A Travellerspoint blog

Jerry Springer live

... polygraphs, porkies & penile dementia.

rain 8 °C

A few weeks back Jen, Lou and myself toddled down to the Riverside studios in Hammersmith to be part of the live audience for Jerry Springer's new show 'Nothing but the truth'. In spite of the fact that this show didn't feature a crack addicted secretly cross dressing bi-sexual out of control teen hillbilly deadbeat dad secretly been sleeping with the now pregnant mother of his long term girlfriend... his midget stripper cousin, We did have a lot of fun and even got to chant "Jerry...Jerry...Jerry".

The format of the show is this: Contestants subject themselves to a polygraph and answer increasingly personal and challenging questions in an attempt to win up to £50,000. Pretty straightforward wouldn't you say?

We arrived a little late and, once inside with our tickets, found ourselves at the end of the line. When we entered the studio there were only a few scattered seats left and it looked like we were to be separated. Dame fortune smiled upon us as we were ushered to 3 reserved seats. They were in the front row directly behind the area onstage where the contestants family members and friends are seated. Nice... happy with that.

We were feeling excited because we figured we were positioned in an area of the audience where we would get our heads on TV quite a bit. It then dawned on me that, as it was mid November, I was sporting a very Village People moustache as part of the Movember charity event. Not really the way I wanted to present myself to the viewing public.

After a bit of applause practice and some jokes from the warm up guy, we were ready to roll. "Ladies and gentlemen would you please welcome... Jerry Springer" we clap like crazy and all start chanting "Jerry...Jerry...Jerry". It is then explained to us that this is a DIFFERENT show and, whilst we are encouraged to get involved, we can leave the Jerry chanting alone. So we did. Jerry had a bit of a chat to us and then taping started.

The first contestant was a self important London tour operator in his 50s named Peter. He was a total tool. He starting trying to do gags from the first question. He had his ex wife, step son, elderly father, and current young Russian girlfriend sitting onstage with him on the family and friends couch. The first round of questions were a walk in the park...

"Do you lie about your age ?"
"Yes"
A long pause followed by a Hal 9000 style voice saying "That answer is .... correct"

"Could you be considered a Bull##itter?"
"Yes"
"Do you use your job to pick up women?"
"Yes"

After two rounds of questions, we had learned that he joined clubs to network for his business, Said he gave to charities without doing so, thinks his divorce was the best thing that could have happened because now his friends are envious of all the women he gets. Peter had picked up £5000 and the audience was turning on him. He was revealing himself as a sleazy, over confident pratt who had little regard for anyone else. Jerry asked if he wished to continue and answer another four questions to get to £10000? Peter played on. The questions got more personal and more challenging.

"Did you pick up your current girlfriend on one of your tours?"
"yes"
"Are you currently cheating on her?" At this point the camera zooms in for a close up of his girlfriend smiling and laughing nervously. Peter pauses before telling her that they will have a long chat after the show. She is still smiling but now her eyes are filled with tears.
"Yes" he answers. "That answer is ...correct" says the computer voice. We all hoot and boo. "Dump him" we all shout. At this point we realise that we are not being told off for yelling out... so we all compete to try and get our voices heard on the telly.

The next question made us hate him even more. "Have you ever had a sexual relationship with one of your step son,Carl's, girlfiends?" asked Jerry. "We will need to have a talk about this after the show" Peter says "Yes I have". This time the tears are Carls. "They had split up" Peter protested. "NO we were together" replied Carl.
Jerry then tells Peter that Carl would like to ask the next question. "Have you ever had a homosexual experience?" the crowd starts to cat call and waits with baited breath for the answer. "It's a long story" he says, "I was tricked at a job interview when I was younger" he says, "It was supposed to be a massage" he says, "Yes". The audience takes to him mercilessly. Jerry explains that there is nothing wrong with having a homosexual experience bat does wonder how you can go for a job interview and wind up 'accidently' having sex with a man! We now have only one question to go in order for Peter to reach £10000. "Are you satisfied with the size of your penis?" asks Jerry. "I didn't realise until I left my wife just how above average I am... she kept it a secret for 18 years of marriage" he replies. His ex wife laughs at him and shakes her head. "Since the divorce", says Peter, "I have had the chance to actually ask a lot of partners that very question". He pauses. "What did he say?" I yell out. The audience roars with laughter, Jerry starts laughing and Peter looks embarrassed. "For those of you at home, our audience member asked what did he say" says Jerry. He tells Peter that he needs a final answer and notes that if the item inquestion is anywhere near as long as his answers so far that he would clearly have no issue. "I'm very satisfied with the size" says Peter. The room is hushed. "That answer is... FALSE" says the computer. The audience erupts in laughter and the jibes start. A great many pinky fingers are waved at Peter and his family can't help but share a laugh too.
The rules of the show are clearly stated at the outset. A false answer results in the contestant going home empty handed. So Peter had revealed himself as a total pratt, probably lost his girlfriend, ruined his relationship with his step son, all on television. And gone home without a single pence. Now that's entertainment!

Stephen.

Posted by StephenJen 11:32 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (0)

Movember...

... a hair lip gets hip!

10 °C

(Cue Barry White's 'My first, my last, my everything')

Ladies...

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Movember Day 8

I ask you, is there anything sexier than a man with a moustache? Hell no (I hear you say). One need only remember the unabated sex appeal of Magnum P.I or Jason King or any number of international cricketers in the 1970s. The evidence is clear, a man simply looks like a heavy set woman with a gut unless he is sporting a mo. That's what makes Movember the sexiest charity event on the calendar. How could I resist then when the cause of mens health issues came knocking on my bathroom door. I stood tall, put my razor down and put my hair where my mouth is!

