Dashcam Footage From Northern Scotland

The Road To Applecross - Scotland
Ever wondered what it would be like to drive the tiny two-way one-lane roads that thread their way through the rural Scottish countryside?  Wonder no longer – during my recent roadtrip through Northern Scotland I tossed my video camera on the dashboard and periodically pressed record.  The end result is this roller-coaster of a video which takes highlights from that footage, speeds it up 3-4 times its normal speed and takes you racing along coastal roadways, mighty Scottish glenns, gorgeous Scottish lochs and highlights what happens when sheep decide to block the way or a highland traffic jam occurs.  Footage was predominantly filmed on the Isle of Skye, and the road between Skye and Durness along the North Western coast. For highest quality and due to the nature of the sped up footage make sure to change the video to play in 720p.

My Mistake – How I Overlooked Camden

The Camden Lock

Is Camden Dangerous?

Let’s start with the basics…this post should likely be titled – “Camden – You’re not going to get shot, stabbed, murdered, or bludgeoned to death” but that seemed slightly too long and obtuse. The short answer to this concern is, “No it’s not dangerous and in fact, it’s relatively safe and downright awesome”.

The Camden Lock

My first trip to London was as part of a study abroad program through Arizona State University in 2004.  I spent three weeks in the city based out of Kensington just off the Earl’s Court metro station.  I explored the city, wandered its streets, and was in that perpetual state of wide-eyed awe that goes with your first study abroad experience.  Since that visit I’ve been back to London several times for a variety of reasons.  In 2007 I paused there as part of the early stages of my 3 month solo jaunt through Europe.  Last year I found myself back in London for the World Travel Market conference to chat travel and travel blogs.  In between I’ve found myself in London for layovers and other similar things a number of times.  However, one area of the city (well at least one) slipped through the cracks: Camden.

The Camden Lock

Somehow, despite my many visits to London, I never made it to Camden. Given the area’s reputation as being somewhat less than safe and recent attention after the series of riots that damaged the district, I suppose it wasn’t purely accidental that I never made it to the area.  After all, getting stabbed or mugged doesn’t exactly rank on most traveler’s top-10 list for London.  The running commentary about the area from British friends did little to assuage my fears.

The Camden Lock

Still, when the time came to book a hostel in London just a few days before the start of the Olympics my options were fairly limited.  It doesn’t help that London, for all of its other fantastic elements, is really a dreadful hostel city.  Sure it has a wealth of them but, most are shoddy, overpriced, run down, or old-model Hosteling International bedbug-ridden flea traps.  So, it was with some trepidation that I eventually settled on St. Christopher’s Camden Town hostel.  The rating was better than most and I was familiar with the St. Christopher’s franchise, if not an overly enthusiastic fan.  As with the rest of Camden, I shouldn’t have worried.  The hostel was acceptable and perfectly located in the heart of Camden.  It served as an easy meeting point, as it was also where I met my folks who arrived a few hours later on the same day.  I’ll admit I was more than a little nervous about how they would deal with staying in a hostel – after all my Dad is in his 70s and my Mom her early 60s.  Luckily they braved the hostel eagerly and I’ll even wager they enjoyed it a bit but more on that soon!

The Camden Lock

The Camden Town Charm

But Camden is why you’re reading this post right?  So here’s the scoop.  Camden is a vibrant neighborhood.  It is alive with tourists, immigrants, and a smattering of Brits.  The whole area is a mixture of gentrified and partly gentrified blocks which boast a busy jumble of health stores, fashion outlets, and street markets in a vibrant explosion of colors, scents, and sounds.  During the day the streets are nearly overwhelmed with people, especially in the area surrounding Camden Lock.  The biggest safety concern most need worry about is the area’s skilled and apparently prolific pickpockets.  Still, as is always the case in these types of areas, it’s just a matter of being attentive and properly prepared. Or perhaps looking really, really mean?

