Monday, 21 July 2008

Summer holidays

A rather belated update about our holiday, and life in general over the last month. We've been so busy that I've had no time at weekends, no time in the evenings, and even less time on lunch breaks (what are these, exactly?) to finish updating the random topics I started about a month ago.

So. Holidays - can you tell we've been away? I was annoying everyone at work and most of my Facebook friends I'm sure by doing a daily countdown to holiday time before we went. I hadn't had any time off since last October (had to work over Christmas) and was sooo ready for a break. Ali and I went with Inntravel again after our brilliant holiday to Tuscany last year except this time we were right in the top left corner of Italy, in the Valle d'Aosta region slap next to the Alps. Our hotel was a gorgeous wood panelled antique haven with lots of cheese making implements strewn artfully everywhere and our room had a breathtaking view over wild flower meadows towards the snowy Alpine peaks beyond - truly beautiful. The Michelin starred restaurant was pretty damn delicious too and we managed to treat ourselves to dinner there three times, the other nights making for the Bar a Fromage next door or the local pizza place. On day 3 we took a trip on the cable car from Courmayeur over the top of Mont Blanc and over to Chamonix and I think that has to rank as one of the best things we've done on any holiday we've had together over the last 6 years - it was bloody spectacular. All the mountain walking we did in the region was great, and we saw chamois goats, wild fox, all manner of beautiful alpine flowers and some amazing waterfalls and mountain scenery. That is until Ali stepped the wrong way onto a loose rock on the Saturday afternoon at the end of our first week and ended up in plaster up to the knee for the rest of the trip. After a frankly terrifying journey in the hire car along windy mountain roads to the nearest hospital, during which I was containing my nerves admirably - I am not the most confident driver when driving somewhere I don't know, so add in an unfamiliar car, with the gearbox on the right and having to drive on the wrong side of the road, and you have one very stressed Kathryn - the x-rays luckily showed no break - phew - instead, a possible chip on the bone. As the swelling was so bad the doctors plastered Ali up and then we spent a couple of very slow days, while he rested it as much as possible and I ventured down to the hotel spa to lounge by the pool drinking green tea and reading my books. Lucky I'd brought five with me, eh? By some (un)fortunate twist of fate the weather changed for the worse for our last 2 days anyway so even if Ali had been fit and well we wouldn't have got that much good walking done.

Off to Milan on the Tuesday, another hairy trip down the autostrada for me to drop the hire car off before schlepping into the middle of Milan on the bus. The heavens opened that afternoon and evening so it didn't bode well for the last two days of our holiday but miraculously throughout Wednesday and Thursday we basked in 30 degree sunshine. Lack of mobility meant we couldn't do too much sightseeing but we did go to the Duomo which I found a total let down. Ali called it 'cathedral fatigue' and maybe he's right, but although I could appreciate the beauty of the architecture and the stained glass, and the little chapels and confessionals and the magificent altar were all wonderful, I didn't feel any sense of awe, respect, spirituality, call it what you will. I was almost. Well. BORED. Other than that, we travelled on the Metro to see the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, except when we got there (and not before, you understand, not on any of the posters or directions leading up to it) we found out it was closed for the summer. I mean, what bright spark thought that one up - oh, we'll close one of the most popular tourist attractions in Milan, for the 3 most touristy months of the year.

Then on the Wednesday night we saw Radiohead play the Civica Arena in the middle of the city. We managed to get in via the disabled entrance thanks to Ali's cast, and the gig itself was, as usual for Radiohead, amazing. The light show was spectacular (all done on low voltage LEDs) and the set was lovely - it was great to hear In Rainbows live now that they're a bit more polished in playing it than they were in Blackpool last year before it came out. It has to rank as one of the smokiest gigs I've ever been to though - even though we were outside in an old amphitheatre, the fact that every single Italian person there was chain smoking made it feel like the grubbiest of British pubs before the smoking ban. A mild annoyance to an otherwise fantastic evening and a great way to round off our holiday. Next year I think I'd like to try another different bit of Italy - maybe Amalfi and the coast. God bless Inntravel.

Kind of holiday related in that it wasn't our holiday but Ali's parents' and nephew Liam's, was the weekend a few weeks ago where they came to visit. On the Friday we took a trip to London to see the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum and then have a turn on the London Eye. A visit to Hamleys made it into the itinerary for some Lego purchases and overall it was a great day. We even went to Garfunkel's in the early evening for a meal, bringing back memories of my own trips to London with Mum and Dad when I was only a bit older than Liam, who's 8 very soon. In those days (oh so many years ago...) there weren't many other places you could actually go with kids and guarantee they'd eat anything, I guess. On the Saturday my Mum and Dad drove up to complete the party and we had a relaxing (and chilly) couple of hours on a leisure cruiser up to Oxford along the Thames before wandering round a bit and getting the bus back. The boat trip was nice, but took a looooong time considering you can drive to Oxford along the A34 and park up inside 20 minutes.

Knitting I was going to gloss over, as I've slacked off remarkably here. After finishing the tank top and sheep for Archie I got going on a little coat for him, which is age 3-6 months and going to be way too small at this rate if I don't get a wriggle on. Next free weekend (roll on 2-3 August) I'll get back into it.

Music, has been all about Radiohead really. After Milan we saw them again exactly a week later in Victoria Park in Hackney, having an exceedingly enjoyable catch up with friends Matt and surprise guest Susan who'd flown in from Toronto the previous day. Another great gig, but full of complete arseholes. The weather was great and a lot of people had probably been drinking since before noon, explaining somewhat the abundance of idiotic behaviour and general lariness. At least the Italian fans had all been passionate Radiohead afficionados, singing lustily along to every track - but you were lucky to even hear some of the quieter tracks at Victoria Park due to the crowd's hollering. There was also a Pimm's tent, which struck me as mildly out of place. Other than that, no musical exploits to note. We've got tickets to see the Gutter Twins in Oxford in a few weeks time which should be good and loud.

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