I am now proud to be one of the members of the 'Fantashtics', growing a 'Village People' mo for charity. Mind you, it's a little easier for my team mate, Adam, he is currently living in Turkey. Now everybody knows that Istanbul is Motown. Everyone over the age of 8 has a moustache there. I, on the other hand, am subject to quizzical and envious looks from strangers on the London underground as I commute to work each day. I have explained to the people at my workplace that I am growing this bad boy to raise awareness about mens health, and that they must now refer to me only as 'Cougar':

"Stephen can you fix a paper jam in the 6th floor copier?"
"Who?"
"Sorry, Cougar can you fix a paper jam in the 6th floor copier?"

I should point out here that I was originally to be known as 'The Cougar' but after lengthy discussion with my boss, Craig, I decided to drop the 'The'. A good decision I think you will agree. I mean... they don't call him 'The Prince' or 'The Skippy' do they?

The rules for participants are easy. Be clean shaven on Movember 1st and get growing for the month. Along the way, encountering the perils of in-grown hairs to unwanted advances from women in the street. It's a dirty job alright. Especially after soup!

So next year, why don't YOU consider becoming hirsute for health. Get onboard and grow a mo for charity!

Stephen.

Posted by StephenJen 11:35 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (1)

A cracker of a night.

For Fawkes sake... I've burned my thumb!

overcast 13 °C

Well one of the enjoyable things about life here in London is the flagrant disregard for public safety. This weekend that disregard came in the form of Guy Fawkes night. It brought back memories of childhood in Australia as the neighbourhood flashed and echoed as hundreds of fireworks were set off. Never ones to shirk our responsibility to embrace local culture we hit the local Tesco supermarket and purchased a modest supply of fireworks.

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We thought the safest location would be a large park, located next to a hospital and a prison. The plan was to brighten lives and get the blood pumping for the heart patients, and bring memories of violent crime and life or death gun battles flooding back to prison inmates, through the use of loud bangs, flashes and smoke. Job done!

We were armed to the eyeballs with all manner of fountains, catherine wheels, rockets, bigger rockets and assorted other stuff. Apart from an over ambitious multi rocket thumb burn, everything went off with a bang. The sky was filled with colour and the grass oozed smoke for ages. We could feel the patients and prisoners joy increasing with every explosion. We were so inspired that we raced home and employed a long piece of pvc pipe to launch several of the big rockets from our balcony, over the primary school next door and into air space over the BBC garden.

We had a lot of fun this weekend. Next year we will be better prepared and go even bigger!

Stephen.

Posted by StephenJen 08:58 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (0)

Wurst holiday ever!

Bier, brats and bus rides in Berlin

11 °C

Guten Tag!
Last friday we braved the infamous Easyjet experience and headed, by cab, for a 5am check-in at Luton airport. Destination... Schonefeld airport in Berlin.

We had heard all manner of horror stories about Easyjet. Our housemates had been in Spanish meltdown after their flight was delayed for hours on the return leg of a holiday. We had left ourselves plenty of time and arrived early. Happily we had no problems and the flight boarded and left on time. At 10.30am, local time, we were in Berlin.
We stayed at a hotel in a place called Schoneweide. It is a town about 20 mins by train from the heart of Berlin and the station was only 2 blocks from the hotel.

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Shoneweide railway station

The nice surprise was that our room overlooked the Spree river. The room was nice and the mattress didn’t drive springs into our backs… which made a nice change from home.

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The Spree from our room

We arrived on a day of about 11 degrees with some light rain at times. It was a lot colder than London and, as we had not done our homework well enough, we had neglected to bring our winter coats. To remedy the situation, to Jens eternal pleasure, we went shopping for warm jackets. We found a shopping centre only a block away and we were able to find some very affordable coats. Whilst there we also sampled our first German currywurst. It is a somewhat traditional street food essentially bratwurst, knackwurst, bockwurst or some other variety of wurst which is then cut up and served on a small cardboard tray, smothered in tomato sauce and sprinkled with plenty of curry powder. Mmmmm… somethingwurst. The culinary tone for the trip had been set.

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Currywurst

Everything had been great - the trip over, the hotel room, the food. Ideal!… well it would have been if there was no train strike or rail maintainence scheduled from Friday evening until Monday afternoon. There were, however, plenty of buses and a tram network to compensate. So after about 4 hours of waiting, studying timetables, hopping on the wrong tram, dragging ourselves from tram stop to bus stop, taking one of the trains still in service in the opposite direction we wanted… twice! we found ourselves, almost inadvertently, heading for the heart of Berlin. Easy!

Now the only antidote for a frustrating start like that is a city which really grabs you from the outset. Berlin was just that. The city looks amazing. A beautiful marriage of old and new with some of the most modern architecture we have seen in our travels so far. The people are relaxed and polite, unlike the inhabitants of London. We were struck by the amount of space we had and we felt very safe. Berlin is an incredibly clean place, everything looks new. Mind you, when you consider the extent of the damage sustained during allied bombing in WW2, almost everything is relatively new.

We took the train to Alexanderplatz. It has a large central railway station and meets both tram and bus routes. There is an open town square with shops and restaurants in all directions. After a quick bratwurst from a street stall we headed to Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg gate. During the years of division by the wall this was actually inaccessible to both the East and West sides of Berlin as it lay within the grounds of the border. It was restored after the wall came down and today is an extremely impressive structure.

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Brandenberg Gate

Dusk was closing as we walked along the autumn coloured, tree lined path from the gate towards the Reichstag. Huge German flags punctuate this massive building and the words ’Dem Deutschen Volke’ (The German People) stand boldly on the facade. Within the old building a huge glass dome has been built. Visitors are able to take the spiral climb around the inside of it and enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the Spree. However, the prospect of standing in the massive queue for hours prevented us from doing so.

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The Reichstag

We ambled back to Alexanderplatz and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. I was hoping for a traditional German offering. In saying that, my idea of traditional fare is most probably nothing more than an Octoberfest driven characature based on broad stereotypes. Apron clad plaited bar wenches with a fist full of beir steines. Loud ‘all singing, all slapping’ men in Leiderhosen wearing small peaked hats with a feather on the side. Maybe some midgets to carry oversized trays laiden with huge somethingwursts and every kind of pig based product known to man. Not unreasonable is it? I realise that the midgets may just be a ploy to make the food look bigger, but I wouldn’t let that diminish my enthusiasm. The food was modern international so Jen had a pizza and I had parmesan encrusted pork medallions. We managed to get through the whole process speaking Deutsch, so we headed back to the hotel feeling satisfied that the day had ended far better than it had begun.

