Robert Hampton

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Out and About

21st December 2015

Dabblin’ in Dublin
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Leprechaun Museum

When my friend Andrew suggested a trip to Dublin, I leapt at the chance. I’ve jetted off to Estonia, Norway and Germany, but our neighbouring isle had remained off-limits. It was high time I put that right.

Of course, Andrew had an ulterior motive. He’s a planespotter — sorry… “aviation enthusiast”, so when Aer Lingus launched a new Dublin to Liverpool service on 23 October, he had to be on the first flight. A day in Dublin was an added bonus.

Yes, I’m writing about my trip two months after it actually happened. I’VE BEEN BUSY LEAVE ME ALONE. One side effect is that I’ve forgotten some of the details, so you’ll have to make do with some overall impressions.

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29th November 2015

Bahn Hamburg
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Final post in the Hamburg series!

Having talked about the places I visited in Hamburg, I probably should mention how I travelled to them. Yes, it’s the big climax, the one you’ve all been waiting for: my assessment of the public transport system.

Hamburg, like many European cities, is blessed with a lovely public transport system. As well as buses, and the aforementioned ferries, there are underground and overground trains zipping all over the place. No trams, though. Boo.

But… dear, oh dear, the network map lets it down. A nasty mess of jagged lines, and the city centre is a jumbled mess with lines criss-crossing all over the place. It’s not as bad as the horrible Merseyrail map with the square loop from a few years ago, but still, I can only give 6 out of 10.


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19th November 2015

Elbe Room
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Part 7 of my trip to Hamburg. I’m nearly at the end, honest!

Hamburg is a port city, straddling the River Elbe and welcoming ships from all over the world. It’s the second largest port in Europe behind Rotterdam, and the ninth largest in the world. The best way to see the harbour and port up close is, of course, by boat. It was our last day in Hamburg and we had a few hours to kill before our flight home, so we headed for the river and the pier at Landungsbrücken.

Landungsbrücken Landungsbrücken

The ferries in Hamburg function as part of the public transport system. The routes are numbered just like bus routes, and you can hop on board as easily as you would a bus (well, almost).

We were joined by some of Boris’s friends from Friday night for the trip. At the Landungsbrücken pier we boarded a number 62 ferry for a short journey west. The weather was cloudy with the threat of showers, but we still took ourselves upstairs and stood on the upper, open deck.

Hamburg Ferry

Great views were available in all directions: on one side of the river, office blocks and apartments rise up; while on the other, mile after mile of docks and industry line the bank.

Hamburg Waterfront Hamburg docks

20 minutes later we arrived at Neumühlen, where we alighted and went for a short stroll. There are some impressively posh houses and a short length of beach here, with a slightly incongruous backdrop of cranes and docks on the opposite bank of the river. I’m reliably informed that anyone going for a paddle has to look out for the wakes generated by the huge ships which go past.

Hamburg beach

Time was growing short and we needed to get back to the hotel for our bags. We headed back to the pier for a ferry back east. We had to wait a few minutes and a crowd of people built up. When the ferry arrived it was already quite crowded, but we joined the procession of people waiting to board and assumed there would be no difficulty.

As I boarded, one of the ferry crew stepped onto the gangway behind me to obstruct it. I didn’t quite catch what he said, but it was clear that the boat was full and no more passengers would be allowed to board. The problem was that one half of our merry band was still standing on the pier, and I could only watch as we sailed off, leaving Boris and co behind.

There was a happy ending though. Boris got a lift direct to the airport while I rushed back to the hotel on the U-Bahn to collect our luggage, then manhandled two suitcases onto the S-Bahn to the airport. Well, I guess it was happier for Boris than me.

3rd November 2015

Park life
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Yes, I’m still writing about Hamburg!

Inexplicably on the Friday afternoon of our trip, Boris decided to leave the rest of the group and spend some quality time with his family. Outrageous!

I could have gone to the Hamburg Dungeon with Florian and Andrew, but since the only available tour was in German, I decided to pass. That left me at a bit of a loose end, or it would have done if it hadn’t been for my sister Jenny and her boyfriend Andy, who by pure coincidence were in Hamburg at the exact same time as me.

We arranged to meet at Planten un Blomen, the big park in the city centre.

I’m kind of spoiled when it comes to German parks because my first experience of one was Berlin’s huge, sprawling Tiergarten. But Planten un Blomen (literally “Plants and Flowers”) was lovely too – a haven of tranquility in the midst of a frenetic city, as all good parks are.

Yes, it was nice to get together and spend some relaxing quiet time together. True to form, we then wandered off and ended up in a pub. Ahem.


24th October 2015

Don’t fear the Reeper
Posted by at 7.14pm | Out and About | 1 response

It amused me, recently, to see John Whittingdale give a speech at the Conservative Party conference in which he praised the success of British artists and performers. “There are no German Beatles,” he noted.

That last sentence amused me, because while the Beatles are indeed British (hailing as they do from every Tory’s favourite city, Liverpool), it was in Germany that they honed their craft. They were in Hamburg on and off for over two years, returning to the UK in 1962 with a lot more performing experience and much better prepared for the global superstardom that awaited. Hamburg airport has a quote from John Lennon on display: “I may have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg”. In summary, John Whittingdale is an idiot.

