Yes, TWIN babies!! Here are some FAQ’s…
It’s been a few days now since the bombshell, and I thought I’d express my personal thoughts, with the help of some gifs from the TV show Castle.
Thursday, January 12, 2017 began like most weekdays for me. I booted up my computer for work, and while I’m waiting for everything to load and/or open, I browsed West Ham news on my phone (there’s usually bit of that accumulated as I’m in the Central time zone, 6 hours behind England).
The first few headlines were transfer rumors and speculations, and then I see the link to Bilić’s pre-match conference. I don’t always watch these, but on this day I did. I started the video and then shifted my focus to my computer, so was only half paying attention, and then I swear my brain did a sudden record scratch and I started it over, giving it my full attention. My initial reaction was stunned silence.
I wanted so badly to not believe it, but there Bilić was, spelling it out plainly for us. Here, I also have to add how much I appreciate Bilić giving it to us straight up, no flowery or vague PR bullshit. Respect to Slav, big time. I watched that video three times in a row. I absorbed the details, noting Bilic’s demeanor. I dare anyone to try and say Bilic is not devoted to this team; the raw emotion was tangible. This player, to whom Bilic, the team, the board have given every advantage, preferential treatment, the highest wages in the club’s history, has chosen to shit all over all of them, not only demanding they let him leave after less than a year into his 5 year contract, but also refusing to play for us. Refusing to play!
My first tweet about the matter calmly stated my disappointment. How could he do this to the fans who revere and worship him so devotedly? My next tweet was a Re-Tweet a of Payet’s from last January, about how he was proud to wear the shirt of West Ham and that his future is here for many years. I appealed that I didn’t want to hate him, but I was worried it might be to late to avoid. Logically I knew what he was doing was a disgrace and a complete dick-move, even if I wasn’t emotionally ready for a sudden 180 in opinion for someone I held in very high regard. Even though this season has had more cringe-worthy moments than not, we had Payet. The man was a free kick merchant. We had Payet! He was a genius who created more chances than anyone else in the Premier League. We had Payet!! And we just didn’t think anyone understood. Turns out it was us that didn’t understand.
I had to switch my focus to work for a while, and later spent some time reading other news stories and discussing things with others on Twitter. I posted a tweet surmising that Noble must be feeling heartbroken, given the Bromance that had existed between the two. Betrayal on professional and multiple personal levels. It was just too much. I’ll admit I addressed these tweets to Payet’s twitter handle…I knew perfectly well there would be no response, it just made me feel a little better somehow. I posted another tweet, one last solemn rendition of the first line of the song his fans lovingly created for him (accompanied by a gif of Dean Winchester stoically crying) and with that I mourned and let go that which I thought I had, and accepted the new reality.
And then I just got mad.
In hindsight, maybe I should’ve regarded his douchey cars and how he dressed in outfits that cost more than my mortgage payment and which made him look like a tool, but I felt I was just being judgemental (what do I know about European fashion, anyway?) and told myself these superficial things didn’t define him as a person. For this, I was irritated at myself.
More info came out throught the day, some elaborations of details we already knew, some new tidbits. Pay raise demands, unprofessional attitude towards his training and teammates, a £1 million loyalty bonus to keep him here through the end of the season, refusing to sign autographs for children, and a hint of a rumor of why he might be separated from his wife…
We learned his wife and family have already moved to France and that appears to be why he seems hell bent to go specifically to Marseilles. I understand one has to do what they have to do for their family. It would even be admirable, IF he hadn’t gone about it in the most unprofessional and disrespectful way. I think anyone would be hard pressed to betray their club and the fans who worship him so thoroughly and instantly. It’s almost like he made himself a challenge to see how fast he could fall from hero to zero.
Some claim he’s at least partially justified because of the promises made to him by the board that didn’t ever come to fruition. Myself, I think that’s in no way an acceptable justification for this course of action.
The backlash from the fans came, and it came HARD. There’d been speculation from some that he was unhappy and wanted to leave, but had you told me on Jan 11th that I would feel such revulsion, there’s no way I would’ve believed it. In the following days, I’ve heard the sentiment that West Ham fans are the worst in the country when they turn against you, and it is true. It wasn’t long until his Wiki page had been ‘corrected’ by angry fans (mostly changing facts to snake references). Videos of fans denouncing him, throwing his jerseys out the window, the most ardent supporters admitting they had loved him but have lost all respect and sadly changing their Payet-centric social media profiles, all within hours of Bilić’s interview. Those with Payet jerseys post the ‘corrections’ made, many to turn them into Reid jerseys. There was even a musical cartoon video that made me laugh SO hard. I myself included in every post, reply and retweet, the hashtag #SuckItPayet. I was hoping it might catch on, but…well, I just don’t have that much influence on Twitter. Countless new renditions of his song (ranging in cleverness and intensity) flooded my feed.
Bilić’s position in the interview was that they are not going to sell him in this transfer window. Many people’s opinion seems to be we should just sell him, make as much money as we can get and just be done with the ungrateful bag-o-dicks. Logically, I know this does make sense…
…but when I feel wronged, I get vindictive and spiteful. I say NO WAY should he get his way after his deplorable behavior. That sets a terrible precident. Fine him for not appearing and let him rot in the reserves until such time as he acts with some goddamned integrity and works his way back to the first team and grovels and begs for the fans’ forgiveness. Which, honestly, has only a slim chance of redeeming him if it’s at all possible at this point.
From all the upheaval, a curious side effect has taken place…the fans on social media are more united than I’ve ever seen them. And in consideration about the match about to take place, the exclusion of Payet from the game has the potential of also bonding the team and inspiring a strong unified front. Support is rallied for other players to take this opportunity to shine. I was still wary about the upcoming game, but cautiously optimistic about this newfound solidarity.
Match Day. My match day experience varies quite a bit from those in England. I roll out of bed with just enough time to throw on my jersey and check the starting lineup before kickoff. It’s 9am here, I’m not drinking nor am I with a group of other supporters (there are a few Hammers in my area but we can only meet up when a match starts late enough for bars to be open). My husband watches with me, but I am far more engaged than he is.
The first half passes with mediocrity, 0-0 at halftime. Yes, I’m nervous. But Super Slav makes a substitution and formation change which proves to be the exact thing we need. Things are much more competitive and finally, Feghouli scores his goal.
The intensity continues and soon Andy Carroll blows everyone’s minds with that screamer of a bicycle kick. I believe my exact expression was, “Holy Shit!”
I am downright giddy at this point, as we have a comfortable lead and the end of the game is quickly approaching. Then, Lanzini, that adorable jewel, makes his run and amazing chip over the goalkeeper to float neatly into the net. His celebration jump into the stands was worth the yellow, no question.
The match ends, and the celebration is rampant on Twitter. Every other tweet is “Payet Who?” Players, staff and board members express barely veiled jabs at Payet in their praises of the virtues of working as a team and that no player is greater than the club. And of course, I’m repeatedly including my new favorite catchphrase, “Suck it Payet”, in anything I post.
