Tag Archives: trip

Delphi and Meteora

With the time off I get in Athens, it gives me a lot of chances to see more of Greece, so I decided to do an actual tour. I wanted to see some of the real history of the country, so Delphi and Meteora were a must do. Epic scenery and some great stories as well

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I booked through a website called GetYourGuide.com which was pretty good, their price was about 30EUR less than if I’d booked direct, and the company I went with was called Key Tours. It’s a two day tour, and the price included a stay in Kalambaka at the base of the Meteora cliffs.

img_20160816_093201012I was picked up, transferred, fussed around and faffed about until eventually I was on a coach heading up to Delphi for our first stop. The guide was an impressively knowledgable lady called Anastasia, talking almost constantly all the way out of Athens, and then from Athens the whole way to Delphi. Honestly it was very hard to listen to her talk for such a long time, there was just too much chatter that didn’t interest me, so I fell asleep. The service breaks were depressing tourist traps full of over-priced tat and rubbish food, but we didn’t get much choice.

img_20160815_122408611_hdrOnce we got to Delphi there was a little more fussing, then the group followed our guide on a rather uninspiring tour of a hugely inspiring location. The site itself is incredible, ruins of treasuries, a huge temple, a stadium and so much more, all built around the Oracle, on the side of a mountain. The views in all directions were wonderful, the valley spreading below us and the mountain peaks above, while the ruins showed how the ancient holy location functioned. The story goes that Zeus released two crows who would meet at the centre of the world, then hurled a rock down in that location to mark it for mankind. There is a fissure in the rock there, where sulphuric gasses rise from the depths of the planet, and they found that breathing this gas caused strong hallucinations. They would use a virgin, who sit atop the fissure, breathing the air and explaining what she saw (or just mumbling nonsense) and priests would translate this into advise and prophesy for the leaders of the various city-states. The most well known of the prophecies is the story of Croesus who was told that he would destroy an army if he went to war. He went to war, and his own army was destroyed.

img_20160815_123438774It was a holy location, so nobody lived there, meaning there are no remains of homes, just the main temple of Apollo and various treasuries, or gold supplies for the city-states. The location at Delphi meant it was close to the coast and accessible relatively easily by all. The formed a council of elders, and it was at this location they could make decisions for the entire nation. The Oracle features in several movies, including 300, which depict it as a truly mystical place – It’s unlikely to have been quite to fantastical, but the Ancient Greeks certainly believed in the power of Oracle.

img_20160815_162113848We missed the museum, which contained many of the statues and more delicate artefacts in order to get going towards Meteora. We did get a brief stop at the monument to the Spartans who died Thermopylae. A mighty spartan warrior stands atop a wall, with a carved depiction of the battle of the 300 against the immense Persian army. Since the water level has lowered the narrow passage shown in the movie is now much much wider, and would be impossible to defend with so few men.

img_20160816_085842672We switched out guide when we left Delphi, and I had been hoping that our new guy would make the journey a little better, with shorter talks about the most important sights, however he also decided to expel every nugget of information he could about the regions we travelled through, including a wonderful 20 minutes on a special cheese, 40 minutes of the plains of mid-greece and plenty more that I was more than happy to sleep through. I expect I missed a lot of the interesting and relevant information, but trying to concentrate was just impossible. We arrived at Kalambaka tired and drowse, but a reasonable feed and a stroll around cleared my head before bed.

img_20160816_090721228An early start meant we were on the cliffs before most of the tourists, and actually had a chance to view some of the very impressive sights of Meteora. The place is famous not only for the high cliffs rising out of the plains below, but also the monasteries and nunneries built upon them. Built by religious hermits who had been residing in the caves, the cliffs gave the monks the solitude to worship and act according to Gods will. Nowadays there are roads up there, and tourist crawling all over the churches and holy areas, so I imagine the solitude is less effective, but the idea of constructing entire buildings on rock outcrops and effectively inaccessible cliffs, back in the 11th Century is just unimaginable.

img_20160816_114643010_hdrWe visited two of the main complexes, and viewed one from the outside (it’s closed on Tuesdays) and each had it’s own charm, and was an impressive structure when you consider the challenge of building on the pure rocks. The views were possibly the most spectacular, although our guide insisted on teaching us about every mural in each chapel, which took up most of the time inside. I decided to skip out of tour to enjoy the location without being surrounded by other tourists, and there’s something about musty church air that makes me feel pretty bad (I must be a sinner).

img_20160816_094120506The trip home was long an uneventful, I tried to sleep as much as I could, I had certainly had enough of the guide. At least the ride was smooth and there was minimal faffing around.

