The view from my window

The view from my window
The view from my window

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

All quiet on the western front (again)!

There's not much new to report here really but I thought I should just check in. Last week was a bit of a disaster workout/weight-wise. The weather was cruddy all week and while I don't mind the cold I don't particularly want to go out in the rain. Not that that's much of an excuse really because we actually have a gym here at work but I just couldn't be arsed to use it last week. Anyway, I weighed myself on Monday and there was no change from the previous week, but then why should there be? Still, even though it was actually snowing when I left home yesterday morning I managed to get in a one hour walk along the lake at lunchtime yesterday, but boy was it cold. Then again, that's nothing compared to the weather today! The "bise" wind is blowing and while it makes everything stunningly beautiful the wind chill factor makes it pretty unbearable to be outside in. So this lunchtime I decided to actually use our gym and - as always - I feel wonderful afterwards. Now if someone could just bottle this feeling (either that or bottle willpower) they would make a mint wouldn't they!

Anyway, we'll see how this week goes weight-wise. I went to my sewing club last night and only three of us turned up. Not a problem as I had stuff to do in preparation for my patchwork lesson tonight (we're starting a new project). But just as we were wondering where everyone was in walked one of our younger ladies who had just had her first baby and she (and dad) bought the babe in to show us. What a little cutie she was, tons of dark hair and all smiley faced but the end result was that in two hours we didn't even get our sewing machines out so I have to somehow catch up on all the stuff I should have prepared for tonight's lesson! However, just before we left I started showing the other two ladies the beautiful fabric that I had bought on Saturday for my next patchwork project and then somehow (as you do) we got on to moaning about our commutes/aches and pains/weight and so on, and I decided to bite the bullet and tell them that I was starting a new diet this week and that they could hold me accountable!!!! So there you go, I've done it now!

I had commented on Sam's blog (A New Frame of Reference) that I would go alone with her and try to lose 6 lb by the end of March. So far it isn't looking great (I think I must have lost 10 grams the day I shaved my legs but not much else since). Like her I am tired of lugging this weight around. Oddly enough, when I went to Costa Rica my case weighed in at bang on 18 kg - which was quite a sobering thought when I realized that that is about the amount of weight I would (ideally) like to lose. My case was heavy! Of course I'm not carrying those extra 18 kg in my right hand am I (unless my knuckles are really heavy) but still, it's not comfortable. I'm not grossly obese by any means but certainly overweight. I think what gets to me more though is the clothes - or the "granny grunt" clothes as I call them. Like most of us, I suppose, I liked clothes shopping when I was slimmer. Now - nah, not so much! It isn't helped by living in France of course where obesity is far from the norm and the woman are, for the most part, still slim and fashionable. Not all of course but .... So anyway I have signed up for the 12-week NHS (UK National Health Service) weight loss programme. It's open to anyone of course (as long as you realize 14 lb is 1 stone you'll fly through it) and is basically just good, solid, no nonsense advice. So I reckon that gives me till mid-June to knock some of this weight off. There, I've put it out there now.

In other news, on Saturday we held our fourth board game evening at my immediate neighbours. There were 12 of us this time and again it was great fun but - get this - we have now decided that we will have to start our evenings earlier because we are are all bringing in so much food that we seem to be eating a very good three course meal before we even start playing!!! Lordy, lordy, we've started something now haven't we! So we've decided that next time we will begin at 4 p.m. in order to have an aperitif/eat before we get into the games evening. Sounds good to me - and it is nice to spend time not only with my neighbours but also with my youngest and his girlfriend, who both seem to enjoy it as much as I do.

Saturday was also my oldest son and his wife's first wedding anniversary! I can't believe it, it has simply flown by! So I sent them a message wishing them a happy anniversary - but got no reply, which I thought was odd. Anyway, on Sunday evening I got a reply from my son, who said they were stuck at Zurich airport having missed their flight back from San Francisco! I didn't even know the little buggers were going away but they had just spent a whirlwind 10 days going round some of the bigger tourist spots of the American west. He was texting me so it wasn't very detailed but they said that just as they arrived at one of the lodges they spotted a mountain lion! They weren't quick enough to get a photo but when they spoke to one of the rangers he said that he hadn't seen a mountain lion in 10 years! André said they were actually scared to get out of the car to go into reception (I told him he should have sent Lily in - she can be scary!) but they had a wonderful time. I don't doubt it one bit. Can't wait to see their pictures though. I'm glad both my kids have the travel bug and are adventurous. I mean, you have plenty of time to settle down once the family comes along don't you so I say go for it while you can. My youngest and his gf were telling me that the previous weekend they had gone up the mountains near here for a fondue and afterwards, using head lamps, they luged all the way back down to the car park from the restaurant in the dark. Sounds like heaven eh!

