Paris, Day 1

Hello, and welcome to Day 1 of my Paris holiday write-up. Let me tell you that this should be well documented, as I have taken over 1,000 photos. No, seriously.

Right, where to start? Well, the beginning would be nice, I suppose. therefore, I shall whisk you back to approximately 7AM on Tuesday, 15th July 2008. I awoke from my steaming pit at that time, as we were going to pick up Jonathan and Chris at 7:30. Well, that’s what I thought anyway.

I had a quick bath, only for Daddykins to inform me that he actually wanted to set off at 7:20 and get to Chris’s by 7:30. Oh, the joy of it all. Therefore, the quick bath got even quicker. In fact, I barely had enough time to stick my balls under the tap.

I then jumped out the bath and began meticulously checking my hand written list of things I was taking, just to make sure everything I needed was there. It looked as if it was. Awesome!

We set off, and arrived at Chris and Jonathan’s house by ooooh, 7:34. So, only 4 minutes late. Not too bad.

I knock on the door, only to find that Jonathan wasn’t ready, due to the fact he’d been driving up here until 2AM in the morning, as he currently lives daaaahn saaaaf.

Off we jolly well popped, up the A19 to Newcastle Airport. It wasn’t long until the camera was broken out, though for now, I’ll not resort to showing you scary photos, or photos of streetlights, there’s plenty of time for that in the next hundred or so updates I’ll write about this trip.

After last years’ fiasco over parking, where Daddykins got charged £6 for waiting about 15 minutes in Newcastle Airport, he dropped us off on the outskirts, near the roundabout, meaning that there was a slight walk to the entrance. Perfectly acceptable, I thought, especially as we’d be doing plenty of walking over the coming days.

So, we enter the complex and arrive at the check-in desk. The lovely young lady behind the counter instructs us to the use the self check-in machines. As much as I love computers, I absolutely hate anything that has the word “self” at the beginning. They just never work. This was no exception. After following the instructions on the screen, it prints out ONE boarding card. There are three of us. The bloody self-service machine brings up an error, and then instructs us to contact the lovely young lady sat behind the Air France desk, who then checks the other two of us in. Why couldn’t she have done that in the sodding first place? Sigh.

As our bags disappeared along the conveyor belt into the unknown, I nipped off to buy a little travel guide – one of the Lonely Planet ones. £6 it cost, but did turn out to be very handy. I’d say that it was probably better than the one I bought for Berlin last year.

Chris got his money exchanged, and we headed to the departure lounge. Of course, this involves the added indignity of having to remove your belt, and in some cases, shoes too. It’s something that is necessary, yet strangely humiliating (though not as humiliating as getting frisked like I had to be last year).

Thankfully, this year we didn’t change planes, so didn’t have to do this twice in each direction.

Once again, the passports were checked, and we headed off to find the bar we went to last year… Disaster! The departure lounge had completely changed, and the bar was boarded up and closed! The large seating areas were now taken up by another bar (it was actually the same bar I was referring to, but it had moved out of its old location, and into where the seating area was).

The large amounts of open space has also been “built on”, and to access the gates, you had to go through a duty-free store. This annoyed me, slightly.

I went into WH Smiths, in order to buy something to read on the plane, Chris bought something to drink from the same shop, and Jonathan looked around somewhere else. As could be predicted, we got separated, and had to cross through this bloody duty free shop.

A heavily done up assistant approached me, looking like she’d just tripped up in the make-up aisle.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?”, she asked, Geordily.

I looked at Chris and said “Yes, his brother…”

There was a few moments silence, and she walked off looking slightly bemused. Eventually, we met up with Jonathan (the shop assistant was no help at all on that one), and proceeded to another bar which had been constructed, coincidentally in a Parisienne style fashion. Now, considering this was a duty free area, the beer was 33% more expensive than it was last year, and it tasted 33% warmer too.

At some point during this whole waiting procedure, we looked out across the runway to see an awesome looking flighter jet getting some service done to it.

Acer Image

We then hovered about, watching the destination boards, waiting for our plane to come up and show a gate number. This seemed to take forever, but eventually, up it came, and we headed off in that general direction. I believe it was the same departure gate we were at for Berlin last year, but can’t really remember. It seemed to look very familiar.

The plane was tiny. It looked even smaller than the little fokker I flew in last year. I didn’t really mind, but I was a bit concerned that we’d have to land half way through so someone could get out and wind the elastic band back up.

We headed out onto the tarmac, but not before getting our passports checked AGAIN. The flight was perfectly fine. I got chatting to a nice young lady sat next to me who explained she was off to Disneyland with her neice who was in front.

We landed, and the weather was lovely. Let me just try to explain how big Charles De Gaulle airport is… HUGE. I’m surprised it doesn’t have its own national anthem.

According to a quick play with Google Earth, Heathrow Airport is 3.3 miles from corner to corner, this is 5.5 miles.

This would explain the queue for the passport checks that we were in that must have been at least a quarter of a mile long. In fact by the time we’d reached halfway down the queue, I’d eaten an entire bag of Haribo chews. The person who I’d talked to on the plane got right to the front of the queue instanmtly because their family had a kid. By the looks of the line, it seemed quite possible that I could court, copulate and become a father by the time I got to passport control. In the sheer boredom, I began to wonder if there was anyone even slightly famous in the queue.

We collected our bags, and attempted to find some type of exit. Apparently the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was in that queue somewhere, as someone was waiting to pick them up outside the airport, waving a big white card.