Saturday we headed to Alexanderplatz. We wanted to see Berlins tallest structure, the Fernsehturm.

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Fernsehturm

We were surprised to see only a very small number of people in line to take the elevator to the observation deck. We jumped in the line. Once through the doors and inside we realised the line snaked along the large entrance and up two flights if stairs before reaching the lift lobby. We decided it would be worth the wait. We used this tower throughout the remainder of our trip to find our way back to the train station as it stands 368 meters tall and the steel sphere which houses the observation deck reflects the sunlight on a bright day, making it unmissable. Once up on the deck, we had a 360 degree view of Berlin. It was a perfect way to see the way the historic buildings bedded into the modern city and helped us make sense of our map too.

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The view of the city

We walked to Marienkirche, which is a old brick church built in the 1200s. Outside is an amazing fountain, the Neptunbrunnen (Neptune fountain). We spent a lot of time studying the detail of the work and trying to get some photographs without people climbing all over it.

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The Neptunbrunnen
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By this time we were running dangerously low on pork product! (having used so much energy standing in line and taking photographs) Thankfully, there was a small market nearby so we were able to refuel with a currywurst.

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MMMM... somethingwurst!

Next stop was the Lustgarten (Pleasure garden)

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Lustgarten

Standing adjacent to the garden is the 1905 Berliner Dom. The former church of the royal Hohenzollern family.

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Berliner Dom

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We wandered through the garden towards the river and discovered a boat tour about to embark, so we quickly climbed on board. It took us along the Spree which winds through the heart of Berlin.

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Music academy and Fernsehturm from the boat

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Kayaks on the Spree

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Figures in a sculpture on the wall running alongside the river Spree

The balance of our time in Berlin was divided between ingesting wurst and checking out the tourist sights.

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Checkpoint Charlie

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The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe

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Tiergarten

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Grosser Stern

Monday we headed to one of the places we had been most eager to see, the Eastside gallery. It is the longest remaining piece of the Berlin wall. It is home to graffiti which is deserving of the term 'Wall Art'. Some very famous images have been born on this stretch of concrete. It has, unfortunately, become littered with tags and pointless scribblings by tourists. However, it remains clear evidence of the division of the people of Berlin and cuts an imposing, somewhat depressing, line along the river.

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East Side Gallery

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All in all, we really liked Berlin. It is the antithesis of London - lots of personal space, very polite and relaxed people - it is a clean and affordable city. We look forward to visiting again in the future.

Stephen

Posted by StephenJen 05:12 Archived in Germany Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Our favourite Prince

overcast 19 °C

Greetings all,

The story starts like this... On friday morning my boss, Craig, came into work boasting about how he had got tickets for Prince the previous night. He had managed to hook up some tickets via the drummer in his band, CC Dunham. He described in detail all the aspects of the show. I was really jealous but happy for him. He also mentioned that a little bird had told him that unclaimed tickets were resold at aroumd 8.30pm, shortly after his purpleness hit the stage. At a little before lunchtime Jen called me and told me she was in central London and was meeting a girl who was selling 2 tickets for the show that night, the LAST show of his 21 night run. The tickets were selling for £160, which is about £100 over face value... I was concerned about them being the real thing. I told Jen that we should give them a miss but suggested we head to the O2 arena and hang out in the hope that some tickets are released late. So we did.

When we arrived, I spoke to the girl at the ticket counter and she indicated, in a very subtle manner, that if tickets were to become available we were in the right place. We waited for some time and then... the unbelievable happened... WE GOT TICKETS!! Now let me put this in some perspective for you, we got tickets on the final night, we got the new CD included in the price, and the price was £31.20 each! We headed into the arena and were ushered towards our seats. We walked from the top section down, further and further...5 rows back in the middle. Amazing seats, we were behind the VIP floor section and were close... very close to the stage. We had also each been given a purple glow stick, so when the lights came down everyone cracked them and the audience was a sea of purple, it looked fantastic. The band started up and the crowd lept to its feet. Under a single spot and through the smoke Prince rose on an elevated piece of staging. The music stopped and he stood there, the crowd screamed. He leaned into the mike and said "London... what you feel for me, I feel for you" and they belted out 'I feel for you' as the opening number. They kept the music going as they went into 'Contraversy' and Jen and I, along with the rest of the packed arena, were jumping up and down at Prince's command. Awesome!

This has been a particularly significant tour because he has been showcasing all his huge hits. He has also disallowed any media coverage and has vowed never to play them again. As a result, we feel especially lucky to have attended. The gig went for ages and the songs kept coming. We were presented with '1999', 'Let's go crazy', 'Purple rain', 'U got the look', 'Cream', 'Little red corvette', 'Take me with U', 'Sign of the times' and a heap more. I tried to remember them but it is all a blur now. About halfway through the gig the band stopped and he startedchanting "Pass the peas, like we used to say" and Jen and I looked at each other in suprise. We had seen posters for Maceo Parker's upcoming tour and here was Prince singing one of his signature tunes. Suddenly out of the smoke came Maceo. He belted out an incredible sax solo as Prince gyrated around the stage in James Brown fashion. The set also saw Prince take to the stage alone with a keyboard and play a selection of tunes stripped back and very personal. It is a truly amazing thing to see one man stand at a keyboard and, before playing a note, have the entire stadium applaud and scream thier appreciation. The band came back on and when he said goodnight, we had heard one of musics great artists perform some of his greatest hits. We all stayed in our seats and chanted, whistled, clapped and cheered in the hope that we would get more. As we did, a group of latecomers arrived and squeezed past to a group of empty seat along from us. Let me tell you, it is pleasing enough to be in great seats at Prince let alone has Naomi Campbell five seats along from you. We looked around and noticed that Sadie Frost was dancing in the VIP seats, and One of the Jagger daughters behind us too. Very surreal.

