The Big Trip 2021: two nights in Brighton

After six months spent almost exclusively at home, we were gagging to see somewhere other than Vauxhall. Brighton has sea and is less than two hours away – that’ll do.

We were forced to cancel our trip to Greece back in May, so splashing out on two nights with a sea view at the Brighton Grand feels perfectly justified. Only ever having been here for work during party conferences, we’ve never had to stray further than the downstairs bar. We didn’t realise there were just two rather aged lifts. Trying to keep guests safe, these can only be used one household at a time, so getting up to fifth floor with luggage takes some time. We don’t care – we’re just so excited to see different pavements, buildings, people, wallpaper (you get the gist – even different carpets are a bit exciting).

It’s September, but the last dregs of the glorious summer linger. We’re treated to autumn sunshine and evenings dry and mild enough to sit outside. Oh, the joy of a drink outside a pub with other people (though not too close, obviously). We could really get used to this table service thing.

We walk on the beach.

We eat fish and chips and are dive-bombed by seagulls, of course.

We do some shopping. Get Cutie is the clothing equivalent of an old fashioned sweet shop, a pick ‘n mix of styles and fabrics. Every order can be tailored to your preference. A dress with pockets and a shirt will be delivered in a few weeks.

We do some sightseeing. Drowning in the excess of the Royal Pavilion without the crowds is a rare treat.

We are stalked by a gigantic seagull that hangs around outside our window for the entire trip, fixing us with its thousand-yard stare. What does it want? All the food, we’re guessing.

Most of all we are not in London. It’s a short trip that will keep us going for months to come.

Posted in UK

Lockdown: UK & Covid

On 23 March 2020, the UK went into lockdown. We had no real idea what was coming or, for the purposes of this blog, how long it would be before we went anywhere…at all.

Posted in UK

LA Day Nine: Cosplay and NASA

Gally is a wonderful thing.

Where else would you find cosplay of some great characters (Davros, Donna and Wilf amongst many others), discover how Doctor Who directors & camera crew do their stuff, learn whether Tosin & Pearl like a Saturday night in or out, be taught about the new space telescope, enjoy a cross over talk to see which Doctor Who worlds are physically possible exo-Planets from NASA scientists and see a Mars 2020 rover wheel?

And yes, in the bottom left picture, that is a real life Mars rover wheel they used in testing. How exciting is that?!

Posted in USA

LA Day Eight: Love & Monsters

Allan kicked off the Valentine’s Day celebrations with possibly the most romantic card ever: a piece of the old Marriott LAX carpet that has been the background for so many Gally memories. A new carpet this year is the cause of much angst. It’s ironic that so many Doctor Who fans struggle with change.

The Marriott patio is swarming with Doctors, River Songs, Bills and Ponds. This year, there’s also a sprinkling of Crowleys and Aziraphales.

We’re playing Doctor Bingo – first one to collect all thirteen gets a cocktail of their choice. Nine to Thirteen are well represented, but Chloë is still searching for the elusive Three (Pertwee), while Alan needs a Two (Troughton). We’ll both struggle to find an Eight (McGann), partly because he’s so easily confused with others.

We have one important task today. Our goddaughter is worried about Bill. She had a horrible time with the Cybermen before Heather whisked her off into the universe. Is she OK? Is Heather being nice to her? We reckon this reassuring message was worth the hour’s queuing. Turns out Heather is treating her like the queen she is.

The big room interview we choose for today is Tosin Cole (Ryan). He’s new to the convention scene and is charmingly unaffected. He fell into acting when a girl he liked invited him to come to a workshop. It turned out he was pretty good and, more importantly, found a place where he could explore different sides of himself. He was very honest about loving the attention and applause he gets on stage. In a few years he’ll have a store of funny, polished anecdotes, so we’re glad to have seen him simply enjoying all the new experiences.

While Allan marvelled at the future of flight with Dr Anita Sengupta, Chloë sloped off to one of her favourite Gally staples, In Defence Of. Two players each have one minute to defend something generally considered to be indefensible (eg Adric’s pyjamas) and it’s run by the Verity! podcast team. This year ended with the two players leading the crowd in a rousing rendition of Defying Gravity. No one can remember what they were defending…

We end the day with Paul Cornell’s always entertaining Deathmatch. This year, every Classic Series script editor/producer and every New Series showrunner were ruthlessly pitted against one another in sudden death votes to find out who was (scientifically) the best. The winner was Terrance Dicks, to the general delight of all.

Finally, a romantic dinner at the surprisingly good hotel restaurant. Giant prawns, steak and an excellent Malbec: what’s not to love?

Posted in USA

LA Day Seven: Into the Bond baddie’s lair

The Getty Centre looms large on a hill over the I405 motorway with sweeping views to LA and beyond akin to Blofeld’s secret base. Approaching the buildings via a monorail just adds to the James Bond theme.

With three hours to kill before check-in to our base for the Doctor Who convention, it’s the perfect place to come and be wowed with what almost unlimited money can buy.

Building infrastructure made from Italian marble quarries that took 2 years to get here, huge quantity of artwork that has famous names everywhere and gardens that shine brightly with vivid colours. It’s all here. We walk through the gardens, we take in a highlights tour and enjoy the views.

