Getting on board with the In-Laws

Monday 10th August

Sarah: It was a very early start as our flight back to Oslo was at 8.35am so we were all up at 5am (ouch!)

My mum and little (but not so little at 23 years old…) brother Eddie were coming back with us for a week in the motorhome to explore Oslo!

Bringing the family onboard for our honeymoon – probably pretty unconventional but we hoped it would work…

Mark: I’ve always got on well with Sarah’s family so the prospect of spending the next week living in a motorhome with them wasn’t really a daunting one!

Sarah: The sleeping arrangements were fairly cosy… the motorhome can sleep up to 4 people – a double bed above the cab (where we normally sleep) and the ‘dining area’ can be transformed into another double bed. So we would remain up in the cab (or the ‘snug’ as we call it) and mum and Eddie would share the other bed. Luckily we come from the fens so mother and son sharing a bed doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

Flying to Oslo was very painless and we were soon touching down and making our way fairly anxiously to see GIG (the motorhome).

The past 5 days had been the first time we had left her on her own and I had visions of break-ins and parking fines or just an empty parking space. Fortunately she was still there just as we left her!

After giving mum and Eddie the grand tour (taking under 30 seconds) we got on the road to a campsite on the outskirts of Oslo called Ekeberg.

It sits on top of a hill overlooking Oslo and the view is stunning. It did however cost 320Kr (~£25) per night, which is fairly pricey as far as motorhome pitches go and you still had to pay for showers (something we always found annoying! In fairness, the showers were really good!)

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Ekeberg campsite backs right onto the beautiful Ekeberg park so we had a little walk around and found it was full of art pieces and sculptures of all kinds. First we found a talking lamp post and later this exciting and confusing thing which had lots of different screens showing bizarre videos.

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Art piece in Ekeberg Park

It’s quite funny sleeping in the same space as my mum and little brother, it reminds me of our family holidays when I was younger and it takes us a little while to stop chatting and giggling before finally falling asleep.


The following day we thought we would have another walk around Ekeberg park and and found a few more interesting art pieces…

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Eddie finally found a woman that could bench press more than him

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Wee’ing in the bushes (the statue even jetted water out the crotch sporadically)

Then after lunch we took the short bus ride into the centre of Oslo to explore!

NB – If you are planning on visiting Oslo, make sure to get your bus ticket before you get on the bus (we got ours from the campsite reception but you can get them from shops and things…). It’s a 24-hour travel pass that activated from when you use it and it works for all transport including ferries!

With this in mind, we decided to spend a day hopping on and off ferries between the different islands in the Oslofjord.

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We found a little beach area on one of the islands and decide to sit and relax for a bit looking out over the water.

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The weather had turned to glorious hot sunshine and we kick ourselves for not bringing our swimming stuff so we could take a dip in the cool water.

Evening falls and we head back to camp for dinner promising ourselves that we will go swimming the following day.


 

The next day is another gloriously hot day so we head to the most popular beach in Oslo called Huk (via the supermarket to pick up some beach picnic food).

Our Oslo/Norway discoveries so far

1) By now we have discovered that REMA 1000 is the cheapest supermarket chain in Scandinavia and – considering we are in Oslo which has the reputation of being the most expensive place on earth – the prices for groceries are really not that bad (especially if you are used to living in London!)

2) Drinking out is very expensive e.g. minimum £6 for a pint of beer, so pre-drinking is key!

3) If you buy booze in supermarkets in Norway, the most you will find is 5% alcohol so for anything stronger you have to go to a separate shops called Vinmonopolets.

4) Be warned if you are generally travelling around Scandinavia that they don’t work in Euros – they work in Kroner and they all have their own one; Danish Kroner, Swedish Kroner, Norwegian Kroner which are not interchangeable and they look pretty similar so by this point our heads were sort of exploding.

We make it to the beach and are a little taken aback by the vast number of naked people – is this the done thing in Norway?! It doesn’t take us long long to realise that we have accidentally entered the nudist beach right next door to Huk beach – whoops! I think nude beach bathing would be a little too much with the family in tow…

We walk around a little and find the real Huk beach and it is beautiful – the sand it a little coarser than what we are used to on our British beaches but still lovely all the same. Now time for a swim!

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Huk beach in the sunshine

The water is heart stoppingly freezing! But being hardy North Sea swimmers, we aren’t ones to back out of a challenge. Eddie just runs screaming into the water kamikaze style while we trail behind slightly more apprehensively but it isn’t long before we are all in and bobbing around.

There is a little diving platform floating out from the shore and we all swim over and do some pencil dives off the edge before swimming back to shore and drying ourselves in the warm sun.

Later on we return back to camp and as we settle down to a game of Bananagrams we hear some thumping music but can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It sounds like a big party going on somewhere and after some intense googling we discover it’s actually a festival called Øya Festival and we are even more excited to find we are good friends with musicians in two of the bands playing on the Thursday and Friday. I know the guitarist in Lianne La Havas’ band, Mark knows the keyboard player and I know the Alt-J boys so we send off some messages to see if we can get tickets to go.

We are delighted when my friend Gus (from Alt-J) replies saying he can get us Festival day passes to see them on Friday. Now we were just waiting to hear back about seeing Lianne tomorrow afternoon.


 

The next morning we still haven’t heard back from our friends in Lianne La Havas’ band so we decide to head into central Oslo to try our hand at busking!

As normal on our first day busking we spend a great deal of time agonising over which spot to choose before we eventually try two spots on the main shopping street – Karl Johans Gate.

Mum and Eddie peel off and go do some shopping and we try busking at the Marina and it’s really good fun! Busking is always so much better when the sun is shining and in picturesque places so we tick both those boxes! Everyone is very friendly and generous so when we meet back with Mum and Eddie later we are bowled over as we have made 160Kr (€100!) which is by far the most we have made busking ever!

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Busking on Karl Johans Gate

We sat up by an old castle ruin overlooking the marina and bask in the blissful sunshine, mum & Eddie show us their shopping finds and we are all relaxing sprawled on the grass when Mark gets a message that completely changes the mood.

It’s from his friend James who is the keyboard player in Lianne La Havas’ band and he has just managed to get us day passes to the festival so we can see them play that afternoon. The only issue is they are playing in just 30 minutes!!

So now it’s a frantic dash to find a taxi to take us there. Luckily we find one without too much trouble and it only takes 20 minutes to get us there so after a little walk and waiting while festival staff find our names on the guest list we make it only 5 minutes into the set – hooray!

It’s a magical set and we are so proud to see our friends up on stage and they even manage to give us a little wave during the performance which makes us feel very cool in the crowd.

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Mark: It really was quite incredible and a little emotional to see how Lianne has matured as an artist in the years since we first booked her for her magical In The Woods Festival debut back in 2011… still the same incredible voice, but now with a confidence and assuredness that complement a more developed writing style. Breathtaking stuff.

Sarah: After the performance my friend (the guitarist) Cameron comes out and brings us some G&T’s which we sit and drink on the grass thinking how lucky we are!

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Me, my mum & the lovely Cameron

It’s so lovely to catch up with Cameron and my family warm to him instantly – Eddie is in awe of his guitar skills and my mum seems to get instantly drunk on one sip so we are all laughing and having a great time. He tells us that the backstage area is absolutely incredible with pools and loads of free stuff, including a free massage that he subsequently leaves us to enjoy and promises to send James (Mark’s friend on keyboard) out to see us!

James soon pops out and he’s really lovely too! He tries to sneak us into the backstage area but alas it doesn’t work so we all head to get a beer and some food.

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Wonderful James and us

As if today hadn’t been magical enough, this is when we experience the best burger in the world.

It’s beautifully simple because they only give you one choice, you go up and ask for a burger and they give you the burger. And that burger is the best burger in the world. I have no idea what they did, but we haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Mark: This was the best burger ever.  I took a photo of the stall (see below), hoping that we could find it again while we were in Oslo – it seemed to be attached to a particular butchers, but alas we were unable to track it down.  Next time Oslo, next time…

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The best burger we ever had!

Sarah: When leaving the festival they had several rows of volunteers standing primed with bin bags that we had to weave between and apologise to for not having any litter. I’m not sure if there was some sort of rubbish collecting competition going on but they looked very determined to collect refuse.

We soon realised we didn’t really know how we were getting home but luckily enough these two Norwegian girls that Eddie started chatting up were heading back our way and guided us all the way to our bus stop!


 

It was now Friday and as we had had such a lovely time at Huk beach on Wednesday we decided to do it all over again today before going back to Øya festival in the evening to see Alt-J play.

It was another sunny day and we couldn’t believe the luck we were having with the weather – none of us had really thought of Oslo as a place for for a beach holiday! Yet here we were sunbathing, swimming, reading our books and playing bat and ball – it was heavenly.

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Soaking in the sun on Huk beach

We planned to return back to camp for dinner before going to Øya Festival but we hit rush hour coming back so it took ages and it was a bit of a mad dash again to get to the festival but we made it in time.

Alt-J were awesome, it’s funny for me because I have known them for so long and remember their first gig they played at their house in Leeds and I find it really surreal when I look around and see thousands of people cheering and singing their songs and realise how far they’ve come.

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Alt-J playing Øya Festival

After the show, Gus messaged me saying that we should be able to come backstage too – result! We sauntered up to the backstage entrance trying to act cool as the security checked our wristbands and to our extreme (yet concealed) delight they wave us through!!

We walk up some steps and behold the wonderful sight. Everywhere is decorated beautifully, there are little white marques where the performers can get haircuts, massages, food, booze etc. We manage to find Gus and he brings us out some very strong G&Ts and beers which make us all immediately drunk!

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Us with the Alt J boys Gus & Joe backstage at the Festival keeping it cool

We spend the rest of the evening there, it’s so nice to catch up with Gus properly and we also see the rest of the band and meet some of their touring crew which is very exciting!

Eddie didn’t waste time and was soon in his boxers jumping off the high board into the heated diving pool they had there.

Whilst we’re chatting to Gus, a girl comes up and thanks him for ‘wearing the clothes’. It turns out she was there working for the clothes brand Lee who were giving out free clothes to performers in the hope they would wear them on stage.

