I’ve Got Red On Me

A couple of months ago, I dragged Red (see Maaates) to the taping of the worst show on television. Drinking a moscow mule in the bar afterwards, I gave her permission to book us on to anything she fancied. I’m a good sport.

Scratch that. I’m a really good sport.

Red signed us up to a obstacle/race/game called “2.8hours later” where we had to attend Zombie School (about as official as the Ponds Institute) and we honed our skills in the ways of the undead. We then spent an evening freaking paying punters in the mean streets of Manchester in various fancy dress.

Red was dressed as a doctor and infected people in an old infirmary.

I wandered the backstreets with a hoard of zombies where we effectively frightened one Scottish woman out of the game; last I saw she was crouched behind a van shouting “I cannae go onnnn!!”. Another guy freaked out while running and was taken away in an ambulance. Wimp.

It’s just make up, honest. Out of context, it’s even more terrifying as I discovered on my way home when I stopped at a convenience store for a bottle of water (making zombie noises messes with your throat in a big way.) Had totally forgotten I was still in costume until I saw the worried faces staring at me.

Anyway, it’s my turn. Any suggestions for what to drag Red on? I need to top this.

Posted in Friends, Oh God Why?, random shit, Shit People Do | 3 Comments

Spin Cycle

Blog lite mode lately, sorry to all both my readers. Here’s what I’ve been up to.
Lately we’ve had a bit of this…

Which means I’ve been putting these on a bit.

And having a go at things like this. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

But that’s okay, because I get to eat lots of this.

And I get to hang out with this guy.

I’ve got all the gear, and no idea.

But I’m loving exploring more of Cheshire.

Gorgeous, huh?

And my friends who stopped by recently are very supportive, of course. (That’s Skippy and Bruce, those Aussies we met in Iceland. You remember them, right?)

In fact, I’ve found lots of people who like cycling around here. It’s the new golf, apparently. But more inclusive of women. And more lycra.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing: cycling my way around sunny Cheshire and beyond!

Posted in Fitness, Friends, UK Life | 4 Comments

Just Duathlon It

I’m going to be honest for a second. I’ve gotten so wrapped up in cycling that I have not run much. Or at all. Like when a girl dives head first (some times quite literally) into a relationship, I abandoned my old friend running. I feel shit about that. I’ve become the female equivalent of a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra). I’m currently watching about six bikes on eBay. None of which I will actually buy, given I have two in the stable already.

So, what happened? I got the fear. I gave running a break after the disastrous half marathon in Chester. I say disastrous, but I still ran it in under 2 hours. But still. I rested my knees (which are fine by the way) and focused on cycling. I began to wonder whether I would ever return to running. I even questioned whether I should. I can cover way more ground on a bike and it feels, well, easier. I can rest while doing it and no one is any the wiser. Not like running; take a ‘break’ during running and you instantly feel like people are mocking you for walking, even when there is no one around. To date, the only race I have walked at all is the Chester Half, after 12 miles when the sun was beating down on me and I’d run a total of 40 miles that week (plus an ill-advised 22 mile ride the day before). Unfortunately my ‘walk of shame’ was in front of a crowd who could see my name on my bib and called it out. Sure, they were probably encouraging me, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I’d hit a rock bottom in a race and though I didn’t have a single familiar face in the crowd, it felt more personal than ever. I was inches from a DNF. (Must remember to donate heavily to St John Ambulance).

I’ve done a couple of obstacles races in between then and now and while it brought some confidence back, I countered that with the fact that obstacle races do give you plenty of time to recover so I wasn’t really running.

So I kept cycling.

Until this week. I bit the bullet. It’s time to get over Chester. I tentatively went out for a 2 mile jog with no expectations, which turned into a 4 mile run and some decent pace (8:15min/mile). Not uber-fast, but not shabby. I will put it down to the cycling that has retained some dormant fitness in the legs. And then I did something that I may later regret.

I signed up for a duathlon and a half marathon.

I’ll be ‘competing’ in the Oulton Park Duathlon (transition is in the pit lane which is pretty awesome) and the Lake Vyrnwy Half, reputed to be one of the most scenic half marathons in the UK. If this goes well, I might even do the Conwy Half.

