London, Day 3… ouch!

I bet you thought this was never going to come. The final part of the London trip, or what I can remember of it, because after all, this was three months ago now…

The final day was upon us quicker than what you could say “Soft, supple, Hartlepudlian feet”. Day 3 was to tie up the loose ends of the places we hadn’t been to, and places we’d want to revisit. Of course, we had to vacate the room by a certain time (10AM), and the train back from King’s Cross wasn’t until 8PM. Thankfully, the hotel, again, let us leave our bags there until we were ready to pick them up.

We left the hotel behind, and headed to King’s Cross tube station. A place we were now very familiar with. The first stop was Greenwich, most notably the O2. The plan was to go there and see if anything had changed since we last visited, and then head off to Greenwich town centre to see what was there. It was before 11 at this point, so there wasn’t really anything open at the O2. One thing I did remember from our last visit several years ago were strange circular LED advertising hoardings. They were basically one row of LEDs spinning at such a speed that they’d give the effect of going all the way round. Slight problem was, they were getting old now, and the LEDs were certainly past their best.

the greatest thing for me, however, was an advertising display made entirely of old media, such as videotapes, records audio tapes and CDs. I spent most of the time looking at this, slightly gutted that a large amound of perfectly good records had been entombed in this display, and would never be played again. For your viewing pleasure are photos of this hoarding, and you too can see if you can see a classic in there. You can, of course, click the images to get a full-size verison. There’s 9 of them, so you might have to scroll if you’re not interested. Sorry, not sorry.

I’ve already spotted “Bridge of Spies” by T’Pau, which is possibly my favourite album of all time, also “Something Else” by Inspiral Carpets, which features the words “Binsy Smith Meets Monobrow” on the spine.. nope, me neither, but I do know is, apart from an obscure Google Books entry, that previous line the only mention of those words anywhere on the internet. Cor, eh?

So, the plan was to head to Greenwich Village to see what was there. Despite our complete failure with the DLR, were to try our luck again, as apparently there isn;t a tube stop there.

We headed to Canary Wharf. A place that had changed immensely since I’d first visited in 2003. It was no longer the dominant sight on the capital skyline, other buildings had taken that mantle many hears ago. Still, the DLR station was still there. Accomplice had reliably informed me of where we were going to depart, and the train went in completely the wrong direction. Whoops.

Still ,all was not lost, as no matter where you go in London, you’re going to end up close to some attraction, and where we ended up was Cannon Street, just a short walk fromThe Great Fire of London monument.

If my feet weren’t on fire by this point, I still think it’d have been a bit pointless climbing it. The buildings nearby simply dWarfed it. Twenty years ago, it’ll have been something worth climbing, like the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, but when they charge you to stare into someone’s office window, I’ll give that bit a miss.

It was coming up to lunchtime by this point. I needed to knock some Glucophage down my neck, and Accomplice was in full agreement that food needed to be taken on board. I don’t think I mentioned how much the menu at the Brewdog in Camden appealed to both of us. I seem to remember it was on the same underground line we were currently near, so, despite the fact I’ve never seen a bee fly in a straight line, we made a beeline for Camden, and the Brewdog establishment. We arrived there at a little before 12PM, as we knew that was when Brewdog was going to open.

CEX, no matter where you are, are exactly the same. Sometimes you’ll get different stock. Sometimes they’ll sell CDs, sometimes they won’t. Most of the time there’ll be shelves marked with yellow headers full of DVD. This was the latter. All of them seem to have a simple price bracket, and that’s “ridiculous”. Everything I’ve bought from a CEX has been either ridiculously expensive, or ridiculously cheap. As this particular store didn’t have a music section, it was of no interest to me, and I left empty handed.

So, with CEX taken care of, we went for some lunch. Accomplice had been drooling at the thought of a Brewdog burger, and I had my mind set on a nice, big plate of chips. Last of the exotic eaters, eh? I can safely say neither of us were disappointed (except for the price, obviously, as they were pretty extortionate). My chips were really nice, and there’s no exaggeration in saying that Accomplice’s burger was about half a foot tall. While we were in there, we paid close attention to a van that had been stopped by the police, and was being thoroughly looked at. A little part of me was expecting the side panel of a Mercedes Sprinter to be blasted through the window, but thankfully this didn’t happen.

After about two hours, we finally left Brewdog. Unfortunately, sitting for that amount of time didn’t do my feet or legs any good, this was the part of the day when I really started to suffer. While we were in Camden, we went our separate was for a small amount of time. Accomplice had a comic shop to attend, and I had a record shop. I ended up buying 6 singles. None of which were pretty exciting. I just felt like I had to buy something while I was there.

