We spent the day relaxing and taking in the vibes of the Intrepids. The location is great as it is by the river so the animals come into the area for the water. Across the other side of the river the Samburu Tribesmen bring their animals to the waterside at various times during the day. These include goats, sheep and camels, that have been brought down from the Northern parts of Africa.
We went back out in the early evening at around 4pm, looking for some more animals, as we are not allowed out into the park after 6pm as the animals need their bed time sleep! We managed to find a zebra, which interestingly are rare in this part of Africa, and a host of smaller animals but unfortunately none of the big five, which is an interesting parallel with the struggle to find new beers!
Back to the camp in time for the lecture from the Samburu warriors, who give a lecture on the "becoming a man” process in their tribe. The ancient history and exact origin of the Samburu people is difficult to trace beyond a period of about one hundred years. Events recorded orally soon become interwoven with mythology, merging into one. Some believe their origin could be in the Sudan, but others, within Egypt, the descendants of a lost battalion of Roman soldiers. True Maasai tribesmen call them ‘The Butterfly People', an off-shoot of the main tribe that remained behind whilst others pushed further South. Fiercely pastoral, the Samburu people are totally committed to their stock, almost to the virtual exclusion of everything else. Their cattle are their life; their wealth; their livelihood and the symbol of status and success within the tribe, but not seemingly their foreskin (read on)! Since, like the true Maasai, they believe that all cattle rightfully belong to them, cattle raiding of other tribes has always been a major preoccupation of the warriors.
For me the most difficult part of the Samburu culture is the chopping off of the foreskin in front of the rest of the tribe. This is a part of the process of becoming a warrior, and should you flinch when this is happening you will be looked on badly and have to "take the shame", even the thought of having this done to me is enough to make me pass out, so I have great sympathy for the flinchers!
As soon as a male of the tribe has been circumcised, he joins an age-set comprised of all the young men so initiated within a period of about fourteen years, and he will maintain a close affinity with these peers until death. Girls do not have any age-set grouping, passing instead through two stages of life, namely girlhood and womanhood. The men on the other hand pass through three, boyhood from birth to adolescence before entering an age-set, moranhood, from circumcision to marriage when they are warriors, and elderhood from marriage until death. In the U.K. your eighteenth andtwenty first are seen as big points in your life, with a party and a cake, in Samburu land having the top of your penis cut off is more important! I wonder what the greetings cards say?
"Congratulations on this special day,
I hope the pain soon goes away,
Congratulations on your circumcision,
Not sure that was the best decision!”
We leave tomorrow and head back south across the Equator and our destination is the Ark.
Only Tusker beer here and the new beers are proving as hard to find as a Samburu Warrior with his foreskin intact,
Ta Ta, or as they say here in Africa "Ouch that hurts”
We are staying in what can only be described as a luxury tent, which is a bit of a misnomer. Not sure luxury and tent usually go together but they certainly do here, as we have large and comfortable (proper) bed, a bathroom, toilet, and we even share a lounge with Jet Lag who is in the adjoining tent.
When we were shown to our tents by the helpful porter we were given a lecture about "monkey proofing" the tent, "Make sure to close all the zips when you leave the (luxury) tent” was the message. Absolutely no problem with mosquito proofing apparently, but monkey proofing is of the utmost importance, I know which one has been irritating me more so far on this trip!
We were up early this morning and out looking for animals. It seems that the animals don't have the decency to allow us a lay in, but the good news is that we were brought a cup of coffee in our (luxury) tent to wake us up at 6 a.m. Out on the hunt and we go on the prowl in the vehicle, with the roof up and binoculars in hand and see what we can spot. I think we were lucky yesterday spotting the "Queen of Samburu” and may have peaked on this trip a little too early, a bit like Charlton used to be like, now they don't peak at all!
We see some giraffes, which are reticulated here. I thought that this meant that they got a blue badge and could park on double yellow lines, but what it really means is that the lines on their body join up to form a network, unlike giraffes from other parts of Africa that remain seprated, so they can knock the spots off them!
We also notice some dik-dik (again just like being at Charlton) who are a timid animal and a form of antelope. There are also lots of elephants coming back from watering at the river and we ensure that we turn the engine off and sit in silence as they wander by.
We spot (or rather David spots) something in a bush and he draws the vehicle up nearer so we can get a look. He has spotted a Martial Eagle sitting on a leafy branch with its catch attached to the talons. He appears to be holding onto a small dik-dik (no laughing at the back!).
The Martial Eagle or "Polemaetus Bellicosusne” for the more educated reader is one of the world's most powerful avian predators and, among African raptors, only the Crowned Eagle is comparable in predatory dominance. The Martial Eagle is an apex predator, being at the top of the avian food chain (not Macdonald's) in its environment and, if healthy has no natural predators. Although the flying range of the Martial and Crowned Eagles occasionally adjoin each other, the species have differing habitat preferences, with the Crowned Eagle preferring denser forests unlike the wooded savanna preferred by the Martial Eagle, a bit like crossing the river and entering into Essex. The two are not known to compete directly, but if there is a competition I am sure it will be live on Sky Sports.
We drive around some more on the trail of the big five but don't manage to see any more, despite the best efforts of David. Back to the Intrepids in time for breakfast after the early start and a time to rest. It's been a busy few days and we are still on pirate alert!
After crossing the Equator and confirming that the "acceleration of Danny Beer” theory is correct, and that beer does in fact travel down the throat in different directions when consumed either side of the Equator, we continued our journey northwards towards Samburu and Somalia. Descending down from the heights of Mount Kenya the temperature changes and the damp and rain are replaced by a more sunny and drier landscape and climate. The road is surfaced with tarmac but bumpy and full of holes and the Kenyan branch of Murphy's have put in speed humps so that when you go through town and villages you have to slow to a snail's pace. This gives the street side sellers the opportunity to sell their wares by trying to poke them through the windows of vehicles, even when the window is closed.
It is also interesting that there are themes to the street side sellers in that in one place they are all selling bananas as they are near plantations and the next they are all selling fish as they are near the river. I guess this truly expounds the thoughts of Adam Smith and his "Wealth of Nations” theories, as loved by a certain M Thatcher, and suggests that maybe the banana sellers should "get on their bike” and trade with the fish retailers rather than try and poke fish thorough the car windows?
The Kenyan traffic cops have been pulling us over quite a few times on our journey. As we head north though we seem to get more checks, and at one point David our driver has to go and sign in to say that we are entering a certain region. Heading even further north we are flagged down by police and military, and David has a conversation with them in Kiswahili. As an intrepid explorer and fat yak hunter Danny Beer is fluent in many languages but Swahili is not one of them, as the best I can manage is kahuna matata, having learnt this from a Disney cartoon. David says that there is nothing to get concerned about but the gist of it seems to be that from next week we would need a police escort to travel through the next part of our journey. He says that the road we are travelling is being developed to travel straight through to the Somalia border and that this has raised security concerns due to the involvement of Kenya in Somalia.
We arrive at the entrance to the Samburu National Park at around 5:00pm and David pays the entrance fee. He then lifts the roof on the vehicle and says that as it is dusk we are going to go on "a bit of an animal hunt" on the way to the Intrepids where we are staying.
It is an amazing experience when you are in the national parks in Kenya, where you are a guest in the animal's house and have to observe the etiquette of the animal kingdom. As the sun drops we scout around, with David on the look-out. He spots something and manoeuvres the vehicle across the bumpy terrain and we pull up and turn the engine off. Walking towards us is a lioness on the prowl. She strolls within two metres of where we are parked and decides to have a call of nature before heading back into the bush in search of something for tea, amazing!
We get to our accommodation at around 7:00pm in time for beer and a lecture, which members of the Samburu Tribe carry out with the aid of Powerpoint and a projector, which does seem a little weird in the middle of the jungle! The beer is Tusker, so no new beer to add to the list but a great day, although a long one with the travelling. We have a very nice a la carte meal in the restaurant, a couple more beers and retire like our predecessors Stanley and Livingstone for a good night's sleep.
Ta Ta, or as they say here in Africa "kwa heri, kwa herini”
Still no sign of the pirates but I think they are getting nearer as we head North!
We left early this morning on the advice of David our driver, as we have a long drive ahead of us as we travel up to Samburu. We skirt around Nairobi which is southbound and a bit weird and then head north through the Kenyan countryside. We travel through Ruiru, Thika, Makuyu, Nyeri, Nanyuki and Isiolo before reaching the national park at Samburu. According to the directions it is about 430km and a six hour journey.
The journey is interesting, with a change of climates on the way, and a journey from one hemisphere to the other. On the way we cross the Equator Line and crossing the equator involves water going down the plug hole in different directions, of which I will explain more later in the blog. It also involves the discovery of new beers, which I think go down in the same direction regardless of the hemisphere? I could be wrong though, so maybe beer goes down the neck in different directions when you are in the Northern or Southern hemisphere and is also subject to the Coriolis effect?
We drive north towards Somalia, keeping a keen watch out for road pirates. We are travelling high above sea level and towards Mount Kenya, which is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa. The highest peaks of the Kenyan mountain are Batian (5,199 metres (17,057 ft)), Nelion (5,188 metres (17,021 ft)) and Point Lenana (4,985 metres (16,355 ft)), see you can learn GCSE Geography here! It's located in central Kenya, just south of the equator, around 150 kilometres (93 mi) north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. Mount Kenya is the source of the name of the Republic of Kenya and also the souce of the name for White Cap lager of which I find a bottle to consume on the way, along with a bottle of Snappy which is not really a beer but has alcohol and looks like beer so I am claiming it anyway. Beers nine and ten take your place on the Out of Africa list.
I mentioned earlier about Corilolis and we stop on the Equator line where there are people with buckets of water and matchsticks who show you that the theories of Coriolis were in fact correct as the matchstick does spin around the water in different directions north and south of the equator line, so I am guessing the same is true of beer being consumed in similar circumstances.
Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis published a paper in 1835 on the energy yield of machines with rotating parts, such as waterwheels. That paper considered the supplementary forces that are detected in a rotating frame of reference. Coriolis divided these supplementary forces into two categories. The second category contained a force that arises from the cross product of the angular velocity of a coordinate system and the projection of a particle's velocity into a plane perpendicular to the system's axis of rotation. Coriolis referred to this force as the "compound centrifugal force". The effect was known in the early 20th century as the "acceleration of Coriolis", and by 1920 as "Coriolis force", got that? I am thinking of publishing a similar paper about the direction that beer travels down the throat, the "acelleration of Danny Beer” and hope this will add a PHD to my many honours including the knighthood for services to beer.
Ta Ta, or as they say here in Africa "kwa heri, kwa herini”, Part two to follow..........................
Still no sign of the pirates but I think they are keeping a low profile for later. Danny Beer
A day out today as we were collected by David our driver for a trip out to Crater Lake and then back round Lake Naivasha for lunch and beer searching at the Lake Naivasha Country Club.
The journey to Crater Lake was about an hour and a half across some very rough roads. When we got there we had to pay an entrance fee to the park but it was worth the bob's.
To get down into the crater, where the Crater Lake Lodge is situated, you have to go down 106 steps. Crater lakes are an interesting phenomenon, and form as the created depression within the crater rim is filled by water. The water may come from precipitation, groundwater circulation (often hydrothermal fluids in the case of volcanic craters) or melted ice. Its level rises until equilibrium is reached between the rate of incoming and outgoing water.
