Hong Kong Highlights

Our Hong Kong Highlights are not a tourist list of things to see rather what we discovered, walking the streets, during our brief visit to Hong Kong in October, that stuck in our hearts and minds.

Armed with a map, we picked up at the train station, we set out each day with the plan only to discover a new area of the city of Hong Kong.  Each day as we hoped, we were amazed at the colours, culture and fantastic food we discovered.

Here are our Hong Kong highlights which were overlaid, everyday and everywhere by two things; the vibrant colours and juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures.

CITY OF LIGHTS & COLOUR

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An obvious highlight; the Hong Kong skyline, famed for its brightly lit skyscrapers.  The nightly ‘light show’ spectacular from either side of the harbour and quite stunning from the Star Ferry.

We were more amazed also by the colours and lights in every street…
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There must be almost as many neon lights as people in Hong Kong!
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EAST MEETS WEST

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The juxtaposition of eastern and western cultures is constantly highlighted, and for us sometimes uncomfortable, in Hong Kong; smart-dressed city types relax in the many western style bars, seemingly oblivious to the (more often than not) Chinese making everything work in the background.

Contemporary stores selling fine goods sit along side traditional Chinese stores and workshops.Hong-kong-highlights-chinese-tradition

High above the bustling streets, hidden away roof top bars offer breath-taking prices to match their viewsHong-kong-highlights-roof-top-bar

whilst below in the narrow streets and alleys make-shift street cafes serve fantastic, simple local food to eastern and western people alike.Hong-kong-highlights-street-food

An amazing array of ingredient in even the simplest dishes…
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TEMPLES

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Though the peace and tranquility is spoilt in some by camera clicking, indiscreet tourists others remain serene and sacred places the Taoist and Buddhist temples remain one of our Hong Kong highlights.

In most temples we came across I only stood close to the entrance and watched the people perform their ceremonies for a few minutes.  If the temples were empty, and it felt appropriate, I took pictures.
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In the smaller, less tourist visited temples the deep red of the messages to the gods, the aroma of the constantly burning incense coils particularly highlight the contrast of east and west in Hong Kong.

Even surrounded by ancient eastern culture and religion the modern, western influenced city and its skyscrapers were never far away.Hong-kong-highlights-incense-spirals

APPRECIATION OF STYLE & NATURE

The of our most surprising Hong Kong highlights for us was the evident appreciation and application of style.
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These two perfectly, almost eerily, coordinated girls caught my eye on Hong Kong harbour.  Their use of colour perhaps not as vibrant as others but such simple, understated and elegant style made a real impression.

Even the modern shopping malls revealed an appreciation of style.  These ‘retail temples’ were worth visiting to see the emphasis given to style and use of natural materials.  Even the ladies rooms were spectacular!
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Thankfully nature still rules in many places throughout Hong Kong and is appreciated sometimes simply for the shade it provides
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and, in such a fast developing and fast moving city like Hong Kong, it’s fascinating to see nature appreciated and interwoven with a special attention to detail and effortless style.

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THE PEAK

Not for the experience of the Peak Tram which, though a wonderful site making its way slowly up the hill, we avoided and walked up to the Peak from the city instead.

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Rather again for nature and the dominance of it so close to the city.  On the path up to and around the peak it was wonderful and unsettling at the same time to see how quickly nature takes back over after people have cut their path and laid their mark.

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A year in the French alps

It’s been a busy year living in the French Alps…

When the builders completed the transformation of the shell of our 1850s Savoyard barn in August we spent a fun, exhausting and fascinating five months completing the renovation ourselves. From fitting floors to building furniture.
here is how we renovated a tumble down barn to boutique ski chaletbarn to boutique chalet

Finishing just in time for winter season we had a busy year; enjoying time with friends old and new to enjoy winter season in the French Alps. Getting just a little better at snowboarding, learning to ski again.
Here’s our winter season captured in pictureswinter season Portes du soleil

We were also busy during this first year living in the French Alps managing our holiday rental business in the UK and building up to the sale of the business in May and June.