On the subject of comics and comic based goodness, Accomplice was aware of a large Forbidden Planet store, somewhere in Covent Garden, so this was to be our next stop, and really, the last planned stop of our adventures. After going through the back alleys of London, eventually, we ignored Google Maps, and just headed onto the street, and there it was, right in front of us. And there was a seat, thankfully, so I could rest my throbbing hooves.

Unfortunately, the GPS recording goes a little haywire for a time after this, but I distincly recall wanting to go to “The Elephant and Castle”. I didn’t really know what was there except for a shopping centre, and seeing how well our last visit to a shopping centre went on the previous day, I was hoping it was a bit more touristy. All aboard the underground, then, and onto what must have possibly been the oldest train still in service. The illusion that we were heading out of the touristy part of the city was heightened with every flash of the train’s internal lights, leaving us in moments of complete darkness. I expected to hear a woman scram and then find a dead body on the floor, like some Agatha Christie novel.

We alighted the train, and walked up something like 100 steps (117 and 11 depending on which way you’re going, thank you Wikipedia). There are lifts, but Accomplice has a fear of them, so we took the pedestrianised route. Yeah, I could have got the lift up, but I really didn’t feel like getting separated, especially with zero mobile signal XXX metres underground.

We reached the surface, and it was quite clear we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Maybe 3AM on a Thursday afternoon was not the best time to catch it, but it became clear this wasn’t really any type of tourist attraction, and the view I had of it, in part thanks to Jim Davidson’s unhilarious sit-com “Up The Elephant And Round The Castle”, turned out to be completely incorrect. A quick hobble into a nearby Tesco to stock up on much needed sugar and liquid, and we were back down the hundred-and-odd steps faster than what you can say “Slow down, me feet are fucking killing me”.

So, the three days away were coming to a close. We’d exhausted the entire tube map. There was time for one last look at Marble Arch…

… and then we were off back to the hotel. Unfortunately, this involved a walk from Marble Arch to Great Portland Street. On a normal day, this would have been a piece of piss, and I wouldn’t have whinged once, but when I had two red hot balls of lava shoved into size-10 Karrimor boots, it wasn’t a pleasant journey.

One last tube ride, and then the final excruciating walk from King’s Cross to the hotel, and then from the hotel back to King’s Cross. And, with a further train ride from King’s Cross to Darlington, and then from there back to Partypool, the three days were over, but yes, my feet…

And, for those of you who haven’t had enough of the photos, the full collection is here

Day 5… Berlin zoo.

I finally awoke from my steaming pit at 11AM – the latest I’d gotten up for the whole of the holiday. Breakfast once again consited of a hot pretzel at the Berliner Republik, complete with whippings of hot butter. The pretzel was so hot, however, that the butter had all melted, which made spreading it rather diffcult. That wasn’t a complaint, just an observation, as it was delicious.

Chris got the currywurst again, and I can’t remember what Jonathan got. I don’t think it was the marathon breakfast he had the day before.

On the way back from Potsdam the day before, I noticed that Berlin Zoo was one of the stops. So, without much of a discussion, we decided that would be a good day out, though it would possibly be stupidly expensive. We boarded the train again, and watched as a few stops went by, before the zoo came into sight. Or rather, a large tower block building with “ZOO” written on it. Clearly, this wasn’t part of the zoo, but a helpful arrow pointed you in the right direction. Before we knew it, we were in a queue. The prices were reasonable, I suppose… €18 each, which also gave us access to the aquarium.

By the time we’d got in, it was 1PM, and the zoo closes at 6. Great! this will give us loads of time to see absolutely everything. We wouldn’t need a map, as it was only a zoo. It wasn’t as if it was going to be rocket science. Those were possibly our two biggest mistakes of the day. The place was absolutely enourmous. You will be glad to know that I won’t be posting many photos of this particular day, as I believe you should all know what the particular animals look like. I’ll link to the appropriate flickr photo, so as not to waste the photos entirely. But I’ll post a picture of this elephant, because I thought he was great.

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Well, that was the elephants taken care of. Next, we moved onto the… um… poultry, this section was presumably for people who’d never seen a live chicken before, and always thought that their name ended in “McNugget”. The best part of this was the bantams. I didn’t know they were little fluffy white things.

The giraffes were next. An interesting fact is that this giraffe has exactly the same number of bones in its neck, as the one behind it.

