Friday, 23 August 2013

Day 84 (23/8) - Manchester

It was Anne-Marie's idea to leave London and spend a day in Manchester before heading off to Creamfields, so it was her itinerary today. We headed into the Northern Quarter, then started with coffee and breakfast at a tea house, as you do, probably the least manly espresso in the world. Followed by a visit to the Manchester Craft and Design Center, lots of nice jewelry, paintings and paper craft. But what really caught Reuben's imagination was a collection of stuffed toys, stuffed toys with terrible injuries, spilled guts, gouged eyes, they were awesome, and we met the artist. 

After checking out some other funky shops we trained it to Warrington to escape the rain. Google cycle navigated us to our hotel, the movies to see Elysium, dinner and home in the dark without a hitch.

An espresso and cappuccino

Anne-Marie enjoys it

Absolutely fantastic stuffed toys by an amazing artist Harriet Godden 

More of her gruesome creations

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Day 83 (22/8) - London to Manchester

Following a cold wet two hour ride from Greenwich to Kings cross we had a painless train ride to Manchester. It was late afternoon so we headed out to find a bite and some comedy.

Unbeknownst to us Manchester was hosting a gay pride parade this weekend. Reuben guided us straight into the heart of the gay district of Manchester and it was quite bizarre to feel like you have arrived in the gayest city on earth, rainbows freakin everywhere.

We thought we would follow the canal down to The Comedy Store, walking the canals has been great in Venice, Strasbourg, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Bruges. Manchester is a little different, their canal is a dirty, stinky, stagnant, drain that runs through the heart of the city.

A tasty pizza followed by a great laugh and too much wine was a fantastic night.

A shot of a nicer section of the Canal

The Comedy Store on the Canal,
highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Manchester
Canal street in the gay village, someone's a comedian
What we inadvertently walked into

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Day 82 (21/8) - Beer, Pubs and London

Our second organised tour in London, a pub crawl. We met our guide John at the base of The Shard, a 310m eyesore thrusting  out of historic old London Bridge district. We then proceeded to walk through some of the most striking old pubs in London while our guide continuously filled our slowly fogging brains with a mix of pub history, beer history, literary history, London history and lies. He also took us to a the London Gin Club as a distraction at one point, 197 Gins in one bar. After our tour we fittingly enjoyed a cheap classic English pub meal.

After dinner we hired some bikes and rode out to Buckingham Palace to take a quick gander. Then climbing up on the lions under Nelson's Column. We then weaved our way slowly back to the hotel while drinking in the sites and sounds of London at night.

The George Inn, Shakespeare's local

Anne-Marie under the umbrellas

The Blackfriar, Art nouveau pub

Amazing monk themed designs

Reuben at the bar

The London Gin Club, first time I've had any drink with a sprig of rosemary

At Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

The Seven Stars, full of private booths and mystery

Scotish egg followed by a steak and ale pie at The Ships Tavern

Anne-Marie outside Bucking Huge Palace

London Eye from a pedestrian bridge

St Peters Cathedral at night.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Day 81 (20/8) - Street art and under-dressed in London

Reuben had organised a street art tour of London, his interest piqued by the Space Invader artwork he had observed during the cycle tour of Paris. Dave of Shoreditch street art tours was a wealth of knowledge on the local street art scene and has been documenting it for years. His three hour tour ended up being four and a half hours stuffed full of a parade of some of the most famous and impressive street art in the world. Anne-Marie was a little overwhelmed by the end but Reuben loved it all.

After the tour it was seven thirty and we were hungry. Dressed in thongs shorts and daggy t-shirts we went looking for somewhere to eat. A nice restaurant caught our eye. Reuben nipped in to see if they had a table free which they did. Out to lock up the bikes and we where happily located at a table in what turned out to be Galvin La Chapelle a Michelin stared restaurant by renown chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin. Seven sumptuous dishes and matching wines later and we stumbled out to unlock the bikes. Reuben joking with a chauffeur waiting with his limousine outside that whomever he was waiting for should just cycle home after his meal.

Cycling home we stopped for a couple of shots on some famous bridge in London ;-)

Now Kiss

This one was beautifully bright.

