Kobe on the Bosphorus

Urban Japan takes on a Bladerunner-esque look on a rainy evening, Chinatown in Kobe might have Harrison Ford running past any moment. Away from the bustle, purely by chance on a back street mooch around Motomachidori (Kobe) the Bitter End bar winks at me through spring drizzle. They are open, despite appearances. We slip inside. It’s the underbelly of a 1970s block but they’ve given small, boxy industrial basement vintage chic furnishings, a proper hi-fidelity audio setup, a sturdy bar and all the whiskey. All of it. These guys are underplaying it beautifully: they don’t even have a website. (They just about manage a Facebook Page. Just.)

bitter end

Whiskey selection out of shot

We settle at the bar. Miles Davis’s muted trumpet leads the quartet.  The lights are low. (The kids are at home in our Airbnb 50 steps away, so it’s a date.) It might be 3AM, but it’s closer to 9.

“Whiskey rocks and a G&T.”

Barkeep – proprietor – chisels an exquisite glassy boulder and splashes Suntory Single Malt on it. (When in Rome…) Tanqueray – iced with lime – and local tonic for her. He takes his time to craft us our drinks. A female vocal “The nearness of you” drifts from sublime JBL speakers.

Our neighbour at the bar engages us in conversation because he too has a G&T. The only other customers are, frankly, school age girls and I’ve a good mind to call their Mum.

In English, he says directly to me, with some difficulty in this part of the world it has to be said, matter-of-factly, that “you are Bruce Willis.”

(I am the only bald westerner in this Kobe bar tonight I’d venture. It’s dark and he’s wearing thick glasses.)

“You’re not the first person to say that. [To Gilly] Remember that carpet hawker in Istanbul who used that line to woo us into rug purchase?”

Thus begins a beautiful exchange in which our gently sozzled friend cannot get it out of his head that we are not Turkish. It’s amazing how alike the words Turkish and English can sound spoken by a Kobe local. Barkeep is a quiet, attentive man, a listener, a watcher: he can see the issue and is as amused as we are.

After several explanations I think we’ve established understanding. A silence breaks out in appreciation of Thelonius Monk caressing the ivories. Then…

“What food you eat in Turkey?

“Is safe?”

And so on.

As if scripted to step in and break the loop an ubercool dude in a slim suit with 3 day stubble and cropped afro slips in from stage left. (You don’t see stubbled men in these parts and he is rocking this look.) He orders beer.

He correctly establishes the presence of Welshness and associates it with rugby. We toast the Japanese showing in the world cup. We hang out. Quietly, gently, but with some style I’d venture. Melodic tenor sax, brushed drums and double bass. Out of nowhere G&T opines – eyeing the female patrons – that “Japanese girls too shy” with a level of disappointment bordering on mild disgust. The young ladies are fully made up, have made maximum effort with the dress code and are quietly enjoying cocktails. I start to wonder what goes on in here.

Barkeep intervenes. He intones that although our lightly pickled new friend may look adolescent he is indeed 40 and a cardiologist. The girls? Mid 20s. Our friend is drinking G&T alone because his wife is a radioligist and sleeping ahead of working a shift at the hospital. IE: It is all above board.

The ladies finish their drinks, smile shyly and gracefully depart before the spell of this place is broken.

So do we.

It’s barely 10PM. We could’ve stayed all night.

We’re like that, us Turks.

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Osaka Tuesday

With jet-lag a fogging, nagging irritant – a distant car alarm that won’t shut off or a achy back – we plunge into Osaka for a full day of Japanese. It’s not long before we are utterly confused, slightly lost and mildly tetchy with each other. Aren’t family holidays great?

Fear not loyal reader: writing this piece some 14 hours later all is in Accord.

Back to the morning: a cloudless sky, spring in the air and it’s shorts on. (The latter a treat for the locals.) We make our way to the railway station and board the JR (Japan Railways) Loop train to Osaka Station. If you’ve not been, let me tell you that Osaka is big. Probably bigger than Pershore, likely bigger than Tonbridge Wells. Heck, it might even shade Swindon. Last time they counted, it was pushing 3 million souls. But that’s seeing it as a separate entity. If we’re talking metropolitan areas, it’s NINETEEN MILLION people.

