We need to talk about Harry..

Hey dear followers. Be warned: this is one of those football chats! I said a while back that the blog would be a bit “whatever I fancy talking about” rather than specifically travel and this is one of those football reads that might not interest you. If so, now is the time to look away!

This however is going to be a little more analytical, statistical and just generally applauding one of the very best – Harry Kane!

Why does dear Harry justify a blog post of his own? Honestly? I just need to explode about it somewhere because it drives me bonkers how little people appreciate what we’re witnessing right now.

I think about it constantly as Kane achieves another record or closes in on the next. I’ll start throwing numbers at you soon but the lack of recognition & the level of criticism he still receives is genuinely mind-boggling and also infuriating to me.

I don’t know if it’s just because we’re a social-media driven society that is overly critical and abusive of anything and everything but my hope is that future generations will look back and be more appreciative of Harry fucking Kane. Much in the same way that current generations look back at Jimmy Greaves and think – “wow! What a player”.

Jimmy Greaves is in my mind the greatest striker this country has ever seen and the stats undoubtedly back that up but there’s a little part of me that hopes that he got stick every week to make sense of the criticism I see for Kane today. It baffles me endlessly and I get so defensive about it because please just give the man the respect he deserves! Someone tell me Jimmy Greaves got slaughtered in the stands every week?

I may be jinxing the man but before the end of the season Harry Kane will be Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorer, England’s greatest ever goalscorer and likely also surpass 200 top flight goals. So here are some numbers for you..

Bear in mind, these are correct as of today (13th October 2022) but will likely be higher dependent upon when you read this!

MinneapolisSpurs

Tottenham’s greatest goalscorers (the 100 club)
1 – Jimmy Greaves – 1961-70 – 266 goals in 379 appearances
2 – Harry Kane – 2011-present – 257 in 399 appearances
3 – Bobby Smith – 1955-64 – 208/317
4 – Martin Chivers – 1968-76 – 174/367
5 – Cliff Jones – 1958-68 – 159/378
6 – Jermain Defoe – 2004-2014 – 143/363
7 – George Hunt – 1930-37 – 138/198
8 – Son Heung-Min – 2015-present – 136/338
9 – Len Duquemin – 1947-57 – 134/307
10 – Alan Gilzean – 1964-74 – 133/439
11 – Teddy Sheringham – 1992-2003 – 124/277
12 – Robbie Keane – 2002-2011 – 122/306
13 – Les Bennett – 1946-54 – 117/294
14 – Jimmy Dimmock – 1919-31 – 112/438
15 – Glenn Hoddle – 1975-87 – 110/490
16 – Bert Bliss – 1912-22 – 104/215
17= – Billy Minter – 1908-19 – 101/263
17= – Johnny Morrison – 1933-39 – 101/154

I never thought I’d see Jimmy Greaves record broken. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Greaves is the greatest striker this country has ever seen and had he played for Tottenham for longer he’d likely have scored many more but that record is going this season. Maybe before Christmas?

Year after year I’ve seen Kane inch closer but whilst so far away you’d still be sceptical about seeing the record smashed. However in recent seasons I’ve actually started believing that Greaves could be caught and this is finally the season it will happen. The bloke already has ten for the season and I’d be amazed if he doesn’t add another ten to his tally with thirty-odd games to go. Harry Kane will end his career as Tottenham’s highest ever goalscorer and I do believe that THAT record will never be beaten!

A Premier League comparison!
Going in to this historic season I was curious as to how our Premier League counterparts compared. Who are the highest goalscorers at each of the 20 Premier League clubs. How does Harry Kane stack up against the rest?

Everton – Dixie Dean – 383 goals
Liverpool – Ian Rush – 346
West Ham – Vic Watson – 326
Leicester – Arthur Chandler – 273
Spurs – Jimmy Greaves – 266
Manchester City – Sergio Aguero – 260
Harry Kane – 257
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney – 253
Wolves – Steve Bull – 250
Aston Villa – Billy Walker – 244
Leeds – Peter Lorimer – 238
Bournemouth – Ron Eyre – 229
Arsenal – Thierry Henry – 228
Southampton – Mick Channon – 228
Nottingham Forest – Grenville Morris – 217
Chelsea – Frank Lampard – 211
Newcastle – Alan Shearer – 206
Fulham – Gordon Davies – 178
Crystal Palace – Peter Simpson – 165
Brentford – Jim Towers – 163
Brighton – Tommy Cook – 123

Never say never with Harry but I think that top three may be beyond his reach. Ultimately it’ll depend on how many more years he plays for Tottenham but even as one of Harry Kane’s biggest admirers I’d be surprised if he touches Dixie Dean’s record for Everton. Nevertheless, his goal tally would place him as the highest goalscorer at most clubs in the division.

More to the point, is this the last club record to go? People are raving about Erling Haaland at the moment and might suggest he could smash Sergio Aguero’s record for Manchester City but the reality is doing it consistently for so many years is difficult to do. Likewise, changing football clubs is much more common in the modern era. As good as he is, I don’t expect Haaland to be at Manchester City long enough to beat the incredible Sergio Aguero – who would have scored many more himself but for injuries.

However even looking at clubs lower down the list.. Brighton’s record looks remarkably low for instance but as I said, it’s so rare for players to stick around for long enough to beat such a record. If Brighton found themselves a 20-goal-a-season striker, how long would he be at Brighton before being prized and tempted away by a bigger football club?

I haven’t drifted through all of the thousands of football clubs in England but certainly at the highest level, I think Harry Kane might be the last striker we see break such a record for one club – unbelievable!

England’s greatest goalscorers (the top 10)
Wayne Rooney: 53 in 120 caps
Harry Kane: 51 in 75 caps
Bobby Charlton: 49 in 106 caps
Gary Lineker: 48 in 80 caps
Jimmy Greaves: 44 in 57 caps
Michael Owen: 40 in 89 caps
Tom Finney: 30 in 76 caps
Nat Lofthouse: 30 in 33 caps
Alan Shearer: 30 in 63 caps
Vivian Woodward: 29 in 23 caps
Frank Lampard: 29 in 106 caps

Harry Kane could have a terrible World Cup in November but realistically, Harry Kane is also going to end 2022 as England’s greatest goalscorer. Personally I hope he surpasses the record in Thanksgiving week v the USA as it’ll make my trip the little bit sweeter.

US Bank Stadium

However even if he doesn’t surpass Rooney at this World Cup, it’s an inevitability it happens at some point. I expect it to happen in Qatar but that might be tempting fate.

I actually think England’s record is fairly low in all honesty. According to Wikipedia (the most legitimate of sources obviously..) 75 players have scored more than 50 goals for their country. Cristiano Ronaldo has 117 and counting for Portugal which shows how far off England’s record is by comparison.

Nevertheless, Harry Kane is going to continue playing and scoring for England for a few years yet so it’ll be interesting to see how high he sets the standard.

A lot of criticism surrounds Kane’s England record in particular which is daft but should also be offset against the reality that he’s won a golden boot at a World Cup and has scored the most goals at international tournaments for England – again a pitiful tally of 10 goals at major international tournaments but it’s the record and another he’ll undoubtedly add to.

45 of his 51 England goals have also been in competitive fixtures and no England player has ever scored more goals at major tournaments. Remarkably at the most recent tournament there were calls for him to be dropped – from England pundits who arguably achieved less in their England careers.

To add a little controversy, if Kane were to win a World Cup that’d cement him as England’s greatest ever for me personally. He’s been England’s most successful player outside of that famous ’66 squad. If Kane caps off his England career with a World Cup it’s undoubted in my mind.

The 200 club (200+ goals in the top division!)
This was a personal discovery around the time of the deaths of Jimmy Greaves and Diego Maradona – two of the greatest footballers to have ever played the game. Moreso Sir Jimmy’s death as it sparked up discussions about his goalscoring record.

I’ve never been too unfamiliar with Greaves record but he not only currently holds the record for the most goals for Tottenham but he’s in a league of his own when it comes to goalscoring at the highest level in English football.

It was only looking at comparisons around the world however that I saw a remarkable lack of English goalscorers with significant goals to their name.

Understanding that football in this country began in the mid-late 1800’s, it’s remarkable that only 27 players have ever scored 200 goals in England’s top division.

1) Jimmy Greaves: 357 goals in 516 games (1957-1972)
2) Steve Bloomer: 314 in 536 (1892-1914)
3) Dixie Dean: 310 in 362 (1924-1938)
4) Gordon Hodgson: 287 in 456 (1925-1940)
5) Alan Shearer: 283 in 559 (1988-2006)
6) David Jack: 257 in 476 (1920-1934)
6) Charlie Buchan: 257 in 482 (1912-1928)
8) Nat Lofthouse: 255 in 452 (1946-1960)
9) Joe Bradford: 248 in 410 (1921-1935)
10) Hughie Gallacher: 246 in 355 (1925-1938)
11) Joe Smith: 243 in 410 (1908-1927)
12) George Brown: 240 in 366 (1921-1935)
13) George Camsell: 233 in 337 (1921-1939)
14) Ian Rush: 232 in 515 (1980-1998)
15) David Herd: 222 in 412 (1954-1970)
16) Harry Hampton: 219 in 357 (1904-1922)
17) Billy Walker: 214 in 478 (1919-1933)
17) Tony Cottee: 214 in 548 (1982-2000)
19) Dave Halliday: 211 in 257 (1925-1933)
20) Geoff Hurst: 210 in 519 (1959-1975)
21) Ronnie Allen: 208 in 415 (1950-1961)
21) Wayne Rooney: 208 in 476 (2002-2021)
23) Bobby Gurney: 205 in 348 (1926-1944)
24( Arthur Chandler: 204 in 309 (1925-1935)
25) Vic Watson: 203 in 295 (1923-1932)
26) Denis Law: 201 in 377 (1960-1974)
26) Harry Johnson: 201 in 313 (1919-1931)
Harry Kane: 191 in 288 (2012-present)

Only twenty seven players have scored more than 200 goals in England’s top division in 150 or so years of football? That’s BONKERS!

I raised this point on a football forum I frequent and someone also rightly acknowledged that the early days of football tended to feature more high-scoring contests, for whatever reason (before my time obviously!).

So of the 27 I singled out the post-war players and that made the list shrink to just ten remaining players!

Jimmy Greaves: 357 goals in 516 games (1957-1972)
Alan Shearer: 283 in 559 (1988-2006)
Nat Lofthouse: 255 in 452 (1946-1960)
Ian Rush: 232 in 515 (1980-1998)
David Herd: 222 in 412 (1954-1970)
Tony Cottee: 214 in 548 (1982-2000)
Geoff Hurst: 210 in 519 (1959-1975)
Ronnie Allen: 208 in 415 (1950-1961)
Wayne Rooney: 208 in 476 (2002-2021)
Denis Law: 201 in 377 (1960-1974)
Harry Kane: 191 in 288 (2012-present)

Only ten players have scored 200 top flight goals in 80 years of post-war football in this country. Ten!

Shout-out to Tony Cottee too because that was a surprising name on the list for me (I’d also never heard of David Herd or Ronnie Allen).

Jimmy Greaves has always set the bar for me as a Spurs fan, that’s the standard but I’d never considered 200 goals to be that unattainable. Players generally have anywhere from a 10-15 season career, sometimees longer. Scoring 20 in a season is the sign of a good striker, do that for 10 years – job done – 200 top flight goals! Easy peasy!

The reality though is that it doesn’t happen. There’s a higher influx of foreign players now, players switch clubs more frequently, players are rotated much more frequently, injuries happen so I understand it in more modern times but over an 80 year period it really surprised me that so few have ever scored that number in the top division.

Harry Kane is going to become only the 11th player in post-war-times to score 200 top flight goals. He’s got a good few years left too!

EnglishFootball

The Premier League (top 5)
Alan Shearer: 260
Wayne Rooney: 208
Harry Kane: 191
Andy Cole: 187
Sergio Aguero: 184

This tends to be the record that the media focus on the most – particularly with Shearer holding a punditry role in the media. This season Harry’s surpassed Cole and Aguero to take 3rd spot on the all time Premier League list (1992-present).

I’ve no doubt that Kane passes Shearer and the goalposts will then shift. People will start to point out Alan Shearer actually scored 283 in the top flight but I expect him to smash that too. I don’t think catching Greaves is realistic but what the numbers show, in any metric, is that Kane is one of the best strikers this country has ever seen.

More than a goalscorer
What shouldn’t go unsaid is that Harry Kane’s all round game is phenomenal. Some of those great goalscorers listed above were just that, players who’d stick the ball in the net and offer nothing more from their performances.

Admittedly I might be more biased when it comes to our Harry but I often find myself in awe watching Kane make everything look so easy. Forget his goalscoring and he’s still one of the most talented footballers I’ve had the joy of watching.

His range of passing is incredible, his decision-making is an art. Every players makes mistakes and has their share of bad games but I so often find myself applauding everything he does. The passing, the hold-up play, the flick ons, the clever fouls he wins – it’s unbelievable how good he is and then he’s a thirty goal-a-season striker on top of that? Come on..

The critics
and yet Harry Kane is one of the most abused players on social media. I see it daily, constantly. Any time he shares something on social media – BAM! Sometimes minimal criticism, often genuinely abusive stuff. It’s constant.

and whilst I don’t understand the mentality of abusing anyone, I’d be less sympathetic to it if he was a bit of a dick. Referring to that particular article, the most abused footballer on the list has very serious allegations around his name to at least give the statistics some context.

Kane in contrast you hear nothing about the life he lives. It’s all very quiet. He may well be the biggest asshole behind closed doors but he’s never found in the limelight in the way other superstars over the years have been. By all accounts he comes across as an individual that is professional and focused on little more than his football.

On the occasions you do hear from him publicly it’s supporting mental health charities or issues such as racism and homophobia. He was a big supporter of the women’s England’s success this past summer and in doing so was subjected to another barrage of abuse (“women showing you how it’s done..”)

Is it jealousy? I don’t know. Personally I think he has little to prove and yet people find something about his game or his personality or speech impediment to want to tear the man down – it pains me to witness the abuse he receives when he should be respected as one of the greatest ever and seemingly a decent role-model too.

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Point of the post? 
Honestly, just to make myself feel a bit better I think. I think about Kane’s record-hunting constantly – I’m obsessed and I don’t think anyone really cares or appreciates the greatness enough. I figured no social media post could have done my thoughts justice and that a blog post may do the trick and allow me to wax lyrical about him a bit.

I think in 20-30-50 years time people will be looking back at Kane’s record in the same way I reflect on the great Jimmy Greaves.

“Dad / Grandad, just how good was Harry Kane..?” – “He was the best..”

My dad still refers to that ONE Clive Allen season in the 80’s and I get it – 49 goals in a season, a club record that remains to this day but Harry Kane will always be that guy for me. 80 years old and still watching Spurs – “he’s no Harry Kane though is he..?”

Tottenham’s all-time record goalscorer, England’s all-time record goalscorer, the Premier League’s all-time record goalscorer. The latter still seems a way off but let’s be clear, Harry Kane has 4-5 more years left playing football and retiring before he’s surpassed Shearer would be the biggest surprise to me.

Will this post do anything to change people’s perceptions of Kane today? Probably not but the records he’s toppling are mind-boggling to me. I can’t imagine what numbers he’ll finish his career on and I dread the day he moves on from Spurs – how the hell do you replace him?

I’ve watched some sublime footballers and fantastic strikers at Spurs over the years but this standard is irreplaceable. The sooner robotic clones are introduced to the game the better, Harry Kane 2.0 scoring against Arsenal for the 500th time in 2052 will do me nicely!

Anyway I suppose I’ll wrap this up. I wanted to talk about it before the records start tumbling but be sure that they will do. I’m sure people will still find ways to dismiss his record. Three goals were against San Marino and one of his goals for Spurs was on a Monday afternoon at 15:06 so won’t count for some made-up reason.

People seem to find all sorts of unspoken clauses that diminish his record that little bit more. Seemingly the first striker in history to not have scored against an all-star-11 in 200 consecutive games from 30 yards out with his weaker foot.

Give me whatever metric you like, his record will hold up. He’s consistently done it at every level and has goals against a ridiculous number of teams including the very best that football has to offer.

257 and counting for Spurs, 51 and counting for England, ambitions to play in the NFL so he’ll probably go and tear up that sport one day too!

