Boulder, CO – A Working Holiday Day 6!

After another big home cooked breaky at Allenspark Lodge we went in search for the Allenspark Trailhead. Its quite remote and starts fairly high up. Infact the car park to this trailhead is just a dirt track. On the drive up to the trailhead we passed some very posh looking log cabins with glass fronts! They were nestled in between all the pine trees and looked very pretty.

The trail we took towards Calypso Cascades was a forest trail, which was quite rocky and a little snowy/icy in places. We only saw one other person on our way out there to the waterfall. The trail itself was built after a lightening storm caused forest fires in 1978. So a lot of the trees have been cleared leaving great views of Longs Peak. You can also see places where landslips have occurred.

We ate lunch sitting on a boulder at Calypso Cascades and were pestered by a rather persistent Blue Jay! On the way back to Allenspark Trailhead we saw some the interesting site of a tree growing within a tree (presumably after the forest fire!).

Allenshead Trail Stats:

6.2 mile there and back.
Allenspark trailhead elevation: 8520 ft / 2597 m
Calypso cascade elevation: 9200 ft / 2804 m

After our hike we went back into Estes Park for some souvenir shopping and even found time to sample some ice cream and local beer : )
We are currently staying in the Colorado Cottages and even have a log fire in our room. We had a soak in the hot tub before heading out to dinner (I sooooooo want a hot tub!!!! we should definately have more in the UK!). And finally we have internet and phone reception again so can upload lots of posts and pictures!

Boulder, CO – A working Holiday Day 5!

After a hearty home cooked breakfast supplied by the Allenspark Lodge, Zoe and I ventured out on our first trip to RMNP. We went in through the Beaver Meadows entrance. We started out at Bear Lake ranger station and took the Bear Lake Trailhead. It started out really easy – a concrete path up to Nymph Lake. We stopped here to have lunch amongst the wildlife including a boisterous chipmunk that was trying to get in to Zoe’s backpack, a blue jay and another grey fluffy bird that tried to beg for food. The lake itself was partly frozen over still.

We ventured on and got to Dream Lake which was completely picturesque! Again the lake was partly frozen, and the mountains were in the background. Here we deviated from the path the majority of people were taking. We decided to tackle the snowy and seriously icy trail up to Lake Haiyaha – native American for “Big Rocks”. En route we got some scenic views of Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak. The “Big Rocks” refer to a massive boulder field you have to scrabble over to get to views of the lake.

After a short stop at Haiyaha Lake we began the descent back to Bear Lake – there were some moments where I was ice skating down the trail!!!!

Hiking stats:
Lake Haiyaha Trail – 4.2 miles there and back.
Bear Lake elevation: 9,475 ft / 2888 m
Lake Haiyaha elevation: 10,220 ft / 3115 m
High point of hike: 10,240 ft / 3121 m

After the hike we head into downtown Estes Park to have a look at tourist tat! We found a nice mexican restaurant to eat in – although portion sizes were ridiculous! My fajitas could have fed three people!!!!! We headed back to Allenspark Lodge for a dip in the hot tub after dinner and I was out like a light! I didn’t even hear Zoe get up the next morning to go for her run!

Boulder, CO – A working holiday Day 4!

Today was the last day of the conference, after which we headed to the west of Boulder and up to NCAR (National Centre for Atmospheric Research) which is the sister organisation of NCAS (National Centre of Atmospheric Science – to which Zoe belongs). NCAR is situated perched up on top of a large hill overlooking the entirety of Boulder. In fact from the viewpoint at NCAR we could even see Denver cos of the clear sky.

NCAR has a visitor centre with lots of interactive outreach toys in it [i will upload some pictures soon either here on on the photos page!]. After learning all about properties of the atmosphere we walked the NCAR weather trail which was a gentle stroll with information points telling us about weather and atmospheric conditions of the region.

After our walk we headed north towards Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped off at Allenspark Lodge, Allenspark. It is a breathtakingly beautiful cozy log lodge. Apparnetly it was built approx 75 years ago from reclaimed wood after a nearby forest fire (by American standards it is probably classed as a historical building!!!). The owners are extremely welcoming and make you feel quite at home. The lodge is fairly large, there are three floors, a hot tub, dining room/kitchen with complimentary tea/coffee/hot chocolate, a cozy living room with a fire and a stove and a tv/games room. I have never stayed anywhere so homely before and would highly recommend it to anyone!

