Bamboleo: Valencia and La Tomatina



Tuesday 25th August
When my alarm went off at 3.45am I felt tired. Really tired. It wasn’t helped that the night before a fox had kept me up, that I’d rushed around London to get printer cartridges to print out new boarding passes and not finished packing until gone 11.30pm. Thankfully the journey to Gatwick was uneventful for Summer, though I was slightly nervous when we stopped outside Clapham Junction for no stated reason and the time we had to change trains dramatically decreased. We arrived at the airport at 6.00am and waited around an hour for Lucy who it turned out had experienced the journey from Hell.

We dropped off one piece of shared hold luggage and after a quick bite to eat made our way to the gate. The flight was full of other people I assume were going to Tomatina and those arriving late had difficulty fitting hand luggage in. It appeared there were a number of stag do’s on board or at least I assume that was why one guy had to walk around in a pink baby out fit complete with over size dummy. Another group behind us dared the stag (I assume) to “get ‘Chloe’s’ (evidently one of the air hostesses) number”. He pressed the assistance button and eventually she hurried along. “Is there an emergency?”, “Yes Chloe, I need your mobile number”. I don’t remember the wording of the blunt response but no number was given and she quickly turned around and walked to customers really in need.

After we arrived at the airport we took a taxi to our hotel where we were given our documents for Tomatina and the rep helpfully provided us with a route in to the old town via the old river bed. His final piece of advice was “it’s great, just wonder around, get lost in there and find something awesome”. We made our way to the Jardines del Turta (the old river bed) where first we came to some modern looking buildings which housed various museums including the Museo de las ciencias. They were quite interesting pieces of architecture, all looking like something that would have been suited to a sci fi movie. Somehow they also all envoked the feeling of water even though there weren’t any fountains or any flowing water nearby. The river had been diverted after a flood in 1957  and to fill the extra space a number of parks had been created which made it an interesting route in to town.

After about an hour we arrived at the Puenta del Mar bridge on the edge of the old town. The Gothic looking style contrasted with the modern buildings we had left behind and we entered the old town, slowly wondering towards the Mercado Central (central markets) in search of a late lunch. The first building of interest was the Ayuntamiento (city hall) which was opposite a nice square the Plaza Ayuntamiento.

Spain is infamous for siestas and we quickly realised their slight inconvenience for tourists when we arrived at the markets and found them locked up. We quickly spotted an outside bar which smelt good and was busy enough to suggest the food was acceptable. Initially after hearing the wait was 10 minutes we carried on but as it had a €8 deal for paella and Sangria we quickly backtracked. Bamboleo by the the Gypsy Kings was playing in the background and I finally felt like I was on holiday living the life. Valencia is, apparently, the home of paella so we all ordered the Valencian version which contained chicken rather than sea food. We all agreed the food and Sangria was good and that the rep had been right in telling us to just stumble across somewhere.

Food cravings satisfied we started to walk towards the Cathedral Basilica where we came across a pleasant, quiet square with a church, the more lively Plaza Redona which had a fountain in the middle surrounded by various shops. It was here that I looked up and caught a glimpse of The Torre de Santa Catalina which we then walked past before arriving at the cathedral. The cathedral is said to be the home of the Holy Grail and as I’ve studied Arthurian literature my inner geek came out. Lucy and Summer weren’t so keen unless the display included the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

As it turned out the room had already closed and luckily I quickly found them and instead we decided to climb the Cathedral tower. The distance was 207 steps and when we arrived at the top we were greeted by a impressive view of the city below with a wonderful back drop of some mountains and cloud free blue skies all around (ed. there may have been one or two clouds I’d initially failed to notice). We could see the museums near our hotel in the distance as well as some of the taller buildings in the old town. A bell was also housed at the top though it didn’t appear to be in service which was probably good for the hearing of everyone at the top.

Once we were back at the bottom we began as route back to the main road to get the bus back to the hotel. First we stumbled across the Basilica and the Turia Fountain in Plaza de la Virgen. I particularly liked the statue/fountain and tried to recreate the pose for a photo. We arrived at the main road quite quickly but didn’t have any joy identifying where the bus we needed left from. Instead after a quick unanimous group decision I flagged down a taxi which we were surprised came to a price that was possibly cheaper than the bus and certainly more comfortable.

