Tag Archives: travel

Substance or Style?

I’ve always been a climber with a very distinct style: put me on small holds on a near vertical face and i’m all over it. Give me compression or intense shouldery moves and all of a sudden my grade drops significantly.

I know what i have to do – the phrase “train your weaknesses” has been floating around for many years now – but doing it is an entirely different prospect. I’ve even come up with my own add on to the phrase that says: “Train your weaknesses, play to your strengths”. Of course, all this means is that i constantly define everything as playing and nothing is classed as training and i never actually work on anything that i’m crap at.

Two of my last three outdoor sessions have highlighted this beautifully; bringing to the forefront of my mind quite how style-dependent i am and (certainly in the case of our Peak day out) the inherent risks therein.

The Big Problem

We found ourselves in Birmingham for a week with my parents in between an awesome gig and an even awesomer weekend at Larmer Tree Festival. Music is probably the next big passion of mine and it was great to see some live sets from some bands that i truly love; Cat Empire, KT Tunstall, Gogo Penguin and Ezra Collective were just some of the bands that joined Bloc Party in our recent extravaganza.

However, that didn’t mean that i needed to totally neglect climbing while all this was going on and we were a bit further East, Cratcliffe seemed like a good option. I’d long thought i’d like to try Jerry’s Traverse 7b there, as well as possibly T Crack 7b if it wasn’t as scary as i remembered so now was the time. First though, i’d been recommended Razor Roof 6c+ as a nice line and a glance in my guidebook showed i’d not actually done it before. With Hannah hiding under the roof, i finally committed to the obvious sequence and sent what really is a fantastic line.

 

Then on to the main aim but I should’ve done my homework. I am not strong at the moment, relying on my technique and footwork to get me up climbs. The problem on Jerry’s is that there are no feet; it’s a campus fest. The hands felt plenty big enough but even then, campusing sideways is about as far from my abilities at the moment it was a fool’s errand that finished with the only likely

It got worse. Late that evening, a strong and deep pain in my chest developed, around my sternum, balanced out nicely with a similar pain in the middle of my back. Slowly through the day, it worsened until i spent the majority of the night awake through pain – something incredibly rare for me.

I spoke to my mum about it the next day, while still wincing and she suggested an intercostal strain. It made sense and thankfully subsided by the second evening after a long soak in a hot bath. Nevertheless, the whole day did highlight the importance of training antagonist muscles as it is a surefire way to hurt yourself very quickly.

Flash in the pan

Once back home and fully recovered, i took a trip to an esoteric little venue with no more than four established climbs; the top out for one a dirty, grimy mess. It goes without saying that Llyn y Gadar is not a popular venue, which was annoying as the problem obscured by lichen was the one that certainly seemed the more suited to me.

There are two 7a+ there: Freddie Kreuger and Freddie Welsh. On the same boulder, there was one more problem, Freddie Right Hand 6c acting as the warm up. I thought i’d flashed the easiest line, only to realise i’d started two moves in by mistake. Thankfully, i didn’t get it second go either (meaning i hadn’t wasted a flash) but it didn’t take long after that.

Then on to the next line: same start, move onto a rising slopey traverse. Granted i didn’t keep on it for that long but try as i might, i couldn’t find the body position that worked. Worse than that, when i found something that might’ve worked, i couldn’t manage it with my weak shoulder muscles. Again, this was a climb that simply didn’t suit me and as such, i struggled. A lot.

I wondered if perhaps i was off form; weak and underperforming. That was until i got onto Freddie Kreuger. Sat underneath, the right hand felt huge, the left ample and a super deep drop knee was ideal for me. Snatch up and i’m on the good crimp, shuffle feet and fly for the lip, bang! Slapped, stuck, swing the feet back on, go again with the right hand and i was onto easier terrain. Some tenuous moves later – top outs are often tenuous when you’re alone – and i was stood atop the bloc. One 7a+ miles beyond me, the other flashed.

I really need to work my weaknesses.

A Hat Trick

I didn’t climb again for another ten days, having been with the family in Cambridge for a friend’s wedding; a trip that included me camping alone with a two-year-old and a ten-month-old for the night… I don’t know how i ended up in that situation and all went fine, i was easily up to the challenge, but i don’t know many other people who would do that.

In a wonderful example of my occasional ineptitude at life, i had arranged to meet someone in Kendal the day after the wedding. Cambridge to Kendal then, plus a night sleeping rough in the back of the Land Rover – it was like old times again!

