Time for a catchup! Week(end) 47

It’s been quite a long time since my last post, which came out as slightly more heavy and philosophical than intended. Nevetheless it’s time for a bit of an update, not because I’ve been lazy, but because the past couple of weeks had not had much to update about. But finally this weekend, we did something a little exciting and different which didn’t involve mostly sitting at home on the Internet. 

In actually fact, it was my mum’s birthday on Monday. And though we had sent a card, we had not yet sent a present. Now, before someone decries that as horrible, allow me to explain. When my parents were last in Holland about a month ago, we had a chat with dad about the possibility of surprising mum with a visit. We all thought this was an excellent idea, with the exception that my parents were away last weekend. So we pushed back one weekend, and got an excellent deal on some flights to Geneva. (Roughly the same price as a meal at a smart restaurant for two people), for both of us together. So we pounced on the deal. We put dad in charge of discouraging mum from actually planning anything for this weekend. 

Friday evening we skyped mum and explained that due to “logistical problems” her present had only just arrived, and that therefore we would prefer to bring it to her ourselves……that evening. So would she mind coming to Geneva at 10:30 to pick us up. 😈

And with that, off to the airport we went.

Arriving late in Trevignin on Friday we got up on Saturday to torrential rain. Before anything else, some shopping needed doing to feed these unexpected additional mouths. Whilst in the supermarket, the temperature dropped and upon coming out we could see that outside the valley, the snow had started to appear on the flanks of the surrounding mountains. We returned to find the village covered in a fresh blanket of snow. In fact, the first snowfall of the season.

 

The view from mum and dad’s bedroom window.
 Jackets were gathered, walking boots were found, along with a plethora of gloves, hats and scarves and Catherine and I headed out for a walk in the fresh snow. 

 

Le Revard, in a brief ray of sunshine.
 Now I’m quite a fan of microadventures, little escapades that serve no purpose other than feeding the soul and making one exceedingly happy. So instead of just walking along the road, we headed up into the fields, and then through some bushes and scrub into  a little wood to try and find a stream. We then pushed through some more trees and followed the stream up into another field. 

 

All wrapped up and warm!

 
The snowplough doing its first round of the year, and removing our footprints in the process.
 We walked along and then back down into the woods. Along the way we found a discarded bathtub (which I was tempted to use as a sledge), and an observation platform that had probably been built by a local farmer for hunting. We then ran down the steep field through the snow (because why not?) cut through some more fields and back to the village. Here I got the head torch out, not because it was particularly dark, but because it fed the adventure my inner ten year old was having, and we sniffed the air for the log fires that were starting in chimneys nearby before standing in the village square with our tongues out, tasting the falling snow. 
 
View on the Massif de la Chartreuse (my parents live at the meeting point of the Jura, Chartreuse and Alps ranges.

We got home and lit our own fire in the chimney before preparing all that is required for a delicious raclette. Including pickled onions and gherkins, ham, rosette, boiled potatoes and of course, slicing a large chunk of cheese. After raclette we had a game of quirkle, and dad had me tastes delicious whisky from Wales. From the only distillery in Wales, as a matter of fact. For those interested its “Penderyn”, and it’s very smooth and very very tasty. 

On Sunday I was adamant that we should make the most of the mountains and the snow. So we picked a walk out of one of our guidebooks, gathered the required equipment and jumped in the car. Upon arriving, we noticed there might be a little more snow than we bargained for, but undaunted we set off. It was a stunning walk, the weather played ball and we crunched through the snow in wonderful tranquility. 

We did a route called Le golet de Doucy et Le col de Bornette. 

   

One of many little huts
    
   

We had gotten almost all the way to the end of our walk before noticing we had not yet stopped for some lunch (which I was carrying). But atop a little rise, a few hundred metres away we spotted a small hut along with a couple of barns. We figured we would find a spot a little way out of the wind, against a wall or something, but it was so much better than that!!!
  It turned out to be a refuge. A small hut available to mountaineers as a place to rest up. Complete with table, chairs and a small stove. (Or maybe it was a very dirty person’s house, in which case, our apologies for trespassing). So out of the wind, we managed to have  a hearty lunch, complete with hot drinks out of the thermos, big chunks of bread and ham. After lunch, we descended back towards the car, but I must admit, we got a bit silly. Having snowball fights, pushing each other into the snow, making snow angels and slithering down steep snowy banks. It was generally epic fun. 

