a dodgy car park on the outskirts of the city, took a train and hit the embassy. We were very proud of our commitment and without declaring how we voted, we didn’t think ‘How good is that!’ when we heard that the misogynist, shit for brains cunt Morrison was to lead our nation for the next few years.
From there we were off to Giverny, the old home of Monet. I have to admit that I really, really love Impressionism, not because it’s a thing that people are supposed to like, but I love light, joy and romance and, to me, it has a bit of all of this.
The village itself is beautiful but is also heart-stoppingly expensive to stay in, so we opted for an airbnb about 30 mins away. The pictures of the place on the tinterweb looked very Monet but the reality was rather more Hogarth (a bit highbrow, but he painted shit places)…. Or Aggie and Kim for the lovers of daytime TV.. I am very tolerant of mediocrity, but the overflowing laundry bin, the filthy kitchen, a garden that looked like Monet had become a badly behaved alcoholic and the loo that made me want to wash my hands before I did anything in there was too much. We left and found a lovely place in a pretty but dead village and only stretched the budget a little. Luckily when we provided a few pictures to Airbnb and suggested we had been miss=sold the place, we got a full refund.
As I said, I was probably predisposed to like the place, but I have to say that Givernay is magical. In spring, it is full of colour and form. The people who manage to get the shape, colour and feel of the place so right are exceptional people. Despite the fact we shared the experience with many, many strangers (go on a week day) and the weather was not great, I could have spent hours in there. I don’t know why, but I genuinely felt emotional to be there. It was perfect…… for me. If you like nightclubs, hard house and fast living, it’s a bit shit. Actually, I like both, so whop wants to build a great nightclub just outside the village with me?de
Going back to Paris was less leisurely than the trip south, largely due to the Australian Federal election on the 18th of May. Whilst we had registered as being overseas so would not be fined for not voting, we thought it very important to do so and our target was to vote in the Australian Embassy in Paris. As the embassy was staffed by public servants, the thought of opening on a Saturday or not closing early on a Friday was beyond the pale even for the election, so we needed to get back by the morning of the 17th.
We had one last stop in Spain in a town called Vic, four hours north of Valencia. It was chosen as it was about the right distance for the first hop and wasn’t suffering from horrendous hotel prices driven by the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Vic is in the heart of Catalán and politics hung from every wall and lamppost. It has an old and beautiful centre, with a huge square, one of the best cathedrals we came across and a small river running through it. Best of all, we stumbled on the annual cheese and wine festival; J&J heaven, so mostly we ate cheese and drank wine.
From there we headed across the boarder to Perpignan and it was a rude awakening. Our airbnb was in an area that is yet to be gentrified and as soon as we parked we kind of went off the place. The streets were filthy, graffiti everywhere and the area was obviously very poor. We thought our place would be a few streets into the good area so were disturbed to find ourselves standing outside a near derelict, graffiti strewn apartment block waiting for the host. On the upside, the host away obviously an early adopter and had renovated one of the apartments beautifully; it was clean, comfortable and stylish…… but still in a block and area that had a way to go. This kind of put us off the whole town and whilst we did enough wandering to admit that if the start had been different we may have liked the place, we buggered off early the next day to head to the Camargue.
So, a month in Valencia. Why? Well, its friggin great.
We had six weeks or so before cousin Katy’s 40th and cousin Edward’s wedding in Southwold, Suffolk and I was delighted to be invited. Mum had always been the connection with the extended family and I know that I now need to take every opportunity I have to keep in touch with a bunch of people I have always liked.
We wanted the adventure to continue, had to go easy on the budget, wanted a bit of stability for a while and also wanted to get something out of our time, so continuing to learn Spanish was perfect. I got a bit geeky and developed a spreadsheet of about 6 Spanish cities, scoring each place for temperature, cost of living, Airbnb availability, quality of Spanish school etc and Valencia hit the sweet spot.
Valencia is a wonderful city. It has a tremendous history, a thriving city centre and some reasonable beaches. It is also flat, easy to get around in on bikes or foot, has a great public transport system (in a city of 1.7 million, it has a system far more joined up and capable than the one that served Sydney’s 5 million inhabitants) and some great public spaces.