Perhaps we don’t need to talk about Harry but I certainly did so thanks for indulging me.

Harry Kane – generational talent! Oh and “he’s one of our own” too!

One year in the USA?

Hello dear readers! How are things? I hope you’re all doing well? This post is going to be more of a thinker I suppose than a story of any sort but stick with me anyway!

As you’ll know I got married this year and for that wedding trip I spent six weeks in the USA – spending time in four different states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah).

Idaho and Utah were first-time visits for me so I was state-counting and worked out that I’ve now been to a total of 14 US states (plus DC) which I thought was pretty cool. I’ve technically passed through Arkansas, Wisconsin, Virginia and Maryland too but I don’t count those.

Wedding Photo

Anyway, it also got me thinking about the length of time that I’ve actually spent in the USA in my lifetime. Six weeks is a pretty significant amount of time for that recent trip but this was my third fairly long trip to the USA so accumulating all of those trips is starting to add up a bit. I decided to work out exactly how much time I’ve spent in the country and this was the result:

  • 8 weeks in Florida – four separate 2 week trips with family in May 1997, December 2002, February 2004 & December 2008
  • 2 weeks in Georgia – February 2016
  • 1 week in New York City – June 2016
  • 1 and a half weeks in DC, Nashville & Dallas – April 2017
  • 1 and a half weeks in Washington State – September 2017
  • 2 weeks in Washington State – February 2018
  • 4 weeks for “the big 3-0” – July & August 2018
  • 1 and a half weeks in Washington State – April 2019
  • 1 week in Washington State – November 2019
  • 9 weeks in Washington State – February, March & April 2020
  • 1 and a half weeks in Washington State – November & December 2021
  • 6 weeks in Washington, Oregon, Idaho & Utah – March, April & May 2022
  • A total of 39 weeks

Seattle1

Update!
Okay.. so I must have drafted this post at some point between trips because I know that I was pleasantly pleased with how nicely rounded that number was. With 52 weeks in a year, 39 rounded out to an even 75% of a year or alternatively roughly nine months!

Nine months of my life has been spent in the USA – isn’t that bonkers? I don’t know how you travelers compare, I’m sure some of you have had gap years or worked abroad and everything else but as someone who’s only ever really lived in England (nine weeks living in the USA with Haleigh in 2020..), it’s a significant amount of time in a single country that’s not my own.

Alas, back to the present! The visa process looked like it’d drag on for a while and I was missing my wife having had six weeks rarely apart! So I decided to “surprise” Haleigh for her birthday and spent another 1.5 weeks in Washington back in June – having a lovely time of course but ultimately ruining the nicely rounded number that I’d initially started blogging about.

IMAG5398

Joking aside, another one and a half weeks now takes me up to 40.5 weeks in total and brings me even closer to a full year!

The plan is eventually for Haleigh to move here, should the UK government ever sort its shit out and process her visa application, but even when she’s permanently in England we’re obviously going to return to the US many times in the future.

It’s impossible to say what the future holds, maybe we’ll even find ourselves living in the USA one day but I’m “only” short of an entire year by 11.5 weeks with the likelihood of many future trips to the US to come.

I don’t know when I’ll pass that threshold but it will happen. At some point I will have spent an entire year of my life on American soil. 52 weeks in the USA, a full 12 months, 365 days give or take a few. It’s a pretty significant amount of time in one country, right?

and I suppose the only real point to this post was maybe for you to consider your own travels. It’s rare that we quantify our trips in such a way but I did pose the question to Twitter a while ago to see how my own 39 weeks (at the time) measured up against other travelers.

Some people take the same holiday every year and I find the concept slightly puzzling and yet here I am, 40 weeks of travel in the USA. Admittedly the US is at the very least a huge country and so diverse, it’s not comparable to returning to the same resort year in, year out but still.. I don’t think I thought that I’d ever be approaching a year in the same country.

IMAG5363

Looking ahead, I’ve got two further trips to the US planned coming up this year so I’ll be ticking off another two weeks in the country and also adding a new state to my tally!

  • One week in Virginia / DC in October 2022 – I’m going to a wedding in Roanoke so unlike my last visit to DC I’ll actually properly get to see some of Virginia this time. State number 15!
  • One week in Washington – Thanksgiving 2022!

I’m slowly closing in on the year. I do hope in the years ahead that there’s much more non-US related travel than there has been in recent times. I usually try and visit at least one new country every year. That said, it’ll be cool hitting that impending one year landmark when the day comes.

Moving on from the USA, I did ponder where else my travels have taken me. My runner up would be Spain at around 4-5 weeks, with Germany not too far behind that. Nowhere comes close to the scale that I’ve visited the US.

So WordPress, play along. Where’s your most frequented destination? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a different country, it could be a neighbouring state or a coastal retreat or whatever but anywhere that might surprise you with how much time you’ve spent there?

Shock aside, I love visiting the US and I’m excited for the two trips in the next couple of months. Getting a chance to see more of Virginia and explore DC a bit more (I was sick on most of my last visit) will be great. I’m also looking forward to reuniting with the American family and eating good Thanksgiving food!

Anyway, until next time!

Jason

Dino Duty!

Hello dear readers! I thought I’d once again mix things up a little and instead of travel, write about what I’ve been up to recently.

Specifically I wanted to write about my jump into volunteering. I’ve briefly mentioned in previous posts that I launched a “little” Instagram page promoting all things Peterborough and I guess over the last year or so that it’s become a bit of a “passion project” if you want to call it that.

I think I’ll leave that story for another day but ultimately Peterborough has been at the forefront of a lot of my social activity over the last two years – obviously helped by a pandemic making travel so much hassle.

Bit by bit I’ve been more active in Peterborough. Chasing new experiences and trying out different places – finding new favourites along the way. There’s some really cool stuff happening locally and it’s kept me pretty inspired and has definitely made me fall in love with “my” city that little bit more.

There’s a part of me that still always thinks of London as my home. Nine years in London, 25 in Peterborough – nevertheless it’s that unshakeable attachment to my birthplace that has meant Peterborough can and perhaps never will compare. I’m a Londoner and it’s so much a part of who I am but I think I’m finally embracing the Peterborough within me too.

Peterborough

Having spread a lot of Peterborough positivity over on Instagram over the last year or so has been a lot of fun, a highlight even and definitely brought a lot of new experiences my way but one of my goals this year was to go further than that.

Spreading the good word of Peterborough and the work people are doing to make this city better is one thing but how do I become one of those people? How do I play my own role in making Peterborough better and making exciting things happen here?

Peterborough Celebrates

I caught wind of this amazing-looking local festival happening in May and I was like “I want to be part of that..” – so I signed up to volunteer to help out! My first foray in to volunteering and just days before the weekend-long event I caught Covid – gutted!

I was so disappointed to have to withdraw my volunteering role but just as disappointed that I was missing the festival on a weekend with a perfect weather forecast in Peterborough’s gem “Ferry Meadows”.

It looked incredible, a huge wave of local talent performing in a variety of arts and sectors and I was missing it all. It was a huge success and I’m sure the festival will return next year but opportunity missed!

One of the other local events happening this summer that I was particularly excited for was a touring exhibit from the Natural History Museum in London. A TRex exhibit featuring a bunch of dinosaurs coming to Peterborough Cathedral! It looked amazing!

I was interested nonetheless but upon looking at their website further I saw that Peterborough Cathedral were actually welcoming volunteers for the exhibit – “maybe I’ll do that!”.

I signed up to volunteer and here we are! Three weeks in to a six week dinosaur exhibit at Peterborough Cathedral – a NHM exhibit at that! Peterborough cathedral the last stop on a 15 year tour!

TRex

The volunteering interview
I imagine with any volunteering role there’s a degree of “we’re happy to have any help” but nevertheless I’m a pretty introverted person and so there was a little nervousness that for some reason that I wouldn’t make a good impression and that they’d turn me away. Am I really the volunteering type?

The first shift!
To be honest, there was a bit of a learning curve here for me too. There were a few different roles with pretty much a “sign up for what you like” attitude which was great. The first few sessions I signed up for I signed up for pretty much every different role and I figured by the end of that I’d have a better idea of which fit me best.

The first shift I’d signed up to be an “exhibit assistant” which pretty much means watching over the visitors and making sure the dinosaurs don’t eat anybody. I was watching over the T-Rex skeletion which is the first thing you see upon entry to the exhibit which was special.

I’m quite pleased this was my first volunteering shift actually because seeing the first kids run in and see the amazement on their faces is definitely a volunteering highlight. It left me feeling warm and fuzzy and excited that this exhibit was happening on my doorstep and that I was contributing my own small part in helping it happen.

I’ve been so excited for this exhibit for ages, particularly after discovering I’d be volunteering at it but to get those first reactions to the exhibit was really nice.

Skeleton

Subsequent shifts
As I said, I’ve done pretty much the full range of available roles to see which fits best and all have their own good points. I think the only shift I didn’t really enjoy was helping out with the shop but that’s partly because of stock issues and there not really being anything in the shop. For most people it’s the last point of the cathedral visit and to have little to offer was disappointing.

I think stock levels have improved but I haven’t been inclined to repeat that role. I think it’s the role that I’ve found least visitor interaction which has probably and perhaps surprisingly been the part I’ve enjoyed most.

I think my next shift was ticket checking which I’ve enjoyed doing. It’s easy enough and also means you get to greet each visitor and excited face upon entry to the exhibit. The “cathedral welcomer” role is much the same and you’re the first point of contact for arriving guests at the cathedral.

The cathedral is free to visit so people can come in but the exhibit is ticketed which means you’re limited as to what you can see without a ticket for the exhibit. Notably you can’t “visit” Katherine of Aragon or Mary Queen of Scots resting places without a ticket to the exhibit which has led to a few disgruntled visitors but for the mostpart the reaction has been positive from people I’ve spoken to.

Although one such disgruntled visitor did give me a cracking quote – “you’ve turned ‘Our Father’s’ house in to a funpark”.. – a damning review!

Funpark 1

Funpark 3

Funpark 2

Funpark 4

Funpark 5

The burning question!
Working with the final TRex has also been a fun shift of the exhibit. It’s the largest dinosaur model within the exhibit and where the exhibit ends. The purpose of the exhibit is to determine whether the visitor thinks the TRex was a scavenger or a predator and you can vote on the way out.

That’s a fun shift to do too because it’s the dinosaur the kids are particularly excited for (or scared of) and you also get to hear people’s reasoning before they vote on the big question!

Generally every time I walk past the little box it appears to be 50-50 though so make of that what you will!

Predator or Scavenger

The buzz!
This is something I don’t think I really appreciated until I started doing this. I was excited for the exhibit as a potential visitor, I was SO excited for the exhibit once I knew I’d be volunteering but actually doing it? Wow!

I’m very much of the mindset that I’m ready to retire. I have never been career driven or cared for a job. The only reason I work is because I have to – I have expenses both personal and practical. Be it paying for bills or paying for travel and such things.

I can’t afford not to work but I definitely believe if I was financially comfortable that I’d pack it in at the earliest convenience. I’m at my happiest when traveling and that can be doing something really exciting or just sat in a coffee shop drinking tea and watching the world go by and not giving a second thought to work.

Every time I travel I romanticise the idea of living somewhere. Be it New York, Lisbon, Walla Walla or most recently Newcastle – what a city that is by the way! The idea is always without the practicalities of living costs and work and whatever else but Newcastle a fine example of somewhere I immediately fell in love with.

I’m getting sidetracked but point being I’ve never believed the rubbish of “if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life”. Weighing up working or spending my day in a new city – it’s a no brainer and I don’t really believe work will ever feel anything other than just that to me. I don’t think I’ll ever find a career that brings me love and passion,

At 8:59 I don’t care about work, at 17:31 I don’t care about work, on holiday I don’t care about work but I accept that not working is not an option available to me. I’m more than content doing the 9-5 lifestyle as long as I have to (retiring at 80+ probably..) but if I didn’t have to be doing that I wouldn’t be.

and yet volunteering for this has thrown a dilemma my way. The exhibit is phenomenal, hearing and witnessing the reaction to it has given me such a buzz and a warm, fuzzy feeling.

I didn’t think I’d ever return to a customer-facing role or weekend work so to voluntarily be doing so and actually enjoying being a part of it has been the biggest surprise. I’ve wanted each visitor to have the best experience and it’s really put doubt in my mind as to what the hell I’m doing. I’ve never enjoyed a job as much as this.

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Me and Rex!

Would it be different if it wasn’t voluntary? Would it be different if it wasn’t this particular exhibit? I really don’t know but “ProudOfPeterborough” has become my little baby and actually being part of an incredible event in the city has been the best experience and made me really ponder my career.

Peterborough has grabbed my heart at the moment and I definitely want to be more involved in other community driven events and volunteering roles. The cathedral asked yesterday if I’d like to continue volunteering after this particular exhibit and I said sign me up!

Whether this is a one-off buzz or maybe I’ve found my calling, I guess time will tell but nonetheless this has been a phenomenal few weeks and I’m really excited for the final few weeks. The exhibit ends on the 3rd of September and I’ve already signed up for a three-shift / ten hour day to see it out to the very end.

If you’re in or around Peterborough before then I would encourage a visit. My photos don’t do it justice but it’s so good!

Anyway that wraps up a little of what I’ve been up to this summer. Dino duty in my first volunteering role!

As for the future? Wait and see I suppose. It pains me to know that I’ll be working for another 40-50 years but maybe, just maybe I’ve found my calling?

Stay tuned!

Jason

Off the grid in Paris – July 2019

Hello dear readers! I’m slowly getting back in to the swing of things as far as blogging is concerned so thought I’d continue with the travels of 2019!

Last time out on the blog I wrapped up that Madrid trip. This trip was very different to that one for a multitude of reasons but featured a return to another European capital that I’d previously been to: Paris. 

My first trip to Paris was somewhat of a breakup-hangover in 2016. It took me quite some time to get over this breakup and I was wallowing in a bit of self-pity.

Before that particular trip I’d been to France on daytrips and stuff but never really felt like I’d been to France. I couldn’t name a single place in France that I’d visited, just service stations and such. Still fun but I don’t believe I’d ever really gone to France. I’d be reluctant to count it in a country-counting game and didn’t have that much interest in visiting anywhere beyond Paris if I’m completely honest. 

My problem with Paris however was that it’s the city of love and as much as I enjoy solo travel, I did not want my first trip to Paris to be a solo one. I held out on this romantic ideology of a city I’d never visited and then that breakup, that self-pity, that “I’m going to die alone..” attitude kicked in.

The flipside to that self-pity was that I told myself if I continued to wait for Mrs Right, I was never going to get to Paris – “it’s never going to happen Jason, you’ve already waited this long..”

So I booked a trip. I decided that I wasn’t going another year without visiting Paris because of the lack of a significant other so at the end of December I went and celebrated New Years in Paris on my own. 

I’m sure there are better breakup remedies, cheaper ways too! It wasn’t the perfect trip, however maybe the perfect “imperfect trip” as I called it when I blogged about it. It was a trip I needed at that point in my life and despite the circumstances I still enjoyed Paris, I could still see the romance and why people love this city so much. 

Fast forward three years and Haleigh came over to England for a couple of weeks. Haleigh had never left the country before meeting myself and even then had only been to England so I was really keen to go somewhere for a weekend and I thought it’d be nice to go to Paris together. So I booked us Eurostar tickets, sorted out a hotel and soon enough the weekend came where we were heading off to Paris. 

Work allowed me to sneak off early on Friday which was perfect, it gave us ample time to go and grab some dinner in London before catching the last train of the night onwards to Paris for our weekend away.

Paris

The Eurostar is a great way to travel, I much prefer it to flying if it’s a possibility. Haleigh had a little doze and I kept myself amused by looking at, well, my phone for the most part of the journey. Now I’m sure there are probably charging points on the Eurostar but I wasn’t too worried about it given how much battery life it had. I knew I’d be fine until we got to our hotel – you’ll see why I’ve noted this detail soon!

A little while later we’d arrived in Paris! Paris was noisy! I’m sure regular visitors will perhaps suggest Paris is always noisy but I’d only been the once and I couldn’t remember it being this noisy. The Gard Du Nord train station is a happening part of the city, lots of people around but even so – it seemed odd. 

