Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ascending the 'Wank'

Spent the whole day climbing up one of the many mountains surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen, amusingly named the ‘Wank’. We managed the four hour ascent in just over3 hours, the walk littered with dreadful puns, but clearly we were all stillquite fit after all the cycling.

It was incredible, climbing ever higher and higher, abovethe town, then above the top of the ski jump, then up amongst the other peaksin the area.


Penny grizzled about 30 seconds before we reached the summit. We were all sweaty and thirsty, especially Charlie as he had carried her up in the sling.

And at the top, the air was cool and clear, and we settled in the restaurant to eat meat and potatoes.

After a brief visit to the very top, with a photo, we took the ‘Wankbahn’ gondolas back down to the bottom. Pretty but also a little sad to lose all thatprecious altitude we had climbed so quickly.

An ice-cream and a bus ride back, we ate veggie spag bol fordinner and had lots of sleep.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Blooming Bavaria

Had a restful morning while Alex, Jason and Charlie went ona short walk, then we went into Garmisch to survey the town. Did a tour of bakeries, sampling cakes, andalso found ourselves in a great toyshop.

After a mammoth grocery shop, we headed back to the cabin toplay Andrew’s new ‘Mr X’ board game and to have another relaxing evening.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Bound

We left the amusement of the very visible showers at the Flemming Hotel early to catch our train to Innsbruck, and then to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany, where we were renting a cabin for four nights.

Long train journeys, but refreshing to climb ever higher into the mountains after retracing our steps through Linz and Salzburg. Jason even did a quick run around Innsbruck to take some photos.

Quickly grabbed some food for a hearty healthy dinner at Lidl before we jumped in a taxi to see our cabin. Small and practical, with very low eaves even for me, we had an evening in watching athletics and relaxing.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ahhh ... Vienna!

Had a well needed lie-in, trying to rest our confused limbs, which couldn't figure out why we were not off cycling again.

Met for a very late breakfast, another magnificent spread and our last as the bike package (with breakfast included) was now ending. Then we went out into Vienna, heading first to the big wheel to have lunch and say goodbye to Jon and Sofia. We then went to Stefansplatz. Andrew and I called in on a very good Austrian therapist, who gave incredibly good massages, to help us with our cycling aches, and so we were very chilled out as we wandered round the grand buildings of Vienna, the galleries and splendid squares, throughout the afternoon.

Then we went back to the Flemming Hotel near the West Bahnhof, where we had transferred our cases to earlier in the day. Pleasantly surprised by the food in the pub restaurant over the road, my ribs were great, and then to bed.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Day 6: Spitz - Krems - Tulln - Vienna (62 km)

We knew this would also be a long day, and also that the heatwave was probably going to end at some point. But we stopped off in a village for our free wine samples (yay!) and also for a lunch stop in Krems. However, as Matty and Greg were not taking the Tulln-Vienna train as they wanted to cycle the whole way, they got going to make good progress.

We took a more gradual route along the Danube, but there was not so much to see, and the overcast sky seemed to be declaring the end of this section of the holiday. So we powered on to Tulln and the train station, with only the briefest and breeziest of ice-cream stops, and had a hasty panic as we got all the bikes and the trailer onto a carriage with lots of steps.

Then, arriving in Vienna, we agreed that it would be crazy to try and get all the bikes on the Vienna underground (never mind the trailer), so we cycled through a very windy Vienna city, by the graffiti strewn cycle tracks by the canal, and almost being blown off our bikes as we reached the hotel and the rain started to fall.

A relief to leave the bikes after 6 days (and lots of km) of pedalling. We all went out in the rain, seeking Sofia's sister, but as we were all getting cold and wet, we ended up diving into a very pleasant Italian for dinner.

Then back to the hotel for a couple of games of werewolf with drinks ... those with more energy went out seeking clubs and karaoke!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Day 5: Grein - Ybbs - Pochlarn - Melk - Spitz (76 kms)

Charlie and I left early to get a little cycling time together, but mainly to avoid the 38 degree heat that had been forecast. We expected people to catch us up, and it was actually very cool in the shade of the trees on the south side of the Danube.

