The Travel Bug Episode 12: Hello UK

The Travel Bug
PC @ Thoughts
In our last post, we saw Dave wandering around Bolivia and Brazil down South America, having a blast down the Witches Market, Death Road and Soccer among other things.
In this post, he makes a BIG TRANSITION up the northern continent (England and Wales) for his new calling.
What you may ask could that be? The calling is described below along with tales of skirmish, crowd surfing and hunting for some game.
And so without further ado..

 


 

London Calling

Leaving warm tropical South America for the somewhat less tropical city of London came as a little bit of a shock. Instead of the constant moving about, shoddy public transportation and hostel dorms of South America, I was now in London, a metropolitan first world city.

London

There were the distinctive red buses all around, black cabs and signs indicating the the “Tube”. There would be no need to travel about so much with my 25 kg backpack as my trip here was to meet friends – which in turn meant that I would have my own room to stay in wherever I went, no more sharing.

As indicated previously, I used to live in London so I had plenty of friends, either from when I lived there in 1999 and when travelling.

 

Running about town

My time in London (about one week) involved pubs, drinking and watching football matches, all considered a national pastime in the UK. I was staying with a friend in Blackheath and spent most nights in Covent Garden, an area I used to hang out in from my former days.

One night I headed to the Walkabout pub and ended up singing drunken songs of a “Land Down Under”. This was quite a regular occurrence when missing home in 199 but I did not feel the same about this as years earlier. I guess I had moved on from my old London Days and it did not feel the same as I was no longer an expat, instead a tourist and I was a 7 years older though not sure if any wiser.

Hanging out in an Australian Bar in London isn’t exactly the best way to spend your time I decided. So most of my days involved running around London taking pictures, this was something I had neglected to do when living there full time, something to do with not doing touristy stuff whilst living there, this is something many experience when living in Australia.

A highlight was seeing the Millennium Dome as well as the National Theatre, both previous places of work. London was also sunny so spending time at St James Park was a must do. 

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My old office, the Dome

I essentially was not in London tourist so spending days watching football in pubs and sunning myself in parks was a legitimate way to spend my time, tourism wasn’t my primary purpose in the UK.

 

Dave is The MAN

So why did I venture out to the UK again? I was asked to perform the duties of best man in a wedding (for a friend I had known from living in London). That same friend had met his wife years earlier whilst living with me in Bondi Australia in 2001. The world was a small place it seemed.

I had planned the stag do a year in advance and I had decided to celebrate this in the city of Newcastle to the north. The main reason I selected this location was Id never been there and I heard the locals were quite funny. This involved 23 of us partying fairly hard in Newcastle over the weekend, though I won’t go into too much detail of what was involved as “what goes on tour stays on tour”.

Highlights included catching up with Australian mates who had flown in from Australia for the wedding, meeting my old neighbours from living in London as well as making new friends. Activities included some very nice curries, staying at disreputable hotel with a manager who challenged us several times to drinking games and a game of skirmish.

 

Skirmish, the Game of Pain

This is worth mentioning and while it seemed like a genius idea when I arranged this from Australia a year earlier, in fact there is nothing more painful (and stupid) than being monstrously hangover from the night previous and then being pelted by rubber balls flying at 300 miles an hour (I was most pelted).

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The result of too many bullets during Paintball

There was also the obligatory dressing up of the stag as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and then wandered about town we spent the night wandering about town. The Jordies are very friendly and found this very hilarious as did we, a few of the girls we met actually gave the stag a makeover. Despite the cold, it was a very good place to have a stag do in.

 

The week before the wedding

The following week was spent in Chester; this was the week before the wedding. A few of us took a trip to Northern Wales for a few days to the town of Carnarvon, this was where I won accommodation 10 years earlier betting on a football match, during the 2000 Euro Championship (England 2 Romania 3).My time here involved, watching more football, drinking with the hostel owner who I was now mates with and checking out the Carnarvon castle there.

Upon returning to Chester, there were a few more reunions with more friends from Australia and the UK. Other activities included a walkabout tour of Chester itself (apparently you can shoot Welshmen from the Walls of Chester with a bow and arrow); it’s a very pretty town with lots of black and white wood panel buildings.

 

The Wedding

The wedding itself went very well, a very beautiful ceremony, an excellent reception with an Irish them as the bride was Irish; this included a live Irish band. I even managed a conversation with Daniel Craig’s dad (James Bond fame) who had some sort of loose connection to the wedding.

The most important thing however is I didn’t stuff up my best man speech. There were loads of laughs and I was assured by Daniel Craig’s dad that it was with me and not at me.

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The wedding, dressed to impress

The following day was a little sad as everyone was leaving to head back to their homes. The newly married couple and a few of us remained a few days which involved a few more nights of drinking and a day at the Chester Horse Races.

While the Chester horse races I won’t put this on a par with something like the Melbourne Cup, indeed the Scouser women were tending to overdo the makeup, skin bronzer and inappropriately short dresses.

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Somewhere in Chester

Inappropriate as the weather was freezing and it did not look comfortable at all, sacrificing for fashion I guess even if the fashion in my opinion was fairly ordinary. It was a very funny and guess what… it involved a lot of beer.

On another day we took a trip to Welshpool where another friend lived, a very scenic farm up in the mountains with lots of sheep and green meadows. The town itself had a very good curry restaurant and the local night club was also an experience, not necessarily a good one, but very funny, nothing funnier than watching uncoordinated local types dancing to Dizzy Rascal.

