Robert Hampton

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21st March 2013

Getting Away From It All

Blurry LondonFor the first few years of the blog’s existence there aren’t many records of trips out, because – well, I didn’t like to leave the house. More recently, however, I’ve taken the advice, “you need to get out more,” to heart. I’ve ventured out more and more.

London features regularly – in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The last trip was with my friend Scott and seemed to involve hanging around the Abercrombie & Fitch store and then going to see West End Bares, a charity burlesque show. If this gives the impression that we enjoy looking at naked men, that is… accurate.

I like London, with its Oyster cards and palaces and whatnot. I think it helps that I have loads of friends who live there, so I can avoid expensive hotel bills by imposing on their generosity. In fact, I’ve just completed another London trip (this time with my friend Ian). It’s waiting to be written up, once these retro-blogs are out of the way…

KnoydartOf course, there is more to life than the capital city, and I have made various voyages around Britain in recent years. A trip to Scotland in 2010 with my friend Nuno was especially wonderful. bustling urban Glasgow making a sharp contrast to the wilderness of Knoydart, a place with which I instantly fell in love. Climbing mountains in the middle of nowhere – what could be better?

2010 seems to have been the year of touring the country, for later that year I headed to Brighton at the invitation of my friend Mark. Mark somehow managed to persuade me to ride the rollercoaster on Brighton Pier, which doesn’t sound like something I would normally do – and isn’t.

Brighton PierThe following year, much merriment ensued when I told my friends I was going to Birmingham for the day. As my blog entry from the time states, however, I actually had an enjoyable day out, seeing many of Birmingham’s sights (yes, it has some) and perhaps putting some preconceived notions to rest. Not everyone was as easily impressed however, and I had to leap to the city’s defence earlier this year.

In 2012 I headed South, to Cornwall. The main purpose of the trip was to do some Station Master blogging, but I also squeezed in some more traditional tourist exploits with a visit to Land’s End, which turned out to be brilliant, involving a bus ride from Penzance down winding country roads, ending up at the aforementioned tourist attraction just as it was closing for the night.

Photo of Robert Hampton at Land's End

The real highlights have been the trips abroad. In 2011, accompanied by intrepid international jetsetter Andrew Bromage, I headed to Tallinn, Estonia – a fascinating place which has emerged from the dark decades of Cold War occupation and is on the way to becoming a thriving economy. I got no fewer than seven blog posts out of it (starting with this one) which was unsurprising as we squeezed so much in.

View of Old Town with high-rise buildings visible in distance
Estonia has a rich history, but sadly much of the 20th century was marked by war and oppression. Tallinn’s Occupation Museum was a sad reminder of those times, as I noted on my visit:

By the end of it, I wanted to give the Estonian nation a collective hug. My impression of the Estonian people was that of an intelligent, rich culture all of their own. Yet for fifty years they were forced to live under an atmosphere of suppression and fear. Independence from the Soviet Union was declared on 20th August 1991. This means any Estonian aged 20 or over was born into an occupied country. This is not some academic topic from a history book – these are relatively recent events, and the effects on the national psyche must surely still be felt today.

Two unfortunate footnotes to add to this: (a) EasyJet have withdrawn their Liverpool-Tallinn route, and (b) the gay bar where we whiled away far too many hours on one night has since closed.

Andrew and I followed this a year later with a visit to Berlin, which was an absolutely incredible place. The remnants of the Berlin Wall and the enormous Holocaust Memorial are reminders of sadder times in the city’s history. 21st century Berlin, however, offers a thriving cosmopolitan culture which easily rivals that offered by London. We gorged ourselves on the cultural delights on offer.

Brandenburg Gate

Also, Blond bar, in the city’s gay district, has really, really fit bar staff. Ahem.

Of course, a journey doesn’t have to involve trips to the other end of the country or to foreign places to be memorable. Some of the best adventures have been close to home, like when I walked from New Brighton to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, seeing much of Birkenhead’s old docks system in the process. It was an interesting afternoon out.

Lifting Bridge, Birkenhead

So, where will be I heading next? Um, London again, in a few weeks time, as it turns out (I’m so predictable). Beyond that, who knows? One thing’s for sure: there will be blogs written about every place I visit.

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