Two Birthdays in Ireland

In Goa last year, during our yoga teacher training, Rbberta and I realized we had the same birthday. The only difference was a few years (it was her 60th), but us pisces were drawn to the coast of Northern Ireland to celebrate together.

Roberta and I with Nell

I stayed with Roberta and her husband Brian, and their dog Nell, in Bangor by the sea. Brian had two motorcycles and offered to take me on a roadtrip to the Mourne Mountains and Portaferry and Strangford, where we were hot on the trail of the Games of Thrones doors.

Brian at Bloody Bridge

Robertas daughter joined us for a night out to Portrush for our birthday dinner, where we dined on mostly meats, strangely enough, at the Neptune and Prawn. We walked it off on the strands near by, at Port Stuart and East Strand, and visited the nearby Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce castle on the Causeway Coastal Route

The major highlight, as a good tourist, was the Giants Causeway, where we walked over perfectly formed Basalt columns and admired the giant’s organ. The sun was shining and Northern Ireland couldn’t have been more green, and not to mention warm – it was over 15°c in February!

the Giant´s Causeway

Of course we had to do some yoga together, attending Michael´s and Tom´s classes. We visited Roberta´s second home, the Aurora Rec center where she goes every morning before the crack of dawn to keep her 7% body fat figure… she´s healthier than I´ve ever been and looks younger than me from behind! We swam laps and I played on the slides, trying not to lose my top.

yoga on East Strand

We had many, many birthday cakes, extending the celebration a day longer every time we could make some fun out of it. We had Nepalese food at a restaurant that put up banners and candles for us, and treated us to an entire cake and bottle of Prosecco. I had a slice of cheesecake every day, sometimes twice, and chocolate whenever I could, because I felt I deserved it as an older woman.

happy birthday to us!

The trip was a great success, and I even managed to keep up with my marathon training, believe it or not. We walked Nell, Roberta´s dog whenever we could, and even in the fog and rain, Bangor by the sea was more pleasant to visit in February than I could have imagined.

the harbour in Bangor

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Skiing the Swiss Alps in Engelberg

After a few days in Lyon, the bi-annual ritual trip to Sirha and Bocuse d’or, we needed to get to Engelberg. Europe is connected by so many trains, flights and buses that its hard to chose the best route – flying was too expensive, buses took too long, but the train made a happy medium. We went from Lyon to Mulhouse, then Basel where we could stop for an hour and eat at the mouthwatering food hall ´Alte Markthalle´ beside the station. We got the next train to Lucerne and then changed for the third and last time for the local train to Engelberg, but still felt nothing from the journey – when you get to skip the mundane security of airports and baggage controls of budget airlines, travel truly is a pleasure. The journey took us through the French mountains and up into the Swiss alps, past lakeside villages and snow-topped glaciers, with views to Titlis at the end, and within a few hours, we were checked into the Baenklialp Hotel, recently bought by some Icelandic friends.

That flag…

We ate cheese, fondue, and more cheese, not missing the chance to visit the famous cheese factory Schaukaserei Kloster just a few hundred metres from our hotel. We skied both sides of the mountain Brunnihutte and Titlis/Jochstock, and a 3-day pass was the perfect amount of time to spend on the slopes. We went to the top of Titlis, with unlimited visitbility over the valley in all directions, and without any fear for heights, also had to walk the Titlis Cliff walk bridge at 3041m above sea level.

the picnic tables started disappearing under all the fresh snow

Our last day on the mountain was the first time in my snowboarding history that I can complain there was too much powder. It had started snowing the night before, and over 40cm of fresh snow had been groomed before the runs opened, but the snow kept coming. With the help of other riders carving snow into piles and the wind gusting powder in random banks, there were places on the runs with waist-deep powder, and if the angle of the downhill wasn’t steep enough, you’d slowly slide to a halt, your feet and board buried in powder out of sight, and the risk of sitting down meant utter disappearance. I wasn’t sure we’d even make it down the mountain on the last run, and I lost Thrainn in the powder for nearly 30 mins, with a couple of glimpses of orange jacket between the whiteout to be sure I was waiting for him in the right place.

on the way to the top

I’d never been to German-speaking Switzerland before, and having just left France, there were a few moments when I’d forget where I was. But people understood French and English more readily than I could speak either (German trips me up so much), so I always ended up looking like the stupid tourist, especially when I kept calling francs euros. We left via Zurich, a cheap and easy train ride from Engelberg, where Icelandair flew directly home to yet another frozen, winter wonderland. It’s never as pretty without fresh snow though, especially if you cant ride your snowboard thru it.