15/9/16 – Maximum effort

Up early at half four and initially feeling like I’m just getting up for my six o’clock Friday shift, but nope, it’s holiday time! First time going back to America since the two-month stint and also, sadly, my first ever trip without Kel. Since she bought a house earlier this year, she couldn’t afford a holiday and my friends are all no-go options because of either already having holidays booked or being useless with money or not wanting to go the same places. So what option did that leave me if I wanted any chance of going away this year? Tagging along with my parents. Luckily, no matter what age I’ve been, I’ve always got on really well with my parents and I’m certainly capable of paying for myself. Plus when they said the first place they were going to was New Orleans, I really didn’t have any choice. New Orleans is my most favourite place in the world.

So we got packed up and ready and got to the airport about half six. Milled about duty free once we got through customs and had a laugh over a Moschino perfume that looked like a Mr. Muscle type bottle. Since I have a super fancy phone for the first time in my life, I can officially play photographer myself. As long as I remember to take pictures, that is – I’m kinda bad at that. I grabbed food from Burger King whilst the oldies had breakfast from Wetherspoons. Apparently, going away with your parents is a good bet, because Mom also got me a giant hunk of black pudding on the side of the breakfasts. I looove black pudding.

We boarded the plane for our first connecting flight to Amsterdam. Accidentally read a quarter of my Anita Blake book, oops. The flight was only just over an hour, but there was a slight delay before we took off, which meant we had to rush through customs and boarding straight onto the next flight, meaning we didn’t have chance to get drinks or anything from the airport. Boo. I was dying for a Red Bull. It was even more annoying, because there were then more delays and we had to sit on the runway for about forty minutes. I could have used that time to shop for my fix.

Thankfully, sitting on the plane was made way better by the fact that the in-flight entertainment was the best ever. Like most long haul flights, each seat has their own screen fixed into the headrest in front of them with a selection of things to watch. Only this selection was basically like having Netflix, albeit smaller, but with very new releases, including the latest aired seasons from this year of Flash, Arrow, The Walking Dead, Gotham, etc. I promptly found and put on Deadpool. The mature ones had to be edited a little, but it basically just meant there were less close ups of gore and they cut out the whole sex montage. Not so bad, as it would have been awkward if anyone else looked at my screen. I just had to miss out on hearing Calendar Girl.

After Deadpool, I watched Groundhog Day and then The Lady in the Van (was not prepared for it being as sad as it was!) I spotted Suits and figured I could continue watching from where I left off, but they only had season five, whereas I’m still on season four. Watched a couple of episodes of Impractical Jokers instead. In between all this, we had various drink options throughout the flight, packs of pretzels, little snack packs of olives (which were definitely left unopened) and crackers with a bell pepper spread, then ice cream pots and hot chicken, cheese and honey mustard sandwiches. The main meal was cheese tortellini, cheese and crackers, a bread roll, ignored salad and a lovely rich chocolate orange mousse. Good job, Delta.

Despite how well we were looked after, the flight just felt sooo long. I spent a while just listening to music and we still had another three hours to go. I turned to my saviour on long trips and listened to an episode of That Anime Show to kill another few hours. I seem to have a knack for choosing appropriate episodes, because they spent a good portion of it talking about travel and the sore points of flights. I had people constantly knocking my elbows as I listened to them, so I certainly understood. They even talked about New Orleans and Key West – both places we’re visiting on this trip! One thing I adore about That Anime Show is not only are they super geeky and produce the dubbing work that I love; they’re all so into travelling, it’s amazing. Not enough people have the interest in travel.

Finally, after nine and a half hours, we were landing in Atlanta. The sad part was that we still had one more flight to go. Thankfully, we had a little more time in this airport. We visited for a connecting flight before and it still amazes me how huge it is. How many airports have their own train systems inside?! (Later learnt that it’s the biggest airport in the world, which really doesn’t surprise me). One day, I’ll actually get to see Atlanta properly or at least more than just the airport. I finally got to get my much needed Red Bull, as well as some fruit punch Gatorade. I forgot that America means living on Gatorade and Powerade. I managed to connect to the WiFi in the airport and update people on where we were before we boarded our final flight.

Again, this one was only an hour long. I read another quarter of my book, then was just so tired that I attempted to sleep through until landing. Not only did it not work; I realised far too late that they were showing Flash on the screens. Damn it. That would have made it far more enjoyable. Baggage claim was fairly smooth and then we had the hopper ride to our hotel, which was another half hour to the journey. I was a lot more interested in watching everything through the window now that we were finally in New Orleans.