I’d absolutely recommend the sites, they’re excellent, and good value for entry, but if you can find a way to see them without doing a tour do so. Greek guides have to go to school to qualify, and the school teaches them to talk as much as they can, for as long as they can, and it’s exhausting to listen to. I’m surprised they can still talk at all.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Festival Season Pt.1 – San Fermin

San Fermin – often mistakenly called the Running of Bulls – is a week long celebration of a local saint the town of Pamplona in Northern Spain. It’s a lot more than Aussies running away, bullfights and sangria, so here’s how to make the most of it.

IMG_20160704_123832072_HDRThere’s two main parties of the festival, the opening and closing ceremonies – the closing is a rather more sombre affair, with candles and quiet respect before getting drunk, while the opening ceremony has an early start with short presentation from the town mayor, followed by an impressive sangria fight. The fruity wine concoction is thrown everywhere dying those fresh white clothes a delightful shade of pink. This is followed by a full day of music, dancing and celebration by all those attending. The town is half boarded up by this point, with many businesses closed up for the entire festival and others making the most of their location to sell cheap but tasty bocodillas (sandwiches) and hundreds of bottles of Sangria.

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There’s no bull run on the first day, just the opening, and a full day of parties, although it’s highly recommended to take a siesta at some point, the 8am kick off makes it quite a challenge to go through till late. There’s plenty of streets where the party is outside, but also a few specific bars that work well, NZ bar is a favourite certainly.

Once opening day is done and dusted, it’s on to the bulk of the festival. Each day 6 Bulls and 6 Steers (the floppy bulls) are released at the end of the corridor, comprised of city streets and wooden fences, to run to the bull fighting stadium. Most of the runners wait outside the town hall, ready to flee from the beasts. The start is marked by three fireworks, the first letting people know the gates have opened, the second meaning the first bulls have left the corral, and the last for the last bull out. It’s considered cowardly to run on the first rocket, so the crowd wait until they hear the hooves on the stone streets before running. From then on it’s a matter of survival – many people get injured each year, broken bones, bruises and scrapes are very common, with the occasional goring from a bull. It’s not uncommon for people to be killed. If you want to run, you need to get down very early, Busabout ships you in with plenty of time to spare. If you want to watch, you can pay for access to a locals balcony, which ranges from 20EUR up to several hundred, cram yourself into the streets and watch over the double layered fences or my recommendation is to head to the arena and watch it on the big screens. With cameras all along the course you’ll see the best of the action (and slow-mo replays) along with a couple thousand other fans.

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Once the bulls have chased those brave/stupid enough to run into the ring and left themselves, one of the most entertaining sections comes next. The crowd is allowed to leave the arena floor, but six more bulls are released, although much younger and with covered horns, to charge around the stage giving everyone another opportunity to risk live and limb for the adrenalin rush. After just a couple minutes the floppy bull is released to collect the young one. The floppy bulls aren’t dangerous, although the do have big horns, they more like the pace car at car races, keeping everyone moving along.

The run and arena fun is all early morning, from 8am, so afterwards it’s best to head to breakfast and back to bed again. If you’re on the camp site, you will have been woken up at 4.30am (and were probably still drinking at 1) so midday nap is not a bad idea at all. Then once evening rolls around you can watch a professional bullfight or hit the bars and work on tomorrows hangover. I personally don’t recommend the bullfight, while the running is certainly questionable as far as animal cruelty goes, there is no arguing about the fight itself. The bull is slowly injured and weakened before being killed by the matadors, there’s a lot of tradition with it all, but personally I would not want to pay money to support the fights.

