Thursday, 27 December 2007

Dynamic improvement

A 151m dynamic in the pool (50m outdoor at the Lido, PN) this morning just finished off the acheivement of my goals for the year (with 4 whole days to go!). :) It was a good clean dive, but a real struggle right from the start. Looking forward to the new fin arriving soon.

Monday, 17 December 2007

more pbs

Just realised that I haven't updated this for a while. I think that Christmas chaos has really taken hold. I have discovered that I've been doing much better when I have a big steak and a glass of red wine the night before, which seems to go against a lot of the info I can find.

I've had a few weekends away. The first to PN where I caught up with Rachel who is back from the USA for a few weeks. Her grandmother is not doing particularly well, and Rachel is pregnant and suffering from pretty extreme morning sickness, not to mention that her hubby is in Afganistan cooking for the troops. It was nice to catch up. Mikey has grown so much and is much more like a real person now (he was about one last time I met him, he's three now).

The following weekend I went up to Auckland to do a bit of diving in Lake Pupuke. I had some airpoints and got a pretty cheap grab a seat fare. It all was looking to go a bit pear shaped when I arrived at the airport a mere 8 minutes prior to the plane departing though. However I managed to get on. Was a bit worried about the fins that they just totally ignored being fragile and came out on the conveyor belt with several bags on top, but they were ok, thankfully. Training probably would have been better in Wellington where the sea was dead flat. There always seems to be a storm when I make plans to go anywhere to dive. Didn't do anything fantastic. I forgot how horrible the lake is. Got to the end of the 31m line with my monofin on and to about -26m without fins. Worked on technique, but have a few issues to work through. Haven't really ever used a mono for constant weight before. We really just got blown around in the intense wind (while I re-iterate that the "windy capital" was dead calm). Mono made quite a good sail in the wind after.

Last weekend we went up to Taupo. It was absolutely stunning. The lake was dead calm -don't think I've ever been there in such good conditions before. We drove up Saturday morning (it's 5 hours away), set up camp, dived, did dinner, a game of rhummy, slept, dived and drove home. Luckily there were four of us because Kerian got a tummy bug and couldn't dive. He had a go on Sunday, but threw up a few times and couldn't go past -25m as the pressure was mving things around inside him. The sun was shining and I'm now sporting a pretty flash sunburn beard from the gap between the hood and the mask. I decided to work on constant weight with fins to try to help my hheadspace, and just do one big no warm up dive, which seems to be working for me in other disciplines. I did -43m the first day and -47 the second. We had the rope set to 50 and I'm a bit disappointed I didn't make it to the bottom as I could see it. Probably means my head was in the wrong position... Didn't have any real issues. Did hit a thermocline, which I reckon is the reason why I turned. Had a lot of negative thoughts around 20m but managed to stop myself from turning back. I definitely feel there's more in me. Pleased to have gone that far as I need to calm my brain for constant weight without fins. Did a few technique dives without fins but nothing over 20m. Having problems with the freefall - falling to the side. Also I'm incredibly buoyant in my 5mm suit (and being a floater, and learning how to pack). It's taking forever to get off the surface then I keep losing my mental space. Hopefully I'll sort that out soon as it's mostly in my head. I've ordered some fluid googles too, which should help a lot. The lake is fairly warm at the moment. We had 21 degrees in the shallows, 18 on the surface, 15 at depth and probably a couple of degrees less past that -45m-ish thermocline. I'm looking forward to trying my Orca suit for no fins as I don't think I'll need any weights. Goal for Jan is -45m no fins, 55m with mono, and to learn the mouthful equalisation technique (and remember to do it on time!). I'll be doing a national record attempt on 13 Jan for no fins (currently mine at -31m). Just need to work on my fitness a little over the next few weeks as it's pretty shocking at the moment. I think I was puffing for about 5 mins after my max attempts, depite feeling fine while diving as far as having enough air went. Looking forward to Will's stage in a few weeks time. It'll be nice to be coached for a change.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

6 mins wasn't a fluke

I did it again last night: 6:03s. Felt pretty well inflated. Did about 35 packs and it took about 35s to inhale. First contraction at 3:10s! I was pretty blue but clean and again felt light headed about 30s after coming up. Did about 4 full packing stretching breaths in the hour beforehand.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

The on-going smashing of PBs...

I've had another happy week!

On Thursday evening after working too much and feeling a bit tired I did 121m no fins dynamic at Freyberg Pool (33m and very annoyingly shallow at one end). It felt pretty good and was a new PB. I did one very bad turn and was getting a bit bouyant (feet coming up on the glide) and I think I was a little off balance as my feet were swinging around a little on the glide (not sure if this is from my weighting or the general flow of water from swimmers/pool water circulation).

This morning I made it to 134m at Porirua pool (I love this pool, it's 25m and about 1.3m minimum so shallow enough to stand in at the shallow end but deep enough to not really upset you with the pressure changes, and goes down to about 2.3m). I still felt quite conservative as Braedon was my buddy and was on the side a lane over. Had to come up on lane ropes and B threw some flutter boards at me: the wave they created mostly ended up in my mouth, but I was absolutely fine, so there should be a bit more yet... I added another .5kg to my belt and did about 30 packs. Did four full packing breaths in the hour or so beforehand, the last one was about two minutes before my dive. I'm currently gliding to the count of 5 from the wall, 4 from a pull and 3 from a kick, so I've sped up a bit. Had a lot of ugly contractions from about 20m and all through the second length, but they subsided a little after about 65m. I managed to keep a good consistent pace and didn't ease up on my technique (sometimes I get sloppy near the end). Only had a little bit of lactic build up in arms and legs.