We checked into our Best Western and started unpacking things. I soon discovered there’d been a toiletries explosion in my suitcase and that half of my clothes were soaked through. Oh, no. Thankfully, the culprit was my now completely empty bottle of heat protection spray for my hair. Not greasy and gross like the shampoo explosion we had one of the years and it actually smelt quite nice, rather than making all my clothes stink like chemicals. I hung them over every chair and rail I could find and will just have to hope for the best. On the bright side, we had free WiFi in the room and there’s fucking millions of PokéStops in New Orleans. I think we’re seriously cheated back home.

Updated a few more people on our whereabouts, played a bit of my silly but adorable Disney game, then finally hit the hay. Super, super comfy beds and I even get a double all to myself. It was seriously welcome after all the travel. Tonight’s gonna be a good night.

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If you got your bottles mixed up, it’d either my an expensively clean kitchen or a not-so-niced, possibly burning perfume.

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18/11/15 – Where Febo

Had an ugly night’s sleep. Was hot on and off and every time I woke up, the ship would tilt and I’d feel like I was going to fall out of bed. Also heard a few loud bangs and would instantly think “what did we hit?!” I really don’t want to actually re-enact the Titanic. We were then woken up at six o’clock by a stupidly loud tannoy announcement saying that breakfast was open. For once, I really didn’t care. They didn’t say exactly how long we had until docking, so I didn’t want to risk going back to sleep. Once again, I felt like I was drunk when I got out of bed. I read some more Jurassic Park to wake up a bit and then got ready.

Docking was a bit of a bumpy transition. We stopped in Rotterdam at about nine o’clock. After getting off the boat, we got straight onto a coach instead to take us into Amsterdam. I was so tired that I was falling asleep for most of the journey before eventually succumbing to a five minute nap, which is unlike me. I don’t nap, especially not on transport. Shows what a crummy night’s sleep I had. Did see a lot of windmills en route though, when I was actually awake and looking. What you’d expect from Holland. The first thing we did when we got into Amsterdam was grab some bacon and egg McMuffins from Maccies. Clearly very exotic.

We then had a little wander around and headed to Anne Frank’s house and museum. You get to have a look around most of the house, bar the loft, which you only get a view of via the mirrors they have stationed, listen to interviews of various people who were involved and see some of the old photographs that had been pasted on the wall, as well as read snippets from and see actual extracts of the diary itself. My knowledge of Anne Frank is very small, particularly as it’s something we never learnt about at school. This visit probed most of said knowledge was actually wrong anyway, so I learnt a lot. Was all very interesting. The stairs were crazy steep though – I had visions of killing somebody behind me if I tripped. I also nearly clocked my head going through the hidden door behind the bookcase that leads into the secret annexe, because you have to duck and jump up a giant step at the same time. This goes against my athletic capabilities.

After Anne Frank, we went to collect our Ice Bar tickets that Kel had ordered yesterday whilst we were sat in the pub. We had a bit of a walk from the ticket booth to the Ice Bar itself, so we decided to cross one of the things off our food list on the way. The first thing we saw to go for was patajes or “fries at war”. I had the oolog special, which was fat fries with chopped onions, a hell of a lot of mayo and peanut sauce. I actually really hate peanuts, but tend to like the sauces. This particular one tasted like something in between a Chinese style curry sauce and a satay sauce. Super yummy.

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Another bonus to the fries at war was the hilarious name of the food stall.

When we got to Ice Bar, we were given three inclusive drinks tokens – two for in the ice bar itself and one in the normal bar. We were given gloves and hooded bomber coats and then sent through into the ice bar. I know it was expected, but holy fuck, was it cold. My feet had been hurting on the way down, but I suddenly couldn’t feel them anymore. It was minus 9.5 degrees in there. It was all very funky though with icy walls, big ice sculptures and even the glasses were made of hollowed-out blocks of ice. I had orange juice and vodka for my two drinks in there, then a Caipiroska when we came back out to the main bar. Kel stole some wifi to try and find out where one of the food places on our list to try was. She got a little lazy though and literally just Googled “where Febo”, which I found rather amusing.

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Brings a whole new meaning to having ice in your drink (they’d suck in the summer though – you’d end up with a handful of cocktail!)

