Overnighting at the Kaapweg, Utrecht

Matthijs and I pulled the trigger Friday night and decided the forecast was good enough to attempt another night in the forest. The initial plan was to do it monthly, but as will all well laid-out plans in life, this did not happen, and we hadn’t been out since January.

Whilst our January trip was all about proving to ourselves that a night in the woods in winter could be done, we really wanted to improve the experience this time. So we went out with the aim to actually cook our meal this time from ingredients, not from a tin, improve the bedding situation, and a steely determination that we light a fire, because what’s the point in camping without a campfire?

Having agreed a meeting place (no car this time unfortunately) we then started texting and changed plans as we were both ready and rearing to go. So we each made our way to our respective train station. That’s when things started to go awry. My first train was delayed by 15 minutes, meaning I didn’t get on the train Matthijs was on at my connection station. Never mind, I’d catch up with him at the next connection. Meanwhile, waiting for the train, it began to rain. Tough Matt, who was a few kilometers away did not report any precipitation. Eventually, we met up at Weesp, in time to actually catch the train we were planning to be on. 

  
 From here things went smoothly again. The rain stopped, and we made it to Hilversum as planned. From Hilversum we started walking east, towards the forest Catherine and I had gone walking in at Easter. 

 
  
Following a slightly different route, we went into another part of the forest, and walked to the official wild camping spot which is marked by a water pump. Having verified that it worked, we walked around the clearing and off into the undergrowth to find a spot where we could build our shelter. A viable spot has two requirements: first, it should have trees that are far enough apart to string our hammocks between, and secondly, they should be close enough together that we can still string the hammocks between them and stretch the tarpaulin out above our heads. Having selected a potential spot we put down our bags and took out a hammock to confirm we had selected the correct spot. We then set about collecting long pieces of wood to build our “roof”. These were effectively fallen trees, and Matt brought out the first surprise of the day in the shape of an axe, which we used to clear small branch stubs off so they wouldn’t punch a hole through  the tarp. With this done we set up the hammock and moved our things around so they would be in the right spot. 

 
With camp pitched we set about gathering wood and selecting a spot to make a fire. This was not a particularly hard choice as some previous  campers had built what was effectively a make-shift kitchen complete with table, chairs and cooking area.  The whole lot protected from the wind by a small wall of logs. Very nifty! Within a few minutes we had a substantial little fire going. 

  
And with that it was time to start cooking. Or at least discussing the logistics for cooking a stew in a frying pan. Without oil we figured we had better cook some chorizo off first, and use the fat from that to fry off the vegetables. Which is exactly what we did, and is the precise moment when I noticed I forgot to pack an onion. No matter, I had 6 pita breads to make up for it. We cooked on, with the frying pan in the fire, and I added the spice mix that I had pre-prepared at home. Eventually, after adding chopped tomatoes and garlic, and dropping the chorizo back in, we had a shakshuka ready to eat, with freshly toasted pita bread. Needless to say, we topped it off with some eggs, and it tasted much yummier than it does at home, even without the onion.  

   

 After dinner, it was time to have a hot drink, so we voted for coffee. Which brought along our next dilemma, how to boil water without a pot… With resourcefulness naturally! We actually used the tomato tin, and dropped it full of water into the fire where it would quickly boil about two cups of water. So we bust out the Guatemalan coffee and the filters, (no instant rubbish this time!) and made our coffee with the strange tasting egg water from the well. 

  
We then continued by finding more wood to stoke our fire, which seemed to be combusting a surprising amount of wood, before stoking it and settling down with a beer. At this point we were actually too warm from the fire, and had to back away a bit from the flames. Finally here we relaxed and discussed a huge variety of topics, as men around a campfire should do.

  
Just after ten o’clock we got a very slight bit of rain, but nothing too serious. At ten thirty we got a real surprise though, some fellow campers arrived, just as the rain got a bit heavier. They didn’t seem to be carrying much, but within a few minutes had a tent up as well as a raging fire going. Very impressive.

At this point the rain got a little too heavy to sit in, so we retired to the comfort of  hammocks, after making minor modifications to the shelter to ensure water wouldn’t pool on the roof. We settled in for the first sleep. From about 11:30 till 1:30. 

  
Now last time we had a problem with heat escaping from the bottom of the sleeping bag and hammock. It would appear our diagnosis of the layer beneath us being crushed and thus providing no warmth was correct. To remedy it this time I lay on top of a thick woolen blanket, which solved the problem to a certain degree, however in the cold of the night, I could still feel some heat loss, more than I would have liked. I took the spare fleece jacket I had bright along and zipped it up around myself on the outside of the hammock, and used the arms to tie an extra tight knot. Whilst this did mean it felt I was sleeping in a straight jacket, it also meant I was substantially warmer than last time, especially considering I was wearing a hoodie and thermal t-shirt in my sleeping bag,  rather than my coat, as I had done in January. Final piece of luxury, I had folded my down body warmer into the bag of my sleeping bag, and used it as a fluffy pillow, that had the added benefit of keeping my neck and head nice and warm. Towards the end of the night, I still felt some cold round my feet, which is an area I still need to improve, nevertheless they were nowhere near as uncomfortable as last time, and I didn’t resort to boiling a kettle of hot water to put there (though Matt did, once).

Come six o’clock it was clear I wasn’t going to sleep again. I love birdsong, but the cacophony we were dealing with was on another level. So I crawled out of my hammock, put on my jeans and set about gathering some fresh wood for the fire. Naturally, this involved much manly axe-wielding, which made it all the more fun. 

  
Fire lit, we set about making breakfast, which included the usual 6 rashers of bacon, and this time, as an added luxury one and a half eggs each, as well as Guatemalan filter coffee. Like I said, we really wanted to up the game this time round. Our fire seemed to smoke out most of the forest, we could literally see the smoke just hanging low among the trees, owing to the fact that there was no wind at all.  To top it all off, we were sitting where we could see down a cut in the trees, and the sun rose, exactly in line with that cut, right onto our faces, meaning that for a few glorious minutes, we were bathed in the light of the rising sun. Pure magic. Though of course, in the way we had the fire, which was spewin out smoke, (we later noticed this was due to the conifer wood we were burning) and the smoke, in varying degrees of thickness, was changing the color of the sunlight. Literally as the smoke went past our faces, we could see the light coming down the path changing color and intensity, it was very odd. Breakfast finished, we made another coffee, chatted, and eventually tried to make a cup of them with pure well water. Despite leaving the teabag in for a poisonously long time, it did taste a bit queer. So, throwing the tea away, we decided it wood be better if we started tidying, doing the dishes and breaking camp. 