Come on 150! :)

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Static excitment

I did 6 minutes!!! I'm now bouncing off the walls! I'm trying to record all the pre-dive variables, so here goes:
Yesterday I worked until I could no longer think then took the dog for a walk before dinner until I really had no energy left. Last night I ate a big steak and had a glass of red wine, and didn't train. Today I worked at my desk for 10 hours, got a bit late for training so was rushing around. Did one stretching packing breath just before leaving work around 6:45pm. Walked home from work and drove to the pool. Arrived at pool at 7:15. Did 5 mins of stretching trying to relax a bit. Got dressed. Got in. Did one more packing breath. Two minute countdown. Took a breath and held it for 6! Yay. It took 30s to inhale and I did about 25 packs. Stood up and jumped around. Felt a little light headed after jumping around for 30s immediately after the dive, but not too bad. I think there might be more in me... :) I have now officially achieved my statics goal for the year, will have to set a new one: I reckon 6:30 is a good next step.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

training, or lack of...

This week's been quite good. Did a 5:23s no-warm up static followed by CO2 training of 8 x 1:30s with one breath in between. I also pulled off a 139m dynamic, and it feels like there's still a lot of room for improvement. I'm pleased to be finally making some advancements in this area. My fancy new fin is going to arrive in a couple of weeks, and I'd like to hit the end of the pool (150m) by then so I can see if it's the fin that really makes a difference or not. Haven't done much fitness work at all and have been drinking wine pretty regularly, which really won't change before the end of the year as work is hectic and the social calendar has been blown out of all proportion. Very excited that Will Trubridge is going to come and run a course or two over here for us. We feel a bit isolated over here in NZ sometimes.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

a new era!!!

The last week has been quite eventful in my freediving life. Firstly, Phil managed to finally get me to suck in air with my tongue, so after years of sucking through straws trying to learn to pack I finally can - I keep practising to to check I can still do it... On Saturday I did a pb for dynamics with fins: 124m, no warm up. It was a horrid dive. My technique was terrible: 4/10, I had contractions from about 30m, everything hurt, but my head was really clear at the end, probably a 7/10 push. Looking forward to the new fin arriving (it's a soft one with a glide angle - hopefully much more enjoyable, and the reduced stiffness will hopefully help my technique). Didn't really pack for this dive as was still sorting out how to. This evening I did a 5:19s static, no warm up (other than stretching about 15mins before and I did a couple of full breaths just before leaving home, so about 45mins before) - no fancy exhales or breathing beforehand, just one big breath. I did 8 packs as I promised I wouldn't push it too much to begin with. First contraction was 2:38. Head was clear when I stood up, about 8/10 - plenty left. Did another shorter one later with about twice as many packs and didn't have a contraction until about 3 mins. I'll keep working on it and see what happens.

Training at the moment consists of very little fitness work. I've been working quite long hours so haven't been managing the lunchtime swims or yoga. I have to try to do at least one a week as my shoulders and back get too sore if I don't (and I'm putting on weight, and the christmas rush of high calorie delicacies hasn't even started yet!). I'm trying to take it a bit easier at the moment since I have nothing to work towards. I'm trying to do a long DYN, DNF & STA once a week each at the start of a session (even if I don't feel up to it - it's just a long one on a different scale), then working on technique after. I'm going to try to stretch my lungs out a bit with packing and stretching daily (ie about 5 or 6 full breths over about half an hour - no real holds).

I really want to hit my 6mins soon... I feel it's in me and not too far away. Time will tell. Thanks Phil for giving me the extra bit of air (pretty good of you since we're pretty close competition - different rankings list though eh!).

I'd really like any feedback you guys can give me re training and hints of things to try. Please feel free to comment!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

comp photos

Here are a couple of photos of me from our recent freediving competition:

Photos: Colin Gans (c) 2007

For more photos from the comp got to:

Colin has also taken a lot of really beautiful underwater shots:

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

training log

Trying a few new things at the moment. Doing a lot of no warm up dives just to create a lot of strain. I'm teaming up with Chris as we have similar results, so we're going to push each other up to the 6 minute mark. I've been doing between 4 and 4:30 (only 3:23 for the first one tonight, then 4:32 after about a 10-15 min break) with absolutely no warm up or time to chill out beforehand. The second one may be better due to lung stretching - might have to try a few deep breaths prior to starting. I'm trying to do more in-water statics as I was getting to the point where I was doing better dry and feeling pretty uncomfortable in the water. Would like to get it up to 5 straight up. I'm currently having a little trouble fitting in my lunchtime swims so have to re-organise a little to swim on the weekend (with summer coming this might be replaced with real diving!) and have a rest day or two during the week. Have done yoga since we left and my back and shoulders are really suffering, so need to factor that back in. I have also been wearing my monofin. We did some filming on the weekend and my arms are way too high (kind of undulating from what should be the mid point upwards) and moving up and down a lot. Have to keep working on it. I've ordered a new soft fin with blade angle, so hopefully that will help. Any comments re training ideas/techniques are most welcome/encouraged!


I have finally uploaded trip photos! I gave up on blogger as it took too long, and have put up some albums on facebook. Just follow the link below, click on the picture to see the album, then there's a link at the top called "back to Kathryn's photos" which will take you to the rest of them...

Enjoy (sorry there are so many - these are truely just the highlights)!

Monday, 24 September 2007

busy weeks

Emma finally left for London last week (although it feels like she only just came back from Japan). She was meant to be there when we were over there and was missed in Paris when Patti, Jeremy and Anna were there with us. She's leaving Shin behind to cycle around NZ. We went along to her leaving dinner/Shin's birthday last week. Here they are:

Minnow is just sooo cute that she needs to be shown off:

This weekend was pretty chaotic. There was a freediving comp here in Wellington, which I hadn't done enough training for (not quite sure why I bothered), considering we've only been home for three weeks. Everyone else did particularly well. Dave broke the Dynamics world record twice (I unfortunately didn't manage to see either). Kerian pulled out a 201m, which is pretty huge. Phil did 131m without fins. Guys did over 7 mins in statics. Ant got to 223, but shook a but much and unfortuneatly just lost it at the end. I did a 93m no fins and 111m with. I'm vaguely happy with the later as it was pretty easy, and I've only worn my fin about 4 times this year. For me it can only get better from here on in... The competition was held over three days, but after ten weeks away I decided not to bother asking for additional time off. I had a go at DNF on Friday night (never a good time for me) and DYN on Saturday morning. Kerian, Guy and Phil modelled their sexy suits for the camera.

