Iceland Day 3: The Land of Ice and Fire

That should probably be more Snow and hot water…. I’ll talk to the tourist board about that…

Tonight’s location is the bar of Foss Hotel Reykjavik. (that’s my hotel, I’ve not just wandered into a random hotel!) To be clear, the bar is in the corner of the room. The room being the breakfast room with a couple of lit candles and the lighting on dim…. a tad less inspiring than the Hamilton DC. (I’m going to get kicked out mid-writing this…. as the bar shuts strictly at 11!) They do serve a lovely Icelandic Orangina (same idea different name)… it was £3.50 but was still the most reasonable thing I’ve bought today. (EVERYTHING IS SO DAMN EXPENSIVE!)

Last night, about 1.30, I decided to go out for a drive to try and see the northern lights.  I’d noticed a gap in cloud cover on the forecast, thought it lined up with Þingvellir so thought I’d drive out there and have a look.

On the way, nature decided that a snowstorm was in order. This made for fairly interesting driving conditions. Once in Þingvellir national park there were no other tyre tracks on the road which was cool. There was also next to 0 light pollution too.. so even at night you could see the clouds as white on the dark of the sky.

I soon watched another car go past… I didn’t see any others before that in over 40 mins!

I stopped for a while just off the main road at the entrance to a closed road. Safely parked and visible to any cars that might come (None – I hadn’t seen any in over 40 mins by now!) I switched off engine and lights and sat and waited. There was a lot of clouds and while I thought I saw something, a spot of further driving and cloud movement confirmed it was just the moon! 🙁

This morning I had a little lie in (I was shattered!) and got up, dressed and headed literally across the road from the hotel to look at the view!

The world is flat here in real life, I promise!

Then I decided to head out towards Reykjadalur – Steam Valley. I stopped just off the main road and had the most amazing salad for lunch (Create your own, Chop’d style) with incredible smoked salmon. So good and so big that it came with me as a dinner too!

From there I drove a bit further towards the foot of the Reykjadalur trail to go to the hot springs…. I could have taken the very easy road of going to Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon, paying a ticket fee and sitting in the geothermal springs… but I decided to opt against commercialism and go eau natural.

The website said that the hike too about 30 mins… Great I thought… except it was throwing down snow like you can’t imagine. Now back home, the Met office would thrown Black, Red, Sparkling flashing and fizzing warnings out to everyone to lock up their children, buy tinned food for 9 years and not to go outside. Here, the weather was decidedly “Fair”.  (Someone even said “this isn’t even winter here”).

Thankfully I started, turned round to pop my camera back in the car and met some people on the way – 2 foresters from Canada and a brit who has become a Glacier guide here in Iceland. Without the company I’d most certainly have given up very early into the hike and gone back to the warm car.

White, just white everywhere

To semi-quote the sound of music, we pretty much Climbed Every Mountain.  Up, Over and down the small peaks we went. Frankly this was the most challenging thing I think I’ve ever done and conquered. It has meant that I now have a bit of a want for walking again…. lets see how I get on with keeping that up!

About halfway I fell foul to what we thought was a bridge – one of the girls went over first, I soon followed to find that the bridge was actually snow and that my right foot was about to get a soaking! (A warm soaking mind you!)

Eventually we knew we were getting closer to the springs as pools emerged smoking, bubbling water with signs warning you that the water was ~100 Degrees centigrade. Unsurprisingly these were not the rivers for swimming in! (They are like mini Geysirs and you can see the water bubbling like a saucepan on a hot hob!)

As Colbie Callaitt said… Bubbly!

After what felt like about 3 years but was more like 2 hours. We reached the top, where we found some, erm… windbreakers. In the thrashing snow, we stripped off, popped on swim gear, nearly froze our feet to the floor, and jumped into the river. My laces had become frozen together so took a little defrosting before I could even start!

It wasn’t as warm as we hoped – The snow doesn’t help! But the experience was incredible. We were up a mountain, in the snow, in hot water.  (Laying there and keeping yourself from moving was a great core workout, I thoroughly recommend, but everything is going to hurt tomorrow!)

I got in the water! I promise!

Eventually we were brave enough to jump out. OH SWEET LORD WAS IT COLD! Thankfully my coat had held down sheltering all my stuff and soon I was dried, dressed and ready to roll.

We started to descend and the snow had decided to hold off for a little bit. The amount that had fallen was incredible and in places we were up to our knees in snow!  At one point I slipped a little and my water bottle (Courtesy of Hilly Jilly Dilly of Hong Kong Fame) decided to jump out the side pocket of my bag and take a slide. Thankfully it went cap first, and got lodged just a meter or two down so I could slide down (Myself already on the snow) and retrieve it!

The Descent!

As the snow had stopped, the view had cleared and we had the most amazing views of the valley and hot pools as we descended! Strangely the descent was shorter than the ascent (Employing sarcasm here!) and soon we were back at the car.

Bit of thermal river action… the water was much cooler here though!
When the snow stopped you could see the amazing views!

I finally understood the reason that car manufactueres invented heated seats and heated steering wheels! I treated myself to a coffee and a cake at the bakery I’d eaten lunch before heading back to the hotel.

The snow was back and it was a little more tretcherous than before. Worst in the city centre where a run in with a taxi driver nearly ended up with me bespokely redecorating the side of my car. (Thankfully I saved it!)

We’d discussed at the end of the walk the public pools and how they were great so after finishing my salad (yes I waited 30 mins Mum), I decided to go 4 blocks up to the Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. I actually decided against the pool but instead spent my time in the Hot Tubs (39 and 43 degrees). The hot tubs were rooftop so all the while the snow was lashing down on us. It was incredible.

The pools here are like an institution. This one in Downtown Reykyavik is fairly old but very well kept.   They are very strict on washing before entering and I’d read that regulars will send you back if you haven’t had a proper full on naked shower before you swim. (“Naked shower” was exactly what was written on the signs all over the showers!) You could tell who were the sort of people who could become “Shower police”!!!  (I didn’t get into trouble, don’t fear!)

Watching the people in the pools was incredible. (I love a good people watch!) Mainly due to the different types of people that were there. I was the only English speaker for the majority of the time so had to kind of guess what was going on but there was literally all walks of life there – Couples, Women friends meeting up for a bitch,  “Lads” having a lad night out, (They’d be getting drunk and having fight at home!) Girls having a girls night out, and people just there alone for some peace and quiet!

