Rik, snow, Android

Rik moved down to London not so long ago and he’s been staying with Cheryl and me since then. It’s been kind of weird having someone else in the house again, not in a horrible way, just different. I’d forgotten what it was like. Anyway, glad to help him out in what is normally a very difficult and expensive thing to do.

It’s cool having him at work too, especially since Dan is abandoning me for Australia in a matter of weeks now.

It snowed in London for the first time this winter over the weekend. Cheryl, Charlotte, Aron, and I spent a good hour or two on the roof terrace in the middle of the night throwing snowballs and building snowmen. It was a lot of fun. I was soaking wet when I got back into the apartment, but it was enjoyable.

I’ve been working on one of my Android apps quite a bit recently. It’s really frustrating me at the moment though because things aren’t working how I’d expect them to. I think it’s just the dimension definitions that are making it look so horrible, but I can’t be sure. It also seems that there’s no font anti-aliasing on my phone. It could just be the dimensions and some horrible scaling though. Oh well.

Prague

The other week I went on my first holiday with Cheryl. It was also my first holiday with Dave and Hayley. Here is a bit of a run-down of how the whole thing went.

On Wednesday I finished work at 5pm and went back to Cheryl’s to get everything ready. We left the flat in the evening and caught a bus to Mansfield so we could stay at Dave and Hayley’s house. We had a bit of food while we were there and the drinking got underway too.

We woke up early on Thursday and got ready nice and quickly. We set off on the way to the airport at 8:56 and got as far as Glapwell before turning around and going back because Dave forgot his coat(!) and Hayley forgot her toothbrush (Chris Evans would not be impressed). We set off for on the way to the airport at around 9:20-something and didn’t have to turn around again. The journey there was fairly easy. There were a few moments where I thought Hayley was going to have a heart attack as lorries closed us in a horrible moving tunnel of death, and Dave was going to have a heart attack because of Hayley, but it wasn’t so bad.

The car was parked in a big car park and we caught a bus to the terminal. We went through security and stuff and then sat down for some food. We thought we had plenty of time, but within a couple of minutes of them announcing which gate we should go to they were giving the final call. We ran the last part of the way to the gate only to find the doors weren’t even open and we were at the back of a huge queue.

Once we’d gone through the regular hassle of getting on a bus to be taken 40 metres to the plane we got on and found that people had taken all of the space in the overhead lockers. My bag ended up at the other end of the plane, Dave and Hayley had theirs somewhere in the middle, and Cheryl’s had to go into the hold. I could go on about how this wouldn’t be an issue if they didn’t charge so much to bring a case in what must often be a 75% empty luggage compartment, but I won’t.

The flight was pretty short, which is a good thing because the seat was not very comfortable. I managed to fall asleep for a few minutes and when I woke up my neck ached because of the rubbish seat.

When we got to Prague airport we had to wait a couple of minutes for Cheryl to get through the passport check point because the person she was being served by didn’t know if a visa was required, but we all knew it wasn’t. While Cheryl was waiting on the other side of the barrier Dave grabbed her bag from the carousel and then we pretended we were still waiting for it when Cheryl joined us. It took her a few seconds to notice that Dave was holding it.

We left the airport nice and quickly and stepped out into the freezing cold Czech day to find a taxi into the city. We got one at the front of the queue and started the last part of our journey. The view from the taxi was quite bland and grim-looking, but I guess that’s what it looks like when your country is freezing cold for 6 months of the year (even more than England!).

We checked in at the hotel, found our rooms, and set down our bags. It was nice not to have to pull them around any more.

After a little while we got ready, took some of our money, and headed into the city under cover of darkness. We were half way to the National Museum when Dave decided to cross the road in front of 3 or 4 lanes of traffic just as they started to move. He ran and the rest of us stayed on the pavement like normal people. We walked a bit down the road, crossed safely, then walked back to the end again and continued the journey to the museum. It looked absolutely awesome with all the lights on it and we took some pictures before realising it was too cold to just stand there.

