Andy ZW

Joined November 2016
  • Day7

    Final Dive

    February 8 in Saint Lucia ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    Friday morning hit harder than the rest (that 23:30 bed-time yo) and once again I was rushing into the breakfast buffet piling food on a plate to take away whilst the staff there laughed along with me: “Late again?” “Always!” For the first time in the entire trip the dive-bus was actually on time though, and as the guide leader called our room numbers S. and I shovelled food into our mouths as fast as we could - immediately, our guide stopped us. “Guys! No rush! I didn’t realise you were still eating, take ten!” Honestly, the vibe here is so calm, so mellow, and although I know it’s a holiday resort and that’s the experience they’re selling, but I genuinely feel like it’s a way of life here. Everyone thanks you for being patient instead of apologising for being late, they are always laughing, joking, and no matter how busy it gets they exude a collected calmness that really makes you think “why do we take life so seriously back home?”

    Anyway, onto the mini-bus, onto the boat, and into the water. The Pitons dive was, by far, my favourite dive. Although the wreck-dives on the first day had been an experience, I was a little underwhelmed, and didn’t really feel the sublime awe I was hoping for. The Pitons dive however was filled with sea-life, and the waters were clear, something which we hadn’t quite got on this holiday yet. There were strong currents, which I personally enjoyed because I got to cruise along the way. S. got a little panicked and reached out to grab by hand, fearing we would be separated deep at sea (too cute). The second dive was closer to the resort, and it was also fairly lively with schools of fish that surrounded us all - it was très, très cool.

    And just like that, the dive were all over. We took the rest of the day at the hotel to completely relax, and S. patiently dealt with a few emotional tears about not wanting to go back to London. I perked up when he reminded me of the evening’s dinner plans: we were going to Gordon’s at the Sandals Grande and I was very very excited - we had heard good things about this particular restaurant, and it had been hard to get reservations. My oh my were all my hopes confirmed. It was by far the best meal of the entire stay, as well as the most gorgeous location (an open pier overlooking sea with a perfect breeze happily tickling us throughout the evening). If I went back I would definitely book there twice (at least!).

    I was very pleasantly energised after food, a cocktail and two glasses of wine, so when we stumbled into a chocolate party I had no issue bee-lining for the table and stuffing my face with the last five whit-chocolate covered strawberries. Ahhhh they were so delicious, and to this day I feel like chocolate and strawberries are the most genius combination ever: strawberries? health! chocolate? health! Winner-winner all around.
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  • Day6

    Dolphins & Whales

    February 7 in Saint Lucia ⋅ 🌬 8 °C

    After the success of yesterday’s day adventures I felt wildly smug. S. had been worried about over-exerting ourselves on a ‘relaxing’ holiday but he was positively glowing with happiness yesterday, so I felt that whatever happened with the sea-sea-mammals I had achieved holiday goals. With a late start of 08:45 we somehow still managed to be a little short for time - time-keeping and relaxing can be a complicated matter - particularly when I’m involved (late, late, everywhere). However we made it on time! I felt a little wave of anxiety when we saw how full the boat was, but thanks to my CBT training I managed to jot down my worries, assess that they were all completely hypothetical (“what if” worries) and concluded there was literally nothing I could do about any of them (asides from the fact that they were absolutely unimportant). Mental health exercises done, up on the top deck of the boat, we set off to find dolphins and whales - and oh my god did we find them!

    We first stumbled across an entire colony of the squeaky mammals, and the dolphins sped alongside the boat, racing and playfully jumping out in front of it. They were 100% loving the attention and they would swim up ahead and jump high-high-high in the air, do flips, twists, 360º turns. It was incredible. I have never seen that many dolphins together all at once, and that amicable, that friendly, it was great to see them out in the wild, free, and interested in interacting with us curious and gawking humans.

    Next up we went out in search for whales. I felt a little skeptical that we would see any, purely because of the fact that in general whales seem to be a lot shyer than the flashy dolphins. However, in the distance, I saw a little squirt of water go up in the air. It looked like a snorkeler blowing water out of their snorkels, or a small geiger. We all saw it again, and that’s when the captain of the boat pointed out towards it and announced: “That’s a whale’s blow-hole! There’s two of them, a calf and a momma!”

