Reminiscing about the empty hotel in Gruyeres

I’m so glad I write travel diaries. This was a strange adventure that happened to me before I began writing this blog and it seemed good enough to tell the story, nearly 8 years later. It was the beginning of my conscious decision to take up walking in the mountains more seriously, so I booked on a walking trip in Switzerland. They booked me in the varied accommodations and sent me a route to follow each day, my luggage was transferred from one accommodation to the next. Simple. And mostly it was, although I wasn’t very fit, and it was terribly hot, 30s at the end of June and I don’t do hot. It had been very hot in London before I left and then I stupidly managed to get sunburnt on my first day in Switzerland.


Trudged up steps to old church and finally reached the Hotel de Ville. I keep arriving at nice, clean hotels wet with sweat and greasy with factor 50 and usually fairly dusty and dirty to boot. Gruyeres was quite busy and bustling on arrival, it is touristy on quite a small scale – the bars shut early, it gets dark early and people go to bed early and get up early. I had the usual long shower and then a lie down, and watched Lindsay Davenport playing at Wimbledon.

I had my dinner sitting outside near to the hotel and talked to some American women. I then went for a little walk in the cool of the evening. I returned to the room and found a new use for the Gideon bible as a window wedge to let some more air in. As I was still so hot I decided to take a day off the schedule the next day.

The town had shut down as soon as it was dark around 9pm. At about 11pm I was feeling very thirsty. I left the room to get a cold drink only to come across a man in a very neat cream coloured business suit who asked me for a room! I explained that I was just a guest and that I was looking for a drink. There were no staff in the hotel at all! I tried to help him to get a room but there was no-one in the hotel to give him a key. He decided to go off and try the brightly lit hotel on the edge of the village.

I still desperately needed water. I found a big kitchen with lots of fridges and helped myself to 2 bottles of water and a beer. I went back to my room and heard someone walking about, I heard a loo flushing too so this at least meant there was one other person on the premises.

The next day I met the other guest, a Japanese woman who also thought it was all most odd. It’s not as if anything terrible happened but it’s the what ifs. What if I’d locked myself out of my room. And what about the poor man who just wanted his room that he’d booked.

Now that I’ve written it, it doesn’t seem so weird but it was at the time!

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.


Cold bike and hot (first ever) jog

Sat 16th March

Chris and I met just below the White House and cycled along the reservoirs to the point where you can see Gaddings reservoir. It was bitterly cold despite all the gear and I had a bad case of white finger which always makes me panic slightly. This was our first bike outing together this year so we kept it short and flat. On the return stretch we were going into the wind and we both felt quite weak with using muscles we’d forgotten existed. By the time we got back I had not only white toe but white foot even though I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t actually feel it either. We tried the White House for a warming cup of hot chocolate or even a snack but to no avail as they were just closing so we whizzed down to the best named Moorcock which I’m sure is some harmless wee birdie from these parts but allows me to indulge in teenage humour. This pub was open and we got hot tomato soup (bit odd) for me and spicy burger for Chris all washed down with a pint of Peroni for her and half of Landlord for me. Then it was suddenly time to go and pick up Carol from the renal unit and to be ribbed by the nurses for boozing whilst she was being a “poor invalid”. Poor invalid, my foot, stuffing herself full of biscuits, sleeping and reading, life of Reilly!!


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Sun 17th March

I’ve bitten the bullet and have just returned nice and hot from my first ever jog. This has been a mental leap for me to do, partly I felt it would be bad for my knees, partly I thought I would look a berk, and partly I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I did 28 minutes which got me to our nearest reservoir and back, this was a total of 2 miles. I ran one minute and walked the next so as not to kill myself on the first outing. Now I know what’s possible in half an hour I can build it up. It did take a long time for me to get hot but it was pretty cold out today. I even picked up some litter. Runkeeper tells me I’ve burnt 223 calories. It will take a while for me to be able to run a mile in 12 minutes which is my goal but at least I now know that it’s possible. Hooray.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

Mountain Training Association Conference March 2013

Friday 1st March

This is the first time I’ve attended this event. I arrived on Friday evening in Castleton Hollowford Centre after a long and tedious journey because the M62 had shut, so instead of 1 and a half hours it took 2 and a half for what as the crow flies is really not far from here.

I shared a room with Hazel and Liz. I got the top bunk which didn’t have the lovely steps up I’d seen in the photos of the centre but the usual very hard to climb in bare feet ladder.

I spent the evening with Hazel and some other people including Jim who reminded me very strongly of my dear Dave, so much so that I had to keep telling myself he wasn’t Dave but enough to bring up all the memories of the times we had and make me feel sad (Dave died in 1996).

