Vienna Calling, day 4

And so, after the “excitement” of the previous day, day 4 turned out to be just a little bit irritating.

It was another day which also started late. It’s also the day that the least amount of pictures got taken, in the entire history of these holidays, with the shutter firing a mere 23 times. This was mainly because part of the day was spent walking around a museum. We originally planned to go and see the museum of modern art (some of you remember my trip, in Paris to the Pompidou centre, and really liking it), but unfortunately, it was closed on Wednesdays. Or rather, it was closed this particular day. Buttocks.

We opted for the Leopold museum, and works of art which weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Parts of it were good, such as the photography exhibition, the architecture section, and miscellaneous sculptures, but for the most part, it was oil paintings from people who I’d never heard of, featuring crude representations of naked women in oil.

Mmmm, naked women in oil…

Admittedly, this was the closest I came to pussy on the entire trip…

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After a couple of hours walking around there, we headed off to find the big, old Ferris wheel featured in “The Living Daylights”. Unfortunately, Jonathan’s guidebook let us down terribly, to the point where I wanted to take it off him and throw it in the “Donau Canal”. Basically, the underground map on the back of it was a complete crock of shit, meaning that after following it, we were nowhere near the Ferris wheel. Instead, we were about 100 yards away from the barge thing where I’d purchased the €4.75 bottle of water. The tourist board things that had been put up were even worse. I think we spent about half an hour attempting to figure out whether we needed to get a bus, get a tram, or just walk the bloody thing. What we did know is that we were 3 miles from where we wanted to be. There was then the argument on whether our weekly tickets would be valid on the tram / bus network.

My advice of “Look, if they’re not, and we get pulled up about it, we’re tourists, it’s an honest mistake, I’m sure they won’t fine us!” fell on deaf ears for about half an hour, until I convinced them to go onto the trams. I have never been on a tram before in my life. I thought it’d be brilliant. It was shit. It’s a train that has to stop for pedestrians and other traffic, with wooden seats and the sound of numerous Austrians wittering on in their own language about the…. cost of… erm… sandals. And chalk. Possibly.

Eventually, we reached the end of the line, and disembarked into the middle of a park. Fair enough, there’s a direction board over there. We toddle over, and stare at it in disbelief. There’s no sign of a “You Are Here” symbol. Therefore, we could be anywhere in this huge park. By the power of deduction, sheer luck and the tiniest bit of judgement, we knew to head to the end of the road and turn left. There was an endless avenue of trees in front of us, along with sports grounds of every possible description. Yes, according to Google Maps, there’s even a racecourse on there. With steeplechase fences.

We walked for what seemed like an age, before we began to see this wheel. Two things were big about it.

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Obviously, its size, and the second one was the pricetag to get in (€8.50? What?)… In fact, it was so big that Chris decided he didn’t want to go up. Some of you may remember the time I dragged him on the temporary wheel at Liverpool. He hated every second of that!

So, after spending 2 hours trying to find this wheel, we didn’t actually go on it. I could have cried! Thankfully, Jonathan did want to go on it, but we’d leave it until the next day, at least then I could take my big camera, and Chris could get a lie in.

After all of the fannying around we’d done trying to find this place, I almost screamed when I found out it was less than half a mile from the nearest tube station… At least we knew how to get there.

We got back to the hotel, and headed straight for the pool table. Another good few hours on the pool table resulted in us emptying the hotel bar of Becks bottles, and another jolly jaunt down towards where we ate the night previously. It was rammed. Apparently, there was some book signing going on, or possibly something connected to the theatre (we were sat in the “theatercafe”, after all)

I opted for the goulash again, because it was really nice, but this time I had the large one. Jonathan opted for the steak, though at €21, it was a little too expensive (and bloody) for my taste! The worst deal of the night came from Chris, who opted for a scotch. Now, this was a special scotch. I can’t remember what they called it, but it stunk. Jonathan thought it smelt like elastic bands, I thought it smelt like slightly charred computer components, like when you force a stick of RAM into a slot it shouldn’t fit in.

All three of us had sweepstakes on the price., and it hovered around the €8 mark. I almost fell off my chair laughing when we got the receipt. €14. I just had to take a photo of the receipt for posterity.