All in all a fantastic experience for just over a fiver… which is  surprisingly comparable to home! If I had more time, I’d go again… It’s open til 10pm!

All watered out, I slid/drove back to the hotel (I just couldn’t face walking through the snow storm) and sat for a moment reflecting on the last few days:

Tomorrow I’m going to try and go inside Hallgrímskirkja the huge church before the flight home and then that’s pretty much it… I’ve got an afternoon flight, but have to be at the airport at midday and lord knows how long it’s going to take to get there so this could be the last blog post…. (I might update it with Hallgrímskirkja for my own record!)

Tomorrow not only marks the end of my holiday,  but also begins the end of the limbo I’ve been in for the last 2 months…. I’ve done some serious life evaluation over the last 2 months, (not just doing some of “The life changing Magic of Not giving a fuck” book that one of my old suppliers sent me and an excellent xmas present!) but I can honestly say I’m in a much better place that I was… probably actually this time last year!

I’ve learnt that no matter how much you think you love something, you really do have to check that you don’t just get into the rut of loving something for the sake of loving something…

Parts of the last 2 years I have really really loved, and I have made some amazing friends worldwide whom I know I will keep in touch with for years to come! Thanks to anyone who has put up with me, in person, down the phone, down a dodgy Whatsapp video call, or over email, snail mail or any other means… and thanks to those who stood by me while actually my soul was being eroded away inside.

I’ve seen amazing changes in myself not just mentally, but also physically with my skin clearing up (Partly helped no doubt by these new drugs… but assisted by circumstance) and it’s really amazing to hear from people “you just look generally so much better”… it really reinforces the fact that you’ve made some right decisons, for yourself. (especially when you’re looking much better on the inside too!) I have a habit of not putting myself first, which I finally understand the importance of doing!

I know a lot of people have asked me what’s happening next, and if you’ve read down this far, well done… I’m pleased to say that I’ll be starting at a little firm you may have heard of called Amazon in their IT Department. (No, I’m not delivering the parcels. Not funny anymore!)

Nervous, worried and excited  are only three words which describe how I feel now… (looking forward to a bit of routine again!) meanwhile I best go and get on packing… Suitcases sadly don’t pack themselves.

Peace out. Steveey P, SuperStiv, Stevo, Knobhead (Just you Angie!!), whatever you call me…. Over and out! 🙂



Iceland Day 2: Sometimes you have to ignore TLC’s advice…

Lots of people in this life give you lots of advice. Some you decide to listen to and some you decide to drop… “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rives and the lakes that your used to”…. is something I’m gonna drop. Today I chased all three! 🙂

So I woke up about 9, went down for some breakfast and made myself a couple of rolls which were wrapped carefully in serviettes and popped into my pocket ready for lunch. (Think March of the Living Sans Tuppaware, if you’ve been!)

From the hotel I headed towards “Road 1” or as some locals like to call it “The ring road”. Think M25, but also think often single lane, questionable weather, single lane bridges (i.e. one lane two directions) and think at some points, gravel! FUNs.

I headed south on the ring road hoping to get to Vik, practically the most southern point of Iceland, to see it’s cool cliffs and amazing black sand… I was not far out of Reykjavik on Road 1 when the conditions became interesting.  The road goes uphill quite steeply and the wind at the top was doing all sorts of things. I’m pretty sure I now know what a pilot feels like when a plane hits turbulence!

The views while driving, which were meant to be stunning were unfortunately obscured by the low cloud and rain. BOOO.

I’d got over halfway to Vik, when I saw from the road an amazing looking waterfall in the distance. I was obviously going to stop and have a look!

What I found was the Seljalandsfoss and another which I’m not sure of the name of. I also found LOTS of rain…. and also managed to ensure that I saw all the usual candidates!  (I always say you can go anywhere in the world, and always find American and Chinese people!)

Featuring the river it flows into!
Ft. Chinese lady losing her coat.
Smaller falls nearby….
Around the Mountain….
Picnic anyone?
Sticking to the Rivers I’m used to…..

It was truly beautiful if not truly soaking! I wandered around and watched the water flow beneath the ice  – I uploaded a short video of it to Youtube here…

From there I got back in the car, took all the wet layers off (Thankfully I was wearing many layers)… was a little upset I hadn’t bought a spare pair of trousers…. cranked the heating up to full, laid the clothes out on the passenger seat like a clothes horse and set to dry as well as set off to Vik.

On the way I noticed I was passing the Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 causing all those delays/cancellations to flights. Turns out those waterfalls run off from the volcano! (they say it’s the land of fire and ice and they ain’t wrong!)  Sadly it was so cloudy I could only see the very bottom of it! 🙁 (Bastard in 2010, still a bastard in 2017!)

Eventually both the clothes dried and I arrived at Vik. Initially going directly to Vik, and stopping in the food/icelandic wear shop (Useful stop for the loo!) before heading back a little way towards one of the popular black sand beaches. (It was still raining and although I was already damp, I just couldn’t face the thought of a wet 15 min hike!

I arrived at the beach and took heed of the friendly warning signs….

Thankfully you can’t see clearly the bit about the Chinese man who got swept away…

…and then headed (Yes, VERY Carefully Mum, Aunty Nicky, and anyone else who will send me a warning. I WAS CAREFUL!) onto the beach.

It was truly spectacular and the waves were truly terrifying. I was stood a long way back taking a photo and the next thing you know the very end of the wave (the foamy bit) was lapping at my feet! The rocks are really cool too – the way they are shaped is to do with the way the cliffs were formed from magma cooling….. Ill leave that to the geologists, BUT THEY COOL AS HELL!

While at the beach I took a moment to stare into the space of the waves, in my own little space where it was quite and just reflect on things. ( a bit deep but really actually I felt so much better afterwards!) I thought for a while about the stress of the last 2 years and the effect it had on me as well as my upcoming challenge starting a week tomorrow. (AAAH)

Yup, that’s sand and it’s black
Cool rocks

Reality hit me as the rain became more aggressive (Dry is underrated) and I realized I should probably head back as light was fading. (We’re only getting light about 10-4ish). I tried to head to another waterfall but the light was gone so decided to turn round and head back home.