Now, finding our way to the centre of Paris was going to be fun. Something that we (or rather I, as I decided which hotel to book) didn’t take into account is the distance of the airport from the hotel. A taxi may have been possible, but expensive. We decided to risk the train system. We must have spent about an hour trying to work out the tube map and roughly where we wanted to be. It would have been a good idea to actually plan that type of stuff before I’d left England, or at least consulted Google Earth for the nearest tube map. It would be something I’d kick myself later on in the day about.

We consulted the tiny (yet useful as the week went on) tube map, and got a train to one of the main stations in Paris – the name of which escapes me (Gare Du Nord, or Gare De Lyon, I think), and then get on to the metro to a station named Invalides. Unfortunately, this metro station was 0.6 miles away from the hotel, and Chris’s homing-pigeon instincts let us down for the first time EVER, and we headed off in completely the wrong direction, meaning that the journey we’d taken walking with heavy bags actually went on for 1.2 miles. Luckily, on the way there was a shop that sold water at a reasonable price, otherwise I don’t think I’d have made it. Although it was warm at the airport, the city heat just made it unbearable, especially when we didn’t know where we were going, with no end in sight. Eventually, after what felt like a month, we just happened to stumble upon the hotel. We checked in, and after taking a moment to regain composure, and to soak up the sweat, we headed up to the rooms.

The first of (thankfully not many) embarrasing moments came when I collected my key and couldn’t actually open the door – Jonathan showed me how to do it. Turns out the handle on the front of the door is just for show. you open the door by turning the key clockwise, and then pushing. Clever, but confusing when you’re dehydrated, hungry and fed up of lugging a case and a bag around a capital city. Actually, it’s not clever at all. I guess I just suck at opening other people’s doors. Maybe I’m the ani-burglar, or something

Anyway, I went into my room, Chris and Jonathan (hereafter referred to as C+J as it’s too hard to type otherwise) went in theirs. It was about 6PM at this point, and we arranged to meet an hour later to go out and see the Eiffel Tower, as it was less than a mile away from the hotel. I decided to have a proper bath seeing as my earlier one had been so rudely interrupted, and a lie down.

Two hours later I awoke. I went to C+J’s room, and knocked on the door. No answer. Were they both dead? Had they gone and left me all on my own?

At great expense, I called Jonathan on his mobile. Chris answered. I asked where they were, and they replied they were already at the Eiffel Tower. He’d knocked on my door, and there was absolutely no answer. How odd.

Anyway, they made their way back along to meet me, and all three of us had a wander up to the Eiffel Tower.

This was 15th July, the day after the Bastille Day celebrations, which meant that there were still areas cordoned off. New trees which had been planted still had bits of hardboard around them, and metal barriers littered the avenue leading up to the tower. This arrangement, however, allowed some people to make use of the obscure arrangement and make a temporary football pitch in the sand.

Acer Image

It’s only until you get underneath it that you notice all of the effort that had gone into creating it. it’s really quite intimidating.

Acer Image

Something also intimidating is the sheer amount of foreigners selling stupid, badly made little miniature eiffel tower keyrings and shit like that. There are hundreds of them littered around the city, all selling exactly the same tat.

Something impressive was the size of the queues. to get up the tower. Absolutely enourmous. 45 minute waiting times at least. I could think of better things to do for our first night, so we gave it a miss. Instead, we crossed the River Seine for the first time, and began to take photos of the sun going down, with the Eiffel Tower mostly in the foreground.

Acer Image

After the sun set, we headed off to the bars near the hotel, as there were quite a few. It was getting on, and we didn’t fancy anything to eat, so we just got beers. Extortionate is the word that would fit in nicely here. Something like €5.50 for a 250ml glass. That’s less than half a pint. Holy cow.

One small beer later, we returned to the hotel to sum up the day, but not before we nipped into a local shop to pick up some essentials, and those essentials would be… BACON FLAVOUR BUGLES! My word, I had no idea they still made Bugles! I know they don’t over here. I think the last packet of those I had was back in March 2002 when I went down to London. I much prefer the BBQ flavour, but they don’t seem to exist anymore, even in France. Ah well.

I went to put the stuff in my room, and as I exited, Chris was in the middle of saying something…

“And then after that, we can… wait, did you come out of room 302?”

I nodded affirmatively, and audibly confirmed this with an “Aaaaaye?”

“BOLLOCKS. I thought you were in room 301. I was knocking on the wrong door earlier…”

I ate my Bugles, and went to bed. It was far too warm to sleep with the window closed, and far too noisy to sleep with the window open. Turns out that the hotel is situated alongside a military school, with nice solid walls so any traffic noise, or in fact the noise of people breathing echoes upwards. What doesn’t help either is the fact that the end of the road was actually on cobbles.

What made things even worse is that the room door was thin, and let any type of noise in. I swear, someone farted 4 doors away and I could smell it.

Eventually, I fell asleep on top of the covers, and prepared for Day 2…

Oh my word, it’s almost holiday time

Yes, it’s almost time that I shirk the responsibility of hosting a top class blog, and disappear to another part of the continent for a week. This means that I will be unable to keep you informed of such announcements as the server reboot / failure that took place on Tuesday Morning. Although I hate to keep you un-informed of realtime changes and problems to do with this site, it does mean that you will be with my irreplaceable wit and charm for a full week.

