May 31, 2013

Ah. Well the first problem with this iPad app is that you don’t want to try and ticker with your post pre-publishing it … or you might accidentally discard it! SOB!

So here’s another try and writing it all out again.

Ok, so one of the drawbacks on not having been to the UK for 8 years is that I lost out on visiting a number of Cafes as they’ve already closed. I would have loved to have incorporated Nottingham or Birmingham this time around. Alas, this trip I’m only going to get to visit London and Manchester in the UK.

The trip out to Manchester is just over 2 hours by train from London and it goes by pretty quickly. I will say the instructions from the Hard Rock website could be a bit more helpful in providing info on the tram line to Shudehill station but once I figured that out on the platform, I guess it wasn’t hard to get to the Cafe. The weather was pretty miserable (and I’m from rainy BC!) so I couldn’t imagine walking, it’s a pretty far distance but doable if you have the time to kill.

The Cafe is located in the Printworks building and doesn’t have the typical guitar sign over the front door but rather a rather large guitar that runs the length of the facade. Compared to London, the inside is large, seating probably some 400+ people and includes a lounge. They have great memorabilia from full drum sets to David Bowie outfits, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Oasis items.

Unfortunately, Manchester gets my negative rant regarding the Rock Shop. With the amount of Cafes failing, I will never understand how many times there is sold out stock of basic merchandise. Manchester had no shot glasses, no alternative magnets, no bottle openers and a few other items I was asked to pick up. I get how a limited edition pin can be gone but how can there be no standard shot glasses? This location has also never had a city shot, talk about a big missed opportunity! Considering that I’m only in the UK a week and made a special trip out to Manchester, pretty much for the Cafe, this was significant loss of sales. I had a long list and came away with less than half of what I needed. Come on Manchester, stock up for the next collector!

The staff on the other hand were crazy friendly! My waitress was a fellow Canadian, so that was pretty cool. I was even able to trade a few Seattle pins (I know, what’s happening here!?!) and picked up some sold out Manchester pins for a few friends.

The train back had a bit of excitement in that my trip was cancelled… thankfully I made it to the station in time to hear the announcer asking for passengers on my train to catch the current one heading back to London, which was leaving in 3 minutes! Only time I’ve traveled on Virgin Trains and I’m not sure how often this happens but holy crap, that was a panic moment! Back in London though so all ends well for the day.



London baby!

May 31, 2013

So I’m here in London finally, following a 3 hours delay out of Canada. WiFi isn’t available in the hotel room, without charge, so this might take a few days to post. I have a new image downloader from my camera so hopefully this time I can also include a few pictures.

I love London. I have been here several times although it has been a long time since my last trip; over 8 years in fact. But I’m back, baby! Yeah! London has a lot of history, a lot of architecture, a lot of oh, I don ‘t know – old. There is the “new” of course, which I will seek out this trip too but I really enjoy going through this older city. There’s so much to do in the city alone never mind venturing out to the neighbouring areas that I’m sure I’m going to run out of time to see it all…but I will try!

I’m a non-driver so London is my kind of city with the Tube. It’s amazing how easily it is to get around. There’s a new Oyster pass system and this has made it a lot easier to go from different sites without worrying about tickets expiring. With everything that I have planned to do this time around, I will also get to use the overground systems and the buses – double deckers rule!

So let’s start a little bit with the “new” in London. I went to the London Eye the 2nd day here. From the ground, this is one hell of a Ferris wheel. The interest in it is still huge, which makes line ups long but those of us who don’t like queuing, there’s a fast track pass. It is hard to justify the extra 9 pounds !!! but I didn’t prebook this as I wanted to go on a non-rainy day so there you go, a little extra money spent. I am not normally a fan of the Ferris wheel, I cannot explain it. I can do every kind of roller coaster and wicked spinning, body flipping, high speed reckless ride but a regular Ferris wheel will make me nauseous. This ride goes at a terrible slow speed so I figured I’d be ok (and I was – no vomit story here!). Anyway, my official review will be if you’re coming to London you’ll likely do this because how can you not? However, the capsule is packed with people, it isn’t air conditioned so on a choice sunny day, it gets quite warm inside, and it moves pretty slow. The view is high and you’ll get some great pics of the Parliament building (Big Ben) and the surrounding Thames area. I wouldn’t call it amazing but it was worth doing at least once.

Anyway, back to the whole point of the blog. I, of course, am also in London to visit the Hard Rock Cafe. Now one of the special things about this HRC is that this was the first cafe I ever visited. I hadn’t even been to the one in Vancouver before I visited London. I wasn’t at all a collector back then. I do remember that Planet Hollywood had just opened the same week and I had watched the famous movie stars on the news for the Grand Opening. I waited in a long line to get into the PH cafe that same trip too. I mean, who didn’t want to see the Terminator memorabilia!! I still have the photos! So it was just logical that after going to the PH then I had to go see the original Hard Rock Cafe.

