Winter 2015/2016

It’s so much easier to work on a blog when  you order a tea and not coffee. I feel like I can sit still a lot longer.  Just saying.

Rewind to September.
I spent some time back in the UK before my flight home to California. My last night was in Oslo, Norway and I spent three hours in the airport with two french guys just laughing and having good conversation. They were getting upset that there was no smoking area once they pass security and you can tell it was unnerving them.
Then it was time to go.

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I didn’t even rest my eyes on the entire flight. It was insane. A mixture of happiness and excitement.  And caffine. After surviving my changeover at LAX, I was greeted by my emotional father and we grabbed an in-n-out burger and went home.

I spent some  time in San fransisco and made several trips to Santa Cruz. I also caught up with friends in reno and saw the dawn patrol again , got bindings installed on my skis, and went home.

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I also finally finished my ISSA personal trainer certificate and I currently work at a front desk of a gym hoping to get someone to give me some tips on actually being a trainer. And I get a free membership. So there’s that.

In October, I finally made my move to Bozeman, Montana. 

It’s a really great place. I still had some time to get in some hikes, go to Yellowstone, and see the fall colors. I got the job at Bridger Bowl ski area as a ski technician  and I get to set up skis for people and I got certified to do some minor mechanical work with them. I still need to get going on sone real skiing lessons so I can hike the ridge and do some real skiing!!! I also get really good discounts on some brands for gear. It’s hard to not browse at everything!

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I love my job. It’s pretty brainless, low paid, and I ride a cold school bus everday to save on gas, but there’s something about it that doesn’t make me hate my alarm clock in the morning.   It almost feels like traveling.  There are still days (not often now that I’m busy!) That I sit and stare into space with this “Alice in wonderland” feeling. Like I never left. I’m back in the crowd of Americans trying to live their lives. No one thinks I have an accent. It’s ok.

Let’s talk about Bozeman.

It’s the one place that I am up with the fashion seen. Layering outdoor wear, exercise pants, and cozy shoes, coffee in hand (it better be local!)  And hair that could have gone through a torpedo.  There are so many local Owned shops, tons of breweries and coffee shops.  It’s a really cool place.  It’s a mixture of old and new. The architecture is pretty modern, and a lot of massive ranches line the highway up to the ski area.  It’s 360 panoramic views of mountain ranges are amazing, and the sunsets/sunrises are good competition for ones I have been lucky to witness  abroad. I feel like I need to do some research on bicycles for the summer because that’s how everyone gets around.

Merry Christmas and Happy new year!

I am currently  working on my rough itinerary for 2016. Stay tuned 😆

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(Taking a nap on a bench after fitting 50 children with ski boots)

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Tallinn,Estonia

I’m supposed to be working on this online course to get a certificate for personal training. But then I realised I haven’t done my Tallin blog. 

Tallinn was a really cool city.  Mostly because it is so undiscovered. The water is crisp blue, plenty of nightlife and hidden spots to relax, and you would never guess that it’s one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. It’s dirt cheap, and the living standards seem high. I pretty much stayed at the hostel for free for a week after making beds for a couple hours. I also would of had a job at a pita shop downstairs but then I decided to leave.

While I was there, I toured old town, walked around the outer city, took a day trip to Rummu , and tried to skateboard.  The coffee was ok.

Rummu was an hour bus ride out of tallinn and is an old soviet prison that is in a quarry and a go to for a lot of locals to picnic and swim. The water is so clear, and the sun brings out all the colors of the grass and paintings on the walls. I went with a Scottish girl and boy from Denver. Matt has a job of diving at a restaurant for entertainment so he was pretty stoked to do some diving off the building. Lucyanne was excited to get a mini swim lesson and jump off the building.  I was excited to wear my jacket and sit on the dry beach. Lucyanne got about halfway to the building and panicked and matt had to help her swim back to shore. It was sad, but hilarious.

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Rewind to the day before when they tried to give a a guilt trip about not wanting to go camping with then in the national forest without a tent or really anything. They cane back at six in he morning after catching the first running bus. They were soaked, and looked awful.

Kids.

