Andy ZW

Joined November 2016
  • Day5

    Homeward Bound

    May 23 in France

    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 in France

    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

    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 in France

    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 in France

    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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  • Day8

    Universal Studios & Chubby Rain

    May 16 in the United States

    Thursday, roller coaster day. We had promises of rain all day, so Chloe and I sat in the car, sending out optimistic vibes as we went on the way to one of the most extortionately expensive theme parks I have ever been to.

    The day started well, although the queues to get searched shaped like a human funnel, hundreds of tiny monsters (children) clamouring to get in. Seriously. They were all around. Each group in a different neon-coloured t-shirt uniform, blinding me, everywhere I looked. It was overwhelming.

    Once we got into the park, things weren’t so bad. The tiny humans spread out, the sun was out, and we ambled in the direction of the action-plan Adam and I (not gonna lie, mainly Adam) had mapped out the night before. It was all going swimmingly, up until, twenty minutes onto our first ride they announced that the ride was, in fact, out of service. We trudged out of the queue, were gifted with a fast pass as compensation, and questioned our next move.

    “The Popeye rapids!”
    “Great idea!”
    “Ah, shit, there’s a 45 minute wait. It must be everyone from the Ripsaw Falls ride. Should we try something else?”
    “Guys, I just want to get on a ride. I JUST WANT TO GET ON A RIDE!”

    I might not have yelled that last part, or even said it out loud, but man, was I itching to get on something, anything, before we hit the two-hour mark since walking into the park.

    Things took a turn for the better though. With Adam’s guidance, as well as Sam’s app with all the ride times, we decided to rush over to Jurassic Park. I was very excited about this one, because dinosaur are mint (let’s get this ball rolling, Chloe) and T-Rex’s are so absolutely sweet, and Jurassic Park is honestly one of the best movies of all time. We then ran back to Ripsaw Falls, and then off to Popeye, all-in-all with a total waiting time of no more than 45 minutes collectively. It was an excellent job. And we ended up absolutely, completely and undoubtedly drenched through, all the way to our lingerie.

    Chloe’s outfit, albeit beautiful, turned out a little see-through when wet. So as we were waiting in line for a blast of hot air from the body-dryers, I heard a roll of thunder. I looked up, and saw the looming threat of a thunderstorm creeping nearer and nearer. We had had a good run, but it was here. Chubby Rain.

    I urged Sam, begged him, we needed to go to the Hulk ride immediately, it was going to shut, the storm was coming.

    As we ran (Sam ran, I kind of sprinted and then devolved into a limping Igor) the rain started hitting the ground. Deceptive, at first. A soft rain, the kind that doesn’t seem to bad until you realise the reason your clothes are sticking to your body is that they’re soaked through.

    We shoved our stuff in a free locker, and sped onto the ride.

    “Guys, just so you know, the ride is shut temporarily due to the weather.”

    As we stood there, devastated, as gigantic drops of gigantic rain flooding the floors, pouring onto us, dripping off our water-proof jackets, over our hoods. We knew. We had got here too late.

    All was not lost, however. We met the other guys for a very expensive and very unsatisfying meal, but it did us for the rest of the day. The skies cleared, and we managed to have a pleasant stroll through Harry Potter’s Wizarding World rather pleasantly. We took the Hogwarts Express all the way back to London, where Universal had made Diagonal Alley so realistic that as soon as we stepped onto Platform 9¾ in London, the skies opened once more and the rain fell. But still! Not to worry. With Butterbeer in hand, and a little stroll under cover (Diagonal Alley is well prepared for this kind of weather) we passed the time in sugar-filled contentment, and ventured out once the skies had cleared a little.

    The Simpsons next, a wonderfully set-up area which made you feel as if we’d stepped into Springfield, gained an unhealthy yellow skin-tone, and lost a finger. Then, sensing another down-pour, Sam, Adam and I rushed to Rip-Ride, the only big roller-coaster we would get to go on on this day. Because after harrowingly waiting in line, anxiety peaking as the announcements about the “incoming storm” grew more frequent, we got on, had a fantastic ride, saw the photographs… And the skies finally crumbled for good, the rain incessant all the way up until 21:00 that evening.

    All in all, although at times frustrating, it was a positive experience to visit a theme park with intermittent thunderstorms. It cleared out the park through the day, to the point where after Rip-Ride we managed to go on Transformers, and twice on the Mummy, with a total waiting time of about ten minutes. Yes, it was a little lame to have been unable to dry-out properly after the water rides. And yes, it did suck a little more for those who didn’t have heavy duty water-proofs. And I was the only one with enough of a phobia of wet-feet that came in sandals and managed to avoid the soggy squelch of a drenched trainer.