We got chatting to Steffi and she seemed really cool and sweet and she very kindly said she would be up for showing us around Oslo but was going away until next week. We planned to stay around Oslo for another week so we gratefully took her number and said we would be in touch.

Gus’ girlfriend April arrived later on and she’s so lovely too – but unfortunately they all have  to leave then as they have another festival to play in Helsinki the next day!

We stick around a little longer chatting to Steffi before heading back to the campsite – another wonderful day!


 

It’s Saturday and after a lazy morning, we head into town again to try some more busking while mum and Eddie do some exploring/shopping.

That evening mum treats us to a meal at TGI Fridays which is highly delicious and we all reflect on what a wonderful time we’ve had in Oslo. Islands, beaches, festivals – we went in with no idea what to expect from Oslo really, and we all all came out feeling very pleasantly surprised!

Tomorrow we would be driving back to Oslo Rygge airport (which is about 1.5 hour drive away from Oslo!) and camping overnight around there before mum and Eddie have to catch their flight home on Monday.


 

As we drove back the following day everyone was feeling pretty exhausted!

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Mum and Eddie passed out in the back!

We stopped off by a lake on our way and have a gentle walk around.
Eddie is a bit like a dog around water –  as you take your eye off him for a second you’ll just hear a splash, turn around and see his head bobbing about in the water!

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There was some wooden decking with a diving symbol on it so Eddie went bombing in only to find that it was really shallow and rocky! Thankfully he didn’t hurt himself but we couldn’t believe that sign was allowed to be there!!

My mum bravely went in too but Mark and I weren’t feeling in the mood so we sat with our feet dangling in watching them.

As we sat there, a young teen came over who couldn’t speak any English but we gathered he was asking if we could watch his stuff while he swam. Eddie stood up to show him how shallow it was and warning him not to dive but the boy took no notice and ploughed head first (and fully clothed!) right into the water.

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The fully clothed teen with mum and Eddie waving in the background

I have no idea how he didn’t kill himself but after a little bit of swimming around he got out again, collected his phone and put on his shoes before waving goodbye. How strange…

We drove to a nearby camping spot and went for a little walk before having some our final motorhome dinner together!

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Monday 17th August

To mark the final morning of their Oslo adventures with us, I make everyone pancakes! And I have to admit, they were extraordinarily good for some reason… I do love making pancakes but it’s not often I get them to this standard, I really wish I could remember what I did…

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mmmm pancakes

Their flight isn’t until later in the afternoon so we have time to go back to the lake we visited yesterday and have a picnic.

Finally it is time to say goodbye to my family – we had such a lovely week with them and I hope they did too!

We leave the airport and we are alone together once more… but not for long!

Tomorrow our dear friend Sephy would be coming to join us alongside our beloved Lani who is returning to us once more before she heads back to Australia for good!

Sephy, Lani and I used to work together and we would often dream about them coming to visit us on our motorhome adventures and it was finally going to happen!

What adventures will we have with Sephy and Lani on board? Will Steffi show us around Oslo? What more delights will we discover?!

Find out next time!

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Are you ready for love?

Thursday 30th July

So after having Lani on board for the past 6 weeks, we were alone together and expecting the romance to start any moment…

Any moment now...

Any moment now…

Having rained solidly all night, we were surprised to wake up and find it was actually sunny!

We didn’t stick around too long as we were headed for a very exciting looking campsite called Swecamp in the small Swedish city of Karlstad.

After a lovely drive through woodland and around lakes we arrived. It was pretty expensive at £24 but we thought it would be worth it for all the facilities they had e.g. showers, saunas, hot tubs, a little beach area etc. and even had one of these…

Bouncy castle in the sand!

Bouncy castle in the sand!

Thankfully we decided to have a walk around the site before committing ourselves and found out you had to pay extra for everything! It cost £37 for 2 people to go in the sauna for just 2 hours, WIFI was an extra cost and you even had to pay for showers!

On our drive up we had noticed that this area was littered with campsites, so we decided to turn back and sure enough we came across another campsite just 5 minutes down the road which was also right on the lake and just for Swedish Caravan Club members.

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Having registered for the Caravan Club in the UK, we were delighted to discover it was also valid here (well they seemed to think so!) and it was only £15 per night and all the facilities were included in the price!

Totally natural shot at Caravan Club Karlstad

Totally natural shot at Caravan Club Karlstad

Granted, they didn’t have all the fancy facilities the last place had, but it was still a beautiful location and the lady who owned it was a real character.

The sunny weather didn’t hold up however and soon the rain came in and we had another night snuggled up – we weren’t complaining!

Rain clouds

Rain clouds

We felt so exhausted as it seemed like we hadn’t had any real downtime since… well, we couldn’t remember when! So we decided to ditch our original plan of of trekking all the way around lake Vänern and just relax where we were as it was so beautiful and peaceful there and we didn’t need much!

Feeling exhausted and ready to relax

Feeling exhausted and ready to relax


We soon noticed that there was another campsite that backed straight onto ours which had loads more facilities e.g. laundrette, park, frisbee golf but most excitingly – a sauna right next to the lake!

Mark:  The thing to do round these parts seems to be to cook yourself in a sauna, then run and jump into some ice cold water, then rinse and repeat until your heart can take no more… and I like it!  Sarah doesn’t seem to like the saunas as much as I do, but she humours me by coming along so that’s nice.

Sarah: Doing our best to act inconspicuously, we snuck through the barriers (naughty Barnacles) and nosed around a little to discover this campsite was almost double the price of our campsite! But as the border control between the two was seemingly very slack we thought it wouldn’t be hard to use their facilities without actually camping there!

The next few days mainly consisted of us sleeping, eating and playing music.

We did make it a couple of times to a nearby sauna where we would bake ourselves and then run into the freezing lake! This was definitely more Mark’s thing than mine, but I must admit you feel amazing afterwards!

We bought a couple of special frisbees designed specifically for frisbee golf.

Frisbee Golf professionals with our mid-range frisbees

Frisbee Golf professionals with our mid-range frisbees

Frisbee Golf if exactly what it sounds like, apart from the ‘hole’ is a like so:

Frisbee Golf 'hole'

Frisbee Golf ‘hole’

I’d never even heard of Frisbee Golf before entering Scandinavia, but here it seems to be all the rage! I wonder when it will make it’s way to the UK (if it hasn’t already…) Hopefully soon because it is far more fun than real golf!

One day we went to a waterpark in Karlstad called Sunstabadet which was amazing as it has a whole relaxation area with different sauna rooms and steam rooms (for Mark) as well as a fun pool area with water slides (for me).

On the Saturday we went into Karlstad and tried busking which went surprisingly well as we weren’t sure that was the done thing there!

Karlstad is a very beautiful place, the people all seemed very friendly and it was wonderfully simple and compact compared to the big cities we’d just emerged from. One main street, one market square, one river.

Karlstad in the sunshine

Karlstad in the sunshine


Monday 3rd August

We were flying from Oslo Rygge back to the UK on Thursday for a wedding on the Saturday so we thought we would start heading back that way.

It was the wedding of my very oldest friend Katie Hall and her mum had secretly asked us to perform a song of ours during the ceremony so we were very excited!

On our drive we spotted a great camping place called Sandaholm. It had a special area just for motorhomes which was sickeningly cheap at just £5 a night without electricity and £8 with.

Beautiful spot at Sandaholm Campsite

Beautiful spot at Sandaholm Campsite

We ended up staying there for a couple of days going for nice walks in the forest picking blueberries…

Blueberry overload

Blueberry overload

One afternoon we hired a canoe and rowed out to a small untouched island which we claimed ‘Barnacle Island’!

The weather had been a bit grizzly until now but it was slowly starting to warm up and brighten.


Thursday 4rd August

We made it to Oslo Rygge airport and said a tender goodbye to little GIG (our pet name for the motorhome we got from the license plate) hoping to God that she would behave while we were away!

Soon we were in the air waving goodbye to our romantic times alone together as when we returned, we would be bringing back my mum and little brother Eddie with us – family being the ultimate mood killer of course!

We arrived safely into Ely that evening and my mum had made us a delicious chicken pie. We hadn’t had access to an oven for the past 2 months so this was a real treat!


The next day we took a trip to Peterborough to see my baby nephew Matthew (who I am completely obsessed with as you may have noticed…)

Me and Matthew in his tongue discovery phase

Me and Matthew in his tongue discovery phase

Having just graduated, my little brother Eddie was living back at home but had already managed to get a job at a new restaurant in Ely called Wildwood.

As we were planning to meet up with an old friend of mine in town, we thought we would check out Wildwood to surprise Eddie so booked a table!

The old friend (old in my acquaintance – not age-wise!) is called Will. He had been living in Berlin until recently and had just moved back, so I was very excited to see him and catch up.

The evening was perfect – we suitably surprised Eddie and he was delighted to show off his waiting skills and we very much enjoyed the food. I especially loved seeing Will, he’s very funny and sweet and we have always got along well. It did make me sad that I hadn’t seen him in so long but now I know he is back in the country I can hopefully see more of him (despite being away myself…)

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Eddie waiting wonderfully on Will


We were up early the next day as we had to get to the wedding venue early to do a secret sound check before the guests arrived.

The wedding was held at Jimmy’s Farm in Ipswich and thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day so the ceremony could take place outside amongst the vegetable patches and flower beds.

Jimmy's farm in the sunshine

Jimmy’s farm in the sunshine

Only the mother of the bride (Julie), the Celebrant (Michelle) and us (of course) knew about our surprise performance during the wedding ceremony so we were on edge when we arrived, creeping around hoping no one else would see us!

After a quick sound check we hid our instruments under a table cloth and enjoyed some hot dogs for lunch until some other guests arrived and we took our seats.

Bride Katie with her Dad David walking her up the isle

Bride Katie with her Dad David walking her up the isle

We sat there feeling rather nervous waiting for our cue from the Celebrant when finally…

‘So, have you ever heard of the band Barnacles? Well, you knew they were flying back from Oslo, but you didn’t know they were bringing their instruments!’