We had another, slower wander around afterwards since our feet hurt. Dutch people have no concept of space, but they’ve all been helpful enough when we’ve needed directions. Biggest con is that you get a great whiff of weed pretty much every other block. I know I shouldn’t have come to Amsterdam if I hate the smell of weed, but I clearly underestimated how rife it is. This is why it should never be legalised. I managed to get some stroodlewoodles from one of the shops and Kel got a magnet from another, so we were both happy.

We then found another food stand that did poffertjes – yet another snack that we’d wanted to try. They’re like fluffy little pancake balls. We got a tray to share and had them with caramel syrup. They were so good. I easily could have had another tray to myself. We had a quick walk through the red light district too, which we were obviously being children about. A prostitute who was getting changed in the window caught me looking when I was being nosy, so I then pretty much ran the rest of the way.

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Thank you Holland for your wonderful foods.

Heading back towards our pick-up point, we stopped in another Maccies for a chance to sit down and have a drink, then I grabbed some Red Bull for the road from a shop a few doors down. Finally, we then found the little place called Febo that we’d been looking for all day (basically our day was just based around food). Febo is a weird little fast food place that has a sort of fast food vending machine. You put your money in, pick a microwave-like glass case and it opens for you to get the hot food inside. I tried a kalfsvleeskroket, which was like a croquette filled with a gravy kind of mush and bits of beef. Actually really nice, if a little on the small side. Kel tried a different kind called rundvleeskroket, which was fairly similar and also good.

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We found you, Febo!

We had a longer coach ride back to the dock because of traffic, so it was closer to two hours. We had a giggle over the women sitting behind us, because the one clearly wasn’t listening to the other. Kel then had a nap and I managed to write a page in my notebook before it got too dark to continue, since the silly little overhead lights weren’t working. I then took her advice and snoozed on and off for most of it. Told you. Long days and all that.

We quickly popped back to the room to change and freshen up, then headed for the restaurant and were horrified to learn that they wouldn’t be able to fit us in until at least half nine (despite the fact that there still weren’t many people even in there!) So we thought sod that, as we had plenty of snacky things in the room to tide us over instead. We had a quick look in duty free, but the offers were all pretty much Asda and Sainsbury’s prices. Was a little gutted – I’d been hoping to bring another bottle of Grey Goose home, sob. I then grabbed a strawberry and cream frozen thingy from Starbucks and we came back up to the room.

I hit the crisps, chocolates and Red Bull and we watched a few episodes of Flash and then Never Mind The Buzzcocks. By this point, the boat was rocking around a hell of a lot and making me feel super weird. We’d had an announcement on the tannoy to give us the emergency procedures, which was already making us nervous enough, as they hadn’t done that the first night and it certainly wasn’t helped by the captain telling us (presumably by accident, but still not reassuring) that this was what we needed to do in the LIKELY chance of emergency. Thanks cap, that makes me feel so much better.

We both went to bed at that point, since that whole horrible drunken feeling was back in full force. We’d also been told by the captain that we were likely going to be delayed getting back because we had storm force nine going on outside. Great. Cue an even more sleepless night of being thrown around, hearing what sounded like a million icebergs (apparently waves) hitting the hull, feeling like the roof was going to come off and actually concocting a detailed plan of what I was going to do to keep my most valuable possession (my notebook) safe and dry if we had to evacuate via the life boats. Thankfully, my plan wasn’t needed and we made it back to Hull with the boat still in one piece. I think a snooze in the car on the two and a half hour drive back will be imminent.

17/11/15 – Where does the lotion go?

Set my alarm so that I could get up and shower first whilst we know that we have a room with a decent sized shower. No idea how big our cabin will be on the boat, let alone the shower, so I’m just preparing. Didn’t have to check out until twelve, so we chose to stick around in the room for as long as possible before getting turfed out into the presumable cold. I watched a teeny bit of Walking Dead to keep the fuel going from relevant Walking Dead dreams, oh yeah.

Had a cookie and Red Bull breakfast and was going to have another try at writing, since I’d only managed a page yesterday (really not good when I need to be averaging at around eight a day) but that idea went completely out of the window when Kel found some Psych on TV for me. Psych! On a normal TV channel! Who knew that Psych aired on British morning telly during the week? Not me, because I’m always stuck at work when I could be watching Psych! (I know I have the DVDs, but that’s not the point). It was a good episode too. Where does the lotion go? Seriously, where does it go?