I am mildly disappointed to report the Loop train doesn’t perform roller coaster manoeuvres, it merely encircles Osaka city centre. When I say “city centre”, of course I mean indistinguishable vast jumbled urban sprawl. Aside from occasional architectural gems and some curiously individual structures, it appears the Japanese unflinchingly raze traditional buildings in the name of progress. As such this means nondescript concrete stretches further than the eye can see. There are myriad subway trains to choose from too and – I feel a later blog coming on – a confusing yet well timed railway system. The trains and tracks here are owned by a plethora of companies with tickets often non-transferable. This would be fine if a) we weren’t jet-lagged b) the signage was in a script we could read (let alone understand) c) we knew where we were, where we were going and d) cheers again jet-lag – we knew who we were and what the heck we were doing in Japan in the first place.

Osaka apartment view

A tiny bit of Osaka, viewed from our apartment

Maybe this is painting a picture of disorder? Please desist from such a notion oh reader of blog, there is much order to admire. This not to say they don’t have Civic pride and all that Jazz, because they oh so clearly do. The streets are clean, the railway stations litter free and the Osakans move with purpose. We are treated to many smiles where all who serve us – without exception – are helpful, attentive and polite.

Although the latter trait drops away a bit from the general populous when we make our way into the melee of Dotomburi along with many thousands of other night time gawkers. More of a tide of humanity than “no madam, after you, I insist.” Bits of the area are lit up in a fashion that would embarrass Leicester in not Times Square, other areas harshly illuminated by cold florescent tubes, elsewhere darkened yet nonthreatening , intriguing lanes are teeming with eateries, the occasional shrine and so, so many shops.

We pause for Octopus Balls – who knew? – which are a local Legend.

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Octopus Balls?

They are freshly cooked leading to 2nd degree oral burns all round. Some while later we are ushered upstairs in a teeny eatery. Sushi time! We are given pencil, pad and an laminated pictorial guide with English to copy under each picture. I opt for “fatty tuna in seaweed wrap with Welsh onion.” The wasabi catches Mog by surprise and I lament not filming the poor sap as he struggles for breath. British softies take note: not optional here. Wasabi-on-the-side is for Waitrose pretend-sushi. Osaka is referred to as the nation’s kitchen. I have yet to see if fish and chip shop though.

Everything is slightly vexing when it comes to food and drink. Apart from maybe beer. The 7 Eleven store is positively bursting with unidentifiable foodstuffs. Mog & I play “guess the foodstuff” and bring back snacks with varying degree of acceptance. Guess-the-foodstuff is going to be an Integra-l part of life here for our trip. With a side order of “does that come hot or cold” sprinkled with “is it sweet or savoury” and a portion of “is it raw or cooked” to go.

Or maybe it’s the jet-lag talking? It’s hard to tell anything just yet.

Or maybe this is what culture-shock feels like?

And we haven’t even mentioned the world’s largest aquarium and world’s largest Ferris wheel: it’s been that kinda day.

PS: World’s largest Ferris wheel at 112.5m? I think not Osaka… Big wheels

Osaka Ferris Wheel

112.5m!

PPS: Feel free to read back the above and see if you can spot all the Honda passenger car references. No prizes, just for fun.

 

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What time is it? Korean time

Funny old thing jetlag. It’s been a while since the 4 Beers have registered on the intrepid scale, but jetlag is telling me that we’re up to something right now.

We bordered Asiana 522 at 20.40 last night and now it’s 16.40 in Seoul.  11 hours later.

Confusing.

OZ522 at LHR 2nd April 20`7

Still, it was a pleasant enough flight and although a 21st Century temple to where-in-the-world-could-be-anywhere airports, the good burghers of Incheon like to put on a show.

A reenactment of a royal procession, a string trio & piano and local soloists. Surreal.