We’d arrived late so rather than navigate the public transport I figured it’d probably be easier to just get a taxi to our hotel – fairly close to the Eiffel Tower. A good place to base ourselves for a weekend trip, right? I walked over to the first taxi and then balked at the price. 

“90 euros!”
“Sorry.. did you say 90!?” 
“Oui..” 

Ninety Euros? There’s no way that can be right but the driver was adamant – sure enough anyone wanting a taxi in Paris was facing a similarly extortionate fare for drivers seemingly reluctant for passengers. I ended up booking an Uber instead for a much more reasonable 30-ish Euros and soon enough amongst all the noise we’d been picked up by our driver.

It wasn’t long before we’d established why the taxi drivers were keen on a quiet Friday night. The traffic to our hotel was insane! Hordes of people in the streets, cars honking, people hanging out of windows all seemingly heading for central Paris to celebrate something? It all seemed good-natured but nevertheless we had no idea what the hell was going on? I’d checked before we travelled and we’d missed Bastille day / weekend by a week so I knew it couldn’t have been that. 

We were none-the-wiser by the time we’d arrived at our hotel, just happy to have eventually arrived, grateful to our Uber driver for navigating us amongst the manic scenes. I did a little bit of digging online once we’d got to our hotel and finally found cause of the scenes we’d arrived to: here

Algeria had beaten Senegal in that evening’s African Cup of Nations football tournament and there had seemingly been similar scenes following Algeria’s semi final win throughout France.

It was interesting to witness upon arrival, certainly memorable. As a football fan I’m quite conscious of football events happening in places that I visit but it didn’t occur to me in the slightest that an African tournament would have such implications on our arrival in Paris. I even knew the AFCON was happening at the time but the link didn’t register at the time. Perhaps naivety on my part but a lesson for the future! 

Content that the mystery was solved we chilled out for a bit before moving on to the next mystery of the evening. Just before bed I connected my phone to its charger and nothing happened – how odd!

Maybe I haven’t connected it right? No it looks good. So maybe it’s the charger? I connect my phone to Haleigh’s charger and still nothing. Maybe it’s the plug socket? Nope, Haleigh’s phone is charging perfectly. Haleigh’s phone was also charging fine on my charger.. what the hell!?

I’d had no problems charging my phone in England so had done nothing to reserve my phone battery on the trip over and now seemingly couldn’t charge my phone at all – my only means of technology on this trip. I didn’t bring a camera, I wasn’t that familiar with Paris yet so was somewhat reliant on the luxuries of European phone data – as an American Haleigh didn’t have that same perk so was Wi-Fi dependent on our trip. Unless my phone started charging again I was completely off the grid.

On that note, I feel quite lucky to have traveled off the grid. I dare say I’m probably of that age where I’m maybe the last generation to do so? It was normal not to have a mobile phone growing up and even in some of the later travels, having a mobile phone didn’t necessarily mean it was workable or affordable overseas. 

The first few trips I took as an adult were off the grid. I didn’t take a phone or even a camera on either trip to Ibiza, I was unreachable. Here’s the phone number of where I’m staying but mum, dad.. you’re not going to hear from me for a week or two.

I’ve met friends in places such as Sydney, Lisbon and Florence and had to hunt down a little computer shop to briefly access Facebook or whatever to make plans – I’ll meet you here at this time and you kind of hope you’ve communicated well enough.

I arranged to meet a friend in Rossio Square in Lisbon “outside of the McDonalds” and it’s the one time that cursed yellow M seemed to just blend in with its surroundings rather than stand out for all to see – “where the fuck is this McDonalds!?” – the irony being we believed McDonald’s would make an easier meeting spot rather than some local cafe or restaurant we’d have to locate in an unfamiliar city. 

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Florence, Italy

I remember sitting up at the Piazzale MichelAngelo in Florence knowing that I had to drag myself away from this gorgeous sunset spot I’d stumbled upon because I’d agreed to meet a friend downtown for drinks at a particular time and had no means to schedule a change of plans – “sod the Irish pub, come meet me here!” 

That was the way of the world and I’m grateful for those travels. I miss those travels but I haven’t done it for a good few years now. I’d say Florence may well have been the last time in 2015. 

One of the reasons I haven’t is because technology is so much more convenient now, phone data allowances (for now anyway) make it so easy to use your phone on the continent and elsewhere. The other reason is because much of that time since has been spent in long-distance-relationships. It’s hard enough being apart but myself and Haleigh usually talk at least some point in the day.

So maybe there’s a hint of irony here that this was the trip that saw me return off-the-grid. Of all the trips I’ve taken over the course of my relationship with Haleigh, the only one I’ve had to ‘suffer’ being off the grid is the one Haleigh is accompanying me? Okay, I can deal with that. 

I couldn’t get my phone to charge so it was a ticking timebomb. It survived the night, it lasted a few hours on Saturday morning. Enough to get some photos of the Eiffel Tower but then it was done. 

Weirdly, that is still the phone and phone charger I use to this day. It’s definitely in need of an upgrade at this point but my point being that it charged perfectly the second I returned to England and has been fine on every trip since. It literally went to Paris and decided to have the weekend off – “I’m not working this weekend, sorry!” 

and all I can really say is that I was so appreciative of it. I was in Paris for a weekend with this amazing woman and nothing outside of Paris existed for the next 48 hours. It was a happy coincidence, a happy problem to have. 

It’s so hard to travel anymore without everything at your finger tips. From travel directions to restaurant recommendations to that perfect “Instagrammable” photo spot and even to the more simplistic things such as the time of day – I always look to my phone for the time. 

This weekend was back to being present. Just enjoying the company, paper maps, winging our plans, having to ask someone for the time or basing it on how much light there is – “oh look.. it’s dark. I guess it’s night-time!”

Anyway, kicking off our trip we woke up on Saturday morning keen to explore. We went to a nearby cafe for breakfast and Googled the menu and reviews before sitting down had to take a chance on whether it was any good or not. If it’s shit, so be it. We won’t return.

It actually ended up being our breakfast spot on both days as the food was good. The service was typically European and Haleigh’s first encounter of such – maybe you’ll see a waiter, maybe you won’t. How European cafes stay in business is a mystery really but what’s the rush? This is Paris..

From our cafe it was a short-walk over to the Eiffel Tower and our first proper glimpse of it. Myself included, kind of. On my previous visit it had been covered in fog so I hadn’t actually seen the top of the Eiffel Tower before now! I managed to squeeze in a couple of photos as we had a little wander of the area. I’ve added a photo from my previous trip for comparison!

Paris

Eiffel Tower

Paris

From there we decided to go and do a hop-on hop-off boat tour of Paris – a lovely way to see the city. We had no specific plans so decided we’d just stop off at some of the points of interest along the way. 

Our first stop of the day was the impressive ‘Petit Palais’ – a nice little art museum which was free to visit – a nice bonus! I think it could justify a small admission price but it was a nice place for us to stumble upon. We grabbed a light snack and refreshments in the cafe and then had a look at the nearby gardens before heading back towards the Seine. 

Petit Palais

Our next stop was the Musee D’Orsay – one of Paris’ most famous museums and home to some more incredible art. I’d recommend buying tickets ahead of time, particularly in the summer months and at the weekend. There was quite a bit of a queue but Haleigh was able to sneak on to their Wi-Fi and buy tickets online which made the process easier.

It’s a great museum, you could spend a good chunk of time in there without getting bored. I reckon we probably did a good hour and a half before calling time on our visit, I think we’d seen much of what we wanted to but I’m sure we could quite happily return one day in the future too. It was one of our highlights in Paris. 

After our museum visit we found a nearby restaurant / cafe to grab dinner at. Again having to wing it but seemingly a success. We both enjoyed our food and again, it was a pretty casual affair with no particular rush on getting customers out of the door. We took our time and just enjoyed sitting outside in the glorious summer weather that Paris was enjoying. 

Heading back to the Seine we continued on our round-trip of the Seine and I kind of just got lost in the moment. Paris seems hit and miss for a lot of people, Haleigh wasn’t particularly wowed by it but I was swept up in the beauty and atmosphere of the city. 

I’d already liked Paris a lot on my first trip but Paris in the summer? Ooof, it’s even better!

It helped that we had glorious weather, the sun was shining and roaming the Seine was the best way to see Paris. At one point we passed what appeared to be a massive group of people dancing to music alongside the river and I was so envious. Couples in their summery outfits dancing away on the banks of the Seine? Sign me up! It looked like everyone was having so much fun! Just to watch it from the boat gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling and is a lasting memory from that trip. 

We passed the Notre Dame, unfortunately having recently suffered the big fire that caused worldwide shock. It was sad to see it in that state, although I’d at least seen it on my previous visit. We looped up and round before winding back at the Eiffel Tower – the boat tour had been a great idea and although we didn’t make too many stops it really was a perfect way of seeing the city. 

I have no idea what time we got back, the sun hadn’t quite gone down yet so maybe mid-to late evening? I was just completely in my element. Loving this way of travel, loving having Haleigh with me in this wonderful city. I couldn’t shake this feeling that this is how every trip should be.

We headed back to our hotel for a little bit before I suggested heading out to see Eiffel Tower by night. I was really keen to see it lit up after dark and as we were only staying a couple of blocks away we didn’t need to go very far. 

Despite having glorious weather for the rest of our weekend, Paris decided to pour down with rain soon after we’d left the hotel so we both got drenched. Consequently we only briefly saw the Eiffel Tower and made a quick u-turn back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the evening relaxed. 

Paris Nighttime
View from our hotel – photo stolen from Haleigh!

I like to think that myself and Haleigh will end up back in Paris at some point but I figured that if for whatever reason this is Haleigh’s only time in Paris that she had to see the other jewel of the city. We’d seen the Eiffel Tower, we’d cruised along a good chunk of the Seine so the plan for Sunday was a trip to see Montmarte and the gorgeous Sacre Couer.

We went and grabbed breakfast on Sunday morning at the same spot we had the previous day – pleased enough with our “local”. Having had a nice breakfast we dug out our little paper map and searched for the best route to the Sacre Couer.

Having mapped out our route we walked to our nearest Metro station only to find it temporarily closed. One downside to relying on paper maps is you don’t get real-time updates as you do with online resources. We returned to our map to find the next best option which saw us cross the Seine towards the Jardins de Trocadero.

The views here are gorgeous, perfect for those of you with a camera or a working phone. Sadly I’ll have to leave you to your imagination as I’ve got no photos to share but if you want some of the best Eiffel Towers views in Paris, this is your spot. I’m sure if you google Jardins de Trocadero you’ll find some pretty efforts.

Our little detour took us a little longer to find a Metro station but eventually we were on the metro in direction of the Sacre Couer. At the other end it was pretty busy, unsurprising given that it was a Sunday and also being a little later in the morning.

The first couple of streets on route are largely aimed at tourists, shops filled with souvenirs to take home. There’s heavy foot traffic and slow-walking before you eventually come out the other side and find yourself staring up at the Sacre Couer. 

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Taking selfies with the Sacre Couer – “where is it!?”

It’s one of my favourite buildings that I’ve seen on my travels, I think it’s gorgeous and well worth a visit. Unfortunately again I have no great photos to share with you, the best I can offer is some fog-filled photos from my first trip to Paris. 

The first time I visited the area was pretty dead, unsurprisingly so given the fog I suppose. One of the other attractions the Sacre Couer offers are wonderful views over Paris, none of which I saw on my first trip. 

This time it was much busier, they were queuing out of the door at the Sacre Couer so we didn’t bother going inside. The views over Paris on a sunny day are much nicer though from what I remember of it. 

Having skipped the Sacre Couer we ventured through the Instagrammable streets of Montmarte. It’s a pretty part of Paris, definitely worth a wander through but again it’s pretty tourist-heavy. 

I’m sure there’s some quality amongst the tat but you do wonder how many of the establishments are actually any good opposed to just having appeared on Instagram so frequently that they draw people in. We ended up stopping somewhere to grab some crepes, they weren’t good but location alone probably means they didn’t really need to be. I’m sure they get enough trade just by being in the right place. 

After our disappointing lunch we wandered a little more and looked in some of the shops in the area. Haleigh picked up a couple of souvenirs, some pretty art and very pretty postcards for the family. From there we wandered back downwards before stopping off at a cafe for a quick drink to escape the heat for a little bit. It was nice to just sit and relax for a little while before moving on again. 

Time in Paris was slipping away, we didn’t have too much longer left and still had to return and get our bags that we’d left at the hotel. We decided we’d grab one final meal at our “local” – three trips in one weekend perhaps a little excessive but we had liked the atmosphere and food and it was conveniently placed near our hotel too. 

After one final meal our time was up. We picked up our bags and flagged down what was a much-cheaper taxi back to the Gard du Nord to then make our way back to England. 

Paris Museum View

All in all, it was a lovely weekend and a memorable one too. We’ve all become so comfortable with the conveniences of technology that it seems inconceivable that we’d ever travel without it. 

I don’t want to advocate traveling irresponsibly and not being safe, I appreciate that as a white man I hold plenty of privilege that others don’t in the ways they can travel but it was so refreshing to travel this way.

I know as well as anyone how amazing the internet can be. I’ve been online in some form for more than twenty years now and it has had a significant impact on my life in that time, something I’m ever-grateful for but it does make me sad that some people will never know a different way of travel.

This trip had me reminiscing so much of previous travels,  knowing it wasn’t even that long ago really where this was an “every trip” experience opposed to an unintended one-off.

Realistically I know it’s not going to be every trip but I think the big takeaway for me was that I hope these kind of trips do become more frequent. I think the only regret was not having a camera. I could forego having a phone, I’d be perfectly fine getting around with just a paper map and having to do more planning for a trip but I think the only thing this trip lacked was more photos of us and more photos of Paris. 

Nevertheless, I think it was one of my favourite trips of the last few years. Fingers crossed there’ll be many more in the years ahead. 
Anyway I’ll wrap this up here. 

Until next time!

Jason

 

Madrid – May / June 2019

Hello dear readers! I hope all is well with you? I thought that I’d get back to writing about some travel.

I have written about football-related travels many times on the blog but this? This is a post I never in my lifetime thought that I’d be writing about.

I was listening to an episode of The Travel Architect’s podcast recently and the “travel quiz” on this particular episode revolved around the concept that people travel locally, nationally and internationally to watch sports or any event really at “bucketlist” venues – I am one of those people.

My love of football is no secret, I’ve been obsessed with the sport for as long as I can remember. Football is the biggest sport in England – by some distance. Football is the biggest sport in the world even and I’ve heard it nicknamed the “global language” – regardless of your native language, everyone understands football.

I think that’s particularly true for myself. I’m an introverted person, I’m quiet but that was multiplied tenfold as a child. I was so shy and so reserved but football was my comfort zone, I understood football and if we had a mutual love for the game it made it infinitely easier to connect with you. It was an easy bonding subject I suppose.

As a kid I just immersed myself in to all things football. To this day it’s probably the only passion I have that exceeds travel. I love and loathe it in equal measure, it infuriates me like nothing else can but the highs of the game are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

It didn’t matter what it was growing up. I could be playing football in the streets from dawn ’til dusk, collecting football stickers for the latest Premier League sticker album, reading Match magazine every single week or watching football on the telly. Playing computer games such as Championship Manager (“move aside Gerry Francis.. I’m taking Spurs to the lofty heights of the UEFA Cup!”), reading football-books.. whatever it was, I was obsessed!

I heard so many football stories from my dad’s youth – a very different time in football where tickets were more accessible and affordable. My dad would travel up and down the country with his mates and even experience the occasional foray in to Europe for the ultimate “away day” experience – hearing stories of Spurs in Belgium and UEFA Cup glory in 1984 was something I was so envious of for such a long, long time.

My dad’s “heyday” came and went. Marriage and kids and responsibilities followed and my dad had to stop going. Football became too expensive and required too much sacrifice to follow with the same frequency – sadly resigned to a life of “armchair football” but he still had enough love for it to pass on the reigns to his son. We’ll not give too much mention to the rebel Arsenal-supporting daughter! – “Why haven’t you disowned her dad?”

I loved football so much but my dad couldn’t afford to take us regularly if at all, it’s an expensive day out but my love for it was unrivalled. Growing up I’d firstly dream of playing on the biggest stage, playing for Spurs, winning the FA Cup and once the realisation kicked in that I’d never be good enough to achieve that, my hopes turned to my “idols” achieving that success on my behalf.