But there’s also more contemporary stuff. A small exhibition of excellent photos taken by ten LA high school students – #LAunshuttered – was a highlight amongst the giants of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Turner.

https://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/events/ev_2790.html

The journey back was with a character of a LA taxi driver telling us how patient drivers are here, the wonders of Mexican food and to never come to LA in June – apparently the only month where the sun doesn’t shine, so everyone is a miserable sod.

We finished with proper US diner food at Denny’s and registration for the convention. Let the nerdness begin!!

Posted in USA

LA Day Six: We’ve found all the noses!

Where does a billionaire with an unrivalled collection of antiquities keep them? Why, he builds an architecturally authentic Roman villa, complete with manicured gardens, olive and pine trees, and its own amphitheater, of course.

The Getty Villa is breathtaking in its scale, location and beauty. What’s inside beats it all. Hands down.

We’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of relics from European and Middle Eastern civilisations: Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Assyrian. We’ve seen them in the places they were uncovered and we’ve seen them in the British Museum (of Stolen Goods). We’ve never seen anything like this.

You’re familiar with the general look of such antiquities, right? Statues with missing heads, toes, noses. Pottery shards, faded and cracked. Tiny votive offerings of distorted or worn away figures. The inevitable passage of time does its work on all material objects.

Well, we’ve got news. Those missing noses? Those broken off toes? Not inevitable at all. They are not a necessary characteristic of ancient artefacts, it’s just that the billionaires got the good stuff already. All of the noses are here!

Frankly, we think the photos speak for themselves. We spent a fortune on taxis, but the villa is free to get in.

Short of paying proper taxes, this might be one of the better things a billionaire can do with his money.

Posted in USA

LA Day Five: Wipeout

We had many plans for today but jet lag continues to hit Chloë hard. So instead we did some washing, ate noodles and watched many episodes of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. We are on holiday, after all.

Posted in USA

LA Day Four: surf & sea cucumbers

Finally, after days of cloud and rain, the Californian sun showed its face. It’s easy to forget, looking out over miles and miles of concrete, that LA is an ocean city. And so to the seaside we go.

You can tell Manhattan Beach is a wealthy enclave. There’s a shop called Cupcake Couture and the locals can afford to drive around in vintage Beetles that look like they’ve just rolled off the production line. As with most high-priced neighbourhoods, it’s all about location. Near enough to all the bits of LA that you need, but far enough not to have to live with the downsides. Plus, miles and miles of golden sands and a stunning Pacific sunset every night. Not too shabby.

We take a stroll up the pier so that we can really appreciate the sheer scale of the coastline and the open ocean. There’s nothing between here and Shanghai, except to graze the southernmost tip of Japan.

A little building at the end houses an educational aquarium. Here, we’re allowed to touch a sea cucumber and are promised seven years of good luck if one of us kisses it. Who are we to argue with wise old men sharing their knowledge on a seaside pier? Allan obliges. He may never be the same again.

Posted in USA

LA Day Three: legend of the weekend, gold medals and goals

Day three and the jet lag is somewhat fading. We discover that the final of the Olympic soccer qualifying tournament is on just down the road – well, 10 miles away, which in LA terms is just down the road. It’s USA vs Canada and tickets are available at the last minute. It’s 20 minutes drive. We’re there.

The last match Allan saw was a dreary 0-0 draw. The first half is about the same, although it’s more than made up for by a half-time YMCA singalong by the crowd.

https://hardcowtravels.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/img_2130.mov

Second half and USA class showed, with three unanswered goals including the last by Trump’s favourite (not) soccer superstar and all-round amazing person Megan Rapinoe. She even inspired Chloë to purchase a USA football shirt on the way out.

The rain just about held off. We were home in time for very Californian dinner of fish tacos and shrimp burritos. Delicious.

Posted in USA

LA Day Two: double legends

Despite falling into bed face first, we spring awake at 2am, jet lag in full force. Chloë is just able to drag herself into a cab first thing for her long-awaited, very nearly legendary, Alexandra Wagner facial.

Five years ago, she randomly booked an appointment at this Venice Beach beautician, only to receive the best facial ever. Even with the pound in free fall, it’s still worth every dollar. Every. Single. One.

Drifting home on a cloud of bliss, by midday it’s all too much. A brief siesta/near-coma ensues.

Still in recovery mode, there’s only one place to go for dinner: In ‘n Out Burger.

Everyone here loves It. Each year at Gallifrey One there’s an In ‘n Out burger run/social. The local branch is the number one rated restaurant in El Segundo on Trip Adviser. Chloë’s cabbie waxes lyrical.

We’ve heard about it for years and are finally within walking distance, so there’s really no choice.

There are really only three things on the menu: burger, cheeseburger and Double Double. Allan’s feeling brave, so it’s the Double Double for him. Chloë opts for the classic cheeseburger. Both are good. The fries are made fresh from whole potatoes. It unexpectedly tastes like real food. We can see why it’s so popular.

As we head home clutching bags of burgers and fries, a cop leans out of his SUV window to tell us his favourite milkshake is the chocolate. Seriously, they flipping love it here!

Two legends in one day is good going, but tomorrow we’re making it three in one weekend…

Posted in USA