France

Back on that hoss

Firstly – a couple of gigs:

  • Cat Power – she may be cray-cray, but she can sing.  This was re-scheduled from last year, so had been looking forward to it for quite some time.  Not disappointed.  And as a bonus, as I was hanging out in the member’s bar, had a chat with the Customer Relations Officer, or some such.  And I happened to mention I was gutted to miss out on tickets to The National – scheduled for the very next night – which had effectively sold out in under 5 minutes.  She gave me her card, so I could call the next day – in case she could do something about that.  I did call, she could do something about it (had a couple of spare ‘hospitality’ or VIP tickets or something – which she’s not allowed to sell) – and I got my name on the door, and made a donation to the Roundhouse charity, for about the price of a ticket (I actually rounded it up a fair bit).
  • So – The National.  Very pleased to get into this… considering the ridiculous demand for them, and there was no way of buying ‘scalped’ tickets.  And yeah, good.  Other than new songs, rather reminiscent of the last time I saw them – didn’t play “All The Wine”, and did acoustic Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks… but I was pleased.  I do like me The National.

And then it was time to get back on that horse… or all 70 of those horses, on my sweet new bike.  I sold my old one for £70… which I felt guilty about.  It would have felt a bit better if I hadn’t got any money for it, but… I used the money for new gear, and to get a MOT (WOF) for the new one (which I’d been assured it would come with, but did not).

Anyway – the new bike.  A 1997 Triumph Adventurer… when doing a bit of research on it… one of the first reviews I read had described it using the phrase “adds dollop of crass to already glittery, faux concoction.”  This intrigued me.  But when I went on to read “…the Triumph Adventurer is about as cool and stylish as purple velvet loon pants.” – I bought the bike without ever having actually seen/touched it – let alone sat on it.  (I bought it over the phone, and had it delivered from Stoke).

I took it out for one short ride, on a slightly wet Sunday – and confirmed that it worked, an that I worked (my legs, in particular).  And then, the following Sunday – with essentially all new gear/clothing, a backpack, and the hardly-ridden bike – set off for the Czech Republic.

A couple of things came apparent:

  • My new Kriega backpack/rucksack is awesome.  I read all sorts of reviews, claiming it takes the weight off your shoulders, can hardly feel it, etc – with suitable cynicism.  But they’re all true!  Good work Kriega.  But then, any company who puts a 10 year guarantee on their backpack is probably pretty confident in their product.
  • My nerves are shot.  Riding on the motorway, every little noise, shudder, gust of wind – had my head full of visions of my front wheel falling off.  And that just got worse as I headed into Germany – on the autobahn, where one feels obligated to go even faster; and in Czechland – where the roads had lengthy stretches of constant ‘bumps’, which I could never be sure were actually in the road… and my mind was constantly coming up with possible scenarios explaining what I was feeling… most involving my bike about to fall apart underneath me, at 130km/h.

But – I made it safe-and-sound.  Caught the ferry from Dover, to Dunkirk – and then headed into Belgium.  Stayed a night at a pension in some weird small town, which seems to exist in order to allow people to come and do some pilgrimage?  There were multiple shops selling ‘religious items’, and what I think were big bottles of holy water.  But not a single restaurant/supermarket/etc willing to sell me food after about 9pm – when I arrived.  Eventually the people at the pension I was staying at – took pity on me, and cooked me a dinner.  A massive, massive dinner – which I tried very hard to finish, but could not.  And the nice man from the hotel/pension I’d originally booked a room in (but closed at 8pm – so sent me elsewhere) – offered to store my bike indoors for me.  Much appreciated.  Well done, weird little Banneux.