We left the comp after my swim on Saturday morning and drove up to Palmerston North to see Elizabeth Quinn get married to Gareth Gibson, boyfriend of 8 years. Elizabeth and I attended all the same schools in PN so have known each other since we were 5. She's the one that the teachers used to get me mixed up with... It was great to catch up. I got home without as amny photos as usual. But I'm sure they'll put some of the good ones up on their wedding website soon. It was great to catch up with some other old friends from high school too (top photo is Elizabeth, Gareth and Dennis and Bev Quinn, lower one is bridesmaid Nadine Fletcher, from high school).

We went back to Wellington to catch the final Sunday afternoon session of the competition and the prizegiving. I didn't compete due to lack of training and a good evening out the night before. Jude made some beautiful medals for us (Thanks Jude!). Guy lost his clothes (stolen) so spent the rest of the evening in his rubber suit, drinking champagne. Is Dave really tall or is Kerian just really short - perhaps a little of both... What do you think of my blonde look? I'm just waiting for summer to catch up...

Friday, 14 September 2007

week ending 10 Sept

Yes, I'm running a little late. I don't really remember what I did last week. It's all been down hill since my first fabulous training session. At least I proved that I've still got it, just have to subtract the stress loads and I'd be great! I think my first swim once I got back in the water was a nice easy 85m no fins, which I'm not complaining about. I've even had my mono out for some sessions! I was just testing that I really don't like it in the pool and justifying my decision to spend heaps of money on a new one (it's working). Just have to figure out how floaty I want it (being a very floaty person I won't need it to be anywhere near as floaty as the boys' ones - would end up with my feet over my head all the time).

I had quite bad jet lag last week. Every second night I couldn't sleep. I assume it was every second as the next night I was shattered and had to go to bed early. Work is manic and I managed a whole day of overtime this week. I'm really tired already and have to try to get lots of sleep prior to next weekend's competition. I'm hoping the tiredness is just a carry over from the jet lag, but might be part of having to use my brain again after having such a good break.

I really don't want to fall over again. I think I need to reconsider some of my breathe up, etc, as I'm getting huge head rushes lately, even if I come up fairly early I generally feel a bit wobbly. It's a bit concerning. We'll see I suppose. The comp is too early for me really - I need about 3 more weeks to get back into shape. :( If I'm still feeling like this next week I might not compete... :(

Saturday, 8 September 2007

People on our travels

I just wanted to mention a bit about the people who we caught up with on our travels. This is Mariko who lives in Shanghai and very kindly showed us around. Can't explain the big golden pig: We caught up with Sandra and Sven in Vienna for dinner and a bit of sightseeing the next morning:
Patti (my old flatmate) came to join my support team for the World Champs - Go NZ! This was an excursion organised by the WC organisers, to Lake Bled. Eva (Denmark), Penny (Oz), someone else on the boat, wierd over-enthusiastic tour guide guy, Maria (Denmark) and Barbara (Germany).
We put some faces to names at the World Champs. This is Ben(ny Boy) Noble from the land of Oz (living in London). This is after the WC but before the after party, taken in our fab high school hostel room.
The pre-party drinks grew... From left to right we have Penny (Ben's wife) from Australia, Eva from Denmark (the Danes brought some very strong liquor which help them to forget the entire evening from about the prizegiving onwards), Liv from London, Ben & Braedon:
The Danish liquor went around the room. Martin from Germany, Maria from Denmark, and Patti from NZ:

I can't remeber this guy's name so if someone could prompt me that'd be great. THe shocked girl is Elizabeth from Norway, with Britt from Denmark behind and you can just see a bit of Rhys' forehead (Ozzy living in London).

Not sure who these two guys are (think they're Americans), but this is Junko from Japan (she trains in Hawaii) and Annabelle from Hawaii:In London we caught up with Debbie and Anna from NZ.

... and Penny, Jeremy (my old flatmate) and Ben (again after WC):In London we slept on the floor of Mike and Jane's little row house flat. They're Kiwis too.Amber and Todd came and stayed with us in Paris while charging around the world. They're Kiwis too...Patti stayed with us in Paris for about a week. Jeremy and Anna came over from London for a weekend. This photo was in one of the many queues at the Eiffle tower...In Aix-en-Provence Heidi and Shaun gave us a bed and were wonderful hosts showing us the local sights.

This is their daughter Maia. She's got such a great place to grow up among the vines in the sunny South of France - and they have a pool!

In Rostock, Germany, we stayed with Andrea and Emilliano. I met Andrea in NZ when she was here on a student exchange in 1997! She was heavily pregnant (due about now), but they managed to show us around the town pretty well.In Berlin we stayed in Sandra's apartment while she stayed with her boyfriend Sven (remember we met up with them in Vienna earlier), not too far away. We met Sandra in 2003 when she was in NZ doing her masters and we were her Kiwi Connections VUW alumni hosts.We caught up with Braedon's cousin Amber and met her German hubby Heiko in Berlin, and they showed us some local sights:We also caught up with my old Wellington scuba diving buddy Stefan and his partner Miriam in Berlin. They cooked us a very nice meal. We also got to meet their daughter Helena. Unfortunately she had gone to bed when I took this photo, but never fear...

Stefan took us to the airport the next day and brought Helena along:In Singapore we stayed with Tom and Chris, who were fantastic hosts - they looked after us very well.