We walked around the peak of the crater, which is navigated by looking out for painted white arrows pointing in the direction you need to travel. These are not always that easy to find but proved to be easier to find than new beers on this trip so far. When we reached the other side of the crater we descended down through the jungle type terrain and marshland, and walked along the edge of the lake looking out for crocodiles, although I am not that sure there were any in the lake! The lake is famous for its Pink Flamingo's and there are flocks of these sitting on top of the water and who pedal off across the water madly as you approach, doing their best not to have to use their wings to fly. It is a very beautiful location and well worth the visit, and the walk as the views from the top of the crater are beautiful, as are the views on the lake.
We eventually got back around to the lodge at the bottom of the 160 steps that we need to walk back up and decide that refreshments are required. Pilsener take your place on the Out of Africa in Eighty Beers list. Another one bites the dust as Freddy Mercury used to say, before he ended up doing the same himself! A word of warning if you do walk the crater, plenty of water, sun block and mosquito repellent is required.
After we had walked back up to the top we woke David who was having a nap in the Toyota and drove around the other side of Lake Naivasha back to the Naivasha Country Club. Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake outside the town of Naivasha in Nakuru County which lies north west of Nairobi. It is part of the Great Rift Valley and the name derives from the local Maasai name Nai'posha, meaning "rough water" because of the sudden storms which can arise.
Between 1937 and 1950 the lake was used as a landing place for flying boats on the Imperial Airways passenger and mail route, from Southampton in Britain to South Africa and it linked Kisumu and Nairobi. Also Joy Adamson, the author of Born Free, lived on the shores of the lake in the mid-1960s. On the shores of the lake is the Djinn Palace, which gained notoriety in the Happy Valley days between the two world wars. It now forms part of the Oserian flower farm.
A founder member of the Happy Valley Club and one of the first British settlers in East Africa, and a predecessor to the Right Honourable Danny Beer MBE for services to Beer Hunting, was the Rt. Hon. Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere (1870–1931), K.C.M.G. who is credited with helping form the Happy Valley set. Lord Delamere,also a member of the Happy Valley setmfirst travelled to East Africa in 1891 for lion hunting (rather than beer hunting,) and returned yearly to resume the hunt. In 1894 he was mauled by an attacking lion and as a result, he limped for the rest of his life. Serves him right if you ask me! He is also credited for coining the term "white hunter" although not the term "beer hunter”. In 1896 he moved to Africa and eventually settled in Kenya and in 1906 he acquired a large farm, the "Soysambu Ranch", which would eventually rise to 200,000 acres (810 km2). How the other half live eh!
We end up for lunch at the Lake Naivasha Country Club which opened in 1937 as an intermediate staging post for Imperial Airways' flying boat (seaplane) service, travelling from Durban to London. Previously known as the "Lake Hotel" in the 1930 there were papyrus-thatched chalets but these have been replaced with a more modern structure. The place as with the area itself reeks of its colonial past at the (not so)) great days of the British Empire and in particular the white rule and apartheid in some parts of Africa.
The Lake Naivasha Country Club is located on the opposite shore of Lake Naivasha from the town of Naivasha, Kenya. Built using old colonial architecture and opened in 1937, Lake Naivasha Country Club provides accommodation in rooms and cottages across 12 hectares (55 acres) of green lawns shaded by mature acacias and fever trees. The public rooms also display the British colonial style. The residents' lounge has a massive fireplace and large bay windows and the bar adjoins a snooker room, for playing billiards and drinking beer in the British tradition. Views from the club across Lake Naivasha are dominated by the shadow of Mount Longonot, 2,777 m (9,111 ft), a partly extinct volcano which, in 1983, was declared a Kenyan national park (52 km²).
After a nice lunch and another new beer, Pilsener Ice its back to the house in Naivasha. When we get back it is a bit late to venture out so we go across to the club house and watch a movie about an Irish gangster and from that point onwards Jetlag refers to me as a potato eater!
So two new beers, which makes it eight found so far. 10% down already and the hunt for Red October continues (if there is an African beer called Red October!)
Ta Ta, or as they say here in Africa "kwa heri, kwa herini”
Still no sign of the pirates but I think they are keeping a low profile for later. Danny Beer
A chill out day after all the travelling but still a chance to hunt out new beers! As we have no internet access we decide to walk down to the Great Rift Valley Golf and Country Club to use their Wi fi and search their bar.
The club is about three hundred yards (one hundred metres?) down the unmade road in the opposite direction from the Cow Shed Off Licence. There is a manned security gate that we have to pass to get into the club but we are fine as they recognise us after we were introduced on the way in.
They have a magnificent golf course here (although I don't play the game) and they have zebras and Bambi's, and a bit like Charlton warthogs grazing around the golfers. More importantly they also have a new beer, White Cap lager, so White Cap takes its place on the Out of Africa list. I make that beer #6 so just another 74 to go!
We have to leave the club before it gets dark at around 5:30PM. What reason would DB have to leave a bar so early I bet you are thinking to yourself? Well the unmade road between the Club and our house for the next few days is in the middle of wild buffalo country. We are fine during the day when they are sleeping but at dusk and during the night this is a no go area unless we are in a vehicle. So we head back to the house and the remaining bottles left in the cow shed crate.
Ta Ta, or as they say here in Africa "kwa heri, kwa herini”
The distance between Nairobi and our second destination is just over 90 kilometres, and as I was brought up using miles as a measurement of distance, Jetlag has advised me to divide by 0.621371192, which is easy for me using my abacus and slide rule!
Not far, I bet you are thinking? But you are probably not taking into account the roads here in East Africa. The traffic moves slowly at best, even on the semi-decent roads, and with traffic overtaking in all lanes it's a bit of a nightmare. You have to negotiate all types of vehicle, including push bikes loaded high, donkey (Carlton) drawn carts, mopeds with at least three people travelling on them, lorries that look long past their sell by date, and buses that pull over at a moment's notice looking for passengers. The traffic issue is further exasperated by the traffic cops, who seem to make the traffic jams worse rather than better, with their constant arm waving and whistle blowing.
We leave at around 10:30AM after breakfast at the Boulevard, and I was expecting a two hour journey, but this ends up taking around four hours, the last of which is on an unmade road. We are travelling to Naivasha to stay for a few days at Jetlag's sister Rita's place. We also have David, our driver for the rest of the week until Sunday.
We travel through Kikuyu, Limuru Town, Karagita and skirt around Hell's Gate National Park before reaching Naivasha where we are staying until Thursday morning. Naivasha was originally grazing ground for the Masai, until they were displaced by European settlers at the turn of the 20th Century, a familiar tale if you read any of my earlier posts from the World beer hunt. On the way we stop at a viewpoint for the Rift Valley, which is where Jetlag said my ancestors were originally from, and there was me thinking they were from Kerry in the Republic of Ireland! On a clear day you can see Tanzania but today it is a bit overcast although hot, so visibility is not that great.
We arrived at our accommodation for the next three days in Naivasha at around 3:00PM and the search for new beers continued. I explained to David our driver about the current beer hunt and he originally said eight beers should be easy. I think that maybe something got a lost in translation as when I said eighty David laughed for quite a while. We are staying in one of eight beautiful houses on a large enclosed plot next to the Great Rift Valley Lodge and Resort, which is built on the Eburru, a mountain that the Masai call Ol Donyo Opurru, meaning Mountain of Smoke. We have great views of Lake Naivasha from the house and can watch the sun rise and set on across the lake.
Jetlag's brother in law Yogesh has told me that there is an off licence on a farm in a cow shed, and that we should go and find this and see if there are any new beers to be had, so off we go! Best to get our priorities right.
The "off licence” is indeed on a farm, in a shed, and we wait around while dogs come sniffing and geese come pecking, until a nice lady comes and unlocks the door to the barn. In the barn there is an array of wines and spirits, but not a great selection of beers. I do however find one to add to the list, which is Tusker Pilsener Malt, so beer number five makes the "Out of Africa” list.
I buy a crate of twelve bottles of Tusker and twelve bottles of Tusker Pilsener Malt, to get me through the next few days, as Naivasha is about an hour's bone shaking drive away. The crate costs 3000 Kenya shillings (bobs), which is around 90 pence a bottle, and as the Tusker is in 500 ml bottles this makes them a bargain. You also have to pay a deposit of 800 bob's (sounds like Black Adder) which are refundable when you return the bottles.
So day two comes to an end, and if I were counting beers rather than new beers I would be well on my way, but as only discovering new beers count "Out of Africa", at the end of day two only five beers discovered and twelve days to go. Oh dear!
I have left WLR at home and swapped it for Jetlag and Pam, who are travelling with me this time, so it’s an upmarket Danny Beer that is leaving Heathrow Terminal 5 this morning, as Jetlag don’t do rough!
According to the departure announcements, Flight BA0065 is boarding, so I have to rush out of JD Wetherspoons with just two beers to take away from the total of eighty, Stella Artois and Heineken. I won’t bother with loading a foto foto of these as you should all know what they look like.
Arriving at the gate we find that the flight has been delayed for just over an hour. Thanks BA, not the World’s favourite airline at the moment! The 80 beer challenge is going to be difficult enough without you making the challenge harder. There were at least ten beers I could have added from Wetherspoon’s, but I guess they may not have let me on the flight if I had risen to this particular challenge.
The lovely drinks lady (better not to call her a trolley dolly in these days of political correctness) did at least help BA make a small contribution by offering me a can of Tiger beer, so there you are, Stella Artois, Heineken and (you want?)Tiger beer, three down, seventy seven to go! Clearly “Mission Impossible”, but as ever rising to a challenge, Danny Beer is going to give it his best shot.
We land at the charred remains of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and are loaded onto coaches. I am glad at this stage that I used the toilets on the airplane, as I don’t fancy joining the queue for the four portaloo’s, two for men and two for ladies, sited next to the coach boarding place. I also glance at the soldiers standing around, armed with large machine guns. I guess news of DB’s arrival and the possible kidnap threat by the Somali Pirates has reached the Kenyan authorities, who are maybe considering using a different tactic than the canoes this time! This seems to have placed the airport on Red Alert, shame it wasn’t the same when the fire started.
We are transported around to some large tents that could have been purchased from a B&Q superstore, and these are being used for Passport Control. Having already procured our visas, we are shown into the “Diplomats” queue, which is quite short, compared to the other long queues of people who need to get a visa, or who don’t have the diplomatic status of Danny Beer. The queue is moving nicely until the people in front of us decide to start calling all their friends from other queues to join them, most of whom have ignored the request on the airplane to fill in their visa request forms. Worse still they only appear to have one pen between them!
As the other queues dissipate around us we find that we are waiting the longest to clear Passport Control, with only a few people left behind in the same queue as us. Finally getting the stamp on our passports we exit the B&Q tent and cross a road to enter Baggage Control, where we find a few bags going round and round on the single conveyor (not including our bags) and a horde of people trying to go through a small funnel type exit, only really large enough for one, with one Immigration Official insisting on checking everyone’s passport, just in case they have crawled under the B&Q tent.
We find our bags, which have been conveniently placed at different spots around the hall and we join the queue to get through Immigration. Actually “joining the queue” is probably not the best description as this now resembles the Pamplona Bull Run without the bulls!
I manage to walk straight through Immigration and Customs by ignoring any requests to stop, but Pam and Jetlag are called back to show that they have valid visa’s, passports and are not trying to smuggle any fire extinguishers into the country!
