Holidays

Mallorca Holiday, certainly not a training camp

I have just returned from a week in Mallorca with K.  It was so nice to get some sunny weather and we felt we both needed a break.

One nice extra aside to a trip to the Balearics was that I would be able to get a bit of cycling in that I’d not been able to manage with the awful weather we’ve been having.  I did some research and Port de Pollenca seemed a good spot and had a good cycle hire shop in walking distance from our chosen villa.  So for 4 of our 7 day holiday I booked a titanium Van Nicholas bike with a similar spec to my Boardman (no way was I putting that on a plane) for about €80.  K also had a bike for the middle 2 days so she could do some riding too.

Just north out of the town there’s a nice climb – about 4K up around a few hair pins at a fairly steady 6% and then a slight more windy version back down the other side.  There are hills like this in Wales but nothing on such a smooth bit of road and not with 100 other cyclists on the climb at the same time.

formentor

Port de Pollenca to Formentor

I had a go at it on the first day and was pleasantly surprised to find I could complete it without killing myself and the fact that I was overtaking far more people doing so than were doing the same to me.  Indeed on my first go at the descent I was overtaken by more people than on the way up – to say it was a nervous descent would be an understatement.  That first day I rode 42K in 2 hours and then a 6 run off.  I always struggle to run in the heat and that’s one of my biggest concerns come my events.

The next day I did 2 shortish rides including the above climb before another ride with K.  I’d gone faster up the climb on the first day but I put that down to it being at a busier time and me having more hares to chase down- however I did continue on up the climb on the horribly pot holed infested road (the white squiggle on the above pic).  Another run in the evening including a 10 minutes threshold effort.  Day 3 was my go at a longer flatter ride so I got 60K in in just over 2 hours.  The coast road is pancake flat and smooth and I was able to ride much faster than normal.  I really enjoyed this ride and it felt enjoyable rather than just training.  I’d have loved to be able to spend a couple more hours out enjoying the roads.

The final day was to be my toughest ride which would be the full trip to Cap Formentor.  This was entertaining and the numbers don’t tell the story.  The road isn’t as smooth when you do the full route and part way along there’s a tunnel which in the middle third is pitch black – not too bad on the slow up hill but I don’t mind telling you that it was downright terrifying on the way down – you’re going fast enough to have a spill and are just aiming at an arch of light at the far end.  Cap de Formentor itself finishes with a nice hairpinned climb up to the lighthouse where there is a nice cafe and a plethora of cyclists.  A nice one even lent me a multitool so I could sort out an issue with a slippy saddle and a wobbly bottle cage.  The final day after the bike went back was a hot 10k or so and that felt like quite enough.

After that we went for a drive and headed up (and down) the famous climbs to Lluc and Sa Calobra.  I want to return just to have a go at these myself when I’m a bit more cycle fit and preferable a bit lighter.  Sa Calobra is something like 24 hairpins in a 10K stretch.

Other things of note from the trip

  • Mallorca is smaller than I remember as kid
  • Port de Pollenca and the surrounding areas are a great place for a cycle holiday
  • We ate in the same place as Brad Wiggins one night. No I didn’t ask for an autograph
  • Some of the towns down South have a sort of Barry Island on their last legs feel
  • Eating out isn’t as cheap as it used to be
  • April is too early for the unheated swimming pool to get much use
  • It takes a while to get used to having a sixth gear in your hire car
  • Can’t wait to go back

Singapore

The last 2 days have been spent in Singapore.  Once we departed the ship we went on a quick tour of the island before checking into our hotel which is excellent.

We’ve done the hop-on hop-off tour for a day and a half and have seen loads.  A nice feature is many of the hotels and malls are all interlinked so you can get around without leaving the comforts of aircon.

We’ve eaten well too and last night went to a fancy restaurant where you get served your steak (or in K’s case tuna) and they give you a hot stone for you to cook the meat yourself.  It was very good and the starters and desserts were excellent.

