Archive for November, 2005

Hamburg Hop

Saturday: a smooth journey to the airport (Central Trains on time for once), easy check-in and on-time flight to Lübeck. I nearly missed the Hamburg bus at Lübeck because there was no sight of my bag on the carousel. Finally I did a circuit and spied it in the center of the carousel, abandoned and unloved having been knocked off by a big bruiser of a suitcase, no douBt. Risking Teutonic wrath, I hopped over the belt and back again to effect a rescue, and was about third last onto the bus.

The Novum Hotel was easy to find, just 5 minutes from the ZOB, and right in one of the red light districts. The hotel was very respectable, though, with 24 hour reception and video entryphone for the front door. My single was just off reception, and was modern and clean and comfortable – and basic! I dropped my things and went off to find Baumann’s Bierbar for a plate of Gruenkohl groaning with smoked sausage and ham and 0.4 litre of local Pilsner. I thought I should make the most of my first night so took the S-Bahn to Reeperbahn and strolled (well dashed – it was bitterly bitterly cold all weekend) along the eponymous street to St Pauli. Um, yes. Well the hookers dragging at my coat merely increased the rate of my dash! Neon signs, hookers, freezing cold. Reeperbahn done.

There followed the first of two broken, sweaty, horrible nights as my cold broke with a fever. I think I shoud probably have stayed at home. 🙁

Determined to make the most of it, on Sunday after a late breakfast (a decent German buffet) I wandered through the Christmas markets to the Rathaus. All very pretty, and at least 50% of the stalls were selling seasonal foodstuffs for consumption on the spot or over the festive season. But the stuff on the remaining stalls really didn’t get my juices flowing, not that I’m very good at shopping to start with.

Next stop the photography musem, Deichtorhallen – Haus der Photographie where the main attraction was a great exhibition of works and writings by Hubert Fichte and photographs by Leonore Mau. A side exhibition of portraits by Barbara Klem, including wonderful black-and-white shots of Simone de Beauvoir, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Simon Rattle and Alfred Hitchcock amongst many others, was also very good.

I took lunch in the very smart Fillet of Soul café / restaurant attached to the museum, plumping for Schwarzwurzelsuppe after establishing that Schwarzwurzel is something like dirty asparagus! I now discover that the English translation is black salsify – I don’t know if that helps!

Back to the hotel for a rest, before sampling the delights of the Dragon Sauna, details omitted! Finally a reasonable Italian Dinner before a ridiculously early bedtime, which didn’t do me as much good as I hoped since I was so restless.

Monday: A free harbour tour by hopping on and of the river busses, included in my Hamburg Card. The port is really busy, with barges, container ships small and large, and floating dry docks directly opposite the Landungsbrücken. En route to lunch I passed the St Nikolai Spire, Hamburg’s equivalent of Coventry’s old cathedral. Very stark and moving in the winter light. For lunch I found the Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht, and had a lovely glass of dark beer to accompany a plate of grünkohl with much better sausage and gammon than Saturday’s.

A little more shopping completed my Hamburg highlights before taking the train to Lübeck for a half hour. The city looks worthy of more attention than I could give it, but at least I had time to buy some marzipan before taking the bus out to the airport. Which is basic. The staff at the bar in the waiting lounge were having an argument about the float, and managed to cash up about four times without acknowledging the presence of a single customer. Sigh. Ah well, it was soon be time to board my flight home. As usual I missed a train at Stansted by the skin of my teeth, especially annoying as I would have caught it if I’d made the right choice (instead of the left one) and taken the escalators rather than the ramp!

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We had a super weekend with our friends Danny & Malcolm. They picked us up just before six on Friday and we headed north, stopping at the Ram Jam for dinner. I’ve driven past countless times, but never stopped. It turns out that they do good bistro food with reasonably rapid service, serving up smoked haddock on a bed of spinach with hollandais and pan fried new potatoes, spoiled only by the gallon of melted butter in the bottom of the plate. We found our way through Sheffield and reached The Rambler Inn in Edale by 10pm. The barman was a little sniffy about two male couples booking in to two double rooms, but perhaps he was just being cautious as in his words, he didn’t want us “to kick off when we saw the double beds”. Time for a pint at the Nag’s Head and one back at the Rambler before bed.