As I write this, it is Sunday night. The question on my mind is, what is going to happen on Monday? Will Payet show up for training or continue acting like a petulant, spoiled child? I have no sympathy for whatever befalls him now. Payet can suck a corner flag for all I care.
Here is my take on the various levels of Bromance between Mark Noble and Dimitri Payet. Why does there need to be levels? There doesn’t. Why 8? I don’t know. This is the kind of thing that happens when I’m bored and have West Ham on the brain…
Level 1: Standard High-Fives. Fairly common among almost any teammates. Job well done. Outsiders probably wouldn’t immediately guess there is a bond between us.
Level 2: Premium High-Fives. I am happy to be celebrating this moment with you, specifically. We’ll probably talk about whatever we’re celebrating later, while bonding.
Level 3: The “Bro” hug. I want to congratulate you or maybe console you, depending on the situation. Quick and manly, these are not a very big deal. Usually requires a moderate level of friendliness before hugs happen.
Level 4: The “I love ya, mate” hug. Similar to the Premium High-Fives, I’ve sought you out specifically and want to hug you. You are special to me and I want to share my happy moments with you and it’s not awkward if it lasts a little while.
Level 5: The “Let’s hold hands while we talk” level. We like each other so much we find ourselves in various levels of physical contact, and we’re comfortable with that. People can instantly tell there’s a bond there.
Level 6: “Extreme Broment”. A regular hug just won’t cut it. I am going to jump on you or pick you up or something wild. Someone’s carrying someone at some point. Others might want to join in celebration but may be reluctant as they don’t want to intrude on the Broment.
Level 7: The “Embrace Me Now” level. We are so excited to hug that we may slide into each other with force. Also, it may appear we might just be about to…make out a little. And that’s okay.
Level 8: “Rolling On The Ground Together In Each Others’ Arms”. Fairly self explanatory. Ignoring all others, we only need each other to be happy.
This concludes our walk through the levels of the Noble & Payet bromance.
Shove off, Andy, you’re not coming between us!
It was a dreary, drizzly day last year on the day I decided to become a West Ham fan. For the full story on that, check out this blog. Today is my West Hammiversary (sorry, I’m a sucker for terrible puns) so I thought I’d reflect a bit on the past year and my journey as a new Hammer.
Starting out, I knew basically nothing about the official rules, the workings of English football leagues, or how much this all would effect my life.
YouTube has been a great resource. I watched quite a few videos on the team’s history, highlights of classic moments, and West Ham-related channels. The first I subscribed to included Spencer Owen and Hammer & Talk. I find Spencer to be rather charismatic and knowledgeable, with impressive video quality, but I could really care less for the video game ones and those seem to make up 75% of his content. Hammer & Talk I find very entertaining, and he’s helped me expand my UK/football lingo, slang and profanity (who doesn’t want more creative ways to swear?). My subscription list has been steadily growing, and guys like Spencer and Jay inspire me to get more involved in social media. Even Mark the Rib Man on Twitter has been entertaining to follow as well as encouraging with his tweet responsiveness (he’s good for more than just giving you his meat). Maybe one day I’ll become Twitter-popular enough that some of those guys will follow me back on Twitter. Fingers crossed.
Speaking of Twitter… I started off following the team and maybe a dozen other relevant accounts like West Ham Central, Social and Photos. Last month I took the leap and switched from using my normal Twitter handle to a new West Ham handle. I’m maybe a little…enthusiastic about following anyone and everyone that expresses interest in West Ham, but my followers have been steadily increasing and I think I’ll pass my first 1,000 followers tonight (that’s exciting for me). I’m making Hammer friends all over the place–I even found a new one in Kansas City today (that’s pretty rare)! I even got trolled by my first Millwall fan after the FA Cup replay with Man United.
One of the problems of being 6 hours behind London time is at night when I’m spending the most time browsing the interwebs, almost all other Hammers are asleep. I even celebrate the start of match day on BST, because why the hell not? It doesn’t make sense to delay the joy of match day; I want to celebrate when everyone else is! It was an interesting change on Tuesday night when people couldn’t sleep after the Man Utd game. I had so many people to chat with!
On the other side, when I wake up, there a whole cache of West Ham news to catch up on. I use one of those websites that collects all the West Ham headlines so I can read them all from one place. In regards to this, If you know of a news collection site that will let me filter out the obnoxious amount of unsubstantiated transfer rumors, please let me know! I personally don’t need to hear about someone almost changing teams until they have come over for the physical or have actually signed something (and posted a picture “signing” a blank piece of paper).
Also, I always skip past articles about projected line-ups for matches. I’ll make the occasional comment about how I wish they wouldn’t start Antonio at RB–AGAIN–but I don’t get the point in reading articles where the whole of their content is just a guess of what team Bilić is going to play.
Question: if Payet just signed a new contract supposedly keeping him at West Ham until 2021, how come people are worried about other clubs signing him this summer? How does this work? What is the point of a contract if they don’t seem like they have any actual power to keep someone with the club they signed with? I really need to sit down and do some research on this topic, I suppose.
I’m sure some of the aspects I find odd or have difficulty understanding has to do with the ocean rift between myself and the BPL. I’m just a Yank after all, and I’ve never been sports-smart in general. I’m amazed at things like away fans having a strictly designated section at stadiums and how general ticket sales are only a few weeks before matches. That last one made it terribly difficult to make travel plans when I decided I needed to make a journey to Upton Park before the end of the season. I ended up playing it safe and going Mark Noble’s Testimonial, as tickets were available 6 weeks beforehand and I could be reasonably certain they wouldn’t change the date. I’d been considering the Watford game in March which got moved due to the FA Cup match, and not just by a few days, but weeks! I can only imagine how disappointed I’d be had I gambled with that game. But, the Testimonial worked out to be a great birthday trip for myself. I was able to get a stadium tour and while Noble almost passed me by in the crowd of autograph seekers after the match, when I pleaded that it was my birthday, he came back, signed my program and wished me a happy birthday. If I already didn’t think Nobes was a great guy, I’d have been instantly sold. I’m a Noble fan for life. I wish I’d have heard Baz serenading Noble at the time because I would’ve joined in and sung the shit out of that.
And then there was yesterday. Yesterday they announced 2 games to be played in the US in July. I was working and on a training call when I read the news, and I’m immeasurably glad my phone was already on mute because I legitimately squealed. Now I’m excited to connect with the network of overseas Hammers I’ve connected with on social media. My husband is also happy because we’ll get to go to a Mariners game in Seattle as well, crossing off another stadium from the list of baseball stadiums he has yet to visit (He supports my support of West Ham, but he’s really a baseball guy). I am stoked about the Seattle game, a little less so about this random North Carolina team. I still think they should’ve planned a match with Sporting Kansas City due to it’s MLS status, stadium size, atmosphere, central location in the country, but what can ya do…
Also on the subject of Sporting Kansas City, my love for West Ham and consequent learning of the rules has given me a greater appreciation for my local team. I casually followed them before because of the aforementioned great atmosphere at the games, but now I really get into the game itself. And if I can’t be at…well, basically any West Ham games in person, I can have a good footy day out from time to time. It does help.