However about 8 km away from Ybbs, Charlie ground to a halt as he realised the bolts had broken on his saddle and it had come off. Unsurprisingly, Greg and Matthew were not too far behind us (by far the best/fastest cyclists of the group), so Matty suggested someone else donating their saddle to Charlie as he had the trailer to pull, and Greg agreed ... and cycled into Ybbs with no saddle!

So, we did not make the headway we were expecting, instead we set up camp at a very hot garage while issues big and small with the bikes (oil, more air in tyres, new saddle bolt etc) were sorted.

Also the lady at our guesthouse in Grein had said that there was a ferry from Melk to Spitz, which I was quite keen on Penny and I catching to avoid the heat (and as 75km was a long way to go anyway, never mind on such an excruciatingly hot day). But unfortunately we got the times wrong and so I missed it and had to cycle along the whole way.

But it was a pleasant cycle, stopping off to see the Venus of Willendorf (of which a small replica is now proudly on our fridge) and starting to see that we were now cycling through the wine region of Wachau.

Up another hill to our hotel in Spitz, and as we pushed our bikes tiredly into the garage, we saw a very happy looking Matty in the pool at the back of the hotel. It was still early, so most of us had a plunge to get the heat off us.

I was now coming down with the cold that started with Alex, then went to Charlie, then me. Waterfalls of snot and general grumpyness with throbbing head seemed to be the theme, but fortunately it didn't get to Penny and I seemed to manage it ok.

Spent the evening doing the traditional Alex quiz, which was won by Matthew G and Jason ... lots of fun thinking of red/white EU flags and the links between the answers (like the Harry Potter theme).

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Day 4: Linz - Enns - Wallsee - Grein (58km)

Cycled through Linz to get to the Danube cycle path. Was strangely flat after the ups and downs of the first 3 days, but we knew we had many more kms to travel than on the previous hillier days.

Again we splintered into two groups, one group of us going straight to the historic town of Enns (the oldest in Austria), while the others took an extended ride to the monastery. So, after a relaxing lunch (me, Penny, Charlie, Alex and Andrew) the others arrived, but we kept on going to Wallsee, joined by Jason who took a short lunch.

This was the hardest stretch with Penny of the whole trip. She simply wouldn't settle. Although we tried Calpol for her teeth, it was pretty clear that it was just the heat. If we stopped and took her out for an airing or to feed her, she was happy straight away. But to make any progress towards Wallsee she had to be in the trailer. So as we climbed up the steep hill into Wallsee in our highest gear with Penny yowling away, we were very pleased to see the others at the top and to stop for some air and an iced tea.

Had a quick stop by an unexpected set of dodgems on our way out of town, and met up with the whole group on our way towards Grein.

Our guesthouse had a vast and comfy balcony, so we hung out for a little while before going out for a big meal in the restaurant over the road. Was a funny night, as the group was used to the exhaustions of cycling and quite bonded by this point. And the food was delicious!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Day 3: Altmunster - Gmunden - Lambach - Linz (32km)

It was pretty hard to get out of Gmunden, with its steep hills and roads (we were far too used to well-maintained cycle paths at this point!)

We cycled through cornfields, through little villages, and on to Lambach where we caught the train to Linz. A short day again, and a little confusing anticipating how to manage getting all the bikes on the train, though we needn't have worried, the Austrians are very used to bikes. Enjoyed the refreshing aircon on the train, and also the very short walk from the train station in Linz to the Ibis over the road, which was to be our resting place for the night.

Wandered into Linz, resisting a peek at the Danube, which would be our new travelling companion for the remainder of the trip ... which would be long days of flat cycle paths (very different from the trail so far).

Had an afternoon of coffee and ice-cream, and an evening of beer garden, then Charlie and I went back early to the Ibis to put Penny to bed.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Day 2: Unterach am Attersee - Traunsee - Gmunden - Altmunster (39km)

Tired, but not to achy on waking, we returned to our intended hotel to pick up our bikes and carry on our way.