The Camden Lock

The mixture of shops and street stands provide a fantastic opportunity for people looking to do a bit of budget friendly shopping.  I saw everything from ornately carved jade jewelry to steampunk/goth clothing on display.  The area also provides a top-notch mixture of culinary options including the quirky food court area of Camden Lock which features outdoor bench seating in the form of the back half of old mopeds bolted to long tables overlooking the canal.  Though the most common types of food are Asian and Indian I spotted a wide variety including Mexican and burgers. The local restaurants are also wonderful.  We used Yelp to track down a great Thai restaurant which was cheap and offered fantastic lunch specials.

The Camden Lock

In short, it’s a vibrant, energetic, and highly enjoyable area to spend time in.  As a visiting tourist it’s a great budget friendly slice of London.  It is also located within walking distance of classic English neighborhoods, a main train station, and parts of London’s thriving downtown area.  The neighborhood boasts a wonderful mixture of bars and pubs including a local Brew Dog where we paused to try their Tactical Nuclear Penguin beer. Some of you may recognize the name as it was, for a brief time, the strongest beer in the world at 36%.  As you might expect, it doesn’t taste much like beer.

The Camden Lock

No matter what you’re looking for you’ll probably be able to find it in Camden.  It’s high on my list of areas to return to when I visit London again and I strongly suggest you at least visit it for the afternoon.  It is worth noting, however, that it isn’t the world’s safest district at night.  Be careful where you walk, stick to the main streets, and you’ll be fine.  Stray down dark alleyways or wander too far off the beaten path and…well…you’ll no doubt find and experience a far less enjoyable side of one of London’s most famous districts.

Have any questions about Camden?  Or comments, tips or suggestions?  I’d love to hear them!

Scottish Museum at Night – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo


Late on a crisp Scottish summer evening I set out to explore the capital city of Edinburgh. As I wandered the city’s storied streets I eventually found myself standing before a beautifully lit Museum. The museum is built and styled in traditional Greek form with beautiful doric columns and white marble. The museum is situated where the old loch once sat which was drained more than 100 years ago. More recently the area has been replaced by beautiful parks, the central train station, and importantly several museums and monuments.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

Scotland’s Northern Coast

Scottish Clouds and Rain

After our brief photo and bathroom stop it was back into the bus. Energized by the damp crispness in the air we wound through stunning countryside cloaked in rolling wisp like clouds and decorated by the rich, green layered mixture of plants and grasses that give peat its dense nature.

Valley Vista During Lunch in Scotland

A relatively short drive up the road we stopped at a small overlook. There, after choosing choice seats with stunning views of the valley as it stretched out below us, we settled in and ate our picnic lunches which we’d purchased at the Tesco earlier in the day. For Nate and I it was a delicious, albeit terribly messy, rotisserie chicken, bag of fresh raw peas, baby corn and macaroni salad. Somehow we’d managed to forget to purchase a fork, leaving fingers, fingers, and more fingers. Needless to say, with spaghetti sauce stained fingers and chicken juice running down our chins we were in heaven.

Traveling Dance Lift

Full, we took in the sites and as I recorded a bit of video Nate hoisted Elena – the Russian member of our tour – up onto his shoulder for a quick ballroom inspired lift/photo opportunity.

Smoo Cave in Scotland

Recharged and energized we struck off along the coast and eventually arrived at Smoo Cave. An odd formation, which seems to have been formed by a combination of oceanic erosion, wind and river erosion from the small stream that carved its way underground.

Smoo Cave Looking Out in Scotland

The cave’s mouth was massive. A large gaping entrance into a cavernous entrance area.

Smoo Cave hole in Ceiling

With a lone hole in the cave’s ceiling, small raindrops and light streaming through from above and green, moss covered walls – the entire place was spectacular.

Smoo Cave walls and water

As water streamed out through a small opening deep within the cave we paused and watched as damp tourists made their way over the small bridge and across the small stream – which was seemingly flowing out of the side of the cave wall.

