Euro beer trip day 1 – Getting to Praha

I’d started my journey from Doncaster on Monday afternoon after grabbing a few hours nap as I’d just finished a stretch of night shifts. No time for beer in London as there’d been problems on the trains. In fact I’d only get 14 minutes from my train arriving at Kings Cross to the Eurostar leaving St Pancras. Easy!

There was time for a quick beer at Bruxelles Midi before joining the Thalys service to Köln. In no time at all I was in the land of German beer. Unfortunately, there was some kind of concert type thing going on around the cathedral so after having a Kölsch beer (see more about Kölsch here) in Früh am Dom and decided there wasn’t time to eat there, I headed back towards the station to try my luck in Gaffel am Dom. After pondering over the menu with one of the small 200ml glasses of Gaffel Kölsch, the waiter, sorry Stange advised me that I could get the half metre long sausage with potatoes and whatever within 10 minutes. This would give me ample time for eat it and get to the station to get the overnight train to Praha.

Time ticked by and still the food didn’t arrive. Two more beers later, it still hadn’t arrived and the place started to fill up very quickly as the concert by the Cathedral had finished. With not much time to spare, I left a €5 note to cover the bill (€4,80) and legged it! The people who by then were sharing my table will have had a bit of a shock when my grub finally arrived!

Anyhow, a currywürst mit pommes quickly became my tea, scoffed down before joining the overnight train to Praha.

Tunisia

Last year, me and Jemma got married.  For various reasons, our third attempt at a honeymoon (which I never seemed to blog about at the time…) was a holiday in Sete in the South of France.  This year, we were meant to do something ‘special’ as a replacement, but because of neither of us pulling our finger out and biting the bullet, that seemed to go by the way too.  In a way, that was possibly a good thing as one of the ideas was to visit China, and one of the areas we were looking at was quite badly affected by the monsoon rains.  India was also a possibility but again, they didn’t get away with their rainy season lightly either!

In the end, we cut our choices down to Mexico or Tunisia.  The hotel we’d seen in Mexico looked absolutely stunning – the ‘swim up’ rooms in particular!  The only down side is that there was nothing in the area outside of the hotel.  Cancun was around 25km away, so a bit far away for a quick trip should we want to pop out.

This left Tunisia and the resort of Hammamet as this was in the centre of one of the big tourist areas and close enough to Tunis for a visit there.  After a few tries at booking and then finding out that they were actually fully booked, we ended up with the ‘Le Sultan’ which didn’t look at all bad – rated 9 out of 120 hotels in Hammamet on Trip Advisor.

Apart from a stupidly early start (no Thompson, I’m not going to arrive 3 hours before an 06:30 flight when 1 will do!), the journey was pretty uneventful until we landed in Monastir.  I say uneventful – once we’d left UK airspace, there was very little cloud all the way to Africa and the views were breathtaking, especially over the French Alps.

Once we’d landed, the fun began.  Upon arrival in Tunisia, one must go through Customs and Immigration, and being out of the EU, controls are a little stricter, including filling in a landing card which is scrutinised by the authorities.  Multiply this by five plane loads of holidaymakers who’d all arrived on the first wave of flights from Manchester, Paris and wherever else and you end up in a queue for an hour.

After fighting through this queue, we were soon on our way to the hotel in a what seemed to be an underpowered mini coach.  The driver was really having to thrash the engine to keep up with traffic on the motorway, and from where I was sat, I could see the temperature gauge creeping up.  Finally, he pulled onto local roads for the last part of the journey and thankfully the dial dropped.

Check in at Le Sultan was swift – so swift in fact that we’d not even been up to the rooms before being ushered off for lunch in case we missed it!

Soon after, we were sat by the pool on the grassed area, enjoying the pool and the drinks served to us by the waiters, and this combination seemed to suit us for the rest of the week.

Several highlights / ‘points of interest’ during the week were

1 – Hammamet Medina.  On our first night we decided to pop into the centre of Hammamet and visit the Medina.  No sooner had we left our taxi did we bump into someone who was from our hotel.  He offered to show us around the Medina (which he did – very briefly) and we ended up at his “brother’s” shop.  After 20 minutes of him attempting to sell us overpriced, forged tat, he could see that he was getting nowhere and got very cross with us.  We left rather quickly.  Evidently, this is the latest scam in the area.  The strange thing was that we never did see him working at our hotel…  Later on, we did enjoy a German style beer brewed at the Brauhaus Gerbere.

2 – Tunis.  We went by train to Tunis and it was mad.  There was probably no other word for it.  We wondered around the Medina, or rather just went with the flow of the people and visited a few touristy sights.

3 – Scuba diving.  I went scuba diving and it was great.  I probably looked a bit of a treat on the practice session, wearing a wet suit and flapping my flippers by the hotel pool, but there you go!

4 – The Sultan Hotel.  Couldn’t complain.  The room was good, the pool excellent – especially with waiters bringing drinks and above all the food was first rate.  It seems to cater towards Tunisian and French tastes so no chicken nuggets or other rubbish!

5 – Mint tea.  It’s everywhere – tasty, and drunk in huge quantities.

I could be tempted to go back again…

Paris – Roubaix

I’ve visited a number of cycle races over the years, but never the Paris – Roubaix.  It’s one of the spring one day classics, over a duration this year of 259km – 53 of which were on cobbles!  Ow!

So, a short ride from Lille saw us in the small town of Orchies, and after a walk we were at ‘Secteur 12’ – a 1.7km stretch, graded difficulty 3 out of 5.  To get a good spot, we were there a couple of hours early and then waited.  Just over the cobbled road, the local town council had set up a refreshment area with some rather good local beer on sale!

Soon, the caravane came past, throwing their usual collection of tat publicity gifts to the masses.  Unfortunately, things then started to get busy.  Our ‘good spot’ gradually got worse until we were crammed in with quite a few other folk.  The riders came past in their usual blur, but as is the nature of this type of race, they were well spaced out with the rear most ones the best part of half an hour behind.

By this time, Jem had already popped across the road into the beer tent to secure a good seat to watch the rest of the race on the giant screen in there.  Judging by the volume of cheers in there, I assume most of the spectators were Belgian when they showed Tom Boonen break away and then go on to win the race!

It was a great day out – might have to pop it into next year’s diary…