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When I was in Berlin a couple of years ago I shot this
I was back on the same spot last week and shot this
I’ve been away from my uke (and not allowed to sing for long in my son’s presence) for at least 10 days and I’m gigging with teh lovely Lawsons et al on Tuesday so I thought I’d better do some practice. And then I thought I’d better record some bits cos there’s lots of new material.
And then I thought why not share it with you.
No polished gems here folks, just practice – you should hear the ones I didn’t choose to publish!
Download: All of me
Download: Just a little while to stay here
Download: I can’t give you anything but love, baby
Download: Sweet Lorraine
Download: Down among the sheltering palms
OK, I’m going to sew it all up now. I’m back at home anyway so in the tradition of school trip reporting this one will be pretty much “we went to Paris, had some food, walked about a bit, and went home”
We had an extra morning on the beach, thanks to the train booking cock-up. Much the same as the last though I think I spent more time in the sea – also enjoyable because we moved a little up the beach to the spot underneath where people were doing that parachute-ride-behind-a-speedboat thing. So every now and then there’d be a woop and the uncertainty about whether someone was about to fall on top of you from a very great height. I also swam out a bit further, there seems to be a steep shelf just away from the coast there – never saw the tide out – and so while there are lots of people around where you can put your feet on the floor easier, it’s more secluded just a little way out.
We walked up and Ewan had a KFC for lunch. This was the point at which I tweeted about being told off for not having my trousers on. They didn’t chuck us out, by the way, he just wanted to check that I did have some trousers and asked me to put them on.
So then to the train station and by now Ewan was getting fed up. We had half an hour to wait at Nice, then two and a half hours on a stiflingly hot and full train to Marseille and then another hour to wait for the TGV. He said “Dad, I want to go home tomorrow, I’m fed up with this” Foolishly I tried to persuade him otherwise briefly, but soon realised the counter-productivity there and said “Well, we don’t know what the situation is with our Eurostar tickets. If you really want to go back, the best we can do is go to Gare du Nord first thing in the morning and see if we can get a refund and a new ticket for you” That’s all he needed. By the time we got to Paris he was relaxed about it all again.
The TGV really is fast – 3 hours from Marseille to Paris which is about 500 miles and the first class cars are nice and comfy (although ours came with a free screaming baby)
I’m bored with Paris to be honest, it’s become a bit meh for me all round. Going there’s not much more exciting than going to Brighton – I get there and it’s beautiful yes, but I think I’ve done all the frothy touristy things there are to do so yeah, meh.
And Paris and the parisiens do tend to say “Non!” a lot. And the public signage is appalling – you go somewhere where you know there’s a metro station and it’s impossible to find the entrance.
It served it’s purpose though – on Monday morning, I could have stayed for another week, by the end of Tuesday I was ready to come home.
And so, on Wednesday morning, we did.
And after 10 hour journeys through the Tyrol, the Eurostar felt like a commuter dash.
I’m realising that much of this feels like school trip reporting – we did this, then we went there, then we did this and then we went to sleep. It has been a bit like that but I hope I’ll be able to write something more reflective once I’ve laid out the bones here.
Day 7 was Sunday. This seems to have made the streets of Nice more busy, especially it being mid-August, what with sunday-trading being a mortal sin ‘n’all (it turns out – I saw it on the telly, I’m not going to research it further, find your own link, I’m on holiday – that this weekend was the beginning of sunday trading)
We started with the (predictable but still severe) disappointment that is le petit dejeuner – particularly severe given that I don’t eat bread or croissants or butter or jam and so was restricted to coffee. So I watched Ewan chew his way through a baguette and then it was back to the handy supermarket.
I’m having trouble now remembering. The morning was spent on the beach – I went for a swim and spent the rest of the time, really not looking at topless women, no really trying not to look, or at least, not to stare – trouble is, every time you look somewhere else, a new one wiggles into place. For example, the amply-proportioned lady underneath the red striped parasol in this picture promptly sat up just after I put my camera away.
The afternoon and evening consisted of food and catching up in my feed reader and going for another walk and some crap french telly in our room. Oh and getting bitten by fleas in the room too. Thanks.
Ah yes, I remember, the other thing was I went over to the train station to book the tickets and found that it being a Monday in mid August when lots of people are going back to work and school, there were no places on the train I’d wanted to get to Paris. In fact there were no places on any direct train to Paris on Monday. Or any obvious indirect routes. So I had to (well actually I was quite pleased to, it made for a nice treat after our hotel experience) get an upgrade to first class on a TGV from Marseille and we’d have to get the slow local train there first. I booked the Eurostar tickets back to London at the same time – it started to feel like we were near the end.
This was the day we left Milan for Nice. So, although the longest journey was behind us (Vienna to Milan) it was still difficult to get up and get on another train for hours especially since neither of us had been to Milan before and we’d arrived in the dark the night before. But we did. We walked down to the square in front of the Duomo first of all, so that we at least felt we’d gotten a feel for that old bit of the city. This was our first proper sunshine too but it was comfortable in the morning air.
