Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

European expeditions of late

Would you Adam and Eve it? I almost forgot about this, but recently I have been rather jet-set and embarked on a touch of European traveling (what, what.) In a treacherous move, I only wrote blogs about two of these visits on my company’s blog (which you really ought to check out, as I edit the thing), but I thought that maybe you’d like to read these official versions. To that end, click the links and you can read about my work trip to sample the wines of Piedmont and my holiday to Jerez, where the sole aim was to drink copious amounts of Sherry and eat top-notch tapas. Finally, for your pleasure only, here is a picture of me, full of delicious food, happy and a bit defeated after my sixth or seventh 4-course meal in a row in Italy. A pasta course as well as a meat course? What do you mean it’s rude to say no?


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Ode to a grubby friend

Today I face a dilemma.  It’s no life-changing decision, nor will its outcome affect anyone other than myself, but it is playing on my mind greatly nonetheless. It’s to do with my rucksack: do I wash it or not? A trivial question, you may think – “just wash the damn thing, you dirty tramp”. I can see where these thoughts could come from but, you see, my rucksack is my only true travelling companion and the dirt that is ingrained in his seams is all a part of who he is – who I am – and washing it would mean losing a little part of that forever. It’s not like he smells or anything.

From the moment I picked him from the crowd of stupid pink ‘girl’ rucksacks (who incidentally don’t have key clips inside them – why is this? Is it because the man must always carry clinky objects?  I don’t think so, otherwise men’s wallets would have change compartments – which is also a mystery to me) our adventure together began. Not only have we spent many nights  alone (and in company) together, sleeping in tents, rooms, or even under the stars, he has also joined me each day to the dull, grey skies of Basingstoke and beyond, he’s waited for hours for delayed trains, boats, buses, planes – even battered old utes. Our love is no fair-weather bond; he is a loyal friend. Like wrinkles on a well-worn face, the small streaks and dusty patches on his skin tell tales of his life with me – of dusty Savanna plains, of  spice-breeze shores, African wilderness, mighty storms and probably a healthy dose of wine and food. Heck he was even with me when we were chased by Hippos. Also, a small part of me doesn’t want to delve toooo deep inside his many alluring compartments – occasionally he throws up (excuse the expression) a real gem that brings memories flooding back; a map of a path I trekked, a ticket to a museum or, heaven forbid, a note from a boy, long forgotten and living on another continent.  This bag is a constant, comforting reminder of adventure and I love him just the way he is.

So, tell me – do you really have to wash a rucksack?

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Consider this a postcard

I really feel I ought to write about my recent trip to Chile, but how does one possibly begin to sum up a two week trip in one little post? Well, fear ye not, I will not be attempting to do this. Instead, I will give you a nice, bite-sized round-up of my top five things that happened (Vicky, this does not include seeing you for the first time in two years, which was obviously the overall delight!):

1) Dancing with pikeys in a sticky bar, drinking ‘Earthquakes’ (beer, wine, a scoop of pineapple icecream…and possibly also a shot of vodka..it was hard to determine the exact ingredients and no-one really seemed to know). Top moments from the afternoon (yes, I know, it was actually still light when we left) include watching Vicky dance the Chilean national dance to the accordion and being chatted up with the charming phrase: “How do you say ‘I want to gauge out your eyes and get married to them’?”. I also quite enjoyed chatting to the security guard in the supermarket afterwards, who told us that he’d just divorced his wife after she stabbed him, shortly before giving Vicky his email address. Sometimes I wonder if that actually happened, or if was just the result of the beer/wine/vodka combo…

2) Climbing the Villarica Volcano at 4am…not least because our instructor had the most beautiful bottom I have ever seen in real life (as I have not yet actually met Rafael Nadal). My particular favourite point of the event was when Vicky pissed into the wind and ended up with wee on her boots.

3) Various national dishes consumed, thanks to Vicky and Schuyler, who ensured that I pretty much tried all that was possible on a shoe-string budget. I’ll be badgered if I can remember the proper names for all the dishes, but particular favour went to Cazuela (or Consuela for the sake or ease and comedy), empanadas (basically Cornish pasties) and various seafood sampled in fish markets around the towns.

4) Our final night, which ended up with Vicky and I chatting to lovely Chilean barmen in an empty restaurant and then eating some suspicious looking raw meat dish in a German Bierstube, before running over the dual carriageway to check out the commotion at a gig (which turned out to be a closed-off Ramones tribute act) and finally deciding to take the night bus home and being stared at for being giggling foreigners all the way (although one ganster-looking chap was smiling nicely at us). Ace, that’s what good times are made of.

5) Enjoying a walk through the lovely national park at Huereque and relaxing in the thermal spas that evening, watching the sun set over the volcano while we chatted the night away in the pools.

Right, that pretty much sums it up. Other things may or may not have happened, but a blog may not be the ideal forum for such discussions…

Oh, and we also watched Barack Obama being sworn in, in a TV shop in Valparaiso, but I can’t really say it was a highlight because the Spanish dubbing meant that I was just watching his face move and getting tired legs for the best part of 40 minutes.

Ciao for now.

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It’snow fun

As I write this I should be preparing to land in Santiago de Chile to visit my best friend who I have not seen for nearly two years, but instead I am sat in bed in Reading in a house with no heating, suffering ever so slightly from gin-based drinking games last night.