Each of us had a quick shower before we headed down for the pre event meeting. “Bomber” the PP rep provided us with some history of Valencia, of Tomatina and crucially the times & other important information for the following day. A pre festival party in the open part of the modern complex had also been arranged however as entry was free the 3 of us decided to get some dinner first from the nearby shopping centre. I also took the opportunity to get some cheap essentials for the festival (cap and shoes, total bill €10). We ended up eating at one of the few places still open, an Italian restaurant called Ginos however the pasta I got was good and the waiter was friendly. Skipping dessert we returned to the party.

We were all quite tired by the time we arrived and as there was no where to store the shopping we’d got we decided to just take a look inside by going in pairs. It looked quite pretty but not particularly lively and it seemed others had taken the sensible idea of not getting to drunk before the event we’d all come for. After spending less than 10 minutes we left and returned to the hotel where I think we all probably fell asleep quite quickly.

Wednesday 26th August
At some point in the night I woke up with Summer delicately shaking me, telling me I had started snoring and I obediently stopped and rolled back on to my side to prevent it. I’m not a regular loud snorer but I’m aware I’ve been guilty in the past if I fall asleep on my back which I had on this occasion and even in my sleep I think I was aware that I was snoring (though Lucy didn’t hear it). I’m not sure if I went back to sleep so I was probably in between state of conscious and sub consciousness when Lucy’s alarm started to go off at 5.30am signalling it was time to get up. There seemed little point in showering as we were about to get covered in tomatoes so once we were dressed we headed down to breakfast.

After filling up on a true continental breakfast (croissant, salami, chorizo, cheese, Spanish omelette and the triangular cheese which is like dairy lea we boarded the coach to Bunol. The La Tomatina festival began in 1945 to commemorate a food fight which took place in the towns 1944 fiesta, the origins of which have been forgotten in time. It was early so whilst I could feel my heart trying to pump a bit of adrenaline around my body at some point I fell dozed off for 30 seconds and Summer went “Rooaaarrrr” making me jump. I made a mental note to throw a tomato in a sneaky retaliation attack.

After just under an hour we arrived at the site and had a quick toilet stop whilst they were still relatively clean and before the queues built up. It felt like quite a long walk in to the part of the town used for the festival. We arrived at the entrance and decided to walk all the way through to the opposite side of town to get our bearings. On our way we brought some sangria and got caught in a crowd as we saw the Google Car taking pictures of the pre tomatoed streets.

We ended up back in the centre of the town just as the famous ham pole was raised. A guy climbed the lower half of the pole, already covered in grease and spread even more on. Once he was done the crowd surged forward slightly as members of the crowd started trying to climb the pole. Initially each gallant attempt was met by cheering, and then ultimatley a groan as each person failed. The objective was to work as a team and it seemed simple to me that strong people had to be at the bottom to hold up lighter people however the concept of team play was lost on one guy wanting glory for himself and he even pulled a girl by her hair in his feelble attempts to get to the top. One guy climbed the tree next to the pole but decided against leaping over and apparently another climbed up wearing nothing but a hip pouch but I have to admit without my glasses I didn’t realise he was naked.

The crowd steadily continued to build up and we got talking to members of another tour group before Lucy and I made our way back up the street towards an area that looked down on the street below. As we waited for the first truck we heard the gun shot which signaled the fight had begun and as it turned around the corner the carnage began. After it had passed I was initially surprised, almost slightly disappointed, that I and the surrounding area didn’t look so messy. There were a few tomatoes on the ground to squeeze and throw but the world’s largest food fight hadn’t really begun.

The street used was quite narrow and only large enough for one car to pass and from vantage point it looked jam-packed. It was slow progress to get the trucks through which meant Lucy, I and the others in our vicinity took a real beating because we were standing at the same level to those in the trucks throwing tomatoes. In fact one or two seemed to have picked us as targets possibly due to Lucy’s orange cap but Lucy got revenge when she landed a tomato one the back of one of their heads as they bent down.

By the 5th truck had passed I was a mess and the food fight was in full flow as adrenaline took over. We decided to head in to the crowded street and a liquid resembling tins of chopped tomato came over my feet almost up to my ankles in places. The crowd surged us forward as people pushed from the back and It felt mildly claustrophobic so I used my go pro as a slight buffer between me and the person in front to avoid being squashed. There were one or two times I tripped not realising that I was on the curb but luckily I didn’t go down though I felt slightly reassured that Lucy and I were constantly looking for each other.

