Tag Archives: travel

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

I Was Always Here, But I’m Making A Comeback!

20 Oct

BRACE YOURSELVES….this is one of those times that will henceforth be preceded by the words “I remember where I was when…”

For this is my triumphant return, my glorious explosion back on to the prestigious and lofty stage that is web-logging. After a long and unexpected absence of (insert amount of time its been), I’m back and less relevant than ever. Yaaaaaaaaaaay!

I can almost hear the collective cheers of obscure internet readers everywhere, but that may be because finally there’s a website to reliably inform people about whether or not it’s Tuesday.

But what to write about on this most auspicious occasion? I could explain my absence, but I was never that good at forging my Mum’s signature. All you really need to know is that I was unable to use my computer for a while. What’s that? There are other ways to access the internet? Why am I still asking questions to an imagined reader? I don’t know, I’d like to know why this reader is being so pushy.

Anyway, I am aware that there are other ways to access computers and the internet. However I find local libraries are frequented by all manner of undesirables. Therefore I only allow myself a maximum of half an hour per calendar month to visit, read the latest edition of Sheep! magazine, and leave without hearing anyone sheepishly (not intended) ask to borrow Fifty Shades of Grey.

Since all that leaves no time to produce a decent blog post (and you know how I’m shamelessly committed to quality), it has been difficult to keep you updated.

Fear not though, for I’m fairly sure that if you weren’t bored or scared off by the preceding months of irrelevant words and pictures, then the last month or so of silence would probably seem like a relaxing holiday for your eyes and mind.

So what can you expect from the next few weeks? Well even though I’m back on the air I may be operating at a decreased capacity. I will endeavour to post each week though. And lucky you, I will be posting about topics including, but not limited to:

  • Some of the awesome London markets
  • The BEST sausage roll in the world…ever
  • More whining about the weather
  • The guy that just walked in to Starbucks and abused someone for no reason then told him not to make a scene
  • Possible upcoming trips to Dublin or Budapest
  • An in-depth analysis of the 295 bus route towards Clapham Junction
  • Why button-up sweater vests are back (seriously they are!)

Can’t you just not wait?

Safe travels, thanks for waiting. J

Why Is It “Great” Britain? They Made A List

14 Sep

I know to the outside world it seems that this blog is a professionally run and eddited internet publication. No doubt whenever you think of how and where all the journalistic gold is produced, you inevitably conjure up images like this:

Or maybe this:

The reality is in fact quite different, and the only thing that changes in my writing environment is the billboard outside my local coffee conglomerate getting swapped. It was a welcome sight to behold when George Michael was replaced with David Guetta, let me tell you.

The true nature of BBS actually entails teetering on the brink of various catastrophic problems. Of the two most common dangers, one is toppling into complete irrelevance despite having relevant travel things to report on. Curiously, the other is running out of travel things to report on.

Luckily when things seemed their most dire, I remembered a loyal reader had sent me a newspaper list titled ‘What Makes Britain So Brilliant?’

I thought it would be an interesting idea to peruse this list and pick apart some of the reasons why Brits incessantly refer to their homeland as “Great” Britain. Seems awfully presumptuous to me. First things first, I thought it deserved a better title. So here is a selection of the top reasons why “Great” Britain should be renamed “Better than the hat with plunger” Britain:

By the way, that’s not an insult to Britain. How cool is that!?

(Editor’s note: all the reasons in quotation marks are taken from the article verbatim, it should not be misrepresented that I am British)

  1. “The Earl of Sandwich’s groundbreaking concept of putting a savoury filling between two pieces of bread.” Hard to argue with this one. Though I did do some research a three second browse of Wikipedia to discover that the rough idea of a bread-like substance surrounding different types of filling had been around for some time (thousands of years in fact). However it must be said that if The 4th Earl of Sandwich wasn’t such an enthusiastic gambler that he didn’t have time to leave the poker table for a proper meal, the humble sandwich may not be the staple it is today.
  2. “Our politeness – no matter how irritated we get, we are always too British to say anything.” This doesn’t however, mean they won’t whinge about the weather, the government, immigrants, the government letting in the immigrants, and immigrants controlling the weather.
  3. No matter where you are in Britain, you’re never far from a pub.” This one is true and a credit to British society. One of the few things I will gladly declare that Britain does better than Australia.
  4. “Cream teas. In case you’re wondering, Cornish is jam first, Devon is cream first.” I’ve actually no idea what that sentence means at all. If anyone knows and it takes less than two sentences to explain, drop me a line.
  5. “Our international language. Travelling abroad is a doddle.” This one I understand perfectly. Basically if the person at Starbucks (who doesn’t get paid enough to care if you get your caramel macchiato or just the contents of a wrung out washcloth) doesn’t understand you the first time, you should speak louder and slower before getting frustrated that everyone don’t talk like us the way they should. Or you could go to Australia or the United States.
  6. “Some of the very best museums and galleries on the planet. Free.” I actually agree with this one too. If you like looking at things (and I do!), this is the place to be.

OK that’s my pick of the reasons why I now live in “Better than the hat with plunger” Britain, and maybe you should too. Or at least visit us over here. Despite all my “wry humour” (as my writings have been referred to in the social media) it is an absolutely fantastic place to be. And if you don’t like it, I promise there’s other places nearby.

It also occurs to me that posts may become less frequent as I’ve sadly resumed the drollery that is regular work. I will endeavour to keep updating you on all things “travel-y” and otherwise.