I left a little later than i’d hoped but as i crept towards Carnforth weighing up my options, i decided i would head to another old haunt and, much like our Lakes trip back in April, exorcise some more demons. I had a dinner date that sadly cancelled (totally understandably) so options were food or climbing. I picked climbing.

So straight to Trowbarrow: a regular haunt during my undergrad days and home to the imposing Shelter Stone. This monolithic bloc houses some incredibly tough lines, including the notorious Isla de Encanta 8b, climbed by the great John Gaskins. Some say he can’t have climbed it as it is simply too hard. For what it’s worth, i totally believe him, although looking at it, i’d love to have been there!

The Shelter Stone, much like the Bowderstone, was always something i longed to climb on but would never attempt as it was too hardcore. I didn’t stand a chance – largely through the fact i refused to even try – and even now, much of it is far out of my abilities. Still, there are some low and mid 7s and i wanted to plant my flag on the top just once.

If only it would stop raining. As i got there, i struggled to find the lines in the new and excellent Lakes Bouldering Guide, not through any fault of the book but because i was trying to keep the pages dry. Annoying but one of the best things about Trowbarrow is Red Wall, which stays dry when almost everywhere else for fifty miles does not. Ironically, i left the Shelter Stone in search of shelter.

A handful of 6s later and the sky was blue, the ground drying enough. Back to the Shelter Stone and i found a small and innocuous 7a+ two move wonder. Ideal! and with my types of moves and holds! After some quick conversation with visiting climbers, i sat on my pad, placed my limbs on the rock and less than a minute later, pulled over the top to stand atop this mighty boulder for the first time. Fifteen years after my last visit and i had finally climbed something: Funk Phenomena. Boom.

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It's been a very long time. Fourteen years, perhaps. I think that's what made going back to Trowbarrow on Sunday so special. The Shelter Stone is, for me, much like the Bowderstone: one of those crags I always dreamed of climbing on but felt inadequate to the point I wouldn't try. Half the battle of climbing harder is to get on it and give it a go. Again like the Bowderstone, even more it is a tough venue, with many of the problems still out of my abilities. But after all this time, I now finally have my tick. And now than that, I've had the chance to return to this fantastic, scenic spot and enjoy it once more. #lancashire #lancashirebouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #exorcisingdemons Huge thanks to @greg_lakesbloc for the excellent guidebook at gave me the chance to find something I could climb!

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Leaving Germany As the Germans Come Home

Our departure from Germany coincided almost exactly with the German’s premature exit from the World Cup. While they are not exactly known as the type of nation who would begin looting and rioting after such a disastrous campaign in their national sport, and we certainly saw nothing to think that may be the case while we were there, it did feel a good time to be leaving.

From where we left off in the last post, we got back to the campsite from our shopping spree, undecided on what to do for our afternoon. With our departure from Garmisch set for the following day, there was some debate on what we’d squeeze in before biting off a chunk of the long drive north. Em was keen to explore one of the gorges in the area but after a lot of talking, she kindly offered to skip it in favour of a few hours of climbing at a crag called Vils; just off the road on the way home. Apparently i owe her one day visiting a German gorge but i’m sure i’ll work on paying her back some point soon.

So our last afternoon was spent on the site, relaxing and packing to make the most out of our Tuesday. It was odd to be in such a stunning place and not trying to get out or get anything of note done but in truth, having a laid back approach to the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable and made the following morning substantially nicer.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Vils from the guidebook – featuring as a lone crag in the Alpen en Bloc guides but being a section in my newly acquired Allgau book, and located in Austria, giving Em a new country to tick off. The walk in was certainly pleasant enough but it was pretty obvious this was more of a local’s crag, overgrown and mossy. Still, the main lines were clean enough and finding the lines was not particularly difficult.

Neither was the climbing if i’m honest and after a couple of token-gesture warm ups, i managed to flash Soul Rebel sds 7a – my third flash of that grade in recent weeks. Chuffed but suddenly lacking inspiration, Em suggested the 7a+ traverse to finish on the same line and after a little work and some thought as to the moves through the middle, the traverse quickly fell too.