Something Mark Noble said during the Farewell Boleyn festivities the other night really stuck with me. He said the fans were his family, and though it may just have been my empathy to his visible emotion, it struck a chord. These other Hammers I’ve met at the Testimonial and (mostly) social media have been remarkably accepting and welcoming me into the supportership (¿is that a word?) family of West Ham United. I love it. It’s been a great year and I’m looking forward to everything to come. Maybe I wasn’t born into it, but I’m definitely West Ham Till I Die.
I’m celebrating the end of my first year as a Hammer by planning my trip to Seattle. Maybe for my next Hammiversary I’ll celebrate with a tattoo, what do you think?
Saturday, May 7th, 9:00am local time (Kansas City, Missouri). I’ve just woken up, wearing my West Ham gear and watching in my living room with my husband and 4 cats.
Oh look, Carroll has the douchey braids again.
[2′: Payet first corner, taps it out rather than kicks]
Well that wasn’t what I expected…
Lanzini, get it!
[6′ Payet corner, and then another. Lanzini makes tackle]
[8′ Antonio approaches goal]
I want him to score so I can see his so-called best goal celebration
[9′ Cresswell to Noble, Noble way overshoots]
Awww man (sees Noble’s face) it’s ok, Nobes, we still love you!!
[10′ Announcer: Swansea can’t seem to get out of their own half]
Like it when they don’t start slow! Gives me hope!
[Announcer says Payet without the T]
[11′ Announcer mentions Kouyate red card rescinded previous Swansea game]
Uh, YEA cuz that was bullshit¡
[13′ Announcer mentions Noble not being called up to England squad]
*sings* Noble for England *cat looks at me funny*
[17′ Free Kick given]
Niiiice……hoping to see somethin’ goood!
[Announcer says Payet without the T while saying the Payet song]
[18′ Free kick taken, just over the bar]
[20′ Kouyate fouled by Swansea #33]
#33 I’m watching you *points to eyes then at player*
[24′ Swansea goal]
[25′ Announcer: it was too easy]
[27′ corner kick, GK comes out and is on the ground, ogbonna overshoots]
AAAAAAAAAAARGH! That should’ve been perfect!!
[29′ Randolph saves]
[30′ suddenly, second goal]
Come on, boys! Shut it down! Randolph, I had faith in you, wake up!!!
[31′ Noble fouled, free kick taken, easily deflected]
[35′ Lanzini shoots wide, another corner, announcer comments on mood in the park has changed]
I was kindof expecting to hear a lot more singing today.
[39′ announcer commenting on Antonio as right-back]
Man, we need to get a right-back and let Antonio play his normal position!!
[40′ announcer mentions celebrations for Tuesdays game (camera focuses on Trevor Brooking), says: I imagine Trevor Brooking is invited to the celebrations]
Uuuh, ya think??? Come on, don’t say dumb things….
Man, it just needs to be halftime already so Bilic can get these guys’ heads screwed on right.
[44′ Payet shoots right to GK]
Has Payet got The Yips or what?
[2 mins stoppage]
[47′ Carroll to Lanzini (who is laying on the ground) but misses]
[45′ Announcer: Swansea have only won once at Upton Park, 60 years ago]
[46′ Moses handball]
[49′ Moses offside]
[50′ Announcer calls Moses lazy]
Dang Moses, step it up!
[51′ 3rd Swansea goal]
GODDAMNIT! *1 cat jumps off my lap and runs away*
[52′ Carrol attempt on goal, good shot, but straight to GK]
Time to think about making some changes out there, Bilic. We trust you to make good choices….
[54′ Antonio attempt, back to Carroll, misses wide]
AAAAAAAAAArgh they’re making me sound like a muppet. Like, an actual Jim Henson muppet. Maybe Kermit.
[57′ Announcer says Swansea are playing with more confidence and more adventure]
[58′ Moses off, Sakho on]
Alright, lets hope this shakes things up somewhat.
[60′ Announcer: West Ham are all over the place at the moment]
Yea, yea, I can see that. Shut Up.
[62′ camera shows crowd]
Wow, it must be warm out there today, nobody’s in jackets! Much more claret and blue can be seen vs black jackets.
[64′ Corner, taken, deflected]
[65′ Carroll called offside]
Keep your stupid braids ON-side!
[66′ Antonio shot deflected, corner given, Payet takes, deflected, back to Payet, to Antonio, saved twice, finally Sakho gets it in]
HOLY CRAP, FINALLY!!!!
[68′ Antonio shoots, WAY wide]
Antonio, WTF was that???
[70′ Swansea first corner]
Ok, good, get it away.
[71′ Yellow Card for Sakho]
Weak, but whatever.
[76′ Kouyate off, Emenike on]
[78′ Sakho attemps, knocked out, corner given]
Alright Payet…..aaaand nope.
[80′ 70 yard run by Antonio]
[Swansea tackles, people tumble to the ground, no foul given]
Aw come on now…
[81′ Reid given Yellow Card, Announcer comments West Ham fans starting to leave]
*feeling sad about this last Saturday home game at Upton Park*
[82′ Announcer says Emenike like EmenEEKEE]
[82′ Lanzini out, Valencia on]
Nooo, I love Lanzini!
It doesn’t do any good to have all the strikers out there if they can’t create any chances….
[84′ Ogbonna Yellow, didn’t even see what he did, so….no opinion]
[85′ Emenike kicks straight to Swansea]
Emenike, what are you even doing?!
[87′ Antonio very nearly makes own goal]
[87′ Announcer: West Ham haven’t done anything to deserve to win it, really]
[89′ Payet takes a corner, Reid being held, no penalty]
[90′ Nice save by Randolph]
[91′ Payet shoots, misses, given corner]
Hey, I hadn’t seen or heard mention of Payet in a little while. I guess he’s still playing. Sort of.
[92′ Yet another Swansea goal]
Oh, for fucks sake!
[Swansea players crawling on the ground in celebration??]
WTF is that? I don’t get it…..
[Final whistle blown]
Well, that was definitely disappointing. Reading all the buildup on Twitter of fans getting ready for, traveling to the game, and how everyone was emotional about the last Saturday game at the Boleyn. Honestly I thought I’d hear way more singing by the home fans, even when losing, just because of that.
They started strong, and had a lot of possession at the beginning, but couldn’t create the chances. Can’t complain about any massive referee mistakes today, which is a relief in a way, but just means their 4-1 loss was all the more due to poor performance, maybe bad luck.
Overall, I give this game one huge ‘Disappointed Bilic’
Still, one crappy game isn’t the end of the world. There’s still a chance of Europa league, so, here’s hoping for Tuesday….
A few weeks ago I was in London for Mark Noble’s testimonial game. I was asked probably a dozen times why I–an American–am a West Ham fan. I thought I’d share my personal West Ham origin story…
Like many Hammers, my father is the reason I support WHU, but there’s a twist. In fact, I’m fairly certain he wasn’t even aware of the existence of the team.
