Europe: A Headbangers Journey - Round 2

It's like you're sexually assaulting an amphibian...

Smelling like future stepped back in time, we hit merry old London. The two hour journey from the airport to the hotel was an adventure to say the least. We were ready to attempt the famous ‘Tube’ system; look at the map and realise we are looking at a multicoloured bowl of spaghetti. My first actual wig out on the trip so far. Never fear! Candi Apples is here – my sharp minded travel partner led me around the underground with ease. The Tube; a 20 minute journey buried in armpits and eating hair, we manage to hang on with our 15kg bags and cruise the fluorescent lit sweat box to Russell Square.

The Royal National hotel, the Contiki meet up location and the busiest hotel I have ever seen. 2000+ rooms’ available, extremely modest accommodation yet any hotel which has the cleaning staff shuffling around you calling you mam, 24 hour room service and free coffee has me sold!

Reeking of Helsinki aftermath & someone’s armpit from the tube, we shower and hunt for beer, luckily the hotel has the cheapest pub in town located directly under it, perfectly named as the ‘London Pub’ we bury ourselves in the corner with a pint, take a deep breath and prepare for the next two weeks of insanity, trekking around France, Italy, Germany & the Netherlands with 51 complete strangers.

Day 1 London town!

As any normal tourist would do, we hit it up big with the brollies and cameras at the ready. The Tower Bridge, the phone booths, Hampton Court Palace, a tour through the crowded Madam Tussuads “We have a code carrot, I repeat we have a code carrot” and a stop off at any good looking public house along the way. I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 26th birthday in London and it was decided months beforehand that we were going to spend the day (and a shite load of pounds) in Camden Town. Camden is a vibrant area in North London famous for its alternative bars and markets, heavy metal retail therapy, the entire street is paved with leather and spikes, boundless shelves for wears of the chemically inclined and more Goths than you could feed Justin Bieber to. Soaking up the atmosphere and lightening the purse we immersed ourselves in a sea of corsets and bondage pants at the strips alternative clothing mecca; Darkside Clothing. After consuming comes the consuming; we muddle our way through the sea of black and head straight for the Hobgoblin (formally the Devonshire Arms). Brilliantly open between the hours of 12 & 12, we sit back with a pint, tap the fingers to the mesmerizing Darkthrone and toast the awesomeness of our kind. Heavy Metal has undergone a major revamp in London over the past few years, hitting the 21st century head on with an intelligent mix, for all metal heads waving whatever banner. If you visit the country, follow the smell of brutality to Camden Town and you will find yourselves in rapture.

Day 2 London – France; the alcoholism begins…

Setting off at the ungodly hour of 6am we say goodbye to London and cross the English Channel to France and….. La Ville-Lumière. Surrounded by volley wearing Jocks, I plug the MP3 in, soak up the French countryside and practice my French with some Gojira to my travel partner’s delight.

We cruise through Paris with Edith Piaf and work out the battle plans for our heavy metal fix, Parisian style. Our first meal in France – a Turkish banquet in the ghetto of Paris, wtf. We shake off this monstrosity and drag a couple of new pals to the closest (decent) bar, the “Au Petit Garage” a quaint little Paris heavy metal bar located on the Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud. The refreshing alternative to the saturated chic bars Paris is famous for. The ambiance at Au Petit Garage is laid-back and gritty. Worn vintage furniture helps create a unique experience and we were lucky enough to occupy the bar's few tattered couches. With drinks starting from 2.5E ($3.00) we were pleased to sit, soak and rock out with the locals. FYI your French language skills plummet after a few bottles of Merlot...  

With an insanely busy day of sightseeing in Paris coming up, we call it a night in the early hours of the morning and straggle back to the hotel to rejoin the brightly coloured people.

7am; we drag ourselves out of bed, glue the sunnies to the face, inhale breakfast and are shuffled onto the bus. 6 and a half hours to see the entirety of Paris, ah ok. As a major history buff, I was throwing myself throughout the city and was marvelling in the architecture and the historical monuments I have dreamed of seeing my entire life; Napoleons Tomb, St Chappelle, the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and my personal favourite Place de la Concorde, where during the French Revolution, thousands of Frenchmen were executed by the Guillotine, the most memorable, during the ‘Reign of Terror’ were King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. The smell of the blood was so overpowering during the summer of 1794 that horses would refuse to walk through the square.

The city of Paris is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and to give you an idea of its history I will give you the quick version of Paris: The city of Paris dates back to 4200BC by a Celtic sub-tribe called the Parisii. The Romans conquered, then the Germans, and then Paris (as it is now known) was reclaimed by about 400AD. The city is a labyrinth of narrow streets, and under the Parisian building codes, all buildings are to be the same height – this makes the view from the Arc de Triomphe spectacular. It would want to be after nearly having a coronary climbing the spiral staircase of 330 steps... Pain was an understatement.

After a mammoth day we retire to the ghetto hotel and have an hour to be ready and decent for a Parisian night out complete with Moulin Rouge & Cabaret Paris La Nouvelle Eve! So much red wine, so many cigarettes, so many boobies, total win. The atmosphere of a cabaret show is seriously something you would see in a film, we perch ourselves right at the stage with a complimentary bottle of champagne on our lamp lit velvet table and gaze upon Parisian beauties bending, contorting and smiling while doing so. To finish up our night in Paris, a smashing good bar called the Red Garter in the Montmartre district where I quizzed the local alternate types of their taste in music. The popular choice of the day being Messuggah..... Yeah the rest of the night got a little hazy after this....

Tips: learn a little French as they hate speaking English, snails are not as bad as you may think and visit Pere Lachaise (cemetery) even if you aren’t a fan of Jim Morrison or Marcel Proust, the cemetery is very, very cool.

The French Riviera!

Suffering from the worst hangover on the trip thus far, we wake at the most obnoxious time of the morning and reeking of booze, breast and cigarettes we yet again head onto the Contiki bus. The scenery of the Côte d'Azur was easing the pain of the red wine still pulsing through our veins. We took this opportunity (and well every opportunity on the bus really) to sleep and sleep hard.

We arrive in Nice in the early afternoon, unpack, high five and head to the bar. The best thing about Contiki villages – the bars.... We are greeted at the bar with staff and some goodies they were holding, to our terror, frog’s legs. Ok, ok! we said to ourselves let’s just get in and do it. They taste like chicken; ok however I don’t personally recommend them, you hold them from a severed spine, while their little feet flap about and going in for a nibble feels as if you are sexually assaulting an amphibian. Washing it down with French punch I forget about the experience. This evening we are heading into the city of Monaco and trying our luck at the infamous Monte Carlo Casino. The stench of money was saturating, very old men in Armani with very young women wearing next to nothing. Two overly priced Martini’s in hand and Candi is being greeted by a raised brow billionaire who was born 2 years before Moses.... run away!!

Our next day, hung-over again I’m pretty sure; we have a free day in Nice. We take advantage of this opportunity and chill out on the beaches of Nice, walk around trying to find cigarettes and have a million dollar morning tea, the city is rich and beautiful and even the pets in Nice are better manicured than the tourists. Heading back to the campsite we challenge the South Africans to a tequila slamming contest and it all got fuzzy from that point on….

We begin the second half of the trip the next day, Italy, Germany & Amsterdam….stay tuned….