Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 85 to 86 - Prague (25th June to 26th June)

Prague..... wow... that's all I can say. It's an amazing place. Stunning architecture, lovely little old town squares, beautiful people.... if it wasn't for all the idiots on stag do's it would be almost perfect.

Rich and I were laughing pretty much the whole time we were away. It was great fun and excellent to be able to travel with someone who I have such a laugh with. The flight over was fine, nothing special... Swiss Air is pretty good although they definitely win the most boring sandwiches imaginable competition on the flight.

"Hi, so you're telling me that for lunch it's a choice between a soggy slice of turkey on a damp roll or a soggy piece of cheese on a damp roll.... any garnish at all?"

The chef's brief read like this: So, we'd like you to have the freedom to be creative in your sandwich selection for our passengers... You can create any sandwich you like as long as it only has one ingredient... So, go wild my friend...

Anyway, it was a breeze to get from the airport to our hotel which is always a bonus. We met a girl from Brazil on the bus and we got chatting to her... she said she spoke Spanish too which I think was a bit of a lie because when I spoke to her in Spanish, she apparently didn't understand what I was saying.... Ok, so it could have been a problem with my grasp of the language... but it's unlikely.. honest.

Our hotel was ok, decent enough and clean. I think it may have been a theme hotel though as the decor screamed out to me 'Echoes of Communism'. Also, the reception staff had the personalities of beaten down planks. Still, it was just a place to sleep and I was never intending on becoming best buddies with the hotel staff.

I decided to take a few precautions with my possesions as I brought with me a few electronics like my video camera, digital camera, PSP etc. So I put everything in my case and used Rich's padlock to lock it. I then slid the case back into the wardrobe, turned to Rich and said....

"So I did give you the padlock key back right?"

To which Rich's blank expression was all the reply I required.... errr... bugger... first cock up of the trip counts against Andy.... Great.

We decided to head out for a few beers and some food. Went to a couple of bars and quickly realised that prices weren't as cheap as we expected. Prague's gone through a bit of a change in terms of prices for things. While it's still cheaper than London, it's still more than you'd expect for beer and food.

We ended up going to a bar just off the main thoroughfare of Wenceslas Square. Rich and I quickly noted the interesting choice of hairstyle that some of the Czech ladies posessed. It's kind of like they went into the salon and said:

"Hey, so i've got 100 koruna for the 200 koruna haircut I want, can I get one side done now with that and i'll come back in a couple of weeks with the other 100 koruna to get the other side done..."

Very odd, long one side and short the other. Interesting...

We found ourselves at the entrance to a club. I asked what was going on and the bouncer said that it was a Depeche Mode after party. Depeche Mode had been playing in Prague that night apparently. The conversation kind of went like this:

Me: "Hi, what's everyone waiting for?"

Large guy with stoney eyes like a killer and no hair playing the part of the bouncer: "It's a Depeche Mode after party."

Me: "Really, did Depeche Mode play in Prague tonight?"

Killer Bouncer: "Yes."

Me: "So what time are they showing up for the after party."

Killer Bouncer: "No band, just music."

Me: "So, you're telling me that it's an aftershow party for a band that aren't going to be here."

KB: "Yes."

Me: "So have all these people been to the gig tonight and now they're coming here to pay more money to listen to the same songs."

KB: "Yes, for you and your friend 200 Koruna each because you can only get in with special vip ticket..."

Anyway, he said to me that because of the CCTV cameras we would need to pass him the money to him in a special handshake...

We decided to go in as it was about £6 each. So I went ahead and did the special handshake with my 200 koruna. I got in after being stamped on the hand and Rich got in after me. Rich then gave me 200 koruna. I asked what that was for, he said entrance fee.... Ooops. It turns out the Rich thought I'd paid for him, the bouncer didn't check how much I gave him because of the cameras and we'd actually only paid 100 koruna each. Nice one. Apart from the fear of having the Czech mafia after us for £6 it was a result.

We got in there and there were black t-shirts for as far as the eye could see. They really did play Depeche Mode all night. I didn't think there were that many Depeche Mode songs.

Anyway, we had a few and then headed back to the prison... errr... hotel.

