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The most realistic story ever told.

Category: travel (page 2 of 4)

That was one hell of a thing.

sleepy-kittyAnd that, as they say, was the trip.

I’m presently parked in the BA lounge at JFK, having been dragged from my 9:00 flight to the 18:00 one.  They offered me $800 by way of compensation for my trouble, and by smiling at the lady I managed to wangle a day pass to the lounge and a meal voucher too… so that rather solves the problem of what to do for the day.  Can’t say that it was a smooth ride in – the chauffeur car that my “hotel” organised was falling asleep at the wheel coming in along the Expressway towards the airport.  I assume he was my driver.  His English wasn’t particularly good, although far better than my Spanish.

The last few days have been nothing short of excellent, and I suspect they’ll make a couple of long-promised & hinted-at blog posts that don’t actually materialise for a month or 2.

By way of a teaser though, it’s important & relevant to say that New York’s Halloween parade is one of the most bewildering and yet fun things I’ve seen in recent times. Lets hope the videos turned out OK, eh?

So, holiday now more or less over – back in London by around 07:00 Monday, and then life resumes more or less as normal!

Right now, however, I’m off in search of coffee & a croissant.

Man I’m sleepy.

Leaving Mississippi…

That was awesome.
So good to be back. Thanks to all of y’all: especially Bullfrog, Rebecca, and little Miss Callie.

Take me back on down to Dixie…

I got interrupted from my top ten this morning by an airport cab driver who had the gall to arrive early, and my laptop’s currently checked into a baggage hold somewhere so I can’t finish it…
So I’m sitting waiting now for my flight to Jackson, Mississippi to board. This’ll be the first time I’ve been back to Meridian since summer camp out at Camp Binachi in 1996. Really looking forward to seeing Bullfrog, Patsy, Cindy, Tony, Ranger Bill, and whoever else we run into, and going for a trip out to the campsite if it isn’t lashing with rain.
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Hooray for holidays

I’m sitting in Aaron & Tanya’s kitchen, writing a blog post while we wait for the satellite TV guy to get his arse back down from the roof so we can jump in the car and go in to check , you’ll all be relieved to know.out what’s goin’ down in Seattle…

I arrived here yesterday, and it’s been great to have a chance to catch up with these two – I’ve not seen them in ages!  We managed to sneak a beer in pretty much instantly, you’ll all be relieved to know. Fresh into my constant quest for nice beers, we’ve had Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale, Alaskan Amber, and a bottle of something called Arrogant Bastard Ale.

abombandme

The TV bloke eventually left, but not before Tanya had started trying to make canoli (here’s a picture of Aaron pretending to help):

abombkitchen
They’ve just moved into quite a nice new house just out of Seattle:

abombhouse

And Aaron’s pretty chuffed about having a shiny yellow Porsche to drive around in, too:

yellowporsche

That ought to do for now.

Does anyone wanna write me a special guest top ten for Tuesday? Something tells me I’m gonna be a bit short of time & opportunity…

I love holidays.

Expensive planks, swearing, passport fraud, and taxi slap (whatever that is)

jmartysnow

September? Yeah, that seems like an appropriate time to write about what we did in January!  It was bloody good fun though, as snowboarding always is.  This time, off in the frozen north of Sweden, in the town of Åre.  Whilst only about half way up the landmass of Sweden, it’s definitely the furthest north I’ve ever been, and its latitude helps to explain its snow-cover.  Unfortunately it’s got a little circle over the “A”, which I can’t figure out how to type without copy & pasting, so if it doesn’t appear in the rest of this post, that’ll be why.  Sheer laziness.

Back in the dawn of 2009 we were lucky enough to have a week of mucking about in the snow “we” being Richie, Hilary (plus their new baby), Helen & Johan, Marty, Mark, and the Swedish Crew – Anna, Goran, Per, Rita, Jojo, Bjorn.  There were 13 though… oh yeah, and me.