Smoo Cave

Only to return – drenched – mere seconds later. Eager to partake, I zipped up my rain jacket, pulled my hood down tightly over my head and set into the breach in the cave wall. The sound and vibration of crashing water was deafening. The wooden platform which stretched into the small side channel of the cave quickly ended in a railing, leaving me standing face to face with a giant waterfall as it thundered into the cave from above. A raging, swollen torrent made fierce by the afternoon’s steady rainfall.

Smoo Cave Entrance Scotland

After filming a quick video, pausing to take in the downpour and reflecting on what I was seeing and experiencing I bowed my head, turned my back and carefully made my way down the slick wooden walkway and back out into the main cavern. I was drenched. It was worth it.

Cliff Tops Outside Smoo Cave

Eager to explore further we wound up steep steps to the top of the near bye cliffs and made our way along the cliff top out towards the open ocean. With a thick grass/peat layer covering the tops of the coastal hills and sharp, jagged, rugged rocks fending off the beating waves below – we meandered along the coast enjoying its incredible natural beauty and majesty.

Northern Scottish Coast

Though I could have easily paused and read for a while, time was of the essence and a light rain had begun to fall. Legs pumping I sprinted back towards the Bus and hoped I wasn’t the last to return.

Smoo Cave Waterfall

To my relief we still had a short while before moving on to the next location – which gave me time to explore the top of the waterfall I’d seen in the cave. It had carved two holes in the cave’s roof. The higher of which was where the water currently fed into the cave. Which turned the lower of the two (pictured above) as a window of sorts. Offering a view of the top of the waterfall as it dove down into Smoo Cave below.

Scottish Highlands

From Smoo Cave it was back inland and up between majestic bald mountains crowed with sharp crumbling rocks and steep cliff faces. As we wound along pristine roads through fog, light rain and dry patches we could not help but marvel.

Highland Road Winding into Scotland

At one point we spotted a mound of cut peat a ways back from the main road. We paused along the side of the road as our guide sprinted to the cut and piled peat for a small piece to show us. As he sprinted across the grasslands, I paused and enjoyed the above shot as the road wound through the grasslands and vanished into the fog. Truly a magical place – one that brought fairy-tales to life – seemingly as careless accidents.

Rusted Dumptruck

With 7:00 quickly approaching, we raced across the 2nd to last leg of our day’s voyage – the ferry to the Orkney Isles.

View Larger Map

We arrived at the ferry landing with ample time to get out, stretch our legs and take in our surroundings. A small, industrial dock the area was anything but attractive. With an old, rusted out dump truck playing the role of flowerpot, we stretched our legs before watching Martin back the 16 person min-bus onto the ferry. More than a little impressed we carefully slithered out of the Bus and wound our way through the tightly packed cars, vans, campers and trucks that were sardine’d into the parking level. A smaller open air ferry we wound up to the top deck and enjoyed the crisp ocean air.

Ferry Trip to the Orkney Islands

Though slightly cool, the air was incredible. With our hair being tussled by the ocean’s breeze we strained our eyes watching for seals, dolphins or other sea life. All the while enjoying the lazy northerly sunset (if you can call it that), as the sun slowly made its way towards the horizon.

Lighthouse Orkney Islands

The trip took about an hour and wound between several smaller islands. Some were decorated by beautiful, picturesque farm homes, while others were barren except for the occasional light house, or left over pillbox and military fortifications from the 2nd world war.

St. Margarets Hope in the Orkney Islands

Eventually we rounded the northern tip of one of the Islands and were greeted be a beautiful, quaint island town. Picturesque and framed beautifully by the setting sun the ferry drifted up to the quay. Eager to begin preparing dinner, we made the quick 3 minute drive into town and the hostel we’d be spending the following two evenings at.

St Margarets Hope at Night

We quickly set to cooking a delicious seafood dinner before migrating next door to a small pub for a few games of pool, several pints and round after round of delightful stories. Tired, but not ready for bed I wandered outside to explore the town briefly before finding my way back to the hostel common area where I settled in with Paul the Irishman, Martin our guide and my brother for a few more beers and a batch of hilarious stories that left us laughing until our cheeks hurt.