Hold me.

Posted in Fitness, Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, Weight Loss | Leave a comment

Royal Tease

There’s a show on TV at the moment. I can’t help but be a bit disturbed by it, which is saying something because I watch some seriously messed up shit.

It’s called ‘I Wanna Marry Harry’. The premise of the show is that a Prince Harry lookalike auditions a dozen American girls to be his girlfriend, making them believe he is Prince Harry – it is not so subtlely suggested at first but the lovelies are then blatantly told he’s Harry. The girls stay in a massive country estate for the duration of the filming (where ‘Prince Harry’ seems to have a lot of free time and no public engagements) while he wines and dines them in turn to get to know them. Occasionally a security alert or paparazzi scuffle is staged to reinforce the ruse. Each week one girl is promoted to the Crown Suite – a bedroom that the ‘prince’ makes visits to. At the end of the season for the big reveal, when he has selected his intellectually-impaired ditz, he discloses that he is just a fake ginger guy from the Home Counties to see whether she really liked him for who he is. Sounds innocent enough if you can suspend your disbelief that anyone would actually think that this is how the real Prince Harry would select a life partner.

In reality, it’s a show where a regular guy knowingly dupes a giggling impressionable daisy-duke-wearing bunch of good looking young American girls to compete for time alone with him, where (at least this is what they aired on TV) he kisses and fondles them, sometimes on a bed, sometimes in public places. He pretty much gets off with all of the willing girls who become increasingly obsessed with doing anything to win his affections. I’m certain that none of them would have given the otherwise nice fella the time of day if he’d been presented as a broke-but-pleasant environmental consultant.

I know, you’d have to have failed a basic IQ test to be on the show, but still, it prays on a certain vulnerable type of person, and it’s this that bothers me. For a start, they really believe he is royalty and really want to please him because of his status and (to no small degree) what this could mean for them. Each week another girl is cast aside in floods of tears, made to feel a utterly worthless (their words, not mine) because she has failed to turn him on. Remember, this of course is done under the palatable guise of him trying to find someone that will love him for who he really is, and not the opportunity to stick his tongue down their throats. Right. Based on the dream of the life he could offer them, they will do literally anything (muck out shit in a stable, run through mud, jiggle their bits seductively in a ‘talent competition’ for his amusement) to be with him. It’s a bitch-slap in the face for modern feminism. But it’s okay because they are all over 18. It’s amazing the difference a few years can make, even if the person is just as naive or vulnerable.

Maybe I’m watching far too much TV at the moment, but it all sounds a bit familiar.

I’m making a point here. Can yew tell what it is?

Posted in Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, The Royals, Things That Shit Me | 6 Comments

Where’s Vegemite?

Kudos to anyone I’m not friends with on Facebook who gets this. Will at least give you half a chance and tell you this charming little place is in Cheshire though, because I’m nice like that. Funnily enough, it plays host to a lot of comedy and music events, and the best thing is, I can cycle here from home.

Oooh, fancy.

So, where is it?

Posted in Cheshire Life, Fitness, This Expat Life, UK Life, Where's Vegemite | 11 Comments

Water Wipeout

I think I mentioned recently that I quite like an obstacle course or two. Owing to The Husband attempting a brave coast to coast cycle with his mates, I was at a loose end for the weekend. What better way to fill it than an obstacle course? Exactly.

So I found one that was water based, and figuring it was going to be middle of summer (read: at least 16 degrees, maybe higher!) I signed up and made my way to Nottingham. This, readers, is the X Runner Water Wipeout course. Let’s take a little look, shall we?
This thing was at the National Water Sports Centre. Lots of parking and facilities pretty good.

10Km run, 60 obstacles. Many of them are water based, most of them don’t have spectator points to get decent pictures of, but be assured they are all fun. Water slides, cargo nets, mud crawls, you get the idea.

Too tough? You can be soft and dodge them if you really don’t think you can do it. But that’s cheating.

The final stretch is a run up a big hill, just to fuck with you.

Most people just haul ass over it.

