Sasieology

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Wall

Posted by Sas on March 15, 2015

This week’s photo challenge (click here to take part) has made me realise just how many photos I take of walls.

I take A LOT of photos of street art on walls…

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Sometimes it’s the textures that draw me in…

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I even got to walk around the top of the city walls when I visited LuccaDSC_0114

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Travel theme: Fantastic

Posted by Sas on March 14, 2015

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is a fitting tribute to the author Terry Pratchett, who sadly passed away on Thursday. Growing up, I read a lot of books and I am a massive Discworld fan. I am lucky to say that I met Pratchett once at a book signing in Preston. He was a lovely, gracious man. There aren’t many people who have left me starstruck, but he definitely makes the list. His ability to transport you to a magical, fantasy land has inspired my writing and photography for years. I wonder how many of these photos I would have taken if I hadn’t had knowledge of the Discworld at the back of my mind.

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Click here if you would like to join in with the travel theme.

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(More) Street Art in Cardiff

Posted by Sas on March 3, 2015

A while ago, a friend told me about some great new street art in Cardiff city centre. It took me a few weeks to get down there with my camera and check it out, but now that I have I really wanted to share the photos with you all. I love this city!

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Travel theme: Environment

Posted by Sas on February 28, 2015

Environment is the subject of Ailsa’s travel theme this week (click here to see more entries). This is a topic that has so many meanings, and a word that I have heard used a lot for as long as I can remember. Nowadays, when we hear the word ‘environment’, a lot of us immediately associate it with things like climate change, extinction of species and deforestation. As a modern, Western human being, I am constantly torn between wanting to experience as many parts of the Earth’s environment as I can and at the same time preserve it for as long as possible. I am not naive, I know that every time I hike up a mountain, ski down a slope or use a concrete building, I am contributing to the destruction of our beautiful environment. So I try to strike a balance. I’ve been a plant-based vegetarian for over three years now, so my impact on the planet through my dietary choices has greatly reduced. I try to create as little waste as possible, and use biodegradable products whenever I can. By taking these small steps, and more, I hope that I deserve to explore my environment a little more.

When I visited Iceland in February 2014, I encountered many varied and breathtaking environments…

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In any ski resort you don’t have to look far to spot humanity’s impact on the environment. However, the views are still stunning…

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The Grand Canyon was top of my bucket list for so many years, and is one of the best places I have ever visited. It is also a reminder that, no matter how much we play with our planet, we will never be bigger than nature…

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We are now able to fiddle with the environment so much that we can even write in the sky, as I discovered in Los Angeles…

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We can build our structures, but other creatures will still find their space in this environment we share…

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And finally, a display in Las Vegas that reminded me you sometimes have to put yourself in the position of others’ and see things from their viewpoint…

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Arcalis

Posted by Sas on February 24, 2015

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I have to admit I’d never heard of Arcalis before my trip to Andorra this year, so it was a nice surprise to discover that it is part of the Arinsal/Pal lift pass.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAArcalis is known in the region as being more of a locals’ ski area. There is no resort or town there as such, and as most of the skiers in Arinsal are beginners, few venture over on the 40 minute bus journey. Our Crystal rep, Jake, recommended that we ski Arcalis earlier in the week, before the weekend rush. His advice was spot-on. We had two days in Arcalis, and the conditions were quite a bit better than in Arinsal or Pal. The runs still weren’t groomed all that well, as I discovered when I hit a patch of rocks at full speed and had to pick my way through whilst hopping on my skis, but they at least looked prepared for something other than beginner skiers. The far side of the mountain still suffered from the high winds that had also hit Arinsal, though. AtPENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA one point I threw myself into a tuck, pointed my skiers straight down the mountain, but felt like I was going nowhere because the wind was blowing me back up the hill again.

A couple of the runs were closed off to the public, due to youth slalom races, which was a shame. What was open was good fun, though. The freestyle area, an entire mountain dedicated to whatever you want, was also opened on the second day we were there. I didn’t fancy trying it on my own without someone who knew the area, so that will have to wait for another time.

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Travel theme: Energy

Posted by Sas on February 22, 2015

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Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Energy (click here to see more entries). Back in September last year, I travelled to Austria for a week to visit family. One day, we caught the gondola up to Muttereralm, primarily to check out the mountain carting that is taking over as the popular sport during the summer months when there is no snow to ski on. However, there are lots of cool things to do and see on the mountain, including a series of waterwheels, sluices and other obstacles that the stream runs through on its way down the hill. I was there with my nephew and eldest niece, and they were both fascinated by the interactive elements that helped them learn about the power and movement of water. My nephew was a typical boy about it. He wanted to build up as much water as possible, and then see what happened when he let it go. My niece, on the other hand, takes after my dad (he’s a physicist). She naturally understands how things work, and methodically went along the machines one by one to confirm what she already knew. It was great fun to watch them explore.

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Arinsal and Pal

Posted by Sas on February 17, 2015

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAThe last time I visited Andorra, about 18 years ago, Arinsal and Pal were two very seperate ski areas. At the time, I was an intermediate skier and what Arinsal had to offer was enough for me so I never visited Pal. They were in the process of building a new ‘gondola’ to connect the two areas, so I was excited to try it out during my trip in January this year.