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Back from #germany now and we actually managed a short period in #austria too, at a small crag in #alpenenbloc called #vils. Granted it wasn't exactly the type of place you could wax poetic about but it was another new #crag which is always good. I didn't manage much but found the three #climbs I often tell students to look for: one you get relatively easily, one you have to work for and one just outside your limit. This is the crux on the first of those: another 7a flash; the third in recent weeks at that grade. All three were surprisingly good! #alps #alpine #alpinebouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #klettern #escalade #escalada #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion Photo credit to @emks93

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So now, my Top Ten Yearly Average reads four 7a climbs, three at 7a+ and three at 7b, averaging out at 7a+ quite nicely. It could’ve included another 7a+ too but in good form, i found a challenge problem that i was forced to leave behind. Hanuman just proved a touch too far. It has meant i now have to up my game, as ticking off more 7a won’t cut it and even four more 7a+ won’t affect the average grade. No, i now need to be ticking off 7b or higher but that is certainly no bad thing.

After the experience of Vils, we got back in the car, destined for, well, we didn’t know where. The car had been repacked and the plan was certainly to sleep in there somewhere nice and quiet for the night but as we approached Mannheim, and studied the map, we realised that the best route was to get off the famed autobahns and get on the a-roads. As we trundled cross country, i suggested finding a campsite instead and after a tiny bit of googling, we found a site on the edge of a town called Annweiler and right underneath a castle at Berg Trifels.

Our last night was pleasant, albeit ludicrously hot yet again (what did we expect once we were around a world-famous wine producing area?) and with time on our side, we walked from the site straight up the hill to check out the castle.

It was a slog but hidden in a beautiful forest, was quite cool and emerged to offer us a spectacular view and a quaint and oddly busy castle. I didn’t deliver a gorge but we did find a German castle.

There is no way you’d randomly search for the Berg Trifels, or come across this sleepy little venue but it was a nice little find and a testimony to this sort of travel. It’s something i’ve done since we travelled Europe in my childhood: taking the smaller routes and stopping when we find something cool. Granted the Berg Trifels may not make the UNESCO list (it might, i’ve no idea, haven’t checked) but coming across it certainly felt like a little win and gave our trip something different.

I’ve always loved this and love finding the smaller places – it is something that climbing trips offer. We would almost definitely not have gone to Odenwald if not for a guidebook i’d bought many years previously and yet it was a fantastic place and will certainly get a repeat visit. Sometimes the gems of the world are, perhaps, best when just stumbled across.

A Birthday to Remember

So we now find ourselves south; higher,  wetter and older than we were before. Well, i am anyway.

We currently nestle in the Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the base of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, hunkered down in the tent listening to the rain fall on the fabric above. There is not an established boulder problem that i know of for at least an hour from here.

What there is is terrific scenery, some amazing walking and a lake so clear and blue it’s like it was drawn by Disney. The town itself is remarkable too, with an awesome arrray of murals decorating the buildings that again have come straight out of the Stereotypes of Germany Handbook. It’s very quaint, it’s very Alpine and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

We arrived on Friday, after what turned out to be a ludicrously long drive from Bensheim, suddenly in awe of the spectacular mountain vista in front of us. I’ve seen the Alps many times now but never have they snuck up and slapped me in the face like they did coming from Germany. Don’t ask me why but for some reason, one minute it was flat farmland, the next there’s an imposing lump of rock towering in the sky above.

Even once in Garmisch and on the campsite, the view of the fierce mountain ridge above us was enough to keep us occupied while we pitched the tent, cooked and ate German sausage with pasta and stuff.

Saturday was my birthday and quite a memorable one. Anyone who knows me, or indeed has seen me in passing any May for the last nine years, will know of the Birthday Tradition: spend my birthday in a different country every year. It is to Em’s enormous credit that i am able to count Germany as number nine – yeah, nine years, nine countries! – and as such, i thought i’d make it count.

We’ve been together for a little over two years now, have a daughter approaching 18 months and a bump that is due to pop in October. We’re pretty settled but still only really fall into the boyfriend/girlfriend category.

So, after a slightly disastrous attempt to head up on the cable car, where i was struck by the sheer exposure and we headed straight back down again, we went for a valley walk, found a clearing and i “popped the question”. We are now, officially, engaged.

That evening we headed into town, not quite the romantic evening you would expect after a successful proposal but instead a burger at an awesome pub in Garmisch called Shaka. Yes, we accidentally ate each other’s food but both agreed it was delicious anyway. Another sure sign it was meant to be.