We find our transfer into Nairobi and the Semtrim Boulevard Hotel, arriving just before midnight, and in time for a bottle of Kenya’s finest Tusker Beer.
Day one of fourteen, four beers down, seventy six to go, it’s looking like it might be easier for England to win the World Cup in Brazil than it will be for DB to meet this challenge!
Ta Ta, or as they say here in Africa “kwa heri, kwa herini”
Stanley meets Livingstone, Danny meets Beer. The African journey....
Day One – leave Terminal 5 Heathrow on Flight BA0065 to Jomo Kenyatta Airport (or what’s left of it). Overnight in the Boulevard Hotel Nairobi. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Two – After breakfast (no beer this early) at 10:30AM transfer to Lower Kabette Road to pick up supplies. Transfer by safari van for some chill days in Naivasha after travelling through the Rift Valley. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Three – Venture out around Naivasha and search for beer supplies, whist keeping security at level 11 in case of pirates. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Four – Trip to Mt. Longonot, Lake Naivasha or Crater Lake, after checking Google Beer Maps for the best hunting location! Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Five – Last day in Naivasha. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Six – After breakfast (no beer) transfer on road to Samburu. Game drive in the afternoon, beer drive in the evening. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible..
Day Seven – The search for the big five (animals not beers) in the day and beers (not animals) in the night. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Eight – Transfer to The Ark. Build the bar, the animals will come. Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Nine – Back to the capital Nairobi in search of more beers… Watch out for pirates, find and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Ten – Back to what’s left of Jomo Kenyatta for a flight to Moi International Airport, Mombasa. Off to the coast and the challenge gets harder here. Keep looking left towards Somali, start to keep an even more beady out for pirates and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Twelve – The clock ticks on and Mombassa, which unlike Nairobi has a much larger Muslim community, at this point it may be time to panic (about beer not pirates!). Still keep looking left towards Somali, start to keep an even more beady out for pirates and drink as many different beers as possible.
Day Thirteen – The last day, leave Mombassa tonight to travel back to what’s left of Jomo Kenyatta, count the total and fail dismally? No point in keep looking left now, and can put the ransom back in the bank account in eleven hours, if it hasn’t been spent all ready on beer or ransom!
Day Fourteen – If the plane has taken off from what’s left of Jomo you will find out if Danny, call me Karen, Beer has joined the list of intrepid explorers (and fat yak hunters) to discover the real Africa!
A different trip, a harder challenge? Out of Africa in 80 Beers.
Two weeks, eighty beers will Danny, call me Karen, Beer make it………
If you get the chance go and see Faulty Towers - the dining experience. Currently showing at the Charing Cross Hotel. It really is a magical two hours plus of laughter and entertainment, especially for those who love Fawlty Tower and it includes a three course meal.
Danny Beer recommends you go see, but don't mention the war, I did once, but I think I got away with it!
Buy a tinnie six pack of your favourite beer, maybe VB or even something more exotic like Fiji ,and invite a few friends around. Before they arrive take one can and shake it up real bad. When they arrive get one of them to stay in the room alone and mix up the cans. Then the fun begins. You can re-enact that famous scene from the Michael Cimino film where Christopher Walken's character plays Russian Roulette as each person attempts to open the can without incident.
Have fun, but be careful, alchohol comsumption can damage your health, especially your eyes!
I wasn't going to write much more but after getting home last night and watching a TV programme on BBC1 called "Around the World in 80 Days" I felt that I had to put pen to paper or rather finger to keyboard.
I was flicking through the TV channels and recognised a carriage from the Trans Siberian Railway and thought to myself "that all looks a bit familiar"! The programme is a part of the BBC's Children in Need campaign and features(!) two people called Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker (ever heard of them?) who are apparently Countryfile hosts and possible ex Blue Peter presenters (it all becomes clear now).
The Sky Plus info informs me that "celebreties re enact Jules Verne's literary odyssey for Children in Need. Can Matt and Julia travel 3700 miles overland to China in just 14 days?"
What do you reckon the outcome will be then?
They are apparently taking the third leg of the journey overland to China via Lake Baikal in Siberia, and Mongolia, a journey very similar to part of my world trip, but in my case without the taxis, translators and PA support afforded to our brave and intrepid travellers.
It brought back some fond memories. The Russia and Siberian train stations and Trans Siberian train carriages were very familiar although I doubt that Matt and Julia had to sleep with one eye open and their version of WLR chained up to a non movable part of the carriage! They seem to have had similar delays and encountered the same bureaucracy as me crossing the border from Russia to Mongolia. They did not however show any of the numerous temperature checks you have to undertake before being allowed to cross the border, but maybe this was politically sensitive or perhaps BBC presenters are exempted?
At one point they missed their train connection but luckily they were in a hired vehicle so they could use that to race on and catch up with the train at a later station on route (easy peasy eh!) and certainly Danny Beer was never invited up to the train drivers seat and allowed to press the horn button. I think if I had attempted to speak with the train driver I may have been shot or at least placed in handcuffs and been escorted from the train by the militia.
In Siberia they travelled across Lake Baikal but missed out a visit to Olkhom Island which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth (in my opinion) and instead opted to film a little slot of them bathing in the cold waters of the Lake, what a waste.
Similar to me, Matt and Julia went on a horse riding expedition (yep siree they say Choo instead of giddy up in Mongolia pardner!) but I notice that they didn't seem to get the derisory comments and laughs that Danny Beer had to put up with following his horse riding expedition, but perhaps that's because they were doing it for charidee?
Matt and Julia, like me, tasted Mongolian tea (yuk disgusting), and we both spent a night in Gers in the middle of the Mongolian wilderness (but obviously not together) and there was no mention on the programme of the lack of toilet and washing facilities and the need to use the hole that has been dug as a replacement for the toilet.
But the most ridiculous part of the programme for me was the scenario that the two people they were going to hand over the baton to had problems getting a Chinese visa so they had to meet at the Chenggis Statue instead. Getting the Mongolian and Chinese visa's was a pretty simple process, especially when compared to the Russian visa. You just make an online appointment and pop up to London with your valid passport, two passport photos and the seventy five pound fee and pop back a week later to collect the passport with the visa now stuck inside one of your passport pages so quite how the massive resources of the BBC could not manage this is beyond me, or maybe the television shot is much better if the handover takes place on top of the Chenggis statue (you cynic Danny Beer!).
It was good to watch the programme as it did bring back lots of good memories but I notice that Matt and Julia made no attempt whatsoever to discover any new beers on their journey! Not even for charity.
Hotdogs for breakfast and a few beers in DJ Reynolds, where we end up chatting to Gary who is in New Yawk for business. His trade is a clothes designer and he has designed clothes for a number of companies including GAP and Pringle. Gary very kindly buys us a round of drinks and when we have finished chatting we head back to the Wellington to retrieve our bags. Pam and Norman are flying Virgin out of Newark and I am flying BA out of JFK and I am due to arrive back to Heathrow about two hours earlier than them.
A pretty uneventful flight home and although WLR was over 23 kilos this was not questioned by the check in staff. It's a seven hour overnight flight and the time difference is five hours so by the time I land back in London my body does not really know what time of the day or day of the week it is. The flight arrives half an hour early which is bl**dy typical as I have to wait for Pam and Norman's plane to arrive at Terminal 3 Heathrow.
A Picadilly Line, District Line and finally Jubilee Line to North Greenwich mark (nearly) the end of my travels and the final stage is thanks to my brother Steve who picks me up at North Greenwich and drops me home.
It is a bit strange when I walk in the front door for the first time in months but I will be able to once again sleep in my own bed, won't have to lock up my stuff (or maybe I will?) and I once again have the opportunity to get on Pam's nerves live and direct and in person rather than from a mobile phone or internet connection.
I will have been on the road now for 138 days, I will have been through 38 cities in 14 countries, travelled 32,000 miles and tasted over eighty new beers from around the world..........
And now I am back home and my journey is over. I will be doing a couple more blog posts to detail the beers and thank some of the people that I have met and have helped me on my travels.
Below are details of my trip with the mileage to show that I have travelled 32,000 miles around the World.
Finally, if you have enjoyed reading my blog thanks and my name is Danny Beer and if you haven't enjoyed it then my name is Michael Palin and why are you still here?
Ta ta and yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaa for nearly the last time!!!!!
Eating burnt toast and drinking black black coffee!
Hot dogs again for breakfast today and to complement the hotdogs we get a latte from Tim Horton’s. This involves a trip down to the store on Fifth Avenue to get a mega large bucket of milky coffee for me and smaller buckets for Pam and Norman. Pam and I also went to the supermarket to get some orange juice and when we were there we were asked by the lady on the checkout whether we were from Texas? I must have acquired (or maybe it was Pam?) some sort of southern drawl as I was not dressed like Woody in Toy Story. We informed the nice lady on the checkout that we were from Lundahn, Engerland not Hooston Texaaaas.
After the two hotdog breakfast it’s a day of “shopping til we am dropping” when we visit the worlds largest department store, Macy’s, as they say everything is bigger in the “youessofa”. After Macy’s we go in search of some underwear for a friend which you can only get in New Yawk, and after being defeated in 21st Century Store we try the SoHo district, or South of Hooston District if you come from around these parts. We did find a store selling the brand but not the pants that were required so at that point we gave up the search for underwear. We then we went for a walk through Little Italy, which proved disappointing not only for the lack of Tony Soprano’s, but also for the lack of decent affordable food and rather stroppy waiters, and then Greenwich Village before heading back to the Wellington.
Before Pam and Norman arrived in New Yawk I managed to get tickets for “Amateur Night at the Apollo” and the last show of the season and also the grand final. The Apollo is right in the centre of Harlem and when we arrived there were large queues of people waiting to get in. The show began at 7:30pm and started with a warm up pro singer. This was followed by some audience participation where people from the audience are dragged, or in the case of the Japanese girls run, up on stage and then have to perform a dance routine after which the audience applaud the loudest for their favourite dancer who wins a T shirt.
After this there are two “stars of tomorrow” on stage a young girl dancer and a saxophonist and then the real competition begins. The rules are that each act takes the stage and if the audience like them fine, but if not they start to boo and if the booing gets loud enough a guy comes on the stage dressed up as different people, including a policeman and a sheriff, and herds them off the stage before they finish their act. The first few acts are fine but then a dancing couple takes the stage and last about two minutes before they get booed off stage. The MC and compere is a professional comedian and is very funny although he does have the American dress sense and takes the stage in the second half as a very loud red outfit. He does do a very funny routine of different races performing including, Jamaicans, Africans and Japanese.
After the interval a fake Stevie Wonder does a song and then the rest of the acts take the stage. In the end it is won by a white lady from Brooklyn who has a very good voice and sings a love song that I can’t remember the name of. After the show we go back to D J Reynolds for a drink and then the Happy Hour at the deli for our $4 pints of domestic lager.
Ta ta to New Yawk. Tomorrow I am leaving on a jet plane and don’t know when I’ll be back again!
It’s a big Ta Ta to Nic and Chris as they head back to Mooseland this morning having checked out of their hotel, which means it is also a big Ta Ta to free internet access. We are still trying to find a decent breakfast here in the Big Banana and we have settled on a diet of two hotdogs with red sauce, mustard and onions. We get these at the hotdog stall just up from the Wellington and they are only $1 at this stall, whereas at most other stalls they seem to be $2, so they are a bargain, and you know how I like my bargains!