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2016 was the last year that Busabout ran it’s San Fermin package, which provided camping, hostel and hotel options for it’s passengers. From 2017 onwards they will continue with their Hop on Hop off network, which goes through Pamplona, allowing people to make their own arrangements for the festival.

Busabout

Well I’ve been rather busy lately.

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I decided a while ago to apply for a few positions as a guide as I wasn’t overly satisfied with my work at Flight Centre. I wanted to get back to the source of the travel, to be truly involved in making peoples holidays, talking to the people having fun, not just booking their flights. Of all of the positions I applied for, it was Busabout that I wanted most (although a position in Africa was pretty tempting as well). The Hop-on Hop-off style is how I would want to travel Europe, with a guide to help out, but no restrictions time wise. With so many cities visited in so many countries, it allows you see the best of Europe, and gives you the tools to see the rest of it as well. Plus the coach gives people a chance to meet new friends, much more sociable than the trains.

I got through the interview process with a hastily written presentation on Barcelona FC, and wowed them with my one on one, which meant I got invited to join the 7 week training trip – visiting every city on their loops, through 14 countries in Europe. So I handed in my notice, packed up all my things and hit the road again.

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It was a gruelling 7 weeks of coaches almost every day, rushing around cities to find out as much as we could, bike tours, pub crawls, cooking classes, boat trips and much much more. There were some late nights, some stressful situations but I felt it was all manageable, they tested me, but I never felt like I would fail. Once I got into a routine of having everything prepared a day before, I could hop up and give a talk on cities and countries I’d never even been to. It was a lot of fun in fact, meeting so many like minded people, learning huge amounts about European history and every city on our network. Now I’m sure all my friends will complain about the constant barrage of facts.

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Then as the end was in sight, they told me I’d be flying off to Greece for an extra 10 days of training on the Greek Island Hopper adventure product. While I was craving some rest, I jumped at the chance to educate myself in Greek gods, mythology, and how to avoid sun burn when it’s 40+ everyday. As we experienced the product I learnt how much fun it would be, parties every other night and some beautiful islands to explore.

I am now happy to say that I am employed by Busabout as a European Guide, and have started with my first sector just two days ago – Munich to Paris with just 10 passengers. Tomorrow I will be hitting the road with many more, heading to Amsterdam. Time to brush up on my Dutch history.

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I have to thank all of the trainers who helped me prepare for this, pushing me to my limits, making sure I’m ready for silly questions, difficult questions, and everything else they can throw at me. Here’s to a wonderful summer in Europe.

Berlin Pt1

Arriving in Berlin was fun, I had hardly any idea where I was, and I’d forgotten to do any research into where my hostel was, how to get around or basically anything at all. Thankfully the Berlin transport system, and a cheeky bit of roaming data got me to my hostel (after a nice detour to where google maps incorrectly listed my hostels location). Just in time to meet some other travellers for dinner and an early night.

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IMG_20151023_102205We’d planned the night before to hit a cycling tour, and as I still had no idea what to do, jumped onto this. Another slight problem meant my phone alarm was slept through but again the efficient German public transport system did me proud and I barely missed a thing. With Berlin being the size it is, I was very glad we did the bike tour, the same distance on foot would have taken well into the evening. In fact the bike tour is a great way to get a feel of the city, and thanks to the routing you don’t see anything more than once. Our guide was a friendly guy from New York, who did a great job educating us as we rode around, and we got to see all of the historic German highlights in a single day. It felt good to tick so many off, even though I ended up walking past many of them again later on the trip. It’s also nice to have had the tour, and actually understand what you’re looking at.

IMG_20151023_162146It was great to see the sites of so many historical events, and it certainly adds a certain realism to the idea that such things happened less than 100 years ago. Places like Checkpoint Charlie, which are now tacky tourist stops are incredible when you realise the transformation of such a significant landmark. As the guide quipped you can see who won the war by looking at the shops around – MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC etc – Capitalism won. Other locations are less spoiled, places like the Reichstag (Government) building, or Bebelplatz the University courtyard that hosted the monumental book burning by the Nazis with it’s thought provoking tribute under the ground.

