Adventure, Beer, Career aspirations, Career frustrations, Food, General ramblings, law, Life goals, Luxembourg, New adventure, Pupillage, Training contract, Travel, Travel writing, Trips, Wanna be Barrister

Trip 5: Luxembourg (and Germany, again)

This #atripamonth idea has been a great thing for me, providing something to regularly look forward to, it’s helped get me through the tedium and banality of day-to-day paralegal perjury; the stress and disappointment of pupillage applications, interviews and rejections; and general life frustrations. Just being somewhere different for a few days and researching things other than chambers’ websites, is satisfying in its attainability and as a distraction, if nothing else. Also writing a blog (albeit much less frequently than initially anticipated) has been cathartic, writing something other than work emails, indices for bundles and unconscionably late Whatsapp messages, with no printing or scanning required.

Luxembourg was the cheapest flight for July, £28 return – bargain. As it was so cheap, I invited my brother to join me. Firstly because no one else was free and/or wanted to go to Luxembourg, but mainly because he has been struggling to find a job for a few months and I thought the trip would provide him with a little relief from the day-to-day cycle of applications and rejections. Although I only booked our flights a couple of weeks before hand, that should have been enough time to find a few things to do. But sitting in the departure lounge, we realised that between us we’d amassed only a small handful of underwhelming ideas.

So when we arrive late on Saturday night, we had no real plan of what we were going to do until our flight home Monday evening. We got on a bus from the airport assuming that it went to the city centre (luckily it did), and then walked to the hotel. Maybe we ambled along less popular avenues, but we didn’t see much in the way of Saturday nightlife. The hotel wasn’t particularly central, but after a brief wander it became clear that we weren’t near anything fun, so we settled for a G&T in the hotel bar and an early night.

Breakfast was a super start to the day, an amazing auswiel of food: from goat’s cheese and little cornichons to pastries, scrambled egg and delectably crisp bacon. It was such a treat to say in a hotel, rather than sharing a room with however many random people, each morning stocking up on stodgy rye bread, processed meat, and lukewarm coffee in stained, chipped mugs (which, to be fair, does have its own charm).

For our first proper day, we walked around Luxembourg city centre. The old town was charming, with winding streets of large stone buildings, labelled with colourful signs in a variety of languages and little arches constructing connections on obscure angles. From the bock casemates (a former fort, a honeycomb-like warren of rocky passages) there was a beautiful view – below, a green valley with the ambling Alzette river, spindly black church spires spiking the skyline and music playing in a nearby courtyard, and to the right, the expanse of the historic walled city.

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The Alzette River and Bock Casemates, Luxembourg

 

We visited the Natural History Museum, which had a special cat exhibition, and also walked along the river in the sunshine to the Grund area, where we stopped at Scott’s café for some lunch. The burger was delicious, but the beer, Diekirch, distinctly average.

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A vanilla, bourbon and caramel chocospoon!

We got caught in the rain and wandered, slightly sodden, around the Notre Dame and then back into the centre of town, where we stumbled upon the Chocolate House. What a delight, a vast selection of chocospoons, from tiramisu and wasabi to lavender and chocolate brownie, and an array of milk (including lactose free cow’s milk and almond). I opted for a vanilla, bourbon and caramel spoon, and we shared the most amazing and enormous chocolate mousse cake.

 

 

After getting caught in the rain again, we explored the Bonnevoie area on the other side of town. In search of more food, we couldn’t find anything Luxembourgish so settled for a pizza. Our conclusion at the end of our first day was that Luxembourg was nice, pretty but also quite boring (despite the chocospoons), there wasn’t many people or much of a buzz, so we needed to come up with a plan of escape for the next day.

Day Two

From our strategy session over breakfast, we/I decided that we should get the train to Germany, as my brother had never been before. Trier was about an hour and a half away, with regular trains back and forth, so we went there – to the birthplaceof Karl Marx (my academic idol as a politics undergrad). Trier was pretty and has a large Roman gate at its entrance; we went to a few churches, including the Dom, meandered along the river and then visited the Karl Marx Museum. At 5:37pm, we got the train back to Luxembourg and then went straight to the airport.

 

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The Moselle River, Trier, Germany

 

We debated whether to visit the CJEU (working in law I felt particularly obliged), but decided that as it was Sunday, the Court would not have been open, so it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Instead, we waited at the airport for hours, and then even longer because our flight was delayed and then longer still, as two people decided that because of the initial delay, that they no longer wanted to get the flight, so their baggage in the hold had to be located and removed. Thanks guys.

We landed way after midnight and got home who knows when. Dragging myself into work early the next day, I see an urgent request from my colleague – to order a toilet dispense for someone in the Netherlands. What a way to start the week.

