Tag Archives: travel writing

My Real Merry Cheesemas: Read Earlier Posts If You Don’t Get It!

7 Jan

Like the “excess baggage” from this years festive indulgence, I’m still here. And I’m not going anywhere. At least not until I dust off my grossly inappropriate workout wear and lay off le pain o chocolat.

The only way this could be more inappropriate is if they were wearing bum bags.

The only way this could be more inappropriate is if they were wearing bum bags.

This simile is starting to run a bit thin, so I’m going to get on with the next part of my ski France series. This actually has something to do with my “excess baggage” as most of it came from the mountains of food that was included in the price of the tour! Though I haven’t really helped my case since then either, as yesterday we went on a two-hour round trip purely for one of these:

If you're not sure what this is, it is the world's BEST sausage roll and you should go back and read my earlier work.

If you’re not sure what this is, it is the world’s BEST sausage roll and you should go back and read my earlier work.

Anyway, it was my full intention to get one or two photos of the food on offer at UCPA meal times. However every time the meal room doors were thrown open, such was the stampede for the grub that I had to sacrifice journalistic integrity to ensure I had a good crack at the buffet. Not that there was ever a shortage of food, but a primitive pack mentality seemed to take over every time.

As I said last time, our Travel Talk tour included three meals every day, leaving all your spending money for drinks and novelty fridge magnets. But since I didn’t get any photos you’ll have to make do with my descriptions.

All food was served buffet style, but I was generally impressed with the quality from cooks who had to provide for a few hundred people. There was always a soup with accompanying croutons for those who wanted to waste room on “non-delicious fillers”, but I generally chose to go straight for the mains. They included hearty options such as meatballs, various types of fish, continental sausages, cold meat platters, roast lamb, roast duck, beef casserole, and probably others that I couldn’t fit in.

There was also a salad bar on hand for people pretending to be healthy while smothering their lettuce leaf with Caesar sauce and cheese. One night also included fondue-style cheese, which I was VERY excited about. Then we realised it was only meant as a sauce to be put on top of your broccoli (or some such nonsense). This was nothing a few soup bowls couldn’t fix though, and I spent a very enjoyable and delicious dinner time dipping bread (and whatever else I could find) in to liquid cheese.

The bread is also worth mentioning. Some places you go to eat, the bread is just a disappointing ornament better suited to propping up your wobbly side table than eating. In France though, they take bread seriously, and we should all take a lesson from them. Every meal was accompanied by fresh white or sour dough baguettes, which you cut yourself as chunky as you want. As far as I’m concerned every restaurant, cafe, service station and bus stop should now have a “bread station” with fresh baguettes.

Finally on to dessert. I’m not a dessert person to be honest. If I had to have a two-course meal, it would be entree and main. Or bread with liquid cheese and entree. The dessert offerings were also quite impressive though. Always available was a variety of cheeses, fruit and tubs of yogurt, plus a freezer with packaged or scoop ice-creams to help yourself to. There were also various other desserts available throughout the week, including cheesecakes, sponge cakes, bread pudding, chocolate mousse and brownies. These were a little more hit and miss for me, but maybe that’s because of my “foodism” in favour of savoury things.

So that’s quick wrap of the food on our Travel Talk ski France. There was honestly no need to buy any extra food for the entire week (we didn’t strictly “need” to buy extra chocolate eclairs, but such is the “who cares, we’re on holiday” mentality). Stay tuned for a wrap of all things cold, white and embarrassing next time.

I also feel I should apologise for the abundance of words with few visuals to break up the text. Here is a late attempt to make up for it.

His giant dune buggy is just out of shot

His giant dune buggy is just out of shot.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J


Getting French As: Le Ski France part 1

1 Jan

I know the concept of opposite seasons is a difficult one to grasp, but the number of people that just can’t fathom the fact that we from down under are used to hot Christmases is a little worrying. Then again, I find it hard to fathom that people think they can actually catch the cheese.

Anyway, the relevance of what I’m trying to say comes with the fact that a “white”, or even cold Christmas is something of a novelty to people of Australia and many other countries. It doesn’t matter how high you turn the air conditioner while watching Miracle on 34th Street, you just can’t get the real experience.

With this in mind, and the fact that Mr G. Warming has made a white Christmas a novelty for Londoners these days, we set about getting guaranteed snow for this year’s festive season. Naturally, the answer was  a ski resort in the French Alps. It began as any holiday should with an early morning cab ride to the airport, which would’ve been less stressful had the cabs actually shown up and not forced us to make frantic phone calls to ensure we made it on time. My stress was somewhat alleviated by the comic relief of a friend, who was heard to remark “have we got Kevin?”