NationalFootballMuseum

I wanted to see Spurs win an FA Cup (I still haven’t!), I wanted to see Spurs in Europe. Even as a deluded, hopeful child you’d never dream of Premier League or Champions League glory for little ol’ Spurs – that was beyond our limitations but just give me something to remember. Give me something to match up to those stories my dad has from the late 70’s and 80’s.

Year after year I’d witness disappointment after disappointment. I still haven’t forgiven Shearer for breaking my heart in the FA Cup semi final in `1999. Likewise I have held a bitter resentment against Germans, Kaiserlautern, for ending my sole European memory of Spurs far earlier than I was prepared for. Just the one European excursion in my pitiful Spurs-supporting memory – my dad’s fairytale stories are all a lie!

Jokes aside, I dreamt of football on the biggest stage – imagine going to watch Spurs in Europe or England at a World Cup. My dad went to France in 1998 and I watched on again, envious albeit ultimately with similar feelings of disappointment and heartbreak following another painful England World Cup defeat.

My school years were particularly painful, arguably Spurs worst era and similarly coinciding with the years (92-04) I was most susceptible to teasing from my peers.

I left school and typically Spurs fortunes changed. More importantly though, I left school. I was now of working age – the financial limitations my father had had, I did not. I had no responsibility and despite taking a weekend job in a supermarket I was finally free to spend my hard-earned cash as I pleased – going to the football regularly.

I remember little of the first time my dad took me to White Hart Lane but I remember running up those steps and seeing that pitch for the first time – “wow!” – you dream about it but I don’t think that first time can ever disappoint. It’s Disneyland levels of magical – now that I was working I could finally come as often as I wanted.

Better yet, Spurs were improving on the pitch! In 2006, at 18 years old, I finally got to watch my beloved Spurs participate in a European competition – in the flesh! Tottenham vs Slavia Prague in London. A “glory, glory” European night under the famous lights of White Hart Lane!

The allure of European football, playing on the continent in places you have and haven’t heard of, has always mesmerised me. You read blog posts about the hidden gems of Europe – “secret off-the-beaten-path cities no-one has heard of” and it’s like mate, you underestimate the obscure places across the world that football fans know about because of some random football team that play there.

Going back to that previously mentioned podcast.. My love for European football in particular always came with an “I’d love to play there..” wish before materialising in to the “I’d love to watch a game there” dream instead.

There were and still are so many football experiences I’d love to witness one day – famous football stadiums, famous football matches and rivalries, famous football tournaments that would be incredible to see live.

Primarily I want those football experiences with Spurs of course but some aren’t possible and others aren’t realistic. I can’t watch Spurs in a World Cup but I’d still love to attend a World Cup one year – there’ll always be some regret that I didn’t go to Brazil in 2014.

It’s my dream to go and watch either domestic or international football in South America – Brazil and Argentina in particular as the footballing giants of the continent. It’s my dream to go and watch some of the big European rivalries, I have a list of football stadiums I’d like to visit before I die (or before they knock the stadium down!). I have so many football-bucketlist experiences to tick off!

European football again obviously holds a lot of those experiences and I never thought I’d see them with Spurs if I’m being honest. That Champions League anthem is mesmerising but I never really believed growing up that I’d watch Spurs participate in the competition, let alone multiple times as I’ve been fortunate to do. I never thought visiting the likes of the Camp Nou, San Siro, Bernabeu, WestfalenStadion or others would ever be possible.

After finally being able to go to home games regularly I attended my first Tottenham away game in 2008 – Spurs at Villa Park in Birmingham – what a historic, traditional stadium that is too. It’ll be a sad day should Aston Villa ever replace their stadium.

I went to multiple domestic away games over the years and then finally went to my first European away game in 2014 – Benfica of Lisbon, Portugal – one of Portugal’s biggest teams and a huge name in European football.

“Pinch me!”

It was “only” in Europe’s second-tier competition, the Europa League (UEFA Cup) but still – watching Spurs in Europe? “This is the dream!”

Lisbon2

Since that first European outing I’ve watched football in a number of countries and even in that elusive Champions League competition I thought beyond little ol’ Spurs and then ‘here’ we are – June 2019.

I kind of knew, much like my father 30 years ago, that my footballing days were coming to an end. I’ve had this nagging feeling about a different lifestyle, different priorities and different responsibilities that suggested I’d have to “hang up my boots” so to speak.

It wasn’t necessarily imminent but I knew it wasn’t far away and so I went in to 2019 with the mentality that the next European outing, this, could be my last ever European away game with Spurs. I wrote that blog post knowing I was bowing out soon – I just wanted one final away European away game and “anywhere but Dortmund”.

Ironically Dortmund was one of those stadiums I never thought I’d see Tottenham play at – one of Europe’s most famous football venues and undoubtedly fitting of any worthwhile football bucketlist – home to the famous “yellow wall” of Borussia Dortmund.

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Dortmund18

Tottenham were drawn to play Dortmund in March 2016 and I’d literally only just come home from Georgia at the end of Feb and I was booking flights – I did not give a shit about work, I was not missing a “once in a lifetime” trip to Dortmund.

Seven months later we were back in West Germany in nearby Leverkusen and then in November 2017 we returned to Dortmund again! On that occasion I saw Spurs win but twice was plenty – there’s no other reason to visit Dortmund!

So faced with the possibility of a third “once in a lifetime” trip to Dortmund – I was praying to the football gods for some mercy and to send me anywhere else. My prayers fell on deaf ears: Tottenham Hotspur vs Borussia Dortmund – March 2019.

There were no guarantees of progress, no guarantees of more European games. This could be my last and only opportunity so reluctantly, back to West Germany for the fourth football excursion in three years. Spurs typically won comfortably which resulted in a Champions League quarter final against fellow English side, Manchester City.

Unbelievably Spurs succeeded and set up a first Champions League (European Cup) semi final appearance in 57 years – Tottenham vs Ajax – giants of Dutch and European football – “pinch me!”

Amsterdam

Next up Amsterdam – with a touch of irony perhaps. Spurs have offered so many disappointments over the years. Typically I’m on the verge of packing it in altogether and Spurs decide this is the year for a cup run in Europe? “Thanks Tottenham..”

Amsterdam was not in the budget for the year but of course I had to go, hoping that Tottenham may well just go one step better than they did in 1962 and incredibly they did – a first Champions League (European Cup) final appearance in their 137 year history!

and so this is where this story begins!

“Begins? Jason, you’ve already written a novel!”

I know, I know but what’s a story without a little context?

I was ready to pack it in, just one final European outing. I’d budgeted the first six months of the year perfectly so that I could think about next steps with Haleigh. This was the supposed to be me winding down as far as the football was concerned but Spurs said “sod that, we were your first love!”

Madrid

A Champions League final was an “at all costs” trip and boy was it. There was no scenario in which I wasn’t going to Madrid, with or without a ticket for the game, but I genuinely had no idea how I was going to make the logistics of this work.

As if the trip wasn’t expensive enough anyway, Tottenham’s European fate had been sealed on that memorable Wednesday night in Amsterdam. 24 hours earlier our opponents Liverpool had sealed their own fate – we’d face English opposition in Madrid but more importantly that meant fellow English supporters and travelers that had been afforded a 24 hour head start.

Reports suggest 100,000 or so traveled from England to Madrid for this game. I don’t know how accurate that is. I don’t know if it was more – quite possibly but for my fellow experienced travelers, try and book that trip with three weeks notice on very specific dates and when a vast majority have had a head start on your travel planning -it’s bonkers!

The simplest solution (“hey, we’re selling flights to Madrid sat on Ryanair’s wing for only £450,000 one way”) was a no-go.

I was 100% going to Madrid but it was time to get creative. Where do I fly from? What are my options? What’s the alternative to flying to Madrid? Barcelona? Bilbao? Where? Would it be cheaper to not fly from England? Maybe I’ll go out to Dublin or Paris or Marrakech or anywhere else first!

It was a headache! I was still in Amsterdam at the time and pondered if I just should start walking to Madrid now! I shared my frustrations with my parents and knew it’d probably have to wait until I got home.

“Your dad’s thinking of driving..”

Wait, what!!? Dad’s contemplating popping out of “retirement” for this one? Wow! I mean it probably shouldn’t have shocked me,  this is big after all but still, my dad didn’t even own a passport at the time.

That said, anyone who was anyone was going to this. I think it was about Liverpool’s 408th Champions League final in 20 years and they’ve been to one more since then too but for Spurs? This doesn’t happen to the likes of us – a genuine “once in a lifetime!” experience.

I know it’s a case of being privileged and having the luxury of football as a priority in your life that you can do a trip such as this but it still surprises me that any Spurs fan missed this.

If you have to sell an organ or that Arsenal supporting sibling, do it! A family friend of ours flew over from his home in Australia to be in Madrid because this was the big one! Admittedly his journey may well still have been cheaper than any flight from England going to Madrid but he knew how important it was, I knew that I had to go and my dad likewise – a first Father-Son European away game!

Road to Madrid

My dad drove! A European road trip from Peterborough, England to Madrid, Spain. Another friend of my dad’s footballing days joined us for the roadtrip, quite surreal how much of the old gang had come out of obscurity for this one – I’d never met Lloyd before and I don’t think my dad had seen him in decades either but a trip worthy of a reunion!

The match was on Saturday, we left England after work on Thursday and intended to drive back on Sunday so this was as quick and as budget-friendly as such a trip would allow – sharing fuel and accommodation costs between us.

We left work on Thursday and headed for Dover where we’d be picking up Lloyd and more importantly, catching the late-night / early-morning ferry over to France. I can’t recall what time it was but let’s just say it was dark in the crossing.

I was a little apprehensive about taking the ferry. It makes me a little cautious about ever booking a cruise too, I get a little seasick I guess and I felt so rough coming back from Amsterdam three weeks earlier which was weighing on my mind a little bit.

Nevertheless we had a beer on board and kicked off the trip of a lifetime in style. The rest of the ferry was packed with football fans, predominantly Liverpool fans but two sets of supporters all in good spirit – all ready for the big game on Saturday!

We arrived in France early Friday morning and was able to catch the sun coming up over the country – being the end of May it was particularly nice and came up quite early.

The trip made me feel quite nostalgic. We’d take the occasional family daytrip to France when we lived in London and I also visited Spain on a coach-trip with school that no doubt took a much similar route that we did for this trip.

I remember nothing of France from those trips other than stopping at service stations and such in random places. For a long time I didn’t really feel like I’d really been to France. It was only after visiting Paris and Lille that I felt like I’d actually been to France and started falling in love with it. Lille was particularly nice visiting France in the summer and getting to see what the fuss was about. Up until then I’d never really got the fuss about France.

We were on the road for a good few hours on France, stopping occasionally for a food break and chance to visit the grand service stations of the country – feeling very nostalgic for the France I remember from my youth!

Mid-afternoon we arrived in our stop for the night. We didn’t want to do the full drive on Friday so agreed to stop somewhere on route – I’d had a little read on options and suggested Bayonne / Biarritz might be a good choice. So we booked a little budget backpackers hotel in Bayonne for one night – it was very basic. Tucked away in the middle of nowhere really and more dorm-like accommodation but perfect for one night – we had no problems with it.

We dropped off our things and decided we’d go and spend the rest of the afternoon at the coast. We got back in the car and headed for nearby Biarritz.

This was meant to be a whistle-stop one-nighter so none of us were that bothered about where we stayed, we hadn’t done any real research about what to do or what to expect from the area. More than anything it was a good base for us to then hit the road again in the morning.

So Biarritz took all of us by surprise – it is stunning! We stepped out of the car and I was blown away by its beauty. This is why people rave about the South of France!

Biarritz

Biarritz
Biarritz, France

Surfing

The sun was shining, the water was gorgeous and it felt so relaxed. Biarritz were actually hosting the ‘World Longboard Surfing Championship’ this week but it seemed like we’d missed any of the major activity of the day. There were still a few people out in the water but it was so peaceful.

We found a little outside bar to pick up some beers and just sat by the water mesmerised. It’s so easy to glamourise travel places but this felt like paradise. The only disappointment was the reality that we were only here for one night. Part of me sat there, looking out to the water and thinking can’t we just sack off Madrid?

I’d been to Madrid before (and LOVED it), let’s find a bar for the game tomorrow and stay here forever. Why are we leaving this place so soon?

We enjoyed the views a little longer but didn’t hang around for particularly long. We got back in the car and returned to Bayonne, which also looked nice from the little we saw of it, before finding a place to grab some dinner near our hotel. We were pretty close to Spain by this point but still had a few hours drive ahead of us so were keen to get an early night and an early start in the morning.

On Saturday morning we woke up in eager anticipation of the day ahead. Champions League final day featuring Tottenham fucking Hotspur. This is actually happening!

Of course I was sad to be leaving the South of France, I am itching to return to Biarritz one day and also to explore more of the South of France because it had instantly won us over but nevertheless we had to go.

The drive over the border is gorgeous. As I said above, I’d done the school coachtrip to Spain before so this wasn’t of huge surprise to me but it was even prettier than I remember it being.

FranceSpain border

Even more Spurs and Liverpool fans were on the road by this point – all Madrid bound. We stopped off at more service stations along the way and picked up food for the morning to keep us going. Eventually we’d arrived in sunny, glorious Madrid.

I think Madrid is undoubtedly one of the best cities in Europe, I think I might go as far as saying it’s my favourite European city outside of London but on this occasion we weren’t here for the culture or anything else that Madrid has to offer. We found somewhere to park and headed straight for the dedicated fan-park hosting Spurs.

We picked up some beers and soaked up the building atmosphere. One of hope, one of optimism, one of disbelief. This fairytale-like story was one night away from reaching Hollywood. We’d been down and out so many times over the course of the season that there was this feeling of “it’s meant to be” and we just needed that movie-script ending to round it off.

Soon enough our family friend, Dave, had joined us. Coming all the way from Australia Barcelona, it was great to see him after a few years. I’ve seen him a few times over the years in England and we even met up a couple of times when I went to Sydney, now we were in our third country together and for a Champions League final! Had I mentioned that?

A little while later two more of the old gang, Dave number 2 and Mo, had come to join us for a little while too. A great opportunity for a reunion photo and a “we were there” moment.

MadridSpurs

Soon enough the fan-park closed. Dave 2 and Mo went their separate ways whilst the four of us went off in search for elsewhere to drink and hopefully a bar to watch the big game tonight.

We picked up a drunk stray from Aberdeen who’d seemingly lost his friends and tagged along with us for the night. We tried a couple of bars without much fortune – finding that they were either completely rammed with supporters or that they were completely empty because they had no TV to show the game. Eventually we had some fortune in a restaurant-ish kind of bar showing the game and selling beers which was all we really needed.

The day had been lovely. Everyone was in good spirits. I think there was a fear that with tens of thousands of Brits descending on Madrid that there’d be trouble. The Brits, and English in particular, don’t have the greatest reputation on the continent. Some of it is fully justified to be fair but on this occasion there was no need for such concern – everyone got along swimmingly. Now for the football..

All that build-up, all that anticipation and excitement? Minute one: Liverpool penalty – game over.

It still feels unfair, unjust even. I don’t think the decision will ever sit right with me and it just killed the game. Spurs huffed and puffed but without any real quality, it was probably one of the worst Champions League finals in truth but to have this grand occasion go like this so early in the game was and still is hard to accept.

I don’t know how much I ever really believed. I was always hopeful and had optimism, there was definitely fleeting moments of “we’re going to do this..” but Liverpool were of course the favourites for the game, favourites to win the trophy for the Nth time and so it proved.

As ever for Tottenham, no happy ending. No fairytale, no Hollywood movie to come. I can’t and won’t question the effort because we tried but even accepting we weren’t ever expected to be at this stage, it was no less painful. We huffed away and Liverpool hit us on the counter late on – an undeserved 2-0 in a game lacking any quality. We never deserved to win and perhaps it’s the bitterness talking but Liverpool were barely worthy winners themselves.

I walked out at 2-0 completely deflated. I needed to just walk somewhere for a bit. I had no interest in seeing the final whistle, no interest in seeing the trophy presentation. Who fucking cares?

We didn’t have accommodation for Saturday night. I think we’d made the decision to just find some kip in the car later on and then head out Sunday morning.