Our plan today is to take the ferry out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. The ferry is $12 for both islands and you have to go through airport type security before you board the ferry. All wallets, jackets, watches, metal objects and shoes have to be removed for scanning and in the end you think it will be easier just to strip naked and walk through the security scanner! There is a particularly obnoxious American woman in front of us that was refusing to remove her watch and I know what I would have told her to do with it if I were the security personnel.
We eventually get to board the ferry and take the fifteen minute trip to “La Liberté Éclairant le Monde" and we decide to stay on and head straight to Ellis Island as the best views of the statue are from the ferry.
The immigration station at Ellis Island opened on January 1 1892. Five years later the wooden structure burned down, along with many immigration records. On 17 December 1900 a new fireproof building welcomed 2,251 new arrivals.
Ferries and barges brought “steerage” passengers out to Ellis Island from Steamships (the First and Second Class passengers were quickly processed on board the ship.) Doctors watched as immigrants entered the building and climbed the stairs; a limp, laboured breathing, or other suspected troubles warranted further medical examination. In the Registry Room inspectors questioned each individual. Included among the 29 questions were name, home town, occupation, destination and amount of money they were carrying. Those allowed to stay in the “youessofa” continued downstairs, exchanged money, bought provisions and perhaps rail tickets. A third stayed in New Yawk. Only one to two percent were denied entry but this is still quite a large figure as between 1901 and 1910 six million immigrants were processed at Ellis Island.
On the Island they have the American Family Immigration History Center and here, and online you can search the ship passenger records for arrival in the Port of New Yawk and Ellis Island from 1892 – 1924. There are over 3.5 million manifest pages available so I took the opportunity to search for any of my ancestors that may have preceded my epic journey in search of Eighty Beers from around the World and guess what, on Nov 9, 1912, Daniel Beer arrived on the Pannonia which sailed from Hungary’s port of Fiume. Now I bet you are thinking to yourself “Danny Beer is making this up! There is no way that Danny Beer’s long lost cousin could have pre-empted his epic journey around the World looking for 80 beers"!
Well I kid you not and if you don’t believe me here is a copy of the manifest entry:
and if you think that I have faked the manifest go to www.ellisisland.org and search for Daniel Beer.
Now Hungary to New Yawk in the “Youessofa” is not exactly a trip around the World, so Daniel did not quite manage to emulate his distant cousin Danny but it's still a long journey to undertake, especially knowing that all that is waiting at the other end is Budwater and Muller Light. A massive "big up" and “nuff respect” to my long lost cousin for undertaking the epic journey which was such a long time before my own:
96 years, 10 months and 27 days ago or;
849,480 hours ago or;
50, 968, 800 minutes ago or;
3,058,128,000 seconds ago.
I wonder how many beers Daniel managed to discove before he arrived in New Yawk!
In the evening we went to visit Pam’s aunt who lives in Da Bronx, and we had a very nice meal and Auntie got upset with Pam for eating most of her homemade hot pepper sauce! We also met Auntie’s daughter Jenifer who is now Principal Skinner at PS46 School Edgar Allen Poe. Back to the Wellington and our last full day in New Yawk tomorrow,
Ta Ta and take a minute to remember those that have gone before us
After using the free internet at Nic's hotel today was then devoted to a day of more sightseeing and shopping around the Big Banana. We went to FAO Schwarz the famous toy store with the floor piano as featured in the film Big with Tom Hanks (I think Hamleys is much better).
We went to Tifanny’s not for breakfast though. Norman wanted to get some stuff to take back home as gifts and we went to the Disney store and posed with Mickey and Minnie before heading off to Grand Central Station, which only seems to have local trains running from it. As it was a lovely sunny day so we also had a walk around Central Park.
The Chuckle Brothers:
In the evening Nic and Chris have a “pizza nite in” so we went for some food in an Irish pub called DJ Reynolds and then ended up at the Happy Hour at the deli where pints are $4 and cocktails $5 until 2:00am. They also have the largest bottles of Heineken I have ever seen!
The “guess beer #80” competition was my most successful one to date with over three entries, but unfortnately none of them were correct! My clue was that I have mentioned the name of this beer very early on at the start of my trip but had not consumed it until I got to San Francisco. The other clue I gave to Jetlag was that he more than anyone should guess the name of the beer!
Day #1 St Petersburg - 26 May 2009
I left Heathrow on a BA flight and arrived safely at Pulkova 2 Airport. In the true spirit of Around the World in 80 beers I packed my Fosters flip flops and wore my Tusker Export (Kenyan Beer) T Shirt.
Yep, In Tommy’s Joynt, Van Ness at Geary Street, San Francisco, Youessofa, I found beer #80 on my trip around the World – Tusker Beer, brewed and bottled by East African Breweries Ltd, P O Box 30161 00100 Nairobi, Kenya.
A very fitting beer to make beer number 80 on my list as it brings back so many memories of my previous trip to Kenya!
I can sleep easy tonight knowing that I hanve achieved my goal and commiserations to those that entered the competition but were unsuccessful!
We decided to look for somewhere to get a decent breakfast before Nic and Chris arrive later today. Finding a decent breakfast in New Yawk is not the easiest of tasks and I think we failed miserably today.
Norman went for a walk earlier and he was give a coupon for Planet Hollywood which gave us a free coffee, tea or orange with a breakfast, so we thought we would try this out. Breakfast at Planet Hollywood finished at 10:45am and we arrived at 10:40am but they still said we could get a breakfast so we were shown to our table, and then left there for about twenty minutes whilst the staff either stood around chatting to each other or were clearing the tables ready for lunch. So we waited, and waited and waited (which is more than the staff were doing) and in the end asked someone to serve us. They went away and we waited a bit more and then someone finally turned up. We ordered two “Full English” breakfasts plus one "Planet" Breakfast.
The food eventually turned up and most of the contents on our plates were cold. We had nothing like milk or cream for our coffee or sugar/sweetener and ended up borrowing some from another table. There were no serviettes and we asked someone else to bring us some and they eventually arrived.
At this point the waitress came across and asked us if everything was OK and I bet you can guess what the answer was, a big no, nyet, nej, non, nein, nada, oxi, or bu, depending on what your native language is. The waitress looked at us blankly for a minute and walked off. We scratched our heads and thought “so much for the excellent customer service in the “youessofa’, "New Yawk" and particularly "Planet Hollwood”.
About ten minutes later a guy appears at our table and says that he is the manager and what did we want to see him about? We mentioned that we didn’t actually ask to see him but while he was here we took the opportunity to point out the discrepancies in the service and the meal. He listened to our complaints and then asked US to TELL HIM what he could do for us. Norman suggested that maybe HE should be telling US what he could do for us, but said that maybe if he knocked the cheaper of the three breakfasts from the bill that would help. He went away and came back a few minutes later and had knocked one of the breakfasts from the bill and had also taken 40% off the rest of the cost so we were a lot happier about the situation. Norman then suggested that some discount vouchers may help us to make a decision to return so he went away and came back with some vouchers so we decided that rather than writing to Bruce and Sylvester and never visiting the place again we would give Planet Hollywood a second chance later in the day.
My niece Nicola and her hubby Chris drove down from Toronto and arrived in the afternoon. When they arrived they were “booked out” of the Wellington and moved to a four star hotel across the road. This was very useful for me as their new hotel had free wi-fi and internet access unlike the Wellington, and you know I like my freeness!
In the afternoon we went on a little guided walk around some of the sights I had seen previously on my trekking expeditions with Dave and Bob and these included Battery Park, Wall Street, NYSE, the Bronze Bull and Seaport and the Brooklyn Bridge. We had some lunch at the Heartland Brewery which was very nice and probably the best food we had during our time in New Yawk, and I would have been claiming new beer at the Heartland if I had not already reached the 80. We walked around for the rest of the afternoon and took in Bloomingdales and in the evening returned to Planet Hollywood to claim our discounts.
The food was OK in the evening and better than the breakfast but the waitress was a bit OTT with the “my name is Shirley and I am happy to be your host. I would like to recommend this and that etc.” crap. They had a DJ playing stuff in the restaurant and we were trying to get him to play some requests, especially Motown but he said he had already played lots of Motown so could not play much. When the bill came the discount was cancelled out by the added service charge but at least the meat on Normans ribs fell off the bones!
Pam and Norman arrive at just after noon today so I head out to JFK to "meet and greet" them. Their flight arrives at around noon so I have a coffee, check my emails and head out on the subway to JFK.
The New Yawk Hostel is the largest hostel in the World if their telephone “on hold” message” is to be believed. They have around 900 beds in the hostel which makes it a big, big, big, place with very busy facilties, so you can imagine how luxurious a place it is to stay in and how busy the facilities are!
At the hostel they are renovating the bathrooms (which don’t have any baths, so a better description would be washrooms - but that is how they describe toilets here) so the men’s washroom/bathroom is closed on my floor and the men have to use the ladies on the same floor, and the ladies have to use the men’s washroom/bathroom on the next floor up (got that?).
Now the thing with this hostel game is that you have to be prepared for the type of late night situation where you may have a “call of nature” in the middle of the night as it were. At home this is not a difficult scenario and usually involves an easy hop in and out of bed, a short trip along the landing in your undies (or thongs if you are Australian), a quick scratch and then quickly back to be snugly wrapped up in the duvet cuddling your hot water bottle.
In the hostel environment this is a very different situation and usually involves detailed planning to ensure that you not only have suitable clothing for a midnight "washroom trip" but also the ability to climb down from the top bunk in the pitch black and find the dormitory door which is locked. You will also need a uniform that includes suitable jim jams, a pair of flippety flops at the ready by the bed as the floor in the hostel can be a real experience if you want to go "barefooting"!
Most important item of all though is your swipe card to get you back into the dorm after your midnight sojourn down the hall to the ladies washroom/bathroom as without this you could be left in an embarrassing predicament, very embarassing indeed! Don't forget you also have to make sure that all your bags and valuables are suitably secured with padlocks or similar, as for a period of time you will not be in the same space as they are.
As you can imagine this type of action takes “military like” strategic planning, and this is even before you can contemplate having a snooze or going to sleep at night. Forget about the military expertise of Churchill, General Patton or Monty in the Desert, this is the super intelligence high level stuff, where the World's biggest brains (everything is big here in the "youessofa") and biggest computers are deployed to ensure a satisfactory conclusion to a difficult situation.
This generally means that you spend most of the night worried about whether a trip to the bathroom will be necessary, and the worry makes the thought of a trip to the bathroom even more necessary, and the thought of this worry about whether to make a visit to the washrooms seems even more important, even if the bladder at that point has not quite made its mind up and the brain is saying “sleeeeeeeeeeeep”!
To sum it up, the thought of worrying about worrying about the need to take a trip “Downtown” to the washrooms, with your hand carefully enclosed around your wallet with the room swipe key in it, just to ensure that if you do need to take a trip Downtown you will be suitably prepared, makes the need to go to the washroom situation even worse, and there is no way a good nights sleep in La La land (not the one where Andy lives) is ever going to happen!
Pam and Norman arrive after their flight is delayed by around two to three hours and when we catch the Airtrain the rain has started. As it is a weekend the express subways are not running but we manage to exit the subway at the station that is directly outside the Wellington Hotel. We check in and then we head back to the hostel to retrieve WLR from the $5 locker.
