Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Deep filled brunch pie

You know your mouth is in for a good time when you put the words 'deep filled suet enriched pastry brunch pie' together. Thank the lord then for Marks and Sparks who have only gone and done just that. This culinary experience ain't cheap at £3.49 but when you delve inside and find a runny yolk in amongt a fat mound of beans and meat, it all becomes more well worth it.

It's totally glorious. I take my hat off to whoever invented this. And to Marks and Sparks for coming up with the science to keep that egg runny. Oof. 

Brunch pie - stand up!

How do they keep the egg runny?

America - part trois

It's pretty self indulgent to go through this jaunt in three parts. It's hardly Lord of the Rings is it? So this'll be snappy.

After Cambria we roared off on the last leg of the journey towards Los Angeles. Everyone had said it was big before we got there but 'big' doesn't do it justice. This place is fucking humongous and hard, very hard to get one's head around when you arrive.

Our route took us up via Malibu and the Santa Monica boulevard which led us into a massive traffic jam for almost three hours. We became confused, tired, emotional and deeply lost in and around west Hollywood searching for a hostel which wasn't actually there. It had moved. Oh dear. After reluctantly turning on data roaming and locating the mother, we parked up and decamped to the pub only to be slapped with a ticket the next morning. The LAPD were on to us!

Los Angeles from the Getty Centre
Other than being big, LA has got plenty of left, cosmic vibes. Hollywood seems like a Leicester Square, full of tack and tourists with a sizeable dollop of loonies smeared all over it. We saw one chap in a wheel chair dressed up as tiger speeding about the place wolf whistling at girls. There was an impromptu patrol of cop cars dating back to the twenties with a classic batmobile thrown in. In amongst the bonkers bits was Musso Frank's bar and grill, which is where the likes of Chaplin, Niven and Chandler called their local. So they'd come, like we all do, and get pissed, swear and shout at each other. The vibe in there is classic, golden years where the waiter looks a bit like Marlon Brando and you can drink an old fashioned which makes your mind spin. We did. It was mint.

An old fashioned in Musso and Frank's bar and grill
What else? Almost too much to reel off. We saw the Capitol Records Building, drove through Beverly Hills (catching the end of the road Steve Martin supposedly calls home - it looked a bit boasty for us), walked down Rodeo Drive (out of Pretty Woman) and visited the Getty Centre for an injection of architecture and ideas and that.

Muscle beach - kiss the fist
Our final afternoon was spent on Venice Beach - it's a weird little mile and a half stretch where you can get yourself prescribed weed and strut your stuff on Muscle Beach along with some saggy looking old fellas. We went for a mooch and ended up purchasing a grilled cheese doughnut. It was a meal which summed up us, our holiday and America in one fell swoop. Thanks for having us USA!

Grilled cheese doughnut
If you're not utterly bored by this travel diary, then you can check out the first two parts both hither and thither.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

America part deux

San Francisco is gay with a capital G, A and Y. We arrived on Folsom to be faced by hordes of hairy bears roaming around and hollering at each other, all trussed up in leather chaps. Many chaps in chaps.

These furry buttocks greeted us after navigating the mountainous hills of San Fran and nearly taking out a drug upped crazy on a zebra crossing. Not only are the chaps much chappier, but the crazies of San Fran are fucked up in every way possible. Off their nuts, shouting, twitching, covered in piss and properly deranged. The poor misfortunate lady I almost took out didn't even blink when I screeched to a stop just in front of her toes. Uh uh.

Once you've seen past the insanity and climbed up the steep, huge, hills, SF has bucket loads of vibe for you to climb inside and rub your face in. After we'd handed over our hire car to a slightly dodgy looking car park attendant for our two days, we went for a big ol' snoop around the city. We spent a few hours straight moochin' round the tourist death trap of Fisherman's Wharf. This place is where tat and clams (in chowder) goes to die. You can even buy burger-shaped fridge magnets.

So good you could eat them
Day two started at a bus stop awaiting our carriage to the Golden Gate Bridge. Two dudes at the stop were sitting down rapping and blazing the sort of joint that didn't scream 'it's ten am on a Monday morning'. More like 'I ain't got shit to do other than get the monster munch out'. After passively inhaling their boogaloo, getting to the Golden Gate was even more of a proper, paranoid jaw drop. It's huge and, even in the morning fog which enveloped it we when arrived, it's still mint. We walked across it and ignored the death drive asking whether we wanted to jump off.

