Alternative holidays: adventure in the Alps

Having taken many trips to Calais, France when I was much younger, I’ve never been particularly fussed about going back to France apart from my city trips to Paris or Nice. However, a couple of summers ago I went on a trip to the Alps resorts of Les Gets and Morzine for an active holiday and extreme sports. Boy was I glad I decided to go, and here’s why you should too.

In the summer months, the mountain resorts are very warm (great if you’re a fair weather traveller like me!) the ski slopes are transformed into mountain bike trails and the hiking trails are endless!

Even for just a walking holiday I can wholeheartedly recommend this destination. The views are spectacular of the mountains and valleys, with the stunning Mount Blanc being the main attraction. The ski lifts are still running so you can use those to reach the trails further up the mountain.

But the extreme sports were my favourite – canyoning, paragliding, white water rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking on red or black slopes. Being a closet adrenaline junkie, I had to try everything and I loved it!

1.Canyoning – starts by abseiling off a suspension bridge down into the riverbed of the valley below. In a protective wetsuit, you follow the river through the rocky riverbed, over waterfalls, jumping off ledges and waterfalls, down rocky rapids which have been smoothed into fast-flowing slides by the water, jumping into plunge pools and caves until you reach the final huge waterfall and abseil down the final waterfall 100ft into the pool below. Definitely best to do in France because there seems to be very little health and safety, it’s not for the fainthearted though: convincing yourself to jump off and out over a 3 metre ledge to reach the pool below is a real mind-over-matter game!

2.Paragliding – again not for the fainthearted, it takes a lot of mind-over matter to make yourself run off the edge of a mountain attached to a partially inflated parachute. But I imagine it’s a nice in between before jumping out of a plane! Best done in the afternoon when the thermals are best so the hot air takes you higher and gives you more air time. But the views of Mount Blanc opposite and the valley below are simply breathtaking.

3. White water rafting – a classic adventure sport that never gets old. Again there is less health and safety and the currents are extremely strong so if you’re not a strong swimmer it’s bet to pick a calmer river route or at least try to stay in the boat!

4. Mountain biking – this is the easiest sports to do while you’re in the resort as it can be adapted for any level of sport enthusiast. A lot of the trails follow the winter ski slopes and trails, so follow a green or blue route for an easier cycle. Red slopes are more of a challenge, be wary of the steep edges and sharp corners – we saw a few broken arms in the week I was there! I wouldn’t recommend black slopes or the specially cut mountain bike slaloms unless you know what you’re doing.

All in all, I really underestimated what else there was to offer for alternative trips in France. I’m sure Les Gets and Morzine are beautiful in the winter season, but in summer there was so much to offer than I could keep you busy and active out in the fresh air and sun for a week or two – great if you’re like me and get bored sitting by the pool and sun-worshipping for a week!

Have you been on any alterative or adventure trips? Let me know!

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My story: how I was born and raised as a backpacking traveller

Are there those of you out there with a family who wonder how to start a travelling lifestyle together and how best to do it with young children?

Well I can tell you my point of view – as a child who was raised travelling out a backpack.

I’m 23 years old and from the age of 8 my parents took me and my little brother travelling during our school holidays. While all my school friends went on holiday to Spain or France, we went on trips across continents living out of our backpacks for weeks or months.

The best thing my parents did was to start doing this young – I never questioned why we didn’t stay in 5-star or all-inclusive resorts like my friends’ families. Soon I realised the way we travelled was not normal and it was a novelty other people loved to hear about.

Age 10 – backpacked around Australia’s North Territory and the East Coast for two months.
Age 11 – backpacked West coast of America.
Age 12 – backpacked East coast of America and Canada.
Age 13 – hiked Scotland and up to the Isle of Skye.
Age 14 – road trip in New England
etc etc, by age 16 I was travelling confidently alone

So how did we do it?

  1. Never took more than a 60litre rucksack: my parents taught me how to roll and pack effectively from the age of 8.
  2. Learnt to plan our daily movements around reaching the next campsite.
  3. Buying a cheap tent when we arrived in a country – it saves baggage costs of taking one and is suited for the country better.
  4. Designated one night a week to stay in a motel/cheap hostel – this is the ‘treat’ of having your own bathroom and a proper mattress – doesn’t mean it’s cleaner than a campsite!
  5. Always took the cheapest budget/economy means of transport.
  6. Always took trips that were at least a month long, living out the rucksacks. This showed us how much more we could get from our trip if we travelled right.
  7. Always rented our own car so we could travel at our own pace to our own budget.
  8. Taught us the value of experiences rather than material possessions.
  9. Planned out budget around experiences, not luxuries.