So, thanks to everyone who gave us a bed to sleep in during our travels. And it was great to catch up with some friends we haven't seen for a while and put some faces to names in the freediving world.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Week ending 3 Sept

This is a bit funny. I haven't held my breath since my DNF at the WC, 8 July. Anyway, I thought since I'm home I'd better start up my routine asap, especially since there's a comp in three weeks and the boys all seem to be improving at such rapid rates, I'd better do some work to try to catch up a little...

Tonight, my first breath holds in a good eight weeks consisted of 3:30s dry CO2 tables. Much more than I expected. It was bloody hard, but about the same as I was doing before I went to Slovenia - makes me happy. We'll see what dynamics brings tomorrow evening. Maybe the altitude training helped me with this or perhaps just being pretty fit after the trip was good (despite excessive eating and drinking almost every day). Anyway, I guess we have to see if it lasts or fades off.

I have a few new training strategies:

  • Don't give up drinking (it makes me tense), but reduce to max one drink in a sitting for the fortnight before a comp.
  • If my resting pulse increases I need to reduce my training load
  • I need to keep up my short intense lunchtime swim sessions to keep my resting pulse low (maybe not in the week before a comp).
  • Sleep should take priority, which means I have to sacrifice longer pool sessions for shorter dry sessions at home and get an early night if I need it. Speaking of which, I should be in bed - jet lag kept me up until 3am last night, I was tired all afternoon, and now I'm not again.
  • The dog needs more walks.

I also need to start using fins again. Now is probably a great time as my legs and back are pretty strong from the excessive walking we did in Europe.

Europe has left us :(

Last time we spoke we were in Florence (with free internet). Italy was amazing, although the towns seemed smaller as we got through everything we wanted to see much faster than previously (possibly because we'd had enough of museums, art galleries and chateaux).

We finished in Florence with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, which was quite fantastic, the Ponte Vecchio, more pizza, visits to a few closed churches that I've studied over the years and a walk in the heat of the day up the hill to Piazza Michaelangelo where there was yet another copy of the David, this time in bronze. I enjoyed Florence, and was a little disappointed that we didn't get time to climb to the top of the Duomo.

We took a day trip since we'd pretty well covered Florence. We took the bus down to a crazy little place called San Gimignano. It was an old walled town that used to have lots of towers (they've fallen down with time). It was a sign of wealth to build a tower so they tried to build them as tall as possible. There are only about 14 left from about 100 (it's a really small place, would have been absolutely nuts in the 14th century with all those towers). There wasn't really much to do there so we went to the cathedral and the Museum of Torture, which really just made me even more sceptical of religion (most instruments of torture in the museum were designed and utilised by Christians in the middle ages up until today). We had pizza (again) for lunch in the square with a caraffe of Chiante (as you do in summer in Tuscany). Very nice.

Once we'd finished in San G...o we took the bus down to Siena. Unfortunately we missed the horses by a couple of days, but the clean up was mostly done (they have a huge bare back horse race around the square twice a year - pretty huge festival, but really dangerous - mainly for the riders). We waited in a short line for an hour to climb the Torre del Mangia (you had to wait for the groups of 25 people to both climb and descend the tower before the next group could access it - about 20 mins per group, excruciating with lots of over-excited, yelling, running children around). We just wandered around for a bit, had a local dinner at an Osteria, with another caraffe of wine from a traditional cask (the wooden kind), then took the train back to Florence.

Rome was slightly disappointing after the beautiful cities we'd already visited (Paris, Vienna, Venice...). There were heaps of cool ruins to see and cathedrals on every corner (built with stone pilaged from the non-Christain Roman ruins). The colosseum was awesome. It came complete with an Eros exhibition full of very explicit pottery. You've got to see a photo of this (click on the photo to see the full size):

We managed to go to an ehibition of Santiago Calatrava's work in Rome. It was pretty fantastic. His sculptures were just exquisite. Little architectural and structural masterpieces.

We had accomodation woes in Rome. Firstly our guesthouse double booked us, so they organised an apartment for us at no extra cost. The apartment was in the roof space of a building right by the Pantheon (very central, but 104 stairs, no lift). Firstly we had issues with the pop up waste in the shower that wouldn't pop up, which meant I had the joyous job of bucketing the water out and pouring it down the toilet. Then we had a wee issue with power. I plugged in the cell phone to charge it which just happened to blow out the fuses for all the power outlets and most of the lights in the apartment (while cooking dinner), so no stove, no hot water, no air con... We tried to fix them but the switches in the fuse box wouldn't work. I then tried to call the apartment owner, but the phone went dead (of course), so we spent ages finding a pay phone, then a phone card, then waiting for her to arrive. However we were kind of lucky as the Indian family that was booked for the adjacent apartment had decided not to stay there (due to the number of stairs and small children) so we were once again up graded to a larger apartment with a balcony for no extra cost than the room in the guest house with a shared bathroom.

We did most of the major touristly things in Rome. We spent a couple of hours in the line for the Cistine Chapel, saw the Vatican and St Peters, the Pantheon (of course), Spanish Steps, Roman Forum and Palatine...

So, we decided to head off down to Pompeii for a day. The day we went was the 1928th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. We went on a bus tour, which was probably a mistake. I just couldn't be bothered working out all the public transport to get there and back. We spent 16 hours on this tour for 3 hours at Pompeii and a three hour drive each way, but of course you have to go to the jewellery shop (selling cameos made from Conches shells and coral jewellery - neither of which I would buy out of principle - though I think it's illegal to bring coral into NZ anyway), the lunch thing, the "tour" of Naples, which involved dropping the other (Capri) tour off at the port and driving along the water's edge for 20 mins, and last but not least being the first to be picked up and the ast to be dropped off at the hotel at the end... Anyway, after all that Pompeii was pretty fantastic. They're still digging up new bits. The frescoes are still on the walls and the tiles on the floors. They make plaster moulds of the gaps left by bodies in the ash, so we saw the impressions (including bones) of some of those who lost their lives in the eruption. It's a weird place, but well worth a visit. It was at least 35 degrees and felt particularly hot in the ruins. There were some very burnt people (you don't tend to burn further north). After the tour but still in Pompeii, Braedon purchased an orange from the guys making fresh orange juice. He broke it open and gave me half. I split a piece off and inside were a few happy maggots. He took it back and after some persuasion they accepted that it wasn't good to eat and gave the money back. I got put off both oranges and juice for the rest of the trip... The bus on the way back must have taken a bit of a short cut getting into Rome as we did about a 30 point turn around this tight corner, denting at least one car, the bus itself and bending a bollard. All the car owners seemed to be at the adjacent restaurant, first they were laughing, but soon they started moving their cars...