Eventually we saw a side street which we escaped uo and after making our way through a park before we came to the main street. We couldn’t find an official shower so but a family were using a hose to clean individuals for a small tip so we joined the queue. We never did find a shower so this was a good decision though even though my cap had protected my hair I still felt rather filthy when I changed in to ‘clean’ clothes and boarded the coach.

Summer was one of the last to board and whilst she’d been able to get a hose down as well her normally impaculate blond hair resembled a pizza base. She told us she’d been part of a group at the end that made an attempt to get the ham when the crowds had died down. I got my tablet out and blinked a few times when I noticed the screen looked pink. I checked with Lucy and Summer and they confirmed it was to them as well. It’s funny how after spending more than an hour seeing pretty much nothing but red our brains had trained my eyes to see that colour.

We returned to the hotel and after a proper shower I made my way to the super market to grab us all some late lunch, though it turned out there was only one type of baguette available. After returning to the hotel I learnt that all the showers from those at the festival had caused the water pressure to crash and poor Summer had been forced to wait even longer to wash her hair. We briefly made our way to the swimming pool but it was quite shaded and surprisingly windy so we returned to our room where I had a nap.

La Tomatina organisers had arranged a after party. As we waited in the reception we first got talking to a group from New Zealand before Lucy and Summer recognised Jarrod And Beau who had sat near us on the coach to the festival. We eventually arrived at an industrial estate which randomly included a fancy resort that had been transformed in to a pool party. The pool area was nicely lit up but I couldn’t help thinking ‘who on earth would visit the rest of the year, unless it’s the best truckers rest area ever?’.

As Lucy and Summer queued for drink tokens I went on the hunt for food. It turned out that the chips took to long to cook so were off the menu, the pizza had been burnt to a crisp and as the paella hadn’t been delivered as with the supermarket there was only one choice, a burger. Eventually I found the others and we chatted for a couple of hours over a few beers. I couldn’t face the queue to get more beer tokens once mine had run out especially as it seemed some of the bars hadn’t stocked up enough. Ultimately Summer, Lucy and I were probably suffering from two early stbeachso called it a night but not before I tried the (now discounted) burnt to a crisp pizza.

Thursday 27th August
We decided to have a massive lie in at last because our only real plan was to visit the beach. Lucy had mentioned the day before the bath had been stained pink and initially I’d put it down to our eyes. I was surprised when I showered the next morning to notice a patch of pink seemed to remain. Once we’d had breakfast we got ready to go out and met Beau and Jarrod by the entrance.

We learnt they’d stayed quite a bit later than and whilst they looked to be paying for it, it sounded like it had been worth it. Eventually they decided to join us at the beach so we all made our way to the bus stop. My geography of Spain was quite poor so I hadn’t actually realised Valencia was on the coast so I tried to buy some beach footwear but we could only see restaurants so I quickly lost motivation and gave up. When I was younger I loved the Dorset sand and sea but I didn’t enjoy having sandy feet and I still throw an inner tantrum if I have to put socks on sandy feet.

There was a quite spectacular sand castle and a sand sculpture of the “Last Supper”. It turned out Valencia was on the Med so the sea wasn’t as cold as I expected and I practised using my Go pro under water in preparation for Greece. I had no idea how the footage was coming out but at least after a couple of days I was finally familiar with the buttons. Lucy’s was slightly more updated with a view finder so that gave me an indication.

We’d had a late breakfast but after a couple of hours relaxing and not using much exercise I began to feel a bit hungry. Fortunately Jarred and Bo? were as well so we went in search of some Spanish Tapas. The night before I’d set my heart in eating calamari and I initially showed little reaction when Lucy pointed it out to me on the Tapas menu. A few seconds later I reacted in the excited childish manner expected. The food portions were pretty good and we actually ended up with some food left over.

Jarrod and Beau went back to the hotel and Lucy, Summer and I returned to the beach. Whilst they went back in to the sea I stayed to look after our stuff and attempted to build a sand sculpture of Vicarage Road before turning it in to the old Wembley Stadium although in hindsight a bull ring would have been more appropriate. I had a final dip in the sea where I tried to create exciting wave videos because they were bigger than the afternoon. Back on the sand I built myself a chair (really a mound of sand) before we noticed it was much later than we realised after we’d lost track of time relaxing on the beach.