The park that sits in the bed of the old river is particularly special. In the city’s history there has been some terrible flooding, destroying property and taking lives, so in the 60s the decision was taken to divert the river away from the city. What was left was prime realestate in the centre of town. Many cities would have made the most of it (i.e. most money) by building roads on it or selling it off to the private sector, but with great vision the city resisted and turned it into public parkland, with football fields, outdoor gym equipment, lovely trees and flower beds, walking routes, running routes and cycle paths. It is a vein of green happiness running through the centre of the city.
At the start of this century some exceptional buildings were added to it, in the shape of the Opera House, Science Museum, Aquarium and botanical garden. They really are incredible works of art: space age, striking, beautiful. The opera house is on a par with Sydney, perhaps winning on design and losing on setting.
The park provided the foundation of my many runs as I returned to fitness over the month we spent there and every time I went into it I loved it. I have come to realise that having nice places where I can exercise easily is really important to me, and this is where Valencia beats many places, including Medellin.
When one learns something new and complicated, it is a simple fact that you will know far les than you know as you start out. As a language is a lifetime in the learning, a couple of months into trying to learn a new one, it is impossible not to feel incredibly stupid, as the gap between the known and the unknown is huge and seems insurmountable.
In the early days in Medellin, for me, this resulted in minor sulks, tantrums and by each Friday, the need for huge amount booze within minutes of walking out of school.
By Valencia, I was a little better. Importantly I had stopped getting obsessed that some things make no sense in English coz they aren’t supposed to. It is a different language with different meanings and structures. It seems a simple thing to understand but it really isn’t and to do so is a real “coin dropping” moment.
The school we went to - Elealeph (www.elealeph.com) - was great. Mostly our teacher was a bearded giant called Paulo. When he wasn’t a teaching, he was an part time actor and opera singer and he brought his stage presence with him. He wasn’t just funny and engaging, he was really patient with our stupidity and had a great way of getting us to understand stuff. It made learning a pleasure.
The students with us were great too and a real international mix: South Korea, Turkey, Italy, Ireland, the UK, Russia, Poland, the Netherlands, Australia (us), Canada. Everyone had a different reason for being there, some for a week, others for 6 months or more. One was sailing around the world with her partner, another renovating a house close by, one juggling classes with being a single dad in Valencia for 6 months, some with desires to work in Spain. The oldest was in his mid sixties and the youngest 19, at the younger end of the spectrum, and everyone played nicely.
To practice our language skills we went to a couple of intercambios in Rufaza and had mixed results. I had been to one in Medellin, when I could barely order a beer and it was great, using games to get people talking. Neither was up to this standard but the worst was hosted by a disinterested youth and seemed to be orientated towards older English speaking men wanting to talk to backpacking women. All very sleazy. The other was better.
5 hours a day learning one subject is more than a little taxing, so we broke the day up with a glass of wine at lunch, afternoon tea, and once or twice, for breakfast too. This didn’t make us odd, it made us Valencianos!
The city has a great rhythm. Firstly they have 5 meals a day: breakfast (for many, this involves wine or beer, or wine and fizzy water), a late morning snack (sandwich and coffee.... or wine/beer), Lunch at 2-3 pm (a three course Menu del Día with wine), tapas hour at about 5.30, pre dinner snacks and then dinner at about 9pm... at the earliest.
One morning, early on in our stay, we went to the cafe in the market next to our school at about 8.30 am and I was disappointed to see they had not cleaned up from the night before; there were empty bottles of red wine, beer bottles etc on the tables. Observation over the next few days made me realise that it wasn’t from the night before, just breakfast. Don’t be scared by this; it doesn’t feel like a city full of winos as it’s all very civilised. I guess people just like to take the edge off the morning (some really try to blunt it, drinking neat brandy or whiskey with their morning pastries…..).
One of the great Valencia inventions is agua de valencia. It is a drink containing cava, orange juice, gin and vodka. It’s as good as it sounds, is very refreshing and can be a great start to a Friday at school!
There are small bars and cafes everywhere, mostly with great fresh food at ridiculously low prices. I constantly had to check the bill because I thought people had missed stuff off – it was too cheap.
We lived in a barrio called Rufaza, a vibrant place that is being gentrified and sits close to the city centre. There are great places to eat, drink and shop. It has most definitely been ‘found’ though and there are lots of tourists as well as hen and stag parties in the area.