I waned to head off into the market which we’d got the noodles from earlier in the week. There were LOTS of bars here. All of them small, wooden and rammed with people. The midweeks seemed to bring everyone out on the street. We found one that was pretty quiet, and so, sat down and had a beer. I really enjoyed it, I think Jonathan did too. Chris didn’t, and I’ll probably never understand why. Maybe he was in shock at the price of the scotch? I’ll never know.

So, we headed off back to “The Little Stage”, the ‘Irish’ bar we’d found the other night. I actually really liked this place. Maybe it was the Windows 3.1 MP3 jukebox, with its CRT monitor crudely stuck in the wall, and track selection done via mouse. Maybe it was the fact the staff actually remembered us, and were friendly. Maybe it seemed that nobody seemed to care we reeked of tourist, and were happy to get on with their lives, while playing cards in the corner?

Maybe I just secretly want smoking in pubs reinstated. I know that sounds an odd statement from me, considering the only time I’ll ever smoke is about 10 minutes after my trip behind the final red curtain, but it adds atmosphere. Fuck your gastropubs! Give me a bag of quavers and an overflowing ashtray any day! OK, maybe I’m taking that too far.

I’d like to say I got to bed early. Naaaaah.

Vienna Calling, Day 3

Well, it would appear that you’re all finding these posts too long and boring, and that all you’re interested in the part where I probably took five years off my life with stress. Who ARE you people? Do you fast forward films to the end just to see the “happy ending?” Anyway, it shows that I’m still up to blogging, I thought I was losing my touch! Unfortunately, long, drawn-out monologues are a specialty. Grab a beverage, we’re onto day three!

This was another one of the days that started off exceptionally late. We’d headed off back towards Stephansplatz, as yesterday’s walk was cut short by the rain. The weather looked much better on this particular day, so it was my first continental airing for my big Canon.

We didn’t really stay there long. In fact, just enough time for me to get a couple of shots of just how ornate the roof is…

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We once again headed onto the underground, and this time headed in the direction of “Schloss Schönbrunn”, the former home of the Austrian royal family before they all, erm, died. I’l just start off by saying it was rather large. There was also a tour, coming in at the cheap, cheap price of €16. You get a free audio-guide thing, which is handy, because without it, you’d know pretty much nothing about the place. For that price, I’d expect to be able to keep the bloody thing, but no, you have to put it into a box at the end of the trip. Annoyingly, two of the main rooms were under renovation when we went. You weren’t allowed to take photos in the palace itself.

One thing that totally pissed me off about a lot of tourist attractions was the “exit through the gift shop” culture. Maybe other places did this in other holidays I’ve been on, I don’t remember, but I hate it.

After the trip, we became separated. Jonathan went one way, me and Chris went the other. I attempted to phone Jonathan to let him know where we were, totally forgetting that we were about 900 miles away from home, and Vodafone passport had a 75p connection charge…

“Tue Sep 06 14:04 Voice 44798xxxxxxx 0m 8s 0.625”

Remember that VAT needs to be added to that. What’s even worse is that I incurred that charge because it diverted to voicemail. Bugger.

We reunited mere seconds later, and decided to head off to the gardens. Now, these were absolutely massive. One thing I regretted about the Berlin trip a few years ago, was not being able to stay and explore the gardens of “Sans Soucci“, in Potsdam. I wasn’t going to miss out on a second epic photo opportunity. This was almost jeapordised when it became apparent that Jonathan had lost his ticket. I don’t think I’ve heard as many swear words fly from his lips without him being behind a steering wheel.

Despite bags being emptied, pockets being ravaged into an inch of their linty lives, the little piece of paper was nowhere to be seen. Off we trudged to the customer service desk, three faces like thunder, expecting to pay another €16 for a ticket. Amazingly, and in a rare glimpse of customer service brilliance, the lady behind the counter recognised us, and without hesitation, printed a duplicate ticket.

This was the view as we walked out into the gardens.

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Stunning. The best was yet to come. For me, anyway. We’d walked around the gardens for a bit, and I really wanted to see what that big fuck-off monument looking thing was. Neither C nor J fancied the uphill walk in blazing sunshine just to see what it was, so I walked it alone. I must admit, what happened next was probably the best part of the day for me, and an accidental discovery.