We decided to have a look further along the water front and found a market area that sold all the beach wear accessories we’d expected to find earlier in the day. We also saw a guy blowing bubbles which had generated a small crowd mainly of children. Things turned slightly sour when a kid kicked the bucket, went down quicker than Christiano Ronaldo clutching his toe and got his gran to shout at the bubble man. She was booed and a big cheer went up when bubble man started up again. We also saw a brass band playing music and I was impressed how Summer identified it as “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid so quickly.

We eventually went for dinner at a place called Destino 56 which had interesting décor. The wall was an under water scene and for reasons we weren’t sure little plastic figures hung from the ceiling. Summer and I shared another Valencian Paella and I had a glass of white sangria. I had no idea such a combination existed and whilst I enjoy Sangria I’m not that keen on red wine. I have to say I found the white Sangria one of the most easy to drink cocktails I’ve ever had and it reminded me of the juice from tinned fruit salad. Once we were finished we walked past the sand sculptures now lit with candles and got a taxi home.

Friday 28th August
Our flight was scheduled for the early evening so we had just over half a day to explore more of the old town. After another lie in and a good breakfast (where I made a ham and cheese toastie) we checked out, put our bags in to storage and caught the bus in to town.

The bus terminated at the grand looking train station which was next door to the bull ring which was an even more impressive structure. We followed the main road past the town hall as we had on the first day and came to the Central Markets. The markets seemed to have a variety of different foods available including somewhat predictably chorizo and those less expected such as live eels slithering around in a shallow tank of water. We brought some gifts and made our way back to the cathedral.

We took a different path to the first day and as we made our way passed lots of examples of street graffiti (certainly more street art). Some of it looked slightly sinister, some was slightly random such as a reoccurring little figure and other pieces were hugely impressive. Once we arrived at the Cathedral Lucy and Summer went for a coffee and I went to take a look.

I was quite impressed with the Cathedral and it was helpful that the audio guide was free. Obviously the highlight was the Holy Grail in the Capilla del Santo Caliz however predictably that was at the end. The Holy Chalice in the Cathedral is deemed by Christian historians to be the most likely used in the last supper and it has also been used by a number of Pope’s which has further strengthened the authenticity of the claims. As well as ‘the Holy Grail’ there was the preserved severed arm of St Vincent in the Capilla de La Resurreccion. A a number of other interesting Chapels also contained various pieces of art.

I met up with Summer and Lucy and we began a search to find somewhere nice but reasonably priced for lunch. We didn’t really have any ideas when all of a sudden someone in the street gave a business card to Lucy. In London I wouldn’t have considered this approach but we looked at the deal and whilst a 3 course meal and a drink for under €10 seemed to good to be true we took a chance. I was really impressed with my goats cheese salad, pasta and French toast with ice cream. It wasn’t the type of fried French toast I expected and it was actually much nicer but by that point I was too full.

We were in more luck when we quickly spotted an empty taxi. I chatted to the driver about football because I had noticed his Valencia pennant. He was particularly animated when he realised the Watford manager was “Ahhhh Quique Sanchez Flores”. As we chatted Lucy joked to Summer about how football is the international language in Europe. We made another quick stop at the cheap super market to get Sangria for Summer. Whilst we arrived at the hotel a few minutes after the designated pick up because it was Spain it didn’t seem to matter that we were late.


Living all Right: Brno and Prague


‘Water-way’ to have a good time

Friday 31st July
It was a late afternoon by the time we arrived in Brno and had checked in to our hotel apartment style room which it has to be said was a bargain expertly chosen by Marc. After changing in to something more suitable for the warm evening we went in search of a place in the main square to get a beer.

As we headed to Náměstí Svobody (Freedom Square) we came upon St James Church where we eventually sat down at a bar with some available seating outside. It seemed a very popular but pleasant location to relax with a beer and there was a pianist nearby which added to the atmosphere.

After leaving that bar we found the Freedom Square where the highlight was a clock which looked like an egg timer and not really in keeping with the style of architecture in the square. There was no seating in the bars within the square so continued to the Church of St Peters and St Pauls via the Vegetable Market Square where I had booked a labyrinth tour for us for the following morning.