  
  
  
 

Few creature comforts, but who needs em?
 
On the way home, we stopped off at a bakery, to pick out some cakes for our cup of tea. We’ve lit the fire, and now, time to relax. And with a day off tomorrow, no need to rush back to the airport!

I also spliced together a quick time lapse video, but it was shot from my pocket, so the view isn’t great. Nevertheless, I’ll add it below when it’s uploaded to YouTube. Though as we are on satellite internet here, that could be a bit later…  

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Week 44: A week of firsts!

[Update: Apologies for anyone trying to read this post last night, a technical error meant we suffered from a bit of premature e-publication…..]

After all the excitement of last weekend we took the week fairly easy. Combined with a few later evenings at the office, it was a quiet week at home.

There was one picture I wanted to include form this week. It’s a quick snack I resort to when all else fails. It simply tabasco and salt on bread. (I checked with Andrew, I’m not weird…..).

Oddly satisfying nibble
Strange taste predilections aside I followed Catherine in signing up for our next race! We’ve changed tack completely this time, no long distances (well, depends on who’s point of view you’re using) and no roads. This time, we’re going for a trail run….at night…..in March. Yes, its the Neverest Runforestrun Night trail run. Obviously this is going to require some slightly different training. Though trails are in the mountains right? And this is Holland, ergo there are no mountains, so how bad can it be? (Famous last words?…..)

We started the weekend off by dipping a toe into the Netflix show “Narcos”. Which after a couple episodes we are looking forwards to continue watching.

Saturday was a productive day to say the least. As it was halloween we started off with some early morning pumpkin carving. But a jack-o-lantern with a face is boring, and as Catherine is a mad cat lady, we decided to make a witch’s cat instead. I think it turned out quite well. The plan is to roast the pumpkin seeds in such a manner.

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Following such excitement, we decided to raise it up a notch and prepare a picnic, jump on the motorbike and head out to the beach. A short 40 minute ride got us to Noordwijk. It was really nice to take the old girl out for a spin again (I’m referring to my motorbike, not the Girlfriend!), as she hadn’t moved since mid-august, just sat forlornly on the street outside our apartment. Amazingly, the tyre pressures were still fine, and she started on the first press of the starter. She might not hbe the most soulful bike, but by jove is she reliable!

Anyway, it was a sunny day and we were quickly very warm. For the last day of October we could not have asked for better weather! Catherine even ate in just her t-shirt! After a bit of lazying about we walked off up the beach and then came back through the little section of national park which is adjacent to the beach. A selection of pictures follows.


  
We rode home to prepare some dinner and get ready for the next thing on the plan for Saturday. My first ever live football match! It’s no secret I work for a sports apparel company, and we just happen to be close to Ajax Arena, where Amsterdam’s Ajax football club are based. And as I won the draw for seats for this weeks game I got to go along and take Catherine with me! The game itself was a bit of a massacre, with Ajax butchering the visiting team Roda JC (whom I’d never heard of). The ambience was really nice and jovial and quite frankly it was all over way too quickly. Also at one point in the match, everyone got their smartphone out and starting flashing the flash…. very strange. But I filmed a quick clip of it to show everyone! 🙂 I filmed a few other bits and pieces too that I’ve spliced together in a quick video (or I might combine the two, I haven’t decided yet).


  
 Anyway, I’m no football fan, but if the opportunity to go a football match presents itself again, I will definitely go. Catherine and I agree that we would like to go see Bayern play at the Allianz Arena in Munich, after all, we already have the appropriate attire!

Sunday was a lot quieter! We did all the necessary things in the house. As well as a small reorganisation in the living room in light of the arrival of my graduation present to myself…. In the afternoon went to see our friends Helen and her slave Matthijs at their very first market stall in Westerpark! Yes indeed, The Baking Tin had it’s first public outing! We took home one of each cupcake for a private sampling. If you follow my instagram, you’ll have seen why I spent the afternoon drooling. We also walked around the market a bit and picked up some interesting cider from Scotland from a friendly chap who’s business it is to sell Cider. We got a Whiskey cask aged cider and a cider with Ginger. I have high expectations from these two little brews. Interestingly, the chap told us the brewer (is a cider maker a brewer?…) doesn’t add sugar to the fermentation process, but rather chooses a particularly sweet variety of apples. I will report back…..


click on the picture to visit my instagram feed
We also saw a market stall that sold lamps made from reclaimed car parts, including an old Garret turbocharger (which I’m coveting), but I must have noted down their name wrong as I can’t find them. 😦

That brings us neatly to Sunday night. After dinner we will be rounding off the evening with a trip to the movies to watch Spectre with a well earned beer (though in the movies, it’ll only be Grolsch).