Or if you are me, leap over the line like you have the energy of a 4 year old on Haribo.

Then claim your medal and revel in sweet victory.

They’ve got more events on, check out X-Runner if you fancy having a shot.

Posted in Fitness, Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, UK Life | Leave a comment

Hooked On A Wheelin’: Evolution of a Cyclist

I might really like cycling.
It might have started in Paris with a Fat Tire bike ride where I felt a bit epic cycling down the Champs Elysee without a care in the world.

Which might have inspired me to buy a cruisy little commuter bike when I got home.

Which might have led to swapping that for something else.

Which might have led me to book one of the most fun tours in Svalbard.

Which might have led me to deciding that what I really want to do is go really fast sometimes. I might have tried to sneak a road version of the same bike into the garage like a woman that hides shoe purchases.

The Husband might have noticed, but not minded.

I might take on the Rapha 100K Womens Ride on 20 July.

I might really like cycling.

Posted in Cheshire Life, Fitness | 2 Comments

Wolf Run – Summer Edition

I’m a sucker for obstacle courses. I have no idea why; I’m not very good at them. Other than the running element I positively suck at the obstacles. I lumber over logs, tyres and hay bales, clamber awkwardly on cargo nets and I’m generally legs akimbo on everything else. Plus, I bruise like an over-ripe peach. And yet, I sign up because I like to prove myself wrong. Despite how muddy, stinky and arduous these things are, they really are good fun. The Wolf Run is a pretty good one. (Wolf stands for Wood, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields, by the way). My first encounter with it was the Winter Wolf last November (these are held every season). It was a test of stamina, the ability to stand near-freezing water and at some points, my marriage. It was run incredibly well and even though my lips turned blue and my jaw locked from the cold, I signed up for another one.

When April rolled around, I contemplated giving the Spring Wolf Run a miss. The Husband was away and I couldn’t decide if I was bothered to do it alone. Then a friend gladly snapped up the spare place and it was on. Off the back of this, she signed up for the Summer Wolf Run and grabbed a couple of extra wolves to take part. If there is one thing that makes these things fun, it’s taking part with other people. So I signed up again as well.
What a likely bunch of clean-faced folk. What you can’t see in this picture is the shocking hangover I had. Or the lack of training. After the Chester Half Marathon where I collapsed in a pathetic heap over the finish line, I hadn’t run in the last month. At all. Not once.

Undeterred (or still drunk) I took my place and ploughed on. And finished it.
I needn’t have worried, we rocked the course in good time. Sadly, the Autumn Wolf Run is sold out – so I can’t make it 4 in a row. That might be a good thing.

If you aren’t afraid of a bit of mud, can comfortably run 10K, and are a bit too scared for a Tough Mudder race, give it a go. I dare you.

Posted in Fitness, Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, UK Life | Leave a comment

Where’s Vegemite?

Eagle-eyed scenery spotters, particular those in the energy industry… this one is for you.

Where is it?

Posted in UK Life, Where's Vegemite | 12 Comments

World Cup Whinge

Excited about the World Cup? Not me. I loathe soccer/football. I refuse to get excited even when Australia play in the World Cup. It’s not just that you can’t enjoy a beer at a live match, or stand peacefully next to someone supporting the other team or that the players fall over a lot and pretend to be in pain. No. It’s that supporters tend to be a bit fanatical.
Uh huh.
Too much? Nooo…
It’s not limited to buildings either. Every other car has those daft flags flapping away and wing mirrors covered with the red cross. The mood of the entire nation seems dependant on a bunch of overpaid actors to successfully kick a ball about. Of course, when they don’t kick it well enough, it’s not even their fault – whoever is managing them will invariably get sacked. Which seems like an excellent way to be employed – in my profession, if I suck at my job it’s normally me that gets the chop, just saying.

I can only hope England are their reliably under performing regular self and that we bow out in the group stage so everyone can put the fucking flags away for another four years.

Posted in Fool Britannia, Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, Things That Shit Me, This Expat Life, UK Life | 6 Comments

78 Degrees 13 Minutes North (Svalbard)

The long-awaited (by who? no one, probably) post about Svalbard. I’ve uploaded a bucket load of pictures and since WordPress hates me, I’ll just run through them in whatever order they have landed on this post. This could get random.

