Advice from a base jumper

Last night Steve and I went to see Tim Emmett talk. He is a rock climber, base jumper, wing suit man and also does the speaker circuit from inspiring kids to get outside and be active to corporate speaking about his experiences. Tim was recently pitted against Jeremy Clarkson driving an Audi while Tim and Leo Houlding went straight up the face of the Verdon Gorge. It doesn’t often happen but this time around Jeremy lost the race to the climbers.

We got there early and were fortunate to be able to get a book signed by Tim. His talk was for me personally really insightful. During his talk Tim touched on the fact that he has techniques for calming himself, you know – when you are just about to base jump off a bridge (as you do) or most likely for us every day folk, if you are about to deliver a presentation. During Q&A I was able to ask him what these techniques were. I was stoked firstly to be able to get a chance to ask him and secondly that he seemed genuinely surprised and pleased to have been asked this question.

What he revealed in his answer seemed so straight forward but I guess as it is often with things in life until someone points out the obvious it doesn’t occur to you. But mostly it is probably because you just have to be ready to really hear the answer.

So, what was his answer?
First – relax. Well that’s obvious you say. No, RELAX. Drop those hunched shoulders, unclench those fists, loosen those muscles that you didn’t realise were so taunt.
Second, breathe. Focus on it, be aware of your breathing (or lack of!). Control it.
Finally, SMILE. I like that one. A smile always makes things feel that less scary.

Later that evening I thought back over a lot of things he talked about. Often at these kind of events I remember snippets but mostly I just enjoy the photography and videos. Tim’s talk really stuck with me. I think what struck me was that this guy who has done incredible trips all over the world, base jumped off the Old Man of Hoy, climbed El Capitan etc etc, still gets scared. Strangely that was a revelation to me. He is in way scarier situations that I have ever been so surely I can get it together.

I had a chance today to put this in to practice. We had a scheduled day off work and went to The Snow Centre again for a ski. As much as I enjoy the snow I have often found it quite stressful as I ALWAYS over think things too much. I want to go but I’m scared of getting injured, looking like a knob etc.

Usually my 2 hours of skiing consists of 1 hour of me tentatively approaching the slope. A few goes with my poles on the baby slope. Then a break. Get up the courage to go onto the large slope. Stand at the top of the large slope, contemplating all the ways I could fall over, what I might hit, who else is going, are they going to take me out. Then it is a snow plough start, followed by a tentative wobbly left turn, then a right, woooooo watch out for that pole, wobble, wobble, heart palpitations, flail the arms…get to the bottom and now I have to rest before doing it all over again. I NEVER fall over. This is a key objective. Too much effort getting up, what if I hurt myself etc.

Today was so incredibly different. Everything seemed to fall into place. I took Tim’s advice and went into action. Straight up the main slope today. Straight to the edge, shook away the stress off my shoulders, shook out my arms, breathed in, out, smiled and went for it. I don’t know how many times I did that slope but 1 hour 30 minutes later I was exhausted. I had been all over the slope, even headed straight down it to work on some tighter turns, poles had been ditched and I even improved the skating technique (needed when you want to get around on the flat areas without poles). Today I truly had fun! I even canned it 4 times. Huge wipeouts! It was great. This meant I had really, truly been pushing myself. As mentioned during Tim’s talk – “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying”. Well I fell a heap today and it was great!

So what did I learn?

Venice although pretty during the day is rather dark on the canals at night
The gondolas are gorgeous but I kinda like a bit more speed, hence you can do these when you retire
Best coffee truly does come from Italy
I stuck out as a tourist with my lack of leather, boots or Gucci anything
The sound of rolling luggage bags is a constant on the cobbled streets
Venice is HUGE! So much larger than I expected
You can find quiet spots for a moment of down time
Venetians don’t live in Venice they scatter at night to the mainland and leave the tourists to the island

Finally, as a post would not be right without photos, here are some more.

Venice by boat
Gondola, gondola, gondola
More tourists
There is even a park!
On Murano

Espresso freak out

Our last day in Venice was all about Espresso! Before arriving here I had never really been much of an espresso fan. I have found in the past that is has been too bitter for my liking. I have since come to the conclusion that it was the lack of skill not the product that was possibly at fault.

As our flight home wasn’t until 10pm Friday night we decided to take a leisurely pace today and just cruise from one cafe to the next.