We hired a car from Rome and Braedon drove us down to Puglia. We stayed in Alberobello, this tine little place south of Bari near the east coast (top of the "heel"). There were very cute houses called Trulli all around. We did some scenic Sunday driving around the area, taking in Cisternino and the beach at Torre Santa Sabina (but it was pretty windy).

We drove over to the West coast via Matera, which is a cute little place. The house are a mixture of caves and buildings and it's a world heritage site. I could have spent much longer exploring there. It was really cute. But we had to head off to Ascea, which is right on the coast south of Salerno. There were a lot of fires burning everywhere. At one point we stopped by a lake for a drink and it was the lake that the helicopters where filling up there water, then flying off to dump it all on local fires. We took the scenic route around the coast (I think it took twice as long (about 6 hours) and made it much harder to find our hotel). We didn't get in until quite late, but managed to have dinner at the hotel and then went for a quick dip in the sea under the moon light.

Unfortunately we had to head back to Rome early the next day to catch our flight home. :(

We stopped for a couple of days in Singapore where we stayed with Tom (from Freyberg spa pool) and his partner Chris. They were great hosts, they showed us around a bit and fed us well. They had a huge apartment and a beautiful 50m x 25m swimming pool in their complex, which we made good use of in the evenings. We didn't really get up to a lot. A bit more shopping, Mt Faber views, Little India, drinks at Boat Quay and a few more malls.

Now we're home and I'm a bit jet lagged. :(

The exciting news that I got when I arrived was that Ang already gave birth to her son Connor with the greatest of ease, 5 weeks premature.

I promise I'll sort out some trip photos soon (they just take soooo long to upload that I need to have my patient hat on...).

Sunday, 19 August 2007

More Europe :)

  • It has evidentally been 11 days since my last post, that means this might be a long one! It doesn't fell like that long. Maybe the computer lost count. I also have to apologise in adavnce for the typos - the keyboard is really sticky and letters keep on not coming out or are delayed and in the wrong order - but I'll try (a little).
  • Braedon is curretly cooking as we have a hostel with a kitchen and it smells really good!
  • Last time we caught up we were in Rostock staying with the heavily pregnant Andrea and her partner Emiliano. It was really get up there. We lay on the beach for ages without sun block and didn't get burned (and yes the sun was shining brightly). Andrea and Emiliano are busy preparing for the arrival of their first son and seem to be getting excited now that they have everything in place and are ready. It was really great to catch up after so long (10 years!).
  • We took the train to Berlin and stayed at Sandra's flat while she stayed with her partner Sven. We were Snadra's Kiwi Connections hosts when she was studying for her masters in Law in Wellington in 2003. She was a great hostess. She brought us a full German breakfast two mornings and dined with us. We went for dinne the first night and then went to a beach bar on the top of a 5 storey car parking building. They brought in lots of sand and deck chairs and we had drinks in th dark looking over the lights of Berlin. It was pretty cool (except for all the sand in your shoes). She showed us around the Reichstag (she works there so could take us places that tourists don't normally go). It was quite cool. There are lots of buildings with little "secret" corridor links. We saw the Brandenburg gate and the haulocast memorial (fantastic experiential sculpture). It then started to rain really heavily and we got pretty wet running about 100m to a restuarant for lunch. But never fear because it's summer and it was still pretty warm! : ) We visited the Potsdama Platz and the Sony Centre. Berlin has heaps of new developments at the moment as when the wall came down it created large amounts of empty space in the central city so there was quite a lot of inspirational mordern architecture. We also went to the New National Gallery (designed by Mies van der Rohe and constructed 60 yrs after his death). They had an exhibition of French modern (early 20th century) paintings from the NY met (which is currently being renovated), so that was pretty cool to see. Braedon and I had drinks at an old converted brewery. We caught up with Braedon's cousin Amber and her hubby Heiko who live in Berlin. We had brunch at their place then went via a market to the East side gallery, which is a length of the old wall that has been painted by artists. One thing about Berlin is that there is bad graffitti everywhere they can reach, and lots of people had scribbled all over the art on the wall - it was quite sad. We went to the Bauhaus Archives (yet another architectural exhibition), and we tried currywurst, bratwurst, and other wursts (there are seriously sausages everywhere in Germany - at the fair i nRostock approx every third stand was selling sausages, it was pretty funny - Braedon had his half meter bratwurst in a small bun, very amusing). We dropped into the Radisson hotel where there is a glass lift that goes up inside a huge fish tank - not sure of the depth but somewhere between 20-30m. Talked to a German freediver at the WCs about diving in it but h said they're still working on getting permission. : ( We also briefly dropped into the Deutches Historiches Museum before it shut and saw the modern addition by IM Pei (the guy who desighed the Louvre's pyramids). Sandra and Sven took us across town for dinner to a traditional Berlin style pub where we ate traditinal German food (not sausages, but lots of heavy meat of course). We also managed to visit the Jewish Museum, which was incredible - moden architecture again, but really sculptural (Josh would love it). We spent quite a long time there and I'm now well versed in the history of Judaism in Germany. We dropped in and had a look at Sandra and Sven's new apartment that they had just got the keys for and were starting to paint. Then we caught up with Stefan (my old scuba diving buddy until he left and went home to Germany) and Miriam and their daughter Helena who only arrived after they got back to Germany. They cooked us a fantastic meal in their apartment. Stefan also took us on interesting short driving tours of Berlin on the way back to the apartment after dinner and on the way to dropping us off at the airport the next morning. It was quite interesting to hear Berlin history from people who grew up with huge changes there.
  • We flew down to Venice. Venice was so beautiful. Again, no cars, which really makes European towns fantastic. We only got in at about 4pm but managed a gallery visit and a good browse around the area where were stayed before trying out some local cuisine. We went for a walk after dinner and took in San Marco Square by night. The Venice Biannale (modern art representing a number of different countries - NZ did not attend this year but has in the past) is on (this year) so we visited quite a few pavillions as we stumbled upon them dotted around town. We did all the standard touristy things during our 2 days in Venice but it was more an experience of the town. We managed to not get lost either, somehow...
  • We spent a day in Bologne on the way to FLorence, but it was a bit disppointing. The town was beautiful but nothing was open - everything shut for 3 hours over lunchtime, most shops where shut as the owners were away on summer holidays, it was incredibly hot, and the food market that is meant to be pretty cool was all locked up. We ended up visiting the chuches we could get into, then sitting in a park in the shade of a tree for a while. We then waited at the wrong quai 3 that the train station (didn't think the station was big enough to have two quai 3s) and had to run for the train with our 18kg backpacks on. Did catch it, though they had already blown the whistle before we started on the flight of stairs up to the quay...
  • Florence is lovely, but smaller than I had imagined. We fitted two days of plans into today so I think we'll get a sleep in tomorrow and then head off on a day trip to Siena or somewhere else close by on Monday (though we just missed the horse race around the square - it finished yesterday : ( - might be a bit of a mess now). Today Braedon went to the market first thing, hence the cooking, and I painted my toenails - as you should on summer holidays... We saw Michaelangelo's David at the Accademia, visited lots of Brunelleschi buildings: ospedale delgi innocenti, basilica di San Lorenzo, the Duomo and the bapistry. We also saw Michaelangelo's new sacristy (Medici chapel) and the copy of his David where it used to stand outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Tomorrow we're booked in to visit the Ufizzi Gallery and then we'll visit the Ponte Vecchio (famous bridge) and walk past a few more old buildings, so that's pretty much Florence covered...
  • Unforunately we'll be home in a mere two weeks, with our fantastic tans and new legs made for walking. I'll try to organise some photos soon.