There are many things I like about the Southern European lifestyle; the small markets in many neighbourhoods selling fresh produce, the sociable routine (partly enabled by the low cost of socialising), the little friendly bars, the outdoors stuff (walking to work, cycling in a safe environment, sitting in pavement cafes etc) all combined with a good climate and heaps of history. Perfect.
We had one major frustration whilst there, and this involved the car. WE had concluded that the most economical way to travel to and from Valencia, and to visit places whilst there was to hire a car, picking up and dropping off in Paris (one way rental across borders is horrendously expensive). Avis give me grate rates but you can only book for 1 month and we needed a car for 7 weeks. I asked the office in Birmingham how to solve this and was told it was simple; book for a month and extend before the end. The guy in Paris confirmed this too. It wasn’t simple and in fact took 10 emails, 22 phone calls and three visits to the local office to sort, against a background of some reps suggesting I had effectively stolen the car. It was solved without me spending any time in the slammer with Mr Big, but it was challenge. That said, to go to the office, explain the situation and have a long conversation about it….. all in Spanish……. Often using the right tense, was a bit of a high!
Things we really enjoyed doing there:
• Running and cycling to the beach.
• Treating ourselves to great paella at Casa Camilla near the beach
• Going to a Paella cooking class (lots of booze; still don’t have a clue how to make the stuff)
• Getting the 7 day valencia card and enjoying the bus tour, free/discounted entry to things and free wine and tapas.
• Going to the food and wine festival. Go early as it gets really feral after about 7pm.
• Finding the Bodega Baltasar Segui, a great locals bar in the very local barrio of Benimaclet
• The perfectly sized mini pizzas and perfectly cooked baked cheese at La Finestra in Ruzafa
• The Ruzafa market for morning coffee and a class of wine.
• Doing a behind the scenes tour of the opera house.
• The park. We loved the park.
The bottom line is that my spreadsheet worked. We had a great time in a city I thoroughly recommended visiting and we left a little under budget. Hurrah!
It was great to cross the border into Spain and, for me, I was delighted to be able to start to communicate again…in a fashion. I was glad to remember the word for approximately (aproximadamente) when we crossed the border and I declared that we had approximately the correct amount of duty free in the car……….
We were heading to Valencia for another month at Spanish school and drove via Tarragona and Peniscola, both on the Mediterranean coast.
Tarragona is an ancient city with lots of Roman sites, impressive buildings from every other period after that and lots of modern stuff making it a very liveable city. We also discovered that there thing was cheap aperitifs in the early evening; two glasses of vermouth, olives and crisps for a few euros. It’s that kind of thing that can help us really warm to a country.
One of the attractions of Spain is just how inexpensive it is to live. We found that we could travel, eat and drink well and stay within budget. Everything seems to be about 1/3rd cheaper than France, and booze and food seems practically free.
Peniscola is a little more touristy and expensive, but is a beautiful small town on a rocky peninsula and worth a detour to. Bits of Game of Thrones were filmed here, as well as other films and it’s easy to see why; dramatic vistas, old streets, crashing sea. All very lovely. Like France though, much of it was closed; we think it opened in May, but we still got to sit in a café on the walls, overlooking the sea and watching the sun go down.
Being a bit of a snob, I had avoided Andorra when we used to ski in Europe. It had a reputation for average skiing, average food and lots of stag parties. However, on this trip it stood between us and Valencia, we had some skiing gear with us, an ability to get a free hotel using air miles and J knew just how much I had enjoyed Whistler, so we decided to give it a go.
Being the end of the season we expected sub-optimal snow but lots of sunshine. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves driving up the mountain in a blizzard, with snow settling on the road……and me with nothing better than normal tyres on the car and distant memories of driving on snowy Northumbrian roads 30 years ago. It was a nail bitting couple of hours.
Some of my preconceptions were right. Food was average and there were large groups of lads skiing in fancy dress, getting increasingly confident and drunk as the day wore on. They reminded me of how I used to ski with my friends; our confidence was hugely disproportional to our ability and we were loud and dangerous. I wondered how many people had looked at me and muttered ‘Twat’ as I barrelled past them at breakneck speed thinking I could ski. They may still mutter ‘twat’, but now it’s mainly those who know me.