My dad passed away in 2013 from Multiple Myeloma (f*ck cancer). He was very passionate about traveling, and his last trip, to Europe, was cut short due to illness. I thought it fitting to use the bit of inheritance I got on my own European trip.
The trip was all over the place, hitting 7 countries in 15 days. I don’t usually gravitate towards typical tourist attractions, preferring the unique and often geeky things. I visited the village of Wells to see where Hot Fuzz–one of my all-time favorite movies–was filmed. I attended a triennial cat festival in a random village in Belgium, which involved a 4 hour parade followed by an hour-long tossing of plushie cats from the village’s massive cloth hall. You know, the usual.
While at The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, I met a Whovian traveling alone, so we ended up spending most of the day together. She told me about The Who Shop in London, which was immediately added to my London agenda.
Of the 4 days spent in London, only 1 was raining steadily all day (I know, I was amazed). This was the day I went to the cat cafe and then to The Who Shop. I spent most of the walk from the Upton Park station to Barking Road just trudging forward with my shoulders hunched and my hood up, despite the hoodie being soaked through. At one point, I notice a large structure to my left. Boleyn Ground, home of West Ham United.
This is a weird revelation for me. Some time ago I’d enjoyed a program called The IT Crowd. Long story short, nerdy guy trying to fit in with “proper men” names West Ham as his team, thinking he’s made the team up from seeing a ham in the pub, but then the whole table turns out to be Hammers.
So, finding myself realizing West Ham is a REAL real team I decide they will be MY team. That might sound odd, I know. I have thought about it, and with the other sports teams I support there was never really a moment where a conscious decision was made to be a fan. It’s either local area teams my family supported when I was growing up or the few teams I’ve eventually adopted after moving to a new area. This seems to be the normal way of it, I think, without a single moment of decision, but rather an inherited or slowly-grown loyalty you don’t ever find yourself questioning. But I’ve never considered myself to be exceedingly normal, so West Ham it shall be.
My vacation ended a few days later and, after a brief travel recovery period, I dove into the world of West Ham United. After reading up on their history, I get to more current news (this was the time after Big Sam but before Bilic was hired). I also spent countless hours on YouTube, watching old and new highlights, stories, and subscribing to relevant channels. On the one hand, it was probably good I started my self-education between seasons so I had time to learn as much as I could, but on the other hand, I was just impatient for games to start.
I had a lot to learn. I’m not overly into sports in general, and only casually support my local soccer team, so the official rules of the game were obviously important to get sorted out. I’ve also had to familiarize myself with football terms and UK slang. Cockney Rhyming Slang was an interesting discovery, but I’ve got enough of the common ones down that I don’t find myself getting confused as often. For everything else that doesn’t make sense, I am not shy about Googling. The announcers reference some person or event I’m not familiar with, I’ll look it up. The first time I heard the Payet song, I had to look up who Zidane was (that guy was intense). I’m still far from an expert, but these days I can answer more of my husband’s questions on my own than I need to research.
The first matches I watched were the Europa League qualifiers, poor quality online streaming on my phone propped next to my computer monitor while I worked. Eventually the regular season began and I was ecstatic to learn that the matches were aired by my cable provider.
I’ll admit at first I would record the early morning games and watch them when I woke up, but as it’s gotten more important to me, I now wake up early to watch them live. A few weeks ago I was in St Louis to attend a comic convention, and so I was back to watching a streaming video on my phone that morning, even for the first 20 mins walking around the convention until the game ended.
I decided it was important enough to me to attend at least one match at the Boleyn Ground, even if it was Noble’s testimonial and not a regular Premier League match, since that was the only thing I could get tickets to far enough in advance to make international travel plans for and that I could be reasonably sure the date of which wouldn’t be moved. It didn’t have the intensity I perceive from a competitive match, but I had such a great time and am absolutely glad I went.
I realize there are those that will never consider me a “true fan”, since I don’t have the lifelong history with the club, let alone attend every game, but the team has my love, support and loyalty regardless. My passion and enthusiasm has only continued to grow. I yell obscenities at the TV when one of the boys are fouled, I wear West Ham gear when watching every game, and I sing “Bubbles” with a bit of a Cockney accent because, really, it doesn’t sound right without it. One of my lifelong-supported teams hasn’t had the best performance record over the past 2-3 decades, so if West Ham’s success this season is short lived, I can handle it. However, I have a feeling they’ll shine bright for a while yet. COYI!!
The following events take place between May 15th and 17th, 2015.
Having packed most everything the night before, we pretty much just roll out of bed and throw our pajamas and phone chargers in the luggage and then go check out. We make our way over to the Tube and catch the Piccadilly line for the slow ride to Heathrow (about an hour). We could’ve gone over to Paddington and caught the Heathrow Express, but I’m just so not a fan of Paddington now that I’d rather spend twice as much time on the train than go back there. Plus we had enough credit on our Oyster cards that it didn’t make much sense to spend more money on the Express ticket when we can get there with the credit we already have.
We get through Security without incident, and have given ourselves enough of a time cushion that we have time to eat lunch and shop a little. We opt for a hot meal and get some meat pies. Jon got a beef one with mashed potatoes and gravy and I got a chicken and mushroom one, plain. Pretty tasty for airport food, though!!
And then we met the knights!!
Confused? So was I. Apparently they are rugby fans traveling to a match. They were very nice and got up to take a picture with me.
Then a few minutes later we ran into another group of guys for the same thing. These guys were much more rowdy (drunk), but got very excited when I wanted to take a picture with them. The blonde guy with the red cape next to me got beer poured on his head by the buddy standing above him in the first pic, but it didn’t seem to bother him as he was the one most determined to round up all the guys for the picture….and hugging me to him while doing so.
Eventually we had to leave the revelry and get to our gate. It was a quick hour and 20 min flight over to Dublin. It was raining there. We caught a bus to the Temple Bar area and had some fun walking around trying to find our hotel while dragging our luggage on cobblestone streets, but luckily the rain had let up for us.
We were staying at the Temple Bar Inn, which is one of the lesser known lodgings with ‘Temple Bar’ in the name. We knew we were on the right street but trying to find the number proved confusing. I discovered later that the street changes names like twice right in that area so the numbers kept starting over. After getting bad directions from a bartender and a street vendor, I decided I’d check out the Tourist Office we found ourselves near. THAT guy was able to help. The door to the hotel is randomly next to a grocery store, and the main parts of the hotel under and above the store and the signage is not eye-catching, so that’s why we weren’t seeing it.
The lobby downstairs was huge. We checked in and went up to our room. The room was Okay; a little small, if long. Hardwood floors (I much prefer carpet), no A/C–luckily the day was still overcast and not overly warm or I’d have been super annoyed.
We explored a bit of the Temple Bar area, and took some photos, and then were drawn into a pub because of the music. The place didn’t have any open tables. I was able to snag a stool but Jon was standing for a while. I was eying a couple sitting next to each other at a table for 4, with the opposite seats empty, and finally went and asked if we could use the seats. They were a young German couple and the guy was really friendly and chatty, but his wife wasn’t. After the band was done with their set (about a half hour), the couple left and we took their spots against the wall.
