Dream trip Day 129 Farewell Oxford, 12th Century Turf Tavern, Gatwick

I woke, showered and met my Canadian friend on the patio, drinking coffee.

We discussed the night as well as our brunch plans at Turf Tavern, build in 12th century, or earlier, they just don’t have records going back further.

Lots of fires in ye olde Britain so many records have been lost.

 

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You really have to follow a map to find the tavern, it isn’t easy. Down a small passage that at least has a plaque.

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There were 2 sets of taps inside where you ordered beer or food. You pointed to where you would sit, in or out.

We picked outside, it wasn’t raining, yet. I chose a burger, can’t go wrong with a pub burger yup.

The place to be here is out back, big tables, covered for when it rains and it does rain a lot in this part of the country.

Why, it even rained as we enjoyed our meal but we were safe and dry.

Another pint to wait out the rain then. I soon became enamoured with a chap across from me who was loudly talking over the phone.

He was soon joined by, ‘ah here he is, the whisperer! My boy, yes, you see..’ he was proper chap, just well put together. Long wallet, coin purse, watch on a chain. Everything he carried had some sort of special carrier or satchel.

He did indeed refer to his associate as “the whisperer” several times. It was like off a BBC show or something.

I soon bade my friend goodbye, he was off to the north, I had a bus to the south.

Gatwick, home to an airport and a small village. There are 2 buses a day Oxford to Heathrow and Gatwick.

One is very early, leaves before 8 I believe. My flight was mid afternoon so I didn’t want to risk anything. Travel over an hour pre-flight is typically not a good idea.

So 1 night in Gatwick, mere miles from the airport.

England has a great bus system, double-decker style so upstairs I went. Headphones on and we were off!

I love the rolling hills and tiny villages, cottages we encountered along the way. Lovely country. Need to go back to the north.

A long walk once I arrived to Gatwick and I was to my room. The airport options seem to the be the same no matter where you go. A bed, shower, toilet, tv all one needs.

I settled in, showered up so I could leave the next morning without shower time.

It turned into a rather long walk, stroll but I found a local pub. Caught my last footy match in country with a pint.

Soon some favorites appeared, scotch egg, chips, a fine final UK meal!

I sat with my new reality, my trip was nearing its end.

Tomorrow a flight to one of my favorite cities, Boston, via Iceland of course. It was only a 4-ish hour flight, not bad at all.

A long weary walk in a rainy mist was tough. I was heading home, the US, but where precisely was TBD…

 

Beer  McEwan’s Champion

Song  Led Zeppelin    Ramble On

 

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Dream trip Day 127 Farewell Cardiff, train to Oxford, the Eagle and Child pub

At this point, months into my trip I was bewildered most of the time. It was just unreal everything I was seeing and experiencing. I felt overwhelmed and still not sure what to do or where to go.

The only thing I knew was winter is coming and I did not pack for that. I had a hoodie that worked well so far but it was soon to become real cold. Freezing.

Had I been really adventurous I would have flown to Morocco. I investigated going when I had a week off in Barcelona.

I was chasing the sun at this point, trying to stay warm if I could.

The weather wasn’t too much better where I was heading next, Oxford.

The college was certainly a draw, the writers who taught and lived there: CS Lewis, JRRRR Tolkien, radiohead… Yeah I pretty much went to see what the area that radiohead lived looked like.

I’d been listening to radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool literally the entire summer. It is a great record but can be a bit depressing. It’s a good listen on an overcast or rainy day. As is Kid A, that is my go to rainy day record.

I didn’t have time for coffee and a meal before I left so I had some of the instant coffee with sugar at the hostel before I left.

At some point the night before I decided I needed to have fish n chips here, to complete my UK fish and chips experience. I’d had the meal in England, Scotland, Ireland (N and S) and now Wales.

The fry guy just smiled when I ordered and said it would be a few, had to fry it fresh to make it best!

A stupendous amount of chips with a slab of fish soon arrived. Enough for 2 easily.

I had time but still felt rushed. I mean, the train station was only across the street so I am not sure why I was concerned.

I left my still near full box near one of the many stoops with homeless.

The railway was small and everything was in English so finding my track was a breeze, especially compared to Budapest.