In the evening we have a meal in a restaurant that was expensive and not very good but we were a bit knackered and settled for it. We had a set menu where the food seemed to be served "lukewarm to cold" and my seafood dish was like Captain Birdseye had decided that it may be better served straight from the freezer,cold, ice cold,rather than edible.
Back to the hotel for some sleep and for once I don’t have to worry about how far the washroom is from my bunk, where my swipe card is, who is in the room and how I climb down from the top bunk in the dark!
Ta ta from La La land (not the one in California!)
I tried to do some washing today and I am not sure that is was an overwhelming success. Also my left boot is worn out at the heel and the repair I did on my jeans has not totally worked and holes have appeared again!
During the day I did a bit of research to check out some of the things that Pam and Norman have said they might want to do. I check their route to Newark International Airport and then hop around New Yawk, using my seven day pass, to check out the Ellis Island trip and some shopping haunts, including Macy’s.
In the evening they are advertising a “blues” night for $8 if you are staying at the hostel. It is at a place called “The Underground". Now I have not been to any “blues” for a long time, and I think the last one may have been the West Indian variety rather than the “I woke up this morning” type of blues they play in the youessofa.
The Underground Bar is, as you would imagine, downstairs in a basement, and we get there for around 9:00pm. There is a main bar room area, a pool room and behind that a room where the band have set up. The room is quite a small space (not as small as the comedy club on Ellis in San Francisco though!), with capacity for around twenty people, including the band.
It’s a dark place, with tables laid out in a “U” shape around the stage and the lighting is mostly candlelight which gives it the atmosphere of a “Jazz Club…. Great!.....”. The band consists of a drummer, organist, bass guitar and lead/slide guitar and there are a couple of guest musicians, one who plays the flute and the other the harmonica, and they guest on some tracks.
The music is not bad, the band play pretty tightly and the first set is traditional blues with slow rhythms and lots of lead guitar play. I can’t say I actually know many of the tunes but it is a good first set.
Before the second set the other five backpackers that left the hostel with me for the show have all left and at one point there are more members of the band on the stage (4) than the people sitting in the audience (3 including me).
In the second set they also play some rhythm and blues which is bit faster and I think I recognize one tune as a Canned Heat number, maybe called “Down the Line?”
After being there around three hours I decide to call it a day/night as I have to check out in the morning and meet Pam and Norman at JFK.
So that’s the update for today, sorry it is not very interesting but I am definitely looking forward to NOT sleeping in a hostel bed tomorrow night!
I am trying to catch up a bit after the two days of tours that left me absolutely knackered.
Putting the last two days tours behind me I am today booked on the tour of Harlem, and this also costs $10 but it has 3 hours on the list so I am thinking do this in the morning and chill for the rest of the day.
Before the tour I decide to get breakfast in one of the “Old Skool” American (probably Mexican!) diners around the corner from the hostel. I get there about 8:30am as the Harlem tour doesn’t leave until 10:00 and I have a craving for scrambled eggs on toast, yum yum!
I get a seat in one of the booths and the very nice waitress comes and asks me if I would like a menu, and I reply no thank you I know what I would like for brekky. I say I would like two scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, and the conversation goes something like this:
Waitress: “What would you like?”
Me: “I would like two scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, a glass of orange juice and a coffee please”
Waitress: “You want potatoes with that?”
Me: “No gracias, just two scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, a glass of orange and a coffee please”
Waitress: “You want a glass of iced water to go with that?”
Me: “Yes please that would be nice”
Waitress: “OK, so you want two scrambled eggs on toast with bacon and potatoes, a glass of orange juice, a coffee and a glass of iced water”
Me: “No potatoes thank you, just two scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, a glass of orange juice, a coffee and a glass of iced water, thank you”
Waitress “You sure you don’t want potatoes, everyone else has them?”
Me: “Yes I am sure thanks, just two scrambled eggs on toast, a glass of orange juice, a coffee and a glass of iced water”
Waitress: "Postive now?"
Waitress: (who looks at me and thinks what is this guy on, no potatoes for his breakfast that is the best bit!)
Waitress to Chef: “Dos huevos revueltos sobre pan tostado, tocino, un vaso de jugo de naranja, café y un vaso de agua helada. Este idiota no parece querer papas!
I went on another tour (yes I know!) this time of Harlem but I knew that the tour would only last three hours and I wanted to see Harlem as I plan to try and get tickets for Amateur Night at the Apollo.
The tour is OK and we get to see a few of the famous churches and buildings in Harlem but I am not sure I would spend $10 on it if I had the chance again. I do manage though to get the tickets and the show is the last in the series where previous winners are pitted against each other so hopefully it should be a good show.
In the afternoon I decide to visit Coney Island to see if I can find the fairground amusement that they used in “Big”. I quite fancy being like Tom Hanks and becoming a child again, although some would say that I still act like a child at times anyway!
It’s a train journey of about an hour and when I arrive it’s a bit bleak, windy and grey and all the amusements are closed up for the winter but I take a nice long walk along the boardwalk and take in the Atlantic air. After about half an hour I head inland to find the subway station but instead find “Russia by the Beach” at Brighton Beach.
Yep in England Brighton is known for one thing and here in New Yawk it appears that Brighton Beach is the home of the Russian community. Everywhere you look there are Russian signs on the shops, and they are selling the food and stuff that I saw in Moscow and Siberia when I started my trip a few months ago. It’s incredible and very interesting if a little strange. I go into a few shops to look around and they first talk to me in Russian, and luckily I managed to become quite fluent when I travelled through the country so I could converse quite easily with my “dad da da’s” and my “niet, niet, niets!”
I spend a couple of hours here looking around, quite fascinated as I had no idea there was such a large Russian community in New Yawk, or that it was condensed into one place.
The subway in Brighton Beach runs above the road, like you see in some of the American films, where they have car chases under the subway and I seem to have quite a few movie connections here in America. There is Ghostbusters, that I wrote about earlier in the week, in Harlem there is a place called “Coogans Bluff” which was the name of a great Clint Eastwood movie. There were the two Alcatraz movies, the Dirty Harry movies and the “Gangs of New Yawk”. I am sure there are more and I will have a think about this and maybe update later.
That’s it for today so its Ta Ta from the Big Banana
(Did you notice that I posted in the wrong order- doh!)
When I signed up for Dave’s City Tour I also signed up for Bob's Great Tour, as I figured that I can get most of the touring out of the way ready for later in the week. Bob's Tour is apparently very popular, usually overbooked, he has been running them now for years now, and it costs $10. There are 21 names on the “ball ball” list (did I mention that I managed to buy this tune in San Francisco?) when I add my name.
I get up and I am still knackered from the previous day’s tour and can’t make my mind up whether or not to go on this tour which is scheduled to start at 11:00am. When I get to the hostel lobby there are only five of us waiting so I am thinking that hopefully it may get cancelled but in the end Gerry decides to go ahead with just the five of us. Oh well, I think to myself, it can’t be as long as Dave’s Tour was yesterday, little did I know!
Twelve bloody hours of walking around the Big Banana, yep you heard me right, twelve bloody hours and back around midnight!
We start by getting the subway across to Brooklyn and there we purchase some rations ahead of the route march into Poland. These are quickly consumed and then its
“Attention, quick march, I don’t care what people say, (I don’t care what people say), I don’t want to walk anymore today!”
as we head across the Brooklyn Bridge towards Manhattan Island and around by Mayor Mike’s place. It's then down through Wall Street and the Stock Exchange before heading back across to Ground Zero and St Pauls Chapel. Then down to Battery Park where we catch the Staten Island Ferry, a free ferry trip, and you get some nice views of the “Statue de la Liberte", which is officially titled "La Liberté Éclairant le Monde", mange tout!
Straight back on the returning ferry and through Battery Park, past the Globe Memorial which is the actual globe that sat between the Twin Towers and somehow was not totally destroyed. Back along the Hudson and into Tribeca followed by Soho, which is another abbreviation “South of Houston”. We carry on marching through Chinatown, Greenwich Village and Little Italy, when we are allowed to stop and water our horses.
To say that this tour is a bit like a boot camp is a bit of an understatement and we lose one of our members who has had enough and heads back to the hostel to meet his friend.
At about 7:30pm we are stopping at a place to eat before moving on and this is where I think Bob gets a bit of the hump with me. You see the meal he has organised is in a place that he obviously frequents a lot, and brings many fellow backpackers to, and it is an Indian Restaurant. Now I just can’t eat Indian Food as I am not good with anything hot, spicy or creamy so when we are seated I ask the waiter what they have that is plain and not spicy, hot or creamy on the menu. He tells me that the Korma is not hot, spicy or creamy and I say yeah right! I ask about the vegetarian dishes and these are all curry dishes as well. I say OK don’t worry I will just have a soup then and he gets a little arsy. “How about the Tandori Chicken then, that is not hot, spicy or creamy” yeh right! "But you English love your currry and pints of lager!"
The head waiter is getting even more “arsy” because I am sitting in a seat and all I want is a soup. He goes out and gets a little bowl of the Korma for me to try, which I do and I can’t eat it. He then says that the soup was spicy and I say yes I agree it was which is why I have consumed so many litres of iced water. I then order a bottle of “Taj Mahal” beer, which I would have added to the eighty if I had not already reached that total, and suddenly he is happy because he is getting six dollars from me for the beer.
We leave the Indian Restaurant and walk up through to Union Square and Madison Square Gardens and then get the subway to Times Square/42nd Street. This is just like I imagined it to be. Like Piccadilly Circus but on a much larger scale and with neon lights in every direction and it’s great! We spend a while here and even go in the Marriott hotel and take the speed lifts which travel up half the height of the Empire State Building in seconds.
Back into Times Square and that’s it. The bugler plays and we are all dismissed for the night!
Will it never end and who you gonna call if it does?
While I was waiting to check in at the hostel I noticed that they were running a City Tour of New York, “Dave’s City Tour” and it started an 9:00am and best of all it was free and as you know I like my freeness me!
So I get up extra early after my previous days traveling ready for a nice ninety minute or maybe if I am lucky two hour tour around this great city of New Yawk.
Eight bloody hours later we get back to the hostel having worn out the boots that have lasted me all this way around the World so far! I have done some walking on this trip to date but "Blimey O’Reilly" eight hours!
A couple of hints here if you are planning to visit the Big Banana at any time, first tip get a seven day MTA metro card for twenty seven dollars from the station at your first opportunity. This is likely to be when you disembark the Air Train so pay the $5 dollars for that trip and purchase the card. It gives you unlimited travel across the MTA network of subway trains and buses and it is a great way of getting around for very little money. The cost of a single trip on the subway is $2.25 so it doesn’t take long for “payback time” and the subway system works 24 hours a day so it is a bargain and we all like bargains don’t we!
Second tip or tip #2, try and get a copy of “the map” which is the MTA subway and railroads map, and is free of charge, and I think available in most subway stations. The tip is not the map in itself but the fact that the map indicates what stations and trains are “Express” and what stations/trains are “Local”. This is very important as it is usually much quicker to travel around if you take a local train one or two stops and then change for the express train. Unfortunately I did not do this when traveling from the airport yesterday as otherwise I think I may have taken at least half an hour from the travel time.
Lastly a good tip if you are traveling around the NY Subway system and you are a little uncomfortable about your safety. Now I have to say that to date I have not had any problems with personal safety issues here (tempting fate!!) but the middle carriage of the subway train is where the conductor is always located so if you are at all concerned head for that carriage and look for their head hanging out of the window and you will be in the safest place for your journey.