Some time and a handful of drinks later, we headed back to our hotel with a quick stop at the grocery store below the hotel to pick up some sodas and snacks and a bag of small apple pies because how often do you come across a bag of pies? About as often as you come across a pie vending machine, I think.
Anyway, we chilled in the room watching TV and I noticed how light it was for being after 9pm.
Then we were serenaded to sleep by the sounds of bad karaoke drifting up from the street.
~*~*~*~*~The Next Day~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The next morning was sunny, but windy and cold. I lasted about 10 mins outside before I decided I needed a sweater. We happened upon a comic shop, so we went in to check it out and I purchased a Batman sweater.
We walked the several blocks over to the Jameson Distillery. We didn’t have a reservation, so we had to settle for an hour and a half wait for a tour. We decided we’d have an early lunch, and luckily the distillery had a restaurant. Jon ordered fish & chips, while I ventured way out of my comfort zone and tried the oatmeal-breaded chicken in a tortilla cone with rocket and sweet chili mayo. It was definitely…interesting. I ate it all, but I don’t think I’d ever get it again.
Finally it came time for the tour. We watched a short video and then walked through, visiting each step of the whiskey-creating process. Then they gave us samples of their whiskey, plus 2 other brands, to demonstrate the difference in taste. I could definitely taste the smokiness in the Johnny Walker sample (because of the peat used in their barley drying process). Of the 3 samples, I didn’t particularly like any of them, but I disliked Jameson the least, so…I guess that’s a good thing. At the end of the tour we had the option of drinks between straight-up whiskey or a ginger lime cocktail (which is what I had). Not too bad, but it took me a while to get through it all.
After all this, we walked to Dublin Castle and took a tour there. Most of the castle is gone now, but there was some pretty interesting evidence of some of the older towers and stuff underground that they have excavated, and you could see a little bit of the underground river which was originally one of the borders of the castle. They have a large hall where they hold the presidential inaugurations and other important events. The queen made an appearance a few years ago and made a speech, partially in Gaelic, which was well received by the locals.
After this, my feet were rather tired, but since it was our last day I toughed it out. Also, I noticed these signs all over the place…pro and against marriage equality for a vote they were going to have the next week. (it passed, btw)
We did a quick walkthrough of Trinity college, but their giant old library wasn’t open so we didn’t stay long. Then we walked around looking at shops and buying a couple souvenirs. It was pretty crowded with mostly tourists and a couple street performers.
We made our way back to the pub we stopped at the night before, but actually to eat in the upstairs area. I had shepherd’s pie and Jon had a stew (and a Guinness) and we listened to the performers, which weren’t as good as the day before.
After dinner, I decided I had to get some churros. I’d spotted a Mexican restaurant nearby and I just had to know what churros in Ireland tasted like. They made them fresh for me, hot enough I had to wait until we got back to the hotel before I could eat them. They were smaller than I was used to, and the cinnamon-sugar all over it fell off in a way similar to eating a powdered sugar doughnut, but they were quite tasty.
After churros, It was time to pack again for our departure in the morning. I managed to make everything fit without over-stuffing anything. But also, after the day’s extensive walking around, one of the blisters on my feet was just ridiculous so I took some time seeing to that and then wrapping up that portion of my foot with medical tape and gauze so I wouldn’t have issues while traveling.
While trying to sleep, we were once again bombarded with karaoke sounds. Specifically, everyone wanted to sing Wonderwall. Why? I don’t know…that song is lame when professionally sung, but in bad karaoke rendition it’s just the worst.
In the morning, we ate the last of the tiny bag pies and headed out to catch our bus back to the airport. The ride was uneventful. We got to the airport and went through security. Then since we were traveling to the US, we had to go through US Customs Pre-Clearance, which involved another security (for which I was randomly chosen to receive a more thorough check which involved a pat down, looking through my bags and having me turn on my Netbook) and then waiting in a line to scan my passport at a kiosk and answer a bunch of questions about my travels, and then wait in another line to see an actual person to review my passport and the picture the kiosk took of me and printed out 5 minutes earlier (to make sure it was still me) and to verify the pictures they took of our luggage at the first security were in fact our luggage. All in all, that whole process was intense.
After going through all that, we discovered that if we wanted to go to the AerLingus VIP lounge, we would’ve had to have done that before coming through the US Customs pre-clearance. I was annoyed with myself that I didn’t look that up, but also annoyed at the airport setup. We decided it was not worth it to go back out and have to go through all that again and made our way to our gate to sit.
And so we sat. The board at the gate said our flight was on time and yet the time for departure came and went and we were all just sitting there. It just really got to me that it said on time when it clearly wasn’t. Just freakin’ tell me!
We finally departed, about an hour late.
We had our tasty meal of salads and beef and potatoes and parfait.
Then I watched Into the Woods, which turned out to have a far more depressing ending than I had anticipated. When we were about an hour away from landing, they served a power salad with quinoa and garbanzo beans and a pastry with tiny jam.
As we got closer to landing, I and many others on the flight were expressing their concern with making their connecting flights. I was trying to explain how we’d be landing in the International terminal and having to leave the secure area to go to the domestic terminal and go back through security to get to our connecting flight. The flight attendant thought that since we had gone through the customs in Dublin we would be considered a domestic flight. But guess what, we landed in the International terminal.
As we were taxiing in, I pulled down my large tote bag that still had some room in it and frantically stuffed one of the airline blankets into it. I barely got the thing zipped up in time and Jon was visibly nervous. But, I de-boarded with my comically-puffed tote bag.
Most of the passengers on our giant plane were trying to race out to the tram to get to the other terminals. The airport staff was helpful, with signage for us to follow, until we reached the domestic terminal, that is. It was like different worlds over there…the security lines were a hot mess and the airport employees were cranky (downright bitchy, really) and had zero sympathy for those of us whose flights were departing soon. It was just, get to the back of the line.
So we waited with as much patience as we could muster to get through the security line.
We finally make it through and get to our gate with like 10 mins until departure, and board the plane. Then the plane just sits……….
During our wait, I get to turn my phone on and have actual signal instead of relying on WiFi for the first time in 2 weeks. If I ever travel abroad again, I’m paying for the international plan.
That flight departs about an hour late, too, but it’s a quick flight from Chicago to Kansas City. Lindsey picks us up and it’s a 15 min drive home. We drop our luggage in the bedroom and pass out with the kitties.
We have now come to the end of our journey. Whether or not anyone cares anymore (because it’s taken me 3 months to get this all finished) is anyone’s guess.
I wish restaurants in the US would utilize the little mobile credit card readers.
Riding the London Underground is easy, even switching Lines…it’s finding your way after you exit that is the difficult part.
I’m glad I brought my keychain flashlight for when the power went out at the hotel in Brussels.
Ordering a Coke in a restaurant and receiving a single tiny bottle and trying to make it last through the whole meal makes me sad.
I shouldn’t have bothered bringing an umbrella.
