Sunday, September 28, 2008

Summer weddings

Well, i am back at work and there isn't much exciting happening in my life. It is raining, and has been now for almost a week. The only excitment i have had is going to Liana and Matthews wedding and trying to drive up slippery muddy roads without sliding back to the bottom.

So, since there are no nice photos of driving up muddy hills i thought i would share some nice pictures of Liana and Matthew's wedding.

Liana and Matthew got married in a 6th Century church just out of Kapan. It is a beautiful old place where the doorways are only 5 foot tall! Liana is Armenian and Matthew English, so there was a fusion of traditions happening though out the day. Matthew's parents and sister had just arrived from the UK and were still looking like stunned mullets. No amount of prior warning can really prepare you for this place! Liana wanted everyone in the church when she arrived, which is a little unusual in Armenia, but we all managed to do as asked! The ceremony was conducted in Old Armenian, so no one understood it, there was singing, chanting, waving a bible around while circling the pulpit and sticking some funny look crowns on and facing each other... fairly standard really!

The wedding photos didn't quite happen as planned, the usually beautiful sunny weather dissappeared, but i like the misty look inthe photo below!

There was no dancing at the reception for the first hour, this was very strange for the Armenian contingent (normally you start dancing even before eating at an Armenian wedding) and the Tamada (toastmaker) compared the wedding to the 1 year anniversary of a death he had attended earlier that day- saying that the anniversary was more lively than the wedding! Still once Liana and Matthew had completed the first dance together there was plenty of dancing to keep everyone happy.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

The last few days

Village life in St Andre and the kids play while we drink beer... waiting for the wind to drop.

So flying out the next morning i headed to Antibes to see my friend Brian before heading back to the airport.

So, now i have swum the mediterranian sea from Turkey, Greece, Italy and France. Its a good life!
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

St Hilaire and Laragne

I got a train to Grenoble and was met by two good friends from home, Kat and Bryan at the train station... We made our way back to their campsite and woke in the morning to more good weather. A strong southerly was predicted so we got up Allevard for a short flight. Still no southerly so we went to St Hilaire where I got to fly the famous site for the first time (the southerly never arrived). It was traffic mayhem and it felt like 400 people were all flying in same place. In reality it was about 40 people flying a site not much bigger than Barnicoat. Still as soon as you got away to the next ridge it became very enjoyable.

We made tracks to another little camp site in the hills and got to Laragne to fly the next day. This was another nice site but we had a very crossed wind (straight down the ridge) and had to take off in thermal... the 300m cliff edge added some excitment to the launch. It was a nice flight but with a thunderstorm happening behind us and big sink zones I ended up on the ground after an hour of blatting around. Bryan on the other hand went for a nice tikitour to Briancon, over 100km away. It was a nice drive through scenic France to pick him up!

The weather finally packed in for flying - so we spent a day rockclimbing at a nearby village. The village had decided to become a rock climbing destination about 10 years ago - so they paid some climbers to come and set up some routes. Word got around and 10 years on the town is full of rockclimbers spending money.

I waved goodbye to Kat and Bryan at the medieval town of Sisteron before getting a bus and train to St Andre...
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Friday, September 12, 2008

And then a Swiss wedding

So i used Priscilles rather vague (but useful) instructions to drive to Bagnes then follow the signs to... And arrived at a paddock that was filled with cars. We sat on haybales in a paddock while she arrived on horseback and then Priscille and Luc-oliver sat in paragliding harnesses for their service... I have to mention the bells - even though it was outside and nowhere near a church some of the boys were ringing bells - like giant cow bells before the service to tell everyone to sit and after they rode in on a tractor ringing lots of bells it was good fun! The service was in french but it still made me cry. A huge convoy of cars (around 400 people!!) made our way over the country roads to a lovely garden where there was a festival/picnic atmosphere.
We drank wine, ate icecream, wood fired pizza, cheese and olives, chocolate fondue and little pastries... The kids had pony rides and a bouncy castle. There was a game with a cow - where people bought a small square of ground and then the person 'owning' the peice that the cow pooed on won a tandem paragliding trip, it was very amusing.