I walked up to this monument thing, and noticed a grey haired guy struggling with his ticket at a turnstile that apparently led nowhere. You were free to walk around the base of this thing as much as you wanted. there was even a cafe. Just for funzies, not having a clue what it did, I put my ticket in. Bing! Admit one. It wasn’t until I looked to my left, I noticed a stone spiral staircase going upwards. It led to the top of the monument thing. The photo opportunities were just stunning.

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I felt a bit guilty spending as much time as I did there, knowing that C+J were cooking in the sunshine somewhere on the terraces while I spent about half an hour up there. The selfish side of me, however thinks, meh, their tickets were valid for this too! You should all know by now that I’m a believer in karma, and I’m sure the extra distance I walked would be the price I pay for this small time on my own, and these amazing photos.

I went back down and found C+J. One thing I didn’t realise is that these gardens are so large, they actually have their own zoo. Unfortunately, it was an extra €10 (or something), and although I actually wanted to go back, I’d forgotten about it. My life is slowly ebbing away. Will I ever take a decent photo of a meerkat?

It was still relatively early by this point, and there was still some of the garden to visit, mainly the maze. One of my life’s ambitions was to be in a hedge maze at some point. I remember, as a kid, being bitterly disappointed by the maze in the old Hartlepool museum, I expected it to be a massive hedge thing, instead it was some wood on the floor with gravel. I am happy to report that this maze is indeed made of spruce…

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There was also a “labyrinth”. It seemed odd that we managed to walk for 10 minutes on a piece of land that is 47 metres from one corner to another. At the end of it were some genuinely memorable photo opportunities, as this was the moment that my big Canon rolled its file number over, from IMG_9999.JPG to IMG_0001.JPG

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I think you’ll find it’s a fitting photo.

By this time, the heat had all got to us, and refreshments were in order. For the first time since I was 12, I had a Calippo, and they were just as good as I remembered them. Chris also joined in the sentiments and also purchased the afore-mentioned frozen treat, whereas Jonathan went for the traditionalism, and settled for a Cornetto (also known as Unicorn shit). I’m not sure whether it was the bright red shirt I was wearing, or whether the sugary treat had done something else, but I seemed to be irresistible to wasps for the rest of the day.

I think my only disappointment for this part of the day was the fact I wanted my photo taken in one of the disused guard towers. Unfortunately, the overpowering smell of piss knocked me back.

We had a sit down (and I sheltered from the wasps) in the shade of the main building, yet I still wanted to get up and take photos. Jonathan did a good job, with amazingly accurate timing, of trashing this one!

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The camera was packed away, and we headed back to the hotel. After exactly two hours, this was my walking pattern, including the maze walk…

It was only a couple of stops on the underground before we were back at the hotel. We headed back to our rooms for a short while before battle commenced on the best place to eat. The previous night had been won by a take-away noodle place. I dreaded to think what the 2nd night began with. Saying that, I could have sworn I’d found somewhere edible-looking on our way to that place. Despite retracing my steps, I couldn’t find the place. It was at this point, I gave up for the week, and let C+J decide where to eat, and the decision was to eat at the “Theater Cafe”. It looked expensive, and to be honest, it was. I opted to go for the ‘Goulash’, a meal I’d only ever experienced once before, and that was out of a boil-in-the-bag, purchased from the now burnt-down “Sweet and Savoury” factory in downtown West View. Turns out I really liked it, but at €8 for a small portion, “just in case I didn’t like it”, I felt a little gutted. Still it gave me somewhere to eat.

Unfortunately, neither my memory nor photographic records show anything else happening that night. I do believe that it was our first visit to “The Little Stage” “Irish bar”. Again, nothing about it is Irish. It serves Guinness, to a point. The pils was incredibly drinkable. The fact I was in a room full of tobacco smoke and drinkable beer took me back to a time I never thought I’d miss. Chris agreed with me, it was like those “shit at the time, but retrospectively brilliant” nights we used to spend in the Queens.

The hotel room beckoned, and I, once again, hit the foamy goodness in front of the foreign telly.

