Friday, 11 November 2016

In Dusseldorf – my favourite European city

Room 111, Burns Art & Culture Hotel
The WiFi in this here Starbucks, where I'm sitting right now, trying to pen this post, is awful. When I switched on my computer, the power left was at 98%, but I've just this minute logged on, after a lot of faffing about, and it's down to 71%. Anyway, enough moaning. I'm in the old town (or Alt Stadt) of Dusseldorf, enjoying a large mug of English Breakfast tea, having just left a German restaurant a short walk away. I'm not eating any cake or cookies because the meal I've just had was spot on perfect and I had a dessert so I'm happy when it comes to food and a cup of tea is just what the doctor ordered.

I decided to walk to the Alt Stadt from my hotel having faffed around at one of those automated ticket machines and, for some reason, I couldn't use the credit card. Very annoying, but at least I got the exercise.

I'm staying – or rather I was staying – in the Burns Art & Culture hotel, not a million miles from the Burns Art Hotel and, in my opinion, while both are great hotels, the former is better, although I had a tremendous room (well, let's call it a small apartment) in both establishments. I think it's just the Burns Art Hotel concept that I love so much: the quirky works of art, the spacious apartment-like rooms (seriously, my room for the last two days was basically a studio apartment). It had a bathroom and a bed, like all hotels, but there was much more: a huge, long table, kitchen units, a hob, fridge (full of spirits and beer) and a microwave. I'll be honest, at one stage, rather than visit my favourite restaurant (Da Bruno, Karlstrasse) I almost considered nipping down to the Kaiser supermarket, buying a sauce and some pasta and, well, staying in watching the television, drinking a glass or two of wine and generally making myself at home. But I didn't do that; I went out, mainly because earlier I had booked a table at Da Bruno, and I'm glad I did, as I enjoyed a wonderful meal (Parma ham and melon followed by a prawn dish, perfect). And before anybody gets on their high horse and starts saying that Parma ham and melon is up there with prawn cocktail, a sirloin steak and crinkle-cut fries followed by Black Forest Gateaux and washed down with a luke warm glass of Riesling, I know. I know! But it was nothing like that. In fact it was so good I went back last night too, but this time ordered bruschetta with Parma ham followed by a mushroom pasta dish. Perfect, as always. I tried to get back in there for lunch today, but they were having a private party – how bloody dare they! – so I ended up in a traditional German restaurant,  Zum Schiffchen on Hafenstrasse 5, 40213 Dusseldorf, tel 0211 132421. Seriously, it was good. I ordered roasted salmon with boiled potatoes and greens and four very small beers (in total roughly a pint). Dessert was this amazing thing I can't describe, a cake of sorts, a bit cheese cakey, but there were cherries. It was wonderful.

Dessert – nice, but a little on the large side...
And now I'm in Starbucks and outside things are getting dark. Shops are looking inviting, there's an air of Christmas and there's also some kind of Carnival going on. It must be pretty big because there are special Carnival mugs in Starbucks and people are running around in nutty-looking costumes, there's live music, everything and the main thing is that people are happy, which is a good thing. It makes me proud to be a European, until I realise that those bastard Tories have managed to get us out of the European Union with a few lies and the help of nobs like Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and, of course, that Farage bloke. And if that's not enough, Donald Trump has found himself President of the USA – a fact that nobody bar a bunch of racist bigots in the USA is happy about, although I'd better throw in, "but not all Trump supporters are racist bigots". Of course not.

But it's not bothering the Germans. They're all dressed up in colourful outfits, drinking beer and having a great time until, I suppose, their elections, when some right wing nob cheese persuades Germany's 'unwashed' to vote for him or her and then there will be stark reminders of what things used to be like when Germans wore smart uniforms and sent Jews to concentration camps. Let's hope not. We can't have the entire world full of extreme right wing idiots and a load of ineffective left wing parties moaning and doing nothing about it, can we? I have a sneaky suspicion we can.

Taking a tram across town...
I've got a late flight out of here, but I've booked my taxi from Heathrow to home and I just want to get there now. At the moment I'm engaged in 'hanging around'. I'll need to go back to my hotel to pick up my suitcase and then I'll walk to the central station (or take a cab to the airport) where I'll probably have a glass of Merlot.

I'm wracking my brains to remember if there's anything that has annoyed me these past two days and to be honest, apart from Trump and Brexit, there's nothing. The hotel was great, the restaurant was great, the Germans were great, this Starbucks is great and the meal I've just enjoyed at Zum Schiffchen was also great. Nothing to moan about! Look it's simple really: I love this city, I love the people, the food, the beer, everything about it, even the taxi drivers are civil individuals. None of that, "You're never guess who I had in the back of me cab last night" rubbish. I bet most British cabbies voted to leave the European Union.

I was wondering yesterday whether there was any way I could change my nationality, become a German, but unfortunately I'm one of those people who is pure English, nothing else. I'm not even half Irish, I don't have any kind of dual nationality thing going on; I'm fucking buggered! Sadly, I'm an Englishman, with a shitty Tory party in charge of my affairs and nowhere to run. I can't say I'm proud of my country. The idea of moving to the USA doesn't appeal any more either, not now that Trump's in charge. Some people use the word 'trump' to describe a fart, as in, "after all those baked beans last night I couldn't stop trumping."

Bruschetta with Parma ham at my favourite restaurant...
The Dusseldorf carnival continues. A drum beat outside heralds the arrival of brightly coloured people dressed in a kind of blue outfit and holding aloft a flag, that was also blue, but I've seen people in all sorts of weird outfits today. There have been men in airmen outfits, women dressed as cheerleaders, people wearing silly headgear, live music, and I have no idea what it's all about.

That's what I thought, a quirky hotel...
Actually, I'm sitting here in a black rain coat and a woolly hat with my black-rimmed glasses on. I must look really stupid as a woman passing by caught my eye and was sort of smiling at me in a way that said, "God, you look stupid!" Well, hey, I know, alright? I know I look like a nob and I'm proud. I could take the hat off, but why bother, I'll only end up leaving it behind and it was given to me by the disgraced Prime Minister of Iceland – good reason to hold on to it, I'd say.

More people with silly outfits pass by outside and I'm now thinking I'd better get out of here, head back to my hotel, retrieve my suitcase and trundle on down to the railway station to catch a train to the airport. My computer has just 13% power left so that's it folks, I'm signing off.

I'm now back in the UK. Things got a little hectic. I left the Starbucks and made my way on foot to the hotel, but got slightly lost; it was dark and somewhere, temporarily, I took a wrong turn, but miraculously I found myself back on track.

When I reached the hotel I charged up the lap top for a bit and charged my phone too as I was going to need it for when I reached Heathrow's Terminal 5. The flight was smooth, there were clear skies and I had some more Island Bakery Lemon Melts, although the photograph below of the biscuits was taken on the outward flight, which was also very pleasant. I reached home just before 2300hrs, in time for a bit of Graham Norton. It's good to be home.

Island Bakery Lemon Melts – woof!!!!

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