Monday, 17 March 2014

Back to the UK for the weekend

It’s been birthday celebrations in Poole, UK this last weekend and catch up with our friends, which has been fabulous.

Morning walk in the park. We HAD to try the Virgin train out!
Friday morning, early! Alarm at 05:00, which we knew was 04:00 at our destination, so it was going to be a long day! “It’s the Geneva motor show at the Palexpo exhibition centre, next to the airport, so allow extra time due to heavy traffic”, we were told, is 06:00 departure from St Jean d’Aulps early enough for an 11:00 flight? “Yes it was” we are happy to report and it all seemed to go swimmingly, even having time to buy a litre of duty free gin for Phil’s house party on Friday night (must get some tonic and a lemon somewhere in Poole on the way!).

Bright blue skies when we left Geneva, but we arrived in the UK in thick fog, lading by autopilot the captain announced after landing, he did absolutely nothing apparently, which was just as well as there was a visibility of no more than 20m.

Hurn International airport just outside Bournemouth is a pleasantly small place, but it is a long way from anywhere (and they charge £2.50 just to drop someone off we found out when Ian and Helen dropped us at the airport on the way home, no possibility of just letting us out of the car and them driving off. It’s into the car park, directed by an official and £2.50 thank you very much!). There is a bus service (very infrequent) , so we shared a taxi with another couple to the train station, caught a train to Poole and walked the mile to the guest house, dropped off our hand luggage (we were travelling light) and went off to do our jobs.

Morning exercise
Watch repair (while we waited), a trip to Sainsburys for tonic and a lemon, a walk to Halfords for a new front number plate (broke the old one by parking the car against a wall of snow and suspect it froze to the snow and snapped off when we reversed out, but we didn’t notice so lost half of it!) and a walk to Euro Car Parts to buy a new front suspension spring and suspension link arm to have the car repaired in France by the Yorkshire mechanic we were recommended to, now living in Morzine.

Mike and Ella 'working out'
Taking them back in our hand luggage was an interesting experience, “you can’t take car parts as hand luggage” the security officer told us as they pulled my rucksack off the conveyor belt after it had passed through the X-ray machine. “Mmm, that will make it expensive” we thought, time for some grovelling and how we “didn’t know and won’t do it again”. She trotted off with our big suspension spring and the metal rod to ‘ask her supervisor’, returning after a while with a “we’ll let you do it this time, but don’t do it again!” The £38 we spent on them helped pay for our trip as we’d been quoted €250 (about £210) by the local garage in Morzine, so that was £170 saved for a trip we were doing anyway!

Mmmm, the bandana suits you Ian!
An afternoon snooze in our hotel room, a strong coffee and we were all set just as the others arrived at about 19:30 after their particularly crap 4 hour journey down from Birmingham in Friday evening gridlock traffic (some things never change!). Great to see Ian and Helen again, lots of hugs and laughs from the off, followed by Manu and Crystal, who brought down Mike and Ella (who we last saw when we bumped into them in a bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand, see:, a quick change and we were out again to Phil and Sue’s for their pre-party party to celebrate Phil’s 60th (I can’t believe my old climbing partner is now 60, but I suppose I will be as well at the end of August next year! How has that happened?)

The Sandbanks to Studland chain ferry
Great evening at Phil and Sue’s, a great buffet of hot and cold stuff, plenty of alcohol and a good catch up with all our friends and some new ones. Phil’s two sons, Adam and Henry were there with their girlfriends Dani and Gemma (all great people and good company), Sue’s daughter Helen was there with husband Neil and two daughters Emily and Lotti, Phil’s cousin Stephen with his wife and their two children, just a great bunch of people and a great evening (except Ian and Helen had to go back to the hotel as Ian suddenly went white and just felt really ill, but he seemed relatively OK by the following day).