The lights went to black again and Prince took to the stage again. "If you ain't going home London... neither am I" he said. And away he went. We got 'When you were mine' and 'Nothing compares to you' and others I can't remember now before he again thanked London for having him and said goodnight. We stayed in our seats and after about 20 mins we got one more, final, encore. "You're not ready for me" he said, "I've got more hits than you have time". We got purple rain again, this time with the full band and small purple and gold hearts rained down from the top of the arena and fell amongst us. I can't even remember what he closed with now, but it was an unbelievable gig.

This year continues to be the most amazing of our lives and, at times, we have to pinch ourselves to make sure it's all real.

peace.

Posted by StephenJen 12:47 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (1)

Wallabies vs Wales

World Cup Victory!

all seasons in one day
View London to Cardiff on StephenJen's travel map.

On Friday 14th September, I did something that I never thought I would do in a million years. I picked up a brand new hire car from Waterloo (Central London) and drove it back to our good old flat in the Western Suburbs of London.

Well, after not having driven in nine months - I think I did pretty well - particularly in a big city in the middle of the day. Though the car was equipped with Sat Nav and was telling me where to turn - I still managed to miss my turn a few times and ended up driving past Buckingham Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Big Ben/Houses of Parliament and a few other sights. Quite an enjoyable drive (however what takes around 20 minutes by train took over an hour driving thanks to missed turns and London Traffic!). Anyway, already running late - Stephen and I packed our little blue hire Vauxhall (Holden) Astra with our Australian Scarves and clothes and drove in the direction of Cardiff, Wales.

Along the way - we stopped to take a look at Stonehenge and managed to see it in various lights thanks to the quickly setting sun. Stonehenge was quite amazing, it is wierd to see something in person that you have seen so may times in print or on film - the same feeling I got when I saw the Mona Lisa (but this was as big as I thought it would be - unlike the Mona Lisa). Stonehenge is really quite cool, and I can recommend the free audio guide that you can utilise when visiting as it is really fascinating to hear different theories about the purpose or history of such a bizarre structure (and though they did not mention it - I am sure that the Scientologists may also have a theory about Stonhenge that relates somehow to their master plan).

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As it was getting dark, we drove through Salisbury (singing Peter Gabriels song Solsbury Hill. We since realised that this is not where he was singing about - hence the different spelling) then, Bath and Bristol. Adam and Meaghan were driving towards Cardiff in their own little Silver Citroen at the same time, though they managed to cover few more km's than us and managed to get run off the road by other drivers! It was getting late, we were tired and had nowhere to sleep. We found a cool little coach-inn called The Three Salmon which had a room for us, and there we stayed for the night (and the complimentary brekfast) until it was again time to hit the road.

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We arrived in Cardiff at around mid-morning and after driving down a closed street and being "cautioned" by the police, managed to find a car park quite close to Millenium Stadium where we would be in a few hours time. We saw the Wallabies leaving their hotel as we were coming into town, and started to get excited about the prospect of watching them beat Wales in the Rugby surrounded by other Aussies who had travelled from various places to see it. Cardiff was FULL of Aussies. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by so much green and gold miles from home and all there to cheer on fellow Aussies at a huge stadium. We donned green and gold, Aussie & Boxing Kangaroo Flags and even some face paint before heading to the stadium.

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What can I say about the Game? There was so much green and gold, so many people, so much good singing (okay... that was the Welsh, not us.....) and it was a very cool game to see. During the half time break - it was interesting to note that the sound system belted out "Delilah" by Tom Jones to lift the Welsh Spirits and what did we get?...... AC/DC "Long Way to The Top. Noice.

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Australia beat Wales by a decent margin however there were some real edge of the seat moments, and the Welsh played with some fierce determination. It was a great feeling to see the Wallabies doing a lap of victory and wave to all of the Aussies that had come out to see them win. This was AWESOME and it was great to have been part of it.

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So, the game was over and we came to the very quick realisation that none of us (Adam & Megs or Stephen and I) had anywhere to sleep. We called around hotels/motels/campsites/hostels, drove to Bath, called around again - with no luck). We ended up out in the sticks eating fish and chips and eventually found a cheap hotel that furnish us with two rooms. Nice.

The next morning we headed back to Bath for breakfast and to have a look around. Bath is a very pretty city with a lot to look at, however we stayed only a few hours after Adam and Meaghan said goodbye (again.... which was hard) and headed off again to continue their adventure. Stephen and I looked at the Roman Baths, purchased some tasty-but-expensive toffee and headed back towards London. It took us under 1.5 Hours to drive in total from Cardiff to London (excluding stops) which we were amazed at! What a trip.

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NB: I did return the car to the Europcar Office on a Monday morning before work - driving in Central London in Peak Hour - without a scratch, dent or a missed turn! Not a bad effort!?

Jen xxx

Posted by StephenJen 06:05 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (1)

Le Tour - Part Two

Dunkirk to Gent

semi-overcast -17 °C

We woke early on Monday morning and packed up camp. Now it’s important to note here that Jen and I purchased an excellent tent, which is produced by Quecha. It has a permanent frame, which is able to be packed down to a reasonably small size, and weighs only 1.5kg. This means you can, essentially, take it out of its bag … shake it a little… and it sits fully set up needing only to be pegged down. Fantastic! Perfect for someone like me. The instructions state that it can be setup in just 2 seconds… and it can. The instructions also state that it can be packed away in only 20 seconds. Suffice it to say that after a somewhat protracted period of folding, bending, pushing and squashing bits it was in its bag again. This was to be an on-going challenge for us and, as we observed throughout the trip, so too for many other campers following the tour. Anyway more on that later…

We drove down to the port at Dover and, after purchasing and fitting some headlight deflectors, we boarded the ferry and were on our way across the channel to Dunkirk. The previous evening had been a little cloudy however today the bright morning sun was shining on the cliffs and they certainly lived up to their name. We imagined the relief those young soldiers must have had upon spotting them in the distance and knowing they were soon to be back on home soil again. We took the mandatory snaps from the deck before settling in for a coffee at one of the lounge bars. The trip was over in a couple of hours and we were through customs and on the road… in France! Now we felt like the trip had truly commenced. Adam was at the wheel and had no problem in converting to life on the other side. I assume it was due to the time he spent in Sydney. We let out a collective “woooo”, exchanged high fives and we were on the road.