Although a short day of km, this proved to be one of the harder days for uphill.  Plus a lot of it was on the road, which added an extra element of nervousness.  We decided to make a push to try and reach the 12:30 ferry across to Gmunden, which we successfully did as we kept rest stops short and focussed.

We saw Greg and Matthew S cycle off into the distance, as they had decided to cycle the kms rather than cheat by taking the boat, but the rest of us were happily on board.  Enjoying lunch and the scenery, it was great yo know that we were going to be doing only a little more cycling once we got off, and that we would be very early at our hotel for an afternoon and evening of relaxing, after the mild chaos of the previous evening.

So, a quick cycle from Gmunden to the hotel and we were all downstairs again at 3pm to go and explore the lake.  We found MatthewS and Greg, and all had a well-deserved relax by the shore.  Andrew, Jane and Matthew G hired 2 colourful boats, and so I jumped into Andrew's to enjoy an hour of floating round the beautiful lake.  Excellent for relaxation!

Had some beers and ice-cream before going back to the hotel for dinner on the terrace.  A very good end to a very good day!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Day 1: Salzburg - Mondsee - Unterach am Attersee (45km)

As the bikes couldn't be delivered in the morning, Charlie, Penny and I went ahead to get her all sorted. And with a baby carseat strapped firmly into one of the two seater trailer spaces, it was a very good solution. And the bikes were very sturdy ... a relief on both fronts!

So everybody else then arrived and we all got sorted out, with seats adjusted, panniers filled and sunscreen a plenty. After a slight false start, a kind Austrian lady led us to the start of the bike trail in her car, and we were off.

The first stretch was tiring, due to the heat (our holiday co-incided with an Austrian heatwave) and in my case, my leg muscles saying 'what the hell are you doing to me'?

The countryside was green, each house traditional and pristine with sumptuous windowboxes. And the wind rushing past your ears is very liberating. And of course Charlie did masterfully well pulling his daughter across Austria.

After a stop for lunch, and some Calpol for Penny as her teeth were hurting, we went further on towards the lakes. Through green fields and downhill past the Drachewand (dragon wall) to Mondsee. We found a good spot where most people went in for a much needed refreshing swim, and Greg produced a delicious watermelon from somewhere.

Then on to Attersee, where unfortunately there had been a mix up with our hotel (they had 1 room booked instead of 6 ... eeep!). So we were whisked off to another hotel, where we had to dash out to dinner to ensure they were still serving food, and we were all keen to go out as it was Andrew's birthday. Penny was being amenable, until her TB jab burst, and we had to deal with a green pus filled bloody mess during the dashing.

So, tired but relieved to have a bed and food, we did Andrew's birthday quiz which some of us had compiled for him, and then gratefully went to bed.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Met everybody at 11am on the Staatsbrucke to explore the city.  A quick diversion to one of the squares where Andrew and Charlie (with some help from Matthew S) played giant chess., then a slow walk uphill to the fortress.  Very hot at the top, P and I both relieved by the coolness inside when we took the tour.

Went back down the hill on the funicular railway, and split up as some of us stayed in the city to chill out in a cafe, while others went to see some fountains a bit further out.

Bustled back to the Holiday Inn and on to the Zur Post hotel, a little disappointed that our bikes needed to be collected, rather than being dropped off as we expected.  Especially as we were eager to figure out the Penny/trailer situation, we had to hatch a complex plan for the morning.

But as for the evening, we all went to a traditional beer garden for dinner and drinks in anticipation of starting cycling on the morrow.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

On Yer Bike ...

Up at 5.30am to jump on a tube to Heathrow to start our Austrian Bike Trip. Matthew, who had stayed over, Andrew, Charlie, Penny and I met up with Alex and Jason at the airport, and we a little chuffed when we were put into the v short 'family queue' rather than the very long 'everyone else' queue.

Penny was v good on the flight, as always a relief. As we were in Munich for a couple of hours, we went to the same beer garden as we had visited 2 years previously on the railtrip to have some re-energising lunch before powering on to Salzburg. Started my love affair with käsespätzle.

Then onto a train from Munich Haptbahnhof for a couple hours to get to Austria. Eventually made it past all the unattractive roadworks by Salzburg station to get to the Holiday Inn, where we met Matthew G.