This one is appreciated by the large local Muslim community

This one is just amazing


An enormous hedgehog looks awesome coming round the corner

Reverse graffiti, wash the dirt off to create art

Some impressive sculptures

And can work

A little can pointillism 

Some smut by a little Japanese woman

Some of the most impressive art was little bronze sculptures with environmental messages hidden subtly around the place

Monday, 19 August 2013

Day 80 (19/8) - A missed Train and The Beast Mk.2

An early morning, a split up because we only had one bike, a tube ride and a serious run around by terrible Parisian instructions had us panicking, and finally missing the Eurostar. Fortunately they have a forgiving, just catch the next one policy. A couple of hours and a long tunnel later we where in London.

After two and a half months it was beautiful to be back in an English speaking country. It's actually subtly stressful to not be confident the person you are about to speak to will understand you. It's also nice to be back on the left hand side of the road (although it took a while to get back into this normalcy). We stepped of the train and immediately in front of us was a Lebara stand the PrePaid mobile sim cards we have been relying on for data in each country we have visited. 20 quid later and we had two working mobiles, two gig of data, free calls and free texts between us, they didn't even need our names.

Having done some research the night before Reuben hired a Boris Bike and we headed off to Re-Cycling a 2nd hand bike shop near Elephant and Castle. 230 quid later and Reuben rode off on the beast Mk.2

We picked up a new rack for Reuben's panniers but it wouldn't quite fit the bike (custom job due to the disc brakes) so Reuben bought a file and we sat outside a nearby pub drinking the local brew, regaling locals with stories of our travels and filing the rack down to fit.

It felt like a good start to London, and it just felt bloody awesome to be out of Paris.

Once we where both mobile again (YAY) we headed over to south bank to check out the Eye of London. It's just a crazy tourist hotspot, not up our alley really so we headed to our hotel in Greenwich.

Anne-Marie and the bug spattered Eurostar

A screen grab of Reuben's mobile's GPS as he hits a new speed record on Anne-Marie's bike
(can you guess what's really going on?)

Filing down the new racks for Beast Mk.2

Anne-Marie in front of the Eye of London

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Day 79 (18/8) - Pop art and Piss

Having train tickets on the Eurostar already booked for tomorrow, we decided to make the most of the day we had left in Paris. Too scared to leave Anne-Marie's bike locked up anywhere we spent the morning wandering through the urine soaked (seriously the whole city reeks of it) streets of this over-rated city looking for a replacement bicycle and after abandoning hope, the Afternoon at the Centre Georges Pompidou their modern art museum. It was impressive. A fantastic selection of international Modern art and two great exhibitions by Roy Lichtenstein and Simon Hantai, neither of them Parisians!

Two French freaks disappointed the Cheese shop was closed. MOOOO

One of Roy Lichtenstein's Famous pieces.
We didn't know Simon Hantai's work, but now have a huge appreciation for it.


Paris skyline from the Pompidou escalator

The tower again

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Day 78 (17/8) - Paris (Anne-Marie's G rated version)

Trying to be positive about Paris, Reuben organised a bike tour for the morning. Keen to take his own bike Anne-Marie convinced him to leave it behind and get into the spirit, ride a squeaky, dodgy tour company bike like the others. Our guide Pascale was wonderful, half British she guided us and another 6 people around the streets  a lovely city with so much history Anne-Marie was so glad she came and Reuben was coming around. The streets were quiet, Pascale explained so many people had left for the holidays, lots of shops were closed but it was still the quietest she had ever seen "It's like a SciFi movie, everyone's missing" she exclaimed. We passed armed soldiers at every major tourist attraction, apparently due to the war in Mali. 

After the tour we headed back to collect our bikes. The saddest part of our journey... Reuben's bike was gone, the chain cut through. After 6 years with 'The Beast', riding it to work everyday, it was not only a huge 
inconvenience and cost but a very sad ending. With ticket inspectors, military police and gendarmerie everywhere on the streets we were surprised it had happened in Paris and not Rome or Spain. Reuben's mother amongst others had warned us that the french where a bunch of thieves. After a few hours at the police station we were not going to let it ruin our holiday. Reuben got on a dodgy city hire bike and we rode around, visited the tallest building in Paris proper for a lookout, rode under the Eiffel tower and enjoyed a somber dinner with lots of wine, (not French!).

Cruise the capital on a tour bike

Riding under the most expensive apartments in France. Still looked like a bit of a dump

In a hidden garden

A lot of Paris looks like this, it's the law apparently.

Cruising with our tour group

Notre Dame in the background

An entrance to the louvre

A view of Paris better than from the Eiffel tower (because you can see it)

Ride the louvre

Cycled under the tower on a hire bike