And finally, I seem to be stumbling upon some pretty good books at the moment so my miserable commute is not always quite as miserable as it might be as I get to read for two 45 minute bus rides to and from work every day. It seems like the goods book reads keep rolling in at the moment so I am a happy bunny. But more on that in another post!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Feel the burn!

After leaving Costa Rica our first stopover was in Toronto and as soon as my phone picked up the airport's wifi I got a "pinged" message from British Airways - trouble was, it was in German! Really helpful that, when you've been up since 4 a.m! Still, I learned German many moons ago (forgot most of it) but I was able to decipher words to the effect that one way or another I was not going to be on my 15h flight from London to Geneva the next day. I couldn't tell if it was just me that was being kicked off or if the whole flight was being cancelled but what I could figure out was "we have, therefore, put you on the 18h flight. Click here to accept!" I thought bugger that, I get in at 06.30h and I am not hanging around for 12 hours in London (although better London than Toronto frankly, from my point of view) for my next flight with no guarantee of even leaving then. I knew Swiss Air fly from Heathrow so I decided that come what may I was getting out of there one way or another - and however much it cost!

Anyway, we landed on time so I trudged myself over to terminal 5 and thankfully made it to the BA desk before anyone else was awake. When I showed the nice BA chappie my phone message he said "but it's in German" so I said "wow, I didn't notice that, but from what I can decipher I'm not getting on my next flight am I?" He then went checked his computer and went on to explain that with the expected storm due to hit the southeast shortly, BA would be cancelling quite a few flights out of Heathrow that day, not because they couldn't  handle the volume of flights but because they didn't have the de-icing equipment necessary to keep up with that number of flights. Apparently you have 20 minutes after a plane is de-iced to get it off the ground or you have to start all over again. He then proceeded to tell me that they had booked me on the 18h flight but I said that I hadn't "clicked here" to accept it and was going to try my luck with Swiss Air, when the wonderful young man sitting next to him said they could get me on the 9.40h and would that suit me? I could have kissed him. It was already better than my original flight time and again in business. I have to say, considering they were probably going to be in for a helluva lot of complaining that day they handled the whole thing very professionally and with humour, although I'm sure that at the end of the day the perma-smile might have begun to wear a bit thin!

So I made it back early and seemingly one step ahead of the storm all the way along. I was well pleased. Until the next day, that is, where I went from +40°C to -11°C in one fell swoop - or from this:

to this:

and this:

Obviously if you travel in "your" winter to someone else's summer you  have to expect this kind of thing but even though I am used to the cold and don't actually mind it, this big of a change was quite a shock to the system.

And then of course there were the infernal traffic jams. Second day back I got stuck on the motorway behind this:

which managed to make my already hellish commute even more hellish, although thankfully no-one was hurt in this pile-up. But this morning some lunatic was racing down the motorway in the wrong direction (beats me how you can even do that) so my morning commute was again almost three hours! Ah the joys of the daily commute.

Still, I do love it here whatever the season, and last Thursday three of us went out for lunch to celebrate two birthdays in a yurt restaurant which is only available during the winter and which was shortly about to be dismantled. I actually got married in this little village and my husband and I went for a drink after our town hall wedding - just the two of us - in this same restaurant (although not in the yurt). And for once I was able to get a good shot of the alps - even if it was only with my phone. Usually they are in a "haze" but the heavy snowfall had briefly cleared all the haze away.

