Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend in Switzerland & France

On Thursday we had an early start, leaving home at 5am to head for Heathrow to catch a flight to Geneva. Arriving at around 11am, we picked up our hire car and headed down town to Lake Geneva where we took a boat trip around the lake before enjoying an ice cream in the park. We then headed across the border to France where our hotel was located just outside Annemasse.

On Friday we visited Annecy, a beautiful and genteel town beside a lake, about an hour south of Geneva. Here we wandered through the market set along the cobbled streets of the old town before eating lunch at a creperie. We then headed down to the lake where we hired a 'speed' boat for an hour. Toby & Joshua both enjoyed driving the boat, with Joshua thinking it was great to go round and round in circles - but for a 3 year old he did a pretty good job.

On Saturday we made an early start and arrived at Chamonix just after 9 in the morning. We took the Montenvers train up towards the Mer de Glace, a glacier running down the valley. We walked the mile or so descent down to the valley and then Graham descended the 284 steps down to the glacier to enter the ice grotto - a tunnel dug into the glacier itself.
Fortunately there was a cable car to take us back up to the train station ready to catch the train back into Chamonix.

It was then onto the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which was actually two cable cars taking you first to about 7,000 feet, then a second continuing the journey up to 12,000 feet where a cafe and viewing platform were to be found. The last part of the cable car run was near vertical and with about 50 people in each car it made you think how strong the cable holding us up must have been.

On the way up we descended through one layer of cloud and out into the blue sky again, with the viewing platform and Mont-Blanc itself constantly moving in and out of the clouds. At 12,000+ feet the lack of oxygen was noticeable when climbing up stairs or undertaking any other physical exertion.

On Sunday, it was back to Geneva for our noon flight home. All in all, a thoroughly interesting and varied weekend.

See the rest of our pictures here for Geneva, Annecy & Chamonix.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tree hugging is not for wimps!

It was greeted with some degree of personal trepidation when our team leader mentioned a few weeks back that at our next team meeting we would be embarking on a team building exercise that involved a high-wire forest challenge.

Despite choosing to pursue gliding as a hobby, I don't really have much of a head for heights - certainly when not firmly attached to something solid like a building or aircraft. I'm never that happy balanced at the top of a ladder.

And so it was, following the business part of our meeting, we headed to GoApe - a high wire experience situated in a Forest near Bracknell. We were harnessed up and received our basic training before being set loose on the course of four groups of aerial challenges, each one getting progressively further from Terra Firma.

Fortunately for me, there was always an easier route to choose to bypass the very difficult sections, but even the easier options involved a minimum of hanging from a wire and pulling yourself between two trees 20 feet apart.

Each section ended in a zip wire, with one stepping off the final platform into the air to slide not very gracefully into a pile of wood chippings which acted as a break.

The egging on of my colleagues prevented me from bailing out part way through and I completed the course exhilarated, if a little exhausted. Several of the sections were pretty scary but once you've started one it's as hard to return as it is to push forward.

You can see some more pictures of our experience here.