Europe and Japan 2009

Week 7 - London

London was a 7 day flurry of pubs, walking, catching up with friends & family, a few sights, 2nd Deftones gig, a great wedding and reception, bad food, good food, rain, wind, sun, shopping, tube rides, farts, laughs, hangovers and late nights. The house was great, even though the girls might not agree totally, but everyone had fun living together. The wedding went better than anyone could have expected as well, great weather and everything ran like clockwork. Some of us don't remember everything that happened but all had a good time. Even those who saw their dinner again in the early hours of the next day (not me...just). It was also my last of 6 weddings which is a bit of a downer, it's been great drinking everyone elses alcohol.

I didn't really have any desire to see the London sights as I had seen them last time, so I spent most of my time catching up with family and friends who live in London or just hanging out with the Dagenham crew (coasties). My last trip didn't really involve much pub time so it was good to do London in a different way. I hardly took any photos including on the iPhone as I wasn't intending to blog, I also tried to concentrate more on being with people rather than taking photos of them. The highlight was just the random moments spent with friends in places none of us ever really thought we'd be together in, and getting to know everyone just that little bit better.

It was cool to find myself in random spots away from the tourist path that I had ventured into last time as well, I even noticed a phone box I had made calls from last time in some back street near London Bridge. London's started to cool into autumn already, even though we wore shorts and thongs last week...it's a good time to leave (pardon the pun/Goodway joke).

I've been told I look okay but to be honest I'm completely exhausted. So many events and people and different cultures, landscapes, languages and ways of doing things does take it's toll, even though it's a lot of fun. I've caught up with people from 6 different parts of my life while on the trip and it's been great to spend time with those people whether it was for a week or an hour. There hasn't been a moment I haven't enjoyed and wished I was at home. Any little creature comfort that I've missed along the way (i.e. own bathroom, sneakers that don't hurt, entourage, bigger choice of clothes, footy etc) I could still do without easily, but it will be good to see all the people back there.

I am looking forward to coming home, somewhat. There are things that will need to change and that will be exciting, some things I'll be going home to won't be so exciting...but it's all part and parcel of home and work and routine I guess.

Pretty excited to be getting in a week of beach and warmth before that though.

London

I'm not sure how much Internet, time or inclination I will have in London to blog. Everyone knows London anyway, but there will be things happening and the posts might be a little less regular. I definitely won't be blogging in Thailand so this will be the last week. 2 weeks to go...

Day 38 - Amsterdam featuring Deftones

Woke up to a pretty shitty day and it was raining, not good news seeings I had to walk to the hotel I had booked for my last night here. Fortunately it stopped as I checked out and the walk to the hotel was pretty short. The lady at the hotel was really nice, I think there's only about 6-7 rooms so they actually speak to you like a normal person...not another customer. She directed me to the Reijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum as they were the best 'rainy day' options. Not too much to report from these two, Dutch history and painting aren't really my thing but it kept me busy for a few hours. The real highlight was splashing out on a good Bento box in a Japanese restaurant with Italian wine for lunch. I did make a point of passing the Paradiso which was the venue for the gig tonight, a big old church which was converted to a music venue in the 60s. A lot of big bands play here for 'intimate' shows or live DVD filming, so I was looking forward to it.

More wandering through the shopping district and canals before it started raining again about 5-10mins away from the hotel. I didn't even take the camera out of the bag today, the light was crap and I couldn't be bothered.

I just spent the afternoon lying on my king size bed and using the wifi with some of my own space and silence. I spent a fair bit of money on the room, but it's my last night in Europe and the bed is about 4-5 hostel beds in size...definitely worth it. Also not having to think about where all my things are and whether anyone will get into the room or not is nice too.

Before I knew it I was walking back to the Paradiso, and I couldn't have got there quick enough. Had a quick dinner before going into the paradiso and getting some beers and waiting about 20 mins before Deftones came on. They use recyclable beer cups here and people with kegs on their back walk through the crowd selling beer...these people have it worked out. But still, like in all of Europe everyone was nice and friendly and noone was obviously drunk or rowdy. The venue is good, a floor space with 2 tiers of balconies above going all the way around 3 sides of the room. Deftones were great, 2 hours of non-stop music and they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves a lot, more than the last two times I saw them. Maybe it's because the singer Chino dropped about 15kgs. A particularly nice moment was from Chino 'I can see people from all over the world here tonight, hello world!'. Maybe he knew something I didn't...they were all Dutch as far as I could tell! Looking forward to seeing them again in London in two nights time.

Day 37 - Amsterdam

Matthew and I did the free walking tour in the morning, which was pretty good but didn't really take us too far fromthe centre of the city (ie. Major tourist attractions). So we had lunch after the tour and then walked the long way home through canals a bit further south of the main area. The areas outside of inner Amsterdam are so much nicer than the rest, there are cafes and restaurants worth going to and a lot more residential buildings. If you take a 5-10 minutes walk away from the red light district you can feel like you're in the middle of Amsterdam's version of suburbia (even though it's a lot nicer than most other cities versions). I really started to like the place at this point, except for always having to listen out for bikes to make sure you don't get cleaned up. There are people on bikes everywhere, at all times.

In these areas you also notice there are no 'coffeeshops' because the locals actually don't really smoke marijuana very much at all, they're only about 6th or 7th in Europe for smoking weed. Apparently they are cleaning up the place a bit by being a bit more strict on the prostitution and smoking, reducing it eventually to zero. These two main 'attractions' do kind of define a part of Amsterdam though, so I'm not sure how it will affect tourism.

Matthew was a nice guy but had become a bit of a shadow so I decided to wash my clothes to make London a bit easier. There is no better feeling than having a full backpack of fresh clean clothes, maybe you need to backpack to understand...I dunno. Met an Irish girl Lorna in the laundromat and she joined us for a beer later on.

Mike, Matthew and I headed out for a few beers after a decent hostel dinner and we ended up in a jazz bar which was really good. It was themed as an old train or boat with booths and luggage racks etc, photos of the titanic on the wall etc. Pretty relaxed atmosphere and all the locals were getting into the music. After that went across the road to another bar to be eyed off by a crazy looking local, obviously looking for a fight. Fortunately another local pissed him off first, and away it went.

Ended the night as you usually do in any city, looking for one last drink or some food. The inner Amsterdam seems to close pretty early for a 'party' city, the locals actually go to Leidseplein which is a bit further out.