  
A short while later, things were put away, bags were packed, and shelter was dismantled. 

We poured water over the fire, ensuring it was out and began our walk back to the station, by way of a petrol station for a can of coke each, which we drank whilst waiting for the train, which was of course, delayed.

With that, back to reality.

PS, videos were made, they’ll follow later in the week. 

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Race Report: Week 9

After much waiting and little practicing, the running race Catherine signed us up for was upon us.

At three o’clock we convened at our apartment with Helen and Matthijs for pasta (fuel of champions), before hitting the (longer than expected) road to Gasselte, which is practically in Groningen, about 200km from Amsterdam.

Thankfully, the weather was very pleasant, clear and fresh. We wouldn’t be having any problems with rain that evening. And on cue at 18:19, the sun dipped below the horizon just as we were arriving, in time for sign in.

 

Good bye sun, see you tomorrow!

Race numbers allocated, we made our way to the errr, bar to get changed into our race clothes and decide on what configuration of clothing we would wear. That sorted, final adjustments to head straps for the torches and action-cam strapped into place, we waited for 19:20, our official start time.

Though of course, it wouldn’t be right without a picture first.

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And with that, off to the start-line!


We went off into the woods, and quickly the group of 50-60 or so runners formed a single-file line, with a lot of dodging and weaving to avoid patches of deep boggy mud. It was pitch black in the forest and very very quiet. Not unlike the conditions I experienced with Matt here.

As you can see in the picture above, I did take the action cam with me, but apart from very few sections, it looks like a film made from the point of view of a blind person. I’ll cobble something together later on.

Nevertheless, running through the forest and at night is entirely magical. Unlike road-running, which you can pretty much do with your eyes shut, the forest floor is completely uneven, slippery and full of surprises. To get through it, a lot of concentration is required. This is easy in a pack, because the multitude of head-torches lights up the majority of the path. But when the pack thins out, you’re forced to look everywhere and really pay attention to what you’re running over. I actually found the experience really engaging. Loath as I am to claim I was “at one with nature”, I was definitely close to it. And when I say close to it, I almost mean that literally. When I let my attention slip, or looked at my watch, or tried to look at the scenery (or lack thereof) or see the night sky, I almost fell flat on my face. This happened more than once, until I learnt my lesson and just concentrated on where my feet were going.

After 7-8km through the woods, we opened up on what was once a sand quarry, and is now a lake surrounded by mountain bike trails. This is where things got really interesting, as the tracks weave about to make the most use of the space, and sometimes double back, meaning you’re actually running towards people until they veer off in another direction and you realise that they were on another track. This is also the section where the “hills” come into it.

At 20 meters high (and that’s me being generous), these hills were more a bump in the road than a major daunting force to be conquered. Still, they provided for some good scrambling, in the traditional trail running way, hands on knees to provide a bit of extra force. My usual cheeriness had me call out to my team-mates “UTMB here we come!!”, which was met by a resounding “F±*% you!”……I may have a bit more work ahead of me to convince them…..

The last three km or so plunged back into the woods, for the really soggy bit, where water seeps into your shoes, socks get really wet and the mud splashes commence. At this point I got separated from Matthijs and Catherine, so I upped the ante a bit to see how quickly I could plow through the terrain (turns out, not much faster than I was already going).

We rejoined the road, saw the marshall who told us we were at the end, but…surprise surprise, another marshall a bit further pointed us in the direction of the soggiest track yet, which had deep pools of cold water and squelchy mud do run through. Oh and a really slippery patch of mud on the final, sharp, corner which I think may have caught a fair few people out…

Here I come!

 

Here comes powerwoman!

 

Matt takes it easy.

 

Finally, there was the finish, complete with drinks, sweets, crisps, and of course, liquorice (we are in the Netherlands after all). Final photo taken, breath caught up, and off to the most important part of any race, the bar for hot soup and beer.

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I also made one crucial mistake. I left my normal shoes in the car, 700 metres away, and there was no way in hell I was putting my wet running shoes back on. So I did the only other thing I could do:


By the way, when it’s 0 degrees, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Thankfully, it was a very clear night and I could distract myself by looking for Big Bear and Little Bear, the only two constellations I know.

So trail running. Something for me?

Yes! 1000 times yes! It’s so much more exciting than road running! It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, you need to focus really hard and pay attention. Things that aren’t always a necessity in our automaton urban lives. A way to reconnect with nature? Definitely. An escape? Possibly. A great, healthy and fun way to spend your Saturday night? Absolutely. Will we be doing it again? Well…..


Thank you to Matt, for joining us in this endeavour. Congratulations to Catherine for completing her first ever foot race (not the first race I’d have chosen). And lastly, thank you Helen, for waiting, and doing all the driving, long after we’d fallen asleep!

B
PS: shame on you, McDonalds Hogeveen for not having a veggie burger, how were we supposed to feed our hardworking driver!?!?

Week 4! Two Twits with No Tent.

Let’s skip the boring bits and get straight to the meat of the matter.

Catherine got me diving lessons for my Birthday last week. So Wednesday night we headed out for our first one. I loved it. Breathing underwater was a bit odd, and I’ve never had as big a build up of phlegm as after breathing through only my mouth for over an hour. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the next session in a couple of weeks. Ideally, we’ll go to the south (any south, France, Africa, America, Holland will do as long as we can dive a bit).

Unfortunately there are no pictures of the session, something I will try to remedy as the weeks go on and we get more confident underwater.

In other news, Matthijs and I had cooked up a little plan I may have alluded to at the end of last week’s post and luckily for us the weather played ball. What we needed (and got) was a 24 hour window within which no rain was forecast.

I should clarify. We live in the Netherlands, where in winter it is perpetually cold and wet and the nights are reasonably long at this time of year. We are both more or less city-dwellers with no wildlife or survival experience. We fancied an outlet for our “wild” selves that was more substantial than a saturday stroll in the woods. It seemed fitting then, to go on a microadventure and spend a night in the forest. But because that would be too simple, we figured we would head out without a tent.

Over the past few weeks we made several lists of things we might need, and they usually got pretty silly. By silly I mean adding things like a venom kit or bear bells to ward off the wildlife. But actually the “real” part of the list was pretty simple: tarpaulin, hammocks, sleeping bags, some rope and a cooker. Head out and see what happens.