We would only be in France for a short while. From Dunkirk we headed across the northern tip of France to the Belgian border and about 150km further East to a town named Gent.

On route we stopped at Ieper and then walked further along the route to see the race pass at a little town named Boezinge,

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Ieper

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Our spot

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The Peleton passing

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Boezinge Statue

pronounced Boo-zing-err which seemed somehow apt for Australians, then drove to Villiers-Brettoneaux. This is a place of enormous significance for Australians as a great many of our soldiers lay at rest there.

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The area owes a great deal to the young men of the Allied forces who fought to protect the town. We visited the Franco - Australian museum which housed memorabilia including items donated by a Mt Eliza family. It underlined the link between this small town on the other side of the planet and a place so close to those at home.

We travelled a few kilometers to the allied war memorial before continuing to the finish line in Gent. Appropriately, Australian rider Robbie McKeon won the stage. We battled the massive crowd to catch a glimpse, and a few snaps, of him before searching for a place to camp. We eventually found a campsite in emmerang, or something like that, donned the Gilligan style promotional Skoda hats thrown to us from the carnival cars, had dinner and turned in.

Posted by StephenJen 04:16 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

Notting Hill Carnival

sunny 22 °C

Hi All

Yesterday Stephen and I headed down to Notting Hill for the annual Notting Hill Carnival which has been held every August Bank Holiday Weekend since 1966, and is the largest celebration of its kind in Europe.

It originally started as a local festival set up by the West Indian immigrants of the area and has now become a full-blooded Caribbean carnival, attracting millions of visitors from around the world. With scores of massive sound systems, many spectacular floats and, of course, the traditional steel drum bands, plus hundreds of stalls lining the streets. Music is at the heart of Notting Hill Carnival - Historically steel bands, Soca & Calypso Music have been at the heart of Carnival but in recent years these the website reports that these have been overtaken by the static sound systems playing anything from Reggae to R&B, Funk, House, and Dub.

Stephen and I arrived and were met with some awesome sounds as soon as we got off the tube - the music was coming from the nearby church and there were people everywhere of every nationality headed down towards Portobello Road. There was the smells of awesome Caribbean food in the air, Curried Goat, Rice & Peas, Jerk Chicken and Red Beans and Rice everywhere and the soungs of whistles coming from every second person (Its tradition to blow whistles when the parade goes past).

We made our way down to the parade (Mas) area just in time to see them start to come past - and loved the spectacular costumes, headpieces, dancing and music that came from each of the floats.

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As you can see - so much effort goes into the costumes for Mas and people really get into it, both in the parade and those watching from the sidelines. We stayed for a few hours and soaked it all in but did not feel game to go into any of the venues that had live music, as they were so jam packed that we would have had to fight and push our way in - people were spilling out of every doorway....

Loved the Carnival and will definitely go again next yeat if we are still around London (we have new hopes of winning the Euro-Millions Lotto and buying a house on Portobello Road with a Balcony so we have prime position next year but we will have to see how that pans out.... )

Lots of love to all at home and scattered across the planet....

Jen & Stephen x

Posted by StephenJen 03:09 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (1)

Le Tour - part one

From London to Dover.

sunny -17 °C

Hi folks,
after a long period of recovery we are finally ready to start our blog of Le Tour. We have been sleeping at every opportunity and struggling with being back at work. We hope you enjoy reading this. It was an amazing trip and will take a few entries to describe.

Our adventure started here in London with a Friday night presentation of the teams in Trafalgar Square. It gave us a chance to get a look at the team colours and also got me a Stuart O'Grady autograph. A huge crowd turned out and the scene was set for an exciting time trial on the following day.

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Crowd at Trafalgar Square

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Team AG2R

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Crowd at Trafalgar Square

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Team Caisse Depargne

On the Saturday we headed down to Hyde Park. We settled in beside Serpentine Rd, where we usually rollerblade, and positioned ourselves in front of the big screen to enjoy the event.

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Big Screen at Hyde Park

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CSC Time Trial

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Hyde Park Crowd

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Liquigas Time Trial

The first bit of bad luck for the Australians was Stuart O'Grady taking a corner too wide and enjoying a short flight over the handles and onto the road, he lost a lot of time but was able to get back on the bike and finish the stage. Bradley Wiggins was the local boy and when he went past our position a huge roar went up and the air was filled with excitement. It was all very enjoyable but over such a short distance (about 5 km) each ride was over very quickly. We were eager for the first proper road stage to begin and for our own road trip to commence also.

The van was filled with all the provisions and we were finally on the road. It was nice to see the city slowly give way to more open expanses as we headed south east toward the coast. We decided to have our first look at the race at a little place in the country called Sellinge Common. We parked the van and walked up to the route. We found a good position on a bend just before the end of one of the "King of the mountain" climbs. It was a good photo oportunity and we had the added drama of riders getting tangled up right in front of us. We got a taste of the despair a rider experiences when losing time due to an accident. One of the riders had to have his bike repaired and was almost in tears as he stood watching the peleton disappear up the hill in front of him. We all gave him heaps of applause and encouragement as he recommenced his climb. He looked broken.

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Walking up to Sellinge Common

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Our spot at Sellinge Common

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The Peleton zipping by at Sellinge Common

We ended the day at a caravan park a few miles inland from Dover. It was a nice quiet spot with lush green grass and was crawling with rabbits.

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Rabbit

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First Tent Set Up

We bought some fish and chips and sat atop the famous white cliffs to consume them.

