Train to Turkey - Leg 2 - London to Brussels

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Early start on our second day after arriving on the sleeper. We were up and ready for the journey ahead, day two should leave us in Cologne, Germany in time for tea which means we have some serious mileage to get through and the two tightest connections of the trip. From Paddington we took the Hammersmith and City line to St Pancras for connection with the Eurostar, oddly the tube was really quite busy, but we arrived without issue. We realised at this point that we should have stayed on the sleeper train for longer than we did, we were are St Pancras about 90 minutes early with nothing to do but twiddle our thumbs.

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So we grabbed a coffee and went for a walk! You can’t do much better than a 49p Pret filter coffee, I’m convinced this is the best value coffee anywhere in London and it’s actually very good filter coffee too. The problem is that it’s always a million degrees and literally impossible to drink, especially from a thermal cup - somebody needs to invent a dispensing machine that allows you to select a certain temperature. Perhaps I need to patent the concept and become very rich.

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Coffee in-hand we walked around to Regents Canal, somewhere that I look at almost every day but have never actually visited. It was fantastic, lots of fresh flowers, a nice hot sun and a great mix of old and new architecture which makes for a very pleasant area. Owen even said that he wouldn’t mind living here despite not wanting to live in London! I do wonder if it was only pleasant because it was 7am on a Saturday morning, I’m sure it gets busy later and turns into something quite different. Walking back to the station we passed the new Google HQ being constructed and noticed that the floor numbers on the concrete core are the Android Drone, which is pretty fun. We also walked past the YouTube offices and YouTube Space which seems to have been the venue of quite a lively party yesterday!

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Checking into the Eurostar was reasonably painless, we had no troubles apart from Owen walking through the metal detector with all of his pockets full - doh! We managed to throw them in the bag before succeeding on the second attempt. Once through we found a seat in the busy departures hall before realising that Owen’s brand new Nalgene bottle was now gone - “Well, that didn’t last long”. Luckily everything important was still in possession.

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On board the Eurostar we had a bit of a rest, the journey is one of the shortest of the trip and we didn’t really have time to get too comfortable. The train arrived into Brussels perfectly on time, we lost an hour because of the time which meant that it was now beer o’clock. We walked out of the station and found the most awful looking bar near the station, but it had some nice seats outside. Owen had his first legal European beer, unfortunately it was a Carlsberg.

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Heading back to the station we arrived in plenty of time for Leg 3, the ride to Cologne.

Train to Turkey - Leg 1 - Penzance to London

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We’re on our way! The weather in Cornwall was fantastic, a tropical 25℃ with unspoilt sunshine, it better stay like this across Europe, we’re going to have a mega time if it does. Before we could get going with Leg one we needed a final positioning trip to get to Penzance, we travelled as a four so we could be waved off in proper Cornish fashion, with a G&T! Before we get to that it was time for something new, on the train we had a brand new beer from Padstow, Freddy Has Landed, not a bad beer but not to my taste and was stronger than it needed to be at 6.6, still no complaints. We chased that with a Frog Brothers from Black Flag, a much better beer (in my view). The train was pretty quick, it’s less than an hour down to Penzance and that goes very quickly when you’re passing such stunning views of Cornwall.

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Once we were in Penzance we headed into town for a goodbye meal, the first pub was a let down but we eventually found our way to The Turk’s Head on Chapel Street. Now THIS was a pub, absolutely fantastic line up of cask ales with that real pub feeling. Regretting that we didn’t just come here first we set to work with a perfectly served pint of Bath Ales Prophecy, a wonderful light pale ale which is remarkably similar to St Austell’s Proper Job before it changed. The pub reminded me that I still need to write my scoring matrix, I’m confident this place would have done very well. After a bit of a rushed but perfectly served dinner we headed down to the station and en-route had a quick paddle in the water, as you do.

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When we got to the station the sleeper train was ready and waiting for us, we weren’t mega early so we had to run to the front for the obligatory photo with the engine. We all boarded and jumped into the onboard lounge bar, which was all new since we last took the sleeper. Newer isn’t always better and as lovely as the lounge looked, with sofas and cute little two seater tables the old one was much more comfortable, fun and nostalgic. The old one had tables service too, which sadly is now a thing of the past!

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We shared some lovely Tarquins and tonic and as the train pulled away were officially on our way! A week of trains and travel awaited us (and we were pretty excited about it!). We set to work filling out our Interrail passes, making sure not to mess them up before we’d even got on our way. As the train made it’s way we were spoilt with the most stunning sunset and red sky across Cornwall, not bad at all. At St Austell we waved goodbye to the parents and (now a little worse for wear) I decided to get off and say goodbye, luckily the train wasn’t in a rush!

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Now on our own we headed to our cabin and got ourselves some sleep. I was on the bottom bunk and it didn’t take too long before I was fast asleep which isn’t something that usually happens on the sleeper train! A few bumps in the night but nothing really to report, 7 or so hours after we left Penzance we were woken up to a bang on the door where Jean, our attendant had our breakfast and tea ready. We were in London, easy. This really is the best way to commute between London and Cornwall, while I enjoyed the 4 and a bit hour trip the day earlier waking up and being where you need to be is just fantastic. Long live the sleeper.

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After a quick shake up we were ready to get going, 6:30am and on to Leg number two!

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CoolHead Visit London

What do you do when your favourite Finnish brewery has a tap-takeover in London? Well, there’s only one option. Hosted at the fantastic Brew By Numbers in Peckham Rye, CoolHead brought ten beers to showcase for one day only with a chance to meet with their Head Brewer.

