The Ghastly Gathering…

Veteran regular readers of this blog may recall that here in our family residence we collect and curate an esoteric and hideous assembly of keepsakes [more here. ]

Our most recent expedition, which involved 15 countries threatened to be fertile ground for additions to the naff shelves.

A  nervous, hasty flit through Albania yielded nothing, owing to our not having stopped long enough to forage but since Northern Greece and The Peloponnese had been our goal it seemed fitting to acquire a suitably awful object derived from there. How appropriate, then to arrive at Nafplio and discover a wealth of such items! Nafplio is a veritable hotbed of ‘gift’ shops. After some deliberation we settled on this:

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-A fir tree, a church and an egg-timer all in one, it is also a fridge magnet! Were I ever to become a habitual user of egg-timers what better place to keep it than on the fridge? Sadly though I am neither a user of egg-timers nor is Husband a devotee of fridge magnets [a small collection of these was unceremoniously dumped many years ago when Husband confessed his abhorrence of them] so this cunning little object resides on the naff shelves, nestling among the other horrors.

I felt that if we were to obtain something dreadful anywhere it could be Bulgaria, judging from the appearance of its towns and shops. Belogradchik’s fortress and stunning rock formations are not universally known and the surrounding few cafes and gift shops are few and a little desultory. The coffee and snack selection was underwhelming. But a tiny shack with artisanal stuff yielded this:

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I am at a loss to explain what it is-or what the significance may be, as no explanation was forthcoming-or at least not one that we were able to understand. In the context, however of the naff shelves it is perfectly at home.

The greatest prize was won in the wonderful Market Hall of Budapest, where the first floor houses a plethora of magnificent souvenirs so that we were almost spoilt for choice. Once we’d spotted this particular item [shown below] we were in no doubt that it couldn’t be bettered. There was a range of Russian dolls but Husband, a die-hard Rolling Stones fan took a shine to this portrayal of his idols, looking as little like their namesakes as Lady Gaga to Saint Theresa:

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Sir Mick, here on the Russian doll bears a passing resemblance to Jon Hurt. And I can’t help wondering what Keith, Charlie and Ronnie would have to say about their diminished status-Charlie in particular since he has dwindled almost to nothing and manages to surpass only the tiny guitar-doll:

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And yesterday I was able to add another new contribution, kindly donated by Offspring, a gem gathered from a visit to Rome:

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Lovely!

 

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The B&B Rant

A lot of people swear by B&Bs for their holiday accommodation needs. B&Bs, guest houses, chambers d’hotes-whatever you like to call them-differ from hotels in a variety of ways, but personally I would prefer to eat my own hair than stay in them.
The reasons fans of B&Bs give for loving them are varied, but rely on the principle of the ‘personal touch’. They say things like ‘such nice people’, ‘just like family’, ‘home from home’ and it is just this that provokes me to shudder at the idea of staying in one. This judgement does not come from hearsay, reportage or conversation but from real, empirical research. In other words, my experiences of said places have been entirely negative.
I don’t want to stay in someone’s home. I can manage [just about] to stay with close family members for up to two nights, perhaps but even then I find it hard to manage.
I don’t want to sleep in an overheated, tiny, stuffy room crammed with family photos, ornaments, souvenirs of Brixham, lace doilies and knick-knacks. I don’t want to be suffocated by an enormous cloud of puffy duvet.
We are not the earliest of risers. I want a lovely, exclusive en suite [for night time needs, if nothing else] and at least two cups of tea before I face anyone [Husband excluded of course]. I may want to slob about pre-ablution watching News 24.
When I do surface, I don’t really want to eat anything until at least late morning, and then I am not able to cope with ‘full English’ [in other words: cereal followed by bacon, sausage, egg, baked beans, fried bread, tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, toast and marmalade].
Most of all though I don’t wish to sit at the breakfast table and make small talk with the ‘friendly, welcoming’ host or hostess. I don’t want their life story, learn what their grandchildren are studying at university or where they have been for their holidays.
If all this makes me sound humbug I don’t care. Give me a plain, simple, anonymous hotel. It doesn’t need a stupendous view, an infinity pool, a Michelin starred restaurant or four posters [although they can be fun…]. I want to be able to use a breakfast buffet-preferably up until eleven or so. I want tea and coffee making facilities [biscuits are always a bonus]. I want a TV I can watch from the bed. I want a firm, clean, comfortable bed with options for temperature control [ie covers to put on or remove]. I want a clean, efficient en suite with a shower that doesn’t need a degree in engineering to operate. Ideally, some beautiful toiletries are provided. I’d really like a late night bar where I can grab a last glass of wine before I turn in. I’d like INTERNET [included in the price!]. I’d like pleasant, non intrusive service.
I don’t mind that it is part of a ‘chain’ and every room is the same. It needn’t have an Alpine or Namibian Desert view.
Otherwise-give me a comfortable, efficient camper van, which does have ensuite, tea & coffee making, glass of wine and TV-and I don’t need to talk to anyone [Husband excluded]…

Herwig the Hoaxer

                This post is dedicated to Bosswachter, who we met recently in an Antwerp bar and who provided us with a dash of entertainment before the long drive home.

                Following our mini sojourn in Amsterdam, having been spectators [of sorts] at the marathon and witnessed a satisfactory outcome, we’d planned to break the return journey by taking a quick look at Antwerp.

                There was an ‘aire’ at Antwerp, Husband reassured me. The ‘aire’ was furnished with water, electricity and [best of all] a shower block. It was near the centre of the city-no more than a short cycle into the town via dedicated cycle tracks. Antwerp, with its cobbled streets and tall, gabled buildings is another historic gem of a city to rival Bruges or Ghent.

                We arrived to the ‘aire’, were greeted, as promised, by a manned reception and handed a bag for rubbish. So far so good. ‘Did we have a toilet?’ enquired the receptionist, causing my heart to plummet into my boots. Of course we do have a miniscule, basic porta-loo, for night purposes; not the gleaming, walk-in, capsule type of facility offered by larger motorhomes [of which there were a few, parked up on the hard standing area of the site].

                I might have known there’d be no washing facilities. The fabled shower block was there, yes, but had fallen out of use, the doors locked, the water extinguished. Having, by now, however achieved a sixth sense about these situations I’d taken the precaution of showering and hair washing at the beautiful Amstelveen site before we left that morning [see previous post]. Phew!

                We cycled into Antwerp. It was easy-a level, off-road path-until nearer the centre, when the path disappeared and it was necessary to share the street with cars, trucks, buses and trams.

                The old city is wonderful and boasts a plethora of souvenir shops to rival Bruges-lace, chocolate and beer. There is a grand square with an ornate town hall and an enormous, verdigris encrusted statue spouting plumes of water, the square bordered by a fringe of bars, cafes and restaurants. As evening descended we sat at a table and ordered Flemish stew accompanied by wine and beer. Heaven!

                Returning later by night we opted for a last drink at an out-of-town bar nearer to the site, where an almost lone landlady stood polishing glasses behind the counter. As we sat, resting elbows on the bar top, we were accosted by a solid, whiskered gentleman who assailed us with a stream of Flemish, seeming to be in the nature of an enquiry. We did not speak Flemish? OK, how about Francais? ‘Un peu’ I replied-my stock answer. We conducted a halting conversation about our travels and where I’d learned French, culminating in his excusing himself to visit the toilettes. He reappeared, smiling. ‘Now’, he said, ‘we can speak English!’

                He was, of course, delighted with his prank-delighted enough to have infected us with the merriment of it, despite the joke being on us…well, if I’m honest…me.

                Anyway, cheers, Herwig! See you next time!