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Karl Marx
Adventure, Beer, Flying, Food, General ramblings, London life, New adventure, The Netherlands, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

Trip 3 Part 4: Alkmaar, Haarlem and Den Haag, and finally a little bit of Eindhoven

Inspired by visiting two cities in a day yesterday, I decided to raise my game and beat this new PB. Arriving at the train station, I bought the same day pass as before and took the next train to the furthest city from Eindhoven – which happened to be Alkmaar. I’d never heard of it, but going there first gave me the rest of the day to get back to base camp.

The train took about two hours, and was well worth it. Alkmaar had twinkling church bells, windy little streets, with pretty houses of all different colours and styles. Again, as with Utrecht and Amsterdam, the life and structure of the town was based around canals; beautiful arteries of interconnected waterways, along which people sailed boats and kayaked in the sunshine. I’d arrived too late for the famous cheese market, but I bought some cheese from a market and decide to try to collect a different local cheese from each city I visited that day.

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After a whistle-stop tour, I made the 3:20pm train to Haarlem. I was initially unimpressed with my second choice of city – walking from the station, it could have just been Croydon or Hemel Hempstead, a prosaic, generic town. But everything changed at the turn of a corner, and like the Netherlands in general, I fell in love with Haarlem. After sourcing some local cheese, I sat outside a pub in the central square opposite Grote Kerk church and drank a beer in the sun (Texels – from one of the Dutch ‘Waddeneilanden’ islands and delicious!).

Taking the scenic route back to the train station to see a windmill, I got the 5:36pm train to The Hague / Den Haag.

By the time I got to Den Haag, I was pretty tired… Apparently sitting on trains and drinking beer in the sun, is really exhausting! On my initial train from Eindhoven that morning, I was thinking to also stop by Rotterdam or maybe Gouda, but now, no, absolutely not. I was tired and in a bad mood, with no one else to blame or to be annoyed at but myself – great.

Unlike what I’d seen elsewhere in the Netherlands, The Hague had a lot of high-rise buildings and wide streets, it could be any city – it’s like the start of Haarlem all over again, I was immediately judgemental and therefore instantly disappointed. Luckily, I soon found the windy, warren lanes that I expected and stopped for some dinner – a tapas of smoked salmon and fennel salad, blue pecorino in sherry, some bread and a beer (another Texels). The place was Café Oude, it was cute, slightly kitsch, and the food was delicious.

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After a little post-meal wander, I got the 8:20pm train from Den Haag. It stopped at Rotterdam on the way to Eindhoven, but I was just too tired to visit another city. Plus, I needed to leave some places unexplored, so that I can come back for another adventure.

On day four, I finally investigated Eindhoven. I wandered around, saw the PSV stadium, browsed in some pretty boutiques, and whilst I sat in a bagel and juice shop, the glorious weather turned to torrential rain. I was sitting outside under the veranda and without a jacket or an umbrella, there was nothing I could do but wait and let (and hope that) the showers passed.

Pathetically and irrationally trying to overcompensate for being so desperately late getting to Stanstead, I arrived at Eindhoven Airport three and a half hours early for my flight – I only had carry on luggage. Despite such a healthy selection of freshly cooked food, I opted for a burger and a beer and sat on the terrace enjoying the sunshine – it reminded me of last month in Germany. The Netherlands has been my favourite place so far, I felt refreshed and energise from the trip, with a new love in my life, about which I had so much to learn and reasons to explore.IMG_1392

When I arrived back in London, the situation was painfully contrastive, a terrorist attack had just taken place at London Bridge whilst I was on the train home from the airport. Reality set back in, and the joy and happiness of my trip just disintegrated.

Adventure, Amsterdam, General ramblings, The Netherlands, Travel, Travel writing, Trips, Utrecht

Trip 3. Part 3: Utrecht and Amsterdam

Happy birthday to me! To celebrate getting old (painfully close to thirty) and achieving not much since this time last year, I decided to visit Utrecht and Amsterdam.

Today I had to pay for travel, but €38 got me unlimited use of public transport across the country for the day, not bad. The trains are great, they’re regular, clean and some have wifi, plus the main cities are well-connect and relatively close, so it’s easy get between them. The route to Utrecht (and everywhere I went for that matter) is beautiful, the train track seems to consistently run in parallel with waterways, bordered by fields that are separated by streams. There’s so much water everywhere, water and bikes – plus lots of cows and the odd windmill. I’m definitely in love with the Netherlands.

Utretch train station has a strange vending machine, I think it sold warm croquettes. Timişoara, at a farmer’s market, had a vending machine dispensing eggs and in Germany, it was burgers next to take out places. I’ve firmly decided to seek out and photograph these #randomvendingmachines when travelling. They must say something about their respective countries and culture, but what, I’m not quite sure yet – I’ll give it some thought.

