Haben Sie etwas zu verzollen?

In just four hours, Hamburg became one of my favourite cities. The Hamburgers were calm, the pavements were wide, there were no unpleasant aromas, the shops weren’t crammed together like sardines in a Chinese laundry and there were some beautiful places.

After taking a 20 minute bus ride into the centre near the Rathaus (town hall), we walked at a reasonable pace to the east and north-east to get a mile or two under our belts before turning slightly westward to walk through a pleasant park with children’s swings and that sort of gubbins. We continued to reach the river and sat for a few minutes, cogitating over the street map, while in the background…..

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and ……..

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Just beautiful. Was it a river, was it a lake, I don’t know, but it was just very very beautiful.

We walked round the river / lake and found a wonderful Japanese botanic garden (ok, we didn’t actually find it, we saw it on the map) and wandered through this for a while. The fountains were great – set to music and these just seemed to go on and on – the garden was apparently open from 7am to 11pm and perhaps they do have a 16 hour music tape choreographing the various orifices from which the water was spouting, but in any case, it was almost hypnotic.

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Time was getting on a bit, so a decent walk awaited us back to the centre of Hamburg and a bit of shopping. I am very thankful not to have a ‘shop til you drop’ wife and one who actually doesn’t like shopping for anything other than is necessary, but we still bought three items for just under €50 (which is a bit of a splurge for us!) and headed back to the bus stop.

One thing I did regret about today was the fact that I remember so little of my O Level German, as opposed to French, which I can understand pretty well and converse to an extent. One of the very few sentences I can remember is the title of this blog post, unless I somehow become an employee at a German border check. Sometimes you just want to know just a little bit more about what you’re seeing, and just a few more words could help. But a really fine day and the best of our cruise so far. Not sure how far we walked but it was all within the space of about 4 hours.

At sea tomorrow, back to Le Havre on Tuesday. Chilling out day. Cold just about gone now though I did feel a bit knackered when we got back on the ship. Still no internet (apart from if I did want to pay €16.90 for an hour – and I do not) so this gibbering will be published at the same time as the previous, and probably the next post.

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Cold comfort

Today was my first ever visit to Amsterdam. I can’t say I have ever been enthused or sufficiency motivated to visit before. It is probably the only capital city, perhaps in the world, that is best known for drugs and prostitution, so it does attract certain types, but I was hoping I would be pleasantly surprised as we set out for a walk in the early afternoon.

We skirted around the city for a pleasant hour and a bit, generally following the water, before cutting in land. I know it was Friday but there was a great bustle in the various squares we found ourselves, including the one alongside Madame Tussaud’s. Despite this damn cold being nothing to sniff at, as we delved more deeply into the shopping areas, dominated by coffee shops, neither Pammy nor I were overly enamoured with the aromas we were finding, along with bicycles approaching from what seemed every possible angle apart from the one we were facing.

In the muddle of side streets, we did become a bit disoriented as we tried to find our way back to the ship. No worries really, as we knew if we could find the main railway station, we would get to the port. That we did, to the accompaniment of a rain shower.

It had been a walk of around 7-8 miles, but much more tiring than the longer walk of the previous day. I don’t want to just slag off Amsterdam, but it will never be my favourite place. I know others love it, and it no doubt has attractions well beyond the needs of stag and hen nights – Anne Frank’s house would have been wonderful to visit, for instance – and the tiredness was no doubt brought on by this annoying cold, as well as the frantic rushing about around us that prevented any rhythm in the walking after the first few miles. And, no, please don’t call it man flu.

Sailing today after a night in Amsterdam to reach Hamburg tomorrow morning (Sunday).

Get a Room

Cruises are supposed to be relaxing, but I have been truly shocked at the gluttony of a small number of others – maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when you can eat all you like, 24 hours a day.

When you’re visiting different places, though, it is always good to see something of them, and a good chance for a bit of a walk. So, ashore at Zeebrugge, we took the opportunity to get a bit of exercise.