St Peters and St Pauls church was high up on a hill and I imagine the view from the Tower would have been quite spectacular but it was closed so we wondered back in to town. Whilst we were starting to get hungry we found another pub first so that we could assess our options, play some more ‘s-head’ and have another refreshing Czech beer.

Leaving the bar Chas had identified two options. The first was an American style dinner but like a bar in Wernigerode that I’d been to, it had a model railway to carry the beers. The one in Brno was however even more spectacular as it had model bridges that raised automatically to let people through and the trains seemed to run using sensors. The food didn’t look overly ‘traditional Czech’ so we walked across to another pub which it turned out was.

We each ordered some traditional Czech bar snacks including deep fried bread and dips and a marinated cheese. We also ordered a main course and so when it all came out we had far more food than we needed and yet it was so cheap (compared to the UK). It was in my opinion the best meal we’d had up until that point and the beer was also award winning.

After a couple of drinks we returned to the earlier bar with the model railway and played some more s-head and drank more beer. Even though there were only 4 or us it felt like we were generating quite a bit of noise without being overly boisterous. The main conversation being as follows: Hamish “is it my go?”, me, “No it’s M Mans”, Chas “C’mon Martin”, Marc “Guys why can’t we have a civilised conversation whilst we play?” At one stage I inadvertently took a paparazzi style picture of Hamish as he watched Marc joyfully remove his scotches from the little wagon.

We made our way home and after watching a bit of the only tv channel available and sitting on the balcony I decided to go to bed because we had a fairly early start due to two underground tours that had been pre booked. Marc followed at some point later but not before he effectively declared war on Chas and Hamish by sneaking into their room in the style of Uncle Monty (from the film Withnail and I) and waking them up. In preparation for a retaliation he locked the balcony door, barricaded our bedroom door and once asleep declared a snoring competition on me which he subsequently won. I resorted to listening to relaxing music for much of the night.

Saturday 1st August
I was vaguely aware of Hamish saying “How’s my boys eh?” and I was so dead to the world it wasn’t until later in the morning it was confirmed this exchange had occurred. It did however mean I had at least fallen asleep at some stage. We left and checked out of the hotel later than planned which meant yet again we were in a rush though this time the sirens were wailing and the lights were flashing red. Hamish led the way with a fast pace with Chas and I on his wheel but at 9.29 he announced he should receive a court martial for failing to get us there on time. Instead as we turned the corner on to the Vegetable Market I immediately saw the sign for the labyrinth and we collected our tickets with seconds to spare.

The tour was all in Czech however we were given English audio guides. The Labyrinth had a number of different underground displays which represented how the underground stores in Brno had been used. This included as a cellar for the Moravia region’s famous wines, a alchemist laboratory, a tavern and even a prison/torture chamber. Whilst the tour was guided our female guide only spoke Czech and whilst we were given audio guides the whole experience felt less personal.

Leaving the Labyrinth we probably relaxed a bit to much as we wondered around the market and dawdled however fortunately our entry time to the Ossuary under the Church of St James was more flexible and unguided. I hadn’t really known what to expect and the English description of the history didn’t fully prepare me. It appears that although 50,000 people had been buried there from around the 1800s it was forgotten and not re-discovered until 2001. The vault was on the verge of collapse so had to be preserved and it was at this point that all the skulls (cleaned) were used to decorate the room and even appeared to he used to build a pillars.

Whilst it is clearly a quite significant place it is not surprising that some find the various displays disturbing and Marc in particular found it an unpleasant experience. Personally I felt it was done in a similar way to the Capuchin Crypt I visited in Rome, perhaps in an attempt to almost imortalise the skulls however as they weren’t whole skeletons it certainly felt more creepy and sinister. The sheer numbers also meant it was difficult to forget these weren’t the remains of those that didn’t fear death (as was the case with the Capuchin Monks) but were victims of frequent plague and war that probably did.

We walked back to the main square where we found a restaurant that was serving even though it wasn’t lunch. Having skipped breakfast Chas and Hamish needed an “OJ” which is known as a coffee to you and me. An orange juice is of course also an OJ however confusion never arose about the beverage Marc and I knew they wanted. OJ gradually developed in to an OJB a coffee and a beer. I only occasionally drink coffee on holiday however even I thought the OJB seemed a great idea as I was tired from the night before.