Despite being the former capital, so I was informed by the women at the visitor information point at the train station, Utrecht is very quaint. There are, again, so many bikes – more than you could imagine – chaotically piled, crammed and squeezed along the racks that are pervasively planted across the city. I only made a quick visit, going to a few churches and squares, and briefly meandered along parts of the canals. There’s a calm vibe, a slow pace and very few people.

Returning to the station, I wandered back past the croquettes dispenser to get the next train to Amsterdam.

The current capital is so busy and has a completely different feel to Utrecht, or maybe it was just something in the air affecting my senses. With only half a day to explore, I walked so much. Firstly, around De Negen Straatjes (a series of picturesque canals that radiate out from the west of the centre, lined with trees and quirky little shops and boutiques), past the Anne Frank museum – the queue was too busy to join, down to the museum quarter.IMG_1246.JPG

The weather was glorious, so hot, and after sitting for a bit next to a statue of an ear, dipping my feet in the pool outside the van Gough museum, I made my way to the De Pijp district. Apparently, it’s a trendy, bohemian area – too cool for me, but I agree with all the reviews I read, not as polished as the more central canal districts – but beautiful and vibrant. I visited the Albert Cuypmarkt, which is a feast for the eyes with exotic fruits, cheese stalls and, most importantly, FRESH stroopwafel. It was amazing, no need to sit waiting for your waffle to warm atop of your coffee, it’s direct from the griddle and freshly slathered with syrup.

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Walking back to the centre, I had my first experience of seeing ladies in red curtained windows. Definitely not my thing, but interesting to observe their different sales techniques. I decided to get the tram to Dam (a square in the centre of town where the Koninklijk Palace can also be found), and then wandered around the red light district proper. Again, I found it uninspiring and anti-climatic, a small warren of little windows, with aging velvet curtains outlining clinical, tiled cells. Maybe because it was only early evening and I’m not their target market, but most of the women I saw (and there didn’t appear to be many) were just sitting on stools, looking bored, staring at their phones.

On my way back to the train station, I decided that I was hungry when I saw a long line of people queuing up for chips – so decided to do the same. They were served in a blue paper cone and had an excellent sauce to chip ratio, if only I could remember the name of the place…

It didn’t really feel like a birthday, whatever that actually means, but it was a truly lovely day out.

 

 

 

Adventure, Flying, General ramblings, The Netherlands, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

Trip 3: The Netherlands. Part 2: Day 1

The flight to Eindhoven is so quick – 45 minutes! People in the UK should visit the Netherlands, if nothing else, but for the shear proximity. In comparison, 45 minutes into my coach ride from London Victoria to London Stanstead, I had only reached the Tower of London… Also, the views flying into the country are stunning; the shoreline is edged with a plethora of islands, interconnected by winding threads of roads and bridges, and it’s so flat that the land looks as though it’s just a thin, motley green sheet floating precariously on the sea, ready to sink or be swept away at any minute.

In what appears to be my standard slipshod style, I arrive with no local currency (despite only going to Germany a few weeks before). However, I thought that this wouldn’t have been a problem as my parents visited the Netherlands earlier in the year and noted, on several occasions, that airport shuttle buses only accepted card. This bus to the city centre didn’t, but luckily the driver let me on for free. Another pococurante trait, which I’ve been aware of before my trips, is that I never properly charge my phone – it is in a perpetual state of senectitude, as was the case here. Amazingly, however, the bus had USB ports, and wifi! The Netherlands is doing great so far, it’s enabled me to be completely incompetent and disorganised, yet get to where I want to go and roam the internet for free.

The journey from the airport to the city wasn’t long, but in that short pace of time I saw so many bikes. Parked outside houses, lining the front of shops, seemingly free-standing on the pavement, crammed together chained to railings – everywhere, bikes are everywhere, it’s amazing. There are designated cycle paths too, and so many people use them. I’m in love already.

By the time I arrived in the city it was getting dark, but I found my hotel quite easily – after I went into the wrong, much nicer one next door and was politely told to walk a couple of metres further down the street. I should have known that my budget does not extent to establishments with night-time reception staff. I collected my room key from a safe on the side of the hotel – classy. At this point, standing alone at night on a random street in a new country, I was particularly grateful for my USB-supported bus ride, as I only had the passcode for the safe on an email and when I arrived at the airport, my phone had just a lean red line of life left. I should be more organised.

This time, rather than sharing a room with six or more randoms, with backpacks strewn everywhere, towels hanging from every bedrail and the floor scattered with islands of dirty clothes, I had my own room with my own little sink – what luxury (albeit, the room basic, the bed single and the toilet and shower shared).

There were a couple of pubs opposite my hotel, so I went to the closest one for a snack – bitterballen (beef croquettes with a mustard dip) and a beer, a nice end to my first evening in the Netherlands.

