Viva Darbados – Day 1

As both of my readers may know, I have just got back (well, last week) from a trip to the city of Derby. This follows the previous years’ excursion to Macclesfield, and the year before that, to Skegness, both of which have been with my mate Chris, and this year was to be no exception.

Chris picked me up at 11AM sharp. The weather in Partypool was a little overcast, but dry. As we headed south, the weather changed and it would stay that way for the entire journey there.

Unlike previous years, we didn’t stop anywhere on the way down, as we had an extra day, so it was straight to Derby. To describe the journey as uneventful would have been an understatement. We arrived just before 3PM, and managed to get a parking space next to the hotel. the prices were very reasonable. £15.00 for 48 hours.

It was, of course, raining when we got there, and it wasn’t time to check in yet, so we headed to the first place to grab a drink, in this case it was a bottle of boke in the ‘Slug & Lettuce’.

So, a bottle of the ‘ard stuff later, the rain has stopped, so we had our first wander around. One thing became clear, Derby likes its abandoned buildings. Large swathes of the city centre appeared to be abandoned, or about to be demolished, and some of the shops that were opened were of a… shall we say… questionable nature.

As this was the first day of 4, we did a cursory glance around the charity shops. The first one happened to be a “Cats Protection”. Upon previous experiences, I know these are quite expensive, but at 50p a CD, it was acceptable. Nobody apparently wanted to serve me. Hmmm. Can’t be that used to havng customers. Eventually, a lady did servce me, and I left the establishment clutching a Nigel Kennedy Greatest Hits CD. No, I don’t know why either. I just felt like I had to start the trip somewhere.

We found what appeared to be the main shopping centre, namely “The Derbion”. This was a clean and spacious shopping centre. Your usual array of shops, and of course, there was the usual shopping centre collection of charity shops such as British Heart Foundation and Age UK.

The rain was continuing to fall lightly, so we headed back to the hotel to check in. The room was your standard Premier Inn affair, with the exception that the window didn’t open. Strange. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in any hotel where this was the case.

By now, it’s an unwritten tradition what we watch Tipping Point. It just always happens to be on the telly when we get to wherever we’re going.

We spent about an hour or so in here while my phone battery charged. It’s reaching that age where it’s getting needier for a dose of electricity, and no, I’m not going to buy a new one until this one dies.

The rain had stopped, so it was time to explore the area in the search of… liquid refreshment. everal days earlier, I’d been exploring on Google Maps, and found a taproom just over the river from the hotel.

We walked in, only to be greeted with the sight of a laptop and papers strewn everywhere. Well, it didn’t look very open, and the guy behind the laptop had to check if they were actually serving today…. indeed they were closed. Apparently one of the contractors must have left the door open, as they were planning for a refurb. Gutted. The guy said that they’d be open at 3 the following day, so a return trip was planned. Instead, we went to “The Old Silk Mill”.

I liked this place. Pretty cosy, though it did seem to have an aroma of cooked fish about it. I can’t believe I got a pint of Madri when there were so many other exotic beers available. I didn’t see that they had Citra on draft until it was too late.

We had one or two in there, and then headed to “Ye Olde Dolphin Inne”. I really liked this place. It’s one of those places that were built when people were a lot shorter. Low ceilings, all the beers were pumped from a cask. the only thing out of place was the games machine. Sadly, I can’t remember the name of the beer I had (something like Screeching Owl), but it was exceptional. this was to become a regular for the next few days.

Two pints later, and we’d just excaped the rain. It was time to look for some food. There were a number of highly rated Indian Restaurants that appeared, so we picked one, seemingly at random…. The Spice Lounge.

This was certainly a good choice, as the food was excellent. Of course, I had the chicken vindaloo, and I enjoyed it immensely. If I had one critiscism about it, is that you don’t really get enough dips to go with your poppadoms. I think we’d finished 3 of the 4 dips between us, leaving only the white one, because nobody ever eats that stuff.

Overall, a very nice place, and I don’t think the prices were too bad either.

After we left The Spuice Lounge, we headed up the same road to see if we could find a nice pub to settle into for the rest of the night. We ended up in one called The Greyhound. Chris and I both agreed that this part of the city felt very much like York. and this place was no exception, it definitely felt like something you’d see there. The place was really nicely done out…. except for the toilets.

In the first draft of the blog, I put in a detailed description about them. Bog was, quite literally the operative word here Let’s just say some careful hovering was needed, and the rest I’ll leave up to your imagination. Instead, I’ll include a photo of the place itself.

The Greyhound had its last orders at half 10, so we drank up and completed the short walk to the hotel. One bottle of Peroni later, and that was me ready for bed. What excitement would await us the following day? One thing’s for sure, there won’t be as many photos of the inside of pubs as this one…

Day two…

The day was Tuesday, and I was awoken by the sound of the building site directly outside of the hotel. it was 7:30. I was less than pleased. Still, it gave me the chance to view exactly what the place looked like in the daytime.

Well, apart from the mass of mud and machinery, it’s not too bad. the River Spree is the stretch of water in the background, and the row of cafes and bars behind it were where most of our Euros went. I’ll mention more about these as the days go on, as we didn’t venture down this way on the first couple of days.

At approximately 10:30, it was time to find breakfast. Not easy in a place you dont know too well. The plan was to head northerly up Friedrichstrasse (the long street the hotel sat on), and hope we come across some kind of shop.