Just in case you didn't get it.

Just in case you didn’t get it.

Our early morning Monarch Airlines flight went relatively smoothly considering the time of year, the half empty flight even allowing us to stretch out and catch up on some shut-eye. After a short wait at Grenoble, soon we were on a coach piloted by Pierre Shumacher, who did not drive as though the lives of forty other people were of much concern. The scenery did get steadily more amazing, although the motion of the bus meant that the photos I took are not even up to my low, low standards.

Sooner than we probably should have, we arrived at Les Deux Alpes (The Two Alps) and found that speaking French is actually quite easy. You see, despite the french being so protective of their tongue, you really only need to put “le” in front of everything. For example: “le airport”, “le coffee”, “le holy shit this bus is going to fall down the mountain”. Sadly none of the people we were traveling with found this as amusing as my friend and I, and it was put to bed fairly early on.

Our ski France holiday was booked through Travel Talk, and for the 439 pounds that we paid, I was skeptical of what to expect. The price included six nights hostel accommodation, all ski hire, lift passes, three meals a day AND four three-hour lessons on the slopes. Le bargain! Sorry I’ll stop now.

Despite the fact that we had booked through Travel Talk, there was little to suggest they were involved in anything but the booking process. This wasn’t a bad thing, as the process at UCPA was exceptionally smooth without any extra help. UCPA is not a hotel or travel company, rather its a sports association that exists to provide great ski experiences while keeping the cost as low as possible.

This is done in a number of ways, including guests taking on small responsibilities like wiping down their dining table and basic cleaning of their room before they check out. So this isn’t a ski holiday for people like this, but it’s pretty cheap considering the price of skiing in many other places.

Upon check-in we were issued with our room numbers and lift passes, then invited to get fitted out for our equipment straight away. To be honest when I woke that morning at 3:15am I wasn’t thinking by mid-afternoon I’d be cutting some “gnarly” lines through the powder of the French Alps. To be honest again, that’s not what happened. To describe my efforts on a snowboard as “gnarly” would violate my commitment to truth and quality, but we did hit the slopes and the view ain’t too bad up there.

2012-12-24 11.14.23

After naturally having our confidence obliterated by people half our size and age (and somehow, probably with more money), we retired to UCPA where we found many of our trip mates had started testing out the local beverage dispensaries. It was also time for dinner, but I’ll devote a more appropriate chunk of the next post to the food.

That’ll have to do for now. I must also say happy new year to everyone who inexplicably keeps me from having an excuse to stop this blog by actually reading it. I’m very grateful to all of you. And to show this in true BBS style, here is an “arty” camera phone picture of some sky explosions which occurred last night when we trekked in to central London to experience the annual festival of public urination. The explosions were pretty cool too.

2013-01-01 00.01.51


Thanks for reading, safe travels in 2013. J

Snoop’s Merry Cheesemas: Budapest Part 2

10 Dec

Sorry, this post was mostly finished about three days ago, but since then I’ve been preoccupied with finding myself a new winter hat. Something stylish like this.winter hat

But given that since arriving here I’ve spent a total of six (that’s 6) British pounds on three hats and have a grand total of zero hats to show for it, I’ve decided to go with something a little more conspicuous.turkeyhat

If you’re trying to guess, the bottom one is me. Now back to Budapest…

Right! Now, where was I? Oh yes, we had just seen none other than a man playing wine glasses as though they were a real instrument. So frankly, it’s all down hill from here.

After our long day of walking, eating goulash soup and surreptitiously trying to get photos of a man playing glasses, we returned to Wombats Hostel for a well-earned power nap. I always find when returning to your place of rest after a day out, you run the very real risk of rationalising your way in to staying there rather than going out again.

For example, you might think: “Yeah I really should go back out to visit the third best bar in the world, but this place does have a history of communism. If I go out I could easily find myself on the wrong side of an abruptly constructed wall, or I could not be allowed to leave and be forced to eek out a living playing the wine glasses for patrons’ spare change.”

Then of course, you remember that you’re being a completely lazy and irrational knob end (my new favourite British term) and you should stop your pathetic jibber-jabbing and go do something meaningful with your short time in this beautiful place.

So we set about finding what Lonely Planet (amateurs) refers to as the world’s third best bar. At least, that’s what our free walking tour guide said. I’ve since found little evidence to back this claim up, but nevertheless, Szimpla Kert in Budapest’s District Seven is something to behold.