Flying in to Longyearbyen Airport on a summer’s day. I kind of expected this – the ground is permanently frozen so bound to be a bit of the white stuff on the ground. Not as much as  you would expect being 78 degrees north though.

Usually my yellow North Face bag sticks out like a homeless person at a black tie event, but in this place, soft sided bags (particularly North Face) reign supreme. On the baggage carousel I counted no less than six bags similar to mine.

Speaking of baggage carousels, I swear I never take pictures of them. Honest. Unless they have a polar bear on them. Then all bets are off.

Checked into the Trappers Hotel, and it this is not the first time The Husband and I have been allocated twin beds. I promise, we really are married. That said, for the sheer novelty of the place and knowing that they are fully booked, I said nothing. Who doesn’t like sleeping perpendicularly anyway.

The polar bear theme continues in the breakfast room.

The room keys are attached to raw hide ‘bones’. Good job they don’t let The Dog stay in a place like this, this would be eaten in minutes.

Breakfast room again.

Chill out space. Polar bear motif always in shot somewhere.

Looking out from the room of perpendicular bedding. Yes, that is a mezzanine. No, we don’t know why, no we didn’t sleep up there.

Next we went shopping. We figured that it might be good idea to disguise ourselves as polar bears in case we got attacked.

Then we thought better of it and perused the gun selection. Word of warning, if you are a little gun shy, this part of the world is not for you. People carry rifles in full view just walking around the streets. The Husband is from Northern Ireland, so he wasn’t phased, but I was a little amused.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this is, but I bet the staff get good tips.

Fearing that we wouldn’t see any real live polar bears, The Husband purchased some. And this is what we did with them. We are those people.

Oh, shit, you wanted usual information about Svalbard. Sorry. Well, there is a museum and other than being pretty awesome, they give you colourful crocs to wear, because in Svalbard, you take your damn shoes off when you go inside somewhere. That includes your hotel. I like the practice which is (I’m told) quite Norwegian. I don’t wear shoes in my own house and my socks are in excellent repair.

Longyearbyen itself has lots of pretty houses. Why? Because, I’m not sure whether you have noticed but nothing grows here. There is no grass, no trees, nothing.

And that makes dogs very sad. Imagine if you couldn’t wee on a tree. All you could do is hang about with a seal skin and look forlorn.

Ah, the famous polar bear signs. This just basically says ‘watch your back, these mo-fos’ are everywhere.

What else is there to do in Svalbard beside getting rescued on the high seas and marvelling at the how the sun doesn’t set? Well, you know I’m into my cycling right now. And I picked the ultimate bike tour for us to go on. I’ve done the fat tire bike ride in Paris, but this is a REAL fat tire ride. (Yes, I’m spelling tyre that way intentionally, put the green pen down.)

These bikes will go over anything: rocky beaches, small cars and probably a walrus though we didn’t get to try the last two. It was pretty ace though.

Sea kayaking. I know, it sounds a bit lame to go for a gentle paddle on a fjord. But add in a seal, some freezing water and shit gets good.
Oh, and did I mention the scenery. That’s pretty nice too.

Ever wondered what happened to all those christmas wish lists you sent to Santa at the North Pole? They get incinerated here.

Fine, maybe they don’t burn them and are actually not ever delivered here on account of the pointlessness of actually shipping them, but I like to think they start lighting this bad boy every November.

I have no idea what this is, other than a collection of sea-junk that has been turned into a sculpture that I momentarily thought was good enough to take a picture of.

The ever-present polar bear, in metal sculpture form. Classy.

Wondering whether Longyearbyen has a local custom? They do. It’s call smacking the christ out of birds that are nesting. Help yourself to a stick and whack a few yourself. At least, I think that’s what the sign says, my Norwegian is a little rusty. (Totally true though, the stick is for whacking birds that attack you during specific seasons.)

Dumb and Dumber, arctic style.

Midnight sun. See? It exists. Though frankly, I could have taken this at noon, you wouldn’t know. I promise I stumbled out of the bar to take it though.