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White Cliffs of Dover

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White Cliffs of Dover

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Jen on a Fence atop the Cliffs

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Stephen at Dover

As we gazed across the water toward Calais I wondered what the next 22 days held for us.

I could only imagine what this amazing race would bring us. And the best was definately yet to come!

Posted by StephenJen 05:47 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (0)

Hyde Park Calling

Why standing in the rain for hours really rocks!

all seasons in one day 8 °C

Over the weekend Hyde Park hosted a two day concert called “Hyde Park Calling” … we answered the call.

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The main stage at Hyde Park Calling

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This ride rocks - Adam and Jen braved it and survived

After a short time in the queue, we found ourselves in the midst of a peculiarly reasonable and courteous bunch of concert goers. I think it was, largely, due to the fact that the headline acts on the first day were Crowded House and Peter Gabriel. We expected to struggle to find a spot close to the action as we had made the decision not to get to the park early. When we walked to the staging area we were surprised to find there was plenty of room on the grassy expanse to lay out a tarp and stretch out our legs. It was a relatively warm and sunny day and a picnic atmosphere predominated.

Surprise packet for the day was local outfit The Feeling restored my faith in diversity. Check them out.

We had a few fleeting moment of scattered rain and when Neil Finn sang "Weather with you" we found the wide blue sky and sunshine a further reminder of home.

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Sally & Phil enjoying Crowded House in the sunshine....

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Jen & Megs

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Stephen & Jen

BUT THEN... the wind picked up, the clouds blackened the sky and it bucketted down. It was some of the heaviest rain we have ever been in, and it didn't look like letting up. Roadies leapt into action and pulled covers over the gear nearer the front of the stage. Neil Finn stood at the back and did a solo set to steel the spirit of the crowd... it worked. We all sang along loudly and felt a kind of bond as the legs of our jeans soaked with rain and turned the backs of our legs icy cold. The band finished and shortly thereafter so did the rain.

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Neil Finn - Crowded House

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This is Londons Summer?

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Phil - Still during Crowded House

The headline act was Peter Gabriel and I, for one, was very excited to finally see him live. His set was amazing! His voice was brilliant as was the band. Wayne would be happy to know that Tony Levin and his Stick were both in fine form. We all jumped about to "Steam" and "Sledgehammer" and felt somewhat connected to "Salisbury Hill" when it rang out around Hyde Park London.

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Peter Gabriel

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Stephen during Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel

Day Two we went better prepared for what promised to be an even wetter day. Suffice it to say, over the two days of the concert the country received the equivilent to a months rain! We were covered in Rain coats and packed umbrellas (for the intervals between the bands). The first couple of bands were a bit ordinary but by the time Irish rock outfit, the Answer, hit the stage it felt like a 1970's festival. The set was heavily derivative of all the most important British rock acts of the late 60's and early 70's. Jet followed and the day was building momentum nicely. We felt great when they introduced themselves as a band from Melbourne... So are we!...except for the band bit that is.

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Jet

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Adam and Megs

Chris Cornell opened his set with "Spoonman" and the place went nuts, His voice was brilliant and the band was tight. I can't fault the performance.

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Chris Cornell

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Chris Cornell

By the time he had finished we were all feeling a little fatigued and, not being big Aerosmith fans, had felt we had already got what we came for. After a little while the rain suddenly cleared and the giant screens lit up with a video clip featuring a long list of Aerosmith hits. Suddenly the stage was bathed in light and the band kicked out "Love in an elevator" Steve Tyler subtly decked out in a white suit and white cowboy hat! Now, I have to admit... I thought the band would put on a good show but sound pretty terrible. Boy was I wrong. These old guys were polished, sounded great and delivered every rock cliche in the book. Shirts off, prancing down the ego ramp ( a VERY long peice of stage ramp from the middle of the stage well into the crowd). Fantastic! If only we had lighters for "Don't wanna miss a thing" nobody does cheesy rock ballads like Aerosmith. The encore for the night was "Walk this Way" - complete with Darryl Mac from Run DMC.

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Aerosmith

All in all we had a very wet, very enjoyable time. Rock lives on and the bands didn't let us down.

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Posted by StephenJen 04:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (1)

Housewarming get-together...

Where the stars come out to play!

16 °C

HI all,
As you know, we are in our new place now. We wanted to get together with a few close friends to celebrate finding a new dig. What better way to start our summer than with a low key soiree with a few familiar faces. So, come on in...

Posted by StephenJen 20:32 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (0)

Da White City Massive innit!

We dig our new dig

23 °C

Hi everyone,
big it up for our new dig in White City! We finally found a place to call home. After looking at countless places all over London, we decided to go for somewhere very close to central London so we can take advantage of proximity to all the action. White City is about a 20min tube ride from the heart of town and is about to undergo a massive re-development. We are aptly living on Australia Rd, not far away from Canberra Primary School (bizarre). We are nestled in amongst a predominately Caribbean community. We have met our immediate neighbours - Rene, "Pansy" and Auntie Shah, who are very friendly and quiet (as is the whole block). We do, however, also share the block with a somewhat "Clampett like" grubby little white kid (in-bred, semi retarded, with a face like a bucket of smashed crabs) but he mostly keeps to himself and has only once mentioned to us that we "like sheep"! We pointed out that we are Australian not Kiwi but he just did a "what's eating Gilbert Grape" impersonation and left. We are in a pretty good spot here. We are a short walk from Shepards Bush which has a selection of pubs and shops we can frequent as well as a cinema to keep Jen happy.

We have continued our rollerblading and, apart from what we thought may have be a broken arm (Xrays determined severe bruising of the bone but no break), are progressing quite well. We are getting down to Hyde Park several times a week, when the weather permits, and we are hoping to skate a bit when we go abroad again.

Adam and Megs will be in town in about three weeks. We are very eager to see them again. Making new friends in a new country is great but family makes you feel safer and connected, thank goodness we have had Jane here, she has been a great support, fun to spend time with and a great tour guide!