 

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Adventure, Flying, Travel, Trips

Trip 3: The Netherlands. Part One: From Standstill to Stanstead

Impotently stressing. In an attempt to keep costs for my trip down, rather than travelling on a chewing gum spotted, overpriced train seat, I booked a coach to Stanstead airport from Victoria Station. There were three key things I learned from this experience: one, it is incredibly inefficient to travel from North London to South West, to get East… Two, even more so when time is of the essence, always take the train out of London, and three, buses do not leave on time. Something I already knew, but gained a greater appreciation for, never drive through Central London.

I had a con-call for work on the day of my flight. As the most junior and by far the least important, I have little power to negotiate the time of these calls, let alone not be on one. The earliest others (who, for the record, are all incredibly lovely and supportive, just much more senior and busier than I) would / could do was 2:45 pm, so the earliest possible coach I could get was the 3:15 pm.  My flight was at 6:05pm.

Had I checked a map (and/or exercised an ounce of common sense), I would have realised that going all the way to Victoria was completely nugatory, as to get to Stanstead, the coach has to weave through central London – crossing the Thames from north to south and back again, what felt like a million times – to go East past Limehouse and out onto the A12. The bus left 15 (long, painful) minutes later than scheduled and took nearly an hour and half to get to the motorway; and the longer the coach sat lamely locked in endless, motionless congestion, the more agitated and desperate I became. Staring helplessly through the window at the Tower of London (45 minutes into the journey) I resigned myself to missing my flight, my main concern being, whether I should go into hiding and still take the two days off work, or save my holiday, return to the office and face the shame of being too incompetent to get to the airport on time.

Somehow, in defiance of GoogleMaps and City Mapper’s estimate arrival times, the coach pulled into the airport with about 30 minutes to spare until take off. Arriving in time for the ‘Gates Closing’ mark was long gone, but as soon as the doors of the coach opened, in a blind panic, I ran into the airport, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I could make it. This faint glimmer of hope was short-lived. As I scurried to the first set of security gates, all I could see was an impenetrable wall of bodies, snaking back all the way to the entrance. I did about 7 rows of shuffling and waiting, standing too close to the person in front of me, selfishly and pathetically hoping they and everyone else before them would move forward about 200 meters out of my way. In the end, having 10 minutes until my flight was supposed to take off, I decided (for the first time in my life) to jump the queue, politely of course – but it still felt so wrong and so un-English, it was great! After reclaiming my shoes and shoving my plastic bag of toiletries into my carry on, I ran to the gate.

Airports are the worst place to navigate when you are in a rush. Amongst their many functions, they are made to contain a lot of people (who, if they are prepared, on time and/or not a complete idiot, have several hours to pass) in a relatively small space – so have countless distractions and winding routes to aid time-wasting (and money spending). Furthermore, there are families scattered everywhere, meandering slowly with wheelies, buggies and children, in unpredictable directions, making un-signalled, manoeuvers and impromptu stops. An absolute nightmare.

However, my stress, worry and obnoxious running past and into anyone in my path, from leaving the body scanner to arriving at Gate 46 was not completely in vain – I made it in time to board! With only one person ahead of me in the queue, the process from the final passport check to my uncomfortable, crumb-invested seat, was incredibly efficient.

As I sat, a sweaty, puffing, dishevelled mess, caged into the window seat of Row 4, I reflected on my unnecessarily stressful journey so far. The fact that I had even made it to this point, despite my complete incompetence, gave me a very good feeling about the trip.

 

Adventure, General ramblings, Germany, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

Germany: Trip Two Part Two

I am rushing, preparing to leave for the Netherlands and remembered that I never finished my second post on Germany. So here we go…

Day two and two things booked in to do – my call for work at 1pm in central Düsseldorf and then a football match at 8pm in Leverkusen, a ‘city’ primarily known for being home to the pharma company Bayer, which founded the football team and owns the stadium. Working in patents seems to have impacted on my life in ways that I never really imagined: visiting Germany and the Netherlands, two key countries for patent litigation that I otherwise would not really have gone to, and whilst on holiday in Germany, visiting the local office of the firm I work for to take a call on patents in telecommunications and then visiting a city centred around pharmaceuticals.

Whilst waiting for my call, I pottered around Düsseldorf city and some of the gardens and parks, it’s very pretty. Paranoid that I’m going to be late to my call, lose my papers, break my phone and not have the dial-in details, I find a little coffee shop close to the office to sit and collect my essentials and my thoughts. The place roasts its own coffee, which was delicious and oddly served in a small glass jug for me to pour myself. It seemed as though I had everything I needed for my call, so I had my coffee and headed over to the office.

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The day before my flight, a colleague put me in contact with some people in the Düsseldorf office, one of which helped me to book a meeting room. She was too busy to say hallo in person in the end; I don’t judge her for not making the time to meet me, this random loser, who has a minion job and of her own volition, despite being on holiday, is going into a foreign office to do work. With that in mind, I can see how my presence does not really provide sufficient motivation for a person to reduce their billable hour output.