Vienna Calling, Day 2

I awoke early, whiich is pretty much traditional for these types of holiday. I think it was about 7AM, which gave me enough time to have a shower, and begin to explore the streets. It became apparent that we were in a pretty suburban area of Vienna. I found this out as I went around looking for a shop that sold toiletries. There was a chemist open. I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the counter. I handed the woman a €10 note. She blurted something in German, I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say “Englisch”? She points to the display on the till. Turns out she was asking if I had the right change.

Of course, I didn’t, as it had all accidentally fallen into the vending machine outside of my hotel room the night before.

“Ah, nein”, I reply, in the best Hartlepudlian accent money can buy. I grabbed a carrier bag, almost completely destroying a nearby display. I pretty much ran out of the shop with my tail between my legs…

OK, that was one shop down. Won’t be going back there. Luckily enough, after wandering around for 5 minutes, I found a Spar. they have them in England. This will do for me.

After stocking up on important items, such as water and coke (the fizzy kind) I headed back to the hotel in almost completely the wrong direction, to the point where I had to turn back on myself and make sure I didn’t get lost.

One thing I did find, and was considered an absolute essential until I actually tried them, were… Paprika Pom-Bears…

Surprisingly, and rather upsettingly, I found them a total disappointment. At €1.49 for, admittedly, a rather large bag, the paprika flavour just wasn’t there as abundantly as I’d liked. Paprika pringles still win in this category, I’m afraid.

Something I did notice over there, and found it pretty interesting, is that the pedestrian crossings all make a certain mechanical ticking sound, rather like a grandfather clock. This speeds up when the “green man” is illuminated. On the way back, I bumped into C+J who were up earlyish, for the first time in the entire trip. I dropped my stuff off at the hotel, and I directed them to the Spar. We then went to a nearby bakery (amusingly named “Anker” – well, amusing to us anyway. Apparently, it’s a chain store of bakeries, rather like Greggs over here.)

One thing we sorted on this full first day, and I’m glad we did, was the transport. Vienna has a decent network of underground trains, trams and buses, and all for €14 for a weeks travel. Please note, however, that the ticket is only valid for that week. It ends on Sunday night, no matter what day you buy your ticket. Buy it on Monday, 7 days travel. Buy it on Sunday, 1 day travel.

One thing they’re very “big” on in Vienna is street art. Some people call it graffiti, some call it vandalism. If you look behind the obvious “tagging”, there’s some fantastic pieces out there.

At the end of the road the hotel was on, was this beauty, which made me laugh every time I saw it…

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We made use of the train tickets, and travelled to Stephansplatz. At this point, the sun was cracking the pavements. Thunderstorms were promised later on in the day, but I couldn’t see it coming, as my body started to dessicate because of the heat. I literally thought my scalp was going to have to be ripped off. It turned out to be some possible reaction with the shower gel / shampoo the hotel had provided me with, as I avoided using this, and I was OK for the rest of the trip.

We walked around and found a place that might have been reasonable. It was on a barge-type of thing. I paid €4.75 for a bottle of water. Strange things happen to your wallet when you’re dehydrated. We headed back up to Stephansplatz to have a look around the shops. this was sort of like the expensive part of London. Shops had watches in the window with 5 figure price tags next to them. Unfortunately, the water had pretty much broke my bank account, so a watch of that price would have to wait for another day.

As promised, the rain moved in a short time later, and the distant rumble of thunder made us, and pretty much everyone else head for the underground and, for us, back to the hotel. I ended up going to bed for a couple of hours, as the heat took it out of me. I’ll say one thing about the beds, they were comfy. I think it consisted of one of those foam mattresses. I tried to show just how comfy they were by doing an action shot of me jumping on one. Unfortunately, it looks more like my belt has an erection. Oh dear.

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Eventually, I awoke, and we played pool on the free table for a short while, before heading out onto the town. One thing we struggled with when it came to finding somewhere to eat was the language. No place had an English menu outside. Chris fancied some noodles. Actually, I did too. Now, Vienna has a permanent market situated on ‘Weiner Strasse” (I don’t know how to get one of those funny double-S things), whjich after wandering around aimlessly for a mile, seemed a good place to check out. We’d learned that a place called “Mr. Lee” did noodles at reasonable prices. We ordered them to take out, but were directed to a table until they were ready, and were provided with a bowl of what can only be described as coconut milk and frogspawn. Jonathan reckoned it was semolina, either way, it was slimy and not something I’d personally order. But it was free, and gave us something to discuss while the noodles arrived.