I’m sorry to break that news to you, and I’m sure you’ll all be devastated at the news. Yeah, righto.

Let me start off by saying I still have one niggling doubt. A doubt that I can’t explain in detail, though it is something that could easily mean that one of us does not fly. I have been assured that this “slight difference of opinion” has been corrected, but I will not know until we arrive at the check-in desk at Newcastle Airport on the appropriate day.

I shall, for once, pull myself away from looking forward to my holiday, and comment on what is happening right now. Looking out from the turrets of Merucuryvapour Towers, I can inform you that the sky is leaking. A lot.

It’s been another three days off where I’ve done quite a bit, but it feel like I haven’t. Let’s start off with Wednesday. It was the only day of the week where I was able to do what I wanted – the only day where the rain wasn’t constantly bouncing off the tarmac.

On Wednesday, I’d finished at 8AM. Normally, at this point I’d go straight to bed, in the vain hope of being able to get up at a reasonable time and make some use of the day. Thankfully, this didn’t happen, and I was physically able to stay up. Chris had phoned me the previous night, and we’d made plans to meet at the flea market. This was always doomed to failure.

I rang Chris at 9AM, as we’d planned, and arranged to meet in the town centre. Unfortunately, for once, *I* didn’t get the message, and totally misunderstood this simple instruction. Mohh. After a nice walk around the flea market (well, I say nice, I spent more money on CDs than I care to mention), I went for one last look through some records. Just as I was about to flick through them, I noticed the 242 approaching. My searching stopped, and I headed off to the bus stop, stuck my paw out, and alighted afore mentioned public transport.

Just as I’d got to Raby Road, my phone goes. It was Chris.

Him: “Where are you at?”
Me: “On the bus, going home”
Him: “Shit… I’m in the town centre”

Poo. I thought he was going to ring me when he was about to set off, and not when he was in the town. Oops.

All was not lost, however, as he had stuff to do in the town anyway, and he said he’d come straight up to Mercuryvapour Towers as soon as he’d finished.

I returned home, and while I was waiting for him, I did a bit of tidying, or rather, threw the hoover around the place for a bit. Hilarity ensued as I managed to get a bit of plastic stuck in the hoover brushes, meaning that every time it went over a bump or some sort, the thing screamed. Eventually, and with the help of one of those large forks you stab turkeys with, I freed it, and my hoovering continued unceremoniously.

Chris came over just as I was finishing. We sat around out in the back garden for a bit, deciding what we would do for the rest of the day. The weather was gradually improving, and it was eventually decided that we’d have a walk up to Hart. After all, the Sainsbury’s is on the way there, and Chris had yet to see it.

Off we went, and of course, the stop off at Sainsbury’s was included. Chris bought some pop, I bought a bottle of water, two Mars Delights (at the awesome price of 18p each) and, to top it all off, a Calippo. I haven’t had one of those since I was a kid.

We got served by the loudest, most over-enthusiastic assistant I think I’ve ever heard in my life… “HELLO SIR! THAT WILL BE £1.86! THANK YOU SIR! HAVE A GOOD DAY NOW!”

I was trying to work out whether she was just being sarcastic, or whether she really was that loud.

We left, and the walk countinued westward. We walked along the old abandoned road which is becoming ever familiar to me. I was surprised by the fact that a field which had presumably been left fallow this year, had turned into a sea of poppy red…

Acer Image

It wasn’t the only one, there were two fields on the way there. Eventually, we reached Hart, and although we’d enjoyed the walk, it became clear that we’d reached the problem I’d faced each time I was there… there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in Hart. Well, OK, there were pubs, but considering I’d came out without my wallet, it wasn’t something I’d be able to partake in. Not that I particularly wanted to, anyway.

Of course, I came up with the wonderful idea of taking more photos while we were there. None of them turned out particularly, awe-inspiring, especially when I asked Chris to take some of me. None of them turned out good at all. In fact, this is probably the only one that doesn’t make me wretch…

Acer Image

Oh, wait. It does. Hooooorp.

After a good walk, and about half an hour of trying to get a good photo of a bee on a flower (and failing miserably), we returned home. Chris stayed for a little while longer, before he headed home. It was about 4PM at that point, and I was starting to feel tired, so I had a lie down on the sofa for a couple of hours. At roughly 6PM, the doorbell rang, it was Andy The Iridium Fan (see gallery) with DVD in hand, of the maritime festival which he’d recorded over the weekend. I didn’t attend this semi-annual event, which took place from 4th – 6th July, for you see, the weather was truly awful.

Chris came back over at about 8PM, and all three of us watched the DVD again, pointing out the goings-on in the background. and having a general good laugh at it.

Andy went, which left me and Chris to discuss the world, and marvel at the musical delight of the Sky News theme. It appears I’ve gotten Chris addicted to it too. Awesome.

Chris went, and I lapsed into a coma until the following morning.

Thursday was the day when I would start getting really prepared for this holiday. Money exchangement was about to take place, shoes would be bought, batteries would be charged, hair would be cut.

At approximately 14:28 and 32 seconds, we left the house, and went off down the town. Daddykins dropped me off at the town centre. Now, the plan was this. I’d be dropped off at the town centre, Daddykins would go somewhere, do what he had to do, then meet me a bit later on the Marina, outside of Brantano, the shoe shop. Fair enough. Seems straightforward.

So, off I toddle to the post office, debit card in hand, hoping to draw out some monopoly money Euros. I approach the lady behind desk 11. the Bureau De Change.