We had till three before we could get down to the dock and start checking in, so we decided to loiter around the Hull town centre for a while. After checking out of the hotel, we did a petrol stop and then went and found somewhere to park. We spent a good fifteen minutes wandering around in search of a pub, but Hull pubs are clearly stupidly laid out/run. Most were either closed down or didn’t serve food, despite having clear signs that said they do. Well done, Hull. Because of this, the pub idea fell through completely, so we ended up in a Sainsbury’s café instead. I got excited because they had corned beef hash on the menu, but what I actually got was mince meat in a giant Yorkshire pudding. I double checked with the waitress and she said that it was definitely corned beef hash. Yeah, right. It was actually very yummy, but still the weirdest take on corned beef hash I’ve ever seen (it’s mash with corned beef, yo – just look at the name!)

We had a little wander around afterwards to kill some time. We were going to sit in Costa’s for a bit, but it was packed, so we were demoted back outside. Apparently people in Hull don’t have jobs – it was seriously busy for a Tuesday afternoon. As it was raining, we soon headed back to the shopping centre we’d parked at. Walking past this little helta skelta slide that was outside, we heard it playing the Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride song from Lilo and Stitch. Of course, I made some pathetic little noise over it. Whilst at Tesco, we bought another mix of snacks to restock up on what we’d already eaten at the hotel. Oops.

We’d used up our allotted two hours in the Tesco car park, so we moved on to another free one closer to the dock that Kel had found online earlier on. The weather was still miserable, so we weren’t really feeling having another wander around. Thankfully, there was a pub that opened up onto the car park called Minerva’s Brewery (aww!) so we sat in there for a while for a pint. I do love being British. They had some kind of beer or ale on draft called Atom, which amused me. Ray Palmer has his own drink! Whilst we had our ciders, we had a look online at things to do in Amsterdam and, of course, top foods to try. I got really excited at the prospect of stroopwaffles (or stroodlewoodles, as Marieke got me into the habit of saying years ago) which are a popular Dutch snack that I love and used to get people to bring me back from Holland visits.

We then headed down to the port to get parked up and check in. Had a right hoo-ha checking in, because the women behind the desk were trying to tell us that we only get free parking for the duration of our trip if we booked through Groupon, which we hadn’t. Luckily, saviour Kel had screenshotted all of the information of what was included when we booked, which specifically said on the P&O ferries websites that free parking was included. So they can suck it. They had us wait around for a little while, but I think they realised we were ready to kick up a fuss, because they then gave us the parking voucher and just apologised for the wait. We went to grab our luggage from the car and display our well-earned parking ticket, then we went to board.

So much more straightforward than airport customs and security. We had to show our passports and tickets and were basically just asked if we had any alcohol or sharp objects, then we were let on board. We found our cabin to drop our things off first. It’s surprisingly big and nice, even if I am on a top bunk. Shower’s friggin’ teeny though, as I’d thought – forget where does the lotion go; where am I meant to go?We then went to explore. The long corridors of cabins were a little creepy, but everything else was super big and fancy. Several restaurants, bars, a casino, two cinemas, duty free shops and kiddie areas. I made a lot of Titanic references, which probably wasn’t a good connection to make, so I soon stopped. We checked out the price lists at the bars, which are surprisingly reasonable, and had a peek out onto the deck. We weren’t allowed actually outside as there were chains and signs up to say that it was too windy, so I couldn’t do my king of the world impression. Okay, promise I’ll stop now. We did manage to get a pack of DC Top Trumps from the gift shop. Geeking it up already.

We came back to the room to get ready and then headed down to the restaurant. What we didn’t get was that the restaurant works on a weird reservation only service (despite the fact that there were only like two other people in there) so we got booked in for a time about twenty minutes away and hit the bar for our first cocktail whilst we were waiting. Again, what we didn’t realise was that the cocktails are basically the ones from the little squeezy packets, but just with a bit more alcohol added. So kind of a rip-off, money wise, but they were still pretty nice.

After our drinks, we revisited the restaurant to actually be let inside this time. Our waiter, Pedro, was very friendly and very funny. We had some bread rolls to start and then I had a steak burger with cheese, crispy onion rings and chips. I’m not really a big burger fan – I normally only have them as a last resort if there’s nothing else that I want – but this one was damn good. And I had a Magners to go with it, of course. We moved onto the bar after that; cue more Magners and us breaking out the DC Top Trumps. We clearly know how to party. We won a game apiece. I was chuffed because the very first card I turned over was Harley Quinn. It was meant to be – she clearly sensed my tattoo.

