There are many good and funny quotes about beer, and one, which can be seen on the walls of many pubs around England, says “beer is God’s way of telling us he loves us”. Beer, along with wine and pretty much all food, is an added joy of travel, giving us the opportunity to try different types in different places. We’re always drawn to any beer which we’ve never seen before, one is kind of compelled to try it. One of the joys of living in England is the terrific variety of beer around this small island (thanks Mr Bryson), and the explosion of micro breweries over the last five years or so has so enhanced this experience; truly you can go anywhere and find a new ale from a local brewery.
And then there’s beers around the world, which is, as we say, a joy of travel. It’s really draught beers we’re talking about here, draught far outweighs bottled when it comes to variety and regional variations. Wandering into a bar in a distant land and excitedly examining the beer taps is just such an uplifting experience – one of life’s pleasures even. I’m not really a lager drinker, much preferring English ale, whereas Michaela likes the thirst quenching qualities of a cold lager in the sun. But this doesn’t mean I can’t find good beers abroad, of course, there’s plenty around, and the thrill of the chase is all part of the fun. We certainly don’t go looking for an ale substitute – far from it in fact, anything untried is there for the tasting.
An English ale in a cozy winter pub; a cold beer after a day in the heat; an unknown beer in a dingy cellar bar; first beer after a day’s trekking; it’s all good. So what will Mexico bring? Is it going to be mostly bottled, and not much draught? Or will we be pleasantly surprised by rural beers? Whatever, it’s the next exciting stage of the World cast as a beer tour…
Just a week left before we head to Mexico and our excited thoughts are inevitably turning to the trip and what may be in store this time around. We are expecting great food, temperatures in the upper 20s, no rain, lots of sunshine, gorgeous beaches, the huge surfing waves of the Mexican Pipeline, classical buildings, ancient cultures, great food and, most exciting of all, great food!
So for our last weekend in England we find ourselves in Lowestoft, the easternmost tip of the British Isles, as the signs on the edge of town proudly tell you. It’s a bright and blustery winter’s day, and the sea teases us with its own images of Mexico by producing mini rollers crashing on to the sand, hardly Pipeline but enough to have us dreaming again.
Mexico will be our 31st country visited together, but our first time in the Americas. Seven days to go.
And we suppose the blog theme. This is what we’re about, in brief, there’s more detail around this on the “about” pages, but this is what we’re about. We’re not youngsters, we’re looking to retire soon and go travelling for at least a year; we’re very happy backpacking, with nothing booked other than the flights, finding our way as we go, although we don’t rule anything out. You’re never too old to give it a go.
Our biggest drive is to really experience each place we visit, find its true spirit and mix with its people; learn its history and what makes it what it is today; how its past influences its present. So we seek out bars where the locals drink, restaurants where the locals eat. It’s so much easier to do that when you’re backpacking and not hidden in an international hotel: you’re in there straight away. Our aim is to put as big a portion of our spend into the local economy as we can; we don’t let travel operators and hotel chains take the lion’s share, but instead we pay local people for our bed, our food, our beer, even our hire cars, whenever we can. That all goes to make our most edifying trips, is our travel philosophy and is the biggest theme of the blog.
Right now we have high hopes for Mexico. Ten days to go.
We are on a mission now, seeing the world in instalments, backpackers of a certain age, dreaming of our not too distant retirement and setting off to see as much of our world as we can. The ultimate travelling dream gets ever closer.
Earlier in 2018 a family death meant one of our trips, to Puglia, was unfortunately cancelled; last week, with Mexico only a matter of days away and with awful coincidence, we suffered another sad loss of a close family member and for a while another trip was in doubt. But with a bit of shuffling of dates and some rearrangement, we are all set to leave in 11 days’ time, albeit with changes of plan. Oaxaca city will now be after the coastal break rather than either side, so the plan now goes like this.
Fly from Heathrow to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Mexico City, both with KLM, arriving in Mexico in the early hours of Sunday morning. 4 hours at the airport before we fly to Oaxaca with Aeromexico, arriving just in time for our first Oaxacan breakfast. We have Sunday in the city, then Monday morning sees a spectacular sunrise flight on a tiny plane with Aerotucan down to Puerto Escondido, again arriving at breakfast time. We then have 13 days on the coast, including Christmas, before we return to Oaxaca city for a week over New Year. The reshuffle means we now have two separate “homes” in the city, one in a quiet residential neighbourhood, one in the bustle of the centre.
As you wander around the centre of Birmingham, through its walkways and canal area, around developments like The Mailbox and through its vibrant, lively streets, you can only be in awe of modern day city planners. Whoever it was who looked at the old Birmingham and had the vision of what has now been created, we salute you. A formerly run down, dowdy area has been transformed into the most vibrant and attractive of city quarters, and an environment well worthy of second city status, a city to be proud of. Our weekend here was centred around a Saturdaynight in this regenerated quarter, exploring its pubs and just soaking up a terrific city atmosphere; there are restaurants of just about every type – we chose South American – and pubs and bars to suit every taste, from Canalside and The Canal House with their waterfront tables, to The Pint Shop with its array of 27 different draught beers. Even though the city centre is still a work in progress with much construction and many building sites, what has been done is terrific, and what is in progress will make the city better still. Great city, thoroughly recommended.
It’s still a mild autumn in England; the autumn colours are here but the temperature remains too mild for November. So here on the Kent coast the climate is confused and today the fog never lifted, the dampness and the moisture lingered, the day remained drab, damp and grey. When this goes on in England, it’s not long before you start yearning for sunshine, and longing for warmth.
And so we’re counting down to Mexico, just 25 days to go until a trip which absolutely fills us with excitement; Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Mexican food, sunshine, the Pacific coast, so much to look forward to.
Geneva was full of restaurants of multiple nationalities and types, giving the visitor a full range of choices. In amongst the various options we visited Cafe de Paris near the main railway station and had one of our strangest restaurant experiences. This restaurant’s modus operandi is to only offer one meal: they only do steak, chips and salad. Not only is there no menu and no alternatives, but there isn’t even a choice of sauce, basically you get what you’re given, the only choice you have is what to drink with it.
What’s more, you don’t get to choose rare, medium or well done, because the steak arrives sliced, and pretty rare, on a salver over a candle burner, and so continues to cook at the table. You just turn it down to avoid over cooking. The steak sits in a butter sauce, with large knobs of home made butter melting on to the meat.
Amazingly this restaurant has been doing this for over 80 years, just serving the one dish in the one style. It is, of course, delicious, and the steak itself is fantastic. It’s also a quirky experience!