We quickly scoot onto stage and play our song ‘Another Sunny Day’ which is all about love overcoming all obstacles using the metaphor of weather so it seemed an ideal choice! Especially on such a gloriously sunny day.

I was feeling very emotional by this point and almost started crying mid-song but thankfully managed to pull myself together (I’ve cried onstage before and it was very embarrassing for everyone)

The rest of the day sped past with amazing food, very heartfelt speeches, petting farm animals and before we knew it, it was time to head home.

However, only 2 minutes up the road we came to a sharp stop as there lying head first in the road was an old man.

I got out cautiously and approached him…

‘Hello?’

He opened his eyes and looked up.

‘Can you hear me?’

Nothing.

‘Hello?! Are you okay?’

After a little while of doing this and no response I turned to Mum & Mark and said we ought to call an ambulance…

‘Nooooo!!’

The old man whimpered looking distressed by this thought.

I looked at him a bit closer and observed he looked a little too well dressed and clean to be homeless so the most likely cause for his being here was far too much to drink.

‘Why are you lying in the road?’ I asked.

‘What?’ he slurred.

‘You are lying in the road, we could have driven over you! What are you doing here?’

I suddenly felt like I was in the music video for Just by Radiohead.

He wasn’t really responding so I turned again to Mum & Mark…

‘I really think we should call an ambulance’

‘Noooooo!!! I’ll get up!’

And sure enough, with a lot of help from us, he got to his feet.

Very wobbly and slurry, we didn’t feel right leaving him there but didn’t know what to do with him as he claimed he didn’t know exactly where he lived but it was probably somewhere up the road.

We got him in the car and drove up the road to the next little cluster of houses.

‘Is this near your house?’

‘No! It’s down there somewhere…’ he said pointing down another road.

‘We can’t just keep driving him round all night’ Mum said and I agreed.

But he wouldn’t tell us his name let alone his address and we started to feel a bit helpless as to what to do with him! Luckily at that point another car pulled up next to us and opened it’s window…

‘You haven’t seen an old man on the road have you by any chance?’

‘Yes!! He’s in the car!’

It turned out to be the staff from the wedding, who had received reports from another guest (who must have passed him before we did) that there was someone lying in the road.

We then rang the local police who told us to ring an ambulance who said they would be there as soon as they could.

Great! Now to get him out the car… This whole time Mark had been sitting in the front with him and he had been getting gradually more aggressive and when I came to help him out the car he didn’t look very pleased!

Luckily there were a few of us there now and after a few attempts, we finally got him out.

Then he just stood and stared at me very intensely and said:

‘I think you’re really gorgeous you are! I just asked your mister if I could say that and he said it was okay!’

‘Oh thanks… well, I’m glad we got you out the road! You looked like roadkill lying there!’

‘Oh thanks! I say you’re gorgeous and you say I look like roadkill!’

Time to go, we left the other men with him until the ambulance got there and very much enjoyed the uneventful car journey home!


It was Sunday and my Auntie Jane’s birthday so we all bundled in the car and headed to Norfolk to spend the day with her and my two cousins Freddie and Arthur on the beach Wells-Next-The-Sea.

It was such a lovely sunny day and we went swimming twice, lay on the sand doing crosswords and drank Pimms.

Before it got too late though we headed home as we were catching an 8.35am flight the next morning which meant getting up at 5am!

We weren’t going back alone though, my mum and Eddie were going to be joining us for a week in Oslo!

Will the motorhome still be there when we get back? How will Mark cope being trapped with his in-laws? Will Oslo be as insanely expensive as people say?? What even happens in Oslo?!

All will be revealed next time!

Splitting Up

Monday 20th July

Sarah: A couple of weeks ago, I had heard the sad news my Grandma had died and I had been on the fence as to whether it would be feasible to fly back for the funeral. In the end, I decided that I really wanted to be there and my wonderful mother said she would help out with flight costs so I booked my flights back to the UK from Oslo.

This meant leaving Mark and Lani alone together for 5 days… I suppose leaving your new husband with a beautiful young Australian girl may sound dubious to some, but not in this case!

Quite honestly, I was very glad there would be someone there to look after him (he is a bit of a liability…)

Mark delighted having cut his finger - he really needs looking after!

Mark delighted having cut his finger – he really needs looking after!

Mark: I suppose I can’t really argue with that.

Sarah: This also meant getting to Oslo airport by Thursday evening, so we said goodbye to Copenhagen and headed on to Sweden…

It was actually a real relief to get out of the city and into nature again.
We headed to a free camping spot right on the coast of Sweden.

By this point, we had developed a highly sophisticated “intercom” system onboard so we could easily communicate with backseat passengers (Lani) as the engine is so loud.

This comprised of two microphone plugged into our battery powered amp and looked a little something like this…

Reading the Grease script on our sophisticated intercom system

Reading the Grease script on our sophisticated intercom system

To keep ourselves entertained on long drives, we read the script for Grease, me and Lani doing all the parts! Our audience (Mark) loved it and it is certainly something I can highly recommend if you are on a long drive anywhere with a few people (or one very enthusiastic person!)

We pulled up right by the beach at our beautiful camping spot for the night. (If you want more info on how to find this place, the details are here )

It was still pretty cold and windy but it was sunny and people were very bravely swimming in the dark choppy waters.

You can see a little head bobbing around in the middle

You can see a little head bobbing around in the middle

There was a distinct smell of rotten seaweed about the place and no facilities, but it was very scenic and FREE!

There was a tiny little harbour right next to us that was sheltered from the elements so we decided to sit on the decking and pop open a bottle of Prosecco we had left over from the wedding to celebrate our first night in Sweden!

Malevolently delighted with being in nature

Malevolently delighted with being in nature


Tuesday 21st July

We set off relatively early to Gothenburg (Göteborg). This is one of Sweden’s main cities – right on the coastline and thick with lakes and woodland, so you can very easily forget you are in a city at all!

We noticed the area was crawling with motorhomes – there are four motorhome camping places in the Liseberg area. (If you want to read about them all you can find the info here)

We chose the cheapest option which was Liseberg Skaatas – this one is just for motorhomes and is essentially a car park amongst the trees with access to water and electricity at €24 a night.

Us parked up in Liseberg Skaatas overlooking some very attractive firemen working out

Us parked up in Liseberg Skaatas overlooking some very attractive firemen working out

Although our spot was pretty basic without showers or toilets etc – it sat within a really beautiful wooded area with saunas and lakes nearby.

We started to notice something was a little odd about the place – everyone was super fit and exercising the whole time – we figured we must be in some special place where people come to do exercise – or everyone in Sweden exercises constantly?? Either way we felt bad.


Wednesday 22nd July

As Lani and I dozed in bed, Mark snuck out for a little hike to the nearest lake.

We eventually woke up and ate some breakfast. Mark soon returned and we decided to go to central Gothenburg station so I could look into trains/buses that could take me to Oslo Rygge Airport for my flight the next day.

Driving through, it looked to be a lovely little place with canals and green spots. There is also a huge amusement park (the biggest in Scandinavia apparently…) which looked insanely busy as we passed by – it must be good!

I couldn’t find any easy direct public transport options so Mark and Lani agreed to drive me the 2.5 hour journey there and spend the 5 days around there until I returned.

Later on, we hiked down to a nearby lake to do some swimming.

The water was immensely cold but Mark was very brave and he was soon in. I couldn’t believe the transformation! Normally I was the hardy cold water one and he was the wimp and now I was looking decidedly wimpish clinging onto the slimy rocks!

A few minutes later I was in too and it was very bracing indeed but also very refreshing!

Not too long later we came scrabbling out before our limbs fell off!

All dried, we looked out at the beautiful lake and thought it would be an ideal spot for playing some music. Alas the instruments were back at camp (a 20 minute walk) so we trekked back.

By the time we got back I was starving so rustled up some pancakes before heading back to the lake with our gear.

It was lovely playing the music out there, so serene and calming.

Playing by the lake

Playing by the lake

When we returned I got a call from our cellist Maddie (still living in London) saying she had booked her flights to Oslo to stay with us for two weeks from 24th August – 7th September – woohooooo!!! Another Barnacle to stay- how wonderful!!


Thursday 23rd July

We had a good drive up to Oslo Rygge airport doing more Grease script reading.

It felt very strange saying goodbye but I admit I was very happy at the thought of sleeping in a proper bed in a proper house and seeing my family again, especially my new baby nephew Matthew aka the cutest baby on earth (no I’m not biased, he really is)

Mark: It did feel very weird saying goodbye to Sarah – not least because Lani and I were going to have to fend for ourselves for the next few days! After Sarah had disappeared into Departures, we stayed in airport for a bit (leaching the WIFI) trying to find somewhere to stay the night, and forge a general plan for our 5 days!

I remembered seeing a sign for a campsite called Utne Camping just a few minutes back on the road, and a little internet research said it had WIFI and laundry facilities, so we decided to head there as a place to spend our first night as a duo.

Once we got settled in, we were feeling adventurous so we decided to explore the local area on foot.  We spotted a lake on the map that didn’t look too far away, so we set off for it.  After a few wrong turns, we finally found ourselves tramping through some undergrowth that seemed to lead directly to the water’s edge.  It was at this point that we heard a Norwegian farmer shouting after us – he told us that there was no way through to the lake from here, so we decided to just head back to the motorhome.

On our way back, we popped into the communal hut they had at Utne, and found that it had a piano!  At this point, a member of staff came in to lock the hut up for the evening, but we asked if we could play a song on the piano before he did – he relented and left us to it, so I played the Barnacles song Just Be to which Lani performed some excellent interpretive dance.

Then we visited the excellent seesaw in the campsite’s adventure playground, before retiring to the van to see off the evening with some very competitive games of Pairs.  A fine start to our week 🙂

A wild night in

A wild night in

Sarah: I touched down safely into Stansted airport and hopped on the train to Ely where I was greeted by my lovely mother. I hadn’t anticipated how much I would miss home and I knew I had made the right choice in coming back.


