Gothenburg and Kungshamn

My last post was a bit short on detail wasn’t it? Perhaps I should explain. Every year (well almost) we go to the Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden. This year was my 6th at Herrang, and Lotte’s 4th. The only recent year we’ve missed is 2003, and I can’t remember why that was — probably we’d already done too much travel that year! We’re already planning to be there again next year.

More photos, including of Gothenburg and Kungshamn, here.

Dublin and Norwich

The past two weekends have been spent away, with Lotte assisting Bill to teach workshops in Dublin and Norwich. The photo is actually from Dublin, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it. The group was really fantastic and learnt an awful lot in two days. The workshop in Norwich was very different — part of a swing, tango and salsa “fusion” weekend. It had mixed success in the sense that their was a lot of learning but not much actual fusion between the different dance styles. I took part in a tango class and marvelled at the technical skills of the teachers. The fundamental concepts were very similar to Lindy Hop, but more emphasis was put on keeping everything on one level in tango instead of “sinking into the floor”. When I took a step I was warned about “collapsing” my legs. I didn’t take part in many classes however. For the most part, I did my own thing at these weekends. In Dublin this consisted of finishing my thesis and watching The Da Vinci Code on my laptop, as well as getting a good look around town. The city is beautiful, and the wide suburban expanse by the bay reminded me of home.

In Norwich the experience was quite unusual. We were staying at Bylaugh Hall (pronounced Beela Hall), an amazing restoration in progress of a rural mansion that was requisitioned during WWII by the RAF. There are still all kinds of temporary wartime structures such as bomb shelters standing near the house, all overgrown with vines and rusting. The building itself had become decrepit before restoration work started 6 years ago, and when you walk through some of the partly restored areas you can still see dead vines clinking to the pillars. It’s now used as an arts and culture venue, and is hired out regularly for weddings and parties. We were treated to gourmet dining and luxury accommodation, all of which was very much appreciated after a hard slog for both of us. Lotte’s been invited to teach with Bill on a more permanent basis in Europe, with the next set of workshops in a couple of months.

Meet the Parents

Last weekend Lisa, Mum and Dad headed over to Paris for a few nights before heading to Prague, and then on to Switzerland and Holland. Lotte and I picked up Mum and Dad at the airport in Amsterdam while Lisa visited her old friends Jean-Pierre and Christine in Switzerland. One of the aims was for Mum and Dad to meet Lotte’s Mum in Zeeland, so we hired a car and headed down for the day.




Flurry of plans

Tonight Lotte and I registered for Goodnight Sweetheart in February and the London Lindy Exchange in March. Places tend to sell out of these things in the UK we’ve been told, so it was time to commit. Also I found out I’ve been picked to represent Australia in the 3rd annual World DJ Championships at GNSH, which is going to be huge fun. And just yesterday I got a casual invitation up to the International Centre for Research on Learning at the University of Dundee in Scotland. I might take them up on that offer to do a presentation of some sort. We’ve also planned our first side-trip to Holland, only 6 days after our arrival in the UK! The air fares are amazing — for 100 GBP we get there and back, and that’s including insurance. Handy.

Friesland

We left Zeeland on Saturday morning and took the train to meet up with our friends Daan and Thomas at the house in Utrecht. That afternoon we drove 2 hours north to the province of Friesland, where Friesian cows, and the English language originate from. We stayed overnight at Thomas’ sister’s place in Leeuwarden. It was funny to think that we’d travelled the entire length of the country in less than a day. One thing I noticed about Leeuwarden was that the architecture was different. The churches did not have much decoration and things were in general very sombre and old fashioned.

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We headed back towards Utrecht on Sunday the 3rd of July along the Afsluitdijk, which is an amazing 30km long construction that keeps the north of Holland from being flooded and battered by the ocean. Below you can see a ship coming through one of the lochs in the dyke, and a couple of workers pushing a small rock into place to build the dyke up.

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Zeeland

Skip forward a few days now to Wednesday the 29th of July — the day we arrived in Zeeland, Holland. For those who don’t know, Zeeland is where New Zealand gets its name (spelt Nieuw Zeeland in Dutch). It’s the southernmost province of Holland and is famous for its beaches. We stayed with Lotte’s mum and grandma in a very small house (het strandhuisje) right on the sand at Vlissingen. Sort of like a bathing box with mod-cons. I really like this photo of the sunset over the beach. I snapped it from the front of the strandhuisje looking up along the beach just before 10pm. The days are very long right now, with twilight lasting until after 11pm.

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Here’s a shot of me right in front of the strandhuisje looking about as relaxed as I can be. I must say it probably looks a tiny bit warmer than it actually was there, but while the wind is bracing, when the sun shines it’s very pleasant. I can’t say it does much for the temperature of the water though. I went for one swim and it felt about as warm as freshly melted snow.

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One of the really fun things about this beach is that it’s actually right at the end of the river that leads to the port at Antwerpe, so about every 2 minutes you see a huge ship only about 1km off the beach. So spotting ships through the binoculars is one of the main passtimes.

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Our other main passtime was playing Yahtzee. Also in the picture are Lotte’s mum, dad and grandma (or in Dutch, Oma).

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Hameau du Lac

Here we have a few shots of us nearby the house in Hameau du Lac. On Saturday we decided to head down to the stream behind the house to see if we could have a swim. It was a bit too green for me to swim but Lotte and Dory had fun on the crocodile.

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Sunday was a funny day that sort of started with a minor disaster but finished in style. Just as Bil was taking our rental car around a tight corner he snagged some sharp bricks beside the road and popped a tyre. We had a brief pitstop before heading on to the beach.

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That night we had, I think, one of the best meals of the whole trip at a restaurant just near Sigean that was recommended to us by Lotte’s aunt Anna called the Hotel St. Anne. They did a special 3 course menu for us that included the beautiful fish dish below, all for 17 Euros each. We were the only customers in the place that night and I have no idea why because it was truly gourmet stuff. I believe it starts to get a lot busier in July and August though.

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Eus

After Castelnou we headed out for a drive to a lake. The plan was to have a swim, but about 5 minutes into our journey we were in the middle of a deluge that turned into a hailstorm. It was very dramatic. We waited by the side of the road until it cleared and then headed on our way. By the time we got to where we were going it was dry and we swam anyway (well, I didn’t, but I wasn’t feeling like it). Oh yeah, and we ate icecreams.

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On our way back, we found a tiny tiny village on a hilltop called Eus. You pronounce that “UH”. We laughed about that for hours. What would you say if someone asks where you live? “Uh… UH”. Anyway it was beautiful.

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Castelnou

These shots are of a beautiful village & chateau called Castelnou, which is about an hour’s drive from Sigean. I highly recommend going there. There’s a cafe and winery, of course, but the highlights are the views and the buildings dating back to 989AD. The town is now inhabited mostly by artisans who sell to the many visitors. We spent a couple of hours there just taking everything in.

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Just when we started thinking that we were the only non-French tourists there, we ran into this Dutch couple with their dog. Lotte introduced herself and started talking to them before she realised they were Dutch. We all introduced ourselves as “Geoff from Canada, Matt from Australia”, etc. until Lotte said “and me and my sister and her boyfriend are from Holland”. The Dutch guy smiled and said “We are also from Holland but we are from the REAL Holland!” Then Lotte started to speak to him in Dutch and he realised that she was actually from the real Holland too, so we all laughed.

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And here are some more from Castelnou. The sign was outside a small art/craft marketplace that was deserted. Looks like it belongs in an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo.

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