And at 13:30 on Saturday, that’s exactly what we did. We packed two large backpacks into Matt’s car and drove off down the motorway towards a (legal) campground in the forest near Austerlitz (yes, the battleground).


On the way we got the odd rain shower, but nothing too extreme. We parked up, visited a local supermarket for meagre rations and headed off into the woods (in the opposite direction to where we were aiming to go).

We left the path and headed into the scrub, looking for a spot to pitch our camp, which we found, and then immediately decided on another spot. We also picked a dedicated “loo” and set about building up our camp. Once set up we got out the cooker and brewed up a cup of tea. Promptly followed by an improvised game of cards (we played UNO with a standard deck), then immediately we cooked our dinner, had another tea (this time ravioli flavoured) and then played another card game. I surprised Matt with a tin of beer. Which made him a happy man, as he was previously lamenting our lack of bringing brews.

Then we decided it was cold and time for bed. It was 8 oclock…..


We both lay in our hammocks for about an hour reading and then nodded off. All things told, there isn’t actually much to do in the forest once night has fallen, and as our attempts to light an (illegal) fire had failed miserably (it was like trying to set fire to a wet sponge) we didn’t even have a campfire to sit around. At about 11:30 we were both awake again, and a bit cold, so we decided to warm some water up and make noodles, as well as fill some bottles to put near our feet at the bottom of our sleeping bags (that helped a lot!). We fell asleep again, until about 2:20, where we repeated the charade and made some tea, and reheated our bottles.


That time, I’m sure I heard something sneak past the camp, as too many sticks on the forest floor broke in quick succession. Never mind, it didn’t eat us or any of our stuff….

We repeated the drill at 5, which by now we had down to military precision, and got back into the hammocks one last time until 8. Though we woke at about 7 and laid still enjoying the forest around us getting lighter (and the noise of the nearby highway getting louder).

Then, we made breakfast by frying off some bacon and pouring ourselves a large cup of coffee. We then started to clear our camp and tidy, having another coffee, finishing the tidying and heading back to the car.


There is an enormous amount more detail I’d like to share, but all in good time. Rather than just write, I’m working on some video footage we gathered to put together something mildly coherent and entertaining. We came up with a name for our “show”, and are working on putting together which we hope you’ll find entertaining. This being said, we ended up with about 4 and half hours of raw footage. But below is a preview of the first installment of “Two Twits with No Tent”. We hope you’ll look forwards to more, but ultimately, we’ll probably film more whether anyone likes it or not. 😀

Till next time!

B

Ride down memory lane

I got one of those automated emails wishing me a happy new year from an old motorbike forum I used to be part of which reminded me I did a fair bit of writing on there back during my first degree.

So as penance for the radio silence I maintained during December I thought I would copy over an old trip report I posted there. It comes along with some pictures.

Let me set the scene for you. I had to move out of my house in Nottingham as I had finished my degree, I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t sure where to go live next, as my parents were leaving the Netherlands for a hamlet in France. So what better way to clear one’s head than hours of riding around Europe?

The following is copied over directly from that post I wrote.

NB: The motorcycle I owned at the time is not renowned for its touring abilities, or for doing much more than scooting youths around town. At most a couple hours ride on a Sunday. (With its 13hp)…

Hi guys,

Upon request I am starting a blog of my travels.

A bit about me:
I’m English/French and I’ve lived in Britain, Italy, Germany, France and The Netherlands. I’m 22.

About Foxy Roxy:
She’s a 58 Reg White/Red. I got her last July, she came with a Scorpion Carbon as well as some other small toys, and about 500 miles on the clock.

Here she is the day I got her:
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We spent last summer cruising through Nottinghamshire and on a few cruises up to the peaks. She stayed in the garage as I went back to uni, but in the New Year I had a new determination to ride her as much as possible (Though not worth getting leathered up for the commute into Uni).

I was going for my DAS with Beechdale in Nottingham (sound bunch of guys, cannot recommend enough! Though make sure you can stomach their (sometimes crude) humour! :D )

The day I had my Mod 1 booked, February 28th, I was on my way to Beechdale when I got cut up by a cab driver who left the scene. This is the outcome:
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Total Bill of Materials to restore to mint condition according to CMC Nottingham……£2800!

Thankfully, I managed to track the cab driver down, but because he claims he did not cause the accident and is a mere witness, the process is still ongoing through insurance. I have a witness, but it seems that until now he has not yet filled in his statement. He backs up my story, but without it, what can I do?

Regardless, on the 19th of April I passed my Mod 2 and have a fully unrestricted A license!
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And after: [​IMG]

Spot the Difference?

This is around the time I got wind of an impending move to France on my parents behalf. With my degree coming to a close, I didn’t know what to go for next. I was tempted to upgrade bikes. Due to the fact I like long rides, I was tempted by a Fazer 6 S2. More recently I have contemplated a Hornet as well, though the faired Fazer might be more for me. (This chapter is to be continued).

As the year went on, I went on more trips.
Here she is at Rutland Water on our way to Peterborough to pick up some Kriega Luggage. (Which i simply cannot recommend enough. It’s expensive, but well worth it):

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Finally. The plans for the move to France had been finalised. And my degree is over. I’m hoping for a 2:1. The contract of my house in Nottingham is almost finised so I needed to move back to Holland until I went to France.

Instead of sitting in the car for a day, I decided that I would take Roxy with me and we would do the trip our own way over 4 days.

Here I’m trying out different combinations for luggage:
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Or possibly:
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(Bad idea, it rubs).

I am now in Holland and the departure date is next Friday. I have decided on a route.

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And on a luggage configuration:
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Now all I need is good weather. I’ve also kitted her out with an Ultimate addons iPhone mount, wired into the battery. That way I can use the Navigon app (which is also excellent). And if you look under the bubble, you’ll notice my Robin Hood bear riding shotgun (The bike is from Nottingham after all).

Post 2:

Quick update. I was bored today, so I figured I would go to Germany.

The motorways here are disciplined enough. Driving at the speed limit is doable on our bikes. Just stick earplugs in and rest your head on the tankbag.

Here’s the proof:

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Also, this shot is pretty cool I think. They’re wind turbine blades waiting at the border to be transported at night.