    Oh my god guys. They were definitely shy, but curious, and the little calf wandered over - not too close but close enough to see how much bigger than the dolphins he was, and yet how tiny he eemed. His momma in the distance dove down under, her huger tail flipping u before disappearing under the water. Fun fact: it takes six years for the calves to be able to dive as deep as their mothers - how insane is that?! In the meantime they communicate with their whale calls and such. Animals are incredible.

    Needless to say S. and I were very, very content by the end of this boat-trip, and as we pulled back into the docks five hours later we happily went on to ‘relax’. We had a dinner reservation at a different resort’s restaurant called La Toc (La Toc restaurant in La Toc Resort in the town of La Toc. Seriously). We’d got to La Toc Resort very early, and so we’d been plying ourselves with cocktails. S., ever the adventurer, tried a different cocktail every time. I, however, had discovered the cocktail of my dreams (to the odd surprise off the bar-staff who all agreed they wouldn’t go near it). The Sangrita. Part Margarita, part Bloody Mary it was what dreams are made of, and a nice sharp, sour taste after the endless flow of sweet cocktails we’d been having up to this point. We both reached a happy tipsy point as we watched a country show by a man with the deepest and most beautiful voice I ever heard, and it has to be said: the atmosphere at the Sandals La Toc is lively, lively, lively. The age demographic expands down to a lot more people in their late 20s as opposed the the Halcyon where I think we’re the youngest by 15 odd years. Even the older groups however were energetic, dancing to the country music, laughing, drinking, chatting. Although I love our quiet little corner of the resort group (and the La Toc is huge you need a shuttle to get to certain more ‘exclusive’ parts of the accommodation) the La TOc definitely has a better evening atmosphere, and I’m glad we came out early for little drink, a little bougie and, finally, a little food.

    My oh my guys, this restaurant was yum. Very formal as far as resort dining goes, but even still the waters and waitresses were friendly, kind and when S. couldn’t decide between two starters they straight up said “ have both - you’re on holiday! You’re having both.” Honestly, it was so fabulous. We ate, had wine (obviously) and when we’d finished eating all our intentions of going to the bar area of the resort were shattered as S. and I both were struggling to keep our eyes open. We did have a wonder, and the bar areas did look super lively and fun, but we chose to have a little explore, look at the absolutely clear night sky (there is zero light pollution here it is incredible). We wowed at how different the bog-dipper looked from the Caribbean, found the North Star, sat by the fire-pits and listened to the ocean for a little while, right up until our shuttle back home was read.

    We were in bed by 23:30 - latest time to date. We are wild, wild party animals.
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  • Day4

    Dive Number Two

    February 5 in Saint Lucia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    I want to start today by saying how incredibly good our sushi dinner was last night. When it comes to all-inclusive I wasn’t surprised that the dinner-menus consisted of a set starter-main-desert option, which although not necessarily stingy, wasn’t quite the restaurant experience I usually enjoy. Not so with the sushi place. Soy had a generous menu of sushi, sashimi, rolls, nigiri, specialties, soups and salads, and a sake-based menu - all of which were unlimited. As an absolute sushi-freak who has to curb her enthusiasm because man sushi is expensive in London, I was absolutely on-board with the situation. Add to it the you saw the chef prepare your dishes in front of you and the two or three sake-cocktails I ordered, and last night was a good night let me tell you.

    Anyway! Tuesday morning brought us back to the meeting-point for our second dive-trip of the holiday. S. was a little less anxious about time seeing as the day before despite the 7:50 meeting time the dive-bus didn’t get to s up until 8:30. So breakfast today was a lot more leisurely. We had more delicious cold porridge which had nuts and peeled mandarin slices in it, a stuffed omelette from the egg-bar (oh yes) and about three different smoothie options because, well, because they were there. It was good.

    At the boat docks the cheerful and grandfatherly captain Mickey recognised us and greeted us with an “Andrea!” and I felt immediately warm and happy. I don’t know exactly what it is about this man, but he feels like the group carer, the feel-good take-it-easy man who god forbid you hurt any of the people he cares about (John Wick anybody?).