Getting there seemed the biggest challenge for some of our party… well, one of our party.  Young Mark, having elected to interpret my instruction of “meet at Heathrow at 6am” as “leave your house at 6am to head to Heathrow”, made it in time for checkin, and managed to collect his ticket from the nice company rep we’d left it with near the desk, however the airline staff wouldn’t check him in for the flight because the laminate on his passport was peeling.  Opting for a quick bit of pritt-stick D.I.Y. on it and returning to checkin with it looking good-as-new, the same woman recognised him and threatened to call the cops on him for passport tampering.  Leaving the airport in short order seemed sensible, so we wondered if we’d be seeing Mark (our flight to Ostersund airport was a charter flight, and as one of the world’s less-popular destinations you’re not overwhelmed with options to get you there).  He proved his resourcefulness though by finding a cheap flight to Trondheim in Norway and then getting a train across into Are: final analysis was that he only missed a day of snowboarding!  Clever bugger…

Last 3 days of boarding weren’t so good – penultimate day temperature crept above zero and snow got slushy.  Apparently. I’d spat dummy from previous day, where Marty & I spent 2 hours wading out of thigh-deep powder.  Final day back to -2, so slush froze into ice, and all you could hear was the sound of edge grinding against hard ice.  The other 4 days were magnificent though!

We stayed in 2 apartments around the town square, and only a short walk from the base of the ski area (piste map here).  Typical programme for the day would be have breakfast together, head out to the snowfields & split up to check out whichever area you fancy, then head back to the apartment about 4pm for relaxing.  We designated teams of 2 or 3 to do the catering each night, meaning a nice cheap & varied menu.  Finally, a few card games before passing out in bed and repeating it all the following day.

On the topic of food – Marty, Mark & I were the designated chefs one night, and the end result was one chef (me) with two (capable) assistants.  There seemed to be an air of trepidation about the apartments that night, but reassurance went around that my cooking hadn’t actually killed anyone to date.  We needed a little help with the shopping, as my conversational Swedish is a little deficient: we took Goran along, who did a standup job of interpreting my requirements into what you would find in a Swedish supermarket.  The only point at which we became stuck was when I was looking for corn (kernels, tinned), and he thought I said “quorn” (which seemed feasible, as we were making one vegetarian dish as well).

The three of us were to cooking as Margot Fonteyn was to arc welding

Snowboarding in Sweden’s slightly different to our experiences in the Alps – the hills are smaller, with the snow being largely a product of the latitude rather than the altitude.  Consequently there’s no need to haul people thousands of feet up the slope for the sliding back down to happen, so the lifts are mainly T-bar and some chairlifts, rather than the great big gondolas.  T-bars aren’t my favourite thing ever (although moreso than button lifts), so my itinerary would mainly be from the top of one chairlift to the base of the next one along, then from the top of that over to wherever’s next most useful – sort of longish tracking runs rather than several repeated downhill sections.  Marty – whose balance appears immeasurably better than mine – improved his boarding immensely, and pretty well owned that skifield after a couple of days.  And of course as usual Richie’s just a complete maniac.

The one exception to our general progress was the day Marty & I followed the Swedes across towards the Bjornenomradet area (38 on piste map), up that (lengthy) T-bar, then down the sadelvagen to the bottom of  39, whereupon we’d mount another T-bar to the top.  One of the unfortunate weather artefacts of our trip was strong winds on the upper slopes, and this became readily apparent one we’d left the line of tree cover on the second lift.  Between Marty and I we present a reasonable surface to any prevailing breeze – him from being quite tall, and I also present quite a surface.  We were blown from side to side of the T-bar run, shaking unsteadily all the while, then Marty let fly with his telltale exclamation of “Awww HELL-DIDDLY-DING-DONG-CRAP!” and executed what can only be described as a windmill dismount.  This disrupted my centre of balance too (which was largely me using him as a stabilising outrigger), and through a process I don’t fully recall I found myself being dragged backwards up the T-bar run by the scrotum.  Having sworn loudly several times and then dismounted similarly, we had a short but educational session on the difference between nice, packed, piste snow, and powder.  For 2 sweaty, exhausting hours.

