The path to London doesn’t glitter

In which I refuse to turn around at the sound of the bells.

I come from a town of small proportions so I am used to urban areas of a certain size. I like how compact everything is, and particularly the low volume of human beings that never seem to get in my way or are just ‘there’.

So when I have to travel to any city I’m full of dread, there are very few I can tolerate (San Francisco and New York) but one sprawling mass is at the bottom of my list,I keep getting made to go by work, and for anyone who has read the title of this post it will not come as a surprise…

London.

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5 items to survive a desert island

In which I’m abandoned with the barest of essentials.

Imagining the necessities I would need for survival on a desert island can lead me one of two ways. I could either choose the sensible option of equipment that would prolong my life until I’m either rescued or expire, or take the other path and select the items that are as ill thought out as a Government healthcare website.

So the healthcare.gov route it is.

If I’m going to be stranded on a deserted island in today’s age the likelihood is that I’m never going to be rescued. I’m going to have been travelling by plane or boat and both of them have GPS systems that allow rescuers to track where I disappeared. If I am truly lost then there is going to be little hope for me. I may as well be stuck on an island that is a metaphor for limbo with random numbers, polar bears and that guy who played a hobbit.

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Travelogue : San Francisco

In which I wear some flowers in my hair.

I have a real antipathy towards cities, too many of then degenerate into the same grey rectangular blobs with citizens rushing from building to building. Change the names of the roads and the language on the transport system and many of them are interchangeable.

It is very rare that I will go to a city where I feel I could live, I could never reside in London and there is still a small amount of trepidation about New York. The only metropolis I have ever felt a yearning to become part of is the foggy and earthquake prone San Francisco.

At that statement I can hear the east coaster in Mrs G snort in derision. I subscribe to the wise words of Baz Luhrman’s Sunscreen that you should “live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft”. This is a place that refuses to be confined to the direct path. That’s how you end up with Lombard Street.
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Travelogue : Moscow and St Petersburg

In which I travel to the most foreign country I’ve visited.

One of the most exciting, strange and bewildering places I have ever been is Russia. It is a country that still feels on the edge of the Cold War, a fact The Simpsons seemed to realise as well.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xyfjp3_simpsons-return-of-the-soviet-union_fun

Walking around Moscow with the unfamiliar language and history of conflict with the West you felt like a foreigner in a strange land, but it is one of the few countries I would love to return to if only it wasn’t so crazy.

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Rebuilding Coventry again, and again

In which Coventry is rebuilt for the second time in 100 years.

The centre of Coventry must have looked nice at one point, I know this because I’ve seen photos of old Coventry and been to the few buildings that are still older than the United States. Everything else about Coventry is grey and less than seventy years old.

You see this is what the city centre looked like in 1917:

Just thirty years later the old Victorian shops and medieval cathedral were gone, to be replaced with the concrete modernism that is now being demolished across the city.

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Travelogue : Kephalonia

In which I wish I was half way up a Greek mountain drinking Mythos.

Kalispera, I write this not on a sun kissed beach nor by the pool with a glass of byra in hand but at a desk in darkest Coventry. It is not exactly vacationing in the Ionians, in fact I’m not going to sugarcoat it…it’s an awful feeling that I’m not sitting somewhere warm in the sun.

Beer on a table
What could be better?

I’m sure there are those of you reading this thinking “well at least you had a holiday” so as not to upset you further I should tell you something about the island where Captain Corelli fell in love.

I suppose I should then make it clear, there will be no discussion about how the island of the book (or film) compares to real life Kephalonia. I haven’t read it, I’ve had a quick go on Wikipedia but its one of those novels I couldn’t quite get in to. I read a book on the history of maps instead.

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Form an orderly queue at the gate

In which I do like the British do and wait patiently with passport in hand.

Your exits are here…

Mrs G wants a holiday, don’t we all, and the thought of flying off to a Greek Island is very tempting (but not possible at the moment). To be able to jump in an aluminium tube and jet off somewhere warmer is now a common occurrence, but when I was younger it was a lot more exotic.

Sounding classier than it actually was, Britannia Airways was the package holiday charter aircraft of choice. If you were on a BY flight you were likely to be going to Spain or Greece. This was not a code you would really find on the boards at LAX or JFK. If you were on a Britannia flight you were going on a Thomson’s holiday (mainly due to the fact they were owned by the Thomson Group).

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To be on a beach somewhere

In which I wish I lived by the sea so it didn’t cost anything to go there.

I just want to go away, not in the sleeping with the fishes sense but just want a nice relaxing holiday. Away from offices, away from OFSTED inspection, away from the British weather, away from the sofa, away from this cold I’ve had all winter. I just want to be away.

All I’m asking for is a week somewhere with a beach, little more than a few restaurants along the sea front and a pool bar that can serve me the occasional beer. Thankfully I’m the kind of person that likes to organise a completely unorganised trip.

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Travelogue : American roads

In which I like driving in my car it’s not quite a jagwhar.

On one of my regular sojurns to New York we were taken on a road trip by Mrs G’s father, not the kind that involves an RV or a brush with the police, but a very nice road trip up Long Island to see some pretty towns, eat at a roadside diner and taste some wines.

Also to stop and look at trees, because I’m British and therefore the logic was that I should like trees. I had never shown any hint of arborphila or waxed lyrical about a magnificent birch but we were still going to stop in a layby so I could get my wood fix.

PHOTO-NY Trees

At one point, about 80 miles from Manhattan, it made me realise that living on such a small island this is almost all the way to London. Which is a place I would only consider getting to by train. Also to just go out and drive for a day is almost unheard of in England, a major tourist destination is never more than 20 miles away. But America is a big place and as such is allowed space to breath and that space is connected by the strangeness that are American roads.

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Disappointed travellers

In which I travel to China and listen to British tourists complain it’s a bit foreign.

“Its not like back home”

The mating call of the elderly English traveller when confronted with the foreignness of being abroad. A statement full of shock and disappointment that other places aren’t like the cities they are used to. As if Shanghai should be like Sheffield , or Beijing is a bigger version of Birmingham. Or as it was succinctly put by a Geordie Granny, “its a long way from civilisation”.

I love watching the British as they try to deal with the fact that when you travel the holiday destination does not fall over themselves to change their language and customs to adapt to those who visit. It is normally the same Brits who complain about foreigners over here not speaking the lingo, so I find it fascinating to just sit and watch the fun.

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