We got the metro to the central station and then I spent an annoying 30 minutes queuing to try to make a reservation on a train only to be told that I couldn’t get one and should just get on the train. This is an annoyingly vague aspect of the interrail system, whether you have to reserve or not and how much extra that costs. I hope to write something up about that later.
Stazione Centrale has recently been refurbished and is an amazing sight – I’m guessing from the grubby bits that aren’t quite finished yet that it had become pretty poor, but maybe someone else here knows for sure.
So we just went and sat on the train and waited for the people to come along who obviously *had* booked those seats and then we sat in the corridor seats until the train started and then I went for a little walk and found, that although there were lots of other people stan ding around, there were a couple of seats in a compartment a couple of coaches away so we moved in there for the duration (still nervous at every stop that someone was going to come and take “our” seats)
Basically the journey was pretty (and not so pretty) northern italian countryside down to Genoa and then along the Cote D’Azur in and out of tunnels, past little coves of blue water and exclusive looking houses perched on clifftops.
Nobody checked our ticket all the way.
Arrived in Nice OK, but walked completely the wrong way to find the hotel so spent half an hour sweating back again with suitcases. Our hotel was not the cleanest or best equipped (a comparison of each hotel is also on my to do list) and of course the a/c wasn’t working properly but there was a supermarket next door where we could get a quick food fix before taking a walk down to the beach (about 10 minutes) to see what there was to see. Then we both agreed it was time to just crumble into bed (once I’d just gotten the wifi working).
I didn’t get much sleep though because we had to have the window open occasionally to deal with the heat but Nice is not a quiet place on a Saturday night.
So day five was Friday, when i swapped Tuttle for Tyrol.
This was to be the longest train day – 4.5 hours Vienna to Innsbruck, and hour stop and then another 4.5 hours Innsbruck to Milan. Phew – that’s a lotta train.
Hotel Urania in Vienna had all the faded grandeur that you might expect – plus a missing lift, so we had to carry ourselves and stuff up three flights. The wallpaper was like something out of an abstract expressionist porn movie (you all know I’m a connoisseur) at least the wifi was free and available in reception. And it was ten minutes walk to the Mitte station where we could get a metro to the WestBahnhof to get our train – it was a fairly leisurely morning for once and then we settled back and enjoyed the scenery basically from one end of Austria to the other.
At Innsbruck we found the ideal combination – a supermarket for me to stock up on Kabanos and salad and a Burger King for the boy to indulge his love of Bacon Double Cheese Menu mit Pommes und Coke Light – ketchup bitte, nicht mayo!
I’d realised in Vienna that I’d left my contact lens solution in Berlin (the only mishap so far, fingers crossed) and I contemplated trying to also find a chemist but thought that was pushing my luck. As it was the train was 15 minutes late anyway. So then it was pretty much Heidi-land for a couple of hours with the mountains slowly giving way to smaller hills until we hit Verona and then turned right across northern Italy to arrive in Milan at 8.30 just as the sun was going down. The only downside was my complete knackeredness which made me want to declare war on the giggling group of Norwegian geeks who were playing cards across the aisle.
I took a look at the queue at the ticket desk but decided to try for reservations in the morning. Good move as it turned out but that’s tomorrow’s story.
I was stunned by the architecture in Milan, even in the dark – I’m so ignorant – I’d expected everything to be ultra modern but no, it was big and marble and fascist. Fortunately, I’d worked out that Milan had a metro too (who knew?!? – google maps shows stations, but just doesn’t have details of the times the way it has for other cities) So we took that, complete with water-spraying cooler fans to our little hotel near Il Duomo. 1 Euro for a standard ticket – cheapest metro ever!
I gave up trying my hand at Italian when we arrived and just played stupid British tourist (I do it pretty well). There seemed to be wifi at the hotel, but I couldn’t get it to work and needed sleep more than internet – we watched a bit of Calendar Girls dubbed, but the disjoint between Helen Mirren gabbling away in Italian in a Yorkshire Dale somewhere was too much for either of us.
No pics yet because my phone’s running out of juice and there’s only wifi down in the hotel restaurant.
A train day today (as is tomorrow) as it takes a surprising 9 hours to get direct from Berlin to Vienna – those of you who, like me have a rudimentary grasp of geography south or east of Calais, might have imagined that Germany and Austria were right next to each other so it was probably a bit like London to Cardiff – well it is except London to Cardiff via Edinburgh.
Thankfully, the Northern Czech countryside between the border and Prague is as stunning as South Wales (yes, that’s a compliiment!)
Otherwise until Prague, in our compartment we had a German emo couple and German chap with an oriental girlfriend who couldn’t do anything for herself, a noisy Czech family with us from somewhere unprounounceable in the middle down to the still unpronounceable but memorable Brno in the south. And then a couple of female scandi navian interrailers from Brno down to Vienna.