We are saving like crazy for the next few weeks because, when A & M arrive, the four of us are going to head to France and follow Le Tour around. We have also spied some very cool music festivals, in several European countries, in August so we are hoping we might all be able to quickly head over for some live music.

respekt to the downunder massive,
peace!

WCM.

Posted by StephenJen 19:58 Archived in England Tagged lodging Comments (1)

Update coming soon! Promise!

sunny 23 °C
View Our Big Adventure on StephenJen's travel map.

Okay - so apologies to those few who have been hopefully logging on to this site to see the much anticipated Belgium trip and other adventures detailed!

For the Evans and Winkley families - you know the crazy mis-adventures we have been having over the past 6 or so weeks, but for those that dont... look forward to the updates on our new flat (we "grew out" of the old one), our trip to Belgium, Jens hospital adventure, Stephens job as a receptionist, "London Swelters in a heatwave" and a beautiful day at Richmond Park to name a few....

We are staying at the Hilton at the moment (how posh!) and moving into our new place Monday & Tuesday with our best buddy Dave so will get our internet sorted out and update the site the second we do!

Hope you are all well and look forward to more email from each and everyone of you - its always nice to get news from home - though Aunty Kath - you need not have gotten into a car crash to get one from us - we would have sent you one anyway! Hope you are feeling better and that Arthur is waiting on you hand and foot (sorry Arthur....)

Take care all and we will update properly soon

Love Always & Missing You all Heaps

Jen & Stephen

Posted by StephenJen 11:08 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (1)

Waffles, Beer & Chocolate

Adventures in Belgium

sunny 20 °C
View Our Big Adventure on StephenJen's travel map.

Let us warn you - some images in this blog may be offensive to some readers - the blog contains graphic images and descriptions of ridiculous amounts of chocolate and beer. You have been warned.

So we went to Brussels on good friday - arriving early on a lovely warm day and checking into our awesome hotel. We have come to not expect too much from our hotels that are often included with budget flights (star ratings mean nothing overhere) and we are usually pretty happy. This time we were ecstatic. We got there and were staying in an NH Hotel which is a (real) 4 star place... it was clean, safe and service was awesome!

So after checking in we went for breakfast of Chocolate waffles and sat to adjust to a new country. Stephen prepared himself to again be the French interpreter and as always - did marvellously for the duration of the trip.

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Brussels

We wandered around town for the first day, takiing in sites like the Grand Place, the shopping strip, had more waffles and started our beer tasting... mainly fruit beers which have become our favourites!

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Stephen in Brussels

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Brussels

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Bon Homme

We met this little guy called Bon Homme (good boy) begging in a street in Brussels for money for food. His owner was sitting off to one side and looked suspiciously like Hunter S Thompson (but alive). He was so good, and it worked on us as we popped a few coins in his kick - mainly just an excuse to pat him really... VERY CUTE.

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Kettle collection in a waffle house
One thing we noticed about Belgium was that the place is very good at making things just that little more interesting, like the kettle collection in a waffle house.... things like this are everywhere in Brussels particularly. They are just so good at building and displaying things just a bit more creatively - a stark contrast to London - where everything is the same! There is great art in the streets and the shops are so much cooler and unique...

Another good thing about Belgium is the chocolate. It feels like every second shop is a chocolatier or candy shop. The whole place smells of chocolate and they realy take it very seriously there - i thought i was serious about chocolate but they are just crazy!

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A big easter egg in Brussels. They get bigger - much bigger.

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Like a kid in a candy store....

There are so many beautiful old buildings in Belgium and there are cobblestones everywhere - which look beautiful but do have a tendency to wear the feet out of weary tourists.

The place is like postcard in every direction and really like the romantic image we had of Big European cities... without so much progress and modernisation as Paris has...

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Stephen in Brussels

We headed off to Brugge for a day for the Chocolate Festival and to have a look around. Its only an hour on the train from Brussles. If we thought that Brussels was nice, Brugge was amazing. Brugge still has horses and carts, cobbled streets (of course), lace-makers, people getting everywhere on pushbikes and yet more chocolatiers. Though there were a lot of tourists - its not hard to see why. Sounds corny but it really has managed to keep a kind of "old world charm" about it.

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Stephen just off the train to Brugge
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Streetscape in Brugge

So - we paid 10 Euro to get into the Chocolate Festival - and it was worth every bit. We grabbed a showbag and picked up samples from most of the people displaying their wares. There were chocolates everywhere to taste, displays on people doing chocolate sculpture, painting with chocolate, a guy painting chocolate on nude woman, and HUGE sculptures out of chocolate .... the smell was overpowering but it only made us more hungry for the good stuff.

We watched in awe (and with our mouths watering) as a guy created a chocolate Pinocchio to go with his already completed Giupetto. Amazing. That was just one of many amazing sculptures we saw that day (see the pics of these by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page).

We did actually show some restraint when we purchased a couple of eggs for friends and workmates from the Guilian stall - and our restraint was rewarded with 4 extra huge eggs as a bonus with our purchases. They were doing us no favours - as by this stage we were already wondering how we could possible get so much chocolate through customs at Heathrow on our return!

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Jen with the loot after the chocolate festival

We loved Brugge and took so many photos there as we walked around and took our canal boat tour. It was such a nice place - and i suspect it would be even quieter on a weekday... so can highly recommend if anyone is visiting Europe to add Brugge to the list of places to see.

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Us in Brugge (hiding the chocolate behind us)

We headed back to Brussels and spent some more time exploring the city by foot.

I was very excited to visit the Brussels Beer museum - as i thought that it would be something that i could really get into.... but i was wrong. We paid our 5 euro entry and walked in. We saw a few modern beer making machines with very little explanation of what they are used for, watched a video in french, and looked for the rest of the museum - and realised that there was no more. There were other displays that were not working and others inside looked as confused as we were.... We left feeling very disappointed and then realised that we had not been given a beer like everyone else had - supposed to be included in the price apparently.... ah well....

