Category Archives: Travelling

The Anywhere Anytime Door Machine

Ten years or so ago, Mr Tater and I went to Innsbruck. We had a car and we drove fast through the mountains and looked at stuff and just generally touristed around. Then at the end of each day we went to the same little cafe at the edge of a square, in front of a large old (duh, Europe… of course it’s old) church, and sat at the same table on the sidewalk and gave the same order in our mangled German (“Ein Stiegel, und ein Gin Tonic, bitte”) to the same waiter and watched the same show unfold in front of us across the street.

First would come the woman walking the two little dogs, left to right, away from the church. They never stopped to pee, or even to sniff (I meant the dogs specifically, but actually none of the three of them ever peed or sniffed). They just zoomed along, on their way to a very important meeting, no doubt.

Next came the nun – right to left, toward the church – old-school nun in full-on black and white, floor length habit, head flaps streaming out behind her as she went, little black nun shoes slapping in time with some inner tune.

Then a pause in the traffic, while we watched the man from the wine shop directly opposite the cafe write. He’d lock the door, then sit at a table in the middle of his shop with a glass of wine and a giant ledger. Maybe it was his journal, maybe it was the daily takings, maybe it was a romance novel about that nun.

Oooh – pay attention, it’s time for the wheeled vehicles. From right to left in a straight line, 3 schoolgirls on bicycles fizzing by and almost immediately after, a small door to the left of the wine shop would open and a young woman would lurch out onto the pavement with a baby carriage. We figured she must be coming downstairs from an apartment above the shop. She’d wrangle the carriage into position, turn to shut the door, and shove off to the right. We never saw the actual baby, just this enormous old-fashioned high-wheeled carriage.

Now it starts to slow down. Time to order another drink, maybe a nibble. The wine man would wrap it up at about this time, too; he’d close his big book, finish his wine, look around the shop and then exit out the back.

We saw all this activity on our first evening and thought what a busy little block this was. We came back the second night without really planning to, but as we were passing by, we saw the two-tiny-dogs woman, and decided to wait and see who else we recognized.

Waiter… drinks… NUN! Right on schedule! The same people , the same activities…day after day. We imagined that the same people, and before them their parents, and their parents before them, playing out this same scenario since the Middle Ages (maybe without the bicycles, though).

It gave us a very pleasant soothing feeling of continuity and constancy; we felt a part of it almost. We reminisce about it often.

And with that enormously long introduction … if I had a time machine/anywhere door, I’d go back to that little cafe on that square on one of those summer evenings in 2006, and then I’d go to the same place in 1906, and then in 1806…

In response to 2 days ago’s Daily Prompt:

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?

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That’s not our picture, and that’s not our cafe. But it’s close, and it’s pretty. Click for featured image source

Home From A Fabulous Birthday Vacation

Up later than expected, hurriedly packing (which should have been done last night), out the door, onto the train, through the airport, (stopping only to pick up Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Off books at WHSmith (The Miniaturist and The Bone Clocks)), onto the plane, then settle in to read for 9 hours (and I’m really liking both of those books, btw)..

Home to Ned, who was very happy to see us and a 1/2 dead garden because of no rain + hot sun for 3 whole days.

Now a mountain of laundry – we always pack too much, never wear half of it, but Mr Tater insists we wash everything – it smells like airplane, he says. But he does his share, so I can’t complain.

And still THREE WHOLE DAYS of vacation left PLUS a weekend, which I will need to catch up on reading all the blogs I follow but have neglected; and I haven’t checked work email once – life is GOOD!

Off On A Fabulous Birthday Vacation, Part 4

Now it’s Monday, time to DO something.

The British Museum.

British Museum lion

British Museum lion

 

 

Something Chinese.

Something Chinese.

 

 

No, what are YOU looking at?

No, what are YOU looking at?

 

Done.

We’re really not very good museum-goers. We zoom through everywhere, just letting the ambiance wash over us, not really paying attention to anything, then we say, ooh, look at us – we did cultchah! Then we find a pub.

But nothing noteworthy happened; it was a short night, have to get up tomorrow morning to head home.

Off On A Fabulous Birthday Vacation, Part 3

First stop on my birthday pub crawl, the Pride of Paddington. Not because it’s so very wonderful, but because it’s right there practically outside the front door of the Hilton.

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As we approached, I noticed a chap standing outside the front door, kind of leaning on the corner of a decorative barrel. That’s all I noticed, but as we passed by him, eagle-eyed Mr Tater said “couldn’t wait for the loo?”

“What?”

“That guy was pissing on the wall.”

By then we were inside and I wasn’t going back outside, but no need, I could see him (head and shoulders anyway) through the window and sure enough, I could tell by his posture that he was, indeed, ‘having a slash’.  Nice.

We got our halfs (halves?) of Pride of Paddington (me) and John Smith’s (Mr) {yes, halfs, we’re starting slow, jet lag, long night ahead of us, etc.} and went out to the tables which meant we had to pass the pisser. He was finished by then (though not zipped up), and sitting at a table with a ‘lady’ friend. “oooooooo” they both said as we passed by them. Not sure whether we were impressive in some way (I had actually combed my hair before going out, so, you know, looking pretty sharp), or just old and silly looking, or maybe it was our tiny halfs… whatever, we were amusing to them. Happy to be of service.

They were very VERY drunk, considering it was only about 5pm, and fairly loud. And apparently Russian; she kept calling him ‘durak’ (fool) which seemed to fit. They continued the practice of commenting on everyone who passed by; we were just waiting for them to call out to some hard man/wide boy who was as drunk as they were and then watch the fun! But everyone seemed able to just ignore them.