It was a first for me to really participate in a hostel pub crawl as well. I usually avoid them like the plague bit my travels are coming to a close so I went for it. I had a pretty good time seeing tallinn at night, and the fact that I quickly ended up just at the bar attached to the hostel and was chatting with the hostel/bar staff until five in the morning. Good opportunity for a photo as I sat across the burger shop on the steps watching half the city eat grease/continue to drink.

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I am now back in Manchester trying to sell off some of my stuff that I left. It’s not going so quickly.

Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki…and Tallinn

I have completed my speed tour of Scandinavia.  I am currently sat in the covered market in Helsinki having a coffee waiting for the rain to pass and I leave at one o’clock for Tallinn. (This was before I completed the second half of the blog)

Copenhagen probably wasn’t my favorite city out of the ones I visited, but I wasn’t there for the parties or nightlife, so I probably didn’t see it properly. I did have a great coffee run at the Coffee Collective. Tucked back into a side street was this massive coffee shop that had its own roast plant on the other side of a glass wall. You could Watch the guys pouring coffee beans into the bags and the smell was amazing.  I stayed there for quite a while reading magazines and drinking several different coffees. Then I was fueled for the rest of my tourist walking.

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The flight to stockholm was painless and I really enjoyed the hostel I stayed at. I finally did some shopping at wesc because they were having a massive sale and I did a lot of coffe touring. I was in the “sofo” district most of the time. I also walked the perimeters of a couple islands close by.  My favorite coffee there was Coffice. Drop Coffee is the most famous, but it lacked a good atmosphere.  Maybe too many tourists. Coffice was in Sofo and had seating like you were in and office desk. With super fast wifi, people came there to get work done and enjoy a good brew and nice pastries/sandwiches/juices /watever. The barista were also really friendly and gave me advice for what I should do in my short time. I also enjoyed some snacks from Urban Deli that was pretty much like a whole foods market but with a nice outdoor patio and good people watching.

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There was also a massive indoor food market that I didn’t bother eating at because it all looked pretty pricey. But the things they had on display looked really good…

I had an early morning getting to Helsinki. My flight was at 6:40 so I woke up at three am to catch the airport bus. I slept through the take off and the landing.  I spoke to a swedish guy at a coffee shop and we went to another coffee shop and killed time until he was getting picked up by a friend to go to a cabin for the weekend. I was way jealous.

Finland  is extremely “clean”. Actually, all of Scandinavia has been. For all the cities being capitals and major cities, the streets and housing and parks were all immaculate.  It’s sad that the US don’t take anythig seriously for being such an advanced country. Scandinavia is so well established and self sustained I wish it was so easy for other countries to catch on.

The hostel I stayed at in helsinki was on an island in an old shool building.  It had old bunkers and cannons and a good view all around.

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I had a good time window shopping at all the local design shops and home goods. I really want to flat to fill with my stuff. I have several different styles that I have picked out from everything I have seen.
Helsinki really only needs a day to be seen but it was still easy to kill time there.  The ferry to Tallinn was rough sailing. I had a pretty bad headache the whole way but it wasn’t too long of a journey.  I walked through old town to get into the hostel. I still need to get some photos of the place!!  I’ll do a different post for the city. 

I have had yet another change of plans.  It dawned on me how long I will be in Tallinn and I feel like I have unfinished business still in the UK.  I was in the process of selling off some stuff, I never got to do a proper see off with the grandparents, and I really should get my darn drivers license taken care of.  So my new plan is.

Saturday- flight to Manchester
August 25th fly to Oslo from Edinburgh airport. Retrieve my bag from the hostel in Oslo, then head to the International airport in Oslo for my flight on the 26th.

Whatever happens in between is unknown.  I may go to Wales and do snowdonia with Sophie when she returns from quitting in Balestrand.  Who knows.

The hostel was fine with me heading  out, and I do a bit of helping out here and there to still get my free accommodation. Yay!

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Lucky Number Two

Today is my official two year anniversary of when I landed in the UK to start a brand new adventure. I am currently on a bus that is taking me from Gothenburg, Sweden – Copenhagen, Denmark.

I was reading some of my first blogs from when I was settling in at my grandparents house in Birtley, and what my first thoughts were after the big move. I feel like there are things I would like to say to Katie from the past.