    The dives were good. We did the Anse La Ray Wall and the Honeymoon Reef. They were both good, and we saw a few sea-critters. I do have to be honest: I think I was spoilt when CM and I went to Mexico, because we saw sea-turtles and little mental rays almost every single day. Although here the exotic sea-life didn’t seem quite as common though, what I did notice is a lot more colour to the reefs. Purples and yellows and greens, glowing with a strength that seems unreal for an underwater life-form (a coral is, in fact, an animal). We also saw two lobsters snuggled up together, and later on the boat S. excitedly (and adorably) told me that lobsters are immortal - apparently their cells regenerate at a rate faster than they decay, so they do not naturally age. “this is why,” S. tells me, eyes shiny with happiness like the romantic he is, “for lobsters, mating for life is really mating for life.”

    When we got back to the hotel, we finally, for the first day, relaxed. We lounged on a canopy bed for most of the afternoon, and I rediscovered the fact that I am no good at relaxing. I was fidgety, and felt like I simply did not understand how to relax. “Do we just sit here and stare into space?” I asked S., slightly frustrated that this didn’t come naturally to me. “Just relax Andy, look at the sea and the trees, just chill.” I tried doing that for a little while but to no avail. “Literally, just stare into space?” S. gave me a look loaded with murderous intent, and suggested i take my magazine and entertain myself if I was incapable of relaxing on a relaxing holiday. Finally, I could relax! Sitting on a canopy bed, palm trees above us, sea in front of us, art magazine on my lap - that I could get behind (although I have requested we go paddle-boarding and kayaking the next time we have a whole free afternoon ahead of us. S. had little choice but to agree).

    That evening we were going to Kimono, a tapanyaki restaurant (think Benihana in the UK) and it was delicious, portions were generous, and sake was rife. After that another tub-champagne-office routine to round up the night, before crawling into bed and dozing off the latest we had done yet: 22:30. Goals.
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  • Day3

    Dives, sun burns and bloody towels

    February 4 in Saint Lucia ⋅ 🌧 27 °C

    The morning started well - S. and I had left our blinds and windows open and we woke up very nicely arena 7am with the sun, the blue skies, the birds chirping, and the ocean a stones throw away. I managed to faff for long enough to throw off S’s strict “breakfast y 7:30am schedule” and so we had to shovel a bowl of something which looked like cold porridge but my oh my was it a delicious concoction of fruit, nuts and creaminess. Then off to our very first dive of the holiday! The calm and collective people that we both are, neither S nor I had any qualms about the situation (haha yeah right). The drive to the dive-site was, as tends to be, a bit of a “trust the fact your driver isn’t died yet” situation, and we got to our destination with a body full of adrenaline and joie de vivre at the simple fact of having got there alive (I am being a little bit dramatic - it was a little nerve-wracking but nothing like that hell-ride in Naples. Ugh, Naples).

    When we got there my hear did sink a little bit, since they only had short wet-suits, and I feared for my propensity to hypothermia. Not wanting to make a big deal out of it, however, and thinking that mind over matter was a real thing (it most certainly is not) I picked up the smallest size I could find and shuffled onto the boat with a matching tiny BDS.

    The boat ride was pleasant, and the gentle-people working are always kind, funny and have a constant air of amusement at the things their visitor’s get up to. The other people on the boat were cool, and despite my anti-social tendencies they were a nice-kinda chatty. There were also two britons on board which were too tanned to be Britons and I firmly believe they were international spies.

    The dives themselves: The Vicky-B and Lesleen M as well as South Beach. What is there to say? S. and I were both a little (very) nervous before jumping into the water, but as soon as we went under we realised that there was little to it that we hadn’t done before. In a Quarry. In Wales. At 10 degrees celcius. Compared to that the dives here were a dream, with clear and warm waters, coral reefs, fish, eels, an absolutely photogenic model-puffer fish, and a couple fo chubby squid.

    Predictably though, by the end of the first I was shivering, and despite the hour-long surface break and the scorching sun I was loath to get back in for the second dive. I managed, because mind over matter, but boy oh boy was I cold. I got out shivering to the point that our dive masters and boat captains ushered me to the roof deck and assured me they’d take care of disassembling my gear.