Our afternoon saw us roaming around the Golden Gate Bridge before taking on the hippies of Haight Ashbury. This is the part of the US where people first started smoking bongs and the hippy movement kicked off. In the most stoned way possible. There are now loads of organic eateries as well as Amoeba Records, the biggest record shop ever. We picked up a copy of Madonna's Immaculate Collection and a salmon bagel. Ken Kesey and his original acid crew would be delighted at the progress of their movement.

Amoeba Music
After navigating the disorientating tram system, we found Grace Cathedral and saw the Keith Haring AIDs memorial. Then we jumped a tram on one of the steeper hills for another thrill. Oof. The hills are sheer. Our final morning had us up early doors in a queue for the Alcatraz tour. However, due to the government running out of money, all the federal parks had been shut down including (would you believe it), everyone's favourite state jail. Our dreams of recreating the best bits of the Rock were thwarted.


We collected the car headed back out on the road and continued heading on south. We found the Big Sur where all the hippies dreamt of a perfect, blissful world and Jack Kerouac wrote a whole book about the vibe. It is proper hemp bro. We ate a burger at the cliff hugging Nepenthe restaurant and took in the views before bombing it back down the Sur. In the pitch black this route is right scary so to combat the lack of lights and the sheer drop next to us I switched into pensioner mode.  Sweaty, drooling, craning the neck over the wheel and at the kinds of speeds grannies search for their lost false teeth at.

Arriving somewhere in the dark is character building but when they're having a scarecrow festival even more so. Cambria is this kind of place. The crows varied from the nice to the sick, from Mary Poppins dangling from a tree to a dead cyclist, killed by a texter. The clowns in gardens were eerie (and reminiscent of It) while cyclists on bikes which actually moved were bizarre enough to deserve admiration. Hats off to the scarecrow crew. We stayed at a delightful hostel and drank ales at the Cambria Inn, making chums with some local types in the process. They insisted on meeting up the next morning with hangovers and awkward chats and gave us a tour of the small town including Captain Nitwit's Lodge. We left them looking for their chum who had gone AWOL with a girl from our hostel (into her bedroom)...

Monday, 4 November 2013

America part uno

The classic American road trip has inspired much in the way of words and passed into folk lore as a right of passage. All the beat poets who first clambered on the road may have been terrible lyricists but they sure had a thirst for travel. Almost as much they did for ale and reefer. So back in September, we spent two weeks in the US emulating the likes of Kerouac, Ginsbery et al by driving down the country's west coast and taking in the sights, the smells and owt else we could stick in the senses.

The trip started at the IBIS in Heathrow. We’d decided to sleep at the airport, believing that it would make more sense than getting a taxi at stupid o’clock to catch our early flight. What could go wrong? Well it's proximity to the terminal gave us even more of an excuse to get properly pished in the hotel bar. We got whammied enough to sleep through the alarm, then had to hotfoot it, quick sharp to the airport. The triple headache of hangover, lengthy in-flight movies and extreme fatigue meant that landing in Chicago felt like being slapped in the face. It was all a bit too much to begin with. The woman covered in sick talking to herself on the inter-airport terminal train was scary. The guy with the deep baritone passing us on the escalator saying ‘Hellloooo, welcommeee to Chicago’ made us feel anything but. Only the pub next to the gate made sense. We sat there for a couple of hours and made the decision to acquire fridge magnets from everywhere we stopped.

Chicago airport travelator
Landing in Portland was a vibe. It's like Dalston, except cleaner and less frayed around the edges. The crazies are crazier but they don't want owt from you. Beers tasted beerier. Burgers were bigger. Beards are just as beardy. The best bits of Portland were many but included visiting the seedy environs of the Devil’s Point on the Sunday night. Being my birthday (32 innit – fuck getting old), we turned up pissed to be confronted by a thick fug of weed and the sounds of the karaoke wafting through the chilly September air. It's only on getting inside that you realise it’s also a strip joint. Bonkers. Until then, I’d never seen a fat,elderly woman sing a ropey version of White Town’s Your Woman while an athletic stripper did her thing on a nearby pole. Never lived mate.