All of which leads into my Saturday night in Hamburg, which started at Beatles-Platz, where this cool statue of the fab four is on display.

Beatles Platz

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10th October 2015

Masterpieces in Miniature
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Apologies for the delay in posting the next instalment. I have been quite busy recently!

Our Saturday morning in Hamburg was something I had been looking forward to for a long time – our visit to Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway (bigger even than Rod Stewart’s).

Miniatur Wunderland is so popular that you generally have to prebook an admission slot, especially at weekends. This was something we had neglected to do, but after a little bit of wrangling with our hotel’s computer terminal and its intermittent wi-fi connection, I had a printed PDF voucher which would allow us to gain entry between 10.30 and 11.30 (once you’re in, you can stay as long as you like).

Miniatur Wunderland is spread across two floors of a giant warehouse in the Speicerstadt area of the city. When we first arrived at the Wunderland building, there was a brief bit of misdirection where we walked into what appeared to be a fire escape (we only noticed our mistake after going up three flights of stairs).

With our pre-booked voucher we were quickly inside the main building, and on to the models themselves.

I have been to plenty of model railway shows (I’m still single, fellas!) but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. One of the first things you see when you enter the exhibition is a breathtaking model of the Alps, with mountains so tall that balconies have been installed above so you can see them from below.


alps-4 alps-3


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2nd October 2015

A Hamburg stroll
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Friday morning we decided to do a walking tour of Hamburg. Every day at 11am a tour sets off, taking around two hours to take in some of the sights of the city. The tour starts at the Rathaus (City Hall), one of the many impressive buildings to be found in the city centre.

Hamburg Rathaus

In the square outside some sort of inter-schools concert was being held. Children of varying ages filed in and sat themselves down on folding chairs, to be entertained by other children. Well, I say “entertained” – we escaped just as a group of teenagers started rapping (badly).

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30th September 2015

Frühstück, Mittag- und Abendessen
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For past travel blogs, I have done a chronological account describing what I got up to. It was exhaustive – practically every minute of last year’s Berlin trip is accounted for – and exhausting to write. This time I’ve decided to try a different approach by writing a series of posts, each themed around a particular aspect of my visit.

First topic is one close to my heart (and stomach): food! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of these pictures already.

I was fortunate to have Boris with me as a guide. No wandering around looking for somewhere suitable to eat, as happened when I was in Berlin alone. Boris knew the places to eat and as a result I enjoyed some delicious meals.

We had breakfast in Schweinske, a chain of restaurants found across north west Germany. From the breakfast options, I opted for Die große Sause, a delicious offering of bacon, eggs, ham and cheese, alongside bread rolls with jam and honey. It was delicious, so much so that I had the same thing again the next day.


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28th September 2015

Hamburger Helper
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Regular readers of this blog (if there are any left) will know that I have a bit of a thing for Berlin. I’ve visited there twice, and I want to go back. It’s the most exciting, cosmopolitan, liberal city I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

However, it turns out that other German cities are available. My friend Boris was returning to his native Germany to celebrate his birthday in Hamburg. Would I like to come along, he asked. The chance to visit a new city with my own personal tour guide? I hesitated for approximately 9.5 nanoseconds before saying “Ja!”

So, on the evening of 17th September I found myself at Manchester Airport waiting for a Germanwings flight. I arrived far too early for the flight, but I didn’t mind, as Manchester is a massive, sprawling terminal and I was grateful to have the time to saunter gently from the railway station to security to departure lounge.

Germanwings use fun-size aircraft on the Manchester-Hamburg route, with just four seats in each row. I was perturbed by the cabin crew’s insistence that I put my wheelie case in the hold – I don’t like parting with my luggage – but it arrived at the other end without incident.

Hamburg Airport is connected to the city’s extensive S-Bahn system.

Hamburg S-Bahn

One change of train later and we were exiting the U-Bahn at Lohmühlenstraße, where we promptly got lost, wandering around the grounds of the nearby St Georg Hospital for a good 15 minutes or so. The rumbling of my wheelie suitcase probably woke up every patient. We eventually had to retrace our steps to the station, then take a different route to our hotel, the Relaxa Bellevue. It was late, and we went more or less straight to sleep once we’d checked in.

Next morning, we ventured out of the hotel and across the road, onto the shores of Lake Alster to admire the view.

Hamburg Lake Alster

I had a feeling that this trip would be very nice indeed.

19th July 2015

The Incredible Huk
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At lunchtime on Monday I was back in Aker Brygge, having lunch with Mark at Espresso House, home of the most bizarre toilet graffiti I’ve ever seen. Obviously someone is a fan of The Critic, or early period Saturday Night Live.

Jon Lovitz graffiti

After Mark and I went our separate ways, I pondered how to spend my final few hours in Oslo. I had to catch a train to the airport just after 5pm, so time was short.

While researching Bygdøy, I’d found that there was a beach there. The weather was still warm and sunny, so I decided to head back there. I got on another Number 30 bus, this time staying aboard right to the last stop at Huk.

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