Even wavier than the crazy waves last summer in Mojacar… (hehe)
More cool rocks

I stopped to fill up on the way back and asked for directions for some good food locally. I was given VERY detailed instructions by people who swear their English wasn’t very good… to find you could actually see the restaurant, 200m down the road from the petrol station.

Fish and chips was nice, but VERY expensive.  I did worry as I was the only person in the place, and there was a lot of horsemeat on the menu. I’m pleased to say they didn’t mince me a make me into burgers. (the man was really nice and we spoke literally about the weather!!!)

On the way back, things were going to plan, until I hit the rather tall hill which was turbulent on the way out… It quickly turned in to a snow storm. Thankfully only a small amount of Large Car Toboggan took place, thanks to the 4WD and snow tires!

When I got back to Reykjavik, I stopped off at the Hallgrímskirkja just to get a photo at night… I plan to stop by in the day for a visit!

Breathtaking architecture

I’m now posting this and am off out again – it’s very cloudy here and chances of the northern lights are LOW due to the cloud… but I’ve seen a spot of the forecast near where I was yesterday which has little cloud. I’m hoping I’ll catch something as it’s forecast lower and cloudier tomorrow! 🙁

One day left! 🙁

That’s why Mums….

What a day. Well actually what a two days. In true “Iceland Style” (frozen food supermarket not country), I’ve had a 241…. Actually more a 222:

2 Days
2 hours sleep
2 countries

To suggest I’m tired is an understatement.

Having got a lift to Newark, I gingerly placed my bag on the scale to find out that actually surprisingly my bag was underweight! (I’m not sure how!) I popped some more stuff in and headed towards the gate….

I’m still unsure why people would want to “preboard” the plane. You’re gonna be sat on your bum in that seat for the next 4, 5 or however many hours… Why have extra time sat down?! Anyway… We boarded, I’d been switched back into an exit row (following a 3 time switch debacle!) And due to the man behind wanting to sit next to his partner ended up making a new friend in Emma (shout out to Emma, who for the record agrees with my preboard point!).

I somehow managed to pick up 2ish hours sleep. I don’t sleep well on planes…. Oh and a very nice new blanket for the collection! Some shluf, Sour Patch kids Courtesy of Emma and some conversation later we land in Keflavik Iceland…

I head straight for the “Shuttle bus to car hire” Pickup point (Outside in the cold, not wearing appropriate clothing) to realize that actually I was being met in the terminal.  I got back in side just before a quick snowstorm and tried to buy a coffee. Apparently “The coffee machine doesn’t open before 8am, but the one over there works”… Who knew coffee machines had feelings.

Eventually I was on my way – rumbling along in my Opel (Vauxhall!) Mokka 4×4, with Nails in the tires! (Good nails – Spikes out, NOT Bad Nails – Spikes in).

The man at the car rental explained that it wasn’t going to get light until 10am, and that there wasn’t much do/see when the sun was down but I could head to Grindavik and drive the very long way round to Reykjavik that way.

On arrival at Grindavik I found nothing…. Well nothing but a very off road road which led right down to where the land met the sea. (And at times, the water did meet the land, and I had flashbacks of Mersea 2015 – 4×4 copes better in water than civic!)

This tiny dirt track of a road led me to watch the sunrise over the sea by the lighthouse. Pretty cool!

Light it up baby

From there I headed to Reykjavik, stopped off for another coffee and cake before realizing that I couldn’t check in until 4 so I ought to do something with my day!

So I headed out to do my own version of the “Golden Circle” tour that a lot of tour operators here run for me this included

  •  A hike/walk/stroll/slide round bits of Þingvellir National Park
  • Seeing the Geysirs
  • Seeing the Gullfoss waterfall

I’m not really going to write much more about it, but just leave you with some pictures!

I had dinner tonight in a restaurant round the corner from my hotel and now I’m off to bed but first must decide what to do tomorrow… sadly no northern lights were visible tonight 🙁


The beautiful landscape just keeps on going!
Þingvellir Views.
Beautiful waters
Thermal pool, the water is just under boiling
‘Cor Blimey what a geezer!

Sunset game = Strong
The noise was immense!

DC Day 3

(Apologies for the lack of photos…. see my Capitol Building 360 on Facebook!!)

So today’s post is going to be a short one…. Mainly as I’m writing it on a very short flight – 34 mins flying time to be precise. (More on that later!) but also as I’ve only really done half a day’s worth of interesting things!

This morning I headed out from the hotel to the Capitol Building where I had booked a tour! The Capitol building is the American equivalent to the houses of parliament where the Senators and Representatives sit making the decisions which govern the policies of America. (I did try to get a rule passed to have Trump removed but they said they’d let me know!)

The building itself is old…ish. As I  found out in the Museum of American History, the history of America is not all that long! The Capitol was finished in the 1800s but has gone through a few changes since being “finished”…. both Senators and Representatives have moved where they sit as the numbers of each have grown. We got to go to the original halls for both groups as well as to go to  the beautiful rotunda. I didn’t realise that the British were here first and that the Americans fought against us! (now I’m more than aware thanks to the wonderful video that played at the start of the tour!)

From the Capitol tour, I took a walk round to the front of the Capitol Building on the National Mall to take some more pictures, as well as to take in the reflection pool in front of the building… (DC loves a reflection pool!).  I jumped in a cab and headed back to the hotel to pick up my bag before getting the Metro to the Airport.

Regan National Airport turned out to be great for people and plane spotting, as well as listening to the hilarious Southern Drawl announcements which were going on! (I’m not sure why as Washington DC is not south!) We boarded the plane and after pushing back and beginning to taxi, we found ourselves with a 40 minute delay. I’d made friends with someone in the know, who told me that it was due to a VIP being moved. This tallies up as in the cab earlier I’d heard trump was set to be leaving the White House for Airforce One in order to go on a lil trip. (I did ask him if he had room for a lift, but he declined… he just doesn’t want to chat to me!)

Meanwhile we’re nearly back already. The lovely cabin crew have handed out drinks and pretzels and almost instantly collected cups back in… Originally they quoted a flight time of 36 mins before changing their minds in a funny announcement where we were corrected to 34. Those two minutes made all the difference behind a 40 minute delay I’m sure!

The way these planes are back and forth between cities amazes me. I know they have Megabus here but it really is like the national Express coach service of the US. They call it the shuttle, and it’s no lie… This crew has another 4 runs today!

