Retired from teaching 2016, Paul retired from being at the university of newcastle in 2017, we have started Flaire Consulting and travel round the world.
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  • Day5

    10.06.17

    June 10, 2017 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We went for a long walk looking for birds. We found a rare red footed falcon and saw lots of red backed shrikes. It was hot and sunny and we walked for miles along the paths near to where we were staying, eventually returning to the hotel. We saw some fantastic white donkeys that resembled unicorns as they were so pure in colour.
    on our return we had a tour of the vineyard and learned lots of useful hints on how to look after our vine. Such as only allowing one out of the three bunches on each stem to grow to be grapes and that the vines benefit from being properly trained along the wires, a metre of vine in depth gives you the best yield. They are susceptible to frost so need protecting during the flowering period.
    We had drinks in the vineyard as the sun was setting and canapés delivered by Marie who is Angela's mum. Willi the wine maker has made wine for prince Charles and for his grandchildren Prince George and princess
    Charlotte. He was very proud and deservedly so.
    We retuned to the hotel and went down into the cellar, there were two other couples with us and we had a fantastic meal. This was cooked by Iain and it was his birthday. Every course (and there were many) was accompanied by a suitable wine. We had three deserts and three desert wines and then schnapps. We were so full and so mellow by the end of the evening. Iain is an extremely talented chef and his father in law is an extremely talented wine maker.
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  • Day5

    090617

    June 10, 2017 in Austria ⋅ 🌧 17 °C

    Had a bit of a todo picking up the car at 7:30. Although we had a voucher the car hire in vienna (Europcar) did not find the money we had already paid. Eventually they did and then we had a frantic dash back to the hotel to pick up the bags and then onward to the vet school. Paul ran his workshop all day while I purchased lots of blister plasters and then went for lunch and a sit by the beach. At 4 we drove here wein and land haus Willi Opitz for the next few days we are chilling here. It is run by a young family, Iain and Angela Ashcroft and their two children Sophie and Daniel. They have a lovely black cat called Nelson. We were on our own here last night and had another Austrian speciality rump steak and onions in a little place called bartholomews in the square.Read more

  • Day4

    090617

    June 9, 2017 in Austria ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Election result day. It's a hung parliament. All very interesting as to how things will proceed. But definitely the hard brexit will be difficult to make happen.
    We collected our hire car, would have been ok in the time frame but it was complicated by the fact that it was a bit hectic due to the lack of any understanding that the prepaid voucher meant that we had paid for the car in advance.Read more

  • Day4

    080617

    June 9, 2017 in Austria ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Well it's Election Day at home, and here it was shopping day for me. I learned how to use the U1 line as I was searching for a particular shop. Unfortunely the shop only sold huge sizes so I was disappointed but did walk 11 miles round Vienna. Seeing some brilliant sights.
    Met up with Paul and Yves and the work shop youngsters for a fascinating tour of the josephenium, the Kaiser who collect wax models for anatomy purposes was Kaiser Joseph, he traveled widely as he had a sister in France (Marie Antoinette) and a brother in Italy. The wax models were very beautiful as they were imported from Italy and had their flair for statues as a basis for the models. One was laid out like a Michael Angelo statue showing the lymph nodes. We then were shown the rise and fall of the automatic heart. We sat outside in a little bar called Ambulanz and enjoyed some more typical Austrian food and beer and wine. Got a taxi home.
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  • Day2

    060617 continued

    June 7, 2017 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We were taken by yves to the area where he lives. First we stopped at a Heurige overlooking the vineyards in a touristy village and had a glass of wine. Paul and I drank the mixed wine( Yves pointed out that this is not strictly speaking blended wine but was a blend of usually three types of grape grown next to each other in the vineyard, this means it is different every year). He told us that since the anti freeze in the wine scandal, Austria has much tighter laws about what can be put into wine and nowadays Austrian wine is some of the purest in the world. As it was now raining we jumped back into the car and drove to a quiet rural spot.
    We all emerged from the car looking dubiously at the clouds, but the rain had stopped and we followed Yves along a tiny country road where he stopped at a small double door in what looked like a tiny house. He ran up to the roof of the building via some stairs and rummaged in a secret spot for the key to the door. The giant key led into what looked like a hobbit hole. It was a primitive cellar for wine which had been dug out with simple farming tools centuries ago and had been used by one family to store their wine. Yves had bought the cellar when it became empty and now stored some Belgian beer in it and used the patioed roof area for summer picnics and barbecues. The cellar was cold and still had the slightly musty winy smell of oak barrels although there were none to be seen.
    Having admired his cellar, we continued to walk up the lane and there were many many more, some in a good state of repair and many deserted and abandoned. After this we drove to what at first appeared to be an abandoned village in the middle of fields of vineyards, this was an entirely different Kellergasse as the cellars appeared to be much larger even though the cobbled street looked barely wide enough for a horse and cart to drive along and there was almost a lawn occupying its centre ground.
    We walked up the first of the three tiny streets, stopping to marvel at the doors and glimpses of wine presses through the abandoned, often open, portals.
    After a few of these we encountered one that appeared to be fully operational and whilst marvelling at its contents we became aware that it was indeed used and the owner was just below us in the gloom of the far cellar. Yves greeted him and apologised for our nebby behaviour, but the man was not in the least perturbed and called us down to taste his wine.
    After introductions had been made, we all watched in fascination as he sucked a quantity of wine out of the barrel with a special long glass tube with a spherical top which held the wine to be tasted. He dished out glasses and we all tasted. The wine was the 2016 blend but he was somewhat vague as to its grape heritage. It was White wine and very cold without a hint of any yeasts and had a pleasant flavour. We of course, had to sample another glass and we were becoming quite jovial as all this wine was on a very empty stomach.
    We then said our goodbyes and made our way back to the village where Yves lives with his wife and dog. We enjoyed a very convivial evening and ate some traditional Austrian food.
    We took the train back to the hotel.
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  • Day2

