A week in Brittany

When it arrived, unexpectedly from my French aunt messaged via Facebook to Espe, the invitation to join my Uncle and his family on they yearly trip to Brittany in France we didn’t need asking twice (even if we did take over a month to reply). We even managed to find cheap flights on the new low cost airline airline, Volotea, direct from Valencia to Nantes, where we were picked up by my Aunt and Uncle before driving onto the wonderful cottage they’d rented minutes from the beach in St Jacques close to Sarzeau.

We arrived late at night which exactly how I like to arrive somewhere new. That way you get to experience it twice. You get a bit of a feel for the place in the dark, but are excited and surprised to see it in daylight the following day. I wasn’t disappointed. A stunning long beach and pleasant village awaited us in the morning along with freshly baked croissants and pan au chocolate. On top of that we were blessed with stunning weather for the whole week (the week before we’d arrived it had been torrid).

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One bizarre phenomenon I’d not seen before, was the mounds of seaweed that had been washed up. One of the storms the week before we arrived had apparently really churned up the sea, and left tones of seaweed washed up on the beaches. In most places this just looked like a bit more than usual, but in some of the smaller coves, the stuff was pilled up to a meter high in places. Clambering across it was perhaps not the most appealing of ways to have to get to the the sea, but it certainly was a novel one.

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After a couple of days catching up with family, taking it easy and taking several thrashings at table tennis from my youngest cousin, we ventured a bit further a field renting out bikes. One day we took on a, possibly over ambitious, round trip to Arzon, but the sunshine, the exercise, the company, the views and the Ice Cream in Arzon made it well worth while.

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Great food, both cooked up in the cottage and experienced in some traditional places in the close by Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys made for an excellent laid back week, finished off perfectly with a quick stint attempting to sail a catamaran.

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Sofia’s first summer holiday

At the end of the spring / summer semester we took the opportunity to explore a bit of Catalunya. It was but a brief camping trip (much like this write up) but we managed to get up into the Pyrenees and over to the north east coast.

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We started our trip camping near Campdevanol where we met a friendly Basque family even if they did begrudgingly have to speak in Spanish with us. The following day we climbed some 1000 meters via the rack railway to visit the impressive Val de Nuria sancturary close to the French border. Stunning views and great walks to be had some 2000 meters above sea level.

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For the second half of the trip we headed over to the Cap de Creus peninsula. We stayed in Roses for a bit of beach time and took day trip over the hills to Cadaques which, despite the huge influx of tourists and rich artistic history, remains largely unspoilt and rather quaint.

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We’d deliberately limited the trip to just four days, with camping with a 11 month old baby being a bit of an experiment. Apart from struggling to get the food we wanted for Sofia and a flat battery in the Mondeo it all went pretty smoothly. Hopefully the first of many family camping trips.

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Lamborghini vs Lotus

A few months back I spotted an offer via Groupalia to drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini on country roads for a mere 99 euros. A discount of 75% of their normal rate. Ok, when you read the small print, it is only 20km, which will be over in no time, but… when else would I get the opportunity to drive such cars?

I signed up and mentioned it to fellow petrol head Juan (Mongol Rally 2009 veteran – Twingo mis Dudas). Unfortunately the offer expired before he was able to take advantage of it. With various phone calls and emails we managed to convince the nice people at Motor Club Experience to allow Juan to take on the experience too, but they then changed their mind and offered him a better experience for 30 euros more. In the end, we both changed and got to drive a Lotus Evora and a Lamborghini Gallardo.

I’ve loved Lamborghinis as long as I can remember (never been a Ferrari man) and I’ve been a fan of Lotus since drooling over Esprites as a kid. Going to the Nurburgring with Niki just went to convince me even more how great Lotus cars are.

So how was it? In short, amazing. On the outbound run I had the Lotus. Such direct steering and a solid chassis. And having a 3.6 litre V6, it had considerably more power than your average Lotus. Best of all, unlike previous ‘experiences’ I’ve been on, the guy really let me push the car. Fast flowing roads… great fun. Yet, the roads we were on didn’t come anywhere near to challenging the car. It was nowhere near its limit. Quite incredible to think what it would be capable of.