Singapore is probably our favourite place on the whole trip and a place we’d certainly consider returning too – Kathryn’s even looked up the Singapore Marathon as a good excuse to come back.  Incidentally our hotel is smack bang in the middle of the F1 track – the track goes past the front and back of the hotel and we’re about a 3 minute walk to the pit buildings.

We’ll be leaving the room soon to checkout but we’ve still got 6 hours till the airport transfer so we’re going to continue to enjoy.  Ciao!

All Thai-ed up

This is the last of our at sea blogs as we depart Cambodia for our final destination of Singapore.

After I last posted we went to watch the magicians escape act and in my eagerness to get a front row seat I ended up being dragged up front to help with the chaining and checking of the padlocks.  They were definitely proper padlocks and the chain was very heavy.  Having seen him get our of a straight jacket though I don’t think it was any more difficult except perhaps that he was at the bottom of a 6 foot deep pool.  He escaped after 2 and a half minutes underwater but in all honesty I think he was out within the first 90 seconds and staying down for effect.

The next day we got to Thailand near the beach town of Pattaya and from there we got a bus ride to Bangkok where we decided to do the city on foot.  Bad call on my part that as by the time we got to the Emerald Temple and Giant Buddha everything was closed up to tourists – we were even given a friendly warning by a tourist policeman that we shouldn’t hang around that area too long.  We had managed to see one of the main temples though and went back to the shopping!

Many people were staying overnight in Bangkok but we headed back on the bus and the next day stayed more local to the port and visited the Tiger Zoo.  The Tiger Zoo is home to hundreds of tigers, over 100K crocodiles, elephants and a mix of other animals.  There were some demonstrations of the animals, Kathryn wasn’t keen on the guy who spent most of his time trying to get bitten by crocodiles, I was quite impressed by the elephant who could play darts!  The tigers were the stars though and I even got to hold and feed a tiger cub.  Special mention should go to Kathryn’s favourite animal – the flag waving pig.

That afternoon we had a relax by the pool which was rudely interrupted when Kathryn wrenched my book from my hands and entered me into the “Mr Legend” competition.  Despite 2 Welsh girls on the judging panel I still didn’t win – I can only assume it was down to my reluctance to be there. That and the fact I can’t dance or do press-ups!  I will have my revenge on Kathryn for that one!

In Cambodia we visited a beach town and had a mill around the local market – think Splott Market but with twice as many stalls crammed in and add numerous sewing machines and scorpions on sticks.  From there we hopped on a Tuk Tuk to one of the many beaches and spent a couple of hours just walking in the surf and sitting back watching the world go by.

Tomorrow we’re at sea before we arrive in SIngapore.  Straight off the ship we’re having a tour of the place which should help us we’ll get to know the place before exploring solo and we’d probably be too early for check in anyway.

Good Morning Vietnam!

Long overdue blog this one but we’ve just been so busy the last few days – breakfast, pick up trip ticket, get off ship, get on bus, drive, race around city, take photos, back on bus and repeat. back on bus, drive back to ship. get ready for evening, watch show, eat dinner, bed – and then do it all again on the next day in a whole other city!

Since we left Hong Kong we sailed to the Chinese town of Sanya where our activity for the day was to the hot spa resort – a park full of loads of hot water pools.  Highlight of the day for me was the Fish therapy pools , otherwise known as the nibble fish ponds.  You sit in a big pool of water filled with various fish from 2-4 inches long and they proceed to eat your dead skin until it’s all gone or you decide you can’t stay in any longer!  I submerged myself almost totally but drew the line when my ear was getting nibbled.  It was such a strange experience.

Sanya was our last Chinese location and we then travelled to Vietnam where we’ve been for the last 3 days.  First day was in the town of Hoi An where we went on a walking tour of the old historical town and browsed the markets.  Next was Nah Trang which is the most popular beach resort in Vietnam and finally yesterday we visited Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon).  It’s such a sprawling and busy city that we were constantly on the move and barely getting a chance to think before we were onto the next location – any slower though and we wouldn’t have seen half of what we did.  In fact the only thing slowing us up was the dozens of street traders trying to sell us postcards, caps, T-shirts etc as you got on and off the bus.  They weren’t too pushy though and would never try to stop you if you weren’t interested.  In Vietnam the temperatures have been consistently around 90 degrees with very high humidity.