First stop Cafe Vergnano 1882 in Mestre shopping centre. Generally the espresso were 0.90 cents each (standing up at the bar). Many places charge extra if you sit down. Thankfully we managed to get lucky with places that didn’t charge so we could relax and ALWAYS use the bathroom before heading off. Public restrooms are far and few between and cost 1.50 for the pleasure. However, if you are eating in a restaurant then you are OK. A tip here – the only McDees on Venice Island located on Strada Nova has a toilet that isn’t pin coded (yet) AND free Wi-Fi!

Next was a stop at the supermarket to buy our tin of 1882 coffee and of course Parmigana Regiano cheese.

Taking the train into Venice it was going to be another glorious blue sky day again though the temperature was feeling a wee bit baltic so it was on with the jumpers and windproofs. Enjoyed a wonderful lunch at a local restaurant. It was packed with local workers so this is always a positive indication that you have picked a winner. My Spaghetti al vongole (clams) was lovely. I had to pick all the large bits of garlic out though as I am sure my fellow flight passengers would not have appreciated my lunch choice on a 2 hour flight.

Our last cafe stop for the day was Cafe del Doge. This was the best find besides 1882 as this is where we finally found an affogato. It would seem that if you want an affogato you really need to find a coffee house not a local bar. Of course the espresso shot with vanilla ice cream went down very well and was a great finish to our time in Venice.

Even getting to the airport was incredibly easy. We had wanted to get the airport boat but this was turning out to be another tourist priced rip. 8 euro to St Marks Square then another 13 euro to the airport. So we took the advice of the locals who were insistent that the bus was far easier. If the locals tell you this then I would suggest following their advice. So for 2.50 we got the public bus (number 5 leaving from “platform” A1) at Piazalle Roma bus station (over the glass bridge near the Santa Lucia station). 30 minutes later we were at the airport. Easy peasy.

So here are some shots of the last day.

Cooffee anyone?
Hurry up I wanna eat!
Now that's what I call a jar of Nutella
Testing Steve's gelato
Espresso number 5 and no jitters yet
The next lot of tourists
Evening comes to Venice
Final espresso and affogato of the day
Venice at dusk

Bologna via Trenitalia train

Where does bolognese originate from? Bologna! Did we find somewhere to have bolognese? No. Today was a good chance to get off the feet for a while and let Trenitalia trains do some of the travelling for us.

Under 2 hours from Venice it was a direct train from Mestre to Bologna (around 18 Euro return each). On arrival the train station is huge and chaotic. Bologna is a main intersection point for trains across the country. It was a MAD rush in there!

We had decided to only stay for a couple of hours as we had already had 3 huge days in Venice and Mestre. Our holidays are never lazy ones that’s for sure. We tend to be exhausted by the end of them so today was a bit of a “down” day for us. Having said that we did put in quite a bit of walking yet again.

The highlights for Bologna would be the covered walkways. Apparently there are 40 kilometres of these. I could imagine during the intense heat of summer or the snowy days of winter these walkways would continue to ensure that Bologna keeps on shopping. Surely Bologna should be a key spot on your places to visit if you are after a shopping spree. Fashion is high on the list here. However, fashion at a much better price than Venice. Same stores just minus the tourist price.

Another highlight was the “Teatro Anatomico” that we came across in the university sector. Bologna is home to the worlds oldest university of the Western World founded in 1088. The anatomy theatre was incredible with rich wood sculptures, seating and with the marble autopsy table in the centre of the lecture theatre. The wooden stalls surround the tables where the students sat and the lecturers stall at the head of the room. The stall is flanked by incredible wooden carvings of two men. However the carving details a view of man without skin so you can see the muscle, ligatures, spine. This may sound perverse but it is indeed truly beautiful. The wooden ceiling is adorned with carvings of the star signs.

It has been very cold the last 3 days and today was no exception. There is a cold Arctic front pushing its way across Europe with snow falling in the alps and drops of 15 degree differences between last week and this week. Chilly!

We ended up staying about 3 hours here even so I would recommend it as a stop if you are into your shopping. You get a much better feel for what Italy is from a day to day point of view. Students are in vast numbers here, it is an affluent city that just ticks along. Cars, scooters, buses, trams, pedestrians and bicycles bustle for position in every direction. It is pure madness. I can only imagine what a really large city like Rome would be like. I was quite thankful to get back to Venice Island where cars are absent. Bliss.