To think a couple of hours ago we were 37,000′ over Ulanbataar.

Let the adventure begin: next stop Osaka!

Somewhere over Mongolia

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Glamour-puss? Moi?

Spoilier alert: there is nothing glamorous about this blog. (Well, okay, the last line is a tease, but that’s all.)

Sat here in a 4th floor Hilton eerie the Thames is all but invisible due to the light pollution flooding from empty offices, distribution centre truck parks, the QE (Dartford) Bridge with its 4 lanes endlessly streaming traffic with headlights aglow and all manner of electric light.

There is even a corking full moon yet it’s somewhat wasted on these industrial lands of Norf’ Kent innit. So much so that it has finally given up competing with man made illumination and skulked orf behind the clouds.

DartfordCrossingByNight

Opening the window a crack – restricted, one imagines, in case I get an irrepressible urge to climb onto the ledge and toss myself off* – the sound of tyres thundering on tarmac rushes in to greet me. Thus the scene is robbed of any potential Blade Runner romance. Whilst it’s no war zone, granted,  it is more than a little dystopian. I count the lanes for traffic. Including the convoluted Dartford Tunnel layby and dual carriageway parallel to the M25  there are 16 or so. Local boy racers are re-enacting Fast & Furious scenes nearby in some seriously expensive motors replete with race-spec exhausts. (I don’t imagine it’ll be girl racers, do you?)

By day I am working in an office that is a pebble-lob-over-the-security-fence away from the Thames Estuary. As it was sunny I strode out at lunchtime and with some difficulty found my way to the shore. Having visited here at least 1/2 dozen occasions the locals have never, never, mentioned the mighty waterway lapping the shore the other side of their wall. I had to find my way over the embankment to prove it existed. Their building has a fully glazed side that overlooks the dual carriageway. Behind them is this:

ThamesToday13thMarch2017

I must be odd. I want to sit and watch the world float by. Everyone else is hell bent on getting a pre-packed sandwich from Asda and SnapChatting.

*I didn’t. I had a hot bath and a cup of tea instead. Then watched SS-GB on iPlayer.

We head to Japan & South Korea soon. How will it compare?

 

 

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Valentine for one in Grand Central Glasgow

I don’t go in for the whole “set piece” Valentine thing – much to Mrs B’s chagrin – and that makes it any old Tuesday night. This particular evening finds me here in central Glasgow. When I say central, I of course mean The Central. The Grand Central Hotel to be precise. (The Central if you’re local.)

6936glasgowgrandcentralhotel_pic1This imposing edifice is 15 minutes from the airport on the (gobsmackingly otherworldly friendly) 500 Express bus. Free wifi, a smile, travel advice, toe massage, all-in for £10 return. [One of those is an optional extra. Where’s m’streotype slopy shouldered grumbling jobsworth?] Walking across the street to the entrance the exterior of the hotel is a Queen Anne style facade which is up there with the other Great British termini: St Pancras, The Balmoral, Swindon… The interior doesn’t disappoint either, it’s all rather dashing and of it’s elegant time. Restored in 2010 it is a credit to the hotelier.

FUN FACT: The world's first long-distance television pictures 
were transmitted to the Central Hotel in the station, 
on 24 May 1927 by John Logie Baird. 
Unfortunately the folk in London didn't buy their telly until 1974
so the event was a bit lost on them.

The reception staff are charming, helpful and have all the time in the world. (A difficult illusion to pull off I’d say.) As the hotel follows a linear floorplan my room is approximately one mile away from the lift above platform 9 ¾ and stiflingly hot. Flinging up the sash window all of a restricted 2 inches – ow! – the station canopy reveals itself and the kitchen exhausts bellow below.

Dammit, I want chips. NOW.

I ditch my kit and head out. 10 minutes and countless “spare any change there pal?” encounters later I am stood in the cavernous Bosphorus Turkish restaurant. Alone. When I say alone, I mean ALOOOOONNNNE. I walked in the door, noisily climbed the metal (indoor fire escape) stairs and waited for someone, anyone, for a good few minutes. It was starting to get a little zombie apocalypse. Click the link above, the piccys don’t do it justice. It’s spacious. Spooky even. Eventually the shopkeeper appeared. Although there was a touch of the Mr Benn, he was more long lost uncle in character – he was that friendly – and soon I am filling my face with delicious Turkish scoff.

