Chateaux et vignerons
May 30, 2007, 8:26 pm
Filed under: france, travel, wine

On our second day in the Loire Valley we awoke to rain. This was not that surprising, it was forecast, but was nonetheless disappointing. Luckily we’d chosen a region that had more than adequate leisure alternatives. We traced itineraries amongst the artisan wine cellars and medieval chateaus, which seemed all the more grand and ancient amongst the rain and grey clouds.The weather was temperamental, and we had plenty of respites in which we dashed into the villages, weaving around the skinny streets.

The cold evenings gave us the perfect excuse to stay in our log fire cabin, eating fresh baguettes and soft cheeses, drinking red wines and playing cards. Given we were flying with the infamously stingy Ryanair, we decided to err on the side of caution weight-wise and drink most of the case of wine we’d bought at our favourite winery – that of Jacky et Fabrice Gasnier. This meant we overdid it a little and Chris and I in particular were worse for wear the day we flew out.

Luckily we had time to stop at a boulangerie and buy some satisfyingly fatty French-style pizza slices on the way to Tours airport, otherwise the flight home could have been quite messy.


Lac de Rillé
May 27, 2007, 8:24 pm
Filed under: france, travel

Over the recent May long weekend we went to the Loire Valley in France, with our good friends Rosie and Chris. We stayed in a cute cabin on the Lac de Rillé, which was within a half hour drive from most of the gorgeous villages and, more importantly, wine cellars and vineyards that the Loire Valley is famous for.Staying on a lake in one of these outdoor adventure-type resorts, we had all sorts of grand plans as to the adventures we’d have. We had windsurfing and horseriding, canoeing, bushwalking and mountain biking to look forward to.

Our first day was gloriously sunny, and we soaked it up. We were virtually the only guests in the resort, so we frolicked around our own lake and bushland blissfully. Rosie teased Chris about his ornithological interest, but then we were all humbled when we stumbled upon a bird watching hut alongside the lake at sunset, which is, at this time of year, about 9:30pm. Gazing at the blazing colours listening to frogs croak and birds flutter on the water’s surface was enchanting.

Quaint little villages with science parks
May 10, 2007, 8:36 pm
Filed under: england, travel

Since I’ve already bloated my carbon footprint with long haul flights this year, and intend to do so at least twice more, it’s only fair that I make an effort while at home in Cambridge, and traveling around Cambridgeshire where the public transport is half decent.I did an interview at Melbourn, a village in Cambridgeshire, accessible by train and bus from Cambridge. I tested out both – train there, bus back – train was better, even though the bus left from directly in front of the science park there, while the train left me with a 15 minute trek through a smelly field.

I still think rural England is strange – rural in the loosest sense of the word, given you have cows grazing next to science parks, and porsche showrooms nested in ancient villages.

Melbourn is a cute little village – the type of place I would have no reason to visit if it weren’t for work. It’s nice that my work allows me to get into the corners of England tourists don’t see.

Making time for tea in Ely
May 10, 2007, 8:02 pm
Filed under: travel


Originally uploaded by cobismith.

Sometimes I feel particularly lucky. I felt lucky yesterday when I was paid to go to Ely to interview a woman. As a freelancer I can pick my hours, so I allowed a half hour before to wander around the village, and the famous cathedral, and take photos.

Ely is gorgeous. This photo was taken from the tea rooms, overlooking the cathedral. I didn’t take tea because of time restraints, but now I plan to take guests staying with us for a few days out there for tea and a meander, it’s utterly charming. Plus it’s less than half an hour from Cambridge.

sheep’s green is for the cows
May 10, 2007, 7:58 pm
Filed under: travel


Originally uploaded by cobismith.

It’s nice to be back in green Cambridge after smoggy Los Angeles, even if it is a bit rainy. The plush parks around our flat continue to entertain me. Now it’s well and truly spring, cows are grazing on Sheep’s Green, the parkland between our house and the centre of town. It seems strange, in the high-tech hub of Cambridge, to have cows wandering around nonchalantly. While walking I saw a boy trying to rouse a cow with a piece of red cloth. The cow was disinterested.

Smog sucks
May 10, 2007, 2:47 pm
Filed under: travel

I can see that LA would have been nice 50 years ago. I couldn’t live there now – not unless someone paid me an awful lot of money (which, of course, is quite common there). I couldn’t live there because the traffic is appalling, commute times are intolerable, and the pollution is out of control.Rachel has a small, efficient, practical car. It doesn’t use too much fuel so doesn’t cost too much, it’s all she needs – but she’s looking at upgrading to a larger model for safety reasons! I was astounded by the dreadful driving I saw on the freeways. I completely understand why she doesn’t feel safe in her little car, competing against semi trailers and giant SUVs driven by people blatantly talking on their mobile phones. How are we supposed to reduce carbon emissions when people aren’t safe to drive economical cars? Not everyone can afford a hybrid vehicle.

The freeways are omnipresent. LA is not a city – it’s a series of enclaves surrounded by monstrous roads. It looked to me like there was more land covered by roads in LA than buildings. Parks are a rarity. As nice as some of the beaches are, as appealing as some of the sights may be, I think LA is a horrible city. It’s ruled by cars and asphalt. Arnie has a lot of work on his hands to try and make it sustainable and pleasant.

This photo was taken from a Starbucks overlooking the famous Hollywood sign in the hills. Unfortunately you can barely see it because of the smog. I was reading in The Economist that LA is more polluted than London or New York. That doesn’t surprise me.