Friday, 10 August 2007

No more France :(

We left France on Monday after four fantastic weeks. Paris is an amazing city and I wish we'd had more time there - greedy I know, considering we did get just under three weeks in Paris itself. There's always more to do. They'd just set up Paris Plage (beach) along the seine (river): they ship in lots of sand, set up water features for the kids to play in, bring in trees, and there are heaps of activities. Patti took a free in-line skating lesson there. I think it's for the people who have to work and can nopt get away from Paris for the summer holidays.

In our last French week we took in Montmatre (where Moulin Rouge was filmed). There's a very cool cathedral on the hill (Mont means mountain). There's also a famous market where there are lots of artists. We had a good look around and went to the cafe where Amelie was filmed, as well as a stroll through the red light district (where the Moulin Rouge is).

Have I noted already that we went and watched the final stage of the Tour de France? They race around the centre of Paris. We were set up on a corner with an OK view, but really had no idea what was going on and still don't know who won (though I hear that can take a while before anyone truely knows, after the drug tests...).

We did a trip up the Canal St Martin from the Bastille to the Parc de la Villette. THere were lots of locks and turning bridges to get us through. It was quite interesting and a pleasant ride. THe weather was pretty fantastic. We spent some time in the Parc, but most of the follies were closed for renovation or just clased off to the public. I went on by myself to the Pavillon de l'Arsenal which is the architectural and urban museum of Paris, with a history of the city and a couple of interesting exhibitions: one about housing from about 1900 and two that were competition entries for big developments within Paris - it'll be interesting to see if they go ahead - one was for the redevelopment of Les Halles.

We also finally made it to Versailles, followed by an excursion out to Poissy to see Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, which was a bit of a mission to get to, but well worth is. Versailles was beautiful inside and out. The gardens (and buildings) were very extensive. Villa Savoye is a modern house from the 1920s which contrasted well with the earlier visit.

I had a day out on my own and did a tour of Stade de France (stadium built for the 1997 soccer world cup, but the rugby world cup final will be hosted there). It's a pretty impressive structure - very huge - seats 80 000 people. They were just replacing the grass when I was there as they'd been using it as a beach for the past fortnight (notice the trend). I then visited St Denis, the cathedral where the Kings and Queens of France are buried - it was pretty wierd as all the sarcophagai had carved images of their contents sleeping on top, and there were heaps of them. I then went and saw some Hertzog and de Meuron apartments, but couldn't get inside unfortunately as the facades of the internal apartments were quite different to the external ones. Also saw some other modern apartments, the Bon Marche (world's first department store, and built by Gustave Eiffel) and went up to the Pere Lachaise cemetery, where lots of famous people are buried. I unfortunately ran out of time beofre they closed so only found Edith Piaff and Oscar Wilde.

We went to Eurodisney on Thursday. We arrived at 9:45am, it opened at 10, we went to Walt Disney Studios in the morning, did all the scarey rides and went to the special effects show, made it to Disneyland at 3:30pm and stayed until after it closed: about 11:30pm. Braedon made me go on all the roller coasters. We did space mountain last which just topped everything off - I dodn't think even Braedon wanted to do any more after that. We again did all the scarey rides, plus the teacups (which B made spin so fast I felt a bit ill) , it's a small world, the Lion King musical, the Buzz Lightyear ride (which B loved as he got to shoot stuff), ate over-priced themed food, and attended the parades and fireworks. It was quite a late night, so we got up really early the next morning and left town for a few days...