It was a mile back to the hotel, so me and Chris attempted to eat ours, while Jonathan kept his in the bag. Now, at this point, I’ve never felt so much like a tourist in all of my life. I’m walking down a street I’ve never seem before, eating noodles from a plastic tray, with unknown additional ingredients (green stuff, I think they’re called… vegetables?), while using chopsticks… in the end I just held the tray to my mouth and just pushed the contents in with the chopsticks.

After going back to the hotel for an hour, we headed off to find a bar, and happened to find an “Irish” bar. Nothing was irish about it. Literally, nothing. I purchased 3 bottles of something known as “Gosser”. It was cold, alcoholic and at €3.30, for a 500ml bottle, reasonably priced. It turns out it was more of a sports bar

So, after three bottles of that, we headed off back to the hotel. I watched something about cutting people open on BBC World, and promptly fell asleep… I knew I’d be awake early for day three.

Vienna Calling, Day 1

So, by reading this, you’ll all be glad to know that I made it home from my trip to Vienna safely, though my luggage didn’t. that’s a rant for later on in the week.

The day is 4th September. It is 9AM. I leave Mercuryvapour Towers, with Daddykins, in order to pick Chris and Jonathan up. Just as we’re leaving the gravel driveway… “SHIT, forgot my coat…”, which meant Daddykins had to reverse back up while I fumbled around looking for my keys, grab the afore-mentioned garment, and head back out.

Half way to their house it dawned on me, that the €300 I’d got for the trip was sitting on the table. Whoops. Daddykins was less than impressed, especially because the time it took for c+J to get ready seemed like an age. Really, it was probably only about 15 minutes.

The road to the airport was uninteresting. It’s a journey I’ve made three times now, so I’m expectant at every little thing.

One thing I didn’t expect is that, checking in at the desk next to mine was none other than the entire England cricket team. I’d have been awestruck if I actually knew any of them.

Something I realised while I was in the airport, is that I actually hate them. I seem to remember having this feeling on the way back from Paris. They’re just vast, open spaces, selling you rubbish items. Some guy, who obviously didn’t like his job, attempted to sell me a credit card, while C+J exchanged some money. I saw the Mastercard logo, and I pretty much said “Not interested, but isn’t that the England Cricket team over there”? We both then had a good long chat about famous celebrities who had used the airport recently.

Later on, I passed the same guy, I asked “Have you sold any more yet?” He just shook his head and smiled.

Off we went to check-in, with the obligatory stop ‘n’ search. Waiting in the queue for this is the worst thing possible. Everything you own, including your belt, into a box. You then walk through a metal detector. If it doesn’t beep, you’re OK. If it does, you’re frisked. None of us beeped. Phew. Jonathan had to pay £1 for a little plastic bag to put his toiletries into. Laugh? I almost bought one myself.

Thankfully, there wasn’t much waiting around for the plane to Heathrow, I had enough time to dessimate the facilities (I seem to have a habit of doing this at airports), and then we boarded.

The window seat, as you can imagine was mine. No matter how often I fly on planes, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of staring inanely out of the window. I’m just a bit gutted that you can’t film the take-off and landing.

Vienna Day 1, the journey there...

In just over an hour, I was in London, or to be more exact, Heathrow Airport. We arrived at the very posh and clean looking Terminal 5. I was hoping we’d fly from there, but no. It was Terminal 3 we were going from. I knew there would be some sitting around and wandering aimlessly at this point, but nothing quite as dull as I was expecting.

We found somewhere to get something to eat. One of those dodgy fake “pub” things. I had a chicken Tikka, Jonathan had the all-day breakfast. Chris sat there, slowly slipping on a pint of coke, staring inanely into the inky abyss. He really doesn’t enjoy flying. I was able to get an internet signal on my phone for the whole time in the airport, so that killed some time. I checked into Foursquare a couple of times

By the time we left England, the sun was setting and the moon was rising, making for some pretty impressive views over the horizon. Unfortunately, the camera couldn’t handle the reflection from the window.

Oh, one thing I must mention about airline travel, or at least BA travel is these:-

Vienna Day 1, the journey there...