I did however miss my connection in Redding. I took my time putting on my hoodie then everyone was getting on so I couldn’t push past them.

I got to the door just as it closed and locked. Trapped!

What made this rather interesting was the previous hour or so were non stop. I hoped for the next stop to be soon.

It was so I jumped on a train heading in the direction of Oxford. Luckily the trains were timed well so I had plenty of time to get on the right track.

I sat with a couple chaps at a table. They both worked for a transportation company, or maybe logistics. They were going on a work trip for more training.

The impression I got was they went to school for a specific degree related to this job.

They worked while in uni as interns or journeymen, then received a 1 year commitment at this company. The company seemed well structured and promotions were clear and easy to work towards.

To my right the green pastures rolled past, a green blur.

The great thing about this train was I didn’t have to transfer, it went to Oxford where I stood near the door, ain’t missing this stop!

After a brief walk I was near University of Oxford, a storied place whose history goes back to 1096 but it is likely older, just haven’t found a document yet.

Oxford just feels like a village, full of life as well as proper people.

My hostel was a few blocks from the uni, I found it pretty easy.

It was small and cavernous hostel, winding around a few floors. I got lost a couple of times looking for restroom and shower, located in different parts of the house.

The weather was ok so I sat outside on the patio and tried to join in on a conversation with some employees and a couple pretty gals from New Zealand.

They were stuck at the hostel waiting as they had checked out but their flight was late at night so they let them hang out in the smokers lounge.

After trying to jump in and join the conversation a few times, I had to give up.

I was hungry so I figured I’d find something a long the way. Literally the 1st restaurant I saw was Nando’s, which I passed up, felt like something different.

Jamaican! Now that is something I don’t get everyday.  I do enjoy a beef pie, jerk chicken, rice, all the stuff.

I belly up to the bar and order a Jamaican pale ale a local brewery made for them. Better than Red Stripe!

I got a couple of pies and side of rice. It was rather expensive for a whole meal, plus very large portion sizes. When I encounter this I just order a couple of appetizers and maybe a salad or side.

A few blocks away was the Eagle and Child pub. It was across the street from the literature department so that explains why lots of writers went there.

It was very small, a bit of standing room in the front before it opens up to a nice room with tables in the back.

Cash only too I recall, no cards here. This is also a real beer destination with 4 hand cranked taps of beer.

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In the corner was where the writers met for pints after teaching class. I sat for a good while just wondering what all they talked about…

‘Clive, what are you writing about now?’

‘Well John, it’s about a magical land some children stumble upon, witches and a lion I’m thinking of naming Aslan. How about you?’

‘Oh well I’m still writing about orcs, hobbits, faeries. I think I have cracked writing a new language for the elves as well.’

To my surprise they had last call just after 10pm. I wanted another pint, just not going to get one here.

Probably for the best, it had been a long travel day, I needed to rest up for tomorrow!

Beer Oxford Gold

Song  radiohead   Darkest Hour

Dream trip Day 126 Long walk to the sea, Maxime, party street

The day was overcast and glum outside. I wasn’t sure of what else to do but check out the water. At the time I thought it was the sea but it is actually where River Taff meets the Severn Estuary.

Everyone knows an estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets a stream…

I began my day popping into a regional coffee chain I’d been to before. I’d mention the name but they aren’t paying me so forget that. Flat white is what I take.

I noticed that in the US, which is called the States by Europeans, you get or pick up things if you shop. Europeans take things when shopping or ordering, ‘I’ll take a coffee.”

Also lack of free or discount refills is a bit annoying. They do have rewards programs but they require a separate card.

Why do we have to carry a separate rewards card when we use the same credit card for most of those transactions? I’m sure it has something to do with credit card companies charging $ for this info.

The long walk to the sea is via this strange walkway, sort of looks like train tracks which would make sense. Trains could pick up the freight from ships and take it into town for distribution.

There were a few houses, a bridge with spooky underpass that screamed for someone to stagger our wielding a knife or sleep under.

Eventually the railway/walkway turning residential, then commercial.

The ferris wheel was in action today but not many wanted a ride on a cloudy day.

I’ll bet there were great views on a clear day from the top bucket of the ferris wheel.