    However, we had a great time. We were altogether, laughed a lot, panicked a little about the rain, and then had fantastic and completely indulgent desserts on the way back to the car-park. It was a good day.
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  • Day7

    Faux Thunderstorms & Bahama Bay

    May 15 in the United States

    Today, desolately, we had all agreed that the dream of visiting the Florida snorkling cave, was, just that. A dream. With promises of almost constant rain, and intermittent thunderstorms, it was deemed that a two-hour drive was too risky, and too unpredictable. 

    As the orchestra swells, and the violins get ready for their emotive solo, I ask the conductor to pause for a moment, because, when we awoke, it was a beautiful sunny day. And so, after the first proper leisurely morning of the holiday, lounging by the pool and rolling around like the fat little seals we were all becoming, we all departed for Bahama Bay. 

    Chloe and I were over the moon. Even better, the boys were determined to golf. Her and I were being dropped off for a full solo pool-side day. Books, sunshine, a little bit of a photo shoot. No interruptions. It is not a lie when I say that, as soon as we set foot in the beautiful pool-resort, the Chlo and I quickly ushered the boys out, before they could change their minds. 

    What ensued were a beautiful three hours of bliss. An iced Malibu-Mango-Coconut-Triple Rum-Piña Colada-Whipped Cream beauty accompanied us in our relaxation adventure. I swam, Chloe read, I read, Chloe read, we photographed, Chloe read. It was a dream partnership. 

    The rumbling thunder finally arrived, and fully satisfied of our time, we ventured into the little covered bar area, and sat there, content, as the rain escaped the heavy clouds above us and showered the once burning ground. It was a dream. 

    Then the boys arrived. They seemed content themselves, having successfully drowned some golf-balls and killed some eucalyptus plants, so together we seemed like a pretty satisfied lot. With promises of a “big” night out (definitely not, as Universal is tomorrow and we will be making the most of that $170 park-entry fee) we headed off home, relaxed, rested, and, on my part, happily found I had regained some of mediterranean skin tone that makes me feel a little less like a walking husk. In summary: photosynthesis levels: 90% restored. 
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  • Day6

    Shopping & Ray-Bans

    May 14 in the United States

    We shopped today, to escape the rain. I went to Sephora and got gifted with a hundred and one things, because, well, this is America. Also, I spent a lot (not all of it was for me, let me be clear). 

    I was then absolutely dragged, and I will never say anything different, to "Bath & Bodyworks" and was absolutely enchanted by the candles. Little more spending was done, in honour of a beautiful smelling home. Then, of course, the Ray-Ban store. I am a sunglasses fan. I admit it. I love them. I love having six different pairs, to use depending on the occasion, depending on the mood, depending on the outfit, goddamnit. I use them all, love them all, and scratch people who tell me I have too many and try and dissuade me from getting more. Nobody stopped me today. And I left the store a happy pair richer. 

    Oh! And we went to a pub quiz. We came fourth. We worn a tiny, amazing, iron little baby pan. I was so happy. It fit in my handbag perfectly. 

    “Frying pans! Who knew?!”
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  • Day5

    Thunderstorms

    May 13 in the United States

    Alright, so honesty up front. The thunderstorms didn’t hit until we were safe at home, but the BBQ was had under the rain, and it would have been like we were back home, except it was actually warm, and the rain was gorgeous, and the thunder was absolutely amazing. 

    Today started off nice and easy. Sam and I performed a speedy getaway in the morning for something I crave, always, with bacon and butter and poached eggs. Pancakes. We were out the door by 9am (I can be dead on time when pancakes are on the line) and sat at ihop by 9:30. My trademark morning rage was quickly substituted by a building manic happiness as pancake-land (aka ihop) filled me with energy. Pancakes. My dream. My life. My fuel. 

    For those who know me, you’ll know I’m a bit of a health chaser. Not necessarily obsessively, but I’ve been brought up on the Mediterranean diet, I like knowing where my food comes from (particularly my meat) and I have very high standards in terms of how food makes me feel once I’ve eaten it. I love a brownie, adore my piña coladas, and nibble on popcorn like the cookie monster nibbles on cookies. And have you ever had white chocolate rounds? Oh boy. Oh boy. So I’m not a snob… But I am a snob. And when it comes to pancakes, I’ve become a little bit particular. When I say pancakes, let’s be clear, I mean all American-style, fluff-beasts, banana-filled pancakes. Sam makes a mean set of pancakes, like, some of the best pancakes I’ve had in a while. Consistency has been reached, and I can happily say I would sell his services to others, did I not want them to myself and myself only. the pancakes at shop are not half as good. But there is something about pancakes in America, in a pancake house, that is just a little special. And everyone is always so nice here. Anyway. All in all, it was a very successful experience. 