Other than that – good bit of progress on the ol’ boarding…  managed to ride switch for a few runs; gave the Goliath (pictured here) a bit of a punishing.  Additionally if I’m going to reminisce comprehensively about the experience, it’s also worth mentioning that conveniently while I was away the whole “Morris Dancing will be extinct within 20 years” controversy kicked off, and a flurry of phonecalls directed themselves towards me, leaving me in the unique position of having to give interviews about morris dancing while knee-deep in snow halfway up a Swedish mountain.  Plus my photo appeared in The Sun.

Top company, good snow – a belated but heartfelt thanks to all involved!

This photo has little relevance - I just thought the word "puckelpisten" was hilarious.

The unnecessarily large photoset of 227 shots can be viewed by the keen on Flickr.

Incidentally, I know in the post’s title I promised “Taxi Slap”. I’ve no idea what it is, but we saw that on a sign at the airport as well. Naturally, capturing an image of it for historical accuracy. Please enjoy with me now.

Parisienne walkways. And big stacks-o-femurs.

We went to Paris in May.  “We” is the trio of Bruce, Ange & myself.  We didn’t all start in the same place – I started in London, and Bruce & Ange started in Agen, the part of the south of France where they live.  I got to Paris before they did, so I had a bit of time to do some wandering around.  Paris is a city which lends itself to being wandered around, and before I knew it I’d wandered about 6 miles.

Anyway the interesting bit was that we’d decided the first thing to do would be to go to the Paris Catacombs and check them out.  “Interesting”, that is, if your idea of a good time is standing around queueing in the rain for a couple of hours.  The rain, and the standing around, ceased eventually and we descended the stairs into the catacombs – I was hoping for a labyrinthine honeycomb of chambers, however it turns out that this is a former quarry which has been covered over, making it not so much “catacombs” as a big long subterranean tunnel.  It is, however, completely chock-full of bones though – thousands upon thousands of thigh and arm bones stacked up nice & regularly, and garnished with skulls.  The former owners of these were all plague victims buried at Les Innocents cemetery, who were then relocated to this former quarry after the cemetery started overflowing.

It’s Very Odd Indeed to be walking around amid the remains of so many people – it really gives you a sense of both your own mortality and statistical insignificance in a far more acute way than walking around in a massive crowd does.  The de-individualism of individuals: thousands, maybe millions of people, not only removed from personal recognition by sheer volume, but also from their reduction to humanity’s very infrastructure – the skeleton.  There was something beautiful about the way that the people tasked with stacking the bones had elected to arrange them in a decorative but not ostentatious way, such that you got the impression it was a respectful and compassionate means of interring these people.  And as usual, respect & compassion were 2 qualities somewhat lacking by our fellow tourists, who were eschewing the direction to not use flash photography, and snapping away at each other posing in front of the stacks of bones.

After wandering amid human remains, we did what anyone would do as an intuitive next move – went in search of lunch!  In this case, a very nice outdoor-seated environment for Heineken and tagines.  Sadly they weren’t able to come up with a pigeon tagine, as their menu had (emptily) promised.

For the rest of the afternoon we ambled about, looking at some of the variety of Parisian architecture & pretty stuff.  There’s no two ways about it – the place is frigging beautiful!  It’s got some weird aspects to it – such as the amount of gravel you seem to walk over – but it seems that every turn of the corner in the middle of Paris reveals some beautiful bit of architecture, or quaint scene.  You can really see why people fall in love with the place.

Speaking of beautiful arcitecture, we thought it a good idea to swing by Notre Dame seeing as Bruce & Ange hadn’t seen it before.  Managed not to fall asleep on a bench out the front this time, too.