With nothing better to do, we stayed for the evening, watching Sweden almost pip the Germans to a win at the world cup, surrounded by vocal and ardent German supporters (unsurprisingly). Two years ago, we were in France and watched them play Iceland in similar circumstances. It really is fascinating to watch the locals support their own team.

Sunday was equally beautiful and so we headed for a touristy trek around Lake Eibsee that was, in all honesty and despite the throngs of middle aged German tourists, also thoroughly enjoyable. The Lake is stunning, the views straight up to the Zugspitze and surrounding mountains amazing, and the walk itself just about the right length to be a decent work out but not exhausting. It really was another lovely day.

The one thing we hadn’t accounted for was the German attitude to Sundays, which turns out to be decidedly more French than English; that is to say everywhere was closed, including the supermarkets. And we had no food. Oh well, good excuse for another evening out and the Italian restaurant Celentano – Cucina Italiana was excellent and very reasonably priced. The calzone was delicious, you should go there if you’re in town.

Alas, the rain was always forecast to hit us at some point and this morning we woke to the pitter patter of water falling onto canvas. We’d been keen to head into town anyway, to collect some souvenirs and other gifts as well as to check out the local climbing shop for local beta and possibly a guidebook not available back home.

The guy in Bersportgeschaft Alpinsport was wonderfully helpful and confirmed my suspicions of German attitudes to bouldering guidebooks: they do not like them. His quote was beautiful:

We do not want the guys from Munich to come down here and shit in the woods.

Possibly over simplified, i know what he means, and it’s not as if there aren’t an abundance of other amazing options around here. Still, it is a bit shit for many of us, who would love to spend more time in the area but lack the focal point to bring us in and in fairness, he was certainly empathetic. He offered the local climbing gym and a bit of local info and, much as in the Rockstore in Frankenjura, i got the feeling he was actually on my side. Nevertheless, no guidebook, no established bouldering. Not yet at least.

If you are German and are reading this, please think carefully about this situation. Yes, guidebooks do bring people into an already saturated area but with them, they bring their earnings from elsewhere. That is how tourism works. This is abundantly clear given the amount of tourists already here but with a guidebook, you can help to herd said tourists and educate them that there are local toilets and no need to “shit in the woods”.

Secondly, as i say, a guidebook can help to control people in the area. Many boulderers will come regardless and without any information, run the risk of wandering aimlessly and ending up where you don’t want them.

I sense i’m preaching to the converted here but i also sense it’s only a matter of time. The Alpen en Bloc guides grow substantially with every reprint and sooner or later, someone will put up a stack of lines and begin to document it – that’s what happens. There isn’t really a big boulder field and perhaps that is why it hasn’t happened yet but for anyone willing to search and shuffle their pad from bloc to bloc and keen for some first ascents would benefit from a trip to the area.

The future

For many people all around the world, myself included, this has been a very dark week. The clouds had been rolling in overhead and many of us, in the UK, went to bed on Tuesday night hoping for sunshine in the morning. We woke to be faced with a deluge of despair.

My skin had become a little thicker given the events of the summer. I had awoken on my first full morning at the age of 32 to what felt a very different world; one where the ideologies of free travel, freedom to expand one’s mind from different cultures and different peoples was slowly becoming squeezed away. This week, that took on another global form.

Fear of what is foreign seems to be trumping a desire to understand. Back in 2010, i went to Italy, largely chosen because i had a dislike for Italians. Before me lay two options: stand on the border, hold on to my preconceptions and sneer at those i did not know or go, meet them, find nice Italians, broaden my mind. I chose the latter. I can not imagine doing anything but.

Now, today, words – not bad words but words with an inherently unpleasant feeling – such as hate and fear are bandied around with reckless abandon. One can feel oneself shrink back a little, dropping the head slightly, hunching the shoulders at the thought of interacting with people. Political views are the new weather-speak only far more ardently, vociferously and with much harsher consequences. Labour MP Jo Cox would certainly not have felt the same effects if she had announced to a large group of anyone that she really liked it when it drizzled for weeks at a time. Yet political views drawn from scant and biased information are now beholden by all.

In many ways, this is excellent – for people to be considering the world around us, becoming engrossed in political debate is certainly a great ambition for society. To be close-minded in that discussion to the point of murder is more dangerous than i care to think.

I, as many others, awoke on Wednesday worried and concerned. What did this latest twist mean in the repetition of historical events long passed? Was everything actually going to be alright? I flitted through the first four stages of grief, back and forth, worrying for my future, Em’s future, the future of my unborn child. Brexit had helped to prepare me for this mentally (I was much worse back in June, where the bargaining and denial hung in the mind for many weeks and still continue today as clear objectives remain to be clarified) but i was still confronted by worry for that of my loved ones.