Back in room 5, we democratically negotiated turning down the heating. I never have any heating on at all in the night but do understand that some like it hot! We also set our alarms for 3 different times, Hazel’s not on a round number. I am rather taken with this idea, having always rigidly stuck to the hour or quarters, with an occasional foray to a 20 or 35 minute so may even experiment!

Saturday 2nd March

We didn’t really need the alarms and got up and going for breakfast of poached egg, hash brown, beans and toms and toast. We received an intro to the centre and the conference and then set off in our groups.

I’d chosen to do “Lumps and Bumps” which was about how to teach navigation skills. 6 of us went off with Phil Dowthwaite who was great, he is a Mountain Guide which is about as far as you can go in the awards. The day worked as a refresher with some good tips for keeping it simple when training others. I liked this approach as it’s quite easy to make navigation very complicated and it doesn’t need to be. I’m planning to do some navigation training this year with Cath so this day was very timely. We had quite a short walk but it was great to be out in the sun and almost warm when we had our lunch (tuna roll, apple).

We got back to the centre quite early so I attempted to have a shower however it was a miserable experience with the water barely lukewarm despite mega efforts to run it hot.

There was a short gathering before dinner which now I can’t remember what was covered, then dinner was a choice of curries with rice and chips and a poppadom. I opted for spinach and chick pea which was tasty. Followed by apple crumble and cream.

A visit to the bar and then in to the main conference room for a lecture by John Beatty who is a photographer and who has had a long history in the outdoors taking photos. The photos and the stories were great, but he should have stopped at the point where we had the interval. The seating in the room was incredibly uncomfortable for 2 hours which didn’t help. It was the complete opposite of when I saw Ranulph Ffiennes last year, he just came on, did an hour racing through his slides and went off very promptly.

The bar was still open so we helped to drain it. The Farmer’s Blonde, a good local brew and renamed by me as Farmer’s Daughter had finished so Jim and I moved onto whisky. I felt this would help with sleeping in the bunk.

Hazel went off to the room and I followed shortly after. When I got there Liz was already in bed, and Hazel was just going in the bathroom. She went in plunging me into darkness. So I went into the corridor with my rucksack and rootled about for my torch. I was on the verge of helpless laughing at this point but managed to restrain myself.

Went straight to sleep and actually had a decent sleep.

Oh, it’s a line of trees on the skyline!
Big farm pussy
The navigation workshop group

Sunday 3rd March

Breakfast was much the same but with waffles instead of hash browns.

Mal Creasey gave us an update on things the MTA is planning which includes modules on Hill Skills. WGLs and MLs would go for a couple of days training which will then allow us to deliver Hill Skills or Mountain Skills, or both, depending on which awards we hold. This is something I definitely want to do.

Then we got into groups for our workshops. I’d chosen “Environment for Mountain Leaders”. This was run by Jim Longley from Nature’s Work. There were a lot of us (15 incuding Jim) which didn’t really work for me as I had to make sure I kept close to Jim to hear what he was saying and every now and then I would forget and have to trot along to where he was. He knows his stuff and dropped in some teaching aids which I know my pal Cath would like, including an environmental version of what she and I call “People Bingo”, plus we sat and drew pictures of geological events, I was terrible at this. We stopped for lunch (egg roll, crisps, apple), then we were given cards with clues for tree identification. These were all great ideas and have spurred me on to think about doing some of these, I think trees would be a good one for me to do. I’m going to splash out and buy a laminator now that I’ve found I can get one for £20. Along the way, Jim treated us to sloe gin and rose hip syrup which he makes himself and he has links to various recipes from foraged foods on his Facebook page.

We looked quite a bit at geology and I felt I had to think quite a bit which was great. We saw some fungi and looked at sedges and rushes. It’s a real treat to be with someone who knows so much. Much colder than the day before and we walked a little further but a great day out.

Back at the centre for more food (sandwiches, nibbles and cake) and goodbyes. It took me 1 hour and 20 minutes to get home.

Old landslip from the 90s. The land is still in motion.
Sandstone changing to limestone
Jew’s Ear fungus
Peveril Castle
Showing where rock has recently fallen off

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The Peak District is much more badly littered than both Snowdonia and the Lake District and littered much more on the hills which is really depressing. If it was cleaner I probably would walk there more often. Mostly on the Lakeland hills, once you’re away from the car parks, there’s nothing much. I felt really depressed last weekend too when we were in Wales as it was just dreadful everywhere although fine once you’re off the main roads.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.