Friday 24th July

Sarah: My mum, my little brother Eddie and I set off to the crematorium in Norfolk for 1pm.

It was a very emotional (as I suppose I knew it would be). I hadn’t told my Grandad that I was flying back for it and he was so touched and surprised when he saw me arrive. Definitely the right choice.

After the crematorium, the actual funeral was at 4pm at the church in the beach town of Wells-Next-The-Sea where my Grandparents lived and where our family have been going for summer holidays all our lives.

It was about a 40 minute drive away so we went to a pub to grab some lunch and then headed off.

The rain started pouring down as we navigated through the narrow, winding country roads. Suddenly the car started handling very strangely and we had to slow right down so we didn’t veer off the road!

We pulled onto the side of the road and I leapt out of the car and saw the front right tyre was punctured!

We just couldn’t believe it! The rain was still pouring down as we frantically searched for the spare tyre but all we could see was an empty tyre shaped cavity in the boot! It looked like it had already been used and not replaced!

I called the RAC and explained our situation but they said it would be about 3 hours until someone could come. By now it was 2.30pm and the funeral was at 4pm.

We made some frantic phone calls to our other family members – luckily we were only a 10 minute drive away from the church so at least someone could come pick us up and take us back to the car later.

My aunt said we should keep searching for the spare as she had been fooled into thinking hers was missing too when it was there all along. We frantically pulled up even more of the car and it turned out she was totally right – we did have it!

Now to change the tyre…!

Luckily it turned out my mum is pretty capable with car maintenance (I don’t know why she hasn’t passed any of this on to me!) and directed my little brother Eddie while he did all the hard work on his hands and knees in the muddy puddles (fortunately he had a spare set of clothes to change into so he didn’t ruin his smart clothes)

Flat tyre in the pouring rain going to a funeral - perfect!

Flat tyre in the pouring rain going to a funeral – perfect!

Hilariously (I say hilariously, it wasn’t that hilarious at the time…) a police car drove past and we tried to wave them down to give us a hand but they just waved back at us smiling and drove on! Thank you police!

It took us a long time (I had to find a YouTube video to see how to work the car jack and a family friend drove down to help us) but we did it! Only a temporary tyre though so we couldn’t drive very fast on it but it’s enough to get us to the church on time!

It was a lovely service and afterwards we go to a lovely pub and eat lots of good food. It’s so lovely to see everyone and so although it’s such a sad time, I’m also very happy. I was overjoyed to see my brother James and his wife Helen bringing my adorable new nephew Matthew along!

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Little Matthew trying to eat James’ face (I told you he is the cutest!)

Mark: We found ourselves in a reflective mood today, as Sarah and her family were very much in our thoughts, and so we decided to spend some quality time with nature.

After a little research we decided to head for a place called Badstangen, which turned out to have a few basic motorhome pitches with electricity hookups – score! We decided to take a long hike through a breathtakingly beautiful and varied forest trail, and eventually we found ourselves at this stupendously dramatic man-made waterfall where we stopped for a while, contemplating life.

Man-made waterfall

Beautiful waterfall

In the evening, Lani made us some delicious banana fritters, and we made some guacamole to have on toast.

Finally, we got to chat to Sarah properly on the phone, who filled us in on the drama and emotion of her day.  A phone call wasn’t as good as being able to give my wife a cuddle, but I’m glad we were at least able to talk!


Saturday 25th July

Sarah: We stay in Norfolk as it was beautifully sunny and I spent the day on the beach in Wells-Next-The-Sea playing with my little cousins. I’m impressed as I see them bury an exercise ball in the sand then use it as a trampoline doing all sort of impressive flips!

Buried exercise ball trampoline!

My cousins doing impressive flips off an exercise ball buried in the sand!

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Eddie decided to dig a giant hole in the sand which somehow kept everyone entertained (apart from my mum who strongly believed it would cave in and crush anyone inside to death).

Eddie's giant hole!

Eddie’s giant hole!

Mark: In order to keep to budget we really needed to find somewhere to wild camp tonight.  After a lot of driving around some beautiful forests and lakes, we eventually found this beautiful spot by a lake – obviously this had no facilities like water or electricity, but it was a stunning location and it was free!

To celebrate, Lani made us this fantastic red Thai curry for dinner:

That night, it chucked it down with Biblical force, and the astonishing level of noise the rain and wind created on the roof of the van made it nigh on impossible to sleep – it was a rough night…


Sunday 26th July

Sarah: Today Helen, James and little Matthew came to see me so I could get my last Matthew fix before heading back on my travels!

Mark: The rain had cleared, and today the lake was beautifully calm and inviting.  Feeling especially groggy after our rough night of rain, I fancied an invigorating swim, and tested the temperature of the water… it was bloody freezing!  Still, I had been overcoming my fear of swimming in cold water during this trip, so I resolved to go in.  Lani said it was too cold for her (no doubt she’s been spoilt by her childhood, swimming in the consistently warm waters of the Gold Coast…) – so as I was going to be on my own in a Norwegian lake, I figured that the appropriate thing to do was to do it local-style in my birthday suit, as God intended!

Now, in deference to the fact that my current holiday companion was not my wife, I wore trunks until I was safely fully submerged in order to protect my decency during water entry/exit, but you’ll pleased to know that Lani did manage to capture something of the scene on camera for you lucky people:

Skinny dipping in a freezing lake!

Skinny dipping in a freezing lake!

I didn’t stay out there for long, but I can confirm that it was a magnificent experience, and everyone should do it at least once!  After I was warm and dry again, it was back to the Utne campsite for a night of relative luxury!


Monday 27th July

Sarah: Today was my little brother Eddie’s graduation ceremony and I was really happy that I could accompany my mum in place of my poor dad who would have loved to have been there.

Eddie all graduated!

Eddie all graduated!

We were so proud of him and it was a lot more emotional than I had anticipated!

What a lovely day down in Brighton and it felt so nice to have something to celebrate – well done Eddie!

Mark: We did a bit more exploring today, and found another lovely lake that adjoined a forest that contained an adventure playground.  Upon further inspection it turned out that this playground contained the craziest and most fun swing ever:

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The motion of this swing is a little difficult to describe, but with a little practice you can get some real speed going.

Later, we found some pedal boats and we decided to grab some wine and go for a pedal around the lake.

Peddle boating!

Pedal boat with wine

All-in-all a lovely day, and we were getting very excited to have Sarah back the very next day!  The free carpark next to the lake seemed to allow overnight parking, so we ‘wildcamped’ for our final night here and planned a treat for welcoming Sarah back…

Tuesday 28th July

Sarah: I was actually very sad to have to leave England but I knew it would be nice to see Mark and Lani again.

I had such an easy journey – turns out it’s a piece of cake travelling from Ely to Oslo!

I was greeted by a couple of cuties at Oslo Rygge airport who said they had a surprise for me!!!

A couple of cuties!

A couple of cuties!

As we drove along in the motorhome, I couldn’t help but notice that they both had incredibly greasy hair – had they needed me there to remind them to wash?! Oh I knew I shouldn’t have left them alone!

Then we pulled into a place called Superland – was this my surprise?!

They both grinned at me and told me that it was a little indoor waterpark! They had got a day pass and been in before I landed – so their hair was just wet – not insanely greasy!

The rest of our days went like this:

Steam room -> sauna -> ice cold tub -> hot tub -> water slides -> swim around

Repeat.

Mark: This place was EXCELLENT!  🙂

Sarah: We stayed that night a campsite on a farm about 20 minutes drive away. Lani would be leaving us the next day (don’t worry, she’ll be back!) to go back to Amsterdam and do some travelling with a friend.


Wednesday 29th July

Lani’s flight was a 1.5 hour drive away so she caught a bus to the Airport so we could get on our way.

We would now have a whole week alone together before we would be catching a flight back to the UK for a friend’s wedding that we would be playing at (as a surprise!)

We said goodbye to Lani – 6 weeks had come to an end and we were really going to miss our beloved BaLanicle!

Bye bye Lani :'(

Bye bye Lani 😥

We had a romantic trip planned driving around lake Vänern just over the border in Sweden.

Lake Vänern (fifth largest lake in Europe or something...)

Lake Vänern (fifth largest lake in Europe or something…)

Our drive there was littered with cute little lakeside campsites and only 1.5 hours in to our drive we gave in and pulled into a lovely looking one that was only 170K (under £13) and the man who greeted us seemed so lovely.

The rain came pouring down but we didn’t mind as we snuggled up and watched films I had brought back from home.

Although we loved having Lani to stay, it didn’t allow for much romance and it was lovely to remember that we were on our honeymoon!

Swedish lakeside campsite

Swedish lakeside campsite

Will the romance continue? Will we make it round the lake? Will we be able to cope without Lani being there to cook us amazing meals and make us do fun stuff?!

Find out next time!

Copenhagen (Part 2) – new friends, busking, a big night out and Lani has a meltdown

Tuesday 14th July

Today we had a life admin day! We did laundry, a big shop and finally got our business cards printed and sign made to put up while we busked…

Barnacles business cards (designed by a very talented Lani!)

Barnacles business cards (designed by a very talented Lani!)

Our new sign in use (also designed by Lani)

Our new sign in action (also designed by Lani)


Wednesday 15th July

We had been advised that a bridge called Dronning Louises Bro was a good place to busk so we headed there in the afternoon.

However, I wasn’t really feeling the vibe as it was loud with lots of commuters hurrying past. Whilst we were sat arguing about whether to play or not, a large Viking-esque man with long blonde hair stopped in front of us and requested we play.

So we did! And soon we had a little crowd around us and lady who looked friendly (if, perhaps, a little eccentric) came and sat down with him.

This was the first time using the sign explaining we were on our honeymoon and it seemed to work really well at getting people’s attention, but it was quite windy so it kept blowing away. We asked if anyone had any tape (mainly jokingly) but the friendly looking lady actually did! After we finished playing, the lady came up and said she enjoyed our music and if we were staying longer in Copenhagen then she would happily put us up in her big house and handed us her business card.