For much of the trip Marcs rucksack strap had been holding together by a miraculous thread. As we wondered through town and towards Spilberk Castle I tried to encourage him to buy a new bag in the city centre where prices were likely to be cheap compared to home. As he announced the bag was completely fine it dropped to the floor in a ‘you had to be there moment’. Fortunately for him it hadn’t actually broken and the strap had just unattached so we carried on though another thread must surely have broken in the process.

We arrived at the bottom of the hill to the castle and made our way up. There were some pleasant views of the countryside and it was evident that the Czech Republics city was as small as it felt. Eventually we arrived at the gate to the castle and I used my camera as an excuse to have a brief race before I watched Marc bound up the steps and disappear. I wasn’t far away and a few seconds later I heard Hamish shout followed by laughter. I guessed what had happened so ran up the steps to see Marc holding his broken bag. “It’s oh kay” he said as he tied the strap together and pretended nothing was wrong.

My laughter didn’t last long and karma came back to bite. My phone hadn’t been happy all morning, heating up and restarting, not turning off correctly and the GPS wasn’t working. I turned off flight mode and I realised it was something serious when it failed to pick up a signal and merely told me to “insert sim card” which was already inserted. Whilst the others grabbed a quick OJ (coffee) I went to fetch Axel and after returning to the coffee shop we ended up having another dash to get the train.

I wasn’t quite sure why or how for the second day we’d left ourselves short of time but we made it to the platform with a bit of time to space but we were overheating. The air conditioning wasn’t working and seeing the guy in the corner was wearing a T Rex shirt Marc tried to start a conversation with a fellow fan of his favourite band. Despite the lack understanding in terms of language both understood the others pointing and the general message. The bottom line was that the window was locked but when the guard came the guy in the corner asked for it to be unlocked for us.

Hamish and Chas had gone to the buffet car for beer and when they returned I went on a similar adventure. It seemed I had to walk (sway) through the entire train before I was stopped from entering first class by ‘Maria’ who explained I’d walked past the buffet car. It transpired the restaurant car selling area was a cupboard which I’d mistaken for well a store cupboard. I returned back taking care not to wake a Czech soldier before Axel finally proved his worth and became a S-Head table. Hasmish failed to find a “Ace in the Hole” despite declaring otherwise every other go and after not losing once on the previous days lost 3 in a row.

The train was slightly delayed and whilst I’ve been on longer (4 days) than the 2 hours it took, I admit it did drag. It didn’t help I had a headache either caused by sleep deprivation, dehydration, to much coffee, or to much beer or a combination of the above. After downing a bottle of water we caught the underground to the hostel where we seemed to spend an age checking in. I noticed there was beer tasting and I hoped we would have time to take part after we had found somewhere to get dinner.

We headed towards the river and eventually found a fancy looking place selling authentic Czech food at a price where we could eat like kings. Sure it wasn’t the 15p a drink I remembered from 10 gears ago when I went with my dad but a roast duck dumpling feast and a beer for under £5 wasn’t bad at all. For a third time in a day we had to have another brisk walk to get to the beer tasting. Initially the group was quite small, us, 2 Americans and 1 Australian however within about 15 minutes the group had expanded so an extra table was required.

The beer tasting was interesting and also a great way to meet some of the other people in the hostel. Apparently the average Czech drink 148.6 liters per capita making them number one in the world and due to the water content you can remain hydrated after 5 pint (or the equivalent of). This didn’t surprise me and there have been times in history when drinking was healthier than drinking water but there was another ‘fact’ that I thought was quite amazing. In the UK we tilt our glasses when pouring pints and I noticed that our expert beer taster wasn’t and it was almost like she read my mind when she explained why. Basically German and Czech beer is different and the glasses are designed to allow plenty of room for head which let’s the gas out. By the time we had the shot Becherovka which tasted like Christmas we were a chatty social group.

Marc had opted to skip the beer tasting and after finding him at a small bar we crossed over the bridge where we found a nice place with a table. As we sat chatting Hamish enchanted us with Calibans famous soliloquy from Tempest and some other famous poems and speeches he’d memorised. I was utterly impressed he’d learnt them all as a hobby and was unaware of his hidden talent.

After leaving the pub we wondered through the small old narrow streets of Prague in search of a traditional beer hall which Chas had located on the map. It was further away than initially anticipated but when we arrived we sat down on a table with a friendly local. Hand gestures, and one or two words were all we really needed to communicate though because he didn’t speak much English and we spoke no Czech besides “na zdraví” (cheers) so got a friend on another table to join us as an interpreter. The beer which had come out of a ancient looking tap rather than a modern fancy pump seemed to taste even better than the previous pints but we were thwarted in having another as the bar had closed.