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Fuel is pretty cheap in Germany too. 20 cents a litre cheaper than in Holland. So in my mind it was worth it! :p

And who should pull up behind me at a filling station in the middle of German countryside but a van-full of Geordies buying beer and asking me what I was doing in Germany and if I was bonkers to be doing a tour of Europe on a 125?!

I’ve also decided on a final route including all stops and campsites and detours, its 1159km. So with trips to the shops and the like It’ll be 1200km.

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Post 3:

Hello all!

Day one: Utrecht (NL) –> Lille (FR). Not very eventful, other than the wind was atrocious. The night before I left, a storm knocked out power to 73000 homes in the Utrecht area. So the roads were pretty soggy. Also, and I cannot say this enough, trust your brain over the satnav! The satnav is like the girlfriend with the maps instructions that you heed to appease her, but eventually, it’ll leave you seething. Overtaking trucks on (very) windy dutch motorways is also tricky. You speed up in the lee they leave in their wake, but as you pass them you hit the wall of air their pushing out of the way and the bike slows right down. After a bit of weaving about, you eventually wriggle free and it’s on to the next one.

Other than motorway riding on day 1, not a lot to report. Interesting bits in Belgium were the Antwerp ring-road, which is congested 24/7. No problem on a bike though, you just lane-split at 90kmh. Just be wary of tourists who are clueless, and if theres a faster bike behind you, let them through. The one thing that cracks me up is people with big bikes who are afraid to use them. There was a guy on an 1198 in Antwerp. Sitting at the lights showing off, revving the engine, but as soon as the lights went green he shot off, only for me to overtake him moments later (with all my bags and luggage) and lane splitting past him as he thought he might just sit behind a caravan in traffic like a pansy…..

Eventually got to France and my initial reaction to the traffic was “I am going to die”, but after a bit, I got used to it, and it was all good. Spent the afternoon with the guy who got me into bikes a few years back. He took me to an open track day (a weekly thing organised by the local bike-cops at their own training track), and I got into bikes in a big way. I was going through a bit of a downer at that time, and I really focussed on bikes. Got through it and a year later, I got what I was working towards, Foxy Roxy.

Spent the afternoon with this guy (he’s retired) but he’s nutty about bikes, and we went round all the dealerships, and I got to see why all my French friends say their Mod 1 is so difficult. It’s basically like ours, but the figure of 8, U-turn and obstacle avoidance are an “all-in-one” thing and its timed. 22 seconds to do the lot. Minor fault if you’re .5 sec over and Serious fault if you’re 1 sec over (Fail).

Day two: Lille (FR) –> Vernon (FR). Set off round 10ish for a ride down the A1 (Nutter-highway as I like to call it, because all the foreigners go about 160kph), eventually turned off because I noticed my bags were loose. My biker mate also gave me a waterproof overall that was too big for him, turned out to be a godsend on day 4. After a quick coffee me and Leandre parted ways, he went back to Lille and I opted for the N50 towards Amiens rather than the A1 to Bapaume. It was all national roads and the speed limit is 90 (which I took as an instruction to do V-max) fully loaded with a full tank of fuel and me (80kg) on board, the bike sits comfortably at 110. This is where I got my first proper experience of biking in France. Turns out that despite their reputation, French drivers behave exceptionally well towards motorcyclists. When you come up behind them, they mostly pull over a long way to the right (there’s usually a hard shoulder about 1-2m on the N roads), and let you pass. Even on white lines, oncoming vehicles also pull out of your way. A quick flick of your right foot is common courtesy as a “thank you”. Also, there is no “biker nod” in continental europe, you simply hold your right hand out. Also, cars and bikes (and the odd truck) have the tendency to flash you if you’re coming up to cameras or police with speed-binoculars. Solidarity amongst motorists is strong in France (until they notice that you’re a foreigner, as I have experienced driving my Dad’s dutch-reg’d car).

After getting to Amiens (which I skipped) I took a short blast on the A16 (50km or so), to get some quick mileage out of the way. I stopped in Beauvais for some lunch and then left the motorway for some pleasant riding on small roads through sleepy villages. The satnav lady was PMS’ing at me again, so took me her own little way, which was still pleasant, but I did think a few times there must be a more efficient way of getting through here. After a fuel stop, Roxy turned over her 5000th km.

Couple more hours riding got me to Vernon, and you could tell it was saturday afternoon, as there were bikes everywhere. Arrived at my destination, (another friend from when I lived in Paris), and we hung out for a bit. She had just passed her test and gotten her hands on a mint GSF650 Bandit and she was rearing to have a ride, so off we went. Unfortunately she dropped it on the way out of the garage, though in her defence, she has very short legs and her garage exit is a really steep, corrugated concrete slip-way. I almost dropped Roxy as well. After mending bruised ego’s we went to Suzuki and she had the bike checked. Just a scratched engine casing and a snapped clutch lever. Nothing serious. We then went off for a ride round some little roads to see where her bf lived (also a bike nut, has a Kawa 750 and an R1 (not limited to the legally required 106bhp of course)), where she worked and a few others. Back to Vernon for a chat and a (soft)drink at a cafe. We then got pic-nic materials for dinner and went back to the Sailing club where we met, for some dinner and nostalgia’s sake. Dawned on me that we’ve been friends 8 years, which is not to be sniffed at.
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It was the “St-Jean” also known as the “fete de la musique” but the parties didnt look very lively, so instead, some late night riding was in order. At 11:30 we got back and decided it was time to sleep.

Day three: Vernon (FR) –> La Motte Ternant (FR). Woke up on the floor in my friend’s flat. Made some coffee and she picked up croissants whilst I had a shower. Unfortunately a grey and wet day, but not pouring, so I rejected the rain suit. she rode with me to the motorway, where we split. I went in towards Versailles so I could ride past my old house in Jouy. It was Sunday and I missed a turn in Versailles, so I roared into town centre and it was market day. Joy-of joys, it took me about 20 minutes to go 300 meters. Got through and rode out past my old house. Wasn’t nostalgic though, the three years we lived there were not the happiest. Got out of there and set my sight on central france. Drove through Paris suburbs until I got on the A6 the so-called “Autoroute du Soleil” or Sunshine Motorway, which I quickly renamed the “motorway of ************ty british weather I thought I left behind”. At least the surface got better as I left the capital behind, until it was snooker-table smooth. Easily lapped up about 250kms over 2.5 hours. For the first time that day, I rode with some music feeding in off the iPod, and I have to conceed that whilst its not a great idea in town. If you ever have to do motorways, or any sort of longer routes, its quite nice. Unfortunately, my iPhone had only downloaded 3 albums off of the iCloud. So I’m now pretty familiar with The Killers and Kanye West. The most exciting thing that day was almost running out of fuel, I’m not entirely sure how far these bikes can go on fuel reserves, but I thought 50k might be stretching it, so I peeled off the motorway and got some fuel. I then thought I might look for some food but it was about 14:00 on a Sunday, and everything was closed. So I got back on the mway for another 50km and ate at the AutoGrill.