Of course I weighed myself when I came back (beerrrrkkkkk) and since I was as heavy as I had ever been I decided that I had better get back in the weight loss saddle. I was very good last week about exercising and even (seriously) got out the old Jane Fonda original workout and did those (nearly suffocated myself doing the shoulder stand), but this week it has gone to pot a bit so I have to get back at it. It's tough, though, when the weather is crap as it makes getting outside harder and we seem to have had non-stop rain since last week. So yet again, it's onwards and upwards for me.

In my dreams!
My reality! (Picture by Design Studio)
Although seriously where tonight's Chinese cookery class fits in with my weight loss goals is eluding me for the moment!

Monday, 12 March 2018

And finally!

Our last day in Costa Rica was to be spent - I thought - travelling from Manual Antonio National Park direct to San Jose where we would spend our last night before flying out the following morning. What I hadn't realized was that Ron, our guide, had other plans. We drove straight from the hotel to the local marina where we were booked on a boat trip which included snorkeling, sight-seeing with lunch and a cocktail thrown in! What a lovely way to finish our vacation!  The trip lasted about three hours and while I chose not to snorkel as I wanted to stay out of the sun, it was a very relaxing way to "seal the deal", so to speak.

After that it was all back in the van and San Jose bound. On the way we stopped at a souvenir shop but again, it was very pricey. Sorry but while everything was beautiful there was no way I was going to pay those kinds of prices - until - I saw the prettiest photo albums whereupon my willpower cracked. I didn't spend a fortune and I was thinking of making an album up for my son, who will be 26 in May, since every time my boys come over they end up pulling out the photo albums. In fact, I am at this moment trying to set up snapfish albums for both of them, but not being very technically minded and finding snapfish a bit fiddly anyway I think it would be best if I aimed to make these albums for Christmas presents rather than birthday presents. The Costa Rican photo albums, though, are quite small and I'm pretty sure I can fill them with childhood photos for both of them.

As we were leaving the gift shop the heavens opened and my goodness did it rain. It make me quite nostalgic for England actually!!! But seriously, that was some downpour, even if it only lasted about 20 minutes. Then of course as we got nearer to San Jose we also hit rush-hour traffic - again a reminder that it would shortly be back to the grindstone for me!

That evening the six of us in our group all decided to eat together in the hotel, and what a laugh we had! Sally (one of the older ladies) was quite the character and she was telling us that since she retired at the age of 66 she has been constantly busy taking courses with U3A (University of the Third Age). Her latest foray has been to take piano lessons, given that the clarinet lessons weren't much of a success! She took up clarinet for the simple reason that they had one at home from when her son used to play. The only thing was, she started learning in September and she found out that they were supposed to play a concert in December!!! She was like "what the flip, I can barely even read music" and then she did an impression of her desperately trying to read the music during the concert, spotting a note that must have been "one of hers" and "giving a toot" about every 30 seconds! I guess you had to be there but we were crying laughing at the visual. So then we all pitched in telling the stupid stuff we had done. I don't know why this came to mind really but I told the story of when I was still in primary school (so under 11 years of age), and my friend, Dawn, came to see me because she was supposed to be in a swimming gala in Tuesday but her mom had been rushed to hospital and she didn't want to compete. I didn't know what to say so in the end I told her not to worry, that I would go and see Miss Moore and tell her that I would replace her in the gala - the only trouble was that I couldn't swim!!! I somehow pictured myself going off to the swimming baths on Saturday, learning to swim that afternoon, and competing in a race on Tuesday night! Bloody hell! I could just imagine the looks on my parents' faces as I threw myself in that pool - and most likely promptly drowned! Luckily (for me) Miss Moore had other ideas about Dawn's replacement!

We didn't stay up too late that night as four of us had a 5.20 a.m. taxi ride to the airport, so we all bade each other farewell and promised to swap photos (which we have). I have to say, though, that Costa Rica is beautiful and I was lucky enough to have joined a very small and very friendly group - so success all round, I would say. The journey home was quite another story - but there's time for that another day I think!

Friday, 9 March 2018

La suite!

After two nights spent in Monteverde we made our way back down to the lower altitudes and on to our next stop, which was Manuel Antonio National Park. On the way there we stopped to pick up picnic lunches as we were going to visit another park beforehand and right there, at the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles, we got to photograph heaving masses of crocodiles. There were 100s of the bloody things (ok maybe a slight exaggeration but definitely tens of the bloody things). Wouldn't want to be down there trying to swim.