On the ship we’ve been keeping busy too eating some excellent meals alongside our table-mates from South Africa and enjoying some banter with our Head Waiter Nilesh.  I’ve had a couple of excellent Lamb meals and Kathryn’s just enjoying the chance to have 3 courses every night.

I’ve been running round on deck (or in the gym) most days and the humidity really makes you feel you’ve burnt a few calories.  It’s even like an obstacle course at times trying to avoid people wandering aimlessly around the designated running track.

Also I’m apparently now a genuine stalker – we saw the magician show one night and he sat next to us at breakfast the next day and I had the cheek to say hello and tell him how much I enjoyed the show.  SInce then we keep bumping into him around the ship and Kathryn’s convinced I’m stalking him – he’s doing an escape act from chains in the pool today which should be good to watch.

Kathryn’s looking forward to the formal night tonight as we missed the previous one on the night where the sea was particularly choppy – the first time we’ve had actually designated “rough” waves on a cruise meant that many people missed dinner that evening.  Neither of us felt particularly good that night but it’s been fine since.

Tomorrow is Bangkok for 2 days, followed by Cambodia and then on to Singapore!

Asia Update

We are 6 days into our Far Eastern adventure.

The first 2 and a half days were spent in the bustling city of Shanghai.  We checked in to the Hyatt on the Bund hotel and it was seriously impressive – Kathryn wants to model our next house on the hotel room!  The first night we had a wander down the main shopping street as dusk was falling and got to see the numerous neon lights that decorate the buildings throughout the city.  It really is quite impressive.  Plenty of offers for “watch, t-shirt, dvd” from the street traders as well as the 100s of shops just like back home.

Our second day was tourist day, where we took the Bund sightseeing tunnel over to the business district where we saw the TV Tower and went to the Shanghai World Trade Centre which opened last year as the tallest occupied building in the world at just shy of 500m high.  The top floor is a viewing deck with a glass bottom allowing you to look down on the city below.  Shanghai currently has something like 3 of the world’s top 10 tallest buildings all in fairly close proximity.

Following our trip in the clouds we decided to go below the water and visited the Shanghai Aquarium which us split into a number of different zones based on locations and consists of many small tanks, several large tanks and some underwater tunnels.  100s of different species can be seen including a tank of huge electric eels complete with voltage meter on the side of the tank, a sea lion tank and a penguin habitat.  The last exhibits are underwater tunnels which included a shark tank and a coral reef tank.  Some of the sharks were about 8 feet long and the same tank also included some large sea turtles.

Next morning we awoke to find the Legend of the Seas moored right outside our hotel window.  We departed the next day for the trip to the sea terminal where we faced the arduous task of checking out of the country and onto the ship – it was nothing of the sort.  From leaving the hotel we were on the ship and done within 45 minutes.  After Miami and Vancouver it was a significant difference!

Once on the ship we immediately made ourselves comfortable and grabbed some food – pasta to start and a couple of cheeky desserts.  That evening the ship departed for a day at sea.  On the second night I had a meal of snails to start, fillet steak main and a cheesecake dessert.  Yes I did say snails.  Next day we visited Xiamen where we kept it fairly quiet and just wandered round a few shops.

This morning we arrived into Hong Kong harbour where we’ll be for 2 days.  We’ve just returned from a day tour of Hong Kong Island where we drove around most of the island.  The trip included a tram ride up to the peak which was on a crazy steep angle but offered a great view once you were up there.  Following that it was a wander around a street market before taking a ride on a boat around the harbour.  It was an interesting tour and we got to see many things.

Plan tonight is to head out on the town and hit the shops tomorrow.  Kathyrn’s been conservative so far but our credit card may well get a workout.