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

What Do You Expect? M&Ms “World”

4 Sep

Recently I became an unwitting witness to the new epidemic of graffiti that I’m going to call “gratiffiti”. Rather than the usual tags and genitalia added to front fences and rail carriages, this new scourge gives unsolicited polite greetings:

These aimless hoodlums have since stepped up their work to include helpful advice. Take a look at this I saw appended to a brick wall on my way home from the station:

And this on my afternoon run by the Thames:

Nice of them to use stencils too.

Anyway, apart from going around looking at polite street art, this week I also thought I’d come good on a promise I made a few months ago but which you’ve no doubt forgotten about or didn’t read in the first place. That’s right, I went to M & Ms World! Needless to say I was pretty excited when I reached Leicester square and this came in to view.

 

In actual fact I wasn’t that excited, I was more intrigued to know how a store based on one type of chocolate confection could constitute a “world”. Upon first setting foot inside, the answer to my wondering was “with irrelevant souvenir crap”. 

No I didn’t put him in this position, I swear.

There were plenty of nauseating British cliches to go around, including this one which wasn’t even historically accurate:

First one to guess what’s wrong with this picture (other than that they’re M & Ms and it is ridiculous) wins a signed picture of me.

I must say though, there was one very impressive part of the store. Strangely enough it was the part with actual M & Ms in it. This allowed you to mix and match all types of colours and flavours from huge glass tubes. It makes for a vibrant sight:

I would be equally as impressed with M & Ms “World” if it consisted only of this room, which would then only require one level rather than the three that house the other irrelevant crap. But to be fair, people vote with their feet as they say, and this place was packed with people who couldn’t get enough.

To be honest I thought a self proclaimed “world” would have yielded a longer blog post, but rather than pad it out with more irrelevant stuff I’m just going to leave it there for now.

‘Til next time, keep it relevant.

 

Thanks for reading, safe travels. 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!

 

The Blunt Edge Of Sailing: Turkey Sail Part 3

15 Aug

Hello again, welcome back to your non-Olympic connection to things that happened last week but which I actually wrote about at the time.

Or at least I though about writing. Here is the latest view of where I was when I was writing, or perhaps thinking about writing.

If you’ve just joined us, I recently completed a Busabout Sail Turkey trip. You should really go back and read from part 1, you missed some pretty good stuff.

The day after paragliding we got our first chance to dock and have a bit of a walk around. This turned out to be a turning point in the trip because it allowed us to make a crucial purchase. As much as I wanted one, no, it wasn’t a pirates hat. It was a guitar.

I’ll admit that most of the time, when a guitar comes out its usually a Jeff Buckley wannabe bashing blindly, driving everyone from the immediate area (I count myself firmly in this category). Luckily however, we had a supremely talented musician and singer on board. While others went on a scuba diving trip (another optional extra, 25 euros), a few of us sat at the back of the boat doing passable Jack Johnson impressions.

Once all returned from their various activities (scuba diving was a value-for-money success, by all accounts), we motored on to our stop for the night.

On arrival another mouth-watering dinner ensued from Mr. T, our chef. Following dinner some drinks, games, games with drinking, and drinking games were enjoyed. The night was to be our first night at what our captain referred to as “disco disco”. This was actually a bar/shack located in a small cove called Smuggler’s Inn. It seemed only to be accessible by boat and to cater mainly for tourist cruises.

Aside from some alarming destructive tendencies (none of which came to fruition) from one on our boat, everyone was in very high spirits. This was no doubt helped by the barrage of singalong hits from the DJ, most notably ‘Land Down Under’ and ‘Walk 500 Miles’. If there is a party that isn’t enhanced by a jumping circle singalong to The Proclaimers, I’ve yet to attend it.

Somehow, everyone made it back to the boat more or less dry. At least, that is to say no one fell in the water. In actual fact, partying through a Turkish summer evening is one of the sweatiest experiences you’re likely to have.

Upon returning, the real entertainment started. There’s nothing quite like winding down from a night with someone (who can actually play) strumming out well-known tunes on a guitar. Now I’m no expert on the subtle art of seduction, but when a guy spends the best part of two hours transcribing the lyrics to James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’ during the day, you know he’s banking not to spend the night alone.

The rousing solo rendition of Blunt received mixed reviews, and it would be cruel to post the video footage, but that didn’t stop further attempts that week.

The next day predictably started quite slowly, but before long we were at our next destination and it was time for a spot of cliff-jumping.

The Turkish emergency response remained untested, and the lads scored some macho points. If this blogger was less concerned with journalistic integrity, I’d say I had already jumped at that point (that’s me in the water). But I work hard to bring you the truth, so I feel it necessary to say I had already jumped from a higher cliff and done a stylish armstand four and a half in the tuck position.

The real reason we had come to this particular inlet was for sea turtle spotting. We kept a sharp eye and did spot a few paddling about the waters, but such is the quality of this blog that I forgot to even take my camera to Turkey in the first place. In fact the only reason I’ve had any photos to bring you thus far is because of my crap camera phone and the fortunate snap-happiness of other people on the trip. Some would say 700+ photos in one night of drinking/dancing is a little excessive. I say its good documentation.

Anyway I didn’t get any photos of turtles, but you can imagine I’m sure.

That’s another post done for now, I hope you’re all enjoying this because pretty soon I’m going to run out of real travel material again and I’ll be back to doing reviews of my Grande Mocha Latte (pretty good today, a little heavy on the foam).

Safe travels everyone, thanks for reading. J