Svalbard, a really long way from anywhere.

Being a long way from anywhere also means they have limited supply of some things, like lambic fruit beer. I drank them out of it one night. Not happy with myself.

Kultur. It has it. We don’t.

The Husband, ridiculously excited about something. Presumably that it is still light as midday at 1am. It’s wrong to be this drunk and feel like it’s noon, unless you have an addiction.

So, what do arctic folk eat then? Time to get some grub in…
I’d like to say this was just a regular sausage, but it wasn’t. I’m sure there was some reindeer or seal meat in it. We dined at Huset, which is the only fine dining place on the island. Food was amazing though (as was the bill which The Husband picked up).

OK, this was definitely something arctic-ish. Go with reindeer again. It wasn’t polar bear, apparently those things don’t actually make good eating as they are mostly disease-ridden.

Puds are good too. Very good.

Even if the restaurant itself was a tad bizarre and ‘The Shining’-esque. This place was in the middle of nowhere.

Fine dining in the arctic…? You better believe it.

So long, Svalbard. Thanks for the emergency situations, pricey drinks and good times. Got a funny feeling I’ll come back…

Posted in The Husband, Travel, Weird shit | 6 Comments

The One With The Oslo Stopover

Yes, I promise, I’ll totally get back to doing the Svalbard post and telling you what else happened up there. But first, Oslo. Consider this your literary stopover on the way to my Svalbard post, okay? It might even surprise you by being vaguely interesting. I doubt it, but like any compulsory stopover, you’re here now, just go with it.

Right, so, digs. Didn’t want to fork out too much cash, but this being Oslo, everything is pretty pricey - Oslo is not the place to travel to on a shoestring. Personally I’ve left the Scandinavian countries on my travel list until I had a few Kroner to rub together and if you want to have much fun, you should too. Until then, spend a few hours in IKEA instead and thank me later.

Hotels are expensive here so it took a bit of searching to find something I was happy with. Don’t feel bad for me, I enjoy researching a trip almost as much as I enjoy taking it. I’d work as a travel agent if it paid me well enough to enjoy the places I would get subsidised flights to. Anyway, after a bit of searching I spotted a gem right by the central station (Sentralstasjon in the local lingo). Comfort Hotel Grand Central will let you get your head down here in a cosy little double room for under a hundred quid a night in peak season.

Come out of the station, hook a left and you’ll see the oversized pink pot plants. That’s the entrance.

Inside is a pretty funky little hotel lobby where you can relax, get online and help yourself to tea and coffee. For free!

There is even a gym upstairs for those so inclined to do such things on holiday.

Like I said, rooms are pretty cosy (and they do that very European thing with the single doonas/duvets which I appreciate) but they have some funky wall decor. Well played, Comfort Hotel.

Anyway, bags dumped in the room, it was time to head out and see what this Norwegian capital had to offer. I’d not bothered to bring a guidebook this time instead opting to swipe a city map from a car rental place on my way through the airport. Plus, better than that, I had contacts and I happened to let one know I’d be in town. She was only too happy to give us a whistlestop tour. You can call her Indiana because she’s a bit of an explorer – she’s been to Antarctica AND Svalbard, plus everywhere in-between. She might just be my travel hero.

Anyway, this is her. After we filled our faces on pulled pork, which Norway seemingly has a fascination with lately, we begged her to show us what Norway is really like. She thought for a second and promptly herded us to the nearest tram for which we paid for by credit card because frankly everyone pays for everything, even the smallest amount, with plastic.

This being a public holiday, we were able to see a lot of Norwegians out and about, enjoying an unusually sunny and warm day. It almost makes you forget that you are at a latitude more northerly than Scotland. In fact, you’re about on par with the Shetlands.

So, what’s Oslo all about then? Sculptures for one thing. Vigelandsparken has a huge collection of them by (surprise!) Gustav Vigeland. Remember how I said that I don’t visit museums much because I never remember much of what I read/hear. Well, I like Vigelandsparken, also called Frogner Park.

It has weird baby tantrum sculptures.

And even weirder kicking baby sculptures. What’s not to love about that?

