The Next Big Trip

So its been over a year since I came back from Spain now and its time for me to go do something exciting again.
Despite having had this post graduation flight to freedom (or rather flights, all seven of them severely  over contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer) since March, its only just dawning on me as I sit in Seoul Incheon international airport that it is all actually happening. I am going to go and do 2 out of my 3 ‘bucket list’ items. (I’d like to note  that whilst I personally hate the term bucket list, I’m really struggling at a concise way to say I really really really want to do these things).

So far impressions are that this place is rather like Thailand. Which of course isn’t surprising, Korea is a huge influence on modern day Thai culture, particularly in Bangkok. More oddly,if you didn’t look hard you could easily be mistaken into thinking this airport is a single story shopping centre, there’s hardly a flight board around.

Despite sharing a plane with the Surrey contingent for the World Scout Jamboree in Japan, the flight wasn’t too bad. I was very disappointed to discover, contrary to my previous beliefs we didn’t fly over the international date line, instead Russia, but I was quickly distracted by The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and After the Ball, a Canadian Cinderella story. I’ve barely even started my copy of the new (and grown up ish) Princess Diaries book I bought in a flurry of excitement at Heathrow.

Still, its going to be a very long two days getting to destination one. I’m already tired and the trip has barely started. Anyway, I’d best go hunt for flight information, just in case mine’s gone up.

Hasta la proxima vez!

I Don’t Want to GO!!

This is it. This is my last day.

And I am WAYYYY too tired! (3am is never a good time to be on Skype, even without an alarm set for 7.20). I am fuelled by tea and cake today.

And thats the bell. Last class 😥

Waaaaaaaa

An Adventure!

So, I am now officially running the Great North Run for Princes’ Trust!

A dream come true, which will hopefully fulfill/plant dreams of hundreds of young people! Or at least some!

So, by way of training (I can’t run all the time/I’m too lazy to run all the time) today I went for an explore…

Note to self: next time you see fit for a spot of ‘exploration’ bring more sustenance than two small pears!

So I set off on the train this morning to Durango, and headed straight up towards Urkiola Natural Park.

I went here with my dad when he came to visit and its also home to the nearest climbing at an achievable grade. Unfortunately I am currently climbing partnerless, but that didn’t stop me from checking it out.

An hour and a half, plus a small wooded summit later I arrived at Atxarte Zona de Escalar (thats Atxarte climbing area). There was a cave, a quarry and even the odd bolt. There were some fantastic lines, but given that I was on my own and only my boyfriend had a vague idea where I was, I decided to give scrambling about to the top a miss- as much as breaking a leg would be fun, thats only if you’re rescued in time!

After that, the afternoon was still young, so I headed along, past more steep rocky walls (as you can see I’m no geologist) and eventually I ended up at Urkiola Sanctuary. I was pretty tired by this point (being a further hour or two later), but the sign posts did say that there was a 1011m summit only a mile away (1.6km for sensible metric using people). So of course I headed up the scrubby fell land towards that. The views were INCREDIBLE! But as I finished off my meagre rations, I knew it was time to be getting back. 

Mum, if you’re reading this, look away now!

Thank goodness for lovely old couples and hitch-hiking!

I managed to get a lift the 5 miles (8km I reckon) back to the town and after a well earned Mars Bar, I took the train back home to get to work on my dissertation. As you can see my work is going really well- this Blog is helping a lot.

Mumsie, you can look back now 🙂

Anyway, I reckon my walk has hopefully improved my stamina, something I’ll need to run 21km in my target time of 1h 50. But the other thing I do need is sponsors! By July I need to have raised £150, and so far I’m no where near this.

Just go to my page on Virgin Money Giving: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CaitlinRipley and I will love you forever!

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And meet Paul!

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Living it up in Bilbao

I find it amazing that the basque name for Bilbao is Bilbo. Its just fantastic.

But otherwise…

So, hey again, I’m back from my extra long Christmas holidays and trying to get back into the swing of cadging onto other people’s trips!

After a peacefully tantrum-free first week back, on Friday me and the lads (other language assistants from the area) headed off to Bilbao. The purpose: RIBS!

Ribs is an american-style restaurant which we visited two nights running for their signature dish: errr… ribs? All we had to decided was which sauce and what dessert!

Side line attractions for our weekend away were the bars or Casco Viejo/Zazpi Kaleak the city’s beautiful old quarter; a visit to Mundaka and a night-time stroll up to San Juan de something-long-and-basquey-with-x’s-and-z’s.

Mundaka is beautiful. It is the town of Irish Chris and more of what I had in mind when I applied for a rural placement. He has a beautiful attic appartment which he shares with the French language assistant and overlooking the sea. I want to move there.

San Juan is a GORGEOUS monastery. Or at least from what I’ve seen of it on postcards it is. We arrived just as it was starting to grow dark and by the time we’d walked down the sea and up the couple of hundred steps, night had truly fallen. The clouds were firmly drawn across any moon- or star-light and a light house was playfully twirling past, sabotaging night vision every thirty seconds.