After that a short stop to Carara National Park for our picnic lunch and a quick shufty, but apart from these rather weird looking iguanas we honestly didn't see much, to be honest. I guess it is hit and miss isn't it, but I'm not complaining as we had already seen so much.

After that short stop it was on to our most lovely destination - Manuel Antonio National Park! We stayed about 500 metres from the entrance and while the guide was giving us the basic rundown on how the next couple of days would pan out I saw a troop of about 10 monkeys running along the telephone wires! I was so excited. I guess when you don't live in a place where monkeys roam freely it is just so exciting - well at least it was to me. Could it get better? Well yes it did actually!

The next day we set off on foot for the park for about 45 minutes of bird/animal watching/hunting. This is in fact where I saw the next sloth but even through the microscope he didn't come out great in the photo. After about 45 very hot and humid minutes we arrived at the beach, only to be met by the largest and most beautiful butterfly I have ever seen. I think this one is called the Blue Morpho (but don't take my word for it). He was all over the place and looked to be about six inches across with the most stunning, shiny blue wings. Of course, every time he landed he closed his wings so I wasn't able to catch a photo of him but oh my, how beautiful!

Courtesy of Hilary P

The beach was absolutely stunning and hardly anyone there. If that had been England it would have been standing room only and then people sitting on your shoulders!

Our guide did warn us, however, to watch out for the raccoons who seemingly had no fear of humans and would come rummaging through your bags looking for food if you weren't careful. And they did! Little groups of two or four, coming right up to the sleeping beachgoers and trying to get into their bags!  He also told us that around mid-day the monkeys would come bounding down, also looking for food - and you guessed it, bingo, at mid-day they came swooping down! In fact, my colleague was telling me that when she and her husband were in Costa Rica a monkey stole a banana off a beachgoer, tucked it under his arm and charged off, with the "rightful owner" of the banana racing after him. Her husband just happened to be in the right place at the right time to point his camera and starting clicking - she said it is the most amazing picture!

There was what appeared to be a mother with between three and five babies in amongst the troop of monkeys. Her face was all scratched up so I don't know if she had been fighting with other adults or whether it was scratches from the babies, but I wouldn't have liked to get too close to her (naturally). It really was a lovely way to begin winding down our trip. We had two nights in Manuel Antonio before we had to head off back to San Jose, but talk about saving the best for last!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

And on we went!

After our two night stay in La Fortuna we headed out for the Cloud Forest National Park at Monteverde. Monteverde is situated at 1,500 metres above sea level and I was sooooo glad I had taken my ski jacket as it was howling wind, pouring rain and bloody freezing! It was so weird to go from 25°C to God-only-knows how cold in one day but that's what we did in the space of about four hours, I guess. On the way there we stopped at a lovely little restaurant for lunch, overlooking a reservoir and as always the food was very good but the souvenirs pretty pricey!

About 10 minutes after we left the restaurant the driver pulled over as there was a whole colony (?) of coatis crossing the road. It was really weird - they took no notice of us and didn't seem to be bothered by the traffic either. Such funny looking little beasts (thought the coati to himself ....)!

We made it to our hotel around 6 pm, if I remember right, and my goodness, you should have seen the size of our rooms! Ruth was the only one who didn't  have the massive bedroom that we others had (I think they were probably studios for families) but she had an enclosed veranda so she could sit outside, even though the wind was ferocious!

That is actually a triple bed with the bath/jacuzzi in the background and the shower room to the left, but there are stairs to a mezzanine to the left out of picture and that also has two double beds! Crikey, all that room for little old me!  When we were checking in one of the receptionists told our guide that a security guard had seen a puma in the grounds the night before! Now I know (being cynical) that they could be saying that for the benefit of the tourists but our guide seemed so thrilled I'm sure it was true! On the way down to dinner that night we did see an agouti crossing our path (saw quite a few of them in fact) but no pumas!

My picture as crap so this is a stock image!
Our guide offered to take those that were interested on a pre-dawn walk through the forest to see if they could catch any interesting wildlife. I begged off as I was tired and in any case wanted a few hours to have a massage (yeah, I know, first world priorities right) but apparently they didn't see much, just a few exotic birds, much to the delight of the avid bird watchers amongst us!