We walked back towards the hotel for a minute and decided to go into a hotel/restaurant called MuΕ‘ketΓ½r. It was set mostly underground and was nice and dark with a really warm log fire. We had some drinks and some nice food and then decided we should move on to another place because it was a bit quiet and we were a bit loud.

Then I got bored of writing this blog post and got busy with moving to London and completely couldn’t be bothered to write it any more, so instead I posted another incomplete post about a holiday. I’ll include the random list of things that I was going to write about so that you can fill in some of the very exciting gaps for yourself.

Rocky O’Reilly’s
Singing along with Liverpool fans
Astronomical clock + old square
Little garden place just off the square with weird statues
Hard Rock Cafe
Tacky tourist shops
Book shop
New Yorker
Van Graaf
Zoo + shit restaurant
Chillis
Stags Russian dolls
Restaurant near the hotel
Strip club
Museum
The Pub
Mr. Krakoviel (crack a feel) missing the flight

That was easy.

Benicassim Festival

On Wednesday the 14th of July I went to the Benicassim festival with Matt, Vlad, and Howard. Here is pretty much everything you could conceivably want to know about what happened there.

Wednesday

I went home from Cheryl’s place in the morning and got picked up by Matt and Vlad. It was kind of strange because Chloe was there and so I think it was a bit confusing for the guys when they arrived. They assumed it wasn’t number 37 because they saw Chloe upstairs through the bedroom window.

We packed our things and I had a spot of trouble with my keys and wallet before we eventually set off to Matt’s house because he’d forgotten something. Then it turned out that he’d lost his house key, but luckily one of his housemates was in. From there we headed to Vlad’s house in Edwinstowe to wait for Howard and his dad to come and pick us up.

The drive to the airport was over pretty quickly and the airport wasn’t particularly busy or anything. We all got checked in with our couple of bags after being directed to the oversize luggage section. Vlad’s bag got stopped because he had his Swiss army knife in the checked-in luggage. Quite how that can be a problem in the belly of a plane at 30000 feet I’m not sure, but oh well. They eventually let it on and we went through the rest of security.

We spent a little while having some drinks in the upstairs Wetherspoons bar this time. Then it was time to board the plane, so we got in the line. Everything went fairly smoothly and so we sat down and got on with the flight.

Matt and I used the time to complete the cryptic crossword in The Sun. Vlad managed to mess up the easy Sudoku, so Matt and I took the paper back and did the more complicated one properly. πŸ˜‰

When the plane landed we got into the airport and it was easy to feel that it was considerably hotter than the plane right away. We went through and collected out bags and then headed out of the airport to find the rental car. As soon as we got out of the doors it became apparent just how bloody hot it was in Spain at night time.

We walked around looking for the car rental place, but only found 2 closed places. Eventually we realised we needed to catch a bus to the other terminal and then go to the place that closed at midnight.

The bus drove pretty quickly, and it’s a good job because there was a huge distance between the terminals. We queued at the car rental place for a bunch of time before finally being served. I believe it was after midnight, but people were already queued so I believe they were obliged to serve them all. It might just be that the Hertz one closed earlier and my timing was all wrong, but it doesn’t matter. We got the key.

We got directions to the car park and told the number to look for (2B 06 I believe). We set about going all over the place and not finding it. People went up floors and down floors and all over the place on the 2nd floor with no luck. Eventually we found it down on the bottom floor in a place that was marked something fairly different to the number we’d been looking for, but oh well.

We unloaded our bags into the Peugeot 207 and then set about heading for Benicassim from Barcelona airport. It was strange, as it always is, to be on the other side of the car and on the other side of the road, but it’s easy enough to get used to the change.

We had a little issue initially and had to do a little bit of doubling-back, but luckily we had the sat nav to help us out with that. After a while we hit the motorway that goes down the coast and started heading through all sorts of tunnels with fans that looked like plane engines.

It got to the point where we were all hungry and we saw there were some services coming up. We stopped at a place called Ars, which made everyone laugh when Howard pointed it out.