The next day – headed off into Germany, and the autobahns.  Some people really do go quite fast on those… but generally, probably not much more than countries which do have hard speed limits.  Anyway – I trundled along on that, once or twice winding it up to see how fast the new bike (and my nerve), was capable.  Well – my nerve failed first… I was happy to see the speedo hit 100mph.  According to one website, top speed is about 190km/h.  I don’t see any need to prove/disprove that.  Anyway – mostly headed along at the ‘recommended’ speed limit of around 130 km/h, often dropping down a bit slower and just cruising behind trucks/etc in the ‘slow lane’.  And made it all the way across Germany in a day… found a small town just before the Czech border, and eventually found a hotel/pension to book into.  Lovely place – garage for the bike… but once again food was problematic.  I’d arrived at a decent time – I thought – but still very difficult finding anything on a Monday night.  So – found an icecream bar which served beer, and bar-snacks in the form of “ham-and-cheese toast sandwiches”.  Good work Vohenstrauss.

Next day – across the border into Czechland.  From memory, the motorway between Germany & Prague wasn’t too bad.  Just the wind messing with my head, making me continuously think I was going to die.  But after Prague – eastern Czechland… particularly the right-hand ‘slow lane’… horrible horrible constant ‘judders’.  And like I said above – my mind constantly coming up with explanations for this, involving a stone in my tyre about to cause it to burst, or something snagged somewhere, about to lock a wheel completely, or just that it really was the road – but was about to cause a tyre to burst or something.  Just constant doubts/terrors.  Awesome, good fun.  But eventually made it to Pustimer, where the ridiculous hospitality began.

Ludek’s parents… without a word of english between them – guessed who I was, invited me in, and just started plying me with pivo, slivovice, and food.  I was stranded there for a couple of hours – just being bombarded with brutal quantities/qualities of hospitality, until everybody else returned from visiting castles.  More pivo & slivovice, and eventually left to go to Ludek’s auntie’s house, which she’d given over to us for the week.  So yeah – my first impression of Czech hospitality: freely given beer, slivovice, food, and a house (with a swimming pool).

Slivovice probably warrants a word here.  After having this clear liquor forced upon me… I did a quick google search, to figure out what it was I was reading.  The first half-a-dozen ‘hits’ were all news stories, about how the Czech government had banned all hard liquor for a period last year – after several deaths… from people drinking slivovice.  Apparently, quite a few cases of blindness also.  Apparently now, a popular toast is “see you later” – making fun of this.

Anyway – a few days of such hospitality, lots and lots of very hot sunshine, and a couple of bike rides around the Czech country-side… the days passed by.  I’d nearly forgotten there was a wedding involved.  But there was a wedding, so we went to that.  Very nice wedding, and very good reception.  From what I recall.  I remember somebody giving me a beer soon after I entered the reception venue (while this doesn’t sound that strange… nobody else was); I vaguely remember a haka; and I vaguely remember dancing… including one very successful “knee slide”, and two very unsuccessful knee slides (evidenced the next day by spectacular bruising… injuries now more evident (visually and pain-wise) than any lingering effects from falling off my bike).

The usual post-wedding hungover tired lazy day or two… a couple of nights in Prague (Prague is quite nice) – and then a few days taking mostly non-motorway routes back to England.  The sat-nav took me on some brilliant roads, and also some rather dodgy ones.  The Adventurer isn’t really designed for gravel roads. but it coped.  I took a detour to ride along the Rhine for a while, that was spectacular.  Koblenz valley, I think it was called – with constant castles on the skyline.  Very cool.  A night in Germany, a night in Luxembourg, and a night in Belgium – before catching a ferry from Calais back to the white cliffs of Dover, and back to London.

2,500 miles, or near to, by the end of it.  Didn’t get pulled over once – which is lucky, as it seems my left rear indicator hasn’t been working since I don’t know when.  And in France, there’s all sorts of ridiculous rules for motorists, and motorcyclists in particular.  Have to carry a breathalyser (which I did), but also – put 4 reflective stickers onto your helmet.  And they have to be such a type that they are impossible to remove, “without damaging the helmet”.  WTF?

All in all, a good trip.  And it’s probably about time I learnt how to perform some basic maintenance on the bike… overdue for the chain being cleaned/lubed/oiled.  A general clean is also overdue… I got my glittery faux concoction a little dirty over the last couple of weeks.