We think we amused and inspired the team at Travel Chapter (the new owners of the Sheepskin brand and UK holiday property collection) in equal measure by choosing to camp in our VW camper van throughout the six week sales completion process.
Just for fun here’s our business sale ‘adventure’ in picturesIMG_4539

Business sale complete, at the end of June we were off on the road with Adam’s parents this time for two weeks sharing some of our favourite places with them on a camper van trip as part celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary.
A day in Provence, ten days in Italy and back to the French Alps….ten day motorhome holiday Italy Pastum

In July, back to home in Montriond in time for the bikers to arrive in force. 10,000 Harley riders, two BMW riders (us!) and one Triumph rider (my dad!). We made the most of the Harley Days Festival with two ride outs on Harleys, a night at the Blues Brothers concert and a quiet evening BBQ at Lac du Montriond.
All in all a great Harley Days Morzine 2017Harley Days experience tour

In August the mediterranean sea and sunshine were calling us but so were the peaks around our home in the French Alps so in August we completed our quest of walking the four peaks that we can see and that inspire the artwork in our home; Roc D’Enfer, Nyon, Ressachaux and Nantau and a few other wonderful alpine walks with friends too.
Walking in portes du soleil.walking portes du soleil

So that is the whistle stop summary of our year in the french alps, from August to August.

Of course we didn’t sit still in September,  we’re still busy and I’m busy writing so stay tuned….

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Motorhome holiday in Italy…

A motorhome holiday in Italy was Adam’s parents holiday they would most like to experience as part of their 60th wedding anniversary celebrations.  We have visited Italy many times in our VW camper van so relished the idea of returning and sharing some of our favourite places in Italy with them.

So off we went with a vague plan for a motorhome holiday in Italy.

After picking up the motorhome (from Hertz in Lyon) and filling it with all of our plates, bedding, provisions and our two man tent for us to sleep in we set off south for a day in Provence.

A wander into the nearest town to search for local wine and a morning coffee brought us to a beautiful tranquil squareA day in provence peacefuland made us linger a little longer than planned as the beautiful light, colours and stylish, Provence locals distracted and intrigued our group of people watchers. A day in provence styleWine rack stocked with Provence Rosé next stop Italy.

We drove via Piemonte and one of favourite places for motorhome stops in Italy, a basic campsite in an olive grove just outside of the lovely hill town of Olivetta San Michele (which has a fabulous food shop with home made savoury pastries!)motorhome holiday italy piemonte

Finally the motorhome holiday in Italy started fully.  Along the coast though and into Tuscany for a few days of amazing home-made pasta and of course some lovely Chianti wines.motorhome holiday in italy pasta

During our stay in Chianti, on a walk to the local town of Marcialla we found a fantastic delicatessen selling wines produced on the surrounding hills.  You could buy the wine to take home or, for the same price, chilled to enjoy on their terrace with a view.  We couldn’t resist!motorhome holiday italy chianti

On this motorhome holiday in Italy, as always, we had so many amazing food experiences, too many to mention here.  One in particular was in Umbria; a wonderful foodie find with the local food shop in Civatella del Lago.foodie motorhome holiday Italy

During our ten days in Italy we managed to get as far south as one of our favourite places, Paestum, and treated Adam’s parents to Mozzeralla direct from the buffala farm and a beer by the Greek ruinsten day motorhome holiday Italy Pastum

We were half way through holiday time and so time to head north and towards home.

Herculaneum was far too busy and hot for us to wander around this time unfortunately but it was fascinating to stay above and see the ancient and modern cities together.Motorhome holiday Italy Herculaneum

Stopping at Solfatara campsite just outside of Naples was a steamy and smelly as alwaysitaly motorhome holiday Solfatara

and a little more challenging getting in to and out of the campsite in our motorhome versus our VW campervanIMG_4606

One final stop in Italy, parking the motorhome down a tiny street in Courmayeur and finding a great local restaurant (one we hadn’t found on any of our ski trips in winter), a great find with amazing views.IMG_2157

Ten days was not really enough in Italy in the motorhome but we managed to share some of our favourite places and find a few new ones that we will be sure to revisit on our next motorhome holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter season in Portes du Soleil

During 2017 winter season in Portes du Soleil we:

Learned a lot – to ski again, to snowboard better, the portes du soleil piste map

Laughed a lot – with new friends and old we’ve had some fabulous times

Lived a lot!

Here’s my photoblog of our first winter season in Portes du Soleil after completing our chalet renovation.