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Rather than take the extortionate €14 for a 15 minute bus ride to Blankenberge, we found a nice path and walked it, rambled around the town, had a coffee, and walked back. About 11 miles, I reckon. In Blankenberge, the long promenade had a couple of children’s activities that would have Health & Safety Executive scurrying for the rulebook and having the chance to shake their heads and tut. A velodrome with not one child having any elbow or knee pads or even a cycling helmet, and a go karting track with no crash helmets. Still, it looked as if the children were having great fun and there didn’t appear any real danger. Balance of risk and enjoyment, I say.

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There was an interesting road sign for couples very much in love. Looked like it was saying, “Get a Room”! We thought about it and then moved on. Back on the ship now, with our own room, having milkshakes in the shade, by the pool. Tonight (Thursday night) we set sail for Amsterdam where the phrase where a few of the passengers may well go ashore and “get a room”.

Following in the footsteps of history

Had the bit between my teeth today as I set off on a Saturday walk. Not knowing just how far I wanted to walk but to walk in the general direction of Southampton, I wandered over the Itchen Bridge, up the Avenue, past the University and back through Portswood and Bitterne.

By about 5 miles both my feet were feeling a bit sore, but I felt a greater sense of purpose today after thinking hard about this new challenge – the 100 miles in 48 hours one if you’re not keeping up – and plodded on through the late morning and the whole of the afternoon, taking just a short 15 minute break for a nice cold smoothie. The weather was never bright but always warmish, flirting around the late teens and early twenties, a bit on the close side really. That I chose to have a thin fleece was one to make me sweat and struggle a bit more than usual, and this was also the longest walk I’ve had for a little while, at 18.5 miles.

I am wondering whether to do the walk organised by LDWA or whether to do my own. There are pros and cons. The pros are clearly organisation, support and authentication, and the encouragement from others as one is bound to get really, yes really, tired. On the other hand, I will be tied to their calendar. If I was to organise my own, I am considering what looks a really interesting new path: http://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=1066+Harold’s+Way which is 95 miles long, following roughly the way that King Harold’s army would have taken from London to reach the battlefront. I understand that at one point Harold wasn’t quite sure of the directions and one of his soldiers told him to keep an eye out for the arrows that would show the way. Ah, now that one backfired, I think.

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So a bit of fitness needed now. Good today to start by 10:30, rather than the often slovenly 1:00 or thereabouts. Gives me a bit of time to build up a distance.

Ah, I think I have it

The next challenge, or perhaps not the very next one.

Each May, there is a (bonkers) group of people who walk one hundred miles within the space of 48 hours. The event is organised in different parts of the country each year and many walkers do this every year.

This sort of appeals to me but I will have to be even fitter than I was earlier in the year. I have no doubt that at the time, and without the need to walk day after day after day, that I would have been capable of walking about 60 or 70 miles in 48 hours. At one time I did walk around 50 miles over two consecutive days in Somerset. Given though at the moment that sort of distance is well beyond me, this won’t be a 2015 task. It could be the sort of thing I could arrange myself and do my own 100 mile route – certainly I would make sure it wasn’t too hilly! That might be more sensible.

http://www.ldwa.org.uk/hundreds/hundred.php

Given a bit extra weight at the moment, I should be motivated now. Autumn and winter are not the best seasons to get loads of miles in because of the lessening light, but then again summer can be very warm.

Do I really want another walking challenge? Well, I think it is now my thing, perhaps the thing for which people will remember me. It’s just which challenge(s), I think. Ventnor? Chicken feed. Kilimanjaro? Yes, interesting and a bit different. The 100 mile? Definitely, some time…….

If my Lux in…..

Over 4 months at work now without a break, a busy week last week and another one this, with a presentation to give in Luxembourg on Thursday/Friday. At least if I can wangle a view of my blog there, I can get Luxembourg onto the list of countries to where my writing has travelled, having also had Taiwan join the party last week. However it must say something about this blog when there has been just one view from quite a few countries.

