Reach for the Skies – A Gliding Adventure

Pre-flight checks
Pre-flight checks

For several years I’ve been interested in the idea of gliding. I particularly liked the idea of flying in silence. As a birthday treat Deborah booked me a lesson at the Surrey Hills Gliding Club based at Kenley Airfield.

Kenley was one of the key airfields for the defence of London during the Battle of Britain. It seems to be open to the public and is only now used by the gliding club and air cadets.

There was almost no preamble or training, it was just ‘pop on this parachute’ and ‘be careful when you get in the glider’. Before I knew it I was strapped in and received the few instructions necessary. There were a couple of pre-flight checks and someone showed me how to get the canopy off in case of emergency and we were ready.

Take-off
Take-off

A winch was attached to the bottom of the glider and we had a quick three…two…one….and whoosh, the glider was accelerated from 0-60mph in a couple of seconds. The nose was pointed at the sky and in no time at all we were at 1000m. This was some roller-coaster ride.

The weather on the day was a little grey and cloudy which meant that there were few thermals to keep us airborne for too long. I’d taken my camera though and was able to get some shots of the south london/kent landscape. We could see a considerable way, right into the centre of London and with clear views of the millennium stadium and docklands. All too quickly the trip was over and we came in for a very short and slightly abrupt landing.

Kenley Airfield
Kenley Airfield

Due to the short flight time of my first trip I was allowed another go without paying again. This time I left the camera on the ground and decided to just enjoy the ride. When we at maximum altitude the instructor let me have a small go on the controls. First I lowered and raised the nose and then I had a go turning to the right then left. This was a lot more nerve-wracking than I expected it would be, but i’m really glad that I had a go.

Looking casual after my trip
Looking casual after my trip

All in all a really enjoyable time, i’d definitely do it again. See all the pictures from the day.

Bread, cheese and wine – Beaune, France – Part 2

This continues my families adventures in France. If you’ve not done so already, read Part 1.

The river in Beaune
The river in Beaune

Vin, pain et fromage

Lovely fromage
Lovely fromage

I have to agree with the French in their outlook on food and wine and Beaune did not disappoint us on this front. For a start Beaune is the centre of some of the best wine in France and there are numerous Caves around town very willing to prove it. There were some superb boulengeries and we ate (a lot) of very fine bread indeed. We also paid a visit to the Saturday morning market and got ourselves some splendid cheeses, the highlight of which may have been a fine, gooey Epoisse. Oh my we ate and drank well.

Lunch

On Sunday our hosts took us to a very lovely restaurant called Auberge des Vignes. We ate our splendid meal on the terrace looking out on a vineyard and with the gently rolling hills as a backdrop. The wine flowed, the food (including some snails) were great and we left with that nice glowing feeling. Pretty reasonable too I may add.

The view from our table at lunch
Our lunch venue - Auberge des Vignes

The Home of Photography

The house where the first ever photograph was taken
The house where the first ever photograph was taken

The man credited with taking the first permanent photographic image (previous ones faded after a few hours) is Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who lived in Chalon-sur-Saône not too far from where we were staying. As we were so close it would have been rude not to have gone to the home of photography. By chance there was a small museum attached to the house where Niepce took the first photo, so we took the tour.

On the one hand it was amazing to stand in the very room where the first ever picture was taken. On the other hand I couldn’t beleive that a photography museum wouldn’t let me take a picture myself. All I wanted was to take a picture out of the same window as an homage. Sadly not said the otherwise very nice guide. An interesting trip for photography buffs. I was fairly chuffed myself.

Wine tasting

A trip to Beaune of course would not have been complete without a visit to a cave for a spot of wine tasting.

Our hosts took us along to Bouchard Aine & Fils, a very distinguished looking place. We took the tour of the cave or cellar, which looked suitably dark and barrelly. Moving from cellar to cellar we were given increasingly nicer wines to taste, the last being particularly lovely. One nice feature was a room with lots of jars containing different flavours – oranges, cinnamon, chocolate etc. – to give an idea of smells to look out for. Possibly a gimmick, but I quite liked it and my one year old was highly intrigued.

Vineyards near Beaune
Vineyards near Beaune

What a lovely place

I can report that Beaune is a lovely part of the world and somewhere I’d be keen to spend more time in. A wonderful trip.

Bread, cheese and wine – Beaune, France – Part 1

One of life’s truths is that almost every country in the world will have nicer bread and tomatoes than the UK. That’s why it was nice to be able to pop over to visit our friends Muriel and Lionel in France, a country that know how to eat well.

Rue Victor Hugo, Lyon
Rue Victor Hugo, Lyon

Tortuous journey
We were making our way to Beaune in mid-eastern France which made it a slightly tricky place to get to. After much talk of driving and eurostars we settled on flying to Lyon and then the train. Traveling can be difficult and stressful enough, but taking a one year old too (who loves to run around) made it all slightly trickier. Suffice to say that it all went to plan, but was a bit of a trial.

View from Fourviere, Lyon
View from Fourviere, Lyon

Lyon
As part of the trip we found ourselves with the best part of an afternoon in Lyon, the third largest city in France. I’d failed to do much research before we left but was delighted to learn that it’s centre (an island between the Rhone and Saone rivers) was a lovely old town. As well as lots of shops there were some lovely cafe’s and we stopped for a delightful lunch on the Place Bellcour.

Rent a bike, Lyon
Rent a bike, Lyon

After our meal (and wine) we made our way up to the fourvier and it’s wonderful basilica and fine views of Lyon. We sadly didn’t have too much time to hang around and had to make our way back to the station for our train to Beaune. I think Lyon deserves at least a good day to look round and enjoy – maybe next time.

Arrival in Beaune
It had been a hot, humid and muggy day which finally led to rain as we got to Beaune. Luckily for us Lionel was there to pick us up in the car and so we didn’t have to get too wet.

The next day while our hosts went to work, we were able to have a look round the lovely and picturesque town of Beaune. The centre is still shaped from the original medieval walls, many of which still stand.

Hospices de Beaune
Hospices de Beaune

Hospices
The main cultural highlight of the town is the wonderful Hospices de Beaune (or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune). This was a medieval hospital, mainly for the poor and funded by extensive vineyards given by wealthy patrons. Amazingly it was still being used as a medical establishment until the 1970s. Even now part of the complex is still used as a retirement home.

The roof of the building is clearly it’s most obvious stand-out feature and it is something to behold. Apparently this style was copied for many of the great houses in burgundy.

Inside is a wonderfully restored museum, giving an excellent idea of what things would have been like in medieval times. I did think the main hall where the beds were looked as if it would be really cold in winter though.

A really excellent visit and well worth a look if your in the area.

Hospices de Beaune
Hospices de Beaune
Inside the Hospices de Beaune
Inside the Hospices de Beaune

Now look out for part deux of the trip….