The mountain goats were next, followed by the big birds, such as owls. This particular one had hilarious eyebrows. The bald eagle was suitably impressive, but was a bit camera shy on this occasion. I thought that particular photo had turned out OK. But it hadn’t.

Next were the… pork products, featuring loads of different types of pig. This particular one was my fave…

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What isn’t visible in this particular image is the litter of piglets all huddled together, lying in the sun. They smelled exactly like spicy hot dogs. It was really rather weird.

We made our way around the pig and cattle section, and eventually ended up at the bear section. At this point, I flicked the camera over to video mode, and inadvertantly filmed the same bear having a crap seconds later. This may, or may not form part of the video I’m planning on making when I get my bloody computer sorted out properly. Though, to make up for it, it did pose for the camera later on.

Right next to the bears were the wolves. I thought they were great, though a little inactive. To the right of the wolf pen were the lemurs. At this point, I thought I could smell skunks too. It wasn’t until later on in the day that Chris informed me that what I thought were the skunks, was actually a fragrant blast of flatulence caused by the currywurst… pleasant.

We walked around for a bit longer, and saw more birds, including the first batch of flamingos. Chris, at this point, spotted his favourite thing of the whole day… a duck. Despite the fact we were surrounded by some of the most impressive beasts on the planet, this plain looking duck was his lasting memory.

At this point, I spied polar bears. Naturally, I took photos. Lots of them.

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On the subject of Polar Bears, Berlin zoo is the home of Knut, the little baby polar bear rejected by his mother. Wiki Link). I have no idea if he’s in any of my pictures or not, as he’s now tret just as another normal polar bear, and is, as far as I know, in the same enclosure. Still, they cash in on it at every opportunity. I notced a large stall seeling Knut teddy bears, placed strategically next to the playground.

Shortly after, we walked around to the larger bird section, where you could actually walk into the cages and interact with the birds. This little bastard wanted to do more than react with me….

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Yes, I know it’s hard to tell where the beak ends and the head starts. I sat down on the seat inside the enclosure next to some woman (that’s why there’s a woman’s foot in the top of the photo, natch), and no sooner had I sat down, this bird starts pecking at my shirt. I didn’t really fancy being dinner today, so I pulled my shirt away. The little shit took exception to that, and thought that my fingers looked much tastier…

*crunch* *OW!* I jump up startled, the woman next to me pisses herself laughing, and I walk out of the cage with chewed fingers. I didn’t even find out what type of bird it was. The cage had signs inside telling you which birds were residents, but my new best friend seemed to be missing. Presumably the sign was pecked into submission.

We kept walking, and eventually came across the penguins Woo! The penguins were cool. Quite literally, as the empreror penguins had their own refrigerated enclosure complete with snow…

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They looked like fakes, until the one with the lop-sided head lifted its tail and shat everywhere. No, I didn’t get a video.

Well, they were exciting. Not. Outside of the penguin house, were the performing seals, with some guy in a wetsuit. I couldn’t actually see this, as the area around the pool was about 5-deep in people. He was speaking in German, so I had no idea what he was saying anyway. I attempted to move around and get a better view.

At this point, I phoned Daddykins. He seemed genuinely happy to hear my voice, and for the first time, didn’t hurry to get me off the phone. I felt homesick for approximately 37 seconds, until the performing seal guy jumped from a large rock into the pool, and soaked everyone where I’d been standing only minutes earlier.

It then struck me that we’d not seen half of what the zoo had to offer, and time was getting on. According to the camera, it was 15:35 by the time we left the seals. It was at this point where the lack of a map became an issue. We managed to find our way to the zebras – and a map – some 8 minutes later. Of course, you can’t go to a zoo without seeing the big cats, so this was the next stop…. There were tigers (at least one), unfortunately barely visible. The one I saw spent most of its time darting from tree to tree, the result being this blurred, and totally uninspiring photo. No sooner had we left the tigers, there was a loud roar. We were indeed, approaching the lions. Hurrah! First stop, hwoever, were the leopards…

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Some of the lions were temporarily indoors for whatever reason. Well, when I mean indoors, I mean in inside pens, with one female lion violently scratching at the metal door. At this point, I got Chris to take a picture of me and said lion. I am truly apologetic for what you are about to witness…

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The lions were class, though.