I was not in the boy’s good books when we found that I’d chosen the hotel for it’s proximity to the Mitte station and we came into the Sud and because I hadn’t looked at the map properly, I decided it was walkable. I won him back with a large doner kebab.
I’ve also promised him a taxi when we arrive in Milan tomorrow – little does he know what Italian driving is like…
Tomorrow is our longest single journey door to door though it includes an hour waiting for a connection in Innsbruck – we leave at 9.40 in the morning and don’t get there until 8.35pm.
So we’ve been as far east as we’re going to go, now we’re heading south west. And no I haven’t published the full itinerary yet, I like to keep you on your toes.
Day 2 was a travel day – the first of five. The hotel staff redeemed themselves by telling us about an excellent supermarket behind the Royal Palace in Amsterdam – as we were going to be on a train most of the day and we got up late, we basically had picnic breakfast and picnic lunch to buy. Then we strolled to Centraal and arriving a little early got a tip from the nice lady in the information centre to get a less frantic connection to the Berlin train. So we had a little trip to Hilversum (hil-fer-shoom) and then got on the train that would take us across most of the width of Holland and most of the width of Germany too. Not a great deal of difference in landscape except that it generally was a bit hillier in Germany and a bit grottier and grimier as we got into ex-DDR and towards Berlin. We had some occasionally noisy Portuguese interrailers next to us all the way, but they subsided eventually.
I’ve not been to Berlin in the summer before. The light is lovely, at least when the sun is shining. Having checked in we went for a walk and ate at Oranium by Tucholsky Strasse. and then we wandered down to Hackeschers Markt crossing under the S-bahn track and doubling back along the river. Then it was time to dive into the luxurious free wifi at the hotel.
This morning – Day 3 – we walked a lot again. Over to the Reichstag, down through the Brandenburger Tor which is all closed and done up for some concerts later this week – Nigel Kennedy! And then we walked down Friedrichstrasse to Checkpoint Charlie and along to Alexanderplatz where we lunched (me on Bratwurst and a cabbage heavy salad) We were bushed, so took the S-bahn back.
After I had a little snooze, we crossed over the road to the Natural History Museum – lots of fur and rocks and models of how things might have been once upon a time. I then went down to the station to get our reservations for tomorrow’s train and then we did our supermarket dash to get food for tomorrow too before heading over to White Trash Fast Food for dinner. Excellent surly service and surprisingly good quality food as usual.
Now for an early night. Our train to Vienna leaves at 8.35 tomorrow!
I’m in Europe, yes, I know we’re all in Europe but y’know, the bit over the sea. Day 1 of several zooming around the continent with Ewan, on trains. But to get here we flew first to Amsterdam. The security theatre including shoe x-ray had me wishing we’d gone for eurostar there as well as back.
I didn’t really notice how seedy Amsterdam was until we arrived in Berlin which is generally trying to be very smart and stylish. But yeah, day 1 – we flew out of Gatwick at 1.30 so arrived at Schiphol at 3.30 local time. Ewan needed feeding and we needed change for the ticket machine so had a little stop at Burger King before getting the train into Amsterdam Centraal. Our hotel was a little walk from the station – would have been littler if I’d been paying attention. Didn’t really take much in when we got there, just dumped our stuff and put the air conditioning on as it was getting muggy outside.
Went for a walk around the ‘hood to take the air and find some food. found some sex shops, ladies in their knickers and coffee shops along the way. Last time I was there it seemed the coffee shops were quite discreet, now however Amsterdam was under a thick haze of dope smoke and the multitude of other tourists doing that special slow tourist walk that infuriates me in London, but even more so when on holiday because I’m supposed to be chilling out about that sort of thing.
We had a curry and pootled about a bit more.
Back at the hotel we found that the a/c was making funny noises. Every now and then it would buzz, like a buzzer on a quiz show. But it wasn’t regular, so just when I thought it had stopped, it would suddenly do it again and make me jump out of my skin. Also we realised that the church next door really was ringing every quarter of an hour….
I went down to reception to talk about the air-conditioninug. “Which room are you in, shir?” said the clerk in his perfect Amster-Englischh “410″
“Oh yesh. The air conditioning does make a noise in that room, I found out lasht night”
“So what can we do about it? My son’s gone to bed and we’ve unpacked, I don’t want to move!”
“Well you’ll have to talk to the manager about it in the morning, oh and it will keep making the noise after you’ve switched it off, just not so often”
So I went back and switched it off and it was true, it continued to buzz just a little less often gradually. So we opened the window and tried to get to sleep. It wasn’t easy as I became convinced in my half sleep that someone was going to climb in through the window from the balcony opposite. buzzz. clang-ding-dong. silence. silence. buzz.
And then the headboard started making noises when I moved. A clacking sound that I first decided was the boy snapping his teeth together in his sleep and I thought it was more like a crocodile. Eventually I did drift off for a few hours but it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’d had.
Oh dear this all sounds like a dreadful gripe. I’m actually having a lovely time!