Tag Archives: travel

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

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

Misusing The Shift Key: Roskilde Part $

27 Jul

Today marks the final chapter in the Roskilde Festival saga. This work now joins other narrative franchises that should have ended sooner, like Pirates of the Caribbean and Die Hard to name but a few.

We had just finished watching The Roots’ tuba player sprint across the stage (with tuba) for the final time and were at kind of at a loose end. What do you do at a time like that?

You go and watch a band of Congolese polio survivors in wheelchairs. Duh.

If you read my last collection of words and punctuation, you’ll no doubt remember that I like to view festivals as an opportunity to see stuff I wouldn’t usually have a broad enough mind to see. I can think of nothing that fits that bill better than Staff Benda Bilili.

As I’ve said, this amazing group hails from The Democratic Republic of Congo and has overcome poverty and crippling disease to play one of Europe’s biggest festivals. Rather rude of them when I consider how insignificant they make my modest achievements in life seem. Nevertheless they produced a fantastically fun cross between rumba, soul, and something called Congotronics.

Before too long however, it was time to make our way to the main stage to see The Boss. No, we hadn’t been caught stealing tubes of Pringles from work, I’m referring to Bruce Sprinsteen.

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about it. It was something I felt like I should see rather than something I really wanted to. Like a child’s school concert. I should have realised though, that there is a reason he’s called “The Boss” and not “The Junior Vice President” or “The Foreign Janitor.” I was soon swept up in his authority like an old person on one of these.

In keeping with the Jack White trend, Bruce saved the big ones for last. ‘The Rising’, ‘Born in the USA’, and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ all got an enthusiastic singalong from the audience. His monologue about playing in a cemetery as a child wasn’t as exciting.

Afterwards, as any normal people would do after midnight on a Saturday, we thought it was time to catch some über-cool Berlin beats. That meant Paul Kalkebrenner, however our Berlin techno session was cut short by the fact we had to work the next morning.

If this were a visual presentation I’d have a slick time-lapse video to denote the passage of time, but this will have to do.

 

We rushed out of bed the next morning to get to work in time, and it was lucky we did because here’s what ensued:

Thank god someone came in time to fill these outdoor chairs!

The first half of the shift passed pretty much in this way, except when we were told to get to work and moved our conversation from the back of the bar to the front, in full view of patrons.

Once our shift ended, we decided one inspirational African band wasn’t enough. So we dropped in to see Amadou and Mariam. This blind Mali couple were just as remarkable and enjoyable as Staff Benda Bilili. I’m trying to be as positive as possible about the acts here so I’ll just say I wouldn’t have complained if they played right through Björk’s time slot.

After Björk there was nothing else to do but hit the final party hosted by DJ Static. I’m not massive on DJs but even I could appreciate a show that included over 80 performers and a big band. Much fun and dancing ensued and my lower back may have seized up, but all too soon we had to make our way back to camp for the last time.

Slick time-lapse video again and I was packing up my free t-shirts (still three of them) and joining the exhausted masses on their way home.

Therein ended my first experience of a European festival. It occurs to me that I may not have been particularly positive about all the aspects of the experience. While there are undoubtedly some unpleasant elements of festival living, they are things you have to go in to it expecting. Overall I immensely enjoyed my time there and I am looking forward to extending my collection of free t-shirts next year.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

*It also occurs to me that there may not be any new words, irrelevant images, or baffling videos posted here for the next week or two. This is not due to laziness. Or at least not in the sense that I’m here and perfectly capable of posting things. Rather, my laziness will be taking place in Turkey and on a boat where I’ll be re-enacting scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one). If you’re wondering, I’ll be dressed like this, A’hoy!

It’s Not A Tuba! Wait…Yes It Is: Roskilde Part 3

23 Jul

Yes, my epic Roskilde tale still drags on like an Olympic-sized traffic jam. Still, I’ve no doubt that future generations will come to revere this radtastic (industrial language) work in the same way as Viking Eddaic poetry or Homer’s Odyssey.

Though I admit this has to compete with other contemporary classics such as:

 

My tale resumes with me in the Odysseus role, awaiting safe passage home for me and my free T-shirts (the number of which had then grown to three!). It was a regular Friday morning, regular except for the fact I was in Denamrk, at a rock festival, and had used the term “urine-soaked” more in two days than in my previous 25 years.