The big advantage of dining out for one? No “helpful” commentary/advice. So it’s ARNAVUT CIGERI followed by BURSA KEBAB with a parsley salad, bulgar rice and some hummus on the side. To finish a syrupy coffee – mind not to drain the cup for fear of a gritty finale – and – natch – Turkish Delight.

When I say Valentine for one I really mean it. For the duration of my meal I was the sole occupant of the establishment leaving 179 seats free for lovers. I leave a tip and clank gracelessly down the echotastic staircase taking my newly engorged food baby tum into the night.

So vibrant is the centre of this town!  Couples on their way out in high spirits. Such fab buildings, great lighting, funky bars, so many talented buskers – including a kick-ass jazz drummer who got my coins – and so very many homeless. The latter sadly conforming to every caricature and heart wrenching cliche you might imagine.

How easily we ignore these poor sobs. How few further steps of my walk to cast off their memory.

Rounding the corner to the Hotel pondering a nightcap I consider taking up a skulking, brooding corner of the Champagne Bar in an ironic anti-romance fashion. “What about the homeless eh?” I’d hiss through gritted teeth. But I’d only spoil the look of the place and put off the other punters on their special night. I mean look at it:

champagne-central

Splendid Champagne Bar at The Central

By the way, Mrs B is out on a “date” checking out par-tay venues nearer home.

How lucky we are to have each other.

Even if we are three hundred and thirty three miles apart and I stink of chili, raw onion and garlic.

 

 

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Sandbanks: deserted in December

This gig is my second “tour of duty”in the area. I write then as an accidental “resident” of the Sandbanks in December. I notice myself falling into a diurnal rhythm. A repeat breakfast from one narrow section of the buffet. Drinking fruit tea. Going for the same run three mornings in a row.  Most peculiar.

The latter was averted this morning by walking instead of jogging. (I paid attention to what my fine athletic physique was telling me . IE: Woke up aching all over. Don’t run, you fool.) And what a splendid morning for a stroll on the beach: 12C, still and glassy waters. Sunglasses donned I head out toward the Haven. The client requires me to attend their evening shift so what else can I do with my mornings?

A tractor grooms the beach, back and forth, so it looks pristine and the only thing that marks me out as an interloper is the absence of a pooch. The beach is laughably quiet and would be totally empty if not for the dog walkers. (Unlike the town centre and shopping parks which are thronging with retail hell.) It’s also clear that every hound is having an absolute ball.

Note to self, come back as a Sandbanks dawg in the next life.

Out and about at this more sedate pace I reflect on the odd nature of this neighbourhood. As is well known, there’s no shortage of money here. Ker and indeed, ching. Some of the properties are cartoonish: their scale, their use of lavish materials, their design language and their, well, egomania. Some properties scream “look at me“. This is point is empahsised by the occasional 1930s detached house which look like a misplaced model village exhibit amongst the uber-pads. The other thing that strikes me about these monster des-res is that so many of them are dormant. No signs of life: no lights, no Christmas decorations, no one enjoying their dream house. The only activity seems to be from tradespeople whose vans abound. Presumably they are busily maintaining the properties in 100% shape for the 2 days that their time poor owners can spend there.

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Nuclear attack surprises Sandbanks dog walking fraternity

 

On my way back into the reception area I – literally – bump into Peter Duncan of Blue Peter fame. There are many people milling ahead of a kiddies Christmas party. I make a quick staircase to my room.

sandbanks-22nd-december

Damn, should have asked him for a Blue Peter badge.

To temper my disappointment, it’s a treat to read on a sunny balcony. Not only that, the Vitamin D clearly helps my grey matter. (Concise Crossword NAILED.)