Covered walkways
Doubling Italian style
Anatomy theatre

Mestre markets and coffee

Today we hung around Maestre to look through the malls. Found the local markets and generally hung out and did “as the Italians”. Ate pasta, drank espresso, machiatto and then went into Venice again. Haven’t found an affogata yet. Beginning to think this is an Aussie Italian thing although we did find one in London one time.
Feet are slowly dying and terribly dehydrated (nothing to do with the numerous espresso of course).

Venice by vaparetto

Woke up to gorgeous blue skies today. Bit nippy but this soon gave way to a warm day.
We chose to go via boat all day so got the 24 hour ACTV card for 18 euro each. Visited Saint Marks Square, Lido for a pizza lunch, Murano for glass ware. Had far too many espressos but don’t care!
Highlights for me were the blue dies, being on the water and a fab limoncello gelato.
Just realised I didn’t take one photo of St Marks Square. To be honest wasn’t that impressed by it.


We arrived at 9.30at night to a quiet airport. Marco Polo airport is nothing to write home about. However the air exiting the plane was warm and you could smell the sea. Lovely.
Within the first 10 minutes of leaving the terminal we had already been ripped off 5 euro when we purchased a ticket for the bus. Apparantly change is too hard to figure out?
Breakfast this morning was plentiful and good. Sleep was peaceful too.
After 30 minutes of figuring out the train we hit Venice proper. Beautiful if not still full of tourists. Thank goodness for McDonalds and free wifi.

Writers block, cure needed

Well to be honest it is not so much writers block because there is always something that can be dribbled about. What I am really after is a proper name for this blog and some decent writing! OK so the decent writing comes down to me but I am keen for some ideas on a name change. Carleen’s blog is rather uninspiring so any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

I recently discovered a blog of a gorgeous friend of ours in Sydney. You know who you are. I found it really inspiring and it got me excited again about blogging. For many months now I haven’t paid much attention to it and this probably comes more from my state of mind than a lack of interest. So here’s to a change of name, state of mind and hopefully something interesting to share.

Side note: just went into the kitchen and saw the largest RAT I have ever seen. I need to get the washing out of the machine and would really like some lunch but I’m too scared to go in there now. Everyone’s out so no one to send in ahead of me. Boo hoo.

…and his merry men

That’s right, Robin Hood. We took a side trip home via Sherwood Forest today. We were up in Walsall for a mates wedding. Our first English/Welsh wedding. Well actually it was the evening reception after the actual ceremony and speeches. To us kiwis (or maybe it is just me) it is a strange concept going to the reception and not the ceremony. We would normally invite all and sundry to watch the ceremony and then just close family and friends to the reception. Still haven’t figured out the traditions and quirks of this country but it was a good night and really lovely to see P & H looking fabulously happy.

The next day we were planning to head to the Snow Centre for a ski in Tamworth. However when we got there we were rather surprised at the large numbers of birthday parties and kids. No way were we going on the slopes with them! So, we decided to take a trip to Nottingham and of course Sherwood Forest.

Nottingham as it turned out was a rather large city with a very nice river running through it. The traffic on the other hand was a huge wind up so we got out of there pretty quick. Quite a number of Art Deco buildings mixed in with everything else you can think of!

By chance Sherwood Forest had a re-enactment weekend on so this was a really exciting bonus for us. The forest is incredible with really easy walkways. The forest has many amazing twisted and gnarled Oak trees. These trees are classed as ancients. We are talking 700 years old. They look amazing and this is by far and away the most interesting forest I have visited to date in the UK. I think it was most likely due to the Oaks which just look so majestic. I was quite taken by them. Forests in the UK are definitely not like NZ. They are not as dense and as lush as what we are used to yet Sherwood was closer to a forest than anything else we have seen to date.

The re-enactments were really interesting to watch if not a bit scary. Lets just put it this way…always treat a gun as if it is loaded. Don’t EVER point the business end at me even if you are sure it isn’t loaded. I sure as heck didn’t want to find out the messy way if it was!

Other than that it was an incredibly interesting day passing by the time periods marked by the costumes and village scenes set up. From the Saxons and Normans, to the Victorians, WWI, WWII and even into the 80’s it was amazing to see the progression of weaponry and clothing across these periods. No surprise visits by Robin Hood or his merry men though. What a shame. We did see the ancient Major Oak though that legend says was where he used to meet his men before they went on their raids. You can see the Major Oak behind the musketeer in one of the following photos.

Bow and arrow practice
That's a hit!
Possibly cheating?
Village scene
Sherwood Forest
In the forest
All dressed up for the wedding reception