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I putted around the port a while, checking out the water, the people and shops.

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I walked through a pub’s outdoor seating, which was full of bikers and their bitches. I say bitches because that what I heard them calling their wives/girlfriends. Plus bitch was all over their shirts, jackets.

I get it, you want to appear cool and aloof but man, your mom and your sister aren’t bitches so why is your wife?

I decided to hit up a pub as it began sprinkling rain a bit. I hadn’t had breakfast even, just coffee. It was likely a bad habit I had developed but if you are hungry and want to save $  £ have a cup of coffee then see how hungry you are.

I selected a seat outside on their covered patio which overlooked the water.

I was about halfway through my meal when a guy come up to me holding a camera.

“Hey I got a good picture of you if you want to see it.” said a man who soon introduced himself as Maxime, from Belgium.seagull

“Oh cool, I was just in your country, great beers and cool people!” I replied. He joined me and we talked about Belgium, photography and Europe.

We decided to walk back into town together and get a pint. He had a train to catch in a few hours so that was all the time we had to hang out.

There was a pub just outside the city that I figured would be cool as well as close to the train station.

Outside the pub were many flags including a rainbow flag, I didn’t give it much thought.

Upon entry I saw several dudes inside. After about a quarter of a pint it struck me that we were in a gay bar, not just a gay friendly bar.

Oh well, this place had beer so whatever.

Alas my new friend had to leave so we said farewell.

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I popped into another pub along the main street in front of my hostel for a couple hard-fought pints. It was a busy weekend evening.

I then began buying cans of beer from a shop also on the road. I’m not sure that I could drink beer in the street but I did anyways. There were so many people on the street doing rather odd things I felt that was the best option for the night.

After a bit of watching wasted people light the wrong end of their cigarette, fall, fall again, or throw things or just scream it was bedtime.

A fine final night in Cardiff!

Beer  West Coast Red   Glamorgan Brewing

Song the Alarm   Rain in the Summertime

 

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Dream trip Day 125 Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival day 2, the cider side

Upon rising, I found a nice local coffee shop and settled in for a couple of cups of coffee.

I felt it best to use the 2nd day of the beer festival as more of a night-time activity vs an all day affair as had happened the day before.

Today was my big day dealing with a money changer. I searched my bag and gathered up all the random bills I had.

A previous money changing trip I’d learned they do not do coins. I hand the chap behind the glass window my bills and ask for pounds sterling back.

There are people with advanced math degrees and programmers attempting to find even the smallest favorable currency conversions, often changing currencies several times.

You see, money is a joke! You can make more money by just changing currencies, not a reward for work. Or is money for your time…or knowledge?

A part of me thought to save bills as souvenirs but then I thought, nah money isn’t something to save from other places. Use that money to see more of that country.

I had a few more quid in me pocket than previous, let’s check out a pub!

The pamphlet I picked up at the festival had a local real ale list and I happened to be near one after my morning stroll.

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Across the street from the castle, down some stairs is Hopbunker. 4 air powered taps of some local beers were lined up and ready to go.

I sat near the bar. The pub has only a few people in it. One of those here knows a lot about beer as he is telling most anyone who can hear what types of beer he likes, what he doesn’t, and what he is looking for to taste.

Don’t be afraid about asking to taste a beer if you’re in a pub. Drink what you like, try to learn something about the beers you are drinking, such as the style or hop. Dark or light, hoppy or sour.

Also promise that once you learn about beer, you don’t become insufferable about it to others who may not know as much as you do. Remember we all used to know nothing about beer at one time, bud light was a legitimate drinking option…

I finished my pint and tried walking all the way around the castle but found I couldn’t do that as the garden extended quite a ways behind the castle.

With no plans I hit my bunk for some researching my next move and bit of napping.

Upon rising, I headed out to the Depot for real ale!

It was near dark, dusk  so still light but not much.

Not too much trouble coming in again, though they did want to give me another glass, which I turned back. I brought the 1 I got the day before.

Almost immediately upon entry, I was descended upon by a chap. He seemed keen on talking to me.

He was a cider head he told me, and wanted to get ‘bearded beer fiends to switch to cider. We need more people at ze ciders!’ he exclaimed.