Nevertheless we hung out in Madrid for a bit after the game, mingling with a few people from the bar that we’d met. I dare say I wasn’t really present at all. Maybe its the years of experience supporting Spurs, maybe its the fact the other three have all tasted real Tottenham success but I think the other three took the defeat much better than myself.

I don’t know how any of them could find the energy to be sociable enough for chit-chat. In truth I just wanted to be as far from Madrid as possible. After maybe an hour we went and found a late-night joint for some cheap and greasy food. I’m not sure you’d necessarily associate Madrid as a good place for a kebab but it ticked the right boxes after a day of beer and football.

From there it was back to the car. Lloyd seemed to find the time to talk to every passing celebratory Scouser. To be fair to the Liverpool bunch, they were very gracious about it and complimentary of Spurs but I didn’t really find any consolation in it.

More to the point was that Lloyd was constantly stopping on our walk back to the car. I lost count of how many Liverpool fans we stopped for in the end – admittedly Lloyd was fairly drunk but I’m sure he was seeking them out – “just keep walking Lloyd, come on!”

My dad seemingly had much more patience than I did. Perhaps I needed to be a bit drunker myself but I wasn’t particularly interested in baby-sitting someone 20-30 years my senior, nor stopping for chirpy Scousers.

We said our goodbyes to Dave, wishing him well for the trip back down-under, and eventually got Lloyd back to the car having stopped for conversations with seemingly every single person in Madrid.

We slept on the outskirts of Madrid for a few hours kip before hitting the road again – determined to try and do it in a day and be back on a late-Sunday / early-Monday ferry back to England.

Sidenote and a word of warning for anyone that fancies doing this road-trip – the tolls aren’t particularly suited to back-seat passengers and dare I say drivers too! Lloyd seemed near-dead in the front seat and was completely passed out which left me on toll-duty as my dad drove and seemingly few seemed to fall on the actual drivers sides for some reason.

Maybe my memory is rusty but thinking back to it, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do if you’re a solo driver. A few tolls on I was an expert on the pay-process but it seems bizarre that that was the case. Perhaps manned toll booths on the right side of the road were closed because it was a Sunday and this was our only option? Who knows?

Anyway, we looked for somewhere to break up the drive once again and as tempting as it may have been to return to Biarritz we wanted to see somewhere different. Bordeaux seemed like an obvious choice but we opted to go to ‘La Rochelle’ instead, I figured I was more likely to visit Bordeaux one day and why not go somewhere else.

We struck out unfortunately. Perhaps we didn’t give it enough of a chance but for a flying visit, we certainly didn’t see the best of La Rochelle and wouldn’t necessarily be inspired to return. I’ve heard good things so I’d be inclined to go back and see if it could change my mind but it was barely a lunch spot for us and left no real impression.

We hit the road again pretty quickly and from there it was the odd service station on an otherwise uneventful drive. Lloyd eventually woke from his slumber, still feeling the effects of a heavy day of drinking. Having perked up a bit we grabbed some food and then made the gradual return to Calais, Dover and Peterborough respectively.

Dam Square Spurs

Reflecting on the trip as a three-parter makes it more special: Köln, Amsterdam, Madrid – wow!

It’s hard to detach from the finale, hard to detach from the pain of how it ended but when you take the whole experience in to account then I can only look back on it with fondness. Amsterdam was incredible, to follow that up with a Father-Son road-trip was particularly special and it’s a footballing-adventure I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

I’m gutted that this three-parter doesn’t get the Hollywood ending it deserves but hopefully you’ve enjoyed following along anyway. If this is to be my last football-inspired blog post and how I bow out of European football, what a way to do it!

Maybe there’ll be more European adventures to come, who knows? I’ve certainly cut back on the football this side of Covid and I’d be reluctant to go back to Dortmund for the 592nd time but watch this space I guess. There’ll almost certainly be a World Cup adventure in 2026 given that the USA are one of the host countries!

Anyway, time to wrap this up! Next time on the blog? No idea! Haha.

Stay tuned!

Jason

Stuff I’m watching and stuff on the to-watch list!

Hello dear readers! I suggested a little while back, in my JasonLikesToTravel 2.0 post, that I may mix things up a little bit and blog about topics beyond travel.

I’ve just really struggled finding any blogging motivation, perhaps a writers block of sorts. I’ve never had so many ‘draft’ posts sitting there waiting to be finished off and yet sit there they do. I can’t seem to reach a point with my travel posts that leave me content with the ‘story’ I suppose.

So in an effort to blog a bit more regularly, I figure why not mix things up. I thought it might be nice to share some of the stuff I’ve been watching in recent weeks and months, plus share a few of the shows still on my list to watch.

I feel like this was partly Covid related and that every show in eternity filmed and released new seasons of stuff at exactly the same time. “Here’s a new season of this on Thursday and that on Friday and this on Sunday” and on and on and on. Worse yet, they all seemed to get released around March-April time which was of course as I embarked on my wedding trip to the USA.

Surely they could have staggered their releases better? I very quickly went from being inbetween shows to suddenly having 50 things to watch and little time to do so! The last few weeks I’ve began catching up again so here’s a look at some stuff I’ve been watching this year!

Better Call Saul
This Breaking Bad spin-off went much as Breaking Bad did for me really. For all of the hype around Breaking Bad, I felt like it took a while to get going and this is true of Better Call Saul too.

I tried watching this when it was first released and struggled on through the first season, the second didn’t keep me captivated so I gave up on it.

I decided to give it another crack and go back from the start and watch over. It’s still a bit of a struggle initially and I think you’re more inclined to stick with it if you’ve seen Breaking Bad but it does improve a lot. It’s taken me a bit of time to catch up and I did manage to watch a little of it whilst in the US in March and April but I’m now fully up to date.

We’re on a mid-season break but the show returns next week, having ended on a fantastic cliffhanger, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they wrap things up. This is the final season and being a prequel, we kind of know the path certain characters take. We also know which characters aren’t in Breaking Bad so I’m particularly interested to see the fate of those characters as they wrap up Better Call Saul.

I think both Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad are good shows and get better with each season but if you’ve not watched either, be warned that they take a while to get going!

Money Heist
I think the final season of this was released at the end of 2021 but I didn’t get around to watching this until early this year. I actually ended up watching this in its original language (Spanish – “La Casa de Papel”) albeit with English subtitles which I think made it a little more enjoyable for me.

The show follows a couple of heists, robbing the country of Spain of some of its biggest assets. It’s a really good show. In contrast to the above, I think it was probably at its strongest in its early seasons but I still really enjoyed it towards its finale. The story has you rooting for the thieves to get away with the grandest heists and there’s plenty of twists along the way. It also features some great characters and I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch.

I thought the finale wrapped things up nicely and it’s a show I’d definitely recommend giving a watch.

Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars – Episodes 4-6, 1-3, 7-9, Rogue One and Solo
I feel like people of my generation were either introduced to Star Wars via their parents or from friends who’d likely been introduced to it by their parents. My parents never had any interest or love for Star Wars, I’m not sure that they’ve ever seen any of the films so we were a Star Wars free household growing up.

My sister was introduced to it presumably through friends of her own but I was a very shy child. I’m still quiet and introverted now but as a child particularly so and therefore I struggled socially, my biggest bonds were those made through my love of football. I was obsessed with all things football – it was my comfort zone and if you liked football it made connecting with you infinitely easier.

What relevance that has to Star Wars? None I suppose but one of those friendships that I did make led to a cinema invitation. My two friends and their mum were going to watch the newly released Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace!

I think amongst hardcore Star Wars afficionados this is considered one of the weakest as far as the Star Wars films are concerned and I’m inclined to agree. So whilst I enjoyed my cinema visit with my friends, I wasn’t blown away by it. I’ve never been a film buff anyway but I don’t think the Phantom Menace was captivating enough to make me go back and watch the older Star Wars movies or anticipate the next episodes that would be released. So for years and years and years that was my sole Star Wars watch. I wasn’t inspired enough to watch any others.

“You haven’t watched Star Wars!!?”

and I was never one of those people that took delight in not watching something because it wound people up. I just hadn’t watched it because I hadn’t, no particular reason other than I spent my time doing other things.

However a few years back (December 2016!) I decided I was going to give Star Wars its opportunity to win me over but this time, doing it right. Let’s go back to the “beginning” – episode 4 naturally. Let’s see what I’ve been missing out on!

Forty years on from its original release I sat down and watched ‘A New Hope’ and it did not disappoint. It holds up pretty well despite the time that has since passed. Star Wars had offered me hope – “on to the next!”

Several times over I’ve tried to watch them all. I think on that first occasion I watched the first two episodes and no further, not for lack of enjoyment but committing to them all is time-consuming.

You sit down, watch one and then leave the next one for another night and something crops up. You go out, you’re too tired, whatever.. I must have watched Episodes 4 & 5 a good few times without ever getting much further than the trilogy. I think my greatest effort was watching 4-6 & then re-watching Episode 1 for the first time since its release. Alas, no success!

Fast forward a few years..

I came back from the US in May of 2022 and it seems that on my final day in Washington I caught Covid. I was homebound for the foreseeable future and I thought to myself, let’s watch Star Wars – all of them.

I was still working from home so my freetime wasn’t infinite but I had enough to say, “one film a night, that should be doable” and so it was back to the “beginning” – episode 4 for the nth time! I’ve always wanted to watch them in release order, experiencing it as cinema-goers did upon Star Wars release.

Fortunately despite having seen it countless times, episode 4 is probably my favourite having sparked a love for Star Wars so it never feels like a chore to watch it.

Episode 5 and 6 followed then on to a new trilogy! Episode 1 and then something fresh! From this point on I was going in blind, well as blind as prequels allow you to be. There are “spoilers” to some extent, moreso being such an old series. Even having never watched Star Wars you probably have some knowledge of certain characters but for the most part everything going forward was new to me.

I stuck at it and each new movie immersed me further in to the world of Star Wars – going in to the final few movies was particularly rewarding because I was truly blind. They featured stories I knew nothing of, characters I knew nothing about and over the course of a couple of weeks I’d been well and truly won over. After six years of trying, I’d finally watched all eleven Star Wars movies.

Sitting down to watch that final movie, The Rise of Skywalker, and watching it come to its conclusion was really, really satisfying. The next challenge is to watch some of the TV shows that have since followed but I’ll get there in time!

The Circle
This one is definitely a guilty pleasure watch. I don’t tend to watch reality TV, the whole “celebrity” culture does nothing for me and I tend to avoid all of those kind of shows but there’s just something about ‘The Circle’ that has me hooked.

The premise is that a number of contestants get locked away to the confines of their own apartment, only able to communicate with the other contestants ‘online’ with whichever profile they see fit. They can either play as themselves or ‘catfish’ as another person entirely.

I’ve always been pretty active on social media so I don’t know if that partly plays a part in why this peaks my interest but the show fascinates me. Channel 4 first introduced it to British viewers whilst Netflix have since taken on the mantle with their own US version.

The fourth season of the US edition was released in May and I blitzed through it as quickly as Netflix allowed me to – cruelly only releasing four episodes a week and typically ending on cliffhangers that begged answers.

My only critique is that the show usually falls apart in its finale. I’ve rarely been content in the eventual winner of the show and it’s a genuine bug-bear of mine that you have strong contenders for 12 episodes that then have no chance of winning it because they’re seen as too big a threat.

There are two series (one UK, one US) where this was particularly evident and just left me bitterly resentful at how it played out haha. This latest season however had a generally likeable group of contestants and there were no such complaints in how it ended! As far as reality TV goes, this is one rare show that gets a tick from me!

The Witcher!
This was another that I think was released at the end of 2021 but I only got around to finishing this year. Season one ended at such an inconvenient point (cliffhanger!) that meant this was a painfully long wait for season two because of Covid haha.

This is a fantasy show following the lives of Geralt of Rivia, Ciri of Cintra and Yennefer of Vengerberg – featuring magic and royalty and a bunch of other things.

It’s a fairly short show at just eight episodes a season so far but thoroughly enjoyable. After a two year wait it was great to be reacquainted with the story and learn more of the various characters throughout the world. I thought season two was another strong season, largely following the life of Princess Ciri. I’m excited to see where the story leads in the next season.

Heartstopper
I wanted something fairly light-hearted after catching up with Better Call Saul and ‘Heartstopper’ ticked the right boxes. I saw the trailer for this quite early on and led to one of those “have you seen this?” queries with Haleigh – being one of Haleigh’s favourite book series I knew she’d be intrigued that Netflix were doing a TV adaptation.

I’ve never read any of the books but I was keen to give Netflix’s show a watch to see why Haleigh loved it so. This is one of those “high school” shows that follow teenagers coming of age, this however focusing moreso on LGBTQ+ love interests as some of the characters come to terms with their sexualities.

It’s a very happy, sappy, romantic, feel-good bit of television. I found this really, really easy to watch and some of the characters really likeable. Again, there’s only eight episodes to this single series (a second has been confirmed) so I think I binged it over the space of two nights but if you want something fairly light-hearted to watch that’s also LGBT friendly then this might be worth giving a watch. I liked it.

Ozark
After Heartstopper I wanted something a bit more compelling and to continue with ticking off my ever-growing “to-watch” list. The final season of Ozark was released this year, split in to two parts either side of my wedding. I think I’d watched the first half at the start of the year but then had to wait until I was back in England to catch up with the second half of the final season.

This is another show that I think continued getting stronger the longer it was on TV. I think the show is really well written and somewhat similarly to ‘House of Cards’ you find yourself rooting for and against the showrunners at various points along the way.

I think overall the season was a strong one and I’d still recommend watching it but I felt really let down by its conclusion. I was watching the final episode and with 5-10 minutes to go I had to double check that this was indeed the final season because I had no idea how they were going to wrap things up.

It really fell short for me and it aggravated me so much. My advice? Don’t wrap up watching the finale of a TV show last thing on a Sunday night because it was a bittersweet way to end what was otherwise a lovely weekend.

There are some shows that kind of stumble over the finishing line in its final season just to reach a conclusion, House of Cards a very good example for very unfortunate reasoning, but for the mostpart I’d say this was a good season and left me with too many questions and uncertainties at the end of the show.

I think the only bit of comfort to its finale is that they could bring the show back in the future if they wanted to.

Bridgerton
A bit more fluff TV really but after Ozark this was a necessary comedown, I just needed something easy to watch.

This is a “how the other half live..” type show – following the society of England’s (fictional) wealthy and noble families. The premise of each season (two to date) is essentially to find the next batch of women-of-age a husband among the ‘ton’.

It’s a hugely popular show, one of Netflix’s most watched I believe. I don’t think it’s that good but it is something I enjoy watching as a pretty casual watch. The most recent season introduced some new characters to the ‘ton’ whilst watching some other favourites develop. For a light-hearted watch it’s enjoyable enough and I’ll no doubt watch seasons 3 & 4 once released.

The Last Kingdom!
This was my most recent watch and another TV show that came to its conclusion this year. Released in March 2022, I didn’t get the chance to watch it before the wedding trip but it was worth the wait.

A two year wait I should say, this was another long gap between seasons that was presumably affected by Covid. The fourth season was released in April 2020 and the fifth of March this year so the ‘recap’ feature was a necessity for this one as I’d forgotten a good chunk of where things had left off in the previous season.

The show is fictional but follows the rule of the kingdoms in Britain and the battle between Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons and features a fair few genuine historical figures – notably “Alfred the Great”.

The first episode of season five was a little slow but from thereon I thought it was an exceptional final season. Where Ozark disappointed, this did not. I said above don’t watch a TV show as the final act of the weekend but this rounded off this past weekend perfectly and left me completely satisfied – the final episode ended with a montage of ‘Lord Uthred’s’ story throughout and it was *chefs kiss* perfection.

Highly recommend! It also had me itching to book a trip to Bamburgh asap so a little bonus from the show I suppose!

What next?
The two big things on my “to-watch” list are Stranger Things and The Umbrella Academy. Fortunately I didn’t get to Stranger Things too quickly so didn’t see ‘part one’ of the newest season, meaning I can binge it all in one go. More fortunately I haven’t heard any spoilers yet which seems like a miracle, everyone has been talking about it and it seems this season has taken a bit of a darker / more horror-like direction. I’m intrigued.

I feel like that is more likely to be spoilt for me than ‘The Umbrella Academy’ but the newest season of that just came out too so that’ll be something I need to watch soon too.