How about a 14 metre high phallic sculpture? Top trumps.

Like I said, it was a public holiday and it was warm, so locals were out and about, stripping down in public places to catch the 22 degrees of sunshine. Norwegians aren’t that dissimilar to Brits in that regard. Above 18 and it’s definitely summer.

They seem a little more wholesome though. Not only are they super clean and pick up after themselves, but they play charming games with sticks of wood. This is Kubb. There are some rules about chucking the little sticks and knocking other little sticks over, but I can’t remember them exactly (what did I say about not remembering detail?). Follow the link for the rules.

Barbecueing or ‘grilling’ is very popular. Like the Brits, Norwegians don’t invest in actual barbecues though. And why would they – the number of opportunities to use one is low. But rest assured, when the sun shines, the disposable version floods the parks, and true to their clean and tidy nature, Norwegians dispose of the ‘Grillboks’ in special bins.

After a nice stroll through the park we headed to the harbour where we found more youths hanging out being responsible and charming.

Oh you crazy, reckless raft-building kiddies.

All this culture was pretty thirsty work. Indiana had a list as long as her drinking arm to keep us going all night, which would be pretty easy to do this far north given it feels like mid afternoon when it’s already 9pm.

First stop was Den Gamle Major, that served a tasty fruit beer. Indiana had a whole bunch of places for us to hit before we left town, so we only stayed for a drink at each. Next stop was Oslo MicroBrewery (above).

The Husband was pretty pleased with the offering here (I wasn’t, other than fruit/lambic style, I’m not a beer drinker), but like I said, we had to make it quick.

This place was pretty decent – selection was as large as their prices, but best of all were the toilets. You know I judge a place on its toilets. Behold…

It’s a double dumper! This is for real. Apparently girls like to go to the toilet together in Oslo. In my experience, that’s always meant hanging about the wash basins, touching up make up and gossiping about whoever is still patiently waiting at the bar/table. Not in Oslo, apparently.

We did also visit Amundsen Brewery too. By which time it was getting late.

See? Late. Like half past ten kind of late. Slottsparken in relative mid-summer darkness.

Careful at night. You could fall off your bike and make a mess. I have no idea what it says. I just took the picture because it had fart in it. Yes, I’m about six.

We had to stay out even later to check that the sun does indeed go down. This is the very lively but safe and respectable Oslo town sometime around midnight I think.

And that was Oslo. Scenery like a Norsca advertisement, people as wild as a soft waffle and just as sweet.

And yes, all photos were taken on my iPhone. I don’t work for Apple and I’ve included links to the places I visited because I had a good time there and I want you to as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Australia – The Lazy Country?

I’ll get back to the Norwegian adventures shortly, but first, here’s a post I forgot to publish.

I like to keep in touch with current events in the home country and two items have struck a chord recently. I think there might be a link.

The first issue is that Aussie kids are getting fatter. Obesity rates of the deep fried chips off the block are ballooning – pun intended. One in four of them are overweight or obese these days. One in four. I might be romanticising a little, but I seem to remember an active sunshine-filled childhood where we swam all day and played out until the streetlights came on – that was a common rule on my street. Point is, we were active. I could understand it in a country like Britain where we get half an hour of decent weather a year and it’s usually on a weekday. In fact, there is usually only a period of 2.5 months where temperatures in the UK are vaguely higher than they are in Oz. It’s June and we’re still not at that point yet, just so you know. The British weather is positively discouraging to an active lifestyle, so I feel for kids here. And yet Aussie kids are stacking the spare tyres faster than a Kwik-Fit on a Saturday.

The second issue that has piqued my interest is that back in Oz, parents are up in arms about their little darlings no longer getting a free bus pass to school unless they have to walk greater than 2.3km (primary kids) or 2.9km (secondary kids) [source] to get there.

It got me thinking how that compares to British kids – given I see plenty of them moodily traipsing to the local school, heads slung low staring at their iPhones. And I was a little surprised at what I found. Here in Cheshire, primary school kids have to walk 3.2km and secondary kids 5km before a free bus is laid on. [source]. 5KM. I’ve never been on mumsnet, but I don’t hear any outrage about this imposition in the press.