[Sigh] It’s been a week of “what to do?” fresh air mornings and long, long, long office bound evenings. Will be almost strange to go back to “real life” in Wiltshire.

I wonder if the myriad of Grand Designs properties will be utilised during the festive period, because most of them show zero signs of life…

What a waste.

 

 

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Poole if you think it’s over

It’s not that I actively dislike Christmas-fest. Far from it. It’s the needless pressure that it brings. Rush rush rush. Hurry hurry hurry. Get this finished, get that finalised, work super-hard to meet that deadline so that… what exactly? In my experience, most of it will still be there after the break.

Thus it is with mixed feelings I find myself on Sandbanks the week before Crimble. Mixed because I have a balcony room with uninterrupted sea views. Mixed because the view is pre-dawn/post-sunset dark every time I get to see it. Mixed because the client is staffed by well meaning, affable folk. Mixed because this family room is empty all day and the gang are otherwise engaged. Mixed because I’m getting paid to be here. Mixed because I’m a bit traveled-out.

As regular readers may know I enjoy what I do. Even more I adore the by-product: travel on someone else’s dollar. I am (perversely) proud of travelling frugally whether it’s my spend or not. Sometimes, I really should just get a cab instead of convoluted public transporting.

Making the most of a trip is my unwritten mantra. This afternoon work forced a stop at 15.00. Poole town centre – more than a touch of the zombie movie extras let’s be honest – is full of 110% shopping commitment. Yet we can shop online in our jim-jams, but a wet walk in the dark? I wager the beach will be empty.

Dodging the undead I hightail it back to the lodgings and don the running kit. Moments later I am running on a blissfully quiet beach in still, cold, life affirming light rain pattering on the glassy blue waters. [READER TIP: Edit out the gasping, bald, red faced, sweaty jogging Welshman. Try to picture a Baywatch-esque surf-side athletic lope. Or better still focus on the Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls along the foreshore. As water swishes gently on the groynes.]

I pinch myself: what a privilege to be here.

Why do we do this to ourselves every year? No, not the running. I mean why work until the 11th hour on a certain day and then all get stuck in traffic in the freezing dark? It’s not the same everywhere. For instance, the Danes work hard but if it’s not done – it has been put to me – they stop. They cycle home, have a life and return refreshed to box it off the following day. [Clearly what “it” is makes a difference: this isn’t the case during heart surgery or aircraft landings, but the healthy attitude is that most things can wait.]

My view: The answer is partly found our capacity for “binge” which is surely a collective national talent. Hurrah, a British trait to be celebrated. “Barman! 6 pints of Stella per person and accompanying Jager Bombs: quick, before Brexit. Well, okay, then before closing time. It’s 3PM? What’s wrong with you?! Bring a round of tequilla slammers NOW! Time waits for no man.” Then several hours later we binge on A&E facilities.

We binge on work too. Regrettably I include myself in this and – frankly – this has taken it’s toll in 2016. As summer merged into autumn and the nights drew in I had inadvertently built a crescendo into my December with that heroic last (work) act on the 16th. Spent, I would collapse into a woolly sweater, light the wood burner and get hygge with it.

Then a whole week of work landed on the 19th.

Aww crap.

I am needlessly weary and grouchy. I am tired. I am – face it boy – getting old. I need a travel-free break.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. I read BUSY, I cut out various foods. I get appropriate(ish) sleep. I tried to go Danish. (By which I mean I bought some reading glasses from Denmark to gather some of the vibe but succeeded mainly in making myself look like a twat.) Then the exercise gave out because there was no time, then the diet, the sleep…

At this point – although it’s a bit late in the blog – may I offer a shout out to those who are on “shifts” and “call out” over the festivities.

And then may I quickly point out that we are in control of our own careers. Don’t like the hours you work? Get a different job. (If you are suffering from FOMO, you are only missing out on the event which overblown/hyped/exaggerated because it has all this needless pressure around it. I think that’s a modern definition of irony?) I am fortunate that I know my diary commitments are my own doing and I am making steps to avoid this happening again. (REQUEST: If you hear me saying “NO” then please heartily thump me on the back in congratulations and not in the face.)

