A week ago we were beneath the walls of Chester, some of the best preserved Roman remains in Britain. Today, we are at the other end of the Roman empire, in Split on the Dalmatian coast. Mrs IS has long been a keen student of ancient history and we are here to see Diocletian’s palace and the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, built in Diocletian’s mausoleum. This is seriously old stuff, the cathedral being a relative newcomer from the seventh century.

We are staying a few minutes along the coast, in a hotel opened in 1970. It is comfortable, but not easy on the eye, built in the brutalist style apparently popular with Yugoslavian architects of the time.

The coast of Dalmatia

The view from the hotel is stunning, however and this evening we enjoyed a spectacular sunset. It is hot, well over 30 degrees, and the pampered local dogs are being carried by their owners. We haven’t seen a single Dalmatian though, never mind a 101. They are too big to carry probably.

Off and running

The Idle Skiers are in Chester today. We have both been here before; Mrs IS spent a year in a village nearby in the early 1980s and I had a school trip to the zoo in 1969. Needless to say, our memories of the city have faded.

So our destination, Chester racecourse, came as a surprise. It nestles close to the centre of town, beneath the Roman walls and is as picturesque track as you could wish for.

                                     At the races

We were invited here by friends and an excellent day it turned out to be. Not that any of us had a great day backing the horses. Odds on favourites staggered home at the back of the field and unfancied runners romped home.

However, the hospitality was generous and the weather was kind. Tonight, Chester is buzzing with a post race crowd from Liverpool in the main. The ancient walls and Tudor buildings are quaking as I write.

Put out more flags

A reliable weather vane for how busy Southwold might be is the chip shop on East Street. So, on Sunday night, when the queue for the shop stretched almost as far as the town square, it looked like a busy week ahead.

On Monday morning, seemingly against the odds, the town was quiet and has remained so all week. The beach is empty save for the Gulls and the occasional Oystercatcher. Encouraged by the peace, a seal has been patrolling the sea just south of the pier.

Next week will be different though. It will be half term, a double bank holiday and the Jubilee. Already the town’s shops are putting out the flags and the bunting. The post box next to the Swan Hotel is wearing the State Crown, albeit knitted. A funfair has turned up on South Green.

                                               The Lord Nelson Inn

Regular readers will recall that our favourite watering hole in the U.K. is the Lord Nelson Inn, at the end of East Street. We first went there sometime in the late 1980s. For most of the time since then, the tenancy has been in the same family. However, during the country’s many lockdowns the pub went out of business. It has reopened as a managed pub, part of the brewery’s larger estate and without a traditional landlord. The old occasionally grumpy bar staff have gone and the interior has been tidied up. The locals and their dogs are seen less frequently and there is a more corporate feel to the enterprise.

Is it still the best pub? We think so, just, although sadly part of its soul has gone.

Beside the sea

We headed for the seaside today, to our regular haunt in Southwold. As the crow flies, it is less than 120 miles from home. However, not being crows, we headed around the M25 as usual and despite a good journey, unimpeded by tractors or other impedimenta of the Suffolk countryside, it was close to four hours following a very early start when we crossed the small bridge dividing Reydon and Southwold.

The sun was shining but it was a quieter day than most Saturdays in this popular east coast town. We are here for a week and have our usual holiday let and our usual beach hut. It is our sloathful week for the year. We don’t do much other than read and watch the waves.

                                  The North Sea

As the day went on, the wind picked up and we retreated into the beach hut. This evening we met friends in the Lord Nelson Inn. It has been a busy few weeks since we returned from Wengen, with family matters topping the agenda. A week of not doing much at all is very welcome.

All done

Over the last week, several lifts have closed for the season. Bumps T bar went first, followed by Fallboden (not that it runs that often anyway) and the Innerwengen chair on Sunday. Honegg was closed also for a couple of days last week.

Today the wind was forecast to blow and many other lifts were shut. It was windy, but perhaps not as much as expected. It did seem that parts of the mountain were cut off without any need. The day was grey and miserable though.

                From the Arven red piste

The forecast, reliable or not as it might be, is for some very poor weather tomorrow and heavy snow on Saturday. There is sunshine forecast for Sunday and it should be one of the great days of the season. There must be, without doubt, enough snow to see out the last couple of weeks before all the lifts close.

My season is done though. I skied my last run in the mid afternoon as rain turned to snow and the wind did blow strongly. We are in Wengen for a couple more days, but on Sunday, when the skiers are enjoying what might be fabulous conditions, we will be heading for Zurich airport and on to London.

For us it has been a strange winter. It didn’t unfold as we hoped in any way at all. For me, the skiing was a consistent highpoint, with wonderful early snow and good conditions all winter, even in the long snow drought of February and early March. However, the lows were very low indeed, with illness and death stalking the family. Mrs IS, hit by illness herself in the middle of January, was unable to ski for the rest of the season.

The final day of my winter brought 6,016 vertical metres in 14 lift rides and 32 kilometres travelled.

As for the season, 114 days skiing brought 1,001,297 vertical metres in 2,245 lift rides and 5,651 kilometres travelled.

I hope to be in touch over the summer.

Another day, different again

This morning it was grey again early on, but chilly. On the piste it was icy from the cable car to Holenstein. Things changed quickly though; the sun emerged and the pistes softened. By 11.00am Mannlichen was stodgy and hard work.

Yesterday, I was convinced that the season, in terms of numbers of skiers at least, was at an end. However, there is still life in Wengen yet and today the pistes were busier, as were the village bars and the Co-op. The English school holidays account for many of the new skiers

                                  The Eiger at mid day

Each day seems to be radically different from its predecessor at the moment. If the weather forecast is correct, tomorrow will be different again, with some pretty poor weather expected. Of course, it might all have changed by the morning.

What was finally a warm, sunny day brought 10,536 vertical metres in 21 lift rides and 65 kilometres travelled.

A day for all seasons

It was grey and cold first thing. It snowed early on and into the late morning. The sun was trying its best though and by mid day we had lighter skies, with sunshine in the early afternoon. The temperature went from about freezing first thing to double figures by the middle of the afternoon. The snow went from near perfect to very stodgy.

                      Early morning grey

The lifts are open for another couple of weeks, but the village is winding down already. A number of hotels have closed in the last few days and the main street is quiet both early and late. Wengen will soon be slumbering until the summer season.

A day for all seasons brought 10,405 vertical metres in 20 lift rides and 65 kilometres travelled.

One sunny day

It was a prompt start today.  The cable car was busy, but not full.  Most people on the platform seemed to know each other and there was a murmur of conversation, the quietness reflecting the early hour.  On Mannlichen, the still cold snow glistened in the sunlight.  

We had a month or more of sunshine in late February and March, but after three days of snow, the sunshine was welcome once more.  Spring skiing should be warm and sunny and so it was today.  Tomorrow might be warm, but sunshine looks limited. 

                             Early morning sunshine

For an out of season Monday, the hill was busy. Each car of the gondola from Grund was occupied, suggesting a fair number of day trippers from Interlaken and beyond. As always when day skiers are out and about, it was quiet by mid afternoon.

An early start brought 11,702 vertical metres in 22 lift rides and 63 kilometres travelled.

Lauberhorn run

The Lauberhorn is many things; a peak, a lift, a piste (not the racecourse, oddly) and a downhill race. In recent years it has also been an uphill race, the World Cup run in reverse. When it began, it seemed anything went; running shoes, snow shoes and touring skis all featured. Now it seems to have settled into a run, or a walk for those at the back of the field.

This morning dawned (or at least became less grey) with the snow still falling. I headed up to the village at about 9.00am to find a steady stream of runners heading towards the start line at Innerwengen. The queue at the tourist office for race registration was long. This race has become a fixture in the Wengen calendar.

                                 A break in the clouds

It was busier on the mountain this morning than at any point yesterday. Visibility was better though. We had sunshine, almost, for a while. I reached Wixi in the afternoon. The last finishers for the run were approaching the finish point at what is the World Cup start hut. One was wearing an old fashioned wooden frame on his back, which held a milk churn. I can only hope it was not full, as it would have been back when mountain farming was even more labour intensive than it is today.

A varied day, with runners, skiers, cloud and more snow brought 8,170 vertical metres in 17 lift rides and 46 kilometres travelled.

Not as we know it

It has been Saturday today, but not as we know it.  The 9.30am cable car was more than half full, but the mountain was more than half empty.  Boningen ski club turned up, as did the Wengen equivalent, again, but that was about it for the Saturday regulars and it felt like an out of season mid week day.

It had snowed through the night, but the pistes were prepared to perfection.  Despite the low cloud and continuing snow, visibility was somewhere between adequate and okay. The digital displays at the lift stations insisted all day that it was minus eleven degrees on the hill, but it never felt that cold. With that temperature, I would expect to be in five layers with inner gloves and hand warmers, but I was quite happy with a mere four layers.  There was however little or no wind today.

                              Bumps in the afternoon 

As the day wore on, the skiers went home. On Bumps in the afternoon there were a couple of local snowboarders weaving in and out of the trees, but otherwise I had the run to myself.

The village was fairly busy, with people arriving and registering for the Lauberhorn run tomorrow. The course is the downhill in reverse. It doesn’t bear thinking about, especially with so much new snow.

A good day brought 7,896 vertical metres in 17 lift rides and 44 kilometres travelled.