St Margarets Hope Orkney Islands

On that note, I’ll leave you until tomorrow. Any questions or comments? Just enjoyed reading the post? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I love your feedback!

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Scotland Part I – Edinburgh’s Streets

Alex infront of Edinburgh Cathedral

After spending our evening in Dublin out and about, enjoying the area and local nightlife, Nate and I spent the morning getting caught up and preparing for our flight to Scotland. We printed our boarding passes and figured out where to catch the city bus back out to the Dublin Airport – a 45 minute bus ride – before passing through security and hoofing it down to the RyanAir terminal.

We spent an hour or so waiting in the sparsely furnished terminal and then lined up for the boarding free for all. It really is more bus than airline. With first come first served seating, you hop on and hope you get a viable seat. Nate and I made the trip through the gate, then down onto the tarmac where we walked to the plane before boarding, and found two decent seats next to each other. Not bad for the lightning quick, 45 minute hop over to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Once in Scotland, we re-traced the steps we’d both taken on previous trips, bought bus tickets to the city center, and quickly made our way into town. Unfortunately, most of our preferred hostels were booked, which forced us to book into the Caledonia Hostel. With a fun ambiance and interesting atmosphere it offered a good location, and more importantly a respite from the rain.

In a twist of bad luck, our only roommate was an old Australian who looked straight out of Boondock Saints, slow moving, odd smelling, with a giant chain supporting a silver dollar sized crucifix. We learned he was a former Justice of the Peace/Prison Director. Despite being a bit odd he was friendly enough.

Edinburgh Museum Columns at Night

We tossed our bags down and set off to catch a bite to eat. On a tip from the front desk, we found a nice looking pub which was running a great 2 for 5 pound special. Refreshed after a hearty burger and “chips” we set out to explore the city – time was ticking and it was already dark.

Edinburgh Cathedral at Night

An ancient city, Edinburgh is spectacular in the light of day, but its’ dark alleyways, beautifully lit stonework and ghostly cathedrals is equally amazing at night.

Statue with street cone in Edinburgh

The sights ranged from spectacular and beautiful in a Gothic sort of way, to more comical, like the statue of Hume that someone had – somehow – climbed up and crowned with a traffic cone.

Telephone and Edinburgh Castle at Night

From the statue of Hume we walked towards the castle, which was obscured by a set of large festival scaffolding. One of the really interesting things about Edinburgh, is that it’s a festival city. They’ve invested in stadium like seating which is regularly erected during the summer in the car/bus park that sits directly in the only approach (via the Royal Mile) to the castle. The downside of this is that it also tends to obscure any type of close up/non modern photos of the castle, unless they’re shot from below – looking up.

Street at night in Edinburgh

I’ve mentioned the amazing way in which streets dive off of the Royal Mile careening down the hillside via a warren of small alleyways, tiny, steep steps and small cloisters. At night these small paths come to life with mystery and intrigue. It’s easy to see how the city has served as a muse for so many writers and poets over the years.

Edinburgh Cathedral Red Lights at Night

Our walk took us up along Princes Street, then across what was once an old Loch to the Royal Mile where we worked our way up to the ancient castle. We wound down the back side and around through back streets before coming full circle and arriving back at our hostel.

Exhausted, we settled in for a quick drink, bit of socializing and then turned in for the evening.

The City of Dublin Part II

The bus ride into town was straight forward. During a 15 minute wait at the bus stop, I met three American girls who had just arrived from New York. Our bus finally arrived, we piled aboard and hunkered down for the 40 minute ride from the airport.

Before long I recognized familiar sights. Even though a lot had changed since 2004, enough had stayed the same that I was able to navigate my way through the streets and make my way towards Christchurch Cathedral, which Nate had told me, was immediately next to our hostel: The Kinlay House.

As I trudged up towards the doorway to the hostel, a large red blur bust through he doorway. Before I knew what was happening I’d been picked up in a giant bear hug, day pack, main pack and all and was being spun around in a circle, feet flayed out, narrowly missing several shocked couples who had previous been walking behind me. Finally after 6 months Nate and I reconnected. He eventually let me down, and traffic once again made it’s way past us and down the street, while we caught up. The trip was finally real. The adventure had finally properly begun.