As I was saying earlier, eight bloody hours, Jeez Loiuse and Blimey O”Reilly!
We caught the Subway to Battery Park which is the most southerly part of Manhattan Island, one of the number of islands that makes up New York City. Up through Battery Park towards the Financial District and Wall Street, The Bull, and the New Yawk Stock Exchange. We then head across to the Seaport area with its magnificent views of the Brooklyn Bridge before passing the now derelict Fish Market and criss-crossing our way up.
We spend a while at St Paul’s Chapel and Ground Zero. I am not going to make much comment about this as a bit like Hiroshima I found it very moving and quite sad. The Fire Station that first reacted is right next to the site where the Twin Towers were and it is very moving to see the tributes to the fire fighters who lost their lives that day, two of whom were father and son, the father being one of the elite of the fire fighters in the FDNY.
There are also lots of the tributes and messages of goodwill inside St Paul’s Chapel. The most striking thing for me though is the sign outside the fire station that asks people NOT to buy any of the rubbish stuff being pedaled in the streets by hawkers exploiting 9-11, and I have to admit I whole heartedly agree and cannot see why people would even consider buying any of this rubbish from the street pedallers!
Sorry, sermon over, but these parasites really make me sick!
We then head off though the “Streets of San ooops! New Yawk” along the banks of the Hudson River before heading up through the Tribeca area. The Tribeca area is so called as the good citizens of New Yawk like to abbreviate everything so Tribeca means the “Triangle below Canal Street”, yeh I know! This area was very run down but now it is a very up and coming area and Robert “you talking to me” De Niro has a restaurant here and guess what we all trek inside for a look around, it must really p**s them off having groups of scruffy backpackers trekking through their restaurant, but they are very polite and welcoming.
We have lunch not at De Niro's place (!)The Tribeca Grill, but at a traditional Italian Pizza place where you can buy a large slice of pizza for $2.50 (we are poor travelers on a tight budget!) and then its some more walking, followed by even more walking and after that more walking.
After a while you are not really interested in looking at any more of the Big Banana and all you want to do is put your feet into a nice bowl of warm salty water. There is an Asian couple with us, I think tourists from China, and the man who I think is the only one of the two who can speak English asks the tour guide “how are your feet?”
We manage to lose the lady from Chile who is constantly talking on her mobile phone and I wish we had also managed to lose the "know it all geezer" from England who seems to already have visited everywhere and has his own commentary on it, so I wonder why on earth he has come on this trip. He reminds me very much of Comic Book Guy in Auckland and is about the same size and just as irritating.
One thing we do see, and it is for me one of the highlights of the tour, follows as our leader, David, asks us if we recognize the Fire Station called "Fire and Ladder" across the road as we walk along near Chinatown. Now this is a working fire station and it takes a minute or two for the penny to drop and guess what, “who you gonna call, Ghostbusters!” Yep the HQ of Ghostbusters is a working fire station and I have a foto foto to prove it, magic! (notice the Ghostbusters logo painted on the pavememnt to the right).
We then head off to the “High Line” park. This is a raised rail line that used to serve the meat factories in the area. The factories all closed and the “high line”, so called because it is raised above the street level became derelict. The were lots of calls to pull it down but what actually happened is that they have turned the track into a raised parkway where you can walk along and look at New Yawk below. It is a great use of the otherwise derelict area and as you walk along you can see below the “Hogs and Heifefers Bar” in the Meat Packing District of New York. This is a bar similar to the one in the film “Coyote Ugly”, where the bar ladies (and men) dance on the bar and throw drink on the punters, not one for Danny Beer, especially with my budget!
After that I begin to lose the use of my legs and the will to live! When we get back to the hostel at around 5:30pm all I want to do is sleep.........sleep........sleep.....nite nite
I am sitting in San Francisco International Airport listening to country music on my laptop and typing up the blog post for today, as I have time to kill and not a lot to write about!
The “youessofa” what a great country. Land of the free and home of the brave! No free internet at the airport, you would think that the civil authorities would be more advanced, like those of Hong Kong, KL, or Singapore, where they offer free wifi at the airport, but that is not the case and even the MacD”s and Starbuck$ don’t seem to do it.
I am once again contemplating life while I wait to board the American Airlines Boeing something or the other, and one thing that I have been musing about is the airlines I have flown with to date on my BA-Quantas ticket around the World.
When I booked my “Around the World” air ticket, (or to be more truthful when Mari booked it for me!) it was with BA/Quantas. Now so far on this trip, with thousands of miles under my belt, I have only flown with BA once, my first flight out of London to St Petersburg! Even worse I have not flown with Quantas at all, across all those countries and continents, and looking at the remainder of my flight schedule I am never going to fly with them at all!
To date I have flown with the following airlines:
London to St Petersburg – British Airways
Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia Airlines
Singapore to Cairns – Jetstar
Sydney to Christchurch – Jetstar
Auckland to Fiji – Air Pacific
Fiji to Honolulu – Air Pacific
Honolulu to San Francisco – American Airlines
San Francisco to New Yawk – American Airlines
My last flight is with BA - New Yawk to London – British Airways to use its proper name. Maybe I can write and complain? "Excuse me but it says here on my ticket Quantas, you know the airline from Australia with the kangaroo on the wing!".
Ah, that explains it, I didn't see a kangaroo in my time in Aussie Land and the same goes for the airline that they run. No wonder they only drink out of lady sized beer glasses! As they say in Germany:
"C'est la vie!”
My flight leaves at around 11:50am but it is later taking off than scheduled, due to the “volume of air traffic”according to Captain America. The flight takes five and a half hours and as the clocks go forward by three hours, due to the West Coast/East Coast time difference, it is around 9:30pm when we finally land in JFK.
By the time WLR is bobbing around the carousel looking for its owner, it is around 10:30pm and I now have to find my way across town to the HI hostel at Amsterdam. I have the directions sent by the hostel, emailed before I left by the hostel, and the first part of the instructions are to take the Airtrain from JFK to Jamaica Station (Irie!).
I then have to take the MTA on the “E” line towards Manhattan and disembark at 42nd Street - Times Square. There seem to be about thirty stations (at least) to stop at before I get to what I think is my right stop but when I get there I can find no connection to the "1" line, although the directions specifically tell me that it is the line I need to take.
It’s around 11:45pm now and I am wandering around 42nd street station with WLR and looking like a “muppet” when luckily I find a “manned” (well “ladied” to be politically correct, - Sorry no need to bother about that I am not in San Francisco anymore!) 24 hour booth. I ask the lady manning the booth how do I get to the "1" Line and she says that I need to get the "7" line for one stop and then change to the "1" line uptown towards the Bronx. From there I should get to 103rd which is my destination station for the hostel.
I exit the New Yawk Transit System Station at 103rd just before midnight and my directions now tell me to head up 103rd Street towards Amsterdam. 103rd runs in both directions from the station exit, so I wonder how I am supposed to know which way is “up” or is that the "only way baby, just you and me?"
I thought it was difficult in Moscow and Tokyo to understand the transit system but this is worse, and I did not even count the stations.
When I exit 103rd Station there is a guy "manning" a fruit stall and I ask him where Amsterdam is (the street not the country) and he points me in the right direction. Now I am not sure how far this is going to be so I take out the backpack straps from WLR, load it on my back, and walk approximately one hundred yards when I see the hostel just across the street at the next junction, DOH!@!@@!!!@@
I get checked in at the hostel and finally get to bed around 1:30am, absolutely knackered but pleased that the area the hostel is in does not seem quite as hostile as the one in San Francisco(so far - well at least I have not heard MF yet).
Finally, I must say that the hostel in San Francisco was like staying at The Marriott compared to the staying at the YMCA here in New Yawk! It may not be quite as much fun either!
Ta ta from a very tired Danny Beer
PS: Don’t mention the football!
PPS: Only one entry at guessing Beer #80. Nice to keep up the tradition of one entry per competition!
Sitting on the dock of “The Bay” watching the tide roll away, Sitting on the dock of “The Bay” for the last time today!
Tomorrow I am flying off to the Big Banana so it’s my last full day here. I spend the day relaxing as I have done all the tourist stuff that I wanted to around San Francisco. I am also packing WLR that has not had to move for eleven days so I am sure the lazing around will mean that it has put on further weight during its stay here!
Now here’s a poser for you! I have found beer #80 and consumed it and I have mentioned its name on one of my very first blog posts. I think this is a very fitting beer to be beer #80 on the “ball ball” list, very fitting indeed. Now I have not drunk this beer on my World trip to date, so it is no good referring back to the list of beers consumed that I did on an earlier blog, when I did a progress update, but I have mentioned it previously. As I can only show up to 99 posts it is no good scrolling back either as its name is no longer visible.
Now when I have run competitions before they have been an overwhelming success. Both times they attracted exactly one entry so I am not holding out great hopes for this one!
I am not going to tell you the name yet so if you want to guess then I will award another fictitious prize for the first correct answer drawn out of the fictitious hat. Remember the judge’s decision is final.
A bit of a clue for you though, this beer brings back fond memories for me, so as I said earlier it makes it a great beer to become the 80th beer on the old “ball ball”:
Beer number eighty
Cerveza numero ochenta
Biirra numero ottanta
Das bier achtzig
Ol antal attio
Восемьдесят количество восемьдесят
Bir angka delapan
Entries on a postcard please......
I have tickets to a show tonight in the theater at Pier 39 down at Fisherman’s Wharf. I bought the tickets (yeh you guessed it) in the Half Price Ticket Booth in Union Square on Tuesday and I am looking forward to it as I love my Motown and my Steven Seagal!
I decide to walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf which takes about 45 minutes and as I have unreserved seating I get near the head of the queue to make sure I get a good seat. The show is called:
“Motown Madness the musical, uptown downtown Motown madness, a tribute to Motown and it’s musical stars” - a spectacular Motown and classic soul musical straying from a typical musical review, Motown Madness takes you on a power-packed narrated journey from the early days of Motown to the legendary classic soul sounds of today".
Now despite the fact that one of The Supremes is white (probably Diana) and there are only three “Four Tops” I think this is up there with the best of the Motown shows I have seen and much better than some of the Motown/Soul acts you see at Warner. There is not much of a story but that doesn’t matter. There are three guys and three ladies as well as a supporting four piece band and they cover Motown from a lot of different periods not just the early stuff. They all have great voices and the bank is really tight. They do early Four Tops, Elgins, Martha, Temps and then later stuff with a great cover of Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye, some Michael Jackson stuff and they even cover an Angie Stone number on the basis that it could have been written for The Supremes!
The show lasts about 75 minutes with no interval and they also do some audience participation stuff which actually works well and is not too cheesy. When the show is finished the singers move to the bar area and perform some acapello stuff while the musicians move their stuff across and then it’s "after the show its an after party, and after the party it's in the hotel lobby" for another 90 minutes or so and again they do some great covers of tunes and it’s a dancing party. They even pay homage to Danny Beer and his new love of “good ole country music” by playing a country tune (well not actually country but the nearest thing I guess, Sweet Home Alabama).
A great last evening in San Francisco and if you do go, a bit like the trip to Alcatraz, I would really recommend this, even if you are not a great Motown fan because it is so much fun!
So its ta ta from San Francisco, a big thanks again to Andy for traveling up to meet me. I won’t miss the “Streets of San Francisco” although I got immune to it all in the end so maybe it’s not as scary once you get accustomed to it.
