Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lovin' summer

There are a few pictures to go with all these words. Click here.

Back in Canada now where by all accounts the summer was a washout which makes me all the more grateful for the generally great weather that we had in Europe. When we landed in Ottawa it was like walking into a steam room but thankfully the hot humidity has given way to sunny, cooler weather and ideal conditions for rehabilitating my desperately unfit body in time for the autumn cycling and running events.

But what of the last three months?! Since writing my account of the Paris-Nice epic in between dips in the villa pool I have had yet another lifetime of experiences. I have often thought this summer how lucky I am to be able to do all these things in my early thirties – a rare opportunity to change career, study and explore Europe before knuckling down again to the world of work.

If you want to read no further then here is the whistle-stop version: after a few days at the villa in Nice it was back to England for George's stag weekend, off to visit my brother in Oxfordshire and then onto Ghent in Belgium for orientation for my job as trip leader with Venture Europe.

The end of orientation brought reunion after 6 long weeks away from my wonderful wife and a little bit of time together on the drive down to Geneva to pick up the campers. Thirteen American teenagers duly arrived and we spent the next three weeks completing a huge loop of the European Alps, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland and taking in glacier skiing and snowboarding, downhill mountain biking, a 3-day hike, canyoning, wake boarding, summer luge and even a visit to see the Tour de France. All the while we were camping and overseeing our capable cook crews as they scoured the supermarkets and came up with delectable dinners

Once we had dispatched our happy campers back home to the USA and driven the vans up to Ghent Crystal and I headed off to spend our hard earned cash in Venice, Slovenia and Croatia. Meanwhile the Canadian Immigration Service had other ides and demanded my passport in Buffalo. So once we had flown to Venice our first activity was to FedEx my passport back to Crystal's parents who in a display of unreserved parental devotion drove from Ottawa to Buffalo to hand deliver aforementioned passport before couriering it back to me, who is now in Slovenia's capital Ljubljana. While this has all been going on Crystal and I have seen the sights of Venice, dined on the Grand Canal, taken the train to Slovenia, climbed the country's highest mountain, relaxed by the beautiful Lake Bled and I have thrown myself off a rented bicycle – hard and onto tarmac. The tarmac claimed some skin in part exchange for a generous amount of embedded gravel which was duly removed by a very understanding doctor who cheerily remarked “I'm not letting you leave with any of our Slovenian stones!”. I didn't argue.

With hands bound like a boxer and a very sore body we took the train on down to the capital, retrieved my passport, wandered the old town, munched on ibuprofen and indulged in Ljubljana's 12 screen multiplex for a showing (in English) of the Hangover. Very laugh-out-loud amusing and made all the more so because the Slovenian subtitles were slightly ahead of the dialog so our fellow cinema goers got the joke just a little before we did. Then to Croatia for an all too brief island excursion and a night in Split before heading back to characteristically grey and drizzly London.

But fun was to be had up north at my third wedding of the summer with the Leeds hiking society with no less that five couples staying at the inauspicious Durham-Tees Airport Spa Hotel. Good times had by all courtesy of Ceilidh dancing and good old English ale – oh, how I miss thee in

Once done with festivities up north it was finally time for me to be reunited with my second love... one silver-grey full-carbon Trek 5000 bicycle that had been residing peacefully with Tim's parents in Starston near Cambridge ever since I had ridden into Nice way back at the beginning of June. Alas we were not to ride together straight away, not least because my wrists were still quite compromised from the Slovenian fall.

By now our rented Polo was starting to feel the strain and this was before pick ups at my Aunt's and my Dad's. On from Starston to London where we enjoyed the luxury of no less than four consecutive nights in the same bed courtesy of cousin Anthony and Rose. The now annual Hyde Park picnic ensued, a gourmet kitchen session saw my culinary skills resurface after several dormant months and a bit of valuable downtime was lapped up by us both.

Then onto the tour of the south – Granny, Auntie Anne, Mummy's grave (for the first time since Alistair and I buried her ashes in January) and the weekend with Daddy and Elizabeth including a ferry trip to the Isle of White and tour of the new sailing boat. Finally onto Alistair's to dispatch my worldly possessions to be shipped to Canada and then home to 590 via Ottawa airport's immigration service where I landed as a permanent resident of Canada.

On second thoughts, even if that is the whistle-stop version I think it may be enough! Suffice to say, amazing summer full of every type of activity and experience I could hope for. I have done way more traveling than anyone deserves to do in a lifetime and it keeps getting better as I refine the activities that I want to do and get more and more out of it all.

Enough said, except to thank everyone who was so hospitable, welcoming and kind to us over the course of the summer.