Better Call Saul returns next season with part two of its final season. I think Netflix plan to release episodes weekly though so I might wait until August to watch it all in one bash, one episode a week isn’t enough.

There’s a few other things on my list that I need to begin watching or finish off watching. I somehow need to find ‘Ted Lasso’ to watch, I might get myself a free trial of AppleTV and bash that out in 7 days unless there’s anything else worth watching on Apple to justify yet another subscription.

I never think to check Amazon Prime either but I’m sure there’s some stuff worthwhile giving a watch over there too. Plus I’ve got some of the Disney+ Marvel and Star Wars TV shows to give a watch that I’ve yet to see.

Have you watched anything good recently? Anything worth adding to my list? Preferably TV shows as I seem to struggle watching a movie. Why I can watch six hour-long episodes of something in an evening but not watch a movie I don’t know.

Anyway, let me know! Until next time,

Jason

2022 so far..

Hello dear readers! How is 2022 treating you all?

It’s quite common for me to do a yearly wrap-up post after the year ends but given my lack of blog inactivity I figured why not do one for the half year too? I haven’t been posting much so why not share a bit of what I’ve been up to in the first six months of the year, eh?

A wedding in Washington
Needless to say the highlight of 2022 so far was getting married over in Walla Walla, Washington back in April. It’s weird to think that I’ve been married for almost three months, not least because we’re still waiting on Haleigh’s visa to come through so we’re still apart as things stand but nevertheless the wedding was a wonderful time and we’ve managed to spend some time together since tying the knot at least.

I think I’ll do a more detailed post around my time in Washington at some point but it was a wonderful day and one I would happily relive. I joked on social media shortly after that I could now understand why couples get married multiple times – I’ve always loved a wedding but ours was obviously particularly special.

Wedding Photo

A honeymoon in Oregon
Arriving to Portland’s latest ever snow on record wasn’t quite what I had in mind for our honeymoon but it was nice to get away for a few days. Well, the plan was a few days anyway. I think there was a part of us that considered this a mini-moon and we’d take a proper honeymoon at a later date to somewhere more exciting than the neighbouring state.

As it turned out, the snow changed our plans a little and we extended our time in Oregon by a few more days which gave us the best part of a week in snowy Portland. One of the reasons for that decision was we really wanted a day at the coast and it looked like things might brighten up come the end of the week.

Again, I’ll likely write about the trip in more detail at a later date but I’m pleased to say things did brighten up and we had a glorious sunny day over on the Oregon coast to end our time in the state.

Whether we still take a proper honeymoon or not I don’t know, maybe we’ll just have a special anniversary or something or just general travel but it was a nice way to kick off married life and enjoy some time to ourselves.

Oregon Coast
Honeymooning in Lincoln City, Oregon

Idaho?
I think I briefly mentioned this on the blog but I had a small little planning dilemma around two US weddings in April. We got married ourselves on the 9th of April and then Haleigh’s cousin got married on the 30th of April down in Salt Lake City.

Haleigh and her family were planning to drive down from Washington but timing and logistics of getting time off from work meant I decided it was best to fly home for a few days and then fly back to Utah, via Denver (no direct flights to SLC, wtf?).

However British Airways had other ideas. The day before my flight back to London I discovered that it was delayed by 18 hours! An 18 hour flight delay! Long enough to ensure I’d miss work on Monday morning and then what’s even the point? I’d be flying back to the US on Thursday!

The less said about British Airways the better to be honest, I’ve had problems with three of the four flights I’ve taken with them this year and their customer service on this particular occasion was horrendous – I spent a good hour on the phone with them trying to find a satisfactory resolution to the problem they’d created. Suffice to say they won’t be receiving a Christmas card from me this year!

My eventual solution was to stay in the US for another two weeks and drive down for wedding number two – resulting in a first visit to Idaho!

Idaho wasn’t much more than a layover, we stayed in Twin Falls for one night on the way down to Utah and did the drive back in one day so didn’t see much of it. That being said, Idaho offered a place to rest our head, some good food and a couple of pretty views!

Twin Falls
Shoshone Falls, Idaho

A wedding in Utah!
Wedding number two! It was never in doubt that I’d attend, my only ever issue was the logistics of essentially two separate US trips three weeks apart.

The sudden change of plan worked out for the best and more importantly it was a great couple of days catching up with Haleigh’s family and celebrating the wedding of two incredible people. This is another summarised story of a future post but definitely another highlight of 2022 thus far.

Also, Salt Lake City took me by surprise. It is everything you expect of the USA but with 360 degree mountain views. We were so busy with family stuff that we didn’t see much of the city or downtown area but it really left an impression on me. In some ways I dare say it’s one of my favourite American cities.

Utah wedding

A return to Washington
We drove back to Washington after the wedding and after a little more time together it was time for me to return to England solo! I flew home in early May and had no plans to return until Thanksgiving in November.

Alas, when you’ve had six weeks together you quickly grow to miss them when you part. Particularly when you have no idea how long the visa process might take – not helped by a certain Russian president adding to the list of immigrants applying for visas and those Ukrainians understandably largely taking priority.

Anyway, with no set reunion with Haleigh prior to Thanksgiving I pondered if I could go and visit Haleigh sooner. There were a few mitigating factors which swayed my decision but I ended up visiting Haleigh for her birthday in the middle of June. I’d received a chunky voucher from BA which offset the cost of flights entirely and then the US dropping their testing requirement was a welcome sight!

It was a lovely trip, far too short as ever but lovely nonetheless!

A quick sidenote but it seems that the US arrival process has changed entirely in the space of a few months. Firstly Seattle has a swanky new arrivals hall! Secondly you apparently collect your bags before passport checks, you no longer have to complete those pesky paper immigration forms and lastly you no longer get a passport stamp – very sad!

SEATAC airport
SEATAC’s swanky new arrival hall for international arrivals

A birthday in Newcastle
Yet more celebration, this time in England! A friend of mine was celebrating her 30th birthday in a small Northern town called Northallerton and I figured why not make a weekend of it?

I pondered staying in Northallerton for all of five seconds and then looked at alternative options. Other than a horrid hungover-filled daytrip to St James’ Park I’ve never spent any time in Newcastle and I figured this was a good excuse to stay in Newcastle for a couple of nights.

The birthday celebrations were wonderful. My friend had an Abba tribute band come and entertain with a night of Abba tunes all evening which was a fun way to celebrate.

Getting to explore Newcastle a bit more was an added bonus. I actually got to meet up with a fellow travel blogger – Sam – whilst visiting her Geordie homeland and her and her husband were great hosts and offered some good recommendations whilst in town.

Newcastle itself is a gem. I really, really liked it. It’s easy to romanticise anywhere on such a short visit but it definitely felt to me like one of those “I could live here” cities. It was 100% my kind of city and I didn’t really even delve in to its nightlife which Newcastle is well renowned for. Highly recommend a visit!

Newcastle
Millennium bridge, Newcastle

Peterborough!
Lastly my home! Peterborough has served up some wonderful memories this year too. I’ve really began embracing life in Peterborough in recent years – so much so that I started a little Instagram page trying to promote the best of it.

Peterborough is winning me over. I’ll always be a Londoner at heart but I’m probably as content as I’ve ever been in Peterborough. It doesn’t get the fairest reputation but there’s fun things happening here if you make an effort to look for it.

People often dismiss it as a place where “nothing happens” but I think living in small town America for a while in 2020 has definitely helped shift my own mindset.

Just to name a few highlights this year I’ve watched live sport in a couple of different venues, live music in multiple venues, live theatre in multiple venues, tried new restaurants, enjoyed a few beers and generally just enjoyed the best this “small” city has to offer. I’ve accepted that it can never offer what London can but I think it still has plenty to offer.

Cathedral theatre
Theatre at Peterborough Cathedral

I’ve actually missed out on a few fun opportunities for a variety of reasons, including an incredibly exciting debut festival that I missed having caught Covid a few days beforehand.

All in all, the first six months of 2022 have been pretty good to me. There’ve been some minor inconveniences along the way but I’ve generally made the best of each situation that I’ve had to face.

Hopefully 2022 is treating you all pretty well too? My blogging inactivity is in no means a lack of care on my part haha. I hope our paths cross more frequently, perhaps even in person now the world is opening up a bit!

I’ll continue lurking but won’t promise an imminent next post because I doubt I’ll commit to it. We shall see..

Until next time!

Jason

JasonLikesToTravel 2.0

Hello dear readers! How are things? I’m sure there’s a few of you wondering “who’s this guy?” or perhaps thinking “I remember him..” because well, my posting regularity has been pretty naff over the last couple of years.

The pandemic eh? So much time, so little posting! This is just my 7th post in the last 12 months but perhaps it’ll be lucky number seven? The one to get me back to posting a bit more frequently?

I don’t know what the cause is, perhaps Covid just sucked all of the fun out of travel-writing for me but I either haven’t had made the time to post or have actually had time but just no motivation to do so.

So I’m thinking I’m going to revamp things around here. Less structured and more “whatever”. Typically I’ve been posting about each of my trips chronologically but I think I’m going to take this a little less seriously and just blog about trips as and when I want to and maybe even throw in some other topics and life updates along the way – so consider this blog 2.0 going forward!

Maybe some posts will be the usual ramble-y ones (“like this post Jason?), perhaps they’ll be shorter. Maybe they’ll cover trips I’ve taken, maybe they’ll just be a handful of words to check in but I DO enjoy being part of this community and I do want to get back to blogging in some form so we’ll see how things go. However if you’re only here for the travel, maybe now’s the time to jump ship and click that little “unfollow” button.

“Okay Jason, I’m on board! What have you been up to?”

Well, it’s so nice that you asked! Those following me elsewhere on social media will have seen that after September 2021’s postponement, I finally got married in April!! That’ll undoubtedly be the big highlight of 2022. What a lovely day it was! I really don’t get the whole nervousness around weddings – it was a doddle and really nice for my family to make their first trip over to Washington State too – they loved it!

Wedding Photo

In the end I spent a total of six weeks in the US and visited four different states – Washington (obviously), Oregon, Idaho and Utah. I’ll blog about that trip in more detail soon but six weeks away was wonderful.

I thought going back to England after so long away would be difficult enough but I only went and took a “souvenir” home with me didn’t I? After two years of avoiding it I managed to catch Covid!

I flew home on the Saturday (7th May) and woke up with a scratchy throat on the Tuesday. I wouldn’t have caught it from anyone inbetween so I’m convinced I caught it in this busy pub in Seattle a few hours before my flight home – oops!

Following on from the CDC guidance changes around mask-wearing I then flew home maskless too so suffering a little Covid-related guilt there. Admittedly I had nobody sat next to me on the flight and I know it’s unlikely I’d have passed it on that quickly anyway but still, typical eh?

Fortunately symptoms didn’t stick around long. I tested negative twice before testing positive and by the time the positive tests started coming I was pretty much over the worst of it anyway. Nevertheless I’ve been laying low for the last couple of weeks, it has been nice to get back among civilisation this week!

I’m heading up North this coming weekend. A friend is celebrating her 30th birthday in a town called Northallerton and I figured I’d make the best of it and booked myself a hotel for two nights in Newcastle. I’ve never spent any proper time in the city so any recommendations are more than welcome! I’m excited to explore it a little bit and I’ll keep you posted on what I discover haha.

Anyway, I’ll wrap this up so this is relatively short by my usual standards. You can see a few more wedding photos over at Instagram for anyone interested. I’ll blog about that trip pretty soon but I just wanted to give some form of update before then.

Until next time!

Jason

Amsterdam – May 2019

Hello dear readers!

Do you ever get those posts where you just can’t spit the right words out? It wasn’t my intention for this to be my next post but I was trying to write up part two of the Köln trip and it just wouldn’t come together. I enjoyed the trip but I’m just not enjoying writing about it.

So a change of plans, here’s Amsterdam!

Strangely though, you can still consider this to be somewhat of a ‘sequel’ to that Köln post. Between visiting Köln in March and visiting Amsterdam in early May I’d actually been to three different countries but this is still perhaps the “next chapter” of an unbelievable story.

I hinted at this in my last post but I knew back in 2019, maybe even earlier than that, that change was coming my way. I was feeling good about things with Haleigh and knew that at some point I really wanted to go out and live in the USA. There was no specific date in mind but “as soon as possible” was the aim.

The only thing that stopped me doing it any earlier was balance. I’ve always been quite sensible with money but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my enjoyment just to get to my end goal a little bit earlier – balance was a must!

So I meticulously mapped out the first six months of 2019 (read me) knowing that come July I’d be in a healthy enough financial position to really think about what was next, without having to sacrifice any fun in the first six months of the year.

I calculated that I could squeeze in trips to Köln, Washington, Helsinki and Dublin in the first half of 2019 if I was strict enough with my spending but I’d left myself no wiggle room. That was it!

MyHelsinki

Enter Spurs..

I often joke that football supporters probably hate the game more than those who claim not to like football. The game is rotten in so many ways that infuriate you as someone who cares about the game and, many of those reasons are ultimately part of the reason why I’ve since walked away from the game and cut down on attending.

Anyway.. Köln was my way of bowing out of European football. I had this inkling that it’d probably be my last European football away trip for quite some time, maybe ever? My priorities were changing and so it was quite bittersweet that my big finale ended up being a third trip to Dortmund.
You can’t moan about traveling to Germany really. The last couple of years in particular make you appreciate the luxuries we have but moan I did – “fucking Dortmund!”

I’d told myself that this decision came down to how willing I was to gamble. I knew this was the last season I’d be likely to do this so it was either Dortmund in the last 16 or I’d have to gamble and hope we reach the quarter finals and get a better away trip in the next round.

However I knew that there were no guarantees. It could be Dortmund now or Barcelona in the next round, in contrast it could be Dortmund or nothing. There was every chance we’d crash out of European football and that’d be my plans shattered. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d made assumptions only for Tottenham to disappoint me.

imag7238

This wasn’t one of those occasions. Tottenham comfortably beat Dortmund 3-0 in London and it looked like the tie was over before we’d even got to Germany – “are you kidding me Spurs!?”.

I still had some nerves for the return fixture in Dortmund but in reality, unless Tottenham did something very stupid (see why I was nervous!?) we were very likely to be in the next round. We finished off the job in Dortmund and so it turns out that I could have waited a round. I could have gambled!

They soon did the draw for the next round and I took some solace with the knowledge that our next opponents were none other than Manchester City. If I’d gambled away four nights in Europe and had to settle for a European trip to Manchester I would have been beyond gutted – the only fixture more anti-climatic than a trip to Dortmund – we play in Manchester at least twice a year already.

The other piece of comfort was that this draw meant that this was the end of the line for Spurs. This was going to be our last European games of the season and not a trip I was going to have any regrets about. Manchester City were, and still are, far superior to Tottenham and there’s only one possible outcome to this tie. Dortmund was a 50-50 tossup but City? No chance! 85-15 in City’s favour and that’s if they have a bad day.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with football chatter so if you haven’t worked out where this is going already, catch up!

Tottenham weren’t supposed to win this tie. There are a multitude of script-like factors that played a part but fate was with Spurs and they did in fact beat Manchester City – qualifying for the next round in the most spectacular fashion. Tottenham were off to the Champions League semi finals.

I’d told myself I wasn’t going to a semi final. It was never in consideration. There was no wiggle room in my budget for more than one football trip so it was always either the round of 16 (Dortmund) or gambling for a quarter final (Manchester). The only exception I would make in addition to that would be a trip to Madrid for the final and let’s be clear that is NEVER going to happen.

The semi final happened to overlap with my mum’s birthday and that was further cause to stick by my commitment. I travel a lot but it’s rare that I’d miss a family birthday – I have no responsibilities, I can travel any time of year and I don’t particularly mind missing my own birthday but let’s be at home for the others if we can help it, eh? So I’d have to miss this one.

“I’m not doing the semi final, I’m not doing the semi final. I’m.. fuck!”

This wasn’t supposed to happen! I mean you really couldn’t make it up. I’ll turn 34 this year and for the bulk of that time Tottenham have inflicted misery upon misery over me. I wouldn’t change it for anything but that’s the reality. So in typical Tottenham fashion, even when things are going well they find a way to completely inconvenient me.