Me: “Can I have €300 please” (whilst holding up card)
Her: “Um… do you have a drivers license or passport?”
Me: [resigned to defeat at such an early stage] “Er, no… didn’t think you’d need it?”
Her: “Pop your card in the slot, I’ll see if I can withdraw cash for you”

[fx: computer bouncing across desk, smoke pouring out of the top of it, big flashing red lights, Family Fortunes ‘Ick-urrrrr’ sound effect repeating over and over]

Her: “Computer says no.” (note, approximation)
Me: “Er, but if I go and draw out the cash from a cash machine and bring it here, it’ll be OK, yes?”
Her: “Yes. Something to do with the Bank Of England”
Me: “I see… I’ll be back in a minute, then”.

I walk no less than 50 yards to the cash machine, withdraw the appropriate funds, and walk back to Desk 11…

Me: “€300 please…”, I say with a little twinge of sarcasm in my voice, though I try not to overdo it, as I know it’s not the cashiers fault.

Without hesitation, the funds are retrieved from the drawer, and I end up with a wad of notes.

I can’t help but think, “LOL, WTF”. Can someone explain to me why I can’t exchange currency when paying from my own card, without having ID, yet exchange it from cash drawn out of a cash machine with exactly the same card? The only difference is that I’m entering my PIN number onto a different sodding keypad.

Off to get my shoes, then. Brantano is a good quarter of a mile away from the town centre, so a small walk was in order. It would also give Daddykins the time to get from where he was going, to the car park outside of said shop, where he arranged to meet me. I entered the shop, and after a good old browse, I elected for two pairs of size 10’s that looked reasonably comfortable. I approached the check out to be greeted with… nothing. There was NOBODY THERE. What the hell? I was stood there for at least 10 minutes. Nobody came. I even resorted to tactics such as staring at the CCTV camera and shrugging my shoulders in the off-chance that someone was watching it, and would come out and serve me. I almost even resorted to setting off the store detector alarm in the hope of getting someone to come and serve me. Although I’m sure this idea would have worked, I decided against it, and thought I’d just stick it out and see what turned up

Eventually, an “assistant” made her way down the store, and I eventually got served. Awesome.

Now, by this time, I was positive that Daddykins would be in the car park waiting for me. I arrive out the store, and look about.

No car. You have GOT to be kidding me.

At this point, you’d be thinking that it’d be a good idea to ring him up and let him know I was waiting. this would indeed be a good idea, unfortunately, my phone was sat at home, on the landing, on charge. How handy.

At this point, I was wondering what had happened. Could it be that Daddykins didn’t hear me correctly? I clearly said “Brantano”, but was he thinking of somewhere like Staples? TK Maxx perhaps? They’re all down there too, though the other side of the marina. I must have walked the entire car park twice. No sign of him.

Every car that entered the car park got my evil eye at some point, as I attempted to read the registration plates as they went past. None of these cars matched the description I was looking for.

After approximately 20 minutes of standing around twiddling my thumbs, hoping that messages had not been misunderstood, here comes Daddykins. He flashes his lights, and I once again sigh, shrugging my shoulders. This was surely a day of me getting pissed around. I enter the car and ask where he’d been.

“Oh, I gave you an hour, so I went to the marina and got some fish and chips. They were gorgeous”. Eventually, I had to ask him to be quiet about how nice they were, as he failed to get me any chips, and I was not particuarly amused about being kept waiting for god knows how long while he stuffed his face.

After an amazing plate of curry, admittedly cooked by Daddykins, and using a jar of curry sauce that we paid 4p for. It’s the cheapest price I’d paid since I was working at Sharwoods. And it was delicious.

Thursday night saw me at the club. I wore a pair of my new shoes in by having several games of snooker. It was one of those games where I didn’t do well, I just got very lucky. Thirteen-cushions-and-in-off-the-light types of shots. I’d not played for a month, so it was surprising I’d potted anything at all.

I got a lift home from Chris’s dad at the end of the night, and I retired to bed after a couple more cans. In fact, here I am arriving home…

Oh, OK yes, I only included that image because the streetlight at the bottom of the road is off again. Someone climbed up a few nights ago and stole the photocell from the top of it. Speaking of streetlights, I explained my undying “love” for streetlights. (for want of a better expression… after all, there are some people who just take their obsession too far). He found my interest a bit weird, butalso strangely fascinating. Apparently, he’s going to take photos of streetlights outside of his house and allow me to identify them. I doubt he’ll remember, but it would be an interesting experiment either way.

Ahem, moving on swiftly. Friday came like a bolt out of the blue, or rather grey, as all it has done all day is rain. Considering this is the summer, it’s been shit so far. Today was the day I concluded my holiday purchases. Thanks to Thursday’s prick-about, I never had chance to get my hair cut, so I went on Friday instead. I always go to the same barbers, Ian Taylors on Church Street. Unfortunately, Ian Taylor died a couple of years ago, so the shop front is currently being repainted, along with the sign sayign what it is. I almost walked right past it. Not a good advertisement.

After a haircut which technically I didn’t really need, but considering I was going away on holiday, hasd anyway, I headed off to Asda, in order to stock up on some food. Now, what’s odd is that I didn’t buy any beer, or anything for the holiday, yet still managed to spend over £30 on grub for myself.

I returned home, laid on the sofa, watched Countdown, and promptly fell asleep on the sofa, eventually waking up to hear the theme from Channel 4 News as it was finishing.