 

Cardiff, here we come 

The next day was my turn to say farewell and I headed down to Cardiff to stay with my friend from my fruit picking days in Mildura. Unfortunately I was down there on “school nights” and while I didn’t “hit it as hard” as usual, we did head out for a night where we met some cookie Welsh locals. This included a guy who was walking on a chat room website in the bar, pretending to be an attractive woman online and having internet sex with a paying customer; this was a very odd way I thought to spend your time, not a common role in the IT field.

I also took time to look around Cardiff itself, this included the Millennium stadium and the castle.

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Castle within a Castle at Cardiff Castle

 I’d been to Cardiff 10 years previously for the 1999 Rugby Union World Cup and it was good to see how the city had changed. 

Being sober this time around was also helpful.

 

Hard Yakka at Rotherham 

A few days I was off again to the northern town of Rotherham, just outside of Sheffield, I was catching up with another friend who I met in Perth whilst backpacking in Australia. If you have never heard of Rotherham Im not surprised, there is nothing touristy about the place.

My friend gave me a few days of labouring work to provide me with some play money, this involved grouting a kitchen floor, installing some copper piping for plumbing, digging to prepare a slab and painting a room within a house. My friend’s parents provided me with some fantastic meals, he also managed a homeless shelter called the Lighthouse:

This is a place for people down on their luck and in need a hand, usually related to drug or alcohol abuse…

I actually volunteered in there for an evening which was an interesting experience as I don’t often meet with people who have been affected by alcohol or drug abuse, nor do I make a habit of volunteering.

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Hard at work in Rotherham

The nightlife was good fun, the first night involved a surprise 30th which was pretty uneventful and then hanging out in a dodgy Rotherham nightclub, mainly consisting of people over the age of 40 and lots of women with no interest in talking to me – I later found out it was the local lesbian night club.

 

My first Crowd Surf

The second night was spent out in Sheffield, firstly going to see my friends cousins band, they were excellent and the crowd very enthusiastic.

I was then pulled on stage and introduced to the crowd, I then found out that the crowd of 70 or so were made up of cousins and friends of the family.

I actually ended up crowd surfing for the first time in my life, luckily I didn’t break anything, and the rest of the night was spent dancing to 60 discos in a bar around the corner.

crowd surf

Peaceful Recovery

The next morning was spent at Mass which to me was a novel way to spend a hangover, lots of pipe organ music and “loving god” stuff, kind of like going to a wedding. I don’t make a habit of attending churches unless there is a wedding on.

I must say I had an excellent time in Rotherham and Sheffield, very friendly people, despite the cold weather.

 

Back to London we get

Finally it was off back to London again to catch up with some friends. 

The first few days I stayed with some Australian expat friends in West Hampstead. This involved having a good catch up and talking about home (Australia) and travelling, especially the second night which involved a lot of alcohol and some food poisoning from the local dodgy chicken burger shop.

I also spent a day taking in the local area, venturing to Abbey Road (from the Beatles) area and Regents Park.

I then headed to Camden where I spent a lot of my time years ago; the Camden markets are excellent for any retro clothes shopping you could ever be interested in, very cheap food as well as many alternate fashion clothes. I don’t think it was as good as 10 years ago, but it was under re-construction from a fire that had burned down half the market a few years earlier. I then headed down to Brixton where I used to live, I checked out where I was robbed (and stabbed), the ATM still there.

I’d heard Brixton had changed a lot, it still looked pretty run down to me though, I loved it!

The next few days I spent over at my mates house in Blackheath again, taking in various parts of central London as well as having a very big Friday night drinking session in Old Street which ended up finishing I’m not sure when…

 

Essex 

The following day was I travelled down to see some expat friends in Frinton on Sea in Essex. It was my friends 30th, another reason I had to stay in England for a while. The birthday was excellent fun, plenty of people about and the weather was sensational, as with 30th parties this ended up pretty late and messy.

The next day we went to the local cricket club, again a nice sunny afternoon (I think I got sunburnt, unbelievable), plenty of cider in a nice tranquil surrounds and the local team managed to chase down a massive run total of 275, most impressive.

After some curry, ended up crashing again, the following day involved going out for some target shooting. This was good fun, having never fired a shot before. While I don’t think I’ll ever make a keen hunter, it was one of my more fun experiences in the UK.

Old work home

First time shooting

After some lunch at the local yacht club, we watched some TV and crashed, Frinton is quite a pretty coastal place, has a beach and beach huts all lined up together, very nice during the summer but bloody cold in the winter.

 

Last stop — London

 The next day was on my way back to London again.

On arriving in London, I checked out London’s museum of Natural History.

I then checked out the National Gallery, which has a very good exhibition (apparently) of Van Gogh on display including his “Sun Flowers” painting I also took in the Imperial Museum, tried to look for my grandfather’s war record, unfortunately the computer system was down, my grandfather had fought as a pilot in the Blitz.

I then went to the Tower of London via the Tower Bridge, a very interesting place and it also had a good collection of armoury from Henry VIII as well as seeing the Crown Jewels. Again I stayed at my friends place in Blackheath.

 

What’s Next?

In all I was in the UK for five weeks before it was time to move on.

I was heading to Paris and then Cologne next to catch up with friends and then it would be the second leg of my trip, backpacking Eastern Europe.

 


The Travel Bug

The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world. We started this series a while back and finished in Bolivia and Brazil. We’ll be back soon in the UK!


DavoDave
 is the Travel Writer of the Travel Bug. He is a Technology specialist by day and social butterfly by night.

He just completed another world trip including stops at Vancouver, USA (numerous cities), Copenhagen, Paris and various stops around the UK, Spain and South Africa.

 

PC @ ThoughtsPC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.

We hope to entertain you through this collection of stories.

 

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