Voorschoten,The Netherlands

December, 2004

Here we are again with the Chronicles of Dawn & Baldur. As usual it will be posted late, hope it reaches you in time.

Fully in keeping with our Xmas card this year (a view from our balcony), our approx 1 by 10 metre 'garden' has been a great success this year. First we put a nestbox up on the balcony railings for bluetits. An industrious little male made a lovely nest and about 10 eggs were laid. We enjoyed sneaking a look when both parents were away, and we saw at least 7 nestlings survived. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see them leave. Blackbirds nested nearby this year again too.

Later in the year, we decided to plant tomatoes. Having formed a taste for Insalata Caprese (tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic vinegar) while in Tuscany, we were keen to have a ready supply of the makings. (Mind you if we hadn't received a packet of seeds from Henrieke, we probably would never have got around to it). We had a trickle of ripe tomatoes right up to the end of October. We didn't try to produce our own mozzarella cheese, mind you, we didn't think the neighbours would appreciate having a buffalo next door.

In the first half of the year, Dawn continued travelling to Brussels for one week every month. At first she found the course (M.Sc. Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Medicine) hard going, mainly because she was having difficulty hearing everything, the heavy accented English of most of the lecturers was an added difficulty. Baldur did some searching on the internet and found that there was a radio microphone available that was compatible with Dawn's hearing aid. Dawn was able to 'borrow' it for a trial. It was extremely successful and, even better, her health insurance paid for the device. That made life much easier for Dawn for the rest of the course.

Baldur also continued with his M.Sc. course (Computer Science), doing three 8 week modules one after the other. At that point he decided that he would take it a bit easier by taking a break between each of the final 4 modules.

Because of these courses, we didn't take a winter or spring holiday this year. Dawn did take a few days to go home to Scotland and she also had a couple of (sunny) days business trip to Lisbon. She is still visiting Dublin every few months and usually manages to catch up with some friends while she is there.

The next chance to go travelling together was our summer holiday. So why did we choose Switzerland? Well there are lots of hil... oops I mean we can get there easily by train. We remembered from a previous holiday when we passed through, that Switzerland had lots of hil... oops I mean plenty of well signposted cycle routes. Mmm now I come to think of it, perhaps that is why we have never made it to Finland yet, after all there are no hil... I mean we can't get there by train.

Actually the Tuscany holiday proved that Dawn was now well enough to cope with climbs, so we decided that we would go camping rather than B&B, but we did buy a lightweight tent that could go on top of our back panniers, instead of taking the bike trailer. Dawn was still a bit worried about the 2000 m passes but Baldur assured her “We can always take the train over the tough bits.”

The holiday began in Basel, and after a very sunny day cycling around the Roman remains in Augst, we had an easy start cycling upstream along the Rhine. Although Switzerland is not a small country, we kept running out of it – we constantly found ourselves in Germany, Austria or Lichtenstein. Dawn, who is the treasurer, was never sure which purse she had to use to pay for the cafe bill, camping site or whatever, very confusing it was, after all it was the same language everywhere, only the money changed, thank goodness for the Euro, though, or it would have been even worse!

At the end of the first week, we climbed the Oberalppass 2046 m. Dawn noted that trains were not much in evidence, but she was happy enough to cycle over the pass anyway, as long as she could stop for a res... ehh to take photos now and then. At the top, we realised that we had a problem with one of our tyres. We decided to cautiously roll down to Andermatt and suss out the bike shops, since it was Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the only bike shop was already closed and wouldn't be open again until Tuesday. Rather than cycle on with a dodgy tyre and not fancying hanging around in Andermatt for two days – we actually did take the train – to Lucerne. We had most of the Sunday to sightsee and find the most likely bike shop and were able to get on our way fairly early on the Monday. This all necessitated a change of plans as far as route was concerned, but no worries, there were still plenty of opportunities to climb hil... I mean to take the train if we needed to – over the Brünig pass on the way to Interlaken.

We had a rest day in Interlaken and took a train into the mountains. We didn't pick our day too well, as cloud covered the peaks all day and we only got to see the impressive mountain views the next day when cycling out of town. Later we spent some hours in Bern and we bumped into a fellow student from Dawn's course in Brussels – small world really.

At the end of the holiday, we spent a couple of days in France, bringing our country total to 5 for the two weeks – the only country bordering Switzerland that we didn't go into was Italy, and if we hadn't had the tyre problem in the first week, we might have made it over there too! One of the highlights of those last few days was being interviewed by two trainee journalists in Mulhouse. They were most surprised to hear that it was our second time there and we came back because we liked it. Mind you we didn't tell them that we were only there for a couple of hours each visit! We figured it wasn't us that they found photogenic either – it was definitely the tandem.

At the end of September Dawn went for a week to the Dordogne in the south of France. She travelled there by train, making use of two high speed trains. It was a relaxing way to travel for a week of painting. She stayed in a French farmhouse and was spoiled with good food, wine and company, and returned much refreshed if accompanied by less paintings than she had hoped. She has fond memories of eating blackberries (brambles) and figs straight from the tree.

A few weeks later, Baldur and Dawn were in Ireland for Suzanne's wedding in Dublin, this was followed by a few days visiting old friends from our Dublin and Galway days. It had been 7 years since Baldur had been in Ireland and about 9 years since we had seen everyone last, so it was quite a trip down memory lane.

After 4 days at home, Dawn was off again. First she was in Dublin for 3 days and flew from there to Budapest for 3 more days. She returned with a heavy suitcase of dirty washing and the knowledge that the meetings had all gone well. Her final trip of the year was at the end of November when she went to Scotland to celebrate her niece Claire's marriage to Allan and to see her new great-niece Jodie, the daughter of another niece, Dee.

Not satisfied with all the travelling, Dawn has taken up running again. Not having run much since living in Falkirk, she found it great being able to run without getting cramp in her calf muscles. She runs between 5-10 km 3 times a week although her rhythm has been broken by the frequent business trips. She hopes next year to try a 10 km run somewhere.

Here's hoping that 2005 is a great year for you,