IMG_20151024_141240We also cycled through Tiergarten, a large park to the west of the city centre, which broke up the tour, and gave us a rare chance to see such a part of Berlin. It’s a little out of the way, but if you’re craving some greenery it’s well worth a look. It’s also host to the Berlin Zoo, which if you’re a fan of Zoos is supposed to be one of the best in Europe.

After the tour we decided to check out the Topography of Terror, a history of the Waffen SS and Military Police used by the Nazis. While an amazing piece of history, it only covers that one specific topic, not deviating into the war in general, and it has a lot to read, which makes it rather dry, and trying to get through it all becomes something of a chore later on. Just read the bigger signs or you’ll be in there for days.

IMG_20151026_114828We joined the bar crawl from our hostel that night, which was interesting as we were pretty much the only folks on it. The guides were nice though, and some of the bars were very cool, although we did start and end in some pretty rubbish venues. The eastern end of Berlin has two districts fighting to be the coolest, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, the bar crawl was in the northern of the two (Friedrichshain) and I was impressed by the alternative style of many of the bars and clubs. Hearing music from NOFX and other punk-rock bands was very cool, as was the friendly and laid back attitude of many of the venues. The live gypsy-folk band in one of the bars was very entertaining as they got the audience bouncing and dancing with some very odd moves. Overall the crawl is not worth it for the drinks, but having a bit of structure and going to a nice variety of bars (and one terrible club) was pretty cool.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Prague Pt2

Part 1 here

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IMG_20151021_115145The next day I decided a walking tour might mean I learnt something about the sights I was seeing, so headed to town to meet the late morning one, only to miss it. From there however I decided to head to another part of the city and check out DOX the modern art gallery that had been recommended to me. The route there meant passing through another hill park, again with some great views of the city, and what I assume to be an abandoned rail-yard.

IMG_20151021_122244DOX itself had a couple of exhibitions, the main being ‘Brave New World‘ featuring art work based upon, and inspired by 1984 – George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury and Brave New World – Aldous Huxley. The general theme being the control of our personal lives by a totalitarian government, and the way we’ve started to slip into this society. From giant statues of Hitler, Stalin and more, to videos of Nazi parades, the pieces worked together to make a statement about modern capitalism and consumerism. A wall of TVs played a loop of adverts, originally designed to sell a product but now used to show us how our lives are lead by these sales pitches, selling lifestyles along with their products. Probably most spectacular was the floating construct, made of sheet plastic and built into tubes that could be crawled through, hung from the ceiling above the gallery.

IMG_20151021_155701From DOX I hopped the trams back into the centre, without much of clue which way I was actually going most of the time I had to jump on and off a fair amount, but it’s easy and you never need to wait long. Back in the city I managed to join the walking tour for a fascinating look around the old town and jewish quarter.IMG_20151020_152619You certainly learn a lot more about what you’re looking at with an experienced guide, and while a lot of people are put off by the free guides, I have always found them excellent, from Dublin to Berlin (see next blog) they work hard to be interesting and entertaining, as they work for tips. With a pre-paid tour they’re working for good reviews, while the free tours are working for their living, so tend to put a bit more effort in. I highly recommend them in whatever city you’re visiting (or even your own, you never know what you might learn)

So after a great little tour of churches, synagogues, clocks and plenty more old buildings it was time for a quick drink with some tour mates, and a semi-traditional Czech meal curtesy of my hosts parents. The next day was a simple choice of bus or train over to Berlin, but given the price difference, and that the bus had airplane style seat back entertainment it was an easy decision. After a few passport control stops I was in Germany, and headed for Berlin.

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Copenhagen Pt:1

So having settled (at least for now) in Brighton with a full time job, I have an excellent opportunity to explore Europe city by city. I have Prague and Berlin booked up for next month, and another trip in December of undecided destination. But my first trip was to Copenhagen, mostly because the flights were very cheap.