Next day we went for a stroll around town. I asked at reception if they could get me some tools to open the padlock on the case as the key had not turned up... I bloody packed it in there i'm sure of it but I still haven't found it even now i'm back with an empty case.... Odd. Anyway, they didn't have anything until the maintenance guy got there that afternoon so we asked if he could go up and sort it when he got in. We ended up walking down to the Danube, over the bridge and back into the old town Square. Then we committed the ultimate Brit abroad crime and went to an Irish Bar for a few beers. That's where we met Steve and Elaine.

From Prague and London

Great people and such a laugh. We were sat on a table outside taking the piss out of the people walking by... you know, making up stories about their lives etc.. he's a sex tourist (about the old guy with the younger girl holding hands).... she's got the Prague haircut (about lopsided lilly).... etc etc

Then this girl walked past with the tightest leather trousers on I'd ever seen... so I started making a squeaking noise, Steve and Elaine started laughing, it turns out they were doing the same as us... and we ended up chatting for the rest of the afternoon.

We caught up with them that evening and went to a bar that had been recommended to us. It was a fun night.... The place was interesting though... lots of people sharing toilet cubicles, a heavy smell of herbs emanating about the place and lots of locals enjoying themselves. A good night was had by all.

From Prague and London

From Prague and London

From Prague and London

From Prague and London

From Prague and London

The next day we arranged to meet up to watch the British Lions rugby. Part 2 of the Prague adventure to come.....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Days 80 to 85 (19th June to 24th June)

I've really not been doing very much recently. I got a fair bit of Dad training at my brothers what with changing Finn's nappy and giving him baths and stuff. I'm glad I could help out and it was great to spend time with Finn. Although there were occasions especially after food with a little more spice to it that I didn't really want to be as close to Finn as I was.... or at least a certain part of him. He did start saying Andy and also Banana which was amazing. He also learnt how to wave when Daddy came home from work...

I have to share this video, it was a secret filming of a great battle between Finn and his car seat.... just makes me laugh so much... he's so determined.

I spent Saturday 20th June helping out Keira at the National Childbirth Trust fete. I was looking after the bottle throwing stall which proved quite popular. I also became an expert at putting up gazebos.... there's got to be a market for that somewhere....

It was actually quite funny because the British Lions were playing the first test against South Africa on the same day and you could all see the Dad's eager to win favours to be able to get home to watch it. They all came out with their little ones playing the perfect Dad in order to get off before the game started.... Well that all changed as soon as the entertainment arrived in the form of a dance teacher teaching the kids hip hop and street dancing.

Let's just say she kept the Dad's entertained with her figure hugging clothes and flexible moves... You could see all the Dad's begging their little angels to have a try at dancing....

"Go on darling... you'll really enjoy dancing.... Daddy will wait right here and watch you..."

You could almost hear it collectively.

Then they sat down on the grass watching the dance instructor strutt her stuff all hoping for a little glance.... a little show of interest from the dance instructor so they could feel as though they still got it..... It was quite interesting... much like a social experiment.... Then little Paris or Britney came back to Daddy smiling with glee...

"Did you see me.... did I do well Daddy?"

"Errr yeah... sure.... you were great darling..." Liars. Ha ha.. and they all forgot about the rugby match.

I won the guess the number of sweets in the jar competition which I was pretty chuffed about. I guessed 203 and there were 201 in there. Get in... Glad i'm not competitive.

I headed down to London with Mum on the Saturday and went out for a couple of beers with Del, Chris and Rob. I don't know what it was but Latin America has really taken hold of me. When Chris mentioned he knew a Salsa Bar around the corner just off Oxford Street I almost sprinted to it. It unfortunately didn't live up to expectations but we did go to a nice Spanish bar just around the corner. All in all, I had a good night and it was great catching up with the guys chatting about old times etc.

From Prague and London

Sunday I went to breakfast with Del and Alicia... we went to this lovely little cafe on Clapham High Street. They have loads of different varieties of bread available and you can help yourself to it. We then headed into town and met up with Steve from Sydney. Ended up going to out for a curry in Clapham Junction to finish off a lovely day. A big thanks to Del and Alicia for looking after me... Cheers guys.