It had also begun to rain. Luckily it wasn’t the kind of rain that plagued the infamous 2007 festival.

Accounts of that day vary, but I choose to believe that the Orange Stage became a floating barge that toured the campsites bringing sweet music to all the soggy people.

No, luckily this was just enough rain to blanket all the fantastic odours that come with festivals. Mercifully, it also abated halfway through the day.

Our group didn’t have to work until 7pm, so we spent our day enjoying volunteer-priced drinks and watching Roskilde-priced music acts with all the full fee-paying chumps. The pick of these acts was probably a fun set from US band, Gossip.

By the time our second shift came around, most of the initial bugs had been ironed out. We had working cash registers and everything! The shift passed mainly without incident. When I wasn’t schooling people on the taps I was being schooled on Scandinavian languages. Now my Danish is better than most (in that I know more than none at all), but I was reduced to listening intently for just two things. 1) the number of drinks they wanted, and 2) the type of drink they wanted. If they wanted two different things I was up the proverbial creek.

A friend and I did find the chance to take a well-timed break to see Jack White. With only a half-hour break (may have been 43 minutes) to take, we did extremely well to be there just in time to hear him play “My Doorbell” and, after a few other good songs, finish with “Seven Nation Army”. I find it a shame when fans are relieved to hear an act play their biggest hit. I’ve never pulled in to a Shell only to hear the attendant say “sorry we’re not selling fuel anymore because that’s what everyone would expect us to do, frankly we’re sick of it, but how about some firewood?”

Did I mention that our shift went until 4am? Who seems like the chump now? By the time we’d finished, had a beer and walked back it was almost full daylight.

By the time we awoke it was raining again, and again it stopped without causing too much trouble. It was to be a good day because we didn’t have to work until the following day. Sadly, we still missed the pun-tastic music of Cerebral Ballzy who played at midday, but come five o’clock we were sure not to miss The Roots. Having not been the right age to enjoy The Roots (in any form) in the mid-90s, I had not heard much of their work. But I approach festivals as a chance to see stuff you wouldn’t usually see, and I’m glad I did.

I’ve never seen such energetic work from a guy carrying a tuba. That’s commitment I say. When they started out he could’ve gone for a trumpet, trombone or an electric kazoo and no one would have thought less of him. But he said “no, I’ll take the heaviest, brass-iest instrument I can find and I’ll still run maniacally around the stage.” Fantastic fun for all involved.

Well, that’s it for yet another installment. If I keep this up it might even run longer than Peter Jackson’s King Kong. But at least it’ll be more entertaining.

 

Safe travels, thanks for your readingship. J

The Language of Industry: Roskilde Part 2

20 Jul

It’s come to my attention that I need to use more “industrial language” in my blog.

I’m not really sure what this means for me as an amateur “travel” blogger, but in the world of professional sport it’s licence to use all kinds of wonderful phrases.

That’s right, it seems because you’re on a football pitch you are able use phrases like “fีแารืเ bสฟแา cีืะ” and fีแารืเ kืนิ้ำฟก” with reckless abandon, as long as you term them “industrial language” or say you were repeating them sarcastically. (Editor’s note: I bought this computer in Thailand. So to avoid offence I used Thai characters, but you can use your imagination.)

In the same way, I’m assuming my previous use of the word “goosing” is entirely justifiable as industrial language, as such things happen on the tube all the time.

Anyway, the real reason you probably tuned your internet dial this way is to hear more of my regaling about the Roskilde Festival. So let’s move on.

After a wild night of gleefully dancing in urine-soaked territory (its just what you do, and my use of “urine” is industrial language), all awoke rather rusty. In saying that I mean we felt like rat shit (industrial language), and we were not able to really do anything meaningful until about four o’clock.

I did find time to cop an eyeful of scrotum (industrial) in the communal showers though. They really should have someone out front to warn people.