They’re like korma flavoured mini poppadoms, and they were awesome. I have a feeling I’ll never be able to buy them anywhere, as they’re plastered all over the front with “Exclusively for British Airways”, but I’m going to look for them. In fact the whole reason I took that photo is so I can spend the most of today looking on the internet to see if I can find them.

So, we arrive in Vienna. My first worry came when we arrived slightly late, the plane was due in at 22:00, but by the time we’d collected baggage, etc, it was 22:45. Chris had thought ahead when he was booking the trip, and arranged a car to collect us. Would the driver be there? Thankfully he was. He introduced himself, but unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.

A drive through the night streets of Vienna told me a couple of things srreetlighting wise. They like the use of domestic fluorescent, metal halide and sodium light the main roads, and mercury is virtually non-existant.

We get to see some of the sights at night, and we drive up to the hotel. Now, I knew the location but everything I’d looked at online game a different name for it. The reason is, that it had just changed hands a couple of months ago. It showed that it was just a couple of months old, as the place was absolutely spotless. You walk through the front door, and you step into something that resembles a nightclub, as the reception desk also doubles up as the hotel’s bar. LED lighting casts violet hues over everything. There is a dining area to the left, chairs and sofas to the right, and behind the reception desk is a pool table. A FREE pool table.

We check in, I was in 318, C+J were in 303. This was great, until we actually went to the rooms. Mine had two beds in it, and theirs only had one, so we simply just swapped, not realising this could cause problems when it came to stuff like room service, and if we got locked out of our rooms. Which it did, later in the week.

So, eventually we get our rooms sorted. I then noticed something amazing. Instead of minibars, six steps away from room was a vending machine. Not just any old vending machine, however, this one served beer…

Vienna, Hotel vending machine

I’d saved a bag of coins from previous holidays, meaning I had €14 to throw inside of this thing. At €2 a bottle, it wasn’t cheap, but this bag of coins was classed as “bonus money”, therefore I’d thrown 6 bottles down my neck, a packet of crisps and a bag of Haribo teddies. I was simply amazed, and if we hadn’t swapped rooms, I’d had never known it was there.

Oooh! Rock me Amadeus!

Nowt like starting a post with an obscure song from a dead Austrian. I was originally going to call this post “Vienna Calling (Awooooah!)”, but I thought that would be a little too obscure, plus I’m actually listening to the extended version of “Rock Me Amadeus” as I type this. It’s the 8-minute version. On repeat. I’m wearing headphones. And they’re at full blast.

And so, it begins. The countdown to the holiday which has been tentatively planned since the spring of 2009. Lots of shit has happened which means these annual trips haven’t been so annual. However, in what seems like no time at all, I shall once again be leaving the shores of this wonderful country, and heading up into the skies to Austria, and finally landing in a heap somewhere near Vienna airport…

As usual, Chris and Jonathan will be tagging along.

This trip appears to be organised better than the last ones already. We’ve booked transport from the airport to the hotel, and the reverse trip a week later. I’m already scouting Google Maps for directions to the landmarks.

I’m not revealing the days I’m going (not yet anyway), but it’s soon. Expect the usual amount of photos (976 tagged with ‘paris‘, 919 tagged with ‘“berlin‘… this time, however, I’ll be taking 48Gb worth of memory cards (count ’em!) with me, and my little Canon is easier to take videos with than my old camcorder, so expect plenty of videos too! I might sort out some type of internet on my phone so I’ll be able to update with my experience while I’m over there….

Nottingham! It’s in Nottinghamshire! (Part 1)

So, the world and his dog can’t have failed to notice I’ve been out of Hartlepoolland for a few days. I wasn’t meant to be going until a couple of weeks ago, as Daddykins was meant to be going, but he dropped out at the last moment. There was a group of us who attended, 15 in all – members of the club I attend on a Tuesday night (when I’m not at Employment Palace).

I got a taxi at 8AM, picking Chris up on the way (he’s also one of the 15 members), dropping us off at the bus stop outside of the college at about 8:10. The coach wasn’t due until 8:30.

At approximately 8:45, the coach finally turned up. We boarded, and headed off around the North East, picking up other eager tourists ready for the trip. As soon as the last one got one board, the driver finally introduced himself via the microphone. After the formalities were dealt with, he said something like “So, you’re off to Nottingham… may I ask… why?”

