Tag Archives: beer

Getting around and Getting Drunk in London

In my little London adventure, there are two things that come to my thoughts: the experience of excellent public transportation and, to my surprise, pubs and beers that turn to be a big let down.

In the Tube
Getting to Waterloo

First of all, as a first-time visitor I commute in London without any confusion. These days, my main tool for travelling is Google Maps. With its accurate information, I can get around without having to ask anyone for directions. Moreover, the clear signs on the ground reflect exactly in the app. I have had this problem in Detroit where I couldn’t find the bus stop, which appeared in the Maps.

However, when you plan the trip with the app and start to get into the Tube system, it could be difficult to change the route because there is no mobile signal down there and will have to find out from that complex Underground map. My friend and I have to do that while in the pub crawl session.

I just can’t help comparing it with other cities I’ve lived. Sydney improved when I visited last year. DC is adequate but Metro network is not widespread. Bangkok train systems are reliable but they are not totally integrated with each other or with other systems—i.e., bus and ferry services.

More evidently, getting from/to the airport shows how to move people painlessly. Even though Sydney, DC, and Bangkok are not bad, Heathrow Express is the best. Many cities frustrated me in terms of getting out of the airport. To name a few: I queued up for a taxi for hours in Kuala Lumpur, I got confused with Uber pick-up point in Detroit, I was rudely dropped off a wrong destination in Chiang Mai because Songthaew driver misheard me.

I’ve got prior perception of the city’s public transport system from a couple of works I was involved. London was one of the success case stories in a report about urban transport in Malaysia. And we once interviewed CTO and Director of Customer Experience, Transport for London on how they could assist other cities with their experiences. To finally experience it first hands with this background is great.

On the other side, my expectation with pubs and beer is high but it just lets me down. Two nights out of three in the city, I get last call bell before midnight. I’m not sure if this is a norm but I don’t remember the last time I had to rush out of a pub.

Mushrooms at the World's End
A urinal at World’s End, Camden

And a quest for good local ale also fails. London Pale Ale I have in Oxford is fine. But others than that don’t jump at me at all. The tap selections are quite the same along the pubs I’ve been too. Unlike DC or Sydney, where they’ve got different beers in different pubs. My regular, Songbyrd, always changes beers on their taps.

Late Night Underground
Getting back to Notting Hill, tipsy…

To end this note, I’ve got one of the most embarrassing moments in my life in the last night in London. I can’t hold it to the hotel and have to release it on pathway by a park. Just a few second later, a police car pulls over behind me. The cops get out of the car and ask me questions. This could be the first time ever I got caught red handed with no excuses. I know I could be in a trouble with it but they let me go anyway. Oops! Lesson learned.

More Aussie Beers Please

Coopers Pale Ale
Coopers Pale Ale at Bank Hotel

Over the years, I have developed a fondness of craft beer. It could not be possible to resist exploring Australian brew when I got down there.

My drink list wasn’t as long as food craving mission. The very first beer I got had to be Coopers pale ale at the Bank Hotel, one of my favourite spots to watch the world flowing by. Coopers and James Squire were the two established breweries I was longing for. There were also  my new-found favourite local craft beer, especially Young Henrys from Newtown. Shame that I didn’t get a chance to visit their bar.

That was simply because my the pub time was in the regular one, Kelly’s on King. And another one that I went more often this trip was the Townie, where I stopped for variety of Young Henrys and to write travel journals.

It was good to see that Kelly’s, the Townie, and Warren View Hotel still had as the same vibe as when I left the city. Most of others in the local has changed. The Duke and Newtown Hotel became so hipster. The Sando was renamed to Newtown Social Club even tough it got the same spirit.

Closer to Sydney’s CBD, Lansdowne Hotel is gone. The Clare Hotel turned posh. However, Stonewall Hotel on Oxford Street were still the same gay bar. And fortunately, Brighton Up Bar were as a dive bar as I hoped it would be.

Brighton Up Bar
Brighton Up Bar on Oxford Street

Although the pub wasn’t my usual spot because of the location but it always have a special place in my heart. It was where I started transitioning works. One day in winter 2007, I randomly sat down there to write a script for Anywhere Chairs while sipping beer. Since then, I found pubs have been my preferred choice of writing environment.

Weekend in Detroit: Sunday Exploration

It’s a full day in Detroit and could be a chance to explore the Motor city. But after the intense night of internal journey, I feel like taking it easy with no concrete plan. That turns out to be a long interesting excursion.

The first thing in the morning is to get breakfast. Apparently, there are not many choices around the AirBNB place I stay. In fact, the only café opens on Sunday morning is quite a walk away. I don’t mind it at all as that gives me some good snapshots of the neighbourhood.

The blights are still apparent. But there are some renovations going on as well. Even though I’m very into abandoned places, this is not in the right time to go deep into it, not when I haven’t done background research.

Nice walk, exquisite muesli and lovely muffin, then what’s next? Look it up to and pin the destination to GM Renaissance Centre it is. That’s a long walk but it’s a riverside walk. And hey, there’s actually a brewery along the way. Let’s just make it the first stop.

At Atwater Brewery, I start to seriously think about crossing border to Canada. And so, the next destination is a brewery in Windsor. As an Australian passport holder, there shouldn’t be a problem about it. But the real issue for me is how to get to the right information about the Tunnel Bus service to take me there.

There’s the last bus stop in Detroit to pick up passengers just outside GM Renaissance Centre. But I have to walk around and around to find it. The location of the bus stop is on Google Map but there’s no direction sign of it on the ground. I finally get there and find it does look just like a normal bus stop with no ticket office. The fare is $5 (either US or Canadian) but I have to pay double because the bus only accepts cash with no change and the smallest note I have is $10. The whole process of this frustrates and tires me physically and mentally. But that adds to my new learning experience.

With this frustration and tiredness, I become so goofy when responding to the Canadian Border officer. My short answer to why I am entering Canada is ‘just to get a beer’. It feels that I make an honest fool of myself but seems honest enough to get a stamp.

It feels different in Canada. Of course, it is not USA but there is some atmosphere that is more resemble to Australia. I can’t explain but feel it. Maybe this is just a bias. Even at Craft Heads Brewery, where I spend the rest of the afternoon and enjoy huge range of craft bee, give the same comfy as a pub in Sydney.

Catching the bus back to Detroit seems to be easier now but with a sniffer dog at the US side. I end up in a random bar in Detroit’s downtown for dinner and one last local beer.

The day with no real plan turns to be a long exploration. I take over 20,000 steps of walking (around 12.8 km) with six beers from two breweries and a bar in two countries. I am tired.

Eight Months in DC on Instagram

In the early days in Washington DC, when people asked me “What do you think about DC?” I rolled my eyes and sighed because it was just too soon to tell plus the stress of the relocation. Now, with eight months of my job contract is over and I’m about to leave the city, I can look back and see what I can come up with. Photo is the usual visual diary to document I find in everyday life and Instagram is the usual channel for sharing it.

Here are some of the things I find in eight months living in Washington DC.

Beers…craft beers

Continue reading Eight Months in DC on Instagram