The focal point & justification of the excursion was to head to Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet to experience a concert by the incomparable Bobby McFerrin.  I might have mentioned him a few times – it’s safe to say that I’m a bit of a fan.  This evening’s concert was no exception, with McFerrin starting out in his typical way by improvising a few tunes; at times involving the enthusiastic Parisian crowd.  The gig pretty much followed the same format that the South Bank one did, involving musical guests, audience participants, and both improv & rehearsed numbers by McFerrin.  One of the things he did was the piece which appears to have taken the web by storm recently, described as “The Power of the Pentatonic Scale”.

Powerful or not, it was sure fun to be a part of.

On Sunday after a lazy breakfast on the Boulevard du Beaumarchais we found our way over to the Pompidou Centre to get our fill of contemporary art.  I was particularly hoping to show them my favourite sculpture ever, a mirrored box by Man Ray, however I couldn’t remember where it was and I have a sneaking suspicion that bit was being renovated.  A whistlestop tour of the galleries was the order of the day, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the sunny weather outside and the opportunity to sit by a fountain & sip a cold beer or 2.

And of course what’s a trip to Paris without a quick buzz over to La Tour Eiffel?  As far as temporary structures go, it’s pretty impressive.  We started up at the Ecole Militaire, which I’d mistaken for the building on the other side, because I was thinking that photos from the steps would be good, but photos along the grass were just as nice.

With departure in sight I escorted the Alcorns back to the train station, before finding my own way back to Gare du Nord, and grabbing the Eurostar back.  Must go back to Paris soon.  Lovely spot.

Also, a good tip for young players is that if you’re going to buy your Eurostar tickets using Nectar points, it’s a good idea to double-check whether the Monday immediately following your weekend is a public holiday, because that means you can get an extra night on your free trip.  As it was, I didn’t, it was, so I didn’t.

(the rest of my photos are in an appropriately named Flickr gallery)

And look, ANOTHER Christmas Market!!

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve been making various attempts to write this post for months now.  You know those tasks that lurk on your To Do list but never seem to be toppled from it?  Well, that.  It’s now as much about me getting closure on the storytelling experience as it is about you reading it.  Probably more the former.  It’s certainly not relevant weather-wise, and my goal was to finish it before it once again became so.  Onward…

When we last left our intrepid heroes (in December) they were hurtling through the Swiss countryside aboard one of the many big, shiny, roomy, timely, tidy trains that abound in that country – trying to ignore our way out of a matching pair of hangovers.

Armed with the knowledge from the friendly cafe lady in Romanshorn, we decided to take the opportunity of adding another country to our list: the tiny tax-haven of Liechtenstein.  It’s one of those countries so small that only rich people have heard of it, although I’d learnt of it in 1995 at a Rover Moot in Sydney where 2 blokes from there had unexpectedly turned up.  To get there we got the train down from Appenzell to St Gallen (windy windy, not so good for headachey-wakey), then got on a big straight train to Buchs, then finally boarded a bus to Liechtenstein’s capital, Vaduz.  The bus was a little odd – once the bus started moving the lady who had sold us the bus tickets walked around the bus impatiently demanding to see everyone’s tickets.  She meant business, too.

For some reason Ive photographed the bus.

For some reason I've photographed the bus.

Vaduz was a nice, small place, featuring a castle on top of the hill (which we elected not to climb, largely on the basis that you’re not allowed in it, and in small part due to laziness), a large museum (which I giggled at childishly because it was called the Kunstmuseum), and… A CHRISTMAS MARKET!  There’s also a calculater museum in Vaduz (stop drooling Dan), but as we’d failed to book in advance we didn’t get to see it.

We opted for a schnitzel and a tentative glass of white wine, and ended up – for about the first time in recorded history – leaving the wine on the table.  Eeeeeeeurgh.