We headed out to the Baldpate Inn for dinner. The Baldpate Inn is named after the book ” 7 keys to Baldpate” written by Earl Derr Biggers. It is about some people that each think they hold the key to the mythical Baldpate Inn. The original owners built the building in 1917 and named it after the book, the film was just out too. They planned to give each guest a key as a souvenir of their stay at the Inn. This proved too costly for them, in the end guests started leaving their own keys as a memento! There are tens of thousands of keys in the collection now, including things like the key to Hitler’s writing desk, the key to the gate of Sherwood forest etc. Each key has been donated with a message or letter from the sender.

Boulder, CO – A working holiday Day 2 and 3!

o Zoe and I were up at the crack of dawn (well I woke up at about 6am cos I couldn’t sleep!). We had to head down to NOAA to be “vetted and approved” entry into this government facility. NOAA stands for National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (It’s basically the NASA of the atmospheric/oceanographic worlds!!!!). It is set in the foothills of the Rockies and the view from NOAA is beautiful. They even have an observatory up there!

I was really ill today – Zoe infected me with her lurgi! I was truly suffering by the afternoon and felt quite conscious about coughing through everyone’s talks! As far as the meeting went – I learned lots about what some of the dominant research groups in the field are doing.Zoe and I both gave our talks and got some feedback and ideas on what to do next. The conference dinner was held at Dushanbe Teahouse which was beautiful! they serve about 40 odd teas there including one from Newara Eliya!

Thursday was pretty heavy going at the conference, not entirely convinced i understood all of it. I did learn some new stats methods though, that i shall try out. On Thursday I finally managed to find a swimming outfit and went for 1/2 hour swim in the pool at the hotel. The pool was a bit weird though – it was really warm, like the temperature of a hot tub [I actually started to sweat whilst i was swimming some lengths!]

Boulder, Colorado – A “Working” Holiday! Day 1

So my colleague (Zoe) and I flew out to Denver on Monday for an Ozone Trend workshop at NOAA in Boulder. We were lucky cos we managed to nab bulkhead seats so had oodles of room on the plane (quite ironic bearing in mind we aren’t the tallest of people!!!). It was daylight for the whole duration of the flight so it was a little difficult to snooze on the plane. We arrived in Denver at sunset and had the fun and games of hiring an automatic car (with Zoe only having driven one once and me never having driven one before!). The 40 min drive from Denver to Boulder was “interesting”, but I am glad that I downloaded the CoPilot Live from the iphone app store before i came out here – it meant I didn’t need to read a map in the dark and get travel sick!!!

By the time we arrived at the Boulder Outlook Hotel
it was really late and we were shattered. The hotel itself is lovely, we have a massive room and there is a pool, sauna, climbing wall and video game room! Interestingly the hotel has a “zero waste” policy so almost everything is recycled.

On Tuesday after a much need rest Zoe and I decided to walk the boulder Creek Path. Having lived in Milton Keynes it is like an uber wide redway that follows Boulder Creek from the town centre right up into the mountains. Its very popular with joggers/cyclists. We walked to Pearl Street (the pedestrianised shopping zone), which apparently is really famous for being so different to typical US shopping town centres. To us though, it was like a typical British high street. After having a look at all the outdoors shops and CRAZY Halloween stores(!) we ended popped into the Walnut Brewery where we sampled some local beer! After this we went up back on Boulder Creek path and followed it to Settlers Park. From there we took the Red Rocks Trail and got up a bit higher. We headed back to the hotel by sunset. All in all it was probably about a 10 mile round walk.

My overall impression of Boulder is that it is extremely different to other US cities/towns I’ve been to. Everywhere is very pro recycling and green (lots of solar panels on roofs etc) there are pedestrianised areas and yo ACTUALLY see people using them(!), cycle paths, footpaths, hiking paths etc and more importantly the waitresses/waiters don’t harass you all the time with the really fake banter (I refer back to Tuscon where the the staff at breakfast told Cat she had a lovely English accent (she is Portuguese!)).