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IMG_20150919_115426I went with a good friend of mine, and we stayed in a nice little Hotel/Hostel combo near the main station. An early Saturday flight was cheaper than the Friday night, so we arrived into CPH around 10 in the morning. The train over from the airport was nice and easy to catch (and accidentally not pay for) and the hotel was a short walk from there. The Annex hostel was clean and functional, with nice sized rooms and very friendly staff. Helpful hints and the usual city maps to help the tourists out. My phone contract also allows me to use data abroad, which made finding our way around very easy, so rarely used the map. I’m a big fan of 3 thanks to their roaming offer.

IMG_20150919_120730After leaving our bags, we decided to walk into town and headed past the station and down the main shopping street. Filled with the usual fare of European shops, but along pretty streets, the street is lively and friendly without being overly busy. It’s a long road as well, with shops all along until you reach the other side of the city centre. From there we headed south towards the infamous Christiania, crossing the pretty canals and past plenty of massive and fascinating buildings. CPH seems to be full of churches, statues, squares, palaces and more, and while a lot of them are not as old as you might think, perhaps only 17th or 18th century, there’s so much history in those streets its impossible to ignore.

IMG_20150919_115710We spotted a spiral spire on the horizon, and as it was en route to Christiania decided to see what it was, turns out it’s Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Saviours Church) and the spire is accessible, so up we climbed, and got some awesome views over the city. The only tall buildings in Copenhagen are the church towers, so don’t expect a view like New York, instead you can see for miles around, even as far as the bridge to Sweden. With the Copenhagen Card that we’d got from the tourist office on the way into town we got free entry, the first good use of the card. We could see our next destination from the top, so guided ourselves to Christiania, an enclave created by hippies in the 70s that has been allow continue by the Danish government. So it’s full of hairy, dreadlocked types, and lots and lots of weed. There’s a very free vibe as you enter, people happily sprawled out in the sun relaxing with a spliff. Be careful with your camera though, they don’t take kindly to photos, and as you wander along ‘pusher street‘ you’ll see stands selling drugs, but draped in camo nets to hide the proprietor, who usually hid behind shades and bandanas as well. Down towards the waters edge, the scenery opens up again and the canal-side path is a lovely place for a stroll.

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IMG_20150919_142449Heading back into the city we stop for a traditional Smørrebrød and sit on a bridge watching the city buzz around us. Back to the hotel for a nap after our early flight leads us through the city again, seeing more of the sights but without a clue of exactly what we’re seeing, just stunning old buildings, and stunning new ones as well. We found a very strange stop on our wanders home, a statue museum, display some originals and some copies of the best statues around CPH, almost creepy, the amount of statues was overwhelming, and the art work very impressive. Some of mounted figures were so huge they reached the roof of the huge cavernous rooms that house them.

IMG_20150919_141552After our break, the next stop was another accidental find, Huset KBH, a little courtyard surrounded by little bars, and the bastard cafe – dedicated to board games. We happened across a Q&A with some people, though we have no idea who they were, or what they did, as our Danish is a little non-existent. We enjoyed some nice drinks, and free pancakes too before heading over to Nyhavn for dinner. Although we’d heard the warnings about this tourist trap, we still enjoyed good food that wasn’t overly expensive and the vibes were friendly enough. Exploring more of the streets on the way home we saw a little of the nightlife, mostly just funky bars and little pubs in the city centre, no hassle or aggression though, like some cities.

Continued here

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Cambodia Pt6: Kampot Pt2

Continued from here

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DCIM100GOPROThe casino, the only part of the Chinese plan that seems to have been built, sits on it’s own looking rather weather worn and dated. It’s the only place that we found that sold food, so we had a little bite and marvelled at the bad interior design. The next is a part built hotel, a concrete shell that never saw any fixtures or fittings, rather ugly, but good fun to explore, and the views down to the sea are even better than from the Buddha. After finishing off the concreting so well, it’s so strange to have just left it there. There’s some more roads that head around the mountain top, open and quiet, so good for a little burn about, even on the little scooter I had. Finally there is a waterfall in a little dip, along with typical touristy gift shop. It was very dry while we were there, but judging by the size of it, a good amount of water would be flowing over the rocks when raining. Riding back down we got to enjoy the view all the way down, and with the engine off it was remarkably peaceful.