The decor is almost indescribable, as it has that oh-so-familiar feel of “we just found this crap out the back when we bought this place, and turned it all in to furniture or hung it on the wall”. But I also got the feeling this was one of the first places to do this. There are small separate bars for street food and hookah pipes as well as the main drinks bar, and though the drinks were on the pricey side for Budapest, it was still cheaper than drinking in most other European capitals. Definitely worth a visit.

After a drink or two we set off to find what we were mainly there for, Christmas markets. For me, Christmas markets meant one thing, food. Now, Christmas markets mean two things, food and booze. The food was extensive, and we did our best to try paprika sausages, chocolate-dipped fruit, and many other things that you can only eat when you say “yeah go on, I’m on holiday”. But the most fascinating was the “chimney cake”, as seen being prepared here:2012-11-24 18.57.16

These are basically big spirals of dough that are expertly cooked over hot coals, then coated in your choice of cinnamon, chocolate, sugar or a few other choices. There was a story that went with it, but you know I’m not in to that.

We also tried all manner of mulled wines and a hot cherry beer which was quite interesting. But the ultimate winter warmer was the “grog”. You’d think we would have been a little suspicious at the name, but we thought little of it. As it turns out, “grog” has a rather similar meaning in Hungarian. A cup of grog contained a hastily measured amount of rum, an unknown amount of orange schnapps, and I’m not real sure what else. It is also served hot, which means it is a mistake to breathe in as you take a sip. I’m not sure if alcohol taken in through steam vapour is more effective, but its not all that pleasant. Once we worked it out though, there’s no more effective or tasty way to stay warm.

The following day we were to depart, but not before experiencing Budapest’s mineral spring baths. Apparently Budapest is famous for them. Never having heard of them myself, I think Budapest tourism could perhaps do a better job, because they are well worth a visit! Here is a pic of the outdoor area taken so as not to draw attention to the fact I was taking clandestine photos at a public bath house:

It's worth noting that it was about four degrees.

It’s worth noting that it was about four degrees.

There are dozens of baths in the complex, both indoor and outdoor and at various temperatures. Price of entry is very reasonable and the experience is well worth the freezing sprint between the door and the outdoor pools.

After enjoying various temperature water, it was time to stroll back to get our ride to the airport. However on the way it was difficult not to notice just how many people are getting involved in Christmas this year.

I think the translation says "Merry Chrizzle, Snoop's upside ya tree".

I think the translation says “Merry Chrizzle, Snoop’s upside ya tree”.

As you know, for me getting involved in local food culture doesn’t just mean finding authentic paprika sausage and goulash soup. I also couldn’t resist the most pathetic pun in corporate food history.bk pun

It doesn’t rhyme, it doesn’t even have the same sound. It was tasty though.

With all that it was time to head back to the airport, another flat rate taxi ride away. Our flight back was to be with easyJet, and never having had a problem with them, I was expecting a better experience with Ryanair. However, thanks to one particular overzealous airport worker, we were still on the runway 45 minutes after departure time. I won’t dwell though, because it was a wonderful weekend in a beautiful city.

Oh, and before I forget, I should tell you the exciting news I dangled at the end of the last post and have expertly placed at the end of this post to ensure readers stick around til now (assuming you haven’t got bored and left already). Anyway, in order to ensure a stereotypical European white Christmas, I will be heading somewhere where an absence of snow may entitle me to compensation. The French Alps.

In the meantime I may or may not bring you a post about my breakfast this weekend. Miss it at your peril.

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

I Left Hungary For More: Budapest part 1

29 Nov

I know it’s been another long absence, nearly two weeks if I’m to believe the very sparse-looking calendar thing somewhere on the right side of this page. But I also know that you know to expect any kind of regularity is more futile than telling me how Back to the Future part III is fundamentally flawed. I won’t hear it.

Anyway, the main reason I’m back is because I actually have something to write about. That’s right, as promised over the past week and a bit I have returned from the West island of New Zealand (still funny), done a jet lagged 4 1/2 days of work, and spent the weekend in Budapest. By my standards I need around two months paid leave to recover now.

So I’m sure at least five of you seven loyal readers are thinking along the same lines: “you only went to Budapest for the many obvious Hungary puns.” Well you’re sort of right, but I had also heard it was an amazing place from everyone who’d been, therefore it was on my list of must-see places for this trip.

It began with what is widely accepted as the most shambolic airline in the world. Ryanair. I know you’re not paying for the service, but you do pay for pretty much everything else. That being said, it got us there on time and without too much fuss. We then set about getting to Wombats Hostel, and given how much trouble it can be to get from some airports in the world, the fixed-price taxi service was extremely welcome.