Sri Lanka

So we are enjoying our holiday out here in sunny Sri Lanka. And what makes it all the more nicer is to gloat about how nice it is here when you are all (by all I suspect I am just talking about my sister) busy working away 🙂

We stopped in a rather nice hotel when we arrived in Colombo, the kind of place where diplomats go to do diplomacy. Well I assume that is what they were doing. I should probably qualify diplomats – they were Canadian.

From Colombo we were picked up in our private tour car, which is to take us all around the island for a week, at stupid-o-clock in the morning. I can only assume that that translated into ridiculous-o-clock time in UK time that I was still living my life by.

First on our mammoth trip was the elephant sanctuary. It’s a nice place where orphaned elephants can go and be protected. So we sat in a restaurant and ate while the elephants were washed just below us, then off to the feeding place to see them munch.

From there we went up to Sigiriya which is an old palace complex that is in ruins now that they found a while back – proper Indiana Jones stylee. Much of it is on top of a very tall rock formation. As it happens there are lots of hornets nesting on the rocks, and the day before they had been getting angry and stinging people. So just as we were about to make it to the top one decided he didn’t like my leg and dug his stinger in. Now I just looked this up and hornets belong to the vindictiveus bastardus class of bugs – i.e. the ones that sting you that don’t die – so I hope he caught hay fever from me and sneezes his way into the path of a bus.

Today we went to a spice garden and saw lots of the local stuff they grow here – including cocaine. They also insisted on giving me a massage, and since I am always up for random men to rub my semi-naked body I thought I would give it a go – t’was nice. We also went to a batik factory and spent far too much money on cloth type things. From there we went to the temple that Buddha’s tooth is in.

Now we are in Kandy and tomorrow we will head out to see a tea plantation – hopefully I will get to try lots of different types…

I will upload some of the many photos when I get a chance – although something tells me that would take an age from this internet connection.

One of the nice things about being here is that people seem to think I am great! Several kids have said that I am beautiful – in fact at one of the religious monuments a bunch of school kids stopped looking at the statues and started staring at me. I could get used to this.

The Capetonian, more like the Capesuckian.

So I am back from Cape Town now, I might bore you with the details of the touristy things I did later, but for now you have to make do with my random complainings.

I stopped in a four star hotel called The Capetonian. It was in a nice location and at a nice price too (was about £30 p/n). I think I know why it was so cheep.

The staff were somewhat inept it has to be said. In fact I would go as far as saying that they would struggle to organize a piss-up in a swimming pool full of vodka when everyone is in the pool. And drunk.

When I booked in I asked (and paid) to use the internet in my room. Now to me that implies that I would like to be put in a room that can actually access the wireless. So when I went back to the desk about half an hour later and they said “Oh you want to use the internet? Well you won’t be able to use it from your room, it’s too far away from the access point” I wasn’t impressed. Grrr. Time for a room change.

Then I asked to use the shuttle bus to go to the docks, now it is supposed to run on the hour, so at a quarter to I asked if it is going and they said yes, then I waited. About half an hour later I went and enquired, “Oh, you want the bus? It will be leaving soon”. About fifteen minutes later I decided that the fifteen minute walk was certainly not worth more than a forty minute wait, so I walked.

It’s this sort of blasee attitude to life that makes me love my beloved Blighty so much.

And as for the hotel itself. Hmmm. It seems the South Africans don’t believe in fuses in plugs, or wiring plugs correctly for that matter. Every room I was in had sparks flying….

Then there is the building that was being demolished next door. When I came they put me in the room closest to it, not happy. It then took two days of being woken up at 8am before they would move me, not good when you have been working until 6am for the last week.

And of course there was the bathroom. I suspect that some kind of blind baboon installed it. All the fixings were not fixed to the walls properly and water ran along the bath, around the corner and onto the floor. Then of course into the main part of the room.

So my advice to you, if you are ever looking for a hotel in Cape Town, is don’t choose The Capetonian. Right, time to go vent some of this annoyance on hotel review sites…..

Mugged, well attempted at least.

So I was wondering down to a restaurant in the centre of town to get some nice whisky steak when two guys started to head towards me. They looked like trouble. They walked up to me and started talking at me. I didn’t really understand what they were saying as they were mumbling. Then I twigged that they were trying to mug me! The bastards.