That was then, this is now, It’s now just after 1AM on Saturday morning. Considering I’m at work for the next few days, this may be the lat post I make before I go away…

At this point, I would like to introduce you to my twitter account. While I am away from my computer, I can keep you informed of shit from my mobile. I bet you can’t fucking wait.

Seriously, I would like to use it to keep track of my “small” movements. It will also give me a chance to use some of the 200 mobile text messages I get allocated each month, yet never use. I will not use it while I’m out of the country, however. You’ll just have to imagine I’m having a nice time. I’m sure you’ll receive a desperately thorough write-up of what went on when I get back, however.

Paris beckons. Auf Weidersehen!

Yesterday turned out great

My word. Considering I was claiming it was going to be a shit day, it actually went really good.

No sooner had I pressed “Send” on my previous post, Daddykins awoke, and came downstairs. Before I even had a chance to plead with him to take me somewhere, his first words uttered to me were “Get your shoes on”…

“…why? Where are we going?” I replied. It seemed a bit of an odd statement considering he’d only been awake a few minutes.

“Don’t know yet” was his reply.

I was shocked, and delighted. Me and Daddykins were going on a proper day out for the first time since at least 1997. Sure, we’d been places before, but not for a proper Father/son type thing. There had always been “complications”. OK, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t got the new car, but I’ll not use that as an excuse. I’m sure my dad took me out because he loved me… yes, that must be the reason.

Needless to say, I took my camera. My dad must have had some idea where we were going, as we headed in the direction of the North Yorkshire Moors. Well, when I general, I mean DIRECTLY, even taking the necessary shortcuts Daddykins had picked up during his many years working around that area.

This narrowed it down to a few places… three, in fact. Whitby, Grosmont, or Goathland, the real-life village which is the setting for Heartbeat’s “Aidensfield”. Whitby was quickly ruled out, which is just as well, as it’s expensive, probably crowded, and there’s nowhere to park easily. I remember this from when we used to go to days out to Whitby as a child. We (being me, my mother, nanna, and any other freinds/relatives who tagged along) would get dropped off, then my dad used to disappear somwehre with the car, sometimes taking half an hour to return, after parking it in some obscure back lane for free.

So, Grosmont, or Goathland. I was indeed correct. Daddykins took one look at the parking situation in Grosmont, and thought “sod that”… I didn’t quite work out why, either the car park was full, or it was too expensive. Either way, we kept going, along the same road, through Grosmont, and onto Goathland. As we approached the centre of the village, our path was blocked by a policeman. Daddykins rolled the window down (or rather, pressed the button that brings the window down). and asked him what was going on…

“Oh, they’re just shooting a scene”, he replied. “Won’t take long… they’re averaging about 3 minutes per take”. Woooo! They were filming, there and then. I could hardly believe my luck. Daddykins got chatting to the copper.

“So, where’ve you came from?” The copper asked, to start conversation.
“Hartlepool… West View”, daddykins replied, quite correctly.
“Ohhh, West view Road?”, the copper replied.

Turns out that the guy’s grandparents lived on West View Road, near the Brus, and he used to eat in the (now demolished) Brus Cafe. What are the chances of that happening? It’s not quite as amazing as the time I stayed in a hotel on the Isle of Wight, and the owner knowing Eric Wilkie who used to drink in the Queens, and a good friend of mine and especially my dad. Even Coatesy knew him. Eric, you may remember, is whose front room I spewed up in on the Millenium night.

Er, anyway, I’ve swayed way off topic there. Back to Goathland. The take eventually finished, and we were free to go on our way, to the car park. It cost £2 to park up for the full day, which I consider entirely reasonable, though in previous visits, we parked for free on the edges of the road, but these are all now yellow-lined. Bugger. Either way, we parked up, and headed for the site of the filming…

Here’s one of the takes…

After I took this photo, I was told by some anonymous woman in a Hi-Vis jacket that I couldn’t take photos while they were recording. That, to me, doesn’t make much sense. 1) my camera is silent when taking photos, 2) I was in a public place.

I’ve always wondered how the law stands on such matters. I must admit, I was 100% compliant with her request – personally I just enjoyed watching the recording, and was happy in the knowledge that between takes, I could photograph what I wanted, most of it appearing very similar to what I could have shot during the takes – same people, same equipment, slightly different stance, maybe. It’s all a bit academic anyway, as I only took 6 photos while watching the filming. Ah well.

That was an added bonus to the day I wasn’t expecting in the first place.

We spent a big portion of the day at the train station, as they have steam trains there, and Daddykins loves them. As expected, the whole place is kept in a retro style, with old fashioned advertising placards dotted around.

The first thing we did when we got there was get some refreshments. Daddykins can’t function without his morning cup of coffee, and considering we’d went straight out, he never had chance to have it. I was surprised he’d went as long as he did without collapsing into a caffiene-deficiency related coma. Either way, we watched a total of 3 trains come in and out…

… each of them looking like that one. It’s a shame there’s only a few of these things running anymore, as they’re certainly impressive. And huge. And noisy.

During the wait between the trans approaching, we went for a walk up the side of the hill, which formed the valley that the station was in. Before you leave the station, however, was this gate…

Penalty for leaving the gate open, £2. I’m sure that this sign was added when two pounds was actually a lot of money, and actually a bit of a deterrent. Never mind though, as everyone who went through it did indeed close the gate. It wasn’t a hard walk, and the view for reaching the top was stunning

There was no mobile phone signal, however, even at the top of the big hill, which I was a little surprised about. I wasn’t planning to call anyone, it was merely an observation.