Just looking over photos – I’d nearly forgotten about our daytrip to Brno – visiting the castle, and the pub where your drinks are delivered to your table by model train.  Such a brilliant concept/gimmick.

EDIT: To answer the little sister’s question… by the end of it, motorways still gave me irrational fear, but I’m loving the small country roads/etc.  But I guess that’s the way it should be anyway.Booze Train

Booze TrainGermany-Belgium border

Germany-Belgium border

2012 – off and running (or skiing)

Right – been too busy and lazy and sick to write for a while, so now I just have to skim over it all.

First gig of the year – Ani DiFranco at the Union Chapel.  Cool gigtalented lady – did an improvised song with a crowd member playing guitar for her – after somebody requested a song, and she claimed to not be able to play it anymore.  A crowd member reckoned he could, so he did – and it turns out she remembered how to play it fairly well also.  But yeah – cool.  Legitimately improv’ed?  Not sure – the crowd member turned out to be a fairly successful musician himself – Declan Bennett.  She seems fairly genuine, and it didn’t happen the following night – so I’m giving the whole episode the benefit of the doubt.

And then – France.  Caught a train over to France on the 14th, and spent the week there – helping Dom celebrate his 40th.  This was done by learning to ski, then doing actual skiing, interspersed with large amounts of food and drink, and very little sleep.  But now I can ski.  By the end of the week, I was going down red pistes comfortably, and trying stupid things like jumps and off-piste which I really had no right to be trying.  Amazing weather – clear blue skies for the entire week, until the final day which was pretty much constant snowstorm, with zero visibility, and lifts closing all over the place (doing red slopes).  Here’s a video of my new skillz (warning, the music might not be to everybody’s taste, and has naughty words):
http://player.vimeo.com/video/35439665?color=fedf91&autoplay=0
And then we came back to London, drinking the bar dry on one of the trains, and discovering the tube between Kings Cross/St Pancras and my place was closed. I eventually crawled into my place at about midnight, drunk and exhausted – and immediately came down with a terrible cold or influenza or something. Bah, London.

Champs

A week of no gigs.  That was a good time.  Relaxing, a night of the old binge-drink, a weekend of rugby semi-finals, and just a good ol’ time.  But that was then, now we’re in the dark days.  Five weeks of no more respite than two days off at any time.

It started with Band of Skulls – some straight-talking no-nonsense garage rock.  In a venue which is more commonly used as a gay nightclub.  So yeah – walking into an underground cavern, with posters advertising all sorts of half-naked men oiled up, and the X-Factor rejects for some reason – to watch some strut-rock was kind of odd.  And then standing in a mob trying to get to the bar – with people complaining about service, and trying to push in front of each other like some crazed junkies, was great.  An annoying woman next to me constantly talking to me, assuring me that she’d make sure I was served straight after her (despite joining the mob after me) – and then haranguing the barman (while I tried as hard as I could to distance myself from her).  Ahhh – my faith in humanity, if not completely lost a long time ago, died a little bit that night.  Anyway – the gig.  Firstly I thought the sound was crap – but then I walked out from under the mezzanine, into the main area – and everything sounded much much better.  The band wasn’t particularly charismatic or anything – they just did the job.  Stand there, play some songs, and make some clumsy efforts at showmanship.

And soon thereafter, the weekend.  Which consisted of getting up very early on Saturday morning – walking to Kings Cross/St Pancras, and catching a train over to France.  For if I can’t be in New Zealand for a NZ-vs-France Rugby World Cup Final – where better than in France?  Got into Lille at about midday – perfect for a leisurely stroll into town, find my hotel to check-in and drop off my very small daypack, and then a wander around town.  Had some mussels marmite – and soon discovered that “marmite” seems to refer to the pot, and that I wasn’t actually getting mussels cooked in malty tar.  Wandered about some more – researching likely spots to watch the rugby the following morning, sightseeing, and shopping.    I discovered a fashion label named “Eden Park” – complete with NZ flag, a rugby ball motif, and the number 10 emblazoned on most items.  I was tempted to buy the shoes (the first items I saw) – but they were bad shoes.  Eventually, when I discovered what seemed like the French Harrods – I discovered the whole Eden Park range – and bought some gloves.  Refrained from the jeans, with their trademark back pocket detailing taking the form of half an oval – remiscent of a rugby ball perhaps.  Crazy frenchies.  Did my normal “wander around for an hour unable to decide on a restaurant” – before finally selecting an expensive seafood joint, and ordered the “little of everything the chef wants to give you” option, and a bottle of red wine – just to show them I can be unconventional too.

