Friday thought #79 Via Ferrata Lake Garda

In Italian ‘via ferrata’ simply means ‘iron way’, and that is exactly what it is; a series of metal cables, staples and ladders enabling people to climb and traverse otherwise impenetrable rock faces. Via ferrata was created in the Italian Dolomites during the First World War as a means to move the soldiers through the mountain environment, but it wasn’t until many many years later that it became a popular sport. There are now hundreds of routes across Europe, and although they are not for the faint-hearted or those who suffer from vertigo (!) they do make climbing much more accessible for aspiring adventurers with little experience or skill.

During a recent trip to Lake Garda in Italy, we headed for the Sentiero Contrabbandieri, an old smugglers’ route high above the shores of the lake. It turned out to be more of an adventurous, and rather terrifying walk with a few sections of cable, rather than a classic via ferrata, but it was brilliant fun, and with stunning views to top it off.





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Friday thought #78 An alternative summer break – sea kayaking in Sardinia

It has been another fantastic summer of adventures, discovery, exploration and visiting new places. A few years back we sea kayaked in Croatia and loved it so much that we just had to do it again. This time Sardinia was the chosen destination; the La Maddalena archipelago off the NE coast to be specific. We had never been before and only heard wonderful things about it. Suffice it to say that it fully lived up to all of our expectations; a real adventure, an incredible place and most importantly, quality time away from work, phones, internet and other people! These days it is so hard to switch off from everyday life and I cannot recommend sea kayaking enough as a complete break from it all.

Of course no trip is without its unexpected events… Wild waves one day left us stranded on an uninhabited island and we ended up having to use our paddles to flag down a passing yacht to hitch a ride back to the mainland…! All part of the adventure, and thank you to the French crew on ‘Le Fleur de Sel’ if you ever read this!

Seven days of paddling, snorkelling, wild camping, sunset watching and generally just being on holiday, it doesn’t take much imagination to plan an interesting alternative to the average summer break.






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Friday thought #77 Cows with attitude!

You will often come across animals when out and about in the mountains; mostly cows, goats, sheep, or the occasional marmot. They are always nice to see, I like sharing my mountains with animals, but in general I wouldn’t normally describe any of them as having a great deal of character, and I’ve certainly never seen one pose for the camera! However on a recent mountaineering trip we came across most definitely the coolest, most characterful cow I have ever seen, almost a cow with attitude!

She was in the middle of the hiking trail, and stood her ground as we approached, then as soon as the camera was on her, she tilted her chin upwards, looked nonchalantly in to the distance and struck a pose, no two ways about it. Judge for yourself, she was just marvellous!

What a poser!

What a poser!

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Friday thought #76 English grammar rant…!

I love languages, they are endlessly interesting, and I am always comparing and questioning different aspects of language. In particular I love the English language. This probably has a lot to do with it being my first language, and also the fact that I spend a lot of my time teaching English to foreign students… ! But even so, I think it’s a fascinating language; so complex, so expressive, and much of it with seemingly no rules at all!

Teaching advanced English has been a very interesting experience for me as it has really made me stop and ponder questions that as a native speaker I would never even consider. It also makes you realise just how many mistakes we make as native speakers, mistakes which have, over the course of time, become acceptable. With the enormous rise in popularity of blogs, I find myself seeing more and more mistakes, and not just typos – we are all guilty of occasionally typing too quickly and not having time to proofread – but serious grammatical errors that are clearly not thought of as incorrect by the writer. Why is it now ok to say “there’s lots of people?” Spoken slang is one thing, but I can’t tolerate poorly written English. Another of my favourites is “I should of gone home earlier”. We all went to school and learnt how to read, write and speak. No wonder so many foreign speakers find English so difficult to learn.

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And don’t even get me started on apostrophes. Why do so many people think if a word ends in ’s’, it must need an apostrophe?

“Sofa’s for sale”

“Fresh drink’s available”

“Live sport’s shown here”


The list is literally never-ending; outside bars, restaurants, even at universities. True story, I once saw this sign at a British university:

“Student’s Union”

Just for the one student then?

Apostrophes have very simple rules, we all learnt them at school, yet it seems most people have completely forgotten them by the time they reach adulthood.

I would never claim to always use flawless spoken or written grammar, far from it, but I think laziness, far too much time spent typing on phones, and the rise of slang is starting to destroy our language. And what a beautiful language it is, I hate the thought of it slipping away. If grammar is not your strong point, no problem, but just ask someone to check it before you publish it!

Then there are occasionally grammar points which present themselves and become the subject of debate, such as the following safety precaution commonly found on the back of headrests on aeroplanes. Is one right and one wrong, or are they both acceptable? And if they’re both ok, why?!


It’s a wonderful language, but it could be made a whole lot easier if there was just one word for something, rather than 10, and if each word just meant one thing, not 10…!

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Friday thought #75 Penguins!

A recent visit to Edinburgh zoo reinforced my opinion that penguins are one of the funniest, cutest, yet oddest animals on earth! The zoo has a fantastic water complex for a huge number of penguins, which cannot fail to make you smile simply by moving, or even just by lying down! The way they walk seems so desperately inefficient, and their ‘relaxed’ position couldn’t look more uncomfortable. Yet when they enter the water they become a different species; graceful, elegant and beautiful. I could have watched these little guys all day, but sadly there were many other animals to see!


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Friday thought #74 Forest tracks and tall trees

There’s something about being in a forest that I really love, I don’t know why, but they are mysterious, always quiet, regardless of the time of year, and almost certainly beautiful. For me a forest walking trail is hard to beat, especially one with gnarled tree roots criss-crossing your path, and flanked by perfectly straight trees, all desperate for their place in the sun…


Spot the horse!

Spot the horse!


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Friday thought #73 Discovering the lakes of Tirol

Living in a landlocked country I’m always keen to spend time near water whenever possible. Innsbruck isn’t inundated with nearby lakes, but if you are willing to get in the car there are some stunners within an hour’s drive.

We recently discovered Piburgersee, a small, enclosed and incredibly peaceful lake. Unlike many other such lakes, there are no big grassy areas for people to lounge around on, just tiny, private ‘beach’ areas right next to the water, nestled in between the tree roots and the atmospheric overhanging branches. The lake never gets very busy, and regardless of the other people, the enclosed nature of it always means that you feel like you’re on your own.

A lovely forest path circumnavigates the lake, with further trails leading off it for those who want a longer walk, and it is also possible to rent a boat for a bit of lake time without getting wet! Plus there are 2 lovely restaurants on the far side to eat, drink or simply chill out in the sun! A wonderful discovery!

The water is a lovely temperature, and the fish are very friendly!

The water is a lovely temperature, and the fish are very friendly!

Stunning reflections

Stunning reflections from our ‘private beach’

You can't fail to feel relaxed here

You can’t fail to feel relaxed here


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