Next stop was back up to the eastern side of Bodensee to Bregenz, in Austria.  The journey took a little while, so we arrived in the dark & from the train station bridge thing Bregenz was really pretty. We had a slight adventure finding the hotel owing to a disparity in nomenclature – or to put it another way, the name I’d written down wasn’t the name on the front of the building.  Whether this was my cockup or theirs remains shrouded in mystery, but I’d prefer to blame them.  People who travel around Europe inevitably wind up talking about architecture, so my contribution is: we had a slanty room.

Slanty room

Slanty room

It was getting on towards dinner time so we thought we’d take to the streets in search of cuisine.  Imagine our surprise when we rounded the corner in the shopping mall and discovered that the locals had set up some sort of Christmas Market!  Dinner was at a passable italian restaurant which allowed dogs inside, and between courses we were sporadically talked to by insistent local.

Departing from Bregenz was a slightlier trickier proposition than usual.  We were aiming for Lindau, just around the lake.  The train goes straight there, but non-usefully we missed it by seconds.  We then looked on a nearby map & saw a boat route to Lindau, which seemed reasonable, so we trudged through the snow to the ferry terminal.  Not finding any signs of life there, we went to the attached cafe & asked the somewhat belligerent man how to get the boat – it turns out boats only operate in summer, so we had to retrace our snowy steps to the train station & wait after all.  No escape from Bregenz.

Lindau, once we’d battled our way there, was a pretty little town situated on an island – quite touristy, but if you build something that pretty people are bound to want to turn up and take photos of it. We wandered about twee streets and starved, eventually found place for lunch. The menu was all in german, so we weren’t 100% sure what we were ordering.  By this point of the trip I was tired of Spaetzle (the cheesy-noodle type substance which appeared to accompany EVERYTHING), so ordered something else.  This turned out to be spinach spaetzle.  This restaurant had classical music being played somewhat vigorously into the room, and I remarked that the owner might know K’s landlord (owner of a classical music label), when a random german woman lifted herself out of her seat, walked over, and said hello – turned out she was scottish, and had been semi-eavesdropping on our English conversation to try to work out where we were from… so just as well we hadn’t said anything controversial.

A building in Lindau, which for all intents and purposes was the Town Hall. Youre not likely to know any different, so lets say thats what it was.

A building in Lindau, which for all intents and purposes was the Town Hall. You're not likely to know any different, so let's say that's what it was.

After lunch we did the obgligatory post-prandial wander about, and stumbled across a Christmas Market.  More gluhwein.

Completing our circuit, we took a train back to Friedrichshafen, finishing the day with a snooze and a bite for dinner in the hotel’s eerily silent restaurant.  I’ve also noted down for some reason that I bought 6 pairs of red Explorer socks from a market stall cos they were cheap. I can’t expect you, dear reader, to hold the same fascination with red Explorer socks as I do, however it may prove interesting that these ones turned out to be knee high.

On our final day, as we had time to kill before our evening flights home, we thought a bit of a train-based explore might be a good idea.  We hopped on & wound up in Ravensburg: a nice enough little place, with an excellent cafe serving goulasch and (will wonders never cease)… A CHRISTMAS MARKET!

Pressing advantage now and determined to use up our last few hours doing anything other than sitting in a departure lounge, we got on another train (using the tried & proven “where can we get to from here?” method) – this time to a town called Aulendorf.  After the random luck of Appenzell, Ravensburg & Vaduz, we learned that not every town on our trip was to be an undiscovered gem.  Nice enough, but not much going on.  Didn’t even have a bloody Christmas market.  I can’t tell you anything else about Aulendorf – not even by cheating on Wikipedia, as the article only has 4 lines.

Im pretty sure this was the scenic highpoint of Aulendorf. I dont remember anything about the place, so my logical conclusion is that this must have been it.

I'm pretty sure this was the scenic highpoint of Aulendorf. I don't remember anything about the place, so my logical conclusion is that this must have been it.

That’s pretty much it.  I don’t recall anything else of incident happening at Friedrichshafen airport.  In my notebook I’ve written “earnest & robust frisking”, but I suspect that was just some Germanic work practice.  I recall being primarily concerned that security scanning would cause issues with me carrying 11 pairs of red socks, or that they’d want to look in my bag & I’d be unable to get it shut again.