The following morning we were determined to make the most of our flying weekend visit, and so embarked upon a free walking tour. Rather than being ‘free’, these tours are actually based on tips (which they make very clear at the start) and are a very cheap way of seeing a city and getting heaps of information. After winding our way through various landmarks, we arrived at the Palace overlooking the river and were greeted with:

I know what you’re thinking. And despite the fact that it is neither on a shit angle, nor blurry, I did in fact take this photo. This is taken from the Buda side and overlooks the Pest side of Budapest. There’s a story about the names but you’ll have to visit if you want to hear it, since to explain it would take this dangerously in to the territory of an actual travel blog.

Along the way we also stopped by St. Stephens Basilica, a very impressive cathedral located on the Pest side. It looks like this:

You’ll be pleased to see a return to my “arty” photography style

I think you’ll agree on it’s impressive-ness. However I really only point this out to show you the ingenious way previous town planners have employed to make it seem even more impressive:

No doubt they erected the most boring building they could so as not to detract from the cathedral’s majesty. Or perhaps communist Lego blocks were not as colourful as ours. Either way I think it makes a nice juxtaposition.

After our walking tour we resolved to find some authentic Hungarian cuisine, which we were informed consisted of meat, lard, paprika, and occasionally potatoes. Seems limited but after two days I’m convinced they are the only 3-4 things you could ever need to cook. In any case we found we were looking for in the form of a nice hearty goulash soup.

Probably wouldn’t work as a Master Chef taste challenge

That was tasty, but what I really need to talk about is that we saw this:

If you’re not sure because you can’t see him that well, YES. That is a man playing the wine glasses! It’s one of those things I’ve seen on TV but never did I dream I would see one in real life. Clearly this is not just your average guy who happened to have some free time and a fully stocked armoire. Such is the organisation of his packing cases (not to mention his skillz) I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a roadie in a Jamie Turner T-shirt skulking out to replace cracked vessels.

That will have to do for now, as I’m trying to string this out ’til Christmas. Speaking of which, I have some exciting news (exciting for me anyway). Stay tuned for that, plus the epic conclusion to the Budapest adventure. Now THAT is dangling some impressive carrots!


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Tenuous Travel Puns: Giving Long Haul A Royal Brunei

14 Nov

Don’t you hate it when something that’s clearly run its course teases you with ever-lengthening absences, only to make an unwelcome return just when you thought it was finally over?

I’m not referring to anything in particular, I just find that really annoying. On an entirely unrelated matter, here’s another post!

Now THAT is high-brow humour, don’t be ashamed if you didn’t get it.

Today is an extra special edition of BBS. The reasons for this special-ness range from my clearly diminishing vocabulary (see: special-ness), to the fact that I’ve found time in my busy catch-up schedule to write this down.

In any case, these words are “slicker than your average” (as Craig David would say) because they come to you all the way from my homeland. My homeland being what delusional New Zealanders refer to as the West Island. Though I say this is special, it seems less so when I consider that the majority of my global readership (7) is already in Australia.

“Why are you back in Australia” I hear you not asking? Well, since you didn’t ask, I won’t tell you that  I’m on a worldwide campaign to eradicate the use of the word ‘amazeballs’. And if this explanation has got too convoluted to bother to keep reading, then here.

In actual fact I’m back for a very special wedding, in which I will be participating. No, I’m not the groom. But I did have a hand in choosing the suits.


Back to business. My whirlwind tour began with me freaking out at Heathrow Airport because I couldn’t find my flight on the check-in board. I then realised my flight was a half-hour later than I thought, seasoned traveler that I am.

I was booked in to fly with Royal Brunei Airlines, and as I had found no one in the five months since I’d booked who had ever flown with them, I was expecting it to be anything from this:

to this:

Somewhat predictably, the reality fell somewhere in the middle. The planes are not exactly brand new but the service includes all the usual comforts like personal entertainment systems, complimentary food and drinks, and the requisite child of Satan ruining everyone else’s flight.

The main omission from the service that I feel I must mention is that it is a “dry airline”. No that doesn’t mean it won’t operate in the rain, but rather that there is no alcohol served on board. This was not a huge issue for me, as all I need for a good time is to fall asleep watching Snow White and the Huntsman. But if you need a few G & Ts to wash down your valium, this may not be the airline for you.

After short stops in Dubai and Brunei I arrived less tired than I’d predicted, thanks in no small part to Kristen Stewart’s monotonous work. Since then I’ve been maintaining a heavy schedule of bucks activities, friendly catch ups, and suit fittings.