Then, exhausted, went out for dinner with an equally exhausted and grizzly Penny, before going back to the hotel.

Quickly met up with Jane and Greg, who had happily managed to find each other and had enjoyed a fun day in Salzburg together, including the Marionette Theatre.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Our New Kitchen

Domestic bliss!

After a week and a half of chaos, with washing up being done in the bathroom and the entire kitchen contents cluttering up the lounge, we now have an immaculate and gorgeous kitchen.

I almost don't want to put anything back in there, as it will ruin the simplicity and beauty of it!

Felt exhausted in the evening, even falling asleep in the bath ...

... but Charlie kindly took care of Penny, and brought her to me for her bedtime feed so I could catch up on sleep.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Delicious Dinner

After an uneventful day, met up with the NCT ladies for dinner at the Hive. Was a great evening, with the Hive outdoing itself on the food front. And good to learn a little more about them all, all with a background of wine and relaxation.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Day of Joy

Marion, Robin, Elle and Eva kindly brought round Penny's cot, she looks so tiny in it! And was kindly treated to lunch at the Ritzy, all looking bright and cheerful in Brixton!

Went round to Erika and Dan's for a dinner with them, Rick and Theresa. Was just one of those evenings where everybody was on good form, the wine and cheese in full flow, and Penny was very sweet ... so we chatted and rambled and ate and drank. Just perfect!

Monday, 15 August 2011


Met round an Sophie and Dave's very unique and beautiful house in Streatham for our weekly afternoon tea session, and Dave had made some spectacular cakes. Very much admired their kitchen, and had an indulgent G&T before heading back home to look after Charlie whose tummy was not quite right.

Finding I quite like a nice G&T ...

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bikes and Brixton

Felt a bit more with it after more sleep last night. So cycled round to Caroline and Nathan's to pick up padded bike shorts in anticipation of cycling lots every day. Happened to see a carboot sale at Brockwell Park Lido on my way, so Caroline and I wandered round. Lots of lovely tat, and some genuinely useful/beautiful bits and pieces. Got a pretty pink necklace and a bear suit for Penny amongst other bits and pieces.

Swung by Alex's, good to see his folks who were helping him sort his flat out. And pleased to see a message of unity on the boards of Foot Locker:

Then home to feed the baby, where Fish was making good progress on finishing the Greece/wedding video. Then out to Brixton to buy food that doesn't need cooking and to return the Mothercare sling (which was simply not worth bothering with, much prefer the Baby Bjorn).

Eventually got round to going to Andrew's to wash the nappies as we are still sans kitchen/washer.

A visit from Makeila at 6. Good to see her, and she kindly brought cake. Then an evening relaxing in front of TV and Facebook.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Secret Garden and Sci Fi Library

Up early as the guys were in again to make progress on the kitchen. They spent most of the morning getting a ridiculously large piece of kitchen worktop through the nursery window, thank goodness they were successful!

So, as the work continued, we went out into London. First to the Centre Page pub near St Pauls for fish & chips, and for the little one to earn her nickname 'Penny Poopy Pants' .. sigh! Then we went to Postmans Park, a little north of the cathedral and Paternoster Square.

The park was serene, small and pristine, like so many others in London. It had a tiled wall from 1900 which featured tiled tributes to those who had died through self sacrifice (which Charlie had seen in the film 'Closer' last night). Then quickly up to the British Library to lightly browse their Sci Fi literature exhibition.

Once home, I took the opportunity to catch up on a bit of sleep, and we watched the fabulous documentaries on BBC IPlayer at the moment ... both episodes of 'Great Thinkers' and another Paul Merton show about the origins of cinema.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Chaos, with a Chink of Light

The flat feels like it is upside down and inside out. Our kitchen is being redone, so all of its contents are in the lounge. From food to the washing machine, so clutter abounds. And you only realise how much you use your kitchen, to grab a glass of water or to take food from the fridge, when you don't have one. But progress is being made fast, so the black and white tiles are already down (and they really work!), and the cupboards are already in place. It will hopefully be finished by the time we leave for our holiday, so it will be quite the job to put everything back on our return.