There’s going to be no update tomorrow as I’ll be chilling out, but plan to be back with something on Saturday from Iceland! “Cabin Crew, Take your seats for landing please.”

DC Day 2: Monuments, Museums and Mammoth Amounts of Walking!

Greetings readers and welcome to Blog day number 2!

Today involved LOTS of walking. Everything aches and is certainly deserved of a bath, however following a rather chilling experience with the bath here yesterday, I’m going to opt out! (Let’s just say not EVERYTHING in the states is bigger than at home!)

Before I tell you about today, I’d like to take a short moment to write about my current surroundings in which I’m sat to write. When booking a cheap, central hotel, I didn’t think I’d end up in the nearly 100 year old Hamilton Hotel which is on the National Register of Historic places.
Tonight I’m sat in the foyer. Perfect people watching position, in the back left hand corner. It’s small but perfectly appointed nicely scented (Important) and has more gold leaf than you can shake a stick at. It just feels great and a perfect place to write… (especially with music like Carole King’s Tapestry gently playing in my ears – shout-out to Spotify!)

Classic and Classy. Carole King turned quickly into the well fitting Big Band Jazz!

As I’ve written this, someone has started hoovering. It’s 10pm…. SHHH!

Anyway… today:

Today I was up and out fairly early for me on holiday (before 10!!) and headed down to the Washington and Lincoln monuments Via the White House.  (to be clear, the President’s house, not the Kosher Take away in Hendon/Golders Green). While by the White House, I noticed a lot of Police Cordons, followed by a helicopter overhead. This then was followed by a convoy of about 20 police bikes, a good 10 or so police cars and then three black “State Cars”….. The cars headed into the driveway of the White House…. I assume that was the president coming home. (Sadly I didn’t get any photos!)

The “other side” to the photo I posted on Instagram/Facebook. This is the front of the White House!

From the White House, I walked back down toward the Washington Memorial. In daylight it’s just as imposing as it is at night! I now know that it was built to commemorate the first President of the United States, George Washington… and that when built, it was the tallest structure in the world, later trumped by the Eiffel Tower! (I know some more but I’m not gonna bore you with the facts… wikipedia has it all should you desire!)

Boldly piercing the blue sky.

From the Washington Memorial, I walked along to the WW2 Memorial, amazed by the immense detailing present on the memorial and the thought that had gone into it. It’s at the end of the Lincoln monument reflection pool and gives great views of both the Lincoln and Washington Monuments.


I wandered along the Lincoln Monument reflection pool in the bitter cold (It’s -5) up to the Lincoln Monument, Watching the reflection of the Washington monument grow as I walked.

Proud of this shot, even if it meant crouching down and nearly exposing my bum to a group of Chinese tourists.
It’s much bigger when you’re up close. Almost like an Italian or even Greek structure!

When I got to the Lincoln Monument I froze for a moment at the sheer size of it. While the Washington is tall and imposing, this is tall and vast and just kinda of BAM hits you in the face. I climbed the steps and entered inside to see the statue of Lincoln in the center.

While in the hall, I over heard a mother shout in a southern twang “Mary, Mary, get in front of Abe for a photo” (Mary, obviously pronounced “May-Ree”)… I decided that Abe probably would have been a fan of a selfie, so did the obvious.

Hideous of me, but Abe looks good… You can see Mayree off to the left!

From the Lincoln Memorial, I walked back toward the National Mall via the Korea memorial (because I was passing) toward the museums.

They view from the Lincoln Memorial Steps of the Washington Memorial. The Capitol Building peeks its head out from behind the Washington memorial if you stand on the sides of the Lincoln memorial!
Korea Memorial


Soon I found myself at the Holocaust museum. Even having been to Poland, I felt compelled to visit and saw a number of artifacts and items which I hadn’t seen before. It’s got a similarity to what I can remember of Yad Vashem, where the main museum is dark, but you cross a number of times, through the light of the center of the museum. It’s cleverly set out across 4 floors ending at the Memorial Hall where I lit a candle in Remembrance of the distance family I lost at Majdanek. ( I only learned of them Via my Cousin, Sherman when visiting…. More about that trip is here)

Never Forget.

From the Holocaust Museum, I headed up the National Mall towards the Capitol Building Stopping for lunch at what was effectively an office mall full of business people. (A bit like Canary Wharf)… the food court had a load of options, and I had a lovely Falafel pita.

Satiated, I headed towards the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. There were lots of planes and a few spacecraft to see. Oddly, I didn’t really take any photos. This is probably as I was a little… well let down by the museum… Thinking about it, the reason I was so let down is because last time I was in the states I went to the Kennedy Space Center which was hands down the best museum/working place experience I have ever been to. (I’m still blown away by Atlantis!)

From the Air and Space museum, I crossed the National Mall and had a wander round the Natural History Museum. Unfortunately again, I felt a little let down, most likely as we’ve got the impressive Natural History Museum in London. (Which houses a sample taken by me! If you don’t know the story, ask me next time you have half an hour to spare!)

From the Natural History Museum, I headed next door to the Museum of American History. This turned out to be a Bizarre collection of things, Trains, Cars, Buses, Clothes… all sorts.  I did manage to go and see the Original “Star Spangled Banner” made by Mary Pickersgill in 1813. As the flag is now kept under special conditions, It’s now in a no-photo area, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you I’ve seen it! (And no, It’s laying down so I can’t say that, that star spangled banner yet waves. *rimshot*)

As I left the Museum, I managed to grab this pretty nice shot from the center of the National Mall:

Beaut Sunset!

I was in need of a bit of a sit down so got the metro back to my hotel (I just couldn’t face the walking!) and relaxed in front of the telly for a bit before heading out to a kosher restaurant for some dinner.  – I’ve eaten my body weight in meat and am more than satiated yet again!!

I don’t want to bore you all with more transport geekiness, but I’m gonna. In stark contrast to NY’s Subway the Metro is very clean, clear and uniform. All of the underground stations I’ve been to so far have been of a VERY similar design – Impressive vaulted horizontal cylinders. Platforms have lights on the edge which flash when the train is approaching and there are machines inside the gateline to top up your card if you run out of credit when you get to your destination. (Nearly, but not yet used by me!)