Rain stopped play

We’ve just arrived back at our beach villa having been caught on a pedalo half a kilometre from shore by a monsoon.  It was quite fun actually as we tried to outrun it but it caught up with us with 100 yards or so left.  Seemed like an opportune moment to write a blog anyway.

Since I last wrote we’ve been generally relaxing while I’ve tried to let a bit of sun burn calm down (it’s fine now) and yesterday morning I managed to get Kathryn to try snorkelling again by guiding her around the nearby reef.  It was going swimmingly (pun intended) until a moray eel decided to cross our path – it was probably 3-4 feet long but Kathryn decided it was a maneater and headed for shore at an decent rate of knots.  Michael Phelps would have been impressed.  I was proud of her for giving it another go though and I reckon we’ll have another bash at it later.

Other news, when we arrived they didn’t realise it was our honeymoon but luckily Kathryn’s dad had emailed us a copy of the marriage certificate so when we showed them that we got given all sorts of freebies.   We get a trip, a luxury bath (oils, candles etc in our private villa bath), money off at the spa (so we booked another session each!) and I think we get some sort of going away present.

As I speak the rain has now stopped and it looks like it’s brightening up already 🙂

Maldives II

I am currently writing from the sunlounger next to our personal plunge pool/jacuzzi.  Kathryn is currently at the Spa enjoying a deep cleansing facial treatment and should be there for the next hour or so.

Yesterday we both treated ourselves to a revitalizing treatment that included a foot bath, body scrub, all over deep massage, moisterising and a head massage.  It was part of a discount offer for new arrivals – within about 2 minutes of getting back K was booking her next treatment.

We have a small reef just off the back of our villa and I’ve had a bit of an explore – Kathryn had a fish smile at her upon which she decided that snorkelling wasn’t her thing.  Yesterday afternoon I went on a snorkelling trip and we went round a series of reefs on a boat.  There is another trip later in the week where you might be able to see rays, (small) sharks and turtles.  I’ve put a couple of photos up onto flickr and our photogallery but the islands satellite internet link wasn’t keen on the full half a gig of photos!

One last word about the food – the first night here we ate in the underwater Ithaa restaurant, it’s the top restaurant in the resort but it was our one week anniversary!  I won’t say any more as I think Kathryn was keen on writing about that experience.  Last night however we went to the standard buffet restaurant and I have to say it was great – the choice was massive and varied.  We both went for the Indian option and ate a massive meal followed by two different desserts.  If she’d had room I think K would have had 8!  We also had breakfast this morning and again the choice is excellent even if I did end up going for beans on toast – it’s funny how the heat makes you less hungry.

Maldives

Well, I usually leave the blogs for Dave to write, but have decided its time for me to give a quick update (nothing to do with the fact that Dave is currently out swimming in the reef with all the wonderful fish!, will get to that a little later).

I didn’t think we could trump the hotel which we stayed in whilst at Dubai – but very quickly the Conrad Maldives resort at Rangali Island has now taken place as the most luxurious place we have ever stayed.

To give you a quick update since Dave’s last post – we did some extra exploring around Dubai and visited several Souks. It was amazing to see how many diamonds can be displayed in one window… we thought that the Cayman Islands had an impressive array of wares, but that’s not a patch on Dubai. I’ve never seen so much Gold or Diamonds so big in my life! We had some great fun walking around the shops, usually reserved for the rich and famous – but hey! we are on our honeymoon – nothing can spoil our fun 🙂

After a long day of swimming in the sea, eating a light lunch, some quiet reading by the pool then taking in some swimming (water temp 32 and air temp 40 if you want to know exacts) we checked out of the hotel at around 23.30. Our flight to Male due to leave Dubai International at 02.30. We managed to catch a few Zzz’s pool side post leaving for the flight so it wasn’t too bad. Dave managed to sleep some on the plane and I managed to sleep on the seaplane transporting us from Male to Rangali Island (much to my husband’s disgust!)