I have to say that the Arinsal ski area is not like I remembered it at all. I thought I had a very clear picture in my head of how it looked, but the reality was quite different. Although a small area, it is lots of fun. And, it all comes down to one base, which helps if you’re skiing in a group with different ability levels like I was. Arinsal is very much a beginners’ resort, with everything geared towards helping them get through their first week of ski school. The slopes are managed well in that respect, with beginners having their own (very good) area that is easy to avoid. Unfortunately, high winds closed most of the chair lifts in Arinsal whilst we were there, and I did question why they had replaced the old drag lifts with them in the first place. After all, if beginners learn on drag lifts then they never know any different.

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On my third day there, when the wind had died down a bit and more lifts were open, I discovered that the new ‘gondola’ connecting Arinsal to Pal is in fact a cable car, and as such is unable to open whenever it is windy, snowing, cloudy or anything other than perfect weather conditions. I think it was open one, maybe two days out of the six that we were there. Instead, in order to ski Pal I had to catch a bus to La Massana (about ten minutes down the road from Arinsal) and then get into a gondola there to access the system. There is a free ski bus to La Massana that runs a couple of times a day, but be aware that it doesn’t seem to run when it snows. This seemed strange to me, after all surely people need the bus service more when there is snow. The local bus seemed to manage better in the adverse conditions, and it was only 1.80 euro to La Massana. My advice to experienced skiers would be to stay in La Massana instead. Then, you can always ski Arinsal too when the cable car is open.

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Pal is much less affected by the weather conditions as it is tree lined, and is also a much bigger area. The pistes zigzag across three peaks, so you can even do a little tour. Even on the weekend, when ‘locals’ from Spain travel up to use the slopes, it was very quiet on the mountain. There was a small queue for some of the chair lifts, but I could always find an empty drag lift to use instead.

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Returning to Andorra

Posted by Sas on February 10, 2015

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERATwenty years ago I learnt to ski in Pas De La Casa, Andorra. It was my first trip to the principality, and also my first experience of snow sports. Two years after that first holiday to Pas, my family and I returned to Andorra for another week’s skiing in Arinsal. Fast forward 18 years, and I have once again travelled to Arinsal to ski.

I’ll be honest, of the four of us in our group, none of us had a particular desire to return to Andorra. Without wanting to sound negative, the principality exists because it is tax free, and has few of the redeeming features of other ski areas. The views over the Pyrenees are breathtaking, although not quite as scenic as the Austrian Alps. The ski areas offer pistes for all levels of skier, but due to the geography of the region are small, far apart from each other and difficult to connect up. On the plus side, I’ve always found the people in Andorra to be friendly, and nowhere near as aggressive on the slopes as their French neighbours. And if you’re looking to spend some money, there is that tax free shopping.

So, why did we choose Arinsal? The answer is simple. Snow has been poor in most European ski areas this winter, and Andorra’s location makes it the most likely to have pistes open while still within our budget. When you’re a skier, you’ll chase the snow pretty much anywhere.

The other thing that I’d forgotten about Andorra until after we’d booked is the four hour transfer from the airport in Toulouse up into the mountains. I think I’ve been softened by working in Austria, where the longest transfer is two hours. We did stop for a break in Tarascon, just enough time for everyone to grab a coffee and go to the toilet (facilities on ski coaches are notorious for freezing in the winter).

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Once we’d arrived in resort, my first task was to find a shop that could wax my skis ready for the next morning. I usually service my skis myself by hand, but every few years I like to have them put through a machine so I get the best out of them. For the past ten years, every resort I have visited has only offered machine servicing. Annoyingly, the one time I actually want my skis put through a machine, I visit seemingly the only resort in Europe where the technicians like to service skis by hand. With all respect to those technicians, I could have done that myself. So, with my skis over my shoulder, I trudged up the hill, further and further into Arinsal, until I found someone who could help me. Then, we headed along to our Crystal Rep Jake’s welcome meeting where we pestered him with about a hundred questions (which I then promptly forgot all the answers to and asked him again the next day), grabbed some food, and it was time for bed and dreams of skiing.

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Scale

Posted by Sas on February 9, 2015

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This week’s photo challenge is all about Scale (click here to see more entries). I love playing about with scale when I’m taking photos. Like in this shot that I took in Death Valley. Although is caused me a few cuts to my legs and hands, I was intrigued by the salt floor that we were walking on. I held the camera as low as I could and then pointed it up towards two of my travel companions who were picking their way across the difficult landscape. Casey (in the background) almost looks like a subbuteo figure that I’ve placed on top of a rock.

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Travel theme: Details

Posted by Sas on February 8, 2015

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I’ve decided to use this picture for Ailsa’s travel theme this week (click here to see more entries). I was camping near the beach at Port Eynon in The Gower, South Wales with some friends. In between bouts of heavy rain, the sun would come out and I’d grab my camera to take a few shots of the stunning scenery that The Gower is famous for. I loved the detail on these rocks, so I bent down to get a better look. This is what the beach looked like from a more usual angle…

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