I’m not saying this is the only factor in why Aussie kids are fat by any stretch. But I think it’s time they harden up a little, get their sneakers on and make their own way to school. Leave the whinging to the British, please.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Stuck Between A Rock And A Bear

Earlier this year, I booked a trip to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Not sure where that is? Well, it’s way up north. 78 degrees away from the equator. Like, any further and you would need sponsorship and call it an expedition. Most northerly town, most northerly ATM, most northerly just about everything. Fortunately it also has the most northerly airport with regular scheduled flights and I nabbed a pair for about £500. Bargain.

When I booked this trip, I was hoping for a bunch of adventure. Since this place has a law that states you have to carry a gun to shoot polar bears if you leave the town, it seemed like an excellent choice. Like the total over-planner that I am, I filled the schedule with activities that would excite and invigorate me and The Husband. I enjoy researching that kind of thing. One of the tours on offer hit the spot: boat trip to see glaciers and (hopefully) a polar bear or two. Oh hells yes.

And so it was that we found ourselves on a midnight sun cruise on Friday 30th May. Our vessel a fishing boat with a chirpy Swiss guide in a fur hat and a Filipino crew.
What could possibly go wrong?

We boarded the MS Langøysund which was moored next to this one, MS Polar Girl. She was also heading out to the glaciers that evening. Why that’s important will become clear later.

On board the MS Langøysund, we got a safety demonstration. We were given instructions on how to put on a dry suit. This going to prove very useful just a couple of hours later. Never again will I hear the words ‘in the event of an emergency’ and laugh again.

Sailed out from the shore. Calm waters, not a care in the world. We even managed to spot a couple of polar bears.

The Husband gave some impromptu guitar lessons to a grateful crew member and everything was kumbaya.

Until of course… we hit rocks. I had just come up on deck after dinner to grab some photos of the glaciers when I heard the bone-crunchingly awful sound of metal grinding on rock. The bow rose up, and port side dipped dramatically towards the water. I grabbed the side of the boat while chairs slid across the deck. My eyes met The Husband’s. Given he has a Masters degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, I took my cues from him. He look worried. The boat seemed to mostly right itself, but was going precisely nowhere. The Captain hurried to the deck to peer over the bow. Spying some rocks in the water below us, he muttered ‘shit’ several times and disappeared again to the bridge.

The furry hatted Swiss guide quickly handed out dry suits. Mine was a child’s suit but fit me nicely. The Husband had to swap his for an adult’s version, understandably. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that these were just fancy wrappers for polar bear candy, which is essentially what we were, especially if we ended up in the water.

After the initial worry, we all began to relax (as much as you can in this kind of situation). We were told that we were simply wedged on some rocks and not taking on water, however, meeting up with the furry hatted man at the bar the next night would prove this to be untrue. We also found out the captain got sacked and there was £100K worth of damage to the vessel. 

The crew were keen to handover whatever drinks and chocolate they were able to salvage. MS Polar Girl, the only other boat anywhere near us at that time of night (remember, this is after 10pm) motored at speed to us within 45 minutes and deployed their zodiac rather than risk getting close to us for a straight transfer.

The last of our people make the journey in the Zodiac over to MS Polar Girl.

The husband was even more pleased to be off that boat than I was.

Frankly, I was pretty happy about it though.

The zodiac being lifted back on to MS Polar Girl.

As the midnight sun shone, we sailed slowly back to land, arriving about 2am to be interviewed by Norwegian police and with enough time to get 5 hours of sleep before the next adventure… stay tuned.

And for anyone who wants to point out that The Husband and I have awful luck when travelling (Icelandic rescue, missing bags, lost flights and front teeth), save it. WE KNOW.