This last one is by far the most important. Our parents would give us a choice – do you want a snorkelling boat trip out on the Barrier Reef and we stay in a campsite for an extra week, or do you want a 5-star hotel? Clue: we never picked the 5-star. Our parents taught us the value of the experiences you can have and the enrichment of life that you gain from that – at any age.

It’s not about being thrifty, it’s about choosing how and what you spend your money on: what you value.
Don’t get me wrong, for some people all-inclusive and 5-star resorts are exactly the break they need during their hard-earned holiday time. But because of my experiences I’ve never been a sun-worshipper or an all-inclusive kind of girl. I need to be busy and exploring and active to gain value from my travels.

I have my parents to thank for instilling a sense of adventure in me and the need to experience the countries I visit fully. I was never shown any different, but I very soon came to appreciate how much more I gained from out way of travelling – even if it meant using an RV hose for a shower on a campsite for a week, or finding cockroaches in my sleeping bag!

Commuter Reads: I am Malala

This semi-autobriography follows the life of Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head at point-blank range by the Taliban and survived. It also follows the life and birth of Pakistan as we know it and presents a view of Pakistan from a young girl’s point of view; a young girl who loves her country but knows it has been damaged and disfigured by politics, corruption and war.

If you are the sort of person who watches the news and sees the development of the conflict and discontent in Pakistan but don’t quite understand it’s roots, this is a story you need to read.

Malala, with the help of Christina Lamb, a well-known foreign correspondent, tells the story of her country, not in bland, historic, political terms, and neither in a biased, preaching way. She simply tells the story and the history and Pakistan and it’s internal and international relationships that have led to its state today.

Alongside the bigger picture of Pakistan, the book also tells the story of Malala’s life and her development as the voice for women and girls’ rights in Pakistan, particularly for their right to education. With the astonishing support of her father, you see the development of a modern Pakistani girl who loves the beauty of the country but can see its flaws and saw her friends and neighbours be corrupted by the Taliban forces as they took absolute control of her country.

Although I’m not usually a fan of autobiographies, this felt like so much more. The beautiful language and descriptions of another culture made it almost fictional, but the historical and current international relations mean that this is a very important book for everyone to read as it is informative in an easy, storytelling way.

The final aspect of this book that I loved so much was the feminism. It is an important insight into a culture which treats women so differently to ours and where women’s rights are still very much the exception rather than the norm. It is also an important lesson in how all it takes is one girl, or one woman, to initiate change and a huge global initiative – as Malala has done.

For more information about Malala and the Malala fund visit –
https://www.malala.org

Theatre: Conversations at a Burial

[Synopsis]
Three middle-aged siblings come together at their father’s house for the wake of their father’s funeral. They are joined by an ex-girlfriend of one brother (Alex) but she is in fact in love with the other brother. All three siblings are unmarried and are joined by their family friend and his new wife.

The conversations that follow are various snapshots of their lives, their loves and affairs, their relationship with their father and the mistakes they have made.

All three siblings are single and the death of their father forces them to contemplate how they came to the point in their life that they have reached.  And they decide to take action to change it as they spend the evening all trapped together in the house following a storm and a broken down car.

This was a brilliant amateur production at West Bridgford theatre; even with limited props and scenery, the realism of the scene and the authenticity of their emotions was really clear. The performance of the sister was particularly effective.

An effective, if slightly predictable, play about family, loss and love which has been performed on stages for years.

Theatre: Noises Off

I saw this at Nottingham Playhouse a couple of months ago now and completely forgot to write about it, even though I thought it was brilliant.

It promised to make you laugh hysterically and I couldn’t resist a challenge like that. But it did exactly as promised!

[Synopsis]
It opens to nn amateur and farsical theatre group on their final dress rehearsal on the night before their opening night. They are forgetting their lines and cues and the exasperated director is on the verge of giving up hope.

The play they are performing within the play is a farce within itself. A play of mishaps, false identities and secret affairs all going on within one house whose owners appear conveniently (or inconveniently) from abroad to find that the tax office are after them and there are strangers in their house. The comedy is the type of trousers-fall-down, running from one room to another sort of humour which is even more effective in the second act.

The second act opens with the same theatre group performing their play to an audience but this time the set is reversed, so we see what is happening behind the scenes but still hear what is going on at the front (back) of the stage too.