Nevertheless, we made it back down without anyone tumbling to their death. The mildly uphill climb back to the car (named Scarlett Johansen) did nearly give Yorkshire Chris an asthma attack/pulmonary embolism/death, but that should teach him not to chain smoke.

The night breeze and the sea spray made for a truly exhillarating adventure, I just want to take Robin there in the day time next week. Expect pictures!

Early night tonight after those two 3am finishes!

Stay happy!

Christmas Time

You might have noticed that as with every year, for the past few months it has been ‘nearly Christmas’. Slowly decorations, lights, carols, nativity scenes, sales, adverts etc. have popped up all around us and now, as its December, people have stopped complaining. This can only mean that actual Christmas time is here!

So, to celebrate this in a way other than Christmas shopping, a group of language assistants met up in Donostia this weekend for a little bit of ‘Christmas dinner’.

This is in quotes as, as our head chef put it, ‘Good luck trying to find some Turkey out here’. Instead the menu was various amusebouches, leek and potato soup, pie de marisco, roast lamb, various desserts followed by vast amounts of strong alcohol and accompanied by a river of beer, wine (and mulled wine!) and cider. Needless to say we got a leetle teeny weeny bit tipsy and VERY full.

The food was a masterpiece and there was lots of it: Mark’s slab of fish pie is honestly the biggest serving of food I have possibly ever seen. The croquetas however… Well, none of us are Spanish and they’re a very spanish thing. We bought frozen ones to fry up, but unfortunately Mr Head Chef started this up when my back was turned: hot oil + a bag of frozen dumplings = mush.

Luckily we had a second bag, which after I shooed Tony (half Spanish, so we thought this might give him magical cooking powers) away I managed to transform about two or three of the remaining bits of frozen mush into crispy little golden brown lumps which vaguely resembled what we were aiming for. And then I ate them. (Yes I do think I am amazing).

Dinner was followed by chat and then the Father Ted Christmas Special followed by a streamed version of Love Actually that we realised too late had the whole John and Judy story cut out (the naked ones)! We also knocked back a fair amount to the Love Actually drinking game, which in hind sight may not have been such a good idea, least not for Mark who was flying home the next day.

It was a good night in all, but I very much need to go home to my dearest darling boyfriend as apparently in sharing a single bed with Verity I got a teensy weensy bit too cuddly! Oops!!

Merry Christmas!

What a Rubbish Weekend

Last weekend was another long one. Friday was off for some reason almost as inexplicable as some of the days off I had in Thailand. All that really mattered was that my weekend started at 4.30 Thursday afternoon.

For the weeks running up to it, Tamara and some of her friends had been discussing the potential of a trip to ‘hacer snow’- to go snowboarding. Or in my case, probably skiing. Last weekend however, I was told that it was unlikely. I didn’t have my hopes up but Tamara had said she’d let me know. By Wednesday evening, when I hadn’t actually seen my housemate for three days, I began to give up on the idea. I sent messages around to various friends to see if I could cadge in on any of their plans for their three day weekend (or in my case, five).

Twenty-four hours later, a plan was in motion. That didn’t stop me being a little bit peeved when I bumped into a suitcase laden Tamara on the streets of Eibar, off for a weekend in the snowy French Pyrenees. But nevermind.

That night at midnight, I baked up a lemon drizzle cake and at midday on Friday I got picked up by Arantxa and Aitzul and taken off to Durango. 

This weekend was a big Basque festival in Durango and I’d been told it was 90% basque literature. Whoever it was who told me that neglected to mention that the other 10% was not Spanish literature, but Basque dancing!

Arantxa and Aitzul both have done basque dance in the past and were able to explain to me a little bit more about the mixed dance which more than resembled Morris Dancing, right down to be-belled legs and wooden sticks. The giant dancing ogres had less of an explanation. I just regretted leaving my camera in the car!

The second best part of the day (after the delectable calamares we had as a snackette) was the discovery of Olentzero. The Basque Country and its people is much much older than the rest of the Iberian Peninsular and for this reason it has a few of its own traditions. This is my favourite so far…

Olentzero is a giant who mines coal and lives in the mountains. On Christmas Eve he comes down aback his donkey and delivers presents to all the good children and what else but coal to all the naughty ones. In the current economic climate it wouldn’t surprise me if more parents were persuading their children to be bad for the extra fuel! No one has been able to explain to me why this yeti-like hermit makes these kind gestures, but I did find an amusing array of Christmas cards of Olentzero getting one over on either Father Christmas or the more traditionally Spanish Reyes Magos (the three kings to you and me).

After lunch it was back in the car and off to Donostia, via Hernani and Rocky the cute little panther kitten, for an early night before our 5am start. We were off to Astun!!

I’ve got to say this, Spain might be warm, sweltering at some points, but at 5 am in December it is BLOODY FREEZING!! I was warmer on the piste!!

When we arrived, Aitzul and two others headed off for a bit of a ski mountaineer, whilst Arantxa took me to get some skis before we headed up on the lift.

It’d been nearly a year and usually I take at least the first morning quite gently, but as we were only there for the day I found myself pelting down the first red we found screaming inside my head ‘OH MY GOD WHY DID I NOT GET A HELMET!’. I think i might make a future investment there.

