Weekend stroll through Munich and the zoo

‘Great minds discuss ideas, average people discuss events, small minds discuss people’ (chalk board in Francesco’s kitchen)

It is now the second year that we stop over for a weekend in Munich at my sisters place after our family ski trip. Partly this is related to flights into Munich being more affordable around half-term school holidays (than say Salzburg or Innsbruck), but part is also that it’s actually a nice place to spend some time especially if you have as lovely a sister living there as I do.

We arrived around midday on Saturday having managed to avoid overly bad  traffic out of Austria (our parents weren’t quite as lucky). Steve helped us carry up the luggage and, to my positive surprise, this time the elevator in my sister’s house was actually functioning. Steve then left to drop off the rental at the airport and we loosely aimed to meet up for dinner at the Hofbräuhaus (tourist trap, but fun).

Toy museum, Viktualienmarkt & Hofbräuhaus

After a little rest and some dress-up action of Alex & aunty Frances we set out to visit the ‘Deutsches Museum’ (German museum, bit like science museum in London). However, we then figured 3pm was a little late in the day given the museum closes 5pm and so we headed for the toy museum instead.

As we left the subway at ‘Sendlinger Tor’  we headed over to Marienplatz where an anti NATO / war demonstration was in full swing and plenty of police about. The demonstration was aimed at the security conference that takes place annually here at the Bayerischer Hof hotel (I hope they have refurbished the place by now!). We glanced at some of the banners, but then swiftly left the noisy pack behind us and dived into toy history instead.

The museum is situated in a tower-like building with a circular staircase leading you up (no prams allowed though, which does question how family friendly the place really is). Exhibited are historical toys on the 2nd, 3rd and 5th floor. You find items like trains (e.g. the old Merklin brand), loads of Barbie’s, regular dolls, doll houses, robots, ships, regional German toys such from the Erzgebirge (known for their craftsmanship manufacturing Christmas decoration of all sorts) etc. After an hour or so we were done, but didn’t leave before buying two old-fashioned children books for Alex: ‘Max & Moritz’ and the ‘Der Struwelpeter’ (he loved the first one immediately when we read it to him later).

After the museum we continued our stroll through the city center across the famous Viktualienmarkt. Essentially something like Borough market with a lot of local and European food such as veggies, fruit, sausages, cheese, oil, truffles etc. It’s always nice to hang out there. In the end we headed to ‘Eataly’ … as the name suggests an Italian dedicated lifestyle shopping spot. Alex got a Nutella crepe  to satisfy his cravings while we enjoyed some nice Italian wine and chatted about life. Alex even rediscovered his love for books when I read the stories of ‘Max & Moritz’ to him. He could literally not get enough (well, there is only 7 stories …).

In the evening we met Steve and Robert (they are uni friends from their time in Dresden). Originally from the northern island of Rügen, Robert now lives in Munich. Some good times ensued as we all feasted traditional Bavarian food amidst  good beer, live music and a hyperactive Alex (well, Robert took it easy as he was still digesting the previous night out and had some commitments Sunday a.m.). In the end, I decided to stay with the boys for a night out and so Frances and Alex went home alone.

A boys night out …

The night kicked off fairly civilised at the flat of an Italian mate of Robert called Francesco. We spent a good hour discussing the European project and touched on each others backgrounds a bit before we left for a pretty posh bar (called ‘Brenner’) close to Munich’s famous Maximilianstrasse. The prices seemed reasonable though with cocktails going for EUR9ish. Once at the bar, we met two female Italian friends of Francesco who both work in Munich (logistics or so). We didn’t talk too much, but it transpired that the girls were actively looking for a husband here. I guess they look for someone with money. Apparently  two guys had already fit the criteria of one of the girls, but I didn’t get much detail as to what their requirements are (‘he must be cool’).

Not really a place we felt was right for us and so we went to an Irish pub instead  and got the party going. Kilkenny beers and the occasional Jaegermeister were sufficient that by 2am we had to retreat (after the mandatory stop at McD). It turned out to be a noisy finale as we all rediscovered our singing voices and football chants! Apologies if anyone woke up to that sound ;o) Anyway, some good vibes with the boys and well deserved rest on my sisters sofa.

Visit at Munich zoo and a first taste of spring

Sunday weather was as pleasant as forecast and looked very much like an early day in spring. We had decided to visit the zoo and were joined by Frances’ mate Peter (or Pidi). He is a die-heart FC Cologne supporter, works in sport sponsoring for a living and lives a single life just like my sister. Alex dressed in a Cologne fan scarf made for a flying start (he remains committed to Chelsea though). Alex found some further excitement in the Polaroid camera my sister has got (so now both dad and son were busy taking pics with their toys).