We did a trip down to Lyon then to the south: Aix-en-Provence, where we stayed with friends. Our TGV unfortunately stopped right in the middle of Lyon so we payed a huge amount of money for the airport bus to go and see Calatrava's station. But, thankfully it was really fantastic. We then wandered around the old city of Lyon for a while. We had to climb sooo many stairs! The not so old cathedral and the really old ruin of a Roman ampitheatre where really high up on a hill. They were preparing for a concert at the ampitheatre so we sat for a while and listened to some rock music rehearsals in the sunshine before they kicked us out (I think we needed tickets...). We caught the TGV down to Aix-en-Provence where we stayed with Shaun, Heidi and Maia in their beautiful home. They were great hosts. Shaun took us out the to Pont du Gard (Roman aquaduct) and to another aquaduct built in the 19th century, where there where Roman ruins of an ancient town at the top. We saw a bit of the countryside and the local Provencal towns. They had a pool, so we spent a little time in there, which was a welcome refresher - I think I was getting withdrawal symptoms from being out of the water for so long.

On Monday we really just had to pack up our stuff, clean the apartment and head off. We went up to Amsterdam for a few days. Another beautiful city. We booked a guesthouse which turned out to be a rather large (on the european scale) apartment that we had all to ourselves. We went out for a very nice dinner at a local restaurant off the beaten track the first night. We also witnessed the shop windows through the red light district. The following day we went to the architecture centre and then visited the roof of a Renzo Piano building, and browsed around the island area by the train station that is currently under development - the library was pretty cool and looked like it had recently opened. Shopping was quite good in Amsterdam. We visited a couple of museums, both of which were quite good and not too overly extensive: Rijks Museum and Van Gogh museum.

From Amsterdam we took the overnight train to Rostock, Germany, where we are now staying with Andrea, who was an exchange student at my high school 10 years ago. We spent today at teh old fishing village and the neighbouring beach. THere is a big ship festival thing on - 230 big old ships are in the harbour and they sail around during the day. Today they were shocking the whole cite by firing canons. We went for a walk after dinner to the markets and fairground that go along with it - pretty huge.

Anyway, France treated us well and we enjoyed our stay there. We did not have any run ins with the supposedly rude French, in fact I think they were extraordinarily polite, and as long as we had a go at speaking French they looked after us pretty well.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

hi all

I was just walking down the road and stumbled upon a cheaper internet cafe, so thought I'd better drop in. I didn't bring my camera leads or my diary, so it's just a quick update. After London we had one day back in Paris before setting off to see Le Corbusier's Ronchamp and heading up the wine road in a hire car. Braedon did a very good job of driving on the right. We trained into Belfort which is just a little town somewhere near the French and German boarders. From there it was a short drive to Ronchamp, which was pretty amazing - much larger then I anticipated. We went across the boarder where Braedon drove at 150km/hr on the German autobahn (it really didn't feel fast in the BMW). We cruised back over to France and went up the wine road of Alsace. It was really pretty. There were lots of tiny old villages surrounded by vinyards. We stayed in Barr, which was slightly larger, but not by much. The next day we drove further up the wine road and stopped in Strasbourg. We had the afternoon to explore so went to Zaha Hadid's Tram terminal, the cathedral, did (quite) a bit of shopping and then sat outside a bar drinking wine/beer and eating Tartes Flambées at happy hour. We missed out on the brewery tour (Strasbourg is the home of French beer) as it was already full.

Todd (Braedon's workmate) and Amber stayed with us for three nights then Patti arrived the next nght for about a week. Jeremy and Anna came over for the weekend (stayed elsewhere). We all decided to go up the Eiffel Tower on Saturday evening. We had some drinks and nibbles at the apartment then headed over about 8pm. Basically the whole experience consisted of standing in lines for lifts while enjoying the night time view: 4 times - we went to the top. We got down about midnight then went out for dinner closer to the apartment near St Germain. It was cool that we could still sit down and order food at 12:45am.

On Sunday we went to the Catacombes: tunnels under Paris where they transfered the bones of 6 million Parisiens when the cemetaries filled up in the early 19th century. It was huge and slightly eiree. Then we joined the crowds and went to the Tour de France to see the Paris stage. We could see one corner of the race well and another on the other side of the track a little less well. Every 7 mins or so they rode past, but it was fairly exciting. I have no idea who won, it was pretty close though.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

European update

Hello all. We're in London (hungover) at the moment. We're staying at Jane Sharpe's place so have free internet access, yay! Jane's just gone to the supermarket and we're going to have an English breakfast. We've got three days in London, this is the third. The first day we were perfect tourists. We got in on the train at 9am, went and bought our theatre tickets from Leichester Square, then walked down to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard, which I have to say was incredibly long and drawn out, and a bit overstated really. We then wandered down to Westminster Abbey, which is very impressive from the exterior. We didn't go inside as they were charging £10, and that's a lot of NZ$ :(. We did however go across the road to parliament where we could get in for free (after two full body searches), and sat in on the house of commons for a while (it was good to sit down). Parliament buildings (think Big Ben) are pretty impressive inside and out. Then we went over to the Tate Modern for a quick visit before Going back to the West End to meet Jane and Mike for dinner before our show. We went to see We Will Rock You, which is a random futuristic story about the search for music/rock and roll using Queen's songs. It was pretty good. Yesterday we got up a bit late and headed off through the torrential rain to a fancy design centre. Heaps of the tube lines closed due to flooding and in some stations there was just water pouring in through the obviously not very water-tight roof. The closed stations only affected us a little (and made everything a little busier). We also went to the shopping mecca of Harrods, which was just amazing (from a design point of view too). Couldn't really afford much despite there being a massive sale and 50% off a lot of things (the stuff in my price range wasn't nice). Braedon loved the food areas. There was a guys making pizza bases: throwing them in the air and singing Italian opera at the same time... We then went up to the British Museum, but didn't really see much apart from the architecture. It's really huge and we only had about half an hour. We looked through the shops as they really show you all the important stuff from the museum... :) After we went down to a bar and met up with friend for drinks, which was cool, hence the hangovers...