The Powell family, LtoR: Dani, Adam, Phil, Sue, Henry and Gemma
Old Harrys Rocks
Saturday dawned clear and sunny with nice warm temperatures so, after a great British cooked breakfast (they really do take some beating), we set off for an earlyish walk round Poole Park and the large boating lake next to Poole harbour, just too late to join the ‘Park Run’, but trying out all the exercise equipment installed on the circuit, before rendezvousing at Phil and Sue’s at 11:00 for the planned day out in Studland with lunch and beers in the gardens of the Bankes Arms Country Inn, with tremendous views over Studland Bay and the English Channel with views out to Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight.

Out for a walk on the headland
Jackie, Ian, Brian and Manu
There are two ways to get to Studland from Poole, the long way right round Poole Harbour (regarded as the largest natural harbour in Europe and probably about fourth in the world after New Zealand’s Kaipara harbour, USA’s San Fransisco Bay and Australia’s Sydney harbour), or the short way using a chain ferry across the mouth of the harbour at the end of the spit of land known as Sandbanks, which just happens to have the fourth highest land value in the world. There are many exclusive properties on Sandbanks commanding quite amazing prices, apparently in July 2009 a 1393 sq m vacant plot of land was put up for sale for £13.5m!

Lunch stop at the Bankes Arms
We went the short way using the chain ferry, parked at the Bankes Arms and in a group of about 20, walked to Old Harry Rocks, which are three chalk lumps of rock extending out from Handfast Point into Studland Bay and, on a sunny day such as we had, giving fabulous views. The afternoon was spent in the gardens of the Bankes Arms, pulling six garden tables together to accommodate our group, which steadily increased as more people arrived, including Iain (Bev still isn’t well so couldn’t make the journey) and Fiona and John (John, being Irish was in great mood as Ireland were to play France in the rugby six nations and he was confident of success. 
Neil and Phil
If they won they won the whole championship, if they lost heavily England could win. In the end Ireland won 22-20 – and didn’t we hear about it all night!). The beer flowed (except for the drivers) and we didn’t leave until well after 17:00, got held up waiting for the ferry back (Helen passed the time with a paddle in the sea, yes, the sea was cold!), but back in time for a shower and change (we wore the same clothes we had for Ian and Helen’s New Year party, after we left them with them, they washed them and brought them down for us – thank you!) and a walk to the yacht club for the real party Phil had organised for his birthday (even though it was Ian’s birthday on the Saturday and Phil had already had his last Tuesday).

Fiona, John and Iain finally make it
Walk to the yacht club, the hard way!
Fabulous evening, a live band (helped on one song by Helen grabbing a microphone and singing – she can you know!), huge buffet and plenty of real ale made it an evening to remember. Phil’s cousin, Stephen made a great speech, Pete and Hilary were there, Hilary getting up to dance despite having her foot in plaster from a recent operation and John happy to display his green jumper in celebration of Irelands rugby six nations win (yawn!).

At the party, LtoR Helen, Jackie, Ella, Mike, Iain, Ian, Fiona and John
John reminds us Ireland won the rugby!
In a flash the weekend was gone, Ian and Helen dropped us back at the airport, we got caught in the Geneva traffic (it really is a crap place in which to try and drive) and we were back in our apartment at about 17:00, feeling a bit jaded and tired, but very happy people having caught up with all the people who we can really call our good friends.

Hilary dances despite her foot being in plaster!
Dani and Helen
Our next get together will be at Ian and Helen’s wedding on 12th July and, by then we’ll have finished our ski season, been to Richard (Jackie’s dad) and Elizabeth’s in Spain and back to the UK in time for my niece, Steph and Sam’s wedding on 24th May. It all seems a long way off, but we’ve got lots of nice things in between. Our main problem now is lack of snow, it’s been 18⁰C here today, clear blue skies and, although the pisted runs are still OK, the snow is visibly disappearing, will it last to the end of the season? Let’s hope it snows and lots of it, but there is no sign of it at the moment! Perhaps we should go to the beach!

Mike and Ella
Oh, and by the way John, Fiona and Iain, happy St Patricks day (as well as winning the rugby)!

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