Brew By Numbers or BBNO have a great unit under two railway arches in Peckham Rye, only a short walk beyond a few trendy bars including Brick Brewery, just around the corner from the station. Their taproom unit is kitted out with a stack of large barrels which sit behind the prominent wood and stainless steel bar. There must be at least twenty lines feeding back to chillers and kegs sat behind the barrels, all visible when you walk to the loo! There’s plenty of dog-friendly space inside and out with sofas and festival-style benches where people were happy to share and discuss beer.

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CoolHead aren’t something you see much of in the UK, but they are a very up and coming Finnish Brewery, known well in Helsinki and beyond for their sour beer specialities. My personal favourite is the Salted Liquorice Raspberry Sour which is like nothing else, an explosion of flavour with a sour kick to stop It from being too sweet. I tried all of their beers while at BBNO, my favourite of the day was Haziness, a chilled out Session IPA which was a welcome treat on a sunny Friday afternoon. Others were a little too strong for my taste but they were certainly worth trying.

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My craft beer friend Heidi joined us live from Finland when we met CoolHead at Brew By Numbers and we shared the dangerous 10.3% Sapphires on draft in London and by can in Finland! A great evening which was followed up with a quick visit to Brick Brewery before heading back to Central London. Will certainly come back here, eager to try BBNO’s beers too, this is a great little beer spot without the crowds and expensive prices.

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After a recent trip to Finland Heidi kindly gifted me a supply of canned CoolHead beers which I successfully smuggled back home! It’s been rather difficult pacing myself with them, very much looking forward to the Deep Double Apple Crumble which I’m saving for a special occasion! If you see CoolHead beers in the UK (or anywhere else) do give them a try, you can’t go wrong.

May 2017 - The Missing Blogs

May started with a challenge which I had not been looking forward to; mine and @geekyjames’ first Tough Mudder. For those that don’t know, Tough Mudder is an outdoor obstacle and endurance course, the ethos is to build camaraderie among participants in order to complete the obstacles, many of which are not possible without teamwork. We decided the previous year that we would book on to one and give it a try, as a kind of goal in which to train for. There are many ‘Mudders’ up and down the UK and indeed abroad too, but we chose Nottingham - I don’t exactly know why, probably because 1. Neither of us had been to Nottingham before, and 2. There is a BrewDog in Nottingham.

We decided the best approach would be to head up to Nottingham, stay overnight in a PremierInn, scout out the BrewDog and have one, maybe two beers. Most of this plan was perfect, except we had more than one or two beers. We ended up opting to get some wings in the UK’s only Hooters restaurant (it’s not the same as the US) and then crawled around the town as you do on a Friday night. BrewDog was fantastic, and we sampled the new LIVE East Coast Crush beer, which was absolutely amazing.

Brew Dog East Coast Crush, Nottingham

Brew Dog East Coast Crush, Nottingham

The following morning I was the opposite of being ready to run around a cold, muddy field, but we both got on with it! The course itself was good fun; we were in one of the first waves of people to use the newly built obstacles, which made it quite fun. I think I enjoyed the Block Ness Monster the most, a big pool of water with two spinning rectangular cylinders suspended above, the only way to get to the other side is to spin the cylinders by pulling and pushing from either side, a complete team effort. After completing the Mudder, we went and have a Burger King to reward ourselves and drove home.

Me, getting muddy during Tough Mudder Nottingham

Me, getting muddy during Tough Mudder Nottingham

Over the past four years, my car had developed a bit of a problem. It seemed to enjoy the oil being anywhere other than inside of the engine; this was very frustrating as it would cause leaks all over the driveway and needed regular top-ups. Lomas, my sister’s partner, very kindly offered to fix it and after an entire day of ripping it apart replaced the head gasket seal which was causing all the problems. Very grateful for his help, my crappy Peugeot continues to run like a dream, and now I can park it without having to put a baking tray under the engine! Thank you, Lomas!

My Peugeot's Messy Engine

My Peugeot's Messy Engine

May was clearly the month for fixing problems as no sooner was the car mended; I was the one being worked on. My wisdom teeth as with many young adults were causing all kinds of problems, becoming infected, sore, and pushing on my other teeth. I decided that it was time for them to go and so after some dentist visits and consultations a date was set for my first ever surgical procedure. Victoria and I headed up to London for what turned out to be a very, very long night, I think we got home at 4 am or something silly. The procedure itself went perfectly well, but dealing with the after effects was much less fun, I was on baby food for just under a week and had a chubby chipmunk face for just as long! Victoria was fantastic and looked after me very well indeed; as I write this, it is her turn to have them removed in just under a week’s time (Eeek!).

Me, waiting patiently at The Harley Street Clinic, London

Me, waiting patiently at The Harley Street Clinic, London

Fast forward a week or so and we treated ourselves to a less horrific trip to London, we stayed in the St Pancras Renaissance and saw Set it Off who were touring in the UK. The hotel is a staple favourite, can’t go wrong, not cheap but worth every penny. We had some delicious drinks in the Booking Hall bar and then had my first taste of solid food in a week at Five Guys. Set it Off were really good, very heavy, loud and we were certainly the eldest people there (kidding), they were not as good as that on time they were supporting Yellowcard, but what can I say!

Victoria at The Booking Hall, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

Victoria at The Booking Hall, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London