Other than that, i've done very little. I got my Indian visa on Monday and managed to retrieve my passport through deception which was great. They only allow passport pick up between 1 and 4pm. It was 11am and I was buggered if I was going to hang around for a couple of hours in Victoria so I told them I had to travel to Zurich on business that evening for an urgent business trip... Worked a treat... ha ha suckers...

I also went past my favourite Thai restaurant in London, it's just off Kings Road and it really understands the size (and appetite) of it's client base very well.... all you can eat for £5 perhaps???

From Prague and London

The last couple of days at Mum's have been relaxing. I'm looking forward to going to Prague tomorrow with Jeg.. Hopefully there'll be a few stories to add to the blog... watch this space.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 69 to 76 - Stamford Days with Finn

I travelled up to Stamford to see my brother, sister in law and my nephew Finn who's 18 months old. We've had a great time so far.

From UK trip

From UK trip

From UK trip

Finn's learnt how to climb onto the sofa and chairs using my leg as a platform. He then applauds himself when he reaches the his destination at the top of the seat and looks around to make sure everyone else in the room is applauding his achievement too.

He took a particular fancy to the hat I bought from Peru for his soon to be brother... It was a little too small as you can see from this video.

From UK trip

He's moving about like a sprinter. When you get down to his level and open your arms to ask for a cuddle, he thinks about it for a few minutes, weighs up whether he wants to give you a cuddle or not and then screws his face up like an old man and runs towards you with his arms open. It's so funny.

We spent a day at a classic car show in a town called Bourne about 20 minutes from Stamford.

From UK trip

From UK trip

From UK trip

From UK trip

From UK trip

From UK trip

Also, we fed the ducks and Finn had a stand off with a big goose who stole the bread out of his hand. Finn was not impressed... He did learn how to quack like a duck as you'll be able to hear from this video about half the way into it.

He wasn't sure about the ducks at first and took a bit of time to get used to them.

We then went to the park and he showed me how good he was at climbing.

and he loves grapes....

Other than that, Finn's learnt how to say Andy, he's actually said the word banana too... pretty good for a young 'un. Uncle Andy had his first experience of bathing and changing his nephew. Very brave, i'm sure you'll agree.

On Friday 12th June, I went up to Leeds to visit my mate Rich. We had a great time... and plenty to drink. Ended up getting back to his place at about 4am. It was certainly an entertaining day, to sum it up in words i'd have to say the following.... Fat Mercedes driver, pool, late burger, free pool, Ukrainian ballet dancer, trip to Prague, internet date site, salsa dancing and about 14 rum and cokes. I'll let you draw your own conclusions....

From UK trip

The fat mercedes driver by the way refers to an idiot in a car park in Leeds who decided his fat mercedes couldn't fit into just the one parking space so he needed to borrow some of the space in Rich's parking spot. This meant that Rich couldn't get into his car... Whoever he was will have returned to his car to find a note under his windscreen wipers from the law highlighting his stupidity and suggesting he would be hearing from the authorities. Don't know how that got there... heh heh.....

From UK trip

From UK trip

Overall, I've had a great time in Stamford, which is a beautiful Roman town with historic buildings and lots of greenery all around. It's been wonderful spending time with Finn who's just a star. Also, Mark and Keira have chicks nesting in their back garden... check out these little guys.

I'll be here for another 3 or 4 days and then I had down to London.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Days 66 to 69 - Back in Blighty (5th to 8th June)

Flew back to UK on Friday 5th June... arrived in the UK and instantly knew it was Summer by the clouds, rain and depressed expressions on people's faces...

Also, another clue that I was back in UK was how I had to pay to use a baggage trolley at the airport. Not only that, the trolley's brake didn't work and it kept steering to one side.... well worth the money I thought....

Didn't do much for the rest of Friday but went out with Gianni and Salv on Saturday night for a few drinks at The Hand & Spear in Weybridge. Took me back to my college days.... Also, had a few pints of Youngs Bitter.... Bitter.... aah i've missed you sweet nectar...

Sunday, I went to watch some cricket down at the local club and, albeit for a few spots of rain, had a very enjoyable day.

Unfortunately, the lack of sunshine has meant I can't top up my tan... I've gone from white back to blue which is a shame after all the effort I put in in Portugal.