1. “Omg spin class, how am I going to cope with no gym membership!?!?!?”
Seriously, get a life. Yes, I still enjoy a good gym session,  but there’s no reason to get bent out of shape. Go skiing,hiking, climbing. Enjoy it.
2. “I just don’t know how to take the bus or trains, I just want to go home. This was a bad idea.”
Well done for sticking it out and conquering that mythical practice of public transport. And I’d still rather  walk than take the city bus. Chances are you’ll be late either way.
3. “I’m going to sit here and Watch everyone enjoy a good meal while I have a pack of pre cooked chicken and an apple later. It’s fine.”
I still to this day won’t downgrade the paleo lifestyle. But it’s taken a while to understand the moderation that comes with it and the ability to balance. The overall goal for anyone health minded is to be genuinely  happy, eating real food. The mistakes I easily walked into were depriving myself from easy healthy meals that came from grains like quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, or from greek yogurt, cottage cheese, Rye bread, etc. And most importantly, peanut butter. I would avoid these things and buy cooked meat/canned fish not considering the fact that they are mass produced animals that are fed things you wouldn’t feed to rats. Paleo is about 100 percent self sustained protien. Grass fed, no antibiotics, growth hormone treated, no BS.  I feel like I can travel a lot easier now that I have somewhat found that balance. I don’t feel the Urge to binge on all the pastries and ice creams like I used to when traveling. Yeah, I’ll have a nice treat to go with my coffee…and then I’ll move on and not let it torment me like it used to. Chill out.
4. “How am I going to be able to straighten my hair!?”
Still love the straight hair. But wavy is nice. Baby steps.

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Enjoying  a “Fika” or a swedish coffee break, in Gothenburg. (Da Mateo  coffee roasters.)

I  also now have some tips and tricks that I have aquired on my travels.
1. Go for the free breakfast.
2. Check into the airport and spend the night if your flight is at a wierd time.  You can save one night’s accommodation  but be prepared to look like a troll and potentially annoyed by authorities.
3. Car share/ airbnb. It’s a money saver and you score some memories while doing it.
4. Pack ridiculously light.  And put your bag of life belongings in storage at a hostel. It’s free. For a reason?
5. Window seat.
6. Coffee is cheap, and makes you think your not hungry. And lots of water.
7. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Even if they don’t speak much English.  You never know who you can make friends with.
8. Walking/ cycling is the best way (in my opinion) to explore a city. 
9. And always look for the highest viewpoint!
10. Always soak up the experience. You’ll always have something to worry about, but you won’t have many moments like the ones you encounter when wandering the planet.

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I left balestrand by bus and eventually made it to Oslo I didn’t really plan ahead, and I am used to traveling in off peak times of the year when you don’t have to worry about last minute availibility.  So I was lucky enough to find room for one night.  I really only had one goal for Oslo, and it was to visit the mecca of all things coffee. The one coffee shop that I was told to go to by a barista at a independent coffee shop in Manchester. The experience was unreal. The friendly barista made a couple coffees with scales, and all the posh equipment.  I stood there as he was describing the different tastes and aromas of each and how they differ. I did a bit of instagram research and read about how Tim has bought his own land in Columbia to start growing his own coffee beans. I brought up the subject and he told me about all the processes of how the coffee bean should be and how he will get to travel out there eventually. He also wrote me go to shops in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki. Then I was out the door. Caffinated. 

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It was a typical start for me in Gothenburg. I book a cheap hostel away from the good bits,and I just assume that it’s a lousy city. Ehh. It’s great. It’s got modern buildings, old buildings, coffee galore, gyms galore, the trendy shopping district Haga, roller coasters, lush gardens, and busy main streets full of happy people and gorgeous tall blonde men. And within an hours walk from the hostel, you can find yourself in the woods surrounded by ponds and green. Pretty cool.

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I’ll be in Denmark in a couple hours where I’ll be staying two nights. The  the plan is to fly to Stockholm, stay two nights, fly to Helsinki, two nights, then take a ferry to Tallinn.

I came up with a crazy route that I could do before I go home that involved flying from Riga to Brussels, flying to Krakow, and taking the train through Prague, Vienna, and flying back to Oslo from Budapest.