I came to work where everyone seemed quiet and distant. The morning passed like any other, with little in the way of confrontation of the subject by persons around me. Then at lunchtime, i decided to take Tess for a brief walk through the woods, much as i did daily for many a year.

The grey skies matched my mood as i collected the dog, walked through the car park and crossed the bridge into the woods. I walked head staring at my feet; my body language an obvious clue as to my feelings.

Then, suddenly, i looked up to see Tess leap and bound along the path. I took in the view, the familiar path, the familiar trees, the same view that has confronted me on that walk so many times.

And it dawned on me: the world is still the same today as it was yesterday. Yes, people who yesterday couldn’t make important, far reaching decisions are preparing to take office but the world itself is still as it was. The woods are still there, the crags and boulders have not suddenly disappeared, the mountains, lakes and valleys that stood proud and tall continue to do so in their usual majesty. We are still creatures of the same planet.

Granted, i know what the cynics will say: we have to do something to keep the planet in tact! And yes, i couldn’t agree more, the world needs to be preserved and is in a delicate balance, at a time where there can be no delay. But does that mean we should fill ourselves with despair? Is that what i need to teach to my impending offspring?

No, i thought, that’s not right. I don’t want my son to spend his life wary of the woes of the world. I want them to take after the dog, leaping and bounding at the joys that world has to offer. I want them to have that inherent love of the natural world that means they feel compelled to try and do what is right.

I want them to have a rounded experience of people of an infinite number of walks of life and a love and trust of people they haven’t even met yet. And i’m not going to do that by telling them these things. They have to learn it on their own.

This isn’t just relevant for my children not yet born: this goes for everyone we meet. Differences are fine; more than that, they are to be embraced! The key is to learn and to teach. To discuss and argue, fairly and with an open mind. With everyone, from everywhere, as many different people as you can. Whether you agree with them is irrelevant, for to dismiss and lambast those you don’t agree with as bigots and fools is to become a bigot and a fool.

Read different sources, seek out the attitudes opposed to your own so you can better understand those who hold them as true. And then go, speak to those people, persuade or dissuade them but understand their motives. Read the Guardian and the Daily Mail and then make up your mind. Never think there is a right answer to anything; merely the best decision you can make with what you have to hand at the time.

I am not defending extreme right wing politicians. I am not standing up for racists, xenophobes or any of the other people with derogatory labels thrust upon them. I am saying that you need to know them to understand them. And once you can understand them, you can go a long way to broadening their mind. But this will only happen once you broaden your own.

The world today is still a phenomenal place. It is filled with more remarkable people than you can possibly imagine. Remember that, treasure that, embrace that and change it with those thoughts in mind. Those are the ideals i will be teaching my children. I hope you teach yours too.

Southbound

We said our goodbyes to our good friends on the Saturday morning, having packed the car, checked the map and concluded on a plan. It was going to be a long day – coast to coast of Sweden to Fredrik’s former home of Goteborg. Something in the region of eight hours.

It had been a fantastic week spent with one of my greatest friends and had thrilled me to introduce him and Karin to Emily. As much as we could’ve easily stayed much longer, it was time to move on. After we climbed into the car, i leaned across and softly said, “Let’s go home”

Of course it wasn’t quite as simple as that; apart from anything else, it’s a bloody long way! The plan was to spend a week getting back, stopping at some highlighted spots on the way; and it’s exactly this that i’ll rattle through in this post.

Forgive the fact that i’m going to blast through this portion of the trip. So much happened on the way back, i could easily write an entire post on each individual day. Sadly, that would be far too difficult and time consuming. Throw in the fact that they really weren’t climbing orientated days – and this is predominantly a climbing blog after all – and i’ll gloss over a lot of stuff.

I say non-climbing days but actually, the reason for choosing Goteborg was actually almost entirely climbing. As mentioned, Fredrik used to live there and it’s actually the venue for where we met back in 2011. As it was on the way, i was keen to head back for another night or two to have another blast at some old projects and show Em the island of Hono.

Sadly, after eventually finding a campsite, she was dogged by some ill health on the first morning. Thankfully, the weather was crap anyway and so, she slept it off a bit and i walked the dog and finished my book about Denmark before we found ourselves there.