I feel I should at least make short mention of my hometown. I realise the lameness of writing a travel blog about your hometown, but since London is my place of residence at the moment, it’s kind of a holiday.

I once referred to my hometown of Geelong as a place close enough to Melbourne that its just easier to say Melbourne when someone asks you where you’re from. This is something I still do, but I’m still very fond of Geelong. It’s a very pleasant city situated on Corio bay in the Southeast of Australia. I went to take an idyllic picture of the city’s prized waterfront, but we all know my approach to photography falls somewhere between “crap” and “total indifference to quality”. Therefore, here is picture taken by someone with access to either a helicopter, or the world’s tallest cherry picker.


At the end of the long pier is an establishment that includes a cafe, restaurant, very comfortable lounge/bar, and a function centre. However this is a far cry from its heyday as an all-you-can-eat-restaurant with an animatronic underwater show about a seal. I’m still smarting about that.

While my attempt to take my own photo of our iconic waterfront was unsuccessful, I did manage to capture two of the things I miss most about home while I’m in London:

If you haven’t already guessed, those two things are weather you can sit outside in, and reasonably priced sushi. Enough said, I think. I’ve got things to do, like attend a wedding. And making sure people who use the word ‘amazeballs’ are promptly tarred and feathered.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J



Missing The Point (In A Good Way): The British Museum

4 Nov

There’s a saying you may have heard of that goes along the lines of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Wise words, to be sure. But today it has me wondering about a slight change that may become the modus operandi of this blog (I think modus operandi is Latin for “poached eggs please”, but it sounds good). BBS – “If you don’t have anything to say, start writing and see what happens.”

And so I shall, sort of. Because I have some things to say today, but not much. If, like me, you are skeptical about the upcoming content of this post, here is a link to another use of your time.

Firstly, I think it’s nice to live in a city where there are places you can go when you don’t really want to do anything, they’re just nice places to be. For me, one of these places to go is The British Museum. If you’re ever looking for it, it looks like this:

I sha’n’t (shall not) be going over my approach to photography again.

Personally though, I prefer to find it by going to the vintage Citroen hot dog van and turning right.

See earlier comments re: photography.

As I was  saying, The British Museum is one of those places I just like to be. Among it’s like, totally way-old stuff are the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, an original pressing of Toto’s ‘Africa’, and thousands of artifacts that span our rich and compelling human history. Truth be told though, I just like the building.

As you reach for you complaint-writing pen, just bare with me a moment. The historical stuff is fascinating, wonderful and free of charge, and I recommend anyone to see it when they come to London. But even now that I’ve seen and marveled at all that, what draws me back when I don’t feel like doing much else is the main entrance hall.

This view probably takes in less than a quarter of the whole hall. It is difficult to describe why I like it so much, probably because it feels as close to being outside as you can get at the moment without your eyes turning to ice cubes.

In any case, when you’re in London and want some free tourism AND cool architecture, The British Museum is the place to go.

I guess the other stuff I should mention now is that I have some travel plans in the very near future (for those who are keeping track of my movements on a large wall-mounted world map). On roughly Thursday I will be making a whirlwind tour of my homeland. This will last roughly a week and a half before returning from all that stifling heat to the soothing cold of the UK.

Not long after however, I am booked in for a weekend in Budapest. Not to put too much pressure on Hungary and its capital, but I’m yet to find a person with a bad thing to say about Budapest. So I’m pretty much expecting it to be the greatest place on earth. Even if it’s not, I’ll settle for a nice goulash.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Sausage Rolls, Beer in Roadkill, and Attention-Grabbing Headlines

28 Oct

Here I am again! Rushing in at the last minute as the teacher calls my name, yelling “PRESENT!” I’ve realised my promise to try and post each week was about to expire and join a fast-filling basket of broken promises, missed deadlines and piked-out-on RSVPs. If you add the numerous tedious events I’ve pulled a smoke bomb from I start to look like quite the unreliable individual.

Today I’ve come to talk to you about a couple of things. The first is a wonderful, growing family of beer bars run by Scottish brewer Brewdog. You may remember I mentioned Brewdog back in my post about Glasgow. Well it seems that they have started to invade the south with bars popping up all over the place.

This one is in Camden, a very friendly 3-minute walk from Camden Town tube station. We were there because of something you may have heard of called a Groupon. If you’ve not heard of them, basically it’s a reward for knowing how to navigate the internet that allows you to get stuff cheaper than it usually is. This is even more helpful when, like in this case, it’s something you actually want.