    070617

    June 7, 2017 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We spent the morning walking off last nights hangover after all the wine. We walked along the north edge of the old Danube and then crossed to walk the southern edge, we walked 6 miles and enjoyed a melange coffee at the end of it. We then walked along to the vet school for lunch.Read more

  • Day1

    Vienna 060617

    June 6, 2017 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    After a bumpy flight on take off and some slight delays we were met by Yves who took us via various bits of Vienna and a dodgy sat nav to our hotel the strand which is modern but apart from no air con is comfortable. We set off early this morning to have a coffee crawl round the various coffee cafes Vienna is famous for. First stop the cafecentral where we sat where sigmund Freud once sat and later we went to a pavement cafe. We got the metro in, very efficient, and then walked and metroed back. The parliament building was needing refurbishment and we noted that during this three year process there were to be portacabins for the parliamentary workers and both of us remarked that this would not be the case if it was the Houses of Parliament in the U.K. We walked across the old Danube and the new Danube and then to the veterinary school. Once I had walked back I had done 8.5 miles.Read more

  • Day6

    Wednesday extramadura

    May 24, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Got up super early and headed off towards Guadeloupe where we were expecting to find greater bustards, rollers and other delights. We had asked Martin the birding guru who owns the hotel and he showed us on the map where to go. It was already heating up as we arrived at the area, and our first bird encounter was a little owl. There were many raptors gliding over the fields and we spent hours searching every blade of grass for a hidden great bustard. Eventually our hard work was rewarded but as we went to get back in the car, Paul caught his fingers in the car door. A blackened finger nail and a lot of loud swearing later we managed to relocate the buzzards closer to the road and got some great photographs. Happy that we had found them we journeyed to the end of the road and saw our first roller of the day on the wires next to its nesting box.
    We drove to a small town nearby for a coffee and then went looking for rollers again. We found more and took pictures and then made our way to the rice fields. We were mega exciting to find pratincoles and chicks.
    After the rice fields had been transversed looking for more excitement we called it a day and headed back to the village for lunch in the bar.
    An afternoon spent by the pool and a swim completed the day.
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  • Day5

    Tuesday extramadura

    May 23, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We journeyed to the monfrague national park arriving just before they opened. This park is native Mediterranean species of vegetation and is home to typical Mediterranean birds of the area and is particularly famous for its raptor rock which we passed on the way in. Being early morning there were no raptors to be seen, so we decided to check it out on the way back.
    The visitors centre eventually opened and we went in. Hoping to get advice on which path to walk down to see the birds we were interested in finding. Both the young women at there computers studiously avoided eye contact when we approached their desk and so we beat a retreat and went to regroup over a coffee
    We had a lovely coffee and decided to walk to the north of the car park where a wide path descended. The bushes were full of warblers and other small birds and we happily walked, talked and took photos of them as we went. After a while the path ran alongside a river offering yet more varieties of birds and a cooling breeze. We walked to the end of this and at this point our path swung left and as we had no map we decided to head back the way we came. This proved interesting as we noticed things on the way back we had not seen on the way. One of these was a dung beetle clasping a piece of dung the size of itself and then fighting off another beetle intent on its prize. We were photographing this when two people we had met at the hotel came by, we exchanged a few pleasantries and then continued back. The coffee shop did us another coffee and we headed out of the park to an area recommended by a man we did get information from who was offering a lodge with drinking hides in an area north of extramadura. After a few miles we realised this was a mistake and we turned back, this time in time for lunch at the bar.
    After lunch we took ourselves off to raptor rock and happily took photos of the many raptors going in and out of the rocks with food for their chicks.
    We found a different route back through the dehesas looking for great bustards, and instead finding a fantastic river complete with flying frogs, a montagues harrier and some storks feeding their chicks.
    On our return we dined in the casa rural el recuerdo and then drank wine with a couple from Rotterdam who are delightful. We sat by the pool and eventually the birds morphed into bats and later we saw some red necked nightjars come through the garden.
    This day was marred by a terrible terrorist act in Manchester arena that was aimed at killing and maiming children and adolescents..
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