After we watched the trains, it was time to take a last walk around the village, and take in the scenery.Something which is clear with this place is that they will never need anyone to mow the lawns, as there’s sheep everywhere…

I thought it was great personally. Although this was a novelty for me, being an outsider, I could imagine that the residents would get really rather sick of their fluffy white prescense…

As this point, I went into Ye Olde Gift shoppe, and bought Daddykins a little momento of the day, as a thanks for the day out – another model car for his collection. 20 years ago, the roles would have been reversed – he’d have been the one buying ME the toy car, but he collects them. And he has a lot of them.

On the way back, I took more photos, and finally managed to get a decent shot of Roseberry Topping

And that was pretty much it. On the way home we went to the chippy, only to find that it was completely packed. Therefore, the day was completed with a trip to the Brus Chippy. The chips were very nice, if a little expensive, and a little unforgiving with the portions.

The full set of photos can be viewed here.

It’s finally, finally happened.

Since I started attending flea markets and car boot sales back in about 1993, when my Aunt Rose took me down one Wednesday morning, I have been after owning one object. It has, as far as I know, never been there. Everything else has been sold, including broken smoke alarms, rubbers in potties, and more second-hand underwear than you could shake a nasty gonorrhea infection at.

This particular object is, thankfully, none of the above, it is in fact a 7″ copy of “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and The Range. Eagle-eyed flickr-ists will notice I already have one copy, but I got that from ebay. It’s easy to get them ebay. There’s no challenge, and no sense of achievement.

Yeterday, I awoke on the sofa at 8AM. It looked like a sunny day, so off I went.

Something which is very odd, is the fact that around near where I live, they’re flattening the old hospital buildings which have been there for years. Lots of years. I’ve discussed on here that I’m glad to see the back of them, as they were very cold and sinister. Not nice places to be in at all, especially when you’re a six year old getting your chest x-rayed in them… ooo, childhood flashback.

Anyway, yes. There buildings, I believe, date back to the days when treatment was more of a punishment. I have heard it used to be a mental asylum of some sort. The surrounding walls actually have broken glass bottles embedded in the concrete. I don’t know whether that was to stop people getting in, or to stop them escaping. I guess I’ll never know. Either way, these buildings have now be reduced to this.

Acer Image

Anyway, I put the camera away, and headed towards the flea market, a mere short bus ride away, which cost me £1.05. Jaysus.

I had no intention of staying a while, or anything over a few minutes, if I’m honest, but it was pretty busy, and there were a good few stalls there, for once.

Acer Image

However, the ones that stood out, were the ones I didn’t expect to be any good. There’s always a few stalls which appear to be full of garbage and rusty metalwork or rusty tools, which nothing worth looking at. I walked past one of these stalls, and saw some random guy flipping through some records. I had been bitterly disappointed by the CD’s on offer from one of the stalls which are normally quite good (£1 each, and I’ve bought some great ones from there in the past.), so I thought I’d take a look. That’s when I found “it”. Its yellow, creased cover, staring back at me. The title, arranged in a semi-circle, in the middle of the cover. It was all there. I was holding it in my hands. For ten whole seconds, I just laughed to myself, and thought “Heh, Cool” as I placed it back in the box along with the rest of the records I was holding.

Of course, I suddenly had a moment of clarity, and it suddenly struck me, that this was the moment I’d waited for since way back. Every single flea market, car boot sale, record fair I’d ever been to, had been all for this moment. I was about to buy “The Way It Is”. I handed my shiny pennies over (well, OK, they were 50p each, and I bought about another 6), and I walked away with a sense of satisfaction, as if to say to myself “I’ve done it. It’s all over. It’s finished”.

The day didn’t just stop there, I continued my searching for other stuff. The next stall along had an Andrew W.K’s “I Get Wet” buried amongst the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck and Pavarotti. Needless to say, I snapped that up. I’ve been after that CD for years too.

I walked around the stalls, to see that Eric has returned permanently. Eric owns one of the good stores, he used to be the one near the Corner House (or whatever it’s called now), but in his own words, he gave up for a couple of years. I did miss his stall, as he always had a good (and varied) collection of CDs. He’s back, but with a smaller CD collection. A few other things are missing too, but hopefully he’s going to be there for a few more years to come. He had a sealed copy of Sandi Thom’s CD (oh, I wish I was a punk rocker, etc) for £2, so I bought that. I’ve not listened to it yet, as I’ve got the Andrew W.K. CD on repeat. His album is only 35 minutes long, but every track is a winner. The longest track is 3:33 in length.

Overall, a fantastic day music-wise.

The last day in Berlin…

Judging by the lack of comments on the last few posts, I guess that by this point, I’ve completely bored you all to death with my ramblings of travelling to a far-flung land. Normal service will be resumed my the end of this post. You’ll all be reading again about how much I hate work, how much I like streetlights, how much curry I’ve eaten, and how much of it flies out of my bowels at a shocking rate of knots. I bet you can’t wait. In fact, I’ll even try to cover all of them in this post.

So, anyway, it was a sunday. I awoke to see the worst weather in the whole of my time there. The building site across the road from the hotel was one big puddle. It wasn’t a nice day. Now, you’ll remember my 72-hour ticket? Well, it was used up…. and there was no point getting a travel ticket for just one day. by the time we’d got ready, the rain hadn’t let up at all… it was still lashing down.