Other than that I found that was easily enough terrain to keep me amused and challenged for a few days, there was cheap-ish booze and a couple of ok restaurants on the slopes. On day one, as the sun was shining and we stumbled across a bar with champagne at a reasonable price, we though fuck being good children and stretched both the budget and the calories in/calories out equation for a few days.
The other great thing was that there was a couple of good dumps of snow then sunny days so we had almost perfect conditions and empty slopes.
When I consider the expense of Whistler vs Andorra, I would have to say that for up to 5 days skiing, Andorra is a great VFM location and unless you are an expert skier who wants to ski 10 hours a day, I would say save the cash and hit Andorra. If we were still in Europe, we would certainly return.
We only had a rough plan as we headed south. We needed to be in Valencia on the 11th April and wanted to get a couple of days skiing in Andorra es we went. Other than that, we wanted to find towns off the normal radar that had cheap AirBnBs available.
The first of these was Bourges, a few hours south of Paris and boasts a friggin huge Cathedral on a hill, some lovely parks, a huge reclaimed marshland full of small canals and allotments.
Next was a small, very old village a few hours further south and roughly in line with Brive-La-Gaillarde called St Cyprien. Our AirBnB was a basically a small shed on the side of a big shed. Small, but functional. My memory of the place will be a lovely long and flat run through French farmland and old villages.
To break the travel we decided to stop for a few days in Mirepoix, a reasonably sized town overlooked by the Pyrenees and surrounded by old castles on hilltops. Over the course of the next few days we discovered that most of the lovely castles were closed and in fact most of the area was closed, but we did manage to drink wine in the sunshine and I got to do the longest run I had managed to do since the Berlin marathon. Can’t say I enjoyed it too much but was glad to be heading in the right direction.
The tightness of our clothes and the state of our bank account made us realise just how much we had over indulged in Canada and England so we decided to impose a budget and food ‘hard routine’ and mostly in Mireprox we stuck to it, whilst sill enjoying ourselves. Aren’t we good children!!
Our clothes were also a bit smelly by then so e needed a laundry and discovered that in many French supermarket car parks there are huts with washers and dryers, so I got to spend a few hours in our car, sitting in a car park, watching our pants go round and round. What fun.
The moment we got off he Eurostar in Gare du Nord we realised that the adventure was starting again. The language, the food, the culture the way of doing things is all so very different. Spending time in the UK is like spending time with close family; Canada is a slightly more distant cousin. France is a mysterious stranger you meet in a bar. So much to learn, to understand and to enjoy.
Thanks to airline points, we spent the one night we had in Paris near the station in a very quirky and comfortable hotel called Robinet d’or before picking up a car and hitting the road.
One of the great things about being in France is that pretty much everyone knows the company I work for and many are rather proud of this huge French successes story. This also means that we get good deal with car hire companies, and I’m pretty sure the faux X 4 SUV I picked up is rather better than the 208 I booked.
Before we hit the road, I had a lovely run – following the canal south to the river, then heading west along the banks, around Notre-Dame and then back. Notre-Dame has had a tough time since then and I went to sleep rather upset the night it was on fire but was delighted that it was saveable when I woke the following morning.
I’ve mentioned before the tension I feel between my views on the negative impact of religion, past and present and the majesty of the buildings that are so many have produced. I find myself getting annoyed that so much money is spent preserving buildings rather than looking after those that need help, then getting annoyed when I see an ancient building crumbling away because the organisation want to spend all of their money looking after their communities.
The vast amounts of money pledged to restore the magnificent building shows one thing; we can afford to do both, we just choose not to.
We left Paris, keeping ‘The bear in the middle of the road’ – the phrase J uses to remind me to stay on the correct side of the road – and headed south to our first stop; Bourges.
In the past I have concluded that it is possible to love two, very different countries. The one you live in and know best is rather like the love one can have for a wife or husband; it is a deep down love that has been formed over years of getting to know them, understanding how they think, seeing the wonderful stuff as well as the less wonderful bits. The other country is a bit like a mistress; you visit rarely, have fun and get to ignore all the bad stuff.