I’m not doing it.

Instead I took a look at my bank account and decided that I like money and had less than I thought.  I quickly emailed the hostel I plan on staying in when in Tallinn, and I now have been booked into the staff accommodation for three nights free so they can see if I fit the part of volunteer work at their hostel. They exchange free accommodation plus extras for two shifts a week. Sorted. Time to just chill out in Estonia and let my Barclays account catch a break.

Days left before home time : 36
Countries visited: 18

Balestrand, Norway

I was pretty quick to rename this place as Balestranded but 100 percent accurate.

Rewind the day before I left. I had a brilliant dinner with Vivienne, Allison, and Andrew at the Selfridges rooftop restaurant in London. I had walked there and back from my hostel in Pimlico, and enjoyed the last bit of England that I will be seeing for a while. 

The trip to Balestrand was fairly smooth sailing. The ferry from Bergen was a great view. I’m pretty sure I saw dolphins. Once I had arrived, Sophie was stood there waiting for me and we went straight to the Kviknes hotel for coffee. This hotel is the largest wooden Swiss style buildinds in all of Norway. The view is great. All the interior is retro seating and long hallways with a massive balcony looking out at the water.

I can sit here and have coffee for free.
There is also a buffet dinner that people pay about £60 for. I have eaten there twice now. Free. Sophie gets to eat there and the hotel staff  let me in with her.  It’s a seafood based buffet with plenty of options for meat and cheese boards, veal mains, crab, mussels, and a huge dessert table. Given my OCD behavior in the past with buffets, I do really well to stock up on protein and not get wild with dessert. Maybe except yesterday.
An example would be my salmon selection salad and Rye for starter, followed by veal, haddock, salmon, and veggies for main. The chocolate mousse didn’t get photographed.

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We are also welcome to the breakfast buffet at the other hotel down the road. Free of charge.

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Sophie had some important Inghams staff come visit and they gave us the fruit baskets in their hotel rooms. So we also have a massive amount of fruit in our little green shack down the road that we stay in. We have really gotten a lot done such as hiking, a road trip to Voss, and a ride on the boat that takes us quickly around the fjords. The car rental was discounted for sophie being an Inghams rep. And the boat ride was free. I think the only thing we spent money on was traveling to voss, and eating pastries at the aquarium.  We also still need to visit the famous Ciderhust  in Balestrand. Other than that,  we just sit and mad.

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I would reccomend to anyone to spend one or two days here.  Then move on. The view is spectacular and the drive to voss itself gives amazing views and so many changes in the scenery. You pass waterfalls, topless male cross county skiers, old churches, everything. But Balestrand itself can come off a bit spooky. It’s almost as if all the orchards and houses are placed there like a toy village. Spotless and empty.

Sophie is going to stick out until her first paycheck, and then abandon ship. And I fully don’t blame her at all.

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But as I sit here in the luxurious hotel people dish out enormous amounts of money for, I am definitely ready to move on.

For not all of you that know by now, I have booked a flight to LA on August 26th. I need a break from Europe and time to prepare for more adventures in the future. It’s definitely not the end of my traveling.

Days until homecoming – 43
Countries visited – 16

May- Portugal &Spain

Since Manchester decided it wanted to welcome me back with an extreme amount of rain,  it was easy to buy a ticket out to Portugal to get a proper defrost. I invited Sophie to go with and she was all for it.

I thought I was just going to stay in Portugal until my return flight. I had forgotten how much you can get done in 10 days, and how quickly I get the urge to move on.

I flew out to Lisbon, making it to the hostel around one am. It was a bit of an uncomfortable flight since I had to attempt a sprint to my plane since it was on its final call and closing it’s gate. I thought I was an hour early but I still seem to get stumped by the 24 hour  clock. Win. The Ryanair plane Was hot and I could feel sweat dripping down my back the whole time. And the air in lisbon felt the same way.
I always seem to think that it’s nice to visit big cities,so I booked two nights instead of traveling down to meet Sophie in Faro, where she flew into from Bristol. I don’t like big cities.