Our trip was then slightly delayed by a lengthy hunt for a parking spot. Clearly we weren’t the only folks that wanted to make use of such fine weather. Once in, I reckon we made it almost all the way round the zoo. But I let the pictures speak. Nice Sunday out anyway.

Then it was already time to say good-bye from Frances and Steve (back to Copenhagen) and for me time to think ahead for the upcoming trip to Marrakesh (at 6am!) where climbing training will resume in the Atlas mountains.

It was a fun finale after our ski trip. Danke Schwesterchen!

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Boys weekend in Chamonix

Getting to Cham from London started really well. Early at the airport and on time departure with BA. Sadly, neither wi-fi nor mobile hotspot were sufficiently quick to download the latest lego star wars anime. Back to ‘Brave’ for Alex, which he still enjoyed very much (any movie will do ;o). We landed 10mins early in Geneva, but then hit the delay as our friends at #Alpybus didnt live up to their promise of having a departure every 30mins. I guess they advertise flexible departure, but this is really subject to busses getting filled up. If not, the service is delayed. We left 11.10pm having spent more time at Geneva airport than London! Should have listened to my host Davide and take the easybus (or just rent a car).

On the bright side, they drop you off right at your destination, code for the outer door I still had from last time and Davide (already out at Chamonix social club – highly recommended) had thankfully left the keys for us the get in. He even popped over briefly to give me my board before he disappeared into Chamonix’s nightlife again (he returned after 10am next morning – big night). We didn’t have trouble to sleep.

We didn’t get up until 9.30am or so. Then off to town to fetch ski’s for Alex and have breakfast. A bakery and the maxi pain au chocolat they sell were all too inviting. We quickly picked up my board & boots at home and off we went to Brevent lifts – literally just a little further up the hill from Davide’s apartment.

The four-hour ticket for the two of us was only EUR33, but excluded the Brevent lift higher up. This makes sense since from there only black slopes lead down – a touch too early for Alex. Unfortunately there weren’t many slopes open in the remaining section. So we ended up trying our skills at the BIG Airbag. Stuntman Alex at work! Daddy’s big air video evidence didnt wirk out … pity!

Food as expensive as ever: For lunch we ordered (a pretty poor) pasta Bolognese at €16.50 together with Evian water at €3,90 at restaurant ‘Altitude’. That is Cham for you and next year they’ll slap another 5-10% on top (because they can). But hey, I don’t want to get into a debate on real life inflation here and at least service was prompt as the slopes were pretty empty. In return we enjoyed great scenery and were watching paragliders take off.

Back down in the valley we headed straight to town. Since I would take my board home for the first time, I needed a carrier bag. Now options are plenty in Chamonix from cheap to high-end brands. The choice is yours!

  • Technique extreme: cheap clothes & gear (bought €15 bag here)
  • Snell sport: all round shop with top class gear all outdoor sports
  • zeroG good for snowboarding equipment (got my Burton boots and bindings here)

Afterwards we treated us and Davide to a hot chocolate & nutella crepes in l’atelier cafe (recommended). I had a citrus-mint infused tea and once more learned that the non-alcoholic drinks menu is pretty short of options. A nice raclette dinner followed in ‘Cham’s best place for cheese’ (Restaurant la Caleche) – according to Davide anyway. Tasty stuff! Nice interior too!

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Pretty filled up we headed home. Alex ended up discussing girls in his school with Davide (or Dave as he refers to him). Two pro’s in conversation. Paragliding had fascinated Alex all day and the sheer presence of a paragliding kit in the flat must have stirred dreams. Davide tried to satisfy them to a degree with plenty of go-pro footage of his own jumps. Alex would have been ready to jump on the spot! Bed time ensued. All of us exhausted.

Note to the host: What do you need a blow dryer for with your short hair ;o)

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Next day we managed a slightly earlier start at 8.30am with some spelling and reading homework for Alex (thanks dad!) and ‘Milchreis’ (rice pudding). Alex was ready to ski again and even prepared to give big airbag another go! Off to Grand Montet today!

The ski-bus departed only a few mins walk away. Always great. We met a UK family in the bus. All first timers (Brexit anyone?) who were well impressed by the scenery and are here for a week. Have fun guys!

Skiing atGrand Montet was great, the sun was shining and we had some fresh snow (rather than pire ice 3w ago). Memories came back to me of my first Cham boarding with Cedric during a KBW ski trip years ago. Each bar has its own story here. Be it with Tully, Steve or Holly. Been a fun weekend (well, I dont claim to recall everything …).

Alex had a great time even though some blue slopes are steeper than the average. I would say Cham is generally steeper than pists in the Austrian alps. But fun nonetheless. He even managed another bunch of jumps on a small ramp. Bravery has no boundary on a boys weekend ;o)

Sadly, mid afternoon we had to leave the mountain. Back home, change, pack, pick-up (Alex can’t wait for a bit of movie time & Bose sound ;o). That’s it. It’s great as ever.