Traveling by train was fun at first, but got old fast.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to travel to Europe again, but if I do, I’d like to spend more time in Wales and Ireland, and actually get up to Scotland.
I wish I’d sprung for the international cell phone data. Woulda saved us a lot of stress if we could find ourselves on a map and know if we’re going the right direction.
Business class is soo nice.
If you’re going to a cat cafe (anywhere), go as early as you can so the cats aren’t all sleeping.
I am unsympathetic to the plight of the German rail workers.
Some of the UK commercials are funny. Like this one we kept seeing:
The following events take place on May 13th and 14th, 2015.
This morning we begin our day by riding around one loop of the yellow route of a double-decker bus tour. I didn’t particularly want to do this, but it was the one thing in London Jon really wanted to do, so…yea.
Here are the pictures I took along the way.
Shots from the show:
The cat there is the first actual cat I’ve seen on this entire trip. He sat by our feet the entire time we were eating lunch and while not outgoingly affectionate, he did lay down and roll over as I pet him after lunch.
After lunch we took the Tube and walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe so Jon could get a shirt at the very first Hard Rock. Luckily the weather was lovely as we strolled from the Tube station through the park . Then at the Hard Rock we decided to get dessert. Also, our server happened to be American, but a Tigers fan versus Jon’s KC hat.
That evening we saw Wicked!
I found it most enjoyable. It made me laugh and cry. The music didn’t catch me at first but greatly improved after the beginning. Although, I’m still not sure what the point of that giant dragon above the stage is, because it’s not mentioned in the show….
~*~*~*~*~*~*~The next day~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Thursday morning is a rainy one. The first rain since we arrived on Monday, so overall I’d say we lucked out. Our plan for the day is to walk down to the Westminster bridge and catch the river cruise that was included with our double-decker bus tour, and then ride the Tube over to the cat cafe, which we have an appointment for. That was the plan, anyway…
First of all, the mini umbrella I’d brought turned out to be useless. Any time there was a mild gust of wind it would flip the thing inside out. After the second time in 5 minutes I gave up on it and put it away. I had a hoodie on so my head was protected, but the drizzle attacked my glasses as we tried to walk. I sighed and went into the nearest souvenir shop and bought the cheapest baseball-style hat they had. I’d resisted buying other hats on this trip and I wish now that I had bought one of the ones I’d actually liked in Brussels or something. But no, I end up with one that just says ‘London’ on it. At least it’s in shades of blue, but still, when the heck am I ever going to wear this again? I’d thought about buying an actual umbrella, but didn’t because of the size (packability) and the fact that who knows if what I’d pick to buy would be any stronger. So hoodie and baseball cap it is.
Also in the shop, we found random American baseball jackets.
We continue on towards the boat a little later than we’d wanted to. There’s a long-ass line. They fill up the boat we had wanted to catch and the line was still long. The river cruise employees don’t think we’ll make it on the next one, either. Also, we’re in line in a middle of a class of elementary school children. So now Jon’s grumpy at me for my slow getting ready that morning (which I did) and delay at the shop to get a hat (though at the time he seemed perfectly content to peruse the whole shop…he’s the one that found those baseball jackets), and grudgingly admits we’ll need to skip the boat and just catch the Tube over.
We make our Underground journey and I have my first ride that includes an above-ground train (I have heard something like 65% of the Underground is actually above ground). We exit the station and the cat cafe is a few blocks down. Here are some of the sights–a love-locked fence, huge possum street art and the cat cafe, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium.
Since we’d taken the Tube all the way instead of partially by boat, we still have an hour before our reservation time so we head to a pub across the street for lunch. I get some sliders and Jon gets some kind of crazy lobster sandwich. Also, they have an extensive selection of international beers n’ such so Jon gets some beer and I pick an English hard cider, which turns out to come in a rather huge bottle. Tasty, though a lot of drink to drink, and I have to chug the last bit so we can go make our cat cafe reservation.
Then we get to see some cats!! A good portion of them were sleeping, and they asked us not to pet the ones that were sleeping, so the few that were awake always had people paying attention to them. You definitely had to be patient until it was your turn with a lively cat. The place has got a pretty cool setup though, and I enjoyed my experience. Plus, all the people that were there obviously loved cats, too, so I felt comfortable talking to anyone (not usually the case with strangers). I think we got to stay a little bit longer than normal since someone had booked the entire place for the afternoon to do a photo shoot with the cats. We saw them pulling a bunch of photography equipment in.
As we left I bought a couple things including a tote bag, a silky scarf with kitties on it and an Oyster Card holder.
Our next stop is the Who Shop, which Kathleen told us about back in Cardiff and I decided we must go. We take the train over to Upton Park and set off on the half-mile walk to the shop. This street we’re walking down has hair salons, barber shops and beauty supply stores all over the place. No joke, it’s more of these than not, and it’s odd.
As we continue our rain-laden walk, we come across a large structure to our left. We have unknowingly stumbled upon the West Ham stadium. My inner geek freaks out. This stems back to The IT Crowd, when Roy and Moss were trying to fit in with ‘proper men’.
See, it’s funny because he panicked and made up a team name, but it turns out it’s an actual team….and outside of the show it IS a real team.
As it happened, their shop was open so we went in and I ended up buying a shirt on clearance and a little rubber duckie keychain. As I was checking out, I tried to just smile and not say anything so as to not prompt any questions as to why an American was a West Ham fan…not sure if they would find it amusing or annoying that I was in there just because of The IT Crowd.
But since then I’ve been trying to legitimately learn about them (I followed them on Twitter and they actually followed me back), and though their regular season doesn’t start for another couple weeks, they’ve been doing fairly well in the Europa league qualifiers. Also, a fun fact: their fight song and many of their chants are rather self-deprecating, which I find odd but amusing.
Anyway, we eventually continue down the street and around the corner to arrive at The Who Shop.
As luck has it, they won’t let you take pictures inside so I’ll have to try to describe the shop’s merchandise. You’ve got your typical things—T-shirts, DVDs, sonic screwdrivers—and yet they’ve got a decent selection of more unique types of items. Old action figures, remote controlled Tardis and K-9, bathrobes, Ugg boots, rugs, cutlery, bathroom decor, children’s party supplies, bedsheets and blankets, tea sets, aquarium decor, BBQ accessories, Tardis trash can, Tardis telephone, Tardis jewelry box, Tardis mini-fridge, Tardis USB charger, Tardis tents, coasters, candy, lamps, clocks, cardboard cutouts, varsity baseball jackets, bakingware, costumes, plushies, books…so many books!
A lot of it was pretty cool, but mostly due to luggage constraints, I limited myself to small items; a shirt, a little talking K-9 figure (affirmative), a Torchwood patch, a tin of Tardis mints, a mini Tardis and a Travel Card holder for Jon.
Armed with our West Ham and Who Shop bags, we make our way back through the rain to the Underground station and head back to our hotel. Basically, the clothes we’ve been wearing all day are moderately soaked so we change our clothes and head out to find a couple more of the Shauns the map says are around the Piccadilly Circus area. Unfortunately, the map marking their locations was small and didn’t have street names so there was a bit of wandering. We found 3 of the 4 we were looking for, though, so it wasn’t a total bust.