The history we have had in the UK has helped to ensure that I have mostly seen it as the wife but this may be changing.
We loved the couple of weeks we spent there. The most fantastic bit is catching up with friends and family; seeing Nic in Birmingham, Jacquie and Nik in Netheravon, Mel and David in London, the whole gang at dinner in the Tower of London, the Booth/Tod clan at Andrew’s 90th at Mike’s house in Lincoln and our friends and neighbours around our lovely cottage in Devizes.
We also had a really strong feeling of what a lovely country England is; the countryside is stunning (and there is a lot of it….. those who say ‘We’re full’ clearly haven’t seen anything full), the history that is everywhere is incredible (Lincoln, and particularly the cathedral, was a real highlight). We also noticed how many pleasant people there are; working in bars and shops, chance encounters, staff on trains. Pretty much everywhere…. Even EE mobile phone shops. I guess they have always been there but when you live somewhere you don’t notice them, only the miserable bastards who appear to hate their jobs.
Out and about in England
It was great to see the cottage; it is a really, really beautiful house, in a lovely village in a very nice area. Our feelings were helped by the beautiful spring day we saw it on, a day which the estate agent remarked ‘is the best day in weeks; it’s been shit’.
Devizes and the Cottage
In Birmingham we ate a shit load of curry, all of which was lovely and pretty much everywhere, I drank a shit load of Guinness, all of which was lovely too.
Our time in London was a real highlight. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with Mel and David, south of the river near the Tate Modern. Since we lived in London 10 years ago, this area has gone from being somewhere that was ok but not a must visit, to a really vibrant area, helped by The Shard being on it’s door step. There are amazing new bits (near Tower Bridge), lots of revamped old bits, food trucks, interesting bars, shops etc and a really, really nice vibe.
On the other side of the river, the new buildings in the city were a real surprise and now, rather than The Vibrator being the biggest building in the area, it is dwarfed by many others, most of which are impressive feats of architecture. It is a very changed place and still one of the most interesting cities in the world (I hope the loss of £1tn and 6000 jobs due to Brexit does not effect the place too much).
We got the chance to see two plays whilst there. The first was in the Bridge Theatre and was called Always Alice which was completely unknown to us and turned out to be completely captivating. The second was Follies at the National Theatre (we would go and see just about any NT production in the NT). Neither of realised it was a full on musical…….we really should pay more attention to these things. It was a good musical, cleverly done and enjoyable, but not really as much of my cup of tea as Always Alice was.
Dinner in the Tower of London was fantastic. To have such a place to be able to get together with friends is very, very special. This one was a really international affair, with Carolyn and David coming from Oz, Fiona from Tunis, Mo and Bridge from Jerusalem, Kevin and Suzanne from France/Oz and the rest of the gang being spread out in the UK.
The Yeomen of the Guard, who come in to explain then guide us through the Ceremony of the Keys are always good and on this occasion he has fantastic, really bringing the ceremony alive.
From there we headed to a public loo………….. The Bermondsey Arts Club is rather hip converted ladies loo. Cool people with big beards go there, drink complicated cocktails and listen to cool music. They were delighted to have 20 old people in black tie turn up and pretty much dominate the 50 person bar. Some left. Those that stayed had a real treat. Mel took control of ‘the sounds’, blasting out cheesy hits from the 80s, 90s and naughties and soon everybody forgot they were cool and we all danced like lunatics until it was time to go.
Tower of London Dinner
London is a place that it is very easy to party in, which probably explains why, on our last night, I found myself ‘making shapes’, standing on Mel and David’s dining table, dressed in shirt, shoes, swimming shorts and goggles, recapturing a memorable night in Sydney in 2009 after celebrating me accepting my first job in Australia. This kind of behaviour is only ever acceptable with the mistress…
Dressed in my 20 year old bright yellow smock, resembling a giant, skiing banana, I had forgotten just how much I enjoy skiing until I hit the slopes in Whistler. For me, skiing is a perfect mix of physical activity, difficult skills, speed, risk, challenge, beautiful scenery and booze. I must admit that the booze is easing off a little as I get older and think back, with some fondness but mostly embarrassment, to the days when I was either drunk or hungover on the slopes, skiing with a speed and confidence that my skill most certainly didn’t warrant.