The next morning – I awoke, and ignored all my research of the previous day – instead walking for a while, into previously unexplored area – searching for “the bar district”.  Which I quickly found, like a messenger pigeon returning home.  And then, walking past several big showy bars – I spotted a television screen through a small grimy window, of a small grimy bar.  Sold.  I entered a small dark and dingy room, with a handful of barstaff looking at me in surprise, and one or two obvious ‘locals’.  I took a pew at the bar, had a coffee, and waited for the game to start.  One barmaid loved the All Blacks shirt – and decided to support the All Blacks then and there.  Unfortunately, she seemed to only be there to set up for the day, and then left – leaving me alone in a slowly growing crowd of French.  By the time the game started, the pub had laid out a free breakfast (french bread, coarse pate, brie, ham, etc – not bad fare), and the pub was full of Les Bleus supporters, with quite the festive atmosphere.  I got a few curious glances, but nothing more.  And I think any New Zealander knows how nervous I was at that moment – I was downing pints of beer at a furious rate, unable to help myself.  The haka, the French counter to it (which I loved, and brought massive cheers from the locals) – and then the game itself.  Well – we all know how that went.  The head in hands when Cruden fell on the ground.  A couple of stifled cheers from some of the less well-mannered Frenchies came with that, but then the majority of them applauded in the right spirit when he left the field.  Overall, it was quite a good crowd – much like most crowds, generally a good bunch, with a couple of dicks who do things like cheering an injury, or booing when an opponent is lining up a kick.  Half-time, and I sensed that mood of the crowd had changed from “let’s go watch the All Blacks win, festival-type atmosphere” – to, “hell, we’ve got a chance to win this, and win the World Cup”.  And of course, my own feeling mirroring that, going from “yeah, let’s watch us win while in France, that’ll be a laugh” – to, “Oh no, not again, not again, no no no”.  And the last ten minutes – with everybody white-knuckled, just willing somebody to drop the ball, or hold onto the ball, or anything, just don’t lose this bloody thing.  The only way I can find to describe that whole hour – from the start of the 2nd half through to 20 minutes after the match – is through cliches.  Relief.  Monkey off the back.  They may be cliches, but they are just so apt.  Or to point you to a forum on The Silver Fern – which, along with the comments afterwards, I read yesterday – with something approaching a tear in the eye.  And then I watched a video which a comment pointed to – and yeah, that tear became fully fledged.  I don’t think anybody but a New Zealander will understand quite I mean – or why “just a game” could mean so much. More cliches are needed really – rugby’s embedded in the country’s psyche, it’s our national obsession, etc etc.  I’d always thought of them as empty meaningless cliches, too simplistic to really be true.  But, even though it’s depressing to admit, they’re true.  But that’s not as important as it used to be.  Because we did it – we knocked the bugger off.  We can watch the All Blacks again, with the attitude of it being a pleasurable distraction, not with a desperate need to win a trophy.  And soon, we can look forward to 2015, when we become the first team to defend the championship, the first team to win it 3 times, the true Champions.  Or not – we can lose, and we’ll shrug, without that devastating heartbreak of 2003 & 2007.  Maybe.  And I think the average New Zealander will be a nicer person now, without all that angst.  The only dark lining to this silver cup, is that the country is almost certain to be governed by the actual eye-gougers, the real dirty players, the actual Bleus Terribles with aspirations for nuclear power in New Zealand waters, for another three years.