I finally met Sophie in Lagos. She said Faro was a bit dead (pretty sure she was being nice because we went through it on a coach and it was crap.) The whole plan of meeting this far south was to get to Sagres point. So after a night in Lagos, we headed West.  We got off the bus into this little surfer town with no planned accommodation. After an hour of laying on the beach reading ski magazines and drinking fresh squeezed orange juice, we stopped  by a bike rental shop. We kindly asked the girl if she knew of any cheap rooms and she introduced us to this lady who had just that. It was was a cute little house in the suburbs with two beds in a room. For the two nights we paid €25 each. And our private shower had the best pressure to get rid of all the sand. Almost. The bike shop girl also reccomend a little place to go for the dinner. After we rode the bikes out to sagres point and almost got blown off the cliffs, we enjoyed our fresh frilled fish, salad, and potatos. It was amazing.  

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We had several sunbathing sessions that we mostly ended due to being  sandblasted the entire time. It was probably better that way since we still managed to get burnt. We had our last night out in Sagres in this little cafe restaurant that I think doubled as a model agency. Tall surfer girls and boys with there long hair and laid back attitude. Half of them were American.  We took a bus from Sagres to Seville. It was an all day trip but still plenty of light when we arrived. All the hostels were full but I managed to get us a cheap room on airbnb.com. This is where I was surprised at the amount of Spanish I pulled out of hy brain. When I had a conversation with our host and other Spanish people,it usually followed a surprised look to sophie.

Seville was  a really nice city. It was missing something though. People were a lot more closed. It was comparable to the way people act on the London underground, minus the sickly pale skin and business suits.  But definitely did not lack on warm sunny parks, and riverside views.

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We only did two nights there before moving onto Granada. It was suggested by several people to do Cordoba, butnwe gave it a miss.  I was so excited to go to the Sierra Nevada mountains and say that I had been to both. And there’s only so much flat landscaping young an look at before its all the same. We had a hostel right in the center of town. Granada had a lot more spirit. We saw the gypsy community, the cave houses,and great views of the Alhambra, wich we had no idea about until lectured by the hostel receptionist about how people travel from around the world to see it. He was unimpressed from our immediate response of asking how to get to the mountains.

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We set out early in the morning to catch the bus that goes to the ski station. Apparently in the off season there is only one a day and we had missed it by ten minutes. We asked a few taxis what they would charge to take us and, no surprise it was about one hundred euro. Sophie was almost in tears,so I suggested we try to hitchhike. I never really did it on my own so now that there was two of us, I wouldn’t mind doing it. Sophie was over the moon. She ripped a price of paper off the first thing to cross her path, borrowed a pen at a gas station, and drew out her destination. We made our way to the main interstate, while sophie showed her sign to basically everyone. People going the wrong direction,  homeless people, bicyclists, anyone.

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By the time we got to the roundabout a truck immediately picked us up. I think it was the only time soph didnt have her sign up. Really cool delivery driver. He had been delivering meat and chicken to all the shops and restaurants in the mountains for years so he knew  the area well. He drove us all the way to the parking lot of the ski resort where we set off up the mountain for a good hike.

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After making good progress up the mountain, we headed back down and bumped into three men who seemed to be working. After they asked us what the hell  were doing, we got one of them to take a picture of us and we asked them the easiest way to get back down. Long story short, we helped them carry he piste markers to their van down the trail, pushed the van through the deep mud,and we got a lift all the way back to the center of granada, minutes away from our hostel. They were all ski coaches and were  days away from going to switzerland to glacier ski for the summer. Cool people.

During this trip, we both became frozen yogurt enthusiasts, and spent most of our four days In granada judging wich one was the best. A special thing about granada is that the tapas are free when you have a drink. But kitchens open late and the drinks are massive. They were still delicious though.

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We were bound for Barcelona, and the original plan was to break it up with a night in Valencia. The only thing was that it just adds up with a bus,hostel and another bus. So we found a couple spare seats on a car share website. (Blablacar.com) and spent about eight hours in a little car. Half of it was a Spanish course and I got a headache. So many questions AND in a different language. I pretended to be asleep. Haha.

We arrived into Barcelona around midnight and went straight to bed. I booked the cheapest hostel, of wich was right next to sagrada famiglia.