Despite lots of people staying to watch us, people weren’t very forthcoming in actually throwing in any coins, so we didn’t make much money this time. Busking is a very unpredictable beast, you can’t tell at all what will happen, even going to the same place at the same time can give you totally different outcomes!

It was time to head over to our new friend Marie’s place for the BBQ we had invited ourselves to when meeting her and her friend on the streets of Copenhagen a few days ago.

We arrived to find her with a different friend called Eva, also really open, funny and interesting. Eva’s boyfriend is a chef and they had been left with a lot of very delicious cheese and steak that needed eating and we were more than happy to help out!

Having the best steak of our lives with our new Danish friends and their very cute dogs

Having the best steak of our lives with our new Danish friends and their very cute dogs

Now, Lani is normally vegetarian and we had been having pretty much the same diet as her and we couldn’t have been happier to see the sizzling ribeye steak before us. It was just the most delicious steak I think I’ve ever had, so tantalising that even Lani caved in and had some!

The three of us (Mark, Lani & I) are big cheese fanatics and the varieties on show that night blew our minds.

The cheese board *drools*

The cheese board *drools*

Mark:  The steak was easily cuttable with wooden knives, and the cheese was pungent and delicious.  Mmmmmmm…

Sarah:  An unexpected reaction occurred when we regaled our story to Eva and Marie of the older eccentric lady on the bridge earlier that day.

We showed them the card she had given us and Marie gasped:

‘That’s Kathrine Ærtebjerg, she a really famous Danish artist! I have an original print of hers on my wall and it’s worth a lot of money!’

No wonder she happened to have tape on her!

Having suitably stuffed ourselves with everything in sight, we got out our instruments, rested them upon our plump bellies and began to play for them.

We were in the courtyard beneath the block of flats that Marie lived in and after a couple of songs, Marie went to the pub next door to grab some people to come and listen to us.

It was an idyllic scene, full content stomachs, wonderful company and playing our music – what more could you want?

Eva with her dog Luna (left) and Marie with her dog Dora (right)

Eva with her dog Luna (left) and Marie with her dog Dora (right)


Thursday 16th

Copenhagen is a very sprawling city and today we finally found the heart of it!
The main street is called Strøget and contained actual crowds of people which is wonderful for busking!

Our busking attempt here went very well and we got 270DK (£27) in about an hour – woohoo!


Friday 17th July

Time to find out what a Friday night in Copenhagen is like!

We had some pre-drinks in the motorhome and originally planned to make mojitos but couldn’t get our hands on any mint or brown sugar so invented a new cocktail we named The Rusty Barnacle!

Ingredients
Dark Rum
Tonic Water
Caster Sugar
Lime wedge
Crushed Ice (or regular ice will work)

Method
Throw it all in and stir until it becomes vaguely palatable.

The dark rum should make the drink a rusty colour (hence the name!)

Lani enjoying a delicious Rusty Barnacle

Lani enjoying a delicious Rusty Barnacle

Suitably jolly, we trotted off to a club called KB18 and arrived at about 11.30pm to discover it completely deserted apart from one guy who was sat elegantly on the ground wearing all black and very cooly smoking a cigarette.

Classic Danish style

Classic Danish style

He told us that doors opened at midnight but no one would even consider showing up until 2am at the earliest.

He recommended a place called Culture Box which was about a 30 minute walk away that would be open so we thanked him and reset our course there.

The place had 2 rooms with DJs in both and we flitted between them and had a wonderful time! The music was sort of techno I guess and we were in the dancing mood.

The club attendees were almost entirely male and the dance floor had a real predatory feeling, especially when Mark would often (being older and more decrepit) have to take regular breaks to sit down at the side.

Mark: Sitting down is underrated.

Sarah: I had one French boy chatting me up so I soon brought into conversation my recent marriage which made him cry out ‘no you can’t be married!’, and then he deftly pulled my wedding ring off my finger and put it on his.

‘You see, now I’m married!’

I laughed along tentatively as, although he seemed fairly innocent, I still thought it sensible that I get the ring back on my finger ASAP. I did get it back without too much trouble and hastily returned to have a sit down at the side with the old husband!

Mark: You see, that sort of thing hardly ever happens when you’re sat down…

Sarah: After lots more dancing, the club started closing down and we thought it probably best we head home having had a very fun night.


Saturday 18th

We awoke to the sounds of scrabbling, retching and sobbing.

We pulled the curtain back from our sleeping compartment above the cab (a.k.a. The Snug) to see Lani was in serious distress.

She was alternating between rummaging around the motorhome then running to the toilet to be sick and then collapsing in a heap crying.

She couldn’t find her purse and she was incredibly hungover – a deadly combination.

She called up the club but they had not found anything and none of us had any recollection of her using her purse at all. 

She had put her purse in my bag so I felt responsible but none of my stuff was missing so the whole thing was quite mysterious…

Lani is no stranger to losing things but she was making a real effort to change and become more responsible for her belongings but this debacle made her feel she was doomed to being a loser forever!

We tried our best to comfort her but she was in full meltdown and we just had to wait until she’d slept more, eaten, cancelled/replaced cards and felt assured that we would look after her until they arrived.


Sunday 19th July

Feeling fully recovered from our Friday night out, we went out busking again on Strøget and made £30!

Last week we had tried to play an Open Mic at Råhuset but arrived to late and missed the signup – today we were determined not to make the same mistake and turned up about 2 hours early!

The venue wasn’t open yet so we went to get some food from a delicious place called Burger Joint in the Meat Packing District round the corner.

Delicious food from Burger Joint in the Meatpacking district

Delicious food from Burger Joint in the Meatpacking district

With full bellies, we headed back to Råhuset and managed to secure a place on the sign up sheet!

The night was packed (like last week) and the atmosphere was warm and supportive which made going up onto stage not at all daunting, just really good fun!

There were so many great acts on as well and they all seemed to know each other and join in singing or playing along spontaneously.

Open Mic at Råhuset

Open Mic at Råhuset

The man who ran the night was called Martin Tomlinson and he seemed to really enjoy our stuff and said he’d love us to play there again but as a proper gig with our full length set.

We planned to leave the next day but would be coming back through Copenhagen in a couple of months so would definitely be up for it then!

We headed home, contemplating our time in Copenhagen – it had been very turbulent indeed! We had made some wonderful friends (Marie, Eva & Mathilde), Lani had met the love of her life (Dora – a little black pug belonging to Marie), we had been enjoyed by a famous Danish artist, had a really fun night out, we’d had a lot of busking success and had secured a gig here in September, but the city itself hadn’t really captured our hearts somehow.

It’s quite a big industrial city and we seemed to spend a lot of time walking around trying to find where it was all happening.

Factors that probably affected our judgement were the rainy and windy weather we had a lot of the time and how we all felt a bit citied-out, exhausted and missing nature! We will be coming back though so Copenhagen does have another chance!

Next we would be heading off to Sweden and getting back to nature, I would have to fly back to the UK and Mark and I would actually spend some days apart…

All will be revealed in the next chapter!

Copenhagen (Part 1)

Thursday 9th July

Sarah:  After doing a final shop in Hamburg to take full advantage of the cheap food/booze we got on our way to Copenhagen!

We chose to take the ferry from Germany to Denmark instead of driving round and over bridges as we found the price of fuel/bridge tolls would be more expensive than the ferry ticket.

They sold us a combined ticket for the ferry from Rödbyhavn to Puttgarden and bridge crossing from Denmark to Sweden (as we were planning on heading that way after Copenhagen) costing €133.

It was quite a long journey to Copenhagen so found a stop over point on www.campercontact.com right by the beach AND it was FREE!!

Soon we were aboard our Ferry and Denmark was on the horizon!

Our first impression was how insanely windy it was! Now I’m not the biggest fan of wind myself (despite what Mark will tell you…) but for Lani it was unbearable and she refused to come out of the van all day!

Mark:  No comment.

Sarah:  It was so windy that when going over a big bridge, it felt as though the motorhome would be blown clean off so we had to go at a snail’s pace the whole way over!

Windy but beautiful Denmark

Windy but beautiful Denmark

We arrived at our stopover spot which turned out to be some man’s (extremely large) back garden! We found a nice spot and a man called Paul came and introduced himself saying we were welcome to stay there and use his WIFI (score!) free as he just liked to do something nice for people – and who were we to argue!


Friday 10th July

We woke up tired and groggy as there had been gales all night long and it had felt at several times that we would be upended and have to climb out the windows to escape!

Thankfully that didn’t happen and we soon got on our way and arrived in Copenhagen!

We had initially planned to stay at a campsite called City Camp but when we arrived  they were full and pointed us in the direction of another campsite called Bellahoj in the north of Copenhagen.

We did not take an immediate liking to Bellahoj. It was essentially a huge field with no pitches marked out, just electricity points scattered around and you had to extra pay for everything, even filling up with water!

The facilities were really old and pretty rank and we may have looked past all this had it been a cheap stay or a central location, but it just wasn’t!

One night there cost us about €24 and we paid extra for WIFI (which didn’t work).

ANYWAY, we had a plan to cheer ourselves up!
We had heard of a place in Copenhagen called Christiania which describes itself as a ‘free state’ and separate from the EU. From the pictures and stories we gleamed from the internet, it appeared to be some bohemian paradise with complete artistic and cultural freedom and we couldn’t wait to see what it would be like!

However, when we arrived, we were greeted by big signs telling us ‘NO PHOTOS’ and ‘NO RUNNING’, people in balaclavas and army mesh everywhere so you couldn’t see people’s faces.

As far as we could tell, it was mainly a place people came to buy weed… and there seemed to be an awful lot of rules for somewhere that considered itself a ‘free state’.

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This sums up general vibe we felt at Christiania

Lani and I almost immediately broke the no photos and no running rules (by accident of course…) and instantly had men in balaclavas running briskly (not running) over and shouting at us which was a pretty scary experience.

More forbidden Christinia photos...

More forbidden Christinia photos…

None-the-less, we thought we would persist so grabbed some beers and sat in an outdoor drinking area and had a lovely time chatting to these skater guys who lived in Copenhagen and gave us loads of great advice on cool things/places to do/see.