There wasn’t much to eat if you didn’t want some sort of pastry, so we had that, then we got back in the car. We stopped after moving a few feet so Vlad could get the CD from his copy of NME so we didn’t have to listen to the shitty radio stations. They kept going in and out of range because of the mountains anyway.

On the drive we kept hitting toll booth after toll booth. In the end we spent €28 on tolls. The CD from NME was quite boring towards the end and eventually put me to sleep.

When we finally arrived in Benicassim everyone was very tired and so we looked for the camp site. We couldn’t find it at first so Vlad got out and asked some very drunk teenagers. They gave us the rough directions we needed and so we headed to the festival site. This is where we met with the second-least helpful police officer I know of. He told us that we couldn’t park the car or pitch the tent because we didn’t have our wristbands yet, and we couldn’t get our wristbands because it was too late at night. So yay, we decided to go for a drive to find some quiet place to sleep. I decided that I fancied sleeping on the beach, so we went to the beach and I touched the Mediterranean sea for the first time of the holiday before everyone suggested heading back into town to sleep in the car.

We found a car park after much driving around and just tried to sleep as much as possible in there for a few hours. A Peugeot 207 is not a comfortable place for 4 people to sleep.

Thursday

I got woken up in the morning by some people walking by and pointing at us and talking to Vlad. They were English and they wanted to know if Vlad was from Manchester for some reason or other.

We woke ourselves up properly and headed into the town to get some breakfast at a nice little roadside cafΓ© thing. We also used the cash machine nearby to get our money for the holiday.

After a little time wasting we went to the festival site and parked the car. We still had ages to wait so we inflated a globe and then sat in the car playing the “capitals game” where someone would name a country and someone else would have to name the capital city of that country. In the end we were just quizzing Vlad. That killed a whole bunch of time, and we covered pretty much every country in the world. After that we went up to the actual festival site and waited around in the shade until the wristband place opened up. We were some of the very first people through on that day, and we had the tent with us already, so as soon as we got our wristbands we tried to find a place to camp. The first place we looked at was on top of a wasp nest. The second place was on top of an ant nest. We then got told that the area was only for staff to camp in, so we were directed miles and miles away to the top of the camp site.

We found a massive empty plot and began putting the tent up in the boiling hot sun. It wasn’t actually that difficult, but it was extremely hot inside it.

After we’d put the tent up we headed to the centre of Benicassim again and went to a restaurant to get some food. It turned out that the place was owned by Romanians, and that made Vlad quite happy. We ordered pizzas (they didn’t have any Pizza Dracula) and then sat around on the pavement under the gazebo thing.

A man was behind us for a while sorting out some wires and things like that. It turned out that he was actually the DJ. We discovered this when really loud techno/dance music came on right behind us. It was quite strange, to be honest. Sitting down in the heat in the middle of the day, eating pizza while listening to this really up tempo loud dance music. Oh well, it was fun enough.

At some point we went back to the festival site and went through to the main section when it opened. We sat down in the shade of one of the stages and watched some of the very first bands begin to play. The one I remember sounded a bit like the singer from the B-52s, which was quite interesting, but I wasn’t overly impressed with their work if I’m honest. Still, it was the first band we saw while we were there. I do remember seeing a girl there who was wearing a top that was mostly transparent and she had crosses of black tape covering her nipples. Fairly interesting fashion/lifestyle statement if you ask me. πŸ™‚

We watched some more bands while we were there and had a few more drinks. We watched a few bands and then the main acts I was interested in came on. We watched Charlotte Gainsbourg perform her eclectic mix of songs, followed by Ray Davies powering out some impressive tunes, and finished the night off with Kasabian. Well, I say we… I feel asleep on the grass during Kasabian. I woke up a few times and heard some of the songs I wanted to hear, but I was pretty much dead to the world for most of it. I was glad to get back to the tent and go back to sleep again.

Friday

We spent some time at the beach, which included the first proper venture into the sea. It was really quite nice, once you got over the initial rocks and stones. There was a tendency to walk like someone with special needs on the way back to shore though.