Don’t forget answers on a postcard if you think you know the identity of Beer #80!
I am sitting in Lefty O’Doul’s and I am watching the AFL (Aussie Rules) Grand Final between Geelong and Saint Kilda. If you can think back to Sydney when I went to see the “Swannies” play the egg chasing game but in a much more macho way than the Americans, without motorcycle helmets, shoulder pads and tights, "Swannies" were beaten on the night by the much better team the Geelong Cats. The “Cats” went on to win through the knockout stages and are now in the final against the underdogs St Kilda and it’s live in Lefty’s.
As I sit here watching the “Cats” chase an egg around the circular pitch I contemplate to myself " I wonder who Lefty actually was? Luckily in the booth where I am sitting they have a little potted history on the wall alongside all the foto foto's of Lefty, and here it is:
Francis “Lefty” O’Doul was born in San Francisco and he is considered one of the New York Giants most colourful and popular personalities.
He played in the Pacific Coast League as well as the Major League, where in 1929 he had a .398 batting average. It was the highest average of any National League outfielder in the 20th century.
Lefty was a highly respected coach and manager for the San Francisco Seals baseball team. He was a friend and team mate to the great players such as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb to name a few. Lefty was the man who brought two countries together after World War II, as he was credited for bringing America’s favourite past time to Japan.
(So if you are Japanese and hate baseball and what it has done to your culture then you can blame Lefty).
In 1958 Lefty had an inspiration to open a restaurant bar in San Francisco where friends and family could come to eat and meet with sports stars creating a unique environment where everyone was family. Over the years Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant has seen the likes of baseball and Hollywood’s greatest entertainers and now has had the pleasure of welcoming Danny Beer to their world famous establishment.
Lefty I salute you and your legacy, and thanks for all your efforts in helping me achieve my goal of "Eighty Beers" from around the world!
Shame you only serve mainstream lagers like Budwater and Muller Light. I would also do away with the crappy piano player stuff as it gets a bit grating the seventh or eighth time you have heard it, but thanks anywayz for making an enjoyable place for Danny Beer to have a drink and BTW why exactly do they call you “Lefty’?
One final question to pose on today’s blog post and maybe Lefty can help me out here with the answer from above?
“Why is it called the “World Series” when it’s only competed for by baseball teams from the “Youessofa” with the exception of one from Mooseland (Toronto)? Why oh why oh why – I think that spells "yo yo"
Oh and incase you were wondering the score was Geelong Cats 80 – St Kilda 68.
It’s an “inside the park home run” and ta ta from Lefty and Danny “Yankee Killer” Beer
On the walk down to Union Square I always pass the Hotel California, which is situated on Geary. It’s a bit irritating as because as soon as you see the sign you start to hum the track, even if you are like me and don’t particularly like The Eagles. That means that at least four times a day, for the last ten days I have had that song in my head. The alternative would be to head straight down Ellis rather than up to Geary but I think I prefer humming The Eagles to listening to crack heads shouting m** f*** as I walk along the road.
Now I am sure this was not actually the Hotel California that The Eagles wrote and sung about but it is interesting that they have been able to keep the name of the hotel so I am guessing that it was called Hotel California way before the Eagles released their track.
While I was out today I went past the Great American Music Hall. It looked like a very interesting music venue that must go back a few years and at the box office they were advertising a show for this evening so I asked if there were any tickets available. There were some available so I thought why not give it a go and bought a ticket to see Jerry Jeff Walker, having no idea who he was or what type of music he plays.
An afternoon exploring the rest of the sights of San Francisco (Is that what the Otis Redding song "Dock of the Bay was about?) and I think I have now done all that San Francisco has to offer. I have given up hope of getting down to the Grand Canyon. I have been checking out air tickets but they are very expensive and the flights are multi stop so it will take ages so I will have to save this experience for another time. I think I have seen everything there is to see in terms of tourist places and I was lucky to have seen the Golden Gate Bridge when I did as it has been shrouded in fog for the rest of this week.
My plan is to check the queue outside the Great American Music Hall and much to my surprise there is already a big queue at 6:00pm so I get on the end of it as the deal is first come first served. We get let in at 7:00pm and get a stamp on our right hands, just like at the school disco, to prove we have bought a ticket. Inside the venue is very interesting. The website has the strapline “Great music since 1907” and it must have seen a lot of different music performed on its stage.
It is San Francisco's oldest and grandest nightclub with ornate balconies, soaring marble columns and elaborate ceiling frescoes. The remarkable interior design came from an unlikely duo: a French architect who designed the building in 1907, and Chris Buckley, a political mover and shaker who wanted to erect a grand structure after the devastating 1906 earthquake. The result was Blanco's, characterized as one of the most popular entertainment spots during San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast Era. The restaurant/bordello offered fine food, gambling and fast women right up until the dark days of the Great Depression in 1933. I wonder if the "fast women" still frequent the place and are the talking about Flo Jo (Florence Griffth Joyner?).
In 1948 it reopened as a jazz club until the 1950s when the premises were taken over by members of the Moose Lodge. I didn’t even know that Michala had a lodge, never mind one so far away as the west coast of the “youessofa”.
The building went into decline that hit rock bottom when the building was condemned by city building inspectors. A last-minute reprieve saved it from demolition, and the tarnished interior was spruced up a bit when a short-lived French restaurant named Charles (after the proprietor, Robert Charles) took over the building. But it was not until 1972, when the Great American Music Hall opened, that happy music lovers filled the hall once more.
The past three decades at the Great American Music Hall have been full of music, with artists ranging from Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie to Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead and Bobby McFerrin.
Once inside I find a good seat and wait for the show to start. Looking around the audience I think I have worked out what type of music Jazzy Jeff is going to play. I am the only black person in the audience (OK so I know that I am not black but in protest I listen to some Studio One on my MP3) and there are plenty of good old country boys and girls with Stetsons on their heads, pointy shoes and more denim than the Levi’s Superstore in San Francisco. The support act is the son of the main act and he does a set of about 40 minutes and this includes a song where the audience have to howl and bark like dogs on the chorus.
Jerry Jeff takes the stage at 8:00pm to lots of yeehaws and shouts of appreciation and he is doing a solo show with just a stool and a guitar, and the audience loves him, and shouts out requests for all his popular songs. Now I did mention the other day that I am getting rather fond of the old country music and today I feel just like Woody in Toy Story and Toy Story 2, tapping my feet along to the tunes and “havin a rootin and tootin good time”.
Doing a bit of research Jerry Jeff was born in New Yawk and JJ is not his real name but one that he adopted in 1966 (a good year for football). His most famous song is Mr Bojangles, which he wrote as well as recorded, and this has been covered by artists that include Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Sammy Davis Jnr and for me the best one of all by John Holt on 1000 Volts of Holt.
All and all an interesting evening and I reckon well worth the time and effort to see the show and I did enjoy the music as well. Oh dear, next thing will be actually liking The Eagles! Hand me a gun please.
As I saddle up and ride into the distance down Ellis Street heading towards the saloon it’s a big adios amigo’s and Ta ta from Danny “Country Boy” Beer
At breakfast this morning an Asian guy, well a Ch*n*s* bloke actually but I am not allowed to call him that, tried to insist that the orange I had just poured myself and sat down with was his. “That my orange?” “no it’s my orange”, “that my orange!” “no it’s my orange I have just poured it!” I told him twice that it was not his orange juice and that he should look elsewhere at which point he tried to grab the drink from the table in front of me. I find this really strange; as orange juice here is a part of the free breakfast you get in the hostel! In the end I told him politely to f*** off and he went away to look for his orange juice in another place and on another table. Only in America!
Today I have also been down to MacDonald’s to get myself a large coke cup from a Happy Meal. I now hold this straight out in front of me when walking around the streets here in San Francisco. I am using this as a kind of pre-emptive strike against those nice gentlemen that poke a Mac D cup in my face each time I walk down the road, or cross at a junction, and ask for change. It was so bad today that as I was walking along down by Fisherman’s Wharf I spotted some guy up ahead quickly drinking the coke and then chucking away the ice from the cup just before I passed him just so he can poke the cup in my face and ask for money.
I managed to watch the replay of the second half of the Man U v Man C game on Setanta in an Irish Pub. An entertaining game and I noticed that they seemed to play “Ferguson” time again with stoppage time of over six minutes, just enough time to allow Owen to score in the 96th minute! I also saw on the internet today that Jerome Thomas (he used to play for Arsenal you know!) managed to get sent off in the West Brom versus Arsenal Milk Cup game. When interviewed and asked about the incident Wenger was quoted as saying “My eyes aren’t great and my ears are worse”, not quite as good as “I did not see it!”
I went once again to the Half Price ticket booth on Union and bought a ticket for the stand up comedy showcase at “Our Little Comedy Club”, a very fitting name for this place on Ellis. Having purchased the ticket I got a bit worried about the show as looking at the web address of the club www.globalwomenintact.org I thought I might be in for ninety minutes of anti-male jokes from rather butch ladies dressed in Doc Martins and turned up Levi’s.
Getting there at just before 8pm I can see why they call it “Our Little Comedy Club”. It is about the size of my dining room at home, with a microphone and around eighteen chairs spread around the room. When I enter a guy asks me if I am a comedian and I answer no and join the other five members of the audience. It ends up that there is an audience of six including me and eight comedians waiting to do their ten minutes. It is uncensored and the comedians in such a small and cosy environment are not worried about what they say or any political correctness which is very unusual for San Francisco. There was a gay comedian that the black comedians took the “mick” out of, a Chinese (oops sorry Asian) guy that took the “mick” out of the bald white comedian and a Jewish Indian comedian who did not take the “mick” out of any of the other comedians but who had some good jokes.
The headline was a big and rather fat black guy (that’s how he described himself) who did about twenty minutes and who ripped the “mick” out of everybody.
The show was really good and easily worth the half price ticket of ten dollars. It is strange being in such a small venue and sitting about three feet from the comedians but it was a very entertaining evening and the admission cost does goes to charity with the comedians performing for nothing.
The evenings are starting to get really cold and the fog descends to make it very grey and miserable but either I have got used to the area now or it is just much quieter and a bit too cold for all the smack heads.
The first day of “Fall” – whatever happened to Autumn and whats winter called here?
An early start today as I am booked on the “early bird” ferry to Alcatraz. I booked the ticket on the internet and to board the ferry you must have some photographic ID, so I take the passport along.
The fare, including entrance to the island is just over sixteen and a half English pounds and I am a bit skeptical about how good it will be, but I am very pleasantly surprised! It only takes about 12 minutes to cross to the island and as we get nearer we see that it is shrouded in fog. When you disembark you get a ten minute briefing and then off you go. I had a great day at Alcatraz. The prison is very interesting and you get issued with a set of earphones and an audio device that gives you a commentary as you walk around the place. The commentary is carried out by ex inmates and guards, with lots of sound effects and history and there are lots of information boards and props and stuff and it is fascinating to walk around and learn the history of the place. It is now a Golden Gate National park run by the government so you don’t get ripped off like you would expect.
Alcatraz was as a prison almost from the very beginning. In 1859, During the Civil War era soldiers convicted of desertion, theft, assault, rape and murder; citizens accused of treason; and the crew of a confederate ship were imprisoned on Alcatraz. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the newly created Bureau of Prisons became interested in the island as a place for a high-profile, maximum-security facility. Alcatraz reopened in 1934 as a federal penitentiary. Of the 1,545 men who "did time" on Alcatraz, only a handful were notorious including Alfonse “Scarface” Capone, “Doc” Baker, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Floyd Hamilton and Robert Stroud the “Birdman of Alcatraz”.