It was BEAUTIFUL. And as the day wore on the sun came out and baked us as well. unfortunately it also frazzled Arantxa’s head, giving her a migraine, meaning she stopped but egged me on to do a bit more myself before the men folk came back and we all packed it in. We were back in the car by three, but it was a good day all the same.

We stopped off for a picnic on the way back. The shade in December is also a place where you want several layers of clothing, but we had chocolate, chorizo and cake so I couldn’t complain all that much. 

After a lovely dinner I dozed off for a second night in the Donostia flat and made my own way home on Sunday to veg out and bask in the comparative lowland heat.

Sorry this is a bit garbled, but if I think this through I’ll never type it up!!

Home a week today!!

Hi Again! And the Big Race

I’m only writing this in the brief interlude I have between sorting out my life/classes and catching the bus back home to Eibar (actually starting to feel like home too!) so I haven’t checked how long its been since I wrote last. Certainly a long time, so there is a lot to tell. Well, maybe.

So, chosing one thing to say: I DID IT! I ran the 10k race!

I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that I signed up to do the 10km option of the San Sebastian Marathon (one of Spain’s most prestigious), but on Sunday the moment FINALLY arrived.

On Saturday lunch time, I headed up to Donostia (what us locals call San Sebastian, haha) to stay with Arantxa and Aitzol of my climbing sejourn and crazy multilingual exchange. Me and Arantxa talk from time to time and Facebook and it was great to see them, even if I didn’t get the opportunity to go visit Rocky the Black Panther.

We settled down for a lovely lunch, which I wasn’t expecting and was very greatful for, before Arantxa walked me round the corner to the football stadium: home to Gipuzkoa’s finest, Real Sociedad, where I was to pick up my number and goody bag. Luckily they didn’t require any ID, so I breathed a sigh of relief (thats another stressful story to come when I’ve got to the end of it). The number and timer tag also came with a goody bag. In the endless emails that I had received I’d managed to decipher that we wouldn’t be getting free t-shirts as in previous years due to the growth of the event being somewhat larger than the growth of the budget, but in its stead I did receive an energy bar (standard), cider (at a fitness event? Really?) and a large carton of what appeared to be chicken stock. No, really, stock. I was as baffled as I expect you are!

Then it was back home for a small Spanish style supper and an exchange of text messages with my running partner Ellen (assistant in Bilbao) before an early night fiercely punctuated with nerves.

I rose early the next morning, barely feeling rested at all and ate my way through half a loaf of bread and some biscuits. A sparse meal before such and event, but on the way to meet Ellen back at the stadium I discovered the hard lump of Kendal Mint Cake left over from my trip to Canada several months before. It was clean, it was good. I have never been so glad that I don’t empty out my pockets that often!

We met another anglophone, a girl Emma from Australia living in Bordeaux, and together we warmed up whilst the marathon and half-marathoners headed off towards La Contxa, Donostia’s iconic beach.

The race started with nerves and smiles and the thrill of having a number pinned to my chest for the first time since sixth form. I couldn’t help but grin in amongst the swaythe of like minded (and considerably fitter) people. And then there was the niggling worry: I’d only ever run this far once before continuously and that had taken me an hour. There was an hour limit on the race. I HAD to make it. At 5, 6 and 7 km people would be pulled out if they weren’t up to speed. I knew I could make the times if the race was that distance alone, but pacing myself for the final murderous kilometres would I?

At 3km, after the first water stand where I found that I lack the ability to multitask and simalteneously drink and run, the distance signs petered out. From the course map I’d seen, I knew that the 5km mark was somewhere along the return stretch of the beach and 6 and 8 were marked by water stands, but the dreaded 7? What was I aiming for? I was really scared of getting pulled out even though I was still running in the midst of a huge crowd. Surely they couldn’t stop us all?

An age later, or more likely 15 minutes, the stadium of Anoeta bobbed into view and I let out and intended whoop of victory. It came out more as a desperate rasp. We were nearly there! We’d nearly done it! And then I passed another water station. Oh no. Still two more kilometres. In the whole scheme of things, 2km isn’t all that far at all, but after 8! Pain! And even as I ran down the side of the stadium, it wasn’t yet over. There was another pitch behind it and we had to give that a loop before running in for the lap of glory. Or rather pain and confusion.

Usually a large inflatable archway marks the end of a race. Well, in my head they do anyway. So I sprinted with gusto at the first one I saw. And then I noticed everyone was continuing to run the other side of it. There was no bleepy thing for our timer tags. The next 200m felt like half the race, but I still managed an extra burst of energy for my final few paces. Once I’d worked out through the rabble what was the end, that is!

Ellen had come in a bit ahead of me, and we hugged sweatily and paced around, stretching out and planning our celebratory drink we were to have later. It was only 10 o’clock, there was plenty of time to go back to Arantxa’s for a shower and a blanket and a spot of telly.

Since then, I’ve been incredibly lazy, but I’ll be back out there soon!

Time: 47.52 (off the top of my head) incredibly pleased with myself!!