DSCN6712The last day in Kampot was spent with a Belgian guy and a British family climbing some of the Karst cliffs not far from the town. I highly recommend checking this out if you’re staying in Kampot, Climbodia was a great day out, and one of the best activities we did in the country Following the directions was good fun, but we did find the place (definitely got lost on the way home though). David, our lead guide was excellent, with some impressive knowledge both of the local area and the mountain we were climbing. Along with the rest of the Climbodia guides we had the complete package, with lunch, snacks and drinks included. The day starts with a nice easy climb leading to the Via Ferrata (assisted climbing) then an awesome abseil through a hole and down into a chute of rock.

DSCN6723The tour then heads right inside the hill, through some of the more picturesque sections, winding through tunnels and caves before working our way way up again. A cool section allows you to crawl through a tight gap then peer over the edge into a 100m deep chasm. After seeing that, wiggling away again was something of a relief. The final part after lunch allowed us to climb as we wished, taking on some of the traditional style climbing options, some that were pretty normal, although still challenging, and one up through the chute we had abseiled earlier which meant bracing your back against one wall then walking up the opposite, then juggling up and so on, certainly a new challenge and one that defeated us.

DCIM100GOPROKampot was a very cool place to visit and a great surprise. It would have been easy to spend more time there if only we hadn’t got to get into Vietnam before our Visas ran out.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Why Cambodia is our Favourite SE Asia destination

Cambodia is an amazing country surrounded by amazing countries. But what makes it our favourite?

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Simply, it’s the balance of tourism, temples, history, beaches, exploration and pure unspoiled natural beauty.

DCIM100GOPROIt has something to offer for a lot of people, with Siem Reap and Phnom Penh drawing in huge crowds for the epic temples and incredible history, the southern beaches offering late nights and lazy days for the party crowd and islands, mountains, rivers and more to be explored, the variety satisfies all tastes and allows longer term visitors enough variation to stay interested. Continue reading Why Cambodia is our Favourite SE Asia destination

Tignes with Wasteland Ski and BUSC: Part 1

So my last trip out to France for the season was to Tignes for three weeks. The first week was with WastelandSki and Ciren Snow, part of the RAUSS. The last two week were with BUSC for their Main Event.

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Tignes itself is split into a few villages spreading up the valley. The main is Le Lac, but the nightlife is a little further up in Val Claret, which is where we were based for our time. Val Claret has the usual affair of Sherpas, rental shops and restaurants, but it is also host to most of the English speaking late night bars and both of the resorts nightclubs. This perhaps makes it a little less suitable for families, but certainly suits the students.

IMG_20150323_120939The skiable area is pretty impressive, with plenty of runs and lifts all throughout the Tignes valley, and it’s only a single lift over into the Val D’isere area if you have the extended Espace Killy pass. It’s worth getting, if only to save you the bus fare home if you take a wrong turning out of the Folie. It is possible to get back home again if you do decide on some apres though, just make sure you make it for the last chair back over! From Val Claret it’s easy to get up to the glacier thanks to the funicular that runs through the middle of the mountain, to the park via two short chairs, and down the valley to the rest of the Tignes area, either via the free buss or the more adventurous route over the hills. There’s a good mix of runs, although the best of the beginners areas is from Le Lac, so a few groups were getting the shuttle down for the start of their lessons, which is a little impractical for newbies in ski boots.

IMG_20150313_093117Both the Tignes and Val park are accessible on the Tignes pass, although it’s rather a long lap for the Val park. The main park certainly does the job however, with a good range of features for all ranges of abilities. With the BRITS competition during the second week and the Main Event competitions going on through the last getting some park time was a little tricky, but well worth it for the adrenalin rush. Closer to the town was the half-pipe which was a staggering 22′ superpipe while we were there. This is thanks to various international events throughout February that pushed it up from the usual 18′ pipe. Still we gave it a go, and felt the rush from that as well.