It’s also good to know that my memory isn’t quite failing me yet. The Cafe seemed small back then, particularity after visiting PH and certainly the Cafe hasn’t gotten any bigger. I don’t know if it is the smallest HRC but it’s hard to imagine any new location would have such limited seating. There was an hour wait when I arrived, which was late in the evening, sometime after 8 pm! There were a few people commenting that it was like being in line at a hot new night club. Thankfully, since I’m a Rewards member I didn’t have to wait to get in (anyone sense a theme with me!). I sat up at the counter by the kitchen, which isn’t the most comfortable spot but is certainly lively. The serving staff are friendly and enjoy working here, although that is something I find typical of most cafes. A lot of the London staff have worked at the Cafe for a long time, I believe a few have been here almost from the initial opening, which is pretty cool and unique for most older cafes.

The Cafe has the original memorabilia from Eric Clapton’s Fender guitar to the Mick Jagger puppet from the Phil Collins Land of Confusion video (I still remember when the video first aired!). The rock clock and of course, the first thing I photographed back during my first visit, the no nukes allowed neon sign.

After dinner I went over to the Rock Shop, which is located across the street from the cafe. Which is a good thing cuz it wouldn’t fit in the Cafe! There weren’t any new shot glasses and the anniversary pin isn’t out yet (just my luck!) but I was able to pick up a few thing for other people and of course, I have a swipe for London.

The Rock Shop also has the Vault located down stairs, which is a free tour every 20 minutes or so conducted by a staff member. This time, the tour guide was “Harry”. A super friendly bloke who spins tales that can only be offered as stories that we promised would never leave the Vault. What happens in the Vault, stay in the Vault after all. However, if you get a chance to have a tour from Harry, ask him about getting a pilot’s license and tell him the chick from Canada sent you.

The Vault itself is an actual vault room. Which means, it isn’t huge. There are a number of things in the room that are worth seeing, if you enjoy the memorabilia (and who doesn’t?!). Some of the items do travel from time to time – Jimi Hendricks and John Lennon items apparently disappear for touring for a few years at a time. It made me curious if some of the items on the Seattle tour I just saw might have come from the Vault but Harry wasn’t sure. Although one can only assume and imagine that there are a ton of musical items owned by the HRC that are in storage somewhere, either from closed cafes or stuff that haven’t yet found a home.

Anyhoo, you have about 20 minutes to look over the items all while Harry chats with you and plays guitar. I was lucky enough to be in a small tour – there were only 2 other people with me so we pretty much capitalized our time and were able to take a lot of pictures.

As for pictures, I’m discovering that the WordPress app is not letting me insert them directly so I may have to wait until I get home to fully finish this entry. So stay tuned!

Cheers from London!


Seattle Meet

May 24, 2013

Well this blogging thing didn’t happen as planned!  I took a bunch of pictures in Seattle with a borrowed camera that apparently creates files that Photoshop can’t open.  So I haven’t had a lot of time to wrestle with a conversion program but as soon I can, I’ll get a few pictures added to this blog.  I was really hoping to share some of the pics with all of you.

Seattle, as you may know, is for all intents and purposes, my home cafe.  On Sunday, May 19, the cafe hosted a pin meet.  I don’t usually make the pin meets – I have nothing to trade.  And the train from Vancouver typically gets me into the city just in time for all the other collectors to be packing up.  However, it just so happens that this was my birthday week (if you missed the previous blog entry – take a peek now!) so I decided to head down a day early and spend some quality time hanging out.

I really do like Seattle.  It is very similar to Vancouver but all the touristy things that I have at home are never as interesting.  If Vancouver had a gum wall… can’t say I’d go see it BUT as Seattle has a gum wall,  I’m totally there!  Rachel the bronze pig – got to go make a donation and get a picture.  Pike Market, wander on through it.  Starbucks – there’s a game to be played with these locations (count them, count how many blocks you can go without seeing one!).  And of course since there’s a Hard Rock Cafe, all the more reason for me to make a visit.  Although I have got to get on them more about making additional shot glasses cuz it’s been forever since the last city shot came out.

Anyhoo, I met up with a few collectors that I have seen at past events.  Most recently in Las Vegas a few years ago.  I also met with a few collectors that came down from BC as well – good to know I might be able to hitch a ride here and there.  And then as I mentioned before, I met up with Seattle Paul for the first time!  The cafe hosted a free breakfast – fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and … grits.  I have to say, I don’t get the grits (not a staple up here!) but hey, good on whomever enjoys it!