I won’t say I was forced over to the ciders, but if I wanted to talk to a bunch of Welshmen then that’s where they were going.

I’ve had ciders before but they were very sugary, too sweet. Oak Cliff had a cidery  I’d been to that made fresh cider, one made using catnip.

The cider people seemed much more rural, hippy farmers totally. I was soon told to talk to an older lady who was called the grandma of Wales real cider movement.

She was so happy! I was poured an apple cider and it tasted like drinking an apple! Amazing, not extra sweet or anything, just pure apple juice.

I chatted a bit with the crazy, cider lady while my new cider friends stood by grinning.

They had been there a lot longer than I, so they were much more spirited. This made my attempts at getting them to try a beer impossible.

It is a funny human nature that when you get all excited by something you want another one to try so the 2 of you can share in the experience that when the other attempts to reciprocate, the enthusiasm is lacking.

One of the Welshmen located a table so we all sat down. We shared a few glasses of cider, beer. I still wasn’t a fully convert, just more receptive to cider when I encounter it like this, homemade.

If anything this experience made me want to make even more fun of big, sugary commercial ciders that were too sweet.

I shook everyone’s hand around 945-10pm. They were staying until close. I knew it was best for me to be near my hostel at this point, especially if I keep drinking.

Which I did do just that, popping into Tiny Rebel for a couple more pints.

I want to say it was songwriter night and I caught a show, maybe even sang along a bit.

Hard to know when you just drank cider for a couple hours with some Welshmen!

Onward

Beer  Western Special by Waen Brewery

Song  Gene Loves Jezebel   Break the Chain

Dream trip Day 124 Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival

Today was the day! About 1 mile away was a warehouse called The Depot where the festival was held.

They began early too 11am. Way too early for me.

I figured the best thing to do before going to a beer festival is to have a good meal.

I don’t recall if I had a Welsh fry up or English fry up, they are likely the same thing. Fried or poached eggs, fried tomatoes, blood sausage, mushrooms or beans, some type of fried potato and bread. Whew!

The Depot was about 1 mile or 1.5 miles or 2km walk. Another key to walking this is having another cup of coffee than you’re use to.

Along the route was the Brains brewery so I wondered if they had tours or gift shop. A Brains shirt would be a nice memorial from Cardiff.

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Closed to the public though I tried my damnedest to enter. I got the hint at every way in had a closed gate.

No matter, I was soon to have plenty of beer options, most should be from Wales.

Entry was paid in pounds and I received a souvenir glass that could be refilled. You bought beer via cards and each sample would tick off a box.

Inside there were rows and rows of small kegs of beer covered with tarps. Some of the kegs were marked off and would be available on certain days or times.

They really wanted you to buy a 3 day pass. I bought 1 day at a time. Aw well.

I don’t think anyone could’ve drank 1 of each beer and cider at this festival. Over a hundred I would say ready at all times. More limited releases most hours as well.

I was also handed a program with brewery and beer info. A small map of the area included Wales and most of western England where all the breweries were located. Only a few were from London.

Everyone at the festal was very friendly and nice. Everyone spoke English though sometimes a couple would talk Welsh.

Separating 2 rows of beer kegs was a grill. A man behind it was always flipping burgers, rolling sausages, stirring onion, doing serious grill work.

I took to just walking around looking for any oddly named beers or pale ales. Sometimes I would try to talk to the pourers but most of the time just a nod would do.

More than 1 pourer was on his way to being drunk and it was only 1pm.

There were benches that soon filled up though I was able to manage a seat for a bit. I likely circled the options 3x.

The place filled up after a couple hours to the point I took refuge outside.

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Any festival or gathering of people means for some that it is the right time to dress up. A lot here were in traditional Welsh, German, or Scots dress. Lots o’ kilts, leather, cups on clips and finely manicured facial hair.

I watched the sun going down before deciding on just 1 more beer card before calling it a day/night.

A guy near the entrance sold the cards and we swapped pounds for piece of paper.

Most of the booths followed the rules and checked off a box. Only a couple neglected to ask for my card before serving me.

After another hour of bumping into people to get beer I decided it was time to head back, before it was too dark.

I am not sure how safe of an area that part of town was but you never know.