And the return trip in the Lambo? Ruined by traffic, so very few opportunities to see what she’d be capable off. I won’t say I was disappointed though, as I wasn’t. The noise and few brief feelings of the power more than made up for it.

I can’t think of any public road where you could legally push this thing to its limit, and probably not many where you could do it illegally for that matter. It is just so fast, and so capable. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about reliability… About 500 metres from the end of my trip, the engine cut between gear changes, and a warning light came on. I was asked by the instructor to pull over. She suspected oil pump failure. A part that has apparently broken for them several times before.

So, drove a Lotus Evora first thing. Broke a Lamborghini shortly afterwards. All that would be needed to complete a proper boy’s toys day would be flying a helicopter in the afternoon.

Spare a thought though for the 10 or so people who were supposed to be driving the Lambo after me. No experience for them, and even more frustrating for those who’d come a long way. One chap had come up from Alicante especially for it!

Want to do the same thing? Motor Club Experience

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Snowboarding

I was rather impressed with this, so I thought I’d share.

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Introducing…

…my wonderful little daughter, Sofia. Born August 12 2011.

My abysmal efforts to maintain this blog are only going to get worse from here on in.

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Worldwide Festival

If you know me well, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Gilles Peterson and listen to his radio show every week without fail. Several years ago I learnt of his festival that he puts on in the south of France. It has been on my 100 things to do before I die list ever since. This year, things seemed to line up. We were living close to Barcelona, a three hour drive from Sete in France, we were due some kind of holiday, and this was to be our last holiday as a couple rather than a family (for some time at least). So I suggested it to Espe and she agreed without hesitation, so off we went to Sete.

With the help of Bertrand, a friend of mine whom I worked with in Madrid, a bunch of luck with someone cancelling, we were able to get a room in an amazing homestay, minutes walk from two of the three festival venues, with a pool and views out over the sea.

The first day there was an opening party by the pictureque port where we bumped into Gilles himself.

I could go on for ages about the music, but instead I´ll mention the real highlights for us, both of which happened to be live acts on the same night at the Teatre del Mar. The first of which was The Pyramids, a jazz group from the 70s who´ve recently reformed, and I don´t think I´ve ever seen a group of musicians enjoy themselves so much. A really good act with so very impressive freestyling. We were seriously impressed, as was Gilles himself. I know as he was sat on the same row as us next to Toshio Matsura, and his smiles and standing ovation gave a pretty good clue. He has raved about them on the radio since, interviewed them and invited them for the Worldwide Awards at the beginning of next year.

Following on from The Pyramids, was James Blake. I´d heard a lot of his music on Gilles´ show, but hadn´t been that enthused, but live it really was something else. I still can´t quite beleive how well his eletronic music translated so well to a live show. I´d planned to duck out just before the end to get to the lighthouse stage for Ghost Poet, but I couldn´t leave such a good show, especially with the encour.

And the rest of the music? There was not enough hip hop for my liking (something Gilles admitted himself afterwards) and I missed Ghost Poet due to James Blake going on for longer than programmed. At times it was a bit too 4 beaty for me (more breakbeat next time please) but all in all, great music, great location, great weather and a great crowd. If you get a chance, go…

Oh, and one more thing. I returned from the festival engaged! Result.

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MTB With Christian – Montseny

Day 3. On paper the shortest distance, but the biggest climb, pretty much all of it relentlessly in the first 10km with no rest. A real mix. Woodland, moorland, wide continuous downhill, tight technical single track. An amazing ride, definitely glad we did this one last.

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MTB With Christian – Montserrat

Day two. Even hotter, greater altitude gain, but a shorter distance overall. We cycled up and around Catalunya’s most distinctive landmark, Montserrat. It really is quite amazing, but I’ll let the photos show you that…

A great ride, tarnished only by an impassibly overgrown section of technical single track which we had to walk back up again once we could get no further.

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