Thursday, September 22, 2011

Space Cake and a Live Sex Show

After some worrying turbulence on the plane (the kind of drops that make you suddenly aware that you're in a tin can falling through the sky) and a taxi driver who ripped us off, we made it to our hotel room in Slotervaart, about a twenty minute tram ride from the city centre. A hotel room in which the glass shower wall was part of the dividing wall between the bedroom and bathroom. Bring on seeing your parents shower!

Not happy about being forced to stand by the filthiest tourist thing ever. Even if we are behind it.

I liked Amsterdam; it was very pretty (including the people) but I'd like to go there again sometime without Mum and Dad in tow, ifyouknowwhatimean. I have always made fun of people who go to Amsterdam with their parents. "What are you going to do? Eat space cake and see a live sex show with Mummy and Daddy?" While I made this joke to a few people, some of them actually said "yeah, I did" (that's kind of weird, but whatever) that's not quite what we did. There are actually other things to do. Who knew!

We got on a tram and walked around Dam Square a bit, were Dad was asked for directions, despite looking like the world's biggest tourist. I left Mum and Dad to continue being filthy tourists while I returned to the hotel room to sort out plans for Berlin and have olives for dinner.

No wonder no one knows where Perth is - the weather man stood in front of it the whole time.

The next day we did one of those hop on hop off canal boat tours. I was under the impression that we would actually be hopping on and off every now and again, but we spent the entire day on the canals. Just before we started the tour, Mum and Dad had to fuel their caffeine addiction so Dad and I headed off in the vague direction of where a cafe might be. He walked into a coffee shop (hint: they don't sell coffee), the smoke from which you could have gotten high by standing in the doorway, asked the completely baked guy behind the counter if they sold "take away coffee." The guy had a blank look on his face and was probably wondering if Dad was asking for a new blend he hadn't heard of. Meanwhile I was standing on the street halfway between wetting my pants with laughter and horrified that Dad had just done that. In his defense he said he knew it wasn't a cafe and just wanted to see what it was like inside. He then proceeded to say he gave the guy a chance to be "a real human and he failed." Meanwhile, we missed the boat because Mum and Dad needed their mid morning coffee so badly.

It was very peaceful on the canals, so peaceful that I had a little nap every now and again. Cruising past the city made me want to be a canal boat driver and live in a house boat with a floating garden. We went around some of the canals a few times and I felt like I could have done the audio commentary myself by the end of the day. Including the Dutch and German translations. Mum and my favourite line was "the canals are three metres deep. One metre water, one metre mud and one metre bikes."

That night we had a Dutch meal for dinner. Mine consisted of minced meat wrapped in bacon, with red cabbage sauerkraut and potato. We had Heineken beer, which true to some of my friends' words is way better in Europe than in Australia and America, even if the locals don't drink it.

New fave Van Gogh - he painted it when his nephew was born.

The next day we went to the Van Gogh (or Van Hoff) Museum which was pretty good but there were way too many people there. We finished our two day canal ticket which was a tad boring so I played Patience/Solitaire instead. We had Thai for dinner and the same argument that Dad and I always have about fashion. He says "it's bad" and I say "no, it's not." We continue discussing for a while longer but it rarely develops much more than that.

I win at Patience.

On Friday I bought myself a kebab, which I was happy to discover was way better than the English kebabs. I walked into the shop, which was called Doner Kebab, and asked for a doner kebab. They guy asked if I wanted beef or chicken. No, I want doner, I thought. Doesn't doner mean lamb in Australia? Whatever. It was good.

After a tour of the The Palace (it was aaiight, I guess) we sat in Dam Square and watched the gypsies busk. My parents left to look at churches and I met up with Bart, a couch surfing friend a had hung out with in New York. We talked about the New York CS gossip and how in Dutch there is a phrase to have a beer, sit outside and watch people. He asked me what it is English. I said it's just called having a beer.

Told you I'd put it on here, Bart.

I met up with Mum and Dad again for dinner and a stroll through the Red Light District, where I inhaled deeply. We walked passed the window of a slightly overweight prostitute who was casually scratching her hoo-ha. I have nothing against prostitutes or slightly overweight people and I'm no expert on prostitution (apart from an unhealthy obsession with Belle du Jour) but I'm fairly sure that's not the greatest sales pitch for yourself.

Red Light District

So the next morning we waited at the airport for me to board my plane to Berlin and Mum and Dad to head in the direction of Copenhagen. Dad gave me some money for my week without them and said that this also pays for a positive story, to which I replied "nuh-uh, I'm not a sellout."

It has been great to see Mum and Dad again after several months, and also to know that they haven't changed at all (why would they, I guess?). While it was infuriating to have tell you what the other says because you both mumble/don't listen to each other, I really do appreciate the free holiday and family time. Thanks, Moo-ma and Moo-pa.