Picture courtesy of Hilary P
Two of our ladies took a trip to a local park where you could go over the suspension bridges but they got absolutely soaked to the skin, so I was glad I had had the massage instead. I certainly didn't want to be getting sick for the remainder of my trip through sloshing around in wet clothes.

And then finally, on the last afternoon, we went to the Cloud Forest National Park, where to be honest we didn't see much more than we had already seen but at least we did avoid getting soaked - although just by the skin of our teeth.

We were only there a couple of hours and trekked up to a little waterfall, which was very pretty, but I think we were all glad to get out of the cold and wet the following morning. We had to get up at 4.30 a.m. in order to be on the road by 6.00 a.m. as in order to allow workers to maintain the access road, the local authorities closed it to traffic for "X" number of hours per day in order to allow the work to progress. So we, therefore, had to be through "Checkpoint Charlie" before lockdown.  Which we did. I am not a morning person but it's amazing how you can adapt to early mornings when you have to, isn't it!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Costa Rica Part Deux!

After our short stay around Danaus, we spent the following two nights in La Fortuna, near the Arenal volcano. I have to say the hotels were pretty basic but clean enough but a hair dryer would have been a treat and (if I am thinking of the right hotel here) somewhere to hang my clothes other than two coat hangers. Still, at this point we weren't really thinking of unpacking and as I'm not difficult I could work with that. I had actually packed a travel hair dryer which turned out kinda like trying to dry your hair by having a sleeping baby breathe on it but hey, by the end of the trip I was definitely going for the "bird's nest soup" look anyway so I pretty much gave up.

Our first trip that morning was to the Arenal volcano. It wasn't such a long walk up to the volcano but it was very hot and humid. Thankfully, our guide turned out to be quite a bird enthusiast and kept stopping every 50 metres or so to point out unusual birds. I don't have much problem at all with walking/hiking but I have real problems with the heat so I was pretty glad when he pointed out what felt like every native bird in Costa Rica!  The volcano was impressive (and thankfully still sleeping) but the humidity did me in, I have to admit.

Our guide made the misery up to us later by taking us to spend the evening at one of the many hot springs in the Arenal region, followed by dinner.

I thought our local hot springs at Lavey-les-Bain were impressive (which of course they are) but these were just bliss with plenty of room for everyone and gorgeous temperatures both in and out of the springs.

The next day Ron had us out at La Fortuna waterfall. I have a lovely video taken from mid-way down these falls but I'll be damned if I can get it to upload to blogger. Facebook no problem, but not blogger. Anyway, Ron warned us that it was 500 steps down to the water hole/swimming hole so obviously "500 steps back up", although in reality it felt like 10,000!!! On the way back up I was counting the bloody steps out loud to myself in Spanish and at one point sat next to a Costa Rican lady to catch my breath and told her we were on step 249! She laughed so we slogged our way back up the remaining 251 together. I think she thought I was going to have a heart attack as I was puce in the face but again it's not the climbing that does me in, but the heat. Anyway, we both made it and went and had a drink together at the top - where we spotted the prettiest praying mantis, and for once I was able to get a close up that didn't come out too badly!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Trundling along!

Well after a sharp jolt back down to earth last week, what with going back to work and getting clobbered with the snow (not to mention an approximate 50°C difference in temperature!), here I am back at work and eagerly looking forward to spring.  Strangely enough I don't seem to have suffered from jet lag but I have to admit a temperature of -11°C on getting into my car for work on Wednesday was a bit of a shock to the system. Luckily, as I have said before, I have never minded the cold, but getting hammered with snow on Thursday and Friday was another thing altogether. Looking at my garden I would say we got about 10 inches of snow over the two days, with Friday morning bringing really heavy snow and then all of a sudden at lunchtime - pouff - it stopped and I was able to get home pretty easily! It's just weird. Now today the temperature has "soared" up to about 7°C so of course the snow is melting faster than you can put your moon boots away, but that's fine too. As I always say, snow is great in the mountains, but on the roads - nah, not so much.