The male lion, although very vocal didn’t really stay around much. He was treated to an outside pen. Only a small walk away was the panda. I’m not sure whether there was more than one. Either way, my mind was too preoccupied, trying to stop me from singing the “Sexual Harassment Pandaaaaaaaaa” song from South Park. Then it was the highlight of the day for me….. MEERKATS! I’ve always wanted to see one of these, ever since I watched a documentary in primary school called “Meerkats United”. I thought they were cool, and always did. I didn’t quite realise just how small they are…. they’re absolutely tiny. This image isn’t necessarily the best, I just noticed it had 6 7’s in its URL.

At this point, we’d paid €6 to see the aquarium, so the next thing was to find its location. At this point, I was still randomly snapping… it wasn’t until I got this photo home, featuring flamingos and ducks, that I spied something interesting. Notice how the seemingly normal ducks also stand on one leg, copying off the flamingos? Maybe there’s a lot more I need to learn about ducks, but I certainly can’t remember seeing them do that at home…. They certainly don’t do it when surrounded by orange slices… Ummm…

The primate house was next… this was a bit depressing to be honest. An orangutan, laid flat out on the floor, clearly bored as fuck. I didn’t really get many good shots in there, as it was a bit dark, my batteries were going, and my memory card was filling up. I spent most of the time in there going through my camera and deleting any images that looked crap. I could only find about 10. Bugger. It was at this point, we REALLY needed to find the aquarium. I still kept snapping though…. let me introduce you to a baboon with an erection (they went for it like monkeys seconds atfer this photo was taken, but only Jonathan saw it), better giraffe pic, and a gorilla wearing a sack.

We walked around for what felt like an age, attempting to find the aquarium, eventually finding this huge building with “AQUARIUM” written on it. Uh, that’s where the aquarium would be, then. We went in, and spied many weird and wonderful fishes… the last one before I ran out of space on my card had to be of Nemo.

So, it was official. I’d taken over 1Gb of photos and videos… I was impressed. I wasn’t stopping there, however, as I remembered my phone. Woohoo, perfect backup. Naturally, it didn’t work as well in low light, and not many of the aquarium photos turned out to be worth posting.

The last stop was upstairs…. to the reptile house. There were lots of good pictures taken here, but this one has to be one of my favourites…


I clearly didn’t finish uploading all of the images from there, as I can’t find many. Either way, we’d just got to the snakes when we were kicked out due to closing time. Bugger. Had it really been five hours? Yes, it had. I had a pocketful of pictures, therefore I’d had a great day. There was still the job of getting home.

We retraced our steps to get to the train station from the zoo, only to be found that we’d went the wrong way… Lost. Again. Learning from the trip yesterday, surely it should have been as simple as following the green S’s. It was. The problem was FINDING the green S’s. Chris queued vainly at the customer desk. Jonathan rushed around madly, and I just sat on a bench, waiting for feedback from either of them. Eventually, Jonathan picked up the scent of green S’s, Chris picked up the scent of a doughnut shop (and bought some, two for me too), and I spied a cashpoint.

My money was running low. I was still confident that it would work, despite Chris’s oreal with the machine just one day earlier. The “GUI” to the cash machine was horrible. Clip-art graphics, grey marble style backdrop, cheery comic-sans style font. It looked llike a Powerpoint presentation I would have done in college. I insert my card, enter my pin number, select English (I don’t know whether it’s standard that cash machines ask you your language over there, or the fact it determined my card wasn’t German), and choose the amount of money I wanted… in this case it was €40. At this point, there was a queue forming behind me.

My card comes back out, like it’s supposed to. I pay no attention to what is happening on the screen, as it was hurting my eyes. I remove my card and look at the screen, with just enough time to see “SYSTEM ERROR” pop up on the screen, and for it to go back to the “Please insert your card” screen. Oh great. The same was happening to ME, now. Chris wasn’t going to be the only penniless one…

Luckily enough, I had enough to last me the rest of the day… Chris and Jonathan had a meal at the Kartoffelkeller, though I passed, as there wasn’t anything I really fancied. That is, at the first glance of the menu. It wasn’t until about halfway through the meals that I spied about three things on the menu I fancied trying. I felt too cheeky ordering late. Never mind. We head to the outside section of the “keller”, not before I sign the visitors book, and leave the URL to this website you are reading now, and adding “Jamie Rules!” to the end of it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sort of, like putting my website in history. In reality, it made me look like a cock. I didn’t realise this until after I’d taken a photo on my phone of what I’d written. I’ve not looked at it yet. Instead, I just shake my head and cringe each time it appears in the photo list, and skip over it, pretending it didn’t happen.

That was pretty much it for the evening. We returned back to the hotel just before midnight, and had a couple of drinks there, before calling it a night.

There were only two days left, and one day of the 72-hour train ticket…