Whistler is a great place for skiing, with a huge amount of varied terrain and good old Canadian efficiency. The big draw back is the cost. At CAN$ 170 a day for a lift pass, CAN$750 for a day of private lessons and CAN$250 for a day of group lessons, it makes France look bargain basement.
We jumped in to the group lessons and am not sure I would again. The good news is that there are only 4 people in a class, but that where it ends. Groups change each day, so the first half hour is spent with instructors ensuring the groups are right. There is then the tension between breaking for lunch, wanting to maximise time on the slopes and acknowledging that not everyone can easily manage 5 hours on the slopes…….. On two days, my instructor was a little bit lazy and I think I probably had about 20 mins proper coaching in those days and spent the rest of the time merely following her.
I had 6 days on the slopes and J had three. Mostly I was smiling from ear to ear.
The initial plan was to bounce through Vancouver, fly to Toronto for a few days, then on to the UK….. until we found out that internal flights are far more expensive than international flights, so we changed plans to have a few more days in Vancouver then only connect in Toronto.
It was an opportunity to do some of the things that we hadn’t done because of our previous illness, to catch up with L&S one last time, and to eat really, really well (The Jam Café is absolutely fantastic).
I ran, we walked, we ate, we slept and we were re-united with some foutas we bought in Tunis and which Fiona had very kindly arranged to ship to her brother, Iain, in Vancouver (we have quite a lot of stuff in various places around the world right now (thanks Guy, Liz, Melinda, Tom and Nic…………).
It was lovely to visit Canada, to see Larry and Sandra, to ski and to be in a land of plenty. It felt rather more like a nice holiday than the adventure of the past 8 months, but that can be no bad thing. It is easy, relaxing and a perfect place to explore further when our bodies are less up for adventure.
It was bloody freezing, there was snow on the ground and J went out on the water………twice! Why? Creatures!
Tofino is a small town on Vancouver Island, a large Island off Vancouver. When I came last time, I thought it was a large island like the Isle of Wight but at 32,000 sq km, it’s 100 times bigger. Bloody huge.
Larry and Sandra knew a great place to stay just outside the town and it was our chance to enjoy a bit of wilderness without going too wild.
The Pacific Sands sits on a beach about 7km outside Tofino town and the windswept beach was a gorgeous backdrop. It was here that we realised that when it comes to being organised and wanting things to be right, J is an amateur. Sandra showed us how it is done and by the time we settled into our cottage on day two, at least 20 man hours had been spent getting it right. It was a very clean cottage!
Tofino has some great stuff to see; whales, sea otters (the dirty little fuckers), seals, eagles, a hot spring and some really, really big trees. We got to see most of the above on a day long trip to the hot springs; Humpbacks and greys entertained us on the way back, seals lounged on rocks and sea otters (the dirty little fuckers) frolicked at the entrance to the bay. The hot springs could have been a bit of a mare as only a few people can fit in at any one time. Luckily, when it’s 7c outside the majority of sensible people do something other than sitting in a small hot spring on the edge of a bay, so for the majority of the time, there was just J and I and the other guy on our trip (who we think was competing in the ‘Most negative man in the world’ awards and would have been drowned by us if the springs had been any deeper). I did feel sorry for the group of 12 who passed us as we were leaving as they were going to experience lots of strangers pressing cold flesh against their own…… It would have been like a very intimate none sexual orgy where everyone is wearing swimmers (so not that much like an orgy……. I imagine).
Hot Springs and Whale Watching
The big trees and the eagles we saw on a kayaking trip around the bay, wrapped up warm in a kayak made for two, guided by the lovely …… from Paddle West Kayaking. We covered about 10km and walked for a couple of km along the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island, which is exactly that. Some of the trees are 1800 years old which seems unimaginable. They are huge and rather awe inspiring.
The only downside is that J’s cold turned into such a violent cough that she sounded like a 90 year old Chinese man with a 60-a-day habit….who had a bad cold. She was so worried that she was likely to offend the rest of us that she confined herself to our room one day and missed out on the lovely surroundings.
When not out and about, we ate well, drank some booze and had a thoroughly relaxing few days.
From here, we headed back to the mainland, then on to Whistler!!
Out and About Around Tofino