And here finally, is the quick clip I put together:

Week 43: Graduation

It’s nice waking up on a Monday and only having three days of work in the coming week. By Wednesday night, my parents arrived up from France having visited my cousin and some friends on the way up in Alsace and Germany.

Early Thursday morning we got up to go the the airport to pick up Catherine’s parents who flew in on the first flight. After showing them our apartment and enjoying coffee and tea, we headed out to lunch. After lunch Catherine’s parents made their way to Groningen where they were booked into a hotel for the night. We returned home to pick up my mum and dad and head into Amsterdam. But first, we needed to solve a common problem, tablet addiction….

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Me: So what would you like to do? Them: “Grunt”

After dragging the youth away from their devices, we headed into town and had a look round, starting at Waterlooplein and walking over to Rembrandtplein, De Munt, taking in the flower market and walking up to Spuistraat to have a drink where, much to Catherine’s look of terror, we were joined by a mouse scurrying about under the benches.

From there we walked slowly over to the Overtoom by way of the Apple store (because that’s what you do right, just to check everything out, even though it’s the same as last month when you visited), and Bever outdoor sports, because Dad and I are the kind of guys who could look at and debate the merits of outdoor gear for days, (much to both our partners dismay).

We tried to get into an Indonesian restaurant, but it was full so we crossed the road and went to a Thai restaurant instead. (We knew both, so we weren’t disappointed). After dinner, a walk through De Wallen was the done thing before catching a metro home.

Friday was my big day! Finally, graduation day! We got suited and booted and jumped in the car for the 2 hour drive up north to Groningen, where we met Catherine’s parents, and because we were early, went off for coffee and cake. At the required timeslot, we returned to the main academy building for my short graduation ceremony, which took 15 minutes all-told.

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My supervisor delivered a short speech on how we met and the work that was put in throughout my thesis project (and that is ongoing, my thesis has been adapted into a book chapter on lean management). Thereafter, it was time to sign my diploma, and with a handshake, I was a graduate!

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Then followed the customary pictures on the main stairway in the academy building.

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Wards: In decreasing order of size

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Thank you Mike for showing up and for the beer!

I then took everyone to lunch. We wanted pizza, but our favourite place didn’t fire up the pizza oven until 3, so (quite fittingly I think) we went to the Goudkantoor, which turns out to be the place my parents and I ate the first time when they brought me up to Groningen to move in over two years ago, therefore I thought it would bookend my life in Groningen quite nicely.

Saturday morning my parents hit the road for Germany to visit friends on the way home. We met up with Catherine’s parents in town and after a quick lunch, checked out the queue at the Van Gogh museum to see the Munch exhibition. However we decided that 45 minutes was a long wait and that we would book online and return the next day, so instead we walked back and had a canal tour.

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7 Bridges in a row.

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We then walked through the Vondelpark. At that point I decided everyone looked thirsty, and miraculously, we ended up one street away from Craft and Draft…. 😉 so in we went for a couple rounds. After that we returned up towards Nieuw Markt for some chinese food at one of the best addresses in Amsterdam, Nam Kee. As per usual, Catherine and I ordered the calf tripe, and salt and pepper squid. The chinese waiter always does a double take when I order the tripe. He always double checks that I do indeed want the tripe, to which I always tell him, of course, bring it on! I also have him remove the plates and cutlery and bring bowls and chopsticks instead. Just for extra authenticity.

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And with that, have a good Sunday!

B

Week 41

Since our tumultuous weekend (and Monday), not a lot happened. We were both ill with the flu this week so we’ve mostly just gone to work and tried to recover in the evenings. We’ve been a bit sleepless on account of sniffles, coughing, and general aches and pains. So all in all, not a particularly eventful week (and quite a busy one on the work front).

Instead, I thought I’d share a quick video I made over the summer when I moved (it was the perfect opportunity to take a road trip with the boys). I quite like time-lapse photography and videography, and it’s something I would like to do a little more of, I just need to find interesting subjects to snap.

So, without further ado. Enjoy your weekends!