The reason we finally roused ourselves at four was the fact we had our first volunteer shift. Upon showing up early, we soon found out the disorganisation stretched to all aspects of Roskilde.  This being apparently the norm however (we didn’t have working cash registers for the first few hours), everyone just got on with it rather well. In my case, I soon found out that my volunteering would consist largely of this:

I promised blurry pictures, and I don’t disappoint my adoring crowd.

This was interspersed with periods of being yelled at by thirsty but well-meaning Scandinavians. Also at some point during the shift the festival music started.

Eight hours later we emerged in the midst of the festival and began festival-ing. I realise that’s probably not the verb meaning ‘to festival’ but it’s industrial language, so anything goes.

Our festival-ing consisted of quaffing the pre-mixed “water” bottles we’d brought in before watching a supergroup called Apparatjik. I’m not sure you can call members of Coldplay, a-ha and Mew a supergroup, but they certainly knew how to put on a show.

In short, things got weird. It was without doubt the strangest thing I’ve seen this side of the shoe-mounted dustpan. When you weren’t fixated on the band’s antlers (yes, antlers), you got to watch a catwalk show of…well, stuff like this:

I’d love to sit in on the production meeting for this.

And also this:

“I’ve got it! Giant balls on a stick!”

Possibly to break things up, and possibly because the guy from a-ha is like 93 years old, there was also a pretty fun 40-minute DJ set in the middle of the show. In any case, people at Roskilde are always in that “pretty much anything goes” kind of mood, so it was all received rather well.

Some time around 3am the set finished and we traipsed back to our less squalorful camp for the requisite 3-4 hours of intermittent sleep.

I’m going to leave it there for now, as great writers don’t put all their best material in one piece. Since I don’t have anything I think is worthy of the label “best material” other than pictures of giant balls and pointless inventions, I’ll just say that an amateur “travel” blogger doesn’t post all his filler stuff in one go.

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

The Lengths You Go For A Free T-Shirt: Roskilde Part 1

17 Jul

You’re extremely lucky I care enough about this “palace that words built” enough to rouse myself from an exhausted stupor just to tell you about how I came to be in said stupor. If anyone didn’t know already, the reason there have been no new words or irrelevant images here for about a week is that I’ve been selflessly volunteering my services.

The reason it may have been any longer than a week is pure laziness.

Anyway, the fact my volunteering got me a free ticket and other stuff at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark would cause many to question my motives. So I won’t mention it. Here’s what happened:

The trip that ended in an exhausted stupor began in an exhausted stupor as I crawled out the front door at 4am. I’m not sure how much I saved by booking the earliest flight but I’d wager it wouldn’t buy me enough Danish hot dogs to be worthwhile. Before too long however I was enjoying the infinite pleasure of assisted lateral movement:Before much longer I was making my way across Copenhagen towards Roskilde, stopping only spend some of the money I saved on the early flight.For the uninitiated (and those who love to be surprised by amazing facts), here is some painstakingly researched information about the Roskilde Festival that certainly did not come straight from my free information booklet:

  • There are around 110,000 festival-goers, 30,000+ of which are volunteers, artists and media (makes my commitment seem slightly less significant).
  • Each person at the festival creates on average 25 kg of garbage (that includes 22.5kg of plastic cups)
  • The clean up operation after the festival takes nearly the rest of the year before it comes around again.
  • Owing to the amount of human waste produced, the top 2cm of soil has to be lifted from the ground across the whole festival area, cleaned, and then replaced. Personally I’d just keep putting a fresh layer of newspaper down, but they’ve been at this a long time.
  • The festival is run as a non-profit organisation, and helps to fund a number of worthy causes.

Upon arriving at Roskilde station I promptly discovered that this was a festival celebrating disorganisation in all its forms. Yet despite the fact that nobody knew where they were going of how to get there, by happy coincidence everyone seemed to drift aimlessly until they arrived successfully at their destination with little or no fuss.

In this same roundabout way, I found myself checking in and picking up my free T-shirt. Therein achieving my goal of a free T-shirt, I promptly tried to get back to the train station to leave immediately. Somehow though, I ended up in the festival grounds and with the group of friends I was to volunteer with. Faced with roughly the same journey to get back, I figured it was quicker and easier to just stay five days for the festival then leave with everyone else.

