Sunday, 13 November 2011

More travel Tales!!!!

Travel Tales

There is no chronology from whence I dredge up these tales. I have in fact hopped about from Japan. 2007, to Egypt 1996, and most recently the former Yugoslavia 1974. (Was there life that far back!) I have been so busy editing my new book, 'The 51st State' today, that I have not given this much thought. I have been very lucky in that my parents scrimped and saved to send me anywhere my school offered to send me so at 13 I had a week in Northern Italy and a year later a similar length of time in Amsterdam where I discovered coffee! Amsterdam has always been known for stimulants!

Amsterdam it is!

We travelled to Holland in April 1964 via ferry to the Hook of Holland and then by coach to the city. We stayed in a hotel on 26 Nieuw Kaisersgracht. What a memory! The reason I remember is because we got lost! It wouldn't happen today in the overprotective PC climate in which we live but we had quite a bit of free time.
I have to interrupt the tale at this point because it was the commencement of a love story! When I say 'we' I am referring to the love of my life, Celia. An older woman of 15 we hit it off immediately. It could have been the fact that I tried to crack a hard-boiled egg on her head or just my obvious physical charms! However, once she had forgiven me, we stayed together for the next three years.

So we got lost! By way of explanation, at that time Amsterdam was organised in a series of concentric semi circles with Dam Square at the centre and working outwards to the suburbs. There were canals and the River Amstel radiating outwards cutting these semi circles of streets at various places. We had walked into the centre and were heading back to the hotel and being semi intelligent teenagers, is that a contradiction in terms(?), we found the street named Kaisersgracht and followed it until we found number 26. Surprise - it wasn't our hotel! The operative word being Nieuw that translates as 'new' - hardly surprising - and meant that we were at the opposite end of the semi-circle that we needed to be. We had turned 90 degrees in the wrong direction and ended up miles away from where we needed to be. We turned and walked the long way back.
Amsterdam was also memorable for other reasons. In north east England in the 1960s at my age you didn't drink coffee. If you did it was Camp coffee, a chicory based dark brown liquid. In Amsterdam the coffee shops were amazing and in all honesty I can't remember a better cup of coffee since! We, that is myself, Celia and various friends whom we'd travelled with, visited coffee shops every evening. It was in Amsterdam that I first saw Manchester Utd live and in full colour on TV in one of these places. It was also in that city that I had my one and only experience with drugs I think! The rooms we were staying in were dormitories with bunk beds and on one occasion all us lads in the room were as high as kites on caffeine! At this time the drugs that were whispered about were 'purple hearts' which were a stimulant. We had been berated by our teachers for making too much noise and needed to calm down. One of our number told us that he had something that would help! Isn't it so easy to get sucked in to doing something stupid? This lad dished out these pills, and I think they were his mother's sleeping pills, and we took them and settled down for the night.
The following day was hell as I remember. We were visiting various places in the city, including Rembrandt's Museum, and all I wanted to do was sit down and sleep. Ruined the day! Maybe I was lucky in the long term!

The punchline is that I have been back to Amsterdam once since then because it is a great place and I would go back tomorrow if the opportunity arose.

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