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We really wanted to rent roller blades but that doesn’t exist. Shame!! So we had ice cream and I convinced sophie to go on a boat ride. Another thing you can do when traveling with a friend.

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I left a day before sophie and came back to a sunny Manchester. Amazing.

I have decided to be proactive,and have applied to a job in California, and signed up to the gym down the road. I’m calling it fat camp for now. I am now on day four. I feel like I have a better motivation to go because I have actual goals. There are a lot of things I need to improve (my right leg has half the balancing strength of my left) and if I want to ski/board this winter, there are plenty of strengthening exercises that will help my improve form and prevent injuries. I’m so incredibly out of condition, so that needs fixing. Day two of fat camp caused me to loose my dinner. Hahaha.

I am a week away fro going to Scotland for the mountain bike race. I have more information regarding to what I am actually doing. It doesn’t look like I am helping build he course, butnworking administration the first two days, the  confirmation the following two. So I will be in the main area and won’t miss out any of the actual race. Room, food, and all you can drink coffee and redbull is included as well as £40 travel expense. Winning!!

Birthday in the Alps / Leaving Flaine

Flaine has become a ghostown. Once the lifts shut on Sunday it was like everyone ran for the hills. The build up to the last night was extreme. Just ongoing partying and for  the first time this season I was late to breakfast…two hours. Haha. Best way to end. The endless last minute push of work,ride,work was so fun but Watching  the mountain  deteriorate and the piste  turning into mud puddles was a bit sad.  By Monday my chalet was spotless and was ready for the keys to be turned in.  I got to play with a sanding belts to remove wine glass rings from the coffee table! Yeah power tools!  We even cleaned out the storeroom yesterday and all that needs to be done now is the van and our apartments. I’m pretty much packed. Even though I have acquired a pair of snowboarding boots and a new jacket, I’ve had to say goodbye to two pairs of gloves, my snowboarding trousers, a hat, some socks, my headphones, and one of the lenses from my goggles. Even my new jacket is torn.
I kindof got to say goodbye to my ski patrol/ mountain hero friend, but I can’t actually remember what was said. Standing in the middle of the packed white pub Saturday night, bottle of wine in hand, I’m pretty sure I smiled and pat him on the head and that was that. I’m so romantic.

My birthday was really great. I was a bit worried at first when I couldn’t have my chalet party, but at the same time, it was clean and done. So fine.  And the amount of people left in Flaine it would have just been me and the three other ski total people. Some of my frenh friends were still there, but I don’t think they really mixed well with my group. Everyone likes the token American of flaine 😉 everyone  was also on a mad hunt for hash and people  were getting a bit stir crazy. Haha.

Anyway, Tuesday we drove down to a village called Sameons where Jess (one of the airport transfer drivers girlfriend ) has a really nice chalet apartment that sleeps ten people. It’s owned by her parents (her dad owns his own equine clinic in the south of england) and it’s really nice. The drive down there gave me a bit of shell  shock. All the grass and trees and flowers, rolling fields with little frenh houses. We had a bbq by the river and a big fire. It was just what I needed. Much less depressing that  the wrapped up half eaten box of cereal that was left outside my door that morning.

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We were back in Flaine yesterday  to finish some stuff but came back last night. I feel like I have finally gotten over the excessive  napping and sleeping in but am borderline a bit stir crazy. Jess cooked everyone dinner last night and it felt great having absolutely  nothing to do with it. But I do have the strong urge to tidy everything. Tomorrow we need to leave flaine by one/ two and we leave Cluses for a long coach ride back to Gatwick airport . From there I will take the train to Euston station, leave my luggage, take the train to potters bar where I will be picked up by my old roomate sophie, drive to Newmarket where my other old roomate Lisa and her boyfriend have bought a house. We will spend the day/night and I will be brought back to pb, hopefully picking up my bike along the way, get to Euston, and catch the train to Manchester. It can’t be anymore stressful than  the moving of luggage across the country.

I thought that I might take a trip to Amsterdam where a lot of the Flaine people are going for kings night, but I think that I’m just going to pass.

It’s so unreal how fast the season has ended. But I’m so ready to leave. Another door is about to open.

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