It’s a strange space age situation which is unbelievably airy for being underground!

There’s also quite the mix of trains – I thought when I arrived that things were still a bit “classic” here but have since been set right with a ride on the (I assume) brand new trains which include  3 types of display to tell you where you are and what’s next! They ain’t messing about!

Right. Enough train talk. I probably ought to get to bed. Tomorrow morning I’ve booked onto a tour of the Capitol Building! Hoping to pass a bill to sort out the man in charge…. No Promises but I’ll try my best!

Night y’all!

State of the Blog 2018

Good Evening (or I imagine morning by the time you come to read this) Earthlings and all other unfortunate creatures who have stumbled upon this blog.

For those of you who have been sending me what can only be described as borderline hate mail, (you know who you are) I am pleased if not indifferent to say that the Holiday Blog is back. (Travel Blog would be a vast overstatement!!)

Coming live to you this evening from Washington DC just after the State of the Union Address was given by the President, just a few blocks down from where I am writing this…. More on that later…

Before I get to DC, I want to clear a few things up:

I haven’t been blogging the first 5 Days of this trip because I’ve been to NY before. Anyone with lots of time to kill can bore themselves silly here reading about that…

The first 5 days of this trip have been downtime. If you’ve been following my life, you should be aware that I’m currently between jobs just like the last time I was in the states, but this time I have a very exciting job lined up for my return! I’ve spent very little time in New York City itself, mainly keeping busy round New Jersey with the lovely Abrahams’ eating far too much food and buying too many clothes.

There are a few things I have noticed about America (Well NY/NJ and now Washington DC which I have noticed which I wanna just throw a bit of light on:


The Police/Pigs/Five-Oh/Feds. They everywhere! You can’t go more than 5 minutes without seeing another car (At least in NY/NJ and tonight in DC. It makes you feel kinda safe…. you know!


I forget that I should be more thankful for the clean, well signed, easy to navigate London Underground. I take it for granted. While the Subway is getting better (They have new signage/screens which are actually better than London!) We’re still waaay ahead for ease and clean… although some express trains would be nice!

Immense National Pride

Regardless of the Cheesy Wotsit running the country, everyone appears to be immensely proud to be American. This means putting an American flag on EVERYTHING. I’m pretty sure they’d stamp it on toilet seats if it wasn’t a bit weird. I bloody love it. If you hung Union Jacks up at home on everything you’d get accused of being part of a Britain First kind of fascist movement… but here, no matter creed colour or race, putting a flag on it is the right thing to do! I bloody love a bit of national pride!

Example of Immense Pride in Washington DC this eve… It’s a Government building of sort, but still an impressive number of flags!

Things settled, onto today….

I had a slow start this morning, repacking my suitcase and packing my backpack for my two nights in DC before I got a lift (Thanks Jem) to LaGuardia Airport where I endured an hour and a half delay before getting on the “Shuttle” service to DC. Literally the Plane equivalent of a bus.

The plane was tiny and so was the journey. By the time the Air-hostesses had given out drinks, it was time to collect in the garbage to land.  We’d barely gotten going.

I navigated the DC Metro to find my hotel, the Hamilton (Insert links to the musical, but as I’ve not seen it, I won’t understand you.) I’m right in Downtown DC and thanks to some sneaky booking, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg! (Loves a bargain me!).

I checked in, and went and got some food. It’s freezing cold, -5 here, so a big pizza did the trick before I went for a stroll…. I was hoping to catch the protests which were going on but sadly missed them.

Looking at some of the monuments and buildings at night, I’ve come to realize how little I actually know about the history of America (Which for an A Level Geography student is a little worrying!).

I wandered down to the Washington Monument, managing to take a wrong turn and not see the White House on the way (Well done!).

It’s cool, It’s imposing but I still don’t really know what it commemorates!

From the memorial, I wandered down towards the Capitol building where the State of the Union Speech was taking place. (I’m sure I wasn’t on the best route, but a guy who looked like Obama waved to me while he was being driven, so I was happy!)

The pavements were empty literally not a soul in sight, but Police on EVERY corner. I’m almost certain I’ve seen more police today here in Washington DC than we have in the whole of the UK!

Is that St Pauls?

From near the Capitol building, I asked a Police Woman where the Protest was… she told me I’d missed it by about 10 minutes and it had dispersed along the road… had I eaten quicker I might have seen it, but she assured me that Pizza was better than protest.

From the Capitol building, I found a Walmart (I do love a late night supermarket!) where I purchased some supplies (gotta be prepared!) before heading back to the hotel in a Taxi who told me all about how Uber was killing their trade. Sounds familiar!

Well… that as they say is that! I’m off to catch some sleep, I’ve got two beds to choose from (LOL) but I’m excited to be up and out tomorrow early doors to go and do some sightseeing and museum visiting!

Nighty Night… or good morning if you’re reading it back home!

Leaving… On a Sleeper Train

I wasn’t going to write but now it appears, writing I am. (Knowing full well the extent to which this is probably going to sound like a sad, poor man’s Michael Portillo’s Great Train Journeys!)
I’m a mix of feelings: Worry that I’m going to get no sleep, trepidation ahead of meeting colleagues and work tomorrow and of course, deep down, pure geeky excitement that I’m on one of the country’s only two Sleeper Services.
It sounds dreamy: “The Night Riviera”. Go to bed at London Paddington, wake up in Penzance Cornwall. How dreamy the reality is, I shall have to let you know – It better be good – I’m coming back to London in the same manner tomorrow night!

At Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great and imposing Paddington, the train is waiting for me at Platform 1. I take a stroll past Paddington Bear, and wait for a while in the First Class Lounge. I was lucky enough to manage to sneak into IKB’s original feature waiting room. Complete with a monogram for George the 6th.

I charge my phone a little, help myself to the wares on offer. (Cup of Tea and a fair few packets of glorious Boarders Biscuits.) I sat and people watched before making acquaintance with the couple next to me. We were reminded (regularly) that the train was ready for us to board, and eventually I caved in and headed for the train.
The isle was narrow. Very narrow. I had a backpack on my back and couldn’t turn around in the isle. I found the attendant and was checked in. The room (or berth) is small but functional – a bed, a sink, a hanger and a small box with soap, a flannel and some lip balm. You also get a tiny towel!
I’m in Coach G. The back of the train. Sadly, berth 1 – backing on to the toilet. Thankfully I packed my earplugs and should hope to get a good night’s kip. Breakfast has been booked with my friendly attendant – Coffee and a croissant.
I heard the automated voice heard at every other national rail station announce “The 23.50, First Great Western Service to Penzance” and headed to the back of the train. I hung my head out the window for a moment. I could see the grand station clock and Paddington Bear. The doors clunked. Locked. We were ready. Mere seconds later, the whistle blew, a green flag waved and we were off!