In the last 6 months Nate’s grown a mighty red beard, traded weight for muscle and truly come into his own as a social node. Despite only arriving the day before, he’d already befriended most of the hostel and hostel staff and made a name for himself. Ask around and people might have trouble recalling the name of the hostel, but most will be able to tell you about David from Arizona. A fantastic testament to how incredible the experiences over the last 6 months have been for him.

We had a brief wait before the room was ready during which time Nate caught me up on some of his adventures, while introducing me to three Danes, an Israeli girl and a French girl, whom he’d befriended. We sat, became acquainted and told stories.

Before long we were able to check in, deposit our bags, and set out to wander Dublin in search of food. The day itself is a bit of a blur, in no small part due to my jet lag, however, we struck off through the square surrounding Christchurch Cathedral, and headed into the old Viking quarter of the city, before banking down a side street. Looking for cheaper food, we eventually found a nondescript pub that lacked a name and actually looked like it was closed. We decided to give the door a try and to our surprise found ourselves in a fun little pub full of men in their 50s and 60s sitting around B.S.ing and watching the local Irish football game. With a hearty, “Welcome Lads!” and warm Irish smile the attention of the bar panned our way briefly, before returning to the televisions. We saddled up the bar, quickly realized they didn’t serve any food, and decided to pause for a Guinness before continuing our search.

From the pub we quickly found a small market where we picked up food and drinks before winding our way back through a light rain to the hostel. Once there we joined the throngs in the hostel kitchen and added our pasta and supplies to the mix.

Stuffed we retired for a brief nap – I was exhausted – before heading back down to the common area where we met back up with our Danish and Israeli friends, as well as several new ones. Drinks in hand, our group quickly grew with open smiles and ready invites to join. By 9:40 or so we rounded up the masses, tossed on our rain jackets and made our way down the street to the Porter House. A local brewpub on the edge of Temple Bar, the Porter House is a fun 4-story bar that winds up around an open central area which houses a small stage, sandwiched between floors. They had a great Irish band playing a wide variety of music, a little room for a bit of dancing, and plenty of room for socializing and further travel and adventure stories.

By 11:30 they were closing up and we elected to take it easy. The Danes suggested we join them the following morning at 9:00AM for a tour they’d signed up for of the Wicklow area south of Dublin. Eager to get into the countryside we agreed and booked the trip upon our return to the hostel.

Exhausted, I collapsed into my bunk and quickly drifted into a deep sleep.

Reflecting – The British Isles

Hello again, I’m currently writing from Berlin – Sorry for the lack of updates – there just hasn’t been time or quality access. I also apologize as I will inevitably switch out Ys and Zs during this post – the keyboards here in Germany are different and I may not have time to correct/notice all the errors.

During the final day in London I explored the city a bit more. Unlike the previous days where I had started out at Picadilly Circus or Leicester Square I decided to head toward the London Bridge and the Tower of London. Unfortunately, the map I’d purchased didn’t quite extend that far. As a result, I ended up kinda guessing as I picked tube lines…meandered in their general direction. Eventually, I made it to the Tower of London where I poked around the outside a bit, walked along the water front (it was a beautiful, crisp day, with the occasional light misting/bone chilling breeze), then made a huge loop around the entire Tower. I decided not to pay to go in, as I’d done the tour in ’04 and a lot of the info was still fresh in my memory.

From there I wandered north – exploring the skyscrapers and eventually ending up in the financial district. It was awesome, so much energy and bustle. The architecture – Lloyds building especially – is spectacular. It’s also a pretty eye-opening experience standing in front of a medium-sized old gothic cathedral, and being surrounded by massive skyscrapers that dwarf everything.

After my meanderings I made my way back to the hostel, ate, took a nap, and tried to connect with some family friends by phone but didn’t have any luck. Then, decided that despite my aching legs and feet I should hit up the salsa club again for round two.