Finally got to the Morvan and left the motorway for good, could tell the temperature was much hotter round these parts. Good roads round there. I recommend it as an overnight stop if you guys should ever attempt a folly like this one.
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Set up camp and had a sit down and a read, the noticed I had no food, no water, I didnt even have a torch (such a prepared camper). So I rode back into Saulieu to get sweets, drinks and crisps at the petrol station (miraculously open), and asked if there were decent places to eat. (This couldnt be a French roadtrip, if there weren’t some good food thrown in). I was advised that the creperie was good. And indeed it was. delicious brittany style “galettes” with ham, goats cheese and tomato sauce, and a salted caramel crepe for desert. Absolutely divine. Went to bed a very happy man.

Day four: La Motte Ternant (FR) –> Trévignin (FR). Last day. Woke up very cold, with a banging headache and a really sore throat (like I’d been gargling sand). Turns out my dad’s trusty 30 year old tent wasnt really waterproof anymore, and it was gushing down. I packed the tent as soon as I was up (after a steaming hot shower, I honestly cannot fault the campsite “Le Village” in La Motte, €10 for the night, great facilities, and free bog roll). This time I donned the rain-suit and decided to leave. It was 7:15…….Admittedly the places I was now driving through were gorgeous, back on a smooth Nationale road I ate up miles, the only downside was following a lorry loaded with sand, and he hadn’t covered his load, both Roxy and I were now covered in crap.
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Stopped for coffee and croissant at about 8:45. I needed to be at my Aunt and Uncles for 11:30, where I’d invited myself for lunch. I have 60 klicks left to ride…….No matter, I took the rain suit off and kept going. I sat in their garden for a couple hours just relaxing and reading my book. The respite from the rain was welcome and I was warming up. For the foodies amongst you: My uncle dished up pan-fried veal liver in butter and herbs and some cheesy pasta. Delicious.
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After lunch, we had a few coffees, had some chit chat, and then my cousin came home from work, he had his lunch and made some more coffee “Bien tassé” (nice and strong), and I had about 5 cups of that. Needless to say I was buzzing a bit when I left. It was about 3 oclock and I had 180 km’s to go till I arrived. Satnav was predicting a 6:20 arrival, to which I said “F that, I can get there before 6 oclock). I rode Roxy hard, very, very hard. I got there at 5:55, and this incudes a 5 minutes stop for fuel and a piss, and endless traffic in Bourg-en-Bresse. I don’t need to emphasize that I was quite hyper.

After leaving Bourg-en-Bresse I rode across the plains and then, out of the mist, the mountains rose. (Honestly, just like in the movies). The road started to climb, and eventually some twists and turns started to show up, until the road just became a rider’s wet dream. I was tired, felt ill, my bags kept pushing into my back every time i touched the brake, but those last 80km’s through the mountains were so worth it. There were long dark tunnels where the (very hot) Scorpion was spitting and crackling and scaring the ************ out of cyclists. :D

I was getting hot and tired, it was about 32 degrees and I had my full gear on, but I just wanted to arrive, couldn’t be bothered to stop.

I’m here now, I’ve moved in, and I’m flying back to Britain thursday, Roxy is having a holiday down here and I’l pick her up in August. Taking her for spin this afternoon (because, there’s windy roads on my doorstep…..literally) and she is having her 6000km (3500m) service tomorrow.

All is well in my little corner in the world.

This little trip proves that you can tour on anything. It’s great fun, and I recommend you all send your little 125’s off in style with a long trip if and when you upgrade. High mileage is doable, and these little bikes are so reliable that you dont really need the toolkit (though obviously, don’t come crying if you leave without it). In fact, the only weak link in the equation is the rider. If I didnt have to stop for food, sleep and toilet breaks, Roxy would have done the whole trip in a single sitting, I’m sure of it.

New Year

Terrible! It’s been a month since I posted an update of some description!

That’s genuinely not very good is it? But that’s the upside of the new year, I can reset and aim to do better.

But with that, let’s have a look at December.

Actually December was relatively quiet. I drank a substantial amount of beer. (Look on untappd for details as per usual). I had a work Christmas party, which didn’t end well for me, but I will spare you the details.

I rode my motorcycle (for once, this is actually a rare event these days).

Here’s a picture of it from last summer, only just sent to me by my dad.

 I flew back to the UK to attend a christening for one of Catherine’s nephews.

I went shooting. Tried a .22 bolt action and a .22 semi auto. As well as one that I’ll call the BFG (starts with “Big” finishes with “gun”).


My targets were kind of all over the place, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.

We went for a walk with Catherine, her parents and her niece, and we found a very friendly robin. He was happy to be filmed really close. We also chanced across a rat playing with two squirrels, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap that.

I got to meet Catherine’s newest nephew. Who I found very quiet and inquisitive for an 8 month old. He must be one of the first kids I’ve ever been able to hold without making them cry. For some reason kids don’t like me.

Christmas Eve was celebrated at Catherine’s parents house, as we usually do, before we hit the road north to get to my cousins for Christmas Day. We stayed there through to Boxing Day upon which we drove two hours south, picked up Catherine’s parents and then drove one out north again to have a meal with Catherine’s parents, my parents, my cousin and grandma. This has been a yearly thing for the past three years.

I flew back on the 27th to be at work the next day. Followed by beer and steak with the boys, one of which I hadn’t seen in several years (the friend, not the steak).

Before I knew it New Years Eve was here, my parents are visiting, Catherine flew back. We did the shopping and got ready for the evening. Interspersed with food and board games (thank you Matt and Helen and Judith and Bart). I was feeling a little under the weather for most of the evening, but I think it’s mostly down to my body saying “enough of the abuse, give me vegetables, water and tea”.

What’s important to remember though, it’s not what you eat between Christmas and new year that matters. It’s what you eat between new year and Christmas that makes the difference. 😉

Nevertheless I made it to new year, we watched the firework display on my street (from the comfort of or living room) before turning in and waking up refreshed today to kill our livers some more with a full English breakfast of sausages, bacon and eggs.