After the beach we went to a Romanian bar that we’d noticed. We sat inside and watched the ridiculous amounts of female flesh that Romanian music television has to offer, and then had some paella and Ursus! πŸ˜€

We went back to the site after a while and these are the band we saw:

Julian Casablancas
Mumford & Sons
Vampire Weekend

Saturday

We decided to go to Valencia for part of the day. Vlad bought some chequered glasses ready for The Specials and I decided to buy a silly festival hat. It was really nice in Valencia. We saw part of the F1 track and a really cool-looking building on the way back to Benicassim.

When we got back we went to the festival site and began the drinking. At one point my hat got stolen, but I’m not at liberty to discuss what happened to it. A short while later I lost everyone. I waited in the arranged place for everyone, but they weren’t there when I was, so I decided to head to the front of the crowd while The Prodigy were playing. I was wearing sandals and so this turned out to be a fairly bad idea. Someone landed on my foot and my toe started to bleed. I headed out of the crowd and wandered around for a little while. I decided to sit down next to a pylon where I could see people moving around in the tiny hope of seeing someone I knew.

After a minute the girl who was sitting there turned around and we started talking. Her name is Christina and she’s a psychology of language student in Copenhagen. She gave me a tissue to wrap around my toe to help stop the bleeding and we sat there and chatted for a while. She told me that I should get rid of my hat because it made me look like an English tourist, which is quite an insult. πŸ˜‰ I told her I’d give it to the next English person I saw. I spotted someone who looked English, and he was, so I offered him my hat. He didn’t want it, so I threw it after him as he walked off. When I turned around a few seconds later the was picking it up. πŸ™‚

After a while Christina’s friends met up with her and then they wanted to go see a band, so they invited me along. I figured I might as well see some bands, rather than wait around and see none, so I tagged along. I ended up seeing some of The Japanese Popstars, and then they all wanted to go to see some of The Klaxons. I got there in time to see some of Golden Skans, which made me happy. The girls all headed off, so I waited around for a few minutes scanning the crowd and then gave up and went back to the tent. I got woken up a short while later by Vlad throwing a glow-stick at me. I wasn’t very impressed at the time. πŸ˜›

Sunday

I think we spent the vast majority of Sunday on the beach. I’m also pretty sure that Sunday was the day I found a praying mantis in the tent, and brushed my teeth with toothpaste and some horrible warm beer that we had instead of fetching some water.

It was overcast for the first part of the day, and the waves were pretty big and loud, but I slept for quite a while. We spent some time in the sea and after some other events that I have completely forgotten we went back to the festival site and saw the following bands:

Two Door Cinema Club
Ellie Goulding
Foals
Dizzee Rascal
Gorillaz

I wish I had managed to finish writing this blog entry less than a month after going, but I am apparently useless at finishing off massive posts like this, and so I’m just going to post the stupid thing now and say that I’ll come back and fill bits out in the future, even though I’m fairly sure that I won’t actually do that.

Bands I remember seeing

Thursday

Chin Yi
The Paris Riots
Cohete
Southern Arts Society
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Ray Davies
Kasabian

Friday

Julian Casablancas
Mumford & Sons
Vampire Weekend

Saturday

The Cribs
The Specials
Ian Brown
The Prodigy
The Japanese Popstars
The Klaxons

Sunday

Two Door Cinema Club
Ellie Goulding
Foals
Dizzee Rascal
Gorillaz

An awesome weekend

On Saturday morning I caught the train to Nottingham to meet Cheryl. The weather wasn’t very good so we didn’t end up going to the park to read. Instead we went to Starbucks for a drink and then caught the train back to Mansfield and a taxi up to my house.

We started out by getting drinks and then decided to watch a film. We began with Gamer, which wasn’t too bad, but was obviously very violent. After that we put on P.S. I Love You (yes, another Gerard Butler film). That was pretty good too. I can’t get over how much Hilary Swank looks like Julia Roberts at some points in that film.

We decided to go to the shop to get some wine and Strongbow before people arrived for the fire party/barbecue. While we were away people turned up at my house just over half an hour early. When we got back they’d gone down the road to talk to Paul, so we had a bit more time together before they turned up.

