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Searching for the perfect coffee

One advantage of trips abroad is the opportunity to try out the local food and drink.

When we had a few days in Graz, Austria, coffee arrived on individual trays, each with an additional glass of water.  We worked hard to try out coffees in lots of different locations across town – one way to visit stylish places on a budget.

Graz is getting well known for its ‘friendly alien‘, the curvy modern art gallery next to the river Mur.  Not as well known, though it deserves to be, is the ‘island on the Mur’, a shell shaped structure that acts as a bridge but includes an outside cafe and an inside bar.  It’s particularly beautiful lit up at night.

Searching for the perfect coffee in Graz

Probably the most beautiful option is the bar near the top of the Castle rock.  This can be reached up a slope around the side, but as the rock also includes a glass lift, and an interior that looks like a Bond villain’s lair, you can guess which option we chose.  It was so pretty we pushed the boat out…and had a hot chocolate instead.

Sadly we’re not gaining any money from Ryanair for our support of Graz, but let us know if you want any more top tips on where to visit.

Ballet and the silent screen

The Edinburgh Festival comes round faster every year, and it’s hard to fit in seeing shows with work.

This year, however, we made an effort, as the Nederlands Dans Theater was back in town.  We managed to see them a few years ago, Dan’s first time to see a contemporary dance show.  That time, they put a sprinkler on stage during one of the pieces, so that by the end, the dancers were kicking water at each other and doing skids along the stage, all to very elegant strains of Bach.

This time, no sprinklers, but a combination of films showing on panels and dancers interacting with them.  One of the most striking points was when one dancer came up out of the orchestra pit with a huge black fabric train behind her.  As she moved further back on the stage, the train filled the stage.  If it wasn’t based on part of a real silent film, it deserved to be.

The theatre included a lot of well-dressed dance fans. We hoped that we didn’t let the side down by zooming across the road for a bag of chips in the first interval…but they were well worth it.    As was the dancing.

Half an hour in front of Guernica

We’ve been lucky on our holidays that we’ve been able to see some great buildings, paintings etc.  One particular treat this year was being able to visit Madrid, on a work trip in May.

Dan was able to come with me, and we stayed on a couple of days afterwards.  The agency where the meetings took place was conveniently on the same street as some of the main art galleries, making it fairly easy to plan what to see.

We visited the gallery which houses Picasso’s Guernica towards the end of one afternoon.  It meant that we could view this particular picture for longer than we might have done.

Looking around other rooms nearby, part of the impact was coming past the entrance to the Guernica room and catching sight of  the painting again.  It’s surprisingly big, allowing you to move along and look long and hard at different sections.

Stepping back outside into warmth and colour, after the monochromes of the painting, it was great to feel alive.  However, just a few blocks down the street from the gallery is the Atocha railway station, which you may remember was affected by bombings.

It was certainly a reminder that some of the big themes on display in the galleries are not that distant on the outside.

Christmas images 2005

Here’s some of the pictures we took last year with Dan’s snazzy camera.  They are of our Christmas tree decorations, and were intended to become the images on cards.  We felt a bit like studio photographers setting them up – it’s useful having plain white chairs as backdrops.  Thankfully all the subjects were well behaved, and have agreed to waive fees for appearing this year.
Teddy Soldiers on parade - Dec 2005
Santa and Helper - feeling just a bit wooden - Dec 2005