I was not disappointed. The experience was a blast. Great energy, friendly people, great dancers. Met two French girls who I ended up dancing with for a good chunk of the evening. We had a fun political discussion before calling it a night and I caught the last tube home – the tube closes down around 12:20 which is a major PIA.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, splashed some water on my face and made my way to London Heathrow where I caught a nice flight on BMI over to Amsterdam. I’ll leave off there on the update part and focus on general reflections.

I really loved my time in the British Isles. Even – and perhaps more so – after this second visit I’m definitely still in love-fascinated by the Highlands. The beauty, richness, and majesty of them is captivating. My taste of England was also reallz enjoyable. It wasn’t planned but between Leeds, York and London I feel like my experience was diverse. York was incredible from a historical sense, it was beautiful, and rich. Leeds was an awesome university experience. The warm reception I recieved from Meagan and the guys/girls in her dorm was reallz fantastic.

The other side of Leeds that was truly fascinating was it’s business and economic prosperity. The city, while possesed of historic architecture is also very modern. A feeling added to by the mixture of contemporary architecture and Victorian era shops, markets, and buildings. It truly is a youthful, vibrant, beautiful city. My hunch is between the universities and the economzy – that it pulls a lot of the best and brightest from the small English towns across the country side and retains them.

London – Well London is London. The city’s depth and diversity is incredible. The history is fantastic and for a big city the people were decent as well.

The pound-dollar difference was really rough. It’s incredible what a difference it makes and how it changes the way you calculate things and view them. I suppose the benefit is that it forces you to pick more carefully what you choose to do as well as really increasing your level of awareness about how much you spend, where you spend, and the spending habits you have that you don’t even really realize you have. The lucky thing is that in general things in England are slightly cheaper e.g. – where a burger might cost us $6 it will only cost 4 pounds. I think that slight difference more than anything really saved me…that and finding ways to avoid the tourist areas and exploit that cost of living difference.

I would have loved to visit one of the Colliers offices while I was in GB – but just did not have the opportunity. It was really fun though seeing Colliers-for-lease signs up all over the place. Though I didn’t see a ton in London, they seemed to dominate Edinburgh. There were also a decent number in Leeds.

The last 48 hours have really been a different experience. I’ll write a bit more about it later, when I write on Amsterdam and Berlin – but briefly, it wasn’t until I arrived in Berlin that the language barrier really hit me hard and I really felt like … Ok, here I am. Just me. Right now. Right here. What the hell have I gotten myself into. Oh well – time to swim.

The Isles and Amsterdam were really a great soft transition. The architecture is different (though not AS different as say, Germany). Even the simple difference in background noise really effects the way you feel and think. In the Isles it was familiar, normal, ‘right’ if you will. Now it’s different, it seems almost wrong on a subconcious level. I find myself in a different state of mind – different perspective on how I fit into the culture and need to approach things in part because of it. My ears and brain are constantly scanning. Trying to locate the familiar or make sense of it. It’s incredible, but also definitely tiring. Hostels – so far they’ve been really good. Better than I expect. Some are loud, some are dirty, some are less secure than I’d like – but all in all the people have been fun, decent people. While there have been one or two nights where I couldn’t find someone to explore with, or socialize with – in most cases I’ve met people and found things to do. It’s definitely a different experience sharing a room with 10-20 perfect strangers.

It’s also really interesting to watch how standard protocol and rules go out the window. The mixture between cultures and environment creates a very unique experience. Especially between the sexes. Since many of the dorms are mixed and everyone is constantly coming and going things are much more sexually relaxed. While not, per say common – it’s not overly unusual for people to change quickly in the dark, sleep/walk/mingle in their boxers, or wander around in towels. Especially since most of the bathrooms-shower areas etc. that I’ve seen so far are mixed sex even if the dorm itself isn’t. In a lot of ways it’s much nicer and more natural (in a completely non-sexual way) than things are normally. I think the longer people spend traveling and in hostels, the more comfortable they become not only with themselves but interacting with and being around others.