This Groupon allowed the holders (us) to attend a two-hour beer tasting of Brewdog offerings. We were led to a secret room called the “Hop Bunker” (secret means it was behind a chain and down some stairs), where we were greeted by our host and the first tasting:

Yes, it does seem pretty pretentious but to that I say an unpretentious “up yours”.

This first beer is called ‘Punk IPA’ and without going in to tedious detail about beer, its really nice. As we were reminded a number of times by our host, Brewdog’s main aim is to let people know that there is a far superior alternative to drinking the mass-produced lagers like Fosters, Stella or Carlsberg.

As our next beers for tasting were prepared, we were also treated to a lovely surprise, since their was no mention of it on the Groupon:

This was almost as welcome as the beer.

A guy across the table and I eyed this for a long time, wondering which of us would be the first to crack. I forget which of us was first, but the edgily taken first piece of Brie gave way to a free-for-all that almost ended in lost fingers. The platter was a nice touch though, and probably necessary as the beers kept coming.

The beers also got stronger. The ‘Punk IPA’ above was around 5%, however this was followed by an amber ale, porter, double IPA…and then it starts to get a little hazy. The details I give now can’t be verified by my memory, but I’m fairly sure the tasting ended with an 11.1% alcohol beer, followed by a beer cocktail with gin. Then there’s this photo:

His name is Steven.

The story behind this is long. But the short version is that it’s a 55% alcohol beer that is bottled then put inside taxidermied roadkill. We didn’t get to try it because it’s hideously expensive, but if you want to order it, ask for ‘End of History’. I’m not sure how often these classes run, but Brewdog should definitely be running more of them. And if you can pick it up on a Groupon for £12 each, then let the good times roll.

Today I will also be fulfilling another promise, that which concerns the world’s greatest sausage roll. If you are ever in London (and I hope that you are), the first thing you should do is definitely get a Mars Milk. Once that is done however, you need to find yourself a Ginger Pig.

These butchers use their expertise in all things meat to concoct what I don’t mind saying is the WORLD’s BEST sausage roll. My pick for the best place to get one is the Borough Market near London Bridge, as you can wander around and taste all kinds of other foods as well. If not, they also have shops in Hackney, Shepherds Bush, Marylebone and Waterloo.

I recently discovered that they make different varieties, this one is a pork and stilton (cheese):

This was fantastic as well, however I can’t go past the first time I bit in to the original pork. The meat is spiced in a way I never thought possible and is sweet, savoury and juicy. This is complimented by the golden pastry which somehow melts and crumbles at the same time.

You’re probably wondering how I can talk like this about a humble sausage roll, but that just means you need to get over here and try it for yourself. It’s well worth the flight ticket from wherever you are.

And there’s other stuff to do as well.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

A Change of Plans: Less Chocolate, More Beer (deal with it)

26 Aug

You may remember a while back I floated the idea of riding my bicycle to Belgium. However, having left more money in Turkey with kebab and fez vendors than was budgeted, I have had to change my plans slightly.

Instead, this past few days have been spent in York, which will henceforth be know as “the Belgium of The United Kingdom”.

I make no apologies for the previous misinformation. If you’ve spent more than 15 seconds here in the past you’ll be aware that such indiscretions have little impact upon my journalistic integrity (mainly because you need to have journalistic integrity upon which to impact).

Unrepentant though I am, if you are so outraged that you must navigate elsewhere, please let me hasten your exit with a link to ‘man eats seat on no.12 bus‘.

Otherwise, let me and my words transport you to a place that lies somewhere within that mythical land Londoners refer to as The North.

Source: London and You – All you need to know about the world. 

The trip to York was my first chance to relive the joys of Megabus. For the uninitiated, Megabus is pretty much the cheapest way to get anywhere in the UK. In actual fact, I can’t fault the experience, especially when it cost £9 the day before travel. The only minor problem was slight confusion related to the fact the fare was half train/half bus, but for that price I’m happy if I don’t end up in Cardiff.

This was really a chance to extend my knowledge of the UK. My only knowledge of York beforehand had to do with an indecisive and/or cruel Duke and his large number of men, and I’m not sure how accurate that information is.

We arrived late in the day and immediately discovered that York has the requisite “eye” (huge Ferris wheel) that is apparently necessary for all cities these days, touristy or not. Fortunately York at least has stuff to see from such a structure. We didn’t go on it, however I’m sure it’s a lovely view if the ground level is anything to go by. For starters there’s York Minster, a pretty impressive cathedral that all roads in York seem to wind towards. Here is my bestest camera phone image of it:

A lot of people substitute the word “crap” for “arty” these days so I’m going to do the same.

