Just a little bit further

man of leisure


So - that’s it - a month away on holidays already! Damn that went quick. The trip has been equal parts mooching at the in-laws whilst leisurely filling in the days and equal parts travelling around the UK and continental Europe.

Week 1 (14-20 Jan)

We bused up to Sydney airport on the Monday afternoon, and stayed in the airport hotel for a 6:30am flight out to Dubai. With much more gear than we ever travel with - enough to cater for all 4 seasons, camping, running missions, pack rafts and presents - we felt like we were off for an adventure.

Arriving into the UK on a Tuesday night - the jetlag was gentle (thanks to Business class R&R) and I was quickly into the early to bed, early to rise routine. The first few days were relatively mild - and a nice escape from the Australian heatwave that had been accosting us in Canberra. I settled into further exploring and running the trails in the forests directly behind Denises parents. A loop of the “backyard forest” is about 10k, and there are many neighbouring forests, trails, bridleways and public footpaths that can take you in most directions. Unlike last year, without too much rain, the dirt trails were relatively free of shoe sucking bogs.

On the Thursday night we hung at Nicolas place in Reading, and on Friday Denise and I did a long walk up on chalk on the Ridgeway trail. The day was freezing - but the walk was nice and as the terrain was so easy our pace was fairly brisk all day. We finished at about the 20k mark early - and got back to Nicolas via Newbury by early afternoon.

I took the quick train from Reading into London on Saturday to catchup with a good friend Will. I had a few hours exploring a couple of areas of London on my own which was nice. Will and I then caught up in a classic boozer in the heart of posh London with an eclectic jukebox that would bounce between dueling customers sense of taste and patience. After a few pints and a meal, we finally settled to hustle out to a mate of Wills who was having a poker night. We walked in mid-game, and it was a nicely wild affair. Friendly people, cranking music, smoke-filled and an over-flow darts board for those not in the game!

Denise headed down to London on Sunday to catch up with a friend of hers, so I met up with her for a nice early lunch at Ethos, before I headed back to Reading. From Reading I snuck in a wonderful run along the canal bathed in winters sun, and streaming good music.

Week 2 (21-27 Jan)

On the Monday Denise and I made plans to meet up at the Cunning man pub on the Kennet canal. She had acquired the loan of her sisters mountain bike, and I would make it there on foot. It turned into a 16k one-way haul; and what felt like a longer 16k return after a meal and a pint. Vegan has become a trend - so a lot of places had a “Veganuary” menu throughout January - a bonus for us as more nice options opened up.

On the Wednesday I got a good longish-run in and explored Banyans enclosure. This had some lovely trails and trees to run through. On the Thursday we picked up the bikes and rolled through back roads to Longmills for a guiness or a cup-of-tea, depending on your cup of tea.

We escaped the quiet of Pamber Heath for Nicola’s place Thursday night - so we could escape on Friday afternoon for a road trip to Manchester and the CAMRA beer festival. We stayed in a lovely airBNB in the old perfume factory and walked into the event Friday evening for a few hours for our entree of drinking. The next day, after breakfast in town we re-entered the cavernous hall for 7 hours of sampling cask ales. This was again an awesome event, and hangovers were avoided which is a double win!

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Day 2. Only 292 craft beers left to try (many cask ales as shown, all cheap-as at about $3 a half pint)

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On Sunday we visited Chorlton for a hearty breakfast and then back home - with a haul of good cheese, crisps and a pint glass.

Week 3 (28-3 Feb)

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morning run. pub lunch. pack for Amsterdam. holidays are tough.

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On Monday night we returned to Reading so that we could easily get a coach on the Tuesday morning to Heathrow for our flight to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam we were staying with our good friends Martin and Sonja. As Martin is a teacher he was away on a school camp, so we met Sonja after she finished work and took her out to the Volkshotel restaurant on the top floor near their house. This was a delightful start to our time in Amsterdam, with a dj playing relaxed music, lovely food and a cracker of a view out across Amsterdam.

I laced up on Wednesday morning for a run up the Amstel, and then took the liberty to pop into Tweed Kamer to enjoy the Dutch tolerance. Hopefully the ACT will progress this issue in the next month when it votes on liberalising possession and growing. The afternoon we spent in the Amsterdam museum followed by the fascinating Church in the Attic.

On Thursday Denise and I travelled down to Delft to see Mishka for dinner. It was another freezing day - so we combined walking with visits to shops and cafes for warmth. We had a lovely but unofortunately too brief dinner (parental duties beckoned) at a local eet-huis.

By this stage impromptu plans were firming up to have a road-trip to the Beligan Ardennes with Martin and Sonja on Friday for the weekend. We booked an airBNB in Stavelot - a simple few hours drive from Amsterstdam. When we arrived we were in thick snow, and staying on a road out of town that was part of the old Belgian F1 race track. The town was quaint - and that night we strolled around and had a nice mix of pizza’s at the local Italian restaurant, with a night-cap at the local bar.