Some have kitchens, others don’t. So far one of the biggest things I’ve found is the importance of a common area where people can mingle – and a common area with a ‘backpacker’ feeling to it – so people WANT to mingle. The greater the number of long-term residents typically the colder and more clickish the crowd. This can make it hard when you first arrive to try and mingle and meet people.

Drinking – both a blessing and a curse. While in no way necessary, it’s a big part of the travel experience. I’ve come to the conclusion that a new designation needs to be created for young (and perhaps old) travelers alike. That of the TA – the Traveling Alcoholic. Short of Salsa, i’ve found few ways to mingle, meet people, and cement bonds as quickly as sitting around the hostel drinking in the common area, or heading to the local pub, or a pub crawl with people after a long day spent exploring the city. In many ways I think it’s a major component of the hostel culture. It is that one thing that brings complete strangers together, provides a common interest that then allows friendships or at the very least social acquaintances to sprout.

It’s really something else traveling on my own. I knew it would be, but theres even more to it. I have not quite figured out how to put it into words, but when I do – I’ll let you know. Beyond that though, being forced to deal with and push through highly uncomfortable situations is really an incredible experience…One that builds confidence and really makes you more comfortable with facing decisions that scare you, or you don’t want to make.

Times running down, I’ll try and post my Amsterdam – and First Berlin experiences later tonight.

Sorrz again for the ys and zs!

London – Tango Fire Argentina Tango Show

Tuesday – Woke up feeling a cold coming on. No fun. As a result I’m home a bit early 10:00ish and taking it easy tonight. Hopefully sleep, water, etc. will kick it before it takes hold.

I started the day off by going to the Imperial War Museum. It’s an incredible thing, a maze of winding rooms full of stories, happy, sad, grim, and incredible. They really do a great job of presenting the stories but not overwhelming you with content. One of the most interesting parts was a re-creation area modeled after the trenches from WWI. They have it in a seperate area, with lights dimmed, you wind through tight quarters that look like you’re in the maze and in the action. Though it’s full of manikins and plaster it is still a great bit.

From there I headed into London proper, exploring Hyde Park and wandering all over the downtown. Too many places to list, but I mainly revisited China Town, Soho, Piccadilly, etc. before eventually deciding to pick up another set of theatre tickets for this evening. In the Tube I’d seen advertisements for Tango Fire – a play of sorts. When I got to the discount ticket booth, i debated seeing Phantom or Les Mis again, and decided against it. Of the other shows discounted i saw Tango Fire and decided to go with it. Check the website for them here: http://www.tango-fire.com/ I really had no idea what it was, other than it was a show, and focused on tango – so I figured it had to be good…right? =p

After picking up the tickets I killed 2.5 hours eating, relaxing, and wandering a bit more. Then I started toward the Picadilly Station to head to the Hoburn Station which was closer to the venue. Turns out there was a track failure somewhere and Picadilly was backlogged like you would’nt believe. It was fubar’d so – looking at the lines of people going in, I decided I was better off walking. The walk was a good 15 fminutes forced march, but ended up being perfect as I still arrived with time to spare.

The show itself – incredible. As I understand it, it’s a traveling performance – if it comes to Phoenix…See it! There are 10 dancers (5 male/5 female), a singer, and 4 band members. Violin, piano, bandoneon & double bass. That’s it. For the most part there were only 2 sets. The rest was all dancing or music. The program primarily consisted of the band playing as the dancers danced incredible tango routines – sometimes solo, sometimes all at once. Think of Dancing With the Stars – but 1,000 times better and more impressive. Other times the singer would sing while the band played. Other times the band performed solo. Throughout the entire performance it was tango song after tango song. The sound quality was incredible and each 45 minute half passed in what seemed like moments.

The dancers themselves performed complex steps, kicks, flips, lifts, holds, and of course dips. I’ve never seen tango quite like it. If there are video’s on the web, i’d definitely say take a look.

Now, i’m back at the hostel and preparing for bed. G’night!