We headed off and found a great restaurant down a cobbled laneway and spoilt ourselves with a beautiful meal and more fruit beer. Stephen fought the Mussels from Brussels (and won) and i had the best steak i have ever had (not including Dads BBQ steaks which i love). Very tasty. Public transport in Belgium is very affordable - you can buy an all day ticket for about 2.50 euro and use it on trams, trains and buses - and its very smooth compared to the Tube too... a very nice ride!

Anyway - we explored the Brussels flea market and though we did not actually see any fleas, we saw some awesome old jewellery, and kitsch furniture and homewares that would sell for loads at home. We also stumbled across a castle in the middle of the city that was closed and had no sign explaining what it was. After doing some research we found out that it was one of the last standing gates that surrounded the city. Quite random as it was just standing in a neglected part of town surrounded by cheap shops and not much else.

So we headed back to London and successfully got through Customs with our haul of chocolate (it was somewhat depleted for some reason), and were amazed that it actually took us more that twice the time to get through Heathrow as it did to get from Belgium to England on a plane.

Remind us never to go away on a long weekend again! Next time we have decided we will register for the Iris Recognition system - allows you to check yourself through immigration - past the queues of people waiting impatiently with their passports in hand.... (and its a bit James Bond - which we like...)

So as you can see - there are not a great deal of photos on this blog - because our site upload limit has not allowed us to show you more - but if you click here - you will see our full album from this trip - definitely worth the look - but that chocolate warning still stands.....

Posted by StephenJen 02:37 Archived in Belgium Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Hyde Park... home of the unbalanced

or...why beer is good and God hates me.

sunny 14 °C

We have been working very hard over the last couple of weeks and it occurred to us that we were already falling into the trap of using the weekend simply to recharge for more work on monday. With this in mind we sat in bed and wrote down a list of places, here in London, that we wanted to see. We made a pact to ensure that we cross something off the list every weekend.

First cab off the rank was Jen's desire to visit Hyde Park. Now, as we may have mentioned before, we live with a guy named Dave. He's very nice and also loves in-line skating (and is very good at it) so he suggested that we all go out for a Saturday afternoon of skating at Hyde Park. Sounded good. Jen likes skating, so do Kelly and Mark, and they assured me that, even though I had never skated in my life, that it would be fun and I probably wouldn't kill myself. I viewed that as a positive!

We boarded the tube and headed to Marble Arch. Dave took us to a store run by some skater dudes he knows and in no time we were tooled up with wikid skates..innit! Jen and I decided not to skate from the shop to the park - alongside the road... down a long flight of stairs - and opted to put the wheels on when we got there.

Jen looked very comfortable and competent, how hard could it be, I thought. I was about to find out. Now, I don't know how many of you have skated, but I found the journey from sitting down on the ground to standing up on wheels nearly impossible. However I soon got the knack of standing... still that is. It was really only when I commenced any type of movement what-so-ever that I ran into a wall of fear and an acute awareness of the frailty of human life! I needed help! And help was not far away. All it took was a slow, romantic skate... hand in hand. Good old Dave (cue first very gay looking moment). That good old housemate of ours babysat me the whole day. He explained the basics and pushed, stopped, guided or stopped me skating into the water. I was slowly getting better, and Jen kept telling me I was doing fine, which helped.

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Stephen & Dave in Hyde Park

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And again....

Halfway through the day we stopped for a drink by the lake. Now this is when I discovered why beer is good. We each had a long neck of Stella before starting off again... it was a miracle... I could skate a bit! I felt like I had been doing it my whole life. It was wonderful! A few moments later I remembered that, in fact, it wasn't, I couldn't, I hadn't and got all wobbly again.

By the time we got to the Princess Diana Memorial I was feeling like I was going to survive the outing. The memorial is very simple in design and was surrounded by kids. It seemed appropriate that this place would enable kids to relax and enjoy themselves, given her dedication to children.
Jen was still telling me I was doing well... as she skated around me... backwards! Anyway, I survived the day without a fall and we have decided to give a go again really soon. We loved it.

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Beautiful daffodils everywhere in Hyde Park and in full bloom....

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Hyde Park....

After skating we headed along the Lebanese strip and, on Dave's recommendation, entered a restaurant for a drink, some tiny cakes, and shisha. Shisha is that glass lamp looking device with a rubber tube coming out of it, the guy brings it out and gives you a disposible plastic tip for hygiene. It didn't know quite where to place the rubber hose... in your mouth apparently! There is water in the bottom (of the device that is) and tobacco mixed with dried apple near the top. They place hot coals on the top of a vented thingy and you smoke it like a pipe. After a bit of effort and adjusting how much we drew in, we were smoking like we were back in Coburg. It was ok, although our throats were a bit dry. Can't see us taking it up professionally.

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Stephen smoking double-apple Shisha

Sunday morning we crossed one of my items off the list. We headed back to Hyde Park to visit 'Speakers corner'. The lonely planet described this place as being facinating 'especially if you like nutters'. Well, they were in abundance that morning. Essentially, anyone who has the inclination, brings along something to stand on and starts to rant on whatever subject they like.The crowd ebbs and flows as people tune in or out to the speaker. The area is predominated by religious orators.

The first speaker we encountered was a guy on a small step ladder ranting at the crowd. We decided to stay and listen. He was a sunglass wearing cockney and was angrily attacking the crowd.

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Yelling at the top of his voice that they were stupid, had no morals, and that they believed in a "namby pamby Jesus". He was there to let everyone know that he loved God... and God hated us. "You are all going to an endless, painful hell" he told the crowd. Not me, I thought, if God hated me I would have crashed into the lake yesterday!

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Jen getting a free hug...

It was not all fire and brimstone though - and Jen managed to get a free hug from the free hug guy.... they will both, no doubt, be going to hell as a result! The guy told Jen "that's a good hug", and he would know... he hugs professionally! I have to agree with him too.

Learn more about the Free Hug movement here

Posted by StephenJen 01:57 Archived in England Comments (1)

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