Today we have been finding our feet around the resort. The sea is amazing, crystal clear and with so many fish around the reef. I was quite excited when I saw what I thought was a giant angel fish, unfortunately for me, it wasn’t, and to my surprise (and Dave’s amusement at my completely panicked exit from the sea) it was a reef shark. I don’t care what they say, a reef shark may be harmless, but I don’t trust any fish beginning with ‘S’ and ending with ‘hark’!

I decided to opt for the sanctuary of our own, sharkless, private pool, for most of the day.

Tonight we are going to be having one of our most adventurous meals of the honeymoon. At the Ithaa restaurant. We’ve been told to expect a Champagne arrival with a 7 course meal. The most exciting thing about this restaurant is that its the worlds only underwater restaurant. Maybe shark will be on the menu 🙂

With the fridge fully stocked with Champagne, fine wine and Cokes (for Dave of course), His and Hers Spa treatments booked for tomorrow, I am sure that the remainder of our honeymoon will be as amazing as what we’ve already had.

Nearly Dun

Last night we stayed in Dunedin and during the day we visited a penguin sanctuary that allowed you to get close to the Yellow Eyed Penguins due to the network of tunnels they had built for viewing and we also did the Cadbury World tour.

Back last Tuesday we left Franz Josef and headed for Wanaka where we decided to have a relaxing day following a long drive and we enjoyed a meal over the banks of Lake Wanaka.  The next morning we visited the brilliant Puzzling World and enjoyed the maze and the puzzle rooms.  It was great fun.

After Wanaka we headed south to Te Anau where we crossed the famous Crown Ridge Road where you cross the highest public road in the entire country. We stayed at a small cottage on a farm just outside the centre of town and Kathryn was excited to be able to feed the pet sheep.

We had a second night in Te Anau and on the morning of the second day we took a bus tour to Milford Sound but on the way stopping for a strenuous mountain walk and a few other sights. We then had a boat trip around NZ’s most famous fjord, Milford Sound. Despite the weather it was spectacular and a lot like being back in Alaska. Slight problem was when we reached the end of the fjord and out into the open Tasman Sea where my seasickness really kicked in with a few big waves. This after I got soaked when the boat sailed under a waterfall – my fault really, they did say we’d get wet but I didn’t realise to what extent!

From Te Anau we headed back up to Queenstown, adventure sports capital of NZ and the weather really brightened up for us. It was shorts weather for the next few days.

In Queenstown we took the gondola up to the mountains above the town and road the Luge ride which was great fun for such a simple ride. The views were spectacular and you could see one of QT’s famous Bungy jumps. The next day we road the famous Shotover River Jetboat which gets you very close the the canyon rocks at great speeds. The wind was bitter and Kathryn got brain freeze but it was amazing fun and we seriously considered having a second go. We also went along to see one of the other larger bungee sites. I wasn’t tempted but Kathryn considered having a go. I suggested we sky dive instead but in the end we did neither. There is so much to do in QT you really could do a different activity every day for weeks.

From here we headed east on our final stretch and thats when we ended up in Dunedin. We are now in Oamaru where we plan on seeing the Blue Penguins as the come ashore tonight. This could be our last blog from NZ as we’re heading up to Christchurch tomorrow before flying home on Friday.

Ice is nice

For the second time in 2 years we find ourselves looking up at a glacier. This one isn’t quite as big as some of the ones we saw in Alaska but the Franz Josef glacier is impressive nevertheless. We arrived into the town of the same name this morning with hopes of doing a helicopter or plane ride around the glaciers and mountains but thick cloud cover made that impossible.

We enjoyed a couple of hours walk up to the glacier but to satisfy our thirst for adventure we went out on Quad bikes on a trip that wound around the rocky river bed, through the melt water and finally winding among the rain forest. Kathryn and I were the only couple on the trip not sharing a quad but I reckon we had more fun that way. Following quads we went out for a tasty meal where I had some of the biggest ribs I’ve ever seen and Kathryn had a great chicken burger. We might have a bit of a snooze in the morning before setting off on the longish trip south to Wanaka.