The one I’m pointing at is called “Baa-Bushka”, which made me laugh.
We walked around the area, which has a lot of shops, bars and restaurants, and ended up eating at the Carnaby Burger Co, which is tiny (though I think they either have an upstairs or downstairs we didn’t see). The burgers were great, though, so it made the coziness of the place not so stifling. One of the walls was decorated with covers of classic literature-type books. Mostly ones I have not read, but of the ones I had, they were ones they made me read in school and I didn’t much care for. But apparently the pictures were each hand-pasted onto the wall, so I gotta admire the dedication that took.
After dinner we continued walking around the area, and I was inexplicably drawn into this shop…I dunno, something activated in me that roots back to loving to go to Sanrio as a kid…and teenager.
My travel book recommended I buy something that I’d use on a regular basis once I got home. A useful souvenir, basically. So I bought a nail brush and a sponge holder. In cat form, obviously.
I’ve used the nail brush for scratching under Monkey’s chin more than I’ve used it for my nails, but the point is it DOES get used. Validated.
After that, we spent a while walking around to different convenience stores looking for a peanut butter Cornetto I’ve been seeing in commercials on this entire trip.
We had no luck, so in the end I just ordered a chocolate tart with orange clotted cream from room service. This turned out to be…
Turns out I am a BIG fan of clotted cream.
That night we basically situated all our crap; re-packed clothes and I had to bust out the empty tote bag I’d brought for souvenirs ‘n such. That took a while, but once it was finally manageable and ready to check out in the morning, we passed out.
Stay tuned for the next post where we travel to Dublin!
The following events take place between May 11th & 12th, 2015.
We woke early, as we had to walk back to the train station with our luggage on those cobblestone roads. I was sad because we had to leave before the breakfast that was included with our room had begun (insert pouty face). As we wait for our train, another train comes through that drops of whole pile of school children. I think back to when I used to take the city bus in middle school and how I felt like that was a big deal, but what about taking an actual train? Also, how annoying might it be for a few lone adult commuters to be on one of these trains with dozens of kids. Yikes.
Here is our journey for the day:
Our train arrives and we schlup our luggage aboard and find a seat. However we do notice that there are little slips of paper that seem to be reserving the seats for various parties, however the one for our 2 seats are for a previous station so if the people that were supposed to be sitting there had boarded, they would have been in those seats already. We figure we’ll just stay there until such time as someone comes along and kicks us out. There was another couple across from us who had the same thought. We got to chatting with them and found out they’re actually from New York. We were all a little amazed to find other Americans just sitting across from us on the train in random little country town in Belgium. They had been in Ieper for the cat festival as well and were on their way to Antwerp. We chatted with them until we had to change trains in Kortrijk.
On the new train, we were sitting across the aisle from an older couple, the woman was Australian and the man was English. I don’t think I caught where they actually live, but they are retired and do a lot of traveling.
We arrive in Lille, France with about 2 hours until our train to London. As with the Paris train stations, we have to leave one station and go a block or so to another train station to continue our journey. On our walk we are approached by 2 different children begging for money with cups this time. I spot some armed soldiers here as well. I decide I’m really not a fan of French train stations. We sit around on uncomfortable benches eating pastry breakfast using our suitcases as tables. After what feels like forever (but is really just like an hour and a half) they open up the section for Eurostar passengers traveling to London (that’s us). We have to present our passports to French border control, where I get scolded for not having some form filled out when I left Germany, but he stamps our passports and lets us through.
Then we have to immediately go to another border control booth (I’m assuming for entering England) and get another stamp in our passports.
After putting our luggage through the x-ray machines and walking through the metal detectors (only slightly less intrusive than going through airport security) we were able to wait in the Eurostar waiting lounge, which was a bit of an improvement from the general train station…benches placed randomly around.
On the train, we discover we get a breakfast included in the cost of our ticket, so we have more pastries.
The train takes about an hour and 20 mins, going under the English Channel. It didn’t take very long, and seemed more like going through a regular tunnel than like going in the Transbay Tube on BART. Also, there is an hour time difference from the mainland to England so we gain an hour in our day. Time travel!!
Then it’s time to bust out our Oyster cards and travel from St Pancras to Leicester Square. This works just fine. Trying to figure out which way we have to go after we leave the station, that’s another story. I get out my London city map and try to find the side street we’ve ducked down to avoid most of the traffic from tripping on our luggage. Well, this map is not detailed enough to name all the small streets, so this doesn’t work. Basically, we end up walking a couple blocks through Chinatown. Here we come across our first Shaun the Sheep!
At this point we know we’re not more than a handful of blocks from our hotel but we’re pretty sure we’re going in the wrong direction. I figure this is a perfect time to hail one of those iconic London cabs, but Jon is frustrated, being stubborn and refusing to take a cab. Basically, we (and our luggage) take this path:
Our hotel in London is the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hampshire in Leicester Square. It’s a good thing we weren’t in a hurry or anything. Actually, when we got to the hotel, we were too early to check in, so we stowed our luggage and chilled in their bar for a while, watching the episode of Cagney and Lacey they had on TV at the bar. And I totally wanted to watch till the end of the episode.
Finally it was check-in time! I was so happy to be staying in one place for 4 nights.
The hotel room was pretty sweet, spacious and had a huge bathroom with both a shower stall and a bathtub which also had a shower in it. You had to leave a key-card in a slot to have the lights on, which I found a little odd, but I guess I can see their wanting to conserve energy by not having lights on when you’re not in the room.
So we were settling in, and then minor disaster struck. I managed to kick my pinky toe just right on the corner of the leg of the bed. Really hard. This was me:
So I’m laying there on the bed with my foot elevated and throbbing toe wrapped in TP (it bled a little) and I start to wonder what happens if it ends up being bad enough to seek medical help. Does my health insurance even cover me out of the US? In hindsight, this was something I definitely should’ve looked up before our trip.
I find it doesn’t hurt if I don’t touch it, but even the lightest graze sends stabs of pain. I decide that this will not defeat me. I use some medical tape from my first aid kit and some cotton balls from the hotel room to make a makeshift bandage with a cotton ball cushion around it. Then I put my shoe on and find I can still kindof walk, if gingerly, so we head out for some sightseeing and dinner. Immediately in front of our hotel is Leicester Square, which has 2 more Shaun the Sheeps!
As we’re walking from our hotel to Trafalgar Square, I see this down a random little side-street.
Slowly we make amble about Trafalgar Square and find the pillar that used to be the smallest police station in London (but now is used to hold cleaning supplies). Also, another Shaun the Sheep! Then we walk down the street a handful of blocks until we get to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
As we stand there on the Westminster bridge, the pain in my foot gets to me. I decide it’s time to head back towards the hotel and find someplace to have dinner. We stop into a pub and I get a sampler of local favorites. And yes, this does include fish & chips. And I tried it. They were better than fishsticks, and I ate one entire one, but then gave the second one to Jon.