There you have it: 6 days, 4 countries, about 100 litres of beer, 5 schnitzels, 2000 christmas markets, and 1/4 of a tonne of spaetzle.

Anyone wondering what I’d gotten up to in mid-December 2008 can consider themselves updated.  In a manner slightly less gripping than a slide night.

For knowledge-completists, the full set of my photos is in my “Germany Wander” Flickr set, and if you want to see where everything is on a map, please be my guest to have a look.

Misery tubes

There’s something intrinsically depressing about British trains, I think. From the second you step on them you’re predestined for a gladiatorial territory dispute for a seat (frustration level adjusted based on whether you’ve paid for one in advance or not), and if/once your temporary empire is established, there’s always the lurking question as to whether you’re ever going to get to where you want to. Admittedly the answer is customarily “yes” – the variety comes in the number and pedigree of excuses you hear along the way.
Presumably this makes German trains instantly better, insofar as I have no idea what the announcements over the tannoy mean.
Bedford, here comes I**!

**assuming certain fundamental operating concepts are fulfilled

Forsooth, misery is abated thanks to an amusing seat number. Happy days.

Oh look, a Christmas market!

Having just arrived back from my holiday, it seems only fair that I now write about my previous holiday.  After all, without this sort of carry on how am I ever to make it appear as if I do nothing other than ambling about the place having fun, eh?

Just before Christmas, thanks to K’s brilliant idea I had a chance to tick something off my non-tangible but sporadically visualised “always wanted to” list – namely, an unstructured backpacking tour around Europe.  Granted, we didn’t go particularly far, and we departed from the backpacking tradition by staying in hotels, but I maintain it still counts.

Our point of arrival in Germany was the town of Friedrichshafen – commonly overlooked by many as being merely a budget airline dropoff point, however quite an interesting & cute place in its own right: famously, it was the home and place of manufacture of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s eponymous airships.  It’s also nestled into the shore of Lake Constance (or, in the local tongue, Bodensee), and provides an ideal point for getting around into other parts of the region.

Friedrichshafen from hotel window

Following a brief night walk from our hotel perched on what felt like the edge of civilisation, along with a demonstration of just how wet a pair of trouserlegs can get, we set about investigating Friedrichshafen – taking in their enthusiasm for zeppelins, the European enjoyment of having Santas everywhere (Santae?), and stumbling with delight over our first German Christmas Market!

Santa tries to make a getaway

For anyone who hasn’t seen a German Christmas Market (I’d expect this to be mainly my Australian readership, as the UK mainland also gets blessed with this phenomenon: I’ve certainly seen them in Leeds and Bristol), the principle is that sellers set up a load of street stalls and you can buy all manner of Christmas paraphernalia.  Typically this includes local specialty foods (read: high-profit; sort of the teutonic equivalent of a sausage sizzle), tree decorations, decorative candles, carved wooden trinkets, miniature Santae, sweets & gingerbread, but also includes other varied objets-de-shiny such as polished cut rocks & soft toys, and of course the ever-popular beverage for freezing outdoor areas, glühwein.

You’ll also find a nativity scene housing an array of partially bewildered but mostly contented livestock, and various entertainments by local community groups and the like.  We were treated to a rendition of various German tunes by the local male voice choir – most of whom were reasonably advanced in years, and all of whom were clearly freezing their gonads off.  Rarely do I pause to think that the Australian Christmas setup (midsummer rather than midwinter) makes more sense, however this would be one such instance.  There’s possibly a case for the fine-motor skills training for the German people in the form of getting them to pass the 3 Euro mug deposit for the glühwein back & forth whilst wearing gloves, however I suspect this advantage would be negated by the effects of the glühwein.

Yaaa deee buckety! Rum ping ba-dooo!