Then one said he had a knife in his pocket and he was kinda moving his hand around a bit in his pocket to make it look big. Clearly not a knife I thought to myself. So I said to him in a rather sarcastic way, “you, have a knife in there?” At which point I turned and legged it (there was no way I was going to let them have my student card – I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night thinking someone was getting my student discount).

Luckily there was a security guard/police man nearby who then gave chase. He called his friend on a bike who pursued them into the sunset.

I knew I shouldn’t be walking around late at night. Ho hum, can’t go to Cape Town and not get mugged I suppose.

Elizabeth’s hen weekend part II….

Ok so i forgot to mention that last night, we visited a bar that served over 300 types of Beer – i was so drunk after my gigantic measures of cognac at dinner, that i couldn’t actually drink any alcohol in there….

I also forgot to mention that last night Spym got accosted by some jail bait! He was such a baby face, 18 (if that!). He had the added attraction [sarc] in that he looked like one half of Bros [cheesy 80’s pop group]….made me chuckle! LOL!

Anyway, this morning after rapidly packing my suitcase [with the hangover headache from hell] – we went and grabbed a bite to eat before visiting the diamond museum. It was quite impressive to see diamonds 500 carrots in size (take note of the pictures Bint!).  We ventured back to the hotel to check train times and bumped into others that were on the hen do that were a little worse for wear, I think they were trying to sleep on the sofas in the hotel lobby!  We met up for lunch with the others in one of the little squares, after which Spym and I went wondering into many chocolate, lace and tapestry shops. The tapestries were beautiful, i only wish we had the type of home that could benefit from hanging tapestries – yes Spym and Al I am very jealous of your home!!!!!

We finally meandered back to the hotel, the others had already driven to the Chunnel by then. Thankfully no dramas on the Eurostar nor the rest of my journey back to MK….in fact i was back home by 8:30pm! Anyway lots of pics will be uploaded to the website and a selection to facebook tomorrow. Brugges was very pretty, I wish I could paint – the scenery was inspiring. I could not believe just how many chocolate shops there were, the smell of chocolate and waffles in the air as you wandered around was intoxicating! It was good to catch up with everyone on the hen do too – Steve and Elizabeth’s wedding is only a few weeks away now….I should really figure out what i am going to wear!

Elizabeth’s hen weekend part I…

Spym and I were up relatively early and decided to have a walk by the canal after breakfast, there was an antique market on so we stopped and had a look. I bought a gorgeous painting of the Beguine Convent. By this point, Elizabeth and the others had all arrived at the hotel, Freeman had gone off to book our brewery tour for later that evening.

We went out for lunch in a small square and everyone introduced themselves. After lunch the others checked into the hotel and everyone roamed about doing their own thing prior to meeting up before the brewery tour. I decided to visit the St John’s Hospital. The hospital has been recorded in documents dating back to the 12th C. and was actually used right up until the 1970’s! It was originally run by nuns and priests. There was a really good audioguide that took me through the history of the hospital, including explanations of hospital art and surgeons tools :o. Inside the hospital chapel were six works by Memling. The hospital itself is a sprawling complex with multiple wings added throughout its history. After much ineptness on my part in not being able to open an unlocked door, i eventually made it into the old apothecary. All i can say is it smelt bad! It still has all the containers and even some of the dried herbs and animal pieces (!) used in medicine. There were also some huge mortar and pestles!

Later i met up with everyone else, and we did a guided tour of the Half Moon Brewery. I got some very amusing shots of everyone’s arse as they climbed down the steep staircases. Also managed to get a shot of Freeman trying to steal a barrel! We ended the tour with a nice chilled half of beer from the brewery before all heading back to freshen up before dinner.

Someone had the sense to book our table in advance (well done!). Prior to making it to the restaurant, the cash machine ate Philipa’s card – i hope she got it back! The restaurant was lovely with very tasty food. As the beer the night before had made me a little ill, i stuck to cognac – OMG i love continental measures…. Each “single” for 4-5 euros was the equivalent of 4 shots in the UK!!!! We moved to two other bars throughout the course of the night and ended up getting drunk in a small bar near the funfair. Elizabeth’s friend Natasha ending up dancing on the bar (!) and we stayed out till 4am! Lets just say i wasn’t feeling too good the next morning…

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