The winter season in Portes du Soleil started slowly as we waited for big snow and it came in early January… so for the first day out on our snowboards, a white out!  Hooray!

and we had a great excuse to use our new, snow shovel to clear the drive when we arrived back home.

We didn’t reserve a table for our first visit of the winter season to our favourite mountain restaurant in Portes du soleil, Chez Nannon so, now as frequent visiting locals, we had the best table in the house!  A corner of the preparation table in the kitchen to watch being cooked and then enjoy Patates au Reblochon!

With beautiful sunshine the powder us snowboarders love disappeared so we took the opportunity to try skiing again, on perfectly groomed pistes.  After over ten years dedicated to snowboarding we were probably a little premature trying off-piste on the first day but it was very entertaining watching Adam put his ski back on!

After a few more days on skis and we joined friends over at Mont Chery for a beautiful sunny day with a little skiing,

a little drinking and then a lot of dancing in ski boots!  Well why not?screen-shot-2017-11-07.png

Some of the friends we met last year on a Back Country Snowboarding week came to visit so we loaded the snowboards…

for a few fun days of great boarding, great food and most of all great company.

The snow came again in February and after a day boarding on fresh off-piste powder

we were held up going home when we found friends at Happy Hours and an Ibiza DJ playing fantastic dance tunes for apres ski!  

A change of pace and activities with the visit of my nephew.  We celebrated my sister’s birthday with a few days of fantastic fun sledging, throwing snowballs, lots of cheese and cured meat feasts and a day teaching a five year old how to ski!winter sledging

When Max and Lucy arrived at the beginning of March we loaded the snowboards again and headed to Ardent where we know some great off-piste runs.IMG_4327

Fresh snow and our off-piste adventures tested Max’s snow boarding legs a little and we all had a fantastic few days in the fresh powder and out and about in town.IMG_4330IMG_4331

When the snow storms came again a few days later we experience skiing more on our own than we ever anticipated.   All lifts and pistes in Portes du Soleil were completely closed one afternoon due to an impending storm.

We would have been stuck in Avoriaz, several miles from our car, had it not been for a very helpful and thoughtful piste secour gentleman. When we explained our predicament to him, by the ‘piste-closed’ fence he was guarding, he swiftly attached two tow ropes to the back of his ski-doo and asked ‘Are you good skiers?’ ‘Good enough, we hope’ we replied.  ‘Hold on then’ he yelled as he accelerated his ski-doo up the closed piste towards our  home run in the next valley.  We grinned and chuckled at each other as we zoomed up empty pistes and past closed chair lifts.   I am not a good enough skier to have taken pictures whilst on the ski-doo unfortunately!  Maybe next time.

When he dropped us at the top of the, normally busy, Zore piste we enjoyed an eerily quiet and empty run back to the car with the wind occasionally blowing us to a stand still to remind us of the force of nature.

Mid March the ‘boys’ were in town for our annual ‘boy’s ski’ weekend.  We had dutifully been out, on glorious fresh powder I hate to say, testing ski runs, bookings bars and restaurants so that we could make the most of every day with the group.  IMG_4363

The bars were well and truly tried and tested over the next few days though we didn’t get to all of the pistes that we had planned.IMG_4365

we had some fantastic  scenery on the sunny days…IMG_4369

As usual an amazing, few days that left our stomach muscles sore not from exercise but from laughing so much!IMG_4380

No rest for the wicked – the following week was Rock the Piste! Live music concerts played at various locations in the mountains, on the piste, around Portes du Soleil.

Rock the Piste 2017 included Rag n Bone Man (he’s down there somewhere)…RagnBone man rock the piste

Matmatah, favourite of our friend David who donned his Bretagne flag/cape for the concert in support of his fellow Bretagnes.IMG_4392 (1)

Chinese Man (quite hard core for a Monday afternoon!)IMG_4396

On Friday friends Kieran, Matt, Sangeeta and Gina joined us for a skiing, drinking and dancing weekend and to see our absolute favourite, Caravan Palace perform at the top of Pleney ski lift…IMG_2062

We carried on doing our snow dances into April hoping that the white stuff would hold out long enough for our last visitors at Easter.