Anyway – that was a lot of words to describe a game of rugby, coming from somebody who has traditionally shunned such things.  So onwards, with only a small (well, not really so small) portion of myself wallowing in the glory of 4.5 kilograms of gilded silver.  I eventually left the pub, once I felt comfortable that I could walk without falling to my knees with relief.  Walked back to the main plaza of Lille – taking congratulations from a couple of random passersby.  And sat in the sun, my back to the central fountain, reading a book.  Of course – I had partaken in quite a few pints during the game – and when I rejoined that book a couple of days later, I discovered that I had little to no memory of the majority of it.  But  I read my book, Silver Fern proudly displayed on my chests, sneaking into McDonalds to use the toilets every 20 minutes, daring somebody to even try and burst my bubble.  Nobody did.  I eventually made my way to a restaurant for some more mussels, a couple of leisurely wines – and decided it was time to make my way to the train station.  I was kind of right, but very nearly wrong.  As in, I got to the station, but they told me I was too late.  Until a nice man spotted the All Blacks shirt – and told me to follow him.  He then essentially led me through back passages, forced the customs guy to stamp my passport without filling out the necessary documentation, and led me straight onto the train.  Sacre bleu – how gracious can somebody be in defeat?  So – many many thanks to France, for making my visit as good as it could be, for really turning up to the final, for being – well – French, and for eventually letting us win.  And don’t listen to the trash-talking cheap media – we all know they’re scum.

And then, sadly, I was back in Ingerlund – my head still spinning from the mornings events, and the beers/wine.  Got a little lost finding my way home – but got there in enough time to drop my stuff off, send some drunken text messages trying to get people to join me at a gig that night – but eventually made my way to north London all alone.  To watch Michael Franti & Spearhead.  This was at Koko, which is only surpassed by Royal Albert Hall as being the most awesome venue.  And of course, I can’t watch a gig without some red wine – so I slowly became even more intoxicated, making my memory of the gig rather hazy.  But from what I do remember – it was fairly good.  Michael Franti was barefoot, and walked into the crowd on multiple occasions, and maybe even invited the crowd onto the stage for the last song?  Or maybe my brain made that up in a desperate attempt to please.  I do remember him giving some good solid hippie speeches, and my drunken brain coming to the horrible realisation that there was no way good old fashioned hippies, and the current protests – would ever really change anything, and that what was actually needed was a worldwide catastrophe – natural, man-made, or even just social – so that society could be rebuilt from the ground-up.  And even then, I’m sure that human (animal) nature would eventually result in the same self-centred society we have now.  (Read the previous with emphasis on the self-pity and hypocrisy).  Oh – and after checking youtube videos – there were also giant yellow balls.

Monday morning – I went to work.  Apparently – because I haven’t been fired or reprimanded.  But to be honest – my head was still in quite the daze, and I have little memory of Monday at all.  But I had two days to recover, before the glut of gigs started again.  Wednesday – it was a group of scots named Sons And Daughters.  A gig which was originally scheduled for Heaven (the same venue as Band of Skulls) – but was moved to Dingwalls, where we saw Don McGlashan last year (or year before?).  I suspect this was due to poor ticket sales – as Dingwalls is much much smaller – and even then, it was a very sparse crowd.  But it was a good set, nice songs – played with just enough crowd banter, etc.  Terrible bar service – really really terrible.  And it reminded me that whenever I head to Camden, I think I would quite like to move there.  Until I spend half an hour there, surrounded by the terribly pretentious twats, and realise that no – nice to visit, wouldn’t live there.

The following night – the only band (to my knowledge) named after MacGyver’s employers – the Phoenix Foundation.  Again – a rather sparse crowd – which I thought strange.  Kiwis usually love to flock out in droves to see any homegrown talent – and these guys are also doing rather well in their own right as an international act.  But yeah – very limited crowd – which allowed Justin and myself to get much closer to the stage than our grumpy old man “bloody kids everywhere” mentality usually allows.  I was already rather drinky after work drinks – and then the barmaid seemed to dislike how much wine a standard “large” pour actually was – so insisted on essentially doubling it – serving me red wine in pint glasses, nearly full.  This was at the Garage – so if anybody is heading there, look for the short fairly pretty barmaid, and order a wine.  In fact – I believe I have a gig scheduled for there next week.  Sweet.  Back to the music – yeah, really good.  If you haven’t checked out the latest album – Buffalo – you should do.  It is really good, an excellent maturation of these guys who have been “gestating” (a word I picked up from somebody else’s review of them) back in New Zealand for some time.