The actors’ ability to remember their lines for the play going on at the ‘front’ that we saw in the first half, and the drama unfolding backstage, is incredible. As the alcoholic attempts to sneak his booze on stage, a love triangle materialises that causes a huge argument and one if the actors keeps fainting due to blood, the hilarious ridiculousness of the play really does have you doubled over with laughter.

Noises Off is a classic comedy that is a must-see for anyone who gets the chance!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – RSC

Throughout 2016, the Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on its ‘play for the nation’ of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are taking the performance all over the country and collaborating with local amateur drama groups to put on the show.

In Nottingham the Lovelace Theatre Group collaborated with the RSC for a once in a lifetime show and it really was a spellbinding performance.

Similar to my recent trip to see Richard II, this performance used modern dress but with the original script. The scenery and props were phenomenal, using simple yet effective columns of fabric to create the forest trees and a grand piano which was central to the play not only for the beautiful and atmospheric music throughout, but also as a prop for the Fairy Queen to sleep in. The use of a large set of stairs and different levels made the feeling of movement through the forest even more visual.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has always been my favourite Shakespeare play and the RSC magical and ethereal performance didn’t disappoint. The music from the small on-stage band gave me shivers and the comical scene during which Demitrius and Lysander fight over Helena had me crying with laughter. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of Lysander (played by Jack Holden) sliding across the stage on his stomach in a bid to woe Helena.

Lysander was a stand out performance of comedy and unawareness. The male competition between him and Demitrius is comical and mocked by the Fairy King, Oberon, and michevious sprite, Puck.

Puck, played by Lucy Ellinson, was by far my stand out performance of the night and absolutely captivating. She embodied everything a michevious, invisible, troublemaking fairy sprite should be. Her movement around the stage and engagement with not only the characters but also the audience – breaking the 4th wall and doing it very well – was exactly the kind of performance that makes you believe the trouble and mischief Puck has caused on stage is real and you’re invested in it. Her fairy-like features but androgynous dress perfectly portrayed Puck as the pivotal but unassuming character. the performance was literally spellbinding and hilarious, I forgot Puck was even played by an actor as Ellinson just seemed to become him so brilliantly.

My third and final favourite performance was the theatre troupe played by the Nottingham’s Lovelace Theatre Group and specifically the character of Bottom (Becky Morris). Her over-the-top and self-aggrandising character was hilarious and so engaging, believing everyone thinks she is as talented and comical as she does. Morris and the rest of Lovelace perfectly performed the farcical theatre troupe and the bungled attempt to put on a (ridiculous and pun-filled) play for the Duke. Their farcical and overtly ridiculous play at the end perfectly complements the main story of the fairies in the forest and subtlety of Puck, but all adds to the surreal aspect and the ridiculousness of everything that occurs in the play.

I’ve never enjoyed a Shakespeare play as much as I enjoyed this performance, it was competent captivating and engaging and clearly the RSC actors are incredible performers. The Lovelace Theatre group were incredible too and blended seamlessly into the cast for a performance I’m going to remember for a very long time!

Richard II in the House of Commons

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have won two of only 100 available tickets to see a special performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the House of Commons.

And lucky is definitely the word.

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For those who don’t know, Saturday 23rd April marked 400 years of Shakespeare. Events all over the country, in indie bookstores, in arts centres and on the streets of the capital itself, all marked a celebration of William Shakespeare.

Seeing Richard II in Parliament was not just a performance of Shakespeare, but an experience.

From the moment we walked through security into Westminster, through the unusually quiet halls, we were part of the experience and the atmosphere.

The performance itself was brilliant, the production successfully maintains the original script and language of Shakespeare whilst supplanting it into a world of 21st Century politics using BBC breaking news headlines and smart technology.

You never lost the precarious feeling of the balance of power constantly shifting, and the unravelling of the characters and their diminishing political power was something you could only dream of witnessing in the real world of Westminster!

The cast of this production not only portrayed the characters but also their intricacies and the intricate power that Shakespeare’s play was exposing and unravelling.

A brilliant way to celebrate Shakespeare and a brilliant showcase of talent that I hope will transfer just as well to its run at the Arcola Theatre. Because the magic of this performance was that props and scenery were not as necessary when we were already sitting in and experiencing the setting of the original play.

I hope, and I’m sure, the performance at the Arcola Theatre will continue to do the play as much justice as the spectacular Westminster did.