I promise to be a little more regular this year.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Benjamin

Time for a catchup! Week(end) 47

It’s been quite a long time since my last post, which came out as slightly more heavy and philosophical than intended. Nevetheless it’s time for a bit of an update, not because I’ve been lazy, but because the past couple of weeks had not had much to update about. But finally this weekend, we did something a little exciting and different which didn’t involve mostly sitting at home on the Internet. 

In actually fact, it was my mum’s birthday on Monday. And though we had sent a card, we had not yet sent a present. Now, before someone decries that as horrible, allow me to explain. When my parents were last in Holland about a month ago, we had a chat with dad about the possibility of surprising mum with a visit. We all thought this was an excellent idea, with the exception that my parents were away last weekend. So we pushed back one weekend, and got an excellent deal on some flights to Geneva. (Roughly the same price as a meal at a smart restaurant for two people), for both of us together. So we pounced on the deal. We put dad in charge of discouraging mum from actually planning anything for this weekend. 

Friday evening we skyped mum and explained that due to “logistical problems” her present had only just arrived, and that therefore we would prefer to bring it to her ourselves……that evening. So would she mind coming to Geneva at 10:30 to pick us up. 😈

And with that, off to the airport we went.

Arriving late in Trevignin on Friday we got up on Saturday to torrential rain. Before anything else, some shopping needed doing to feed these unexpected additional mouths. Whilst in the supermarket, the temperature dropped and upon coming out we could see that outside the valley, the snow had started to appear on the flanks of the surrounding mountains. We returned to find the village covered in a fresh blanket of snow. In fact, the first snowfall of the season.

 

The view from mum and dad’s bedroom window.
 Jackets were gathered, walking boots were found, along with a plethora of gloves, hats and scarves and Catherine and I headed out for a walk in the fresh snow. 

 

Le Revard, in a brief ray of sunshine.
 Now I’m quite a fan of microadventures, little escapades that serve no purpose other than feeding the soul and making one exceedingly happy. So instead of just walking along the road, we headed up into the fields, and then through some bushes and scrub into  a little wood to try and find a stream. We then pushed through some more trees and followed the stream up into another field. 

 

All wrapped up and warm!

 
The snowplough doing its first round of the year, and removing our footprints in the process.
 We walked along and then back down into the woods. Along the way we found a discarded bathtub (which I was tempted to use as a sledge), and an observation platform that had probably been built by a local farmer for hunting. We then ran down the steep field through the snow (because why not?) cut through some more fields and back to the village. Here I got the head torch out, not because it was particularly dark, but because it fed the adventure my inner ten year old was having, and we sniffed the air for the log fires that were starting in chimneys nearby before standing in the village square with our tongues out, tasting the falling snow. 
 
View on the Massif de la Chartreuse (my parents live at the meeting point of the Jura, Chartreuse and Alps ranges.

We got home and lit our own fire in the chimney before preparing all that is required for a delicious raclette. Including pickled onions and gherkins, ham, rosette, boiled potatoes and of course, slicing a large chunk of cheese. After raclette we had a game of quirkle, and dad had me tastes delicious whisky from Wales. From the only distillery in Wales, as a matter of fact. For those interested its “Penderyn”, and it’s very smooth and very very tasty. 

On Sunday I was adamant that we should make the most of the mountains and the snow. So we picked a walk out of one of our guidebooks, gathered the required equipment and jumped in the car. Upon arriving, we noticed there might be a little more snow than we bargained for, but undaunted we set off. It was a stunning walk, the weather played ball and we crunched through the snow in wonderful tranquility. 

We did a route called Le golet de Doucy et Le col de Bornette. 

   

One of many little huts
    
   

We had gotten almost all the way to the end of our walk before noticing we had not yet stopped for some lunch (which I was carrying). But atop a little rise, a few hundred metres away we spotted a small hut along with a couple of barns. We figured we would find a spot a little way out of the wind, against a wall or something, but it was so much better than that!!!
  It turned out to be a refuge. A small hut available to mountaineers as a place to rest up. Complete with table, chairs and a small stove. (Or maybe it was a very dirty person’s house, in which case, our apologies for trespassing). So out of the wind, we managed to have  a hearty lunch, complete with hot drinks out of the thermos, big chunks of bread and ham. After lunch, we descended back towards the car, but I must admit, we got a bit silly. Having snowball fights, pushing each other into the snow, making snow angels and slithering down steep snowy banks. It was generally epic fun. 

  
  
  
 

Few creature comforts, but who needs em?
 
On the way home, we stopped off at a bakery, to pick out some cakes for our cup of tea. We’ve lit the fire, and now, time to relax. And with a day off tomorrow, no need to rush back to the airport!

I also spliced together a quick time lapse video, but it was shot from my pocket, so the view isn’t great. Nevertheless, I’ll add it below when it’s uploaded to YouTube. Though as we are on satellite internet here, that could be a bit later…  

Week 43: Graduation

It’s nice waking up on a Monday and only having three days of work in the coming week. By Wednesday night, my parents arrived up from France having visited my cousin and some friends on the way up in Alsace and Germany.

Early Thursday morning we got up to go the the airport to pick up Catherine’s parents who flew in on the first flight. After showing them our apartment and enjoying coffee and tea, we headed out to lunch. After lunch Catherine’s parents made their way to Groningen where they were booked into a hotel for the night. We returned home to pick up my mum and dad and head into Amsterdam. But first, we needed to solve a common problem, tablet addiction….

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Me: So what would you like to do? Them: “Grunt”

After dragging the youth away from their devices, we headed into town and had a look round, starting at Waterlooplein and walking over to Rembrandtplein, De Munt, taking in the flower market and walking up to Spuistraat to have a drink where, much to Catherine’s look of terror, we were joined by a mouse scurrying about under the benches.

From there we walked slowly over to the Overtoom by way of the Apple store (because that’s what you do right, just to check everything out, even though it’s the same as last month when you visited), and Bever outdoor sports, because Dad and I are the kind of guys who could look at and debate the merits of outdoor gear for days, (much to both our partners dismay).

We tried to get into an Indonesian restaurant, but it was full so we crossed the road and went to a Thai restaurant instead. (We knew both, so we weren’t disappointed). After dinner, a walk through De Wallen was the done thing before catching a metro home.