On our way out of the door to begin the last day, Chris asked the guy behind the reception desk if they had any umbrellas. But they didn’t. The hotel was “all out of umbrellas”. I did, however, successfully manage to order a taxi, to pick us up from the hotel the following morning. Or rather, I just asked the guy behind the reception desk to do it for me.

We decided to give the outdoor cafes a miss, and instead headed off to a Starbucks nearby. I can’t see the fascination with coffee, personally, so I settled for a croissant and a bottle of water. Chris also had a croissant, and some fruit smoothie thing which just looked odd. As we weren’t going to travel around much, we decided to stay in the vacinity. The tour guide Jonathan had picked up from the hotel showed some good museums, and Chris remembered a few places he wanted to see from that very first bus trip, all of them were in the same general direction…

By the time we’d finished eating and drinking, it was getting a little bit brighter… the rain had stopped, and the place was drying out nicely. Chris wanted a closer look at this building…

1053591691_ccaed15b11_o

… and also to find out why it had a big V painted on the front of it. I think it was adverising some exhibition or another. Anyway, turns out it’s one of the Humboldt University buildings, therefore it was locked. And that book sale wasn’t there either. We crossed over the road, in the hope of finding something open, and while Chris and Jonathan took care of the map, I took photos…

Acer Image

Unsuccessful, we crossed back over the road, and noticed a sign saying “Kunst”… First of all, I thought it was a strip club for dyslexics, but it turned out to be an arts and crafts market, though, it didn’t take me long to be in my element…

Acer Image

I didn’t buy anything at this point, because there was no way they’d survive in the suitcase, and I didn’t fancy carrying LPs all the way through on hand luggage. I’d already had that Herbert Groenemeyer CD, so I was more then happy to spend only a few minutes looking through these, especially as they were expensive. Chris found joy by searching through some old print stamps… one of which he’d pay €20 for later in the day. The craft fair ended after about 20 stalls, and we followed the road round until we came to something more like a traditional flea market affair, selling CDs for cheap. €1 each. Happiness! I ended up buying the Gladiators (yes, GladiatorS) soundtrack, and a song called Highland, by Swedish band “One More Time” (Wiki), which are of no musical relation to Swedish band One 2 Many. Apparently.

Another stall sold 7″ singles, by far my audio format favourite. I picked “I promised Myself” by Nick Kamen – a song which I’d heard originally in the Hartlepool shopping centre, at about 8AM in the morning before the shops even opened. But that’s a story for another day. I also bought two others which aren’t really worth mentioning, as they were simply ro replace scratched copies of records I already had.

Either way, I bought these records, and it looked like it was about to piss down, so the next step was to find a cheap umbrella that we could all share. And, there was indeed a store that sold umbrellas. Wooo. So, for €6, we ended up with the shoddiest looking umbrella you have ever seen, with holes in to complete the job. Ironically, about 30 seconds later, the rain stopped, so it wasn’t much use anyway. We returned to the hotel, and I dropped off my musical delights.

Within seconds we were back out of the door, and heading back in the same direction from whence we came, but this time omitting the KunstMarkt, or whatever it was called, and headed over the bridge to the other side of the river. We had a quick look around the Berliner Dom, an architectually stunning building….

Acer Image

The next stop was the DDR museum – a museum showing the way of life in the old East Germany, including a real-life trabant…

Acer Image

Chris was more than excited at the sight of an old model kit he used to have as a kid. I also managed to get a shot of the traffic lights which are all over the city. For some reason, they’re a lot more “jolly” than the ones we have over here. The green man has a hat on, and he looks like he’s all set off for a bloody good stroll…

Acer Image

Classy. By this time, it was mid afternoon so we headed back out, in the search of some “luxury” items to take back. I ended up getting a pen, a t-shirt, and some…. strange thing with little gold coins in it. It was all a terrible waste of money, but it was better than lots of useless Euros bashing about in my wallet.

It was getting on, so we returned back to the hotel, and began the tedious task of packing our belongings away. This was relatively straightforward for me… everything liquid based went in the bin. Everything else went in the case. I travelled light in all honesty, so I was finished within an hour or so. Chris and Jonathan took slightly longer, as Chris had to work out how to pack two boxes of chocolates without them getting shattered or melted.

Eventually, we were finished, and headed off out just one more time. Unfortunately, it looked like it was about to absolutely piss down….

Acer Image

This was around the same time that the last of my electrical items went back in the case, so I’m sure you’ll all be glad to know that there are no more big photos to look at.

So, we wanted somewhere not too far away, under cover… Have a guess where we went. Yes, of course… the INDIAN. I just had to have one more German curry. Even Chris went for the Madras.

Before the main meal, they left these poppadom things I’ve never seen before. They weren’t just normal poppadoms, but they had some stupidly hot flavouring to them. I was in *love*. Unfortunately, I don’t know the German for “What were those hot poppadom things?” so exactly what they were will remain forever a mystery. Bugger.

The meal was consumed, and I was as happy as a pig in shit. I’d somehow survived a week where I didn’t know the food, didn’t know the language, and more importantly, I learned that there was more to a trip away than just finding the nearest Gregg’s….