The back of the train has no engine car, so I could see “Where I’d been”. Watching the Great Paddington station get left behind, a tube train try to race us along the track but most importantly, London being left behind.
I left the back of train and made my way up the endless feeling corridors to the Lounge Car. Got myself a tea and a whiskey and sat down (As it happens with the couple from earlier) to take in my surroundings.
There is something special about this. Something I can’t explain. Something just feels right. It feels somewhat poignant, almost like this sort of travel was what was envisaged when IKB build the fairly imposing arches of Paddington Station. The trains are tatty and worn. (They’re undergoing a refurb) They don’t have plug socket! (“Shavers only!”) The Moquette on the walls has gone a bit dull and the buffet car dated. Yet still it feels oddly classy. Classic perhaps and somewhat romantic.
I’ve finished my tea and whiskey and the train has just left Reading… I think it’s time to trundle back through the coaches and test the bed! Night!

Tea in a Pullman cup. Classy. Actually so classy.
Tea in a Pullman cup. Classy. Actually so classy. 

Leaving a mark

Originally was going to be called “The one when I write about the train”.

I initially wrote this a few weeks ago. I never published it, but tonight on the tube home I came across it again and thought for a moment how, earlier in this week, people who had previously had no common denominator, other than being in the same place in the same time, just as I’d been on the train with the people below, were thrust into a common sense of being… A mark in their life, and sadly in some cases a mark of their life….

The tube is mundane. Every day for the last 13 months, I’ve chucked myself out of bed at the crack of dawn, thrown myself through the bathroom, wandered (or ran when late) to the bus stop. Shoved myself on the bus before spending best part of an hour crammed into a metal tube train.
There is a very good reason why some lines on the London Underground are described as “tubes”. Small circular tube shaped tunnels with small circular tube shaped trains. You’re often in closer proximity to a stranger than you’re happy being in with your friends, and most of the time during rush hour it’s an unpleasant experience.
Yet this evening, post drinks with an ex-colleague, I found something beautiful in the experience. Thinking a little about it, the enjoyment possibly stems from the hell-like experience before dinner. I took the Jubilee line. Typically British were the queues on the platform, yet unlike Brits, in the least prim and proper way, it was a free-for-all to find a small space to cram yourself into once on the train. A man placed his arm in my face and left it there… There I was, three stops inside a random man’s arm.
Yet tonight, I got on the train somewhere else, somewhere different to my normal commute. I missed the first train. I couldn’t see the screen as to where it was going. As it left, I said to myself, “There’s a reason that happened”
The train arrived and it was fairly empty. Three people in my section, another couple of people further up the carriage. We spread ourselves out (As only the best British, non-communicative commuters could do) and got hard to work ignoring each other.
Whilst doing our best to ignore each other, headphones in, kindle in hand, and nervously playing with a shopping bag, my mind started to wander. Wondering about the lives of these random people sat so close to me. So close, yet so far. I studied for a second the diversity within the carriage. I noticed the lady opposite me was wearing a Muslim headscarf. The lady further up was holding a bag from a supermarket which didn’t have an English name. By now others had got on the train. Some tourists holding a book, a man with ripped jeans and a bright red coat. He had blonde highlights and I noticed the bright contrast of colours.
I started wondering about these people’s lives… Their upbringing, their personal history. A story I’m so close to, yet in a few moments time will be yet again so far away from. Had the Muslim woman always worn a scarf? How would she feel if she knew the music playing in My IPod was a Jewish song? Where did the woman with the supermarket bag come from? What did the man in the ripped jeans do for a job?
As I started writing this, I noticed that almost as I was studying each person for a split second, they got up and left the train. As this percolated in my head, I realised I could have spoken to them, smiled at them… I became so close to making a mark in their current history, their life, their moment, but didn’t. I’d stopped paying attention to the music playing in my iPod and was focused on them for a split second. But they had no clue.
I came to the conclusion that chances are they wouldn’t want me to make a mark in their lives. I’m a randomer on the train. But… It’s made me think deeply about the mark I leave on other peoples lives… My family… My friends… The people I work with.
At the end of the day, we’re all just on a train to our destination… No train service in the world runs perfectly without delay. There’s always the chance to get a red signal. But while the service is good, you have to make the most of your journey and ensure you leave a good mark on those in your carriage. Everyone gets off at a different stop in life.
(Talking of which, it’s time for me to get off this train!)
In memory of the 22 people unjustly murdered earlier this week at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester.

“We must fight terrorism as if there’s no peace process and work to achieve peace as if there’s no terror.” – Yitzhak Rabin

Day 11 – Shenzhen

So today was, for me a fairly early start. I was out of the residence of Hilzo just after 10am. Gutted that I missed the Escalators going downward I trudged down the stairs to Central MTR station. (To Clarify it’s a LOT of stairs… 20 minutes worth!)

From Central, I jumped on the MTR and three trains later arrived at the Boarder of Hong Kong with Mainland China. (AH!). Having been allowed to leave Hong Kong, I then had to find the visa office to be allowed into China. As I was pre-warned.. It’s not Clear.

I eventually found the escalator, took a number,  filled in the “application card” and waited. Thankfully within 10-15 mins my number popped up on the screen, and I was able to go to the first window. At the first window I handed over my passport, and was stared at before being told… “Processed”. Then I had to sit and wait to be called to the second window, where I paid, before another wait to collect my passport from the third window, now sporting a lovely whole page sticker!

Having been allowed in, my bags went into a metal detector and out of the station I went. I wandered down into the Shenzhen Metro station and tried (and failed a few times) to get a ticket to the Currencies Direct office in Shenzhen. Eventually a plastic coin dropped out the machine… after I’d put in the equivalent of about 40p. It would appear that would be my ticket. I scanned my bags again. (every Subway station in Shenzhen requires a bag x-ray!) Waved my coin onto the barrier and down into the metro I went.