    We ambled back to the house, for our 10:30 appointment with Captain Roger, and got very much distracted by three or four vultures circling. “We’re gonna die!” I yelled. “They smell the pancakes, they want them!” With a skeptical glance from Sam, I quickly quietened my concerns. He’d be sorry when they came a-pecking. And they did. Swooped right down, pouncing on the rabbit carcass 20 or so feet behind us. Not pancake-vores after all, I suppose. Their loss. 

    The plan for the day was a relaxing stay at Orange Lake, a pool-filled resort that promised ample reading time and relaxation. It started off well when, at Chloe’s estimation, her charlie and myself left for an iced coffee at Starbucks which was “not too far off, we drove past it right around the corner.” Boy oh boy. Was it far, far away. We ambled along, glad for the slightly cloudy skies, but still sweating profusely due to the 28 degree heat and the lovely, misting humidity. Steam-room on the go, who needs a spa? We made it, got the caffeine, ambled back, and finally, relaxation time. 

    Now. I have done this before. And I must, on a subconscious level, been so intensely aware of my stupidity that at the very least I compulsively coated my masterpiece of a tattoo with factor 50 sun-screen. I also dabbed some on my perfectly symmetrical chest-mole, because, I thought, that was just smart. The rest of my body? Haha! I laughed at the invisible UV rays. Haha! You can’t get me. It’s cloudy today. I’m immune. 

    I was not. 

    So that’s all the excitement, really, for the day. Covered in after-sun (Avène is a dream in a bottle) I tucked into one of the best BBQ platters ever (courtesy of the legendary Captain Rog) and some dessert which had Chloe and I in a sugar-induced high and streams of tears (“What it that ball of gas I see coming towards me Roger?!”). We then watched Bowfinger, one of my favourite films, comfort, comedy and minimal drama all around. Then, devastated it was only 21:30, and being on a strict bed-time curfew of 23:30 Chloe and I did our best to avoid the sweet comfort of our pillows for the next two hours.

    Success was a matter of perspective. 

    Night night, y’all. 
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  • Day4

    Alligators

    May 12 in the United States

    So, post-Benihana, after rolling in like the food-spheres that we had all become, I believe we all crashed and burned like the fast-travelling stars that we had been for the past two days. At least, that’s what I believe happened, because I was pretty much a walking zombie the minute we walked out of that restaurant, and am pretty certain I exhibited very little conscious thought up until I woke up this morning. 

    Today seemed like another adventure day, and despite the dribble of water that the clouds seemed to want to threaten us with, it was a good day indeed. The heat still abounded, we were still far, far away from the manic lifestyle of London, and we were on our way to spot alligators. 

    Roger carefully rolled alone in the very American-sized people-carrier, as we all leaned out of the window, cameras at the ready, eyes scanning the reed-filled swamp for gators. We spotted some cool birds, wings spread-eagles, no doubt spotting the Alpha-Chlo specimen we had in the car and feeling threatened. Few more birds in, and Mr Rog parked us up and encouraged us to take a little gander, try see some gators, but reminding us we couldn’t outrun them (fun fact: it appears alligators reach speeds of up to 30mph. I can definitely not run that fast. But as a wise man once said: you don’t need to outrun the predator… Just the slowest member of your team. Sorry, Alpha-Chlo). 

    That’s when success struck, and the alligators congregated. It was all fun and games, up until an alligator we were paparazzi-ing started growling, and then an alligator we were not paparazzi-ing because we could not see it, started growling back behind us. The re-entry into the american people-carrier was speedy. 

    A successful drive to exit the tour was had, as a wave of tiny, absolutely fabulous baby alligators were encountered, and many more snapping (haha) was done. It was a decent exploration of the Floridian wildlife, and the weather turned out to be perfect for a slow drive with open windows along the swamps, so suck-it, cloud-rain-grayness. 

    Plans for the rest of the day? After a brief visit for ice-cream at the beautifully synthetic happiness den that is Disney's Celebration Town, head back home, a pool-side read, and then the Samwise and I are up for a full-on three-course meal. Dessert? Brownie, of course. 

    So wish us luck, and see you all on the other side - we will probably be rolling to bed tonight as well. 
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