Friday, 30 July 2010

European Summer - Part II

Given the extravagance of last years 2-month road trip, our holidays this year were rather more modest. In fact, thanks to some good friends, it was almost free. Said friends have an organic smallholding in Corsica so we got a cheap flight and then spent a week in a tent, under some trees, next to a stream, halfway up a mountain.


All we did was go on short hikes where we found abandoned houses and trucks to play in and amazing Cork Oaks to climb. We laid on beaches, saw old mountain villages, cooled down in the chilly waters of the stream, basked under the solar shower and contemplated life from the composting toilet.

At night we watched the moon, listened to the Skops owls and the sheep bells and ate great food grown almost exclusively on this piece of land:.

We also learned all about the wonderful world of WWOOF ......... 

WWOOF stand for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - people who are interested in learning about permaculture, organic farming and in this case, Corsica, come and stay for free in return for working on the land and doing a few other things related to the business (The source of income here is from four cabins that are rented out in the summer).

We learned some organic and permacultural stuff too, got some great tips on how to improve our composting and came back determined to start growing a few veg of our own in the back garden. We also learned a lot about Corsica: it's really not France - they speak a dialect of Italian and love the English! 

Given that spouse and I were a) on holiday and b) there to catch up with said friends we were not assigned any hard labour We did volunteer to cook one evening and did a few other minor chores but most of the week was spent with our feet up, sipping the local wine and watching other people work.

The friends have been here for most of the past 10 years and I really wish that we had got round to seeing them here sooner because this could be their last year. They are planning to come back to the UK and the whole place is now up for sale. So if you want a new life half way up a mountain growing your own food let me know and I'll pass on your details! 

Thursday, 29 July 2010

European Summer - Part I

A couple of weeks ago spouse was asked to speak at a conference in Germany. His flight was paid for so we concluded that we would get another flight and have a long weekend in Koln after the conference.

It was spouse's birthday that weekend and an old friend of ours, who lives in Berlin, also came up to Koln for the weekend. As usual when the three of us meet, a riotously drunken night was had by all. In fact spouse and I never get so completely inebriated as we do with this particular friend. I think there is a kind of mutual nihilistic chemistry that is only activated when we are in close physical proximity in European bars and spouse and I always seem to end the evening by dancing to whatever live music happens to be on. In this case it was a piano man in a hotel bar possibly playing 60s soul but could just as easily have been Barry Manilow or Rachmaninov. I really can't remember. A rapid exit followed.

The next day we got up very late and did very little except wander around town and eat. It is a long time since I have been in an historical environment like this (not counting London) and it was great. Koln Cathedral is a masterpiece of European Gothicity and its free - everyone has to pay to go into historic church buildings in London these days. What was also nice was taking short flights. I always forget just how close the rest of Europe is. The bizarre thing about the UK is that the continent of which it is a part seems to get less news coverage than others much further away. Can we still blame the empire for this?

There's always some historically referential graffiti....