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A quick trip to Edinburgh

Right, this is going to sound really horrible, but I wanted to keep my silver status with KLM this year and I needed one more flight. First world problem, but it’s really nice to be able to check in at the business desk and use the priority lanes. But where to go? Well, I have some friends in Edinburgh whom I hadn’t seen in ages! So simply because I could, I booked a flight to Edinburgh on Sept 17.

My visit was a wee bit inconvenient since they had just moved to a new apt. 2 days ago, but the placement was super well equipped and since I had already seen the sites, we didn’t have to do all the touristy things, we could just hang out and catch up. Which we did. With awesome coffee (for them) and hot chocolate (for me) and wine and gin tonics and S’s excellent beet risotto.

We did go up to Calton Hill on Sunday and it turned out that the very same race that was on when I visited Edinburgh in 2011 with mum was on. Edinburgh also did make sure I would want to come back soon by treating us to some glorious weather and views.

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Becoming a surf instructor

On our trip in Portugal, I also managed to get some decent pics of me surfing, which I needed to be able to do my internship with a surf school. I had already been hanging out at Surfschool Zandvoort, so after the holidays I could really start my internship, write my hours, collect a lot of signatures (every lesson had to be signed off, then a little report from every instructor I taught with and a big final sheet from the head coach). This made for a pretty busy summer, since I was doing it on the weekends besides my general job.

If the surf wasn’t up, we would take clients stand-up-paddle boarding, or use the bungee cord (it’s basically a big anchor with a huge rubber band attached to it that if pulled back and released with a board attached gets launched and you can stand up on the board and ride a bit). It was also really fun to see different groups, most people who come to the surf school will come for a beginner’s lesson, but then every group is different: children’s birthday parties, bachelor parties, company outings etc.

The thing I hadn’t realised beforehand is that it’s so physical. After two lessons, I would be totally shattered, partly from the aqua-jogging during the lesson and shouting at people to get up, paddle harder, whoohooing if they got up, or tell them to get closer if they got too far away (I should really learn to whistle) and then also from prepping the boards (taking them out of the  containing and putting them in a semi-circle and after the lesson putting them away (and I’m really not tall enough to reach the top part of the container). So I could rest physically during my Mon-Fri office job, and then wear myself out on the weekend :).

But I learnt a lot, saw a whole different side of the surf industry, had a lot of fun doing it, and got a whole new set of colleagues and I now have a surf instructor’s diploma 🙂

Bonjour Canada!

Ah the academic life!  This summer I got to travel to Quebec city for a workshop (see my work trip report here) :). I’d never been to Canada, but after this trip, I’ll definitely be back. Quebec is a nice little historic town, that’s an odd mix between French and American. American meaning lots of cars, French meaning they speak French and the architecture looks more European. I decided not to stay in a big hotel, but at a little B&B called Relais Charles Alexandre, which was a pleasant walk from the conference site and right by a park. Also, only a few blocks away from a municipal swimming pool that happened to be free, so I got to do some laps before sitting in a cold conference room all day (turns out Canadians like their air conditioning as much as Americans do).

The workshop was super social, so most lunch breaks and evenings we went out to dinner with a subgroup of the attendees. The last night we also went out for some salsa dancing :).

The day after the workshop, I went to visit the Montmorency Falls, just outside Quebec City, where were pretty epic. The falls are 84 metres high, which is 30m higher than Niagra falls. There is a bridge to walk over them and see how far down they fall, and there is a staircase right next to them so you can climb up and get soaked. There is also a little lift going up and down but as the weather was gorgeous I decided to just walk around. I actually didn’t want to do the steps twice, so I found a route via the other side through a residential area, so just a little bit off the beaten path I guess :).

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After seeing “the sites”, I noticed it was also possible to go a bit upstream and sit by the river, which was what a lot of locals were doing too. I didn’t have all the kit with me (BBQ, bikes, swim gear, beer etc). But  I did have a copy of Wired magazine and an apple and I got to sit with my feet in the water in just this really gorgeous place.

 

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On my last morning in Quebec I decided to get a haircut because I really needed it, so I found a nice place that did haircuts and sold lingerie. Interesting combo, but it was a nice haircut and then I got to the airport. I nearly missed my connection at JFK because first the ground staff for my flight out of Quebec didn’t show up and then at JFK it was super busy and for some reason the van that took us from the aircraft to the gate had to wait at the gate for ages. Good thing I only had carry-on luggage, so I managed to get home alright.

 

Life is better in Algarve

Due to work schedules and not wanting to go on holiday during the main season when everyone else is on holiday too, we decided to have our summer holiday early this year: 29 – 14 july to be precise. We didn’t have to think long about the destination, as we had a splendid time on the Algarve last year, so we just went all boring and booked two weeks at the Jah-Shaka surf villa again.

The villa is still as pretty and relaxed as last year, although they have expanded a fair bit (5 surf instructors now whereas they only had 2 last year), but it’s still got the same vibe. We arrived late in the afternoon on Sunday (right on time to watch the Dutch team win one of their games) and in the evening, we enjoyed the villa dinner cooked by their in-house chef. Most of the week, we surfed at Praia da Bordeira. Paul really got the hang of it, and on Friday he paddled out to the back with me (which was on a quiet day at Vale Figueras) and caught his first green wave!

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We also surfed a bit at Tonel (though because of last year’s storms there was hardly a beach left so this was only an option at low tide and with swell big enough to come around the bend or south swell which you don’t really get in summer). There were also lots of sightseeing options, for example during the sunrise paddle board trip. I’m really not a morning person, but every now and then I manage to drag myself out of bed and totally love it.

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We also went to Lagos for a nice dinner (and ice cream!). Another culinary experience was a bratwurst at Cabo de São Vicente, which is apparently the “last bratwurst before America”, as it is the most southwestern point of Portugal. We also traipsed around Forte de São Luís de Almádena a bit on the way back from one of our surf sessions, which is really quite spectacular.

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In the second week of the holiday, Paul had also booked a tennis camp in town. Turns out, he was the only one who had signed up, so he got private lessons from Portugal’s former champion (the funny thing is, last year, we had dinner at a restaurant in town that had lots of tennis pictures and tennis trophies on the wall, turns out, it was the instructor’s restaurant, although he had closed it because it was too difficult to balance tennis coaching and having a restaurant). Since we said we did like Portuguese food, he offered to take us out fishing one night and cook our catch on the barbecue.

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Unfortunately, the fish didn’t really want to bite, but luckily you can also get fish at the fish market, so we did have our barbecue, and our local cook/tennis instructor made sure the fish was perfectly cooked.

Life is good on the Algarve!

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(more pics at https://www.flickr.com/photos/merpel/sets/72157645344687147/ )