Nevertheless, during the evening, the sun came to rise at around the same time as Em and we were able to head out to the island of Hono to experience this wonderful place and tick off a problem or two. I’d written in a blog post that it’s “the best place you’ve never heard of” and judging from her reaction, i think Emily would probably agree. Once there, i certainly realised what i meant!

That was Saturday and Sunday nights and Monday, we made the beautiful drive across the spectacular Oresund Bridge and, for the first time in over a week, out of Sweden. It had been a spectacular trip to a spectacular country but was now time to move on and first, to some of Em’s family.

They live just North of Kobenhavn and we were even lucky enough to stop in the great city on the way and check it out a little. It was only an hour but being as we had both been before, was enough to raise a large smile at times gone past and fond memories.

You could say it was a slightly mixed evening in one respect but in truth, even the lesser aspects of the night and subsequent morning were enjoyable. We were treated to some excellent food (pasta, sausages, burgers, what could be better?!) a heated political debate thanks to the Brexit, a phenomenal tour of the nearby Royal Palaces and an abject performance from the England football team that, for the second time in a week, had me heatedly shouting at a screen and apologising for my nation… Fantastic people whose generosity will always be remembered.

Tuesday was predominantly driving despite a slow start to walk the dog further and enjoy the view of the Storebaelt and Little Belt Bridges, with a couple of other breaks on the way. Eventually, we pulled up at a campsite mid-way between Kobenhavn and Amsterdam; tactically chosen thanks to the forgotten far North of Germany mentioned in a previous post. We sat by the sea, looking across at the next country, eating pasta and stuff on another exceptional Scandinavian campsite, and watched the sun slowly go down. It was another fantastic evening.

Wednesday yielded another driving-heavy day for nearly the entire day. The only stop we made in Germany was to use the facilities and it took an awfully long time to make it to Amsterdam. Thankfully, in Goteborg, i had met (thanks to Em’s keen eyes) fellow Land Rover owners. While they’re not necessarily the best vehicles to use for long overland trips, they do have the bonus of the camaraderie of other such enthusiasts… possibly from that feeling that they feel your pain. Normally in the backside.

Our other Landy owners were Dutch and pointed us in the direction of not only some useful places in the Netherlands and Belgium but also a campsite just outside Amsterdam. It’s somewhere we’d mentioned going previously so why not?! They even pointed us to a campsite just outside the city centre, close to a metro station at the end of the line: Gaasper camping.

We pretty much pitched up, pitched camp and sodded off into town… taking the dog. Admittedly, the poor girl had been in the car for more than a little while at this point but looking back, the sensory overload of Amsterdam in the evening (with her maiden trip on a train (hillarious) and her first and last effort on an escalator (even more so)) might have made up for more than a little of the travel.

Amsterdam was excellent but we were there for nowhere near enough time. That said, we were never going to be and this was more a stop-off and scouting mission, to see if we liked it enough to come back. We both agreed we did.

The main focus of the “Low Countries” was Brugge. I’ve never hidden my somewhat-comic dislike of Belgium – normally summed up with the simple phrase “Fucking Belgium” – and i think this may have been what spurred Em on to finding something in this little country to take me to. Her destination was too convenient to ignore, looked like a very interesting place to go and probably inspired by the film In Bruges – which can be summed up with the simple phrase “Fucking Bruges”.

It was stunning too. A quick google search found us a convenient campsite and made me realise quite how easy travellers have life these days compared to when i started foreign ventures all those years ago. Learning from our Amsterdam adventure, we drove into town and eventually parked before wandering the city centre with Tess leading the way at the end of a taught lead.

After a while, being hindered with the hound took it’s toll on me but no matter, we’d planned for this and took her back to the car before heading out again to actually go into places and get a fantastic dinner in the square or local Flemish stew, chicken stew and the most awesome beer. All told, Belgium did very well. For once.

Finally, Friday morning arrived, we packed for the final time, throwing stuff loosely in the Landy, and waved goodbye to Europe proper before heading to Calais. Part of the appeal of Brugge (for me at least) was the proximity to the port and in a meagre three hours, following a brief, unplanned detour to the port of Dunkerque, we rocked up to head home.

It’s always tempting to recap on your trip at a time like this, looking back at the good and the bad but this is a dangerous time to do that. Until you’re at least across the channel, a lot can still happen. And as it turned out, we weren’t quite done yet….