I have been trying to get out of the chaos, so we went to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery yesterday. Good to see 'Sunflowers' and 'The Rokeby Venus', challenging to find the step-free access with the pushchair.

Also, finally sorted out the bike trailer conundrum, as we now have a baby support/sling courtesy of Brixton Cycles, such incredible customer service they have there, clearly the best bike shop in the world ever! And they are a co-op to boot! Brilliant :) So now we have 2 options, strapping the carseat into the children's bike trailer, or using the support. It was a bit different to the hammock style I had seen on the internet, but it is clear that it will do the job pretty well.

Spent the evening at Andrew's trying to get some washing done, though his drier seems to be a bit sub-par. Watched 'The Illusionist', which was ok and quite entertaining but not a patch on 'The Prestige' for integrity and grittiness. Then I slept through 'Closer', which sounds like it might have been a bit annoying.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Takes it Easy

After the busyness of the weekend and Monday, decided to take it easy for a day while Jed started work on our kitchen. All a bit complex, with everything stacked up in the lounge and needing to do washing up in the bathroom sink.

Horrible to see the aftermath of the previous night's violence, though warming to see indignant Londoners responding with activity, chanting 'where's your broom' at Boris Johnson.

Had a nice cup of tea and a cookie with Mum and Dad in the afternoon, and Norris popped in in the early evening.

Finally got some jobs done in the evening, with the background of 'Clerks' ... an odd but amusing film.

Brixton, and the whole of London, closed for business. Silence ...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Some Work, and the Violence Spreads

Decided not to go into Brixton in the morning, as I figured I couldn't be very useful and would therefore only get in the way.

Bustled around the house all morning getting things done in preparation for my away day afternoon with work, leaving Penny with Granny and Grandad. Having quickly run through the details of milk, teats, nappies etc, I dashed off on the bus to Waterloo.

Was great to feel involved again, and the knowledge and skills are clearly still embedded in my brain, and of course lovely to see all my colleagues.

A little unnerving to see crowds in Hackney on the tv screen, with word flashing up about Lewisham too as we heard police vans careering southwards. I was a little late home as all buses were full, but everything had gone very well with the afternoon's babysitting and Brixton seemed eerily calm. We joined my folks, Andrew and Alex for dinner and headed home early to avoid any trouble and were glued to the tv and web as pockets of craziness popped up all around our poor beautiful city.

Why I Love Brixton - The Morning After the Night Before

Brixton is a place of great beauty, from the vibrancy of the music that runs through the streets, to the elegant architecture, to the tolerant and easy-going people you come across. I have loved living here for almost 5 years, and I don't expect that to change.

I feel very safe in Brixton. Granted, there are occasional 'altercations', but these happen in many London boroughs and are often the consequence of so many people living so closely together with an underlying gang question that most capital cities have to manage. And most Brixton residents I know feel very positive and happy about their surroundings.

So it is an odd thought to consider that many of them, like me, were confused by how persistent the low-flying helicopter was last night, and turned to Twitter to see what was going on in the absence of any news through the BBC. So many people trying to get a good night's sleep before a Monday morning at work after a summer weekend, distracted from sleep as they were captured by the online telling of chaos happening only a few metres away.

I appreciate that there has been tension in Tottenham, but how that equates to midnight mobs stealing tvs, phones and trainers in Brixton I don't know. And there are bigger questions about the economic situation and how that drives people to protest through rioting to get attention. But for me the BIGGEST question is one of values ... how can we champion and nurture a society which thrives on the value of a cohesive and peaceful community, rather than the violent acquisition of more stuff? How can you teach people that social harmony is worth more than an HD ready flatscreen giant tv.

Mr Cameron, society must be more than big, it must be empowered, positive and above all it must have hope.

My husband Charlie took a detour to see some of the damage north of the Tube station this morning, and he said it was a chaotic sight, with police struggling to keep pedestrians away and the massive demands on their police tape supplies as they blocked up shop fronts. Shop stock litters the streets, and the damage will take some time to clear up. Felt even sadder to hear that our local Game Station, and even Barnardos Charity Shop, are damaged. I presume some of the high street name shops caught up in it may choose to leave.