It’s very similar to Hong Kong and mostly in English so was easy to navigate and soon enough I was at the station I needed to get off at. Dropped my coin in the slot and left the station… I found what I thought was the office but due to a slight confusion wasn’t so I jumped into a taxi up the road (a whole £1’s worth of Taxi!) to the right place.

Once inside I met my lovely colleagues out here in Shenzhen and one of them treated me to a pizza. Worryingly while waiting I could smell loads of chemicals… not sure where they were coming from but the pizza tasted fine!

Another selfie, another reason to join the Peace sign club!
CD HK – Another selfie, another reason to join the Peace sign club!

It was interesting to learn that where the office is located, is the “New CBD” opposed to where my hotel is located which is now the “old CBD”. All the Finance Institutions are now a bit further out in bigger buildings with more space!

From the office, I splashed out in another taxi (I think it was £3.50) to check in to the hotel.  Again, 5* … this time a little less luxuary than the Galaxy but perfectly adequate. (A bit aged, but I paid £73 for a 5* room, what can I really want?!!)

The Hotel opposite decorated for CNY
The Hotel opposite decorated for CNY

From the Hotel it was a quick 5 minute walk up to the metro station and a 10p journey to the Stop where I was going to find the Electronics Market…

The electronics market was frankly nothing like I could have imagined. There was just so much. In fact, there was much too much.  To start with I was overly excited, but an hour or so in, and I was fed up, lost and confused! I’d managed to accidentally make it over to the Phone accessories market and was sick to the back teeth of phone covers!

I eventually fell out of the building onto the street about 400m up the road from where I’d started. I took a wonder back down and started in the electronics again being very careful! ( I did manage to buy some items in the phone market though!)

Back in the Electronics market, I was again, excited but soon bored once I realised I was on floor 3 of 10… I was really hoping to see something innovative that I’d never seen before which I could buy and bring back. Sadly I saw nothing like that. I did however see ever component under the sun, every cable, every connector, every of everything.

10 Stories of rediculousness
10 Stories of rediculousness

I was also overcome with the strange regulations with regard to smoking. Despite lots of components, including gels etc, and the numerous signs saying “No smoking” there were still large numbers of stall holders puffing away, or groups of people playing cards between stalls puffing on fags! Weird to see nowadays post “Smoking ban” in the UK!

Just going to shut up shop of my electrical goods by wrapping a blanket over them!
Just going to shut up shop of my electrical goods by wrapping a blanket over them!

I decided that had I have had an explicit shopping list I probably could have done well, but just to browse, I got bored. I decided I’d head back towards the boarder (but not over!) to the Louhu Commercial City.

CRAZY Shopping street by the electrical market!
CRAZY Shopping street by the electrical market!

What a bloody experience. 5 floors of Real, fake, real genuine fake, goods. Mental. Every store tries to entice you in with their chat. In poor English including their catchphrase “Just looking”. (Hilzo’s brother reckons someone once said “Just looking” and it’s caught on… I’d agree)

Another 5 stories of Craziness - most stores don't have the stock in them, but in a stock room somewhere... they will bring it to you on your request!
Another 5 stories of Craziness – most stores don’t have the stock in them, but in a stock room somewhere… they will bring it to you on your request!

At the recommendation of a friend, I paid one of the sellers a visit and ended up staying about 3 hours. But we got what we wanted in the end so all was good!

I also managed to add some T-Shirts to my collection… let’s hope I can get all of this back in my case!  Overall a successful day.

I headed back to the hotel, Tried to go to the revolving restaurant  on the 50th floor but it was sadly closed up already, so headed down the road to the Golden Arches.

Not sure why "Warm tips" amused me! Helped by some guy just laughing away next to the sign!
Not sure why “Warm tips” amused me! Helped by some guy just laughing away next to the sign!

It had started raining and I was genuinely a little worried about the acid that might be falling from the sky! I did notice today that there was a haze for most of the day and I’ve had a headache, and my eyes have been a bit weird feeling all day.. I can only attribute all this to pollution. FUN!

Also interesting is how much of the internet is restricted in Mainland China. If you’re reading this from facebook, best you don’t ask how I posted it on there… strangely messenger seems to work (the facebook messaging app)… weird!

Anyway, I best get to sleep before my last day and flight home tomorrow! 🙁 Night all!

Day 9 & 10 – Macau

So I decided to do Macau in one post instead of two posts of two half days…

Yesterday I went to Kowloon for the fitting of my suits (Looking GOOOOD!) before getting the Star Ferry back to HK Island to find the Cotai Water Jet Pier. I bought my tickets, was let out of Hong Kong Boarders and was soon on the way to Macau.

The boat was a little bumpy, standard catamaran nothing awful, and soon I was in Macau looking for a hotel shuttle bus! Bus acquired, I was soon whisked round to the Diamond Lobby of the Galaxy Hotel Macau.

I hasten to add. I did not pay full price for the hotel.  I managed to book a room for the night in the Galaxy, a ridiculous 5+ star hotel, for £108! BUT to do this, I used – On there, you know the location, the star rating and the price, but you don’t know the hotel until after you’ve paid! (I like a risk!) I’ve done the same regime for Shenzhen tomorrow!

Ridiculously Large hotel-age
Ridiculously Large hotel-age

Anywho, the hotel was RIDICULOUS. There was a “Long Queue” (2 people) so I was whisked away to the premier guest check-in, and looked after by a “Welcome ambassador” (I JUST WANTED TO PUT MY BAG DOWN!)  Eventually I was shown towards my room (on the 23rd floor) and was able to settle in.

I thought I’d go for a “quick wonder” to see what the hotel was like… an hour later I made it back to the room!

River Rapids on the "Promenade deck". Sadly shut or I'd have had a bob!
River Rapids on the “Promenade deck”. Sadly shut or I’d have had a bob!

The hotel was simply colossal – It actually contained 3 or 4 hotels all attached, surrounding a shopping center easily the size of Westfield White City.

From my hotel, I jumped on a (free of course) shuttle bus the the Venetian and had a gawp at the ridiculousness of having a canal with gondolas indoors in China. From the Venetian, I walked though to the Parisian and looked at all the poorly “French themed” items and decor.