As well as the market we also sampled some of the local weissbiers, cuisine (mmm… schnitzel…), and did a whistlestop tour of the Zeppelin Museum.  Even knowing full well that Friedrichshafen was the manufacturing place for the rigid dirigible (not to be confused with a blimp!), it was still momentarily disappointing not to see a single mention of Robert Plant in there.  Fascinating stuff though – we all know that zeppelins ceased being a popular means of transport as a combination of political pressure and public reluctance to get into one following the explosion at Lakehurst, but I didn’t realise that prior to this they were popularly used for transatlantic crossings, and that the spire on top of New York’s Empire State Building was designed as a mooring point for the aircraft.

Inside the building were many Zeppelins, some of which were quite old.

Farewelling Friedy, we boarded a ferry across Lake Constance to the Swiss village of Romanshorn – this was chosen by a process of looking at the ferry departure board and seeing which one left soonest.  Once there we wandered about a bit and got a feel for just how little there can be to do in some of the random towns one picks to visit (however this was to be beaten later in the trip).  We popped into a cafe which K had previously visited with her Dad for a mid-afternoon beer and war council, and were greeted by one of the most helpful individuals I’ve ever met whilst on tour!  The lady at the cafe was very interested in our trip, and suggested all sorts of cool places to visit – even going to the trouble of digging out train timetables & working out connections for us.  Clearly not the overseer of the Romanshorn Tourism Board.

The woman was, however, a genius as our next port of call was the mountainside village of Appenzell.  It could very well be the template for the type of pictures you get on biscuit tins: idyllic Old Swiss.  One of the drawcards Appenzell promotes is its open air parliament – one of the few left in the world.  Presumably they don’t parlay during the winter months however, although in the photos we saw they were all packed into the town square pretty tightly, so maybe there’s a sort of penguinny effect at work vis-a-vis body temperature.

Aww, ain't it cute?

Having secured our lodgings for the evening the next most important step seemed to be to sample some of the local weissbiers and find somewhere for an evening meal.  We found a nice little bar around the corner from where we were staying (after NOT finding the local brewery: we found the distillery for the local liqueur, but after my experiences with Unicum I’ve developed a bit of a fear of regional booze) and plonked in there – they had some excellent variations on the dunkelweizen theme, and the people in there seemed quite friendly.  One bloke seemed fascinated at meeting an Australian, however his English vocab only extended as far as “G’day!” and “You Australian!”.

I seemed to take a lot of beer photographs on this trip...

Having established by now that Swiss people are friendly and helpful we asked the group where a good place for dinner might be, and the waitress babbled excitedly about a new fondue place in Appenzell.  We were a little wary as, having had a lovely fondue at Dom & Kat’s place recently, we knew the aftermath all that cheese could have on one’s digestive tract – but the Appenzellers assured us that there was also a meat fondue available which consists of various meats which you cook in a heated broth on the fondue set.  Seeing our mutual look of blankness at the phrase “various meats”, they then went on to explain – “You get… err… cow, and… err… lamb, and… err…. BK BK BK BK!”.  The waitress’s vocabular gap didn’t dent her enthusiasm, as she mimed out a convincing chicken impression, and we felt that on that basis alone we had no choice but to seek out this place!

Arrive we did, and discovered that meat fondue had to be ordered 24 hours in advance.  So more cheese it was!  No complaints here though – cheese fondue is a very fine thing!  We accompanied it with a couple of bottles of local wine as well, and it wasn’t very long before we were in the cab back to the guesthaus where we found ourselves enjoying a little nightcap.  Or two.  Perhaps three.

You need to rotate the fondue fork at just the right speed otherwise everything gets splattered in cheese.

Judging by the thumpitty-thumpitty going on in both of our brains our post-match estimate was that perhaps there had been six or seven nightcaps, along with barely-touched “one for the road”s on each of our bedside tables.  We slowly made our way back to the train station and headed back to St Gallen to embark on the next leg of the journey…

(To be continued)

Sometimes I think I’m only in it for the spandex

That’s hot.

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