Hanging on a bit now by my fingernails, with holiday from next Wednesday for 10 days looming large but still appearing a long way ahead. Loads of work and papers to be written as always seems the way just before leave and it is just starting to get me down a little. Could do with a decent walk but that’s not been possible on the last two weekends and no doubt the current Indian summer will turn into a monsoon on Saturday and Sunday. A few very short walks here and there, two 2 milers when in London and a nice stroll around Wantage in Oxfordshire on Saturday, but I really need the distance now.

Our holiday is a cruise around the Mediterranean so there will be ample opportunity for walking on port stops, and, as we did last time out, lapping the ship while the waves lap the ship too. The problem I can foresee is the ‘all you can eat’ culture on these things but discipline and resisting temptation is everything!

Some nice comments from a number of people recently that I am blogging a bit more now – though as soon as I received all these, I then went quiet for nearly a week. Not sure how easy it will be to keep writing while we are away, but there should be some decent photos at times. I’ll try to blog when I am away later this week in the Grand Duchy. The distance from the hotel to the building for work is just under two miles, and I don’t intend to do anything other than walk it, each time.

New ventures?

It’s getting close to that time of the year when it’s difficult to do a full day at work and then go for a meaningful walk. In any case, the coffee break that I sometimes take is getting shorter in order to get the distance in. 7.2 miles according to Google Maps, and that’s just under 2 hours walking time, so no messing about now.

The break was an early one and I was annoyed to see that the one page in the newspaper I wanted to read had been torn out. Now that’s just stealing. It’s as bad as that. It now meant I couldn’t spend my time trying to solve the bridge problem but had to read some of the news. Of course, some of those on the corners of the pages were more interesting than most of the ‘real’ news. My thoughts turned to my next challenge and perhaps trying to set a world record when I saw this story:

What a superb effort. But it won’t be that world record that I attempt – I can just imagine the carnage just practising for that. Walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats, or the other way, when I’m 75 (to be the oldest ever to achieve it)? Possible, though Pammy won’t let me, I know that. Doing that walk again at 75 would no doubt have to be completed completely differently, with a back-up vehicle, probably a motorhome with shower, and facilities to have a wee about every mile, and would take considerably longer than the ten weeks or so it took me earlier this year. I’d probably raise a million pounds doing that (about £20k in today’s money) but it will be something different to that. More likely, something really bizarre that would be something that others just don’t think of doing.

Some walking ventures in the pipeline, Ventnor next summer (ok that’s not that impressive) and Kilimanjaro in 2017 with Lorraine and Andrew. I’ll find one or two things in between, perhaps the Southern Upland Way, the South Downs Way or, even more challengingly, the Pennine Way. We’ll see. Give me a bit of time to build up some leave again.

Just getting dark and slightly smoggy, thanks to a bonfire (are they still legal?) just as I passed the Sarisbury Ward sign on the main road. Quite pleased really but I think I need a bit of gym work to hammer all this walking into some stomach reduction. In the last couple of weeks, I have really reminisced and realised how fit I did get earlier this year. Also, I think I have become a charity junkie and know how good it feels to raise money and also to give. I don’t know if I have really inspired people but I am aware of a few things going on. I was reading back my blog on Sunday morning (now almost 300 posts) and thinking about all the support I received, both through comments, donations and conversations. I feel duty bound to plug a couple of fundraisers here:

My brother-in-law Terry is cycling from Land’s End to Pompey in April in aid of Hampshire Wheelchair Basketball. Given he hasn’t done much exercise since he gave up darts a few years back, that will be an effort. Not a Just Giving page or equivalent yet, so far as I am aware.

A work colleague, Ali Crocker is running a half-marathon in a month or so, in aid of Starlight Children’s Foundation that support terminally ill children. As much as I hate to say it, some scummers are really nice people and Ali just has a heart of gold beneath that disgusting red and white striped shirt. Her Just Giving page is here:- https://www.justgiving.com/Ali-Crocker-Dave-Johnson/

A possibility of some walking tomorrow when I go to London. Three two mile walks: Waterloo to hotel; hotel to restaurant; restaurant to hotel. Thinking about it.