You COULD Be in Venice... but you very much are not.
You COULD Be in Venice… but you very much are not.

As I stepped outside the Parisian, one of the doormen said to me proudly “Bonjour Sir” in an awful accent. I replied enthusiastically in as French an accent I could muster “Bonjour”, before realising it was actually 7pm and Bonsoir was probably the correct greeting!

From the Parisian, It was a short walk down the Cotai strip to the City of Dreams, Where I was off to see a show… (More on that in a minute!)… As I walked down the strip I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t like the fakery that was  all these hotels. I feel personally that there is something a bit… almost sinister about it all… I can’t describe, but it’s just all so fake!

It’s funny to think that 10 or so years ago, none of the Cotai Strip was there… Actually when you’re there however it’s not hard to believe at all. This is because next to every “overbuilt” hotel, seems to be an empty plot of land, either being built or just laying barren!

The House of Dancing Water

When I was talking about booking this trip, Hilzo said to me that if I was out here for this long, I should go to Macau and if I go to Macau I HAVE to go to see the House of Dancing Water. She also told me if I was booking, that I was not allowed to watch any Youtube videos or do any research about it. Blindly I booked and next thing you know was in my seat, in the Water Theater at the City of Dreams.

I’m actually still processing the show. Often I have said that a piece of Theater has been so good that it’s left me speechless… This was SO good that it left me with a dry mouth from sitting Gawping at the spectacle.

I actually still don’t know what more I can write about it. It was a spectacle like no other. I didn’t know where to look. I could barely focus on one place without noticing something going on somewhere else.

Often when you see reviews, you read ridiculous statements like “Best show ever” or “Astounding audiences every night”… I truly believe every one of those sweeping statements could be applied to this.  Nearly 24 hours later it has just dawned on me that there was probably only 3 spoken words in the whole performance!!

From Water, to bikes, to ballet to diving… you just can’t imagine what’s going to come next. If you are ever remotely near Macau, I STRONGLY suggest you go and watch the show! (It’s an hour on a ferry from Hong Kong… the ferries run over night… do it!)

If enough people want to know, then maybe I’ll write some more… but I really don’t want to spill any more…

What I will spill, is that before the “curtain came up” I was actually in tears. I was crying with laughter, due to a small language barrier issue suffered by the Ladies selling Ice Cream:

Whilst wandering up and down announcing the fact they were selling “Ice Cream”, one of the ladies had a particularly strong Chinese Accent, which ended up with it sounding like she’d said “Arse Cream”. To add insult to injury the Brand was “Haagen Daz”. When you combine the two, the lady shouted what sounded like “Hardened Arse Cream”….  This went on for about 20 minutes…. Once you’ve got the giggles it’s very hard to stop, especially when they keep offering their wares!!

After the show, I met Hayley (shoutout to Hayley) who is working on the show. She started last week… all very coincidental that I’d already bought tickets etc. and I am actually a little jealous that she’s involved with such an amazing thing!

We left the City of Dreams and walked over to the Wynn Palace that has fountains just like the Bellagio in Las Vegas… Where it’s different to LV is that it also has a cable car up, over and along the fountains and into the hotel. We took the cable car into the hotel (Redic!) before swiftly looking to try and find the exit (They are like mazes!).

We headed back to the Galaxy and had a wander round. I showed Hayley the ridiculous fountain in the Diamond Foyer that does a Show ever half an hour, revealing a Giant Disco Ball Diamond… We Got some food and even went into the Casino where Hayley won 50p, and I went down £2.50… High Finance!

The Size, Tech and Games in the casino were like another world!
The Size, Tech and Games in the casino were like another world!

It was soo lovely to catch up – and we did joke that it’s taken us to be 14 or so hours from home to be able to catch up when we used to live only 4 or so hours away!

I slept like a log. Well more like a sprouting tree with my limbs spread out across the Huge superking. I woke up in the middle of the night and actually panicked ‘cos I couldn’t find the edge of the bed!

This morning I had what I am happy to say is hands down the best hotel shower I have ever had in my entire life. Never has a hotel had pressure like it!!

I checked out, and headed to Studio City as my ticket to The House of Dancing Water gave me a free ride on the Studio City Figure of 8 Ferris wheel, plastered halfway up the building.

Figure of 8 Ferris Wheel from beneath! (beneath being the 23rd floor!)
Figure of 8 Ferris Wheel from beneath! (beneath being the 23rd floor!)

Frankly if you don’t have a freebie, don’t bother. You are perpendicular to the strip and can’t really see anything. (The concept was good, the execution a bit too showy and the views sub-par!).

The "View"... come back in a few years!
The “View”… come back in a few years!

Studio City is another huuuuge hotel themed on America/New York. Having been to New York this time last year I can confirm it was a very poor attempt!

From Studio City, I jumped on another free bus to the Macau Peninsular to explore the old city. There were LOADS of people everywhere. Macau used to be under Portuguese rule (Like Hong Kong was under GB Rule), so a lot of the streets look a little Portuguese-y, and Portuguese is still used heavily in Macau so the roadsigns etc are in Chinese and Portuguese!

Very Portuguese-y!
Very Portuguese-y!

I wandered through the streets, through a little market to the ruins of St Pauls Cathedral. Not quite St Pauls in London… but nice to look at.

The Ruins of St Paul's from "inside" the ruins
The Ruins of St Paul’s from “inside” the ruins

I headed back towards the bus stops, and found a huge department store. I found the cafe – Angela’s Cafe! Couldn’t see Angela but they made me a HUGE sandwich.

Satiated, I headed to a coach back to the Wynn Hotel (With the cable car) before swapping for a coach to the Ferry Terminal. At the ferry Terminal I managed to get on the boat “two before” my ticketed sailing.

It was choppy. I don’t really get seasick but I had to stop writing this blog because I simply couldn’t concentrate! They weren’t allowed to serve soft drinks and you were pretty much forced into your seats. (Sick bags ahoy!)

I chilled out at Lady Hilzo’s Palace for a bit before meeting her for dinner… We went to Happy Veggies which is the most amazing social enterprise… All the Waitstaff and Chefs were deaf. The whole restaurant is a social enterprise and the food was AMAZING too.

We’re now back at Hilly’s Palace (Not quite Caesar’s palace) chilling out before I head up to Mainland China for some “Shenzhen Shopping Action” tomorrow!