B

What happened this week? Week 40

It was supposed to be a quiet week at work, but that’s just another way of saying its a week of lots of meetings, and still needing to do desk work! No matter I’ve got interesting projects to work on, and I managed to get it all done.

Monday we got stuff done, so I’ll skip talking about that. With the exception that we were a little tired. In the night of Sunday to Monday we got up at 4:40 to see the “blood moon” or lunar eclipse, which coincided with the moon being closest to the earth for the next 33 years. Arjen told me about it on Whatsapp the evening before, and as I figured I wouldn’t get the chance again until I’m 58, I figured why not?

 

I used several cameras but this is the best I could do.
 Tuesday was another busy day, but it was also Tashi’s birthday. We arranged to see him after work, he brought a few craft beers along which we sampled. All very good choices, which can be seen on my untappd profile (see the link in last weeks post). 

After work Wednesday we went round to Matt and Helens for bottling of our beer! Obviously preceded by one of Helens excellent meals. Let’s let the pictures tell the story!

Before starting. Bottles sterilised.
 
Inspecting the contents of our vat.
   
Bottling gets under way.
    
Bottling continues and makes a mess of the floor.
  
Bottles need capping (officially its called racking).
  
We should give it a taste.
  
Hmmmm, interesting.
  
Matthijs agrees.
 

Overall it was a fun experience (which we will attempt again soon). We’re not sure whether our beer is 1.8% or 18%. But it smelled and tasted roughly like a beer. Time will tell. 6-8 weeks in the bottles for second fermentation. We’re very excited to taste the result!

Thursday night was another quiet one, as we were prepping for the weekend…

But what will we be doing that required preparation?

What happened this week and weekend? Week 37.

Monday evening Catherine and I went to the climbing hall again. Slightly more crowded than last week, but I followed one of the “routes” this time. The purple one, averaging a level 5 with the odd foray into 6.

Wednesday marked an important day! Catherine and I celebrated being together for five years! We met in Amsterdam for a dinner date at an Ethiopian restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious, and as an added bonus we ate with our hands! Surprisingly, we wolfed it all down very quickly.

Cheshire cat smile on the Cat-herine

I had an interesting “African” beer (Mongozo, flavoured with mango), which turned out to be brewed in the Netherlands (I like beer, as evidenced by my Untappd profile). We topped it off with Ethiopian coffee, which was much milder than the coffee we’re used to here, but very fragrant. I thought I got some clove flavours out of it. Despite it being our “anniversary”, Catherine opted to sleep on the sofa-bed that evening because she needed to leave for work at 04:00 the next day!!! Being an intern at an air freight company, she got to go see a jumbo jet get unloaded , having flown in overnight from Africa full of fresh cargo (mostly flowers and mange-tout). Unfortunately for security reasons, I cannot share some of the cool pictures she took of the plane and surrounding apron during the unloading. She also got to climb into the plane for a good look around. Being a bit of a supply-chain kind of guy myself, I’m very disappointed I couldn’t have joined the field trip! This not being enough for Catherine, she went straight from the airfield to a job interview… (no, I don’t get it either).

As a result, Thursday evening was very quiet, and Catherine went to bed very early. To make up for the lack of interesting stories on Thursday, here is a picture of my bike, which I promised in a previous post.

My new ride

Friday evening I declared I would quite enjoy a pasta bake for dinner. So we got the ingredients together after work. Unfortunately we hadn’t read the recipe in sufficient detail, and began what turned out to be a 2:30 process. Halfway through I cycled back to the supermarket for some pizza, as we were halfway through and it was getting close to nine o’clock. (To be continued).

Saturday was given over to finishing the pasta bake and just getting the usual household-y stuff done like shopping cleaning and the like. My shopping trip to buy a couple shirts was hi-jacked by Catherine as we went out, she dragged me into a different shop, and wouldn’t let me go until…..the shops closed. This was followed by a night out to catch up with Matt, Helen and Tashi. Turns out Helen has had a few cakes commissioned and we’re very pleased for her. I will include a link to her page as soon as she sets one up (fear not, we’re encouraging (nagging) her to do it).

Sunday lead to a bit of a lie-in, more chores and a long run in the afternoon. I pushed my furthest distance up to 27km (still a long way to go before Marathon-readiness), and experimented with SIS energy gels, which I think on balance will be my sport gel of choice come race time. Unfortunately Andrew had not yet gotten the all-clear from the physio, so I went solo. Here’s the link to the strava file. The last couple kms got very slow and shuffly, so there’s work to be done there. The plan is to break 30 next weekend, 35 the next and then bring it back down for October 18th.