IMG_20150319_201625During our stay, as well as the various events that we were working with were a couple of open professional events that really added some spectacle to the stay. One of the best things of being in a resort with high standard features is that these events can surprise you whilst on holiday, as we found after leaving our mountain meal only to find the ‘Air Ladies‘ event in full flow giving us a chance to check out some incredible tricks in the pipe, flood lit and soundtracked by the resort.

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Continued in the next blog

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Les Arcs with Wasteland Ski – Part 2

Continued from here

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IMG_20150117_201414The Vanoise Express takes you across to the far left side of the La Plagne ski area, so it’s a couple of lifts up before you even reach the first of the main La Plagne bowls. Each has it’s own character, similar to Les Arcs, but with much less in the way of tree runs. A few notable points include the park, the glacier, ‘Death Valley’ and a secret bit of powder on the far side.

IMG_20150121_100413The glacier is a long ride to get to, and having to take a gondola down a slope always feels a bit wrong, but once you’re up it’s worth it. There’s only a couple of chairs, and the main runs are awfully moguled, but head off-piste and you should be able to find something worth the effort. The transverse chair was my favourite, although the top section was nasty, it was possible to sneak around the side of the bowl and hit some fresh snow which made the whole trip worthwhile.

IMG_20150121_120946The park was much more regimented than the one in Les Arcs, just straight runs of either kickers or rails with no way to switch it up mid line. The baby kickers were very small and didn’t offer much while the mid kickers were a challenge to hit without knuckling, there just wasn’t enough run-up to them. Death Valley certainly had a charm to it. An area which was mined in WW2 meaning there’s some very big dips and holes to get stuck in. There’s a well tracked bit of off-piste leading through, and I recommend sticking to it as we found digging your way out of a 15ft hole is not much fun. Lower down the slope you can access the valley a little easier which leads into a very tight and steep natural curving half-pipe. Great fun, and challenging to ride through, it’s amazing the height of the carves you’ll end up doing in order to quell the speed along the bumpy bottom, and it’s not exactly straight either.

IMG_20150118_105756Finally my secret powder stash, on the far right of the piste map is a chair which accesses the slalom course, from the top of this, take the drag up and along the ridge, from here, around the back of the peak, then drop in to the bowl wherever you want, but be sure to stay left as you approach the exit. From this little outcrop there’s a few drops, but head left even further and there’s a couple little chutes that were untouched both times I dropped in. The fresh stuff may not last more than 30 seconds, but the whole run is good fun so well worth it. If for some reason the drag is closed, hike it, you’ll find you’re the only ones up there, with a gorgeous view both sides and a sweet bowl all to yourself.

IMG_20150121_170528The nightlife on the Vallandry-Peisey side was pretty limited, with one French bar, Mojo, on the Vallandry half, English Bar Mont Blanc between the two and La Vache on the Peisey side. The rest were rather fancy restaurants, not so suited to students, but went down quite nicely with the SCUK crew. Bar Mont Blanc is where we spent most of the evening, partly because they hosted our welcome drinks, but also our meal deals were from here. The bar worked well, and the events they put on got the party going well, although with no other option some folk were a little tired of it by the end.

IMG_20150118_105819Over in Arc 1800 the nightlife was much better, with several bars happy to accommodate a huge amount of students. While the amount we had meant splitting them between bars on some nights, Red Hot Saloon did well to cater for as many as they did almost every night, although they did share the load with my favourite, Bar King Mad. The two clubs in town Club 73 and Le Carre (previously Apocalypse) hosted some of the best late parties of the season. The mostly English bars helped the students to spend, while the worst drink in existence was consumed in high volume thanks to the bar staff in Red Hot. A Glass Case (Cage?) consists of Gin and red wine served like a Jagerbomb, resulting in some very messy nights.

IMG_20150126_131641On the last days in resort, the snow really came in, laying down over 2ft the first day, and even more the next. Unfortunately sore legs and awful visibility meant days spent in bed and doing a selection of other jobs for the bosses. While it was nice to be heading home (even if it was by coach) it was heart wrenching to leave the resort with so much fresh snow to enjoy.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel