‘i’ve been there’

I don’t think there is a single place in the world that I’ve been to that somebody else I know hasn’t already visited. Either that or they know someone who has spent time in said place or is planning a trip there later that year.

This might seem a bit strange seeing as I’ve stumbled upon 39 different sovereign states in my near three decades on the planet; but I guess with the advent of cheap flights and the brilliant tool that is the internet, allowing everyone to be there own travel agent, the world really is as small as it ever has been.

‘Oh you’re going to the Gili Islands in Bali? I’ll be there at the same time, we’ll meet up if you like?’……’A weekend in Helsinki and Tallinn? That’s a great trip, we did a cruise there last summer’…..’Moalboal in the Philippines?! Great! I spent time in that village as well a few years back doing some scuba diving’…..And perhaps the best being the chap at work earlier in the year that kindly lent me his LP from the mid 90’s to the bustling metropolis that is Luxembourg City!

This blog comes to you from the old faithful departure lounge that is Bristol Airport. For I am about to embark on a short flight to Switzerland, just an hour and a half away from my second UK home.

Many of you reading this will be thinking ‘I’ve been to Switzerland or am planning a trip there later this year’…..I agree, there is not a lot of ground breaking in visiting what is a major skiing hub for many middle class Brits. Business trips a plenty to the money hubs of Zurich and Geneva go on day to day. It’s hardly an inaccessible long haul flight, internal flight, boat or bus ride away just to get there.

But the place I’m spending a few nights in might just be the first place in the world I’m going to that I don’t know anyone who has been – Crans Montana, situated high up in the Swiss Alps, a two hour train ride and fifteen minute Funicular journey away from Geneva, is the location I’m talking about.

Not heard of it? Thought not – neither had I until last year when I was watching Sky Sports!

I’m not going there for the sake of being the first person in my knowledge to have visited the picturesque, almost fairytale book style Swiss town. I’m going there to watch some top class sport – The European Masters golf tournament has started this morning and I’m lucky enough to be watching some of Europe’s best golfers tee it up over the next three days. It just so happens to be played in what looks on paper to be one of the most stunning locations you could wish to visit (oh the hardship, I hear you cry)

A love of sport has played a huge part in my developing my love of travel.

From short cricket holidays watching England win in Barbados and Mumbai to several weeks travelling across Sri Lanka and South Africa, all the way through to a full eight weeks watching a full Ashes tour develop, sport and travel have gone hand in hand throughout my adult years.

My last tour abroad with England was to the Middle East a couple of years ago, taking in test matches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It was on that final day in Abu Dhabi that a group of us England fans took advantage of a day off (England lost the test match early) to go and watch a top class field assemble in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Tournament.

I walked the course with household sporting names such as Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell. To say I was in awe would be an understatement and as such my interest in the game of golf over the past two years has all but taken over from the England cricket side who have struggled to capture my imagination after the recent Ashes / Kevin Pietersen debacles. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch practically every ball that is bowled in an England cricket match (just ask my missus or work colleagues) I just don’t feel the love for the side that I did twelve months ago.

Another reason my interest in watching test cricket in person has died down in recent years is the fact that the international cricket schedule is reasonably limited in its number of destinations you can visit. I’ve toured all of the main countries (except Bangladesh, New Zealand and Zimbabwe) and in some cases been back several times; such as three trips to India.

The (un)healthy obsession of visiting new countries coupled in with a love of golf has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to watch sport abroad. Looking at this years European Tour schedule the following are virgin territories for me –

Qatar, USA, China, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Turkey.

I’ve developed a major interest in punting on European and PGA tour events, winning big on a couple of occasions earlier on in the year. It was one of those wins back in June that played a big part in the booking of these two trips I’m about to undertake over the next couple of months. In November I will be off to Shanghai in China for a week to watch the worlds best seventy players play in the HSBC WGC but for now its the short hop to the Swiss mountains that beckons.

There are obvious similarities between test cricket and professional golf tournaments. Both are played out over four/five days. Both tend to be played in interesting, sometimes ridiculously glamorous destinations across the globe. Both involve a story-book style script unfold in front of your eyes over the course of its duration, with ebbs and flows that can add fantastic drama and excitement.

What could be better? A new country, a great sport, a new place to explore and a proper chill out……roll on country number 40, Switzerland!

So if you ever want any tip on Crans Montana – in a few days, give me a shout. I should be that annoying bloke that pipes up saying ‘Been there, I know a great bar…..’


4 Responses to “‘i’ve been there’”

  1. 1 Damo
    September 4, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I ve been there rich…oh shit…was Hannah

  2. September 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Have a great time Buddy!

  3. 3 White Hat Jon
    September 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Hi Rich, Jon from Swindon here.

    You will never beleive this mate, but I gave up on the England Cricket Team at the very same time after the UAE debacle and after having met all those golfers in the Crown Plaza in AD, I decided to start following European golf tour. I subsequently booked my first flights, and you wont beleive it, it was for the Crans Montana tourney that year. Circumstances meant I didn’t eventually go but it is really spooky that you are following the same thought process mate. Why don’t we arrange to meet up at a European tourney next year ? We might even get Union Dave out for a long weekend ?

    Enjoy. Jon. (Come on Jaime !!)

    • September 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Good to hear from you, Jon!

      Crans is a fantastic spot to watch the golf, holes 7, 8, 12, 13, 17 and 18 in particular are fantastic viewing holes. Town itself is pretty quiet but just about enough bars and restaurants for a few nights…..Love the idea of a mini trip next year somewhere, loving the craic of following the tour.

      Off to Shanghai in November to watch WGC, but when I come back could start looking at next year (if schedule is announced by then) In the meantime will be at Celtic Manor for Welsh Open on the Saturday……Hope all is well, will be in contact soon in regards next year!

      On Fleetwood at 50s and Hatton at 160s – exciting day ahead tomorrow.

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