So despite any humbuggery, Messy Crimble one and all. Look after yourselves.

My last week on the road will be at an uncharacteristically measured pace ensuring that when I – finally – return to the homestead for the big day I am not a dribbling husk. Nay! A super-chef I will be. Willing and able to carve sprouts, slice gravy and argue with local vegetarians about the turkey. When a pig in its blanket gets lodged in a throat we will heartily toast Dr Heimlich . Then, glasses drained we may attend to the diner who has turned blue.

X

Mr B

PS: Don’t even get me started on NYE.

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Where in the world Wednesday

A good company I do stuff for are running a #whereareyouwednesday thing and it’s attracted all sorts of posts in real time. Y’know, selfies from Sri Lanka to Teeside to “@ my bloody desk”. On Twitter the hashtag attracts posts from forgettable to enviable to  what-on-earth-able and back again.

This got me thinking to my whereabouts on each successive Wednesday so far in 2016 starting from the first week of January.

Bracknell – Leeds – Home* – Manchester – Leeds – Edinburgh – Rome – Home X 5 – Birmingham – Edinburgh – Gloucester – Edinburgh – Reykjavik – Gloucester – Bristol – Gloucester – Nottingham – Barcelona – Home – Gloucester – Macclesfield – Worcester – Heathrow (Airport Hotel) – Bracknell – City of London – Croydon – Nottingham – Livingston – Rustington – Copenhagen – Home X 2 – Lisbon – Manhattan – Bracknell – Ohrid (Macedonia) – Home – Phoenix (Arizona) – Middlesborough – Home – Poole – Middlesborough: today, Wednesday 23rd November 2016.

And it’s only November.

Just time to sneak in a probable Dartford, a cheeky Bracknell but yearning a turned down Houston Texas before a home for Crimble #notgoinganywhere.

Not a rigorous exercise I admit – how many Wednesdays so far this year? – but it kind of reflects how busy I’ve been. Where busyness is not necessarily a good thing. If only someone would write a practical and readable book about that. What’s that? Tony Crabbe has?

Am going to lie down now. Here’s a relaxing photo from a Wednesday in May at the Blue Lagoon.

20160501_131429

Okay, it was a Sunday when we marinaded. But we drove past it on the following Wednesday.

*Home = Wiltshire by the way, just north of Marlborough.

 

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Up the Boro on a November Tuesday

Jogging around central Middlesborough you get a sense of a great future behind it. Blue plaques reporting that something industrially significant happened on the adjacent patch of waste ground harking back to when Britannia ruled the waves. That now vacant robustly pillared building? That was a bank when global trade used to need stuff shipped direct from Teeside.

But it’s not all ruin porn. The bank as-was is now funky new-wave office space BOHO FOUR. Yes,the Transporter Bridge still ferries across the Tees with a backdrop of cooling towers and chimneys gushing different grey hued vapour into an already leaden sky. There are Call Centres. Inevitable retail. The Tees Barrage. Even modern art has a home here: Anish Kapoor sculpture and MIMA.

And then there’s food.

Behold, the Kebabish Bar & Grill!

So with their wealth of oriental wizardry the dish du jour was obviously… chicken parmo.

Chicken what?

Allow Wikipedia to expound:

"The Chicken Parmesan, colloquialy known as the Parmo, is a breaded cutlet 
dish originating in Middlesbrough and a popular item of take-away food in 
the North East of England. Similar to a schnitzel, it consists of 
chicken in breadcrumbs topped with a 
white béchamel/Parmesan sauce and cheese."

It’s mahousive, it’s oh so wrong and that makes it right. Although I did wuss out and only had a creamy, delicious, juicy, satisfying “half”. Am trying not to think of the calorific armageddon especially as I washed it down with a full fat Coke.

Don’t judge me.

Next time: stotties!

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A spare Monday in Pheonix, Arizona.

A report to illustrate what I 'ave done on my day orf.

After flying in direct from Laaandun veal-crate-class on BA289 I needed to stretch my legs. If only to regain feeling in them.