Also at the cafe was the Treasures of the HRC Memorabilia tour.   In town for the last day, there were cases of items from Aerosmith, Whitney Houston, John Lennon, Shakira, The Who, Eric Clapton and a few others I don’t remember (and can’t flip through my pictures!).   It is always cool to see the items that HRC has stored and I’m glad I had a chance to make it down for the tour.

Well, that’s all I have for now… I have to go finish packing for my trip oversees.  If all goes well, I will post a few entries from the “road”.



Beginning of the rest of my life…

May 19, 2013

I remember that I couldn’t wait to turn 21. Why? So I could drink* when I traveled to the US. It seemed important and I’m not really sure why because being Canadian, drinking starts early at 19 (18 in some provinces) and I didn’t travel that often to the US back then either. In fact, for my 21st birthday, I was in Holland. So I don’t know why it seemed like a great milestone but it did.

I also remember that 30 seemed old. I mean, ancient. My life would certainly be over at 30 – totally downhill from there. I thought 25 would be fun but dear God, 30 was just bordering the end.

I know that when I got to 30 it really was no big deal. Maybe cuz when you get there, there is no way to stop it and we’re mature enough to know that life isn’t over. Unlike many of my friends and family though, I had no crisis moment. I’m not really sure that I thought 30 was mid life at that point but everyone told me the dread of getting older would come – I’d have a “This is my life?!” moment and have some sort of freak out. My step-mom, for example, got her belly button pierced to deal with turning 30. I am still not sure how that helped but hoped that wasn’t my way of coping when the time came. Maybe I’d finally get a tattoo rather some ill-placed object. Well, happy to say I never poked a hole in my belly button but sadly I still haven’t figured out a design for my first tattoo.

Anyway, now 10 more years is about to pass me by this week as I turn 40! I’m still not in any holy crap “I’m old” mode. I think my 21 year old self has gotten over the age issue. I do find myself wishing I was doing more fun things but it’s hardly a crisis. I also used to write a lot and need to find some time to get back to it. So here goes, I’m traveling a lot over the next two weeks and thought, well here’s something to actually blog about!

The first stop on my “birthday week” celebration (I like to drag my birthday out for a week at a time – if your friends go along with it, then why the hell not!?!) is Seattle. I’m taking the train down and will spend the first weekend of my vacation just south of home and will meet up at the Hard Rock Cafe with some pin collectors. I have been trading pins with a few of them but haven’t actually met one particular trader face to face. “Seattle Paul” (so dubbed as there are a number of Paul’s in my life) has been extremely helpful in picking up the local cafe pins for me. I am hardly a pin collector – my shot collection will always surpass my pin one, mostly because there are just too many pins and they are vastly more expensive (I still do not know how most of the pin collectors keep up!). I did, for some reason, decide I’d collect each pin from the Seattle cafe since it is the closest cafe to me and I was able to start with the first one. And this is where Seattle Paul comes in. As I can’t make the 4 hour trip each time a pin comes out and since the dang cafe sells out of many of the pins super fast, Seattle Paul has been kind enough to be my dealer. If not for him, I probably would have quit long ago (hmmmm, so should I be thanking him or cursing him?!). So this trip I finally get to meet Seattle Paul and thank him for keeping me in the Seattle pin game by trading with me.

However since the train to Seattle doesn’t get me into the city before noon (the pin meet starts at 10 am with a free breakfast!), I’m heading down a day early and will spend the entire weekend. The city is a great, even though it is fairly similar to Vancouver in many ways (minus an NHL team that even Paul will lament but at least that makes us both Canucks fans. Yes people, I managed to throw hockey into this masterpiece of an entry!). I have many food haunts, places I always check out and of course Pike Place Market is always worth the walk through. There’s also the game of how many Starbucks do I pass in an hour or a day (there are toooooo many!).

I’ll blog about my visit with Seattle Paul and the other pin collectors next so stay by your pc! And as stated I’m going to be traveling the next 2 weeks so I’ll hit you up from London, Manchester, Paris and Brussels too. At least that’s the plan. This blog has been quiet for far too long and with no other willing participants, you’re going to have to suffer through my entries. If you get tired of me, ping me with your own story! There are many cafes out there and I know a bunch of you are hitting them this summer (come on, share your experience with us)!



* And a short editor note: Every time I bring up drinking I get comments that I sound like I may have a problem. I don’t know what to tell you – I’m a social drinker and that’s probably an exaggeration these days. It just seems to go hand and hand with the stuff I blog about, particularly when it comes to Hard Rock Cafe because well, I’m a shot collector. So for the record, I’m no more of a drinker than Floyd T. is… Does that make you feel better? Ok, ok, I’m no way at the same level as Floyd – he’s the King.