Friday was my big day! Finally, graduation day! We got suited and booted and jumped in the car for the 2 hour drive up north to Groningen, where we met Catherine’s parents, and because we were early, went off for coffee and cake. At the required timeslot, we returned to the main academy building for my short graduation ceremony, which took 15 minutes all-told.

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My supervisor delivered a short speech on how we met and the work that was put in throughout my thesis project (and that is ongoing, my thesis has been adapted into a book chapter on lean management). Thereafter, it was time to sign my diploma, and with a handshake, I was a graduate!

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Then followed the customary pictures on the main stairway in the academy building.

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Wards: In decreasing order of size

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Thank you Mike for showing up and for the beer!

I then took everyone to lunch. We wanted pizza, but our favourite place didn’t fire up the pizza oven until 3, so (quite fittingly I think) we went to the Goudkantoor, which turns out to be the place my parents and I ate the first time when they brought me up to Groningen to move in over two years ago, therefore I thought it would bookend my life in Groningen quite nicely.

Saturday morning my parents hit the road for Germany to visit friends on the way home. We met up with Catherine’s parents in town and after a quick lunch, checked out the queue at the Van Gogh museum to see the Munch exhibition. However we decided that 45 minutes was a long wait and that we would book online and return the next day, so instead we walked back and had a canal tour.

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7 Bridges in a row.

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We then walked through the Vondelpark. At that point I decided everyone looked thirsty, and miraculously, we ended up one street away from Craft and Draft…. 😉 so in we went for a couple rounds. After that we returned up towards Nieuw Markt for some chinese food at one of the best addresses in Amsterdam, Nam Kee. As per usual, Catherine and I ordered the calf tripe, and salt and pepper squid. The chinese waiter always does a double take when I order the tripe. He always double checks that I do indeed want the tripe, to which I always tell him, of course, bring it on! I also have him remove the plates and cutlery and bring bowls and chopsticks instead. Just for extra authenticity.

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And with that, have a good Sunday!

B

Sunday 04.10. Hamburg continued!

I last left off on Saturday evening, after a long day exploring Hamburg. Sunday morning we woke up fairly early again, in order to enjoy our last day before catching a flight in the evening.

We ended up having breakfast at the same cafe as on the Saturday, much for the same reason: it was open. Not wanting a repeat of the bread and croissant of the day before, I fancied being a bit adventurous. In this case, I opted for the Kutscherfrühstück, or coach drivers breakfast. Simple enough, it contained 3 breads, one with cheese, one with egg salad, and one with “Mett”, which I assumed would be meat. I was right….. Now, I usually loathe people who take pictures of food, but in this instance, I thought I would make an exception and break my own rule.

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Now, that is quite seriously raw steak topped with raw onions. And it was absolutely delicious! Having lived in Germany before, I wasn’t as surprised as I might have been, but it was definitely not what I was expecting.

Anyway, after breakfast we walked around a bit and down to the harbour again, this time to visit Miniatur Wunderland. Holders of the world record for largest miniature trainset in the world (and still expanding).

It was absolutely brilliant. The attention to detail was absolutely incredible! We must have taken about 100 pictures. Here are a few highlights.

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Like an actual climbing hall in a watering can.
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A crime scene.

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There were also a few random bits, like this bunny school.

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For those with voyeuristic tendencies, there were also a few naughty scenes here and there.

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Bit of naked sunbathing…
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And frolicking amongst the sunflowers (Though they live dangerously, as the combine harvester is actually on its way, out of shot).

Every now and again they also dim the lights and turn it into night time, where everything is lit up!

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Quick trip to Vegas!

Last but not least, I made this short video to show the scale of one of the scenes, as well as a short clip of the airport with a plane taking off.

After spending about three hours there (we could have spent a lot longer), we left for lunch. Unfortunately Linda was taken up by group meetings for university so wasn’t able to make it to lunch after all.

We stopped at a Portugese restaurant in the city’s Portugese quarter. Lovely grilled fish. However, the lunch was slightly spoilt by a text from KLM saying “Your flight has been cancelled, please contact us”…

I tried to call a couple times but the lines were completely jammed, so we resolved to go back to the apartment, pick up our things and head to the airport early. Which we did. The best they could do was a flight the following afternoon. After a wait, they booked us into the Marriot nearby and we took the shuttle there. Now it was that strange time where it was a bit late to go into town, as we got free dinner included with our overnight stay. So instead we rested up (all that walking had tired us out, and we both were showing signs of an oncoming cold.. 😦 ). After having our “luxury buffet meal” we had a beer and crashed out.

Monday morning I sorted through some work emails (yes, I was supposed to be at my desk), and tried to assign some tasks to colleagues. Being the brilliant team that they are, they were happy to help out. 🙂

Monday morning we looked around the city again, and visited the church of St. Petri and the church of St. Jacobi.

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St Jacobi church.

We then got word that Linda would be free for lunch, so we headed over to Altona, a cool, studenty part of town where we were able to grab some lunch in the sun. From there we walked to the banks of the Elbe, from where we could see the port. Being supply chain nerds (yes, both of us), nothing is more exciting than ships and containers carrying who knows what, who knows where?!

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From there we walked along and tried to regain the river. We happened on a ice cream place, and no trip to Germany is complete without an Eiskaffee (according to Catherine). Quite frankly I would have to agree. Surprisingly, this place was completely vegan, and had I not read the sign, I would not have known. It was very tasty, and amazingly for a vegan place, normally priced.

Further along the docks we chanced on a submarine.

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I took the chance to let out my inner 10 year old and walk along the wall. Catherine treated us to a picture…

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We wondered back towards town by way of St Pauli, and this time we got a proper picture of “the street”.

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We then wondered through the Planten & Blomen garden where we saw a squirrel, though he wasn’t eager to get photographed.

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I’m also always surprised how much graffiti there is in Germany, some of it good, some of it not so good.

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Quick get on! The ducks are coming!

There were also some turtles having a chillout, before having a standoff with the ducks.

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This is our tree, got here first!

After that we took the U-bahn and S-bahn and headed to the airport, where this time, we did manage to get home (albeit 24 hours late). Unfortunately, those colds we thought we were getting, materialised, so we went to bed early to see if we could sleep them off. (We couldn’t..).

And with that, back to work we went.

B

Saturday 3.10. Hamburg!