And that has been my week.  With more of the same (minus the overnight jaunt to France) scheduled for this week.  And next week.  And the next.  And the next.  Oh, what a life.

(edit: I realise some of the above got a little over-emotional, and particularly over-political.  Maybe one day I’ll give a full accounting of my political views.  I hate people who say “right-wing are scum”, “hippies are stupid”, etc – without any reason to backup that view.  That is just social-attitudal racism.  So maybe, one day when I’m bored, I’ll attempt to justify my views.  I still feel guilty after telling certain members of my family “If this country votes in John Key, I will leave – and not come back until New Zealand wakes it’s fucking ideas up”… and then realising that every single one of them was going to vote National.  Yeah – um, sorry for that.)

Commuting Around Europe

So – I figure the best time to write about my most recent jaunt into Europe is while I’m fully regretting it.

I’m currently trying to write the documentation to support the work I did the other week.  And I hate writing documentation.  Even writing the kind of document which I would want to receive (ie: a list of specific stuff.  This was set to that.  This: 1.  This: 23.  This: 100.  Reading it: Perfect – all I need to know on a single page.  But writing it: what order do I put it in?  What’s the most logical tree structure?  Aaaarrgh!)  Sorry – mind is frazzled from trying to write my most hated of documentation – long wordy descriptions of what should be short one-liners – and with screenshots.  Oh – now you’ve got me started on screenshots.  I view screenshots as the vice of the lazy documenter, and the crutch of the incompetent reader.  Unfortunately – I’ve been specifically requested to include screenshots.  Hence my presumably imcomprehensible rambling about this shit that you certainly don’t care about.

Anyway – all this started with my trip to Madrid last time.  And then two weeks ago – another trip.  This time – a ridiculously early train to Paris.  Straight to the office, work until late.  Then to the hotel.  And my room has a balcony (ish) with a view of the Arc de Triomphe.  (And really, no offence, but where did the French borrow the nerve to build a monument to Triumph?)  But anyway – a rather long day – and that pretty much just set the scene.  Essentially a week of spending 16 hours a day with work colleagues – who aren’t even my own work colleagues, and for whom english is not their first language.  Which would normally be all fine – but with me having very little sleep already – it was just that slightly too tiring to cope with for an entire week.  Anyway – enough whinging.  First day ended with some bieres and what-not.  And the next few days – long days in a small office in suburban Paris – miles away from anywhere – then back into central Paris to drop off bags, and then head to random places for dinner.  Who has a few days in Paris – so decides to travel all the way across town to a burger restaurant?  But I managed to escape eating a burger – and had steak tartare instead.  All good.  And crepes.  And I saw the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame, and things like that.  I would nearly cross Paris off The List – except I was too tired to enjoy any of it – and I didn’t see the Louvre.

Oh – and I managed to watch some of the opening rugby matches – streaming over internet.  A lot of my screenshots (grumble grumble whinge whinge) – are great – each showing two monitors, one full of nerd-action, the other with a snapshot of the morning’s rugby.  And the other light-hearted aspect which will hopefully counter-balance the above crazy ramblings – was the exchange of language between myself and my spanish workmates.  I taught them the word “cleavage” – (by special request – with meaning conveyed with a lot of hand gestures and imitation) – while they attempted to teach me – well, some terrible terrible phrases.  Which I was too tired to remember – sadly.  I remember what they meant – and I just don’t know what to think about a culture which would say things like that.