But I hope fellow indignant Brixton residents will agree that this is only a minor setback which is now over, and that Brixton will soon be as it always was. In fact I have just heard from my parents on their journey to Acre Lane Tesco that the market is happily up and running, with music filling the air as if none of this had taken place.

And I am sure so many of us wish it hadn't, because we love Brixton.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Pottos Again, and Newts, and Otters!

A Sunday swim with Norris and Alex before meeting Mum and Dad at the Tube to get to Camden Town. After a little lunch, and meeting with Andrew and Sarah, we went to the Zoo.

And oh, how lovely it was! Except for the rain, we saw lots of great animals ... from the playful otters, to the cute newts, to the ever cuddly pottos.

Emptied our kitchen completely in the evening, and popped out to get milk from the shop over the road with no idea of what was going to unfold in Brixton overnight.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A Swim and a Lovely Meal

Went swimming with Penny again in Tooting. She seemed a little more confused than last time, probably because she slept all the way there. But soon she was kicking away happily and we did two dunks this time.

Made a delicious (if I do say so myself) Shepherds Pie for myself, Fish, Mum, Dad, Alex and Jon, followed up by some yummy waffles. A nice evening in, with a bit of Pucket thrown in for good measure.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Super 8 and Hyde Park

Saw Jon before he left for his interview, then straight to the Ritzy to join Sonia, Massimo, Kay, Richard and Jo to watching 'Super 8' at the Big Scream. Was a good film, drawing you in with its cultural references and intriguing you re the main plotline. But it was a big homage to ET, the Goonies and similar 80's films really ... not unique, but still good.

Then after lunch met with Mum and Dad to go for a bike around Hyde Park while Mum looked after Penny. At least, that was the plan. We struggled a bit with the Boris Bike machinery and so only managed to get Dad's bike to work. SO he happily went off for a cycle, and I chatted with Mum.

Fortunately the bus was not too packed on the way back to Brixton. Then Charlie and I went to the Duke of Edinburgh beer garden with Penny to go through our financial situation over a plate of ribs and a beer. Things looking ok, but we are aware that we have been a little frivolous over the summer, and as my maternity pay is about to diminish, belts need to be cinched in a little.

Finally got a grizzly Penny to bed then we relaxed .... ahhhh!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Back to Work III

Went back in to work to have lunch with Sam, to meet with senior people to talk strategy, changes and new news and to eat some cake. P was v good again, having a little grizzle in the meeting, but falling swiftly to sleep thereafter.

Then back home for Caroline to come round for some Penny cuddles, then for me to to take her out for a celebratory birthday dinner at Fujiyama. She seemed on great form, happy at work especially.

And after sashimi and black sesame & green tea ice cream, went back home to see Jon had arrived as he is staying with us over the weekend. Watched 'Freaks' was him and Charlie, very very odd and massively exploitative but a little interesting historically, I suppose.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Dinner for 7

Still tired on waking. Then off the a much depleted yoga with Penny before heading back home to prepare dinner for a lovely evening with Mum, Dad, Theresa, Demetris, Charlie and Andrew.

T&D very kindly brought round the spare oven they have, in time for us to start our renovations next week. And we had a delicious dinner together of baked chicken, followed by chocolate mousse which was fabulously easy and great tasting to boot!

Great to see everybody and P was v well behaved so all was relaxing and jolly.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Promising Disappointment

An empty diary day, though attractive with such promise of exiting things to do, was not used very productively. Was v tired, almost lacklustre, like having a bad cold. So slept a little and got a few minor jobs done. And was a little proud of the cards I made using the batik paper ... :)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Another week

Hung out with Matty all morning, good to see how relaxed and happy he was with Penny, especially showing her the cricket.

A lovely afternoon at Kaye's house with all NCT mums and babies. It is fab seeing all the lovely houses where they all live, so smart and elegant and warm.

Had mushroom risotto for dinner with Matty, Andrew and Charlie before Matty headed off.

Charlie then spent the evening out with the NCT boys.