Outside Devil's Point
The day after was spent attempting to drive a car on the wrong hand side of the road. Doing this for the first time with the added frisson of a soul crushing hangover was a real challenge. Bereft of all emotion and chat, we got lost somewhere in Portland and ended up attempting our jaunt to the nearby Mount Hood in the opposite way to the directions we'd received. Cue tears at wheel of car due to total frustration at inability to act like a proper man. Cue despair. Cue more tears. Cue having to go to Starbucks for a piss. Cue hysterics. This was character building business out in the wilderness. For the first time, I felt what it was like to be grizzly man.

Paranoid and panicked outside Calamity Jane's diner
Tears almost came again when attempting to hire a car for the vaguely pre-planned road trip. In between sight seeing, we'd had another heavy one as our adieu to Portland and arrived at the airport attempting to find our hire car collection. We found the Enterprise desk, queued up and spoke to the over friendly dude on the counter, only to be denied due to a lack of credit card and licence in the same name. Spirits fell like a guillotine coming down on a neck in an European revolution. It was a real low. The pits. The worst. It was only due to the dude at National car hire ripping us off to the tune of 'shitloads' that enabled our trip to get off the ground at all. I've never thanked anyone so much for charging us soooo much.

Once we'd worked out how to drive an automatic, the open road took us out of Portland and north west to Astoria where such pinnacles of cinema as the Goonies and Kindergarten Cop were both filmed. We checked into our weird little hotel the Commodore and took in the sights. Big butties, ales in jam jars, sea lions squawking  and our necessary photo outside the Goonies' gaff.

After dining on oysters and getting a very early night we took off south, hugging the coast via route 101. We checked in at Cannon Beach (where the end of the Goonies is filmed), ate crab and watched surfers at Pacific City before arriving in the sleepy town of Yachats. We got pissed up with the locals in a dive bar, including one local red neck who claimed to run a pizza joint and had a hugmongous beard. He was called Dave and had bare vibes.

Goons at the goonies
Day three behind the wheel involved sliding down the west coast on a southern trajectory through the seaside town of Bandon and picking up some jalapeƱo and bacon toffee. Disgusting. We dined at a scruffy eaterie before entering redwood zone and purchasing plaid shirts and IPAs from a nearby supermarket. We spent that night in a wooden cabin in the redwoods which was as organic as you can imagine. We didn't hug any trees but came pretty close. Being proper down with nature and that we turned up with no camping gear at all and no real clue as to how to get a raging fire sparking. It took much wood, paper, lighters and the inevitable ripping down of nearby foliage to get a mild inferno popping. We didn't cook anything on it due to fear of disease and local big foot swooping down on us and stealing our sausages. But it did feel very real being out in the middle of totally nowhere, drunk and seeing things in the darkness.

Oh the views of Route 101
Route 101 took us to the Avenue of the Giants, a 30 mile stretch of road hemmed in by these supernaturally sized redwoods. They tower above you like, like, like, really tall giants. We even paid six 'bucks' to a dude in a hut to let us drive our hire motor through a tree. The gap wasn't all that big so we edged through the tree before reversing back into it to get the obligatory tourist photo. Yes mate.

We'd aimed to get to a winery but managed to mis time our arrival in wine country above San Fransisco, so ended up hitting up Guerneville, a small town 60 miles north of the big SF. We found the one spare room to hire at the New Dynamic Inn. Fears were raised by the shitty room and the local crackheads living below. On the way out we met one dude who was rifling through the bins. As nice as he was, he managed to instill 'the fear' in us. To counteract this, we went out and got shitfaced in the big gay bar. I stopped worrying about our belongings, the car and anything else at all. On returning we couldn't work the lock so instead of finding someone who could sort it out, we barricaded the door with the microwave and table. Safe as houses mate.

Our trip continued the following day with a jaunt round Bodega and Bodega Bay, the small fishing town where master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, filmed ornothology fright fest, The Birds. If you've seen the film, don't let it put you off going and getting as much Hitchcock-related tat as a brother can lay his hands on. We saw shitloads of birds and they treated us with the decency and respect we've come to expect from our feathered friends in the UK. From there we zorbed in to San Fran via the Golden Gate Bridge with our mouths hanging open.

Leaving the New Dynamic Inn

We done gone taken a whole load of photos of the trip - check them out on Flickr here...