    The boat journey back was relaxed, and I happily sung the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune as we sped past mountains of lush greenery and the Caribbean ocean all around.

    Back at the hotel Samwise and I had that desorbitantly expensive massage booked, so we decided to take it abysmally easy until our booking and have some lunch, followed by some pool-side time on shaded loungers - something I usually refuse to do (why the hell would you sit by the pool when you have a private beach right next to it?!) but to be honest the sea was a little sillty, and the thought of having a constant stream of cocktails sent to our loungers was very appealing. And so, by the pool we went. In about three minutes my shins, which had been exposed to the only strip of sunlight on my lounger, were glowing red, and I ushered Sam to a more protected set of loungers - with a view to the mountains rather than the sea - but a much safer option in regards to avoiding my knees becoming the glowing red Rudolphs of the resort.

    The night ahead promises more balcony and champagne soaks, fire-breathers, fire-limbo, Caribbean dances, and a sushi dinner to boot. Excitement is rife.
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  • Day1

    Ready for Lift-Off

    February 2 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    04:00 hours. Or, more accurately, 4:30am. S. and I, in mutually suspicious good moods, shuffle into the icy darkness, ice-cube tray in hand filled with freshly squeezed orange juice from the night before, tea-flasks cradled under our arms.

    The car drive was quiet asides from my orange juice cube slurping, and we were both in surprisingly fabulous moods for 5am on a Saturday. It could have been out Philipps Wake-Up light. Could have been the fact we were heading to the Caribbean. Who knows?

    The whole process was smooth as was the flight. Picking airlines that have some semblance of ethics and humanity really does make a difference, and even in economy we were pampered with very frequent tea-carts, drinks, and little snacks as well as a main meal - which, to be perfectly honest, was pretty alright.

    I was also schooled in not being a judgemental dick when the woman in front of me put her seat back, and I gave Sam the death glare and mouthed the words “what a bitc-“ right before she turned round, exclaimed a little “oh!” and put her seat back up only to turn back around to apologise to me and to say how she was sorry about taking up the little space I had. Like I said: schooled.

    After a strong movie selection (Slaughterhouse Rulez, Bad Times at El Royale , KKK- not really a comedy tbh) we landed and were greeted by the blast of hot air and humidity that I was so looking forward to. In minutes my long-sleeved pyjama top was absolutely drenched in sweat and I felt like a small ball of unsophistication as we were taken to the Sandals Airport Lounge and boarded on our little car to the hotel.

    So, as I said, I have not done the all-inclusive life before, and I am used to pretty much taking care of myself. This is not possible in a Sandals Resort as the staff is at your side the second you look mildly confused (this happened often with me, I made good friends in my time there). At one point they had to actively explain to S. and I that this service is literally what we were paying for, and that as holiday-makers we should really try and relax. When we tried to make dinner reservations and they were mostly fully booked, and it just wasn’t working out with our plans. All our concierge said was: “I have your calendar on the system. I know the restaurants you want to go to. Just leave it with me.” In under an hour she had found spots for each of the restaurants that were previously fully-booked, and she extended to us a little hand-written calendar of what we had booked for the week. I have never been so amazed and felt so taken care of on holiday ever before. And always so kind, always so friendly. I was very, very happy that evening.

    One thing to take into consideration though? Make sure your phones don’t “automatically” update their time to blooming “US” time. This is what happened to us, and after a very needed nap, we dragged ourselves out of bed to make our 20:30 reservations. Turns out? We got there an hour late. This wasn’t an issue as we literally turned right back around and crawled, exhausted, back into bed. Worth saying: check the time with the locals, guys, and remember: your phone is not always right.
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  • Day5

    Homeward Bound

    May 23, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    As is my usual MO, I am not one to say much about departures. My heart always breaks a little bit every time I have to leave a newly discovered land, and so I try to keep the closing posts short and sweet.