After my call, I walked to the station to get a train to Cologne, which apparently is on the way to Leverkusen and a very beautiful city. I realised that I’m much better at directions when I’m travelling alone, still not great, but better – as I don’t just rely on someone else to take me to places and have to actually concentrate on where I’m going.

Walking out of Cologne station you are immediately faced with this enormous, ornate gothic cathedral – a great start to the city! Inside, the Kölner Dom has the standard amazing architecture, smörgåsbord of stained glass windows, relentless iconography that I don’t know the significance of, and people are walking around appreciating architectonics that date back to the 13th century through the lenses of smart phones. After taking a few photos myself, I sit alone on a pew and reflect on the fact the I cannot even properly replace a brake pad on my bike, yet there have been and are individuals with the imaginative capacity and engineering competence to design and construct such a daedalean, brobdingnagian building.

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Leaving the dom, I make my way past the Museum Ludwig to the river, and again, the Rhine is ambling along at the same calming pace as it was the day before in Düsseldorf. I followed the river along to the chocolate museum, but once there I realised that I was not willing to spend €11 on the entry fee – I’ve been to Cadbury World twice and there’s only so many times you can watch the mass production of chocolate in action. So, after a quick perusal of the gift shop, I leave to explore more of the city.

Raining, raining, raining, it’s bloody raining and, as usual, I’m freezing. So I seek shelter in what appears from the outside to be a normal biersalon in the Heumarkt area. It’s not, it’s totally bizarre, every inch of wall and ceiling is covered in something old or faux vintage: 1920’s magazine clippings of machinery, illustrations of naked women, faded sepia weddings photos, landscapes, portraits, there’s an antediluvian chocolate dispenser (see, no need what so ever to have gone to the Schokoladenmuseum), and I’m sitting at a sewing table drinking a beer whilst a puppet trombonist plays jazz obnoxiously loud.

After a few hours of pottering around Cologne, I made my way by train to the BayArena in Leverkusen. It was so efficient, a shuttle bus was waiting outside the station to ship people to the stadium. I was initially skeptical about my ticket, as it was a seat in the away fans section. However, I actually lucked out, the seat was good – three rows from front and just to the right of goal. Plus, Schalke FC won 4:1, so I had a lucky escape from sitting with, what I imagine would have been, miserable Leverkusen fans. Schalke FC’s hardcore fans also electrified the atmosphere, with booming drums, jumping and chanting in unison and waving massive flags. Good game. Initially I wanted Leverkusen to win, but they had no attack and Schalke maintained a solid defence.

Once the game had ended, I jumped onto a seemingly non-descript shuttle bus that I presumed would take me directly back to the station I arrive at. The first stop was a train station, but I was too crammed into the centre of the bus to get out in time, and whilst standing dejectedly at the closely doors as the bus departed, I found out that it was in fact a completely different train station, which did not stop at Düsseldorf. However, a lovely old couple took pity on me, they were getting off at the next stop and kindly drove me to the correct station.

Day 3, I wander around Düsseldorf town. Walking through Carlsplatz food market I realise, one: that asparagus is incredibly popular here, it’s everywhere in so many different sizes – who knew, and two: that at that moment, I wished that I was travelling with someone else, with whom I could choose a greedy selection of different and delicious charcuterie and cheese, and just sit in the sun and gorge the afternoon away.

My meanderings took me to St Maximus’ church, in my self-imposed sad solitary state, I lit a little candle and just sat and thought, as I watched the flame flicker amongst the sea of quivering orange lights. The church was beautiful, open and light, and I seemed to have timed my visit well, as soon after I arrived, there was a public organ performance.

Once the music had ended, I went to the Film Museum, to try to inject some pop culture knowledge into my life. However, it was mainly in German so I had no clue what was being explained, but there were lots of exhibits and it was still interesting.
In my quest for culture, I walked along the river, through a fairground, to the Museum Kunstpalast. I’d never heard of Cranach before, but the exhibition on him was really good. From walking around the rest of the museum, I realised that the current instagram #foodporn obsession is nothing new, it is a continuation of the human fixation on and celebration of food. It’s just a modern take on the still life painting, see Peter Aertsen’s A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms (1551) or Willem Kalf’s oil paintings of glass goblets and peaches or of vases next to partially sliced melons, with apples shrouded in leaves – it’s all as artificially arranged as photos on smart phones. The key difference seems to be the disparity in skill between understanding form and lighting and representing reality through paint, and angling a phone and selecting filters to contort the shape and enhance the colour of a digital photo. However, one is something very few people have the skills to execute and is static, you have to be in the museum to see the painting, whereas the other is much more fluid and inclusive, it enables a wider audience to express themselves and their interests, and to connect and share ideas with millions of people. Who’s to say which one is better.