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Red, The Med And The Double Bed

First things first, Red and I were meant to go to Athens to hang out with Chesh. And that would have been an excellent plan except that dates didn’t work, and when we could agree dates, a combination of flight times and hefty prices stood in our way. Essentially, fate kyboshed the idea. So we (probably drunk) thought it would be a great idea to book a weekend to Sweden. Then we sobered up and realised that it probably wouldn’t be warm in May since the one thing we prioritised was the weather. Anyway, I had a Malta guidebook kicking around from a vague plan to head that way last year. I proposed the idea to Red and after a quick google image search result that seemingly pleased her, she was in.
Sure, we had to travel Easyjet, but there are worse things in life. Like, haemorrhoids, tax debts and Ryanair.
So I had to make sure that the hotel made up for the journey. This is Hotel Valentina.
Classy bar area, of course.
Funky reception too.
And, hang on… what? I booked a twin. But they gave us a double. We considered arguing it with reception, but we checked the floor plan on the back of the hotel room door and we did actually have by far the largest room possible. So, since we both packed pyjamas we figured we’d keep it. 20140526-180130-64890818.jpg
Besides, we wanted to get straight to the pool.
But what else has Malta got then eh? A shitload of buildings with these box window things.
And a bunch of gorgeous alleys to meander down.
I won’t lie, a lot of Malta is more shabby than shabby chic. But after a while, its charm gets you.
Especially when they throw in a bar. Drinks in Malta seem to be around 2-3 euros no matter where you go.
After a few rounds, you stagger back on to the streets and they look even more charming.
Kind of addictive after several pints of whatever local shit I was drinking.
This is in Mdina, which is funky, but not cold.
God knows where this is – Mosta? Probably. We flew past it on an open top bus remarking that we should have gotten off and taken a look before realising that the next stop was 30 minutes away.
Right, that’s enough buildings of possibly important stuff that we had no time or inclination to learn about. Oh yes, we are *those* tourists. Not even going to lie about it. I’m a crib notes kind of gal.
Besides, we had to get ourselves to this place. The Blue Lagoon, Comino.
Pretty fucking stunning.
You reach it by any number of tourist boats that will charge you a tidy amount to drop anchor nearby. Our Turkish frigate even gave us lunch and booze for about 40 euros.
Red and I glamming up the Comino scene.
Despite the hoards of others also stopping by, this is by far my favourite place I have visited in a long time.
It made me feel this epic. And that is probably the one and only time you will see a picture of me in a swimsuit.
Did I mention that a can of chilled lager was only 2 euros? For reals.
Eventually it was time to get back on the boat. Ferry. Ship. Frigate. Whatever.
Totally coming back here one day.
Ahoy, me mateys.
If there is one thing Red and I share, it’s a habit of not bearing teeth in a photograph.
Anyway, back to the mainland. This is Balluta Bay in Sliema.
This is in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, full of floating gin palaces. Many were much larger than these, but I didn’t get a shot good enough to put on the blog. Use your imagination.
Elsewhere on the island are places you might care to explore too. Like Marsaxxlok. No, I can’t really pronounce it either. But it’s a great fishing village worth a look on the south side of the island, especially if you head there on a Sunday when they have a market selling all sorts of biscuits, fish and tat.
Since we’d coughed up for the hop on hop off deal, we decided to get decent use of it and headed to the Blue Grotto. We were told it was best explored by boat on calm seas.
The seas on this day however were rough as a badger’s arse, so we had to be satisfied with hiking the hills in flip flops to get a glimpse of what they might contain. Nearly getting blown off the cliff to take a few photos was about all we could manage unfortunately.
So we went back to the calmer waters of the hotel and ordered some swanky 5 euro cocktails. Fancy.
There are hundreds of places to get a decent meal in Malta – St Julian’s in particular where we concentrated our feeding habits, makes it almost impossible to go wrong. I say almost – a sub-standard pasta on the final night proved that it was indeed possible. Italian is very much the common theme – being 90km from Sicily, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. Beware though, it’s probably the best Italian food you’ve ever had. Proof by the fact I hoovered everything before either of us could get a photo.
And gelato. This place has the best flavours of anywhere I have been. White chocolate and rice crispies for example. Oh yeah, that happened. Plus, it’s open pretty late; there was a queue out the door at midnight. Perfect way to end the evening.
And that concludes the Girls Gone Mild Tour. It’s what happens when two girls in their thirties have no kids, a credit card and nothing better to do on a long weekend.

Posted in Friends, Travel | 10 Comments