An unexpected bonus was that i met two kiwis at the reception. One girl is the girlfriend of the Groom's brother and she had studied at T-col when i was at uni and we lived in hall-of-residence across the road from each other in our first year!

The best bit of the whole day - it was super stable day so no real flying could be had i didn't feel at all hard done by being there... ahhh perfect!
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Straight to France

So i arrived back in London early afternoon - and got myself to Stanstead airport (via a quick stop to see Jenn and her little triple babies she was working with). I arrived at Geneva late at night and jumped into the rental car. I drove the non-motorway route that TomTom thought was good and found myself at a locked gate across the road. It appears that this may be a 'border'. So i turned around and found a nice peice of quite farm road to stop and sleep. The veiw was pretty nice when i woke up and the smell of freshly cut grass was overwhelming!

In the morning i wasn't sure if i had crossed the border or not, but as i entered the little coffee shop (at about 9am) and i saw the two old guys drinking their little glasses of vino i guessed France. I pulled out Euros and this was the right move!

Igot to annecy in the morning and spent the next few days flying. I went on a tiki-tour with a couple of guys to this random site in a valley somewhere... we struggled to stay up (my top landing was a bit unspectacular!) but late afternoon we got some good valley thermals and great flying.

Nice clear skys with some dissappointingly stable weather...

Flying in Annecy is really nice, but it is one of the busier sites i have ever flown, so that can make it a little stressful. Here i am ridgesoaring with about 30 other pilots on a very small area. It is like a 3D motorway! I can count 8 other people in this photo!!

Lakes District weekend

I have finally downloaded my camera.. the first adventure of my time off -

First step: Get supplies. We stocked up on essentials, wine, cheese, crackers, chocolate, lollies.... it was a big shock to my system after all the healthy food in Armenia!

Step 2: Drive to the Lakes district. This took a while. I managed to drive around a round about the wrong way and probably worry everyone a lot.

Champagne before, during and after dinner...hmmm... life is good!

Of course, we saw some pretty nice scenery and did some nice walking (all be it in the rain). The region is pretty spectacular - despite the compactness of the area it really is gorgeous.
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The last couple of weeks

Have been great! No photos yet but they are coming. I went to the Lakes District with some good friends and then crossed the ditch to France and flew around Annecy for a few days before a quick drive into Switzerland to go to Priscilles wedding. Now i have made my way south to the Provence region of france and i am enjoying the hot days, cooler evenings and and good wine and food... The paragliding has been pretty good, but i have finally had a couple of days off as the wind and rain has caught up with me.
It has all been fun, but i haven't had much time to play on the computer - definitely a good thing! I will be heading back to work in a couple of days, three weeks passes fast when you are having fun.

Rally taxi driving

Ok, so this is a little late - i wrote this a couple of weeks back while still working in Yerevan.
I thought I was going to die. The majority of the day was enjoyable and passed without incident. But then we needed to go to a meeting and called a taxi. A silver lada turned up. I should have known that a lada painted silver and working for a company (aptly) named Rally would be bad.

We hurled through the streets of Yervan. Me clinging to the front seat and the door hold, bracing with my legs (they were splayed in a most unlady like manner) and maintaining an attention distracting one way dialogue with Vahe assessing the probabilities and the chances of survival (him: front seat, no belt = no chance, me: back seat, no belt but Vahe between me and the window = limited chance).

We took a wrong turn which meant that we effectively had a scenic tour of Yerevan, we drove up steep streets barely managing the make the corners and we drove down cobbled streets not slowing for anyone or any minor inconvenience like 2m deep holes dug into our side of the road.

As scary as it was (undertaking with millimeters to spare at intersections) he showed remarkable ability to approach hazardous situations at a million miles an hour and not crash.

Vahe asked the guy to slow down – twice – this is also a first – even Vahe was slightly shocked by his driving! But alas, our taxi driver seems to be genetically programmed to have a short life. I just hope that he doesn’t take too many people with him when it happens.

Oh yeah, I did an unofficial survey earlier in Yerevan. I counted 42 cars before seeing one person using a seatbelt. This is despite the fact that half of these cars had belts installed.