But finally – it was Monday – with a lovely 6am flight to Madrid.  Where I headed to my hotel, thinking I would just be able to leave my suitcase there, and head to the office – and check-in later.  But no – they let me check in at 9am or so – which allowed me to have a shower and head to the office.  Which shouldn’t have brought me so much joy – but I’m pretty sure I would have fallen asleep at the desk otherwise.  But yes – two more days in Madrid – this time out in the suburbs – and then finally back to London.  On a 5am flight – landing at London City airport – just in time for a taxi straight to my ‘usual’ client – and get in at 10am, in order to help a vendor who’s come in especially for the first big piece of work on my current project.  And yeah – I wasn’t particularly “on the ball” that day.

But that’s what you get when you’re some kind of jet-setting business traveller like myself, I guess.

Oh – and did I mention that immediately after work on my day of return – I then headed off to my first fencing lesson?  Luckily we didn’t get given any solid time with epees, foils, sabres, or the such on that night.  But I made up for it the next week – when I knew that we would be handed our first swords – by having a few wines beforehand.  This behaviour was correctly summed up with the comment “You’re a retard”.  It wasn’t my fault – there were work drinks to welcome/farewell somebody visiting from India.  Who doesn’t drink.

Hmm?  Yes – I’m attending fencing lessons.  En guarde!

Bon jour Madame, s’il vous plait, bon appetit, bon soir

Well – after nearly two weeks in India, it was time for a long weekend.  And where better for a quick relaxing getaway from Gurgaon, India – then Champagne, France?  So – I flew to gay Paree.  Ben picked me up – and we headed to Champagne.

Checked into a cheap dodgy hotel in Epernay, and then started drinking champagne.  Well – not strictly in that order, but close enough.  I had a bottle at the airport waiting for him.  We had a bottle at lunch in Rheims.  And then I think we checked in.  And went exploring.  Bought some supplies.  Cheese, foie gras, bread, a couple of electric champagne coolers, champagne.  And then decided that the ledge outside our hotel window could quite conceivably function as a balcony.  And that pretty much set-up the template for the weekend.  Cheese, foie gras, pate, champange & music on the balcony.

But then – we decided to fly in extra company.  Caitlin Osborne celebrated her birthday recently – so Ben & I decided to buy her a gift.  Flights for her & her friend from London.  And then – suddenly there were four of us in a small dodgy hotel room.  We did actually try to reserve the room next door – but when we picked up the key, and Ben opened the door to check whether we should steal that room if it was better – it turns out some poor girl had also checked into that room.  So – we were stuck with small room, and balcony.  (I did try sleeping on the balcony one night, but really rather cold.)

But – no matter.  We had everything we needed.  We were worried that two champagne coolers wouldn’t cope with the extra consumers – but good ol’ Rudy at the hotel bar kept us supplied with an ice bucket and a supply of ice.  Put to very good use.

Sunday, we actually ventured out of town – and headed to a nearby lake.  A little swim, and little sun, and a little Flunch.  I don’t like Flunch.  But – it seemed to be the only place open in the entire province on a Sunday.  Except the A&P show – which was weird.

There was a lot of champagne drunk at restaurants.  Our method was to go through the list alphabetically.  I got two email addresses from an aussie girl and a french girl on the first night.  The aussie girl was an air stewardess with Qantas – was with her co-pilot boyfriend – and held both my & Ben’s hands (and eye contact) for far too long during the goodbye handshake.  Far, far too long.  I bought a stop-bouchon.  The best in the world.  Don’t bother trying to look up what that is, because I think mine is the best in the world, because it’s the only one in the world.  And did I mention we drank champagne?  Our balcony had quite an impressive collection of bottles on it when we left.  The huge bag of uneaten food delicacies had been moved into an airtight bag in the bathroom – but the staff refused to take it away.

  • Favourite champagne: Kristal
  • Least favourite food: Flunch
  • Favourite person: Rudy
  • Least favourite person: Little irishman who bragged about buying his girlfriend an expensive watch.  While staying at the Ibis. Notable mentions: Ben, myself.
  • Favourite purchase: stop-bouchon.  Notable mentions: champagne cooler.

And now I’m back in India.  With a couple of good solid 16 hour days to help me recover from the weekend.