Being part of the exclusive 30,000-strong volunteer force meant we were allowed to camp in the “restricted camping area”. This basically meant we were able to live in less filth and squalor than everyone else. By contrast, “general camping” meant constant deafening noise, having most or all your camping equipment stolen, and leaving your waste wherever you happen to be standing at the time.

On reflection, restricted camping wasn’t that much different. Except for the waste part.

Luckily the overwhelming redeeming feature of general camping is that it is a sprawling shanty-city of wild debauchery. Which is why it was our first port of call that night. Various DJs and speaker systems are dotted around the camping area so that you’re never far from the sweet, seductive sounds of ‘Call Me Maybe’.

After much merry-making and doing our best to avoid suspect-looking puddles (even more suspect given it hadn’t rained there for a while), we somehow made our way back using only a power-generating windmill as a reference point. This is pretty impressive when you look at this image I took from my personal zeppelin.

“I think we’re past the big windmill and to the left a bit”

That will have to do for now, as I can tell I’m going on a bit. Besides, if I break it up I’ll have more material to use in the coming days so you won’t have to wait so long to get your fix of mildly interesting words an alternative to actually talking to each other on your way to/from work. In any case there’ll be more about the subsequent days of Roskilde soon.

Thanks for reading, safe travels. J

Embrace the Progress! Supermarket Tourism

30 Jun

As this goes to print (it doesn’t actually get printed, I’ve just adopted the jargon of the journalism industry), I’m keenly aware that I’m in direct competition with irresistible headlines such as The Sun’s “JAWS IN CORNWALL, E.T. IN ESSEX!”

Why go on? Especially faced with such blatantly sensationalist and untrue claims. Unless they were quoting from the Retro Cinema Club’s schedules for Cornwall and Essex respectively, in which case I apologise. How embarrassing.

Whatever the case, it is my firm opinion that the world needs good  adequate amateur travel-related words that attempt to be humourous. Since I don’t see anyone else stepping up, it falls to me.

Today’s topic typically takes the form of something not that “travely”. By now we’re all aware the main reason I love travel is for the food. Now most people would probably think this is limited to cafes, restaurants, local street food, and the token loosely cultural item at McDonald’s.

Turkey’s “McTurco” is basically a regular burger with flat bread instead of burger buns. Mmmmm cultural!

But you’d be mistaken. A wise person once opened my eyes (metaphorically) to the fact that supermarkets are one of the most culturally fascinating places in any new place you visit. This is handy since you will find a supermarket or at least a convenience store in most developed places you go these days, except maybe New Zealand.*

Why do I find something so mundane, so interesting? Well, you’d think having posted myself a question on my own blog, I’d have a definitive answer ready. But I think such predictability would add much un-needed quality where its not needed.

In truth I’m not that sure why I love browsing the shelves of lurid packaging, weird shaped breads and drinks with infused flavours I associate with fabric softener. I’d like to think its because given the majority of developed-country citizens shop in such places, the supermarket gives a fascinating insight in to how they cook, eat and live.

Take for example, the scene friends and I witnessed on a trip to St. Petersburg. Rather than wasting precious shelf space on more bread, cereal, fruit, or organic pot-set yogurt, an entire aisle of a very large supermarket was devoted to vodka. And who am I to complain? When we saw the rate at which locals were loading up on pine-infused potato juice, it became clear that no one was there to stock up on pointless solids.

Like I said, I’d like to think I find foreign supermarkets so interesting for the insight into modern culture. But really, I’m afraid it probably has more to do with things like this:

If you were expecting a sophisticated and discerning palate, you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Somehow, they’ve managed to get all the flavour layers of a Mars bar in to a single liquid. Why this hasn’t reached Australia yet, I’ll never know. I could write a whole review of Mars milk now, but I might save that for when ideas run critically low.

As far as I’m concerned, new experiences are new experiences. Whether that’s getting a delicious $1 meal from a Vietnamese street vendor, writing yourself off on pine cone vodka in St. Petersburg, or simply enjoying a chocolate bar-flavoured milk drink in London. Who cares? As long as you try something different.

Thanks for reading, safe supermarket visits to you all. J

*Please, no New Zealand-related hate mail. It’s a joke. Now you can go and pick on a country smaller than you to make yourself feel better.