I would normally have shared our trip on Sunday night, but that was not possible this week, read on to find out why…

So on Friday I left off with a bit of a teaser as to where we might have been going from Amsterdam airport. Anybody who may have been following my twitter (and Facebook, for that matter), may have noticed a few checkins via untappd in the gorgeous city of Hamburg, Germany!

We arrived later on Friday evening with a bit of delay to a very quiet and very empty Hamburg airport. At this point, we wanted to just get to our Airbnb as quickly as we could (as we were already late, and didn’t want to inconvenience our host). So we tried Uber for the first time. We waited just over 10 minutes for the driver to arrive from the city centre (Uber is not yet very active in Hamburg he said). In this case it was UberX or a taxi. UberX estimated under €20 to get us where we were going, and is reputed for being cheaper than a taxi. On this occurrence, it turned out to cost 15, or about a euro a minute. Definitely cheaper than hailing a cab! (If anyone fancies trying Uber, sign up with this link, and we both get a tenner off our next ride! Happy times!)

Following all that, we had a bit of a panic outside the door to the Airbnb host, because we didn’t know their last name and had no phone number. Normally you would think “surely you just pull the bell on the correct address right? Wrong! Number 11 happened to have about 9 different ringers and names on it…. So after unsuccessfully messaging our host, we set about googling key words in the hope of a linked-in or Facebook profile. We figured from his name that our host would be italian, so we narrowed it down to two names. On the second one, we got lucky, we found a newspaper article related to the local football club with a picture. A quick comparison of the airbnb picture made us sufficiently certain that we should try. Fingers crossed, we rang the bell and explained who we were. The door buzzed open, and we breathed a sigh of relief (remember, it was 11:30 in the evening). We were shown into a lovely apartment, cozy and with great decoration (sorry no pics 😦 ).

Following that we quickly went to bed.

We woke up around 8 to make good use of our time in the city. I like to step out onto the balcony first thing in the morning to get some fresh air and start the day, and this is the sight that greeted me.

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It was fresh and damp, but we got ready and headed into town. A quick ride in the U-bahn (which you can’t see against the sun, but is actually across the street in the picture), got us to town quick and we had some breakfast at a small cafe which won our favour simply on account that it was open.

Nearby was the town hall, which we didn’t visit, but ended up walking past several times in the following day(s).

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Following breakfast, we took a stroll around town to try and get our bearings. We eventually walked to HafenCity. A trendy part of town with lots of newly built housing mixing in with older loft style apartments. The brick buildings actually reminded me of Nottingham quite a bit.

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We walked all along the  harbour  and then began a lengthy search for something to eat. We wanted to get some good German food and this is where it downed on us that something wasn’t quite right. Namely that in Germany’s second city, on a Saturday, everything seemed to be shut. It seemed odd, but we didn’t give it much thought. We later found out it was a national holiday, “Tag der Deutsche Enheit”, or Day of German Unity, in other words, the day celebrating the reunification of Germany (extra tip, it was the 25th anniversary thereof). Eventually we found a place that served the longest Currywurst either of us had ever eaten with chips. Which is pretty much exactly what we wanted.

After lunch we went back to HavenCity to visit the Maritime Museum. The museum was superb, though we only spared 3 hours for it which was actually a bit tight as it was a surprisingly large museum. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting visit, and being a fan of sailing and boats, I was over the moon.

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Here, in no particular order, are a few pictures. Me with an anchor, Catherine with a buoy, and a lego version of Queen Mary 2 that required some 700,000 pieces of lego (Though I cannot get my head around why there is a cow on the aft sun deck)…

Follwing the museum visit we ate nearby, not wanting to repeat lunchtimes endless search.

Naturally we then transitioned to a visit to St Pauli, as no visit to Hamburg would really be complete without one right? (For those not in the know, St. Pauli is home to the Reeperbahn…….In case you live in a cave, the Reeperbahn is the name of Hamburg’s Red Light District….. If you need to ask what a Red Light district is, then quite frankly, I don’t think you should really be allowed on the internet unsupervised just yet, if you’re unsure what the internet is…..how did you get here again?).

The pictures from St Pauli are a bit blurry on account of being taken without authorisation by Catherine, as I visited the “men-only” street. This street is not a joke, there is a big sign that says no women allowed. Women who do visit it get doused with a bucket of cold water. Though its an improvement over old times, as it used to be a bucket of wee….. You’ve been warned.

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But I suppose there’s no harm in telling you what was down the street… I hope I’m not breaking some secret code of men. In essence, if you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, you won’t be shocked, as it’s more or less the same. There are a couple of differences though. Instead of being glued to their smartphones, the professionals working in Hamburg are much more vocal in offering their services. They call you out, suggest things and generally try to catch your eye to lure you into conversation. I have to hand it to them, they work hard. A word of warning, if you want to walk around that part of town as a man on his own, prepare to be hounded, especially if you go into what I called “dirty-grandad mode” and pulled your shoulders up and sunk into the collar of your coat and only glance furtively left and right occasionally. What can I say, as a bit of a shy introvert, being approached by loud, (and sometimes quite imposing) women is something I find quite intimidating (though I guess some people like that?). Anyway, upon exiting this street (and feeling extra-pervy as I walked it end-to-end twice) I came out of the barrier and could not find Catherine, so I had to walk up and down another street a couple of times, this one with the “professionals” right on the curb and in your face, not hemmed in behind their windows! After guaranteeing two charming young women that despite not having had “etwas mit zwei Frauen zugleich” before, it was not something I was particularly inclined to try out right away, I found Catherine again. Walking arm-in-arm was like donning Harry’s cloak of invisibility. If you have a lady-friend with you, guaranteed you will not be disturbed.

We moved on back towards the city and decided we would walk back to the apartment which should take 25 minutes or so. On the way we decided that if we found a decent looking bar, we should get  drink. Eventually we found a bar called “Oma’s Apotheke” with a table out on the pavement that seemed nice. We sat down and obtained a drinks list from a first waitress. A few minutes later the second waitress asked us “was wollen is zum trinken…..Hello, what are you doing here?”. It turned out to be Linda, Catherine’s housemate from Amstelveen, and to the best of our knowledge, the only person we know in Hamburg! (By the way, this was not preplanned or scripted for my blogging endeavours, this is genuine 100% unexpected coincidence!). We caught up for a few minutes and ordered some drinks, and arranged to meet the following day for lunch).

We got back to the apartment and after relaxing for a bit turned in for the night.

More to follow tomorrow!

B