The reason for this? Snow. Yes, fair people, in this day and age where it is possible to create see-through suits, have real-time video calls with people the other side of the world and travel to the moon, it would seem that nothing can rival the power of Mother Nature, even at her relatively mildest, for Madrid airport (where I was transiting through) was closed due to a freak snowstorm yesterday. As a result I spent a precious day of my two week holiday (not to mention a day off work) sat on a dusty floor in Heathrow’s Terminal 2, shuffling along and trying not to lose my patience with riled fellow passengers who began acting totally irrationally.

Anyway, today is a new day and I am booked onto a brand new flight tonight – this time via Brazil (I’m hoping that snow won’t be too much of a problem there). I am doing my best to look on the bright side; I am going from Terminal 5 (this actually made me squeal with excitement when I was finally re-booked at 8.30pm last night) and I am going with BA, which I am hoping will mean a better plane than Iberia…only time will tell…

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Messing about in boats

I have decided that commuting by boat has to be the way forward.  After a scenic taxi ride across Bristol harbour the other weekend (encouraging me to dub Bristol ‘England’s answer to Cape Town’), I also experienced the joys of the Clipper commuter boat in London yesterday.  I honestly can’t think of a less stressful way to commute in London than gliding past the houses of Parliament, the Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, London Eye etc, all in comfort with a TV and coffee bar!  So it may not be practical for all locations (and is undoubtedly not the the most cost effective way of traveling) but it’s certainly fun for a day trip and beats walking along South Bank for miles during school holidays when you’ve already traipsed half way across the capital…

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Newcaaastle (pet)*

When a friend of mine emailed me to ask if I’d accompany her on an all expenses paid work trip to Newcastle I knew I was on to a good thing.  All we had to do was attend a fair to celebrate the Angel of the North’s 10th birthday and go to the Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery – the rest was fun, fun, fun (and the ‘work’ didn’t sound too taxing either!).

So, Saturday morning saw me excitedly heading up further North than I’d ever been before (bar Scotland) on a shit train journey.  Well, I thought it was shit until the journey home, which really took the biscuit, but I shan’t dwell on the negatives here – Mark the train manager was a lovely Bournemouth man who was very helpful and provided us with plenty of insider tips on which carriges to choose and I learned all about Wayne and Coleen’s wedding from OK.

After a long cross-country trip we arrived in Newcastle, struggling to understand taxi drivers, being called posh and desperately trying to stay dry despite the heavy downpour that was obscuring our vision and wetting our boots.  It was great – what an adventure we had, as we headed to the Baltic Mill to get a behind the scenes tour of the gallery and all its fantastic events spaces. Come the evening and we were ready for cocktails – and cocktails we had, as well as copious amounts of wine and finally, in a bid to fit in with the clientele at ‘Jimmyz’, Southern Comfort.  I suppose I could write a fair entry just about the nightlife we encountered – everything from (rather attractive) hairy barmen to 40-somethings on the prowl with piggy-shaped kitties to keep them in supply of Bacardi Breezers all night long.  One man even kissed my boob and then, when I turn around to ask what the fuck that was all about, tried to fob it off by telling me that he was ‘just sniffing my armpit’.  And I thought Reading was bad.  Bizarrely one of the highlights of our evening was watching the ‘romance’ blossom between a trendy townie and a total minger in Jimmyz – I almost had tears in my eyes as they finally went in for the kiss and his hand rose, tenderly up her short, frilly skirt.  I reckon they were at least 30 – Jimmyz was a classy joint.

Amazingly we evaded hangovers on Sunday and made it up to the Angel of the North by midday, just in time to see a fantastic ska-esque/middle eastern gypsy band play some parp-i-licious songs before the event was cancelled due to an accident, in which the gale force winds rendered a lady hospitalised by a marquee (not quite sure of the details but I think she was fine in the end).  We also managed to make mini angels with the toys from Carly’s company (Mega Blocks-a mention’s the least I can do!), plus the Angel was truly breathtaking.  Rarely do I feel the word ‘awesome’ can be used without sounding like a desperate backpacker on weed, but this was an instance when it was warranted.  Coupled with brooding stormy skies and ska music, I was pretty happy!  Even though the journey home took eight and a half hours (someone stole a power cable in Doncaster.  Who?  Why?), it still couldn’t dampen my memories of a brilliant weekend.  I must admit that Monday back in the office was a trial though.  I’ll fly next time.

*Caution, contains mild swearing

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Isle of Man TT 2008

TT-riffic. Ha, brilliant, I am the master of all jokes.

Anyway, I did indeed return to the Isle of Man at the weekend to find the sun a’blasing and the bikes a’racing. It was brilliant.

I am not a biker, I have no idea what CC even stands for and I certainly don’t have a clue about what makes a motorbike good and what fine line separates the seemingly ridiculous and the ultra cool retro chic, however, I had a great time despite this.

Kiddies were eagerly learning all there was to know with their Daddies, bikers were congregating around the sticky floors of the beer tent and the carvery vans, local kids were snogging by the fairground at the prom, and Isle of Man nationals were giddy with amazement that the main road in Douglas might actually have traffic on it (i.e. more than ten cars). Cracking.

The Isle of Man is a great little place, go if you can but pray it doesn’t rain – I was lucky, I came home to Reading bronzed, while they had all endured a weekend of rain – nothing more satisfying than that, is there?

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