All entries for February 2006

February 28, 2006


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SaussesMmm… what a perfect holiday. 4 days of fresh air, clean water that didn't make my hair manky (since obviously that is the most important thing – priorities, priorities), stunning mountain scenery, excellent food, and being outdoors in the sunshine and cool (read freezing, at least in the shade) mountain air.

Anna, Leonie, Laurence and I stayed in the pink house pictured in the bottom left corner of the photo on the right, cunningly named "la maison blanche" in a bizarre attempt to confuse hapless tourists who make it that far up the Vars valley (Alpes Maritimes / Alpes de Haute-Provence).

I am fast developing les fesses de fer, not to mention les cuisses "de la mort"tm, as a result of morning runs up and down various big montagnes around Sausses, not to mention our hike to Castellet-les-Sausses where we were almost benighted thanks to an evil boil-ridden local farmer who had put up an "Accès Interdit" sign across the one track leading back to Sausses.

On our first day we explored the medieval village of Entrevaux, where we were mistaken for French language students at Nice University by the restaurant owner (flattering both because we can still pass for students, and because our French must have sounded reasonably plausible). I tried the local speciality "secca de boeuf", which consisted of wafer-thin slices of delicious dried beef served with lemon juice, olive oil and puy lentils. Given I don't normally eat red meat, I was surprised at how bluddy amazing it tasted.

On Sunday we got swept up in a local lemon festival in Menton (a.k.a. Chin), involving various citrus sculptures and other lemon-related activity. Unfortunately we never actually experienced any of this since lemon-lovers far and wide had pilgramaged to the Côte d'Azur to converge upon Menton in a frenzy of pressées, pulp and peel. There was literally nowhere to park within a 6 mile radius of the town, so we popped across into Italy for a pizza.

VentimigliaAs we explored the old town of Ventimiglia, we encountered a Divine Sign from the skies, seven freaky felines, and a chain of 21 furry caterpillars wending their way along the pathway. And we were told by a car parking attendant not to leave our dog in the car in the midday heat (would have made sense… except we didn't have a dog, we weren't parked in his carpark anyway, and there was actually quite a chilly nip in the air). All in all Ventimiglia was a bit surreal, not to mention difficult to escape from. Pizza was excellent though.

Besides these day trips, most of our time was spent preparing and eating some very delicious food (e.g. Leonie and Laurence's goats cheese and mushroom risotto), walking /running /scrambling up mountains in an attempt to burn off the vast quantity of pains au chocolat consumed (it was a losing battle, the pastries were always going to win…) and simply breathing BREATHABLE AIR.

Much as I like the pace of life in London, indeed need the buzz of city life to prevent myself dissolving into tears and lethargy and boredom, at the same time I love open spaces and running/hiking and just being in a place that nature has so obviously shaped, a place where you can't help but respect its power. If nothing else a place free from the jaded office workers and the filthy air and – most importantly – the twatting northern line.

Right now I am very happy to be living in London, but at the same time I need to make sure that I take time to eat properly, to exercise, to read, relax and just spend time being, whatever that means.

Not to mention escaping to small french villages and remote mountain locations given every available opportunity.

February 21, 2006

les vacances!

Two more days of work and then it’s time pour partir en VACANCES!... I am currently suffering with a cold, generally feeling run down and knackered, have been struggling to get into work at a decent time, struggling to stay awake once there, and then leaving work dead on five o’clock for the past couple of days. I even missed French class last night because head was so stuffed up with cold, and all I feel like doing is lolling around in bed with a hot water bottle.

Anna sent us some info about the house where we’ll be staying this weekend. Being left in peace in the middle of some beautiful french mountains sounds bluddy lovely, and just what I need right now:

The village of Sausses is situated 75 km North West from Nice on the Alps Maritimes/Hautes Provence border in the upper Var valley. There are 80 inhabitants during most of the year and about 200 during July/August. The population is entirely French except one British couple that we virtually never see. There are no shops, (except a visiting shopping van) no bars or restaurants. The people are friendly but leave you in peace. The house is situated on the edge of the village and has South West views. The area is very beautiful. There are exhilarating walks straight from the house. Skiing is 40 minutes drive.

Very excited now. Just want to do lots of walking, drinking of nice wine and eating of delicious food. And not think about pensions or read the business pages or the FT for a few days.

February 01, 2006

Run run as fast as you can…

gingerbread manMade it back to the gym this eve; first time in months! I HAVE to keep up the good work, since never in my life have I shelled out so much for a bloody gym membership as I did yesterday. Oh yeah and I'm doing another half marathon in April (Reading), so it might be wise to do some training so as to avoid otherwise Certain Death. Anyway I managed to run 4K followed by a short stint on the cross-trainer – not that impressive, but a start. Now i'm going to bed to try to get 9 hours sleep in the hope that I will stop feeling so exhausted and grumpy all the time.

February 2006

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