    We wandered over to Beaune (the only mature way to pronounce that is “Bone”) and wandered around the sweet little town. There was a market, and museum of local art & furnishings all the way back from the Middle Ages, all housed in a “flamboyant medieval hospital” (Google’s words, not mine). It looked like a genuinely gorgeous building, but sadly we had little time for more than a pleasant stroll around town and lunch. In my solo exploration I came across an absolutely delightful old gentleman, who was playing the Spanish guitar with beautiful dexterity. I settled on a bench nearby, and gazed absent-mindedly into space as I spent the last few precious minutes I had before lunch letting the music waft around me.

    We had an excellent lunch, and I wrangled a taster-morsel out of Josh’s every course - I had a valid reason. He had ordered the exact dishes I would have, had I had time for a three course meal. Sadly, we had to rush away before the crème brûlée got to the table (devastating).

    Then it was airport, muggy rain, train, home. I had missed our cosy flat, I won’t lie, but looking out the window and being faced with, well, other people’s windows, didn’t quite have the same magic as looking over rolling hills covered in lush vineyards and a gorgeous sun glinting off the vibrant green leaves.

    Repeat visit? I certainly think so.
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  • Day4

    Wine Tasting Galore

    May 22, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    After days of having been promised rain, it finally happened. Rain. Buckets of it. Luckily, as is often the way in Europe, it lasted about an hour before the clouds parted and a sheepish sun and hugged us all in its gentle rays.

    The hour of downpour we spent well - at a small wine-tour followed by an immensely interesting and delicious wine-tasting. It was a Château about half hour drive from Vergecosse, and it was small enough to feel like a Château that had been lived and worked at. A friendly tour showed our small group the ins and outs of wine-making, and although I was amply distracted by the many potential photographs (which will no doubt be utterly under-exposed) I still felt like I left those icy cellars with a little more of an understanding of why I liked the wine that I did.

    The wine-tasting was similarly enjoyable, and although I was alone in picking my favourite bottle, I was happy to listen to everyone’s incorrect opinion of the better wine (furthermore I am always happier with my preferred wine bottle being less popular, as it means there’s more for me) (in all seriousness though, it is important respect other people’s opinions, always).

    We all headed back home, and Samuel and I rolled our sleeves up, since it was our turn to prepare this evening’s feast.

    And boy oh boy, a feast was had.
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  • Day3

    Oversleeping & Underachieving

    May 21, 2018 in France ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    There is genuinely very little of interest for the third person reader to be said of this day. After a cocky alarm set for 9am alongside the phrase “I’ll probably get earlier than that anyway" Sam and I found ourselves dozing right up until the ripe old time of 13:00. It all worked out for us though, because due to Alison’s (new party member) plane being delayed by about three hours, we had missed nothing at all.

    We sauntered to the pool-yard, unaware as of yet that we had lapsed into the good ol’ jet-lag, and were very much on Florida time. We swam, for a very honourable amount of time, considering the glacial temperature of the beautiful glistening water.

    When Josh, Alison & Chrissy arrived at about 15:00 (it was supposed to be a 10:05 landing time) we had a late lunch, and we all enjoyed a beautiful selection of European-affordable cheeses, with amazing saussisson to go with it. It was gorgeous. And then there was more swimming pool time, some competitive ping-pong (I lost, Sam beat Josh, Julian was the overruling champion) Sam & I went for a little wander. We played pass-the-Dougal with Josh for about five minutes, and then had a little explore within the labyrinthian paths of the vineyards. Have I mentioned how absolutely gorgeous everything is here? The light was spectacular, the blue skies restored my soul, and the sun just recharged batteries I’d forgotten I had.

    The evening was perfectly rounded by an evening out at the local restaurant. An exhausted couple who had been working back-to-back on a bank holiday weekend greeted us, still smiley, and Josh broke through the wife’s tiredness as she took our order, and she flashed us a few humorous, but completely understandably exhausted, smiles.

    We ate frog-legs, we drank wine, and everybody labelled me a God and worshipped me via food-offerings, so all was right with the world (long story, but essentially Josh encourage everyone to offer their food to me in a god-like fashion, and so history was made).

    Sam and I blessed the walk back the the Villa, since it was a pleasantly cool night and the walk worked miracles in helping our filled-up little stomachs process. We got home, and most everyone went to a happy bed after a lovely night cap.

