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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MTB with Christian – Parc Colserol

It was a pleasure to have Christian come to visit. We’d been planning it for a while, and although the initial April trip was cancelled, Christian made it over with his bike ready for a few days riding in Catalunya.

Having been out on the bike very little, I was worried about my level of fitness (last time I rode with Christian we crossed the Alps… I was the fittest I think I’ve ever been, and he still left me standing). I was relieved to here that with him studying for his finals he’d done very little exercise too.

Over a Beer and the laptop, we managed to dig out three trails from GPSies that we planned to ride the next three days. Day one’s ride was actually a combination of a trail on GPSies and bits I made up myself from local knowledge.

Day 1 was supposed to be the easy warm up. Highest point being a mere 400 something metres up. As it turned out, my getting carried away with plotting a route on google maps lead to a pretty long ride!

Christian in front of La Mola

Me, in front of some green stuff

A long climb was rewarded by great views over Barcelona

Cube, Clearly the best bike manufacturer ever!

View of Barcelona from Tibidabo

View from Tibidabo

Nice snake bite puncture for Christian after a rather ambitious jump over a stream.

Looking back to Tibidabo and the TV tower towards the end of the day. It was a long ride.

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La Rioja

I’m currently building a website for a chap called Tom. He’s slightly more well off than most, so when he invited me to go to Logroño in La Rioja region to sample some wine, I didn’t have to think twice, especially given that Tom was going to be flying us there…

Arriving at the deserted Logroño airport there was only one ‘taxi’ waiting in the pickup zone. It was white, rather long and had a fridge full of Cava.

We went on two bodega tours which I have to say were facsinating. I learnt a lot about the wine making process but the highlight had to be when one of our group fell off his chair in the wine tasting session.

I was most impressed by the number and size of caves and tunnels that the wine was stored in to age. 100s of barrels stretching for over 100 metres. Perfect temperature and humidity apparently.

Of course both tours were completed by wine tasting sessions, which were great for the obvious reasons, but also very informative for someone as lacking in wine knowledge as myself. The oldest wine we tried was from 1969!

If you get a chance to go on a wine tasting trip, do so. Especially if you are lucky enough to be flown their in a light aircraft and chauffeured around in a Limo!

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Bubble Brunch

No year would be complete without some kind of party involving Philippe and large quantities of Cava. Once again we found ourselves on our annual trip to Brussels, this time for Philippes 40th, celebrated with the now traditional Bubble Brunch.

This year we had the pleasure of meeting Arno for the first time, and seeing Philippe and Astrid’s stunning new home in completed form.

We spent the whole weekend there, and to be honest, I enjoy helping Philippe prepare as much as the party itself. Especially well attended this year as he invited all of his new neighbours along as well.

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Another excuse to explore

Much like when I was living in Madrid, it was when people came to visit that I actually got out and saw things. With my parents visiting for several days, I had the perfect excuse to explore some of the national parks that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

Montserrat

Our first trip was to Montserrat. A very distinctive land mark that I first spotted back in 2004 when Mats, Niki and I came up to Catalunya to watch the World Rally Championship. It truly is a unique looking lump of rock. And what does my family do with big lumps of rock? Climb up them of course. There is a monestery on the mountain, but that was of little iterest for us, so we walked to the highest point (some 1236 Meters up). Ok, we cheated by taking the rack railway up he first 700 meters or so, but it was still a big effort. Well worth it though, for the views alone.

Barcelona

The following day we went for a wander around Barcelona. Standard tourist stuff, but nice all the same. Plaza España, Monjuic, cable car over the port, followed by a great seafood platter down by Barceloneta beach.

La Mola

La Mola is a 1,104 metre summit, located in the easy to remember Parque Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac, that I’ve been wanting to walk up since I moved here. Given I get my interest in trekking from my parents, it made sense to take them with me, so on the Sunday we did just that. Not as good a day for photos due to the haze, but a great walk all the same.

Three days and lots of walking. Seriously impressed with my parents fitness levels. If I’m as fit as my dad at his age… well, that’s something to aspire to.

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