I tipped my hat to the guy at the exit door as I left. It was just dusk, near dark. There were people arriving so it was going to be a long day for some volunteers.

Yup, hard to believe but most everyone pouring, tapping kegs, they weren’t paid. I think some of the breweries were just guys on a farm who made beer for themselves and felt it fun to come into town and share their beer.  Real farmhouse ales.

I rolled into a spot I’d eyed trying for a while, the chicken joint next to my hostel. They made biryani here so that’s what I got.

So good, so hot and so much rice and chicken. I ate a while then took the leftovers outside to drop near one of the many homeless that dot the area stoops.

They stake out a stoop and sleep away the night but are gone by morning.

A fine day with fine beers in Cardiff! One more beer day left tomorrow.

Onwards!

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Beer  Tŵti Ffrŵti

Song  Manic Street Preachers  Motorcycle Emptiness

Dream trip Day 123 Walking tour, animal statues, Tiny Rebel pub

Once again it was breakfast with the ladies. Always a good way to start the day with some females.

To my joy, a few were talking about going on a walking tour. I ventured that I too was taking the same tour.

One of the prettiest gals smiled and said she’d follow me over to where the meetup place as she has, ‘a hard time with directions.’

Soon a couple other ladies overheard us talking about the walking tour and also agreed to follow me.

“We’re following him, he looks like he knows where he is going,” one ventured. I’m sure I turned red, that is pretty much 1 phrase out of a handful I aim to hear but rarely do.

To say the tour was close and easy to find would be an understatement. Not to discredit my skills nor my features that indicate my locational knowledge.

Look for the red umbrella held by someone near a fountain a couple of blocks away.

Our guide was a nice Welshman which a thick, unique accent. He had really good diction and smiled a lot.

He also knew quite a lot about Cahr-diff, that’s how he said it.

We made our way on busker’s avenue as he pointed out a castle, garden and other points of interest.

We soon arrived at Cardiff castle, which we weren’t going into but he said it is worth it, to the tourist board. It costs more than it is worth was his official opinion.

“If you enjoy castles, there are better ones outside Cahr-diff. I recommend those over this one in town.” he said.

While I do enjoy traveling, I don’t enjoy looking like a tourist. Map or phone out, camera always taking pics, etc.

I likely could’ve taken over 1000 pics in each location I went to, but I didn’t. I set a goal for my trip, 1 new pic a day for Instagram.

This is actually a very good goal to have when not traveling. If you are in the habit of looking out for anything odd, interesting or otherwise, you will find cool things to take a pic of wherever you live.

We were near the park I had been at the day before. I’d noticed a few animal statues along the wall but didn’t know the full story.  Plus there were a lot of them and I didn’t want to out myself as a tourist.

Turns out a wealthy person originally wanted the castle’s grounds to house a zoo. The city was not into this idea as they felt the animals would get out and terrorize people.

To flip his nose at this decision, he commissioned several stone animals to adorn the wall of the grounds, with the animals posed as if they were escaping.

There are dozens now but the originals all have amber eyes for that extra menacing feel.

Here are the original stone animals as they make it over the wall.

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Here’s a side view of the castle.

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We made our way down to the port area which was a pretty long walk considering how many of us there were as well as the fact that there wasn’t anything he pointed out on the walk.

Our guide popped into a bakery for pice bach, welshcakes, a national treat. It is very scone like and everyone’s grandma filled them with different fruits.

The one thing he brought up a few times on the tour was the fact that Wales is not on the UK flag though they are most definitely in the United Kingdom.

What I didn’t realize is the Union Jack is actually the flags of England, Ireland and Scotland. How often do you wonder about another nation’s flag?

Here is England’s flag, St George’s cross

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Here is Ireland’s flag, St Patrick’s cross

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Here’s Scotland’s Flag, St Andrew’s cross

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Here’s the UK flag, the ole Union Jack, which clearly is just all 3 crosses laid on top of each other.

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Here’s Wales flag, Y Ddraig Goch or the red dragon

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What the hell England?! The official reason for the lack of a red dragon on the Union Jack is that technically, the relationship between England and Wales is so old they lump it in with St George’s cross….

That’s some medieval bullshit! England, you have a chance to put a dragon on something official and you don’t do it!?