The next morning I got out early to explore the rail trail above our accomodation for a morning run. The snow up off the road was probably 20+ cm deep, deep enough to slow me down, but not so deep it wasn’t fun or practical without snowshoes. Later that day we all setoff on a mission to visit the local brewery Brasserie de Belevaux. It turned into a longer than anticipated 3 hour walk.

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Walking to the local brewery!

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Once we finally arrived we grabbed a beer and a bite to eat, then improvised with our patchy French to see if a taxi could collect us and return us back to Stavelot. One was found after a few tries, and despite a steep 40 Euro price, it was worth it to ferry us and our takeaways home.

We returned to Amsterdam early on Sunday so we could meet up with Wendy and Roland. We had a lovely walk around a large park outside of Amsterdam and returned via Veesp, a town older than Amsterdam, where we snuck in a sneaky beer in the local bar.

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Strolling with friends

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Week 4 (4-10 Feb)

We visited, briefly, the Rijks museum on Monday and spent the remainder of our time walking the city and exploring Denise’ old haunts and memories of Amsterdam. On the Wednesday morning we said our goodbyes and caught our train to Cologne. The trip only took a couple of hours and we arrived at lunchtime to check-in. I explored a bit through a loop run - down and then up - the Rheine. In the late afternoon we both headed out to explore the city including the impressive Dom. We tucked into some Canadian streetfood (poutine and a salad bowl) and walked over the main rail bridge to the viewing tower on the other side of the river.

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22 hours in ...

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Denise then retired to catchup on sleep and I went to find Papa Joe’s Jazz bar (the venue I had been to when last in Cologne almost 20 years ago). After a quick and disapointing drink here I sniffed out a local craft beer venue and settled into a few of their lovely beers.

The next morning I snuck in a quick run exploring another part of the river before we lined up for our next train up to Berlin. This train flew along at up to 250kph, and the 5 hour journey passed easily in our comfortable first class seats. We had 3 nights booked in Berlin - staying at the Hotel Hackersmarkt. We easily bought tickets on our smartphone to jump a S-bahn train to our station and the short walk to our hotel. We had an upgrade too into an attic room with a large lounge.

We had a date for a vegetarian degustacion at the well awareded Kopps restaurant soon after we arrived. So we promptly spruced ourselves up and strolled through the neighbourhood to the restaurant. We ordered the 7 course option and I took up the paired drinks. The restaurant was stifflingly hot, but the food was delightful. The smoked lentils was the highlight as was the yuzu drink.

The following day we made our way by the U-bahn to find the Berlin underground tours. We joined a tour of the air raid shelter that was not destroyed after the war as it sat above the U-bahn line. From here we walked into the park to walk up a flokturm (a hill that has enveloped a pile of rubble amassed from all the destroyed buildings in WWII) for a good view out across the city. Based on a conveniently found walking map we headed to the Brandenburg gates, before walking our way back through museum island and through the shops of the Mitte district we were staying in. We discovered through this map ecoalf - a nice concept including the pretty cool collapsable helmet.

The evening we opted for a mexican place we had waked past the previous night. Very prompt service, large servings and good food. To wind up a wild Friday night in Berlin I made a bee-line for the Mikkeler bar. A very relaxed and contemporary bar - with 20 beers on tap, mostly from Mikkeler but with a couple of NZ guest beers. After tasting a couple of their sour beers (spontaneous sour, and cherry sour) I moved onto some brown and scotch ale. Yum.

On Saturday we visited the “best Melbourne breakfast in Berlin” - and funnily enough got served by an Ozzy too. Our plan for the day was to hire a bike and go exploring. We opted for the on-street bikes by Donkey Republic to hoon around on. Our travels took us out to the impressively large Tempelhoff - an old airport that was given over to open space for the community. Despite the blustery cold wind - a lot of walkers, cyclists, runners and everything in-between enjoying the space. Following this we headed to the Espionage museum, the Großer Tiergarten, the Siegessäule (Victory Column), and back via the Berlin Wall memorial. Dinner was easy burgers at the Vegan Kitchen, followed by a return to Mikkeler for a few nice beers as a nightcap.

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Sunday I took the opportunity to sneak in a final run - and headed to Volkspark Friedrichshain park to find a couple more flokturms to run up for a hint of vertical gain. A nice run, and finished just as the rain set in. We checked out and grabbed a quick coffee and breakfast and headed off to the airport for our mid-day flight back to Heathrow. After landing we picked up our “compact” hire car for the next week and a half; although it seems we got an upgrade as we have a “compact” SUV instead. Nice to be mobile and have the option of where and when we head places.

… and that’s it… a month away - stay tuned as soon another month will have gone and in that time I will have been to Wales (twice), Norway and Sweden.