As I had only had a radler at the first bar I was probably a bit too sober considering I was quite tired and not in the best state of mind because of my phone. I just wanted to get home but had I been a bit more merry I’d have been happier to go along with the flow on the journey home. Marc had already disappeared so I was dependent on Chas and Hamish and all the above caused a bit of a silly squabble when they wanted to have one more pint in a Reggae bar.

As it was when we did get to the hostel (having randomly bumped in to Marc in a kebab house) all the lights in my room (the others were in a different room) were on and it was clear sleep was the last thing happening. Everyone in the room seemed quite friendly and it was much better than discovering everyone was asleep. I wasn’t as chatty as perhaps I usually am because I knew my holiday was nearly over and when gradually people started to turn out their lights I followed suit and probably fell straight sleep.

Sunday 2nd August
There was a bit of confusion as to where we were meeting in the morning for breakfast and without a working phone I awaited in reception. Eventually assuming the others were still in bed I went to their room where I discovered them waiting in the hall waiting for me to come out of my room. Re-united we went in search of a cafe still serving breakfast in the old town so we could combine the walk with seeing some of Prague’s historic old town.

After we had eaten breakfast we continued to explore the old town and inadvertently stumbled upon the famous Old Town Square just before 11:00. We therefore decided to wait a few minutes so that we could see the famous Orloj (Prague Astronomical Clock) display. We then did a loop and returned back to the bridge near the hostel so we could hire a rowing boat along the Vltava.

Whilst the others each had a go I didn’t want to risk my camera so merely took pictures to record the event. The ‘highlights’ were getting a bit close to one of the bigger boats, Chas and Marc trying to swap positions which caused the boat to tilt dangerously to one side and Chas nearly crashing the boat in to the bank. It was despite those hilarious mishaps quite relaxing for me (perhaps not the others) and very pleasant to see a different view if Prague.

After rowing, Marc and I went for a refreshing fruit drink whilst Hamish and Chas checked out some markets on the Island. On our way I got a doughnut style roll with nutella spread inside. After a few days of rushing around even I was grateful to have a bit of down time before meeting Marc’s friend Ruth. Marc went to find her, Chas and Hamish whilst I paid and after they returned to find me we all went to an American style diner for food. On the way to the restaurant we introduced Ruth to Marc goading by them hiding in a shop doorway and jumping out on him in unison. We also introduced her to S-Head and for a while it looked like Hamish would lose again but he somehow saved himself and Ruth lost much to the disappointment of Chas, Marc and I

Hamish and I had to prepare to go home but still had to get a few gifts. Earlier I’d seen some wafer biscuits (edit: which went down very well at work) but Ruth encouraged me to get them from Tesco as they were cheaper. So it was that Tesco became the last place I saw in Prague before collecting Axel and making my way to the airport. On our way it started raining, which I said was Prague crying tears of sadness at us leaving. It had been an intense holiday but ultimately a lot of fun and by the end I was already thinking where the next Coldening adventure could be.

S Head and beers

S Head and beers

After getting the underground and a bus Hamish and I arrived at the airport. Even though we were early the check in desk was open and we were one of the first inline. After 15 minutes, perhaps more, it dawned on us the family being served were still there and when they did finally move and it was our turn we discovered the flight was delayed by 3 hours. We used our free food compensation vouchers to get some goulash soup, a bagel and a beer. This ate up some time before we went on a walk around the different gift shops where I brought myself some Becherovka In a little gift set which came with a glass. We also spent time playing a game called “Which Bin does my Rubbish go In”, which reached fever pitch when I discovered a forgotten receipt. When we did finally go to the lounge we were joined by groups on stag dos and when one poor girl smashed her bottle of vodka it seemed everyone even children looked to see her helplessly watching the contents spill over the floor. We got to Victoria at 1am by which point all the trains to Balham had gone to bed, which is where we wanted to be. If my phone had been working I would have tried to get a hotel but instead I had to get a taxi, telling the driver sadly “I’ll be back here in just over 7 hours!” It had been pretty horrendous but Hamish and I stayed strong, kept each others spirits up and it didn’t affect the great time we had experienced.