We all went outside and started trying to light the barbecue. This was taking so long that Dave, Helen, and I decided to nip to Tesco to get some barbecue lighting gel to put on there and some other little bits and pieces. When we got back we discovered that it had caught properly and there was no real need for any more help.

When the barbecue was being lit people had decided to start the fire in the fire pit. It took a little while to get going, but soon enough we were all sitting around the fire with barbecued food. πŸ˜€

Hayley had a fair bit to drink and started being a bit silly after a while. It ended up with Dave and Hayley having a bit of an argument (big shock!) and then everyone left at the same time. I spent a few minutes tidying up outside and then gave up and went in to see Cheryl instead. We decided to stick Book of Eli on, but only got a little bit into it before Cheryl was too tired to watch any more.

Sunday was spent watching films and eating take-away food. Pretty much the perfect way to spend a Sunday in my opinion. πŸ˜€

I really didn’t want to get up for work this morning, I want the same weekend all over again please.

Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums

For a few years now I’ve had a goal to listen to Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums in full.

When I discovered Spotify I realised that it could help me out a lot, so I listened to a few albums here and there to start increasing my count. Then, for some reason, I stopped listening to them. I think I got a bit disillusioned by all the albums I didn’t like, so I just stopped.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve restarted my efforts. When I first started I could only definitely remember having heard 13 of the albums in full. I have now heard 158 of them! It feels good to be making progress, and I don’t seem to be getting too bogged down with albums I don’t like.

I’ll get there one day!

Rhiannon’s birthday, Adam’s stag party, trip to Cleethorpes

On Friday I met up with Len after work to kill some time before meeting up with Rhiannon, Katy, Helen, Danny, Jake, and a whole bunch of other people to celebrate Rhiannon’s birthday. The vast majority of us went along with the wig rule, and it was pretty funny to see everyone mixing with the public.

Len wearing my wig

At some point after leaving a bar I wandered off with a bunch of people I’d never met before who wanted to go to a different place. At some point in there I gave my wig away to a guy who was going to be getting married over the weekend. Shortly after that I abandoned those people and somehow got into a conversation about Ethiopia with a girl outside a bar. After the topic changed to something I have forgotten her friend came out and brought us both inside the bar (no idea what it’s called). They were playing really good music though, including the Beatles. I’ll have to try and find that place again.

After talking to them two girls for a while I got a call from Rhiannon so I wandered outside to speak on the phone. When I realised I could see Rhiannon and Jake I just abandoned the girls in the bar without saying anything, dropped my phone on the floor, picked it up again and ran over to people I knew again. From there we caught a taxi back and I went to bed.

I woke up at about 1:30 in the afternoon on Saturday and spent a while just moping around the house watching TV episodes and trying to shake a bit of a headache. when 5pm rolled around it was time to head down to the Modhu Mitha to meet up with Adam and everyone else who was going out for his stag party. We had a nice Indian meal and then headed into town. We didn’t end up going into The Swan for a couple of reasons, and we also didn’t spend much time in Mets Bar because it was pretty awful. We did, however, spend a great deal of time in Riley’s. There was an epic game of snooker that went on for somewhere in the region of ten million hours, many games of pool, and a lot of drinking for Adam. Once we were ready to leave we got Adam outside and then he got in a taxi and went home to Milly. I don’t envy her.

Adam playing the longest game of snooker EVER

I walked back home and got to bed at about 2am. I woke up at about 4:30 for some reason, but went back to sleep again until it was almost time to get up and go to Cleethorpes with Krystina, SJ, and Corinna. Shortly before Krystina arrived I decided to go to the shop so I could get some alcohol for the rest of the day without having to go to another shop on the way. Sadly, when I got there I was told that I couldn’t be served alcohol at 8:25 in the morning! Haha. I bought a Solero instead and started walking back home.

Krystina spotted me on her way to mine and performed an amazing parking manoeuvre to give me a lift home. I picked up my stuff from the living room and we set off to collect SJ and then Corinna. Along the way I decided to go with shorts and sandals instead of jeans and socks/trainers. It was a vast improvement!