I can’t remember his name, but he shall, from now on, he known as “Happy Harry”. Considering we were only technically there for a night and a full day, it wasn’t exactly heartwarming to have a bus driven by a cynic…

He announced there would be a stop-off in Derby. I won’t bore you with the details of the journey there (or how Chris almost got charged £89 for a bottle of drink, two sausage rolls and a copy of Viz), as most of it was spent, drifting out of consciousness whilst chuckling at the articles in Chris’s afore-mentioned adult comic.

So, we approached Derby. Imagine the scene, as we head along the road, only to be faced with red traffic lights, and a bloke peering out of his flat, stark bollock naked. I don’t think he quite planned to be waved at by a group of “tourists” laughing their heads off. Of course, he backed away pretty sheepishly after this. Classy, Derby. Very classy.

Of course, Happy Harry then managed to take a wrong turning, meaning we got to see more of the centre of Derby than we needed to. He then dropped us off at what appeared to be a random bus stop, and said he would pick us up there. You want to know how random the bus stop was? Here you go… Linkage

Hardly suitable for buses, never mind coaches. It’s pointing at the Babington Arms, which is a pub, just in case you’re thick and didn’t realise it from that link. Either way, it would appear that not only did we have a cynic driving the bus, it was a cynic with no sense of direction. Joy.

It was a Wetherspoons, so you know what to expect. It was also the place where the first photo of me got taken, shamelessly stolen from Facebook…

After two hours we were all ready to go and get set up at the hotel. Happy Harry had other ideas, as we arrived in Nottingham, circled the hotel, and then went in completely the wrong direction to find the entrance. His apology once again, came over the coach tannoy system… “What a bloody stupid place to put a hotel”…

After what seemed like an eternity sorting out the keycards, we made our way up to the hotel room. Thanks to some name juggling, according to their system I was called Barry. It shall stay this way for the entire time I was there.

Upon first impression, the room was excellent. 7th floor, two double beds. It even had two bathrooms which means two toilets. Therefore, any outfall caused by excessive vindaloo consumption could be kept to a bare minimum. Bonus. I recorded another stupid “wish You Were Here” style video, but it needs editing badly. The view wasn’t the best. A call centre (complete with Aspect telephones) to the left, a car park to the centre, and other modern buildings to the right…

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After dumping the bags, and getting a bit of a cleanup, we headed off looking for a bite to eat. Close friends and relatives will know that I scoured Google Maps to see if there was an indian nearby. Not one, not two. Not even four. there were SIX within spitting distance of the hotel. Unfortunately, most were expensive, and were shut. We were inspecting the menu of one of the couple of open ones, a place called “Chutney”. One of the waiters came out and thrust a 20% voucher into my paw. This was looking tempting. Actually, I lie. With that little piece of paper in my hand, my mind was already made up…

We went there!

It was exceptional. Food was great, staff were friendly and yeah, the discount stuck. Happy days.

The same, however, can’t be said for the hotel bar. The Blackpool trip featured entertainment in a root big enough to be used as a conference centre. Fair enough, it wasn’t top notch entertainment, but it kept us sane, and the beer was acceptable for hotel standards.

That was Blackpool. This hotel’s night facilities consisted of a tiny room, Entertainment came in the form of (wait for it) 6 games of bingo, should you choose to pay for it. If you didn’t, you just had to sit there and drink your “free bar”. That is, if you like watered down beer. I had a bit of toothache, and was on a full stomach, so I thought it was just me who thought it was as weak as kittens. Thankfully it wasn’t.

Disappointed with the free bar, we headed out into the city, eventually settling in the Roebuck Inn. It seemed pretty quiet, and that name “Wetherspoons” cropped up again. I introduced Chris to Jaegerbombs, which he didn’t enjoy. He introduced me to something stunning. Don’t ask me what they call it. It was apple juice and some newly available cinnamon liqueur. I DID enjoy this. I have no idea how he found it, but he knows of my love for apple and cinnamon. Therefore, the two combined in some kind of alcoholic beverage was out of this world. Towards the end of the night I remember having a good crack on with the bar staff. It was this place that made me really begin to like Nottingham.

Day 2 was only a sleep away…