He attempted to take a sip from one of the several empty glasses on their table, found that it WAS empty, and heaved it into his puddle of piss. Crash! went the glass, Turn! went everybody’s heads, Oi, mate! went the man at the next table (why the glass crashing was oi-worthy but the pissing wasn’t, I don’t know, might be a cultural thing; I DO see a lot of pee-puddles against flat walls in London – is that something y’all just do?), Sorry, sorry! went the lady-friend.

But that still left our hero without the drink he’d been seeking. So his wavering grasp sought out another of the glasses. Also empty. Also crashed into the corner. A third followed. By this time, Mr Tater and I were wondering why no one from inside had come out to investigate. And right on cue – tiny barmaid comes storming out:

Tiny Barmaid: Oi, you – clear off.

Drunken Russian: Eh?

TB: You’re breaking everything up, get off these premises.

DR: Eh?

TB: Are you refusing to leave?

DR: Eh?

TB whips out cellphone and begins punching numbers. This is looking like turning into the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!

She talks, describing him into the phone, they sit and grin and smoke. With perfect timing, he gets up and walks off about 30 seconds before the police zoom up with lights a’flashing (but no siren). It’s kind of all anti-climax from there, the cops talk to lady friend, tell her to get out and don’t come back, everything quiets down.

Then I got my ass kicked.

On my birthday.

In a pub.

In London.

BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!

Well, not really. Someone sitting on the table behind us got up or sat down, either way, banged my butt with his foot as he transitioned over his bench. He apologized, I said no problem, and it was a total non-issue, but I’m keeping the memory as “I got my ass kicked”.

And then it was on to Pub #2. And 3 and 4 and I lost count after a while.

Here are some of the things we saw:

Then back to sleeping next to the toilet; tomorrow is another day.

****UPDATED to add: this was my 100th post. Good lord, I do go on.

Off On A Fabulous Birthday Vacation, Part 2

We arrive in London.

Zip through Immigration, zip through Customs, zip to the Virgin Revivals lounge for a much-needed shower.

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Much-needed because after a night on that allegedly ‘flat’ bed, I WAS a grumpy cow.

Then I got MUCH better with the arrival of my second bacon butty of the day. Cholesterol be damned. This one came with BUTTER and brown sauce. Seriously nom nom nom.

VA Revival Lounge bacon butty

 

Heathrow Express into the city. No photos as it was boring and showery.

Our destination: the Hilton Paddington, formerly the Great Western something or other.  On the plus side, it’s right inside the train station, very convenient, no humping luggage through rainy streets, and there’s a Starbucks right outside the door. On the negative side, it’s a giant soulless chain hotel, raping the planet, homogenizing the travelling experience, etc., etc., etc.

Also on the negative, the bathroom was RIGHT next to the bed. 2, maybe 2 1/2 feet. Right there. Really close.

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And even if you can sleep through your partner stumbling in there and putting on the light and making the noises that he is inevitably going to make after pints and a curry, the completely non-light-blocking frosted glass is on some kind of industrial uber-groovy metal rolling flywheels which grind and whrir and are excessively loud.

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But I don’t want to whine about hinges (whinge?) too much… there are other minor horrors to share.

In order to get to the closet, the ONE SMALL closet, you have to pass between a REALLY sharp wooden pointy corner and the writing desk’s chair. Which is NOT on wheels. Ummm, why?

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I’m able to fit through there, but not comfortably; I have a couple of bruises to show for it (will NOT be posted here or anywhere) and I can only imagine how annoying and difficult it would be for someone even just a bit larger than I am.

Why is the hairdryer attached to the writing desk? I understand the attached part – people are a*holes and will steal anything, but why the writing desk? Why isn’t it in the bathroom? Hmmm?

Why is the tea-tray on the most bottomest shelf it can find? My old knees have a hard time bending all that way down and then lifting both me AND the tray back up. Sigh. Old age is something I would have found a lot easier to deal with when I was younger.

But enough of that. On to the fun part.

PUBS! AND it’s my BIRTHDAY! Whoo hoo. (yes, I know I was just griping about being old and yet I love having birthdays. Go figure.)

Off On A Fabulous Birthday Vacation, Part 1

Of course, the weather is perfect right here at home. Sigh.

But the laundry is done, the cat sitter is booked, the mileage has been cashed in for tickets, the hotel has been confirmed…nothing is going to stop us now!

No traffic on the way to the airport. A propitious beginning.

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My minions prepare my chariot.

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We’re waiting in the departure lounge and two rows away there’s some sort of elder statesman/philosopher spouting to his age-inappropriate travelling companion about “the cloud of knowing and the cloud of unknowing”, and an (? or perhaps his?) “immense suffering and loneliness”. It was an awfully deep conversation for a Saturday afternoon, anyway.

But back to the fun…

Happy pre-departure AND pre-birthday champagne.

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I managed to watch two movies: The Imitation Game, which made me cry (just a bit, twice), and Kingsmen (which made me laugh, out loud several times). And before I get blasted for saying that, no, I’m NOT saying it was a GOOD movie, just that it made me laugh. And Colin Firth can do no wrong, in my eyes. Well, except for Mamma Mia, now THAT was embarrassing.

Pre-arrival bacon butty.  Anyone who knocks British cuisine hasn’t had a good one of these. And considering we were on an airplane going 600+ mph I think they did a pretty good job. With brown sauce. The Sauce of Champions. The Sauce of Manliness.

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Next up…on the ground in London and at the hotel, about which I have MUCH to say.