The journey to Cleethorpes went pretty quickly. When we had found a parking space we walked along the sea-front with the girls watching the boys go by. We walked back to the car along the beach to fetch some things from the boot and then chilled out on the beach for a few hours.

Krystina and Corinna in the sea at Cleethorpes

At one point there was a stunt plane flying over the beach, which was fun to watch. I recorded a video on my phone, but someone else recorded a higher quality one with their camera, so I’ll show that one instead. πŸ™‚

We went for a wander around the arcade and we bought a bag of 2p coins to use on the slots. Sadly I didn’t win a meerkat. πŸ™ I did win the hammer test-of-strength thing, but not as convincingly as I’d like! Corinna posed for a picture with a rather scary-looking clown.

Corinna posing with the strange clown

Krystina and Corinna had a go on a dancing machine, but SJ and I kept well away from that. πŸ™‚

There was a bit of a fair on the beach so we decided to have a go on the big wheel. It rocks quite a bit more than I’d like, but it was fun. For some reason they have it facing towards Cleethorpes rather than the sea…

Cleethorpes from the big wheel

When we got hungry we took another trip to the car to get the barbecue items. We picked a spot on the beach and got the food cooking. πŸ™‚ Other than one sausage and one burger being thrown overboard (girls can’t barbecue) everything went well with the barbecue. No injuries were sustained, and after a little rest we tidied up where we’d been sitting and set off back for the car, and home.

Gogol Bordello trip to Manchester

I spent a large part of this weekend in Manchester with Gordon, Matt, Vlad, Sarah, Jo, and Claire because (most of us) were attending the Gogol Bordello gig. πŸ˜€

The journey there and back was pretty nice because of the views from the roads we took and the random banter about things like the trip to Latvia, etc.

When we arrived in Manchester I used Google Maps to navigate us to the hotel by searching for it by name. Unfortunately it completely ignored the postcode part of the address and just took us to Trafford Road, of which there are several. When I specified only the postcode we went straight to the right place.

We spotted Vlad at the hotel when we were on our way to the pub to watch the Notts (just to annoy Matt) Forest match on TV. Just as we reached the top of the stairs in front of the big screen Forest scored the first (and their only) goal of the match. πŸ˜€ During the course of the match everyone else turned up and we got the drinking underway.

After checking in at the hotel and calling in at a 24 hour Subway we headed to the St James tram stop, where we were delayed by the most useless of ticket machines in the whole world. It refused pretty much every 20p coin the first 3 or 4 times, but then suddenly decided to take it. We got off the tram at Piccadilly Gardens and wandered over to Afflecks Palace for a spot of shopping. I took a beautiful picture of Matt (below) From there we went for more drinks until it was time to head to the gig venue.

Matt in a Hat

Matt in a Hat

Once we had all settled in at the gig venue I got Matt to look after my wallet and Gordon to look after my phone, then I spent the rest of the night trying to get to, and stay at, the front of the crowd. I have the bruises and aches to prove it! Gogol Bordello were absolutely fantastic, just as last time. They know how to put on a hell of a show. πŸ˜€ Just before the end of the gig a guy standing beside asked if he could get on my shoulders to watch it, so I thought about it and decided that I would be nice. It’s harder than you think to hold a human adult on your shoulders when drunk at the front of a crowd at a Gogol Bordello gig! πŸ˜€

We met back up with Jo and Claire in a nearby pub and had a couple more drinks before heading back to Salford Quays for the hotel. We stopped at Subway (yes, again) on the way back. Unfortunately after a certain time it becomes a drive-through only, so we walked through the drive-through. πŸ™‚

Somehow in the hotel room I managed to miss that there was a toilet. I tried the door, but I thought it was locked. It turned out just to be stiff, but oh well, I wandered around the hotel a bit looking for another one before I discovered this. 😐 I spent the night in the bunk bed above Gordon, which was quite amusing.