There are also a number of sections of city walls which are like, really old (to use technical language). These are available free for the public to wander along and look at car parks.

That photo is seriously “arty”.

Or if you’re not a car park enthusiast, you can also find roman building ruins along the walls with accompanying information boards.

I’m going to pause here and just say that after that the trip became something of a pub crawl and craft beer appreciation getaway. Again I’m not apologising for this, but I prefer to keep you informed of upcoming content.

While craft beer has increased in availability in Australia of late, it is an area where The UK is still streets ahead. Nowhere is this more apparent than in York. It doesn’t hurt that York has its own brewery, but it seemed in every pub visited there was a great selection of local ales and also beers and ciders from many different places around the world.

I could go in to a detailed description of each pub, but to be honest you could venture in to almost any pub in York and find a great venue for its own reasons. The main thing is there are different beers, and lots of them. A quick round up of the best ones include The Last Drop Inn (great sausages and mash) and The Three-Legged Mare, both run by the York Brewery. These are fantastic because of their commitment to great beer and sensible, conversation-friendly rules including no music and no children (I’m not a grumpy old man).

Other good options are Pivni and my favourite, York Tap which is located conveniently at the York rail station. Both have a great range of local and international beers at very reasonable prices. The decor at York Tap also makes me feel classy despite walking around York in the same hoodie for three days.

While not being technically the best tourist on my visit to York, I can say it is genuinely a beautiful and evocative place to just wander the streets. Even if you are just looking for the next craft beer pub, you can’t help but be blown away by the quaint, cobbled streets and the obvious pride taken in preserving its history. Here is one such street:

I know it isn’t cobbled but some of them are.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to York and jump back on the Megabus/train to London. I should also give a mention to Ace Hostel which, despite a rather rude guy who checked us in, was a very clean and comfortable place to stay at a reasonable rate.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were bade an inquisitive farewell by a local avian resident.

“If you don’t have any bread, get outta my town” seemed to be its message.


Thanks for reading, safe travels, and may all your umbrellas stay intact. J

Do I Smell Burning? Turkey Sail Part 4

21 Aug

Sadly today I’m bringing my rambling observations of my time in Turkey to a close. It’s been a wild ride sitting and remembering all the great times and people. However I know the real reason you all come here, and I’m guessing its not to see screen grabs from 90s movies in place of actual travel photography.

Anyway in keeping with my promise, this was my majestic view as I scribbled the last of my majestic words about this country of majesty: 

And just to break any glamourous illusions you may have of an amateur “travel” blog writer’s working environment, here is my view as I type those majestic words:

No matter how many times I am invited to “socialise with George”, I’m never that tempted.

The rest of our week on Busabout Sail Turkey was spent in much the same way as the first few days. We settled remarkably quickly in to a regular routine of swim, eat, swim, relax, eat, wait 30 minutes, swim, relax, singalong to Eagle Eye Cherry, eat, drink, party, singalong to Uncle Kracker, sleep. It’s an exhausting schedule, really.

Its amazing how quickly you can slip in to such a routine, and its equally as sad how quickly the time passes once you do. We’d all love the time to pass as quickly while we’re having a colonoscopy or watching Big Brother, but sadly it only seems to happen when you’re having fun.

Among the things that do bare mentioning in the last half of the week was getting a Turkish shave. One afternoon we docked at the city of Kalkan and had some time to wander around, get some snacks, and drop a mad Facebook status.

With the afternoon wearing on, I realised I needed to purchase a new singlet, since foolishly I’d brought only one with me. Where before it was a healthy tooth-enamel white, after days of wear it was slowly turning Yarra/Thames brown. Before you ask, yes I did have t-shirts as well. However if you have to ask that, you haven’t been to Turkey in the summer.

Anyway, the point is I had to venture in to town with a mate to buy what turned out to be a sweet turquoise muscle tee. Having already been asked that week if I was a personal trainer, I was confident of pulling off the look (I didn’t).

While we searched we also found a Turkish barber offering shaves for 10 Turkish Lira (about 5 Euros). As someone who only ever uses an electric shaver, I’m not exactly that used to having even a Gillette Mach 12 (or whatever they’re up to) near my throat. But the deft razor work of the barber was not even the most terrifying thing. Imagine daring to breath for the first time in minutes, only to open your eyes to a flaming cotton bud being repeatedly whacked on your face.

I realised later how girlish I was being about the whole thing. In fact, that’s an insult to girls, who would’ve handled the experience with much less suppressed angst. After the complimentary head, shoulder and arm massage though, and also feeling how close the shave was, I can say I would have another one in a heartbeat.