Monday, September 19, 2011

The Parentals: Part 2

I'm keeping this post short as I seem to have fallen behind with the blogging. And it's a beautiful day in Berlin and I also want to have a nap. So it's going to be short (but probably not sweet).

After the luxury of my own double room in Crickhowell with my own bathroom, skylights and Egyptian Cotton sheets, the hotel in Aberystwyth was a bit on the shit side. The lift and the router were broken, I had to share a room with Mum and Dad in which the window didn't close properly so the wind whistled through it all night. We were even treated to a cold Hot Breakfast in the morning. Despite the university building which looked a bit like Hogwarts and Dad driving through castle ruins which are supposed to be walked through, there wasn't much to this seaside town. We had a view of the ocean which was the same colour as the sky (grey) and we suddenly realised why the British and Welsh holiday in the countryside rather than the beach.

Welsh Hogwarts

Shrewsbury is an English tudor town (think Shakespeare-esque buildings) close to the Welsh boarder. It was very pretty but like everywhere else we went, there seemed to be a shortage of people under forty. We had breakfast in the hotel (after sharing a room with Mum and Dad again - gah) which reminded me a little bit of a nursing home. Old couples staring silently at each other while they waited for the bacon and eggs to be cooked and the skin to fall of their faces. That was harsh, I'm sorry. But it honestly occurred to me as I tried to pour my tea as quietly as possible.

The only spot in our room that had reliable internet connection

While the 'rents went to a neighbouring town called Ironbridge (it had something to do with the Industrial Revolutions, whatever) I stayed in Shrewsbury, dyed my hair and chilled out on my own for a couple of hours. I thought about how much food I had been eating since travelling with Mum and Dad. I'm used eating twice a day-ish and only eating when I'm hungry. Mum and Dad eat at least three times a day. I couldn't keep up!

We visited the library which used to be the school that Charles Darwin attended. The top floor had the original benches from when the building was a school. There was something insanely cool about seeing evidence of kids from the 18th century scratching their names into the woodwork.

Looking out of the library window

Next stop was Conwy, Wales, a small town on the river where my Mum's cousin and his wife lived. We stayed with them for a few nights while they educated us about the local slate mining company and the times of high and low tide.

Dad, Mum, Christine and Chris

The view from their balcony (at high tide)

Conwy Castle which was actually pretty cool

Smallest house in Great Britain

Chris and Christine were very gracious hosts who gave me my own room and cooked us dinner and breakfast and showed us around Conwy and the neighbouring town, Llandudno. When we left Conwy, I spent most of the day sulking like a fifteen year old (for no particular reason) while Mum and Dad got out of the car to look at every river, bridge, tree, house or whatever. 

Trevor in Trevor

I lied, I did get out of the car to walk across this aqueduct in absurd winds

Back in England, we visited Warwick Castle which had been turned into a huge theme park and in my opinion took away from the awesomeness of being in castle where King Henry VIII lived (among the rest of the incestuous Royal family). The next day we flew out of Birmingham to Amsterdam.

I liked Wales, but I wouldn't want to spend any more time there. It was beautiful and green even if it was lacking people below retirement age and the most exciting thing seemed to be noticing that someone had misspelled a Welsh word on a street sign.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Parentals: Part 1

By the time my parents got to London it seemed that nothing else could go wrong and they had come at just the right time. Unemployed, soon to be homeless and I had recently discovered that I was also passportless. In fact Mum even greeted me with "there's not much else that can go wrong with you, Sian." I was looking forward to travelling with them without having to do all the hard bits on my own. The comfort of having Mum and Dad there to solve all my problems overwhelmed me and I couldn't decide what I wanted to do.

We discussed what I was options RE: Being unemployed and soon to be homeless and they almost convinced me to go home with them in October. Every time something goes wrong, my first response is "I give up" shortly followed by "no don't give up - it's not that bad" but this time I was getting fed up with trying. The idea of going home, not having to pay rent, not having to get a job ASAP seemed so blissful. If I'm going to be miserable and lying in bed watching Breaking Bad, what difference does it make which country I'm in. Mum suggested I go home with them, save up some monies and then go back to London after Steph's wedding in May 2012. Sure, why not.

Then I spent a couple of days with Mum and Dad and the reality of what 'going home' meant set it. Living with parents again? Perth? No street drinking? Everything being stupendously expensive? Gah. Showing the 'rents around London re-inspired me to stay here. I also considered going to Liverpool, but London really is a cool place and I want to stay - even if it is a little harsh at times.