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After a sufficient dose of kultur I walked back along the Rhine, taking a detour across a bridge to see the city from over the water. Back in the Altstadt, I go in search of food. When travelling alone, you have to think strategically about meal times – for me, when there is no one you know to look at and talk to, it’s somewhere that has something going on or people walking by to provide a focal point. Alternatively, take a book and sit wherever.

I should have brought my novel, I went for people watching over food quality, and had the most unimpressive currywurst; my first and my last. Tasteless chopped sausage dusted in curry power and smothered in a vaguely tomato tasting sauce, what is the point?
Back at hostel, my dorm mates had changed – it was now a group of older, slightly shifty looking men and when I entered the room, one was sitting at edge of my bed rolling a joint. It made me feel quite vulnerable; no one at home really knows where I am, there’s no receptionist or staff on night duty at the hostel, and the door to the room has an electric code, so even if something bad did happen, no one outside could come in to help. Safe to say, I sufficiently scared myself and barely slept. However, when the guys did come in, they did so quietly and respectfully – shows that you should not judge people, I supposed.

On my last day I uploaded photos onto instagram over breakfast – I have become that person, the one sitting alone inside ignoring others around them, sharing pictures with strangers rather than living life and making more memories. I suppose I’m doing the same thing now writing this.

Checking out of the hostel, I had one mission to complete before my flight, to buy my sister some chocolate from the Lindt shop. It was closed, as were the majority of other shops (it was Sunday after all). But still, one job. There’s a marathon on, people are lining the streets cheering, there’s bands spotted along random corners jamming – the atmosphere is great and, finally, the weather is nice; and I weave with my wheelie between spectators and runners as I make my way to the bus stop, to get back to the airport.

As I sit on the terrace in the sun at Weeze Airport and reflect on my trip. I conclude between sips of beer that city breaks are intense and tiring – so much walking and seeing shit just to keep busy, to make the most of the trip. Oh well, I’ll just have to book a long holiday to recuperate.

Adventure, General ramblings, Germany, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

Trip Two Day One: Düsseldorf, Germany

This time last week, I was pottering around Düsseldorf on my second #atripamonth adventure, I’m a bit late in writing about it, but it already feels like forever ago.

Just to note from the start, instead of learning from my previous trip and actually organising a schedule of things to see and do, so that I don’t end up drinking wine from a plastic bottle on a park bench in the middle of nowhere, all that I managed to secure ahead of my trip was a meeting room at the local office of the company I work for to take a conference call on Friday. I know, I really need to reassess my priorities in life. But I’d heard many times from sometimes reputable sources, that Germany has good beer, so if nothing else materialised except my Friday call, “Ein Bier, bitte!” could be the theme of my trip.

With that in mind, I arrived at Luton Airport and for the first time, rather than ordering my standard soya latte no foam and a sad, soggy sandwich, I sat on my own and had a drink at the airport – I thought it appropriate to start my trip as so mean to go on, drinking beer alone.

What strikes me first from the flight is that Germany is so very close. Secondly, hovering above, that it is beautiful. The fields a pretty patchwork of different shades of green and yellow, neatly sectioned and interlaced with rows of trees, the rectilinear sequence intermittently interrupted by a secluded lake outlined by more trees and sometimes populated by a couple of small boats.

I arrive at Weeze Airport, which, due to my lack of preparation beforehand, I soon find out is not really close to Düsseldorf or in fact to anything, but rather kind of in the vicinity of several German and Dutch cities. For example, it’s near to Eindhoven, where I’m going at the end of May, so maybe I should have gone there too whilst in town and then booked my next trip to somewhere a bit further afield instead – I didn’t and I haven’t. Oddly, cigar samples were being handed out at the airport, I think being so accustomed to UK advertising laws, I found this particularly strange.

Waiting, waiting, waiting and there’s nothing to do, not even a little duty-free to peruse perfumes that I have no intention of purchasing. Despite being an aerial gateway to the Rhineland, shuttle buses to Düsseldorf from Weeze were relatively infrequent. Not only that, they were quite expensive – €15, which, when you take into consideration the £50 return flight budget I’ve set for my trips, £12.71 for a shitty shuttle is practically exorbitant, relatively speaking at least.

I finally get to my hostel, obviously getting lost from the station several times en route (despite using Googlemaps); it’s modern and clean and has a strict no sleeping bag policy, is that normal? Who knows… What it does mean is that every guest, unless they happen to bring their own bed cover, pillowcase and sheet, needs to rent them. The guy at reception is nice and gives me some recommendations of things to do and I decide to book a ticket to a Bundesliga football match (Leverkusen v Schalke) for the next day, which is apparently really close and easy to get to.