    Sam and I went to bed. We watched an episode of Castle. We watched two. We tried to sleep. Couldn’t. It was 2am… Could we watch another…?

    Let it be said we struggled to fall asleep before the 5am ballpark figure, and that when the alarm went off at the very reasonable time of 9am, a little WW3 erupted in the bedroom as two very non-morning people silently hated each other across the bedroom, knowing, full well, the unresonableness of the situation, but hating nevertheless.

    Goddamnit Floria.
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  • Day2

    Chillside

    May 20, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    There is little for me to say on this day, other than the absolute chill-time that was had. After the full-on (wonderfully so) trip that was the great FL, this day was ability bliss. We had no plans, we all only spoke to each other in brief intervals of congenial conversation, and minded our own business. And, of course, Dougal was trotting about which made me just the happiest person ever.

    So I sat pool-side, and read, and read, and read. I did swim, once. It was very, very cold. The water glistened, invitingly, a beautiful blue which reflected the glistening sun above us. And once I was swimming, it was refreshing, a nice cooling sensation in a sea of diamond lights. But soon the pre-hypothermia kicked in, and I shivered myself out of the pool and into a towel. Then I napped. It was wonderful.

    The evening was only improved upon, as Josh had made an amazing lamb roast, slow-cooked on the BBQ no less, and there were delicious potatoes perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, there were green beans covered in garlic, an amazingly fresh salad, and the best wine, naturellement. We then walked off a very satisfying meal with a small stroll around the town, and oh lord is it beautiful. A sea of vineyards surrounded us, and as the sun set slowly the sky was a beautifully peaceful pastel pink.

    The peace was not to last, however. War was declared on the return to the house. Names in a Hat was the order of the day, and after a snail-like pace to get the game started we had a sassy but appropriately friendly round. Who won is unimportant. Definitely, and absolutely, redundant.
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  • Day1

    Exhaustion & Wine

    May 19, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    To be perfectly honest, the preface to this entire section of text should be the name of the absolute angel whom I was looking forward to seeing most on this trip. But you don’t serve dessert before the main course (I sometimes do though, because ‘m an adult, and I can) so I decided to save the best till later.

    So the French holiday began in a Yotelair pod, I suppose, which was a blessing. A small room with a shower and a bed was an absolute palace after the nightmare of an 8-hour flight surrounded by screaming children, and the warm water washing away the exhaustion, coupled with about four hours of good, horizontal, sleep, were the magical treat that allowed us to get onto the next part of the journey. Allons-y!

    Although getting back up at 13:00 to catch our flight felt rough, I know Sam and I both felt better for it. And genuinely speaking, at £60 it was more than I have got in London hotel rooms that cost closer to the £100. We got unlimited complimentary hot drinks. We were a five minute walk from our terminal. If that. Need I say more?

    After getting some healthy food and healthy juice to a) quell the incoming hanger and b) start fixing the absolute snowball effect that was health in Florida, we got on the plane. It was an uneventful flight. My sense of dread at landing back in London was quickly overtaken by my happiness at taking-off for another part of Europe.

    In Lyon, in our little Toyota Aygo, we happily drove through beautiful rolling countryside, and quaint little towns. The lights was gorgeous, the temperature was perfectly warm and had that Mediterranean dryness to it, and I was home (even though, after checking, we were still a 5-hour drive from the actual Med).

    We got to Casa Josh without a hiccup, to be greeted by DOUGAL!!! This was no surprise. I had been informed of the presence of my four-legged canine friend well in advance, Josh knowing full well that his presence would be a major factor in my attendance to his family’s beautiful place. His oversized paws clicking on the wooden floors as he scrambled around, his lovely almost-too-long legs flapping around in excitement. It was great to see him. Josh too, of course.

    We had a wonderfully Mediterranean dinner (other than the microwaved whole chicken that was, to the end, slightly pink) courtesy of the other guests of the vineyard home who we were to be spending the next three lovely days. Cheese, fuet, salad and wine. What else could one ask for?

    The sweet respite of sleep. Goodnight, sweet prince (morbid, I know).
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