Oh, made the amazing discovery while booking train tickets from Peterborough to Leeds that it's actually cheaper to book two singles than a return... Glad to see the rail service in the UK hasn't risked a change to becoming more customer friendly while i've been away.... Just struck me as slightly odd that.

Anyway, enough grumbling... I went up to London today (Monday) to get my visa for India. It was actually really nice to see the old place again. Bonus was, got in and out of the visa place in 30mins... result.

I felt like a right tourist though because I took my video camera to London and filmed a few places. (The video camera that the most amazing people in Sydney bought me for my trip thanks Em, Kieran, Jules, Suze, Sam, Hank, Dan, Sal, Clive and Louise... you superstars).

I took some film of Trafalgar Square, Waterloo, The River Thames and Houses of Parliament for the blog. It brought back a few memories and I have to admit I did miss the place a little.

Anyway, off to see my brother, Keira and the sunshine of my life... little Finn... my nephew tomorrow for a couple of weeks... I can't wait... He's motoring around like a good'un... Should help me loose the pounds I gained drinking the bitter on Saturday night... :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 64 and 65 - Portugal (4th and 5th June)

I sunbathed all day yesterday.... it shows as now when I walk along the road, cars immediately grind to a halt... that's how red I am... People are running up to me throwing eggs, steak whatever they can find onto my back and my chest, taking it off only when it reaches the right cooking consistency for them. Some wise men came to the house bearing gifts for me... they saw the glow eminating from the back of my legs and my forehead and thought it was the north star....

I practically bathed in moisturising cream for most of the night.... couldn't sit on any chairs as I kept slipping off.... I have the smoothest skin in the world today but everytime I bend I let out a little whimper.... ouch!!!!

Still, such is life... I managed to upload a whole stack of videos onto my blog so you can see loads of new stuff from Days 43 through to 46, these are the Lares Trail days and there's some lovely scenery as well as a video of cooked Guinea Pig... lovely.

Will be doing Machu Picchu ones today hopefully.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 61 to 63 - Portugal (31st May to 2nd June)

Hi Blog...... how's it going?

Aah.... it felt like being back in Sydney on Sunday evening... we had a BBQ and I was the tongue master.... I moved that food around like a champion... wouldn't let it settle... all the tips I learnt from watching the youtube clip of South African Braai Etiquette... Sam... thanks for sharing the clip with me... always makes me giggle.

Anyway, the food was cooked and no one woke up the next morning feeling sketchy so all in all... a success..

Yesterday, I braved the green of lawn bowls with Mum.. Now i've played the game once before but if Uncle Roscoe can do it then it should be a bit of a breeze I thought. Got to the bowls club and I have to admit to feeling a little nervous.. I did my stretches and lathered up with factor 90+ before stepping on to the hallowed... errr felt carpet.

We started and I tell you what... it's a game of skill and precision.. Roscoe.... i'm in awe... I picked it up and quickly learnt the difference between lawn bowls and ten pin bowling... the aim is not to break the shins of your team captain standing up the other end while smashing that little yellow ball out of the way... Apparently, the aim is to place your bowls... or woods closest to the yellow ball known as the Jack... in an all female game.. is it called the Jill I wonder... hmmmm. Will leave that one for you guys to work out..

So, after a few ends I started getting a little closer but with the wind blowing over you really have to judge it. Overall... I think I did ok.. We drew the first game ten all and then the second we romped home to a 17 - 1 victory. We finished third overall... Nice one.

Roscoe, these photo's are for you:

From Portugal

From Portugal

From Portugal

From Portugal

Mine are the brown balls with yellow stickers by the way.

This is my Mum... good action, nice stance and well positioned release. She's actually really good. Now I sound surprised but Mum has never really shown much sporting prowess before so I was a little taken aback but fair do's... she's almost as good as me.... ha ha... just kidding she'd probably beat me.

From Portugal

From Portugal

So, last night I had a bit of a quiet one... Today, we head down to the neighbours for some Thai food... Thai food yummm.... always reminds me of Sydney, even when I'm eating it in Portugal... Weird that huh.

Oh, to all you music buffs out there... Saxon from my work has just introduced me to Blip FM... It lets you share music with friends and followers and experience new music that they like... Nice one. This is my site.