We persevered as the snow more that a little patchy IMG_4394and enjoyed riding with friends Angela and MartinIMG_4413

finally though it seemed more appropriate to be walking the hills in the sunshine IMG_4429

A sprinkling of snow saved the day for our friends Phil, Lucy, Andrew and Lenka and their families for their Easter family ski trip and our last few days on boards and skis for winter season 2017…IMG_4431

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Walking in Portes du Soleil

As soon as the snow disappears, normally early May, we are out walking in Portes du Soleil.  Walking in Portes du Soleil mountains from Morzine and Montriond has easy access and is very rewarding with amazing views across Haute Savoie region from many of the peaks.Morzine portesdusoleil summer hikingIn spring and summer the valleys and peaks are transformed by nature.  Verdant and welcoming from the valley floor to the rocky peaks where miraculously mountain flowers appear everywhereSpring mountain flowersand crocuses force their way through the fading patches of snow.sheepskinalps-walking-holiday1.jpgDuring May and June, the wonderfully peaceful ‘inter-season’ Adam and I enjoy a variety of walks from our home in Portes du Soleil.  Some walking out to conquer particular peaks and others simply a nice circuit along the rolling hills of the lower slopes.

Everywhere is well sign posted so, as long as you have an idea of where you want to head to, it’s easy to walk in Portes du Soleil without a map.sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil14.jpgWe have now completed/conquered the four main peaks that dominate the skyline from Morzine & Montriond; Pointe de Nantaux, Ressachaux, Pointe de Nyon and Roc D’Enfer.

Pointe de Nantaux was particularly daunting and rewarding at the same time and took us two attempts to conquer since the first time the summit was still very much covered with snow but in August 2017 we made it to the top with our friend David.Nantaux-summit-Haute-savoieThe sign at the bottom ‘KMV’ (kilometre vertical) gives it away that this is not the easiest of walks and this is by no means the roughest or steepest part.
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In short the KMV is 1000m of ascent in 2000m of distance covered and then you have another 200m or so of climb and around 500m distance to reach the summit.

The arrow shows the top of the KMV (where I took the photo below), you may just make out the path directly below and the summit you see to the right is not the true summit….Nantau-Montriond-portes-du-soleil

IMG_4775The peace and tranquility, that we had all to ourselves (even on a bank holiday), at the summit was spellbinding.walking-in-portes-du-soleil-nantaux-summitNantaux-summit-montriondWalking the descent was harder on the legs though easier on the lungs and the scenery, with views across Portes du Soleil, absolutely breathtaking.  Oh to be the shepherd who gets to stay here!Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil5Everywhere reminders of the power of nature.amazing-nature-walking-portesduesoleil

Pointe de Ressachaux is another must conquer peak when walking in Portes du Soleil. We set off reasonably early suspecting it was a 5-6 hour walk to the summit and back.   It was Sunday so, after several cups of coffee, 10.30am wasn’t a bad achievement!Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil2As we huffed and puffed up and up through the forest we were embarrassed and just a little demotivated to be cheerily greeted by a group of pot-bellied, grey haired ‘ramblers’ striding down towards us at 11.30am.

In my halting French I asked were they returning from the summit already? ‘Bien sûr! Bonne Montée!’ they replied as they disappeared down through the forest.

A few corners later some very kind, and fit, person had made a welcome bench from a fallen tree…Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil11We envied the French group, probably enjoying a menu du jour very soon but the tasty cheese baguettes in our rucksacks for lunch at the summit spurred us on. and hat a picnic spot it is.Morzine walking amazing viewshiking morzine portesdusoleil area

Pointe de Nyon, our favourite peak in winter for easy to reach, fun, off-piste on powder days and actually a deceivingly difficult walk in summer.
Morzine spring summer walk bike resortWe have walked from our home in Montriond, through town and up to the plateau du Nyon via the Cascade de Nyon which makes it about 5 hours to the top and back.IMG_4663On a clear day, as our next walk to the summit of Nyon, you can clearly see Mont Blanc from here…IMG_4659To make it shorter we’ve driven up to the plateau and walked from there which makes it a little more relaxing and leaves time for lunch at Chez Nannon.

You can even get the chair lift to just below the summit so that you can reach the amazing viewswalking-ported-du-soleil-Nyon

Roc D’Enfer lives up to its name Rock of Hell.