In the morning we all met up and Gordon had a bit of a game of Quidditch in the car park with a broom he found in Matt’s boot:

We decided to go to the Imperial War Museum North. The building itself is absolutely stunning. I put together the image below from 9 smaller shots because I couldn’t fit it all in from where I was standing.

Imperial War Museum North

The Imperial War Museum North shard building.

The exhibitions were really cool, too. The whole thing was done very well. I even bought something from the shop! It’s a Keep Calm and Carry On poster that I will have to frame and put up somewhere in the house soon.

After that we all headed back home to recover from a rather awesome weekend. πŸ˜€

I’m going back to Manchester this Tuesday to see Flight of the Conchords, and I can’t wait!

Camping at Darley Dale

I went camping at Darley Dale to celebrate Panda’s 30th birthday. It was nice to get out of town with a few folks (Kate, Ry, Pidge, Belly, Rhiannon, Helen, Panda, etc. etc.) and just sit in a field having barbecues and drinks until the early hours of the morning.

It really wasn’t very expensive, so I could actually see that being something fun to do once a month in the summer or something.

Helen and Rhiannon spent a great deal of time wrestling with each other on the floor. At one point they ganged up against me and tipped me over in my chair. My open can of Strongbow covered most of my right side. πŸ™

We all spent a little while in the pub and then went back to the camp ground a few at a time. People started to go to sleep at this point.

I got to sleep at some time just after 3am and it was the most uncomfortably cold night I have had in my entire life. I woke up lots of times in the night. The rain helped to keep me awake at one point, but not for too long. I woke up again when people started moving around at 8am. Helen and Rhiannon left pretty early before I even got out of the tent. Everyone else had a leisurely breakfast followed by breaking up camp.

It was a really good night, and hopefully people enjoyed it enough to consider doing it a few more times this summer. πŸ™‚

Krakow, Poland

Last weekend I went away to Krakow in Poland from Friday night until Sunday with lots of people I used to work with at West Nottinghamshire College. Just about everyone who went away to Romania made it to this gathering too, plus some others that didn’t make it last time, so it was great!

We stayed in a hotel called Hotel Campanile which was on Ulica Tomasza. We arrived at the hotel at about 3:30 in the morning and a few of us decided to go straight out into the town rather than go to sleep. We went down the street to a little place called Cafe Philo which is a lovely little bar. While we were in there we had a few drinks and discovered the joys of Okocim. Lovely Polish beer, which we later learned is pretty damn strong.

Krakow - Cafe Philo

After a little while a guy from behind the bar came over to speak to us. He brought some incense sticks with him and passed them out to a few of us. Then he had a change of heart and took them all off us to give them all to Phil Beard. Phil was naturally quite grateful for this honour. πŸ˜€

We had a few more drinks and then I spotted a Polish book with my name in the title. I couldn’t read it, so I put it back on the bookcase and went to get more Okocim from the bar. While I was at the bar the guy who’d spoken to us earlier gave me a small square of bubble wrap. I didn’t really know what for, so I thanked him and took it back with the drinks. There I found that he’d given everyone some. I think the fact that we’d all been deprived of sleep and provided with so much alcohol we decided it’d be a great idea to pull stupid faces with the bubble wrap and have our pictures taken.

Krakow - Bubblewrap

We originally planned to stay in the bar until it got light, but by the time 6:30 arrived we abandoned that plan and just walked back to the hotel to get some sleep.

10:20 arrived very quickly and we had to get up to look around Krakow. Some people had already wandered off in little groups because they had things to do in mind. A few of us hung back to have a bit more of a relaxing day. The main square we hung out in was really nice. There was a Christmas market selling the usual bits and bobs. Nothing you really need, but novelties that you buy anyway. We discovered the joys of “bread bangles” at the little vendors on the square, and then wandered off to the castle.

From the castle you can see quite a lot of Krakow. It was nice to look down at the river flowing by with the swans landing on it. We stood there for quite a few minutes just taking it all in before we moved on.