It’s quite late when I arrive, so after booking my football ticket I go out in search of something to eat. Instead of doing right; right from the hostel to get to the centre, I just do a solitary right and ended up by the harbour and Rhine Tower/Space Needle-thing. The sun was setting and the orange and dark blue sky interlaced with clouds and ribbons of pink contrasted beautifully with the spidery silhouettes of the cropped plane trees. The trees lined the pathway from the tower to, what I later learn is, the Parliament building. Trying to make my way to the Altstadt (Old Town), I followed the river as it ambled and flowed at a tranquil, calming pace.

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I manage to make it to the Altstadt, which is buzzing with a cacophony of chatter and different music radiating from the vast selection of busy bars, outside of which benches and people spilt out along the streets. How does it often seem to be that when you go away, it’s hard to find ‘local food’? In search of a traditional German meal, I walk past so many Spanish and Italian restaurants (which I’d be more than content with to eat at in the U.K) until I eventually stumble across a place affectionately called, Schweine Janes. Despite the place probably specialising in pork-related goods and having a fantastic sizzling, rotisserie display in the front window, I opt for schnitzel, which was dry, boring and apparently not even German (it’s Austria). Total fail. But at least the beer was good and washed away some of the disappointment and food envy I had as I sat watching the rotisserie turn and crackle, whilst I begrudgingly ate my shitty schnitzel.

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After my disappointing first supper, I wandered back through the streets and along the Königsallee, past so many stores I’ll never be able to afford to shop in, and pretty soon made it back to the hostel. After settling into my bunk bed, trying not to wake the other five people in the dorm who I presume to be asleep, some guy in the bunk opposite gets out of bed, not to pee, but to pray. I am relatively unfamiliar with Muslim religious practices, so found it strange and intriguing to have a random guy inaudibly mumbling whilst repeatedly standing, bowing, then sitting next to my bed. It felt like it was too intimate a moment to observe as an outsider, but when we are both staying in a hostel, where privacy is as unobtainable as the Chanel bags I walked past earlier, what can either of us do but try to pretend the other, in that moment, is not there.

 

 

 

Adventure, General ramblings, Romania, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

Trip One: Timiso-where-a, Romania

Despite knowing about my trip for some time, I still obviously left things to the last-minute, but just minor things like money, and it’s not until I’m rushing to make my way to the airport that I decide to try to procure some Romania currency, which I don’t even know the name of. Stopping at a Post Office, I find out that it’s Leu and, apparently, you can’t buy it outside of Romania. Great, so my friend and I are going to arrive in some random country in the middle of the night with no money. There’s no public transport running at that time and I doubt it would have contactless pay as you go facilities, so there better be a cash machine at the airport to get a taxi.

There isn’t one, well not one that could be found, but there are taxis, so we ask the taxi driver stop off at an ATM en route. He doesn’t speak much English, but we manage to communicate the need for a cash point and he also knows a few key phrases in English, such as “hello, how are you?”, “no need to wear a seatbelt in Romania” and “why are all English girls are single?”

We arrive at hostel around midnight, the dilapidated concrete building with it’s curtain-less windows, looks slightly derelict, illuminated by a fading orange street light and enclosed within a tall, rusting wire fence; it’s a bit eerie, but fine. We are staying in a 6-bed dorm and after putting our carry on bags next to our single beds, we go to the communal area, where we end up speaking to a Dutch guy sitting on his own. It turned out that he was travelling from Holland to China, and in two weeks had already visited six countries, even more impressive, he was doing so on a budget of €30 per day.

Saturday, was our first actually day and the hostel provided us with a useful little map which detailed places to eat and things to do, and after reading all about some of the amazing restaurants and asking the hostel guy for recommendations for breakfast, we ignore both and end up at some nondescript café in one of the squares. My friend smokes, so naturally we sit outside and after choosing the table closest to a heater and getting comfortable snuggled under the fluffy throws, we learn that the place does not serve food. So we uproot ourselves to the more or less identical café next door and proceed to have the most uninspiring breakfast. I thought avocado and eggs on toast was a safe option, but somehow this place managed to make every element of the dish unenjoyable – the bread was bland and stale, the avocado slimy and strangely seasoned and the fried egg had an artificial consistency that lay somewhere between rubber and plastic. The weather was drizzly, grey and cold: equally uninspiring.

We decide to go for a walk around the city and out of nowhere, the Dutch guy appears and we end up spending the day with him. There’s a map of suggestions in our pockets and internet of ideas at our fingertips, but we no plan, so we walk around the centre until we stumble across an Orthodox cathedral. It’s beautiful inside and we see a little sign for a tour. After ringing a bell, some sister appears and takes us underneath the cathedral to a mini museum of religious art and books. Initially she apologies for her limited English, what feels like at least three hours later, she is still talking us through the details of most books and pictures, all seem to be the first of something in the Romanian language. We signed the guest book and manage to escape.