So awake at 05.30 – cheers to you Mister Jetlag – I start my day. First stop the nearby pharmacy to scoop up some toiletries – avoiding the discount liquor aisles (not the same as a UK chemist eh?) – and then… and then I get sidetracked into the outdoor Breakfast Club. They have a tempting menu as you will see in the following photo.

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Opting to avoid cocktails at 07.00 I choose a Southwestern Classic: Huevos con Masa

Which is obviously “Fried eggs on chipotle cornbread covered in chorizo queso with pico de gallo, potatoes o’brien and fresh fruit.” And a pint – it turns out – of fresh squeezed grapefruit. I make an “excellent” choice according to the young man tasked with relieving me of money. (He is quite the traveller I learn although his sole experience of London was being held for 40 hours at Heathrow and then deported back to the US because he’d overstayed a student visa in Dublin by months. I applaud his mindset because that meant a) free trip home and b) free booze on the flight!)

huevos-con-masa

Releate-to-bursting I roll out of the restaurant and resolve to up the calorie burning ante.

This involves borrowing a hotel bicycle and heading east on Washington.

20161024_095408

After pedaling for ‘kin miles into a warm headwind I pull over. The US is big, try to remember that Beer. I am at a tram stop and note they take bicycles. Minutes later I’m being whisked along in air conditioned comfort. [I can edit this short-cut-laziness out of any later blog I think.] Presently I arrive even further out of town and pedal up to Papago Park where there is an enormous rock with a hole in it. I note with pride I am the only visitor to arrive by bicycle. [Shhh.] I spend a couple of hours tooling around the cacti and sweating profusely.

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Stopping off at a non-descript cafe I sit outside and am entranced by a humming bird feeding off the shrubbery. This is only slightly spoilt by a chap pleading for some change. In my most disgusted Tony ‘ancock being mock posh I inform that “I’m awfully sorry sirah” because I am cash free.

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In Arizona they have bike lanes and helpful instructions….

The trip back is remarkably swift. [Bikes on trams: genius!] The landscape is industrial-urban American: Miles of gridiron, low rise industrial units under a desert sky. Punctuated by occasional outcrops of red amalgamated sandstone. Although when Google auto enhances an image, the colours are lost…

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Imagine this in sandstone red

 

 

Now back downtown I ditch ma whip and have a shower to wash away some Americanisms that have crept in. Then it’s off to the historic district. In Phoenix this means a few 1920s buildings… Splendid architecture enjoyed in 30C dry desert heat. Although it’s purely thirsty work I find the nagging urge to eat. The Detroit Coney Grill beckons and I order the daily special. With cheese obvs.

There are some really well kept and well designed urban spaces in Phoenix. They are also notable for apparently being claimed by down-and-outs who are sprawled around on the manicured grass. Not the look the planners were going for I’d warrant. I am accosted by the same man from earlier asking for change. Small world! (We are near a downtown tram stop.) We’re 10 miles different and I’ve changed tee shirt. I fend him – sensitively I hope – off with a smiling “you already asked me that.” I wonder if in his addled mind he’s wondering how many Brits he’s asked for change today.

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V good Arizona State’ macchiato. Albeit in a paper cup…

Admiring the Westward Ho – no exclamation mark – I cross the street into the State University of Arizona where a wee A board announces coffee on the 6th floor. So to perk myself up a Macchiato it is.

(Side note a Macchiato in Macedonia is a wee latte-cum-cappucino whereas it should really be an espresso with a smudge of milk.) No sir, no china cups. Shame. (I really have nailed first world problems here eh?)

And then it’s back to the hotel where an outdoor swim and – if I can find time a – snooze are in order before we meet for work at 19.00. Without a car, Phoenix is a big place. (Okay, with a car it’s big too: 6th largest urban sprawl in the USA.) And also Mondays are when stuff is closed. Although I might just be lazy?! Yes, let’s be idle: I can spend the time watching window cleaners from my room instead…..

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Phoenix window cleaning.

 

 

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