Within seconds, my dream came true. There was an indian no more than 100 yards from the hotel. I almost dropped to my knees in floods of happiness. Even better, we found what looked like an Irish bar too. So, that was the night sorted, and my food sorted for the week. Grub at the indian, along to the Irish bar to drink. Hurrah!

We kept walking, and eventually came across a little internet cafe, though I decided not to use the internet. Chris and Jonathan, however, opted for a sarnie and a cuppa, and I enjoyed a bottle of coke I’d bought earlier on, though it does taste different over there.

So, the sarnies were eaten, and we carry on with our exploration of the city. At this point, there was no particular plan to the journey, so we picked a direction, and continued walking. According to Google Earth, we were heading along Oranienburger Strasse. This seemed to be the old part of East Berlin, with many old tall buildings. Clearly, it was my first chance to appear in a photo in Berlin….

As we didn’t have a clue where we were, and found these posters rather odd, we reached a landmark (a railway bridge) and headed back. We noticed that street also had a lot of nice looking bars and eateries on there too, so we decided we’d also visit there later too.

One thing that became clear, however, is that we were not going to make it far in the blistering heat. Seemed that every few minutes, we were stopping off for drinks, which were small and ludicrously expensive.

I think that bottle of water cost me 2 euros. Bah.

They say that mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. But only Englishmen go out in the midday sun, walk into a random chemist and buy a bottle of suncream for €13.50… which is exactly what I did. Or rather, Chris went in and bought it for me. I gave him a tenner. My jaw *dropped* when he came out asking for more money. Still, at least it was a worthy purchase.

On the previous night, I failed to mention that after we arrived, we had a very short walk around outside the hotel, and noticed that during the day, there were bus tours which took you round Berlin. This was going to be our next activity.

The bus trip cost €20, which seemed like a lot, but the ticket lasted for the full day, which meant we could get off at any of the stops, and look around. The guide was provided by a pair of headphones mounted in the seat, and a button on the seat itself where you could choose the language. Amusingly, the only place we stopped off was the main train station, or the Hauptbahnhoff. At least I think that’s how you spell it. The main reason we stopped off, however, is that I’d noticed some sand sculptures, which seemed interesting.

As can clearly be seen by that, I didn’t take my main camera on this trip, instead I opted for my camcorder. Disastrously, the battery didn’t last more than 20 minutes of filming, as I kept forgetting to turn it off. Therefore, it was up to my trusty cameraphone to catch most of the photos. Due to the fact the headphones attached to my seat were broken, I don’t really have much of an idea what I was taking photos of, though there were some impressive buildings, such as this brick towerblock.

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So, with the trip completed, we had a little more idea of what was on offer, and the best places to see. And, the fact they were all pretty much in the vacinity of the hotel.

We decided to complete our full day in the land of Sauerkraut by getting ready and going out for something proper to eat. And where did we go? Well, would you believe it, we ended up in the indian. Hurrah! Now, something I was surprised about was that the majority of the food places have most of their seating outside. This was certainly a new experience for me. So, we were sat down, in wicker chairs, under large parasols advertising some kind of German Pilsner. We ordered food, and didn’t have to wait too long for it to arrive. While we were eating, a red squirrel scurried across the floor next to us. That was odd. Not only was this the first time I’d seen a squirrel close up, it was a red one too. These are rare as fook here in England, so it was a nice and welcome surprise.

The food was magnificent. Large portions, good rice, nice soft naan breads. It was better than most places at home, and it wasn’t too spicy.

After the food was pouched, it was time to go out and experience some German beer. Of course, we couldn’t resist a stroll into the Irish bar, seeing as it was only a few metres away from the indian. Strangely enough, drink-wise, this happened to be the low point of the trip. I got a pint of Fosters (well, 500ml of Fosters) which was warm, and tasted like a mixture of cider and wine, and Chris and Jonathan got a pint of Newky Brown, which tasted equally as bad. After 1 drink, we simply couldn’t stay there any more.

We returned down the same route we’d taken on the morning, in order to check some of the bars they had on offer… we found this little place with a courtyard. It was rather empty, and rather nice. Pils flowed like water, despite it being expensive. I think it was €4 for 500ml…

Suddenly, the poster I was leaning against in the earlier picture made perfect sense – we were walking down the red light district. It’s funny how the majority of them asked if we wanted a good time in perfect English, as if they could tell just by looking at us. We refused, and kept walking to the final bar of the evening. a mock American diner… now, I’m sure if any of us at this point had actually been sober, we’d have enjoyed it, but all the barman (who wasn’t German either) wanted to talk about was football. Ergh.

What I remember more than anything about this place was the “bar” itself. It was apparently made from some kind of translucent resin, with fluorescent tubes underneath it. The heat from the tubes, combined with the years of drinks spilled on it, caused your arms, glass and everything that touched it, to stick to the bar.

None of us fancied a conversation about football, so we made our excuses and left. Quickly. We, once again, had to head through the red light district on the way back to the hotel.

Something which I failed to mention is that whilst at the train station, Chris bought two 1 litre cans of lager, one of which he gave me. I enjoyed immensely. I attempted to go to sleep, listening to a radio station on my mobile – BRF 91.4 . The first song I heard was Mike Oldfield’s “Shadow On The Wall”. I’d never heard this played on the radio before. I was delighted.

After listening to some classic songs, I rolled over, and went to sleep. Day 3 was only a few hours away.