Another week gone! (Where do they go, and how do they go by so fast????)

What happened this week? Week 35.

The week started fairly calmly. Catherine and I ran a cool 5km together to prep her for a race in the next few months. We’ve set some targets for her to work towards which we think are realistic and achievable. 

Wednesday morning Catherine flew back to the UK, leaving me in charge. Wednesday night I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years. Pretty much the only person I’d vaguely kept in touch with from my one year of schooling in Paris. We had a good catch up at the Hannekes Boom in Amsterdam (a bar for which I am entirely not hipster enough). 

Thursday night I had the summer barbecue at work. Which surprisingly turned out to be great fun. I always thought work parties were rather cringey affairs where everyone is very self conscious, but it turns out my office likes a good party, as evidenced by them drinking the bar dry by 9pm when the party was due to carry on until late. (Cue much scrambling by the catering company). Despite my strongest affirmations that I do not dance I was proven wrong over a three hour period. 

Friday night I went back to Groningen for a goodbye party at my friend Sabines place. (Though I’m not sure what she’s saying goodbye to as she’s stuck in Groningen for the next four years to do a PhD, smartass). And crashed on my buddy Mike’s couch. It had been a long time since I slept in a sleeping bag, and it’s just reminded me how much I yearn for a camping trip! I’ll have to organise something sometime before it gets too cold (but is it ever too cold?….)

And that wraps it up. More on the weekend in the next post. 

    As an added bonus, we saw an amazing rainbow from our balcony this week! (Picture coming when I get more bandwidth). 

What happened this week? Week 34

It has been a quick week! At least it felt that way. Monday evening we threw in the towel and went to IKEA to pick a bed. The initial plan was to get something non-ikea, but sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room was getting a bit much, so we went for the quick fix. It was delivered the following evening at 11:30 (yes, it was late). 

Wednesday evening we had the pleasure of Andrews company. He came to drop off some energy gels he had ordered in exchange for some running shoes. (I cycled home after work on Wednesday looking like I had raided the shoe shop.  

And yes indeed Martin, the crate you brought to Holland for me has been given a new lease on life on my bike. (Soon to be transferred to another bike, but more on that in a couple weeks). 

To break them in, I wore my new running shoes to work on Thursday (my employer allows it, which is totally awesome). I got Adizero Feather Boosts, which in Andrews words, “are like second socks”.  

Sunday I’ll give them their maiden voyage as running shoes as Catherine and I go on a running date. 

Thursday I completed the building of the bed, but of course, we couldn’t sleep in it, as the mattress needs to regain its shape over 72 hours. :@ 

To cap the week off in style we went to Sail Amsterdam Friday evening to meet Matt & Helen for the firework display. Both Sail and the fireworks are very worth it! We will return Saturday afternoon with Tashi to check out the boats in more detail. (No pictures of the fireworks, as they never turn out well). 

 

Yes, all of those things sticking up are masts
  
This guy was very keen on the use of his foghorn
  
Not sure who this gentleman is, or why he’s in the picture, but Hello.

A quick drink at a bar by the harbour (frequented by French sailors, who had apparently decided to dress as stereotypically as possible, including stripey shirts, berets and pencil moustache…..honestly, all that was missing was a baguette and some garlic) and we headed home for some rest. 
  

What happened this week? Week 33

This week flew by! It was my second week at work, so training was ongoing and there was still a lot to absorb. I go “live” next week with real responsibilities so that should be exciting! 

On Tuesday we got the keys to our new apartment! So our evenings have mostly been taken up with packing up our current place. 

Thursday we were treated to an excellent Balinese meal by our good friends Matt & Helen as a thank you for looking after their cat when they were on holiday. (We also got presents, which are totally awesome).

Every day I moved one of my rides over to the new place, so Wednesday was the turn of the old city bike (lots of effort, took 45 minutes),  

The red ligts are there for jumping, they stay red too long.
 Thursday the race bike (same old – 30 mins) and today the motorbike (no effort, 15 mins). Unfortunately from my new place the motorbike isn’t worth taking as going by road takes longer than cycling through the shopping centre, and as a result, kitting up for the race bike isn’t worth it either. But I am allowed a tax-free new bicycle through work, so a fourth bike may soon be added to the household! (Because y’know, why not??). 

Moving day tomorrow! Very excited!