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.

World Champs

  • The Freediving world champs started off yesterday with the dynamic with fins event, which I did not enter in. It was great to be able to just sit back and enjoy watching some of the world´s best perform. There were 4 people swimming at once, every 8 minutes and it was pretty hard to keep track of where everyone was and what they were acheiving. A few guys made 200m, and there were a lot of national records broken by women. The cut off for the womens A final (to get placings 1-8) overall was 150m, which is pretty huge! Men had to do about 175m. There were some pretty scary black outs too - a couple happened at the 150m turn so the safety was holding back while they were turning and then had to dive down and pick them up off the bottom. I think lane A was a bit cursed... The B finals only allow competitors a placing from 9-16, but they could perform better than people in the A final - you get another world ranking at least and another bash at records etc...

  • The dynamics finals are this evening. They are putting results up on the website almost straight away, so you should have them by about 10:30am Friday in NZ: http://en.wch2007.h2oteam.com/results2/sta-qual/

  • I had my statics heat this morning and am pleased to say that I managed to just sneak into the A final in 8th place with a time of 5:22 (people were estimating about 5:45 - 6 mins to make the A final, so I'm pretty relieved). I was a little disappointed with my result (I did some pretty good negatives in the warm up): we had to do our warm on the opposite side of the pool (the whole pool is over 2m deep and there's not much to hold onto except on the long edges) and it took Braedon about 3 mins to swim me over the 25m to my performance zone, so I didn't have much time there to get through my usual need to vomit and settle down, then I missed the 30s call and only got the 20s one, so didn't really feel like I got a full breath before my start. To top it off I got contractions from 2:40, but they really didn't get too bad until after 4:30. I came up fairly clean (little shake). I've spent the past hour blow drying and glueing up my wet suit, which decided to have it's own back from being shoved in a pack for 3 days on the way over, and ripped as I was taking it off in the shower. The tail came right off and then it ripped up along the stitching for about 15cm either way. :( It should hold together ok for tomorrow as long as I'm careful putting it on... We'll alter the warm up a little for tomorrow. I'll be trying for the NZ record, so hopefully I can calm myself down a bit better and get another good night's sleep.

Monday, 2 July 2007

The first week is gone already...

Well, we're 10% through the trip already. It has been a pretty cool week. We didn't suffer too much jet lag (surpiringly since we spent about 40 hours travelling to and from airports and sitting around waiting...), but are a bit tired from general sightseeing.

Vienna was pretty amazing and beauiful (we appricate it so much more now we're in Slovenia!). Everywhere you turn there are more fantastic buildings. I had to stop myself from trying to photograph them all! There are horses everywhere too - we were sitting in a nice cafe (one that Freud and Wagner used frequent) at rush hour, and there was horses with a carriage waiting at the lights. We saw lots of Klimt artworks and Otto Wagner buildings (they seem to just jump out at you everywhere and are really peautiful - the photos in books don't do them justice). We also went to see some Hundertwasser buildings, which are just crazy. He covered some ugly buildings with very wacky colourful tiles and curvy stuff (they like to relate him to Gaudi, but he's really an artist not an architect).

On Friday evening our Friend Sandra (who we met in NZ when she was doing her Masters) came down to Vienna from Berlin with her boyfriend Sven, on their way to Hungary. We had dinner (I had wiener schnitzel - as you do in Vienna, aka Wien), and tried Almdudlez (Austrian soft drink - much the same as L&P).

On Saturday our train to Maribor didn't leave until 4pm, so we met up with Sandra and Sven again and had a look at the Vienna Architecture centre, which outlined the recent history of architecture since the mid 19th century when they removed the city walls and built the ring road around. Braedon and I had a look at the Museum of Modern Art, which was housed in the coolest building I've been in so far. It's 9 stories, clad in concrete panels inside and out, has glass lifts with semi-transparent floors in the central circulation area and glass walls - felt a bit of vertigo. My photos don't really do it justice so you'll have to go yourself. There were some cool exhibitions too of various types of modern architecture.

The train wound through the countryside of Austria and into Slovenia. It took about 3hrs 45 mins, but there were lots of stops. It was quite beautiful. It's all very green and hilly with cute little villages. Colourful houses with terracotta tile roofs, and of course the church in the middle or up on the hill. The Slovenian police who stamped our passports had guns in their pockets - scary.

Maribor doesn't seem to be very exciting beyond the Lent festival, but I haven't really explored much yet. There are a lot of building in bad need of repair. The hostel is fairly nasty but OK. We've given up on the food already (there really wasn't anything suitable for freedivers at breakfast, and dinner was unidentifiable) We went for dinner at the festival (it's comparatively pretty cheap here), and band that seemed quite good started playing, but I was too tired and had to leave. I won't go tonight either as I need to get some sleep and have to get up early tomorrow. There are not a lot of hours of darknees which doesn't really help - it's still light at 9pm and I woke up at 5am (briefly) this morning and it was already light.

We had our first training session at the pool this morning. It's 50m x 25m x2.2m. It seems quite nice. It's probably the clearest water I've ever been in, so the videos should be great... I whipped up a neck wieght last night, so was really just rying out the equipment. We were swimming in the 50m direction too, which is fairly exhausting without fins, so didn't do anything spectacular. I have re-made the neck weight this evening, so hopefully it'll be perfect now.

This afternoon we did an excursion. We went to Olimje and Podčetrtek (try saying that one to yourself!), where we visited a chocolate shop (very nice), an old pharmacy in a monastry and their church. The monastry dates back to 1550 when it was re-built (initially 1100-ish). Then we went to a deer farm and had yummy ice creams, and on to a local brewery and restaurant, where there was beer ˝tasting˝ (or fairly excessive comsumption from some of my fellow competitiors) and sammies. They brought out a giraffe, which is like a jug of beer (it actually looks like a huge blender that holds about 3L) with a little tap at the bottom. There's ice in a tube in the middle which keeps it cold. Braedon thought it was brilliant.

Tomorrow Braedon is doing the judging course and I'm going on another excursion to Lake Bled and some caves somewhere in the south (covering pretty much the hole country in a day - it's a big triangle). I'll have a rest day from training and try to catch up on some sleep.