Looking back a bit further, we took the train from Maribor, Slovenia to Venice before flying to Paris. Venice was amazing (for the hour and a half that we spent there). The Venice Biannale was on but we didn't manage to find it in that time. I'm looking forward to spending a few days there later in our trip.

The apartment in Paris is great. We are so central. I do now apreciate elevators more though. The five storeys up to the apartment really just finish you off nicely after a hard day of sight-seeing... We've climbed a lot of stairs. We've been up the towers of Notre Dame (422 steps and about 63m) and climbed up the Arc de Triomphe (not as high). Paris is so beautiful. London makes you appreciate that a bit more. I suppose after Vienna, Venice and Paris, London is lacking a bit... We've done lots of touristy stuff: Musee d'Orsay, Louvre (only a small area, but battled with the crowds and saw the Mona Lisa, as you do...), Napoleon's tomb (which was huge for such a little man) and the WW1 & WW2 museum, Picasso Museum, Centre Pompidou, Sainte Chapelle, the Pantheon, shopping on the Champs Elysees and at the Marais, eaten lots of pastries (very yummy) and too many bread products (there are about 5 bakeries within about 50m of the apartment!). On Bastille Day we went to the Parade. Everyone jambed into the metro and went to the same place - very crazy. Couldn't see anything but the odd hat. It's really just a military parade on the Champs Elysees. There were also aircraft displays. We also went along to the concert at the Champs de Mars (under the Eiffel Tour) in the evening. We had a picnic on the lawn to the side and then went and watched a strange looking old French guy singing. There were just sooo many people. The place was full. The fireworks at the Eiffle Tour was pretty amazing. They set it all to film music. We didn't have a hope of getting onto the metro after so ended up walking the 6-7km back to the apartment (the crowds dropped away after about an hour of walking - it took an hour 45 - very tiring, got in about 1am, but it was worth it). This photo is of the big screen showing the crowd through the centre of the Champs de Mars looking towards the Eiffel Tower.

A few days ago we did a day trip down to Tours and the Loire Valley. We did a half day tour around three Chateaux and had a fancy French dinner in a restaurant after. We tried snails, duck foie gras, and nice French wines. All very nice.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Maribor, Slovenia

We finally got time to go and explore Maribor (it's not very big). Here are some photos:

World Champs

  • I think everyone is wondering what happened. Well, I got 6th in statics with a meagre 5:16s. The dive felt awful - I got contractions at about 2:30s. Didn't have the need to throw up though, which was nice. Braedon was more nervous than I was and had to pee about 6 times at the pool before we got in, then his hand was shaking on my back the whole time... Natalia did a world record time of 8 mins and beat all the men. The funny thing was that she was in the showers at the same time as me and was really struggling to get her wetsuit top off. It took her over a minute and she was puffing more after that than the static.
  • My dynamics without fins heat was in the afternoon, after statics. I figured out that I had to do about 112m to get into the A final, so probably pushed it a bit hard and got disqualified when my mouth went under at 112m and I lost it (so that was the end of my world champs). It's quite challenging to stand on the tiny ledge on the side of the pool during the count down. I think I was a bit low on sugar - legs were a bit shakey before the start (never good). Not to mention the fatigue from the noisey hostel, jet lag, uncomfortable bed and the heat (it was 32 degrees in the stands at the pool). That's probably enough excuses, but I should mention the night before... Braedon and Patti went for a walk down at the festival and I decided to stay at the pool for the event committee meeting (was too tired to walk around more). The meeting was really late as there were protests (the guy who got 3rd in the dynamics was protested against as his mouth went back under and he lost his position, then had to protest it himself). Anyway, I'm pleased I didn't go with Braedon and Patti. They went to the supermarket by the pool to get some yoghurt for breakfast and were in the line for the cashier when there was an armed hold up. They just got down on the floor. The cashiers gave over the money and he went out the back, so they walked out. It sounds like it's a regular occurence here... You can probably read more about it on Patti's blog (there's a link from this one on the right hand side). I thought it was scarey enough that the policemen have guns in their pockets...
  • Last night was the big party after. It was up by the ski field of Maribor (Pohorje). We had a huge feed of meat and drank really bad wine. Everyone was swapping shirts (which I must say was easier for the boys). There was music and dancing. I was too tired to stay out and went to bed at about 2am, Braedon and Patti (and most of the others) got in at 6am. There were a lot of very tired and hungover people around this morning trying to get packed in time to catch flights. Most people have left now, despite the transfers to Graz not showing up - they took taxis and it's about an hours drive, but a few of them only had 1 hour 30 mins left to get on the plane when they left here (and they were international flights). We're not leaving until tomorrow morning (early). We'll take the train to Ljubljiana then on to Venice, then fly up to Paris. We wanted to take a hire car, but the return fee alone was 188 euros. :(
  • I have met so many wonderful people here in Slovenia. The competition was very well run and everything went pretty smoothly (from my perspective anyway). I'm looking forward to getting on with our holiday now.

Friday, 6 July 2007


On Monday (I think) Braedon did his judging course - he is now an E-level freediving judge! I went on an excursion to see most of Slovenia. We took a bus from Maribor across to Lake Bled, then down to Postojna caves and back to Maribor. At lake Bled we went to the castle on the cliff overlooking the lake. The cliff was so steep that they had toilets on the second floor that dropped into the bush below (about 150m) - you could see the light and trees out through them. We also took a boat ride out to the church on the island in the middle of the lake. It was all very picturesque. We then went down to the Postojana caves which are 27km long. You take a train in and out and walk about 1.7km inside. It was only 10 degrees Celcius inside. It was quite cool - the stalagmites and stalagtites were all sizes and colours. My fan club (Patti) arrived on Wednesday so I have someone to get excited and yell for NZ.