The Loire

The Loire. Photo hosted at Flickr

The Loire
Originally uploaded by graybo.

The Loire between Saumur and Angers, somewhere around Saint Mathurin sur Loire, looking upriver.
Although the river here is several hundred metres across, it is remarkably fast-flowing. That blob on the right was a lump of detritus of some sort, one of many flowing downstream. They often accumulate at bridges and around the islands.

Travel ramblings

Travel blogging – written over a period of 8 days and completed on Friday using Cal’s marvellous Noted application – so much more refined than your crappy old Notepad.

Airport ranting! Why do I always ended up seated in departures next to someone who has clearly never caught a plane before?
Him: Oooo, look – they still haven’t put a departure gate up.
Her: No, not yet.
Him: It’s only three days until boarding time. You’d think that they would have it up by now.
Her: Mmmm, yes. There are still a whole bunch of flights above ours on the screen that don’t have gates yet.
Him: Maybe they’re still cleaning the loos.
Her: Mmmmm.
Him: Or the plane hasn’t arrived. I bet that’s it. The plane hasn’t arrived.

Reasons why I prefer flying BA from Gatwick:
– they fly from the North Terminal, which is vastly superior and not filled with plebs.
– they give you a better quality seat on the plane.
– you can check in electronically without the need to queue.
– you can choose your own seat without a rugby scrum.
– they give you tea and a sandwich.
So why am I flying EasyJet from South Terminal today, complete with rugby scrum, plebs, crap seats, check-in queue and surcharged tea and sandwiches? Because they’re a darned sight less expensive on this route.

Oh for the love of all that is good in the world, they’re playing Mull of Kintyre of the chuffing PA system and the bloke next to me is singing along. And, no, I don’t care if he looks over my shoulder.

Anyway, I’m off to Venice. Sounds romantic? Not a bit of it. I’m flying slum class into Marco Polo before getting a taxi to Padua, arriving late at night, sleeping over in the hotel and then spending all of tomorrow at a trade show in a less-than-glamorous conference centre, before getting another taxi back in the darkness to Venice and the late slum-class flight to Gatwick, arriving just in time to do the midnight nappy.
Still, it’s the first time I’ve done this event, part of my effort to make up for missing Europe’s biggest show which was straight after the arrival of Tom. So, hopefully, I’ll do some useful business.

Time to board.

Well, Padua certainly was worthwhile, if only to get up to speed with the politics of my industry. One of the problems with working in such a small industry (there are no more than twenty businesses doing what I do in the world, half of which are one-man/woman businesses [actually, they’re almost all men], and seven or eight of whom are in alliance with each other, including some of the companies that I work with) is that there are almost alwys some political issues to be dealt with. In Padua, I discovered that one of my competitors has been rather over-stepping the mark with regard to one of the products that I manage and then sought to get my permission to do what he was already doing. As I’m generally inclined to work directly rather than through local sub-agents whenever I can, the answer was pretty much always going to be “no” anyway, as one of my other competitors who happened to be there at the same time already knew. But the fact that this guy had already gone where he knew he shouldn’t have already made me less inclined to hear him out. He got a firm “no, no, no” from me. There isn’t anything that he is doing that I can’t do myself, making more money for me and for my breeder clients, but it leaves a messy issue to resolve and a bunch of confused grower clients. (This probably means nothing to most people, but there you go).

As you’ve already seen, I managed to get a brief hour (or just an hour, as hours are neither brief nor long – they’re just hours, sixty minutes) to wander from the convention centre into the city centre in Padua. The outskirts of the city are downright ugly and belie the beauty of the city centre. Certainly, when approached from Venice, all you see are industrial units and smokestacks. Mind you, as you fly into Venice, all you see from the plane is an oil depot – you’d think that someone would think about these things.

The flight home was marked by one of the longest queues for security that I’ve ever endured at an airport; the realisation that whilst Venice airport is a gorgeous building, the catering facilities on offer after security are crap; and a full plane (cramped – another reason not to fly EasyJet) with a groin-scratching smelly Italian as a neighbour. (Let me add that I have nothing against Italians – most of them are very nice – but I don’t like smelly groin-scratchers of any nationality).

After a few days of rest and catch-up back home, on Wednesday of this week in bombed down to Portsmouth to get the late late sailing to Caen for a trip on to Angers for another show. Yes, more lovely surroundings in the Loire valley, viewed from the inside of a conference centre. Meh. At least this time, thanks to my late booking leaving me with only a hotel in Saumur, 30-odd miles away, I had a chance to take the back road alongside the river from the conference centre to my bed, and enjoyed the views. The exhibition itself was useful with almost nothing but good news and positive vibes, including some very flattering comments from one of the largest companies in my industry in Europe. On the downside, I have spent the show wandering around in a zombie-like state, thanks to Tom having a restless night before my departure and then a generous swell at sea on the crossing leaving me pretty much unable to sleep. Once I hit the hay last night after a pretty good meal in a Saumur brasserie, I slept solidly for some time thorugh a phone call and alarm, leaving me rushing around like mad this morning and dashing back to Caen to get the ferry with only minutes to spare. Thank goodness that Hels called me when she did this morning.

The ferry back is only a little less rough, but I’ve managed to locate a power socket so that I can listen to some music and complete this long boring rambling post for you. I only do it because I love you, dear readers! Count yourselves, um, lucky.

Hula girl

Hula girl. Photo hosted at Flickr

Hula girl
Originally uploaded by graybo.


I’ve just been to an exhibition in Padua. Here, a company selling plastic garden pools had a stand consisting of one representative, a desk, a sample plastic pool and, bizarrely, a mannequin dressed as a hula girl. No, I don’t know why either.


Olives. Photo hosted at Flickr

Originally uploaded by graybo.


You’ve read articles about Italian olive farmers claiming EU subsidies for groves that have already been grubbed up. What you may not know is that there is a whole industry dedicated to putting these ancient trees into very small pots and then selling them at hugely inflated prices to idiotic northern Europeans like you and me. So it’s a win-win for the olive farmer.


Griddled scallops and king prawns with tomatoes, followed by grilled duck breast with marmalade glaze, topped off by chocolate soufflé. We’re stuffed and the Valentine’s Day foodfest has passed for another year.