I was ready to leave my job, ready to head off to Washington for a while and Spurs threw me a curveball. You couldn’t have done this in any of the previous ten years of European football Spurs?

“I’m not doing the semi final” was a lot easier to commit to when hypothetical but an actual Champions League semi final? The only other time Tottenham have played at that stage of the competition was 1962 – this was literally once in a lifetime stuff. How could I possibly not go to Amsterdam!?

My hesitancy cost me. It’s not a mistake I usually make. Football travel 101 – you book your travel as soon as you know the game is confirmed, worry about the accommodation later but when you’re competing with thousands of other people for the same journey you don’t hang about!

I’d stupidly kid myself that I wasn’t going to Amsterdam and I suffered for it. I slept on the decision for two days and by the time I came to my senses, flight prices and Eurostar journeys from London had gone through the roof. Amsterdam is normally pretty cheap to travel to from the UK but not when every other Spurs fan is planning the same journey on the same dates.

Even for a Champions League semi final, it was hard justifying some of the prices I was seeing. Do I really want to pay this much for this trip when I could go to Amsterdam a week later for a fraction of the cost – it’s so hard to justify but this may never happen again.

I compromised, I really couldn’t justify paying stupid prices for journeys way beyond their usual value so I looked at another alternative – how much and how long would a coach take?

Amsterdam wasn’t in the budget but I couldn’t miss it so took the budget-friendliest option I could. Overnight coach from London to Amsterdam, overnight coach from Amsterdam to London, one night in a hostel in Amsterdam – let’s do this!

I booked everything and then had to send an awkward email to work. I don’t know how many of you have been guilty of this but I was on holiday in Washington and having to send my manager an email to request time off for another holiday. “I know I’m away at the moment but..” – such cheek!

Amsterdam

A couple of weeks passed by and it was time! This was quite possibly the most ludicrous weeks of my life because I came back from Washington and started getting excited about Finland – my bank holiday plans I’d made at the start of the year.

I flew home from Helsinki on bank holiday Monday, went to work on Tuesday and then on Tuesday evening I made my way down to London Victoria. I’d been in the country less than 24 hours before running off again – quite absurd!

I grabbed some dinner on route and then picked up a couple of other snacks for the journey – best get comfy for the next 12 hours!

I wasn’t sure how busy or comfortable the journey was going to be so was quite pleased to get a window seat for the journey – towards the back of the coach with “the cool kids”. It quickly became apparent that I wasn’t the only Spurs fan on board which was an added bonus. At least half a dozen around me were also making the budget trip to Amsterdam and feeling optimistic about our chances. We’d lost the first game 1-0 in London but all was still to play for in Amsterdam.

With a lot of football chatter it made sense to keep tabs on Tuesday night’s other semi final. Barcelona had beaten Liverpool 3-0 in Spain but playing at Anfield on a European night? You never know..

With Liverpool 1-0 up and all to play for in the second half, I managed to get the game up on my phone. Let’s see how this plays out, shall we?

Liverpool turned it around, from 3-0 down to 4-3 winners! Anfield’s magic had struck again and produced one of the greatest comebacks you’re ever going to see in European football. It gave the few of us some real optimism for Amsterdam. It’s only 1-0, this tie really isn’t over yet!

The football had helped pass some of the time. Soon enough we were at the channel crossing and ready to go to mainland Europe! I wasn’t sure how we’d be crossing and had assumed by ferry but as it turned out we went over via the channel tunnel – a railway shuttle service for vehicles.

By the time we’d crossed in to Europe the mood of the bus was vastly different. The early excitement of a football adventure had been swapped for opportunist sleepers, hoping to catch a bit of shuteye before the morning. I dozed a little myself but not too much as we made stop-offs in Antwerp, Eindhoven and Utretcht. Antwerp the city that perhaps most caught my eye from the little I could see at night-time.

We continued on through the Netherlands at a rapid pace. I don’t know if the coach drivers happened to be Tottenham fans themselvess but we arrived at our bus stop in a neighbourhood called Duivendrecht two and a half hours ahead of schedule – fantastic as far as I was concerned!

Fortunately I’d been to Amsterdam before so whilst I wasn’t so familiar with Duivendrecht itself, I knew roughly where I wanted to kick off my trip – Amsterdam Centraal station please!

Amsterdam Centraal

Amsterdam at 6am is quite the sight, a treat even. I hate waking up early when I travel but I also love seeing a city before it has had the chance to properly wake up – a bit of a dilemma but this was an occasion where I had no choice. I didn’t have a comfy hotel bed to curl up in so my only option was to have a wander along Amsterdam’s deserted streets.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city to enjoy regardless but getting to see it with nobody around was that little bit more special. I know I’ll never see Dam Square this quiet again for instance.

I had nothing I particularly wanted to do with my time in Amsterdam, it was a short and sweet trip and most of it would be preoccupied with football. I wandered off and made the most of Amsterdam being so quiet, capturing a bunch of people-free photos as I wandered around.

Dam Square

Amsterdam 1

Amsterdam Canal

With places actually starting to open I soon went and found myself a little Amsterdam cafe to sit and get some tea from. I had made plans to meet up with a couple of friends later in the day but I had the morning free to myself.

After a second cup of tea I meandered on over to Amsterdam’s ‘MuseumPlein’ – home to a park and some of Amsterdam’s most famous museums. It’s a pretty area so wasn’t an entirely wasted walk but it turns out that the likes of the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum were fully booked – it seems football fans aren’t completely uncultured hooligans and the thousands of Brits in town had had a knock-on effect.

I did some more wandering of Amsterdam’s canals before finding myself a place to grab some lunch. By the time I’d finished I was able to head over towards the hostel I was staying at for the night and check in. I’d stayed at Amsterdam’s Flying Pigs hostel before and although I don’t tend to stay in hostels as frequently anymore, for one night it seemed pretty ideal to be somewhere central and somewhere I also knew.

I checked in to my 6 bed dorm around 1ish and proceeded to find two near-dead Americans who weren’t able to rise from their beds and were still suffering a bit from the night before. They’d got caught up with the influx of Spurs fans in town on Tuesday night and seemingly suffered the hangover that followed. A couple of others sharing our dorm also turned up and we mingled about our various plans before I bid my farewell – extending an invitation or warning perhaps dependent upon your perspective.

“Dam Square..” – come join the party or avoid at all costs but either way it’s going to be busy and it’s going to be loud. I left my hostel dorm and I could hear Dam Square before I could see it – the English have arrived.

Dam Square Spurs

The beers were flowing, the Brits were serenading Amsterdam – Glory glory, Tottenham Hotspur. The rest of the afternoon was spent embracing the atmosphere and catching up with friends – Daniel and Natalie had also made the journey over to Amsterdam and so here we were in yet another country for Spurs.

Sadly this was one of the occasions where getting a ticket for the game was impossible. Nevertheless we wanted to be here, part of the atmosphere that only these European trips can offer – nothing can replicate the feeling of being amongst “your own”.

As kickoff approached Spurs fans scuttered off in various directions, not helped by the rain. We tried one pub on Dam Square which was rammed and had no luck getting in to. We ventured off down a side street and stumbled upon an Irish pub which seemed suitable enough for the evening. No idea where Natalie ended up, we somehow got separated and she ended up watching the game with another friend elsewhere.

By this point the nerves had kicked in, this was undoubtedly one of the biggest games in Tottenham’s history and please Spurs, just once eh?

BAM! Five minutes in and Ajax have scored to put them 1-0 up on the night and 2-0 up overall. That was not the start we wanted!

Time ticked on and Ajax have done it again, 2-0 up on the night and 3-0 ahead in the tie. I’ve had various and numerous Spurs disappointments over the years but is this really how this is going to play out? Our biggest game in my lifetime and we’re just going to crash out with a whimper? I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry at a Spurs team or performance. I’ve undoubtedly seen worse performances but on this stage it was unacceptable and indefensible. If we lose to Ajax then so be it, they’re a good team but at least do it the right way. At least give us a chance. Gutless, spineless, pathetic.

I considered getting up and going at half time. Let’s not pretend I can’t find a million other ways to actually enjoy my evening in Amsterdam. Something possessed me to stay, I dare say hope but in reality I must just enjoy the misery that comes with following Spurs. Why else let them put me through the ringer year after year, season after season, disappointment after disappointment?

“If Ajax score again I’m gone..” I say to Daniel. If we could just get one early goal in the second half, you just never know.

BAM! Lucas Moura! 2-1 on the night, 3-1 overall. The pub roars and for the first time there’s that glimmer of hope, just a small dash. Could we?

BAM! Four minutes later, Lucas Moura again! Beers go flying everywhere, this Tottenham dominated pub goes delirious. Belief for the very first time! Half an hour to go, only one goal needed, game on! The nerves have returned.

The next half an hour was agonising. So close and yet so far, every Ajax attack sent fear through my body, every missed opportunity for Spurs caused despair.

With a couple of minutes to go a cross comes in to the box, Vertonghen gets his head on it and..

BAM crossbar. Argh! That was the chance! That had to go in!

Now this is typical Tottenham isn’t it? I was suddenly backtracking on my earlier hopes. This tie was dead and buried, Spurs had no chance but they couldn’t just leave it alone and allow me to suffer an embarrassing 12-0 defeat. No. It’d be much more fun to play like idiots for three halves of football, offer you that little bit of hope and then crush you in the finale.

Time ticked on and Ajax wasted every wasting second they could. Five minutes of injury time to play and another chance comes and goes. This is always the way with Spurs, it’s fucking cruel. So close and so far – no happy ending here.

Ajax waste more time and it seems like that is probably that. We get the ball back with seconds to go and boot a hopeful ball forward, we need a miracle. Hit and hope.

Llorente knocks it down, Dele flicks it on, MOURA!!!!!! 95:01 on the clock. Are you fucking kidding!? What the fuck just happened!?

Beers go flying again – more this time. Bodies go flying too. I’m thrown one way, Daniel the other direction as everyone piles in for a massive group-hug. Seriously, what the fuck just happened? How did that happen!? I have no words.

Things calm down long enough to watch the game kick off again. Now this would be typical Tottenham wouldn’t it? Surely even we can’t mess this one up? The referee finds another minute from somewhere, god knows where and prayers are being spoken all over Amsterdam. Erik Lamela decides the 97th minute of a Champions League semi final is the perfect time to do some stepovers and tricks on the edge of his box and proceeds to lose the ball – I daren’t repeat the words that came out of my mouth in the seconds that followed.

Time and place Erik, time and place! Get rid of the fucking ball man!

The final whistle goes and the pub roars again, very little beer left to throw by this point.

Myself and Daniel are finally reunited and we share a look that transcends words. Bemusement shared with the biggest grins imaginable, no explanation to what we’ve just witnessed. We embrace in a massive hug and I’ve completely gone by this point – the tears are streaming down my face. Spurs are going to Madrid for the Champions League final. Spurs have actually done it!

Road to Madrid

Myself and Daniel part and seconds later I’m crying in the arms of another Spurs fan and another and another. Swept up in the aftermath of multiple celebrations I head up to bar, just wanting a glass of water to catch my breath and I’m turned away – no service, not even for a quick glass of water – it’s closing time from the party-poopers.

Not that it mattered. The celebrations spilled out in to the streets and everyone is heading in the same direction – Dam Square! It is rammed with Spurs fans.

I still can’t stop crying. Pride just pouring out of me, happiness pouring out of me. Happiness for myself, happiness for every other Spurs supporter, player, manager and everyone associated with this wonderful, wonderful football club that I love and loathe in equal measure.

It’s evident at just how much this means to everyone but it’s just so hard to put in to words. Even now I well up when I think of that night. More hugs follow with stranger after stranger after stranger and I still can’t stop crying – this stuff just doesn’t happen to Spurs.

Dam Square Night

I can’t express just how many strangers I embraced and shared hugs with. It’s quite weird to think a year later we were in lockdown and couldn’t hug anyone! I got my 2020’s worth in one night!

The mood around Dam Square was just incredible and it wasn’t long before songs were ringing around the square! I somewhat felt for the hotel occupants that were probably hoping for a quiet night in an expensive hotel right on Dam Square and found hundreds singing on their doorstep in to the early hours – glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur!

I was reluctant to drag myself away but I was starting to feel quite dehydrated by this point and was desperate to go and find a bottle of water somewhere. I bid my farewells to Daniel and Natalie (who we bumped into again in Dam Square) and called it a night – back to the hostel.

I reeked of beer and debated taking a shower but that’s the one downside to hostel life, I didn’t want to disturb those already in bed and decided I’d just have to make do with a beer-drenched sleep – assuming that I could sleep.

I was still on such a high, laying in bed with yet more tears streaming down my face. I finally had a chance to catch up with some of the online reaction to what can only be described as one of the best nights of my life and seeing that joy shared only set me off further. Am I ever going to stop crying? I tucked my phone away and hoped that eventually my tear-filled eyes would allow me to sleep.

The next morning I woke from the strangest of dreams before remembering that actually, yes that did happen last night. It may well have been the stench of beer that helped remind me so I took the opportunity to shower before then checking out of my hostel.

I had nothing planned for my Thursday. In all honesty I couldn’t focus on anything else but football. My body was in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, my head was in Madrid – it’s all I could think about and working out the logistics of how I was going to get there.

I returned to a much quieter Dam Square and went in search of some breakfast, eventually finding a little place serving some crepes. They just so happened to have a little TV in the corner that were of course showing the highlights from the night before which I couldn’t take my eyes off – still in disbelief.

After breakfast I went wandering, off down one of Amsterdam’s canals but it was no use. I felt guilty but I just had no appreciation for where I was.

Amsterdam Canals

Sure Amsterdam’s pretty but I just want to go back to England and think about Madrid. I even went as far as looking for a Eurostar ticket and came very close to booking the next possible train but couldn’t justify spending a couple of hundred pound or whatever it was on a one way ticket – I’m just going to have to hang around in Amsterdam until my coach later this evening.

The nice thing about Amsterdam is that it’s a great city for doing nothing, it’s so easy to wander and not really care where you end up. I couldn’t tell you where I went in truth. Along this canal, down this street, across that bridge and being a glorious sunny day it was quite nice to get lost.

Amsterdam Boats

Eventually I stumbled upon a bar which I liked the look of and thought I’d stop off for a drink. I took a seat at the bar and by chance the guy to my right just so happened to be another Spurs supporter, a Spurs fan from Helsinki of all places! I mentioned that I’d just been to Helsinki and he offered a few recommendations for next time and then taught me a few Finnish words which was quite fun.

We grabbed another beer and ordered some ‘bitterballen’ which I hadn’t tried before (delicious) before eventually going our separate ways. I wandered a little more but by this point I was just killing time really, not too much longer and I’d be catching my coach home.

I decided to pop over to Amsterdam’s Hard Rock Cafe to get a late lunch and an early dinner. Being Amsterdam, its HRC inevitably overlooks a canal but I took seat at the bar as it was a little busy in the restaurant which ended up working in my favour. I always like the HRC, I’ve ticked off a few on my travels but this occasion was particularly memorable.

I finished off my food and the barman comes back and asks if I fancy another beer – “on the house!”.

How could I possibly say no to that? A wonderful gesture for no reason at all. I had plenty of time to kill so of course, another beer sounds perfect! I was so grateful!

From there it was a gradual winddown to departure. The free beer had certainly perked up my mood for Amsterdam but there wasn’t anything I really wanted to do. The most logical thing would probably to have gone elsewhere to grab a drink but I didn’t really fancy that either ahead of a long journey. I decided to just walk over to the bus stop, a good few miles away.

Weesperpoort Amsterdam

It was a nice way of seeing parts of Amsterdam I hadn’t ventured to previously. I didn’t walk the whole way in the end, maybe half of it before hopping on the metro. I’d gone from loads of time to kill to a mini-panic that I’d dawdled too much and now time wasn’t on my side.

I needn’t have worried as I got to the bus station with far too much time and nothing in the area but at least I was on time. I popped to a nearby supermarket to grab a bottle of water for the journey.

Frustratingly my card proceeded to decline and I had nowhere to get any cash out so was just about to put the water back before a kind stranger stepped in – lucking out with another freebie!

The journey back to Amsterdam was a little busier – no idea why but I guess a few fancied a trip to London. There were again a couple of Spurs fans on board who I got talking to – Madrid inevitably the hot topic.