Saturday morning was very cold, but with blue skies and frost everywhere, very beautiful and excellent walking weather. We spent the day walking a wonderful 14 mile circuit (see Graham’s fab map):

  • Up Grinds Brook onto Kinder Scout
  • Along the ridge past Crowden Tower and Edale Head
  • A quick diversion (and brief passage on the Pennine Way) to Edale Cross
  • Over Brown Knoll and Horsehill Tor
  • Along Rushup Edge, stopping at Lord’s Seat for lunch with fabulous views over Edale
  • Down into Mam Nick and up Mam Tor, where there were paragliders finding some lift
  • Via Hollins Cross and the lone pine on Back Tor to Lose Hill
  • And finally backtracking to Hollins Cross before descending to Edale

Graham took some wonderful pictures. The only dark cloud, figuratively and literally, was Danny’s encounter with a boghole almost to one hip, which caused him to wrench his other knee. Fortunately he was fine to continue the walk.

The next trick was to combine a well-earned drink with not falling asleep before dinner, managed by taking a quick nap inbetween! Food was plentiful but not startling and rather expensive.

On Sunday morning Danny’s knee was quite sore, so we abandoned plans for a morning walk. Graham and I nipped up the first mile of the Pennine Way while Danny & Malcolm packed, and we drove off via Mam Tor to the Blue John Caverns, arriving at opening time only to be told that ‘electrical problems’ would delay opening for an hour. So onwards via Winnats Pass to Matlock Bath for a trip up the cable car to the Heights of Abraham. Or so we thought. Closed until February. We sought solace in coffee, hot choclate and Bakewell Puddings, and headed gently home.

It was lovely to get out into some real countryside for some real walking, and to revisit my old stomping ground from when I lived in Derby. Many thanks to Malcolm and Danny for organising a great weekend.

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Wey Navigation and North Downs

A weekend with Dad & Dawn in Woking. We arrived to a turkey pasta lunch, and had time for a short walk along the Wey Navigation before the beautiful daylight faded to dusk… We gave and installed an early Christmas present in the form of a DVD player which was very well received. I never mentioned that it only cost £25 in Superdrug, but then part of the present was the installation service and tutorial! Dinner was a gorgeous takeaway from a Thai/Chinese takeaway in West Byfleet, before christening the DVD player with the first half of Saving Private Ryan. I’d forgotten how explicit the opening sequences are in their depiction of the horror of the D-Day landings. Salutary watching in between Armistice Day and Rememberance Sunday.

Today we started with porridge, just in case we were hungry. I helped Dad decide where to hang some pictures and how to have them framed. Another walk, this time to Newlands Corner. The weather wasn’t as clear as yesterday but it was still great to see the hills, something sadly lacking around Cambridge. More food couldn’t be far away: a super casserole prepared by Dad during the week, accompanied by a 1993 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This was a little cold to show much on the nose but still had lots of spicey depth to it. Time for a short power-nap before starting our train journey back to Cambridge.

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I forgot about the fireworks last night. Excellent, the best Midsummer Common show for quite a few years. We took mulled wine in a thermos, so starting the night’s boozing. The sponsor is the Grand Arcade, and hence my pension!

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Partnership II and Skin

On Friday night we hired possibly the best film I’ve seen this year: Mysterious Skin directed by Gregg Araki. This is an amazing piece of film making: superb performances from the cast, haunting photography and a story which refuses to let go. Very moving, and very thought-provoking.

Saturday was taken up by more scouting and shopping and thinking for our Civil Partnership day. We’ve ordered rings and we have decided on our evening venue. It’s been lovely doing it all with Graham. The venue-scouting in the evening resulted in a high level of alcohol consumption, though…

So today started sluggishly. A ten mile walk to Teversham only just managed to blow away the cobwebs, in spite of the gale-like winds! We’re trying to get ready for our Peaks weekend with Danny and Malcolm.

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