One of the helpful skater guys (we can't remember which one...)

One of the helpful skater guys (we can’t remember which one…)

The music playing at this outside area was truly terrible and the Copenhagen guys advised us to go to this jazz night happening just around the corner, which we did and really enjoyed!

After that, we walked around to see if anything else was going on around Christiania and came across something very shocking on our path…

The scene was this; a flaming barrel dimly lighting a group of men intensely staring at a naked woman and a clothed man sat in a chair. The naked woman would flit from gyrating on his lap and using an array of sex toys on herself. She was certainly cosmetically enhanced with very poorly applied fake tan, completely shaven and only wearing a pair of heels.

We were, as you can imagine, very confused as to what was happening! Was this a street performer? Should we be putting money into a hat? Was she a sex worker promoting her business? Was this a stag do?!

The action stopped pretty abruptly because (as far as I could tell) the clothed man in the chair tried to grope her.

Maybe it was time to leave Chistiania and head home!

On route home we stopped off at a Burger King and had the best Big King XXL burgers of our lives. So the night ended on a high at least!


Saturday 11th

The morning came and we were all really hungover, especially Lani who couldn’t move at all.

Mark and I left her in the van and went to a place called Nyhavn to try some busking. Nyhavn is a cute little harbour with lots of cute colourful building and restaurants lining the streets.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

There were accordion players in abundance and we had to go right down until we found a spot free from the abrasive reedy tones (sorry to any accordion enthusiasts, they started to become the bane of our busking lives!)

It wasn’t particularly fruitful and the hangover was hitting new levels so we slinked back to the van to join Lani in recuperation.


Sunday 12th July

We decided to give Christiania another chance and see what it was like during the day time!

We wanted to try playing our music there and Lani wanted to have a go at selling her artwork so we packed up all our stuff and headed back.

We found a little gallery inside Christiania and asked the owner for some advice on how to sell Lani’s art. She wasn’t particularly friendly or helpful; after skimming through Lani’s artwork she said that there were loads of people doing the same thing as her and she could try but she wasn’t very encouraging.

If you have ever seen Lani’s artwork, you’ll know it’s beautiful and unique and if you haven’t seen it then check it out www.lanipaxton.com

But you almost certainly will have seen it as she lovingly created the artwork for our EP ‘I Am In Love’

Our beautiful EP Artwork created by Lani

Our beautiful EP Artwork created by Lani

Despite the gallery owner’s remarks, we found a spot somewhere nearby and setup a table for Lani’s artwork and we set up our instruments next door hoping to draw people over with the music and vice versa.

Setting up to play/sell art in Christiania

Setting up to play/sell art in Christiania

Alas, this didn’t play out well. Halfway through our second song, a big intense looking man came over and interrupted us.

‘You can’t play here’

We looked at each other confused as we had asked many people and they said we would be fine to play anywhere in Christiania.

‘Oh really? Why not?’

‘Because I live here and I don’t want to hear it’

And with that he turned on his heels and stormed off.

That was the final straw for me, no more Christiania!

We promptly packed up and headed to Nyhavn to try our luck there. This was far more successful and we met a lovely trio of French people who were a band in Bordeaux and offered to put us up if we ever went by.

Some internet research told us there was an open mic night happening at a place called Råhuset that night and we hoped this would be a good way to meet some fellow musicians and hopefully get gigs!

Unfortunately, due to some very bad sign posting, we just missed the signup time and there were no slots left.

Feeling dejected, we dragged our feet to nearby pub to have some beers and feel sorry for ourselves.

Feeling disheartened in Copenhagen

Feeling disheartened in Copenhagen

We also rang our beloved friend Sephy to arrange when she would be coming to join us in Oslo in a months time which made us all feel better.


Monday 13th July

One of the guys we met at Christiania called Mads took a shine to Lani and would message her a lot giving us recommendations of cool things to do. Following his advice we went to the meatpacking district which turned out to be a very trendy area with a tasty food market and “shabby chic” restaurants scattered around – definitely a great place to eat out!

We accidentally walked through an absolutely beautiful park/graveyard and found H C Andersen’s (fairytale writer, famously for The Little Mermaid & The Ugly Duckling) grave!

H C Andersen's grave

H C Andersen’s grave

We also ran into many many dogs, which delighted Lani!

Lani scooping dogs

Lani scooping dogs

By now, we had created a game called Scoop Trumps. 

The concept is basically the card game Top Trumps with the theme of dog snatching (or scooping as we liked to call it.) The dogs “scoopability” would be based on a few factors:

Cuteness
Weight (lower the better)
Distance from owner (bigger the better)
Wetness of fur (no one wants to scoop a dripping wet dog!)
Yappyness

We invented many more criteria as the trip went on and it kept up endlessly amused! Although I can now no longer look at a dog without assessing its scoopability…

Anyway – Mads also recommended an area called Nørrebro which is full of cool bars and arty things.

It was evening now and we thought we’d find somewhere cool to have a drink so we headed there and perused the streets.

And that’s when Lani saw the love of her life. Big dark eyes, sleek glossy black hair, pug nosed. Lani was powerless to resist and ran over to stroke and kiss them…

Dora - Lani's one true love

Dora – Lani’s one true love

We soon found out the pug (Dora) belonged to a girl called Marie who was sat having a picnic with her friend Mathilde.

Us with Marie & Mathilde

Us with Marie & Mathilde

They were both so lovely and they invited us to join them for a beer or two. We talked and laughed for ages and at some point they opened up a little tin and put what looked to be a little tea bag in their mouths.

It turns out this is a very popular thing in Scandinavia called Snus which is just tobacco that gets into your bloodstream by placing it on your gums rather than smoking it, so you still get the rush of the tobacco but don’t destroy your lungs.

I had never enjoyed smoking cigarettes as I dislike the general taste and burning feeling in my throat and lungs, so this seemed the perfect solution!

In the spirit of embracing different cultures, we decided to give it a try!

After only 5 minutes I felt like I was flying, but in a dizzying nauseous way that I couldn’t control. Everyone else appeared totally unaffected and (not wanting to lose valuable cool points in front of our new friends) I tried my best to act normally.

After another 20 minutes, I excused myself to the bathroom and was promptly sick in the toilet. I returned to the group where Lani & Mark were claiming it had had no effect on them whatsoever and I felt super-uncool then announcing I was feeling pretty sick and could we please go home now!

Before leaving though, we invited ourselves to theirs for a BBQ on Wednesday and promised that we would play them our music and Lani would give them some art prints in return!

How would our music/art go down at the BBQ? Would we ever make it to an open mic night? How does our music go down on the streets of Copenhagen? Would we enjoy the nightlife in Copenhagen??

Find out next time!

Hamburg

Saturday 4th July

Sarah: After a tearful goodbye to our beloved Amsterdam, we hit the road (still with our companion Lani on board) to Hamburg!

We had found a campsite (thanks for www.campercontact.com) which was on the outskirts of Hamburg called Wild Park Schwarze Berge.

As you can probably guess by it’s name, it sits right beside an Wildlife Park!

It was incredibly hot and as we pulled in at around 8.30pm, a HUGE thunderstorm kicked off.

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Storm brewing as we arrive at Wildpark-Camping Schwarze Berge

We huddled inside and ate dinner (pasta tuna sweetcorn – a classic!) gazing out at the spectacular red lightning bolts in the sky.

Eventually the thunderstorm passed and on my trip to the toilet, I heard booming music coming from the trees.

I ran back to tell the gang and we could only imagine it was some sort of ultra cool German squat party in the forrest so we ventured out of the motorhome with a torch following the sounds.

It wasn’t long before we (I say we, I mean me really) started getting pretty freaked out…

‘What was that??’ ‘Did you see that?!’

We saw a person moving around in the trees and called out ‘hello?!?!’

No reply.

‘Helloooo??!’

The figure just kept moving.

‘That’s it!! I’m going back!!’

Lani and I ran all the way back to the motorhome screaming whilst Rainbow just sauntered along making it clear he thought we were being total wusses.

Mark:  They were being total wusses!

Sarah:  We ended up playing pairs and drinking tea – who needs a cool squat party??


Sunday 5th July

As there was no WIFI at the campsite (and we needed it for planning our next journey to Copenhagen) we decided to check out the Wildlife Park next door.

The WIFI at the gate wasn’t good so we went up to the cafe following the signal until we looked around and realised we were actually INSIDE the park!

We’d accidentally snuck in to the park saving ourselves €9.50 each! (We did incidentally then spend €9.50 on a watermelon… it was really good though!)

Lani eating watermelon (badly- she only really half eats them...)

Lani eating watermelon (badly- she never makes it to the end of the red…)

It was such a lovely park with huge enclosures for all the animals.

We saw a brown bear which filled Lani with the most joyous of joys!

Brown Bear at Wildpark-Schwarze Berge

Brown Bear at Wildpark-Schwarze Berge

I had a baby dear eat out of my hand!!

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They had little pig-like creatures around the place which you could pet (although their skin felt like a scourer!)

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To top it off it had the most awesome play park…

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The only slight downside was we were a little paranoid someone was going to grab us on the shoulder and remove us from the premises having not paid… But it was an accident we swear!

Returning to the motorhome very satisfied, we had some dinner and had an exotic bottle of wine our friends Kieran & Jonny got us for our wedding!

A toast to you Kieran & Jonny!

A toast to you Kieran & Jonny!


Monday 6th July

Sarah:  Today we decided to shave Mark’s head (I think it was to do with the heat or something… it made sense at the time!)

The shaving

The shaving

I immediately regretted the decision though as he turned out looking like Uncle Fester from the Adams Family or an escaped convict (the stripy top didn’t help!)

Uncle Fester haircut

Mark:  Yeah, it wasn’t the best look ever.  At least it helped make Barnacles’ image a little more ‘gritty’ or something…?

Sarah:  By this time we thought it was probably too late to go into Hamburg so took some hammocks (more lovely wedding presents!) down to the woods with a bottle of gin & tonic using frozen raspberries as ice (highly delicious!).