“If you break the rules you go to prison, if you break the prison rules you go to Alcatraz”.
They have a number of walks and talks given by Park Rangers (the rangers not going to like this Yogi!) and I catch two of them. The first walk is excellent and lasts about an hour. It is all about the attempted prison breaks from Alcatraz and the ranger is great at delivering the stories and making you laugh. There were 14 attempted federal prison-era escapes, the best known occurred in June 1962, when Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin slipped into the water. They used raincoats as flotation devices and were presumably bound for San Francisco. Although their bodies were never found, they are assumed to have been drowned. A film was made of their story, “Escape from Alctraz”, and it starred Clint Eastwood, and you get to see the actual cells that they hacked the ventilation grills from, a replica of the dummy heads they used to pretend they were still asleep, and the shaft that they used to reach the roof as part of the escape. In the film Clint makes it to Angel Island and is washed up on the shore. Angel Island was a military base and an island like Alcatraz so why Clint would have headed there rather than San Francisco is beyond me but I guess that’s artistic license.
Some of the other escape stories are equally as interesting. One guy spent eight years stealing from the laundry. He stole all the bits of an army sergeant’s uniform and hid these in a blanket in the bushes near the laundry. He took his opportunity and boarded the boat that brought the laundry across on its way back to Angel Island via San Francisco. A body count on land highlighted the missing prisoner and on the army boat they found that they had an extra sergeant and he was shipped back to Alcatraz and given a further three years. Later in his life he was asked if he was a hero with the inmates for escaping the island but he said no, the rest of his stay in Alcatraz was hell! Why was that? Well both the inmates and the warders teased him all the time by calling him “sarge, how’s it going sarge? Time to get up sarge etc”
Rule #5 - "You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, amd medical attention. Anything else you get is a privelege." Rules and Regulations 1934.
There are four cellblocks in the prison. "A" block was not used to house prisoners during the federal penetentiary years. Blocks "B" and "C" were considered "general population" blocks. "Unruly inmates were "segregated" in Block "D" (42 cells) in isolation and you get to go inside these cells as well as the normal ones. Looking at the spaces and facilities you got in prison on Alcatraz and comparing that with some of the places I have stayed in I think that "Scarface" and "Machine Gun" may have had it better than me and they got fed as well!
The second ranger talk is about Hollywoood and Alcatraz and there are quite a few myths that are exposed and here are a couple of them that are not true. The first one is about a gas chamber on Alcatraz. It had no "death row" or any other facility for executions on the island.
The second is about Robert Stroud "The Birdman of Alctatraz". Stroud did keep canaries when he was incarcerated at Leavenworth Penetentiary but never had birds and was not allowed to keep pets at Alcatraz. Unlike the depiction in the Burt Lancaster film he was a phsycopathic killer who was transferred to Alcatraz after he stabbed and killed a prison guard for reprimanding him and losing his visitor priveleges, so another Hollywood myth is exposed.
Yep I would really recommend a trip to Alcatraz and its well worth the money. You need most of the day there to make it worthwhile, make sure you go on the ranger talks and most importantly make sure you book the cruise that docks on the island as there are quite a few that only sail around Alcatraz without docking.
I am sure that I have this 45rpm single!
Late afternoon and I walk back and cross Union Square and check out the “half price” ticket booth and they are offering cheap tickets to see Brief Encounter at the big theatre on Geary, the ACT so I get a ticket for the 7:00pm show and it is only nine pounds including booking fee. The show is a musical based on the Noel Coward – David Lean film of the same name. It is on tour direct from a season in London and the cast is also from Britain. It is a good production, lasting two hours including a fifteen minute interval and although I am quite high up in the first row of the second balcony I really enjoyed it.
A quick last beer in Lefty’s and back to my luxury room in the City Hostel, San Francisco.
It’s a very politically correct place is San Francisco. You have to be very careful about how you describe people and cannot be seen to refer to their sexual preferences, ethnicity, religion or race when referring to them or describing them, either verbally or in writing!
So I think I may be in trouble over my blog post on Wednesday 16th September 2009, day #115!
I have been summoned to appear before the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights, the body that monitors this type of misdemeanor in the “youessofa”. They have cited Danny Beer under section 297, subsection A, paragraph 3, and the misdemeanor is that “Danny Beer used the word “W*lr*s” to describe a member of the “Odobenidea” group of mammals, which is in breach of their civil rights”, in this the home of civil rights.
In future I can only refer to the “w***r*s” as a “Native American mammalian” or an active member of the “mammalian” group. I can also refer to “Odebenus Rosmarus” as one of the “Odobenidea Group, but only if I have checked the appropriate website to make sure that they have given their permission to be referred to in this manner. Furthermore I cannot make any reference to the gender of the “native American mammalian or Odebenus Rosmarus” or refer to “it’s” sexual orientation!
But the worst thing is that I have now found out that the “W*lr*s” that was sharing my dorm the other day was not even an “Odebenus Rosmarus” or member of the ethnic group “Odobenidea” but was infact “Zalophus Californiaus” or a sea l**n!
If you ask me the U.S. Commission’s time would be better spent investigating the cramped living conditions and exploitation of the “Zalophus Californiaus” rather than citing Danny Beer!
I had to move rooms today as someone managed to bring the sink in the bathroom off the wall (not me I hasten to add) so the maintenance man was in the room trying to fix it when I got back. But the good news is that I have managed to get a new room and a bottom bunk. It’s a bit like the TV programme “Porridge” where a bottom bunk is a sought after luxury and I have the bunk until I check out as well, heaven!
This room also has some daylight coming in through the window, rather than the view in the other room of a brick wall, so it’s worked out a treat (I do know a really corny Arthur Smith joke about “working out a treat" but I don’t want to retell it as I am already in enough trouble with the commission!). To quote Basil Fawlty “what exactly do you expect to see out of a San Francisco hostel dormitory window then, the Golden Gate Bridge?”
I got up late today and had a late brekky (which is free here) and I listened to Danny Baker’s Friday show on Radio London. Later in the afternoon I decided to go out and explore some of the places Andy Spurs mentioned yesterday when we were hiking around the Bay.
After about 45 minutes walk from the hostel I hit the intersection of Lombard Street and Columbus and decide to scale the heights. Lombard Street is right up high and the streets to reach the top have a very sharp incline, very reminiscent of the walk to the hostel in Auckland, but a much longer drag. Located in the Russian Hill district it is known as “the crookedest street in the world” because of its eight sharp turns on a 40 degree slope. The turns in the road were built in the 1920’s to allow traffic to descend the steep incline. I am only glad that I don’t have to carry WLR up Lombard Street, as I don’t think I would be able make the top with it on my back! The view of the Bay Area from the top though is great and it makes the trek well worthwhile.
I walk down the other side to Fisherman’s Wharf and the best way to describe Fisherman’s Wharf is rather “tacky and seasidey”. I hunt in vain for a “kiss me quick hat” but no luck there, so I walk to Pier 39, and this is where “Zalophus Californiaus” to be poltically correct, or the “s*a l**ns live when they stay in San Francisco. It’s really funny watching them in action vying for the best slot and shouting loudly at each other, but I must admit that it smells a bit like Grimsby.
After a while watching the acivities of my fellow citizens I walk back down the main drag and there is a guy dressed up as a bush or privet hedge, What he does is squat down at the edge of the pavement and when people walk by he jumps up and shout “gotya” and holds out a Madonalds soda cup. He “gets” quite a few people who are embarrassed and shocked, into making a contribution, but he doesn’t “get” me and if I were him I would check my “employers insurance cover” as I reckon pretty soon he is going leap out/up and shout “gotya” and swiftly follow this with a call to 911 and some mouth to mouth resuscitation.
In the evening I pop out to look for something for tea and I come across a genuine “English” Fish and Chip shop. How do I know it is genuine? Well not only does it say that on the sign outside but inside it has a proper “old skool” fish and chipper or range. You know the sort of thing that takes up all of the room behind the counter and has lift up bits where you fry the fish and separately the chips, with big steel baskets that they use to drop the fish and chips into the frying oil. There is a manufacturers badge that indicates that it was made in Cardiff in Welsh Wales in the 1950’s and the fryer is in very good condition considering its age.
They fry the chips twice, which is the traditional way and they put salt and proper vinegar on the fish and chips before wrapping them up in newspaper. The only thing missing are the jars of pickled onions and gherkins.
Yum Yum, the nicest tea I have had since being in the “youessofa”!
Ta ta and see you in the Supreme Court of California, Court #3, the Court of Judge Pickles.
I may have to write to Governor Schwarenneger to plead my innocence/ ignorance. I am sure he will understand!
I spoke to Pam on the phone today and she has told me that she is getting the house ready for my return. The bunk beds have apparently been ordered from Ikea, with the top bunk reserved for me. Lockers have also been installed but I have to bring my own padlock so luckily I should still have one from my travels. A sign has been installed in the kitchen stating that there will be a fine incurred if I don’t clean and dry my plates and utensils after use and a coin slot has been added to the washing machine.
When I get back I will be able to add the finishing touches to the "Changing Rooms" makeover by leaving a big pile of dirty clothes all over floor and forgetting to make the bed when I get up.
In the morning I met up again with Andy and after he had checked out of the Marriott we took a walk down to Fisherman’s Wharf. By the time we had reached there it was about time to turn back but it was a good walk that lasted well over an hour. Andy pointed out some good places for me to visit including Lombard Street and Pier 39 and I plan to visit those tomorrow. Back to Union Square and a quick pint or two of Stella in Lefty’s before Andy has to set off and get the BART out to the airport. Once again thanks Andy!
In the evening I went to a(nother) comedy show just around the corner from Union Square. I got the ticket from the half price ticket booth in Union and took a chance on it. The show started at 8:30pm and it was in a small theatre called the SF Playhouse. The show was called 1 Funny Night and featured “refreshingly offbeat comedy with impressions, sound effects, salad jokes, pranks, videos and more”. The comedians were Colin Mahan, Mike Spiegelman, Les Milton and Harmon Leon. It was hosted by Tony Sparks and I really enjoyed the show.
The show is set up to allow the acts to do different comedy to plain stand up and there was an impressionist, two comic magicians a guy doing salad jokes which were funny and a very intense comedian that reminded me of Jeremy Hardy and who did some really good sketches using sound effects including a skit about a phone in doctor, a Life on Earth parody and a children’s story teller. If you are ever in San Francisco on a Sunday night I would recommend this show but remember to bring your own drinks as there is no bar.
I must admit that I have a confession to make. I have only been in the proper bit of the “youessofa”, not the later 50th state, for less than a week and I have started to enjoy listening to country music. If I hear Dolly or Jim or Dwight I feel my feet start to tap and I even start to hum or sing along if I know the words. Oh dear, how embarrassing! I hope I don’t end up wearing a cowboy outfit with no backside in and start singing YMCA.
I finished the night off with a last beer in Lefty’s, which seems to be a favourite haunt for me now and if I am lucky the pianist will play some good old country tunes before the evening ends!
Ta ta and not long now and one beer still to go! Tune in tomorrow to see if Danny Beer reaches his 80 beer target before New Yawk.