Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Located on the southern tip of Egypt's Sinai peninsula, Sharm el Sheikh overlooks the Straits of Tiran in the Red Sea. It's well known for it's diving and snorkelling and is home to a number of hotels and resorts.  From Europe, at this time of year, there aren't as many choices for hot weather destinations without committing to long haul flights and time changes.  The Sinai, however, fits the bill with 5 hours flying time from Geneva (through Cairo) and daily temperatures in the high 20s.  I was almost desperate to go. I needed a break from the sometimes frantic pace of skiing and a winter of the dizzying cycle of packing and unpacking all the equipment.  I needed to feel true heat and hear the birds sing.  I wanted to see these trees...

I thought I had my work really cut out for me as we already had plans to go to Lech, Austria after Kitzbühel and then back to Saanen for more spring skiing.   However, the I-can't-go-on-a-holiday-without-lots-of-activities-to-do angels were on my side.  As soon as Jeff discovered there was a kiteboarding school in Sharm, run by a couple of Aussies and appropriately called "Kite Junkies", he was in.

The resort was beautiful and the service amazing.  For 6 days, the kinds of  difficult choices we had to make were whether to sit by the pool or on the beach and what kind of omelette to have for breakfast!  

view to the Red Sea and the island of Tiran in the background
The kids had a blast swimming, snorkelling and they all did some scuba diving.  They each did an introductory dive, one-on-one with a dive master and then the boys were able to go on and do a "discover scuba diving" 4-hour course where they did some theory, a pool dive and a sea dive to 12m.

esmee on the descent
graydy + eli after their dive

Jeff took the boys for three full mornings to Kite Junkies where they learned how to kite board.  They loved it and did really well.  Two of the three days were windy enough for Jeff to get out on his own.  He was in heaven...

the scene at Kite Junkies beach


As for me, I did not dive or kite board.  I swam with my kids, but mostly sat on my ass by the pool.  I spent some quality time with the likes of Raymond Carver + Ernest Hemingway, among others...   

It was a wonderful break, a true holiday where parents and kids alike were happily at ease.  It was not a cultural adventure, there were no tourist excursions, just pure fun + relaxation in the sun.  It's embarrassing to admit, but I'm not even entirely sure where the Pyramids are.  We'll save them for our next trip....

Thursday, 12 April 2012


We spent the first part of the 3 week school holiday visiting the Duras family in Kitzbühel, Austria.  Kitzbühel is most famous in the skiing world for The Hahnenkamm, the most terrifying and demanding men's downhill race on the World Cup circuit.  Our hotel was at the base of the Hahnenkamm Gondola, so even though the race takes place in January, it loomed large in our minds the entire time we were in Kitz.
Graydon in the start of the famous Hahnenkamm

The course itself is called the Strief (german for streak) and having now skied it myself (slowly and carefully, with lots of turns), I can assure you that all the hype about this run is true.  It has it all - huge jumps, narrow passages, hairpin turns and really steep pitches.  As Jeff said - you're on the gas from the moment you leave the start and you can't let up until you cross the finish line.  There's no room for error and nowhere to relax, even for a second.  Just ask Todd Brooker or Brian Stemmle, 2 Canadians who have had spectacular crashes on The Strief.

Imagine our pleasure on the first morning as we climbed into the gondola, only to discover a large sticker on the window with Didier Cuche's name, a Swiss flag and a list of all his wins at Kitzbühel.  It only took a few seconds before we realized that each gondola cabin is named after Hahnenkamm winners, so it became a race to see who could read the names on the cabins first as we passed each one.  Big Canadian cheers when we passed Steve Podborski (1981+1982), Ken Read (1980) and Todd Brooker (1983) - a 4 year reign of the Crazy Canucks!  On our last day, Esmée and I waited at the bottom to get a picture of her beside Craigleith's own Steve Podborski.

It was wonderful to see Matthew and Veronica and get to know their lovely daughters, Isabella and Valentina.  Veronica is Austrian and her family has a beautiful working dairy farm in the Kitz valley where they all gather for weekends and holidays.  Matthew is Canadian, but has been living and working in Czech running his family's farm since the early 1990s.  They met skiing in Kitz and now live in Tetin, just outside Prague.  

dinner with the duras clan
Spending time with Matthew, an old friend of both Jeff and I, and getting to know his family better was tremendously good for our souls.  Amid the constant reminiscing about the good 'ole days of tree planting and ski racing, there were many, many laughs and lots of exploring on the ski hills together.  Plans are already underway for an excursion to the Czech Republic in July...

esmée, isabella + valentina
delicious lunches on the mountain
amazing views
old school double chair with swing out bars and foot rests