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We swayed in our hammocks, chatted and drank until it started getting dark.

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Tuesday 7th July

We thought be had better actually go into Hamburg at some point so why not today!

After a bus & train journey in (the campsite wasn’t particularly central…!) we arrived at Hamburg Central Station.

We found a nice park with Botanical and Japanese Gardens inside and had highly unusual and enjoyable experience where all these little duckling nibbled our feet when dipping them in a pool of water!

Ducks nibbling toes - excellent exfoliation treatment!

Ducks nibbling toes – excellent exfoliation treatment!

We discovered that Hamburg had (apparently quite famously…) a Red Light District and we thought we must check it out, having had so much success busking in Amsterdam’s Red Light District – and general curiosity too of course!

We definitely weren’t ready for what we found.

Unlike Amsterdam, there were no girls in windows, no influx of tourists, no buzz at all really – it was far more gritty and real somehow. Lots of eccentric beggars on the streets, we saw an alleyway with blood splattered down and police waking up a man passed out in the street (this was the middle of the day by the way!)

We found it very interesting to walk around but when we asked around people strongly advised us not to busk here as there were so many beggars on the streets and not many tourists really.

We did try a spot of busking by a harbour on Jungfernstieg and we got a lot of smiles but not much money.

We weren’t massively impressed so far with Hamburg (we missed our beloved Amsterdam!) but decided we would go back in the next day and see what Hamburg’s nightlife had to offer!


Wednesday 8th July

We had a pretty lazy morning and finally headed out at about 3.30pm.

Before the wild night began, we headed to an awesome sounding music shop we had found online called ‘Just Music’ to get headphones for Lani, plectrums for me (as my fingers were getting destroyed strumming so much!) and various other music paraphernalia.

On our walk there though, the rain suddenly fell and we all had to squeeze under my tiny umbrella.

We finally found the place and it was in a huge old war bunker!! A terrifying looking building really, huge and grey looming over you.

Inside was something I can only describe as a theme park for musicians and audiophiles – a GIGANTIC music shop with EVERYTHING!! A huge piano/synth section, a whole different wing dedicated to guitars/bass and upstairs was mixers, drums, PA systems and so much more!

Mark: Central London doesn’t have large music shops like this anymore really, since the Internet ate Denmark St, so it was really nice to see one thriving here.

There really is nowhere to actually try out synths in London anymore (which must have a detrimental knock-on effect on the Internet retailers), so I reckon a few Internet music companies and manufacturers should club together and build some sort of super-showroom somewhere in Central London.  Maybe it could actually be non-retail, and maybe put on trendy live music and have crazy synth jamming nights, and its own label? Hmmm…..

Anyway, we liked this music shop.

Sarah: After eventually prising Mark’s fingers off the door frame, we reemerged to the sunlight, squinting and rubbing our eyes as the rain had gone and it was now lovely sunshine – hooray!

One of the sales assistants at the music shop had advised us to go to the Red Light District for our night out and promised us it was a lot more fun at night!

We had brought along a bottle of rum for pre-drinking and just needed a mixer so popped into a giant and wondrous supermarket called Adeka where we purchased some soft drinks and a ladle.

Our ladle had very mysteriously vanished and having turned the motorhome inside out over the last couple of weeks we just couldn’t find it and I just couldn’t live any longer without one. It was hard to accept it had actually vanished (we had never taken it outside the van!) but it was time to move on.

Lani and I made the maverick and admirable choice to buy a rhubarb fizzy drink for our mixer and created the wonderful creation that is Rumbarb, whilst boring Mark chose coke creating the incredibly standard drink of rum and coke.

Rumbard - a DELICIOUS creation

Rumbard – a DELICIOUS creation

He’ll probably tell you that his was tasty and ours was a crazy horrible disaster, but you can’t believe everything you read… Apart from this.

Mark: I’m normally up for trying crazy combinations of food and drink, but to me it just seemed fairly obvious that rum and rhubarb would be gross (which it was).  On the one hand, I guess I can’t honestly say that I didn’t secretly admire this insanity-tinged spirit of adventure from the girls, in a funny sort of way…  but on the other hand… rum and rhubarb??

Sarah: We proceeded to drink our drinks in the car park and on street corners feeling like a bunch of naughty teens until we reached the Red Light District.

Street corner rumbarb drinking

Street corner rumbarb drinking

This is where we found something truly amazing – a corner shop that had tables and chairs outside!!

Although this may not sound like much, what it meant was that we were effectively in a pub that sold booze at corner shop prices!

We finished up our drinks and walked around a little and found a trendy bar which really strangely let people smoke inside!

It was pretty packed and we asked a girl sitting alone if we could sit with her. Her name was Simi (spelling may be really wrong here…) and she said she been travelling with her boyfriend but they had split up so now she was alone.

Us with Simi

Us with Simi

When we couldn’t take the smoke anymore, she came with us down the Red Light District “strip” where all the tacky pubs/bars, strip clubs and various other dubious things were and we ended up in a drag queen bar where they were playing the Beatles (The Beatles were big around there as they used to play a lot in that spot in their early days) and other British classics!

Drag Queen

We sang along really loudly to all the tunes until the music started becoming unbearably bad (I think it was Agadoo that did it).

We hopped next door into an Irish Pub where a live band were playing but they weren’t particularly good and looking at the time we realised we had to get the S-bahn straight away or we would miss the last bus back to the campsite!

We said goodbye to Simi and pelted it making it straight onto our train (very smooth!)

Then whilst waiting for the bus back to Wild Park, two young boys approached us and asked if we wanted to buy some Ecstasy – which we thought was hilarious!

‘Why are you selling it??’ we asked.

‘Because I have like 100 and I can’t take them all!’

At that moment the bus came so we hopped on and in a short time we were approaching our stop. The bus wasn’t scheduled to stop at our bus stop as it was a special late night service so I went and chatted to the bus driver (drunk German is the best!) and asked him which stop would be closest for us.

Luckily (as I had hoped) he offered to drop us off right in front of our campsite as we were the only ones left on the bus. He was really enjoying our terrible German skills and laughed all the way to our stop before tumbling out saying ‘Danke schön!! Sehr sehr sehr sehr schön!!’

So that was Hamburg! We had a really fun night out and I’m sure there is much fun to be had here but we won’t be rushing back. Our campsite and the Wild Park were fantastic and having a corner shop with tables and chairs was just inspirational – I hope it catches on in more places!

Tomorrow we would be heading for Copenhagen!!

What delights would be in store for us there? Does Copenhagen have a Red Light District?? Would we ever solve the mystery of the vanishing ladle???

Find out next time!

Amsterdam

Friday 26th June

Now this was a very special day indeed as it was the birthday of a very dear friend of ours called Sephy (who will be joining us on the road later on our trip).

So we made it our mission (Lani got involved too!) to write her a song, video it and send it to her that day.

The inspiration came flowing thick and fast and after a few hours we had the song written! Now we just needed to practice it until we were ready to record.

A few hours later we thought it would just about do and now we needed to find a scenic spot to record… hmmm we looked around at the gravelly surrounding of our campsite and scratched our heads before suddenly we had the bright idea – how about recording on the roof of the motorhome?!

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And that’s exactly what we did! If you want to watch you can see it here 

Now the hardest part of all – finding a WIFI connection good enough to upload it to her Facebook wall…

We did technically have WIFI at the campsite but it was slow and temperamental and after a few attempts we thought it would be faster to walk to Noorderlicht cafe/bar up the road and use theirs!

We enjoyed a few drinks whilst waiting for it to upload and Lani got in trouble for taking some brie that was seemingly abandoned on a table (apparently it was for some party…) – how do they expect us to resist apparently abandoned brie???

With the video uploaded we felt it had been a day very well spent and couldn’t wait to hear what Sephy thought!


Saturday 27th June

It was a glorious sunny day and we decided to explore our local surroundings a bit in the North of Amsterdam and practice our music out in the sunshine!

So we packed up our instruments and got on our way to a nearby park.

On our way we passed a quirky little cafe with loads of wacky furniture outside. If you know London at all, this is just the sort of slightly shabby yet very trendy place you would find in Dalston.

We asked them if they wouldn’t mind if we played there and they said it was fine as long as it wasn’t thrash metal – we reassured them that thrashing out on a ukulele didn’t quite have the same effect and setup our gear outside amongst the people having nice drinks under parasols.

I was a little hesitant at first as I thought we would be intruding on peoples’ relaxing time in the sun but they all loved it and we even got some people coming to give us money! The cafe waiter also came and gave us some highly delicious cold smoothies on the house which went down a treat on such a hot day.

We also noticed this guy with a fancy camera shooting pictures of us and after we finished playing he came over to say he really enjoyed it and that he wrote a new music blog in France and was interested in writing about us, so we gave him our details and left feeling very happy with ourselves!
We continued to the park and found a really nice spot where we sat and practiced. As Lani had excelled so much in Sephy’s birthday song we really wanted to see if it would work with her playing/singing along with our other music.

She started by learning the guitar parts to one of our songs called ‘I’m Not In Love With You Yet’ and progressed to doing backing vocals too and it sounded beautiful!

Very pleased with ourselves all round we thought we’d treat ourselves to a nice meal out in a highly trendy restaurant/bar called Pllek which is partially made up of shipping containers and leads into an artificial beach.

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Lani had a fish dish, Mark had some sort of roast and I had a beetroot wellington and they were all highly delicious!

Back to the motorhome we went and indulged in a guilty habit that was quickly growing out of control – eating Nutella from the jar with a spoon.

Our guilty pleasure...

Our guilty pleasure…

We’re not proud of it, but we just can’t stop. We were hoping that Lani would be disgusted with this ritual but she quickly became the instigator of many a Nutella eating session.

It was this fateful night that we had a brainwave – why not just play our songs busking but using the Casiotone to beef up the sound and we can pull in the retro synth geeks – why hadn’t we thought of this before??


Sunday 28th June

Sarah:  Today we planned to meet up with Lani’s friend (a former housemate in London) called Sairah (not to be mistaken for Sarah) who is Dutch and now lives back in Amsterdam.