Like I said, the rest of the week passed all too quickly. We did have another night of debauchery at Smuggler’s Inn, many more solo performances from our fantastic melodious “unique” singing talent, and a fun night at a “foam party” which turned out to be just a dangerously wet and soapy floor.

I must say, all jokes aside, that I had one of the greatest weeks since my travels began and I feel very lucky to have met the wonderful group of people I shared it with. I can heartily recommend Busabout Sail Turkey to anyone thinking of doing it. I’m told by sources that if it is a success for Busabout this season, that the prices will likely increase for next year. Even so, with an increase in price I think it will still be well worth it for the experience.

For now I’m back in London and hoping to enjoy the last of the warm weather before it returns to its usual mantle as “Europe’s car wash”, which will also be the last chance I will get to wear my summer writer’s outfit.


Safe travels, thanks for reading. J


P.S. Cheers Babaveli crew!


Now THIS Is Summer: Turkey Part 1 (take note London)

8 Aug

I look up as the gentle to and fro becomes slightly more dramatic. The rolling blue hills pass under the Babaveli and on to their destination, the wild and rocky cliffs of Turkey’s south-west coast. The whimsical rocking threatens to send me in to a peaceful slumber as…

I hope you can’t stand to read another word of that nauseating prose, because I can’t stand to write it.

I thought I’d have a go at writing a real and descriptive feature piece about my fantastic Busabout Sail Turkey experience. But I realise now how foolish that thought was. I will now resume WAU (pronounced ‘wow’) which stands for Words As Usual.

I also thought it would be a nice idea to take a picture from my point of view every time I sit down to write stuff. Here’s where I am as I write this:

As I write in my douchy writing notebook, to my left is the aforementioned rocky coastline, to my right is a vast expanse of water more blue than the Friday movie at 10pm. You know the ones I mean. I’m reclining on a large bed/sofa at the back of the boat and everyone is as close to carefree as you can be while still wearing pants.

My completely unplanned escape from Olympic London began a few days ago. At least I think it did, time has kind of ceased in importance lately. A friend on the boat has a watch that has said 1:50 for the past two days, and such is the level of relaxation, I’m not entirely sure it’s wrong. Anyway, back to the beginning.

Further demonstrating my inability to learn from my mistakes, I again booked the cheapest, and therefore earliest flight from London. Making it even better, I had to get to Stansted airport, which meant getting up at 3am the previous Tuesday to get there on time.

By the look of the airport, quite a few fellow Londoners had foreseen the impending influx of Olympic spirit and goodwill, and decided they wanted no part of it. The flight passed without incident and I soon landed at Dalaman airport and got my transfer to the town of Fethiye (pronounced ‘Fetty-yay!’). The port town is an altogether very pleasant place to be. It’s relatively small and easy to get around, and like most places in Turkey, kebab shops abound.

My Busabout Sail Turkey was to leave the following day, so luckily I met some other lovely people at the hostel doing the sail as well. It’s hard to explain how lucky I was to meet these people, but the week could have turned out a LOT differently.

After a few drinks that night, the next day started fairly slowly and didn’t quicken until a coffee and kebab were located. I say quicken, but I actually sat around the pool at the hostel (V-GO guesthouse is very much recommended) and chatted with the people I’d met.

The afternoon rolled around soon enough and it was time to meet for the tour. The boat our group drew was called the Babaveli. She was promptly nicknamed Bubba so in the event we couldn’t locate her at any point, we could do this:

We settled in to meet everyone as we sailed out of Fethiye. It was then I found out that at 25, I was the oldest person on the boat. Now, it’s only recently that I’ve (occasionally) started to be the oldest person in a group. Sadly, that means you tend to be branded as the mature and responsible one. As worrying as this was for me, sometimes you just have to accept your role, step up, and be the mature responsible one.

I didn’t really know what that meant, and I’m still not that sure. I think the main thing is that I was put in charge of the “off the boat” rule. Basically whenever someone commits a foh pah pho pa faux par does something stupid, anyone can call “off the boat!”. If five people agree by calling or clicking their fingers, that person must promptly jump from the boat. I had the final say in judging to make sure the rule wasn’t abused.

All in all the rule has worked quite well, though my “off the plane” rule has since been less successful.

That brings me to the end of part 1. I realise I’ve jumped around between past and present tense. I am aware of it, but to be honest it’s lucky if I bother to spell check this thing, let alone keep consistent tents. It’s my blog and I’ll be chronologically incorrect if I want to. Stay tuned for the rest. Like a good sunburn, it gets better with age.

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J