Liberating ourselves from the church, we walk around the park and initially take the scenic route to the communist museum, getting an authentic Romanian experience walking through the back streets of who knows where. Eventually we/my friend (I provided no navigational use whatsoever) found the museum, it’s underneath a bar and consists of about five small rooms cluttered with communist crap, a plethora of peculiar paraphernalia from massive TVs to empty glass bottles, vinyls and meat mincers, and from what we saw, communism didn’t actually seem that bad…

After the museum, we went for lunch at a local place recommended on the little map from the hostel. As there was football on the chef gave us only one type of food to choose from. We had no idea what this was, but tried different variation of – each dish was basically a massive meat pattie and odd-shaped chips, no sauce.

After our second disappointing meal of the day, we walked to a beer factory. The rain had escalated, but we unknowingly timed our random wander perfectly and managed to arrive in time for one of the two tours that the brewery do annually; and as we were the only non-Romanians, we got a special tour from one of the brewers. After learning about beer making, including that you can make it from carrots and doing shots of yeast, we are given coupons for more free beer, and stay at pub in the factory for the rest of the evening.

Sunday needed to escape Timişoara – it is just so small, desolate and deserted. No where appeared to be open or selling breakfast, just coffee. So we sell out and buy Starbucks – internationally consistent coffee and free wi-fi, it’s the safest/only option. The guy at the hostel had ensured us that we could visit a local winery on Sunday, and as there was nothing else to do in the city, having walked most of it the day before, we decide to make the trip to Recas to sample some Romanian wine.

Not the best start, we get lost getting out of Timişoara as we couldn’t find the train station. We could see the tracks, but nothing else for ages. Once we eventually reach our first destination, it’s an hour or so wait until the next train. Once we reach Recas station, there’s nothing there. We have to walk through a field of sheep to get to the main road, which is lined with a smörgåsbord of either huge gaudy new builds with shiny tiles or old dilapidated tiny shacks.

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We eventually find the winery, well the retail outlet, and learn that the actual winery is closed. Out of what was probably pity, the woman gave us a few token samples. Out of what was definitely shame, we buy some wine, but as we don’t have a corkscrew, we get it in a refillable two litre plastic container. With ages until the next train and even less to do in Recas than in Timişoara, we walk to a park where we sit and drink the newly purchased wine from a half-filled plastic bottle, accompanied by an old man who is sitting alone on the next bench with his bottle of cider.

On our last day, we visit a little local market where we had the most delicious oranges and saw other less appetising foods, including an extensive array of onions, preserved peppers and pickled cabbages. There was also a vending machine dispensing cartons of eggs. We then walked around the botanical gardens, which weren’t particularly exotic or inspiring and went to see the synagogue, which it was closed. The Revolution Museum was open and upon entering, we were shepherded to a room scattered with fold up chairs, covered in faded pictures and flaking paint, where we were told to sit and watch a documentary on the revolution. I’m not sure what I actually learnt from the film, but after thirty-two long minutes we were more than ready for it to end. Sadly, the documentary seemed to be the only thing in the museum in English, so by the end of the tour we understood even. Not long after we meandered back to the hostel and made our way to the airport.

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Continue reading “Trip One: Timiso-where-a, Romania”

Adventure, Career aspirations, Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, Life goals, London life, New adventure, Pupillage, Training contract, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

BarHumBug: Thoughts and Ramblings

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I am writing this blog, I suppose, as a way to collect my thoughts and plan my future. I have been ‘trying to get into law’ for some time now, and at this point, it feels impossible and the sense of frustration and disappointed is indescribable. I want, I need, to vent these feelings and think that sharing my experiences will not only be cathartic, but will also provide an honest narrative on the less glamorous reality of law when you’re on the periphery of the profession, paralysed in perpetual paralegal perjury. It can be quite an isolating and, at least inwardly, a shameful situation to be in – seeing your peers’ progress, whilst you are seemingly standing stagnate. I also hope that writing about my experiences, if anyone actually ends up reading them, will give others in a similar situation something and someone to relate to, and, maybe, for people who are contemplating a career in law, to better inform them as to the realities of trying to get into the profession.

However, there is, as I have to keep regularly reminding myself, more to life that law; and I don’t want to just focus on that one aspect and dwell in self-pity. So, I also aim to talk about my general life in London, the coffee, the croissants, the cycling, as well as, my new perspective and experiences of the City as, of relatively recently, a singleton. Finally, and probably most interestingly and what motivated me to start a blog in the first place, is that I made a commitment to myself to travel somewhere new every month, and I want to record and share these experiences for myself and with anyone else that cares to care.

It is a completely new venture and adventure, so let’s see where it ends up.