We walked from home which made the total circuit about 30km and around 7 hours. On the way to the base of Roc D’Enfer you have spectacular views, even Mont Blanc in the distance.walking Portes du soleil Mont Blanc viewWhen you pass the sign that basically says ‘ this way if you’re sensible and want an easy walk back to Les Gets or this way Danger of death’ you know you will have to keep your wits about you.

A steep, scramble over rocks takes you up to a narrow path along the long ridge which follows the crest where sometime it can be quite tricky to see where the path is.walking portes du soleil Roc D'EnferFor several kilometres the narrow path picks it way up and down the ridgesRoc D'Enfer walking portes du soleiluntil finally emerging into a mountain meadow and the long track back to Col D’Encrenaz and home with Roc D’Enfer looming large behind you.walking portes du soleil mountain meadow

Walking in Portes du Soleil is not all about ‘up’, high peaks and tough climbs.

We’ve had great days wandering in the valley and found virtually flat walks with friends and family by the river and around Morzine town using the suspension foot-bridge to avoid ups and downs.Morzine  - 6th July 2016The advantage of staying close to town is that there are always plenty of places for refreshments in the sunshine…IMG_3686and if you do fancy exploring and walking a little higher in Portes du Soleil you can always take the lift up.Sheepskinalps-walking-portesduesoleil15

My favourite, relaxing rather than challenging, walking in Portes du Soleil has got to be around Lac du Montriond.  A flat walk with spectacular views in every direction and a bar at either end!

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Similarly Lac du Mines D’Or is a short drive, up, along Vallee de la Manche and rewards you with amazing views, a short walk and the Chalet Freterolle just a little further up for a spot of local lunch…

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My reason for writing, from the heart

In starting this journal it feels different than ever before.  I intend it to be not just a record of sights, tastes and experiences but of our feelings and emotions as we travel through life and I hope, to have time to tell the story of how we got here.

My reason for writing and writing from the heart is simply it’s the right time and I feel we have reached an exciting and defining junction.

For Adam this year is one of huge upheaval, it’s been a time of difficult and we know life-changing decisions but necessary and positive decisions as he leaves his role and escape from corporate world.  Leaving behind friends and colleagues that he has inspired and that have inspired him and transformed what I know sometimes felt like a futile, uphill battle into a rewarding and motivating experience.

For me (Helen) as always, challenging, exciting times managing our own business as the team and company strengthen, evolve and grow.

For us both, after four years of living apart during the week, the last of those years in a building site as we renovated our new home (more on that in another blog later), we are stronger than ever.  Confident in our decision to take a break, escape and travel for a while, enjoy time and new experiences together and to let those experiences inspire and mould what we do next…

I anticipate the journey will be a roller coaster adventure and I want to be able to capture it for me and for any like-minded people who find this travel blog and that is my reason for writing from the heart.

A new journey and travel journal begins…

As we start a new journey and a travel journal begins but my journey and travel journal started some time ago…

In August 2008 I bought a Moleskin notebook – I presented myself a challenge choosing one with plain not lined pages as I felt I needed to be completely free to use it as I may want as I set out on a new path (more on this at another time in this blog).

The first, pristine blank page was daunting and paralysed me. After lots of staring and soul searching at the white space I wrote on the first page…

“A new journey begins or is it that the journey continues down new and yet undefined paths.  Paths to be mapped and shared together…”

starting a travel journalOn the first evening of our, half-planned, trip, glasses of wine in hand watching the sunset, I turned the page, pencil poised and, still afraid of the blank page, asked Adam to write first.

He sat and stared for a while, something he does often as a Designer and invariably comes with a creative solution. As he reached the bottom of his glass of wine he put pencil to paper (neither of us like the permanency of pens) and started the journal of our travels.

We were setting off in Adam’s camper van to the Mediterranean on our very first trip together having met just a short time before.

Over the coming weeks the pages filled with thoughts, feelings and food as we travelled, got to know each other and basically enjoyed a life changing 4 weeks together. (maybe more on that later)

Food and travel diary

Now I start a different journal as we start a new journey and, as we turn a page again my online travel journal begins.

Rather than simply adding to my collection of pencil filled Moleskin travel journals that I fill and file (hide) away after each trip promising myself I will revisit, reread do something with them one day I can share my travel diary with others.  Perhaps to inspire, to influence, to entertain those that stumble upon or follow this travel blog.

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