The finale of the night was spent back at the Berliner Republik…. the place where we’d spent most of our mornings getting stocked up on pretzels and Currywurst. This time, we sat inside, and tried out something which wouldn’t be allowed in England… beer trading.

To put it bluntly, Beer trading means the prices of the different beers change every 6 minutes, up or down, depending on some unknwon factor.

I was down to my last few Euros, so I was taking this beer trading thing seriously, sipping my pseudo-pint slowly, until the price of the beer I was drinking changed. I watched the screen… Oooo! My preferred tipple had went down from €3.70 to €3.50… GREAT! I quickly call a waitress over (easier said than done), point at my glass, she takes a note and then disappears off to fetch the beer.

The clock slowly counts down, with no sign of the beer…

4 minutes left before the price change… then two minutes… one minute… thirty seconds… five seconds… DING! The prices change.. aaaand, my beer’s gone up to €3.90.

Seconds after the price change, out pops the waitress… surely, I’d only be charged the €3.50? No ‘king way. The receipt said €3.90. At that point, I just totally lost interest in “beer trading”, which is clearly just a rip-off. I didn’t feel like drinking anyway, as I was completely stuffed from the wonderful curry I’d eaten earlier. It was about 10:30 by this point, and we decided to move on… except everywhere else was shutting up. It was like a ghost town. The bad weather had held off, so that wasn’t to blame. It was just all very eerie and quiet.

We walked back to the hotel, crossing the River Spree one final time, and we headed into the hotel bar for one last drink of authentic German Pilsner, knowing it would be one hell of a long time before I would ever come into contact with it again. Sob.

We left the bar, and returned to our respective hotel rooms for one last time, knowing that there was a 600-mile journey back to blightly in front of us the next day… I awoke, at 4AM, with the biggest case of the shits I’ve had in years. I have no idea if it was the curry or the beer. I’ll steer clear of the details, but this went on for two hours. It did give me a chance to take some last photos out of the window. It was amazing how quiet and still everything was at 6AM in the morning.

Eventually, I got back off to sleep and awoke at 8AM, to find one of the machines on the building site completely ruined….

Acer Image

Chris said there was one hell of a bang as it went over. Somehow, I slept through it.

The last of the packing was done, I double-checked, and triple checked everything, and jumped into the taxi for the journey back to the airport. The taxi driver was the most miserable bastard in the whole history of the world. The only words he spoke (with the exception of expletives and horn-sound) was “AIR BERLIN???”, as we approached the airport. Not understanding him, we all nodded politely and said “yes”, suddenly realising that Air Berlin was the name of one of the departure gates. But it was too late. The driver huffed and puffed, like I’d just taken his toys away, and eventually dropped us at the airport. The total cost was €18. I gave him 20. The bastard didn’t even give me any change.

The airport was the same rigmariole as before, only I knew what to expect, so it was even more boring. We get a drink, then check in. Our bags disappear to places unknown, and we sit around, waiting for the plane to turn up. Oh, and I bought some duty free, namely a box of Dime (I refuse to call them Daim) bars, and a 500-gram bag of Haribo cola bottles. Larvely. No alcohol, though. I was disappointed in myself.

Eventually, the plane turns up, we board, and the journey starts. I didn’t have a window seat, so I studied the on-board literature. A lot. Though, there could only be so many times I could read about fastening my seatbelt before it came tedious. Sandwhiches were passed around. they had a wonderful choice of two (count ’em! TWO!) types. Salmon and something, and Cheese and something… I passed, but did take up the opportunity of having a nice, cold refreshing can of beer. After all, it was 11AM by this point. Erm.

So, we land in Amsterdam. The weather was better than it was on the journey there. No chance of any delays THIS time. Once again, we go through the usual security checks… empty pockets, take off belt, blah de blah. Now I’d managed to get through three of these things, surely I’d be able to get through the fourth…. No.

It beeped. The whole thing lit up like a christmas tree. What the fooch?

“Step to one side, sir”… said some balding, middle aged bloke.

“Do you mind if I search you?”.

“No, of course, not”, I reply. After all, what were my alternatives? I really didn’t fancy the ol’ “rubber Glove” treatment, so I let him do his thing. Thankfully I was free to go, though I was still unaware of what made the machine squeal. Maybe the can of beer I’d drank contained a shiny penny? I will never know.

The journey from Amsterdam back to Newcastle was even more boring. Chris and Jonathan were on one side of the aisle, I was on the other. I couldn’t even see out of the window, without looking over everyone else. Shite. The only reason it’s worth mentioning is that I had another can of beer.

Upon my return back to the UK, I switched on my phone, to find that Daddykins was picking me up, and waiting in the car park, which eventually cost him £6. the final stupid expense of the trip. The A1 back home was completely blocked by an overturned lorry, which shed 18 tonnes of cable over the carriageway. This led to a detour around the suburbs of South Tyneside, and getting lost about three times.

And that, is it. The end. There is no more. Actually, there’s lots more, but I thought that after three weeks of typing this holiday up, I’ll draw the line here and now. I shall conclude by posting Youtube links to the video I made while I was there….

Day 1… http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=fJRuIbhX260 (Incomplete due to a tape fault)
Day 2 part 1… http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=MIbDSfEkrIg
Day 2 part 2… http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=fYhQZ95Vw78
Day 2 dart 3… http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=2Tg6gE1EQjo
Day 3… http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=1k4ozi1bcTc

The rest of the days coming soon, including the zoo footage…

Now I can get back to talking about other stuff. Wooooo.