This time we were taking a ferry journey across the channel which was the first time I’d done so for many, many years. Despite being well versed in travel, sea-travel is seemingly not my comfort zone! Stick me up in the sky and I’m generally fine but ferries? Bleurgh..

I felt woozy pretty early on and hoped to just ride out the journey as smoothly as possible. One of my new bus-friends came and found me and insisted I join him and shared his life story before proceeding to try and get a little sleep on the ferry.

As tired as I was, sleeping wasn’t an option for me. I closed my eyes at one point and that was a terrible decision. It just seemed to heighten my senses and awareness that we were on the water and bobbing along – terrible!

Eventually we were back in England and back on the coach but the rest of the journey was horrible. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to be sick. Ferry travel had not agreed with me at all and a claustrophobic-feeling coach wasn’t helping either.

I’d hoped to try and sleep it off but this was typically a much livelier bus on this occasion. We’d picked up a few youngsters in a dodgy-looking part of Brussels who were perfectly friendly but meant there was a lot more chatter on the way home. Nobody, myself included, seemed to kick up any fuss about the noise and ordinarily I don’t think I’d have cared at all but I felt so awful that it just added to my misery.

We got back as far as London and it just seemed to take an age to get to Victoria. I’d got this far without feeling sick, don’t be sick now! Fortunately I wasn’t, I held out but it seemed like the second we got to Victoria and got off the bus I then let it all out.

I’d booked an overnight coach for a multitude of reasons but one last reason I’d booked a Thursday evening coach was that I wouldn’t have to take Friday off work. I felt so awful though that I ended up texting my boss and asking for another day of holiday – a waste but I just couldn’t face going in to work after such a torrid journey home.

and that was that. This post went on much longer than I thought it would do but how could it not? If you made it this far, well done! I appreciate it was quite football-heavy but genuinely one of the greatest nights of my life and the fact I’d started the week in Helsinki means it probably ranks as one of the best weeks of my life.

A post on Helsinki and part two of that Köln trip will come soon but next up? A roadtrip to Madrid for a Champions League final – featuring Spurs!!

Stay tuned!

Jason

Köln – March 2019!

Where do I even start with this one, right? Every travel story in a post-Covid era offers some hindsight and a fresh perspective but let’s be abundantly clear, it’s inconceivable that I sit here writing about Köln again!

Long time readers and followers will know that myself and Köln have a long history, a patterned history if you will although I’ll get to that shortly.

I’ll try and summarise this first section the best I can as its a frequently told story but the next chapter needs some context

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Cologne – March 2013
The travel bug hit. 2013 was the year where travel became less of a dream and more of a priority. I spent two weeks in the February out in Sydney, Australia and I was hooked.

I came home, not with bundles of money, but with another payday on the horizon I was itching for more travel. It was quite a last minute thought but Easter weekend at the end of March stuck out – perfect!

I looked at various options but booking last minute travel for Easter weekend was tricky, flight prices inevitably high before I pondered a train journey. A few places in Western Europe sprung to mind but something drew me to a city I knew nothing about and a country I wasn’t all that fascinated with if I’m being honest – Cologne, Germany.

I’d traveled a bit through my childhood but as a shy and quiet individual my travel experiences were somewhat Westernised if you will. I’d been to Florida four times on family holidays, Australia (obviously), Spain (supervised school trip), France (supervised day trips with the parents), Scotland, Wales, various spots around England and Ibiza (as good as English-speaking in the summertime).

So I don’t want to say I didn’t like Cologne. You step outside of its train station and it’s hard to be anything other than mesmerised by the incredible cathedral towering over the city. I liked a lot about Cologne but as daft as it sounds, I think it was the first time that I’d really been abroad

That’s not me downplaying how fortunate I was to have traveled as often as I did growing up but just an observation of the places I’d been to date or the people that had accompanied / supervised / taken leadership of the trips I’d taken.

I struggled to warm to Cologne and deep down I think it’s just because I was a bit of a shit traveler. Getting from A to B means you’ve traveled but I was really out of my comfort zone for the first time. I couldn’t speak more than a couple of words of German, I was traveling on my own, didn’t know anybody, have an introverted personality and didn’t find the Germans to be particularly hospitable, there was no life to my hostel, all the restaurants had funny food and I could go on and on. I couldn’t even work out how to open the door in to my hostel dorm – over an entire weekend!

All that said, I’d enjoyed Cologne enough of course. It appeased my desire to see the world, see different places but come the end of the weekend I was ready to go home. For all of the things I’d liked about Cologne, I’d felt isolated at times and all the pizza in the world (that’s a German delicacy, right?) couldn’t fix that feeling that Cologne just wasn’t my kind of place. It wasn’t somewhere I saw myself returning to.

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Köln – March 2016
So of course, three years later I did just that. This time however I was visiting Köln, not the English-known Cologne I’d once visited.

I still stand by the fact that I’d had a nice time on my previous visit but it’s almost as if I’d just floated through Köln the first time around. Had I really enjoyed it? Where was the joy in that trip? I’d seen some things, the cathedral for one that never fails to blow me away, but I don’t know that it was ever really a happy trip – I probably said it was at the time but I’d gone home content knowing that I was going home. I don’t know that I really left with too many positive memories.

So I think this trip had a touch of redemption about it. Maybe I hadn’t actually given Köln a fair crack, I was three years on and whilst still trying to rid myself of some habits (“Weetabix boy“), I was a much better traveler by this point. Infact I could even speak German to a relatively decent level on what was now my 5th trip to the country.

I was back in Köln for football. My beloved Spurs had been dealt a “once in a lifetime” draw with none other than Borussia Dortmund – Spurs were going to play in front of that famous yellow wall of European football.

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Staying in Dortmund itself had no appeal to me so I decided I’d base myself in Köln for the trip. A chance to return to the city, a city I could explore more of and a city I could see with fresh eyes.

Being able to speak German was transformational. I’d spoken more German within the first hour than I had on the entirety of my first trip. The unhospitable Germans I’d encountered three years earlier seemed friendlier and more engaging with someone actually making an effort to speak the language.

Additionally being a football trip meant I had friends along for the ride and that also helped improve the experience I had on this trip. It was a much more positive experience of Köln and somewhere I was pleased to return to.

That said, Köln isn’t particularly big so two trips to the city felt like plenty.

Köln – October 2016
“and Tottenham will play Bayer Leverkusen..”

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I had a vague idea of where Leverkusen was but where in Germany is it exactly? Of course, Leverkusen is a tiny city that borders Köln.

It made no logical sense – geographically or financially – to stay anywhere other than Köln. To do so would have been out of spite and nothing else, although I’ll admit I was still tempted. I can’t stress how disappointing it was for the next European away trip to be in sodding West Germany, now to be my third trip to the region and my sixth trip to Germany in the space of three years. I just wanted anywhere else if I’m being honest.

Nevertheless, I went and enjoyed myself. Köln served itself as a good base to explore other towns and places in the area. I even popped over to Belgium for a day out in Liege.

It wasn’t ideal but I made the best of it. Three trips to Köln, two for football. That is me done!

Köln Bremen – November 2017
No! Seriously, are you taking the piss?

“Tottenham have been drawn against Borussia Dortmund!”

That once in a lifetime trip? A third European tie in West Germany in barely 18 months? Come on.. There’s a whole sodding continent here! I won’t get in to the complexities of football because there is some method to the madness with context but I couldn’t believe my luck.

Having by this point spent a day in Dortmund I had even less desire to stay there this time, there was no way in hell I was going to Köln for a third time in such a short turnaround so it was spite this time. I ended up splitting my time between Bremen and Dusseldorf.

“Anywhere but Köln” – I’m sorry, I’d actually grown to love Köln by this point but no, one trip too many!

BremenWindmill

The USA – 2018
“erm.. Jason?”

I know, I know but stick with me because this is an essential part of the story. As I mentioned in my last post on Warsaw, all of my 2018 annual leave was sucked up in to spending a month in the USA and one consequence of that was sacrificing a year without a football European trip. A small price to pay for such an incredible 30 days in the USA but a price nonetheless.

Having been to West Germany, West Germany, Madrid and West Germany on my previous four football adventures I can’t describe how agonising it was to see Tottenham’s European adventures unfold in 2018.

Turin, Milan, Eindhoven, Barcelona.. why do you tempt me so? I’d lie if I said I hadn’t wanted to skip work to go to Barcelona but unfortunately the professionalism kicked in.

“Nice suntan Jason.. I saw you on the TV last night by the way, you’re fired!”

It was a year of pain, one that I more than made up for but pain! I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see Spurs in the Nou Camp again, that’s the 4th time for one reason or another I’ve not been to watch Spurs in the San Siro too. Two iconic footballing stadiums and I’m stuck having to work because I had no time left to take off work – it was gut-wrenching watching Spurs fans deliriously celebrating a 1-1 draw in Barcelona.

The one comfort I told myself was that I’d make up for it. No matter what, I’m going to the first European away trip of 2019.

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Köln – March 2019

Köln – March 2019
and here we are.. I’d say you couldn’t script it but you could. I wrote about it in this very post at the end of 2018 – European uncertainty

Such is the cruel way of the football gods, Tottenham were somehow taking their third “once in a lifetime” trip to Dortmund in three years. Dortmund – again! Fucking hell..

Maybe I’m doing Dortmund a disservice but were it not for its football team, I’m not sure anyone would know of its existence, I’m not sure anyone would visit. The stadium is phenomenal, their fans are phenomenal but one trip was plenty. Two trips.. alright, fine but three in three years? I was dreaming of Porto and was rewarded with another trip to fucking Dortmund!

Such were the frequent visits I’d now been to Köln (three times!), Dortmund (twice!), Leverkusen, Mainz, Bremen, Dusseldorf, Bonn, Bruhl, Koblenz, Luxembourg, Gent, Liege..

Those were just on football-specific visits too. I’d been to Belgium a few times, I’d been to the Netherlands, I’d been to countless other cities in Germany on other visits. I was running out of places in the region to even visit.

but “no matter what..”

I knew my days were numbered. Life priorities were changing, it was only a matter of time before I would pack in the football and I write this today no longer a season-ticket holder of Spurs. I haven’t fully given it up but I’ve severely cut down.

Ironically I knew big change was coming in 2020 and this particular season would quite possibly offer me my last European away day (HA!). I didn’t really want to go back to Dortmund again but I also wasn’t confident enough that Spurs would progress. It was a 50-50 tie as far as I was concerned and it might be Dortmund or nothing. Do I gamble that Tottenham reach the next round (HA!) or do I just go to Germany.. again..

I couldn’t risk it. Spoiler – Spurs did go through but their next European tie was up in Manchester which would have been the only location more anti-climatic than going to Dortmund for the thousandth time. I like Manchester, I like it a lot actually but what a shitty European away trip that would have been in replacement of Dortmund.

Reluctantly committed, where do I go? I’ve now been to Dortmund twice, I’m even less inclined to stay there this time. What about Köln? It seemed like a genuine possibility this time around.

What eventually swung the decision was the timing. Bizarrely I’d been to Köln in March 2013, March 2016 and now March 2019 but the two previous trips had somehow escaped one of the big events in the calendar year – the Kölner Karneval – Cologne’s famous carnival.

Karneval
Karneval scenes in Köln

Tottenham happened to be playing in Dortmund on the Tuesday night, with ‘RosenMontag’ the day prior – arguably the highlight of the karneval. The fact the two events overlapped meant that Köln was a no-brainer and by some bizarre coincidence I’d been to the city every third March! I joked that this was now a tradition and that I could seemingly predict where I’d be again in three years time!

Alas, I regret to report I have no plans to visit Köln next month so this long-standing unintentional pattern has reached a natural conclusion. However I digress.. back to 2019!

Having been reluctant to visit for a second time, a third time and then initially for a fourth time, I quickly discovered my excitement for this particular trip. I don’t think you ever really plan to visit somewhere so many times but I had grown to love Köln by this point. Infact were the circumstances better, I wouldn’t be opposed to going back to Köln next month just because it’d be quite funny. I do actually quite like the city and there’s a part of me that would love nothing more than to stroll along the Rhein right now.

I flew out to Köln early on Monday morning and was soon landing in what was a very familiar airport and city. Less familiar was the waves of fancy-dressed folks sat on the train when I boarded at the airport – all heading for Köln Hauptbahnhof! I felt vastly underdressed for the occasion with my standard hoodie and jeans. Köln was firmly in karneval mood!

The majority of people got off at the main station and soon streamed out towards the cathedral – a great gathering place and meeting point for the days festivities. Inevitably it’s the busiest I’ve ever seen Köln, so many of the streets around the area were completely cordoned off too which made it a bit of a nightmare to get around.

I ended up finding myself a nice spot to sit and watch the imminent parade with various floats and performers here to entertain. It was nice to see this side of Köln and also see what all the fuss was about. Everyone was in great spirits!

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Karneval vibes – Köln, March 2019

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Kölner Karneval – March 2019

I soon dragged myself away, hoping to search for somewhere a little bit quieter to find myself some lunch before popping off to my hotel. Unsurprising a lot of places were busy but I soon found somewhere suitable for some good food.

The one thing about visiting somewhere so many times is that there wasn’t really anything I needed or particularly even wanted to do. I was in Köln for nothing more than the football, I was perfectly content with this being a relatively relaxed break. I checked in to my hotel and proceeded to take a nap!

I popped back out in search of somewhere to enjoy the evening. Germany and beer go hand-in-hand so many of the city’s day-trippers had undoubtedly spent all day drinking but I was happy to just go and have a few beers without indulging in some crazy night. I didn’t want to just write off my Tuesday.

After a nice but far-from-wild night, I called it and strolled back to my hotel. The next morning I was up bright and early. We weren’t playing in Dortmund until later in the evening so I still had a bit of time to make the most of my stay in Köln.

I decided I’d go and visit a part of town I’d not yet been to, a neighbourhood called Ehrenfeld which is known for its street art. Again this was another perk of having visited the city so many times and it allowed me an opportunity to get to parts of the city you likely don’t see on a quick visit.

I made the long walk over to Ehrenfeld and stopped off at this little cafe for some crepes. From there it was time to hunt down this supposed street art I’d seen little of thus far.

Captain Ehrenfeld
Captain Ehrenfeld!

Close to Ehrenfeld’s S-bahn station was a decent scattering of murals and street art lined up along a number of walls. The train at the station and ‘captain Ehrenfeld’ being two of my favourites I spotted.

Train Station Art

The rest of the area seemed to have a bunch of independent shops, cafes and restaurants so it was a nice part of town to have discovered and worth maybe taking half a day to explore if you’re ever in Köln – particularly if like myself you’ve been before.

I ventured back to the centre of the city, thinking I’d grab some lunch before catching the train to Dortmund but Köln seemed well and truly closed for business. I don’t know if this Tuesday is considered a local holiday – intentional or otherwise but it was a struggle finding a restaurant open for lunch. The exploits of ‘RosenMontag’ meant that Köln was effectively a ghost town – a day written off for hangover recovery.

Reluctantly I accepted defeat and ended up popping over to the Hard Rock Cafe – seemingly unaffected by the shenanigans of the day before. In my best German I asked the barman where everyone was, why nowhere seemed to be open and I got a one word response – “Karneval” accompanied with a laugh.

Ehrenfeld
Ehrenfeld, Köln, Germany

Say no more. On Monday I had never seen the city as busy as this, on Tuesday I’d never seen Köln so quiet. It was quite eerie – the type of scene you see in horror and zombie movies but a much simpler explanation on this occasion – “Karneval!”

The rest of the day was reserved for the football. Spurs back in Dortmund again. A comfortable evening – Spurs cruised through to the next round and the daunting Manchester City awaited.

I’d ticked off what would surely be my last European football trip for some time, perhaps ever? (If you know, you know!).

This particular trip wasn’t quite over though. I’d booked four days off of work, too many to spend solely in Köln so I decided I’d split the trip and visit somewhere else for a couple of nights.

I flew out to Köln with the belief I’d be heading onwards to Frankfurt but this voice was nagging away at me and I had a change of heart whilst in Köln. The day before I cancelled my hotel in Frankfurt and booked accommodation somewhere else.

On Wednesday morning I popped to Köln’s Hauptbahnhof and booked myself train tickets for my next stop on this trip. Where?

Well, I’ll leave you to stew on that until next time!

Stay tuned!

Jason