Krakow - River

After the castle we headed into the Jewish quarter in search of some more nice architecture, and something good to eat. After Lizz got distracted in a little trinket shop (there was a cat on the sign so she couldn’t resist) we found Starka Restaurant and decided it looked nice. We took our seats and ordered some drinks. I decided a nice hot coffee would work wonders, so I ordered a Polish coffee. This was advertised as containing vodka and Kahlua, so I couldn’t resist. I was in for a bit of a surprise. When my drink finally arrived (10 minutes after everyone else’s) it was freezing cold, in a Martini glass, with a straw in it. I don’t think I could have looked any more gay if I’d been wearing a vest and leather trousers.

Once the drinks had arrived we all ordered food. I decided that the pork knuckle and pork neck weren’t particularly appetising, so I decided to have rabbit for the first time. Once the food arrived my silly drink was completely forgotten. Rabbit wrapped in bacon with honey glazed carrots, and other tasty vegetables is one of the most outstanding meals I have ever eaten.

We headed back to the main part of town after a brief visit to a pharmacy for Lizz to get some painkillers. We met back up with Gordon in Cafe Philo after witnessing a little protest complete with music march through the city centre. A few of us hung out there and others nipped back to the hotel to sort things out. Claire asked the hotel to book us in for a meal at a nice Polish/Italian restaurant in the evening.

When we went there they showed us to our very own little room with a huge table in it. It seemed really cool, but a couple of people weren’t particularly bothered, so after a bit of discussing we all left the restaurant. A couple of people decided to get food from the Christmas market instead, so while they were doing that Gordon, Sarah, and I decided we fancied grabbing a kebab from a place Gordon had discovered earlier in the day. I’m glad I went with it, as it was really nice. It was very spicy though, and I don’t normally eat particularly spicy foods.

Krakow - Restaurant

After the kebab we went looking for a bar to hang out in. We went into a little bar and decided to have Desperado’s (beer flavoured with tequila) based on being reliably informed that they’re nice. They are nice. πŸ˜€

We moved on to this fairly big Irish bar and had a few more beers in there. I decided to sing along to Pearl Jam – Alive, much to the amusement of Gordon and Sarah. πŸ™‚ I also stole a flower from the vase in front of me and wore it behind my ear for the next couple of hours. We also got in a conversation with a man in a kilt after I applauded him for wearing it when he walked in. πŸ™‚

As it got later we decided we should head back to Cafe Philo for the rest of the night. When we got there basically everyone else on the trip was there. We all hung out having many drinks and laughs until the early hours of the morning. By the time the last of us left it was down to Jo, Claire (#2 in my book), Vlad, and me. It was somewhere around 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning, but I don’t really remember which any more.

We all got up pretty early on Sunday morning to get some breakfast and get ready to check out of the hotel. The plan for the day consisted of a walk to the train station so we could spend 2 hours on the train so we could visit Auschwitz. After a fairly lengthy walk from the train station we arrived at the main entrance to Auschwitz and checked our bags in so we didn’t have to drag them around the concentration camp.

Auschwitz - Gate

Somehow I ended up by myself, so I just wandered around looking at the buildings for a little while. After looking at a couple of the displays in the buildings I decided I’d rather soak up the atmosphere from outside. It’s a very weird thing to be somewhere like that. Trying to imagine the things that had happened right where I was standing was difficult. It’s just so hard to comprehend such a huge event. Then to consider you’re standing right there, in the very spot. Most unusual.

I decided to grab some food and wait for everyone else to come back to the main entrance. When a few of us were back it was suggested that we should just get a taxi to the airport and save a lot of messing around with buses and trains. It was agreed, so we left for the airport straight from Auschwitz. Some people decided to wait a bit longer, so they arrived in dribs and drabs at the airport. While we were eating some food we spotted that our flight was listed as delayed. I’d never had a flight delayed before, so I wasn’t too pleased that I was about to experience it.

After checking in and going through security we sat down in the departures lounge waiting to find out more information. At first they said it would be an hour late, but it ended up being 2 hours late. I really regretted arriving so early by the end of that wait.

The flight home didn’t take too long, and on landing back in the UK I couldn’t believe that the whole thing was over with so quickly.