Thank you Davide! See you in February and keep us in the loop re Namibia trip.

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Bye bye chamonix (25th July)

Our last day in the beautiful Valley had arrived and I began early to pack. What a great camping spot it was … Next year it will be some fancy villa and we will probably sit in an outdoor jacuzzi where we were camped over the last few days. Most of last nights group stayed at Cedric’s friends (mike) house. Two beautifully refurbished wooden houses with a nice architectural touch. Breakfast and a hot shower! Feeling great. Afterwards a quick visit to Cedric’s house (with plenty of snails around much to Alex’ excitement). During my the drive to Cedric’s house alongside a usually small river one could see the amount of water that poured down the night before. The river had swollen massively with a crazy strong current. Better not to go canyoning today! After a brief shopping stroll we said goodbye to everyone and took off to lac d’orient.

A 300m/4,5h drive taking us half the way between Chamonix and Calais. No swimming this time though as the weather was rather fresh when we arrived 5pm. Tent up quickly. Then a drama unfolded as Alex complained about pain in his ear. Thanks god mama had given us Nurofen that kicked in very timely so o could abort a trip to the doctor and rather sit with a beer watching Alex on the trampoline! Thanks god. Sick kid = no good holiday.

 

Mer de Glacé, rock climbing and finally Cedric! (24th July)

We had to start the day reasonably early to meet our climbing guide for the morning. Location was les Gaillands (a Popular local climbing spot), but we forgot to rent the shoes and hence had to pop back to Chamonix center and pick up some European 26 size climbing shoes for Alex. How sweet! The climbing was again and instant hit with Alex and he made his first 5m ascent. Good skills. The abseiling was his weakness given the awkward backward leaning position one had to take (and that doesn’t feel very natural). Alex went on to climb two more 10-15m walls before calling it quits. Also for papa the excercise was reasonably tiring especially with 32 degrees in the shade and felt 40 degrees on the wall. After about two hours we left for Cedric’s hours to rest a little. Alex in action!

 

Our afternoon session kicked off in a small restaurant for lunch. I got my log awaited Tartiflette and Alex his chicken nuggets. Then quickly to Chamonix train station and off to Montenvers to see mer de glacé – a huge glacier. The train trip takes you up some 1000m to 1900m and is very beautiful. Once there one sees the glacier covered in all sorts of rubble before defending towards the ice cave by gondola and then 240 stairs (not verified hearsay). In the way down one passes markers of the glaciers dimensions 10-20years ago. At this pace, one will have to walk 400 stairs come 2025! Anyway, the ice cave is pretty awesome and cold as ice (ha ha). Inside we checked out the light displays and ice sculptures and went back up to catch a drink and the train back down.

 

 

 

Coming home to the tent was far from funny. Rain clouds had appeared and started soaking some stuff we left out to dry as more or less every Night in Chamonix was filled with thunder, lightning and huge amounts of rain. We rescued most pieces from getting wet and got going for our dinner appointment with Cedric, his father and friends. We all met at Casa Valerio, which is one of the best italian places in town. No pizza though as a fire had destroyed their oven recently. Alex met his three girlfriends for the night. They had just arrived with mum and dad from London and parents got their conversations going. Great evening especially to meet Cedric’s dad. At 9pm or so I had to retire. Long day, but great day. The night ahead was wet and loud as it rained all night long and thunder echoed in the valley … Wow!

Canyoning and Aiguille du Midi (23rd July)

We had initially planned a canyoning trip Thursday morning and almost got cancelled. Anyway, after the usual porridge breakfast we set out to see Mont Blanc a little closer. Next stop Aiguille du Midi at 3840m. Alex was pretty excited and very happy I took jumper and jackets given the markedly lower temperatures. Was a funny feeling for me personally as the altitude had an impact, but more so due to memories of my last Aiguille du Midi visit some 10 years ago when I set out with friends to climb Mont Blanc from here.

 

In the afternoon we finally got into canyoning mode with our guide Maxine. He planned an extended tor for juniors and the next two hours turned out just brilliant! Quickly we put wet suits, harness and helmet on and hold up a hill for 10-15mins. Alex was introduced into the key skills of sliding and how to jump properly and off we went. After a few smaller rides / obstacles, we arrived at a larger waterfall. Beautiful in itself. There we abseiled down (Alex by himself), then jumped from about 2.5m and finally zip lined down from the top again. So proud of Alex showing no fear whatsoever. Next was a massive 20m abseiling, which I soloed and Alex did together with the guide. Amazing! From there it was only smaller obstacles though notably our route took us for 5mins into bordering swiss territory. Alex couldn’t get enough of canyoning and would have repeated the track immediately.

Town to get home after a sun & action filled day. BBQ, fire and a beer. It proved also quite entertaining … Dirty Old Town & Fanta 4