Category Archives: Tourism

Bilbao Baggins.

Bilbao was a laugh. Ah, to go back to a time without bills and responsibilities, when the only struggle was choosing which rancid alcopop to shove down your trousers in a supermarket (in my experience security guards can’t run more than 50 yards without crumbling into a wheezing heap).13882428_10157389370085691_1176700627100006367_n

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On the sauce in Salzburg and Munich.

Back to Salzburg and Munich again for a double-headed session. To think the birthplace of Mozart and Doppler was now the temporary milieu of beer-compromised attempts to retrieve a Snickers bar from a dilapidated vending machine at 4:16 a.m.


Salzburg is a place with many bars, sadly few ATMs (seeking a Geldautomat is depressing), and with a most varied supply of charming newsagents, which appears to my primary interest these days. Somewhere down the line vistas ceased to be of fascination. I couldn’t find a Lidl, though. Gutted.


The salient memory of Munich was feigning a limp in order to use a disabled toilet, and attempting to escape the city for the airport. There was “something wrong with the tracks,” they kept barking at me in the station. I don’t think I’ve ever been on so many trains to get to one destination, and so drained of vitamins throughout. I thought I was going to die on that plane home from an overdose of fatigue and amaretto. But I didn’t.  Good times.


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The Boeing 314 Clipper.


Look at this madness. A bygone age, passengers on Boeing’s 314 Clipper were graced with sleeping compartments, lounges, changing rooms, and a bridal suite (De Lux Compartment) for trans-Atlantic travel. Some of the images of the time (1930s and ’40s) appear ‘pre-history’, as if this is how all air travel should be; we were denied it by economics and the rather vexing religious cuckoo.

The Emirates A380 business class experience is the closest parallel to that luxury flying boat; think Patrick Bateman from Dubai to Sydney with all the mod cons. What’s missing, however, is … well, look at that photo of the Clipper interior – it’s pure shameless decadence at 13,000 feet, but without the sandals and hoodies. Every Master of the Universe is suited and booted.


When I make my millions from pulling off the most daring robbery (don’t tell anyone) since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, I’ll be flying from airport to airport on one of these Emirates bad boys, a bottle of £20,000 champagne and the Mighty Ducks movies to accompany my victory laps. I won’t be visiting places; the airports will suffice.

Further reading/viewing:

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Edinburgh roundabouts ….


This park is usually frequented by mutilated junkies off their tits or those wee post-Noughties hipster kids taking selfies on the swings (the Decline of Western Civilisation). You are, however, blessed once in a blue moon (Definition: informal, very rarely) by these kind of vignettes. Silence. No one in sight. Lovely.

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The Central Park Bird Lady.

In every park in every city there’s an initially creepy but ultimately benevolent bird lady with a heart of pure gold. Please pass on a turtle dove (and some shampoo) to your resident hobo this Christmas.

N.B. The Bird Lady – her life story up until meeting Kevin McCallister – really should have been a movie prequel.

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Edinburgh – Gorgie ice age.

IMG_20171218_092258053_HDR~2Gorgie has finally approached full Ice-Mode so it is therefore officially winter in ‘God’s Country’. There’s nothing quite like the sight of a tracksuit-wearing ruffian bolting for the bus and slipping on his/her/its arse. In a rare Vanilla Sky-esque snap, we here witness the ghetto at its most pacific.

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Aberfeldy – doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.

This was a laugh, a fleeting jaunt up to some ridiculously ostentatious lodge in Perthshire – well it was until the taps froze. Ah, rum for brekky instead of water, and shower-free days spent sat on my hoop watching movies and munching Pringles.

I saw a deer who insouciantly wandered into our garden. Here’s the proof with a shitty photo:


I also played pool and rediscovered my childhood with a game of Buckaroo! Indolence, I’ll always embrace you.


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Christmas Day in Oslo.


Christmas brings back the nostalgia, and I do most cherish those memories from the good ol’ days – stuffing my cheeks with selection boxes whilst wailing “Woof” at Buzz’s girlfriend. Xmas is a childhood signifier, the throwback event to an uncomplicated time when the most strenuous task was grabbing forty winks on Christmas Eve.

One recent Christmas Day stays with me, though. Alone in Oslo circa 2013, it was a day of, if not self-discovery, then a serene, surreal solitude (accidental alliteration).

I was reminded of that line in Heat (1995) when De Niro’s character ventures, “I am alone, I am not lonely.” That was Oslo for me: I simply walked the barely inhabited streets apropos of nothing, uttering not a word to anyone, feeling myself an invisible, pointless wanderer passing through the geography. I did nothing, and liberating it was. I’ve not had a jaunt like that since. I recommend Oslo – anonymous, pallid, flat – as the place for it. Maybe it’s livelier in the summer.



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Berlin and Szczecin booze crawl.


Back to Berlin again for the fourth time. I’ve seen every Lonely Planet tourist site to death in the Grey City so these days reserve my curiosities to the bars and the incredible possibilities of the late-night U-Bahn adventure. I did glimpse the Brandenburg Gate from a taxi but was too busy reading an article on The Telegraph website about Jupp Heynckes and his Bayern Munich resurgence to take any extended interest. When I first set eyes upon that Prussian landmark I thought it a wonder to behold; now I’m not even bothered it exists. Weird.

What I lionise about Berlin is its seeming randomness and that it’s embraced by the locals (one presumes) as just another quirk on the city grid. It’s one of the reasons I never make a plan or an itinerary. Going for an ad hoc five-minute nap on a concrete pallet outside the Fernsehturm TV Tower was never on the agenda, but then neither was venturing out that evening. Berlin, may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless you.


Szczecin, Poland.

This town has little to offer. If Berlin was the party, Szczecin was the crypt. I got the sense that it’s just a memory of a place, residue from a forgotten age. It’s decent for a pint but architecturally has all the appeal of a urinal concocted from toilet paper. This is the only photograph I took, a shot of my two travel companians walking on the pavement, such was the boredom of the topography. You’d be better off drinking in your living room whilst watching daytime television than entering this wasteland.


Bus oddities.

We took the bus to the Szczecin hovel. It was your usual journey peppered with beer, energy drinks, trance music, and a gruesome shit in an appropriately depraved toilet designed for midgets. The return mission was sadly characterised by a Vladimir Putin doppelgänger in the seat in front who demanded our ears for a two-hour monologue about the trials and travails of his life. Reeking from a single beer, he burst out laughing at our most innocuous observations on Szczecin, and upon our arrival back in Central Bus Station ZOB asked us to wait with him awhile to discuss the comparative footballing merits of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. Odd bloke. Escaping him was a convenient metaphor.



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Edinburgh circa 1931.

Watching this short Pathé feature I’ve seldom recalled so many conflictingly good and bad memories inhabiting the same space. In almost every image here I ludicrously time-travel to a kaleidoscope of experiences and the Sartrean depths of the moment, something about the temporality of being-for-itself.

The singular power of images, for me, is that they transcend the ‘shadows-and-dust’ narrative we direct. A memory of a place or person is just a memory – it’s the image that validates our longing for the past experience.

It is odd how little Edinburgh has changed architecturally since 1931 – it’s one of those cities seemingly impervious to redesign (a Venice of the North?) and this is imbued in its dormant volcano. People come and go, the landscape watches on.

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