On the bus this morning I picked up the free local paper (20 Minutes) and noticed a beautiful photo of people skating on the Lac de Joux in the Jura mountains near here. We used to go up there quite a bit when we lived in the Canton of Vaud (in Switzerland). It is a much smaller, shallower lake than Lake Geneva but very peaceful and very beautiful and this photo just leaped off the page at me - reminded me of a Breugel painting really - even if fewer people were skating than might have been expected because of the snow cover on the frozen lake.  As I say, I saw these pictures in the newspaper but couldn't find who to accredit them to so sorry about that.

Anyway, back to Costa Rica (I wish). We arrived in San Jose quite late on the Saturday evening so were basically shown to our rooms and we all just jumped into bed to try to catch up with the time zone. There were only six of us in our group and we all ended up getting along famously. There was a younger couple who put us all to shame with their energy levels and enthusiasm, another single lady of a similar age to me, and two older lady friends who had known each other for over 40 years since their children were at school together and who had routinely travelled all over the world together (husbands notwithstanding) for the past however many years - and very nice they all were too.

On the first day we met our guide, Ron, who was great, and Gustavo, who was going to be our minibus driver for the duration - and again a really nice chap. Since we were setting off for our next hotel immediately, we stopped en route at the Doka Coffee Estate for a guided tour of the plantation. Now I know these things can get old but since I had never been to a coffee plantation it was interesting, for me at least. And guess what, they take some of their fabulous coffee beans and coat them in either white, milk or dark chocolate and they are sublime! Really good - but - and this would be a feature of CR - pretty expensive. I think US$16 for a small packet of chocolate-covered beans. I had been warned by my Costa Rican colleague that it is not cheap but I was a little shocked at the price of the souvenirs and to some extent the cost of the food. While the food was invariably very good everywhere we ate (in the little sodas - not big fancy restaurants), I found them to be only a little cheaper than Geneva prices, while the others - all living in Britain - found it to be more expensive than the UK).

On the way we stopped briefly in a couple of villages for the usual "church visits" and so on which included the little town of Sarchi, which is home to the world's biggest ox cart, a symbol of the traditional Costa Rican way of farming.

After that we were supposed to be visiting the Poas Volcano but since it had been "exhibiting all the signs of a stomach upset" rather recently we couldn't make it, so instead headed off to the Danaus Ecocentre - which is where I got to see my first sloth! Yipee! They put plantains out for the wildlife right at the entrance and the birds were just so magical, but me with my stupid ipad - I couldn't get much in the way of pictures as they were just too fast. Which makes me think, I don't like my big expensive camera because it is too heavy but many moons ago, on a flight back from the UK, I bought a small digital camera in the duty free so I must look that out for my next trip - as well as invest in a small pair of binoculars. You live and learn I guess. I shall be a real seasoned veteran by the time I'm 100!

We came quite close to a croc at Danaus (well it was just over the other side of a small lake) but I could only get a half-way decent photo of it through the telescope. I'm still trying to sort my photos out and am hoping my travelling companions will send me some of their photos because I am a little disappointed in mine.  Still, for what it^s worth:

This is the best I could do with the sloth - he is lying on the branch on the lower left hand side looking away from us, but bugger me if a couple of our party didn't actually film a sloth crawling along the phone lines while we were out eating one evening. I mean, that really isn't fair is it. He was just doodling along the phone lines, reached up for a piece of fruit and doodled back off - to the thrill of everyone present. And to think I was only just round the corner!!!! (Can you hear the gnashing of teeth here?)

I will post about the rest of our trip in the next couple of days as I don't want to make this too long. Of course when I got back my weight was right up where it started sometime in January so now I am back on the old treadmill again. In fact, having recently discovered the blog "100 Healthy Days", I might try setting up a separate, private (for the moment) blog to try to do something similar in an effort to finally do something about my shape! Sitting on a beach in Costa Rica in a swimsuit really brought home to me that I need to do something about this (or risk being harpooned) and while for most other things in my life I am/have been pretty determined, for some reason so far I haven't been able to get to grips with my weight gain. Of course Sophie over at 100 HD is 30 years younger than me and gorgeous but hey, if I can make it past day three, who knows!  Will give it some thought. Oh and Wendy, have a lovely time. Can't wait to hear all about your stay in Costa Rica when you get back (you lucky devil)!