As it was a fifties cruise (fuck yeah), we had entertainment going on throughout the night. First we had a band called the Blue Notes, who played stuff like Frankie Valli, the Ronettes, Lulu… Then we had a Buddy Holly tribute called Bootleg Barry (at least I think), who was dressed the part but looked more like Greg Proops. By this point, we were both knackered. For some reason, being out in windy weather really takes it out of me. I clearly never venture outside when the weather’s bad. Inside good.

We went back to the room and watched an episode of Flash on my iPod. I was clearly happy with that – hadn’t had any eye candy all day. Then it was finally time to attempt to climb into my bunk and then attempt even more to go to sleep. Rockabye baby may work on kids, but it just makes me feel drunk without the good stuff.

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First drinks is always a good moment – even if they are expensive for what they are.

16/11/15 – A typical day in the life of a foodie and travel bug

On the go once again. Originally, we’d had this almost-week off planned for going to Norway to primarily see the Northern lights, but unfortunately, that idea fell through because of expenses/travel times/not enough holiday, etc. Of course, we needed to find another way to fill that time (perish the idea of just spending my week off at home) so we hit the travel sites to try and find somewhere new to go. We went for our finding of a mini cruise to Amsterdam, as that killed two birds with one stone in being another new country to see and our first time on a cruise.

Since we’d gotten such a good deal on our impromptu trip, we decided to do the same thing we did when we went to the Isle of Wight and spend the night beforehand nearer to our boat destination to avoid any panics about getting there on time and accounting for traffic and whatnot. So after packing everything up and putting aside the spare forty minutes to watch new Walking Dead before leaving (Daryl heavy episode is definitely a good going away present), we popped into Asda and Gregg’s for a mix of snacks, alcohol and pasties for the food. Since I couldn’t decide between a sausage roll and a sausage, cheese and bean melt, I just had both. Life of a foodie.

It took us about two and a half hours to get to Hull. I was on DJ duty again with Kel driving, since I hadn’t fancied the idea of leaving my nice car for a few days in  random car park. We hit the musicals and Disney playlists for our usual duet sessions. I had to break out my completely brand new attempt at a Russian accent for my part of Vlad in one of the Anastasia songs. Let’s just say it’s a good thing we don’t do these in the company of other people. Wouldn’t want to risk offending an entire nation now.

We got to the Campanile Hotel, which I’d reckoned looked like a Mario house online. Turns out it’s the restaurant that looks like Mario house. The hotel itself looks like a full-on American motel. And of course, our room was upstairs. I thought we got past this stage a few years ago. Room was small and a little too cold to be cosy, so we put the heater on full blast and closed the curtains. We had to have a hunt to find an available plug socket, as everything seemed to be internally wired. We managed to establish that the only one we had was where the TV was plugged in. So we can either watch telly or charge something. Our choice.

Whilst Kel had a nap, I broke out the cookies, Doritos and Red Bull and started reading Jurassic Park. Since I’ve got NaNoWriMo going on this month, I want to primarily use my spare time for writing, but as my new project’s about dinosaurs, Jurassic Park works good as inspiration. Maybe a little too good though, since I got a bit carried away and ended up reading a third of it. This is why I shouldn’t be allowed near books, especially good ones. And damn, this is a good book. Why have I never read Michael Crichton works before?

When Kel came back to the land of the living, we headed over to the restaurant for some foods. I had a Magners and then some gammon with chips and a side of onion rings. Holy crap, it was a big side of onion rings. It was like what they tried to pull on me at TGI’s. All very lovely though. We had a natter and I spent a lot of the time watching a guy who looked a lot like Arthur Darvill and trying to establish if it was actually him or not. I eventually decided it wasn’t, as he’s Brummie and his accent sounded too far out.

After food, we retired back to our room for the night. I made attempts at writing, but kept getting distracted by what Kel was watching. Which was doubly annoying as they were all shows that I don’t even watch – I’m A Celebrity, Gogglebox, the news… People think I’m weird for not watching the news, but can you really blame me when it’s always so damn depressing and horrific? The attacks in Paris are just an awful, awful example of that.

We had a good natter about superhero stuff and just general gossip after we’d switched both the telly and the lights off. We do this a lot. Spend all day with each other, then only really wanna talk to each other when we’re trying to go sleep. Suppose it was just as well we weren’t that eager to get to sleep, since all the fucking birds were up and tweeting from about eleven o’clock anyway. Crazy birds; it’s goddamn night time.