My foot still hurts and I want to take a cab but Jon says it’s only a few blocks (and it is), so I sigh and we head back. Here are some pics from our walk back as well as from our hotel.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*The next day~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Here is the view from our room the next morning. Nice and sunny and bright. Unfortunately, my toe hurts just a little bit worse. But, I must press on. We spend a couple hours slowly (very slowly) hobbling around the National Gallery.
I didn’t come across either of these paintings. I didn’t REALLY expect to, but I think it would be pretty cool if they had them in there, in some random corner by a gift shop or something.
While I didn’t take a picture of every single portrait, I took a lot, so here’s a collection of them.
I decided this one was my favorite
Also, this was me while walking…Grumpy and all.
I decide this MacGyver-rigged bandage I’ve got going on is not going to cut it so when we’re back in the hotel on WiFi, I look up the nearest pharmacy and Jon comes along as I limp the handful of blocks over there.
It’s a huge place and I’m impressed. I ended up grabbing a couple toe bandaging options and something that might also help the blisters I’ve also accumulated between my toes over the past several days and check out. The cashier saw all my supplies and offered sympathy for my plight. My feet are a hot mess.
Back at the hotel again I dump my bounty on the bed and dive in. I end up using one of these gel toe caps for my pinky toe and some gel toe separators for the blisters.
Holy Shaun the Sheep, these help SOO MUCH!
Finally I can walk around without being miserable!
By now it’s late-ish in the afternoon and we have tickets to see Book of Mormon that evening, so we pretty much just stay around Piccadilly Circus and basically be touristy. And find another Shaun!
About the play: The music isn’t catching enough for me to want to buy the soundtrack, but the play is VERY entertaining. Also entertaining was listening to other audience members comment on the show during intermission and after the show. They seem to find all their ‘American’ behavior amusing. Also, now I can’t think of Salt Lake City without saying it my head the way they do in the show. I’d leave you with a few out-of-context lines from the show, but basically all the good ones involve profanity so I’ll leave it out.
After the show it was late, so off to bed.
Stay tuned for the next post where we explore some other places in London!
The following takes place on May 10, 2015.
Here is sleepy me waiting for the train in Brussels. We are headed to a town which is called Ieper (EE-per) or Ypres (e-PREY), depending on which language you’re using. Since the city is in a Flemish region, we’ll use Ieper for this blog entry. Also, I feel the need to mention how weird/irritating/confusing it is for every place in this country to essentially have 2 names.
With just a few stops, we make it to Ieper in a little under 2 hours. We notice a handful of people near us on the train carrying stools. I figure it’s for the cat parade and wonder if camp-style collapsible chairs just aren’t a thing over here?
We walk the distance from the train station to the hotel, which is .6 miles. It wouldn’t have seemed nearly so bad if we hadn’t had our luggage and the streets hadn’t been mostly this cobblestone-like bricks.
We are here for Kattenstoet, the Cat Parade and festival they have here every 3 years. Back in the day, cats were brought in to keep vermin out of the massive cloth hall, but in the spring when all the fabric was sold, the cats were deposed from the bell tower. And like some holidays, a happy celebration was created in place of the negative. Hence the massive cat festival!!! I was so excited when i found out about this AND that it fell in our vacation window.
We arrive at our hotel, Alliance Hotel Ieper Centrum but it’s too early to check in. Also, they don’t have a room to put our luggage, so they have us stow it in the lobby with a few others already there. I don’t feel great about leaving my stuff like that, but it’s a tiny hotel and I don’t think many people will be coming through there, so I transfer any valuables to my purse, fix my hair, apply some makeup while sitting on the floor of the lobby and then put on my cat ears and head out to stake out a spot to watch the parade. We were pretty early, so we found a good spot right against the barricade, just past the stands set up right in front of the cloth hall. BTW, this cloth hall is massive!
The parade starts at with an advertising caravan, mostly local businesses. They mostly toss out candy, toys and other promotional knickknacks. I start pocketing the pieces I catch and that land near me. Some people lift their kids over the barricade to go collect candy that fell in the street.
After like 45 mins of this, the stray cats come out. Worn clothes and running make-up. Then there is a welcome and they start with tableaux of cat worship throughout history, about the history of the city of Ieper, cats in Language and Legend, the Cat around the World, etc. In the last part we wave goodbye to all the cats. But not without celebrating first with the real Ypres cats. There are the big-headed cats and the sweet Snoezepoezen. We see the well-dressed giant Cieper followed by the parade horse (or should we say parade cat?) Minneke Poes! The Fools Fanfare is preceding a float supporting a model of the Cloth Hall from which the Ypres Fool scatters kittens into the crowd and a confetti cannon showers the crowd.
This parade started at 2pm and went strong all the way until the Cat throwing from the belfry tower by the city jester at 6pm. I mean, this is the longest freaking parade I’ve ever seen. Ironically, I don’t generally like parades much at all, but I guess it’s kindof like not liking lines and crowds but still going and looking forward to San Diego Comic Con with it’s 130,000 attendees and lines you sit in for 12+ hours. Go big or go home? I don’t know.
In the middle of cats through history, I ran back over to the hotel to check us in and put our luggage more safely in our room, and Jon left at various times to get food and drinks. After 15 mins of watching the stuffed cats being tossed from the belfry tower out to the crowd we decided to go get some dinner (we weren’t near enough to catch one of the cats anyway). We managed to grab the last open table at the nearby pub and had a nice dinner. After that we shopped a bit….and it should be no surprise that I bought a couple plushie cats and cat-shaped Belgian chocolate.
After this, we notice they’re still doing the cat tossing….man, they really keep this thing going on. I read in the program there was supposed to be a mock witch-burning at 7, but we decided we’d been out on our feet for a sufficient number of hours. We envied the people we saw on the train with stools. On our way back to the hotel, we encountered a mass of people and tables in the street that hadn’t been there before. It was a mini-adventure navigating through that.
I gotta talk about this hotel a little bit. First of all, there was an actual key for the room key. I can’t even remember the last time I had a hotel key that wasn’t a plastic key-card. The door lock had an odd, hold the handle like this and turn the key this way, then turn the handle the other way to open, and then you needed the key to lock it from the inside. The room itself was not huge, but the bathroom took up a large chunk of it, and the bathtub was pretty sizeable. I’m not usually a bath person, but I had to partake. I also figured it’d help my tired feet and legs after standing for so many hours. The bed situation was actually 2 twin beds pushed together. Jon was pouty about this, but like I said, they were RIGHT next to each other and we don’t spoon or actively cuddle when we sleep so it didn’t bother me. The beds were comfy and there were extra pillows provided. The comforters, however, yikes. I’ll just say they could use an upgrade. There was no a/c in the room but a remote controlled sky-light which was sufficient to keep us comfortable, luckily.
We ate one of the boxes of chocolate and watched a couple episodes of Myth Busters we found on in English. Then we both basically passed out.
Stay tuned for the next post when we travel back to London…