After tracking down my passport (I had left it at the bank when I opened an account about three weeks earlier), I showed them around the few parts of London that I know. We did Soho, Portobello Road Markets, a double decker bus ride from one side of Central London to the other, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Tate Britain, National Portrait Museum, Alternative Tour of London (walking tour of street art in the East End) and we saw Wicked at the Apollo (I was unimpressed).

Portobello Road
Piccadilly Circus
Mum, Dad and me in Inverse, Reverse, Perverse (a mirror) at Tate Britain
Banksy's car in Brick Lane
This guy was homeless when he started street art

Swarosvski crystals in street art

With their bags packed full of outifits by Kathmandu, and mine full of...normal clothes we headed towards to Wales in our hired car. I had packed up my room and moved out, hoping that Daniel and I would be miraculously presented with our ideal flat or house in the next few days.

We drove through the kind of country side that makes it's inhabitants don gumboots, a green hunting vest and drive around in their matching Range Rover. Hedges adorn the streets and reminded me of the stories and movies I watched with my English best friend in primary school. They were all about mice or rabbits or moles living in the hedges and fields, hiding from humans and having romantic dinners on rose petals or something equally as amazing to a couple of ten year old girls.

We stopped at Turville; the village where the church from the Vicar Of Dibley is filmed, just before we entered Wales. We had lunch at the pub and wondered if Dawn French had ever had a pint in there. I almost didn't get a drink with my meal because "[you] don't need one, Sian” which freaked me out made me think about how long this holiday was going to be. I won in the end. Dad made friends with a local (imagine an English man living in the countryside and that's what he looked like) and talked forever about birds.

Me freaking out about the prospect of no/limited alcohol for the next couple of weeks
The church
The Vicar's front door

In between staring out the window at the unbelievably green countryside, I read my copy of Frankie that Mum had bought from Perth for me, although according to the “UK price” tag on the back, you can in fact, buy it here. Like always, I got that warm fuzzy feeling from reading Frankie but I was also jealous of the people in the articles who had found what they wanted to do and made a living from it. How dare they! Especially when I couldn't decide if I wanted to go to Sweden with Mum and Dad or not. I just generally have no idea what I'm doing with myself. I don't mean – What Am I Doing With My Life? As in careers and mortgages and slowly gathering beige clothes that resemble a "sensible wardrobe". I just mean what am I going to do right now to make enough money so I can continue to dye my hair and eat fish fingers and chips from Costcutter with Daniel. I'm not even sure if I want red hair anymore! I know I want to stay in London now. But do I get another shit job that makes my body fall apart because I'm stressed or do I try and find something mildly enjoyable? I'm still thinking I might try my hand at office work. What would I even find mildly enjoyable? Well, writing, I guess. But I know that just saying "I wish to become a travel writer!" means I won't suddenly be flung to all corners of the globe. It's one of those annoying things that has to be worked on. Over time. With determination and perseverance. And posts with less swear words.

Anyway, back to the trip! We stayed in a small Welsh town called Crickhowell. Actually we stayed just out of the town in an old manor house called Gliffaes Hotel which was on an estate which Prince Charles often visits, according to local knowledge. It was lush, as my old Welsh boss would say.

Gliffaes Hotel

My bedroom window view was better than Mum and Dad's.

We had dinner at a pub in town called The Bull's Head (or something like that). I had local pork sausages, Mum had lamb something and Dad had...something else. We all compared dishes and decided that Mum made the best choice. We encountered some local Welsh singers and eavesdropped on their choir practice. Apparently they go out and just...start singing.

The next morning we had a giant full English breakfast at the hotel which Dad kept describing as "smashing" and "jolly good!" It was, really. We worked off breakfast with a walk by the river in our borrowed wellies from the hotel. I remember why we all got so excited jumping in puddles in gum boots when we were little now.

I want some.
Mum and Dad being kids too.

As Dad's extremely bogan SatNav ("in foive hundred moitres turn roight") took us around the countryside we entertained ourselves by attempting to read the absurd Welsh street signs. The Welsh language resembles a selection of letters for a Scrabble game more closely than anything that could bear meaning. Or perhaps a combination of complicated chemical substances and the noises I make when I'm hungover.

The main street of...somewhere. Let's pretend it's Cardigan.

Travelling further through the countryside made me realise that everything is green, grey and really old. Including the people. We stopped at a town called Cardigan which sounds like it could be a hipster's wet dream but really it was just a cute, mildly depressing country town. Apart from the ring I bought from the markets (sadly there were no cardigans for sale) and the tap in the public toilets which dispensed water, soap and hot air there wasn't much to it. We bought the world's greasiest (Wales' Best) fish and chips and headed on our way.

Stay tuned for more tales of Wales, Amsterdam and Berlin, for now I must sleep before mother's snoring gets too out of control.