Whilst we were waiting for her at central station – we setup out instruments and gave it a go with our new formula. A few people looked over and smiled but no money. A slightly deranged looking metal head stood and watched us for ages and then requested we play something he knew… NO!

Mark:  We did suggest playing something by Radiohead, but he hadn’t heard of them.

Sarah:  Luckily Sairah arrived at that point and we packed up and headed to a cool bar called Hannekes Boom right by the canal (you may have noticed by now that in Amsterdam, pretty much everything is ‘right next to the canal’!)

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Lani & Sairah at Hannekes Boom

We told Sairah our story so far and she seemed really up for helping us get some gigs and when we arrived she asked the bar staff if we could play there to which they said that they do have music there but there was already someone coming to play this afternoon but gave us an email to contact the events organiser to arrange something for the future.

We got some cold beers and sat outside at a picnic table in the sun getting to know Sairah! Sairah is one of those lovely people who make you feel at ease straight away and we all talked and laughed merrily together as if we’d known each other for years!

As fortune would have it, the musician they had booked to play never showed up and they were delighted to have us play instead! There was just one catch… someone had taken all their mic stands and as it was quite a busy place we really needed the volume!

But we weren’t going to let a little problem like that stand in our way!

‘Do you have any tape?’

[a few minutes of scrabbling around later]

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Tada! We wrapped the mics around a beam and using A LOT of masking tape, we managed to get them dangling in front of our faces!

We played our set and all seemed to be going well until the masking tape gave way and my microphone came crashing down onto me halfway through a song!

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The falling mic moment!

Mark:  We should always, ALWAYS carry our own gaffer tape.  I hope one day to finally learn that lesson.

Sarah:  Luckily we were basically at the end of our set so just decided that was a pretty good place to end it!

The bar treated us to lots of free drinks and some nachos which we wolfed down!

We thought we would head back to drop our instruments off and have a drink around there somewhere and as we walked past Noorderlicht (our local bar) we noticed something very lively was happening! On closer inspection it turned out to be a jam session and before you could say Noorderlicht, Mark was onstage on keys jamming along as he so loves to do!

Mark:  No-one else was playing it… what’s a boy supposed to do??

Mark on keys at Jamsterdam at Noorderlicht

Mark on keys at Jamsterdam at Noorderlicht

Sarah:  A short while later, I heard the chanting:

‘Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!…’

Why were they chanting my name??

It turns out that Mark had told them his new wife was in the audience and that I was a musician too so they were all chanting for me to come on stage! I very nervously approached the stage and they ushered me in front of a microphone.

‘What am I meant to do???’

‘Anything!!’

Ah, so I just had to sing something totally impromptu – easy! Oh wait… no this is a nightmare! I looked out over the (pretty large!) crowd with their big sweet encouraging eyes gazing up at me. Shit.

I felt just like Eminem in ‘8 Mile’ before doing a freestyle battle and I knew I just had one shot and this opportunity comes once in a lifetime. Here it goes.

Freestylin'

Freestylin’

The band were playing and I start to sing a little wobbly and unsure and tell the story of our adventure so far and as it goes on I get more and more confident and the words come freely and easily like I was expecting this moment to come and I finish with the line…

‘Just had our wedding and everyone gave us money, I guess we should buy a house, settle down, have some kids but NO – we’re going to blow it all on this trip!’

I came off the stage to a huge round of applause, just like Eminem in 8 Mile!

Mark:  I was so proud – my wife was a freestyle superstar!  It was epic.

Sarah:  The night ended with a sing-along around the campfire  – what a day!


Mon 29th June 

Sarah:  We awoke to an incredibly hungover Lani who claimed she would not be drinking for a very long time (standard hungover line). We had become aware of Lani’s very quick descent into drunkenness when she started chasing a jogger down the street shaking an egg shaker at him. She also chased me round and round smacking me on the bum for about 20 minutes!

We all felt bowel rumblings and as we had made it a general rule to avoid pooping inside the motorhome toilet if possible, thought we would have a fun group trip to a camping shop very close by with facilities that were easy to sneak into without detection.

Coupled with a good breakfast and lots of water & tea we all began to feel relatively normal again and ready to head in to Amsterdam to try some more busking!

We headed to Vondelpark as it was such a wonderful sunny day and everyone would be there.

Vondelpark busking!

Vondelpark busking!

We setup our busking rig on a lovely canal bridge and started to play… A passer by started bopping along and then heckled us to sing louder…

‘This is as loud as we can sing! We need somewhere quieter… or microphones!’

‘NO! You just need to sing louder!’

‘We can’t!’

‘YOU CAN!!!’

Wait, actually, we could and so we did!!

Finally, after all our struggles, people were really responding to it! We got about €6 in 30 minutes and a lot of smiles which for us was record breaking!

We played a couple more stints in Vondelpark and made about €20 – hooray!!!!!

One of my favourites moments of the day was a man called Steve who approached us mid-busk and looked confused when we told him we were on our honeymoon and revealed he had assumed we were a father-daughter duo… awkward!

Mark:  Harumph!

Sarah:  He was a regular busker on the Amsterdam scene and his act was to sing covers very loudly to people whilst they sat in cafes or restaurants and claimed this was very lucrative. Although I’m sure it was, we felt that it was slightly too intrusive for us and we would feel pretty guilty about disturbing peoples meals then demanding money…


Tuesday 30th June

We were very excited as Sairah had invited us over for dinner at her lovely flat in Amsterdam – it had been a while since we had experienced a proper living area and when we sat down on her lovely comfy sofa we thought we may never get up!

The weather was still baking hot and she prepared us the most delicious salmon, avocado, pine nut and parmesan salad that we have still being trying to replicate to this day!

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Sairah’s salmon salad sensation!

It was Tuesday again and we thought we would return to the open mic night at the Backstage Hotel as we had had such a good time last week! It was such a hot day though not many people showed up but we still enjoyed ourselves and saw a great girl perform (who was also from London!) called Simeon.

We didn’t stick around to long and actually managed to catch the ferry home this time!!


Wednesday 1st July

The good weather continued and we headed back to Vondelpark to do some more busking and also arranged to meet up with my old friend Steyn again.

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Steyn, Mark & Lani in Vondelpark

Whilst busking this girl (Moniek) approached us on a bike and said she loved our stuff and we continued to tell her our story (just married, Europe honeymoon etc) and her face looked a little vexed…

‘Wait… I think I’ve heard about you two!’

For a glorious few minutes we felt like we had become famous (at least within Amsterdam) but further conversation revealed that we had actually met her very briefly at Noorderlicht!

She was a musician herself and told us two very useful things:

  1. We should try busking in the evenings/nights in the Red Light District
  2. There was a festival going on right next to our camping ground the next day that she was performing at and we should go!

So, later that evening we rocked up at the Red Light District with our instruments and began to play.

This is when things got really fun- people absolutely loved it and the coins were flying thick and fast!

Within the hour we had made €40!! We couldn’t believe it! You would never expect our love-driven music style to go down well in the smutty lust driven Red Light District but it did!


Thursday 2nd July

Today we met an old Lady from New York doing caricatures on street and offered to draw us if we sang to her – this was the result…

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Her name was Eve and it turned out to be her birthday that day so we sang her the Sephy song (replacing Sephy with Evey!) and she said ‘it was the best birthday present I ever had!’

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Eve – we hope she is still there when we return!

Following Moniek’s 2nd piece of advice, we bought tickets to this festival called Over Het Ij and after a few drinks in the motorhome, scuttled on down.

The festival consisted of many shipping containers with different artistic/acting pieces inside.

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One of the shipping container acts!

Our favourite was one entirely in Dutch – we entered and they sat us around the edges of the shipping container, closed the doors and started a show that flipped between them speaking like a hyper-enthusiastic gameshow host to a very solemn news reporter which we found hilarious (but had absolutely no clue what they were saying!)

The rest of the audience looked stunned and slightly disturbed and after the show we thought we would ask the performers what it was about. It turned out it was politically satirical and they were making really horrible jokes about unspeakable things which made a lot of sense now we reflected upon the situation!

We started to watch Moniek’s band but then huge grey clouds appeared and we ran for cover in a big boat that turned out to have some amazing art in its belly!

One particular piece had headphones dangling in front that you put on – these were playing epic music that was a highly suitable accompaniment to the painting, which was quite trippy and seemed to morph in your mind, looking like lots of different things the longer you looked at it.

After spending WAY too much time looking at it we headed to Noorderlicht but everything was closing up and with nowhere else to go, headed back to the motorhome.


Friday 3rd July

This was to be our final day in Amsterdam (for now) and thought we would have a lovely day at a beach and busk in the Red Light District that night.

We weren’t sure exactly where to go so asked the man who ran the campsite called Heim (sp?)

Heim was such a character, we would see him going in and out of the campsite sometimes and have friendly exchanges. He told us somewhere north to go and said there was also a campsite there but we ‘better not fucking camp there!’

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Heim being really Heim

He seemed slightly confused that Lani was with us on our honeymoon but we tried our best to explain but as we left for the beach he exclaimed to his friend in a very thick Dutch accent…

Heim:  ‘Thish guy’sh the luckiesht guy in the wurld! He’sh married to twooo beeoootiful wimin!’

Mark:  ‘I can’t deny it – it’s true!’

Me: ‘Well… no, it’s not true…’

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It was beautiful at the beach and we took our rubber rings in for a refreshing swim.

Later on in the Red light district, we again had a very lucrative night and made over €60!

We did get moved on by the police once though as the rule is that you can only play in 1 spot for 30 minutes then you have to move 100 metres but they were very nice about it!

We also spent a bit of time just watching the girls in the window interacting with the drunken lusty men on the street below, gyrating and bartering with them until they would eventually lure someone in! Although we had mixed feelings about the sex trade, we couldn’t help but find it very entertaining!

So that was Amsterdam! We really loved it and definitely planned to come back through later on on our trip.

Next up would be Hamburg!

What would we make of it there? Would our busking success continue? How would Hamburg’s Red Light District compare??

Find out next time!