He then shares the story of how the red dragon came to be. Centuries ago, King Vortigen tries to build a castle but every day whatever they built is knocked down overnight.

The king consults his staff who advise him to find a fatherless boy in the kingdom and sacrifice him. They find a boy who may or not have grown to become Merlin.

He learns he is to be sacrificed and explains to everyone what is really going on: underground there are 2 dragons fighting, red and white. Just dig them out and you can build your castle.

The king does this, the 2 dragons fight and red wins! The boy explains the white dragon represents the Saxons, the red dragon is Vorigen’s people, aka future Welsh.

Our tour concluded near the port where there was some sort of obstacle course being run. I lingered and watched several people struggle to get up a steep ramp.

An early start coupled with a long walk meant a short nap was in order. It is funny since I didn’t have a job, I tended to sleep a couple of times a day. Maybe the idea of a mid afternoon siesta isn’t lazy but smart?

After rising, I seek out Piemaster once again. Lamb pie tonight, good and hot!

Then it is on to a new pub, Tiny Rebel, a small, newish Welsh brewery.

Their beers are fantastic! The pub is very cool too. I’d recommend a stop here even if you aren’t a beer fan.

A great day in Cardiff!

Beer  Cwtch

Song   Super Furry Animals   Fire in my Heart

Dream trip Day 102 River Lagan, brewpub, mo rain

Waking up too late to catch the hostel’s breakfast, I crossed the street to the baked potato shop for a bit of the old Irish stereotypical meal of potato.

A layer of brown gravy, ground beef chili covered with cheese,  and a lot of pepper, it was a good tater,

I had to walk back to the hostel, it was pouring rain now. There was a sofa near the window so I settled in watching it rain awhile. I put on some tunes and let the day begin.

There was a corkboard near the sometimes working elevator full of pinned papers promising activities across town.

I saw a flyer for a free walking tour daily at 10am, just meet in the lobby. Sounds perfect, tomorrow had been taken care of in a matter of moments.

Now for today. Still raining so I search maps for green spaces, brewpubs, rivers, outdoor activities, mostly free too!

A couple of miles away was most everything I look for: a park, river and brewpub. A long way if walked all at once, so I sit once I get to the park or river to relax and people watch.

This plan was also a great way to see the city, the way the people who live there see it, not touristy, just spaces created just for people.

Shortly after it finally stopped raining I hit the streets, heading towards the Botanical Gardens.

While walking I passed by a small train station which was pretty crazy in the middle of town but it said it connected to the main rail. One could conceivably travel all over Ireland from this tiny station, a portal to far away lands.

I paused once I got to the River Lagan to take a pic. Kayakers seemed to know when the rain is done for the day.

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I greatly enjoyed the neighborhoods here. Seemed everyone had a tiny, gated front yard, some brown stones had stairs leading to the door.

Another turn and I was there, Brewbot, a very modern beer bar. They’d direct me to some quality Irish beers I’d reckon.

As soon as I was seated I was directed towards a collaboration beer made by a Florida and Irish breweries, Cigar City and Galway Bay.  It was a good beer.

The pub was very sleek and modern, lots of exposed ducts and pipes. A good spot to enjoy a pint.

I made my way back via another route, still had to cross a bridge over the river.

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This road was entirely houses, no business. I quite enjoyed seeing bits of city life.

While crossing a road I was joined by a blind guy. I’d seen blind people all over and I’ll always be amazed at what humans can adapt to.

If you think you can’t explore or you may be afraid of getting lost, know that there are blind people who are daily crossing busy intersections, walking long distances in major cities across the world.

You can do it! You can do most anything you put your mind to doing.

I was en route to another pub which upon arrival felt too nice, too posh.

Testing my luck I returned to the pub I’d been at the night before, Lavery’s. Even fewer people in the upstairs part this time. Hardly anyone playing pool

I move downstairs, to a more wooden, brewpub feel. They have a completely different selection down here, mainly smaller breweries along with small plates of food.

I pick a pint and sit at an empty chair near the window. Can’t have a random adventure every night so enjoy them when you do.

Besides, I had a full day pretty early in the morning, walking tour.

Beer:  Phaethon

Song: the Undertones  Teenage Kicks

 

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